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since 03/08/2000


Acer TravelMate 2414LMi 22/12/2006

A Budget Giant

Acer TravelMate 2414LMi Following on from my last two Acer laptops, when my mother wanted a budget laptop to buy, Acer was one of the names that immediately sprang to mind. Fortunately that week Comet had a large advert in the newspapers that meant she could buy this model for only £299. One quick car journey later and the credit card was handed over and a shiny new cardboard box containing the Travelmate 2414WLMi was given back in exchange. BORING BIT ALERT!!! Skip over this if you don't like techie stuff It has Built-in Devices: Stereo speakers, wireless LAN aerial Width: 36.3 cm Depth: 27.5 cm Height: 3.3 cm Weight: 2.7 kg Intel Celeron M 380 / 1.6 GHz Data Bus Speed: 400 MHz Cache Memory Type: 1 MB L2 Cache. 256MB DDR II SDRAM Hard Drive: 40 GB DVD±RW (+R double layer) - integrated Display Type: 15" TFT active matrix Video Graphics Processor / Vendor: Intel GMA 900 Video Memory: Dynamic Video Memory Technology 3.0 Audio Output: Sound card - Compliant Standards: Sound Blaster Pro Audio Input: Microphone Input Device(s) Type: Keyboard, touchpad, 4-way scroll button Modem: 56 Kbps Fax / Modem ITU V.92 Features: Wake on Ring Networking: Network adapter Wireless NIC: Acer InviLink 802.11b/g Data Link Protocol: Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g Remote Management Protocol: DMI 2.0 Features: Acer SignalUp Compliant Standards: IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Expansion Slots Total (Free): 2 ( 1 ) x memory 1 ( 1 ) x PC Card - type ...

Hotel Bakpak, Melbourne 17/12/2006

Cheap but not cheerfull

Hotel Bakpak, Melbourne When I was looking round for a cheap but cheerful hostel to stay in, Hotel Bakpak caught my eye as it offered a free pickup from the airport. ( 5 times a day ) The hostel itself is in the middle of Melbourne in Franklin Street just a few minutes walk away from the Queen Victoria Market and the Central Business District. The free tourist tram also stops just a couple of minutes walk away as well. The exact room rate depends on how many people you are prepared to share with, the more people in the room the cheaper the rate. A 4 bed is $27 a night and $161 a week, a 6 bed is $26 and $154, a 8 bed is $25 and $147 etc Because of the rate and that it called itself a backpacker hostel I wasn't expecting the Ritz and 5 star luxury. If it was going to be basic but clean that would suit e fine as I wouldn't be in the room that much except for sleeping. When I arrived at the airport the problem was where was the bus, as the pickup time got nearer and nearer I was beginning to wonder whether I was waiting in the wrong place. And then I spotted it coming towards me and then going past me. Yikes! Fortunately a few minutes later it reappeared and parked up in the small car park opposite the main set of doors. Once I was on the bus the driver started to introduce everybody to each other and ask how long we were going to stay etc etc and once he had everyone we set off. On the way to the hostel he gave a running commentary of things to do and see and did a couple of detours to ...

Air Asia - AXM 08/12/2006

Everyone will fly - but not necessarily on time

Air Asia - AXM Air Asia is the far eastern equivalent of Ryanair in Europe and South West Airlines in the US. It is a budget point to point airline. It operates much like a bus in that it doesnt necessarily turn up on time and is sometimes rescheduled. It was set up in 2001 in Malaysia after the owner saw the potential for low cost flights in the UK & the US. From operating on a small route schedule it now has over one hundred different routes covering Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Phillipines, Hong Kong, Burma, Macau....... It is probably best known in the UK to be a sponsor of Manchester Utd football club. They are the clubs official low cost airline. I don't really see too many of the players flying on it though, they will be too busy flying around in private jets and the like with their wages! In case you are wondering, Air Asia don't do this for the British market but for Asia as the Premiership takes huge tv audiences every weekend. There are many "fans" who support a English team like Man Utd, Liverpool etc and that's why you see so many Asian brands advertising where they don't actually sell a product. Like many other low cost airlines it operates on an eticket basis. No paper ticket is issued, you print off the booking confirmation page off the web site. You can book on the phone but this will cost extra. Also to keep costs down they used to have only one sort of aircraft - a Boeing 737 but they are now gradually changing over to the Airbus ...

Ipoints Visa Card 02/12/2006

Spend and Earn Ipoints. Update November 2006

Ipoints Visa Card When you apply for an Ipoints Visa card issued by Halifax you can also earn free ipoints ( a web loyalty scheme ). The only ways to apply for the card are online and by phone. In total it should take no more than 5 minutes and is really easy. Once the card is sent to you, you need to phone the Halifax to activiate it - for security reasons. Because it is issued by Visa it has all the normal Visa advantages -acceptable in thousands of places in the UK & worldwide, cash advances and so on. The credit card is a fairly standard offering with the option to transfer your balance from another credit card ( but no points are awarded for this ). 3.9% APR introductory rate for 5 months on transfered balances, 17.9% APR after that ( 18.5% for cash advances). Cash withdrawals attract a 2% advance fee (minimum £2.00) which is about average. Like most banks, when you use the card abroad there is a loading charge (2.75%), so the money charged to your account is more than the exact sterling equivalent. They give an Online fraud guarantee which is good but hopefully you will never use it. As well as that they have a 24 hour, 7 days a week customer helpline and you can also download and view your statement online There is no annual fee at present but other fees are. Late or failure to pay charge £12 Returned payment charge £12 Overlimit charge £12 Returned credit card cheque charge £ 12.00. Duplicate statement up to £5 They used to give you credit card ...

Capital One Classic Mastercard 02/12/2006

Distinctly Average

Capital One Classic Mastercard If you are just starting out and have no credit history or have a less than sparkling credit rating then a Capital One Classic Card may be for you. There are actually 2 options you can get - The Classic reviewed here or The Platinum which is for people with good credit records. You can apply online or in one of the many leaflets they drop into magazines these days. Applying online is relatively painless. It only took me 3 minutes to complete the form although at the end of my application the site hung and I wasn't sure that it had been accepted or not. I decided to wait and a few days later the credit agreement came through the post to sign and return. Although you can apply online, on the Classic card I havent been offered the chance to monitor it online. You have a choice of 6 designs to choose from including a St Georges Cross ( why no Scottish or Welsh option though?), a puppy, a tiger, a pig, the earth from space, a lightning strike and a plain Capital One version. The Classic (which I have) doesn't give you any introductory rate of 0% for purchases or balance transfers. You immediately have the full interest rate of 34.94%. The interest free period is a maximum of 54 days for purchases where the balance is paid in full every month. 0 days for balance transfers and cash. The minimum repayment is £5 or 5% of the outstanding balance. None of these rate are what can be described as market leading. Like with every card the money you pay back in allocated ... 02/12/2006

Easy Rewards UPDATE November 06 This is an update of an opinion written in May 2001. Ipoints works ( or worked - by giving you ipoints for visiting various web sites each day / week / month - this method of collection is now suspended ) as a loyalty point scheme when making a purchase, by registering on various linked sites or by answering surverys. Web Sites purchase a supply of ipoints to give you some as an inticement to visit their site. Like other schemes of its type, this is a slow albeit free way of collecting money ( if you were a scrooge and didnt buy anything ). Once the great dot com bust started to happen it was noticeable that the number of sites offering free points for visiting was diminishing. As of 2001, no site offered points just for visiting. The last - Superdrug used to provide a not too miserable 4 points a day, this then changed to 2 points and went completely. However, there are now more ways to collect points. On the ipoints page itself -you can complete 1 minute polls. (1 point ) -you can opt in to receive emails from various companies and you normally get 1 point for clicking through to their page. Some offers can a lot more, a current offer is to test drive a car for 45 ipoints -sign up to various companies newsletters to receive one off points ( between 1 - 5 points) - buy something by clicking through from ipoints. The range is now far wider than it used to be. From taking out a secured loan, a credit card, ink cartridges, magazines, books, betting accounts, ...

Lufthansa 22/12/2005

A German Gem

Lufthansa Last month I traveled with Lufthansa from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh ( Saigon ) and as its been a long time since my last review of anything, I thought I would share my thoughts on them. The airline is of course the national airline of Germany. Both legs were on an Airbus A340 with a standard passenger layout holding 280 passengers. The plane seemed to be fairly new - maybe 2 or 3 years old as it showed a couple of bits of wear and tear but nothing hugely wrong. Seat pitch is supposedly 32" ( I have taken the figure from an online airline guide ) and that feels about right for the space there. The flight was about 1 hours 30 minutes long, so I didnt get a cramped feeling at all. The seats were apparently designed by Recarro! They certainly felt quite comfortable. As far as entertainment goes, the plane didnt have seat back video, only the old style overhead monitors. The one nearest to me actually had a fault so it looked like I was watching little green men from mars. Fortunately, the program was only short features. Had it been a longer flight or a film I really wanted to see then it would have been a big disappointment. And yes, I know, I dont pay hundreds of dollars to watch a movie but be transported from A to B but, when the cost of flights can be so similar, then it can take only one thing to stop some people from flying with them again. The meals served were nice snacks - again because of the short flight time - with a chicken roll, biscuits and a small ...

Phuket International Airport 17/08/2004

A Great Little Airport

Phuket International Airport Flying down to Phukets’ International airport ( Code HKT ) you get quite a strange site ( assuming you are a t the right window ). You see an island below you with quite a narrow peninsula, full of trees and a clearing running across from one side to the other that has something on it. Surely not the airport and runway you think. A quick bank of the aircraft to one side and oops, that is the airport! If you are nervous flyer, it probably best not to look when you land as although the airport can land fully laden Boeing 747s, it does give the impression that should the airplane land 20 yards too long you will end up in the sea. In fact when you are taxing to the building you can actually see the sea just a hundred yards or so beyond the end of the runway! At the moment the majority of flights into and out of the airport are domestic ones from within Thailand but there are a growing number of International ones from within Asia and one that is due to start to London this year with Phuket Airlines. Transport The airport itself is about 32km north-east of Phuket Town and north of the main beaches such as Patong and Karon. It is easily reached by car, taxi or minibus – there are no trains on Phuket. Although officially there are buses that going to the airport, in reality they are not worth bothering about and you have to rely on some sort of private transport to and from the airport. Coming from the airport If you have not already arranged a transfer with your ...

Sihanoukville (Cambodia) 29/07/2004

Cambodias Riviera

Sihanoukville (Cambodia) This may sound quite strange but Sihanoukville ( also known as Konpong Som ) has been described as Cambodia’s’ Riviera. Given the countrys’ recent history this may sound a rather large stretch of the imagination. But..but..but, when you start to analyse it, it’s not too strange a comparison. They are both on the south coast of their respective countries, they are both home to the wealthy, rich, powerful and they are both beach areas. However, the differences are obviously too numerous to mention. This is quite a lengthy report but I hope that you get a lot out of it. At present, the tourism industry in Cambodia in general and Sihanoukville is still in the raw, rugged stage where the majority of travellers are the adventurous or independent. But more “improvements” are coming on line with at the time of writing a new five star hotel just opening and a 9 hole golf course. Like the majority of the country, the currency used is the US $, with local currency the Riel only used for small change. Current rates are about 4000Riel to the US$ and about £1 to US$1.70 Getting there and away From Phnom Penh you have the option of bus, shared taxi, taxi, minibus or train. All the road transport zooms down the most comfortable road in Cambodia – National Road 4. It is one of the few that deserves the name as it is almost smooth and free of potholes. A cynical person might suggest it’s the most comfortable as all the countrys’ high and mighty travel on it all the time. My ...

Charlotte Gray (DVD) 30/06/2004

A Gray Movie

Charlotte Gray (DVD) You are sitting at home with bad weather outside and a film comes on that you don’t normally watch. What do you do hotshot? What do you do? In my case, I unfortunately took the gamble and watched the movie. It is based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks and is a “thriller” that follows the adventures of our eponymous heroine Charlotte Gray ( Cate Blanchett ) in Nazi-occupied France at the height of World War II. It should tell of heroism ( or in this case mostly heroinism ), the dangers of war, love, self sacrifice etc etc but ends up being a blank, dull, grey canvas that’s not fully filled. The plot should have been able to support the film, as at its core, there is a good story there. On travelling to London, Gray meets someone on a train and an innocent conversation strikes up during which she reveals she is fluent in French, an invitation is offered to attend a party and all of a sudden she is a secret agent in training. She will be used as a courier in the French Resistance. She readily accepts as she has an ulterior motive, to find her lover - who is a shot down British Air Force pilot – Peter Gregory (Rupert Penry Jones ). After her training she assumes a different identity and is flown to France where she meets her contacts and starts her new life. The main contact is Julien Levade (Billy Crudup), who is the leader of the local French resistance group. Of course the inevitable happens and she starts to have feelings for Levade – especially as her cover is as ...

Jokes 22/06/2004

Gordon Strachan King Of Comedy

Jokes Now this will depend on your definition of jokes. These quotes are certainly funny and he is joking so....... Southampton manager Gordon Strachan on Wayne Rooney Its an incredible rise to stardom. At 17 you're more likely to get a call from Michael Jackson than Sven Goran Eriksson. Reporter: Gordon, Do you think James Beattie deserves to be in the England squad? Strachan: I don't care, I'm Scottish! Reporter: "Gordon, can we have a quick word please?" Strachan: "Velocity" [walks off] Reporter: Welcome to Southampton Football Club. Do you think you are the right man to turn things around? Strachan: No. I was asked if I thought I was the right man for the job and I said, "No, I think they should have got George Graham because I'm useless." Reporter: Is that your best start to a season? Strachan: Well I've still got a job so it's far better than the Coventry one, that's for sure. Reporter: Are you getting where you want to be with this team? Strachan: We're not doing bad. What do you expect us to be like? We were eighth in the league last year, in the cup final and we got into Europe. I don't know where you expect me to get to. Do you expect us to win the Champions League? Reporter: Gordon, you must be delighted with that result? Strachan: You're spot on! You can read me like a book. Reporter: Gordon, Agustin Delgado? Strachan: I've got more important things to think about. I've got a yoghurt to finish by today, the expiry date is today. That can ...

Gillette Shaving Foam Original 18/06/2004

Helps to smooth the way.

Gillette Shaving Foam Original By nature and habit I have been an Electric Shaver man for about 20 years or so. The only times I have wet shaved is on holidays when the batteries ran out or for whatever reason I didn’t have my trusty Braun. I have recently experienced one of those periods when my shaver broke down and needed to be repaired. As my recollections of wet shaving were of rashes, cuts and pain, I decided to try and make the experience as painless as possible. So I duly popped down to the supermarket and purchased a BIC dual blade, adjustable head razor with one of those lubricating strips to “make shaving even more of a pleasure” (copyright just about every shaving company) and to make sure I also bought shaving cream for I think the first time in my life. The whole idea of using a shaving cream is to provide a foam that will soften the hairs and help the razor blades give you get the closest shave possible without cutting your face or leaving that nasty shaving rash. And to sum it up, that was exactly what I was looking for. Now which one to choose? Errr Nivea? Wilkinson? Boots? …… HELP!!!! Too many to choose from!! I quickly became one of those rabbits caught in the headlights of an oncoming car transfixed until its run over or in my case a very helpful ( male ) assistant who instantly recommended the Gillette Foamy shaving cream from personal experience and said it has lots of lovely ingredients to help soothe and smooth the way. Err ok, I thought, seems as good a choice as any. ...

Postal 2 (PC) 15/06/2004

I Went Postal Because of Load Times!

Postal 2 (PC) How to describe this game? Violent? Yes. Not politically correct? Yes. Funny? Yes. Eminently playable? No. Why no? Let me explain. In this first person shoot'emup you play the role of someone who gets fired by his bosses after presumably swearing at them too much – there is quite a bit in this game – and then basically going “Postal”. Then again, that’s not quite true. In this game you follow the anti hero through a week in his life completing various normal daily tasks like returning library books or returning milk and so on. Very mundane. Or is it? Because this is where the game kicks in. You can play the game like a truly normal upstanding citizen and pay for your milk in the store or basically blow away anyone and anything to smithereens, steal the milk, kick the cats, dogs or any other living things in your path, in other words going “Postal”. The game is split into separate days where you have three missions to complete and then the city in which you live is divided again into different areas. This is where some of the problems kick in but I will come back to that later. At the start of the week, some areas are blocked off but they do become available later in the week giving more options in routings and places to explore. If you choose the upstanding citizen route you will get through most of the missions without even telling people to “get down or die!” This route does have advantages as the many police will not try to arrest you, but if they see a crime ...

Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Metro Manila Philippines (NAIA) 11/06/2004

A Capital Airport?

Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Metro Manila Philippines (NAIA) I was told that one of the first ways to know you are nearing Manila Airport or to give it its proper name Ninoy Aquino International Airport ( Code MNL) was to look at the sea and watch for the change of colour from a brilliant blue to a dark brown. Unfortunately, that indeed was one indicator I did notice as the coast became nearer. Once the plane got lower my immediate impression was that the airport was actually very close to built up areas but in some ways this proved to be an illusion as the majority of places people will want to go to are still over 10k away. On landing, I was struck by how quiet the airport was, there were relatively few planes docked at the piers and only one other plane taxi-ing to the runway, this was about 4pm on a Friday afternoon. Leaving the plane was quick and I was glad to see relatively clear signs telling me which way to go ( always a good bonus in an airport ). The route from the plane to immigration was about 600m or so with no working travelators which could prove to be a difficult if you have trouble walking. On the way there, you pass what seems to be a new trend in airports – the arrival duty free shop. This one stocked only the major brands of cigarettes, liquors and sweets so I wasn’t really interested. The immigration booths were well manned and I was through in 5 minutes, next stage was baggage reclaim which you can see while standing in line for immigration. This is where the building starts to show its age. The ...

Kuwait Airways - KAC 03/06/2004

A Flavour Of Arabia Anyone?

Kuwait Airways - KAC Last month I traveled with Kuwait Airlines from Bangkok to Manila so thought I would share my thoughts on them. Given its name, you will not be surprisied to find out this is the airline of the Kingdom Of Kuwait. Both legs were on an Airbus A340 with a standard passenger layout holding 280 passengers. The plane was 9 years old and showed it inside with bits of seat trim beginning to come off, some of the personal entertainment controls not working properly and so on Seat pitch is supposedly 32" and it felt about that with not much room to manouver. The flight was about 2 hours 30 minutes long and one gripe I did have was on the outward journey, they started the inflight entertainment about 40 minutes into the flight which meant they didnt show the end of the film! What did happen at the end of Big Fish anyway? The meals served were average western airline food with no real flavour but still mostly edible. There was a choice of meals but as I was at the back they had run out of one of them and I was stuck with what they had left - fortunately it was something I liked. The level of service was effective without being notable, anytime something was asked for, it was brought but no real extra smile or effort. One thing of course that some people dont like is that the stewardesses are not native speakers of English. But I found that all the staff had an excellent level of spoken English. They were the cheapest for the that particular route by a good margin ( ...
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