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Ricoh Aficio MP C300 Copier.
Ricoh Aficio MP C300 Copier.
Offered by Copier Clearance Center
Price: $5,880.00

1.0 out of 5 stars How to make simple things complicated, January 12, 2015
A copier and fax machine rolled into one. Can also scan and send emails. Has about the worst menu ever. In my opinion, why not simply have 4 buttons: copy/mail/scan/fax and then take it from there. Instead, a very complicated touchscreen manual with counterintuitive logic. Keeps copies of unsent faxes in its memory and spews them out after a while if unsent, therefore NEVER use it for confidential faxes. Probably it is possible to delete the memory, but to do so requires to understand a host of menus and submenus.
If you like studying user manuals, buy this machine. Otherwise, better not.


Scott And Amundsen: The Last Place on Earth
Scott And Amundsen: The Last Place on Earth

4.0 out of 5 stars Finally giving credit to Amundsen, January 10, 2015
The book is a good antidote to the 'Scott' hype. I checked with a number of British friends and lo and behold all of them believed Scott was the first to the pole. It surprises how many other reviewers take offence at the description of Scott in the book.
Firstly, clearly all these men were heroes in their own right. And clearly Scott could inspire people. Yet one cannot deny that he came surprisingly unprepared to the South Pole. I just finished reading 'The worst journey....', an obviously sympathetic account. Yet even there it is glaringly clear that the preparations were not good. Even in that book it is highlighted that the ponies were not well selected, that everyone had made somehow up his own clothing, that the food was partially not suitable for the weather - having scurvy in the 20th century is surprising. Also the ship seems to have been a piece of junk, sapping the mans energy unnecessarily. And so on.
This does not diminish the bravery of Scott and his men, but clearly indicates a lack of professionalism and, for a leader, a reckless disregard for the life of others.


WD My Cloud Mirror 6TB 2-bay Personal Cloud Storage - All your files saved twice. Accessible anywhere
WD My Cloud Mirror 6TB 2-bay Personal Cloud Storage - All your files saved twice. Accessible anywhere
Price: $359.99
14 used & new from $359.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, January 8, 2015
Until recently I used a Buffalo 1TB mirror plus 2 separate 1TB drives. I decided to combine all into one device rather than juggling harddrives and also as my Buffalo was full. My target was a 'plug and play' external HD with mirroring capabilities, just like the Buffalo was.
The first disappointment was, that this is not plug and play. Software installation is easy, yet why install software for a harddrive? Secondly basically this device is not 'plug' as it has no USB connector for transferring data from my computer to this device. Something which, if it would have been more clear from the promotional material, would have clearly stopped me from purchasing.
So all transfer has to be via my router. Fair enough. Yet backing up my data to the MyCloud brought my internet connectivity to its knees. Even after the backup had been finished, the device slows down my internet to a crawl (the moment I unplug it, the connectivity increases by a factor of 5 -10).
Therefore I have connected the device with the Ethernet cable directly to my computer. My internet is ok again, but access to the MyCloud is painfully slow now (slower than the USB 2 to my previous external HD).. And each time I am not using the device, it seems to go into some kind of 'sleep mode', increasing access times even more.
Therefore, by this device only if (a) you really want the 'cloud' feature and (b) can accept strong decrease in internet speed.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 9, 2015 9:31 AM PST


Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (128 GB, Intel Core i5)
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (128 GB, Intel Core i5)
Price: $899.00
92 used & new from $799.00

8 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Microsoft again manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, November 25, 2014
I am a fresh owner of a Microsoft Surface, hoping to do away with having to carry around a reading device (ipad) and a working device (laptop with MS software). I am a simple user, I want to type, to use excel, powerpoint, write mails and surf the web. No 3D computer games, no large HD video downloads, no photo editing etc.

The Good

The Surface is a beautiful machine, clear and nice display, usable keyboard with backlighting. It is reasonably fast and. for my modest purposes, has the necessary apps (kindle, The Economist). It also, a clear advantage over the ipad, has a USB port. Lastly an amazing pen which allows you to write on powerpoints, annotate things, take notes and convert (theoretically) my handwriting to print. It could be a great machine. It is still better than using a laptop, but it is far from great. Mostly due to Windows and MS programming though, not due the hardware.

The Bad

Being Microsoft, the company cannot help tinkering with an excellent idea and a good product until it is all but devalued.

Connectivity

G3: Only after purchasing I realized that this, rather expensive piece of equipment has no G3 connectivity. For a business tool, this is an absurd omission. I do not want in every airport learn about the intricacies of the local WiFi, here a new password, there a new access code, here a required credit card payment..... Yes, I can use my mobile as a portable hotspot, as was helpfully pointed out, but then my mobile's battery will be down after 3 hours, thus the quite long battery time of the Surface does not really help. Or I can use my G3 dongle. This is an optical blemish on a smooth machine which Steve Jobs would not have accepted. Also it blocks the only USB port (which actually was a key reason for me not to buy the G3 ipad). Goodbye mailing photos etc.
Wireless: The wireless connection seems to be excessively slow and it seems to be a Surface 3 issue. How come that some programs on the surface remind me that I am on a slow internet connection - while actually this internet connection can be used on my laptop for streaming HD videos?

Interfaces

Pen: a great tool, helping me to come closer to my goal of a paperless office, but gave up its ghost after a week and had to be replaced. According to the dealer the pen will probably survive for three weeks before having to be replaced again. The program which is supposed to learn my handwriting is hidden very well and only in an obscure corner of the internet could I find advice on how to locate it. Anyway, it so far has not even learned my handwriting, even when capitalized. The pen also is supposed to open 'Notes" with one click. Unfortunately it insists on opening the cloud based app, not the 'Notes 2010' which is on my surface and which is our company standard. Microsoft informed me that with the 2013 version it would work but not with the 2010 version. Well, one more annoyance - my company will not change to the 2013 version just for that. And, believe it or not, the 'Eraser' button does not activate the eraser.
Screen: The screen seems to be very finger-print prone. My Surface never learned to recognize text input automatically when on touch-screen. I always have to open the touch keypad with a click on a small icon.

Keyboard: The keyboard also rapidly acquired a sheen which other keyboards do not get so fast. The Frame of the keyboard is covered with a strange felt-like dust attractor, which feels and looks nice - in the beginning.

Programs and Apps

Apps: The apps function only slow and hesitantly, some barely. Downloading and reading kindle books or 'The Economist' not only seems to take far longer, also the reading experience cannot compare with an ipad. Granted, this may not be Microsoft's fault, but in the end I simply want a working device, I do not really care who is responsible for any faults. And the utter slowlness with which Kindle often moves from one page to the next cannot only be explained by Amazon's mistakes.
Programs: Lotus Notes / IBM Notes, which is a nearly universal mail and database program, does not display well on the Surface (much too small, no option for scaling). If Microsoft really wants to address the business community, it better solves this issue - fast.

Others

My Surface requires innumerable internet searches to solve niggling issues. Even sometimes the feared visit to the Microsoft help pages becomes necessary.
It does not always shut down when closed or after a given time - do not know the reason. But as this usually happens inside my bag, the device becomes extremely hot.
Being Windows, naturally from time to time it crashes. There are only three pieces of software installed which are not windows, Lotus Notes, The Economist, Kindle. The computer even manages to crash when all of these apps are off. (so far about 1 crash per week).
I counted it: When making a typo in my log-in password, the computer takes 32 seconds (!) to realize that my password is not correct. That means it checks about 5 seconds per letter....... I can compare two words faster than that.

The Ugly

A negative highlight was certainly my board presentation. Enthusing about my surface and its wonders I had found 10 new 'Surface Converts' until, during the middle of my presentation, my Surface informed us life and onscreen that in 18 minutes Windows would perform a scheduled forced upgrade, advising me to close all programs. Fortunately our CFO, with the help of his MacBook and a quick file transfer via USB stick, could help me to continue. I was not laughed at outright, but obviously the Surface will not become company standard anytime soon.

Summary

Thus in summary, the Surface is an excellent idea, a good, slim, lightweight computer but for usage it is exceedingly troublesome. I have two ipads. Both of them perform flawlessly the simple tasks I require of them and I did never have to hunt the internet for solutions.


The Synchronicity War Part 1
The Synchronicity War Part 1
Price: $0.00

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written militaristic/faschistoid story, August 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I picked this book based on the number of genuine, positive reviews. The story and idea as such is actually quite original. Earth is attacked by an alien race. Only with time travel can the conflict be won. Yet time travel creates certain paradoxes, with which the author deals quite ingeniously.
Enough praise. The book is poorly written, with stiff dialogues and quite a lot of monologues. Believe it or not, a main part of book one is a speech by an admiral, the typical speech expected from a senior military, gruesomely long. The love scenes - well, the main character, an intrepid hero, approaches his love interest in a way which would not be out of place in a Woody Allen comedy. Something along the lines of 'May I infer that you might have interest in me beyond the boundaries of professional co-operation'......
The aliens strangely enough use perfectly the same technology as the humans. They attack first, ok, but nevertheless no attempt is made to communicate with them at all. It is simply assumed from their actions that they are inherently aggressive and therefore have to be eliminated.
The military in this book is composed of freedom - loving wonderful people, including the AIs, while the politicians are all vain and backstabbing (except the ones who totally submit to the military). This reminds of the justification which nearly every militaristic government provides.
The head of the submissive politicians, a woman (sic) basically has a nervous breakdown when informed verbally by the military about the threat. But, given the qualities of the authors writing, it would be hard even to provoke fear even in a kindergardener, even less in an experienced politician.
But the author gives himself away. The second in command, after the admiral, is another admiral, Dietrich, who, in one of the four books, is also addressed with his first name, Sepp. For the historically curious, Sepp Dietrich was the head of the 'Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler', part of the SS. He was sentenced after the 1945 for war crimes, especially for the murder of American POWs.
Interesting, to name a (positive) character in a book thus.


Time Killer (Max Larkin Detective Series Book 1)
Time Killer (Max Larkin Detective Series Book 1)
Price: $0.99

8 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Did the five star reviewers read a different book?, December 26, 2013
I choose this book due to it large number of five star ratings. And stumbled into the worst written story I ever read. To call the dialogues "wooden" is an insult to trees. And to call the plot "laughable" is an insult to comedians.
This being a "buddy" story, the main character, a detective, gets thrown together with a female partner, whom he resents. Yet within five minutes of being together in a car with her he confides why his former partner in the force left the department - something he has not told anyone ever before.
Naturally he is haunted by a recurring dream - I mean, nowadays all self respecting male heroes, Batman, Spock,..., have some childhood trauma. The dreams significance should be obvious to any reader of even the most modest mental capabilities The main character though, despite being a detective, never figures it out by himself.
Just for the fun of it a few more examples of the moronic plot:
- The town in which the story takes place is very small, yet despite eleven murders within about 5 days by a serial killer nobody panics - also there seem to be no newspapers interested in this. And even with 11 vicitims, the case still remains with a detective and a rookie detective. How many deaths does it need to get the FBI involved? 100?
- On the other hand, a town close by where the murder committed his first deed many years ago went, as a result of this, into steady decline.
- The killer controls one of his victims, a medical doctor, by holding an air filled syringe to him - while driving with him to an ATM and having the victim withdraw money. Just imagine trying to keep an injection needle in the veins of a man walking to an ATM. Apart from that the vicitim would presumably have known that it requires 40-100ml of rapid air injection to be fatal.
- A lesbian tryst, though for no plot related reason whatsoever
- When the murderer revisits in a bout of nostalghia a crime scene from long ago (an uninhibted house), he gets in with a ladder - while the police detective simply walks in through the unlocked door
- American matresses seem to lack 'springiness' - whenever the murderer knelt on a matress, he left impressions lasting hours.

Better invest the dollar this book costs into a quart of milk - the nutritional information gives more reading pleasure and the milk is good for your health too.

PS: The author notes that the book has been positively reviewed by Kirkus as he claims "the toughest reviewer in the business". To be precise, the tough part about Kirkus is the review fee ([...] of 425 US$ per review.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2014 5:00 PM PST


Captain James Cook: A Biography
Captain James Cook: A Biography
by Richard Alexander Hough
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.11
72 used & new from $3.90

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A chronicle of a journey, not a biography of a man, November 15, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
James Cook was one of my childhood heroes. Therefore I decided to read his biography and this one seemed to be not overly sensationalist. Its merrit is certainly that it is reasonably well written and therefore an easy read.
Nevertheless one has to take care not to let enthusiasm for Cook the man color judgement of this book. Because, unfortunately, this book is poorly researched and rather unimaginative. This starts with the maps in this book, which are mostly rather poor, especially so the map illustrating Cook's three voyages which is basically not legible. I would also have taken many of the authors opinions and judgments at face values, had I not been more knowledgeable about two specific characters which were with Cook on his second voyage, Georg Forster and his father. Strangely enough the author always writes their name as Förster, which, even in German, is not the correct spelling. The author astonishingly claims the the famous book which the younger Forster had written about his trip with Cook had in reality been written by his father - with no proof whatsoever to support this claim. From the sources which the author has used in writing the biography the book by the younger Forster is sadly missing. Also when tracing the lifes of several of Cooks companions he leaves out the younger Forster, who led a rather more adventurous life than most and was killed in revolutionary Paris. The elder Forster, though maybe not the nicest character who ever lived, also falls victim to character assassination. Wether the author is right or wrong about the Forsters does not really matter, what is shown here is simply sloppy research.
What also annoys is that the author chronicles the events but rarely tries to help the reader understand any background. For example later in the book it is mentioned that Cook's ill health might have been due to an intestinal parasite. Which one? The author does not mention. Furthermore Cook's ill health is not meantioned until after his death, even though, as the author claims, Cook already was ill during his second voyage. Why did the author not simply discuss the symptoms which Cook showed, mentally and physically, with a medical doctor, rather than digging up one old reference to an "intestinal parasite"?
The author also leaves wide open the question how Cook came upon the idea of fighting scorbut with fruits and vegetables. Yes, Cook did the right thing, but why? After all, he was quite alone in his belief in the need for vegetables and fruits and had to push his convictions against forceful resistance. Rarely or never does the author try to answer the "whys". Why was Cook kind and friendly to the natives? Why did Cook not inspect the ships for his third voyage more carefully? etc.etc. Mostly the author simply does not even ask the "why" question.
The follow up is poor as well. What was the impact of Cook's trips? Why were they important? What made them different from Bougainville's trips?
Thus the author is a mere chronicler, and not an impartial one as such. Thus this is not really a biography of Cook, the man, but mostly a chronicle of three voyages, which, by coincidence, were commanded by Cook. Overall disappointing.


Spycatcher
Spycatcher
by Matthew Dunn
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from $5.85

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dumb men with guns, August 1, 2013
This review is from: Spycatcher (Hardcover)
I bought this book because the author was described in The Economist no less as an excellent thriller writer. Mistakes happen.
Will Cochrane is James Bond without brains or elegance, but with superhuman abilities. In the first chapter he suffers three shots to the belly, with 'gaping' exit wounds. Not only is he up and working within two days. No, additionally in the course of approximately 2 weeks he is shot in the shoulder, his head is grazed by a bullet, he jumps through a glass window after which dagger sized shards protrude from his leg, he might have had one more wound from a shot (I stopped counting), he is beaten unconscious once or twice and he can still sprint through central park. Like Batman he is also driven by the loss of his father, but unlike Batman he later also lost his mother to murder. By the way, his opponent also lost father and mother to murder - probably Mr. Dunn ran out of other options to motivate his main characters.
His enemy beats him, also physically, all the time, except naturally in the final shootout. This fiendish enemy makes the mortal mistake to which nearly all superfiends succumb: In the moment of their triumph they feel the need to tell their vanquished opponent all their secret plans instead of simply killing him off.
Just a few other gems: An Iranian suicide terrorist tells Mr. Cochrane, after 1 minute interrogation and mortally wounded, what he needs to know. 90 seconds are sufficient for him to search an entire office and find a list of terrorists. How convenient that terrorists tend to keep their most sensitive data in paper from and unencrypted. The lover of his enemy, after a love that lasted 18 years, and about to explode a suicide bomb for him, is, within a two minute conversation with Will, convinced that her lifelong love has betrayed her - not that Will offers any evidence apart from "Your lover told me he does not love you". The meticolously planned plot, whose preparation took years and spanned several continents, needed a last minute renovation of the target to provide access for the assassins. All these super-secret spies drive these typical spy vehicles with darkened windows, normally a Mercedes 500S or similar, and they mostly stay in 5* hotels. For no apparent reason they hold their meetings always in person, but in locations which are not central to the plot, e.g. Oslo. Probably they do it for the frequent flier miles, because the pay cannot be that good in government service. As they only travel first class, this gives them a lot of miles. The British operate a training program for super spies which only 1 person is allowed to survive...... so you have 10 very good men and you kill off 9? Now I understand why the SAS does not seem to be as successful as the Seals or the Delta Force - the British training programs are just to rigorous, they kill their own before the Taliban do it.
Dialogues are wooden and to call the characters twodimensional would do them an unjustified honor.
In summary: Please do stop writing, Mr. Dunn, and, where can I get my refund?


Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin
Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin
by Ben Judah
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from $18.40

13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well argued but repetitive, May 28, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this book on the strenght of a review in The Economist and maybe my perception of this book as somewhat flawed as I am disappointed when comparing the book vs. the promise in the review.
Mr. Judah makes the argument that after the chaos of the Jeltsin years, Putin did not really bring stability. Rather, due to rising prices for natural ressources and personal ruthlessness he was able to create the illusion of stability. Thus the 'dictatorship of the law' and 'the vertical of power' does not really exist. Basically on corrupt clique of powerful people has been replaced by another one, no more. The legal system remains a tool of the powerful. Yet even the power structure does not really exist. While in more authoritarian dictatorships often at least the state can guarantee a certain sense of stability, Mr. Putin cannot really project his power into the far reaches of his empire.
Mr. Judah argues convincingly that Mr. Putin is not, as often assumed, goodwilling but cannot really implement his ideas, but that the nature of his system results inevitably in the Russia of today and that Mr. Putin will always put personal interests of his clique first.
The opposition as perceived in the West is a creature of Mscow, but with no real rooting in Rusia. This indicates that whoever will be in power will not change the nature of the game.
All in all a believable but dark assessment of modern Russia.
Where this book fails is in liveliness. Relatively early on the main thrust becomes clear (only the final chapters add some more again). Thus one wonders why the book is so long? Mr. Judah seems to have experienced many sides of Russia, has talked to interesting people, has travelled the road less travelled, but why does he write so little about it? Desperately I was hoping to find more interesting portraits, interviews, tableauxs, only to be disappointed again and again.
There is no doubt that he has the experience and the wit to see the cracks in Russia's society and to comment on it (for example when a landlord clearly prefers him to someone from the Caucasus, despite Mr. Judah challenging him with his Jewishness). Yet the moment a narrative becomes interesting, Mr. Judah seems to lose interest. For example the Chinese enterpreneur from Shenyang, what could he have said about Russia.... an opportunity wasted.
Thus the book is full of unfullfilled promises.....


China Airborne
China Airborne
by James Fallows
Edition: Hardcover
96 used & new from $0.01

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but not airborne, November 11, 2012
This review is from: China Airborne (Hardcover)
Fallows certainly can write an entertaining book. He starts by taking the Chinese aerospace industry as a metaphor for China. And he comes up with amusing and interesting anecdotes from his travels in China. Furthermore he also helped me to understand more about the aerospace industry as such, its commercial logic, challenges and risks. I enjoyed the fast read, the 'easy listening' style of the authors writing.
Yet overall the book disappoints. By taking this particular industry as a metaphor for China he move too fast away from aerospace into general political and economic territory. Thus there is little to be learned about the Chinese airlines, how they are being operated, how did they come into being, why there are so many and how they are competing. This would have been just one topic of interest among many others relating to aerospace.
The other territory, general politics, economic development of China etc. has also been sufficiently covered too many other books and here Fallows adds little new to the gigantic mountain of literature. Furthermore, he obviously had to rely completely on intermediaries (interpreters, foreigners living in China). There are even newspapers in China dedicated to the aerospace industry. How valuable can reporting be if the reporter is not even able to use this basic sources of information?
Three stars because the writing is good, but not more, as the content does not live up to expectations.


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