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since 26/07/2000

167 ISP 16/08/2003

TESTING TESCO ISP Ever since living in a small village near Banbury since December 02 I have been using an ISDN (BT Homehighway) line, due to the lack of any available broadband technology. Now, I am moving on again (BB will be a criteria of my new place!) but in the meantime I have been roadtesting the occasional ISP. I had been using BT Openworld at £16.99 a month to access the net at 64K over ISDN. Whilst it was never earth shattering, as you would expect, I was always fairly happy with the downloads and speed, based on my expectations. Also, the BT portal page wasn’t that bad, and BT had recently extended their online times, so that in the evenings you get 4 hours before being kicked off, which is rather rare I think. However along with many other ISP’s you are limited to 150 hours online per month. A friend pointed me in the direction of Tesco’s ISP who had a summer special offer, and I was tempted to join up. The offer, which is still running now, on is that you get 2 free months free, and thereafter the monthly fee is a bargain £12.99. Adding to that there is no minimum sign up period, so you can effectively get 2 months totally free and then move on again if you choose, or if Tesco does not suit. Anyway I thought I’d give the Tesco one a go, if nothing else it would give me something to talk about on Ciao! Well the sign-up procedure was pretty straightforward, but just one bit where it asks you for your clubcard didn’t recognise my number, so I just skipped that ...

Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Fresh 30/07/2003


Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Fresh Blokes need to moisturise too you know? Whatever anyone may say to you, it’s not doing you any good to put up with dry rough skin, and besides the girls don’t really like it, even though some of them may not tell you! I am a big fan of using moisturiser, and for general post-shower moisturisation I often use the Vaseline Intensive Care range, and most usually this one, the Aloe Fresh variety. In fact it is Aloe Vera and Cucumber, both two ingredients ‘staple’ within various face and beauty products I reckon? Aloe Vera being a natural all round clever ingredient, renowned for many healing properties, and cucumber for putting on your eyes yeah? After a long day at work, and often an hour in the gym afterwards, I certainly don’t feel totally fresh and healthy for just having a shower afterwards, however once I have used Vaseline Aloe Fresh after drying off, it does make a big difference. I find it cools the skin and stops it feeling so tight, which would be partly due to dehydration (from the air conditioned laboratory I work in) and from an intensive sweat-session down the gym on the cross trainers and other various machines! Of course being semi-health conscious I do try to ensure I’m fully topped up with water throughout the day, but still it pays to look after your skin all over? The Vaseline product promises a ‘just stepped out of the shower’ freshness, and I can certainly vouch for it in this area. Other recommendations on its use include as after-sun and ...

Denon DM31 23/07/2003


Denon DM31 Earlier in the year I decided I needed a new music system of some description. I didn’t have any requirements as such, as long as it reproduced CD playback in an excellent fashion, and also an RDS tuner would be a bonus too. I fancied getting a stylish ‘one-box’ unit, but had read many negative reviews of the sub £200 systems often seen – I feel they are designed to look good rather than sound good. Whilst a great looker is essential, you need to be able enjoy the music surely? An avid reader of Stuff magazine, (see my earlier review?) I decided to browse a few back issues. A preview of the Denon M31 caught my eye, and after further research I discovered its predecessor, the M30, had won ‘Best Mini System’ award or something to that effect in What Hi-Fi for three years. I knew this was a good omen, and the M-31 had to be even better surely?? Further reading in Stuff recommended a couple of other systems, including a Yamaha one – which did sound good when I went to listen to it in Dixons, but I wanted to hear the Denon, besides it looked better than the Yamo. Luckily via the interweb I found a local independent retailer had Denon kit in stock, and a drive into town found my in front of the Denon M-1 which had only just gone in-store that week. (This was March 2003) Let’s just say 30 minutes later I had parted with £300 and was loading the car up! Discussing in the shop the merits of the M-31 over the M-30 (award winner past 3 years) the only changes really were the ...

Everything that starts with A ... 02/07/2003


Everything that starts with A ... HAVE YOU EVER Been so drunk you blacked out? Have fell asleep in pubs and clubs before, so.. yeah! Been hurt emotionally? Yes, most recently in February of this year. Kept a secret? Yes, but nothing too major, in my opinion anyway! Had an imaginary friend? No. Had a crush on a teacher? Yeah, there was one in the 6th form, a sociology teacher who was in her mid-late 20’s, very nice for us lads to ogle when we were 17/18 ! We all fancied her! Ever thought an animated character was hot? Can’t say that I have thought that. Had a New Kids on the Block tape? No to that one. Been on stage? No. Cut your own hair? No, wouldn’t risk it! FAVOURITES Shampoo? Vo5 two in one. Hair colour? Dark brown, though with the odd grey one poking through! I’m only 26 agh! Summer/winter? Summer for sure!! Although I do like getting wrapped up warm in winter! Food? Curry, any type as long as it’s spicy, but not too fiery ! Movies? Shawshank Redemption, Good Will Hunting, East is East, 24 Hour Party People. Ice cream? Very rarely eat ice cream to be honest! Normal drink? Tea in the day, Horlicks Light or Tesco Diet Cherry at night, and the odd beer. WHAT ARE YOU… Wearing? Tracksuit bottoms, white Ben Sherman T-shirt. Drinking? Nothing at the mo, though a Horlicks to knock me out is due soon! Thinking about? Whether I will get the most recent job I’ve gone for – 2nd interview was promised, and I’m waiting for ... 06/06/2003

THE ONLY SAFE WAY TO DROWN If you enjoy keeping up to date with the new music world via the web, chances are you head for or the BT owned dotmusic site? I have been browsing both of these for a few years now, and have noticed changes on both, good, and bad. Mostly bad, I have to say on the NME site, for I feel it is now little more than a flyer for their printed paper, with some broadband enabled content to boot. What I desired for was a ‘back to basics’ site that offered lots of honest reviews for a wide range of genres of new music, be it indie, punk, rock or dance, or anything else for that matter. A friend who sings/plays guitar for a band in Nottingham – (Sufferkiss, shameless plug I know, sorry!) pointed me in the direction of ‘Drowned in Sound’ a few months ago, mainly because the band had a review with them! And so I went to look, and ever since have been using the site for a number of reasons! Your immediate thoughts of Drowned In Sound or DIS – may be that it looks dated, compared to some sites around. Maybe so, but it loads on the screen really quick, even on my 64k isdn slow pipe, and is both functional and easy on the eye. A big plus straight away is no pop-up adverts, or those ‘flash’ adverts that start swirling over the whole damn page – I hate them, I really do!! (, please listen to my complaints!!!) The site’s main page is clearly organised, amongst an easy-to-read blue colour scheme you have all the latest news down the left hand ...

Horlicks 01/06/2003


Horlicks In the past couple of months I’ve been experiencing some trouble sleeping, not every night, but certainly a few nights a week I’ve been tossing and turning almost till the sun comes up!! Not great when you have to be up for work at 7.00am. I’ll not explain here why I’ve been an insomniac, suffice to say – split with girlfriend / forthcoming house move / seeking a new job – stress city! Now I don’t get stressed as such, or I don’t think I do, but I do worry when there’s too much happening at once in my life. So when I had trouble sleeping I did some research as to what I could do to help – apart from getting drunk there was nothing else I could think of ! And to be drunk won’t help any of my issues, nor will it help me sleep, it will merely knock me stone dead for 6 hours. Anyway, one of the things that struck me as a solution was a hot milky or malt drink every night, and that to me instantly said Horlicks. And so the next day I bought a large box of Horlicks Light, the malt chocolate version, in anticipation of some quality forty winks! You can buy the range in various sized packages, including single sachets, 200g and 400g jars, 500g boxes or even a bumper 1kg bucket of the original drink. Priced from 0.37p to £3.79 accordingly. Well suffice to say it seems to work, but why? Well a hot milky drink has always been thought of as a good aid to restful sleep – milk is known to contain certain chemicals, which can help induce the complex process of sleeping! Let’s ...

Bubble Bobble (GBA) 13/04/2003


Bubble Bobble (GBA) One of the best things about the Nintendo Gameboy Advance is the continued onslaught of ‘classic’ games that are being given a spring clean and subsequently released on the finest baby console around! Bubble Bobble Old and New is the most recent GBA game I’ve acquired. It was a Christmas gift, and was purchased from Amazon at around £25 I understand. I suspect many will be familiar with the Bubble Bobble concept, which was first seen in the arcades in the mid Eighties. Essentially you control a baby dinosaur, named Bub. In essence, your aim is to plough through 100 static platform levels, using bubbles that you blow out of your mouth (is it a mouth on a dinosaur??!) to trap the enemies that you have on screen. Once you’ve trapped them then you have to burst the bubbles with your fins, before they escape from the bubbles! It’s a really simple concept but is fiendishly addictive now in 2003 as it was when I spent days in arcades on holiday with my parents in the Eighties! This GBA release offers you two versions of the Bubble Bobble game. Old, and New. Hence the title. The old version is an arcade-perfect conversion of the original game, which is an easy task for the GBA considering the age of the arcade original. I remember a Spectrum conversion of this game, and having played the arcade one so much I was always disappointed with the Spectrum version. Same went for most arcade conversions on the Spectrum though! (I did love the Spectrum though, it was good at many ...

All About Me 26/03/2003


All About Me OK, so this is me! 1. What time is it? 21:35 2. Name: Alan – though I prefer Al. Alflavor is a net name! 3. How many candles on your last birthday cake? 26. 4. Hair Colour. Dark brown 5. Tattoos? None, never wanted one. 6. How much do you love your job on a scale of 0-5? On a good day 5, generally 3.5 – 4 ! 7. Favourite Colour? Silver I think. Yellow a close second. 8. Home County. Home county is Derbyshire – I currently reside in Oxfordshire though. 9. Current relationship status? Recently split with wonderful girlfriend of 4 years – if we get back together it'd be great, but I won't put my life on hold waiting! We will stay friends though. So, in answer to the question, am single. 10. Favourite Food? Indian, though I love most world foods. 11. Been to Africa? No, will do one day though. 12. Been to Camden? Once, December 15th 2000 – saw my favourite band ‘My Life Story’ play their last gig. 13. Loved somebody so much it made you cry? Yeah. 14. Been in a car accident? Not a severe one, but had two minor scrapes in my earlier driving years. 15. Croutons or Bacon Bits? Err, croutons. 16. Sprite or 7up? Given the choice, Sprite. 17. Favourite Movie? Shawshank Redemption. 18. Favourite Holiday? So far would be Kos in 2000, went back the year after too. Did have it booked for this year, but not now! :- ( 19. Favourite day of the week? The 24 hour period starting 5pm ...

Time Computers (Shop) 24/03/2003


Time Computers (Shop) Right, I’m out of practise here, so bear with me! If you want to know why I’ve been off Ciao, well I’ve been going through a split with my girlfriend of 4 years. I’m over the worst now, so don’t worry about me! In December while we were still together we decided to get a laptop – more so as a desktop replacement, and to save space in our new place. So I did some magazine and website browsing, you know, to price things up and see what was ‘out there’ so to speak. I saw a great deal in the paper one day, which was on sale at ‘The Computer World’ – which is now the ‘Umbrella’ name for the retail outlets of Time and Tiny computers. Basically the deal, for £1100 was a silver laptop from the time-traveller range (good name, not!) – the spec included a 15 inch screen, 1800 Mhz athlon mobile processor, 40Gb hard drive, 512 Mb Ram, CD/DVD/CD burner. Good spec for the price you’ll probably agree? You’d be right. Well I purchased this machine from the Leamington Spa branch on a Sunday in mid-December. The shop is small, but has a number of display models on show. Most of the machines are built to order, so I understand. Most of the company's stores are small, so it's unlikely you could buy and take home on the same day. I knew what I wanted and so there was no sales pitch as such – I’d got my eyes on this very machine. I would have to gripe at the pushiness of the extended warranty pitch though - £299 for 2 years cover!! I know we’re talking precision equipment here, but ...

Tetley Tea Bags 04/01/2003


Tetley Tea Bags Tea is that great British tradition that almost all of us know and love. Fancy a Brew is one of the phrases you'll hear when someone's offering a refreshing healthy beverage to you! Tea is a very old drink that is made from the dried leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. Traditionally in the UK and Western world we are used to drinking black tea, or black tea with a splash of milk, and maybe sugar too. You may be familiar with green tea, which is more akin to the Asian world. The taste of green tea is quite different to that of black tea. You can buy green tea in the UK, though black tea, such that sold in large quantities by Tetley and PG is the prevailing choice of us UK folk. A good cup of Tetley (my preferred brand and focus of the writing here) is made by the bag. One bag per mug is required, and you should add freshly drawn and boiled water directly onto the bag. The drink one then makes is totally 'to taste'. Ideally, for me anyway, the water should be left for around 2 minutes to allow the flavour to infuse fully into the water. This standing time will also allow the healthy components of tea, known as antioxidants (specifically flavonoids) to work themselves into the drink that you are about to enjoy. Milk can be added if it is desired. Most people tend to have milk, it is a personal preference as to how much you have!! Ditto for sugar. A literal splash of milk and no sugar for me please, I like to taste the tea! Whether you choose Tetley. PG or the ... 02/01/2003

NEED A FAQ If you are into computer or video games, whether it be for PC, Gamecube, PS2, or almost any other machine ever released, then is a site worth bookmarking. It is nothing short of a bible for the video gamer. I'd gamble there's no one who plays games that has never been stuck at one point. is a site not dissimilar to Ciao, in that the bulk of the content is generated and produced by its users. Essentially the main aim of the site is to provide help and assistance on any video game. The help can be in the form of an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) guide, codes or saves for your gameshark or other plug in cheat machine, programmed cheats (cheats you type in or access via a certain sequence of key presses), reader reviews and finally discussion relating to the game on the message boards. The site has many many users as far as I can gather, based on the amount of games covered, the frequency of updates and the activity on the message boards. I believe the site to be of UK origin, but am not sure on this. Either way it works! To use the site, you can search for a game that you need help on, and then choose FAQS or Codes, depending on what you want. I would go for some FAQ help, as I detest cheating via the use of codes, but I do admit to needing some pointers from time to time on a sticky level. Navigate through and you can then see who's written FAQ guides for your chosen game. An older game may have a number of written FAQ's, so the best ...

BT Highway 31/12/2002


BT Highway I have recently taken installation of BT's Homehighway product, after being initially disappointed with a new standard analogue line installation at my new property. At my previous address I was privileged enough to have an NTL cable modem – I took their base 128k package, which was great for me, for general web browsing, email, chat and the occasional large download. At £14.99 too, I was laughing! When we decided to move house, there was a tad of concern to begin with as the places we needed to live it did not have any form of broadband available, whether it be ADSL or Cable, or even wireless, which is becoming an option for some. I had to be realistic though, and much as we both enjoyed using the internet, our home location had to change if we were to stay as a couple long term. My partner was living away in lodgings in the week, and had done for a year. However we needed to move to a place mid way between our works and so we moved!! Anyway, cutting a story short, so to speak, we had a BT line fitted the week we moved. Despite being asked if I was to use the internet, and the fact that the BT engineer that came out spent the best part of a day trying to find a spare phone line for us, we were told that they would have to split the line with a neighbours. This is perfectly within BT's obligations - an analogue or POTS (plain old telephone service) line – whilst capable of running a modem at up to 48k (56k is never possible!!) only has to work for a phone line, ...

Golden Sun (GBA) 30/12/2002


Golden Sun (GBA) Once I had been given a Gameboy Advance in the Summer for my Birthday, I knew pretty quickly I'd want to be playing an RPG (role playing game) of some description. Some searching found the title 'Golden Sun', meant little to me, I mean the only two RP's I'd come across before were the Zelda's and the various Final Fantasies! Golden Sun looked good, it had rave reviews, and apparently some of the best graphics to date on the 32 bit Gameboy. Trouble was, I couldn't locate it in the shops, and once I'd seen this game on the 'net, nothing else would do!! According to sources it had been released, just was very hard to come by, and so to Ebay I travelled, and promptly purchased a copy for a bargain £25.00 boxed and 'as new'! Golden Sun is a very traditional style of RPG. If you have never come across the genre before then suffice to say your typical RPG will be loaded with Japanese style (Manga?) graphics, lots of text to read, lots of puzzle solving and frantic running about and searching. Oh, and oodles of turn based fighting and and an involving storyline to boot. Golden Sun thankfully has all those. Those of you familiar with Final Fantasy will be at ease with this game straight away. That is not a bad thing, for this is no copy of Final Fantasy, it just borrows elements from the game, most noticeably the turn based strategy orientated fighting system. Running along you will end up in a fight, even though you there was nothing on the map screen warning you of ...

Sagem My X-5 Mobile Handset 24/11/2002


Sagem My X-5 Mobile Handset I’ve done the unthinkable – upgraded my Orange contract to a NON NOKIA!! That’s right I no longer use a Nokia mobile – well for the next twelve months at least! I’m an Orange contract user, that’s to say I pay my phone bill by direct debit once a month. I have the opportunity of upgrading my handset every 12 months should I choose to, as long as pay the RRP of the handset chosen. I could shop around and find a different network, but I’m happy with Orange, the insurance scheme they offer is good (Orange Care) and the quarterly magazine delivered is worth the postman’s efforts. So, anyway I was starting to feel I was carrying a brick around ever since my girlfriend swapped over to the funky Nokia 8310. Not that I am knocking the 3330e I had before, let me stress it’s a fine phone to boot. It’s just I wanted something a tad smaller. So after browsing Orange’s website and that of the excellent I plumped for the Sagem MyX5. Now in the past I think Sagem have been guilty of producing some real Lego phones, you know, tiny screens, basic features and a clunky feel in general. That’s just what I’ve heard, I have not actually experienced one, so don’t knock me please! Other phones I was considering were the 8310, the Philips 820e, the Nokia 7210 and the Panasonic GD87 (final two here too expensive as they are brand new this month – looking at £80-150 to upgrade) So to the Sagem, what’s it all about, why do I like it? Well the phone is smaller ...

Kumala Cabernet Shiraz 06/11/2002


Kumala Cabernet Shiraz Whilst traditionally a beer, (principally premium lager) man, I have become more and more enlightened by wine of late, in particular a nice full bodied red. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t just tip any alcohol beverage down my neck, and I watch (try to!!) the amount I consume, especially when I have to rise for work at 7.00am. Anyway, this Kumala brand of wine found it’s way into my shopping trolley t’other day. I choose a wine by either previous choice (and liked it), special offer (like Tesco’s occasional 100 clubcard points if you buy the bottle, or 3 for a tenner – risky if you’ve not tried it before!) or occasionally I actually read the label!!! Kumala hails from South Africa – not sure if I’ve drank a South African red before, but the descriptors on the subtle purple and beige label warmed me to the sounds of attractive blackcurrant flavours and hints of vanilla. This was priced at £4.49 I believe when purchased in November 2002 from Tesco in Northampton. Well I was sold, so in the trolley (small one, I hate those big ones) it went. I have now dutifully sampled this wine over the past two nights, just a glass and half with my meal, type of thing. This red has to be one of the smoothest I’ve yet to taste. The initial sip gives you a warming in the mouth and down to the stomach, and there’s a hint of acid harshness, but this is soon overcome in the following gulps by some very deep (not heavy) blackcurrant and other delicate fruity characters. There’s a hint of ...
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