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!

Visit DriveArchive to (maybe) discover the history of your beloved cars

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.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 Kompressor - 2 Years On

It's been an interesting experience for me. In my youth I was always underneath my cars, always covered in oil, always taking wheels on and off, doing my own repairs and servicing. And then along came newer cars that didn't need such interventions and which needed stamps in the service book. And I got lazy, and cars got complex.

So I fell out of the habit of lying on painful concrete in all weathers trying to loosen recalcitrant bolts. But needs must, and I have no budget for running the Merc, so it's down to me again. Question is... after all this time, do I really want to do it any more?
There have been a few problems with the car, but nothing major to report. In the two years I've only done maybe 6,000 miles. But most of those miles have been with the top down, and the complicated and expensive to repair roof mechanism is working just fine. I have lubricated all the joints, and I'm keeping on top of hydraulic fluid levels, but it just works. When you think the car is 18 years old, it's quite remarkable.

It's passed 2 MOTs in my tenure now, with no advisories. Both years I did prepare, I had all the wheels off and made sure the suspension was nice and clean and rust free. The exhaust needed a couple of replacement brackets having rusted away, but there's no blowing and it sounds very sporty on the road. The engine I keep very clean and tidy, you could eat your dinner off it.

I recently cleaned the MAF, which is an easy job and has made the car run more smoothly - at least I think it hasm could be psychological! I've fitted a new alarm, buying what I understand to be the very last replacement unit in the country, sorry everyone else! I've had a go at stopping the corrosion on the alloys, whether my efforts succeed is debatable, we'll see. They really could do with refurbishing, but maybe another day.

Interior trim is an issue, both door cards need removing and refitting, a common problem apparently, the clips breaking off too easily. All the electrics are working fine, the transmission is good, cruise control works, no problems at all. Discovered that checking your transmission fluid levels is a work of art, involving buying a special dipstick and only measuring the level when the engine is good and hot and all gears have been used, bizarre faff it is too.

So, it all sounds good, doesn't it... I'll move on to the bad news. It leaks. I don't know how, but the roof drips water onto the front seats whatever steps I've taken to stop it. I now park up and leave two rags on the front seats (the one that gets it depends on the slope the car is on!) which stop the water getting under the seat. Little thing but annoying, and I've lubricated the seals and everything looks fine. Don't understand it.

And then there's the big problem, the paintwork. The previous owner clearly had an issue with the top lacquer coat, so he had it removed... well that's what he told me when I was viewing the car - but I just filtered this info out of our chat, as I was falling busy in love at the time. Turns out he had the lacquer coat partially removed from some panels - but not all. Two years on and I've got a two tone car. I can actually make it look great if I buff up the unprotected panels and apply a top coat of wax, but it only last a few weeks before the bad panels go bad again. So - it needs a respray. Outside my budget. I'll have to live with it!

I was quite lucky recently to notice an oil leak, which, it turned out, was coming from the crankshaft oil seal. It looked a little tricky removing all the drive belts and getting at the seal, so the car had its first trip to a garage, and it went well, cost £150 including new belts. I should really have done it myself, that is the idea with the car, keep costs low, but I chickened out.

So... what's it like to drive? An interesting question. Having had the car for two years, I have to admit I've spent more time 'interacting' with it in my drive rather than on the road! When I do drive it, it's normally with the top down, and I'm never in a hurry under those circumstances. So, the 195bhp has as yet remained fairly unused. I have to admit I drive my boring Focus diesel far more quickly. I have put my foot down on occasion, and it responds well, the auto box is smooth and changes at the right time, and you can get a real lick on. And those wide tyres (wider at the back than the front actually) give masses of grip. Maybe I should book a track day with it.

I've been on a few long journeys, and they've been great fun. The heater is fantastic, even in the depths of winter it's feasible to drive top down. Top up it's quite quiet, though I must admit the creaking and rattles from the roof when up are a bit annoying. I can't seem to find the source of the noise, I think it just is all of it, there's a lot of mechanism back there for the clever old roof.

So, what have I learned in two years? Well, looking at the odometer - the main thing would be, that I should be using it more!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Windows Product Key Problem

I hate to sound like a grumpy old man, but yet again I have a beef, and I need to get something off my chest. Oh yes, I am cross. Who with? Well, equally Microsoft (not an unusual situation) - but probably more with Advent Computers, who, if you don't already know, are really PC World, or Currys, or Dixons... whoever.

So, just over two years ago I bought a nice Advent Desktop from PC World, which was bundled with a monitor and cost £700. My son used it as a games machine and I largely ignore it - which was a mistake. Anyway, he needed an upgrade (to a Chillblast as it turned out) and the plan was that I inherited the Advent, the spec of which was better than my own PC. But the very week before this swap, the Advent simply died. Not a peep out of it. Dead in the water.

I had the side off it and the fans all worked, the hard drive was spinning, but nothing happened on powering up, it wasn't even getting to the booting stage. So I decided it must need a new motherboard. Turned out to be quite cheap to source one, £35 on eBay for a brand new replacement. I successfully installed it in the case, and the PC was back working again.

The Advent was riddled with games and my son's stuff, so I decided to start again from ground zero, a complete re-install of Windows 8 from the disk image (my next mistake). Soon I was staring at a pristine fully working PC, and I was very happy.

BUT,Windows wanted activating. Now I knew that a motherboard swap would upset Windows, but I had been assured that a phone call to Microsoft would get me going again. So I rang them. They said that I needed the Windows Product Key for them to sort me out. I looked on the case, where down through the ages a sticker usually resides with the Key on. But no. Oh.

A bit of investigation revealed that apparently these days, with the coming of Windows 8, there is no sticker - and that the product key is burned into the BIOS of the motherboard. Ah. You mean my knackered motherboard that I can't access any more? Yes that one. Microsoft said, ask the manufacturer, they will know your Product Key from the serial number of your PC.

So I ring Advent. But NO, they didn't know my Product Key. They buy a big bunch of licences, but do not record individual Keys. WTF!? It'll be okay, they said, just tell Microsoft it was a repair. I rang Microsoft and told them that. They said, great, but we still need the Product Key. I rang Advent, oh dear, well we can't help, because we simply don't know your Product Key.

Their suggestion was that I took my (fixed) PC to PC World and pay them a minimum for £50 so they can, um, fix it. Or buy another copy of Windows 8. Terrific. (Particularly as Windows 8 is an abomination as we now know).

So, can I make a couple of recommendations to you? Unlike me, maybe you should go and write down the Product Key of any Windows operating system you may have recently got with your shiny new Windows 8 computer. Just in case. If you can't find it I think there is software that will discover it.

And (he said tetchily) maybe don't buy Advent computers, because (a) they don't seem to last very long before breaking, and (b) they don't seem to know what they're doing re licensing. I mean, surely it wouldn't be that hard for them to record the Key for each PC they sell. Here's an idea, they could use a computer to record the data.

Talking and emailing Advent is an interesting game, because you either talk to a techie who understands the problem but is powerless to do anything to help, or you talk to a non-techie who has no idea what you're talking about and therefore can't help you either. Hopeless.

Oh, and while we're at it, whoever thought up the idea of putting the Product Key into the motherboard...well - maybe a re-think is in order unless it is indeed a cunning plan to sell more licenses? If you're going to do that, why not stick a sticker on the motherboard? Come on.

So, this won't happen with the Chillblast I bought my kid, which came with a proper Windows 8 installation with a printed key and even a CD! And a 5 year warranty. They delivered exactly the PC I specified within a week, and it seems the dog's. It was admittedly easier to buy from PC World, but I think in hindsight it was a major mistake. The Chillblast is built from choice components, I now think the Advent was thrown together from the cheapest bits they could find, and the cheapest licensing deal they could get out of Microsoft. Which is only great if nothing goes wrong...