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since 30/11/-0001


Vodafone 11/04/2005

Time to call time on vodafone

Vodafone I've been with Vodafone for nearly ten years. I don't use a mobile phone enough to justify going on a contract so I've been on Pay as you Talk for the most part. Up until recently I hadn't had any problems with Vodafone, but then, I hadn't had any cause to interact with their customer (dis)service people. I was given a new phone by my wife as a birthday present earlier this year. I called Vodafone to register it and asked them if I could keep my old number. They said no problem, and also said I'd receive £15 "loyalty bonus credit" by 21st March 2005. Great. My number was changed over immediately, yet somehow they seemed to have forgotten to activate GPRS on my new phone - meaning I did not have access to Vodafone Live. This only transired when I e-mailed them the following day to ask why WAP wasn't working. I then proceeded to download some ringtones - well - one ringtone. The Crazyfrog one, at a charge of £2.50. So you can imagine my bewilderment when, upon paying for and downloading this ringtone, I find that all I can do is listen to it - it won't allow me to set it as a ringtone!! Another e-mail to Vodafone and they said "oh yeah looks like a copy protection problem but we've fixed it and given you a refund". Great. So off I go and download the same ringtone again. Well paint me purple and call me Derek. It *still* won't set as a ringtone! Another e-mail fired off to Vodafone. In the middle of all this, the 21st March has come and gone and no ... 15/06/2004

Don't EVER use this company! I was recently asked to do a wedding video for a friend, and needed to get hold of a few video supplies; namely high quality 60-minute video cassettes, and wedding video cases. I looked all over the internet and eventually came across this site. The prices looked good and they had exactly what I wanted - navigation around the site was easy and I had placed my order within minutes. I paid an additional £7 for next day delivery. An interesting point is that currently, the site is still wishing me a happy new year. Maybe they should update it once in a while? A few minutes after I had ordered, I remembered another item I should have ordered, but hadn't. The order confirmation e-mail I received, and the site itself, had no facilities for order tracking, so I was unable to cancel the order. I e-mailed the company to ask if the extra item could be added, or if the order could be cancelled. I didn't receive a reply. I tried to telephone the company on the only number that appears anywhere on the site - I got a recorded message saying that there was nobody available to take my call, and that I should use e-mail instead. I'd already done that to no avail! The next day came and went, as did the day after that. I contacted the bank on Friday, 14th May (the day the goods should have been delivered) to find out whether the payment had been taken. It hadn't. This indicated to me that they had not even processed the order yet! I tried to phone the company again to find out the ...

British Gas 07/04/2004

Kill my Bill

British Gas I moved house in December 2003, and settled up straight away with my previous supplier, Yorkshire Electricity, for gas and electricity supplied to the house I moved away from. I have moved into a different county - I now live in Nottinghamshire and I was told that Yorkshire Electricity couldn't supply my new property. Thus, I ended up with British Gas. The problems started almost immediately. I received three bills in the space of a month, all for different amounts. I rang British Gas to question this, as you do, and after 20 minutes on explaining the situation over and over to some moronic foetus-like being, it was finally agreed that only one bill was actually mine, and it was subsequently paid. I thought it was all sorted out, until two weeks ago. I received a letter in the post from a debt recovery agency. British Gas are now claiming I haven't paid a gas bill, despite them previously telling me it wasn't my bill but the previous tenants, and I didn't have to pay it. I asked to be sent a copy of this mysterious unpaid bill and they said they would do so. It hasn't arrived yet after two weeks. This morning, I received a further letter from another debt recovery agency, demanding that I pay a different amount to the previous letter, and if I don't, my supply will be cut off and legal action will follow. So I phoned this debt recovery firm, I admit I was not entirely polite but is that not understandable when I get threatening letters through the post? It ...

Fujifilm FinePix A204 Zoom 06/09/2003

So you think you're David Bailey

Fujifilm FinePix A204 Zoom I first bought a digital camera about four years ago, also a Fuji camera. It was as big as a small house, and came with a 2Mb SmartMedia card which could hold a whopping 30 - yes, THIRTY 640x480 photos! It was good at the time, but things change... The old Fuji camera gave up on life over a year ago (well, I don't think that dropping it in a car park helped very much), so I thought it might be wise to invest in a new one. I looked at about ten digital cameras in total, Fuji, Kodak, Canon, Practika - you name it, and eventually got it down to the Fuji A204, and the slightly cheaper A202. So why did I choose the A204? Simply, because it does everything I wanted it to do, and more besides. Firstly, it comes with a 16Mb xD card, which is capable of almost 30 photographs at its highest resolution setting. Being a 2Million pixel camera, that's 1600x1200 pixels - good enough for A4/8x11" photo-quality prints. The camera has several pixel resolutions ranging from the highest - 1600x1200, down to 640x480. At the same time as I bought this camera, I also bought a 128Mb xD card to go with it, for an extra £40. This 'wonder of modern technology' measures approximately 1/16th the size of a credit card, and can hold just short of 200 images at maximum resolution, and a thousand images at 640x480 resolution. That is insane! The camera has 3x optical zoom, plus a further 2x digital zoom. What's the difference? Well, optical zoom is done via the camera lens, so you don't get ...

ZenADSL 03/09/2003

Need for speed

ZenADSL I first signed onto the internet back in 1998, so that's... what, five years ago? In that time, due to the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere (with 10,000 other people, go figure), BT saw fit to not bother upgrading our local exchange for ADSL. So on it went, plodding along with 56k dial-up like a knackered old tractor on a motorway; Line One, Demon Internet, Freeserve.... all ISPs that I tried and all failed to impress - some more spectacularly than others. So imagine my delight when it was announced that our local exchange was to be upgraded. Hurrah! Now, this is the point where the minefield that is ADSL Broadband became apparent! What hardware do I need? Where do I get it from? What does it all cost? Which ISP should I use? Argh!! After much research, I narrowed it down to BT, Freeserve, and Zen. I also considered NTL but apparently we still can't get that here. They must have 'special wires' or something....? :) So why did I choose Zen? Well, to keep it simple, it was their one month minimum contract which attracted me. Most other ISPs insist on you signing a 12 month contract, so if you sign up and they turn out to be rubbish, too bad! You're stuck with twelve months of it. So I signed up, ordered my ADSL modem and microfilters from Zen for £50, which incidentally was as easy to install as putting in a CD then plugging the thing into a free USB port. At the time there was no setup fee but I understand this offer ended some months ago. From ...

NatWest 07/03/2003

There HAS to be another way

NatWest I originally wrote this opinion in January 2001. In the two years that have passed since, my opinion of this bank has deteriorated somewhat, culminating in recent experiences following their latest "direct line to every branch" TV advertisements. Here's my original op - unedited: // After being with another bank for several years, during which I have had to tolerate the stony-faced ape-like beings sitting at the desk, grunting incoherently, I decided it was time for a change. I moved to Nat West a little over a year ago, at the end of 1999. I was pleasantly surprised with the helpfulness of the staff there. After years of being sighed at in the Yorkshire Bank, I was expecting more of the same here, after all, all banks are the same, aren't they? Well... not really, no. The staff at Nat West are extremely helpful and there telephone banking service is a God-send. I now wonder how I lived for so long without it. I have two accounts there - a current account and a savings account. I'm not sure what the interest rates are on current accounts, but who really cares? I never have money in there for long enough to make interest anyway! Who does? The interest rate on their First Reserve account is about 4%. I have recently taken out a mortgage with Nat West too. After weeks of shopping around, they seemed to be offering the best deal. I didn't have a clue about mortgages at first, but the advisors were really helpful and explained all about it, and set up a mortgage ...

Courts (Shop) 02/11/2002

If you want good service then go elsewhere

Courts (Shop) In mid-July 2002 my partner and I were looking for a new sofa. We stopped at Courts in Doncaster and found something we liked. After hunting down a sales person (why are they everywhere until you need them, at which point the seem to disappear away to a parallel universe?), we placed our order and signed all the paperwork for a £950 sofa. We currently have a battered old leather sofa in dire need of replacement, hence our shopping expedition. The salesman told us that what we had ordered would be delivered within six weeks. This meant delivery could have been the first week in September, which, by coincidence, was the week we were away on holiday, so we were pretty relieved when they contacted us a week earlier and told us it was going to be two weeks late. The two weeks came and went, without any contact from Courts. I contacted them by telephone to find out what was going on. I was told by Courts that there had been a delay and it would be a further two weeks. I wasn't exactly happy but there didn't seem to be anything I could do. The next two weeks passed, again, without any contact at all from Courts. This time we decided to pay them a visit. We stopped by on a Saturday, and told them we had been waiting a long time and nobody had contacted us. "Oh I'm sorry there factory doesn't work weekends, I'll contact them on Monday and get in touch with you". We received a call on the Monday, as they said. I could scarecly believe what they told me. The factory had ...

Toshiba Satellite 1800-752S 26/10/2002

The ultimate in portable PC technology

Toshiba Satellite 1800-752S There is a saying amongst laptop buyers. Buy the absolute best you can afford. These things are very expensive compared to their bulky desktop counterparts, so you have to be sure that you're going to get a good few years of use out of it before it becomes obsolete. When choosing my laptop, I had looked at many systems including PC World's own-brand "Advent" systems. I avoided these, and fortunately for me, that was a good move - my brother bought an Advent laptop system not long after I got my Toshiba, only to find that the air-vent (out of which comes all the hot air expelled from the CPU) is actually on the BOTTOM of the PC, and if you use it on your lap (lap-top? see??), then the thing promptly overheats and shuts itself down! So, major design flaw on the Advent laptops and I'm glad I passed them by! After much deliberation, I decided to go for a Toshiba Satellite 1800-814, bought from PC World. A shop which I utterly dislike, but the way I see it, if you're going to buy something as expensive as this, buy it from someone who would be worth suing if the situation ever arose. :) Anyway, I shall get all the boring system specification stuff out of the way first. The 1800-814 comes with a 14" TFT display and a 20GB Hard Drive, which is large enough for most needs but relatively small by today's standards. This is the absolute minimum hard drive capacity I would recommend to anyone. You also get 256Mb of RAM for your money, 16Mb of which is allocated to the ...

Freeserve Anytime 22/10/2002

Freeserve PartOfTheTime

Freeserve Anytime I've previously written an opinion on Freeserve HomeTime which I have been happily using on my WindowsXP system. About 3 months ago, I was forced to change my home telephone number due receiving a number of nuicance calls (not from Freeserve - from someone else). When you're on the Freeserve HomeTime service, you have to tell them the phone number you're dialing from, so I thought I would probably have to inform them of the number-change. I was right. Strangely, I was told that they could not simply change the telephone number they held on file for me - instead, they would have to cancel my HomeTime subscription and I would then have to set it up again myself by re-registering. Fine, I thought. Didn't understand the reasons behind it but it wasn't like it was going to be such an ordeal. Happily I dialled in through Freeserve's "No Ties" 0845 number, and began to set up my HomeTime account again. All went well until I was informed that I could not proceed, as Freeserve HomeTime was NOT COMPATIBLE WITH WINDOWS XP?!!?! What the....?!! I'd been using HomeTime on WinXP for ages! Aside from the fact that all I have to do is set up a dial-up connection with Freeserve's HomeTime number, to this day I fail to see where the incompatibility issue lies. Here's the best bit - the site then proceeded to recommend that I should use their AnyTime service which costs more money than HomeTime AND requires a credit card. I should at this stage point out that I live in an ...

Powergen 23/07/2002

It's a gas gas gas

Powergen OK, I know only old people are supposed to say this, but: I remember the good old days, when you got your electricity from the electricity company, your gas from the gas company, and your telephone services from.... er... BT! Nowadays, you can get gas from electricity companies, electricity from gas companies, and your phone services from... er... BT! Anyway, not to get sidetracked with an unsolicited rant about BT, at the end of the day, gas is gas, isn't it? It's not like petrol where you get super unleaded, super premium unleaded, super duper premium unleaded plus and so on. It's just... gas. Same for electricity. So why are there so many different companies all selling us the exact same product? How do you decide where to get your fuel from?? From what I've seen, utility companies are pretty much the same as each other. They all provide gas and electricity, there's little price difference. Currently I'm with Yorkshire Electricity for gas and electricity. They're probably not the best, but, better the devil you know and all that. My partner has recently sold her house and moved here, and I've been quite involved in tying up the loose ends with the other house, including sorting out the utility providers. Everything went smoothly, apart from Powergen. They were paid by Direct Debit - fixed amount every month, and as a result, my partner was owed quite a lot of money when we terminated the supply. Talk about "blood out of a stone"! I must have phoned ...

Honda NSR125 24/05/2002

A great first bike

Honda NSR125 I passed the Compulsory Basic Training about a month ago, and picked up a brand new NSR125 the same day. I looked at a couple of bikes, but being 6ft3 and built like a brick out-building, my choices were somewhat limited. The NSR125 looks like a 500cc, the only real give-away being the scaled down exhaust. It's a two-stroke engine which is great for being first away from the traffic lights! Being the only bike I've ridden, aside from the Yamaha I passed my CBT on, the NSR125 probably isn't the most comfortable bike you'll ever ride. You always seem to have a lot of body weight resting on your arms, and this can be fairly uncomfortable after a while. But, maybe I just need to relax more. :) Routine maintenance of this bike is a little fiddly. If you don't know anything about bikes, a 2-stroke engine uses oil, just as it uses petrol. Therefore you have to put more oil in periodically. The oil filler cap is situated underneath the petrol tank, which for a manufacturer like Honda, is a very strange design! You have to remove the seat, undo a bolt with a hex key and lift up the petrol tank to gain access to the oil filler cap. Fuel consumption is excellent, by my calculations I'm currently getting nearly 90 miles/gallon out of it. Road tax for a bike like this currently costs £15 for the year, and my insurance premium is £100 cheaper than it was for my 1800cc Mondeo too. Everything else about the bike seems fairly standard. It is very nice to ride, but does suffer a ...

Microsoft Windows XP Professional w/SP2 Complete package 23/05/2002

Microsoft's finest

Microsoft Windows XP Professional w/SP2 Complete package Microsoft - love them or hate them, you have to commend Bill Gates for getting to where he is today. Even if you hate Microsoft/Windows, nobody can argue with the fact that an industry-standard operating system is in all of our best interests for maximum compatibility. Windows however, is notoriously complicated for the PC virgin. Drivers, Codecs, DLLs, OCXs, DirectX, OpenGL, the list goes on. Thankfully most of this can be ignored thanks to Windows XP. You'll hear people complain that the install size is huge. On both my systems, XP is taking up around 1Gb of hard drive space. One has a 20Gb drive, the other has 65Gb. Most modern hard drives are at least 20Gb so I don't really see this as a huge problem. So what are the benefits of WindowsXP? The first thing I noticed about XP was the chunky new interface it uses, which i found to be very reminiscent of something by Fisher Price. Once you get used to that (or set it to look like Windows98), you can get on with re-installing all the programs that were clogging up your hard drive and inspired the reinstall in the first place. :) On installing Windows XP, you'll no doubt be expecting it to ask for several driver discs. This doesn't actually happen! I installed XP on a system which used to run Windows98 upgraded to WinME, and all but my Trust 19,200DPI flatbed scanner worked perfectly without inserting a single driver disc! A quick visit to Trust's website quickly resolved my scanner problems, and all was ... 22/05/2002

You can do it but B and Q can't A couple of weeks ago, I needed to buy a new interior 6-panel door. Not having access to a van, and not wanting to pay £10 per hour to hire one of B&Q's vans, I opted to buy online and have it delivered for £9.95. The site content is very extensive, but it isn't laid out particularly well and navigation is a little awkward. I eventually found what I was looking for, and placed my order without any problem. When my door arrived three days later, it was packed in polythene and corrigated cardboard. I signed for it and the delivery man left, at which time I proceeded to unpack it. This was when I discovered that my brand new door had a hole the size of a football in it. I phoned the number on the delivery note and explained the problem. The lady I spoke to was very helpful and assured me that they would send someone to collect it the following day. They next day came and went, as did the day after that. In total it was four days before anyone came to collect it, and a further two days before a replacement arrived. The new one didn't have a hole in it. The central vertical beam in the door was cracked half way down. I phoned them again and explained my dissatisfaction. Again I was assured that someone would collect it the following day, and this time, they did. However, it took a further three weeks and several e-mails before a new one finally arrived. The corner of this one was chipped off, but I was so fed up with the whole thing by this point, I decided to keep ...

Freeserve Hometime 13/03/2001

Should be called EngagedServe

Freeserve Hometime I recenty got back online after a year or two away from the net. Nowadays there are hundreds of ISPs available, all boasting to be the UK's number one. Freeserve were no exception, making their own bold claim on the front of the CD sleeve. I chose Freeserve because they have become a household name. I'd heard about bad experiences from a couple of people, but I thought I would try out their services for myself. I've been with two ISPs before - LineOne and Demon. Both of those were God-afwul to set up. The Freeserve disk got my system set up in less than 30 minutes (a far cry from the 'few minutes' specified on the CD sleeve!), but nevertheless, it worked. Initially when you sign up to Freeserve, you pay no fees at all, and just pay for calls to an 0845 number, charged at a local rate. Now, local rates might not sound like much, but if you spend, say, an hour online, every day, that can mount up. I visited Freeserve's site, and after a few back and forth trips between that and the BT site trying to understand how it all worked, I signed up for Freeserve HomeTime and BT Surf Together. Surf together costs £14.99, inclusive of BT line rental, and you pay a further £3.99 through your phone bill, which goes to Freeserve. I signed up and was told that I could expect an e-mail from Freeserve in 'around seven days' giving me instructions on how to set up my system. Exactly seven days later (to the hour!), I received said e-mail, followed the instructions, downloaded a ...

Rising UK Insurance Premiums 09/03/2001

Too much discrimination

Rising UK Insurance Premiums Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I am not interested in starting a 'men vs women' argument here, but there are points to be made on that issue and I have no reservations about making them, and I can only hope that my comments will not offend. My apologies if that's the case. In modern society, a society where the chasm between men and women has long since become a mere crack in the pavement and never-ending campaigns for sexual equality for women, why is it, that there are insurance companies who do not insure men? Where's the equality in that?! Let's face it. A car is a car, and a 6ft4 male bodybuilder can't put his foot down any harder than a 90-year old woman, and yet male drivers are facing increasing levels of discrimination. No wonder so many people have a sex change! I know that someone is going to post a comment about this, and tell me that the majority of road accidents are caused by men. The truth is, the majority of REPORTED road accidents are caused by men - that's the difference. Why is this? There is a lot higher percentage of male drivers than female. A man might drive 40,000 miles a year during the course of his work, while his (house)wife might travel less than 3 miles per week to do the shopping. Yes, in that respect it's far more likely that the man would encounter an accident rather than the woman, BUT, the way I see it, either you'll have an accident, or you won't. Doesn't matter how far you drive. You can drive to the end of the ...
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