ohhh new .UK domain but is it really worth it?

So while I realise I’ve not written a post for about 8 months… I did a domain update today, so thought I’d better check into wordpress and do a plug-in update AND while I was here, mention the new .UK domain

In amongst the dozens of emails I get, I’d been notified by my hosting provider that a new domain ending has been released to the UK that was simply called “.UK” and as owner of 50pecent.co.uk I had first dibs on the new domain, which makes sense  (it is nice to see some common sense used from time2time)…  not that I have any intellectual property ownership over the name 50percent, this was just a nickname I picked up from playing Aussie Rules Footy in London in days gone by…   I liked it, stuck with it and was lucky enough that no one else had decided to register the domain in the UK so I picked it up a few years back.  :-)

I digress… So, I was advised I could register 50percent.UK so I thought why not, I paid £10 for 3 years ownership and popped it on my existing hosting package. So you can now get to this Blog post via both 50percent.co.uk or 50percent.uk    BUT is it really worth it?  I’m not sure. While it’s a nice to have, it’s inexpensive, I’m not quite sure I get the point why it was released at all.     It’s 3 characters shorter but erm…  that’s about it.     I’m not sure of the risk of two competing brands coming to blows over a “.co” between their company name and the “.uk”.  Is this just a way for nominet to spin some more cash, or actually make it appear like they are adding any value to the UK internet domain arena, because lets face it – it’s not like they do much else, other than write policy about how we should use UK domains.   Nominet have a campaign page about .uk domains http://www.dotuklaunch.uk/ if you’re interested.

Domain names do seem to be a new fad. While I understand .com or .co.uk might be in shorter supply if your just joining the internet revolution, is the new trend of Domains that are popping up including “.London”, “.xxx”, “.sport” or any name you can be bothered to put after your DOT, the right way to go.   They don’t appear to have been adopted amongst the regular web services I use yet, but no doubt in a few months you’ll start getting emails from “.facebook”, “.twitter” or “.amazon”   Or the more tech savvy might start with something like dave@jones.windowcleaners  but that’s just weird.      Like with pre-pay mobile numbers, Voip landline numbers, email address’ – are domain names going to become disposable?

Calling Last Orders on the Milk Round – Expensive & Poor Service

About a year ago, I watched a TV programme that was all about promoting locally sourced produce and ‘helping the British farmer’, so I took on one of the suggestions and I got myself a Milk Man. I went to the Milk and More website (owned by DairyCrest) and opened an account to have fresh milk delivered to my door step on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – these were the days available for the rounds in my area.

I got monthly invoices to email, which I looked at for a while (first few months) but then over the months they were always about the same so didn’t inspect them too closely.

Then last Monday morning, my other half was leaving for work and she shouts upstairs that we Milk on the step.  So I log into the Milk and More website to see my delivery dates have changed to Monday, Wednesday and Friday….   I check my email and having nothing other than the previous invoices (nothing in my Spam folder also), so I assume they have not notified me – which, to me, is just rude if they can’t even notify you that your entire round will change.

I then ring their customer service number and after navigating through the options get through to a lady, sounded Foreign (was difficult to place) – and I ask the question “was I notified of the change, and if not then why not?”  I then get lady replying to me with every other word is ‘sorry’ and she’s already becoming frustrating as she says something about my delivery days being Mon, Weds, Fri…  and I had to correct several times telling her that Yes they are Mon, Weds and Fri NOW, but only 3 days prior they had been Tues, Thurs and Sat.  We closed the call with her agreeing to contact my local distributor to ask about the change.

A couple of hours later my mobile rings, I was on a conference call for work so let it go to Voicemail. I listened to the message after my call and this time heard from a Indian sounding guy and the message left me even more confused…  I found it difficult to understand him, but he seemed to have confused himself because it sounded as though he said “your regular guy is on holiday and your delivery will resume to Monday, Wednesday and Friday once he returns”

At this point I’m annoyed that I’m both wasting my time while also getting frustrated over bloody milk!  So I ring DairyCrest head office and explain to them what I’d experienced and played the lady on the phone the Voicemail, which she couldn’t understand either. She promised to have someone from customer services call me back, but end of the day can I actually be bothered…   I took out the Milk Delivery as goodwill to help a local farmer, but on reflection it’s turned into hassle and frustration.

I had a call back within the hour from a manager of the Customer Team at Head Office who explained that the local Dairy / Dispatch unit should have been responsible for leaving a note with one of deliveries advising of the day change the week before. I also played her the voicemail and she advised me that all their customer calls are answered in Manila (in the Philippines, if you didn’t know) and that they had moved the work abroad in 2009 to lower costs, but she acknowledged that the message was unclear and she’d look into the quality of the staff and training of their call centre.  I then asked her about price, because on comparison my milk delivery was substantially higher than Supermarkets and Corner shops, to which she advised DairyCrest had overheards, were competitive and that if I wanted to save money I should consider the ‘poly bottle’ instead of Glass – which makes no sense to me, because Glass is washed and re-used where-as plastic is melted and recycled, but even so their Poly options was merely pennies cheaper. These are my calculations based on prices as of 1st March 2014:

I had analyzed my invoices for the past year and seen the cost of a pint milk with DairyCrest has gone up 14%. It started at 61p a pint in March 2013, then went up to 66p around July, then 70p per pint this month.

Did you know we’re paying 20p more a pint from the Milkman?
And infact at 70p a pint, 2 pints being £1.40   you can buy 6 pints from Tesco for £1.48
which means 10pints a week, 52 weeks a year (I know we do have the odd holiday… but) that’s 520 pints a year, on a pint for pint that would a £104 saving with Tesco.   Or if you get the best value possible, it would 70p a pint with Milkman £364 a year, vs 4pint bottles from Tesco £130.   That’s a different of £234.

 

So, to the end the story, following my first call with Head Office at DairyCrest I’ve heard nothing further – I gave it a few days, heard nothing else back. So have cancelled my Milk Round and have been buying 4 Pint bottles from the Supermarket, and for the past week two of the main Supermarket players have been selling 4Pints for £1 and 3 x 4Pints for £2.   As this has demonstrated, as a paying consumer  – expect good value, and if you’re not happy with the service you receive then don’t be afraid to move to another provider.

The Lobster Room in Reading, Berks – a poor choice for dining

As you’ll see the old Reviews Blog has been a bit dry of late, mainly due to time (I’ve been a busy boy) and because the majority of my restaurant visits over the past year have been via the Mystery Dining Company I work for part time, so considered it a conflict of interests to survey and then blog them.

But this time round you get the my full attention about The Lobster Room, in Reading, Berkshire in Blog form because A) I’ve received tweets and pings asking about my experience following my FourSquare check-in and B) my experience was poor so I’m letting others know…

I’d seen the venue under the banner ‘The Lobster Room’ advertised, it’s in a location opposite Forbury Gardens in Reading, just out of town. The building has had a fair turn over of dining experiences, but due to the location I don’t think it attracts that much passing trade.

My other half is an avid Groupon user and decided to treat us to a Fishy Dining experience at the Lobster Room because we both enjoy seafood and I’m always up for a night off cooking and a good meal out.

We had a table booked for 8pm on a Friday (10th Jan 2014) and arrived on time. The entrance foyer contained just a empty sandwich fridge & counter and we had to walk down stairs to get to the restaurant, which should seat approximately 50-80 diners, but for a Friday evening it was less than a third full, with only a handful of tables occupied.

We were seated and given menus and our waiter (a gentleman in his 30’s, olive skin complexion, who spoke broken English) who then wandered off and we waited for about 10mins for him to return and we placed our drinks and meal order together – we were not offered any table water. While ordering, I made a specific request that the Lobster Main course was NOT served with Mixed Peppers or garnished with chilli / paprika as my other half has an allergy… and I spoke very slowly and repeated several times “no red, yellow or green pepper, no chilli and no paprika – nothing that is a bell pepper” he nodded and confirmed. Yet despite my request the Half Lobster was served on a bed of Red & Yellow Peppers…  meh.  So to save time (and avoid ruining the Lobster) we begrudgingly lifted the Lobster off the plate and the waiter took the Peppers away and returned with a handful of thyme seasoned boiled / part roasted potatoes.  Anyway I’m jumping ahead of myself… back to the Starters.

 

The Service was slow and for Starter we had Scallops in Pancetta and Calamari . The Scallops were nice, well cooked & moist but the sweet seasoning / dressing was slightly over-powering, but it was a tasty starter and well presented. The Calamari however wasn’t good as the batter wasn’t crisp, it was soggy, the Calamari was a little chewy and it was served on a white plate with a slice of lemon – some mayo, seafood or tartar would have been nice.

Scallops_Lobster-Room

Scallops @ Lobster-Room

We waited for atleast 5 minutes to have our starter plates collected. There were two waiting staff on and despite it being rather empty it just all seemed so slow. The waiter took our plates and didn’t ask how the food was, or engage us in any way it all, it all seemed a lazy laboured job.

We then waited for another 15mins or so for the mains to arrive. I’d ordered the Crab Tagliatelle in addition our other main of Half Lobster. As mentioned above, the Lobster didn’t arrive as requested but aside from the momentous cock-up with the Peppers, the Lobster was nice, a good size, well cooked & seasoned.  The Crab Tagliatelle however was served on a plate with the Crab Shell and legs, but I’m not sure if this was to try and convince me that the plate contained any actual crab, because it seemed as though I’d been given the shell and not the meat…  the small bundled pile of undercooked tagliatelle didn’t seem like fresh pasta and digging through the pasta with tomato sauce, there were no pieces of crab meat to be seen, so either it’d been put through a blender and whizzed so finely that it was unrecognisable or it simply wasn’t there. It didn’t particularly taste of crab and the seasoned tomato sauce was the prominent flavour.

Crab-Tagliateli_Lobster-Room

Crab-Tagliatelle @ Lobster-Room

After eating what I could manage of the poor attempt at a main course and trying to extract what little Crab meat I could from the bits of crab carcass left on my plate, we waited once again for the waiter to return to collect our plates and again there was no attempt to ask how the meal was, he simply picked up the plates and walked off.  He did return a few mins later with a dessert menu but at that point I was happy enough with a coffee at home so asked for the bill, paid for our drinks and the supplement for the Lobster, which wasn’t covered in the Groupon offer and left.

Overall, a very disappointing experience and I’m very glad we didn’t pay full price. Some of the food was nice, but then other parts were really bad. The service was slow, un-engaging and they couldn’t understand or adhere to a basic dietary requirement, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend The Lobster Room as venue to enjoy good seafood in Reading, Berkshire.

 

And I do feel a little guilty, as a friend who saw my FourSquare check-in asked how it was…  I said ‘poor’ before remembering she’d brought her husband Groupon vouchers for the same place for his Birthday… Opps.

Google Music vs Spotify – my first impressions

Having not blogged for a while, not through lack of wanting to, just far tooooo busy. I thought I’d take a few minutes to scribble down my thoughts on Google Music after I’d managed to convince Google to give me a Google Music Account (registration involved having a US VPN up and some tinkering with details) – I am in the UK and the Service is currently reserved for US people only, but not wanting to miss out I managed to sign up and trial the service.

I’m on the 1 month free trial and I’m able to view the whole catalog and offline songs to my android device. If I don’t cancel the trial I’ll get billed $7.99 a month in July.

I’ve been paying £10 a month for Spotify since 2009 and have always been very happy with the service, applications and quality.  Google music is a very different interface than what I’m used to on Spotify – I like the layout of Google with it’s tiled album covers. The navigation can feel a bit odd and isn’t all that intuitive. ‘My Library’ or ‘Playlists’ seem to be the same thing just viewed in different ways in 2 different pots – weird.

The music selection seems Ok, I think right now they have slightly different catalogs (regional record label licenses), but that’s partly due to Spotify being my UK account and I’m registered on Google Music as US.

I prefer the ‘explore’ option on Google Music to discover new music or browse (incl new releases) and with their album covers and tabs, it’s easier to navigate than Spotify who have limited items in the New Release section. Google are big on vivid album covers and bold clear menu options. But I prefer the layout, structure of drag & drop playlists in Spotify – especially in the App which I use on my home PC or I use on my Squeezeboxes.  Also, Spotify does have the plus side of Spotify Apps, which provide varied ways of viewing, discovering and organising music which is a plus.

As for for the Android Mobile Applications.
The tiles, albums covers and searching on Google Music is better. But visibility of playlists, adding to playlists and offline function of music is better on Spotify – it’s annoying when you can’t outright pick one better option and two good services have different parts from each you prefer.  I will continue to play with both services and see if I can find a preference, but either way they’re both better than Rdio.

Google Music Menu

http://music.google.com/