It’s another example of how YouTube is enabling the creation of some killer niche video sites
Archive for October, 2006
Mike links to a Joel on Software post from 2000 called Ben and Jerry’s vs Amazon, which despite being over six years old, makes the choices faced in running a startup very clear.
I’m not sure I qualify as running a startup anymore, as Carsurvey.org is over 9 years old, but I run CSDO Media as a one man band, and I definitely prefer the organic “Ben and Jerry’s” method of growing a company.
Less than 12 hours after coming up with the idea, I’m happy to launch CarFilter.co.uk (link now removed)
It’s a simple site for searching UK car reviews, based on Google’s new Custom Search Engine
Inspired by the review Matt Cutts wrote, I spent some time writing lots of URL patterns that would filter only the review pages of most major UK car sites. I’m pretty happy with the result, which I think gives nicer results than just a plain “model manufacturer reviews” search on Google UK
I’m a bit of a fan of Budvar Lager, but it’s quite difficult to buy it in reasonable quantities anywhere near my home. My local ASDA used to sell it, but I haven’t seen any there for about nine months.
As usual, I did some searching online to see if I could find someone who would sell me Budvar at a reasonable price.
Firstly, all the specialist Internet drinks sites proved to be useless. They’re fine for premium wine and spirits, but the postage for crates of lager is just too much. I don’t want to pay £35 or so for 24 x 330ml bottles of lager. I like Budvar, but not that much. Kronenbourg 1664 is nearly as nice, and is often on offer at my local ASDA.
Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s all claim to offer Budvar online. Below is a brief summary of my experiences with their services:
My first order was with Tesco. They had a good offer on for 24 x 330ml bottles of budvar for £18 each + £5 delivery
First annoyance is that you have to create an account and log in to browse the site. It really puts you off checking out what they have on offer
The site is functional, but is not very pleasant to browse. The text is too small, as are the photos. I wasn’t tempted to browse past the lager section
Delivery slots were hard to get. I had to book over a week in advance. The delivery slots were also two hours long
Despite the above issues, three crates of Budvar turned up as requested. The annoying thing is that they now no longer stock Budvar at all
Overall marks: 6/10
This felt like a trip back to 1998. Their site (just recently updated) works with Safari, but doesn’t like Camino. I was shown a page suggesting I upgrade to Internet Explorer 4 or higher, or Netscape 4.5 or higher. There was a link to a non-existent page on Netscape’s website. No mention of Firefox etc. This is a disgrace in 2006
Their site in general is comparable to Tesco’s site. ASDA’s navigation is worse, but their product details are better
They do allow you browse (using Safari) without logging in, and they showed Budvar as being available. Once I created an account to place an order, Budvar wasn’t listed
I raised a query about this through their website, which states that they will back to you in 48 hours. It took them roughly two weeks to call me (it was long enough that I can’t be specific about the number of days). The guy I spoke to said that the site you see without logging in is just a demo, and that products shown there might not actually be available
When I asked about why my local store didn’t stock Budvar, and why I couldn’t order it, he suggested filling in a form elsewhere on the ASDA website. Somehow I have my doubts that this would result in me being able to buy Budvar anytime soon
I’ve been bombarded with emails by ASDA since creating an account. Many more than either Tesco or Sainsbury’s. So much so that I’ve asked them to stop sending me emails
Overall marks: 3/10
Sainsbury’s site is nicer to use than either ASDA or Tesco. Bigger text, clearer navigation, no login required to browse the site
They stock 4 x 330ml bottles of Budvar for £3.99, but you save £1 if you buy two packs. So basically it’s £21 for 24 x 330ml bottles. More expensive than Tesco, but at least they still sell it
Delivery was available within two days, and the delivery slot was one hour. Noticeably better than Tesco
As it was pleasant to browse the site, I order some Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (on offer) and 20 bags of Bacon Wheat Crunchies (not available at my local ASDA)
Everything turned up on time, although I only got 48 bottles of lager, rather than the 80 I ordered. They do warn you that this might happen. The 20 bags of Wheat Crunchies were delivered filling a single carrier bag to capacity (they don’t sell multipacks). The lager was in carrier bags with 8 bottle per bag. Surely it would have been easier to deliver two crates as Tesco did?
I’ve just been emailed a £5 voucher for my next order, which will cover the delivery charge. They also offer free delivery between Tuesday and Thursday if you spend more than £70
Overall marks: 8/10
From my admittedly limited experience, Sainsbury definitely seem to have the edge over Tesco in terms of the customer experience, and ASDA have some serious catching up to do
On the comments pages, the reviews now have their dates and times displayed in the same format as the comments. This is in response to a visitor request, and makes things more consistent across those pages.
The review summary and “Add new comment” page elements have been enlarged to make them more visible.
As usual, these changes have also been made to the Mobile Phone and Motorcycle sites.
It’s a QWERTY slider Windows Mobile device weighing only 119g, complete with HSDPA and and WiFi. Basically it has all the features of the HTC TYTN, but at only 2/3 of the weight.
I still think I’ll be going for a Nokia N95, combined with my existing Dell Axim X50v, but currently this new Samsung would be my second choice for a new phone.
Over the weekend I followed a link to a post about IE7 coming this month. To make sure I had no issues with IE7 compatibility, I downloaded the RC1 build, and had a good look round my sites for any rendering problems.
Things were pretty good, but it did seem that the Easy Clearing technique I was using wasn’t working with IE7, resulting in the search box and tabbed navigation floating being detached from the navigation bar below.
A little searching produced this fix, which is also now reflected in the original Easy Clearing page. Basically I changed the old display:inline-table to display:inline-block, and IE7 came into line. This change has now been made to all my live sites.
Thanks to all the research done by various CSS experts, Carsurvey.org and related sites now display properly on IE7, as well as the other browsers I actively try to support – IE5 & IE6 on Windows, and the latest versions of Firefox, Opera, and Safari.
A few weeks ago I took the plunge and purchased a 250Gb Topfield PVR. I already have SKY+, but I wanted a Topfield for the following reasons:
- At some point in the next six months, I’m going to switch to SKY HD, but I want to empty my 160Gb SKY+ box before I make the switch. An extra PVR with a large disk will make it easy to manage the switchover. I’m recording everything new on the Topfield, whilst I’m mostly watching the programmes I’ve already got on my SKY+ box
- When I switch to SKY HD, it does appear that the HD recordings use a lot of disk space, so the standard SKY HD disk would be too small for both my HD and SD recordings, and I don’t want to void the warranty straight away by replacing the disk
- The Topfield allows you to extract its recordings off its hard disk over USB. They can then be edited and burned to DVD on a computer. This should be easier and produce better picture quality than recording on a DVD recorder via a SCART cable
- The Topfield is massively customisable using add on programmes called TAPs. For a geek like me, this is hugely appealing
Having lived with Topfield for a few weeks, here are my initial impressions. First the negative points:
- It’s a bit loud. I’ve gotten used to it, and using the HDD Info TAP to turn the hard disk acoustic management on helped, but it could still be better
- The remote is not the best – the buttons are a little too small, and the IR beam needs to have a good line of sight
- The default software is pretty basic
- It takes a while to start up from standby – 10 to 15 seconds or so
- There are quite a few quirks to get used to. No showstoppers, but it’s not a product that I’d expect non technical users to get the most out of
- TAPS such as HDD Info, eit2mei, and especially MyStuff transform the Topfield. If only SKY+ was as customisable…
- There’s a fantastic support site at Toppy.org.uk
- I’ve extracted programmes off the Topfield onto my Mac mini over a USB cable, and the quality when played through VLC is very impressive
Overall, I’m very happy with my Topfield. If you’re willing to spend some time customising it with downloaded TAPs, it’s probably the best Freeview PVR available (I’ve used a DigiFusion FVRT200 and Humax PVR-9200T in the past, by way of comparison).
I rarely get much time to play games (Sunday afternoons usually), but three recent releases have impressed me:
- 42 All-Time Classics for the Nintendo DS. Almost every card game and board game you can think of, with instructions for each game built into the cartridge, and almost every game multiplayer enabled over Wifi. Microsoft would charge 400 points (£3.40) for almost any of these games over Xbox Live, yet I bought this cartridge with 42 games for £16.99 including delivery. I hope Sony are taking notes, as products like this and the DS Lite, make far more sense for portable gaming than the PSP and most of its games
- Test Drive Unlimited on the Xbox 360. The graphics are good, but not amazing, and handling is OK, but nothing more. However, the scale and atmosphere of this game is stunning. A massive island with almost every road, populated with lots of challenges and other players online, who are available to race against. Birds and airliners fly overhead, and if it wasn’t for the lack of pedestrians, you could almost be there. In one way, it’s like the driving parts of Grand Theft Auto done properly, but it’s also the nearest thing I’ve ever come across to The Cannonball Run in a game. One challenge involves driving a 124.3 mile circuit of the island in 60 minutes. Doing that in a Ferrari Enzo, on single carriage roads populated with other traffic, is what I call entertainment
- Defcon. It took 23 years, but at last, someone has produced a game that does justice to the film WarGames. Simple learn, beautiful to look at, and only £10. An absolute bargain. Do you want to play Chess (see 42 All-Time Classics), or would you rather play Global Thermonuclear War?
In an effort to be kinder to the environment, I’ve recently gone through my house and replaced all the frequently used bulbs with energy saving CFL bulbs.
It wasn’t difficult, but I did run into a few issues:
- Many of the light fittings in my house use 60W SES fitting candle bulbs. Most shops I went to only offered 7W energy savers in that shape and fitting, which are supposedly equivalent to 40W bulbs, but in reality are probably a little less powerful (apparently multiplying an energy saving bulb’s power by four gives a more accurate equivalence – 4 x 7W = 28W. That didn’t seem like a good option if I wanted a reasonable amount of light
- I use a 150W uplighter in my office (spare bedroom), as it gets rather dark on winter afternoons, and I need more than just one 100W bulb to keep me alert and working. No shops I went to sold a suitably powerful energy saving bulb for my uplighter
- Some of my light fittings don’t have much clearance for bulbs, and normal energy savers are too long to fit
- CFL bulbs don’t work with normal dimmer switches, and there were a couple of dimmers in my house
- I found YourWelcome.co.uk would sell me eight 11W spiral candle bulbs in an SES fitting for £16 + £1.99 delivery. I ordered a pack and I’m very impressed. The price was good, they’re almost as bright as the 60W incandescent bulbs they replaced, and they’re only a fraction larger (I haven’t had a problem fitting them anywhere)
- BLT Direct have a massive selection of bulbs, and I found solutions to my uplighter and clearance problems here. Their 18W energy saving minispiral bulb is a great replacement for 100W bulbs in tight places. It is a little bigger than an incandescent bulb, but its much shorter than other energy savers I’ve seen. They also sell some seriously powerful energy savers – a 30W Energy Saving Spiral was the perfect solution to my uplighter problem. They even offer an 85W energy saver, should you need to light up a football stadium or similar area (they claim it’s equivalent to a normal 430W bulb)
- I replaced one of the dimmer switches with a normal switch. Very easy to do (five minutes with a screwdriver). I wasn’t a huge fan of the dimmer switches anyway (they were already fitted when I bought my house)
I’m very pleased with results of the above changes. I’m being a little kinder to the planet, without having to change any of my light fittings, and with little sacrifice in terms of the amount of light in my house.