Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

NFL Game Pass: A story of broken promises

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 | Reviews

NFL Game Pass is an internet streaming service. You pay around £140 per year and get access to live streams of all of the games. Except if Sky Sports is showing them, in which case they’re blacked out. You also get on-demand replays of the games.

Or that is the theory. Except, this year more than most, the NFL has been unable to deliver on their side of the bargain.

Broken TV apps

Let’s start with Apple TV. The app just doesn’t work anymore. At all. If you try and use it, it just says that they are migrating to a new app. But there is no App Store on the old Apple TV, so it doesn’t work, that’s just tough luck.

And broken tablet apps

The iOS app does not seem to be fairing much better. Here is the endless spinning of the login screen:

This is probably one of the many reasons why they have managed to score a total of 1 star on the App Store reviews system:

Browsers not working

I used to use Firefox to watch the video streams on my desktop. But that is no longer an option because the sound doesn’t work any more. So, I’ve been forced to switch to Chrome instead.

Video streams constantly freezing

In week four, as customers often experience, the video streams would often freeze up or drop to an unwatchably low quality. Yet, when you contact the NFL about this, they blame it on your connection.

In fact, we have become so used to this now that we are forced to run a speed test alongside the stream in preparation for the NFL blaming it on us. Here is mine:

With enough speed to watch 30 simultaneous Netflix shows, it seems unlikely that the problem is at my end. Or the many other ends from which people are complaining.

Video streams not working

Week 5, things got worse. The website wouldn’t load and nor would any of the streams. You either got stuck on accessing the website itself:

Or, if you were lucky enough to get through, you got no video:

It eventually started working at 7:23 pm, almost an hour and a half after kick-off, and four scores into the game.

Customer service not even responding

After week 4, I send out a full and detailed complaint setting out why I thought the NFL’s service was unacceptable and that they were failing to provide the service I was paying for.

I would post it here, in full, except I cannot because the NFL did not give me a copy of it, or ever respond to it. You have to use their online contact form to send your message, and they do not seem to respond to them or even acknowledge their existence.

I’m not the only person they are ignoring:

Fake reviews

BBC journalist Mark Simpson has been on the case to the NFL. He questioned them about it, and they said: “we have a 99.3% reliability”. Which is terrible, of course. Data centres typically offer you a 5/9 reliably, which is 99.999%. 99.3% does not cut it, especially when the .7 is when the games are actually on.

Here is the interview:

And it turns out that to try and cover up how poor the apps were, staff have been faking reviews to make it look better than it was:

The Independent covered the story, as did NBC Sports.

An army of disappointed fans

A quick search of Twitter shows how many people are having problems. While the NFL put out insulting tweets saying:

We are aware of an issue that some users may be having. We’re working to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

Note that “some users” seems to be the whole of the UK and Europe. 20 tweets a second were appearing from angry users during Sunday’s 6pm kick-off.

The Hydro

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 | Reviews

For week three of our swimming tour, we drove up to Harrogate to visit The Hydro.

Changing facilities were okay. It’s all one big mixed changing room with individual cubicles. This made it quite difficult to get Venla changed as we had to use a changing table, which is complicated when everyone is wet.

The pool itself very good. The main pool actually has a deep end. It claims to be 1.8 metres deep, but my measurement put it at about 1.7 metres. They had three swim lanes as well as a general area.

The children’s pool was very warm and had a slight gradient, too. In the shallow end, I could sit on the bottom while holding Venla. There were lots of toys and floats about. Venla really enjoyed the watering cans.

They have a diving pool, too.

The “session” was just general swimming all morning. This was great as it meant we did not have to be there for a specific time or get kicked out.

The viewing area is much nicer than other pools. They have a cafe that serves a good range of hot food including breakfast and main meals, and you can sit inside or pool side. It is cash only, though.

Fearnville Leisure Centre review

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 | Reviews, Sport

Fresh from our trip to Kirkstall leisure centre, we decided to hit Fearnville this week.

It is also operated by Leeds City Council and as such as much the same facilities and pricing. It’s £4.90 for an adult and under 5s go free. There is a 25-metre pool at the same depth of 0.8 metres to 1.6 metres, making it almost deep enough for an adult in the deep end.

Their children’s pool was open and it was nice and warm. Venla enjoyed having a good splash.

The changing room setup is a little different. They split into men and women but then merge back together for family changing: with big cubicles, changing tables and lockers. This worked really well because we could double-team Venla.

The showers were back in the separate gender changing areas and there was still no plug socket for my hair dryer. The lockers required £1 and the keys were less fancy: it was literally a rubber band with a key attached to it.

Kirkstall Leisure Centre review

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 | Reviews

In Finland, things are simple: you throw your baby in a lake and either they swim, or they sink. Elina has become soft while over here though and wanted to give Venla a gentler introduction to swimming.

Our first trip was to Kirkstall Leisure Centre. Here is what I thought of it.

They have a 25-metre pool and learner pool. Unfortunately, when we turned up, the learner pool was closed. We did get a discount because of it, though.

The 25-metre pool is almost a learner pool in itself. It starts at 0.8 metres deep and only goes up to 1.6 metres deep, meaning both Elina and I could stand in the so-called deep end.

The water was warmer than I expected. We went at 10 am on Sunday morning, and it was quite busy.

They had a section of the pool roped off for lane swimming, and it was a generously wide lane, meaning that you could go around without kicking people coming the other way. It did mean you would get stuck behind slower traffic, though.

The changing rooms were okay. They were clean, and the showers were a reasonable temperature. No complimentary shower gel, but then I was not expecting any at a public pool. The lack of power sockets was a real problem, though: there was nowhere to plug my hair dryer in.

The locker keys were good: a solid rubber strap with a key that folds in. Difficult to operate with one hand, though.

Viddyoze review

Sunday, April 9th, 2017 | Reviews, Tech

Viddyoze is a cloud-based service that allows you to create intros and outros for your videos.

If you are not familiar with what they offer, here is one of the promotional videos from their YouTube channel:

This is my review. There is no promo code at the end: I know a lot of the “reviews” end with here is an affiliate link, but I don’t have anything like that. It’s just my perspective.

Pricing

It is priced at a one-time fee of $47 for the personal licence (30 renders per month) and $67 for the commercial licence (unlimited renders per month and the right to resell the renders).

It is advertised as being discounted down from $97 per month and $197 per month. However, it is not clear where these figures come from. As far as I know, these prices have never been used. I first saw Viddyoze months ago and the prices haven’t changed, so this isn’t a short-term discount, either.

However, it is also an additional $37 per month for access to the “template club”. I will talk more about this below.

What do I think of it?

I signed up and got access within a few minutes.

However, The first thing I was presented with was an upsell for the template club. This was an additional monthly subscription that gives you access to most of the templates. So, for example, if you wanted their promotional video, you will have noticed there are loads of cool intros and outros. However, these are only available if you pay for the template club.

With my standard access, you do get a bunch of templates (I think it is about 85). However, that is spread across all of the categories. This includes intros, outros, titles, lower thirds, etc. In terms of the number of intros you get, I think there were about a dozen in there. Which sucks. There were only a few I would actually want to use.

Using the software was okay. It is pretty fast. However, there is no preview. So if you have to do it and see what the result is. Then, if you don’t like something, such as the logo or colours, you have to do it all again. This is a little frustrating on the unlimited plan. On the 30 renders per month plan, that would be very frustrating.

Is it worth it?

It depends on how much you will use it. But, for me, no.

Because there are only a handful of intros on the basic package, I don’t think I would get much use out of it.

The other option is to pay for the template club. But this means you are paying $67 up front plus $37 per month, which is approximately $42 per month. As they point out in their video, there are people on Fiverr reselling their stuff. For $5 each. So, you need to be doing at least nine unique videos per month before it becomes cheaper to use Viddyoze rather than just hiring someone on Fiverr each time.

Is there a money-back guarantee?

Yep, 30 days. When I requested my refund they sent me a form to fill out with various transaction IDs I had to dig out of my emails. After that, they refunded me two later, which all seems reasonable.

Kenwood stick blender review

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 | Reviews

Our arsenal of kitchen gadgets now contains a stick blender. Despite my reservations about the reliability of my stand mixer, we opted for Kenwood because of a mixer of price and better the devil you know. Also, it has three blades, which is one whole extra blade than normal.

Gordon Ramsay uses a bamix, but that was out of my price range.

The model I settled on was the Kenwood HDP406WH Triblade.

User experience

Initially, I was pretty annoyed by the Kenwood. it has almost no instructions. What attachment does what? It is not clear. It is heavy and hard to lift for any period of time. It gets hot if you use it too much. The power cord is too short.

However, I always give myself a bit of time to cool off before posting a review because I know I usually feel different after a few weeks.

It has been useful. I realised the secret was to use physical force. It struggled to blend everything initially. However, it if you really force the thing down into the jug, it does the job. Whether this will have long term implications I am not sure. But there is really no other option: being able to blend is an essential product feature of a blender.

Attachments

I have not worried about the other attachments. I don’t need them. Perhaps the soup blender may be useful, but you can do the same thing with the standard attachment. Everything else, I will continue to do in the food processor.

Shopify

Thursday, February 16th, 2017 | Reviews

I have been using Shopify to build out an e-commerce store. It has a lot of love it and hate it features.

It is easy to set up. You create your store and select a theme. Then you upload your products with some images and at this point, you are basically done. They have an integrated cart system and credit card processing, or you can add in a third-party payment processor. They have an apps store where you can install add-ons to your shop.

All of this for $30 per month.

On the downside, there is very little customisation. Making basic changes to the layout are impossible. Just adding extra text, for example, is not possible. The only way you can really make the store look the way you want is to create a custom template. There is some good documentation for this, but it requires a lot of diving into code and the propriety systems that Shopify use.

The store configuration is also limited. Products get a description field and that it is. You have to put everything in there. There are no features or specifications, or anything you could use to filter on later. The only way to do it is to use product categories.

The add-ons are good, but most charge you an extra $10 per month. You can only accept payments in your local currency: so if you are based in the UK, you cannot sell in dollars.

Overall, Shopify allows you to get set up and selling very quickly. However, it lacks the customisation you will want down the road.

Lunch at Bird and Beast

Monday, December 12th, 2016 | Food, Reviews

bird-and-beast

We were not in love with Bird & Beast, Leeds the first time we visited. It was just chicken, and we can go to Nando’s for that.

However, I visited for lunch a few weeks ago and I am pleased to report that they have really upped their game. The chicken now comes with a variety of delicious sauces and toppings, and they have expanded their menu too. I assumed I was the beast on their original menu, but now they have options for red meat-lovers and vegetarians alike.

Birthday at Roast and Conch

Sunday, December 11th, 2016 | Food, Reviews

roast-and-conch

We have previously had a good experience at Roast and Conch, the Hotel Chocolate, Leeds restaurant. Unfortunately, at a recent visit for my sister’s birthday, it failed to live up to its prior reputation.

Service was slow, especially drinks, which were repeatedly forgotten.

My starter, fried whitebait, was well-cooked but needed more sauce. My main, a burger, needed more seasoning. It was cooked all the way through, despite me asking for medium-well. The bun was toasted so much that it had dried out and become crispy. The chips could have done with longer in the deep-frier.

Dessert was a little better, as you would expect from a chocolate shop, but there was simply too much of it. Portion sizing seemed to be an issue in multiple places. Both mine and Elina’s starters were large, whereas Elina’s main was tiny, and really could have done with a side being suggested.

The hot chocolate was nice. However, we asked for the whipped cream on the top, which, when you punched through to the drink, overflowed. This would not have been so bad if the cup had been served on a saucer, or had a handle, but it came with neither.

To finish things off: a fire alarm. Not a quick burst that was easily turned off. It rang from the moment we asked for the bill to the moment we were walking out of the restaurant. You would think that staff would clarify to people whether they should evacuate or not, but such a courtesy was not extended to many patrons.

Definitely not a good evening for Roast and Conch.

Victoria Gate

Friday, November 11th, 2016 | Reviews

victoria-gate

What a massive fucking disappointment.

I thought it was going to be really big. But it isn’t. Nor does it have any shops you would ever go in. At least Victoria Quarter has nice things to look at. The shops here are both unjustifiably posh, and yet still boring.

It does have a John Lewis, but what a poorly designed store that is. There are no stairs. How do you build a department store and forget about the stairs? This led to delays in the escalators to the point where they had to have a staff member on one each managing the queue. Meanwhile Elina got stuck in the lift because they were so crammed.