10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

Venice Trip Report

Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

Amazon.co.uk - The pinnacle of customer service

It is very rare that I actually recommend companies and leave good testimonials about them but there has to be something said for Amazon.co.uk and its incredible examples of customer service which I have received on two occasions over the past week.

1. I bought Left 4 Dead for PC at the price of £24.99 which I thought was a good deal, 2 weeks later the price had been reduced to £14.69, which I thought was a massive price drop and it was almost half of what I had paid. So, unhappy, I sent off an e-mail to Amazon and received a response within 3 hours and had a refund within 6 hours to my credit card - needless to say many other retailers would essentially have said "tough" but this refund has kept my loyalty. (Maybe the fact I had spent over £1500 at Amazon over the past 3 years had something to do with it)

2. I bought 3 books off Amazon on December 27th at 19:30 (the post had closed for that day) and it was a Sunday. The next day was a bank holiday (public holiday) and so I didn't expect it to be sent off but it was. I used their free Super Saver Delivery which said I'd get my package on January 6th. December 31st and it was here - a week early. Fantastic service Amazon and Royal Mail (2nd class).

Amazon truly have made me smile twice over the past week - just as their logo suggests and as they motto says "We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company."

NOTE: This was not a paid-for ad for Amazon nor was I given anything for this post, it is just a personal testimony.

Air Mouse Pro iPhone app review

This app essentially transforms your iPhone or iPod Touch into a remote control which you can use anywhere. You download the small Air Mouse Server app for your Mac or PC, run this Server, open the app on your iPhone and if your connected to the same wifi network as your computer they should recognise each other. Now you can use the iPod as a mouse and keyboard, flick your hand forward and you get a bigger trackpad, you can also do this by rotating the iPhone. Now you can also click on the icon on the top right hand corner and turn it into a pointer where you point the iPhone at the screen and move your wrist to change the location. I had much better results with a Mac than a PC in getting the two to connect, but once connected there is no lag at all.

Should you download Air Mouse Pro? Yes. Download this app now.

It costs $2 or £1.19 from the iTunes app store.

Vodafone UK announces iPhone availability!

Vodafone is the UK's fourth carrier to get the iPhone, O2 was the first exclusive partner which was followed by Orange, Tesco Mobile and now Vodafone. Network '3' is also looking to get the phone in the first half of 2010. Both the iPhone 3G and 3GS are available.

Users who pre-order their Vodafone iPhone within the next 7 days get free Vodafone-to-Vodafone calls for the next 18 months. It appears that the iPhone will not be available on Pay as you go from Vodafone. The expected delivery date for orders placed within the next 7 days is 14 January 2010.

Meanwhile, O2 has announced that it will now unlock any iPhone bought from its stores for free (previously there was a £15 fee for PAYG users), however users will lose its free unlimited web and wifi bolt-on immediately once unlocked. The unlocking can take up to 14 days, according to some reports.

Below is a comparison of how the 4 networks and their plans match up to each other:


Casio Elixim Hi-Zoom Ex-H10 Digital Camera Review

Compact cameras are not usually known for having fantastic zoom levels and usually take pretty poor photos and when the price is as low as this it generally gets even worse, so can the Casio Exilim H10 Digital Still Camera - Black (12.1MP, 10x Optical Zoom) do any better?

Impressively, Casio has managed to fit a 10x optical zoom lens into this camera – it retracts fully when switched off concealing this super-zoom in the camera body very well. This camera body is made of metal and plastic and it has mechanical image stabilisation which essentially moves the camera’s sensor in the opposite direction of your body movement – making for clearer shots as it cancels out the wobbling you make.

The battery life is spectacular and you can get about 1,000 photos on a single charge which is about double what a similar camera usually gets. It can do continuous shooting which can do up to 10 frames per second and as low as 0.7 frames per second in the highest-quality mode.

Almost all newer cameras have a HD video mode and this digital camera is no exception. It does not have an optical viewfinder but rather an easy-to-use 3-inch screen. There are almost 40 different shot modes which can be slightly bewildering for beginners, but also helpful if you’re a user that knows what they are doing. The Ex-H10 offers a 12-megapixel resolution that produced sharp photos and its wide 24mm lens is great for landscapes and crowd-shots.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a camera that boasts HD video, has a long zoom and good battery life – the Casio Elixim Ex-H10 may be one to consider, but at this price don’t expect miracles as skin tones are noticeably darker, there is a digital feel to the photos, the stabiliser isn’t amazing and the manual is useless.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5


Watch National Geographic (NatGeo) for free!

Today I came across a fantastic resource provided by National Geographic themselves that allows you to use your broadband connection to stream their shows for free. There are literally thousands of clips available ranging from between 2 and 5 minutes long and there are even some full-length shows.

As well as full episodes there are thousands of clips about: animals and nature, exploration and adventure, history and events, people and places, science and technology, nat geo wild and much much more. You can find out how the UPS delivery system works, how the world's tallest and fastest rollercoaster was built and even how IKEA makes it's furniture - it's fun, fast and educational!

You can find the videos at http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/videos/player.html

TalkTalk triples broadband speeds to home customers

UK ISP TalkTalk has announced fantastic news for its customers (I am one) as it will be giving all users a speed boost from a maximum of 8mbps to 24mbps which could mean an up to 3x speed boost. This doesn't apply to TalkTalk Pro customers who already get an "up to" 24mbps speed.

This will vary depending on you location from your exchange, it's broadband essentials package will also has a slight price increase because of the 2.5% vat increase to £6.99 a month.

Unfortunately TalkTalk seems to be retaining its 40GB bandwidth cap which I get very close to every single month. An increase to even 60GB would make a massive difference to heavy-users such as myself. To be honest, 40GB is not much nowadays considering I have 29 podcast subscriptions - some of which are in HD, making it very easy to rack-up 40GB in a month. It also means consumers such as myself will have to pay even closer attention to their bandwidth usage (by using computer utilities)as more speed will mean more downloads. It would be a very good idea for TalkTalk to offer a way to check usage on their website - updated hourly or more often - as it is impossible to know how much games consoles are using for example. A few months ago I found out that playing LittleBigPlanet used 1GB of data per hour once connected to the internet in online play or building levels while the ethernet cable was plugged in.

This speed boost will make TalkTalk the cheapest provider of next-generation speeds and will under-cut Virgin Media's fibre optic offerings by a significant amount per month of £7-9 and equating to a saving of at least £85.

Top 5 Best PCs and Laptops for Christmas 2009

Choosing a new desktop computer or laptop isn't getting any easier, with prices varying wildly, numerous different processor models and more, it's hard to choose what you should buy this holiday season. To help you on your way, here is my top 5 computers and laptops for Christmas 2009. Many retailers are finishing their free delivery before Christmas so get shopping now - at Amazon UK you only have 3 days left!

5. Samsung N140 10.1-inch Netbook (Atom N270 1.6 GHz Processor, 1 GB RAM, 250 GB HDD, BT, Webcam, up to 10 Hour Battery Life, Windows 7 Starter, Black) - This netbook is arguably the best netbook available in it's price range. For just under £300 you get a netbook which does in  the real-world get 8 hours of battery life which is phenomenal. Although it runs Windows 7 starter, this allows you to do all the features you'll ever need to on a netbook. The 10.1" is nice and big and it allows for a very nice keyboard. It even has bluetooth and a 250GB hard drive for the price, as well as a webcam which is all very nice for a netbook. It only comes with a measly 1GB of RAM though so we would recommend that you buy an extra 1GB RAM stick and put it in. If you need a netbook for the holidays with amazing battery life, a nice keyboard and a nice big screen - this is the one for you.

4. Acer Aspire 5536 15.6-inch Laptop (AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 2.1 GHz, 3 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD, Vista Home Premium) - For under £380 this laptop is full of power! The processor is relatively old but this laptop will do most things you'll need it to, it'll play HD movies fine, it will browse the web and edit spreadsheets fantastically as well as running all the Office apps with no stress. The 500GB hard drive is nice and big and it would have been nice to have 4GB of RAM. Note that this computers runs Vista and not the new Windows 7. At this price however these are all minor gripes - especially when you could buy two of these and a netbook for the price of the Macbook Pro.

3. Compaq Presario CQ5231UK-m Desktop PC with Compaq CQ1859s 18.5 inch LCD Monitor and Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E7500, Windows 7 Home Premium, 3 GB DDR3, 500 GB SATA - For under £500 (including a monitor) this desktop PC is so tempting!! It runs a Core 2 Duo processor which is great value for a sub £500 computer, it sports a big 18.5" LCD screen, 3GB of RAM and a 500GB drive. It runs the last Windows 7 Home Premium operating system which is a refreshing change to Vista. This computer will handle anythign you throw at it from web surfing, to document creating to watching videos. Gaming will suffer however due to its graphics card - although you can get a decent one for about £50-£70 which brings the total to £550 - bargain!

2. MacBook Pro 13inch 2.26GHz/2GB/160GB/GeForce 9400M/SD - Hands down the best laptop for students. 13" is the perfect size for a laptop, it has a backlit keyboard and auto screen dimming by using the iSight camera to measure the light around you. The hard drive and RAM are relatively small so I recommend you upgrade them yourself - don't let Apple do it as it'll cost a fortune. The OS is brilliant, the keyboard is the best ever for a laptop, the sound is great, the trackpad is fantastic and the multi-touch is extremely responsive. It is also great as a primary laptop as its processor is more than adequate even for handling HD video and you can even do some editing too!

1. Apple iMac 21.5 - inch Desktop PC (3.06GHz, 2X2GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, 9400M-GBR) - Macs has become increasingly affordable (despite being able to get a similarly specced PC for 2/3 of the price) and this iMac has taken computing to the next level. It uses a full 16:9 aspect ratio which means that TV programmes watched on it have no pillar-bars or letter-boxing at all and you know have a very, very big monitor in front of your eyes. Everyone knows that the iMac is an all-in-one computer. It now sports a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo processor which is very, very quick - although for this price you might have been expecting Quad Core. You do get the lovely Mac OS X Snow Leopard operating system which is astounding as always. The Mac also comes witha  half-terrabte driver and 4GB of RAM. The iLife suite is included as well as a wireless keyboard and the new "Magic Mouse" which we're not a big fan of.

Demand Five now available on YouTube!

Premium content on YouTube has once again expanded from its previous offering. YouTube now have UK broadcaster 'Five' on board and its shows are now available to stream. Popular shows include Neighbours so viewers can now watch Neighbours for free online. Neighbours has no ads at the moment which makes the service even better than Demand Five.

Five has joined BBC Worldwide and Channel 4 in offering full length shows. ITV still only offers clips of a very limited number of shows and the BBC has many shows which are still clip-only.

Cable TV provider Sky may soon offer some of its shows on YouTube although this is unlikely as this would only reduce the number of subscribers - it is testing its own service Sky Player which offers several programmes to stream and streams too, it is also available on the XBOX 360 and Windows Media Center.

Hulu UK launch date?
US giant Hulu is still attempting to launch its service in the UK and is expected to do so in early 2010 - this service may have US programmes as well as UK though it is unlikely that the BBC will get on board as most of its programmes are exclusive to its iPlayer service.

It's finally here: Google Chrome for Mac. Available today in beta!

Google Chrome is now available in beta, below is the e-mail I received from Google:

It's finally here: Google Chrome for Mac. Available today in beta!

Hi there,
Thanks for signing up to hear from us regarding Google Chrome for Mac! We're excited to let you know that Google Chrome is now available in beta for Mac OS X.
Here are a few fun facts from us on the Google Chrome for Mac team:
  • 73,804 lines of Mac-specific code written
  • 29 developer builds
  • 1,177 Mac-specific bugs fixed
  • 12 external committers and bug editors to the Google Chrome for Mac code base, 48 external code contributors
  • 64 Mac Minis doing continuous builds and tests
  • 8,760 cups of soft drinks and coffee consumed
  • 4,380 frosted mini-wheats eaten
Thanks for waiting and we hope you'll give Google Chrome for Mac a whirl.
Google Chrome Team


There will be a free version of Microsoft Office 2010

Microsoft has confirmed that a free version of Office 2010 will be avaiable comprising off only Excel and Word. This will most likely get rid of the dread Works software which is included "free" with a lot of computers but frankly, isn't worth a cent. This is a great way for Microsoft to up-sell consumers to get extras such as Powerpoint and Publisher, although it is unclear whether these can be added a-la-carte meaning that you may or may not be able to purchase individual programs for a set price.

It is clear that you will not be getting 100% of the features of Word and Excel in the free version but most features will be there. Fonts, font sizes, bold, italics, aligning, underlining, images, etc should be all there. More advanced features such as word count may be disabled to upsell you to more expensive versions of Office.

Will a free version of Office 2010 be available for Mac?
This still remains to be seen but there is no reason why this wouldn't be done as it is essentially a stripped down version of the Office suite.

Will the web version of Office 2010 be free?
Most liekly yes and with more expensive versions you'll get access to more online apps - so you would just get Word and Excel, but more expensive versions would give you access to Publisher and Powerpoint.


Freeview HD now live in london!

Freeview HD channels will be live from tomorrow for everyone in London getting their signal from the Crystal Palace transmitter. This has been officially confirmed by Freeview and this information is available on their website.

Next to get Freeview HD will be Newscastle and Tyneside, Glasgow and Central scotland in February 2010 followed by Leeds, Birmingham and Bradford in March 2010. By the time the 2010 World Cup comes in the summer 50% of the UK will have access to Freeview HD. This will be 98.5% by the end of 2012.

The only problem with all this? There's no way to receive it yet, receivers are expected in early 2010.