Monday, August 17, 2009

Which magazine - September

The September edition of Which? dropped through the door this morning with a few interesting articles.

I'll lightly deal with a few before getting to the meat.

A quick review on PAS (Point and Shoot) cameras highlighting the niceness that is Face Detection, dynamic range and wide-angle lenses. Interesting for me to note that not one of the 12 compact cameras listed had a viewfinder, all relied on the LCD screen on the back, which made it most curious that one of the cons for the third-place Canon Powershot SX200 was "No viewfinder".

A quick review over cordless home phones and although the size of the phonebook was mentioned whether it was shared or not wasn't .

Printers and I was most amused to read "Inkjet printers are more versatile than laser printers because they can print photographs" and laser printers can't because? It's just data and colour laser printers use the same CMYK profile as inkjets. Okay they may lack the Photo Black or Light Cyan/Magenta of inkjets, but that doesn't mean they're incapable. Heck they can even print on glossy paper now. As of this minute they might not be as good as an inkjet, but they can be a mite sight faster.

[Update 26/10. The latest issue Nov 09 features a query from Deke Roberts on this very subject. The response from Which? was that most lasers won't print on glossy paper therefore are unsuitable, which is a far cry from can/can't]

And train fares. Turns out [shock horror] we're not always being told about the best deals available when trying to ride the rails. Gosh I'm sure it's got nothing to do with the number of different francises each selling multiple different tickets each with different stipulations about how they can be used.

Okay meat time - Parking charges investigated. Yay Which? research into parking fines. Amazingly they found that "most private parking signs were confusingly written" well you could have knocked me down with a feather.

We get a true-life tale highlighting the ever-helpful advice from the authorities in which a young man rents a flat with parking space and received a ticket when his permit slipped from view. The advice from the

letting agents, the flats' management company, Citizens Advice Bureau and the police all advised him to pay the £90 that the parking company were demanding
Yep that's right don't kick up a fuss like the man in Southampton who paid for his spot but somehow picked up the previous persons ticket and who won his appeal.

Anyway good old Which? provides a nice little flowchart for contesting parking tickets... no sorry that's contesting public sector tickets. Those are the ones placed by police or local authorities, have the force of law behind them, and a legal appeals procedure. Not a private sector ticket that can be made out by anyone, doesn't have the force of law behind it and doesn't have a legal appeals procedure.

A neat little twist appears in their checklist
Parking companies often threaten the use of baliffs. But unless they have a court order bailiffs can't enter your home by force...
That's interesting because they can only enter by force under two conditions 1) Recovering money owed to HMRC or 2) Recovering unpaid magistrate's court fees. Don't believe ask me the government. Ah but those are County Court bailiffs what about private bailiffs? Exactly the same thing. Also worth pointing out that bailiffs only appear with a warrant which means the matter has gone to court which if you do some searching seems to be the last thing parking companies want to do.

Now of course they can threaten you with the use of debt collectors who have no legal powers whatsoever. Indeed if you're happy to go to court to settle the matter you can accuse the parking company and any debt collectors of harassment if they keep asking you to pay the notice.

Which? magazine's FOI requests also pop up the interesting fact that six councils have targets of expected PCNs to be issued, and we all know where that leads.

Another tit-bit from the FOI is a minor contradiction. When you get a proper PCN there's often an early-paying discount of 50%. Now if you appeal within that discount window the clock should stop, it then restarts if the appeal is rejected. That means if you have 14 days to pay the discounted fine and appeal on day 4, even if it takes 5 days to reject you should still have 10 days remaining to pay the discounted fine. Should...

"DfT guidance says that councils should maintain the discount on a penalty charge notice even if the driver appeals and is rejected. However over 37% of councils that responded [...] do this in every case"

Yep that's right if you appeal and they take their sweet-arse time over it you could be hit with the full fine. Better to just pay up eh?

Final interesting statistics 60% of public sector appeals* in England and Wales in 07/08 were successful. The asterisk is most illuminating in that this refers to appeals that were rejected by local councils and taken to adjudication. That means the council got in wrong 3 times out of every 5 for rejected appeals where the fined person took it further. I could make much of that, but without knowing the number who appealed and won, the number who appealed and didn't take it any further or even the impossible figure of those who just paid up despite not believing they should but didn't want the hassle; the figures aren't much use.

So all in all a mixed report with some interesting bits, some not so useful and some downright confusing. Sounds like our current legal system all right.


Orphi said...

Laser printers are especially good at printing crisp, sharp edges. Even cheap and nasty laser printers print very crisp, ledgable text. Hell, my dad brought an ancient beige HP 6 home from work. It jammed constantly and turning it on made all the lights in the street go dark, but even this monster managed crisp, clear text.

Unfortunately, laser printers suck at printing shades of grey. You ask a cheap laser printer to print a block of black, and it won't be uniform black all over. There will be light and dark vertical bars on it. And ask for grey, and what you actually get is white with black pokerdots.

Now, an expensive laser printer will print excellent photos in glorious colour that an inkjet can only dream about. But for £8,000, you'd expect it to.

If you compare an expensive inkjet to an expensive laser, the laser will win every time. However, if you compare a cheap laser to a cheap inkjet, what you'll find is that the inkjet is great at printing smooth colours, and not much else, and the laser is good at printing sharp edges, and not much else.

Hence, if you have £8,000 to spare, you should buy an expensive laser. It's the best printer you can have. If you don't have £8,000 to spare for some reason (perhaps because you're a normal human being), you buy a laser for text or an inkjet for photos. Easy.

PS. I still have some fractals on my wall, printed with a multi-thousand pound HP colour laser at uni. They still look ****ing fantastic, 8 years later. Even with all that sunlight.

FlipC said...

But that's a far cry from "Inkjet printers are more versatile than laser printers because they can print photographs" which implies that lasers can't full stop.

Agreed I should have differentiated and said that of comparable price printers lasers are unlikely to be as good as inkjet, but this is Which? magazine and they seem to have a built-in ceiling as to high how they review.

Orphi said...

Cheap inkjets print better photos than cheap lasers, but “more versatile”? How'd they figure that one out?

Laser printers can only print things that can withstand being seriously heated up. But inkjets can only print things that absorb water. So basically they both require particular print media.

[As an aside, at work we have a solid ink printer. It'll print on anything that fits through the paper path — in particular, transparancies that aren't designed for laser use. Because it's a solid ink printer, all it really does is drop liquid wax onto things. They don't need to absorb water, and they don't need to withstand heat. Still, the non-networked version is £500…]

If anything, duplex printing seems to be more common on laser printers. [Probably because printing photos doesn't require it, and inkjet printers tend to get the paper very, very wet.]

Nope. They could have said “inkjet printers print better photos”, but I can't figure out how they come to “more versatile”.

Unless they mean that inkjets can print speciallity CDs. (But then, LightScribe…)

FlipC said...

See they don't even mention thermal printers with solid ink blocks which, if I recall correctly, produce more 'photo' like prints.

Heck you can even get glossy photo paper for lasers now so you can't even complain that inkjets handle a more versatile range of papers.

But it was just the specificity of the "they can print photos" that irked. I mean they're supposed to be a review magazine and if they get that wrong; well?