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I have only recently 'come back' to DooYoo, and I have to say that it feels way slower and far harder to navigate than ever I remember. Ok, so change usually means a bit of pain, but in the end it is often worth it! Well I hope so, but looking at the way things are going, I can't see that the trends look good. Simplicity is everything. From what I have seen so far, there is a complete lack of focus. Is DooYoo an advice service or a chat room? When the pop-up ad's have all been closed, what should be left underneath? Here's the sort of thing I see DooYoo'ers Dooing. 1 Looking for specific info / advice / opinion. 2 Looking for a chat & to see what your C.O.F. are up to. 3 Nothing better to do (or in need of an excuse to avoid doing something else!). 4 Looking to pick a fight! :-) At the moment, I am in number 3 mode. Usually, I am in number 1 mode. I think that DooYoo puts across that it's great for 'mode 1'. In fact, I think it's best for 2 & 3 & maybe 4. I 'enjoy' DooYoo best when I am in mode 3, but feel that the real benefit / value should in mode 1. If you know 'Which - The Consumer Watchdog', they made a real effort to produce quality information without commercial bias. I don't even know if the organisation still thrives - I guess it does. I think that if some of its standards and methods were applied to DooYoo, there could be a real improvement to the value of DooYoo as an information service rather than as a Chat Community. The rewards (Crowns, VU's or whatever) probably work fine for users in 2, 3 & 4. The idea of impartial contributions from 'joe-public' is great, but when I really need opionion & am going to act on it, I need to know that there is some genuine quality there. This may go against the idea of DooYoo, but when I really want to know something, I would willingly pay to have good advice. I would certainly use m
y DooYoo points to get at the best advice. Rather than buy a magazine or journal, I would pay to read a selection of relevant, informed opinion. And, if others actually had to PAY (in kind or whatever) to read my opinion(s), I would have a sense that they really were valued! Also, there tends to be most opinion drifting around about the kinds of stuff that typical DooYoo'ers like to voice their views on (whatever that may be!) I haven't even looked at these topics, but I wonder what kind of opinion I might find about 'Home Swimming Pools - liners vs fibre glass', 'The best hobbies for the house-bound', 'The best, free outings in North London for young families', 'The best veggie food on the M1', 'Low-cost familly travel around Europe', 'A really special day out for an aniversary'.? Now if I want to buy a MOBILE PHONE or PDA .......eeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!! Odd's are I already know a million people who are all desparate to tell me about their latest purchase, and tomorrow we know they will be all 'yesterday's news'. Now, how about a secluded, sunny mountain, with a reservoir for sailing & fishing, mountain bike trails........... ? That's what I need to find. The re-design - well pretty much a waste of space & missed opertunity.
[Sorry about this, but somehow, when I wrote a new op, it wrote over my previous one. Crazy! So the original one has now gone for good I guess. The site seems real slooooow and glitchy at the moment too.] Following on from the deliberations of my previous op, I have reflected more about the very different uses & users of DooYoo. 1 Looking for specific info / advice / opinion. 2 Looking for a chat & to see what your C.O.F. are up to. 3 Nothing better to do (or in need of an excuse to avoid doing something else!). 4 Looking to pick a fight! :-) At the moment, I am in number 3 mode. Usually, I am in number 1 mode. I think that DooYoo puts across that it's great for 'mode 1'. In fact, I think it's best for 2 & 3 & maybe 4. I 'enjoy' DooYoo best when I am in mode 3, but feel that the real benefit / value should in mode 1. If you know 'Which - The Consumer Watchdog', they made a real effort to produce quality information without commercial bias. I don't even know if the organisation still thrives - I guess it does. I think that if some of its standards and methods were applied to DooYoo, there could be a real improvement to the value of DooYoo as an information service rather than as a Chat Community. The rewards (Crowns, VU's or whatever) probably work fine for users in 2, 3 & 4. The idea of impartial contributions from 'joe-public' is great, but when I really need opionion & am going to act on it, I need to know that there is some genuine quality there. This may go against the idea of DooYoo, but when I really want to know something, I would willingly pay to have good advice. I would certainly use my DooYoo points to get at the best advice. Rather than buy a magazine or journal, I would pay to read a selection of relevant, informed opinion. And, if others actually had to PAY (in kind or whatever) to read my opinion(s), I would have a sense that they
really were valued! Also, there tends to be most opinion drifting around about the kinds of stuff that typical DooYoo'ers like to voice their views on (whatever that may be!) I haven't even looked at these topics, but I wonder what kind of opinion I might find about 'Home Swimming Pools - liners vs fibre glass', 'The best hobbies for the house-bound', 'The best, free outings in North London for young families', 'The best veggie food on the M1', 'Low-cost familly travel around Europe', 'A really special day out for an aniversary'.? Now if I want to buy a MOBILE PHONE or PDA .......eeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!! Odd's are I already know a million people who are all desparate to tell me about their latest purchase, and tomorrow we know they will be all 'yesterday's news'. Now, how about a secluded, sunny mountain, with a reservoir for sailing & fishing, mountain bike trails........... ? That's what I need to find.
Audio Books: I have long been a total adict of 'story tapes'. It hardly matters what they are about, as long as they are well read and pleasing to listen to. My bed-side cabinet is jammed full of Sherlock Holmes, Just William, Poirot mysteries, various novels and anything else that took my fancy over the years. At an average of £8-£10 per tape, that cost quite a bit, but they have all been played to near destruction and given great pleasure - whether driving or going to sleep. The attraction of downloadable stories: A few months ago I got a portable MP3 player, and started hunting for good sources of material. I had no trouble finding MP3 music to download, but it took me a while to find AUDIBLE.COM. Since I did, I can't over-state what a pleasure it has been. I have a varacious appetite for stories, especially now that I have a portable means of having a story 'on-hand' for any quiet moment. Being able to read a short review of a title 'on-screen', as well as hear a short sample being read, then just down load & start listening is fantastic. I have never been a great one for reading books, but with such a convenient way of chosing exactly what I fancy, then having it ready for just when I want to listen is perfect. To start with, I tried - with some success - to convert my library of audio tapes to MP3 format. This takes quite a long time, and needs some technical understanding [or good luck!], and ultimately was a bit frustrating as I know most of my tapes backwards. Having a big choice of new books to choose from really encouraged my listenning habbit. http://www.Audible.com: I tried a couple of other similar services before AUDIBLE.COM, but found that their download systems were clumsy and the quality of the recordings rather suspect. It was actually very frustrating spending a couple of hours downloading a series of files just to find that it sounded useless! A big 'plus' for me h
as been being able to play a sample before downloading. AUDIBLE.COM have 4 or 5 different formats of file. Certain titles are only available in certain qualities, and others are specifically for certain players. The lowest quality (fastest to download, smallest file sizes) is probably similar to an AM radio broadcast. May be a bit worse - but quite clear to understand. The best quality is similar to FM radio. Some titles appear to be from lower quality of source material, & therefore all the download formats give similar results. Download vs Cassettes & CD's: How long does a typical cassette play for? 1 or 2 hours max. A CD? - may be a little over an hour. Most books take several hours to read, especially if they are un-abridged. What's more, very long-play cassette tapes are a joy to disentangle from your tape player! By downloading stories and other audio material, a full length novell lasting several hours might take up as little as 20 Mb of disk storage. Being perfectly honest, downloading files at the highest quality with sizes up to 100 Mb is not to be undertaken lightly on a dial-up connection. Audible provide player software for PC's and a good download manager that should take care of interupted downloads. An ISDN or ADSL internet connection is pretty much essential for real addicts! Once you have a library of downloaded novels, you could keep them on a laptop PC or CD-ROM and have a huge selection always on-hand. Unlike tapes, there is nothing to wear out. Picking up a story at any point is instant instead of having to wind tapes back & forth! A good quality recording of some 6 hours duration will fit on one tiny 64 Mb Multi-Media RAM card - several of which will fit in a matchbox! But at £80-£100 per 64 Mb card, for goodness sakes don't lose the matchbox!!!! Players & technology: Audible.com obviously have strict copyright rules to adhere to. Their download mechanism takes care of making sure that you ge
t the titles you purchase. They also have a range of Audible.com compatible players that integrate with their download software. I am not certain if all of the models they sell through their website are available in the UK, but some of them are. Audible offer a couple of membership packages that include a special offer on a suitable portable player, but as far as I could find out, these are only available in the USA. Shame! However, if you already have a hand-held PDA or an MP3 player, check with Audible to see if it is compatible. I gather that these packages have changed since I joined, but the idea is that for something around $15 or $20 per month - depending on the package - you get a choice of monthly downloadable titles from any of their huge selection. You don't have to have a separate player to listen to Audible.com books, as they play fine using either Media Player or Audible's own player software. [Be aware though, that their security mechanism restricts the playing of files to your chosen PC only as far as I am aware]. If you don't want to sign-up for a year, then you can join on a monthly basis, and just download & pay for whatever you like. Generally I have found the prices to be very reasonable compared with buying tapes or CD's. Apart from the cost, many titles are full versions, something that is not that easy to find 'over the counter'. There are childrens books and the inevitable 'self-help' guides starting at $2-3 USD, with best-sellers at up to $30 or so. If you join one of the packages, you get to pick from any titles at the same price. [One point I forgot to mention is that there are MP3 players that are built in the exact size and shape of a regular cassette tape. These can either be used as a stand-alone player with headphones, or inserted into a regular cassette tape player, effectively allowing you to listen to hours of downloaded material on one cassette. Perfect for stories. Take a look at the dooy
oo section on MP3 players for more info.] Content: I won't go into all the great selection of material, but do take the time to visit www.audible.com to see just how much is available. There are all manner of titles - several catagories of mysteries, clasical novels, diaries, history, childrens, business, sci-fi & so on. Literally thousands. Every time I look I find something else interesting. The presentation of each title as well as the sample makes selection easy and enjoyable. One other area that I have enjoyed are the recorded magazines and journals. These are either monthly or annual subscriptions, and have an American slant (!), but there is still fun stuff to chose from. Summary: If you love books then this is a way of enjoying them more. If you don't love books yet, then this is a way that you might! Take a look, I am really pleased with my experience of audible.com so far!
Forget the 'net! Why not phone the latest premium rate 'wind-your-self-up' line. Infact, for a modest £14.95 monthly subscription fee, your are entitled to call your own themed operator, who will then engage you for as long as your patience holds out. Hot themes include 'impossible account conundrums', 'Tech support circles', 'Manager Mayhem', 'Credit Card Catches' and may other unbeleivably stress-provoking scenarios. All you need to get started is a BT analogue or ISDN line, and a credit card. Beware though. You can only set up one account per credit card. That's all part of the service, and is actually a whole un-advertised path to major & immediate stress! [especially if you want additional accounts for familly members, work colleagues or friends] Don't worry if you aren't computer literate, or indeed it won't detract from the service one jot if you don't even have regular access to a computer. Just ignore any references to 'INTERNET', 'EMAIL', 'SOFTWARE' etc. We have found that these are just missleading terms that do not relate to the main benefits of the package at all. I won't spoil all the fun by giving away the whole plot, but here are some 'teasers' to tempt you. Imagine the potential stress of this unbelievable plot! BT's designers must have brought in some real top incompetents to dream this one up!! Imagine you wanted a fixed rate Internet access account for one fixed rate that could be used ANYTIME! So you set up your ANYTIME account, and used it 'ANYTIME' for Internet access. [GAMEPLAY TIP: do not use the email facility with your account - this almost guarantees stress within the first month irrespective of other problems / scenarios]. Whoops! You left the line open by mistake! Cunning game play puts warning messages in your inactive mail box. Close inspection of the rules reveal that if you did
n't use your email facilty for a while, you might not even have a mailbox!! Being a 'paper-less' game, you won't be expecting the hard-copy letter advising that your account is to be irrevocably TERMINATED for ABUSE. Not straight away!! The abuse can be tollerated just ONE WEEK further. And that sets the scene for the opening of the STRESS BUILDER of the century. Excercise your powers of reasoning to the full by phoning any one of 3 different teams. Abuse, Accounts and Customer Service. To add complexity and intrigue, you may not be able to speak directly to 'abuse'. They are cunningly kept just out of reach behind a frustrating email 'auto responder'. The generally unhelpful, ill-informed and impotent operators that you may be able to talk to, will just taunt you with the possibility that ABUSE might be able to help....if only there was a means of making contact with them.... WARNING: Weeks after you thought the game was over, and your stress levels have started to return to a more manageable 'Orange Mobile Phones' level, you might get a tantalising email from ABUSE to get you back on the case. Remember: Only one account application per credit card. Accidental 'abuse' (like staying on-line) results in irrevocable TERMINATION. Vital information may be passed to unused email accounts. If you decide to try and actually use your Internet Access to any significant extent, you may be switched to a 'low service level' connection. Be sure to have a huge supply of sedatives available at all times while playing 'ANYTIME' Business users can experience significant additional stress by trying to get hard copy invoices - especially once your account has been terminated! There is a great sting in the finale to this game! Just when you think the stress can't get more, you have run out of avenues to try and just have to accept that you just can't
get back your ANYTIME account, your ANYTIME operator may advise you that you can always just set up another account - but not in the same name or using the same credit card! FANTASTIC!!!!!
I've been using the SL45 for a couple of months. I bought it mainly for the MP3 player. I had actually looked at the phone some weeks earlier and decided it was too small & fiddly to be of any use, however when the 2 weeks of English Summer Sun threatened to tempt me out on my mountain bike again, I decided that I was not going to strap on my two-phone and walkman 'utility belt' again. Any way, my Walkman batteries struggled to make 2 hours of play, and I always ended up missing important phone calls while I was out cycling. A combined MP3 player & phone seemed the ideal answer. After the usual mis-information from an assortment of retailers, I finally settled on the SL45. Once I focussed on its benefits, I was really happy with the spec. It is really small, pretty light & gives me a good 6-7 hours of MP3 play-back if I don't make any calls. Here are the 'real-life' issues I have found: 1 Infra-red port and supplied 9-Pin Serial interfaces are desparately slow! They are fine for transferring 20-30k files - maybe a small diary or Outlook data - but for MP3's of any size, say 40 min's of reasonable quality music = 20 Mb, expect a transfer time of some hours! 2 My phone has an odd tendancy to turn off or lock up if you are using the Infra-Red port to transfer a file that is too big to fit on the Multi-Media card. 3 Don't make any assumptions. The data exchange software supplied works fine using the serial port connector, but not the infra-red interface. Even if the IR port on your PC is set up as a virtual com-port, the data exchange software does not work unless it finds the SL45 on a real com-port. Siemens told me this was doe to the speed of the IR i/f, but in my experience data transfers just as fast over IR as the serial cable. 4 Don't expect too much from the support line (at least the one I called from the UK). Staff were polite but not very well informed abo
ut the deaper (darker?) side of the product. 5 I am a hard addict of audio-books. Once I got the phone, I suddenly realised that since I carry it at all times, I could feed my addiction. Compared with one of the many dedicated MP3 / audio players, the main drawback of the Siemens is that it is not supported by the transfer software used by many vendors of copyright audio material. This requires lengthy massaging of file formats to get them to standard MP3 capable of playback on the SL45. 6 If you expect to make or receive many phone calls, then also expect to get very familiar with the same sections of your MP3 selections! Phone calls do pause playback, but when you re-start playback you are put back to the start of the program again! Of course you can wind forward, but it is a big pain. Standard phone features are good. The key-pad is fiddly, but once you have developed the right hand position it's no worse than any other small phone. Menus are OK. Better than the Motorola L7089 Tri-band I have - but what isn't?! I can't find out a simple way of dialing a phone number received in a text message. Especially if there are 2 different numbers in the same text message. It looks as though it should be possible, but I can't see how. Text messages sent from a central service all arrive with the same originating number, so replies don't have the correct reply number. To get around the lengthy file transfer times, get the USB card reader/writer. It works like a removeable disk drive and speeds are comparable with a hard disk. Once you have that, it is reasonable to upgrade the supplied 32 Mb Multi-Media card with a 64 Mb one. With 64 Mb I have got 6 hours of good quality audio-book playback on the phone. Watch out for card types though. This is not SD, but they look similar. One very nice feature that I hadn't even thought of using before getting the SL45 was 'print to Infra-red'. If
you have a printer with I/R port (like the HP2100 or its recent successor) then just holding the phone in front of the printer, selecting a file, message or other item to print & 'print to I/R' prints out on the printer. The SL45 is now part of my life! Of all the phones I have had, this is the only one that I have had so many compliments on by those 'in the know'!
Based on the Transporter / Caravelle that has been so popular, the Multi-Van offers a unique level of flexibility in a very solid vehicle. Large load to move? - easy to remove seating leaves a huge load area. Need a quite place for a meeting? - flip up the table, plug in the lap-top and off you go! Travel-Lodge fully booked? - pull out the bed, clip up the curtains & have a nap! Familly weekend outing rained off? - The well lit rear space has room to play games. Got a long drive? - Aircon, cruise control, superb driving position, performance and economy. Seriously, this vehicle does it all! With tints & alloys it looks really cool too. It is fairly thin on gizmos such as articulated cup holders, rotating seats and Play-station screens, but as a sensible, solid, functional package I doubt I could do better. Compared with say the Espace, I feel that the Caravelle range offers considerably better 'real quality' and for buyers who appreciate 'premium products', this is one to consider. These days everyone boasts remarkable fuel economy. What has struck me throughout the 3 years I have been driving my 102 Bhp Turbo Diesel Multi-Van is that it regularly turns in 35-45 mpg. With carefuil driving on a long run I have seen higher than this. And it's no slugard either. When resitrictions permit, 80 mph crusing with easy acceleration for overtaking makes for rapid progress. Another benefit of the Multi-Van (and much of the rest of the Caravelle & Window-Van ranges) is that you can pick almost any combination of seating and load carrying layout to suit your particular needs. One final but important benefit of the Multi-van is that it has the nearest thing you'll find in this type of vehicle to a secure boot. Excellent in every respect. Be sure to take a look.
[Updated 6th Feb 04. Well, this turned out to be a great machine! I am still using it now, nearly 3 years since the first review! The original battery packed up after 12 months and was replaced under wty, as was a flickering TFT display. I have fitted a 20Gb hdd in place of the std. 10 Gb, and am just about to swap that for a 30Gb - probably the largest this system can support. I have also fitted a DVD / CD-r / CD-RW drive in place of the std. DVD / CD drive. I will miss this laptop when if finally dies. If you can pick up a used one in good condition, go for it!!!] I am slowly working through all the models of 'Ultra Portables', and this is being typed on the Satelite DVD35. After a pretty low-profile period on the market, I think this model may already be moving to 'end of life'. It looks smart, and oddly for a Toshiba has a touch pad rather than 'The Nipple'. The over-all look is one of reasonable quality and functional design. On closer inspection, the keyboard is a bit rattley and some of the case a bit flimsy It is nice not to have any fragile clips and covers to break off though. The main attraction of the DVD35 for me is the very compact size (similar to the Sony Z600's - 12" XGA TFT screen) but the system has a built-in bay for DVD or Fdd - both modules included as standard. On top of that - which I think is great as I rarely carried external drives with me but often needed them - the unit has most ports built in to the system unit without need for any port replicator. Included in the system are: std. parallel port Monitor / VGA USB (standard connector) IEEE 1394 / firewire. Infra Red 2 x PC Card slot 56K modem 10 / 100 NIC Now as standard built-in ports that's cool on an ultra-portable notebook. So what's the catch? Well there are a few. Firstly, the battery bulges out at the rear of the case. Not too much, but enou
gh to spoil the lines! Also, the case lacks the quality feel of the Sonys. One of the biggest draw-backs is the spec. Just a Celeron 500 with a 10 Gb hdd and 128 Mb RAM. Now being honest, this is ample for most mobile workers, and the system is totally happy playing DVD videos, so the spec. is quite adequate for most likely uses. Now this low-ish spec. would perhaps be OK in exchange for a cracking battery life and real cool operation. But you don't get either of these. The bottom of the case would double as a kitchen 'hot-plate'. Certainly uncomfortable for any prolonged use 'on the lap'. And the battery just lasts long enough to get to the climax of most DVD movies, but not to see the end. Something around 60-70 min's is likely to be your lot with the DVD running. Running normal stuff, 2 hours is more likely, which is not bad. MS Works Suite 2000 is included with the UK model I have, which has various useful bits - household finance, Encarta Atlas, Autoroute, Word 2000, and the usual Works cut-down spreadsheet etc. I thought it was a good package for this level of system Generally, I like the system. The performance does not feel at all slow. Boot-up is lively enough, and navigating around app's is quick too. The wide range of built-in ports, built-in DVD or fdd, a good TFT display and compact size all add up to a very useable product.
I guess it was an impulse buy really. I hunted around all the usual stores for a replacement for my old Sony midi Hi-Fi. I liked the idea of compact speakers, but in truth did not think much to the sound quality from this set up in any of the in-store demo's. The bass was pretty tight from the dual-driver sub-woofer, but the mid-range lacked punch & power. The top-end treble was not very transparent either. But as with most Sony products, design is way-up there. The main speakers take power from the sub-woofer to run groovey illumination of the radiator cone. This can be set to virtually any colour to match your mood or decor! Personally, I would have preferred a better speaker over the rainbow colours. What is worth knowing, is that the sub-woofer & main L & R speaker set up can be driven from other equipment. The tuner-amp supplied actually also includes a very respectible amp too, so I ended up ditching the technicolor boxes (which ended up with the sub-woofer on the living room video player). The tape deck is a tray-loader - like a CD-drive. So far no tape screw-ups. I think that there must be different configurations of these components on the market. I have the CD / tuner / amp and separate tape player. There was an optional MD deck too, but I have no interest in that format. At the end of the day, I did not buy this as a serious hi-fi system. It's cool, simple design looks good, and the performance is good enough for 'around the house'. I think that if powerful, quality audio was my goal I would have been disapointed. As it is, I am just a bit mad that I missed a deal to get a cool marble stand thrown in for the same price.
After a string of Esprits, my V8 left me broke and doubting that motoring had much enjoyment left to offer. Mainly due to being unable to sell the V8, I ended up part-exchanging it for a standard spec. Elise 1.8. On the test drive, I was immediately struck by two things. Firstly, this car is SERIOUS FUN to drive. The 'park bench' seating and minimalist interior mearly serve to focus every sense on the fun of driving. Secondly, there isn't much in the way of comfort! Even trying to listen to a CD or the radio is virtually impossible due to contraints of the speaker location and level of background noise. Personally, I was not imediately sold on the Elise's looks. At least not to the same degree that I loved the Esprit. But gradually I have come to like it. I used to dream of owning a Dino, and have found some of the same attraction in the lines of the Elise. At first I thought that the Elise would be less distinctive than the Esprits had been. In fact, the Elise has given me what feels like a personal and secret relationship that not even the wife can find out about! But there are down-sides. You would not expect a £25k car to have a leaky roof! The old towel I have to keep on the passenger seat does draw the eye away from the cool anodised interior finish! Neither would you be prepared for just how little space there is for any luggage. One sports bag is about your lot! And the sound system (if fitted) is likely to fall way short of the mark. There are a couple of mods (fuel pipe and suspension bolts) that need to be checked - depending on the exact model - and I gather that there can be sticking-throttle problems too. So plan a trip driving down to Italy across the Alps in Summer, and if the weather is good, you won't want to come back. I drove 3000 miles in 10 days, and the only part of me that ached after the trip was my face - from sunburn and cramp through continuous smiling. Working the mountain
roads was the best. I loved every minute. I even forgot how much the V8 Esprit had cost me in depreciation. If the sound system matters to you, then get a Bazooka bass tube. The RS6a just fits behind the passenger seat without any hassle and transforms the sound. If you have come to think that electric windows are a must to enjoy a car, then you need an Elise.
My 4th (and last) Esprit cost me far and away the most and with hindsight gave me the least pleasure. May be I should have run it on the track. May be the £60k price tag led me to expect too much. Mat be it could never live up to its fantastic looks and jaw-dropping performance. The 4-pot Turbo Esprit that I had prior to the V8 served well for 3 years and gave me few hassles after an initial problem with the clutch. When I p-ex'd it for the V8 I had high hopes. Within 1000 miles I started having problems. The cat's were vibrated so much by the engine that they fell apart and blocked the exhaust. Max speed 30mph until the AA took the car away to the dealer. Next the exhuast cracked. There were various modifiactions and replacement parts fitted by Lotus, but the car never really settled down. For the outside viewer the V8 was the best. As an owner, I hardly got to enjoy it. So much power. Wow. 3 gear 80 mph was hardly pushing the motor. And the engine management only feeds through full power in top gears! So every time I pulled away I was left frustrated that there was so much power left to play with that never got used. Servicing is certainly something I would leave to a dealer. That is not that I rate the dealers particularly, but just that even changing the plugs involves removing protective watertight covers. If you like your music, then the V8 may fail to impress. All my Esprit's suffered from inadequate sound systems. Ironically, the best set up I had was in my first S3 with a bass speaker tucked under a seat. Even after I fitted door speakers to the V8 things did not sound much better. I have always found the driving position suited me fine (medium-heavy build, 5'8"). The off-set pedals never gave any trouble. The cockpit of the V8 was a good balance between luxury and function. Service costs were acceptable, but I was always worried about possible continued mechanical failu
re outside warranty. That probably contributed to the eventual sale after 2-3 years of ownership. Now I have my Eslise, I realise just how much the V8 had detracted from enjoying driving. The £10k pa depreciation I suffered didn't help either! I think the V8 had a tough job cut out to live up to my expectations, but where it failed most was that it was just not reliable. Trying to sell it through a dealer was also depressing, as all I got to hear was about all the problems with V8's. Do I miss the car? Yes. Would I buy another? Maybe one day, when someone else has paid for the depreciation and if my wife will let me! Should you buy one? Make sure you get to know it well before hand, and that your pockets are deap enough!
I looked long & hard before settling on the Z600 to replace my Vaio 505SN (PII 400). Compared with the other 'super compact' models I looked at from Toshiba, Sony, Asus etc - the Z600 felt streets ahead on build quality. As with my 505SN the magnesium case gives a solid, high quality feel without actually making the unit heavy! The mains transformer is larger than my previous Vaio. It is considerably heavier too. The DC power connector is now more substantial and less fiddly to connect which has to be a plus. Toshiba have a model of a similar size to the Z600LEK / HEK which has internal DVD, but IMHO the Sony is miles ahead on build quality. On-board I/O is pretty comprehensive - 10/100 LAN, 56k modem, (both internal rather than on a PC Card) as well as 2 USB ports. I am not quite sure why one of the USB's had to be offered in a mini-usb presentation. Although the system is supplied with a fly-lead adapter, that's just one more thing to lose! The port replicator is supplied with the system for external Parallel printer & VGA - as well other duplicate ports. One of the most noticable omissions that I do not understand is Infra Red. I often connected my 505SN using my mobile phone. I found IR the easiest cable-free way of linking to HP laser printers too, and think it is crazy to leave the interface off a system that is otherwise so perfect for working on the move. The HEK is supplied with Windows 2000 Pro and it runs this without problem. It is actually quite nippy moving around menus, & gives Win2k plenty of headroom. The 128mb RAM seems to be comfortable. Many of the super compact systems I have seen are literally way too hot, and will cook your lap within a few minutes. The HEK runs cool and quiet. I found the old 505SN noisey, and became very concious of fans and hard disks powering up & down. The low heat output is probably responsible for the vastly improoved battery live. The stand
ard battery gives a genuine 2-3 hours, compared with 1hr at a push for the 505SN. Personally, I do not find the JOG DIAL especially useful for navigation, but it is handy for scrolling text. If you are looking at using Adobe Premiere with the system, check carefully that you can get the correct plug-ins to support your copy of Premiere. So far I have only managed to find plug-ins as supplied by Sony to support Premiere 5.1LE. If this version is not bundled with your system, it will be hard to get hold of! One final problem I have had is with connecting a video camera to the IEEE1394 port at the same time as having a wireless LAN card installed. As soon as the camera & LAN card are connected, the Z600 locks up. I have since tested a few other Vaio's that do not exhibit this behaviour. Support depends very much on your needs. I found it almost impossible to find information about support for non-Sony supplied Premiere, or possible problems with the system freezing. As I have experienced other minimal support from Sony in the past, I had nothing to suggest that this has improved. Summary: Big plus: Superb quality, great to own. Big minus: No infra-red & possible NIC / firewire conflicts. Also more expensive than other models of similar spec. (The HEK has 800Mhz CPU but otherwise the same as the LEK) At the end of the day, it is a Sony.