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NTL unveils Sky+ rival

Cable guys get PVR

Tech Digest

Top stories on HDTV UK

NTL unveils Sky+ rival

Following on from its merger with Telewest a few weeks back, cable company NTL is finally starting to rev up for its upcoming battle with Sky, and anyone else for that matter, in the HDTV and personal video recorder markets. On Saturday the company announced details of its soon-to-be launched personal video recorder the Explorer 8450DVB. The model will apparently be HD and MPEG4 compatible and is being manufactured for NTL by Scientific Atlanta. It will sport a trio of TV tuners enabling users to record three programmes simultaneously. Other features include a 160GB hard drive (the same as Telewest's model and the current top-end Sky+ box), USB 2.0 and Ethernet connectivity, and the option of multi-room which will enable users to stream programmes to other Scientific Atlanta boxes in their home. Telewest, NTL’s one time friendly rival and now partner in the merged company, also has a unit which includes a similar set of features but isn't MPEG4 compatible.

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Boffins deliver Plasma screen fireplace

The Tech Digest team spent the weekend hanging out with the nation’s boffins at the British Invention Show in Alexandra Palace north London. We saw some pretty amazing things (more on those later), and some completely hat-stand ones too and at the moment we are not entirely sure which category the Plasma Screen Fireplace fits into. As you’d imagine the Plasma Screen Fireplace is a rather pleasant looking fireplace and surround that houses a plasma screen. The idea is that when the screen is not in use it slides away inside the fireplace, so all you see is the fireplace and genuine electric flame style heater.

Obviously we had concerns that the from the fire might lead to accidental incineration of our beloved plasma screen, but apparently there’s no worries on that score as heat from the fire pushes forward which means that the plasma screen would be unaffected. There's a range of fireplaces available from the Beachcomber (£2140) to the top-end "Firelight Modern", which has a remote controlled fire, built in downlights and a space to conceal the DVD/VCR. Alas that price doesn't include the screen. More here.

Top story on Bayraider

Hyperdimensional oscillator

Forget Prof Hawking and his theories of space and time. If you want to take your brain to another dimension, just head to this auction and grab yourself a hyperdimensional oscillator. "The device incorporates several elements of futuristic Tesla technology, psychotronics and quantum physics to allow the user to access other dimensions of space time," says the listing, which sounds good to us. And for just $89.95, which is even better. The listing has a lot of information about cosmic energies and bioenergy fields to persuade you that it's a good investment. We're sold!

PC tip of the day from Propellerhead

Q. Is it possible to connect two PCs together using a USB cable? I want to copy files from my old Windows 98 laptop, which is now getting on a bit, to the hard drive on my new XP desktop computer? Andrew Hayes

A. Whoa there Andy! Whatever you do don’t try it, at least not with an ordinary USB cable, it’s odds-on you will zap the USB ports on one or both computers. Standard USB cables carry a supply voltage, to power peripherals like scanners etc, so it’s really not a good idea to have two PCs trying to suck and blow the juice out of each other…

There is a way to do it but you must use a specially designed link cable and file transfer software. There’s plenty to choose from, like the Expansys USB Data Transfer Cable, which sells for around £16. Better still; why not create a simple wireless network. It’s really easy with Windows XP and the extra bits and pieces should only cost you around £50 to £80. You won’t have to retire your laptop and you’ll be able to use it around your home and in the garden and share your broadband Internet connection.

Popjunkie (great lost pop albums)

Hippy Shopper (ethical buying)

Games Digest

There's loads more of this stuff at Tech Digest, Shiny Shiny, Green consumer blog HippyShopper, and Bayraider, which highlights the best and worst of online auction sites.

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