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10

Easy 5K with Jeff Galloway review

June
29

Introduction

I got this app on my iPhone when it was on special offer over a holiday weekend while I was considering taking up running again because it promises to ease you gently up to running 5k with a run/walk/run system.

The Review

The app (iPhone only) allows you to use your own playlist or download a number of tracks for free and Jeff speaks over the music now and again to give you advice and encouragement as well as when to start walking or running.

It has a neat feature where it slows down and speeds up the music depending on which phase of the session you are in. It works well with the downloaded music and if you’re using your own playlists it can analyse the tracks and get their BPM and says it intelligently mixes them together.

You can set your own pace and ratio so for me who was just starting it was easy to set it to 1 minute run / 1 minute walk and as I got into the program for a couple of weeks I was able to go up to 2 minutes running vs 1 minute walking.

easy 5k with Jeff Galloway app screen

You can set it for running indoors and it’ll used timed sessions or you can set it to use the GPS and it’ll use distance.

In the beginning weeks it will use timed for the first couple of sessions in a week and use distance for your ‘long run’.

The display is pretty easy to read and you always know how far you’ve gone and how much time/distance you have left but to be honest, I have found I don’t need to look at it because Jeff always pops in my ear to tell me how much time I have left or when to start walking or running.

Pros

  • Free music downloads that can have their BPM easily changed
  • Can use your own playlists
  • Very easy for newbies who want to be eased in to running
  • Voiceover is good and makes the session easy to follow and maintain
  • Can be set for distance or timed sessions
  • Can share your progress on facebook
  • Uploads your run data after each session so you can see your history

Cons

  • Can only adjust playlists while you’re in a session
  • Cannot stop music unless you’re in a session
  • Can only analyse 50 tracks for BPM

Extras

Apparently, the run / walk / run method actually improves your time because you’re not slowing down at the end of the session due to fatigue and it prevents you from over exerting yourself and getting injured.

You can do the 8 weeks of training normally and once you’re up to 5k you can switch to the ‘improve 5k’ program where things get a little longer and a little harder.

My Opinion

Overall, I like this app a lot because it took me from nothing to running and did it in a way which meant I was able to stick to the program where all the other times I’ve tried to get into running I’ve failed because it was always too hard and I got exhausted after 5 minutes.

The main thing with this app is that you never feel completely wiped out and exhausted after a run. The regular walking sections recharge you and according to Jeff, “you should get back feeling like you could run another mile” and I’ve found that to be true.

It’s a shame about the minor bugs with the playlist and music controls only being available during an active session but I have been assured on their facebook page that this is fixed in the half marathon version and the fixes will roll down to this app soon. When it does it will get another star from me.

I’m using my own playlists of some running tracks and when the app knows the BPMs it can mix the tracks quite well and the way it speeds up and slows down the music is really good and helps a lot with keeping you in pace with what you should be doing.

Conclusion

I would recommend this app for anyone who wants to start running or return to running again. Maybe if you’ve failed before or not been able to stick with a program you’ve tried.

There are a number of ‘couch to 5k’ apps on the iphone but this one stands out as the only one that makes it actually easy to follow the program even for newbies. I am not aware of another app that follows the run / walk /run method so I choose this one over the others.

The method of run/walk/run that Jeff helps you with as well as taking you from couch to 5k over a period of 8 weeks and I can attest that it really does work! I am really pleased that I can go running now and I actually look forward to my 3 times a week sessions.

I never get too tired and I feel really excellent for the rest of the day knowing I’m doing my body good.

Resources

You can get the app from the AppStore here >> Easy 5k with Jeff Galloway

Reviews


7

WordPress MU 2.8 Beginners Guide Book Review

December
7

PacktPublishing sent me a shiny new publication called WordPress MU 2.8. It’s one of their “beginners guide” series which means it takes you step by step from noob to hero on the subject. I’ve read a few of their other books and they’ve always been a good read and source of new information.

WordPress Mu or WPMu is already familiar to me after creating ComLuv.com to run using it so I was looking forward to receiving this book to see if there were some things I had missed. Oh yeah, I missed a lot!

If you’re looking to build a WordPress based site that also has the option of allowing your own readers to create their own blogs then you need to look at WPMu. Not only is it the same platform that wordpress.com uses for their millions of blogs, it’s also expandable to be a social network in it’s own right. It does this with the buddypress and bbpress plugins. This book shows you how to use them all.

In the beginning

Like all beginner books, the first part deals with the introduction and installation chapters. In other books, this is just a page or two but with PacktPub books, you get the full deal. Step by step with pictures and alternative methods. Even right down to setting up Apache to work with subdomains which is going to save you a lot of trouble hunting around forums for answers.

Expansion

After you learn how to set up your site and modify it’s appearance, you’ll want to know what plugins and features can be added. The middle section of the book takes you through different options like buddypress, bbpress (forums) and other useful additions that will make your site stand out from the rest.

As with other beginners guide books, the author works with a case study site and as you progress through the chapters adding more things, you will be able to follow on with your own local install and compare results. This makes it a lot more interactive to learn and with the pop quizzes and “what just happened” reviews, you’ll really prepare yourself for your project.

More than words..

As well as covering the technical details for installing, maintaining and optimizing your site, the author also goes into the real life way of creating and running a blog/social network hub. Things like monetizing your site or ways to increase traffic are given a whole chapter and will really help the new webmaster get to grips with their site.

thinking Mu?

If you’re just considering looking into WPMu or you run more than one wordpress blog and want to consolidate them all to one site then you should buy yourself this book. It’ll give you enough information so that you can try it out without worrying about having to bring in outside help. You can view the books contents page and read more about it here :

WordPress MU 2.8 Beginners Guide

Reviews


32

BT can go suck eggs

April
25

There’s no video this week because BT who, in their gargantuan corporate way have managed to create a cluster f*** out of my moving house service. And there’s no broadband for another 2 weeks.

“yes Mr. Bailey, we’ll disconnect your old service on the 21st and connect your new service on the 22nd and let you know when you’re connected”

LIARS!

I phoned up on the 22nd hoping to hear the news that the new number and all is ready so I can go ahead and arrange the broadband with o2 but, oh noooo, not so. I got told that the connection got delayed. The disconnection, however, did not get delayed. That went right ahead, so now I have no connection.

BRITISH TELECOM CAN GO SUCK EGGS

Why do I get a well spoken Scottish lass when I arrange a new line but any problems get transferred to an Indian call center?

Reviews


32

WordPress for business bloggers book review

December
19

The nice folks at PacktPub sent me a pretty good book called “WordPress For Business Bloggers” by Paul Thewlis. I’ve been reading it for a couple of weeks and it turned out to be an excellent read.

Who is it for?

It makes it clear in the beginning of the book that you should at least be familiar with WordPress as a blogging platform. It doesn’t expect you to know any HTML or PHP skills, just a working knowledge of the WP interface for adding posts and pages, activating plugins and general use.

The book says it is aimed at anyone running or starting a business blog using WordPress. It can be for PR, marketing, profit or driving traffic. Whatever you use it for, if it’s for a business then this book is for you.

My own addition to this is that it will be perfect for someone who runs their own personal blog and is used to people asking them blogging questions. Why? because with this book, you could move from doing minor updates to personal blogs to heading up a business blog for your workplace or local businesses. You will see why below…

The Plan

One of the things that really impressed me with this book was how Paul gives good examples of specifics, what makes a great blog is the first question covered in the book. It doesn’t try to explain from the beginning what a blog is which would take a whole book but instead, it gives an example of different blogs that are aimed at;

  • Increasing sales
  • Adding value
  • A dialog with your customers
  • Raising awareness
  • Showing expertise
  • Customer Service
  • Public relations
  • Driving Traffic

The first chapter will give you an excellent summary of what you will learn from reading the rest of the book including, monetization, promotion and statistics.

The Case Study

This is where the real value of the book comes into play. So many “how to blog” books and blogs don’t go into specifics. They go on about how you should do this and that but not exactly how to go about doing this and that!.

The WordPress for business bloggers book has it’s own case study site to take you from planning (including strategic goals, tactical goals and implementation) all the way through from Chapter 3 – Designing your blog, how to install to your local machine so you can develop a blog before it goes live to blog design principles, layout, typography, colors.

Images, video and content are all covered in chapters 4 and 5. I was really impressed by the content of these chapters, every sub heading had a gold mine of information associated with it and was able to cover a large amount of the whole blogging for business idea without getting too wordy or cluttered with random information. It’s quite clear that Paul knows an awful lot about blogging and WordPress!

Through each chapter you get to work on the case study and see it grow as you complete each chapter and learn how each new bit of information gets applied to a real blog.

Why would you buy it?

Far from being just for business bloggers, I think this book would be an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know a bit more about blogging. All the information and guidelines would be applicable to any new blog.

You could even use this book as a self study course, work through each chapter and follow the case study and by the end, you will not only know how to make a full site but, you will know why you put headings here, how you should respond to comments, what to do with SEO and how to apply it and much more.

The case study site is quite simple and will give you a good ‘heads up’ on how to add and remove items from an existing theme so you could adapt a regular theme to word specifically for your business.
The code is available to download from the packtpub website.

If you’re working for your company and they don’t have a blog, just the information in Chapter 1 and 2 about mapping out a strategic plan and how to implement solutions would arm you with enough ‘know-how’ to talk your boss into getting your company into blogging. And wouldn’t it be nice if you knew just how to start? :-)

Click here for WordPress For Business Bloggers

Get ANY book from PacktPub for FREE

Being the nice folks that they are, Packtpub has offered up 2 books from their vast collection as ebook downloads. My first packtpub book was an ebook and from it, I learned all that I needed to know about wordpress design so I really recommend that you enter this contest!

Requirements

  1. Visit the PacktPub website and browse their collection and leave a comment here with what book you would like to win.
    (link to the books page at packtpub if you like)
  2. Write about this contest on your own blog and link to this post.
    (it doesn’t have to be a whole post, it can be included as part of a new post but mention “wordpress for business bloggers” or “packtpub” in the paragraph and link directly to this post)

Details
Contest will run until Jan 16th 2009.
Winners will be chosen by a magic script at Random.org
Please use an email address that you can be contacted on when you comment, this email address will be used to receive the ebook

Blog News, Reviews


41

Why the hell would anyone use twitter anyway?

December
7


The title of this post is the question I asked myself many times.. before I used it myself that is.

For the first months of Twitter being talked about I deliberately kept away from it thinking that ‘micro-blogging’ was a complete waste of time. Who the hell would want to know if I’m going for a coffee or what page I’m interested in at the moment?.. turns out, quite a lot of people do actually.

I’ve been using Twitter through an application called Tweedeck for a couple of months now and I’ve really grown used to it taking up almost all of my second monitor space. I’ve discovered many reasons to use Twitter and I thought I’d share my thoughts on twitter here;

It’s not an IM

I hate IM programs, msn, yahoo, gtalk and all the rest because they just suck time away from you while you wait for someone to respond. I’m a fast typist so it’s painful to wait 3 minutes watching the “soandso is typing..” only to get a “yeah, I know!” in the message window.

They’re distracting too, I hate having a “tiddly-dum” noise happening all the bleedin time while I’m trying to watch something. Even though I’m committed to the tv at the time, a “tiddly-dum” will cause me to come to the computer to see what it was. 9 times out of 10 it could have waited but like brown on finger, it had to be investigated.

I’ve switched off all my IM stuff now and my productivity has massively increased! That’s why I like twitter, it’s like a thought catcher. It allows you to put up in less than 140 characters what’s on your mind without needing an immediate response.

If someone asks me a question via Twitter, it doesn’t make a flashing button on the taskbar appear demanding immediate attention. Instead, I can see it when the tweetdeck window gets the focus on my many many windows open.

You can download tweetdeck here, I really recommend using it. This is what my screen with twitter window looks like.

I use 3 columns. One for replies, one for the whole tweet stream and one for direct messages.

It can change the world (in 48 hours)

I donated some money to an organisation that wants to build a new classroom for a school in Tanzania. It was set up by http://tweetsgiving.org during the thanksgiving run up in America. The whole point was to raise 10,000 dollars in 48 hours by using twitter to promote it.

It was an amazing idea and executed wonderfully, people were retweeting messages about it all through the 2 days and before the time was up, 10 grand was raised just from the kindness of tweeters.

It’s not full of spam (yet)

I have seen very little spamming going on with it which is such a change for a 2.0 web thingy. Usually the first thing any popular company does is switch on the money making adverts or get bombarded with cialis (ab)users.

There are a couple of advertising options open to twitter users but not by twitter itself. Magpie is one of them, I used it myself recently to promote some ebay listings using keywords like ipod and ebay. It generated a lot of click thrus and coincidence or not, I sold out of everything I advertised. Just before Christmas too! woohoo

It’s organic networking

I really like this part of it, it’s not like other places where you have to join someone and jump through some hoops to be part of their group. You can just click their follow link and get their tweets in your stream of all tweets. If you think they self promote too much, just unfollow and they’re gone!

You get to see what people are like a lot easier than by reading their blog, just 140 characters forces the person to not over-edit or revise their text.

From this you can see who you want to deal with and not be bowled over by a slick sales page or well crafted and heavily edited authority article. Straight to the brain is the game. I love it.

You find out what’s happening straight away

Just seeing a stream of tweets going by you can quickly pick up a repeated phrase, when the Mumbai attacks happened I knew about it before Sky news that was on in the background!

Shopper gets trampled on Black Friday sales in Walmart? I heard it on twitter first.

It really is a way to get a pulse on the world and especially useful if you’re a prolific blogger who’s hungry for news to post. If you’re early on breaking news or big things to happen then you’re on to a stumbleupon golden egg page.

If you need to know something, like, right now

This is fast becoming one of my favourite things about twitter. The ability to throw a question out there and have it answered within a few minutes or see it get retweeted (re-broadcasting the question to ones own network of followers) is just amazing.

My partner wanted to know how to attach a zipper to a home made woolen cardigan. I had no idea but I thought someone out there in the twitterverse (you’ll get used to these twitterisms) might know or at least, know someone who would know.

One of my followers saw the question and broadcasted it to her own network, within a couple of minutes I had a message with a link to a picture of exactly what to do. That’s the first time my pc has got some praise from ‘her indoors’ :-)

You can use the wp-twitip-id plugin!

Ok shameless self promotion here but you can take advantage of the wp-twitip-id plugin which allows you to add a twitter username field to your comment form on your wordpress blog and display a “follow me” link or image next to the comment authors name.

Another reason for people to leave good comments on your site!

You can download wp-twitip-id plugin here

It’s got a really cool api

API or Applications Programming Interface is how so many cool widgets and gadgets get made by the geeky. It’s a way for developers to interact with the twitter server and pull loads of interesting information about the twitterverse.

There will be more and more applications coming out for twitter in the near future, there are already some incredible 2.0 web applications that give a sneak peak of what the internet of the ’10s will be.

Follow me on twitter if you haven’t already and get up to the second updates on my plugins and offers

Follow Me@commentluv

Blog News, Blog Tools, Social Networking, Wordpress


40

A great book for wordpress theme design

November
15


WordPress Theme Design – Tessa Blakeley Silver
PacktPublishing
Price 35.99 USD (ebook $27.19)

I bought a book recently after seeing it mentioned in the WP dashboard news items, it’s called WordPress Theme Design by Tessa Blakeley Silver and although a lot of the information regarding the functions of wordpress can be found at the codex, the book gives you so much more like the process gone through to design a theme from scratch.

I do quite a lot of sites in wordpress now and find it much easier to provide a client with a website that can be updated so easily, a few plugins here and there and you can provide a website that does all and more that’s needed.

Usually I get a standard theme and cut it up a bit and change the css to give me my site, or create in photoshop and send off for wordpressing but lately due to some more custom design requests I’ve received and the always dependable mistakes that freelancers can make I have wanted to do the whole thing myself from scratch..

I’ve downloaded a tutorial before about WP theme design from small potato before it was taken over and that was pretty darn useful but was made a little while ago so it wasn’t 2.5 specific.

That’s why I like what Tessa has put her book, it takes you step by step through the process of creating a non-blog wordpress blog, from sketch to WP core code. It’s made a big difference to my initial prototyping of concept sites and has really opened my eyes to what you can do with a bit of manipulation of the wordpress template tags. I’m even working on a magazine style front page for here so I can have a featured post for contests that stays up while it’s open for entries as well as excerpts to the regular posts..

You can buy the book printed or get it as pdf for a bit cheaper (I printed mine out from pdf on someone elses printer lol!) at packet publishing

Packtpublishing is sending me a new book about WordPress For Business Bloggers , they’re offering a deal if you get both books together. Stay tuned for the review of the new book!

Audio, books, Reviews, VWD elottery, Wordpress


7

Mazza Indian Restaurant in Kettering – a fine family restaurant

March
6

Mazza Indian Restaurant Website

Mazza Indian Restaurant in Kettering has it’s own website, it’s nearly finished with just a tiny bit to do up here and there and it’s ready to rock!

As soon as I walked in there I was impressed by the size and quality of furnishing, even the toilet area was high class and immaculate! (you can tell a lot about a restaurant by it’s toilets!) so it’s only fitting that I put in some extra work for their website so it matches the quality and impact of their place.

Once I get the takeaway menu scanned and pdf’d, that will go up and be ready to download by all. One thing I am pleased about is the ability for diners to leave their own reviews which get displayed on the site after being moderated. Browsers can even leave their details to receive updates via email about the latest promotions and events going on at Mazza Restaurant.

I’ll be taking the missus there next week for the launch of the website and we can both enjoy a fine, expertly crafted Indian meal in the beautiful surroundings of this fine Indian restaurant. Right in the heart of Northamptonshire.

I can’t wait! Visit Mazza Indian Restaurant and Lounge website and let me know what you think.

Making / Made Money, Reviews


Comments Off

Review of my Quick Cup from Tefal

December
19

Tefal Quick Cup

Here’s my way cool new hot water maker-er!

I love this thing. I am always blarting on about how much electricity is used to boil a half full kettle for just one cup so I jumped at the chance to buy this the other day during an entire outing to the middle of Oxford street to buy a new kettle.

It takes water from rest to hot enough for a cuppa almost instantly, just fill the reservoir with water and it gets filtered by the additional water filter that screws into place inside. Press the button and out comes steaming hot water straight into the cup.

You can see the Tefal Quick Cup in action here

Function

Programming it to output the correct amount of water is easy, just press both buttons until it flashes and then press and hold the hot water button until the desired amount is reached and let go. Press both buttons again and that’s it. Just press the button once from then on and it’ll fill to that amount.

You can also keep the button pressed for hot water and stop it by releasing the button.

The internal filter works just like a normal water filter for Britta and the like, you can let the Quick Cup know that you’ve changed the filter so the light will flash when it’s time to change it

Price

The Unit costs £59.99 and comes with one filter.
The Tefal Quickcup Filters cost £4 each but you can probably buy packs of 6 for cheaper.

I think this will save money in electric bills too.

Opinion

I like the idea of being able to make a quick cup of tea or coffee, no more waiting around for a kettle to boil. It pretty much fills the cup with water that is sufficiently hot enough. I thought it was going to output a temperature something like that of a self service coffee maker but it was hotter even than that.

It does work but it tends to splash a little bit, the gap between the nozzle and the cup opening is quite big so when water streams out, some of it splashes out when it hits the liquid inside the cup. One solution I have found is to leave the spoon in the cup at an angle so the water hits the spoon handle, that spreads the water out before it splashes down.

Overall, I would say it was worth the money and works well enough. My missus says she still needs a kettle for when she wants to fill the sink up or other dark rituals that she does in the kitchen. :-)

4/5

Response to comments:

Graham Hanson: ….It costs me about half a pence per mug.
I’d like to do the same sums on this thing, so we can compare and verify their claims of up to 65% energy saving.
What I need to know is this…

1. when you use it in manual mode, how long in seconds do you keep your finger on the button for to fill a mug ~350ml

2. what is the power rating? does it say on the bottom?

This sounded like a great excuse to make a cup of coffee, I checked the bottom of the device and the power rating on the bottom says 2500-3000W. The time to fill a full mug was just shy of 25 seconds. Here’s a video I made on my phone …(it sounds a lot louder on the video than it actually is)

Hope this helps!

Gadgets, Reviews


Comments Off

3 Recent Sci fi Books I would recommend

December
9
This was a surprise, I originally bought it from an ebook store so I could read it on my HTC device, it turned out to be a really good book! I didn’t realize until much later that it was based around the mass effect game

It was a nicely technical read and described how humans were using the alien Mass Effect devices to travel between the stars and what happened when they inevitably ‘bumped’ into the neighbors and started a fight. Typical Humans :-)


This was a wonderfully wonderful book. Again, I downloaded it for my HTC. The author has made it available online at his website for free, you can download Postsingular in PRC, PDF or TXT. I used the PRC format on MobiReader and it was very easy to read. You can read Rudy Ruckers’ Blog here

The story deals with what happens to human society after the Singularity of the development of AI and nanotech. The first three chapters could have been an entire novel by themselves and I would have been happy. This is not written in the same way as the other books here, it deals with something that would cause such a dramatic change in human behavior it would be hard to imagine.

Rucker deals with this in a fantastic way, my only disappointment was when there was no more book to read!


My friend gave me this for my Birthday and I’ve just gotten around to reading it. I wanted to save it for a time when I could give it the attention a Richard Morgan book deserves.

It is based around a character who is known as a ‘Thirteen’, a genetically engineered human who was part of a series of experiments to find a way to breed a human as ruthless and alpha as those found over 40,000 years ago before we became domesticated. An intelligent monster, feared around the globe.

This is a detective novel set in the future, I’d like to say Bladerunner but this book is far more deep, as with other Morgan books, it does get a bit political but that only helps to weave the background to the rest of the story and characters.

As a side note, I used to work with the Authors sister. I’m like almost famous. :-)


All three of these books are worth buying for a loved geek or sci-fi fan, I really enjoyed them all immensely.

books, Reviews


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My Wonderful Skype Cell Phone…

November
23

Skype PhoneThis is my new super great phone! I saw the reviews about it before it came out and promised myself I would get one. I now have 6 of the blighters! one for every member of my team at work. Here is my 3 Skype phone review

The cost was just 49.99 for a PAYG model, I didn’t even need to buy any credit because your first month of Skype calls are included for free. Sweet.

I have been using it quite a lot over the past 2 weeks and I thought I’d share my experience with a phone that can give you free calls to the world..
Buying
Easy peasy, just go in and demand one, pay the 50 squids and walk out with it. It’s that simple! (don’t forget your 1p change)
(You can buy one online here)
You can choose from 3 colours; Black, White with blue, White with pink.
I like the black one best, it seems more ‘rubbery’ which is important for me because I keep dropping my phones (I have too many) and this one was no exception.

Setting Up
Again, easy peasy Japanesey!
I was told in the shop that it would take up to 24 hours before all the features were enabled on the phone so the only thing I could do when I first got it was to dial 444 to activate the phone. Luckily, it only takes 5 minutes after the call for the phone to work with receiving calls.

I tried to set up Skype straight away but it kept getting stuck on the ‘connecting’ screen which is my own fault for not being able to wait for the 24 hours to pass before I tried so I decided to explore the other options instead.

Interface: Easy to navigate through the various options, I found the menu system to be quite intuitive and easy to change settings for profiles and other options. There is a button on the side of the phone which allows you to swap between running applications which is useful for finding a contacts info while you’re doing other stuff (like watching geek tv or calling through Skype).

Bluetooth: It works well, easy to scan for available devices and connects quickly. The quality and range is pretty good too, as well as the amount of different devices that you can bluetooth including a stereo headset. I was able to connect my laptop to the phone and use it as a bluetooth modem pretty quickly. The download speed was pretty darn good too (in a 3g enabled area).

Internet (bluetooth): As soon as I had connected as a dial up bluetooth modem, the first page I saw on my laptop browser was from Three telling me that I was about to start browsing the internet and will be getting charged per MB, there was also an option to pay £5 for a months worth of browsing. Pretty good value for having my laptop able to connect to the internet wherever I am.

Internet (phone): The phone can connect to the internet in a variety of ways;

  • Through the menu button, go to ‘browser’ and you’re away. Just enter the web address you want to go to and off you go surfing.
  • Use the ‘launcher’ and choose between Google or Yahoo search, go straight to 3′s music channel where you can download tracks and videos from 1.49 or pay 49p for a full days access to non-stop music, visit the TV channels page. Click straight through to ‘My3′ where you can check your balance and buy add-ons.
  • Use the ‘Planet3′ button on the phone to go straight to 3′s walled garden style interface where you can check your balance, buy add-ons, see news articles, buy music and more

I was pretty impressed with the whole internet usability on the phone, the screen is a decent resolution and navigation is easy using the square button in the middle of the phone which scrolls through the available links one at a time. The speed of downloading and displaying on the screen was one of the fastest I have experienced on a mobile device.

Value Added Features: Live TV! at first, I thought this was going to be a gimmick with no real-world value. As it turns out, the live tv is fantastic! hehe, my missus was able to watch a full episode of X-factor while we waited in the car the other night. For just £2 per month, you can have unlimited access to the TV channels.

The quality is what you would expect from streaming content but on a small screen you don’t notice much in the way of mpeg artifacts (those blocky bits that happen on real player). The sound wasn’t too good through the phones speaker but that’s down to the compression used so it can be sent down the 3g connection, still definitely usable though. When listened to through the included headphones, it gets better.

You can watch a variety of channels;
BBC1, ITV1, FHM, BBC3, Nickelodeon, Kiss, BBC News 24, Comedy Channel, ITN, National Geographic, MTV and Kerrang.
There are also options to view Aardman Animations, Geek TV (yey!) and MTV Trax.

One thing I liked was when I clicked on a TV channel, it took me to a page with a TV Guide of what is on the channel and whether it was going to be shown via downloading or not (some programmes aren’t licensed for viewing online). The live-ness of the channels is almost realtime, just a couple of seconds difference between whats on my TV and what gets shown on the phone.

Three provide you with a lot of content that you don’t have to pay for like updates to X-factor which keeps the missus happy at work :-)

Camera: The camera provided is a 2 megapixel affair, the button for taking the picture is on the bottom right side of the phone so you can take pictures in landscape format. The viewer display is surprisingly bright when taking pictures, the lag time between pushing the button and the picture being stored is not too bad (better than my N95 anyway). The pictures themselves come out pretty good too with not too much in the way of the white balance problems that you get with camera phone pictures.

Cellular: The phone picks up a 3g signal well enough and there’s always 2g if a 3g signal isn’t available, the quality of a cellular call is just what you would expect. The phones speaker is nice, it doesn’t distort the calls and is clear. Calls and text messages cost just 12p per minute flat rate to any network and at any time. You can stretch the minutes to get even better value 3p per minute calls by paying for an addon.

I just found out that receiving calls in Hong Kong is free if you’re using a UK Three phone. Cool!

Skype: The big kahoona, the reason why I bought the phone in the first place..
It works! and it works well, I’m impressed with it a LOT.
You can sign up with a new username direct from the phone without too much trouble, you don’t even need to enter any personal details like a name or email address which is pretty good for anonymous users. You can also sign in with an existing account (obviously).

You can add a contact and also store the Skype name in the contacts details as well as fax numbers, email address, picture, homepage, notes, voice and video ringtone and group setting. Pretty thorough.

Adding a new contact is pretty quick, the request came through to another Skype phone within a couple of seconds and took just a couple of seconds for the contact to show on the originating handset after the request had been authorized.

Making a call takes a few seconds to connect as it needs to initiate a data connection, the 3 lady tells you that the call is connecting and then you hear the ringing tone. Call quality was pretty good too, better than I was expecting even when I wasn’t in a 3g network. Also, the fact that 2 brand new phones can call each other via Skype (almost) straight away without any calling credit is an amazing feature and one that I’m sure is one of the major reasons why someone would buy a Skype phone in the first place.

The chat function is almost instant too, sending Skype chats between phones takes just a few seconds to go through and could save a text-maniac a fortune in charges if used properly! You can use a standard T9 dictionary input which speeds things up even more or use the multi-press method (for people that can’t spell).

Receiving a call shows up as an incoming mobile call from 3 and can be initiated from another Skype Three phone or in fact, from any Skype enabled device (pda, pc, mac etc). I was able to receive calls made from a Hong Kong Skype connection and the quality was just as good as a call from a local Skype. Pretty impressive.

Accessories: The phone comes with a mains charger, a USB cable (USB to mini-usb) to charge and connect the device to a PC for the sync software, a stereo hands free headset and a 256MB micro-SD card (upgradeable to 1GB). The manual is pretty easy to read and follow (typically I don’t even open the manual!) and everything fits nicely in the box.

When you connect the USB cable to the phone and PC, you can choose the option on the phone to Sync or use the phone as a USB mass storage device making transfer of music files and videos a snap to do. (and good for emergency storing of office documents)

Customer Service: This was the reason I (and many others) left Three the first time I used their phones, their customer service was pants!

This time around though, it is quite good. I had reason to call them because a music download I paid for didn’t come through, I managed to get through to someone with a good standard of English within a few rings. They were able to check my account pretty quickly and came back with an answer within 1 minute of hold music. The answer was what I was expecting, I should really wait 24 hours after activating the phone before trying any of the paid services but I can always go back to the same page and choose the option to ‘re-download’ the track and I wouldn’t be charged which was exactly what I did.

I have called them a couple more times to ask about features and they always had an answer for me, one person even suggested that I could take the phone back to the shop and have it exchanged without trouble or get a refund if I wasn’t completely happy.

The customer service in the shop was good too, there were enough helpful assistants available to see me straight away when I walked in and they knew their stuff well enough. Best of all, they were smiling! (much better than the Vodafone creeps who ignore you if they think that you only want information and therefore not earn them any commission!)

Summary

Overall, I am supremely impressed with the phone, service, features and support. It’s nice to have a slim little phone that is easy to use, long on battery life (320 hours standby, 270 minutes talk time (voice)) and actually lives up to it’s hype (SkypeHype!). I’m a sucker for feature rich phones that take up a lot of pocket space and battery power that end up disappointing me within minutes of the 14 day return policy running out but this phone surprised me and has made me consider transferring my 02 contract phone to Three.

It’s a small phone that fits nicely into any pocket, it’s not heavy and it does everything a phone should do very well. The extras like live TV were an added bonus and something that I find myself using again and again while I wait for clients/buses/the missus getting ready and at 2 quid a month – a real bargain!

Topping up is as easy as any other phone, you can do it over the phone, over the internet or at any PP shop (the ones that do electric keys and other phone topups). The top up is permanent, it says it never runs out which makes this phone ideal for buying an elderly parent or child to use as an emergency phone.

Charges, 12p per minute flat rate to any UK landline or mobile phone at any time of day. You can buy add-ons that allow you to call from as little as 3p per minute or pay a bit more and get inclusive minutes to any network.

Roaming is automatic when you go abroad so you don’t need to phone in advance to activate it.

Skype calls and texts are completely free as long as you have topped up at least £10 within the last 30 days. This is something that could potentially save you hundreds of pounds in charges. Ask your children (if you have any) how many texts they send to their friends per month and compare that to unlimited (subject to fair use) Skype chats you can have for a tenner and you’ll see why this phone is such good value.

Almost everyone I have shown the phone has bought one, my entire workplace now uses them and it will save us a bundle in text and call charges. The charges for calling other phones is better than my other PAYG phone (vodafone) and using it as a bluetooth modem will really help with my travels.

I give it 5/5 and I heartily recommend everyone to go and get one now! For 50 quid, it’s a fantastic Christmas present for a loved one.

You can get one at the Skype shop for 49.99GBP with FREE delivery or visit any Three shop and get one there.

Buy a Three/Skype phone online with FREE delivery here.

You can see the other colours available here

Happy Skype-ing!

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