to charge for mobile app mobile apps screenshot(Credit:
Crave UK) is introducing a charge for the streaming functions in its mobile app. We had a chat with Matthew Hawn of to find out what the change means.

The various versions of the mobile app stream a personalized music feed of your favorite music and related recommendations. Up until now, this has been free, but it will soon be chargeable. The ad-free subscription costs $3 a month.

The radio service will become a paid feature on February 15. The Web and desktop versions of the radio will still be free. It will also be free on
Xbox Live and
Windows Phone 7 phones. New subscribers also get a free trial, letting you stream 50 songs before you have to pay.

Read more of “ to charge for mobile app” at Crave UK.

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Canon 200-400mm lens leads supertele charge

Canons EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM supertelephoto is set to debut in May with a price of about $9,500.

Canon’s EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM supertelephoto is set to debut in May with a price of about $9,500.

Canon USA)

Canon announced prices for previously announced overhauls of its 500mm and 600mm supertelephoto lenses today, but, more unusually, announced a new 200-400mm model that will join the company’s already large lens family.

Nikon and Canon, locked in fierce competition for professional photographers, often have similar lens models, but Nikon for years has offered a highly regarded and newly refurbished 200-400mm supertele zoom while Canon stuck with its increasingly elderly 100-400mm design. Now Canon is countering with the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender l.4x.

Some of the nomenclature should look familiar: f/4L means a continuous maximum aperture of F4 and Canon’s L-series attributes of durability, image quality, and weatherproofing; IS denotes image stabilization, which counteracts lens shake and is just about essential in long telephotos; USM means a quiet, fast ultrasonic focusing motor.

New, though, is the term “Extender”: the lens includes a built-in 1.4x telephoto extender that increases the focal length to 580mm but drops the maximum aperture to f5.6. Canon sells standalone 1.4x and 2x telephoto extenders, but it’s not clear how exactly the built-in model works. Presumably it will be less disruptive to engage than removing a large telephoto lens and attaching the extender between the lens and camera body. And photographers doubtless will hope the fact that it’s tailored to the lens will mean it provides higher optical quality than the general-purpose telephoto extenders.

Canon didn’t share many other details about the 200-400mm lens besides that it’ll use fluorite crystal, which helps magnify an image without as much image-marring chromatic aberration as more conventional glass lens elements.

One tidbit to watch will be whether it’s a fixed-length design adjusted with a traditional zoom ring vs. the push-pull design that some photographers dislike about the 100-400mm product. And of course the price, size, and weight will help determine how deeply this lens will spread into the ranks of amateur bird and
safari photographers.

Canon will show a prototype of the 200-400mm lens at the CP+ tradeshow in Pacifico Yokohama starting February 9.

Although the 200-400mm has a narrower zoom range than the 100-400mm model, a shorter range typically comes with fewer optical compromises to distortion, sharpness, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. One definite benefit: the 200-400mm has a wider maximum aperture of F4, compared to F5.6 at full telephoto on the $1,600 100-400mm lens.

New 500mm and 600mm models
Closer to the here-and-now are the revamped 500mm and 600mm models, which Canon announced last August. Brace yourself here for some prices only a professional or very serious amateur can handle.

The EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM is due to ship in May with a price of $9,500, and the EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens is due in June for about $12,000.

That’s a big step up from the first-generation models, which at BH Photo today cost $6,700 and $8,650, respectively. But the second-generation models come with several improvements: new optical ingredients Canon says produce better image quality; improved image stabilization that Canon promises will counteract shaking to the tune of 4 F-stops (enough, at least in theory, to shoot stationary subjects at 1/60 of a second vs. 1/1000 of a second); new and an anti-smear coating on the front and rear lens elements; and new internal lens coatings to reduce ghost and flare problems.

Helping in the new era of video SLRs is quieter image stabilization and the new power focus mode that enables smoother mechanically controlled focus changes. Finally, the new lenses get a new image stabilization mode that engages IS only when the shutter is pressed, which is convenient to avoid the jerky side effects of tracking a moving subject.

Image quality is front and center. “Both lenses will outperform their predecessors through the use of two fluorite elements over the previous one fluorite and two UD [ultra-low dispersion] glass elements. More fluorite results in better image quality as it reduces chromatic aberration to a greater degree than UD glass,” Canon said. “The reduction of chromatic aberration contributes to superior resolution, contrast, and color fidelity.”

Most noticeably, though will be the dramatically lower eight for these monster lenses through use of lighter optical elements and more magnesium and titanium in the lens barrel. The 500mm model drops 18 percent from from 136.5 oz to 112.5 oz, and the 600mm drops 27 percent from 189.1 oz to 138.3 oz, Canon said. You’ll still need a tripod or monopod, but at least carting these lenses will be easier with 1.5 pounds pared off the 500mm model and more than 3 pounds pared off the 600mm.

Canon has just overhauled its 300mm and 400mm F2.8 models with comparable weight reductions.

Also today, Canon announced it’s built 60 million lenses for its SLR line. The vast majority of those, of course, come along with mainstream camera models such as Canon’s new Rebel T3i and T3 entry-level SLRs also announced today. Those cameras come with a new second-generation 18-55mm kit lens with improved image stabilization, Canon said.

Canons EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM supertelephoto is due to ship in June with a price of $12,000.

Canon’s EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM supertelephoto is due to ship in June with a price of $12,000.

Canon USA)

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Car Tech Live 202: We welcome the electric Smart Car…and the Lexus LF-A (podcast)

The electric ForTwo and the Lexus LF-A debut for very different audiences. Verizon tries but can anybody beat Google maps on Android? The
car key that doubles as a wallet. And we drive the BMW 740i, the thinking person’s 7 Series.

Listen now:

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Lexus LF-A being delivered

And the first electric Smart ForTwo being delivered!

• Can Verizon VZ Navigator ever top Google Maps on Android?

Solar road melts the snow that falls on it

CNET’s picks for must-have car tech features

CNET’s LOL cars gallery!

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Should EVs use a sibling’s architecture?

Tesla Model S

Tesla says positioning the large, flat battery pack on the floorpan of the Model S–separated from the frame here for display purposes at the Detroit auto show–improves the EV’s ride, handling, and interior space.

Josh Miller/CNET)

DETROIT–Eric Kuehn makes a strong case for Ford Motor Co.’s decision to develop the Focus Electric on an existing vehicle architecture–even one designed for an internal combustion drivetrain.

Kuehn, Ford’s chief engineer for electric vehicles, said using the existing architecture has many benefits: Ford reaps economies of scale; the automaker can still market the vehicle under the well-known Focus name instead of under a new nameplate; and a single architecture allows Ford to build the electric vehicle alongside other Focus models at the Michigan Assembly Plant. That means Ford can shift its mix quickly after production begins late this year.

“As customers move more to electric, we’ll be able to flex our production and move more to electric,” Kuehn said during an interview at the recent Detroit auto show. “If gas prices go down, then we can flex our overall production to gas-powered power trains.”

At other automakers, that sort of talk is anathema.

Peter Rawlinson, vice president and chief engineer for Tesla Motors, said, “There are profound advantages to having a ground-up approach to building electric vehicles.”

That’s why EV-maker Tesla is creating a new platform for its Model S midsize
car, due for production in mid-2012.

Hot debate
The two approaches highlight a hot issue among EV builders: whether it is better to build an EV from the ground up or to retrofit. Underlying the choices are sharply differing views of the sales potential of EVs and the investment they merit: hedge your bet or go all in?

Strategies vary from automaker to automaker. Nissan’s Leaf, for instance, is built on its own architecture, and BMW is developing a dedicated EV platform for the MegaCity small EV due in 2013.

Meanwhile, General Motors Co. put its Chevrolet Volt plug-in on a front-wheel-drive platform shared with the Chevrolet Cruze. Even Tesla buys a chassis from British sports car maker Lotus for its initial model, the Roadster.

But Tesla CEO and EV evangelist Elon Musk has said EVs won’t reach their potential without dedicated platforms. That’s because retrofitters tend to stuff the large, heavy battery packs in the trunk “like a sack of potatoes,” in Musk’s words.

You can see the difference in Tesla’s vehicles. In the Roadster, the 990-pound battery pack is positioned behind the passenger compartment. By contrast, the Model S will have a low, flat pack covering the bottom of the car.

Rawlinson said that design distributes weight evenly and improves ride and handling.

“There is a significant ride and handling advantage because it means the car has a low center of gravity,” he said. “When the car corners, it doesn’t roll so much.”

Rawlinson said starting from scratch allowed Tesla to create a light aluminum structure with minimal use of high-strength steels. Tesla discovered some of the advantages of a dedicated architecture during the design process, he added.

“When we embarked on this program, we embarked upon a voyage of discovery in a sense,” Rawlinson said. “The advantages of electric vehicle architecture were not self-evident; they had to be teased out and explored by the vehicle engineering team.”

Rawlinson cited other benefits the team found:

  • Having the flat battery pack on the car underside improves underbody aerodynamics, something other automakers achieve with shielding to prevent air pockets.

  • Body stiffness is enhanced by cross members in the battery pack, which improves handling.

  • The pack enhances side- and front-impact safety.

  • Getting the pack out of the trunk allows Tesla to put two rear-facing children’s seats there, making the Model S a seven-seater.

Retrofit advocates counter that their choice provides significant cost savings. Ford’s Kuehn said using a high-volume platform is a “critical part of our strategy.”

Likewise, GM’s Micky Bly, executive director of global electrical systems, hybrids, EVs and batteries, said EVs–and plug-ins like the Volt–require a large investment.

“You’ve got to have the volume to pay it off,” Bly said. “That’s why everybody’s been hedging their bets with more of what I call a retrofittable design instead of a pure redo.”

Paul Haelterman, managing director of IHS Automotive Consulting, said it costs about $1 billion to develop a new architecture. That’s a big outlay for EVs, Haelterman said, considering that EVs are likely to make up only 1.5 to 2 percent of the market this decade.

EVs could become a better investment by 2020 if battery costs drop and gasoline prices rise, he said. But for now, retrofitting is sensible.

“I think the short-term model is that that is going to be a profitable track for people to follow,” Haelterman said.

Others say automakers eventually will design new architectures to accommodate both internal combustion and electric drivetrains.

Herbert Kohler, vice president of e-drive and future mobility for Daimler, said the company’s small-car architecture is a good model. The platform, used for the Mercedes A and B class and the Smart ForTwo, was designed in the 1990s to accommodate battery-powered EVs.

Putting an EV on a platform designed for internal combustion isn’t ideal, Kohler added: “Different technology requires different car concepts.”

(Source: Automotive News)

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Apple patent shows built-in iPad stand


Patently Apple

We’re expecting a new iPad to be announced in the next few months, and it appears that it, or future iterations of it, could have a built-in kickstand. A new patent filed by Apple shows a stowable stand that folds into the
iPad‘s casing, removing the need for cases with built-in stands.

The patent, detailed by Patently Apple, shows a dual-hinged stand that folds out to hold up the iPad in either portrait or landscape mode on a surface like a table. It might not be built-in; the patent says it might be optional, which means it might affix via screws, suction cup, magnets, or witchcraft.

No matter what, it’s better than not having a stand. As anyone with an iPad will tell you, a stand’s a good idea–apps like Hulu and Netflix are popular on the iPad, and unless you’re watching them in bed, you have to hold the
tablet up. That’s fine for short YouTube videos of cats hitting people in the groin, but not for watching awesome movies like “Fletch.”

Currently there are many such cases with stands available on eBay, and one I got recently came with a free gift–a stylus, which leads to another intriguing patent by Apple we covered recently: yes, a stylus.

Styli (that’s styluses to you and me) for iPads aren’t new, and they can be useful. I have a couple of drawing apps, but unlike David Hockney, finger painting isn’t my style. The stylus I got in my eBay-bought case is perfect for sketching.

Apple’s patent shows a stylus with a ballpoint-pen-type end, allowing it to apparently roll on a conductive disk of some sort. The disk is larger than the point of the stylus, so that capacitive screens, like those of the
iPhone or iPad, can sense it.

As with all patents, this may or may not evolve into a shipping product, but the fact that Apple is working with the idea of a stylus is intriguing. Steve Jobs famously said during the iPhone’s launch that styluses were for suckers (to paraphrase).

Then count me among the suckers; I want a stylus for my iPad.

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Toyota unveiling Yaris hybrid, Prius+ at Geneva

The Yaris HSD concept will debut at the 2011 Geneva auto show alongside the Prius+.

The Yaris HSD concept will debut at the 2011 Geneva auto show alongside the Prius+.


The Prius+ will seat seven passengers.

The Prius+ will seat seven passengers.


At the upcoming 2011 Geneva auto show, Toyota will find a new hood under which to cram its Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) with the unveiling of a Yaris HSD concept. The automaker will also grow its Prius family of hybrids (in more ways than one) when it rolls out the larger Prius+.

In the wake of the 2011 Detroit auto show’s unveiling of the compact Prius C and larger Prius V concepts, the compact Yaris HSD and larger Prius+ concepts seem like a bit of déjà vu. However, the upcoming Prius+ will seat seven passengers versus the V’s five, and will likely feature an extended wheelbase, creating a vehicle form factor that’s more small minivan than wagon.

And while the Prius C we hope to get in the future will be an all-new vehicle, the Yaris HSD is based on an existing vehicle. This means that Toyota could roll the Yaris hybrid out to the European market (its expected target, sorry U.S. readers) long before development is completed on the baby Prius. Even after, the two models could live side by side for some time thanks to minor differences in packaging, large differences in style, and potential differences in price.

We’ll keep you posted with more information about Toyota’s expanding electrified vehicle selection as our coverage of the 2011 Geneva auto show continues.

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