Connected by TCP Smart Lighting System

Pros Easy to install and program. Android and iOS support. Comes with a handy remote.

Cons Slightly expensive. No PC Web app. Doesn't support IFTTT recipes. Bottom Line The Connected by TCP Smart Lighting System makes it easy to light up your home whenever you want from wherever you are, as long as you have an iOS or Android device. It's a bit pricey up front, but will save you money on energy in the long run.

By John R. Delaney

Automated lighting systems have been around for a while, but they've usually been notoriously expensive and too complicated for the average do-it-yourselfer to install. Not anymore. With the Connected by TCP Smart Lighting System ($142.99 direct, as tested) you can manage your home lighting with your smartphone, create schedules that fit your lifestyle, and save some money along the way. The kit comes with three dimmable A-Lamp LED bulbs and everything you need to connect the bulbs to your home network and the Internet. Granted, $143 is a lot of money for three light bulbs, but it's a still more affordable than some of the other wireless lighting systems out there, and if you shop around you can knock a few bucks off the list price. The only thing missing is a PC-based web app.

Components and Installation
The TCP kit contains three 11-watt A-Lamp LED light bulbs, a gateway that links the bulbs to your existing home network and the Internet, an Ethernet cable, and a discrete remote that lets you control the lights manually. 

The bulbs put out 800 lumens, which is equivalent to 60 watts from a typical incandescent bulb, and according to TCP, use 80 percent less energy. Better yet, the LED bulbs are rated for 25,000 hours of life, or about ten years, and they come with a two-year warranty. Unlike the Philips Hue bulbs, they are not capable of changing colors; they emit soft white (2700K) light and are dimmable down to around 5 percent.

You can control up to 250 bulbs with a single kit, with additional 11 watt A-Lamp bulbs going for $27.99 each, direct from TCP. If 60 watts isn't bright enough you can purchase 65-watt equivalent bulbs for $32.99 each or 100 watt CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs for $24.99 each. You can mix and match all three bulb types within the same lighting system, too.

Connected by TCP Smart Lighting System

The gateway is a small black and white box that measures 1.2 by 4.7 by 2.3 inches (HWD). It has an Ethernet port and a power jack on one side and power, LAN, and WAN status indicators on the top. There's also a button that you can press to search for any new lights you've added to the system.

The glossy white remote is 4.5 inches long and tapered to fit comfortably in hand. It has a power button, a dimmer control, and four numbered buttons for controlling specific lighting groups. A fifth button controls all groups at the same time.

Installation instructions are printed on the box and are very easy to follow, or you can use the instructions on the TCP website, which include a video tutorial. Either way, this system is simple to install. Before screwing in the TCP bulb, turn off the power switch for the lamp or fixture. After the TCP bulb is screwed in, turn the switch on to illuminate the bulb. Next, connect the gateway to your router, download the iOS or Android app to your smartphone, and launch the app. The entire process took me around three minutes to complete.

When I launched the app for the first time, it automatically detected all three bulbs and labeled them LED 1, LED 2, and LED 3. It then asked if I wanted to set up each bulb. I tapped yes and LED 1 began flashing, indicating that it was being configuring. At this point, I was able to name the bulb, assign it to a room, choose a color icon for that room, and assign a remote control group number. Once completed, the bulb stops flashing and you can move on to the next bulb (or, you can accept the default settings and configure your bulbs later using the Settings menu).

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Phiaton Chord MS 530

Pros Clean, powerful audio performance with deep lows and crisp highs. Active noise cancellation and Bluetooth audio streaming. Detachable cable. Can be used with cable in passive mode.

Cons Only average noise cancellation. Sculpted sound signature won't appeal to purists. Expensive. Bottom Line The Phiaton Chord MS 530 is a Bluetooth headphone pair and a noise canceling pair, though it's far better at its first job than its second.

By Tim Gideon

Phiaton's Chord MS 530 is a comfortable pair of headphones with both noise cancellation and Bluetooth streaming audio. At $349 (list), it's also priced like it does both things, but it does one (wireless audio) far better than the other—this is not noise cancellation that can really compete with the industry leaders, like Bose. From an audio standpoint, however, the Chord MS 530 sounds great, with rich sub-bass response and crisp highs to balance it out. Purists may not like the sculpted sound, but it'll appeal to plenty of listeners who like some added low-end without the balance of the mix getting destroyed. Throw in a detachable cable (with inline remote and microphone for mobile devices), and it's hard to fault the Chord MS 530 too much for its so-so noise cancellation. 

Compare Selected

The Chord MS 530 is a supra-aural (on-ear) headphone pair, though the earpads are large enough that it almost feels like a circumaural, over-the-ear pair. The pads are exceptionally comfortable as well. While the color scheme of the Chord MS 530 is reminiscent of the Beats by Dr. Dre lineup, its black, metallic, and red highlights combine in such a way that it looks like its own design and not a complete copy.

The headphones are easy to pair with any modern Bluetooth device (we used an iPhone 5s), but they also ship with a detachable cable. There's no need to re-pair every time you power up, by the way—the headphones and device pair up again automatically (if you pair using Auto mode, as detailed in the manual) when you turn the headphones on.

The cable includes an inline remote control and microphone for mobile devices—its volume slider is fairly unique, and is accompanied by a single button for controlling playback and answering calls. When the cable is connected, it's impossible to power up the headphones, which is a nice battery saver. Phiaton Chord MS 530 inline

The Chord MS 530 charges via a USB cable that connects to the left ear piece, near the switch for activating the noise cancellation circuitry. It would've been nice to see a dedicated charger at this price, but it's not a deal-breaker. The right ear houses a Call answer button, a combination Play/Pause/Volume control, and the Power button. The control is fairly intuitive, but if you hold it down for too long, you can end up doing things other than adjusting volume, like scrubbing, fast forward or backward, through a track.

Phiaton rates the battery life for the Chord MS 530 at anywhere from about 17-30 hours when playing music—the low end represents the life with noise cancellation activated and the high-end without it turned on, while the headphones get an estimated 50 hours of standby battery life.

Included with the Chord MS 530: the aforementioned cables, an airplane jack adapter, and a snazzy black drawstring protective pouch.

The noise cancellation circuitry is a bit of a conundrum. In moderately loud rooms, it's easy to hear the very audible hiss the circuitry creates—it actually makes a quiet room louder. But in rooms with substantial noise, or on a train or plane, the circuitry does a reasonable job of eliminating constant ambient hums and drones. It's hard to view the noise cancellation circuitry as a real selling point of these headphones, however—they can't touch what the Bose QuietComfort series is capable of. The selling point is that for $350, you get not only a wireless headphone pair, but one with noise cancellation built-in as well. Since these are solid in the wireless audio department, the noise cancellation can be viewed as a bit of an unnecessary but pleasant extra feature. And purely speaking about the wireless transmission itself, it is clean clear, and dynamic.

From an audio standpoint, there's not a wild difference between the wireless and wired sound signature of the Chord MS 530. On tracks with deep bass, in both modes, the Chord MS 530 does not distort, and delivers some powerful low-end, even at top, unwise listening levels. At more moderate volumes, the bass still seems plenty powerful—not to a fault, but these are definitely designed with the bass lover in mind.

On Bill Callahan's "Drover," both his baritone vocals and the drumming in the background get a nice, subtle dose of added richness in the lows—nothing is boosted so much that the bass becomes a distraction, and the vocals also receive a healthy helping of high-mid presence that keeps them, and the guitar strumming, in the forefront of the mix.

Overall, this a nicely balanced sound, on full display on Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the wild", which combines the ominous depth of sub-bass synth stabs with the treble edge of the kick drum loop's attack. This is a pair that gives you the sub-bass when it's in the mix, but it never invents it when it's not there. Classical music is also handled nicely—with only a subtle added bass presence, the higher register strings and percussion own the spotlight, but things never sound too thin or brittle. No one would mistake this for a flat response pair, but if you like a little added bass and crispness, you'll likely enjoy the Chord MS 530's sound signature.

If booming bass in a wireless pair is what you're looking for, it can be found, perhaps at the sacrifice of the overall balance of the mix—check out the Scosche RH1060. If your main priority is having quality noise cancellation, both the Bose QuietComfort 15 and the Bose QuietComfort 20i are excellent, but the latter, in-ear version is a level beyond anything we've tested in terms of lowering surrounding noise levels. And if you're really just looking for a balanced Bluetooth headphone pair, but want to spend far less money, the Sennheiser MM 100 is a solid, lighter on-ear option. At $349, the Chord MS 530 would be overpriced as a Bluetooth pair only, but the added, albeit modest, noise cancellation, as well as a cable that allows it to be used in wired, passive mode, adds versatility and value. 

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Pensioners sue IBM over reported NSA involvement

A pension investment group has sued IBM, claiming that the company failed to warn investors that sales in China would slow dramatically following revelations that IBM was helping the U.S. National Security Agency spy on the Chinese.

”IBM was well-aware that its association with the U.S. spy program and its sharing of customers’ information with the U.S. government would have immediate and adverse consequences on its business in China,” reads a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Pension and Relief Fund in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The pension fund lawsuit is “pushing a wild conspiracy theory,” said Robert Weber, IBM senior vice president and general counsel, in a short statement. The company attributes the drop off in sales to a recent country-wide economic reorganization on the part of the Chinese government.

Using material first leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June, the pension fund cited IBM involvement in NSA’s Prism program, which sought to spy on countries such as China with IBM’s aid. IBM hardware sales in that country dipped in the months that followed, first showing up in the company’s third-quarter balance sheet.

”IBM’s association with the NSA presented a material risk to the company’s sales,” the lawsuit said. “Upon the revelation of Prism (and related disclosures made by Edward Snowden), IBM knew that the government of China would not tolerate the company’s cooperation with the NSA, and would prohibit businesses and government agencies in China from purchasing IBM products.”

The pension fund charges that IBM did not disclose to shareholders that the Chinese government and businesses would stop buying IBM gear, once learning of the NSA allegations.

For its third fiscal quarter of 2013, IBM reported that overall business in China had declined by 22 percent and that hardware sales in that country had declined by 44 percent.

After sharing the third quarter results, IBM stock declined in value, from US$186.73 per share to $174.83 per share, for over 22 million shares, leading to IBM stock losing approximately $12 billion in value.

In its quarterly earnings conference call with analysts, IBM Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge attributed the slow hardware sales in China to a “broad-based economic reform plan” on the part of the Chinese government that began in November, one that seeks to increase domestic consumption of goods and lessen its reliance on companies outside of China.

The slowdown occurred because the standard decision-making and procurement cycles of organizations in China have been extended, Loughridge said. Typical sales volumes should resume after the first quarter of 2014, he said.

The pension fund is not only suing IBM but CEO Virginia Rometty and Loughridge as well.

As further evidence that IBM is cooperating with the U.S. government spying efforts, the suit also identifies IBM’s support of Congress’ proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would make it easy for IT companies and federal agencies to share security information. IBM took issue with that support as well.

”This bill does not refer to China, and it does not authorize government surveillance, facts that the plaintiff and its attorneys could have easily determined had they bothered to do the slightest fact checking,” said the IBM statement.

IBM declined to offer any additional comment of the suit beyond the statement.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service.
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Dropbox works to resolve service hiccups, says files safe

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No BS Podcast #213: State of the GPU wars, Windows 8.1, and Battlefield 4


On episode #213 of the No BS Podcast we continue our reporting from the front lines of the GPU war between Nvidia and AMD. Next, we break down Battlefield 4's launch issues and compare them to Battlefield 3's. Finally, we ruminate over the arrival of Windows 8.1 and the state of Microsoft before wrapping things up with our editor picks. Gordon then delivers an epic rant on the ever-present anti-PC bias in the media.

Editor's Note - This podcast was recorded on November 8th in both audio and video formats. Since then we have been working on editing and uploading the video portion, but have experienced issues with the feed, post production, and Youtube. Rather than delay things any further we are releasing the audio instead of waiting for the video to be finished. Thanks for your patience.

Tom McNamara: Deus Ex Human Revolution Director's Cut

Josh Norem: First Gen Google Nexus 7 Can I Stream It?

Jimmy Thang: PdaNet+

Gordon Ung: Nvidia Shield

Katherine Stevenson: Trailer Addict

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Windows versions may be split for consumers, business

Microsoft may revert to separate release schedules for consumer and business versions of Windows, the company’s top operating system executive hinted recently.

At a technology symposium hosted by financial services giant Credit Suisse, Tony Myerson acknowledged the operating system adoption chasm between consumers and more conservative corporations. Myerson, who formerly led the Windows Phone team, was promoted in July to head all client-based OS development, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and the Xbox game console.

”The world has shown that these two different customers really have divergent needs,” Myerson said, according to a transcript of his time on stage. “And there may be different cadences, or different ways in which we talk to those two customers. And so [while Windows] 8.1 and [Windows] 8.1 Pro both came at the same time, it’s not clear to me that’s the right way to serve the consumer market. [But] it may be the right way to continue serving the enterprise market.”

Myerson’s comment hinted at a return to a practice of about ten years ago, when Microsoft delivered new operating systems to the company’s consumer and commercial customers on different schedules.

Before 2001’s arrival of Windows XP—when Microsoft shipped consumer and business versions simultaneously—Microsoft aimed different products, with different names, at each category. In 2000, for example, Microsoft delivered Windows ME, for “Millennium Edition,” to consumers and Windows 2000 to businesses. Prior to that, Windows 95, although widely used in businesses, was the consumer-oriented edition, while Windows NT 4.0, which launched in 1996, targeted business PCs and servers.

The update/upgrade-acceptance gap between consumers and businesses reappeared after Microsoft last year said it would accelerate its development and release schedule for Windows, then delivered on the first example of that tempo, Windows 8.1, just a year after the launch of its predecessor.

Enterprises have become nervous about the cadence, say analysts. Businesses as a rule are much more conservative about upgrading their machines’ operating systems than are consumers: The former must spend thousands, even millions, to migrate from one version to another, and must test the compatibility of in-house and mission-critical applications, then rewrite them if they don’t work.

That conservative approach to upgrades was a major reason why Windows XP retained a stranglehold on business PCs for more than a decade, and why Windows 7, not Windows 8 or 8.1, has replaced it.

It’s extremely difficult to serve both masters—consumer and commercial—equally well, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “No one has yet mastered being good on enterprise and good on consumer,” said Moorhead in an interview. “[The two] are on completely different cycles.”

In October, outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer dismissed concerns over the faster pace. At a Gartner Research-sponsored conference, when analyst David Cearley noted, “Enterprises are concerned about that accelerated delivery cycle,” Ballmer simply shook his head.

”Let me push back,” said Ballmer, “and say, ‘Not really.’ If our customers have to take DVDs from us, install them, and do customer-premise software, you’re saying to us ‘Don’t upgrade that software very often ... two to three years is perfect.’ But if we deliver something to you that’s a service, as we do with Office 365, our customers are telling us, ‘We want to be up to date at all times.’”

windows rt

Another Gartner analyst, Michael Silver, countered Ballmer’s claim. “Organizations need to be afraid of what’s to come,” Silver said at the time. “If [companies] get on this release train, Microsoft will take them where [Microsoft] wants to go, or [Microsoft] will run them over.”

Myerson’s hint of separate release trains, to use Silver’s terminology, may be a repudiation of Ballmer’s contention. Or not.

His statement of, “It may be the right way to continue serving the enterprise market,” could be interpreted to mean that Microsoft will maintain an accelerated tempo for business versions of Windows—one faster than the three years between upgrades that the company has used in the past—and speed up Windows updates to consumers even more.

”The consumer really is ready for things to be upgraded on their own,” Myerson said.

”Microsoft’s biggest strategic question is, ‘Am I an enterprise company or a consumer company, or both?” said Moorhead. “Something has to break here.”

And one crack might be, according to Myerson, a separation of consumer and commercial on Windows.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news.
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Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS

Pros Good center sharpness. Optically stabilized design.

Cons Lots of distortion at wide and telephoto ends. Soft edges unless stopped down. Bottom Line The Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS is the first zoom lens available for Sony's full-frame mirrorless system, but it shows heavy distortion and isn't that sharp at the edges.

By Jim Fisher The Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS ($499.99 list) is the first zoom lens available for Sony's full-frame mirrorless camera system. It has the same limitations as most kit lenses, including some very noticeable distortion and soft edges at wider apertures. It's a decent starter lens, but if you can forgo a zoom until its February release, the Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS ($1,199.99) promises to live up to the image quality of which the Alpha 7 and 7R are capable, but its asking price is comparatively high.

Compare Selected The lens is on the large size compared to similar kit zoom for APS-C SLRs, but is pretty light. It measures 3.3 by 2.9 inches (HD) and weighs 10.4 ounces. Despite being a little on the large size, it balances well with the A7 and A7R, even without the addition of a vertical shooting grip. A reversible petal lens hood is included and 55mm filters are supported. It does extend a bit when zooming, but only by about a half inch at the longest and shortest focal lengths (the lens is physically smallest when set to around 50mm). The front element never rotates, so using a polarizing filter is feasible. The close focus distance is 11.8 inches, which is perfectly acceptable for a lens of this type, but its 0.19x magnification capability will have you looking elsewhere for macro work.

Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS : Sample ImageI used Imatest to check and see just how sharp the lens is when paired with the Alpha 7. At 28mm f/3.5 it scores 2,125 lines per picture height on a center-weighted test, better than the 1,800 lines we require to call an image sharp. The extreme edges of the frame are a little murky, notching just 1,270 lines. Stopping down to f/5.6 doesn't do much to improve the center-weighted average (2,179 lines), but edges improve to 1,578 lines. At f/8 the lens is sharp from edge to edge, scoring 2,705 across the frame with edges that top 2,150 lines. Performance on the 7R is similar at f/3.5, but at f/5.6 the lens manages 2,422 lines with edges that top 1,700 lines, and at f/8 it improves to 3,492 lines with edges that top 2,400 lines.

Zooming to 35mm doesn't do much to change performance, at f/4 the lens scores 2,205 lines on the A7, and increases to 2,700 lines by f/8, with edge performance nearing 1,800 lines at f/5.6. On the A7R it's a bit sharper all around; 2,458 lines at f/3.5, and around 3,000 lines at f/5.6 and f/8, excellent edge performance at both of those settings.

The aperture narrows to f/4.5 by the time the lens gets to the 50mm setting. Center-weighted sharpness is impressive, with the lens hitting 2,385 lines on the A7 and 2,770 lines on the A7R. Edge performance is the issue here again; at f/4.5 and f/5.6 edges hover around 1,600 lines on both cameras, but at f/8 they top 2,000 lines with ease. At 70mm there's no issues with center-weighted sharpness at either f/5.6 or f/8, but edges of the frame only reach 1,400 lines at f/8 on either camera.

If you're shooting JPG, distortion isn't an issue—both the Alpha 7 and 7R correct for it automatically. But if you work in Raw, you'll have to deal with very heavy distortion at 28mm and 70mm. At the widest angle the lens shows 3.2 percent barrel distortion, which causes straight lines to curve outward. Distortion isn't evident at 35mm, but at 50mm there's 3.6 percent pincushion distortion, which increases to 4.2 percent at 70mm. This causes straight lines to curve inward. It's something that you can correct for in editing software like Lightroom, but with a zoom lens that can be a bit tricky as different focal lengths require different levels of correction.

Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS : Sample ImageThe Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS isn't a standout lens, but it's an acceptable starter zoom. It makes some sacrifices in optical quality in order to keep its weight, and cost, at a reasonable level. The distortion it exhibits is correctible with software (and not an issue if you shoot in JPG), and the weak edge performance can be addressed via careful framing or by shooting at a narrow aperture. If you demand a better zoom lens, waiting for the Zeiss 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS that is slated for a February release is a safe bet—but save your pennies, as it's priced at $1,200.

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Zeiss Otus 1.4/55

Pros Extremely sharp. Apochromatic design. Nominal distortion. All-metal build.

Cons Manual focus only. Big. Heavy. Expensive. Bottom Line The Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 is a no-compromise manual focus lens that makes no sacrifice in optical performance in deference to size, weight, or cost.

By Jim Fisher

The Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 ($3,990 list) is a fine example of a lens that makes no compromises. The 55mm f/1.4 manual focus optic, available for Canon and Nikon cameras, is perfectly sharp from edge to edge at all apertures, features an apochromatic design (so there's no color fringing in images), and is capable of capturing a heck of a lot of light. But the lack of compromises come at a cost: The Otus is pretty big and heavy, doesn't support autofocus, and is expensive compared with other SLR lenses. It's still worthy of our Editors' Choice award, based on its performance alone, but there are imperfect options available for less money.

Compare Selected

The Otus measures 5.6 by 3.6 inches (HD) and weighs 2.1 pounds, heavier than some cameras to which you can mount it. A metal lens hood is included; it adds about 2 inches to the height of the lens when attached. The large front element supports 77mm filters. It's available in a ZE version for Canon EOS cameras and an ZF.2 version for Nikon SLRs. The Nikon version of the lens has a physical aperture ring, but that's unnceccessary for the Canon lens, as all EOS SLRs (35mm and digital) support electronic aperture control. The wide focus ring occupies a good portion of the barrel, and is covered with a hard rubber material. It's a departure from the bare metal rings on other Zeiss SLR lenses, but I grew to like it. It's not as cold to the touch, which is a boon for cold-weather shooting, and it offers enough grip for comfortable adjustments to focus. Behind it is the focus scale, in yellow, along with a depth of field scale with lines that mark full-stops from f/1.4 through f/16.

Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 : Sample Image

I was able to shoot with both the ZE and ZF.2 versions of the Otus. The sample images in the review were shot with the ZE lens and the Sony Alpha 7R via an adapter from Metabones, and Zeiss provided me with a ZF.2 version for sharpness testing, which I paired with the full-frame Nikon D800. Manual focus on a mirrorless camera like the Alpha 7R is a more pleasurable experience than the D800 with a stock focusing screen. The focus screens in modern D-SLRs are optimized for autofocus lenses, and don't quite provide the precision that a split-prism screen in a vintage camera like the Nikon F3 offers. You can use Live View and magnification when time allows in order to achieve perfect focus. If you frequently use manual focus lenses, it's wise to consider a third-party focus screen for your SLR; Canon sells one that is optimized for wide-aperture lenses, and both Canon and Nikon shooters can look to third-party sources for traditional split-image screens, some of which have additional aids like microprism collars.

I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the Otus using a standard SFRPlus test chart. At f/1.4 it's an outstanding performer, scoring 3,015 lines per picture height on a center-weighted test. That's much, much higher than the 1,800 lines we require for a photo to be called sharp, and impressively the extreme edges of the frame are just as sharp as the center. It only gets better as you stop down: 3,265 lines at f/2, 3,602 lines at f/2.8, 3,829 lines at f/4, 3,899 lines at f/5.6, and 3,951 lines at f/8. Distortion is a nonissue; the lens shows 0.7 percent barrel distortion, but that's barely relevant in field conditions. There's no evidence of falloff at the corners; the vignette in the shot below was added in Lightroom.

Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 : Sample Image

Zeiss is no stranger to delivering impressive lenses. The Otus can be looked at as a premium version of one of the exceptions to that rule, the Planar T* 1,4/50, a rare Zeiss lenses that is downright soft at its maximum aperture. The Zeiss-Makro Planar T* 2/50 is a better lens if you want a high-quality manual focus lens without spending $4,000. It's not inexpensive, but it's an impressive performer that's a feather weight compared to the Otus; but it only captures half the light at its maximum aperture.

The Otus 1.4/55 is an accomplishment. It's as impressive an optic as the last lens that the company introduced, the excellent Apo Sonnar T* 2/135. Aside from the lack of autofocus, which is a design choice that allows for a smooth focus ring with a very long throw, the only real complaints with the lens are its size and weight. But a lens requires a lot of glass to capture images like the Otus does. If you're the type of photographer who values image quality over all, the Otus is a dream lens.

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Mac Pro Launch Nears as Apple Business Staff Begin Offering Price Quotes

mac_pro_2013_roundup_headerWith potential customers of the new Mac Pro eagerly awaiting any sign of a more concrete launch date than the "December" timeframe announced by Apple at its October media event, increased activity from Apple's business team members suggests that a launch may indeed be very near.

While Apple has publicly remained silent on pricing for various Mac Pro configurations beyond the $2999/$3999 stock models in shown in its U.S. online store, members of the company's business sales team have on occasion been offering pricing quotes on build-to-order configurations upon request.

One Canadian forum member at posted late last month that he had been quoted $9700 for a maxed-out Mac Pro with 1 TB flash storage, 64 GB of RAM, dual AMD FirePro D700 graphics, and a 12-core processor. Given Apple's current currency conversions, U.S. pricing should fall in the range of $9400-$9500, although that quote almost certainly incorporates a small discount made available to certain business customers. A somewhat lower-specced model with 512 GB of flash storage and an 8-core processor was quoted at $7700 Canadian.

But while Apple business team members have had some access to the full price list for the new Mac Pro for at least several weeks, team members appear to have become more proactive over the past several days, contacting business customers who had previously expressed interest in the new Mac Pro to offer them price quotes ahead of the official launch.

One MacRumors forum member yesterday posted a price quote he received from an Apple business sales representative for a build-to-order Mac Pro configuration, a higher-end stock model upgraded with additional RAM and flash storage. Pricing for that configuration came to $4464 in the quote, but retail pricing would be slightly higher.

A second MacRumors reader reported today that he was contacted by a member of Apple's business sales team requesting desired configuration options for the purposes of generating a price quote. The Apple representative indicated that a price quote could be available by Monday, December 16, but it is unknown if that corresponds to any public release of additional information for that date.

Aside from the recent activity from Apple's business sales team regarding the new Mac Pro, the rapidly approaching holidays also led to speculation that a Mac Pro launch could come sooner rather than later. Next week is the last full week before Christmas, and with many Apple employees having time off around the holidays, the company would likely prefer to avoid conflicts with the holidays as much as possible.

An alternative theory suggests, however, that Apple may still be working to secure the component volumes it needs to produce a launch batch of the machines. As a result, the company could have little alternative but to launch the new Mac Pro in small volumes at the very end of the month in order to technically meet its stated launch timeframe while being able to push the bulk of its initial deliveries into early 2014.

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NFL, MLB threaten to kill free broadcasts if Aereo keeps streaming live TV

Two major sports leagues say they’ll take their balls and go home if streaming TV service Aereo is deemed legal.

The National Football League and Major League Baseball filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court this week, saying they’ll stop broadcasting live games over the air if Aereo wins its legal battles, Variety reports. Broadcasting would become less attractive, the leagues said, without the exclusive retransmission rights they currently enjoy.

“The option for copyright holders will be to move that content to paid cable networks (such as ESPN and TNT) where Aereo-like services cannot hijack and exploit their programming without authorization,” the leagues said.

In other words, sports leagues like being able to tightly control how people can view live games, cutting deals with wireless carriers and TV providers for streaming rights. Aereo takes that control away by letting users stream over-the-air broadcasts to phones, tablets, laptops or set-top boxes in exchange for a monthly subscription.

Aereo doesn’t pay any money to broadcasters or TV networks for this privilege; the startup argues that letting subscribers “lease” a designated antenna, stored in a remote warehouse, isn’t legally different than installing an antenna on a rooftop. TV networks argue that Aereo’s streams qualify as “public performance” and should be subject to licensing fees, but appeals courts have conflicting opinions on that argument. Networks want the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case and settle the matter for good.

AereoA bank of dime-sized antennas in an Aereo data center.

Sports leagues aren’t the only ones who have threatened to pull their broadcasts because of Aereo. ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox have also said they’d remove programming if Aereo prevails in courts. But as All Things D points out, the networks could meet resistance from lawmakers, and removing their programming could take time. The threats also smell vaguely of a bluff, intended to create public opposition to Aereo. NFL broadcasts caused a huge spike in Aereo usage, so it’s no surprise that sports leagues are getting in on the threats.

Ideally, networks would simply compete with Aereo instead of trying to shut it down. Some networks are trying to expand their streaming options, but only for people who haven’t cut the cable cord. Those users who’ve given up cable are exactly the ones that Aereo is trying to target.

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BearExtender Turbo Adds 802.11ac Wi-Fi to Older Macs [Mac Blog]

BearExtender Turbo Adds 802.11ac Wi-Fi to Older Macs - Mac Rumors window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '263507923666566', status : true, // check login status cookie : true, // enable cookies to allow the server to access the session xfbml : true // parse XFBML }); }; (function() { var e = document.createElement('script'); e.src = document.location.protocol + '//'; e.async = true; document.getElementById('fb-root').appendChild(e); }()); Mac Rumors Front Page Mac Blog iOS BlogRoundups Apple TViMaciOS 7iPad AiriPad miniiPhone 5ciPhone 5siPhone 6iWatchMac miniMac ProMacBook AirMacBook ProOS X MavericksThunderbolt Display Buyer's Guide ForumsGot a tip for us? Share it... Push RSS a. Send us an emailb. Anonymous formclose (x)BearExtender Turbo Adds 802.11ac Wi-Fi to Older MacsFriday December 13, 2013 8:07 am PST by Eric SlivkaBearExtender today announced the launch of BearExtender Turbo, a new USB-based solution for adding faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity to older Macs. Regularly priced at $80 but available through Amazon for $70, BearExtender Turbo can boost Wi-Fi speeds by up to 2-3x for Macs supporting USB 3.0 but not 802.11ac natively.

Using AJA System Test on Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks, a 2GB file was transferred between a Mid-2012 802.11n MacBook Air and a 2013 Apple Time Capsule at a rate of 10.66 Megabytes per second (MB/s not megabits). The same test with BearExtender Turbo connected to the MacBook Air’s USB 3.0 port had a rate of 23.84 MB/s, more than twice the Macbook Air’s internal Wi-Fi card.
While speed bottlenecks for most users will continue to be their actual ISP connections when connecting to the Internet, 802.11ac is particularly useful for transferring large amounts of data between machines within a network.

BearExtender Turbo supports maximum throughput of 867 Mbps and includes dual-band connectivity at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz for maximum speed and compatibility. The device's two antennas can also be removed for portability. [ 19 comments ] Top Rated Comments(View all)

Avatartroop2313 days ago at 08:10 amNot as elegant as the solution I was devising for cMBP's ;) 2 PositivesAvatarjohnmacward3 days ago at 09:44 amI really don't see the point in this. Considering the benefits of AC over N are negligible in the most realistic conditions, you also have to be within reasonable noise free distance of the AP and then have a piece dangling out of your Air. Why not get a dedicated gigabit cable and plug it into a much smaller and cheaper adapter. Even over long distances this is more reliable. The use case is so slim in my opinionRating: 2 PositivesAvatarjtara3 days ago at 11:21 amMaybe if you understand the point of Bear Extender in general, it would help...

Most current notebooks don't have an antenna connector any more. In some cases, you might need an external antenna - perhaps even a directional one - to get a good WiFi connection. The only means of doing this, then, is by using some external adapter, typically connected by USB. (Unless you want to hack your notebook to bring out an external antenna connector.)

So, that's the need that the original BearExtender addresses.

For most such uses, 802.11ac is a non-issue, as well as even N. People in this situation are usually happy to get any kind of signal at all, and are usually connecting to access points that support neither 802.11ac or N.

But this bascially fills-in their product line with something that will work with 802.11ac. Starbucks isn't going to have 802.11ac any time soon. But maybe you want to work from the pool, and your WiFi doesn't reach.

I'd think that given the overall focus for BearExtender, adding 802.11ac to older Macbooks is really a minor point.

There are a number of similar products from Alfa that are also excellent.Rating: 2 PositivesAvatarjclardy3 days ago at 08:30 amSeems decent...but I think I would just plug in a gigabit ethernet adapter if I am going to have a cord sticking out. AC is mostly going to be of use in your own home at the moment so portability isn't much of a factor here.Rating: 1 PositivesAvatarclukas3 days ago at 09:02 amQuite an expensive solution for what it does. The chipsets inside probably cost a mere $5. I dont see the point of this, unless you have to share vast volumes of data on your home network, and if thats the case then a wired ethernet solution would probably be better and cheaper.Rating: 1 Positives
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