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alexpreston

alexpreston

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since 09/07/2001

16

Live Magic (Live Recording) - Queen 17/02/2004

Magical

Live Magic (Live Recording) - Queen Since I have completed my collection of all Queen’s albums about 5 years ago, I think it’s about time I started reviewing them so that everyone else realises how good they are and rushes out to buy them. I’m starting with Live Magic since it seems to be the only one which hasn’t as yet been reviewed by anyone. As you may guess if you know anything about Queen, Live Magic is a recording of Queen’s Magic tour in 1986. Since Queen’s career ran from 1971 until Freddie’s sad death in 1991 this tour was when the band was firmly established as one of the biggest bands in the world, certainly with one of the most extravagant live shows. I think the quality of the support band shows just how big this tour was. The supporting acts included INXS and Status Quo!! The album is a compilation of bits of 4 different gigs on this tour, 2 from Wembley, and one each from Knebworth and Nepstadion in Budapest. The bulk of the tracks are from the Knebworth gig on the 9th August. It is difficult to see where the joins are as the album flows as if it is recorded from just one gig. Let me go through the tracks one by one. The opener is “One Vision”. This was the opening song at the Knebworth gig. It is a very powerful opener and was often used to open the gigs. It was also the opening track on “A Kind of Magic”. All the other tracks on “A Kind of Magic” are from the film “The Highlander”, but “One Vision” was used on a film called “Iron Eagle” which I can’t claim to have seen. You can ...

Salomon X-Wave 9 16/02/2004

No more rentals for me.

Salomon X-Wave 9 After years and years of renting boots I thought it was about time that I finally shelled out for my own pair of ski boots. Since I’ve been going every winter for the last few years I figured that I would make most of my money back within 4 to 5 years. I went down to my local ski shop and before long had paid about £180 for my new boots. They retail for more like £220 but fortunately for me they happened to be on sale! The boots have what is called a “3D Custom Fit Liner”. What this means is that when you have the boots fitted, the inner liner is custom shaped to your foot using a special machine that heats the liner. I felt like a bit of a ninny sitting their in the shop with my feet in a machine shaped liked a foot spa, but it’s good to know that the boots will be a very snug fit to my feet. As for the hard outer part to the boot, this is very adjustable. There are four buckles in common with the design of many modern ski boots. In addition to the fitting adjustment that you get by using the different buckle positions, the buckles shorten and lengthen very slightly by rotating. This allows for very fine fine-tuning to your fit. One of the buckles is called a “3D Buckle”!!! This means that its position can be changed to best fit your foot. Once broken in, these boots are extremely comfortable. None of the sore feet that I have had in the past from a succession of rented boots. I used them for everyday skiing and also wore them in a race. For the race I was able ...

Sestriere 13/02/2004

Skiing the Italian way

Sestriere I've done a lot of skiing over the years, but mainly in France. This year we decided to opt for Italy instead. Sestriere is one of the higher Italian resorts, so we chose it to try and maximize our chances of good snow. It's based in an area called the Milky Way, which comprises Sestriere, Sauze d'Oulx, Sansicario, Claviere and Montgenevre. You can buy lift passes for each individual area, or a pass that includes all the Italian areas (everywhere except Montgenevre, which costs an additional premium). The town of Sestriere is not picturesque, but functional. It is improving all the time as they will be hosting many events for the Winter Olympics, Turin 2006. There is a variety of accommodation, from self-catering apartments to very nice hotels. I know at least one hotel was very nice indeed because we had friends staying there and they made us very jealous by describing how each evening they had a jacuzzi before going to their 6 course dinner! There are enough bars to suit all tastes, from small friendly Italian bars, to large, noisy, brash English bars. I think you can guess which I prefer. We were staying in the aforementioned self-catering apartments, so were a little disappointed to find a poor selection of supermarkets. There were 3 in the town, but they were all very small and did not have a great selection. But on the plus side the one with a deli counter would make up very nice sandwiches for lunch if you can speak enough Italian or have a good ...

Just Flutes 29/01/2004

No substitute for visiting the store

Just Flutes Can you guess what JustFlutes.com sells? Well done, you're right. They specialise in flutes and all things flutey. (Not sure that "flutey" is a word, but you know what I mean) They have a huge selection of instruments, separated into beginner, intermediate, advanced, and lots of other types that are too numerous to mention. As for the "all things flutey", that includes flute cases, general musical accessories such as music stands and metronomes, instrument maintenance and sheet music. As well as music for solo flute, they cover all sorts of ensembles that include flute, from duets to quintets and beyond. JustFlutes.com is very clearly laid out with shortcut menus at the top of every page and no annoying coloured backgrounds to obscure the text. It seems to be free from errors and the shopping cart together with secure payment works well. All the information that you could want to find is there. For example if you need directions to the store, or a telephone number for the repairs department, everything is easy to locate. There are some forms for sending queries if you don't want to talk to a human being. Now instrument buying is a complicated process. It's all about the personal feel of the instrument. So it is not a good idea to by a flute from a website without playing it first. So I wouldn't necessarily expect to be able to buy a flute direct from the website. However the prices aren't even quoted. So if I wished to quickly compare the prices with another shop ...

BT Studio TWIN 29/01/2004

DIY avoiding for the lazy man.

BT Studio TWIN I recently rearranged all my upstairs rooms to try and fit in an ever growing number of computers (geek alert!). As a result I know wanted to have a telephone in a room where there was no extension socket. I thought about putting a new extension in - but also had to consider how I was going to connect my computers to the Internet with my new broadband connection. If you've read my review of the BT Voyager 2000 wireless router, you can probably guess that I decided not to bother putting wires all over my house! I decided to get a cordless phone to fit in with my new wireless lifestyle. I went off down to my local retail park to investigate what I could buy. Currys and Comet are side by side there, it's an easy way to compare prices without having to walk too far! It soon became clear that I could buy a pair of telephones for not too much more than an individual one, and since this would suit my needs reasonably well (one downstairs and one upstairs) I decided to concentrate on these. I opted for the BT Studio Twin as I liked the looks, it was it the middle of the range price-wise, and it claimed to have good digital quality. So having not really given the whole idea a great deal of thought, I bought the telephones and took them home. Sometimes I like to do a lot of investigation before making my purchasing decision - other times I just like to buy something quickly. This was one of the latter occasions. Sometimes life's just too short! I opted for Comet in ...

BT Voyager 2000 Wireless 21/01/2004

Join the wirefree world

BT Voyager 2000 Wireless When BT finally got around to upgrading my exchange recently, I wasted no time in jumping on the broadband bandwagon. (Too many bands?!) I considered the traditional wired way, but I would have needed to run telephone extensions all over the house (or CAT5 cabling and a hub). I guess I'm just too lazy to do this, so I looked for alternatives. The wireless was is more expensive - the BT Voyager 2000 itself is around £300. And then of course you have to include the cost of wireless network cards (about £40 for either USB adapter for desktops or PCMCIA cards for laptops). But this review is about the router, so I'll return to how that performs, although since cost is important I thought I'd mention it. Once all the geared arrived and my broadband service was turned on, I plugged the router into the phone line and power sockets and turned it on (after admiring how nice it looks!!). All the LEDs lit up in the way they were supposed to. I of course also had to connect the filters to every other telephony device in my house. This was more difficult that it should have been thanks to my Sky box, which likes to have a telephone connection, and is very awkward to get at behind my TV/video/DVD/stereo/etc. But I would have had to do this whether I had wired or wireless broadband, so I guess I can't complain too much!! With the router up and running it was time to try using it. I shoved the CD that came with it into my first PC and clicked "Next" a few times. It prompted me ...

Sport - Betting 30/08/2003

Internet sport betting

Sport - Betting I have bet on many different sports, including cricket, tennis, golf, football, cycling and the odd bet on the horses. Mainly I find it best to concentrate on the sport that I know best - that being cricket. I tend to lose more than I win by betting on events that I am not quite so familiar with. This is a useful guideline for everyone!! I have never been brave enough to go into a bookies, but I've found it very easy to bet on the internet. I have used several main online betting agencies including bet365.com, thetote.co.uk and bluesq.com. Of these I have found bet365 to be by far the best. Their range of events covered is broad, the site reliabilty is very good, and I am currently in the black - which is great! Also the site design and usability is excellent, making it very easy to see what you are betting on. I found that the Tote and BlueSq have a lesser range of events, questionable site reliability as well as less friendly user interfaces. I have a couple of minor quibbles about bet365. The main one is that the list of past bets lists them using a bet code rather that some useful text that would mean something to me. I occasionally find it difficult to find old specific bets unless I know exactly when I placed them and how much I staked. My other complaint would be that my login times out after a while requiring me to re-authenticate, although I suppose this is sensible for security reasons. In-running betting is one of the great marvels of internet ...

Renault Clio 1.2 16v 14/09/2002

My Clio and other short stories.

Renault Clio 1.2 16v OK, I lied about the other short stories, this is entirely about my Clio! After writing a couple of reviews on cars I have driven occasionally, I think it is about time I write one on the car I actually own! I bought my Renault Clio Grande (1.2) brand spanking new in about April 2000, which makes it getting on for 2 1/2 years old. It cost me £7800 all told, as they were offering £500 cash back at the time. I did have to wait a couple of months before I got to see this money though, as it had to come from some central Renault office rather than the dealer I bought it from. I paid a little extra to get ABS, which wasn't standard at the time (I don't know if it is now), and I think are well worth having just in case. I also got a CD player instead of the standard cassette radio. Since I've mentioned the stereo, I might as well tell you all about it. It has the standard Renault controls on the steering column which enable me to change from CD to radio, change station, change the volume, almost everything in fact! I think it is an excellent addition to the car's controls as it is so easy to use whilst not taking a hand off the wheel or having to look away from the road. I really miss it when I drive other cars without one. The sound is very clear too, only starting to distort the bass when the volume is turned up ludicrously high! The only thing I could find to complain about the stereo is that it is not possible to skip forwards or backwards within tracks, only ...

Ford Ka 1.3i  30/08/2002

Good 'Kar' except for the back pain

Ford Ka 1.3i  I have just been in Edinburgh for a few days at the Fringe, and while we were there hired a car so that we could get out of the city and see other attractions like the Falkirk Wheel and the Glenkinchie distillery. (Mmm... whisky) We went for the cheapest option which turned out to be the basic model Ka. So clearly I am not really qualified to talk about car cost and extra features etc. Any references I make to this will be from Ford's website and not from personal experience. The Ka I had had no optional extras, so manual windows, tape stereo, etc. This would cost in the region of £6,300. Most things about the car were excellent. For a small car it accommodated 4 adults with ease leaving everyone with plenty of leg- and head-room. The boot space was adequate, maximizing the available space very well. You'd struggle to take 4 people and their luggage in it, but then you would in any small car! It would comfortably hold most family's weekly shopping. The engine coped reasonably when it had two people in but was noticeably more sluggish when there were 4. For a 1.3 it felt no more powerful than the 1.2 Clio I am used to driving. The handling of the car was excellent, probably due to the car's wheels being very close to the corners of the car. This means body role is minimal. The ride was fairly standard, as quiet and smooth as can be expected from a small car. The car was only a few months old, but showed no signs of any bits falling off the interior. For a ...

Renault Megane 1.6 Convertible 22/08/2002

Never judge a book by its cover

Renault Megane 1.6 Convertible I own a Clio and am very happy with it. I am looking to buy a bigger car though, so wanted to find out what the larger Renaults were like. I got an invite to a Renault event where we could test drive cars as well as have a good nose around. So this op is based on this day. I'm afraid I don't like this car at all. It's a shame because on the whole I think Renault make some fantastic cars. My Clio is a great little car, and the new Laguna is simply superb! But back to the Megane. I like its looks. It's a well proportioned stylish car that I was looking forward to driving. But once you step into the car you can tell it's not up to the high standard of the rest of the Renault range. There are numerous rattles and nothing has the quality look or feel to it that you might expect from a soft-top motor. The knobs and buttons looked and felt like they were not built to last, although I have no experience if they do last as I only have the one day's experience to judge on. The car I drove was no more than a couple of months old though, which makes me surprised that so many things rattled. The ride? Well I didn't enjoy it. I suppose you could describe it as "sporty", but if sporty means feeling every single bump in the road then give me a softer ride any day. I don't remember it being overly noisy, but then I do like to crank up the old stereo quite loud! Of course the firm suspension makes for better cornering. It certainly gripped well enough around corners, with not ...

Yamaha YBS62 Eb Professional Baritone Saxophone 13/08/2002

Sax, baby, yeah.

Yamaha YBS62 Eb Professional Baritone Saxophone I bought my bari sax over 2 years ago now, believe it or not from an internet auction! Risky? Probably, but I was lucky. It cost me £1500 but was in "as new" condition. You'll be looking at closer to £3500 for a new one from any of the major suppliers. Before I bought this sax I played on a borrowed instrument which only went down to Bb and had no top F# key. However it did have a great fat sound. The YBS62 goes down to Low A, and has a top F# key. Of course being that bit bigger than Bb horns it is even more of a pain to carry around, but thats the price you have to pay for playing the beast that is a bari sax! It plays beautifully. The tuning is closer to excellent, with only minor discrepencies that are easily adjusted to by a good player. It's not quite as loud as the instrument I used to play, but everyone around me still says I play louder than anyone else they've ever heard, so they're probably greatful!! It comes in a massive coffin-sized case that is very robust, although it is square and not sculpted into a saxophone shape like some other cases. I get it in my Clio regularly, but have to put the rear seats down. You'd need a very big car to get it in the boot alone!! I occasionally have problems with a sticky G# key, but I haven't had it serviced since I got it so it's probably my own fault!! I have never played any of the supposed top saxes (Yanagisawa, Selmer, etc) but this is a very good sax. Probably not quite to a professional standard but ...

Boosey & Hawkes Czech 400 13/08/2002

Ciao fagotti players.

Boosey & Hawkes Czech 400 I bought my B&H bassoon about 8 years ago when I was around grade 4. I went to the woodwind shop in London and spent hours trying many different bassoons. I could have got it for £880 as seen, but opted to get it fully serviced for £1000. Well worth it as it needed some attention. When I first got my bassoon I thought it was wonderful as I had previously only played on an old school instrument. Now many years later I still think it is a good instrument, although I have occasionally tried out other peoples' and found them to be better. The bassoon has all the normal keywork (no short-reach keys), but the one thing I miss is not having the alternative low C key for the left thumb. On the whole it is a well tuned instrument - but of course it is very much reed dependent being a double reed instrument. But with a good reed it is easy to play, and pretty good in the stupidly high register as well. The keys have lasted well, I have only had to replace a couple of pads and one spring in all these years. Bassoons are very individual instruments (more so than saxes or clarinets), so I would always recommend trying them out before buying. But my B&H 400 has served me very well over many years, from relative novice through to semi-decent player!! I would certainly recommend it for beginners and intermediates, although I suspect pros would prefer something even better.

Microsoft A11-00247 08/08/2002

Nice keyboard

Microsoft A11-00247 I bought one of these keyboards a couple of years back. It was in one of my internet shopping sprees where I tend to buy all sorts of things I don't really need as it doesn't really feel like spending money!!!! But I have been very pleased with it. I used to be a reasonable typist anyway (not quite touch typing as I tended to cut a few corners!), but a few hours on this split keyboard and it soon points out the flaws in your technique!! It takes some getting used to, but once the initial awkwardness is overcome, you'll be happy you persevered. I still use regular keyboards as well but my typing on these keyboards has improved as well thanks to the technique forced on me by the split keyboard. It's very comfortable, my hands feel like they are in the right place when I'm typing. It's got a built-in palm rest and adjustable keyboard legs to help you wokr in the position most comfortable for you. You can connect the keyboard to your USB port if you have one for easy setup, or you can use the standard round PS/2 keyboard port. One minor gripe I have that it is quite a tall keyboard due to its increased angle for comfort. This can mean on some computer desks with a small keyboard shelf it can be a tight fit, or even not fit at all!! Cost varies depending where you go, but you should be able to get one for well under £30 pounds if you shop around. If you do a lot of typing I would definitely recommend this keyboard. However if you are not a very good typist and ...

Bigwig.net 07/08/2002

Reliable small ISP

Bigwig.net I've used bigwig.net for a number of years now. I have been very pleased with them 99% of the time. When I was first looking for a free service provider way back in about 1997, I found a big alphabetical list. I looked at a few of the A's but didn't fancy them, and by the time I got to the B's I was starting to get fed up, so I went with Bigwig!!! I've never regretted it since. I use the dialup access and use my email address as my primary address. I have not used any of their pay services, this includes the premium accounts and support services. They provide the (fairly standard) numerous POP3 mailboxes and huge numbers of aliases. I don't really use these to any great degree, but they could be useful in sorting out spam if required. The premium accounts (from £5 per month + VAT) include:- Free Hosting 99.9% Uptime Instant Website Web Hit Statistics Internet Email Bulletin Board Front Page Extensions Scripts NEW! Bigwig have now cancelled their pound-a-minute customer help line number and will now take all queries on their main office lines, saving you money with your technical difficulties. They also offer some additional services including :- Web Design Search Engine Submission Website Maintenance E-commerce Stores These are charged at rates appropriate to your needs. I do not like using automated setup accounts to create my email accounts as I would rather configure them myself. So I cannot comment on the automatic ...

Nokia 8310 05/08/2002

I love my 8310, but...

Nokia 8310 What has it got? from the nokia website... Weight: 84 g Dimensions: 97 x 43 x 17 ... 19 mm Talktime: 2 h 15 min - 4 h Standby time: 100 - 350 h (up to 20 h radio on) Key features: Latest look and feel, WAP over GPRS, integrated FM radio, user changeable front and back covers, voice features Operating frequency: EGSM 900/1800 networks in Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific Colors: Nine Xpress-on™ covers available, six of them are sold also as accessories What's good? It's small. The menu system is very easy to use. Room for lots of numbers and messages. The Wap browser is good. (I use it in GPRS mode, which costs a bit more up front but is generally much quicker, and means I can surf at my leisure without worrying about how long I'm connected.) IR port for connecting to other devices. It lights up so well I used it as a torch when I went camping!!! Radio. The reception is better than my old Motorola, but it's still not great. The battery life is very good. What's bad? It can be very slow sometimes going through the menus. This is most noticeable when opening message folders. The 8210 was much quicker! Mine has crashed on me a few times, usually when I'm in the middle of a game of snake! No ringtone composer! This is the one thing I think is missing. I have to borrow a laptop to compose tunes and upload them to the phone via IR :( Who cares? Voice activation? Never felt the need for it. Xpress-on™ covers? So what. Do they add to the ...
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