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The other day I arrived back in the UK after being away for a year and decided to check out BBC HD on my TV. As one can assume from the name BBC HD is a BBC channel broadcast in highdefinition, meaning a higher resolution and higher bit rate compared to that of a standard broadcast. This in theory should allow a more realist image to be broadcast. However, in reality this certainly doesn't appear to be the case, the image is very static and the bit rate is comparable to that of a standard DVD. I would guess that the bit rate is around 4-8mb (bits) per second. On the other hand a blu-ray disc has a bit rate of around 30 mb/second. Having been in Japan for a while I have become used to watching high definition broadcasts over the air and via satellite. While in Japan the image quality for HD broadcasts is not perfect, it's certainly a lot better than BBC HD. NHK terrestrial broadcasts around 12-16 mb/second (with a resolution of 1440 x 1080) and satellite (full hd resolution) at around 20 mb/second. In Japan the image quality is smoother and more fluid, on the other hand BBC HD looks like a high definition youtube video. The problem seems to stem from the limited over the air bandwidth available here in the UK due to the clutter of too many junk channels broadcast on standard freeview. The only way to solve this problem would be to get rid of standard freeview and force everyone to upgrade to HD decoders. The technology is cheap so it should easily be possible at a cost of no more than £20. In addition having a restriction to no more than 10 over the air channels should allow more bandwidth to be allocated to each channel. Terrestrial HD television has been poorly implemented in this country. With the limited bandwidth available there's no point broadcasting BBC in hd since the image looks too static due to the use of high compression codecs. A lower resolution image would solve the problem. Overall while better than not nothing, BBC HD is rather dissapointing and as such shouldn't be called BBC HD.
Until 2 years ago, Firefox was perhaps the best browser available. Upon switching from Microsoft Internet Explorer, I was impressed. Firefox seemed faster and included many add ons. Also, who would want to use a browser that is made by a company that has such a huge monopoly. However, recently Firefox has gone downhill. For the last year my notebook computer and netbook both appeared to struggle to run Firefox on Windows XP. With a Firefox browser open and a DVD video running at the same time, the system just felt slow and sluggish. Recently I installed Google Chrome, since then all problems have been resolved on my laptop. Google Chrome is a lot faster than Firefox and the difference is especially obvious if you are running a single core CPU with less than 2GB of ram. Firefox uses up a lot of ram making a simple task such as checking your email a chore. It's a shame since Firefox is open source software that was once reliable. Any computer made within the last 5 years should easily allow you to do basic tasks such as checking your email, however Firefox will make make your PC seem as if it only has 100mhz CPU with 128mb of ram.
A couple of months ago I decided it was time to buy a large screen television. I have purchased large screen TV's in the past but each time returned it due to initial dissatisfaction. My main requirements for the TV were: it should cost no more than around 300 GBP, include native 1080p, hdmi, VGA and manufactured by a known brand. This television seemed to tick the boxes so I ordered it off the internet. Upon removing the television from the box, I was satisfied with the build quality and design. On one hand this TV is not exactly your state of the art Loewe Spheros but neither is it as bad as an unbranded LCD. The design is very good, just the bezel and housing of the TV could have been slightly better quality but for 300 GBP one can't complain. Switching on the TV, the television provides a very good image. Connecting the TV to a PS3 via hdmi at native 1080 standard DVD playback is extremely good, the TV also has 100hz so films looks smoother. Tested the TV with HD content and again it doesn't disappoint. Since I use the PS3 for all media playback I haven't tested the scart input or any other devices. The PS3 does all the hard work in scaling to the television's 1080p input so why bother with anything else. The results may not be so optimal just plugging in a standard DVD player. Connecting the PC via the hdmi input and the DVD playback was quite poor, however this was probably the fault of the PC. Finally I tested out freeview. I don't watch TV but thought I would check it out. The results were sub standard but again this is mostly due to the low bitrate of freeview. A freeview stream tends to be around 2mbps. On the other hand a DVD that has been encoded properly has a bit rate of around 8mbps. If you are looking for a budget TV of reasonable quality that doesn't look like it came from the Argos catalogue, you cannot go wrong with this.
There's nothing worse than being handed a business document printed out in inkjet. It just looks amateurish and childish. Inkjets are geared towards school children who want to print out their course work and housewives who want to print out greeting cards. Anyone who wants to be taken seriously in the business world should invest in a laser printer. Recently the tray mechanism in my Samsung laser printer stopped working properly so I was in need of a replacement. Searching on the internet, there seemed to be a lot of deals around especially for ink jet printers for next to nothing but for anyone accustomed to using a laser printer it's difficult to go back to using an inkjet. Browsing on the internet, I eventually ordered the Samsung ML1665 from amazon for 50 GBP. Considering my last laser printer was samsung and broke I was a bit apprehensive about buying another Samsung however this was the cheapest laser printer available. Upon taking the unit out of the box I was pleasantly surprised by how small the printer is. Compared to my previous samsung, the unit is extremely compact and looks more robust. The base of the unit appears to have a metal plate. Perhaps, this unit has a more durable tray mechanism however only time will tell since I only just bought it. Samsung appear to have done without any of the wireless or network functions which appear to to popular with the inkjet printers. However, this isn't too much of a problem, since I connected the unit to my Linkstation via USB. The Samsung printer is available to any computer on the network. The print quality is extremely good, as one would expect from a laser printer. There are no strange lines or print errors. Also, the unit can print extremely quickly. While the printer itself is only 50GBP a replacement toner is around 40 GBP. Unfortunately, at the moment there are no 3rd party toners and I haven't found any toner refills available. However, this printer is still relatively new. Hopefully, cheap toner refills will be available soon. For 50GBP, this is a very good printer. If you just want to print out documents in black & white I highly recommend this printer.
Six months ago a relative of mine had a store credit which was about to expire so they decided to buy a this hp laptop computer. One of the main requirements was, the computer must be fast, have plenty of memory and be able to run multiple browsers at once without slowing down. This laptop doesn't disappoint in this regard. Six months after purchase it still runs your standard software without a problem and makes good use of the Windows 7 operating system. 3GB is installed on the system which is about adequate. The system could probably perform decently with 2GB installed but 3GB is recommended. Technically this laptop ticks all the boxes, however there are some major flaws. The keyboard is adequate but uncomfortable. Unfortunately, what really lets it down is the build quality which is sub standard. This is a result of an attempt by HP to reduce costs. The plastic bezel that surrounds the screen just feels very flimsy and cheap, it might as well be made out of card board. The unit also tends to overheat due to poor design. If you leave it on for a day at some point it will just switch off. The laptop is covered with a nice fabric like material, however if only HP spent more on the build quality this could have been a really nice product. At least the packaging looks innovative with a nice non geeky design. Overall most people will probably be satisfied but it just feels like it was only designed to last a few years ready to be thrown out at some point.
I managed to pick this game up recently for only a few pounds. The last Gundam game I played on the Dreamcast which provided a fun experience. Looking at the reviews this game seems to have received mediocre to poor reviews. However this game appeals to a very specific audience so it's difficult to go by reviews. The gundam units are clunky and move slowly, so for anyone used to 3D games that allow freedom of movement this game will disappoint. Instead this is a strategy game, by building a well configured mech and employing good tactics you beat the enemy. I was very satisfied with the game play experience. Initially the learning curve is quite hard but after a while this game becomes quite easy. Finishing a mission gives you a real sense of satisfaction. In terms of game play, this game is extremely fun. With regard to the graphics, this game doesn't really show off the performance of the PS3, rather it suffers from severe frame rate drops especially during intense battles. The game obviously hasn't been fully optimized for the PS3. On the other hand the design of the levels and the Gundam robots look impressive. Zoom in close up to any of the enemies and you can see the level of detail and design put into this game. One of the main criticisms is the clunky and slow movement of the game. Unlike many shooting games Gundam doesn't pretend to give you a full real life like immersive experience. The game is simply what it is, a video game. If anyone wants a fully 3D experience they should switch off their TV and get some fresh air in the real world. Overall, as a strategy shooting game I was pleasantly satisfied. Gundam can be picked up for less than 5 GBP. If you can get it for this price I highly recommend it.
Recently I had some free time on my hands so I decided to pick up a game to play on my PS3. I usually only use to watch videos. Unfortunately, new releases tend to retail at around 40 GBP yet within weeks already discounted and by the end of the year only a fiver. For this reason it makes it hard to justifying buying a brand new game that has just been released. I wait over a year and then buy heavily discounted. In this instance I purchased Killzone 2 for only 5GBP second hand. Considering this was a highly rated title it seemed like a bargain. Upon booting the game I was slightly disappointed by the graphics, they just didn@t have that next gen wow factor which we were shown in the tech demo 5 years ago. The game also suffers from frame rate problems slowing down to what seems like 5 fps sometimes. Some stages have a very immersive action film like experience with your troops helping you fight the enemies, however at some points you are left alone walking down another boring plain corridor giving you the feeling that your playing a geeky first person pc shooter rather than an action packed console title. The game attempts to introduce a convincing story line but it just seemed rubbish. The action and voice overs are also fairly poor. Whats worse, the game is rated 18, contains strong language yet the acting and story line make it look like it would appeal to the 10 - 16 year old range. Every other dialogue contains the f word. This is not an adult title, more like a childrens' game that pretends to be grown up. The producers of the game should seriously reconsider who this game is aimed at.
One of my preferred operating systems is Windows XP. While Windows 7 may be popular especially since Windows Vista turned out to be a flop, Windows 7 still requires a fast CPU, plenty of ram and a decent graphics card. On the other hand Windows XP home still runs without problems on a netbook or a notebook computer with 512mb to 1gb of ram. Windows XP is a very user friendly operating system. It's easy to install software and there are plenty of drivers available for a wide range of different hardware. One of the main problems with Windows 98 was the need to do a complete format and reinstall every 6 months due to installing drivers and software that would eventually cause the system to crash. This was also initially a problem with Sevice pack 1 however this has become less of a problem as Microsoft has released system updates. One of my main criticisms with Windows XP would be the amount of virus around. Unless you have anti virus protection, it can be all too easy to visit a webpage and end up with the system being hijacked and turned into a spybot machine. I've been using XP for over 6 years and it does everything I need. Windows 7 still requires at least 4GB of ram for smooth performance, for this reason I would recommend Windows XP.
Lately computers are being sold without an internal optical drive especially notebooks. If you need to install software or reinstall the operating system a lack of optical drive can pose a problem. Recently I decided it was time to finally buy an external portable optical drive than I could simply plug into any of my computers. My main reason for buying this optical drive from Buffalo are as follows, the size, price and usb powered. The unit is very light, just slightly bigger than the size of an optical disc so it is a very portable unit. It doesn't require an external power supply making it very convenient. USB devices that require external USB power supply are extremely inconvenient. Surprisingly the unit performs very well when it comes to burning and playing back DVD media despite being USB powered. I tried a few DVDRs which all played back flawlessly. Unfortunately I haven't yet had the opportunity to burn dual layer discs however I haven't experienced any problems with single layer discs. The unit looks smart and well designed however the external casing feels a bit cheap partly due to being manufactured in China. Overall if you need an external DVD drive this unit is worth considering.
Occasionally I use Natwest online banking but only occasionally due to the fear of fraud. Unfortunately the whole online bank process is rather monotonous and cumbersome. To log in requires a great deal of effort that one would be better off to just go down the bank to perform any transactions. Arriving at the log in screen first you have to enter your customer number. If you happen to remember your customer number, you have to enter your password, however you can't just casual enter it, instead the log in screen will ask you for some random letters contained within your password, for example the second the fifth and the tenth. Trying to work out in your head which character is the second or fifth can be a real mental work out and so sometimes you just can't be bothered. Unfortunately this is partially due prevent fraud however this internet banking system has been poorly designed. It may be safe however there is no convenience. Other banks have managed to implement better online banking security.
One of the most popular attraction spots in Tokyo is Yoyogi Park, located near Shibuya and Omotesando. Shibuya is a fashionable area popular among young people, on the other hand Omotedando is a more upmarket. Unfortunately, Japan lacks greenery and parks something that is abundant in the UK. Walking down a high street here in Tokyo it is not uncommon to walk a kilometer without seeing a tree in sight. Yoyogi park is really nothing special especially when compared to Hyde Park in London. It is wide and spacious but it looks more like a camping site than a park. On a sunny weekend Yoyogi Park tends to be very busy attracting a lot of people including many tourists and foreigners. Yoyogi park perhaps has too many foreigners and tourists which reminds me that I am myself one. For this reason I prefer not to go to Yoyogi Park. Surprisingly some parks you have to pay to enter such as Shinjukugyoenmae. Overall if you're in the area it's worth visiting at least once but I prefer to visit small local parks which tend to be better maintained and less of a touristy feel.
Recently I purchased this portable hard disk drive as a replacement for a large standard external hard disk drive which was too heavy and took up too much space. I decided to buy this drive since it was made by Buffalo which has been a reliable manufacture when it comes to external hard drives. Upon taking the drive out of the box it appears very light and small, perfect for carrying to work to back up files on the go. With over 500 GB of space there is plenty of room to back up not only documents but media files such as mp3 and video. Unfortunately I found the read and write speed relatively slow compared to my previous external drive, it seems to take quite a while to transfer large video files too and from the disk however maybe this would be expected for a drive of this side. The drive unfortunately also appears to be made in China. Previous drives were made in Japan and for this reason the build quality while not poor could have been of better quality. Overall I still use this drive everyday and it is essential to my everyday work. If you need a small and portable hard disk with adequate capacity at a reasonable price this is definately worth taking a look at.
A few months ago I went traveling around Japan. My final stop before returning to Tokyo was Hiroshima. Traveling outside Tokyo was a big culture shock. Everyone in Japan tends to move to the big cities such as Tokyo or Osaka to find work leaving the rural areas and small cities empty with nothing but farmers and retired people. Upon arriving in Hiroshima, my first impression was rather neutral. There's just nothing significantly interesting especially when compared to Tokyo. The town is relatively small, the city center is only 2 kilometers from the main train station. The city center was completely destroyed by the a-bomb so everything has been rebuilt. There's a tram to get you around the city center, however since it's so small one would be better off walking. There's also the genbaku dome and museum which is an interesting place to visit. Overall this town seems to be very haunted by it's past despite having occurred over 60 years ago. No one wants to seem to live here and there are constant reminders that this city suffered from an atomic bomb. Culturally and historically one should definitely visit Hiroshima however I don't recommend staying there for more than a few nights.
One of my favourite Savory snacks is snickers bar. Snickers bar contains a mixture of caramel, peanuts and chocolate. Upon biting into a snickers bar one can feel one's energy being restored. Snickers has that satisfying crunchy peanut taste. On the other hand Mars bars just taste of sugar and I find the taste lacking. The main reason snickers bars taste so good is probably the addition of peanuts. I don't recommend snickers bars for sedentary people, lazy people or fat people as it does contain a lot of calories. However for anyone who doesn't have any health or weight concerns a snickers bar is a perfect way to restore energy. When I've done a work out or feeling very low on energy I tend to buy a snickers bar. Depending on where one shops the price tends to differ. The cheapest I have found tends to be Tesco's. Small independent newsagents tend to be the most expensive. There are various sizes available from single size to double size. Usually I buy the bigger size snickers.
When waking up in the morning, I usually switch on the computer to check my emails and make a nice cup of coffee. It can be very difficult to concentrate on work without a cup of coffee. There are many different brands of coffee to choose from, however my favourite is Nescafe with its nice rich taste of coffee. When purchasing coffee it's important not to buy coffee that is too cheap as such coffee tends to have a taste of sawdust. I usually put one or two spoon fulls of Nescafe in my mug, add some boiling water 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up and then finally add semi-skimmed milk. I drink up five cups a day, two cups in the early morning, a cup or two a brunch time and maybe another cup of coffee in the afternoon. Drinking Nescafe helps me with concentration and overall productivity. There appears to be various Nescafe such as Original and Gold Blend. Neither makes a difference to me, I usually drink Original, sometimes Gold Blend. For anyone who drinks tea, I recommend switching to coffee, especially Nescafe as you may find that coffee will boost your concentration. Overall I highly recommend this coffee.