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SmileyBen

SmileyBen

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Reviews written

since 21/07/2000

47

fotango.com 11/12/2000

Great if you are a lazy photographer

fotango.com Fotango is quite a useful service, but only if you're a lazy photographer, or like me if you would be if you could afford to be. The basic concept is that you send (in a freepost envelope) you film to the company, who develop it and put it in a private gallery online so that you can go and peruse them, and then decide which you would actually like a hard copy of. Unfortunately (though of course quite deliberately), the pictures on the website are too small to be of much use except for identifying good photos that you want printed out. By my calculations, if you are lazy with your picture taking, and only end up with 16 pictures on a film that you might like, and you wait till you've used 2 rolls because getting any pictures printed it's cheaper (since there's a bulk discount) - but if that sounds a little extreme as limits, then you might as well just get them developed the normal way (and anyway, surely you get more pleasure from a 30 picture film as a 16 picture film, even if they each have the same number of really good photos). They also have a means to like to the pictures on their site, but as I've said they're rather small, and their links are somewhat crap - they're not standards compliant, so whilst they'll work in IE, they may well not in other browsers, which is really pretty useless as links go... So in short, an interesting service, but somewhat unreliable - I'd recommend waiting a bit till they can get a bit more stable.

Palm IIIc 11/12/2000

Beware colour equals sloth

Palm IIIc The thing they don't point out on the box (or the website) about colour handhelds - and this counts as much for other products as for this one - is that 8 times the number of colours means 8 times the amount of memory used to render the picture, and what that means is that the colour handhelds are MUCH slower than other ones, and if you've used a black and white one you'll soon notice the difference, which you won't be pleased with. Otherwise this organiser has all the usual great features, but unless you're incredibly fashion concious or rich there is no point forking out for a product that only does what the black and white ones do, and much slower - if, granted, more prettily. I'd avoid it.

Palm IIIxe 11/12/2000

Fast useful and definitely xe

Palm IIIxe It's no coincidence that they didn't go for alphabetical order and call it the Palm IIIex, because this won't be ex- and it's definitely sexy. A really useful little gadget, with 8MB of memory I've got a couple of novels stored on it to read when I'm bored, and one day I'll get round to reading the bible in its entirity (just for fun!). It can hold more addresses, phone numbers, etc. than you could ever want, though of course all the organisers do that these days, but is endlessly upgradeable (with 2MB flash RAM for the operating system it should never get out of date), and very connectable - it can be synched with a computer to collect email etc., and if you really want to fork out you can ever add a wireless modem. If you want a smart, upgradeable, efficient, fast organiser and toy (have you see the games available these days!) this one is definitely for you!

X-Men (DVD) 26/09/2000

Great film, despite its comic book basis

X-Men (DVD) The X-men movie actually breaks the cardinal rule about big-screen remakes - it's actually good, without totally compromising its origins, or the original intentions! The film is actually really true to the spirit of the comics, and the storyline isn't too far off one that could be encountered - though the time frame has been altered slightly, but can easily be put down to artistic licence! But don't worry, this isn't a film purely for comic book fans, but actually very much a watchable movie in its own right. It's a great special effects fest, and the characters are solid and believable, even if the plot asks us to stretch out imaginations a little. The acting is actually very good, though with a cast including RSC trained Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, you can't go too far wrong, but they each lead bands of good actors who all-in-all produce a great team effort, and a really enjoyable film!

San Francisco in general 26/09/2000

The most liberating, liberated city.

San Francisco in general San Francisco must be one of the most liberated and liberating cities in the world. It is impossible to go there without feeling moved by how far they've come, and how many boundaries they've broken down. Not just that, but whatever your age, sex, race, sexuality, hair colour, nobody will bat an eye-lid at your choice of activity, clothes, partner - or holiday destination! The people are incredibly friendly, San Francisco Chinatown is an absolutely amazing experience, and you can find some of the best chinese food in the world bar none here, top that off with the markets speckled about the city, and you find a wonderful atmosphere, and a ridiculously charming city, considering its sprawling nature, and where it is situated!

Purple Sage, London 24/09/2000

Spot on food and snazzy surrounding...

Purple Sage, London Most people will be somewhat shocked at the prices at Purple Sage - not because it's vastly expensive, but simply because it's really quite expensive for *pizza*. However, if you try this place you'll probably realise it's not actually overpriced, because this isn't junk food pizza or the sort of cardboard you get at Pizza Hut, this is real food, with imaginative toppings, cooked spot on. It is hard to realise that Pizza can be cooked well, but this place shows it, as the texture and taste of the whole dish is brought out. Add to this a wide range of other Italian dishes (and if you're out to impress you can avoid pizza altogether, happily) and you get a really nice night out. And there's some great wine as well!

Belgo 16/09/2000

Wonderful seafood, beer, waiters

Belgo These wonderful eateries, famed for their mussels, huge selection of beers and their waiters dressed as monks. The food is absolutely great - almost fast food (you don't have to wait long), but they present you with platters or deep bowls of mussels, or wild boar sausages or lobster if you're being slightly less adventurous, in a range of sauces, but all are cooked to perfection. With this you get bread and chips (great, great chips). Have a Hoegarten along with your meal, or one of hundreds of other beers. Or you might like a stick with 32 different flavoured Schnappes (which will set you back quite a few bob, but not as many as you might think, and certainly few enough to make a cheap party!). Go here for fun with friends. Not vastly romantic, but as a third or fourth date it would be perfect for a relaxed atmosphere, and reasonably priced, good food.

Gap Kids 16/09/2000

Immoral, nasty company that sells overpriced products made in sweat-shops

Gap Kids Gap has done a very good job of advertising - everyone knows and loves their adverts and is convinced that they're a great company, selling cool products straight from America. What they don't tell you, of course, is that the products are actually straight from India, where all but a very few items in every line are made in sweatshops, by workers paid far below what might be considered a sensible wage, and in places of work condemned by aid charities. I would seriously recommend that people do not buy from Gap, because they seem to be a generally unethical company, who really don't seem to care about the welfare of people that they are taking advantage of. Their clothes are supposedly trendy, but only because of the marketing machine, which is also used to suppress any complaints about their behaviour, and the little people trying to get word out on how nasty they really are.

Mauritius (Dive Sites) 16/09/2000

Gorgeous, quiet, unspoilt island, with beautiful corel reef

Mauritius (Dive Sites) Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean is a largely ignored (perhaps because it is so difficult to read) island, which, whilst fairly poor has many amazing sites, and absolutely stunning beaches. You can train to dive in a pool in two lessons, and then get taken out to the absolutely stunning corel reef, which as well as being beautiful and a mass of amazing sites, means that you don't need to dive deeply - only ten metres, so it's suitable for people under sixteen and there is really no danger - you can surface immediately and breathe normally. A wealth of site and an amazing peace, I'd really recommend it. Also the beaches, formed from volcanic rock, are gorgeous, and always warm. Go, relax, feel calm and slightly chuffed at finding such an unspoilt and undiscovered spot.

Tate Modern, London 16/09/2000

Beautiful, thought provoking, and moving.

Tate Modern, London The absolutely *vast* gallery, carved out of a power station, whilst still respecting the beautiful and unique architecture is a great showcase for one of the things that Britain does well in - Modern Art - looking and admiring it as much as producing it. When in the Millbank site there were always complaints that a large proportion of the collection was always in storage, and the collection now shines, with great comparisons, divided by subjects and really getting down to the nitty-gritty of what artists are saying. A wonderful thing about this gallery is that you won't like everything, and there is no reason for you to go 'Ooooh, something by X' - because I can guarantee that there will be something by someone you've never heard of, that is different from anything you've ever seen before that will make you go 'Wow, that is FANTASTIC' - and it will be different for everyone, so watch out, you may end up ditching the people you went with who can't see what you see in the article in question, and wander off to find their perfect piece. Oh, and there's a room where EVERYTHING is made out of foam. And nobody notices. That's one to look out for. What more could you want???

Triple Platinum (Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, About a Boy) - Nick Hornby 09/09/2000

Really good value for three great books

Triple Platinum (Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, About a Boy) - Nick Hornby It seems stupid of the publishers to have put these three books in a volume together - because they would make much more selling them separately - since once you've read one, you'll want to read them all. With such a keen eye for how people (well, men) act, Nick Hornby really captures his characters, often desparity pathetic, but always human, brilliantly, and you have to empathise, sympathise, and wish that everything would go right, in a world where nothing seems to. The publishers (monetary) loss is the literary readers dream, since the comparisons between the books and central characters are striking, and in the sense that they can be read as biographical, each lends more detail and interest to the image that we get.

Cat's Craddle - Kurt Vonnegut 09/09/2000

Brilliant book, only slightly sci-fi - really a character study

Cat's Craddle - Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut has a habit of writing books that you don't notice are science fiction, because they're very down-to-earth and realistic, with characters acting just as they really would. This is the case for Cat's Cradle, and the bit where something is invented is used to great effect, simply to move the story along. Having said that, I did find myself half way through the book thinking 'oooh that's such a cool concept I hope they talk more about that', and the book /does/ actually give some focus to it. If you like books that have a tiny jump away from reality, or even those that are just a weird situation - such as the Wasp Factory - rather than full blown aliens and talking rabbits, you'll love this book. Intelligently written, witty, and surprisingly deep and revealing about humanity.

Trend Micro PC-cillin Complete package 09/09/2000

Great, easy to use, works silently...

Trend Micro PC-cillin Complete package As far as I know, this product only comes with AMD motherboards, but it's really quite good, so I'd recommend it if you can get hold of a copy. It has two ways of working - it has a continuous scan that sits in your status bar, warning when things go wrong (like warning that the master boot record has changed when you install linux, and trying to change it back!) for real-time protection, and also a weekly (or more / less frequent) scan that looks at the whole hard disk and checks for problems. The only problem I've found is that it's rather inflexible about what time it does it, so if your computer isn't on at the right time, it doesn't get checked. Otherwise very good, and doesn't take any time to maintain.

London in general 02/09/2000

The Millennium Dome. I liked it!

London in general I don't consider myself either stupid or a philistine, yet I really enjoyed the Millennium Dome. Fine, it wasn't worth all the millions that the Government ploughed into it, but at just 10 pounds if you go after 4 PM I thought it was something of a bargain for a good day out. There was massive of stuff to do, and whilst the body zone - easily the most hyped,- wasn't terribly impressive, there /was/ lots of good, thought-provoking stuff. Considering how much a show at Earl's Court would be, for example, this was very cheap. The show was actually very good - a great use of this totally unique space, with people flying about through the air to really a quite nice set of tunes by Peter Gabriel. All in all I felt it was actually well worth the price, and the media appears to have put everyone off so there weren't actually any queues!

portland.co.uk 02/09/2000

Very good, free service.

portland.co.uk Portland offer free webhosting with 20 MB of space (plenty for all but the most space intensive websites, and the bandwidth limit, see below, effectively prohibits this) with support for a whole host of services - CGI, PHP, SSI etc. Practically anything you might want. The best thing, however, is that (again for free) they will host your Domain Name. If you go to www.gandi.net you can get a domain name for just 12 Euros + French VAT, so for about ten pounds you can get Portland to host www.yourowndomain.com for you, if you're willing to work out how to do DNS. It's very simple and they tell you everything you need to know in the welcome email. Account creation is instant, and you don't need to fill out any forms - just say what the domain is, and an email for them to send the welcome message to! With a very good email control program, you can easily set up any number of aliases, forwarding your mail to other addresses, and each address has its own login password, so people can control where their own address forwards to! The only problem is that they limit your bandwidth (though you can pay for more) to 100 MB per month - which could be a little tight if you have a high-hit, high multimedia website, but should be fine for a normal personal page.
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