Tag Archives: electronics

Online shopping guide

TAKE2: A great place for safe & secure online shopping

CHRISTMAS has once again come and gone like a seasonal fling — leaving an empty feeling deep down inside, next to the leftover turkey that was for lunch. If you were one of the many that left your Christmas shopping to the last minute, I don’t think anyone needs to remind you how hellish it was driving to the Present Store. All Christmas spirit seems to dissolve away the minute you get on the road. It may not have been the best idea to leave the shopping so late, but if it wasn’t for the last minute nothing would ever get done.

There’s also a good chance that we were disappointed with what we got for Christmas this year — again. All those letters to Santa seem to be in vain sometimes. He must get more hate-mail than wish-lists I reckon.

Nonetheless, we are all adept at acting happy around our loved ones and consider that perhaps it is not the gift that counts but being near a fir tree … Or is it family? No no, it’s the thought that counts; that’s it. But great gifts would have been nice too.

There is a solution to fighting your way through traffic, struggling to find what you want and disappointing family and friends with “thoughtful” gifts that you managed to find at the last minute. The solution lies in the joys and wonders of online shopping. There are many ways to go about ordering goods online, but I have found one specific website particularly pleasing to use.

take2 logo

Take 2
Take 2.co.za is a South African website that offers a very similar experience to using Kalahari.net (among others). They have their headquarters in Cape Town, but they will happily deliver ordered goods anywhere in the country.

They also charge a flat-rate deli­very charge of R30, which is the same if you order one item or 20. This is by far the cheapest delivery fee I’ve ever experienced. Take2 will also deliver right to your door and have a very efficient e-mail service to keep consumers posted.

Signing up
Signing up is as simple as saying “silly season”. Simply visit take2.co.za and click on “sign up”. You’ll need to provide a name, contact number and e-mail address.

The next step is to create an address list. This could just be one address (presumably your own address) to have any products delivered directly to you, or you could include the addresses of family and friends to have items delivered directly to their doors instead.

The next step involves divulging banking details, which is where people often get itchy. However, you do not need to give out credit card numbers; in fact you don’t even need a credit card! Rather, you provide banking details such as your account number and branch code and they link your account with theirs.

Paying is as easy and stress-free as performing an EFT.

Email notifications and wish-lists
Something that I particularly like about Take2 is their speedy e-mail service that keeps you in the loop. They send you an e-mail when you place an order, a confirmation e-mai­l once you have paid the required amount, an e-mail to say that your products are being acquired, and a final e-mail once they have shipped your goods with the courteous line, “your products have been shipped and will be arriving shortly”.

Another great feature of most online stores such as Take2 is the wish-list. Any products that you come across while browsing around can be added to your wish-list to be ordered at a later, perhaps more prosperous date and time.

If the products in your wish-list are currently out of stock, Take2 will also e-mail you as soon as they become available to order again. They also let you know if any price reductions occur.

What’s available
Take2 is in the business of home entertainment and deals in DVDs, games, electronics, books and music mostly. They also constantly have specials on offer as well as a clearance stock section, which acts as a sort of electronic bargain bin. I have found goods there for half the price that they are labelled with in stores.

The service also has a fantastic sorting feature which allows you to sort products by price, sales rank, release date etc. This is great when you have a budget in mind or want to see what everyone else is buying. Other features are “monthly best sellers”, “top 40 viewed” products, “top rated products” and “current top sellers”. All specials are also clearly marked in red, making them easy to spot.

Customer network
To give you greater assurance that you’re not being scammed into buying cheap crap off the Internet, Take2 offers user reviews and an easy-to-use rating system. Any member can rate a product from one to 10 and an average score is displayed next to each rated product.

People who have purchased or used any of the products available on Take2 are encouraged to write short reviews, which will then appear beneath the products when people are browsing the website. There are often differing views and experiences of the same products, but consumers generally point out the pros and cons — invaluable information to new buyers.

Click click. All done
All that’s left to know is buying. Each time you click on an item an option to “add to cart” will appear (alternatively you can add the product to your wish-list). Once you’ve added all your desired items to your virtual cart, you can “proceed to checkout”, select the address where you would like your goods shipped to, transfer the right amount of cash due (calculated for you) and you’re all done.

Each product also gives an indication of how long it will take to ship the product. In all the time that I have spent using Take2, they have never been more than a couple of days late.

There was one case where an order that I had paid for went out of stock and I phoned Take2 to find out what was happening. They offered to either refund me in full or to place the amount into a credit balance (which has since been used).

And that’s really all you need to know about online shopping (or perhaps where to go). Happy shopping and remember that everything is cheaper online!

*** Visit Take2 now ***

If you have had any positive online shopping experience please feel free to leave a comment, and let’s do our bit to promote good South African service.

Related posts: Online shopping tips  The Simple Life (online)

Weird Wired World

*View this post in HD*

Gadget blessings: Shinto priests protect electronics from bad mojo

I HAVE always had a fascination for religions other than the one that I was force-fed at school. I am not an unruly atheist, but simply feel that one should understand or at least lightly explore the views of religions other than your own before deciding what to believe.

To totally refute the beliefs of other religious groups is, as history will tell, sadly often the cause of futile conflict. It always seems that people who want to share their religious views with you never want you to share yours with them …

ShintoismAnyhoo, I have recently developed an interest in the religions of the Far East, specifically Japan’s Shinto religion. A core belief of Shinto is that all objects — living or not — have spiritual properties, and can thus be blessed. With the increasing introduction of electronics to Japan, there has been an interesting fusing of technology with the practices of Shinto.

Specifically since the introduction of Windows XP to Japan, more and more consumers have been taking their laptops and electronic devices to Shinto priests to be blessed against system crashes and technical failures.

A writer for Wired Magazine took his cellphone to a Shinto Priest to witness this phenomenon first-hand and provides a first-hand account of the whole experience …

Blessed are the Geek

'My cellphone sits in a lacquer tray waiting to be blessed by a Shinto priest. Late last year, I visited the ancient Kanda shrine, located in the heart of Tokyo’s consumer electronics district. The shrine does boffo business offering charms and ceremonial purifications that protect cellphones and laptops and even blogs and ISP services from bad mojo.'

'My cellphone sits in a lacquer tray waiting to be blessed by a Shinto priest. Late last year, I visited the ancient Kanda shrine, located in the heart of Tokyo’s consumer electronics district. The shrine does boffo business offering charms and ceremonial purifications that protect cellphones and laptops and even blogs and ISP services from bad mojo.'

Brian Ashcraft

Boom! … Boom! … My chest reverberates with the thumping of a huge wooden drum as two robed holy men shuffle across tatami mats. They kneel in a vermilion-coloured alcove, while an assistant announces that the ceremony has commenced.

The priests begin bowing and chanting rhythmically. I’ve been given a white “robe of cleansing” to wear. Actually, it’s more like a smock. I’m not sure what I should be doing. I bow a couple of times.

I’ve come to the 1 270-year-old Kanda Shrine in Tokyo to purify and bless something very near and dear to me: my cellphone. I’ve had hellish luck with cellphones over the past year. I left one on a ride at Universal Studios Japan. Its successor suddenly (and mysteriously) died. The next one accompanied my pants into the washing machine, and its replacement went awol in less than a week. Divine intervention was needed, and pronto.

Japan’s Shinto religion holds that nearly every object in the world, animate or inanimate, has a spiritual essence. Therefore, anything can be blessed, from a newborn child to an automobile. Priests at the Kanda Shrine, which overlooks Akihabara — Tokyo’s Mecca for consumer electronics — offer prayers for the well-being of gadgets.

Kanda found its calling in metaphysical IT work seven years ago, when Microsoft XP went on sale in Japan. The shrine created talismans to prevent system crashes, and they were snapped up by the throngs of nerds who prowl Akihabara for the latest gizmos and porn comics.

Soon requests were pouring in for priests to perform purification rites on laptops, cellphones, even web-portals. Today Kanda offers microchip-shaped good-luck charms for ¥800 (about R64) and private ceremonies for ¥5 000 (about R400).

Back in the great hall, an older priest waves a giant wand — essentially a mop of white parchment streamers — over his counterpart. Thus cleansed, the younger priest rises and carries my phone on a tray to the main altar. He begins a low-pitched chant, invoking the shrine’s deities to “watch over and protect Brian Ashcraft’s cellular phone”.

As the sound of plucked koto strings echoes through the hall, the assistant jingles gold bells over my head. I’m told to approach the altar and am given a tree branch — an offering to the shrine’s deities. A priest painstakingly instructs me to turn the branch 180° —no, no, clockwise— and place it on the altar. I am then told to bow deeply twice —that’s good — and clap twice.

Most Japanese people would probably stumble through this intricate ceremony as clumsily as I do, but the tenets of Shinto are deeply ingrained in their consciousness. It occurs to me that this must affect how they view their little electronic helpmates. Perhaps gadgets really do have souls. Maybe my problem isn’t bad luck, maybe I simply haven’t been giving my phones the respect they deserve. I bow again, and the ceremony concludes.

Near the great hall’s exit, I am presented with a wooden plaque certifying that my cell has been purified. Over a cup of sake, senior priest Katsuji Takahashi chuckles as he tells me, “I’ve lost my phone twice, but both times it turned up.”

Seven months later, my blessed cellphone is still with me.

We really do live in a weird wired world.

www.wired.com

Sling this into your gadget collection

SLINGBOX: Embracing broadband and digital media

PAGING through an old GQ the other day I came across a gadget that struck a new interest. The “Slingbox” (weird name) is a TV streaming device that allows you to remotely view your home cable, satellite, or personal video recorder (PVR) programming using a device with a broadband Internet connection.

It connects to the back of your TV and works by redirecting or “placeshifting” up to four live audio/video signals to your personal computer, laptop, or internet-enabled mobile device whether you’re touring China or are in London on a business trip. And there’s no anxiety of having yet another gadget to clutter up your home – once your Slingbox is installed you never have to see it again.

The SlingboxSling Media has also released a Windows Mobile version of their player which allows users to stream their video over a Pocket PC or Windows Mobile Smartphones, or any web-enabled, Windows mobile-powered cellphone. This is useful for practical reasons as a cellphone is easier to stuff into your duffle bag when traveling to the most remote locations.

The Slingbox also allows you to program your home recording device remotely, which means that you can command your device to record programs from anywhere. So no more having to phone the kids at home to ask them to record Prison Break for you, or having to rely on an unreliable in-law.

Yet, like Manto Tshabalala, the Slingbox isn’t perfect. The system is not yet reliable or broadband enough to handle live remote broadcasts, and is not yet available for Linux or other opensource systems. It also requires a fair amount of techno savvy to set up, which can be a bit of a schlep, yet there is decent customer support available. SlingCommunity, for example, is an interactive online community dedicated solely to Sling Media’s Slingbox.

The cons
It is, however, important to bear in mind that the viewing quality is that of web video (i.e. 320x240pixels). Consequently you basically need to have twenty-twenty vision to be able to view everything properly on the small video-viewer screen. This renders on-screen text such as sports scores, news reels, and the fine-print print in bank adverts as unreadable.

The Slingbox is also only as good as its device support and relies on your primary video device being compatible. So just like upgrading a PC, you might have to buy more than you initially bargained for.

In terms of future developments, it was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that Sling Media plans to release a future feature known as Clip+Sling. This will allow users to share clips of their favorite TV shows (or videos that they have produced themselves) with each other through a hosted web service.

Sling has also pledged that its software will work on the forthcoming Origami Ultramobile PCs (you can read more about this nifty gadget here).

The Slingbox is currently going for $200 (roughly R1400) and appears to be a useful gadget to add to ones collection. Let’s just hope that true broadband hits SA soon so we can play too.

Links
Slingbox Homepage
Other Sling Media Products
CNET’s exclusive First Look video using Sling software.
Related blog post: Welcome to your future