Don’t Buy Another Useless Toaster, Buy a Magimix

Buying the perfect toaster has been a mundane yet recurring theme of my adult life which often leads to toaster rage when I buy yet another useless toaster.

When we moved into our first house back in the early 80’s we were given a hand me down toaster, we’d never been responsible for toaster purchasing so we didn’t have a clue. I should have known that toaster would not be “the one” and, of course, it wasn’t. Setting aside it’s inadequate toasting abilities it was the wrong colour and had a seventies pattern on it – and you couldn’t live with 70’s style back in the 80’s. It marked the beginning of my quest for the perfect toaster. I think it’s a man thing, probably because it’s connected with fire.

Some time later I married “the one” and in all the kerfuffle we ended up with a white Tefal thick and thin toaster, designed and produced in an era where form followed function without compromising quality just to get the price down. That was a good toaster which lasted for years until it went on the blink and I attempted a DIY repair which didn’t go well and we were back in the market for another toaster. My checklist for a toaster is simple enough:
+ Able to cope with different shapes and sizes.
+ Easy removal of toasted goods without burning or electrocution.
+ Ability to toast evenly.

Ideally it shouldn’t need a manual but we live in a world were we will get instructions and warnings in many languages including English and I will still end up shouting at my wife to stop her digging around in a toaster with a metal knife!

With hindsight I realise I should have put more effort into finding the perfect toaster earlier in my life. Unlike a new TV a toaster purchase wasn’t something I had previously devoted in-depth research into and every toaster we’ve bought since (at least half a dozen) have been impulse purchases or special offers and they’ve all been fundamentally flawed.

I have learnt that toasters with thin heated wires weaved over an insulated backplate just don’t work properly. Perhaps in a bygone era they did, but as the decades have rolled by the wires have been spaced further and further apart and the heating area has shrunk so now it’s hard to find a toaster big enough to toast a standard supermarket size loaf of bread.

I’m not the only person who has noticed, this snippet from an Amazon toaster review struck a chord: “I got fed up with toasting bread to find that the top third was untoasted because the slots weren’t deep or wide enough so I cut out a piece of card the size and shape of the normal bread I use and slotted it into all the toasters I looked at in the shops.”

The old adage “you get what you pay for” doesn’t hold true for toasters either, our last but one toaster cost £5 from Tesco – I only bought it to tide us over while looking for the perfect toaster and it worked fairly well and remains in service after handing it down to our son who still uses it in his student accommodation.

Which brings us to the Magimix Vision Toaster and I’m relieved to announce it’s a near perfect toaster. Yes it’s a french brand and yes it cost more than a booze cruise but it’s worth every penny. Magimix have been producing the best kitchen food processors for decades and now they also make toasters. This Magimix toaster is:
+ Really cool to look at and really cool to touch
+ See-through, which makes perfect sense
+ Takes full size bread, rolls, bags, bagels etc.
+ Toasts evenly using 4 halogen heating elements

Even better, the pop up action travels high enough so it’s easy to remove the contents without burning your fingers or having to delve into the toaster innards and not so vigourously that the toast ends up on the floor. It’s a fine balance which most toasters fail.

It really shouldn’t be rocket science to make a perfect toaster but kudos to Magimix for getting to grips with the problems and creating a clearly superior toaster with kitchen cred.

So far I haven’t managed to burn anything. Being see-through is obviously the key and I’ve learnt the time between not brown enough, perfect toast and burnt all takes place in around 30 seconds so it’s not surprising most toasters are useless and reinforces the rationale for a see-through toaster, one day all toasters will be see-through.

Because it’s see-through there can only be one slot but it’s long, wide and self-centring and copes well with pretty much everything I want to put in a toaster.

The Magimix Vision toaster is not cheap, I paid £160 at John Lewis online and it’s available in brushed steel, with black, cream, red and possibly other end panel colours and comes with a 3 year guarantee. It’s solidly built and easy to clean.

Next time you’re in the market for a toaster or toaster rage gets the better of you the Magimix Vision Toaster has the CantBarsed seal of approval.

The only real alternative worth considering is a toaster fork, an open fire and lots of patience because nothing compares to bread cooked in the glow of an open fire. My kids didn’t believe me until we tried it last bonfire night and now the quest for the perfect toaster has been passed onto the next generation – I’ll settle for my Magimix Vision Toaster.



iPhone 4 – Has Everything Changed Again?

The Apple iPhone 4 blurb says “This Changes Everything. Again.” This only proved half-true for me but it’s certainly another step in the right direction.

So what hasn’t changed? O2! They remain as useless as ever! OK, it’s not O2’s fault they didn’t have any iPhone 4s in stock to deliver to their existing customers on release day but getting my iPhone working with my existing iPhone tarriff proved to be a right PITA.

There was no way I was going to stand in a queue outside an Apple Store, effectively working as an unpaid Apple extra, just to get an iPhone 4 on the release day so the only way I could get my gadget fix was to buy a SIM free iPhone 4 from the online Apple Store UK and that’s an expensive option at £599 for the 32Gb model.

I planned to swap my O2 pay monthly SIM from my existing iPhone to the iPhone 4 until I found out the iPhone 4 utilises a “Micro SIM” format and after some delving around online these were my options:

1) Buy a new contract SIM with any iPhone carrier – ruled out because none of them had stock and my existing O2 contract has over a year to run.

2) Wait and hope O2 sent me a new blank micro SIM. The O2 website said they would do this but to date nothing has arrived.

3) Trim my existing SIM with a pair of scissors to the size of the Micro SIM – apparently the only difference is the amount of plastic surrounding the chip, but I decided to hold this option in reserve as a last resort.

4) Get a blank Micro SIM out of O2 and swap SIMs. I read O2 stores would give existing iPhone O2 pay monthly customers a free micro SIM on production of their AppleStore order confirmation email so that’s what I did and, apart from dealing with a numptie O2 sales droid, this part of the plan worked.

I kept my blank O2 micro SIM ready to roll as soon as iPhone 4 turned up which duly arrived around midday 24th June on launch day.

iPhone 4 Migration

The major software update to iOS 4 on my iPhone 3GS went smoothly and migration to the iPhone 4 was also straightforward – I just plugged the phone into iTunes, clicked a few options and that was about it. I had to re-enter a few passwords and Spotify seems to have got itself into an argument with itself about registered devices and offline playlists but apart from that I’m up and running without any significant problems.

Swapping the SIM via the O2 website failed miserably probably because the O2 site was broken most of the launch day and then I realised I could have swapped SIMs a few days earlier, avoiding the rush, grrrr – lesson learnt in case Apple opt for a nano SIM next time.

I finally managed to swap my SIM the following day after restarting the process on the O2 website and it worked within an hour.

iPhone 4 Unboxing

No Apple fanboy unboxing pictures from me. Of course I still enjoyed opening the packaging which is as slick as ever and fully recyclable but I don’t feel the need to share my excitement with you especially since we’ve all been bombarded by the adverts and the leaked iPhone pictures and the associated Gizmodo iPhone 4 saga. Suffice to say the iPhone 4 looks great so I’m going to concentrate on how the iPhone 4 feels in the hand and how it performs compared to my existing iPhone 3GS.

I was anxious to get the 2 big reported issues at launch out of the way as soon as I had the iPhone 4 powered up and connected to O2:

1) Screen discolouration: I don’t have any yellow tinges on mine.

2) Antenna problems: I can take my iPhone4 from 5 bars to Network lost in seconds [see my video below] holding the phone how I normally hold it so whatever Apple says about holding it differently it’s still a major design flaw and I’m not impressed to read Apple regard this as a non-issue! Rumours of free bumpers and a software update to fix the problem abound.

The flat slab design of the iPhone 4 looks stunning but it is less comfortable in my hand than the the iPhone 3GS. I do prefer the flat back of iPhone4 (and the original iPhone) to the curved back of the iPhone 3GS which scratches easily and wobbles around when placed on a flat surface. I will try one of Apple’s bumpers and see how that feels – and at the same time see if this alleviates my loss of signal problem.
[update]I added a Gelaskin and this makes it a little harder to lose signal but it’s not a solution[/update]

The iPhone iOS 4

It’s a bit of wet blanket really. With literally hundreds of improvements listed on the Apple website I was expecting to see more than the new folder feature and task-switching functionality – which is really just dipping a toe in the multitasking water. I accept that it’s a work in progress but task-switching is not multitasking as I understand the term and I’m really hoping we get proper multitasking features in future software updates.

The iPhone4 Screen

It’s a glass screen and yes it’s sharp, double the sharpness in fact, which makes sense because it now matches the resolution of the iPad which should mean running iPhone Apps on the iPad in x2 mode won’t be necessary so I’m putting this in the good column but I still can’t read the screen without my glasses on and there’s no option to globally increase the display font size which would be far more useful to me.

The iPhone 4 Camera

The uprated 5 megapixel camera and LED flash which can also shoot HQ video is perfect for snapshots and recording instant memories and the pictures I took outside look excellent on screen – definitely a step up from the 3 mega-pixels of my iPhone 3GS 3 (and the 2 mega-pixel camera in the original iPhone). Flash pictures taken in a dimly lit room are muddy but at least there is a flash and I can see what I was trying to photograph instead of an empty black rectangle with my previous iPhones and it really does now offer everything I want from a digital camera although I’d love a x2 or x4 optical zoom feature – maybe next year?

I don’t think I’m a FaceTime kinda guy (see picture top left) so the front facing camera and video chats doesn’t really interest me but I did notice it’s right next to the earpiece which always ends up covered in grease from my ear (eewwww) so if it could have been located further towards either corner that would have been better – for me.

iPhone 4 Dock Tip

Apple don’t usually miss any opportunity to sell us expensive extras and accessories so I’ll wager they didn’t notice the iPhone4 sits perfectly into the original iPhone dock so I’ll take the few quid I’ve saved and put it towards a bumper to fix the antenna issue Apple insists is a non-issue.

iPhone 4 Conclusions

Comparing my iPhone 3GS, updated to iOS4, with the iPhone 4 it’s hard to justify spending £599 to get a better camera and worse reception but this is the first no-compromise all-in-one handheld device that’s both fun and easy to use.

If you’re mid-contract on a iPhone 3GS I’d wait for a revision sometime next year but for anyone considering buying an iPhone for the first time or upgrading from an original iPhone or iPhone 3G this is as good as it gets – go for it!




My iPhone Story – MyPhone Story So Far

It’s no secret I’m an “Apple fan boy” and I’ve been waiting to order a proper UK iPhone since playing with one in the Apple Store in Florida over the summer.

The only decision to be made was whether to drive into town on a dark cold winter evening to buy from my local O2 store or buy from Apple online and wait a few days for delivery. No contest!
So on Friday 9th November at 6.02pm and a few seconds I logged on to Apple’s site half expecting the site to be broken but everything worked fine and a few minutes later my iPhone was ordered.
The iPhone arrived, as promised, the following Tuesday and I had my own sad unboxing and picture taking ceremony.

Apple packaging is always gorgeous and I can never bring myself to throw it away so everything ends up in the loft and I’m going to have to buy a bigger house or start a museum eventually!

I lost my previous Sony Ericsson mobile at the Latitude festival in the summer and replaced it with a Nokia N95 switching to the O2 network because I knew O2 had won the exclusive UK iPhone contract. The Nokia N95 is a nice phone, I liked the GPS feature but I couldn’t surf websites reliably on it and the camera combined with my photographic abilities were both disappointing.

As an existing O2 customer (if you want to keep your number and existing contract) activation is different so I’ve put together an O2 step by step activation series of screenshots for anyone who wants to see exactly what happens. It took around 20 minutes from start to activation but I was taking screenshots along the way so that’s a worst case scenario and it was relatively straightforward but dull.

If you’ve ordered an iPhone and you’re waiting for it to arrive read my iPhone setup Guide and when your iPhone arrives you’ll be ready to synchronise and play in minutes.

I’m not going to hack my iPhone for a couple of reasons. First of all since I have an O2 contract so the phone features work(!) and secondly because Apple have agreed to open up development early next year and I can wait a few months for some “official” widgety enhancements.

However I do hugely respect the efforts of the hacking community because I doubt Apple would have released the SDK without being pushed, it’s not in their nature.

By belatedly following the advice in my iPhone setup guide I’ve now got all my contacts, photos, music and bookmarks neatly organised on my iPhone.

I work mostly online so the most important iPhone feature for me is WiFi support and internet browsing. I prefer the Firefox browser but Safari is a capable and reliable alternative and now for the first time ever on a mobile device I can browse my websites and login and make urgent changes from the iPhone – that’s a huge step forwards in Joe World!

I have literally hundreds of passwords which I need access to on a daily basis and I normally use RoboForm on PCs and 1Password on my Macs. They’re both excellent web form fillers and password managers and I recommend everyone gives one or the other program a try – especially if you’re using the same password for all your online services.

I was scratching my head trying to figure out the best way to store all my passwords on the iPhone and was interrupted by the latest 1Password software update which now supports the iPhone – brilliant!

1Password generates a special encrypted Safari bookmark which is synchronised to your iPhone along with your other Safari bookmarks and although it’s not automatic on the iPhone it’s the best available unless you know different?

My friend Antonius has a hacked iPhone (it took him all weekend and the rest of family gave him a wide berth) so we met up to compare notes over a pint in the pub. The hacked interface is amazing with lots of toys to play with and I sincerely hope Apple takes a positive attitude to build a community of iPhone developers so we can all enjoy their efforts.

Time will tell, thanks for reading, if you have any questions fire away, I’ll try to answer them…



iPhone – Apple In My Eyes – Blog

I’ve seen an Apple iPhone inspired future and it’s the stuff of science fiction. All the crucial elements are already in play.

iTunes was the Trojan horse which let Apple loose on Windows giving PC users a glimpse of Mac loveliness as they traded up their mp3 players for iPods and got used to doing things Mac style.

Making a success of the iTunes Store was the next crucial move which has made it (almost) painless to pay for our music, it’s certainly a lot less hassle than all that peer-to-peer nonsense – and with music becoming available at higher quality and DRM free there’s no excuse to steal music anymore.

Switching Macs to Intel CPUs has made it easier for programmers to get Windows software running on a Mac which both encouraged long time Mac users to stick with the platform and enticed more people to switch to Macs offering a comfortable transition.

The recently released Apple TV is a stealth device – it also integrates seamlessly with iTunes and iTunes Store on both PCs and Macs. To the casual observer Apple TV appears over-priced and near-useless BUT it’s being flown in under the radar to provide essential mission support as the iPhone establishes a bridgehead.

I firmly believe the iPhone will do to the mobile phone market what the iPod did to the mp3 player market and history is going to repeat itself – people are going to start trading up their standalone iPods, mp3 players, mobile phones and PDAs to the iPhone. We’ll hear the same old bravado from other manufacturers about how they’re not worried while they frantically scramble to produce iPhone clones but they’ve missed the big picture and there’s no way back for them now.

In less than two years all we will need is a TV (‘cos they’re big and fun to watch together), a computer or games platform (to work and play games) and an iPhone (because they’re Star Trek-like, damn sexy and portable). The stealth role for Apple TV reveals itself as the infrastructure to wirelessly manage everything on your iPhone, computer and TV screen using iTunes and Safari.

The next battle for Apple isn’t with Microsoft or other device manufacturers but with Sky Digital and terrestrial digital TV for control of our eyeballs. Movies and TV shows are already available via the US iTunes Store and these can be streamed wirelessly over the Internet to your iPhone, computer or TV screen. The only question is when Apple TV is renamed Skynet – finally the big picture is clear for all to see.

I’ve Got a New SONY k750i Mobile Phone Review

I’ve never been into mobile phones but I have always been into photography and cameras so when I spotted the new Sony k750i has a 2 megapixel digital camera – the same resolution as my Sony DSC P51 but about four times smaller AND it’s a mobile phone, with built-in FM radio and MP3 Player I had to take a closer look.

Mobile phone cameras have always been near useless, but the Sony k750i camera looks like a proper digital camera and the picture quality is good enough to be useful. Instead of a flash with the dreaded red-eye it offers a bright light feature which doubles up as a torch, it’s even really useful as a torch.

The camera take Sony memory sticks so if you upgrade the bundled 64Mb memory stick to a 1Gb memory stick you could store around 120 songs and still take 250 photos which is pretty cool.

Another feature I’m finding surprisingly useful is the organiser, if you’re used to keeping track of your daily appointments using Outlook you can synchronise your contacts and appointments easily by connecting the phone to your PC using the USB cable and bundled software provided.

The Sony k750i is the first mobile phone I’ve actually enjoyed using so if you’re in the market for a new mobile phone check it out, visit our mobile phones page to compare contacts and PAYG mobile phone options across the UK networks…