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Fear not, UK readers! We won't give anything away about the premiere of season four, other than tell you that so many US fans tuned in to the first episode last night that they managed to crash HBO's streaming service.

HBO charges its users about $20 a month to subscribe to its channel and its online streaming service, HBO Go, comes as part of that package, allowing people to watch their favourite shows on a computer, mobile or tablet device. Understandably many paying subscribers have been really angered by the outage, which for some lasted throughout the whole first episode. Wow. We feel your pain US HBO-ers.

An official HBO spokesperson has said:

"HBO Go did experience issues due to overwhelming demand around the premiere of Game of Thrones. The service has returned to several platforms and we are working hard towards full recovery, which we expect soon."

amazon-fire-tv.jpgAmazon has unveiled its play for your front room at a press conference today with a set top box that plugs into your TV and runs an open Android OS, called Fire TV.

The device is a little black box, which looks similar to Apple TV, and allows users to stream more than 200,000 TV shows and films directly to their TVs, from Amazon's Instant Video library as well as from other streaming services and apps, like Netflix and Hulu.

Amazon has also forged new partnerships with gaming companies like Sega, EA and Disney and promises fans of Minecraft it'll be coming to Fire TV shortly, and there's a pretty awesome karaoke function too that serves lyrics up onto your screen.

Right now the new device looks more than capable of taking on both the Apple TV and the Google Chromecast in the fight for our TV watching habits of the future.

The set top box has dual Wi-Fi for a faster connection, serves up high definition images and has a remote for voice-activated search features.

The Fire TV will cost £59 and is available now in the US. We've got no official details about when Fire TV will be coming to the UK, but we'll update this post when we do.

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Any good GoT fan will know that the fourth season of the hit TV saga airs this weekend and to celebrate HBO has launched an interactive online guide designed to get us all up-to-date with what's been happening in Westeros (and not to mention even further afield).

The site over at viewers-guide.hbo.com allows you to browse through stills and plot details from each episode, scan over a map of the GoT world and catch up on what's been happening where (we always forget it's just SO huge) and also (and this is our favourite bit) view beautiful interactive family trees of the key houses.

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For die-hard fans it's a nice way to procrastinate your afternoon away and for those who need a refresher before the weekend it's pretty vital that you get up-to-date before you're introduced to even more plot twists, characters and exotic countries at the weekend.

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After launching its new Chromecast streaming dongle in the UK last week, Google has also unveiled a new app called Photowall, which turns a your TV into, you guessed it, a big wall of photos.

Chromecast users will be able to send their photos to their screens via an iOS app and an Android version is expected soon too. The app also allows people to collaborate, so they can send multiple photos that are then combined into a YouTube video.

Although there are similar apps already available, the seamless experience is bound to appeal in all kinds of situations, whether you're sharing snaps of your adventures at a family gathering or reliving a big, messy night out with friends while you're passed out on the couch.

Sky_Believe_in_better_logo.jpgApple's iTunes Store, Netflix, Amazon and Tesco's Blinkbox will soon have a new rival. According to reports today Sky is planning to launch a new service that will enable customers to download and keep movie titles from its Sky Store.

Up until now they have only been able to download them and keep them for a few days at a time.

Speaking at the Guardian's Changing Media Summit in London this week, Sky's Chief Financial Officer Andrew Griffith said "Having made a strong start in rentals, we think we can go one step further and actually start offering customers the opportunity to purchase movies from us and keep them forever."

There's no details yet of the whys and wherefores but Sky with its huge subscriber base, is certainly going to be a major player in the movie download market.

Have you ever sat watching your TV and thought "this is great... but it'd be better if the TV was inexplicably curved"? Me neither - but that doesn't seem to have stopped all of the big TV manufacturers, who at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, taking place in Las Vegas decided that "curved" was the new "increasingly massive".

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Samsung have today shown off a 105" curved ultra-HD TV today - to put that into context, 105 inches is massive. And interestingly, is not just widescreen, but is in a "movie theatre ratio" - that is to say, 21:9 instead of 16:9. Whilst this will no-doubt make watching films in 4K (4K is 4x as HD as HD) exciting, it will mean that there will be a couple of black bars down the side of the picture when you decide to use this magnificent display to watch Bargain Hunt. More importantly though... it's curved.

Not to be out-done, Samsung's Korean rivals, LG have also shown off their take on a curved TV - again, 105" - but the company claim that their TV is not just 4K... but 5K. Running at a resolution of 5120x2160, they'll never be any content made in this format - but it's a nice additional boast I suppose. And it is curved.

I'm sorry - I'm not sure what the appeal is of having a TV where it is more difficult for people sitting slightly to the side to watch. Perhaps most bewilderingly Samsung themselves seem to recognise this problem - having also unveiled another prototype curved TV... on which the user can adjust the curvature using a remote control. Why not just have it flat? Surely this is the televisual equivalent of all of those unnecessary extra razor blades, or the tongue brush on the back of toothbrushes? Until TVs are flexible enough for us to fold them away after use... I remain unconvinced.

So are curved TVs the future? Maybe we'll come round to them eventually...

How to watch BBC iPlayer on your TV

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Back to basics: This is the first in a potential irregular series of posts helping you get up to speed with the latest tech.

The BBC iPlayer has revolutionised the way we watch TV. No longer do we have to worry about having set the Sky+ (or even set the video recorder). We've been liberated from the shackles of the TV schedule, and can now go out in the evening without worrying about missing Only Connect or the Great British Bake-Off.

But what about that great big living room TV? Wouldn't it be better to catch-up on programmes using the big screen rather than stuck in a small window on the laptop or the tiny screen on your phone? Here's five ways of getting the iPlayer on your big TV.

Sky unveil 4 "designer" boxes

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Good news for the fashion-conscious. No longer does the Sky box under your TV have to be a boring black box - instead it can be, umm, covered in pictures of Minnie Mouse.

Sky have employed the skills of fashion designers Roland Mouret and Giles Deacon, "style icon" Sophie Dahl and "men's fashion rising star" Kit Neale to come up with the limited edition designs.

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As you can see from the picture - the designs are fairly diverse, and they've even made unique remotes too.

The boxes are all reskinned versions of Sky's latest box - containing 2TB of storage (for 350 hours of HD recording), and also wifi, meaning for the first time you can link up your Sky box to the internet without trailing a long wire from your router. So that's great... but technology isn't what it's all about! These new boxes are all about fashion!

According to the press release, the designs are all deeply personal: "Roland and Sophie's designs both reflect the passion they love in their favourite shows - with Sophie's design inspired by her love of romance, and Roland taking gritty contemporary drama as his muse. Kit has captured his love for the great outdoors taking creative inspiration from nature documentaries, whilst Giles focuses on animation with a fun and contemporary design inspired by Disney's style icon Minnie Mouse. "

If you want to get your hands on one, the boxes will set existing Sky customers back at least £149, but new customers can get one for only £49 if they take the Sky Entertainment Extra+ subscription.

And amusingly the release also contains some cringeworthy quotes from the designers, in which they awkwardly name-drop specific Sky programmes and services. Here they are in full:

Roland Mouret
"I love the idea of magic. I love how a woman can put on a dress and transform herself into something completely new. For me, the Sky box has the same magical quality, the ability to take us out of our world and transport us to somewhere dangerous and exciting. When I look at the contemporary dramas that people love today like Dracula or Hannibal on Sky Living, I see passion cutting through the elegance and the glamour of those worlds. My design features colourful splashes of passion cutting through a calm sea of orchids. Some people will look and see love, some people will look and see blood. It's up to you."

Giles Deacon
"Minnie Mouse and I are old pals now. I designed a dress inspired by Minnie Mouse for Fashion Week last year and it's great to work with such a style icon once again. Minnie encompasses all things fun. She's stylish, independent, spirited and everyone adores her. I absolutely love Disney animations so when I decided to design my Sky box in celebration of the Disney classics on Sky Movies Disney, I was inspired to focus my creation on Minnie."

Sophie Dahl
"I started modeling as a teenager during a time where fashion was irreverent and full of magic. I love the theatre of fashion, a theatre that can belie the work that goes behind it. I'm a big fan of old fashion illustrations and textile design from the twenties and thirties, Cecil Beaton and Chanel in particular. It was their fashion illustrations that were the inspiration for my Sky box: the rose, something sweet and playful that conjures romance."

Kit Neale
"I'm a real city boy, born and bred. I love city life, especially London but I don't get to see the countryside very often. I think that's why I'm so fascinated by nature and the outdoors. When I watch a documentary on nature, like those ones you see with David Attenborough on Sky 1 and Sky 3D, I'm literally blown away by what I see. I'm really pleased with how well my 'Rockney Lobster' design has gone down in the fashion world so it seems to be the perfect design to adapt for my Sky box. Nature is cool, it's bizarre and it's colourful. Hopefully, that comes across in my design."

So there you have it. Personally I'm a bit disappointed that only living celebrities were employed - if only Sky had thought to use one of their Psychic TV channels to see what the ghosts of Joe Strummer and Bill Hicks would have come up with for their designs.

bbc_iplayer.jpgSome seismic news from the BBC this morning. It has unveiled plans to develop its online iPlayer service taking it from broadcast TV catch-up to what the corporation says will be the BBC's primary digital entertainment destination.

In what might be seen one day as watershed moment for the BBC is said that the revamped iPlayer will offer a greater range of content new ways of watching BBC shows and host of innovative new features.

Among the new plans are pop up channels which may be curated by high profile individuals. The BBC says that these will focus on key events like Glastonbury. There will also be online TV channels of its existing brands such as Radio One TV as well new channels for arts and science. The BBc has also committed to sharing more exclusive content online which it says builds on the success of the comedy pilots it has recently created for BBC Three.

The platform is also going to get a serious overhaul with the main news being that the windows to watch programmes is to be extended from seven to 30 days, The corporation is also adding the ability to pause and resume TV viewing from one screen to another and promise more relevant and personalised recommendations. Also the BBC iPlayer will also introduce the ability to create personalised channels based on your preferences.

Here's what the BBC execs had to say...

BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, says: "The new generation of BBC iPlayer is set to transform our relationship with audiences. In the coming years, for many people BBC iPlayer is going to be the front door to our programming and the experience they have is going to be a world away from that of a traditional 'one to many' broadcaster.

"It will be a relationship where we provide our audiences with what they want, when and how they want it. And crucially through enhanced interactivity, they will also be able to tell us what they think of these programmes and services too. That conversation excites me hugely as it means our audiences won't just receive the programmes we make, they will contribute to how we make them as well."

Ralph Rivera, Director of BBC Future Media, says: "BBC iPlayer is one of the BBC's greatest inventions and one of the UK's favourite brands. We plan to revolutionise iPlayer from a service primarily used to catch up on BBC TV to an entertainment destination for all - wherever you are. With innovative interactive features and a new design that helps you discover more hidden gems from the BBC, iPlayer will transform online TV for audiences now and in the future."

Danny Cohen, Director of BBC Television, says: "From new programming exclusive to BBC iPlayer, to new online and pop-up channels around special interests or major events, BBC iPlayer will be bursting with more content than ever. We want to allow viewers to make the choices about what they watch and when. Over time, more and more of our programmes will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer before they are broadcast on TV, allowing viewers to create their own evening schedule. And, programmes will be available for longer - increasing the catch-up window from seven to 30 days. All this will make BBC iPlayer the ultimate destination for TV fans for years to come."

Panasonic-40inch-tablet-main.jpgAt CES in January Panasonic unveiled a 20inch 4k tablet. At IFA it looks like it will return with an upgrade on the concept with a thinner and lighter screen. It will apparently still have plenty of features including a 1.5GHz Intel i5 processor, Nvidia GPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. And like its predecessor it will run Windows 8.

The original 20inch tablet was billed by Panasonic as a paper replacer and was aimed largely at the professional/business market. However it was quite possibly too heavy to kill off the pen (putting it mildly), hence the lighter version this time round.

Click here for #3 Sony's Xperia Z1

sky+2tb.jpgAs has been rumoured for a while now Sky has today confirmed that its next generation of Sky + boxes - namely the Sky+HD and Sky+HD 2TB will come with integrated wireless facilities.

The built in Wi-Fi will enable them to be seamlessly integrated on to a wireless network to access Sky's On Demand service. This features among other things programmes from the last 30 days of TV, Sky's Box Sets offering and hundreds of movies from Sky Movies and Sky Store.

Sky has also upped the amount of storage a user can have with the top end model - the Sky+HD 2TB - shipping with a two terabyte hard drive that can archive up to 350 hours of HD content.

There's no firm details yet on price or availability.

The company is also adding a slew of new channels to its On Demand service including Discovery, Dave, Gold and Cartoon Network, all arriving before the end of the year. New Box Sets included Hannibal (Series 1, Sky Living), Friday Night Lights (Series 1 and 2, Sky Atlantic), Falling Skies (Series 1 and 2, Fox) and Rescue Me (Series 1-2, Sky Atlantic).

Luke Bradley-Jones, Sky's Brand Director of TV Products, said:

"Record levels of On Demand viewing show that Sky customers love the flexibility the service offers. When people connect their Sky+HD box to broadband they get instant access to the UK's biggest Catch Up TV service and an extensive On Demand library of TV Box Sets and exclusive movies - and we're seeing a growing demand.

Sky is also offering a free wireless adapter to its exiting customers to enable them to take advantage of its on demand services.

Onkyo-LS-B50-lifestyle-sunset.jpgIf you have a rubbish sounding TV - and a lot of sets aren't exactly high fidelity are they? then the easy way of upgrading is to add a soundbar systems. And if you are thinking of buying one then Onkyo has three new models for you to peruse.

It has just introduced a pair of new Envision Cinema soundbar systems and an all-in-one TV-base speaker system. The three models - the £299 LS-B40 three-way Soundbar, the £449 LS-B50 two-way Soundbar with wireless 40w subwoofer, and £349 LS-T10 TV speaker system (which is designed to sit under a TV set) all combine a multi-channel, multi-speaker array with powerful DSP and Onkyo claims fills rooms with panoramic, immersive sound.

As well as their TV upgrade role the trio can moonlight as hi-fi systems as they include Bluetooth technology for wireless audio streaming via smartphones, tablets and PCs. There's also an onboard USB port for adding an MP3 player.

Needless to say the sound bar can also be connected to games consoles, media players and more which is achieved by hooking a single digital cable.

They all also feature Onkyo's AuraSphere DSP system that the company claims expands the traditional sweet spot (the area directly in front of the TV where audio sounds best) to create an all-enveloping 3D soundfield that places the listener in the centre of the action, wherever they happen to be in the room.

Also included in the package is a learning remote control which can handle a number of AV devices.

As for the audio differences both the Soundbars pack eight drivers. The LS-B50 has six full-range drivers and two ring-radiator tweeters while the LS-B40 features two bass woofers, four mid-range drivers, and two tweeters. The LS-T10 has a six full-range drivers plus an integrated 21w subwoofer on its underside.

The LS-B50 adds a separate wireless 40w active subwoofer while the LS-B40 incorporates two bass woofers and a subwoofer pre-out.

All three will be available in September/October.

sharp-90incher.jpgFancy a big TV, and we mean the biggest you can buy? Well John Lewis has announced that it has bagged the Sharp 90inch AQUOS LC-90LE757 LED TV and it will be on sale in the store in the next couple of weeks.

The TV is, as you'd imagine, a bit of a monster that stands at over 1.2 metres in height and 2 metres in length.

The set boasts 1080p HD resolution thanks to the XGEN 3D panel,and includes Sharp's Active motion 200Hz technology and full HD active 3D TV.

It is smart TV set which includes Internet browsing, integration with smart mobile devices, access to premium VOD content. it will also work with Skype too. The set is also compatible with Sharp's new AQUOS Remote Lite app for both iOS and Android turns a user's mobile into a fully functioning remote control.

Also on board is a built-in triple HD tuner and a media player, which allows common photo, video and music formats to be played easily from USB or directly from a home network.

And the price. You can get it here for £10,999.

sky now box.pngA couple of big-ish announcements this morning from Sky TV. The satellite TV broadcaster/broadband provider has announced the imminent arrival of a new Sky+HD box, with integrated wireless facilities and a Now TV £10 box that enables viewers to watch on demand services.

The announcement of the new box was included in the company's financial results. The company said

"We will step up the roll-out of connected boxes across our base by offering a low-cost wireless connector to customers that have a Sky+HD box but haven't yet connected it to broadband," says Sky. "We will also launch a new WiFi-enabled Sky+HD box as standard from September, rolling it out to targeted groups of customers who don't yet have Sky+HD boxes.

As for the £10 Now TV box, it will enable viewers to watch the BBC iPlayer, Sky Sports and Sky Movies though at the time of launch not Netflix, Lovefilm or 4OD. Users will still have to pay to access the Sky channels - Sky Movies will cost £8.99 per month for three months (£15 after) and Sky Sports Day Pass is still £9.99 for 24 hours.

The company is fending off attacks on its services from all sides including ambitious plans from BT, Google's Chromecast gadget that was announced this week and smart TV upgrade gizmos like the Roku.

Will you be buying the Google Chromecast?

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It has been hailed as a smart move by Google, but will you be investing in one? The Google Chromecast, which debuted yesterday is a dongle that plugs into your TV's HDMI socket and enables you to stream video content from a number of devices to your screen.

It is apparently compatible with Android and iOS phones and tablets and Google showed it working with a Windows laptop yesterday too. And it is limited in the video it can stream focusing on staples like YouTube and Netflix. It pulls in the video from the web as opposed to your device and is also compatible with Google's in the cloud wireless streaming audio service Google Music.

It has already gone on sale in the US for the very competitive price of $35. There's no details of a UK launch, but if it is a hit in the US it shouldn't be too long before we see it over this side of the pond.

There are already a number of devices that perform a similar service from the excellent Roku through to Apple's TV offering. You can also watch services like Netflix and YouTube from a number of devices like games consoles.

So will you be buying a Chromecast?

sharp-90-inch-tv1.jpgIf you are lusting after a big TV and we mean really big then Sharp has some great news. It has just agreed to start selling the Aquos LC-90LE757, which has a screen size of a monstrously large 90inches, in the UK.

Ideal for football player penthouses the set is a whole is six inches biggest than the previous 84-inch record holder from LG. It is an astonishing 1,2 metres tall and more than six feet wide.

Interestingly the set won't be news to our American readers as it has been on sale there since June 2012, but up until now the company thought that there wasn't enough demand for a set like it on this side of the pond.

"In the States people have bigger houses and bigger rooms, so large TVs represent a larger proportion of the marketplace," GfK's Nigel Catlow told the BBC.

"But as the TVs get thinner, more rooms are able to take a big TV set, and screen size is the biggest driver for making people want to buy a new product."

The set has 1080p resolution and uses Sharp's XGEN panel for Full HD active 3D video and 200Hz motion processing.It also comes with Sharp's AQUOS NET+ 2.0 smart TV platform, which includes a web browser, YouTube and on-demand film services. It is 3D compatible, but not 4k the new form of HDTV.

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I'd always thought that one day soon hardware manufacturers would be giving their gadgets away with deals for broadband or subscriptions to services. Now it appears that I have got it wrong and the deals are the other way round.

Retailer John Lewis has announced that if you buy an internet enabled product from the store - they will give you six months free broadband courtesy of its deal with Plusnet.

You don't have to spend a great deal either with the cheapest device included in the package a £69 Amazon Kindle ereader, but it also includes pricier items like TVs, laptops and tablets.

The offer is open for a year and to redeem it all you need do is hand over the receipt for the relevant item.

The catch is that you have to sign up for a year with John Lewis' broadband service and you then get the first six months free. After that - well for the next six months anyhow - prices start at £24.50for a 16Mbps connection and a 20GB monthly usage limit.

There are some high-end packages too included a 38Mbps fibre option which costs £38.50 per month and has a 100GB monthly limit. Needless to say that you'll need a BT line to get access to the deal too.

The details are here and there's more info here too.


Here's a couple more quick vids that Chris shot at The Gadget Show in Birmingham this week.

First up is a 47inch TV from Finlux. There's more details here.

Then Chris took a look at the latest Rat Stand for the iPad - the Z3.

We all know attending the cinema is built up to be a truly magical experience, you get your favourite popcorn, rush excitedly into the theatre, sit down on comfy seats and stay there for two hours, completely transfixed by the movie in front of you.

However we also all know (but forget at the crucial point when we book our seats) that 99% of the time that's not the case, the tickets are extortionately priced, the popcorn tastes like something you found on the floor and those kids behind you somehow had the energy to kick you in the back for a solid 90 minutes. It's making us a little panicky just thinking about it. HOLD US.

So given how hellish trips to the movies can sometimes be (yes, we're being drama queens, so what?) it's no surprise that the world of home cinema has come a long way in recent years. The thing you need to remember when you're kitting your home out to be just like a trip to the movies (minus overpriced tickets, kids, etc) is that it's not going to be cheap and there are a lot of confusing options out there, I mean what the f is a lumen?

Luckily a few big tech names like Epson, Sony and Panasonic have been creating great quality projectors, which give you the size (well nearly) and great quality picture you're used to from the big screen.

Shiny Shiny was invited to Sony's recent home cinema showcase at the Bulgari hotel in London and to say the company released its first 3D home projector last year at IFA, it's made some huge improvements and is proving a force to be reckoned within the home cinema field.

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First up is the HW50ES, a small projector that promises to deliver a premium home cinema experience with Sony's own Digital Reality Creation technology. This is basically a way of employing a digital processing algorithm, which restores any information that's been lost from the original content of the movie to the disc, so you can recreate super high quality and HD images that you'll never have experienced in the same way on a normal TV.

The projector boasts 1,700 lumen brightness with its new and improved efficient lamp and has a dynamic contrast ratio of more than 100,000:1.

The projector is expected to set you back around £3,000, which to home cinema beginners may seem rather steep, but much more seasoned projection enthusiasts (is that a thing? It's a thing now) or wannabe projecitonists will know that kind of price tag is actually a bargain for the capabilities of the HW50ES.

The projector is available in both black and white across Europe from the end of this month.

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However, if the HW50ES still isn't enough for you, then Sony also has an even more state of the art model called the VW1000ES, which is a 4K home cinema projector with over four times the resolution of an HD TV, 2,000 lumens of brightness and a 4096x2160 pixel resolution. If you're thinking that all sounds pretty impressive, then you'd be right, as the VW1000ES is actually the same quality as the projectors used in both Apollo and Vue digital cinemas across the country and can "upscale" existing blu-ray movies to cinema spec 4K quality. However, for at around £16,500 you'd have to be REALLY dedicated to this home cinema malarky to invest in a VW1000ES and there isn't much 4K even available yet, so hold your horses for this one a bit longer. Even you early adopters that we can see are already counting their pennies...

Yes home cinema seems a bit daunting at first. Yes you'll have to shop around for the right option for you. But if you love movies and you're sick of the movie experience, want to make Christmas all about the entertainment factor or just have enough cash to make your own mini cinema, then there's been no better time to get your hands on a fancy new projector.

joanna-lumley-talk-talk.jpegWe're unsure as to how many launches digital terrestrial TV service YouView has had now, but at the latest 'official' launch Shiny Shiny and Tech Digest were treated to national treasure Joanna Lumley appearing to beat the hell out of the original Austin 1300 car used in the famous Fawlty Towers sketch (actually she wasn't hitting it that hard because the owner of the beautifully restored car was standing right in front of her).

Ostensibly the launch was to showcase the partnership with Talk Talk which will see the company's telephone/broadband customers receive a YouView set top box for a one off charge of £50 covering the cost of an engineer's installation visit, providing they sign up to TalkTalk's service for £14.50 a month.

And while we reviewed the Humax box and were less than impressed by its facilities (particularly lack of wi-fi), if YouView can get the hardware right then it promises to be a useful service to those who want to watch catch-up services like the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4OD via their TV rather than web tablet or games console.

To promote the official launch at the Vinyl Factory in London's Soho, Talk Talk went back in time to recreate some of the best 10 TV moments in history, including the wrong chandelier moment from Only Fools and Horses which saw the usually glamorous Lumley exchanging high heels for a Talk Talk overall and holding a large white blanket. Very strange indeed.

See our picture gallery from the event below.

[Via Tech Digest]

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