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mgoldman

mgoldman
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Member since: 07.05.2001

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    • pixmania.com / Online Shop / 16 Readings / 13 Ratings
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      17.09.2008 16:49
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      A mail order company worth avoiding.

      I wish I had read the Dooyoo reviews before parting with my money. I ordered as Asus eePC, as they were consistently cheap. I ordered a bundle which was a 4GB card and carrying case (which I should have known I would not need, as there was one in the box when I opened it). The computer arrived on time and is fine, but the SD card was dead (confirmed on other hardware), and three weeks down the line, the case has not arrived. I have posted the dead card back to them through there quoted procedures. There seems to be little likelihood of getting satisfaction, and there is no easy route of complaint. I think I will be invoking the consumer credit act for a failed purchase.
      There are three morals to this tale:
      1 It is dangerous to mail order from abroad: you need protection of Engish law and geography
      2 Things are cheap for a reason
      3 Read the dooyoo reviews before parting with money

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      • Samsung PS-42Q7HD / Plasma TV / 15 Readings / 13 Ratings
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        06.03.2007 13:31
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        good value for money

        I had been putting off the day of replacing my fairly large conventional CRT television with a modern flat screen. As it was already a 32", there was little point in going smaller. and based on a permutation of price, room size and practicality. I plumped for this one. There are others by Samsung that seem very similar, but the decision was partially taken for me by John Lewis, where I had some vouchers to burn, and that they gave a 5 year warranty as basic. (Although figures of up to 20years life expectation are quoted, I just don't believe).
        I basically chose this make because of the picture. The pundits say that the Panasonic is better, but I simply liked the look of the picture. I may live to regret this.
        This set is very popular, and I had to wait 3 weeks for it to come into stock. I am sure it will become obsolete next week, but you have to dive in somewhere. Reviews on the internet were good enough (i.e. recognizing the relatively low price), and I had experienced the same model, if not smaller, in a hotel and another home.
        The set is big - packed it weighs 60kg, and most glass television stands are not big enough. I ended up buying a stand from Ikea, which is big, but is on castors. This is not a set to lift and move around. You need a minimum of about 3M distance from the screen for comfortable viewing, and I am now relieved that I did not opt for the 50" which simply would have been too big.
        John Lewis wanted £65 to set the beast up (there was free delivery), but I set it up in very little time, and once switched on the set tunes itself and drags in all the available terrestrial and freeview channels without you having to do anything except to confirm that you want the language to be English, and what the local time is.
        Now, most shops demonstrate their plasma screens on either HD television, bluray DVD's or cartoons. This is to make you see the best possible performance. I suggest you play around in the shops to get to see what you would normally watch.
        Performance on conventional terrestrial television is acceptable, freeview internal is good, satellite is good and DVD is excellent. I have noticed a huge variability between channels on satellite in terms of quality of video and audio with this TV, and am considering replacing my cheap scart leads for high quality ones.
        You also notice that there is a plethora of confusion about screen sizes, and there are many different sizes to choose from, especially on the satellite channels. Freeview seems to work on the auto wide setting, but I have found that you have to play around with the display on satellite. You will probably have noticed that in chain electrical shops like Curry's that the screens on display models often show disproportionate images, especially people. This is something that I am still playing with, and it needs to be tailored for each satellite channel.
        Sound is OK, but not brilliant, and an external 5.1 sound system may help if you have the room.
        The instruction book is not laid out logically, and I find myself flicking back and forth. Extra copies are easily downloaded from the Samsung website.
        The remote control is comprehensive, but small buttons and labelling make it somewhat unergonomic. It is so complex in terms of control functions that only a limited range can be reproduced on most URC's e.g. one4all.
        I would not let this remote into the hands of a child, because without it, the set looses substantial functionality.
        DVD performance is excellent.
        Colours are generally good, but there are inter channel and inter programme differences which may or may not be noticed.
        I think I got good value for money, but only time will tell. Frankly you are not going to change your widescreen plasma very often, so you need to make sure it is right for you.

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        • More +
          27.02.2007 11:51

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          dog's bollocks.

          I was fortunate enough to be able to combine a business trip with some holiday, and by chance, the Kempinski was the only hotel with room when I wanted to go.
          I book a deal called a taste of the Danube that gave bed, breakfast, and each evening a plate of snacks and a glass of wine.
          The hotel is well located in the centre, and has the advantage of being adjacent to the only metro station where the lines cross. Many of the tourist destinations are within walking distance, and the main shopping drag is just around the corner. Basically the location is excellent.
          The hotel is modern and could be in any city - it lacks Hungarianess, and the main language is English. This is a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you want. After a day of touring/work/eastern Europe , escaping to modern comfort is no bad thing. Rooms are large (I think I got an upgrade), comfortable, have most things needed for work/leisure, and there is usually a chocolate or something waiting for you on your return. The beds are very comfortable and use the very best linen that really makes you feel special.
          I used the hotel chauffeured cars, and based on the stories of hassle that still exists if you use a taxi from the airport, this little expense for an executive limo was well worth it, because Budapest is still a little threatening, and the way the taxi drivers still dress in their leather jackets with mandatory hanging cigarette can be a little offputting. I was able to organise this by email before arrival, and it was just added on to my bill.

          I only ate breakfast at the hotel, and it was amongst the best in Europe for variety and quality. Eating at the Hotel can be expensive, and there are so many good places in easy reach in the city, especially if you have a metro pass, that it is not an issue. The famous tea rooms whose name escapes me for the minute are just around the corner. Gundels is a short ride away, and despite what other reviews say, I found this no more expensive than eating out in Suburban London, and the quality, variety and experience were excellent. I thought Gundels Restaurant was a first rate experience
          The hotel offers free wifi in the lobby, but you have to pay if you use internet in your room There is a concierge to help with trips, taxis and so on.
          My problem now is that if I go back to Budapest, I will find it difficult to stay anywhere else. I now rate hotels against the Budapest Kempinski.
          BTW, it was Gerbauds.

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          19.01.2007 12:47
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          Worth considering as a very first camera, or as a cheap carry-around

          It is probably a bit late in the day to review this camera, as it is a bit long in the tooth, and being taken over by smaller cameras with more megapixels, but here is the story.
          I wanted a small camera to stick in my jacket pocket and carry around. I had a look at some of the Nikons and other makes, but did not want to spend much money. Then before Xmas, Argos had a half price sale, and I had some Nectar points, so basically this was a camera for virtually nothing for me. The price is now dropping, and you should not pay more than £90, which is a good price for a 6MP camera.
          It is a pretty standard silver box with an adequately sized screen, and a x3 optical zoom.
          What it does:
          automatic pictures, but flash is a bit weak
          Easy to use
          manual pictures with flash forced on or off and ISO selected up to 400ASA
          good macro down to 2.6 cms
          Good screen for preview (no viewfinder) which can be set with a 3x3 grid which is nice for composing pictures
          Stores on an xd card: not the most common, no card supplied (16MB of onboard memory)
          Software is pretty basic, and I have ditched it in favour of card readers and own software.
          AA batteries. I have lots of these, but it chews up NiMh batteries very quickly, so you need spares
          What it is not:
          No case, but that is not a problem
          No memory card - I bought a 2GB xd card from Costco for just over £40, and that stores over 600 pictures. Morgans also sell them cheap
          Cannot control shutter speed or aperture manually.
          No histogram
          No info about picture displayed on playback


          However, if you want a dead simple camera that does what it says on the box, then this will do the trick.
          It is not a state of the art camera, and is not a substitute for an DSLR.

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          • The Hallmark Channel / TV Channel / 20 Readings / 17 Ratings
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            25.08.2006 18:12
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            Moral entertainment, repeated over and over again

            My wife is a huge fan of the Hallmark channel. She loves the series your other reviewers talk about, and focuses on the crime stuff - Murder she wrote, Law and Order, etc etc.
            Yes the programmes are well made and have fine values, but you can get too much of a good thing. At the moment, series are running each weekday evening, and I can't get to watch any other satellite channel. There are lots of repeats, and the trails and teasers for programes are shown so frequently that they are almost a form of torture. The current addtional form of torture is the advertising schedule. Now, I know that TV advertising is bad news at the moment, and there are so many channels that an advertiser does not know where to go.
            However the deals that have been done ensure that the same adverts appear between programmes again again again and again. I will never buy school clothes from Asda, and the sight of William Shatner advertising cereal bars incessantly ensures that I would avoid eating one even if the alternative was dingo's kidneys.
            Clearly it is cheap programme scheduling, as there is never a live person in sight. I personally believe that the scheduled programmes are transmitted singlehandedly by a one-legged-bedbound dwarf, from a call center in India. No additional human effort is needed.
            The quality of transmission is sometime a bit dubious, and the pictures look dark with poor contrast. I don't know if this is a result of the uplink to the satellite or some peculiar processing that goes on in the hallmark headquarters. Strangely enough, the one thing that does not get transmitted is adverts for hallmark cards. (I know their HQ is really on the Kings Road in London).

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            • Nandos / Restaurant / Cafe National / 18 Readings / 17 Ratings
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              24.08.2006 12:09
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              The better end of fast food restaurants. Good food that is a little different.

              I had always noted that the Nando's chain had received favourable reviews in the trusted Time Out guide to eating in London, so had been waiting for an opportunity to try one.
              Nando's specialises in piri piri chicken, a Portuguese dish which essentially means Chicken that has been marinaded in hot piri piri sauce.
              My experiences of piri piri chicken in Portugal had been mixed to indifferent, and this was mainly due to the scrawny nature of Portuguese Chickens, and the somewhat alien way the bird is portioned ie apparently randomly. I thought that some plump factory farm chicken in the UK might be a better bet, and I was right.
              I first tried to get into the Finchley Lido branch in North London on a Saturday night. They don't take bookings, and you have to wait. Nando's at that location is part of the local 'yoof' culture (because it is cheap), and my life is too short for a half hour wait for grilled chicken. Strike one.(Three strikes and your'e out)
              However, we passed the Goodge Street branch early on a wet Wednesday night, and this was a good time. Other reviews spell out the mechanics, that you are given a table and a number, and you place your order and pay for it advance. This is presumably a sensible measure, based on the proposed customer base, as it means there are no bill runners at the end. However in our case, there was a slight misunderstanding and overcharge (noticed after payment), but the staff willingly corrected this and refunded money, with no dispute.
              There is a limited choice, but this can involve vegetarian food. Naturally the emphasis is on PiriPiri. You choose how much you want, how hot you want it, and what you want to go with it. The main choice seems to be either spiced rice or chips. There is not much in the way of starters, and these could be omitted.
              Food arrives quickly and hot, and is exactly what it says on the menu. Portions are excellent. We found the two person platter to be more than enough for two people with healthy appetites. Chicken was flavoursome, spicy, and good quality. There were no negative comments about the other accompaniments, recognizing that this is fast food.
              We chose a bottle of wine (Cheapest is about £10, and was adequate), but the emphasis seems to be on soft drinks, which are in huge refillable glasses. Deserts are a bit synthetic, but no problem and coffee was reasonably priced, and came in a huge mug.
              Service was good, and staff came to check that we had no problems.
              Atmosphere is not very Portuguese, but is relaxed and good humoured.
              Our bill for two, including one desert, coffee and wine came to just over £30.

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                06.08.2006 17:52
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                satisfactory piece of kit with good wireless connectivity

                I have spoken to a lot of people about Dell computers (I am now on my third, and they all still work), and they seem to fall into two camps: the lovers and the haters.
                Now, I read the other review on this site from an expert, and I am not an expert, but I use the computer for lots of bits and pieces, and lug it with me when I travel now. The key question for me is whether it is up to the job, and does it give me any problems? In fact, I would go further, and say I love this bit of kit despite what anyone else says, and the cricitisms of the geeks.
                I (maybe foolishly) bought the slightly upgraded version, which came with 512Mb ram (seems to be enough for me) and the extended warranty (it was orignally for the wife, so we needed someone to blame if it went wrong). It has a 60Gig disk and the 15.4 inch screen.It also came with all the trial software, which I agree is mostly of little use, and has been binned over the course of time and replaced with my own bits.
                The key thing I like about the machine is the wireless connectivity, which works like a dream for me. I have used this around the world, and it logs on to secure and unsecured networks at the drop of a hat. I have also taken to carrying a network cable with me in case I find a suitable socket.
                There are so many free wifi locations currently (sadly most of the legal ones are not in the UK)that the chances of finding a connection are good. (enough leaky systems in the UK to have a fair stab) In some cities e.g. in Portugal, there are marked zones in city centres so that laptoppers can do their stuff. I feel that the attitude of uk airports is stingey, and there are good reasons to offer free wifi access as an atraction. I remember being stuck in Pisa airport before I bought this machine, and when at the last minute, the Ryanair flight was (predictably) cancelled, the smart guys were on their machines straight away organising their route of escape, and not queuing up with the plebs to be told nothing helpful by Ryanair.
                In use the machine is well behaved. There are some non-ergonomic features such as locating all the USB sockets (3 of them) on the left hand side of the machine, so that if you use a mouse, it has to snakes its way around the back of the machine (but is brilliant if you are left handed). There are no legacy sockets: it's USB or nothing.
                I have a couple of external hard disks which you can pick up now for under £100 for 200Gb, so that really does not pose a problem. I have also installed the tesco internet phone, and look forward to using that when abroad.
                My main gripes are the weight (not so good for the traveller), the lack of a bespoke laptop case as part of the deal is also stingey, but most laptops come bare. I have also played dvd's, and the screen could do with being a bit brighter, and a wider angle of vision.
                My machine also came with several months of MacAfee, which is useful, but there were no re-installation disks, but you could burn a recovery disk immediately.
                I have had this machine about 5 months now, and am well pleased. However, it is possible that there are better deals around if you take the time, and know exactly what you want.

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                • Superman Returns (DVD) / DVD / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                  04.08.2006 13:55
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                  Family entertainment, unlikely to offend, with traditional moral vaues.

                  The world, especially cinema goers loves a superhero, and no one does it better than the original superman. Transformed from DC comicbook to the screen, probably for the third or fourth time, Superman can still satisfy our needs. Its a pity that phone boxes have pretty much evaporated from the streets, and the new superman has to transform seamlessly with his background.
                  The casting in this edition is attractive, and Kevin Spacey's Lex Luther is satisfyingly threatening, compared to a somewhat cardboard Lois Lane, who does nothing to endear herself to the audience. It is difficult to see what superman sees in her these says, and some would say that he had his enjoyment, had a lucky escape, and should now move on. One has always been concerned about the homoerotic interpretations of the superheros who wander around in their pants and vests, but this is not on the current agenda. It also struck me that some of the colours have changed, and the bright red pants have now become a little darker, and the costume seems a little more like a constrictive suit of armour.
                  The plot is fairly simple and is spoiled by minor inconsistencies and things that are not explained. It is basically the stuggle of good and evil, and the assumption is that good always wins. However, in these days of political correctness, evil may need hugging rather than killing.
                  Visually the film is appealing, with contemporary SFX bound to please. You cannot see the strings. Most pleasing is to see the slow motion impact of a bullet on Superman's eye.....

                  There are clearly lots of loose ends left for the sequel, including the fascinoma that supermans genetic experiments with Lois have sired a child who might have interesting characterstics, but we will have to wait.

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                  • More +
                    27.07.2006 17:34
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                    does what it says on the box...............probably.

                    Like the other reviewer, I have inherited MacAfee (M from now on) with my two Dell computers. My desktop now just runs antivirus software, and the laptop, the whole suite.
                    Compared to pre broadband days, running a suite of programmes like this is essential and less intrusive, and the updating is virtually invisible, but it is done at a cost, and sometimes you really never know what is going on.
                    For example, I believe someone is spoofing my email address. I call my ISP, and they say no,it is a virus. Do a scan with M, and find nothing. Try PC cillin on line, and nothing. So who is correct. I believe, because of notifications, that stuff is being caught on the rare occasions that it happens.
                    I have an alternate proposal, and that is to run just the anti virus software, and Zone Alarm as my firewall. I am a big fan of Zone Alarm. It is free, and once set up, it slaves away in the bacground, and does its stuff.
                    I use separate spyware aswell. Using the M suite, you are told that pop ups are blocked. but is it stuff you want to see. I have no idea.
                    I set up a subscription for Macafee, and now it takes money from my credit card, but it also asks me to renew online and buy other stuff. I am a bit cautious over the finances, and advice on-line buyers to watch their accounts carefully to prevent multiple billing.
                    I have no problems with slowing down of connection speeds, and presumably in a couple of years it will be seamless. So if all this software is so good, why don't the virus writers just give up........................or are we all being lulled into a false sense of security.
                    My advice is to stay away from Russian websites.

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                    • BMW 520i SE Saloon / Car / 20 Readings / 19 Ratings
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                      26.07.2006 18:27
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                      It makes me feel good about myself when I drive off in the morning.

                      I have had my 520d se auto for about a week now, from new.
                      You may have read my review for the 318i se and I decided to get the bigger one.
                      It is a real pleasure to drive. Its steer positively and lightly, the engine has enough power, but I can understand why most buy the 530d, it is comfortable, and now I can get 2 cases in the boot, which I never could with the 3 series.
                      Current novelties are the non-key, which is a fob that you put in a slot and then push the start button. This also has the open and close function, and there is also an emergency key buried inside. I like not having the poke of a conventional key in my pocket. There is a rechargeable battery inside the key.
                      The other funny thing about the 5 series is the I drive. The guy who delivered it to me could not explain how it worked, so with the aid of the manual and some spare time, I have more or less sorted it out. It works like windows, a bit with drop down menus to customise your driving needs. The on board computer shows more functions than the 3 series did simultaneously, and I have not had to do so much flipping from function to function. The radio and CD player are of good quality, but real music heads will buy the autochanger for the cd. There is an input for auxillary audio, so you could forget CD's altogether, and just plug your mp3 player in.
                      Driving position is good, although I wish I could get the seat a bit higher. Basic cloth covered seats are comfortable but firm. I have not needed to adjust the steering wheel. Multifunction buttons on steering wheel are good, and take away some fiddling with the I drive.
                      Fuel consumption has been as expected, and so far with town driving in London, I am doing more than 35 to the gallon. It has a 70 liter tank, so take plenty of money with you. The boot is big, and as it has no spare wheel (runflats), the space is cleverly given over to compartments for bits and pieces.
                      It has very clever front and rear park distance sensors, and so far these have been critical to knowing what is going on. This car is bigger than some parking spaces.
                      So far, this car has exceeded all my expectations, and I will update in a few months.

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                        30.09.2005 13:23
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                        A self help book with some definitely good and helpful ideas

                        I picked up a discounted copy of this book from Sussex Bookshops (6.99) whilst I was getting really interested in neurlinguistic programming. Many of you will have seen Paul on the television almost miraculously changing affected individuals' lives, and the question is what can it do for a normal Jo/Joanne?

                        There is no doubt that McKenna has some great ideas, and if you read the book, possibly even slavishly doing it to his timetable, there is material in there that can help everyone a bit. Some of the things seem a bit trite, especially the section on how to become wealthy. His model involves discarding any notions that you are poor, and acting and thinking as if you have the money. The implication is that once you do this, the change in behaviour will make you a higher worth individual, able to earn more and command a higher price for your services. He does some of this by goal setting e.g. if you want a Merc, you set out to get yourself a Merc, and even buy one, because that is what you want. My interpretation of this is that it could easily encourage individuals to spend money they do not have, and have no realistic hope of acquiring.
                        One other general proposition is that there is no such thing as failure: if you don't achieve, it is simply feedback. I find this difficult to accept, as I am a firm believer in the concept that some things really are impossible, and some individuals will fail, because it is their fate.

                        The best parts of the books are explanations of visioning successful and good outcomes so that they become part of what you do, and methods that are akin to Pavlovian conditioning. This usually involves squeezing the thumb and middle finger together in association with success: it allows the reverse to occur, i.e. the squeeze is a success totem. I have applied some of the visioning techniques to training at work, and they definitely do the business.

                        There is a helpful CD that is a self hypnosis tool. I have fallen under the influence each time I have played it, so I have no idea what is on the disc.

                        Whilst dubbed success in a week, I think it is a book that you need to keep going back to. Keep it hidden from the rest of your family.

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                          25.09.2005 23:50
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                          First class restaurant, chic, pleasant aura, but overpriced

                          My daughter chose the Orrery as a post-exam treat, at the recommendation of a close friend. As a Conran restaurant, I knew the food was going to be good, and I was under strict instruction not to suck my teeth when the bill came.
                          The restaurant is at the top end of Marylebone High Street, which is smart but not exotic. In fact if famous or notable location is an important factor, then this is not the case.
                          Initially one sees the Epicerie next door, and then climbs the stairs to the first floor restaurant.
                          The restaurant is modern, relatively minimal, and laid out as a long strip with tables on one sides, and semi banquettes on the other. This gives a useful privacy, but depending on where you are sat, you will not have an overview of the restaurant, and unless sat near the entrance, you will not see comings and goings.
                          The menu is fairly short, but copes with most tastes including vegetarian. We had for starter seared foie gras, scallops with pork belly, and gnocci in spelt veloute. All the starters were attractive and the scallops were cooked to an expert perfection that really hit the spot. Prior to that we were offered Pink champagne at £13.50 a glass which pleased.
                          For main course, we had Pigeon, fish, sea bass and lamb. All was good and tastefully presented, but the servings were unsatifyingly small, and the rareness of my lamb was compounded by the finding that it was not really hot, making me wonder if they had forgotten to cook it. (If you like your meat well done, then give the Orrery a miss). Nevertheless, the main courses were enjoyed.
                          I had been alerted to the fact that the wine list might make me cry. The list is unreasonably long, and if I had had an open mind, I could not only spent the whole evening chosing, but also spent the GNP of a small third world nation. It is difficult to imagine the justification for pricing bottles of wine in the hundreds of pounds. Having no shame, I chose what could only be described as the house red wine - a VDP vaucluse 03 at £15 a bottle. This was a quantum leap cheaper than anything else. However, it was treated with due deference by the waiter, and was suprisingly rich and flavoursome, and allowed my heart rate to fall to within normal range. Quite frankly unless you need someing more specific, I see no reason not to go with this, the someiller's choice.
                          Deserts were a high spot, with the two person tart tatin (£18 for two persons) getting the thumbs up.I had the cheese plate at a suprising £10 per person. For this, you are shown a cheese trolley which exceeds the capablilities of most supermarkets for choice (mostly French as far as I could make out). It is suggested that you chose 5 or 6 different kinds, but there seemed to be only the physical limitation of what would fit on the plate as a point at which serving would stop. There was a first class collection of pungent French cheeses, which would satisfy most demands.
                          Coffee was an unreasonable £3.50 per cup, with no re-fills offered, but a good selection of petit fours.
                          During the meal two chef's tasters were offered, one savoury and one sweet.
                          Service was attentive, and they failed to intimidate us. Clietelle was mixed (but no riff-raff). The dress code said smart casual, but you could have worn almost anything at dinner on a Saturday.
                          The bill was exactly correct, no quibbles, but a 12.5% service charge was added, thus making the annoying habit of leaving credit card bills left open a non-necessity.
                          Parking in the evening posed no difficulty, but it is within the congestion zone.
                          Total bill, including service, wine, water and two coffees for four and a half diners was £345

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                        • Canon EOS 350D / Digital Camera / 20 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                          10.09.2005 13:18
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                          A realisitcally priced digital SLR that will satisfy people who want more than a compact

                          A trip to the local Friern Barnet fair, where I could not get to the front of the audience did it for me. My usual Canon S50, which has served me faithfully for two years could not cope with the distance or framing, and I gave in. I cashed in my loyalty points from a credit card, and went to John Lewis, which has a deal, whilst not the best, is not the worst (and we are still arguing over 'never knowingly undersold'.

                          I have had two Canon film SLR's in the past, and if you have too, then things will feel familiar. The camera kit came with a fairly plasticy 19-55mm lens (equivalent to about 28-75 in old speak), and a 1GB CF card.
                          I chose the Canon EOS 350 over the Nikon D50 because:
                          I already had loads of compact flash cards, and in fact, you got a free 256Mb card by sending your serial number in as part of a special offer. The Nikon uses the more modern SD cards.
                          My Canon compatible Cosina and Tokina lenses were also compatible. I was told that if I had had a Sigma lens, that would have needed re-chipping.
                          My Canon batteries and charger were also compatible.
                          Whilst I like Nikon cameras, staying with Canon gave me more kit. Even my unused remote control from my old APS Ixus was compatible! (I may get round to using it now).

                          The camera is dead easy to get going, but some of the menus are non intuitive such as focus lock, and picture processing (what are they I might hear you ask?). In the general automatic zone, the camera sets the 'film speed', and I have found it coming out at about 100-400 asa. I therefore set the creative zone to 800 asa, and was amazed at how non-grainy the pictures have been. This is particularly good news if you like using polarizing filtes, which can knock two stops off the exposure. (Again, I had missed the polarizing filter with my compact camera).

                          Picture quality is good, but to my eyes some pictures are not as sharp as my compact. This is not a question of focus. This may be a characteristic of the camera, and is easily sorted out by using unsharp mask on processing. You are able to set the camera to product files in RAW format. This is something for professionals, and I cannot see myself using it. My 1Gb card, an picture setting one step off 'best' gives about 530 pictures to a card. I have not had to recharge the battery yet, but have only shot about 180 pictures, mostly without flash.

                          One feature that annoys me is the propensity for the camera to decide, sometimes suprisingly that flash is needed. In automatic zone, you can't turn it off, and unlike a compact, the flash is spring loaded and pops up. This can be disconcerting, as you think you have taken a picture and have not, in reality.

                          Do I regret spending the money? Absolutely not. I have got what I wanted. A return to the control and versatility of an SLR, and a price which I could just about swallow. The pictures are what I want, and unlike my film SLR, which was handicapped by the length and cost of 35mm film, and the graininess of fast films, this allows me to shoot load of pictures, and save the ones I like best. It is a quantum leap from a compact, and if you like taking pictures, have liked Canon stuff in the past, then this will hit the spot for you.

                          I cannot comment at this stage about reliability, but have not had problems with Canon in the past, in general.

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                            31.07.2005 17:01
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                            A great hotel for business travellers but a bit far out of town

                            We had been doing the rounds of Europe, organising meetings (for very boring reasons), and it was the turn of Poland.
                            I wanted to use the Marriott, as I had used it before, knew that it had a pretty good location not far from the center and shops, and last time I used it, you got one night free if you booked a business class ticket on LOT. However, that was about ten year ago.
                            The Hyatt is a modern style purpose built hotel, about 20 minutes bus ride from the center of Warsaw. There is a bus stop outside the hotel, and it really is too far to walk. The surroundings are a bit grim, being in a fairly residential part of the city just beyond Embassy Row. The views from the rooms were utilitarian, owing much to architecture of the Communist era. There was little in the way of facilities close to the hotel, but other restaurants and bars were within a 10-15 minute walk, such as the famous Flik restaurant. Like so many international hotels, once inside, you could be anywhere in the world, and English is the lingua franca. Similarly, prices are in Euros, but appear on the final bill in Zloties.
                            The best thing about the hotel is the rooms, which are large, tastefully, although minimalist, decoration, have a bizarre walk in shower with a shower head that makes you feel you are in a rain storm, and all the usual other stuff. It also had coffee/tea making which is unusual for a five star hotel.
                            Reception is fairly small, and the bar/atrium is more reminiscent of a symbolic sitting room than a hotel.
                            Another great thing is the health club (free to guests), which boasts the biggest hotel swimming pool in Warsaw.
                            Beds are comfortable, and I found my towels were changed twice daily.
                            Conference facilities were good, and you were sufficiently isolated from the bustle of the hotel. A selection of refreshment breaks and lunch buffets gave a variety of food and drink that almost detracted from the main part of the business, and I felt that my clients had been well looked after.
                            We organised our meeting at the beginning of July, which is a fairly quiet time for travellers to Europe. There was tour party of ageing American ladies in at the same time as us, but they behaved themselves, and did not get too raucus. Their bus broke down in the hotel car park, and they were last seen draped around the reception area.
                            Our organsiser negotiated a great price for the rooms, and the hotel made no fuss about us extend our stay at the same price. We paid about 80 Euros/night for bed and breakfast, but this was a heavily discounted rate. Clearly it is worth playing hardball with the hotel.

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                              30.04.2005 19:46
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                              • unwelcoming

                              The Grand Hotel Hungaria, one of the Best Western Chain of franchises offers comfortable and reasonably priced accom in Budapest, but with certain limitations.
                              It is about 2Km from the centre of Pest, and is too far to walk, but is a short walk to the Keleti metro station, which also serves the main railway station, and that makes it easy to get around. Also buses 70 and 74 stop outside.
                              The hotel was chosen on the basis of a compromise between central location and price. I was working for a couple of days, and at leisure for a couple of days, and had brought my wife. The Kempinski had been suggested, but was about 300 Euros per night. The bill for two of us for four nights including a huge buffett breakfast was £358 with no hidden extras.
                              My wife is of the opinion that location is everything for a hotel, but I am minded that as long as there are good transport connections, then it is fine. In some cities, she is right, and, say in New Orleans, where if you are not in the French Quarter, then you have a problem, that is true. In Budapest, it is not a problem. Public transport appears to be good and was safe when we were using it. Sure, there are drunks on the metro, and the tunnels into the street house vagrants, but you just use common sense.
                              In the event, her reservations were overcome by the nature of the accom. We were awarded a Junior Suite, and that means you get a room with a bed, a small sitting room, and a lobby with wardrobe and bathroom. The hotel has recently been refurbished, and smells of new carpet. However, it is a little on the oldfashioned side, and wins no prizes for design.
                              It is big - almost 500 rooms, and because of this, the main traffic is transient tour parties, who always bring down the tone of any hotel (that is inevitable). For this reason it is often impossible to get near the check in. Staff were reluctant to be helpful, and seemed keener on completing their paperwork. This is possibly a hang-over from the old days, because you get the impression that paperwork is a very important thing in Hungary. They even ask you to get tickets to enter free museums and galleries.
                              We only ate breakfast in the hotel. There are two or three restaurants that we could have used for lunch and dinner, but I usually like to look outside. Virtually all restaurants in central Budapest have a menu in English of sorts, and restaurant English seems universal.
                              Contrary to the many warnings, we did not get ripped off in restaurants: presumably forewarned was forearmed, and despite the obvious tourist appearance, we checked everying. The only problem we ran into was a cafe in the park near the Heroes monument that would only sell the most expensive bottled beer on its menu, but they were doing that to everyone.
                              Back to the hotel: As indicated we only ate breakfast, and that was very good. A huge selection of hot and cold food. The hot could have been hotter, but that is almost universal in hotel buffets. Every element of the meal is self service, and it became a little problematic when the full coach parties descended, some of whom were a little elderly, and could have used a little more help. There were Hungarian specialities at breakfast including spiced goats' cheese, boiled semolina, and lots of pickles. It looked as if some tourists were making a packed lunch out of breakfast, but that is a cheap way to behave.
                              Hotel security is not bad, considering, and there were people watching the entrance. This may have been connected to the proximity to the station, and the existence of the lesbian peep show across the road. Safes were central, and not in the room (pity) and given the busy nature of the desk, disinclined one to use the safe too often.
                              Check out was efficient and problem free, and a concierge looks after the bags and organises a fixed price taxi to the airport (which came exactly on time, the only thing that did in Hungary). We received many warnings about taxis, but did not need to use any outside the hotel.
                              If you want a good quality but not luxury hotel in Budapest, it is difficult to fault the Grand Hotel Hungaria

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