Category Archives: Reviews

QPad MK-85 Keyboard

QPad MK-85 First Impressions

I’m typing this on my new QPad MK-85 keyboard. It’s not that I’m into PC gaming that I bought this; but I spend so much time on the keyboard that I wanted a decent tool for the job. So far it’s been great – the keyboard is very heavy for a keyboard, rock solid construction, and the keys are lovely to type on. Shame it doesn’t correct the spelling for me too.

Here’s a pic. Oh, did I forget to mention it glows in the dark 🙂

QPad MK-85 Keyboard

Review: Dyson DC23 – A Great Vacuum Cleaner

Up until now we’ve used a Miele S718 vacuum cleaner to quite good effect; but since we got a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel last year it was obvious that the Miele was struggling to pick up the pet hair off the carpet.

By the way these dogs are described as “moderate shedders” of hair. I’d hate to see one that sheds a lot!

So we decided to replace it with a Dyson DC23 “Animal”. The vacuum is a compact format, as opposed to an upright, and comes with a good selection of tools and accessories including the all important turbo head for removing pet hairs. The vacuum has reasonably well packaged and took only a few minutes to assemble, though I struggled at one point to figure out just how the hose fitted around the cleaner body.

Time for a try out. There’s a reasonable length of electric cable; but I did think it could have been a few yards longer to reduce the need to keep moving sockets. I had hovered the sitting room only the afternoon before and the dog hadn’t been in there so I was completely amazed by the amount of hair that the vacuum picked up. Hopefully you can see this in the image.

Dog hair in the vacuum cylinder

So that’s a result! If I had any criticisms on this cleaner it’s in the very plastic construction of some of the parts. Only time will tell if these stand the rigors of domestic life.

As well as the large turbo head you also get:

  • Small turbo head for tight spaces (good for the stairs)
  • Wide brush head for hard floors
  • Small round brush head
  • Small narrow head for maximum suction
  • Small flat head for upholstery

The large turbo head and the three small heads all fit neatly onto the body of the cleaner for easy transport from one room to another.

Here are images of the vacuum Cylinder and the turbo heads:

The vacuum cleaner body

Large and small turbo heads

Review: Memeo Autobackup Premium

This software seemed like a great idea – something that would automatically backup my files as and when they'd changed. Unfortunately the reality fell far, far short of the promise with software that functioned very poorly and support to match. Functionally this software looks very good. You create backup 'plans' in which you decide where you want the backup files to go and then select which areas you want to backup. This you can do by selecting from a set of quick picks, e.g. My Documents, My Pictures, My Music etc; or you can select directories from the file system or you can choose files by their Tag. Grand. Once you chosen the files to backup the Memeo goes off and makes an initial backup of everything you've selected. CPU usage during this process is very high, which is only to be expected really, so it's best to start this process at night or let it run over a weekend. After the initial copy has been made then Memeo runs in the System Tray and every time you save a file it gets backed up. You can also keep a number of copies of files, which is good for things like documents. So things were going well for me and my Memeo. I created a few plans to backup everything I have on disk, documents in one plan, pictures in another…. Away Memeo went merrily backing everything up. However after a couple of days I noticed that when I saved a file there was no longer a little pop up to say the file had been backed up. When I opened Memeo I found that all the backup plans had stopped working several days before. There's an active support forum for this product so I posted my problem and got a response from someone in Memeo support:

Delete all the backup plans in the file system and start again.

Now to me that doesn't sound like a solution, it sounds like a desperate measure. Not being offered any alternatives that's what I did. There are instructions in the forum for 'reactivating' a backup; but these didn't work as documented so I deleted all my backups and started again. However the same thing happened again a few days later. I reported the problem again and was given the same response; start again. Even after emailing the log files to Memeo support the response was; delete all the plans and start again. To cut a long story short here I've done this 'start again' process at least 5 times now. I've had Memeo customer support do a remote access session on my PC to try to find the problem. After that they downgraded my Memeo version from Premium to Standard; but the same thing happened. After that their suggestion was (you've guessed it) delete all the plans and start again. In addition to the problem with the plans that stopped working I've also had he following issues with the software:

  • With all plans suspended (paused) the software was still using between 50% and 90% of the CPU (Intel Core 2 2.13GHz). This meant I couldn't just pause the plans, I had to quit the software altogether.
  • Once I got to more that 5 plans they'd (the plans) would start disappearing off the list meaning I could no longer edit their configuration or remove the plan.
  • Plans could not be reactivated once a plan had been deleted. I was a case of starting the whole thing again from scratch.

In defense of the software I will say that I'm running it on Vista Ultimate SP1. Maybe it runs fine on XP; but given the activity in the support forum and the huge FAQ list of issues I'm not convinced of this. I've given the software one star because

  • Louder Voice won't let me give it 0 stars
  • It deserves something for being a good idea

If I ever get the software working properly I'll update this review.

Review: ETEN Glofiish X800

I bought this PDA to be my mobile business partner; phone, organizer, web & email on the go. However poor performance and poor quality has led me to replace it with a standard mobile phone after only 7 months. Purchasing this was an expensive mistake.

Review of ETEN Glofiish X800
Rated as 1/5 on Aug 17 2008 by David Hollingworth


I did a lot of research on-line before I bought this product, read lots of reviews, though most of these reviewed what was in the box. Unfortunately I failed to connect with the ETEN European Users forum. Had I done so I would have thought again about buying this device.

What really swayed me towards the X800 was the VGA screen. There’s no doubt that this is much higher resolution than similar products from HTC, Palm, Toshiba & the like available at the time. The reports that the CPU was ‘slightly under powered’ didn’t deter me. The lure of the screen pulled me in.

I also wanted a device with Windows Mobile 6 so that I could fully sync my Outlook calendar and use Microsoft Office and other productivity tools. The X800 also came with Spb Mobile Shell which is a great enhancement to the basic Today screen.

So what went wrong? Given that the phone was bought to support my business the reliability problems I experienced rendered it worse than useless.

  • The phone would frequently lock up and need rebooting at least once a day. This would often happen when a call was incoming and so this was more than just an inconvenience.
  • It would often drop incoming calls when I pressed the answer button. On one occasion someone (Unknown number) tried five times to call in quick succession, every time I pressed answer the line was dead. Another reboot required and probably lost business.
  • Call quality was poor with a lot of echo on the line and a lot of static too.
  • The camera quality is very poor for a 2 megapixel camera. OK, not essential for business; but it’s something I like to use.
  • Often the phone would go completely crazy and start playing an Arctic Monkeys MP3 track at high volume. Most embarrassing when talking to a client and also requiring a reboot to fix.
  • The voice command will switch on at random. Turning it off would only temporarily alleviate the problem as it would come back on again a short time later. Another reboot.
  • Overall the device is badly underpowered and most operations are sluggish.
  • Battery life is dreadful. The phone needs about 2 hours charging a day to last 24 hours. It’s a lot better with all the radios switched off.
  • Support from ETEN is very, very poor and really only limited to the occasional release of new firmware. My device had the latest firmware when it was delivered.

Some time after buying the X800 I was surfing the net and came across what has to be the best kept secret ETEN users have, the European users group forum. There’s some real experts on this site providing updated firmware and fixes for the problems the X800 has. I’ve installed a fix for poor screen performance that greatly enhanced the response of the touch screen. However I’ve not tried a firmware upgrade yet as this can completely wreck the phone if it goes wrong.

The Glofiish X800 does have some good features:

  • There’s no doubt that the screen is good with a nice VGA resolution.
  • Wifi performance is reasonable though Internet Explorer often hangs. This is probably a problem with IE rather than the phone.

So not many redeeming features. I’m now using a fairly basic mobile phone (review to follow) which also syncs with Outlook and gives me a lot more confidence that I’m going to be able to answer all calls and won’t need rebooting. Now I’ve an alternative I might try replacing the firmware with a version from the user group. If this fixes the issues I’ll update this review, otherwise I’ll just continue to use it for wifi access.

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Goalpro 2008 Reviewed

A face lift, but no new functionality to speak of, doesn’t warrant the hefty upgrade fee for this goal tracking software.

Review of Goalpro 2008
Rated as 2/5 on Dec 30 2007 by David Hollingworth


It was some time ago that I stopped using Goalpro 6 in favour of MyLifeOrganized (MLO) for organizing my goals and getting things done. At the time I felt that Goalpro had an outdated user interface and lacked certain functions that GTD requires such as contexts. Whilst Goalpro has some nice features, like the scratch pad, it just didn’t cut it for me as a tool for day to day use.

I was interested to try out the new Goalpro 2008 version released recently to see if there was any new functionality that would tempt me back to Goalpro. I have to say that I was very disappointed with what I found. Sure there’s a new set of icons that give the tired user interface a bit of a face lift; but really that’s where it ends. The “what’s new” list give a few other items that have changed like the ‘completely revised journal’; but when I looked at the journal it looked exactly the same as the previous version. Other examples include new Calendar and Success Tree options; but it fails to say what those options are and again the Success Tree and Calendar look exactly the same as in Goalpro 6 with the exception on new icons.

Then you come to the price. A purchase isn’t cheap at $89.95; but if this software fits your requirements then it’s worth paying the price. It’s the upgrade price that gets me; a whopping $59.95 for no new functionality. That is nothing short of a rip off and is certainly very, very poor value for money. I, for one, won’t be upgrading.

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Review: The Brick Oven Restaurant

The Brick Oven is an excellent place to eat serving generous portions of well prepared food with a touch of the unusual.

Review of The Brick Oven Restaurant, Main Street, Bantry, West Cork, Ireland
Rated as 5/5 on Jul 26 2007 by David Hollingworth


I’ve only eaten in The Brick Oven at lunch times so I can’t comment on the evening menu. However if the lunch menu is anything to go by I can’t see there being any problems.

The menu is fairly standard for a bistro restaurant with a range of pizzas, in two sizes, plus hot baguettes, salads and some pasta and fish dishes. The most unusual item is the Quesilladas which is a tortilla that’s been heated, the ingredients (cheese, smoked chicken etc) placed on top and then folded to seal it all in. Finally it’s turned over to cook on the other side; delicious! The pizzas too are very good having been prepared on a nice thin base and then, like everything else, cooked in the brick oven. You can watch the chef preparing the food from the eating area and the logs burning at the back of the oven make a nice feature.

The Brick Oven restaurant is situated at the Cork end of the main square in Bantry just next to the Garda Sation and is an excellent place to eat.

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Reviewed: The Ballymun Plaza Hotel

The Ballymun Plaza – just one more tenement building that should be knocked down!

Review of Ballymun Plaza Hotel, Ballymun, Dublin, Ireland
Rated as 1/5 on Jul 26 2007 by David Hollingworth


I would not normally have chosen to stay in the Ballymun Plaza; but a combination of a conference at Dublin Airport and a weekend break deal from Supervalu swayed me in the direction of this hotel.

Initial impressions were far from encouraging; the ground floor retail units weren’t completed giving the hotel a half finished look; but these were not as discouraging as the completely run down surroundings the hotel has been built in. Ballymun was renowned for its poor social housing and whilst the tower blocks have been demolished the hotel is surrounded by large tenement blocks, some of which are still occupied and some boarded up; and the whole area speaks of decline and deprivation.

Having seen the area then only thing that persuaded me not to look for somewhere else was the provision of a secure underground car park.

Check in was very slow, despite having emailed the hotel a few weeks before to ensure we’d have a family room we still had to wait in reception while the house keeper searched empty rooms for one with a single and double bed. The room itself was clean; but very basic. There were complimentary tea / coffee facilities in the room; but the kettle was mounted half way up a wall in a very inconvenient position to use. The furnishings in the room had to have been the most basic of any hotel I’ve been in.

We’d booked a table for dinner when we checked in; but when we went down to the restaurant we were asked to take dinner in the bar – something that I refused to do as I didn’t want my seven year old daughter in the bar that that hour of the evening. Having insisted on a table in the restaurant we were shown to a table for two (there’s three of us in case you’d forgotten), perhaps the waiter couldn’t count. Anyway there were plenty of tables for four available so I selected one and we sat down to eat.

The food was quite reasonable, and if anything this was the one redeeming feature of the hotel. Nothing exciting, I ordered Chicken Supreme and got Chicken Kiev; but it was well cooked and nicely presented. The breakfasts too where very tasty.

Noise at night was also a problem. Being a hotel I always expect some noise with guests coming and going. However both nights we stayed were punctuated by both guests and staff yelling up and down the corridors and guests repeatedly slamming doors. Desperate.

One final thing; I wondered why the fire alarm sensor in our room was covered in a plastic bag thus rendering it useless.

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Reviewed: Topeak Comp 150 Wireless Cycle Computer

Didn’t do what it said on the tin!

Review of Topeak Comp 150 Wireless Cycle Computer
Rated as 1/5 on Jun 22 2007 by David Hollingworth


I bought this wireless cycle computer to go with my new bike for two reasons. One was the fact that it had lots of functions and the second was the fact that it said on the box that it was suitable for mountain bikes. Also it wasn’t cheap so I thought (erroneously) that it had to be good.

So I installed it, which was fiddly; but no more so than a wired cycle computer. The instructions specified a maximum of 18 inches (1.5 feet) between the top of the sensor and the display unit. However at that distance no signal was being received by the display unit.

Tests showed that unless the sensor was 14 inches or less from the display unit then the signal was lost. On a mountain bike with a 20 inch frame this distance is impossible to achieve.

So I’ve been unable to check out the functions of the Comp 150 because it didn’t do what it said it would do; support 18 inches between sensor and display.

Hust in passing I found the Topeak web site attractive to look at; but lacking is useful information. The FAQ section of the site didn’t work at all and there was no troubleshooting section that I could find.

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The Social and Health Education Project

In one of my other lives I build web sites and I’m very pleased to be able to announce today the launch of a new site for The Social and Health Education Project (SHEP).

The project does sterling work in the area of providing personal development and community training courses as well as training the facilitators to go out in society and deliver the courses. Here’s a small snippet from the description of their work:

Through its Training and Development Services, SHEP offers a wide range of courses aimed at helping people to be effective in their personal lives, in their family relationships and in their communities. It also trains people to become group-facilitators. Many of these use the skills they learn with the Project in their professional work or in their work in the community. Others undergo advanced training in order to play specialist roles with the Project, working either as Community Tutors or as Organisational Mentors. Community Tutors deliver a number of introductory courses in personal development through SHEP’s Community Training Programme, while Organisational Mentors provide support and guidance for organisations operating in the community and voluntary sector through the Project’s Community Governance Enhancement Programme.

If you’ve an interest in personal development or community and society issues then please visit the site and help support the work that they do.

Reviewed: Foundation Course in Social and Health Education

This course gives an excellent opportunity to experience the personal dimension to human development. The course runs for six months and covers a wide range of emotional and cognitive areas. The personal benefits to be gained are immense and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is interested in themselves as a human being.

Review of Foundation Course in Social and Health Education – Part One, Bessborough Centre, Mahon, Cork, Ireland
Rated as 5/5 on Jun 15 2007 by David Hollingworth


The course is run by The Social and Health Education Project in Cork, lasts six months from September to May and consists of a 2 1/2 hour meeting each week plus several weekend workshops. The groups are a reasonable size (the one I attended started out at 17) and there are two trained facilitators. The course starts gently with introductions and setting the ground rules for the next six months, things like confidentiality and respect for the other group members, before moving on to develop listening skills.

Over the next six months we studied a wide range of areas including managing emotions, assertive communication (three full days on this), stress, exercise, interplay of relationships and the super-ego. All the work is experiential, there’s no note taking and very little in the way of handouts; but I found that this did not detract from the learning experience.

Personally I found the course immensely beneficial. I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of myself and the ways in which I interact with other people. I’ve gained more confidence and now have strategies to recognize and deal with my super-ego when it criticises or judges me. All in all I would thoroughly recommend this course.

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