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Yearly Archives: 2016
Your dream home cinema is easier to make than you think!
Gone are the days when the sitting room or living room used to have just a TV in a unit or on a table. Nowadays, as technology has advanced a great deal, most people are investing in a home entertainment system, complete with at least five speakers, a subwoofer, a dvd player, a set top box, and probably even a gaming console. All of these devices inevitably take up space, and so an entertainment center has become a common piece of furniture in many living rooms. Considering that there are so many electronic devices to place, it is important to make sure that the entertainment center is big enough to accommodate them all, along with a television, which is often a big screen. Sometimes buying a readymade entertainment center tends to be rather expensive. So, you might want to consider building one yourself. With the right plan and some basic tools, you will be able to do it with a very affordable price.
First of all you can easily build an entertainment center using MDF cut to size. MDF is generally denser than plywood, and even though it is not one of the strongest building materials around, it is affordable and ideal for a DIY project such as this. You can find different thicknesses, and it is also easy to increase the thickness of the board by attaching two boards face to face. This is mostly important for the top part of the cabinet where the television will be placed.
To buy the MDF boards you need you will first need to decide on the dimensions of your entertainment center. Consider the space where it will be placed, and all the devices that it will be accommodating. Taking measurements is very important so as to help you design the cabinet accordingly. You do not want to end up with a finished entertainment center where you cannot place all your devices. It is also important that you take into account the places where you will need to drill enough holes for cables to be housed. All of your electronic devices need to be plugged in, and you should try to minimise the hassle of tangling wires by making sure that you plan their positioning in advance. Considering this, you may wish to think about the possibility of including adjustable shelves, for more convenience.
Once all the panels and shelves have been cut in the right sizes you can move on to the assembly process. The center section of the case should be assembled first. Most probably you will be including shelves above the base, so apply glue to the end of the center shelves and then drive the screws to attach them. Make sure to align the front edges well. Then add the bottom part of the center section, which will need to be flush to the back edge of the dividers but centered too. Glue the dividers and then apply clamps to attach them well. Afterwards flip the unit over so as to be able to add the top part. Again, make sure the back edges are flush. Using glue and pocket holes screws should do the trick. Lastly, install the shelves.
If you are going to leave the entertainment center open, you may as well say that you are done. But if you want to include doors, this is the point where you will need to cut the door panels, so as to install the doors to the unit. If you are going to include any drawers you will need to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that they fit well and achieve a smooth slide.
Wherever you had to cut, make sure to sand well so as to get a smooth finish. Depending on the preferred color, you will need to apply more than one coating to make sure that it is well coated. It is often best to apply a third layer for the top boards for additional protection.
Many entertainment centers are flush against the floor. This guarantees more stability. If however you prefer to install legs, make sure to go for something that is sturdy enough, and that is well secured into the unit.
Finally you can load up all your electronic stuff, and of course, the TV, onto the entertainment center. Now, all that remains is sitting back on your sofa so as to start watching TV or play a game while everything is neatly organized in your newly built DIY entertainment center!
Access the best in British TV abroad
The way in which people access television is changing all the time. Since the inception of super-fast broadband via cable and fiberoptic internet connectivity, the choices have grown exponentially.
Not only that, user habits are changing too. In the past, people used to watch entertainment purely through their televisions to a set schedule dictated by the terrestrial and satellite networks. That has now all changed. Due to on-demand entertainment via apps installed on smart devices, set-top boxes, tablet and phones, people now watch television shows as they want, when they want.
No more week-to-week religious set times to catch up on a drama series, action show or soap opera. The consumer completely dictates how they want to watch their television, when and on which device. The balance of power has completely shifted.
The choice for consumers is even greater
Only a few years ago, on-demand was just coming into fruition. Sites like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player (now called ITV Hub), 4oD (now called All4), Demand5 and Sky Go were online versions of their respective networks only. But there were no cross network options that offered a broad spectrum of entertainment from multiple networks, or even countries.
Now with the emergence of popular services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime TV and NowTV, on-demand television has gone to the next level and has answered those calls. These services now offer the consumer a huge range of entertainment including terrestrial and satellite TV live and on-demand, sports, movies and pay-per-view events.
Even more impressive, is many series are now produced by and exclusively shown on these providers platforms. Netflix has invested heavily in original programming and can boast highly rated shows such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Bloodline and Marco Polo to name a few.
Amazon is the same. Their long awaited Grand Tour series is set to hit our screens, starring ex-Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, which is said to have had a huge production budget. Viewer audiences are expected to be massive yet this show and none of the aforementioned will ever air of mainstream television networks! Its proof that consumer viewing habits have changed for good and mainstream television is dying.
Access all this great content in France
As the entire developed world is now connected to the world wide web, gaining access to these services is now so straightforward, that all it takes is a simple box connected to the internet and a TV and they’re ready to go.
Even more impressive is UK based content like this can be watched in France by using a VPN or a smart DNS to change the physical IP address of the device and bypass any IP filtration that blocks users fro outside the United Kingdom from using these services across the English Channel.
So if you’re an expat living in France, the great news is, you can watch Sky television is France without erecting any unsightly, complex satellite dishes. A simple VPN router or smart DNS will allow you to purchase a Now TV box, Apple TV, an Amazon Fire TV box or stick; even a Roku or MAG box and you’ll get access to whatever content you like.
Even apps on your TV such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer or Android TV will work and allow you to watch non-localised content purely due to a simple IP change. You could watch UK based content or even US-specific content just with the simple switch of an IP.
So if you’re enjoying life abroad in neighbouring France, life just got even better with the advances in technology that allow live and on-demand streaming of practically any content you like, when you like and how you like.
Keeping the capital’s commercial spaces clean and pristine
You may think that choosing a suitable office cleaning company in London is a simple matter of searching local directories and finding a supplier closest to your locality, that offers the most cost effective solution and convenience right? Think again!
The capital is packed to the brim with cleaning businesses that vary from small one man bands, to maid services, to full office and facilities maintenance firms. Some are good, some are great but sadly, many are downright ugly. The main reason being is that certain firms do not fully understand the implications of poor cleanliness or how to clean correctly.
Many cleaning companies develop bad reputations due to poor staff training, skills and accountability. Invariably, their cleaning teams will rush in, quickly wipe down the surfaces, run the vacuum around the floors as fast as possible and leave. After weeks of this, poor standards start to creep in and the inevitable change in cleaning company occurs as the business owner becomes frustrated and dissatisfied with the service they are receiving.
If this sounds familiar, then you need to read on. Finding a great cleaning company is not easy amongst the several and frankly dreadful options out there. So here’s our tips to finding a great company that you’ll stick with and build a long term relation with that’ll take care of your office cleaners London needs, so you can get on a run your business and not have to worry anymore.
Good quality cleaning companies will have been trading for many years and they’ll have experience behind them, meaning they know the pitfalls and issues that frequently crop up in their line of work.
Believe it or not but cleaning technology is constantly changing, as well as the legislation that governs the cleaning industry. Every year, new chemicals are also introduced that affect health and safety matters so a reputable company, with suitable experience will always ensure they stay on top of these issues, thus protecting the health of those they employ and those that occupy the spaces they clean.
So the key is, always choose a company that has the necessary experience behind them. New start-ups may be enthusiastic and keen to get your business, but they may not have the necessary credentials to do the job the right way.
It’s an obvious point but the quality of the end product is key – many cleaning businesses start off working to a high standard but soon those standards slip. The only way to find out if a cleaning business sticks to high standards is to find out what others have said about them.
Read reviews online or ask them to provide names and contact details of existing clients to speak about the service they have received. If they resist, you know they have something to hide.
In the internet age, no one can escape a poor reputation for bad customer service. Reviews do not tend to lie, so do your research and sort the good from the bad.
Much like the point above, reputation counts so check who they currently work for and how well they perform for those clients. If your office space is of a certain size and scale, check the cleaning company already works for the same types of businesses. You want a supplier that is used to working with your kind of premises so that they know what to expect when their team arrives to maintain your premises cleanliness.
A good cleaning business should be able to work to your schedules, not the other way around! If they insist on you adjusting your schedule to theirs, then what good is that?
A cleaning company should understand that they should essentially be invisible to the working environment and get on with the job when it causes the least business interruption. If they get in the way, they are no good to you.
Whether you trade during normal office hours or specific hours of the day or night, a reputable cleaning company should be able to facilitate a suitable regime that fits into the quieter times that you operate, no questions asked.
Contractors in various industries tend to build reputations for being unreliable. They show up when they feel like it and the excuses come flying out when they are questioned as to the reason for the delay or change of schedule.
Any reputable cleaning company will give you advanced warning is there are any issues with delivery of service on any given day and treat you with professional courtesy and respect. But all in all, a good cleaning business should always have their team at your premises on time, every time. If they have staff shortages or sickness, they should have solid contingency plans in place to deal with those situations that means you are not the one having to check why they are late or fail to make their appointment.
So as you may have gathered by now, the key to choosing the right cleaning company in London is all about doing the right in-depth research. It may seem like stating the obvious but time pressures and urgency at work can lead us into making hasty decisions that end up costing us more in the long run.
If you simply do not have the time to research the right cleaning company, then delegate that responsibility or ask a colleague or friend of they know someone they can vouch for. Don’t just dive in and hire the first name that appears on your search. You’ll only end up regretting it.
Dealing with legal separation & severance
It is rare to find a couple who are comfortable with negotiating a process of separation themselves as it is often common that one or both parties will not wish to disclose sensitive or required information to enable positive discussions to reach an agreeable conclusion.
In these circumstances, the matter inevitably ends up going to Court proceedings and an application for financial remedy will enlist the assistance of the courts to resolve the dispute.
Stage 1 – Mediation
Before an application to the Court is granted, both parties must attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting, together or separately, to effectively learn more about the disputes they have with each other.
If at this vital stage no financial agreement can be made, then the Court will proceed to get involved and seek an application.
At this point, the process involves an application for the orders sought. Upon receiving the application, the Court will issue an automatic directive, required by both parties to file with the Court and serve on the other party full financial disclosure by completing Form E, along with documentary evidence to support and verify the statements given.
The Court will then set an initial date known as the First Appointment, which is a directions hearing allowing both parties to seek rulings from the opposing party to supply all outstanding information associated with the dispute, and secure all valuations and data that will assist the court and disputing parties to reach a resolution.
Stage 2 – Financial Dispute Resolution
Once full financial disclosure has been set forth, the Court will set out a further Financial Dispute Resolution appointment, also known as an FDR, which is designed to help the judge in place during the hearing to assist the disputing parties as to what the Court would order base don the evidence in front of them. This usually helps to break the deadlock and get both parties talking more rationally towards a settlement.
If however the FDR talks fail, the Court is left with no alternative but to set a future trial date and go to court.
Stage 3 – Trial
During the trial, both parties will present their evidence on matters under dispute, and ultimately it is down to the Judge to make a ruling based on the full findings of the case and set forth his or her views of a fair division of assets and any maintenance required to be paid, one way or the other.
Throughout these types of processes, it is normal to have a Family Law solicitor by each party’s side to assist with the legal framework and offer guidance, input and compassion. but most importantly, to present their client’s case to the Court in an expert and pragmatic fashion, by using their experience and deeply held knowledge of the legal system and similar cases. A fine example of experienced Family law barristers would be Worthingtons Solicitors in Kent.
A firm such as this, would usually have regular exchanges with the judge to gauge how the matter is being considered and to get a clearer indication of how the process may or may not be influencing their final decision in the future.
As you can imagine, a good amicable relationship with the judge in these instances is vital to ensure their clients concerns, arguments and evidence is heard as fully and and fairly as possible, to enable the judge to make a fair and balanced decision on the severance.
This is sometimes a great deal easier said than done, especially in cases where the solicitors is working in parts of the country outside of their usual remit. In these circumstances, experience and rock solid legal knowledge is critical
What to expect from a typical house refurbishment
Before you set out on any internal home refurbishment project, you would be foolish not to firstly plan ahead and break down the stages of the renovation into easy-to digest, bite-sized portions. As the saying goes, nothing worse that biting off more than you can chew!
By creating a list of priorities, you minimise the risk of oversights and potential mistakes, and give yourself a far better chance of having a smoother, quicker home renovation that will be stress free. Misunderstandings and poor planning can lead to expensive last minute alterations which can hold up the completion date and affect the quality of the finished product.
As with any house refurbishment project, stripping back and removal of the internal fixtures, fittings and decor is always going to be your first priority. No project can start until you have a clean, tidy blank canvas from which to start and let your designers and project managers do their magic.
So if you’re in the thick of planning an interior design makeover for the internal parts of your home, here are the key jobs you need to factor into your planning:
There’s always a tap or pipework that needs moving no matter which room you’re working on, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. If you are changing a room that involves plumbing work, remember to consider items that may include repositioning, adding additional water supplies or waste outlets. If you’re expanding or building an extension, you may need to install heating so plumbing, pipework and radiators could be involved.
If you intend to change room layouts or build new rooms, chances are stud walls and partitions may be involved as well as suspended ceilings. If so, make sure you leave newly built frameworks open for easy electrical installations.
New rooms will also require door frames built with doors mounted, plus windows, window sills and the all essential hardware finishing.
Many older homes have outdated or poor wiring so a complete or partial electrical rewiring could be in order, not to mention a change of circuit board to a modern system. Many people now like to have a security system installed for peace of mind as well as internet cabling such as ethernet networking, phone sockets, new electrical outlets and light switches.
Plaster board (or drywall as it is referred to in North America) is usually installed by a professional plasterer. Depending in the type of build, you may decide to simply opt for taping and mudding the gaps for fresh paint or skimming a fresh layer of plaster across the entire surface to create a smooth, paint-ready finish.
New ceilings will most certainly need a fresh coat of plaster too and if any old wallpaper needs stripping back or old plaster has come away from the existing walls, that will need repairing by a professional.
One of the most popular surfaces on walls and floor these days is tile – ceramic, porcelain and even cement tiles are all the rage now as they add a hard wearing, durable finish that gives any room a high end look – not just the kitchens and bathrooms.
Your newly renovated room will no doubt need a suitable new flooring laid by a specialist. With a variety of options on the market including carpet, hardwood, tile, vinyls and laminates, the choices are endless. With finishes that range from natural looking wood to earthy stones and classic patterns, you can make your room however you wish, to your own taste and design.
The quality of any renovation is in the finishing which can easily get overlooked. Mouldings such as skirting boards and coving can give a new room that final finish it needs, whilst essentials such as door architraves, dado rails, pictures, accessories and soft furnishings will give the room its unique personality.
Any renovation project will undoubtedly create dirt, dust and mess everywhere. If you’re expecting to do a large project, be ready for a big clean up. Cover all perishable and precious items in plastic wrap and if possible, take high priced items off site until its safe to return them.
Brick dust, sawdust and cement gets everywhere and it can ruin items as the dust settles and builds up.
Once the project is over, use a high-end or industrial grade vacuum cleaner and remove all the dirt, dust and build up before inhabiting your home once again.
We try out Skywatcher’s popular entry-level telescope
When it comes to higher apertures, Dobsonian telescopes are the masters of this domain and the Skywatcher heritage range is no exception to the rule. This 4-inch table top telescope which is incredibly cheap, costing under £100 is the perfect example.
It’s a stylish stargazing gadget, packaged in a nice design and a sleek looking metallic hot red finish. It’s focal length can reach 400mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/4 thanks to the 4-inch parabolic mirror. It comes packaged with two eyepieces as standard, one 25mm and the other 10mm, a 2x Barlow lens and a very useful red dot finder.
Set up is a breeze and takes literally seconds. Simply unbox it, pop on the finder, add an eyepiece and you’ll be staring at the sky a few moments later. With its small scale design, the Heritage 100P is designed to be a tabletop viewer, so you’ll need something flat and sturdy to get the best results from this telescope. A good quality garden table would suit best as you can sit back and enjoy the views in comfort, with minimal shake or image blurring.
In terms of focussing, this model is equipped with a rack and pinion system. Our test model was a tad stiff to adjust but overall, the control we found to be good enough at this price point.
The finder is a basic zero magnification unit. With the small red dot that is projected onto the clear screen, we found it surprisingly easy to align it to the main telescope. If we did have one small gripe, it would that both the focuser and finder didn’t feel very well positioned to the telescope whilst in use and it could get in the way from time to time when viewing through the eyepiece. Strangely enough, if their positions were flipped, it would make a great deal more sense and alleviate this problem.
On the plus side, we found the mount that comes equipped with the telescope to be nice and sturdy and a breeze to use.
Field of view tests
The put the Heritage’s optical qualities to the test, we first pointed it at Regulus in Leo. Using the 25mm eyepiece, the star remained sharp and crisp for the central 60% of the view, but outside of that, the image quality swiftly started to deteriorate.
Overall, wide field views were decent, confirmed when we pointed our new toy at both M81 and M82 in the Ursa Major constellation. Switching over to the 10mm eyepiece however, gave us much sharper edges when viewing M82 and we could even make out some structural textures at times when the skies were at their darkest.
In terms of planet watching, we found views of Jupiter to be rather small even when using the 10mm eyepiece but e could still make out the equatorial bands and the four Galilean moons which is impressive for a budget telescope.
Observing Mars was a real treat as we were able to see ice caps and some interesting markings whilst it was great for viewing the rings of Saturn, with both Titan and Rhea both clearly visible through the eyepiece.
Closer to home, the Moon was a breeze to observe, with plenty of craters and Lunar Mare to enjoy although not in great a detail as we would have expected.
As with any telescope, the set-up process is what makes or breaks the deal and this one gave us no fuss whatsoever, making it the perfect choice for beginning astronomers and stargazers.
With this model being so compact and lightweight, its the ideal telescope to take to friends to enjoy or pack away on short trips. Weighing in at just over 2.8kg, its no heavyweight and can be enjoyed by practically anyone, of any age, making it the ideal entry level telescope to start a lifelong interest in the constellations and beyond.
Storing it was easy, with it being compact and easy to move, to it will never be a purchase getting in the way or collecting dust. As always, it comes with the usual high end build quality you’d expect from Skywatcher Telescopes and at a price under £100, you can’t realyl go wrong.
Overall, a great entry level telescope for someone who is just starting out on their stargazing journey or an ideal purchase for an experienced astronomer who wants something more compact to take on the road.