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It’s been a while since I have indulged my passion with you, but here is probably the best guitarist in the UK. Yes I have heard Jim Mullen and Martin Taylor and numerous others but for me Nigel Price has an all round quality to his work.
I have been lucky enough over the years to hear Nigel in a range of small groups and often just as a backing member whatever the context he adds something to the mix, here first in his latest double CD and then as an integral part in a CD by a fantastic tenor saxophone player that I would probably never have heard but for Nigel. Even on this double CD you see two different sides to Nigel, first in the environment he is found most often with his organ trio.
The first Samsung mobile handset I reviewed was a clamshell unit that could automatically open and close itself at the press of a button. It also came with two battery packs. Neither of these features can be found with this next Samsung handset.
The Samsung GT-S5260 model, otherwise known as the Star II, is a candy-bar style smartphone.  Predominately lacquered black (in the case of the review unit), apart from the combination of matte and reflective silver bands running around the sides, the Star II has dimensions of 107.5 x 54 x 12.4mm (H x W x D) and weighs 94g.  At this weight and size, the handset should fit comfortably in the hand and give easy access to the various controls.
651466 Samsung GT S5260 Star II Mobile phon

Android from Acer

The other Tablets I have looked at recently have had v2.2 of the Android system; the Acer Iconia TAB A500 has v3.1. So what can this unit offer that the others cannot, so what does this have that the other units do not have in them?
The Acer Iconia TAB A500 measures 26x17.5x1cm and weights 760grams. It has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The box contains the A500 Tablet, a small user guide, a mini USB to USB lead and a power adapter to charge it. The base has a Docking Port (I did not see the dock itself which is an extra). The left side has a micro HDMI port, headphone/earbud 3.5mm socket and the on/off button this needs to be held for around five seconds to switch on.
Last year I told you about a Guitar (highly commended) and Drums (5x5 award) both from this company WowWee, so their updated Guitar certainly merits a look as does a Microphone to give us all perfect pitch… maybe.
I very much liked what they produced last year, this offering offers more and just perhaps it gets too near to a ‘real guitar’, the guitars themselves (there are three designs) look more realistic and in fact they do far more and maybe even sound better. You can even download a free app from that allows you to add your own music into the internal memory. It comes with some music pre programmed into the guitar to allow you to strum along as a taster.
While HP may have decided that tablets were not an area worthy of its expertise, other companies have a different opinion. One such company is Binatone with products that include the HomeSurf 705 model that is being priced at under £100.
With dimensions of 192 x 112 x 12mm and weighing 325g, the HomeSurf 705 should easily fit into a pocket or bag without causing an unsightly bulge.  Dominating the front of the unit is a 7-inch digital LCD TFT resistive touch screen that has a screen aspect of 16:9 and delivers a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels.  This screen does give you plenty of practice at polishing as you regularly need to remove the finger smears that quickly builds up on its surface.
This looks a lot like a radio I had in my youth, leather covered with a leather handle, the differences are of course immense with the top manual tuning dial replaced by a rather nice screen display, so I assume we call it retro.
It is 24x10x14cm, the last figure the height is with the six piece 70cm rod aerial retracted. The radio (without optional batteries) weights close to 1.3kilos. The rear has the rod aerial, line out socket and DC input. The left side has a flip clip that opens the back to allow 4x‘D’ cell batteries to be inserted. All the controls are on the top of the unit. The centre of which is a 6x3.5cm black on white five line display.
As technology advances, so old standards get left behind – often to gather dust as you are loathed to part with items imbued with memories of yesteryear. One obvious example of this type of situation is with our collections of favourite music stored on vinyl records and audio tapes.
Golden Records, a product developed by NCH Software, offers to convert vinyl records and tape cassettes to CD or MP3 files when working in conjunction with your computer, whether Mac or Windows base, and your Hi-Fi equipment.  Opening the box reveals the software on a CD along with various items of documentation (the greater part being a catalogue of other NCH Software products, and a RCA to 3.
Ghostly spirits are a popular element in computer games. In this case the spirit is a helpful assistant to the lead detective character.
Some may remember, as I do, a television series of many years ago that paired the living with the dead.  No I am not referring to one of those Zombie based stories.  This British television series was entitled Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).  It dealt with the adventures of a private detective (Randall) who was helped by his deceased partner (Hopkirk) with the ultimate aim of finding Hopkirk’s killer so that his spirit could be laid to rest.
651461 ADVENT Vega Tablet PC 4G

Advent Vega Tablet

A number of companies have now brought out these near ‘PC’ devices. Good for surfing (using Wireless) Ok for collecting email, but perhaps most importantly is to have a decent Web Store for free (or low cost) apps.
This is a unit sold exclusively by Dixons stores group (includes PC World), like most currently it is based on Android v2.2. It is 27.5x18x1.3cm and weights 675grams. The viewable screen is 22x12.5cm (10.1inch), this is probably just too small to view a standard width web page unless you have 20:20 vision but the zoom function is quick and efficient. From fully discharged it took 264 minutes to get to fully charged while it was switched on and in use.
650722 BitDefender Total Security 201

Bitdefender Total Security 2012

It is about that time of the year when software packages begin to appear bearing next year’s date as part of the title.
The first such offering to find its way into my hands this year is Bitdefender Total Security 2012.  As you can probably surmise from the title, this is Bitdefender’s all encompassing protection offering product that includes antivirus, antispyware, backup, firewall, parental control and home network management in its feature set.  My review is based on the one year, one PC licence product – a three-user version is also available.
Verbatim’s Go Mini Optical Travel Mouse is targeted at the traveller who is counting the grams and, at the same time, wants to keep things simple. It is a USB mouse with a spring-loaded ‘wind-up’ retractable cable that should suit the need of the busy person on the move.
Although laptops and netbooks incorporate track pads, a great many people still prefer to use a mouse.However, if they want to take one along on their travels, they are faced with the extra weight, the space that it takes up and, all too often, a USB cable that gets itself into a knot. The Go Mini mouse addresses these issues as it is small in size having dimensions 150 x 42 x 29mm and weighing just 44 grams (less than 2 ounces).
It seems about 18 months ago when Google first showed their Chrome operating system, this notebook from Samsung is the first that I have seen that uses it. Can we get used to an operating system that relies on the Internet?
It rather depends on your use, if you have a solid wireless signal – or you work only in hotels and coffee shops with free Wi-Fi – then yes but should your signal die for whatever reason then there is very little that you can do. The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook measures 29x21x2cm and weights just under a kilo and a half. My unit had a white lid, matt black base and only the screen surround was the nasty shiny black that shows every single fingermark even with a cloth always wiping.
Ravensburger one of the biggest name in jig saws are always a hit at Christmas and not just with the kids, here I am looking at a pair of offerings featuring favourite pets in large quantities, Dogs in one and Cats in the other.
When you try to count the number of dogs in an image – several times – and keep getting a different number you either give up counting or you go very strange, I did the former and found completing the jigsaw quite therapeutic. This is a 1000 piece puzzle that has somewhere near to one hundred dogs on it, quite a lot of Labradors some German Shepherds, Huskies and several Dalmatians, not being a dog expert I will stop there before my limited knowledge lets me down.
651447 Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razo

Looking for a Close Shave : Gillette

On a recent trip to Reading I was allowed entry to a research establishment working at ensuring unwanted hair is not a problem.
We have become use to new devices appearing on a regular, some would say daily basis.  Yet how often to we stop and consider the various development stages that must have been completed in order for these devices to have reached the position where they are considered suitable for human consumption and arrive as a finished product for the benefit of users such as you and I.
650907 hp Pavilion DM1 3200SA 11.6 inch Noteboo

HP Notebook DM1

During my visit to the Gadget Show in Birmingham last April I saw one of these on the HP stand. There and then I requested to review this cross between a Netbook and a Notebook, the HP Notebook DM1, that has an extra front end feature to use.
The HP Notebook DM1 measures 29x20x3.5cm at the back and only 1.5cm at the front and it weights 1560grams. Unlike the majority of small units I have reviewed this has an AMD chip and not an Intel one, in use it seems just as good. The Windows Experience gives an overall figure of 3.7 made up of Processor 3.7, Memory 5.5, Graphics 4.2, Gaming Graphics 5.6 and Hard Disc 5.9.
Needing to charge various devices when on the road can cause problems. The latest IDAPT product offers to help and includes an in-car option.
In the past I have looked at a number of products in the IDAPT range.  These products have featured the company’s exchangeable tips that allow a number of devices to be charged simultaneously from a base platform.  While the latest IDAPT product, namely the i1 Eco Universal Charger, also uses the company’s exchangeable tip feature and lets you charge a pair of devices simultaneously, it does away with the platform aspect.
When you need a good hotpot recipe, the location of Coronation Street, theUK’s longest running Soap, would seem to be just to place to visit. This was obviously the theory behind the developers ofCoronation Street: The Mystery of the Missing Hotpot Recipe.
Described as a Hidden Object Adventure game,Coronation Street: The Mystery of the Missing Hotpot Recipe is available from Avanquest.  Actually the missing recipe, used by Betty to create her mouth-watering, popular hotpot, had been torn into pieces prior to destroying it before it could fall into the wrong hands.  However, before the destruction can take place, a gust of wind scatters the pieces all over the place.
While I have been concentrating on children others need gifts and those who have a hobby – in this case photography – can be an older child, a parent or grandparent, so here are a couple of suggestions from Manfrotto.
Even those with a minimal knowledge will have heard of a tripod that is designed to hold a camera steady for a tricky shot either for the distance, the zoom or just for lack of light, sometimes however there is no room for a tripod. That is where a monopod can help, in its basic form it is a stick with a screw at one end to attach your camera to. This offering from Manfrotto in its fully collapsed form is 38cm long.
Continuing its policy of developing mobile phones for a certain age group, this new Doro handset now has a camera feature.
Adding to its range of mobile handsets, Doro has released its PhoneEasy 615 model.  Following the company’s normal practice, this 3G clamshell handset is designed for the older user who will appreciate its large buttons and easy to read text and display.  Unlike the other models in Doro’s PhoneEasy range that I have looked at, the 615 has a built-in camera and flash for the easy capture of treasured memories.
While regular readers will not be surprised that the latter does something else almost everything from Brando does, they might be more surprised that the former is far more than a standard mouse but you will need to have Windows 7.
It is 12x6x3cm and weights 130grams with the supplied two ‘AA’ batteries inserted. The base has an on/off switch to save power when not in use. It can also hold the wireless transmitter when not inserted in a USB port of your PC.
I am fairly certain that when I started talking about Christmas items six weeks ago most thought I must have lost my marbles, here in the sixth of my series I tell you about a new game from Ravensburger and perhaps the best known board game of all Monopoly.
‘Reveal the secrets of the speaking animals and find the thief!’ is the tag line on the front of the box. It is a game for two to four players and the stated age is from ‘7 up’. You need to find a missing ring as it protects the Kingdom from the evil wizard who is on his way. Who has stolen the ring find that and you have solved the simple version.
650490 Doro Phone Easy 409gs

Doro PhoneEasy 409gsm

If you are looking for a mobile phone that puts the emphasis on ease-of-use with large keys then Doro could provide the solution.
650903 roberts uncologic dab radi

Roberts unologic

A slightly different DAB/FM radio from Roberts. Smaller than most but still capable of giving a large sound from the built in speaker. The big difference is that you do not need to be tethered to a mains lead as it can work from batteries.
The Roberts' Unologic DAB/FM radio measures 19.5x12x7.5cm. These measurements are maximum to encompass the tuning knob on the front and the volume control on the right side, the width and thickness are around 1cm less for both everywhere else on the unit. It weights a tad under 700grams with 4x‘AA’ batteries inserted, yes it runs on ‘AA’ batteries not ‘C’ cells as with most.
In the past I have looked at several products that have been based around DAB radio technology. All these units had been designed for playing on a desk, table, shelf or similar platform as they deliver their audio output through built-in speakers. The Pure Move 2500 is a DAB radio but it does not follow this pattern. Rather it is a portable DAB/FM radio for taking on your travels and requires you to wear a set of headphones to listen to its output.
Making up this Pure product are the actual Move 2500 unit plus a ChargePAK M1 1000mAh battery pack, noise isolating headphones with a choice of small, medium and large ear-buds, a power adapter plus the small A6 size Owner’s Manual.  In appearance the Move 2500 unit looks like a smaller version of my iPod Classic.
Tact, charm and political correctness are just three of the attributes that you would never associate with the main character of this next title. This can only mean that the third episode of Telltale Games / Staandlooper Animation’s Badge of Carnage is upon us as Detective Inspector Hector continues in his own inimitable way to save the citizens of Clapper Wreake from an unmentionable fate. Those of a delicate nature should stop reading now.
First we were introduced to the beer swilling, curry devouring and rudeness personified Hector with his way of working and interacting with others in an episode entitled We Negotiate with Terrorists. Next came the rather more lengthy offering of Senseless Acts of Justice that had an option to switch characters as you take on the mantle of Lambert who is the antithesis of everything Hector believes in apart from upholding the rule of law.
650902 canon mx410 milti function print scan cop

Canon MX410

This is a multi function unit as not only does it print, scan and copy it can also be used to send and receive faxes. What I would like to know is does anyone still send and receive faxes, surely everything is email today.
It is 44x40x20cm to the top of the ADF but you will need another 17cm to the last figure the height to insert a stack of A4 in the rear vertical tray, that should also allow you to place anything on the flatbed of the scanner. There are a total of 31 well marked buttons on the front edge of the unit to control it along with a 6cm long two line display.
While laptops come with a built-in microphone, this is really only suitable for minor tasks. For professional recording tasks, you need a microphone built to professional standards.
While many will regard the Yeti as being kin to Big Foot and the Abominable Snowman as a member of the legendary ape-like family, the people at Blue Microphones are of a different opinion.  They know that the Yeti is the brand name given to a microphone developed by the company.
PC World and Currys have several brand names exclusive to them and one of these is Sandstrom. Here I am looking at a DAB and FM radio that also accepts MP3 input as well as having an iPod dock built into the unit.
It is 24x13x9cm but you will need to add another 2cm to the second figure the depth for the D/C lead to be inserted. This includes the eight piece rod aerial that expands to 70cm when fully extended for optimum sound.  My unit was shiny black except for the front that was matt black, surely the whole thing in matt black would look better as the matt black does not show finger marks to the same extent so it will look cleaner to the casual glance.
Octobers here and the prime buying time – to avoid disappointment – from the younger ones is well under way. Here two more items that could be of interest to the younger ones, these just maybe, for the slightly older and just for a change both only require a single child to play them.
Apart from being marked as for ‘8+’ this is also small so could well be useful for travel that might lessen the ‘are we there yet’. 10,000+ Brain Busting Puzzles is what the front of the product claims and, joy of joys the batteries are included.
The Desire S is a recent addition to the range of Android phones from HTC and, as a result, has benefitted from the company’s experience. It is of a nice size and feels right in the hand and, having a fast enough processor and 1G of memory will meet the needs of the great majority of smart phone users. With built-in GPS, FM radio and torch it is also aimed at being the Swiss Army knife of smart phones.
As one would expect of a smartphone, with full connectivity, including WiFi and Bluetooth, and running Android 2.3 it is extremely versatile. The wide range of features and apps already incorporated are conveniently accessed via the seven home pages so that one can go from, for example, listening to an MP3, to checking appointments in Google calendar and then sending an email -- and there is also a vast range of other Android apps available.
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