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Del_1024

Del_1024
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Member since: 23.01.2004

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    • More +
      15.07.2006 20:36
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
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      • Reliability

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      High spec. Business PDA

      The HP iPAQ HX4700 is a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). In other words, it's a handheld computer. One would be able to use it as an organiser, word processor, MP3 player, gaming device, etc. Basically, most of the things a current PC or laptop would be capable of. The American version is the HX4705 but is identical in every way as far as I know.

      WHY I CHOSE THE HX4700?

      I had previously owned a HP iPAQ H5550 PDA, so stuck with the HP brand rather than go for a brand like Dell. Asus and many other companies also make PDAs and build quality varies but you can't go wrong with HP on build quality. Another option would have been to go for a PDA running the PALM operating system (OS) but the programs I want to use may not be compatible. The HX4700 runs the Pocket PC OS rather than PALM (Think Microsoft Windows vs. Linux). The new iPAQs that HP have been releasing all seem to have mobile phone capabilities and I just did not want this as I'd rather use my phone for phone calls and not have another contract or a PAYG SIM to top up. The designs also do not look as sleek and most seem to have a big aerial sticking out.

      It has a 624MHz Intel xScale processor, which is 224MHz faster than my old one. Battery life has drastically improved since its predecessor, the H5550. The screen is bigger at 4" (diagonal) and much sharper. Not sure why but RAM memory has been reduced to 64MB from 128MB since the H5550.

      It also has a Compact Flash Card (CF) slot as well as the Secure Digital (SD) slot, which also helped with my purchase decision. Multimedia Cards (MMC) can also be used in the SD slot. I have a 2GB SD Card and a 2GB CF Card installed.

      USING THE HX4700

      My HX4700 (I call her Nina by the way) works great and runs smoothly. I use her as an organiser, GPS, MP3 player, for taking notes, games (it comes with Solitaire and Jawbreaker), etc. I have noticed that the menus open quicker than those on the H5550 by a fraction. Videos also play smoothly, whereas the where very jerky when I tried on the H5550. I have also noticed that she is more stable and crashes a lot less compared to the H5550. Battery life is also very good and lasts over 5 hours with constant use (with WiFi and Bluetooth off). How long it lasts is also determined by screen brightness, whether you have WiFi, Bluetooth turned or not, etc. but I do see an improvement since my old one. You can also invest in an 'extended' battery with a longer life. Costs £80 normally but I found one for £20 on eBay.

      Build quality looks excellent but I don't intend to drop her to find how tough she really is but I read the body is aluminium even though it doesn't look it. I dropped my H5550 twice and she survived both times. Dented but working. I expect my new one to be the same. She's slim and fits comfortably in my hand (7.7cm x 13.1cm x 1.5cm | W x H x D). It's a bit bigger than other PDAs but probably due to the screen size. She's light at only 187g but I replaced the battery with an 'extended' battery (bigger and longer lasting) so she weighs a lot more now.

      I think the new look is much nicer than how the other iPAQs look. I think the charcoal with black look really does look elegant and better looking compared to the silver design, as well as making her look smaller. However, she has a touch pad in place of a button for navigation and for 'action', which I find a bit fiddly. It has four bumps, which mark the top, bottom, left and right sensors on the pad. A gentle touch is all it takes to use them. The centre of the pad, however, acts as the 'action' button (i.e. Enter, Play, etc.) and I often find that I miss it and press the Up or Down buttons instead because of the pad's small size. She also has a touch screen, which means I can choose not to use the pad if it started to annoy me. It is definitely not for games. The H5550 (discontinued) has a button in place of the pad, as well as having a fingerprint scanner, which is a feature that no other PDA on the market features. '

      Lastly, there are four buttons surrounding the pad and a button to activate the Notes program with voice recorder function. There are no volume control buttons on her like the H5550, which I would have preferred for convenience and not have to control the main volume via the software. On the subject of sound, I find the volume capable of being slightly higher than the H5550, which is good for when using her as a GPS unit.

      As for software, she came with Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (SE) as the OS and the usual Pocket PC essentials such as Pocket Word, Excel, Outlook, Notes, Calendar, Calculator, etc. A PDF reader also comes pre-installed unlike the first edition. Being a computer, you can install many other programs. Many will need to be bought but there are also many free programs
      and games. You can create, view, edit Word documents and Excel spreadsheets with the pre-installed software but some of the more advanced features you find on the PC versions of the software will not work and cannot transfer them across the platforms. The text, values, basic formatting will remain though. What I would have liked is for Pocket Word to have a thesaurus. It does have a spell checker though.

      There are several methods of inputting text. They are the On screen Keyboard, Block Recogniser, Letter Recogniser and the Transcriber. The Block Recogniser involves writing block characters using the stylus without lifting the stylus. Some characters have been simplified into symbols and it does take some getting used to. All the letters become lower case. The Letter Recogniser is similar but it lets you write upper case characters in their own area. The Transcriber is very impressive. You write the text onto the screen, it recognises the words and types out what you wrote. It is accurate most of the time (even when my handwriting is horrible) but can type the wrong word now and again. There are also quick gestures that you can learn to use as shortcuts. These methods can get annoying when they repeatedly get the wrong word and if that happens, I resort back to the On screen Keyboard and simply tap the keys that I want on a QWERTY keyboard. A numeric keypad and character map can also be activated when needed.

      ACCESSORIES

      Being such a versatile device and allowing me to connect to other devices wirelessly via Bluetooth, WiFi and Infrared, there are numerous accessories that can be used with the HX4700.

      She comes with a cradle for charging her and it even accommodates her with an extended battery which significantly adds to the size and weight. If you're out and about, a sync cable can also charge her It is very easy to place her on the cradle whereas the one for the H5550 was a bit more awkward because of the angle I had to slot the device in at.

      Unfortunately, most of the cool or official accessories are expensive as hell! An official keyboard, both Bluetooth and wired/directly connects to the PDA can set you back £80. Luckily, I found myself an Infrared thumb keyboard for £19.99 (inc. delivery). Not as good as a Bluetooth one but it works. It is a bit more awkward because the IR port needs to point directly and at the IR port or sensor of the other device. They also need to be close to each other for it to work. The IR port is located on the bottom right for some strange reason. I don't like this as I have to position her in an awkward manner just so the IR port is in line with the IR sensor on my IR thumb keyboard. The IR port being at the bottom is also not that great for using her as a TV remote control, which is possible with extra software.

      The HX4700 comes with a detachable screen cover, which flips open to protect the screen when it is not in use. That's thoughtful of them but I'd rather they gave me a case to protect the whole PDA from drops and scratches. The cover is transparent and so you can see the iPAQ screen clearly. I've found that I often started poking the cover with the stylus thinking it was the screen, without much response. It is nice but can get in the way when you want to use the touch screen. I have now detached the cover and bought myself a vertical flip leather (plastic probably as it was cheap and from Hong Kong) case, plus a screen protector. Even though official accessories are expensive, you can sometimes find unofficial alternatives so it's not too bad. Also, they're not compulsory.

      BUYING

      The HX4700 was discontinued in 2005, after only one year of release. However, even though retailers had complete run out stock at one point, they seem to be in stock all over the place now (July 2006).

      The HX4700 is a high end PDA intended for business men and women, and with this in mind, you know it's not going to be cheap. The device retailed at £380 ($760 approx. (USD)) when it first came out and it still does in many places. The best price I can find a new one from an online retailer is £330 ($660 approx. (USD) but luckily, I got mine off the back of a lorry. Okay, just kidding...it was off eBay and I got it brand new for £205 (+£7 delivery & £4.45 credit card fee), but still, a saving of over £100(!) so there are bargains to be found, both new and used.

      Alternatively, there are lower spec. models. There is the HX3715, which has a built in digital camera and a similar design with VGA screen, and of course, many other HP PDAs.

      SUMMARY

      GOOD
      • Powerful device.
      • Very good battery life
      • Has Bluetooth connectivity so you can interact with other Bluetooth enabled devices.
      • Has WiFi connectivity so you can access the Internet where there is a wireless hotspot.
      • Many accessories available.
      • Has both CF and SD memory card slots.
      • VGA screen (64K, 480 X 640 res.) is bigger and sharper than older models.
      • Can be found cheaper than RRP.
      • Looks good.

      BAD
      • Expensive retail price.
      • Accessories can be very expensive.
      • The operating system is not the most current version.
      • Less RAM (only has 64MB) than older model.
      • Sometimes the characters show up weird on screen.
      • The touch pad takes some getting used to and some people hate it.
      • Big gap between CF and SD card slot if CF II card is installer.
      • No holster or PDA case included.

      VERDICT

      It's a brilliant gadget. The improvements and high spec makes this a very powerful machine. The connectivity capabilities also make this a versatile device. Build quality is excellent and my only real complaint is that the pad can be tricky to use and the bottom left corner of the touch pad peels up a bit. Aside that, it's well worth the money and highly recommended to any executive in need of a PDA to use as a GPS, organiser or just a gadget nut who likes their gadgets.

      Thanks for reading!

      P.S. I wrote the whole review on the HX4700. Not bad, eh? :-)

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      • Motorola HS850 / Headset / 51 Readings / 50 Ratings
        More +
        03.05.2006 00:19
        Very helpful
        (Rating)
        5 Comments

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        Bluetooth Headset from Motorola

        The Motorola HS850 is the successor to the HS810. It’s a Bluetooth wireless headset that you wear around your ear. You use it with Bluetooth enabled mobile phones or other Bluetooth compatible devices. I’ve had my one for about 5 months now and it works great, most of the time anyway. The idea is that with it, you’ll be able to talk on your phone without touching your phone and it uses Bluetooth so there are no wires to tangle up.

        The HS850 comes in two colours. It comes in metallic grey with blue, and it comes in black. I have the black one. The earlier HS810 only came in silver but I prefer black as it is more discrete and matches my hair colour.

        SETTING UP

        Setting up is easy enough. Charge the headset over night with the supplied charger. After that, hold the button down few about 5 seconds until the blue light turns on. Open the Boom and the light will pulse. Then pairing (synchronising) the phone (or whatever Bluetooth device) with it. If it works the light will flash very quickly a number of times and you’re ready to go. I did need to read the instruction manual to figure that out but I found the manual very helpful with a good reference table to how to use the headset.

        FUNCTIONS

        If your phone has a voice dial function, then the headset will pick this up. Just press the main button and say the name when you hear that the headset has picked up the Bluetooth signal. Great thing about this is the so long as voice dialling is set up for the person you want to ring, you can ring them without ever touching the phone. I think it’s great to have especially while you’re driving so you can make and receive phone calls.

        The headset is simple and only has a total of three buttons. Even so, you can do things like switch call to phone, ignore call, redial, etc by using long and short button presses of the buttons depending on the situation. I’ve not actually leant all of the combinations but think it’s very clever.

        SOUND QUALITY

        Sound quality is excellent for voice calls and very difficult if not impossible to tell apart from using the handset based on sound quality. This is true for the sound going both ways. The person I’m speaking to doesn’t usually know I’m using a headset. I said “for voice calls” because I’ve also tried pairing my iPAQ to the headset and then played MP3 music on the iPAQ while using the headset to listen. The sound breaks up really badly whenever there’s any bass. There are volume controls on the unit itself but you cannot turn it up too much. I usually have it on the maximum setting which is ideal.

        COMFORT

        This is important because let’s face it, I have to wear it. The bit that hooks around the ear is rubbery. I do feel it on my ear but after a while, it becomes easier to forget about it so good enough. It does get a bit uncomfortable if worn for a very long time though.

        My only quibble is that whenever I move my head quickly or move quickly (i.e. run), the HS850 does ‘flap’ and moves a bit. The headset doesn’t feel like it’ll fall off and does feel secure so it’s nothing important.

        GOOD

        You can wear it on your left or your right ear by taking off the hook and then attaching it back on the other way round. This is good since people have different preferences. It’s also very small, which means it fits into my pocket easily, unlike some of the great big things I see people wear in the street. However, the small size might mean that I’m more prone to losing the thing if I’m not careful, which I did with the HS810 for a while. I really do like the size of the item. Quite often, if someone is wearing one and talking on the phone, you don’t know who they’re talking to, especially if they’re wearing the headset on the other side of the head that’s out of your sight. Amazingly, the microphone situated at the end of the Boom is very short and goes nowhere near my mouth. Despite this, it picks up my voice very well. That’s what I call quality.

        As the HS850 is a Bluetooth device, it means that I can use it any Bluetooth enabled phone so I can keep the headset for when I get a new phone. Not just that, it’ll work with any Bluetooth device that outputs or inputs sound.

        Battery life is excellent. I’ve can manage a whole week without recharging it. That’s with a few hours of talking, and quite a few hours on standby as well as more time while off. Charging only takes about 2 hours to fully charge it. It boasts improved battery life since the HS810 but I thought the HS810 already had sufficient battery life to begin with so this extra battery life is a bonus. They say it can do about 8 hours talk time and 200 hours standby time.

        It seems quite robust. I’ve dropped it many times but it still works. I’m thinking this is due to the good light design. The rubbery hook may also have helped with its survival as it can neutralise the impact and give it a bit of bounce.

        The working range of the headset is also pretty good. I can leave my phone on a desk, walk a couple of metres away and still pick up the call. I’ve walked around the house and it even through walls, granted they aren’t that thick. When the phone has no signal though, it makes this slightly annoying ‘blipping’ noise though. Not very loud but I can do without it.

        BAD

        I don’t think there’s a way to stop the headset from flashing the blue light every ten seconds or so. It’s a nice and pretty blue light and it goes well with the black body of the headset but do I really want to draw so much attention to myself? Especially not at night when there may be muggers about! I do like to wear the headset while I’m outside and not just while I’m driving but this is a minor disadvantage. I can simply not wear the thing at night to avoid being targeted. That’s if I remember to take it off that is, which I often forget to as it rarely causes any discomfort.

        There are times when I couldn’t get the headset to pick up the call. This is usually when I’ve had the headset off (with the Boom closed) and the phone rings. It does usually pick up if I try to connect again later though. Other times, if the Boom is opened and I’ve left the HS850 on a table somewhere or in my pocket, the headset will retrieve the call. That’s happened to me a few times. I had the headset in my pocket but the Boom opened without me knowing. My phone rang and I couldn’t answer the call because the headset picked up and I was none the wiser.

        I have read that if you keep opening and closing the boom, that the joint will eventually wear out or something will happen to the circuit. This is a disadvantage but being able to fold it to make it more compact and less likely to break while in your pocket is also quite important. I’ve not had any problems with mine yet though.

        I’m not a big fan of the charger that was supplied though. It lets me slot on a different plug according to what country I’m in. That’s good and all but one time, the headset didn’t charge at all. It turned out the plug was loose, and I do think it slides off too easily. It’s not dangerous but if the plug isn’t slid in fully, then the metal bits don’t make contact and so there’s now electricity being conducted to the plug. I think there should be some sort of locking mechanism or at least make it so that it doesn’t slide off so easily but this is just a minor niggle.

        BUYING

        It cost me around £50 from a phone website I can’t remember the name of but you can find it for about £29 now, and probably a bit less if you search on eBay. It used to be about £70 though and that was just for the older model.

        VERDICT

        It’s an excellent headset. It’s good quality, looks very stylish and works a treat. I wouldn’t want any other headset because quite frankly, a lot of the others I’ve seen are big and ugly and look like they can’t take a drop or two.

        Thanks for reading!

        Note: also posted on Ciao

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        • hsbc.co.uk / Bank / 45 Readings / 42 Ratings
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          29.04.2006 19:46
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          HSBC Bank Website

          For anyone looking for information about HSBC financial products, looking to order online, or for anyone whom already banks with HSBC there is hsbc.co.uk. The main reason I use this website is because I already bank with HSBC and like to manage my finances online to save myself from having to visit a branch every day. I visit the site every day.

          The website follows their red and white colour scheme and is organised neatly. It looks very professional, as expected from a bank’s website. Being the computer gee…techy that I am, I just could not resist the thought of being able to bank online. I’ve been using Internet banking with HSBC for about five or six years now.

          When I started, I had to phone them to set everything up. I gave them answers to security questions, gave them a security code I wanted to use and I had to tell them who my last cheque was written to. I think you may be able to set it all up online nowadays though.

          NAVIGATION

          Different product types (i.e. credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc) are divided up using a tabbed interface so go each product can be easily found. Internet banking, which is current the most popular part of the site is on the very right along the top. Finding stuff isn’t difficult either. If something is not under one of the main product headings, then they have a site map and a search box for you to find what you want on their site. They literally have information on everything from banking to employment with them as well as information on online security. The site is very quick and I’ve never experienced any slowness except when my Internet connection is a bit dodgy, but that's just on my end so they’re not to blame.

          SITE FEATURES

          Aside from just being able to view your statement online, you can do all sorts of things like pay bills, transfer money, set up standing orders, stop direct debits, request credit/debit card PIN and loads more. You can even opt to stop receiving paper statements to help the environment. This is all within my Internet banking account. One thing that I do is, I set up a weekly Standing Order to automatically send £10 to a savings account with another bank. It will send that money every Monday so I don’t have to do it manually. What you can also do is set up your account so that it pays the minimum amount you need to pay every month for a loan or credit card using money from your current/savings account. With this, you cannot forget to pay at least the minimum. You can set it to pay the full amount if you’re confident that you always have enough.

          Transferring money is quite easy and only requires someone’s name, sort code and bank account number. Money can be sent to non-HSBC accounts too but they take a bit longer to show up in the receiver’s account and vice versa. Money transfers from HSBC to HSBC accounts are usually instant though, so that’s good.


          Other areas of the site let you apply for financial products online, contact HSBC, etc. One particularly useful feature is their branch locator, which lets you find your nearest branch. This feature is not obvious to find and so I use their search to find it. Google also brings it up if you use the correct search terms.


          RELIABILITY

          I've never seen the site go down completely but in the early hours (1am onwards), some information regarding your accounts with HSBC when logged into Internet banking become unavailable. This is likely to be due to routine maintenance and can be a bit annoying if you want to check certain things which unavailable. This is usually just the credit card management area whereas you are left with your current, savings, etc accounts.

          Sometimes, it tells me it cannot handle the request. This can happen throughout the day but all I do is navigate again using the navigation bar or press the Backspace key (to go back a page) and then try again, which normally works, so the site isn’t exactly bug-free. Very minor as I do manage to get the page I want on the second attempt and it doesn’t happen too often.

          SECURITY

          I do feel safe when banking online with HSBC. They ask for a 12 digit IB code, then your date of birth and three random digits from your security code to log in. I don’t usually get it wrong too many times consecutively but I’d assume that too many failed login attempts could result in your accounts being blocked off for security reasons. I later found out that telephone banking uses the same security code. I didn’t know this at the time and got it wrong too many times and had my account blocked off after three failed attempts.

          Once logged in, if you are idle for a certain amount of time, you are logged out automatically and will need to login again. This is good in case you forget to sign out in a public place. The pages are secure as indicated by the golden/yellow padlocks in my browser. After the first login screen where I enter my IB code, a new window opens. This new window has all the address bars, browser buttons, etc hidden away so you must navigate using the links they give you.

          VERDICT

          If you bank with HSBC, then I highly recommend setting up an online banking with them. It’s great to be able to check your statements for unusual activity on a daily basis without having to visit a branch or wait for paper statements to be posted to you. It can also be very convenient if you don’t have time to go to a branch to pay bills or transfer money, etc as you can do it in minutes and do it in the middle of the night. Branches aren’t open all day, you know? Only thing is, paying bills usually take about 3-5 working days for the money to get there. I pay my credit card bill online sometimes and it usually takes that amount of time. Best time I’ve seen is about 1 working day, which is incredible but very rare. If you’re cutting it close, then it might be best to visit a branch or use telephone banking if that’s quicker. Payments from HSBC to accounts other banks and vice versa also take that amount of time but as my credit card is with HSBC, I usually expect it to be quicker.

          The site is definitely easy-to-use because even my dad can work it out without asking me and he’s below average when it comes to computers. Using it does mean that you have to be extra careful online though. There are thieves who send out emails that look like they come from banks telling you that there’s been some sort of security breach and that you need to login by clicking on a link in the e-mail to deal with the problem. That link will take you to a ‘spoof’ or ‘phishing’ site, in other words, a site that looks like the bank’s site. If you login on that insecure site or enter any other of your personal details, you will be submitting your details to a scammer and letting them access your online accounts to do as they wish. Simply be weary of such emails and only log in by typing the website address into your address bar or using a bookmark/Favorite you have saved. Also check that pages have a yellow padlock on them and that the address begins with https, if the address bar is available.

          Oh and it’s free to use.

          Thanks for reading!

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          • More +
            26.04.2006 17:18
            Very helpful
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            Matt never saw her coming... but all his friends had!

            The movie revolves around Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch), an 18 year old high school over-achiever senior trying to get a scholarship to a prestigious college/university. He leads an uneventful life until one evening when he falls for the beautiful and seemingly innocent, Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert, House of Wax), who moves in next door. They fall in love but the story goes on to reveal Danielle’s secret past in the porn industry. Matthews involvement with Danielle lands him into a spot of trouble and the story goes on to how Matthew gets himself out of it, with the help of his two sex crazed friends, Eli and Klitz.

            There is nudity throughout the movie and it revolves around the porn industry, so there’s something to keep the lads interested. I think the romance in the story is so sweet so that’s something for the ladies. I think the cast seem very suitable for this type of movie. There are the stereotypical jocks and geeks like in other American teen movies and it mixes in some manly men, strippers and porn stars. Matthew, Eli and Klitz are classed as the ‘geek’ crowd and I think they are very suitable for their roles due to them not having a very mature look to each of them. A very strange mix but I think they go together nicely in this movie. It features Kelly (Timothy Olphant) as a big shot adult movie director as ‘the man’ and is a good inclusion to stand in the way of Matthew, whom is seen as ‘the boy’ who is introduced into a very unfamiliar and very adult orientated world from his sheltered life.

            This is a teen romantic comedy movie. It is not quite a ‘Laugh Out Loud’ comedy but the comedy elements are a lot more subtle and can make you giggle. I think it’s very successful in this. One of the elements that stand out for me in this movie and make it all the more interesting is the sometimes surreal and sometimes not so surreal scenes fabricated by Matthew’s vivid imagination. Sometimes, the day dreams seem down-to-earth enough for them to be believable and that that is what is currently happening or happened before Matthew snaps out of it, but there are times when the dreams are very surreal and you come to realise that they are obviously another one of Matthew’s day dreams instantly. What I particularly like is how well they were incorporated into the movie such that you either don’t realise that everything that happened did not really happen or until either Matthew snaps out of it or until something surreal and weird starts happening. I found some things quite unpredictable, which was good.

            SPECIAL FEATURES

            The DVD is loaded with special features. The navigation is beautifully and subtly put together with video in the background without it becoming to obtrusive. The Director’s and cast commentaries are one of the audio tracks available. I thought that it was worth listening to and I did learn a few of interesting facts such as how they had to use a body double for one of the characters who were actually under age and could not legally be shown naked, even from behind.

            Deleted scenes are also very interesting to watch, especially when combined with the commentaries. There are scenes which are confusing when you first watch it and those were appropriately cut out. There’s also one scene which they must have thought was too saucy although I enjoyed it!

            It also has a still picture gallery, and short documentary, which aren’t great but worth watching if you’re bored. On top of those, there’s a ‘Making Of’ Featurete, trailers, used in the movie, the ‘take outs’, where the actors mess up and crack a smile when they’re not supposed to. Not just that, you can turn on the trivia track to bring up facts during the movie. I am very impressed with the DVD’s features. Of course, there are trailers for other movies, which you can choose to watch.

            OTHER DETAILS

            The movie carries a 15 Certificate and I think that’s just about right (although maybe a 16 certificate might be better if it existed). There’s too much nudity for anything lower yet not enough for an 18 certificate). I bought the DVD on eBay second hand for a few quid. The movie runs for 104 minutes and I think this is quite appropriate. I’ve seen it several times and time seems to fly by so no problems there. DVD picture and sound quality is as expected with relatively current DVD releases and produce both excellent sound and picture quality.

            “Tagline: Matt never saw her coming... but all his friends had!”

            Directed by Luke Greenfield in 2004

            VERDICT

            I love this movie and not just because of all the topless women (seriously) and Elisha Cuthbert (mmmm….). ‘The Girl Next Door’ is funny, imaginative and sweet and I guess there are many of us who could relate to the main character in terms of academic achievement and pressure as well as relationships and peer pressure. For those who aren’t keen on teen movies, this may not be for you. However, there is mild nudity, both male and female throughout if that makes up for it. I would recommend this movie to those are into such movies and Elisha Cuthbert fans.

            Thanks for reading!

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            • HSBC / Bank / 26 Readings / 25 Ratings
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              24.04.2006 14:50
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              The World's Local Bank (apparently)

              Formerly known as Midland Bank, HSBC is the world’s second largest bank (last I heard anyway). I’ve banked with HSBC since I was 16, so that’s a good 6 years holding a Current, Savings account and Credit Card with them. Like most other major high street banks. They offer you a range of ways to bank such as visiting branches, using Internet Banking, by Post and even by Telephone.

              BRANCHES

              In central London’s West End, there are HSBC branches 15 minutes walk apart from each other and same in Croydon, which I think is overkill to have them so close together but it must spread the queues so that’s good. Unlike some banks like Citibank, which don’t seem to have many branches about, HSBC are very convenient when you need to deposit money into your account.

              Branch opening hours vary between branches. Some open from 9am to 5pm where as some open later and close earlier and only on week days like most other banks. They used to open Saturdays but not anymore. The branch down the high street in Croydon opens the ATM area on Saturdays, where you can withdraw or even make deposits using the ATMs, which is convenient but I do not know how many other branches do this. There is staff in the branch in case you need assistance on Saturdays.

              One problem I have with HSBC branches is the queues at certain times of the day. I know that queues are inevitable during busier periods but I find that they do not open all of their cashier windows, which is very annoying. On many occasions, and at various branches, I’ve found that only one or two out of four or more windows are manned despite there being enough staff at the branch. They do have ATM’s for making deposits but sometimes, I’d prefer that I had the cash to a cashier so I queue. There can also be queues at in-branch ATMs but most people tend to want to use the window even if it’s just depositing money.

              There are always leaflets and brochures about to give you information about products and the branches are usually quite tidy. I have no other problems with the branches.

              FACILTIES

              Pens are always available in branches and I’ve always found them to be working so no complaints here. There are always Giro Credit slips available for depositing to bank accounts or paying bills, and usually a red telephone for telephone banking and an ATM for withdrawing and depositing cash (and cheques) in most branches I’ve visited. They also have a radio broadcast in many branches, which is good to have, especially when there is a long queue.

              Some of the ATMs that are for making depositing are quite impressive in the way that they can print a copy of a cheque that your are depositing. Other machines just make you stick the cheque and cash into an envelope.

              I like how they have ATM’s inside branches as well as outside that let you withdraw cash because it definitely lets people feel safer than withdrawing cash when outside. This is only available during the opening hours but I still think it’s a good idea. I also regularly visit a NatWest branch and they do not seem to have such in-branch facilities. You are forced to queue to make deposits whereas HSBC does have an alternative way of paying in money.

              CARDS / BOOKS

              HSBC have always given me a card for each account I hold with them. They gave me a Solo debit card and a savings account card. They upgraded my SOLO to a Maestro UK (a Chip and Pin one) about a year. These let me use ATM machines for withdrawing and depositing money as well as to buy stuff in shops and online (the debit card that is). They also give me GIRO credit paying-in book for depositing in to each account (Current and Savings) as well as a cheque book to accompany my Current account. This may be standard for opening Current and Savings accounts but I hear that some banks don’t bother giving their clients certain things like the cheque book or a debit so HSBC seem to be a good choice here.

              I later applied for a MasterCard with them because no one else would give me one. They accepted my application, which is good as a credit card can be very useful.

              CHARGES

              Charges are rather high. £2.00 (or 2% minimum) for a Cash Advance (withdrawing cash from a credit card (unless it’s in credit with enough funds)) is pretty expensive. It used to be 1.5% (£1.50 minimum), which I thought was already expensive, yet they raised it. Missing bill payments incur £20 charges. Same with going over your credit limit and overdrawing, so what do I do? Withdraw using my debit card and don’t ever miss payments. Manage money well enough that I know exact (or roughly) how much I have in my account so I do take out more than what’s in the account.

              INTERNET BANKING

              They have a website for Internet Banking (IB). The website is usually fast and is quite easy to use once you get used to it. I much prefer the look of it over the Halifax IB site. It seems very secure and requires my IB code, date of birth and 3 random characters from my security number to log in.

              I had to phone in with details to open my Internet Banking account while answering a number of questions but this may have changed since and you may be able to sign up on the web without having to phone in.

              I use it frequently to pay bills, check my account balance, transfer money, manage standing orders and direct debits, etc. It works very well but I find that in the early hours (1am-4am), some account details can’t be displayed, which is a bit annoying but it’s probably routine maintenance. The site has a ‘Messages’ area where I receive announcements in my account. I can also ask questions. I’ve only ever asked one question but the answer wasn’t particularly clear.

              STATEMENTS

              Statements are sent to me quarterly but I can opt to stop receiving paper statements via Internet Banking if I preferred. Statements are very clear and broken down well.

              SECURITY

              One time, I tried to withdraw £500 from my Mastercard in an HSBC branch, but the cash machine didn’t let me. I then tried £400, then £300, etc. but still couldn’t. Minutes later, just as I was about to phone them using Telephone Banking to ask why, I received a call on my mobile from an HSBC employee confirming that I had attempted to withdraw cash. It turned out that I could only withdraw £300 per day from it but the employee ‘reset’ the card limit so that I could withdraw the £300. I thought that was pretty impressive security and speed. If your card was stolen and you didn’t know, this would be helpful, that is, assuming the thief attempts to withdraw over £300.

              CUSTOMER SERVICE

              One time, I made a deposit using one of the deposit machines but I had forgotten to put the Giro Credit slip in, so I queued for assistance. The member of staff knew what to do in such cases.

              Another time, I just wanted to get some change, the cashier was happy to exchange my notes for coins and smaller notes. I’m quite pleased with that as I may not even have been an HSBC customer.

              OTHER DETAILS

              First Direct are part of HSBC, and is aimed at people with businesses.

              SUMMARY

              GOOD

              • Lots of branches
              • Good in-branch facilities
              • Offers plenty of financial products/services
              • Offers many, and up to date ways to bank

              BAD

              • Queues at busy hours
              • Interest for savings isn’t very high
              • High penalty charges
              • High charges

              VERDICT

              I can recommend HSBC to most people. I think it’s a pretty good bank. The staff seem to know what they’re doing and security is good. They are convenient to bank with as they have loads of branches and they have a good variety of ways to bank with them, as well as good in-branch facilities. The only reason I would go with another bank is if other banks offered higher savings interest rates or more attractive load or mortgage rates (however they work…). Other banks like Halifax seem to advertise all sorts of high rate financial products whereas HSBC seem a lot quieter.

              However, HSBC is my primary bank since they make it so easy for me to manage my money. Even though other banks offer many of the same facilities, HSBC seem to have way more branches than other banks (in England anyway) and this is one of the attractions that draw me to this bank, as it’s more convenient for me. That and I’ve used them for so long without any major problems, so I can continue to use them. I know that some people aren’t happy with them but that’s nothing to do with me. In fact, one time, a disgruntled woman who got fed up while in the queue and mentioned something about HSBC taking her money “illegally”. The queue issue was what set her off I guess. I do have accounts with other banks but HSBC will continue to be my primary bank unless something goes very wrong.

              Thanks for reading

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              • Silent Hill (DVD) / DVD / 40 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                23.04.2006 19:10
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                Silent Hill the Movie. Based on a Japanese Game Franchise.

                Silent Hill is a movie based on a Japanese game franchise from Konami with the same title, a game which I’ve never played so the story was completely new to me. I saw the movie at the cinema. The movie begins with a Rose (Radha Mitchell) and her adopted Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) but Sharon sleep walks, and keeps calling out the “Silent Hill”, as well as defacing her own drawings with creepy and sadistic features like blood. After some Google’ing by the parents, ‘Silent Hill’ turns out to be a ghost town in West Virginia. Rose, thinking it would help Sharon, decides to take Sharon to Silent Hill without the father’s (Sean Bean) consent. However, once they reached Silent Hill, they end up separated and the movie becomes a quest to find Sharon. Will she find her and get out of the town alive with all the encounters with monsters roaming the town?

                The movie takes you through Rose’s journey to finding her daughter, with some help, and slowly unravels the truth behind how Silent Hill became the ghost town that it is, and how the daughter is connected to this town. The movie, much like the game, I would categorise as a ‘Survival Horror’ where the characters fight to survive a situation that they got themselves into. This reminds me of the Resident Evil franchise and the movie does very much remind me of such games while watching it but I did find Silent Hill better than Doom and Resident Evil. Especially when in terms of the story.

                Some of the monsters remind me of zombies but many are very different so I wouldn’t class this as a zombie movie at all. Some of the monsters are like demons and are more like the creatures you see in the Hellraiser movies. They are very freaky looking, some rather disturbing but they look very impressive and you would not be able to tell they were computer generated. There is one particular monster with a pyramid for its head, which stands out from the rest. However, it only makes two or three appearances and doesn’t even play a part at the very end. There’s definitely a good variety of monsters.

                As the town, Silent Hill, is a ghost town and not simply a town taken over by monsters, there is a sense of a spiritual presence, where it’s not just about monsters and has some mysterious things happening.

                There is also a ‘cult’ or religious group with their own religion in this movie. They burned those whom they believe were witches. This is obviously a reference to the witch burnings that occurred in real life in the old days and it really did make me angry at those people. It also makes me dislike religion of all kinds and that the world might just be better off without religion. Maybe that’s just me though.

                The movie has a 15 certificate but I’m thinking that it should probably be an 18 certificate due to all the gore. There are some very graphic violence and gore scenes where people are torn apart, pierced, slashed, burned alive, etc, as well as some very deformed looking humans. The film is not for the squeamish with some nice disturbing scenes and deaths, if you’re into that anyway.

                I found the acting believable. It kept my attention and not once did I think that it was fake. Not award winning acting but the monsters, special effects often took the spotlight so the audience’s attention is often drawn away during the adrenaline filled scenes. I thought the movie was quite successful at building suspense and then making the audience jump, which is what I would expect with such movies as opposed to creating a chilling atmosphere. The story is built up so that there are characters that you hope will survive and those that you hate and think deserve a painful and gory death.

                Something I quite liked was how at some points where the world is filled with darkness and horrible monsters and a dark atmosphere, suddenly gets covered in white light to show that it’s over. This does seem to blind the audience for a moment but I thought it was effective. Not sure how epilepsy sufferers would react to it though. The ending was left open for the viewer to interpret and quite interesting.

                The closing credits are also quite interesting where they show you some of the monsters and the buildings shown throughout the movie. They do this using a rusty and dirty toned overlay.

                I did enjoy watching it. Seeing the story unravel and the things explained as well as seeing the computer generated special effects. I would recommend this film to people who like horror, gore and the games of this genre. This type of movie may be best seen at the cinema or in a dark room with some sort of surround system for best effect. Not recommend to everyone but recommend to those who like this type of movie anyway.

                Thanks for reading.

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                • More +
                  13.04.2006 07:08
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                  PCMCIA Wireless Card

                  The D-Link DWL-G650+ is a PCMCIA wireless (WiFi) card, which plugs into an available PCMCIA slot on a laptop. With this card, it wireless-enables a laptop, assuming it doesn’t have built-in wireless already. The card cost me about £25 at the time but you may be able to find the same one cheaper now. Most of these seem to be in this price range if not less, since they are becoming redundant with new laptops already having built-in cards. It’s a 802.11G card, which means theoretically, it can transfer 54Mbits/s but they never get to that speed. Most residential broadband connections nowadays only range up to 10Mbit/s.

                  INSTALLATION

                  I find the installation of this card has always been very easy. I just install the driver and software off the CD and then plug the card in. This literally takes minutes. Only thing I’m not too keen on is that I think the card sticks out of the PCMCIA slot too much but that’s normal for most PCMCIA cards.

                  USING

                  You can use the D-Link software or you can use Windows XP SP2’s wireless function.. While using the XP function, I’m usually connected as soon as I’ve turned on my laptop so no need to choose to connect to a network. It’s the same with the D-Link utility. When connected to a wireless network, the card flashes.

                  The D-Link software lets you scan the area for wireless networks and then lets you choose which one you want to connect to. The software looks very professionally made and has information like Link Quality, Signal Strength as well as Data Rate, which is good to know so you know.

                  The range is pretty good but it varies depending on the Access Point and the surroundings. WiFi connections don’t go through thick walls too well and thin walls may also lower the quality of the connection. Signals are better in wide open areas. Despite the walls in my house, I can manage to connect to the Internet wirelessly in most parts of the house. I can also pick up the neighbour’s wireless point, which is probably about 20 metres or more away (not sure who’s it belongs to). My WiFi Access Point (a Draytek Vigor 2600G Wireless Router) has WEP security enabled. Once I enter the security key, I can access the network and Internet flawlessly. I know that some wireless cards are picky with accessing certain Access Points that have security turned on so that’s a relief.

                  As well as access the Internet, I am also able to access my network to transfer files, remotely control my PC, etc. I find that the connection to the network and Internet to be very stable and the only times it’s been unstable is when the wireless router / Access Point isn’t working properly.

                  Transfer rates, as expected are not as fast as when using a wired connection (using Cat5 network cable). On my 2Mbit ADSL connection (capable of up to 230KB/s), speeds typically start off between 100-200KB/s but seem to start to drop to around 90KB/s. This is while the laptop is about 50cm from my router so it’s nothing to do with distance or obstructions. It’s not top speed but it’s still pretty quick.

                  It does exactly what it’s supposed to and does it well. It’s easy to use as once set up, you just connect to your network or Internet as usual, just without wires.

                  SUPPORT

                  The drivers, software, and manuals are on the CD included but if you ever lose the CD or want updated drivers and software, then they can be downloaded from the D-Link website. D-Link is quite a big company for networking equipment so I am not worried about it disappearing like some smaller hardware suppliers. The website is quite quick with fairly decent download speeds. Not always top speed downloads but acceptable.

                  Documentation for the card on their website seems to be for a slightly different model labelled ‘Xtreme’, but I’m guessing they are identical other than the different label. The manual is very thorough, explaining all the terms you could ever worry about even if you won’t ever need to know what most of them mean. There are pictures and diagrams where appropriate to help you understand how to set everything up.

                  VERDICT

                  It’s a nice and simple card. It is a bit outdated now as there are newer wireless specifications available and most, if not all current laptops have built-in wireless, making such cards redundant. If you have an old laptop that does not already have built-in wireless, then I can happily recommend this card. Otherwise, a similar or newer model would do nicely too. All I can say is that it works and I can’t fault it.

                  Thanks for reading!

                  SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

                  • Laptop notebook with available PCMCIA Slot
                  • Windows XP / 2000 / ME / 98SE
                  • 32MB RAM and 300MHz processor
                  • 802.11g or 802.11b wireless Access Point (probably compatible with newer wireless standards too)

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                  • simply.co.uk / Online Shop / 32 Readings / 30 Ratings
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                    08.04.2006 20:53
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                    Computing Online Retailer formerly known as Simply

                    Misco were formerly known as Simply Computers. I’ve made 2 purchases from them and I'd be happy to use them again (provided the price is right).

                    Website

                    The website looks very professional and not hard on the eyes. Everything is neatly and evenly laid out. I have never experienced any downtime. Pages are very quick to load and I have never encountered any problems searching or browsing the site, so I have no complaints here.

                    Something about the website that stands out for me is that when you start typing something you want to search for in their search box, it provides results of what customers recently ordered. I like this feature and find it quite handy.

                    You can turn off product thumbnails, which I think is great for those who are on dialup. They have the usual results per page selection as well as a way to increase or decrease text size. There’s a box on the right where you can enter a tracking code to track the status of your order. Very thoughtful! With all these features that you may not see on other website, I would give the Misco site an above average rating. They accept all major Credit and Debit cards as well as PayPal. Only problem I’ve ever had was with an order where my money went through but the order didn’t go through. Not had that happen before.

                    Something else I like about the site is how you can submit your feedback about each of the product pages so that you can point out mistakes or tell them that they are missing some information in product descriptions. On product pages like RAM, they have a popup to tell you what all the different terms mean that are likely to see in the specifications.

                    ORDERING

                    Order process is easy enough. Just add items to your basket, click checkout, login or enter your payment and delivery details and register an account. You receive email notifications with order confirmations, dispatch notifications with tracking information and even a quick survey for you to rate the order process. I found it all very straight forward. You can also order by phone using their free phone number.

                    DELIVERY

                    Delivery usually takes around 3 days from order date and I’ve found that my items are indeed delivered 3 days or sooner from order date, so quite speedy and with everything well packed.

                    There does seem to be a minimum charge of £5.00 exc. VAT (£5.88 inc VAT), which I find a bit high if I only want to buy small light items though. I would like for them to offer a cheaper alternative for orders with a single small and light items such as flash memory. Overall, I’ve always been happy with delivery aside from wanting to save a bit on postage. Quicker and more expensive options are available but I find 3 days to be quick enough.

                    STOCK AND PRICES

                    They have a fairly big product range. Nowhere near enough to match that of Ebuyer but still enough to keep you busy. Prices aren’t always the lowest. There are some items like flash memory, USB pen drives, which are competitive but others I’ve found some other items to be cheaper at Ebuyer and some other places. For example:

                    Misco - for 2x 512MB DDR400 Corsair Value Select RAM memory = £65.79

                    Ebuyer - for 2x 512MB DDR400 Corsair Value Select RAM memory = £55.28

                    Even so, they do occasionally have bargains now and again though. I found a nice Air Tech laptop bag for about £10.50 and it is great quality. They also have an ‘Open Box’ category where items are reduced because they have missing or damaged packaging or are returns from people who no longer wanted the items.

                    They have a fair amount of stock and many from big brands such as Toshiba, IBM, Freecom, etc. They sometimes stock brands that other places do not, like my AVerMedia DVB TV Card, which is good. They have a good product range and they would be a god alternative retailer if you’ve had bad experiences with other retailers and want good customer service.

                    CUSTOMER SERVICE

                    On my second ever order, I chose to pay using PayPal. My money went through but four days later, I still had not received my order, any dispatch emails or any tracking codes. The site did say that one of my items requires 3 days for them to get stock because it is dispatched straight from their supplier so I waited. On the fifth working day, I emailed customer support with my payment details to query this. Within an hour, I received an email and it turned out, they had not received an order from me since 5 months ago so my order obviously didn’t get through. They refunded my PayPal payment and I re-ordered my order using my Mastercard instead.

                    They publish their addresses for each of their branches and there’s even a whole list of telephone numbers. Not like Ebuyer who hide behind their eNotes system.

                    VERDICT

                    A very good place to shop for computing stuff. Great customer service compared to many other online retailers of computing product. Some of their prices do not always compare well with other retailers and their minimum delivery cost is quite high if you only want small light items, but that aside, highly recommended.

                    Thanks for reading!

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                    • Bonjela / Pain Relief / 36 Readings / 35 Ratings
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                      08.02.2006 22:02
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                      Relieve ulcer and teething pains

                      So I’m sitting down about to dig into my lunch but on stuffing my face, I feel a stinging sensation at one particular spot on the inside of my lips. “Bugger, a mouth ulcer” usually crosses my mind. So what are mouth ulcers? They are a break in the mucous membrane, which lines the inside of the mouth. They are usually yellow or white in colour, round with an outline of red, and sizes vary but have something in common. They’re often a pain in the ar…err…mouth. They are sometimes painful to the point that they make you shed a tear.

                      After seeing TV commercials for Bonjela, which claimed to relieve pain from mouth ulcers, I thought this to be the only solution so I duly bought a tube from my local pharmacy. It comes in a small 15g toothpaste-like blue tube and the stuff inside takes the form of a transparent liquid gel. It cost me around £2.50 (can’t remember exact amount) and it is quite a small tube so thought it was a bit expensive at the time for such a small tube but changed my mind later.

                      To apply it, just massage 1cm of the gel onto the sore ulcer area(s), but usually I use about half that depending on the size of the ulcer. Upon application, I feel it ‘sting’ for about 20-30 seconds but after that, the area numbs and I no longer feel the pain of the ulcer, even when I poke the ulcer with my tongue, which would have been painful as hell before the treatment. I find the stinging sensation to be not as bad as the sudden pain from the mouth ulcer when I eat so it’s not really that bad! Maybe it’s because the Bonjela has started working its magic and I’ve also mentally prepared for it when applying it. I do feel that the ulcer area where I apply the Bonjela feels numb but as it’s such a small area that I usually forget about it quite quickly. The Bonjela seems to work for a couple of hours, from 3 to 4 hours from my experience. Instructions state that you should only re-apply the gel after 3 hours but I usually only do so when the ulcer pain comes back and bugs me again, which can be much longer.

                      Now the taste, because let’s face it, we put the stuff in our mouths, is a very subtle sweet taste, which I think tastes quite nice. It’s not too sweet and sometimes has a slight minty sensation but I’m only supposed to use a small amount so it’s not too noticeable, but because you only have to apply a small amount to each ulcer, it’s not difficult to take even if you did dislike the taste. The tube is labelled ‘Sugar Free’ so that’s good news for young children and those whom religiously look after their teeth.

                      I believe I bought it sometime early 2005 to mid 2005 and the expiry date printed on the tube is “1 Jun 07” so it certainly lasts a good time. It being the year 2006, I’ve got a whole year and just under four months before having to chuck it. I’ve not managed to go through even half the tube because of the small amounts needed for each use and with the assumption that you do not get several new ulcers every couple of day, which is why I’ve changed from thinking it was expensive to being good value for money. I am very pleased with the results and I can highly recommend the stuff. It relieves mouth ulcer pain even if only temporarily each time but it beats not being able to do anything about it.

                      It can also be used for baby teething relief. Do read the instructions though as there are warnings like for pregnant women not to use it, etc. It contains ethanol and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t pronounce without reading it slowly in the ingredients list.

                      Thanks for reading!

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                      • More +
                        30.01.2006 23:18
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                        World's First LASER Mouse

                        I’ve only ever owned wired Mice for fear of poor battery life, but I recently took the plunge and bought a Logitech MX1000 Cordless Laser Mouse to go with my Logitech Media Keyboard. I bought it from Ebuyer for £38.37 plus £3.83 Super Saver delivery. The price now is £35.69 plus delivery. They like to drop prices AFTER I buy the items. Anyway, you can also find it in the high street in Dixons, PC World, etc but usually more expensive. I also found it at CCL Online for the Ebuyer haters.

                        The mouse has a non-obtrusive Logitech logo on the top. The Left and Right-click buttons are part of the casing / shell so you do not see where the buttons begin. I think this design looks really nice compared to normal mice where it is obvious where the left and right buttons begin as indicated by a gap. The black area seems to be made of some sort of rubber grip, minus the friction as it’s very smooth. This combined with the curves makes it such a sexy mouse Anyway…I think the design looks very stylish compared to the standard look of most mice. The MX1000 is sure to impress.

                        SETTING UP

                        When you buy the mouse, you receive a really nice looking box with lots of shiny special effects. It really is a beautiful box, but anyway... inside, you’ll find the MX1000 mouse, base station charger, power adapter, USB to PS2 adapter, software CD, installation guide, safety guide, a small brochure tempting you to a variety of other Logitech products.

                        I fully charged the mouse using the base station on first use. The base station and mouse design are so compatible you can pretty much ‘drop’ the mouse in position effortlessly. Once charged, plug the mouse into an available USB port or use the ‘USB to PS/2’ adapter to connect it to your mouse PS/2 port at the back of your computer if you want to save a USB port for something else. Then press the ‘Reset’ button on the base station and the ‘Reset’ button underneath the mouse for them to connect. (Six weeks of owning and using the mouse, I’ve not had to touch the ‘Reset’ button again since as it has always worked).

                        I had to install the SetPoint software on the CD provided and drivers to be able to use the MX1000 to its full potential (but I’ve found the mouse to work even without it). Base station works even without power as it can draw it from the USB port but the mouse has to be charged as not plugging in the power means you cannot charge the mouse. The software was easy to install and just involves accepting a user agreement and a series of ‘next’ buttons. I already had my Logitech keyboard and the SetPoint software installed from that and so the software that came with the mouse simply merged into the existing Logitech software.

                        FEATURES

                        The MX1000 has 8 buttons. The standard Left and Right-click buttons, a scroll wheel that’s also the middle button, ‘Cruise’ up and down buttons, Back and Forward and an Application Switching button just above where you would position your thumb. All the buttons other than the Left and Right-click buttons can be programmed to do something else. The scroll wheel can even move left and right by tilting the scroll wheel left or right. I think this is very unique and is something I’ve never seen on a mouse. I love it! It makes it so much easier to scroll across large images.

                        The ‘Cruise’ buttons are also very cool and lets you move up and down documents or zoom in and out of images by holding the button down. I use it to move down articles/reviews I read but at first, it was so fast I kept missing the areas I wanted. The SetPoint software is so straight forward to use that it was easy to slow down the cruising. I don’t particularly like scrolling with the wheel so I cruise!

                        By default, the middle button (scroll wheel) is set with the ‘Zoom’ function. You press it, and then scroll the wheel up or down to zoom up or down. I didn’t like this as it meant I couldn’t use the middle click to open new tabs in Firefox and Opera, or auto scroll up and down documents, so I reprogrammed the button to be the ‘middle button’, which is the standard function of must scroll wheel mice. You can zoom in and out using the scroll wheel without wasting the setting by holding the ‘Ctrl’ key while scrolling so the ‘Zoom’ function isn’t necessary. The buttons can also be programmed to perform keystrokes of your choice (e.g. Ctrl + B to bold) or assign common tasks like Copy, paste, Close Program, etc.

                        I’ve found that the Back and the Forward buttons only work with Internet Explorer. As I seem to use Firefox and Opera more, this is a bit annoying. My old optical mouse is able to navigate back and forward when browsing the web using Firefox so I think Logitech should make their buttons more universal.

                        The Application Switch button is like Alt + Tab on your keyboard allowing you to jump between running programs. It’s better than Alt + Tab though since you can click on the programs in the box that pops up! Furthermore, you can set stuff like mouse pointer trails, acceleration speed, speed, scrolling size, mouse pointer speed, Side-to-side scrolling speed and more!

                        BATTERY LIFE

                        After extensive testing (or some might call it wasting my youth surfing the net), I’ve found the battery life to be very good. On a full charge, the battery lasts me 2-3 days of quite frequent usage. A full charge takes just over 2 hours but if the battery goes dead, a 10 minute charge can last a fair amount of time (a full day’s use I keep reading). Store the mouse on the base station when you’re out and you wouldn’t even have to worry about battery life! A very nice feature is the battery indicator on the mouse, which shows me how much battery power remains.

                        When the battery is near empty the red LED lights up at the bottom of the bar in place of the green light. Whenever the mouse is idle for 10 seconds, it goes to sleep to save power. Moving the mouse or pressing a button on it wakes it up again. If you are going away for a while, you can turn off the mouse completely using the switch underneath. Not only that but the software can even tell how full the battery is and even warn you when it is low on power by flashing in the System Tray. 3 day life would be bad (and expensive) if you were using batteries but that's why this is rechargeable!

                        COMFORT

                        The MX1000 is beautifully moulded to accommodate someone’s right hand. It looks as though it is made for medium to large sized hands but smaller hands shouldn’t be a problem. The shape is ‘natural’ so whenever I place my hand on the mouse, my fingers and thumb naturally fall into the intended places. Thumb just beneath the Next / Back / Application Switch buttons, index and middle finger over the Left and Right-click buttons. And lastly remaining two fingers drop to the right of the mouse, where it’s even moulded with a subtle bump to separate the two fingers without you realising until you look closely. It’s a full-size mouse and is slightly heavier than regular mice, optical or otherwise, but as you slide it around, it isn’t too bad. The added weight makes it feel more robust.

                        It seems this mouse is only designed for right handed people (sorry lefties). They can still use it but the mouse doesn’t really accommodate the left hand. The software does not even let you swap the buttons around so lefties should either learn to use their right hand or look for another mouse.

                        My only quibble is that the left corner of the ‘MX LASER’ sticker (the very stiff type) at the back of the mouse keeps sticking up thus pricking my hand. I push it back down whenever it sticks up but aside that, I don’t suffer from any other discomforts when using the mouse.

                        USING

                        The MX1000 is proclaimed to be the world’s first ‘Laser’ mouse, and when you look underneath it, there is no red light. In fact, there’s no light at all. Sliding the mouse randomly and very quickly shows no signs of the mouse pointer not keeping up on screen like I’ve experienced with some optical mice. Also, there is no ‘lag’, where it takes a second for the pointer to move after moving the mouse. Classic example is when the mouse is asleep, so I move the mouse to wake it up. I then have to move it a second time before it responds. That is very annoying, as you expect the pointer to move straight away, not after the second move. That doesn’t happen with the MX1000 as it wakes up a lot more quickly. Logitech claim it to be 20 times more sensitive than optical mice. From comparing the MX1000 with my cheapo optical £8 mouse off eBay, I have found that it is far more accurate. When navigating a video by dragging the seek bar a very tiny bit, I’ve found that the optical mouse either goes too far or goes nowhere. On many occasions, I ended up in the same spot on the video. This never happened with the MX1000 as it detected the smallest of movements without lagging.

                        One time, the mouse pointer became all jerky. I thought my computer was ‘busy’ with something but I still had my old optical mouse plugged in so tried using that. The mouse pointer was moving smoothly so it wasn’t my computer. The MX1000 was fully charged so it wasn’t a power issue. It turned out it was too far away from the base station, which acts as the receiver as well as being the charger. The mouse works even from a distance of 1 metre but not always fluently. Any further than 50cm - 60cm and the mouse pointer movement became very jerky. However, it seems that this is not always the case. Sometimes I can move 1 metre back and it still worked smoothly so it may be because of obstructions. I’ve since discovered that metal objects mess up the signal a bit. Using my stainless steel mouse mat also reduces the working range of the mouse! Otherwise, it has a very good range of over 2 metres. I have found that it works up to 4 metres 7 centimetres back and quite smoothly too but on some surfaces, it only worked up to around 2.5 metres. This is still acceptable. I’ve found that it works on most surfaces but like optical mice, it would not work on shiny surfaces such as mirrors.

                        CONCLUSION

                        The MX1000 is an excellent mouse. It’s comfortable, responsive, has an impressive array of features, good battery life and is rechargeable so no batteries to worry about. This is the most expensive mouse I’ve ever owned but it is also the best I’ve ever used so if you’ve got the money, get this mouse! I would have liked a few more extra buttons since there are so many things I could program but never mind. I can still give this mouse an impressive eight out of 10. Two points deducted for the stiff sticker peeling up and the lack of compatibility with some non-Microsoft programs.

                        Thanks for reading!

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                        • Pioneer DVR 108 / DVD Burner / 34 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                          24.12.2005 17:40
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                          16x DVD RW Optical Drive

                          We’ve all heard of Pioneer. If you haven’t then you should come out from under that rock. Anyway, the review is of my Pioneer DVR-108BK 16x Dual Layer DVD ReWriter. Simply put, it’s an optical drive that you would normally put in your computer that would enable you read from and write to DVD and CDs. The 108BK model is the OEM (non-retail) and Black model equivalent of the A08BK model. This just means it doesn’t come with a comprehensive user guide, a pretty box, cables and software because well, I don’t need those things anyway. I have plenty already. I think for this model, there’s also the difference of the retail version having a honey comb top, meaning it has bumps in the shape of honey combs, which reduces vibrations. I can’t seem to find the retail version right now o it wasn’t even an option when I bought the drive so I’ll settle

                          BUYING

                          I bought my drive from SVP Communications (blankdiskshop.co.uk) because I needed blank discs as well and thought I’d save on postage by ordering these things together. Also, because it was a good deal at the time costing me around £50 (they still cost around this price, maybe less). The drive arrived in a brown box along with an operating instructions manual.

                          FEATURES

                          The drive supports regular CD and DVD ROM’s, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW. No DVD-RAM support but never mind. I think this is good as it’s all the main formats. DVD-RAM is expensive and is on its way to ‘out’ so I’m not bothered about this particular format. Supports Dual Layer DVDR discs, which are double the capacity of standard ones giving you over 8GB of storage. Single layer discs give you just under 4.7GB of space. The drive is capable of burning up to a speed of 16x (22.16MB per second) for DVDs and 32x (6.14MB per second) for CDRs. A 4x DVD writing speed is much faster than a 4x CD writing speed. 4x can fill a single layer 4.7GB DVD disc in approximately 15 minutes. A 4x CD writing speed would take around an hour to fill a disc but considering it an only fill 700MB in that time compared to the 4.7GB on a DVD disc, there’s a huge difference in speed.

                          Dual layer DVD discs cost a whopping £4 per disc (or around £1.50-£2.00 per disc if you buy in bulk) or around that price and can be burnt at 4x only. Not bought any of those due to the high price.

                          INSTALLATION

                          Setting up is the same as any other CD/DVD ROM drive. I removed the 3.5” front bay cover, slid in the drive, mounted the drive by screwing it to the bay and then plugged in the power and the IDE cable. Lastly, I set the drive as a Slave drive via the jumper. Otherwise, I could have used the ‘Cable Select’ setting for it to automatically detect which setting to use depending on which IDE connector on the IDE cable I used. Optionally, you can also plug in the audio output to the sound card or straight to the motherboard but my other drive is already using the connector so it was not necessary. If it’s properly connected up and configured (using jumpers) and if the drive is working, then the computer should detect the drive once you start up the computer. Your operating system should also see the drive. I find this easy but I guess not everyone would find this easy so I’m knocking off a few points for installation.

                          If you’re using Windows XP, then you can use the Built-in Windows CD Burning to burn onto CDR’s but for DVDs, you would need some DVD burning software so you would have to install that to be able to burn to DVD discs.

                          USER MANUAL

                          It doesn’t come with one because this is the OEM version, as mentioned, however, it did come with an operating instructions sheet. This tells you about the drive’s specifications, the interface, what the connectors are at the back as well as the usual safety instructions.

                          USING

                          You use it as you do with any other CD/DVD drive. Press the eject button to eject the tray, insert or remove disc. Press the eject button to retract the tray then load up whatever you want to. Software usually ‘autoruns’ (runs automatically). Windows XP may pop up with a small window asking you what you would like to do (i.e. Play, Play with a certain program, Open and browse, etc).

                          To burn, simply insert a blank CD or DVDR disc load up your burning software, adding the files you want to burn to the session and then click the burn button, or you could do the DirectCD / Windows XP way and just drag and drop directly into the disc and start the burning for CDs. While burning, the ‘Busy’ LED indicator lights up green. Unlike my LiteOn burner, this Pioneer only lights up one colour, which is a shame because I would liked to have it light up red/orange when burning something, and green when reading, like my LiteOn but it’s not important. The drive also has a ventilation hole at the front, which helps keep it cool.

                          If the drive malfunctions and your precious Mariah Carey CD is stuck inside the drive, don’t worry. There is a ‘force eject’ hole, which comes as standard where I you can force the tray out by using a pin or something small enough to fit into the tiny hole to press the button inside. Pushing the button down forces the tray out. Always useful.

                          I’ve found that the error correction is pretty good but not preferct. A damaged file on a CD would not copy from a CD using my new 1953S LiteOn drive. The Pioneer managed to copy it. I had also tried copy the same from using an Asus drive and that copied a lot quicker so obviously, it is better than this Pioneer. The LiteOn failed completely so the Pioneer is somewhere in between the LiteOn and the Asus DVD Writer. The Pioneer 108 is quite old now but it out performed my fairly new LiteOn so that’s pretty good.

                          VERDICT

                          An excellent drive from a well known manufacturer. It’s just a shame that Dual Layer discs cost so much and how 16x aren’t available yet(?). The prices for DVD Re-Writers have fallen and this one is no different, despite this drive being a brand name like Pioneer, it stays at a low price for what it is. You pay a small price for such a good brand name and such a high quality product. The only thing I’m not as keen on is that the tray eject mechanism uses a rubber belt rather than gears. Gears last longer and are higher quality. Obviously, it would cost slightly more to have gears so maybe that’s the reason for Pioneer using them but my LiteOn cost the same at the time and that uses gears. Anyway, the drive comes in black, which is good since not many people want white/beige computers these days. I can recommend this but there are newer models to consider. I also think that LiteOn are pretty good so they’re worth considering too.

                          Thanks for reading!

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                          • More +
                            12.12.2005 17:34
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                            1GB USB 2.0 Flash Disk Storage Drive

                            Annoyingly, Dooyoo don't specify the capacity of the product. I've got a 1GB version of the Flash Disk as well as a 128MB version but would have liked to post separate reviews for each. Oh well!

                            --------------------

                            This is a review on the PQI’s USB 2.0 1GB ‘Cool Drive’ Travelling Disk. This product is very similar to my PQI 128MB Cool Drive Traveling Disk, which I’ve also reviewed, but with one BIG difference. The 1GB version of this drive holds A LOT more information than the 128MB could ever. Now what does 1GB mean? It’s short for 1 GigaByte, which is 1,000 MegaBytes. Actually, the space shows up as 999MB but that's close enough. Now, if you’ve read my 128MB Cool Drive review, or at least seen the title, you’ll know that 128MB stores roughly the equivalent of 88 floppy disks. Now the 1GB Cool Drive stores the equivalent of 694 floppy disks! Impressive, in’it?

                            Now, the 1GB Cool Drive is practically identical to the 128MB Cool Drive. The drive is roughly the size of my thumb, it’s metallic blue in colour with clear bits at the bottom and tip of the cap. The only difference is the capacity, labelled on the drive itself and the amount each of these can store. I think it’s quite amazing how they can make a 1GB stick the same size as a 128MB and these particular ones are really quite small. These flash disks used to be a bit bigger than this but have since getting smaller as the technology advances.

                            IN THE BOX

                            It comes with a blue strap, which you can attach to the drive if you want, a USB 2.0 extension lead, which is very handy to have. Especially for those who only have USB ports on the back of the computer. It comes with the driver CD containing a more comprehensive user guide, a user guide on a sheet of paper, which is an 8cm CD which isn’t even round. It’s a circle with two flat sides. These CDs will not fit in slot CD drives like my Pioneer 106s (see review).

                            USING

                            These things are really easy to use. Just plug it into a USB (or USB 2.0 port if you have that) and the drive will be detected (so long as your USB ports are enabled and are workin) by your operating system (i.e. Windows). This takes about 30 seconds the first time. It will then appear as a Removable Disk under My Computer, in Windows. However, if you have Windows 98 or wish to use it in a Windows 98 computer, then you will need to install a driver. Anyway, no extra software required. Unlike adding stuff to a CD/DVD, which is a bit of a slow and annoying procedure.

                            USB 2.0 connections can be used with USB 1.1 ports. At reduced speed but my point is that it is backwards compatible, for those who have old computers.

                            On the drive, there’s an orange LED which flashes whenever it’s transferring data. I would prefer blue to match the exterior of the drive but no matter. It’s a bad idea to remove the drive from the USB port when it’s flashing. This could (will) result in your data not be copied over and it will be corrupted. This may even damage your drive. The best thing to do is to click on the USB icon in the System Tray if it’s there and tell Windows that you want to remove the device.

                            It also has a ‘write-protect’ switch which you can turn on to prevent the any accidental deletion of data. Turning this on means you can add anything to the drive as well though. The switch is in a small gap so you need something small to turn it on or off.

                            You can also password protect the data on the disk but to do this, you need to use their software. You would need to install their software to set the password and you would need to install the software on all machines, you wish to access your stuff on, to access your files. I’ve found that you are unable to enter the drive if write-protect is on though. Surely, you should be able to read the data even with write-protect on.

                            ADVANTAGES

                            If you’re wondering why you should bother with these when you can just burn stuff to CD, pop them onto a floppy disk, then I’ll tell you why. Floppy disks are slow as hell, aren’t very reliable, and you can’t fit all that much onto one. You can only erase stuff off CDR’s if they’re CDRW’s but even then, you have to erase everything and can’t select files. Now if you had one of these PQI Flash Disks, you can use them like a portable Hard Drive. Also, 1GigaBytes of space means that you can chuck a lot of junk onto it without worrying about it filling up as quickly as, let’s say, a 128MB stick. With 1GB, you can even put a whole CD worth of programs on and more!

                            These pen drives, flash disks, travelling disks, or whatever you want to call them, are excellent for backing up data, copying/moving files from one computer to another since they read and write faster than floppy disks, and they are much more reliable. They store so much more than floppy disks and they’re a thousand times more reliable. They’re known to retain data for over ten years and aren’t as sensitive to magnetic fields. They even fit in your pocket a lot easier, since they’re small and don’t feel like they’ll break in half. Quick and easy to use, compact and reliable, and comes with all accessories. Great stuff!

                            DISADVANTAGES

                            This one, being a 1GB stick, is quite expensive. At £55-70, this may be out of a lot of people’s price range for storage. I mean, it’d be cheaper to buy 2 CDRs and store around 1.4GB of data between two discs. Even a DVD-/+R would be a lot cheaper, letting you store around 4.7GB of stuff, if you’ve got a DVD burner. However, you can buy a 128MB stick for under £20.

                            Another thing is that, they aren’t shock proof. I’ve dropped mine quite a few times but luckily, no problems but still worry about dropping it. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if I dropped a floppy disk because of the larger surface area but since the Travel Disk has such a small surface area, I reckon a sharp drop would damage it.

                            If you have a Windows 98 machine, then you will be required to install a driver off their driver CD or their website before you can use the drive. This can be annoying but no major problems unless the machine doesn’t have a CDROM drive. If you had an old laptop running Windows 98 and you had lost the removable floppy drive then you’d have to get the driver on using an alternative method.

                            The software which lets you divide the drive space into two partitions requires you to update your USB 2.0 drivers or your computer reboots every time it loads up the drive. I found this out the hard way when I tried out this software with my 128MB stick. They do tell you to update the USB 2.0 drivers but this information can only be found in the PDF file and not on the printed document. I think they could have at least included this so called driver on the CD. I didn’t bother with this after sorting it out and returning my 128MB stick to just having one partition using a different computer.

                            Also, it seems like the drive can scratch easily due to the metallic material. Even putting it in my pocket with my 128MB stick puts white marks all over it. These white marks rub off easily and there doesn’t seem to be any scratches on it after but still, I wouldn’t put it in my pocket with my keys.

                            BUYING

                            I bought this one from Ebuyer for around £86 including postage. Their prices go up and down a lot and it’s actually around £55 right now. This is one of the lowest prices around, excluding places like Ebay, of course, but it’s still very good. You can also find this drive at Maplin but they’re usually more expensive than online.

                            MY OPINION

                            I think the drive looks “cool”. It’s got a huge capacity, it hasn’t let me down so I like it. Only thing I don’t like is how the partitioning software requires you to update your USB 2.0 drivers or something without providing the information on the printed user guide, and maybe the price is a bit high. Prices will drop as they bring out new stuff though. The driver thing with Windows 98 is also annoying but that’s the same with all of these drives. Overall, highly recommended. Just don’t bother with the partitioning software. Use the password protection software if you must but you have to install the software on each machine you want to use the drive with, which is also a bit annoying.

                            UPDATE:

                            My one had stopped working. Computers would no longer pick it up, but it turned out the drive itself wasn’t faulty since moving it to a weird angle made the computer pick it up. This made the metal contacts in the USB bit of the drive touch the contacts in the USB port, because it had been worn out to the point that they weren’t making contact when the drive was plugged in. Luckily, I only had it for 8 months at the time and managed to get a new one from Ebuyer. My new is a bit different. The type on it is slightly different and the hand strap included is black instead of blue. The light stays on as soon as it is plugged into a USB port. It flashes to indicate data transfer unlike my old one which only lights up (flashes) when transferring data but no light when idle.

                            Oh and now you can get Flash Drives up to 4GB. They cost a lot more but they're out there. 2GB version costs around £120 these days.

                            Thanks for reading.


                            -------------------

                            Here are the specifications if you’re interested.

                            • Data transfer rate: Read up to 8MB/sec and write up to 7MB/sec
                            • Capacities available: 32MB/64MB/128MB/256MB/512MB/1GB/2GB
                            • Compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1, no external power required
                            • Supports Plug&Play through USB port
                            • Includes software for password protection, formatting & partitioning
                            • With LED status indicator for file access and write-protect switch
                            • Operating systems supported: WindowsTM 98SE/ME/2000/XP; Mac OS 9.X & 10.X
                            • Drive free except for WindowsTM 98SE
                            • Dimension (LxWxH): 68.00 x 18.50 x 9.00 mm or 2.68 x 0.73 x 0.35 inch
                            • Operating systems supported: WindowsTM 98SE/ME/2000/XP; Mac OS 9.X & 10.X
                            • Driver free except for WindowsTM 98SE
                            • Dimension (LxWxH): 68.00 x 18.50 x 9.00 mm or 2.68 x 0.73 x 0.35 inch

                            (Quoted from the PQI website)

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                            • Trust Slimline Keyboard / Keyboard / 29 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                              05.12.2005 17:03
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                              Trust Slimline Keyboard

                              The keyboard is called a ‘Slimline’ keyboard because it is extra slim and is only 2.2cm thick. It is very compact compared to regular keyboards because the Delete, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, Insert and Cursor arrow keys have all been moved to where the main keys are. The Delete key is even at the bottom next to the right ‘Ctrl’ key like some laptop keyboards. Although this makes the keyboard compact, I don’t particularly like this because it takes a lot of getting used to after using regular keyboards. As a touch typist, it makes it difficult to find keys since I would normally ‘feel’ the keys to locate some of them. The compact layout makes it impossible for me to do that.

                              Some keys are also smaller than the norm. The space bar and backspace keys are both half the size of those found on a normal keyboard. A number of other keys are also slightly smaller than usual. The Function keys are shorter and there’s no gap between them and the row of numbers at the top. The smaller keys and fewer gaps often make me hit the wrong key.

                              It even has an ‘Fn’ key like on a laptop keyboard where you press it to use function keys. There aren’t any keys with such functions labelled so I’m not even sure what it’s for! At the very top, there are some special keys. Functions include Email, Search, ‘Favorites’ (Yes, I’m using the American spelling), Home Page (load default Internet browser), Play/Pause, Mute, Increase volume, Decrease volume, and Sleep. I think these buttons look horrible since they’re the thin line style buttons but at least they work. I do like the presence of them but I would have liked a few more multimedia buttons. The only one is Play/Pause so I think it would have made sense to include a ‘Previous’ and a ‘Next’ button. I think the other buttons, especially the volume and mute buttons are good additions.

                              In terms of comfort, it is not the most comfortable of keyboards and doesn’t even come with a wrist rest. It has the tilts underneath to adjust the angle like most keyboards, which can help a little with comfort. I would not want and never wanted to spend too long using this keyboard, which says a lot.

                              The keys do not stick up (height) as much as regular keyboard keys and this keyboard reminds me of laptop keyboards. I would say the height was somewhere in the middle between a laptop keys (very flat) and regular keyboard keys. As the keys are so short, they seem easier to press and the tapping sounds are not as loud and sharp, which may be a good thing for those who do not like the sound.

                              The main problem I have had with this keyboard is with the space bar. On many, many occasions, the spacebar had gotten ‘stuck’ at and I ended up with lots of spaces added to my document. This is a very silly problem that could have been avoided if Trust had made the keyboard better quality. The build quality of this keyboard seems rather average

                              Unlike any other keyboard I’ve seen, the CAPS lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock indicator lights are blue LED’s rather than the boring old green on regular keyboards. I like this as I prefer the blue although it is a bit brighter than necessary to the point that it is blinding if you look directly at them! A bit too bright for a keyboard that’s supposed to be low profile since it becomes very noticeable.

                              It comes with a USB to PS/2 adapter so you do not have to use USB if you’re short on ports. It also gives you a driver CD so Windows 98 users can use the keyboard using the USB connection.

                              Lastly, I bought mine for about £16 online but you can find it for a bit less now. Also, mine is black but I think you can get a grey/silver version.

                              To conclude, I don’t recommend this keyboard. Getting one is like sacrificing usability to save some desk space. It would be okay for non-touch typists, those who like laptop keyboard layouts, and those who look at the keyboard a lot when typing. However, since some of the keys are so close together, you are more prone to hitting the wrong keys. That and the issue with comfort is something to consider. I would only recommend this keyboard if you really needed to save space or if your storage space for the keyboard only allows for smaller keyboards but otherwise, I’d recommend a full size keyboard for regular use like the Logitech Media Keyboard.

                              Thanks for reading!

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                              • Logitech Media Keyboard / Keyboard / 29 Readings / 26 Ratings
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                                26.11.2005 01:12
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                                Advantages

                                • Reliability

                                Disadvantages

                                A great Media Qwerty Keyboard from Logitech

                                I had recently bought myself a KVM Switch, a device that lets you connect more than one computer to the same keyboard, mouse and monitor and lets you switch between them. However, my old Trust keyboard was USB only and the KVM box only uses the PS/2 connection. I had a USB-to-PS/2 adapter, which I thought would solve my problems but it kept 'losing' the keyboard connection whenever I switched.

                                My solution was simply to buy a new keyboard with only a PS/2 connector and so this review is for the Logitech Media Keyboard which I happened to come across on eBay for £16 (inc. £6.00 delivery). The keyboard retails for £19.99 online and offline so I saved four quid! I found it on Ebuyer for just over £16 if interested but otherwise, Dixons, PC World, etc all seem to stock this keyboard.

                                Having used a variety of different keyboards, I have found that some keyboards can be uncomfortable and more difficult to use. Some are easier to type with, whereas others require more tapping strength. Being a touch-typist whom frequently receives comments on my being a human dictation machine, responsiveness, comfort and the 'feel' are important when it comes to keyboards.

                                Using certain cheaper keyboards make me more prone to typos leading to me spending more time doing the same thing, frustration and possibly a smashed up keyboard! I own other Logitech devices and I knew that was a good choice since their products I've seen are all top notch quality!

                                Now looking at the Logitech Media Keyboard, I think that the build quality is excellent. The plastic doesn't look cheap at all. It has lots of buttons at the top and the Function Keys (i.e. F1, F2, etc) are round rather than the usual cube keys.

                                Some keys are shaped in such was that you'll know what they were once you're used to the keyboard so you won't have to look to see what they were. i.e. the round 'Escape' key bulges in instead of out. The cursor keys aren't perfectly shaped 'cubes' like most the other keys on this keyboard. They're slightly curved in places, which I think looks nice. The overall appearance of the keyboard looks great, with everything labelled using either icons or both text with icons.

                                All keys seem to be very responsive without asking for much effort to be put into my tapping. Something I've noticed is that the letter labels on the keys are in the middle rather than top left/right, which I thought was unusual.

                                An initial attraction to this keyboard for me was the media buttons. I wanted Play, Stop, Next, Previous, Volume up/down and Mute buttons and the Logitech Media Keyboard has them all as well as a 'Media' button to load up your default media player. The 'Play', 'Pause', 'Stop', volume, etc buttons can control your media player even when the media player is minimized. This is useful for me since I minimize the player and watch video through my TV. This is also useful if you've minimized your media player while it plays MP3s.

                                It even has one for 'Favorites' (Internet Explorer bookmarks, and yes, American spelling), 'Home' to load up your default browser, Email, Messenger, Search the web, Back and Forward for when you're surfing the web but this is only for Internet Explorer. A shame it doesn't work in Firefox. The sleep button doesn't seem to work for me. I thought the most unusual button was the Calculator button, which I think is quite useful. All of these buttons are programmable so you can assign something different to them.

                                If that's not enough for you, the Function Keys can also be used as to load up programs, undo, redo, save and still giving you room for four keys (labelled a, b, c, d) more to program. All you have to do is press the 'Mode' button. The Media and Internet buttons worked before installing any drivers from the supplied CD but the Enhanced buttons did not. By default, the F2, F3 and F4 keys load up Word, Excel and PowerPoint and these are labelled with the Microsoft Office icons for those applications.

                                It took me a couple of installs because it did not seem to detect that I had the 'Media' keyboard and would not let me install the enhanced function configuration program. This was with the keyboard plugged into my KVM box so I unplugged it and plugged it directly into the PS/2 port at the back of my computer. This worked and I was able to install everything needed. I simply plugged the keyboard back into my KVM box. Programming buttons were a cinch and can be done through the Logitech software in 3 easy steps.

                                If you had one too many programs you wanted to load up, you can even create a customized menu to open a program or website, so when you press the programmed button, it'll give you a menu like the ones you get when you right-click the mouse button with a list of programs or websites you add. No complaints here as it was all very straight forward to install and configure.

                                Once installed, the actions appear on the screen in green text. For example, when you press a programmed key to run a program, i.e. Photoshop, it will say Adobe Photoshop and the version number in big green lime green text. I think this gets in the way especially if you're watching a movie and using the Media buttons to Play the movie.

                                I cannot find where to turn this off. Only way I've found is to Exit the Logitech software but you lose the use of the Enhanced functions. Media and Internet buttons still work though. MusicMatch Jukebox and RealArcade (for games) are included on the software CD as well as comfort guidelines and help centre so you can use those if you wanted.

                                The packaging and specifications also boast a zero tilt design for added comfort. I think the keyboard does look quite flat so this must be true! Like most keyboards, you can tilt the keyboard by pulling out the two stands under the keyboard at the top to lift it slightly.

                                It also has a wrist rest, which you attach to the bottom of the keyboard so you can rest your hands. These seem to be included as standard with Logitech keyboards and most other brands but are optional to install. I find this keyboard very comfortable to use. The taps aren't that loud either. I can hear when I type but it's fairly quiet compared to other keyboards I've heard so would be less of a disturbance to other people. Not just that, the box says it's spill resistant! I am NOT going to test this out.

                                Something I don't particularly like about this keyboard is the layout of the 'Home' and 'End' keys. Directly above the cursor arrow keys, you would normally find a set of six keys. Going from top to bottom, left to right we usually have Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page up, Page down but the Logitech is Home, Delete, End, Page up, Page down. The 'Delete' key is twice the height for some reason. The Insert key has been merged with Scroll Lock on the Media Keyboard. I do feel it makes more sense to have the 'Home' and 'End' keys side by side since we type of left to right. I'm just more used to the old layout.

                                The 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons do not seem to be able to 'seek' in Windows Media Player or RealOne Player when the buttons are held down. This is slightly disappointing because it says "<< Seeking" or "Seeking >>" on the screen when I hold those down so it's supposed to but I can live without it. I can move to the next and previous tracks/movies with these keys so it is not all bad. However, I've found that it does increase the speed x2 when using Intervideo WinDVD player.

                                In conclusion, the Logitech Media Keyboard is a very good keyboard indeed. It looks good, build quality is excellent, easy to install, configure and use, has a wide variety of buttons that are also programmable, and it's comfortable and responsive. It's a shame I can't get some buttons to work and how some only work in some programs but this is just a software issue and they can be programmed to do something else. Also it's a bit annoying that I can't turn off the on screen display when I press the media, Internet keys or Enhanced keys. I can get used to the 'Home' and 'End' key layout in time so that's nothing to worry about. Oh and it's spill proof and has a 5 Year Warranty! Highly recommended!

                                Thanks for reading!

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                                  03.11.2005 18:33
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                                  Dooyoo Vs Ciao

                                  As a member of Ciao, I inevitably read about Dooyoo, I went over to check out what the fuss was about. If you have never heard of it and you are reading this review, well, see, you have just heard about it. Told you it is inevitable. So what did I find?

                                  I found a website that works in a similar way to Ciao. Members write reviews on products, websites, services, etc, as well as participate in debates. Then each member is rewarded for his or her opinions. Well, if you are reading this, likelihood is that you know all that already, as it is the same as Ciao. Many Ciao members are members of both and submit the same reviews to both sites.

                                  There are a number of differences though. As I am a member of Ciao, I guess I will follow suit with other reviews about Dooyoo on here and compare Dooyoo to Ciao. Dooyoo has some good points as well as bad.

                                  Registration was easy enough so I would not bore you with it. Free to join as usual. The site looks very different from Ciao. First thing you would notice is probably the colour scheme. Mainly green. The Dooyoo logo is green and black so this was to keep everything consistent.

                                  The home page on Dooyoo has been completely changed and everything looks very professional. This was not always the case as I have seen the old layout. It is good that they are improving the site.

                                  When you have decided to look for a product, you can select choose from electronics, computers, games, movies, finance, mobiles, and more…You can then select by manufacturer, estimated price, platform, specifications, etc.

                                  You can search their site by Products, Users and Prices. I do not think their search engine is all that good. When searching for i.e. compaq presario 2800, it gave me 149 results but not one is actually the Compaq Presario 2800. There are other Compaq products, other Presarios, and even a car with the model number 2800. Basically, I had to scour through 30 pages just to find that they do not have it.

                                  I am usually just searching for products but also searched for users. It gives you near matches as well as exact matches, which is bad sometimes for products as described above but good for user searches.

                                  Instead of earning cash, Dooyoo reward you with Dooyoo miles. These are like points.

                                  1000 Dooyoo miles = £1.00
                                  10 Dooyoo miles = 1p

                                  To redeem them, you can opt for Amazon E-Voucers. You used to be able to opt for SendIt.com (formerly BlackStar?) online vouchers but apparently you can’t now even though I still see the SendIt.com logo on the site. You can of course exchange them for cash or donate them to charity. You need to be 18+ to claim Dooyoo miles though. You need to have earned 10,000 miles to claim vouchers and claimed in increments of 5,000.

                                  They charge you are a £5 handling fee for redeeming £50 cash, which I feel is a bit cheeky of them. No handling fee if you earned £100 though. For Amazon and SendIt.com vouchers (sent via email), you will need a minimum of 10,000, which can be redeemed in increments of 5,000. I redeemed one large £50 Amazon voucher via email. It took about a week and a half to arrive in my inbox from day of redemption. Voucher worked like a charm. I think £50 is the old voucher redemption minimum.

                                  You get 30 Dooyoo miles for each member read you receive. That is 3p per member read. It used to be more but I did not know about review sites then. On Ciao, many reviews are unpaid and can pay 0.5p, 1p and 2p per member read (Double pay for first month if you are first to write about a product) so Dooyoo seem to be a bit better here. There is a catch though. You need to have accumulated a certain amount before you can cash out, and it is quite a lot compared to the £5.00 payout amount on Ciao. Also, Dooyoo Miles expire after a year so you have to cash out before then or you lose them. What you could do is redeem some as the ones that will expire soonest will be the ones redeemed. To be fair though, since Dooyoo pay a fixed 30p per rate and give Crowns more regularly, it seems a lot easier than Ciao to reach the minimum amounts. With some (even Product) reviews on Ciao, it is not paid per rate. Some only pay half a penny for products, which you would think are worth more. Products/Websites already with many reviews are usually unpaid (i.e. Amazon, eBay, Play, etc). Only time Ciao pay more is if it is 2p per op, you get 4p per rate if you are the first to write for that product in the category or if you get lucky with the Premium Fund or win a Diamond. Dooyoo still pay out more consistently though.

                                  Ratings available are Very Useful, Useful, Somewhat Useful, and Not Useful. No Exceptional but to nominate an exceptional review, you simply click on the Nominate for a crown link. Better than the system on Ciao, that hardly anyone knows about. Recommend Product link on Ciao is supposed to be for recommending the review to be considered for a Diamond. Can they be less clear? The Very Useful and Not Useful are the other way around on Ciao (Very Helpful, Not Helpful, etc rather the Useful) so I often nearly click the wrong rating!

                                  There is not a points system like on Ciao. Some people like it, other people do not but I do rather like the Community Points thing on Ciao. I like it because I also have something to aim for (to get to the next colour dot) but I am not bothered that there is not one on Dooyoo. In some ways, it is good that Dooyoo do not have a points system, as newly registered users may feel disheartened to have lots of points deducted on their first review. Most people do not do too well when they are new to writing reviews and may just give up and not return to the site as a result of this. New members may feel intimidated by higher ranking members but many are friendly so it has not bothered me. I do not really look at the points anymore on Ciao so it is the same to me whether they exist or not. Also, no paid surveys on Dooyoo like on Ciao.

                                  There used to be a lot of pop-ups on Dooyoo but I think they have really cut down as I do not notice any these days. Good move, as pop ups are the spawn of evil. Banners are more effective advertising anyway, as you cannot close them.

                                  Unlike Ciao, Dooyoo lack a guest book feature. People use an unofficial guestbook, known as Tooyoo. Not everyone has this and communication has often been done within comments on each review by another member and this is not good. Comments are often left in another members review to thank them or something, and they are often unrelated to the review they are commenting in. Some members post their email address up, other post there Tooyoo name or link (if they have one). In a way, it is a good move to make the community thing optional as some people may just want to read / write reviews and do not want to talk to other members. On the other hand, some members may want to contact other members regarding issues relating to the product reviewed or regarding the lower rating, etc. You can also post up 3 Favourite Sites and a large text allowance to introduce yourself. On Ciao, it is very limited and recently, they have been complaining about any sort of advertising. Even saying something like ---Check out my auctions--- is not allowed even though eBay is a Ciao sponsor. Go figure.

                                  You cannot upload pictures of products like you can in Ciao. Would be nice if you could but I guess it is not that important for most products. This is probably to reduce the amount of bandwidth and space required to run the site so I will not moan about this.

                                  The site used to be infested with site bugs, server errors, etc but I have experiencing fewer now. One bug seems to convert my apostrophes and other punctuation to number codes. They look like the HTML codes for punctuation so the pages are not translating them into the appropriate characters. Sort it out, Dooyoo! Here I am praising the site but then get this rubbish. Weird how some other recent reviews I have posted are not affected so it seems to be only some areas of the site.

                                  There used to be a problem where the first 1000 or so characters turned to lower case and parts of reviews being bolded. I think I would prefer those errors over losing my punctuation as it makes my review more difficult to read.

                                  I think that Ciao have more products listed on the site than Dooyoo. Quite a few products that I wanted to submit reviews were not available on their site whereas they were already on there on Ciao.

                                  What if the product I want to review is not on the site already? Well, you can suggest a product. Dooyoo have since added a product suggestion system, which is extremely easily located as they have now put the link within your account. It is even easier to find than compared to on Ciao, which is a bit difficult to find or even impossible at times. The new system is A LOT quicker than it used to be in terms of having products added. From past experience, products were VERY, VERY RARELY added. I have waited over a year for some of my product proposals to be added and they never were. However, the new system gives you an idea of how far down in the waiting list your proposal is when you submit it. I have been informed that the queue number did update when it was first introduced, but it does not any more. No idea why and I would have liked to see the queue update as product proposals are fulfilled. Since the new system, I had one product acted and within a reasonable time scale. i.e. 1-2 weeks. I do not believe the queue of proposals is done in order as I proposed more than one product at the time and only one was fulfilled out of the group. I hope they can make the queue update again but so far, it seems Dooyoo have been making vast improvements to the site and I am starting to use the site more because of this. I have since had another added.

                                  First off, most of you will have heard of the Premium Fund award scheme on Ciao. Thirty reviews considered best on Ciao get £10(+some more money sometimes) and a Diamond next to the title of the review. Other reviews that are considered good get a chunk of money (but we are not told for which reviews.). Now, I think 30 reviews out of so many, is not really fair, as there are certainly many more reviews that deserve the award. Here is where I think Dooyoo are on top when compared to Ciao. Instead of Diamonds, they award Crowns and they award these on a weekly basis. Each crown gets you 1,500 Dooyoo miles. That is equivalent to £1.50. I know you are thinking it is a lot smaller than the Premium Fund here but they give out a lot more of them. It is nice to have a crown next to your title. It is like more recognition and can be more proud of your review. You also know what you received credit for.

                                  It is also more encouraging for users to see crowns in their review titles. I was chuffed to see TWO crowns in my first week of joining.

                                  Another thing is that if you write the first review for a product in the following categories

                                  - Computers
                                  - Electronics
                                  - Software
                                  - Videos

                                  You are in for a chance to win 3,500 Dooyoo miles in their monthly draw. I do not believe I have won any. I do not know how you know without checking the number of Dooyoo Miles you have and I do not really pay much notice.

                                  Next good point is that they pay more, and they pay for the non-commercial review too if I am not mistaken. Never wrote any of this myself (yet?). They also pay you if you receive a Not Useful rating which I find to be unusual. Not Useful ratings may just be revenge rates, which would be a good time to pay for them. Otherwise, if a review is deemed useless, I do not think it should be paid. However, if all the reviews are useless, I do not think they would get to the payout amounts anyway.

                                  You can also write a short opinion called Express Reviews if you do not have much time. That is interesting but I do not use it. You can also choose to read only the express reviews from particular authors, which is a good feature for when you are strapped for time but want to check out the reviews of certain users. Editing reviews seem to take a few minutes to update after clicking the Send button, which is a tad annoying but nothing major.

                                  » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » »

                                  Overall, Dooyoo is a great site, especially after the improvements and bug fixes. In many ways, it is better than Ciao, but I enjoy using both sites. They pay more but it is a shame there are not as many users as Ciao but I am hoping that will change. The site keeps improving so they clearly care and take feedback into consideration. A lot of people post their reviews on both sites (cross posting), which I also do but some do not participate in Dooyoo much after posting their Ciao review or vice versa. I am hoping that this will change with other people as I am using the site more now too. Highly recommended.

                                  Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.

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