Category Archives: Random Comments

Nikon adds 18-300mm superzoom, 24-85mm zoom lens

Nikons AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens works on higher-end full-frame SLRs.

Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens works on higher-end full-frame SLRs.

Nikon USA)

Nikon announced two image-stabilized lenses today, a 16.7x superzoom that reaches from 18mm to 300mm and more modest model reaching from 24-85mm.

The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, with a $1,000 price tag, is geared for travel shooters and others who are willing to sacrifice some optical quality for versatility. It’s designed for Nikon’s mainstream DX-format SLRs, whose image sensor is smaller than a 35mm film frame and therefore gives the lens an equivalent range of 27-450mm. And it’s a notch more expensive than Nikon’s earlier 18-200mm superzoom, which costs $850.

Nikons AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens

Nikon’s AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens

Nikon USA)

The AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR, which costs $600, is geared for use on full-frame FX-format SLRs such as Nikon’s new D800. It provides a lower-cost, image-stabilized alternative to Nikon’s 24-85mm F2.8 model, and to its top-end, $1,890 24-70mm F2.8 model.

The two new lenses are scheduled to arrive at the end of the month.

Each of the new lenses uses Nikon’s second-generation vibration reduction technology, which Nikon claims can let people shoot four stops faster — for example, at 1/50 of a second instead of 1/1000 of a second. Such claims are often exaggerated, but there’s no doubt VR helps a lot.

The 18-300mm also has a nine-blade aperture, three extra-low dispersion (ED) glass elements to cut chromatic aberration, a 1.48-foot close-focus distance, and zoom lock switch to keep it from extending during travel. The new 24-85mm model has a 7-blade aperture and one ED glass element.

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The 404 1,073: Where it could use some more bacon (podcast)

A candied bacon ice cream sandwich


Susan Arendt

Piggybacking (waka waka) on Jeff’s encounter with a candied bacon ice cream sandwich at the Sony E3 press conference last week, we can’t help but indulge in Burger King’s new bacon-topped sundae.

And even if Jeff’s dietitian won’t let him have it, we can still stare longingly at the press shots and tell you about our own favorite encounters with the swine.

Before we make ourselves too hungry, we’ll move on and expose an especially nefarious tactic that record labels are using to catch bootleggers online.

It turns out that they all employ an anti-piracy group called ProMedia to track online offenders, and the team includes a roster of 35 students who crawl social networks, forums, and blogs to nab filesharers.

Once they’re caught, the students are instructed to threaten offenders with lawsuits, essentially forcing out-of-court settlements to the tune of about 1,200 euros, or $1,500.

Finally, we’ll take a look at a photo forensics firm that keeps track of physically manipulated photos throughout history. And yes, we do mean “pre-Photoshop.” Photos have been tampered with long before 1987 and as early as the 1900s. Whether politically motivated or just to insert teammates into championship photos, the methods were primitive and so much more obvious than today.

Plenty of voice mails and listener questions to answer after the break, so check out today’s episode and let us know what you think in the comments!

Bathroom break video:
Scared of technology.

Episode 1,073

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Bosch robot lawn mower gives you more hammock time


Why waste your summer cutting grass yourself? Get a machine to do it. Robot lawn mowers are nothing new, but Bosch is introducing one that’s apparently more automated than competitors.

The Bosch Indego is an electric, autonomous mower that can cut up to 10,700 square feet of grass with little supervision, according to IEEE Spectrum.

All you need to do is install a guide wire on the edge of your lawn to keep the Indego in. It will automatically skirt all obstacles on your lawn including your pink flamingos, croquet mallets, and flower beds.

It apparently uses its charger as a beacon and navigation guide as it cuts the lawn, moving in straight lines where possible instead of a random pattern.

The droid can operate for up to 20 minutes per full charge, and then needs to juice itself for 90 minutes before it resumes work.

Although it may be released in Scandinavia for some $2,000, it would be cheaper to operate than a gas-powered mower, and better for the environment.

Check it out in the promo vid below.

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Samsung TecTiles: NFC stickers do cool stuff with your phone

Samsung TechTiles sticker on a business card

Sticking a TecTiles sticker on a business card lets others automatically add your details with a tap and a buzz.

Josh Miller/CNET)

Nick DiCarlo waved me over to a low table in a hotel meeting room, pointing me to rows of stickers affixed to card stock. Taking in my quizzical expression, Samsung’s VP of product planning for mobile urged me to hold the Galaxy S III demo device in front of a sticker, one that happened to be attached to his business card. The phone buzzed, and a moment later, DiCarlo’s contact information appeared on the screen, ready for me to save to my address book.

These TecTiles, as Samsung calls them, are no ordinary stickers. A tiny nub of an NFC chip is embedded within; you can feel it when you drag your fingernail across the surface. Like other NFC stickers, TecTiles rely on near-field communication technology to communicate a set of instructions: in this case, saving me a few minutes and dozens of keystrokes by automatically adding a new contact.

TecTiles, which can be programmed to trigger any number of tasks, are part of a Samsung initiative to bring attention to the underused NFC technology, which has mostly been synonymous with mobile payments. And it isn’t catching on at a rate that those with with NFC-capable products would like.

With TecTiles, Samsung is attempting to answer the question, “Sure, my phone has NFC, whatever that is. But what can I do with it?”

Samsung TecTiles app

The Samsung TecTiles Android app lets you captain four types of controls.

Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

Four-way control
The stickers, which Samsung will sell in packs of five at each of the Big Four carriers’ retail locations ($14.99), correspond to a free
Android app that is responsible for the actual programming. With them, you’ll be able to set a TecTile to set your alarm, check into a social network, auto-compose a text to a particular recipient, turn the phone to driving mode, and so on.

In some cases, you can mix and match tasks within the same category, so that tapping the NFC-capable phone to the sticker you’ve affixed to your bedside lamp turns on night mode and the alarm, and tapping it again toggles them off. Likewise, a TecTile on your
car dash may toggle car mode while also engaging Bluetooth for calls.

You can reprogram the stickers to your heart’s content, and the free app will work with the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II, Galaxy S Blaze 4G, and Nexus S.

You’ll also be able to download and use the app and TecTiles on non-Samsung phones, so long as they’re NFC-enabled, like the HTC One X.

With TecTiles, you’ll also be able to display a message of your choice on someone else’s screen, place a call, launch an app, open a URL, check into Facebook, automatically “like” something on Facebook, follow a Twitter contact, and connect on Linked In, among a few other tasks.

Samsung’s NFC TecTile app, a closer look (pictures)

Two scenarios: For us, for them
Samsung envisions two groups of TecTiles users, individuals and families on one hand, and businesses on the other. The ice cream shop down the street could stick a TecTile on their register, so you wouldn’t have to even open Foursquare to check in. Companies could host scavenger hunts and promotions based on TecTiles, or lead you to quickly get to their app or their shop address with a wave of the phone.

Once programmed, any phone with NFC should be able to read a TecTile. On the flipside, the programmer can lock a TecTile’s content, so pranksters can’t override a Foursquare check-in with something more insidious.

Samsung would love TecTiles to replace QR codes, but there are some practical limitations that extend beyond the price. Samsung’s Nick DiCarlo may have had help perfectly affixing TecTiles stickers onto a couple dozen of business cards, but at this stage, the thought of such manual labor on my business card stack would be cost- and time-prohibitive.

The app itself appears to be a good first version, but until you can program at will within each of the four categories, and across the categories (turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, turn off location tracking,) its uses are more constricted. (Samsung says it would love to cross categories in a future version.)

A hard sell?
While Samsung certainly has more clout than other no-name purveyors of competing NFC stickers, it’s hard to imagine Samsung’s stickers becoming an overnight sensation (especially when they’re far less cute than these.) At $3 apiece, most consumers won’t buy the tags in bulk and start stickering their home, car, and office to experiment.

At the same time, users may have trouble coming up with multiple scenarios that would warrant an NFC shortcut. In one Samsung scenario, a child used a TecTile to text his mother when he came home every day after school, an action that reduced his daily chore from an onerous text to a pair of taps.

I personally find TecTiles intriguing, but at this stage I also classify them as a nonessential solution looking for a consumer problem.

Samsung hasn’t announced any corporate partners yet, but it is hosting an event in New York on June 20, where it could show off how well TecTiles would tap into in the wilds of an independent consumer business or chain.

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Chipped and tuned, Volvo C30 shows Swedish performance

Volvo C30
Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Volvo long staked its reputation on safety, so you would not expect a hot hatchback to come from the Swedish automaker. But fit the little C30 with Volvo’s R-Design trim and give it the new Polestar engine software, and the
car becomes a delight to shoot down a twisty road.

The car did not make any more noise than a standard C30, the only things announcing the extra power being a blue badge on its butt and ample response to the gas pedal. The side-grip shifter for the six-speed manual slipped through the gate with European precision, but the most surprising thing was the handling. Banging the car through a series of tight turns, I found it held on well, and had plenty of overhead to go even faster.

2012 Volvo C30 R-Design (pictures)

The C30’s cabin appointments reflect Volvo’s premium car position, a big step up from other hot hatchbacks on the market. It loses some practicality with the split rear seats, limiting passenger room to four, but who really wants to stuff a fast little car with an extra 200 pounds of human?

It falls down a bit on the cabin tech, with a navigation system that is basically a portable device attached to the dashboard, and a completely separate interface for the stereo and phone system. There are some useful features here, including an
iPod port and a Bluetooth phone system, but it lacks many newer features found among competitors.

Check out CNET’s review of the 2012 Volvo C30 R-Design.

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This little box turns your smartphone into a scanner

Goodbye, massive document scanners.


Scanbox, created by Australian design company Limemouse, works as a miniature studio in a box perfect for scanning documents (up to A4 size), receipts, 3D objects, or even a page from a book.

At first glance, the $15 Scanbox may appear like some sort of strange geometric shape, but the peculiar design optimizes lighting conditions for the perfect shot. It only takes a few moments to set up the device, as the user simply aligns a few high-strength magnets built into the box.

A stencil of a smartphone with a square hole sits on top so that the user knows exactly where to place the camera lens every time. When the photo shoot ends, the Scanbox folds back up into a flat shape for easy transportation.

If you seek to shed a little more light on the situation, the $25 Scanbox Plus includes a set of LED lights built into the box to ensure perfect lighting, regardless of the situation.

With the increasing clarity of smartphone cameras, it seems strange to admit that future generations may never use a scanner to digitize documents.

Those thinking that Scanbox seems like a silly gimmick may want to avoid its Kickstarter page, which received $113,000 in support from more than 3,600 backers (with an astonishing 25 days of funding still left to go).

(Via SmartPlanet)

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