Always look for a voucher code when shopping online

Although we’re not technically in a recession yet, we are certainly in midst of a downturn in the economy and with prices rising and wages stagnating (or even falling in real terms) I think most people are definitely feeling the pinch on their wallets.

However, everyone still needs to make some purchases, and there is one easy way you can save a few percent when shopping online; use a voucher / discount code. It surprised me that some of my friends weren’t aware of this, as I’ve been using vouchers for years to get a discount on anything from pizza to holidays.

Dominos regularly give out vouchers for 20% off online orders, and last year I managed to get 15% off a group holiday to Center Parcs. There were 18 of us, so that amounted to about £200 in savings! Hence why it’s definitely spending a few minutes searching for codes online.

A friend of mine has just launched a new site, which aims to have the largest and most up-to-date selection of voucher codes. They are investing a lot of time into checking all their codes and ensuring that they remain valid, and they publish the expiry date so you know when it must be used by.

It’s a good idea to start looking for codes in advance, as this year I missed out on getting a Center Parcs discount… there were no vouchers available when we booked.

SATA hard drives for our coraid ATAoE SAN

We are looking to purchase some drives for a Coraid SR1521 storage appliance. Coraid maintain a list of compatible drives on their site, so it would be wise for us to stick to drives that have been tested without problems.

Hard drives comparison

  • All disks shown are 1TB SATA drives.
  • MTBF is the Mean Time Between Failures
  • AFR is the Annualised Failure Rate. This is the % of the population of these drives that are likely to fail in an average year. I’ve calculated this myself based on 24/7 usage (e.g 8760 / MTBF * 100).
Manufacturer Model Type Part Number MTBF AFR Price (inc VAT)
Seagate Barracuda ES.2 Enterprise ST31000340NS 1,200,000 0.73% £165.59
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 Desktop ST31000340AS 750,000 1.17% £99.99
Samsung Spinpoint F1 * Desktop HD103UJ 600,000 1.46% £89.85

* The Samung Spinpoint F1 has not been tested on a Coraid device yet.

Tom’s hardware have a comparison of SATA disk transfer rates.

X-bit labs have an in-depth comparison on 1TB disks.

Samsung make an interesting point in their spintpoint F1 announcement pdf. Although buying a 1TB drive may cost more per Gigabyte than 2 x 500GB drives, the 2 drive solution is twice as likely to fail per Gigabyte. However, it will generally be slower as you have less spindles.

Vacuum Cleaner Suction Power

Our “hoover” is rubbish. It’s an Electrolux Vitesse Pet Lover which I bought for £70 from Tesco about 18 months ago when we moved house, but as the old saying goes if you buy cheap, you buy twice. The main problem is that it overheats after 5 minutes of use, and needs to take a half an hour break before it will run again.

So, today, I’m going to buy a new one. As with most things I buy, I do quite a bit of research before hand (sadly) and so this time I thought I would put the results of my research on-line to save someone else the bother!

Normally, I would assess a new product on various metrics, but in the case of a new vacuum cleaner, I’m interested in just two things: suction power (measured in air watts) and reliability. Reliability is hard to assess without having owned the product, so I will rely on 3rd party review scores from

Vacuum Cleaner Comparison

  • Suction Power measurements, displayed in air watts, are taken from the Manufacturer
  • Revoo scores are taken from their vacuum cleaner section.
  • Prices are taken from various shopbot services such as Google Product Search, Kelkoo and Pricerunner
Make & Model Suction Power Revoo Score Price
Dyson DC14 280 airwatts 8.7 (552 reviews) £179.99
Vax V-060 Turbo 170 airwatts? 9.4 (1 review) £75.94


After starting this blog I realised not all manufacturers publish the suction power in air watts, so the task of comparing them was harder than I thought. Also, I was only really interested in an upright bagless cleaner which ruled out some strong contenders from the likes of Miele and Numatic’s Henry / Hetty range.

A credit card worth having

My general view on debt is that is it is that is mainly useful when acquiring an asset that will give you some tangible returns. For example, if a business wants a loan to buy some machinery that would allow them produce their widgets more efficiently, then that is a good reason to borrow. On the other hand, if a person runs up huge debts buying clothes, then clearly that’s not so good.

So when it comes to debt, and credit cards in particular, I think we need to be very careful. There is a tendency for some people to think that credit cards are free money; they don’t realise the pain of paying it back until it’s far too late.

Of course credit cards are not just about debt. They can be useful in protecting you against dodgy traders or companies going bust and if you pay them off in full every month, you can even profit from them if they offer cashback.

I got my first ever credit card around the year 2000 when I was 18, and it was an Egg card. The reason I chose that card was that they allowed you to manage your account on-line, charged lower fees, and offered a good rate of cashback. However, over the years since they have steadily upped their fees and reduced the cashback, so much so that its benefit now is almost negligible.

Capital One World Mastercard

Last year, Brendan (the king of credit cards) alerted me to a much better cashback card. It’s called the Capital One World Mastercard, and it’s essentially a cashback card that will pay you 1% of whatever you spend on it. If you shop sensibly, this means a further 1% discount on everything you buy, and because it’s a Mastercard it will be accepted pretty much everywhere.

However, the main reason I decided to write about them today is that I just tried out their new online banking system and it is probably the best I have ever used. I say this because it allows you to download your statements in a number of formats such as QIF (Quicken / MS Money), CSV, Tab Delimited etc and for every transaction it provides detailed information including even the MCC / SIC (standard industry classification) code. It also gives you the Merchant’s town and postcode.

All I need now is a good accounts package to import these transactions into!

Water Conditioner Road Test


Magnetic water conditioners are used to treat the effects of hard water. They work by creating a magnetic field that causes the calcium carbonate (limescale) that is naturally found in water to remain in solution, thus preventing it from furring up as scale inside water pipes.


This method of water treatment is a controversial subject. Although they have long been used in industry, the science is not yet fully understood and so there is no authoritative word on how effective they are.

There is however, plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest they work, and one UK based supplier, Water Improvements Limited, has even commissioned a laboratory trial by the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath to verify their effectiveness.

The trial was conducted over 30 days with two systems of copper pipes. One system was attached to a Waterimp water conditioner, the other was a control system with no conditioner. At the end of the trail there is a clear difference in the amount of deposition of scale on the two pipes.

Figure 1 shows the pipe system after 30 days with a waterimp attached.

Figure 2 shows the control pipe system after 30 days (no waterimp).

The trial found 3 main conclusions:

  • The device was shown to reduce the deposition of scale under the conditions tested. This was confirmed by analysis of both total dissolved solids (TDS) and conductivity in parallel trials using a simulated domestic hot water / radiator heating system.
  • The device prevented the deposition of approximately 10 mg of scale/day for 30cm length of 1 inch pipe under the conditions tested.
  • The device was shown not to effect the pH of water passing through piping where it has been installed.

Road Test

So, armed with this information and the wealth of positive testimonials that WaterImp have on their website, I decided to give their basic unit, the Elf, a road test. I live in a 3 bedroom property, so according to their site, this should be sufficient.

Southern England is mostly a hard water area and as a consequence our shower doors are constantly covered in a thin film of limescale:

I have now installed the Elf, coiled around my mains inlet pipe underneath my kitchen sink, and I plan to see over the coming months how well it does. Unfortunately for me, the mains riser in my house is located in a bit of an awkward position, with little access space. However, once I managed to get to the plug socket behind my washing machine, installing the unit itself was incredibly easy. Once it powered up, the LEDs flash happily in a variety of sequences to indicate the circuitry is functioning.

I will post the results of my road test later in the year. I’m aware that it doesn’t work for everyone, but hopefully I will be able to join the army of enthusiasts that swear by theirs, and banish limescale for good. Of course, the Elf comes with a generous 190 day guarantee so if it doesn’t work I can always send it back.

Replacement bed slats

I have a bad habit of diving on to my bed, and unfortunately, most times I do this I end up snapping one of the wooden slats that supports the mattress. After I had snapped about 4 of them I thought I should order some replacements, but that turned out to be more difficult than I would have expected.

First I wrote to my bed’s manufacturer, Limelight beds. They completely ignored me! So then, I phoned Bedstar, which is the website where I ordered the bed from. They promised to send some replacement slats out free of charge, but they must have forgotten as none ever arrived.

So in the end, after a bit of searching around the web, I found a forum post where a lady called Wendy from Bishop Beds, had said that she could supply replacement wooden sprung slats. A quick call to them (Wendy even answered on a Sunday) and I found out that they sold the slats for £3 each, and if you order 10 you get free delivery.

I think this is a great example of how companies can use the Internet to get leads. Wendy has been pro-active with helping people answer their bed related queries on a forum, and now her company is going to get another sale as a reward for her efforts. OK so it’s only £30 this time, but I will definitely consider them next time I need a bed!

Great work Bishops Beds.