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This is the first opinion that I've written on Dooyoo for quite a while so you'll have to forgive me if it's not up to my usual standards of rubbishness but I'll try and get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible. Windows XP then; what's that all about? Well, essentially Windows XP is supposed to be the unification of the Windows NT and 9x product lines. Traditionally Windows NT has been aimed towards corporations and larger networks and is famed for its reliability and security. Windows 9x on the other hand is supposed to be easy to use, fairly quick and a lot cheaper. So in an ideal world XP will be quick, cheap, reliable and secure, but how many of these criteria does it fulfil? Well, I'll discuss that in more detail towards the end of my review but first things first; the issue of compatibility. WindowsXP work with a lot of hardware straight out of the box. It appears to have a large built in driver database so compatibility doesn't appear to be as much of an issue as with Windows 2000 and the like. My SoundBlaster 128, network card and graphics card were all detected automatically upon installation and worked without any hitches. The only piece of hardware that won't work in XP is my BT Speedway ISDN adapter, which is a real pain because it means that I can't use the internet from within XP. This isn't the end of the world however because XP will dual boot quite happily with Windows98. Installing WindowsXP is a very simple procedure that it fairly quick and painless. The days of having to fiddle about with changing floppy disks every five minutes are well gone and the installation is almost entirely automated. Simplicity personified. Once you’ve got the operating system installed and setup correctly you can then explore its new features and facilities. People have been using Windows 2000 for the past few months will have a fair idea of what to expect. The programs a
ren’t drastically different to the programs that have traditionally been included with Windows 9x and Windows NT. Paint, Wordpad and all of the traditional games are included so any secret Minesweeper fans can rest assured that their fun doesn’t have to stop just because they’ve upgraded their OS. XP does have a lot of useful utilities that Windows 9x users won’t have seen before. A lot of these are to do with networking and administration so a lot of users may not see much use for them, but anyone with a small network at home will soon grow to appreciate them. Rather than just allowing people on a network to access a disk drive or similar, you can actually allow certain people to access certain folders. This means that if you have confidential files that you don’t want everyone on the network to see, you can limit access to them. This feature was available in Windows2000 as well but I don’t think it’s ever been included in Windows 9x. The main thing you’ll notice upon entering WindowsXP is the nice new interface on offer. Essentially it’s very similar to that of other versions of Windows except that everything has been tweaked to look absolutely stunning. The Start Menu is totally changed and is now much more logical, menus all slide out smoothly and of course all buttons now look shiny and smooth. These little touches may not sound like a lot but it makes the computer appear much more accessible and easy to use. XP is a simple to use operating system compared to Windows 2000 but if you did deeper you will find that flexibility hasn’t been compromised. With Windows 2000, if you didn’t know what you were doing, you could quite easily do a lot of damage to the installation and stop it from working. With WindowsXP a lot of the advanced options are hidden away from the eyes of novices so hopefully this risk is minimised. If you take a closer look though it is possible to do exactly the same thi
ngs as you could do with Windows 2000 and a whole lot more as well. System requirements for XP are fairly high due to the extra levels of complexity. On my Duron 850 with 384Mb RAM, everything runs smoothly and at an excellent pace. Whilst Microsoft’s recommended specifications may be a lot lower, I wouldn’t have thought that it would be a very pleasant experience to run XP on anything with less than 128Mb RAM and at least a 500Mhz processor. I bought a new 40Gb hard disk to accommodate XP and obviously I’ve come nowhere near to filling it. The installation of the operating system took up about 1.5Gb so a hard disk of around 10Gb for probably be a suitable minimum for anyone intending to install a few games and applications. You probably could scrape by with lower specifications but if you’re going to splash out on a new operating system, you may as well do the deed properly. From a reliability point of view, XP is excellent. It has never yet crashed on my machine so there is no room for criticism in this area. Windows 98 used to crash occasionally on my PC, Windows 2000 crashed a lot less and XP doesn’t crash at all. Microsoft really seems to have got its act together with this operating system and I cannot criticise this aspect of it. So the new OS is reliable. What about speed? Well to be honest, it does seem to whiz long at a fair old pace. I haven’t yet had to sit around waiting for it to complete a task and the general feel of the operating system is very responsive. I haven’t directly benchmarked it against Windows9x or 2000 but it certainly doesn’t appear to be any slower. One area that is certainly quicker though is the amount of time it takes to load up. Because there is no underlying DOS lying beneath the OS, boot up time on my machine is under a minute; about half the time of Windows 2000. Price-wise the operating system is fair. I got my copy for free because it’s
a pre-release version but the finished copy will cost somewhere around £200 for a full copy. This may seem like a lot of money, and to be honest it is too much, but considering what the OS offers, it is decent value for money. You may have noticed that I haven’t discussed Product Activation at all and that is because it hasn’t really bothered me at all. If I do find that it is a pain, I will update the review accordingly. In conclusion, XP isn’t a huge leap forwards but it is a clear refinement and amalgamation of existing products. Microsoft deserves a lot of praise for finally producing a decent solid OS and it would appear that Microsoft’s domination of the world will continue for a long time if they keep making excellent products like this.
I guess by now everyone has seen the oh-so-witty play on Microsoft products/slogans that are doing the rounds in the web. Things such as Micro$oft and Windoze etc have never been particularly funny, but are they justified? Are the products actually overpriced, sluggish bloatware? Well, judging by Windows 2000 the answer is a resounding maybe™. I received my copy of Windows 2000 a few days ago and I am yet to experience a single crash. I always thought that Windows 98 was more stable than people gave it credit for; it only crashed every so often, yet Windows 2000 has proven to be absolutely rock solid. When installing and setting up Windows 2000 I had to perform some fairly risky operations such as converting a hard disk partition into an NTFS filing system and it all went flawlessly. I already had a copy of Windows 98 on my computer so I expected the installation to be a very messy affair because I wanted to be able to dual boot. To my immense shock, all I had to do was load up Windows 98, stick in the Windows 2000 CD and let it autoplay. Upon doing this the program offered to upgrade my existing copy on Windows 98, or install 2000 and allow me to dual boot. At this point, I feel that I should state that Windows 2000 is not the replacement for Windows 98. Windows ME is the current MS operating system that is supposed to be suitable for general home use (games, edutainment etc) but I know of many people that use Windows 2000 in conjunction with Windows 98 in order to get the best of both worlds. Windows 2000 isn't an ideal gaming operating system because performance does seem to suffer slightly but if you have Windows 98 on your system as well, it is easy to switch between the two by rebooting your PC. Windows 2000 is really designed with stability and networking in mind so if you want to type up a vital Dooyoo opinion and don't want your computer to crash, Windows 2000 may prove more reliable than Windows 98. Installing Windo
ws 2000 was a cinch. As I've stated earlier it was a case of putting the CD in and following the on screen prompts. There were no glitches at all which is a nice change from some MS operating systems. Having used Linux and Windows as a dual booting system a couple of years ago I remember that dual booting used to be a real pain to set up. This is no longer the case and the Windows 2000 installation program does all the hard work for you. If you have an older PC, Windows 2000 may not be for you however. It's probably possible to scrape by with 32/64Mb RAM, but if you really want to fly along 128Mb is a sensible minimum. With RAM prices so low at the moment anyway, it would be worth your while upgrading if you have less than 128Mb. The basic OS installation took up over 1Gb on my PC so if you have a smallish hard disk and you want to dual boot, you might benefit from buying a larger capacity one. I originally had a 6.4Gb one but having installed Windows 98 and a few applications I realised that if I wanted to install Windows 2000 I would need a bigger one, hence I now have a nice new 40 Gb model. The simplest way to dual boot is to set up a partition for each operating system. On my system I split the hard disk into two partitions of 19Gb, put Windows 98 and all its applications onto drive C and then installed Windows 2000 onto drive G. It is worth noting that Windows 2000 likes to use a different filing system to Windows 9x so Windows 98 cannot see any data that is on the Windows 2000 drive. The Windows 2000 drive can see all the data on the Windows 98 drive though so it is fairly simple to share files across the operating systems. Because Windows 2000 isn't a replacement for Windows 9x you will need new drivers for most of your hardware. The Windows 2000 CD has a lot of drivers on it, but ultimately it's up to the manufacturers of your hardware to make Windows 2000 driver available to the public. Installation of the new drivers is
fairly straight forward. If the manufacturer of your hardware says that your hardware isn't compatible with Windows 2000, the only solution is to change that piece of hardware. A costly excersise at the best of times, so it's worthwhile checking with your hardware manufacturers before you buy Windows 2000. Actually using Windows 2000 isn't much different to using other recent Microsoft operating systems. Some of the icons are in different places but the general look and feel is the same is Windows 98/ME. One thing that is nice is that pressing Ctrl&Alt&Delete brings up a menu that allows you to lock the computer so that your evil siblings/offspring can't access it. Also it lets you bring up the task manager which is a bit like its Windows 98 counterpart, although it's much better and more efficient. The standard applications that come with Windows 2000 are similar to Windows 9x. MS Paint is still there as is the calculator and all of that gubbins. One thing that you will notice is that there are a lot more tools for managing your network. This is an area where Windows 2000 really gets on over on Windows 98/ME because it offers a lot more in depth control for networking if you have more than one PC. I managed to network my Windows 2000/98 PC to the Windows 98 PC that I have downstairs with no problems at all. The only thing that I had to do was download a new driver for my NIC and Windows 2000 did most of the rest of the set up for me. In general use Windows 2000 is a fairly speedy operating system. Windows 98 used to slow down quite a lot after prolongued use but with Windows 2000 this is no longer the case. This is due to the much greater stability of the operating system which prevents things like memory leaks which eventually use up all of your system's resources resulting in the need for a reboot. The 'Start' menu doesn't slide up any more; instead it fades in. This is a nice touch and it does it on
all the menus although it does remind me of using my laptop where the screen is too slow to refresh, resulting in blurred image transitions. After a week or so, the Start menu organises itself so that only your most frequently used applications are visible meaning that programs that you don't use any more become invisible. To access these is a simple matter of holding the mouse cursor over the start menu for an extra few seconds. This kind of simplification makes navigating your way through Windows 2000 much simpler than in the cluttered Windows 98 installation that I have. The Control Panel of Windows 2000 is slightly different to that of Windows 98 but this is due to extra items for networking and systems administration. These are only really needed for more advanced users but it is useful to know that they are there if you need them. Internet Explorer 5 is installed by default which is handy although on my installation there was no support for Macromedia Flash so I had to download a plugin. This is simple to do, but it would be nice if it was installed by default because a lot of web sites use it. Setting up a connection to the internet is all wizard driven so even the simplest person could do it (ie me). I did have some minor problems setting up my graphics card but this was down to a minor driver problem. During this period Windows wasn't very helpful and didn't suggest any problems as to what could be wrong, but to be fair, it did still work acceptably. The fact that Windows 2000 offers the user a lot of control is good and bad. For an experienced user it is a pleasure because suddenly you can set up the whole system exactly how you'd like to. For a novice though it means that it is easy the stop Windows from working. And there lies the decision for the buyer; do you feel confident about installing a slightly more complex operating system. It is worth knowing that Windows 2000 costs around £250 so is totally overprice
d. Windows ME is quite a lot cheaper than this so this could be a considerable consideration when it comes to deciding what OS you would like. Charging this much for it may alienate some home users although for a corporation this probably wouldn't make much difference. If you have some knowledge of computers, Windows 2000 is a real pleasure to use. Increased funcionality and stability over Windows 98 make it a viable alternative for both the home and office worker, although if you know little about computers you'd be better off sticking with a more mainstream operating system such as Windows ME. Windoze? Certainly not! Micro$oft? Quite possibly! I'm sorry if this opinion dragged on a bit, but if there is anything that you feel I've missed or you would like adding, just leave a comment and I'll do my best to sort it out.
The Compaq Armada V300 (V300 herein) is one of the cheaper models in the Compaq range, and I wouldn't be surprised if they'd discontinued it now. I bought my model as factory refurbished stock a couple of months ago and in my brief experience of it, it has been very good indeed. When I describe it as a cheap model, I don't really mean 'cheap', I mean 'budget'. There is no such thing as a cheap laptop computer because for the price of a 2 year old one you could pick up a desktop PC with twice the power. The V300 however is a fairly economic buy; my one cost me just £375 with a PCMCIA network card thrown in for free. 375 quid could buy you a fairly nippy desktop PC, so I'm sure you'll be interested in knowing the specification of this laptop. The main factor that determines the speed of a PC in everyday use is the processor. The V300 comes with an Intel Celeron 466Mhz CPU which whilst not top of the range offers a good compromise between price, battery life and performance. The main weakness in the specification of the V300 is the somewhat measly 32Mb RAM which is only just enough to scrape by with. Admittedly I have never thought that the system is slow, but another 32Mb RAM would speed it up no end. Another annoying factor is the display. Laptops have traditionally had weak displays and this model is no exception. It has a 13.1" HPA screen, which is a fair size although it's not a TFT. This results in a lot of 'pixel bleeding' because the pixels cannot change state quickly enough. The visible effect of this is that moving images pick up major motion blur and you also lose track of the mouse cursor occasionally. For a computer of this price though, I can't complain too much. The 4.3Gb hard drive is spacious and quick whilst the CD-ROM drive and floppy drive are both built in, so you don't have to carry any annoying external gubbins around with you. There are two PCMCIA sockets fo
r adding things such as network cards and there is a built in 56K Modem. It's a nice feature to have because it means that you don't have to pay any extra money just to buy the equipment to go on the Internet. There is also a decent sound chip and an excellent microphone built into the casing so this computer would be ideal for voice recognition. On the back of the casing there is a single USB port, 9 pin serial port, VGA out socket, docking station connector, parallel port and a PS/2 port for an external mouse. This provides good connectivity options and it also means that if you have a spare monitor lying around at home or work you can connect it up so that you don't have to stare at the small laptop screen all day long. On the remaining sides of the case there are the PCMCIA sockets, volume controls, modem cable socket, TV out (composite), external microphone and headphone sockets and also an Infra red transmitter/receiver. The IR unit is a pain to set up but once up and running it means that if you have a printer with an IR doofy you can just point your laptop at it and print to it without needing any cables. It is worth noting that you can only do this if you are within approximately 1 metre of the printer and also if there are any other IR devices nearby you can't do it. It's still a useful and impressive feature, even if it's only there to impress your friends. Build quality of the machine is fairly good although some of the plastic does feel a bit flimsy. The casing around the screen in particular is a bit weak and any pressure applied to it makes the screen get corrupted temporarily in small areas. From a styling point of view, it's a very nice machine. It's fairly slim and light without being tacky and it's got a rather elegant and simplistic design. Compared to my mother's laptop, it looks like the proverbial sex on a stick. Often with cheap notebooks, corners are cut. Seemingly with this
model though there aren't many shortcuts taken. The keyboard for instance is excellent and after a couple of minutes of practice is ideal for touch typing. On my model some of the keys don't do what they should, but my laptop has a European keyboard layout. I don't know if this is the same for all models, but it's hardly noticeably in general use. The pointing device on this machine is a very sensitve touch pad which has good feel and is easy to control. The sensitivity can be adjusted so that you don't accidentally brush your arms against it when typing and it makes an ideal mouse replacement. One thing that I liked about the software that drives it is that you can set 'hot spots' on certain areas so that if you tap the top left of the pad, the active window become maximised, tap the bottom left and it becomes minimised. This is totally configurable by the user and is a nice thing to have and saves valuable effort. Once turned on, the laptop is very nearly totally silent in operation. Sometimes a fan turns itself on and off in order to dissipate excess heat but generally it runs remarkably quietly. In general use the machine is very quick and when using programs such as MS Word, it's not noticeably slower than my desktop PC which has more than twice the specifications. It has an ATI graphics chip which whilst not brilliant, is quick enough to play some games on. The only problem is that the display isn't really good enough for games, but if you connect an external monitor it is fine. The speaker quality is a little tinny but this can only be expected when they are so small. As with a lot of Compaq machines there is some interesting software installed. Most of the stuff on the V300 is designed for network administrators so that they can check if the laptop has been fiddled with or if the specification has been changed. There is also some good and detailed diagnostic software installed so if anything does go wro
ng you can pinpoint the problem quite easily. In general Window's use the only problem is that it's easy to lose track of the mouse pointer for a few seconds due to the sloppy screen but it's easy enough to find it after a few seconds. This is only a minor annoyance and is not the end of the world because you can setup mouse trails so that you won't lose track of it. The system comes with a 'master disk' which allows you to setup the machine as it was when it left the factory. The downside of this is that you lose any customisations to software that you may have made and you have to back up all of your documents on a floppy disk. As you may be able to tell, I really like this laptop because it is very dependable. I am yet to have it crash in Windows (2 months and no crash! Surely a record!) and the only software problem that I've noticed is that it sometimes doesn't shutdown properly. A flick of the on/off swith sorts this out though. Battery life on the V300 is decent and 2 hours of typing is achievable. When the machine goes into hibernation (very low power mode) it can stay on for over 36 hours which is pretty remarkable. Please note that when it's in hibernation you can't actually do anything with the PC until you bring it out of hibernation by pressing the on/off switch. The battery recharges itself fairly quickly and the charger doubles as an AC adaptor and is fairly small and discrete. Overall, I like this laptop because it is so simple compared to its competitors. Nothing ever goes wrong with it, the battery life is good, the styling is nice and elegant and it's got a fair turn of speed. The only design point that annoys me is that it's very difficult to upgrade the RAM because the SODIMM slots are well hidden inside the casing. This is unforgivable because RAM is the first thing that many users would want to upgrade. In general though, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and reliable laptop.
I think that Ebuyer.com sum themselves up pretty well on their own site. Here's what they have to say... "Specifically we offer our customers: Comprehensive product information and availability on over 15,000 products *Customer self service *Customer specific pricing agreements *Branded computers and peripherals at competitive prices" And to be honest, who am I to disagree. By customer self service they certainly succeed because there's no other way of buying products on the internet. Unlike in real life, on the internet there are no shop assistants to tell you where things are so the site has to be easy to understand and navigate. On this front, Ebuyer has done a very good job. The general design of the site is very attractive and everything that you need is instantly available to you. On the main page, there is a list of special offers and this is the best place to really find some bargains. Some of the products on the front page of the site really are very cheap. Below a picture of each product is the price and importantly, the amount of each product that they have in stock. This is becoming a fairly common feature on ecommerce websites and is one that is very useful when you're trying to decide which site to buy from. On the left hand side of the page there is a list of product categories such as processors, memory etc and a quick click on any one of these will take you to a more specific area. If you still can't see what you want there is a very powerful search facility that narrows down on items very well. Sometimes the site does get a little sluggish but I haven't noticed this recently because they've changed servers. In the very top right of the page, there is a little shopping trolley which tells you how many items you've got in it and also the total cost of the items. This is a useful feature because on some sites you have to keep skipping back and forwards from the
shopping trolley to the product pages. Ebuyer also aim to provide 'customer specific pricing agreements'. Now, I'm guessing that this doesn't apply to home users because I've never been offered a customer specific pricing agreement. Presumably this applies to businesses that are buying products in bulk quantities so they will probably get cheaper prices. "Branded computers and peripherals at competitive prices" is their next aim and they've certainly achieved this. At the moment prices for RAM are remarkably low all over the internet, but Ebuyer.com is the cheapest place that I have seen as of yet. The low prices don't stop there though because 90% of the products on the site are cheaper than anywhere else I've seen. The upshot of this is that Ebuyer either have to cut corners or bump the price up in other areas. They offer free delivery on purchases over £100 but I am yet to buy anything off them that totalled to more than £100. Delivery on small items such as RAM costs around a fiver and is good value seeing as it arrives the next day. Dabs.com offer free delivery on all items though and this is something that I'd really like to see Ebuyer incorporate. My only major criticism of Ebuyer would be their customer service. A lot of online companies like this are often criticised for their lack of communication with customers and Ebuyer.com is no exception. I have emailed them a couple of times with queries about products and have never received any replies. In my eyes this is not acceptable and it is just laziness on the part of Ebuyer. Several people that I know have had problems returning faulty goods to Ebuyer as well. One friend in particular received no replies to his emails when part of his machine failed and in the end he phoned them up, only to be fobbed off and told that is was a software error. He pointed out that it couldn't be a software error and eventually they agreed to replace
the faulty goods. This is in contrast to Dabs.com who are very good at communication and customer services. Email was supposed to speed up communication but it seems to me that companies like Ebuyer don't even bother reading them. When ordering products, the site is totally secure so there is no risk of credit card fraud and nobody will be able to hack in and pinch your details. This should offer some piece of mind to paranoid individuals that are reluctant to give their credit card details away over the internet. Ebuyer.com isn't a perfect company by a long shot, but it is pretty good. I would liken buying from them to be like buying from a computer fair. The prices are very cheap, but if things go wrong you may have trouble returning faulty goods. Fortunately I personally have never had any problems with them whatsoever although I do know several people that haven't been so impressed with them. If Ebuyer could improve their customer services, I'm sure that they could quickly gain a very good reputation for being so cheap but as it stands currently, a lot of people seem to prefer paying a little bit extra and sticking with more well known and established stores.
Dabs.com has been around for several years now, previously under the guise of Dabs Online. Basically, Dabs started out as a simple mail-order PC component company but with the ever expanding IT revolution they have noe renamed themselves Dabs.com and they sell the majority of their items over the Internet. On arrival to the Dabs website you are immediately presented with some of the special offers and best deals. This is a useful facility to have, but the special offers don't change very often, so if you visit the site every day, it soon gets monotonous. Navigation of the site can become quite difficult at times because it's got a fairly cluttered design and some of the buttons are a bit ambiguous if you haven't been there before. The site does have a massive range of products though and most of them are at competitive prices. It's interesting to note that such a big company as Dabs is still more expensive than a relatively small company such as Scan (www.scan.co.uk). Maybe Dabs is going to become the online equivalent of PC World? The products can be browsed in a number of ways such as by manufacturer or by product type. The only problem with this is that sometimes you end up with a massive long list of products on your screen at one time and you have to scroll down pages and pages in order to find the product that you are after. The site does have a search facility which works quite well although it does come up with some somewhat anomalous results occasionally. One feature which is potentially useful is that ability to perfon a 'FastSearch' which means that if you know the product code of a product, you can locate it straight away. With such a large number of products on offer, finding the right one isn't always easy but Dabs have done a good job of making it as easy as they could. Once you've decided that you want to buy some PC equipment from them, you have to register an account with them, which is a simple and
quick process. The advantage of this is that if you are a return customer, all you have to do is enter you email address and account password and all your details are already there. In the longrun, this can save a substantial amount of time. Having ordered your products, you then have to wait for them to be delivered. The time-scale of this wait depends upon a number of things and Dabs normally keep you well informed of the situation. For example, I ordered a lot of components for my new PC off them and the graphics card, RAM and heatsink shipped with 3 days, whilst the motherboard and processor didn't ship of another 2 weeks. People always say that ordering online is quick and that the products will often arrive the next day; this is not the case with Dabs. If some parts of your order are in stock whilst others are still being ordered by Dabs, you can ask for a part despatch, where they'll send you the items that are in stock. Delivery on all items on Dabs is totally free and often it is next working day. This is part of the service that I particularly like because with some other online retailers, they tend to charge an extra few quid for delivery which soon bumps the price up. When you buy stuff from Dabs you can collect DabsPoints, which can then be converted into Airmiles. I am yet to take advantage of these because I think they're a bit of a waste of time, but I'm sure that some people will appreciate them. Also on the site is an online auction where you can sell your existing PC equipment. It isn't a particularly good example of an online auction but it does have quite a few users and you might be able to pick up a bargain. Obviously, as with all online auctions, you are dealing with private sellers so security could be an issue. A lot of people criticise Dabs for their customer service, or rather their lack of it. In my experience however, I have found the customer service to be nothing short of excellent. About a year
ago, I ordered a new CPU for my PC and being the intelligent person that I am, I set the core voltage too high, resulting in a dead processor. I phoned up Dabs who were very helpful and full of suggestions but in the end we had to arrange for a replacement. The next day my new processor arrived and the old one was taken away. Service like this is rare amongst online companies so I was very pleased to see this. Also, if you order a product that isn't in stock, Dabs will keep you aware of the date that they expect it to ship and if it is delayed any longer they will email you and let you know the modified shipment date. Another thing that I have just spotted on the Dabs site is a little area called clearance corner. This offers reduced prices on slightly obselete items. I'd imagine that this could be a very useful facility for bargain hunters who don't mind not having the most up to date equipment. Having looked through some other opinions about Dabs on Dooyoo, I was surprised to see that some people have commented quite negatively on them. In my experience with them I have been very pleased with what they have offered me and I have no major complaints about them. Areas that they could improve upon include the fact that most items aren't held in stock so there is often a long wait between ordering and actually receiving your goods. This can be frustrating if you want your goods quickly and for an online retailer is not really acceptable. As mentioned earlier, the prices aren't the cheapest around, however they do include postage and packing so they may well work out to be very competitive. From my experience with Dabs, I can wholeheartidly recommend them and I am yet to find another online shop that offers the same amount of products and customer service.
This is the first Dooyoo opinion that I have written for a few weeks, so if it is in any way lacking, please let me know and I will do my best to improve it. Anyway, enough of this waffle, I'll just get straight on with the juicy stuff. Having recently finished building my new PC, I decided that it was still lacking a certain something. I had no way of backing up my data apart from using the floppy drive, which is totally archaic anyway. The only realistic and suitable solution in my situation was to buy a CD Writer. I had been hoping to find a second-hand one of Ebay.co.uk so had waited a few weeks to see if I could find one at a decent price. It was soon apparent though that people on Ebay are often willing to spend more than is strictly required on most items, so I decided to look elsewhere. Eventually, I received an advert in the post from Makro, a large Wholesaler of products (not just computer stuff) who had this CD Writer on special offer for the next 2 weeks. The price listed was £59.99 + V.A.T. and this worked out to be about £20 cheaper than most other places I had looked. Just to emphasise how good an offer this was; all of these CD Writers had sold out within 24 hours. The CD Writer itself came in a nice fully boxed kit complete with the drive, IDE cable, CD Audio cable, mounting screws, manuals and all of the relevant software. This is particularly nice to see because most CD Writers within this price range are normally just bare drives without any software or proper documentation. The specifications of the drive are very impressive for the price; 8x write, 4x re-write and a maximum 32 speed read. These are all maximum figures and your computer may not be able to keep up, which I will discuss later in this opinion. The drive itself is attractive although the colour didn't quite match my case, or my other CD drive. This isn't a major issue and obviously it doesn't have any effect on how the drive performs. On the front f
ascia, there is a headphone socket, volume control, read LED, write LED, Play/Skip track button and an eject button. One feature that LG drives have that a lot of other manufacturers don't include is a little manual eject mechanism in the case of power or drive failure. All you have to do is put a pointy object into a little hole on the front of the fascia and the drive tray will pop out slightly, allowing you to retrieve your CD. Installation of the drive couldn't have been much easier. Due to the fact that I have a Full Tower case, which is massive, I had some minor problems with cabling but this was quickly sorted out. The supplied cable is of normal length, but the problem was that I wanted to put the CD Writer in the top drive bay of my case, but the cable wasn't long enough. A slightly longer replacement cable was needed, although this did set me back about £10 from a specialist. The drive just slotted into the empty drive bay and all I had to do was screw it in. Then I just connected the power, IDE and CD audio cables to the back of the drive and it was all up and running. One thing to not before installing the drive is to make sure that you have the jumpers configured correctly. With CD Writers it is advisable to have the device set up as the master drive on the secondary IDE channel because this helps to ensure a constant supply of uninterrupted data to the drive. This is all clearly explained in the manual though, so it is all very easy. Once installed it's just a case of installing the CD writing software from within Windows. The software supplied with this drive is Adaptec East CD Creator and Direct CD, both of which are very good, although not quite as good as Nero in my opinion. It's a pleasant surprise to note that a full manual is supplied with the software rather than just an online version. This makes it easy to reference in you do run into any problems. On my PC there were no problems however and I had my firs
t CD being written within 10 minutes. The ease of use was very good with this drive. Even though I am quite experienced at upgrading and building PCs, I think that a beginner could have added this drive to their machine with consumate ease and a bit of common sense. The software is all incredibly easy to use too, so I would certainly recommend this package to someone who is fairly new to PCs. My only criticism with this CD writer is that it doesn't support the latest 'Burn-proof' technology. This technology basically eliminates the curse of CD writers; buffer underruns. A buffer underrun is when the CD Writer isn't supplied with enough data quickly enough and the data buffer on the drive itself empties. Because of the technology used to write CDs, this always used to mean that in this situation, the CD would have to stop recording and would become corrupted. This would lead to a totally useless CD that didn't have all the data on that you needed. In recent months however, new technology has arrived which is supposed to prevent buffer underruns from occurring. Sadly though, this drive doesn't have this technology incorporated into it. On my PC (Duron 850) I have experienced one buffer underrun CD whilst having this drive which is much lower than I've experienced with other drives. This is is part thanks to the generous 2mb buffer that the drive has. To write a CD at 8x you will need to leave the PC unused whilst the writing process is going on, or else the chance of buffer underruns is increased. This means that you should close down all programs other than the CD writing software and disable screensavers and power saving features. This may seem to be a pain, but in the long run it's much better than having a collection of toasted CDs. At this price range, it is difficult to imagine a manufacturer managing to cram any more specifications into the machine so I can't really criticise it too much for not having Burn-
proof technology. The uses for a drive like this are plentiful. You can back up any data that you have, burn your own music CDs (using uncopyrighted material, of course) and make copies of any uncopyrighted CDs that you already have. Of course, there's nothing to stop you from copying copyrighted CDs, but don't be surprised when the men in suits start knocking on your door. In conclusion, I would heartily recommend this CD writer to anyone with an interest in writing their own CDs. It doesn't matter whether you're a PC novice or an expert, this drive has enough features to keep you interested, whilst maintaining excellent simplicity. For £59 I got a bargain, but I think that from most online retailers it's selling for about £80, which is still a good £20 cheaper than most of its competitors. If you do buy this CD writer, I can't see you being a disgruntled customer. *Just as a little extra note, I have had no difficulty with this drive on any types of recordable media yet, even cheapo stuff from computer fairs, which only makes it a more attractive proposition.
Over the past few years, Hewlett Packard have survived on mainly one aspect of their business; Printers. Hewlett Packard do actually make PCs and Scanners as well but they are generally overpriced and underspecified. So, how do they manage to flog printers then? Well the printers have one good thing going for them and that's reliability. Here's a brief list of my experience of printers over the last few years and I think it speaks volumes. Hewlett Packard Deskjet 540: Sure, everyone laughs at it now, but it's still working. The quality is limited to 300dpi but it was the first printer that I ever bought and it's still working to this day. It's never even brought up an error message. Epson Stylus 500: On the purchase of my new PC a couple of years ago, I decided it was time for a new printer. I bought an Epson because I had seen the quality that it can produce. The only problem was that within 4 months it had gone wrong. Epson Stylus 600: I got the 500 replaced with a 600 and to my horror, this one also went wrong within a few months. Hewlett Packard Deskjet 690: I replaced the Epson with this. What it lacks in print quality it makes up for with reliability. It's still working even today. Hewlett Packard Deskjet 1120: I bought this printer because I needed to be able to print on A3 paper. Decent quality printouts but not exceptional. It's never gone wrong. Hewlett Packard PhotoSmart 1000: The latest addition to my collection and finally it appears that Hewlett Packard are being innovative and working on their print quality. Whilst the list above may seem a bit off topic, I think that it indicates the main selling point of HP printers. They never go wrong. Having had several of them over the last few years, I am yet to have a Hewlett Packard printer fail on me, print out random characters or do anything wrong. Sure, they're a little bit more expensive but I certainly think it's worth it. Enough
about HP though, let's talk about this specific printer. I bought this printer from Dabs Direct for about £170 and I have not been disappointed at all by it. The reasons that I bought this printer above its competitors is that it is from a reliable brand and also it has the ability to read Smartmedia cards and also Compact Flash cards. So what? Well, this means that instead of having to plug my digital camera into the back of my PC and wait ages for the pictures to upload every time I feel the need to print my photos, I can now just whip the memory card out of the camera and stick it in the printer. This saves time, effort and it's much easier than having to load up an image editing application just to print out a few photos. The implementation of this technology is fantastically simplistic. Just take the card out of your digital camera, stick it into the slot on the side of the printer and wait for the printer to prompt you on what to do next. This process doesn't need any drivers or even a PC so if you were on holiday, you could take this printer with you and print out photos whenever you felt the urge. There are quite a few buttons on the printer, but don't be put off. They are all very clearly labelled and the printer has a little LCD screen which allows you to see what options you are selecting. Printing a phot direct from a memory card is simplicity personified. Just select what paper size you are using, select how big you want the photo to be, select how many copies you want and tell it to print. I've never come across a more intelligent way of printing out photographs. Once the photographs are printed, as long as they are printed on photographic paper, they look great. Results on normal paper aren't quite as impressive but they are more than acceptable. One thing that I particularly like about this printer is the styling. Old Hewlett Packard printers used to be large clunky affairs that were incredibly nois
y and slow. Well all that has changed with this printer. A sleek black colourscheme makes the printer blend in perfectly with my desk and the buttons on the printer are logically coloured and labeled. The print button is green, the cancel button is red. It really is that simple. There is a tray at the back of the printer which can be removed to allow access to the printing mechanism. This should allow you to sort out any paper jams, although fortunately, I am yet to have any. The size of the printer is pretty small really and it sits nicely on the top of my desk. It feels quite well put together and also appears to be resistant to the odd knock that it may receive. It has the facility to be connected to your PC via either a Parallel port or a USB cable. Having both options is nice because it means you can change whenever you like. Currently I have mine connected using the parallel port because I already had one of these cables lying around. One thing to note if this is your first printer is that as with most printer manufacturers, HP don't bother bundling the cable to connect it to your computer. PC World will try and charge you approximately £10 for one of these, but you can get them cheaper from a computer fair if you so wish. This is one of my main gripes about the printer manufacturing sector. They never include cables and I think this is appalling. Just imagine a buyer's horror as they get their shiny new printer home only to find that it doesn't have the right cables. Also, Hewlett Packard have cut corners by supplying their 'Light Use' ink cartridges. These are essentially the same as their proper cartridges except that they are only half filled with ink. I think that corner cutting like this isn't acceptable especially when you consider that a cartridge for a printer like this costs around £30. If I'm paying this much money for a printer, I expect it to come with proper cartridges and cables. The printer driver i
s simple to install and set up although it does have one or two annoying quirks. Because I have more than one PC, occasionally I swap printers around for specific purposes. The driver for this printer however, likes to be in constant communication with the printer and if it isn't it brings up a little icon in the system tray. Whilst not critical, this is an annoyance because I couldn't really care less whether my printer is currently connected to this PC. The driver does have the bonus of being remarkably simple and intuitive to configure your printer and everything worked first time for me. The quality of the printouts is something that Hewlett Packard have struggled with over the years. I have never been particularly pleased with the colour printing on their older printers although text has traditionally been perfect. This printer though, offers excellent quality for both photos and text. The resolution is 1200dpi (although this is using enhancement techniques) and pictures come out looking bright and colourful provided that it's on photographic paper. As with most inkjet printers, printout of pictures and graphics on plain photocopier paper is pretty substandard and not acceptable for presentation purposes. It would be very nice soon if a printer manufacturer could make a printer that prints out well even on cheap paper. The printer is very quick however and after an initial pause whilst all of the printing information is spooled, it races along at high speed. One thing that is very nice is that is is virtually silent. Old HP printers used to be noisy and clunky but this one just makes a nice quite purring noise. Generally, I am very pleased with this printer and any criticisms that I have can be levelled at more or less all printer manufacturers. It would be nice if a printer company could bite the bullet and start including printer cables along with their printers, but to be honest I can't see that happening in today's comp
etitive market. Print quality, speed and ease of use are all excellent. The added feature of being able to print direct from memory cards will certainly sway a buyer's decision greatly and I would certainly recommend this printer to anyone with an interest in ameteur digital photography. One final aspect of the printer is the price. At a RRP of £200 it is more than you would pay for a standard printer but it also has more features and better quality. One thing that I should add is that this printer isn't designed solely for photos like some other; it will print on A4 paper as well and act as a standard printer.
I'm amazed to see that I am only the second person to write and opinion on this game. When it was originally released several years ago, it was hailed as the best game ever; something which is now becoming an increasingly common claim with game releases. The thing is with Quake though is that it really is the best game ever. I'm sure that the majority of Dooyooers will have heard of it, or at least its sequels. As far as its sequels go, Quake II was OK but not an improvement and Quake III was a bit of a flop really. During this opinion, I will try and talk you through pretty much all of the aspects of the game, so it may be a bit long-winded. System Requirements: This is one of a rare breed of games that doesn't actually require a 3D accelerator to run. The reason for this is that when it was released, 3D accelerators were a bit of a luxury item so they didn't include native support for it within the game itself. The downside of this is that unless you have a massively powerful PC, you have to run the game in a fairly low resolution. My P200 can manage to run it smoothly at 640*480 whilst my Athlon 700 can run it really well at 800*600. This was one of the first games that really ate up systems for breakfast and it was criticised during its launch for this. At the time of its release, a P133 was considered powerful and whilst it is possible, I wouldn't recommend running Quake on anything less than this. 16Mb of RAM is more or less a prerequisite but I would hope that most computers have this nowadays. The advantage of it being an old game is that the system requirements are so low that you can just dig out an old PC from the loft and run it on that. In my house, I've got several old PCs lying around of various specifications and I networked them cheaply (about £60) and now can play multiplayer Quake over the network. Some of you may well be thinking "Why does he play an old game, when he could be playing new games?"
;, well the truth is that I'm yet to find any new game which is nearly as much fun to play as quake. As a single player game, Quake is very difficult at times. Sure, if you have it on the easist difficulty level, it's not too tricky but as soon as you try and make it harder, it rapidly consumes your life. There are many single player episodes to play on and there are also plenty of levels and addons to download from the internet. The variety of weapons on offer is pretty impressive, ranging from a plain old shotgun right up to a rocket launcher. These weapons cause various degrees of destruction and each have their own disadvantages. The shotgun for example has fairly limited range but is good for creeping up behind someone with and shooting them in the back. The rocket launcher is good for long range shots and if you're accurate enough you can kill an opponent with one shot, but it's no good in confined spaces because you'll end up killing yourself too. If you play the game a lot, sooner or later you'll realise what weapon to use in a certain situation so it just really takes a bit of practice. As you progress from level to level you will come up against different monsters and they are also equipped with increasingly more powerful weapons. The learning curve on Quake is just about perfect, it starts off fairly easy and towards the end gets very difficult. This works out very well because towards the end of the game you will have gained a better understanding of the game so you will be better equipped to take on the bigger monsters. Single player Quake is fine, but the real action is during multiplayer. Multiplayer Quake is a massively popular passtime and some people have even made a career out of it. The simple reason for this is that it is so addictive. The most common form of multiplayer Quake is known as Deathmatch. Basically the idea of this is to kill as many of your opponents as you possibly can. A kill is r
eferred to as a 'Frag' and as soon as you reach a certain amount of frags, or the time runs out, a winner is declared. It's incredibly simple, yet incredibly fun. There's nothing quite like getting a bunch of friends together and player Quake over a network. The good thing with Quake is that is isn't only designed for LANs; if you download some extra software (QuakeSpy for example) you can play it over the internet against other people. Multiplayer Quake ranges from friendly competition to organised teams and events. Quake teams are commonly referred to as Clans and often one Clan will take on another Clan in a Deathmatch. It's such a simple process to setup and play that it really is a pleasure. If you do intend to play multiplayer Quake over a LAN, I would recommend investing in a good pair of headphones because if you are in a room with 5 other players, it rapidly becomes very noisy. Sound is a key feature of Quake because it allows you to tell how close your opponents are. This makes for some very intense gaming action and in my opinion there hasn't been a game since that has bettered Quake in any way. If you don't have a network at home and you don't fancy playing against real people yet, you can hone you fragging skills using 'bots'. I have never actually used a bot but essentially all they do is mimmick the actions of a real-life human player. Unfortunately, they're not particularly intelligent so sometimes they are either too good or too bad, but they still make good practise partners. Having never used bots myself, I can't really recommend any specific ones but if you head over to www.quakeplanet.com I'm sure they will have some. Bots aren't built directly into Quake, so you have to download them from the internet somewhere. This is one of the best things about Quake. Because it had (and still has) such a massive following, if something wasn't built into the game ori
ginally, someone will have developed it themselves and made it available on the Internet. The amount of maps, levels, weapons, monsters and total conversions of the game is incredible. A conversion is basically where the game is modified completely for example there is now Quake Football and Quake Rally. These aren't official updates or anything so they will have a few bugs, but they will keep you entertained for a long time. Another update that was released for Quake was something called GLQuake. This is essentially a version of Quake for 3Dfx cards so it improves the graphics massively and makes everything run much quicker. This is a free download and is simple to set up although to my knowledge it does only work with 3Dfx cards, so if you have a different chipset, you may well be out of luck. There has never been a game quite like Quake. The pure playability and fun of the game has never quite been matched. Even though its graphics are starting to look a little long in the tooth, don't be put off. The sound, attention to detail and fun of the game are still perfect and to be honest, I can't see them ever being bettered. Add to that the fact that it costs next to nothing and you're on to a surefire winner.
Throughout history, religion has generally hindered progress in medicine and science. This is a fact that is appreciated by many historians and there's very little that can be said in religion's favour throughout the ages. Now that Religion appears to be diminishing is western culture, can we expect to see the morals and ethics of our society going to waste? Looking back in time over the last few centuries, it is immediately apparent the effect that religion has had on science and technology. Looking at medicine for example, disection was frowned upon, study of human corpses was illegal and abortion/operations/certain treatments and many other things were also looked down on my the church. During prehistory, it is believed that religion dictated more or less everything that humans did. All illnesses were blamed on the supernatural, so even primitave man believed in God(s). Why can't society progress away from an archaic belief that is no longer socially relevent whatsoever. Now, I'm not going to claim to be an expert on religion, because I'm far from it. I hold no belief in any supernatural power, I've never read the Bible voluntarily and I don't attend church. I can look at the subject of religion from a fairly neutral point of view and can hopefully be fairly unbiased when discussing its virtues. For a start, the one thing that I do know about Christianity is that a lot of Christians think that the first two humans on Earth were Adam and Eve. The origins of human life are still fairly sketchy, but we know that we evolved from apes, so it's highly unlikely that Adam and Eve just appeared out of nowhere. Assuming that they did exist, surely they must have 'sinned' in order to reproduce. For a start, they could not have been married, therefore they lived in sin. I'm assuming that the Queen holds Christian beliefs, although I've never asked her, in which case, I have as much right to the thrown as her.
If Adam and Eve were the first two humans on Earth, surely we all have royal blood? If one of the first things in the Bible is incorrect, how do we know that anything in it is true? Did God really create Earth? Probably not. Was Jesus really the Son of God, or did Mary just have a fling with another bloke and not want to admit it to Joseph? These views may seem somewhat extreme and I hope that nobody is offended by them, but they are perfectly valid points. It's not just Christianity which is flawed, all of the religions that I know about have some kind of fundamental flaw in them. The actual existence of any higher being is extremely questionable. Many bands that I listen to have questioned it in their music. For example Propagandhi say 'How can you justify belief in a God that doesn't exist?', which is a fair point. Marilyn Manson is constantly questioning organised religion (no, I don't like him; I think he's a prat!). Bad Religion, a little known punk band have taken a stance against organised religion from their outset and they also have some very interesting lyrics which would no doubt offend a lot of people. The truth is though that there is no proof that God has existed so why should people assume that he does. I may be slightly cynical, but I refuse to believe anything until it has been properly and scientifically proven. Speaking of Marilyn Manson, he calls himself a Satanist. Yet he's constantly putting down religion and saying how organised religion is a bad thing. Contradictory? Yep! It seems to me that he's using religion just to gain media attention, which either says something about his morals, or the weakness of the media. What shocked me when reading about Manson in a magazine is that Satanism isn't actually 'Devil Worshipping'. Instead, it merely encourages thinking about your actions, and that the biggest sin on this Earth is stupidity. What is wrong with this? Surely it'
;s just common sense. Does this mean that I'm a Satanist? I certainly hope not! I've always viewed religion as an excuse to blame human error and flaws in our own design on someone else. If a train crashes, I could easily say that it's the fault of God and he's just punishing the passengers but in reality it's probably machine failure or human error. I'm reluctant to totally speak too strongly against religion because I think that a lot of people will be offended by it. This is a speaker's corner however, so I'm perfectly entitled to air my views. I think that religion is used as a crutch to support what is unfortunately a failing society. If people can blame disasters on God rather than look into the real causes for it, then it's quite clear which option they're going to take. In a world which is currently dictated by science and technology, it's interesting to see that religion is becoming less and less popular. Certainly around where I live, very few people attend church and the people that do are mainly elderly. This may be a reflection on society's changing views on religion. Now that science can give ratinal explanations for most things, do we really need religion at all? I don't doubt that for some people, religion may have saved their lives. For people in prison so discover God and come out again and be totally reformed seems like a good thing to me. But what I think is that it's not because they're putting their faith in a particular God, it's because they're considering their actions and thinking about the consequences of them. The same goes for people that discover religion at a later age (eg outside childhood), they start to think positively about life in general so it's no wonder that their quality of life seems to improve. There are times when religion is a good thing but conversely, there are times when it's a very bad thing. A lot of wars
are caused by it, just look at some of the recent disputes in the middle east. A whole host of murders are caused by it. Even the holocaust was caused by it. Obviously, it would be totally unfair of me to blame the holocaust on religion, but it was a key factor in it all. I personally think that Nazism was almost a religion in itself; an organised group of people worhshipping a leader. I tried to remain fairly subjective throughout this opinion, but it's a very contentious topic. I would be very interested in knowing other people's thoughts on it, so if you either agree with anything I've said, or disagree, please leave a commentary and I'll try and reply to them all. Ultimately, I don't believe in God or any other kind of supernatural being. If you do, then that's fine. Each to their own.
Website design is a subjective topic and many people will have completely different views. When making a website there are a few fundamental aspects that have to be considered fully. These are: Content How you're going to make it Look and Feel Ease of use Hosting Advertising Compatibility These are not the only things to consider but if you do think about these before you even start desiging your site you will create something which is much better. Before I talk in too much details about the ins and outs of different designs, I'll give a quick insight into how, why and who can design and build a website. The primary 'language' that makes the world wide web appear as it does is called HTML. This stands for Hypertext Markup Language and is widely acknowledged as being remarkably simple to start with, but then gaining in complexity when you want to do more with it. HTML is a simple language to learn because its structure is so straight-forward. The primary concept behind it is that of tags which normally consist of <Open Tag> and a </Close Tag>. Once you've learnt the tags and their attributes, the rest is nice and simple. I won't delve into too much detail, but there are plenty of websites around that offer HTML tutorials, or failing that, buy a decent book. Even if you plan to design your site in Frontpage or another WYSIWYG editor, it's a good idea to have a little knowledge of HTML. If you don't fancy learning the finer details of HTML, you can use what are known as WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editors to do all of the coding for you. These work just like desktop publishing programs in as far as you just lay out the components of a page as you see fit, and the program will generate all of the HTML automatically. There are various products around which offer this facility - the two main ones being MS Front Page and Macromedia Dream Weaver. If you want more information
on the pros and cons of each package, Dooyoo has loads of reviews for each of them. I have used Front Page extensively in the past for designing my websites and I have a fairly good idea of its merits and weaknesses. If you are a total beginner, go for Front Page over anything else because it's very simple. If however, you want to create more complex sites and have a bit more freedom, either hand-code in HTML or use Dreamweaver. Front Page is infamous for creating very bloated HTML code that is much more complex than is strictly required. The downside of this is that the files that it creates are both very large and hard to edit manually. The truth is that this problem has been more or less solved in later versions of the software but if you are using an earlier version than Front Page 2000 you may experience some difficulties. Front Page also has what are known as Front Page Extensions, which I may touch upon later. One thing that many people seem to ask when making a website is how to attract visitors to it. The truth is that the only way to make your website really popular is to give it some content that people want to read. If your site has nothing on it that is of interest to anyone other than yourself, you’re going to struggle to attract any visitors. The main things that you need to do are be original, be interesting and also be useful. Take into account the target audience when you design your site because this can make a difference to several design criteria. To appeal to as many people as possible, you have to make your website as accessible as you possibly can. The way to achieve this isn’t to aim for the lowest common denominator at the expense of design flair but you do have to design to a standard. People recommend that currently you try and design your site to work in any browser newer than Netscape Navigator 4. Netscape doesn’t support a lot of the things that Internet Explorer does, but it does suppor
t all of the major standards so it’s a good thing to aim at. Internet Explorer is much more popular than its alternatives at the moment, but you should still make sure that your site doesn’t use browser specific tags. Screen resolutions which people use are generally either 800x600 or 1024x768 or higher. There is no point designing a site which only looks good at 640x480 because you won’t be utilising the higher resolutions of other screens. Most people use 1024x768 but there are still a lot of people that use 800x600 so it is important not to exclude these people. The main thing to consider when planning the design of your site is compatibility. Make sure that you don’t exclude massive proportions of your target audience just because you make the site too small or too big. If you are planning to design a site properly and you have a lot of times on your hand, a lot of people suggest that you draw a pen and paper plan of the site first. At the very least, come up with a plan of what you hope to include on the site and where pictures are going to go because this provides an ideal framework to build upon. Microsoft Front Page features several pre-set ‘themes’ which are ready made designs which can just be applied to your site. This saves a lot of time and keeps things simple. If you are aiming your site at kids, make sure that you make it easy to use. Obviously, some kids have more Internet skills than some adults, but you have to assume that they don’t. Make buttons bigger, text bigger and generally try to keep the site bright and interesting. This is important if you want to keep them interested in your site and try and persuade them to return at another date. If you are aiming at younger children, add some information for parents to read beforehand which gives a brief outline of the content of the site just so they can check that there’s nothing on there that they don’t want their chil
dren to see. Don't try and make your site needlessly flashy. Some people try and include hit counters, guest books, scrolling text, pop-up windows and so many other little tricks that they just get annoying after about 10 seconds. The best sites in my opinion are those that don't do anything too flashy with your browser and display information clearly and attractively without being over the top. I won't discuss designing websites using Flash in this opinion, but if you are an experienced Flash user, then I would recommend that you try and use it as much as possible wherever it's appropriate. If you're new to Flash, don't use it just to look impressive because my experience with Flash is that it's easy to make very ugly things with it if you don't know what you're doing. I will admit to this, and I have made several Flash monstrosities in the past. The actual design of the website is ultimately up to you and there are probably no people in the world that can agree on what makes an attractive site. From my experience though, the main things that you should try and include are as follows: Simple and uncluttered: When designing a site, it is easy to try and make it look as professional as possible by making it look complicated. The truth is though that the best looking sites are the ones that contain relatively short blocks of text and a lot of spacing and pictures. This appeals to viewers more because it looks easier to read and it appears to be more accessible. Plain colours: If you’re aiming a site at adults, just keep the colours plain. There’s no need to include bright yellow text on a blue background. I’ve found that subtle shades of green on a black background tend to work well, but it is a subjective subject. Simple background: Don’t add a complex background image to the site if it’s going to compromise readability. Just keep a nice simple tiled pattern or even just u
se a plain colour such as black rather than having a photograph. Keep it simple: Don’t add little animations everywhere unless they are vital. Don’t add java-script to the page that prevents right clicking. Don’t use fancy roll-over effects on buttons because they often fail and look tacky. Just keep it simple and clear and you’ll be fine. Obviously, designing a website isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it is a lot easier than most people seem to think. It doesn’t require L337 H4X1NG skills or anything, it just requires time and patience. Remember, that if you’re struggling, there are plenty of tutorials on the Internet or failing that there will be plenty of forums which will answer any questions that you have. My main advice for designing your site, is plan carefully and take your time. Remember that there is no hurry and you can complete it at your own pace. If you're looking for advice on website hosting and domain names, I've written a few reviews on these, so feel free to read them.
Recently in the press, British tennis has actually appeared in some quite favourable articles. People are heralding the return of top British players into the highest rankings and some people think that British tennis as a whole is on the up again. The harsh reality of it though is currently quite the opposite. How many current British female players can you name? Come to think of it, how many male British players can the average person on the steet name? I'd hazard a guess at two or three. What you have to ask yourself is how this happened, why this happened and what can be done about it. British tennis has been in steady decline over the last few decades really. The only half decent players at an international level of late are Rusedski and Henman. Out of those two, it's only Henman that went through the British coaching scheme because from what I believe, Rusedski was taught to play tennis in Canada. To be honest, I think this speaks volumes. Britain's tennis clubs became complacent and decided that they were happy with what they had already got. Now, what they actually had though was a bunch of decent adult players and a few good young players. Over the eighties and nineties, the players got older and older until they were no longer as good as they had been. At this point, there were no new kids to start improving so there's a big gap in ages. At the club which I play at (www.keyworth-tennis.co.uk) we have about 70 kids under the age of 18, 70 adults and then only one or two people like me around the age of 20. It's a sorry state of affairs at my club because there's a massive age gap between the players. The reason for this age gap and a lack of good players in their twenties is because of clubs which never bothered to employ coaches. I'm fortunate because my club always had a coach. That's not to say that the coach was popular though. I remember when I was 13 and starting to break into the adult teams
at my club, the adults then suddenly become anti-junior. The reason for this is because they were worried about losing their team places and it could have meant that I never got to play at a higher level. Fortunately, my coach was a persistant person so he made sure that we got picked for the teams. Over the last 7 years, I have now become a respected member of the Mens 1st team and play just about every week for them. As I said, I was fortunate because my coach never gave up, but this hasn't been the case at all clubs. I have first hand experience of what it's like to be discriminated against by the older generation and I'm lucky now because they now accept me as an adult but there are still some kids that don't get picked for the teams just because they are young. Incidentally, all the teams that have picked young players over the last few years have been promoted several times and the club is still improving, although the club coach has now left for a post at another club. Our club coach was poorly treated from the very first day but luckily he stuck at it and built up big squads of young players. This has benefitted the club, the county and with a little luck, eventually it will benefit Britain. From what I've heard, most clubs are in a similar situation, with disgruntled club coaches and grumpy old people clogging up the teams. It is this mentality that has caused the decline of British tennis over the last few years so really, it's the people that are constantly moaning that have probably caused it. So, what can be done about it? Well the good news is that action is being taken which will hopefully lead to a stronger nation of tennis players in a few years time. What people have to appreciate is that British tennis won't improve overnight, it's going to take several years to find the talent, coach these players and then get them up to a high enough standard to compete internationally. The ne
w person in charge of the LTA has been in power for slightly over a year and already people are dismissing his plans a failures. The thing is though that nobody can tell yet if they're going to work and from what I've seen it certainly looks as if they will. One of his major plans is something called ClubVision which is basically where each club has to fill in a long questionnaire which gives your local Lawn Tennis Association information and also dictates how much funding they will give to you. ClubVision encourages employment of a club coach, junior squads and things like that in order to bring in a wealth of new young talent. If a club manages to set up a good programme of junior coaching, they will receive extra funding in order to make sure that the club succeeds with its aims. The LTA will also provide free coaching for exceptionally good players who they think have the talent and potential it takes to become a professional player. ClubVision is intended to bring British tennis up to date with the rest of the world and currently it looks like it's succeeding. My club recently received £200 from the Notts Lawn Tennis Association in order to fund coaching courses for people, buy equipment and to train up new coaches. Whilst this may not sound like a lot of money, we are hoping that it will be the first of many payments. My club should benefit from ClubVision more than some other clubs primarily because we have a large junior membership. The way that ClubVision works is that it gives funding to clubs that are looking towards the future, and gives nothing to those that want to stay as they are. This gives the clubs the choice of just staying as they are and eventually running out of money, or setting up a junior coaching scheme and prosper and grow into a large competitive club. The image of British tennis has been having problems over the last few years because let's face it, it's hardly the most macho of sports. We
ll, actually it is a VERY competitive sport that requires a lot of aggression if you want to succeed. Often people don't like it because they think that it's not a team sport and that you only play as an individual. This is another view which is wrong because there are plenty of organised doubles leagues where you get the chance to play doubles as part of a team of six players. If British tennis wants to get big again, it can't just rely on the Wimbledon months. It's quite well known that the majority of people that ever play tennis in Britain, only get motivated to play during Wimbledon. This shouldn't be the case, but most clubs will pick up a lot of new members during this period. Unfortunately, most of these new members will never play during the Winter so they probably won't join again the next year. This is a bad situation, because clubs need not only appeal to new members but they also need to maintain their old ones. As you can see, British tennis has a lot of major problems, which I'm not going to be able to tackle all of in one opinion. I hope that I have given you an insight into the flaws and problems of the tennis scene in this country and I hope that you can help to do something about it. Just remember though, we can't tell if the new LTA schemes are a success for another few years. So don't hold your breathe!
If you switch on a television today, you can be almost certain at some point to see some adverts. These adverts vary in content, design and most of all, the product that they are advertising. An increasingly common type of advert that is starting to crop up however is adverts which advertise companies which claim to give you money. On the face of it this seems like a good thing. What could possibly be wrong with being given money? Well the problem is that you have to get involved in some kind of accident before they’ll pay you. On the face of it this still seems like quite a good deal to me; fall over and cut your arm and you’ll receive thousands of pounds compensation. Perfect? Not quite. A recent advert on television featured a young boy called Declan Swan. He was involved in an obviously harrowing accident in a playground which has left his needing to wear glasses for the rest of his life. He is obviously very upset about this; so upset and mentally scarred in fact, that he feels the need to plaster his ugly mug all over my television! What I don’t understand is why people like this seek compensation. If he was involved in a car accident, loss of a relative or something similar then maybe I would be willing to accept that he has a valid claim. But an accident in a playground? By playing in a playground you can expect your life to be in danger, especially considering some of the primary school kids locally. Surely if he plays in a playground and gets injured, it shouldn’t be up to anyone else to pay him money. Insurance costs are high enough for most things without having to worry against public liability cover in case someone happens to trip over there own feet. Another example of compensation being taken too far is an event which someone relayed to me a few weeks ago. Apparently a student at a school had been on school site well outside school hours, so he was in effect trespassing. He was amusing
himself by climbing up a wall. He then proceeded to fall off it and injure himself. So, what does he do after this? Get prosecuted for trespassing? Not likely! Instead he decides that with a little help from some kind solicitors he’s going to sue the school. If the accident had happened inside school hours when he actually had permission to be on the school site then he could have a valid claim but the fact that he wasn’t supposed to even be there makes the case ridiculous. Adverts in the past have featured people that have poured hot tar on their arm, tripped at works or dropped objects on their feet. These are mundane everyday accidents and are in no way the fault of anyone but the individual. If I slip over whilst playing tennis I don’t automatically sue the tennis club, so why should these other people sue their bosses? Of course, it’s the insurance companies that have to pay out the compensation payments. They have to pay £30,000 to people that trip over, so where do they make their money from? Well the truth is that they make their money from normal people that buy insurance. House insurance, car insurance and public liability cover are all remarkably expensive considering that most people will never have to make any claims on any of them. I just happen to run tennis coaching sessions in my spare time at Keyworth Tennis Club and countless committee meetings were dragged on and on by people discussing the fact that I have no insurance. The thing is though that over the last 18 months, I haven’t had a single pupil injure himself or herself in any way. Yet for me to get insurance cover it would be costing me around a thousand pounds a year, which is obviously far too much for me to afford. The reason it’s so high is because of people like Declan Swan who are intent on suing everybody that they possibly can in order to gain some money. Insurance companies, employers and even home-owners are living in fear of
being sued. Of course, it’s not just insurance like this that’s far too expensive. Car insurance for someone of my age costs a preposterous sum of money. Even on the most basic of cars, I’d have to pay around a thousand pounds just for the most basic insurance. This is supposedly because as a young male I am at risk of crashing into another car, hitting a pedestrian or wiping out the entire population of human beings in the northern hemisphere in a cataclysmic motoring accident. It’s particularly frustrating because of the fact that for females, it costs about half as much. And who has the reputation for being the worst drivers?!!! People that have valid compensation claims are fine with me but they often seem to get very little money. A case recently was about a person that used to go to South Wolds School who had leukaemia and was coming to the end of his treatment. Then, at the last stage of his treatment, the hospital made a blunder which slowly paralysed him, eventually leading to death. In this case, I think that his parents had a valid claim for compensation. How much are they likely to get? Approximately £3000 because this lad had nobody depending upon him. If he was married with kids apparently his wife would have been able to make a much larger claim. People like Declan Swan are taking valuable money away from people that really need it. Compensation isn't just limited to accidents though. I think that if you're a victim of an assault on the street, you should get compensation. I don't know whether this is actually happening at the moment, but if you do get assaulted on the street, it will have an affect on your life. It's frustrating for people like me who aren't blessed with having millions of pounds to spare because it's people like me that end up paying for other people to get money. Where's the justice in that? I would much rather see people that make massive cl
aims on their insurance premiums have their premimum prices hiked up to make a reflection. Maybe this would discourage people from making claims just for the sake of it. Companies like Claims Direct offer a no win, no fee service which is designed solely to entice customers into using their service. I would be interested to know how much they have to pay if they do win their case, but I'd guess they'd still be making a lot of money out of a successful compensation claim. I think that as more and more companies like this emerge, we will see more and more compensation claims and it will eventually get to the stage where you can't do anything without being sued. The whole concept of people seeking compensation for tripping over pales into insignificance when compared with the case above. One person dies, the other gets a sore arm. Who gets the most money? Declan Swan; my heart bleeds for you.
Piedog.com? What's that all about then? Do they sell dogs or do they sell pies? Well the answer is that they sell neither of these. What they do sell however is a wide range of musical instruments are very competitive prices, with excellent customer service thrown in. Don't be put off the by the name though. It may sound a bit amateurish but as soon as you visit the site you realise that this isn't the case at all. First of all, PieDog are an online only company so there's no need for you to bother going to look for a shop. There are advantages and disadvantages to buying online but in my opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons. For a start, if you buy online you will normally save money. Fact. This is because the online companies have fewer overheads because they don't have to rent high profile high-street shops. These savings are then passed onto the customer in the form of lower prices. Also, it's much easier to pop onto the internet to buy products than it is to go into town and try and find a shop and then discover that they don't have what you want. The disadvantages of buying online are that there is a tinsy winsy chance that you may get ripped off, your credit card details may get stolen or some other bad event happening. In my experience of online shopping though, this has never happened and from my experience with them, PieDog are a very fair and reputable company. If you're buying music instruments for the first time, you may want to buy from a shop in order to have a go with the instrument first to see if it's one that you like. Sure, Piedog has pictures of most of its products, but this can never quite match actually picking up an instrument and having a quick play with it. Another disadvantage of buying online is that sometimes an instrument needs setting up for you. Companies like this more or less sell you the products straight out of the box so you miss out on any tweaks that a shop may do to the
instrument. For example, when buying guitars it is recommended that you let the shop set it all up and get everything tuned and lined up perfectly but obviously, you can't do this when buying online. The PieDog website itself is easy to navigate and a joy to use. All of the instruments are broken down and ordered into sections so it's easy to find whatever you're looking for. Special offers are listed on the front page of the site so that's often the best place to find real bargains. The website is bright and colourful without looking childish and it's all very logical. There's a nice vavigation area at the top where you can choose to visit your account, see your order history and do much more. The range of options on the site is pretty extensive so they've tried very hard to make it orderly. For example, down the left hand side of the site, there is a list of all the different departments that the site has. There is a department for guitars, drums, wind instruments DJ gear and a whole lot more. This means that as soon as you get to the site you can quickly find exactly what you want. Each department is broken down into sub-categories which contain the actual products. The only problem with this method is that if you know exactly what product you want, it can be a pain to have to browse through all the catergories to find it. Don't worry though because the site has a search facility so if you know the name of the product, it will find it right away. Ease of use with this site is excellent. Because it's an online store, it can have a massive range of products. Most of the music shops around where I live are fairly small and tend to specialise in one group of instruments but Piedog offers masses of items. Guitars, pianos, drums, DJ equipment, comptuer software, strings, woodwind instruments and just about anything that you ever need are on the site. It's not jsut instruments that they sell though. They also se
ll cases, guitar strings, cables, tuners and anything else that you could possibly want. This gives Piedog a major advantage over its highstreet competitors. The first thing I bought from PieDog was a guitar, an amp, cables and plectrums. Within a few minutes I had located all of these on the site, added them to my shopping basket and was ready to confirm the order. This is so much easier than having to catch a bus into town, look for a shop, wait for a member of staff to help me and then line up in a queue to pay. Payment is an interesting thing when buying online because a lot of people are worried about credit card fraud. Rest assured though that PieDog is totally secure so the chances of anyone managing to pilfer your credit card details are virtually nil. Piedog accept many forms of payment which makes a change from some companies that only accept major credit cards. What was interesting though is that they take Debit cards as well such as Visa Electrons which is good for me because as a student at university, it's difficult for me to get a credit card. Payment is quick and simple; just follow the instructions and it's done. Having ordered your goods, you then have to wait for them to arrive. The good news is that delivery is free as long as you live in the UK and it's also fairly quick. Because they aren't a massive company, they have to order the stuff from the manufacturers so it can take around 6 days to arrive to you. This is still fairly quick though and seeing as it's totatlly free, there's no cause for complaint. I assume that if they have an item in stock it will arrive more or less the next day. Free postage is a nice benefit to have and it makes it stand out amongst it's competitors. As far as I'm aware, the postage is actually next working day and it arrives via a courier. When I ordered my guitar equipment there was a problem with them accepting my debit card which I will talk about later. I was to
ld over the phone when they distributed by guitar and it arrived the next day. The prices of the equipment on offer is generally around 10-20% lower than it is in the highstreet. This represents a pretty good saving, especially when you consider that postage is included. Even things such as plectrums have free delivery thrown in and they are also very cheap. The fact that it is very convenient, cheap and easy makes it much better than buying musical equipment from the highstreet in my opinion. I feel that I should comment on the levels of customer service that I received when I placed my order. I was a first time buyer, so I was a bit worried about ordering the correct equipment. I emailed Piedog with some questions and to my surprise and relief, I was emailed back the next day with good answers in plain English. This makes a nice change from some companies where you email them and never get a reply from them or the reply is too technical to understand. As I mentioned earlier there was a problem with them accepting my Visa Electron card for some unknown reason. We never did work out why and it has worked elsewhere since but I'm not going to make a fuss about it because of the service that they offered me. I received an email from them at 3:30 one day telling me that I had entered incorrect card details. They gave me a list of options which I could do and I chose to phone them in order to get it all sorted out as quickly as possible. I got through straight away and reached a very friendly helpful chap. Anyway, I gave him my card details again and he agreed to try them and phone me again in 10 minutes. I didn't expect him to phone me again. To my surprise about 5 minutes after the last call, I received a phone call from him telling me that the transaction was still not working. I then had the bright idea of phoning my dad at work (sure, I'm supposed to be indepentent now, but what are Dads for?!) and obtaining his credit card details. To
cut a long story short, Piedog let me change my method of payment. I received another phone call from them to let me know that the transaction had completed and that they had dispatched my goods. I cannot stress how helpful they were and I wouldn't hesitate to order from them again. Overall, if you are looking for a musical instrument or equipment and you don't fancy going to a shop, Piedog makes an ideal alternative. The customer service is incredible, the staff are friendly and helpful, the prices are cheap and delivery is quick and easy. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending them to anyone because they are simply perfect! Oh, and no, I don't work for them. I've just been immensely impressed with them.
Well, maybe not lemons, but it certainly is a great CD filled with some of Lagwagon's finest material over the past few years. For those that haven't heard of Lagwagon (I'll assume that's the majority of you) they're a melodic punk band from Santa Barbara and they've been in various guises since 1990. Over their career they have had many line-up changes and their sound has changed totally. The good thing is though that although they have matured and become more melodic, they haven't slowed down at all so all of the energy of their previous albums is still in place. On thing to understand when buying this CD is that it isn't really a proper album. It is similar to a Lagwagon Greatest Hits album, although most of the songs have never been released. They're not really leftover songs, because a number of them are better than ones which have been on albums. It is released on a label called My Records which is owned and run by Lagwagon's lead singer; Joey Cape. It's only a small label which features only a few bands but on the whole they release very good material and it's certainly a label to look out for in the future. The great thing about this CD is the inlay card. I say card, but it is in fact more of a booklet. Inside this booklet is a listing of all the tracks, Joey's thoughts about the tracks and photos of Lagwagon's various forms. It's very interesting to see how much Lagwagon have changed over the past few years. It's also particularly interesting to note how short Joey Cape actually is. This might be because he always seems to be standing next to Chris Flippin (guitar) who is VERY tall. The first track on the CD is called 'A Feedbag of Truckstop Poetry', which was previously released only on a vinyl 7" with the same name. It's a very melodic track and some may say that it's a bit cheesy. It's pretty speedy however and has some good lyrics so it
9;s certainly worthy of being on the album. It's fairly short but this is to be expected from a lot of quick songs. The second track is called Narrow Straits and is dedicated to Lynn Strait, the singer from a band called Snot. Snot were a fledgling band on the punk/metal scene and they were particularly well liked by other bands due to their generosity and work ethic. Unfortunately, Lynn was killed in a car accident and many people and bands offered their own tributes to him. This one by Lagwagon is quite slow but it still seems to 'move' quite a lot mainly due to the drummer creating quite a lot of noise with his kit. The third track is called Burn That Bridge When We Get To It, and it's a slightly off kilter melodic track. One thing to understand about Lagwagon is that the first time you hear their tracks, they often sound pretty dull. After a while you soon start to memorise every melody though and then musically, everything makes perfect sense. Some of the melodies that they use seem very odd and pretty useless the first time you hear them but as you get to know them better, eventually they sound perfect. This adds an extra element of longevity to Lagwagon's CDs, one which many bands are lacking at the moment. Losing Everyone is the fourth track and it is pretty non-descript. Lagwagon themselves didn't write it, instead it is a cover of a song by Drag the River, who featured members of All and Armchair Martian. The melodies on this are very quirky and somewhat typical of All and although it's alright, it's probably one of the weaker tracks on the album. Lagwagon have covered many tracks over the last few years and generally they aren't anywhere near as good as their own material. The fifth track is one of my favourites and is called Jimmy Johnson. It tackles issues such as playground bullying and social acceptance and has two very hooky melodies that bite even the first time you hear them. I
t's not a very fast song but there are times when it speeds up and gets moving nicely. All of these tracks, apart from the first one were all originally destined to be on Let's Talk About Feelings, but Lagwagon decded that they didn't fit the general feel of the album. I would totally agree with this because Let's Talk About Feelings was a very quick album which showcased a new drummer whereas the first few tracks on this album are a bit slow and sluggish. The seventh track is another one that was released on the Truckstop Poetry 7" and it's a cover of a track by a band called Jawbreaker. In the liner notes Joey states that Jawbreaker were one of his favourite bands and judging by this track, he's probably got good taste. It's got a good melody and although it does start to get a little clichéd in places, it sounds very good. It's another track that's pretty quick and pacey which is aided by some excellent guitar playing. The eigth track is a cover of a track called Bring on The Dancing Horses by Hootie and the Blow-Fish and although not strictly punk, Lagwagon have beefed it up a bit to make it a bit more interesting. It's still not a particularly good track though and I don't honestly think it's worthy of a Lagwagon song. It's OK, but it's just a bit boring and it doesn't have any of the intricacies that Lagwagon normally shoe-horn into their songs. The ninth track is a 30 second song all about Joey Cape and his drinking exploits. It was originally released on Short Music For Short People which was a compilation of 30 second songs by 101 different bands. It's a pretty good track really, filled with interesting melodies and an almost Ska feel to it. As with a lot of Lagwagon songs, it's quirky but it sounds surprisingly good. Number ten on the album is called Raise a Family and is one of my least favourite Lagwagon tracks. The guitars just sound a bit fuzzy
and the vocals aren't very good. I don't know what went wrong with this track, but it just doesn't do Lagwagon any justice. It was originally released on a Fat Wreck Chords compilation and whilst it's only half decent, it's still vaguely amusing. The next three tracks; Restrain, No One Like You and Freedom of Choice are all a bit dull. They are almost metal, but not quite so the riffs sound a little weak and odd. No One Like You is a hilarious song which once you've worked out the lyrics is incredibly funny. Freedom of Choice is pretty lame really and certainly shouldn't have been included on this album. Brodeo is an interesting track primarily because it's so melodic. This is one track where Lagwagon turned down the volume a bit and tried to really focus on a strong melody and they've certainly succeeded. They say that it's as close to country music as they'll ever get and I'd agree with this. It's still got a very good chorus though so don't be put off. It's one of the shorter tracks on the album, which is a shame because it is also one of the best. Tracks 15, 16 and 17 are all very similar and were all recorded during the Hoss sessions. Hoss was the album that Lagwagon really took off with and is regarded as a classic. The sessions are almost legendary throughout the punk scene and it's sad that they've never quite managed to match it since. These tracks are all very quick and melodic with great guitar sounds throughout. Lagwagon have two guitarists which means that some great harmonies can be made and these tracks really illustrate this to their best effect. Track 18 is called Defeat You and is again, from the Hoss sessions. Its lyrical content is intersting because it's full of contradictions and paradoxes which are very complex. Joey Cape is an excellent lyricist and his lyrics tackle and array of personal politics and other things and they always appea
r to be intelligent and well thought out. This is apparent in this track and it sounds great. Track 19 is called Laymen's Terms and is by far the greatest Lagwagon song of all times. It races along at a massive pace and has an incredible melody that is truly unforgettable. It was originally released on a Fat Wreck sampler and is my favourite track by Lagwagon. The lyrics are quite abstract but they're well thought out and easy to interpret and Lagwagon are yet to better this song. This track is from the Hoss sessions again and it is tracks like this that make them so well known. The last few tracks are all metal and don't really reflect Lagwagon. It would be unfair to just dismiss them because they do actually sound quite good and they illustrate how good at guitar Chris Flippin actually is. They are from very early Lagwagon demos (1990) and just show how much they have improved. There is a hidden track on the last song on the album which is basically about 15 minutes of a Lagwagon live show. This is an old clip from Japan so none of the new songs on it but it sounds very good and has a lot of character. Joey is obviously a very confident frontman despite his diminutive size. If you haven't heard any Lagwagon tracks before, this album gives you the opportunity to hear a lot of their tracks and get an idea of what they sound like. You're sure to find at least one track that you like, whatever kind of music you're into so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone.
Dooyoo as a platform for providing independent consumer advice is excellent but the problem is that sometimes this is a bit too independent. What you've got to ask yourself is 'How many non-members come and read your opinions?'. In the case of my account it's a very small number and I think that this could be the downfall of Dooyoo. I've never seen Dooyoo advertised anywhere, the only way that I came across it originally was from a friend. If Dooyoo wants to provide advice to consumers, it either needs to attract more members or appeal to non-members. Currently I believe it's doing the former, which isn't a bad thing, but it would be nice to have more non-members on the site. I'm not sure about this bit, but I don't think you get paid for non members reading your opinions. I don't know why this is, or whether this is still the case but it certainly raises some interesting questions. Another thing that I would like to see incorporated into Dooyoo would be a form of opinion rankings. I know that we already have the Premium Opinions but I think that this covers too narrow a ground. If Dooyoo could introduce a scheme like they have over at Ciao where each month there is a Premium fund it would be a lot better. The way that it works at Ciao is that the best opinions get £15 and they work down from there. Don't think for a minute though that Ciao pay more than Dooyoo, because all their other payouts are much less. Having a scheme like this on Dooyoo would be trickly to implement but it would be nice for the members to know how their opinions rank. Think of the sense of achievement that you'd get if you made it into the top 10 opinions. Maybe if this does ever get implemented, you could also have yearly awards with even bigger payouts. My cunning plan isn't without flaws however. I can appreciate that maintaining such a list of ranked opinions would be a very long and arduous task that nobody would really want to
take on. However, if they can do it at Ciao, I'm sure that with a bit of effort, it could be achieved here. The amount of money that Dooyoo pays its members is never going to be perfect but it's pretty damn good. In a way I would be in favour of not getting paid for opinions unless they get crowned. I'm sure that this would encourage the members to write much better opinions which would be more like magazine articles. Also if Dooyoo did this, it would free up some funding to pay for my other cunning plans. Personally, I have only written 100 opinions on Dooyoo and I have made a lot more than the £10 that I have earned solely from writing opinions. This just shows that getting paid for writing opinions isn't the primary money earner on Dooyoo. Obviously, other members won't take too fondly to not getting paid for writing opinions which is where the next part of my plan comes in. Why not offer different rates for people reading and rating your opinions. Maybe if we said 10p for a VU, 5p for a Useful, 2p for a SU and nothing for a Not Useful. This would encourage writers to write much better quality opinions and in the long run, those that write the best opinions, will find themselves making the most money. The way that is seems to work at the moment is that the more opinions you read, the more of yours get read. This means that a member that writes poor opinions yet reads loads of others currently would get more money than someone who writes stunning opinions and reads very few. If we introduced different rates of pay however, the person that was writing the good quality reviews would start to earn more money because he would be getting more Very Usefuls. I'm surprised that this hasn't already been implemented on Dooyoo because I think that it provides a solution to a major problem. Another aspect of Dooyoo that could be improved slightly is the means by which they pay you. Over on Ciao (I'm sorry to keep com
paring) they will pay the money directly into your bank account which saves you having to go into town and paying in a cheque. This isn't a major gripe, but it would be nice to see the same thing on Dooyoo. Just enter your bank account number and sortcode and then request payments whenever you reach say £10. Much simpler than having to ask for a cheque, wait for the cheque to arrive, go and pay in the cheque and then having to wait another 4 or 5 days whilst the cheque clears. I don't know about the financial implications of this to Dooyoo because they might have to pay money to have the money transferred into our accounts, but it would make life much easier. Another minor gripe that I have about Dooyoo is the speed at which new categories are added. I appreciate the difficulties with new categories having to be approved by community managers but sometimes it can be very frustrating having to wait up to a week when you want a category adding. When I suggest that a new category be added, I normally want to write an opinion on that topic at that time and unfortunately this isn't possible. I don't really have a direct solution to this problem, so I'll leave that up to Dooyoo to come up with any suggestions. Increase the minimum word length of reviews! 75 words is absolutely nothing and there are still some people that only stick to this minimum figure. It is impossible to convey enough information in 75 words and I would much rather see this increased to 200 or even 500 words. This might put off some members, but I'm sure that it would improve the general standard of reviews. On some of the 75 word reviews, people just say "This product is good" and then go on to give contact details about themselves such as "If you agree or disagree why not email be at ........ and let me know what you think. Also please leave a commentary because I like them". It's far too easy to fill up 75 words doing this and it mea
ns that a lot of the opinions on Dooyoo are totally worthless. I'm sure that the community managers probably reject most of these opinions anyway, but introducing a greater minimum review length would surely make their job a lot easier. One of my final little complaints about Dooyoo is the speed of the site. I'm using an ISDN connection at the moment and the site is still very slow. Sometimes it is unbearably slow so I can't even use it. There are other times when I can't login to my account which is a real nuisance. I know that there must be a massive strain on the server, what with all the members that are constantly on the site, but surely it could be made a little bit quicker? There are times when I just can't be bothered to go and read any opinions because of how slow it is. This is normally during the evenings though. Early in the morning Dooyoo is very quiet and a pleasure to use. It's very easy for me to compare Dooyoo to Ciao and other schemes similar to this and knock it, but the truth is that Dooyoo is by far the best. For a start, it's the easiest to make any serious money on, it's well designed, easy to navigate and there are some great personalities on the site. It's not perfect though and other schemes have some features that I would like to see. It would be nice to be able to see a list of the 10 most recent opinions because when you've spent ages writing an opinion like the one which I'm writing now, it's nice to see it on the Dooyoo front page. Sometimes though if you're really unlucky, it'll only be on the front page for about 10 seconds and someone else will submit a review and be on there for 10 minutes. This is just the luck of the draw but having a page on this site which listed the last 10 opinions would give you more of a chance. As I have said, Dooyoo is generally excellent, but it's not perfect. I hope that Dooyoo will carry on improving like it
has done over the last 9 months or so. This is my 100th opinion by the way, and all I can say is that I hope I get the chance to write another hundred. Goodbye, I'm quite tired now.