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I'm quite fortunate to have a copy the Retail Windows 7 Ultimate 2 months before the release date due to msdn subscription. My review is based on personal experience and preferance and may not be the same opinion as everyone else.
Firstly, the installation took just over 25 minutes, an improvement on Vista. Boot time is very slightly slower but shutdown is almost instant - 5 seconds!!
After installing Windows 7 Ultimate, I decided to explore some of the new features and changes before attempting any software installations. The graphics seemed extremely impressive, but I was viewing it on a 42" HD TV, but still, this is the same set up I used Vista on and the visual aspect was nothing compared to 7.
A few things have moved around, like show desktop, there isn't a default sidebar and paint has had a major overhall!! The taskbar has turned into a Apple Dock....you can now 'Pin' programs to the taskbar for faster access. This is a direct copy of Apple OSX, but works very well. So well I've only used the start menu a few times.
Things seem a bit quicker than Vista, certain tasks require less memory and performance however the aero desktop is still very demanding. The performance rating now goes beyond 5.9, this is due to Windows now being able to make more use of more memory and faster processors.
Other items I use which have become more user friendly include remote desktop, the search function, network configuration and more. A large amount has remained the same which is a relief however some of the options like Swithc to Classic View in the Control Panel seems to have gone which I find very annoying.
Microsoft have managed to rid most the bugs via the release candidate however people will still complain that software won't work with it. This is a vendor issue as much as it is a Microsoft issue. All Vista software will work on Windows 7, but if it fails because it verifies it's a Vista install, that is the issue with the vendor not Microsoft.
e.g. software designed for all OS's will search for which OS it is and if iti isn't on the list it will fail, even though if it chose Vista it would work perfectly.
I personally think it's a great OS, a vast improvement on Vista and a pleasure to use....but just wait untill the new Apple OS comes out next month...
There is a wide variety of blank media options on the market, but when it comes to dual layer options are far less and the cost is much higher.
A dual layer disc consists of two layers within the dvd which allows the disc to hold nearly twice as much data as an ordinary writeable dvd. The disc takes twice as long to burn depending on speed as it writes each layer separately.
I've bought cheaper brands in the past which result in a cost effective price to begin with, but when a number fail it works out more expensive.
I have now been using the Datawrite Dual Layer DVD+R for 12 months and it's extremely rare I end up throwing one away (coasting). However ensuring the disk burn perfectly nearly every time requires a couple of checks....
1. Always ensure your firmware for the drive is the most up-to-date
2. Don't exceed the recommended manufacturer burn speed for the disk.
In this case the burn speed is limited to 2.4x, burning any faster may create a successful burn, but the life of that disc will be shorter than when burnt at the manufacturer's recommended speed.
These aren't the cheapest discs on the market, but they are very reasonable. Verbatim are nearly twice the price for the same performance.
KFC is my main weekness regarding take-away food....my partner has the same issue since I introduced her to a refurbished branch not too far from us.
The main options are a variety of chicken including the following:
Mini Breast Fillet
Popcorn - small pieces of processed chicken in batter
Spicy Chicken Wings
Chicken Fillet Burger
Hot Rod (chicken on a stick)
There's far too many combinations to list, the main offers are family feast for roughly 4 people, a burger, chips and drink in a variety of options and single chicken and chips, again in a variety of options.
All the chicken is coated in Colonel Sanders Secret Recipe southern fried coating. The spicy wings have a similar taste just with more spice.
The refurbishment of our local branch has changed the taste of the chicken very slightly.... Before, the chichken would be a bit oo greasy for my personal liking making it a rare treat and often regretable... With the refurb, the boneless meat is completely free of grease and the on the bone meat is less greasy.
If you like chicken but don't want to spend as much as Nandos, hit KFC for a once in a while treat!! A bucket costs roughly £10 and a single meal around the £4.50 mark
After Amazon stopped their credit card through the Halifax I noticed play.com were providing a similar rewards service but a much better offer.
I applied for the credit card by following the link on the play.com site, they offer an instant decision in most cases and turn around the paper work very quickly. I had my card in just over a week.
The intial offer involves spending £150 in the first 60 days and you'll be awarded with a £15 play.com voucher. You then earn 1 point for every point spent and double points if the purchase is on the play.com website.
A couple of other intial offers became apparent when I logged into the online banking with mbna. The first offer is 0% on balance transfers for 3 months and the second is 0% on purchases for 9 months. This makes the card one of the best around; rewards and 0% offers!!
The standard apr is 15.9% which is pretty much standard for the majority of cards, but mbna have been know to up this for more risky customers.
Using the mbna online banking is a pleasure, it's one of the simplest and most user friendly I've come across so far.
I haven't cashed in my points so far, I'm saving them for a larger purchase instead of spending it on dvds and cds.
I discovered this site just over 18 months ago when looking for a TV, initially I thought it was just another price comparion site, I was completely wrong.
Hot UK Deals lists the latest deals under a variety of categories, each deal has an individual rating (temperature) and only when they reach a certain heat do they move from the 'New' deals page to the 'Hot' deals page.
The various categories include Deals, Freebies, Vouchers, Competitions and more. I tend to scan down the deals on a daily basis (as do the majority of my work colleagues) and the vouchers a couple of times a week.
Each posting allows for comments from the site users (you have to register), these are extremely useful when guaging whether a voucher will work or when a deal has been posted but spotted even cheaper else where.
There are a couple of bad points to the site but they don't really relate to the site itself... Comments from people which are just trying to cause an argument, stupid debates on computer deals like which is better, Windows or OSX.
If you're looking to buy something/anything, this is the site to visit FIRST!!! If like me you end up scanning it on a regular basis you'll find a hefty credit card bill at the end of the month.
I've been drinking coffee using a caffetierre for a few years now and when I go to Spain I enjoy an espresso with milk as the lighter choice in the heat.
Whilst in T K Maxx a couple of weeks ago I purchased an espresso maker for under £10 and started to enjoy the lighter option at home! However it didn't quite taste like the wonders of Eat or the Spanish Tapas Bars.... So during my next visit to the super market I spent some time in the coffee isle and came home with a pot of Illy espresso ground coffee.
Opening the tin, it smelt great but not too distant from the standard ground coffee I am drinking. I set up the espresso pot and placed it on the hob. Once the process was complete I added some warm milk and took my first sip.... the taste was completely different and exactly how I would expect my coffee in Spain to taste.
The content is a similar volume to the average bag of coffee but costs a little more. I bought it on sale for £2.25; however its normal price is £2.75.
This great taste will now be a regular occurrence and I've even managed to get my partner to share the odd pot. A great taste for all coffee lovers!!
Please note this coffee is designed for espresso and you may not get the same test using it in a filter or caffetierre.
After buiying my first dvd player back in 2000 I found play.com and ordered the odd dvd. I soon realised that play were much cheaper than anywhere else, mainly due to free delivery and became a regular customer. I now look down my 32 pages of order history and wonder if it was money well spent...
Anyway, back in 2001 play orders used to arrive next day or sometimes the following day, now I allow for 5 days when setting my expectations. Being based in Jersey makes things cheaper to send and taxes are a lot lighter....so they can afford to undercut the competitors due to their larger profit margin.
Play sell a large range of items, but not quite a large as Amazon. They have expanded over the years to include gadgets, tickets, books, clothes, mobile phones and electronics in addition to dvd's and cd's.
In the last 18 months I've moved over to Amazon; the play prices have risen slightly in comparison and are no where near the cheapest on the majority of their stock. Amazon being international probably has more buying power and therefore the ability to undercut most internet sellers.
Recently I took out a play.com credit card. Due to my regular spend, I've collected over £100 in vouchers, but I can't find anything I need to buy at the right price.
Play used to be one of the cheapest around, now the only items it sells cheap are last years clothes and the odd dvd. Every now and then a good bargain can be found, but you need to keep your eyes pealed!
I stayed at the Hilton in Bromsgrove nearly 12 months ago as part of a company related event. I arrived about 6pm in the evening, drank, ate and slept, but we didn't make any use of the conference facilities.
Being a Hilton and having stayed in a large number of premium hotels in the past I had high expectations. On arrival the hotel seemed pleasant, there was some hassle with the car park which involved a ticket and was chargeable unless redeemed at point of checkout.
The lobby seemed nice with a mixture of furniture, some slight strange. Oddly there was a big buffet style counter opposite as you walked in which seemed unnecessary for daily use. The staff were all polite and reasonably helpful.
I went to the room which turned out to be quite small with very dated and poorly maintained decor. The bathroom had a couple of broken tiles and you could see where a quick refurb had taken place. I'd rate the room 5/10 in comparison with other premium hotels.
I then spent some time in the bar which had a warm atmosphere, nice bar and large wall mounted plasma TV. The staff were extremely slow at serving and this became a bit of a pain with the bar being reasonably full.
We all then sat down for dinner. I was expecting an a la carte menu; instead we were faced with a buffet which actually turned out to be ok. One of the options was steak - what a bad choice for a buffet where every piece will be dried to a crisp.
Overnight, the sleep was fine even though the window wasn't double glazed.
Overall the stay wasn't unpleasant, but it definitely wasn't up tot he standard I'd expected or the Hilton Group quoted.
Being based in Birmingham, the main training provider in the area used by my company is Parity. Having attended a number of theirs course ranging from Prince 2 to Unix Shell Scripting, and a few courses from other suppliers, I believe I have a good selection for comparison.
Learning Tree aren't the cheapest and when attending a London course you will pay the extra, however as I wasn't paying the bill cost didn't enter the equation.
The course I took cover .NET Programming including C#, ASP.NET with Visual Studio however the course gives you the option to cover VB.NET intead.
In compariosn to Parity, the room was much better equiped with better computers and presenting aids. There was the option of changing the course mid week if the content didn't meet your requirements; something very few course providers offer.
The choice of courses Learning Tree offer are very impressive which is possibly why they're one of the more popular choices with large companies.
The post course support is great, the tutor offered his personal e-mail as a point of contact for queries but there's also a large amount of literature available.
My experience of Learning Tree was a good one, however this isn't and won't be the case for everyone. The price is the only down side, hence the 4 stars.
After watching Bangkok Dangerous I wondered if Nicolas Cage is coming to the end of his career... After all the advertising on TV for the release of Knowing, I decided to rent it...
The first 20 minutes is spent setting the scene, a single father (Cage) not speaking to his family, a young boy who comes across as very clever and the story of a 50 year old time capsule.
Like others who have written review, I was glued to the TV wanting to 'know' what the purpose of all the numbers were. As the story unfolded I found myself even more intrigued, but then the ending came and the disappointment.
On reflection the film actually has a number of flaws which I didn't notice initially.
1. The sci-fi genre label only really applies to a small element of the film, yes it is sci-fi, but not that far from reality until the end. It's about as sci-fi as Deep Impact...
2. Cage is nothing special, he speaks his lines and gives the standard facial expressions and reactions, but compared to his back catalogue, it's weak.
3. The film is roughly 2 hours long, the initial setting the scene duration is far too long when a bit more action related to the numbers could've been fitted in. It's a Cage film after all!
4. The addition of his family drama added no benefit to the film. You're meant to feel some emotions towards this but it just doesn't work.
The one good thing about the film is it had the ability to get your heart racing with some impressive cgi for a sudden plane crash and the raised levels of sound for jumpy bits.
If you like tame scary films or weak sci-fi or even weak Nicolas Cage, you will like this film, however I agree with the 3 star rating and even that seems generous!!
Hard drives have massively dropped in price over the last few years and now the market is settling a bit more and price drops are slowing. The western digital elements 1tb hard drive is one of the few disks to drop below £70 and can be easily purchased from a number of different places including ebuyer, amazon, play and more.
I purchased my drive from amazon with some vouchers however I returned it within the 30 day returns period for a number of reasons...
the drive is very basic but well made, housed in a metal case with rubber surrounds at each end. Included in the box were the instructions, power adaptor and the USB cable.
I bought this product as a back up device for 750gb of data which I wanted to run automatically using software on the pc. After turning the device on and plugging it in I realised it has no on/off switch and seemed to run constantly when turned on. Spindown of the disk would reduce the electicity consumption and reduce the noise.
The transfer rate also didn't reflect my expectations when compared to other USB 2.0 hard drives. After reading a number of reviews about disk failures I decided to send it back and opt for something a bit more capable of what I was after.
This disk is great for people on a budget who want a simple device which will with patience back up or hold necessary files. If you want something a bit more useful with the ability to manage itself with cutting down power use and automated back up, you will need to spend a bit more.
Great drive, but just not suitable for my requirements.
Purchased from ebuyer with free 500gb disk - £149
The Netgear ReadyNas Duo is branded as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, however it is much more than this....
In the box are a cat 5 RJ45 network cable, power supply, NAS box and media. The manufacturer description advises the readynas duo is simple to set up straight out the box and is ideal for home users.... I disagree.
The box has a small processor and 256mb ram, on the front is an on/off button, backup button, 2 disk lights, an activity light and a USB connection for cameras and similar devices. On the back is the power socket, Ethernet socket and 2 USB connections, one for an external hard drive and the other for a printer. The duo runs a cut down version of Linux, but this wouldn't affect the basic user.
Out the box, I plugged it all in and added one disk. The readynas started up making a fair amount of noise and then took 15 minutes to configure itself and prepare the disk. Without any request for clarification, the duo had configured to raid 1 mirroring on one drive.... Very odd considering it would have no benefit. I wanted to configure the drive to raid 0 stripping to provide no redundancy in the event of disk failure, but maximum disk space.
The readynas has a superb support site www.readynas.com which details most the issues users have come across and the resolution. Immediately I found support for configuring raid 0 even though it took quite a bit of time.
The software provided walks you through an initial set up wizard which asks a variety of questions some even the most technical person would struggle to understand.
After I had created 5 shares, set up the bitorrent client, itunes and squeezebox server, the readynas settled to a low hum with the fan running at 1600rpm. The disks run at an average temperature of 36 degrees even when heavily active.
The features for this box are very impressive, there are far too many to list, but here's some I've found very useful:
Incremental backups for multiple devices
Time machine option for mac users
Schedule start-up and shutdown of device
iphone application available to monitor basic activity
secure shell access
The bad points are the difficult initial installation process which isn't as clear as it could be... The limited information provided with the device only covers the typical installation.
Only providing a cat 5 cable seems very short sighted when providing gigabit ethernet. Cat 5e cable is a very similar price and would provide the user with the capability of faster transfer speeds.
If you're after a network hard drive, this is perfect and offer so much more if you need to expand at a later date. There is the initial issue of configuration, but once over this hurdle it works superbly.
After building a high end gaming machine I found the stock fans supplied with the Antec Three Hundred case weren't moving enough air around the hard drives and graphics cards. The two fans included in the case had a three speed switch and a 4-pin molex connector which didn't allow me any fanc control via the motherboard.
Some months after building the machine, summer started to approach and I could hear the cpu fan starting to run very loud, so I decided to research the latest fans, a bunch of reviews and get some cool air into the case.
After some hours of researching, I found the Xilence range with a number of great review, however being priced at the bottom end of the price range I wasn't sure whether the reviews were partly based on value for money.
I purchased two fans, one 120mm and the other 80mm from ebuyer, spending roughly £6-£7 in total. Absolutel bargain....as long as they kept the noise down.
Fitting was a little bit tricky, partly due to installing them retrospectively, the other issue being the length of the 3 pin connector cable.
Once installed I inspected the visual benefits - red fans in a balck case did look good! The build quality of the fans seemed high, solid blades and frame with cables strongly secured to the connector and fan. If there was any strain on the cable it would come unplugged before the cable came away from the connector.
The initial startup sounded the same as before. CPU fan running high, but no noise from the Xilence fans. I opened my motherboard utility and dropped the speed of the cpu fan. The temperature rose, however the fans kept the overall case temperature down. Then after a few minutes the motherboard decided to turn one of them off as the temperature was low enough with the low speed settings.
I've read some review which don't overly rate the air flow, which I would agree, but only when comparing the performance to fans costing around the £20 mark.
Every future build I undertake will involve these amazingly priced fans which provide the silent performance every pc user should be after!!
I've owned a few high spec laptops over the last 4/5 years including a small Sony Vaio, Dell M1330 and currently the new MacBook Pro.
The Elitebook is my work laptop, so it gets a lot more abuse and use than my personal machines. The build quality from HP is very solid made up of a mixture of plastic and brushed aluminium. This mix of materials also creates a stylish look and feel about the machine.
The spec isn't overly impressive; the processor is mid-range and so is the graphics card. The amount of RAM is low in my opinion especially since prices have really dropped over the last couple of years.
Other features include a memory card reader, bluetooth, wifi, touch sensitive buttons, biometric finger print reader and a small pop out light at the top of the screen where you would expect to see a camera.
The machine works well for my daily needs including Visual Studio, large numbers of open windows and all the security stuff my company have installed.
Screen resolution is great for the small screen 1440 x 900 - this allows you to fit a large amount of information on the screen, however some may struggle reading the smaller sized text.
Battery life is superb, you can get a good 4-5hours heavy use without power.
The weight of the Elitebook is great, much lighter than my previous work laptop - HP nc6230.
Even though I've found this laptop superb in my work environment there are some reason I definitely wouldn't buy it with my own money... The laptop feels solid, but it also feels cheap... Matt plastic is already starting to turn shiny, the clips which close the lid feel like they will break or struggle to close properly. The touch sensitive buttons are pointless and lack the immediate response you expect....
....and finally, the price for the spec is crazy. My MacBook cost less than the advertised price for this machine and the spec is almost exactly the same.
HP have made what appears from the offset to be a great machine, but live with it for a few hours and it's weaknesses start to show. For the spec, just 2GB of RAM, the machine is extremely overpriced when compared against their consumer range.
After a 5 minute demo of the new Mac Book Pro in the apple shop I decided to broaden my computer knowledge beyond the Windows front, however I wasn't sure my current Windows Server 2008 would suffice as a backup holding disks formatted in NTFS instead of the apple required HFS.
I spotted the time machine, but as I only wanted a simple back up tool, I thought it was unnecessarily expensive for my needs. So I decided to look for a simple external hard drive.
A couple of weeks back I spotted the time capsule on hotukdeals for just over £100, so I decided to take the plunge. The time capsule does offer more than a lazy back up:
1. 3 port gigabit switch - perfect for the home network
2. wireless-n - faster wi-fi compared to most bundled ISP wireless routers
3. USB port - wireless printing or further drives
As a back up the time capsule works error free taking back ups every hour whilst the Mac is switched on. The initial back up takes some time, however the further ones are quicker as the time capsule only takes the changed data.
The time capsule software works well on the Mac, but there is also a Windows alternative which I haven't tried out yet.
The gigabit unmanaged switch works as expected allowing me to achieve roughly 90MB/s over my network.
The USB port is something I haven't tried as yet, however apple does advise you can connect a USB hub to the port and connect multiple devices.
The wifi works again perfectly with no connection issues encountered so far. Setting this up was quite simple and allowed me to choose a memorable SSID and password.
Cosmetically, as expected the apple logo is in place and the finish is second to none.
Overall the product is superb for my requirements and great value for money. To purchase a 500 GB drive, wireless n router and gigabit switch separately would cost considerably more.