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since 01/11/2007


Toshiba Satellite Pro L40-12T 20/11/2007

Another winner from Toshiba

Toshiba Satellite Pro L40-12T This is my second Toshiba Satellite. Until recently I have been using a slightly dated but very effective Toshiba Satellite L10-114. Having recently purchased this new one though, I have to say there is a substantial improvement over my old lap top. I run my own business from home and my lap top is my life line and main source of income so it always has to be Toshiba for me. They are so reliable and trustworthy that I will not risk any other make now. The L40-12T is simply a stunning looking machine and creates an instant wow factor - key when using it in front of clients at presentations etc. It looks like a far more expensive machine than it really is. This is sadly quite key in such a material world. The resolution of the screen is of the highest order in my opinion. For some reason - and there may be a technical reason for this - the screen does not attract dust or marks as much as the older model. Also, sunlight does not seem to reflect as badly. I am not a technical person as you can undoubtedly tell....I'm sure someone who is can shed some light on this aspect for you. Pardon the pun. In terms of usability, well it's early days for me still but the first impressions are certainly good. Some say one laptop is very much like any other but there is something very user friendly about Toshiba's products that has helped me come back again and again. The back up and training info/manuals are very useful and any problems can usually be ironed very easily at home ...

RAC 13/11/2007

RAC to the rescue

RAC Splutter, bang, loss of power, dead. Owner angry. That was Sunday morning - 7.30am - on a road in the middle of nowhere on my way to the first mountain bike race of the winter. After the expected expletives and kicking of tyres at my bad luck I turned my attention to how to solve the predicament I now found myself in. I got my Land Rover off the road the best I could (try pushing a fully laden Land Rover!) and then called the RAC. I have been a member for three years and never needed them ....until now. The call was answered very swiftly and the operator proceeded to take my details. Now bear in mind I had absolutely NO idea of where I was at this point! By taking as many details of signposts I could remember passing and my general direction, the operator told me where I was (!) and went on to say that she would call me back once she had located the nearest RAC operative. I put the phone down and settled back to what I expected to be a long wait. Less than five minutes later she called me back to say a van would be with me within fifteen minutes! Far better than I had expected in my wildest dreams seeing as I was located in a field somewhere in Suffolk! Imagine my surprise when I put the phone down only for it to ring again immediately from the RAC man saying he was five minutes away and just double checking my reported fault. When he got there (yes, indeed in the five minutes he said) he diagnosed the fault as a blown valve within two minutes ...

Shimano XT Disc Brake System 08/11/2007

Stopping power from Japan

Shimano XT Disc Brake System I've been mountain biking for many years now and over time I've tried a wide array of braking systems on my various bikes. I was always a huge fan of Avid's braking products and had test ridden a number of bikes with their Juicy discs on before deciding on the right bike for me and taking the plunge into speccing my own custom build. The bike was to be a Yeti 575 and the brake choice came down to the Hope Mono minis (as fitted to my Orange), Avid Juicys and the Shimano XT. I chose Shimano for various reasons and the following review will hopefully outline why I took this course of action over the much hyped Hope and Avids. Having tested various systems on demo bikes around the country, it seemed to me that there was little to choose between the braking characteristics of my shortlisted products. However, the Shimano just edged it on the progressive feel of the braking action. You know exactly what the brake is doing and how much bite you have left at any given nano-second. It feels right. It feels safe. Let's face it, when you're bombing down the Wall at Afan, you need to have huge confidence in your braking ability! The other deciding factor for me was the aftermarket availability of Shimano parts. Only Hope comes close it seems. Go into any bike shop anywhere in Europe, or the world for that matter, and you will see Shimano products on display. It's reassuring to know that if things do go wrong, you're never far away from the part you need. So, one year (almost) ...

Saab 9-3 1.9 TiD 05/11/2007

Who needs a BMW?

Saab 9-3 1.9 TiD Although recently replaced by the 'all new' Saab 9-3, the last generation car still has more than enough to offer anyone seeking a comfortable and stylish alternative to the BMW 3-series and Audi A4 brigade. From the outside, the car is understated but stylish. It's a sleek shape and belies the vast amount of room you will find when you get inside. The build quality is top notch. All panel spaces are even (not always the case surprisingly on the BMW in my experience) and the purposeful stance of the car entices you to look closer. It is a stunning looking saloon....from most angles. Once sat inside two things hit you immediately. The car is a true tardis! Lots of space for even the tallest driver and passengers. Having been a passenger in an Audi A4 many times in the past, I was amazed to see just how much leg room the rear passengers get in the Saab 9-3. It embarasses the german opposition on this point. Secondly, you get the feeling that you are sat in an expensive car. You feel like the business exec that this is aimed at but not a, to use an 80s term, yuppie! This is not the bells and whistles gadget fest of a BMW. It doesn't have 'go faster stripes' on the glovebox like some A4s's just classy, comfortable and functional. For functional, please do not read 'boring' as it certainly isn't. Everything you need is right where you need it. The steering wheel has a chunky feel to it, the gear lever and hand brake fall nicely to hand (you will note an ...

High 5 05/11/2007

Best sports supplement available

High 5 As a competitive mountain biker, I've tried a number of sports nutrition products over the years and now only use High 5. There is a huge range of products and flavours to choose from and they are far more palatable and easily digestable than others on the market. In a recent endurance event the High 5 helped my performance more than other products had previously done and helped prevent cramping. The sports bar also has to be tasted to be believed. The chocolate covering and caramel flavour tastes better than any chocolate bar you could buy in the shops - beautiful! For pure energy, try Energy source. This product tastes gorgious and fuels your muscles in a way you can't imagine. High 5 test their products to the nth degree and all of them are fully legal for sports testing. If you only ever buy one sports supplement brand, make it High 5. I was sceptical but am now converted. It really does make a huge difference to sports performance. For exercise in the heat, try their isotonic supplements. Again as before, it tastes great and replaces the natural salts etc that are lost during sweating and thus maintaining performance and decreasing your chance of getting cramp. My only concern with some of their products - especially the energy gel is it tends to cause flatulence. Now some extra turbo boost may help with cycling up hills bu those following you may not be quite so happy about it. Despite this, make sure to try their products out.

Sony Network Walkman NW-HD5 20 GB 05/11/2007

Cracking MP3 but mind the cracking buttons!

Sony Network Walkman NW-HD5 20 GB I decided to buy this instead of an Ipod on two grounds. Firstly, I like to be different - everyone has Ipods. Secondly, the sound quality is amazing! Far superior to any Ipod of the time. Other plus points are great battery life, fairly cool looks and memory. However, it does have some major drawbacks. the software is not the easiest, the unit scratches really easily and the directional buttons cracked after only 24 hours! Sony's warranty didn't seem too bothered about the problem either I'm afraid....reporting it as a problem they already knew about! Apparently silver coloured units are the ones most likely to crack so be warned. I would definitely buy another Sony product though as, being a music lover, sound is key and this blitzes similar Ipods by a long way.

Admiral 05/11/2007

The Admiral's ship is not HMS Customer Service!

Admiral I've been with Admiral for about eight years now. They've always been cheap (ish) and their customer service has been acceptable if not the most praise-worthy. However, an incident occurred when renewing my policy this year that made me see them in a whole new light. I had been running a Land Rover Defender with a separate insurer for a couple of years (one of the specialist 4x4 insurers) but decided to give Admiral a chance this year. I have two other cars, both insured with Admiral, and a third car adding to the policy should have increased my 'mutiple car' discount with them, so it made sense. Or so I thought. Upon asking for a quote for the Defender I was asked if the vehicle has any modifications. I replied that it had a raised air intake - not performance enhancing in the slightest (try improving the performance of a brick on truck tyres!) . I was informed that this air intake allowed the vehicle to be driven off road and so they had to refer it to the underwriters. It's a Land Rover Defender for crying out loud! They're built to go off road....the air intake realy makes no difference to this at all! Anyway, they never came back to me. A week later I called to chase and was told that it was uninsurable. No one had called me to let me know. No one could explain why it was uninsurable and no one appeared to care. I then asked to speak to the customer services dept to make a complaint. 90 minutes later I was still waiting to talk to someone having been mis directed ...

Disneyland, Paris, Paris 02/11/2007

Be a kid again

Disneyland, Paris, Paris My fiancee and I treated the kids to a visit earlier this year. Needless to say, the kids loved it. More surprising though was that it was me that didn't want to leave! A 35 year old man found his childhood again! From first arriving on site and seeing the first character - in our case Goofy, my favourite - to seeing the gate disappear in the rear view mirror, it's a visit full of fun and wonder. It's not as expensive as many fear either. Tips for parents - let your kids lead the way. They will be so excited that trying to keep them on a route or time limit is impossible. Another tip...four words...rock and roller coaster! Awesome. Whether you like the Aerosmith soundtrack or not, the rock and roller coaster is unlike any other ride I've ever experienced. 0-60 mph in 2 seconds, in the pitch black with lasers, g forces and Aerosmith blasting in your ears. My idea of adrenaline heaven! After the excitement of the rnr coaster, try any of the hundreds cafes and restaurants for some excellent food. All tastes are catered for and in my experience you don't need to remortgage the house to enjoy them. If you have kids, you must go - it's the stuff of their dreams. Be warned though, you'll come back with one more kid than you went with. You.

Bon Jovi - Crush Tour (DVD) 02/11/2007

Bon Jovi at their best

Bon Jovi - Crush Tour (DVD) This is a great addition to any Bon Jovi fan's collection. All the old favourites are there and special mention must be made to 'I'll be there for you' which is simply amazing with the crowd in full voice. There's nothing new about a Bon Jovi live DVD/video. 'Live from London' was one of the best live rock shows available on either format for a long time. However, this title is professionally shot and packaged in a slick, if at times slightly cheesy, way. It differs from previous efforts in depth of performance and packaging. After all these years at the forefront of pop rock, Bon Jovi are still on top. Jon looks cool and ageless (anybody know what his secret is?), Richie is as swaggering as ever and the boys rock. Buy it today.

Land Rover Defender 90  01/11/2007

Classic Britishness

Land Rover Defender 90  Rugged, reliable and endearing...all words to describe this oldest design in the Land Rover stable. The Defender certainly has the history to make it a firm favourite in car lovers hearts but is it really any good? Yes. I've been running my Defender 90 now for some time. It's a 97 plate with 120,000 miles on the clock and has never let me down. It's load carrying ability is first rate, it's cheap to insure, it tows like a train and is a car so full of character you feel like it's a family member. Yes, it has it's most family members...but it won't let you down. The turning circle is like that of a supertanker and you do become friends with the local petrol station staff rather quickly....but worth it. It's residuals amaze me. You can throw away the guide book prices. Land ROver Defenders have a life of their own when it comes to pricing. The 300tdi models are still the most sought after off road vehicles around and as such command HUGE second hand prices. My 97 model is still worth £7k. How many ten year old cars with 120k on the clock can say that? If you need a rugged reliable workhorse, the Defender 90 should always be your first choice. If you go off roading, it should be your only choice. Excellent piece of automotive history.

Waking Up Laughing - Martina McBride 01/11/2007

Martina hits the high notes as ever

Waking Up Laughing - Martina McBride After her amazing tribute to classic country songs on the Timeless album, Martina McBride returns to a more familiar sound with this latest album. Her voice is as powerful and emotional as ever - how such a strong voice comes out of such a small lady is beyond me! There's some strong contenders on this album for song of the year. Loveland is a stunning and heart wrenching song with a memorable melody and moving lyrics. The title track will have you singing along as you drive or whatever it is you do whilst listening to music! I've followed Martina's career since she was supporting Garth Brooks on tour in 1993 and I have to say this is one of her best albums yet. Whether you want to laugh, cry or sing along, this album has something for everyone. Buy it, settle back and won't be disappointed in the slightest. Now we just need her to tour in support of it!

Volkswagen Golf VI 2.0 TSI GTI 01/11/2007

Return to GTI form for VW

Volkswagen Golf VI 2.0 TSI GTI On first driving the Mk5 GTI you are hit by a number of observations. Firstly, it really IS a GTI. It's quick off the mark, turns in sharply and handles like a GTI should. Secondly, it's refined without being too much keeps the racy edge whilst cocooning you in comfort and safety. The interior is functional - as you expect with VW - rather than luxurious with everything close to hand. However, it's the drive that would be owners are most interested in and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Fast acceleration, fantastic brakes and road holding to make most other road users green with envy. Having driven all the marks of Golf GTI, I can safely say that VW have got this one absolutely spot on. If you want a fast hatchback, don't waste your time and money on French pretenders - buy the only true GTI on sale today and be assured of the quality that VW is famous for. Own a piece of automotive history - as the ads say - the original GTI is back at the front!
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