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"But it's PINK!!" quoth I as I unwrapped my Christmas present. Why on earth did you get a Pink one!! "Ah", said number one son - "that was all they had - so it was pink or nothing". On further questioning, it transpired that he'd actually won the thing in a raffle, and was now passing it on to me as a Christmas present - well I thought it was a bit pricey for someone who usually buys me socks. Still at least it hadnt fallen off the back of a lorry - no dents in the package!
Anyway, from this rather inauspicious start my love affair with my pink Ipod mini began. Now, I guess you've all seen one, but for the purposes of the review, let me describe it:
The Ipod mini is nice and compact - well it would be wouldn't it, being a 'mini' (doh!) - it's about 3 1/2 inches tall, and about 2 inches wide and just over half an inch deep - an inch if you add the pocket clip (more of which later). It weighs about 3 1/2 ounces.
The box it comes in - which is a bit cumbersome and you have to keep it to store the other gadgets - measures about 5 1/2 inches cubed. But it is nicely designed and colourful so it'll probably become a design classic in its own right.
In the box itself you get:
- the ipod mini itself
- a belt clip
- docking connector to PC
- power adapter
- software to load up itunes on the PC.
So - how does it work? Well, first you have to charge it up - which takes about 3-4 hours. A bit frustrating when you first get it as you want to get on and use it. You can get separate adapters to charge up in the car for about £10. While youre charging you can set up the software on the PC, but that doesnt take very long.
OK - so now you have a charged up Ipod and an installed 'Itunes' on your PC - what next? Basically you can get things onto your ipod from various sources but I will cover the 3 main ones here.
From an existing CD - just load the CD into your PC as if you wer egoing to play it and Itunes takes you through the rest, putting the CD, and track titles (clever!) onto your file.
From itunes store online - you can search and download virtually any piece of music you ever heard of via itunes - most songs cost 79p, and albums are usually less than £10 - for example the new James Blunt album is downloadable for
£7-90. The nice thing is that you can choose only to down load the tracks that you like (like all of Abbey Road without Octopusses Garden!!).
From websites - no I am not condoning illegla downloads - there are plenty of sites now that allow you to legally download things - BBC radio in particular will allow you to download shows if you missed them first time round which is great! Podcasting like this will I think be the future of broadcasting.
Once you have got the songs onto your itunes player (and from itunes you can play them back through your PC anyway if you like) you need to get them onto the Ipod. You do this by connecting the Ipod to the PC though a USB port - all the wires are there for you. This bit takes a bit of getting used to so follow the instructions carefully.
Depeding on how well you have labelled the downloads on your itunes will determine how you can sort them onto your ipod. Careful labelling will enable you to create your own playlists, play songs by a certain artist only, by genre etc. You can also put a shuffle on so you never know whats going to come up next.
All in all the mini a 4gb can hold around 1000 songs - I'm only up to 650 and that seems a lot. Theres a 6gb mini out now that can hold about 1500 songs.
You can do other things with the ipod as well, like making notes, storing contacts and playing games. Personally I think these bits dont add much value - the games aren't up to much and storing information is quite fiddly. Use it for its primary purpose and that'll make it quite valuable enough to you.
Navigating through the Ipod is by way of a 'clickwheel' on the front - again very nice for design, but takes a bit of getting used to. Once you've mastered it its really easy so persevere.
Sound quality is good enough with the headhones you get - you can buy more sophisticated ones but I dont really see the need personally. You can also play the ipod through speakers. i know someone who has the 'grown-up'Ipod, and having stored his entire CD collection on it has now discarded his galumphing great separates system in favour of the Ipod docking station.
What dont I like about it? It has a poor battery life. I think it probably lasts about an hour and a half and its really annoying if you are part way through a song and it just cuts out. YOu need to remember to charge it up every night really. Also the downloading process can feel a little cumbersome and complex until you get used to it.
That said my ipod mini is far from the short term gimmic i thought it might be. I use it almost every day and I even play it through the speakers of my car (another attachement you can buy), so I hardly ever listen to the radio. Why have songs that you dont like played by people that you dont want to listen to when you can have all your faves - all the time.
Oh and value for money? - well had number one son not won it in a raffle then he would have had to fork out around £150. That's a lot of money and there are other altenatives on the market that are cheaper - but the ipod is the original, and if it matters, will probably hold a better ebay resale value.
And in the end I wouldnt be without mine - I dont even mind that its pink - I just keep it hidden in my car or my pocket!!
Oh dear - that's quite a long review. My congratulations to anyone who has stuck with it.
I've had my Olympus 220 for about three years now - I bought it in a Gatwick duty free shop on the way to Italy. I can't remember exaclty how much I paid for it, but it was in the region of £150. It served me very well on that holiday and has continued to do so ever since. I have been very pleased with the picture quality - it's easy to use and small enough to keep in a pocket or handbag.
I am sure that higher quality cameras would be useful, but for simple holiday and family snapping I simply cannot fault the Olympus 220. A full list of features available is:
- 2 megapixel resolution
- 3x zoom, and a 2.5x digital zoom
- Bright zoom lens f2.8/4.9
- Optical real-image viewfinder
- TFT LCD monitor, 3.8 cm
- QuickTime motion JPEG
- Exposure compensation +/-2EV
- User-friendly menu and easy arrow key operation
- USB AutoConnect and TV interface
Now please dont ask me what all these mean because frankly, I havent a clue; indeed I dont think I have looked at the instruction manual since the day I bought it - but frankly, I dont need whizzy features in a camera, I need to be able to take photos that I can store on my PC, and play around with if I need them.
The feature on it that I do like is the automatic lens cover mechanism, which pushes the lens back underneath the cover as soon as you nudge it with the sliding cover. That probably sounds confusing, but it gives me hours of fun!
The camera came with a Camedia Master Pro photo management system which you can use to store, sort email and even play about with the photos. To get full functionality you have to pay extra money- which is a bit of a bind - but is well worth the extra few pounds investment.
Like I said - if its a simple digital camera for holiday and family snaps that you are after, you wont go far wrong with this little baby. Happy snapping.
The day had all gone so smoothly - work for once was reasonably disaster free, trains were on time, and I was getting home at a decent time. Then the mobile rang and it was Mrs Philippephiloppe telling me that her car had broken down and what should she do. Well the first call was the AA - and they were incredibly helpful - but that's another review! Anyway, having towed me down to the local car mending shop - thats a whole adventure in itself which I cant go into here - I began to wonder what Mrs P was going to do for work while her jalopy was being given the appropriate TLC.
AA man to the rescue again - its not an AA review, honest!! Apparently with the deal we had with the AA (one of these added value bank account things and again I'm not reviewing the bank here) we also had the option of a free hire car whilst hers was out of action. Anyway the normal car hire place they use was miles away - Gatport Airwick to be precise - and it was now 7pm and I didnt fancy the hike. So he suggested an alternative - our reviewee....Enterprise about 5 minutes drive away.
But Enterprise were shut - as you would expect, it being well beyond going home time! Ah but were they to be deterred? Nay verily for indeed the gallant young man sadi that he would be happy to go back to the office, open up shop and let us have a car that very night. Could we meet him there at 8pm?
Well yes, of course we could. So we waved goodbye to AA man (he has no further part to play in this review) and hot footed it round to Enterprise. True to his word, there was our Hero, Enterprise man, opening up shop as he had promised.
Apparently it was 'no trouble at all' to him (I'm sure it was, but he made us feel like it wasn't) and could we just sit down while he went through the paperwork. This was generally easy to do - the only decision was whether we wanted to pay a little (I think it was about a tenner) to bring the insurance excess down to 0 from £500. Well if you've seen Mrs Philippephiloppe drive you'll know that this was a smart move - but ther was no hard sell on his part.
He explained the terms of the deal - we had the car courtesy of the AA for two days, and if we needed it beyond that because the garage couldnt fix Charlie Citroen, then just get back to him and he would see what he could do about extending it - or charging it to the garage. He even said that if we wanted to use the car the following weekend we could have it at the AA rate of about £20 per day.
The car itself was a Ford Fiesta, Ghia with leather seats and all sorts of bits and bobs so it was a very fair swap for the old jalopy (the range generally is good including Mercedes S Class and People Carriers if you want them). The only thing was that it was a bit dirty since they hadnt had a chance to clean it - well they werent exactly expecting us! He let us give the car a good inspection and as it was dark he said we could have another look in the morning and if we found anything (bumps or scratches that we hadn't delivered) just to let him know.
As for collection all that was required was a phone call and they would pick it up from the drive - no charge. All that was asked was that we put back into it the petrol that we had used- which is only fair. If we hadnt, then they would have to charge us. He took a swipe of Mrs Philippephiloppe's credit card in case of need to charge for anything, and we were on our way. Her in the new car driving very carefully and slowly, and me following on behind pretending to be an impatient other road user.
She got the car back safely and it did all the things that were asked of it for the two days it took Citroen to mend the ignition on Charlie.
And he was as good as his word - if not better. Original car delivered, and a call to Enterprise later there was our hero ready to pick the hire car up. He returned the credit card swipe clearly unused, and off he went - also into the sun just like the AA man (I knew he'd have to turn up again).
So - all in all a very very satisfactory transaction from one of the lesser known car hire companies. I would very definitely use them again if I had to rent a car for my own use. I really couldnt fault them - which is precisely what Mrs Ph'oppe said when she received the customary evaluation call a few days later.
Well done our heroes at Enterprise - swoooon!!
And by the way Rodney - why is it that the French don't have a word for 'Entrepreneur'?
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed. Oh and if there's anyone from Enterprise reading this, please get in touch and I'll tell you the name of the gallant knight.
We first went Euro-camping about 15 years ago when I our children were 5 and 1 (blimey how they've grown). Basically we were skint but wanted a holiday abroad, and Eurocamp seemed to fit the bill.
We were so impressed that we have been at least every other year since - although we have now progressed to mobile homes rather than tents. So how does it work?
This is dead easy, although when you first look in the brochure it might seem a bit daunting. Basically you get a price for a basic holiday and then you add amounts for days, increased spec of accomodation, travel routes etc and that gives you a pretty good idea of your price - then you call them (I prefer to call rather than do things on line because you can ask questions then). I've always found the staff to be very knowledgeable and friendly. You tell them where youd like to go, and which dates, and what sort of accommodation, and they will tell you if its free. If there's a problem, they've always got a suggestion to help you out. It might be an alternative site, alternative accommodation or even a two centre holiday - which can be good for variety.
Once youve booked you pay a deposit - and then a few weeks before you pay the balance and you get all your stuff through. Its a right little goodie bag too - you get maps, local guides, things for the kids, travel tickets, and theres usually a little gift there too. We've had rucksacks, document folders, picnic blankets. Its a nice touch.
The basic cost of the holiday includes standard ferry or shuttle tickets. If you want a more expensive route it just gets added to the bill. You can even go Motorail - which I love (but thats a whole different review!). They also give you a route to get to the campsite so its very difficult to get lost (unless of course the French have changed the roads which they did one year and we got horribly mislaid). To me the journey on holiday is part of the fun so make the most of the places you see on the way. You can even book stopovers in other campsites or hotels if you want to split the journey - and dont mind living out of a suitcase.
You are asked not to arrive before about 11 oclock to give them time to clear the accommodation. This can be a bit of a bind if you arrive on the 6.00 am motorail, or the campsite is close to the port. But once youre there, the couriers will welcome you and show you to your accommodation. They explain whats on the site and how things work - and theres usually a welcoming bottle of wine which is a nice touch.
Basically two types - tents and mobile homes. Tents are usually to one spec and mobile homes range from the lovely to the luxurious. Care on choosing your mobile to make sure it has enough bedrooms. The tents are large and airy - there are two and sometimes three sleeping areas, with sprung camp beds and zip up compartment doors. Theres a lounge and kitchen area with a cooker and fridge. The tent is floored throughout with tarpaulin. Its not your Boy Scouts slumming it type camping - this is sophisticated.
If you like your creature comforts and can afford that bit extra - go for the mobile home. You get lots more luxury - beds (!) a shower, your own washing facilities, microwave. It doesnt feel quite so much like geting back to nature, but if it rains and you see the 'tenties' getting waterlogged or dragging mud into their tents - you can look smug!!
Outside theres space for a car, a table and chairs for al fresco dining, and sunloungers.
Oh how I love continental camp sites! No ploughed fields and a rusty old toilet here. Toilet and wash blocks (you only use these if youre in a tent) are always clean and close and they are very good for striking up friendships over the washing up. There are play areas for the kids - the sites are so safe they can wander to them on their own - and games areas with things like table tennis and swings.
There is ALWAYS a bar, and usually a good quality restaurant. Most times there is a pizzeria or take away too. Most evenings some sort of entertainment is laid on from local singers to a disco for the teenagers, but its not intrusinve and if you want a quiet drink its easy to have. Or you can purchase a bottle of wine and drink it - with the neighbours - back at base.
There's a shop which has most things that you'll need - like the corner shop its a bit more expensive than the super market, but great if youve forgotten anything.
So - all in all I think I would recommend Eurocamp to just about anyone. My tips for potential new Eurocampers?
1. Take a small box of provisions to save you having to shop when you get there
2. Take sleeping bags to save having to make beds. you can get the kids to sit on the m in the car to save space
3. Make friends with the couriers - they are a mine of useful information
4. Make friends with your neighbours - its good to sit and drink wine with people on the long balmy nights
5. Look at other campsites in the area you are staying - it may give you ideas for next year and some sites are more scenic than others
6. Ask other Eurocampers for their tips on other places to stay.
There - that'll do for now - one final tip - if youre thinking about going book as early as possible - you might get a discount and youre more likely to get the site and accommodation you want.