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Member since: 05.12.2010

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      24.05.2011 12:31
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      A great read

      The Real Deal: James Caan

      James Caan is a multi-millionaire businessman who founded numerous successful recruitment companies and then became a venture capitalist and professional investor. In 2007 James Caan shot to fame when he first appeared on the popular BBC investment show Dragon's Den.

      The book takes you on a roughly chronological journey through the life of Nazim Khan, a Pakistani immigrant whose father moved the family to East London, hence the reason the full title of the book is 'My Story From Brick Lane To Dragon's Den'. The autobiography is easy to read and contains quite a lot of useful insight into how business and especially sales and recruitment work. Throughout the book you feel engaged with Caan's life and although at some points it may sound a little clichéd it nonetheless provides overall a very insightful and interesting look into the life of this very successful businessman which I personally find fascinating.

      The book is made up of thirty five chapters which as I have said run in roughly chronological order which is a good format because it means the reader gains a thorough understanding of how Cann grew up and the influence this had on his businesses and more importantly for me it shows how Caan set up and grew his businesses, which is for me the most interesting part of the book.

      The first five chapters deal mostly with Caan's childhood which whilst undoubtedly interesting in terms of building a profile of the man wasn't for me the most interesting part of the book. However, having said that it is by no means a boring part of the book either and if you are more interested in the man rather than the businesses then this will be the part of the book for you. Throughout the rest of the book there are chapters that relate to Caan's personal life such as his father's kidnap - which is one example of this that sticks in my mind to some extent.

      Chapters six to twenty three mainly focus on James Cann the headhunter and recruiter and I think are, for me at least, the most interesting chapters of the book. They explain in quite a lot of detail how Caan managed to set up his recruitment empire and what skills he thinks got him to where he got. A lot of his thought processes are explained which I found fascinating whilst reading the book and his business skills are shown throughout these chapters, unsurprisingly.

      Then chapters twenty four to thirty five concern Caan's life after he sold his stake in his recruitment businesses. From investing to Dragon's Den and obviously a subject close to his heart: charity. Caan becomes a little philosophical about the impact of charity at some points during the latter part of this book which is quite interesting.

      Overall this book is easy to read as the chapters are fairly short and the way in which the book is written, both in terms of the language used and the format, make it easy to read. The book offers a fascinating life into how this independent and daring boy turned into one of the country's most successful businessmen. This book is a real eye opener into the world of business as well as into the life of the man, James Caan.

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    • Nikon D3100 / Digital Camera / 46 Readings / 42 Ratings
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      17.05.2011 17:22
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      A great SLR camera that can be made even better with lenses etc..

      Nikon D3100 Review

      Firstly I would like to say that I am not a camera expert and that this review is based entirely upon my own experience of this camera rather than an extensive knowledge of photography and cameras. Unfortunately my knowledge of cameras is fairly limited. This review would therefore only suit someone as a starting point for researching this camera rather than an all-encompassing one stop review that will give you everything you need to know and more about the camera in question.

      Baring that in mind I will now tell you what I think of the camera and how it came to be that a complete amateur like me got hold of what is, put simply, a fantastic SLR camera.

      I had a simple Panasonic Digital Camera which I had got a few Christmas's previously so it wasn't all that brilliant compared to modern cameras which the Nikon D3100 most definitely is. I gained possession of the camera thorough a semi-professional photographer friend who had upgraded to some uber-expensive need camera which was also, I think, a Nikon SLR camera. Therefore I had no experience of doing photography with a camera anywhere near as advanced as this one I now had. Rather stupidly I did not ask my friend how to use the camera as I thought it couldn't be that complicated. I was right thankfully. The Nikon D3100 which is apparently an entry-level SLR camera has a Help Guide which I found very useful although I no longer have the camera so I cannot say much more about it. If I remember rightly though, it helped with things such as: how to create movies and just generally how to use the camera effectively.

      Price

      I bought my Dikon D3100 at well below market value at thankfully as this piece of kit does not come cheaply. It costs around the £440 mark and it is more for lenses and such extras although from my limited knowledge this seems to be about the average price for an "entry-level" SLR camera. The more advanced ones are over £1000 which is to me, CRAZY.

      Size

      The camera has small handgrips, which is a bit awkward sometimes but thankfully it is not all that heavy at all, weighing about 500 grams including the battery and SD memory card which I might add it needs as it has no internal memory. The camera is of a reasonable size which means that it can't fit in your pocket by any stretch of the imagination but it would fit comfortably into most practical bags. The dimensions of the camera are as follows:
      Height - 9.6 cm
      Width - 12.4 cm
      Depth - 7.45 cm
      Obviously then this camera is not small but it doesn't feel or look ridiculously cumbersome or large either.

      Features

      First off the camera has (which is very useful) large and well-labelled buttons and controls on it which greatly improves the ease of use of the camera overall.

      The camera has no internal memory but does have an SD card for memory and I came nowhere near to filling that even though I took a lot of photographs and what is useful about having an SD card is that it can be put straight into a laptop or computer. I know my laptop has an SD card slot so I assume most modern laptops and probably desktop computers have an SD card slot as well. The result of this is easy transfer of photos from camera to laptop.

      The camera allows you to make HD movie clips with sound. I made next to no use of this feature but it definitely sounds good and because of the high resolution and quality of the camera I am sure it makes great movies.

      The 14.2 megapixels produces as you would expect very high quality pictures, at least compared to the ones I was used to taking.

      The 3.0 inch LCD monitor is also a nice feature of the camera which gives a clear feedback of the pictures taken. It is a nice size as well as it fits the overall size of the camera well. It is not too large and not too small.

      There are other features which I do not understand so well so I will just list these so that people more expert than me can be given more facts about the camera.

      The camera has:
      Image Stabilisation
      52 mm filter
      Is driven by Nikon's potent EXPEED 2 image processor
      A Scene auto Selector - this apparently chooses the best scene mode for your subject. I was never aware of this when i\ used the camera but there you go. May have gone some way as to explaining why the photographs were of such high quality.
      Fully controllable shutter and aperture modes.

      I would only recommend this camera to a friend who had a passion for photography. To anyone else I would say that cheaper cameras also give good results, probably not as well as this camera, in fact almost certainly not as good but they are considerably cheaper. Only buy this camera if you are a fairly serious photographer and are going to get your monies worth out of it.

      That is the Nikon D3100. Hope you enjoyed this review and found it informative

      Andy.

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      • Inglourious Basterds (DVD) / DVD / 24 Readings / 23 Ratings
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        17.05.2011 11:15
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        Not a film I would rush to see agin

        Review on Inglourious Basterds (Film only)

        Inglourious Basterds is a Quentin Tarantino anti-Nazi film and is set in Nazi occupied France during the Second World War. The film is typical Tarantino as it features gratuitous and horrific violence as well as some acting which is over the top - but more on that later. The prominent star of the film is Brad Pitt whose performance on the one hand is almost captivating and yet on the other hand rather weak and bland. Suffice to say that this is a strange movie and whilst it is not altogether brilliant it does have something which is I suppose the word would be intriguing.

        Plot Summary

        The film starts with the credits and music which is a strange start made all the more strange by the opening which is like a novel in that it says Chapter One. The story by the way is organised in chapters. The screen then says Once upon a time (pause) then in says in Nazi occupied France (pause) 1941. This start immediately sets a strange tone to the film which is lost in the opening chapter thankfully only to be later found again unfortunately in the later succeeding chapter and in all the chapters after that.

        A proper plot synopsis now

        The Inglourious Basterds are led by a Tennessee Lieutenant Aldo Raine and are a band of men who aim to kill without mercy as many Nazis as they possibly can. When escapee Jew Shosanna is romantically pursued by a German soldier Frederick Zoller the paths of the Inglourious Basterds and a revenge driven Jew collide with devastating consequences. Frederick Zoller persuades the nazi high command to host a propaganda film at Shosanna's cinema and this is where the opportunity arises for both Shosanna and the Inglourious Basterds to kill the Nazi high command and end the Second World War.

        The film reminds me in places of Reservoir Dogs which is so far the only other Tarantino film I remember seeing. There is the characteristic brutality, however this is not too overbearing, although there is always a tension surrounding violence. Indeed, the whole plot is based around murdering the German high command so it is no wonder that this is the case. Though this film is not one of Tarantino' best for me.

        There are several distinct and different reasons for this. Firstly, I felt that the scenes were overstretched and the narrative of the story was a little laboured. Secondly, I felt that the accents were a bit hit and miss and that they changed at times, but this may just be me as the acting was widely acknowledged as good as evidenced by the awards received - more on that at the end. I also felt that the music was over the top, however I see that this may be part of the appeal to some people. The whole film is in fact over the top so it is little wonder that the music is indeed similarly over bearing in places.

        The film does however create suspense well towards the end as the plot races towards its climax and the net closes in around the protagonists. This suspense was not always made so effectively earlier in the story, a notable exception to this being at the very start in the farmhouse. I was say no more about that as I am aware I have given away perhaps a lot of the plot already.
        My Overall Reaction

        I was not a huge fan of this film but then again I am not a huge Tarantino fan. From many of the other reviews I have seen it would appear that this film is generally well liked and it did well at various film awards. I would watch the film again though, but only if I had to. It seemed to me to be too over the top and lacking quality star performances. It never felt too professional; again perhaps part of the appeal to others and it seemed a little strung-out for me.

        Other Reviews

        Generally well rated and regarded.

        Crtics on Tomatometer gave it 88%
        The Audience on tomatometer gave the film 87%

        2010 - Oscar - Christoph Waltz - Best performance of an actor in a supporting role
        He also won a Bafta in 2010 for supporting actor

        2010 -Oscar Nominated 7 times - Examples of which are: Best achievement in Directing and Best achievement in Cinematography.

        However, Peter Bradshaw who reviewed the film for the Guardian rated it 1/5. Amongst his criticism were that the dialogue was dull. I would perhaps agree with that to an extent but not entirely. He also said that Brad Pitt delivered a charmless performance. I do not agree that the performance was charmless as such but I would say the performance was not as good as I would have expected.

        My overall rating would be 2.5/5

        Release Date 19 August 2009
        Run Time 153 minutes

        Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

        Main Cast

        Brad Pitt - Lt Aldo Raine
        Melanie Laurant - Shosanna
        Christoph Waltz - Col. Hans Landa
        Diane Kruger - Bridget von Hammersmark

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        • BBC iPlayer / Multimedia / 19 Readings / 19 Ratings
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          16.05.2011 23:44
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          A good BBC service

          The BBC Iplayer service is like a saviour to me. It does not require as far as I am aware, at the moment at least, for you to pay the licence fee unless you wish to watch TV live where there is a requirement to pay for a TV licence. However, I use the iplayer to watch programmes after they have been broadcast so the licence fee is not an issue for me and perhaps more importantly there is no need to pay the licence fee as a result.

          It is easy to access as it can be found on the main bbc website on the right hand side and also as with everything you can just type iplayer into google and then click on the link.

          Iplayer is easy to use. You can simply use the search box in the top right hand corner, or alternatively you can look through the programme listings and also they list the most popular programmes and categorise the programmes. It is easy to find whatever you are looking for.

          One problem is that programmes only stay on the iplayer for a set amount of time, sometimes only a week, sometimes longer. This is the same on other channels websites like 4od for channel 4 and itv player for itv. It just means that you will need to catch up with your show that you missed fairly promptly.

          Also iplayer seems to cause my laptop to crash every now and then, usually in the evenings. Not at all sure what the cause of this is but it may be something to watch out for. Funnily enough it always happens when Match of the Day 2 is on or otherwise when the Apprentice is on.

          It should also be noted that not absolutely everything that is played on the bbc can be found subsequently on iplayer. However, as you would expect if you watch the bbc live using iplayer then you can watch anything you want or listen to whatever radio channel you wish. Just thought you should be aware that not everything will be available on iplayer. Certain programmes are never repeated on iplayer like the Saturday Match of the Day) and certain programmes like (Would I lie to you?) are always available on iplayer and are usually on there fairly soon after the show finishes.

          This is not always the case though as match of the day 2 is broadcast on a Sunday evening and yet is not put up until a Wednesday on iplayer. This is though the only programme I know where the bbc seems to have this delay which is frankly a little bit ridiculous, but never mind.

          Overall I would say that the bbc iplayer is a great service. All the more so considering that if you do not watch live TV you do not have to pay the licence fee which is nice. Therefore, despite some technical hitches (though it might just be my laptop) I am a regular user of the iplayer and would definitely recommend it.

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        • Nationwide Building Society / Bank / 35 Readings / 32 Ratings
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          16.05.2011 10:30
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          A very good building society

          I have been with Nationwide now since about 2006 and am very happy with them as a building society. I first got an account with Nationwide when I was about fourteen and had a smartbook which was fine because I did not need to withdraw money all that often. However, more recently it became apparent that it would be better to have a card account so Nationwide recommended a Flexaccount. The Flexaccount itself (moving slightly off topic for a moment) offers a number of benefits to customers. It gives customers: free travel insurance, it's free to use and you can bank on the internet. Now back to talking about Nationwide Building Society more generally. I have never been with another building society bank so I do not have a lot to compare them to. They do however make everything so simple for me that it is not worth moving my money. I am very happy with Nationwide.

          Why I am I happy with Nationwide?

          They are the UK's biggest building society which reassures me that they are not facing the difficulties that perhaps some of the smaller building societies are. They are as unlikely I feel to go bust as any other developed financial institution so I feel safe having my money with them.

          They have no shareholders which probably explains why when you compare loans and savings on comparison sites nationwide is always there or there abouts. The competitive interest rates are very appealing to my as I have no need at the moment to borrow and I do make use of the many different types of savings that they offer.

          The staff have always been very useful on the few instances I have need them. For example, when I was changing my account they were very helpful and it was done very quickly.

          They have a huge presence both on the highstreet and online which is very reassuring.

          I feel my money is secure both online and in branch.

          Anything I am not happy about?

          The immediate and quite steep charges for going overdrawn unauthorised. It is an immediate £20 penalty regardless of how short the time of being overdrawn may be. I was literally overdrawn for two hours and yet was charged £20. It felt a little excessive and still does.

          No student account is offered by nationwide which gave me the hassle of trying to open a student account with Natwest which was so difficult I just gave up.

          Overall thoughts on Nationwide

          I think Nationwide offers customers everything they want in a building society or bank. They offer that confidence that they are financially stable and secure which is very good. They are easily accessible both online and in branch. They offer competitive rates for both borrowers and savers. The staffs at Nationwide the few times I have called upon them have been very useful.

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          • More +
            15.05.2011 12:21
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            A great game for all football fans

            What a great game. You sit down to watch a match between two teams to whom you have no connection other than them being on your fantasy team and suddenly you are involved in the match because your striker just won't score or your midfielder just got booked. More on exactly what the means coming up soon. Fantasy league brings football alive for the fan. Not every match, at least in my opinion, is necessarily worth watching but fantasy league connects you just about every premier league match being played. It will have you shouting at the telly and ruing that stupid penalty miss or worst of all that unnecessary red card which has just seen your uncle and friend both overtake you on two different fantasy team leagues.

            I have been playing premierleague fantasy football now for about four seasons and at until this season it was very addictive. I think the catalyst for my apathy towards my team has been moving to university but because the game is so good I will no doubt get back into it next season.

            How does it work and what are the rules?

            First you must sign up which is a very simple and quick process. Better to do this before the season starts and then you can join the other two million users to try and become the fantasy football champion. Once you have signed up at the start of the season then you move onto the highly important kit selection and team name which are entered before you then move onto the part you have been thinking about all summer. Analysis of the promoted teams and transfers is already done. The time has come to pick your team. You have a budget of one hindered million (so not the man City squad), in fact only three players from the same team allowed. The one hundred million budget must be divided between two goalkeepers, five defenders, five midfielders and three strikers. There is no going over this budget, no deficits allowed here. You are right, that is fifteen players, and you always have four substitutes.

            There are unlimited transfers until the deadline which marks the start of the new season.

            From now until the end of the season it is all about your strategy and forward thinking which trust me does play an important role as the same people always win and undoubtedly you do need a slice of luck as well.

            Each week you are allowed one free transfer unless you do not transfer one week in which case in the following week you have two free transfers. This is not accumulative, the maximum free transfers allowed is two in any given week. That is unless you use the one-a-season wildcard which allows you to have one chance to change everything you want about your team. Be wise as to when you use this treasure. The transfer process is very simple just click on transfers in the left hand column click someone out and then click someone in. This will be something you will get in no time.

            Also you must choose a captain. The captain earns double points so make sure he firstly plays consistently, that much is obvious but more importantly that he is in good form. Of perhaps less importance but still worth noting is who his next opposition are. If for some reason your captain does not play then an emergency captain can be selected either on form or price. You choose which selection method is used.

            The Competitive parts that make it so exciting

            Fantasy Leagues - Get some mates together and form a league. This would be a private league with an administrator who can allow only people he/she knows to join. The administrator also has the power to exclude participants. There are also public leagues that can be joined by anyone. Private leagues also have forums which can be a fun feature to add spice to the competition, although if you have regular contact with the people in the league there is little use for it really.

            Fantasy Cup - This starts in Gameweek 19 and is a knockout competition. I got knocked out in the first round this year rather embarrassingly. It was made all the worse by the fact that the guy who knocked me out had done only two transfers all season. I guess I will live though and actually my team is in the top tenth of the world on cumulative/overall score.

            The Scoring System

            You get points for:
            Keeper keeping a clean sheet
            Defender keeping a clean sheet
            Midfielder/Clean sheet
            Assist (all positions) - defenders get more
            Goal (all positions) - defenders get more
            Playing more than 60 minutes
            Bonus points - never really understood how this works. Just have to play well I guess. Can get 1,2 or 3 bonus points.

            Lose points for:
            Penalty miss
            Yellow/red card

            For more on the scoring system and on the rules in general look on the fantasy premierleague site.

            Thanks for reading. Andy.

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            • More +
              14.05.2011 17:07
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              Would recommend Keynes

              A bit about Keynes

              Keynes is one of the four on-campus colleges; the others are called Darwin, Rutherford and Eliot. Each college has a bar in it and Keynes's bar is called K-bar which was used quite a lot during Fresher's and in all honesty quite a lot since then.

              Keynes is named after the economist John Maynard Keynes and was established in 1968.

              There are 162 catered en-suite bedrooms.

              Set around a courtyard and a duck pond.

              Advantages of living in Keynes

              * You are on campus
              * You live near K-bar which is a pretty good bar.
              * The rooms are en-suite
              * A short walk to everything you need (lectures, seminars, gym, library, Rutherford dining hall and perhaps most importantly Venue which is the on-campus nightclub)
              * Nice people live around you (sometimes a little too quiet)
              * Has computer rooms
              * A bus stop outside to town (takes about five to ten minutes and costs about £2)
              * It is only about a half hour to forty minute walk to town from Keynes College.
              * The rooms are of a relatively good size
              * Reception takes care of all post and parcels
              * There is a launderette which I have never seen completely full.


              Diasadvantages of living in Keynes

              * Expensive (you do have to pay for everything ... dinner - which is a major chip on my shoulder - being the main example)
              * Boring at times - my floor is very quiet
              * 2010/2011 there was building work but that is due to be completed by the summer of 2011.

              A bit about the other colleges

              Parkwood - not a college and it houses most of the self-catered students and rumour has it there are many wild house parties. Certainly the few times I have walked through Parkwood there are piled up in the kitchen windows a staggering amount of bottles and cans (we all know what I mean by that). Parkwood is styled and described as a student village and it most certainly seems to be one.

              Other on-campus self-catering accommodation:

              Tyler Court - situated behind Rutherford so has easy access to campus facilities
              Darwin College and houses - situated the other side of Rutherford from Eliot but again as it is on-campus there is easy access to all of the campus's facilities.

              Self catering accommodation is available for 39 weeks. You only have to move out over the summer holidays.

              Eliot - Corridors have a small kitchenette. There is a kettle, microwave and sink. That is about it. It is catered and available for 31 weeks.
              Named after the poet T. S .Eliot and was established in 1965.


              Rutherford - Corridors have a small kitchenette. There is a kettle, microwave and sink. That is about it. It is catered and available for 31 weeks.
              Named after the physicist and Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry Ernest Rutherford. Established in 1966.


              Darwin - Self-catering and therefore available for 39 weeks.


              Overall Feeling about Keynes

              I am glad I chose to live at Keynes because I always felt comfortable there. The rooms are good and the overall atmosphere is calm but there is also easy access to town and all the facilities on campus. Being on-campus meant that all lectures were only a five to ten minute walk away at most. Luckily, actually quite a few of my lectures were in the Keynes lecture theatres. Like in all the colleges the students are not grouped together by academic discipline or anything like that so there is a mix of people who share different interests which makes for a more interesting time in halls.


              Would I recommend Keynes to a friend?

              Yes it is a good place to spend your first year at the University of Kent.

              A good source of information is the Kent University accommodation website. Just simply type "Kent University accommodation" into Google and all the information you could ever need about accommodation at Kent University will be at your fingertips.

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              • iTunes / Multimedia / 29 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                13.05.2011 19:42
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                Probably the best way to get music legally

                What is Itunes?

                It is the Apple (makers of the ipod and mac computers) music store. Apple claim to have 13 million songs on it. They also sell or rent movies, audio books and podcasts from itunes to.

                How does it work?

                It's simple. You download it and if you can't do that how do you expect to work the ipod or even the computer. I am no technical expert - not by a long shot and I managed it and that was so long ago I can't honestly give any accurate instructions on the process although I am confident that if you were to become stuck Apple or indeed someone somewhere in cyberspace could help you out.

                When Itunes is downloaded you then can download songs and films to your computer and then sync your ipod to your computer by simply plugging a cable into the USB and into the ipod to then sync them and as a result move the songs from the computer to the ipod. Phew.

                How much does it cost?

                A song typically costs 79 pence or more than likely 99 pence.
                An album costs usually £6.99 or £7.99 in my experience.
                To rent a film usually costs about £3.49 or £4.49.
                To buy a film the cost varies from about £13.99 at the top end (charts) to £3.99/£4.99 to buy for older movies. There are also prices in between this however.

                Clever Apple Features

                Ping - like a social network for music fans - I have barely used so am afraid I am unable to say much more about it.

                Genius - groups together songs and provides recommendations based upon the songs you have already purchased. A bit hit and miss in my opinion. Mostly miss in my opinion.

                Advantages

                * Legal
                * Quick and safe downloading
                * Can buy gift cards as presents or to keep some sort of control on spending
                * Wide choice of music
                * Can download audio books, podcasts and films
                * Can create playlists and they are easy to create

                Disadvantages

                * A growing but still limited choice of films
                * Expensive - HMV probably sell many of these DVD's and CD's for less now or if you trust ebay sellers they would sell for less as well.
                * Genius throws up some horrible recommendations
                * Need to update Itunes software (although to be fair it is not complicated at all)
                * Need to sync ipod to the computer to transfer the purchases to the ipod.

                Summary

                Itunes offers a legal way to download films and music. They can be listened to/watched on the computer or on the ipod - although not all ipods can play films.
                It is however quite expensive but at least it is quick and easy to download what you want.

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                • More +
                  13.05.2011 15:28
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                  A lovely breakfast cereal

                  I love to start the day with some Crunchy Nuts and milk, and plenty of it. It sys on a 500 gram box that it should do about 16 servings. Not when I'm around. It does more like 5 servings, it's just toooo good. I used to think that eating cereal was just for breakfast times and that later on I would snack on something different like sweets, chocolate or even fruit but not any more. I feel now that Crunchy Nut makes in fact a great afternoon snack.

                  Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Cornflakes - to give them there full name - are as you will have gathered very tasty indeed. I love I must say though most cereals and I don't think there is anything particularly special about Crunchy Nut. Yes they have a smooth texture and taste lovely but for me so do many other cereals such as Ricicles and they pop as well which I like.

                  Kellogg's Crunchy Nut adverts are entertaining as well and they fit I think perfectly with the brand. They are slightly crazy and don't take themselves too seriously. The latest advert features Rob Brydon as a newsreader who rushes his line just to get some Crunchy Nuts. Previous adverts have included shop staff stealing Crunchy Nuts from customers just so that they can have them.

                  Nuritional Information (typical value per 100g)

                  Energy 402 kcal
                  Protein 6g
                  Carbohydrate 82g - won't please Mr Atkins
                  Fat - 5g, of which saturates 0.9g
                  Fibre 2.5g
                  Salt 0.9g

                  There is also pretty much you recommended daily allowance for a fair few vitamins and minerals. Most notably Iron and Vitamin B.

                  Sounds to me like a fairly healthy start to the day and you can enjoy it rather than force yourself to eat it to be a bit healthier which results in less enjoyment.

                  Allergy information

                  Contains peanuts and barley

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                  • amazon.co.uk / Online Shop / 33 Readings / 30 Ratings
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                    12.05.2011 15:20
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                    Amazon is great

                    Amazon.co.uk is the first place I go probably to buy anything online, especially books which is what I think they are best at selling as that is how it started out. That is not to say though that the other products they sell are not well stocked or anything like that.

                    Amazon offers different delivery options, but not in a way that is at all confusing. Amazon UK allows you to pay for fist class delivery which it says will come within 3 working days and in my experience that has always been the case, or there is the main alternative, the free delivery. This is though also relatively quick. Amazon says delivery will be between 3 and 5 working days (Mon-Fri) and that promise has again always been met in my experience with Amazon. Another important part of the delivery/ checkout process is that you can select whether or not you want your items (if there are multiple items) to be delivered together, or not. There is as far as I am aware no extra charge for them being delivered separately. Therefore, if you really need something in a hurry then it can be delivered as soon as Amazon can dispatch it which is usually the next day, or sometimes the same day.

                    Amazon is very user friendly but also undoubtedly very clever. The whole payment process especially if you save your details is very slick and more than that Amazon when you select an item to buy recommends similar books and groups similar books together into deals. If you have little control and/or are overly zealous about the item you are purchasing then you may wish to buy elsewhere or you may get a shock when the receipt is sent to your email address or when you get your credit/debit card bill.

                    Amazon sells its products at competitive prices and having done some comparison work on the prices of books I feel that it would be correct to say that, at least as far as books are concerned) most books are cheaper on Amazon than elsewhere on the internet, this is mostly because of the free delivery though. If you want first class delivery it is probably about equal in price to other sites but the reliability of Amazon and its ease of use would still make it preferable in my eyes to other online retailing sites.

                    I have never had to make a complaint to Amazon about anything but apparently there customer service is very good which of course gives you extra confidence when shopping with them.

                    Amazon Marketplace allows the customer to choose not to buy a new item from Amazon but instead to buy a used item from somebody in much the same way as you would do a 'Buy It Now' on Ebay. The delivery prices in this instance though are set by the person/company selling the item and not Amazon and therefore you do pay for delivery and delivery is often longer. If money is the main issue to you though then buying from Amazon marketplace represents a cheaper way of buying what you want on Amazon.co.uk.

                    Amazon sells a wide range of goods so whatever you need to find to buy online can probably found somewhere on Amazon. The large search box at the top of the homepage allows you to quickly find what it is you are looking for which makes shopping from Amazon so easy and some might say enjoyable.

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                      11.05.2011 16:32
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                      An album that is well worth listening to

                      Wasting Light was released on the 8 April 2011 and costs around £7.99 and I personally say it is well worth this. I have listened to the album almost constantly since I got it - but them I am a bit like that with albums I like.

                      I think all Foo Fighters, or at least the vast majority will like this album even though it is a little different from the usual Foo Fighters albums. To me though, the change actually makes this album perhaps Foo Fighters best so far.

                      These are the songs from the album in my order of preference. You will notice that it is quite a short album which is perhaps a little disappointing but then again the songs on it are very good so that definitely makes up for it, for me at least.

                      1) Walk
                      This song starts very softly but in the middle there is a building crescendo that incorporates the usual sort of aggression that would be expected from David Grohl, the band's very talented lead singer and guitarist. The aggression though like throughout this album is controlled and does not dominate the song. The lyrics are like elsewhere in the album the most memorable part of the album and probably the best part for me.

                      2) Arlandria
                      This song has memorable lyrics and has meaning.

                      3) Dear Rosemary
                      4) These days
                      5) Back & Forth
                      6) Miss the Misery
                      7) I Should Have Known
                      8) A Matter of Time
                      9) Rope
                      10) White Limo
                      11) Bridge Burning


                      Wasting Light is a very enjoyable album - many of the songs do not contain the Grohl's almost trademark screaming - but in fact almost surprisingly this was not something I missed. This album seemed to me well though through and very well done. This was mostly because of the very natural and nice changes in pitch and tone which fluctuate throughout many of the songs which give them a deeper meaning and this ultimately makes the song more interesting to listen to. However, there is not a sense either of over-sentimentality. There is just a great balance which has been struck which makes the album very good.

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                      • Zopa / Investment Fund / 89 Readings / 88 Ratings
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                        09.03.2011 21:42
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                        A good way to make money if you have it spare

                        I first started lending money on Zopa in May 2010 and was initially apprehensive because I had never heard of Zopa never mind the concept of 'social lending' or 'peer to peer lending'. However, it has been actually pretty rewarding overall as my bank pays little interest on my regular savings whereas Zopa has offered a pretty good rate of return on what was quite a small investment. I have earned about 7.2% on my investment which actually makes me cheaper to borrow from than a bank - so the borrower wins and is much better for me because I make a much larger interest rate on my savings.

                        The site itself is very easy to use and is easily navigable. There is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that covers probably everything you would want to know either as a borrower or as a lender. If you cannot find a suitable answer to your query which has never happened to me, but you never know, then you can contact Zopa via many other mediums. They have an office in New Street London - the address can be found on the website under Contact Us - and they say you can just pop in there. Also, they can be contacted by: a contact form on the computer, phone, Facebook and even Twitter. As I said I personally have never had to contact them so I do not know how responsive they are but it is reassuring to know that there are so many ways in which to get in contact with them.

                        The site explains in more detail than I can remember about all the security and safety measures it has in place which is what reassured my initial apprehensions. They are mention how they themselves are regulated and how your money is held separately so that it is safe. I am glad to say that so far none of my debtors (can't think of a nicer name) have defaulted yet and I have absolutely no reason to think that they will. Every time you log in you need to enter your username, password and finally memorable detail which changes (there are 3 to remember). This again is very reassuring especially to a new user.

                        The site also makes it very easy to transfer money in and out. I use a bank transfer and it takes three days to pay money in and the same to transfer money out. This is very convenient and means that all money that has been paid back to you from your debtors can either be saved up and feed back into your account as a lump sum or you can feed it back in monthly or even as and when you need it which is what I do.

                        One significant consideration to bare in mind is that you only have two choices as it stands of loan length and these are 36 months and 60 months. You must therefore have the ability to be able to invest money for this amount of time and not need it because once you have lent it out you only get back a small amount from each borrower at a time.

                        How it works (roughly)

                        You put money in
                        You set your preferred interest rates and groups you are willing to lend to
                        Zopa matches borrowers to best lenders
                        Borrower receives the money
                        Borrower pays back capital borrowed and interest monthly

                        Importantly you select who you will lend to from a range of risk. There are A8 borrowers who presumably have impeccable credit ratings but there interest rates are lower. The groups go through from A* to A, B, C and Y for young.

                        Risk can be lessened because you can pay in multiples of 10 (I think) a maximum amount to anyone person. For example if you lent out £100 then you could lend £10 to different people. They then each pay you back at the agreed interest rate. The risk is therefore less because you aren't as reliant on one person to pay back.


                        If you type Zopa into Youtube you will find an advert which can also help you better understand what Zopa is all about.

                        AVERAGES
                        Average Lending Rate = 7.6%

                        A* 36 months = 6.4 %
                        A 36 months = 7.1%
                        B 36 months = 8.5%
                        C 36 months = 10.4%
                        Y 36 months = 9.8%

                        I personally am only interested in the 3 year returns because who knows how the economy might look in five years time. ISA's may be returning 8%.

                        An additional award of £50 is credited to your account if you can refer someone to the site who then goes on to lend £2000 or more.

                        Oh, I nearly forgot, silly me, Zopa makes its money from charging the lender a fee however this is fairly minimal and I can assure you does not eat noticeably at all into your interest accruement. I think so far my Zopa fee stands at below 1%.

                        Lastly then as I nearly forgot this as well Zopa invite you to their birthday parties....I know how random and also they send you a weekly and monthly newsletter by email which I always delete so I am afraid I can't help you much with that. From memory though I'm sure it tells you something like that weeks rates and such like.

                        LITTLE BIT OF FUN

                        Average borrower is called David who is 38 years old and is from Birmingham. He is borrowing £4,847 for a car.

                        Average lender is also weirdly enough called David and he is 44 years old. He is from South West London and has lent out £2,213.

                        Zopa lenders are loaning out as it stands £4,629,975.

                        On the 8 March 2011 218 new borrowers joined Zopa. Looks like this bubble is most definitely not going to burst.

                        If you want to join please write a message and i can refer you. This costs you nothing and means I get some money. Woo.

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                          08.03.2011 15:13
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                          A lovely holiday

                          What a beautiful place. There is simply no other way of describing the Algarve. I have been holidaying in the Algarve for about the past five years or so and have loved it every single time and I know there is a lot more I could do there but I am comfortable just going to the beach, sunbathing by the pool, swimming and just generally have a relaxed week.

                          The Algarve can serve up everybody a really nice holiday and there is great variety to be found in this world-class holiday destination as well. There is budget accommodation to be found as well as luxury five star hotels. I have been lucky enough to stay in them for a night or two every now and again and they are truly amazing. I stayed at Villa Vita - a very long time ago and I can't remember the name of the other hotel I stayed it but it was also absolutely superb. When I go with family though we usually stay in a place called Quinta Do Lago which is beautiful. We stay in the Four Seasons Fairways there which is also beautiful.

                          The Algarve

                          The Algarve is situated in the very South of Portugal and whilst it is considered amongst one of the poorest regions generally as a tourist you could easily be fooled by the fine tourist towns and resorts which can be found, namely Vale Do Lobo and Quinta Do Lago, and there may be more that I haven't come across which are just as nice. The Algarve has literally dozens of golf courses stretching right along the course, although they are most dense within the short drive from Faro. Faro airport is only about a two and a half hour flight from London airports and the terminal itself is easy to navigate as it is well designed and more importantly the signs have many languages including English on them. The Portuguese have definitely invested in this region and you would if you didn't scratch too deeply, as I don't think that this was a fairly prosperous place. The infrastructure is good and the tourist experience as a result is very good. Despite the lack of wealth I have experienced no crime here, unlike in Barcelona and Madrid. For me the Algarve is a very safe place to go.

                          The workers in the tourist areas all speak English which makes the stay for me much more enjoyable although I think that they do appreciate the use of simple Portuguese words which can easily be found in a handbook.

                          Amongst some of the main attractions to the Algarve are as already mentioned the fine golf courses and the golden sand beaches. Besides this though the Algarve also offers much more, such as, watersports (there is an enclosed lake by the Quinta do Lago beach which hires out peddalos which can have trampoline type things attached on the back, sailboats, kayaks etc), also there are lots of waterparks and there is also an aquarium and zoo. Boat trips along the coast are offered from some of the towns I remember doing one some time ago and it was amazing because we went under stunning arches and into the entrance to large caves. The sun glistened off the sparkly clean blue water.

                          When we go to the Algarve in May, usually, the temperature rarely drops below about twenty degrees Celsius and more often than not is usually above twenty five degrees C. Refreshingly however I don't remember it really sustaining itself much higher than thirty degrees C so it is a comfortable heat especially if you want to visit the many towns in the area - preferably with your t-shirt on.
                          There are many towns in the Algarve and I cannot remember them all and anyway I usually stick to Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo as they are both beautiful places and my parents pay. Lucky me. The website Algarve Uncovered.com suggests though that if you are looking for an accessible family stay then you should stick between Quarteira and Lagos. If one the other hand you are looking for more of a party atmosphere it would seem like the best place to go is Albufeira , Praia de Rocha or Lagos and finally we have the very nice triangle of Almancil, Quinta Da Lago and Vale do Lobo which contain some great restaurants, beaches, kids activities, hotels, golf courses and even tennis academies.


                          Just a little more on Quinta Do Lago


                          Quinta Do Lago contains numerous hotels of which and villas. Four Seasons fairways is a timeshare village of villas and many of the villas have there own swimming pool. Also there is a sort of hub area where there is a mini supermarket, bar and restaurant, gym and pool table. The resort is surrounded by the golf clubs Quinta North and Quinta South both of which I have been told are highly impressive by my dad who has played both. The beach is easily accessible on foot from all hotels in Quinta Do Lago and it is a very beautiful beach indeed. It has golden sand and stretches for miles and miles. It has lifeguards and it is an easy walk, if the beach becomes too boring, to the lake which does the watersports which I mentioned earlier. Also in Quinta Do Lago there is a sort of all-in-one centre which has a supermarket, restaurants, estate agents, Irish pub and shops that sell beach equipment like spades, bodyboards and such like.

                          I personally could not do justice to how beautiful this place is. I thoroughly recommend it, especially in May.

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                          • Armored (DVD) / DVD / 33 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                            07.03.2011 23:25
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                            Glad I watched it but its not that memorable

                            I came across Armored on Sky Movies the other night and after reading the synopsis thought that I would give it a go. As a result of having read the synopsis I had certain expectations of this movie. They weren't quite met although I do not think this is a particularly bad movie, it just is not special either. It lacks something which I can not quite place my finger on. Perhaps it is a decent subplot, that is the most likely reason and perhaps it is the lack of meaningful characters besides perhaps the main protagonists. Whatever, it is exactly it does mean that this film is not the best crime/action/thriller - however you want to categorise it movie I have ever seen. But having said that I was never bored watching it either.

                            On the positive side I think the film did create tension and suspense at several key moments. Although more could perhaps have been made of these parts they were, as the film was, enjoyable to watch. I felt that there was an early connection established with at least the central characters Ty Hackett (Columbus Short) and Mike Cochrane (Matt Dillon). This characterisation is established by various means such as dialogue, family life and pressures and practical jokes. All this establishes a connection with the protagonists who happen to be godfather and son. However, I would agree with the criticism I saw elsewhere on the internet that the other characters lacked any real character. The story moves quickly which for me is good in what is a short film. The majority of the time is spent actually watching the exciting part: the heist.

                            There was much criticism of this film but I think it is still worth a watch. It contains an exciting amount of action and suspense. Having said that though this is not a hugely memorable film and as the mixed reviews suggest it is by no means great. It is rather derogatorily referred to as Resevoir Dog's ish.

                            A very brief synopsis - Do not want to ruin story

                            Basically an army veteran called Ty returns from Iraq and joins a security team and he is working with his godfather, Mike. Ty has substantial debts and so Mike invites him to take part in a significant heist. Ty is an unwilling accomplice and makes Mike promise him that nobody will be hurt.

                            Needless to say someone does get hurt and then Ty goes AWOL and I will leave the rest of the film alone now.

                            I think that the film does have enough themes, violence and suspense to be an interesting watch. Especially compared to the last film I watched - Youth In Revolt.

                            Critics

                            Tomatometer
                            Critics - 39%
                            Audience - 34%

                            IGN Movies 6/10 says there are gripping performances and suspense

                            Metacritic
                            Critics - 5/10
                            User - 4/10
                            The Guardian 2/5 - says that individual characterisations get lost.

                            Run Time - 88 minutes
                            Release Year - 2009
                            Directed by: Nimrod Antal

                            Other actors (not mentioned above):

                            Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Skeet Ulrich, Amaury Nolasco

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                          • Youth in Revolt (DVD) / DVD / 72 Readings / 72 Ratings
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                            09.02.2011 17:28
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                            A film to avoid

                            I watched this film on Sky Player and was expecting it to be hilarious. I reckoned that a film featuring Michael Cera was bound to be good even if this reasoning was based purely upon my love of the film Superbad. However, almost immediately after I started watching the film I realised that the film wasn't going to meet my expectations and it became apparent that this was just not a funny film at all, but instead a clichéd and at times annoying love story. It took only about twenty minutes for me to start checking the time on the screen to see how far in I was and how long was left to go. I must have checked the time about half a dozen times because I had become so bored. In the end I only watched it because I don't like giving up on films and so I could review it properly.

                            I was expecting to laugh out loud a lot during this film, however at no point did I find this film funny at all. It was a major let down for a comedy for which I had high hopes and expectations. It was apparent very early on that this film was just not going to be very good. It started with a monologue from the protagonist Nick Twist played by Michael Cera which emphasised what a loser he is. Fine. No particular problem with that except for the fact that it was too long and too boring. I wanted and expected a funny start to the movie. I was hoping for improvement, but it never really came.

                            This monotonous introduction was then followed by a silly carton which resembled a car journey. It added nothing to the film and was actually repeated again later on in the film for the same purpose. I was not at all impressed. I would not have minded if I had found the film funny, but my boredom was intensified by this silly animation thing.

                            Even the youth being in revolt part of the storyline, which is the central theme of the story is done in a way which is boring. And when I say boring I mean yawn and go to sleep boring. I managed to stay awake. Just about. The whole film could have been done so much better if more thought had been put into it. The storyline offers vast potential for comedic moments and whilst there is destruction and rebellion in the film, as you would expect, it just is not funny. I won't give away any more of the plot than I already have, but trust me this is not a film to waste you time or possibly money on. I have recently watched comedies such as Me, Myself and Irene, Yes Man, The Hangover, Superbad and I would most definitely recommend these films over Youth In Revolt. In fact all those aforementioned films bar the last are in fact very good.

                            Additional Information

                            Run Time 1h 30m

                            Directed by Miguel Arteta

                            Written by Gustin Nash

                            Tomatometer Rating 68% - Crazily high if you ask me....Audience 52% liked it

                            Metascore 63/100, Userscore 6.6/10

                            I seem to be missing something reading all these reviews. It rates fairly well it would seem with reviewers from some of Britain's biggest papers reviewing it positively. Honestly, I really do not see why.

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