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1. Adobe Photoshop Elements [PC / Mac]

Photoshop? Easy?

There's no denying that the various flavours of Photoshop contain some very advanced features, but in fact it's possible to do basic image and photo editing and manipulation plus a range of "fancy" things without a whole lot of training.

Photoshop Elements is a cut-down version of the full-blown package which means it doesn't have as many features but it's also cheaper. In fact, it often comes bundled with digital cameras.

Get to grips with the basics of Photoshop Elements and you may well find yourself wanting to delve deeper into its powerful tools.

Ease of use: 3/5
Features: 5/5
Price: Latest version around £60, may be bundled. PC / Mac

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Struggling along on your Windows-based PC and considering moving over to Linux?

Here are five reasons why you should make the switch.

1. Lots of free software available

If your PC doesn't already have a Linux distro (the geek cool name for a particular distributed version of the operating system) installed on it, and you're a tech-head then you can generally get the Linux operating system itself for free

If you want support and instructions on setting it up you can pay a software company for this.

However, once it's set up and running, you'll find a wide variety of useful software packages already available that will let you do pretty much anything you're likely to want to do.

It's true that there are more versions of Linux available than of Windows or Mac OS X, but you can find out more about the user-friendly Ubuntu flavour of Linux in Duncan's How to get all the music and software you want for free and legally talk.

april-fools-lolcats.pngNow that it's gone midday, we'll give up on the fake news and go back to the real deal. Before that, though, I wanted to salute a few of the better April Fool's Day stories from around the web this morning.

5) Guardian now only available on Twitter

4) Moo.com's super-eco-friendly business cards

3) Warner Bros. acquires the Pirate Bay

2) LoveFilm removes all french-made and french-language films

1) Bigfoot discovered in Windows 7

Have you got a favourite? Email it to us. We want to see it.

This morning, Spotify and 7digital announced a 'strategic partnership' that'll let Spotify users click straight through to buying MP3s on 7digital. Although I've awarded both of them an official Tech Digest badge of awesomeness in the past, the tie-up isn't much more than the sum of its parts. Let's have a look at five other dream partnerships that could really rock the world of digital music.

Pink Floyd and Guitar Hero

Once, not long ago, that would have read "The Beatles", but the Fab Four's estates have now given the thumbs up to Beatles Rock Band, so the net has to be cast a little wider. There are still a few digital standouts - most notably Pink Floyd but also Led Zeppelin - that haven't worked very much with the Guitar Hero or Rock Band developers.

Other holdouts - Metallica, Tool and AC/DC have reneged on their digital hesitancy to get more heftily involved with the series. Tool provided artwork and several songs to Guitar Hero: World Tour, and Metallica are producing their own version of the game.

Top of my list, though, is Pink Floyd. As a massive fan of The Division Bell, I can't think of anything more awesome than twiddling my way through "Coming Back to Life". Blasting through 'Money' on bass in 7/4 time would be awesome, too.

Major labels and Bittorrent

This might be a bit of a contentious one, and it's probably the least likely of the lot, but it's also the one that could prove the most fruitful. The major labels have the content cracked - the one thing people don't say about them is that they have bad taste in bands - and Bittorrent is one of the most efficient distribution systems that there is.

If a major label set up a subscription-based Bittorrent tracker, where for £5 or a month or equivalent people were free to download and share playlists of as much as they like of that label's content, then there'd be umpteen different benefits for the label.

Firstly, people in the community would emerge as tastemakers, who'd be great for the label working out which acts can sink or swim. Secondly, they'd not have to worry about distribution at all - the more popular an act, the faster everyone's downloads would be. Lastly, they could easily track the relative popularity of different bands and allocate the revenues accordingly.

Audiosurf and Mobile Phones

Last year, I met with a senior staff member at Namco Mobile over my allegations that 'mobile games are almost always awful' - a view that I generally still hold. We had a good chat, and respectfully differed on a few things. But then I told him that he should convert Audiosurf to mobile.

He looked confused - 'what's Audiosurf?'. I explained that it's a game where you load in whatever MP3s you like, and then it generates a track for you based on that song, where fast bits slope downhill, slow bits slope uphill and obstructions appear in time with the beat. You then race along the course, picking up blocks and lining them up in a grid.

iphone-battery.jpgI always run out of phone battery at the most inopportune moments. Like just as my mum calls me, so she then thinks I'm avoiding her calls, or just as a lost friend is trying to track me down on a busy street.

Well, I've had enough, goddamnit. From now on, I'm going to make sure that my battery's always in tip-top condition. Here's how I'm going to do it:

One: Switch off features you don't use
Seriously, how often do you use Bluetooth? Even if you use a headset on the go, you're probably sat at a computer for a good proportion of your day, when having Bluetooth on is a waste of time. If you just turn it on when you need it, you can save a massive whack of battery life.

While we're at it, there's also 3G (do you need your email checked every minute? even overnight?), GPS, Wi-Fi and screen brightness. Turning them all down or off when you're not using them could double your battery life in one fell swoop.

Two: Don't let it run out totally before recharging
With Ni-MH batteries, it's good to let them drain properly before charging them again, thanks to 'battery memory', but most cellphone batteries these days use Li-Ion batteries instead. These don't suffer from the same problem, and can in fact be damaged by letting them go flat.

For best results, charge your phone when it gets to about 30% remaining. Think of the extra capacity as backup. Then, when you're stuck in a situation where you can't charge easily, like a festival, you'll have maximum possible battery life.

Three: Don't carry it around in your pocket
Turns out that carrying your phone around in your pocket is actually pretty bad for battery life, because you've got hot legs. By you, I mean "humans", not specifically you, though your legs are rather hot. *cough*. Ahem.

Lifehacker suggests that it's much better to keep batteries as cool as possible - meaning in your bag or jacket, or even on a belt clip. If you want to go overboard, keep your phone in the fridge at night, or just, y'know, turn it off.

Four: Turn it off when there's no signal
While we're talking about turning the phone off, turn it off when you go on the tube or metro, or if you're going somewhere that you know has low signal issues. The lower the network availability, the harder the phone chip has to work to get a usable signal, so the more battery it uses.

For the same reason, if you know you have to call someone, do it somewhere with good signal, oh, and keep it short. No yapping about whether or not your friend saw Neighbors last night. Save that for the pub. It sounds harsh, but think of the hours of battery life you'll get in return.

Five: Cycle your spares, and don't store them with a full charge
Lastly, if you're serious about batteries then you'll almost certainly be carrying around a spare for emergencies. Don't just use one and keep the other as a spare, or when it comes time to plug in the spare, it'll be dead. Instead, rotate which battery you use every couple of months or so.

Don't keep the spare fully charged up. A full charge puts too much strain on the terminals, and can damage it if it's kept full for a long time. If you carry the spare around with you all the time, then keep it charged about 70-80%, but if not then keep it at 30% or so and in the fridge (not freezer). Then just charge it up when you think you'll need it - if you're going to a festival, for example.

Conclusions
So there you go. My tips for making your batteries able to make it through two months before needing a recharge. Have you got any tips, or things you've found useful in the quest for battery life? Share them in the comments.

spotify-logo-ed.jpgIt's no secret that I love, adore, and worship Spotify. It's far and away my favourite piece of software that's emerged over the last year. The reason I love it so much is its simplicity, and the way it does nearly everything exactly right. You can see exactly why I love it from my original writeup here.

Yesterday, Spotify removed its invitation-only status in the UK. It's been possible to sign up without an invite, via a bit of URL trickery, for a little while, but now it's open to anyone. Go get your sisters, brothers, parents and neighbors signed up - they'll love it. However, Spotify, for all its awesomeness, isn't quite perfect. Here's five reasons why.

inches-of-snow.jpgFour inches? Five? Twelve? I'm talking about the snow, you filthy individual. You might have noticed the white stuff accumulating outside at an alarming rate today - at the time of writing it's still coming down in North London - and you're probably starting to worry if it's ever going to stop.

I can assure you, it will. As for when - well, it'll probably be sunnier tomorrow, but then go back to sleety snow for the majority of the week. But you want more detail, right? Right. Well, here's my top five places where you can track this week's snowfall online in-depth. Click over the jump to begin.

As the lights go out tonight on 2008, we thought we'd reflect back in the year just gone, and pick a few gadgets that we absolutely, positively, couldn't live without this year. I've contributed a couple, and I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say it was tough to narrow the list down.

I could have nominated my brilliant Acer Aspire One netbook. I could have nominated my wonderful Zune 30 MP3 player (and very nearly did). I probably should at least mention my Victorinox WT messenger bag that goes almost everywhere that I do. However, none of those approach the love that I have for the gadgets that did make the list.

See those gadgets, and Dan and Gary's choices, too, by clicking on my beloved N95 below.

Related posts: Top 100 Christmas Presents 2008 | Top 10 Tuesday: Best Christmas Gadgets

obama-hope.jpgToday was a good day. At four o'clock this morning our time the polls closed on the west coast of America and exit polls led to the networks calling the Presidency for Obama. What's phenomenal about Obama is that he came from practically nowhere two years ago, and despite running against established rivals - first Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and then John McCain - managed to not just take the White House, but surfed into it on a landslide. Obviously psephology is phenomenally complex, but one thing is clear: Obama used technology to motivate his base and get the vote out. But just how did he do it? Here are five uses of technology that helped win it.

So the new 007 film, Quantum of Solace, is out tomorrow, but being a Daniel Craig film, it's a long way away from the glory days of Roger Moore's "gadgets and girls" Bond. In honour of the old times, therefore, here's a gallery of the best Bond gadgets of all time.

Click the infamous Garrotte Watch below to start the countdown. If we missed any of your favourites (no, it may be awesome but Oddjob's bowler hat isn't a "gadget" - it's just a hat) then drop us a line in the comments below.

ie8-logo.pngThe biggest news this morning (that doesn't relate to a German trade show) is that Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 is out. It's still a developer's preview version, but it seems stable enough for consumers to test. I'll cut to the chase - you can get it here.

Internet Explorer is still used by a whopping 73% of internet users, and 47% of Tech Digest readers (42% Firefox, 7% Safari, 4% other, in case you were wondering). Why do so many people use it? Well, almost certainly because it comes as standard on Windows machines. Many people can't be bothered to change the default. At one point in 2003, IE had 95% market share.

A little history, then. IE6, released in 2001, was a big pile of awful. It was insecure and heavily criticised, which let Firefox (and Apple, too) take quite a big chunk of market share. IE7 was playing catchup, adding tabs and better security, but IE8 looks game-changing, and a strong challenger for Firefox 3.0. Click over the jump to find out why.

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Today is apparently International Left Handed Day - a day presumably intended to promote understanding of the terrible hardships experienced by those who were not as lucky as the rest of us in the genetic lottery as to receive correctly working hands.

Lefties are a strange bunch - all of the verbal abuse - calling them freaks of nature, and the jokes made at their expense (and this is just stuff I've done) - has not caused them to man-up and take it as you might expect, but seems to have made them a hideously insecure bunch. Google for "left handed", and the chances are you'll find tonnes of websites selling t-shirts saying things like "Left is right" or "Everyone is born right-handed: only the greatest overcome it", which I suppose is one way of looking at their plight.

Last year TechDigest had a look at five gadgets to make life easier for lefties - now here's five more solutions to the lefty problem.

london-to-brighton.jpgMy brain is in meltdown and my body in need of panel beating, for yesterday, with 26,999 others, I completed the 54 miles of the London to Brighton bike ride. Pedaling like fury while crawling inch by inch up the mighty Ditchling Beacon I decided to take my mind off my screaming thighs by compiling a Tech Digest top five gadgets that would make the London to Brighton bike ride a lot more pleasant...

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A gentleman by the name of Brad Jayakody was stopped from boarding his flight at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Monday for wearing an Optimus Prime t-shirt with a cartoon gun on it. Utterly ridiculous as it is, a spokesmen from BAA explained the security policy:

"If a T-shirt had a rude word or a bomb on it for example, a passenger may be asked to remove it."

Mr Jayakody's had neither, and that got me thinking about what else they wouldn't allow you on a plane with and decided to come up with the Tech Digest top five gadgets most likely to get you stopped Heathrow Terminal 5. So, here is the Tech Digest top five gadgets most likely to get you stopped at Heathrow Terminal 5...

Florence-nightingale.jpgAs you may or may not know, today is the anniversary of the birth of one of Britain's finest - the Lady with the Lamp herself, the pioneer of modern day nursing, Miss Florence Nightingale. It's an education over here at Tech Digest.

If Flozza were alive today she'd be really old and not much good at nursing anymore and she'd be well on the way to her second telegram from her second queen at the ripe old score of 188 years old. Doubtless she would also be fascinated by advances in tech and were she to do her rounds in this day and age, then these would be Florence Nightingale's top five gadgets.

boris-johnson-twat.jpgCome on, who didn't get off their arse and vote on Thursday? Sorry now, aren't you? Mayor Bo-Jo it is and if there are 140,000 of you out there that were going to vote Ken but had to cook dinner or were feeling a bit tired or forgot your polling cards or were a little confused by all the different coloured pieces of paper, then shame on you. You would have made the difference.

If you are currently burying your head in your hands, wracked with guilt over the terrible democratic travesty that you allowed to unfold, then I'm going to do you a favour. I'm throwing you a bone here. We may not be able to get the backward thinking, progress reversing, poor-trampling Tories out of this great city for another four years but you can make the Boris's life a little more uncomfortable while he's in charge with the top five mayor-maiming gadgets.

earth-day-2008.jpgIf you are as yet to navigate to the Google homepage today, you may be unaware that it's Earth Day today. Happy Earth Day everyone!

Earth Day is a day as old as the hills - even older. It's as old as the mud the hills are made from. Earth Day started back in ancient Egypt when the villages on the banks of the Nile would celebrate the annual floods which brought silt deposits to fertilize their land.

In celebration, the villagers would throw the mud at one another in joy and to this day people still mark the event with the giving and receiving of pieces of earth.

Actually, that's a complete lie but it was a nice story, wasn't it? No, Earth Day is about awareness of the environment as started in 1970 by a gentleman named Gaylord Nelson and to do our part at Tech Digest we're going to look at the best Earth-saving gadgets that money can buy.

Top Five Gadgets From The Skies Above America

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TD_Mall.jpgAnyone who loves gadgets and lives in the UK will know of the Innovations catalogue. Sadly it no longer exists, it went out of business a couple of years ago, but it was often found dropping through your letterbox inside the Sunday newspapers.

And what you'd find within its pages were some of the most weird and wonderful gizmos in the world. All the stuff you never really needed (ever) but bought from your hard-earned cash just in case - and because it looked "interesting". I wasted a fortune back in the days of Innovations and was horrified when it bit the dust.

So imagine my joy last week when I caught an internal flight from Orlando to Miami in the States on American Airlines and found a copy of the SKY MALL catalogue in the pocket in front of my seat. It's Innovations US-style and I've picked my five favourites over the jump. Best thing about it, even those in the UK can order from it!

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You may have climbed Everest, you may have crossed the deserts, you may even have survived weeks in the jungle with only a sharpened mango for protection, but today we offer you five gadgets your life just may depend on, should you have to brave the toughest environment known to man - Heathrow Terminal 5.

1.)Bluebird luggage tracker - an ingeniously simple idea to keep you from the carousel-kicking until strictly necessary. The Bluebird, sadly only in concept at the moment, is a little bluetooth keyring attached to your luggage. When it comes into range, it sends a message to your phone letting you know your bags have arrived. With 28,000 bags already missing at T5, it'd be a godsend.

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The Olympics comes but every four years and given that the Olympic ideal itself is hanging by its last thread of credibility, we may as well embrace what the games are all about - merchandising. So, here for your pleasure are the very finest in Beijing 2008 must haves and oooh I wish I could affords.

1.)Lenovo 3000 V200 notebook - from the people who brought you the 2008 Olympic Torch come a whole range of torch-inspired products including this 12.1-inch, 120GB, 1.5 mega-pixel webcam sporting, widescreen laptop. They're only available through online auction and all proceeds go to the Lenovo Hope Fund. But if you really love the Olympic Torch that much, why didn't you just get your hands on one...

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