- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
We've had this camera for a few years now. It was purchased just around Christmas 2007 and was the first time we'd ever bought a Samsung camera - not the most traditional photographic manufacturer.
Many people will be buying similar cameras this festive season and I am really writing this review as a kind of warning to prospective camera buyers, so I'm not going to go into too much spec detail - this particular model would now only be available second-hand and I would strongly advise against buying one. In my opinion consumers are offered a poor choice in the compact digital camera market these days. Yes, there seem to billions of different cameras to choose from but look closely and you'll find they all do the more or less the same thing and with little to differentiate them in terms of photo quality. What irks me is that nearly all of them extend the lens when you switch them on and when you switch them off the lens goes back in. I know it's all about the zoom feature but do we really need this on nearly every camera out there? This is another example of how the modern consumer is forced to pay for features on gadgets that they don't need or will rarely ever use. In the old days of film cameras people got along fine without having a zoom lens. I never use the zoom on a compact digital came because I know it will run down the battery life - ah yes, the battery life, more on that later.
The Samsung D85 like most compact digital cameras today came with a nice body and some impressive specifications and features: a 5x optical and 5x digital zoom, 8.2MP resolution and a large 2.5" LCD screen for viewing and capturing shots. The photo quality was acceptable if not always reliable. Like many digital cameras it suffers from a shutter time lapse delay - you never actually capture the exact picture you see when you press the button. The photos though were generally excellent when printed. The downside however, and it is a big downside in my opinion, was the battery life. I remember that Christmas well when my Dad used 4 sets of AA batteries during the course of the day just to keep the camera going - a brand new camera at that. In my opinion such devices should be banned from sale. You can imagine the environmental waste around the world caused by these hugely inefficient cameras. Many people advised that rechargeable lithium batteries would solve the problem but I have found this does not improve battery life at all. I now only use this camera to take pictures of items that I sell on eBay. My fully charged rechargeable lithium batteries last for about 20 snap shots with this camera. These same batteries work fine with other devices such as Mp3 players.
If you look at manufacturer reviews of the cameras on for sale this Christmas you will be hard pressed to find any information regarding battery life, but for me this is the crucial attribute to take into account when buying a new camera. Consumers need to complain more about this. I used to have a digital Canon SLR. It used a lithium battery that would last for between 6 and 12 months. 6 months should be the minimum before you are forced to change a battery. My advice is not to buy a camera unless this is the case.
The SP101 amplifier separate is designed to go with other Acoustic Solutions separates of the same range such as the SP111 DAB/Tuner and SP 122 CD/MP3 play that I've recently reviewed. Of course it can also be hooked up with other separates of different brands. Importantly for me it is possible to hook up this amp to a turntable as there is a phono input socket at the rear.
The SP101 is a basic hi-fi separate designed to provide a solid and reliable performance. The exterior of the unit has a simple finish with minimal design. When switched on the only thing that lights up is a green back lit LCD panel and a power indicator switch - not that exciting it has to be said. However, as I mentioned in my previous review, a simple hi-fi separate without all the add on features of a higher range device often means a more reliable and durable item in the long run. This is certainly the case with our unit - after 4 or more years it's still going strong performing the same as the day it was bought.
The front panel is simply designed with easy to press forward with buttons for Phono, Tuner, Tape/Aux, CD, DVD and DAB. Alongside these is a function button which basically enables you to access menu feature such as bass, treble, balance, loudness and speakers on/off. The large rotary control knob then allows you to adjust the above mentioned menu features. Also on the front panel is a headphone socket, an LED power indicator (green when on, red when in stand by) and the power button.
The SP101 offers 40 watts per channel and can be hooked up to 4 speakers, although we've managed fine over the years with just the two. As you might expect, all the output sockets that correspond to the buttons on the front panel are located at the rear. Here you will also find Line input sockets for connection to external amplification or recording equipment.
Although not straight forward at first, using the unit is simple once you've gotten use to it. Volume control is the default setting on the user interface control - displayed on a small green back-lit LCD display. To access the other controls (bass, treble, balance etc) you have to press the function button once or more times until the desired control function appears on the display. You can the alter settings by turning the rotary control knob as referred to earlier. The unit comes with its own remote control which is also simple to use.
I would recommend the SP101 integrated amplifier as a basic hi-fi separate. although a little plain looking it tends to blend in with the rest of the living room furniture. The sound amplification is good and there is no noticeable noise humming noise when switched on. Price wise it cost about £100 when I bought it from Argos. At present you can still buy these new online - Maplin are selling them for £80 including delivery.
The SP122 CD/MP3 player separate is designed to go with other Acoustic Solutions separates of the same range such as the SP111 DAB/Tuner that I've recently reviewed, but of course it can be hooked up with other separates of different brands.
It's a solid unit built to do the basics. It's appearance like most of the units in this range is simple - some might say plain and boring. However, a simple machine without all the bells and whistles of a higher range model often means a more durable item and this seems to be the case with my unit - after 4 or more years it's still going strong and has never been to the doctor's once. We did have some initial operating problems were a CD would sound crackly but this seems to have been a teething problem that occurred not long after purchase rather than a major fault with the machine.
The front panel is straight forward with a simple LCD display panel and CD drawer being the main visible features. The LCD display panel provides information regarding track number, track time, play/pause indication, random and program features. Below this panel are 7 buttons: fast search backwards; fast search forwards; two skip track buttons; a play pause button; a stop button; an eject button and a power button. These are now standard universal functions that most people should be able to grasp in a matter of minutes and without referring to the simple instruction manual supplied with the CD player. There is also an LED power indicator on the front panel near the power button. This turns green when the separate is switched on and red when in stand by. All the above mentioned functions can also be accessed via a simple to use remote control.
The rear of the unit is even less complicated than the front. Here you will find analogue audio outputs for connection to a line input sockets on an amplifier and an optical S/PDIF output for connection to an audio amplifier with a digital optical input - this is limited to CD play only.
You do of course require a suitable amplifier to and speaker set up in order to listen to your CDs - this CD player is designed to hook up with the Acoustic Solutions SP101 amplifier. It is however, possible to listen to your CDs by using the headphone socket without an amplifier but this will only provide a limited acoustic performance.
I would say that this is a very simple to use CD separate that performs reasonably well and seems quite robust and durable. As a basic hi-fi separate it provides adequate playback performance and should satisfy most people's needs. Although a little plain looking it does remain unobtrusive in the living room. There is also no noticeable noise humming noise when switched on. Price wise it cost about £90 when first purchased but presently you should be able to pick one up second hand for less than half that price.
What I like about this version of the iPod compared to the earlier model is the tougher aluminium body, the screen which is the same size as the previous version at 90 x 40 x 6.5mm and the light weight of the device which is also unchanged at 42g. I can also testify that the increased screen brightness - due to a more powerful battery - really does make a difference and it is far easier to read in the house or outside in bright daylight - something that many such devices fail to do.
The now familiar click-wheel navigation system enables effortless one-handed use and still remains one of the best designs out there in my opinion. I like the fact that the Lock slider has been made larger making it more easy to operate, while the Enter button in the centre of the click wheel is dimpled making it easier to locate and press.
It might be said that the Nano is similar to its predecessor in many ways. On the top edge you will find the hold control and on the bottom edge is the headphone socket and iPod connector. With the same sinc connecter as the bigger iPods, you should be able to use many of the same accessories and connectors if you've already owned one of these in the past.
Compared with the previous model Apple have added a search function that allows you to scroll for tracks by title. When using the click wheel to scroll through your library of tracks the list whizzes past in a blur. In order to aid navigation a large letter appears on the screen to show where you've reached in the alphabet - a very useful feature. At 4GB you should be able to pack in 1000 tracks - I have 700 odd on mine.
The Nano is equipped with the easier to use iTunes version 7 but the gadget supports only music and photos with no video feature. The pane where you control the iPod has been considerably altered so you no longer use a separate utility to update the firmware on your iPod. This function forms part of iTunes. Although this Nano iPod comes without video playback, it does have an alarm, to do list, pin-code locking facility and you can even sync Outlook contacts and calendar appointments. There are also four pre-loaded games.
Something that is always an important issue for me when buying such a gadget is the battery life and at over 20 hours the Nano iPod should cover you for most long haul journeys. 20 hours is what I usually get from the one run of the on board Li-Ion battery, although the manufacturers suggest that 24 hours are possible - no doubt the battery has been somewhat worn out by the previous owner.
The sound of course is excellent but to be hyper critical I would only say that the bass falls short a little - and this is despite the bass boost feature. All my reggae albums sound quite weak or distorted on this but I think classical performs well. The Nano comes with stylish ear buds that perform to a satisfactory rather than an outstanding level.
In conclusion this is one of the better Apple gadgets - they don't always get it right in my opinion and I'm certainly no fan of the iPad. I think the 4GB Nano model cost £129 when it first came out - I picked mine up second hand on Amazon for around £50 not so long ago.
Bought this about 4 years ago, well actually my brother did but I've had a fair good use out of it. Cost around £90 to buy but I've seen these go for around £40 on eBay recently - a bargain if you can grab one. Now I've just noticed as I write that they are selling them on Amazon for £62.
It's quite a plain looking separate by today's standards and is a little dated but does the business well enough. The unit was a doddle to set up - just a case of plugging it in and auto tuning it in accordance with the easy to follow instruction manual. The DAB radio sound is crystal clear providing you use a decent pair of speakers.
Buttons are a nice size and the rotary control knob is ergonomically perfect and allows you to scroll through the stations or frequencies with ease.
On the front panel there are 4 preset channels - one short in my opinion - each with it's own button. Alongside these is a DAB/FM switch button, an auto tune button for quick or full scanning of digital stations, a headphone socket and headphone volume control button. There is also an info button that changes what is displayed on line 2 of the LCD display - either program type, radio station info, signal strength, time or date. The back-lit LCD display is sufficient I suppose but it is a little dull and difficult to read, especially in bright daylight.
Of course it is necessary to connect the tuner to an external amplifier and loudspeaker set up although you can listen to the DAB tune with headphones only. You also need a decent antenna if you want a decent reception. Having said that, I've found the reception overall to be quite good and we've managed quite well with the simple wire aerial that came supplied in the box.
Comes with a remote.
In conclusion I would say this is a good unit that is easy to use and provides a reliable good quality DAB radio sound. I would have to say that our Acoustic Solutions SP111 DAB separate is still as good as it was when we bought it four years ago.
I've dabbled with survey paying sites for a while now and have decided to write a number of reviews about them. Valued Opinions is generally considered to be one of the best in terms of promising what they offer. Like many similar survey sites its aim is to gather marketing information for businesses, retailers and other research companies. But like so many they also prove to be rather disappointing - especially when it comes to earnings.
As a member you are offered invitations by email to take part in surveys. I get about five a week. But the quantity of surveys you get doesn't mean you will get paid for them. As many members know, it is often the case that you will be screened out of a survey after the first five minutes - a frustrating experience that happens far too often. Nevertheless, I would say on average I manage to squeeze about £10 out of them every two months - a paltry sum it has to be said.
Valued Opinions like most survey sites pays a pittance for your time. Most survey pay rates range from 25p to £2 and the average survey tales about 30 minutes to complete - if you do it properly. So even taking an optimistic view, the hourly pay rate is roughly £4 - wage slavery if ever I heard it. And for those who might suggest that taking surveys is all about the fun and participation - take a hike! Most of them are mind numbingly dull.
Survey subject matter more often includes food, finance, cinema and the ever popular mobile phone survey. The surveys you get are supposed to reflect the personal data that you give upon registration. But they obviously pay no attention to your age, sex and home city/town as these details are repeatedly requested at the start of every survey and are one of the many irritating chores to contend with as a member.
There are exceptions to the regular surveys, such as long term assignments where you are asked to send in data online or via mobile phone. At present I am completing and assignment in which I have to pass on data related to car advertising. I have completed three such assignments before but have yet to be paid a penny. There is also the opportunity to enter prize draws. Not worth bothering with in my opinion.
I have to say when it comes to collecting your payment you do get paid (in shopping vouchers)... eventually. Last month I received a £10 Tesco voucher after waiting 5 weeks. Although you can also get paid in Amazon vouchers which tend to issued a lot quicker.
So even though this is one of the best survey sites, I can still only give it one star on account of the paltry sums that are offered to members.
The Kingston 101 4GB Data Traveler is a simple and affordable USB flash drive. For some time now compact USB flash memory drives have become a popular and affordable means of storing portable data. They are a convenient means of saving files for storage or as a quick and easy means of transferring your data from one storage device to another. Along with flash cards they have replaced CDs as the principle storage device for making cheap and portable back up copies of data. DataTraveler USB Flash drives are ideal for use in the home office, small business or in schools and colleges. I use my Kingston flash drive for transferring small amounts of data between office and home. This particular key comes with security software that enables you to set up a password so only you can access the data on your key. However, this can be time consuming and unless you're using really sensitive data it's not really necessary - I never use it.
The Kingston 101 4GB Data Traveler is a versatile device that is light and easy to carry. It can easily be slipped into a pocket or, as in the case of the Kingston design, you can clip them onto a key ring. The design of this flash key is advantageous because the loop through which you can attach a key ring is fixed to the key. Also the lid or cover is attached to the key and so it's not possible to lose it. With the older designs the lids had a tendency of slipping off easily and get lost
The drive is very easy to use, you just plug it in to a USB port on your computer and it will upload automatically. You can then easily transfer your files to the drive by copy and pasting or by dragging and dropping with the arrow key between a folder on your computer and a folder on the flash key. As with all such drives you will discover that upon first use not all of the GB space is available. This is because the on-board software already takes up some of this space. I use the drive with Windows Vista and have never had any problem with uploading/downloading data. I believe this particular drive is compatible with Windows 7 but I would advise you to double check.
Of course as storage capacity is constantly increasing since I purchased this flash drive over 12 months years ago you can no doubt get data keys with much higher storage capacities but 4GB is a handy for most daily tasks and if the unfortunate does happen and you lose the flash key at least you won't be losing loads of data.
The Kingston 101 4GB Data Traveler is good value, offers simple plug-and-play storage and gives excellent all round performance. At present the flash key is available on Amazon for just under the £7 mark.
I sold my Denon S-101 on eBay just before Christmas and I am writing this review in loving memory. Hopefully it will provide some useful information if you intend to buy one second-hand or purchase a similar but more recent up to date Denon product.
Setting up the Denon S-101 was quite straight forward - I remember it took me about an hour from unwrapping the package to playing my first DVD. I chose a Denon system because of past experience with a Denon Hi Fi unit that provided long lasting quality. The unit came with two small speakers and stands, a subwoofer (100W), and a DVD player. This was a 2.1 rather than a 5.1 system so in truth it was not really surround sound cinema, but it suited my needs and took up less room due to only having two speakers. The total output was 200W.
The Denon S-101 was slim, sleek and stylish although I had to hide the rather bulky subwoofer. The unit featured a bright orange display and backlit touch responsive controls. There was no DAB radio but there was a AM/FM radio tuner with RDS which provided excellent reception that never withered during the whole time I had it. The system had the standard set of connections: a RGB Scart, composite, S-video and progressive scan component video inputs, and optical and coaxial digital audio in and out.
After nearly two years of use my Denon S-101 never let me down and always put in a good performance whether it were DVDs, CDs or radio. It came with Dolby Digital Virtual sound and the speakers provided an expansive range whilst the DVD produced crisp fine detailed picture as you might expect. The remote control wasn't too complicated nor too fiddly.
The system came with an iPod connection that I made good use of. You could charge your iPod via a connection on the front panel. Once your iPod was connected there would appear an iPod option highlighted onscreen. You could then use the remote to navigate via an on-screen simulated graphic display that mimicked that of an iPod front panel. On the screen you could then easily navigate to all your play lists, artists, albums and songs.
There were no doubt bigger and better systems out there but the Denon S-101 was versatile enough to meet my needs. In fact I loved my Denon S-101 and wonder why I sold it. Ah yes, to be replaced by a superior 5.1 surround sound system that I still haven't found. As this model is a discontinued product you will now only find one second hand but if you intend to buy a later model I would recommend the Denon brand for reliability.
I purchased my Pentax Optio M85 towards the back of last year. It is currently available from Argos for around £70.
This Pentax Optio M85 is very much a pocket camera cased in a slender 24mm aluminium body that weighs 105g. First off the camera has some impressive features and comes with a 12.0mp high resolution CCD and a 32-96mm 3 x optical zoom lens. On first impressions it comes across as a very stylish camera... even though I really wanted a red one!
On the plus side there is an ample sized 3 inch LCD screen with 230.000 dots that enables you to see your captured images and to alter camera settings. However, the images on the screen are not as good as my previous Samsung 85D camera, lacking in sharpness and in particular the limited viewing angles mean that you have to look at the images head on. As for the photos though the image quality is satisfactory for my needs as long as I avoid taking pictures in low light conditions. I couldn't really advise whether the image quality overall would be up to the standards of the more serious shooter, but I doubt it.
Having spent the last two years or so constantly having to replace AA batteries of my Samsung 85D I liked the fact that this camera came with a more efficient Li-ion rechargeable battery. However this aspect is let down by the battery cover which opens far too easily and on more than one occasion has done so whilst I was taking a picture.
Another downside is the function wheel on the back of the camera that allows you to switch between the 12 different scene modes. The wheel is quite small and very fiddly to use and changing between modes can be really slow. Having said this, once I have it in automatic mode it does everything I need so I don't bother messing about with the functions too much.
But what I dislike most about this camera is the horrible noise that the lens makes every time it protrudes and zooms in and out. To be honest I would much prefer a camera without a zoom lens that didn't protrude every time you switched it on but they're such a rarity at the budget end of the spectrum. I find this feature to be one of the most annoying aspects of modern compact digital cameras and long for the simplicity of the old film cameras such as the reliable Olympus Trip that I used when I was kid and with which I always took stunning shots.
Oh, there is a 720p video capture at a measly 15fps frame rate that comes with some pretty awful sound quality - not much use in my opinion, though I've yet to come across video capture on a compact digital camera that is.
In conclusion the Pentax Optio M85 probably had the potential to be a very good budget camera but is let down by the numerous design flaws mentioned above. It isn't a complete dud however, and for a newcomer to compact digital photography it might not be a bad place to start.
* 3x optical zoom lens (32 - 96 mm) f 2,9-5,2
* 3.0'' inch large LCD-Display, 230.000 dots
* Auto scene available
* 1280x720 @15fps HD movie
* ISO range 80-3200
* Face recognition (Max 10 faces at a time)
* 90x58x19mm Slim and compact body
* Approx 215 shots (CIPA standard) with bundled rechargeable Li-ion battery
* 105g light body
Freesat is a digital TV service provided by the BBC and ITV and is available anywhere in the UK. At present the service provides over 140 digital TV and radio channels. It also provides a free HD (High Definition) service. There is no subscription and no monthly bills to pay, but you will need wither a digital box (from £29) or a freesat TV. You will have to pay £50 up front for the satellite and possibly £30 extra for the installation although you can do this yourself.
When I bought my freesat TV and ordered freesat installation - all from John Lewis - I mistakenly expected that all the TV channels accessible on freesat would be in HD. This is far from the case and was not made clear to me by the sales assistants in the various shops I entered. What you actually get according to the website is up to 70 hours a week of TV programmes in HD. What this initially amounted to was one BBC HD channel (108) where all the broadcast BBC HD channels are located and a few programmes on ITV that can be switched to HD via the red button. ITV have recently introduced a separate channel (114) exclusively devoted to HD broadcasts. So effectively at the time of writing, what you get with the Freesat option are two HD channels providing a very limited range of broadcasting. The only programmes I watch in HD are some of the nature programmes on BBC HD and the live football broadcast on ITV HD. I have yet to see a HD movie on Freesat.
The HD image is spectacularly crisp and sharp but there is an important point I would like to make here. When you go into a TV store you will see (as I did) all the TVs tuned into HD. One question that goes through your mind is whether it is worth paying the extra for freesat TV (compared to a normal digital TV) and/or the cost of satellite dish installation etc. I asked the sales assistant to show me the difference between a normal digital TV broadcast and freesat. He obligingly gave me a demonstration and the improved image quality of HD was immediately apparent. However... bare with me on this... both the digital TV (DVB) broadcast and HD broadcast on the store TV came via the Freesat satellite dish. It was only after installation and set up at home that I was to discover the DVB TV broadcast via a satellite dish is less sharp than the DVB gained via a normal TV aerial. In other words if the shop demonstration had compared DVB via a normal TV aerial with a HD broadcast via the Freesat dish the difference in picture quality would have been far less noticeable.
To sum up: although HD TV provides a very sharp picture, the improved difference in sharpness you get compared to what you can already get from DVB via a good quality digital TV with a normal aerial might not be as great as you are led to believe.
One downside with HD broadcasts is that the picture is liable to freeze and crash. In the 10 months I have had the service this has happened about 6 times during a football match. This is a lot considering the total amount of time I watch TV in HD must be less than 5% of my overall TV viewing. There was also the debacle during the recent world cup match between England and USA when I, like millions of others, missed the Steven Gerrard goal due to a HD broadcasting hiccup in which an advert appeared after the game had kicked off. This is the second time something like this has happened - I recall missing an Everton goal scored during a match due to a similar failure.
Freesat provides you with all the main channels you can already get free with Freeview. So what else do you get from Freesat? Mostly a load of trash is the answer. There are a range of news channels all showing the same news, some extra kids channels that seem to only show American cartoons and are top heavy with advertising, several film channels all showing exceedingly trashy films, a couple of religious channels mostly presented by religious nutters from the US, a channel called BET that only shows Poker games, a few yawn inducing music channels, two phone-in porn chat channels and a number of lifestyle and special interest channels that are very poor quality. To sum up: in terms of the extra channels you get in addition to those you already get free with Freeview, apart from maybe a couple of news channels, there is absolutely nothing that stands out. Disappointingly for me there is only one foreign speaking channel: Alba - a news channel from Sweden. You can't even get the football matches from Norway and Italy that get shown illegally down at my local. So basically I paid £50 plus for one BBC HD channel and the odd Champions League game on ITV HD - hardly worth it.
To Sum Up
If you already have a quality TV with Freeview I'd really think twice about bothering to have Freesat set up on your TV and going to the trouble of having a Freesat satellite dish drilled into the wall of your house. What's more, HD is coming to Freeview soon (but you'll have to buy another one of those boxes for that). The thing that really disappoints, well in fact almost depresses me, is all the trashy channels you have access to via Freesat. We have all this advanced technology only to have access to the Christian claptrap of Daystar TV, the pathetic garbage broadcast on Movies for Men 2 (as if one wasn't bad enough), the ridiculous Wedding TV, the bizarre Psychic TV, the lies and propaganda spewed out by the Islam channel and the sight of young half naked women on the 'Filth' and 'Babestation' channels miming sexual acts to the directions of phone-in viewers. And none of the above is in HD in case you're wondering. Maybe "the end of civilisation is nigh" as one presenter on the religious 'Revelation' channel said the other night.
Nizoral shampoo now comes in a red and white packet unlike the one illustrated. I saw a number of favorable reviews about this product on the site so I decided I would balance things out: Nizoral anti dandruff shampoo does not work. Of all the anti-dandruff shampoos I have used I would say without doubt that Nizoral is the least effective - in fact I would say it totally ineffective.
The shampoo is unlike most anti-dandruff shampoos in that it does not contain coal tar extract. It does contain ketoconazole - a synthetic anti fungal drug used to prevent and treat skin and fungal infections. It also contains laurdimonium hydrolysed animal collagen - if I'd known this before ordering online at pharmacy2U I definitely wouldn't have bought it in the first place. Although a vivid pink colour when squeezed out of the bottle Nizoral is fragrance free.
There is no cure for dandruff - it's something half the population has to put up with and manage as best they can throughout life. As a man I have had dandruff since my early 20s and although never getting rid of it permanently I have used some anti dandruff shampoos that have had some immediate results - cleaning the scalp of dandruff for a few days or so - this was my experience with T-Gel but never with Nizoral.
The instructions on the bottle indicate that after applying a small amount in to the scalp after wetting your hair you are supposed to leave it for 3 to 5 minutes for the best results. But after rinsing thoroughly as advised I found that my dandruff was barely effected at all. You are also advised to use it every 3 or 4 days for the first 4 weeks until the dandruff clears - again something that never happened in my experience despite following these guidelines.
I can't remember the exact price of my 100ml bottle of Nizoral but it was somewhere around the £8 mark - not cheap for something that does not work. Absolutely not recommended.
I had intended to write a review about Freesat HD TV but as there is no category (I've just made a suggestion) I've decided to write about Freeview as a precursor.
I think Freeview is one of the best advancements in TV viewing in recent years. It is a useful and necessary alternative to Sky satellite and Virgin cable paying TV broadcast packages. In the early days you needed to buy a set top box in order to view the digital channels but nowadays all new TVs have digital processing built in. Since the launch of Freeview in 2002 it has become the UK's most popular digital TV service. More than 18 million homes currently have Freeview.
Freeview is a digital terrestrial platform that offers up to 50 digital TV channels and 24 radio stations without subscription for free. Of course you still need a TV license so to some extent you are paying for it. Out of all the TV channels on offer I would say only about a dozen or so are really worth viewing, but still plenty to choose from. The traditional terrestrial channels remain the best in my view: BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. BBC4 is probably the best of the new digital channels to come along with some quality documentaries and arts programming to be found. Although it has to be said that a lot of the BBC4 programming is broadcast on BBC2 at a later date. You can also find some decent viewing on ITV4 and BBC News. CBeebies is good for the kids especially as you can avoid indoctrinating them with loads of advertising. The music channels don't interest me much as they offer little choice. They tend to dominated by chart music, R&B or hip hop and are too often full of distracting screen pop-ups which just get on my nerves. The remainder are made up of shopping channels, those channels showing old repeats such as ITV3, and those dominated my trashy American TV such as Virgin1. Five USA and Fiver contain nothing but junk and often rely on old thin screen formats with a poor quality picture.
Personally I would like to see a few foreign speaking channels, especially from the rest of Europe, just to get a different perspective on things as well as being able to practice my French and German. Another quality Film channel alongside Film4 wouldn't be a bad idea either. Trying to see a decent film on TV these days is an increasingly difficult task. There should also be more quality local TV channels in which more local people can participate although it is understandable that financing such projects would be difficult.
Coming soon is Freeview HD offering HD quality broadcasting. It seems however that you will need to buy another type of set top box or a Freeview HD integrated TV - this will be a pain for all those (like me) who have just bought a Freesat HD integrated TV.
So although it's not perfect, Freeview is in my opinion by far the best deal when it comes to digital viewing at present. As a free service it undoubtedly offers far better value than Sky.
I have been a vegetarian for most of my life. As a visiting unexpected guest or whilst travelling in far flung places I have lapsed on numerous occasions in order to 'fit in', but being vegetarian is not a religion. A principle reason I've excluded meat from my diet over the years has been the unhealthy and inhumane way that meat is produced. In the USA today and in parts of Europe they still pump their cattle full of strange hormonal growth drugs.
What we eat is strongly influenced by our cultural upbringing and the local natural environment in which we live. Some Africans who happily gorge on chimpanzee meat would be puzzled at my disgust. Millions of Hindus in India eat no meat at all. The type of animal we eat is not determined by its level of intelligence. Some Koreans eat dogs and many westerners eat pigs but both animals have similar intelligence. To be a vegetarian in a western meat-eating culture is clearly an act of conscience.
The inhumane way we treat farm animals is one of the main reasons why many become vegetarian. Although as individuals in the UK we seemingly show a growing concern for animal welfare, most people still choose to remain ignorant of how meat and fish arrives on their plate. In an age of abundance where animal food is cheaper than ever, we treat farmed animals with ever increasing cruelty - such cruelty against pet dogs and cats would lead to prosecution under law. Yes, we were once hunter gatherers and it is true that gruesome killing is a part of nature. But it is the mechanization of animal cruelty on a mass industrial scale that seems so macabre. And if it isn't, why do the farming industry go to such extreme lengths to keep it under cover? Factory farmers have successfully separated their cruel industrialised farming methods from the neatly sliced and packaged meat products we collect from supermarket shelves. And as consumers we willingly succumb and accept this dichotomy of nature. Every year about 450 million land animals are factory farmed throughout the world. Those in favour would argue that such methods have provided cheap food, but only in the same way that concentration camps provide cheap labour. And the damage to the marine environment caused by the fishing industry is largely unmeasured, but it is estimated that for every tuna fish killed approximately 145 other species are wastefully slaughtered.
Another growing argument for becoming vegetarian is based on the environmental destruction and contribution to global warming caused by livestock farming. According to the UN farmed animals are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions - this is about 40% more than that produced by all types of transport. On one level it is obviously clear that animal farming is unsustainable. The only counter argument to this is that the real problem is too many humans. Over populated countries such as the UK do not have the enough landmass to feed itself - not without creating an environment that would be insufferable to live in. Therefore it imports much of its food and thereby contributes to the destruction of natural habitats in other countries. On the one hand we have China's demand for cheap soya and on the other we have factory chickens in America and Europe which consume soya in their feed: both demands have seen an increase in the destruction of virgin rainforests around the world as they are replaced by monocultures of soya crops. But leaving the population issue aside, there can be little doubt that the production of meat is the most uneconomical means of producing protein fit for human consumption. One kilogram of beans produces far more protein than a kilogram of meat and requires far less acreage, water and other resources in its production.
To assert that being a vegetarian is nothing more than some kind of quirky lifestyle option has always been a weak argument. And those other feeble remarks I often here at social gatherings: "but if I don't eat meat what else is there?" or "you can't just live on leaves" are no longer worthy of a response. Meat eating is no longer a viable option. Meat eating means human ignorance. Meat means a life time of suffering for sentient animals and often a prolonged cruel agonising death. Meat means environmental destruction and global warming. Meat is truly murder.