Eurovision 2005 on WAP and web

Website of the Day: Friday 20th May

Eurovision_2005 >> BBC Eurovision
The countdown continues until the start of this year’s contest in Kiev at 20:00 BST tomorrow. This year‘s site features broadband video of all 39 entrants, language and trivia quizzes, a downloadable score card and the essential Terryisms Generator, in which an animated TOG-meister will provide a eurovision-friendly quip or observation for every mouse-click.

For the first time this year, there’s also a dedicated Eurovision WAP service, which enables anybody with a WAP-enabled mobile phone to get instantaneous Eurovision coverage even if you’re nowhere near a TV or computer. To access the WAP service simply text Eurovision to 81010 (Max charge 15p). The WAP service promises Javine photo galleries, lyrics to Touch My Fire, a full broadcast schedule, guide to all 39 contestants and much more.

FA Cup Final 2005

Website of the Day: Friday 20th May

Virtualreplay_fa_1 >> Official FA Cup
>> FA Cup on BBC Sport
>> BBC Sport Virtual Replay
Warm up for tomorrow’s Cup Final by reliving some of the best goals of the season with BBC Sport’s Virtual Replay – an animated 3D reconstruction which allows to you to experience each goal from the viewpoints of different players or positions on and off the pitch.

Star Wars Episode III

Website of the Day: Friday 20th May

Darth >> Official Star Wars
>> Star Wars: Episode III on BBC Films
Although some areas of the official Star Wars site are subscription only, there’s plenty of great free content too including a whole Star Wars kids site Fans can also find a wealth of great content on BBC Film’s Episode III mini-site including interviews with George Lucas and the cast, games and quizzes and Shaun of The Dead star Simon Pegg’s view of the new film.

Posted in Film. 1 Comment »

Desperate Houseflies

Website of the Day: Wednesday 18th May

Houseflies_1  >> Desperate Houseflies
If you’re enjoying Channel 4’s post-modern glossy soap, you’ll almost certainly love this strip-cartoon spoof starring six suburban houseflies living in a picture-perfect neighbourhood called Diphtheria Lane. These character profiles give you a good idea what to expect:
“Lynette regrets giving up her free-wheeling lifestyle to raise a pile of undisciplined little maggots.
Former pesticide commercial model Gabrielle is having an extramarital affair with a blowfly in the garden.
Bree thinks patterning her life after the flies in Martha Stewart’s garbage is the road to true happiness.”

and so it goes on….

Stay Don’t Pay

Website of the Day: Tuesday 17th May

Staydontpay>> Stay Don’t Pay
This has been created as a travel exchange network, where members can enjoy bed and breakfast accommodation free of charge. You sign up to register when you’re prepared to accept guests. When other members want to stay in your area you’re given the option to welcome them as B & B guests. You then receive a credit, which you can use to stay with another member.

The system is currently in pre-launch until enough homes and locations have signed up to the scheme. One year’s membership is offered free to anyone who signs up now during the pre-launch stage. Once the system is fully operational, subscriptions will cost £25 per year.

UPDATE (18th May 2006): One year on, Stay Don’t Pay founders Fraser and Rita Spence report that they now have 226 members scattered all over the UK & Ireland (and one trial member in Britanny!) – They have arranged over 100 trips for members who have "really enjoyed stopping over as a guest and meeting some really super people."

While Couchsurfing mainly targets backpapckers, Stay Don’t Pay offers a sociable alternative to B&Bs or hotels for travellers in the UK. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but potentially a really rewarding experience for more flexible and sociable travellers – and hosts!

Posted in Travel. 1 Comment »

Multiple choice agony aunt

Website of the day: Monday 16th May

Dearanyone >> Dear Anyone
Strangely addictive, this site gives all of us the chance to play agony aunt… Anyone is invited to send their problems (anonymously) to this site – The site will then suggest 4 possible solutions and other site users can vote on which solution is the best. It’s a bit like Jerry Springer without the violence!

The Movie Bunker

Website of the Day: Friday 13th May 2005

Moviebunker >> The Movie Bunker
This fan-run site is a refreshing antidote to some of the glossy film review sites. Instead of concentrating on the films, Movie Bunker celebrates the cinemas that screen them, with photos and tongue-in-cheek reviews of cinemas across the UK, from West End to Multiplexes via old-fashioned independent fleapits. You’ll also find an interesting behind the scenes guide to life in a multiplex and a whole section of “fake movie photos” which add the webmasters’ faces to various iconic scenes from cinema’s greatest moments.

Make Your Own Childrens TV Icons

Website of the Day: Thursday 12th May

Makeabagpuss_2 >> Make Your Own Bagpuss Pajama Case
>> Knit Your Own Clanger
I find it therapeutic to chop vegetables and iron cotton handkerchiefs, but I have several friends who assure me that nothing is as soothing and therapeutic as knitting, so what better to knot than your very own moon-dwelling aardvark-resembling children’s TV icon (That’s a Clanger to you and I). The instructions for making your own Clanger appear to have been put together by series creator (and legendary cult TV auteur) Oliver Postgate. When you’ve successfully knitted a Clanger, try expanding you portfolio by following the instructions from the first Bagpuss annual, in order to assemble your own home-made saggy cloth-cat pyjama case. See also:
Bagpuss on BBC Cult | The Clangers on BBC Cult | Official Oliver Postgate

Online DVD Rental For Beginners

Dvdrental Anybody who has ever paid a fine for the late return of a rented video or DVD is likely to find the new breed of online DVD rental sites pretty appealing. While most high-street video shops charge about £3.50 per disc and start to fine you for every extra night that you don’t return it, the standard procedure for the online clubs is charge you a monthly subscription (of anywhere between £7.99 and £30) that lets you hang onto your discs for as long as you like. With well over thirty different sites offering online DVD rentals it can be pretty confusing knowing which one might suit you best, so we’ve been trying out some of the different services to help you make an informed decision.

Most sites run using a broadly similar system – You sign up online and decide in advance how many discs you want to rent at a time. You then search the site’s catalogue of films and TV shows for DVD’s you want to rent, and add each disc you want to a wish-list. The first available discs on your wish-list are sent out to you first class, in an envelope small enough to fit through your letterbox. When you’ve watched a disc you can return it in the same (postage-prepaid) envelope and one the site has received it they’ll send out the next available title on your wish-list.

In practice you may find you have to wait some time to receive newly released or very obscure DVDs – While stock levels will be high on blockbuster movies, there will also be heavy demand for those titles, so you’ll need to make sure you have some older or less popular discs on your wish-list to make sure you get a constant supply of discs. If you want to rent a box-set, each disc usually counts as a separate rental. You may have to wait several months in order to receive 6 discs from a box-set in the right order – If you don’t mind watching discs out of sequence; you should get the set a bit quicker.

If you only want to rent a couple of DVDs a month, you’ll probably find that the high-street video shops will serve you better than an online rental service. However if you’re likely to rent more than 4 discs a month there’s almost certainly an online package that will suit you.

The different sites tend to squabble about who has the largest library, but having tried 4 different services, all the discs we wanted to rent were available from each of the sites, so a more relevant consideration is how long you have to wait for an specific disc. Try not to be bewildered by the vast number of sites offering similar services – In fact the vast majority of sites are powered by one of three big service providers; LoveFilm, Screen Select and DVDs365. Read on for our review of those 3 sites and of Amazon’s DVD Rental service. We’ll also tell you which other sites are powered by those services. Although the pricing structure may vary, the speed and quality will be the same for all sites powered by the same service provider.

Almost all of the services offer a free trial for either a set time period or for a limited number of rentals, so you’re able to try several services before deciding which one (if any) to stick with. Be aware that you will usually be asked to provide credit card details, so if you don’t want to continue your membership beyond the trial period, you’ll need to remember to cancel your subscription.

For a more detailed guide to how the online rental sites operate, it’s well worth reading the Q & A section on UK DVD rental guide. There are a number of sites who compare and review the different services available: Of those, the UK DVD Rental Guide is probably the most comprehensive.

We tried out four services in preparation for this feature:

RECOMMENDED SITE FOR HEAVY RENTERS / FILM BUFFS
>> LoveFilm
Free trial: 14 days, max 6 discs
Subscription options: From £9.99 (1 disc at a time, unlimited rentals per month) to £19.99 (4 discs at once, unlimited discs per month)
What’s good: Best value package for film buffs and regular renters – £19.99 a month for 4 discs at a time and unlimited rentals. Efficient turnaround. Recent releases and most popular discs received sooner than from other sites running unlimited packages. Monthly newsletter aimed at film fans. Best all-round service for all except very light renters.
What’s less good: No budget option for users who only want to rent 2-3 discs a month
Other sites powered by DVDs365:
Five Movie Club | Film Four DVD | WH Smiths Movie Direct | Sainsbury’s | Last Minute | CD Wow | Sofa Cinema

RECOMMENDED SITE FOR LESS FREQUENT RENTERS
>> Amazon DVD Rental
Subscription options: From £7.99 (2 discs at once, max 4 discs per month) to £9.99 (3 discs at once, max 6 discs per month)
What’s good: Superb despatch speed and turnaround. Best track-record of all sites tested for sending out new releases and popular titles quickly. 10% members discount on all DVD’s purchased from Amazon. Best all-round service for those who only want to watch a few mainstream titles a month.
What’s less good: No unlimited packages, so not suited to people who want to watch more than 6 discs a month. No Free Trial.

RUNNERS-UP
>> Screen Select
Free trial: 14 days, max 4 discs
Subscription options: From £7.99 (1 disc at a time, max 4 discs per month) to £14.99 (3 discs at once, unlimited rentals per month)
What’s good: Lots of exclusive editorial content – film news etc. Offers a good mixture of unlimited packages to suit film buffs, and budget packages for infrequent renters
What’s less good: Not much! A good all-rounder but longer waits for the most popular titles than with LoveFilm.
Other sites powered by Video Island (Screen Select’s parent company):
Tesco DVD Rental | ITV Movie Club | easyCinema | MSN

>> DVDs365
Free Trial: 14 days, 3 discs at once
Subscription options: From £5.99 (1 disc at a time, max 2 discs per rental period) to £26.99 (5 discs at once, max 40 discs per month)
What’s Good: Good range of packages and flexible range of gift subscriptions. Cheapest package for infrequent renters.
What’s less good: Long wait to receive most popular discs. No “Unlimited” packages. Need to keep a large number of DVDs on your wish-list to avoid delays between rentals. Turnaround time between rentals slower than other services we tried.
Other sites powered by DVDs365:
Qflicks | Mailbox Movies | Movietrak

One final word – high-street chain Blockbuster offer their own service which is not powered by any of the other service providers. We didn’t try out their service, so you may want to sign up for their free trial to see how it compares to one of our recommended sites.

Posted in Film. 17 Comments »

I Voted For You Because

Website of the Day: Tuesday 10th May 2005

Voted4u >> I Vote For You Because….
Another fine example of democracy in action from the volunteers behind Write To Them, Dowing Street Says and Not Apathetic. This site acts as a public forum for you to register why you voted the way you did last Thursday, and what you expect from your newly elected (or re-elected) representative. You can choose to have your comments forwarded directly to your MP or just post your views for other voters (or non-voters) to comment.