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Member since: 14.01.2004

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    • Maynards Wine Gums / Sweets / 27 Readings / 21 Ratings
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      04.12.2004 19:27
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      I'd like to tell a little about my favourite unchocolatey sweet, namely Maynards Wine Gums.

      Last night I chewed through a whole packet in less than a minute (not literally through the packet you understand, I DID take the wrapper off first!). I suppose I should be feeling guilty as 1) I didn't share, and 2) they were meant to be my daughters but I nicked them.

      I was introduced to these my my dear old uncle Dave as he always had a packet as a travel sweet to distract him from chundering while moving. Obviously I nabbed as many as I could get away with when he was distracted by passing trucks, or a stray buffalo.

      To this day, I find myself buying a packet at least once a week, and I never ever manage to make them last more than 5 minutes.

      History:

      Maynards as a company started back in 1896 after Charles Riley Maynard decided to expand his sweet-making shop.

      It wasn't until 1909 when Charles Gordon Maynard (yes, a different Charles Maynard! Very imaginitive with the names back then weren't they?) created the recipe for wine gums and showed it to the other Charles Maynard (his dear old daddy). Hesitant at first (actually threatened to sack his son, as he thought there was alcohol involved!) they have gone on to be the only sweet associated with the name Maynards.

      Packaging:

      Well, they are available in two different packets...

      A roll containing around 15 round sweets, roughly the size of five or six 1p pieces stacked on top of eachother.

      A big 180g bag, containing a good 50 or so variously shaped sweets. Some diamond shaped, others as above, and there are even bar shaped ones in there.

      Both have very similar, striking, packaging. It consists of rough bars of the five colours yellow, green, orange, black, and red (pointing to the colours of the sweets inside) with the words Maynards Wine Gums emblazoned across the middle in white lettering.

      The roll is nice and easy to get into as it isn't actually sealed as such. The ends are twisted to keep the gums in place, and the seam is just tacked together. The bag on the other hand usually requires the use of both hands and a set of teeth to break into.

      Nutrition/ingredients/warnings:

      As with most sweets these are almost entirely sugar (in the form of glucose syrup), so think of your poor suffering teeth when eating them!

      Thankfully they are almost free of fat, so you won't feel quite as guilty eating them as you would eating something like chocolate or lard.

      Loads of E numbers in them to provide the colouring, which is a bit scary if you are prone to hyperactivity. Thankfully my wife doesn't like these so I don't get to see her bouncing off the walls!

      Taste:

      Where do I start?! They taste absolutely gorgeous. Each and every flavour is a joy to eat. Very fruity tasting, even if they don't contain much real fruit juice. I thank you Mr Chemical Flavouring inventor for getting so close with these.

      There are five flavours in each pack. Lemon (yellow), Blackcurrant (Black/Purple), Lime (Green), Orange (Blue...only kidding), and Raspberry (Red). Each one has a faint fruity smell, but nothing to realy write home about (and don't stick them up your nose to get a better sniff ok?)

      I think the manufacturers have realised that every single persons favourite is the black ones, so they are always generous with these in the packets (in fact, I'm sure I've seen a special edition containing just reads and blacks).

      Cost:

      For the usual roll of sweets you can pick them up for around 40p a time (or 45p if you go to a mint & petrol emporium), and for the bag you are looking at £1.20 a time. Not expensive at all eh.

      Contact info:

      Now manufactured by Trebor Bassett (what sweets aren't these days?) a subsidiary of Cadbury Schweppes.

      Consumer Relations Department - UK
      Cadbury Trebor Bassett
      PO Box 12
      Bournville Lane
      Bournville
      Birmingham
      B30 2LU
      UK
      Tel: +44 (0) 121 451 4444
      Fax: +44 (0) 121 451 4192

      www.cadbury.co.uk

      To sum up:

      These are an old favourite of the British consumer, and very rightly so. A very tasty sweet, that doesn't fatten you up (but will rot your teeth children).

      I'm sure every one of you have had the urge to pick up a packet at one point or another through simply thinking of the joy of eating the little fellas.

      So, overall I would definitely recommend these as a sweet to munch on if you feel that way inclined (or are simply just bored). Excellent for exercising those jaw muscles as they take a fair bit of chewing!


      Thanks for reading

      Hoots Mon

      Marc

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      • Dr Pepper / Soft Drink / 7 Readings / 19 Ratings
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        10.09.2004 16:04
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        Following on from my Irn Bru review (shameless plug I know!) I thought I'd write a little about one of my other favourite drinks. Dr Pepper has increased in popularity here in the UK hugely over the past 7 or 8 years, and is now one of the nations favourite alternatives to the usual variety of soft drinks. Do you remember your first Dr Pepper experience? I, for one, have been drinking it since I could crawl! (may have even drank it out of a baby bottle...I'll have to ask dear old Mum). Brief History: Although not that well known here until the mid 1980's, Dr Pepper has been a mainstay of American culture since the early 20th Century. The recipe was created by pharmacist Charles Alderton in 1885 while working at Morrisons Drug Store in Waco, Texas. (I've always wondered why so many soft drinks were invented by pharmacists! Take Vimto for example...) The drink proved popular in the small town, so Mr Morrison (strangely enough, the owner of the drug store!) and Alderton decided to give it a name. Morrison chose to call it Dr Pepper out of tribute to the man who gave him his first job, Dr Charles Pepper. In 1904 the drink was taken to the Worlds Fair Exposition by Charles Alderton, and the rest, as they say, is history! Packaging: Dr Pepper can be bought in three packs, 330ml can, 500ml bottle, and 2 litre bottle. All have the same simple, but effective wrapper/logo consisting of the words 'Dr Pepper' in striking white letters emblazoned diagonally over a blood red background. Now if only they would do glass bottle verions they would win over more Scots! ;) Nutrition/ingredients: Same as ever with Coca-Cola made soft drinks, there is no nutritional information given on the packaging. I am reliably informed that Dr Pepper contains a very similar amount of sugar to Coca-Cola, which is a rather frightening 7 teaspoons full (no wond
        er they don't show these figures!) Looking at the actual ingredients, they are EXACTLY the same as Coca-Cola, so the difference in taste is purely down to the part that is ambiguously labelled as 'Flavourings' Naturally, those who are caffeine intolerant should steer well clear of this! Taste: Now this is the difficult bit (although not as difficult as describing Irn Bru!) When you first open a bottle you are hit by what seems to smell like cherry or something similar. But upon taking a swig you find that there are many flavours at work here such as cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and lime most probably! I'm sure there are hints of other fruit flavours, but it truly is hard to pinpoint them as they are so very subtle. To be honest, the best way to describe the taste of Dr Pepper is to say it is a mixture of Cherry Coke, and Vimto! Cost: Pretty reasonable really, you can pick up a can for 39p, 500ml bottle for 69p, and a 2 litre bottle for £1.19 at most supermarkets, and for little more at newsagents and the like. Contact info: for those of you who would want to praise/complain, or simply chance your luck for a freebie... Canned in the UK (under authority of DP Beverages LTD) by... Coca-Cola Enterprises LTD Uxbridge UB8 1EZ Consumer Care Line - 0800 22 77 11 To sum up: Dr Pepper truly is a unique drink, and as such is an acquired taste. You either love it, or hate it. It is the Marmite of soft drinks! Very refreshing when ice cold, and hugely fizzy, this drink really does hit the spot (for me anyway). Adding a slice of lemon and crushed ice really gives it a bit of a kick too. (you can tell I used to be a barman can't you?) Have you tried it with vodka or scotch instead of Coke? Go on, give it a go... what's the worst that could happen? Thanks for reading Mar
        c

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        • Barr Irn Bru / Soft Drink / 7 Readings / 15 Ratings
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          09.09.2004 17:28
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          Ever since meeting my wife I have been hooked on this most peculiar drink. So here it is... a review on Scotland's 'other' national drink from an English point of view! Irn Bru is a sweet fizzy drink with an indescribable taste (although I shall try my best later on), which is much copied, but no-one else ever comes close. Brief history: Robert Barr's company started producing soft drinks back in 1880, but their big discovery (Irn Bru of course) was not launched until 1901 under the rather ordinary name 'Iron-Brew'. This single handedly changed their fortunes almost overnight! During the Second World War it was withdrawn from sale as it was a non-essential item. Thankfully when the war ended, non-essential stock started to gradually reappear in the shops (meaning you could make cakes without using mashed potatoes again!). By this time the British government had introduced new labelling legislation, and Barr were forced to rethink the naming as Iron Brew wasn't an actual brewed drink. As you can see, the government haven't just got picky recently! With some quick thinking from the Company Chairman, Irn-Bru was born as a brand! In 1959 Robert Barr's company was bought by A.G Barr & Co Ltd (incidentally owned by Robert Barr's brother). This company became A.G Barr PLC in 1965. To this day, sales of Irn Bru have increased steadily each year, making it the best selling soft drink in Scotland (up until this year, when Coca Cola overtook), and a good seller worldwide. It is exported to many countries and is actually produced under license in the USA and Russia of all places! One thing that may hurt Scottish national pride is the fact that the UK's production is entirely Manchester based. They are still rapidly expanding as we speak down to their widely reknowned advertising campaigns (whether people love them or hate them, they always get people tal
          king!) Packaging: Whether you buy it in cans, plastic bottles, or the much preferred glass bottle, Irn Bru always has the same orange and blue label with what seem sto be a kind of strongman symbol striped across the orange part. Available in 330ml cans, 500ml and 2 litre plastic bottles, and 750ml glass bottles (also various multipacks). As almost any Scot will tell you, Irn Bru is always best ice cold and out of a glass bottle. Don't ask me why, as I still do not know myself.... it just seems to taste so much better! Nutrition: Amongst the usual ingredients, Irn Bru contains Flavourings (god knows what they are!), A good deal of Caffeine (not a lot of people realise that!, Some pretty brutal colourings, and 0.002%Ammonium Ferric Sulphate (basically liquid rust!). There are no nut or gluten allergy warnings, which is good, and also I see no reason why it wouldn't be suitable for vegetarians. It can enhance hyperactivity though (my wife is a prime example!) And as labelled this product DOES stain. Not only clothing, carpets, but faces as well! One interesting thing to add. A diabetic workmate of mine tends to favour this to Lucozade for medicinal reasons (although I could be way off the mark). I cannot find any info on values such as kcal, carbohydrate, protein etc. right now, but I will add when I do find out! Taste: Extremely difficult to describe, but I will try my best. Irn Bru is a very fizzy, refreshing drink which I'm certain used to be labelled as a 'sparkling fruit flavoured soft drink', but has now dropped the 'fruit' part. This makes it even more difficult to describe. I suppose I can start by saying there's a hint of cough syrup in there (much like Root Beer), but also what seems to be lemon, or maybe lime. Also I'm sure there's a hint of bubblegum and maybe even cream soda! The Am
          monium Ferric Citrate add's the Iron, which is the only bit that is actually good for you! Perhaps this is why it tends to react with metal tooth fillings, making your mouth taste like a battery.... Also available in a Diet version, which actually doesn't taste all that different to the full sugar type (as long as it is ice cold!) Cost: Latest offer I have seen is a 24 can pack for £6.45, but you can pick up these packs for a tiny £4 in Safeway if you are lucky! An idividual can costs around 55p, 500ml bottle is 79p and 2 litres usually £1.09. Glass bottle prices are a bit different. 89p for the bottle, but you get back 20p when you return the empty bottle! In fact, around where I live these glass bottles are delivered much like milk, along with Tizer, Orangine, Ginger Beer and Barr's Lemonad & Cola. Absolutely ingenious. Contact details (if anyone is interested): A.G. Barr PLC, Freepost SCO1572, Glasgow, G31 1BR and of course... there is the rather bizarre website www.irn-bru.co.uk (doesn't work unless you have shockwave/flash installed) To sum up (and other info): Irn Bru is a very distincive, and almost mystical concoction that is both refreshingly satisfying and strangely addictive. A long standing favourite in Scotland, it can be found in the pumps at many fast food restaurants up here! I am yet to find someone up here that doesn't lik ethe stuff. I always seem to have a bottle of it in the fridge, and get through at least two cans while sitting here at work. My favourite drink by far. As many Scots (and students I must add) will tell you, it is also a very effective hangover supressant, which makes it ideal for 'the morning after'. I really do not know why this is, but try it! I swear by it these days. Recently Red Square have brought out a very welcome edition of their vodka based bottled drinks which is
          mixed with real Irn Bru! I have tried the stuff and I can tell you, you really cannot taste the alcohol in it. Quite scary, but good in the same breath! Give it a try.... to gratuitously steal a catchphrase "what's the worst that could happen?" Thanks for reading Marc (honourary Scot)

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        • Bostik Blu Tack / Household Product / 2 Readings / 16 Ratings
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          08.09.2004 22:15
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          While sitting here rolling a lump of this blue marvel between my fingers it struck me to do a search for it here! Lo and behold, there's a category for it. So naturally, here I am writing about the joys of this substance! Blu-Tack (The Original Reusable Adhesive!!) itself is an ingenious substance produced by a company called Bostik who, strangely enough, are an adhesive manufacturer! I've scoured Google searching for a bit of history, but to no avail. Not even a date that it was first made! Shocking ain't it. Packaging: As you can see in the handy picture in the top left corner, Blu Tack is sold in flat cardboard packs which are mainly blue in colour with Blu-Tack written across the top in big white letters. Also there is a cartoony picture of what it can be used for on the front (and more details on the back). Inside the cardboard the stuff is rolled flat and sandwiched between two sheets of plasticky paper (much like the backing of a sticker I suppose) to keep the stickyness of this sticky stuff as sticky as stickily possible. Costs/availability: Generally a pack will cost you around 79p, but there are some rare price marked packs for as low as 59p (bargain I hear you say....) Available from most supermarkets, stationers, mint emporia (garages to you non-mint enthusiasts) and also those shops that pop up to sell you christmas tat not far from now. Taste: Rubbery, but not unpleasant. Nicely chewy, possibly poisonous! Uses: Firstly a brief how-to guide for those of you who are uneducated in the ways of Blu... First check that the surfaces to be stuck are clean, free of loose paint etc, and also free of grease. Tear off a lump of Blu-Tack (as small as possible...works better than big lumps, oo er!) and knead/roll it until warm and supple... Warning...this bit can be addictive. Roll into a ball and press onto one of
          the surfaces. Press surfaces together and hold for a few seconds with plenty of pressure...and hey presto! Be careful with porous/absorbant surfaces as Blu-Tack can leave greasy marks when removed! The many uses of this great invention include... -Fixing posters to walls -Securing photos into frames -Sticking phones to tables so you don't knock them off so easily! -Repairing curly wallpaper edges -Putting up christmas decorations/cards -Flicking at the cat Basically you can stick anything up with it! Uses I have found for it (as well as other people I bet).... -Repairing all manner of car trim. I even repaired a wing mirror with the stuff! -Emergency eraser (it is very similar in make up to an artists putty rubber) -Modelling stuff. While at school (oh so many years ago) I found great joy in moulding little men and women with the stuff (anatomically complete as well!) and it seems that others also have great fun with the stuff (http://www.worsley.freeuk.com/blutack/) -Picking up fluff. Great at removing patches of fluff from clothing etc when you don't have one of those ingenious lint rollers to hand. -Also it is great for removing grease from skin! Roll a lump of it down both sides of your nose and it'll pick up all manner of grease and dirt...simply bin it afterwards and wahey! To sum up: A truly remarkable invention (if only I could find out who invented it!), this stuff can be used for all manner of things. Once you have stuck something up with Blu-Tack it will NOT fall down (unless you have tried to stick an elephant to the wall). Also it seems to stick even better, the longer it is left! I always keep a slab handy at home, because you never know when you'll need it! Last use was to wedge a bit of car trim to stop it rattling. Brilliant. Whether you use it for what it's made for, or as an art mater
          ial such as those on that odd website, is up to you. But I recommend you go out and buy a slab, just to be on the safe side, eh. Contact: Only contact info I can find is a rather unfinished website at www.bostik.co.uk (but it really doesn't mention much about Blu Tack as most pages are under contruction!) Thanks for reading... hope I've made Blu-Tack a little less dull! Marc

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          • More +
            08.09.2004 17:06
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            While browsing my local stress inducer (AKA Asda) the other day I spied something new. Wrigley's Extra Mints! I was puzzled...Wrigleys? NOT gum? Am I in some kind of parallel universe? Naturally I was forced to pick up a packet in order to provide you good people with a review. So here we go... History: Wrigley have been providing their well-known (and damn tasty) chewing gum to the British public since 1911. Through constant innovation they have transformed chewing gum from a mere sweet treat, to a full mouth workout! Tooth whitening, breath freshening, nasal clearing...you name it! Extra Mints were launched in early 2003 shortly after Wrigley launched their first ever non chewing gum product (Extra Thin Ice). As they say in their press release, they are diversifying in the market to bring in new breath freshening products. I wonder how long it'll be before they come up with a choccy bar? Packaging: Available in a rather inconspicuous cardboard box, which is roughly 3.5 inches by 2 inches, and 1/2 an inch deep. Coloured blue for the peppermint variety and green for the spearmint (as ever with Extra). Plastic wrapped to keep the mints as minty as mints can be, and to stop people from tampering with them. All lettering is in easy-to-read white text, with Wrigley's Extra Mints being most prominent. At one corner there is a small flap hiding a good sized cut-out from which you can pour the mints surprisingly easily! Each pack contains 20 mints, which are roughly 1/2 an inch long white, and shaped like rugby balls. Nutrition/ingredients/warning: As with all other sugar-free mints, these are almost entirely made from Sorbitol which is a polyol (sugar alcohol) rather than a sugar or starch. I will warn you though...as written on the packet, excess consumption may have laxative effects (damn that sorbitol). I am yet to try to produce the effect w
            ith these though ;) There are no warnings such as allergies or unsuitable for vegetarians. Taste: Upon putting a single mint on your tongue you can instantly feel the cold sensation produced by the sorbitol. I, for one, quite like it, but it may not suit everyone! Almost instantly you are hit by the strong minty flavour which seems to fill your mouth AND nose as you suck away on the mint. First thoughts were "hang on, this tastes familiar.." and it sure does. Wrigley have managed to transfer the exact flavour of their Extra chewing gum to these mints. Great innit? Cost: From Asda they are 42p a packet, but I'm pretty sure you'll pay more from a mint & petrol emporium such as BP. Also, I'm pretty sure there is a multipack of these out there somewhere, but I'm unsure of the price. Contact info: The Wrigley Company Limited Estover Plymouth PL6 7PR Tel: 01752 701107 Fax: 01752 778850 consumer.affairs@wrigley.co.uk www.wrigley.co.uk To sum up: These are ideal if you don't want to look like a cow chewing the cud, but still love that Extra mint flavour. Or if, like me, you are just lazy and don't want to make the effort to chew! After eating just one mint my breath still felt fresh after a good 2 hours, which is pretty damn good considering it usually smells like a used nappy! Whether you crunch or suck you will get all the breath freshening hit of these which is a bonus, as other similar mints tend to be a big steaming pile of poo (with flies buzzing around) if you crunch them! Not quite as good for your teeth as their chewing gum cousins as you don't get the added benefit of chewing for god knows how long. The only complaint I have is that you really don't get enough in a packet, but I suppose Wrigley have done this on purpose, as these are addictive!
            Thanks for reading! Marc

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            • Rover 400 / Car / 1 Reading / 14 Ratings
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              08.06.2004 19:14
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              Welcome to my first review since the beginning of March! I'm sure you're all glad to see me back (stop stifling the laughing at the back). As you've probably guessed through reading my other reviews, I manage to get through a lot of cars (on number 12 now, not bad for someone who has only been driving 7 years). So I thought I may as well write my big comeback masterpiece on my latest pride and joy, my beloved Rover 414SLi. Before I plough into this, I should warn you that it is based entirely on my experiences with this car, and a 416GSi I owned a few years back, which are both Mk 1 'wedge' models. I don't like the newer curvy, girly ones anyway! Brief History: Brought in to replace the ageing Montego in 1990, the 400 series was a collaboration with Honda (nearly identical to a mid-90's Civic in fact!). A mixture of Honda's design and reliablity, and Rover's quality K-series engine, made for a great compact saloon with a 'big car' feel. Available with 1.4, 1.6 & 2.0 petrol, and 1.8 diesel engines, there were several models ranging from entry-level 414 Si, to the awesome 420 GSi Sport Turbo which boasted 200bhp and a boy racer beating 0-60 in under 7 seconds (I want one!). The 'wedge' was replaced in early 1996 by the still-Honda-like curvy model which is still around today as the Rover 45 (although they claim it is a completely different car!) Reliability: This is a big plus point for the 400 series. Due to the added input from Honda, these cars easily rival Japanese cars for reliability. In fact, the main concerns with these cars is the huge amount of worn out high milers that are on the second hand market. Many have been neglected and wear & tear have taken their toll. I know many people may have heard the head gasket horror stories about the Rover K-series engines, but they really aren't any worse than other
              engines. I suppose it has a lot to do with the likes of Jeremy Clarkson taking digs at Rover at any given opportunity! Servicing and repairs can be expensive through Rover dealerships, but your local mechanic (or cheapo grease monkey) will sort it out for a lot less. Surprisingly, many major repairs are cheaper than you may think due to the well designed engine bay giving easy access to the likes of the gearbox and clutch! Driving: Now here's the bit I really enjoy. The 1.4 models produce a surpising 103bhp and are very nippy as a result. You do have to push them slightly though! 1.6 is probably the best all-rounder (and is a Honda engine, so bulletproof) and strolls in calmly at 111bhp. As I said before, if you're lucky you can get hold of a 2.0 turbo version that'll give you whiplash if you're not careful! Diesel models come in at 67bhp for non-turbo, and 88bhp for turbo. Pretty damn respectable if you ask me. The 1.4 can be a little noisy at high revs, but you can't really blame it can you? The overall ride is very smooth. The little fella will happily ease itself in and out of a dip in the road with nothing more than a slight bounce. Only complaint I have is that road-noise tends to be a little higher than with similar cars. Easily solved by turning up the radio! The steering is very responsive and light and, as an added bonus, the handling is superb. The car sticks to the road, and there is no noticable oversteer (gotta love frotn wheel drive!) or understeer when heaving it around a roundabout. Be sure to go for one with power steering though, early non-PAS models had horribly heavy steering. I suppose you might want one, if only to build up your biceps! The brakes are perfectly adequate, but tend to wear quite quickly. ABS is available on most newer 1.6 and 2.0 models. Quite a few owners have opted to upgrade their front discs and pads to vented versio
              ns, which are far superior and not much more expensive than the standard equivalent. Now to the most important bit, comfort! The interiors are very nicely trimmed, and seats are soft but supportive. You can easily take on a 200 mile trip without worrying about knackering your back. Fuel economy is very good in the 1.4, and almost as good in the 1.6. The 2.0 is quite thirsty, but who cares when you can out-accelerate a rocket ;) Features: Driving - Power steering as standard on all models from June 1993. Safety - Side impact beams on all models from June 1993, Drivers airbag on GSi SLi and SLD turbo models from 1994. Security - Alarm as standard from 1992, Immobiliser system from 1994 & remote central locking from 1994. My particular car (414SLi 1994) has power steering, airbag, alarm & immobiliser. The interior is very pleasant, with it's wood trim, and chrome 'Rover' kickplates under the doors. The drivers seat it fully adjustable (height too) and someone of over six foot would easily fit into it! There are some good, but pointless additions, such as a coin drawer and a rubber non-slip mat on the dashboard! Safety-wise, I don't feel threatened by mini's in this car (see my Escort review!), and I feel confident that myself and my family would be protected if we ever had a smash in it. Room-wise, it'll hold five adults comfortably (six if you put one in the boot!) and won't be down in power too much if fully loaded. The boot is pretty big considering the size of the car, and can easily hold anything we've thought about putting in it (even a fold-down table) Buying a used wedge: There are only a few main things to look out for... Rust - Many of these will have rust spots by now, but don't worry about anything that's just on the surface. Be sure to check around wheel arches (behind plastic mouldings if
              you can!) and along the top of the windscreen (can cause leaks). One place you MUST check is where the pillar meet the sill on the drivers side. If this is rusted, it'd be an MOT fail AND a possible safety issue. This is the point where the seatbelt is fixed to the car! Engine - check the oil filler cap for mayo-like gunge. This would indicate a head gasket problem that'd be around £200 to fix. Also, check the coolant system for cloudiness and leaks (radiator especially...look for flaking 'fins'). Listen for any loud ticking coming from the camshaft (not the injectors). It'll get quicker with higher revs, and can spell a new engine! Gearbox - Listen out for any whining noises, and check for any problems putting in and out of gear. The gearboxes on these cars can wear out quite suddenly with high miles. Also listen for any clicking from the driveshafts when steering at full lock either way. Clutch - Beware of clutch judder. You will feel it when pulling away in low gears as a shake coming from the engine. This can be caused by a leaky gearbox or just a worn out clutch. Not hugely expensive to fix (~£100) Costs (the important bit): You can pick up a good M reg 414SLi for around £600, and a similar 416 for around the same price. 420's are dearer due to them being less common, and more sought after. If you're lucky you can get hold of an older low mileage car for under £300 which will last you for years! Tourer (estate) models are roughly twice the price simply because of their rarity and popularity. Personal experience summary: I bought my 414SLi for £520 back in March from eBay (a risk I know), and am very pleased with it overall. It did need a little work, but didn't cost an arm and a leg. Radiator and exhaust replaced for £150, front brake pads £38, and a new tyre (chump before me had one of the front tyres too small!) There's a co
              uple more bits that I'd like to do, but nothing major really. Just a bit of a service etc. It doesn't use a lot of coolant (anymore), and the engine runs as smooth an anything. Also, it is costing us quite a bit less in petrol than my old Peugeot 4051 1.6, but is surprisingly more expensive to insure! It has served us well so far, suits our family perfectly, and looks quite 'respectable' too. I much prefer it to the standard slightly older type with the bog standard grey bumpers. In fact, I think I'll post a photo or two of the wee motor. Security is excellent I have found, alarm works faultlessly, and the immobilser really does immobilise the car! I've had no break-in problems since owning this car (perhaps the blinking red LED scares them!). The only thing that does bother me a little is the longstanding 'grandad' image associated with Rovers. I really cannot see the reasoning behind it! Overall, these are perfect family cars, and also suit those just looking to transport themselves just as well! Good reliable engines with more power than you'd think, and plenty of room inside, makes for a great small saloon car. What more can I say? Thanks for reading Marc

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              • Mike's Hard Lemonade / Soft Drink / 3 Readings / 14 Ratings
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                20.03.2004 19:43
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                8.30pm last night I was given my orders.... Go to Asda Buy me alcohol Must be chilled So off I go without a complaint (knowing full well I'll be able to purchase myself a few large Grolsch bottles). Upon finding the solitary chiller cabinet I see that the only chilled booze they have on offer is the oddly titled Mike's Hard Lemonade. So, with all good intentions, I pick up a pack of 4 and head home (after paying of course). I had the honour of trying a bottle, but I'm not sure if this was because she wanted to see if it killed me before she tried it...hmmm So.....to the review Introduction: Mike's Hard Lemonade originates from the good old USA, where it seems to have a strangle hold on the alcopop type market. I'm almost certain that it's only recently appeared over here in the UK, maybe only a year or two ago, going by what I have read about it elsewhere. This drink seems to market itself as more of a traditional American street corner lemonade with added vodka (of the cheap kind, I must add). Not that it isn't an alcopop as such, but I just don't think there really is a market for what we would call alcopops in the USA...so of course, they need to market differently to get attention. Packaging: Available in packs of four 275ml bottles, or as a single bottle. The carboard sleeve around the four pack is black. The bottle labels are black....it's all black! BLACK! *cough* As well as the black, there is obviously the brandname, and a logo (outline of a lemon), all coloured in yellow. Also there are a few daft slogans such as "grabs you by the lemons" dotted about the bottle. This
                is repeated on the cardboard sleeve. Contents: As you know, this is based on American lemonade. So you can assume that there is shedloads of sugar involved! The label doesn't really give any information as far as ingredients and nutrition goes...but you don't often find that on bottles of alcohol anyway. The kick comes from added vodka to a strength of 5% ABV, so the stuff is on a comparable strength to Smirnoff Ice and other superior brews. Taste (and smell): Upon removing the bottle cap (I did it with my teeth....hard man innit!), first thing that hits you is a strong citrusy aroma....To be honest, I couldn't describe it as lemony, but more like the smell you get from a soft drink such as Citrus Spring. Weird, but not bad. First taste wasn't bad at all, in fact I could describe it as quite pleasant. Being a fan of homemade lemonade, I could instantly sense the similarity. It wasn't overly fizzy, was very sweet, and you could definitely taste the lemon flavouring (who knows if it's real lemon or not?!), although it wasn't overly strong. Very smooth tasting, and easy to drink. This was not one of those other cheap alcopops (VHF anyone?) that tastes every bit as enjoyable as Windolene. It's not the nicest of the alcoholic lemon-based drinks by far, but it is by no means the worst of the bunch. It's drinkable, certainly, but there are much better drinks out there. Cost/availability: You can buy it at most supermarkets now, as well as almost all off-licences (barring the snobby ones like Thresher's). Usually around 50p a bottle, or £2 for four (amazing that ain't it?). I managed to get ours from Asda for £1.32 for four! That's 33p each...bargain eh?
                I'm almost certain that I have spotted a Cranberry flavour, but I may have been hallucinating or daydreaming at the time...so don't quote me on that! Contact: Their UK website is - www.mikeshardlemonade.co.uk Currently the drink is imported and repackaged in Dorking, Surrey. I will add the exact address when I get home tonight, as I obviously don't have a bottle sat here on my desk (or one hidden in a drawer, before you ask!) To sum up: This is a nice, cheap alternative to the likes of Smirnoff Ice, and reminds me a lot of the now defunct Two Dogs lemon brew that was around in the days of Hooch. Not the sort of thing that I would pick up normally, as I'm a beer fella. But it did meet the approval of the boss, so it must be pretty OK. My advice when drinking this is to make sure that you either dip the bottle (invert it a few times), or pour in to a glass, as the vodka tends to lurk at the bottom making it a little harder to drink as you reach the last half of the bottle. If you manage to give it a little mix, it makes all the difference! Mike's Hard Lemonade gets the thumbs up from me, as it means I can get my wife drunk for only a couple of quid ;) Thanks for reading, and happy drinking! Marc

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                • More +
                  18.03.2004 00:37
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                  Here goes for my first game review! If you like football, and own a PC, you are bound to have heard of (or played) a game from the fantastic Championship Manager series. It is by far the best footie management series ever made (Premier Manager?! PAH!), and manages to keep many blokes off the streets and sitting going square eyed instead! HISTORY The series started back in 1992 when two Shropshire football fans (Paul & Oliver Collyer) decided to write their own game. They were fed up with all the other (rubbish!) games out there and decided to make a game for true football fans. They took their finished game to Electronic Arts, who turned them down! What mugs they must feel now after refusing the best selling PC game of all time! A small company called Domark (later to become Eidos) saw the potential and snapped it up. History was made! Over the past 12 years there have been regular updates (mostly yearly), always improving on the previous version. In between each major release (CM1, CM2, CM3, CM4) there were updates released based on the previous release (such as CM97/98 being a much improved version of CM2 etc). In 1995 Championship Manager 2 was released. With it?s new look, much improved game engine, true commentary, and greatly improved player data it managed to put SI Games on the map. Universally acclaimed, and a worldwide bestseller. 1999 saw the release of Championship Manager 3, with a complete new look but still based around the same basic (award winning) premise. As PC?s were getting more powerful, the amount of data included in the game could be increased, and as such, the games realism was taken to a whole new level. E
                  ;arly 2003 saw Championship Manager 4 fly off the shelves to the number of 103,000 within the first weekend of its release! Nearly ten times the amount of players were present in this new version, as well as increased team & league data. The biggest change was the inclusion of a graphical display of the match in progress. You can actually sit and watch your players hoof the ball around the pitch! CM4 was full of bugs when initially released, but these were almost all ironed out within a few months (and five patches!). All in all there was a mixed reaction, as many people thought the game was rushed. Still a fantastic game, but almost unplayable to some people at first. Anyway, on to the latest version?.. Championship Manager ?03/04 is based on CM4 taking into account all the customer feedback from it (as SI Games are famous for, the only games company who truly listen to their customers!). Very similar to look at, but behind the scenes there has been a huge amount of work done. This game truly is exactly what CM4 should have been! BASIC IDEA OF THE GAME Choosing a team from over 40 leagues from around the world, you must take control of buying/selling players, hiring/firing staff, player training, and team tactics. It is up to you to take the team to glory (or crash and burn!). With over 200,000 players in the game you truly have near limitless potential to find the best players to suit your budget and team tactics. YOU choose the players who will feature in the matches, and YOU chose exactly they will play during the match. Just chomp non-stop on a lump of gum and call yourself Fergie! Armed with your handpicked team of scouts you can scour the world looking for that elusive genius of a player th
                  at could make or break the season for your team. You can even design the tactics for the match from scratch if you feel brave enough! With all major competitions included (as well as most minor ones) you can take your team to cup and league glory, as well as watch your youngsters improve and even break into the national teams! IMPROVEMENTS FROM CM4 I?ll say a little about the major changes in this version, and list some of the smaller (but significant) changes that have also been made?. Pre-game Editor: As last seen in CM3, the editor is added so you can go in and update any information you want to within the game, you can add, delete, alter any player/team you like, but I wouldn?t recommend it without reading up on it first! I managed to knacker the player data first time I tried ;) Improved Player to Player Relationships: Interaction between players is greatly improved in this version. Now you can see exactly what one player thinks of another, whether they idolise them, or want to punch their teeth out! A great added realism, which can affect the entire team. Improved Media Feedback: The media is much more involved in this version. Anything from criticising players, to calling for your resignation! You can counter some of the stories by giving replies to comments received through the media, and even use it to your advantage (such as praising players etc). Match Engine Updated: The overall match engine has been tweaked to make it more realistic, after many flaws were found within CM4 due to the 2D match display. Problems that were never noticed before became wholly apparent when watched in glorious 2D. Improvements to the offside part, as well
                  as visual enhancements such as matchday weather (which also affects the play). Visual indicators have been added to improve the 2D display to make it easier to see which players have been booked or injured etc. As well as the usual flashing text on screen during a match, you also have the added effect of voice commentary (most people tend to turn this off!) Another improvement to the match engine is the replay function. Whenever a goal is scored you can watch the action through again. Very handy if you, like me, tend to miss the flashing text sometimes! Training Screen: In CM4 the training screen was a little difficult to navigate and understand, meaning most people tended to leave it exactly as they found it. A bit of a shame seeing as it is obvious how much work and effort had been out into it by the boys at SI Games. The updated training screen is now so easy to use, that it is an absolute joy to muck around with! Every change you make affects a little bar chart in the top right hand corner, so you know exactly how your changes affect the overall training of the team, and where it is lacking etc. Each portion of the day in which you can allocate a training session is now replaced by a nice simple drop down menu. Another good addition to the training is the fact that you can select in each players profile to see the affects of training on that specific player! Very useful indeed. Also added are the following: *Goal of the Month *Goal of the Season *Past Meetings ? You can check up on how your team did last time you played the team you are about to meet *Player Co-ownership ? much like in Italy, you can share a player if needs be. *Coach Profiles Improved ? They now show a list of their favoured players in your team. *U
                  pdated Player, Team, and Competition Data. MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS PC: Windows 98/ME/XP/2000 Pentium 4 1.2 GHz 256 MB RAM 600 MB Hard Disk space 1024x768 Screen Resolution In practise these are generally recommended system requirements. The game works fine on my 700 MHz Celeron with 256 MB RAM! Mac: Mac OS 9.2.2 / Mac OS 10.2 or later PowerPC G4/G5 500 MHz 256 MB RAM 500 MB Hard Disk Space 1024x768 Screen Resolution COST Available through almost every games outlet for around £29.99, although you can get it from Amazon.co.uk for an amazing £17.99. MY THOUGHTS As I said already, this game works fine on my lowly 700 MHz Celeron. It actually seems to run quite a bit faster than CM4 did, so a big pat on the back for those poor workaholics at SI Games. The game is not graphically stunning (none of them have been), but a game with this amount of sheer playability really doesn?t need all the bells and whistles. You?ve just got to look at Total Club Manager to see what I mean (looks good, plays like a three legged mule). I have spent many hours of my life (probably whole months in fact) playing CM in its various guises, and this truly is the best game so far. Everything works perfectly, and is so easy to navigate around using the mouse and nothing else, that even my 10 year old brother could pretend to be the next Arsene We
                  nger with ease. It is so satisfying to succeed at this game, whether you win the FA Cup, or simply beat those b******* Manchester United with lowly Huddersfield! The game is simply a work of genius, and I reckon all at SI Games should be knighted (slight over-enthusiasm there eh). THE FUTURE Sadly this is the last ever Championship Manager game to be developed by SI Games. They have split from publisher Eidos who have kept the copyright (and are releasing their own version later this year). BUT SI Games are continuing the series under a different name, so keep your eye out for the next instalment around Christmas time named Football Manager 2005. I thank you Cheers for reading, Marc

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                  • Cadbury's in General / Other Food / 0 Readings / 16 Ratings
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                    01.03.2004 02:55
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                    I know I shouldn't really do this, but as there is no specific category for this (and other people have done the same!) I thought I should add this under 'Cadbury in General'. -=Cadbury Instant Break Chocolate Drink=- I must admit, I am a very lazy person and it takes a lot for me to resort to using non-instant anything! Cadbury Instant Break Chocolate is a permanent fixture in our house as my wife refuses to drink tea or coffee of any kind. Not that that's a bad thing, it means there's more for me! Now Cadbury, being the UK's best known chocolics supplier, should be able to get something like this spot on, right? It seems not.... Packaging: Almost always it can be found a cuboidlike (nice made-up word ain't it?) jar topped off with a purple clip on lid. It is always positioned amongst proper drinking chocolate (blasphemy I hear you shout?). The standard size is 400g jar, although I'm sure I have seen individual sachets (maybe I'm confusing it with 'Options'). The label does make it seem appetising, with a picture of a white mug filled to the brim with frothy brown liquid, and, cunningly, with a Cadbury's 'C' spun into the froth. Good so far it seems. Nutritional info: Not overly bad I suppose. A single serving (4 heaped teaspoons) provides 3.1g of protein, 18g of carbohydrate and 3.9g of fat. There is 120 kcal per serving (once made up to drink form, if you can call it that) There's no indication of whether it is vegetarian friendly, but it may be worth checking, as you can never be too sure these days. Taste: Now this is where I was sadly disappointed. Upon adding the recommended 4 heaped teaspoons of grit-like powder to a mug of hot water, I was greeted with what looked like watery chicken gravy. Not appetising at all! It tastes far too sweet for one thing, no matter how
                    much or how little powder you use. And when made using 4 spoons it tends to be far too thick. Also, one crucial thing is missing.... There's not even a hint of froth in sight, however carefully you make it! You can even whisk it, and all you acheive is a watery drink (and a kitchen covered in the stuff). For something that claims to be 'chocolate' it certainly doesn't taste anything like it. I've made better tasting drinks using raw cocoa powder. To be honest, I would prefer drinking a mug of chicken gravy! Cost: Last time we bought a jar it was £1.58 from Adsa for 400g. Not too expensive I hear you say. But when you see that you only get on average 15 mugs out of a jar it does seem rather steep compared to the non-instant chocolate drinks. Contact Info: Consumer Relations Department - UK Cadbury Trebor Bassett PO Box 12 Bournville Lane Bournville Birmingham B30 2LU UK Tel: +44 (0) 121 451 4444 Fax: +44 (0) 121 451 4192 www.cadbury.co.uk To sum up: I am not impressed by the too-sweet, gravy-like result of making a mugful of this so-called chocolate drink, ,and would not recommend it at all to hot chocolate fans. The drink itself managed to simultaneously be thick, and watery at the same time. A huge feat I reckon! It just looks nothingy, but has the texture of a badly made warm milkshake. It really is sad to see a product like this associated with the far superior Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate which, to be fair, isn't that much harder to make. How could they get it so wrong? HOW?! thanks for reading, Marc

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                    • Bruce Almighty (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 16 Ratings
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                      29.02.2004 05:16
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                      Jim Carrey is a bit of a Marmite kind of guy (either love him, or hate him), but I?ve always been a fan of his films, as I?m a bloke with a very crude sense of humour. So, after spotting the trailer, I was looking forward to yet another film with funny faces and fart gags. After reading up on the film I began to worry that this was going to be another sterile effort, as Carrey seems to have achieved a few times recently (barring the excellent Me, Myself & Irene). Was I right? Released: 2003 by Universal Pictures Certificate: 12A Run Time: 101 Minutes Produced by: Tom Shadyac, Michael Bostik, James D Brubaker Directed by: Tom Shadyac Written by: Steve Koren, Mark O?Keefe & Steve Oedekerk Cast: Jim Carrey ? Bruce Nolan Morgan Freeman ? God Jennifer Aniston ? Grace Connelly Philip Baker Hall ? Jack Baylor Catherine Bell ? Susan Ortega Lisa Ann Walter ? Debbir Steven Carell ? Evan Baxter Nora Dunn ? Ally Loman Eddie Jemison ? Bobby Paul Satterfield ? Dallas Coleman Plot Outline: Bruce Nolan is a man reaching his mid-life crisis. He is pushing 40 and feels he is stuck in a rut at work, and should have moved on to bigger and better things by now. He even is beginning to feel that his girlfriend, Grace, thinks that he is a failure. At the start of the film we see him at work as a TV news reporter, seemingly given all the second-rate and ?quirky? outside broadcasts. When he discovers that he is on the shortlist for the news anchorman job (his dream job) he is over the moon. Thinking he is doing his last ever daft report, his heart sinks when the job is given to his rival, Evan Baxter, live on air! Naturally, he is a little upset. In fact, he completely loses it, and ends up getting fired and then beaten up outside the building! As ever, he blames everyone but himself. The main butt of the blame is God himself? God becomes slightly fed up with
                      the torrent of blame and abuse so decides to teach Bruce a lesson (or help him, if you see it that way). God contacts Bruce through the holy medium of the pager, and arranges to meet him (not that Bruce realises that he is meeting God!) The lesson being taught involves giving Bruce his godly powers to see how he would cope with it! As many people would do, Bruce abuses the power to get what he wants (at first), but gradually realises there is a huge amount more that he must be doing. He manages to alienate himself from everyone he knows and loves. Will he get all that he wants from life? My Opinion: I sat down fully expecting a below-par effort from Jim Carrey, going on what I had previously heard/read of this film, but I am very glad to say I was oh so wrong! This has got to be one of the funniest films I have watched over the past few months. The occasional set pieces are excellent, and the gags flow thick and fast (although not as fast as some of his films!). Compared to Carrey's earlier films such as The Mask and Dumb & Dumber, for example, this film is a much calmer, less madcap experience. Not to say it doesn't have the occasional classic Carrey moment, it just seems like a good, wholesome comedy. Jim Carrey is as good as ever, but manages to hold back with the usual gurning and odd noises (some people may say this is a good thing!). He manages to switch from serious-mode to fool-mode with ease, and truly makes this film his. Jennifer Aniston coped well with her role, and should easily make a name for herself as something more than ?her out of Friends?. I know she isn?t on screen nearly half as much as Carrey, but she still manages to put across the character she is portraying with ease. Now Morgan Freeman was a fantastic casting choice as God. The man is a living legend and seems to relish playing the Almighty one himself! A top rate performance as ever. The script itse
                      lf is pretty good, but wouldn?t have worked, I feel, had it not been Jim Carrey taking the lead role. It was a little patchy in places I suppose, but no major flaws on the whole. The few special effects involved were very clever indeed. I?ll be sending a hefty pat on the back to the people behind them for one scene in particular (I won?t tell you any more than that otherwise I?ll spoil it!). The only negative thing I have to say about this film is that the slightly mushy bit of the plot revolving around Bruce?s relationship with Grace tends to detract from the overall feel of the film. Although I must say it was nowhere near as bad as the cringeworthy sub-plot in Liar Liar! If it was removed from the film I think it would be all the better for it to be honest. Surely a film can have a ?rise & fall? plot without a slushy Hollywood-favoured sentimental addition? Thanks for reading, Marc

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                      • The Ring (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 20 Ratings
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                        24.02.2004 19:38
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                        After hearing so much about the infamous Japanese horror flick Ringu, I had to rent it out and give it a shot. I sat eagerly watching the film and reading the subtitles but felt hardly anything. Was I faulty, or completely missing the point? Anyway, I was over the moon when I discovered that the bigwigs in Hollywood had decided to remake the film so that us westerners could watch it without having to do two things at one (some of us can?t even walk and talk at the same time, so it was a good thing). More or less counting down the day until the film was released, I think I was beginning to wind up Sarah, so she was ever so glad to finally see it (just to shut me up). One thing worried me though. Would this US remake live up to the original?s critical acclaim? Would the fans of the original see it as a cash-in rather than flattery? Anyway, on to the review? Released: 2002 by Dreamworks Certificate: 15 (UK) Run Time: 115 minutes Produced by: Laurie MacDonald & Walter F. Parkes Directed by: Gore Verbinski Written by: Ehren Kruger (based on Koji Suzuki?s novel) Cast: Naomi Watts - Rachel Keller Martin Henderson - Noah Clay David Dorfman - Aidan Keller Brian Cox - Richard Morgan Jane Alexander - Dr. Grasnik Lindsay Frost - Ruth Embry Amber Tamblyn - Katie Embry Rachael Bella - Rebecca Kotler Daveigh Chase - Samara Morgan Shannon Cochran - Anna Morgan Plot Outline: Two young girls are alone in a house, when one mentions a videotape. Everyone who watches the tape receives a phonecall immediately afterwards telling them they will die in seven days?.. an urban myth seemingly. After a somewhat light-hearted, standard teenage, conversation one of the girls admits to having watched the video, seven days previously. They try to laugh it off, but deep down they are terrified, and with every right to be. Shortly later the girl is fo
                        und dead with a look of sheer terror on her face. Rachel Keller is a single mother to Aidan, and a journalist with workaholic tendencies. When called in to speak to her son?s schoolteacher she discovers that the lad has been acting rather oddly (and she hasn?t noticed due to being so pre-occupied with work). Rachel is the aunt of the girl who has died, and takes it upon herself to look into the strange circumstances surrounding her death. After discovering that three of her friends also died at exactly the same moment in time, and that they had all watched the video she goes off to find the tape. Of course, she DOES find the tape, and inevitably watches it herself to try to piece together the mystery. She goes to her friend Noah, an expert on video editing it seems, to try to get some insight into the video. This leads to a lighthouse across country?.. It is now a race against time to root out the secrets of the video, and who/what is behind it. Will she find out the truth behind the video in time? Can she save the lives of herself and her son? My Opinion: This is one of the only films that has ever given me a genuine feeling of uneasiness (if there is such word). Throughout the film you are constantly at the edge of your seat, and there truly are some genuinely frightening/creepy moments (particularly towards the end). With an outstanding screenplay, and inspired direction from Gore Verbinski, this makes for one highly atmospheric and engrossing film. Exactly the points which I feel the original lacked. The film just seems to flow a lot better, has no apparent dull patches, and is hugely entertaining. Naomi Watts is excellent, as ever, and really gets into the highly-strung workaholic role with ease (wonder if it?s not that far from her own personality?). She puts a huge amount of effort into the part, and you can see it plainly whenever she is on screen. She?s definitely g
                        oing to be in huge demand after this. David Dorfman does really well as the slightly disturbed Aidan, but I feel the film may have been a little overwhelming for him as a first major acting role. Still, I can see him moving onto bigger things once he settles into the career (maybe). Martin Henderson, I feel, was a little wooden. I could even describe his acting as restrained. I don?t know if it was the subject matter, or just his own natural acting style, but it just didn?t seem genuine enough for me. Perhaps I?m just being a little picky. The special effects throughout the film were excellent, and the little girl Samara was really quite scary for a nipper! Very fitting with the storyline, and a credit to the people involved in making this film. The only negative thing I can say is that some of the cast were a little second-rate. If there'd been a few more capable actors & actresses this would've definitely been a 5/5. All in all I would recommend this film as one of the best horror/shocker flicks of recent years. I cannot wait until the sequel is released! Thanks for reading Marc

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                        • Room 101 / Discussion / 0 Readings / 24 Ratings
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                          23.02.2004 18:24
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                          After reading a few of these Room 101 rants, I thought I'd throw one of my own into the wilderness that is Dooyoo. So here's ten (Overkill I know) things that I'd dearly love to vanish off the face of the earth.... I'm naturally an easily annoyed person (as anyone who knows me will tell you!) so this is surprisingly easy for me to write! 1) Random car vandals. This is one thing that truly winds me up. Currently I live in one of the most infamous housing estates in Scotland unfortunately, so there is a massive amount of petty crime such as car break ins, burglary, drugs etc. None of these bother me as much a random car vandals though. The sheer fact that they do it for no good reason really gets to me! I mean, I can almost understand it if they were stealing something (if you get what I mean), but the scrotes that go around scratching cars, smashing windscreens (4 months ago!), and slashing tyres (2 months ago now!) really should get something better to do with their lives, rather than forcing poor people like me to pay out money they cannot afford to! 2) Anthea Turner. I have not got a clue why she annoys me at all. On the face of it she's a friendly, bubbly, pleasant TV presenter who looks like butter wouldn't melt. It must be a sixth sense or something...maybe there something sinister about her. I truly don't know! Every time I see her face on TV or in the paper I just have to flip sides or turn the page... Actually becoming quite obsessive about it now! 3) Shopping trolleys. Back when I was at school (all those years ago!) I had a part time job shoving trolleys at my local Sainsburys store. A nice easy job in which you can wander about at your leisure as long as the job gets done! Anyway..that's away from the point... What annoys me is the fact that A) So many people simply cannot drive the things B) There is always two women stoo
                          d in the middle of an aisle blocking it with their damn trolleys. C) Why the hell do so many of my neighbours steal the things to use as their own personal heavy duty lugging device?! Hire a van for Pete's sake! The amount of times I've seen people shifting settees with the things is unreal! 4) Biscuit packets. Whay are the first and last biscuit ALWAYS broken? WHY?! No matter how carefully I pluck them from the shelves, and pack them away it's always the same. Infuriating! 5) Bus Drivers. They're getting as bad as the HGV drivers that you battle with on the motorways. Everywhere I go I have to dodge at least 3 buses that are been driven by, it seems, maniacs! They pull out without signalling, dive in and out of lanes, and stop in the most inconvenient of places. Apart from that, one of my local bus drivers smells of wee :( 6) Mornings. Why do they always have to creep up on you? I can never get through a morning without tons of coffee and a good smack round the back of the head. Never ever get up on time because I know that Morning is waiting for me on the outside of the duvet. Why don't they just abolish the things?! 7) Mondays. These annoy me even more than mornings. Friday night, relaxed, looking forward to the weekend, great! But come saturday night I begin to dread the end of the following day, knowing full well that there is a Monday following shortly after it. It even gets to the point of me waking up on Sunday and beleiving that it is Monday in my half-comatosed state. Numerous times I have panicked and started sticking on my shirt and tie, only for Sarah to look over and laugh her backside off at me! 8) Star Trek (not counting the original series). The only thing that annoys me about the newer series' is the fact that they are no more than glorified soap operas with pointy ears and pasties for foreheads!
                          Gone is the classic out-in-space-meeting-aliens tension, and in comes the most banal storylines known to man! Another reason I get annoyed by it is the fact that Sarah is ALWAYS watching them!...she is not a trekkie though (she made me say that through threat of violence!) 9) Computer keyboards, and my hands. They never seem to agree with eachother. No matter how carefully I think I'm typing I ALWAYS manage to get the same silly typo's such as missing letters, spaces in odd places, and even random windows menus! I think there some kind of vendetta against me with these things... 10) Dogs. They have to be the thickest creatures I have ever witnessed. I don't know why, but the dumbest always seem to be tan/brown mongrels! Every single time. Why oh why do they enjoy chasing cars down the road? They risk their very lives by running in front of them, and then gallop beside trying to bite them... Do they think cars are made of meat or something? Plain old stupidity! And they chase their tails...nuff said. I hope my rantings have brought some kind of amusement to you all...and I'm not that highly strung honest! I must admit though... I am now shaking and want to crush something small, cute and furry. Marc

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                          • Vegetarianism / Discussion / 5 Readings / 31 Ratings
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                            07.02.2004 02:21
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                            Right, where do I start?. I have always, and WILL always eat meat, no matter what. From my own experience, as well as reading other peoples, I feel that being vegetarian can be seriously bad for you health. I?m not wanting to offend anyone with this, I merely want to put across the views of a meat eater, seeing as there is such an imbalance in the argument?.9 out of 10 rants are against eating meat! So I want to make it 8 out of 10 ;) Humans are omnivores, just like pigs. In fact, we share many of our digestive traits with carnivores, and hardly any with herbivores such as sheep. Our entire being is based around a balanced diet involving veg/fruit as well as meat. Our teeth are designed for both, and our stomachs are designed to digest meat much better than they can cope with veg. Throughout history we have been hunters/gatherers, living off of both food types, so why do people want to change things? We?re at the top of the food chain, and everyone knows that a cow would eat you given half a chance! Some interesting facts: *Our distant ancestors survived on a diet of 65% meat, and 35% from plant sources *Anthropological studies have never found a civilisation (either currently, or historically), which was both vegetarian, AND in good health. *The human body needs protein (complete protein that is). And this is near impossible to get from eating plant matter alone. *A diet high in grains and pulses is in fact bad for your health. Our ancestors couldn?t digest these, until they found a way to grind or cook them?and even then, their bodies only ?tolerated? them. In fact, high consumption of these can lead to chronic diseases such as food intolerances and auto-immune problems. *Many vegetarians rely on soya for protein. This has recently been proven to be particularly bad for males and children due to the high female hormone content! *The body needs many vitamins and miner
                            als that can only be found in meat (or animal products). In fact, there has been a lot of illnesses, developmental problems (and even deaths) in young children brought up on a vegan diet due to the severe lack in vitamin B12, just to name one! I am quite shocked at an article that I have just read. It tells of an American woman who lived on a strict vegan diet. After numerous collapses & seizures, her doctor diagnosed an inoperable brain tumour (leaving her with less than 6 months to live). AND he gave the cause as a severe lack in amino acids in her diet. Scary to say the least. Most people I know, who say they are vegetarians/vegans have very pale skin, little muscle mass, and are always tired, run-down, and lethargic. I know some of this can be helped with multivitamins, but who wants to rely on something like that to keep them going? Don?t get me wrong, many people can survive happily on vegetarian diets. But it truly frightens me, the amount of people who immediately think it?s healthier, and don?t look into the pitfalls or structure their diet to keep themselves in as good a health as possible. It is a lot of hard work to live without meat, and I, for one, could not do it. Well, I wouldn?t want to do it! So many people make themselves ill by simply removing meat from their diet, without rearranging the rest of what they eat to replace the essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Apart from that, it is essential that we eat a certain amount of fat, which is lacking in a vegetarian diet. One question? if someone is a vegetarian, how can they justify eating fish? Surely fish also feel pain etc? I really don?t understand the logic! Summary: I could not live without meat. For one thing, I like a nice steak and kidney pie! And another thing, I simply don?t have the time or inclination to concentrate on every single thing I eat in order to prevent myself from becoming ill or worse. There are far t
                            oo ma ny con?s in the argument for vegetarianism to sway me. So I will continue to eat meat indefinitely. Anyway, as Homer says, if we weren?t meant to eat animals, why are they made out of meat? Well, I think that?s enough of a rant. I look forward to reading your views on this. Cheers for reading Marc

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                            • More +
                              03.02.2004 18:21
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                              For my next trick, I would like to convince you all to go out and buy the Blackadder DVD box set. Christmas 2003, oh so many weeks ago now?. Unwrapping the smaller pressie from my mum, I discovered that she?d bought us the Complete Blackadder DVD! Slightly shocked, as I truly was not expecting the whole kaboodle, I proceeded to try my best to watch all 4 DVD?s back to back. I only managed to watch series 1, and half of series 2 in the first sitting, but that didn?t stop me! Next day, I sat through the rest, laughing til my sides hurt (and was very close to a nosebleed!) as I always do when watching this touch of genius. Originally the brainchild of Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis (later to team up on Mr Bean), Blackadder consisted of four series? as well as three specials ( Blackadder: The Cavalier Years, Blackadder?s Christmas Carol, & Blackadder: Back and Forth). This DVD does not include the specials however, which is a bit of a shame. ~The Black Adder~ Written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson Cast: Rowan Atkinson ? Prince Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh (AKA The Black Adder) Brian Blessed ? King Richard IV of England Robert East ? Harry, Prince of Wales Elspet Gray ? The Queen Tim McInnerny ? Lord Percy Tony Robinson ? Baldrick Episodes: 1. The Foretelling 2. Born to Be King 3. The Archbishop 4. The Queen of Spain's Beard 5. Witchsmeller Pursuivant 6. The Black Seal Plot summary: After unwittingly killing his uncle, King Richard III, during the battle of Bosworth Field, Edmund manages to save the life of Henry Tudor, leader of opposing army! Now his father is King, Edmund feels that he needs to be taken more seriously. Deciding on the alias 'The Black Adder' after toying with 'The Black Vegetable', he goes about reworking his entire image. Cue a bowl haircut, pointy shoes, and frilly p
                              antaloons. Edmund's new found son-of-the-king status goes straight to his somewhat empty head, and so he strives to gain more power, failing every time. Be it as the Archbishop of Canterbury, or marriage to the Queen of Spain's Daughter (what a looker), every attempt is hilariously entertaining. My thoughts: This series is the weaker of the four, and I feel this is because it is lacking the writing genius of Ben Elton. The characters seem a little one dimensional throughout, and Baldrick just isn't grimy and smelly enough! I'm not saying it isn't enjoyable, in fact it is still one of the better BBC comedy shows. I just feel it is not quite on par with the excellent follow-ups. Rowan Atkinson is enjoyable snivelling and fits right in to the role, and Brian Blessed is the same as he always is...bearded and loud. ~Blackadder II~ Written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton Cast: Rowan Atkinson ? Lord Edmund Blackadder Tim McInnerny ? Lord Percy Percy (yes, it is his surname too!) Tony Robinson ? Baldrick Miranda Richardson ? Queen Elizabeth I Stephen Fry ? Lord Melchett Patsy Byrne ? Nursie Episodes: 1. Bells 2. Head 3. Potato 4. Money 5. Beer 6. Chains Plot summary: Zoom to Elizabethan England 1558. Lord Blackadder is one of Queen Elizabeth I's favourite fogies. Thankfully Edmund is given a thread of intelligence, a fair wedge of devious cunning, and a wit sharper than a sharp thing. Forever trying to keep his head (literally), the series follows his exploits of trying to keep in Queenie's good books, and also to make a few quid on the side. Ranging from trying to take it easy as an executioner, and failing miserably, to trying to upstage Sir Walter Raleigh after his miraculous discovery of the potato. He even manages to avoid the baby eating Bishop of Bath and
                              Wells somehow when he turns up looking for money owed! Throughout the series, Blackadder is constantly throwing sarcastic comments at the dim-witted Lord Percy, and making full use of the dogsbody charms of Baldrick (who is thankfully smelly and really quite rotten!). My thoughts: Easily my favourite of the Blackadder series'. The one-liners flow thick and fast, and the change of personality of Blackadder makes for much more entertaining viewing. The welcome addition of Ben Elton really gives this the edge over the original series, in so much as the characters are very well developed, and his own wit shines through. Rowan Atkinson seems to relish playing this cunning character, and so is hugely enjoyable to watch. Tim McInnerny plays a very convincing fool, and Stephen Fry is hilarious as the brown-nosing Lord Melchett. ~Blackadder the Third~ Written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton Cast: Rowan Atkinson ? Edmund Blackadder, Butler to the Prince Regent Tony Robinson ? Baldrick Hugh Laurie ? George, Prince of Wales & Prince Regent Episodes: 1. Dish and Dishonesty 2. Ink and Incapability 3. Nob and Nobility 4. Sense and Senility 5. Amy and Amiability 6. Dual and Duality Plot summary: A slight downturn in fortunes sees this incarnation of Edmund as butler to the thick-as-mud Prince Regent. In fact, without Blackadder to back him up and look after him, I'm sure The Prince would have died while trying put on those lovely trousers! As before, the series is full of Edmund's scheming and cunning plans to make a little on the side, and to rise up to where he feels he belongs. Aided by the ever faithful and diseased Baldrick, Blackadder manages to support himself, as well as the Prince, all the while taking as much as he possibly can from every situation. At one point Edmund manages to save the
                              Prince from being made bankrupt (spent all his money on socks you see). Strangely it involves rigging a local election, and making Baldrick an MP so that he can influence the vote! The exploits range from rewriting the dictionary after accidentally burning it, to rescuing a French Diplomat for a bet, and even to taking up highway robbery. Hilarious all the way through, and an equal to the fantastic second series. My thoughts: Hugh Laurie is excellent as the moron Prince Regent, maybe even a little too good at it! Even more scope for witty one-liners and cunning plans in this series (as well as a giant turnip). You can definitely see that Blackadder believes he should be the one being waited on, by way of the sarcasm and sense of everything being said through gritted teeth! Sad to see that Tim McInnerny only had a cameo role in this series, as I feel he was an excellent part of the previous ones. There seems to be a dramatic reduction in characters here, but each and every one is massively developed, and you even begin to feel a little sorry for Edmund and his predicament. ~Blackadder Goes Forth~ Written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton Cast: Rowan Atkinson ? Captain Edmund Blackadder Tony Robinson ? Private S Baldrick Stephen Fry ? General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett Hugh Laurie ? Lieutenant the Honourable George Colhurst St. Barleigh Tim McInnerny ? Captain Kevin Darling Episodes: 1. Captain Cook 2. Corporal Punishment 3. Major Star 4. Private Plane 5. General Hospital 6. Goodbyeee Plot summary: In this incarnation Blackadder finds himself in the WW1 bunkers somewhere between no-man's land and a hard place. His willing and (not quite) able men are the happy, but thick, George, and the ever faithful Baldrick. Forever trying to find a way of getting out of the 'big push' and bac
                              k to Blighty, Blackadder is up to the usual scheming and plotting. Usually he is thwarted by the weasely Captain Darling (General Melchetts dogsbody), but still manages to come out unscathed. At one point he tries, and succeeds briefly, to get out of the trenches by putting on a variety show to raise the morale of the troops back home. This involves George in a dress, who becomes the subject of General Melchett's moustachioed lust, and Baldrick's impression of Charlie Chaplin involving a dead slug. Another scheme is to join the flying squadron 'the 20 minuters', after being inspired by Lord Flasheart (the excellent Rik Mayall). I don't think they counted on being captured by the Red Baron! Best of all though is Edmund's attempt at feigning insanity. You have to see it to believe it, as I would give away too much by saying any more! My thoughts: Another outstanding series, and a fitting end to the Blackadder dynasty. Chock full of the usual witty remarks, sarcasm, and long-winded similes, this is equally as hilarious as the previous two series'. Rowan Atkinson, again, completely makes the role his own. He truly enjoys being the scheming, witty, somewhat moral-less Blackadder here. Tony Robinson is great as Baldrick. Definitely at his grimiest here, and his portrayal is hilarious. Who'd have thought this man would be presenting something like Time Team a few years later?! Glad to see Tim McInnerny back, although I think his character could have been a little more involved. Still funny as ever though. Stephen Fry is wonderfully bizarre as General Melchett, a complete and utter fruitcake. His strange noises and expressions raise a smile long after they've appeared on the screen. Extras: Sadly the only extras (if you can call them that), are the graphical menu and scene selection. It's really quite frustrating, as the U
                              SA region 1 DVD set released by Warner has all manner of extras including the specials, commentaries, karaoke (?!), and making of feature. I really wish the BBC would pull their finger out with this! Overall: A great addition to anyone?s DVD collection (and a bargain at Amazon for £34.99). If you are a fan of good old British comedy, then this is for you. Every single episode is a classic, and will have you laughing as hard as ever, even after the 30th viewing. Definitely a favourite of mine, and always will be. I blame my Dad for that though, after introducing me to his sense of humour so early on, through repeated watchings of this, and Monty Python! Picture quality is not brilliant, but it is watchable. I suppose I can't really fault the BBC for that, as it is a TV show from the 1980's. Sound is good enough, and not a crackle or echo to be heard. Also available direct from the BBC for a rather scary £59.99, and for under £50 from HMV. Many thanks for reading, Marc

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                              • Xerox Phaser 8200 / Laser Printer / 0 Readings / 11 Ratings
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                                02.02.2004 04:11
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                                know you may be groaning at the thought of a printer review (not exactly the most exciting are they?), but hear me out! I sat at work today (yes...on Sunday!), doing overtime for big wads of cash. So naturally, I managed to milk it for as much as possible! One of these ways was by making full, pointless, use of the amazing colour printer sat in the corner looking all innocent and blending in with the rest of the greyness surrounding it (and that's without all the old geezers that usually populate the place!) Anyway, I usually use this printer daily, and as I've noticed that it has come down in price hugely, I thought I'd spout my felling here for any of you on the lookout for something that you can print out your dirty pics on. Anyway...back to the subject.... Introduction: Recently superseded by the slightly faster, and more powerful (hence bigger wallet denting) 8400 series, this printer has been on sale since 2002. At the time it was the first of its kind, a market leader. This is all down to the Xerox patented single-pass technology (nope, doesn?t mean much to me either!). Looking into it, this means that the ink is transferred to the paper all in one go, meaning the speed of printing is greatly increased. This is a network/workgroup colour printer, using solid ink rather than the usual wet ink that inkjet printers throw at the paper. Basically it melts a coloured wax-based substance onto the paper (who knows, it may have come from Jason Donovan?s Madame Tussaud?s waxwork, seeing as it isn?t wanted any more). As I have found out from a quick browse of the Xerox homepage, this printer is capable of handling 65000 pages each month, so can easily squeeze out the entire contents of one of those 'special' websites, if need of course! ;) Looks: At first glance, most people would think it was a castrated fax machine. But on studying it closer, it i
                                s actually a nicely curved piece of machinery. This printer does not have a manual feed tray, so you are stuffed if you want to easily use a letterhead (say if you want to send a nasty letter, and make sure the sods can see the red writing!) There is a single output tray located at the top of the printer, and in front of this is a very handy LCD display. The display is capable of showing a good 5 or 6 lines of text, so is very descriptive with it?s messages, rather than just displaying the standard ?Error? message when something goes kaboom. Connecting: Same as with most hardware these days, this is a simple plug and play device. Supplied with a good ethernet card built in, you can simply hook it up to the network and get printing (once the damn thing warms up!). This printer is compatible with all Windows systems from Win 98 upwards, MacOS 8.0 upwards, as well as all kinds of Linux & Unix systems. As ever, Windows has a basic driver installed that will run this, but I?d wholly recommend that you install the drivers and software that is supplied. There?s everything from Colour Management, to Printer Setup utilities, meaning you can fine tune this beast to what suits you best. Use: Firstly, when you send a document to print, the printer will have to warm itself up (otherwise the printout would look as smooth as a four year olds crayon drawing). This usually takes a good 10 to 15 seconds. After warming up, it seems to print pretty rapidly, considering the amount of detail that needs to go into each page. I would even go as far as saying that it can print a photo quality full page ..erm.. photo within 30 seconds. Even at standard quality, this machine will happily fire through, on average, 16 pages per minute of colour printing (provided there?s no particularly complicated colour mixing involved). There are an amazing 136 true type fonts preloaded, so there is next to no worry o
                                f odd margins or jumping text at all. With 64MB of SDRAM as standard, this printer can accept a huge amount of documents to print, leaving the network server free for those of us that wish to browse the internet for money making opportunities and obscure music. This means the queue time is greatly reduced, and as the printer processes much of the print itself too, it also cuts down the pressure on the network server. The detail and text output is outstanding, due to the solid ink used. Every line and curve is flawless, and you can even feel the edge of the print! Thankfully the paper is always dry when it churns it out, otherwise I?d have lovely coloured fingers by now (watch it!). One thing that I find a little disconcerting is the fact that it doesn?t really sound like a printer when it?s at it. You hear nothing until a somewhat disturbing whistle/whirr and it chucks the paper at you! Technical info: The serious stuff?.. Solid ink colour workgroup printer Size ? 43.2cm x 60cm x 39cm (not all that big eh?) Weight ? 36kg (roughly the weight of a 10 year old kid, or half an alsatian) Max Resolution ? 1000 dpi x 1000 dpi (although there is also an enhanced 1200dpi model) Speed ? 16 pages per minute (average), in both colour, and B & W Internal Memory ? 64MB expandable to 256MB Processor ? 300MHz PowerPC RISC Processor. Just shows it takes a lot of effort to get the colours right eh? Paper capacity ? A paltry 200 sheets of A4, but there are extended trays available at an extra cost Software supplied ? Basic Drivers & Utilities. The utilities are essential, as this is where you fine tune the colour output, as well as the desired quality. Warranty ? Limited 1 year on-site parts & labour warranty. Compatibility ? As I?ve said above, this printer will run on basically anything! Mac?s, PC?s, Workstations, Toasters, you name it
                                ! Well, I went a bit far with toasters, but you get the idea! Windows 98 and upwards, MacOS 8.0 upwards, Unix/Linux, and even SunOS (for you designers out there) Media Type ? Envelopes, plain paper, card, coated paper, and even transparencies are handled with ease. Cost: I ca just sense the anticipation of you lot on reaching this part?.not because you?re interested in the price, but because you?re nearing the end! Well, up until recently, you couldn?t find one of these for under £900. But now, as they?ve been made obsolete by the 8400 model, you can get one for a bargain £600 (or £699 direct from Xerox). I know you may think it?s expensive, but when you see what this thing can do in an office it is a small price to pay! Now, ink is the real killer. It takes 4 ?sticks? in total. Black, Cyan, Magenta, and yellow. Each of these costs £60 to replace, and they only last for an average of 7000 ? 8000 prints! That?s a lot to shell out if you?re forever printing fancy shmancy brochures etc. Still, the paper smells goooood when it?s fresh out of the printer ;) Contact info: Xerox Office Printing Business Sutherland House, Unit 3 Millboard Road Bourne End Buckinghamshire SL8 5XF Sales: 0800 787787 To find a local reseller: 0870 2413245 Support: 0870 241 3459 FAX: 01628 553301 Or www.xerox.co.uk To sum up: Definitely a printer to consider if you require top quality colour prints, such as photos for newsletters or brochures. It may seem to cost quite a bit to run, but it pays dividends in with the outstanding quality of the printing. With the high resolution, and photo quality output, this printer can easily be used to print highly detailed pictures/documents. It may not be the quickest out there, but again, it?s a case of quality rather than quantity. At 16 pages per minute, I doubt this?ll cause any tailbacks (or na
                                gging) when used in a reasonably sized office. I can tell you one thing though, the feeling of the ink on the paper can make some people cringe (you know that feeling when you chew cotton wool?)?it?s horrible! Sends a cold shiver down my spine just thinking about it! Anyway, I can recommend this printer to anyone who needs a competent and highly detailed colour printer. Suitable for use in a small to medium office setting, you will have no complaints at all. Easy to set up & use, and it is also very easy to renew the ink. Mmm curvy Thanks for reading, Marc

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