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A while ago, we purchased a new washing machine and dishwasher made by Whirlpool. We decided to take out a 10-year parts guarantee with them and when we purchased them from Comet we took out a 5-year labour guarantee. We have had a number of fairly minor faults over time where we have had to have engineers out to fix the fault and had never had a problem until the last time. Lets give you a bit of history first that will explain why I am so frustrated, A short while ago we had a burst water pipe in our kitchen, when the plumber was moving the washing machine to get to the pipe, he ripped the lino, he explained that as the lino was wet it ripped easily, but not to worry as the household insurance would cover it. On this occasion as there was water everywhere I had no problems calling my household insurers and they had no problems in covering the cost of repairs. So here I am with my gleaming new kitchen floor when the washing machine goes wrong again. No problem I thought just phone Whirlpool they will come and sort it out. I phoned up and booked the appointment and the Whirlpool engineer turned up on the day he was supposed to. We explained to him that we had just had a new floor and could he put something under the washing machine before he moved it so he didn?t damage the floor and then left him to it. When he shouted to say he had finished, I checked the machine was working and then said goodbye. I then went back into the kitchen and picked up the wet towels he had left on the floor (I assumed to soak up the water that had come out of the machine while he was fixing it) only to find a large rip in my nice new lino. So I got on to the phone to Whirlpool Customer Services and spoke to someone giving them all the details, She said ?that is our senior engineer for the area I am sure he didn?t know he had damaged the floor otherwise he would have said something?, they then put me on hold while they called the engineer . Apparently the engineer denied he had caused any damage to our floor. I suggested they get the engineer to come back so I could show him the damage as it certainly was not there when he arrived, the operator said he was on his way to another job so he couldn?t. Even though the engineer had said he didn?t do it the operator said to get 2 quotes for replacing the floor and to post it into them with a letter detailing what happened. So after ringing round lots of companies and several visits and even having to pay a £30 charge for producing insurance quotes, I posted off my letter along with 2 quotes. Just over a week later I get a letter back saying they had spoken to the engineer who denied he had caused any damage (I have heard this before somewhere) so they were not going to fix my floor. I was obviously upset by this so I tried to speak to the person who had written the letter, but after a number of phone calls and emails I had still not managed to speak to the lady dealing with my claim, or with the customer service manager as they were never available and I left a message every time I called they were never returned. When I did eventually speak to the Customer Service Manager he basically said tough, they are disputing liability in this case and there is no place for an appeal or complaint in the company. I am now in the situation where I am going to have to go back to my household insurers again to repair a floor damaged by a Whirlpool engineer. The reason for writing this opinion is to warn any potential purchasers of Whirlpool and the other makes they look after including Bauknecht and Ignis equipment. The Customer Service Department appear to have no idea of the concept of Customer Care. I phoned to report the problem, they had already decided that it was not there fault, but they made me go out and waste time getting quotes anyway. No concept of the customer is always right; their Engineer sa id he didn?t do it so basically tough on the poor customer. No one returned my calls or emails; I had to keep phoning over several days before I got to speak to someone. Then the attitude was basically tough. I do not have a problem with either appliance, but the after care service is absolutely dreadful. I will certainly never buy a Whirlpool appliance again, neither will any of my friends after I explained this story to them, and I advise you to look for another manufacturer as well
My wife and I had a lovely stay recently at a Holiday Inn Hotel (See opinion under Hotels in Reading) and while we were there we saw an advert for the Priority Club Worldwide, this is the frequent stayer program for the Bass Hotels Group, as we enjoyed ourselves we thought we may come back so took the details home with us. The priority club membership is completely free and it earns you points on every qualifying stay at any of the following hotel chains. Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Select, Holiday Inn SunSpree Resorts, Holiday Inn Family Suites Resorts, Holiday Inn Garden Court and Staybridge Suites. Reading through the extensive legal jargon available on the website (www.priorityclub.com) it appears that a qualifying stay is just about any stay, but it excludes free or heavily discounted rates, such as a package holiday, or airline staff rates, but it includes regular special offer breaks. The only problem with this program is it is very americanised, everything is in dollars and when you check reservations it defaults to USA. There are lots more opportunities to collect and spend points in America, but don’t let that put you off. There are 4 levels of membership, they are as follows. When you first sign up you get the club level membership. This is the basic level that entitles you to earn points with every qualifying stay at one of the above hotels. You earn 10 points for every US dollar or equivalent. So the number of points you earn in the UK depends on the exchange rate at the time of your stay, for example on a recent stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Exeter I paid £49.53 and I was awarded with 620 points. After 8 qualifying stays you are upgraded to signature membership, I have to admit I could not find any additional benefits or any differences from the club membership level. After 20 qualifying stays (in a calendar year) yo u are upgraded to GOLD level membership, this entitles you to receive a 10% points bonus on all points earned as a gold level member. After 60 qualifying stays (in a calendar year) you are upgraded to PLATINUM level membership, this entitles you to receive a 30% points bonus on all points earned as a platinum level member. They also have a partnership with Hertz, so if you need a hire car, then you can earn 125 points per day if you use Hertz. When you register you have the option to collect priority club points or you can choose to collect air miles for one of the participating airlines, all the information is available on the web site, but as I signed up for the points I can’t comment on the airline miles side of things. You can redeem your points on free nights at any of the hotels in the group. There are different numbers of points required for different hotels, the current list is as follows. Holiday Inn Express 10000 Holiday Inn Garden Court 13000 Holiday Inn 15000 Holiday Inn Select 16000 Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort 20000 Staybridge Suites / Studio 14000 Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts 25000 Inter Continental Hotel and Resorts – Level 1 50000 Inter Continental Hotel and Resorts – Level 2 30000 As you can see you need an awful lot of points to get a free stay, so unless you are a very frequent stayer you are unlikely to earn many nights away. There are lots of other ways to spend your points though, again full details are on the website but they include dining vouchers and gifts. There are some additional benefits to having a priority club. Priority Check In, when you reserve a room and quote your priority c lub membership number the room will be guaranteed, when you arrive at the hotel you will not have to queue up to check in, if there is a queue at reception just look on the reception counter and you will see the priority club check in point, all you have to do is sign the form by your name and take the packet with your name on it. Inside you will find your room key and room number so you can go straight to your room. Free Newspaper, all member of the Priority Club are entitled to a free newspaper on weekdays. Extended Checkout – As a priority club member you can request an extended checkout, not a lot of use if you are working away but if you are away for a break it could be useful. Also at all hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa you get the following Corporate Account Rate, this means you benefit from the standard negotiated corporate account rate for all bookings, this will save you a small amount of money, example, the standard room rate at the Express in Exeter is £52.00 per night, I pay £49.53 Free Family Accommodation, you can have up to 4 people in your room without paying any extra. Obviously if you go for a bigger room you will have to pay for the room, but if you can squeeze everyone into a standard room then no extra. Discount on Business Services – you get a 20% discount on all business services at the hotel, including typing, photocopying, faxing and PC printing. You also receive a statement and a club magazine on a regular basis, the statement shows you all the points you have been awarded and it comes with 2 forms, one for adjustments so if you did not receive the points for a stay you can complete the form and send it off with a copy of your receipt and they will correct it. You also get a claim form so you can claim your rewards. The magazine details special offers and new hotels that have been added to the group. Web Site. The priority cl ub web site is very good, you can register on line or you can pick up a form at any holiday inn hotel. When you register you need to provide details of your name and address obviously, you are also asked to provide your credit card details and your preferences for rooms such as smoking or non smoking and double bed or twin beds. This speeds up your use of the online reservations as it uses these as defaults when you are logged in. The website links into all the bass hotel websites so you can check availability and make reservations on line. If you have logged in with your priority club membership number and pin number then you don’t have to worry about entering your details as it already knows who you are and what you want, but it does give you the ability to change these at the time of booking. You can also review your account details on line and make changes to your account details and preferences. You can also view your statement on line and review your points balance. Summary, I like to use Holiday Inn hotels wherever I can as I find them comfortable a value for money so the points are just a bonus. Unless you are staying at a hotel every week you are unlikely to earn enough points for much more than one night away, but the additional benefits make it well worth signing up. For me the priority check in was enough to make me join, but the other benefits are great as well. If you think you may want to stay at one of the hotels in the Bass group I recommend you register for your membership now you have nothing to lose.
I am spending a bit of time in Exeter at the moment on business, I was looking around for places to stay and found the Express by Holiday Inn, as I had a great time the last time I went to a Holiday Inn hotel I decided to give it a try. When I arrived the hotel looked brand new, the car park was large and in very good condition with lots of lighting. When I went to check in the young lady asked if I had used an Express hotel before, as I hadn’t she explained the differences between a Holiday Inn and an Express by Holiday Inn hotel. The main differences is there is no restaurant, this means there is no facility in the hotel for an evening meal and no room service, but apparently all Express hotels are built with an adjoining pub/restaurant as was the case in Exeter. Just past the reception desk there was a bar and beyond that was the breakfast room, even though there is no restaurant they do provide breakfast but more about that later. Just opposite the reception desk there was a room with a number of dispensers, here you could buy hot and cold drinks, hot and cold food and snacks. All of which goes onto your room bill, you don’t need money you just swipe your room card before you make your selection. By hot food what I mean is a selection of items such as Cornish pasties etc and a microwave where you can warm them up, they also had pot noodles, sandwiches, soft drinks, beers etc. Then it was off to my room, as far as I know most of the rooms are the same, unlike the Holiday Inn hotels where you can upgrade to a superior room, but I was very happy with the room I was in. I had requested a non smoking room so my room was on the 2nd floor as this whole floor was non-smoking, there was a lift so carrying my luggage up the stairs was not required. One thing that got me for a couple of minutes was how to turn on the lights, there is a slot just inside the door, you have to put your key card i n this slot to operate the lights. I was impressed with the size of the room, this was not a suite by any means but it had a double bed and sofa bed and didn’t feel cramped, although I should imagine if you had the sofa bed in use then you may feel a little bit squashed. In my room I had a nice double bed, desk and chair so I could carry on working (Groan), a couple of sets of shelves where I could unpack, a wardrobe type of thing, Bedside Tables with Lamps for Reading, Hairdryer, nice neat Tea and Coffee making facilities all built into a shelf on the wall. The TV was tuned into BBC1, BBC2, ITV, CH4, CH5, Sky News, Sky One, Sky Sports 1 and Cartoon Network, there was also a selection of radio channels and a selection of pay channels where you could watch movies at £6.95 a night. There was also a very comfortable sofa bed positioned so you could sit on the sofa and watch TV. You could also use the TV to view your bill, check your messages and set it as an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning. The bathroom was nice, everything looked new, there was the toilet a nice sized shower cubical, sink, large mirror and shaving point. Unlike a lot of hotels there was no collection of soaps etc, but there were dispensers fixed to the wall where you could squeeze the right amount on to your hands, better for the environment I suppose. The only complaint I had was the lack of power sockets, I wanted to do some work on my laptop and the only socket available was the kettle point, not a big problem but I had to unplug the laptop every time I wanted a cup of tea. As I mentioned earlier, there is nowhere to get an evening meal at the hotel, but just across the car park there is a pub called the Barn Owl, I will not do a review on the pub here, but I went over to the pup for my meal, suffice it to say the food was reasonably priced and tasted great, the service was brilliant and they served beer, what more is there to say. I n the morning off I went to get my breakfast, this was buffet style in the breakfast room on the ground floor, There was Tea, Coffee, Milk and a selection of juices to drink. Food wise you had a massive selection of cereals, a selection of fresh fruit and yoghurts, bread rolls, croissants (with and without chocolate) and sliced bread with a handy toaster by the side so you can make your own toast along with a selection of butter, margarine, marmalade and jams. Not the same sort of choice you would expect from a 4 star hotel, but fine for bed and breakfast. Checkout was quick and easy, just paid my bill, picked up my free copy on the Independent newspaper and off to work again. This hotel probably won’t suit you if you are expecting all the trimmings of a smart hotel, but if you want a nice comfortable place to stay with a breakfast thrown in then I would not hesitate in recommending this hotel to you. In fact I have to go back and I think next time I will take my family with me. For those of you who want to know more here are the facts and figures. The hotel I have written about is: Express by Holiday Inn Exeter, Guardian Way, Exeter Business Park, EXETER, EX1 3PE, ENGLAND. The phone number is 01392 261000 And Fax Number is 01392 261061 Directions are easy, find your own way to M5 (It is on all the maps) and leave at Juction 29 (A30) Turn right at the trafic lights to the first roundabout,go straight on at the roundabout signposted to exeter city centre, the entrance to the hotel car park is on your right hand side just past the pedestrian vrossing at the Barn Owl pub. Price (When I stayed in March 2001, I assume it will change so you better phone to check). £52 per night, All rooms appear to be the same price, prices are for Bed and Breakfast; At the weekend the prices are a little bit cheaper at £48 You can check out the website at http://ww w.basshotels.com/hiexpress?_franchisee=EXEUK on this site you can check availability and prices and you can even book online.
Euro panel is a site that has been put together as a joint project between our beloved Dooyoo and a company called SKOPOS a marketing and social research company based in Germany. I received an email from Dooyoo back in January giving details of this new site so I went along to the website to check it out. To be honest the web site looks very boring, not like our wonderful Dooyoo site, the colours are very dreary and there is not much to look at, but all the information I required was there. First of all I checked the page called Regulations. This informed me that euro-panel membership is open to anyone over the age of 14 who lives in Germany, UK and Northern Ireland, France, Spain or Italy as long as they have access to the Internet Then I checked out the Data Protection bit to find out what they were going to do with my data. I was reassured to find that all my personal details are only to be used by euro-panel they are not linked with my survey answers and are not passed on to any third parties. This is a German web site and they have to abide by the German Data Protection legislation so I was convinced my data would be safe. So I checked the next most important thing, how much and how often. So I went to the section entitled Compensatory Payments. This section explained that 1 bonus point is 0.50 Euros, they pay out when you have 80 points (40 Euros), and this is then converted into pound sterling at the exchange rate of the day and paid into your bank account. It says they will ask for your bank account details when you first hit 80 points and will then keep it on file so they can automatically process future payments. It also says that all newcomers will be entered into a monthly prize draw, but it doesn’t say what the prize is. There are also some details about the surveys themselves, it says you will be given the opportunity to complete a survey on a regular basis, but never more that once a week, It also says that some surveys only require a certain number of responses so you may click on a link for a survey and find that there have been enough people completed the survey already. I also checked out the FAQ’s with answers to any other questions that still niggled me, such as what happens if I don’t reply to a request for a survey, will I be deleted. In case you are interested the answer is no, but if you don’t respond on a number of occasions they will email you to ask if you wish to remain a member. So armed with all this information and the fact that it was backed by Dooyoo I decided to register. I signed up with euro panel on 3rd February, the process was extremely quick and easy with very basic information being provided; I received my first 2 points for registering. On 5th February I received an email saying I had been accepted and asking me to return to the site to complete my registration by undertaking a short survey to provide some more details about me, the reason for this 2 part registration is so they can set up your account with your address details in part one, and then get your personal details in part 2 without asking for your address etc so the details remain secure. This survey is a little more in depth wanting to know about you, your family, your job etc, but again it was not too difficult and took no more than 10 minutes to complete. I got another 3 points for completing this survey so I had a total of 5 points. So I just sat back and waited for my first survey, and I waited and waited and waited…. I have had to amend the rest of this opinion, I was all set to give this site a roasting as I thought it was another one of those ‘lets get you registered but give you nothing’ sites. And then on 5th March I received an email asking me to take part in a survey, so off I went. When I logged into the euro-panel site it said there was a questionnaire wai ting for me, it gave me the subject and told me it would take about 15 minutes to complete and I would earn 8 points. So I clicked on the questionnaire and answered all the questions, it was really quick and easy all the questions were multiple choice it was just a case of clicking little buttons and off it went, it probably only took me just over 5 minutes and sure enough when I went back to my account page I was now up to 13 points. In summary: It is still very early days, the number of surveys is obviously low at the moment, I am hoping this is because they are a new company starting up, I assume that the more members they have the more likely they are to get work, so go on SIGN UP you have nothing to lose. I am a bit concerned about the Euros to sterling business, I could not find anything in the small print about a conversion charge, but we will have to wait and see. The registration and surveys are very easy to complete and only take a few minutes. Obviously I have not been paid anything yet so I cant comment on that, but I will update this opinion as I earn more points and when I get paid so you can follow my progress here. UPDATES. 7th March, another survey came in today, again very quick and easy and another 5 points added to my account, now up to 18 points. 1st April, A bigger survey came in today, a masive 15 points for completing a survey that would take about 20 minutes. This survey was a lot more in depth than previous ones I have completed and it did take a long time, unfortunately after completing about 90% of the survey my ISP decided to log me out and I could not get back into my survey to complete it so I guess I won't see those points. 6th April, another quick survey today, only worth 2 points, just a few multiple choice questions again. Points balance now 20. We are now in May, I have not had any surveys for over a month, I have a grand total of 20 points and I hav e been a member for over 4 months, I am quite disapointed and am changing my opinion to not recommend this site to other people, they are obviously not that interested in our opinions after all. If they number of surverys should improve then I will amend this opinion again.
I recently had need of accommodation in the Stoke Newington area of London, a couple of colleagues had previously found that a local pub called the Rose and Crown had a few rooms that they let out on a bed a breakfast basis. The pub was very close to the place I would be working so I thought I would give it a go. Being fond of the odd tipple or two I had fantasies of being given keys to a pub and sneaking down for a wee dram after the landlord had gone to bed, unfortunately (Or fortunately as I had to work in the morning) this was not to be. The Rose and Crown only has 6 rooms, so it is not suitable for large parties and they do not take credit cards so you need to make sure you have your cheque book or enough cash to cover your stay. When I arrived, I popped into the pub and spoke to one of the bar staff saying I had a room booked, they were very helpful, asking if I had been in the area before, when I said I hadn’t they told me about a number of local restaurants, parks etc. They gave me my keys and showed me to my room, unfortunately this was back out of the pub and along to a side door that took you round the back. Then it was up a couple of flights of stairs to the 2nd floor where most of the bedrooms are located. My room was of a reasonable size, I certainly did not feel cramped, but it was not as big as a good hotel. In my room I had a double bed, desk and stool, 2 chairs, a wardrobe and some drawers. There was also a shelf with a number of books (Nice touch as I forgot to take one) a good bedside lamp, Television (Standard channels only BBC1, BBC2, ITV, CH4, CH5), Trouser Press and Tea and Coffee making facilities. There was an on-suite shower room with a toilet, sink, light with shaver point, small shelf with bards of soap and sachets of shower gel and a shower cubical. I never had problems with the temperature of the shower there was always hot water when I wanted it. My only complaint was the state of repair, the wallpaper was peeling away in the bathroom this made it look very tatty. I was worried about noise, being above a pub and next to a busy main road, but it was never a problem, I always had peace and quiet when I wanted to sleep. The Rose and Crown does not do food in the evenings, so you have to eat elsewhere even that is not a problem. Church Street Stoke Newington has to have more restaurants and food shops than the average town has in its boundary’s. You will be spoiled for choice, within a 5-minute walk there are Chinese, Thai, Indian, French, Pizza, Fish and Chips, Kebab and more, but I can’t remember them. There is also a chemist and supermarket near by just in case you have forgotten anything. While I am on the subject of food, the Rose and Crown do food at lunchtime, and it is brilliant food, I had a steak pie with chips and I thought it was wonderful really good chunks of steak with a home made pie crust, loads of vegetables and lovely thick gravy. In the end I had a meal at the Rose and Crown at lunch time and went and got a sandwich for the evening (From a lovely sandwich shop called Petit Coin, maybe the subject of another opinion later) Breakfast is in the dining room on the 1st floor, this is quite small but again not cramped. Breakfast is normally available between 8:30 and 10:00am, but if you want it earlier then just let the bar staff know and they will arrange it for you. When I arrived for breakfast my table was all laid out, there was a nice jug of milk another jug of Orange Juice a Tea Pot and yoghurt. There was a table filled with quite a few different cereals for you to help yourself and an urn full of hot water along with Tea Bags, Coffee and Hot Chocolate for your drinks. There was a bell to ring for attention where Mick or Mabel (The Owners) would make you toast. There was another table full of things to put on you toast, lots of jams, peanut butter, marmite e tc. It was certainly enough to get me going in the morning. In Summary, the place is probably not where I would choose to go on holiday, but if you are in the area and in need of a place to stay then you could do much worse than this place. The price I paid was £40 per night bed and breakfast and for London I did not think it was bad. As I have said the only complaint I had was the decoration in the bathroom apart from that everything else was great. If you are in the area, give it a go.
I recently blew up our toaster, this was not a good move due to the popularity of toasted bread products in our family, and so I was dispatched to the local Argos store to pick up a replacement. I had a number of gripes with our old toaster anyway, never before having worried about such things I had previously got the cheapest toaster money could buy, well it was only going to be used for making toast and all toasters are the same aren’t they. Well it would appear they are not, the old toaster was supposed to do 4 slices, but if you use the square bread we could only do 2 slices and I was often poking plastic things into the toaster to reclaim my lost crumpets. I had a number of criteria that had to be met on my quest for a new toaster; it had to be able to do 4 slices so my large family could be fed quickly. It had to be able to take thick slices of toast and other bread products. It had to have a high lift option so I could stop poking things into it and it couldn’t cost a fortune. So off I went with the Argos book in one hand any my list in the other, after reading through the details on all the available toasters and looking at the pictures I decided to get the Morphy Richards Europa toaster. This toaster has 4 individual toast slots so you can do some pretty big slices and they are very thick as well, it also has the high lift mechanism where you can lift the handle and it lifts the toasted items higher so you can get them out safely. The toaster has a dial on the front so you can select the toasting level, it also has 3 buttons, the top button is the cancel button so you can stop the toaster at any time, the middle button is the ‘frozen’ button so you can adjust the toaster to cook frozen bread by pressing this button without disturbing your normal toasting level, the last button selects between 2 slices and 4 slices so you can choose to only toast in the front 2 slots if you want. It also has a removable crumb tray so you can keep it nice and clean. The toaster is available in White or Graphite so you should be able match your kitchen. We also managed to get a 2 years manufacturers guarantee as a special offer, so it should last me at least 2 years (More than I can say for my old one), it also came with a wire rack that you can fit over the top of the toaster and use it to warm croissants etc, brilliant idea. The only draw back I found with this toaster was the size of it, it is quite a bit larger than our old toaster and the cable is probably about 3 feet long so it caused some slight reorganising in the kitchen to find some space close enough to a power socket. I have used this product quite a bit since purchase, I have had no problems with my thick slices of bread, my hot cross buns, my frozen potato cakes or my crumpets, so I should imagine it will be good for just about anything. In fact since I got this toaster I have not had to put anything under the grill at all. I know buying a toaster is not exactly a large part of ones life, but this one does appear to be perfect for us, it cost £29.75 so it is certainly not the cheapest, but the 2 year guarantee and the fact a toaster is more efficient that the grill and I have not had to use the grill since I got it should save us a bit of money over the next couple of years.
I am well into technology and gadgets, but don’t have a lot of money to spend on them, so to me this product was ideal. As DVD players go the ALBA DVD-103 is certainly not the best, but it is one of the cheapest on the market at the moment. However just because it is not the best does not mean it is no good. This DVD player has the features that I need and the quality is pretty good too. The DVD player itself is a big silver box, this is lucky as we had to replace our video recently and that is also a silver box so it does not look out of place on my technology tower. The buttons are a bit on the big side and they are all square, no soft round edges here. When it is switched on there is a bright LCD display that shows the track and the timer a bit like a CD player display. This all makes the box look a bit on the cheep side. There is nothing on the box or in the manual about this player being limited to Region 2 disks, I have dome a bit of research on the Internet and a number of sites say this is a multi region DVD player that can play any region disks without alteration. The same sites have said this is the cheapest multi region DVD player available, another reason to go for this player. As with all DVD players, this machine can play DVD Video and Audio CD disks, it has the normal AV Out socket plus a SCART and an S-Video connector so you have a number of options to connect it to your television or other equipment. There are also stereo connectors on the back so you can link it up to your stereo system, this is a must not just so you can play your audio CDs, but a film sounds so much better if played through a good stereo system. There is also a headphone socket on the front so you can sit and listen without disturbing everyone else if you want. I have to admit, the remote control is a bit rubbish, it took me quite a while to figure out simple things like how to get to the menu and how to select items, bu t when you get used to it things get a little easier. The only thing that bugs me is you cannot switch the player on/off from the remote control, there is no standby option, when you want to use it you have to get up, not good for the classic couch potato like me but then for this price you can’t expect everything. I have never had any problems with playing DVDs, I have watched quite a few now and the picture quality is very good, we play the sound through out stereo and sometime it is just like being at the cinema, just need to buy one of those large flat screen televisions now… (In my dreams, when I win the lottery). All in all, DVD players can cost several hundred pounds, if you can afford that much then you can get a better machine, however if you are in the market for a ‘budget’ priced multi region DVD player then in my opinion you would have to look very hard to beat this one.
We have been using the Tesco Direct delivery service for over 18 months now, it started off with my wife having her leg plastered after an accident and me not having time to go shopping after work so the idea of getting someone to do my shopping for me was fantastic. OK so it would cost me £5 but with the cost of petrol to the store and back and the fact that it would take me a good couple of hours I thought it was well worth it. I started off using the offline version of Tesco direct software, this downloads details of products available in your local store then you can disconnect from the internet and browse the store putting items into your basket, when you have finished shopping you click on the order button and it connects to the internet and places your order. I am not going to review the offline software here, if you want a good review then check out bubblegumbod’s review Tesco Direct – Hassle Free Shopping! Under the offline shopping section on Dooyoo. This review is about the online website at www.tesco.com. The obvious drawback of using the online site is that you are online all the time, if you have unmetered Internet access then this is not a problem, but if you are still paying per minute phone charges then you may want to stick to the offline version of the software. When you arrive at the Tesco direct home page there are a number of stores available to you. They are as follows Groceries online Gifts Books CDs and minidiscs Videos and DVDs Computer Games Baby and Toddlers Homeliving Electrical Wine Deals Tesco Vin Plus Calais There are also links to Clubcard What’s in store Organics Tesco Personal Finance I can not review all these stores here, so I will concentrate on the Groceries on line store, but when you register on the Tesco.com website you can access all these stores with the same login, the only drawback is for most of the stores you have a separate trolley so you can’t combine items from different stores and pay one delivery charge. But in the groceries on line section you still have access to the items that are available in your local store including a selection of the above. So after all the background, here is the layout of the groceries site. When you have logged in and clicked on groceries on line you get to the grocery store home page. There is a handy little button you can click to display the next available delivery slot. This is very handy, I normally have to do my shopping a couple of days before I want it, but during busy times you may have to wait longer so it is handy to be able to get an idea when your shopping is likely to be delivered before you start shopping. On the left hand side of the page you have a number of options. I will describe them for you. Departments. In this section you can browse the store by department, the shop is broken down into a number of sections similar to the isles in the shop itself as follows. Fresh Bakery and Cakes Convenience Foods Dairy Fruit and Vegetables Meat Fish and Poultry Frozen Frozen Foods Tinned/Packet General Groceries Petfood Crisps, Sweets & Biscuits Drinks Beers & Spirits Hot & Cold Drinks Wine Non – Food Audio & Visual Books Baby General Goods Health & Beauty Newsagent Clothing Homecare Tobacconist When you select one of the above isles you are then given further subcategories until you get to the product you require. There are much to many for me to break it down in this review, but it is easy to get the hang of. On all screens there is also a very handy product search box, so if you can’t find what you are looking for just type it into this box and click search, you will be amazed what it finds. When you have found the product you are interested in you adjust the quantity and then click on the add button next to the product. There is also a notes icon where you can pass a message to the person doing your shopping for you, for example if you like your bananas green, or if you want a particular substitution if it is out of stock then just put in a note. On most items there is an information icon, you can click on this button to get more details on the products including a picture, this is very good news so you can make sure you have chosen the correct product. The next option is My Favourites. Every time you buy something on Tesco Direct it is added to your favourites so this list soon becomes your shopping list and you can save a lot of time by browsing your favourites rather that the whole store. When you click on the My Favourites option you get the same breakdown of isles as in the departments section but when you select an isle instead of getting lots of subcategories, you just get the details of the products you have previously purchased in this isle. You can then go down the list adjusting the quantities from 0 to the number you require then click on the add selected items button at the bottom of the page to get them added to your basket. This saves me a lot of time, I wiz through selecting the regular items from my favourites list then I go back to the departments section and get the extras The next option is quick start lists. This section is a selection of pre prepared lists produced by Tesco for example first shop essentials which is a selection of items that most people will want, like the favourites list you adjust the quantities from 0 to the number you require then click on the add selected items button at the bottom of the page to add them to your basket. The next option is Shopping Ideas list. This is a selection of lists including recipes, cold remedies etc where all the items you require are on the list so you can just you adjust the quantities from 0 to the number you require then click on the add selected items button at the bottom of the page to add them to your basket. The next option is Recipe Book, there are loads of recipes in here that you can select by Meal, Course, Cuisine, Main Ingredient, Theme, Chef’s Special, Dietary Requirements, Prep + Cook Time. When you select a recipe you get all the instructions and a link to a prepared shopping list so you can easily buy the ingredients. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ------------------------- On the Tesco superstore home page you also get star buys, these are the top special offers available this week at your local store, it gives you details of the product and offer and has an add button so you can add the item(s) to your basket. There is also a special offers section where you can check out all the special offers in store. This is broken down by departments just like the main store and each special offer has an add button so you can add it to your basket. One word of warning most of these offers have an expiry date, quite often it is in the small print at the top of the page. Remember it is the date of delivery not the date you place the order that counts, so check to make sure the offer does not expire before you are likely to get your goods. There are several tabs on the home page where you can get help or information. The browse tab describes what each section does and how to use it. Shopping assistant introduces you to another wonderful feature called express shopper where you can type in your list and it will go away and try to locate the items you have selected. It also has a new users guide and link to the clubcard page so you can check your points balance. My Order. This is your shopping trolley you can adjust quantities and r emove items from your trolley on this tab. Checkout. This is the end of your shopping trip, you are asked to select a delivery slot and put in your payment details then you get an order number and confirmation the order has been accepted. You will also have registered an email address when signing up and a copy of your order will be emailed to you to confirm the order has been accepted. On this screen you can also change the substitutions policy, by default if an item is unavailable they will select another product that they consider similar, here you can ask them not to do that. My Account. This tab allows you to change your contact details, email address, clubcard number (For collecting all those points) and password. You can also select whether you want to have your email address used for advertising etc. Help. This tab opens up some very detailed guides. They have the following guides available. Getting Started – First Time Users Guide General Questions about Shopping at Tesco.com – How it all works etc. Finding my way around the store – Using the search, browse, express shopper etc. About products and your basket – Symbols, Product Info, Notes, Weights etc. About Deliveries – How to choose a delivery slot, charges etc. About Checking out and Pricing – How to checkout, pricing policy, guide price etc. Contact Us – useful telephone numbers and email addresses. As I mentioned at the start, we have been using this service for 18 months now. It has not all been perfect in that time, there have been a couple of occasions where the driver has turned up late (They normally ring to warn you) and we have had a couple of items charged for but they were missing, a couple of substitutions that we were not happy with and on one occasion we even had broken eggs, but on every occasion a call to their customer services team resulted in an agreement for a refu nd to be made for the products and one time when the driver was over an hour late there was a refund of the delivery charge. So if you every have any problems just give them a ring they are very helpful. I know this has been a long review and if you have stuck with it thank you. I think this has got to be one of the most comprehensive shopping sites I have ever come across. The sheer range of products available is fantastic; the ability to take advantage of the special offers in store and to see pictures of the item to make sure you have the correct one is brilliant. The only drawback is the fact that you cant use your vouchers against your shopping through Tesco Direct. You still have to trot along to the shops once in a while to get rid of the pile of vouchers that build up. As with most people’s opinions on the home shopping subject, I would agree that this method of shopping saves us money. I generally hate shopping; one of the reasons is that I can’t resist buying. I see something and think I need one of those, then I get home and thinks what am I going to do with it, (However it is mostly food) by shopping on the internet, I don’t get so attracted to the things that I am not looking for so we have noticed our shopping bill decrease a bit. As I said, I used to hate shopping, but not now, no hassle, delivered to my door it is great. If you are still traipsing round your local shop every week then give it a go, it will cost you £5 but you will have so much more time available to do something else that I am sure you will find it is worth it.
******* UPDATED AS THE INTEREST FREE OFFER HAS BEEN EXTENDED ******* I tend to have a balance on my credit card at the end of the month, so I am always on the lookout for a good deal on balance transfers and purchases. I am also fed up with having to handle lots of paper statements, I already do most of my shopping on line and I do my banking on line, so why not have an online credit card. I already have a loan from Egg and was very happy with the no fuss on line application process, so I thought I would take a look at their website and I was very surprised, but delighted to find that their credit card was on offer at 0% on balance transfers for 6 months (as long as you open your account before 31/05/01 and transfer balances before 31/07/01). The normal rate for other purchases is just 11.9%, which is lower than my other credit cards. I applied for the card on the website, it took about 10 minutes to answer all the questions and I got an immediate decision at the end of the process to say I had been accepted. You also get 1% cash back for all your purchases and 2% cash back on all purchases from online transactions at Egg shop retailers. All cash back is shown on your statement and credited to your account in September, a nice early Christmas present. Of course there is no annual fee for this credit card, which is good, I don’t see why we should have to pay an annual fee for the pleasure of being charged interest on our outstanding balance. You get free purchase protection for items up to £1000 for up to 30 days so if an item is lost, stolen or damaged it is covered. I received my card within 7 days of my application being approved, when they arrived I had to login to the accounts area on the egg website and activate my cards, this only has to be done once. Next time you login you are taken to your accounts page. On the your account screen you get a consolidated view of all your egg ac counts, Egg also provide loans, mortgages, savings and investments. If you have any of these other accounts the balance is all available on this handy screen. On this screen you also have a number of options, the about you section is where you can change your address, contact details and personal details. The Payments Centre allows you to transfer your balances, if you select the egg card option then you can click on balance transfer, type in the number of the card you want to pay and the amount and that is it they will handle the payment for you. It tells you that the transfer may take up to 7 days, but all the balances I transferred were undertaken in about 4 days. The maintain you accounts section lets you perform certain actions on your account, if you select your egg card you can do the following, View your Statement, View your recent transactions, Change your regular payments, Change your bank details, Request a new credit limit, and Request a new PIN. All of these actions can be completed on line. The View your statements section is fairly self descriptive, with the egg card you do not get a statement in the post, you can request one but it will cost you £2 so you click on the view statement option to look at the latest statement. There is also an area where you can apply for a new account (As mentioned earlier). The last section is so you can send a secure email to Egg customer services, this is very handy as it means you can send emails that cannot be intercepted on the general Internet. When you open you account you are asked to set-up a direct debit you get two choices, they are to pay the full balance or the minimum payment. As for making additional payments, this account is designed to be electronic, you can pay by cheque but you will be charged £2 per transaction, the best way to make additional payments is to set-up a BACS transfer from your current account. Most banks wil l let you do this nowadays, I have a Nationwide Flex Account and have set this up as a bill payment so I can go to any nationwide cash machine, or login to my online banking system and pay extra money to my egg card. All in all for me this account is ideal I can carry out all of my transactions on line, there is no paper work so it saves the environment (And my time), the minimum payments are all handled by direct debit and I can make extra payments through my bank any time I like. And best of all 0% Interest on my balance transfers for 6 months. I recommend you give them a try.
As we have 3 young children, my wife and I don’t get much chance to go out for a nice quiet meal and the trouble we have trying to find a hotel that sleeps 5 people has meant that we don’t go away very often. My wife spotted a special offer at our local Holiday Inn where they were offering a 3 course dinner, a room for the night, and breakfast in the morning for £110 for 2 people as previously mentioned we don’t get out much so this sounded great, a little bit expensive, but pack the kids off to see their grandparents and off we go. My first impression when we arrived was ‘this can’t be the right place we cant afford to stay here’ the hotel is situated on the bank of the river Thames and there are paths where you can go for a walk along the river, car parking is provided for over 200 cars so that was not a problem. When you walk through the main entrance the hotel looks wonderful, the foyer is very large and spacious and very well decorated with statues and things that make it look very up market. The check in was very smooth, obviously we had pre booked and we had actually paid the bill in advance as well so all I had to do was sign the form that had already been printed with all my details and let the receptionist take a swipe of my credit card to cover any extras that we would charge to our room. Then it was off to our room, the hotel is only on 3 floors and we were on the top (2nd) floor, there were 2 lifts and we never found it was a long wait. I didn’t know until we were in our room that there are different types of room available, they have standard, executive, and suites. Obviously as the standard of room goes up so does the price but more about that later. The room we were allocated was an executive room, so some of the features etc that are contained in this opinion may not be available in the standard rooms. The room we had was very large, we walked through the do or and were faced with a short corridor with a door to the left for the bathroom, along the corridor was the main room with a nice size double bed, 2 bedside tables with lamps and a telephone, a couple of easy chairs and a coffee table, a desk with the television and another telephone (Handy if you are working). You obviously get all the usual paper, pen etc available if you want to write to your kids and the tea and coffee making facilities that you expect now a days with enough to make about 4 cups of tea and coffee, there was also a pack of biscuits and a small bar of chocolate. On the table there was also a bottle of water and 4 glasses supplied if you are not into hot drinks. The obligatory hair dryer and trouser press were also supplied. We also had a set of drawers and a large wardrobe handy if you are staying for a while. The bed was comfortable (Well you have to check don’t you) but there was only one pillow each on the bed and I found that a bit low, but after a bit more exploring we found 2 pillows in the bottom of the wardrobe wrapped in a plastic bag so that was sorted. Then it was off to the bathroom, the room was spacious, well lit with a large mirror and shaving socket. All the usual bits were laid out with 2 glasses, 2 bottles of shampoo, 2 bars of soap, 1 bottle of hand cream, a nail file, shower cap (Very Useful (not)) and a sewing kit. There were 2 face cloths, 2 hand towels, 2 bath towels, a bath mat and a towelling robe (Only One). They also had pump dispensers by the sink for soap and in the shower for shampoo and soap. There was a bath with an overhead shower, there always seemed to be plenty of hot water (I was glad because I hate cold showers) but I lost the argument over the robe and had to make do with a towel. A couple of things that surprised me, there was a pair of towelling sandals and a pair of scales in the bathroom as well that was new to me. Back out into the main room to see what was o n the telly, the telly has an interactive hotel information system where you can check things like the restaurant opening times etc and useful things like viewing your bill and finding out which telly channel is which. When you first switch the telly on it automatically tunes into the local radio station 210FM and a picture saying Holiday Inn Information Channel, but I never saw any information on this screen, only on the interactive part. All the usual channels were present with BBC1, BBC2, ITV, CH4, CH5, Sky News, Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Eurosport, CNN, CNBC and Sky One (Although the book said it should be Nickelodeon) there were also a few pay as you view channels with a mix of blockbuster movies and adult entertainment, but the films were all about £8 each so we decided to give it a miss There was a mini bar in the room, but we didn’t open it so I can’t comment on the contents, there was also an extensive (Or should I say Expensive) room service menu available, but I would recommend the restaurant so off to dinner we go. The restaurant is in the main foyer of the hotel, you go past reception, past the cocktail bar where there was a man playing some very relaxing songs on the piano then down a short flight of steps to the restaurant. We were greeted by a very smart looking member of staff who escorted us to a table and took our drink orders. The only negative comment I am going to make in this opinion is that I was hoping this would be a nice romantic meal for 2, but I don’t think this is the right restaurant for that, it is very large with quite a few tables around, I didn’t feel squashed or anything, but there wasn’t a quiet little table in the corner where we could stare into each others eyes in candle light, in fact there wasn’t any candles, but we soon got used to it and settled in. The menu looked fantastic, this certainly was not your cod and chips type of restaurant I am quite a fussy eater so I sometimes have trouble finding meals I like, but this menu was brimming with things I wanted to try, we both decided on our meals and again the waiter came and took our orders then left us to it. Another point worth making is the number of staff that seemed to be around, there were always people on hand when you needed them but they were not making a nuisance of themselves by hovering over you shoulder all the time. My wife finished her bread roll and within seconds there was a waitress asking if she would like another one, as soon as there was an empty glass someone came to ask if we wanted another drink. The food was absolutely fantastic, I went for mushrooms for starter with Garlic and Pienut sauce they tasted wonderful and were not overcooked, for my main course (If you are a vegetarian skip this next bit) I had steak in a cream and peppercorn sauce, I like my steak cooked medium so it is not dripping with red stuff but it is not burnt either, this steak was cooked to perfection and the sauce was amazing the creamy taste and whole peppercorns certainly did not come from a packet this meal was obviously freshly prepared it was served with a plate of vegetables as well, we had carrots, mange tout, shredded leaks and sliced potatoes covered in cream. I was grateful for the short break that the staff gave us after this course, in some restaurants they seem to want to get you in and out ASAP and you get the feeling of being rushed, that was certainly not the case here, they were happy to go with your speed, if you wanted to just sit and chat that was fine, anytime you wanted something you just had to catch their eye and they would be over straight away. For pudding I had a lovely apple flan served hot with Ice Cream again it was one of the best I have tasted, I am not a food expert but I would certainly say this was of the best meals that I have ever had. The usual pot of tea with mints after dinner wrapped up our me al in the restaurant and all of this time the poor piano man was still playing, it was nice to have some background music and was certainly better than the music played in the lifts. After all that we were pretty tired so if was off to bed for a well earned sleep. In the morning we could not resist the breakfast, it was included in the price anyway so off we went to have a look, it was served in the restaurant between 7:30 and 11am, ideal for those people who don’t have to get up early because someone else is looking after the kids. Again we were greeted and shown to a table and asked if we wanted a hot drink. The breakfast was buffet style with a selection of fruit juices, cereals, fresh fruit, bread rolls and pastries, sliced meat, cheese, yoghurt etc on one table and a hot buffet with the usual bacon, sausage, mushroom, tomato, egg, baked beans, hash browns etc on the other. Obviously being a buffet style you help yourself and eat until you are full. By the time we had got our food and got back to the table there was a pot of tea waiting, a quick look at the waiter brought him over where my request for fresh toast resulted in a few slices being delivered within a couple of minutes. After all that it was time to pack up and go home because check out time is 11am, the checkout was very smooth as well just had to produce my credit card again to pay for the drinks from the night before and we were on our way. One little point to remember if you use the hotel car park you need a token to get out, it is much easier if you remember when you check out rather that have to go back. All in all we had a thoroughly enjoyable stay at this wonderful hotel, we didn’t have the time to enjoy the swimming pool, sauna or fitness centre, and no need to use the business suite with phone, fax, internet access etc so I can’t comment on these features, but I do know that I want to go back at some time in the future. Fo r those of you who want to know more here are the facts and figures. The hotel I have written about is: Holiday Inn Reading, Caversham Bridge, Richfield Avenue, Reading, RG1 8BD, ENGLAND. The phone number is 0118 925 9988 And Fax Number is 0118 939 1665 Directions are easy, find your own way to M4 (It is on all the maps) and leave at Juction 10 (A329M) follow the signs to Reading (A4) then follow the signs to Caversham you cant miss the hotel it is the big building with Holiday Inn on the front on a major roundabout just before the main bridge over the river Thames. Prices (When we stayed in February 2001, I assume they will change so you better phone to check). All prices are for Bed and Breakfast; you will need to pay extra for your Dinner (About £25 per head). If you want to stay during the week you will need loads of money, Standard Room £150 Executive Room £170 Suite £205 At the weekend the prices are a little more reasonable Standard Room £ 77 Executive Room £ 95 Suite is still £205 There are sometimes special offers on as I mentioned above we got an executive room for one night along with Dinner and Breakfast for 2 people for only £110 so it is worth enquiring. You can check out the website at www.holiday-inn.com/readinguk on this site you can check availability and prices and you can even book online.
I should know what I am doing with computers as I work in the IT Industry, but I have to admit that I have a little helper in keeping my computer ticking over. Ladies and Gentlemen put your hands together for Norton Utilities 2000….. Norton Utilities is a suite of products that are designed to keep your computer running in tip top condition. When you first install the product you have to make some choices that will determine the level of involvement Norton has in your day-to-day use of your computer. You can configure it to be fully in control, but you will then notice things like you have a Norton Protected Recycle Bin where you cant empty the bin without getting Norton to do it for you. You will also have things like System Doctor and Crash Guard running all the time. If you are a computer novice then the extra protection and assistance that you get is probably reassuring, but if you are comfortable with the day-to-day workings of your computer then these will probably get in the way. I personally have the product installed in such a way that it offers the minimum amount of automation, in other words if I say I want to delete something it goes and if I want to check for errors then I have to run the job, I am happier that way. Obviously you can change your mind later, so as you get more comfortable (or uncomfortable) you can switch features on and off. A lot of people don’t know how important the Windows Registry file is, every time you install some software on your computer lots of information is stored in the registry so it grows and grows all the time, when you uninstall a product in theory it cleans the registry, but it never does a complete job so you end up with a lot of clutter like un-referenced files where the registry is pointing to a file that has been deleted and incorrect file associations where the registry thinks it needs to use a certain product to open a type for file, for example the registry k nows that a .xls file needs to be opened using Excel. Again if you uninstall a product the registry can retail these associations. Using Norton Utilities you can keep your registry clean and tidy because it can identify and remove these dead links. I use this suite of products a lot for keeping my computer tidy and to assist me in diagnosing problems, for the price I would strongly advise you laying out your money in my opinion you cant get a better product. I have tried a number of the free to download products that are available but none are as comprehensive or as reliable as this suite of products. If you just want the high level overview then give up reading now, I know this is a long opinion but I thought it best to give some idea of what each of the utilities does. The rest of the opinion is a description of each utility. There are several groups of utilities within the suite to deal with your specific needs; here is a short description of each component. Norton Utilities Integrator. This is a short cut placed on your desktop and on your start bar. This is the launch pad for all of the Norton Utilities and it is where you can amend you settings, if you click on options you can select which utilities to run at start-up etc. ------------------------------------------- Find and Fix Problems, as it sounds this area lets you find and fix specific problems with your system. It includes a number of tools Norton System Check – This tool runs a complete system check, It scans your registry checking for obvious problems, it also validates all references to files on your computer if the file does not exist then it flags it up as a problem. It then runs a scan on your disk to check for disk integrity, fragmentation and space. It also looks to see the last time you used Norton Rescue to make a set of emergency boot disks and looks to see if there are any changes to your system that would require the disks to be updated. At the end it gives you the option to repair any problems. If you are a novice this can sound confusing, it gives a technical description of the problem and if you want you can click on the details button and get even more information, but don’t get worried, there is a handy little button that says fix all this will let Norton go away and resolve the problems to the best of its ability. If you know more about computers you can select individual problems and resolve them and find out more information about what it is going to do. Be warned, if your emergency disks are not up to date (Or you haven’t done them) you will be asked for some floppy disks. Norton WinDoctor – This tool runs a cut down version of the system check. It runs the windows system check, again it scans the registry checking for obvious problems, it also validates all references to files on your computer if the file does not exist then it flags it up as a problem again giving the option to resolve them at the end. Norton Disk Doctor – This tool runs a disk check, it scans for the usual lost clusters, bad blocks etc and produces a report at the end detailing any problems. Again for the novices you can click a box that says automatically fix problems. Norton UnErase Wizard – This tool will attempt to recover files that you have deleted by mistake. There are no guarantees but it may just save your work. --------------------------------------------- The next section is Improve Performance; This suite of programs looks at your computer and tries to make it run even better. Speed Disk, this tool runs a form of defrag that tidies up your disk by defragmenting files and moving the most common used programs to the fastest areas of disk and relocates the less used files to the slower parts of the disk. Norton Optimization Wizard. This tool runs the above speed disk but also optimises t he registry, this means that it scans the registry and tidies it up then moves it to the fastest part of the disk. It also optimises your PC swap file to give you the best performance with the available disk space, beware though this needs a reboot. --------------------------------------------- The third section is Preventative Maintenance – This suite of products has a number of useful goodies Norton System Doctor – This can be configured to constantly monitor your PC to keep an eye on things like CPU usage, Memory Usage, Disk space etc. The information is displayed on a small traffic light style display so you know when there are problems. It will also tell you which tool to run to fix the problems. Norton Wipe Info – This tool can perform several levels of delete. By default when you delete a file all that happens is the space is marked as available, if you use a low level disk tool you can still read the contents of the file that used to be there. Using this tool you can force new data to be written over the blank areas of disk so no one can read the data. You can use it to delete Files, Folders or to wipe your free space and you can run a standard wipe that runs through writing the value of your choice to the disk, or you can run a government wipe that’s runs through a number of times to make sure everything is deleted. Image – This tool saves a snapshot of important system files and disk layout so you can recover files in an emergency. Norton Registry Tracker – This tool can keep track of any changes to your registry, this can be useful if you are experiencing problems you can see what changes have been made to the system registry. --------------------------------------------- The forth section is Troubleshoot – This suite of tools contains advanced diagnostic utilities and information tools. Norton Diagnostics – This tool r uns hardware checks, checking things like memory, Modem, Speaker, Sound Card, System Board Etc. This can alert you to problems with your hardware so you can call an Engineer to repair the fault. System Information – This tool displays all the information about your computer, for example System Information like your processor details, Memory details showing everything that is using memory at the time so you can see what is using the most. Drive information so you can analyse what is on the disk and how much room it takes as well as network and internet connection information. This tool can be very useful if you call a support line they will often ask you lots of questions about your computer, this is an easy way to have all the answers to hand. Norton Registry Editor – This tool allows you to edit the windows registry; it allows you to backup the registry before you start so you can restore it if you make a mistake. WARNING: YOU SHOULD NOT EDIT THE REGISTRY IF YIU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. IT CAN CAUSE YOUR COMPUTER TO STOP WORKING. Norton File Compare – This tool allows you to compare 2 files and it will highlight the differences, this is useful if you have 2 copies on a file, for example one on your hard disk and one on a floppy disk and you have made different changes to both of them, this tool would highlight the differences so your could correct them. --------------------------------------------- The product also comes with a few other useful add-ons Norton Crash Guard. This is a utility that you can set to run all the time in the background, if it detects an event that would usually cause Windows to crash then it steps in and warns you that there is a problem, this gives you time to save any open files before your machines crashes. It also takes a snapshot of the system to provide diagnostics if you need to contact a product supplier. Norton Web Services – T his is a link to the Symantec www.nortonweb.com website. This allows you to make sure you have all the latest product updates on your PC, it will run a scan to identify the products you are using then it will search for available updates, for example if you are using Microsoft Office then it may let you know there is a service pack, or if you have a game installed there may be a patch available. With each available update there is a description so you know what the update does, a size and estimated download time so you know how long it will take and a link so you can download the file yourself. I have to admit, this looks exactly like the ZDNet site updates.com so I think Symantec must have passed this support over to them. There is also a Live Update utility that is used to keep your Norton products up to date, you can run this utility and it will connect to the Symantec web site and download any updates to Norton Utilities or any of its components. And you get a Live Advisor utility where you can register to receive messages from Symantec about product upgrades, problems, hints and tips etc. Then you load Live Advisor it checks to see if there are any new messages meeting your requirements and downloads them to your Live Advisor Inbox.
Well this used to be a very usefull opinion about a great shopping site. unfortunately I have just had an email from Superdrug saying due to a reorganisation they are unable to accept any more orders via the internet. The fabulous web site has gone replaced with a page telling you who to contact if you have any queries. I will have to start using pharmacy2u instead. I have left my original opinion here, just in case anyone wants to remember how it used to be. I Absolutely hate shopping; just the idea of traipsing round shops is enough to make me break out in a sweat so I always love it when I find a new Internet Shopping Site. I already buy most things on line for example I always do my weekly shopping on Tesco.com but there are a few things that I can not get, for example they don?t seem to be able to supply medicines so I still have to go to the pharmacy once in a while. I usually go to my local superdrug as there prices are very competitive and they seem to be open when I need them, I read an article recently saying that Superdrug had started a website so I had to take a look. Along I went to www.superdrug.com and the first thing I noticed was that this site was more than just a shopping site, There are a number of areas on this site and I will describe them fully in a moment. You can browse the site as much as you want but you have to register to be able to shop. The registration is easy and you can pre register your delivery address and credit card details if you want to so you don?t need to put it in every time you order. They have a pharmacist who checks that the medicines you have ordered are suitable to enable them to do this you have to create a profile detailing the age, gender, sex and medical conditions for each patient. I was a bit concerned about this but after reading the terms and conditions it is clear that this information is contained securely in my profile and is only made available to the pharmacist dealing with my order, they will not use the information for any other purpose. It makes sense to have this information so the pharmacist can check the medicines will not interfere with any conditions that you may have. There are a number of main areas on this site. I have described the content of some of these areas and others I have just listed the main headings Health. This area contains a number of sub areas including Medicines (Rather Self Descriptive, but There is a very large range), Well Being (A large range of Vitamins, Minerals and Alternative Remedies), First Aid (Complete Kits and separates including plasters, bandages etc.), Family Planning (Condoms, Pregnancy Tests Etc) and Home Help (Gadgets and tools to make life easier). Beauty. (Have to admit, this is not my forte, so I have just listed the headings). Clarins, Clinique, Lancome, Facial Skincare, Medicated Skincare, Hand and Body care, Make-up, Hair Colourants, Electrical Products, Beauty Heaven, Spa, Men?s Fragrance, Women?s Fragrance. Toiletries. Hair Care, Hair Styling. Bath and Shower Products, Anti-Perspirants & Deodorants, Bodysprays & Fragrance, Dental Care, Contact Lens and Eye Care, Hair Removal, Feminine Care, Footcare, Suncare, Tissue and Paper Products. Mother and Baby. Bath Time, Before Baby, Change Time, Feed Time, Medicine Cabinet, Oral Care, Play Time, Safety and Well-being. Men?s Shop. Bath and Shower, Condoms, Deodorants and Body Sprays, Contact Lens and Eye Care, Hair Care, Shaving, Skincare, Footcare, Toiletry Bags. Health Advice there is a good section with Health Advice where you can get information and advice on a number of medical conditions and special areas for Children, Teenagers, Men?s Health, Woman?s Health, Mother and Baby and 50 Plus. In each of these sections there are a number of new items and features most relevant to health in that area, for example in the Childr en?s Area there was a news item regarding the safety of the MMR Vaccine and a Feature on spotting the signs of meningitis. There is also a section where you can email a pharmacist to ask for advice on your health or medication and they will reply, but it is made clear that this is not a replacement for emergency treatment you should still go to your GP in an emergency. There is also an online prescriptions facility where you can email details of your prescription and they will deal with it. Whats in store. This section contains special offers from all the areas on the store. That covers the areas on the site, the only other point to mention is ordering and delivery. As with the majority of shopping sites around, you add items to your shopping basket as you go, one of the good things is when you add an item to the basket you automatically go back to the page you were viewing, it annoys me when a website takes you to the basket as you add each item and you need to go back to the page you were on by clicking the back button. When you have finished shopping you click on the checkout button, this brings up your basket so you can check the content, on larger value items such as fragrances you can choose to add gift wrapping if you want. There are several delivery options, the standard is 24-48 hours delivery and it costs £2.50, as I dislike shopping so much I am happy to pay this. There are other options, If you want an evening delivery (6pm and 9pm) the charge is an extra £2.00 (Total £4.50), If you order before midday on Friday you can request a Saturday delivery (7am to 1pm) for an extra £2.50 (Total £5.00), also if you live within the M25 then you can request urgent delivery within 2 to 4 hours (As long as you order between 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday) for an extra £5.00 (Total £7.50) I placed my first order and asked for standard delivery, as promised within 48 hours my parcel had arrived. It was very securely packa ged so there was nothing damaged. When I opened the box I was amazed to find a selection of product samples as well as my order, I don't know if this is an introductory offer or if it will be ongoing. There was also some paperwork in the box to explain the returns procedure, I have nothing to return, but the procedure seems simple you can take any goods back to any superdrug store where you will get a refund, or you can post it back using the freepost label in the box, or if it is a large parcel you can phone them and they will arrange collection. All in all I am very happy with my shopping experience, I have tried a large number of internet shops, I found this one very easy to use and the prices are very reasonable, I will certainly be using this site in the future rather than taking a trip into town
Well, I am all for making free money, so when I saw the banner on dooyoo for winwin, a site who would tailor adverts to my requirements and pay me not only for my personal information but for viewing adverts, I thought wow this is easy money, get paid just for reading a few adverts. I wasn’t worried; after all they are appearing prominently on my dooyoo account page so they have obviously been checked out. So off I went, signed up and got a winwin account. Took a little while as I found the site unreliable, but I assumed it was due to the number of people signing up for this too good to be true site. There were loads of questions on the following subjects Arts (Books, TV, Music, Films, Magazines) Business (Job Details, Insurance, Credit Cards) Computers (Hardware, Software, Internet, Interests, Operating System) Demographic (Age, Kids, Job, Ethnicity, Gender, Marital Status, Education) Games (Console Games, PC Games, Gambling Etc.) Health (Personal Care, Health Issues, Fitness) Household (Family, Property, Telecommunications, Appliances) News (News Preferences, Newspapers) Recreation (Travel, Smoking, Cars, Food, Outdoors) Shopping (Auto, General, Household, Food, Computers) Sports (Participation, Spectator Sports) It must have taken me well over an hour to answer all of the questions, and I thought some of the questions were asking for too much information, but naïve old me just thought they were trying to make sure they didn’t bother me with adverts that would not interest me. Anyway, having completed all of the questions, I sat back and waited for the money to roll in. That was about 2 months ago now and surprise surprise my account balance is still standing at £0.00. I have not seen one single advert from winwin during this whole time. Just to make it all better, I have had a lovely e-mail from winwin thanking me for my participation, but they hav e changed their minds. They have decided to change business direction and work directly with websites selling their services. They are not interested in members anymore, but not to worry they will delete all of the data that I have given them and promise not to use it or pass it on to anyone else. I went to their website to do a bit or research for this opinion and I notice they are still advertising this service and people can still sign up even though they are disposing of it at the end of the year, If they are not going to use the information surely they would not be signing up any more users. If you see a banner advertising this site, I strongly advise you to surf on by, unless you want to spend an hour telling someone your life history for free. You make much more out of writing opinions and it is more fun. Just stay on dooyoo.
When looking for a holiday this year after browsing loads of holiday brochures we decided we could not afford one. It is amazing how much a holiday costs if you have 3 children, most normal hotels do not have room for 3 children in your room so you need to go for an apartment and you have to pay the adult price for a 3rd child so we thought we would have no holiday. But then, we received a Recommended Cottages brochure through the post. This brochure contained hundreds of cottages throughout the United Kingdom and most of them can cater for a family of 5 or more if you want to take friends with you. This is ideal for larger groups because you pay the same price no matter how many people go. We chose a cottage that sleeps 8 people so we could take some friends. The brochure was well laid out in geographical area with a list of things to do and see in and around the area. All of the cottages are described in good detail and include a picture so you can see what you are going to get. You have to check carefully though, some of the cottages charge you extra for linen, electricity, solid fuel etc but a large number of them include all of this you just have to read the cottage detail to see what is included. The prices vary as well, obviously the smaller cottages are the cheapest, but you can find some very nice cottages at a reasonable price. (If you are interested then check out my review of the cottage Tor View under cottages in Cornwall in the UK and Ireland guide section on dooyoo). On of the things I didn’t like about the brochure is that it doesn’t show the price by each cottage, there is a price code so you can guess that a code A is cheaper than a code Z but to find the price you have to refer to a table at the back of the catalogue. After selecting a few cottages we were interested in I then went to the website at www.recommended-cottages.co.uk on this website you can do a search with various criteria to he lp you chose your holiday cottage. You can also check availability to see if your dream cottage is available (This left us with one choice for the dates we wanted). You can confirm the price and if you want you can book online. I have to admit that I had a few questions so I decided to book by phone. The service was very good my questions were answered and the operator was very friendly and helpful. When I booked I had to pay a deposit of about £40 and a few days later I received confirmation of the booking in the post along with details telling me when I had to pay the rest of the deposit and the balance of the holiday. I also received good instructions showing how to get to the cottage and details of the owner and how to contact them. There was also a message on the form to contact the owners at least 2 weeks before we were due to go on holiday to confirm out time of arrival. Usually you have to arrive after 4pm on your first day and leave by 10am on your last day, but when we phone up the owner they said there was nobody in the cottage at the moment so we could arrive any time. We had to pay for insurance as a condition of booking; it looks like it is standard holiday insurance covering cancellations etc. Luckily we didn’t use it so I don’t know how good it was. Obviously if you break or damage anything in the cottage you have to pay the owner for any damages (Or replace it yourself before they find out). What would have been useful was if the insurance covered accidental damages to the property or contents, but I couldn’t find that clause in the insurance. If you have a large family, want to holiday with friends and cant afford a foreign holiday, or if you just fancy a UK break then I suggest you take a look at recommended cottages on the internet, you can request a brochure if you want (Under Contacts on main manu)or you can browse the selection online, this has the advantage of being up to date with any late addit ions and has the ability to check cottage availability.
I have been shopping with Family Hampers for a few years now, I cant say there has never been a problem with my hampers, but I can say that no matter what the problem was it has been fixed to my satisfaction quickly. I am not very good with my money, as soon as I have some it seems to disappear; the only way I can make sure that we have everything we want at Christmas is to pay for hampers. That way a bill comes in and I have to pay it. I am sure if you have the will power you could save the money each week and at Christmas you will probably be able to buy more for your money, but one of the other major advantages of hampers is the fact that everything is well packed and delivered in good time for Christmas. Even if you use one of the supermarkets on line shopping services there is a risk of things being out of stock or damaged, however with the hampers everything is packed securely and padded so it wont get damaged. The catalogue is colourful and easy to read there are pictures of all the hampers so you can see what you are going to get for your money. There is a very wide selection of hampers to suit your budget. We stock up so we don’t have to worry about Christmas. We normally get a hamper to stock up our cupboards with tins etc, a joints hamper so we can have our Sunday roasts for a while it also includes a Turkey so that’s our Christmas dinner sorted. We also get a freezer pack to refill all those spaces in the freezer. We also stock up on drink there is a wide selection of wine, beer, lager, spirits etc. They also do Easter egg hampers (Obviously they deliver these at Easter). There is also a large selection of gifts that are available for delivery at any time during the year (If you have paid for them). A few people have said they are worried about getting things they wont like, We haven’t found that a problem. You know what you are going to get in advance, there are only a couple of items in our hamp ers that we don’t like, but other members of our family do, and if they don’t the school are always after tombola prizes. The hampers are always delivered in good time for Christmas. I have just received all of the general hampers this year, my frozen hampers will be with me in early December and the fresh food hamper (Fruit, Vegetables, Eggs etc) will be delivered a couple of days before Christmas. If you sign up as an agent then you earn commission on your orders, obviously the more you order the better the commission, the top rate is 25%. I only have a couple of customers so I am nowhere near this rate and you do have to work for your money as all hampers are delivered to your home address so you need to transport them to your customers. This is not to bad for the general hampers but if they have ordered any of the frozen hampers you obviously have to get them delivered very quickly. We always look forward to receiving our hampers, even though we know what is coming it is still exiting to open the boxes and find all of those goodies. As I mentioned at the beginning of this opinion I have had a couple of problems over the years, but the customer help line is very helpful. If you have any problems with the hampers or their contents then you can call them and they will do their best to sort it out. A couple of times even though the hampers are very well packed there was a damaged item in the box, I just phoned the help line and they worked out a value for those items and sent me a cheque to make up for it. They have just started a website at www.familyhampers.co.uk unfortunately you cant browse the catalogue on line, but you can order a catalogue and find out a lot more information about the way it works and the commission that you could earn (Including Argos Premier Points) If you want to forget about doing Christmas shopping then give it a go you wont regret it.