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since 22/07/2004


RuneScape (PC) 11/06/2010

Make some new friends whilst exploring a new world

RuneScape (PC) I've played Runescape for eight years now and thought I ought to update my original review of the game as there have been huge changes over the years. Clearly the appeal of the game is great as far as I'm concerned, and this appeal has not diminished over time. So what is Runescape? Well its a whole world set in ancient times which you can explore by moving your character around using the mouse. The world scrolls by as you head in any direction. Other characters that you meet are real people playing. There are computer generated characters as well, like monsters you can kill. You can choose any number of skills to work on to improve your character. You can fight monsters, mine coal, iron etc, smith armour, chop logs, fish, cook, practice magic and prayer. As you work on your skills, your character gets stronger and can do more things, fight tougher monsters etc. You can also earn more money and buy better armour. There are a number of dangerous quests for your character to complete, if you so wish. But playing the game is only part of Runescape, because its a community. You meet people, also working on their characters skills, and as many of the skills are somewhat repetitive, you strike up conversations, the words appearing on the screen by your character. At different times of the day you'll meet people from different parts of the world, and if you meet someone you get on with, you can add them to your friends list, and chat to them whenever they're playing the game. ...

Nissan X-Trail 06/08/2005

This is how motoring should be !

Nissan X-Trail As a family man with 2 growing children, who drives a lot of motorway miles on business, and lives in the sticks where they dont grit the roads in the winter, I was looking for a car with a lot of room inside to carry goods about, which would be fun to drive at the weekends as well. The Nissan X Trail fits the bill perfectly. I chose the Sport variant with the 2.2 Diesel engine which has the 6 speed gearbox. On the motorway, the car is quiet, responsive, and the high seat position offers an excellent view of what's going on ahead. On more windy roads, the diesel pulls and pulls even in 6th, and handles the corners far better than a lot of 4x4s. Again the high seat position is great, offering a better view over hedges and other obstacles. Off road, the car has coped easily with anything I've needed it to do. I didnt buy it as a serious off-roader though, and I dont think most people do. I just need it to get me out of sticky situations when conditions get difficult, and I'm sure from the little off-roading I have tried, that it will do that with ease. The cabin is very spacious, the trim is a bit plasticy and fairly easily marked, but easy to keep clean, as are the seats. The rear luggage area is far better than the Rav4, and the cargo net with its multitude of fixing points, is really useful. There is a certain amount of adjustment on the rear seats for rake angle, which is nice, but of course if you tilt them back you reduce space behind. The boot cover ...

Lexmark International 6170 06/08/2004

Great multifunction device, but has its problems

Lexmark International 6170 I needed a scanner, a printer, a stand alone photocopier, and a fax machine for my home office, and space was very much at a premium, so an all in one device that wasnt too big seemed perfect. The Lexmark pledged to do all that I wanted, and so I went in search of the best deal I could find on a X6150 model. I couldnt find a good deal, I searched everywhere, and ended up in PC World despairing that I would ever get sorted. Now PC World is worth a seperate review, as a store which can consistently offer over priced goods with lousy service, and a hard sell on extended waranties. However, PC World is always worth a look, because when they have a deal, do they have a deal !!! They didn't have the X6150, they had the X6170 (same model but with a document feeder on top) at a price cheaper than the X6150 was anywhere else. I therefore purchased the beast and took it home. There began my troubles. Setting it up should be fairly straightforward. You put the cd in, install the software, connect up the hardware, and off it goes. Well, yes it did. It scanned, it copied, it printed, it even faxed when attached to the phone line, but it wasnt so keen on receiving faxes. I tried everything. I went all through the settings, setting and re-setting, all to no avail. Finally, I admitted defeat, and called the technical help line. They told me to do everything I'd already done, and we spent a pleasant 10 minutes going over old ground, because of course these people can never take ...

Panasonic SD253 06/08/2004

From Breadwinner to Breadmaker

Panasonic SD253 OK, I'm a man, and I'm no cook but you dont need to be with this machine. I'll tell you why I bought it, what I like about it, and you might be able to work out then whether you should get one too. I wont be telling you how to use it, but there's a handy instruction booklet that comes with it that will tell you that, so don't worry. My first attempt to make bread was when I was at school. I was 12, life was a laugh, and my mum used to read the ingredients list I needed and just put the whole bags in, instead of measuring the required amounts into containers like some other mums did. So there was I, full of mischief, with a full packet of yeast, which the teacher assured us just a tiny amount would make the loaf rise. Get out of here, I put the lot in !! Result, a sort of 'oven shaped' loaf complete with shelf rack in the centre, and an hour's detention scraping the walls of the oven clean :( I learnt my lesson - Stay clear of cookery ! But my wife's birthday was looming, and I was panicking, what do you buy the wife who has everything except a decent husband ? I decided on a breadmaker, but only really because I'd already bought the juicer, sandwich toaster, blender, mixer, electric knife, ice cream maker, drink fizzer etc etc etc for previous birthdays (what do you mean, we dont always have to buy you ladies kitchen gadgets??? You always take the lovely lingerie we select back !!!) So breadmaker it was, and as luck would have it, I was visiting a company in ...

Dark Winter - Andy McNab 25/07/2004

One of his better novels

Dark Winter - Andy McNab Having read all of McNab's novels so far, I was starting to lose faith after the last one was a bit weaker in plot and portrayal. Dark Winter certainly made up for it though, and reading it you could feel you were there with the hero Nick Stone in the thick of the action, always doing what needed to be done for the sake of what little family remained to him. McNab has a clever way of leading you through the plot, and whilst some of the 'technospeak' might leave new readers a little flumoxed, I dont think it would detract from the experience, and I guess the majority of readers of the novel will be perfectly aware of the operational procedures that are glossed over. Writing a review without revealing the plot is a difficult task. Dark Winter is a super virus which terrorists are hoping to unleash on the Western World. Nick Stone alone can save the day, together with his new girlfriend. I loved reading the book all the way through, and couldnt put it down, but the end, the end !!!!!!! Oh how I hated the end. Read it and see !

TomTom Navigator Wireless GPS 12 channel GPS kit 25/07/2004

TomTom 3 Bluetooth - what an amazing product !

TomTom Navigator Wireless GPS 12 channel GPS kit When it arrived in the post, I couldnt believe just how small it was. It measures just 8cm x 4cm x 1.5cm, and drops easily into your pocket if you want to use it on foot. The setup instructions were simple to follow and got the software loaded onto my pc, and from there onto my ipaq within a few minutes. You have to charge it up for a few hours before you can go off playing with it, and so I took this opportunity to read the manual which is only on the cd, no hard copy. However, I have to say, the best way to learn how to use the navigator is by actually playing with it while you read. It all makes sense a lot quicker then. I soon got to grips with the basics, and powered the unit on in my office. I sat the little unit on the window ledge, and immediately it found 8 satelites up there in the cloudy sky, and pinpointed my position on a map on the screen of my ipaq. I was impressed ! So far, so good. I was due to take a business trip the following morning, I usually print out a route using Microsoft Autoroute, but I thought I'd jump in with both feet and 'go for it', so I didn't. Instead, the next morning I tapped in the address I was heading for and hit the button to find my best route. Then off I went. I had put the unit on the front of my dashboard, and the ipaq was sat on the passenger seat. I plugged both units into an inverter, as I knew the batteries wouldnt get me there and back. Clear voice instructions direct you as you proceed on your journey, and the ...

HP iPAQ Pocket PC H4150 25/07/2004


HP iPAQ Pocket PC H4150 If you want a PDA, then you have to check out this model. I won't list all the specs, you can find them anywhere if you want them. I'll just tell you what its like to use, and what you can do with it. It has built in WIFI. I have a wireless home network, I can get my email on it, I can chat on Messenger, and I can surf the net, albeit not quite as well as on a pc, but far better than a WAP phone. I can do this at home, or anywhere where there is a WIFI access point (you have to pay though). Access points are rapidly springing up everywhere now, but they are expensive. It has Bluetooth. I have a bluetooth mobile phone, therefore I contacted my service provider (Orange) and got them to enable GPRS on the phone. Now I can connect anywhere via my phone and get email etc, and I only pay for the data transferred. Its fast. Everything is instant with this beast. You press a button and its there. You can use Word, Excel, Windows Media player, Microsoft reader, calculator and picture viewer. All of these come preloaded. You also have your address book of course and calendar, and these synch with your pc via the cradle that comes with it. It really is very easy to set up. If you're using Excel in particular, then you have to be realistic, you're not going to get a huge amount of data on the screen in one go, but scrolling is easy, so its not too bad. One disappointment though is that it doesnt support password protected workbooks. Maybe an update soon will address that ...

Philips Juice & Co 25/07/2004

Healthy living, and its not hard to do !

Philips Juice & Co I bought a juicer for the kitchen about a year ago now. As with everything I buy, I studied the options carefully, and went for the Philips Juice & Co. I liked its size, not too big to live on the worksurface, and I liked the flexibilty, it will convert to a blender if so desired, so you can make soups and all sorts with it. I bought it primarily as a juicer though. So I will concentrate my review on that. OK, I think we've all bought kitchen 'gadgets' which looked great, but then you found after using them a couple of times that they're such a hassle to set up, or to clean after, that it wasnt worth the effort, so they went to the back of the cupboard never to be seen again. Well this gadget doesnt fall into that category. You leave it set up, and its ready to go. You buy your fruit, you load it in, and it juices it. You drink the juice, then you put all the juicer bits (apart from the motor!) in the sink and wash them. It's so easy. Even the metal disc that the juice goes through is easily cleaned either with the special brush provided, or just a normal kitchen washing up brush works fine. The manual is straightforward, although a few extra recipe ideas would have been nice, but I soon found plenty on the internet, so it wasnt really a problem, and to be honest, its such fun to just try your own ideas, I havent had a bad juice yet ! If you're doing oranges, which of course is one of the most popular things to juice, then it has to be noted that the feeder ...

Belkin Wireless G Desktop Card F5D7000 24/07/2004

Got it to work but it soon broke

Belkin Wireless G Desktop Card F5D7000 I needed this card to connect a pc to my wireless network at home. I have a D Link DSL wireless router. Setting up the card in a machine running Windows 98 wasnt too difficult, and I had it working in about an hour. The network was already set up, as it had been ethernet cabled before. After a few months, the card started intermittently losing the connection. As I was replacing the pc before long, I lived with it, but when I took the card out to put in the new pc I noticed that the aerial was loose, the build quality is very poor, and the fine copper thread had stripped, it was only held by one thread it seems. I fixed the card as best I could, and fitted it into the new pc running Windows XP. For some reason, it will not now save the WEP encryption key, so every time the machine is booted up, this has to be reinserted again. Altogether I am not impressed with this card.

Packard Bell Easy Note ENTE69KB 23/07/2004

EasyNote E5 - Just what a laptop should be !

Packard Bell Easy Note ENTE69KB I've had this machine for nearly a year now, and its travelled all over Europe with me. So how has it performed? Well, pretty damn good actually. The Centrino processor with WIFI connects to my home network when I walk in through the door in the evening, and if I'm on the road, I just slot in the Vodaphone PCMCIA data connect card, and connect up to download my email anywhere. The machine has a dvd rewriter, but no floppy drive, its very thin, but the 15 inch tft screen is outstanding. The battery lasts well, generally I get about 4 and a half hours before I need to go in search of a power socket. The only time I struggled was in Northern Spain, when I plugged it in in my hotel room and went off to eat taking my room card key with me, only to return to find the power sockets all went off when the card key was removed !! Windows XP is a vast improvement over previous operating systems, and the machine is very stable generally. I have had a few problems connecting to my WIFI network, especially initially, but that wasnt necessarily the laptop at fault. Usually it connects up and behaves impecably. If there is one criticism of this machine, its that it only has a 20gb hard drive. Not only that, but over 3gb of that is taken up by the recovery files, you can however burn these to a dvd, to salvage the precious space that you're bound to need sooner or later. How you do this isnt obvious however, you have to hunt around the help files on the pc. I tend to be very ...

General: Malta 23/07/2004

Malta - Don't be surprised if you get hooked

General: Malta I've been to Malta many times now, first just with my wife, then with our children too. Some people go back time after time, others go once and hate it. I think if you do Malta the right way, you'll love it. Malta isnt a big island, and there is a lot of new building going on. The capital, Valetta, is in the South, the North of the island is much more relaxing. You really need to hire a car if you want to get the most out of Malta. Hire cars are cheap, but they're also generally small and not very new. The roads are in poor condition, but very wide, and driving is a leisurely experience, even though the island is only 15 miles from one end to the other, allow at least 45 minutes to do the journey. Sandy beaches are on the northern end, there are a few big hotels here, and I would strongly recommend this area, particularly if you're a family, or not particularly wanting the night life which you'll find further down the east coast. Malta is very hot in the summer, but if you go in October, the temperature is much more pleasant, and the sea is still warm, and crystal clear. Snorkeling and diving is popular, but if you're not so energetic, there are 'glass bottom boat' cruises where you can sit in the bottom of the boat and watch the fish swim past. There is so much to see and do on Malta, Blue Grotto is a must, where small boats will take you under the cliffs to see the caves. Museums abound around Valetta and Mdina, the 'silent city', where cars generally are not ...

Citroen Xsara Picasso 23/07/2004

Nice car - shame about the service

Citroen Xsara Picasso I had my Picasso Exclusive Diesel for a year from new, but got totally frustrated with the dealer, so I have got rid and bought a Nissan. I was really pleased with the car when I got it, the kids christened it 'Gadget Car', it had cruise control, climate control, huge sunroof, chilled glovebox, electric windows all round, the interior was so versatile, you could fold the rear seats or take them right out individually. The 2 litre diesel was responsive, and it cornered quite well for a tall vehicle. The seating position was nice and high, and the upright stance is good for back sufferers. But there were niggles. The sunroof was sooo noisy. As soon as the car went above 60mph the wind would rush past. I found if I pressed up hard on the roof lining just in front then the noise stopped, but I could hardly drive hundreds of motorway miles like that ! The car went back to the dealer repeatedly, each time I would pick it up supposedly 'fixed' only to find it exactly the same. Then the car broke down on me. It was the fuel pump. I was towed in, and told I had to contact Citroen Assist for a courtesy car. This I did, it cost me £5 for a licence check as I didnt have my driving licence with me, I got a tiny little basic spec Vauxhall, and read in the small print that I had to recontact Citroen Assist if I needed it more than 3 days. I phoned the dealer after 2 days to see if mine was fixed, only to be told they hadnt looked at it yet, but that it wasnt a problem as I had the ...

Canon PowerShot S50 22/07/2004

Great Camera with superb range of features

Canon PowerShot S50 I wanted to buy a digital camera which was a solid all round performer. After reading hundreds of reviews I decided one make generally was top of the heap, and that was Canon. I wanted photos that I could blow up to A4 size, so needed a minimum of 4 megapixels, and I have fairly large hands, so I opted for the Powershot. It has not disappointed. The quality of the output is always superb, the camera copes well in almost any conditions, and I rarely need to use the miriad of manual settings available. I bought a 128mb compact flash card, which comfortably holds over 100 photos at the highest resolution. The camera uses a rechargeable battery, I would advise you buy a spare, as you dont get a lot of warning when it goes flat. Connection to a pc for downloading the photos is not complicated, the packaged software works well. I have a Canon Ixus which is much smaller than the Powershot. The Powershot feels far more solid and durable, it is easier to hold and if youre prone to getting 'the shakes' when taking photos, then the Powershot would suit you better. That said, the Ixus is great to slip in a pocket, the Powershot is too big for that.
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