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The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That
The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That
by Richard Betts
Edition: Board book
Price: $15.28
187 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scratch and sniff doesn't really work, little information provided, tone is weird and childlike -- nice try, but a failure, January 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a very short board book of 22 pages, written as if for a child, with a total of 14 tiny, transparent disks where you can scratch and sniff. But two of these seem to be duplicates, so the book actually contains 12 smells and a few hundred words, plus some child-like diagrams. The sniff points are so difficult to locate (indicated by the tiny diagram of a pointing finger) that readers could easily miss most of them, as numerous reviewers here apparently did. The concept is good in theory, and the wine information provided is accurate, if obviously very limited. The tone is cutesy, trying very hard to be accessible and fun. The problem is that the aromas on the scratch and sniff spots are barely perceptible, so you have to press your nose to the page to get even the faintest whiff of a smell. And when you do, you also hoover in the pronounced aroma of cardboard from the page itself. Most of the smells are all but obliterated by the cardboard aroma. Those smells that do come through, such as the fruits, are so subtle that they aren't very useful. One reason wine lovers catch the 'bug' of wine appreciation is that they discover there is a tremendous range of aromas and flavors to enjoy and even analyze, and if you pay attention to what's in your glass you start to notice this amazing variety. The book fails in its ambition to convey this sense of wonder. It's purely a gimmick. The book is clearly intended to be only a novelty gift, to be picked up once by the recipient, flipped through and sniffed for 30 seconds, and then put aside never to be looked at again. If you want a novelty gift with 30 seconds of useful life, buy this book and give it to someone. If you want to learn anything useful about wine, or the layers of aroma many wines offer, you'll have to look elsewhere. Frankly, wine appreciation doesn't start with a book, it starts with a glass of wine and someone to share it with who can coach you on ways to pick out the different aromas and start to classify them. So take a mouthful of a reasonably good wine, and "chew" it - hold it in your mouth while you breathe our through your nose and concentrate on the cascade of aromas and flavors hitting your senses before you swallow. After you've had your first aha! moment with wine, then think about buying a wine book (and not this one).


Seagate Momentus 7200 750 GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s 16 MB Cache 2.5 Inch Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive ST9750420AS
Seagate Momentus 7200 750 GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s 16 MB Cache 2.5 Inch Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive ST9750420AS
Offered by Price Slayer
Price: $62.00
35 used & new from $49.16

125 of 138 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 750GB drive failed within two weeks, December 27, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Before I get into specifics, this caution - note the date and model on this (and other) Seagate internal hard drive reviews. Amazon lumps together drives of differing technology, size, and generation into one review pile. Look for the reviews that actually apply to the drive you're considering.

Even though I read multiple reviews warning that this 750GB drive is prone to failure, I'm an optimist so I bought one anyway. About two weeks later, my computer crashed with a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) which turned out to be due to a bad sector that had developed in a critical system file. I ran a repair, got the machine working again, and two days later got another BSOD from more newly-developed bad sectors. The drive's built-in SMART diagnostic system is now predicting imminent drive failure. Given the number of people who have had similar experiences with this Seagate 750GB internal laptop product, one that has not been on the market that long, Seagate should stop selling it until they fix the problem.

If you're even more optimistic than I am and buy this drive anyway, be aware of another problem (albeit fixable) that nobody will tell you about in advance. This 750GB drive uses a new 4k sector size. Seagate advertises that they have built-in code that should make the sector size transparent to your system. While it seems to be true that the drive doesn't require you to install special software to accommodate its sector size, nevertheless your machine may require that you install an updated version of Intel's Matrix Storage Manager before the drive will function properly. You will get errors that don't tell you that this is the problem. I had to figure it out for myself by web searches, and if I had not had been computer literate I would never have gotten the drive working in the first place.

Note that all this feedback only applies to the 750GB drive. Drives of capacity up to 500 GB use a "standard" sector size and don't have identical issues. I have owned the 500GB drive in this same line for a long time with no problems.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2014 6:15 PM PDT


Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Touchscreen Camera With 18-55mm Lens (Silver)
Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Touchscreen Camera With 18-55mm Lens (Silver)
13 used & new from $225.99

226 of 228 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent camera - be sure to customize the menus, November 9, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
(Minor updates below added in June 2012). I bought the NEX-5N in mid-October 2011 just before a trip to Europe. The bottom line: it takes superb photos without flash, especially in truly adverse lighting conditions (wine caves 1,000 years old, for example). As others have written, the camera with the 18-55 zoom takes extremely high quality photos - there's no quality penalty to get the benefit of the small size and light weight vs. a top DSLR. So I think it could be used happily by both people trading up and people trading down. But the camera does have quirks, some serious. Many other reviews cover the overall high points of the camera, so I'll focus on a few review elements I think need reinforcement.

The NEX-5N has a full auto mode, but I hope most buyers will take the trouble to learn the camera's full capabilities, because the camera can produce some amazing photos once liberated from auto mode. However I have to say that the learning curve is steep, not just because the camera has a lot of capability, but also because the user interface is a real pain in the neck until you adapt to it. The lack of dedicated controls, a consequence of the small size, creates a lot of complexity in daily use.

Here's a specific example to illustrate some of the potential frustrations. The camera can take an auto-HDR (high dynamic range) photo. It will instantly merge three shots that it auto-brackets (in steps you specify) to yield a picture that would take several minutes to produce if you had to merge three shots yourself using editing software. Great ability, but here are the steps if you haven't customized the menus: 1. turn off raw if you were using it, which requires at least 3 menu presses. 2. press menu again and select the "brightness/color" controls. 3. scroll to and select DRO/Auto HDR. 4. scroll to and select HDR. 5. if desired, press "option" and then change the HDR exposure differential for bracketing (ranges from 1 EV to 6 EV). 6. Press OK twice. In total, you have to go through 6-9 key presses to get the camera ready to take an HDR photo. Then to go back to normal shooting, you have to go through all the steps over again. Your subject has to be no livelier than a sloth to allow this to work out.

You can avoid many of those steps by customizing the menu buttons. This requires first understanding what the camera can do and how you will use it, which will realistically take a few days of experimentation. Then you have to futz with programming the menus for a while until you have the customization set the way you want it. Then you have to get used to the new customized menus. In other words, there's a steep initial investment to get usable access to all the power the camera possesses. Most DSLRs have serious learning curves as well, so to me this isn't a reason to avoid the NEX-5N. But it is something to be prepared for. I found that I was taking low-light photos that I couldn't have taken with any DSLR I'm familiar with, so I ended up being quite happy with the camera, but I did some cursing at it before I got to that point.

The best features:

1. Extraordinarily good native low-light capability, plus several modes that enhance that underlying natural capability of the camera and lens: examples include hand-held twilight mode, anti-blur mode, auto-HDR, and dynamic range optimization. All four are different. It really benefited my photos once I figured out how those modes differ and when to use them. My shooting may not have been typical -- I was spending hours a day in ancient wine cellars, gothic cathedrals, and the like, but even for snapping a low-light shot in a restaurant with friends (no flash), the camera was great.

2. The size and weight are unbeatable. I bought a Kata Grip-10 DL camera bag, which on paper was supposed to be a skosh too small for the camera, but it worked out perfectly. I could wear the Kata bag on my belt, zipped closed with camera inside, flash attached, a spare battery, spare SD card, and the "raincoat" that shipped with the Kata bag, all fairly inconspicuously.

3. The tilt screen makes a real difference.

The features the jury is still out on:

1. The detachable flash was on my list as a problem until I actually used the camera. The last two weeks I left the flash attached all the time and that worked fine, although I found I almost never used the flash. When I did use it, it overexposed the main subject almost every time, so I dialed back the flash output slightly. Once I get the optional viewfinder, I think I'll be able to put the flash aside and not miss it much.

2. Movies. I am not a big movie shooter so this was not a critical item for me. I hoped I would receive a camera after the "clicking noise" was fixed in manufacturing, but no, mine does click during video recording. Sony is kidding themselves if they really think the clicking noise only occurs when people are moving the camera in an unnatural way. It's almost constant. But I will send it in and from all I've read it will be fixed quickly, and the newer units supposedly won't have the problem. So I'm not agonizing about that. UPDATE: I originally wrote that I couldn't get large movies shot in AVCHD mode to transfer to a computer using Windows 7, and when an SD card that contained a mix of AVCHD movies and stills got close to full, the stills wouldn't transfer either. I didn't lose any pics or video but I worried. Updating -- since my original post, this problem seems to have gone away. It's possible that there was a hardware problem with my built-in card reader, which got swapped out during a computer repair and now transfers seem to work ok. Since I didn't see others reporting the same problem, I assume the hangup was at my end.

3. The LCD screen on its default setting ("auto") is hard to see in bright sunlight, BUT there is a setting you can scrabble your way to with many clicks that will brighten it significantly. This setting makes the LCD usable even in bright sunlight, but it also messes up the color rendition of the LCD, adding an orange hue and oversaturating the other colors. It also seems to drain the battery at a vigorous clip. So there are two approaches you can use: turn on the super-brightness setting just for the key times you need it and then remember to turn it off again, or buy the apparently wonderful EVF viewfinder (for more than three bills!) and use the LCD much less overall. I haven't tried the viewfinder yet but I'd like to. It eradicates a lot of the price advantage of the NEX-5N vs a DSLR, however.

The features that are not so good:

1. Focus can be slow in low light. That's largely due to the lack of phase-detection focusing, which isn't easily addressed in this type of camera. The focus-assist light eventually gets it right almost every time, but it might take a second or even two.

2. If you set the camera to Auto-ISO, you can't control the highest ISO the camera will use. It will range up to ISO 3200. It's great that the camera takes pretty clean shots at ISO 3200, but that's no excuse for omitting a way for the photographer to limit the top ISO to a much lower number if he or she needs lower noise. Even many inexpensive cameras offer that option.

3. Menus are complex and cumbersome and require lots of clicks to change settings, as previously described. In addition, by default the camera is set up to provide "advice" every time you click a menu key, overlaying your menu choice with a paragraph of information you didn't request. This is helpful for about three minutes and is then a big pain until you figure out how to turn it off.

4. The shutter makes the same sound as a DSLR and can't be changed, so there's no shooting stealthily. Since there's no mirror to make a slapping noise, I'm not sure why the shutter is as loud as it is. I wish Sony would change this if possible.

5. The touch-sensitive screen is, in my opinion, a failed opportunity. It's way too easy to touch something by mistake and change a setting inadvertently. On a small pocket snapshot camera, touchscreens may be useful. And in theory the touchscreen could be good on the NEX-5N too, I suppose, but I found it messed me up, so I turned off the touch capability. You may be more dexterous than I am so this may not bother you.

6. The only thing I missed by deactivating the touchscreen was the "touch to focus here" capability. That was good when I meant to use it, but also terrible when I didn't mean to use it. Linked to that issue: focus tracking. Sony advertises that the NEX-5N will track a moving subject once you touch the spot on the LCD screen you want it to track. But it doesn't work. It just makes the focus jittery and unpredictable. The focus will not reliably track anything. Sony should have improved that before going live with it. The concept is great.

6. The movie mode button is badly positioned within a hair's breadth of where your right thumb, or sometimes part of your right index finger, can rest on the camera. I recorded at least ten unwanted movies a day just brushing the movie button without meaning to. The biggest problem this created was that when I went to press the shutter to take a still photo, nothing happened. Only then did I realize the camera had been recording my useless mutterings for the last three minutes. So I lost a few still shots from having to stop the movie recording and get back to stills.

7. Minor points: the default settings for DRO and HDR are too weak to make a difference, so at first those look like failed offerings. But they just need to be tweaked to a stronger setting and they work fine.

8. Update: My son owns a Canon T3i so we've compared pictures taken with the two cameras, although not in any truly rigorous way. The Sony NEX-5N build quality is higher than the T3i (less plastic), the rotating barrel feels more solid, and mostly importantly, the resolution of the Sony seems better. If you read online lens reviews, the Sony 18-55 kit lens seems higher quality than the kits lenses that come with even DSLRs costing a lot more.

Summary: While the list of negatives I've enumerated seems long, on balance I think the strengths of the NEX-5N substantially outweigh the weaknesses. In the world of ILC cameras, the NEX-5N seems to be in a league of its own when it comes to pure image quality. To a serious photo enthusiast or professional, image quality is where everything starts and ends. The NEX-5N takes exceptionally high quality photos, especially in low light. The NEX-7 has additional strengths including even higher image quality in good light, but apparently doesn't quite match the NEX-5N's low noise in low light according to other reviews, and it costs a lot more. I'm happy with the NEX-5N.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 9, 2014 11:14 AM PDT


Anker™ New Laptop AC Adapter + Power Supply Cord for IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad R60 R60E, T61 T60P T61P, X60 X60S X61 X61S, Z60 Z60M Z60T Z61 Z61E Z61P, N100 N200, T400 T500, V100 V200, W500, Y100 Y300 Y500, 3000 0761 0764 Fits 92P1108 40Y7659 92P1160 [20V 4.5A 90W 7.9*5.5mm]
Anker™ New Laptop AC Adapter + Power Supply Cord for IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad R60 R60E, T61 T60P T61P, X60 X60S X61 X61S, Z60 Z60M Z60T Z61 Z61E Z61P, N100 N200, T400 T500, V100 V200, W500, Y100 Y300 Y500, 3000 0761 0764 Fits 92P1108 40Y7659 92P1160 [20V 4.5A 90W 7.9*5.5mm]

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flaky product, good customer service, July 20, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I purchased this replacement AC adapter with some trepidation, since it was so much less expensive than the original that shipped with my laptop. The adapter worked fine upon receipt, but died without warning a month later. Via Amazon, I contacted the company, a Chinese vendor. They offered an exchange with no argument, but said if I wanted a refund I would have to use the Amazon refund process. They sent out a replacement promptly and did not ask for the old (dead) adapter back again. They even called me on the phone to ask about the serial number of the failed adapter. It didn't have one, which the customer rep found odd (and so did I). The customer service rep was difficult to understand due to her strong accent, but it's unusual for a Chinese company to call up a customer unprompted so I give them points for trying to do the right thing.

UPDATE: the replacement adapter has been working now for at least a month. If that changes I will update the review again. For me the bottom line is that you do seem to get what you pay for, and some percentage of these adapters will fail. If that happens to you and you don't mind the aggravation of having to wait for a replacement, at least the company stands behind the product. Personally, I would prefer that they get it right the first time.

UPDATE: Since I left this review originally, the company has sent me three emails asking me to delete the review, including offering a financial incentive to do so. The dark side of attentive customer service is now obsessive customer service. I feel the review is a fair description of my experience. If, as the company asserts, only a small fraction of their adapters fail, then most of the reviews their products receive will be positive. But I don't want to delete the review and leave only rosy feedback when the product does, in fact, fail sometimes. So caveat emptor, you can't be sure that the reviews posted for this product (and presumably other products by the same company) have not been skewed positive by customers who were talked into deleting their negative reviews by the company.


True Image Home 2011 PC Backup and Recovery [Old Version]
True Image Home 2011 PC Backup and Recovery [Old Version]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 2011 version ruins a product that used to be good, May 30, 2011
I've been using Acronis True Image for several years. I'm on my sixth upgrade. It has always worked well for me, despite some baffling quirks such as changing all your file dates to the backup date (it doesn't do that any more by default).

But I am deeply disappointed in the 2011 version of Acronis True Image Home. As other reviewers observe, to use its underlying power is needlessly complicated and confusing. Worse than that, it is very slow, and has yet to complete a backup for me successfully. I have one standard Lenovo laptop bought in 2010, with Windows 7.

A backup program for home or small business has to meet the following standards as far as I'm concerned:
1. It has to be simple to start and run a backup, or I won't use it
2. It has to create reliable backups, every time
3. It has to be fast enough to complete a backup of any "normal" size hard drive in no more than one overnight
4. Backups must restore successfully every time, at least to the original hard drive or its equivalent

Acronis True Image Home 2011 fails on all three of the first points.

1. SIMPLICITY. To borrow an old saying, the part that is simple isn't good, and the part that is good isn't simple. It's possible to install the program and use "one click backup." That is simple, yes. But what are you backing up, to what destination? How do you know what's protected and how to find it again? I guess it's better than nothing, but to get a backup that serves your needs, you have to configure the program at least the first time you use it. There are other backup schemes you can choose as your default that are more than one click but still fairly simple, but they make questionable decisions for you about how to run. For example, you can't do incremental backups without diving into detailed configuration screens. To bypass the dubious simplicity, you can (and should) choose to configure everything yourself, but that's where the program is confusing, with little or no explanation for the non-expert.

2. RELIABILITY Despite several attempts on my part, I have yet to get the program to complete a backup of my 500GB hard drive (375GB of content). I have received unexplained error messages. I tried yet another backup last night. In the morning my computer had gone to sleep with the backup 10% completed. Was that my fault for not de-activating power management on my machine? Maybe - but if Acronis activity doesn't look like activity to a machine's "need to stay awake" tracker, shouldn't the program remind its "home" users to turn off power management?

3. SPEED. The full backup that is underway now estimates that it will take more than 24 hours to complete. The backup is set to "normal" speed. To back up 375GB of content using previous versions of Acronis True Image would have taken 5 hours or less.

4. RESTORE SUCCESS. Haven't been able to complete a backup successfully, so who knows if restore will work?

Acronis makes a business version of this software designed for corporations with lots of machines. I have no idea if that product works better than this one, but it seems as if Acronis would be out of business if it didn't. The design decisions for the 2011 version of this program are not good. Some of them were apparently made in the name of a "simpler" user interface that didn't end up being so simple. Others are the just the result of bad tradeoffs. In any event, I will go back to a previous version of True Image -- if it works with Windows 7.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2011 4:37 AM PDT


Motorola S305 Bluetooth Stereo Headset w/ Microphone (Black) - Retail Packaging
Motorola S305 Bluetooth Stereo Headset w/ Microphone (Black) - Retail Packaging
Offered by Direct Distributor
Price: $30.57
54 used & new from $17.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Works well, February 8, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've updated this review to reflect that battery life, which started out very short, has for some reason improved. I get about 4 hours to a charge now. The headset works as advertised - it's lightweight, reasonably comfortable on my large head, has no problem associating with my Android smartphone and with my laptop (but of course not both simultaneously). The audio quality is good, although not insanely great. I got what I expected - good quality -- much better than off the shelf earbuds, for instance -- but not concert hall frequency response. The bass is nothing to write home about. The highs and midrange are clean. There's no noticeable distortion. The headset microphone works fine for phone calls, which is convenient when the phone rings while listening to music. So overall it provides lots of capability for the price.

One minor problem is that the indicator LED that shows you battery and bluetooth status is hard to see.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 8, 2011 6:44 PM PST


No Title Available

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unpredictable results, December 25, 2009
Friends have this device and like it, but mine doesn't work correctly. Mine shreds corks rather than removing them, because the auger that screws into the cork is mounted at a slight angle to vertical. It isn't adjustable. I guess mine is defective, but I've read reviews on another site that indicate my experience is not unique. Even with a correctly aligned auger, I would not use this opener on an older bottle with a fragile cork, because you can't see what the hidden corkscrew is doing until it's finished, and if you haven't held the housing firmly enough the auger will wobble and you'll end up with cork soup.

My bottom line assessment is, if you have arthritis or other problems that hamper your ability to use a traditional corkscrew or a rabbit-type lever device, then this might help you. Just be aware that you have to be able to hold the housing and the bottle firm and straight simultaneously while the cork is being removed, which takes some manual strength. If you can use a traditional corkscrew fine, I'd stick with that.


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