November 25, 2012

Hi-tech Blu-ray players are remarkably inexpensive. But have you ever wondered how the manufacturers can make a profit when they sell these technology-packed units for less than 50 quid?

Well, I know.

Once upon a time there we had incredibly expensive Betamax video recorders. Then came the VHS – about the size of a VW camper van. Just as everybody was building up their video collection, along came the equally mega-expensive DVD player, which is now moving aside to allow Blu-ray into the picture.

So I got a Blu-ray player. I suppose my DVD collection will now be going the way of my radiogram, slide rule, platform shoes and LP records. The thing is, a Blu-ray player is seriously cheap – about the price of a half decent meal – when you consider the amount of technology and clever-clever hardware inside such a small box. So I was mightily pleased with my new player.

Until I opened the packaging.

Inside, I found a little black box with some buttons along one side, and a mains lead. The only other thing in there was the instruction booklet which informed me that all I had to do was plug the unit into the mains and attach the HD cable (not supplied).

Not supplied? Sorry?

Muttering to myself, and anybody else who would listen, I set off to Livingston Centre for this magical HD cable. The price for a cable? Almost £50. The lead was more expensive than the player! I asked the salesman if it was made of gold. Turns out, it was – 24 karat gold plating, to be exact.

However, I bought one – without the gold. A snip at £20 for a short length of wire. That should have been it. But, no. The TV set has only one HD input, and I have Sky television, which means I would require a total of three outrageously expensive cables PLUS a “splitter”, which would cost a further £50.

In other words, the cost of linking the unit to the TV is twice that of the player!

It’s like going for a meal; excellent value at only £2 for a three-course dinner. Will you require a plate? Ah, that’ll cost you an arm and a leg, sir. How about cutlery? Would you like to hire a knife and fork? We accept all credit and debit cards. A chair? Certainly, sir. Will you be paying cash?

So, if you’ve ever wondered how manufacturers can turn a profit when selling hi-tech, cutting-edge gizmos at ridiculously low prices, now you know.

Drew McAdam



November 19, 2012


Do you have a good job? And by “good job” I don’t mean something that impresses people at cocktail parties. No, I mean an occupation that you really enjoy. One that leaves you fulfilled at the end of the working day, rather than just something you do to fill the hours until home-time.

Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t take the career path we envisaged for ourselves when we were in Primary 4. Things tend not to work out that way – unless you are one of the Pussycat Dolls. Or you’re Simon Cowell. Or both.

So, if I went along to the Job Centre and gave them my list of requirements for my idea of the perfect career, the following would make the list…

Firstly, an above average income. Next, I would require decent prospects for quick promotion. And if that meant some of my colleagues were getting killed and I was filling dead men’s shoes, I could accept that.

It would be nice if accommodation came with the job; preferably a luxury island hideaway, or tucked deep within a snow-covered mountain, or maybe on a space colony. Such an arrangement would suit me just fine.

Also, I wouldn’t want a particularly strenuous job. Something with a fair amount of standing around would suit. And if work clothes were provided… Hang on, not a uniform, a costume. A silver tracksuit, perhaps, with a menacing logo on the breast pocket.

So far so good. But it would also have to be an exciting job. Helicopters, fast cars – maybe even the occasional explosion.

Oh, and add to that the possibility of regular world travel. It would be nice to get around a bit.

Yes, that ticks all the boxes for me. If I could land a job like that I would be very happy indeed.

With all that in mind, I’m off to the Job Centre – because the James Bond villains must get their Personal Assistant from somewhere.

Okay, there is the possibility of a messy death some time before my retirement party, but it might just be worth it – what will all the perks.

So, if you are a psychopathic evil genius intent on world domination, and you need a right-hand-man, I’m the very person for the job. Drop me a line with a SAE, and I’ll send you my CV by return.

Here’s hoping.

Drew McAdam


November 12, 2012


When you see the word “free” in an online advert, what does it suggest to you?

If you accept the dictionary definition of the word then it means “requiring no money to be paid”. At least I thought that was what it meant.

But have you noticed how many things are advertised as “free” – actually, they are advertised as “FREE”, usually bold, in red, and with three exclamation marks – when, in reality, they’re not free.

Many of these free gifts are from companies trying to shift hi-tech gizmos.

For example, “Free SIM card on our Pay Monthly Deals”. Sorry, how does that work? It’s free – if you pay monthly. Right.

Or how about “Cheap web hosting, only 85p per month with free domain name.” Well, I’ll need company hosting if I have a domain name – free or not – and that’s going to cost me. Which means it’s not free.

Another I saw recently, for an online audio library, stated: “The library will be free with a RinkyDinky Prime membership, which costs £49.99 a year.”

Eh? Free – with a membership that costs a fair amount each year.

This convoluted attempt to get the word “free” into the advertising copy leads to such lines as “Free Samboosa Universe Laptop only £21 per month at…” How can you have the word “free” and the phrase “Only £21 per month” in the same headline?

The only possible answer, of course, is that what they are actually saying is “Hello, Stupid. We’re telling you this is free, but we’re going to take money out of your bank account on a regular basis.”

Would you buy a product from a company that comes up with a truthful advertising headline like that? And yet we do.

Of course, it’s nothing new. Having ordered some flyers from a printer, I tried to find out how much it would cost.

He proudly told me “The more you order, the cheaper it gets.”

Heard that line before? Well, try this: I answered “That’s great. So, if they get cheaper the more I order, how many do I have to order before they’re free?”

There’s no answer to that. Same as there’s no answer to why companies should advertise something as “free” then ask for you bank account details.

Drew McAdam


November 5, 2012


Having been booked for a performance in Englandshire recently, I had to catch a train to Birmingham, then change for Northampton. Easy enough.

Except that at Birmingham the connecting train didn’t move. The minutes passed and then it was announced that the train was cancelled, as were all other trains travelling that line, due to a problem on the track. Everybody off. Tough cheese, travellers.

Okay, they didn’t actually say that last bit, but that’s what they meant.

It’s at times like that you realise that the railway system is run by individuals who couldn’t find their own backsides with a torch and a hand mirror.

But you can’t let these people get in your way. Which meant I had the added burden of a very expensive taxi fare from Birmingham to Northampton. The show must go on, and all that.

Not including the taxi fare, the round trip cost in excess of £400. I’m not making this up – it really did cost that much.

So, if you live in West Lothian, and you want to do business down south, you had better be prepared to clamber over all sorts of obstacles and spend a week’s wage on travel.

Which is odd, because my journey of 323 miles (plus return) works out at £1.23 a mile. However, you can fly the 3,200 miles from Edinburgh to New York for £394 (yes, return) which is actually LESS than it cost me NOT to get to Northampton.

The New York flight works out at 12p a mile in a comfortable plane, in case you’re wondering, as opposed to the £1.23 for each mile travelled by train. Yes, mile-for-mile it’s 10 times more expensive to travel by train in the UK than to fly to America.

If you’re a West Lothian businessman, I suggest you consider doing business in New York, rather than anywhere in the Midlands. Not only is it less expensive to travel there, but you have a better chance of actually arriving at your selected destination.

Now, is it just me, or is there something seriously crazy about that?

Drew McAdam