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I've just got off the phone to cornhill fuming ! I took out a contract with the company through Singlepoint ( and through them Dial-A-Phone ) who do cheap mobile phone deals via mail order a year ago . As can be pretty much guaranteed with phones these days mine has been edging towards its grave for some time but has finally died . I rang up Cornhill to arrange for a replacement phone and for a repair - the service over the phone was something unbelievable ! After navigating through their phone menu system I got to speak to one of their customer service reps who told me that although I was covered they wouldn't replace my phone . It seems that their insurance extends only to accidental damage (ie dropping it), theft and airtime abuse . While this is fair enough I was suprised to find that for £5 a month you're not actually covered if your phone dies naturally ( is there such a thing !? ) . This is fair enough as it's quoted in the small print of the contract but what sense is there in insuring a phone if you're not going to cover it failing naturally ? Surely this is the way that most phones that have been looked after are going to go ? I felt gutted that I'd paid for insurance for so long to be told that if I'd rung up having dropped it down a flight of stairs I'd be covered and it would be replaced . I was amazed at the tone of the lady on the phone who was not only very harsh but rude in explaining that it was "my fault" and I should have reported it to nokia and Dial-a-phone . While I would have been happy to have someone explain the situation I really don't understand why there is a need to be rude to the customer in the process . The impression left is that of an unprofessional and uncorteous company - take note if you have a Dial-a-phone contract and you might want to accidentally drop your phone before you ring .
A mate of mine bopped over last week and asked me what the the new box of tricks was that I had rigged up between my decks ... After a bit of an explanation as to what it did he asked me "isn't that cheating?" . I couldn't quite decide wether he was right or not - so I wrote this review ... The Redsound Voyager is a very powerful 'box of tricks' that connects to 1 or 2 audio sources and monitors the beat of the music from both of them . It then converts this information to MIDI data and transmits it to any other MIDI device . I didn't know too much about how MIDI worked before I bought the Voyager - and like everything I buy I hoped that it'd be one of these things you could plug in and 'it would just work' . Thankfully I wasn't far wrong ! MIDI defines a standard for communication between any device that supports it - samplers , keyboards , audio software on your PC .. the list is endless . Instead of sending data as audio it sends it via instructions on 'channels' and lets the device at the other end deal with it . The Voyager simply transmits MIDI clock and start commands to other devices . Start commands allow you to kick off another device at a point in time - sort of like giving your band a countdown of 3-2-1 and then all starting together . It's the MIDI clock though thats more interesting as it acts like a universal drumbeat defining the tempo so that all of the devices that are listening will keep in time . Anyone who knows a bit about DJing knows that this is what beat matching is all about - trying to get 2 records that play at different tempos to play at the same speed so you can mix between them . The Voyager sits between 2 decks ( or any 2 phono / line inputs ) and synchronises any external MIDI device to play back in time with the music . This is a godsend for DJs ! I've got one of these rigged up between 2 decks sending output to a sampler ( Yamaha SU200 ) and t o Rebirth on the PC . This allows you to have a tune playing on one deck and play back drum loops from the sampler together so you can effectively do remixing on the fly . Well I hope I've given enough background to anyone who might have stumbled across this opinion by mistake . I guess if you've made it this far you're interested in getting you hands on one of these babies . So how well does it perform ? At the heart of the Voyager is a very powerful engine which has been recently updated by Red to version 2 . This update adds extra support for irregular drumlines and breakbeats found in R'n'B , garage and drum n' bass and works by monitoring a greater range of frequencies than the V1 engine . As far as I know all of the Voyagers now are included with the V2 engine as standard but Red offer upgrades to users with the old version . When you start up the Voyager it'll prompt you for the BPM (beats per minute) range of the music you're about to play , there's 3 settings - one covering all ranges , one from medium-high and one for high bpm music . I found the initial performance of the Voyager a bit disappointing - it'd lock on to every second beat or half a beat and the tracking would drift a bit too much . After changing the BPM range before starting the unit performs a lot ,lot better . Usually the Voyager will lock to audio input after maybe 2 seconds of music which is pretty damn impressive . It'll then fine tune it's output to be increasingly accurate - according to the manual the unit works to the nearest 0.01 bpm and the engine constantly adjusts to any tempo changes in the music . If you test this by gradually increasing the speed of the record you're playing the unit proves it's point and keeps up - constantly increasing tempo albeit with a little lag . The unit displays the BPM of both of the 2 input channels to 3 significant figures on the 2 lcd displays on the front . It 39;s also got a bar of LEDs that show the tracking - if the unit is going too slowly , too fast or is perfectly in time with the audio . Apart from that the unit features 2 large red buttons under each of the BPM displays which selects which channel you want to output MIDI commands for ( although if you have 2 audio sources going at the same time the unit will display the BPM of both ) . There's also 4 buttons which control various aspects of the MIDI output . Once the Voyager has locked onto an audio source the Run button starts flashing , hitting this starts sending MIDI signals to your kit , the next button allows you to set up a cue point and start transmitting MIDI on the next beat encountered . The Stop button allows you to disengage the beat engine but to keep transmitting MIDI commands ( useful if you've got an ambient section in your tune ) as otherwise the tracker tends to get a little confused . This button also allows you to tap out the tempo which is useful if the unit can't work out the tempo automatically and once you've tapped out roughly the correct tempo the Voyager will lock on to the audio properly and then continue to adjust . The last button is used with the cue button to adjust sync .This I found to be the most difficult idea to get - while the Voyager is basically as accurate as good ear it will lock onto any beat in a bar as a reference point . So this could be the first heavy beat or just a hi-hat for example half way through the bar . Using the sync buttons you can nudge the MIDI clock forwards or backwards so that any device listening a bar at the same time as the reference audio . If you're not musically minded ( and I'm not ) imagine it like this - you've got 2 rectangles elongated width wise , sitting one above each other . The top one represents a bar of music from your music source and the bottom one represents a bar of music from the output device which is being driven by the Voyager . If both o f the rectangles are the same width then the bars will be the same length and the beats will match up ( imagine if you want regular fractions going from left to right across your rectangle representing beats ) . The Voyager keeps the 2 rectangles the same length for you but getting the 2 rectangles lined up so that the start and end points are directly below each other is your job . The sync buttons just shift the bottom rectangle left and right to do this in fractions of a beat . For most tunes the Voyager will lock onto the same bit of a beat each time . Like I know if I want to stick on the majority of drum n' bass tunes I have I'll need to set the sync to .2 or .3 of a beat ahead . With a bit of practice this isn't hard but it's just not very clearly explained in the manual - which comes as a small instruction book and a photocopied couple of pages to accompany the V2 upgrade . The manual makes it sound like you'll only ever need to rarely adjust the sync which is why I thought I was doing something wrong as you have to adjust it for each tune you want to play . Kicking off the MIDI output can either be done by cueing the unit to wait for the next loud beat or by holding the Start button and releasing it before the start of the next bar . I've got to admit I was suprised how good the tracking was from this little box . I've tested it with everything I've got which ranges from ambient trance to old skool drum n' bass and it doesn't discriminate ! In fact out of all music styles the tightest sync has to be to really hard drum n' bass probably because although the beats are complicated I think the unit checks its timing on every beat and fast music seems to work better generally . Breakbeat also does well and so does the majority of house music although if you're listening to trancey tunes you'll need to disengage the beat counter now and again through any ambient bits . You might think that dis engaging the engine , engaging it again and adjusting the sync sounds like a lot of hassle - but it's a lot less hassle than trying to keep 2 sources in time by ear . The whole point behind the Voyager is that basically it's like another set of ears leaving you to be as creative as you want with any of the other devices that you're driving in time instead of worrying about keeping them in time . So - bad points . Well unfortunatley I can't say that this unit is the holy grail ( yet ) . It's pretty damn close but there's a couple of things that I've noticed that stop it from getting a higher rating . The first is feedback - I'm not sure if I've got a dud unit here or it's just something you have to work around but the amount of feedback is incredible . Through my mixer the Voyager emits a high pitch whine through the headphones and also produces a sort of periodic whine when any of the LEDs flash through the main output . Sometimes it's hard to bear ( as it ruins your output if the tune is quiet ) and so I turn the unit off through quiet bits or when I'm not using it . Thankfully the unit still works to pass through audio if it's on or off . All my gear is grounded so I can't understand the amount of feedback - if anyone else has any experience I'd be interested to hear ? I've contacted Red to see what they say - thankfully they're a British company so if the worst comes to the worst the 2 year warranty won't involve expensive packaging and phone calls to America . Another gripe of mine is that cables arn't included - the unit takes phono or line level inputs through RCA ( phono ) cables connecting directly to your decks and then provides you with output connectors that you connect with cables to the input of your mixer . Would have been nice for Red to have bundled these with the kit but if you're buying one of these you might be able to get the shop to chuck them in for the asking price . The controls leave a bit to be desired as they're not the most intuitive in the world . I think Red have made an effort to keep the number of buttons on the kit down but this has only served to add more functions to each button . Adjusing the sync is the most annoying as you have to hold down the left/right channel button and then tap either the sync push/pull buttons to set it into sync adjust mode . Sometimes the unit seems to change the beat it's locked onto if it's gone from an ambient with a light beat back to a hard beat . If this happens then suddently your output will become totally out of time ! Thankfully it doesn't happen often and with a bit of playing about you can predict when you're going to be okay . It's sort of like trusting your mate to get everything in time - occasionally they're going to get it wrong so as long as you don't blindly trust the timing ( and you check it by ear first ) you'll most likely be fine ! At 200 quid the Voyager isn't cheap but it's essentially a specialist piece of kit . I think that the price is reasonable considering there's not really any other products on the market that do this sort of thing - the only other kit within affordable range I've seen being the Roland DJ-1/2000 mixers ( which I can't reccomend for MIDI out ) . So to answer my mates original question "Is it cheating?" - well yes and no . Yes as you're going to get nicely synchronized audio to mix into the record you're playing but no because if you're looking to get one of these you're probably interested in doing more than mixing 2 records together . It's a tool that's going to leave you an extra hand free to concentrate on what you're doing and put that extra bit into your mix ! At the moment I still can't get over the novelty of simple remixing - dropping breaks all over tunes or beefing up basslines just before you cut in a new tune . This will fit into anyone's setup and the unit is well made and produced - a chunky , quite weighty metal box with a build like a tank that would even resist mr blobbys probing fingers . In summary - comes reccomended but I'd wait personally to see if the feedback issue is a 'feature' or the kit or I've got a duff unit as working around this live could be a right headache . I'll wait to hear from Red and post up what they say . My philosophy right now is to resist buying new records and instead play about re-working the ones I've already got ! After emailing Redsound again I got this response : "There can be a small amount of noise generated in the VOYAGER 1 when using the phono connections (audio pickup from the displays due to high amplification levels). You can 'isolate' the VOYAGER 1 without affecting it's performance/application by taking it out of the direct audio chain. So long as the product receives the same audio as that which is playing on the vinyl deck(s) it does not need to be 'in-line'. Simply connect a parallel send signal [use 'Y' type RCA splitters] to the VOYAGER 1 inputs (no output required then required from VOYAGER) and the system will work fine, with absolutely no chance of any noise pickup" This sounds like a good solution for anyone with a mixer that has send/returns . After another email to Red they suggest splitting the output from the decks themselves . This would be all good but the cables from my decks are attached within the casing leaving just a cable and phono plugs at the end . My solution is to make a splitter cable and use that . Not good but still lots of credit goes to Red for replying personally to my emails - now there's something novel ! Quality company and a quality product if you're able to work around the feedback problems .
I can't stress how much I was looking forward to getting hold of this CD . Both of the previous Y2/3K collections have been absolutley blinding ( the first with some wicked laid back beats to chill to , the second with more upbeat classic reworks and full on deep progressive tunes ) . With so many good breakbeat tunes about at the moment Y4K had to be a blinder . Unfortunatley it's not - not only is it not a blinder , it's the biggest turkey of a CD I've ever bought and I feel complled to write a review to prevent anyone else being as disappointed as I am . Why is this CD a turkey ? Well for a start off there's only a couple of good tunes on it to say the least . Although all of the names of the artists reads like a who'se who of breaks n' drum n' bass who have been responsible for excellent productions , Tayo has gone and chosen their most bland and boring tracks with the exception of Plump DJ's 'Scram' . Every one of these tunes is a plodding progressive-esque boredom fest , imagine a looped never changing breakbeat line with the odd random sample and you're there . There's loads of build ups - but to nothing - just back to the plodding breakbeat and proggy nonsence . Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love proggy house & breaks but these tracks are the worst examples of this genre - chugging nonsence that doesn't change . It doesn't help that there's no build up at all throughout the mix - it's all seemlessly mixed but at a tempo your great grandparents could rave to without breaking a sweat . With so many quality breakbeat tunes out there since Y3K it makes me wonder who Distinctive were aiming at with this offering . It's breakbeat meets lift music . All I can say is - why was this ever produced ? If you're out to get a breakbeat album to cure your insomia or you're confused as to wether you're an uber-trendy and want something nice to put on your coffee t able then buy this . If you're up for something thats more interesting to listen to with some substance - or you just want an introduction to breaks then get the botchit & breaks series as they're only £2 each and are all miles better than this beheaded turkey . 'Urban Funk Breaks' which are also dead cheap ( by the Botchit N' Breaks ) boys are safe bets if you want a cheap sampler of good breaks tunes . You might also like to try 'Breat Freaks' - another more up beat mix cd ( blinding mix & some top quality scratching ) although that might appeal to fewer people as it's almost a crossover with garage . Have a look at the Mixmag cover CD that the Plump DJs have mixed ( I think it's the Feb 2001 issue or thereabouts ) which you should still be able to back order . They've also mixed together another double mix CD 'Underground Breaks' which is well worth a mention . Their album is everything from really funky disco to dirty in-yer-face type beats that could get you dancing like a chimp that'd just escaped from dancing on hot coals in a latvian circus . If you're looking for a crossover of dirty synth and some more progressive and laid back beats check out the new Tuesday Club Recordings 50th Anniversary release ( double Mix CD ) . Both of the CDs on here lay bare a whole range of excellent breakbeat tunes from the very ambient to really dirty full on drum n' bass . Well I hope there's some decent alternatives at least to check out . Definatley have a look at the Y3K CDs if you havent already but steer well clear of - or at least listen to all of this compilation before buying . Very disappointing .
I've just got back from Fabric and was so impressed I just had to write a review . There's one word that describes this place - Class . This club's design can't be faulted and everything from the moment you get there just smacks of good ideas and 'why don't they do this anywhere else?' . Fabric is one of the newer London clubs featuring 4 rooms with different live acts and DJ's as well as several bars . All the rooms are linked via a central set of wide corridors and walkways and a main staircase which takes you between the different levels . The layout is modern - lots of supported metal walkways , spiral staircases and large , spacey rooms . Musically you can expect anything from slamming hard progressive house to more ambient cuts with some twisted funky bits in there for good measure . This is pure , continual dance music and since the club closes at 5 in the morning - it's going to keep going as long as you can . I can't praise the acts we saw highly enough and the DJ's are absolutley brilliant . The line-up changes weekly so check the Fabric webpage (www.fabric-london.com) before you head down - rest assured that whoever is on will be top class . The croud are mixed but the average age seemed somewhere in the mid 20s and older - totally laid back and chilled . From the moment you get to Fabric the one thing you'll notice is that you don't feel intimidated . The place is clean - there's lots of staff and even the people on the door are helpful . It's clean - there's no bottles to trip over and the toilets actually look like toilets at the end of the night . Okay so you're not going to a club for the toilets - but it's just part of the surroundings that leave a real impression and confirm that it's a safe place where you can really let go . There's lots of chill out areas to sit , with large cushioned seating and plenty of space to sit in all o f the rooms . The 3 rooms are large , with an absolutley slamming sound system and wicked lighting ! Once you've experienced the vibrating dance floor in the main room you won't want to leave - it sounds gimmicky but it makes a real difference . When we went it was pretty empty - it was just coming up to Christmas but there was an excellent amount of space . You didn't feel like you'd been herded onto the dancefloor with an electric cattle prod and you could always find somewhere to dance without having to watch what you were doing . I visited the club again (August 24th) for the 'True Playaz Special' which featured some of the biggest names in drum n' bass and some ting for da garage men and laydeez (aii) with a roasting lineup there too . We'd been down the weekend before hoping to get in on the door only to see a queue that snaked around the block to the station so took no chances and bought tickets . I'd advise anyone to do the same - the tickets are booked online and collected from across the road outside the club and allow you almost immediate entry ( for an extra £1.50 booking fee each ) . Drum n' bass tested out the soundsystem to the max but it couldn't be more different to my first visit . The music was thse same - absolute quality genius breaks , classy MCs and the tunes that everyone wanted to hear . Its just that it seemed the management had crammed in about double the 'comfortable' limit of the club . It was packed beyond belief with the main arenas being a mass of people (think rock 'mosh pit' and you're not far wrong) and the only space to dance being around the bar area . Even the corridors that were before empty to sit down were packed giving the impression of being very over-crouded and opressive . I think if the management had decided to limit the capacity everyone there would have had a much better time . Another thing I noticed again was that fabric is a very very dark club . With so many people , smoke and steam it was hard to see even to the other side of the bar . If you're going with a group of people make sure you've got somewhere to meet up or you will get lost ! There's lots of dark corridors and the lighting on the dance floor is minimal strobes and a couple of lights which does add to the atmosphere but makes feel very different to the happy-happy house nights with lots of space and smiling people. As far as dress code - it was very relaxed anything goes although we didn't see anyone there in the cyber-gear ! Getting home was another thing that the club had really done a good job on . Fabric operate their own cab service so on leaving we were asked where we were going to - told how much it was going to be ( very cheap in comparison to what you'd pay in a normal minicab ) and had a cab straight away . Why don't other clubs do this rather than have herds of dodgy cab drivers flocking around you when you've just opened your eyes to the sun ? In all I can't reccomend this place enough . For the same price that you'd usually pay to go clubbing you'll get exactly what you want but a lot more too . Cheaper bar drinks , a clean club and somewhere you can dance without any worries . It's the sort of place you'd feel comfortable taking your girlfriend as the attitude is totally safe and laid back . If you're going for a night of larging it or something more chilled then you will love this place . Go along and see what I'm on about - classy stuff .
I guess this is more of a general 3d opinion than on Cyberworld but I just got back from seeing this film and had never stepped inside an Imax cinema before . I was really sceptical about what the cinema , sound , picture and 3d effect would be like . I've got to say though that it is simply breathtaking - the 3d effect is incredible and the sense of depth in what you're seeing is hard to describe . Put it this way - the audience started off with oohs and ahhs and for the rest of it the mainly young audience were completley silent ( compare that to any normal film ) . The screen itself was massive and completley fills up your field of view - with the sound this also immerses you in what you're seeing . A pair of 3d glasses completed the experience and you end up with 50 minutes of total fantasy . The quality of the film itself is crystal clear , as is the sound - both of which are really noticably better than a normal film . It does make a difference as you end up with a scene that is so detailed it's incredible - there's so much to look at . The film itself was better than I was expecting - I thought it was going to be a sort of Sunday afternoon channel 5 production but it was pretty watchable . Basically Cyberworld is just a good showcase for the 3d effect shown off by a series of animations and film shots ( from the Simpsons and Antz ) brought together with a 3d host . It's not going to amaze you as far as plot or story go but if you want amazing visuals that are quite trippy at times you'll be in heaven . Quite simply put this is the best bit of 3d eye candy you can watch . There's some great use of 3d without overdoing it with characters almost coming out of the screen as well as scenes that are so detailed you have to scan around them with your eye to take it all in . If you've never been to an Imax film then definately go and see this as I can't imagine a better showcase for this media - or a better fun use of an hour . The only thing I will say about the trip in general was the amount of time we had to wait to see one of the films ( about an hour ) . So it might be worth booking in advance if you're taking kids as there wasn't even much to keep a bunch of students amused for that amount of time . But in short - absolutley excellent . Well reccomended .
Sonic Foundry is simply put everything you could want in recording software . If you've recorded anything and ever wanted more functionality then microsoft sound recorder then you can find it here . Sound Forge allows you to do anything with stuff you've recorded . It's got so many features that you'll find them stuck away under menus hiding just to be found . There's buttons all over the place but the main display is clear and shows the sound you're editing as a wave form . Here you can select areas quicky and apply many different effects to , these are supplied with SF4 but you can also use plugins that are compatible with ACID like MaxBASS . Effects range from being able to add pretty much any sort of cinematic effect to strange retro delays , reverbs , chorus , compressors , filters and more 'real world effects' . SF also has the option of allowing you to fade between samples , swell volume or fade out . With Sound Forge and a sampler like ACID you could produce some killer sounds . Sonic Foundry have made the process of importing and exporting samples to ACID a doddle using some of the menus from the main menu . While pitched at the more professional user Sound Forge isn't out of the reach of anyone wanting to spend a few hours to sit down with the online tutorial . Probably you'll look at the first couple of sections and venture off to do something coming back just to refer to it for a new feature you've found . Sound Forge allows you to create and compile some excellent tunes together , it'd be ideal as a desk for mixing an album at top quality and puts this sort of power in the hands of anyone with a PC and a bit of patience . Wether you're looking to import loops to a sampler and trim them down , play about with them , play about with individual sound files or go for full blown musical recordings Sound Forge will be guaranteed to be able to do it . The price does pit ch it at the high end of the market but I don't think there is going to be another product that is going to topple this from the throne .
If Microsoft had their way we'd all be using Windows NT now - their flagship OS product . Gone would be the troubles of the old pesky users of Windows 98/95 , no more problems with people complaining about crashes and poor stability and a new reputation . The problem with Windows in general as everyone knows is that it's stability doesn't really inspire it for anything more than everyday work . That's fine for a lot of people but if you want something more serious ( like in the business world ) or you're more interested in the viagra of the operating systems ( It'll stay up all night as compared to Win98 ) you might want to give Windows NT a look . Although the interface is exactly the same as Win98/95 , NT's core is completely different . The reason for Win9X's instability lies in it being backward compatible with old DOS programs and Windows 3.1 applications . Legacy programs like these are 16 bit applications and to provide backward compatibility Win95 and 98 has to accomodate this . This in turn means that the benefits of 32 bit mode on processors such as the 386 ,486 , Pentium and onwards arn't made use of . These benefits include proper memory protection which stop programs over-writing chunks of the operating system ( or each other ) when they crash ( which in turn stops one program crashing affecting anything else ) . Windows NT is solid 32 bit code , so much so that all the drivers for your devices have to be largely re-written . While you're probably not as sad a techie as I am this does mean that you have to search around a lot more for drivers and check that devices you have are supported . Windows 95/98 drivers won't work with NT but most large companies supply NT drivers with their products . This messing about means though that you do get a system that is a lot more reliable . You can leave it up and running for weeks even without problems , a lot of people would say not as long as unix machine but I'm not going to go and argue on that one ! As well as protection from individual program crashes affecting other programs there is a strong security setup throughout NT . Permissions are granted for various objects on the system ranging from access to files and directories to devices and system privileges . For the home user it's not too much hassle to just set yourself up an account , there's no need for editing startup scripts or anything like that . For the business user there's the ability to specify exactly what users can and can't use and fine tune the security of the system . As administrator when you install you'll have to create an account for yourself as a normal user - it's not reccomended to run as the super user . It's all straight forward , a set of utilities on NT allow you to assign users to groups and allow you to control the elements of the system they have access to . Files have owners and groups that can read and write to them , it's fairly common sense and easy to get to grips with . Installing NT though can be another story - I managed to spend many afternoons trying to figure why it wouldn't work . When you install from the CD you need to specify a FAT partition ( that's old DOS type partition to you and me ) to install to . The only thing is that the tools with Win95 and 98 will format your hard drive to a FAT 32 partition by default which NT can't install from ( it'll copy files fine at first fine then fail after rebooting ) . This makes installing NT a bit of a hassle for the average user who'se used to sticking in the CD and it just working . The install is in 2 parts - NT copies all it's files and then reboots to install them . You'll notice a different rebooting process once you've kicked off the system for the first time informing you of system information as it boots - number of processors and memory . <br> NT has support for SMP ( Symmetric Multi Processing ) - so in other words you can have 2 or more processors running in parallel sharing the load of the system . This sort of number crunching gets used in business and probably a shedloads of the webservers on the net . For most of us minions though you'll only ever get to see the CPU readout as 1 though ! From there you'll go straight to a login screen and unlike Win95/98 there's no pressing escape and starting windows . Here's the first taste of the security element provided . In addition to this NT's new filesystem provides support for long names ( like Win98 and 95 ) but provides permissions and is optimised for reliability and high perfomance . This means that unfortunatley you cant install onto an existing Windows partition , although you have the option of not converting the partition you've installed on to an NT partition . Doing this you don't get to use the element of file security though ( all users can read all files ) . NT lacks in that it's useless for running games , this is because it only supports up to DirectX 3 . Direct X is Microsoft's platform for games programmers and conforms to a set of increasing standards . Most modern games use DirectX 6 and above so there's no chance of running them on NT . So unless you're a minesweeper freak there's not much action going on here - I think there has been a few recent games that are now running on NT but I'm not sure which . NT is a good platform for programmers , there's the plethora of tools available already and having a stable system to work from means you spend less time rebooting if you're working with fairly 'in depth' stuff . NT's security has come under some scrutiny recently and Microsoft are doing a reasonable job of keeping it up to date with a series of Service packs that fix holes and stability problems . NT will no doubt run a bit slower than 95 or 98 although my old clean NT system used to run a lot faster than my bogged down 95 system ( that was on a Pentium 100 ) . Old Windows 95 and 98 programs run fine on NT , but old Windows 3.1 and DOS programs won't . DOS utilites and games run incredibly slowly through emulation - although this isn't going to be a problem to many people any more in the days of DOS games it was a pain in the arse . If you're fed up with Windows crashing and you use it mainly for work then you might find NT to be your bag . If you're going for the networking angle and you want to make use of NT's extra connectivity features then you'll like NT as a good server platform . The only real downsides are the cost - NT is expensive at over 100 quid and the server edition is even more hefty . If you're looking for something that's not instantly alien like Linux but provides you with a few more settings to play about with than Win95/98 then you'd do hard pressed to give NT a try . Although I can't say much for many of Microsofts other products - NT is one of their better creations and it looks like it'll be around for some time to come .
The SU200 is one of those bits of kit you feel compelled to tell people about . If someone you know disappears into their bedroom amid a long chain of breakbeats , strange bleeps and swooshy noises then you'll know what they're up to after this .. For starters - an introduction ; The SU200 is the little brother of the SU700 - quite a meaty bit of sampling and loopmaking kit . It's a stage up from Yamaha's older sampler in this bracket - the SU100 ( still about and going cheap these days ! ) . I'll be honest from the start - I've never used anything sampler related before - aside from playing about with ACID on the PC so essentially these are my first thoughts on this bit of kit and sampling in general . The SU200 is a decently designed bit of kit , it's fairly small and compact and very light so you can make space for it anywhere in your setup . I've got it rigged up between 2 decks and my mixer with the idea of being able to cut up loops and play about with tunes on the fly . If anyone is thinking of doing the same it involves a fair few cables - and one thing to note is that the SU200 only takes line level inputs . If you're lucky enough to have decks with outputs like this - or you're sampling from something else then you're sorted . Otherwise it's going to involve send/returns to your mixer - more on this later . What struck me about the SU200 is that it's been designed pretty much for the DJ who wants to be a bit more creative with their mixing . Basically what you have is a sampler built around loops and Yamaha's big selling point here is their loop track function which will sync all samples together to the same bpm . Sounds like a godsend right ? In addition to this you get 3 banks of 8 pads of samples that you can loop , reverse and apply filters to . Samples can also be resampled internally so you can apply effects and combine several samples together i nto one . There's also a ribbon controller that you can use to scratch samples in realtime or use to control the values of any of the effects . There's also 2 knobs that you can turn to do the same and both can be used to control various aspects of each effect ( like delay time & resonance ) . There's 6 effects available that allow you to create some pretty mad sounds - the one that really deserves a mention is Loop Remix . Applying this effect breaks up the loop that you're playing and re-arranges the parts to form a new loop on the fly . You can control the amount of reverse playback ( fragments of the original loop that are played back in reverse ) and create some pretty simple breakbeat . While it doesn't allow you to create something that sounds totally new you can create some pretty simple breaks easily . Turning up the number of fragments allows you to get some halfway decent stuttering effects and because you can kick the effect in when you want against the original loop you can create even more variations on the fly . My only gripe with this seemingly holy grail is that it must require a shedload of processing time on the SU200's part . Sometimes you'll crank the knobs too far and it'll break up the loop only to not be able to re-assemble it in time . What you get then is a sort of half broken loop with big periods of silence in between ( it sounds like your loop in a spasm )- although with a bit of practice you learn how far you can push it . The other effects deserve a mention too - I was hoping the filter would be as close as possible to the PCM filter on re-birth . I've got to say it's not bad - if you're not sure what I'm on about then basically it's akin to sitting inside a metal tube listening to your sample . Resonance on the SU200 tends to just muffle the sound or make it more 'bright' sounding while the 2nd effect knob ( or the ribbon controller ) allows you to change t he cut-off frequency . Using this effect you can produce a credible build up or fade in a new loop - or just go for it and produce some wicked whoosh sounds . The other effects I didn't think were as good - it seems like they're just there to fill up the space . There's delay which is quite good as it works based on the BPM of the loop so it's easy to create ping-pong like bouncing delays without it all going horribly out of time . You get to control the level and the delay time using the old parameter knobs . You also get slice - which like the name implies produces an effect like turning the volume on and off quickly . You can use it to place emphasis on a different part of a sample or cut it in and out with the original sample to produce some decent effects . There's also distortion/lo-fi which makes makes your loop sound dirty and distorted . Techmod is the last filter which sounds like you've stuck your sample through a really hard chorus effect - it sounds pretty artificial . By playing with the effect knobs you can get wibbly wave noises or a distorted saturated version of your original sound . I hope that makes some sense at least ! Filter , delay , lo-fi and tech mod effects can also be used on audio input with the parameter knobs allowing you to change the degree of the effects in real time . Okay so you've got your filters , what about the other features ? Well there's the scratch function which is worth a mention for a laugh . By hitting this button the ribbon controller allows you to scratch the current sample back and forth over whatever is playing . It's pure novelty as the response time isn't very good and no matter what you do ( with whichever sample ) you still get the same result which sounds like a sudden gust of wind . The layout of the SU200 is good , everything is where you'd expect it . The sample pads are along the bottom of the box and are just the right size . Above this is the buttons for the 3 banks of samples and at the top - the LCD display and the effects knobs . The main window is backlit - although still quite dark and lets you view the information for the 'current' sample . You get to see wether it's playing in reverse , the quality of the recording and what mode it's playing in . Samples can be recorded in stereo/mono and also in one of 4 quality grades ( high , standard , long and extra long ) . I was amazed to find out from the specs that the SU200 has a mere 896K of sample memory on board and it was one thing that really put me off buying it . I've got to say that this doesn't matter too much really - you're still likely to have enough recording space with 42 seconds of hi grade (44.1khz) mono recording . Due to limits on samples you'll probably find yourself recording at standard rate (22Khz) anyway which gives you 82 seconds of sampling time . The only thing that I will gripe about is that either due to the memory available on board or the processing power of the SU200 there is a few limits on what you can and can't do . I think Yamaha have probably hacked everything around the lack of memory on board and this is a shame because doing anything that involves changing memory contents takes a few seconds at least . While this may not sound like a major gripe but if you want to record loops on the fly you're going to have to be pretty good as you'll find yourself waiting for a good few seconds to write the sample to memory , then longer to update the start/end points , test the sample with your loop , tweak the start and end , save the changes .. etc . As well as this there are limits like not being able to apply any effects to hi grade samples . In fact flicking through the manual is worrying as it seems every couple of pages there is a footnote explaining that you can't do something . For example , you can only apply one filter at a time ( although you can work around this by resampling - see later) . According to the specs you can play a maximum of 6 standard grade (22.2Khz) samples at once , or 2 hi-grade (44.1Khz) samples . Combining samples together that have been recorded at different quality grades can produce noise . The workaround for this is pretty simple - record everything at standard quality which I think is what Yamaha have intended although they've supplied you with the option of recording hi and lo grade samples too . The sound quality is reasonable although it takes a fair amount of playing about with the recording settings to get something that sounds really clear . I've got to praise Yamaha on the recording phase - as someone who'd never used a sampler before it was a doddle . You just set your input to either mic or line input and set up your trigger level using the effect knobs - record and then adjust start and end points . Recording is either automatic or manual ( in auto you get to define your trigger volume where as manual you have to hit start/stop to define where recording starts/ends ) . As soon as the sample has been recorded you can listen to it and use the start point and end point buttons to define respective points . What's good is that you can record a slightly larger sample , play it back once and hit start-point and end-point to define points roughly . If you're working on the fly this can be a godsend as you get a fairly accurate looped sample that you can then fine tune by altering either the start or end point minutely or in constant amounts using the effects knobs . Once you've done this the sample is saved to memory which takes a few seconds during which you can't do anything else . Once you've defined start and end points you can extract the unused bits at either end easily with the press of a button ( and another pause while memory contents are updated ) . You can define wether your sample is a 2 bar or 1 bar sample and this affects how it's combined with other samples when you're using the loop-track play function ( samples that are 1 bar long are just repeated twice per 2 bar sample ) . The loop-track function is probably going to be the most used function on the SU200 - so how does it measure up ? Well it works pretty well when things fit together properly although you're going to need to spend a bit of time tweaking start/end points in order to get samples to fit together properly . Once entering the function all pads are synched together so in theory they should play in time and you can use the buttons along the bottom of the SU200 to bring samples in and out . The buttons light up bright pink when a sample is playing and because you're playing a bar over and over you can kick in the end of a sample or a certain beat . In general loop play works pretty well - you do get to hear some distortion in the sound as all the elements get brought together although you can minimise it by recording the samples at the same quality and keeping the playback tempo close to the original . If you change it too much ( say +-25% ) you'll start to experience your loop intersperced with a nasty clicking type sound . The tempo of the loop can be changed on the fly by using the +/- buttons to change the displayed BPM or by using the tap button where you just tap out the tempo . This sounded like a godsend for the DJ - and you also get the option of synching to an external MIDI source - great if you have one of those expensive beat counters . In practice trying to mix the output from the SU200 isn't too hard - you can quickly get your loop to roughly the same speed as the record you're playing by just tapping out the tempo and then fine tuning it . It's possible to mix using the +/- tempo buttons if you can get a feel for where the BPM lies - as you have to toggle between whole numbers . Thankfully changes to the temp o are instantly responsive so with a bit of practice you can quite credibly mix using this function . The SU200 also allows you to use SmartMedia cards to backup your samples to . Unfortunatley you can't use these cards to extend your main memory storage - they're just for backup so you have to swap samples in and out of main memory . Although this sounds fine again you come back to the bottleneck of the onboard memory speed . Other features that deserve a mention are the time stretch function which allows you to stretch out a sample using another as reference so they should both have the same BPM setting . You can also play a scale using a sample - but this doesn't allow you to do anything else while you're doing it . The resampling function allows you to set up your loop as if you were playing but instead of playing the output it's recorded into a new sample at the rate you request . Using this you can stick together several samples into one pad leaving more memory space free and apply effects over the top of each sample by repeating the process . At £300 the SU-200 isn't particularly cheap as far as a fun gadget goes . But then it's not just a fun gadget - from the way it's been designed you can say it'd do well for DJ's to use on the fly or as a notepad for ideas and loops . I do have a few gripes though for things that it seems have really been overlooked and would make all the difference . For example - you can't change the volume of a single sample in real time . Why not ? You can adjust the volume of a pad ( which a sample is stored in ) by using the main JOB menu but this requires you to exit out of everything you're doing . This means you have to sometimes use filter effects to beef up the high end of a drum line when you want to emphasise a beat that you're mixing in . Another major gripe is that the power adapter isn't included in the package - why no t ? How many things do you buy now that don't come with an adapter so you can use them straight away . True the SU200 takes 6 AA batteries but if you're paying out 300 quid it's only fair to throw in a £10 adapter for nothing . Another thing that would really add to the potential of the SU200 would be being able to switch between sample banks on the fly . You've got 3 banks (A,B,C) containing 8 samples each . If you're using loop mode and want to switch to another bank of samples ( for example to change the drum loop to another rather than varying it ) you'll suffer a second pause while the loop stops and the bank changes . It'd also be decent to be able to stop a sample in a bank at the end of a loop and switch to another ( as a workaround - so you can finish one drum loop and kick in another in perfect sync ) . Again you can't do it so unless you're incredibly deft with kicking one loop out and another in at the end of the bar you have to try and mix one into another . Another thing that puzzles me is why the output volume is so low . Having rigged up the SU200's output to the line input of my mixer it's hardly audible . This means that in addition to jiggling around to get the SU200 to take a line output from the mixer that I'd need a pre-amp to be able to get the output to a decent level to mix it in . Even the headphone output is very quiet by comparison to any audio device . I think if you're going to go and stick this in your setup you need to get a decent mixer that supports send/returns and provides line outputs . As it is I have to stick a splitter in the headphone output of the mixer - but that's not a gripe at the SU200 . I'll give credit to Yamaha on the manual , it's well written and easy to read with lots of examples and diagrams . They've bundled a sample CD with it too with everything ranging from techy sounding drum n'bass to rock although I'm s ure if you're thinking of buying one of these babies you'll already have some ideas of what you want to sample . If you don't - believe me you will afterwards ! This'll get you thinking 'hmm I wonder what that loop would sound like if I did ...' and you can while away a good few hours just with a couple of CDs and this bit of kit on your lap on its own . Stick it together with a live setup and you're going to have a right good laugh . If you're looking for that extra bit of creativity or just a couple of extra buttons to press then you've found it . In terms of value for money I don't think you can really fault the SU200 - expecially with the smartmedia slot although I'd have loved the option for a floppy drive at a bit extra cost . Compact , light and good looking and on the whole a well designed tool . Try one of these out in the shop and I bet you'll be sold . Well reccomended if you're willing to put up with a few headaches of working around the limits of this bit of kit . Updated : MIDI Functionality - Recently got to try out the Yamaha Su-200 as part of a MIDI rig ( 2 decks + Redsound Voyager + Rebirth on PC ) . Was quite impressed with how easy it all was to setup - from a MIDI start the sampler kicked into life straight away and setup is easy , just selecting synchronization to external from one of the menus . My only gripe is that if you're synching the sampler to any sort of live tempo you might be disappointed with the amount of distortion . The loops are all in time but the kit is let down by the awful crackling noise that gets produced at the same time . I'm guessing it must be the processor on board slugging its guts out and it's more noticable at certain tempos than others - keep it close to the original loop and you'll be okay . It just left me wishing I'd spent that extra bit of cash and bought something that I could get away with using live s eriously . This and that fact that you can't apply effects to high grade samples ( which mostly defeats the point of using them ) are the real limiting factors for the SU-200 . If you're sure you're only ever going to use this in your bedroom then go for it ! If you've got bigger aspirations then play around with one and make sure it'll fit your setup ( as with any bit of kit ) .
This game brings back some excellent memories of trips shopping to buy new joysticks and was probably responsible for the death quite a few of them ! This is really good old fashioned gameplay that I don't think we'll ever see again . Golden Axe on the Amiga was a conversion of the arcade game of the same name - and for a change the conversion improves on the original ( minus the loading times ) . The game follows you (and a friend) in the role of one of three warriors travelling through a mystical side scrolling land to defeat the evil that is Death Adder . Death Adder being the kind of guy he is has been torturing the locals and each of the 3 characters has a reason to want to knock him from his evil throne . Enough of the dodgy storyline - what really counts here is really simple arcade action . Your 3 characters have a limited number of attack moves since you only have 1 fire button . The guys who have designed the game though have extended it a bit so you can jump and attack and also pull off special moves by using a combination of running , jumping and attacking . But for the most of it you'll just be hacking and slashing at everything . The 3 characters you get to choose from are essentially the same but have slightly different attack moves . Each of the characters has different magical abilities though which can be built up by collecting potions that are littered around the levels . This acts as a smart bomb type attack with some fancy graphics depending on your character and their magic ( fire , earth and wind I think ) . As you build up the amount of magic you have the attacks become more impressive and do more damage to your enemy . The background scenery is excellent , as is the music - with some really catchy bleepy tunes that have been faithfully taken directly from the arcade . The graphics have been somewhat souped up from the original and look excellent - there's a couple of extra things here and there that die hard fans will probably notice . There's some really nice touches that show how much work has been put into this game - such as the loading sequences between levels . The game really takes off in 2 player mode as you battle through the levels with a mate . This is made even better by being able to take advantage of dragon like creatures that you can knock your enemies off and ride yourself . There's also a 2 player 1-1 fighting mode but since the number of moves are pretty limited it usually involves running at each other and pressing the fire button quickly . So all the ingredients are there for a good co-operative game and it's hard to pinpoint what it is about Golden Axe that makes it so playable . The level design is different enough from level to level and there's a large batch of different baddies to battle against including those old faves - the bosses . This game is an absolute amiga classic . If you haven't played it then download it now , invite a mate around and kick some real bad guy butt .
I can't believe that nobody has reviewed this game before ! While it's an old title now another generation can get totally hooked on it thanks to emulators and everything retro coming back in again . Ikari Warriors on the amiga was a direct conversion of the original coin op (which was a sequel to the game 'Road to victory' - also worth checking out) . The idea of the game - like every good game is simple . You and a friend are two pilots who have been shot down over enemy territory and you've got to complete your mission - which conveniently means you have to wade through miles of enemy territory . The game takes place as an upwards scrolling shooter where you can rotate your character and move independently . So you can pull off some nifty moves , running up the screen shooting enemies coming on from any angle . As you run up the screen you and your chum ( or just you if you're playing one player ) have to contend against tonnes of enemy soldiers , tanks , helicopters , mines and all sorts of hazards . What makes this game so good though ? Well it's damn simple ! This game has every ingredient that old games used to have - as well as just pure fun ! The control system is really simple once you get the hang of it and there's plenty of power ups - from more grenades to rocket launchers . As a bonus you can take over tanks that you find to squash enemy soldiers and destroy buildings in your path . The controls are simple - tapping the fire button fires your machine gun while holding it down throws a grenade in the direction you're pointing . In two player mode this game excels - it's brilliant fun as the key to getting far is to cover each other which involves a lot of shouting and joystick wangling ! The levels do tend to start looking the same but there's plenty of different hazards to keep things interesting and the gameplay is much the same throughout . < br> If you fancy some old style gaming without the flash graphics but with a heavy dollop of gameplay then download this game . Invite a mate around and you'll be happy for days on end - an absolute classic .
If you're a first time traveller on the tube then things can get pretty confusing - especially when things go wrong ! I've used the tube for getting in and out of london on a daily basis so I'll just offer a few extra tips to those that have already been put forward in the excellent opinion in this section . Getting into London : * Try and buy tickets in advance . A lot of the smaller local stations are really heavily hit in the mornings by people buying tickets . You can guarantee the day you need to get to work on time you'll get stuck behind someone renewing their yearly travel card . Queues are especially bad on Mondays - make sure you get there early . * Travel on the underground is worked out by zones . If you know how much your ticket is you can use the smaller ticket machines ( which there is usually lesss of a queue for ) . There's no reduction for getting a return fare - and if you're buying a return to say Charing Cross you're really buying a single to zone 1 ( central london ) and a single back out again . This has the benefit that you don't have to leave from the same station you've travelled to if it's closed or delayed for example. * Check out the new touch screen ticket machines - but if you're travelling into London in the morning remember that you can have one ticket purchase per card per day per station . * Ticket machines are a lot more unreliable taking £10 or £20 notes than £5 notes . I think this probably depends on how much change they have but I've never had a £5 note rejected from a machine - even tatty old ones that are falling apart . * If you're travelling into London and you're near the end of the line on a day when the service is delayed - make sure that you get on a train where you don't have to change ( even if it means waiting ) . Usually when you get off to change the trains behind the one you're o n will be so crouded you won't be able to get on them . * Get a copy of the Metro ( free newspaper available at underground stations ) . * If you're a uni student in London enquire at uni and get yourself a student photocard - they're a quid . They're valid for a year and get you 33% off the price of monthly and yearly tickets but have to be issued by your uni . Asking around the student union is a good place to start - most places will encourage you to get one anyway . * Keep your ticket safe . London Underground has it's fair share of wannabe bouncers at stations who will charge you £10 if you don't have a valid ticket . * If you buy tickets from touts you run the slim risk of the people at the station charging you again if they see you ( Underground staff generally turn a blind eye to the touts themselves ) . * Travel cards are around £2 more expensive before 9:30am - check if a return is cheaper . * Travelcards can be bought up to 4 days in advance which helps if you know you're going to be travelling . It doesn't help you beat the rush on Monday morning though unless you're travelling after 9:30 ( or you're willing to pay £2 extra ) . * Take a few essential items with you - A can of your favourite antiperspirant - tubes get rediculously hot in summer . A personal stereo - to blot out all the other people with personal stereos . Travelling out of london : * If you're travelling from Tottenham Court Road on the northern line - don't trek down the spiral staircase they point you towards . Take the escalator down and turn left - saves a walk especially when its wet and slippery . * During rush hour the Victoria line gets extremely crouded * Buy tickets at lunchtime if you can When you're delayed : * If you're delayed for more than 15 minutes you're allowed to claim back the price of the journey you're on . Get one of the Customer Charter forms from the station - they're freepost and you can fill them in while you're waiting . If your ticket gets swallowed by a ticket gate and you don't have one to attach - London Underground will still refund your fare ( if it's a single or return ) . * If the line you're on is suffering delays and your train is stationary at a station - get onto another line if you can . If you're not going well out of your way you'll probably save a fair bit of time - especially in central London as the stations are so close together . Useless things to watch out for : * Chocolate machines on the underground are very unreliable and the the contents are usually melted . If you're unsure if a machine is working or not key in '110' and if it doesn't report 'OK ! NO PROBLEMS' don't stick your cash in it .
If you're buying records online and you're out to fufil that list of hard to find records you've had lying around you're probably going to choose one of the larger stores . 'Hard to Find Records' (HTFR) are one of the largest online retailers that do not only accessories but stock a large range of vinyl as well as offering a vinyl finding service . HTFR's biggest online rival is the other Birmingham based record store DMF (Dance music finder) . Rather than go through the same points about online ordering (check out the DMF review) I thought I'd summ up what you can expect from HTFR and see how they compare to their main rival . HTFR operate a decent website offering easy access to their library of vinyl and accessories - with photos of most of the accessories online too . The ordering is done through a standard secure server using the encryption on your browser . I've ordered from HTFR I'd say probably 8 or so times . When I started I was really impressed with the service - they never failed to come up with the goods , although delivery was slow at around a week or so ( but it was consistent ) . The prices are reasonable on most of the records ordered and delivery charges are the same as the other online stores . The couple of things that have changed my mind have been placing an order that was never processed ( I was never billed and the record never arrived ) , being billed for a record that never shipped and also being shipped a promo version of a record I'd ordered at a much higher price to that listed . Sending records back isn't a problem with HTFR and I was refunded speedily but like DMF I think it's well worth double checking your order over the phone as mistakes mean packaging up your records and posting them back . Although I haven't had any problems being refunded it's extra hassle that you shouldn't have to worry about and paying postage twice on something you've not ordered is a right pain . If you're going to go for an online retailer check out both DMF and HTFR - the set of records they both have overlap but HTFR seem to have a larger range of house tunes . It's worth checking out both of them as the prices can vary by a couple of quid either way but for much of it they're both quite consistent . If it came down to it though I'd have to go for ordering from DMF as the service is quicker by a few days and I've had fewer problems with having to return goods . Having said that - both stores have someone you can get hold of on the phone unlike an completely automated ordering service . Like DMF I've ordered records that were in stock online to be told that they were out of stock when the order arrived . If you're determined to get a tune double check on the phone that it's in stock when you order , saves the disappointment of finding out when the order arrives . To HTFR's credit I've been told about records that were out of stock and been placed on the waiting list to receive them when they've come in stock ( a good service ) . Prices of accessories are reasonably pitched against smaller stores - but buying locally will save you money if you're buying a few things at once ( you're more likely to get a good deal - and you don't have to add on postage ) . Especially if you're buying a pair of cartridges - shops will sort you out with a better deal for a pair ( which you can't get from buying online ). Still - for getting that one elusive record delivered to your door - you can't get much better than vinyl shopping online but I'd just try out DMF first . As a footnote - ordering new records from HMV is very good (although I'm sure some people will scoff) . The service is pretty much top notch and although the range is quite limited the prices are excellent - if the tune has been r eleased recently you're likely to be pleasantly suprised . I've mangaged to pick up records from HMV ordering that neither DMF , HTFR or smaller local record stores had in stock (and at shop prices too) .
The idea of compiling your want list - sending it off and receiving a batch of records a couple of days later still seems a mile or 2 off . Online retailers though seem to be the next best thing for DJs with at least a few older records that they want . For newer records you're probably better buying locally if you can and advoiding slightly inflated prices and postage fees . DMF is one of the largest online vinyl stores - not only that but they also sell a large range of accessories from decks and samplers to some nifty laser lighting . The site is fairly decent and has recently been re-vamped again . The secure online ordering is done via a java applet which encrypts your details with 128 bit encryption no matter what browser you're using - a good idea even if you can't be sure of how secure it really is . Delivery is fairly speedy and records I've ordered have arrived within 3 days . Out of the 8 or so orders I've placed my only quibbles with the service are that the staff seem to be a bit careless with the records they do/dont ship : I've placed one order with DMF to have received nothing - my card was never billed and the records never arrived . I can only assume that they were out of stock and they decided not carry out the order but failed to phone or email to say either way . Another order of 4 records arrived with 2 of the records being the wrong releases ( different mixes ) of ones ordered on the site - and also at a higher price than listed . I had no problems returning the records but why should you have to ? It's a pain to have to package records up and return them as well as being billed twice for postage - as the buyer you're always going to loose out . DMF are probably the closest you're going to get to a vinyl superstore online . When ordering again though it would be well worth confirming with someone on the phone that the records ordered are exactly the ones that will be shipped . While the online listings of records are good I think they're not 100% up to date so if you're looking for a specific tune make sure it's in stock as it'll save having to order it from elsewhere ( and only finding out when the order arrives ) . The prices are more than you'd probably pay locally in a small shop but the range is much greater than most places you're going to find . As far as other online vinyl places they're all pretty much the same . Post and packing adds a wad to your choice of record so buying a bulk of records you've been looking for at one time is a good move . All in all - not bad but could be a bit more reliable .
The nokia 7110 has been out for a while now , originally launched into the rediculous high end mobile market it's now being bundled in some pretty cheap deals . What's the phone like for the average 'data professional' that nokia is marketing it for ? I come from having used the nokia 5146 and before that the brick of the phone that was the motorola graphite . The nokia 7110 , while not being a tiny phone by todays standards is pretty much the same size as a 3210 with the addition of an external arial and a wider bottom for the sliding mouthpiece . The sliding mouthpiece .. oh yes ! Definately the best marketing feature for the phone - pressing a small silver button on the back slides down the key cover to mouth level with a satisfying 'ker-chunk' noise . You might also be relieved to know that it can also be pulled down by hand - should the spring mechanism decide to pack up one day or you don't feel like answering the phone matrix style down the pub with your mates . I thought when I got the phone that it did feel quite flimsy and seeing a section in the manual about how to re-attach the flip didn't really do much to convince otherwise . Calls can be answered by activating the flip , same goes for finishing calls ( close the flip ) - or you can use the answer button on the phone . The mouthpiece does feel pretty flimsy - and as the only moving part on the phone it's going to be the first part to go . Mine lasted less than a month before the spring inside that slides down the mouthpiece died ( even after being well looked after ) . While this doesn't affect the functionality of the phone it still is pretty annoying that there's now a useless button on the back - and it doesn't say too much about the build quality . So what about the other features ? Well the 7110 has the same predictive text input as the 3210 , large screen , a few more games and also WAP net access . That's not mentioning the infra red port , vibrate alert and the inbuilt 14.4 modem . The first thing that struck me about this phone - coming from the 5146 is how many menu items there are . Seriously there's absolutley loads . I'm not a technophobe at all - far from it , but after getting the phone it took a fair bit of time to set up , just navigating through the menus and finding the right settings to change . It seems that the way that nokia has designed the layout of things could definatley be improved on this as options arn't where you'd expect to find them and seem to be fairly scattered under different headings . Navigation is made easier by use of the roller function which is just like using the roller on your mouse , you can scroll it up or down or press it to click an option . The way the phone has been designed allows you to navigate pretty much all of the menus using this and the back button . This is an advantage because it means you can activate most of the features with the flip still up so if it's raining you can advoid the keys getting wet . One thing you will notice though is how much noticably slower the menus and screen is to redraw than other phones . It feels sluggish to use sometimes - especially for viewing text messages . For example - it's possible to be deleting a series of messages from the keypad and not have the phone's display update at all until a couple of seconds afterwards . The predictive text input is a really good idea . I think though that the menus on this are really cumbersome and the time you save in keying in text you'll probably spend with the roller going through menus to insert question marks and exclamation marks . The phone comes with a fair dictionary which even includes names and places so I was impressed at how few words you have to spell out - but once you've typed them out once they're saved for good . You can choose to go back to the old school text ent ry if you want though . Extra games - right there's Opposite which is a reasonable version of reversi , Racket which is a bit like pong with a tiny bat , Rotation - a sort of 2d rubiks cube and Snake 2 - the sequel to the original snake game . They're a reasonable crop of games but snake 2 is a bit disappointing as a sequel and bloody hard to boot . I didn't buy the phone for the WAP access but thought it would be a bonus anyway . The phone menu is a little confusing in that you wouldn't think that there was a wap option - nokia call it 'services' and there's not a page in the manual explaining what it is or how to set it up . I guess Nokia are assuming that people who will use it will already know how to set it up and those who don't know what it is will never need it anway . I'll be honest - I haven't spent hours using wap to be able to give it a good enough chance but at 10p a minute (on Vodafone) it gets expensive very quickly . I think you'll realise that wap is in its infancy - trying to navigate a site on a 5 line text display is difficult at best and I think that nokia have probably done as much as can be expected to make it as painless as possible . The roller function allows you to scroll up and down the page you're viewing and clicking the roller button takes you to that link . Text is input using another window to fill in dialog boxes for usernames and passwords which is a bit cumbersome but can't be really overcome on a phone . Setting up the service isn't too bad . Wap settings can be sent to the phone from the network provider and appear as a connection option on the services menu . This saves changing all the settings by hand - although you can do this manually if you want . The range of wap sites out there seems disappointing . Vodafone's site is disappointing - being the home site for the service and email was impossible to access , spawing some strange http errors up on the phone screen . Having a look for restaurants didn't seem to help much either - after trying a couple of online directories and a curry house wap site I couldn't find anything despite living round the corner from plenty of decent places . The reccomended games sites I took a look at were pretty dire too . The height of interactive gaming online seemed to be a 2 player version of tic-tac-toe . Wap will no doubt come of age but it's difficult to see how on phones that are getting smaller and text displays that are a couple of lines at most . No doubt a brilliant way to pass time when you're waiting for the bus - checking films and telly listings but at 10p a minute its too expensive and there doesn't seem that much information to justify going online . Why go online and battle with a text display for more money than it would cost to ring someone and find out the same information ? Browsing wap sites doesn't seem too slow . I was expecting to continually be waiting but the phone caches your main page which does speed up your access somewhat . Inbetween loading a new page you can expect to wait a couple of seconds or more if the site is busy or unavailable - as the ones that I tried were . The vibrate alert is worth a mention and is one of the best ideas to get rid of the tide of theme tunes and awful mobile phone rings . Not only can you pick up the phone when you're down the pub and not miss calls but you can also do it discretely when it suits you .. rather than being antisocial . The vibrate action is very noticable and you can be notified of text messages and phone calls by it - as well as have the phone ring . The phone isn't so small that it'll fall into a crevice in your pocket and not vibrate but not so large that you can feel it stuck in your side. The streamlined body allows you to stick it in your pocket without the battery jutting into yo u which is a godsend - so you can stick it in your back pocket . As far as other nifty features go - theres the infra red port allowing you to send contacts and information between phones or your pda . Bundled with the pack is all the software you need to get your phone linked up and mobile to whatever laptop or hand held you're using as well as a tutorial and video on using the phone. The battery life deserves a mention - supplied with one of the really slimline lithium ion batteries standby can be up to 250 hours ( according to the specs ) with a talktime of 4 hours . I can believe this as after a day of use the battery bar is still at full so it's a good plus point if you're on the move . Charging time is around 1 hour 40 minutes although a top up is a lot quicker . In all this is a good offering from Nokia . I think they've tried to add too many features to make it ultra user friendly - so much so that it's gone the other way . After having a few mates look at it , they came up with the same conclusion - along the lines of 'why do I have to navigate all these menus just to send a text message?' . I'm sure it's one of the things that you get used to but it's not something that you can just pick up and use without a bit of hassle and a lot of going back and foward through the menus . For the average person on the street though this phone has everything you could need - and probably a whole host more . There's even a calendar function where you can make small notes which no doubt will be excellent for those who arn't too sure if they need a pda but just want to remember people's birthdays . Excellent battery life , smart looks and vibrate will probably make it for most people . My only real criticisms of the phone itself is the earpiece - being very small you have to get it right next to your ear to be able to hear the other person . This means positioning the phone well so that the earpiece lines up directly with your earhole - I'm not the only one to find this , friends who have also used the phone have been scrabbling about calling 'hello? hello?' . It's annoying to answer the phone only to not be able to hear anything because you've not lined it up properly with your ear , especially when you're walking along . The volume control is a bit limited too - it gets hard to hear the phone even on maximum volume walking along a busy road . Also the phone seems to be temperemental about charging - plug it in to it's charger and it'll beep but decide not to charge . Or it will only charge up to a certain amount . I've also charged up the phone to full , removed the charger and had the phone bleep warning messages that the battery was completely empty . Strange and pretty shoddy . Not a bad phone - but try your mates one before you buy one and don't be swayed too much by the promises of WAP . Having said that - if you're a sucker for gadgets and things to play about with on the train to work you'll love this phone but watch out for that dodgy earpiece and sliding mouthpiece - a handsfree kit would probably be a godsend . Also if you get to check make sure you get the latest phone software revision - original versions were quite buggy and crashed a lot , stable versions start at v4.88 ( you can check by typing *#0000# on your handset ) . If you're buying this phone online you might want to double check the policy on returns ( or buy a phone with fewer moving parts ) from this experience . Very average .
I think this debate about wether to legalise or not is becoming a bit null . The fact is that wether legal or not people are still going to smoke it . If the government think that because cannabis is illegal they are cutting down it's availability to young people then they're mistaken . Anyone who wants it now can get it , it's that simple and that available . By keeping cannabis illegal they are only providing one outlet for people who wish to get hold of it - and that's the drug dealer . They're still the winner in this system - making a vast amount of profit on what they sell and getting to peddle anything they choose as well . With cannabis being so available today I can't understand why the government does something towards making a distinction between cannabis and other drugs . If legalised and controlled properly the government stand to undercut any drug dealer , control what is being sold and put the money towards something useful ( the failing nhs perhaps ?) . By doing this I believe they will be able to make a distinction between what is being sold - most dealers won't be able to compete and will have to call it quits . Those that are left will be trying to peddle harder substances and can be dealt with appropriatley . As it stands it makes no sense to criminalise a 'drug' that 80% of people under 25 have tried . The arguments against doing so are valid but I think also need to be rationalised . As it is people see cannabis as a drug , but that's mainly due to people's opinion on it being illegal . The idea that most drug users used cannabis first is probably very true - but take into account the number of those people who were also alcoholics at some point in their life . The distinction being that personality traits dictate how people use and abuse drugs . There are some people who are happy to go out for a social drink , and those who think they have to get blind drunk t o have a good night out . One of the plus points of cannabis over any other drug is that nobody has died from overdosing . Unlike people who are out of their mind on drink , people who have smoked too much sit quietly for a few hours - they don't become loud and abusive . I'm fed up walking home late and having drunks pouring out of the pub shouting at people and generally acting like idiots . It gets taken to extremes with football matches - I'd much rather see the same people who had smoked a few joints . They'd be totally aware of what was happening , but much less agressive and a lot more friendly . I think that as it stands the war on drugs is a joke - most police have a quite a liberal view on cannabis smoking ; it's not worth the paper-work . Drugs are so available that it make sense for the government to do something rather than invest their money in trying to wipe out supplies . Instead put it into wiping out hard drug abuse , education so people really understand the problem and the health system . Cannabis culture has become so mainstream - look everywhere around you : candles , posters , films ( even 'saving grace ') . Does it really make sense for it to be illegal when it is already so much a part of people's lives ?