Thursday, July 6, 2017

Epiphone SG and Les Paul Special

Epiphone SG Worn G-400

I started learning to play the guitar about 44 years ago, not that you'd know. Because I'm still not very good at it.

My first guitar was an awful old acoustic thing bought from a school friend. My second was a Shaftesbury copy electric, also from a friend, and also a bit worn out. But to be fair it kept me going for many years as I half-heartedly plugged away at learning.

Then, on a whim, I bought a cheap Fender Stratocaster copy for just over £100. It was okay.

But I got the urge for a 'proper' guitar... but couldn't afford a real Gibson or Fender, so I bought this cherry red work of art.

It is great, I like it so much, it's simple, it sounds great, it's well made - I don't really know how a 'real' SG could be any better...

I paid under £200 for it, an absolute bargain, more details about the guitar are HERE.

Oddly, though, I started looking around recently for another guitar. Basically I'd like a room full of 'em. I spent a lot of time looking at Fender Squier Telecasters.

Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II

So - what happened! I was seduced by this beauty. I'm not quite sure how.

Full title is Slash "AFD" Les Paul Special-II Guitar Outfit - AFD standing for "Appetite for Destruction" and outfit, because it comes with some bits and pieces - a really nice gig bag, some Slash plectrums and a Slash strap.

The front of the guitar is 'Appetite Amber', the rear and neck are a lovely cherry red. It's simply gorgeous.

It has simple controls, much like a Tele, and though the neck is bolt-on, unlike the SG, it's very similar in feel, action and quality.

It cost £150 on special offer, delivered.

An extra feature is that the lower pickup contains a tuner which is a joy to use and seems quite accurate, press a button and flashing LEDs show you how far off the string is from tune. Brilliant.

More details are HERE

There's just one problem really - they are very, very similar when playing them... I don't know what I was expecting really... maybe I should have gone for the Tele after all.

Monday, January 9, 2017

One Year On - KIA pro_cee'd SE 1.6 CRDi

I've still not got used to that name, we never call it by its name, it's always just "the KIA". If we had two, I dunno what we'd do.

I'm sat here in my local KIA dealer, waiting for the car to finish its first year service. It'd freezing and the rain is drumming on the windows. I'm hoping their promise of a 90 minute wait turns out to be true!

(It was, under an hour and 15 mins actually, well done Pentraeth Automotive!)
So, a verdict on the first year. I'd better 'fess up' right away, we've not exactly thrashed the car. It's only done about 6,000 miles. School runs in the main, and a couple of trips further afield, but nothing major. One day it will tour the Highlands, but not quite yet. Maybe 2017.

One statistic I can reveal, the fuel consumption, which has been a predictably disappointing but not at all bad 54mpg. Comfortingly, this is what the car itself thinks it's doing too... I can verify this because sadly I have a fetish for recording such things.

Reliability has been 100%, not even a glimmer of a fault. A very, very slightly leaky rear tyre, that's it. It is dripping with electrical gadgetry, all of it works perfectly, and the oily bits have performed without the slightest problem. Well... I say things work perfectly, they do but maybe there are some design 'issues'.

For example, the keyless entry works, but you have to time your moves to perfection to achieve a smooth unlocking. You approach the car, the wing mirrors unfold, you press the door button JUST at the correct moment, you're in. But a second early or late, it takes umbrage and locks again. Now I just use the key fob. Oddly, the rear hatch works much better, approach the car with a shopping trolley in pouring rain and you'll find it's open, terrific.

And the Stop/Start thingy. I just don't like it. I'll roll up to a T junction and be ready for a speedy turn onto the main road, to find the engine is off (I missed this cos I'm listening to Def Leppard). Okay, it starts quickly enough, but it's disconcerting. And the bad thing is, you can't just disable this feature, every trip you have to remember.

Another niggle... probably connected with KIA's desire to keep your battery topped up so it can do the Stop/start... when you're sitting waiting in the car, engine off (which I often do) the radio/media player will go off after 5 minutes or so to save the battery. Bloomin' heck it's only a radio! This is annoying.

And the sat-nav is a bit weird, sends you off on some odd routes, don't trust it. And the air-con, well, the climate control, can go a bit crazy sometimes if left to its own devices, maybe they all do, I'm sure it's trying and its heart is in the right place.

(Actually, reading back over these whinges... it's not the car... it's the software that's to blame for any annoyances. As a programmer, I wish I could get in there and fix these things!)

And the only other thing to moan about would be... road noise. It does seem to make quite a racket on some surfaces. The handling is terrific and the ride is okay, but the roar from the tyres can get a bit tiresome.

These niggles aside, it has been a pleasure to drive this last year. It looks good, is comfortable, goes fast well, goes slow well, isn't too big or too small, MPG is acceptable and the in-car gadgets are pretty good. I like it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Linx7 Windows tablet - bargain or bin-job?

I spotted a bargain on-line the other day, and rushed in to purchase without thinking things through properly.

So, yes, I got a good deal, but I'm somewhat regretting it now.

Which is shame, because the actual physical thing I bought is perfectly fine. Well, ish.

The problem is - the software - or more accurately, the operating system.

So, the tablet itself, a Linx7. Not the best specified device in the world, but perfectly acceptable for the price. I paid forty quid for it, delivered.

For that you get a 7" tablet with quad-core Intel Atom Bay processor (Z3735G, 1.33GHz). It has a 1280 x 800 screen, terrible front and rear cameras, and a micro-SD can add 64 gig to the 32 gig it comes with. And 1 gig of RAM.

The cameras are both awful, both 2 megapixel, the front facing is just good enough for Skype, the rear is totally useless. The battery life is diabolical.

It has Bluetooth. No GPS. But the phrase 'for the money' needs reiterating at every point. It IS cheap!

BUT... it is 'blessed' with the Windows operating system. Now I've got a 7" tablet already, with Android OS. I'd got a bit tired of it, and fancied a change. And, hey, I know Windows - it would be refreshing to have a tablet with Windows on it. Turns out, no it isn't refreshing. It's a pain.

The Linx7 comes with Windows 8.1 on it, which does it no favours, so once offered the chance I upgraded to Windows 10 at the first opportunity. The upgrade didn't go particularly smoothly, and once it was finished I discovered the cameras didn't work any more. A search of the internet resulted in a lot of other folk with the same problem, eventually I tracked down new drivers and managed to get it all working again.

My previous experience with Windows 10 is not good. I upgraded my laptop and really didn't like W10 - the laptop isn't touch, so it all seems a bit forced somehow. So I decided to leave my desktop on Windows 7, but the bloomin' thing is really annoying me now, constantly trying to get me to upgrade. And it won't take NO for an answer. Apparently you can edit the registry to stop it. Seriously?!

My HP Stream laptop/netbook is also asking to Upgrade, and so, as it is a touch device, I said, Yes, go ahead, upgrade. But it won't. Not enough 'disk' space to achieve it apparently. It refuses to use the SD-card memory to do it, so it's an absolute mare to get it done apparently, so much faff (according to t'internet) that I can't be doing with it. Of course it keeps badgering me to upgrade, how annoying is that?

And so to this tablet. Here's the thing... W10 it isn't as good at being a tablet OS as Android. It just isn't. And the split personality when you flip back and forth between Apps and 'old' Windows is painful.

Just to put the tin lid on it, the Windows App store is poor. For example there's an eBay app, but it doesn't work properly. There isn't a nice YouTube app. There's just a lot of iffy Apps which largely have bad reviews. Dear oh dear.

So. Not a bad device, for the cash, but ruined by a dodgy OS. Microsoft I despair of you. Oh and the battery life, as I mentioned, deplorable. It goes flat even when it's off. Which makes me think the blame for that may be laid at the door of the OS too.

I am therefore in a position to recommend that you do not fall for the bargain price. Keep your cash and save for something better, I wish I had.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Farewell Ford Focus

Yes, it was time to say goodbye to our Ford Focus Mk2.5, traded in for the KIA cee'd you will find detailed elsewhere hereabouts. I can't say I was sorry to see it go. Never bonded with it, somehow.

But as you can (almost) see here, it looks as good on the day of departure as it did in 2008 when it arrived all shiny and new.

Well... if you could see closer, you'd spot a lot of parking dents, and most of the Ford badges have corroded, which was quite annoying.

But generally speaking, looking good and the inside was unblemished, mostly. It had 89,369 when we handed it over, all done by us.

So... why the lack of enthusiasm for this car, which it has to be said, never let us down and returned a healthy 54mpg average over its entire life?

Well. Again, as detailed elsewhere here, it had followed on from a very similarly spec'd Astra, and that's the problem, it wasn't as good as the Astra. That car served us to about 130k miles, and was less trouble. I've had a few Fords, and I have to say that they've not been particularly well screwed together, in my opinion. Around the 70k mile mark the Focus started to rattle a lot and feel a bit 'loose', and that had happened in my previous Escort too. But the Astra was as solid as new over a longer distance.

And the Focus had suffered a couple of very costly 'mishaps' along the way, that have left a bad feeling, firstly about Ford, and secondly about my local Ford dealer. To the point that I would imagine it unlikely I'll ever by a Ford again. Sorry Ford.

The first disaster was the Fusebox saga, again, a post about that here. Turns out this marque of Focus has a design flaw that allows condensation caused by the air-con to drip onto the fusebox, corroding the terminals and causing electrical failure. I am not by any means the only sufferer from this problem, but Ford remain in denial - and are happy to extract upwards of £650 to put it right from your hapless owner.

And then there was my local dealer in Llangefni, who when I asked them to investigate a steering wheel wobble diagnosed the cause as drive-shafts, replaced them at huge cost, handed the car back to me - still with the wheel wobble. After much negotiation I got the massive bill down to £400. I then took the car to ATS and they balanced the wheels very carefully and the wobble was gone. As was my £400 and two perfectly good drive shafts. Epic fail, W R Davies, and I will never be back.

On the up side though, it went well, it gave good economy, it's smart looking, it started first time every time, and never let us down. It is a very nice red colour. It was quiet for a diesel, and handled very well.

It just never floated our boat, somehow. Good luck to the new owner, who I saw driving it on this very day. I expect it will serve you well. Just don't take it to Llangefni to get it serviced!

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

KIA pro_cee'd SE 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed with ISG

No, because it's a jolly nice car. The missus and I visited our local KIA dealer, for the first time, to view a second had motor spotted on t'internet. It turned out to be disappointing - but we made the fatal error of actually going in to the the new car showroom. That new car smell... ahhhh.

We sat at a desk with the salesman and discussed options on new KIAs, specifically a Ceed. Sorry Cee'd. But my eye was drawn to the vision you see to the left here. Bit of paper in the windscreen read, "£4000 off". Hmmmm.

Well bless me if the next thing I knew, the darn thing was in my drive, with its keys in my pocket.

I'd been in the market for a new car for a while, as our Focus (about which I have posted) was showing signs of becoming unreliable. The Focus had been a disappointment over its lifetime with us, certainly not as good as its predecessor, an Astra. So, I had been looking at Astra GTCs, which are really nice looking cars. But a little out of our price range it transpired. But here was a looky-likey, the KIA equivalent of the GTC, the designation 'Pro' indicating the two door coupe version of the popular Ceed.

It was 'cheap' because it's not quite the current model and they wanted rid of it. Fine by me. It's loaded with toys and of course comes with that most warm and fuzzy-feeling bonus of a 7 year warranty. I even got a 3 year servicing deal thrown in. Magic.

It's a 126 bhp diesel (£30 road tax), with ISG - which is the Stop/Start system which frankly I could do without. It's got Climate Control, key-less entry, hill assist, electrically adjustable lumbar seats, and an awesome dashboard with fabulous Sat-nav, USB connection, Bluetooth, CD/Radio, and you can even talk to it. The steering wheel is covered in buttons for all that, plus cruise control and speed limit, and adjustable steering. Disk brakes all round, and stability control. Folding door mirrors. Headlights that see round corners. Auto dipping mirror. And a reversing camera with parking sensors. Phew.

There may be other things... I forget. Anyway... it's excellent. How does it go? Well, still running it in, but the signs are good. It handles beautifully, and the 'Sport' setting on the steering really is welcome when pressing on. It has 6 gears, which to me is one too many, and the dash is almost always trying to get me to change up - not always correctly IMHO. It cruises effortlessly at motorway speeds hardly ticking over. You wouldn't know it was a diesel except when idling - and even then it is quite refined.

After two fill ups, the fuel consumption is admittedly a tad disappointing, 50 MPG, but really the engine must be tight and I'm hoping for better things to come, because we've not exactly been caning it so far, so it should have done better I would have thought.

Time will tell I guess. So far so good. And the promise is that it really shouldn't cost a lot to run it for the next few years. Fingers crossed then.

As is obvious, it's early days with this car. I will write more as time goes by.