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    • FreeUndelete / Data Protection / 68 Readings / 66 Ratings
      More +
      23.05.2007 19:15
      Very helpful



      Worth having on every computer

      It shouldn’t happen, but it still does – you accidentally delete a file from your computer you didn’t want to delete. Other situation: You used a program to automatically clean your system and it messed something up. Important files are gone.

      No, actually they are not – if you just react quickly enough.
      Most people think that emptying the recycle bin (or finally deleting a file on another way) means that the content is erased, but that’s not the case. The only thing that is erased is the information about the location of the file. As the path is now missing in Window’s directory key structure Windows can’t access the file anymore – visibly it is gone, physically it isn’t. After a while the space on the hard disk is overwritten with new information again – then, and only then the content is really lost forever.

      Many utilities make use of what I’ve just described and one of them is FreeUndelete. FreeUndelete is able to recover files from all common Windows File Systems (NTFS, FAT16/FAT32) in case they haven’t been overwritten yet. It can not recover files from Linux partitions.

      Download and Installation

      FreeUndelete is – as the name suggests - Freeware and available for download on many websites, I got it from http://officerecovery.com/freeundelete/

      If you want to download the software prior to needing it, just save the file onto your hard disk. If, however, you have already lost data you want to recover, use, if somehow possible, either another partition (if you have more than one on your hard disk) or an external medium (e.g. a USB Flash drive). That will ensure that you don’t overwrite any parts of the hard disks (which could cause a final loss of the data).

      The installation file is small (< 1MB) so the download should be quickly done even if you only have a dial-up connection. The installation process is easy, you don’t have to set up anything, just accept the terms and conditions, choose the installation folder (or confirm it) – that’s it.

      Important notes

      Now as the program is installed and set up, you theoretically are able to restore any files that have accidentally been deleted. But – and it’s a big but – only if you have another drive available other than the one the information (you want to recover) is stored on. That means for you:

      Either you have to have two (or more) partitions. A partition is just an independent part on your hard disk. When you click onto the “my computer” icon on your Windows desktop you see it as a hard disk in the section “hard disks”. Your main partition usually is called c:, a second one generally d:.

      Or, as a second option, you have another medium (e.g. flash memory cards, a second hard disk drive...) you can store data on.

      If you don’t have either, the best way is to create a second partition. Windows doesn’t come with any software to do it, but you can get software for it. The best known probably is Partition magic, but there are freeware alternatives (e.g. cute partition manager - http://www.cutepm.com). If you are not familiar with these programs rather get the help of somebody who is and always backup all your data, just in case.

      Why all this hassle? Well, it’s logical again – through using another medium or another part of your hard disk to store the rescued data on, you can’t finally overwrite the files the software is trying to recover.

      You can not(!) recover any data if you don’t have another location to store them.

      To get the majority of your data back it is also important that you do not use your computer any further once you notice the data loss. That means: Don’t start any programs, don’t save anything, don’t use the internet, don’t do anything. Every activity can store data (and if it’s only temporary data) and, as a consequence, overwrite the data you want to rescue.

      How to use the program

      After starting the program you see quite a plain user interface. On the left you see your drives that can be scanned, on the right some space where later the list of found files will appear.

      On the bottom you’ve got two boxes to set filters, you could, for example, specify which file type you are looking for (*.doc for word files etc) or the name of the folder you want to reconstruct.

      Usage of the program is easy. You just choose the drive you want to be scanned and then click onto the scan button to start the scanning process. This might, depending on the size of the disk, take some time. During this time you can’t really use the computer properly as the scanning occupies the hard disk nearly totally. On the bottom of the user interface there is a process bar and a cancel button in case you want to stop the process.

      In the menu you find the entry “toolbox” which is useless – it just lists other programs you can buy which help you to recover corrupted data (e.g. emails, MS office documents…). You can obtain free demos but will have to pay if you require any of these programs.

      Once the scan has finished a list appears on the screen. It contains of lots of folders with partly meaningless names (“FOLDER0001” etc) but you can open them to check what’s inside. If you find a file you want to recover you just need to double click on it and it is undeleted into the folder you specified in a box on the bottom. In case you want to undelete more than one file you can select all of them at the same time.

      In the folder you specified you find the files as they were before they were deleted – provided they still could be reconstructed of course.


      FreeUndelete is a very useful tool that is working reliably as long as you use it early enough.

      My boyfriend had to use it once when a whole folder just had disappeared after he’d used a spyware removal tool. The majority of the lost files could be recovered so the program completely fulfilled its purpose.

      It is easy to install and to use, not overloaded with functions you wouldn’t know what to do with anyway and certainly worth having on every computer – just in case….

      My only criticism: The program crashed a few times when I used it on my laptop (Windows XP). That’s certainly not ideal when you want to recover lost files and due to this problem I will only award four stars.


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      • Boso Medicus Smart / Health Product / 60 Readings / 57 Ratings
        More +
        12.03.2007 19:36
        Very helpful



        An accurate blood pressure monitor for home use

        The last times I’ve been at a doctor’s my blood pressure was too high. Even though I know that I suffer from white coat hypertension I got slightly worried as the readings were extremely high (or what would you call a systolic reading of 210?)
        I decided that I should get a blood pressure monitor for home use to be able to check my blood pressure myself, without having to see a doctor, nurse or a pharmacist.


        I knew what I wanted: A monitor to be used at my upper arm which isn’t too big and heavy so that it can be transported easily. Furthermore, it should not be too expensive and – of course – give quite accurate readings. Impossible? No, the Boso Medicus Smart fulfilled all criteria.

        Boso’s Medicus Smart is a semi automatic blood pressure monitor for upper arm use. Semi automatic means that the inflation of the cuff has to be done manually while the deflation is automated.

        The price – well, I have paid about 33 EUR (approx. 22 GBP) which I think is quite reasonable. But, and it is a big but, I bought it while I was staying in Germany for some weeks. I have seen it in several online shops in England (e.g. http://www.aw-online.com/Shop or http://www.hillsidemedical.co.uk/) and they sold it for around 38 GPB. I must admit that I’m not sure whether I would have bought it for that price, but then, I don’t know what similar ones cost.

        Accurate readings are guaranteed through the label of the German Hypertensive Society (“deutsche Hochdruckliga”) what only few monitors do get. Moreover it is CE marked and independently validated by the TUV, an organisation documenting the safety and quality of all kinds of products.

        With ist size of approximately 9.5 x 4.5cm (without cuff and tube) and a weight of 0.1kg (without batteries) it is a real light weight and can be taken everywhere.

        The discrepancy of readings is, according to the manual, about ± 3 mmHg for the pressure and ± 5% for the pulse. As an extra the device can detect an irregular heart beat during measurement.

        To use the monitor one 1.5V mignon battery is needed which doesn’t need to be replaced for more than 2000 blood pressure checks (according to the manufacturer).

        What the device doesn’t have is a memory function which is irrelevant for me though anyway. People who have to monitor their readings regularly though have to consider whether they want to write them done every time – then this monitor would certainly be ok for them – or whether they prefer a memory function, then I would not advise to get a Medicus Smart. Due to the lack of a memory function there obviously isn’t a possibility to display the average reading.

        Scope of supply

        The monitor comes with a standard cuff which is suitable for upper arms with a size between 22 and 32cm. Those who have thinner or thicker arms have to buy a smaller or larger cuff to guarantee exact readings.

        The manual is written in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish and really easy to understand. It contains information about the blood pressure and its ideal readings, important tips on how to properly measure the blood pressure (e.g. wait a few minutes before you start the measurement, don’t move your arm during measurement etc.) and of course also an explanation on how to use the machine.

        To keep the monitor safe it comes in a bright grey case which can be opened and closed with a zip and which is of a good size. The case has an extra pocket in the front to store the blood pressure pass. The manual comfortably fits into the case as well.

        Furthermore, a battery and a blood pressure pass to keep track of your readings (including your pulse as well as the date and time of measurement) are supplied.


        The usage of the device is easy and the manual explains it really well.

        After having sat down for about 3 to 5 minutes you draw the cuff onto your arm and close it with the help of the Velcro fastening. Two of your fingers should still fit under the cuff, otherwise it is too tight. That’s easily done with one hand, so you won’t need any help. There also is a marking on the cuff to help you to position it correctly – it has to lie on your artery.

        Once the cuff is positioned properly you press the big on/off switch you can find on top of the actual device. All symbols shortly blink and after a few seconds three bleeps indicate that the machine is ready for use. With your right hand you pick up the rubber ball and start inflating the cuff. Don’t worry, that’s easy and you even don’t have to think about how long you have to pump as a signal is indicating when the cuff is inflated enough. You still see the momentary pressure on the display.

        Subsequently, the release of the air – and therefore the actual measurement process - starts automatically. As soon as the monitor recognises the pulse a heart symbol appears on the display and the device bleeps in the rhythm of your heartbeat. Don’t worry, the bleeping is not too loud, your neighbours won’t scare up every time you do your measurement ;-)

        When a long bleep sound can be heard the measurement is finished and on the monitor – which is clearly readable by the way – there is an alternating display of your blood pressure and the pulse. Through pressing the valve button you now can quickly remove the air out of the cuff. This is also indicated through a triangle shaped symbol on the screen.

        In case you see a heart symbol with little lines around it you should repeat the measurement, it can signalise that you moved your arm during measurement. If the symbol appears again and again though it can be an GP.

        If you want to repeat the measurement you can inflate the cuff again, the old reading disappears automatically from the display. Otherwise the monitor switches itself off after a minute and the reading is lost, so best write it down immediately.

        My experience

        I’ve been using the blood pressure monitor for approximately two months now and am rather satisfied with it. It is easy to use and three measurements in a pharmacy have shown that the readings are accurate.
        The display is big enough and easy to read which isn’t that important for me but probably interesting for many others. The manual also is easily understandable.

        The measurement process is quick; the release of the pressure takes approx. 18 seconds, which obviously depends on the blood pressure and pressure in the cuff.

        The accuracy always can be influenced by measurement errors made by the user of the machine, so you should always follow the instructions in the manual. Still: There is one source of error less due to the fact that it is an upper arm machine – you automatically wear the cuff on heart level, which is not the case for wrist blood pressure monitors.

        As there is only one button to switch the monitor on and off it is easy to use, which is a big advantage for the elderly. I gave the monitor to my granny (72) to try it and after she’d quickly skimmed the manual she could take her blood pressure without any problems even though she’s usually quite insecure about new devices.

        Also positive: The three year manufacturers warranty, the pristine fabrication and the low battery consumption. Together with the handy format and the quite low price I am completely convinced by the machine and award five stars.

        Manufacturer’s website: http://www.boso.de/boso-de.1.0.html?&L=1
        Manual: http://www.boso.de/uploads/media/boso_medicus_smart_304.pdf


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        • More +
          01.03.2007 05:37
          Very helpful



          an introduction into email encryption and PGP

          You would never send an important letter in an open envelope, would you? But day by day or at least occasionally you send important emails with private content, without any protection against strangers reading them.

          How should anybody read my emails? Easy. And it is done every day – at least if you believe the media. Your boss can do it, the state can do it, basically everybody who has an idea about computers (or the right equipment) can do it. And it would be so easy to do something about it!

          But that is by far not the only problem with emails. As you can get new addresses so easily, identity fraud is no problem. You can’t be sure that an email is really from the person it says it’s from. But this also can be helped quite easily.

          Some theory

          The safest method to make sure your emails can only be read by people who should read them is encryption. Don’t worry, in reality you won’t have much to do with it as it’s all done by software applications, but to enable you to understand how they work and how they protect your emails here is some theory. I will keep it as short as possible and try not to bore you, I promise :-)

          ~~~~~~~~~~ cryptography ~~~~~~~~~~

          There are two different forms of cryptography: Asymmetric and symmetric. Both have advantages and disadvantages and in most cases none of them is used by itself, software developers rather combine the advantages of both and call it hybrid cryptography. But we’ll start at the beginning…….

          ~~~ Symmetric encryption ~~~

          If you want to encrypt a message this way you only do have one key. In reality this key is a long, long prime number but just imagine it being what it is called – a key to open or close something.
          The key should only be known by the sender and the receiver of a message which leads us to the main problem: The key needs to be kept secret, but still needs to be exchanged somehow. You can make a phone call, but can you be sure nobody is tapping it? You can meet up and exchange it in person, but then you can just as good exchange the message directly.
          However, once the key is exchanged, person A (I will call her Alice) can encrypt a plain text with it. This text can now be sent via an insecure connection to Person B (called Bob). Once Bob got the text he will use the same key Alice has used to decrypt the text so that he can finally read it. This method, of course, has advantages as well; the biggest being its speed. Thus it is often used with voice over IP applications.

          Plain text ------> text encrypted with key

          Decrypt with key ------> Plain text

          ~~~ Asymmetric encryption ~~~

          Now it’s getting slightly more complicated, as compared to the symmetric encryption we have got two keys involved. They are called private and public key and you can probably already guess that one is used to encrypt the text while the other is used for decryption.
          But why the names? Well, it’s logical (really!) The private key is called private key because it’s private and only the owner (and sender of a message) knows it. The public key however is really public, it can be published everywhere. Both keys are related to each other but in a way that you can’t reconstruct the private key if you just have the public one – that’s what making this method safe.

          Again we assume that Alice wants to send a message to Bob. Alice knows Bob’s public key – he might have sent it to her beforehand or she looked it up in a directory on the internet. Or maybe Bob has just published it on his website? However she got it, important is that she knows it, as with this key she has to encrypt the text she wants to send. But how can Bob read it? Easily – he just has to decrypt the text with his private key. As only he knows it, nobody else but he can read the message. This method obviously solves the problem of having to exchange the key but therefore it is far slower. That’s why it’s never used on its own, but only in combination with the symmetric encryption – it’s then called “hybrid encryption”. Don’t give up – not much new there though!

          Plain text ------> Text encrypted with receiver’s public key

          Decrypt text with own private key ------> Plain text

          ~~~ Hybrid encryption ~~~

          For the hybrid encryption we just introduce a third key – the session key. It is a secret key which is calculated newly for every message that’s sent. This session key is used to encrypt the message, applying symmetric encryption.
          Afterwards, asymmetric encryption is used as it has been explained above. The session key and the message are encrypted with Bob’s public key and both – session key and text – are sent to him. He, using his private key, can decrypt the session key with which the text can be decrypted.

          Plain text ------> text encrypted with session key -------> Text and session key encrypted with receiver’s public key

          Decrypt with own private key -------> Decrypt with enclosed session key -------> Plain text

          So far so good – but your data still isn't safe.

          ~~~ Man in the middle attack ~~~

          We imagine the following situation. Alice is sending Bob a message (using asymmetric encryption). She uses the public key of which she thinks that it’s Bob’s, but is isn’t – it actually belongs to another person – we call her Mallory. Mallory now intercepts the email and can read it using his private key. And because Mallory isn’t stupid she then uses Bob’s real public key, encrypts the message with it and forwards it to Bob. He will never notice he never got the text directly from Alice. Even changes to the text could have been done by Mallory and he would never find out.

          But even this problem can be solved; we just use asymmetric encryption but this time the other way round. Security now is not given anymore, because everybody knowing the public key can read the message. Therefore, this is a method to ensure the authentity of a message which is especially known as digital signature.

          ~~~~~~~~~~ Digital signature ~~~~~~~~~~

          Again, Alice wants to send a message to Bob, but this time she wants to make sure that he knows that the message is really from her.

          After having written the email text Alice produces a so-called “Message Digest”. Just imagine it as a long combination of numbers and letters which have been produced by a special algorithm which input was the email text. This message digest would be completely different even if Alice only did a very minor change to the email text.
          This message digest she now encrypts with her own private key and attaches it to the email before she sends it off to Bob. After having found the email in his inbox he uses Alice’s public key to decrypt the message digest. Also he uses the same algorithm on the text he just got. If both message digests – the one Alice sent and the one he produced – are the same then he can be sure that a) Alice was the person who sent the message and b) the text has not been changed by anybody.

          And now we’re finally there. We just have to combine the digital signature with the hybrid encryption and we’ve got what we want: We can be sure the message is sent by the person we think it is from, we can be sure the text hasn’t been altered and we also can be sure that no one else has read the email.

          Alice types the email and produces the message digest.
          1. The message digest is now encrypted using her own private key and attached to the actual text.
          2. The encrypted digest and the text now are encrypted again - with a symmetric session key.
          3. Everything is encrypted again – with the receiver’s public key.

          Now the mail can be sent. Bob is doing the same steps backwards and here it becomes clearer what they were for.

          3. He is using his private key to be able to access the session key. Only he can do this as only he knows his private key!
          2. With the session key he now can decrypt the message digest
          Checking signature
          1. Knowing Alice’s public key he can decrypt the message digest (so he is sure the message has been encrypted using her private key), produce his own message digest and compare the both. Are they the same? Great, the text has not been changed since Alice has sent it.

          That’s it – that’s how programs work. But now enough theory – how can you personally make use of this great system?

          And how to deal with it in reality

          You’re probably glad to hear that you don’t have to bother about encrypting, decrypting, public or private keys: It’s all done by the software you are using.

          The most popular one certainly is PGP. PGP is an acronym for “pretty good privacy” and is available for free, at least in its very basic version – which allows you to encrypt and decrypt emails – and that’s what you want, isn’t it? When you visit the website http://www.pgp.com you will find that there is only a 30 day trial available. This one can be used longer though if you only want the basic functions. Up to version 8.0 (the latest one is 9) PGP was freeware but the functionality still was the same as it now is for the trial version after 30 days.

          After the download and installation of the program you first will have to think of a pass phrase. This code secures your private key – every time you want to use it you have to put it in. Within a few minutes you now can create your own keys. Start the program “PGPkeys”, (right click onto the lock in the task bar) and choose the submenu “new keys”. The further steps should explain themselves. When you’re asked what type of key you want you should pick “RSA” as it contains fewer security risks and is understood also by older PGP versions. Concerning the size you should pick the biggest going. That’s it, your keys will be created now.

          Knowing how PGP is working you now will want to send your public key to the persons you know. As the key is looking like a long text you can just copy it and email it to other people. Or you export it and send it as file to all your friends.

          Of course you also will want to add the keys from your friends into the software. You can do so by copying the key (the text) and clicking “clipboard - decrypt and verify” in the submenu. PGP recognises that you’ve got a new key in your clipboard and an import window opens. You only need to click onto import now, the rest is done automatically.

          Earlier I have been writing about man in the middle attacks. Of course they also can happen here – you need to check whether a key is from the person you think it is from.
          There are basically two ways.

          --- Fingerprint ---
          Every key has a fingerprint which is unique. It is kind of a checksum which is created from the key and worldwide there will only be one key for a certain fingerprint. The finger print originally was a sequence of hexadecimal numbers, but you can get PGP to show you English words instead. You could now call the person of whom you got a key and compare the fingerprint.

          --- sign the key ---

          If you are 10000 per cent sure that the key is correct you can sign it electronically – with your private key. PGP now classifies the key as trustful, but others can profit of it as well. The whole system is called “Web of Trust” and its principle is easy.

          1. You know person A and you trust him.
          2. Person A knows person B and has signed his key
          3. Person B sends you his key. You don’t know person B, but as person A has signed his key and you trust him you automatically assume that B’s key is valid.

          So basically with your signature you guarantee the validity of another key.

          The actual encryption of the emails is now done through your email client. You will find three buttons there that enable you to encrypt and/or sign your email with just one button click. As this might slightly differ depending on the email client you use I advise you just to try it out and if anything use google, you will find plenty of tutorials on how to use PGP.


          With a bit of your time you could make your email communication much safer, even though I must admit that you first have to convince your friends of using PGP too… Still, there are so many benefits of email encryption that everybody should consider doing it. Unfortunately many people don’t seem to be aware of the risks.

          Also I don't want to forget to mention that there is more software around than just PGP - I just picked that program because I think it is easy to use but powerful the same time. Plus it is widely spread.

          Anyway, I hope I haven’t bored you stupid with this “review” and if there are any questions left, just send me a message or post a comment.


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          • More +
            17.01.2007 15:50
            Very helpful



            a useful book that combines grammar, spelling, punctuation and the usage of English

            I have got one big „problem“ - I want to be perfect when it comes to English or languages in general. I don't want to make stupid mistakes, don't want to be in doubt about words, spelling or grammar. Many of you probably aim for the same, especially when it comes to written English.
            But somehow there is always a point when you start asking yourself questions like...

            ...Addendum is the singular, but what's the plural? Is there a difference between „all right“ and „alright“? „As“ or „like“? „Discreet“ or „discrete“? And is it -ise or -ize?

            Either you then just guess and hope to get it right, or you go and look it up.

            The other day I came across a book that promised „quick solutions to everyday spelling, punctuation and grammar problems“. Sounded useful to me and as it was only a couple of pounds (I bought it second hand) I took it to find out whether it's really as useful as the Evening Standard promises on the front cover; whether I really „will never doubt [my] written English again“.

            One more thing before I really start: I've got the book in its second revised and updated edition, the one currently available is the third one. I've looked into it recently and I couldn't spot any differences at the first glance.


            This is the data of the currently available 3rd edition:

            ISBN-10: 1857039475
            ISBN-13: 978-1857039474
            Publisher: How To Books Ltd (2004)
            Author: Angela Burt
            227 pages
            Size: 5.1 x 7.9 inches
            RRP: £8.99

            The 2nd edition is from 2002 and has the ISBN-10: 1857037855

            What the publisher promises

            „The A–Z of Correct English is a reference book which has been
            written for the student and the general reader. It aims to tackle the
            basic questions about spelling, punctuation, grammar and word usage
            that the student and the general reader are likely to ask. Throughout the book there are clear explanations, and exemplar sentences where they are needed. When it’s helpful to draw
            attention to spelling rules and patterns, these are given so that the reader is further empowered to deal with hundreds of related words. The aim always has been to make the reader more confident and increasingly self-reliant. [...]“
            (taken from the introduction by the author)

            Inside the book

            After the introduction by the author there is a page telling you how to use the book. I have the feeling that at this point it already turns out that the book is really written for everybody.
            The author doesn't only tell you that the entries in the books have been listed alphabetically and not thematically but she also lists several examples what alphabetically means. I felt slightly silly reading this, but maybe it's helpful for people who haven't even used a dictionary in their lives...
            Furthermore, she gives examples on how to check the spelling of a word with the help of this book. This part is more helpful as it shows how to use the book and how to quickly find entries and solutions to your problems.

            A big „A“ marks the actual beginning of the reference part.
            Despite the fact that the actual book lists the words alphabeticall,y I will separately look at the four „big topics“ spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage.

            ~~~ spelling ~~~

            What really comes in handy is, that there are many entries with cross references.

            If you're not sure about the initial letter of a word and look it up under its incorrect spelling (e.g. „aquire“) you will still find it with a note that this is the wrong spelling and how it is correctly spelt („see acquire“).
            That means that instead of having to look for all possible spellings you can just look up one and will directly see whether you're right or not.
            The entry of the correctly spelt word usually contains all possible word forms (acquire – acquired, acquiring, acquisition) as well as a note about how you should not spell it ("not aq-"). This I find slightly disturbing as I don't want to know how it is not spelt – I tend to remember such things and then start to doubt about a spelling which I was sure about before. Anyway, that's just my personal opinion, other people can find it useful as it shows the pitfalls you can trap into and makes you more aware of them.

            If, in contrast to the beginning of a word, you are not sure about its ending, the book also can help you. There are several endings listed (e.g. -ly, -ise or -ize) followed by an explanation of the usage, examples and word lists where appropriate.

            The book also lists words where both spellings are correct, for example „spelt/spelled“, or words that are pronounced similar but where spelling and/or meaning are different. („practise or practice“). For the latter the explanation about the differences is quite long and understandable. The book doesn't just say „practise is a verb while practice is a noun“ as many other books do but it gives you several sample sentences as a guide. This also shows again that the book can be used by people who find grammar heavy going and try to prevent it as far as possible.

            ~~~ punctuation ~~~

            Comma or not? How is an exclamation mark used? And what about apostrophes?
            If you look up these words you will find short explanations about the usage. They usually contain one or two sentences about how the mark is used, followed by some examples. Here you can't expect too detailed, in-depth explanations, it's more practically orientated, which I find positive: I especially like the approximately 3 ½ pages about the usage of commas; they give a brief overlook about how and when they are used in English with some clear examples.

            ~~~ grammar ~~~

            Did you ever wanted to know what a pronoun is? Or a preposition? Again, this book tells you in easy language and with examples.
            Comparative and superlative - what is what and how do I form them? There is a long explanation about that issue, including lists of irregular forms and about a common error: The mixing up of both forms („it's more quicker“).
            What are the rules to form plurals – and what about all the irregular ones?
            There is one section about them, just as there is one section about foreign plurals. It tells you how the plural is formed in general and what exceptions there are. For example, there is a list of the words ending in „o“ where the plural is formed by adding „es“ („tomatoes“ etc.) In the list of the foreign plurals words are marked where the foreign plural and the „English plural“ have different meanings (formulae/formulas, antennae/antennas, indices/indexes...).
            The same applies here as for the punctuation – don't expect long explanations and exact rules, if you want that rather go for a grammar book. It's really just to be used in every-day life situations. This is also proven by the fact that only the most basic grammar topics are covered.

            ~~~ usage ~~~

            Who or whom? Raise or rise? What again is the difference between underlay and underlie? Between should and would?
            All this is explained to you, again in easy language and with some sample sentences.
            Even though in general the length of explanations is adequate; for some words I would wish for longer ones.
            One example: The usage of „as or like“. There are only three sentences to show the usage but not a single rule. Personally speaking I would find a rule (in addition to the sentences) quite useful, it's not as if there isn't one. Like that I have to try to derive the rule from the examples given – or to look it up somewhere else.

            ~~~ appendices ~~~

            At the end of the book there are three appendices.
            The first one is a list of literary terms. This section is probably mainly of interest to students who still have do deal with „alliterations“, „euphemisms“ and „zeugmas“. The terms are listed alphabetically and each is explained in one or two sentences. A sample sentence also is included.

            The second appendix is only one page long and called „parts of speeches“. It briefly explains what verbs, adverbs, nouns etc. are and gives examples to each term.

            The third appendix is probably the most useful one, it guides you through the process of „planning, drafting and proofreading“. For each heading it gives you some useful tips how to get through this stage of writing an important essay, letter... successfully.


            This book is suitable for everybody who wants a reference book just concentrating on the problem areas of the English language.
            It's clearly written and you will find answers to most questions and even if you don't have the slightest clue about grammar you will understand the explanations.
            It combines all aspects of the languages and that's the big advantage compared to a dictionary, you just need one book and not one for spelling, one for grammar etc. Furthermore, the book seems to be quite thorough, I have found everything I was looking for – and skimming through it it covers all the words of which the spelling can be troublesome.
            But... If you want in-depths explanations this book certainly is wrong one for you. It can reassure you about the correct spelling of a word or of the correct usage of a speech mark but that's it. If you ask yourself „why is it like that?“ it won't give you answers.

            From the point of view of a non-native though it is only partially useful as there are many entries in the book I never gave a thought about. If you learnt „aren't“ at school you would never get the idea to spell it „are'nt“. (To be honest, I never would have thought that this can cause trouble at all, but since I've been reading on English message boards and review sites several people have proven me wrong...).

            On the other hand the book comes in handy for the little doubts about spelling – and if it's only to ensure that „jewellery“ is just as correct as „jewelry“ or to look up once again the usage of „lie (down)“ and „lay“ and their various forms – something I tend to mix up.
            I also like the part about the usage of commas, considering that I never learnt how to correctly use them in Englisch (My mother tongue has 54 rules about how to use commas, so there is a bit of a difference between the languages).

            For all non-natives who come across this review: If you're looking for a book to help you learning the language rather go for another one, especially if you are beyond advanced level. This book won't answer you typical questions learners have, i.e. „what's the difference between since and for?“.

            For all the others: This book serves its purpose and is probably useful at least to a certain point for most people unless they are experts in the English language.
            It's also interesting just to skim through the book, maybe you find some words you always thought are spelt completely differently?


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              More Comments
            • More +
              02.01.2007 09:17
              Very helpful


              • Reliability


              one of the best Firefox extensions

              I’ve been using Firefox for quite a long time now.
              Firefox is an alternative internet browser for those who don’t want to use the Internet Explorer any longer, out of whatever reasons.
              It is quite basic and offers you the possibility to install extensions (add-ons) to personalize the browser to your own needs. One of the add-ons I don’t want to miss anymore is the “Session Manager”.

              What do I need it for?

              Imagine the following situation: You’ve just performed several searches to find and collect required information. Then it happens. “Warning: unresponsive script […] You can stop the script now, or you can continue to see if the script will complete.” You try everything but nothing helps, you have to close Firefox and all the information is lost. Even if you are lucky and find the sites in your history, that’s wasted time you could use more effective.

              Just one possible scenario in which this extension helps you.

              What does the extension do?

              Session Manager saves the current state of Firefox including the history, the cookies and, most important, the tabs/pages that are opened. All this can be done manually but is done automatically (and unnoticeable to you) in case the browser crashes so that you can restart the browser and restart where you have been interrupted.
              Finally, it saves the URLs of the websites you have visited when you’re closing the window or tab and can restore the last ten of them, which comes very useful if you just accidentally closed them.

              Where do I get it and how does the installation work?

              The add-on is downloadable at https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/2324/ free of charge. To install it just click onto the download button – of course you have to use Firefox when doing that to make the installation as easy as possible. Security policies might prevent you from installing it strait away – a little bar should appear on the top of the Firefox window. Click onto the button “change settings” and allow the website to install add-ons, and then try it again. After the installation you need to restart Firefox in order to get the Session Manager to work.

              Important: The website says this extension only works up to Firefox 1.5. However, I have the latest version running ( and Session Manager is still working perfectly fine. I can’t guarantee though whether this will be the case for everybody.
              (I updated my Firefox from v1.5 where I already had the extension installed and it updated itself. In case the installation doesn’t work with the new Firefox have a look at the comments on the site mentioned above; there is a link to another website from which you can download a file you apparently can install without problems.)
              There won’t be any updates on this extension anymore, all development and user support unfortunately have been suspended.

              How is the extension integrated into Firefox?

              Once you’ve restarted your browser you won’t notice any difference. The Session Manager is “hidden” in the tools menu; there you will see a new entry with submenus that show you all the possibilities.

              In the top part of the submenu you can either save the whole session or the current window; this is done with a simple mouse click onto the respective entry. Just give the session/window a name and that’s it; you now will be able to restore it at any time.

              The second part consists of a list with all the sessions you are able to restore. Automatically saved sessions can be identified by their name; they always are called “Older browsing session (year-month-day time)”. The last session can be found under “previous browsing session” and any other sessions by the name you gave them. I’m not quite sure how many sessions find room there; I’ve got 11 saved at present, which should be enough for most purposes.

              The third part of the menu helps you to administrate the sessions; here you have the possibility to rename or delete them as well as to open the folder in which the files are saved (don’t know what that is good for).

              The options are accessible from the next menu section. You can determine whether a session should be loaded when you restart the browser and if yes which one; just as much as you can set what happens when you close the browser ( “store the current session” or ”delete the current session”). Obviously, the sole purpose of the program is to enable you to restore any lost information so it would not really be advisable to change this point to “delete the current session”.
              It’s also possible to set the order how the sessions appear in the list, how many back-up copies are made or how many windows/tabs should be stored. Here the basic setting is 10, which should be enough in most cases, but if you know you regularly use more at the same time don’t forget to change this setting.

              Finally, you get a list of the closed windows and closed tabs in the last two sections of the menu; every window/tab including its history can be restored with a single mouse click.

              And how do I actually use it?

              When you’re surfing you won’t take any notice of the extension, but then it happens, you’ve closed a windows you want back. Thanks to the extension it’s easy, just go to the menu, click the menu entry and there you are – your information is saved.
              To make things more comfortable, you can add two items to the toolbar. (Just make a right click onto it and choose “customize”, there should be two items in the opening windows (“undo sites” and “session manager”) you can simply drag onto the toolbar). These items allow you to access all functions without having to click through the menu.

              Now the worse case – Firefox crashed. After you’re restarted it a little box will appear, asking you whether – and if so which – session you would like to restore. Choose the previous session from the list (“current session”) or pick an older one and with one mouse click Firefox opens with all windows and tabs as they have been before. You might be asked to re-sent information (“post data”) like passwords though – and you might lose information you have written into text fields and not sent yet. On some sites though even those information are re-created, I couldn’t figure out yet when that’s the case though, so rather stick to the habit of copying a text several times while you are writing it.

              My experience and conclusion

              I have been using the extension for at least half a year now and I’m completely satisfied with it – it’s certainly one of the most useful add-ons I have come across over the months.
              Up to now, my sessions have always been saved and restored reliably – no data losses anymore which I am really happy about. (I’m usually surfing with lots of open tabs, especially when I search for information). Also I always open the same internet sites when I open my browser and this extension is saving me the time to do it manually.

              Usage is as simple as possible and completely intuitive – no endless reading of help files or manuals is required. As most add-ons it doesn’t need much room on your hard disk either. Also, it never interfered with my Firefox and never caused any trouble.

              The only negative things certainly are that there isn't any user support anymore (even though there never was a situation where I would have needed it in) and, worse, that no updates are planned. That already prevented people who wanted to use this extension from updating to Firefox 2.0 (I updated quite late myself so that I never encountered any problems) and will certainly cause inconveniences again when Firefox is updated to a new version in the future.

              Altogether, I can recommend it for anybody – especially if you want more than one homepage or just piece of mind while you’re surfing on the internet, it is a really, really useful tool. Due to the lack of update possibilities I will only award four stars though.


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              • Skip-Bo / Card Games / 60 Readings / 56 Ratings
                More +
                09.12.2006 18:47
                Very helpful



                great game for everybody

                Skip-Bo – a funny name for a card game, isn’t it? I admit that I thought the same when I first saw it. I must have been about six years of age and my great-aunt gave it to me for my birthday. I preferred games I knew from nursery or TV so I wasn’t too keen first – but soon I started to love that game and so I do still today, nearly 16 years later.

                Skip-Bo has been played in families for more than 40 years now, but surprisingly it’s not half as popular as for example Uno is and it is suitable for 2 to 6 players from 7 years of age.
                The age recommendation sounds fine to me; I played it around that age and never had any trouble with the rules. But what’s just as important: It’s a game for the whole family, grandparents can play it with their grandchildren and neither side will get bored.

                Amazon.co.uk has it in stock for £5.99, a price the game certainly is worth. On the marketplace the by Mattel manufactured game is sold from 4.75 onwards.

                What is the game all about?

                What you’re aiming for is to be the first player to get rid of all their cards in the stock pile. This would be easy enough, if not certain rules applied. The most important one: The cards have to be placed onto only up to four building piles in order from 1 to 12. Sounds irritating? Come on and join me, we’re playing a game, you soon will understand the rules.

                Playing Skip-Bo

                The game includes 144 cards – that’s 12 sets of cards from 1 to 12. On top of that there are 18 joker cards with the lettering “Skip-Bo” on it.
                Do you help me scrambling the cards? As you see they’ve got an ordinary size and are quite stable, so they won’t be damaged too quickly. I’ve been using these cards quite a lot over the last years but they still look like new.

                Now each of us gets 30 cards to put onto theirwo STOCK PILE. This amount depends on the number of people playing and is stated in the instructions. Only turn the most upper card around to see the number on it, you are not allowed to glance at the others. The rest of the cards I put into the middle of the table, they make our DRAW PILE; of course they are faced down as well.

                I’ve dealt the cards, so you start with the game. Actually, it’s usually up to the player sitting left to the person who has dealt the cards to start, but you can vary that, in my family it’s kind of a tradition that the youngest player has the first turn.

                You now take five cards from the draw pile. Look at them carefully. If there is a card with a 1 amongst them you can play it – put it into the middle of the table, it is the fundament of a BUILDING PILE. (Or, in other words, you can only start a new building pile with a “1” or a joker).
                If the top card of your stock pile is a “1” you should play that first; in that case you turn around the second card on your pile after you’d played the first one. You can go on as long as you have got cards to place onto the building pile in numerical order from 1 to 12.
                So if after playing the “1” you have got a card with a “2” as well, you can play that. If you’ve got another “1” you can start another building pile – up to four are allowed. In case you can play all your five cards you can draw another five cards from the draw pile. But don’t forget to keep an eye on your stock pile! Always play those cards first!

                Now let’s see… You played a 1 and a 2 but don’t have a 3 (or don’t want to play it to prevent me from getting rid of the “4” on my stock pile… Clever you!), so you’ve finished your turn now, yes? The rules say that to finish your turn, you have to place one of your cards onto a DISCARD PILE in front of you, the cards lying face up. Think about which card you take well, as only four of these piles are allowed. If you already have got four in front of you, you have to overlay one of the cards, but keep in mind that you only can play the top card of each pile. So it’s advised to build piles with cards of the same numbers, e.g. put one 8 onto a pile where’s already an “8” on top etc.

                Now it’s my turn. I draw my cards from the stock pile and…Ha! Joker! The name already suggests it; this card can be used as any number. So, let me see… Joker, 4, 5, 6… 12. I’ve just put the 12 onto a building pile; this means that it is removed to make room for a new one. The cards are put aside and late are used for the draw pile again. I’ve finished my turn now, so you go on. Take as many cards from the draw pile as you need to have five in your hand again (this will be at least one as you always have to put one onto your discard piles) and then… well, you know how it works now, don’t you?

                The person who first got rid of all their cards from their stock pile has won that round. If you like, you can play several rounds; in this case the winner gets 25 points plus five points on top for every card the opponents have in their stock pile. Who has the most points after a set amount of rounds has won.


                To make it more interesting, you can vary the rules.

                ~~~ Partners~~~

                Obviously, this only makes sense if you have at least four players taking part in the game.
                The rules basically are the same as for the single player game, just that two persons make a team, they don’t have to sit next to each other as they are not allowed to know what card the team-member has in their hands. So what’s the point of the team then? Well, team-members are allowed to use the others person’s top card from the stock pile as well as their cards from the discard piles. Only the player whose turn it is, is allowed to decide what cards to use though and he/she has to give instructions to their partner, e.g. “Please place your seven from your (second) discard pile onto the (third) building pile” or “Please use your Skip-Bo-card/joker as five”. The partners are not allowed to give each other any hints during the game, if they do though one of them has to get two cards from the draw pile and put them to the bottom of their own stock pile. A team has won, when both players got rid of their cards. From the point that one player has used all his cards from the draw pile he/she goes on playing with their cards from the discard pile, the hand – and the partners cards.

                ~~~ Short version ~~~

                If you want to finish a game quicker, just play with smaller draw piles. Recommended are 10 cards for each player, but of course you can vary hat. Personally, I think 10 cards are too few – if anything, I play with 20. Otherwise, if somebody is really lucky, the game could already be over after just two or three turns.

                My opinion

                I don’t think you could miss that I really enjoy playing this game. It’s great to play with two players and every round is different, it’s never predictable how it ends.
                Plus, everything can turn so quickly – that one player could get rid of 10 cards directly in the beginning certainly doesn’t mean that he’s going to win the game. You can easily leave it for a while (if the kids are hungry, somebody’s at the door, the relatives want their tea…) and get back to it. An average game takes good 20 to 30 minutes if you play with 30 cards per player. But I also had games that have been finished far quicker or took longer.

                Also, a lot of tactics can be involved into that game; the more experienced you are with playing it, the more you will notice it. That you can play a card doesn’t mean that you also have to play it… And you can nicely spoil other people’s turns with holding back a card they would need. But that’s something even younger kids will find out soon (I remember vividly how mad my great uncle went with me when he found out that I did exactly that!) and in the end all the tactics don’t help if you don’t have a big portion of luck with you as nobody knows what happens next.

                Another plus: You don’t need to be highly concentrated all the time as you only can influence the game when it’s your turn anyway. It can nicely be played while having a chat to the other players as well or even whilst watching TV with your partner.

                The rules are easy, even if in the beginning all the piles might be a bit irritating. But having played it once or twice it’s absolutely clear how things work.

                And finally the biggest plus: It’s a game for the whole family. A seven-year-old can beat a 40-year-old, a 90-year-old a 20-year-old. As soon as children know the numbers from 1 to 12 and can count in that range they can join the game, even though there is a special version for children meanwhile.

                Altogether a simple concept that works and a game that never gets boring. But take your time when you want to play it, it’s addictive!


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                • More +
                  30.11.2006 21:44
                  Very helpful



                  absolutely worth a visit

                  When I’m somewhere in a fairly big city I’m always looking for possibilities to relax and enjoy the silence, far away from traffic and busy people. This applies for holidays just as much as for my every day life and one nice place to do so is the “Westfalenpark” in Dortmund, Germany.

                  Some information about Dortmund

                  Dortmund is situated in the west of Germany. To be more precise: It’s belonging to the federal state of “North-Rhine-Westphalia” and is in the region of the “Ruhrgebiet” (after the river Ruhr). With its 588.168 inhabitants it is the sixth-biggest city in Germany. Formerly well-known because of its coal- beer- and steal-industry, it now is an important IT- and service industry location. Dortmund also is famous for its football team “Borussia Dortmund” and quite a few of you probably have heard of the city as one of the hosts during this year’s football championship in Germany.

                  The park in general

                  They call it the “green oasis”. And they are right. When you first enter the park, you will be stunned of its size and beauty. On about 60 ha you’ll find big lawns, partly with deck chairs to relax or sunbathe. If you want to be more active, you can walk around in the park on several main paths – and if you want to be by yourself, even on a busy day, just change on one of the hundreds of small side paths. All along the way, you will find bigger or smaller beds with thousands of lovely and colourful flowers you can look at, just as much as you’ll find little ponds and banks to stop and enjoy the sight. But that’s not everything yet, the park provides a lot more.

                  ~~~ Florian tower (Florianturm) ~~~

                  The Florian tower can be found in the North East of the part – it’s a TV tower with a height of 219.60 m (338.00m above sea level). Some trivia: When it was build in 1959 it was the highest building in Germany. If you want to have a not so usual place for lunch or dinner this is the place for you: In a height of 137.46m the tower hosts a rotating restaurant with two whole rotations per hour. Prices for the meals are very reasonable and the view from there is stunning. You have to pay a small extra fee to get into and onto the tower, which is 1.40 EUR if you buy a combined ticket (park entry + tower) or 1.70 EUR if you just buy a ticket for the tower.

                  ~~~ Rosarium ~~~

                  The Rosarium collects roses from all over the world. Along the so-called “Rosenweg” (rose trail) and in several rose gardens, about 3000 different species and varieties of roses are shown – the third largest collection in the world. Each garden informs about the diversity of the roses, their history, classification, breeding and above all the presentation and use in the art of garden design. It’s completely integrated into the “Westfalenpark” and therefore there’s no need to pay extra fees to see it.

                  ~~~ Backhaus ~~~

                  The “baking house” was built in 1989 in the style of a house from the 18th century. Several times a week there is a baker making fresh stone-baked bread which is sold to the visitors. Tastes gorgeous!!! Unfortunately I couldn’t find any information on the website of the park about on which days the bread is baked, so it seems to be a matter of luck.

                  ~~~ German cookery book museum (Deutsches Kochbuchmuseum) ~~~

                  The cookery book museum is situated in the west of the park nearby the “Backhaus”. In its small exhibition it doesn’t only show cookery books, but also old kitchen appliances from the 19th century and up to 1960. Again, entrance is free.

                  ~~~ Gallery Torfhaus (Galerie Torfhaus) ~~~

                  Also arts find their place in the park. There are numerous sculptures, placed between the roses, under trees or on the lawns. In the gallery “Torfhaus” pictures of local painters are shown – and on the odd occasion this gallery even is host of more famous artists (e.g. Luigi Colani).

                  ~~~ Geological garden (Geologischer Garten) ~~~

                  The “geological garden” shows you all about the development of plants over the history. Starting from the central element, a “clock” of stone with a clockface showing different eras in the history of the earth, several paths, marked by different coloured paving stones, lead you through the eras. Plants and stones that are placed next to each other developed in the same age, e.g. the stone age.

                  ~~~ Sun energy forum (Sonnenenergieforum) ~~~

                  Here you find interesting information about sun energy. Fair enough, it’s probably only interesting if you understand German, but I’ll mention it here though. It shows you all about wind energy, water power, saving energie, the water circulation or the beginning of sun energy. You can learn about the use of modern forms of energies, sun collectors, wind converters etc.

                  ~~~ Beachvolleyball, Boule, chess (“Schach”) and pedal boats ~~~

                  There are three beach volleyball fields close to the main entrance. I never showed much interest in them, so unfortunately I can’t tell you whether the use of them is free and whether you can rent balls to play with.

                  In the café Pusteblume you can rent boule sets for free.

                  It’s also possible to play open air chess (“Schach”) – the chess figures you get at the entrance “Florianstraße”.

                  And finally, if you want to make a short trip onto the water, you can lend pedal boats for 3.80 EUR / 30 minutes and use them at the big lake (“Buschmühlenteich”).

                  There are maps on several places in the park just as much as there are signs telling you what you can find in either direction and helping you not to lose orientation.

                  The park with children

                  If you’re on holidays with kids, you of course always also are interested in whether a place is suitable for children. Regarding this park I can promise you that your kids will love it.

                  ~~~ child wagons (Bollerwagen) ~~~

                  For the little ones you can rent child wagons for free. They are perfect to pull them through the park and the same time put drinks, food etc. into them. Just go to the entrance “Ruhrallee” (the main entrance) and ask for a “Bollerwagen”

                  ~~~ small train (Kleinbahn) ~~~

                  A small train takes you onto a round trip through the park. Trains leaves regularly on every Sunday (if the weather is nice) between 10.00 and 18.00 and a ride costs 1 EUR for children between 4 and 15 and 2.50 EUR for an adult. Children under 4 can get onto the train for free if they are accompanied by an adult.

                  ~~~ cable car (Seilbahn) ~~~

                  If you want to go from the north to the south end of the park but are too lazy to walk you can use the cable car. It’s 500m long and in about 10m height it goes regularly on every Sunday (providing the weather is nice) with a speed of 2.5m/sec. A ride costs 1.50 EUR for adults and 1.00 EUR for children.

                  ~~~ Langnese playground (Langnesespielplatz) ~~~

                  This is a playground for the smaller children. If you wander what “Langnese” means: It’s the German brand name of “Walls” ice cream. It can be found in the west of the park and provides a “sand paradise”, a castle to play on, tricycles and pedal cars, water to play with and a lot more.

                  ~~~ Robinson playground (Robinsonspielplatz) ~~~

                  THE playground for children from ~ 4/5 to 80 (yes, I have seen plenty of daddies and grandpas playing there…). Here you find everything that belongs to a proper playground and more: swings, slides, jungle gyms, a pirate ship or even a pond with tons you can get into and navigate over the pond with a long stick. Parents can sit down at the several banks and watch their children, toilets and a kiosk are nearby as well.

                  ~~~ Spielbogen ~~~

                  The “playing curve” is a 1.8km long path with a lot of things to do for children. I used to love it as a child, as it offers different “stations” every few metres with something new to experience. Climb and play, slide and build, everything is possible here. It’s ideal for children of any age and a part of it is the…

                  ~~~ Sehen, Hören, Fühlen-Parcours ~~~

                  See, hear and feel, this ist he topic all along this part of the “Spielbogen”. Walls, with stuff on it that makes noises – or with forms to feel, mirrors that make you look funny, kaleidoscopes, beams or disks to balance on, a big ton to run in, like in a hamster wheel, jungle gyms, little trampolines, visual illusions and much more.

                  ~~~ Minigolf ~~~

                  Since last year it has been possible to play mini golf in the park, I’m not 100% sure about the prices but think that they are around 2.50 EUR per person. The course is in the west of the park close to the main entrance.

                  ~~~ Regenbogenhaus ~~~

                  And last but not least there is the “Regenbogenhaus” – the rainbow house. It’s a place for children to play, paint, bake, do crafts or juggle. A place, where paintings etc. by children are shown to the public. A place, where you can rent several toys. Where you find a water playground”and low ropes just as much as jungle gyms. And finally a place where regularly action programs for children take place, usually Sundays. Magicians are there, they can build and play with wood or learn how to juggle.

                  ~~~ frog jumping ~~~

                  On ten trampolines children and adults can jump into the sky. Unfortunately it’s not free, eight minutes cost 2 EUR, a ten-time ticket 15 EUR.

                  seasonal highlights/fests

                  Depending on the season, there are several fests or other highlights in the park. Always have a look before you go there, maybe there is something interesting for you!

                  Here are my personal highlights:

                  “Lichterfest” – a light fest. It usually takes place around August time and is just wonderful. All trees are decorated with lights, hundreds of tea lights are placed on the lawns and make wonderful figures and in the flower beds you find flambeaus. Altogether, there are 60 000(!) lights all over the park. All day long artists amuse children and adults and in the late evening there is a stunning firework, with rackets being fired in the rhythm of music. If you ever have the possibility to be there around that time you should not miss that – I had the possibility to see it twice so far and it is just w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l.

                  The jumble sales. A jumble sale? How boring, you might think now. No, it’s not. At least half of the park is full with traders, all private ones, so compared to the usual market you will not only find people wanting to sell electrical crap or fan articles. You should take your time if you want to go there – I never managed to see everything.

                  “EDEKA Familientag” – EDEKA family day. (EDEKA is a supermarket chain in Germany). This is a day for the whole family, with live bands for old and young (fair enough, most are probably not known internationally but big stars in Germany) and children carousels, stalls with food and so on. Entrance fee usually is about 15 EUR per person and it’s certainly worth a visit, especially when you have children.

                  St. Martin – St. Martin is one of the most popular saint’s days on November, 11th. The story tells that Martin, a Roman soldier, split his cape into two with his sword and gave one part to a poor beggar sitting in the cold.
                  Children in Germany go out with their usually self-made paper lanterns on that day and, in a procession, follow a horse ridden by “St. Martin”. Usually every nursery school or primary school has an own procession, but in the park there is a big one. I had the chance to see it once and it is lovely, all the kids, proudly holding their lanterns and singing songs in Martin’s honour.

                  There are several more highlights all over the year, concerts, festivals, fireworks, laser shows, theme days (e.g. Italian night) or markets (e.g. Halloween market) so keep your eyes open if you ever are in Dortmund.

                  What else you need to know…

                  Toilets: There are several toilets in the park which all can be used for free. They are usually clean and toilet paper should be provided. There also are two toilets for disabled, one at the main entrance and one at the “Rizz”.

                  diaper-changing room: There are two rooms available. One is at the eastern end of the “Buschmühlenteich” (the big lake); the keys can be collected at the entrance “Hörde”. The other one is at the main entrance, you can get the keys for it at the entrance.

                  Restaurants: Apart from the restaurants in the tower, there are 10 more restaurants and kiosks all over the park. Prices are still acceptable, but taking your own food is far cheaper of course. There also is a beer garden and a place where in summer barbecues take place.

                  Dogs are allowed in the park, but only on short leads. Look out for signs, as you usually are not allowed to go onto the playgrounds with them. At the entrances you get bags to pick up the little “presents” your dog left.

                  How to get there

                  The park is easy to reach by public transport; two underground lines stop close to it: the U 47 and the U49. Disembark at the station “Westfalenpark” and just follow the signs.
                  If you come by car you best check the way online, as there are several possibilities depending on where you come from. If you are already in the city follow the tower symbol. Room for parking is available, but you will be charged (dirt cheap in comparison to NCP though…).

                  Opening times, admission fees etc.

                  How much you have to pay depends on the time of the year you want to visit the park – which is understandable, as the maintenance in summer is far more expensive than in winter time. Also it depends on whether you just want to visit the park or whether you want to get onto the tower as well. Children under 6 get free entrance.

                  From November to February they charge you 1 EUR per person, one adult (parent, grandparent) with all their children pays 2 EUR, parents/grandparents with all their children 2 EUR. I’m not 100% sure of the admission fee in summer time, but it’s never more than around 3 EUR/person. If you enter the park past 18.00 hrs you usually get a discount.

                  The park has several entrances which have several opening times. The main one – what a joke – is the one opening latest and closing earliest; you can enter the park from 10.00 to 18.00 there. Two entrances – Florianstraße and Florianturm – are opened from 9.00 respectively 10.00 („Florianturm“) to 23.00 hrs. All the others allow you to enter the park between 9.00 and 21.00 hrs. You can leave the park at any time – if you wanted to you could stay all night long.

                  Unfortunately there is no English website about the park; the only thing you can find on Dortmund’s English site is this here

                  From there there’s a link to the German site which is http://westfalenpark.dortmund.de/ ; maybe somebody can use it.

                  My opinion

                  The park is a lovely place to go to – whether you want to go by yourself, with your partner or with the whole family. Even when it’s busy you will find a quiet place to sit down and relax, to enjoy the sun and watch your kids playing. For kids it’s a paradise as well, I vividly remember how I loved visits to the park when I was a child with its plenty of room to run around, to play and to have fun without anybody complaining.

                  My personal favourite place now is the Japanese garden, you’ll find it if you head towards the “Robinson” playground or if you just walk along the play path. It’s lovely laid out with it’s pond in the middle and the stones leading through it, so that you actually can walk across the water. I also love the quiet places along the side walks, sitting on a bank in front of a small pond; just the nature and me, you can’t beat it.

                  And the best: The park is that big, even though I’ve been there plenty of times in my life I still find places I’ve never been at. The flowers are perfectly arranged and it leaves me without words when they all are blooming in summer time. And I probably don’t need to mention that the roses look fantastic as well.

                  The best time to visit the park – well, there is none. If you want to see all flowers in full bloom you should go around mid June, early July; they usually start planting them in mid May. If you prefer having the park nearly to yourself go between October/November and February/March or on a weekday – I’ve been there last May when my partner was in Germany and it was really empty, even though the weather was quite good.

                  You should plan to spend at least four hours in the park, that’s if you just go for a walk there and the weather is not good enough to sit down somewhere for a longer time. If you do all that – and maybe even have children with you – you quite happily can spend six hours up to a whole day there. If you have the time I strongly recommend getting onto the train for a round trip, it gives you a good idea of where’s what in the park.

                  The value you get for your money is brilliant and also in the park prices are not too high. I would recommend for you to take you own foods and drinks though.

                  All in all: The park is absolutely worth a visit and I would give ten stars if it was possible.


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                  • MediaMan / Utility / 63 Readings / 58 Ratings
                    More +
                    23.11.2006 09:33
                    Very helpful


                    • Reliability


                    try it!

                    I’m addicted to books – I already own more than 500 and my wish list still is long. Everybody who has the same weakness knows, that after a while, you’re quite likely to lose count of how many books you have, and even more important, of what books you have! Not only once I was close to buying a book that’s already waiting in my bookshelf to be read. As that happened again and again I decided that I had to do something about it – and that’s how I came across “MediaMan”.

                    What is MediaMan?

                    MediaMan is a software product that helps you organizing your own media. With this program you can create a media catalogue with groups for different types of media (books, CD’s, DVDs, software…) and add every single item you own. Sounds like a lot of work? Seriously, it isn’t. The programmers added a nice feature: You can import items from amazon (Great Britain, United States, Germany, Japan, Canada and France). The only thing you have to do is to put in is the ISBN, the barcode number or the title – the rest is automatically done by the software for you.

                    Where do I get MediaMan and what are the costs?

                    You can download MediaMan on the internet; the company’s website is http://www.imediaman.com/. The software is an evaluation free trial that can be used for 30 days; after that a full license can be purchased from the website for USD $39.95.
                    Quite a bit of money – but there are good news. If you don’t insist on using the latest version (which is v 2.6.5) you can get MediaMan for free in the version 2.2.1. The developers don’t mention that on their website, but all over the internet you find websites where you can download it from – completely legally of course. One of them is http://www.freeware-guide.com - or just google and you’ll find many more. Some of you might be bewildered about that now, but there’s an easy explanation: In the early days MediaMan was Freeware; it only went commercial with the version 2.3.

                    As I can’t see the point of spending so much money on a product I can get for free, I will refer to the freeware version in my review. A change log is available on the company’s website though, for those who are considering to buy the software.


                    The software can be run under Windows 98/ME/2000/XP and is very easy to install. Once you’ve downloaded the installation file (which is quickly done; the file only has a size of 5.12MB) you can start the installation with a double click. After having accepted the licence agreement you just need to choose the path and that’s it – the installation starts.

                    Using the software
                    Now you know what the software is all about, but is it really easy to handle or do you need a university degree before being able to use it? No, you certainly don’t.

                    Once you’ve started MediaMan, you see the start screen. It’s separated into three parts and very clear and easy to understand. On the left there’s a list called “your collection”, providing separate folders for different media types – AudioCD, Books, DVD, Games, Software and VHS Tape.
                    On the right you see task shotcuts, which come quite handy; you don’t need to look through the menu for hours to find something, but you can start immediately.

                    Start – that’s my cue, let’s see what we can do with the software.
                    If you want to have a catalogue with the given categories you don’t need to change anything, otherwise you can customize it. Simply delete the categories you don’t need (with one single click) and add new ones (with exactly two further clicks). I only want to catalogue books, so I created two categories – books and reference books.

                    Now the most important question – how do I get the items into the catalogue? Well, there are basically two ways, one is short and the other one takes more time. We’ll have a look at the short and easy one first: Add the items with the Media Item Wizzard. One click onto the icon in the menu bar and the wizard opens. It tells you what is it for and with a click onto “ok” the procedure starts. The next window consists of four fields. The first one is an input field; here you simply add the ISBN, a barcode number or the title. The last three are lists where you choose the media type, the site (Amazon Great Britain, United States, Germany…) and the category you want to add the medium to.

                    Below these fields there’s a button saying “Scan Barcode from Webcam…”. Behind this another feature of the software is hidden: if you have a webcam installed and plugged in you can try to scan the bar code, the software then recognizes the medium automatically. So far the theory, but does it really work? Well, I’ve tried it twice or so and it has never worked at all, so I’ve given up.

                    With the next click of OK the software searches for matching items on the selected amazon website. These are then shown to you in a list; if you hold the mouse over one entry you see the details of the item. If everything is correct click again – and… that’s it, the item is now in your catalogue.

                    Now the window you see consists of four parts, with one newly added one in the middle: The list of the items you’ve added to the selected category. On the right you see the cover of the book (providing you have added a book of course) and the details from amazon – e.g. media (paperback, hardback), the publisher, the publication date, the date the book has been added to your catalogue, the authors, the ISBN, the amazon description and customer reviews. Really everything you need to know. The same applies for all other media – if you’ve added a CD you see the studios, the label, the artist, the track list etc., if you’ve added a DVD the date it came into the cinemas, the actors, the directors, the audience rating, the aspect ratio etc.

                    As the main work is done now we can have a look at the other features of the software. With the edit function you can edit every item you’ve added. You can add missing information (e.g. the amount of pages, the original title, the translators, the photo…) – or add new information that might be important to you. Among them are

                    - the status (lent, borrowed, rented out, rented, just bought, sold out, on the way, favourite)
                    - the description (you can add free text and even format it with HTML)
                    - notes (more information in addition to the status, e.g. to whom the item is lent to, the time you should get it back, free notes)
                    - the price

                    Furthermore you can specify seven custom fields which allow you to really add everything you would like to. I find that extremely useful as I like to make a note on where the book is (in the attic, in my bookshelf, in Germany or England…) or what date I read it.

                    If you add the items by dialogue you have to add everything manually by the way; I would only recommend doing that if you’ve got old or rare books that are not found on any amazon website.

                    Another nice feature is the possibility of choosing between four different views. This affects the list of items – and I like it as it can make your catalogue easier to use. You can have your books listed as

                    - icons
                    - compact list (only the title of the medium is shown)
                    - expanded list (apart from the title you also see the authors and the publisher)
                    - and finally, the virtual shelf. This is a great view if you only remember the cover of a medium as it shows you all the covers, always four in a row.

                    This list also can be sorted by the way; by authors, titles, publishers, by date added or status - or even by translators. Of course there is also a search function integrated which allows you to find an item even quicker.

                    Now, once you’ve spent quite a bit of time with filling your personal catalogue you – of course – want to save it. This is done by a click of the disk in the menu bar; you just have to choose a name for your file. The next time you start MediaMan it is automatically loaded. The file is not too big either, I have got about 530 items in my catalogue and the file has a size of approx. 7 MB.
                    You also have the possibility of exporting you collection to RTF or CSV (Microsoft Excel) files, which is great if you want to make a back-up or import the data into another program.

                    Oh, I nearly forgot - If you want to shock yourself and see how many books, CDs, DVDs… you own, you can have a look at the statistics which show you the exact number of items in each category. You can export the data to a CSV file as well.

                    Of course you can customize the software as well; there are several options you can set. You can automatically save the collection every x minutes, you can use automatic backup, resize images, change the interface mode (full frame/wide frame), select fields to display in the expanded view mode, choose the default Amazon store to retrieve information, change category items etc.


                    I am completely satisfied with this software product. It is easy to use and adding the single items goes as quick as somehow possible. The idea to make use of the amazon databases is brilliant and the fact, that the program in this is available for free makes it even better – I can’t think of anything that would be missing in this version and that you would really, really need. It’s a stable version without any bugs as well - or let’s just say without any bugs I would have noticed. I can only recommend it to everybody who has lost count of their books, CDs or DVDs – I certainly now always have a look into my catalogue first before I order a book and so that I’ll never be close to buying the same book twice anymore.


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                    • More +
                      15.11.2006 06:50
                      Very helpful



                      I would buy it again

                      As I’m studying Computer Science / Computer Engineering, I (unfortunately) have to deal with Maths on a nearly daily basis. We are not allowed to use any calculators in the four Maths exams (neither in Electrical Engineering, Physics, Hardware Engineering…) but for home use I wanted to buy myself a calculator to a) control my results (nothing is more annoying than calculating and calculating over several pages and then having to find out that there’s a mistake in first few lines) and to b) get a result quickly when I don’t have my laptop with my beloved math software around.
                      After some thinking I decided to get the Texas Instrument (TI) Voyage 200 as I’ve always been very happy with my TI calculators in the past.

                      What it looks like

                      The TI Voyage 200 is about 18cm x 11cm x 2cm (W x H x D) and has a quite attractive shape. As you can see on the product photo it is grey and has a big display, sized 9x5cm on the left side. This one has a green background whereas the characters are displayed in black. The contrast is very good, you can read everything clearly. The calculator has a weight of about 396g which is ok for its size and functions.

                      On the right there is a keypad as you know it from all ordinary calculators – the numbers from 0 to 9, brackets, operators, sinus, cosines, pi etc. Above that there are arrow keys as well as some keys for the control of the calculator.
                      On the left side you find a keyboard as you know it from your home computer – TI sells this calculator worldwide with the “English” keyboard layout.
                      The person who designed the layout has well done, the positions of the keys is very cleverly chosen what makes it easy and comfortable to use the calculator. They are quite small, but if you don’t have too big hands they are still fine. The only downside: Proper typing won’t work on this small keyboard. If accidentally you touch another key while pressing one it won’t lead to a wrong input as you have to press down the keys relatively hard.
                      Most keys have to functions, these are clearly labelled and the position of the functions makes sense.

                      The calculator comes with a grey transparent cover to protect its surface from scratches and other damages. Furthermore, both, the calculator as well as the cover have four gummy knobs which prevents the calculator from slipping on the table too much.

                      The connectors for the data cable are on the back of the calculator and are easy to reach. When the cable is plugged in you still can put the table onto the desk. The battery case is on the bottom and is slightly difficult to open, but as you don’t have to do that too often it doesn’t matter that much.

                      technical details

                      Technical details – of course - should never completely miss in a review, so here’s a list of the most interesting ones.

                      available ROM: 2,7 MB
                      available RAM: 188 KB
                      high resolution display: 128 x 240 Pixel
                      Processor: 10 MHz
                      Compatible to all TI-92 software applications
                      Connection to the PC via graph link or graph link USB possible
                      Connection between two calculators is possible
                      NO serial interface
                      14 positions (pre- and post decimal positions) for real and complex numbers
                      batteries: 4 x AAA

                      features and functions

                      Let’s have a look at the features then, shall we? This will probably be the longest part of the review as there are plenty of them – too many to show and explain all of them here.
                      There are two different groups of features, on the one hand the “normal” functions and on the other hand the functions that are run by installed applications.

                      ~~~ Applications ~~~

                      When you buy the calculator there are already some pre-installed applications. Those are – depending on the user – more or less useful and relevant. Altogether, the installation of more than 50 programs is possible, where some might be maths related programs, but others games like Tetris. You find them on the internet, they are usually available for free download.
                      To make it easier to manage all the different applications it is possible to put them into different groups.

                      Here a short description of the pre-installed applications:

                      - Cabri Geometry: A geometry software that enables you to draw different forms on the calculator
                      - CellSheet – This program enables you to interchange data with Microsoft Excel
                      - Clock: An embedded clock. This clock makes it possible for you to use the calculator as organizer, but also enables you to make time-critical experiments and simulations.
                      - Data/Matrix Editor: Here you comfortably can create matrices and work with them.
                      - Finance: An application for finance mathematics
                      - Graph: Enables you to draw graphs
                      - Polynomal Root Finder: Finds polynomial roots (numerically)
                      - Program Editor: An editor for you to write your own applications for your TI Voyage
                      -Simultaneous Equations Solver: Solves quadratic and non-quadratic equations (numerically)
                      - Stats/List Editor: Applications for statistics and probability calculations
                      - Study Cards: An application based on a well known system of learning vocabulary etc. You can embed graphics and texts to study anywhere
                      - Math Guide: Helps you to calculate and simplify certain types of integrals, derivations, equations of all kinds, polynomial functions or just simple expressions.
                      The last program is the one I certainly use most often, because you can choose the next step out of a list. That makes the application a great one to find mistakes in the own calculation as you get all extensions. It’s also great to try out whether another method leads you to the same result.
                      -Geometer's Sketchpad: Another geometry application
                      - TextEditor: A text editor ;-)
                      Y=Editor: An editor in which you quickly can put in functions which can be automatically drawn.

                      ~~~ Functions ~~~

                      Apart from that, there are the “normal” functions the calculator knows. Here, on the one hand, I have to mention the “CAS” (Computer Algebra System). It includes (among other things) symbolic infinitesimal calculus and symbolic algebra.

                      The well-known mathematical functions are – of course - also known by the calculator. On top of it it masters the calculation with complex numbers, the transformation between different number systems (and the calculation with e.g. hexadecimal numbers), hyperbolic and trigonometric calculations etc.

                      The transformation between unit and the calculation with constants does just as much belong to the range of features as graphical functions (rotation, work with 3D-graphics, graphical design with polar coordinates…) and static functions (histograms, scatter plots, combination and permutation, random numbers…).
                      Also for the work with matrices the calculator is of much use. Eigen-values, eigen-vectors, matrices with symbolic elements... Certainly a piece of cake – no, not for me, but for the TI Voyage.
                      And if that’s not enough for you yet, it’s even possible to define your own functions.

                      All in all an enormous amount of functions of which hardly anybody needs every single one. And keep in mind: It’s only a small selection I’ve mentioned here now. Even after now nearly two years I’m still surprised what the calculator can do.

                      To make the use more comfortable, the calculator allows to you change most settings. The language is one of them, but you can also choose the display of the graphs (“function”, “parametric”, “polar”…), the amount of positions or the unit of angles (radian, degree). Of much use is the possibility to use the screen in split screen modus.

                      Price and where to get it

                      Those, who now think – phew, this is probably expensive… Are unfortunately right. The price for the calculator is around £170 - £180 (incl. VAT) and if you want extras you’d be charged even more. Whether you want to spend so much money on a calculator – well, that’s of course up to you, but I think that the TI Voyage is worth its money IF you need most of the functions. If you just want to add two and two together it’s certainly too expensive.

                      You find the calculator online on amazon.co.uk or www.calculators-online.co.uk , if you want to buy it in a high street shop you might have to search for a while; I haven’t seen it anywhere yet.

                      Included in delivery…

                      If you only order the calculator you will receive the cover as well as a handbook with it, which has 330 pages and is a paperback. In this handbook you find a short introduction into the use of the calculator. But short doesn’t always mean bad; this book is really easy to understand, contains a lot of pictures and, to make it short, is very helpful. It also includes a alphabetical list of all functions which enables you to find them quickly.

                      Apart from that, several accessories are available, which sometimes are sold in bundles with the calculator.


                      Very useful and even essential for many users is the USB cable for the connection between the calculator and the computer. With it comes a CD-ROM with software that allows easy data transfer between the two devices.

                      Furthermore, there is a proper handbook for the calculator. It comes in a set of two books with 1272 pages – for the ridiculous price of about 20 GBP. In my opinion you only need it if you want to work really scientifically. I bought both books but have never really used them as “normal” tasks can be solved without them, the small handbook that is delivered with the calculator is absolutely detailed enough for this purpose.

                      Then there is a proper keyboard you can connect to the TI Voyage. For people who use the calculator very often useful, because they can type far quicker. For any other user: Far too expensive – more than 40 GBP for a simple keyboard – no, thanks. Especially as you won’t type that much.

                      A cable fort he connection of two calculators can be useful – that’s up to you. Sometimes it’s delivered with the calculator; just have a look at the offers.

                      If the computing power is not enough for you, you can buy a SpeedUpMAX-Module. I bought it with my calculator and it already was built in when I got it, so I can’t say whether it’s necessary. TI promises a twice as big computing power and a 100% quicker file transfer between TI-TI and TI-Computer though.

                      And last but not least there is plenty of software around. Games like Tetris or hangman are available just as much as useful application for Electrical Engineering. Just have a look around the internet, many programs are freeware.

                      Use the calculator

                      Now you know that the calculator can do a hell of lot of things. But how easy – or how difficult – is it to use? Do you already have to have completed a degree, just to understand how the calculator is used? The answer is no. Even though the range of functions is enormous, the use of the calculator is still very intuitive and easy.
                      After having switched the calculator on you find yourself on the home screen. There you see the icons of all installed applications if they are added there (some of the programs you have installed can just be started from the command line whereas all pre-installed applications are found on that screen).

                      Through pressing the “enter” button you can start each program, with the key “apps” you can go back to the home screen.
                      The commands in the programs are listed in a menu, which is placed at the top of the screen. To navigate through it you can use the keys F1 to F8 and the number keys, but alternatively the use of the arrow keys is possible.

                      If you want to calculate something without the help of the applications, you have to change to the so-called calculator screen. There you find the command line for every kind of commands, number, operators, symbols… as well as an area in the upper part of the screen where inputs and results are displayed.
                      We find the menu here as well, it includes among other things often used commands like “solve” (to solve an equation), “factor” (to factorise an expression), “limit” (to calculate the limits), “define” (to define constants) or “graph” to quickly draw a graph. The commands are copied into the command line when you choose them where they can be completed.
                      Once you’ve typed the command in, you just need to press one of the two enter keys and soon you see you input and the results on the screen. With the arrow keys you can scroll through the lines to see older inputs and results, which is especially useful for longer methods.
                      In case you’ve forgotten a command for a certain method – or you just can’t think of it at the moment – you can have a look at all mathematical functions available, simply through pressing the “catalog” key. (That’s not a spelling mistake – it’s really spelled the American way on the key…).

                      The names of the commands are well chosen, so that you often even don’t have to bother looking into the handbook to find out what they are doing.
                      Pressing the “Math” key could also help you in that situation; it also displays the catalogue, but sorted by topics.

                      The input of commands is, as I’ve already mentioned, very intuitively. Here are a few examples to give you an impression:

                      Indefinite integral of 2x-sin(2x)
                      &#61682; (3x-sin(2x), x)

                      Roots of x²+5x+3
                      solve(x^2+5x+3=0, x)

                      input of a three-dimensional matrix
                      [1, 2, 3; 4, 5, 6; 7, 8, 9]

                      definition of constants and multiplication of them:
                      Define x = [1, 2, 3; 4, 5, 6; 7, 8, 9]
                      Define y = [1, 2, 3; 4, 5, 6; 7, 8, 9]

                      Drawing of a graph
                      Graph 3x+9

                      Test whether 3 is a prime number

                      All in all very simple, easy to understand and remember – and soon you’ve got a feeling what commands look like and you hardly ever need to look into your handbook.

                      From the command line you also can run all installed applications. What commands you need to put in you usually find in the handbooks or readme files that come with the program; I installed Tetris some time ago and just need to type in tetris() to run the game for example.

                      The format of the calculator is very handy; I usually hold it in my hands and press the numbers on the number pad as well as the symbol keys with the thumb of my right hand. With my left thumb I then can reach the keys on the keyboard, which I hardly ever use though.

                      Transferring the data from/to the PC is easy as well. After you’ve started the software (the one you got with the cable) you get a clearly arranged user interface showing the folder tree of your calculator. There you can choose variables you want to delete, the data you want to transfer and much more.
                      It’s also possible to delete the data directly on the calculator which takes far longer though, especially if it’s a big amount. But it’s still simple – press “var link” to open a list where you can administrate your data. One function there is to delete the data, but it also possible to copy or rename them.


                      Altogether a great calculator with all functions you can think of. If you’re studying sciences you certainly can need them, just for school it’s a bit too much.
                      The use is simple, the calculator robust and the batteries work quite long – unless you play a lot of games on it. I’ve used it from time to time, but also played some games here and there, and the batteries were ok for slightly over a year.

                      RAM and ROM – the size of either one is adequate. So is the speed, calculations are done very quickly.
                      Navigation is easy, thanks to function- and arrow keys. A good compromise has been found concerning the size of the calculator and the size of the keys.
                      The handbook is easy to understand and covers all important topics.

                      Despite the high price I award five stars as the calculator convinced me completely.


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                      • Ravensburger - Krypt Silver / Puzzle / 58 Readings / 56 Ratings
                        More +
                        03.11.2006 21:04
                        Very helpful



                        Would certainly buy it again!

                        I love jigsaws and have completed several over the last years. 3D puzzles are my favourites – but I think it’s a shame to put them back into their boxes again once they are finished. Of course my room is limited and so I had to buy an ordinary 2D puzzle again. When I was looking for a nice motive on the internet, I came across “Krypt”. I felt that it could be a challenge to finish it and so I soon bought it? A puzzle can be a real challenge? And what’s so different about Krypt? If you want to find out read on.

                        What is Krypt?

                        Krypt is – surprise – a jigsaw puzzle. But Krypt is not just an ordinary one, no, Krypt is a jigsaw without any motive but just a unicoloured surface. The only way to build it is by the different shapes of the pieces. In the middle the pieces form a circle, further outside the form changes into an ordinary rectangle, so that the finish jigsaw is a plain rectangle.
                        Krypt is published by Ravensburger in a product series called “Think”. This series contains games and jigsaws for mental training with fun. And this really is the case for this jigsaw, even for experts who quite happily finish a jigsaw with 1500 parts in one day, Krypt is a challenge.


                        Krypt can be bought in two versions. Both only differ in their colour (silver – bronze) and in the number of the parts (654 – 631).
                        I bought Krypt silver and therefore will only talk about this version in this review.

                        Krypt Silver
                        Parts: 654
                        Puzzle Manufacturer: Ravensburger
                        Recommended Age: 12 – 99
                        Completed size: ca. 70 x 50 cm / 27" x 19"

                        I bought my jigsaw when I was back in Germany for some weeks because it is far cheaper there.
                        In England it is available online on http://www.alljigsawpuzzles.co.uk or http://www.jigsawgallery.com – I haven’t seen it in a highstreet shop yet and amazon.co.uk doesn't have it either.
                        The price is quite high, on those websites it is offered for £12.99 respectively £13.99. I’ve paid € 11.99 in Germany, which equals about £ 8.00. Whoever has the possibility to buy it there or order it from Germany should do it; amazon.de charges about € 4.31 p&p so that it’s still cheaper than ordering it online from a shop in England (as, of course, p&p comes on top of the prices mentioned above as well).

                        My experience

                        There it was, my new jigsaw puzzle. Of course I was curious, so I immediately opened the box (which can be seen in the picture dooyoo added). What I found was a closed bag with the different parts and an envelope with the solution and the warning that you only should open it if you’re sure that you can’t manage the jigsaw by yourself.
                        The same evening I started to finish the jigsaw like I always start – with sorting the parts.
                        First I finished the border which wasn’t too difficult and only took slightly longer than the same part of a jigsaw with motive. Great, I thought, it doesn’t seem to be as difficult as I thought! If I had known how wrong I was I might have given up.
                        How you sort the parts is, of course, up to you. I filled different bowls with “half round and small” “half round and big” and “normal rectangular” parts. Within those groups I separated them again into “parts with more than one pins” and “parts with more than one ‘holes’”.
                        Oh, and then there was a pile with “odd parts”. Let me explain: Apart from the half round and the rectangular parts (which have different forms and sizes as well – some are quite long, some are looking like ‘ordinary” parts) there are some parts which have to be attached to two other, smaller parts.
                        Then there are the “odd parts” which are neither half-round nor rectangular – they form the border between the circle in the middle and the rectangular outside.

                        There was I, sitting with my bowls. After some thinking I decided to start with the middle. The first few parts were simple but then it turned out to be tricky. The parts were looking so similar! That sometimes drove me mad by the way, some pins are very similar and you thought you’ve found the matching part – but then it turned out to be wrong…
                        To find one part per hour sometimes was a big success, sometimes I found more, but sometimes even less than that.
                        When the circle was finished it was easier again, but the rectangular outside sometimes just a matter of trying.
                        A few times I was tempted to open the envelope with the solution, but I could hold myself back – so I can’t tell you anything about what it looks like, but I reckon that it shows the jigsaw with the shapes of the parts drawn into it. And it was worth trying and trying and not giving up; after several weeks (with interruptions) the jigsaw was completed and I was proud of myself. It’s ideal to hang it onto the wall by the way!

                        So who can I recommend this jigsaw to now? Easy: Only to patient people. I would call myself rather patient, but sometimes I was close to desperation. It certainly supports your concentration and imagination though, as sometimes you really have to think ahead how the form could go on.

                        You should use a puzzle mat or have enough room on a table where you can leave the jigsaw as you certainly won’t finish it within one or two days (unless you sit in front of it all day long).

                        The jigsaw is of good quality and the parts fit well into each other. As I’m now thinking about buying the bronze edition as well I only can award full five stars, what I quite happy do. The only negative aspect is the high price, but I think it’s still worth giving it a try if you’re really looking for a puzzle challenge. The time you need to complete it (compared to other jigsaws that cost the same) certainly makes up for it.


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                        • More +
                          30.10.2006 21:41
                          Very helpful



                          Useful for everybody needing a reference book in their bag

                          When I came to England the first time, I wasn’t quite sure about my English, as I never really had the chance of using the language in every-day situations before. Yes, there were six years of English lessons as school, but it isn’t quite the same as talking to natives, is it? To feel more secure, I decided to get myself an English-English pocket dictionary to be able to look words up quickly if it really needs to be. I knew that I wanted an Oxford dictionary – and when I came across the “Oxford Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wordpower Guide” it sounded so great that I immediately knew I would buy exactly this one.


                          ISBN: 0198604475
                          Publisher: Oxford University Press
                          752 pages
                          Weight: 200 g (not quite uninteresting, if you want to carry it around with you)
                          Size: ca. 10cm x ca. 12cm x ca. 4cm
                          Price: £4.50 RRP

                          According to the publisher: 40,000 words, phrases and definitions in the dictionary and 75,000 alternative words in the thesaurus

                          What the publisher promises

                          “The Oxford Mini Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wordpower Guide is a handy three-in-one resource that has been compiled to provide a variety of help with language and vocabulary in a small, convenient format. The dictionary and thesaurus texts are combined in a way that enables quick and easy reference to both […]
                          Small enough to fit into a bag or rucksack, the Oxford Mini Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wordpower guide is the ideal companion for anyone who wants a straightforward, informative and highly portable guide to the English language.”

                          (taken from the Introduction)

                          Inside the book

                          Opening the dictionary, the first thing I can see is “contents”. Contents? In a dictionary? Not surprising, that it only contains three lines –
                          Dictionary and Thesaurus
                          Wordpower Guide
                          - but maybe a book without contents is no proper book.

                          Next comes the introduction to the book (does anybody ever read that?) and a short introduction into the structure of the dictionary and thesaurus entries.
                          Those, who have never worked with a dictionary before, will find them useful, everybody else doesn’t have to pay any attention to it, as the notations are familiar. (You know, bold headwords followed by the plural inflection, the kind of word it is, the different senses etc.).
                          Next you find the list of abbreviations used – also here nothing really new. “Abbr.” still means “abbreviation” “adj.” still adjective and “Scot.” still Scottish. But if you’ve never really touched an (English) dictionary it’s certainly worth a look.

                          Now we finally come to the most important part – the dictionary itself. Or more precisely: The dictionary and the thesaurus. Oxford has done really good work here with combining both parts of the book and not put them separately. On the top section of each page you find the dictionary, on the bottom section the thesaurus entries of the very same words. That enables you to find quickly what you want; you don’t have to look up the word first and then long-winded have to search for synonyms in a completely different part of the book. It’s all nicely available at one glance. The size of the sections varies on each page.
                          The font is big enough, you can read everything very comfortably – magnifiers are not needed. The explanations of the words are short, but clear and easy to understand. Also, due to the bold printing of the keywords, those can be found quickly.

                          Now let’s have a look at the Thesaurus section. This part is kept short as well, but is still very useful and there are enough synonyms for every word to find the appropriate word for (nearly) every situation. There’s not much more to say about the Thesaurus, so let’s go to the third part of the book, the Wordpower Guide.

                          This was the part I was least interested in as I thought that it probably would be far too complicated for me as a non-native. But of course I still had a look into it and was surprised how useful it is.
                          The Wordpower Guide is found in the middle of the book and has an own contents page, listing the following contents:
                          Vocabulary builder
                          Frequently misspelled words
                          Commonly confused words
                          Collective names for animals and birds

                          The Vocabulary builder “contains a selection of words and phrases which are related to various keywords and which a conventionally dictionary or thesaurus does not usually provide”. That’s what the dictionary says. And what do I say? Well, I say, it’s pretty much useful out of two reasons.
                          1. To enrich your vocabulary. You might say now – “I’m a native, I probably would know all the words anyway”, but as my boyfriend has proven – no, not necessarily. Or do you know, what the word of the soft substance in the hollow of bones is? Or the words for the study of birds? And that directly leads us to…
                          2. Even if you know the words above, could you immediately think of them? I can quite well imagine, that some of you are sitting there now, thinking something like “oh, yes, I know it, let me think, it’s something beginning with “m” … Sh…, it’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t think of it…” Do I still have to explain my second point? Probably not, but just in case – if the scenario above happens, you could use this section to have a look at the keyword (“bone” or “bird”) and hope you find the word you want to know. (In this case you would!)

                          Next the frequently misspelled words. The title says it all; these few pages contain a list with words that have an irregular spelling and which are the most likely ones to cause problems even to natives. Each entry is followed by a comment explaining shortly what part of the word the difficulty is. This part is certainly useful as well, but more just to read through it to be aware of pitfalls rather than using it to look things up.

                          The list of the commonly confused words is similar. It contains words that sound or look alike but have different meanings. In this section both words are listed in two columns, each with the meaning next to it.

                          Last but not least the list of collective names for animals and birds. The list is sorted by animal names and contains many humorous terms, which were, according to Oxford, probably rarely if ever used. It’s certainly interesting to look through the list, but nothing worth remembering for me.

                          reading rehearsal

                          I’ll just randomly choose a page now to show you an example of what the book is like. Unfortunately Dooyoo doesn’t allow HTML, so I can’t show you the actual format.

                          mercury n. a heavy silvery liquid metallic element.
                          Mercy n. (pl. –ies) kindles sown to someone in your power; something to be grateful for. – At the mercy of wholly in the power of the subject to - merciless adj.
                          Mere adj no more or no better than what is specified - merely adv.

                          merciless adj. RUTHLESS, relentless, harsh, pitiless, unforgiving, unsparing, barbarous, inhumane, inhuman, heartless, callous, cruel, unsympathetic
                          mercy n. LENIENCY, clemency, compassion, pity, charity, forgiveness, humanity, kindles, tolerance

                          Vocabulary builder:
                          Bird – avian (to do with birds), aviary (place where birds are kept), ornithology (study of birds)
                          Birth – antenatal (before birth), Caesarean section (Operation to deliver baby), congenital (present from birth), neonate (newborn child), obstetrics (branch of medicine concerned with childbirth), perinatal (near to the time of birth), postpartum (following birth)

                          Frequently misspelled words:
                          abscess -scess not –sess
                          abseil - seil, not –sail
                          accommodation two cs, two ms

                          Commonly confused words
                          adverse – unfavourable +++ averse – opposed
                          affect – cause a change in +++ effect – bring about; a result


                          Phew, this one turned out to be longer that I intended it to be. But for all who’ve stuck so far – here’s what I think.

                          To me, the book is really useful. It’s small and light-weighed and it fits into every handbag or rucksack. If you need it it’s handy to use, but you still find everything you need quickly and conveniently. The idea of putting the thesaurus- and dictionary section onto the same page is great, it makes things so much easier.
                          Also the cover-type is wisely chosen, an ordinary paperback would look dirty and probably be damaged soon, while this flexi-cover (it’s made of plastic) is ideal for that purpose.
                          The price for that book is fair; you might get far cheaper dictionaries, but they are hardly ever as good as the more expensive ones.
                          Usually I have it nearby when I’m reading an English book and look words up when I think they are 1. really important and 2. often used in colloquial English and 3. where I’m not 100% sure I got the meaning right. And in all the time (more than a year now) I’ve hardly ever came across the situation of wanting to look up a word and finding out that it isn’t in the dictionary.

                          All in all: A compact dictionary in a transportable format, that is as complete as it can be. Useful for everybody – for natives just as much as for non-natives with a fairly good level of English who want to use and English-English dictionary. It can easily be taken to school or university – or wherever you might need it. If you want a dictionary for home-use only, I recommend one of the other versions though (preferably the hardback one).


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                          • Thalys / Transport International / 58 Readings / 53 Ratings
                            More +
                            27.10.2006 19:50
                            Very helpful



                            great train, great service - great journey!

                            After my first review on Dooyoo has been about the Eurostar, this one is about the train which regularly takes me from Cologne to Brussels and back, and only makes it possible for me to travel on Eurostar. Up to now, I’ve used the Thalys nine times, with another journey coming next week.

                            Thalys in general

                            Thalys is a European high speed train, connecting Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. From Cologne, there is a direct train to Paris, with stops in Aachen, Liège and Brussels Midi. Furthermore, the Thalys-network includes Antwerp, Oostende and Amsterdam, with the latter having a direct connection to Brussels and Paris. Also, the Thalys stops at Marne-La-Vallée-Chessy – the train station at Disneyland Paris.

                            Travel time from Brussels to Cologne is 2:20 hrs and from Cologne to Paris 3:55hrs. Every day, there are six possible journeys between these cities. From 2007, journey time will be cut down by approx. 50 minutes between Brussels and Cologne due to the new high speed track in Belgium, so the journey then will only take 1:30 hrs.
                            A reservation is compulsory, but is already included in the ticket price. All Thalys trains are completely non-smoking.
                            The website of Thalys is http://thalys.com/ - choose the country you want to travel from and English as language.


                            (As Thalys only operates on the continent, the prices are in Euros. However, if you book your ticket from England, the price might – unfortunately - be rounded up. 1 EUR equals 0.67 GBP at the moment).

                            The tariff system is simple, clear and – most of the times – logical. Here are the most impotant fares:

                            Youths between 12 and 25 get, just as seniors from 60, reduced ticket prices. The contingent is limited, so a booking should be done as early as possible to make use of it.
                            Children under 4 years of age travel for free if they sit on an adult’s lap, for 4 to 12 year olds there is a set price from 10 or 16 EUR.
                            All those tickets can be exchanged before departure – or completely refunded.

                            If you book a return ticket, you can make use of cheaper fares. These tickets should be booked as early as possible as well, as only a certain amount for each train is available. Furthermore, these tickets can’t be exchanged and a 100% refund isn’t possible either.
                            Be careful, if you travel with return tickets, on both ways you have to be able to show both tickets.

                            As a special offer there is a fare called “Kid & Co”, which allows up to two adults, travelling with a child, to get cheaper fares.

                            All the tickets are available for first or second class (Thalys calls that comfort 1 / 2). When you book your ticket – especially, if you can’t book it a long time in advance – you should make sure that you compare the prices between first and second class as well, as there are often offers for comfort 1 which might be cheaper than the regular ticket for comfort 2 – or only slighty more expensive. (Last time, I only would have paid 7 EUR more for a journey in comfort 1).

                            An early booking is, as already mentioned, advisable.
                            For example: An adult pays for the return journey between Brussels and Cologne 30 EUR if early booked. I paid 40 EUR just for the single journey between those cities as I only could book one week ahead. (40 EUR is the standard price between Brussels and Cologne). For youths this journey (single) costs 20 EUR, for seniors 28 EUR and for children 10 EUR.

                            See the joke? If you are under 25 or over 60 and want to book a return journey anyway, then you should check, whether the cheapest adult fare is still available – it’s cheaper than the return for youths or seniors. The booking systems won’t show you these fared if you put your age in.

                            In all prices, seat reservation is inclusive.

                            Tickets for international journeys from/to Aachen are also valid in the whole area, for Cologne such a rule unfortunately doesn’t apply.

                            Where to buy your tickets

                            There are different possibilities to buy your Thalys ticket, depending on where you are.

                            The most common one, if you want to buy your ticket when you are in the UK: The Raileurope website. You can either only buy the Thalys tickets or connectivity trains the same time. The tickets are sent to your home address quickly – I always got them within four days – and booking the journey is quick and simple. Also you can choose whether you want a windows/aisle-seat or even put in, if you want to sit next to a certain seat (e.g. if your friend has already booked a ticket and you want to sit next to them).

                            If you are in one of the countries Thalys serves (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France) you can book the ticket via the Thalys website. Some tickets you can print off immediately, others are sent to you via post – but only to addresses within the countries mentioned above. Here you also get Last-Minute-Tickets for half of the price, usually one week before departure and only for certain connections.

                            Also, the local train companies (in France TGV, in Germany DB (deutsche Bahn) etc.) sell Thalys tickets. And last but not least of course several travel agents.

                            Tickets can be booked three months in advance.


                            According to Thalys, in the year 2005 84.4% of all Thalys trains reached their destination with a delay of less than five minutes ( = on time).

                            I can confirm that, out of „my“ nine trains seven have been exactly on time, one was about six minutes late, when it arrived in Brussels, and one had a delay of 30 minutes, when it arrived in Cologne. But both weren’t Thalys’ fault – the six minutes resulted from track works in Belgium and the second time there was something wrong with the catenary in Germany, so that the Thalys couldn’t move for half an hour.

                            As soon as the train staff could foresee the delay it ways announced; also the reason for the delay was stated. If the train is slightly late in Aachen or Belgium don’t worry – during the journey it usually catches the time up again.

                            On the train stations

                            In Brussels the platform is well signposted; you find it in a slightly separate part of the train station. But due to a large amount of display panels and signs the correct platform is found easily. What I especially like about Brussels: Thalys offers a waiting room for its customers. Fair enough, it’s kept simple with a few chairs, but at least you don’t have to stand when you have to wait for a longer time. The waiting room is inside of the train station. Moreover, in Brussels Thalys has a service desk where they help you if you have enquiries or problems – or if you need a last minute ticket. The staff there is very friendly and helpful and they speak English as well.

                            Also in Cologne the platform for the Thalys is easy to find – due to several screens telling you where it goes from. You also can check on the internet– or just remember, that it goes from platform 8, if there is no change.
                            When you arrive, your first platform should be the one to the poster, telling you at what part of the platform your carriage will stop. The parts are labelled with the letters A to H and you identify the parts through the white-blue squares hanging from the roof.

                            When the train is arriving, you don’t have trouble to find your carriage – there are displays at the outside of the train, right next to the doors.

                            On the train

                            After boarding, you find storage room for your bigger luggage on the right. All suitcases, bags etc. you want to store there have to be labelled.
                            When you go from Cologne to Brussels you are the first ones to board anyway, so there always is enough room for your luggage.
                            However, when you travel from Brussels to Cologne most people are already on board, coming from Paris. Sometimes nearly all the room is packed then, especially in summer. If that is the case, place your suitcase in front of the storage room. They say you shouldn’t do that, but what else should you do with your suitcase? Anyway, I had to do that twice and nobody has complained, so as long as your suitcase doesn’t block the corridor it seems to be acceptable.

                            Once you’ve stored your luggage, you can go to your seat. The carriage number is displayed another time over the door leading to the carriage, so you can make sure again that you’re right. Before you enter the carriage pick up the latest Thalys board magazine “ThalyScope”, which is published every three months. It is written in English German, French and Dutch and usually contains some handy tips about the different Thalys destionations.

                            The seat numbers are located above the seats. Also above the seat you find more storage room for your smaller baggage like rucksacks, small trolleys etc.
                            The train is clean, at least when you are travelling from Cologne. If you board in Brussels and there was a little pig sitting on your seat beforehand you’re unlucky, the train is not cleaned there. (What, in my opinion can’t be expected anyway).

                            The design of the train is purely a matter of taste. Mainly warm, dark colours are used, with red dominating by far. I couldn’t say that I find it overly brilliant, but the design of a train surely isn’t the most important thing for me if I travel. And it’s not that terrible that I would have to close my eyes for the whole journey.
                            Most seats are the so-called “duo seats”, which simply means that there are two seats next to each other. For groups travelling together there are groups of four seats with a table in the middle. But mind those seats if you don’t need them – they are quite narrow.
                            Apart from that the seats are comfortable – far more comfortable than those of the Eurostar. Footrests are available and you’ve got enough room, as long as you’re not 1.90m tall. Then you should consider booking a seat at the aisle.

                            The journey on Thalys itself is pleasant. The train is going quietly, you hardly hear any noises, even not, when the maximum speed (of about 320 km/h = 199 mph) is reached. The train is air-conditioned.

                            The tickets are checked shortly after departure (make sure you always carry them with you when you move on the train) and the on-board staff was always very friendly and helpful. Furthermore, they are multi-lingual and speak at least French and English, most also speak German and/or Dutch. The announcements on the train are generally made in English, French, German and Dutch – the order depends on where you just are, but English usually comes last.
                            Before departure the train number, the final destination and the stops are announced, during the trip of course always the next stop. This happens early enough, so that you have time to get you luggage and get ready to disembark.

                            There are two toilets in every carriage, which I’ve always found to be clean. Twice they were without toilet paper, what I understandably weren’t too happy about – since the first time I’ve always taken some tissues with me, just in case.

                            On board there is a bar – the so-called “Thalys bar”. Prices are, like on all on-board restaurants, relatively high, with drinks being the most expensive. But I must admit, that I’ve seen worse prices, at least for food.
                            You can pay with Euros or your credit card.

                            Some examples: (1 EUR ~ 0,67 GBP)
                            Hot chocolate – 2.20 EUR
                            Bio Natural Yoghurt – 3.00 EUR
                            Hamburger or Hotdog – 4.00 EUR
                            Tuna salad/gouda cheese/ham and emmental cheese bagnat – 4.50 EUR
                            Salad bowl of the month – 6.00 EUR
                            Tomato sandwich with ham and cheese (warm dish) – 4.00 EUR
                            Pastabowl or bruschetta of the month – 6.30 EUR.

                            I can’t judge about the quality, because due to those prices I rather take some food with me than spending a fortune on some packed sandwiches. Also available in the bar: tickets for the Paris and Brussels Metro.

                            In comfort 1 a meal is inclusive, what you get depends on how far you travel and at what time. Between Brussels and Cologne you get one of the following meals:

                            breakfast: a choice of drinks, croissants and yoghurt
                            a light meal: a choice of drinks, mixed salad and bread
                            a snack: a choice of drinks, a sandwich or sweet or savoury snacks.

                            I can’t say more about that issue as, so far, I’ve always travelled comfort 2 and never had the chance to try it. In case I will ever choose to travel comfort 1, I will update this review.

                            What I think

                            My conclusion? Thalys – quite happily again and again and again and…. The train is comfortable and quick – you wouldn’t be quicker by plane, neither from Brussels to Cologne nor from Cologne to Paris (if you consider the check-in times and the fact, that the airports are far away from the centres). When the journey time is cut down further next year the train is nearly just as quick as a plane between Brussels and Germany.
                            The ticket prices are – providing you can book early enough – very fair and Thalys is reliable and punctual.

                            If you travel between Cologne and Brussels you can choose between the Intercity Express 3 (ICE) and Thalys – and I would always choose Thalys. I’ve travelled by ICE once and it was quite a disaster. Fair enough, the ICE trains look nicer (all wood inside, quite noble really), but that doesn’t help if the train is 40 minutes late. Apart from that, in Brussels there is Thalys staff you can ask for help, e.g. if your Eurostar was late and you’ve missed the connection train. Also, if that should happen, Thalys is running more frequently between Brussels and Cologne. And it is cheaper than the ICE!

                            Coming from London, you reach several Thalys’ trains per day for your journey to Cologne, where you can get connection trains to many other big cities in Germany – and if you travel the opposite way you have direct connections to the Eurostar to London. Same goes for trains to/from Amsterdam.
                            Here also applies, what I’ve mentioned above: You’re not much slower than by plane.
                            Next autumn, when both trains, Thalys and Eurostar, will have cut down their journey time, it will only take a good four hours from London to Cologne – from city centre to city centre. I’m certainly looking forward to that!

                            All in all, Thalys is an ideal way to travel, if you have or want to go to Cologne or Amsterdam or to the areas around those cities and don’t want to fly. If you want to go further – to northern or southern Germany for example - it’s not really an alternative to the plane as the travel time within the country would be too long.
                            Thalys offers good value for your money as well as a pleasant journey – and that’s why it gets full five stars from me.


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                            • Yves Rocher Nail Whitener / Make Up / 41 Readings / 39 Ratings
                              More +
                              23.10.2006 18:50
                              Very helpful



                              Never again

                              When I recently decided to place an order at Yves Rocher, I came across the nail whitener of the series "Manucure". Sounded tempting to me, especially as my finger nails are slightly yellow from all the nail varnish over the years, so that I finally decided to give it a try. I’ve usually been satisfied with the products I got from Yves Rocher, so I was looking forward to trying it out. So it’s not surprising that I did exactly that immediately after I’d received the packet…

                              What Yves Rocher promises…

                              Farewell to dull, yellowed nails!
                              Specially formulated to fight against yellow and dull nails; this product is rich in lemon extract, which instantly whitens the nails for a clean and well-groomed appearance. Can be used as a clear nail varnish or as a base under coloured nail varnish or even as a topcoat after your French Manicure due to its shiny finish. A single layer is enough to help your nails rediscover their natural beauty!

                              Plus points
                              Its flat, oval brush facilitates an easy and quick application: 3 brush strokes are enough!

                              (from the company website)

                              Price and Availability

                              The little bottle comes with 10ml of the "nail whitener" and is only available at Yves Rocher. I've ordered it on the internet, but they also sell their products in their own high street shops. The price regularly is £5.30 - quite expensive. You should always have a look at their deals (and who knows Yves Rocher also knows that they always have them...), at the moment you can buy it for "only" £2.60.

                              What it looks like

                              As Dooyoo added a product picture, I don't have to say too much about that issue. The nail whitener comes in a for such products typical bottle, which is appearing to be bright lilac. On the front there's the band name as well as the text Soin Blanchissant" "Nail Whitener à l'extrait de citron ongles jaunis et ternes" and a small lemon.
                              On the back it says (in English and French) “instantly brighter and whiter nails. With the brightening qualities of the lemon”.


                              If you strip away the sticker on the back, you are able to see the ingredients of the product. That’s if you have good eyes – or a magnifier. Apart from that there’s the warning that you should keep it out of reach of children.
                              The ingredients are the following, just in case somebody needs or wants to know them out of whatever reason - to me it’s all Greek &#61514;
                              Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Isopropyl Alcohol, Phtalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anydrige/Glycols Copolymer, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Etocrylene, Propylene Glycol, Dibenzoxazoyl Naphthalene, Aqua (Water), Citrus, Medica Limomum (lemon) Fruit Extract, Cl 60725 (Violet 2)

                              How to use it…

                              And now the big test… Is he stuff really as good as Yves Rocher promises?

                              I open the bottle and immediately smell the typical odours of nail varnish. Well… not quite smelling like lemon, but I didn’t expect that anyway. With the white brush, which is, as usual, attached to the cap, do I apply the nail whitener to my nails, just like I would apply a basecoat. That’s really easy and quick, as the nail whitener is quite fluid. (But not that fluid that it would run down). The colour is transparent, even though Yves Rocher is saying something about lilac-transparent. Sorry, but no lilac there to me.
                              Just after the varnish has dried (which goes very quick, it only takes about two minutes) I curiously have a look at the result.


                              And… nothing. The nails looked exactly as they did before. Well, there was a nice shine on them, but for that I could have used a cheap transparent varnish. The nail bed and the top of my nails – both looked like before. White, more natural nails? Not for me, not with this product. I was quite disappointed and gave it another try. And another. And another. But now, after more than three months, there is still no visible result.

                              What I think

                              And so I’m now using the expensive nail whitener as normal basecoat.
                              At least you can remove it quickly and easily with ordinary nail varnish remover – but this is more or less the only positive thing I can find.
                              The durability is quite good; you don’t need to renew it for good four days, if you only do “normal” work/house work. But I have to mention that I don’t do the washing up, that’s my partner’s job ;-)
                              All in all it’s not more than an ordinary, clear varnish for a basecoat on top of which I still have to use coloured nail varnish to hide my yellow nails. It’s also a nice product to use as a topcoat after French Manicure, but for this purpose the product just is too expensive. Also, this isn’t what I bought it for. I bought it for it's whitening properties.

                              Instantly whiter nails? Sorry guys, might have worked in your lab, but doesn’t work in reality, at least not on my nails. Barely two stars, as it at least gives a nice shine to your nails – but I won’t buy it ever again.


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                              • Baking / Recipe / 49 Readings / 47 Ratings
                                More +
                                20.10.2006 18:17
                                Very helpful




                                I'm a fan of Greek and Italian food and on special occasions like birthdays I like preparing an Italian or Greek buffet with antipasti and other delicatessen from the respective country. Since last year, also self-baked olive bread, which is based on an oil dough, always is waiting at buffet to be eaten.

                                You need:

                                200g feta
                                a pinch of salt
                                1 bunch of parsley or dill
                                3 eggs
                                250g cored olives
                                1 glass of milk
                                0.5 glasses of oil
                                2.5 glasses of flour
                                15g baking soda

                                - I have always used glasses with a capacity of 0.3l which seems to work out fine. -


                                Squash the feta with a fork. It doesn’t matter, if there are some small clots left, as they will melt in the heat of the oven. But make sure there aren’t too many or too big ones.
                                Next chop the parsley and add it to the feta. If you are too lazy to chop it yourself, you can buy and use the chopped/frozen one which works out fine.
                                Add the eggs, the salt and finally mix everything.

                                Now mix in the olives, the milk and the oil. I take black olives, but green ones should work as well, as long as they are not stuffed with anything. If you like, you can halve the olives before you add them, or cut them into even smaller slices. I personally leave them as they are; saves time and when you cut the bread you cut the olives anyway.

                                Last, add the flour and the baking powder and mix everything a last time.

                                Let the dough rest for 20 minutes before you fill it into a long, square baking tin you’ve buttered/greased beforehand.
                                At about 180°C, leave it for approximately 40 to 50 minutes in the oven.

                                Be careful; as the dough is rising don’t fill the form to its top. For the baking tin I use it’s a bit too much dough, so I bake one loaf first and then another quarter. That works quite well, as the dough is not too runny, so you can bake it even if the tin is only partly filled.

                                When you try to get the loaf out of the tin be careful, that it doesn’t break.
                                The taste is best at the day after you’ve baked it, but of course it also can be eaten when it’s just freshly baked.
                                Stored in the fridge it keeps fresh for at least three days – maybe even longer, but it never survived more than three days in my kitchen.
                                It perfectly goes with antipasti and tastes lovely. The feta and the olives perfectly go with each other, but still it doesn't taste too intense. However, is is not ideal to be eaten as sandwhich bread, even not with Italian/Greek sausage or cheese.

                                Have fun baking – and of course eating!


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                                • Skype / Utility / 58 Readings / 52 Ratings
                                  More +
                                  19.10.2006 13:36
                                  Very helpful




                                  Skype – a word which is currently resounding throughout the land. Even more so, since Ebay has bought it up. But what exactly is Skype and is it really that great?

                                  I’ve been using Skype for a long time now and gave it a first try around 2004, when I was still connected to the internet via my good old 56k modem. Since I’ve been in a distance relationship – now kind of a “part-time distance relationship” Skype came really handy to me and I’m using it now every evening when I’m apart from my partner for at least three hours in its latest version 2.5.

                                  What is Skype?

                                  Skype is a free software, which enables you to talk for free to other Skype users after you’ve installed the application. In professional circles it comes under the name “soft phone”. It is probably one of the most popular – if not the most popular – application in this field. Furthermore, Skype provides other functions, such as a chat and phone calls to landlines and mobiles phones (which you are charged for), but more about that in the next section.
                                  A huge advantage of Skype is, that computers behind firewalls and/or routers can use it without any problems. This is due to the technology Skype is using (peer 2 peer, firewall and NAT-traversal) – but I don’t want to bore you with this stuff. If you’re interested in computers and the technologies behind, the functioning of Skype is described on the company’s website.


                                  As already mentioned, Skype provides a big amount of different features and services. The following information is partly only related to the Windows version.

                                  ~~~free features~~~

                                  Most people use and always will use Skype for the free internal calls between Skype users. Therefore, both users have to have installed and started Skype. Also conferences between up to 100 participants are possible.

                                  Since version 2 it is also possible to make video calls. People with long distance relationships – or with relatives living far away – probably have been as happy about that as I was. The video screen can be shown in three different sizes. Firstly in the Skype window, secondly as a separate and slightly bigger window and finally thirdly in full screen mode. If you want to see yourself during the call, you can do that in a small “window in the window” on the bottom left, but it is also possible to hide it.

                                  Apart from that Skype offers an integrated chat, which is similar to the well-known instant messengers like ICQ or MSN. Advantage Skype: Up to 100 persons can be invited into the chat. The chat history can be saved automatically and what I especially like about the chat are the cute smilies.
                                  Furthermore it is possible to transfer every kind of files.

                                  So far, so good. But what can you do, if you want to talk to somebody who doesn’t have a computer, internet or just Skype?

                                  ~~~premium services ~~~

                                  For that purpose, Skype out does exist. With Skype out worldwide phonecall for cheap fares are possible – to landlines as well as to mobile phones. The price per minute starts at 0.012 GBP excluding VAT (makes GBP 0.014 including VAT) for calls to landlines in Great Britain and most other destinations in Europe, such as Germany, Italy, Spain – but also Russia, Korea or the USA. More expensive destinations would for example be the United Arab Emirates (GBP 0.153 per minute + VAT), the Ukraine (GBP 0.076 + VAT) or Kazakhstan (GBP 0.099 + VAT). A full list with all fees can be found on the Skype-website.

                                  Calls to mobile networks usually are more expensive. In the United Kingdom you pay 0.144 GBP/minute + VAT for calls to all providers. Also possible from the UK: Calling shared-cost numbers, such as 0551, 0560 or 0871. The price depends on the number which is called and a list is also found on the Skype website. Last but not least: It’s also possible to phone “Toll-Free” numbers on Skype – calls to such numbers of course are absolutely free.

                                  The credit can only be bought in packets of 10 Pounds (20 Pounds, 30 Pounds…) and is valid for 180 days. The validity is increased every time you buy new credit or make a phone call via Skype out.

                                  Another feature of Skype is Skype-in. With this service you can buy up to 10 telephone numbers, on which people can call you. The calls you answer via Skype and a 12 months subscription 30 EUR, which should be about 22 GBP + VAT. (I couldn’t find the price in Pounds anywhere on the website). If you only want to subscribe for three months, the price is 10 EUR + VAT.
                                  But what’s the advantage of that? You can buy numbers from different countries (at the moment from the USA, the UK, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Poland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland). If you have – for example - a lot of friends in the USA who want to call you on one of those numbers it makes sense to get a number from the USA. Callers then only pay – even if you are in the UK or elsewhere on the world – only the local rate. On top you get a free subscription for…

                                  …Skype voicemail. This service can also be booked separately (5 EUR for three months, 15 EUR for one year – again I couldn’t find the prices in GBP). Skype voicemail is in short words the answer machine for Skype.

                                  You also can divert calls to another phone number and in the latest versions of Skype it is possible to send text messages to mobile phones. SMS to phones in the UK cost GBP 0.056 + VAT per message (makes GBP 0.064 incl. VAT).

                                  What do I need to use Skype?

                                  ~~~Operating System~~~

                                  Skype is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Sounds great, doesn’t it? BUT… Unfortunately, the new versions are only available for windows. While the latest version there is V 2.5 at the moment, the most modern version available for Mac OS is and for Linux even only (1.3 is available as beta version). And with those old versions video calls are still a dream.
                                  So to use all services and functions you will have to use Windows XP, if you only want to make calls and don’t need phone calls then you can use Windows 2000 or even Windows 98 or ME.

                                  ~~~and apart from that?~~~

                                  Of course an internet connection. If you want to make phone calls with it you should even have a broadband connection, DSL and cable are both fine.
                                  Microphone and speakers – of course, you want to hear and be heard &#61514; It’s advisable to use a headset.
                                  A webcam in case you want to make video calls.
                                  The rest – you don’t really have to care about it, if your computer if Windows XP is running on your system, because then your computer should fulfil all requirements anyway. But just in case: A 300MHz processor, 128 MB RAM and 15 MB free space on the hard disk are needed.

                                  And apart from that you obviously need Skype. Where do you get it and how is it installed? Read on!

                                  Installation (for Windows)

                                  The installation is really simple. From the Skype website you download the setup file for Skype (the size is about 10 MB). A double click and the easy understandable installation process is starting. After you’ve accepted the user agreement and chosen the installation path the installation starts. It takes less than a minute until Skype is ready to use.

                                  Register on Skype

                                  Before you really can start, you first have to create a user accound. This can be done in the Skype start screen. You have to put in your real name, your Skype nick name, which has to be between 6 and 32 characters and of course has to be unique as well. Your email address (it should be a valid one as this is the one you get your password send to in the unlikely case that you forget it), country, region and town – and that’s it. Further information about yourself you can add to your profile later on.

                                  Using Skype

                                  The use of Skype is simple and intuitive; the program itself very clear. Below the menu there are some buttons for a few features (add contact, search, call phones, chat…), and below that the access onto three tabs is possible. With these tabs you can look at three different windows – you own contacts, a dial pad (you’d only use for Skype-out anyway) and the history where all calls (also unsuccessful or received ones), chats, sent and received files etc. are listed.

                                  Calls are made from the main windows. Select the user name you want to call, click onto the big, green, round button on the bottom of Skype – and talk. Alternatively, you can make a call just through a double click onto the Skype name.

                                  If you want to use the premium services you first have to buy credits, which is possible directly out of the application. Payment is possible through PayPal, credit card (Visa and Mastercard), debit card (Solo, Switch), Moneybookers, regular bank transfer, Ucash or JCB Credit card. My experience says that the money – I’ve always paid via PayPal – is booked onto your Skype account very quickly.
                                  Absolute disadvantage: You always have to buy 10 EUR or 10 Pounds, it’s not possible to buy smaller amounts. And the credit expires after 180 days of not making a paid call, which to me is an absolute nuisance. You have paid for it, so how can it expire?

                                  By the way – keep your eyes open, sometimes Skype gives away free credit, as they did this autumn. Every week you could click on a banner to get 20 free Skype minutes. Also they offer deals from time to time where you pay 10 Pounds and get another 5 on top.

                                  In the options many settings are possible. Sound effects can be changed (the modern ones are absolutely horrible, I prefer the classic ones), you can choose an avatar or add a comment which is visible for all your contacts.

                                  For any problems that might appear Skype provides a detailed help and FAQ on their website, all in English.
                                  To test the headset and connection you can call a “test-user“ and record your message. It’s played back to you and if you hear it you know that everything is working fine.


                                  The sound quality is, in my opinion, very, very good. Only on the odd occasion a slight hissing is disturbing the call and echoes are rare. The delay is minimal and phone calls can be made in a really good quality (after Skype had some problems with that in the beginning). In the call window you can have a look at the technical call info (you can enable that in your options). It tells you how big the delay is (in ms), how much data is lost etc.
                                  Also the quality of landline calls is rather good; I did it several times from England to Germany and couldn’t spot much of a difference to ordinary landline – landline calls.

                                  The application is running stable, only the Internet Explorer crashes if you want to have a glance at a long chat history. But as the history is saved in html format, you can open it with every browser and Opera or Firefox open the file without any problems.

                                  Software updates are done regularly, if you wish then the application informs you about available updates or even installs them directly. If you want to test a beta version (if available) you’d have to download it from the Skype website, as the program doesn’t inform you about the availability of those.


                                  An important point with applications that have access to the internet is always the security. Therefore, some information about that are following.

                                  Transmission of phone calls and chats is done decrypted. (For the interested: Encryption is done with AES-256 and transmission with 1024-Bit RSA). Also calls to landlines are encrypted – as far as possible. Meaning: Encrypted transmission takes place up to the gateways internet/landline. Skype’s source code is not open source, so nobody can control whether the information Skype is giving is correct, but in 2005 the security has been confirmed by a encryption expert.

                                  Principally, this way of encryption is secure and enough, related to today’s possibilities of computers. Phone calls via Skype are, in my opinion, even more secure than pure landline calls – considering how easy they can be listened in…

                                  Viruses are of course always a problem, but if you use Skype as it’s intended to be used there is not much chance of getting one. But, as always, you have to be careful with receiving files. Spyware etc.are certainly not installed with Skype.

                                  The email address you type in during the registration process is decrypted before it’s transferred to the server. It’s also not visible for other users – even though they can search for your email address in the Skype directory if they know it.

                                  Apart from that you should consider the well-known rules: Don’t choose a too easy password, keep it secretly, don’t publish too private data about yourself in your public profile etc.

                                  Not necessarily belonging to “security” but to privacy is the following: It is possible to block certain calls or - to say it differently - to only allow contacts of your own contact list to contact you. Alternatively, you can block single users. Furthermore, every contact wanting to see your contact details and online status has to get your permission to do so. That means concrete: If user A wants to include user B into his contact list he first has to send him a request. User B sees this one as a separate window, where they can chose if they agree to it or not. If user B does not, he still appears in user A’s list, but always as offline.

                                  Moreover, you can choose your online status – do you want to appear online? Or even in “Skype-Me-Mode” where really everybody can contact you? Or do you prefer the invisible mode, where everybody, even your contacts, always see your status as offline?


                                  Skype is absolutely recommendable. The quality is better than for any other messenger I’ve ever tried, it’s free and stable – I couldn’t wish for anything else. Skype is ideal for people with a lot of friends and family living further away. But it also can be used for completely different purposes. Why not try to improve your knowledge or fluency in a foreign language? Just talk to natives for free!


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