Chiming in a bit late on this one....but.
Always keep the iron tip smoking...if the tip is smoking, there is flux around.
Never, ever blow on a joint to cool it.
+1 on the leaded solder.
Tip tinner/cleaners are very useful soldering aids. In the USA there is http://www.newark.com/plato/tt-95/lead-free-tip-tinner-cleaner/dp/98H3029?Ntt=TINNER/Cleaner. That appears to be a "leadfree version" but I wonder if (as it's merely a cleaner...) there will be an actual difference? Should be easy to find a "normal" type.
In the UK or Europe you can find http://uk.farnell.com/stannol/ttc1/tip-tinner-cleaner/dp/817624 which used to be the Multicore TTC-1 ("leadfree" TTC-LF version of which is at http://www.rapidonline.com/Tools-Equipment/Lead-free-soldering-iron-bit-cleaner-74867 )
Re shiny joints, in the UK a leaded solder appeared in the 70's called " Savbit", which was supposed to extend bit life. I could never ever make a shiny joint with it. I worked for a sub-contractor for a year or so way back when, wiring defence electronics, before I got into mixer madness. The Government Inspector would check every damn solder joint, and paint it with inspection paint. One failed joint, and the whole unit would have to be stripped and started from scratch! I was on strict piecework, paid purely by the unit. Somehow I managed not to have a reject. Wish I could solder that well nowadays..:-)
I'm with Keith 100% about Weller - I'd had enough too, and have gone over to OKI-Metcal. Just to put the boot in, my Weller desoldering station handpiece literally went up in smoke on me at precisely the time I didn't need it to ( Neve VR....) . Ebaying the base station part paid for the Chinese desoldering station I'm using now.
With the MCI thing, I found both with the tape machines and the 500 board, that you needed to take off all the old solder before remaking the joints on the Molex pins, rather than just touching them up.