Festivals: mud, wellies and days without a shower. Not a picture your smartphone naturally fits into, but these days it really should. While your phone can't provide you with a wet-wipe, it can do almost everything else - from finding your friends after a particularly disorientating dance in a bustling crowd, to helping you get yourself to and from the festival. Here are ten apps that are as crucial to the festival experience as a trusty pair of hotpants.
At the moment we love all things vintage, and find nothing more satisfying than stumbling across the perfect artefact that brings a bit of chic to an otherwise practical item, like a chair. However it takes time rooting through your local second hand furniture shops and auction rooms (fun though it can be), and the randomness of what's current can be frustrating if you're looking for a particular item.
Fortunately whether you are the down-the-line authentic vintage or open to replica variations, there's lots of cool retro desk chair choices to choose from. When opting for used vintage, there's the usual risks when buying second-hand anything, so be prepared to invest more than the purchase price to restore it to it's former glory, or upcycle further by selecting the fabric of your choice and getting it re-upholstered.
Beware of purely going for aesthetics with a desk chair, as we all know spending a long time hunched over your desk in a not-so-comfortable chair can result in 'vintage backache'. So, at the risk of sounding like your mother, the first thing to consider when shopping around for a desk chair is how much time you will be spending at your desk, as some chairs are more suited for longer use and comfort, ie height adjustment, padding and arms should be top of your list if you're the WFH type.
I have always thought that one day publishers would start offering tablets for free as long as you subscribed to their packages. Well, we aren't there yet, but things are moving in that direction.
The Times has announced that it is offering a special deal to potential readers and that if they sign up for their Digital Pack - basically The Times and Sunday Times downloaded each day to a tablet, plus full website access and the smartphone app - they would throw in a device for £50. In this instance it is is the Google Nexus 32 gig version.
Usually the tablet costs around £200, so that would mean £150 off the tablet's price.
I think this is just the start. It would make so much sense for say Amazon to offer a free Kindle provided you agreed to spend a certain amount of money on books each year - think a Spotify type subscription.
Then there are other magazine publishers who could in theory offer cheaper tablets as an incentive to pay for yearly subs too. It makes so much sense - if they want to ensure that their tablet readerships goes up why not offer readers a tablet?
I don't think you will be getting a free iPad with your Daily Star just yet, but if you are thinking about buying a tablet it might be worth seeing if you can get it free or cheap with some great content too.
Or dining Al Fresco as the papers refer to it these days, like we're all in some Manet painting. Comparing today's outdoor dining experiences is a whole world away from those jam sarnies with curled-up corners washed down with a warm bottle of pre-diluted orange squash from yesteryear (- I recall there being a distinct lack of lashings of ginger beer).
Now there's a whole host of must-have picnic equipment that you didn't realise existed, until you look around and notice infinitely posher picnics being devoured. Outdoor concerts can bring out the worst with this kind of one-up-personship: When candelabra's and Irish lace linen are laid out sur l'herbe, you know your yellowing tupperware maybe best kept inside that picnic basket.
There's no need to go spending your summer holiday budget on rustling up a tasty hamper, as picnic accoutrements don't have to cost the earth. Here's a selection of good looking ware that we'd like to pack up with us on our next sunny day out...
We spend more time at our desks these days than ever before, and desk space are fast becoming essential 'zones' to be planned within our homes. However how much time do we spend actually styling our desk space as we do endlessly for other areas of our homes?
Essential office furniture - like a good desk chair are must haves, but looking slightly further at say a vintage globe or a retro desk lamp can make your work station somewhere that you actually enjoy spending time and proudly display, along with the rest of your treasured 'statement pieces' that say something about your impeccable taste for home interiors!
Here's a selection of some of the finest examples of retro lamps we like.
Here's an interesting prototype from British maker Plastic Logic. The company, which these days specialises in high quality flexible plastic displays, have been parading a prototype of a watch that may give us a few clues as to what might be Apple's sleeve with its iWatch.
As you can see from the picture the flexible display means that the watch can curve around the owner's wrist - something that Apple is rumoured to also be working on. The maker also claims that the plastic which houses the screen is virtually indestructibile.
The prototype uses an E-Ink screen (like some of the Kindle range) which means that it can show any data that is fed to it, yet at the same time is low power, saving on battery life. In theory the maker claims that you could integrate Bluetooth into the device and then pair it up with a mobile phone and the watch could run for at least a week before it needed recharging.
Plastic Logic envisages that people could use the watch to make and receive calls, check info like the weather etc and offer other standard smart watch features,
So would you fancy one of these it it teamed up with your iPhone?
In case you haven't yet heard the news Buzzfeed, that American site so beloved of people who like kittens behaving badly, has launched a UK edition today.
Now, UK flavoured versions of US sites haven't always gone down well over here. The Huffington Post UK got a bit of a pasting when it first arrived though it has since settled a bit and become part of the UK media scene.
So I was very sceptical about Buzzfeed UK? How many cats with British accents are there?
I really shouldn't have worried. Edited by former NME.com editor Luke Lewis Buzzfeed is a tour de force of all things British - which almost certainly wouldn't have made the original version of the site.
Not everything is quite as inspired. The 27 Extraordinary Facts About The London Underground seems like a parade of quotes from Wikipedia accompanied by shots from Flickr - which invariably aren't relevant to the station that is being posted about.
Also where the ferret is the footy stuff?
But it is early days, and if Lewis and his team can keep up this standard then Buzzfeed UK is going to be an absolute hoot.
It is fascinating too in that it provides a very real insight into what being British means in 2013 - so we are all about The Daily Mail, Boris Johnson, Marmite, The Tube, David Bowie and Alan Partridge. Is that good? I am not too sure...
Btw when you have checked it out don't forget to take a peek at the newly revamped MSNNowsite which features Becca, once of this parish, Caddy.
There were plenty of reported sightings of Samsung galaxy S4 cases before its launch last Thursday, but many were just mock-ups based mainly on conjecture than fact.
Now at last we know exactly what the S4 will look like and the deluge of cases and accessories has begun.
All the big names have been quick off the mark to produce cases and our selection ranges from budget number to a few luxury models that are creeping out.
Most will go one sale at the end of April when the S4 itself arrives
The hottest trend in mobile phones at the moment is... screen size. It seems you can keep your fancy features like voice control and image editing, what people really want is a large screen to watch video, surf the web and play games.
The trend that was started by Samsung with its Galaxy Note phone has now been taken up by almost all the makers (with a few high profile exceptions).
If you want to know why you'd want big screen phone in the first place go here.
If you are sold on that extra screen real estate then here is a collection of the all the models that are available now or coming your way soon.
The smallest has a five inch screen - the biggest is a tablet-esque 8 inches
So, most of the serious stuff has finished now the Mobile World Congress. Sure the exhibition goes on for a few more days but all major announcements have been made.
So what has MWC 2013 taught us
1 That the line between phone and tablet is really starting to blur. Fancy a phone with a 7insh screen? Well you will be able to buy one soon
2 That 4.7inch screen is now the sweet spot on high-end mobile devices. Anything smaller just looks a bit dated.
3 That the basic phone might be about to make a come back. Don't want the web, but want a phone with a battery that rolls on for days and days - well Nokia and others may have heard your pleas.
Here then are profiles of the key phones from the exhibition.
Personally I have not had a great experience of smart watches, they seem fiddly to set up and tricky to use (though admittedly I haven't seen this one yet). In short as a concept they are just begging for a company like Apple, or Samsung, to create something that not only looks beautiful but works in an intuitive way too.
There's plenty about smartwatches and how Apple might approach them here. What we do know though is that Apple is experimenting with some innovative bendy glass and that appears to have been the inspiration behind this gorgeous mock up from Yanko Designs.
In addition to the bendy glass, its design is clearly inspired by the iPhone 5 and note that apple trademark single button.
There's more here along with the words of the designer Esben Oxholm.
For more on the iWatch and its rivals go here.
Our collection of Samsung Galaxy S3 cases last year proved to be really popular, so we're back again with some simple favourites and bright tough options for your new handset.
BlackBerry launched two brand new handsets this week, the Z10 and the Q10 and already some of our favourite brands are designing cases and accessories to ensure your sparkly new handsets are safe and stylish.
Here's our pick of the first few good-looking Z10 cases, expect more to come over the next few weeks...
Related: REVIEW: BlackBerry Z10 smartphone with BB10 operating system (Tech Digest)
Twitter's new video sharing app Vine was only officially launched last week and we're already all creating short, silly clips of everything from our cooking exploits, ridiculous faces, morning commutes and lots of filthy porn too apparently.
As you'd expect from a brand new service there are those who aren't convinced and are being very vocal about it, labelling Vine a boring fad, but we're all about embracing new services, especially if they offer something a bit different and there are ways to avoid the naughty bits...
So here are five reasons why we love Twitter's new video app so far:
1. It's just so easy to use
If you really need it there's a quick walkthrough that shows you how to record your first Vine, but to be honest it's so simple and intuitive that we're confident you'll get it straight away. Just press the camera button and hold your finger down when you want to record something. You can do it all in one go or little chunks. You're then taken to a screen much like Instagram's, which allows you to add a caption, add a location or share with your social networks. Simple.
2. You can become a stop motion pro (kinda)
We've seen some pretty clever vines so far (we're calling the videos vines, that's OK, right?), but the ones that are particularly making us laugh are those that use basic stop motion animation in order to make things that don't move MOVE ON THEIR OWN. Admittedly these are the kinds of silly tactics that have made some people roll their eyes at the new app, but we just can't get enough of inanimate objects dancing around at the moment. Ask us in a week and we'll probably have a little cry about it.
3. Seamless Twitter integration (obviously)
Vine has been created by the team at Twitter, so as you'd expect there's seamless integration, which makes it really easy to upload to the micro-blogging platform, you can see vines within your stream and to embed a vine elsewhere you can easily just take the same steps you would have in the past to embed a tweet.
4. There's a sense of community already
Vine has been made by Twitter, but there are already plenty of people using Vine on its own and not necessarily sharing their creations with their Twitter followers every single time. Although we're encouraged to share our vines elsewhere (and many of us already do), just like Instagram we think we'll see circles of those that like to share their vines and make connections independently from any other service.
5. It's ideal for recipes or anything that shows a process speeded up
We don't doubt that there are thousands of weird and wonderful ways you can use Vine, but it particularly lends itself to following a process, like cooking something spectacular or getting to work on a morning. This means it'll be interesting for brands to tell stories, for people to record events, make tutorials and all kinds of other things...
And a few things we don't like...
1. All of the porn
We're not implying we're against porn here (or for it, stop putting pressure on us, OKAY?), but people uploading dodgy, adult content may well threaten the app for everyone.
According to reports this morning, a quick search for the #porn tag reveals all kinds of things you don't want to see over your breakfast. Vine itself is censorship-free and the idea is that the community will help to self regulate and flag up inappropriate content, but if people keep uploading dodgy stuff then Apple could wade in and deem it too x-rated for your poor, little eyes.
2. No ability to make things private (yet)
We get it, Vine and Twitter and social media generally is all about sharing and making your content public and accessible. But for various reasons that's an issue for some people, whether they're super secretive and a bit weird or have problems with stalkers. Although many people wouldn't use a private, locked option like you can activate on Twitter, the fact that option doesn't exist yet on the new app will definitely stop some people vining their way through the next few months.
3. Ads and ads and ads and ads
There aren't many yet, at all, but just like spam comments and weird ads have started to infiltrate Instagram a lot over the past few months, we imagine there'll make their way onto Vine pretty quickly. This is all the more reason to go looking for cool new content, but be aware that a new platform is really what you make of it, so follow great people and you'll have the best experience.
4. Babies, kittens and everything else we hate about the internet
All of the people that drive you insane with their incessant updates about cats and babies and food on other social networks will probably start using Vine at some point or another. So get ready for 64,348 vines of little Matilda crawling and crying. And crawling then crying. And crawling again.
5. It COULD all get a bit dull
The things that are getting us excited about Vine now, like cooking clips, stop motion thingies and silly voices could well start to grate on us a few months down the line. And when we say months, we mean hours.
If you haven't tried out Vine yet, then get it from iTunes for free.
If you're having friends and family round this Christmas you might want to give your home a bit of an entertainment revamp, whether you need to boost your speakers for a more immersive audio experience, find a better way of controlling your music and TV or invest in a new games console that'll keep everyone occupied we've got some suggestions for you.
The health and fitness tech market is growing rapidly, from wearable tracking devices like the Fitbit to more obscure medical gadgets that could have a big impact on those living with disabilities.
Each week we'll be bringing you a round-up of the best from Connected Health, our sister site that's dedicated to the world of health tech, fitness gadgets and awesome apps:
Admittedly we spend far too much time tweeting about absolute rubbish on Twitter, but data mining company MappyHealth hopes to weed through the useless stuff and find out important information about health trends across the globe.
Nike is taking its commitment to digital health and fitness tracking a step further by launching an accelerator programme to encourage developers and fledgling companies to make awesome products and services using the Nike+ platform.
The Google Now application now has a way of tracking miles that have been walked and cycled, which may seem a bit "so what" to those without an Android phone, but could well be Google's first step into the world of mobile health and fitness tracking.
So we've seen a range of health and fitness tracking gadgets launch this year, but Tinke is set to become big in 2013 because it's not bothered about the steps you've taken or other trivial data like that, it wants to know your heart is performing well and it wants to allow you to find out in the simplest of ways.
Health app company Tactio are producing a lot of products to track weight, BMI and other health metrics, but we're particularly interested in its niche products aimed at teens.
Yeah we know, a phone case for a Christmas present? Bit lame, right? Well not if you pick something from our list that doesn't just protect the new Samsung Galaxy SIII but looks awesome too.
We're reluctant to label a mobile phone case guide "for her", but don't worry, there's no diamante, pink fluff or Hello Kitty in sight...
For even more check out: Top 10 new Samsung Galaxy S3 cases and accessories
No one gets as crazily excited about Christmas time as little people, so make sure you buy your kids or teeny tiny relatives only the most fun, quirky and disruptive of presents this year.
We've come a long way since the days of the regular old laptop, now there are ultrabooks, tablets and laptops to contend with, as well as a bunch of other devices that straddle those categories, which are often referred to as laptop/tablet hybrids or convertibles.
Some allow you to rip them in two and ditch your keyboard if you'd rather have a tablet for a day and others are flexible, allowing you to bend and twist them into whatever you please (within reason, you can't create a balloon-like sausage dog).
If you're looking to really splash the cash on someone this Christmas and they're after a small laptop or tablet, then take a look at our top pick of bang up-to-date convertible devices running Windows 8 for the style conscious.
Although cool lens dials or handy tripods may seem like strange Christmas presents when the rest of your family are handing out sweaters and chocolates, there are plenty of gadgets and accessories available at the moment that'd make perfect stocking fillers for mobile photography lovers.
Whether you're buying for someone who's serious about their photography or just likes to mess around with Instagram now and again, we've collected together some of our favourite accessories that'll help them get the best results from their phone's camera. Or at least give them something to play around with on Christmas day.