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I'm a 21-year-old student of Modern History and German at Hertford College, Oxford, currently living in Bonn, Germany. I've just rediscovered Ciao after a long absence and would welcome any comments on my latest review!

Reviews written

since 31/12/2002


Apple iPhone 3G 16GB 28/11/2008

Mobile Wonder or Rotten Apple?

Apple iPhone 3G 16GB STEVE JOBS, the somewhat polarising alpha-nerd whose Silicon Valley company gave rise to the Mac, the celebrated iPod and now the iPhone, tends to come across as a little intransigent. "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give it to them," technology's most individualistic head honcho is on the record as saying. "By the time you get it built, they'll want something new!" Indeed. Your opinion on the nonchalance of Apple Incorporated as they shamelessly give short shrift to the established rules of market research and product design will probably determine your view of the Apple iPhone. If your current mobile serves as a workhorse and you consider the idea of blowing several hundred quid on a phone which refuses to do something as straightforward as forwarding a text message to be laughable, then you and the iPhone seem to have got off on altogether the wrong foot, and you really might as well stop reading now. On the other hand, if you're willing to take such a staple of modern life as the mobile phone and see its role redefined, for good and for bad, and - even better - if you consider being something of a guinea pig in such a pursuit to be quite exciting, then the iPhone might just sit happily in your front pocket. ** The Exterior ** Even before you've switched it on, the exterior of the device might give you some idea of what to expect. First revelation: the iPhone has fewer physical buttons than you have fingers on each hand. Pretty much the ...

Everything that starts with B ... 08/02/2005

One-Sided Dice

Everything that starts with B ... Just a little something to let you know I'm still alive! For many, music provides the rhythm to life. For some, music is life. Stephen Hill is one of these people, and he’s justifiably proud of it. His home serves dual purposes. Nowadays, he’s a family man. In his early forties, he’s finally succumbed to the pressure to conform exerted by modern life. Maybe he’s not as young as he used to be, although you’d rarely get him to admit it. For Stephen’s residence is a throwback to the past, a kind of living memory. His CD collection is insured to the tune of several thousand pounds. On the table in front of us lies a collection of fairytale photographs. Once upon a time, Stephen rocked… and the rhythm rumbles on in his heart. “I was always into music,” says Stephen. We’re sinking into his sofa, and something from an Eighties rock compilation clamours for attention in the background. “But I never dreamt of forming a band. It just came together.” This first musical experience was perhaps typical of Stephen’s character, a man unfettered by convention and routine. He’s fidgeting as we look back into his memory of an age of late nights and burnt-out guitars and evictions from garages. Narrowing his eyes as if to keep the memory inside, Stephen yearns for the past. “Those early years, they were magical. Best years of my life,” decides Stephen. “We were young, and we really felt we were striking out. Being in a band is all about making a difference. But we had to ...

Top 10 Songs of All Time 26/10/2003

Songs For Living

Top 10 Songs of All Time Yes folks – after a six-week break from writing on Ciao, I’m back! I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately, but other commitments (read: coursework) have sadly intruded heavily upon my Ciao time! One of the things I enjoy doing when I’m not wrestling with school work, is listening to music. Music plays a large part in my life, for I spend a significant portion of every day listening to it! I’m actually a very unmusical person; I never learned to play an instrument and my singing skills put Holly Valance to shame! With these two qualities I could almost certainly be a big star, but right now I’m happy laying on my bed listening to my music! I’ve listened to a lot of music over the years, and seem to have developed an almost encyclopaedic memory for song lyrics. This made it very difficult for me to choose my top ten songs of all time – but eventually I managed it, so here, in reverse order, are Matt’s greatest ten songs ever! **Number Ten: ‘Kayleigh’ by Marillion, from ‘Misplaced Childhood’ (1985)** Mention this song to most people and they tend to screw up their face and utter, ‘What?’, as if this is something incredibly obscure that I’ve pulled out of the air. I’ll sing you a couple of lines and you’ll soon remember . ‘Do you remember .. chalk hearts melting on a playground wall? Do you remember .. dawn escapes from moon washed college halls? Do you remember .. the cherry blossom in the market square? Do you remember .. I thought it was confetti in our ...

Shazam 13/09/2003


Shazam Every now and then, an idea pops up that’s so good yet so obvious that you wonder why no-one has ever thought of it before. Shazam is one of those kinds of things! The problem Shazam attempts to solve is familiar to many of us. Suppose you’re in a pub or club and hear a new song which you really take to. ‘Aah, I’ll go out any buy it tomorrow!’ But then you hit a major snag – you haven’t got a clue which song it is, and nor have any of your friends. Or suppose you’re listening to the radio, and you hear a really cool song which you’ve never heard before. The problem is, the idiot DJ is more concerned with prattling on about some carnival or something than announcing the songs he is playing! If you’ve ever found yourself in either of these scenarios, Shazam could be useful for you. The concept is so simple; when you hear a song you like but can’t identify, you dial a number on your mobile phone and hold it in the direction of the music. Moments later, the service will send you a text message with the name of the song and its artist. Now why didn’t I think of that? It’s actually possible to use the Shazam service without registering at all. Simply dial 2580 when you hear that elusive track, hold your phone to the music and the text message will come through almost immediately. However, to gain the full benefit of the service, you will need to register your details via the web site. This will allow you to keep a permanent record of the tracks you have enquired on via ...

Opera 7 10/09/2003

All Ye Who Hate Microsoft .. Use This Instead

Opera 7 Did you know that AOL flyers are flammable, if slightly malodorous? This is relevant, believe it or not. This noble act of defiance was an open challenge to the big boy of the internet world, a blatant act of blasphemy. And that’s what Opera’s about too, except in this case the fat cat is Microsoft. Come on, surely that fact alone is reason enough to give it a try? What is it? Well, Opera is an internet browser, just like Internet Explorer. As a matter of fact it’s far superior to IE, but we’ll come to that later. I’m ready to bet that most of you have never heard of it – that’s cause 97% of surfers use the ubiquitous IE. It’s gotta change! I’m gonna tell you why. Opera was written by a Norwegian company, and is available from the official website, unsurprisingly, Installation is very easy! At the site, there are two versions available, depending on whether you want Java or not. If you don’t know what Java is, I’d recommend you get the version with Java – it’s needed to run some websites, and will only take a few extra minutes to download. Setting up Opera is simplicity itself – merely a matter of accepting the bog-standard license screen and running through the instructions. The only penalty for using the free version of Opera is a small advert in the corner of your window – nevertheless, this does get distracting and I recommend you register the program if you like ...

Has modern music become too commercialised? 08/08/2003


Has modern music become too commercialised? Ooh, I could rant my head off over this, I really could! But you probably don’t want to see, or even listen, to me when I’m in one of my stressy fits, so I’ll try and make this op as coherent and balanced as possible. I just wish that the ‘musicians’ of today would do the same with their ‘songs’. Before I wrote this op, for the purpose of research I went and checked out this week’s Top 40 chart. As this represents the most popular music which is most widely listened to, I feel this represents the core of modern music most accurately. As I expected, I was not impressed by what I found. First, I crossed out all the songs which are cover versions. Next, I scribbled through the tracks which display all the lyrical ingenuity of an inebriated monkey, repeating the same phrases over and over until they bore into your mind. Subsequently, I took great pleasure in striking through the artists who I feel are successful based on their looks and their image as opposed to their actual music. Now, I was satisfied that I was left with all the real artists, the genuine musicians who are actually trying to make an honest buck by producing decent music. These are the artists whom I respect. All seven of them. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that this represents a pretty poor turnout. This means that for every proper musician, there are four or five more talentless wastrels just out to make a fast buck. This, to me, epitomises what is wrong with the modern music ...

Poetry 03/08/2003

Chocolate Box Superstar

Poetry Hello everyone, and welcome to the 'dark side' of Ciao. It's quite possible that many of you have never ventured into this noble category before, containing, as it does, flashes of inspired brilliance and ignominious excuses for poetry rolled into one. I'd never really thought about posting in this category before - after all, who really wants to read the nonsensical ramblings of a lovelorn fifteen-year-old anyway? Tonight, however, my fellow teenager Stacey (LBuSBu1) published her very own poem for the world to see. This convinced me of a couple of things: 1) Stacey is much braver than Matt is .. probably because .. 2) Stacey's poetry is much better than Matt's is. But then a strange thing happened. As I sat here, mulling these thoughts over in my mind, a funny kind of competitive impatience rose to the surface of my brain. I had a poem, all ready to publish, you see. Was I going to stick it online for the world to see, or was I going to admit what was incidentally the truth - that boys really suck at showing their true feelings, with particular reference to myself? Never! For boys such as myself also have a fierce competitive instinct! I simply had to publish it then, if only to prove that boys can do anything girls can do. So here's the poem. Rate it however you like. The background to this poem: well, you've probably guessed it by now. Yep, I'd broken up with a girl, and was feeling pretty sorry for myself - you know the feeling, two-in-the-morning, ...

Microsoft MSN Messenger 01/08/2003


Microsoft MSN Messenger It’s an on-demand world these days! We’ve all grown so accustomed to getting exactly what we want, when we want it. Through 24-hour shopping, internet access and the like, we can fulfil our desires, from information through to nourishment, with minimal waiting time. Indeed, we seem to have become so dependent on it that we tend to throw quite a tantrum if we’re denied this instant gratification. Communication hasn’t escaped this revolution. A century ago a message would take a day or two to get anywhere – hardly useful if its purpose was to ask the recipient what they wanted for tea, or to pick up some eggs on their way home. Fortunately, the 21st century world has developed far better methods. But what if you want something less personal than a phone call, which is likely to obtain a faster reply than an e-mail, without the tedium and high costs associated with text messaging? This is the niche which instant messaging (IM) intends to fill. To be honest, it’s still very much a young person’s kinda thing, so there are still many people who haven’t encountered it yet. So what is IM? Well, it’s like a private conversation over the internet. One party types in a message, which is instantly received by the party on the other end, hence Instant Messaging. That person is of course then able to type a response. It’s kinda like e-mail, but it works on the premise that all parties are actually present and able to join in the conversation. It offers many more possibilities too, ...

Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle (DVD) 31/07/2003


Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle (DVD) What’s this? Three delectable young women whose ability to kick butt is only rivaled by the skimpiness of their attire? This can only mean one thing: Charlie’s Angels is back with a vengeance! All this sounded good to Matt for obvious reasons, so, accompanied by one of his only-partially-interested lady-friends, Matt went to check it out. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept behind Charlie’s Angels, I’ll quickly recap it for you. It started out some 25 years ago as a television series, centering around three young women employed by private investigator Charles Townsend. When I say employed … they didn’t really know him; their only communication was when Charlie got onto their assistant Bosley to feed them details of their latest assignment, each one of which was traditionally completed with a great panache and lots of butt-kicking action. Incredulous as it may seem, Charlie hasn’t been sleeping in the time he’s been away from our screens. Instead, he’s been busy recruiting new Angels to replace those who can’t fit into those skimpy clothes any more. For the Angels’ big-screen debut in 2000, he came good with three real stunners – Lucy Liu as the sexy Alex Munday, Cameron Diaz as the bubbly and beautiful Natalie Cook, and Drew Barrymore as the streetwise Dylan Sanders. All three are retained for this second installment. So what’s the story this time? Well, in an attempt to protect ...

Nestle Double Cream 24/07/2003


Nestle Double Cream On the way home from school yesterday, I got that vague urge in the pit of my stomach – like I could do with some sustenance. Trouble was, as I walked the feeling bred, and grew and grew until it was out-and-out hunger pains! Unable to resist any longer, I ducked into the nearest confectionery shop to sate my appetite (which is actually physically impossible.) It wasn’t as hot and sticky today, and my eye was naturally drawn towards the chocolate products laid out enticingly beneath the counter, shiny wrappers winking at me in the sunlight. What was it to be today, then – Dairy Milk or Galaxy? It was then that I saw something different. A new chocolate bar – this was truly a moment to savour! Like a vulture, I swooped down and snatched one in my fist, walking out of the shop forty pence lighter. Only once outside did I stop to examine my impulse buy. My first impression was that it certainly looked a bit different to its chocolaty rivals! This wrapper doesn’t shine like the other ones! A better word would be .. yeah .. shimmers! The wrapper also feels nice and soft and smooth and altogether rather more upmarket than other chocolate bars! Its dominant colours are a nice deep brown and a lazy kind of peachy cream colour, reflecting the name of the bar, with just a hint of deep blue. Over this it features the ‘Nestle’ logo, along with ‘double cream’, and on the right: ‘Milk Chocolate made with divine double cream, balanced with fine cocoa beans because …. Chocolate ...

Essays 16/07/2003

Another Inspector Calls Essay!

Essays Judging by the number of essays relating to the play An Inspector Calls which I've read lately on Ciao, this arduous task seems to have been assigned to pretty much every GCSE English student in the country! Do these writers know what they're inflicting on the schoolchildren of tomorrow when they pen their masterpieces? Anyway, never to be outdone, here is my attempt at the essay. When it came back it had received 53/54 and A* so I'm posting it in the vague hope that some other poor student might benefit from it! The play I will be studying is An Inspector Calls, a mystery like perhaps no other, with elements of suspense and highly-charged emotion. Written by J.B. Priestley in 1945, the play tells the story of how an upper-class family in the 1910s find their engagement party disturbed by the appearance of an Inspector, claiming to be from the police. Under his interrogation the family, Arthur and Sybil Birling and their children Eric and Sheila, along with Sheila’s fiancé Gerald Croft, are forced to relive times in each of their lives that they would rather forget. The Inspector questions them on their role in the suicide of a young woman, Eva Smith. Each member of the family divulges a dark secret they are holding, as each of them affected Eva Smith’s life in different ways, and the family is forced to reconsider inter-personal relationships and how well they truly know each other. The scene which I will be concentrating on is the scene in which Sheila Birling ...

Half-Life (PC) 16/07/2003

Good Morning Mr. Freeman!

Half-Life (PC) Everyone’s heard of Half-Life. Well, everyone who knows diddly-squat about PC games, that is. Half-Life was released by publishers Sierra in 1999 to critical acclaim, and won over 50 gaming awards that year, including the coveted Best PC Game Ever award. But is it as great as its plaudits suggest? The story behind Half-Life could so easily have belonged to so many other games. Gordon Freeman is a scientist employed by the cavernous Black Mesa Research Facility to conduct research into the properties of unknown materials. When a routine experiment goes wrong, a race of marauding alien creatures devastates the base, tearing it to pieces and killing the majority of its crew. And guess what? It’s up to Gordon to journey to the surface and save the day, although he’ll receive a bit of help from his scientist chums along the way Part-way into the game, the Government decides to send in the Marines to clear things up – wasn’t that good of them? Or at least, it would have been if their orders weren’t to kill anything that moves to regain control – including, it seems, our hero Gordon! What elevates this game above all the other alien-disaster themed games out there, is the absorbing plot and the stunning realism which involves the player in the situation, at times being rather frightening! The game starts with a long introductory sequence, some would say too long! Gordon is on an automatic train carrying him to the complex, whilst his personal details scroll across the ...

Everything that starts with M ... 13/07/2003

Music Bosses - Queens of the Stone Age?

Everything that starts with M ... Over the last year or so, the world’s major record companies have experienced quite a serious downturn in profits, with CD sales down up to 25%. Much of this is believed to be down to music piracy. The advent of ‘peer-to-peer’ services on the internet, which allow anyone with an internet connection to easily share copyrighted material, have made it very easy for songs to be shared online, which has resulted in a huge hike in the number of songs being pirated. It’s believed to be responsible for a drop in profits of over 10% on album and single sales. Naturally the record companies aren’t best pleased about this. For this reason they’ve started taking action against the people who share music online; recently, four American students who shared thousands of files received fines of £90,000 each. Suffice to say they won’t be doing it again! Other tactics the record companies have used are flooding the internet with fake songs, and sending threatening messages to music pirates. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m against music piracy. Even though nothing is actually being stolen, the theft of intellectual property and copyrighted material is just that; theft. I can see how it harms the real musicians out there who are trying to make a living. I can see this, yet it doesn’t stop me using services like Kazaa which allow me to download music from the internet. Why? Because the stance the music industry is taking against piracy is hopelessly inadequate and outdated, that’s why. ...

Solo 09/07/2003

Flying Solo

Solo Ah, the sweet smell of financial independence! When I’m older, I’m going to be an internet millionaire; I’ve decided that. Joining Ciao was to be part of the grand plan, but alas .. ah well, I still have my Solo card. ‘What’ You’re fifteen and you have your own credit card? Now I know you’re entrepreneurial Matt, but this..? Well, almost. You see, Solo shares many of the features of other debit cards such as Switch. The differences are that it’s been adapted for people who may not be eligible for a 'proper' credit card. Typically these groups are the under-18s, those not in employment, and those whose credit history doesn't merit a credit card in the opinion of the banks. So what is Solo? Well, Solo is an offshoot of Switch, the worldwide standard for debit card transactions. Essentially, a Solo card is just like a Switch debit card. It can be used in virtually all the same places as a Switch card, with an important difference. This is that an overdraft facility is not available. You can only spend what you’ve got, which really isn’t that bad an idea considering the life of your average spendthrift teenager! I can see how it would constitute a major drawback for older users of the card though. Why would I want one? Well, if you’re approaching your teenage years (Solo is available from the age of 11), financial matters are undoubtedly of increasing importance to you. Gone are the days when the only use for money was to buy sweeties from the corner shop. You have ...

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling 05/07/2003

The Magic Continues

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling Harry’s back, and don’t we all know it! Three years of eager anticipation on the part of children and adults alike finally culminated in the release of the fifth book of the seven-book series in the third week of June. No other book could compel hundreds of fans to storm bookstores for the book’s midnight launch, in an attempt to be one of the first to grab J.K Rowling’s new masterpiece, and to have read it before sunrise. But does the latest Potter novel live up to the hype? Incredulous as it may sound, there are a small and ever-smaller group of people who haven’t succumbed to the Harry Potter phenomenon, and still haven’t got a clue what all that Muggle stuff is all about. For the benefit of these people, here’s a guide to the story so far; fellow Potter addicts will just have to bear with me! Brought up by his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia in an upper-class, leafy suburb, Harry Potter considered himself quite normal. His parents, he had been told, were killed in a car crash when he was a baby, leaving his uncle and aunt to take custody of him. This was definitely the worst thing which could happen to Harry, as the Dursleys were the worst guardians Harry could possibly imagine; in fact, they were Muggles (non-magic people) of the worst order! At best, they appeared not to notice him; at worst, they took delight in comparing him unfavourably with their whale-like son, Dudley. Not the most pleasant of upbringings – which made it doubly significant when, on Harry’s ...
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