Gone to France!

Website of the Day has gone to the Dordogne and it’s taken Miles with it! Normal service will be resumed in a couple of weeks – in the meantime here are some of my favourite French links:

>> Stopover Connections
Directory of handpicked French B & Bs to break your journey while driving through France.

>> Online Ferry Bookings

>> Le Cheval Blanc
Family-friendly self-catering property (for large groups or house parties) in the Dordogne: Luxury accomodation at non-luxury prices!

>> Via Michelin
International route planning.

>> WineDrive
Buy your wine direct from the vineyards.

>> Day-Tripper
If you can cope with the horrible over-crowded design, you’ll find everything you need to know here about nipping accross the channel for booze shopping!

>> Ferme De Wolphus
Cheap and friendly small farmhouse B & B – 20 minute from Calais. One family room sleeps 5 people for peanuts!

>> Currency Convertor

>> Asterix the Gaul (official)

>> Save money on phone calls in France
How to get a French pay-as-you-go sim card for your mobile, so you don’t have to pay hiked rates to call back to the UK

Posted in Travel. 2 Comments »

Blogging for Beginners

Website of the Day: Tuesday May 25th

>> BBC Webwise: What is Blogging
>> BBC Webwise: How do I get my own blog?

blogsOne of the biggest online phenomena of the last 18 months or so is the rise of blogs and blogging. Blog is short for web log, and at it’s simplest a web log is a frequently updated personal website in the form of an online diary or journal, which carries copious links to other sites. Blogging is almost certainly the quickest and simplest way to get your own website – No special software or technical skills are needed – Just register with a blogging site, choose from a range of designs, and you’re ready to go in less than five minutes.

But which blogging site should you choose? Read on for a quick guide to some of the options

bloggerThis is the best known and one of the longest established of all the blogging sites – It was bought last year by Google, and has just been given a complete overhaul to make it even easier to use. To get started, you just register with Blogger, choose a name for your blog, then pick from a range of design templates and away you go. New features include the facility to update your blog via email and for site visitors to add comments on your posts

diarylandAs the name suggests, this service is more geared towards online diaries than journalistic blogs, with features and designs customised to that end. Diaries can be password-protected and you can add other DiaryLand users’ diaries to your own favourite list.

xangaRecent recipient of Web User magazine’s gold award for best free weblog tool. A setup wizard guides you through the creation of your blog, helping you fine tune the design and add personal information and a photo. There are more features for personalisation than Blogger, with the option to add news feeds, background music, a guestbook and images of your favourite CDs, books and video games.

livejornalThis is the biggest of all the diary-based sites, with a real sense of community and the opportunity to link the diaries of other livejournal users together to read their comments on a single page. IT has also spawned a spate of fictitious journals written by TV characters like the cast of Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 24!

20sixProbably the best-established UK-based blogging service – A bit less beginner-friendly than Blogger, but some extra features including the facility to post by SMS and sending photographs from your mobile

typepadOne of the most fully-featured of all Blogging sites – Unlike the others mentioned so far, Typead offers no free service – prices range from $5-$15 a month, but for this you get many more features, including complete design flexibility, online photo albums, and most usefully, the facility to sort posts by category (like on this site).

For more blog reviews see
>> Web User Magazine Blogging Site roundup
>> Guardian Online’s Weblog Software Reviews

Further Reading:
>> BBC News on the relaunch of blogger.com
>> Guardian Online’s Best of British Blogging
>> BBC News on Mobile Blogging
>> Buzznet Photoblogs
>> Eatonweb Blog portal
>> Germars.com: Blogging For Beginners

Take your email with you

>>Scribe: portable email programme

Very handy this, if you need to check your email on the move, but, like me, you find webmail a bit of a bind. Scribe is a free download – It’s an email programme which will fit on a floppy disc or portable USB drive, so you can enter in all your email settings, carry your floppy around with you (Oooh, Matron) and there’s no need to install it on the computer you’re using – you can run it staright from your portable disc.

Posted in Software and Downloads. Comments Off on Take your email with you

National Fostering Fortnight

Website of the Day: Monday May 24th

>> Fostering.org.uk

fosteringWe’ve just reached the end of National Fostering Fortnight, which aims to raise the profile of fostering and encouraging more people to become foster carers.
Whether you want to become a foster carer or you just want find out more, you can go to the site, enter your postcode and get contact info for all the agencies in your area

How to get your photo taken with a big star

Website of the Day: Monday May 24th

>> Who is that with Jeremy?

jeremyCelebrities are usually rather guarded when approached by members of the public who want to be photographed with a famous name. But this site proves how open and friendly big stars suddenly become once you put a baby in their arms. Two-year old Jeremy has been photographed with more celebs than I’ve ever heard of including numerous Oscar winners, royalty, and former Beatles and US presidents. The site has evidence of all these starry encounters and also names and shames the only celebs who’ve refused to say Cheese with Jeremy!

Napster Vs OD2: The UK’s legal music download services compared.

Website of the Day: Friday May 21st

napsterThe arrival of Napster 2.0 as a legal online music service is exciting news for music fans as it hugely increases the choices available to you when you want to buy new music. Peter Gabriel’s OD2 service has responded to Napster’s launch with a promotion that effectively means half price music downloads until June, and with Apple’s iTunes service due to launch in the UK later this year, further promotions and price-drops are likely. That’s all good news for the consumer.

Napster’s main competition in Europe comes from sites like Tiscali, HMV, MSN and MyCoke Music and all of those other sites are powered by OD2 service.

Napster definitely wins on number of tracks available – There are already 500,000 tracks in their library and that will rise to 700,000 within the next month. OD2 currently has about 350,000 tracks online, but says that figure will rise over the next year.

od2If you can find the tracks or albums you want on the OD2 sites you’ll get them cheaper there, especially between now and the beginning of June – as their current promotion buys £40 worth of music for £20 which works out at just 50p per download. Napster charges 9.95 to download an album and between 88p and £1.09 a track according to how many tracks you buy at one time. Keen observers will be aware that due to the current weakness in the dollar, download prices in the US are considerably cheaper – on average 99 cents per track and $10 per album. We can only hope that UK prices become more competitive when iTunes enters the European market.

The other big difference between the rival services is that Napster also offer a subscription service. For £9.99 a month, you get access to the whole of Napster’s library enabling you to download whole tracks to up to three different PCs at once for no extra cost, so if you have your PC hooked up to your stereo you can listen to all that music at CD quality and you’ll never have to get a CD out of the case again. You only pay extra if you want to burn any of those tracks to CD or copy them to an mp3 player.

If you want to try Napster’s subscription service without parting with your cash, they’re currently offering a free 7 day trial of the service.

Both Napster and OD2 will let you listen to 30” of any track in their library. OD2 will let you listen in full once without downloading for about 1p a track

Napster runs as desktop software which includes a player, cd burning and ripping, music library software, message boards and an online magazine. It also lets you create playlists and email them to friends – if they are Napster subscribers they hear the full tracks… non subscribers will hear 30” excerpts.

By contrast to Napster’s software download, the OD2 service runs entirly as an online shop accessed through your web browser.

Both Napster and OD2 are PC only. Neither service will run on a Mac, so Apple users will need to wait for the arrival in the UK of the iTunes Music Store. As a consequence tracks downloaded from either service cannot be directly copied onto an iPod, but they are compatible with a large range of alternative portable music players, several of which outperform the iPod in terms of battery life, range of features and cost.


>> Napster UK

The following sites are all powered by OD2
Tiscali Music Club | My Coke Music | MSN Music | HMV | Virgin Downloads

Other UK Music Download sites
Wippit | People Sound

>> iTunes in the US
>> BBC News on the launch of Napster
>> Guardian Online on the launch of Napster
>> Web User magazine reviews iPod competitors

Is Apple ever an acceptable name for a child?

Website of the Day: Thursday May 20th

>> Inch: The Institute for Naming Children Humanely

applepaltrowWhile the British tabloids continue to debate the wisdom of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s choice of name for their daughter, there are no prizes for guessing the view taken by the Institute for Naming Children Humanely. The site highlights different categories of inappropriate child names ranging from The Scrabble Draw (slam together meaningless syllables until the parents believe the result sounds like a name) to The Abstract Quality (“give a child a name encouraging a certain value, like Faith, Hope, Charity etc, then hope they don’t grow up to display the exact opposite characteristic!”)

Posted in Parenting. Comments Off on Is Apple ever an acceptable name for a child?

History in your Loft?

Website of the Day: Thursday May 5th

>>The HP National Photo Album

nationalphotoalbumThis is a terrific social history project to preserve a photographic record of our generation and ensure that our old photos doesn’t get lost. The company who have worked with galleries and museums in digitising their collections are now encouraging us to dig out old photos which may have some lasting social or cultural interest – Whether they depict old steam railways, royal visits, sporting events, workplaces or family occasions you can upload your old photos to the site or send them off by ‘snail mail’ for the site to scan in and return to you. The site already offers a fascinating mix of images from the early 20th century right up to the present day.

Posted in History. Comments Off on History in your Loft?

Hints and Things

Website of the Day: Monday May 17th

>> Hints and Things

hintsA site crammed full of genuinely useful tips and advice, put together by self-proclaimed ‘plump, old, grey wrinkly’ June Jackson with the aim of ‘sharing all those little pearls of wisdom that used to be passed from generation to generation’. You’ll find tips on topics as diverse as basic piano repair, finding missing contact lenses, vehicle maintenance and selling yourself in a job interview. June is clearly a genius who knows everything, and I wish she lived round the corner from me, so I could pop round for a spot of advice and a nice cup of (perfectly brewed) tea!

Posted in Useful Sites. Comments Off on Hints and Things

Download replacement instruction booklets

Website of the Day: Thursday May 13th

>> Instruction Manuals (UK)

instructionsFor some people the idea of reading an instruction booklet could be seen as either a sign of weakness or an admission of defeat, but for those of us who aren’t instruction-phobic this site may prove rather useful. It provides links to downloadable versions of the instruction booklets for a huge range of appliances and products – Just select the category of product and the manufacturer and away you go!

Posted in Useful Sites. Comments Off on Download replacement instruction booklets