Friday, 6 February 2015


This section of our website covers a range of reviews, random information and rants and raves on almost any subject. Completely random articles contained within this blog do not necessarily portray the views of Birmingham UK Com.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sat Nav or Mobile Phone App?

There was a time when I thought TomTom was a wonder of modern technology. My first basic unit performed its function without fail for over 3 years and just worked straight out of the box. However, today we have the mobile phone app. Where does that leave the likes of TomTom and Garmin?

My TomTom One still works. I don’t dare to update the map on its teeny SD card but it still navigates well and has not needed any updates. Scroll forward a few years and what do we have? You can now pick up a brand new Garmin or basic TomTom for around £75! But wait – all is not as it seems.

The TomTom of today comes packed with a windscreen sucker that just sucks. There is no alternative way to describe it. The unit drops off the windscreen at random times and bounces around the floor pan of your vehicle as you drive along. Not only is it dangerous but it is extremely frustrating.

Additionally the latest satelites all come with that annoying feature – Lost Satelite Navigation or searching for GPS on start up. Sometimes it can be 20 minutes before my TomTom gets going and finds a signal. Now I know what you are going to say. When was the last update?
Well, I try and keep mine up to date as much as possible but I still get errors and GPS lost issues from both my TomTom and my Garmin. A few months back a friend of mine recommended NAV FREE, an application which works straight off my phone and costs the grand total of nothing. That’s Zilch. Totally Free!

I was sceptical at first but within a couple of days it became obvious that the NAV FREE application was outperforming both my TomTom and the Garmin. I travel a lot with work and believe me I have compared them carefully. I have spent the last 3 months using both traditional Sat Navs and my mobile phone side by side.

Last week my Garmin kept losing its power, turning itself off and on at random intervals. Using my mobile phone I navigated to the nearest Halfords. I purchased a new and basic model Garmin and returned to my car. I powered it up. It came up with a message. Cannot find GPS……………..Searching…………..searching……………searching.

Frustrated I took it back into Halfords only to be told that I would need to connect it up to the PC to obtain its updates. Conveniently the Garmin comes boxed without the necessary lead for a connection. I went home and tried to connect it. No luck. On both my laptop and my PC the device would not connect. Another visit to Halfords and I demanded a refund.

Seriously, I really think that the Sat Nav units are a thing of yesteryear. They won’t last long. With mobile phone apps being updated without hassle and being supplied totally free of charge why on earth would anyone want to pay for a new sat nav unit? 

Monday, 24 February 2014


Belfast takes its name from the Irish 'Beal Feirste', which means the "mouth of the sandbanks". It is the capital city of Northern Ireland and although Dublin in Ireland is nearly twice its size the city has an impressive array of things to see and do.

Known historically as Linenopolis due to its linen industry, the city is also famous for its shipbuilding. The shipyward of Harland and Wolff which built the Titanic now rely on ship and oil rig repairs as well as being involved in the renewable energy sector of industry.

Any visitor to Belfast must visit the Titanic Experience. With its modern ship like building the history of the worlds most famous ship and how it was built is documented here along with interactive tours and realistic rides through a virtual shipyard. 

Although Titanic might be the most famous ship to come from Belfast there were two almost identical ships that went into service called the Olympic and the Britannic. 

For all its past troubles a visitor gets the impression that Belfast is very much an up and coming city looking forward to its future. The Europa Hotel once the most bombed hotel in Europe and the famous Crown Bar over the road now restored by the National Trust are just two examples of how things have changed.

The barricades still exist and some police stations look more like heavily protected army bases and the legacy of the troubles can be seen in many murials and banners across the city but finally it looks like the city has a future to look forward to. As with any city it is often the people that make it what it is and the hospitality and friendly nature of the Irish makes Belfast a welcoming place for the visitor.

The best way to see Belfast is to get a day or weekend ticket on one of the tour buses. These guided tours tell you all about the history of the city and the tour guides are humerous and entertaining. 

For more photos please click here

Monday, 2 December 2013


Dublin is the capital city of Ireland. The city is a popular tourist destination with plenty of things to see and do. The best way to travel around the city is by the Tour Buses. The official Dublin Bus Tour tickets can be obtained cheaper at the airport upon arrival. There are two routes which cover all the major landmarks with an amusing running commentary by the drivers. This is without doubt the best way to see Dublin. Hop on and hop off wherever you like and then just catch another bus when you are ready to move on.

The River Liffey runs through the centre of Dublin. The people on either side of the river are often referred to as the 'haves' and the 'have nots' one side being a little more up market than the other. The Northside is generally seen as working class while the Southside is middle to upper middle class.

During the 9th century Dublin was an established Viking settlement. Dublinia in Christ Church Place provides an interesting insight into Viking times as well as Medieval Dublin and the history of the city through the ages. It is one of Dublin's main tourist attractions.

Dublin Castle was built in 1204 by King John. Very little remains of the actual castle which was used as the seat of the British Administration up until 1922. Today it is a pleasant courtyard with a number of events taking place throughout the year. 

One of the most popular destinations in Dublin is the Guiness Storehouse where you can learn about the history of this famous brand of beer. From small beginnings in 1759 by Athur Guiness who starting making Porter beer in Dublin, the factory now produces 10 million pints of beer a day making it one of Europes largest beer factories. 

No trip to Dublin would be complete without taking a trip to the Kilmainham Gaol. This jail is of great significance in Irish history and the guided tour takes you round the restored building which was originally built in 1796. See what it was like to be detained in such an institution and learn about Irish history and the rebellions that took place leading up to independence.

Molly Malone is famous through the popular song "Cockles and Mussels" A statue of her with her cart can be found in Grafton Street. Although known for being a street trader she was and is referred to as "The Tart with the Cart" since popular legend has it this enterprising woman was also a prostitute by night.

There is something for everyone in Dublin. The people are friendly and helpful and the city is vibrant and full of good restaurants, pubs and cafes. There are a host of attractions that you can visit and you should allow at the very least two days in this fine city.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Phone Box Libraries

This really qualifies as a very unique British thing to do. It isn't the first time that this has been done but it is the first one I have seen and it is situated in Little Shelford, a village in Cambridgeshire. A local teacher decided to turn the redundant old telephone box into a mini library and it has been a roaring success ever since.

With the help of a local book club and a number of volunteers the mini library has over 150 books with locals donating second hand books to keep the collection fresh and interesting. The whole concept works on an honesty based policy and although there have been one or two hiccups with theft the small library is generally regarded with enthusiasm locally.

Visitors take a book and leave a book and make requests for books via post-it notes The sign on the door is quite amusing especially the words "Come in and have a browse". This is very much a solo experience as two would definately be a crowd in this library.