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Technical Tobes
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Member since: 24.08.2000

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      13.05.2001 23:21
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      ● LAST UPDATED: 07/08/2001 ● The monitor is one of the most important and most expensive parts of your PC, both in terms of being able to use it and use it comfortably. Since you’re gonna by spending a fair bit of time staring at it while writing dooyoo opinions and reading mine (!) you will want to make sure that you get a good one. There is quite a difference between good and bad monitors, get a bad one and you could end up getting bad headaches and/or eyestrain. Not everybody realises that a monitor can have this affect – until it’s too late! There are currently two main types of computer monitor on the market, CRT and Flat panel or TFT (Thin Film Transistors/Technology) LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors are by far the most common and cheap option. Flat panels are however, much nicer, smaller but a lot lot more expensive. First then, I will deal with the CRT monitors, there is a lot to consider for this type of monitor, here are the things to consider when buying a CRT monitor... ◦◊◊◊ MONITOR SIZE / PRICE ◊◊◊◦ ◦——————————& #8212;——————————̵ 2;———————◦ The size of a monitor is the most important part of choosing a monitor and has the most bearing on price; here is your selection and price guide... ● 14” : £75 - £90 (£15 spread) ● 15” : £90 - £130 (£40 spread) ● 17” : £130 - £270 (£140 spread) ● 19” : £200 - £400 (£200 spread) ● 21” : £500 - £750 (£250 spread) ● 22” : £600 - £900 (£300 spread) ● 24” : silly money! (£1,250+) Forget about getting a 14”, these have been
      pretty much discontinued now. Come to think of it, unless you’re very hard up, don’t bother with a 15”er either. (I know, there are 101 jokes to be made there!). I would recommend either a 17” or 19”, there is a fair old price jump above that, although gamers, or graphic designers etc may want to opt for that extra bit of desktop real estate There are some things to bear in mind however when deciding on the size of monitors you want; these are... ● Actual Screen Size ● Manufacturers still insist on quoting the tube size as opposed to the actual visible screen size of a monitor, few actually quote the visible size as well – which can vary considerably. In general the viewable size of a monitor is about 1 inch less that it’s tube size, thus a 19” monitor is about 18” viewable, a 17”, 16” viewable and so on. This should be considered a good benchmark or rule of thumb, any less is bad any more is good, but and inch less than stated is fine! ● Physical Size ● The physical size of a large monitor can get very big, especially in depth so make sure you have the space to fit the monitor on your desk, and at a comfortable distance. ● Weight ● The bigger the monitor, the heavier – and believe me, they can get very heavy. Make sure your desk is strong enough to support its weight, a lot of the cheap and cheerful desks are not. ● Heat ● Monitors (CRT ones anyway) are renowned for giving off a lot of heat, and again, the bigger the monitor, the more heat it will generate. You’ll be amazed at how well this can heat up a room and in the summer this effect is even more noticeable. You can literally cook eggs on some of the larger monitors, so a well-ventilated area is best for these. As you may have noticed from the prices above, there is a fair spread in price for ea
      ch size monitor and that spread gets bigger, the bigger the monitor. This price difference can be explained by quality, the aspects of which I will go into in the following sections. At the end of the day, we all want the biggest we can afford and accommodate, however I would strongly advise against going for the cheaper end of each market for each sized monitor as quality really does rule of quantity (or size in this case!). ◦◊◊◊ MONITOR SCREEN TYPE ◊◊◊◦ ◦——————————& #8212;——————————̵ 2;———————◦ The type of screen used on a monitor is what makes for the majority of the spread in prices mentioned above, in the last section. There are basically two types of screen used in today’s CRT monitors; these are... ● Curved ● Found at the lower end of the price range, this is the old-fashioned type CRT display that, surprisingly, curves out at the corners. This makes for distortion, usually a less crisp image and glare is more of a problem. Although not necessarily a crap monitor in the sense of the other qualities described later in this opinion, a non-curved one is certainly preferable. ● Flat Screen ● Not too be confused with TFT LCD panels, flat screen CRT’s come under several different aliases (due to the manufacturers) all effectively the same thing (a flat screen!). Here’s what you find them called (note: some of these are used when referring to TFT flat panels screens too)... ▪ FST screen ▪ Trinitron ▪ DiamondTron ▪ FlatTron ▪ DynaFlat Out of these, the Trinitron (devised by Sony) is probably the best, best known and most desirable. Flat screen monitors get
      rid of the disadvantages of the curved screen counterparts, and offer a crisper, less distorted display with less glare. The only disadvantage is that you may notice a fine honeycomb grid across the screen. This is down to how the monitors work and you quickly find that you just don’t notice it, the advantages of a flat display far outweigh the barely noticeable mesh on the screens – honest! So, overall, a flat screen monitor is much preferred and will give a much better quality display. ◦◊◊◊ REFRESH RATES / RESOLUTION ◊◊◊◦ ◦——————————& #8212;——————————̵ 2;———————◦ This is another very important aspect of a good monitor, for those who don’t know, the refresh rate is the frequency in which the screen is redrawn (measured in Hz (hertz)) and the resolution is basically the amount of stuff that can be displayed on screen, basically how big your Windows desktop is (although paradoxically, things look smaller at a bigger resolution!). In all cases, the minimum refresh rate you want to provide a good flicker free display is 85Hz (some say 80Hz – ignore them!). 75Hz and you will notice slight flicker, 60Hz and you will be reaching for your sick bowl! Any more than 85Hz is good, I always like 100Hz but to be honest it doesn’t make any noticeable difference. So, in any resolution you want to run, 85Hz is the minimum – it’s the law ok! (unofficial made up law!) Here are the recommended resolutions and maximum recommended resolutions for each monitor size (those of you with bionic eyes may prefer even larger!)... ● 15” : 640x480 / 800x600 ● 17” : 800x600 / 1024x768 ● 19” : 1024x
      768 / 1280x1024 ● 21” : 1280x1024 / 1600x1200 ● 22” : 1600x1200 ...therefore, you should ensure that the monitor you purchase can support these resolutions at a refresh rate of at least 85Hz. This is where paying that bit more money helps quite a lot. In general, all but the really crap monitors will support the recommended resolution at 85Hz, but a fair few drop to 75Hz at the higher recommended resolution. 75Hz really does make me feel queasy, so I really would not recommend these! The bigger the margin above 85Hz, the better! Unfortunately, it is frequently not made easy to discover this information. Looking through some ads I can see that often manufacturers either state the highest resolution possible which normally has a pants refresh rate or their own recommended resolution – which gives no hint to what other resolutions may give (oh, and often would give health and safety people a heart attack – 1600x1200 @ 78Hz on a 17” monitor, I feel sick already!!!). The one that did give good info was Taxan, unfortunately for them, it revealed that their monitor only just hit the grade! ● TIP ● You can adjust your monitors refresh rate from within Windows, this can give you an idea of what I mean about flicker, here’s how... ▪ Right click anywhere on your Windows Desktop. ▪ Select ‘Properties’. ▪ Click on the ‘Settings’ tab. ▪ Click on ‘Advanced’. ▪ Click on either ‘Adapter’ or ‘Monitor’ (varies with Windows version). You should see a list of refresh rates, ‘Optimal’ is often selected. Try setting a low refresh rate and see how much flicker you get, some monitors are worse than others! NOTE: Please consult your monitors documentation for the maximum refresh rate supported before setting a high refresh rate – although 99
      % of monitors will just display a blank screen if not supported, it has been known for this to damage monitors – particularly older monitors. ◦◊◊◊ DOT PITCH ◊◊◊◦ ◦——————————& #8212;——————————̵ 2;———————◦ Although not amazingly important these days and it won’t make a great noticeable difference to screen quality or price, it’s still worth a quick mention. The dot pitch, sometimes referred to as aperture grille pitch is measured in mm (millimetres) and refers, basically, to the distance between each dot on the screen (more specifically, the distance between the nearest phosphor dots of the same colour – it gets complicated, check out... ◦ http://www.csf.org.uk/csf/dot-pitch/dotpit.htm ◦ ...if you really want all the details!). The smaller, the better, crisper image you’ll get. Overall, 0.24mm / 0.25mm dot pitch is a good figure to look out for, ranging up to 0.28 / 0.29 at worst. 15” monitors will frequently have higher values, although good quality ones will still be down around the 0.25mm mark. ◦◊◊◊ OTHER CONSIDERATIONS ◊◊◊◦ ◦——————————& #8212;——————————̵ 2;———————◦ Well, I’ve covered all the important bits of choosing a good monitor and should stress that they should be considered much more important than anything I say here. So what are the other considerations you should bear in mind when choosing a monitor... ▪ Obviously, its appearance! There a
      re some darn ugly monitors out there but also some really stylish ones. Beware however, style often lacks quality and feature in the computer market. ▪ Screen controls. All new monitors offer onscreen display, having a full set of controls will help adjust your monitor to perfection. ▪ Built in speakers? Many monitors offer built in speakers, these are gonna be basic tinny things (i.e. crap), but will do the job if you’re not into games or, err, music! ▪ Built in USB ports? Some of the more featured monitors boast a built in USB hub, this can be very handy if you’ve got a few USB devices (i.e. for quickly plugging in digital cameras etc). ▪ Warranty! Monitors very rarely go wrong, testimony to this is the fact that most manufacturers offer a generous 3-year onsite warranty, you don’t wanna RTB (Return To Base) warranty with a huge great monitor! Worth checking for, particularly for larger screens. ▪ A small, but good point is: does the monitor have a separate cable (the one that plugs from the monitor to computer)? If anything is going to go wrong with a monitor, 8 times out of 10 it's because of a dodgy cable. If the monitor cable is built directly into the monitor – you’re stuffed, otherwise you can go buy another one and problem is solved! You will see countless other pretty pointless statements with the monitor advertising. Examples are plug and play compatible – all new monitors are! TCO99/95 standard (safety and efficiency standards), PC and Mac compatible. None of these things make any difference to the monitor in general! ◦——————————& #8212;——————————̵ 2;———————◦ Well, that’s CRT monitors done and dusted! And there you were
      thinking, I’ll just go and buy a new monitor, erm, that ones looks nice. And now I’ve just complicated things a whole lot! Still, at least you’re gonna end up with a decent monitor now – providing you’ve taken all this onboard! Next up, Flat panel or TFT LCD monitors! Don’t worry, this bit is gonna be a lot briefer – honest! Here goes... ◦◊◊◊ MONITOR SIZE / PRICE ◊◊◊◦ ◦——————————& #8212;——————————̵ 2;———————◦ TFT screen prices are a bit silly and on a rather exponential scale. That said, they have dropped dramatically in the last few months, particularly for the 15” size. The reason for such high prices over traditional monitors is due to the failure rate of manufacturer, screens often end up with ‘dead pixels’ (i.e. dots that do not light up), if too many pixels are ‘dead’, the whole screen has too be chucked away. The bigger the screen, the more chance of ‘dead pixels’ and the higher the failure rate and it’s this that the higher prices compensate (along with the desirability factor). As manufacturing processes improve and demand increases the failure rate and thus price should drop, as they have done so recently. Here’s a price guide, although prices are liable to vary considerably over time... ● 15” : £350 - £700 (£350 spread) ● 17” : £700 - £1,200 (£500 spread) ● 18” : £1,200 - £2,100 (£900 spread) ● 21/22” : £3,000 - £5,000 (£2,000 spread) If you’ve just fainted, I do apologise! As you can see, unless you’re very wealthy, 15” is the only real option – and even that
      ’s a bit expensive! If you do have the cash for the bigger screens consider researching into projector and plasma displays too as these fall into this kind of price range. Here are the things to consider when you go to purchase one of these stylish sexy status symbols... ▪ Fixed Resolution ▪ Flat panel TFT LCD screens have a pre-defined fixed resolution, 1024x768 for a 15” model. Although the vast majority of new models have the options to stretch or shrink different resolutions to fit, it will never have the same quality. ▪ Ghosting ▪ Although getting much better, all flat panel displays suffer from ghosting due to the slower redraw speed of LCDs (i.e. similar to enabling mouse trails in Windows). This makes for poor video / gaming performance. ▪ Digital vs Analogue Input ▪ Digital input is better, but is not much use if your graphics card does not provide digital output (most do not), so check before you buy! ▪ Viewing Angle ▪ Has been a problem for years with flat LCD screens, you ideally have to be looking straight at the screen or the image will fade away until invisible! A wide viewing angle will help, so look for something around 120˚ to 140˚ if possible, the more the better! ▪ Viewing Size ▪ Although, less of a problem with TFT screens, the viewable size does vary slightly. The good news is that, the actual size is correctly stated unlike with most CRT type monitors. Look out for 15.1”, 17.4”, 18.1” as these are the most common slightly bigger versions! ▪ ‘Dead’ Pixels ▪ As mentioned before, LCDs often have the odd ‘dead’ pixel, the manufacturer’s determine how many can be and where on the screen before the panel is discarded – and they write this into the warranty. This being, it not uncommon for a new panel to have the
      odd ‘dead’ pixel somewhere. If one appears and it’s very close to the edge then it’s unlikely to be covered under warranty so you won’t be able to claim that it’s faulty – even though it may well be irritating to you! Try and see it up and running before you buy to minimize this risk. ▪ Other Features ▪ As with the CRT monitors, look out for built in speakers and other extras, auto adjusting screens and digital smoothing functions. A swivel stand is very hand on this type of monitors given the restricted viewing angle. Make sure you get a good warranty too, onsite if at all possible! ◦——————————& #8212;——————————̵ 2;———————◦ Well that’s me all done on flat panels too, if anyone wants to donate one to me, feel free! If you have the money, get a Sony monitor – they are top notch. Avoid makes like Belina and LG – they are not so good. Good luck with choosing your new monitor! Well, I appear to have run out of stuff to say now (oi – I heard that!), so it’s time to bring this opinion to a close. I hope it’s proved of use to you (‘very useful’ I hope!), feel free to leave any comments. I’ve taken note of previous comments about the layout and hopefully this is getting near perfection now!?! Cheers, Tobes (© 2001).

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      • bananalotto.co.uk / Internet Site / 0 Readings / 42 Ratings
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        08.05.2001 02:55
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        Go bananas! Wanna win the lottery? Don’t wanna pay for the chance? Yes, well you need to play bananalotto – but don’t expect to get rich! Before I go any further, you’ll probably wanna know how much you could win (thought so)... ◦◊◦ ● You could win anything from £5 to £1,000,000! ● ◦◊◦ Okay, now in a bit more detail... ◦◊◦ How do you play? ◦◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Playing bananalotto is simple, but first you will have to sign up for a user ID. This is pretty painless and only takes a minute or two. You will need to enter you name, address and a valid email address. There are a few other things they ask for (interests etc for example) but these can be, and it’s best to, just ignore them. In particular, I would recommend you decline the option to join the ‘banana club’ as this basically signs you up to junk email! These precautions observed and you will receive no junk email at all, only confirmations and results. There are a few other things to bear in mind when joining... - You’ll need to be 18 or over! - A maximum of 3 people per postal address can sign up. - You must be resident in the UK (or any country where the game is open). Now you’ve signed up you are ready to login! You have the option for the bananalotto site to remember your user ID and password which is very handy as you can then just click and play rather than having to logon each time. Do be careful however, if you are using a public or shared computer as your details will then be available for anyone to see! Logged in, cool, now it’s time to play, here’s the deal... Just like the national lottery you choose 6 different numbers from 1 to 49 and a banana number (similar to the bonus ball). Compare
        d to other lottery sites, bananalotto makes this simple as you have the ability to save your favourite ‘lucky’ numbers and use them each time, or, if you prefer, to use random number by simply clicking the ‘use random numbers’ button – simple! After selecting your 6 numbers and a banana number, you then click on one of 3 adverts on the right hand side of the screen (I guess this is where they get the funding from). Upon doing this a little window opens stating it’s entering you into the draw and the main window redirects to the site of the advert. ● TIP: Course, you can get away with just closing the main window straight away, never looking at the advertised site at all – this does not affect your chances (trust me). After a short while you can then close the other popup window too and within seconds (or whenever you next check your email), you will have a confirmation email come through. A draw takes place everyday (shortly after 5:30pm) so you can have a chance a day - bargain! ◦◊◦ How do I win, how much & when do I get it? ◦◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Well, no prizes for guessing that you win by choosing the correct numbers!!! More specifically however... 6 numbers + banana number = £1,000,000 6 numbers = £100,000 5 numbers = £50 4 numbers = £5 Until not so many months ago, you could also get 50p for matching 3 numbers. But I doubt you’ll be too upset at missing out on that! As you can see, the prizes are either a lot or smeg all! You will notice however, that the chances of winning the £1,000,000 are extremely remote, effectively you have to match 7 numbers, specifically nominating the banana number. This may explain why nobody has yet won £1,000,000. In fact winning the £100,000 is the equivalent of winning the national lottery jackpot (in t
        he odds sense anyway). Each month bananalotto.co.uk sends out around 1,000 cheques for £5 and about a dozen for £50. Someone wins the £100,000 every few months although all these figures will go up as more people join and play. Oh, and the top two prizes are shared prizes, so should more than 1 person match 6 or more numbers (as if!), the prize is split between them. If you do win, expect to get your cheque within a month – unless you’ve gone and got yourself £100,000 or even the £1m. If you do win the big prizes, you be informed by telephone and follow up letter, you will also have to meet up with bananalotto, get your photo taken etc etc, all mandatory to get ya cash! Oh and they won’t pay your travelling expenses etc for these compulsory press conferences etc. Not that you’d care, but a bit mean I thought! It is also voluntarily compulsory (!) to inform me if you have won the £1m where upon I will become your best ever friend! ◦◊◦ Conclusion – is it worth it? ◦◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Well, it’s free so why not? The chances of winning any amount of money is quite remote, even winning £50 is pretty unlikely but then it is free to play. It’s just a case of, can you be bothered?!? I play everyday (well 95% of the time) and have won a total of 3 times. 2 of these were for 50p (the other being £5) some month’s back, so this rate is (and has) dropped now the 50p prize has been withdrawn. It really does not take anytime at all to play, just 4 clicks should do it! The site is often quite slow to load, however you don’t need to wait for it to load completely to play once you know where the buttons are located. And of course, there is that remote chance that you could grab yourself £100k or even £1m, so why not? That’s it then, don’t forget t
        o rate, and any comments welcomed! Cheers, until next time, Tobes

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        • Testing in general / Archive General / 0 Readings / 38 Ratings
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          05.05.2001 20:22
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          Well, I’ve held off writing an opinion of the redesign for the past week or two as I know that change is not always easy to take and often you end up slating something just because it’s different and you have to push different buttons in different places. So, is the change for the better? Well, as always I like to list the good and the bad to gauge this answer a little better, in fact the question has no real answer since personal taste & choice takes a large part in it. In fact some of my good points may be bad to you, anyway, here goes... ◦◊◊◊ THE GOOD ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ● 1: The site now has a more modern style with better use of colours to differentiate from different sections of the site. The move to drop down boxes helps reduce screen clutter in some areas. ● 2: The good, the bad opinions and the top 5 on the front page. These change periodically and offer a more varied start to the dooyoo experience and the chance for your old opinions to get more reads. ● 3: The New on Dooyoo section is great and helps the community aspect of dooyoo grow. It’s now possible to view the new users to dooyoo plus the newest 75 (25 per screen) opinions both site wide and by specific categories. This helps boost the number of reads you’ll get and thus how noticed you are in the whole dooyoo community. ● 4: Profile statistics. This is a very welcome addition to dooyoo, giving an overall picture of your ratings. ● 5: Comments and rating are now listing in date order! Although a very small alteration, it is of huge significance to dooyoo members who like to follow up on comments and see replies to them. Previously, using my profile as an example, I had to scroll past several pages of really old comments, either forwards or backwards as the new ones were plonked in the middle – a real pain if yo
          u have hundreds of comments, but a pain no more!! ● 6: Reads are now shown on the top right hand corner pretty much wherever you go. This is good, as many dooyooers, me included, like to see when you get new reads to go check out any possible comments etc. Saves darting back and forth into your profile. ● 7: The site seems to load a lot quicker, at least for me anyway! ● 8: Nominate an opinion for a crown! This, providing dooyoo has the final say is a great idea. Often you read an opinion, think it’s the top dogs but it never gets a crown. Take my last opinion (Road Rager, The Confession), I was hoping for and many dooyooers though it was worthy of a crown, but alas no crown! Now you can say so to dooyoo as well as the author!! ● 9: Printer friendly option for viewing opinions is much welcomed, in fact it’s user friendly as well as printer friendly! ● 10: The hall of fame, although listed back to front (a bad point), now contains the last 15 famous dooyooers. Alas I’m not one of them :(. ◦◊◊◊ THE BAD ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ● 1: The site layout is really very dodgy in a lot of areas. The site has been designed for 800x600 resolution, but obviously not tested very much at that screen size. The result is a persistent horizontal scroll bar (for no reason), right hand side margins that don’t align up properly and frequently content is pushed off the right hand side resulting in a really messy looking site. Go into your profile and this problem is worse still, particularly if you have a big picture to your name! Why oh why are the user statistics not placed to the right hand side margin, it looks stupid where it is. And why are the circle of friends now hidden in amongst the jungle of stuff half way down the page, they looked much better to the left hand side margin. Oh, and the thumbs up
          / thumbs down, it’s of little use, rarely used, yet fills up a massive area in your profile (if you have used it of course). It should be limited and preferably relegated to the bottom of the profile page. Overall, and particularly on the profile page, everything is crammed into the middle while leaving massive margins of white space. I hate having to scroll down a page to find things, and with the new design the profile page is now incredibly tall. I want users to see my opinions in my profile, not have to scroll down for ages first! ● 2: Short opinions. On the face of it, it seems a good idea, however that was until I looked into it more closely. The benefit I thought, would be that the pathetic tiny opinions frequently churned out would have a home away from the bigger, more in depth opinions. However, the short opinions have less space than even the most keyboard shy churner is worthy of, and to make for a real big incentive, offers no dooyoo miles at all! You are also forced into answering every question, regardless of relevance to you or the short opinion will not be accepted. Thus, why would anyone want to write a short opinion for absolutely zilch when they can still churn out a 75 worder to the same effect. Ideally, if you got, even just say 5 miles for writing a short opinion and, as I say below, the 75 word minimum was increased to something more reasonable then the short opinions would come into their own. ● 3: Rolling on from the above point, they 75 word minimum really does need to be increased to stop/ease the continual churning of useless opinions. 75 words is nothing, certainly not enough to make any kind of attempt at a decent opinion. Indeed, this paragraph alone is 80 words! It would value dooyoo as much as it’s users to do so, and the idea of short opinions could have been an ideal step to reduce the effect of churners. ● 4: I no longer know how many members I have referred via my w
          ebsite and how many have joined. This is particularly annoying for me at the moment as my miles keeps going up by 100, yet I have no obvious reads to co-inside, no new comments so at a guess, I must have referred someone? It would be nice to know still! ● 5: You can no longer see how many reads an opinion has had without having to go into the users profile. Okay, of arguable use, but did often give a general impression of how good / popular the opinion / writer is. ◦◊◊◊ THE MISSED OPPORTUNITY! ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ What I and probably just about every other frequent dooyoo member really really, REALLY wants is for that darn dooyoo update email to be functional as well as informative. Surly it is not hard to embed links to all the new comments, users opinions etc?!? Better still, and by far, forget that email altogether and bung it all on the website in our profile pages. There could be a section for the most recent ratings, comments and opinions written by trusted dooyoo members. This really would be a Godsend for all dooyoo members and increase the dooyoo community factor exponentially. Currently, I can spend hours just trying to read comments, comment follow ups, friends opinions etc, most of this time is being wasted just trying to find them! Please, please, please dooyoo.co.uk – sort it out! ◦◊◊◊ CONCLUSION ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Okay, so overall there is much improvement, some great features added, other improved and the overall look modernised That said, dooyoo certainly needs to sort out the layout problems and, ideally, a few other of my gripes. They have also missed out some major things that needed amending and I hope they take note of them when reading this and ideally forward this on to the website designers. Overall opinion then, a great st
          art to a redesign, will be even better when it’s finished!!! ;-). Cheeky that, I know... sorry dooyoo! That’s me done then, as always, I’d be particularly interested in your comments to this opinion, good and bad! Cheers, Tobes

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          • Tiscali (Lineone) / Telecommunications Service / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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            05.05.2001 19:39

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            Join! - Advantages: Free offpeak reliable and fast access, No restrcitions, no cut off period (left connected for 14 solid hours once!), Never had to redial yet - Disadvantages: Recently, email has been slow to come down at the start of offpeak (6pm+), usually comes down quickly by 8/9pm

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          • Road Rage / Discussion / 0 Readings / 37 Ratings
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            23.04.2001 04:24
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            I suffer from road rage, I know I do & I’m not particularly proud of it. I’m not a really bad case & I know I would never go to the extremes of hurting someone or damaging property, but, never the less I have done a few silly things. The purpose of me writing this opinion is to let you know what I’ve done, what made me do it, what I was feeling, why I think I do it whereas others would not and, finally, what I think helps me and others like me from doing it in the future. ◦◊◊◊ THE RAGE! ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Following are the last 2 examples of me loosing my rag at the wheel and what I did, here goes... ● RAGE 1 ● - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - It’s just after 8:30am in the morning and I set off for work. I aim to be there at 9:00am, it’s a 12-mile journey and journey times vary considerable with the traffic, 20mins best, over 30mins worst. I drive out of my estate and along about 3 miles of narrow lanes. Just into this lane, a car pulls out just in front of me, not dangerously I might add, but it did annoy me as the driver was driving at a pace somewhat less than I would have done and there are no overtaking opportunities for a few miles. I pull out of the lane on to a main but scenic and twisting country road. Shortly after this is the first overtaking opportunity, but alas a car is coming in the other direction so I cannot. I’m now very annoyed as the driver is driving much slower than I would. I would normally cruise at around 50 to 60mph; the driver in front is doing 40mph tops. I join onto another road; down this road are the last 3 overtaking opportunities until I get into the city. All are lost due to traffic. This is turning into a 30mins worst scenario and my patience is going quickly. I hit the outskirts of the city, the speed limit
            s have all been reduced recently to a somewhat extreme level, doing 30mph down a straight, main road seems like it is quicker to walk. I usually drive a little quicker than this limit, but not today, the driver in front is dictating my speed! I’m now really wound up and am planning a speedy overtake when we finally hit the dual carriageways into the city, which is pretty much the end of the journey for me. I drive down the, now painstakingly slow, roads until I hit a 2-lane roundabout that leads onto the first short bit of dual carriageway until another roundabout. This is when my blood boils, the driver in front now takes up both of the 2 lanes so that I cannot get past him in the 2nd, he then straight lines the roundabout causing me to have to brake sharply. I am now very pissed off and my rage takes over! I put my foot to the floor and speed past him, cutting in abruptly and finally braking right down to a stop at the roundabout. There I stay, passing up many opportunities to join the roundabout. The driver beeps his horn but I ignore it. Then, just before a big line of cars come to the roundabout, I speed off, leaving him to wait for the queue of cars to pass. ● RAGE 2 ● - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - This is much the same scenario, so I will not go into as much detail. This time however, I’m on my way back from work. It’s been a long day and I’m tired – I just want to get home and sit down with a nice cup of coffee. I drive through the rush hour traffic, it’s busy, but there is nothing I can do about that. Eventually I get out onto the open roads, but alas I’m stuck behind a car. This time, going extremely slowly and once again all overtaking opportunities are lost. By the time I’m 3 quarters of the way home I am fuming, the person in front is driving with erratic speeds of between 10 and 30mph along the roads I normally
            cruise at 50/60mph. I’m continuously having to brake as the driver slows for every corner, then speeds up. Finally, coming up to a tight corner, I snap, I floor it past and slam on the brakes. The fact that I could overtake at the point I did was testimony to how slow the car was going, normally you’d risk your life overtaking at this point but in this case I managed it with ease. Anyway, I now decide that my top speed is going to be 10mph and proceed very slowly along the road until pulling off onto the lanes. There have been many other occasions when I’ve had an attack of road rage, sometimes this can just be the middle finger salute, normally an aggressive overtaking manoeuvre, often accompanied by colourful language. ◦◊◊◊ WHAT MAKES ME DO IT? ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There are two main reasons why I get wound up when driving, these are... ● People holding me up. I hate being held up when driving, I like to drive at a comfortable speed for me and so anyone who prevent me from doing so is going to irritate me. Basically, they are preventing me from getting to work as quick, sometimes it will make me late, in either case I will have to work that bit longer to make up the time. So, basically, the person in front is cutting into my time and this is what gets to me. And before you say it, the frequently quoted phrase “You won’t get there any quicker” is complete bull, depending on just normal traffic conditions (excluding road works etc), my time taken to get to work varies as much as 15 mins, bearing in mind that on a really good day it only takes me 20mins to get to work! ● People driving badly. I hate being cut up or people pulling out right in front of me. I hate people straight lining roundabouts, I hate it when people do not indicate or use the wrong lane. I hate it when peo
            ple drive inconsistently, brake or slow unnecessarily and I hate people you drive right up my backside. I hate bad driving; particularly as these bad drivers are often the people who would also come under the first category, i.e. drive slowly. Bad driving really winds me up! Now, I don’t snap quickly, it’s when I get any of the above continuous for a long period of time, I’m kind of on a timer! I can usually withstand just the one of the aforementioned irritants, but a combination makes my fuse burn much quicker. I can handle heavy traffic and traffic jams, there is nothing that can be done, but with other drivers, they could speed up, they should be driving properly and as a result of them not doing that, they are holding me up or causing me to concentrate harder. Just like, when someone hogs the bathroom in the morning, this winds me up and I get angry. And on occasions, this anger turns into rage. There are of course many other factors that come into the equation, how I’m feeling, where I am going, and what kind of day I’m having all have an influence. ◦◊◊◊ WHAT I’M FEELING ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ When road rage attacks me I go through three different stages... ● Before: This is the stage where I’m getting angry; I start shouting to myself, shouting at the other driver (as if they can hear me!). I get this intense feeling of anger, I want to teach the driver a lesson, show them what it feels like. ● During: I get a real adrenalin rush; I can even feel myself shaking sometimes. Feelings of anger, pleasure and satisfaction all rolled into one. I feel like I’ve showed them, I’ve accomplished something, I’ve got my own back! ● After: I feel stupid, I feel like I’ve made a right twit of myself and I feel ashamed.
            Thoughts start going through my head about what the other driver must have thought, what they must have said as or perhaps I may have even scared them. I get a real sense of regret and wish I hadn’t have done it at all. Most off all I feel really ashamed that I lost my self-control and for what, usually nothing at all! ◦◊◊◊ WHY ME? ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ So, as I sit here writing this, I’m thinking, what is different about me that makes me get these rages whereas other people do not? This is what I think... I’m a workaholic, I’m always doing something and I’ve never got time, I’m always in a rush. I have a powerful car and like speed, I probably drive naturally and comfortably at a pace above most other people. I get bored very quickly, if I’m not doing something, I’m bored and boredom makes me irritable. I have little patience. I’m in a job where I am in control and I have little time to make decisions, I am almost always right and frequently time is of the essence. People ask me what to do, how to do it or for advice, very rarely the other way around. I’m very competitive (!), I hate being wrong and I hate loosing so I make every effort to get there first, and to be right. I think these, or at least some of these points, are the underlying cause of my rage. ◦◊◊◊ WHAT CAN HELP? ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ So what can help me avoid these fits of rage? Well obviously, less traffic and les traffic restrictions would help; this is most probably why road rage has increased so much. But this ain’t gonna happen is it, if anything this will get worse! I think the previous ‘Why Me?’ section said it all really, I think I basically have to change some aspect of my life. Basically, r
            elaxation is the name of the game, I need to stop working, stop doing anything in fact and just sit or lye down and take time out. I need to relax more. To help do this, I really need to organise my life more, leave for work earlier, go to bed earlier and allow more time for things, basically drop down a gear. Right now, I should be snuggled up in bed with my girlfriend watching a film or something. My girlfriend would certainly agree and has often tried in vein to help. I know that when I am more relaxed, I don’t get wound up with other drivers, it not a problem. Maybe I should try taking a deep breath, putting in a more mellow CD or something the next time I’m stuck behind a slow driver. Maybe I should trade in my flash car for Fiesta 1.0 or something... ...no, that’s too far!!! So basically, it’s a subtle change in lifestyle that I need! Question is, can I do anything about it? I’ll let you know! Well thanks for reading, it’s about time I dropped the ‘Technical’ from my name and wrote something a little different! Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and if you’re a road rager, hope this helps. I do hope I’ve not painted a bad picture of myself; these road rage attacks of mine are few and far between and someway off the more extreme and violent cases we’ve all heard about. I would be most interested in anybody’s points of view on this opinion, advice even (oooh, me taking advice – scary!). Thanks for reading, Tobes.

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              ● UPDATED: 07/08/2001 ● Get ready for the buyers bible, the low down, the truths and the facts about what you should really being looking out for when going to buy that new PC. I suggest making a cuppa now! ◦◊◊◊ UPDATE HISTORY ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ● 07/08/2001 ● Revised pricing, CPU section updated, hard disk section – big update. ● 12/05/2001 ● General edits, nothing major. ◦◊◊◊ INTRODUCTION ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I used to run my own business selling and upgrading computers for people & businesses so I’m somewhat of an expert at putting together PC’s – I still do it for the select few – and at work! The PC industry has subtly changed over recent years, particularly when it comes to the importance of PC’s specification. Prices have remained about the same, while specification and thus performance has risen. The best day to buy a PC is always tomorrow! I aim to make this opinion for the average Joe Bloggs wanting to buy a new PC, since your reading this, you must already have some computer knowledge and if you have lots of knowledge, then you won’t be needed advice! I should point out that I am specifically targeting the standard ‘PC’ as opposed to Apple Macintoshes or any other types of computer – although many points will apply to both. I would not recommend opting for an Apple Mac purely because they are not all that common and will make life that bit harder when trying to get software, hardware etc. At the end of this opinion I will give a brief summary of points to bear in mind and an idea to the price you should be paying for what you get. First however, let me start off by giving you the low down on what you should be look
              ing out for in a new PC, and what has the most bearing on performance etc. I have made this as comprehensive as possible and so, despite my best efforts, it may appear somewhat technical in places. Here goes... #1 : Processor (CPU) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A few years ago this was the single most important aspect of a new PC. Nowadays however, this is highly overrated and many other components will do much more to enhance performance. This being, and I do stress this, the CPU is the first thing you should trade off in pursuit of more for your money. Processor speed is measured in Megahertz (Mhz) or Gigahertz (Ghz), 1Ghz being equal to 1,000Mhz. The type of processor also makes quite a difference here, the main types are from two manufacturers, ordered from worst to best (left to right) for each manufacturer... ▪ Intel : Celeron, Pentium III and Pentium 4. ▪ AMD : Duron & Athlon. There are some others available but, in general, they are all cheap and crap! Pentium 4’s were extremely expensive, but have recently come dramatically down in price. Pentium 4’s are however often much slower than AMD Athlon’s, even Athlon’s at a much lower clock speed. This is largely because software needs to be written to take advantage of the Pentium 4 and thus current software (including Windows itself) hasn’t yet. Expect Window XP to be Pentium 4 optimised. The one benefit of a Pentium 4 is that the motherboard bus speed is at least double of its rivals. Put simply, this goes a far way to improve system performance overall on more powerful systems, particularly that of the hard disk – since the rate at which data can be transferred is at least double. Overall then, the AMD offerings are slightly quicker and much better value for money. You will find it hard to go wrong here, almost all new PC’s on offer, boast more than enough power for just about ever
              ything. At work, the highest processor amongst us techie IT people is 600Mhz – which still runs all the latest games without problem, in fact the lowest (400Mhz does too!). Currently, prices go up fairly steeply above the 1Ghz mark, and once you reach the 1.4Ghz point, very steeply. The best value for money residing at around the 900Mhz to 1Ghz level. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Don’t go below: 900Mhz (value for money reasons). ● Go for the Athlon or Pentium III/4 if at all possible. ● Do NOT get any CPU’s not mentioned above. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #2 : Memory (RAM) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Not to be confused with the hard disk that is used for storage, memory is the temporary storage that all your programs use to run, display graphics and hold your work (before you save it). Memory or RAM is measured in Megabytes (MB) and today’s systems will typically come with between 64MB and 256MB. You will often see memory referred to as 64MB DIMM, SIMM or even RIMM’s. This, put simply, refers to the physical size of the stick of memory. Your memory will almost certainly be in the form of DIMM’s, possibly RIMM’s, SIMM’s being an older and now out of date size. The ideal amount of memory for you depends really on what you’re going to use the PC for and what operating system in installed (Windows 98, Me or 2000). New PC’s will probably come with Windows Me which uses more memory to run than Windows 98, Windows 2000 requires a lot – but you are unlikely to come across this. If you’re going to use the PC for intensive graphics work, such as video editing or ‘professional’ publishing then the more memory the better. 64MB is the absolute mi
              nimum these days, I would suggest targeting 128MB as a minimum as this makes a big difference in performance over 64MB. 256MB makes a little improvement but beyond that offers no real benefits (unless you really are into video editing!). You may occasionally come across memory stated as PC100 or PC133 (or perhaps 133Mhz memory), PC133 is a bit faster when used with the faster CPU’s, but don’t concern yourself with this – you’ll be extremely hard pushed to notice any difference. With the introduction of the Pentium 4 came the RIMM type of memory, this may be shown as PC800 and is currently much more expensive than DIMM’s (3 or 4 times in fact). The cost of standard memory has come down considerably recently and thus all PC’s should really come with a generous amount. An extra 128MB should make around £25-£40 difference to the price. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Don’t go below: 128MB, 256MB preferable considering the price. ● Don’t worry about the type of memory (PC100 or PC133). - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #3 : Hard Disk (HDD) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The hard disk (sometimes called a hard drive) is the permanent memory (and thus often confused with RAM memory). All your programs (even Windows itself), games, documents etc. are stored on the hard disk. Hard disk capacity is measured in Gigabytes (GB) and can range from a few GB to up to 75GB (and soon over)! Pretty much all PC’s these days come with 10GB or more of hard disk storage space that in most cases will be more than enough. Windows and all your programs will probably take up around 1 to 2GB, while games can often take up to ½GB each when installed. Again, only video editing or studio quality music editing will tak
              e up gigabytes of storage, so don’t worry about how much space your documents are going to take up – you’ll have plenty of space! Games are the big storage space hogs; so if you’ve got a lot (or think you gonna get a lot), consider a bigger hard disk. In terms of performance, many, in fact most PC supplies neglect to state this information, even though it can be one of the most important aspects of your PC’s performance – making Windows and program load and run quicker! If the supplier does not state, ask for the following information... ▪ The spin speed: 5400rpm or 7200rpm. ▪ The drive type: UDMA33, UDMA66 or UDMA100 (sometimes referred to as ATA100, Ultra66 or whatever – just watch out for the words UDMA, ATA or Ultra and take note of the numbers after it!). The spin speed makes a big difference to performance, 5400rpm drive are cheaper and slower while 7200rpm drives will make a noticeable difference in speed. The UDMA33/66/100 or ATA33/66/100 or whatever refers basically to the amount of data that can be transferred from the disk to the PC per second. It gets technical so I won’t go any further! Suffice to say, 100 is better than 66 which is better than 33. 33’s are rather old now, 66 should be common while 100’s are starting to penetrate the market place. Many PC manufacturers (Dell is an example) may use a new ATA100 or UDMA100 hard disk but on an older motherboard that does not support ATA100, thus it will only run at ATA66 or 33. There is no easy way to tell this, so don’t concern yourself with it too much. It is worth mentioning that there are more than one type of hard disk. IDE (or EIDE) is the most common and this is what I have been referring to above. The other type is SCSI. SCSI has the advantage of being much quicker even at like-for-like specification as a IDE drive. Drive spin speeds can go up to 10,000 or even 15,000rpm and access t
              imes are much quicker. There are many different specifications of SCSI disks and extra hardware is needed to use them. This is a bit too advanced for here, so I’ll leave it at this. Needless to say, SCSI hard disks are a lot more expensive than standard IDE! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Don’t go below a capacity of: 20GB (value for money reasons). ● ASK what type and speed of hard disk is installed, and... ● Go for a 7200rpm model – makes a BIG difference. ● At least UDMA/ATA 66 or 100 if possible & make sure it runs at that speed! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #4 : Video or Graphics Card ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This is bit of hardware that outputs the graphics to your monitor. If your use of the computer is purely for business, academic or internet use then this component will not really be a concern for you, all will handle these tasks without problem and by opting for PC with a bog standard and thus cheap one, you could save a bit of cash – just make sure all the other components aren’t bog standard too! For those wanting to indulge in games however, this is far and away the single most important component for you! There is no easy way to tell a good graphics card from a crap one, they all have a memory capacity, in Megabytes (MB) of between 4MB and 64MB but this does not necessarily go hand in hand with performance. The memory is basically for storing the graphics before they are sent to the screen, how fast they are sent to the screen makes the biggest difference between them on performance. Most cards will come boasting things like full screen anti-aliasing, bump-mapping, 350Mhz RAMDAC and so on – do not concern yourself with this or you could get very confused! Look
              out for extra features, some video card have the ability to output to a 2nd monitor or TV screen, video capture or even an onboard TV tuner! Don’t worry about these unless you really want these features, it will make the price a little greater – but not much. Things like the maximum resolution and colours are not an issue today; even bog standard cards give true colour performance at good resolution. Video cards are all of AGP type these days (PCI was the older standard). Don’t worry about this! It can, however, be a good idea to check if the video card is ‘onboard’, this basically means it’s not a ‘card’ but built into the main electronics (motherboard) of the PC. If this is the case, you will want to make sure that there is a free AGP port available – if not, you will not be able (or will find it difficult) to upgrade the video card at a later date. Of course, if you know you will never upgrade it, this doesn’t matter! Also, in general, onboard video cards are less powerful and are never at the latest specification. The best way to gauge how good a particular video card is, is to take note of the exact model and look online or in a PC magazine at how much it costs – the more the better! Prices for video cards you’re likely to find in a PC can range from under £35 for a bog standard card to nearer £200. This is one area that you cannot afford to skimp on if you want to play games at a decent pace and quality. Better still; look out for reviews in PC magazines. Currently, the Geforce2 (make sure it’s the 2, the GTS version is a very good sign!) and Radeon cards are top notch for performance! The Geforce3 is the dogs wotsits! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● If you don’t play games – don’t worry about this! ● Consider 32M
              B of RAM on the card a minimum. ● Try to find a review of the video card on offer with the system and take note! ● Find out how much the card costs separately, £100+ means it’s top notch! £50+ is okay. ● Ask if the memory is ‘shared’. Cheaper ‘onboard’ cards ‘share’ memory with the PC’s memory – very slow & to be avoided – sign of a poor quality PC! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #5 : Monitor ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As this is the screen you’ll be staring at lot, it makes sense to get as good a monitor as possible. The main selling point for monitors is the screen size, typically 15”, 17” or 19”. Simply walk out of the shop if there are still selling PC’s with a smaller (14”) monitor. You’re unlikely to find a place selling a monitor larger than 19”, although you can get them – at a cost! Prices of monitors have come down sharply in the last year or two and thus there is no excuse for manufacturers skimping on this one, a 17” monitor is thus the one to go for, 19” if you can, but have in mind the space required and the weight of these beasts! Be very wary of the actual size of the monitor, the measurement is often not the ‘viewable’ area and there can be up to an inch in difference between monitor screen sizes. A 17” monitor is usually around 16.1” viewable. There are, of course, many other aspects to a monitor that can determine how good a picture you’re getting, look out for... ▪ Screen type: Standard curved or flat. Flat screen monitors are often referred to as Trinitron of flatron etc – these offer a superior image quality and reduce glare. ▪ Dot pitch: The lower the better, on a 17”, 0.24mm/0.25mm is good, 19”’s about 0.26mm and 15
              221;ers 0.28mm. The lower, the crisper the image quality, but to be honest it’s hard to notice the difference! ▪ Maximum resolution: 15”’s should be able to display 1024x768, 17”’s should be capable of displaying at 1280x1024 and 19” should be able to go up 1600x1200. Recommended view resolutions are the next one down from all these on each respective monitor, but, bear in mind the next point... ▪ Refresh rate: I always regard 85Hz as a minimum for a comfortable refresh rate, any lower and you will notice screen flicker which can cause headaches and tiredness. The maximum refresh rate will differ at each resolution so make sure that it’s a minimum of 85Hz at the resolutions I’ve given above, or, ideally all. Of course, this only applies to the standard and bulky CRT monitors; you may have an option of a flat panel or TFT panel. These will cost a lot more but weigh a lot lot less and take up much less space. They do look sexy and the size stated is the size you get (i.e. 15” is 15” viewable) but... These monitors are not very good for games, or indeed anything with fast moving graphics due to the ghosting you get with them (similar to enabling mouse trails!). Also, the resolution is fixed (usually at 1024x768) and although many can stretch the screen it will degrade quality – this affects any program or game that insists on a certain resolution. TFT monitors are now starting to fall in price, for 15” models anyway – I’ve now seen them for under £400, a year ago they’d have been at least £800. Above 15” however, and you’re talking up to and over £1,000 easy. Read my other opinion in the buyers guide: computer monitors section for more detailed information, including price guide ;-). - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember (CRT monitors only) ◦◊&
              #9702; ● Don’t go below: 17” – and ask for the viewable area (should be around 16.1” on a 17”). ● Opt for a flat screen monitor if possible (Trinitron, diamondtron etc). ● Check that the refresh rate is at least 85Hz for all resolutions up to 1280x1024 for a 17” and 1600x1200 for a 19”. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #6 : Sound ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sound on a PC comprises of two elements, the soundcard (the electronics inside) and the speakers. If you’re going to use the PC purely for business, letter writing or whatever then this is not important at all – you could even do without sound altogether. For those who will indulge in multimedia and perhaps the odd game, again any soundcard will do. The only real concern if for the games PC’s or those wishing to use their PC to play DVD’s or create music. If you’re a serious games player then 3D and surround sound come into their own and will give you the edge in some games by being able to hear where an enemy is before you can see them! There really isn’t much cost involved, even in a really good soundcard, so try an opt for one with 5.1 surround options and environment audio (EAX), the SoundBlaster Live Player 5.1 is ideal for this. If you’re into making music you’ll want to be a little more careful on your choice and ensure that you have digital input and outputs on the card, look at the SoundBlaster Live Platinum 5.1 as a starter as this offers all the inputs outputs you’ll need at positioned at the front of the PC. Take professional advice if you want a more serious card, they can go up steeply in price! Of course, you’ll want some decent speakers to get the most of your soundcard. For non-gamers, the standard ones will do – sometimes even built into the monitor. These ca
              n always be bought afterwards if you decide you want decent sound quality. You can link your soundcard directly to most hifi’s if you prefer which will do away speakers altogether (or allow just crappy ones to be used). There are many speaker sets available to take advantage of surround sound, ensure you get a good quality subwoofer as this makes all the difference! Make sure there are a total of 5 speakers to support surround! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember (games players) ◦◊◦ ● Ensure you card supports 5.1 surround and EAX (Environmental Audio eXtensions). ● Remember speakers define quality, get a good set – specifically the subwoofer. ● Is a microphone included? - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #7 : CD-ROM / CD-Writer / DVD Drive ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Your new PC will come with either a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM , CD-Writer drive or any two in combination. Any one of them will read CD’s, but not all will read DVD or be able to write (record) to CD. The speed of your CD-ROM is no longer a concern; it will certainly be plenty fast enough. Speed for these drive are quoted as a number (x40 for example). A CD-Writer is a very useful thing to have these days, not least to copy music CD’s (for backup purposes only of course) but, more boringly, to backup your data. CD-Writers are CD-ROM, CD-Writer and CD-Rewriter drives all in one and thus the speeds quoted for these drives are usually in the format 32x10x8. However, just to confuse you the order is often muddled around (e.g. 10x8x32). So, as a rule of thumb, the biggest number refers to the CD-ROM part, the next biggest is the Writer part and the smallest the rewriter speed. A faster writer (10 speed+) will greatly reduce the time taken to create (often referred to as cutting
              or burning) a CD. If at all possible try and get a ‘burnproof’ CD-Writer, this prevents a thing know as ‘buffer under runs’ when creating a CD and is the curse of all CD-Writer owners (it cocks up the CD basically & you have to start again!). Your CD creating life will be a whole lot easier with a burnproof CD-Writer!!! As for DVD’s, well again, just to confuse you, although the speed is measured in the same format, the numbers a lower even though they are as fast as a CD-ROM, expect DVD speeds of between 4 and 16, so 10 or above are a good bet to look for. If you wanna know why the difference, email me! DVD drives will read CD-ROM’s too; a 10 speed DVD is roughly a 40 speed CD-ROM. If you want a DVD (and I’d recommend it), the best option is to have it separate with a CD-ROM or CD-Writer drive, i.e. you have 2 drives. There is a simply reason for this; although DVD-ROM’s can read CD’s, I’ve heard many stories of them not reading copy-protected CD’s (particularly from Microsoft). This is due to the design of DVD drives and is stated on the box (if bought separately) that it will not read some forms of copy protection. If you have two drives, you can simply use the other one, if not, your stuck! Incidentally, CD-Writers are much higher quality than CD-ROMs for reading normal CDs. There is the option of a DVD-RAM, but for now, forget this option, there are currently slow to write and very expensive. They’ll be much quicker and cheaper in a year’s time! As a final point, CD-ROM’s/Writer’s etc can, as with hard disks come in SCSI form (instead of IDE or EIDE). SCSI is now sometimes offered for the CD-Writer as due to the nature of the SCSI format is much more reliable – buffer under run errors are non-existent with SCSI! More expensive (surprise!), but maybe worth it if you plan to do a lot of CD recording. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
              - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Don’t worry too much about CD read speed, slower drives are actually more reliable! ● If opting for a CD-Writer, get at least a 10 speed writer and try and get one with ‘burnproof’ technology. ● If opting for a DVD drive, make sure the CD-ROM/Writer is separate. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #8 : Modem ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ You’ll almost certainly need and the PC will almost certainly come with a modem. This is what you are using (at least somewhere down the line) to read this now, i.e. connect to the internet. All modems should be of 56k class (V.90 type as opposed to 56kflex etc.) and just about any will be sufficient to do the job. Most modems will offer voice and fax capabilities, some even voicemail, but make sure to check first if you need these abilities. The V.92 standard has recently come out so opt for a V.92 modem if possible, but don’t worry about his too much, V.92 is not exactly a major speed increase! The most important thing to make sure of is that your modem is a hardware modem and not software, considering the inexpense of a modem, there is really no excuse for using a software modem and it will decrease the PC’s performance slightly. The one other thing I would suggest is opting for an external modem, these are much more reliable and offer the ability to ‘see’ what’s going on and disconnect manually if Windows cocks up and keeps your line connected! Internal modems are often cheap and cheerful and much harder to replace should they go wrong. And of course, if it’s external, you know it’s not a software modem! Other options such as ISDN and ASDL are beginning to come into the scene, however, currently the expense (in hardware, connection a
              nd charges) does not justify the gain unless you seriously do need a faster internet connection (can you name a good reason?). - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Go for an external modem if possible. ● If you get an internal modem, make sure it’s not a ‘software’ modems (ask!). ● Double check that the modem is of either V.90 or V.92 standard. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #9 : Bundled peripherals (Printers, Scanners etc) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Often, PC deals offer free thrown in hardware; printers, scanners and digital cameras being the most common. This may seem like a good deal, but... Do you really want these extras? Bear in mind these are not free, just absorbed into the price of the whole PC! Also bear in mind that they are often the cheapest of the cheap (particularly with digital cameras), so if you want it you’ll probably want a better one which will cost you more in the long run and if you don’t want it you’ll be wasting money – ask if you can get money off the system if you don’t have the camera or whatever. Cheap bundled printers and scanners were my most common problem when I ran my own business, cheap ones often shared one parallel port and frequently didn’t work properly, if at all, from the start! Always go for USB printer, scanners and even digital cameras – in fact any add-on if it can be USB, get it as USB! USB is much faster and a hell of a lot easier to setup and use. The only one time you may want not to use a USB device is if you want bi-directional support for your printer; this means the printer can tell the PC how much ink its got left etc, USB printer can’t (USB can send but not receive information). A cheap printer costs £40, a cheap
              scanner £30, a cheap digital camera £60, a cheap web cam - £30 (why?). All are crap so think hard about that offer including all these goodies for ‘free’! Offers like this usually indicate that quality and performance have been compromised elsewhere in favour of extra goodies, or if not, the PC is going out of date (old model) and they want to get shot of it quick! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● ‘Free’ peripherals are never ‘free’! ● Research the ‘freebies’ that come with the PC before parting with your cash! ● Avoid ‘parallel’ port scanners like the plague, USB is best! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #10 : Software included ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ All PC’s come with some kind of software with them, not least Windows itself! It is very important you get as much as you can, want and need in this department as software is heavily subsidised with new PC’s and will cost a lot to buy afterwards. You stand to save the most if you get the best-bundled software with your new PC. Try and get well known and widely used packages, go for Microsoft Office 2000 or XP (i.e. Word 2000, Excel 2000 etc) as these are by far the most widely used and I doubt a company would have a problem if you sent them your CV in Word format, any other however & they’ll be left unable to open it! PC supplies often try and bundle cheaper office packages like Lotus SmartSuite or something, avoid these! That said, if you use a certain package at work or at school, try and match it in your software bundle. Schools and colleges are often use the lesser know packages purely because they are cheap. Of utmost important is that the installation discs are included, many manufacturers wil
              l not give you the original discs unless you ask, some not at all. This can cause all kinds of problems and hassle if you ever need to reinstall anything. The Windows CD is commonly not supplied and commonly needed! Office 2000 frequently asks for the installation CD for just about any change you make to it – changing the office assistant for example! Going on from this, Microsoft has started a policy of not supplying new PC’s with the installation CD’s to help prevent piracy. In this case, you will (or should anyway) be given a disaster recovery CD that can reinstall the entire system in the event of a failure. This is not good at all in my book, as the disaster recovery CD will only work for that exact model, upgrade or replace any parts or your PC and it may not work – what do you do then?!? - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Get well known software and/or software that is relevant to you. ● Ensure the PC is supplied with ALL installation CDs if at all possible. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #11 : Warranty / Support ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This is a tricky one! If you know a fair bit about PC’s and/or know someone who knows a fair bit you can probably getaway with not worrying about this, and save a fair bit on the extended warranty! If not... Make sure that there is a 24hr support line available and that the rate is local, or better still, free! This can solve the majority of problems that would otherwise involve taking your PC back to the shop or sending it off etc. Verify the warranty details, read the small print and make sure everything is covered! If a ‘recovery’ CD is included in the package so much the better, I’ve seen some good ones that will automatically reinstall the whole
              system to how it was new. Then again I’ve seen some dire ones that serve to confuse even more than actually offer any help. Make sure documentation is included for everything and a getting started guide from the actual PC supplier / manufacturer is always a good sign. Do you go for the extended warranty? Well, extended warranties cost a packet, expect to shell out over £100 pounds. It’s always a gamble here, you shell out all that money and nothing will go wrong, then again you could shell out all that cash only to find the warranty wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. But overall, PC’s are probably the most likely of your electrical appliances to go wrong, usually in the software sense. Overall, if you’re not confident in fiddling with your PC or any of it’s settings then it’s probably safer to opt for an extended warranty, in this case... Make sure it’s onsite, RTB (return to base) warranties are usually crap and you’ve probably heard of countless stories of PC’s being away for ‘repair’ for months on end. Most problems can be fixed in a few minutes so onsite is, although a bit more expensive, worth it! Read all the small print, make sure everything is covered (in particular software problems) and for how long and ask the what if questions; find out if you have to call a £1/minute number for ½ hour to report a fault! Extended warranties are only worth it if several things go wrong over the years it covers – and I mean several. Using a local PC repairman may cost £20/hour or whatever but frequently works out cheaper in the long run than an extended warranty. Most problems can be fixed in minutes. Beware of cowboys however! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Ask about support - availability and costs involved. ● Do you ‘
              need’ an extended warranty? If yes... ● Read the small print, ask the “what if...” questions, know what is covered and the procedures involved should something go wrong. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #12 : Upgradability ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you never see yourself wanting to upgrade your PC, and these days there is not much left that can easily be upgraded before buying a new PC becomes an option, then you can simply skip this bit! In general, find out if the following things can be upgraded... ▪ Memory; are there free memory slots available? ▪ Hard disk; is there space for extra hard disk? ▪ DVD / CD-Writer; if not already included, is there space for one to be added at a later date? ▪ Video card; if the video card is onboard, is there an AGP slot available to accommodate an upgraded video card. Generally, video cards have to be replaced for an upgrade, adding memory is not normally an option. These are the most common and easily (if you can call is easily) upgradeable items, although you will still need professional advice before you go about upgrading these items. Of course, if the PC is in a new ultra stylish case the chances are upgradability is severely limited or non-existent, the bigger the PC case, the more upgradeable it’s likely to be. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Ask what can be upgraded and by how much. ● Check if the video card is ‘onboard’ and, if so, is there an AGP slot available. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - #13 : Expandability ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Once you’ve got your PC, it won’t be long before you fancy adding a printer, scanner,
              webcam, joystick or whatever. Make sure this can easily be achieved in the future when you buy it! Of utmost importance to expandability these days is the existence and accessibility of the PC’s USB ports. These are basically little slots in which you can plug in all of the above-mentioned peripherals and more. It’s dead easy to do it this way and thus USB connectivity should be the number one priority when buying any peripherals – most are today. Of course, nothing is ever straight forward, and USB is no exception... By default your PC will have 2 USB ports, normally hidden away on the back of the PC. Some PC’s may have the USB ports built into the monitor or keyboard, or even have a separate little box of USB ports (known as a USB hub). Any of these options are preferable but make sure they are ‘powered’ USB ports, i.e. have their own separate power source. By default, the two USB ports draw power from the computer in a very limited amount, this is okay until you add power hungry device or too many devices, in which case you can find they stop working or don’t work properly. This is another common technical support query! You can buy a powered USB hub separately for around £40/£50 and there is no real limit to the number of devices that you connect via USB, even more USB hubs! Not everything is USB however, make sure you have 2 COM ports, one is likely to be used by the modem so you’ll need a spare for things like a data cable for your mobile phone or whatever. Avoid anything wanting to use the ‘parallel’ port (you only get one on a standard PC), a printer is the only thing you should use that for, everything else is better off being USB. And definitely avoid anything parallel port peripheral that states it has a ‘through-port’ for your printer, they often cause problems or just don’t work! Find out how many IDE (or EIDE) connections are free, most PC&#
              8217;s have a total of 4 and each hard disk and CD-ROM or DVD etc uses one, you’ll probably have either 1 or 2 free. These are used to add a DVD drive, tape drive, extra hard disk etc. Of course, you will also need space in the main PC case to add on of these, check for free 5.25” drives bays, a free 3.5” is good, but not generally needed. For adding additional hardware, you will need free PCI or, for older hardware, ISA slots on the motherboard. PCI slots are the ones to look out for these days, most systems will have at least one free (unless they are ultra small and fashion conscious) but make sure it’s usable (i.e. not shared with the neighbouring and full ISA slot or something). - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◦ Points to remember ◦◊◦ ● Make sure there are USB ports of some kind and, if external, are they powered? ● Make sure there are 2 COM ports, at least one being free. ● Ask how many free IDE slots and ‘usable’ free 5.25” drive bays there are. ● Ask how many free and usable PCI slots there are. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ◦◊◊◊ SUMMARY ◊◊◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Okay, that’s just about all you need to know to get the best PC for your money, so where are the best places to buy a PC? Well that’s the million-dollar question! There are no ‘best’ places to buy a PC, in my experience I’ve had to fix problems with PC’s from just about every manufacturer and have experience countless problems with countless companies. As a rule of thumb however, buying from a well-known company is better, supermarkets are hardly going to be able to give advice or offer any decent support afterwards. That said, I’ve used Del
              l a lot at my current place of work and very rarely do they actually supply exactly what we order! Tiny have had no end of problems recently, PC World are pathetic and there is a general lack of knowledge and thus good advice at places like Dixon’s and other big chain stores. If you’re getting an extended warranty, buying from a bigger store means they are more likely to still be there in a few years time (especially in the current market place where demand has dropped and suppliers are disappearing almost monthly). When you go to buy a PC, go armed with questions, I’ve given you the ammunition; just make sure your fire it! If the answers you get don’t tie up with what I’ve said or they just can’t answer then it’s unlikely that they will be able to offer kind of decent advice or support and should be avoided. Don’t be afraid to bargain, you may be able to get a reduction if you, say for example, go without the free scanner or something. Ask, ask, ask and look around and compare – try and find the genuine salesman (if there is such a thing). At the end of the day, if looks crap it probably is, if the keyboard is cheap and shoddy or the monitor cheap looking then the components probably are too. Don’t buy a PC just because it’s cheap, you really do get what you pay for in this area! Don’t get taken in by hundreds of free add-on thrown in, as most probably all the decent components have been thrown out to accommodate this amazing offer. Always make sure that you have seen the PC you are about to buy running first – making sure it is the exact model you will get! This can be very important these days as a badly built PC with low quality cooling fans may make an awful noise. This is particularly true when buying a PC with a very fast processor (Athlons often suffer from noisy case as they get hot and need bigger fans to cool them). Many companies offer th
              e ability to choose your components and they will put together the PC for you. This can be a good way of getting the spec you want, providing the offer a decent range of options and don’t put a premium on the service. If you’re going to do it this way, you will need to research properly the components you want. Buy a few PC magazines, they usually offer good review and buying advice on different products. It is particularly important that you get good support and service from a company when opting to do it this way. As a quick reminder, here is a quick list of the importance of the more major components in your PC in terms of performance benefit (1 – most important)... 1. Video card (for gamers really, makes a huge difference). 2. Hard disk (big noticeable difference with a good one). 3. Memory (from 64MB up to 256MB makes a big difference). 4. CPU (type as well as the Mhz has improvement benefits). This is based on the kind of PCs you are likely to find on sale today. Take particular notice that the CPU is last in the list, the 3 items above really are more important these days, an old 400Mhz PC with a decent video card, hard disk and lots of memory will be miles faster than a 1.5Ghz PC with crap components – trust me! It’s a big purchase, so take time and research before you buy – don’t get ripped off! Before I finally shut up, I’ll give you a brief guide as to what a PC for different use should cost and the important / unimportant factors are, basically a summary of review... ◦◊◦ LOW END : Business, general office use only ◦◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ●● Price range: £400 to £700 ●● • CPU: Unimportant. • Memory: 128MB minimum (64Mb absolute minimum). • Hard disk: Unimportant, 5GB+ will do. • Video card: Unimportant,
              any will do. • Monitor: Not too important, 17” preferable. • Sound: Unimportant. • Modem: Probably not required. • Software: Try and get as much office software as possible, Microsoft Office is a good one (if rarely bundled). • Other items: Just a CD-ROM drive, perhaps a printer. • Notes: For office use, particularly if it’s for business use, you could put some of the saving on the other hardware towards a good quality laser printer. You really can’t go wrong at this level, any system will do the job, it’s just a question of how much money you can save. ◦◊◦ MID RANGE : Family PC ◦◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ●● Price range: £700 to £1,000 ●● • CPU: 900Mhz or more, Pentium III/4 or Athlon preferred. • Memory: 128MB minimum, 256MB preferred. • Hard disk: 20GB+, any more is useful. A faster 7200rpm one is preferred. • Video card: Mid range, 32MB preferred but not desperately important. • Monitor: 17”, supporting at least 1024x768 resolution at at least 85Hz. • Sound: Any soundcard will do the job well with decent speakers. • Modem: 56K V.90 or V.92, External preferred. • Software: Try go get as much as possible, an office package (Microsoft Office) and any other software you may find useful to your needs (i.e. home accounts, games etc). • Other items: A CD-ROM or CD-Writer and a DVD combination is ideal. Getting a printer and other bits and bobs may be worth while but make sure it’s decent, these can always be bought afterwards. • Notes: A PC to this spec will handle games, multimedia and general office applications with ease without breaking the bank. ◦◊◦ HIGH END : Power user, gamer ◦◊◦ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ <
              br><br>●● Price range: £1,000+ (probably a lot of the +!) ●● • 1Ghz or more, Pentium III/4 or Athlon preferred. Stretch to a 1.3Ghz or more if possible, the higher , the longer your PC will stay high-end. • Memory: 256MB minimum. • Hard disk: 30GB+, the more the better, particularly if you plan to do video editing or such like. Make sure it’s a fast one (7200rpm, ATA or UDMA 100). • Video card: 32MB or 64MB Geforce2 GTS or similar high spec video card. Geforce3 for max performance. • Monitor: 17”, supporting at least 1280x1024 resolution at at least 85Hz, a 19” monitor is better if you can afford it and have the space available. • Sound: 3D 5.1 surround EAX card with quality surround speakers and a good subwoofer will provide the ultimate in audio experience. • Modem: 56K V.90 or V.92, External preferred. • Software: Don’t worry about the software too much, get what you can though – a few free games might be good! • Other items: A CD-Writer and a DVD combination is a must. Some decent games equipment may be the order of the day, force feedback joystick, steering wheel etc. A printer is only required if you think you may need it, a crap one will do for occasional use. • Notes: The spec PC will provide the ultimate gaming performance, providing fast game play at high resolution and maximum detail. The dogs! Of course, this is only a guide, there are so many combinations of PC setup that it’s impossible to provide the definitive answer to all, all at once. For example, fancy a bit of style and go for a flat display panel monitor and you’d instantly wack on another £500 odd to the price ranges above. What I hope I’ve done is given you ammunition to fire at the salesmen when you go to buy your new PC. At the same time, reading this should have clued you up about the performance
              and importance of the various parts of the PC and provided an explanation of the various terminology that is plastered all over the adverts for PCs. I’d advise you to take note of the points I’ve made in this opinion and take them with you, the more questions you can ask, the better! In fact, you’ll probably know a lot more than the salesman after reading this – always a good position to be in! Hope you’ll still with me – well done for getting this far, you should be getting dooyoo miles for reading this!! Oh, and poo poo if you’ve just skipped down here! Feel free to drop me an email if you want any extra advice or anything (hope I don’t regret saying that!), I could go on for hours here, but I think for reasons of health and safety I should stop now! Thanks for reading, the rating you’re about to give me and any comments! All very much appreciated! TT. (© 2001)

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                I recently bought this modem as a replacement for an ageing 56kflex modem (which won’t connect above 32kbps). I choose this modem as on paper it seemed the dogs and to some extent it is... Here’s the specs... · V.90 56K technology. · Voice support. · Fax support. · V.80 Video conferencing capability. · Hands free speakerphone. · Caller ID support. · Built in answer phone with multiple voice mailboxes. · Stores voice and fax message when the computer is switched off. · Fax forwarding facility. · Flash ROM for easy upgrades. · Powered handset support (attach a handset to the modem). Sounds great doesn’t it, sounds like a modem that will replace your modem, telephone, fax and caller ID machine all in one go using one telephone line and not rely on the computer being switched on. Sounds fantastic, brilliant, sorted, and so it should at between £96 and £140 (depending on where you get it). So is fantastic, brilliant, amazingly out of this world kinda stuff? Well, yes and no. You see the modem is brilliant etc etc, but the software that comes with it is absolute dire, pathetic and crappy and can best be summed up as incredibly soiled wet & messy PANTS – the kinda pants you have the day after drinking 20 pints of beer, eating 3 kebabs and a vindaloo all washed down with a bottle of cider and packet of nice ‘n’ spicy Nik Naks! It is without doubt the worst bundled software I’ve ever come across, it’s written in a Windows 3.1 style, using 8.3 character length filenames and wanting to crap everything onto the root of your C: drive. It says copyright 1998 but I find it hard to believe it’s that new! Anyway, let me keep this logical and chronological (big word!) by way of a diary of the events that took place on the day I received my new modem... 8:57am Knock, knock, knock. The deliveryman delivered my new modem from Dabs
                .com after the lengthy wait of 10 days (it was out of stock when ordering). 8:59am Have a cup of coffee. Wrestle with the package as could not be bothered to find some scissors, finally opening it. Take time out to stamp on all the big air bags surrounding the modem making bangs like a shotgun going off (fun!). Leave packaging on the floor, take modem upstairs ready to install. 9:08am Quickly take my computer apart, removing the old internal modem. Plug in new modem into serial port, plug in phone cable, plug in power, and switch on. Boot up the PC. 9:21am Boot up my PC (I’m using Windows 2000 Professional with all the latest service packs etc). Log into Windows, and grab the driver CD / disks. They say Windows 95, 98 and NT 4.0. Okay me thinks, Windows 2000 is relatively new, this modem came out in 1998, so there are probably drivers for it built into Windows 2000. 9:25am Go into Control panel, Phone and Modem options. Ask Windows to ‘detect’ my modem. Yep, Windows finds a modem, a ‘Standard Modem’ – translated from Windows dialect into English this means ‘Crap Modem, I Haven’t Got The Correct Drivers For It, Nuh, Nuh, Nuh Nuh, Nuh, It Will Work, But Really Slowly’. 9:28am Delete the ‘Standard Modem’ and insert the CD-ROM that came with it. IT automatically ran and installed the drivers – oh err! I reboot. 9:37am Log into Windows 2000 again, it finds new hardware – yippee, it finds a ‘56K Prof Message Modem’, yippee, yippee! It then finds a ‘Standard Modem’, booo. I look in Control Panel at my modems; I have only a ‘Standard Modem’ installed – arrrggghh! Where did that ‘56K Prof Message Modem’ go then?!? 9.45am Go into ‘System Properties’, ‘Hardware’, ‘Device Manager’. Click on my modem, hit
                the ‘Driver’ button and then forcefully update it to the driver on the CD-ROM. Windows 2000 wasn’t that keen on it as it had no ‘signature’ file that verifies it will work with Windows 2000. Tough! 9:52am Changed my dialup settings to use the new forcefully installed modem, dialled up to the internet. Success, it connects. Disconnect. 9:56am Decide to install the software on the CD-ROM. Plonk the CD in my drive, it auto runs to a pretty ‘CONNECTIONS’ menu. Select ‘Software’, then ‘Communications’. I now have a choice of installing SuperVoice V2.2 or SuperFax V6.0. SuperVoice it is then. 9:58am Install SuperVoice V2.2 (Apparently the Millennium Edition © 1998(!!) from Pacific Image Communications). In fact, click ‘About’ and it says © 1997! What an impressively crap installation program, reminds me of those Windows 3.1 days. Anyway, amazingly it install okay (after asking millions of questions about my phone number etc) on Windows 2000. It did however fail to setup a fax printer (which I already had installed anyway), asking for the Windows 2000 setup disk and then failing to find what it wanted on there when I gave it the W2K setup disk. 10:10am Had a quick look at this SuperVoice software, it looks very noddy with a very dated interface and all the main windows have a hash effect all over them making it looked greyed out and difficult to read. Anyway, a big toolbar sits on your window with various options for sending / receiving faxes, controlling the answering machine and various settings. Of particular fun, is listening to the extremely strong and blunt American accent of the default ‘messages’, which, unless you were extremely sad, you not use in a million years, e.g. ‘Sorry, I’m currently away from the computa’ 10:18am Started to install the SuperFax V6.0 software, then af
                ter an identical looking install, asking exactly the same questions decided that was probably crap too & cancelled. Instead, decided to install the ‘3Com Modem Manager’ software that looked like it could be useful. It installed without problem. 10:22am Tried loading the ‘3Com Modem Manager’ but it insisted that no compatible modems were installed and failed to load. Great. 10:23am Connected back to the internet had a go at looking for some updated drivers and software. First tried 3com.com, this was crap an obviously aimed at businesses, modems weren’t even called modems. Tried usrobotics.com. Much better, first thought it may be a good idea to register my product. A good idea yes, but apparently my model (5625) does not exist so I couldn’t register. 10:27am Decide to have a look for the drivers anyway, went to support, downloads. What a really crap site, everything is higgledy piggledy laid out and your never sure where you should be going. Anyway, surprise surprise, my model is not listed on the page, so I go to the ‘Voice modems’ section and find a similar looking modem so had a look at the drivers, again there is just one massive list of various drivers and utilities for various modems on various operating systems. This is the most appallingly laid out site I’ve come across, you could be there for hours trying to work out what you need to download. Worryingly, a statement at the top says, and I quote: “Microsoft Windows 2000 contains drivers for many U.S. Robotics modem products. If the Windows 2000 driver you need is not currently listed, check back periodically for file updates.”. 10:40am Notice that my connection speed is 114kbps, wow – have I’ve found a secret loophole in BT’s telephone system allowing massive connection speeds on a normal landline?? No, nothing so great, the speed is about the same as before &
                I know from experience that this is in fact the speed the COM port talks to the modem and is often a sign the a dodgy driver is being used! 10:41am Fiddle around on the usrobotics.com website for ages trying to find any decent software to download that may prove better than the crap that came with the modem. No such luck, but did find a little utilities to automatically discover your model number and download the correct latest driver. This sounded cool, so downloaded, installed it, ran it and it said I currently had the latest driver, gee thanks! Better still, I then stumbled across a section giving ‘international sites’ section. This leads me to their UK site, cunningly named http://www.usr-emea.com/uk/. 10:59am Within a few minutes of finding this new site, I now discover that my model number does exist and, better still, there is a driver with a new file date than the one I currently have, in fact over a year newer. Downloaded this, installed it and, just to be sure, rebooted. 11:10am Wow, the ‘3Com Modem Manager’ actually recognised this modem now. We it recognises it, but that’s it, I can’t use it as it’s convinced itself that ‘another application is using the modem’ – well another application is not using the **** modem! Ah well, I can live without that. 11:11am Connected to the internet again, wow – it now tells me the correct connection speed (40kbps for me – about right for this area). 11:12am Decide I’ve had enough, the modem works, my answering machine has been setup and I can use that without the software. I rarely use send faxes, but pretty sure that can also be done without the software. This will have to do. Make a quick note to remind me to complain to US Robotics that their supplied software and drivers are both crap and way out of date. 11:15am Shut down the computer – n
                o, there’s a problem here now too, it won’t actually turn itself off anymore. Instead it now just sits on a black screen with a little flashing white cursor. Curse the computer, curse the modem, switch of the power and go out. Hope you’ve enjoyed that little story, apologies if it was a tad long! Anyway then, the 3Com U.S. Robotics Professional Message Modem... /##/ SUMMARY /##/ A great modem in the hardware sense. It’s got everything and works well, although it’s a bit large compared to other modems. The volume, answering machine components and hands free operation can all be operated from the front panel. It has a built in speaker and microphone so you’ll not have to fiddle around trying to get your soundcard and modem to cooperate. All cables are supplied along with any potential converts you may need and it doesn’t take long to physically connect up. However, as with all computer hardware, it’s only as good as the software that’s used with it. And believe me, this software is really really crap!! (Not that you didn’t know already!). Bearing in mind many of the phones features can only be used via the supplied software, you’d think that after making a darned good modem, they’d invest more than just 5 minutes on the software to go with it. Of course, things would probably go smoother if you were using Windows 3.1, 95 or maybe even 98. But lets face it, these are ‘old’ operating systems now, many users will now have Windows Me or 2000 or even XP shortly. It’s disgraceful in my opinion to sell a ‘professional’ modem with the ‘No. 1 selling modem in the world’ splattered all over the box when it’s supplied with ancient and crap software. To demonstrate just how out of date all this software is, it actually comes with WinZip V2.6!!!! I can’t remember ev
                er having that it’s so old (the current version being V8.0 for those who’ve never heard of WinZip!). Before I finally shut up, here’s a list of a few ‘crap’ points about the modem in general... · Ancient, out of date software & drivers. · Caller ID?? Like, where, how?? · Can determine if a call is fax, data of voice – bullsh*t, no it can’t! · No.1 selling modem in the world – only this model is only available in the UK! · Flash ROM for easy software upgrades – easy, they’re having a laugh!!!!!!! · Powered handset support – like where is that gonna plug in then? Must be another invisible slot for a handset somewhere! · Absolute dire website, what is wrong with listing this modem as a ‘56K Prof Message Modem’?? Why does it have to be called a ‘5625’ and mixed in with every other modem under the sun? And why do drivers, utils, patches and ROM updates etc all have to be bunged in together. So in summary, don’t bother with this modem unless you really want an answer phone built in. The modem itself is excellent, but without any decent software you just can’t use most of its more advanced features and certainly can’t class it as a professional modem! If you know of any decent software that will (or may) work with this modem or anything, please let me know! Thanks for reading, any comments welcome – and don’t forget to rate! TT.

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                • Nokia 6210 / Mobile Phone / 1 Reading / 60 Ratings
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                  01.04.2001 23:18
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                  I recently bought my 6210e as an upgrade to my, now rather ungainly looking, 7110 and I have to say, I love it! Of course, no gadget is a perfect gadget and I am very good at picking faults with things, but before I do, let me first give you a summary of this phones features and it’s better points... //###// SPECIFICATIONS & FEATURES //###// /#/ Size /#/ The 6210e is tall and thin, about the same height as the 7110 but very thin. The big plus point is that it has no aerial which makes it much more compact. Actual dimensions are: 129.5 x 47.3 x 18.8 mm, 95 cc and it weighs 114g with the standard battery. /#/ Battery /#/ The standard battery that comes with the 6210e provides talk time of up to 3.5 hours and a standby time of up to 8 days. You will need to charge the phone for at least 16 hours the first time you get it. This is often where people go wrong, a full 16 hour charge will make the battery hold charge for much longer but since the phone comes up with ‘Battery Full’ after only a few hours, many people just stop charging then not realising that it is still trickle charging & thus do gain the most out of the battery. /#/ Memory /#/ The phone has, as with the 7110, a very large memory capacity which will let you store... - Up to 500 names in phonebook (3 numbers and 1 text) or 5 numbers and 3 texts. - Up to 150 text only messages, 50 picture messages, or any combination of these. - Up to 220 calendar notes. It should be noted however, that often (and certainly with Orange), the phone comes setup to use the very limited SIM card memory as opposed to the Phones memory, which amongst other things will not let you store other information such as address, email address etc in your address book. Phone memory can be selected via the ‘Options’ menu under the ‘Address Book’ view. /#/ Display /#/ The display is a rather modest
                  green illuminated 96x60 pixels that gives you (excluding the header & footer used for status & menu info), 3 lines of text in the big font (i.e. menus etc) or 4 lines in the smaller font (i.e. for text messages etc). /#/ WAP /#/ WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) allows you to access some cut-down website’s on your phone, good for email, stock market, news & weather type stuff, but that’s about it. WAP is a real pain in the rear to setup and typing in a web address on a phones keypad is not exactly fun! /#/ Voice Dialling /#/ Voice dialling for up to 10 numbers, simply record yourself saying ‘Mum’ or whatever, then you can dial ‘Mum’ by simply speaking into your phone while holding down the ‘Names’ key. Works okay providing you use the same voice as when you recorded it, but more of a gimmick than of any real use! /#/ Predictive Text Messages /#/ All new phones have this ability, which makes it much easier writing text messages. Basically to write the word ‘hello’ you’d press keys 4,3,5,5,6 once rather than 4 twice, 3 twice, 5 three times etc. This works really well, although takes some getting used to to start with. Strangely, once you start using it, it becomes easier to write full words that abbreviations! /#/ Picture Messages /#/ All new Nokia phones are starting to do this; basically you can send a graphic as or in compliment to a normal text message. The phone will only store 10 graphics and built in ones are a bit crap so you’d need to download some more to make any real use of it. Novelty value really, and will only work to other phones capable of receiving picture messages (naturally). /#/ Profiles /#/ This is a really useful feature of the more recent Nokia phones. Basically you can assign different people to different groups, e.g. Work, Personal, Family etc. Each of these groups can have a different
                  ringtone, caller graphic (displayed on screen when they call you) and various other settings. Different profiles can be quickly selected via the power button, which makes it easy to switch between them. Several common profiles are already setup on the phone, including ‘Silent’, ‘Outdoor’ – where all the ringtones etc are really loud, ‘Meeting’ which has a quiet & discreet ringtone, ‘Pager’ and ‘Headset’. I setup my own called ‘Holiday’ which only alerts me to call from friends & family – all business can wait, ha ha ha! /#/ Calendar /#/ The calendar on the 6210e is a fair bit better than on previous models with specific options to allow birthdays, meetings, calls and general notes with reminders for each (bar the general notes). /#/ Customisability /#/ The 6210e is highly customisable, you can change the operator logo (graphic displayed on the main screen), picture messages, caller group graphics, ringtones and even updates to the phone can be received via an SMS message! To customise these however, you will either need to find a good website (or company) that will send you new graphics or ringtones (normally at a cost) or, have an Infrared or data cable connection to your PC with appropriate software so that you can do it yourself. My website has loads of graphics, software etc if you do have a direct connection to your PC. /#/ Data Functionality /#/ As above, you’ll need either an infrared or data cable connection (via serial port) to your PC to make use of these functions. I have both, the data cable cost me £24.99 from mobiles.co.uk, although beware, when I first placed the order it cost £19.99, then they called me stating it was now £24.99 and two days later when a friend tried to order it had turned into £29.99! Anyway, once you have this setup, you can then do the following... - Synchronise / edit your address book
                  with your PC (Outlook, Schedule and Notes are supported). - Upload (and download) new graphics & ringtones. - Use the phone as a modem. This is unlikely to be needed by most, but should you be looking for a portable high speed internet connection, this is (at the time of writing), the only phone on the market to support up to 43.2kpbs for an internet connection, most others will not go above 9.6kpbs (painstakingly slow) or 14.4kbps (slow). Of course, there is a catch with this and one many operators will not point out, by default you can send not receive data information. To be able to receive (i.e. use the internet), you have to subscribe for data services (Orange - £5 per month). Further more, if you want the 43.2 capability (which uses a HSCSD or High Speed Circuit Switched Data modem), you will need to subscribe to this service with your network operator. With Orange this costs a lot (£25 a month I think). Of course I can only speak for Orange, other operators may charge different amounts. There are some things you can do without the connection to your PC, you can send and receive address book or calendar entries to from other compatible phones via infrared (even works on non-Nokia’s, I tried it with a Siemens SL25 to 6210e which works fine). Oh, and you can play 2 player snake! /#/ Other Features /#/ - Dual band (GSM 900 & GSM1800) allowing use in Europe (not the US however, you’d need a triple band phone for that – very hard to come by!). Note: You’ll need ‘roaming’ activated via you operator before you go abroad. - Vibration alert. - Infrared port. - Real-time clock with backup battery. - Internal antenna. - Alarm clock. - Calculator. - Currency converter. - 3 Games – Snake II, Opposite & Pairs II. //###// GOOD POINTS //###// Okay, you probably know what are the good points by now, but let me
                  just list the points I most like... #01# Good looking! The phone is small and light, but not so small that it’s hard to use. Having no antenna really improves the look. #02# Feature rich There are so many feature in this phone it can virtually replace your personal organiser. Of course this may not be such a good point for non-gadget lovers! This good point covers a lot of good points all in one, specifically the user profiles & calendar. #03# Build quality The phone is really well put together, whereas phones like the 7110 feel a bit flimsy, this one is solid, it just feels really good – you’d have to handle one to know what I mean! #04# Data capabilities The most advanced data phone currently on the market – the only choice for business users wanting to stay connected to the office while on the move. Hence why, I’ve just ordered several for work! #05# Speech quality Despite having an internal antenna, the speech clarity is perfect and has a very loud top volume. //###// BAD POINTS //###// I’m not one for shying away from bad points just because I really like a product, nothing is that perfect so here is my list of bad points to the Nokia 6210e... #01# Screen The screen is a bit crap really – if compared to other phones (the Siemens SL25 for example). What really makes it look a bit crap is the fact that it has a small honeycomb mesh across it, which while not obviously noticeable, does distort some of the finer graphics. Why on earth Nokia have done this I really do not know, it’d be much better like the 7110 was (i.e. no mesh). Also, the backlight is a bit dull and old fashioned, a new blue lit or something would have made the phone look really really sexy! #02# Calendar notes – no reminders! What is the point in making a general note if it doesn’t let you know about i
                  t on the day. There is no option for making a general ‘reminder’, so if, for example, you want to be reminded that it’s say casual clothes day at work on Friday, you have to make an ‘appointment’ with your casual clothes at 7am since a general note will not actually remind you! #03# Unpredictive text! Why oh why oh why do all the latest phones not have predictive text in normal name entry etc screens, only in text messages. Surely it’s not that hard to just allow the predictive text to be everywhere! Would make entering web address a lot lot easier! #04# Height The phone would look much better without the big head it’s got above the screen, this makes it look bigger than it actually is. #05# I want more features! Okay, this phone may have almost every feature under the sun, but I still want more. Other phones have them so why not this one? Examples: Auto keypad lock after so long without any input. Auto switch off & on at pre-determined times, e.g. at night / in the morning. Auto profile switching, e.g. ‘Silent’ during work hours, ‘general’ all other times. #06# Sending of logos & ringing tones. You can do it – if you have the right software and your phone is connected to your PC, why then can’t you send logos and ringtones from the phone itself? I suspect this is a ploy to get you to pay for them! /###/ CONCLUSION /###/ What can I say, a darned good phone overall (my nit picking aside!). Not available on pay as you talk (yet) so you’ll need a contract to get it, costs around £100 or £40 if you take out a new contract (Orange anyway). Oh, and it’s available in 3 colours, Black Night, Grey Dusk and Red Sunset. A must have for all those gadget lovers & business users. Out of interest, if you want a big range of graphics, ringtones, software and secret codes for this phone,
                  have a look at my homepage – although you will need a direct connection to use the graphics etc. The secrets are of most use, including one that will transfer all your phones data across to a compatible model (that’s what I did when getting this phone from my 7110). Hope this proves of use to you, or at least an interesting read! Many thanks for reading and in advance for rating. Any comments much appreciated. Cheers, TT.

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                  • Colin McRae Rally 2 (PC) / PC Game / 0 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                    10.03.2001 21:32
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                    The original was great, this sequel is even better! If you’re into rally games, or even just racing games in general, this is a must have to your collection. The game comes in a DVD style case (much better than having a massive box) with a fairly brief but informative manual, or though you probably won’t need it. I bought my copy from Amazon.co.uk, who for some reason, decided to give me TOCA 2 as well!! (for free I might add). It costs £30 but I used a £5 voucher from joining LineOne to get it cheaper. Bargain! /###/ REQUIREMENTS /###/ The game can be installed either in entirety for quicker access (650MB), just a minimal install (5MB) which runs from the CD, or, somewhere in between!. You will need a fairly powerful PC to run this game, particularly on the video card side of things, my G400MAX on a 550Mhz PIII struggles to say this least so I’m gonna need to upgrade my video card to play with any kind of detail on. - Minimum specs are (a joke!)… P233, 32MB RAM, 8MB Video card - Recommended… PIII 500, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video card (v.good one) Having said this though, it is certainly playable on my system, even at higher resolutions, the main problem being is at a higher resolution it has a tendency to slow and jerk when going through a section with say lots of trees or something -usually a critical moment! The game will run on any Windows operating system with DirectX V7.0 or above, i.e. Windows 95/98, ME, NT & 2000. I’m running it on Windows 2000, although I’d imagine for the ME, NT & 2000 operating systems, you will need the latest video drivers to avoid problems in that department. /###/ THE GAME /###/ Colin McRae 2.0 supports multiplayer, 2 players split screen or up to 8 over a network or the internet and only one CD is required which is nice or them! The game can be played in either Rally or Arcade mode&
                    #8230; Rally mode has the following types of game play… - Championship - Single Rally - Single Stage - Time Trial - Challenge They’ll all pretty self-explanatory except for the challenge; this is basically a head to head challenge using random cars on the special (i.e. head to head) rally circuits. Arcade has the following types of game play… - Championship - Single Race -Time Trial The difficultly level (Novice, Intermediate or Expert) plays a big part in what stages / races are available, for example… In Novice mode, each rally has only 4 stages (1 day), intermediate has 8 (2 days) and expert has the full rally. The difficulty levels have been set well; Novice is pretty hard to not win the championship, intermediate being a good challenge, while expert is almost impossible to win! I have to say, that I don’t like this restricting of stages available as really, you want to play the full rally at any difficulty. Expert is simply to hard for 99% of the population and so 99% of the population will never play a 3rd of the tracks available. The arcade mode has a similar structure, whereby you have to win Class A in intermediate mode to access Class B (and thus more tracks). The menu system of the game is basic but functional, although I found some problems when trying to setup the keys, it seemed to freeze for about a minute or so and has done a few times – this maybe just a problem with my setup though, e.g. a conflicting program being run in the background or something. Detail levels and on-screen display during racing are highly configurable and you can choose how much information is displayed on screen, e.g. splits, lap times, position etc. which is very useful for playing split screen – where you will want to free up screen space! The co-driver talks you through the stages and on screen indicators are also shown giving details on c
                    orners & obstacles – ignore at you peril! At the end of each race, the game gives a complete replay, although you can’t fast forward, rewind or save the replay (a shame). After every two races during a rally (and at the start), you get the chance to make adjustments (i.e. suspension, brake balance etc) and repairs to your car. You only have 60mins to make repairs / adjustments so there is a limit to what can be adjusted / repaired. This makes trying not to damage your car too much during the stages a priority as damage seriously affects the cars performance. Most people will be happy not making adjustments (using the defaults) as it does not make a big difference to handling and if set wrong can make it worse! Player profiles can be setup so that you can have several players in the game, all with their own personal best times etc. The high score board is comprehensive and holds championship results all the way down to individual stage best times, all sectioned by difficultly level and arcade / rally modes. There are ‘cheats’ that can be gained by winning the arcade levels, the first adds the ability to fire at cars & blow them off the road. In reality these usually back fire on you and make it harder (since the computer cars have the ability too), so it’s just as well they can be toggled on & off! /###/ THE CARS /###/ There is a good selection of cars to choose from, with even more being unlocked as you win rallies, the basic selection is… - Ford Focus - 4wd, speed: {#####---}, weight: {#######-} - Mitsubishi Lancer - 4wd, speed: {#####---}, weight: {########} - Toyota Corolla - 4wd, speed: {#####---}, weight: {#######-} - Peugeot 206 - 4wd, speed: {#####---}, weight: {######--} - Subaru Impreza - 4wd, speed: {#####---}, weight: {#######-} - Seat Cordoba - 4wd, speed: {#####---}, weight: {#######-} As you ca
                    n see there is not such a difference in performance on paper and, to be fair, on the tracks, however, when you get good at it and push to the limits you’ll soon find some cars are much easier on the handling than others (the 206 is a good’un!). The following cars can also be made available, whether by winning rallies or simply entering a cheat… - Lancia Integrale - 4wd, speed: {######--}, weight: {#######-} - Ford Sierra Cosworth - rwd, speed: {###-----}, weight: {#######-} - Mini Cooper S - fwd, speed: {##------}, weight: {#-------} - MG Metro 6r4 - 4wd, speed: {######--}, weight: {#####---} - Lancia Stratos - rwd, speed: {#####---}, weight: {####----} - Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 - 4wd, speed: {########}, weight: {#####---} - Ford Racing Puma - 4wd, speed: {#####---}, weight: {######--} - Ford Escort mk1 - rwd, speed: {##------}, weight: {#-------} As you can see, the 205 represents the fastest car available – but only if you can control it, as with most of these cars, it can be a challenge dealing with their handling characteristics, particularly the rear and front wheel drive cars! Good fun though! /###/ THE TRACKS /###/ There are 8 tracks that make up the rally championship, these are… Finland - gravel & mud tracks, usually dry / sunny conditions. Greece - 100% gravel, very dry / sunny conditions. France - 100% tarmac (nasty corners!), usually dry / sunny. Sweden - snow & ice tracks, often snowy, occasional blizzard conditions. Australia - gravel tracks (big jumps!), very hot & dry conditions. Kenya - gravel, tarmac, mud, usually very hot & dry or torrential rain! Italy - 100% tarmac (tricky!), often cloudy, usually dry conditions. UK - tarmac, gravel & mud, typical UK weather (i.e. rain & fog). The tracks are roughly in order of difficultly, Finland being probably the e
                    asiest while the UK rally being by far the hardest due to the bad driving conditions, slippery and tight corners, obstacles to negotiate. I also find the Swedish rally fairly easy as I like the big power slides you can do on ice, the Australian and Kenyan rallies are probably the most exciting as they are both fast and have big jumps in them (and the weather is usually good). I find the tricky part about some of the tracks (UK being the worst), is the navigation. Often on these tracks you will go from tarmac to mud etc but it’s often very hard to tell when the turn is and you frequently end up driving straight into a barrier before realising that you should have turned hard left or something. These tracks need a lot of practise go get right! The 100% tarmac tracks are by far the hardest (bar the UK) as there is usually no room for error and tight turns, so whereas on tracks like Sweden or Kenya you can quite easily cut corners and power slide slightly off-road, with these theirs either a wall or a 200ft drop! Thus damage control of your car becomes a priority, which makes it very tricky, and a bit of a gamble to push to the limits. /###/ PLAYABILITY / VERDICT /###/ Colin McRae Rally 2.0 is a brilliant game, the cars (i.e. controls) handle beautifully and the intermediate difficulty setting is set spot on to make the game a challenge, i.e. not too hard, not too easy. The graphics are superb (if demanding) and the weather is variable and realistic, even to the extent that it often changes during the race and sometimes the pre-race weather reports are slightly wrong! The arcade and challenge games give a good and fun option for casual play, especially multiplayer which should mean this game never gets relegated to the back of the cupboard! Any faults?? Well, there are a few faults, albeit nit picking ones… I don’t like the fact that the full rallies are only available in expert
                    mode, difficultly levels are one thing, but cutting the game down for each easier level is quite another and unnecessary in my opinion. The computer players never (unless forced – i.e. you ram them off the road!) seem to make a mistake, they just go faster the higher the difficulty level. The computer players always seem to finish with barely any difference in times between them. This means, come expert level, if you make one mistake, e.g. go wide off the road or something, this is the difference between 1st and 16th position! A little unrealistic in my opinion, I watch the rallies on TV and you frequently see, even the best drivers make a boo boo. In real life, it is quite possible for a driver to go off the road, get pushed back on and still finish in a high position – something that’s impossible with this game, hence why expert level is not so fun (unless you really are an expert!). The options to save, or fast forward & rewind replays would have been nice. Maybe just my system, but the game has a habit of pausing for no apparent reason (it’s not loading) for a number of seconds, usually on the menus – particularly after you’ve just selected a menu option. Quite irritating. Overall though, a darn good game, a must have! Thanks for reading, thanks even more for rating and my humble gratitude for any comments! Tobes.

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                    • More +
                      23.02.2001 02:38
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                      I’ve been, or should I say was, a Vodafone customer for years and until now was very happy. As of today however, I’m turning Orange – at least in the mobile sense! Before I start ranting about Vodafone, I see it as only fair to point out the plus points of the Vodafone network. I’m not going to list all the different tariffs and prices as this would be, firstly a mammoth task and secondly, of very little point since their tariff guides are available online via their website or at any mobile phone shop & are likely to change fairly frequently. /###/ GOOD POINTS /###/ // Coverage // Vodafone has arguable the best overall network coverage. Before you all start commenting things like ‘I think One2One’s coverage is better’ etc etc, let me clarify this statement a bit. Naturally, all networks will have some places where they are better than others, for example a couple of miles away, One2One is the strongest signal, Vodafone medium and Cellnet non-existent! Vodafone however, has the best chance of getting a signal country-wide, in fact, while travelling I’ve never been in a situation where my Vodafone mobile could not get a signal – this is in contrast to my Girlfriend’s, first One2One and then Cellnet mobile. Orange seems to be the only other network with comparable coverage. Naturally, you want to check out you location’s coverage first before deciding on which network to go with, although all are generally good these days unless, like me, you live in a rural area. // Call Costs // Vodafone has the best call rate of all the networks, however you will need to get the ‘local-saver’ option to benefit. With this, as I have (on the Vodafone 60 plan), you end up with local off-peak calls at 2pmin, non-local 5p/min & daytime local calls at 5p or 10p during the day. This of course, is only of great use if you make a lot of calls, l
                      ocal calls being the majority. This tariff works out at around £20/month – contract only. There are of course countless variations so you really need a booklet to look through, although in general, Vodafone call rates are cheaper than the other networks. /##/ BAD POINTS /##/ Now I’ve listed all the good points that I can see with Vodafone (there used to be a lot more!), I can get on with enlightening you as to why a long-term Vodafone customer like me would want to leave… // Reward Scheme – withdrawn // I’m rather into collecting Air Miles as this can make travelling abroad a lot cheaper. I was therefore rather pleased when, a couple of years ago, Vodafone introduced their reward scheme that gave you Air Miles for your usage of their network. Although not a particularly generous portion of Air Miles (only about 50 or so a year), this was a good reason for me staying with them. Last month they withdrew this scheme stating that they have already reduced the average mobile phone bill of their customers by so much and withdrawing this scheme would allow them to do so further (b*ll*cks!!). This was particularly hard to swallow, as my average bill has stayed exactly the same since joining, if anything it’s actually gone up! // Vizzavi – ‘devamped’ - crap! // At the same time as the above, Vodafone revamped their website (renaming it to Vizzavi in the process) and sent me loads of rubbish about how good the new site will be and all the amazing new services it will offer. In effect, they took away the two and only two services I used with the site, namely the ability to forward email and free text message email alerts. They added all kinds of rubbish that I can’t believe anyone actually wanting. A few internet search engines (wow – we really needed them), crappy news etc text message alerts – which just serve to bug you with po
                      intless information and, well, that’s about it. A new look and, well, nothing special at all really. To make matters worse, most of the basic features you’d expect to find (like text messaging for example), were not available for a good month after the new site was launched, hence the new site is next to useless for me. Oh, and they changed all the users password etc to get in – complete messing mine up which I still haven’t bothered sort out as it’s not worth it. Bottom line:- the old site was quick, easy and had lots of useful and powerful features. The new site has all the power (and useful) features removed and all kinds of junk added. // Customer Services // I have worked in the retail business (my Girlfriend still does) and know all to well how Vodafone operate their customer services. Basically, if you a contract customer, you stand a fair chance of getting to speak to someone – eventually. If you are a ‘Pay As You Talk’ (PAYT) customer, you have next to no chance of getting any decent service. Vodafone split the two and have a dreadful record when it comes to sorting out problems with PAYT customers. When I used to sell mobiles, I’d actively push customers towards another network to avoid the hassle of any and frequent problems // Value For Money - not good! // Vodafone seem to be lagging quite a way behind now when it comes down to value for money. Although you may think I’m contradicting myself as earlier I said they have the best call rates, this nowadays, has very little to do with the package, let me explain… While Vodafone call rates are the lowest, you must remember that with all tariffs and networks you get a free number of minutes (60 with Vodafone 60) so the majority of user will never get to the stage when the call rates apply, I rarely use up all 60 minutes in a month – and the rollover anyway. What is more of an
                      issue is the following (applies more to contract phones)… - Line rental: Vodafone are about the same as the other networks. - Text Messages: Vodafone are the most expensive @ 12p per message which is double that of Orange @ 6p. - 0800 Numbers: Vodafone charge for 0800 (free) calls. The most important out of these is the text message charge, text messages are booming now and Vodafone are really stinging their customers at this rate. Although the free 0800 calls may not see that big a deal, it annoyed me some time ago when certain companies were offering free WAP access via an 0800 number – which was thus only free for Orange and One2One customers. It’s also annoying having to pay for freephone numbers! Overall then Vodafone really annoyed me over the last couple of months with lots of junk mail advertising the fact I’m getting more value for money with them over the last few years (which I haven’t!) and their new improved all singing & dancing Vizzavi site which is, in my opinion, crap compared with the old one. And of course, to top it all, they withdrew the last thing that I thought was good about Vodafone – the Air Miles rewards. Vodafone – you are the weakest link - goodbye! Thanks for reading, all comments & ratings welcomed, Tobes (TT).

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                      • PlusNet / Telecommunications Service / 0 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                        17.02.2001 04:54
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                        Amazingly I was on the verge of writing a an opinion on plus.net, praising their excellent value for money & service… then the Gods intervened and plus.net revealed it’s true colours!!! Prepare for a long (but very informative) review of plus.net… Ok, as always, let me start with an overview of what you get and for how much (just make sure you read to the bottom though – or you may just make a big mistake & sign up!). Ok, plus.net, here goes… /###/ SERVICES OFFERED & PRICES /###/ Plus.net offer the following dialup connection services: Free, Surf+, Offpeak+, 24+7, Biz+ and are planning an ASDL service sometime in the future. Note that the fees are paid on a quarterly basis, i.e. every 3 months, upfront. Before I go into detail about each service, let me first outline the basic package, which all services include… - Email addresses: unlimited. - Web space: unlimited. - Connection support: Standard, V90, K56flex, 3ComX2, ISDN (64k only). - Integrated messaging. - FrontPage extension support. - 24-hour technical support. - Dedicated games servers. - Web based email. - Uncensored newsgroups (over 70,000). And now I’ll list each services extra benefits… /#/ Free /#/ - Cost: Free access, local rate calls. - Bandwidth allocation: 250MB daily. /#/ Surf+ /#/ - Cost: £5.99 monthly fee, 1p/min daytime, 0.6p/min off-peak, 0.5p/min weekends. - Free .co.uk domain name. - eCommerce facility (Step by step guide to creating an online shop). - Fax2email facility (Get a dedicated telephone number for faxes – which are then sent to you via email). - CGI server (Run CGI scripts on your website). - NetAnnounce business marketing facility (i.e. advanced mailing list). - MySQL/PHP/Perl programming kit - Webstats (See how many visits etc your site gets). - Database Admi
                        nistration Centre - Optional static IP address. - Optional SMTP email rather than POP3. - Bandwidth allocation: 250MB daily. /#/ Offpeak+ /#/ - All the benefits of Surf+ - Cost: £5.99 / month for BT surftime + £5.99 / month service charge (total: £11.98) for unmetered off-peak calls (6pm-8am mon-fri, 8am sun – 12pm sat) - Bandwidth allocation: 250MB daily. - Contention ratio of 25:1 /#/ 24+7 /#/ - All the benefits of Surf+ - Cost: £19.99 / month for BT surftime + £5.99 / month service charge (total: £25.98) for 24/7 unmetered calls. - Bandwidth allocation: 250MB daily. - Contention ratio of 15:1 /#/ Biz+ /#/ - 2 free .co.uk domain names. - Advanced eCommerce facility. - Advanced NetAnnounce business marketing facility. - Dedicated programming team for solutions development - Bandwidth allocation: 500MB daily. - Contention ratio of 5:1 A few notes on some of the feature above… - Bandwidth allocation: This is, put simply, the total amount of data that may pass from plus/net to your modem in any 24-hour period (i.e. uploading & downloading). - Contention ratio: The maximum number of connections allowed to a single port at your local exchange, thus the more connections allowed, the more users can share bandwidth and thus slow down the network. Hence, the lower the better! For all other benefits, if you don’t understand them, you certainly won’t need them – particularly things like static IP, SMTP email etc (geared more for network use). Okay, that sums up the various services offered, of the lot, I have had / still got the following: Free & Off-peak+. Since the off-peak plus account covers the vast majority of services offered, it puts me in a good position to give feedback on what I think are the good & bad points of plus.net… /###/ GOOD POINTS /###/ -- EMAIL -- Unlimited ema
                        il addresses -- This can be particularly useful if you have several people sharing your internet connection, although Windows does need to be setup for ‘user profiles’ (i.e. allow each user their own desktop, settings etc) for this to work well. Another good use for this is that you can separate various types of email into different mailboxes (i.e. junk mail, business mail etc). Another good point, is that you do not actually have to setup more mailboxes to use different email addresses, all main sent to <whatever>@<username>.plus.com will either pop into a mailbox for separate download if you’ve set it up as a mailbox or be popped into your default mailbox to be downloaded with all your other emails. This is a Godsend for super-organised and high email usage people like me, as apart from anything else, you can keep a track of exactly where junk email derives from by simply substituting the website name as your email address (e.g. I used myoffers@<username>.plus.com to sign up to MyOffers.co.uk and have since traced loads of junk email back to them). Overall the email facility of plus.net is superb, as well as unlimited mailboxes, you also have the ability to setup redirectors to a different email address and even mailing lists! -- WEBSPACE -- Unlimited (almost) webspace -- If you have created your own website, you will soon find that you get limited by the poultry 5MB or so most ISP’s offer. With plus.net, you can create as big a site as you like (within reason of course, if you just uploaded tonnes of video, plus.net would not be impressed). Naturally, plus.net do not condone placing illegal material of any form on your site – and will terminate your account if you do. Another good point is the support for FrontPage extensions – which allows you to use all the features of Microsoft FrontPage, if you’re really into web design, you also have CGI scripts to play with and web stats
                        which give you information on the number of hits etc your site gets (note: see moans & groans below regarding this!). -- FAX -- Fax to email -- I really neat feature I found (not free account), is the fax to email service. Plus.net give you a ‘fax number’ to use and any faxes sent to this number will turn up as emails – neat! This sums up the main good points about plus.net, best of all, all of the above bar the fax to email are available on the standard free account – although bear the following in mind: You can only upload to your website and send emails when dialled in using plus.net, if fails to connect to the web/email server using any other ISP. See below for more detail regarding this. Now I move onto the bad points! As I hinted at the start of this opinion, initially they where very few bad points, however just over a week ago, plus.net had a big change of business model, practise, service & terms & conditions. No points for guessing that all these were for the worse, but I’ll give a few points for anyone predicting that they are absolutely terrible!! < hint: now is a good time to go get a cup of coffee! > Here goes… /###/ MOANS & GROANS (BAD POINTS) /###/ = User Friendliness = Now I’m a very technical person (it’s my job!), and even I found it hard to figure out exactly how to use some of the feature of plus.net. The whole site is geared more towards technical people, and explanations of services are often confusing and lacking detail. Often, important information about using the service is hidden away, for example, to download from another mailbox, you need to enter the mail account as <username>+<mailbox> into outlook (or whatever) – this is crucial for it to work, but is hidden away in a massive FAQ sheet. I never did get my free .co.uk domain name (although not desperately wanted), purely beca
                        use there were no instructions of how to claim your free one (if indeed you can!!), in fact no mention of it bar the service description page. If you’re thinking ‘call technical support’, keep reading – hint hint!!!) To be fair to plus.net, a lot of the services are specifically aimed at power users (i.e. eCommerce etc), but making sure the basic aspects are well documented would have made things a lot easier to get going. = Incompatibility with other ISPs = Plus.net have, presumably, deliberately made it so that you cannot upload to your website or send email when dialled up with another ISP. This seriously hampers the usefulness of the Free (local call charges) service, which otherwise you could have combined with another ‘free access’ ISP. Although you can receiver email from plus.net when dialled up with another ISP, replying is then awkward as you have to change the account used to send (options, Send using – in outlook) before it will successfully go. Again, to be fair, it’s understandable why they would do that and most other ISPs do the same. = Web stats do not work = Having web stats is a very useful feature which you can use to gauge, not only how many people visit your site, but also where they are from (i.e. country), what browser they use etc etc. Unfortunately, the stats do not seem to work when using the FrontPage extensions, and thus are useless! = Technical support = Plus.net do not seem to like the idea of telephone support, although you can sometimes find the option to speak to ‘someone’, I’ve yet to ever succeed. Instead they, at every opportunity, direct you to using their online support. This is, well crap really, and of course, if your problem is connecting to the net, not much use at all! The first problem I found, when trying to submit 3 different queries (regarding the problems I’ve already covered), is that you
                        are only allowed one problem at a time – if only life were like that! Using this system, response was quick, however all ‘emails’ I’ve sent to them have been completely ignored, which I find quite rude. = Connection & Connecting = This, originally, was going to end up in the ‘Good points’ section up top, indeed when I first signed up (to the Off-peak+ service), connection was always first time, the line rarely dropped, speed was good and I was happy. That all ended a couple of weeks ago… All of a sudden, connecting when from instant to, well, never the first day – I gave up thinking there were problems, called technical support – gave up on that after God knows how long and connected using Virgin.net. The next day was the same, 45 minutes to connect, only for the line to drop 20 minutes later – never to reconnect again that night! Come the third day in a row like this, I got extremely annoyed and after finally getting in and reading their ‘service status’ page whereupon they blamed BT for reducing the number of ports available for surftime connections, asked for my account to be terminated and me refunded if the problem was not sorted within a week. Incidentally, they could not do this unless I requested it via their sales department, thus I phoned - could not get through, emailed – so far ignored! Now, them blaming BT is utter bulls**t, LineOne has had no such problems (I have friends using this service), what really is, is that plus.net have reduced the number of ports the pay BT to use – otherwise ALL surftime connections would suffer. Basically, this is what is meant by the contention ratio (explain up top somewhere), which for Off-peak+ is 25:1, or in simple terms, total crap! A day or two later, they brought out their new terms & conditions & acceptable use policy, which brings me on to the next moan & groan… = Outrageous &
                        #8216;acceptable use’ policy & conditions = Literally a few days ago (today is 16th Feb 2001), plus.net issued their new ‘acceptable use’ policy and new terms & conditions. The acceptable use policy varies slightly (only in terms of time limits) from one service to another, as I had the Off-peak+ account, this is what I will focus on. Here is the actual statement of acceptable use ‘guidelines’ as put on their website in regards to time online per day (taken as an average per week)… Design - 45 minutes Fair - 1 hour, 20 minutes Pushing It - 1 hour, 40 minutes Unfair - 2 hours *Out of order - 2 hours, 20 minutes *Taking the Michael - 2 hours, 40 minutes + *Note: plus.net state they will take action (i.e. terminate accounts) if you use the connection to the extent of these last 2. Upon seeing this, I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had to re-read it several times to make sure that it really did mean, more than 2 hours per day (14 per week) means your account will be terminated – which, believe me IS true, plus.net do not seem to treat these as mere ‘guidelines’. Now, I use the internet fairly heavily, as my job revolves around this and the connection is shared with my family. Around 3 or 4 hours a day is quite common during the week, weekends often see this figure go above 10 hours. This would make it around 40 hours a week This is not that unusual, I use MSN Messenger and have many friends that are always online, I know many people who use the internet as much, if not more than me. Keep in mind that this service is advertised as ‘completely free off-peak internet access’, which is bound to attract user who use the internet a lot. How then, did plus.net come up with those figures, it’s just completely ludicrous! Here’s some interesting facts to prove the point… - Using the service at Plus.net
                        ’s ‘design’ limit, it would be cheaper to use a non-free access ISP combined with BT’s standard Together plan than it would to use Plus. net’s ‘completely free’ service!!! (About £2 per month cheaper). - To upload my current website to their ‘unlimited webspace’ would require almost 1 week under their ‘Fair’ use limit. - eCommerce, fixed IP, SMTP email and online gaming servers are completely useless under even their ‘Unfair’ limit. As you can see, these restrictions, apart from being complete crap value for money, render most of the benefits of plus.net unusable – how could you possibly have a decent online gaming session with these restrictions?!? Further more, their terms and conditions have also changed to the effect that if you were to go make a cup of coffee while browsing the web, you’d probably find your account terminated when you got back. Why?? Because leaving the connection inactive for more than 10 minutes is violation of their terms & conditions!! What I find incredible, is that they reserve the right to change the terms and conditions at any time and without prior or subsequent notification, as indeed they have just done. So, to play by the rules, you really need to read these terms & conditions as soon as you connect to the net – every single time you connect. Now, this in itself is a bit tricky since it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to read them – a violation of the terms & conditions in it’s self, so you’d have to refresh the page half way through reading or something. Now, this has the knock on effect of reducing your actual time online per week from 2 hours per day to around 1 hour, 45 minutes! Okay, you think I’m being silly, well it’s know more silly than plus. net’s service agreement is it!?!?! How on earth this is legal I really do not know – maybe it isn’t? Of c
                        ourse, as you’ve probably sussed, my account is now due to be terminated, as I did not read these new terms & conditions until the day after they’d been released – by which time I’d already broken them! In case you’re thinking, well I did ask for them to terminate my account – well , yes I did, but that email has been ignored – the reason they are disconnecting me they state, if for breach of the ‘acceptable use’ policy – a joke! At least that turned out to be an easier way of terminating my account!! Okay then, that’s the moans & groans out the way, I feel a conclusion coming on… /###/ CONCLUSION /###/ Plus.net is a case of a brilliant service turned crap! Ridiculous restrictions to the ‘free access(!)’ accounts render them useless – anyone who can actually use the service within these restrictions, does not need ‘free access’!!! Having said all this, the Free account is still useful – particularly for light internet users. The unlimited emails & webspace & FrontPage extension support make the free account worthwhile in itself and this is the only thing that stopped me rating plus.net as 1 star - in fact, no, I've changed my mind - 1 star it is!! In my opinion, Plus.net have made some seriously bad business decisions recently, working within the IT industry, I know of several companies that have terminated their business account with plus.net in the last week – God knows how many users have left after the recent service disruption. Plus.net have seriously damaged their reputation, which may well be its downfall. If you’re not a light user or in need of large webspace / email capacity – STAY AWAY from Plus.net! Thanks for your time in reading this, please feel free to comment! TT.

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                        • myoffers.co.uk / Internet Site / 0 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                          22.12.2000 21:07
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                          /#/ UPDATED 29/03/2001! /#/ Had a few problems getting my prize, I reveal all at the end of this opinion, but first..... I joined MyOffers some months back now after feeling my luck was in from winning a competition on bluecarrots.com (a £150 golf club!). My Offers seemed a great idea to concentrate on pure competition entering, here’s what it’s all about… My Offers is basically a site full of prize draws to enter where you can win anything from a year’s supply of cereal to a brand new car. You need to sign up and get a username and password so that they can keep track of how many draws you’ve entered, and naturally, how to contact you should you win. Once done, you’re free to get prize draw entering! The actual prize draws are supplied & thus sponsored by other companies and not MyOffers themselves. In return, entry to the prize draw consists of mini-questionnaires. Some are simply just a couple of questions while others are a bit more in depth, although, in any case it only takes a few seconds to complete them. The draws are organised nicely into categories, for example ‘travel’, ‘shopping’, ‘fashion’ etc. You can also view the latest draws, review which ones you’ve already entered and view your progress in the other MyOffers ‘special’ offer draws (see below). There are even draws in which the winnings are split 50/50 with a charity and draws aimed specifically at students. The draws are made at the end of each month, so, although it makes it easier visiting the site every now & then, you can just have a mass draw-entering day a few days before month end! Winners are notified within a week of the draw date and a list of winners is displayed on the site (and emailed to you) about 2 weeks after the draw. There are always at least two ‘special’ draws running in parallel with the main prize
                          draws, for which you need to enter so many normal prize draws in order to qualify. The draws vary from month to month so I won’t put the current one here – as it may well have changed now (if you know what I mean!). There is always the opportunity to gain from referring friends to MyOffers, again these vary but have included the chance to win a car, cash and various other prizes in return for getting your friends to sign up with them. If you have your own website, there is also the possibility to put a banner up and get paid (via tradedoubler.com) for all signups referred from your site. It’s currently 40p per signup. The site is extremely well laid out, there is no superfluous information on the site, it’s all about the prize draws and that’s it. There are no adverts (since the questionnaires form the income) and the site is very quick. There is one gripe that I have with MyOffers, or rather the companies that sponsor the draws is that you can end up with a lot of junk mail, after several months using their site (entering 95% of all draws), I now get about 2/3 junk emails a day as a result of using MyOffers. This is understandable since, you are often effectively joining a mailing list when entering the draws, however MyOffers should perhaps make it clearer when a company is signing you up for their ‘junk’ email. In fairness, MyOffers do tell you, but it’s in small print and not easy to spot. I do not see this as a problem however; you just need to apply the following couple of rules to MyOffers… /#1/ Sign up using a new web mail email address, that way your normal email account will not get bunged up with junk emails. It also means that you can simply stop using the account & get another one should the junk email get too much - a hell of a lot easier that attempting to get your email address taken off umpteen mailing lists. Better still, if you get your own domain nam
                          e (only £9.99 - see my ‘easily peasily’ opinion!), you can use that, for example I use myoffers@<my-domain-name!>.co.uk which directs all mail to a web mail account. The other advantage with this approach is that you know exactly which junk email has come as a result of MyOffers. /#2/ Remember, you do not have to enter all of your details into most prize draw entries, I never enter my address or phone numbers, if you have to, I’d rather enter ‘rubbish’ into there than my real address. I really hate this kind of junk mail! Another bad point, albeit it a minor one, with MyOffers is that of the questionnaire entry forms. These can be awkward to complete, as every question seems to need an answer, even, for example… Q.1 Do you eat cereals? Q.2 Which is your favourite cereal? Now, obviously, if said ‘NO’ to question 1, question 2 would not be relevant, sometimes it will even say ‘If not, skip to question ?’ but with MyOffers, you still have to answer question 2, even if it’s just selecting ‘N/A’ from the drop down list. This seems silly, and you frequently end up going back through the questionnaire to find the question(s) that ‘you did not answer’ purely to select ‘N/A’ to them all! Anyway, that aside, MyOffers is excellent, and as I always say, if you don’t enter, you won’t win! I have actually won something via MyOffers, 5 Electronic Arts sports games in their November draw, so you see you CAN win, what is there to loose? At the very least you’ll get a mouse mat or a cup or something, you won’t go away empty handed and you never know! So, as you can tell, I’d certainly recommend it! /##/ UPDATE 29/03/01 /##/ As I said above, I won 5 EA Sports games in their November draw. Actually receiving my prize has taken quite sometime and a lot
                          of moaning (I’m good at that!!). Here’s my story... Having been notified of winning the prize at the beginning of December I was quite excited, and a week or so later I got an email from EA (Mark Robson - Relationship Marketing Manager to be exact) congratulating me on my prize and asking my to confirm which platform I would prefer, PC or Playstation – PC for me! He stated that the prize would be sent out to me in January - a bit of a delay I thought, but as it was Christmas I wasn’t too fussed. I replied promptly, enjoyed Christmas, New Year and waited for my prize! Alas January came, and January went, but with no prize in between! Actually that’s a bit of a lie – MyOffers sent me a ‘I Am A MyOffers.co.uk Winner’ mug, in fact they sent me two!! Now I’m not one to forget about things like this, so the very first day of February I emailed MyOffers to let them know I hadn’t had my prize. I very nice person by the name of Seher Najib replied back with apologies and said that she’d emailed EA and asked them to let my know when I’d get my prizes ASAP. A week or two later, still no prize and not even an email from EA, I’m starting to get pissy! So I send a rather more hard lined email to both EA and MyOffers which amongst other things, reminding EA that it is less than legal not to supply a prize, let them know I’m not the type to leave things and thank MyOffers for actually replying to my previous email. I left to boil for another week or two with no reply from either EA or MyOffers, until a very apologetic email from Seher (or Sara) saying that she’d been on holiday, which was why I’d not got a reply earlier. She’d tried phoning EA but the number was not recognised but said she was going to speak to the sale director when he was back on Monday. On the following Tuesday I got another email from Seher saying she’d spoken to the
                          EA sales director and he’d promised to send out the prizes that week – yippee! Better still, the very next day I got an email from Arran D'Aubigny of EA (wow), apologising and stating that the person who ran the competition had left without making anyone else aware of it. So I waited for my prize, a week later I got another email from Seher (MyOffers) asking me if I’d received my prize yet. I replied stating that I hadn’t. As fate would have it, exactly 11 hours after replying to that email (i.e. the next morning), the prizes had arrived! I let Seher know and thanked her for all her help. The End! Whilst I have been tempted to downgrade my rating to 4 stars, I’ve decided not too, after all it’s wasn’t MyOffers fault and they (or rather Seher) was extremely helpful and for that she and MyOffers have my utmost respect & gratitude. A BIG thank you to Seher Najib! Thanks for reading, hopes this is of use, either way, feel free to comment and rate ;-) Tobes.

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                            06.12.2000 05:33
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                            I’ve been a great fan of the command & conquer series of games and have every one. Naturally, when I heard about Red Alert 2, I raced off to get it. For those of you who’ve been residing on another planet for last few years, Red Alert 2 is basically a real-time strategy game. You build up your base, train men, build tanks and by use of clever tactics and/or brute force, manoeuvre your army or armies to destroy the enemy. Common to all command & conquer games is the need to harvest ‘ore’ to get credits. Anyway… After Tiberian Sun, I was expecting lots of new & bigger maps, lots of new and many more weapons & buildings. Does Red Alert 2 have this? Well, the graphics are better & almost all the buildings, tanks, ships & infantry are different, however when I say different, I mean they are called different names & look different. A lot of the ‘new’ buildings, vehicles, men etc are simply reincarnations of those from previous games. For example.. the ‘Stealth tank’ is now known as the ‘Mirage tank’ and turns into a tree instead of just being invisible! Having said this though, there are new additions, these being… /###/ The New Units /###/ /#/ Chrono Legionairre’s – these men have the ability to chrono (teleport) around the map, the delay between chronos depends on how far they chrono. /#/ Prism Tank – these beasts use focussed rays of light to blast away the enemy. /#/ Dolphin – destroys the enemy with a sonic blast & can also be used to detect enemy submarines & remove squids(!) from ships. /#/ Kirov Airship – Extremely slow, but can drop continuous & deadly bombs on the opposition base. /#/ Desolator – These soldiers spew deadly radiation, making terrain impassable wastelands. /#/ Tesla Trooper – remember the old tesla coil from Read Alert 1, these men carr
                            y mini versions around with them! /#/ Terror Drone – A super quick, spider like robot, enters into enemy vehicles and slowly destroys them, only the repair bay can get rid of it. Moves on to another vehicle after it destroys it, VERY irritating!!! /#/ Crazy Ivan – Plants bombs on just about anything (even cows!!)! When upgraded, he gains chrono abilities, teamed up with Yuri (below), they make an excellent team! /#/ Yuri – Can mind control other people or animals! Also has the ability to deploy and give off a psychic wave, killing all infantry in range. Used with Crazy Ivan, he can mind control cows & such like carrying bombs into the oppositions base – ‘there she blows’! /#/ Giant Squid – Slow or sink enemy ships!! /#/ Tesla Tank – A tank with a tesla coil fitted, very damaging! Obviously, which units (and buildings for that matter) are available to you depends on what side you are playing (Russia, US, France, UK, Cuba etc). Each side has it’s own special weapon and advantages / disadvantages, i.e. build quicker, units cost less – whatever! I should also make it clear that the above list is only the ‘new’ units, there are many more (15 units, 26 vehicles & 40 structures in total to be precise!) which have been kept from previous versions of the game – albeit with different names! I won’t list all those, as this opinion would be huge then (getting on bit now!), have a look for opinions on Red Alert or Tiberian Sun for more info (although I personally haven’t written one – yet!) And the new buildings… /###/ The New Buildings /###/ /#/ Prism Tower – A very effective defence post, using rays of light as its weapon. Can team up with near by towers to create even more powerful blasts – excellent!! /#/ Cloning Vats – Once built, you get two men for
                            the price of one – bargain! /#/ Ore Purifier – Once built, ore is worth 20% more – another bargain! /#/ Psychic Sensor – Detects & shows you where the enemy will strike (within the range of its sensor), very useful for super-weapon attacks, you can chronoshift your construction yard to safety! /#/ Nuclear Reactor – A power plant that can actually sustain your entire base – wow, unheard of in command & conquer world!! /#/ Weather Control Device – This is a truely deadly super weapon!! You can unleash a lightening storm upon your opponent’s base, and it will wipe out a very large number of buildings! Okay then, that’s everything new, most of the original buildings & units are still here, as are the original super-weapons! Many aspects of the games have been revamped as follows… /#/ The menu bar is now divided into buildings, defence buildings, vehicles and infantry and is thus now much easier to use. Waypoints etc has also been revamped, although I doubt many people will use them. /#/ Depending on which side you play, your ore miner with now either be armed (with a light cannon) or have the ability to ‘chrono’ back to base. /#/ Men can now garrison buildings, and shot out their windows at the enemy /#/ When using the chronosphere super-weapon, the units permanently chronoshift & don’t come back, useful! It can also now transport up to 9 units at a time. /#/ Promoted units gain power! Once a unit has been promoted (i.e. from performing well in battle), it will increase in speed, its weapons will do more damage & in some cases the unit will gain ability, e.g. Crazy Ivan can chrono when fully promoted. /#/ The Iron Curtain can now make up to 9 units invulnerable at a time (ouch!), of course, this still wears off!! /#/ Super-weapons are now much more powerful (or rather building
                            s are much weaker) & always show up on the map, regardless of cloaking devices etc. Beware; the nuke can now destroy a construction yard in one hit – along with many other buildings! /#/ Buildings are much weaker, can be destroyed much quicker – never leave your base unattended – if attacked, you’d never make it back in time! /#/ Ore is now instantly deposited instead of trickling in.. Well all this sounds darned good, and I couldn’t wait to get going, but not to long after playing I was rather disappointed, the main elements that I used to enjoy have gone, the game play has changed somewhat. Now, I must admit, I’m not too keen on playing these games single player, it’s just too boring & I hate those missions where you just have a few men to conquer the map. I like to build bases, amass an army and use tactics. The AI (Artificial Intelligence), despite what Westwood say, is still not much better than it ever has been and you quickly see patterns to the computer opponents. What I much prefer is multiplayer, this brings the game to a whole new height… But whereas I could play the original Red Alert and Tiberian Sun all day, I and my friends got bored within hours of playing Red Alert 2 & went back to Tiberian Sun. The whole fun of building a base, blockading yourself in and strategically placing units and defence turrets etc has disappeared! This is all because your buildings can get demolished in seconds, even a bunch of GI’s (the crappest infantry) can demolish a building in seconds. This completely spoils the game, because unless you simply build lots of men and tanks straight off, your dead – so it’s pointless trying to build anything else, you’ll die trying! Also, enemy units still, although it appears much worse, will not attack anything unless specifically told to guard, fight or get attacked, thus, combined with the speed yo
                            ur opponent can demolish your construction yard, you have about 10 seconds to respond to a base attack or it’s game over. Even after applying a mutual, will not attack period with my friends, it then just became the first person to build & activate the Weather Control Device or Nuke wins, since it destroys the vast majority of your base. The first multiplayer game I played, I wiped out my opponent simply by a single parachute drop of men – they destroyed all key buildings before my opponent could respond!! Basically, if you’re caught off guard just once, your dead – you can’t possible cater for all events and there is not enough time to react before you base is in ruins. This has completely ruined the game, I’m hoping I can find a hack to increase the strength of buildings by a factor of 4 or so, just like in Tiberian Sun to increase the amount of ore your got per load (otherwise you were sat there twiddling your thumbs just collecting ore for ages!). As for ‘skirmish’ mode, this is just a joke. The computer controlled players can build about 4 times faster than you - if you visit there bases right at the start, they already have just about everything built – almost instantly!! The computer only ever attacks you – if you have several computer players, this makes it impossible! The computer seems to ‘know’ your weakness, for example, if you defend your base for air attacks – you won’t get any, you base will be blown away from the ground or sea & vice-versa etc. You can’t possible build for all events quick enough and thus it quickly becomes more luck than skill to win. Again, since your buildings get destroyed almost instantly, it is game over if you leave you base to attack another computer player – since another computer player will then attack your base. If you don’t deploy armies to destroy the super-weapons as soon as there ar
                            e built, again, it’s game over because just one nuke or whatever will finish you off. You often discover your base has been destroyed without even knowing it!! What makes this all worse is that the map sizes are no bigger, in most cases smaller – and there are very few maps to choose from. You will meet the enemy before you’ve had a change to even build some of the more basic things. There is the ability to disable super weapons but it doesn’t, it disabled just about everything, leaving you just the basic buildings, men and tanks. Overall, the changes to this game make the action much faster and the games end quicker, but for me, this is just not fun. I got enjoyment from the tactics, defeating a fully equipped base and armies is a lot harder, a lot more fun and a lot more satisfying than just quickly building as many tanks etc as possible and piling in. What I would really like is Red Alert 1 or Tiberian Sun with some of the plus points from this release, along with much bigger & better maps and a bigger range of units to deploy, Red Alert 2 is just over far to quickly for me and will often just piss you off because you loose purely because of something stupid, like blinking! So, as much as I love the command & conquer games, this one just doesn’t do for me over the previous versions. Maybe if you prefer a faster paced game without the tactics, planning and base building then this will be perfect for you, otherwise stick to Tiberian Sun & Red Alert 1. Having said this, I play purely for multiplayer; the missions may give you a lot more enjoyment. Thanks for reading, Tobes.

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                              03.12.2000 22:48
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                              Internet or .com companies are here to stay, although a large portion of the current internet companies will not be with us for much longer. A huge deluge of internet companies started springing up a little over a year ago, all trying to cash in on the potential of the internet. There are many different kinds of internet business; indeed some of them could not exist without the internet (ISPs for example). Stockbrokers are one of the biggest services that have embraced the internet and have revolutionised the way we deal in shares, bringing share dealing to Joe Public in general. By far the most common and what is probably really referred to when we think .com businesses, however, are online shopping businesses, be it selling shoes or holidays. Many of the businesses mentioned above were already in place and have just moved into the internet; the companies that we are really talking about here however are the new shopping .coms or portal sites which have sprung up out of nowhere. When it comes to portal sites, these are basically sites which link to lots of different shops & chuck in extra things like chat forums, competitions and the like in an attempt to get people to use them as a starting point for the web. They exist by making money out of advertising & referring people to various online shops. But what is so special about the internet as a basis for a shopping business? Well, the internet business has several big advantages over traditional businesses, some of these being: /#1/ Worldwide coverage – customers can, potentially, be in any country and thus you have a much much larger potential customer base. /#2/ 24 hour access – you customers can place orders at any time. /#3/ Massively reduced real estate – you don’t need a branch in every major town, thus saving a fortune on rent and maintenance. In fact you don’t need to even be in a town, you can put one big warehouse on a
                              n industrial estate where rent is really cheap. Further still you don't ‘have’ to have a warehouse, direct manufacturer to customer deliveries can be made. /#4/ Reduced staff – with less/no physical outlets you won’t require the cashiers, cleaners etc that go with them. /#5/ Increased product range – since you no longer rely on shop floor space, you don’t need to physically display goods and thus the capacity is only then limited by warehouse space. In fact you don’t even have to reply on warehouse space since a lot of goods can be ordered & even delivered by the manufacturers themselves. /#6/ Cheaper goods – with the above reductions in running costs, you have the ‘ability’ to undercut traditional high street shops on price. It’s these kind of advantages coupled with the huge increase in internet surfers out there that made investors pump large amounts of money into new online shopping ventures. Currently you can find a .com shop for just about anything you’d ever want to buy, however it is the speciality shops that have been the most common to jump on the internet bandwagon. They have the most to gain in terms of an increased customer catchment area. So, on the face of it, you have a shop without a large portion of the cost overheads – got to be a winner & thus investors went crazy investing in these new companies and thus more and more online shops sprung up. This would all be all fine if it wasn’t for the following factors, many of which a lot of entrepreneurs and investors failed to realise: /#1/ It takes a lot of time, effort and cost to get noticed on the internet – unlike traditional high street shops, people are not going to notice internet shops by simply walking past them. To compensate, many millions of pounds had/has to spent on advertising, either on TV and/or by plastering ‘banner’ ads on as
                              many other websites as possible. Hence the ‘portal’ site was born. /#2/ Saturated market – the .com boom saw hundreds of similar shops popping up, but there is only room for so many to be profitable; the actual number depends on the market size per sector. /#3/ The internet is cutthroat – all your competitors are now just one click away, and comparing prices now takes seconds. Attracting customers just got harder! /#4/ Smaller customer base – despite more people than ever using the internet, there is still a large percentage that do not. /#5/ Security concerns – although all over-hyped, the media has done great damage to the success of online business in terms of security concerns. Although in reality a much safer way to shop if sensible precautions are taken, many internet users would not shop online purely because the idea of typing in your credit card details online scares them. /#6/ Reliability & delivery concerns – many people are put off by concerns of delivery and service, stories of items not turning up for weeks, or not turning up at all, damaged goods and returns problems have also served to put people off buying online. /#7/ The personal touch – A lot of people don’t like the fact they can’t touch and in many cases see the products they want to buy online. Often you can only gauge an item's quality by the touchy- feely approach! /#8/ Set-up costs – It costs a lot of time and money to setup an internet business; obviously you need all the premises, computer hardware & software, plus the design of your website. This all, initially, costs a lot more than the cost of setting up a normal business. You then also have ongoing development and maintenance costs. So, as you can see there are a lot of disadvantages for online businesses selling via the internet. Many of these points were only really realised after the investments were made; aft
                              er all who could tell what would happen in a whole new market place? Most originally, though, that everyone would love the idea of online shopping. As a result, many online retail businesses are now failing and closing down; even the best and most successful online businesses have struggled to make actual profit, and most have yet to achieve this. It takes a long time to recover the original investment, which is why many tried to raise revenue on the stock exchange. Sometime ago I got a portfolio for iii.co.uk for their float on the stock market; it basically stated that they would make a bigger & bigger loss for the next 3 years, with profit not forecast for 5 years!! Needless to say, I didn’t invest & watched the share price plummet within a few weeks! As I said earlier, it is not just online shopping internet businesses that are failing; there are many other types of online businesses that have failed due to many of the points I have made above. Just recently, TheStreet.com was sold for a mere few hundred thousand after spending over 10 million acquiring its user base. Overall, it would seem that it is extremely difficult to be a successful internet business by way of exclusively using the internet for business. The successful online shopping businesses have been those that have added internet trading to their normal & core traditional trading. Some internet businesses have now realised this and have opened up high street shops to complement their online counterpart; for example, I recently bought a Christmas present from gadgetshop.com, not via the internet but in a shop in The Mall in Bristol. I think that this is the way to go for online shopping business; many people are simply not ready for online shopping, and it would seem having a few ‘real’ shops in major retail centres like The Mall is good for both increasing customer awareness that you actually have an online outlet and gaining the extra non-online sh
                              oppers. I’d never heard of gadgetshop.com until walking into the shop in Bristol! Having said this, the internet has transformed sectors like banking and share dealing, and many online shops have succeeded & will continue to succeed. There will be many more casualties before the marketplace stabilises and the share price will continue to fluctuate until this happens. As for me, well I’ve been shopping online for years - it’s more secure, shops are open any time and it’s much faster than trawling around town. Prices are also generally much cheaper - although you should always compare: amazon.co.uk is one example where you better off going to a high street bookstore unless you buy in bulk! For those of you still worried about online security, please take note of the following… /*/ Choose a sensible password for your username, i.e. make it reasonably long, 8 characters or more and never ever use the same password as your username!! /*/ Install a virus checker and keep it updated. Viruses have been known to send back information (i.e. usernames & passwords) discreetly, e.g. the recent Microsoft hacker. Although these viruses are rare (I’ve never had a virus in my life, touch wood!) /*/ Only ever use a ‘secure’ site, i.e. one with the little yellow key in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser (should also begin ‘https:\\…’). /*/ Never discard credit-slips outside supermarkets etc; on some less secure websites, many of these slips give enough information for a hacker to use your credit card to buy goods. NOTE: This has nothing to do with whether you shop online or not! /*/ As any bank will tell you, look after your credit cards! Since the only two ways a hacker can ‘commit’ fraud at your expense is by using your username and password or credit card details, the above precautions have prevented any way of getting at it. As for hackers hacking into your computer - well, in the first instance this is very difficult with first having to have some information about your computer and secondly, think how many computers are out there - billions! Why would a hacker want to target your computer when there are millions of big servers like the likes of Microsoft out there? Unless you’re a major multinational business or organisation, it just won’t happen! Remember, you're more likely to get mugged in the street than be a victim of online fraud, and in any case it’s the company that is liable, not you, should it happen! Online shopping and other online services are here to stay. Take advantage or be left out, that’s my opinion - it’s all a matter of personal choice at the end of the day; some people will just never like the idea of shopping online. Indeed I would never buy food online - I’m always very choosy about what I pick, e.g. the milk with the longest expiry date etc etc, I don’t want some spotty youth chucking my shopping across a warehouse and it being piled into a lorry for who knows how long! Naturally, there is one type of online business that’ll always make money, but I won’t go into that. Suffice to say, sex always sells! Of course, the one thing I’ve not mentioned much about are the ‘portal’ sites; these basically rely on advertising and referrals for income and are likely to suffer from many similar pitfalls as online shops. Indeed, the effectiveness of online advertising is a lot weaker than first thought and referral and advertising ‘banner’ click payment rates have dropped steadily over the past 12 months. Again, and as always, the biggest & best will succeed while many smaller sites will simply wither away. Well, that’s my opinion, please feel free to comment, particularly if you disagree with anything I’ve said or want to poi
                              nt out something I’ve missed. Thanks for reading, Tobes.

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                                02.12.2000 01:31
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                                I first hit upon Astral Projection after downloading a couple of mp3 tracks from them via the internet. The two tracks I first downloaded were Mahadeva and Fly (which is not featured on this album). Now until then, I’d never heard of Astral Projection, now they are one of my favourite! Based on the track Mahadeva, I just went out on impulse and bought this album! It has to be one of my best ever buys. There music is just what I like; it’s very fast, non-stop trance music and has almost no voice or singing, just pure trance music – heaven to my ears!! The tracks are all decent, ranging from 5 to 10 minutes long (always a sign of quality), all mixed seamlessly into one another so well, it’s hard to tell when the tracks change. It’s the kinda music that begs you to turn up the volume and you’re guaranteed to work up a sweat dancing to it!! There are no silly ATB style sounds or other gimmicks in it, the pace & style is consistent throughout the album although there are ‘breathers’ which are placed well & well needed!! Basically if you wanted to dance to it, you could, non-stop – there are no points were you’d be stood there wondering what to do with your arms & legs like so many other trance tracks!! This has to be one of the few CD’s in which I can’t really pin-point any bad track, normally you get at least a few tracks that you just want to skip, but this CD just has none!! In fact it’s hard to say which are my favourite because I like so many. If I had to pick my favourite tracks however, they would probably be… Axis V0.99, Liquid Sun, Searching For UFO’s and Mahadeva. Bizarrely, I also find this album a really good one to listen to when I just wanna lie down and chill, kinda sends me off to another planet! Great thinking music!! Anyway, if your into trance music (or even if you’re not!) and have always wa
                                nted music without the gimmicks, without any singing or talking over and with a consistent fast beat & style, I’d certainly recommend you try this one out. If I had to pick a disadvantage, well it’s hard, but perhaps the fact that all the tracks are in the same style could be considered a disadvantage by some?! A truly excellent album! Tobes.

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