Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ibanez GIO GRG121DX

Here is my new Ibanez GIO GRG121DX, in Starlight Blue Sunburst.

It's a lovely thing. I got it reasonably cheaply on eBay, advertised as being brand new, an unwanted gift - and it turned out that was true, immaculate condition and it came with a great gig bag too.

 As far as I know it has a mahogany body and a maple neck, 24 fret rosewood fingerboard and IBZ-6 Humbucking pickups.

I'm not well versed with technicalities to be honest, all I know is that the action is great, and it sounds really good through my Fender Mustang 1 v2 amp.

You can't get simpler controls... well actually I guess you can, but one volume, one tone and a selector work nicely, and the tuners are precise, if a little too stiff.

Okay, I really wanted a red one, but the blue has grown on me, it's a lovely finish.

It's nicely weighted too, unlike for example my Epiphone SG which is very neck heavy.

All I need to do now is learn how to play it!

Two Years On - KIA pro_cee'd SE 1.6 CRDi



A second year has passed, and the KIA is still going strong. Cut to the chase, I still like it, it's not been any bother (almost) and it still looks as good as new, inside and out.

And we still haven't come with a name for it other then the KIA. It has now covered a modest 12,500 odd miles, pretty low I guess. It's done school runs (but not any more, now it's Uni runs) and toured around Dumfries and Galloway on holiday. Over all that distance it has returned 54mpg.

Looking back over my previous article, little has changed in truth. In a nutshell, the car itself is perfectly fine, the software in the car is a bit dubious. Looking back you will see I criticised the sat-nav, the air-con, the stop-start and key-less entry system. None of them work all that well, but you get used to it - I mean they all work, it's just not that easy to get them to work somehow.

If I was to be even more picky, during a recent visit to Pentraeth Automotive I was given a Picanto as a courtesy car. Not in the same league as the cee'd but I have to say the dash instruments were way better. The cee'd has a red display which isn't the clearest, the Picanto was white on black, much easier to read.

Ah, yes, why was I at the garage? Well, I pointed out when the car was being serviced a few weeks ago that the alloy wheels appeared to be suffering from corrosion, a bit early on a two year old car I thought. To everyone involved's credit, I was duly offered a complete new set! I was amazed. Thank you KIA.

Unfortunately (in a way) while swapping the wheels the mechanics spotted a bulge on one of my tyres, which required replacing, damn these pot-holes in all our roads, don't get me started.

Returning to the car then, the only other gripe I have is that the Traffic Announcement system on the radio has been a bit flaky. I asked them to sort it at the service and to be honest I've not been off Anglesey since, so I'm not sure if they've fixed it or not. A nuisance but not fatal.

So, looking at all the twaddle above I've done nothing but moan. So I should put that right - I actually DO like the car rather a lot and its solid build, 100% reliability and its frugality are commendable, long may it continue. And just one more thing to praise, it managed to accommodate three adults and a serious amount of clothing, computer equipment, guitars and general junk while transporting my lad off to Uni, in other words, it's actually bigger than it looks inside!

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.