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5 Techie Ways To Prepare For Halloween

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Halloween is now only two weeks away, and what better way to celebrate than with some Halloween-themed games and apps for your gadgets? Yes, the traditionalists probably think that drowning a young woman to see if she floats is more in keeping with Halloweens past, but that sort of behaviour has been rightly frowned upon by most of the country since the 17th century, and East Anglia since the 1980s. So what can you do these days to get ready for Halloween?

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There have been more whispers surrounding Pottermore, the newly-announced Harry Potter-themed social network, than those surrounding "He Who Must Not Be Named" himself, the books' evil baddie Lord Voldemort.

Even now, with the site officially outed by series creator JK Rowling, we're still a little unsure as to what to expect when the it goes live in October this year. It will be interactive, there will be social networking aspects and there will literary titbits unavailable elsewhere, but in terms of specifics, we're one lumos charm short of illumination.

So it got us thinking about what we'd want to see from such a site. Here's what the Muggles over at Tech Digest hope Pottermore will conjure.

Crowd-sourced new novels

You've got all the series' fans collected in one place, all crying out for more stories that Rowling isn't willing to write. The web is full of fan-fiction, so why not harness that? Sure, fan-fiction is mostly rubbish, but what if there was the chance for one of the more skilled fan-fiction writers to collaborate with Rowling on a new adventure starring some of Potter's supporting cast, with perhaps plot developments chosen by the network users? That'd seriously be giving something back to the fanbase, and offer a new writer a shot at publication too.

Web episodes from the world of wizardry

As well as the culmination of the series of books, the Deathly Hallows also obviously marks the end of the popular Harry Potter movie adaptations. Though they've not always been stellar films, they certainly nailed the feel of Rowling's universe well. How about if Pottermore offered bite-sized chunks of video of plot developments cut from the movies, or fresh video altogether. A "Hagrid's Guide to Hand-Rearing Dragons" starring Robbie Coltrane would be great fun.

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A "Second Life" style Hogwarts to explore

This one's probably a bit of a long shot, but the Harry Potter world is so rich visually, it'd be a shame to have its online presence merely a predominately static social network. Why not turn Hogwarts into a "Second Life" style online game? Even a limited MMO browser game can look great these days, and with the "freemium" model employed by the likes of Lord of the Rings Online, everyone could play for free, while die-hard fans could pay a little extra for premium content. Being able to meet up with some pals online and take a stroll around the Chamber of Secrets would be pretty awesome.

Safer security from Severus Sony

Now we know this one isn't based on Pottermore content, but it's an important one nonetheless. With Pottermore you'd imagine aimed predominately at children, Rowling's "safe" network isn't in the most reliable hands at the moment, what with it being in partnership with Sony. Sony's security measures over the past few months have proved to have more holes than the Leaky Cauldron. After the PlayStation 3's PSN hack, lets up Pottermore doesn't fall foul to Secrecy Thief Death Eaters, or "computer hackers" as they are known in the Muggle world.

Interactive Harry Potter eBooks

One of the biggest announcements to go along with Pottermore was the news that it would be the sole portal for downloading official Harry Potter eBooks. Which is great for newbies to the series who want to load them up onto a Kindle or other such ereader. But what about those who already own the books, and still want an digital copy? While an e-ink ereader can't really offer much more than words on a digital page, tablet editions of the Harry Potter books, in some sort of app format, could be superb. As well as having built-in audiobook support, they could have illustrations, animations, interactive games, spell casting, creature sounds; the works. There's the opportunity here to make the digital books the definitive magical reading experience, if some time and effort is put in.

What do you think of our Pottermore suggestions? Do we deserve a butterbeer or are we waving our wands in the wrong direction? Let us know in the comments below or via our Twitter page, @techdigestnews.

Top 5 Nintendo 3DS Launch Games

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So you've just hit the shops and picked up your 3D capable Nintendo 3DS handheld console. Or maybe you've pre-ordered the unit and woke to find it waiting on your doorstep. Either way, you're now ready to start gaming on the most advanced handheld we've ever seen.

But what to play? Tech Digest give a quick overview on what we consider to be the top 5 launch games for Ninty's new console.

Pilotwings Resort

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Taking to the skies has always been an exhilirating part of the Pilotwings experience, and that's markedly more impressive on the 3DS thanks to its 3D visuals. The new control stick on the 3DS makes for pitch perfect controlling in Piltowings Resort, as you take on ever more brutal challenges, literally flying through hoops to progress. Plus, it's got jetpacks, which instantly makes any game way better.

Click here to buy

Rayman 3D

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Apart from Mario 64, Rayman 3D was one of the best (and earliest) 3D platformers available on consoles. For the first time ever it truly lives up to its 3D branding thanks to the 3DS's autosteroscopic screen. It may be a good decade old now, but it remains one of the most colourful and fun classic platformers ever.

Click here to buy

Splinter Cell 3D

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Splinter Cell 3D on the 3DS is not without its problems. It's a tad fiddily to control, doesn't look much better than a DS game and doesn't make good enough use of the console's improved power to render the much-needed light and shadows that are core to the game's stealthy experience. It is however a port of the excellent Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory title, meaning all those smart sneaky sequences are now available to take on the go with you. The only truly mature title to launch alongside the 3DS, the added depth effects certainly make it more exciting when silently sneaking up on a foe.

Click here to buy

Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

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Street Fighter IV is the best beat-em-up to hit consoles since the glory days of 16bit 2D brawlers. Making its 3D debut, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition more than lives up to the gauntlet thrown down by its home console counterparts. Sweet depth effects and cool wireless StreetPass social multiplayer elements make it worth a look even if you already own another version of the game.


Click here to buy

Ridge Racer 3D

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While Ashphalt 3D is an equally good game if you're craving a driving fix from the 3DS, we've got a soft spot for the Ridge Racer games. With impossible car physics that allow you to drift around bends like a Dancing On Ice contestant, it's far more fun than po-faced racers like Gran Turismo. Developers Namco have a good eye for spectacle too, offering up some of the maddest tracks we've seen in a driving game for some time, made all the more mental by the console's 3D effects.

Click here to buy

VIDEO: Top 5 CES 2011 TV tech

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CES 2011 how wondrous your goggleboxes were!

From connected sets to mad 3D visors, the show threw up a load of new displays that Tech Digest would kill to have at home.

We've pulled together our five favourite bits of TV tech from the Las Vegas show. Check them out in the videos below.

1: Sony's 3D Headset

Our favourite bit of TV tech from the show wasn't technically a TV at all. This concept from Sony crammed two small OLED displays inside a Tron-like visor, giving the wearer a personal 3D display wherever they turned their head. It worked a charm, despite only being in the early stages of development.

2: LG Passive Cinema 3D TVs

Continuing the stellar work they've put into their 3D developments were LG, launching their new Cinema 3D range of passive 3D TVs. We spoke to George Mead of LG, who explained the companies increasing focus on passive sets, and why the general public seem to be leaning towards that technology rather than active 3D sets.

3: LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrader

Another ace bit of kit from LG was the ST600 Smart TV Upgrader. Expected to cost no more than £100 at launch, it turns any HDMI-equipped TV into a "Smart" TV, capable of web browsing and using apps. With connected sets expected to become ever more dominant in stores, this inexpensive box will make sure your older set isn't branded a dunce.

4: Sharp Aquos Quattron 3D TV

We're big fans of Sharp's Aquos Quattron range at Tech Digest, as shown in our review of the set. Sharp have now revamped the range with 3D smarts, and it's looking very special indeed.

5: Sony's 3D glasses-free autostereoscopic TV

Super-slim OLED TVs always attract the Tech Digest team like flies to a UV light trap, and Sony's 3D glasses-free autostereoscopic OLED TV was no exception. With a great viewing angle and a genuine sense of depth given to the images, it had even the edge of Toshiba's similar sets, despite the latter being expected to go to retail before the year is out.

Its here!!! Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is out in cinemas around the country today and we can hardly contain our excitement.

Last week we brought you part one of our Ultimate Harry Potter Merchandise round up. Now we are back with part two, to celebrate the release.

Top 5 "TRON Legacy" Merch

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TRON: Legacy, the sequel to Disney's 80's sci-fi film about humans pulled into a dangerous digital world, may be out until Dec. 17, but those merchandise masterminds are already pulling out all the stops. The official movie merchandise line-up includes everything from Adidas clothing with glow-in-the-dark stitching to noise-cancellation headphones from Monster.

With less than a month to go we have pulled together a list of the top 5 Tron Legacy merch.

There is only one more day until the biggest movie of the year Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 premieres in Leicester Square London and we can't wait!

The boy wizard has been casting a spell over readers and cinema-goers for 13 years now, yet the spell has not lost any of it's power. On November 19th the first part of the grand finale will be hitting the cinemas nation wide, and will no doubt be followed by reams of Harry Potter merchandising.

To celebrate we have compiled a list of the top 5 Harry Potter Merch. Check back tomorrow for part 2!

Personally I think it is a little early to start thinking about Christmas, but with the lights up and Christmas commercials already running on TV, the rush to become the top seller this season is already on.

Shopping website VoucherCodes.co.uk polled 3000 UK consumers during October to try and predict what the most desirable Christmas gadgets for 2010 will be. Unsurprisingly, the iPad came out top, with over a third saying it will be on their Christmas list this year.

Check out the gallery of their predicted Top 5 gadgets for Christmas 2010

Top 5 Camera Bags

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Whether you are a professional photographer or just like to take the odd snapshot, it is important to have a good camera bag to lug your gear around in and to keep it protected. So to help you find the right bag for you, we have pulled together a list of our top 5 camera bags.

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Apple may deservedly rule the roost when it comes to smartphones, tablet and media players, but they don't half take themselves seriously. Their iPads, iPhones and iPods have certainly been revolutionary devices, but the company itself has earned a strangely cult-like status due to their earnest advertising and feverish fanboy following.

Which of course makes them prime targets for a good old YouTube spoof video. Here are 5 of the best we've seen.


The "iPad Shuffle"



Picking up on Apple's love of re-releasing every single idea they've ever had in about a million different variations, this spoof reveals the iPad Shuffle. It's an iPad, but 1/250th the size!


The Scottevest



The iPhone may have an app for everything, but the Scottevest has a pocket for everything! You wont win any awards for fashion wearing this, but you'll be bringing Ray Mears-chic into the 21st century with this tech-savvy sleeveless overcoat.



The Apple "i"


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Chrome-y, classy, and shiny, the Apple "i" is probably genuinely in development deep in an underground lab in Cupertino. It's "100% spherical", but what the hell does it do!? Hats off to the actor in the vid for nailing Steve Jobs presentation giving mannerisms. We couldn't embed this vid, but we couldn't leave it out either. Click here to view it instead!


FaceTime kidnapping



As much a dig at the AT&T network as it is Apple, it looks like the iPhone 4's FaceTime app has an unexpected use; sorting out hostage negotiation situations!


Peter Serafinowicz's iPad



Need to take notes, make movies, write music and play games all from the same device? Peter Serafinowicz may have an overpriced solution for you!

tiger south park.jpgWell, it was bound to happen really, wasn't it? After having as many mistresses as he has won tournaments, golfing legend Tiger Woods has now officially divorced from his spouse Elin Nordegren.

9 months after the bizarre car crash that kick-started the media frenzy surrounding his infidelity, reports now suggest that the divorce could cost him a whopping $750 million.

But could it all have been prevented? What if Tiger had something to keep his wandering eyes purely on golf and his marriage rather than playing about in the rough looking for birdies?

Here Tech Digest recommend five apps that could have left Tiger playing with his iPhone rather than fumbling for his wood...

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Following Reevoo.com's findings last week that 22% of Brits end up causing on average £209 worth of damage to their tech gear whilst on holiday, we thought we'd scour the Gadget Globe in search of the latest waterproof cameras that you should be thinking about taking with you on your holidays.

With one in twenty people admitting to either dropping their cameras in the pool or down the toilet (blueeeraggh!) having one of these snappers could save your photos from a watery grave. If you do intend to drop your gadgets down the loo however, may we also recommend packing a pair of rubber gloves and some bleach too?

Hit the gallery below to check them out

Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar's epic wild west adventure, is a massive game that's massively good. Just check out our full review if you don't believe us. For whatever reason however, it also features some pretty huge glitches too.

And boy are they funny. From a gunslinging dog to the creepy "Donkey Woman", here are five of the best glitches that have been spotted so far. Part of me hopes Rockstar don't put a fix out for these. They're that good. Check them out below.

(Kudos goes to WhereDaBootz for finding most of these)

Flying People

Gunslinging dog

Donkey Woman

Flying Deer

Invisible Horses

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itunes grab.pngSince it launched nearly a decade ago, Apple's iTunes has become almost synonymous with digital music. A beautiful and intuitive user-interface coupled with the most thorough library of legal MP3 downloads available, it was the perfect accompaniment to the iPod and, later, the iPhone.

However, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, "The times, they are a-changing". Spotify, the free music streaming service, rolled out a major update this week that introduced social networking features and matched on many other counts the key features that makes iTunes so widely used. It was an update that made iTunes begin to look very aged indeed.

So, what must Apple do to keep iTunes king of the digital music libraries? Here are Tech Digest's 5 things iTunes must do to stay ahead of Spotify.


1.) Free, cloud-based music

While iTunes for me remains the best option for locally-stored music, there's no denying the tech world is moving ever further into the cloud. High-quality MP3s literally take up over half of my relatively large hard-drive, and yet I'm increasingly turning to streaming services to listen to music. Why? Because of convenience. It's instant, easily shareable and, thanks to apps like Spotify, mobile. I don't have to be anywhere near my computer to listen to the songs I want to, so long as I have internet access. And with 3G and broadband services ever-improving, that's not a problem.

What Apple need to understand is that music is less about ownership these days, and more about access. They've got to offer a cloud-based streaming service with the next update.

And what's more, I want this streaming service to be free, ad-funded or otherwise. Of course, I don't mind paying a higher premium for ownership of a special edition of something I really love, but with so many other services offering free streaming options (Last.fm, Spotify, We7), iTunes here seems sorely behind the times. It may be on the cards for the next major update, due in September, but it's a feature that can't come soon enough.


2.) More attractive payment options

Don't get me wrong here, iTunes download prices are very reasonable. Any cheaper than the average £0.99p track price and the artists would go hungry. However, there is room for more options and more flexibility from Apple here.

Just take Spotify's Premium subscription service for example. For £9.99 a month you get unlimited, uninterrupted streaming access to their catalogue of songs on your desktop or on-the-go, with playlists that can be downloaded for offline playback. Even better is Nokia's Comes With Music service, bundled in with their high-end music phones; it offers unlimited music downloads for a whole year, which, apart from some annoying DRM constraints, means you could literally download thousands and thousands of songs legally without breaking the bank. Imagine if the iPhone 4G shipped with a similar unlimited downloads scheme through iTunes?


3.) Full social network integration

You may or may not know this, but iTunes, much like in the recent Spotify update, can be integrated into Facebook and Myspace to give your friends a taste of what you've been recently listening to. Unlike Spotify's recent update however, it's a relatively convoluted process that requires the user to play about with either AppleScript for Mac OS X or the Apple-provided SDK for iTunes on Windows.

Again, this is about convenience and ease-of-use. Straight from the iTunes browser, I want to be able to Tweet and Facebook share music that I think will really excite my friends, and reach out for recommendations from real people around the world for new music, rather than relying on Apple's suggestions. This is tied into the idea of free and streaming options however; I don't want to recommend songs to my friends only for them to hit a very silent paywall.


4.) Full lyrics and album booklets

Artwork and extras is somewhere all the streaming services currently falter. You may get a little album or single cover to accompany your song of choice, but not much else. And, given that the majority of these streaming services are running on low-cost, ad-funded models, what more do you really expect?

Apple have a great opportunity to capitalise upon here, especially if they want their premium download service to continue to thrive. With strong relationships with the major music publishers, they are in a unique position to be able to really push for unique content to accompany their downloads. I'm talking about full album artwork, lyrics for each song, band website integration, exclusive videos and interviews, the works. They already made tentative steps towards a more visually enraging experience with the "Cover Flow" view, but it needs to go a step or two further.

With the iPad flying off shelves, rich visual content to accompany the tunes on the tablet device makes perfect sense, and would stand a good chance of winning over old-school music fans who miss the sense of discovery and artistry that used to accompany buying an album. They're the same crowd who don't really care for the whole cloud-based thing that I previously mentioned, and if Apple choose to opt out of offering a streaming service, they really have to win over the old faithful who religiously stick to their hard copies.


5.) Intelligent updates

This one, really, is just a personal bug-bear of mine. Why, with every iTunes update, must I really grab QuickTime too? Fixes seem to be rolled out every time I boot the software up, and yet the program still has a tendency to lock-up, or lose track of files. I'd rather less frequent but more thorough updates, and a less flaky user-experience.


Conclusion

As it stands, iTunes as a music library has only one real trump card over Spotify; availability. Spotify remains only a European service, whereas iTunes and Apple have global reach. But what will happen if (or increasingly more likely, "when") Spotify launches in the US and the rest of the world? There could be a mass migration if Apple aren't careful, and the new Spotify update makes the service even more attractive.

Time is still on Apple's side however. Despite slow progress, Spotify are still yet to finalise a business plan that sufficiently pleases the major record labels enough in the US to make it a viable territory to launch in. But it surely must only be a matter of time. There are a few months until the next version of iTunes is expected to launch, and much will be expected of it if it is to compete in a rapidly evolving market.


Related Stories | 5 Things we greedily still want Spotify to add

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CES 2010: Day 2 Round-Up

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ces 2010 day two.jpgIt may have gotten off to a dull start thanks to the lacklustre showing from Microsoft, but CES 2010 today threw up some really nice surprises. Keep an eye out for the Light Blue Optic's Light Touch here in today's round-up, and be prepared to be blown away.

HTC unveils the Smart, their first budget smartphone
You might recognise this one from last years leaked HTC product roadmap

Dell tease mini Android based tablet, the Streak
It's like an Archos internet tablet. But red.

Sony Z series laptops hands-on video
Ashley gets a quick demo of the new range of Sony laptops

EarVibe vibrating earphones on the way from Tehcnocell

Somehow improves sound quality. Yeah right....

Lady Gaga new creative director for Polaroid
No, it's not a wind-up, she's got herself a real job

Light Blue Optic's Light Touch turns any surface into a touchscreen
Amazing emergent tech, and the most exciting spot of the day so far in my opinion

Samsung's animated OLED identity card is equal parts cool and creepy
Your ID is about to go crazy cool, Bladerunner style

Microsoft's Ballmer announces the HP Slate
The iSlate...Oh? The HP Slate, right...

Project Natal Xbox 360 motion control coming Christmas
You hear that Santa!?

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer opens CES, but does anyone care anymore?
It's a pretty boring display from the PC giants

Sony's new products
In a quick, handy gallery!

Sony Dash personal internet viewer video
Sony do a Chumby

The five hottest e-readers
Another gallery rundown, this time of the best e-readers so far seen at CES 2010

Is this the hottest TV of the year? Samsung's 3D LED 9000
Real-time 2D to 3D conversion on its way

Five things to watch for
Ashley gives his run down on the best things to keep a look out for at this year's convention

Click here for more CES 2010 coverage from Tech Digest

Tech Digest at CES is sponsored by Best Buy. For more CES stories and
videos go here

We did a post on festive apps earlier on in the month, but it seems you lot just cant get enough of them! So here are five more apps to get you into the Christmas spirit.

BBC Good Food Festive Recipes App (£2.39)

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Turkey-cooking trauma is (probably) one of the biggest killers during the festive period. This handy cooking guide app from the BBC has video demonstrations and even a turkey-timer for cooking the old bird to perfection.

Twas the night Before Christmas App (£0.59)

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A nice one to treat the kids with this. Twas the night Before Christmas is probably the most Christmass-y of all Christmas stories. This app lets parents record a little audio book version of the tale for their children to read along with on Christmas Eve.

Snow Bubble App (£0.59)

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Snow Globes are a bit chunky to put in your pocket, so this app is perfect for those who cant live without a portable snow-covered Christmas diorama to take with them on the go. You can even customise the bubble with your own pictures.

Pocket Babes Sexy Santa App (£0.59)

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For every kid who makes Santa's good list, there's always those who cant help but be naughty too. This then is an app for all the grown-up's getting a lump of coal this Christmas. Sexy Santa comes in three different costumes and is totally interactive. She wont help wrap your presents though.

Santa's Run App (£0.59)

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What a tosser Santa is! Er... Christmas present tosser that is! This fun little game lets you take command of St. Nick's Christmas Eve mission, tossing presents into houses all over the world.

iPhone - Top Five Christmas Apps

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Christmas songs are all over the radio, mince pies are stacked high in Tesco's and you've started whacking your thermals on before you get into bed for the night . Yep, the festive season is officially in full swing.

But have you yet to deck your iPhone with bells and holly? Dont be a Scrooge! Grab a few of Tech Digest's Top Five Christmas Apps to get you in to the fuzzy, warm spirit of things!

Click the image below to get started.

tank.gifIwantoneofthose.com is always a great place to pick up a last minute gadget gift for a loved one. But what do you get the person who has everything? How about a paintball battle in a WWII tank? It's just one of the ludicrously fun sounding days out now available from www.iwantoneofthoseexperiences.com.

Here are the top five experience days heading our Christmas lists:

Tank Paintballing - £94

Regular paintballing is all well and good, but you look like a bit of an idiot running around some cold wet forest off the M1 with what amounts to an over-powered spud gun in your holster. Enter "Tank Paintball", where you and two mates take control of a hulking 17 tonne FV432 armoured personal carrier capable of firing 40mm paint rounds. Imagine the bruises in the morning...

Jousting - £199

Is there a fair-maiden whose looks warm thy loins? Well then, young squire, why not win her hand by competing for her affections at a day of jousting? Participants of all riding abilities are welcome, and we've been assured that the losing knight will not be beheaded.

Spy Games - £219

You may have the missile-launching car, the jetpack and the laser-wristwatch. But do you have the skills to go with all those spy gadgets? A day at spy school will teach you all you need to know to carry out covert-ops deep in enemy territory.

Ghost Hunting Break - £199

Fearless adventurer? Why not pop Ray Parker Jr. on your iPod and head out on a spooky paranormal investigation in a haunted house? Derek Acorah, eat your heart out (and then come back and haunt me to prove you weren't making it all up).

Ice Climbing - £59

Remember February's ridiculous snowfall? Get prepared this year by taking part in a day of ice-climbing that would make Bear Grylls shiver.

Last week that great iconic tech company Polaroid announced a relaunch with new versions of its classic camera powered by some up to date digital technology. This got the Tech Digest team thinking. What other great brands and products from the past are worth reviving? So here are five that we think ought to be given a second chance.

We certainly aren't saying that you should ditch your Blu-ray for a Betamax, but given the right techy makeover these products could be very now.

Click on the pic below to check out the top five

It's Friday, which means that we round up the top five winners in tech for this week, as well as the biggest loser. Once again we have some hot gadgets and cool new websites, but which is going to take top spot?

Click on the pic below to kick starts the top five (and the loser)

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