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spudzy123

spudzy123
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Member since: 11.08.2009

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    • Pioneer Avic S1 / GPS Sat Nav / 566 Readings / 548 Ratings
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      16.10.2009 22:10
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      A great priced entry level to Pioneer quality but let down by dated maps

      Pioneer are probably more associated with making televisions rather than sat nav's which is probably why the Avic S1 looks like a shrunken plasma television with its high glossy black plastic surround, but to be perfectly honest I really like the way that it looks and it does have a nice quality feel about it without feeling cheap and nasty.

      The price varies but I paid around £175 for mine when they were first introduced which means that by now you should be aiming to pay a lot less. It may seem like a lot to pay especially when you can walk into any electric store and get a decent basic system for under £120 which will do the job just fine; but when you realise that Pioneer usually only sell top end in-car systems starting at around one thousand pounds, then this seems like quite a bargain. Despite the price tag, this is an entry level sat nav for Pioneer making this an affordable option for most people seeking out a quality portable device.

      The specifications look good as well with Bluetooth connectivity for hands free calling from your mobile pone, 7 million kilometres of European roads and an SD card slot to expand things even further, SiRF Star III GPS receiver for smoother signal reception, USB port for PC connection. This all sounds great, but what is it actually like to use?

      On opening the box you will find the usual suction mount for the windscreen, stylus, PC connection leads, mains and car charging leads, back up CD and a nice carrying case for the sat nav. Once the unit is powered up, it's ready for using without having to install anything first and it's as simple as that. The first thing that I found out is that the sat nav doesn't know where it is straight away, which does become a problem in areas that you are unfamiliar with, especially when you want to set off quickly onto a roundabout or junction; the unit catches up eventually when you start moving but this can be too late sometimes when you are forced to make a turn before the unit wakes up and tells you where to go. Every now and again the GPS freezes from the start and never actually catches up with where you are; this is usually resolved by switching the unit on and off, or restarting it with the reset button. This happens frequently enough to become a pain in the butt.

      The 3.5" colour TFT display is clear and easy to read with adjustable brightness and the touch screen works very well even with my clumsy fingers I don't need to use the stylus.

      The Bluetooth connection for hands free calling is a nice novelty which allows the sat nav to take the place of your mobile phone allowing you to make and receive calls hands free whilst your phone is in the boot or in your pocket. This seems to work ok when making calls from stationary but I cannot say how good this is on the move because I prefer not to chat whilst driving. The Bluetooth connection has a function to transfer your phone book from mobile phone onto the sat nav which in theory means that you select the name from the phone book list rather than having to dial the number; but to be perfectly honest this hasn't worked with any phone that I have connected to it and I have yet to find anyone who has been able to use this facility on the Avic S1.


      You can tweak the sat nav to let you know when you are going too fast which is optional; it's a bit like having your mum sat next to you telling you off when your speed slips above the limit shouting 'beware!!', 'beware!!' which makes this an option that is not to everyone's taste.

      The display gives clear directions and automatically zooms in at a junction or roundabout with a count down feature as you approach turn offs. It also tells you the time now and the time you will arrive at your chosen destination which is one of my favourite features on this unit. This is reasonably accurate and adjusts with your speed as you go along which gives you a rough idea if you are going to arrive late due to slow moving traffic; no sweat here though because all you have to do is simply ring your boss or client via hands free giving them your new estimated time of arrival displayed on the screen.

      There is a decent battery life which lasts for a few hours on a fresh charge, but I keep mine plugged in most of the time because the unit loses it's charge if not used for a couple of weeks.

      The same journey is never the same with the Avic S1 as it takes you down a different route each time you drive which is a bit like a lucky dip. This has become a bit of a characteristic of this unit which has a bad habit of sending me down some of the weirdest of routes. I have a funny feeling that the maps are very dated which adds to this issue, especially when my journey means going through a multi storey car park or farmer's field. I haven't ended up driving along the tracks of a railway just yet; but I have been sent miles out of my way on a journey to somewhere completely different.

      The limited 4 digit post code finder isn't the best either, which isn't necessarily a big problem until you are trying to find somewhere without a street name or somewhere that is not recognised on the dated road maps. There is a 'Points of interest' search option which again is very limited and crying out to be updated with some information like Petrol stations, police stations, hospitals etc...

      To sum things up, the Pioneer Avic S1 is a quality product which looks great and is relatively easy to use, but unfortunately it has fallen short with its dated maps and lack of updates. Pioneer have since launched the Avic S2 which can be had for around £250 which incorporates an MP3 player, full postcode search, 30 European countries and 1.4 million points of interest which sounds like Pioneer have learned from the issues of concern with the Avic S1.

      I'm not sure whether I would buy another Pioneer sat nav, but I would definitely make sure that a full postcode search and up to date maps were at the top of my list with reliability and price not too far behind.

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        08.10.2009 17:30
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        A brilliant guitar that you either love or hate.

        Almost everyone has heard of the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster guitars and can probably name a few guitarists who have used them to carve their own style in the music business; but what about the fender Telecaster? Sure we've got Bruce Springsteen and Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, but what about the rest. Well after you have read my review on the Telecaster, why not take a look for yourself and you will be surprised at the number of people and different styles of those that played one.

        From the very start of my guitar drooling days, I always found the shape a little odd looking because it didn't really have a place amongst the bright flashy flying V's and the thrash metal axes with lots of pointed edges and reversed headstocks. At the time (early 90's) it was all about having Floyd Rose whammy bars and having as many double pick-ups as you could possibly fit.

        I don't actually know how it came about but after a few years of guitar swapping, I ended up with a Standard American Telecaster. I'm not sure whether the guitar grew on me or whether I grew into it; but what I do know is that I got bored of whammy bars and too many pick-ups. I just needed something simpler and something different.

        What's all the fuss about?

        The moment that you see an American Standard Telecaster, you will instantly notice the clean lines and lack of fuss. Everything appears to sit just perfectly and uncomplicated with beautiful harmony. No sharp edges here either, just purposeful flowing lines crafted to its own very unique design of 'form follows function'. Oh and one more thing, there's no whammy bar on this model.

        When I first picked up this particular Telecaster, I loved the weight of it; not too heavy to cause discomfort and just light enough to still retain a feel of quality and robustness.
        My guitar was a solid glossy black which had the most amazing finish; it felt like looking into a moonlit pool with what seemed like really thick layers of quality paint.

        Born in the USA

        The fact that this particular model is hand built in America seems to be rather important to me and adds authenticity to the whole deal. Without wanting to offend anyone here I can only compare it to buying a German Audi car and finding out that it was made in Russia. Now it's not that the overall quality would be any less, but rather that you are paying for the quality associated with German engineering. Ok. I guess that you get the picture now, so lets' have a look at what really matters which is the sound.

        It's really hard for me to put into words how a genuine American Standard Telecaster sounds, especially through a Marshal valve Amp which is what I use. But if you really must know then first pop the amp on clean and select the 3 position selector blade towards the bridge and now you get the jangly and twangy country sound; close your eyes and you might as well be holding a banjo. Pop the selector towards the bridge to release the smooth yet crisp sounds, not quite as bluesy as a Gibson Les Paul but something very unique to the Telecaster.

        Turn off the clean mode on your amp and you would at first be fooled into thinking that the two American Tele® Single-Coil Pickups would struggle to cope with such power, but let me tell you that it's like driving a rocket powered skateboard down a steep hill. Yes you will get it distorting, screaming and squealing back at you; but that's the whole point, combine this with the choppy, chunky sound that it releases and you are into a whole different game. The feeling you get after playing is like the first 5 minutes after being on a rollercoaster ride with a slight satisfying tingly feeling that makes you want to go back and do it all over again. It had me thinking, why did I not discover this sooner? But I guess that I just wasn't ready at the time.

        I find that the Tele works best with 9 gauge strings but that's just my personal opinion, it's really easy to string up too, feeding from the back of the body and winding up with the Fender® Deluxe Staggered Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines which are great for keeping your Tele in tune.

        Choose your weapon

        Before I go into the technical spec, let me tell you that the Standard American Telecaster comes with a maple 'C' shaped neck with options of a rosewood fingerboard. I love the satin feel of the maple neck, but I don't like rosewood fingerboards for 2 main reasons: the first being that I like the simplicity of having just the one solid piece of wood, and the second reason being that I am not keen on having 2 different types of wood glued together as they act in different ways; on some older guitars I have noticed that rosewood fingerboards have warped or separated from the neck. (Don't worry if you have a rosewood fingerboard because it's probably just me being a purist, and besides, it may be because those guitars were neglected or have endured extreme changes in temperature). It is good to know that if things do go wrong that there will be plenty of spares available, so if you do break your neck (the guitar's that is) you can simply bolt on another one yourself and away you go.

        Unlike most ageing rockers, the Telecaster gets better with age so there's no need to rush out for the touch up stick if wood starts to come through the solid painted finish; it just means that your instrument is well played and is not afraid to go out of the house once in a while.

        What's the damage £££

        If you are lucky enough to consider buying new, then make sure that you shop around because prices do seem to vary massively, especially when buying online where they can be anywhere between £400 and £800. If you decide to go through a dealer, then why not ask them to beat some of the online prices and/or chuck in some extras (cables, guitar straps, effect pedals are always a good starting point).

        And now for the Technical stuff...

        The Body: Alder on: 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Candy Cola and Blizzard Pearl
        Ash on: 2-Color Sunburst, Natural and Crimson Red Transparent

        Neck: Maple, Modern "C" Shape (Gloss Headstock Face with Satin Urethane
        Finish on Back of Neck)

        Fingerboard: Rosewood (p/n 011-0500) or Maple (p/n 011-0502), 9.5" Radius (241 mm)

        Number of frets: 22 Medium Jumbo Frets

        Pickups: 2 American Tele® Single-Coil Pickups (Neck & Bridge)

        Controls: Master Volume, Master Delta ToneTM
        ("Delta Tone" system includes high output bridge pickup and special
        No-Load tone control)

        Pickup Switching: 3-Position Blade (Bridge Pickup, Bridge and Neck Pickups, Neck
        Pickup)

        Bridge: American Tele with New American Standard Bent Steel Saddles and
        Stamped Brass Plate.

        Machine Heads: Fender® Deluxe Staggered Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines.

        Spudzy's final thoughts

        The telecaster may not be everyone's cup of tea and you either love em or hate em with their unique looks and characteristic sound, and some people may find Telecasters a little heavy and chunky for their frame; but I love the whole understated appeal of the guitar and wouldn't part with mine for anything.

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          25.09.2009 18:18
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          Compact all in one multi tool with great reliability

          Looking back over the years I must have bought quite a few cheap penknives and multi-tools that have ended up in the bin after a short amount of time, I think the last one that I bought was about £10.99 and was made of stainless steel, and although it looked pretty good, it just fell apart when using the pliers.

          The trouble with these types of gadgets is that you generally get what you pay for which can mean splashing out big bucks for something decent enough that will last. In my eyes this means that you will meet a crossroads leading you to either a 'Leatherman' multi tool or a 'Victorinox' Swiss Army Knife. This is easily solved depending upon your budget because if you are looking for something between £10.99 and £69.99 then you will be in the Victorinox Swiss Army knife range, whereas if you have £69.99 onwards then you will be in Leatherman territory. (If you are really wealthy, you could always try a giant Wenger Swiss army knife for a whopping £499, but you probably wouldn't get this one in your pocket though)

          All that is left now is to justify shelling out around £44 on this particular model that has more useful tools on it than you can shake a stick at. I managed to get around this by working out this simple calculation:

          £44 = 4 X useless multi tools at £10.99 each or £44 = 1 X fantastic Victorinox Swiss Army knife that will probably last forever.

          Well that wasn't too difficult now was it?

          Now that you have justified the price tag and splashed out on one of these little beauties, you will either be sat there gently caressing it in your palm whilst lightly applying oil to its parts, or working your way through the house dismantling everything in sight and attempting to put it back together again; I am more of a dismantler type of person which can get me into a few tight spots with the old DIY, especially when my wife knowingly says to me "are you sure that you know what you are doing?", when what she really means is "You have no idea what you are doing".

          These Swiss Army knives are built to last and I just keep mine in my pocket with my keys and loose change. They are guaranteed for life against any defects in workmanship and material so there's no point in being too precious about it because you will never end up using it to its full advantage, which is why a week never passes without me pulling it out of my trousers. Pulling the knife out of my trousers that is.

          In no particular order, the knife is equipped with a magnifying glass, tweezers, white LED light, corkscrew, large blade, small blade, can opener and small screwdriver (3mm), bottle opener and screwdriver (6mm) with wire stripper, reamer punch and sewing eye, wrench with 4mm and 5mm female hex drive - 4mm posidrive 0 & 1 bits - 4mm slotted bit - Phillips 2 bit - 4mm hex bit - torx 8 bit - torx 10 bit - torx 15 bit, pressurised ballpoint pen which can be used to set DIP switches, stainless steel pin, mini screwdriver 1.5mm, pliers, wire cutters, wire crimping tool, hook and parcel carrier, key ring, toothpick and scissors.

          I have tried at every opportunity to use every tool on the unit, albeit not necessarily for the intended purpose, and I have been more than impressed with how well built this thing really is. At first I was a little worried about how the screwdrivers would react to a bit of extra leverage that would have caused any of my previous products to fall apart; but no, this thing really does work as a useful tool.

          Both knives and scissors are still surprisingly quite sharp and shiny after lots of use and misuse, and the casing seems to be holding up well too with no cracks and just a few minor scuffs on it. I have found in the past that due to its neat rounded edges, it can easily slip out of your pocket when reclining, therefore it is probably best attached to your keys or one of those belt pouches available for around £10.

          Overall I have to say that I have been more than happy with the Victorinox Swiss army knife that has been used more as a tool rather than a gadget. It has given me endless hours of use on anything from whittling away at a piece of wood to working on larger projects in the home and at work, and I really don't know how I managed all that time without one of these. There are many other different versions available starting at just £10.99 for the basic model; it's just a matter of browsing the specifications and choosing the right blend which best suits your abilities. Having said that, it's always best to have a few extra things onboard just in case, as you never know when that reamer punch and sewing eye will be required.

          If you do decide to get your mitts on one of these handy Victorinox Swiss army knives, then remember to avoid the temptation of showing it off to your mates or work colleagues, because if they are anything like mine then you will be forever asked the question "can I borrow your knife" or "can I borrow your screwdriver" or "can I borrow your corkscrew", personally I don't mind lending mine to friends, but I do draw the line at "can I borrow your toothpick".

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            05.09.2009 18:37
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            Nice looking wind up torch which will never require batteries

            Most gadgets these days are only as good as the battery life as they increasingly contain more built in features and add-ons which zap away at the power, and with batteries costing a small fortune, its not surprising that these little wind up radio's are beginning to catch on.

            I got mine a couple of years ago as a Christmas present when they cost around £20 to buy which in my opinion was a little bit too expensive.

            The wind up torch comes with a stash of various mobile phone charging connectors allowing you to supply power to your phone in an emergency; this makes it an ideal object to stash in your car or desk at work. The only trouble with doing this is that after forking out £20 for one of these, you will not want to hide it away in the boot of your car.

            The key features on this unit are an FM radio with volume control, torch, siren, phone charger output, earphone socket and carry strap.

            The wind up mechanism is relatively straight forward with a neat fold away handle which feels sturdy and robust. Simply fold out the handle and watch the little green LED light up as you turn the handle; if it doesn't light up, then crank the handle a bit harder, and if the veins on your head are sticking out, then ease off a little.

            The torch consists of 5 bright LED lights that offer a decent amount of light allowing you to find your way around in the dark, but not enough to attract the attention of neighbouring planets. Apparently each minute of winding will allow the torch/radio to run for 30 minutes, but I would say that you would be lucky to get it to last anywhere near that.

            The built in speaker has a big quality sound to it which can be turned up quite loud, but be advised that the louder you have it, the sooner you will have to wind it back up again.

            The FM radio has a scan and reset button but no other indication as to what station you are listening to which can be a pain in the neck, let me explain. You wind up the unit, switch on the radio with the volume control and scan away until you guess your favourite station; that's the one, no, maybe the next, oh dear I went past it. You then start all over again by pressing the reset button because you can't go back a station, only forwards. Things get worse when you are using the radio when working, because after about 20 minutes or so, you will hear the radio station go out of tune accompanied by a whining noise, which means act fast. If you don't stop what you are doing and rush over to the radio and quickly wind it up; the radio will automatically reset and you will have to start all over again by winding it up, pressing the scan button, finding the station, oh dear went past it again!

            For a short while I used the radio to gently send me off to sleep, which worked fine until one night I switched out the bedside light and reached over to switch the radio off and then WOOP!! WOOP!! WOOP!! Yes I had activated the siren switch which caused me to drop the unit somewhere in the darkness, but luckily the unit comes equipped with a flashing red LED to let you know that the siren is going off; not that there was any doubt about this because I would imagine that the whole neighbourhood would have been woken up too, wondering whose house was being broken into. Several minutes later after desperately trying to switch off the siren by turning on the radio and torch, the neighbours peering through their curtains looking on in disbelief at my naked silhouette running around with a soundtrack of WOOP!! WOOP!! WOOP!! accompanied by Jazz FM and a flickering torchlight. Nice!!!

            The wind up torch now sits safely in the boot of my car where it belongs, because in the unfortunate event that I break down in the middle of nowhere and need to draw someone's attention; I have no doubts that this little wind up number will be more than capable.

            To sum things up, this is not one of the cheapest wind-up radios around and perhaps not one of the smallest ones either, but it does have a good quality sound radio and a decent torch. On the down side it does run out of breath rather quickly and you will also run out of breath rather quickly by keep running over to wind it back up again. Not sure whether the siren is a good thing but the switch is certainly too easy to accidently activate.

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              01.09.2009 20:04
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              Cult classic sci-fi film to see before you die

              Film Only review

              Have you ever wondered whether technology and genetic engineering could ever become so far advanced that it could be used to make 'humanoids' and so advanced that we couldn't tell the difference between android and human? Now what if these 'humanoid' beings were given superior strength and adapted to making their own decisions, which were geared towards becoming a threat to our very own human existence?

              Well if you are the sort of person who likes to think along these lines, or you're fascinated with anything to do with sci-fi, then I'm sure that you have already seen this film and have found it to be a great starting point for even more futuristic pondering. Mmm, I wonder 'do androids dream of electric sheep?'

              Before I go into my thoughts on this film, here is a quick outlay.

              Blade runner hit the screen in 1982 and is set in the Futuristic vision of Los Angeles in the year 2019. Leading up to this time, Genetic scientists have produced 'more human than human' androids called 'replicants' which are perfect in almost every way. The Tyrell Corporation takes things to a completely new level producing a series of super human androids called the 'Nexus 6', which are so far advanced that they are programmed with a life span of just 4 years to prevent them from becoming too advanced; these are only used on off world colonies for jobs far too difficult for human hands.

              The inevitable happens and a group of replicants reap havoc amongst humans on an off world colony, resulting in them being made illegal on earth. More worryingly a small group of Nexus 6 replicants manage to escape and dissolve into the community back on earth. The Nexus 6 consist of Leon Kowalski (Brion James), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), Pris (Daryl Hannah) and the leader Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). The team set in search to meet their maker at the Tyrell Corporation with a view to obtaining the one single thing that they don't have - more life.

              The name 'Blade runner' is given to those who form part a dedicated team of police who are tasked with killing the replicants on earth; this is known as retirement'. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is re employed as a Blade runner because his much-needed skills are required to track down and 'retire' the outstanding Nexus 6 who have already started to make their mark upon the people of Los Angeles.

              It's not without good reason that this film still remains as one of the benchmarks of all sci-fi's, because way back in the 70's and 80's when every sci-fi was based in the year 2020, films seemed to lack a certain level of authenticity with tacky sets, awful costume design and really bad acting which made the whole package fall flat on its face. The same cannot be said for Blade runner because it oozes style and quality right from the very start, so much so that the sheer cinematic visual appeal makes great viewing even without the sound on. It's very difficult to try and pick holes in this film, even by today's standards it fails to feel dated with the extraordinary sets.

              The first time that I watched this film I was gob smacked by the sheer scale of it all and just sat there soaking it all in. My eyes never once left the screen even with the camera just panning around showing off the amazing visuals and sound effects; there's no doubt about it, they knew this was going to be a stunning film and they were right too.

              The actors, make up, and costume design couldn't have been better either. They seemed to have got the whole chemistry of it all just right and they fitted into the whole package with perfection, so much so that when the film ended I knew that I had seen something very special that would leave me wanting to own it and watch it time and time again.

              It's probably best to watch it at least 3 times because the first time will leave you so absorbed by the experience that you may lose sight of the actual story line. The second time will allow you to appreciate the full adventure. The third time just for the hell of it because you're hooked and have been left looking for more clues about Deckard's past.

              If this film was to be made today, I'm sure that it would be tweaked with expensive computer generated images and more special effects than you can shake a stick at; but I really do think that some films can become too dependant on this and the simplicity of what makes a great film can be lost along the way.

              It will be interesting to see in the year 2019 as to how authentic Blade runner actually was. It's not too difficult to see that in 10 years time that we have humanoids doing the jobs which we hate, or maybe masses of LCD and neon advertising signs cladding the facets of high rise skyscrapers; maybe not so much off world colonies or the death of the shell suit, but we can still live in hope can't we?

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                28.08.2009 18:29
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                Quality compact easy to use camera with advanced options if required

                The chances are that you have probably owned an electrical item from Panasonic, Sanyo, Matsushita, Technics or National, which is basically all the same company, and if like me you have had a few products bearing some of the above brand names, you will probably have been impressed with the quality and length of time they have lasted without too many things going wrong.

                Now I know that there are other good brand names out there when it comes to making cameras; however I do like the idea of a digital camera having the reliable Panasonic electrics which I have trusted over the years, and so that's why I chose this brand for my first Digital camera.

                I particularly like this camera because it has a metal body which feels sleek and sturdy just like mine (chance would be a fine thing), with a large 2.5" colour screen on the back which does away with a viewfinder; the good thing about this is that it works a little like an SLR (single lens reflex) where the image that you can see on the screen is the image that you will get on the finished picture. The picture quality of the display screen is just as you would expect from Panasonic with no nasty surprises. The only downside to this is that battery life is soon zapped with the LCD screen sucking away at the power; you can however reduce the brightness of the screen which does seem to help save the power without reducing the image clarity too much. I get into the habit of switching the camera off between using it which can be a bit of a pain if you want to capture something quickly as the camera does take its time to come back on again.

                The fx7 comes with just the one battery which is fine for just the odd bit of happy snapping on a night out, providing that you have fully charged the battery prior to setting off. The battery can lose charge if left for any amount of time and I would therefore recommend getting a second battery if using it on Holliday or where you cannot afford to wait several hours for the battery to charge back up again.

                There is an additional option for a dc line in to the camera allowing power to be supplied to the unit without removing the battery. This may not be apparent at the time, but when you connect the camera to your PC, you will be relying solely on the power of the battery in the camera to download your images, and unlike most gadgets that plug in via USB, this one does not charge back up; a DC line in cable is available as an extra, along with replacement batteries. Depending on where you buy from, you may be able to get these chucked in with the price, but to be honest I got my FX 7 at Selfridges where I gave it my best shot at getting a spare battery in with the deal and didn't get anywhere. I would have liked to have seen a good quality case in with the deal too, but nope, absolutely nothing.

                The fx7 stores its imagery onto an SD format which I find is very compatible and compact. The free 16mb SD card included only holds about 10 photos and is therefore best put to one side and replaced with at least a 1gb or 2gb one which can be had for some amazing prices on the internet.

                That's pretty much all the negative points out of the way really because I have owned this camera since it first hit the shelves over here and have not encountered any other issues of concern after using it on a weekly basis. The FX7 looks and works just the same as the day I bought it with no reduction in quality.

                I find that 5 megapixels is enough for me especially with the quality 3x optical Leica lens which produces some really fine quality images, and for most people this will be more than enough unless you intend on enlarging your pictures to the size of a house.

                I don't really want to go here but if for whatever reason you do develop a shaking hand when taking your pictures; the FX 7 has a fantastic optical image stabilization system which reduces the amount of camera shake.

                Quickly moving on, there is an option to use the FX 7 as a video camera which works rather well, recording as much footage as your SD card can take. There is also a built in microphone which records the sound to a reasonable quality, but this cannot be heard during playback on the camera because it doesn't have a speaker; you can however appreciate the sound when it has been downloaded or played through the TV (AV leads are included).

                I particularly like the macro mode on this camera which has the ability to focus down to around 5cm which is important for taking those close up pictures. I do find that the focus assist lamp can get a little confused at these levels, especially where the subject matter is lacking in something to focus on.

                The good news about this camera is that you don't have to be David Bailey to operate it with the 'simple mode' feature. Just squeeze the trigger and the camera will start to focus until it gives you the 2 friendly beeps and/or a green frame if you have difficulty hearing, and then click. (You also have the facility to allow the image to stay on screen for a few moments to review the image). If the camera has been unable to focus properly on the subject, it will let you know with a series of 4 bleeps and/or a red frame. It's so easy to use that I also bought one of these for my mum who has trouble working the TV remote.

                As your confidence grows, you can experiment with the scene mode which alters the settings allowing you to take pictures of night scenery, night portraits, fireworks, party, snow, self portrait, portrait and sports. Once you have mastered this, then there is the option of taking things to a whole different level by manually adjusting the settings in Photo mode. Maybe one day, but I don't think that I am quite ready for that just yet.

                Now before you go rushing out of the house to get your mitts on one, you may find that this camera has been replaced by an updated version with more megapixels and even more advanced spec. I do remember paying a whopping £250 for mine, but I'm sure that prices will have dropped dramatically now to a more competitive price.


                Some technical specifications of the Panasonic FX7

                5.0 million Pixels (2560 x 1920)
                3x optical zoom Leica lens (35 - 105 equivalent)
                Mega Optical Image Stabilisation (Mega OIS) system.
                Compact metal body
                2.5" Colour TFT with 114,000 pixels
                Venus Engine II
                Macro mode: shooting from as close as 5cm
                VGA 320/240 30fps movie recording function with sound (unlimited)
                ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80, 100, 200, and 400 equivalents
                Scene modes / Simple mode
                USB 2.0
                3fps mega burst mode.

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                • Taxi Driver (DVD) / DVD / 400 Readings / 387 Ratings
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                  23.08.2009 22:16
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                  One of Robert De niro's classic appearances

                  Film only review.

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                  The beginning
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                  After hearing what a cult classic this film was, I set out to buy my first copy of this film on DVD which wasn't particularly a cheap buy at the time and sat through the entire 113 minutes of this film feeling slightly cheated that it was so dated. I was too young at the time to appreciate this film for its pure genius and found it mildly entertaining watching what seemed to be a nutcase with a split personality driving a taxi one minute and then going on a killing spree the next. Not too soon after watching the film, I ended up selling 'Taxi Driver' for about £1 in a car boot sale.

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                  More than just a film
                  -------------------------

                  At some point we all reach a turning point in our lives, whether it's a new job, new lifestyle, a nervous breakdown or a midlife crisis. Something so drastic happens that things will never be the same again. For some strange reason, I kept parts of this film to the back of my head for many years after, and it was always fun trying on the words 'Are you talking to me?' whilst pointing a hairbrush in the mirror, until one day it finally all started to gradually unfold and make perfect sense. This wasn't some psychopathic nutter out on some wild killing spree; this was something far more important, something everyone will probably go through at some point, this film was about reaching that turning point in your life where rejection and being substandard is not good enough, where it's time to make a change and where it's time to make yourself stand out from the crowd and become a hero even if it's just for one day.

                  ----------------------
                  Time to get a job
                  ----------------------

                  Taken from the glory and action where his life had more meaning on the battlefield of the Vietnam War, Travis Bickle (Robert De niro) is suddenly thrust into the grasp of the New York City streets where nothing seemed to have a sense of direction and purpose. His chronic insomnia meets the job specification of a New York cabbie along with his willingness to work the long shifts and extra hours, and in no time at all he soon finds himself behind the wheel of a yellow cab.

                  De niro works well with this role as he seems to live the part as opposed to just playing it; which makes the character of Travis more believable. Another important character in this film was Betsy, played by Cybill Shepherd who also fits the role very well as a campaign volunteer promoting social change. Both characters at opposite ends of the scale find a common ground as they go on a date together, but this is short lived with when she does not share the same enthusiasm for porno movies. I couldn't stop laughing at this point because Shepherd has her own natural way of being so offended and insulted that she makes the scene very convincing as Bickle chases after her trying pass it off as an art movie. His attempts fail and she leaves him behind.

                  The sadness of rejection, lack of sleep, the dirty streets, the fumes, the pollution and the scum on the sidewalk made him feel ill and wishing that someone would just come along and flush it all down the toilet. There is no doubt that these things are eating away at Travis as you hear his mind say 'I tried several times to call her, but after the first call, she wouldn't come to the phone any longer. I also sent flowers but with no luck. The smell of the flowers only made me sicker. The headaches got worse. I think I got stomach cancer. I shouldn't complain though. You're only as healthy; you're only as healthy as you feel. You're only as...healthy...as...you...feel'. The tone in De niro's voice as he perfectly times the way that these words are delivered is superb; he lets you know exactly how bad things have affected Travis and how his depression has deepened.

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                  Time for a change
                  ----------------------

                  Travis kept in touch with his mother by writing letters to her explaining about his fictitious career as a secret agent; it's sad to see that his life didn't turn out quite the way he wanted, but what slowly becomes clear is that he was going to be the one to make that change with some truly inspiring words from Travis- 'June twenty-ninth. I gotta get in shape. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be 50 pushups each morning, 50 pull-ups. There will be no more pills, no more bad food, and no more destroyers of my body. From now on will be total organization. Every muscle must be tight'. Sometimes I wish that I could find the energy to do this every morning then I wouldn't be in such a bad shape. Now where did I put those biscuits?


                  From hereon, Travis starts to mould himself into the stronger, healthier, and more purposeful character that he has created in his mind, becoming someone who would stand up to those who made peoples lives so bad, someone not to be messed with, maybe the person he was back in Vietnam, or maybe a superhero who lived a normal life in the day and becoming someone else by night. He soon acquires a selection of guns and knives and starts work on fashioning a quick draw mechanism made from the slider of his bedside drawer, he adds a few drops of oil and rolls the mechanism back and forth making a snapping sound as it extends. Once the work is complete, Travis quickly rolls over on his bed bringing his knee to his chest to reveal a large knife strapped to his boot; and in one swift movement he pulls the knife free and brings it towards the imaginary attacker in combat. Satisfied with this drill, he stands up with a bladed stance in front of the full length mirror wearing his green casual military jacket and a Mohawk to symbolize the changed man. Apparently those famous lines that follow were not rehearsed time and time again as I first thought; but were completely made up as he went along. Say them out loud if you like...
                  'You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking... you talking to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who do you think you're talking to? Oh yeah? OK'. Travis then extends his arm to face his target and for the first time you see the sliding quick draw mechanism in action as the hand gun instantly slides into his hand with a positive click, and the firing pin is released. No bullets this time, maybe next time will be for real.

                  It's the scenes like this that stick in your head because they ooze an instant classic cinematic appeal, and the fact that this film is dated and scratchy in quality adds a little charm of authenticity to it, only to be copied by the likes of Tarantino in some of his films.

                  At the risk of dragging this out too long and also spoiling the ending for those who haven't seen 'Taxi Driver', I will briefly mention Iris, played by Jodie Foster, who becomes the next focus for Travis. Jodie Foster displays her early acting talents in this film acting as a streetwise young teenage prostitute and she acts very well alongside De niro through the remainder of the film with her upfront and energetic character.

                  ----------------------------------------
                  My final thoughts on Taxi Driver
                  ----------------------------------------

                  For me it's not one of those films that I want to watch time and time again because of the journey that it takes you through which kind of sticks in your head for some time. This can also be said for the eerie and dare I say depressing saxophone soundtrack which plays through parts of the film.

                  The special effects towards the end of this film are very limited compared to today's standards, but you have to respect that it was made way back in 1976 and actually received an 'R' rating in America for a shoot out that was apparently too gory.

                  In a line up of 100 films to see before you die, I would expect to see this film amongst them; but don't be disappointed if you watch this film and don't see what the point of it is, because the chances are that you will be one of the lucky ones who never gets to relate to any of the issues set deep inside this remarkable film.

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                  • LG Shine KE970 / Mobile Phone / 352 Readings / 336 Ratings
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                    22.08.2009 21:12
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                    A lovely looking phone, great price but a few little niggles.

                    My old mobile phone suddenly gave up the ghost and so I had a quick look at Tesco's whilst I was doing the shopping. I wanted a pay as you go phone which wasn't too expensive but had a bit of quality to it, and of course something which looked good too.
                    Nothing really stood out from the crowd and so I started to walk away, and it was then that I saw the little LG Shine which was on a special offer at the end of the display. The price was £59.99 with a free £10 top up included, which seemed to be a good offer; but the offer got even better when they overcharged me by £10 and had to refund me twice the amount as per their policy.

                    Grinning all the way home with my new bargain, I opened the box and put the phone on charge whilst having a little mess about with it; you see the LG Shine is a very tactile little object which sits nice and weighty in the palm with its soft sculpted rounded edges and brushed stainless steel back, making it one of those objects that you just have to pick up and play with. I particularly like the way the blue lit laser cut keypad is nicely protected and concealed away from view which only comes into action when the sliding mirrored cover is moved up; this also feels smooth and positive to operate.

                    The super smooth mirrored frontage of the phone doubles up as the main display screen which seems to work fine indoors; but unfortunately when using the display screen out in strong daylight, you soon reveal one of the phones 3 main faults. I find it virtually impossible to see the display when I am out and about and have to huddle up in a dark corner of the nearest building and then stick it under my top to see what I am doing. Try explaining that one away to Mr Policeman down at the station.

                    After being released from the Police station and getting your little LG Shine back, you will need to text your partner to tell them that you are on your way home. Here lies the second of its weaknesses as the buttons are fiddly, the keypad is very small and the keys are close together which proves difficult for dialling numbers let alone texting. Good old sausage fingers will soon be back at the Police station in no time when they realize that you were responsible for all the anonymous calls made as a result of dialling the wrong number.

                    The third and final issue that I have with the LG Shine is that it doesn't keep its shine for very long and requires a good wipe each time you use it to keep it looking in tip top condition. Having said that, I was very sceptical about how scratch resistant the mirrored plastic finish would be, but after owning this for several months, I can say that the finish seems to be holding up without any noticeable scratches. I do keep mine in a case so maybe yours won't look the same if you sling it in your pocket with your keys and loose change.

                    Having said all that, I still can't help but like this little phone because it still ticks all the same boxes that made me buy it in the first place: good price and great looks with a quality feel. It also has the other usual stuff like a 2 megapixel camera, video recorder and player, Bluetooth connection, and more stuff than I can be bothered to look at because to be perfectly honest, I don't need anymore from a pay as you go phone other than to make calls on it every now and again.

                    Ok then, here's some more of the LG Shine's key features:

                    2 megapixel camera with Schneider-Kreuznach lens, autofocus, flash and 2x digital zoom
                    Video recorder
                    Display: TFT, 262,000 colours, 240 x 320 pixels
                    Stereo music player (MP3, AAC, AAC+ and AAC++ file formats)
                    MP3, AAC and AAC+ ringtones (40 voice polyphonic)
                    Messaging: SMS, EMS, MMS, Email
                    3D Java games
                    Document Viewer (.ppt, .doc, .pdf, .xls and .txt files)
                    Flight Mode
                    Caller ID (photo / video)
                    Connectivity: Bluetooth 1.2, USB
                    Memory: MicroSD memory card (up to 2 Gbytes)
                    WAP 2.0, EDGE
                    Triband
                    Size: 100 x 51 x 14 mm
                    Weight: 119g
                    Battery standby: 280 hours

                    As with most new electrical items, they eventually start to come down in price which means that you can easily get your hands on one of these phones for under £50 with £10 credit to go, making this a cracking buy for the money.

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                    • More +
                      22.08.2009 01:29
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                      You will be left dazed but not too confused

                      I really don't have a clue when or where I bought Led Zeppelin's Early Days CD because it's been sat around in my cupboard for year's just gathering dust. Every time I go in there I always flick past it without giving it a second look because the thin gold writing on the black background of the CD's spine doesn't stand out enough.

                      Today was different, I picked up the CD straight away and without reading the edge, I looked at the cover instead and instantly recognised the four spacemen looking out from the clear CD case (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Jones and John Bonham).

                      The album consists of Led Zeppelin tracks dating from 1968 to 1971 and opens up with track 1 which is 'Good times, bad times'; this is where the strangest of things start to happen. Now let me tell you that every once in a while you get a glimpse of the past, and it's usually triggered by something that brushes past one of the senses when you least expect it, kind of like bumping into an old friend from school, you are instantly carried back in time to when there were no worries and the sun was always shining down on what seemed to be an endless summer of fun and good times. That's what this album means to me. Each track cranks up the handle of the time machine sending me back to when I first discovered Rock music, Newcastle brown ale, roll up cigarettes and motorcycles.

                      It may be just me, but some of the tracks on this album have a haunting eerie undertone to them that resonates through your senses; take the introduction to 'Babe I'm gonna leave you' for example, where the sound of an acoustic guitar plays a wandering tune gently changing direction like a butterfly in the breeze. The words 'baby I'm gonna leave you' are introduced and are softly repeated until the innocence is quickly jettisoned as the tune takes on a more sinister route, quickly speeding up and throwing everything into a whole new direction.

                      Also working with the same chemistry is 'What is and what should never be' as it leads you into the same relaxed and calm setting and then beats you up with a big stick when no one is watching. Track 8 takes the listener on a much calmer ride from beginning to end with 'Since I've been loving you' and I defy anyone to listen to this one without waving your arms about by playing air drums.

                      Perhaps the most eerie of all the songs on the album is the big one that everyone knows 'stairway to heaven'; I love the way this song warms up at around 4 minutes and 20 seconds in with the words 'If there's a bustle in your hedgerow don't be alarmed now, its just a spring clean for the May Queen'. A pure classic if there ever was one.

                      My favourite songs on this album and possible favourite tracks of all time are:
                      'Whole lotta love' with its chunky intro guitar riffs and its mind blowing instrumental half way through,
                      'Immigrant song' which has some awesome head banging qualities,
                      'Rock and roll' which is one of the best air guitar classics that I have ever heard, which of course means that you can only play it at full crank to give it the justice that it deserves.

                      Track listings
                      ----------------

                      "Good Times Bad Times" - 2:48
                      "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" - 6:41
                      "Dazed and Confused" - 6:27
                      "Communication Breakdown" - 2:29
                      "Whole Lotta Love" - 5:34
                      "What Is and What Should Never Be" - 4:44
                      "Immigrant Song" - 2:25
                      "Since I've Been Loving You" - 7:24
                      "Black Dog" - 4:54
                      "Rock and Roll" - 3:41
                      "The Battle of Evermore" - 5:52
                      "When the Levee Breaks" - 7:08
                      "Stairway to Heaven" - 8:02

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                      • More +
                        20.08.2009 22:36
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                        Breakin' the law has never been so much fun!

                        Games like this have caused such a stir amongst the general public and have resulted in games such as 'Man hunter' being temporarily banned from the shelves due to their violent content. Some people may argue that games such as this are responsible for the increase in violence on today's streets; others will tell you that it reduces violent behaviour because it allows people to release their anger in a theatrical environment. The truth is that games are getting more graphic and more violent and are out there in their masses for any nagging teenager to persuade their parents to buy for them.

                        I purchased my GTA4 for the Xbox 360 about 8 months ago partly because it was a driving game which had a variety of vehicles to drive, and yes the other part of me chose this game because you can shoot things too.

                        The game is set in an American place called 'Liberty City', which hosts everything from restaurants and shopping places to crack houses and strip joints. The graphics are absolutely mind blowing and you can explore virtually anywhere within the game.
                        The attention to detail makes this a game that you never seem to get bored with and you will find hours passing without realising as you blast through the streets on your latest stolen machine with your favourite radio station playing.

                        Now this game has many different missions that you can undertake where you can unlock the secrets yourself; but to be perfectly honest, I don't have enough hours in the day so I'm afraid that I got the cheats off the internet, simply put 'gta4 cheats' into the search engine and you will be flying around in a helicopter in no time. Some of the cheats allow you to drive vehicles such as high powered motorcycles, scramble bikes, a selection of sports cars, speed boats and helicopters. There is also an option of upgrading your weaponry to include things like rocket launchers, Molotov cocktails, hand grenades, various automatic/semi automatic guns and sniper rifle. You can also change the weather too.

                        As you walk through the streets, it's only a matter of time before someone calls you a name (and yes there is swearing involved) or wants to start a fight. So you do what any other decent citizen would do and reach for the Uzi; this usually has them pleading with you to spare their life and eventually they run away. If you are feeling particularly revengeful then why not run after them and then wait on a rooftop with your sniper rifle, zoom in close and then take em out one by one. Be careful though as the sound of the gunshots and screaming pedestrians will have the cops on your tail in no time.

                        If shooting people aint your thing then why not try your hand at taking out all the flying rats (pigeons) in Liberty City or blowing up stuff with your rocket launcher.

                        Like a sick joke you will either find this game very amusing or very distasteful. Personally I love it and think it's an absolute classic.

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