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While reading a random website today, something caught my eye. It was an advert for a rather unique ( I think anyway ) service. Dee reminded me that a friend of ours last year told us about it as he uses it a lot. The service in question is called Blablacar. Blablacar is pretty much an organised hitchhiking system. This is a really popular service in Europe and has really taken off there, but in Britain as with a lot of other things we try to take part in, it not taken off as well as elsewhere.
Basically, according to the Blablacar website, you
1. Find a ride. Just enter your departure and arrival points and your travel date, then choose a driver offering a ride going your way. Before getting in touch, you can check the trusted profile of the drivers, with a photo, mini bio and member ratings.
2. Get in touch. Click on Contact Driver button and then contact your driver via phone or private message to book your seat with them. If you send a private message, BlaBlaCar will immediately notify the driver of your message via SMS. This is a free service.
3. Travel together. Be at the planned meeting point on time! Remember to bring exact change so you can pay your driver the agreed contribution during your trip. After travelling together leave a rating for your driver, they will return the favour and it will boost your Experience Level. Drivers prefer travelling with passengers who have a high Experience level.
Theres quite a bit on their site about safety etc etc as to be expected, but in Europe payment is handled through the website, so users’ address and bank details are on file. In the UK, where payment is cash in hand, it is still possible for someone to advertise with nothing more than a mobile number and email address. Hopefully this will change over time to help with personal security.
Have a read of this writers personal experience post from the Guardian newspaper here
The official website is here
Used correctly it can mean people can travel all over the place very cheaply. Once your journey is inputted into their website, it calculates the minimum and maximum cost of the journey so that people cannot use it as a profit making scheme. Being a non profit making system it means that you don’t need commercial insurance as well.
It can be a bit hit and miss as to your transport. You could end up in a rough ( but roadworthy) car or van or if you are really lucky, a high end Jag.
It looks a really good idea to me. Whats your thoughts on it. Have you actually used this site. Let us know of any experiences you have had.
This is an honest review of my experience with the Joytune. I have not been paid for this review.
Avantree Joytune Bluetooth Handsfree Car Kit with FM Transmitter
This week I received my Avantree Joytune Bluetooth Handsfree Car Kit with FM Transmitter to review.
It comes complete with the Joytune unit itself, a car adapter, a charge cable to charge from your pc / laptop, and the sun visor clip for the back of the Joytune, along with a 12 month warranty card, quick starter guide, a user manual, and a card from Avantree advertising other products.
After fully charging and powering up the Joytune for the first time I put it into pairing mode by holding down the main button on the device, I was greeted by a rather stern emotionless female voice ( like some sort of dominatrix ) giving me instructions on how to perform the task. Once this is done, it then gives the option on your phones screen to give access to your phone book so that it can identify who’s calling when a call comes in and I assume for voice dialling. Once that was done, off to the car we went to test it on the road.
In the car I clipped the Joytune to my sun visor. I was surprised at how flat it sits given that the clip on the read seemed to stick out quite a bit. I was expecting the visor to be pushed out a bit when in the folded back position.
As normal when I get a new device I can use to interact with people, I called my best friend to check the call quality. Firstly I tried a call with the sound coming directly through the Joytune. Unlike other car kits I have tested, this pushed the voice through immediately rather than having a 30 second period at the beginning of the call where the other person could not hear anything. Immediately my friend heard me. The call quality was good, even when going along a noisy, bumpy road. The call did not fade out or break up at all. The call was ended easily just by pressing the main button on the unit.
After parking the car up, I paired the Joytune with my car stereo. This is where you may have to have a bit of patience. Not because of anything to do with the Joytune itself but find a channel with the least amount of background hiss or crackle. To connect to your car stereo, just make sure the stereo is on ( obviously ) and press and hold the ‘FM’ button on the side of the Joytune until it gives you the sexy, stern voice telling you its connecting to the FM radio. It tells you what FM channel to tune to. This is where you may need to press the ‘FM’ button a few or several times to retune to different channels until you find one you are happy with. Unfortunately, you are in the hand of the gods ( or rather the dominatrix woman inside the Joytune ) for the channels. If you decide the previous one was better, as far as I am aware you cannot go back to it. Its just whatever random channel the Joytune tells you to pick.
Once tuned in, I decided to try out the music playing side of this product. I sat and selected random songs from my collection. ( all 80’s music as I am a complete 80’s nut ). Every single song I picked came through like cd quality. The only downside was even with my phones volume turned up full, I still had to crank up the car stereos volume quite a bit to get decent volume. I didn’t adjust the Joytune volume as that would make any call coming though too loud, so I just left it. But sound quality itself was spot on. I tried making a call while playing a song and it cut the music off while the call was in progress then resumed again after the call ended.
One thing I forgot about with the Joytune and made me laugh is when I had left the car to got to a shop, came back, and the moment I got in my dominatrix friend shouted at me that I was once again connected to her. This happens automatically. It detects when you get in the car as long as your bluetooth is activated on your phone. How much drain on the Joytune’s battery this has I have yet to discover, but its a good feature. On other car kits I have used in the past I have had to manually connect to it, or double check its connected, which all takes time when all you want to do is get going. The Joytune does that for you and notifies you. Less hassle has got to be a good thing.
For those people who are curious or just a bit geeky in general about these things, here are the specs for the Joytune.
Up till now, I have had no problems at all with the Joytune and already I think this is the best car kit I have ever used. Believe me, when it comes to gadgets, it takes a lot for me to say that. I am very picky about some stuff.
1: No cables across my dashboard. Thats one thing that after a while irritated me about another car kit transmitter I had, was that to play through the car stereo I had to plug it directly into the AUX socket. I have enough cables already due to sat nav’s and mobile phone charge cables etc. I don’t need any more.
2: It sits nice and flat on my sun visor and also allows the visor to still open up properly. A cheaper car kit I had prevented the visor from opening up fully due to its size so when it was sunny I couldn’t really use the visor, or I had to relocate the car kit and risk poor sound quality on calls.
3: Good sturdy build. This product is well made and feels like it will last a good long time.
None at all apart from the suggestions below.
A couple of things I would like to see incorporated into the Joytune for future versions is a solar panal ( such as what is on the Avantree Sunday car kit ) so it can be getting charged whenever it is daylight and you have no worries about the battery running out and also the option to change voices for the prompts and not just the language.
Avantree Cara II, Bluetooth 4.0 aptX handsfree car kit/speakerphone
Having used the Avantree Cara II, Bluetooth 4.0 aptX handsfree car kit/speakerphone for a week now in the car, and using it several times everyday I have found it a total good replacement for my old car kit which was clipped to my sun visor and always got in the way.
The Cara II is a cool, sleek looking little device that will look great on any dashboard. Its simple to fit. It literally only took seconds. Just decide where in the car you want to place it. You will need to have it somewhere close to the car stereo to be able to plug the aux jack into it. Made sure the desired area is clean, dust and grease free. On the magnetic mount peel off the sticky back and firmly press it onto the place you selected. Thats all there is to it. The only other thing is to plug the jack plug into the Cara II and the other end into the aux jack of your car stereo.
One thats done, select aux on the set and when you get a call, the sound comes through your car speakers. This being said, its also one of the annoying things to me as I cannot play the car radio channels at the same time. If the stereo is selected to play radio, I found it turns off the speaker on the Cara II.
Although I have not tried this feature, the Cara II does come with the ability to voice dial ( if its enabled on your phone first ).
The Cara II comes with the ability to have two phones connected at the same time to it, which is really handy if your on a car journey with someone else. This is a neat idea I have not seen on any other handsfree kit before.
One thing that confused my a bit was the two velcro disks stuck together in the pack. Unless I totally missed it, I could not see any mention of these in the enclosed instructions. The only disk shaped thing thats mentioned in the instructions was the magnetic mount, but not the velcro disks.
After a week of using this in the car I’m more or less happy with it. It looks great, but the cable, gets in the way. When it works correctly, its really good, with good sound and from what I’m told most of the time, by my callers, really good quality at their callers end as well. There is a problem I have had with my Cara II, that bugs me a bit. There have been quite a few times where the Cara II announces that my phone is connected but when I get a call, the people say I sound distant, as if, the speech is going through the mic on the phone rather than the Cara II. Sometimes it does not transfer the audio to the Cara II to go through the car speakers, but stays on the phone ( on Samsungs ) automatically, when a call comes through so I don’t get the sound of the caller, rather I get a very distant voice from my phone trying to be heard until I realise what is happening.
It has been reported by a couple of people Ive rang from the car using the Cara II that it takes sometimes up to 30 seconds for my speech to start going through the Cara. From the call connecting to Cara working fully, speech seems to be picked up very quietly, a bit like its going through the mobile phone mic. Hopefully they will get that sorted for future updates of this device.
One thing I would suggest is looked at for future updates of this device is the LED light. If the Cara is not directly in front of you at a perfect angle ( which it wouldn’t be if you’re driving, then you cannot see the LED to make sure its still switched on. The light is tiny.
Another thing I would suggest is including some additional magnetic mounts so that they can placed in extra places in case you need to move the Cara or in a second car.
Despite the couple of MINOR niggles with the device, after a couple of weeks using it now, I am still really pleased to have this in my car. Its a good looking small device that does not look out of place ( apart from the cable ) and when its connected on the call fully, gives a good clear call quality, and the the music transfer from the mobile to the car stereos just tops it off nicely.
On Saturday, we took Gee to the Admiral Young Driver sessions for her first ever drive of a car. She loved it. ( although she played it down a bit afterwards ). He is some footage followed by Gee’s and my views on it.
First off I would like to say I do not and have never been a motorcyclist so I cannot comment from a motorcyclists point of view but I am a car driver. In fact, I have, as I type this decided I will not give my point of view or opinion of this other than to say all drivers and riders, and I mean ALL, need to be more aware of whats happening around them and watch their speed whilst on the road. Also, I know theres a sort of thing between bike riders and car drivers where one always says the other is at fault or should pay more attention. Truth is we all need to. We are all vulnerable when we are on the roads driving whatever vehicle we are in or on.
While watching this video I actually paused it a few times to decide whether or not I wanted to proceed watching it. IT IS hard to watch but it hits home as a stark reminder of the dangers out there and how quick they can happen.
I am posting this so that all my fellow bloggers and readers will take heed and be careful whilst driving or riding.
This video can be distressing to see. Please don’t watch if you are easily upset
This is hard-hitting footage of a fatal collision in Norfolk has been released by police in a bid to get motorcyclists and drivers to think seriously about road safety. Viewers are warned that this video contains content which some may find distressing, but it does not show any graphic images of the rider during or after the collision and they are given the option to refrain from viewing.
My thoughts go out to the family and loved ones of David Holmes.
Today is the day when I have to hand out a load of money. The day my car goes in for its MOT. An MOT is a yearly safety check, with a legal requirement on all vehicles in the U.K. You need this to be able to obtain your road tax disk. The car seems to be working fine. Tyres have loads of tread, lights work, wipers and screen wash work, brakes work fine, so unless there’s something found underneath that I’m not expecting, hopefully it will pass with flying colours like last year.
I dropped the car off and headed for the train station as I thought walking right down the road for the bus, would be too cold and the station was just round the corner. I will add, it is snowing today and the temperature is zero degrees. I got to the station only to find that the trains were delayed and mine was going to arrive in 20 minutes. By the time it did arrive, and I had spent the 20 minutes chatting to a very talkative old man, my feet and my hands were like blocks of ice.
After the train arrived, I had a whole 5 minutes to try to warm up. It didn’t work. As I got off at my destination, I was still freezing, so I decided to head straight for Starbucks. I got my normal Venti Misto coffee and found a nice seat by the window, and watched the world go by while at the same time, typing up my blog. As I type this, there are two people sitting outside in the freezing cold and snow. One of them is drawing anything that takes his fancy into a small book. A woman stopped to have a cigarette and he drew her.
I’m surprised, as I’m in his line of sight, he hasn’t drawn me yet. I must not be interesting enough. I enjoy watching street artists. I saw one of his drawings and he is quite good. More like quick sketches, but still way better than I could do.
Leaving Starbucks, I walked around some of the shops in Newcastle, including the Grainger Market. The Grainger Market is the City’s largest traditional market, situated in an elegant, classically styled building in Grainger Street near Grey’s Monument. This under-cover market was the largest in Europe when first built in the 1830’s. It sells mainly meat and vegetables with a good variety of game available. There are many other stalls, each with its own particular character. Hidden within is the unique “Marks and Spencer Original Penny Bazaar”, the world’s smallest Marks and Spencer store.
I think most people had the same idea. Try to keep out of the snow and find shelter wherever you can. After speaking to garage, I made my way, by train again, back a couple of stops to where I needed to get off to collect my car. A short, cold, walk later, and I was there, to be told it had passed its MOT with flying colours. Not a thing wrong with it, on the points the MOT covers. It still requires a serve, as the car has not had one for a couple of years. Now, that’s bad, as its recommended you get one every 6 – 12 months. It involves filter changes, oil change, stuff like that.Hopefully I will get that done in the next few days. I may possibly have to get the oil pressure switch changed as my oil light comes on after about 15 minutes of driving, and the oil level is fine. It depends though, may just need the oil change. Hopefully that’s the case.
Once home, a made a steaming hot cup of tea and sat beside the window, where the radiator is, and watched the snow continue to fall. Theres a draft that comes from behind the kitchen units and I’m unable to get to the source so it means that every winter, there a cold blast that freezes your feet. I seems to come from behind the sink unit, round the corner, then underneath the washing machine. Sometimes it gets so bad, that even next to the radiator, it’s still not really hot. Thankfully it’s not always that bad. I do have one thing to warm me up. One of cats, Costa, has jumped up for stokes. He is keeping my lap nice and warm.