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Andrew Lloyd-Webber take note - your droopy looking face, yet extremely large bank balance could be interested in a musical based around a 24 year old 'coatto' who's done it all.... Played around the world for club and country. Earnt millions upon millions of pounds doing something that millions and millions of kids would give their right arm to do. A 'family man'. A 'tabloid dream'. An individual ripe for parody. He is Wayne Rooney. Now what the hell do we do with him? Stick him in a technicolour dream coat is not the answer, Andrew.
As Sky Sports News froth uncontrollably like Hannibal Lecter with a nice Chianti, all Manchester United fans fear the worse - could Wayne be wearing blue next season? Could he be the 'new' Denis Law and relegate United next season? Oh wait, I'm getting carried away, it's not Liverpool....
In fact, could it be any colour other than Manchester red? Unfortunately there are the usual suspects and not a lot else. Real Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan or AC Milan. Any one else? Bayern Munich don't enjoy the gigantic platform they once had, despite their performance in the Champions League last year, and sheer dominance in terms of the 'big name' in Germany. He's too young to go and destroy his career in America. France? Seriously? No.
Madrid have already said they don't want him, which if previous history is to go by, means they'll have put a bid in for him before the turkey's gone cold at Christmas. The club's President Florentino Perez has history of English players and understands the sheer market franchise behind them...oh, and Jonathan Woodgate. Jose Mourinho knows how to look after his players, speaks great English and knows a lot about Rooney. The fact he couldn't play in the Champions League until next season though is the instant sticking point for all clubs.
Sticking with Spain, and Barcelona may seem like even I've got ideas above my station for Wayne to go there, but many Barca fans will admit if they lack anywhere on the pitch, they lack squad depth up-front. They're not flooded with money at the Nou Camp but as Rooney's contract ticks down, he may be relatively 'cheap'.
Chelsea & Man City will sniff around him - with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka the wrong side of 30, things aren't getting any younger at Stamford Bridge. Can you really expect 30 goals a season from Saloman Kalou? At Man City, you've got his old chum Carlous Tevez and a lacklustre Emmanuel Adebayor - a player slipping in value and worth to the team faster than a piece of Ratner jewellery. Tevez obviously made the move across Manchester, but partly because he never entirely settled at Old Trafford...for Wayne Rooney, City will pay him more money than you could ever imagine. The football purists will mentally vomit at the thought of it. City fans will lap it up whilst the bubble is still inflating.
In Italy there's the two Milan clubs, but little else to lure Englishmen like Gazza, Paul Ince and David Platt in the nineties. Although the idea of Wayne Rooney playing for Sampdoria, and then failing miserably at managing them does humour me. AC Milan are flooded with forwards, but many of their team are ageing even more and they haven't won much in a while as Inter Milan dominant the Italian setup. With Rafael Benitez at the helm at Internazionale he may strike up an interest...although if Liverpool keep slipping, Fernando Torres may be getting a phonecall first.
Before I move on, I should point out that he is generally offered at 100/1 that he'll go back to Everton, and 500/1 that he'll move to nearby neighbours Tranmere Rovers. You heard it here first.
In his six years at Old Trafford, Manchester United have evolved again under Sir Alex Ferguson. Everyone remembers his debut at the club - a hat-trick in a 6-2 win over Fenerbache. Yet you'd take a while to name the team for United that night...and on inspection just how poor it was. Just for a moment, contemplate this line-up (and substitutions) below...
Roy Carroll, Gary Neville, Gabriel Heinze (Phil Neville, 82), Rio Ferdinand, Mikael Silvestre, Jose Kleberson, Eric Djemba-Djemba, David Bellion, Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy (Liam Miller, 82), Ryan Giggs (Darren Fletcher, 63)
Bellion. Djemba-Djemba. Kleberson. Miller. All players who are instantly regrettable under Fergie's signings book. Really poor players. But they slipped out the door at United without so much as a whisper. It's the big name players who go out guns blazing like a fighter pilot still shooting at the Jerry's for Queen and Country whilst his Spitfire hurtled to the ground.
Over Fergie's time he's had notable fallings out and each time Fergie has won the battle. Paul Ince, Paul McGrath, Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, David Beckham - all names that fought the law and the law won. People reading this of a certain age may not even remember Paul McGrath - my personal memories are of him playing for Aston Villa, but then again I'm not 'too' old...some people reading this may not even remember Jaap Stam! Ince's departure was marred with swear words, and latterly Alan Hansen suggesting 'you'll never win anything with kids'. Evidently, Paul Ince was quickly forgotten in Fergie's book as they did the double the following season.
But I leave this blog on a question that will leave people talking for time immemorial due to it's significance when it happens, yet one question that has begun to seep in here. Wayne Rooney has set a possible precedent that not even the marketing might of David Beckham could do. A reaction from a small rumbling of fans that may gather moss depending on how United's season unfolds over the coming months. An inkling that the end of an era may be nigh in Manchester. That question is...could the departure of Wayne Rooney signal the end of Fergie? Oh yes, I went there. But don't say I didn't warn you.
In recent months I've come across the actual purpose of Skype, which is all rather exciting and not particularly important in the grand schemes of this review...but it has meant I've gone about buying a headset to be able to talk to friends online rather than via the iPhone application which does rather genuine limitations. So to celebrate, I brought the Logitech Clearchat Comfort USB Headset. The reason? It was nice and cheap on Amazon...
It's price on Amazon's website was marked down considerably from approximately £35 to £17 so it would have been foolish not to consider it. So I promply brought it.
It arrived in rather large and perhaps unnecessary packaging. The headset being enshrined in clear plastic with the Logitech branding clearly visible. Of course, with these things it's nigh on impossible to open them without a chainsaw. Supposedly you press the plastic in at the base of the packaging and it comes loose. I beg to differ on that one. So after a battle with the sharpest pair of scissors I could find I finally got into it. Of course, I'm sure that now means I couldn't send them back regardless of having tried the product or not!
Made predominantly out of a glossy plastic, there is ample padding around the ears and for your head for when they sit on the top of it. The headset's microphone conveniently can be moved from in front of your mouth, to a position where it's parallel with the headset rather than at right-angles. This not only ensures it doesn't get in the way when your not using it, but can be packaged away somewhere easily without worrying the microphone will snap of due to it sticking out. It's also labelled a 'noise-cancelling' microphone, and all though not studio quality, on the few uses it's had so far, the quality has sounded crisp and very clear for what is such a small, and fairly cheap microphone.
The lead connecting the headset to the computer is extremely long - nowhere on the product does it give an actual length but it's well over a metre. The lead also contains a volume control for ease of use. This volume control can also be 'clipped' to you if needs be...or if you can't find it fast enough!
The product comes with a two year warranty and is fully compatible with the latest Windows software. Of course, being a USB based headset, it will replace your sound card as the active sound device rather than operating through your existing sound card. This shouldn't be a problem for the majority, but if you've splashed out on some plush sound card you may reconsider.
I've found the unit is very comfortable for using in an extended period - I've not used it longer than roughly 45 minutes, but at the end of this time frame it still rested easily on my head. This is probably key for a product labelled 'Comfort'! It's extremely ideal for Skype users. If you want a microphone to record things on your computer, you need to look elsewhere but if you want one for just chatting purposes, then this is the one for you.
Here we go again then - The world's biggest club competition. The competition featuring the best clubs, players and managers in football. The competition where, despite Sky's forthright effort at ploughing hundreds of thousands of pounds into it, we'll always watch the final on ITV. It's the same during the World Cup when everyone just watches it on BBC rather than ITV, despite Mark Lawrenson being involved. This tournament is of course, the Champions League...or for beginners, that football tournament with that theme tune.
It's an odd descriptive point to pick up on, but sit and think - does the Premier League have a 'theme tune' as such? The song by the minutely popular band Moloko, and latterly Kasabian in the adverts for Super Sunday don't cut it. There's no triumphant fanfare, no arousal of the sense, no battle cry for you to take to the sofa armed with a beverage and unhealthy snack.
Some would argue Abide With Me is a definitive theme tune - but unfortunately that only appears during the FA Cup Final, and besides whilst ITV/Sky/ESPN have the rights to it, you'll probably be watching an advert at the time it gets sung around Wembley Stadium. Unfortunately though, I don't see it be sung during the Fourth Elimination Round Replay between Maidenhead United and Swindon Supermarine...grassroots, bloody hell.
Yet of course it got a mention when Tottenham took on Young Boys. It had the reassuring inevitability of a trusted friend. You didn't even need to think about it - you know it would be there for you - you could sing along with "THE CHAMPIONNNNSSSSS" but not know any of the other funny German and French words. That's as continental as us English get...speaking of Continental, there was even a time when the adverts defined the competition - Continental tyres, Amstel and for a time Playstation. If anything you were glad to see adverts, and then you saw Bob Wilson's face and it was time pay attention. Adrian Chiles can't hold a candle to him.
The teams will change - from a personal point of view; I swear Man United always used to play either Juventus or Fiorentina year after year?! Now there are teams from as far a field as you could ever remember - Bursaspor, Braga MSK Zilina, FC Twente - all qualifying for their first ever Champions League Group Stage this time around.
But the song remains.
But the majority of us armchair pundits don't actually know the name of the song. It's some classical music - it's either complicated to say, actually 20 minutes long, or a song that in our right mind we'd never even considered purchasing. Yet I can confirm to you it is an adaptation of Handel's "Zadok the Priest" - surely most of us have heard of Handel, right? Even if we can't name his 'greatest hits'...you've heard of him, haven't you?
Anyhow, it's available on iTunes...go on, make the Radio 1 Chart Show have to play it. Make the Big Top 40 say it's a new entry into the chart...and then let Classic FM say they've been playing it for years.
And then Handel will sell out, and inevitably the people that make decisions - who often drink Costa coffee in the morning for no real reason other than a status symbol - will change the song and a new theme tune will be christened. Unfortunately, that song will be something modern. An X-Factor finalist will put their name into the hat and things will become as shambolic as qualification for the Eurovision Song Contest.
On that basis, don't buy it, just listen to it in 20 second intervals during adverts before the start of the match...I dare you...
Now, I'm a bit of a techno-geek. I've got a number of the mod cons and hi-tech gear. I'm lacking an iPad but I feel that'll be rectified soon. And when it comes to a laptop, my old Dell Inspiron finally died a death around Xmas last year after 5 years service, so Father Christmas brought along the Acer Aspire 7535...and here it is for you to read about...
Despite being a person who loves his gadgets, I rarely know the ins and outs of how it all works and what it all means, so excuse me later on while I simply list the bits and pieces that make this laptop tick... You techies out there can salivate over it in peace. In the meantime, let me explain the laptop to you in Lehman's terms and with regards to everyday use.
The first thing that struck me about this laptop is the sheer size of it. A screen of just over 17 inches is probably bigger than my TV!
It comes in a dark blue gloss finish, with the Acer logo embossed on the front of it. It uses small dead weights in the top of the screen to close it and keep it shut rather than a latch, which is used readily in older laptops as a means of closing it.
Opening the laptop up, and the QWERTY keyboard is flat, unlikely many laptop keyboards, which are ever so slightly raised with concaved keys to make it feel more like typing on a desktop computer. On that basis, this keyboard can take a few days to get used to, especially if you're not a fast typist and your constantly searching the keyboard to make sure you've got the right keys as you can't do it on feel so much as you can with a raised keyboard.
The keyboard also provides a number pad, which is a great convenience as this is often missing from laptops. This is accommodated due to the size on the laptop, and sizes you messing around with the top line of numbers above the letters.
One sticking point for me, as with any laptop I've ever used, is the mouse-pad on the laptop, which uses your finger as the mouse. This one is sensitive enough - some times it is over sensitive and reacts as if you've double-clicked things when you actually haven't. This sort of problem never happens with a mouse and using a mouse is less strain on your wrist, so my simply answer is use a mouse - that's what I do, and you don't have to worry about dragging your finger around the pad precisely in order to do tasks such as copying a small bit of text or dragging stuff around the screen.
There are buttons to the side of the keyboard, which turn off and on the bluebooth, wireless signal and the Acer Backup Manager. These shortcut keys are there simply for convenience - I'm not quite sure why you'd want to disable the wireless connective, but each to their own!
The Fn key (also known as the 'Function' key for the technophobes out there!) allows you to use the keys in different modes. For example, a number of the F2, F3, F4 etc. etc. keys can be used as buttons such as mute, sleep and bluetooth by holding down the Fn key and pressing the corresponding button. The details of what each button does is explained in simply forms in blue print on each key, and more details are available in the manual, but a lot of them are straight-forward and say what you see mode.
I'm currently running it on Vista, but do have a Windows 7 upgrade disc at my disposal, but I've just never got round to uploading it...I've heard mixed reviews so will stick to the older version until the flaws are ironed out.
The operating system is as fast as you'd expect. Being a fairly hefty sized laptop, the system must be fairly quick due to the sheer size, and the battery life when unplugged is impressive - you can select a mode which you wish to operate in - either Balanced, Power Saver, or High Performance - High Performance for example will operate exactly as it would when plugged in, but the battery life will drain very quickly. Having it in Power Saver mode will slow things down somewhat, but will ensure it lasts a couple of hours, even when you're doing a couple of things at once.
One element on unreliability is the battery however - on occasions when your battery gets low, and you plug in the power pack, the screen will ust go to black, and freeze there. The computer is clearly still operating as normal behind the black screen but it seems the only way to resolve it is by restarting the laptop. So be wary of that.
I've only played DVDs on here a couple of times, despite the large screen size, but after inserting a disc into the drive it takes only a matter of seconds until it is ready to play. The speed of the computer is truly impressive, and having had it for nearly 8 months now, it has not yet begun to deteriorate, despite being used on a daily basis.
Obviously with all laptops/desktops nowadays, you are provided with a basic anti-virus software, often for a limited period of up to 6 months. I personally use Bullguard, which is for a different review all together, but always remember to protect your laptop, regardless of how much or how little you use the internet.
And finally, as promised, here are the specifications for the product (lifted straight from the Acer website, so thanks very much to them for being so detailed!):
· AMD Better By Design program, featuring: AMD TurionTM X2 dual-core mobile processor with 1 MB L2 Cache supporting AMD HyperTransportTM 3.0 technology
· DDR2 memory, upgradeable to 4 GB using dual soDIMM modules
· One S-ATA hard disc drive
· 4X Blu-ray DiscTM/DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive (on models with dedicated graphics only!)
· 17.3" HD+ 1600 x 900 pixel resolution, high-brightness (220-nit) Acer CineCrystalTM LED-backlit TFT LCD, supporting simultaneous multi-window viewing via Acer GridVistaTM
· 16.7 million colours
· 16:9 aspect ratio
· 8 ms high-def response time
· 60% color gamut
· ATI Mobility RadeonTM HD 4570 with up to 2304 MB of HyperMemoryTM (512 MB of dedicated DDR2 VRAM, up to 1792 MB of shared system memory*), supporting Unified Video Decoder (UVD), OpenEXR High Dynamic-Range (HDR) technology, Shader Model 4.1, Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 (* depending on size of system memory)
· Dual independent display support
· MPEG-2/DVD decoding
· WMV9 (VC-1) and H.264 (AVC) decoding
· Acer ArcadeTM Deluxe featuring Acer CinemaVisionTM and Acer ClearVisionTM technologies
· Dolby®-optimized surround sound system with two built-in stereo speakers and one subwoofer supporting low-frequency effects
· Optimized 2nd Generation Dolby Home Theater® audio enhancement, featuring Dolby® Digital, Dolby® Digital Live, Dolby® Pro Logic® IIx, Dolby® Headphone, Dolby® Natural Bass and Dolby® Sound Space Expander technologies· True5.1-channel surround sound output
· High-definition audio support
· S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) support for digital speakers
· MS-Sound compatible
· Acer PureZone technology with two built-in stereo microphones, featuring beam forming, echo cancellation, dynamic gain control (TBC), and noise suppression technologies
· Acer Video Conference featuring integrated Acer Crystal Eye webcam, supporting enhanced Acer PrimaLiteTM technology (manufacturing option)
· Acer InviLinkTM 802.11b/g Wi-Fi CERTIFIED® network connection, supporting Acer SignalUpTM wireless technology
· 56K ITU V.92 modem with PTT approval; Wake-on-Ring ready
· Gigabit Ethernet; Wake-on-LAN ready
· Bluetooth® 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)(manufacturing option)
· 4x USB 2.0 ports
· 1x HDMITM (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) support
· 1x external display (VGA) port
· 1x Headphones/speaker/line-out jack with S/PDIF support
· 1x Microphone-in jack
· 1x Line-in jack
· 1x Modem (RJ-11) port
· 1x Ethernet (RJ-45) port
· 1x DC-in jack for AC adapter
· ACPI 3.0 CPU power management standard: supports Standby and Hibernation power-saving modes
· 71 W (8-cell) or 48.8 W (6-cell) Li-ion battery pack
· Up to 3.5 hour battery life (with 8 cell battery)
· Acer QuicChargeTM technology:* 80% charge in 1 hour* 2-hour rapid charge system-off* 3-hour charge-in-use
· 90 W AC adapter
· 105-/106-key keyboard with inverted "T" cursor layout, 2.5 mm (minimum) key travel
· Touchpad pointing device with Acer Bio-Protection fingerprint reader*, featuring Acer FingerNav 4-way control function (* manufacturing option)
· 10 function keys, four cursor keys, two Windows® keys, hotkey controls, independent standard numeric keypad, international language support
· Easy-launch buttons: WLAN, Internet, email, Bluetooth®*, Acer ArcadeTM(* manufacturing option)
· Acer MediaTouch keys: play/pause, stop, previous, next
· 410 (W) x 286 (D) x 35/41.5 (H) mm (16.14 x 11.25 x 1.37/1.63 inches)
· 3.25 kg (7.1 lbs.) with 6-cell battery pack
· Keyboard-switch life test
· Acer ArcadeTM Deluxe featuring Cinema, Album, Music, Acer HomeMedia
· Acer Crystal Eye
· Acer Backup Management
· McAfee Internet Security Suite 60-day trial version
· Adobe® Reader®
· NTI Media MakerTM
· Microsoft® Works 9 with Office Home and Student 2007 Trial (Service Pack 1)
· Microsoft® Windows LiveTM Essentials
· External USB floppy disk drive
· One-year International Travellers Warranty (ITW)
What was the name of that bloody song?? The one that goes dur-dum-dur-dur? You know, the one by that band? The band who played at that place? These sort of questions need not be asked any longer...thanks to the wonderful invention of Shazam.
Shazam is simply a music discovery engine - it listens to a piece of music you don't know the name of and tells you what it is as long as it's a piece of music that has been officially released in some format.
The company started out in 2002 and with the invention of the iPhone, their Shazam App has become one of the highest downloaded Apps of all time, and best of all, it's completely free!
To find the music you can't put a name to, open the Shazam App on your iPhone, and simply hit 'Tag Now' in the top right-hand corner. The programme will then run for approximately 20 seconds as it listens to the music (obviously it's important to have the music playing then!) once the time is up it will 'analyse' the clip for a few seconds and search through a database of over 8 million tracks (which extends back to the '50s) to find an exact match.
And does it work? Of course it does! There's been a couple of occasions when the song has been unrecogniseable - this may have been due to the song not having been released yet, or perhaps being a piece of royalty-free music, so is unlikely to be listed on their database, but time and time again the song is revealed instantly and is correct.
The songs you've searched for are also sorted on the App for future reference, and also with links to downloading them via iTunes. When it tells you what the song is, it gives you a detailed breakdown of the artist, song name, album it's from (if applicable) and various details such as discography information of the artist, the possibility of 'sharing' it on Facebook/Twitter and a Youtube link to the music video, if available.
I'm sure there are equivelants ot there. I'm sure there are ones that are just as good. But for sheer ease of use and reliability, Shazam wins the battle hands down. Never shall music go unnamed again!
Every World Cup in my lifetime can be etched by specific memories. Even purely from an England point of view these moments can be elements of time where joy was the overriding feature - there's Michael Owen's goal against Argentina, David Beckham's penalty (and of course sending off) against Argentina, Joe Cole's spectacular strike against Sweden...but in truthfulness, all this World Cup will recall for me from an Englishman's point of view is Robert Green's butterfingers and Frank Lampard's goal that never was.
There was no moment of glory. No fleeting glimpse of things to come as we progressed and improved. England left without ever showing us pride.
Those who happy-clapped optimism and believed Gareth Barry was the answer to all our problems were dumb-founded and truly thought Emile Heskey deserved his place in the England team...It's not the despair that kills you, it's the hope, or sheer ignorance that England's squad does not hold a candle to Spain, Germany, Argentina, the Netherlands or Brazil.
But what will we, the football fanatic, take away from South Africa 2010? The sound of a vuvuzela? Hardly an inspiration and a memory that will burn your retinas for decades to come. Strictly referring to World Cup's since 1994, where was Zidane's headbutt? Bergkamp's last minute winner of sheer brilliance? South Korea reaching the semi-final? An unheard of from Saudi Arabia scoring a wondergoal? Maradona's celebration...oh wait, that was sort of there.
Cristiano Ronaldo, flopped. Wayne Rooney, flopped. Didier Drogba, flopped. Lionel Messi, flopped. Thierry Henry, flopped. Fernando Torres, flopped. It was down to David Villa, Diego Forlan and Wesley Sneijder to try to restore our faith in the beautiful game.
We opened with a promising game. Siphwe Tshabalala became the name on everyone's lips. He quickly faded, but his work was done. He'd started the World Cup with a bang. But soon it became apparent this was the World Cup of work rates rather than flair. The watching world begged for a new piece of skill to be named after the unsuspecting performer. Emile Heskey fell over.
The tournament progressed and goals eventually arrived. 0-0's turned into 1-0's. The Spanish became masters at it. Emmanuel Adebayor's phone went off. We all laughed. It was as exciting as it got...
Raymond Domenech made the French a laughing stock. We all enjoyed that.
Wayne Rooney complained about the fans who'd paid thousands of pounds to travel around the globe to watch a pathetic performance. Mick McCarthy just complained all the time.
Robbie Earle went home early from a World Cup for the first time since Jamaica was eliminated in 1998. Theodore Whitmore wasn't there to support him though.
Luis Suarez became the first footballer to be banned from a continent after his last minute goal line save...if Asamoah Gyan hadn't smashed the following penalty into the crossbar, nothing else would have been said about it.
The Jabulani was given as much airtime as a Presidential candidate. We longed for a goal from distance. Finally we got them, and they looked just as good as ever before. Giovanni van Bronkhorst may be nearly 50, but he may never have hit a football as sweetly.
And then the final arrived. Nelson Mandela turned up. Mark van Bommel did not foul him.
The final saw little more than relentless foul play, specifically from the Dutch but the Spanish were equally as guilty at times. Was it fate that the World Cup final to be remembered for refereeing decisions was officiated by an Englishman?!
But let the Dutch take their orange-mist away from their eyes - their team was second-best. Fact. Nigel de Jong should have be sent-off instantly for his assault on Xabi Alonso (lower-league fans will note Gordon Greer's sending off for Swindon against Charlton in the League One Play-off Semi-Final last season as an exact replica). By it's very definition, Arjen Robben should have been sent off for a second yellow for kicking the ball away...after his pathetic tantrum to Howard Webb previously. In that moment he instantly became everything of the game of football that is laughed at and hated by fans of other sports - players disregarding officials as worthless and acting as if they're always right, not being able to accept a decision going against them. Grow up.
If anything, Andres Iniesta's very late winner was fitting. This competition lacked the last-minute drama of nostalgic based yesteryears. But Iniesta's winner sparked scenes of jubilation that truly fitted a football match, rather than the cruel miss of a penalty kick, which would have been the case ten minutes later had he failed to find the net. Sometimes matches as big as this are better off sorted out by someone scoring rather than by the immortal line "oh, he's put over." Often preceded by the line "the English defender steps up to take the spot kick."
There is no such thing as a 'bad' World Cup. If such a thing happened, it would not still be watched by billions of people around the globe. But ultimately for all South Africa gave us in terms of hope, excitement and sheer joy, the footballing world provided midfield stalemates, burnt-out geniuses and repeated conversations about video technology. There were shocks. Who honestly put money on Italy going out of the group stages? Germany to put four past Argentina without response? New Zealand to be the only unbeaten team in the whole tournament?
Brazil will host it next. In all probability they will win it in their back yard. We will watch. We will cheer. We will collect our thoughts, calculate the fairest outcome and then say "how can that be offside referee, you wanker?!"
And then Emile Heskey will provide expert punditry on ITV.
(also written on optajoke.wordpress.com, by me of course!)
Surprise, surprise here's another iPhone application from me...this time it is the TuneIn Radio App...which allows you to listen to radio, unsurprisingly.
Priced at just £1.19, it gives you access to thousands upon thousands of radio stations from around the globe, and all you need to listen is a 3G or wireless signal.
Once you've downloaded it and got into it, things can appear a little confusing - there's a list offering you all sorts of things but will probably all give the same result. They are - Browse Local Radio, Browse Recents, RadioTime Talk, RadioTime Sports, RadioTime Music, Browse by Location, Browse by Language. Now, knowing how indifferent these types of searches can be, unless you get the station you're after precisely right, it won't find it...however low and behold this appears quite reliable.
Selecting the first option, Browse Local Radio, loads a directory listed in alphabetical order of what appears to be most radio stations in the UK. From 102.7FM Classic Rock to XFM you simple select the station you want and it will load. It'll take you to a page featuring the stations logo, and a show description - from time to time this is incorrect or out of date, but invariably the details are correct. Once on the streaming page, you can do various things, such as report a problem (which hopefully you won't need!), look for other similar stations, select the quality of stream you want and view the stations schedule. Going back to the streaming page, you can pause the stream, or even record a portion of it. Returning to the original menu page will also allow the stream to keep playing, which is convenient, but one major setback of the App is you can't leave the application and the station will continue to play - something that may not actually be possible to attain for independent Apps, but would be far more helpful and be an incredible selling point.
If at any point you want to stop the station you're listening to, or want to return to the streaming page, there is a 'now playing' button in the top right hand corner. You may also bookmark your favourite stations for easy access next time you wish to listen to them, and even browse the internet using the App. This is one way of combating the problem I mentioned in the previous paragraph of the App not playing once you exit it - so by having a built-in browser, it tries to ensure if you need to use the internet, you use their portal. Clever.
Looking at the reviews and ratings on iTunes, this Application is exceptionally popular and worthwhile downloading for anyone who is a radio listener and has an iPhone. Yes, there are a few teething problems - for example, the stream can regularly buffer, despite the apparent appearance of a strong wireless or 3G signal. The obvious disadvantage of not being able to leave the App to continue listening is partly combated by the in-house web browser but so people will still complain. Yet with all the available multi-radio apps out there in the iTunes store, this one has to be up there with the best. It's easy to use, quick, has any radio station you could ever wish for on it, and best of all, is extremely cheap for the service it provides. Do yourself a favour and try it for yourself!
Ah yes, the humble Social Media website. First came Myspace, then came Facebook, and then along came Twitter. A simple, quick-witted status fest that 'media types' seem to be housed in.
The majority of Internet users these days do have a Facebook account - whether they use it regularly or wisely is for another discussion - but the number of 'Tweeters' is far lower, but still growing strong. The concept is you have 140 characters to give a status update, similar to Facebook. You can upload photos if you so wish, but the detail you can go into and the way you network with your friends is far, far different to Facebook or Myspace. Instead, it appears to be a place where people try and come up with witty one-liners, yet are regularly outdone by those who are genuine comedians. And that's where the novelty lies - the amount of 'famous' people on Twitter.
Well-documented examples include Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, who have over a million 'followers', yet the average man-on-the-street will struggle to reach 100. That's were many people get turned off from Twitter. Popularity appears to be key due to a lack of options when it comes to interactivity. You can edit your profile, but that is limited to a brief description of you, a website, and a small photo. You can include a custom made background, but often your 'wall' of tweets will cover over it to make it largely irrelevant what you have there.
But networking for professional types appear to be key here. Being someone who works in the media, the idea is I follow a load of other media types and try to get them to follow me, even if I've never met them before or even if I don't really have a clue of who they are.
'Retweeting' is a key to your involvement in the site, along with writing Tweets about certain Trending topics. Firstly, Retweeting is simply reposting someone else Tweet - probably ones that are humourous, clever or interesting - so that more people can see it. Trending topics are words and phrases that a in popular circulation around the Twitter community. For example, with England playing Mexico tonight in the football, terms such as England, Wembley, Capello, Rooney etc. etc. are likely to be trending topics due to the sheer number of people tweeting about them. Understand? Yeah, it's still not all that exciting really...
You can also set-up 'lists' of people - think of these as groups of people that all have something in common - so for example if you follow about a dozen professional comedians, you may put them all in a 'comedians' list. There is also the popular 'Follow Friday' routine where you list a few friends that others should follow along with the tag of #ff...this of course is always a 'trending topic' that I spoke of, so in theory you're name may get shown to more users.
Primarily, it does help if you're famous to be on Twitter. It also helps if you have a massive network of friends that are also on the website. The average man or woman on the street may join it and become bored after about a dozen tweets once they realise no one of interest is following them...
There was a time when I wrote about a plethora of iPhone games and applications - Doodlejump, Paper Toss, Flight Control to name but a few...but one still stands out as the consistent best seller on the iTunes store. That game is Angry Birds, and final I downloaded it myself to see what all the fuss is about...
Made by Clickgamer, It combines the concept of blowing things up in a basic platform concept like 'Worms' used to, along with the basic strategic element of 'Lemmings' - both classic computer games we'll all agree. The idea is that a family/posse of birds has had their eggs stolen by some green-gremlin types and they must get them back. To do this they must get through multiple levels by 'killing' the gremlins on offer in each level by making the scaffolding around them collapse and crush them.
Now, it's not a case of just through the birds at the scaffolding in a kamikaze effect - you are very limited on the number of birds you have in each level, and there are different birds which do different things. For example, the red ones are very basic and can just be thrown at the target. The yellow ones speed up after you release them from the catapult if you hit the screen again. The blue ones act like cluster bombs and split in three if you hit the screen a second time. The birds which appear to look like bombs do just that - explode when you hit the screen a screen time. And there are big egg-shaped ones which drop an egg on the target below when the screen is tapped again. As you go through the levels some of these characters become unlocked, for example towards the very end of the game there is a bird which becomes unlocked which acts like a boomerang - if you press the screen a second time whilst it's in flight it starts to curve back from where it came - useless for the 'attack from behind' mode!
There's a points-based system on each level - you obviously collect points for killing the gremlins, but you also get more points for the more damage you do, and also if you have birds left over once you've killed all the gremlins - there's a three-star system to determine how good your score is. Getting just one star will mean you can move onto the next level, but there is room for improvement. There are also various prizes to collect along the way, such as golden eggs, which are hidden around the game so appear to be the hardest things to collect!
There are a number of levels in the game, and obviously they get harder as you go on - each level has approximately 21 games in it, and there's 6 levels to do through...so presumably there's a long game life to it...although trust me it's that addictive it'll be over sooner than you think!
It's available on the iTunes store for just a mere 59p, which is ridiculously cheap compared to some lesser games on iTunes. It's fun, addictive, has an element of skill involved, and is clearly one of the most popular games that iTunes has ever sold. If you've got an iPhone or iTouch then you'd be a fool not to own this!
Let me start by somewhat paraphrasing a famous quote from Sir Alex Ferguson after his Man Utd side beat Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final... Elections, bloody hell.
The 2010 General Election saw the closest race for a generation - from the Tories being far in the lead, to Labour clawing some points back as the economic crisis started to alleviate, to the Lib Dems catching up in the polls due to the TV debates - this was genuinely an interesting Election that caught the interest of hundreds of thousands of people across the land who'd never even bothered with 'politics' before.
There was talk of election favour throughout the Isle; "Oh politics is boring" many would decree beforehand. "It's for old people and geeks" said the cool kids on the street. "Dave is better than Gordy" said the Tory old boys. "She's just a bigoted woman" said Gordy. Everyone was talking about it. For the first time in years people were feeling the need to speak out and voice their democratic right. The oppression of a seemingly Orwellian government could be removed... to be replaced with a new, Orwellian government. We were all pleaded with to vote by Nick, Dave and Gordon as they stood behind podiums and recited the best jokes their writers could come up with to woo the floating voter...
...and then Election Day came. The saturated news coverage of party leaders flocking around the coverage to shake hands with the working class stopped, and instead we looked at footage of rundown village halls and community centres. By law, on the day there can be no talk that may even hint at a suggestion of which way to vote, so no one was asked how they voted. No one was pestered - apart from those answering to exit poll surveyors - no one stood up to a party leader to ask them about a policy. Adam Boulton could rest for the day. But then it turned out just 65% of us voted. What happened? This was the day where the public truly spoke and was the greatest voter turnout for decades. Instead the third placed party, the Liberal Democrats received just 6 million seats overall. That's a representation of just 10% of the country - granted not all the country can vote - but it's not the most representative for a democracy.
Never fear though, just a 10% representation will mean nothing. They won't get power. The Liberals never will...oh wait. No one has. So along came Dave and co and asked Nick and co to form a coalition. They tried this coalition malarky in 1974 and it failed. Winston and co succeeded with it during the War, but that was over sixty years ago...yet now it appears to have worked. The Tories joining with the Liberals (let me use the term once... 'jumping into bed with them'...a political cliché to say the least). How on earth does that work? A fairly easy-going party joining, and more importantly, agreeing with, a very strict party. The experts were baffled. The public even more so.
So out went Gordon and with that gave one of his greatest speeches - something he should really have given about a month previously to help save his bacon, and in came Dave and gave one of the most impending-doom speeches you'll ever wish to hear in non-fiction. Things could be grim ahead for many.
Working within the media, I've heard a lot of experts, journalists and ex-politicians say this won't work. There's no way these two parties can co-operate for the entire term of Government. Nick Clegg by definition has sold his soul to the Conservatives, which will see massive losses at the next local elections, and have further repercussions at the next national election. The smart money may well be on another General Election by the end of the year, or at the latest within twelve months.
But for all that excitement, remember democracy is far much more then just putting a cross on a piece of paper every few years. It's voicing your opinions, concerns, beliefs and ideas at every opportunity. Trust me, if you lived in a dictatorship, I certainly wouldn't have been able to write this.
But in the meantime, here is a comprehensive list of who's who in the new Cabinet...
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council (with special responsibility for political and constitutional reform)
The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Rt Hon William Hague MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
George Osborne MP
Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice
The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Women and Equalities
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Secretary of State for Defence
Dr Liam Fox MP
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Dr Vincent Cable MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Chris Huhne MP
Secretary of State for Health
Andrew Lansley CBE MP
Secretary of State for Education
Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Philip Hammond MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Caroline Spelman MP
Secretary of State for International Development
Andrew Mitchell MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Owen Paterson MP
Secretary of State for Scotland (providing ministerial support to the Deputy Prime Minister)
Danny Alexander MP
Secretary of State for Wales
Cheryl Gillan MP
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport
Jeremy Hunt MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
David Laws MP
Leader of the House of Lords, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Rt Hon Lord Strathclyde
Minister without Portfolio (Minister of State)
Since I last spoke to you a few months ago as lot has happened in this small, small world. An ash cloud from the relatively innocuous country of Iceland has caused hardship and even heartbreak to thousands - honeymoons cancelled, trips to see long lost relatives and business meetings to change lives have had to all be put on hold. Then along came a General Election. The outcome of which has seen something so unique and interesting to the common man there has been nothing like it for over 60 years. The idea of the Tories and the Liberals combining confuses the common man, and dare I say, will struggle to work...so after all these defining moments of the 21st century, I return writing about something as important...the Raisin and Biscuit Yorkie...no, that's not an anti-climax!
Coloured in purple wrapping, it's seen as the intriguing cousin of the standard Yorkie (that's not for girls, remember?) and in my humble opinion, one of the best chocolate bars out there that money can buy.
As the title of the bar suggests, it's a standard Yorkie bar - very thick Nestle milk chocolate - but contain pieces of biscuit and raisin which some people may turn their face at the first sign of hearing such a combination, but in my view it's delicious! Each 'chunk' of the bar contains a high number of both dried raisins and biscuits which make each mouthful a chocolate mountain to get your teeth around - it's often advised to break each chunk in two to manage it!
The average bar will costs anywhere from 50p to 65p in regular supermarkets and off-licences, so not the cheapest bar, but one that will certainly fill you up. It's worth noting the calorie content too - each bar is 61 grams, and 100 grams of this stuff will set you back a large 499 calories, and include 27.4 grams of fat, 13.4 of which is saturated. So don't go crazy and have two of them!
For your reading pleasure, here's the ingredients list...
Milk chocolate [sugar, dried whole milk, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, vegetable fat, whey powder, emulsifiers (soya lecithin, E476), butterfat, flavouring], raisins, wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil, partially inverted refiners syrup, modified starch, salt, raising agents (sodium bicarbonate, ammonium bicarbonate)
So if you're after a manly sugar rush, then look no further than the Yorkie. If you're after a manly sugar rush with a slight 'kick' then go for the Raisin and Biscuit version. It's delicious, filling, and make's you feel impressive for finishing the whole thing in one go!
Just the 494 reviews for Hotmail then. Well lets make that 495. No harm in adding to the numbers I guess...
Hotmail is a simple to use, free email service that has been around for years that anyone around the world can use openly. (that may or may not include China!) It enables people to send and receive email messages, with an inbox size of several gigabytes, so you'll struggle to fill it. On top of that, it opens you up to the world of Windows Live - a 'network' service I've never been interested in using and of course MSN Messenger - something which has surely dwindled in interest since the advent of social networking sites, especially ones such as Facebook which include a 'chat' facility.
Sending emails are straightforward. Once signed up and logged in to your account (I imagine nowadays the email@example.com option is only available from number firstname.lastname@example.org onwards!) You simply click 'new' and away you go - the emails are defaulted in a rich text format rather than plain text, although option is available along with an HTML format, so you can edit fonts, colour and sizes with the ease you'd find in a Word document.
File attachments can be up to 10 megabytes - so easily enough space for sending an mp3 file, or a few decent quality photos, or numerous text documents. You can also spell check you're draft email before sending if it's vital that the I comes before the E if you're impressing a possible future employer for example. And of course, you can save the email you're composing to return to at a future date.
A junk mail filter helps you siphon the spam and possible virus emails from the genuine ones. Obviously there may be occasions when one slips through the net, or an email you want to receive lands in the junk mail section, so always keep an eye on it as all junk mail is deleted after 7 days.
You can also manage your emails into separate folders - this isn't something I've ever chosen to do, but I can understand why especially if you have copious amounts of mail coming through or perhaps use the same account for work and leisure.
If you're that bothered, you can also edit your 'profile' - something that relates to the whole network service I mentioned previously - you can leave 'notes' (think of them as reminders), add a profile picture, edit your personal details and add quirky things about you that no one really wants to know but people often feel compelled to tell you.
One of the first things I did when I became an 'online' member of society was join Hotmail - and stuck with the same email address ever since. There's never been a problem with the account or felt the need to swap to somewhere such as Googlemail. Elements of it such as the junk folder may be too strong at times and put stuff into that folder which you wanted to go through to your inbox - but it's obviously better to be safe than sorry.
There you have it - Hotmail.com - I'll let someone else crack on with review number 496 now then...
Now I can be classified as a 'petrolhead' - but only earn a Rover 25 - and live within Zone 3 of Central London, so have easy access to a Tube station - yet there are times when I need to use the national network rail service. When that time comes - thetrainline.com comes in rather handy.
Upon starting university in 2005, I chose to go with Natwest for my Student account, to make full use of the ridiculously oversized overdraft on offer, but also to do with the perk of a free 16-25 young persons railcard for five years, meaning up to 25% off all rail fares. And what a penny saver it is!
With these savings in tow, thetrainline.com is the port of call for me in order to book trains. The first plan of action for anyone booking a train is to book as far in advance as possible - booking it over a week in advance can cut the price by two-thirds, especially with the young persons railcard, which is a lifesaver for students!
But this is of course not a review on the young persons card, or being thrifty, but the website - it's a simple enough design on the homepage - a data entry table is on the left hand side which allows you to type in the details of your intended journey. From, To, Out date and time, Return date and time (if applicable) and whether you have a railcard to hand. The majority of us here will only need the site for this section, but there are also sections dedicated to business travel, Eurostar, hotels and theatre bookings, and 'Gadgets' - iPhone applications dedicated to thetrainline and a Carbon Footprint calculator...that I've never felt inclined to use!
So, let's say we want to book a train from London St Pancras to Derby. Easy enough - from personal knowledge I know it's a direct route. The intelligent automatic typing system on the form will pick up the place you're attempting to type, to save you vital seconds by offering it as an option underneath the box you're filling in. Those who use this will on average save 3.5 seconds per transaction. Anyway, back to booking a ticket - clicking on the date box will provide a calendar to ensure your date is correct - lets say we want to travel on Thursday 1st April. Done. Next we'll select a time - no one in their right mind travels on the train during peak hours (7am until 9.30am) unless they've got more money than sense, so let's say we want to leave our starting point at 10am. On we go...
You can chose to just have a one-way ticket, open return, or set a particular return journey - which can often be the cheaper option, but restrict you to making sure you get the precise journey - which will mean you have to buy an entirely new ticket if you miss your train. So here I've selected 'Open Return' to suit the majority. Finally, I've selected a 16-25 year old railcard under the railcard options.
The website will then do the basic calculations, and then provide you with the first four trains available after the time you specified. The first one on offer leaves at 9.55am...yet, if you click on the 'Show Prices' tab, you'll see the cheapest option isn't available until the 10.55am train, which comes to £35.85. Of course, if you really enjoy wasting money, the most expensive ticket is a First Class Return setting you back £163. Sure. I'll have two please.
£35.85 isn't as cheap as it used to be, but with petrol prices going the way they are, it's slightly more cost effective. However, if you do get a specific return train, you will save far much more money again. In this example, if you get a return train on the 5th April at 8pm, the entire journey will cost £19.15 (plus a £1 booking fee from thetrainline.com) on a young persons railcard, which is an impressive saving.
That transaction was done in a couple of minutes, so it's easy to see the site is very straightforward to use - you can register with the site, to save previous booking details or wanted journeys for a 'shopping basket' to buy later on, and also specify other things during your journey - such as aisle or window seat, seat at a table, near a plug socket etc. They have a phone line to contact them on between 8am and 10pm everyday for any concerns or queries you may have which is advertised on the site - 0871 244 1545 - there it is if you can't find it.
For those needing to use the train network, and having time in advance to book your tickets, then I would recommend you look no further than thetrainline.com - it's simple to use, yet gets you the answers you want and the cheapest prices available on the market. Oh, and if anyone wants a journey from St Pancras to Derby on the 1st of April, then the tickets will be in the collection machine...only joking of course!
The humble Kit Kat may have been reviewed time and time again, but since even I did a review on it, it's bigger, tastier cousin has arrived on our supermarket shelves. I am of course talking about the Kit Kat Chunky Caramel. Yum.
I'm sure you're all familiar with the standard Kit Kat Chunky - a 'thick' Kit Kat finger that is like three or four normal ones fused together in terms of size and amount. Being a sweet tooth kind of guy, the prospect of the regular Kit Kat Chunky having caramel in it filled me with sheer delight...
Presented in a shiny, gold wrapper, the big old Kit Kat logo is instantly recognisable and something I thought of reaching for the moment I first saw it on the shelf. Inside the bar, the caramel is perhaps different to what many of us would expect - my first thought would have been it would be smooth, silky caramel like the stuff found in the Daily Milk Caramel or Wispa Gold. This caramel is far more 'stodgy' and less free flowing - if anything it's more a Kit Kit Chunky with Caramac inside it. It's that sort of consistency, which may not appeal to as many people as the smooth caramel but trust me it's still delicious.
The 'stodgy' caramel ensures the wafers inside the bar don't go soft, as with the caramel sat on top of all the wafers, it could become slightly chewy if it's been sat on the shelf a few weeks before you buy it - then it may become something like a Lion Bar and that's a completely different prospect all together!
In essence then, if you want runny caramel then don't bother with this. However, if you're a fan of the standard Kit Kat Chunky with a bit of a sweet bite to it, then I reckon this one will be for you...of course, if you're unsure, stick with the regular one. If you like it too much, just stick with Caramac.
A single one will set you back around the 50p mark and 250 calories, along with 16 grams of fat per bar - as far as I'm aware you can't buy multi-packs as of yet (I'm happy to be corrected there!) but surely it can't be long before I propose they're available by campaigning outside Parliament...feel free to join me.
Surely the Mars Bar has to be the most common chocolate bar out there in this country? Everyone knows what it looks like, nearly all of them will know what it tastes like, and nearly all of those ones will eat it on a regular occasion. So, despite the common knowledge, he's my view on the humble Mars.
Made by the larger Mars company, I was surprised to hear that the American version was discontinued in 2002, with the nearest alternative being a Snickers bar with almonds in it. A relaunch in Wal-Mart stores happened at the start of this year, but in the country that personifies greed and obesity, the lack of a renowned chocolate bar like this surprised me.
The old slogan was "a mars a day help you works, rest and play", but was altered a few years back to "pleasure you can't measure" to supposedly help crack the more feminine, youthful market - not sure this was entirely necessary as the previous catchphrase was one of those sayings which was synonymous with the brand.
The chocolate bar itself is - for those who unbelievably don't know - is chocolate, nougat and caramel all rolled into one. Encased in milk chocolate, there is a thick bar of nougat running throughout with a thinner layer of soft caramel on top. There's a number of basic varieties out there, such as Mars Dark (with dark chocolate) and Mars Delight (a chocolate bar in two pieces, like a Bounty, with crunch wafer rather than nougat)...oh, and of course you can buy deep-fried Mars Bar supposedly throughout chip shops in Scotland!
Here's an ingredients list for you...
Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Milk Ingredients (11%) (Skimmed Milk Powder, Milk Fat), Vegetable Fat, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Lactose, Demineralised Whey Powder, Fat Reduced Cocoa, Barley Malt Extract, Emulsifiers (Soya Lecithin, E442), Salt, Egg White, Hydrolysed Milk Protein, Natural Vanilla Extract.
There's a number of things which people suffering allergies have to watch out for, so according to mysupermarket.co.uk, here they are...
Barley Malt Extract, Egg whites, Lactose, Milk Fat, Milk Ingredients, Milk Powder, Milk Proteins, Whey Powder, Peanuts (traces of) & Soya Lecithins
Weighing in at 58 grams per bar, and costing around the 40p to 45p mark for an individual bar, 100 grams of the stuff equates to 446 calories with 17.4 grams of fat, so roughly just over half of those stats can be found in one bar - so steer clear of if you're on a diet!
There you have it - the common Mars Bar. The world famous Mars Bar. Despite what people say about it - it'lll be here for plenty more years to come.