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Tesco's value tea bags are incredible value for money. The current price is just 28p for 80 tea bags.
As they are so cheap I was expecting certain results from these.
Firstly, I expected there to be almost no tea in the tea bag. You know, like the chicken in Tesco's own chicken pies, where you require a massive microscope to find the chicken? Not so with these tea bags, there is a respectable amount of tea in there.
I made my first cup and everything went well. I must admit that they are not exactly the strongest cup of tea in the world. If you like your tea weak or milky, they are ideal however. For everyone else, maybe give them to any sales people. It might stop them coming back.
My mind was filled with fear as I took the first sip. I didn't know if it was going to be one of those tastes that make your bottom muscles involuntarily clench or one of tastes that makes your head wobble with your face muscles all tight, like you do when you drink grapefruit juice.
It wasn't either. In fact, no muscles involuntarily moved except for my eyebrows. The went up. The one on the left slightly higher than the one on the right. In my little world that means, "better than expected".
Now it isn't the most pleasing tea in the world. I prefer Tetleys, PG Tips or Ringtons to these, but all of those cost many, many more pennies than Tesco's tea bags.
I thoroughly recommend that everyone should have these in their house. Weak tea drinkers will like these. Those that like a stronger tea can always use these to get rid of any unwanted guests. Like in-laws or sales people. And for just 28p, you can get rid of 80 of them.
Having recently competed in the Richard Burns Memorial Rally at RAF Marham last month, I noticed that there was no review on Richard Burns on DooYoo even though the category already existed.
This wasn't too much of a surprise. Richard Burns was World Rally Champion in 2001 and was British. Even though the British never seem to win much in any sport, when Richard won the championship with Robert Reid as co-driver, there was very little coverage in the news.
Although he did take a drive for a few years with Mitsubishi, these are fairly forgettable. The drive with Subaru was what secured him as one of the drivers to watch out for. Coming second in 1999 and 2000 he won in 2001, proving that a Brit other than Colin McRae had talent in driving cars.
He was a man who had to work hard for his talent and drove a completely different style to many of the other top drivers. Richard made very few errors and was highly consistent.
During the 2003 season it became evident that Richard was ill and this was due to cancer. He was very much removed from the spotlight and two years later on Nov 25, 2005, Richard passed away.
Ignored by the news during his career, his death was overshadowed and he was ignored again because the news was dominated by the death of George Best on the same day.
Jeremy Clarkson, normally the complete idiot on Top Gear was one of the few presenters that mentioned Richard's death.
He always seemed to be a quiet man, at least in front of the cameras however on a few occasions the passion for motorsport became obvious. In one safari rally, the car became beached on sand just a few yards away from the service park. Under rally rules he wasn't in the service park and the only people allowed to work on the car was Richard and Robert. Desperate to get the car into the service, they tried everything they could, even ripping down advertising banners to drive on. Nothing worked and they were out of the rally. Richard was distraught and was looking very depressed and worn out in the footage where they realise all was lost. This was a rare insight into the man that was normally very well composed.
Following on from Colin McRae, Richard Burns produced his own video game "Richard Burns Rally". This was very different to the Colin McRae arcade type game and Richards game was very technical, difficult to drive, had very narrow roads and above all was far more realistic. Upon his death, only one version had ever hit the shelves with no follow up.
The Richard Burns Memorial Rally has just completed it's second run and brings significant amounts of money to various charities.
A man whose career was virtually ignored by the media who achieved amazing success. A shame he was taken too early.
The Western Digital external hard disk is easy to use storage for your computer.
Although it connects via USB with one cable, you also need an AC power adapter as well. This is included in the box but may make it unsuitable for use with a laptop on the move. Once all two of the cables are connected which are both of a nice length, you are up and running.
Presumably for compatibility to older computers, the disk is formatted in a format type known to geeks as 'FAT32'. Now, this may not seem like such an issue, however FAT32 discs cannot store files larger than 4GB. If you are trying to back up your computer then 4GB is not likely to be large enough for most backup software. So you need to reformat the disk into NTFS format to get around the problem. As software provided with the disk is actually stored on the disk itself, you may want to copy those files to your hard disk before you format the disk, since formatting will wipe everything off. I can't remember exactly how long it took to format but it was probably somewhere between two and three hours.
However, whilst you wait you can examine the quality of the product and see how noisy the drive is. You often get clicks and a delay if you haven't accessed the disk for a short while. These are not noisy and are about the only sounds the device makes.
The outer case is a nice black colour and it stands vertically. It's even designed to be put on a book shelf and hence the shape is book-like. I like this idea as it doesn't have to stand out as more technical geeky stuff in your house. On the front are just two LED's. They are thin and long and vertical and best of all blue. Both lights stay on when the drive is on, they alternate when the drive is in use. When you shut down your computer, the drive automatically shuts off and the lights go out which is a nice idea.
Even though it is made of plastic, it feels very sturdy.
Now the hard disk is formatted, you can examine the software. I use Windows XP and the software supplied all seems to be trial software. There is some sort of backup software that lasts for 30 days before you have to purchase it, so I decided not to bother with any of the installed software at all. There is a folder on the disk with software for Apple Mac computers but I can't comment on what is in there.
It does use up a USB port however and this uses the USB 2.0 standard. This is the faster version. It isn't compatible with FireWire which I am told is even faster. Since most computers do have USB ports these days and very few have FireWire, USB is a good choice for Western Digital to choose. I have played some movies from the hard disk to test the speed and they play just fine. It can stutter at times when playing music in music making software since it may be trying to read 32 music tracks at the same time and transfer them through the USB connection. For most people, playing your MP3 collection from this disk is no problem whatsoever.
This disk is a nice little thing for your computer. They now seem to be available in 1TB and 2TB as well now, if you need more space.
The price was very reasonable too. Although I did pay trade price, I have seen these for under £70 with one or two companies even under £60. A price worth paying for backing up any important data.
Very simple to use. Nice design. Shame it requires AC power cable and is formatted to 'FAT32', these are the only two reasons to put you off from buying one.
The credit crunch hit us all with such a speed that the way finances changed so rapidly was frightening.
The first issue that really hit me hard was the collapse of the IceSave bank account. Having several thousand of savings plus the money to pay my income tax and VAT bill for my small business was devastating. Alisdair Darling saving us by announcing that we would all be paid back even though it was an insured bank account we should be given the money back anyway. However, the insurance was from Iceland and they were playing a little awkward, thus causing stress of knowing when I would have access to my money again and not if.
Fortunately, I did get the IceSave money back in time to pay the required bills on time.
As I run my own business I found a catch-22 situation where people and businesses were holding onto their money a little more, to see how this "credit crunch" panned out. This meant a reduction in the amount of business I got but also meant advertising prices were rising due to the same amount of companies fighting for less customers.
The next thing was the RBS fiasco. As we all know, the government bailed them out with a large loan. As all my business banking was with Natwest (owned by RBS) this was suddenly a further concern. With no access to the IceSave money, I couldn't afford to operate two business accounts with an independant company and I was left to wonder - who do you trust with the money anyway?
RBS again is insured for personal and small businesses, fortunately this time fully through the FSA, so I knew I would get any money in there back should anything go wrong, but RBS also operate the credit card processing needed for my business. Was this insured? I wasn't so sure and never really got an answer. As they pay several weeks behind, that could potentially be more money lost - the turnover of possibly three weeks (not the profits, but the turnover!).
Next, the VAT rate was reduced which created more work for me in my company - having to reprice all the items at lower prices at very short notice. This was technically unpaid work and was a pain to do only for us to have to do the same at the end of the year when the VAT rate (should) go back up.
Interest rates crashed and the first few were good because my mortgage began to go down. But ending your mortgage deal in November 2008 was not a good time to go onto the standard variable rate. It didn't take long however for the company who parade under the Nationwide name to stop reducing the rates, whereas Nationwide were telling the government that they were slashing rates by the full amount. A company owned by Nationwide who only uses the Nationwide name when it benefits them.
Currently I pay about £270 a month more than what I would have been because my deal ended. Reduced income also severly restricted where I could remortgage.
Second-hand car prices plummeted and I had been considering changing my car for sometime, but £6000 was wiped off the value in just a few months. In fact, because of what it is worth now it isn't worth changing to another model.
There is a good side to the credit crunch too, however.
Petrol has gone up, food has gone up, in fact I can't think of many items that have gone down in price.
It has taught me how to budget much better, how to live on a shoestring, as they say. I was never a big spender but I now manage my finances under even stricter controls than before. Visiting some car boot sales, selling items on eBay and being able to start growing my own food are just a few of the things I may have kept on putting off had it not been for "the crunch".
Fortunately, my business has not collapsed, unlike Woolworths, MFI, General Motors and many other large companies that have been victims. This leaves me in a job but struggling to pay bills each month at the moment. It does worry as to who will be the next business failure or is this over? I am just trying to make sure it is not my business to go next.
At least I am in a job, since there many there are not right now.
The FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) is a goverment run system which compensates people when certain financial systems fail. These include banks which is what I claimed against. I have been told that they also insure against insurance company failures.
The service is funded by charges to the organisations that benefit from the cover.
A bank account is insured to a maximum of £50,000 however there are some anomolies in this.
My bank, IceSave collapsed in the beginning of October 2008. Although they had only been operating in the UK for a couple of years, their parent bank Lansbankinn had been operating for 123 years. IceSave were registered with the FSA (Financial Services Authority) and therefore were part of the FSCS scheme.
Unfortunately, they opted for a passport scheme which means the first £16,000 (approx) should have been covered by the Icelandic government. During disagreements on how this should be paid, the UK government decided to go ahead and refund everyone in the UK from the FSCS, claiming the rest from the Icelandics at a later date.
The 'passport' scheme did seem to add a delay to the proceedings by at least a few days. Watching the news simply showed a rift between the UK and Icelandic governments when in reality it should have been simple. The Icelandics had guaranteed the first £16,000, the British insured the rest, up to £50,000.
Perhaps it would be simpler to claim from a fully UK protected company?
Anyway, the FSCS did operate a fairly efficient operation.
First of all was the 'accelerated' payment system. This, in essense meant that you could log into your account online and make the claim there. Now, don't get your hopes up too much since the website was run and operated by the Newcastle Building Society. If it had been run by IceSave/Landsbanki staff, this accelerated system may not have been able to happen.
They chose to send two emails. The first to confirm that they had your details. This was reassuring at least.
The second email was to allow you to log on and claim your money. Only a few were sent initially - I assume to iron out any problems before sending loads out. More and more were sent by the end of 2008.
I was constantly watching my email box as I had bills to pay and had in fact tried to remove £1000 from my account the day before they collapsed.
MoneySavingExpert had many IceSave users on the forum stating when they had got their second email and how easy the claim was. Some people were clearly getting frustrated that others were getting compensation before them but that was how it was!
It would have been nice to get the second email much earlier with a date you could make your claim. 'Dear Mr/Mrs ...., you can initiate your claim on December 3rd 2008' would have made financial planning a lot easier, a lot less stress free and would have made a lot of people much happier.
From making my claim, the money was in my (linked) account within just a few days.
It was unfortunate that I had to use the FSCS in the first place, and I hope no-one reading this ever has to in the future.
The service was probably dealing with a lot of frustrated people and the lack of communication was a bit of a problem for me. They would update their website stating, "Further information will be available on the 23rd". On the 23rd (or 24th!) they would update their page at one minute to five in the evening.
Then, I imagine, they grabbed their coats, ignored the phones and ran out of the building.
This left people wondering and forums would alight with speculation of reading into what they were actually saying.
Claims went through easily in most cases, although some had to be done via a paper-based application. Their only weakness seemed to be the communication, everything else was very good.
IceSave had banks in other countries including Holland and Germany. I read that one of these countries opted for paper-based claims for everyone. Their planning was poor to the point that they even had to move office since the amount of paperwork being received was greater than the load the office floor could actually take!
So not perfect, but it seems to be better run than the other countries. Something that Britain did well then!
A few points also:
Many people have stated to me that IceSave customers should not have been compensated at all as they were 'offshore' and you paid 'no tax' on your accounts. They were not offshore - based in London and Newcastle UK. You did pay tax on your accounts unless you had an ISA with them.
IceSave is not linked to Lansbanki Isle of Man/Guernsey/Jersey which were offshore accounts and you did not pay tax on these accounts. They were also not covered by the FSCS, so no insurance policy existed on these accounts other than the assets Landsbanki had in these durisdictions.
The passport scheme made the claim a little more complicated and there are a number of banks that still run this scheme including some big names such as ING and The Post Office (Bank of Ireland).
This is my list of favourite cars and it may seem like a bit of an odd list. Everything from bottom of the range cars through to £300,000 cars. Favourites are a personal thing and here is mine:
10. McLaren SLR
This is basically a highly modified Mercedes SL. Yes, it is expensive and is worth much more than the average house. It is a proper supercar with nice luxury touches such are air conditioning that works, a nice sound system and an automatic gearbox. A luxury supercar, then. This may be getting moved off my list, since the new Mercedes SL AMG actually looks better and you will save around £150,000 if you buy the Mercedes version over the McLaren.
9. Lexus IS200
I almost bought one of these. Talking about the older model, made from about 1999. It is fairly square shaped. It looks like it means business. The interior is also very stylish and in this regard it is unusual for a Japanese car. TWell built, these are not too expensive at the moment, but I took a Mercedes C-Class over this down to the Lexus managing just 29mpg and the C-Class 37mpg for the same type of car as well as the Lexus insurance being more expensive (at least for me). The Lexus looks better, drives better and is built better than the C-Class however.
8. Maserati Quattroporte
These start at around £79,000, much cheaper than they actually look. They are a four door saloon car with a whopping great engine. But who cares what engine it has, who cares how fast it is? Take one look at it. It has so much style, even the Italians stop and stare.
7. Smart Roadster
Almost 'environmentally friendly', these have a tiny 700cc engine (0.7 litres). To give it some performance, Smart added a turbo. The turbo wizzes behind your head when you change gear as this car has the engine in the rear. The blistering performance can be beaten by most Vauxhall Corsas, but the handling of the Smart Roadster leaves a smile on your face for days! Just be sure to get one with the full automatic gearbox, the semi-auto will drive you mad! Unfortunately it doesn't have much boot space and only seats two.
6. Lamborghini Gallardo
The understated supercar. It really does look the business but doesn't have all the "look at me" spoilers. A little smaller than the Murcielago, this one has measurements that will fit down gaps in a normal road and will fit in a country lane without driving your left wheels in the shrubs.
5. Volvo C30
Yes, another normal car here. It looks amazing on the road, especially in white. Strange because I don't normally like white cars. I have got to admit that Volvo make good cars, but good looking cars are not the thing that first springs to mind. The C30 does look good, it also is reasonably priced and one day, one day I may just own one of these.
4. Alfa GT
The Alfa Romeo GT has been around for a long time now, however its looks have not dated. Alfa do not have the best reputation for reliability but they have a good thing for styling cars. The GT is only a four seater and has huge doors which may make it awkward in car parks. I find it looks very much like the loved Brera with the main difference being that your back passengers do not need to be contortionists throughout the journey!
3. Mercedes C-Class Coupe
I know, I know. Many people don't actually like these, but I do. There are a few problems with this car though. It is only a four seater, rear vision isn't brilliant. Having said that, early versions were built in South Africa where the standard C-Class is also built. Quality of their cars wasn't the best from this factory and within a year or so, Mercedes moved production to Germany to improve the quality. The reason is because this was the car that many first-time Mercedes owners were driving and Mercedes wanted them to have a good first opinion. Better built than the C-Class it was based on, the C-Class saloon and estated stayed in South Africa for production, it went on to either be loved or hated. I happed to love the car!
2. Toyota Aygo
The cheapest of the bunch, this car is really good! Everything has been designed to be built cheaply. This is different from designing a car and then working out where you can save costs by cutting corners. When Honda and Rover worked together, the Rovers were basically Honda cars with corner cutting, and you could tell! Look where Rover are now. Toyota on the other hand have made a cracking little car which is efficient, cheap to insure and small. A perfect first car. Before anyone states that this is the same as the Citroen C1 and the Peugeot 107, it isn't. Both the Citroen and Peugeot are identical cars, but are priced higher. Although you should be able to get the car cheaper from one of the French manufacturers, it does mean you will have to haggle. Further, Peugeot and Citroen are known to have higher depreciation than Toyotas. It will be interesting in years to come to see which are depreciating the most, being an identical car. You can't insult someone who drives one a Toyota Aygo.
1. Maserati 3200GT
...and now my favourite. The Maserati 3200GT is the first car that was made when Maserati was under the control of Ferrari. So you expect it to be good then? Well no. It is unreliable, uneconomical, notoriously expensive to service, fairly poor rear visibility, some very dodgy colour schemes and depreciates faster than Royal Bank of Scotland's share price. Some of the colour schemes are so bad (there is an awful mid blue colour, non-metallic) that if you have an accident, the other person could not claim they never saw you! It has a Ferrari engine and traction control system, hence the unreliability (yes, Ferrari are known to be unreliable). I was quoted £3000 for a service when I was looking for one.
Yet I still love it. The 'boomerang' lights at the back set this car apart but they were unfortunately dropped when the 4200 came out since the Americans decided the boomerang lights were too small. This car isn't the usual supercar either. Under £80,000, these things are now available at low prices. I have seen them for £9000, although usually they are more in the £12,000 - £15,000 range for an early model (1999). It seats four people, yes, that's right, four people even though it looks like a two seater. The design of the car is close to perfect, the lines look good from every angle. Inside is also very stylish, stitched material and again, a huge choice of colours were available so expect to find a silver car with a red interior out there!
The Maserati 3200GT is available to almost anyone to buy. Running it is a different story. Expensive insurance, rip-off serving costs and poor miles per gallon. A shame, because I almost bought one!
They are the cars I like and I am missing some that people may almost expect to be standard. Here's some and why:
Bugatti Veyron - Boring
This is the most boring car I think I have ever seen. It doesn't actually look that good and what's worse is the two paint colours on the car. I took a look at the website and it has a list of the colours. The only nice variation was black/black! Yes, it's fast. Yes, it's unusual but I can't help feeling that this is like buying a scientific experiment. There is absolutely no emotion from me to this car. It's like a Formula 1 car - you can respect it's speed, but it's still a bit ugly.
Porsche 911 - All Look the Same
Perhaps these do drive really well, but do I want to look like I buy a car from the most uncreative manufacturer out there? They all look the same. Everyone that likes me bores me to death with the difference between the GT2 and the GT4 and the 4x4 and the Turbo. I am sometimes scared to talk to people who own Porsches in case it is really possible to die from boredom.
All 4x4's - Not as Safe as People Imagine
SUV's, 4x4's, Chelsea Tractors. Whatever you call them it is simply a case of 'mine is better because it is bigger', or the best 'they are safer'. Unfortunately, according to statistics, you are twice as likely to die in a 4x4 off-road style car than a normal everyday car. This is due to the increased likelyhood of them turning over. ABS and other technological advancements have improved the safety but nothing stops them turning over due to other impacts in the event of an accident. Some models have a tendancy to turn over under sharp turning (avoiding an accident) - unfortunately this can mean that you hit the accident head on (literally) since the car on it's side can hit roof first. Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. You want a big safe car? Buy a Volvo V70 or something similar.
All Ferraris - Bland
I find Ferrari a bit bland these days. Like Porches, it's like everyone wants them. The two main make of supercar. Unfortunately, Lamborghini, Aston Marton and Maserati are making much better looking cars these days.
Almost Unavailable Cars:
And of course we all love some unavailable cars as well. Yes a Metro makes it into the list, the Metro 6R4 and the Audio Quattro (original Quattro with a capital Q, not an A3 quattro or A4 quattro etc...). These cars were amazing in their day, the days of B-Class Rally. Amazing, amazingly difficult to control - stupid speeds, poor handling. Unfortunately a string of big rally accidents saw an end to these cars though you do sometimes see them at rallys, still being raced. Very rarely, you may see one on the road, but they are so rare, I couldn't include them in my top ten.
The last I will mention is the Venturi Fetish. I don't know huge amounts about it, but it was the first electric vehicle I ever know of that looks good and also has good performance. I am unsure that electic cars are the way to go since electic production creates lots of environmental concerns as well - so they are not 'zero emissions', they simply move the emissions away from the car itself. However, it could be the future and the future looks good!
This has got to be one of the worst programs on TV.
It is a "make-under" show which generally takes women, although some men participate as well, and gets them to tone down their outrageous make-up, tan or fashion sense.
Like eating Pringles and watching a horrifying car crash at the same time, you just can't stop watching, no matter how cringeworthy!
Really, you should watch this. Just once. You will be amazed at the lack of budget, the corny comments and the state of some of the people they get to participate.
Once they introduce the make-up-ridden person who is wearing clothes made from dental floss, they get to meet POD. This is supposed to be a computer that slates their senses of what looks good.
Now the title of the show becomes apparent. They have shown photos of the participants to 100 people on the street and asked them multiple choice questions. One of these is always, if you saw this person would you snog, marry or avoid them?
The participant gets to choose what they think the majority would pick. Great, this shows how big headed they are (or are not!).
Then a make-under is done, although there is no real advice to the people watching as to the decisions made. The only clues are the participant gets a choice of hairstyle and celebrity styles that they prefer. Usually they get a choice of 4 to pick from.
Next, you see the dental-floss wearing, orange-skinned glitter ball after their make-under. Sometimes quite a change!
One girl who I could only describe as a "minger" on here, actually turned out to be quite a looker when she didn't slap it on.
I've got to admit that it is quite addictive through the program but since each episode is almost identical, I can't recommend you watch it more than once.
But seriously, get you sense of humour on and watch one of these if you have never watched it before!
You'll find it on BBC3.
Lord of the Rings games are a little old now, however older games can sometimes represent value for money.
The game begins with film footage and the first level you play as one of the characters and it seems impossible to die. Perhaps, this is to get you used to the controls. Speaking of the controls, there are some bizarre choices of which buttons do what.
Nevermind, too much because the screen shows you what to do. There is a helpful controller on the loading screen highlighting which buttons may be relevant to a particular level.
This doesn't help too much, when you must play as Aragon on the second level. Here you must defeat those men on the black horses. Try as you might, they are impossible. No clues, they defeat you everytime. It took me a long, frustrating time to realise that you must get rid of them using fire. You need to have a burning stick, which is set alight by a bonfire in the middle of the section. It seems you need to use the 'powerful attack' button as well, which simply made it almost impossible to figure out.
From then on, you can choose which character to play as for each level. There are just three to choose from. Aragon, Gimli and Legolas. Different parts of the game suit different people better, but the game is possible using any of the characters at any time.
There is some nice variation in the game, many of the levels do feel a little bit different, if unclear as to what you should be doing. Some are timed events where you must reach a certain point before the clock runs out. Another section has you kicking down ladders from a castle wall, which keep on being replaced. Again, this is unclear at first and you will probably be defeated a few times before you realise what you should be doing!
Although your characters can level up and buy new skills, you will find most of them are not needed. I was nowhere near buying a quarter of them when I had finished the game.
There are real movie clips in this and it does run smoothly into the animation for the game itself, although this animation isn't brilliant, the movie clips do help add to the story.
I found the game a little frustrating at first, but soon it did become a little challenging.
Still, it's far too short to be worth a lot.
It's not a brilliant game and it's certainly not long, hence do not pay too much for it. It is probably worth paying 99p on an eBay auction or something similar at a car boot sale.
Being Human is a BBC3 series which is about a Vampire and a Werewolf who are trying to be as humane as possible, trying to live a normal life.
The third character is already present in a house they decide to rent. She happens to be a ghost who isn't sure why she is still here.
BBC aired a pilot episode in 2008 and this was simply brilliant. The actors were all good and in particular, the girl who played the ghost was fantastic. Totally the opposite of how you may imagine the role to be played. The episode was very clear in the plot and was full of dark humour.
Unfortunately by the time the BBC decided to make a 6 part series, only one of the original actors was available to return.
To make things worse, the series almost assumed you knew what was happening right from the start. If I hadn't caught the pilot, I would probably have given up on the programme.
Episodes 1 to 4, I didn't find all that interesting. Each episode did highlight a completely new plot and you could probably miss some of these out without missing too much of the story. They seemed to be padding out the series. The dark humour was almost gone, the characters didn't seem to gel together so well - in fact, much of the time there was two stories happening at the same time; the only link was that they lived in the same house.
I almost gave up after the four episodes but since my video was on weekly timer, it did record the last two, episodes 5 and 6.
Now these were different.
The story moved on through these two hours and they seemed to be written as one long part of the story. The cliffhangers at the end of both did make you want to watch more. Humour was back in all the right places.
This was a brilliant idea for a series, an almost anti-vampire/werewolf/ghost stance by the characters.
I would recommend that if you are into Dracula type programs that this is worth the watch. I would strongly recommend that you watch the pilot episode first, however, as this does help hold a lot of the story together.
Microsoft Access is a database program which is extremely powerful.
Unfortunately, because it is so powerful, it is notoriously difficult to use to its full potential.
The first thing to note is that there are a number of sections where you can store different items:
1) Tables: These contain your data
2) Queries: These can perform filters on the above data
3) Forms: Display and edit your data on the screen on a nice looking page
4) Reports: Display your data in a pleasant way, mainly for printing
5) Macros: Perform a set of commands (simple programming)
6) Modules: Visual Basic programming language (complicated programming)
Now, you don't need to know how to use all of the above to get a database working.
Some parts of the program are very simple to use, such as designing tables. You can choose field names for your information and the data type. So, you might have "Email" as a text field and "Age" as a number for example. This will stop someone from entering "ABC" into an age field in your database.
Queries can be simple or complicated. These are one of the worst designed parts of the program. When they work, they are amazingly powerful. If there is an error in there, the error messages you get often don't really help at all, they don't tell you which field it even applies to.
Forms are easier to design and really help with data entry. Rather than having your database table set out like a spreadsheet, these allow you to move the fields where you want.
Both Macros and Modules are easy to use if you can already program a computer. Macros are fairly simple even for non-programmers.
One of the fundemental parts of the program is manipulating your data: getting the records you want. For this, you would obviously need to use a query, but as stated above the error messages given are most unhelpful. On occassion, I have deleted an entire query after a few hours work and started again. Although I have been sure it was the same, sometimes starting again can be quicker than fixing a problem.
It is a shame as it can let the whole program become frustrating. On the other hand, I have written a few programs in Access that can control a whole aspect of a business and in a couple of cases, the whole business. When I worked in an education department, the software was written in Access. This shows the sheer power of the software.
For simple databases, this may be a little too steep a learning curve for many. If you are willing to put the time in to get exactly what you want from your data, it is a powerful piece of software. The speed it can execute queries sometimes amazes me.
Relational databases are simple to set up: where two tables are linked to each other through a common field.
There are many things that are simply not possible in Access as standard. Fortunately, they have included the programming language. This makes almost anything possible, but you may need a bit of technical knowhow. I have been trying to get it to make cups of tea for me, but so far I have been unsuccessful on getting that to work. It can't do the ironing either, but other than these flaws, it has been able to do everything I have asked of it.
The software is very reliable and I have had it running for 8 weeks (24 hours a day) without any problems. Sometimes the computers need restarting, but this has always been the fault of other software.
There are a few problems however. The software is expensive to buy on its own and is often best purchased as Microsoft Office Professional. Many people get the standard Microsoft Office and you may need to know whether you would need Access before you order a computer. It would be nice if Microsoft could offer an upgrade for those who have the standard Office suite already. Error messages can be most unhelpful, sometimes only telling you that there was an error. The in-built help system is useless and the Microsoft Access section on the Microsoft website is overly technical and complicated. Good job other people have better websites to help you with issues with Access.
Sometimes it tries to assume what you want to do and will fill or autocomplete bits you are typing in. Unfortunately, I would prefer the software to do what I ask it to do rather than do what it thinks I want it to do.
All-in-all, I wouldn't like to have a computer without Access. The power and frustration that it can cause can save hours of work, when you eventually get it all work correctly. For simple, one-table databases, I would recommend you look elsewhere, otherwise, this is worth considering just for the power.
Top Gear is an entertainment program that has cars as its central focus.
Hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, it also features a mystery driver only known as "The Stig". He always wears a white racing uniform and a white helmet and resembles a Storm Trooper from Star Wars.
The show usually reviews unusual and expensive cars and this always creates a barrage of complaints from the green people. Often they state things like "Why don't they test normal cars?" or "They only drive environmentally damaging vehicles, therefore it should be banned".
Top Gear is not a car show that helps you decide which car to buy.
This programme is a delve into the fantasy world of cars. A look at vehicles you may never be able able to afford or possibly never ever see one on the road.
Simply put, it is similar to a TV programme looking at celebrities houses. You wouldn't think: "Heating that house damages the environment"! You'll probably never be able to afford one of them either, but you are still interested in just watching on your telly, right?
The programme has a number of sections to it. They don't stick to a rigid format and some weeks they won't even bother with some parts.
The main part of the show is the car reviews. Each of the presenters will get to review some cars during each series. Their reviews are all funny and sometimes tell you very little about the car. Each presenter has a completely different style of reviewing and this makes an interesting mix. Some weeks, they may test three cars in the same category and argue their case that theirs is the best. Rarely do they agree!
For newcomers to the show, there is the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car". They interview a celebrity and then they drive around the track in a normal car with a large table of who has driven the fastest. Again, the cars are almost a side issue!
Each presenter has their own style. Jeremy is a complete idiot, for example. He will review a car and state how bad it really is but when going back to the studio, he will state how much he loves the car. A car you love and a good car can of course be two different things!
James May, the only true British person there is so British, he thinks we are still at war with Germany. His reviews are very different from any other car presenter I have seen. Unusual and a very dry sense of humour.
Richard Hammond on the other hand is the big kid; the type of who would have big spoilers attached to his car at home, if only his wife would let him!
Usually on a Sunday night at 8pm (BBC 2) when the series is on. Or you can put on channel Dave where it is on a lot of the time!
Even though this is one of the BBC's most popular programmes, they do have a habit of moving it around. Sometimes because of the snooker, sometimes because of some show about beaches, or something. Remember to check this if your video is on weekly record!
Well worth watching even if you don't like cars. It's a laugh, three idiots driving big cars and never quite agreeing. Like three blokes from down the local pub then!
It's not a serious car show about cars. If you want to know about normal cars, you are better off watching Fifth Gear (Channel Five) or The Used Car Roadshow (ITV 4). But don't forget to watch Top Gear as well!
OK, many people out of work producing their own CV to apply for jobs. They are simple aren't they?
I was always taught to put your name and address at the top with vital information such as marital status and number of children, then your qualifications followed by work experience.
This is known as the 'tombstone CV' because in it will be buried in a big pile rather than stand out.
HOW TO STAND OUT
First, start by getting some paper. Not just some A4 white cheap tesco rubbish, get something of quality. Paper of 100g is quality, one of the most recognisable and professional brands is Conqueror though this is expensive and in a large pack. If you can, also get the matching envelopes.
Secondly, the format of your CV is important. If you can't get the essentials on one page, you have spent too much time getting irrelevant qualifications or swapped jobs too often. Either that or you are listing jobs you had during World War One.
THE ONE PAGE CV - STARTING
Start at the top with your name and contact details. Your name, address, contact telephone number (just one) and possibly email address.
The telephone number must have a professional sounding answer machine and landlines do look more professional than a mobile number although I understand this is not always possible.
Next, straight into your work history, not your qualifications. Your work history must be in reverse order and shouldn't be lists after lists. Try to limit it to just four jobs. Although I say four jobs, write a paragraph about every job you've ever had and don't worry if it goes over several pages for the time being.
When you write these paragraphs, you need to pad out your sentences in a sensible manner. You have to understand how your CV will be read.
Your CV won't be read.
It will be scanned. And when you scan a document you look down the left hand side of the page more than the right.
You need power words on the left of the page. Words such as 'managed', 'controlled' or 'created'.
Let me illustrate. Which stands out to you?:
* Ran my own business for seventeen years and it was succesful
* Successfully managed a profitable business for seventeen years
Don't write 'I sent faxes and made coffee', anyone can do this.
Follow this up with qualifications.
Follow this up with either references the potential employer can contact or with interests. Don't use both and you don't have to use either. Use references with caution.
Do not write your marital status. Do not write the number of children you have. You may write your date of birth if you wish but remember all of these things can be used against you so use them with caution.
ONE PAGE CV
Ok, you now have a CV which may spread across a number of pages. Don't cut it down to one page. Save it. Save it again under a different name as a backup.
Wait until a job opportunity arrives. Ok, this one is for administration in a hospital.
Go to your CV and pick the most relevant jobs to this vacancy. Delete the bus driver job you did several years ago as this isn't relevant. You will soon have a customised CV applicable to the job. Remove dates from all jobs apart from the most recent if there are gaps.
The next job that comes up is to be a lorry driver. This time, you will want to leave the bus driver job on the CV. As you spot, you have written one long CV and customise it to each job you apply for, squeezing onto one page.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
I have spent time going through CVs and application forms. They are boring. If you don't stand out in the first few seconds, you will be ignored.
So what stands out?
Quality paper, readable font, professional looking and short. I want to know about you in a three second scan. I don't want to read a novel about your life history.
Give the potential employer as much information as needed without wasting their time.
And remember, sentences that begin with and are never good! Good grammer and spell checks are essential. Text language is a definate no!
P.S. I havent speled chequed this revoo!
BikeTrader.co.uk is an online place for looking for scooters or motorbikes.
Anyone familiar with the car selling and buying website, autotrader.co.uk will recognise it immediately.
It isn't as flexible in the searching options as the car version of their site, probably because there isn't as many bikes for sale at a time.
A search is simple, enter the make you are interested in, your postcode and the distance you are prepared to travel. An optional search box is the actual model of the bike as well.
The model box actually lists the correct terms for the bikes which can be a bit confusing. For example, Yamaha make a bike which everyone calls the 'R1' but on the model list it is under 'YZF-R1' which is Yamaha's complete and proper name for it.
Once you are into the search results there are more options to filter your search down further. These include looking at private or trade adverts, if like me, you prefer to buy from a reputable dealer.
Other options include engine size which can be useful if you are a learner. When you learn to ride a bike, you may be required to start on a 125cc depending on your age. Plus 16 year olds can only drive anything up to 50cc, so this option is a plus.
You can also select price ranges and a few other options.
They are drop down lists, so you cannot enter anything incorrectly or wonder if you should put the £ sign in price boxes, however the lists are not brilliant. For example, price drop down boxes have the values £500, £1000 and £2000 as the first three options. This means if you have a budget of £1600, you have to look at everything between £1000 and £2000.
It is easy to modify your search and update the results. Searching for various models is therefore quite easy.
Search results are fairly quick but the screen does refresh everytime you edit the search criteria which can slow you down a bit, particularly if the website is running slow or your connection isn't very quick.
Looking at the bikes themselves, there is usually a picture and up to 4 highlighted points which are useful. They seem to be mileage, colour, age and engine size. Unfortunately, these are not consistant. Some list a bike as a 2003, others as a 53 reg, this isn't too bad for modern registration plates but if one listing is a 1998 model and another is 'T' registration, which is newer?
Many of the bikes have multiple photos which is nice to look at, a description and distance from the postcode you entered is also listed and is helpful.
Clicking on a listing brings the details in a pop-up window. And I thought pop-up windows were dead?
Further details are available here such as the dealers website and phone number. The dealers have an option to customise these pages which can make them seem a little inconsistant, background colours and text colours can differ on each listing. This can make some hard to read, although those are few and far between.
There are plenty of adverts on the site but none that I would call 'intrusive'. There seems to be no pop-ups and the adverts are relevant to bike buying. Adverts include insurance and loan companies for example.
The pages are a little messy and the site does seem to assume you know a little about the motor trade, examples include the registration letter and year above.
As a site for looking for a new bike or scooter it is a very good place to look. Perhaps the first one anyone should look at.
Speed Cameras. Two words that spark an emotional response in any driver on the road. Should we have more, should we have less?
Unfortunately, no matter what we do to our roads there will still be accidents. There are just too many variables to consider, too many types of vehicles on the road, too much unpredictability from pedestrians and animals.
One thing to help reduce accidents is the speed limit. Of course the limits do save lives. Think of how many school children would be killed if we all were permitted to travel at 80mph past school gates at kicking out time.
I for one, don't fully agree with speed cameras. They are too precise and clinical, not taking into account the situation.
They may catch Mr Smith doing 61mph up a country lane but they do not catch the lorry driver doing 59mph up the same stretch of road where the speed limit is only 40mph for HGVs.
A penalty notice may drop through Mrs Greens door, but the drug and drink driver doing 22mph up an A road the wrong way, fiddling with his radio instead of looking where he is going doesn't get caught by the speed camera. To make matters worse, he has no road tax, no insurance and no MOT. But he gets away with it.
And that is my issue with speed cameras: They are a one trick pony.
A police officer would pull over the drink driver and charge him, leaving those edging over the speed limit by a small amount to go on by.
This leaves me with another issue. Speed limits. Who sets them and why?
Not far from where I live, there is a very odd stretch of road. An A road with a hard shoulder, two lanes in each direction and a crash barrier in the middle. There are slip roads on and off the road. Want to guess the speed limit?
You are probably wrong. It's fifty miles per hour along that road.
It is possible to turn off this road onto a 60mph country lane. Trees and bushes on your left and the protection of a painted white line to protect you from the oncoming traffic.
Which one of these two roads has all the speed cameras? Of course it's the 50mph road. So many people speed along this stretch at ridiculously high speeds because the limit makes no sense. Some of these high speeds must be at least 55mph.
It is about time that speed limits were reviewed around the country. If they seem to make no sense, people won't obey them.
One thing speed cameras has done is slow people down but they do seem to have almost created another problem.
When I was younger and I wanted to drive quickly, I would overtake the car in front. Indicate, make sure there is a gap and put your foot down.
This doesn't seem to happen now. Overtaking seems to now have a bad reputation.
Instead, people drive inches from your rear bumper creating another danger. The driver in front begins to lose concentration, the driver behind begins to get frustrated. The speed cameras are not capturing these drivers, but they are creating a major hazard, particularly when there is a big line of traffic wanting to speed but unwilling to overtake sensibly.
The only solution I can think of would be to have more police on the road to catch the real danger drivers. Cutting down on their police paperwork may help a little but probably not enough. We need more police officers and more police cars.
But all of these cost money, which means more tax. And who wants to pay more tax?
However speed cameras are not all bad. I would rather see cameras at the side of the road than these speed bumps that wreck your suspension.
The credit crunch has hit and trying out cheaper brands on regular buys has become something I am trying more than ever.
A few days ago in Asda, I saw 6 mince pies for 36p. Well, for 6p each I thought they were worth a try at least.
The packaging looks quite unappealling, however I was prepared to overlook this if the pies tasted nice.
Now, I normally buy Mr Kiplings and am comparing these to a much higher priced product.
The Asda pies are obviously made up of the pie itself and the filling. Both of these I thought tasted quite nice.
However, the mix of the two seems to be the problem for me. It seems that the filling must be the most expensive out of the two items since there was either too much of the pie or too little of the filling, however you wish to look at it.
Put simply: They taste too much of the pie.
These aren't bad, but they are not as nice as Mr Kiplings by a long way.
If you want a nice tasting apple pie, I would recommend getting a better one than this. I quite like Tesco's own, but they are about 75p for 6. There is probably an Asda equivalent and I may have to try them if they do.
To be perfectly honest, I might buy these again. But I would only really recommend these if you are on a very tight budget.