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since 05/01/2002

18 12/03/2006

Some things are better off doing yourself ** INTRODUCTION TO 5PM's ONLINE BOOKING SYSTEM ** The idea behind 5pm's restaurant reservation website is quite simple. You simply choose which area or city you'd like to book a restaurant and can further choose which specific part of town you'd like to go. This gives a breakdown of all the restaurants available in the area and shows a list of their names, each with company logo, a link to their own website and sometimes a sub-site hosted on itself. Some restaurants provide more information than others such as map directions, today's offers and what menus are available. Although you may be able to find a good deal on restaurants on the day of booking, the same can be said for advanced bookings too. There is also a search facility that offers special deals and/or promotional offers to customers based on the number of people wanting to go. On making your first booking on you are asked to register an account. This account is free and a login is only required when finalising a booking for a restaurant. This is so contact can be made with the customer by email or perhaps even phone. This also gives the restaurant the chance to call the customer to ask about specific requirements that have been given to 5pm. On many restaurant sub-sites information such as certain facilities available such as child seats, car parking, non smoking table availability or perhaps additional vegetarian or dietary options given. ** MY FIRST RESTAURANT BOOKING WITH 5PM.CO.UK ...

White Arrow Express 23/09/2003

White Arrow misses the bullseye

White Arrow Express *** SOME USEFUL BACKGROUND INFORMATION *** White Arrow is a courier service which was founded by GUS the catalogue retailer in 1949 and being going downhill ever since as you'll find out in this review. They now subcontract the services of local delivery men in most major towns and cities. Usually its a one man company who drives around one particular area and therefore reliability is variable. Whenever you have a problem with one driver, White Arrow will simply assign an alternative driver. I remember the days where you used to see their blue vans drive around with the big white arrow on the side. Nowadays, it could simply be a white Astramax or Ford van. The company now have re-invented themselves and now call themselves Reality Group Limited. Believe me, their service is very limited and that's a reality. Their customer service is based in Bolton (always an omen for me). I should have followed my instincts regarding this one. Past experiences has taught me that customer service companies that operate in Bolton are usually ill-equipped to handle customer complaints. The same thing applies to Reality Group's customer service. They claim to be one of the biggest customer call centres which allegedly claims to handle 25,000 calls an hour. In this case, quantity won over quality. It appears that their one and only customer support number is a single line which is constantly engaged. Excuse my so called ignorance but don't customer call centres pick up all calls ...

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC) 05/06/2003

Who'd be a Love Fist groupie

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC) My brother initially bought Vice City on the PS2 and I was quite impressed with the graphics. I knew that the PC version could only get better and prove to have better graphics. I certainly wasn't disappointed. The effects were very special indeed. The level of detail is amazing, from the rain drops or even blood dripping on the screen to the shooting tires out on cars. The shooting out of glass windows or car windscreens was even more realistic. You can even drive around vehicles with little or no tires which was quite a challenge. There seem to be more vehicles with a better choice of fast cars and also bikes. Although I liked the realistic effects and the variety of locations, I thought there weren't nearly enough missions. The missions that I did undertake were variable too, some were easy and others were harder but none were too difficult. My favourite mission was when I had to pick up a Scottish rock band called Love Fist. The mission required you to drive the car continously and not to stop or else a bomb from their pyscho stalker would go off. The dialogue was hilarious and the band members were extremely ridiculous. My one big critism of Vice City as well as it's predecessor is that the graphics seem to occasionally jerk on my PC especially when you are playing the background music. This can be annoying when it occurs during a very intensive mission. The solution I had for this was to seek and download what is called a NO-CD patch for the software (which is not ...

The Matrix Reloaded (DVD) 05/06/2003

It could of been so much better

The Matrix Reloaded (DVD) For me and my work colleagues, this must of been one of the most anticipated movies in a long while. Many people tried to download an illegal copy from the internet before they went out to the cinema to see it. It was probably for the best that they failed since the special effects were definately worth seeing on the big screen. Although, there wasn't anything else special about the movie which made us question why we bothered going out to see it. Many of the folks at work had already decided to go and see it on the first week of release but me, my wife and a couple of friends scheduled a viewing for the following weekend. Throughout the week we kept on hearing mixed reports on the movie, many of which just stated that the movie was rubbish and the original was the best. They claimed that the movie mainly concentrated on 3 things which were kissing scenes, talking about fighting and the fight scenes themselves. I have to say, much to my disappointment, they were right. I was expecting so much more from this movie but it sadly came short. The plot was so abysmal and poorly thought out. I could of sat around the table with a few of my geeky sci-fi loving friends and come up with something better. A lot of the storyline involving the secret human underground habitat called Zion was purely hearsay and we did not get to witness much of it. I would of liked to have seen a fight at two different levels. It would of been a better idea for Neo to return to Zion only to be ...

Royal Bank of Scotland 11/04/2003

RBS - Ripoff Bank of Sharks

Royal Bank of Scotland *** IN THE BEGINNING *** When I began college I decided to open my first bank account. I walked to the first bank I could find and signed up for their Student account. Unluckily for me, it turned out to be Royal Bank of Scotland. Being a little biased and overpatriotic I thought it would be a good thing to join a Scottish bank. They even claimed that they would offer me 20 pounds if I joined them so how could I refuse. Sadly, this bribe payment never actually appeared in my account, despite all the complaints. Mistakenly, I continued to use them ever since, much to my disappointment on many occasions when dealing with them. *** ENDLESS QUEUES & ENDLESS PROBLEMS *** Basically, any time I have made any unusual transactions like international money transfers, RBS inevitably seem to get something wrong. It was not so unusual for them to make discrepancies in any transactions made and even make simple mistakes like charge me for a service that is meant to be free. I believe this must be due to the lack of staff at any given branch and also because of the lack of training. The queues are horrendously long and when I look into other banks they seem to be relatively quieter. *** DON'T TAKE THEIR FINANCIAL ADVICE *** RBS seem to be good at persistantly calling their customers, including my father and a few friends. They try their best to arrange a meeting with a financial advisor even if you insist that your not interested. I eventually gave in and went along to see ...

St James Court Apartments, Edinburgh 01/04/2003

A step back in time, gone too far

St James Court Apartments, Edinburgh About 6 weeks later after spending my honeymoon in St James Court apartments I thought I'd vent my thoughts and feelings on this accommodation before I proceeded to take further action to ensure that tourists consider looking somewhere else. I booked the accommodation from an online agent with a special discount package if we booked for 4 days. Normally the rooms can range from 100 pounds to 250 pounds a night. I was under the impression that I was booking somewhere really luxurious because if its 'so called' pending 4 star rating. Another two reasons I booked it was because of its great location and its historic interest since it was formerly home to Scottish writer James Boswell and Scottish philosopher David Hume. Sadly, the management of this establishment don't seem to know how to handle customers or run the place properly and appear to be running it into the ground. Firstly, let me start off with the first of many problems that I found with the St James court apartment. After me and my wife had our wedding reception we had to head to Edinburgh in time to gain access to our room before 11pm and then be given our own set of keys. The person who guided us to our room only gave one set of instructions about the 'house rules' which was "don't put any clothing items on the heaters, it's a fire and safety thing" and then left us to our own devices. Of course, after such a long wedding day, me and my wife decided to retire to bed pretty early. We woke up next day only ... 28/03/2003

Great deals galore on European hotels After getting tired of booking hotels with some larger corporate companies, I decided to give a smaller internet based company some business. I soon discovered and instantly noticed some great and competative deals on hotels. I had planned on taking out my partner (now wife) on a romantic holiday to Paris and snapped up one of the special offers for a charming little Parisian hotel. Unfortunately, the trip fell through and I had to cancel. The staff at Hoteldirect were very courteous and understanding when they handled the cancellation, unlike some other services I won't mention. The cancellation only incurred a 10 pounds administration charge which is pretty reasonable and the rest of the money was refunded pretty quickly. Feeling bad that I didn't give this company a shot, I considered it for my next hotel booking which was in London and got a good deal in the Ramada at Marylebone Station. Again the service was excellent and very fast, I got my receipt and a nice little calling card in no time. They even left a message on my answerphone to confirm my booking which is very professional. This is something that a lot of other companies neglect to do. Since I already had a lot of confidence in Hoteldirect I decided to use them once more to book the hotel for my honeymoon when I recently got married. I opted for a historic landmark in Edinburgh and booked into the St James Court Apartments at a fantastic rate of only 32 pounds a night if I stayed there ...

Kingfisher Travel Insurance 24/01/2003

Like getting blood from a stone

Kingfisher Travel Insurance *** INTRODUCTION *** Kingfisher Travel Insurance has been established since 1983 and claim to be a brand of superior quality insurance for the traveller. They provide a large range of travel insurance policies ranging from Single trip, business travel and annual cover. They also provide some specialist travel cover when people choose to go on more danger seeking holidays. This may include golfers and some more hazardous activities like winter sports. The website is nicely laid out and presents you with all the options you need on the first page. They also now provide household and car insurance I believe. All the information you need to know about the different policies are provided online and is also distributed via Adobe's PDF documents. Kingfisher are located in Halifax and can be contacted on the following phone number (01422) 331030 which will come in handy when you are making claims. Bear in mind that correspondance by post is the most effective way of getting their attention. They can be mailed at the following address: Whiteley Insurance Consultants Kingfisher House Portland Place HALIFAX West Yorks HX1 2QN *** MY EXPERIENCE WITH KINGFISHER *** For the past 2 or 3 years I have been a loyal customer to Kingfisher's Single Trip Travel Insurance policy. It normally costs me around 32 pounds for 18 to 25 days worldwide travel and is done online with a credit card. Initially all the policy terms and details were sent to you by email but now only receipts ...

Argos Catalogue 22/01/2003

I've bought everything but the kitchen sink

Argos Catalogue *** INTRODUCTION *** Argos seems to be my favourite shop these days, especially now that I am settling down and getting married. I have already previously bought some of my boy's toys from Argos as they have a mass of neat little electronic gadgets to keep most men happy. Nowadays I am buying household items like a steam & rice cooker, Brita water filters, George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine and Tefal pots and pans etc etc. Getting very domesticated aren't I? Anyway, I've probably seen more things come my way via their conveyor belt system than most contestants on the Generation Game (although I haven't yet seen the cuddly toy). *** SERVICE *** Purchasing everything is dead easy. Just check out the catalogue, scribble down the item no, even punch it on the keypad to check if it's in stock. They even seem to making more of an effort of automating the purchase process with special purchase point machines. It's all very well when they try and find ways to take your money quicker but whenever will they replace the counter staff who can often be rather slow and inefficient. They seem to leave you standing there like an idiot while the item you ordered is being dangled in front of you like a carrot. I think they should be the first in the line of human workers to be replaced by robots. *** RETURNS *** Returns usually go pretty smoothly and with no quibble. They offer both cash and voucher returns depending on how you bought the returned item. The queue for the ...

NISIS Pocket DV2 16/01/2003

Pocket sized fun with a camera that needs the sun

NISIS Pocket DV2 I've always wanted to own a digital video camera but never had the money to fork out for one. But this all changed as soon as the Nisis Pocket DV2 Cam caught my eye. I was on a tight budget and really didn't want the hassle of having to install a video capture card and software on my PC just so I can download video and pictures from a more expensive major branded digital video camera. The Nisis DV camera was the answer to all my prayers. It had instant appeal as it was very dinky and lightweight and only required 2 x AA batteries. Unfortunately, this small amount of power doesn't last long and you'll soon find yourself changing batteries very often. I would recommend that you try and keep the LCD screen off at all times and not to play back any movies or photos on the LCD as this will consume most of the power in one short burst. This means you have to gain a better sense of direction when it comes to pointing the camera around at your subjects. The LCD is a good guide but you can learn to live without it. That way you will get more use out of the camera which helps when you are recording an event. I would also recommend that the Nisis DV2 be purchased with additonal Compact Flash memory at the same time. It would be best to get at least 128Mb but in my case I thought it best to get 256Mb which provides 50-70 minutes of video footage. I didn't opt for the 512Mb simply because its not cost effective and is more than double the cost of the 256Mb Compact Flash. I hunted ... 07/01/2003

The Smartest FTP client in the world *** COMPARISON *** Over the years I have tried many Freeware FTP clients and also a couple of Shareware ones but SmartFTP knocks their socks off by far. I previously used LeechFTP until they stopped developing it and before that it was WSFTP. None of those seem to be under constant development like SmartFTP. The website from which you can download the software is very simple and clearly laid out. It provides a wealth of information for those techie geeks out there and you don't have to be an expert to use it. *** TECHNICAL SUPPORT *** The level of technical support is excellent. They have tons of manuals, tutorials, a knowledge base and discussion forums. You can even contribute a bug report if you feel the need to. There is a mailing list you can sign up to if you wish to be informed about any new releases. Each release has an in-depth list of all the changes and fixes made which can be very helpful to know if you like the technicalities. *** USING THE CLIENT *** The software is very well presented and simple enough to use. It has an address bar which is not unlike the one found in Internet Explorer. Logging into an FTP service is easy. All you need do is enter the site address, username, password and port which is usually 21 as a default and then press return. There is also a handy little tickbox for anonymous logins. One great feature of this software is that it can login to many servers at the same time which is good if you maintain a lot of websites as is ...

Egg Card 23/12/2002

The Egg begins to crack...

Egg Card *** CASHBACK DEAL *** I first signed up with Egg when they had a massive advertising campaign and were one of the first companies to offer a whole 1% cashback on all purchases and even 2% with selected online vendors. Unfortunately, this didn't last long and it had dropped to 0.5%. This was really the only incentive for me to join as I regularly pay off my credit card each month and only use it as a convenience. Speaking of which, I find the automated payments a little confusing at times. When I started to make my first payments I decided to pay in full but unfortunately the automated system still decided to take the minimum payment from my bank account. Now my credit card was in positive credit and I had spent more money from my current account anticipated. Thank goodness I wasn't running low that month or Egg could of caused me a problem. From then on I have to deduct the minimum payment from the full amount and then pay the difference. I think this is rather daft and only makes it more confusing and less user friendly for customers, not to mention the potential banking problems it could cause. Of course, you can always ask it to take the full amount off each month but that is an option I've always considered risky if your bank account is running low. I like to take control of where my money is coming from each month. *** ONLINE ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT *** I have always found the layout of the online account management rather annoying. It looks as if very little thought ... 18/12/2002

A rumble in the My first experiences of Jungle were not too good. Sure, I got a free software CD with some graphics package I looked at once and never used again. Of course this is what enticed me to join up as a customer in the first place. The interface of the website was very attractive and really easy to navigate so long as you Browse and don't use the Search function. I had no problem finding a variety of things I liked at a very affordable price. Even a few bargains presented themselves in their newsletters and my face lit up when I saw them. Unfortunately, I placed about 3 different orders for these bargains and they never showed up in the space of around 17 days so I had to cancel each and every one. I was very dismayed by Jungle's false promises and it's online order tracking that kept on knocking back the date just as the delivery was due. They dangled their sale items like an imaginary carrot that I would never obtain. Anyway, this run of bad luck was broken after I was quick off the mark to order a Relisys Flatscreen LCD monitor for only 300 pounds. At the time this was a great price and I could hardly resist the temptation so despite my previous failed orders I decided to have one last go. Thankfully, it showed up in good time and I also recommended the flatscreen to my brother who promptly placed an order of his own. Although, his order did turn up a little later than promised. Even till today I still find a number of good bargains on Jungle's very well presented website and ... 18/12/2002

Incredimail certainly lives up to it's name A couple of weeks ago I decided to install Webshots for my fiancee because she had a fondness of Cats and kittens. I knew she couldn't resist downloading every cat background there was and running it as her screensaver. Being the die hard techie that I am, it is normally me who would recommend some new software that I think people might like. Much to my suprise I was actually informed about Incredimail by my better half and she recommended that I give it a go. I was a little bit hesistant as I thought it was probably just something silly and useless to me but nevertheless I gave it a shot. The software was already installed and I simply ran it, wondering if it would really work between 2 users and if so, how easy would it be to setup. In fact, it was no problem at all. It seemed to handle different profiles in Windows XP very comfortable and the adding in of both my ISP account and Hotmail was so simplistic, even a trained monkey or one of my students at university could do it.I was suitably impressed that it could download all of my @MSN.COM emails and still retain them on the server. This is something that was always a bit more fiddly with Outlook whereby you had to create a local folder and copy the emails over manually. Also, I had found that Outlook only handled @HOTMAIL.COM addresses and not the MSN alternative so I was pretty pleased. The built-in notification was very helpful too because it now meant I could remove the other seperate program I had installed to do the ...

Air France - AFR 17/12/2002

Viva La Air France

Air France - AFR I recently returned from Manila on a flight from Air France and it was a mostly pleasant experience. This has been my second time as in comparison with airlines they are the best overall service, not to mention the cheapest at most times of the year. *** CHECK-IN DESK *** I haven't got much to say about the Check-in facilities of Air France other than they were considerate enough to allow me to re-check in luggage at Charles De Gaulle, Paris airport hours before my next flight which they did at the business check-in, after I had pleaded with them to let me pass to the gates so I could meet up with someone. Sadly, British Airways didn't make the same allowances when I used their service at CDG airport to make my return flight to the UK. *** FACILITIES *** I found that the space between seats was more plentiful than some other airlines I have used. They had a neat little TV screen, complete with radio, TV & movie channels. Although, the movie and TV channels really sucked as the choice was very biased towards the French and was very limited. There really wasn't a movie choice available for everyone's taste. Best of all was the built-in games which can keep you busy for hours, all controlled from a handy little pull-out controller which is fitted into the seat. My one critism about the games was that they were very slow to load and they lack interactivity with other passengers. Come on, it's about time they give us AF NetQuake or something equally enjoyable and time ...
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