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So I don't have a gas oven which requires a light and I'm not a smoker. Two of the main reasons people may purchase a lighter. However there are an abundance of reasons why you may need one of these just lying about your house!
Firstly I must proclaim that I am a man with plenty of experience with barbequing! I can cook to perfection and satisfy everyone who tries the food. They said practice makes perfect and I had plenty of time for that. So I have to admit that maybe I haven't cooked a vast variety of food, nor have I used a real barbeque. What can I say, times are hard as a student! I've had to resort to tiny, foil tray, disposables. Nonetheless, with the amount of barbeques you can have in your spare evenings at University I've had plenty of time to perfect my skills and can still cook a mean burger and sausage! Obviously this isn't a review on my cooking nor disposable barbeques but simply introduces my biggest tool of the trade; the long handled lighter!
For those of you who have purchased a disposable BBQ, be it at the beach or in the garden, I'm sure you may have experienced a similar problem; the top of the barbeque has a wire grill! It's like a force field for the coal. All you want to do is light it up to begin your afternoon cooking and you can't even do the first step! First I tried a standard lighter which my friend chucked to me. Firstly, no matter which direction you flick it, the flame heads upwards. The two choices you have are to turn the lighter upside down and pressed against the grill in the hope that it catches, but you'll most likely burn your fingers in the process. The next option is to turn the BBQ upside down and put it on top of the light so the flame is in the right direction, but this is hardly wise. Useless! The next choice was good old-fashioned matches. With a match you can drop it between the holes in the grill to get to the lighting paper. If it's a windy day however you can get through a number of matches which can become quite frustrating. There must be a better solution!
Unleash the bad boy! By bad boy, of course I'm referring to my Cricket long handled lighter. I had to run to the shop to purchase this before we could even get it lit. It would of made so much more sense to get it at first I suppose, but we live and we learn. The long handle can easily fit between the gaps in the grill making it perfect to get inside. You can direct where you want the flame to go as it's on the end of essentially a stick. This also prevents you from burning yourself as the flame is a good distance away from your hand. Long story short, the cricket lighter is a must for barbeques!
Another one of my guilty pleasures at University was my love for scented candles and oils. I necessarily go out to buy them at first, but once my girlfriend introduced me I found them more relaxing. Also, in student's slums your nose will appreciate a fragrant smell every so often. At first I started with candles which burnt to a scent, but eventually moved onto scented oils. Even these oils need a candle and burner however. This is another fantastic job for this lighter. Previously I would have to tip the candle to an angle so the flame would touch the wick. This becomes even more of a problem once it gets burnt in slightly. With my candle burner, I'd never use a full tea light in one go should could relight it maybe 2 or 3 times. As lazy as it sounds, it's so much easier to put in a long handled lighter than take out the tea light, light it and put it back in. Some scents are to bring down stress, so who wants stress putting the tea light back in! (I know, my life sounds easy right?).
If scented oils or candles aren't your thing then maybe use them to try and be creative. After my girlfriend introduced me to the candles I had to repay the favour. However as she is 5,000 miles away it's hard to get a gift to her. On Valentines Day this was definitely a problem so we decided to just have an enjoyable Skype conversation rather than presents. I did want to give her a surprise however and the best I could manage would have been a photograph. As it was Valentines Day and she introduced me to the candles I wanted to incorporate these together. Therefore I decided to spell out 'Be My Valentine' with flickering tea lights so she had a lovely image to wake up to.
If I remember it took over 100 tea lights and lighting each one by hand is very tiresome. As it was my birthday the night before I was battling through a self inflicted hangover so this didn't make it any more enjoyable. I went to my local corner shop and picked up a box of long matches to do the job. These were a nightmare! At first it was taking 3 to 5 matches per tea light! I had also arranged all of the lettering so every time I had to pick up a candle to light it ruined my display. I couldn't cope so I ended up jogging in the rain to Tesco (truly committed!) just to get a replacement Cricket lighter. When I got home this done the job perfectly. I will add that the reason I had to go to get another lighter from Tesco is because I misplaced the first. The product itself is very durable and has never actually broken on me. I can just be very clumsy sometimes!
So here are my three main uses for this lighter, but I am there are plenty more benefits that other people will have. I know many smokers that keep these in their house, and while they're not practical to keep in your pocket, they make an exceptional tool to have around the house.
Feel free to add any of your uses in the comments!
P.S - I must add, I didn't actually review design or colours of the lighter. Look up and hey presto, you can see a picture. It's looks just like a long handled lighter. No visual design awards here ;-)
The Olympics are here! Hoorah! What could be more inspirational than having thousands upon thousands of high performing, professional athletes coming to compete in your country? Olympic fever is running high in the streets and I can't help but involve myself, even when it comes to my reviews. Therefore, I welcome you readers to compete in Sam's Slam Man Olympian Challenge!
- Search and purchase
- Study your opponent
- Fight Day
The Olympics are here and you feel like you should be achieving your very own fitness feats. Work is getting stressful (especially when roads are shut and tubes are closed for special events) and your desktop stress ball just doesn't seem big enough any more. Time to take on a Slam Man!
Firstly you don't want to rush into any form of activity so you may want to do some research. There are several punch bags on the market, each with their own features. You can pick up a standard heavy bag for around £70, but this is just the typical cylinder shape and has the hassle of needing to be hung somewhere. Next there are punch bags with a stand. While a blow up one isn't the most durable and not very serious, they are very cheap. The two main competitors are the Slam Man and BOB. BOB stands for Body Opponent Bag and is very similar to the Slam Man, but highly priced at £350 making it £100 more expensive. Therefore I decided to undertake the challenge of fighting the Slam Man. Bring it on!
After a well thought out decision of purchasing the Slam Man, you may have to wait a few days for the delivery. There's no need to sit back and wait for the big day; training must begin! After all, no one wants to be unprepared.
Upon the arrival of your opponent (Slam Man) you may notice a problem. He may look intimidating with his broad shoulders and toughened jaw, but weighs a mere 10 bags of sugar. Of course for transportation reasons it's delivered empty, but with spirits high there's always a bright side. This can be the start of your training! Put on those trainers and have a jog down to your local building suppliers to raise your heart rate and get the blood flowing. Now comes your heavy lifting workout. For filling the Slam Man to its maximum capacity you'll need some sand, and plenty of it. This can be picked up at any builders for around £3 per 20-25kg bag. Whilst I have some friends who have purchased a standard bag of building sand, I used my head to purchase the dried paving sand. It doesn't take a genius to realize that dry sand will flow 10 times quicker into the base than a clumpy, damp bag. Once you've made your purchase, simply carry it back home. Prepare yourself to do this several times however as the Slam Man can take up to 140kg (It states 100kg in the manual, however I have managed to fill it with an extra 40kg). I admit carrying 140kg of sand may not be the best recommendation to anyone and if you have a car it can definitely save a lot of time and effort. However I had to prepare the hard way as I don't have access to any form of transport. Nonetheless, it got the blood pumping!
Filling the base with sand took me around 10 minutes. As I chose dry sand I simply poured it into the 2.5" holes through a homemade, cardboard funnel. I do have to admit this was my second attempt at filling it. At first I thought a base filled with water would be enough but the weight is simply too light to withstand a few punches. The Slam Man would still stay upright, just sliding all over the floor. The biggest pain was getting the water out via a syphon I made. Due to all the pain of trying to remove this water I can recommend to never try it yourself! Stick with sand and there won't be any problems. Well, there is one problem. Once the sand is in you're pretty stuck when it comes to transportation again. Obviously you can take the sand back out of the hole it was put into, but this is nowhere near as easy. This is not impossible however, as I have moved mine to three different houses and up and down stairs.
Study your opponent
So your Slam Man is standing strong with a hefty base firm on the ground. It's time for you to size up your opponent. He stands tall, but whether it be 5 foot or 6 you decide, as the Slam Man can be adjusted to three different heights. He has a firm head on a solid neck attached to an even broader pair of shoulders. The top half of your opponent resembles a well-built boxer so there is plenty to hit. Once you get past the waist it is just the base, but this is not a problem for any athlete like yourself as it is an upper body workout. Don't be afraid of the punches you may get in return however as the Slam Man has no arms! What more could you want from a boxing opponent?
The areas which are fit for punching are the face and torso, which are a padded, but firm, teal foam. Don't let the word 'foam' fool you however as even these are painful to punch without gloves. The rest of the body and base are a hard plastic which seems very durable. After knocking mine about a fair few times it has hardly been scratched and mines been dragged up and down stairs, along concrete pavements and through grassy fields.
Within the teal head and torso there are a number of red lights; 8 to be precise. These are your training programs and targets. Two are positioned for the eyes with one positioned for the mouth. This is in the perfect location for a punch to the jaw which can cause an instant knockout in reality. Five lights are in the torso to resemble the lungs and kidneys, which once again are used for target practice. Straight in the middle of the chest you will find a scrollable wheel, similar to a wheel in the middle of a computer mouse, just a lot larger in size. This is to adjust sensitivity of the lights and how hard they need to be hit until they switch location.
Moving your eyes lower towards the bottom of the base you'll see a small, black, screwed-in box. This is your electronics control. This is where you can really set the tempo of your workout and how hard you want your opponent to be. So you've watched your opponent carefully and studied his characteristics. Now it's time for the real deal and let yourself at him!
The Big Day
No more trash talking, it's time to get involved. This is what you've been preparing yourself for! Your Slam Man stands there staring at you with his piercing red eyes. What will be your first move?
You have 15 to choose from if you wish. Using the controller box on the base you can select which routine you wish to use, which ranges in difficulty. The controllable factors are whether its single punches or combinations, how quick the lights flash for combinations, how hard you have to connect with the body and how long the workouts last. Although this is Sam's Slam Man challenge don't tire yourself out too soon on the difficult levels. It's always best to build up from the beginner routines.
Technique and form are very important for all sports, especially when you're punching something weighing in at 140kg! Without any gloves or mitts you can badly damage your knuckles and if you try to hit it with all your might you may even end up with a broken wrist. Safety first! The Slam Man does come with 12oz gloves but these aren't the best quality so I would recommend getting some of your own. I picked up a pair of grappling mitts (Mixed Martial Art style) from Sports Direct for about £12.
Once you're technique is fine and you've got yourself through a few default workouts you'll definitely start to notice an improvement in a number of areas. Firstly these workouts build your heart rate very quick and you should be in a sweat after a minute or so. This is great for your cardio and general health. Secondly your hand-eye coordination should dramatically improve with the help of the combinations. The beginner levels for combinations are fairly slow but towards the expert levels they become quite challenging!
As well as using the built in workouts, you can decide to beat up your opponent however you want. After using the standard workouts I moved on to using audio tracks, which shout out combinations. If anyone's interested then you can search for Bas Rutten's MMA workout. I think these two go together fantastically. As well as punching I have even used it to grapple with! As it has a broad pair of shoulders and neck I have used it to practice martial art choke holds from the front, side and rear. However you decide to use it, I'm sure you will win by unanimous decision!
So you took up the challenge and successfully beat down your opponent! A pat on the back is well deserved as it can be a very hard workout. Don't look for bragging rights however as your opponent could hardly fight back! How can you now progress onwards and up towards being the supreme Olympian? Easy, don't give it up! It's very easy to do a workout once or twice then never see that piece of equipment again, but by keeping a constant but varied routine you will see your progression. If you do want to celebrate your heroic victory over your opponent then why not have a party hosted by the Slam Man himself. Invite a few friends over and see what they think of it. I do warn you however, try not to leave it set up in a public area like a communal kitchen. It can make a lot of people jump out of their skin at night when they think someone's robbing them! I know this from first hand experience.
Finally, what else can you use the Slam Man for? Maybe not conventional but I've used mine to show me what my Halloween outfit would look like, as a hat stand and even as a giant doorstop. My sister's boyfriend even dressed his up as a snowman for his little one at Christmas. The possibilities are endless. However, like I previously mentioned, lets just hope you make the most of these possibilities more than once every four years!
Yes...I'm talking about Apple again!
The majority of my friends have their daily essentials. The girls have their bags filled with their magic. I don't dare to ask what they keep in them but I know for a fact its usually a pile of make-up, phone, purse and some form of music player. At least one of these products is normally Apple! Personally I don't have a bag, but keep everything in my deep pockets. One thing I can't leave behind wherever I go however is my iPod touch; another fantastic device from Apple. Before I go on about the love of my life I will add a few basic specifications for those who want them.
Capacity Available: 8GB/32GB/64GB
Size: 111mm x 58.9mm x 7.2mm
3.5" Touch Screen
Camera (Front and Back)
One promise I'm sure Apple can always live up to, is to keep their product designs simplistic, but maintaining a stylish and sleek finish. Now I've had a few toys in my time and design is what really gets me excited. So I guess you can imagine when a new product is unveiled I get pretty giddy. When that product has my favourite fruit embossed on the back, well, that's a whole new level!
Like many of their products the iPod touch focuses on two colours; black and silver. The front has a 3.5" widescreen display with a black trim. The trim extends at the top for a front viewing camera and at the bottom for the one main button. Turn it over and you'll see the familiar Apple trademark centered, with the main camera at the top and product details engraved on the bottom. This is all on a shiny, silver back, which can be engraved if purchased from the Apple Store. A great idea for a gift for any special occasion. However if you wish to keep this in tact I would highly recommend you get a case for your iPod, whether it be made from leather or silicone. The whole product can get scratched very easily and personally I like to keep my toys intact!
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said, "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works". So the iPod might look fantastic and be the perfect shape and size. After all it's a very good-sized screen and only seems millimeters thick! The perfect size for a pocket! If we go by Steve Jobs quote however, it should run smoothly and operate easily too. This couldn't 'be more true!
The main iPod works around 'Apps' (which is short for applications). A screen displays up to 16 polished squares, each which introduce an app. Tapping a single app opens it up into a new window. Holding down it down allows you to drag it to create personalized folders. This is perfect for applications such as games, which if you decide to install more than just a few, make them easier to locate. Once a page seemed cluttered you can swipe the screen to get to a new page just waiting to be filled up with goodies. This makes the process of finding and moving these apps ever so simple. With a swipe to the right you can access a search feature, which includes music, pictures and apps themselves. At the bottom of the screen you can see four blocks, which seem to be sitting on a podium. These can be customized and are for the applications you most use. As this is an iPod one makes sense to be music whilst the other people usually choose themselves. Personally I use these spots for my social networking tools. After all, I like to think of myself as quite a social being.
With all these applications that keep getting mentioned, how do you get to them? These treasures can be accessed two ways; through the App Store on the iPod or via iTunes. I personally prefer iTunes as it's easier to use when you're sitting up at a computer. The iPod plugs in with a USB to any computer, whether it be a Mac (YES!) or a PC (Boo!). iTunes will start up once the product is plugged in and start to synchronize which makes backing up any photos an easy job. If you browse the iTunes store for applications you will start to see a whole new world of technology! There is an abundance of applications that you have to pay for, but I find there is always an alternative that is free and just as good, if not better! Applications can range from social networking sites, DIY tools such as measuring tapes and spirit levels and even fitness software with GPS tracking. Almost any need can be fulfilled in an app! My favourite I would have to recommend are the following:
Facebook - This app speaks for itself. It keeps you updated with any notifications and messages without needing to constantly sign in and check.
Skype - The front facing camera is perfect for having Skype conversations. This is ideal for me as my girlfriend is currently 5,000 miles away and with a video chat, which is free it feels like she never left.
BBC News - I always find myself browsing the BBC news website whenever I am online so why not just tap the app!
WeChat (weixin) - As I mentioned earlier, my girlfriend is 5,000 miles away. WeChat is an online messaging service, which not only allows you to send text messages, pictures and videos, you can send recorded messages! This saves time from typing. A new feature even allows you to have a video chat like Skype.
Back to Basics - Music and Video
Now maybe you think that Apple have spent too much times on these 'apps' and not focused on the original reason for an iPod. Obviously the first iPods out were all about music. Having your music collection all in one tiny device was such astonishing invention and even to this day it can only get better. The iPod display for music gets simpler and simpler. You can search by Album, Artist, Song, Playlist and even Genre. Everything is sorted in alphabetical order to make searching that much easier. I prefer to set my playlists to 'shuffle' where it will be a complete mixture of all of my music. If you hold down the main button on any screen you can also use your voice to control your music. Simply say 'Play...(song name)' for the song to be played. How clever has technology got!?
There are many other great features on the iPod. As well as music there is a video section. Here you can sync movies from iTunes such as television shows or films. If you see yourself as more creative however you could even record your own videos with the camera and show them off to your friends. The HD quality is fantastic for capturing any special moments, however I must admit mine usually captures pets doing stupid things or my friends after a few drinks! Nonetheless, the quality is great for the size of the product.
Few extra points
- I use my iPod every day for many hours and usually find myself charging it overnight. I don't find this a problem as I'm used to doing this with my smartphone.
- The headphones that come along with the iPod are okay for everyday use, but as a music geek I always use my own. You may find a lot of use of the iPod headphones could hurt your ears.
- Compared to many other devices I have used, the touch screen is one of the best. It is on par with my new Nokia Lumia smart phone and miles ahead of touch screen phones that came out 12-18 months ago.
Essentially... an iPhone
Music, apps, games and a camera. What really makes the iPod touch much different from an iPhone? Nothing I would say. "You can make calls and send texts on an iPhone" I hear you say. Whilst that is correct, with so many apps available all of this is achievable. Like I mentioned, I use a mixture of Skype and WeChat to have FREE calls and messages to all of my friends who are all over the world! I admit for these features you do need the Internet, but these days there is free Wi-Fi available almost anywhere. Most trains supply Wi-Fi and almost every coffee shop and pub I can think of has a hot spot. Who really needs to pay for an iPhone when you can get an iPod touch at a third of the price!
Speaking of price, the 32Gb model I have can be picked up for around £230. A big price for a small device, but the vast amount of features available definitely makes it a worthwhile purchase. Its simplicity is perfect for all ages to get to grips and with applications available for free there is always going to be an update that you will want. If you do purchase one however and it doesn't tickle your fancy, then the price doesn't really seem to drop much for the second hand products. Apple seem like a well worth investment!
One last note. This review took me about 3 times longer than I expected due to me constantly getting messages on WeChat and Skype. Caution: Apps may take over your life!
Thou shall treat thy iMac with care
Thou shall organize all files and keep thy iMac clutter free
Thou shall always defend thy iMac in the great PC debate
These are just a few simple rules I live by on a daily basis. Abide to these rules and your iMac and yourself will live together in peace and harmony!
Apple's Zombie Nation
Okay, so whilst Apple aren't exactly a religion, they may as well be! They have an ever-growing following and an astonishing record when it comes to sales over the last 10 years. Apple seems to be taking over civilization with the amount of customers turning into zombies, constantly on their products! Almost everyone would of experienced an Apple product by now, be it an i-/Pod/Pad/Phone or Mac. I personally had several iPods on the past, which I kept on upgrading and still use this very day. Where would we be without Apple, hey?
So amongst many of their successful products are the computers and laptops. I had never used a Mac until the age of 19 and to be honest, I never felt that I needed to. I was very happy with my Windows run, Dell computers! At college there would always be the same debate week in and week out, whether a Mac or PC was better. I always defended PC in this case, as the money saving difference was huge. Then all of a sudden my University dropped the big bombshell. "This year we will be using Logic for all of our audio assignments." For those unaware, Logic is an amazing piece of audio software, which is industry standard, but like much other of their software, ONLY available on a Mac. Great.
I had to delve deep into my pockets for this purchase.. or so I expected. After browsing the Apple store (and entering my University details for an education discount) I found the iMac in a 'refurb store'. Priced with 18% off a new price I picked up my iMac for around £800. The specs were as follows: -
Core i3 3.06 GHz Processor
4GB DDR3 RAM
500 GB Hard Drive
Radeon HD 4670 Graphics
21.5" Widescreen Display
My PC Comparisons
My PC I purchased before was actually home made. I bought all the components separately to make a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), which required certain specs. It was a hassle trying to work it all out and after several hours of my brothers putting it together I finally had a PC running. That was only the beginning however as everyone knows there are a lot of installations for motherboards, sound cards, graphic cards etc. This took many hours to complete and even at first there were several error messages. On contrary my iMac was perfect! I took it out of the box, plugged it in and it was complete. Within an instant I had a fully working DAW! I couldn't believe how simple it was.
The speed and smoothness of the iMac competes with some of the best PCs on the market. From a cold boot it can get into the login page within maybe 10-15 seconds! Even after 3 years of use this Mac still seems to be incredibly fast, in comparison with many PC, which slow down after time.
The software is the biggest difference. Everything seems in the right location. With features on their operating systems, which allow you to see, all open pages or minimize to the desktop at a swipe of a mouse. All of these features come customizable. As I practice Chinese in my spare time, installing a new keyboard language was practically done. Once I set up a hot-key to change languages I was away. On a PC I had several drivers and downloads to install and even then found problems.
For anyone wanting to preserve energy there are energy saving settings in which you can time the Mac to sleep or turn on or off at required times. When I was a student and money saving is a big issue, this came in very handy to save on the electricity bill! Plus the thought that you're saving the planet makes you feel a little bit more worthwhile. All software updates are checked regularly and swiftly done at the end of a session.
I have never experienced my iMac crashing due to programs failing or viruses. This is vital for someone in my industry who needs their software working 100% of the time. A crash during a recording project can be quite disastrous!
Anybody wanting to add external hardware will find it a doddle. There are 4 USB slots and a firewire slot on the rear of the iMac. To get the majority of products working it is as simple as 'plug and play'. I spent 18 months with a PC trying to get a MIDI keyboard to work in the USB. Countless times I replaced sound cards, motherboards and never did it work! My jaw virtually dropped when I plugged in the USB and saw the Mac recognize the hardware without any prior installations. All the time I could of saved!
As there are limited fans in the Mac there is very little noise, which becomes perfect for a music studio computer. However this did worry me as the top of the iMac seems to get very hot very fast! This just seems the norm with iMacs however and has never caused a problem for me. If anything it saves a little on that heating bill!
These days almost all products are available for the Mac as well as PC so there are very little restrictions when it comes to needing software. Like I mentioned, my problem was the very opposite where the product was only available for Mac!
Now if I haven't sold t his product enough on its fantastic ability and simplicity then wait until I get onto its appearance. The 21.5" widescreen is absolutely amazing. I put it side by side to a 22" Acer monitor I was running and it was quite incredible how much brighter and more crystal clear the Mac monitor was! This makes it perfect for people in the design industry. Also, I just love to watch my favourite films! But it does get better. Did I mention that the whole of the iMac and its hardware are built into the monitor? The iMac is simply just one big monitor which is about 1-3 inches thick! No needs to have two separate parts for a monitor and the main hub. It seems silly to think that was ever needed!
The accessories that come with the iMac are the wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard and smart mouse. Both of these are available to buy separately in the Apple store at £55 each but come free with the purchase of the Mac. The keyboard is very stylish, slim and short. It doesn't feature a numeric pad but this has never caused a problem for myself. The keys are a delight to type with as they are simply millimeters from being pressed. Why else would I write a review this long! The magic mouse is just one curve of pure style. It has no visible buttons as the whole top shell is a button. Clicking on the left or right side will still be separate clicks and swiping your finger along the shell, whether up, down, left or right, will scroll across documents, images or software applications.
So there is style simplicity and every software and hardware available that I desire. At the similar price of a desktop PC I don't see why I would ever go back. Safe to say I will be a long term Apple customer as long as the products keep coming out with this standard. I can now happily say I've been taught a lesson about putting something down without trying myself. I have definitely been converted!
When I moved to student accommodation I made sure I was to get the biggest room possible! Boy was I surprised when it was three times the size of my current room I had stayed in all my life! Definitely worth the extra few quid! Well I knew I had whole bundle of audio equipment to take up plenty of the space, but there just seemed to be more than I would need. Why not have myself a home gym?!
I left for University lighter than I had been as I went on several holidays during my gap year after college. No one wants to go on holiday bulky so I had been visiting the gym a lot. I wanted to keep this up and nothing makes you feel more manly than a cast iron barbell and dumbell set! I went for the 90kg set and at the time it cost around £120.
In this set I had the following:-
1 x 5 ft spinlock barbell (approx 7kg)
2 x spinlock dumbell handles
2 x 10kg plates
8 x 5kg plates
4 x 2.5kg plates
4 x 1.25kg plates
4 x 0.5kg plates
As you can imagine picking up the delivery in student halls isn't easy, so I had to get a few friends to come along and help me out. Once laid out in my room it seemed to fill out that final space I had. The 5 foot is just long enough to fit snuggly into my room and not too short for my exercises. Being very broad a smaller barbell would of been quite troublesome. The barbell is about 7kg in weight without any plates which is perfect for any warmups or beginners. All beginners should always remember that form comes before weight lifted. A 7kg barbell seems just right for anyone to practice their form before moving onto heavier lifting.
The barbell is perfect for your heavy lifting and compound exercises. These include bench press, deadlifts and squats. However as it's a review of the product and not a workout diary I won't go into too much detail!
The are two dumbells which comes with the set, each weighing about 1.5kg. These are a good size and have good grip, however beginners beware of calluses. These are almost unavoidable and on an iron barbell can hurt at first! A solution can be to wear gloves, but a phrase which I live by and hear on daily at Uni is 'man up'. It's only a callus. Dumbells are perfect for working isolation exercises. Working separate dumbells can also strengthen your core which is a vital part to body conditioning. Overall these dumbbells are very comfortable to use.
There is a good variety of cast iron plates. With 90kg at my disposal I could always mess around with different routines and know I had plenty to use. The 10kg plates are also perfect to use by themselves. These can be used for 'around the worlds' to condition your shoulders and also for crunches with the weight supported on your chest. These plates are definitely going to last a lift time with the build of them!
The main problem I had with this set is it being 'spinlock'. To anyone not knowing what this means, it simply means you spin on the collars on each end until it tightens up to the plates. As you can imagine this can be a nightmare if you're always changing what you are lifting! With a lot of compound exercises you can usually find lifting a good heavy weight which is the same for each exercise is fine. This is what I did and hardly ever changed the plates on the barbell, except once I needed to increase them. However the dumbells which are used for more isolation are needed to be changed very often! As you can imagine, spinning 4 separate collars off, replacing plates, then spinning them on again for another set can be quite time consuming. During a workout you do not want to waste time if you want to keep your heart rate up! This is the biggest downfall to this set and I have to admit I rarely used my dumbells because of this reason.
In the future I soon replaced my dumbells with Bowflex SelechTech's which at the twist of a switch, completely changes the weight. These however were priced around £250 for two dumbbells so are a lot pricier in comparison.
I still use my barbell to this day and it still looks in perfect condition. Its been with me to 4 different houses and has been heavily used and I still feel it will be used for many more years to come. If you are happy with just a barbell then I would recommend purchasing this separately. If however, you are not bothered about the time consuming spin locking dumbells then it can be a perfect set for any home gym.
I've always gone from phone to phone. University seemed to churn them out with them getting broken and lost left, right and centre! After several £40 phones and numerous unopened SIM cards, I decided to take the plunge into contract phones!
I had one main decision when it came to choosing phones for me.
iPhone 4 or Lumia 800?
How long does it take for you to be sitting on a bus, walking through a shop or even in your own home, before you see someone pull out an iPhone? Obviously this happens for a reason. There must obviously be good reason for it! After plenty of time and reviews online I decided to go that one step different from the rest and picked the Nokia Lumia. Also, I already have an iPod touch and while I always seem to be within a wi-fi zone, it practically is an iPhone!
When I purchased the Lumia it was available in two colours; black or cyan. I chose the cyan as it definitely stood out. I like to think my personality is bright and bold so thought I'd get a phone to match!
Out of the box I was pretty excited with it being my first smart phone. I put the phone in the cyan silicone protective cover and plugged it in, just waiting for it to be charged!
As a windows phone, on your first use it requires you to enter your windows live account. I already had one so this was very simple, but it only takes a few seconds if you need to create a new one. The benefit can be fantastic as it automatically updates all of your contacts on your windows live account to your phone. No more of this entering every contact in one by one. On the downside, I don't really keep my windows live account up to date and now have a lot of contacts who I haven't even spoken to in several years!
One thing I fell in love with was the windows interface and software. Unlike so many smart phone which have dull and unoriginal rounded icons for every app, the Lumia has a front page with big, bold and colourful blocks with very easy to read titles. These are your tiles. With a swipe to the left you can access a smart list of all of your applications for your phone. If you keep pressed down on any particular app then you can 'tile' it so it sits in a big, bold tile on your front page. This is fantastically easy to do and makes the layout of the phone very smart and clear for all users.
Now after all the fun I had messing around with my front page, I did what most people do with a new gadget like this and turn on the camera! I simply pressed the side button for the camera to be active. Once you have the camera active you can press the screen to select an area to focus before automatically taking a picture. If you prefer to use a button you can simply click the button on the side, which is located just like any digital camera. The photo quality I found was fantastic and definitely up to the standards of the iPhone 4. At 8 megapixels the pictures come out crystal clear and the flash seems even brighter than many rival smart phones. There is also a video mode I tested and just like the still images, they came out just as I had hoped!
After playing with the camera the next step was to look at my apps! Nokia have a built in application called Marketplace where you can browse all apps, whether free or paid for, and download them straight to your handset. My first choice like many others was to download Facebook.
The beauty of smart phones once again as you can choose to import all of your Facebook contacts into your phone. This makes life so much easier! The app to download was very quick and once installed was very smooth to use. Since then I downloaded many more apps including games and social networkings such as Twitter and Skype! The one negative thing about Skype in comparison to the iPhone is the lack of a front camera! You can still Skype like normal but it will only use the camera on the back of the phone. This means your choice is to show someone yourself, or just watch someone.
When it came to looking for apps I did come across one problem at first. As Windows is rather new when it comes to smart phones, there are a lack of apps in comparison to Android and Apple. However in the coming months there were plenty of releases and I can only see windows marketplace getting stronger and stronger!
The one main issue I had with this phone was the battery. I was aware that many reviews said some people had battery life issues, but I didn't expect it would be as bad as I first encountered! After my first main use the battery died and after a full charge, the battery only lasted 3-4 hours! I couldn't believe this! I knew smart phones had unreliable batteries but this was unbelievable. I got in touch with my network however and they sent out a new phone which worked fine! I still charge my phone perhaps once every day (usually over night), but I do use it every second I can!
In comparison to its main rival, the iPhone, I kind of have some regret. I am a big user of Skype and not having a front facing camera was a bit of an annoying issue. Secondly the battery life did seem problematic at first but now I don't even batter an eyelid at it. In conclusion however I am very happy with my choice as I get to play around with a phone that so many have yet even explored! Very few people I know have even seen this phone and I feel are missing out on its fantastic display and operating system. If Nokia and Windows get it right, I will definitely be purchasing an upgrade in the future!
I was always getting sick and tired of going to the gym and listening to music simultaneously. You think it would be easy. I've got a gym membership and an iPod Nano, what more would I need? As soon as you try to run on a treadmill or go on a cross trainer that's where the problems come in! Where do you put the iPod? I used to rest it on the machines where you can put a drink but the wire for my headphones would just keep getting caught up with me and I'd end up pulling it off! Sometimes I'd try and leave it in my pocket but once again when you're constantly moving it jumps around in there like there's no tomorrow!
My other big problem was running outside or practicing basketball. There isn't a machine you can rest it on this time. All you can do is either have it in your pocket or hold it in your hand. I'm sure you can imagine holding an iPod whilst playing basketball isn't the most ideal situation. This is exactly why I purchased a Belkin Sport Armband!
I picked mine up for around £15. I didn't think this was much of a price to pay after all the pain I was having without it! When I first put it on it was nice and comfortable. It is made from a neoprene material which makes it very sleek and stretchy around your arm. Also this makes it waterproof so I little bit of sweat in the gym wont affect it, nor will a downfall of rain outside!
To secure it around your arm there are Velcro straps which are easy to adjust so there's no need to lose the blood circulating around it! It doesn't feel very secure once it is strapped and even after doing the most vigorous workouts whether inside of cross country its still felt safely attached.
The iPod just slips into a plastic cover on the front of the band. It has easy access to all of the buttons, although there have been slight problems every so often with the plastic front cover. It doesn't make the iPod wheel the most sensitive exactly and can be a struggle to adjust. I've only had this problem a few times however, not a huge worry!
Since purchasing this I do not know what I would do without it. It seems silly to use anything but it at the gym or for sports now. I've even now used it many times with my flaring equipment. Not only can I now practice my flaring techniques (for those you don't know, the juggling of bottles for bars) I can also put them to music in a routine without the iPod getting in the way.
I feel this is definitely worth a purchase!
I remember the first time I ever saw an iPod sock. It wasn't online or in a shop, but my friend from college came in with it covering his brand new iPod. The first thing that came to my mind along with the other 4 of us was 'What the hell is that?!'.
A sock for an electrical device? Surely its not going to be getting cold! I could not stand the idea of this at first. I just found it rather funny that people were even buying them. I didn't exactly turn one down however when a friend gave me their old one!
The iPod sock from Apple is available at around £18-20 which I feel is a lot of money for something that you use to cover your iPod. After all it's not a slick leather wallet type protection or a smooth looking cover; it's a sock. I don't even pay that much money for my own socks! The colours they come available in are also quite limited being grey, orange, pink, blue, green and purple. The sock itself has a knitted look to its style and is actually very soft when touched. It is quite thick in material too so I can see how it benefits the iPod from protecting it from scratches.
Now whilst at first I wasn't a keen fan of the sock I now have to admit defeat and admit that I now have one covering my phone! However this is slightly different.
The Apple iPod socks seem to be quite feminine in my personal opinion with a lot of 'baby' colours. The sock itself on a phone won't exactly fit a businessman walking into work. I think they're a good novelty factor for the device and fun for kids especially as I'm sure they could be slightly clumsier with their iPod! I wouldn't personally get an Apple sock. The sock I have however I got from a local shop in town. Whilst it isn't as thick material it still has protected my phone from many chances of getting knocked. Also I got this at just a fraction of a price being £3.99! The design is more sleek with a smooth material and making it look a bit more 'manly' compared to Apples original versions.
The sock is a good idea I can now admit, but I just don't see why you would want to pay nearly £20 for such a limited product when there's plenty more out on the market for such a fraction of the price!
For christmas when I was younger I got an acoustic guitar...
It never got played for about two years! The main reason to this was because it wasnt tuned! I could never get the hang of tuning it by ear and stupidly enough never even though about getting a guitar tuner! I was only young though so I forgive my stupidity!
Several years later when I got an electric guitar for my birthday I got a guitar tuner along with it. This was infact the QwikTune QT8! This was the first time I had used a guitar and a tuner so I was hoping that it would be simple!
The tuner itself is easy to use. You simply plug a cable into your guitar and the other end to the tuner then press a single button to turn it on.
Once its turned on you simply hit a string to see how you need to tune it. There is a needle which flickers within a tone range which you have to adjust to get it in tune. The needle on the screen seemed to flicker alot and was completely reliable. It sometimes took a long time just to tune a single string as it kept going all over the place!
I managed to use the tuner for about a year until I needed a new one. It broke when it was in my guitar case. It wasnt thrown about anywhere or knocked or even dropped. It was always kept in good condition but all of a sudden just went. I checked batteries and they were fine so it simply just died on me. It did last a year so I wasnt too bothered.
You can pick these up fairly cheap these days if you look in the right places but I wouldnt reccommend getting one second hand as you never know how long it will last! The build itself isnt that great quality either as it feels a very cheap plastic.
Whilst it is a product that does its job I would not get this tuner again. There are plenty more tuners out there just a bit more in price which are definately worth a purchase!
If you are a beginner however who doesnt want to spend too much then its worth a buy. It lasted me a year, maybe it'll last longer for you!
The Boss TU-80 is another of Boss' fantastic tuners!
Since playing guitar I have gone through a huge number of tuners. I used to easily lose them either at gigs or at practices. This is one tuner however that when I did lose I went straight back to the shop to buy exactly the same one!
The tuner itself is small in size making it perfect to fit into cases so whenever you need to travel its never a problem. Mine has travelled with me wherever I have been! The buttons are small but a good size to use and come in a bright orange colour making them easy to notice in dark areas.
I mainly use this for my electric guitar which is very simple to use. Simply plug in my cable between the tuner and the guitar and hit a string. Its very easy to identify when the string is out and what you need to do to tune it exactly. When you do get the correct pitch you hear a noise from the device letting you know.
I've also used this tuner several times with my electro-acoustic and find it just as easy to use. Not only can this tuner tune 6 string electric and acoustic, it also has the ability to tune bass and 7-string guitars making it very versatile.
Not only is this only a tuner however, it is also a metronome. A lot of musicians (mainly guitarists) I find don't seem to see why they would need a metronome at first. This comes clear after trying to practice with them in a band and seeing they have no timing what so ever! The metronome comes in very handy as it is built in. Before this I was always having to take a seperate tuner and metronome to practices! The beep is quite loud so easy to hear whilst playing.
The only disadvantage for this is that it isnt easy to use in venues where there is low light such as gigs. For this I purchased the Boss TU-2 which is a pedal and is easy to read from longer distances on stage.
For £15 however this tuner is definately a reccommendation.
AKG are among some of the best producers of microphones. You may of recently read my review of the AKG D112 microphone in which I can happily say it is one of the best kick drum mics I have used. The C1000s is a small diaphragm condensor microphone from the same fantastic company.
At around £100 it is a fairly cheapish microphone compared to similar others priced around the £300-500 mark.
The C1000 is a condensor microphone meaning it needs phantom power. However not all mixing desks, especially the budget ones, come with this feature. To help this problem this microphone can have a battery plugged into the body. This is definately a benifit if your studio is more of a bedroom/budget studio. Being a condesor microphone the diaphragm is a lot more sensitive picking up great clarity on the high end of instruments such cymbols like hi-hats or picking up fret noise and sparkle from acoustic guitars. The frequency range is from 50Hz which is still extremely low but goes up to the peak of the human hearing range at 20,000Hz.
The feel of the microphone however isnt a favourite of mine. It can feel slightly cheap compared to other microphone and this has had to be repaired several times if it has been dropped.
Whilst the sound does bring a sparkle to the recording the quality is not also that great. It has quite a warm feel to it which isnt always exactly what you want for situation such as cymbols. A warmer sound would be ideal for vocals however being a small diaphragm it isnt exactly suitable.
My personal favourites for these microphones are for stereo pairs or over heads for drum kits but there are plenty of better microphones out there. If you can pick these up for a good price however, then theyre worth a purchase!
The AKG D112 is an industry standard large-diaphragm dynamic microphone for bass instruments.
You can purchase this microphone for around £100-£110 in most shops online and its usually maybe 10 or 20 pound extra in the shops on the high street. Either way, you cant go wrong with the price of it!
The D112 has a great sound pressure level (SPL) of 160dB which means even drummers with the heaviest of foots wont trouble this microphone!
Its frequency ranges from as low as 20Hz which is low enough to pick up all of the low end needed in recordings for kick drums and bass guitars.
It has a cardioid polar pattern meaning it wont pick up much spillage from any other instruments such as snare drum or tom toms and its also perfect for picking up bass guitars. I've even used this on electric guitars and mixed together with a Shure SM57 gave a beefy sound for a metal track.
Also being a dynamic microphone the diaphragm is alot more stable than if it was a condensor. Another great advantage is that it will not need any phantom power.
This microphone has been used hundreds of times in both live and studio situations and has never let me down. Its been a big part of my kit I use and even comes in handy if I need a thicker sound for any other range of isntruments.
I would definately reccommend this microphone if you want to add to your drumkit mike selection!
I'm sure everyone has had a moment in their life when they've looked for that one film they've wanted from when they were little. The VHS has finally been played one too many times and now its time to upgrade to the fantastic DVD. Now the main problem is trying to find a shop that stocks that one film that you love!
I had this problem for about a year? I could not seem to find what I wanted online. I thought Amazon was the only resource I'd ever need at one point! I was wrong. I hunted high and low on the streets too for the one love of my life in the form of a DVD.
It wasn't until I was searching online for my sisters birthday one day. She wanted a couple of old DVDs such as Merials Wedding and I came across them on the HMV website. I didn't even think of looking on here until she mentioned she saw them on their. I looked through all of their deals and even picked out a few bargains for myself with some of the prices being from £1.99! A cheap addition to my very own collection. After I added the bargains to my basket I thought I'd give one last hope and look online and there it was! I couldn't of been happier knowing it was available and in stock, but disappointed that I hadn't thought of looking sooner!
So that was two big birds with one stone, not only great bargains for me and for gifts for friends or family, but it also has some of the classic oldies available just waiting to be watched!
HMV.co.uk. DEFINITELY worth a look at!
Its a typical day and theres not a worry in mind. All of a sudden it hits you, its the friends birthday! Maybe its worse and its a family member! You know you have no chance of getting into town to get them that card of present they deserve. What do you do?
Okay so there are times I might not have forgotten, but definately been times when I havent been able to get to a card shop so I've went to this fantastic website!
There is a huge range of cards available to choose from which you can send as they are and also personalise! I always do choose to personalise as it makes it just that bit more special for someone. There are a variety of cards for all situations and events. Ive even had a few sent to myself for my birthday. A favourite has to of been a very well thought out musician birthday card where there were various hidden messages on the front! Ive still got that card to this day as a keepsake gift.
Not only are there cards on the site, I personally sent my dad a personalised Mug for his birthday for when his at work. There are still a great selection of choices for mugs and I was even able to include a picture printed for the same price.
The quality is fantastic on every product I have recieved and seen that I have sent. I was especially pleased with the mug and all of these were delivered very promptly.
The prices are around £3.75-£4 (last time I paid) for a standard card and go up in prize depending on the size and style. The mug was around £13 at the time which whilst it can be seen as expensive for a mug it is definately something which wont be thrown away!
Definately use moonpig.com!
I have had this webcam now for maybe 5 years. Its been a very long time, I remember that much! When I was younger I always wanted to have webcam chats with all of my friends at school and college on MSN. It just seemed so much easier than typing (and a lot more fun!). I looked online and came it across cheap on amazon in one of their deals. I think it was around £15 in the deal which at the time was a very good price so I put my order down straight away!
When I recieved the webcam it didnt seem too hard to workout. I plugged it in whilst it installed some drivers, however this didnt seem to work straight away. Due to this I then searched through the box and realised it came with a CD. After installing the CD it was working perfectly! I install the drivers as well as the QuickCam software.
The QuickCam software has some great features, letting you be able to record video and take pictures at any time as well as changing the setting of the colour, saturation and many more. You can even flip it so it is mirrored either vertically or horizontally. This means no more having to try and read signs on webcams that come out backwards!
After using it for several months of me practicing guitar recording videos I noticed that the sound would work upto about 30 seconds then it would just be a constant loud white noise. I had this problem even with MSN conversation so I could no longer use it for video calls, but only just the webcam and type the conversation. I was annoyed by this and blamed the webcam for many months.
Recently however I have reformatted my computer and everything on it so I had to reinstall the drivers. Since doing this Ive not had that single problem so Im guessing it was an error on my computer before so I cannot put this blame down to the webcam itself.
The image quality is good enough for any chats which I know use on Skype and the microphone is very clear. There are never any real hiccups with this product and if it did by any chance break, I definately see myself picking up another as it has been a very useful tool for me!