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.

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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:


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:


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.)


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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
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

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 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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Cisco CEO: “We are still only on the front end” of a new version of the network

Fresh off a positive earnings call that saw Cisco report $11.9 billion in revenue for the 2Q 2018 – a 3 percent increase from the same quarter in 2017 and the first time in 6 quarters the company reported year-over-year sales increases – CEO Chuck Robbins has a lot to crow about.

Fresh off a positive earnings call that saw Cisco report $11.9 billion in revenue for the 2Q 2018 – a 3 percent increase from the same quarter in 2017 and the first time in 6 quarters the company reported year-over-year sales increases – CEO Chuck Robbins has a lot to crow about.

First of all, the company’s most strategic new direction: The Network. Intuitive, more commonly known as intent-based networking is rapidly finding acceptance amongst customers, Robbins said.

+RELATED: Getting grounded in intent-based networking; What is intent-based networking?+

At the center of its intent-based networking plan is the Catalyst 9000 switch which found a home in 2,100 new Cisco customers premises this quarter – bringing the total to 3,100 since its announcement last June. Robbins called it the fastest growing product in Cisco’s history.

Robbins talked with Network World’s Michael Cooney about the status of the networking giant’s key intent-based networking push, campus-switching directions and the use of artificial intelligence technologies in the enterprise in an interview after the recent earnings call.

Cooney: Reflective of the earnings call, can you update our readers on the status of Network. Intuitive rollout?

Robbins: If you think about what’s happening with our customers today, they are dealing with multiple public-cloud providers, they are dealing with 10, 20 or 50 SaaS providers they are getting services from, and they still have private data-center infrastructure to support. And then they have this explosion of IoT devices and increasing connectivity at the edge so when you look at all that, the network is really going to be at the heart of how customers manage increasing complexity.

For those reasons and others, we last June announced Network. Intuitive because we felt like we need to fundamentally reinvent networking and how networks are built to accommodate what our customers are trying to deal with now and how we can help them manage this complexity in the future.

So we launched Network. Intuitive and the first platform was the Catalyst 9000, and we also launched the DNA Center which is an automation platform. We launched encrypted traffic analytics, which lets users see malware inside encrypted traffic without decrypting it. Fast forward to this quarter the real highlight for us was that our core innovation, the Catalyst 9000, had more than double the customers who have adopted the technology. It is the fastest ramping new product in the history of Cisco, which is pretty amazing.

We had 1,000 customers after the first quarter, and we have 3,100 customers now. We have more platforms that will transition to this architecture. Enterprise customers, when you move them to a new architecture, they are going to take their time evaluating it to make sure it can integrate into their overarching management system and to make sure it is appropriately ready for their environments.

Cooney: Can you delve a little deeper into the subscription idea and what that brings to customers?

The Catalyst 9000 was introduced with a subscription that brings a number of innovations to the customer. A couple weeks ago we added more features to the intent-based architecture around assurance across the data center, the networks as well as the WIFI networks.

The predominant number of the Catalyst 9000s are going out with the advanced software subscription which is really what enables the automation and the security embedded in the network and the analytics capability.

So now if you look back at what our customers are dealing with around complexity and why this matters so much – Mckinsey [McKinsey Study of Network Operations for Cisco – 2016] had said the customers are spending $60 billion annually operating networks – three times what they spend on the network technology itself. The study also showed 80-95 percent of network changes are performed manually which leads to error, and 43 percent of the time the IT team spends troubleshooting network problems. So getting at all those issues is what we have been all about. That’s what lead us to being this new version of the network, which candidly we are still only on the front end of.

Cooney: Can you expand further to talk about the advanced software and why it is important?

If you go back to the original launch we talked about intent, which is really delivered through automation and context which is delivered through analytics. What we have done is re-written our operating system to not only support modern API structures and programmability but also to build analytics capabilities out of the network which helps deliver this context. So if you look at these assurance capabilities we have built, we have the Cisco Network Assurance engine, which use this verification of what’s happening on the network to help keep the businesses running as the network is changing. We launched Cisco DNA Center, which is the assurance ability that feeds back into that overall DNA Center, which will be the crux automation and analytics platform. This gives greater insights and visibility to reduce time and money spent to get at those issues – like cutting down on troubleshooting costs across both wired and wireless environments.

Also what we did is we actually created the capability to make this platform backwards compatible for a number of our products that are out there today this new operating system that we wrote enables it to support at least a full generation of products that customers could actually run across a broader set of products than just the Catalyst 9000, so not just limited to Catalyst 9000.

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iOS 12 release date, news and rumors

The iOS 12 release date in 2018 shouldn’t surprise you by now – Apple always launches its big iPhone and iPad update at the same time every year.

Its new software features, however, are always filled with some unexpected and exciting news.

The iOS 12 release date in 2018 shouldn’t surprise you by now – Apple always launches its big iPhone and iPad update at the same time every year.

Its new software features, however, are always filled with some unexpected and exciting news. We fully expect groundbreaking ideas, but also a healthy dose iOS 11 fixes given our many, many ongoing iOS 11 problems.

With the launch of iPhone X last year and the theoretical iPhone X2 release date happening later in 2018, Apple seems poised to make more big changes.

Here’s our list of what we expect from iOS 12, given leaks and rumors about the next big mobile operating system update for the iPhone and iPad.

Cut to the chaseWhat is iOS 12? Apple’s next big iPhone and iPad software update When is it out? Likely a June announcement and beta, September launch How much will it cost? Nothing. iOS 12 will remain free.iOS 12 release date

The iOS 12 release date isn’t a lock, but we fully expect to see the changes debut at Apple’s WWDC 2018 keynote in early June. That’s less than four months away.

Apple typically announces its new iOS update during this developers conference and also issues the first developer beta within the next week. A public beta has also launched in June for every non-developer willing to test it out.

Apple needs these betas more than ever for iOS 12, as it’s been plagued with so many iOS 11 problems. The company is unlikely to stop issuing the unfinished software since it values this feedback from so many users.

The actual iOS 12 release date for everyone else is expected to be in September, right as the iPhone 9 and maybe the iPhone X2 launch. We don’t yet know the names of Apple’s next phones, but rumors point to a cheaper version of the iPhone X with an LCD screen and an iterative update by the way of the X2.

iOS 12 to focus on reliability over big changes

“iOS 12 just works,” may be Apple’s big message about its next iPhone update, as it’s reportedly focusing on reliability and shelving many exciting features.

There have been so many glitches and bugs with the current mobile operating system that the team said to be working on the software allegedly got a directive to drop refreshes to the Camera, Mail, and Photos app to work on stabilization. We may also miss out on a planned home screen redesigned.

This is both good and bad news if you were looking forward to iOS 12. There may be fewer front-facing features, but your iPhone may reset less. It’s hard to argue with that.

iOS 12 apps and macOS together at last

One of the biggest new iOS 12 features may actually be for you computer: Apple may bring first and third-party iOS apps to your Mac computer. Why can’t you control your smart home with the Home app via that all-powerful iMac Pro? It’s a ridiculous notion.

Apple is rumored to be allowing developers to expand their app ecosystem to the forthcoming macOS 10.14 update. Apple’s own apps, like Home, are also said to be finally making the jump, according to Bloomberg.

More Animojis in more places (like iPad)

Whether you demanded it or vehemently opposed it, Apple is due to bring more Animojis to iOS 12 for use with the iPhone X Face ID camera. The navigation of these character masks should get easier too, according to Bloomberg.

Apple’s Animoji character may make two jumps. First, the natural jump to FaceTime for video chats behind a virtual panda, robot and poop mask. Second to what may be a new iPad Pro 2018 with a Face ID camera. We’ve seen some evidence of an updated iPad recently, so that makes sense.

Here are more features we wish were coming to iOS 12…

What we want to see

While nothing is known about iOS 12 yet we have a clear idea of some of the things we want to see, such as the following.

1. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles that work properly

Control Center has been improved for iOS 11, but one thing we’re not such fans of is the fact that you can’t actually turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth from it.

Tap either toggle and your device will disconnect from Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth accessories, but won’t actually turn off their radios.

There are good reasons for this, as it ensures accessories like the Apple Pencil and Apple Watch 3 will continue to work, as well as features such as AirDrop and AirPlay, but there are also plenty of reasons you might want to fully disable them.

Currently to do that you have to head to the main Settings screen, so in iOS 12 we’d like there to at least be an option to have proper ‘off’ toggles in Control Center – perhaps with a harder 3D Touch?

2. Wish list returned to the App Store

The App Store has been overhauled as part of iOS 11, and for the most part it’s for the better, but one feature has been killed off in the process, namely wish lists.

Previously, if you saw an app or game you liked the look of but didn’t want to buy it then and there (perhaps because the price was high or you were using cellular data) you could add it to your wish list so you wouldn’t forget about it.

You can’t do that anymore, and nor can you see your old wish list, so good luck remembering anything you’ve added. It was a handy feature and we’d like to see it – along with everything we added to it – returned in iOS 12.

3. Camera controls in the camera app

People often talk about how intuitive iOS is, and for the most part they’re right, but there are some aspects which really aren’t – namely the camera controls, or rather their location.

If you’ve not used iOS before you’d expect to find them in the camera app, but some, including video resolution, file formats and whether or not to show a grid, are instead on a sub menu of the main Settings screen, meaning you have to actually leave the camera app and make several additional taps to change them.

It also means that some users may not even know they exist, especially since some controls are housed in the app, so you might reasonably assume that they all are. We really want to see this changed for iOS 12.

4. A movable back button

When moving around apps in iOS you’ll often want to go back to a previous screen, and as there’s no hardware back button you instead have to tap a tiny option in the top left corner of the display.

This isn’t ideal if you’re right handed, as it can be a bit of a stretch when using a larger device such as an iPhone 8 Plus, so we’d like to see its position become customizable in iOS 12.

5. More powerful Files

Files promised to be a file explorer and manager for iOS, bringing it closer to a desktop experience, or at least to Android levels of control. But in reality, the first time you open Files you probably won’t see much of anything.

You can connect cloud drives to it, but anything locally stored won’t be visible unless you manually save it to Files. It makes the app a bit confusing and clunky and means you never have a true view of your system’s files and folders.

For iOS 12 we’d like to see it turned into a proper file manager.

6. More Control Center customization

With iOS 11 Apple has let you pick what you see in Control Center, but its selection isn’t comprehensive.

We’d love the power to add any setting or app shortcut we want, and also to remove the likes of music controls and screen mirroring, which currently you can’t.

7. System-wide autofill

Password managers are a fast, secure way to log into your various apps and accounts. Or, they’re secure anyway, and on most devices they’re fast, but not always on iOS.

That’s because for a password manager to autofill the login fields of an app, the app’s developer has to have manually enabled it, which few have.

Apple has somewhat improved things by adding a ‘Password Autofill For Apps’ feature to iOS 11, which does exactly what the name suggests, but only for passwords you’ve stored with Apple.

Apps still can’t tap into your favorite password manager automatically, so the first time you log in to them you’ll have to either type out your username and password manually or copy and paste.

On a computer or Android phone the password manager experience is seamless. On iOS it’s anything but, so we want this fixed for iOS 12.

Having iOS 11 problems? Here’s how to fix them

The best AT&T plans in February 2018

The best AT&T plan you can get will depend on what your needs are, but we’ll help make choosing easier for you. If you’re set on AT&T as your mobile carrier and you’ve already grabbed the best AT&T phone, you’ll want to make sure you get the perfect mobile plan.

The best AT&T plan you can get will depend on what your needs are, but we’ll help make choosing easier for you. If you’re set on AT&T as your mobile carrier and you’ve already grabbed the best AT&T phone, you’ll want to make sure you get the perfect mobile plan.

We’ve sorted through all of AT&T’s plans and have all the info you need to make your choice, whether that’s a high-data, streaming ready plan, or a simple low-cost plan.

Check out all the AT&T plans available to you.

Jump straight there:View the plans at att.comChoose your phone:The best AT&T phones available this month

AT&T Plans: Explained

You don’t have to worry so much these days about paying huge fees for making calls while you’re out of town or during peak hours. But mobile data is the big budget killer these days. AT&T has a number of plans with unlimited calls and texts and data allotments ranging from 1GB to 20GB, and ranging in price from $30 a month to $110 a month.

You can save money on these plans by taking advantage of AT&T data-sharing plan. Through this service you can add additional devices to the account and share the data allotment across all of them, up to 10 devices.

With these shared plans, each phone requires a monthly access charge of $20, including the first phone on the plan. Tablets and wearable devices that connect to data are $10 each month.

With these plans, you don’t have to worry about fees for going over the data allotment. Data speeds will simply be slowed down once you hit the cap. If there is any unused data, it will roll over the next month.

For 10GB plans and higher, calls and texts to Mexico and Canada are free as well, with no roaming charges for use in Mexico.

AT&T’s Unlimited plans

If you don’t want to spend a bunch of time thinking about which data allotment is right for you, you can just opt for one of AT&T’s Unlimited plans. It has an Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus plan with varying features that we’ll discuss further in.

If you’re really big into streaming content from your mobile device, AT&T also has a few packages that bundle streaming services into its Unlimited plans. All of these Unlimited plans have a cap of 22GB a month after which data speeds may be reduced, but you won’t be charged any fees for going over that cap. Customers who enroll in the unlimited plans can receive a $5 discount if they use AutoPay and Paperless billing. AT&T also allows Unlimited plans to have multiple lines on them.

How much data do you really need?

While 1GB of a data might be enough for someone who mostly uses their phone for calling and texting, and the occasional search on Yelp, it may not be enough for most of us. If you stream a lot of video you may be looking at 10GB plans and up. For a lot of Internet browsing and Instagram use, somewhere in the ballpark of 5GB may be enough. Thankfully, even if you use up all of your high speed data, AT&T continues to provide data at lower speeds, so you can still get that Instagram photo uploaded.

AT&T Next: Device installment and upgrade plan

If the upfront cost a new phone for your new data plan is too much, AT&T offers an installment plan service to spread the cost of the device over 24 to 30 months. The Next and Next Every Year plans also offer a change to trade-in your phone and upgrade before you’ve finished paying off the device. Here’s how each plan works.

AT&T Next

AT&T Next lets you break up your device payments over 30 months. At the end of the 30 months your monthly payments will drop, since the phone is paid off. Alternatively, after 24 months, you have the option of trading in your phone to upgrade to a new phone.

AT&T Next Every Year

If you can afford slightly higher monthly payments and want to have a new phone every year, the AT&T Next Every Year installment plan spreads the cost of a device over 24 months but lets you upgrade to a new phone every year. After 12 payments, you can trade in your device and switch to a new one.

The best AT&T plans for you:

Now that you know about the types of plans, how you can share them with family and friends, and how to get a device on an installment plan, let’s take a look at the plans themselves.

These Mobile Share Flex plans are a simple way to pay for just the amount of data you need, and save big if you have more people to split the monthly bill with. Keep in mind that every device you add costs $20, including the primary device on the plan, so the prices listed are just for the data plan itself.

AT&T offers a $10 discount to the plans if users are subscribed with AutoPay and Paperless billing. Customers can also use the Wi-Fi hotspot feature of their phone, but only five devices at a time can use this.

Let’s take a look at each tier of AT&T’s plans and see which one fits your needs the best.

1. AT&T Mobile Share Flex plan | 1GB data | $35 per month
If you’re a pretty light mobile user, you can probably get away with this plan. If you like to watch any video on your data plan, this may not cut it. While youc can still use data after you hit the 1GB cap, it will be significantly slowed down. View this plan at AT&T

2. AT&T Mobile Share Flex plan | 5GB | $60 per month
This plan is at a sweet spot for multiple users, as the 5GB can be split two ways for moderate users while keeping the price within reason. It can even be split three ways if everyone agrees to go easy on the streaming. View this plan at AT&T

3. AT&T Mobile Share Advantageplan | 10GB | $85 per month
For bigger families or heavy mobile users, this plan may work out nicely. For a single line, you’d be looking at $105 total, which is more than AT&T’s unlimited plans. So, solo users that use over close to 10GB a month should consider an unlimited plan. The plan looks better when you split that 10GB with multiple users. View this plan at AT&T

4. AT&T Mobile ShareFlex plan | 20GB | $110 per month
20GB is just that much more to share between a group of friends or a family. At this tier, single line customers would be smarter to look at the AT&T’s Unlimited Plans, which comes with 22GB of full-speed data at a lower price. View this plan at AT&T

AT&T Unlimited plans

1. Unlimited Choice Plan | $45 per month
This is something of a no frills plan, but if you use a lot of data and have a limited budget, it’s an affordable option. Mobile hotspot is not allowed, video streaming is limited to 1.5Mbps and data speeds are limited to 3Mbps, but you still get 22GB of data to work with each month. This plan also comes with free HBO. See the unlimited plan on AT&T

2. Unlimited Plus| $75 per month
AT&T sweetens the deal with this Unlimited Plus plan. The plan allows full speed data for 22GB, after which the speeds may be throttled. HD video quality is allowed, and so is mobile hotspot for up to 10GB a month per line. This plan still adds in HBO access, so you have content to stream with all that data. See the unlimited plan on AT&T

Extra: DirecTV discount packages
If you’re really into video, AT&T offers a few streaming packages that can be added onto its Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus plans. You can add DirecTV streaming to your plan or even get DirecTV installed in your home as part of the plan. See AT&T’s streaming and DirecTV packages here

AT&T Prepaid optionsCheck out AT&T’s prepaid plans

If none of the plans have seemed right for you so far, AT&T also offers a number of prepaid plans with a lot of the same perks as the other plans and reasonable prices. You can get 1GB, 6GB, unlimited data, or even no data at all. No contract is required and you don’t need a credit check to get started with these plans. See AT&T’s prepaid plans here

How long can an Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo, Google Home infinite loop last? – CNET

We know most people don’t have an Apple HomePod, an Amazon Echoand a Google Home, but we do here at CNET.

We know most people don’t have an Apple HomePod, an Amazon Echoand a Google Home, but we do here at CNET.

So we decided to create an infinite loop, meaning we set up reminders and calendar alerts with the trigger words, like “Hey Google,” to set off the smart speakers in a continuous sequence. (You can read more on how we did that here.)

In theory, this would go on for infinity, but we know there’s no chance of that happening, thanks to things like Wi-Fi dropping out.

So how long will it last? We’ve set up the YouTube livestream above with a clock so you can see and hear how long the infinite loop has been going.

Starting at 12 p.m. PT on February 15, we’re hoping to make to 48 hours. Stay tuned. And if you had to guess, which virtual assistant — Siri, Alexa or the Google Assistant — do you think is most likely break the chain?

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Apple HomePod: What to do if you don’t use Apple Music – CNET

Apple’sHomePod ($349.00 at Apple) is a device built to stay within the company’s walled garden. The device works flawlessly with Apple Music, and while it may appear that it doesn’t work with any other service outside of Apple’s, that’s not quite the case.

Apple’sHomePod ($349.00 at Apple) is a device built to stay within the company’s walled garden. The device works flawlessly with Apple Music, and while it may appear that it doesn’t work with any other service outside of Apple’s, that’s not quite the case.

Now Playing:Watch this: Make an infinite loop with HomePod, Echo and Google Home

In fact, with a little know-how you can stream music from just about any source to the HomePod. But first, let’s take a look at what the speaker supports.

Supported services

As with most Apple products, the HomePod lacks built-in support for outside music services. So you can’t trigger services like Spotify, Google Play Music or Pandora by just talking to Siri. Instead, you are limited to the following according to the HomePod’s technical specifications:

Apple MusiciTunes Music PurchasesiCloud Music Library with an Apple Music or iTunes Match subscriptionBeats 1 Live RadioApple PodcastsAirPlay other content to HomePod from iPhone ($1,099.99 at Best Buy), iPad ($295.00 at, iPod touch, Apple TV ($179.00 at Walmart) and Mac
AirPlay is your (only) friend

Harsh, I know. But with the lack of Bluetooth support or an audio-in option on the HomePod, AirPlay is the only means you have to stream music from a computer or phone to the speaker.

Of course, that means you’ll need to have a Mac or iOS device on the same Wi-Fi network as the HomePod to use AirPlay.

Most music streaming apps running on Apple products offer AirPlay support. For example, I checked Google Play Music, Spotify and Pandora, and all three offer AirPlay support.

In Spotify, the process looks like this:

For apps like Google Play Music and Pandora, you just need to look for the AirPlay icon then select the HomePod:

The process is similar for those services with a dedicated Mac app.

Touch controls still work

Even though the HomePod isn’t streaming from your iTunes library or Apple Music, you can still use the touch controls on top of the speaker to pause and skip a track or go back to the previous track. Naturally, the volume controls also work.

A single tap will pause, while a double-tap goes to the next track, and a triple-tap goes to the previous song.

Alternatively, you can control playback on your phone using your respective streaming app.

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