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I first started using Spotify 2 years ago when it was in its (relatively) early stages. I was amazed that I could listen to almost any music I wanted for free, in full quality, with no streaming times - and the best part of all: It was LEGAL!
I was fascinated by the capabilities of the software; I could build playlists, explore 'similar artists', listen to radio channels - all in a simple interface similar to iTunes. I could also connect to FaceBook and browse friends' music and even co-create shared playlists with friends, and then sync all my music to my iPhone.
After several months, however, the unfortunate but inevitable happened - adverts started appearing. Initially there were always adverts, but they appeared as images in the sidebar and were a minor nuisance. Ideally, Spotify would make money from commission on downloads when people downloaded the song directly from within Spotify, however this was slightly unrealistic because Spotify was such a great platform for listening to music that there was little need for downloading the tracks.
I therefore accepted the necessity for more adverts, particularly as you could previously navigate away from Sporitfy and music would continue playing with the adverts hidden from sight - audible adverts seemed a logical conclusion.
Many of these adverts were for Spotify premium accounts which had a lot of benefits over a free account. Not only did they eliminate adverts, they also gave premium users advanced previews of albums, allowed people to take their playlists offline, and supported Spotify on iPhone and Android. I was not particularly concerned for these features, however, so for the next year continued to use my free account as the adverts frustratingly increased in frequency.
It was this year, however, that Spotify made what the majority of users believe to be the suicidal decision to restrict listening on free accounts - essentially forcing people to pay for a premium account. Listening time was capped at 10 hours per month and there was a maximum play frequency of 5 plays per song. I have now made the decision to listen to free and legal music elsewhere (Grooveshark) and many other free users are following suit.
I'm disappointed that Spotify, with all its great features, has decided to force it's users to pay monthly premiums rather than making the advert-funded system work. Spotify recently overtook iTunes in music revenues, however the promise of FREE and legal music has gone. This is a shame because Spotify has far a far greater interface and features that its competitors, and forcing people to pay a monthly premium will likely drive many users back to illegal piracy.
I've been using iPlayer for over a year now. I first started using it regularly when I went to university and could not afford to buy a TV license, and, contrary to popular belief - it is NOT illegal to watch shows on iPlayer without a TV license. It is only illegal to watch LIVE television without one.
There are three ways of using the service; one is to watch shows directly from the BBC iPlayer website, and the other is to download the BBC iPlayer Desktop utility. The newest advancement is the ability to watch shows live as they are being broadcast, which despite this being illegal if you don't have a TV license, is far better for watching BBC programmes than watching them live on other websites such as tvcatchup.com, because it is quicker, easier, you don't need to register an account, the quality is better, streaming time is reduced and there are no adverts. (Is that enough reasons?!).
As for watching non-live shows, iPlayer has a MASSIVE catalogue of content. Everything from Eastenders to feature films shown on BBC are put up on iPlayer. The catalogue can also be searched by category, so if you are looking for music programmes you can easily browse them, likewise for films or factual programmes etc. I have found that rather than increasing the amount of TV I watch, it has actually decreased it as I can cherry-pick the types of programmes I watch and know that I don't need to stay glued to the TV in order not to miss a show I might be really interested in.
You can also search for a programme individually, and when you have found what you're looking for, the programme displays other episodes from the same series, the programme website where they sometimes have an archive of episodes also available to view on iPlayer, and an option to series-record using iPlayer desktop, which I will discuss now.
iPlayer desktop is a piece of software which allows you to manage your iPlayer viewing activity - it is available for both PC and Mac. You can download individual shows onto your computer and manage and view these using the iPlayer desktop utility. This facility enables you to watch BBC programmes when you are not connected to the internet, in full quality with no streaming necessary. There are several tabs including:
A list of programmes (alphabetisised) available for instant viewing
A list of programmes you have on series-record displaying upcoming episode(s) and download progress
An alphabetisised list of all your BBC Programmes and series' - both downloaded and upcoming
A very useful tool, this displays a list of your downloaded content in order of when it will expire, displaying the expiry date so you don't miss it.
iPlayer desktop also allows you to watch live BBC TV and listen to live BBC Radio straight from the desktop player, so you never need a TV (or even web browser) to view BBC TV again. Overall I think that iPlayer has revolutionised the 'On Demand' system, and I imagine we will soon see other services such as 4oD offering similar facilities to compete with the BBCs excellent services.
The only problem I have experienced with iPlayer is that quite often the series record function does not work. The future episodes do appear under the series', but quite often the episodes fail to either begin or complete downloading, and I find myself back on the iPlayer website downloading them individually - but this is a minor problem which I'm confident will be fixed in the next update.
Initially when I was looking to go to university, I made an active decision not to base my decision on the Times or any other University Guide, and that I wanted my decision to be based on my own judgement rather than that of someone else. I am a strong believer that hard work and ambition are the ingredients for success, not what uni you went to. So the "it's not a reputable uni" argument didn't really register.
When I went to visit the university, my instinct was that it ticked all the boxes. It was modern, friendly, in a great city centre location and had great facilities for the course I wanted to study (Film and TV Production). It jumped straight to first choice position on my UCAS choices and I subsequently got my offer.
When I arrived at the university I was immediately in a difficult situation. I arrived at my accommodation to find that I had been put in a flat with one other 'fresher' and three international students, all of whom had lived in the flat the previous year, were very good friends and spoke very little English. Now I am not by any means saying I don't want to be in a flat with international students, nor am I saying I want to be in a flat with only first year students, but I think that when you are moving away from home for the first time, in order to help people to make people more comfortable I think that it is fair to expect to be put with at least a majority of first-year and/or English speaking students.
The problem, however, rather than just the fact that they were international and spoke in their native languages, was that prior to our arrival, they had lived in the flat with two other students who had in their view been "kicked out" of the flat in order to accommodate us. This resulted in these two students spending most of their time in our flat as they still considered it to be their own. They had regular parties in the flat which went on until 5am and seemingly had no consideration for us because they were presumably acting in accordance which how they had done the previous year.
I would like to say that this allocation of accommodation problem is isolated, however many of my friends were either denied university accommodation completely or were given 'studio flats'; which were all-inclusive flats where they payed £150/week and had no communal areas, with their kitchen in their room. I complained on multiple occasions about my situation to no avail until finally, after about three weeks when I told accommodation services that if I was not moved in the next week then I would drop out entirely, and they moved me to the flat next door.
This was an improvement, and I got on with my flatmates, however, again, there was only one first-year student and the others were over 21, two of whom had inhabited the flat the previous year. When I complained about the general state of accommodation allocation I was told that York St.John offered people the opportunity to continue living in their rooms last year, presumably so that they would continue paying rent during the summer months as they wouldn't be moving their belongings out. Ultimately, what resulted was first-year students being 'slotted-in' to the vacant rooms and finding themselves isolated within existing social groups with people who they were unable to share the 'fresher' experience with. As a result of my accommodation situation I felt extremely lonely and isolated.
As for the university itself, anyone who has been there will tell you it is small. What they probably don't let on is just how small. The university has under 6,000 students, a very low number compared to most universities. It is 116th in order of size and it certainly doesn't go unnoticed. The 'student life' leaves a lot to be desired. In terms of the city, York is an excellent place to study and the location of the university is great, but the Students' Union consists of a bar, a very small room they call a 'club' and a table with one SU worker sat behind it. In terms of feeling like a hub of student life, this is non-existent.
On to my course. When first embarking upon my course I had initially thought it would be fairly intensive. I had been told that only one in eight applicants would get on to the course and my timetable consisted of 21 hours per week. Most students can expect an average of about 12 hours per week so this seemed to be excellent value for money.
What it actually turned out to be like was... college. I was in every day at 9:00, stopped for lunch at around 12:00 and finished most days at around 3:00 with a couple of exceptions. The 21 hours per week timetable turned out to be in actuality about 12 hours per week because staff were about 50% successful at turning up to lectures and seminars, and we were often simply left in limbo as to whether they were going to show up or not. I never received one email of explanation or apology.
Also, almost everything I had been told about the fantastic facilities turned out to be false. For instance the university boasted that on our course we will be using HD cameras and Final Cut Studio editing suites but these turned out to be complete fabrications, I can only imagine in order to fill spaces.
Another thing I only found out when I arrived on the course was that I had been lied to on the open day about a catalogue of things. For instance despite being told that "only 1 in 8 people will get a place" - I later found that a lot of places had been offered through clearance, something which would never happen on a highly demanded course. This was evident when I had to do group work, and, without casting any offense to people who study there and do not fit this generalisation, I felt like I was doing everything by myself. Group meetings generally consisted of myself and one or two others intermittently attending, and I seemed to be the only one concerned about getting any work done, at least to a good standard. In fact, it was during a group assessed programme pitch whereby only 2 of the 8 attendees performed to an adequate standard (including a memorable moment of the Production Assistant making a compelling speech on how important it is to be a "Personal Assistant") when I decided to leave the university.
Before I dropped out, however I wrote several emails to the head of course asking for an explanation or reassurance but to no avail. The final insult, however, was when I actually went to leave the university. I had already signed all of my forms by the end of November and was ready to leave, but was advised that if I left before the 1st of December that I would be responsible for paying any outstanding fees to the university. I had assumed that fees up to that point would have to be paid, but was told that as the student loans company paid the university on the 1st of December, that I would have to personally fork out the money if I left before then. I therefore put down my last date of attendance as the 1st of December, and only later found out that if I had have left before then and informed the student loans company immediately, then no fees would have been paid on either part. So it would seem that even in leaving I was deceived in order for the university to secure the money from the student loans company.
In conclusion, I wouldn't recommend anyone going to York St. John University. Although it is still considered one of the best universities for some of its courses, my experience is that it is a deceitful university which does not have the best interests of their students at heart. I am now at Leeds University, and although it is by no means perfect, it has proven to me that it is not the case that I am not 'cut out' for higher education, and if I were to compare Leeds to York St. John, by every criteria YSJ would be blown out of the water.
I bought this printer when I went to university because I needed something which was relatively inexpensive and would print, copy and scan. I picked up this printer for £40 on Amazon and I cannot fault it. Firstly, unlike many printers, it is extremely simple to use. Some printers I have used before require drivers for optimum quality and in order to change settings, however although this printer came with a driver disk I've never seen the need to install it as it works perfectly straight out of the box.
Initially I was concerned that it might not be Mac compatible but I run this printer on a MacBook Pro and it works absolutely fine. One of the other things I noticed a lot when looking for printers is that wireless printers are glorified as being essential and the next big step in printer technology. I've found however that for my needs, these printers are simply a waste of money (as the price steps up significantly). Either way the printer will have to be connected to a power source, and if you are using a laptop you can very easily move it to wherever the printer is. If you don't have a laptop, this printer also allows you to easily print via a USB memory stick, and, unlike some printer models, has a convenient LCD screen so you can view your files before printing.
Every task this printer has the ability to perform can be done very easily, the LCD screen is very useful and informative and won't leave you guessing what's wrong if there is a problem. Copying and scanning are very easy and can be done simply with the click of a button without the need to do anything on your computer. The only task which I have found to be in any way difficult is changing the print cartridges, because it requires holding down two specific buttons in order to bring the cartridges into the correct section for changing. However this is simply a matter of reading the user guide and making a note of this.
Finally, the printer is very conservative with ink, much better than the HP printer I was previously using, and Epson are renowned for their low-cost print cartridges, which can bought online very cheap.
Overall I would highly recommend this printer for basic printing needs. It is cheap, fast, economical, simple to use and offers a variety of tasks.
I have been working with Adobe After Effects now for over a year, and I can honestly say there is not a lot this piece of software can't do.
First of all, I run After Effects (or 'AE' as I'll refer to it from now on) on the most basic of the Macbook Pro range and despite common misconceptions, my system is perfectly capable of running the software. AE is very versatile so you don't need a 12-core Mac Pro to run it. All that is needed is maybe previewing your renders in half or third quality (since full quality preview renders are almost never necessary) or preview rendering in smaller sections. So I just wanted to start with this to dispel any fears that your system won't run it. It probably will.
AE is compatible with many different file formats and will accept and export to almost any format you would want. If you already work with other Adobe products such as Photoshop and/or Premiere Pro, then AE is a no-brainer. AE is extremely compatible with other Adobe products and you can directly import Photoshop files and export for Premiere pro which means less rendering and less quality loss.
I could go on forever talking about everything After Effects can do so I won't go on, however if you are new to the software and are deciding between this and some other software such as Apple Motion, having used both I can safely say that AE's interface is much more logical, user-friendly and easy to learn. The only circumstance under which I'd reccomend Apple Motion as opposed to AE would be if you are already familiar with Final Cut, or intend to import your files into Final Cut for editing.
Also, this software is offered for a reduced price for students directly from Adobe's website, so if you are a student of prospective student it is definitely worth taking advantage of this.
Overall I would highly recommend this software. It is industry leading and has a relatively simple to learn interface in comparison to competitors. The only reason I would advise against this software is if you are very competent with Apple software or have a heavily Apple-centred workflow.
One final note, if you are looking to learn this software I highly recommend visiting VideoCoPilot.net and viewing the basic tutorials. They are free and provide an excellent platform for exploring the hundreds of other tutorials the website has to offer. This site provides the best training you will find anywhere.
I bought my TomTom XL two years ago and have never looked back since. I was unsure at first whether to go for a cheaper make or a different model, but I'm extremely glad I got the TomTom XL.
Firstly, the main problems with the older TomTom designs was the fact that they were bulky and that the method of sticking the device to the windscreen have been solved. The TomTom XL is sleek and has a 'suction' knob which sticks it tight to the screen so it will never fall off if you hit a speed bump at a 'higher-than-desirable' speed like the old designs.
The TomTom XL retains however its easy-to-use touch screen and its highly informative and logical information display such as average speed, speed limit on current road, current road, next maneuver (such as turn left symbol), next road you will be on and expected arrival time. The display is easy to follow and my only complaint would be that it doesn't refresh quick enough to be 100% sure what the turnings are in relation to you when driving round a long round-about, but it is a rare occurrence and a problem of technology rather than design.
The other disadvantages I have identified are that the battery seems to drain when the SatNav hasn't been used in a while, and it has to be plugged in in order to be used if it's been in its case for a few weeks. Also, my biggest issue is that the charger cable is ridiculously difficult to insert into the TomTom because the socket in which you need to input the charger is set almost half an inch into the device, so it can be very fiddly and especially frustrating if you are in a rush.
Apart from that it is a sleekly designed SatNav which does the job well and one that even your grandma could use. It very rarely glitches, NEVER crashes like most electronic devices and will certainly out-perform the SatNav systems you'd pay an extra £500-£1000 or so to come standard in an executive car.
I bought this shaver as my first electric - and not knowing if i was going to stick to dry-shaving I thought I'd go for something basic. I had used braun a couple of times so thought I'd stick to this trusted brand, and went for the Series 1 150 because it is one of the cheapest options.
The shaver is very easy to use and maintain. It charges simply using a shaver socket (so you may want to invest in a mains adapter for shavers if you don't have a shaver socket). It has simple cleaning instructions and comes apart fairly easy for this purpose.
There is a power indicator light for using as well as charging and a full charge will last quite a while. I use it every 2-3 days and have to charge it about every month. This is useful because you wont usually have to take the charger with you if you go traveling.
In terms of performance, although I don't have many other shavers to compare it to I would say that it performs well. I have heard people say that this shaver 'pulls' hair but I haven't experienced this. Obviously there are times I have to go over areas, it is by no means perfect, but when you consider the price this is a minor inconvenience.
The only problem I have with this shaver is that it only has one hair trimmer, and so you have either the close shave or the slightly less close shave - it doesn't cater for leaving your facial hair a bit longer, so if that's what you are looking for then look elsewhere.
Overall I would recommend this shaver, but bear in mind this is coming from someone with pretty basic shaving needs - I'm sure that if you pay for a more expensive shaver with quadruple rotorary technology and anti-gravity precision blades or whatever then it will perform better - but I personally think this shaver works just fine!
As a keen photographer, I was unsure what to look for when buying a 'point and shoot' camera. But lugging around a DSLR, lens kit and tripod just didn't seem appropriate for nights on the town - ultimately, I decided on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W270.
This camera retails between £100 and £230. Oddly, the price on Amazon seems to be fairly high, so I'd recommend shopping around on a few price comparison websites before investing in this camera.
Being quite 'snobby' about cameras, I expected when I first bought this camera that it's only use would be in places that I didn't trust taking my DSLR. To an extent, this is true, however I was surprised by how well this camera does in fact take pictures. Little things such as the manual lens adjustment and shutter speed do a good job in taking photos with good exposure, and the 28mm wide angle lens with up to 5x optical zoom make this a very versatile camera.
The camera has 5 simple settings:
Program Auto - Auto exposure with adjustable settings. This feature is quite sophisticated for a camera of this caliber, with adjustable settings from colour adjustment to ISO setting to white balancing. You can even set your flash intensity to avoid those blown-out shots of your friends at night. Red eye reduction is another adjustable setting, but as with most point and shoot cameras, don't expect this to be the answer to red eye - it doesn't seem to make much of a difference.
Intelligent Auto - Exposure adjustment with automatic settings. This mode is what most people will shoot in all the time. It does a good job of identifying what settings are right for the photo, for instance it will change the scene setting to twilight portrait if you are taking pictures of people in low light, but it is easy to assume that it will always detect the right settings when in fact you can almost always get a better shot by changing the settings in Program Auto mode. Nevertheless, its a handy feature for quick snaps of friends and family.
Easy Shooting - Easy shooting with simplified display. This feature seems pointless to me. If Intelligent Auto isn't lazy enough, Easy Shooting mode gives you even less control and the only adjustable settings are self timer and flash. (The self timer I will note, however, is a useful feature, although it is pretty much a given with even the cheapest of stills cameras).
SCN - This mode is basically the manual way of selecting the scenes which the camera theoretically should automatically detect in Intelligent Auto mode. So basically its use is for situations whereby the camera is unable to accurately detect the scene. Useful, but, again, the chances are that if the camera isn't doing a good job of automatically detecting the right settings then Program Auto will produce better results. This setting is kind of 'in the middle' - medium accuracy and a lot less time consuming than Program Auto.
Movie Mode - Shoot 720p HD movies with audio. This is a great feature for quickly getting a few videos of family and friends, and is better than most point and shoot camera video functions but is extremely basic, and the audio leaves a lot to be desired.
Overall, I would recommend this camera. As a bit of a photo nerd, I wouldn't personally publish pictures I have taken with it without a bit of grading in Photoshop, but it takes great pictures with its 12.1 megapixel resolution and its varying degrees of settings mean it is easy to use for beginners as well as sophisticated enough for more serious photographers on the go.
The main downfall is that the Intelligent Auto setting doesn't take into account if you are taking pictures of something moving. Granted, it is a lot to ask, however this means that if you are taking the pictures of things that are moving in medium to low light conditions then you are almost guaranteed to get blur. The only way around this (with the obvious exception of flash, and no one likes to see that!) is to program the camera manually in Program Auto mode - so be aware that it takes more than a good camera to get good pictures, so you need to be willing to have a play around in some instances.
I bought this hair dryer after using several hair dryers in the past, none of which were very good. I bought this one mainly because the price had been slashed on amazon, although I still expected it to be like other cheap hair dryers (make a loud noise, have one heat and power setting and brake after a few months).
This turned out not to be the case at all. I have had this hair dryer for two years now and it still works as good as it did the day I bought it. It has 2 heat and 2 power settings which serves the needs of people with all kinds of different hair, and it also boasts a 'cool' button for a blast of cooler air which can be useful if you have long hair and you may need a break from the heat during extended use.
The hair dryer has a sturdy design and is both small enough to travel with yet large enough to handle more power and thus dry hair much quicker. The hair dryer also does not have problems with buildups of dust like many other budget hair dryers, I removed the dust from the rear grill for the first time after about two years of use by simply agitating it with my finger.
There is a power indicator light on the top, and the cable is generously long. I don't have a lot more to say about this hair dryer as, like most people, I'm not an expert on hair dryers, but all I can say is its a great, reliable hair dryer for anyone!
I wanted to review my Apple iPod nano (4th Generation) because Apple sometimes gets stick for iPods being prone to breaking shortly after the warranty runs out. I must admit, this did happen with my Apple iPod nano 3G, but I have had this iPod for almost 2 years now since it came out in 2008 (I got mine in December 2008) and it still works perfectly.
Firstly, the deisgn of this iPod nano (I am only comparing it to other iPod nanos, not the touch etc) is the best of the series. The thin, lightweight design with curved edges, an improvement on the 2G model and a wise step away from the awkward and ill thought out design of the 3G model in my opinion trumps all the designs thus far. Granted, the 5th generation model was similar, however the idea that iPod users care for a camera on the back seems bizarre to me. iPods are for music - and this one does it best. It baffles me to see that the new iPod nano touch has returned back to the poor design of the 3rd generation model which puts being small over usability. When will apple realise that the nano is already a decent size? It doesn't need to be any smaller, if we wanted to go smaller, we'd get a shuffle!
The aluminum casing on the nano 4G is exceptional. It draws on the success of the 2G and then improves it, making the larger screen flush with the aluminum casing preventing any build-up of dust. The clickwheel is an optimum size, giving room for a larger screen without compromising ergonomic design, there is also of course the 'hold' slider on the top to stop it shuffling or changing tracks in your pocket.
That brings me to my next point - the shuffle function. This is possibly the only 'gimmicky' feature of the iPod 4G, although it can be turned off so doesn't cause any problems. I find that the shuffle feature is more of a nuisance than a benefit. If I want to change the track, I'll press the next track button. If I want to change the track in shuffle mode, I'll change the track with shuffle on. The whole 'shake the iPod' feature in my opinion was something they had to throw in to make it look like it was more 'different' and 'original', but not needed because in my opinion it already qualifies as the best in the nano series.
One downside to the nano is that apps are pretty much a waste of time. The clickwheel certainly does not make a good tool for playing games and in this sense it has nothing on the touch. Also, it has no internet connectivity like the iPod touch, the screen isn't as good or as big, and navigating your library is more of a task. But I think it important that I don't compare this iPod to the touch. This iPod is cheaper, smaller, and my guess based on my usage is that it would also be more reliable, although I stress that this is just a guess. For the price difference, I think you have to have some perspective and compare this to other iPod nanos and similarly priced mp3 players - and I think that this iPod beats its competition hands down.
The iPod nano 4G can be picked up for a relatively small price now since everyone blindly wants the newest version, my advice would be to take advantage of this and get the best nano in the series for a great price!
As an avid musician, I have used DV247.com on several occasions and only have good things to say about it. Firstly, whereas most people would say websites like Amazon.co.uk or Play.com are a one-stop for books or DVDs, I would say that if you are buying digital music equipment then look no further than Digital Village.
Firstly, and most importantly for most, the prices are unrivaled. I have bought numerous items from DV247 and they have always beaten the prices (sometimes by a large margin) of other internet retailers, including Amazon.
Delivery costs are also very reasonable. They currently offer free delivery when spending over £199 (which seems a lot, but it is important to consider that this price is not very much for the type of equipment Digital Village sells; much of which is also very large and heavy. One critisism I must make is that there is a standard delivery cost of £6 on orders under this price, which means that delivery can be a big proportion of the cost of low-priced items. I would therefore recommend that if you want cheap items like amp cables and such, you're better off looking elsewhere.
You get email confirmations that your order has been received, processed and despatched, and Digital Village have also recently improved their delivery service and will now text you to tell you when your order will arrive within a 1 hour time slot. I was told that my recent order would arrive between 1:07 and 2:07 and it arrived at exactly 1:07 down to the minute. Credit to the courier, you might say, but Digital Village put a lot of importance on delivery unlike some online retailers who seem to think their job is done once you have paid for your goods and you are left in the dark about if and when your order will arrive.
Finally, the guys at Digital Village are very knowledgeable and specialised in their area and there is an extensive 'contact us' page where you can get all the information you need in a variety of methods - so you can get all the help you need, a huge benefit in the confusing area of digital music/audio production.
I bought this SD reader because it is faster and safer than connecting high-end cameras to your computer. You can pick one of these up for only a few quid and I'd say the investment is well worth it.
The SD card reader will read both SD and SDHC cards of all classes. I have a bytestar 16gb SDHC card (which I would also highly recommend), and it works fine with this card reader.
The card reader works for both windows and mac, and the data transfer speeds are excellent. Also, there is a handy indicator light on the side so you know if it's working/properly connected. A big benefit to stop you panicking if you can't get your photos up and think you've lost everything!
I struggle to criticise this little gadget. An obvious criticism would be that it doesn't take Micro SD cards, however this product is fairly specific to the needs of transferring data without connecting expensive equipment to your computer, and it is doubtful that you would want or need something like this for use with something which uses Micro SD. Besides, at the price you can pick this up for (I think I got mine for around £2-£3 on amazon) its more than value for money. If you want something that will read more cards then you have to expect to pay more.
Besides this, the only disadvantage I can think of is that the card reader is relatively wide, and since the card slots into the side and protrudes out further, this can be a nuisance if your USB slots are close together. But, again, it is a minor issue when taking price into consideration.
I decided to review PixMania after having without a doubt the worst customer experience of my life, and apparently I'm not alone. I ordered ONE printed photograph and ONE photo frame from MyPix (a website run and owned by PixMania).
Firstly, I decided after placing my order that I wanted to double the quantities to two of each. I didn't think this would be a problem because I emailed them straight away and asked if they could just send me a PayPal request for the difference - I didn't want to have to make a separate order because the postage cost was the majority of the overall cost (£2.90 postage vs £1.91 for the goods). The reply I got to this email was 'no' because it had been 'prepared for dispatch'. That's right, it hadn't actually been dispatched, they just didn't fancy going to the effort of altering the order. I highly doubt it had even been prepared either way, since I sent the email instantly after placing the order.
After a long wait, my goods arrived. However the photo frame was broken. I emailed them asking for a refunded and they demanded photo evidence of the damaged goods - so I took a photo and set it to them. I was then told I would be refunded. Then it all got completely out of hand. I emailed them 3 times about the refund which never came, and each time they blamed a different department. I then rang them up and spoke to one of the customer service people, asked to speak to his manager, and he refused. I sent a further 3 emails and eventually they said they would send me a cheque. Brilliant! I thought I'd finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel.
But I was so wrong..
Another 3 emails and another phone call later (the phone call cost a lot by the way, as they are based in France, and they also refused to reimburse the call charge OR call me back to discuss the matter.
Eventually, around 4 months after I placed the original order, I got a cheque in the post. It was for £1, so didn't cover the postage which was the main cost. And also, just a minor problem, the cheque was in the WRONG NAME! I emailed them about this and they used their favorite delay tactic - 'send us photo evidence'. I complied, and their following email denied, actually DENIED that the cheque was in the wrong name. It was clear to anybody that the cheque was in the wrong name.
Obviously very angry about this I finally snapped and sent a series of emails demanding that they give me a proper refund. I got another email asking me to send the cheque back to France and that they would then send me another. I asked if they would refund my postage costs and they said yes, but I wasn't going to take the risk of them owing me more money, so I decided to leave it and just never use them again. I pity them in the fact that their absolute outright refusal to treat their customers properly probably costs them more in the long run from so many complaints using up staff time and resources.
So I decided to take from this experience that I will never use PixMania again, and hopefully my battle with them has cost them more than the few quid I lost from this transaction. My hope is that this review will convince others not to be conned by this company - they are unlike any company I have dealt with before; they will kick, scream and wriggle their way out of parting from the money you have given them, ignoring completely your statutory rights. In every way this company should not be trusted. Everyone I know has used this company has a horror story to tell - I consider myself lucky to have not lost more than a few quid.
I got this phone about a year ago because I was going to university and couldn't afford a contract with lots of free minutes so thought that this phone would be perfect since I could use it to call friends and family over Skype and keep in contact using MSN messenger.
I later found that this is the only benefit of this phone, if you can even call that a benefit since the novelty of using Skype soon wore off and I ended up having to be called by other people rather than make calls myself.
The design of the phone itself is pretty good. The screen doesn't collect dust like most cheap phones and it has a nice, self-satisfying 'slide' to reveal the keyboard. At least mine did until I dropped it, and the 'slide' quickly turned into a 'grind'/'crunch'. It still works though - credit where it's due. Using the phone is easy enough, but someone in the design room made a schoolboy error when they thought it would be appropriate to put the 'delete' or (c) key directly next to the 'end call'/'power off'/'exit' key. It's not even a seperate key, it's like one large key and you have to guess where one key ends and the other begins - it's a highly frustrating game. So when trying to quickly type something like a text, a Skype chat, an MSN message etc, one typo can easily result in the whole text being lost because you hit the wrong key, or rather the wrong area of the key when trying to delete.
The phone prides itself on having loads of features and being a 'social networking' phone. It is in fact miles behind most phones. Yes, it has a Facebook app and yes, it has MSN messenger; but these features work to a very basic standard. It also claims to 'put your online world at the heart of your mobile'. The extent of this is that you can merge your phone contacts with your Facebook friends, MSN buddies and skype contacts. But this has absolutely no use because you have to log into these applications to do anything anyway. Its not like you can strike up a Facebook chat straight from your contacts (in fact, you can't do it anyway, the phone doesn't support Facebook chat). Also, it supposedly consolidates the information from your Facebook contacts, but the one important thing to consolidate from people's Facebook info is their phone numbers - and this phone doesn't recognise this information, so you'll end up typing in all the numbers manually anyway. The only benefit of the whole Facebook thing is that it uses people's profile pictures for contacts - that's about the extent of it.
So the 'Social Mobile' leaves a lot to be desired socially. For a phone that bases itself on this selling point, I'd say most mid-range mobiles with internet would beat it hands down.
The only main feature left to discuss is the camera. Which is exactly as you'd expect from a phone - crap. It is bad with light, camera shake, movement, focus... just about everything photographically. Unless you are taking a picture of something perfectly lit at the optimum distance and you have your camera resting on a solid object and there is no movement in the frame, the picture will look pretty tacky. In fact, even if all of those things are true of the photo, the 3.2 MP camera still doesn't have a high enough resolution to be worth taking photos on. I'm not saying this camera is any worse than most, its just average, but my point is if a good camera is important to you then you need something much higher end.
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for - and this phone has about the worth of the £70 it costs. But another thing to consider is that the phone has virtually no internal memory, so you might as well add the cost of a MicroSD card before weighing it up. You could do a lot worse than this phone, but I regretted not paying more for something better - and you probably will too.
I have been using this external hard drive for over a year now and it is very difficult to fault. Firstly, at the time I bought this hard drive there were very few over 250gb that did not require an external power supply. USB powered high capacity external hard drives are much more common now, however it is worth noting that this is a major advantage. Depending on your usage it is difficult to say whether 500gb will meet your demands but from a personal perspective, unless you never delete anything or you want to store DNA mapping data on it - it will probably be enough. I have no problems storing all my work, films and music (it will hold around 100,000 songs). A bigger limitation of this is that it is powered by USB 2.0 and can only run as fast as the USB will allow it to. So if you are wanting to use it for editing in Final Cut or something then you're better off getting a scratch disk, which is a firewire powered hard drive with faster transfer speeds.
I have used this hard drive for both Windows and Mac, and I don't quite understand why you can buy a Mac version of this hard drive, because I have had no problems using it on both operating systems. The only advantage of using this on a Windows based system is that it has a feature to synchronize all of your files and folders with one click of a button. This works well, however I found that the software needed constantly updating and it seemingly achieved nothing when it did update.
One criticism I have heard a lot with this hard drive is that it is easily broken by both dropping it as well as having a tendency to spontaneously, for lack of a better word, 'pack-in'. My experience has been the opposite of this. Having had endless trips up and down stairs balancing the hard drive on my Mac (sometimes unsuccessfully), I would say that this hard drive is very robust and does not brake easily. I've dropped it from shoulder height several times and it has never failed to work when I plugged it back in. I have also never had any loss of files or failure to recognise the device.
The device is a fairly standard size and will fit into many different cases. I picked up a case on amazon for just £4 so I wouldn't worry about having to fork out for one made by Western Digital - any 'passport' sized external hard drive cases will fit.
As I mentioned before, the device is fully USB powered which eliminates the need to carry around power cables as well as find a power supply. It uses a standard USB cable, so if the cable is damaged the chances are you will have this same type of cable lying around, or if not you can pick one up for pennies. One thing worth noting is that the cable is very short (we're talking only a few inches), so if you are going to be using this with a desktop computer I would definitely recommend buying a larger cable (again, it's a standard USB cable, they are cheap and widely available). In some ways though, this can be a benefit. If you are using this external hard drive with a laptop then having a small cable is very convenient as you can carry it around sat on the laptop without worrying about trailing cables.
This leads me to my final point - the design. The hard drive has a sleek, gloss black, minimalist kind of design adding a bit of sophistication to any desktop. It also has a white power indicator in the shape of a USB symbol where the USB cable plugs into the device so you know it is powered up. On the underside it has four rubbery protrusions which it sits on raising the device slightly from the surface it is sat on. This is useful for adding a bit of friction so it doesn't slide around, but it certainly won't prevent water damage if the surface is wet, as it is raised barely a millimetre.