Archive for March, 2015

Video download tool

Continuing the theme of highlighting free online tools that I’m finding useful, there’s a tube downloader that’s got a great range of download options and approved sites. It’s called Tube Offline and is a firm favourite of mine.

Obviously you need to check the legality of downloading and storing videos that are available online, but it’s been very helpful to capture some online videos so they can be watched offline, when I don’t have an internet connection. Kids’ cartoons, training videos, fitness lessons – download them for free with this tool and they can then be stored on your iPad, iPhone or other mobile device to watch when you’re on the go. 

And if the file you download isn’t in the right format, this file converter here is pretty handy too, which also includes a download option to grab videos straight from online streams. Or the online converter tool – here – which I’ve highlighted previously.

Free, online file converter tool

Although I’m a big fan of Calibre and use it to manage the bulk of my e-book collection, occasionally, I just want to quickly convert individual documents or ebooks. And for this purpose, I’ve come across a helpful free, online book converter tool – cunningly called “Online Converter Tool” – and you can access it here.

Just saying it’s an ebook converter tool is a little misleading though because it can do a lot more than that. It can convert to most of the main ebook and document formats – including ePub, mobi (for Kindles) and PDFs – but it will also convert audio files into different formats too, including to AAC, MP3, OGG, WAV and WMA (among others). 

Similarly, there are video converters – think AVI, MKV, MOV, MP4, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and WMV – as well as device-specific settings for iPhone, iPads, Android devices and others. And there are also free online converter tools for images (BMP, EPS, GIF, JPG, PNG, etc.), documents (DOC, DOCX, HTML, PDF, RTF, TXT, etc.) and even archive converters (7Z, ZIP, etc. – but no RAR). 

Considering it’s a completely free resource, the few files I’ve thrown at it were dealt with quickly and produced flawless PDFs from ePubs, with no watermarking or other additions to my document. So it’s earned a place in my bookmarks and will no doubt be a tool I continue to use in the future.

Why ISAs are still important

Given the recent announcements from George Osborne in his latest, pre-election budget about the planned changes to ISAs and the tax on savings we all pay (in the UK), there have been articles published and online discussion about whether this signals the beginning of the end for the cash ISA. One article in particular on the Guardian, goes into a great level of detail explaining why a basic rate tax payer can earn a similar amount of interest in standard savings accounts rather than needing to shelter money in a cash ISA. And they also claim it’s true for a higher rate tax payer too, although to a lesser extent.

But the key thing for me is that they miss one of the crucial points of using cash ISAs and using as much of your ISA allowance each year that you can. Yes, interest rates are currently at all time lows – and indeed, some speculate that they may fall further (source: BBC) – but that’s not saying that they’ll always be at this level. And as the interest rates inevitably rise, it will impact on the amount of interest you can earn on cash held in savings accounts. The Guardian article suggests a basic rate tax payer can save £62,500 in a standard, easy access cash savings account (whilst interest rates hover around 1.6%) before needing to pay any tax on the interest they earn. But if the rates return to higher levels, as they have done previously, then tax on interest earned becomes payable sooner. At 4%, a basic rate tax payer would only pay no tax on the interest on the first £25,000 of savings.

Whereas, if this cash had been dripped into (cash) ISAs over the years, the interest earned would continue to be tax free – forever (or at least until the government chooses to change the legislation around them!) And if the interest rates returned to the 1999 rates that were in place when the ISAs were first launched by Gordon Brown – at 6.5% – then it’d make even more sense to have your cash sheltered in an ISA. 


With the rates as low as they are, it makes little difference chasing an extra fraction of a percentage point and fixing your ISA rate for more than a year, when the cash ISA rates for easy access accounts are very similar to standard cash savings accounts. The critical difference here is that if you don’t use your ISA allowance in the tax year, you can’t then use it in subsequent years – although you will still be able to use a new allowance allocation.


A final important point to note is that the changes Mr Osborne has already brought in, means its much easier now to switch ISA savings between cash and stocks and shares, so it could be said that it’d be better to put cash into a stocks and shares ISA account now (choosing some relatively low risk tracker funds, for example) and considering switching to a safer cash ISA in later years, when the interest rates return to higher levels. Either way, for me, it’s better than trusting to easy access cash accounts with the banks.

Please note that anything I write in my blog is not to be construed as offering financial advice. It is merely my viewpoint and should be used as such. Any decisions you may make should be based on your own research and often, it’s advisable to seek professional advice.

The difference between imply and infer

I have to confess this is one of the set of words I’d used interchangeably previously, without appreciating the difference between them. But having been picked up by someone about this recently, I wanted to share the learning with others – and for my own future reference.

If someone implies something, they’re suggesting a point in an indirect way rather than stating something specifically. An individual who implies a belief, opinion or fact is attempting to convey this information, but it’s up to the listener to interpret what is being meant.

However, when someone infers something, they’re reaching their own conclusion about what someone has said. 

So, the easy way to remember this is that if someone is implying something, you (as the listener) infer what they say. Or, written another way, you infer a meaning from what someone else has implied.


Why I like Flipboard

Flipboard has been around for a while now and was arguably one of the ‘killer apps’ of the first iPads. It has certainly stood the test of time too and has evolved over the years. More recently, there’s been further development which has seen new features added, improving the overall appeal of the platform. It’s one of those apps that I have on all my devices.

Aggregated content

Flipboard originally started out offering aggregated content and it’s clear this is where its strength lies. Rather than subscribing to countless individual newsletters and feeds from the sites and publishers that you’re interested in, you can just create your own custom magazine, choosing the content you want from the publishers you’re interested in. Flipboard takes care of the hassle and presents the content in an incredibly user-friendly digital magazine format.

Self publishing

My magazine that I self publish is available here. I use it to store and share the stories that I find interesting, curating content from across the web and social platforms – typically spanning the usual topics of personal finance, technology, health and general news or current affairs. Occasionally, there are some instructables and DIY guides that I find interesting and would love to have a go of when I have more time, so I add them to my Flipboard magazine knowing that they’ll be there at a later date when I need them.



The bookmarklet is invaluable for curating content as you’re browsing the web. Simply go here and drag the Flip It button on to your bookmark bar. Then as you’re browsing the web if you see something interesting and want to add it to your magazine, it’s as simple as clicking this button. If you have multiple magazines, you can choose which one to send it to and you can also add your own comment or thoughts on the content as you do so.

Web access

One of the major recent changes the team at Flipboard introduced, was the ability to access the platform via a browser. Previously confined to the app on a mobile device, it’s now possible to browse Flipboard online, through a browser. It’s not as pleasant a user experience (unless you have a touch-enabled screen) as the mobile device, but sometimes it’s helpful to be able to quickly access one of your magazines for some content you’ve saved or curated for referencing later.

Where to get it

Flipboard on the web – here (and Flipboard Editor – here)

Flipboard on itunes – here

Flipboard on android – here

Chester races fixtures 2015

Although I’ve not added anything to this site for over a year, it’s about time I started again! So, continuing an age old tradition – here are the races fixtures for 2015 at Chester racecourse.

May Festival

Wed 6th – 8th May 2015

May Meetings – Roman Day

Saturday 30th May 2015

June Meetings

13th, 26th & 27th June 2015

City Plate Day

10th, 11th & 18th July 2015

Summer Festival

2nd August 2015

Chester Ladies Day

Saturday 22nd August 2015

Autumn & Finale Day

11th, 12th & 26th September 2015