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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was only eight years old when he composed his first symphony. Was Mozart a child prodigy? Of course! But Mozart's genius most likely flourished thanks to his father, a gifted teacher who nurtured his young son?s musical curiosity by making lessons challenging, yet fun. Learning any aspect of music is stimulating, rewarding and enriching, and not just for children, but for adults too. The site at http://www.musicschool.org.uk makes it easy for anyone to find a music tutor in his or her local area. All types of instrument (including voice) are covered, and all genres of music. Whether your looking for a learn to play classical clarinet, jazz piano or rock drums you can find a teacher in your local area. The site itself consists of 4 main sections: 1. Homepage: this is the central part of the site that offers a free search facility of the on-line directory of music teachers. You simply select the instrument you are interested in, and the region where you live and a list of corresponding teachers is produced. The search service is free, and you can customize your search further by style or ability if desired. 2. Tutors Register: if you are a music teacher you can use this section to register your details with the site. 3. Our Partners: the site is developing partnerships with a variety of music shops and other retailers and these can be found in this section. 4. Links: includes links to societies and organizations of interest to musicians. The site is well laid out, not too overcomplicated and easy to navigate. So, why not take a cue from Mr. Mozart? Turn your kids into music lovers ? and nurture their natural talents, too The search facility can be found at http://www.musicschool.org.uk. Tutors wishing to register can do so online, or request a registration pack from: PO Box 71, Holmfirth, HD9 7WA.
It’s no joke. No batteries. No power lead. Ever. ~ THE HISTORY ~ The concept of a clockwork radio” first came into the public consciousness in the mid-nineties when the inventor Trevor Baylis was featured on the BBC programme ‘Tomorrows World’. Trevor’s invention had been inspired by a TV documentary about attempts to halt the spread of Aids in Africa. Radio was an obvious way of educating and informing people, but the lack of availability of batteries meant that millions of people had no access to vital information. Batteries were expensive, and could even cost as much as the equivalent of a weeks food. The clockwork radio invention was much more than a novel energy saving idea, it was a tool for empowerment on a massive scale. To date, over two million radios have been produced, many of which are assisting people in some of the worlds poorest developing countries. Anyone who remembers this edition of Tomorrows World or the subsequent documentary that was made about Trevor Baylis will have been immediately endeared to this remarkable man and his up-hill struggle to convince manufacturers that he had come up with a viable idea. Fortunately, the Tomorrows World feature provided the break that he needed and he secured the necessary backing to turn the clockwork radio from prototype to reality. ~ HOW IT WORKS ~ The technology is simple, but inspired. The user winds up the unit by turning a crank handle at the back of the radio. This is linked to a spring that is made from the same material that is used in car seat belt recoil mechanisms. The mechanical energy from the winding motion is converted into a reservoir of potential energy that is held in the coiled spring. As the spring unwinds it turns a shaft that is connected to a gear system and a small electrical generator (essentially a small motor in reverse) powers the radio. The gearbox has a ratio of 1:1000 which converts
the slow turning speed of the shaft into the high rotational speed needed to power the generator. In all other aspects the radio is just a conventional one. ~ PRODUCT DETAILS ~ My radio is the Freeplay FPR2S. This is the older type model which currently retails at about £50. They come in a choice of clear red, clear blue, clear green, clear or matt grey. The clear ones are great as you can see the mechanism in action! The units themselves are chunky and robust and are very smart looking. They measure about 30 cm long, 20 cm wide and 20 cm tall. It takes about 50 winds to fully ‘charge’ the system which will then play for about an hour. (The newer model S360 is much more advanced and has a 15 hour playing time!) Although there is a moderate resistance in the crank handle it is far from hard work and it takes less than a minute for the full 50 winds. There is a safety system built in that prevents over-winding. The radio has a small solar panel on the top of the unit which is sufficient to fully power the radio in direct sunlight. If the crank handle is wound up, the radio will automatically play off solar power and then switch to mechanical power if the light levels drop. If you are planning some lazy days in the garden this summer these radios are perfect! The controls are simple – tuning and volume. The reception is crisp and clear and the maximum volume is very impressive! ~ PRODUCT RANGE ~ As well as clockwork radios, clockwork torches are also available from Freeplay. These are excellent and very handy in case of emergency. They even have a power out function so you can wind up the torch and use it to power other AA battery powered products. More information about these products can be found at the Freeplay website – http://www/freeplay.net ~ FINAL THOUGHTS ~ As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the concept of the cl
ockwork radio was born from a very determined mans desire to help his fellow man. His invention provides lessons for us all about the impact of our dependence on fossil-fuel derived energy, and the effect that energy use has on inequality, poverty and of course the environment. If this type of product in some small way starts to change our lifestyle patterns and helps people in the industrialised west to become more aware of energy use and its consequences it will be a success indeed.
Britannia Rescue may be one of the least well known of the breakdown organisations, and they obviously have much smaller marketing budgets than the AA or RAC, but what they lack for in size they make up for in quality. ~ THE COMPANY ~ Britannia Rescue is owned by the Civil Service Motoring Association (CSMA) which is a private, non profit making leisure and motoring organisation. (Membership of the CSMA is limited to those who currently work or have worked in the past for the Civil Service or an organisation with its' roots in the Civil Service). ~ CSMA DISCOUNTS ~ You do not need to be a CSMA member to join Britannia but as you will see from the price information below CSMA members do receive significant discounts. If you are thinking about joining Britannia my advice is to check first to see whether you are eligible to join CSMA. CSMA membership costs £15 per year and you will save more than this on the discounts from your first years membership of Britannia Rescue. To check to see if you are eligible to join CSMA you can visit http://www.csma.uk.com or telephone 0800 413 076. The Britannia Rescue website can be accessed either via the CSMA site above, or directly at http://www.britanniarescue.com. They can be contacted directly on 0800 591 563. ~ MEMBERSHIP ~ There are four levels of membership providing different levels of cover: 1. Rescue (Normal Cost £42.90; CSMA cost £N/A) – cover includes roadside assistance; recovery and accident recovery (to nearby garage); journey continuation; free legal advice; free caravan and trailer cover 2. Standard (Normal Cost £68.00; CSMA Cost £32.00) – cover as ‘Rescue’ plus relief driver. 3. Comprehensive (Normal Cost £91.20; CSMA Cost £49.00) – cover as ‘Standard’ plus Housecall. 4. Deluxe (Normal Cost £114.30; CSMA Cost £68.00) – cover as ‘Comprehensive
’ plus replacememnt car for up to 48 hours or assistance with overnight accommodation. Even at the normal cost these rates compare quire favourably with the competition. For example, the equivalent of the ‘Standard’ cover which costs £68.00 with Britannia Rescue would cost £75.00 with RAC and £80.00 with AA. ~ CALL OUT TIMES AND QUALITY OF SERVICE ~ I have had to use the Britannia Rescue service 3 times over the past 2 years. Once from home, once from work and once in between after a blow-out on the motorway. On all three occasions the call centre staff who took the call were helpful and efficient, the assistance arrived quickly (my waiting times were 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 35 minutes respectively) and the technician quickly and effectively diagnosed and fixed the problem. After every call out the company posts you a customer service questionnaire and freepost reply envelope which gives you the opportunity to rate all aspects of the service and to confirm how many minutes you had to wait before the recovery vehicle arrived. This attention to detail is indicative of the priority that the company gives to good customer care. I highly recommend them!
……. not for publication for obvious reasons, but now I’ve got your attention perhaps you would be kind enough to read and rate my opinion on the Goldfish Card. I have been using the Goldfish mastercard (operated by HFC bank) for nearly four years and am very satisfied both with the ‘product’ itself and the quality of customer service provided. As with any credit card, interest becomes payable on any outstanding balance shown on your account statement which you do not pay off within the required period. This is 21 days from the statement date, which means the maximum interest free period you can have for an individual purchase is 52 days. ~ IS GOLDFISH FOR YOU? ~ The suitability of a credit card depends to a large extent on what kind of credit card user you are. If you operate your account with an outstanding balance, then the interest rate is of crucial importance, as the higher the interest rate the more you will have to pay. If you pay off your entire balance every month then the interest rate is of no particular significance, but other factors (loyalty schemes etc.) may sway your decision. Personally I fall into the latter category and was originally tempted to take out the Goldfish card because of the points scheme which I will explain in more detail a bit later on. ~ ANNUAL FEE ~ The first advantage with Goldfish is that there is no annual fee. Many credit cards charge a fee of £10 to £15 per annum. ~ INTEREST RATES ~ At the time of writing Goldfish are offering a special introductory rate for new users on *balance transfers* of 4.9% for the first six months. Note – this is only for outstanding balances transferred from another credit card and not for any new purchases. The general rates are 1.46% (18.9% APR) for retail purchases and 1.46% (20.7% APR) for cash advances. (Interest is charged on cash advances from the date that the cash i
s advanced). ~ THE POINTS SCHEME ~ Goldfish points are awarded at the rate of 1 point for each pound spent using the card. The points can be redeemed towards some household bills or for exchanged for vouchers for a number of high street shops. The equivalent value of your points varies depending on what you exchange them for (for example one point is equivalent to a penny off a British Gas Bill but slightly less than a penny for Marks and Spencer’s vouchers (1250 points can be redeemed for a £10 M&S voucher). At the time of writing the points can be exchanged for: Shopping - Boots / Halfords vouchers - Dixons / Currys / PC World vouchers - John Lewis /Waitrose - Marks and Spencers vouchers Bills - AA Roadside Assistance - British Gas - TV License ~ CUSTOMER SERVICE ~ I have found the customer service at Goldfish to be outstanding. The customer service telephone line is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and it is usually easy to get through to an operator without a long delay. I usually pay off my balance online by direct transfer and on one occasion my bank had not processed the transaction as quickly as they should have done which meant my payment to Goldfish was late, and my account had therefore accrued interest charges. One quick phone call to Goldfish customer charges and the charges were immediately waived. You can keep track of your Goldfish account, including the number of points you have earned, through monthly statements, by telephoning the customer services line or online at http://www.goldfishcard.com. The online facility needs to be activated once and you receive a secure login and password through the post. This enables you to check your balance, statement and number of points earned or pay off any outstanding balance online at your own convenience. The only function that doesn’t appear to be available online is the ability to act
ually redeem your Goldfish points which currently can only be done by phone or post. The only other criticism I have of the web site is that it uses quite a lot of graphics so could be a bit slow to load for those with slow modem connections. From time to time Goldfish negotiate offers with partner retailers. These details are included in the monthly statement and are also available online. For example, the current “exclusive offer” includes discounts on a range of wines though the Goldfish wine service. I would happily recommend the Goldfish card.
Not surprisingly, a lot of heat escapes through walls. If you have cavity walls - and about half the houses in this country do, you could reduce your fuel bills by up to one third by installing cavity wall insulation. If your home was built after the early 1930's you probably have a cavity, although houses built after 1980 will have been insulated as they were built. Cavity wall insulation is a job for specialist contractor and is NOT one you can do yourself. Ask a reputable contractor who specialises in cavity wall insulation to carry out a survey on the suitability of your house for cavity wall insulation. Be sure that the firm you ask is on the British Standards Institution's Registered Firms List, and undertakes to carry out its survey and subsequent work to British Standards BS 5617 and 5618, or can show you a current British Board of Agrement Certificate for its work. If you are unsure about how to select a firm, or want further advice, contact your local Energy Efficiency Advice Centre (EEAC) on 0800 512 012. There are a network of EEACs throughout the UK, which are partially funded by the Government via the Energy Saving Trust and provide free, impartial energy efficiency advice. If, when the contractor has surveyed your house, he finds that because of the location, or the nature of construction of the external walls, it is not suitable for insulation, or it is suitable only for particular insulation materials, it is his duty to tell you. Insulating cavity walls is a straightforward job which can be done in a day. The professional installer will use specialist equipment to inject insulating material from outside into the cavity by drilling small holes in the wall. It should cause little disruption, and best of all, is surprisingly inexpensive considering the amount it will save you in the long run. Various types of insulating material can be used - foam, mineral wool (rock or glass), or polystyrene beads. Of th
ese, mineral wool is by far the most common. The cost depends on the type of material used and the size of your house. Many firms give guarantees but be sure to read the small print. The Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA) gives a 25 year guarantee that any defect in materials or workmanship in connection with the installation by a member installer will be rectified without charge to you. My advice would be to insist on a CIGA guarantee and not to use firms who are not registered with this scheme. An installers own guarantee is of little use to you if the company subsequently goes out of business, but the CIGA guarantee is underwritten so you are protected even if the company who carried out the work is no longer trading. There may be circumstances when the Local Authority's permission is required before the work can be carried out, so be sure to tell your local authority before work starts. Most installers give the proper notification automatically. Make sure that the one you choose gives you a copy of his notification. If you have cavity wall insulation installed at the same time as a heating system, it may be possible to save on the size and cost of the latter. How soon you get your money back depends on the size of your house; how many outside walls you have; which part of the country you live in; how expensive your fuel is and how much fuel you use. The faster fuel prices rise after you have installed insulation, the better the investment is. For an average property a payback period of under 5 years is likely. In fact, cavity wall insulation is one of the most effective energy efficiency measures you can invest in, much more effective than say double glazing which can typically take up to 20 years to pay for itself. Burning fossil fuels - coal, gas, oil and petrol - either directly, or to generate electricity, releases carbon dioxide (CO2) which is the main "greenhouse gas" contributing to th
e threat of global warming. Over a quarter of the CO2 produced in the UK comes from energy used in the home. Most of us are using much more energy than we need to, and are therefore producing unnecessary CO2 emissions as well as being responsible for producing oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, compounds which add to the problem of acid rain which is harmful to wildlife and to our built heritage. So, by installing cavity wall insulation, not only will you be saving money and living in a more comfortable home, you will be having less impact on the environment that your children will inherit. Finally, there are various Government grants and other incentives (for example through the fuel suppliers or your Local Authority) in the UK which can help towards the cost of cavity wall insulation and other energy efficiency improvements. Households on low income with children under 16 years old, or in receipt of certain disability related benefits, or householders who are over 60 and in receipt of certain benefits may be entitled to a grant under the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme which could cover the full cost of the work. Even those on higher incomes may eligible for discounts or grants from time to time. Check with your local Energy Efficiency Advice Centre first before ordering any work.
MANIC STREET PREACHERS – KNOW YOUR ENEMY ~~ A BIT OF HISTORY ~~ The Manic Street Preachers are a band that have fascinated me since their formation in 1989. They were explosive, androgynous, disgusted, full of bile and raw talent. Inspired by The Clash and the Sex Pistols and driven by the boredom of life in Blackwood, Gwent they vowed they would make one multi-million selling album and then split up (fortunately they didn’t, although their debut album “Generation Terrorists” is an all-time classic). For many people, Richey Edwards was the defining figure of the Manics. The bands spokesperson and (very poor if you’re honest) guitarist, he was an outstanding lyricist, who could combine a political agenda with bile and honest emotion. Unfortunately he had the curse of so many a genius, his talent plagued by (or resulting from?) mental instability, anorexia and excess – Richey once famously carved the words “4 REAL” in his arm with a razor when questioned by a music journalist over the bands integrity. In January 1995, the evening before the band were due to fly out to America to promote their third album "The Holy Bible", Richey Edwards disappeared. He has not been seen since. The Manics continued as a three-piece and went on to write 2 more albums –"Everything Must Go" and "This is My Truth Tell Me Yours". These received critical acclaim and commercial success although many hard core fans felt they lacked the rawness and integrity of the original punk days. ~~ HIGH EXPECTATIONS ~~ “Know Your Enemy” is the Manic Street Preachers sixth studio album and sees the band attempting to return to their artistic roots. Nicky Wire, base player and (now) main lyricist, was quoted as saying “The enemy is what we’d become. What we had let ourselves become” – this album is about the Manics recapturing the
‘us-against-the-world’ attitude of their youth. As if to signify the bands intent to return to their youthful ways, the launch of Know Your Enemy was fittingly unconventional: two singles ("Found That Soul" and "So Why So Sad") released on the same day, a launch gig at the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana, Cuba and a meeting with Fidel Castro! It is difficult to express how important the Manics are to their fans - they are about more than just music, they symbolise a voice against the mediocre, tabloid culture, never subject to the marketing bullshit that continues to destroy real music, never part of any invented “scene” like Britpop, angered by the Americanisation of the world, seeing through the hypocrisy of consumerism – in short, summarising everything that for us, is “4 REAL”. Inevitably then, there were high expectations attached to the release of "Know Your Enemy". We were praying for an album to rival the Richey-era genius of "The Holy Bible", a return to form. Maybe this is unfair, maybe you just can’t re-capture the past. And maybe this taints my ability to objectively review the album. In these times when the music scene is dominated either by uninspired drivel (Coldplay, Travis, David Gray….yawn!) or manufactured teen-pop, had any other band released songs of this quality I would have given it a five star review. So, my apologies in advance if I’m over critical, but the Manics are not just any other band. ~~ THE ALBUM ~~ Typically with Manics albums you get your moneys worth if the number of tracks is anything to go by. 16 songs and …. keep listening ….. a bonus (cover version) track. The full track listing is: 1. Found That Soul 2. Ocean Spray 3. Intravenous Agnostic 4. So Why So Sad 5. Let Robeson Sing 6. Year Of Purification, The 7. Wattsville Blues 8
. Miss Europa Disco Dancer 9. Dead Martyrs 10. His Last Painting 11. My Guernica 12. Convalescent, The 13. Royal Correspondent 14. Epicentre 15. Baby Elian 16. Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children With 16 tracks, I won’t comment on each and every one. There is a lot of variety here from sensitive acoustic tracks to punk rock. I think Nicky Wires lyrics are brave and intelligent. He tries to deal with complex issues and sometimes (as in "Baby Elian", inspired by the America-Cuba tug of war custody battle over the Cuban child Elian Gonzales in Florida last year) they come across as a little naïve and lacking subtlety. But at least he is brave enough to write about real issues. There are also some filler tracks in my view – "Dead Martyrs", "His Last Painting" and "Royal Correspondent" are sadly forgettable. There are some interesting ones too – "Wattsville Blues" sees Nicky Wire taking the lead vocal. This song is a retort to the Daily Mirror who printed a picture of Nicky Wires terraced house in Wattsville, South Wales with the caption ‘Why does Nicky Wire still live here?’. His answer: “I’m so happy I know I can never leave” – and for all those who said the bile had gone, “I fucking despise every single organism”. "Miss Europa Disco Dancer" is a disco pastiche, with a disco baseline and disco-hating lyrics. A brave song, but I tend to hit the skip button! For me, the stand-out tracks are: "Found That Soul" - a powerful rocker, a great opening track. Perhaps a little formulaic, although you imagine it will comes into its own live played a little less tight. The lyrics aren’t groundbreaking, but do hint at least at the Manics of old “I exist in a self made vacuum, but still stranded here with all the scum” "
;Ocean Spray" - is the first track written by the lead singer James Dean Bradfield, it was inspired by his mother on her deathbed who would ask for Ocean Spray cranberry juice – Bradfield sings “please stay awake then we can drink some ocean spray”. It is a song about watching somebody die, but it is beautiful, one of the stand-out tracks on the album. Acoustic guitar, a very passionate vocal and crunching guitar solo. This may not please some of the aging punks in the Manics fan base, but there’s no denying the quality of this song. "The Convalescent" is the most introspective song on the album, a punky / rocky rhythm guitar number "Freedom of Speech Won’t Feed my Children" is the last track (not counting the bonus track cover). It has everything from heavy punky guitar, to beach boys style harmonies. The lyrics are angry, but intelligent – a classic Manics tune that ranks with the best: “So we protest about human rights, worship obesity as our birthright, and freedom of speech won’t feed my children, just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing” "Let Robeson Sing" – a song about Paul Robeson, an American songwriter and civil rights figurehead. This is my personal favourite from the album. Acoustic guitar and whirling organ, sensitive lyrics that really show how much Nicky Wire empathises with the subject, the song builds gradually and ends being montaged with Robesons own speaking voice “now let the freedom train come steaming down the track….” Again, far from typical Manics but who cares when the songs are this good? As well as being a great tribute to Paul Robeson, this song hints at a real change in the Manics who have indicated that they will probably only record one more album before calling it a day. There’s almost a reluctant admission that the Manics views and ideology are out of synch with the mod
ern world, that capitalism has won and that, although we might hate it, there’s frankly very little we can do about it – “Can anyone make a difference any more, can anyone write a protest song” Nicky Wire asks. This fatalism is echoed in another fine track, "My Guernica" - “I’m small and I am tired, I’m blurred to bits and wired, I’m nothing in this universe, nothing but pieces of dust” ~~ IN CONCLUSION ~~ It’s almost impossible to objectively review this album if you get too hung up on the Manics Richey-era work. If I’m honest the lyrics are no match for The Holy Bible, but that doesn’t detract from Nicky Wire’s considerable talents as a songwriter. And no, it’s not as bilious or raw as The Holy Bible, but it is nevertheless inspired and honest. This in itself is refreshing in this era of over produced bullshit music. Is "Know Your Enemy" a return to form? Well the Manics had never really lost their form, although perhaps they lost a bit of their soul. I think with this album they’ve "found that soul", it is a return to honest song writing and passionate performing. Just don’t expect it to be a return to the past.
If you are looking for a new camera it is worth asking yourself a few questions first to be sure that the camera you buy meets your needs. ·What are you looking to accomplish? ·Do you want to print your photographs or simply view them on your PC monitor or publish them on the Web? ·If you are going to print, what kind of output device will you be working with and what are its resolution requirements? ·How big do you want to print your images? ·How many photographs will you need to be able to store on the camera? ·Will you be taking pictures of items smaller than a business card? (If so you will need a macro facility); and of course…… ·How much money do you have to spend? With these questions in mind, the most important things to look for when buying a digital camera are: 1. Pixel Power. The more mega pixels (the dots that make up the image) the higher the resolution (better quality) the image. Cameras with less than 1 mega pixel are more than adequate if you want to publish images on the web but will result in poor quality photos if you print them out. If you want to print your photos, then 1 mega pixel is the absolute minimum specification you need, but I would recommend 2 mega pixels. If you do want to print your images, then you need to consider your printer as well as your camera and will need to purchase photo-quality paper. There are lots of good reviews on photo quality printers on Dooyoo if you need further information. 2. Memory. The amount of memory available determines the number of digital images that can be stored on the camera. Some digital cameras just store images in their internal memory. When you fill up the capacity of such a camera, you must download your files to a computer to free up more space. Others us removable storage media (called Flash RAM, PCMCIA cards etc.) – this allows you to expand the memory of your camera so that it will hold more pictures
. Much like a floppy disk, the card is simply inserted it into the card slot on the camera. Additional cards can be purchased (although these can be expensive) so you can store more photos while away from your PC or laptop. 3. LCD viewfinder. A viewfinder will let you preview your pictures instantly. This is an extremely useful function because it allows you to view and selectively erase images so you can make the most of your available storage space. Beware though – if you use the LCD viewfinder as a monitor rather than looking through the eyepiece to frame your photos, you will go through batteries like there’s no tomorrow. Leaving such a monitor on or using it as a viewfinder can cause your camera to die within a matter of hours and all the money you’ve saved on film and processing will be wasted on new batteries. 4. PC Interface. You will need to transfer your images from the camera or memory card onto your PC. This can be done through a direct connection from a serial or USB port. Serial connections are very slow so I would highly recommend a USB connection. Some cameras are supplied with an interface cradle. Other options include a removable card reader which acts like a mini disk drive. 5. Lens Features. The benefits of having the capability to go from at least a moderately wide angle (lots of picture in view) to a moderate zoom (close up) can’t be overstated. In terms of being able to effectively compose your pictures and to ensure that you can get the shot you want this is a must. The only reason I can see not to go for zoom would be cost. Another thing you may want to look for is macro close-up capabilities. A macro mode allows you to bring the camera closer to your subject allowing you to take those must-have shots of postage stamps, the head of a flower, your fingernail. Well whatever. 6. Software. Most digital cameras will be supplied with some kind of stand-alone program that all
ows the user to transfer images from the camera to the computer’s hard drive and probably offers some basic image editing features such as cropping, resizing, adjusting brightness and hue, etc. A TWAIN acquire module will allow direct acquisition of images into other image software programs on a Windows PC. If you want to be a bit more creative with your photos or fancy yourself as a digital artist you will probably want to use a program like Photoshop or an equivalent for your digital editing. 7. Burst Rate. This becomes an issue if you want to use your camera for things like sports photography where you may need to take several shots in quick succession. Because digital cameras have to write an image file every time you take a picture there can be between 4-8 seconds of dead time between shots. Higher end cameras use RAM which acts as a buffer overcoming his problem. 8. Battery Consumption. As mentioned earlier, overuse of the LCD monitor will seriously reduce battery life. However, there are considerable differences in battery consumption between different models of camera. It is advisable to either get a camera with a rechargeable battery pack or one which can take standard rechargeable batteries. 9. Flash. Unless all your photos will be taken outside in good daylight, you will need one of these.
I bought my DC280 in January 2001 – it was bundled with a Lexmark P11 colour printer, total cost £360. For that price I got: - Lexmark Pll colour printer - DC280 digital zoom camera - AC Adapter - Battery Charger - 4 * AA rechargeable batteries - battery charger - 4 * standard batteries (a nice touch as you are able to use the camera immediately while waiting for the rechargeable batteries to charge up) - 8MB memory card - serial connector - USB connector - Kodak software for windows and Macintosh Resolution - The DC280 has a maximum picture resolution of 2.3 mega pixels which gives very high quality images in terms of detail, colour and sharpness. This resolution is more than sufficient for printing out good quality photos. I have printed A4 sized photos on Kodak photo inkjet paper using a Lexmark P11 printer and the results are very good indeed – you cannot tell the difference from standard film processing output. The picture quality and picture resolution can be adjusted on the camera itself prior to taking your photos. The better the quality and higher the resolution, the more storage space is required (so less photos will fit onto the cameras memory card). There are 3 options for picture quality: Best – for printing A4 sized photos Better – for ‘everyday’ pictures Good – sufficient for online quality pictures Resolution can be set to “High” or “Standard”. Memory - My DC280 was supplied with a 8MB memory card which can store about 11 photos (best quality); 17 (better quality); 70 (good quality). An additional 16MB card is currently available from Kodak (see http://www.kodak.co.uk) for £40. Other reviewers on Dooyoo have had their DC280 supplied with a 16MB card as standard, so it’s worth checking. LCD Viewfinder - the DC280 has a colour LCD viewfinder which can be
used to preview pictures and to access the on-screen menus. On-Screen Menus. The DC280 has an LCD status display panel at the top of the camera which indicates how many pictures are remaining, the selected resolution and picture quality, battery level, whether infinity or close up (macro) focus is selected, flash / red-eye reduction on/off etc. These items are permanently displayed as long as the camera is switched on. In addition, other camera functions can be accessed through a series of menu buttons and the display on the main LCD viewfinder at the rear of the camera. These features are generally user friendly, although some of the icons do take a while to learn. PC Interface. The camera is supplied with both USB and serial adaptors for connection to the PC. Lens Features. The DC280 has a very respectable 6X Zoom (2X Optical; 3X Digital), that gives a focal length of 30mm (wide angle) to 60 mm (zoom). It also has a macro facility for close up shots. Batteries. The DC280 can be powered either by an AC adaptor or 4 AA batteries – the camera is supplied with 4 rechargeable batteries and a charger. Battery life is very good (my last set lasted 2 months with moderate use). However, if you use the LCD monitor as a viewfinder then battery life is reduced to literally hours! Size. The DC280 is bulkier than other digital cameras on the market. 133mm width * 52mm length * 76 mm height. It weighs 342g without batteries. Some reviewers feel this is a negative point, and I suppose the trend in the gadget market does tend towards smaller and smaller products. Personally though, I think you need something reasonably substantial and robust. Another advantage of the size of the DC280 is that it doesn’t look distinctly like a digital camera – indeed, if it wasn’t for the word “digital” on the front of the camera it could easily be mistaken for a standard compact camera. I think this is
a great advantage because it makes the camera less of a target for thieves. Software. The DC280 is supplied with Kodak software which allows you to transfer your images from the camera to your PC hard drive, undertake limited editing functions and even control the camera from your PC (change the camera set-up etc.). The software is very user friendly and easy for a complete novice to install. If you want to do more detailed editing of your pictures though, you will need to invest in more specialist editing software – something like Photoshop or equivalent. Price. This camera is very reasonably priced and offers much more value for money than some of the newer camera on the market. Overall rating. Excellent. Highly recommended.
This is a relatively new service that inserts advertising "stamps" into e-mails you send and read. When you write a new email it is completely blank, just as usual. The stamp is only inserted after you send the email, and you can choose whether or not each of your contacts should receive stamped emails (you are only asked once per contact). Each stamp you send counts towards your rewards. This function is useful, as you might feel it is inappropriate to send stamped e-mails to, for example, work colleagues. All the emails you receive will contain stamps, regardless of whether the sender uses Mailround. These stamps all count towards your rewards. The stamps you receive are tailored to your interests, based on the information you provide when you register. On the last Friday of each month, Mailround will give you a platinum, gold, silver or bronze reward, depending on how much you have used the Mailman. The rewards can be worth up to £40 each month, and you can spend the money with one of Mailround's retail partners, give it to charity or save up until you have £50 and they'll send you a cheque. Partners include well known internet retailers such as Amazon.com One disadvantage with Mailround is that it can't be used with Internet based e-mail accounts such as Hotmail, although I understand they are looking to make this service available in the near future. At the end of my first month I was credited £4 for being a "bronze" level user. Not a lot, but still, better than nothing. Mailround are now offering £2 for each referral that signs up. If you join, please use my e-mail address - email@example.com - as the person who referred you. So, the answer to my original question - "Can sending e-mails make you rich?" - well ... yes, if enough of you sign up!
The IDG Books "for dummies" franchises have proved extremely popular and I am sure will continue to be so as more and more of the population start to own and use PC's, either at home or for business. The series covers a range of subject areas from common software applications to programming languages, and are intended to be written in a 'plain English' style which avoids the over use of technical jargon. There are applications available which will write HTML code for you - Microsoft Frontpage is perhaps the best known. While this type of application has surely helped thousands of would-be web designers bring life to their first web page ideas, they do have their limitations. Many web programmers apparently despair at the HTML code that is generated, which is often far from the most efficient way to do what the author had intended. In addition, if you have absolutely no knowledge of HTML it is extremely difficult to spot mistakes and fix problems with your pages. Hence, a basic understanding of HTML is desireable. "HTML for Dummies" boasts that complete novices can "start publishing Web-savvy documents - fast!", and that the only prior knowledge needed is that you can turn your computer on and off and that you know how to use a mouse and keyboard. The book costs £23.99 UK sterling (or $24.99 US dollars)and comes complete with a bonus CD which contains trial versions of Frontpage 2000, NetObjects Fusion 5.0, and HotDog Professional 5.5. It also has freeware copies of ColdFusion Express and BSEdit Lite, and reference information (bits of sample code , for example) to accompany the book chapter by chapter. Generally, the authors do a pretty good job in terms of clarity of explanation. I did feel, however, that they tried too hard to be informal in their style which resulted a slightly patronising tone and a lengthier read than if they has just explained it like it is. To be fair, I am sure
they adopt this style to try and keep the readers interest in what, let's face it, is a pretty dull topic on paper. This perhaps works if you are reading the book cover to cover, but most users will tend to focus on a chapter at a time, not necessarily in sequence, and want to keep coming back for reference by which time the over-familiarity in the style starts to become just plain irritating. That said, the book is a very comprehensive introduction to the use of HTML and covers everything from basic definitions and principles, to formating data, elements of page design, use of templates, graphics, document structure and text and presentation controls. HTML tables, image maps and frames are very well explained, and a good introduction is provided to the use of forms (although the book concentrates on the front end of forms, not the scripting required at the back end). The book is very well structured which does enable you to use it out of sequence or as a reference manual. For areas that readers might want more detailed explanation on there are very useful pointers to web sites which provide further reference information. I had no prior knowledg of HTML programming and the book has helped me create some professional looking pages from scratch, writing all the code myself straight into the Wordpad text editor. Despite its stylistic limitations (which may be a matter of personal taste) the book is very useful and does do what it claims to do. I would recommend this as an introduction to HTML for any would-be web designer.
The Plexwriter 12/10/32A is, at the time of writing this review, one of the fastest and most reliable CD writers on the market. A quick tour around PC World will tell you it is more expensive than other writers (typically, my local PC World don't stock the Plextor) but the extra investment is well worth it. You can buy this unit for just under £200 including VAT from Jungle.com. For this price you get: - the 12/10/32 CD-R/W Unit - CD recording software: WinOnCD, Packet CD & BackMeUp - Plextor utility software (Plextools) - Instruction manual - Audio cable, mounting screws, E-IDE cable - 1 blank CD-R & i blank CD-R/W As the name implies, the Plexwriter writes at 12 speed, re-writes at 10 speed and reads at 32 speed. This means you can write to a 650MB CD in about 5 minutes, or re-write in about 7 minutes. That's fast, believe me! The Plexwriter includes a 2MB data buffer with "burn-proof" technology. This means that if data is sent too quickly to the device, it senses if the buffer is about to be all used up and pauses the recording, and by avoiding such "buffer under-runs", results in far fewer wasted CD's. In fact, I have had a 100% success rate so far! The build quality of the unit is very good. The tray is solid and eject mechanism smooth. I was very re-assured by the excellent warranty, which was 12 months with on-site collection and return service. The instruction manual was reasonable and I found the installation procedure very straightforward. My one criticism would be that the clarity of the installation instructions could be improved. It's fine if you're used to wipping the case off your PC and installing new hardware, but for computer novices, the manual is a touch presumptious. As for the bundled software, it all installed very easily with no problems. Of the three packages, I have only used the WinOnCD, so will restrict my observat
ions to that. I am sure there may be better packages on the market and I would advise you to stick to what you know and trust, but I have been pretty impressed by WinOnCD. It comes with a very clear manual in .pdf format. Also, for the novice, it has a very useful Wizard mode that takes you through each step of the process until you feel comfortable using the software without the wizard. In summary, a great prduct, I would highly recommend it.
Alladvantage was the first of the paid to surf programs. Its viewbar was reliable, and they had (past tense!) a good reputation and a history of paying their members fairly and on time. All that has now changed. Alladvantage intoduced a "voluntary" sweepstakes programme and actively encouraged its members to sign up and, as a consequence, sign away their opportunity to accrue an hourly rate for active surfing. Instead, provided your viewbar has been active for a minimum period, you are entered into a weekly sweepstake. I have no idea what the odds of winning are and, quite frankly, I don't care - if I wanted to enter a sweepstake I would have gone to tombola.com or similar. To add insult to injury, for those members who stuck with the original programme (ironically now called the "alternative" reward scheme), pay out rates have dropped to a pathetically low 7 (yes seven!) pence per hour for a maximum of 10 hours per month, and cheques will not be issued until balances reach £35. For anyone starting out, that means it will take you 41 years of active surfing to earn enough to receive a cheque. The problem isn't for new recruits, who can clearly see at the offset that the scheme is not worth bothering with, it is that thousands of existing Alladvantage members who have devoted time to building up referral networks and surfing with the viewbar have effectively lost the money they have earned. If, like me, you had accrued about £17 (just below the previous payout threshold)you too will have to surf for many years to see a penny of your hard earned money. In reality all these earnings are lost, and Alladvantage no it. This is a very cynical ploy by Alladvantage. I expect that they will have ensured they are contractually covered through the membership agreement, but there is no doubt in my mind that they have broken the spirit of the agreement, have acted in a cynical and underhand manner, and have serio
usly let down thousands of members who have shown great loyalty to Alladvantage. I would recommend that Alladvantage members move over to PaysU.com (see my other review for more details) - they pay a decent hourly rate for up to 40 hours per month. - oh, if you do sign up I would be grateful if you could e-mail me first and use my referall ID. As for Alladvantage, I have put my views in writing to them, but have received no response yet. When (or if) they do reply, I will update this opinion. In the meantime, I would encourage all existing cutomers to stop using the viewbar and to e-mail Alladvantage with your views. The decent thing for Alladvantage to do would be to pay out on all outstanding balances over a reasonable threshold, thereby allowing their loyal members to start afresh if they so wished. I somehow doubt that will happen.
Bob Dylan is to my mind the single most influential figure in modern music. He revolutionised modern poetry, folk music, and popular music. His work bridges generations and the quality of his songwriting has never been rivaled. Even the most accomplished of todays contemporary artists can only imitate. "Blonde on Blonde" is a truly remarkable album that captures Dylan at what was perhaps his creative peak (although, some would argue that of the later "Blood on the Tracks"). Amazingly the entire album (originally released as a double LP) was recorded in two or three days. The direction of the album was hinted at in its predecessor "Highway 61 revisited", which I feel finally drove the nail into the coffin of the cliche-ridden topical songwriter. Dylan's work was developing a complexity to challenge a Picasso. The overall theme comes through the songs like an absraction rather than from any particular lines which spell-out a too-easily-understood message. There is a plasticity and kinetic brilliance to the verses that is difficult to express. Track 1 - The 14 track album begins with "Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35", banned on most radio stations at the time because of its drug references. This is longer by two verses than the original Columbia 45 rpm version and shows Dylans warm sense of humour. This is a good-time, raucous tune with the universal message "Everybody Must Get Stoned". Track 2 - "Pledging My time" is straight blues, an act of faith by Dylan who sings "I'm pledging my time to you", but is it really an act of faith? The last two verses conjure up a violence and a - typically Dylan - ambiguity. Track 3 - "Visions of Johanna", an absolutely beautiful, master creation. Introspection, philosophy and beautifully crafted lyrics. I can't think of any lyric to rival lines such as "The ghost of electricity / Howls in the bones of her
face" Track 4 - "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)" shows the duality of love. One side serious, the other not Track 5 - "I Want You" is bright and happy. All logic says no, but "I want you". Very open for Dylan. Track 6 - "Just Like a Woman" is both tender but bitchy. A beautiful song but with an iron strength running through it. Track 7 - "Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat" is bizarre, satirical blues". Track 8 - "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" is an absolute masterpiece in which Dylan seems to be pondering TS Eliot's "Between the idea / And the Reality / Between the Motion / And the Act / Falls the shadow" - this song is for everyone who has dreamed of something better and yet at the same time realised the dark irony of the human condition. Track 9 - "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)", the title says it all! Track 10 - "Temporary Like Achilles" is slow, moody blues. Track 11 - "Fourth Time Around" is a parody of the Beatles "Norweigan Wood", mock platitudes, mock waltz music, full of delightful humour, but tinged with a gritty reality that echoes in the last three lines "And I, I never took much / I never asked for your crutch / Now don't ask for mine" Track 12 - "Absolutely Sweet Marie", a lovesick song, tinged with revenge "where are you tonight, sweet Marie?" Track 13 - "Obviously Five Believers" is hard rock blues, very sexual and unsentimental. Track 14 - "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" is in my opinion the greatest song of ALL TIME, an exquiste, almost religious portrait of a girl, told with such delicate and tender imagery. The song takes Dylan almost 15 minutes to perform, but its impact is so concentrated it seems like only four or five
minutes have passed. Whether or not you like Dylans voice, or his guitar playing, just read the lyrics to this song, and enjoy it for the brilliant poetry it is. Pure genius.
PaysU.com is (yet another)paid to surf system that aims to reward members for viewing advertisements on a view bar. If you are familiar with Alladvantage, who are probably the market leader in this field, then you know roughly what this is all about. As with Alladvantage, you need to download the proprietary software and install it on your PC. When you run the PaysU program, a small viewbar is displayed on the screen, through which adverts are shown. The viewbar takes up about 1/8 of the screen, so isn't too intrusive, and can easily be minimised if you temporarily need to view the full screen. Adverts are displayed through two windows, which are refreshed every 20 to 30 seconds or so. A button on the viewbar changes from red to green to indicate that you are actively accruing time. A useful feature is that the amount of time you have used the viewbar during the current month is displayed on the top left hand corner of the bar. There are some important differences between PaysU and their competitors. You need to be connected to the Internet to accrue time, but you can be using any application, not just surfing. This is really useful if you have unmetered Internet access, as you can log on, get on with some work in say Microsoft Office, but be running the PaysU viewbar at the same time and being paid for it! The amount you are paid per hour varies depending on your activitey within the PaysU communuty. They call this "profit sharing" .. to quote from the PaysU site: "The revenue will be shared on the basis of the effort put in" This means that the more adverts you click on, and your referrals click on, the higher the hourly rate. In practice, if you are completely inactive you get paid about 1 pence an hour (not worth it!), but if you click on an advert say every 30 or 40 minutes, it's easy to get the rate up to over 17 pence an hour. It can be as high as 35 pence an hour, but I f
ind an average useage pays out at 17 - 19 pence. Be warned, excessive clicking is picked up and can lead to your account being terminated. You can be paid for up to 40 hours (I think this is due to be increased to 80), which gives a significantly better earning potential than Alladvantage. PaysU are a UK based operation, so payments are in pounds sterling. Payments are only made when your balance exceeds £45. This took me 6 months with no referrals yet - if you do join up please e-mail me first use my referral ID - thanks!! Unfortunately, they charge an adminstration fee of £3 for sending a cheque, which I think is a bit unreasonable. The viewbar is only one part of the PaysU community, which includes: - be Paid As You Surf (whilst displaying the PaysStation viewbar) - get cash refunds from on-line shopping (Cashback)- I'm not able to comment on this aspect of the service, as I haven't used it, but briefly if you buy goods from PaysU online partner retailers, this will increase your earnings. - earn cash from using PaysStart as your homepage. If you set the PaysU.com page as your homepage, you can get "Paid to Start". Every time you visit the page you earn a credit, the more credits you earn the higher your share of the PaysU profits. If you can be bothered at all with a paid to surf program, I would go for this one. Personally, I think Alladvantage has gone downhill since the introduction of the Sweepstakes programme, particularly because the amount of online time they will pay you for is so limited.
World Online used to go under the name of Localtel, and their ISP was called Screaming.net. They were one of the first telephone providers to provide free unmetered Internet access, originally available at off-peak times for all customers who changed over their telephone provider and used Screaming as their ISP. Now World Online provides the whole service and offers a range of different price plans. Off peak unmetered Internet access costs £5 per month, or 24 hour unmetered access costs £15 per month. Unmetered access is limited to 100 hours per month, but I don't know of anyone who is online for that length of time! All normal call charges are guaranteed to be lower than BT rates. You can also maintain Friends and Family type discounts, and you can update your Friends and Family list online. If you are a medium-heavy Internet user this service offers significant savings. The Internet connection speed is very good. In the early days the large numbers of customers signing on led to some connectivity problems, but these now seem to have been fixed. I certainly am now able to connect first time every time. The major problem with World Online is that they have appalling customer care. Billing tends to be very erratic. You are supposed to be billed monthly by direct debit (you can pay by credit card which I find helpful), but payments are taken far less frequently than that. World Online have to rely on information from BT to produce accurate bills and they blame BT for the delays in requesting payment - who knows who's to blame, but it can be quite frustrating not receiving regular statements as promised. I recently had the experience of World Online losing my direct debit mandate and writing to me to complain that as they were unable to take payment they would be charging me a £5 administration fee! Eventually this was waved and I had a (sort of) apology, but only after speaking to about 5 different people and
much hassle. To sum up, I am satsisfied with the package offered by World Online, if dissapointed by their attitude to cutomer care. I hope this opininion has been useful. Please take the time to rate it and leave me a comment if you feel it could be improved in any way, or if you have had a different experience of World Online. Thanks for reading.