Southwest Airlines Cargo To Go Beyond Borders

“By offering the cross-border services that our Customers are looking for, we’re able to help meet the needs of businesses throughout the United States and, soon, in Mexico,” said Matt Buckley, Southwest Airlines’ Vice President of Cargo and Charters.

“By offering the cross-border services that our Customers are looking for, we’re able to help meet the needs of businesses throughout the United States and, soon, in Mexico,” said Matt Buckley, Southwest Airlines’ Vice President of Cargo and Charters. “As we enter the international cargo market for the first time, Customers will have more opportunities to experience the friendly and reliable service for which our Cargo Team is known.”

New Suite of Services

The new international shipping options are made possible in part due to the rollout of Southwest Cargo’s new point-of-sale and back office accounting system, Southwest Cargo Suite (SCS). SCS is expected to take the place of the current system in March 2018, and along with international capabilities, give Customers the ability to make advanced cargo bookings, and utilize electronic Air Waybills.

Southwest Cargo Adds to Trophy Case

Also today, Southwest Cargo was honored by winning one of the air cargo industry’s most prestigious awards. It earned the Airforwarders Association’s Domestic Carrier of the Year award. This is the ninth consecutive year the carrier has earned the honor.

To learn more about Southwest Cargo or how you can become a known shipper, visit swacargo.com.

ABOUT SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CARGO

Southwest Airlines’ relentlessly-reliable Employees offer Cargo Customers award winning air cargo service to destinations across the map. With our extensive domestic network and over 3,900 flights a day, Southwest Cargo has the flights you need to meet your shipping requirements. In May 2018, the carrier intends to begin shipping to select international destinations, subject to government approvals. Learn more about how Southwest Cargo can help you with your shipping needs by visiting swacargo.com.

For broadcast quality videos and downloadable photos of the Southwest Airlines Cargo Team in action, please visit the Southwest Airlines Newsroom.

ABOUT SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO.

In its 47th year of service, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) continues to differentiate itself from other air carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by more than 56,000 Employees to a Customer base topping 120 million passengers annually, in recent years. Southwest became the nation’s largest domestic air carrier in 2003 and maintains that ranking based on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent reporting of domestic originating passengers boarded. During peak travel seasons, Southwest operates more than 4,000 weekday departures among a network of 100 destinations in the United States and 10 additional countries.

Southwest coined Transfarency® to describe its purposed philosophy of treating Customers honestly and fairly, and low fares actually staying low. Southwest is the only major U.S. airline to offer bags fly free® to everyone (first and second checked pieces of luggage, size and weight limits apply, some carriers offer free checked bags on select routes or in qualified circumstances), and there are no change fees, though fare differences might apply.

As launch customer of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in North America, the Company operates the largest fleet in the world of Boeing aircraft, all of which are equipped with satellite-based WiFi. Customers who connect to the WiFi network may use their personal devices to view on-demand movies and television shows, as well as nearly 20 channels of free, live TV.

With a bold new look first unveiled in 2014, Southwest is progressing through a multi-year refresh of its fleet to showcase the carrier’s Heart: a new logo, aircraft livery, interior design featuring new seats, Employee-designed uniforms, and an updated airport experience, all of which showcase a dedication of Southwest Employees to connect Customers with what’s important in their lives.

From its first flights on June 18, 1971, Southwest Airlines launched an era of unprecedented affordability in air travel described by the U.S. Department of Transportation as “The Southwest Effect,” a lowering of fares and increase in passenger traffic wherever the carrier serves. With 45 consecutive years of profitability, Southwest is one of the most honored airlines in the world, known for a triple bottom line approach that contributes to the carrier’s performance and productivity, the importance of its People and the communities they serve, and an overall commitment to efficiency and the planet.

Book Southwest Airlines’ low fares online at Southwest Airlines or by phone at 800-I-FLY-SWA.

Visit the Southwest Newsroom at swamedia.com for multi-media assets and other Company news.

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SOURCE Southwest Airlines Co.

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MAXimum Comfort, MAXimum Efficiency United Airlines to Start Boeing 737 MAX 9 Service

United expects to begin operating MAX 9 aircraft on June 7, between its hub at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and five cities. Beginning June 29, United expects to add additional MAX 9 flights from its Houston and Los Angeles hubs including service between Los Angeles and Honolulu.

United expects to begin operating MAX 9 aircraft on June 7, between its hub at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and five cities. Beginning June 29, United expects to add additional MAX 9 flights from its Houston and Los Angeles hubs including service between Los Angeles and Honolulu.

“The addition of the MAX 9 furthers our efforts to become a more efficient and productive airline. It has better fuel efficiency, lower maintenance costs and does all of this while maximizing customer comfort,” said United’s Chief Financial Officer Andrew Levy. This year, United will receive 10 new MAX 9 aircraft from Boeing and will continue to add service from its hubs to cities throughout the United States.

Scheduled Boeing 737 MAX 9 service

Date

United Hub

Destination

Depart

Arrive

June 7

Houston (IAH)

Anchorage (ANC)

2:40 p.m.

6:58 p.m.

June 7

Houston (IAH)

Austin (AUS)

10:25 a.m.

11:15 a.m.

June 7

Houston (IAH)

Ft. Lauderdale (FLL)

2:20 p.m.

5:52 p.m.

June 7

Houston (IAH)

Orlando (MCO)

7:35 a.m.

10:38 p.m.

June 7

Houston (IAH)

Orlando (MCO)

2:50 p.m.

6:19 p.m.

June 7

Houston (IAH)

San Diego (SAN)

9:50 p.m.

10:52 p.m.

June 29

Los Angeles (LAX)

Honolulu (HNL)

11:05 a.m.

2:00 p.m.

June 29

Los Angeles (LAX)

Houston (IAH)

8:15 a.m.

1:37 p.m.

June 29

Los Angeles (LAX)

Houston (IAH)

1:00 a.m.

6:14 a.m.

June 29

Houston (IAH)

Los Angeles (LAX)

7:45 a.m.

9:23 a.m.

June 29

Houston (IAH)

Los Angeles (LAX)

9:35 p.m.

10:59 p.m.

June 29

Houston (IAH)

Sacramento (SMF)

9:50 p.m.

11:27 p.m.

June 29

Houston (IAH)

Tampa (TPA)

2:50 p.m.

6:02 p.m.

June 29

Houston (IAH)

Tampa (TPA)

7:50 a.m.

10:59 a.m.

The Boeing 737 MAX 9 features 179 seats including 20 United First seats in a 2-2 configuration, 48 in Economy Plus in a 3-3 configuration with 34 inches of pitch, and 111 United Economy seats in a 3-3 configuration with at least 30 inches of pitch. Customers also have access to in-seat power outlets and the opportunity to purchase satellite Wi-Fi. United Private Screening personal device entertainment will be available throughout the aircraft and enables customers to play thousands of hours of movies and television programs on their electronic devices.

United’s new, extra-spacious United First seat features contoured, two-tone leather, a six-way adjustable headrest and a padded articulating seat cushion. The seat is equipped with storage spaces for personal items, including an in-arm tablet/laptop slot, a personal water bottle console and double seatback pockets. The seat also features a new tray table design with a flip-up mobile device holder that fits more than 200 phone and tablet models, and a universal AC power plug to charge devices on the fly. A granite-topped extendable cocktail table in the center console adds an extra bit of elegance, keeping the tray table free for eating, working or staying entertained.

About United

United Airlines and United Express operate approximately 4,500 flights a day to 338 airports across five continents. In 2017, United and United Express operated more than 1.6 million flights carrying more than 148 million customers. United is proud to have the world’s most comprehensive route network, including U.S. mainland hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark/New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. United operates 744 mainline aircraft and the airline’s United Express carriers operate 518 regional aircraft. The airline is a founding member of Star Alliance, which provides service to 191 countries via 28 member airlines. For more information, visit united.com, follow @United on Twitter or connect on Facebook. The common stock of United’s parent, United Continental Holdings, Inc., is traded on the NYSE under the symbol “UAL”.

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SOURCE United Airlines

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Focus on next-generation networks fuels Broadband Forum membership growth

“This year has seen a significant increase in membership which reflects the growing role of fixed networks in emerging technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things, leading to a movement towards a more holistic converged network,” said Foster.

“This year has seen a significant increase in membership which reflects the growing role of fixed networks in emerging technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things, leading to a movement towards a more holistic converged network,” said Foster. “These are key areas of focus for us, along with bringing greater efficiency to operators’ networks through virtualization technologies which can also enable new business opportunities.”

Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum, said: “With further work planned for 5G, Cloud CO, Smart Home (including In-home networking), new access technologies, and plugfests in areas including Gfast and NG-PON and the continuation of our hugely successful Broadband Access Summit Events, 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the Forum.”

The list of new members joining the Broadband Forum recently is as follows: Bifrost Communications, The Broadband Communications Chamber of Ghana, Casa Systems, Chengdu Superxon Communication Technology, Dual Beam Merger Ingenieros, Hisense Broadband, InCoax Networks AB, Kurth Electronics, Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA®), Octoscope, Outsys, PIC Advanced SA, Samsung Electronics and Telkom Indonesia.

“We see joining the Broadband Forum as a critical move in our quest to increase broadband penetration in Ghana,” said Gustav Tamakloe, Chief Executive Officer of the Broadband Communications Chamber of Ghana. “Membership of the Forum puts us at the cutting edge of technological innovation and development and ensures we are in the best possible position to help deliver fast, affordable broadband for Ghana.”

MoCA opted to join the Forum to utilize its data modelling and management standards for integration into its fiber extension technology, MoCA Access™.

“Building strong partnerships with other organizations is a key part of MoCA’s strategy, enabling it to share available resources and subject matter expertise in the pursuit of open standards,” said Charles Cerino, President of MoCA. “The Broadband Forum’s reputation for technology development and innovative specifications meshes perfectly with our goals and we anticipate a productive collaboration.”

For more information on the Broadband Forum’s work and membership, visit: www.broadband-forum.org.

About the Broadband Forum
Broadband Forum, a non-profit industry organization, is focused on engineering smarter and faster broadband networks. The Forum’s flagship TR-069 CPE WAN Management Protocol has now exceeded 350 million installations worldwide.

Our work defines best practices for global networks, enables new revenue-generating service and content delivery, establishes technology migration strategies, engineers critical device, service & development management tools, in the home and business IP networking infrastructure. We develop multi-service broadband packet networking specifications addressing architecture, device and service management, software data models interoperability and certification in the Broadband market.

Our free technical reports and white papers can be found at www.broadband-forum.org. Twitter @Broadband_Forum.

For more information about the Broadband Forum, please go to http://www.broadband-forum.org or follow @Broadband_Forum on Twitter. For further information please contact Brian Dolby on +44 (0) 7899 914168 or brian.dolby@proactive-pr.com or Jayne Brooks on +44 (0) 1636 704 888 or jayne.brooks@proactive-pr.com.

About MoCA
MoCA® technology is the fastest and most reliable in-home backbone for Wi-Fi®–as proven by numerous field tests–and has been adopted by cable, telco/IPTV and satellite operators worldwide. MoCA 2.0 offers actual data rates of up to 1 Gbps. MoCA 2.5 offers actual data rates up to 2.5 Gbps in addition to a variety of network management and security features.

MoCA Access™ is a fiber extension technology based on the MoCA 2.5 specification and is intended for MDUs, hotels and resorts, and any building with existing coaxial cabling.

The Alliance has 223 certified products and 35 members worldwide.

About Broadband Communications Chamber of Ghana
The Broadband Communications Chamber (BBCC) was established to achieve the objectives of creating a private, voluntary, business organization researching and advising on broadband use, policy and regulation for economic development. To encourage the accelerated use of true broadband and to increase Broadband penetration targets and develop capacity in the broadband industry.

The Chamber’s Mission is to be a lobbying group for the development and expansion of the broadband industry in line with Global trend and Government’s intention of rapid penetration and development of broadband.

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SOURCE The Broadband Forum

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Best set-top box: the top six streaming media players for 4K and HD TV reviewed

If you’re only here because you want to cut the cord and stop the rich, monopolistic cable overlords from siphoning your hard-earned money every month, I only have one thing to say to you: you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re only here because you want to cut the cord and stop the rich, monopolistic cable overlords from siphoning your hard-earned money every month, I only have one thing to say to you: you’ve come to the right place.

Look, we believe that paying for great TV shows and movies shouldn’t cost more than your groceries, and that there’s no better way to save some green every month than ripping that money-sucking cord out of the wall and delivering that long-winded “you’re fired” speech to the cable company.

We’re here to help you make that next buying decision the best one possible by ranking the three best set-top boxes in two categories – for 4K TVs and for Full HD TVs – and tell you which one will best fit your home entertainment center.

So how did we narrow down the field? We looked at the amount of content available on the system – not only the number of apps available, but the quality, too – as well as its feature-set, usability and potential to grow in the coming year. The competition is fiercer than ever in 2018 as the big guns battle for supremacy, but there’s now a capable streamer for every budget.

The best streaming boxes for 4K TVs

If you’ve recently upgraded to a 4K HDR TV, it’s a safe bet that you want a streaming box that can give you every one of those 3840×2160 pixels. You’re in luck, because most of the major streamers have released 4K upgrades of late. However, so numerous are they that some excellent 4K streaming boxes have been squeezed out of our top three. The super-talented GoogleChromecast Ultra just misses out on the podium, as do the Nvidia Shield TV and even the Xbox One S. However, it’s clear that our remaining trio are the best streaming boxes for 4K and HDR content.

Okay, so Android users may not be invited to its 4K party, but there’s no denying that Apple’s waiting game has paid off. Yes, it’s locked to the Apple ecosystem, but iPhone users will love the tvOS operating system, which looks nothing short of sublime. It packs in the pixels and looks sharper than ever, while a souped-up A10X processor means navigation and app loading is fast.

Whether you go for the 32GB or 64GB storage versions, every streaming app you can think of is here, with one glaring omission; there’s no Amazon Prime Video. However, we do like the 4K HDR ‘room’ within its iTunes movies app, which makes it easier to discover hi-res video content. Dolby Vision is a real asset that few other streaming devices support right now (with Dolby Atmos to follow, we’ve been told), just as impressive is universal search and the addition of Apple Music, the later of which which makes Apple TV a competent jukebox as well as a top-tier movie streamer. And the integration of the proprietary Apple HomeKit smart home tech could be a feature to watch. Our only criticism is that Siri makes too many mistakes.

Read the full review:Apple TV 4K (2017)

Why buy a box when a dongle will do? In a move that makes the impressive Roku Premiere+ obsolete, this streaming stick has two incredible advantages; every app you could ever want, plus an improved 802.11ac Wi-Fi antenna that increases the range by four times. That double-act should give the Roku Streaming Stick+ an easy win, and yet we two have two issues with this diminutive dongle. Try as it does, a few niggling issues like slow pop-in time and lack of Dolby support prevent it from winning top accolades.

Also unwelcome is a proprietary power cable, but this Roku beats the Chromecast Ultra by shipping with a remote that has a microphone built-in for voice search, and dedicated media buttons for Netflix, Sling, Hulu and PlayStation Vue. Also in Roku OS 8 is Amazon Video, Amazon Music, YouTube, Crackle, Vudu, Pandora, Spotify, Deezer, VEVO, SiriusXM and TuneIn. There’s also a free network of films and TV shows the company has licensed from studios like Columbia and Paramount amid a dizzying 3,000+ streaming channels. Tiny reservations aside, this peerlessly egalitarian approach to streaming make this a hugely impressive and good value product.

Read the full review:Roku Streaming Stick+ (2017)

If you are already on the Amazon train with a Prime account and plenty of Amazon Echo units dotted around the house, then the Amazon Fire TV (2017) will slot into your home with ease.

Despite being one of the core apps of the streaming age, getting Amazon Video is not easy. It’s not available on Apple TV or Google’s Chromecast products, but Amazon Fire TV devices are much more than merely workarounds to the giant retailer’s own video content.

A discrete box of media tricks that can sit unobtrusively in your home, the latest Amazon Fire TV device is smaller than ever and incredibly easy to install and use. Redesigned as a dongle that plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI slot, it does require a separate power connection. However, it also comes with an excellent remote control that allows you to use Alexa voice commands to control playback, which is a boon to anyone who has embraced the Amazon Echo range of smart speakers. The interface itself is similar to Apple TV, and includes a host of Fire TV apps – including Amazon Video, obviously – as well as Netflix. However, the flipside of Amazon Prime Video not being available on other streamers is that Google’s YouTube is not available on this device.

4K HDR content, though sparse, looks great, though performance depends on the strength of your Wi-Fi network. Dolby Atmos support is welcome, too, but barely visible. Minor niggles aside, we enthusiastically recommend this latest Fire TV.

Read the full review:Amazon Fire TV (2017)

If you’re yet to invest in a 4K TV, streaming devices dealing in 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision/Atmos are way over-specified for your needs. So swerve the high prices of the 4K streamers and head for the bargain basement, where you will find some excellent value streamers dealing in all the same content, only in fewer pixels. It also comes with miniaturisation; any search for a Full HD 1080p streamer quickly turns into a ‘best dongle’ dogfight.

Google is almost giving away its flagship streaming device. In fact, the Chromecast is the most insanely obvious device you should consider if you have a Full HD 1080p TV… and don’t subscribe to Amazon Prime Video. One of the easiest ways of getting video streams onto any TV, this puck plugs into an HDMI port on the rear of your TV, is powered by micro-USB, and is controlled by a smartphone.

No remote control, then. Or even a user interface. However, it’s devilishly easy to use; fire-up the compatible app (which now has an effective universal search function) on any smartphone, and tap the ‘Cast’ button to immediately have content streamed to the big screen. Easy. Whatever’s on your phone, or available via apps on your phone, can be streamed to your TV. That makes it very different from the way its main competitors work, and it outperforms Amazon Fire TV devices thanks to its new-and-improved 802.11ac Wi-Fi antenna.

There are thousands of apps that come with the Cast button built in, from Netflix, HBO Now, Spotify, NFL Sunday Ticket, Tidal and Twitch here in the US to Sainsbury’s Movies and TV, Blinkbox, BT Sport, NowTV, Napster and, of course, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport in the UK. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

However, there is one small problem; if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber you won’t be able to watch the service on Google’s streaming stick – Amazon’s mobile app doesn’t support Google Cast functionality.

Read the full review:Google Chromecast

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick isn’t meant to be the company’s top-of-the-line streamer, but just because you’re buying a budget streaming stick that doesn’t mean you should accept a sluggish interface and meager apps. A stick designed to plug directly into an HDMI port on the back of your TV, the Amazon Fire TV Stick’s user interface – including its Alexa voice search via an Alexa Voice Remote – is snappy and fast, and it allows access to most of the apps you’d need on a regular basis.

That would be Amazon Video and Netflix. With those two apps, it’s almost flawless, and if you just watch Amazon or Netflix content, then the interface is a dream. It’s quick, voice search works well, and it’s easy to find what you want to watch. However, venture into more niche streaming services and the stick’s functionality is much more basic, offering merely a portal to each app’s own interface rather than functionality of its own. The foundations are here for a solid streaming device, but it’s a little too inconsistent to be the perfect budget streamer. Oh, and it’s not got access to YouTube, thanks to a corporate spat between Amazon and Google.

Read the full review:Amazon Fire TV Stick

If you use an iPhone and don’t have a 4K TV, the older Apple TV from 2015 will do you just fine. It’s all about Apple; you’ll be shown the latest hits on the iTunes Movie and TV show storefronts, as well as be directed towards Music for all your audio needs. It can be slightly overwhelming if you’re not used to Apple’s lush, content-rich financial minefield, but anyone who’s used an iPhone or iTunes in the past few years will be able to navigate around (though the finicky remote doesn’t help).

However, find the epicenter of the new Apple TV, the App Store, and you’ll enter a world of streaming video apps (HBO Now, Showtime Anytime, Netflix and Hulu are all here), and many of the top US sports apps including MLB.tv, NHL GameCenter Live, NBA.com League Pass and Watch ESPN.

OK, so it’s expensive for a streamer that doesn’t deal in anything above Full HD 1080p, and besides, it concentrates mostly on Apple’s own video stores to find content. However, taken on its own merits, it’s a good – if aging – streaming video player that’s perfect for iPhone owners with a Full HD 1080p TV who want to stream and indulge in a little AirPlay awesomeness.

Read the full review:Apple TV

Best movies on Netflix UK – 150 films to choose from

RedCoach Adds New Services Between Miami And Tallahassee

The number of people who use RedCoach has been growing continuously since they began operations in 2010. Today, the additions fulfill the ever-increasing demand of the route that is most popular amongst Florida State University students and visitors alike.

The number of people who use RedCoach has been growing continuously since they began operations in 2010. Today, the additions fulfill the ever-increasing demand of the route that is most popular amongst Florida State University students and visitors alike. According to RedCoach’s marketing head, Florencia Cirigliano:

“People are changing the way they get around. We’ve seen how they don’t use their cars anymore because it’s more convenient to get an Uber or a Lyft. But you can’t take them for long distances, so you take a RedCoach instead. The whole idea is to let someone else do the driving for you either on your daily commute or across the state.”

RedCoach is redefining motor coach transportation by offering an upscale experience with unique features and amenities that guarantee a stress-free and comfortable experience. Aboard these motorcoaches, passengers get access to free Wi-Fi and on-demand movies while on a oversized and 140-degrees reclinable leather seats. Here riders sleep or multitask while getting to their destination.

Rates vary by route with Tallahassee to Miami starting from $55. For the first month, RedCoach offers an introductory 20% off coupon. The coupon MOREROUTES18 is available until March 15, 2018 to book online for the 9046 and 9047 services on all days, except March 2, 9 and 11. For other discounts, schedules, more information and/or to book tickets visit www.redcoachusa.com.

About RedCoach
RedCoach, the only luxury motor coach transportation service in Florida, offers first-class comfort without the high costs, long lines or hassle that comes with other transportation services. RedCoach offers 13+ convenient stops in Florida’s top destinations including: Miami, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tallahassee and more. The company launched in May 2010, since then, RedCoach has transported more than half a million passengers throughout Florida continuing to grow, adding new stops, services and passenger benefits. For more information, visit http://www.redcoachusa.com.

Contact: Florencia Cirigliano, fcirigliano@redcoachusa.com

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SOURCE RedCoach

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Government hopes church spires will boost rural 4G and Wi-Fi

The government is planning to use church spires to improve mobile, broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity across the UK following an agreement with the Church of England.

A new plan released today by the National Church Institutions (NCIs) of the Church of England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will offer support and guidance for rural parishes looking to help their communities.

The government is planning to use church spires to improve mobile, broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity across the UK following an agreement with the Church of England.

A new plan released today by the National Church Institutions (NCIs) of the Church of England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will offer support and guidance for rural parishes looking to help their communities.

The Church of England has more than 16,000 buildings in 12,500 parishes and two thirds of churches and parishes are in rural areas, often situated in central locations, making them well positioned to solve connectivity challenges.

Rural 4G

There are more than 120 instances of this being done in the UK, including in Chelsmford, Norwich and in Bath, where churches are used as wireless access points to deliver superfast broadband to areas excluded from other rollouts.

“Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country,” said Digital Secretary Matt Hancock. “This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future improving people’s lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas.”

The move has been welcomed by the industry and by church leaders.

“We know that rural churches in particular have always served as a hub for their communities,” said Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, where the Diocese has been involved in community broadband since 2013.

“Encouraging churches to improve connectivity will help tackle two of the biggest issues rural areas face – isolation and sustainability.”

“Where there is a need, a suitable building is available and appropriate terms can be agreed, the mobile operators will continue to extend their use of churches to increase mobile coverage and capacity, while respecting the church environment,” added Hamish McLeod, director of industry body Mobile UK.

More than 95 percent of the UK population has access to superfast broadband, while EE has committed to delivering 4G coverage to 95 percent of the UK landmass by the end of the decade.

Check out our list of the best broadband deals in February 2018

Bang & Olufsen DIY kit lets you make your own smart speakers with Raspberry Pi

Got a great sounding pair of speakers gathering dust as they just can’t keep up with the connected smarts of the modern musical age? Then Bang and Olufsen may have a solution for you – provided you don’t mind getting your hands dirty with some tinkering.

Got a great sounding pair of speakers gathering dust as they just can’t keep up with the connected smarts of the modern musical age? Then Bang and Olufsen may have a solution for you – provided you don’t mind getting your hands dirty with some tinkering.

B&O has partnered up with HiFiBerry to offer a new DIY kit that lets you add wireless functionality to legacy speaker sets. The Beocreate 4 Channel Amplifier is a board designed to be paired with passive loudspeakers, acting as a digital amplifier on its own, or adding Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities if paired with a Raspberry Pi.

Running open-source software, it’ll let you add Airplay, or Spotify Connect functionality too.

Enthusiast project

Now, compared to some Raspberry Pi projects, the Beocreate 4 is relatively straightforward to set up – plugging into the amplifier, you won’t need to do any soldering on the Pi, with screw ports for the cabling. However, there are simpler ways to get your older speakers online, with plug-and-play options like Google’s Chromecast Audio being more beginner-friendly.

But with B&O’s audio pedigree well known, the amp’s capabilities may make it a better match for breathing new life into your old speakers.

You can pick up the Beocreate 4 now, priced at $189 (around £135, AU$240).

How to turn a Raspberry Pi into a retro games console

5 things that will slow your Wi-Fi network

Wi-Fi is quite fickle. The contention between Wi-Fi devices and the dynamic communication medium of the airwaves makes it a sensitive technology with many settings and situations that can slow it down.

Wi-Fi is quite fickle. The contention between Wi-Fi devices and the dynamic communication medium of the airwaves makes it a sensitive technology with many settings and situations that can slow it down.

And even if you aren’t using high-bandwidth devices and applications, faster Wi-Fi is always better.

+RELATED: REVIEW: 5 top hardware-based Wi-Fi test tools; 802.11: Wi-Fi standards and speeds explained+

Here are some things to avoid that can slow down your Wi-Fi:

Old wireless and security protocols

Using the older security protocols on your Wi-Fi network significantly reduces performance. This is regardless of the access point’s highest supported standard and its promises. For instance, 802.11ac can support data rates over 1,000 Mbps. But if you have WEP or WPA security configured, the data rates will be limited to 54 Mbps. This limitation is due to those security types using the encryption method of Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP).

So, to ensure old Wi-Fi security methods aren’t slowing your network, enable WPA2-only security using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Don’t choose WPA/WPA2-mixed mode or WPA2-TKIP.

If there are older Wi-Fi clients that don’t support WPA2-AES security, see if there are firmware updates that add that capability. Next, consider adding a USB or PCI based Wi-Fi adapter to the computer or device to give it modern Wi-Fi connectivity. If those adapters aren’t supported, consider a wireless bridge for devices that also have an ethernet connection. Consider creating a separate SSID with older protocols enabled for legacy devices or replace the old Wi-Fi client devices altogether.

Under-utilizing the 5GHz band

The 2.4 GHz frequency band has 11 channels (in North America), but only provides up to three non-overlapping channels when using the default 20 MHz wide channels or just a single channel if using 40 MHz-wide channels. Since neighboring APs should be on different non-overlapping channels, the 2.4 GHz frequency band can become too small very quickly.

The 5 GHz band, however, provides up to 24 channels. Not all APs support all the channels, but all the channels are non-overlapping if using 20 MHz-wide channels. Even when using 40 MHz-wide channels, you could have up to 12 non-overlapping channels. Thus, in this band, you have less chance of co-channel interference among your APs and any other neighboring networks.

You should try to get as many Wi-Fi clients as you can to use the 5 GHz band on your network to increase speeds and performance. Consider upgrading any 2.4 GHz-only Wi-Fi clients to dual-band clients. Additionally, utilize any band-steering functionality on the APs to increase the chances of dual-band clients connecting to the 5 GHz access instead of 2.4 GHz. If you have full control over the Wi-Fi clients, and you’re confident your 5 GHz coverage is good, maybe even see if you can disable 2.4 GHz on the clients.

Incorrectly setting AP channels

Since the 2.4 GHz band is so crowed, the channels utilized by your APs are crucial. It’s easy to have co-channel interference from neighboring networks and even your own APs. For this lower band, try to stick with the non-overlapping channels of 1, 6 and 11 at 20 MHz channel-widths. Although most APs and wireless controllers have an automatic channel feature, sometimes they don’t work well. Double-check the automatic channel assignments to see if they make sense. If they don’t make sense, try setting the channels yourself.

When verifying automatic channel assignment or manually setting them, it’s a good idea to get out the floor plan maps that have the AP locations identified. That way you can visualize the AP locations and write down the channel assignments. If you have more than three APs, you’ll have to reuse the channels 1, 6 and 11. But try to make it so APs set to the same channel are as far away from each other as possible. For instance, if you have six APs spread out equally going down a long hallway, you set the AP channels in order: 1, 6, 11, 1, 6, 11. Don’t forget about any other levels of the buildings Try to minimize setting APs with the same channels on top of each other, too.

Utilizing low data rates

APs have control over what data rates are supported for the connections to Wi-Fi clients. When APs are supporting the lowest data rates, that means they’ll accept slow/poor connections. Though APs that don’t support he lowest data rates will drop Wi-Fi clients quicker, that’s typically what you want. You don’t want Wi-Fi clients staying connected to APs when the connection gets too slow, because it will slow the overall performance of the network. If a Wi-Fi network is properly designed with good coverage, you want the Wi-Fi clients to roam to the best AP as quick as possible, not stick to an AP that provides a slower connection.

Most enterprise-level APs provide control over the exact data rates that are enabled. If possible, consider disabling the lowest data rates: 1 – 12 Mbps. If you have a high-density network with great coverage, consider disabling further rates, maybe even up to 54 Mbps.

Lacking design and configuration

An overall poor wireless design and/or configuration can cause performance issues on the Wi-Fi. A professional wireless site survey should be performed to figure out proper AP locations and a post-install survey done to verify correct coverage. Resurveying should also be done after any significant physical changes to the building and/or layout.

Without performing map-based site surveys with tools like Airmagnet or Ekahau, it’s hard to visualize coverage to discover any coverage holes. Survey tools also help identify co-channel interference and aid in setting proper channel assignments. And don’t design a network solely on coverage. Design for throughput and user density as well.

(Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer as well as the founder of NoWiresSecurity, a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service, and On Spot Techs, an on-site computer services company.)

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LED buying guide – CNET

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It’s been more than ten years since Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).

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It’s been more than ten years since Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). In doing so, they put the age of inefficient incandescent lighting on notice. The law mandated strict new energy standards designed to kick-start a new era of greener, longer-lasting, more cost-efficient light bulbs — and that meant kicking outdated, inefficient bulbs to the curb.

The rising standards have already long rendered 100W and 75W incandescents obsolete, and in 2014, their 60W and 40W cousins met the same fate. Congressional budget waffling briefly seemed to put the new standards on hold, but it was largely too late — the industry had already moved on, and wasn’t interested in reversing course.

Related linksLED MVPs: These brainy bulbs make the cutCNET’S Best LEDs of 2018The best smart bulbs to use with Alexa

In other words, the age of the LED is here, and you only need travel so far as your local lighting aisle to see the change. With all of the new options out there (not to mention the disappearance of some important old ones), finding the perfect bulb can seem pretty daunting. New lights that promise to last 20 years and save you hundreds of dollars might sound good in theory, but how do you know which one is the right one for you? How do you know the bulb you’re buying is going to be bright enough? What about color temperature? Color… rendering?

Well, fear not, because we’ve got you covered with a handy guide that’s chock-full of all the information you’ll need to make sure that your next light bulb is the right bulb.

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What kinds of bulbs are available?

We’ve all gotten to know incandescents quite well over the past 135 years or so, but times are changing. These days, you’ve got more options than ever before, and familiarizing yourself with them is the first step toward finding the right bulb.

By this point, the bulk of the lighting aisle is LEDs, so let’s focus on those for now:

LEDs

Average cost: $3 to $20
Average wattage: 4W to 22W
Average life expectancy: 20,000 hours

Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are the new rock stars of the bulb world. When an LED is switched on, electrons and electron holes come together (and don’t worry, I’m not completely sure I fully understand what a “hole” is in this context, either). At any rate, the result of this process is a release of energy in the form of photons — or light, to you and me.

This process uses a fraction of the wattage required to power an old-fashioned incandescent bulb, and this makes LEDs dramatically more cost-effective over the long run.

LEDs are dramatically more cost-efficient over the long run.

For instance, a single 10-watt LED that puts out 800 lumens of light (lumens are units of brightness for a light source — more on that in just a bit) will add about $1.20 per year to your power bill if used for 3 hours a day at an average energy rate of 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Under those same parameters, a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb that puts out the same 800 lumens will cost about $7.20 per year. That’s more than the cost of replacing it with a basic LED like the one described above. Multiply that by the total number of bulbs in your home, and you’re looking at the potential for some pretty significant long-term savings, especially if you live in area with above-average energy rates.

LEDs are also rated to last for tens of thousands of hours, which can translate to decades of use. Compare that with the year or so you typically get out of an incandescent, and you can begin to see why so many people find these bulbs appealing. With some options now as cheap as $3 per bulb, that 10W LED would pay for itself in energy savings within a few months, then keep on saving you money for years if not decades to come.

Decades? Really?

Yes, really — at least, according to Energy Star and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), the independent organization that created the testing procedures manufacturers use to rate LED lights. Let’s go ahead and dig a little deeper into those longevity claims.

First, it’s important to understand that LED lights typically don’t “burn out,” the way that incandescents do. Instead, they undergo “lumen depreciation,” which just means that they gradually grow dimmer and dimmer over a very long period of time. The test that the IES uses to determine a bulb’s longevity is known as the LM80, and it calculates how long it will take for an LED to fade enough for you to notice it.

In the LM80 test, engineers run the bulb for nine months straight in order to get an accurate read of the light’s rate of decay. Using those figures, they can calculate the point at which the light will have faded to 70 percent of its original brightness — the point where you’ll start to notice that things aren’t quite as bright as they used to be. This point, known as “L70,” is the current standard in LED longevity. If an LED says it’ll last 25,000 hours, it’s really saying that it will take the bulb 25,000 hours to fade down to 70 percent brightness.

This isn’t to say that LEDs don’t fail. They definitely do. As with any device relying on tiny, delicate electrical components, things can go wrong. Fortunately, more and more LED bulbs come with multiyear warranties for cases of mechanical failure. Some manufacturers, like GE and Cree, offer affordable LED bulbs with 10-year warranties. Consumers with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding LED longevity claims should look for bulbs like these, made by manufacturers willing to put their money where their mouth is.

What if I don’t want an LED?

I’d argue that LEDs are just about always worth the extra upfront cash (especially now that you can get good ones for just a few bucks per bulb). Still, if you aren’t ready to make the jump, or if you just want something cheaper at the register, then you’ll be happy to know that there are still alternatives, starting with:

CFLs

Average cost: $2 to $20
Average wattage: 9W to 52W
Average life expectancy: 10,000 hours

Before LEDs exploded into the lighting scene, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs to you and me) were seen by many as the heir apparent to incandescent lighting. Despite the fact that CFLs use between one-fifth and one-third the energy of incandescents, and typically save one to five times their purchase price over the course of their lifetime, many people weren’t thrilled at the idea of switching over.

Some find the whitish light output of CFL bulbs less aesthetically pleasing than the naturally warm tone of most incandescents. Others are quick to point out that CFL bulbs that regularly get powered on and off for short periods of time tend to see a significant decrease in life expectancy. There’s also the common complaint that most CFLs aren’t dimmable, and that they often take a second or two after being switched on to fully light up.

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Aren’t CFL bulbs dangerous?

Like all fluorescents, CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury — typically 3 to 5 milligrams (mg), although some contain less. This creates the potential for pollution when CFL bulbs are improperly disposed of, something that led to a unique environmental argumentagainst the phasing out of incandescents (although, to be fair, this was before LEDs were seen as such a viable option).

The amount of mercury vapor in a standard CFL bulb is about one-hundredth of what you’d find in an old-fashioned thermometer. Even in such a small amount, mercury merits a degree of caution, as direct exposure can cause damage to the brain, lungs, and kidneys. That said, if a CFL shatters on your kitchen floor, you don’t need to panic or evacuate your home. Just be sure to open a window and let the room air out for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer the glass and dust into a sealable container (and don’t use a vacuum cleaner — you don’t want to kick those chemicals up into the air). If you can take the broken bulb to a recycling center for proper disposal, great. If not, there’s a good chance you can dispose of the bulb at your local hardware store. (For more info on CFLs and mercury, click here.)

Incandescents

Average cost: $1 to $10
Average wattage: 40W to 150W
Average life expectancy: 1,000 hours

When I tell you to picture a light bulb, chances are good that you’re envisioning an incandescent. This is the classic bulb of Thomas Edison: a tungsten filament trapped within a glass enclosure. Electricity heats the filament to a point where it glows, and voila, you have light.

EISA didn’t ban incandescents outright, but it’s true that bulbs unable to keep up with the rising standards will be phased out (the majority of incandescents have already met this fate). However, the door is still wide open for non-traditional incandescents to take their place, and we’re already seeing some manufacturers rise to the challenge with high-efficiency incandescent bulbs that manage to meet the new standards. Key among these high-efficiency bulbs is yet another lighting option you’ll want to consider.

Halogens

Average cost: $2 to $15
Average wattage: 29W to 72W
Average life expectancy: 1,000 hours

Halogens are just incandescent bulbs with a bit of halogen gas surrounding the filament. This gas helps “recycle” the burned-up tungsten back onto the filament, making for a slightly more efficient light. And, unlike the mercury in CFLs, this gas isn’t anything that could be classified as hazardous waste.

Due to their relative similarity to classic incandescents — both in light quality and in cost — halogens can work as a good compromise bulb for consumers who need to replace their incandescents, but who also aren’t ready to switch over to CFLs or LEDs quite yet.

What information should I be looking for?

You want to be sure that you’ll enjoy living with whatever light bulb you purchase, especially if you’re choosing a long-lasting bulb that you’ll live with for years. Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission now requires light bulb manufacturers to put a “Lighting Facts” label onto their products’ packaging, similar to the “Nutrition Facts” label that you’ll find on packaged food.

These Lighting Facts include everything from the estimated yearly cost of using the bulb to more obscure figures, like lumens and color temperature. If you want to shop smart, it will help to understand as much of that terminology as you can.

Lumens

If you’re buying a bulb these days, you’ll be left in the dark if you don’t know what a lumen is. The actual definition gets a bit complicated, involving things like steradians and candela, but don’t worry, because all that you really need to know is that lumens are units of brightness. The more lumens a bulb boasts, the brighter it will be. So, how does this information help you?

Let me give you an example. If you look at CFL or LED bulbs, you’ll see that most all of them are marketed as “replacements” for incandescent bulbs of specific wattages. You’ll probably see the word “equivalent” used, too, as in “60-watt equivalent.” This can be frustratingly misleading, because watts measure energy usage, not brightness, and “equivalent” often means something closer to “equivalent… ish.”

In other words, relying on these wattage equivalencies on the front of the box can lead you to buy a bulb that ends up being far too dim or too bright for your needs.

This is where understanding lumens really comes in handy. With lumens listed on each and every bulb, you’ll always have a concrete comparison of how bright any two bulbs actually are. The bigger the lumen count, the brighter the bulb — easy enough, right?

OK, so how many lumens do I need?

Over the last century, we’ve been trained to think about light purely in terms of wattages, so it isn’t surprising that most people really have no idea of how many lumens they actually need in a bulb. Until you form an idea of how bright is bright enough for your tastes, stick with these figures:

Replacing a 40W bulb: look for at least 450 lumens
Replacing a 60W bulb: look for at least 800 lumens
Replacing a 75W bulb: look for at least 1,100 lumens
Replacing a 100W bulb: look for at least 1,600 lumens

Color temperature

After lumens, the next concept you’ll want to understand is color temperature. Measured on the Kelvin scale, color temperature isn’t really a measure of heat. Instead, it’s a measure of the color that a light source produces, ranging from yellow on the low end of the scale to bluish on the high end, with whitish light in the middle.

An easy way to keep track of color temperature is to think of a flame: it starts out yellow and orange, but when it gets really hot, it turns blue. You could also think of color temperature in terms of the sun — low, yellowy color temperatures mimic the tone of light at sunrise or sunset, while hotter, more bluish-white color temperatures are more akin to daylight (sure enough, bulbs with color temperatures like these are commonly called “daylight” bulbs). This is also why a lot of people prefer high color temperatures during the day and lower color temperatures in the morning and evening. Some smart bulbs can even shift back and forth throughout the day.

Generally speaking, incandescents sit at the bottom of the scale with their yellow light, while CFLs and LEDs have long been thought to tend toward the high, bluish end of the spectrum. This has been a steady complaint about new lighting alternatives, as many people prefer the warm, familiar, low color temperature of incandescents. Manufacturers are listening, though, and in this case they heard consumers loud and clear, with more and more low-color-temperature CFL and LED options hitting the shelves. Don’t believe me? Take another look at those two paper lamps in the picture above, because they’re both CFL bulbs — from the same manufacturer, no less.

These days, bulb shoppers will find so many color temperature options that some lighting companies have cleverly begun color-coding their packaging: blue for high-color-temperature bulbs, yellow for low-color-temperature ones, and white for bulbs that fall in between. With so many choices available, the notion that the phase-out of incandescents is taking warm, cozy lighting with it is a complete myth at this point.

If you’re confused, just remember to check that Lighting Facts label. For warm, yellowy light, look for 2,700 K. For hotter, bluish-white light, go with anything above 5,000 K. Anything in between will likely be more neutral and closer to pure white.

Color rendering index

Unless you live in a disco, you probably want the colors in your home to look somewhat traditional. This is where the color rendering index, or CRI, comes in. The CRI is a score from 1 to 100 that rates a bulb’s ability to accurately illuminate colors. You can think of the CRI as a light bulb’s GPA for colors, as it actually averages multiple scores for multiple shades. Manufacturers aren’t required to list the bulb’s CRI number on the packaging, but many of them choose to do so anyway, so you’ll want to know what it means.


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Which LED bulbs are best for eye-popping color quality? (pictures)

To understand CRI a little better, let’s imagine a basketball game played outdoors on a sunny day between a team in red jerseys and a team in green jerseys. Daylight is the ideal for making colors look the way they should, so it gets a CRI score of 100. Most people watching this game would have no problem telling the teams apart, because red would appear clearly red, and green would look green.

Now let’s imagine that same basketball game — except now it’s being played inside that disco I mentioned earlier. We’re indoors, it’s dim, and we’re stuck with multicolored spotlights as the only light source. A purple one shines down on a very confused point guard as he takes a shot. Can you tell if he’s on the green team or the red one? I wouldn’t be surprised if you couldn’t, because the CRI score of lights like those is abysmal.

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Now here’s the rub: the CRI is highly imperfect and not always useful (the reasons why are mind-numbing, but you can read more here if you’re curious/masochistic). The important takeaway is that CRI scores are most helpful if you’re talking about bulbs that sit in the middle of the color temperature spectrum, in between those yellow and blue extremes. You’ll probably see references to “white” or “natural” light on bulbs like these. In these cases, the CRI score can be a great way to tell a good bulb from a great bulb.

In general, anything over 80 is probably decent enough for your home, but we’re starting to see CRI scores creeping up into the nineties on some very affordable bulbs. The GE Reveal BR30 floodlight LED won our Editors’ Choice distinction for its emphasis on color rendering. There’s even a $5 LED from Ikea that scores in the upper 80s. If accurate color rendering is important to you, look for lights like these. And if you’re buying bulbs on the high (blue) or low (yellow) end of the spectrum, take any and all CRI claims with a grain of salt.

How do I tell if a light bulb is efficient?

In simple terms, a light bulb is just a device that converts electricity into light. The more lumens of light you get per watt of electricity, the more efficient the bulb is. With incandescent bulbs, efficiency is easy to understand because a specific wattage of electricity will always heat a tungsten filament to a specific temperature, which in turn will yield a specific level of light. This means that, generally speaking, one incandescent will be more or less as efficient (or by today’s standards, inefficient) as another.

With LEDs and CFLs, the bulbs still convert electricity into light, but the methodology is totally different. Light output isn’t fixed to the temperature of a filament, which means there’s more wiggle room for differences in efficiency. With good engineering, a bulb can put out more light from the same amount of electricity. Simply put, unlike incandescents, LED and CFL bulbs are decidedly not created equal.

This is another place where it’s essential to understand lumens. A 10-watt LED can easily outshine a 12-watt competitor if it converts watts into lumens more efficiently. All the wattage tells you is how much power the bulb uses. The lumens tell you how much light the bulb puts out. The ratio between the two tells you how efficient the bulb is. The more lumens you’re getting per watt, the better the bulb is at converting electricity into light.

What other factors will I want to consider?

So far, we’ve covered the light bulb basics (and then some), but if you really want to get picky about your home lighting, or if you just want to delve a little deeper into the subject, there’s a lot more to take into consideration.

Bulb shape

As you’re probably aware, light bulbs come in a fairly wide variety of shapes. Sure, it’s easy enough to tell a hardware store clerk that you want “one of those flamey-looking lights,” or “just a normal ol’ bulby light bulb,” but knowing the actual nomenclature might save you some time.

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Let’s start with the base of the bulb, the part that screws in. In the US, the most common shape by far is E26, with the “E” standing for Edison and the “26” referring to the diameter of the base in millimeters. You might also see E27 bulbs from time to time, which is the European standard. Those should still fit into common American fixtures, but keep in mind that voltage ratings are different in the two regions, with American bulbs rated for 120 volts compared to 220-240 volts in Europe. For smaller sockets, like you might find with a candelabra, you’ll want to look for an E12 base.

As for the bulb itself, the typical shape that you’re probably used to is an A19 bulb. Increase that number to A21 or A23, and you’ve got the same shape, but bigger. Bulbs made to resemble flames are F-shaped, which is easy enough to remember, as are globes, which go by the letter G. If it’s a floodlight you want, you’ll want to look for “BR” (bulging reflector) or “PAR” (parabolic aluminized reflector). Those bulbs are designed to throw all their light in one direction only, which makes them useful for spot lighting, overhead lighting and the headlights in your car.

Incandescent lookalikes

You’ll also want to keep an eye out for a growing number of LEDs that go out of their way to mimic the appearance of old-school incandescents. Their trick? Fake filaments of light-emitting diodes strung together in columns or twisted designs.

You’ll often see the word “vintage” throw around with bulbs like these, and a lot of them are pretty neat-looking, especially for exposed bulb setups. Just be aware that, with some of these bulbs, the fake filaments can cast shadows within the pool of light, making them a bad pick to put under a lampshade. Then again, if you’re getting a design-minded bulb like this, then you probably won’t want to hide it under a lampshade to begin with.

Something else to keep in mind: vintage-style bulbs like these often have a bad habit of playing fast and loose with brightness claims. Many of them use terms like “60W replacement” while also putting out far less light than those terms suggest. As always, remember to pay attention to the lumen count, because that’s the number that matters as far as brightness is concerned.


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14 LEDs that shine a light on design (pictures)

What about those weird-looking LEDs?

While some LEDs go out of their way to mimic the familiar look of incandescent lighting, others take a different approach. After all, those classic bulb shapes were designed to optimize incandescent light output, just like the twisty shape of CFL light bulbs is designed to optimize fluorescent light output. Why shouldn’t we do the same for LEDs?

Well, some manufacturers are doing exactly that. The most notable example is probably Philips, which introduced a flattened down, ping-pong-paddle-esque light called the Philips SlimStyle back in 2013. In 2014, Philips extended the SlimStyle line to include a flattened BR30 floodlight LED, too. Meanwhile, GE introduced us to stick-shaped “Bright Stik” LED bulbs back in 2015.

There’s even more experimentation with design coming from smaller names looking for a way to stand out from the crowd. Green Creative recently introduced its own take on the flattened-down BR30 floodlight. Called the Cloud LED, this light suspends a flat disk of diodes up above the base of the bulb, with a big, hollow area in the middle. Like the SlimStyle BR30, this design helps it manage heat a whole lot better (and looks pretty darned cool, too.)

Some LEDs focus almost exclusively on that cool factor, aiming to provide light sources that double as conversation starters. Take the Nanoleaf Bloom, for instance, which features a 3D-printed jigsaw assembly with the diodes dotted all over the outside of the bulb. You’ll find a lot of these design-centric light bulbs on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

If that kind of ostentatious approach to design puts you off, don’t worry. Plenty of LEDs tack in the exact opposite direction, and feature builds designed not to stand out, but to blend in. Saffron’s 40W replacement LED is a good example — the design crams LED tech into a classic glass bulb, making it more or less indistinguishable from an incandescent. Or course, with traditional heat sinks left out out of the design, performance suffers a bit, but if you appreciate simple aesthetics, perhaps you can live with that.

Cree’s 4Flow LED is another incandescent imitator that strikes more of a middle ground between performance and design. Its plastic-bodied build has the same silhouette as a traditional A19-shaped incandescent, thanks to cleverly designed convection vents that eliminate the need for bulky heat sinks.

Directionality

Some lights have hardware built into the bulb itself that can block the downward projection of light (BR and PAR bulbs do it intentionally, reflecting that light back upward). These bulbs are fine for something like a recessed light fixture, where they hang upside down and shine straight out, but if you’re buying one for a bedside reading lamp, where downward light is key, it might be disappointingly dim. If you aren’t sure exactly what you’ll need from your bulb in terms of light direction, the safe bet might be to go with a bulb that shines in all directions. The term that you’ll want to look for is “omnidirectional.”

In addition, some non-omnidirectional lights will offer you an idea of just how close to omnidirectional they actually are. 360 degrees of light output is the obvious ideal, but a bulb that offered 330 degrees would probably be close enough.

Dimmability

A majority of modern lighting options now include compatibility with in-wall dimmer switches, and that’s a good thing for anyone who likes the light down low. If this sounds like you, then you’ll want to double check that your bulb’s packaging says the word “dimmable” before you make a purchase.

That said, some bulbs will dim down better than others — and your mileage may vary depending on what switch you’re using, too. Most basic switches dim the light by flashing the power on and off faster than the eye can detect. In many cases, this can cause electromagnetic interference in the bulbs, which can lead to flickering light or a faint buzz from within the bulb.

Testing for these kinds of dimmability concerns is tricky business due to the many variables involved, but we do our best to determine which bulbs are most susceptible. This standard 60W equivalent LED from Philips, for instance, did extremely well on all of the switches we tested it out on, while the Philips SlimStyle LED was noticeably worse.

At any rate, if you’re purchasing new light bulbs to use with dimmer switches, hang on to the receipts until you’ve had a chance to test them out.


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Which LEDs flicker the least? (pictures)

We also test out the dimmable range of each bulb we review — some can dim down lower than others before cutting out to black, and some won’t quite shine at full brightness with the switch dialed all the way back up. You’re probably nitpicking at that point, but hey, sometimes mood lighting matters.

If you’re truly focused on lights that dim well, then you may want to consider a smart LED kit. With an LED-specific dimming mechanism built right into each bulb, there’s no need for a dimmer switch. Instead, you’ll dim the bulb using a smartphone app, a physical remote accessory, or even a voice command if it works with Siri, Alexa, or the Google Assistant. Best of all, you shouldn’t encounter any buzzing or flickering. And hey, while we’re on the subject…

What about smart lighting?

If you’re buying new bulbs, then it absolutely makes sense to stop and ask yourself if it’s worth upgrading to smart lights. Thanks to the popularity of AI assistants like Alexa, it’s a particularly good time to buy in. With millions of people adding dedicated voice controls into their home, upgrading to smart lights has become an increasingly attractive next step. That level of demand has led to a boom in options — many of them more affordable than you might think.

Whether you want an elaborate network of fully automated lights, smart color control, or just a simple bulb that you can program over your phone via Bluetooth, you’ll find a growing number of choices available from a variety of different sources.


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Peer past the LED status quo with these 10 smart bulbs

Your automated-lighting options

It used to be that if you wanted your lights to turn on and off automatically, then you had to rely on a cheap wall socket timer, the kind you might use to control a Christmas tree. These days, it’s easier than ever to dive into the sort of advanced automation controls that can make any home feel modern and futuristic. Use the right devices, and you’ll be able to control your lights in all sorts of creative ways, and make your life a little bit easier in the process.

The most obvious way to get started with smart lighting is with the bulbs themselves. You’ve got plenty of intelligent options from brands both big and small, and to find the one that’s best for you, you’re going to need to understand what sets them apart.


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Connect with these 35 IFTTT-friendly smart devices (pictures)

The first thing to look at is how the bulbs communicate with you. Some offer direct connections with your smart phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which makes setup as simple as screwing the thing in and following the in-app pairing instructions.

Others transmit using a distinct frequency like ZigBee or Z-Wave. Bulbs like those might be a better fit for bigger, more elaborate smart home setups, as it’s typically a little easier to sync them up with things like motion detectors and smart locks. Setup can be slightly more advanced, as you’ll need a separate hub or gateway device capable of translating that distinct frequency into a Wi-Fi signal your router can comprehend.

Some of these kinds of bulbs, including Philips Hue White LEDs and Osram Lightify LEDs, have their own gateway devices, but their starter kits can get expensive. Other smart bulbs, like the Cree Connected LED and the GE Link LED, cost a lot less up front, but don’t come with their own gateways — that means you’ll need a compatible third-party hub in order to control them.

Hubs like those are your best bet at building your own, elaborate smart home setup with different kinds of products from different brands all working together. However, if that sounds like too much of a headache, or if all you want are lights that come on automatically at sunset, then one of those starter kits that comes with its own gateway is probably worth the cash.

One last note: don’t forget to consider smartening things up at the switch, instead. It’s an especially smart solution if you have several bulbs wired to one switch, and the bonus upside is that, unlike with smart bulbs, your automations will work even when the switch is turned off. And if you need help figuring out which switch to go with, well, wouldn’t you know it, we’ve got a buying guide for that, too.

What other smart features should I look for?

There are a few basic features that you’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for as you’re shopping around. The first is smart scheduling, which lets you use an app to set your lights to turn on or off at specific times. With smart scheduling, you can program your lights to wake you up in the morning, or maybe to simulate occupancy while you’re away on vacation. It’s really a core part of connected lighting’s appeal, so just about anything you consider should offer it.

That said, you’ll want to look for a system that gives you as much scheduling control as possible. Setting a light bulb to turn on automatically in the evening is good — setting it to turn on automatically when the sun sets is even better. Some systems will even let you tell the lights to slowly fade on or off over a specified period of time, which can make for a cozy way to fall asleep at night (or a nice alternative to that blaring alarm clock in the morning).

Of course, if you’re considering a bulb that doesn’t come with its own gateway, then you’ll need to look at your various hub options to see what scheduling features their apps offer.

Something else to consider is whether or not the system you’re interested in offers some kind of physical remote — a handy way to help you keep your phone in your pocket. The Philips Hue Tap is a cool, kinetic-powered switch that needs no batteries, and the Connected by TCP kit offers a simpler, more affordable remote.

Other features are going to be more product specific. For instance, Osram’s smart LED kit features bulbs that are “color tunable,” which means you can dial the color temperature up and down between warm, yellowy tones and hotter, more bluish-white shades, or set it to change as the day progresses. A startup called Sengled has a variety of innovative smart bulb designs, including ones with cameras, speakers, and Wi-Fi extenders built right in.

Shop around, and you’ll also find a growing number of third-party integrations that open the door for intriguing new smart bulb functionality. LEDs like Lifx offer direct integrations with the Nest Learning Thermostat capable of tying your smart lighting in with smart climate control. Insteon’s LEDs are fully supported by Microsoft, which means you can control them using Windows Live Tiles, or simply by talking to Cortana.

Keep an eye out for smart lights that tie into home security, too, because you’ve got a growing number of rather unique options to consider. BeOn’s Bluetooth smart bulbs have built in microphones, and can turn on automatically if they hear your doorbell or your burglar alarm. They also feature built-in batteries to keep them working even when the lamp is switched off — or if the power goes out. If you use night vision cameras in your home, the Lifx Plus LED will put out invisible infrared light during the night to help them see further.

What about voice control?

Virtual voice assistants are a growing fixture in our lives, and in our homes now, too, thanks to products like the Amazon Echo smart speaker. More and more, people are looking for new ways to put these voice-activated helpers to use — and smart lighting is a pretty perfect fit.

You’ve already got a lot of options here, especially with Amazon’s Alexa, whose catalog of smart home skills seems to be growing the fastest. Smart lighting names like Lutron, Lifx, Philips Hue, TP-Link, Haiku and more already boast Alexa compatibility, along with lighting-friendly smart home platforms like Wink, SmartThings, and Insteon. No matter what kind of bulb you’re looking for, the odds are very good that you’ll be able to find at least one that works with Alexa.


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Here are the smart bulbs that work with Alexa

The appeal of voice-activated smart lighting is pretty obvious. Remote control of your home’s lights by way of a smartphone app or a physical remote is one thing, but being able to dim the lights up and down with a simple voice command takes the convenience factor to a whole new level — and it’s particularly helpful for people with physical disabilities or other mobility issues.

Beyond Alexa, you could also look for Apple HomeKit-compatible smart lights that work with Siri, or lights that work with the Google Home smart speaker’s Google Assistant. Many smart lighting options work with a variety of platforms, which gives you a lot of flexibility over how to build out your voice-activated smart lighting setup.

Now Playing:Watch this: Philips Hue vs. Lifx: A color-changing smart home showdown
3:04
Color control

If you’re looking for a little more color in your life, then be sure and take a look at a product like the Philips Hue Starter Kit. Aside from being fully automatable via a mobile app and control hub, the Hue LED bulbs are capable of on-demand color changes. Just pull out your phone, select one of millions of possible shades, and the light will match it. And if you’re into voice control, Hue bulbs hit the compatibility trifecta — they’ll work with Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant.

Because Philips opened its lighting controls to third-party developers, you’ll also find lots of fun novelty uses for Hue bulbs, like changing the color of your lights in rhythm with whatever music you’re playing. There’s even an app that’ll sync your Hue lights up with certain TV programming. Philips plans to double down on the idea in a big way this year.

Hue lights are also directly compatible with the popular web service IFTTT, with recipes already available that will change the color of your lights to match the weather, or to signal a touchdown from your favorite football team, or even to indicate when your stocks are doing well.

Now Playing:Watch this: Putting color-changing smart LEDs to the test
3:11

Of course, Philips isn’t your only option. We’ve seen new, color-changing competitors emerge over the last few years — most notably, the Lifx LED. Lifx has a much brighter light output than Philips Hue, and since each bulb uses a built-in Wi-Fi radio, you won’t need a hub in order to use them. And while it’s hard to overstate the appeal of Philips’ broad, well-developed platform and third-party integrations, Lifx has made impressive work of closing the gap.

If color-coordinated smart functionality makes your eyes roll, it still illuminates one last important thing about buying lights: you should look for the lighting setup that you’ll enjoy the most, because you’ll be using it more often than any other appliance in your home. Even if smart lights aren’t for you, there’s no reason not to be smart about your lighting choices. Know your options, shop intelligently, and you’ll love your lights for years to come.

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5 common MacBook problems and how to fix them – CNET

Is your Mac is starting to show signs of age and is acting strangely or feeling sluggish? Before you junk it, there might be some easy fixes to what ails it.

Is your Mac is starting to show signs of age and is acting strangely or feeling sluggish? Before you junk it, there might be some easy fixes to what ails it. Here are five fixes to five common Mac problems.

1. Startup issues

If your Mac fails to boot properly and you find yourself staring at a blank screen or gray startup screen instead of your desktop, then it’s time to try booting in Safe Mode. In Safe Mode, MacOS will boot with the bare minimum of software and drivers required and will run a check of your startup disk and repair any directory issues that might be the cause of your startup ills.

To start up in safe mode, start your Mac and then press and hold the Shift key. The Apple logo will appear and then the login screen. You can release the Shift key when the Apple logo disappears and the login screen appears. It may take a few minutes before you get to the login screen as MacOS runs its diagnostics on your hard disk. To leave Safe Mode and start up your Mac per usual, just restart your Mac without holding any keys.

2. Incompatible login items

If you find yourself staring at a blue screen when you start up your Mac, it might mean that one of your startup items — apps that start automatically when you start up your Mac — is incompatible with MacOS. With a bit of trial and error, you can identify which app is the problem child.

You can remove login items one at a time and start up your Mac after each removal to see if the problem is gone. To do so, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups and click your name on the left under Current User. Next, click the Login Items tab above the window to the right. Highlight an app and then click the “-” sign below. It’ll get removed from the Login Items list and you can restart your Mac to see if your startup issue has been fixed. If not, you can head back to the list and remove another app and keep going until you find the culprit. You can add items back to the Startup Items list by hitting the “+” button and selecting items from your Applications folder.

3. Unresponsive app

You might find that an app will occasionally trip up your Mac and hang. And when an app hangs, it freezes you out and won’t let you do anything, including quit out of it. Enter: Force Quit. You can call up the Force Quit menu from the Apple icon in the upper-left corner or by hitting Command-Option-Escape. Just highlight the app that’s not responding and hit the Force Quit button. (You can also select multiple apps to force quit by using holding down the Command or Shift keys when making your selections.)

4. Spinning beach ball

If you are seeing the spinning beach ball with increasingly regularity, then it’s time to take a look at what might be causing the slowdown. Open the Activity Monitor (by searching for it or finding it in the Utilities folder, which is inside your Applications folder) to see how much of an impact the apps you are currently running have on your system resources. In the Activity Monitor window, you can see real-time stats on the amount of CPU and memory resources each app is using. You can also use the Activity Monitor to quit any app that’s using more than its fair share of resources. Just highlight an app from the list, click the X button in the upper-left corner, and then choose Quit or Force Quit.

5. No internet connection

Sometimes my MacBook ($1,249.00 at Amazon.com) freaks out and can’t connect to my Wi-Fi network when my Windows laptop and iPhone ($1,099.99 at Best Buy) are having no networking issues at all. The quickest fix I’ve found when my MacBook’s Wi-Fi status shows No Internet Connection is to tell it to forget the network and then reconnect as if it were brand-new.

On the Network page in System Preferences, click the Advanced button in the lower left and you’ll see a list Preferred Networks. These are the Wi-Fi connections you’ve connected to in the past and your MacBook remembers for future uses. Highlight your Wi-Fi network and click the “-” button and then choose Remove to forget it. With your network removed and forgotten, you can click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and reconnect to your network by entering your password and starting anew.

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