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Facebook’s cryptocurrency has a trust problem

From the beginning, cryptocurrency was about trust. The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work.  The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust.

Now, that power is in Facebook’s hands. This morning, Facebook announced an ambitious new cryptocurrency called Libra, to be managed by a group of tech and financial companies including Facebook alongside more conventional banking companies like Visa and Mastercard. It’s a hugely ambitious project, basically Facebook’s take on bitcoin. On a technical level, Libra is broadly similar to bitcoin and Ethereum: it has the same semi anonymous transacting, wallets, digital addressing, and the same support for smart contracts and independent apps. In theory, it’s everything good about cryptocurrency, only bigger and faster.

But while Libra plays at decentralization, it’s still a Facebook project. Facebook employees designed it. Libra wallets will be embedded in Facebook apps like Messenger and WhatsApp, which means Facebook products will be the primary way people experience it. Using Libra means trusting Facebook, which is a hard sell in 2019.  In the most basic terms, using Libra means trusting Facebook. If the project succeeds, it could mean the end of the decentralized era of cryptocurrency.

While many of the technical aspects are similar to bitcoin, Libra breaks from the model in important ways. The currency runs on a permissioned blockchain, which means that only companies in the Libra Association can mine it. It’s a necessary concession to stability, allowing Libra to avoid the power use and transaction lag problems that have plagued bitcoin. But it also makes the Libra Association a de facto central bank, actively managing the currency for stability backed by a reserve of bonds and liquid currency.

Works Cited

Brandom, R. (2019, June 18). Facebook’s cryptocurrency has a trust problem. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/18/18683867/facebook-cryptocurrency-libra-calibra-trust-banking

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Google Assistant’s Interpreter Mode is Huge

That’s because Google Assistant is being upgraded, adding real-time translation to Google’s increasingly smart AI voice assistant.

All you have to do is for example say, “Okay, Google, become my Italian Interpreter.” Then have a full conversation with someone who speaks Italian.

Google Assistant Interpreter Mode is a game changer in the sense that you won’t need to be bilingual in order to properly visit places and converse with locals around the world. And there’s no need to boot up a translation app, sort through language selection dropdown menus, or spend time typing in words. It all happens automatically.

Assistant can translate between 27 different languages in real-time so far. That list will grow, but the real expansion that is needed is in device support. That’s coming, too, says Google.

Right now, Interpreter Mode works with Google Home speakers, like the Google Home Mini and Home Hub, but it’ll eventually come to more third-party speakers and even smartphones down the line, according to Google.

Its eventual launch on smartphones is when this real-time-translating Interpreter Mode goes from AI with world-changing potential to a world-changing reality. You need the power of Babel in your pocket, not just when a Google Home speaker is installed at a hotel concierge desk.

Work Cited

https://www.techradar.com/news/google-assistant-interpreter-mode-real-time-translator-ces-2019

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Google’s New Fuchsia OS Will Run Android Apps

Fuchsia is a new operating system that Google is working on to potentially be the successor to both Android and ChromeOS. The OS is supposed to be able to adapt to the size of your device.

There is very little to know about Fuchsia at this point in time, as Google is yet to officially acknowledge its existence.

There isn’t a lot to Fuchsia right now, though. There’s a lock screen, a quick settings section, and a home screen. The home screen consists of a search box at the bottom that lets you search for files and applications on the local storage or on Google’s cloud apps. It will also likely display intelligent cards and suggestions from Google in the future.

Considering that Fuchsia is so different from Android, even on a technical level, it only makes sense to question whether or not the platform will support Android apps. Without being able to support Android apps, Fuchsia may not get a lot of traction. Google would have to convince millions of developers to build apps for Fuchsia devices that probably won’t have a lot of popularity at launch, so it’s kind of a big problem for the company.

So Google is making sure it’s not making the same mistake with Fuchsia that Microsoft did with Windows Phone. Instead, Google built in the ability to use Android apps on Fuchsia. 9to5Google reported that the company is making a special version of the Android Runtime built to run Android apps on Fuchsia.

Of course, considering Fuchsia runs on different kernels and has a lot of technical differences from Android, it’s unclear exactly how the Android Runtime will work on Fuchsia, or whether it will introduce any limitations. That remains to be seen for the time being, though as we get into 2019, we will likely get to know a lot more about Google’s future plans for Fuchsia.

Works Cited

Google’s Fuchsia OS Will Be Able to Run Android Apps. (2019, January 04). Retrieved January 4, 2019, from https://www.thurrott.com/google/196916/googles-fuchsia-os-will-be-able-to-run-android-apps

Early Version of Google’s Fuchsia OS Demoed on Pixelbook. (2018, January 18). Retrieved January 4, 2019, from https://www.thurrott.com/google/150531/early-version-of-googles-fuchsia-os-demoed-on-pixelbook

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Alexa to get a home guard mode

“Alexa I’m leaving.”

That’s all you have to say to activate Alexa Guard, a new feature from that lets your Echo devices use their microphones to listen for trouble, like glass breaking or a smoke alarm going off.  In case something were to go wrong while you were away from home, Alexa would notify you on your phone, along with a sample of the sound that triggered it.  If you are an ADT, Ring, or other home alarm system subscriber, notifying them too is also an option.

If you want, Alexa will cycle your smart lights on and off while you’re away to make it look like you’re home.

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Yep, it works!

With far-field microphones in every Echo device, Alexa is already a pretty good listener. Alexa Guard puts those mics to use by listening for the sound of glass breaking or the sound of alarms when you aren’t home.

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The Guard section of the Alexa app gives you a timeline of events as you come and go — along with the option to replay audio of potential concerns.

If you wanted, you could even broadcast yourself telling the potential intruder that you’re calling the police as a means of scaring them off.

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Alexa can’t call 911

Still as Amazon notes as you’re confirming setup in the Alexa app, “Alexa Guard is not a replacement for an alarm system or life safety devices. Amazon does not monitor Smart Alerts and cannot contact emergency services on your behalf.”

That last bit is really important.  Your Echo device at home hears the sound of your smoke detector going off, and Alexa sends you a notification.  Alexa won’t act on your behalf at this point the way a professional monitoring service would. It’s on you to see the notification and act accordingly.

That said, if you subscribe to a professional home monitoring service through ADT, Alexa will forward those Smart Alerts to them. With Ring, Amazon says that users can request dispatch of emergency responders directly from the Ring app if they are subscribed to the Ring Protect Plus plan. 

And if you’re using an Alexa-compatible home security system that she can already arm and disarm with voice commands, you’ll be able to set it so that happens automatically whenever you turn Guard mode on and off. And if you’re disarming your system, she’ll still ask you for a numerical PIN code before doing so. That’s a touch that saves you from needing to give two separate voice commands as you come and go. Just say, “Alexa, I’m leaving” when you’re walking out the door, then “Alexa, I’m home,” followed by your PIN code when you return.

Away Lighting is smart and simple

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You can use the Alexa app to view a list of the lights Alexa turned on and off during Away Lighting.

Along with listening for trouble, Alexa Guard will let the assistant toggle your smart lights on and off while you’re out to make it look like you’re home.

You can enable the feature with a single tap when you’re turning Alexa Guard on in the Alexa app for Android and iOS devices. Once you do, the app will list all of your smart lights, and include them all in Away Lighting by default. If there are any you’d like left out, just uncheck them.

The feature asks for your zip code when you’re setting it up — Alexa uses that zip code to know what time sunset is in your area each night. Away Lighting will only run when it’s dark out.

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Be Careful when updating Windows 10

Although Microsoft has now decided to charge for Windows 10 for new users, that has not improved the quality of updates, patches, and hotfixes to the operating system. In fact, Microsoft has just warned all Windows 10 users that its latest upgrade may permanently delete their personal data.  Microsoft’s statement comes after Windows 10 users took to Reddit and other sites to warning others to postpone the major 1809 update. The warnings from testers and the general public were ignored.  Even the fanboys couldn’t pardon this.

There is no information on how or why the data loss occurred and Microsoft has not provided any timescale as to when the 1809 rollout will resume.  Windows 10 users have long demanded Microsoft give them greater control over updates, and this is just the latest in a string of incidents. Notably, in January Windows 10 updates turned PCs with AMD hardware into bricks with the “spectre meltdown problem”, while a major April update was pulled after reports it was causing the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.

That said it is the automated and permanent deletion of user data which is, without doubt, the number one nightmare scenario of any user on any platform. If you weren’t already, now would be a very good time to invest in a backup solution.

You can get one here.

Reports from Microsoft’s Feedback Hub of problems with the update, courtesy of twitter.

Link to Video

Works Cited

Kelly, G. (2018, October 07). Microsoft Warns Windows 10 Has A Serious Problem. Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2018/10/06/microsoft-windows-10-update-lost-data-upgrade-windows-7-windows-xp-free-upgrade/#400438406fa4
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Telltale Games Showing Telltale signs of Closing

On 9/21/18, Telltale Incorporated laid off the majority of its staff, leaving only 25 of it’s 250 employees, and canceled most of the games it was making.  Multiple Telltale employees stated that they had been laid off.  The let-go employees were informed that they would not receive any severance package. The Wolf Among Us: Season Two, Game of Thrones: Season Two and the untitled Stranger Things game were cancelled until further notice with development basically ceasing due to a lack of staff to make the games, while the remaining team would finish the final season of The Walking Dead.

Telltale Incorporated, dba Telltale Games, is a video game developer based in the us. The company was founded in June 2004 by Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors and Troy Molander, initially employing staff from what was LucasArts. Telltale’s business model revolves around serial storyline based titles, and the company is best known for games based on existing ip franchises.

Most of Telltale’s products are adventure games based on licensed properties from film, comics, television, and other video games already existing games. Their initial games followed more traditional adventure game approaches with the player solving puzzles to progress.

The software title they are best known for, The Walking Dead, based on the comic book series and television series by AMC, introduced a more narrative-directed approach.  This type of game play allows the user to essentially choose their own game, much like a goosebumps choose your own adventure book.

Possible explanations include issues with business creditors, insufficient cash-flow, loss of a major investor, poor sales, or poor product quality.  Whatever the case is, it just goes to show you that game development isn’t a stable career.  More people make games, more games fail.  It’s a well known truth that game programmers are also underpaid and overworked, especially towards a ship date.  Just because a job is a “Dream Job” doesn’t mean employees should be fearful of workplace issues like layoffs, cost cutting, or H1-B replacements.  In my opinion, globalization has gone too far and hurt the domestic economy.  Cheap goods flood in, and jobs flood out to cheaper labor pools when tariffs are low, or free trade agreements are in place.

Works Cited

For Immediate Press Release. (2018, September 21). Retrieved September 21, 2018, from https://twitter.com/telltalegames

 

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Microsoft Windows Internet Browser “Warning”

Microsoft is testing a “warning” for Windows 10 users not to install Chrome or Firefox. Microsoft is in the final stages of testing its October update. Testers have spotted a pop-up that appears when you try to install a rival web browser. “You already have Microsoft Edge – the safer, faster browser for Windows 10” says a nuisance message that appears when you run the Chrome or Firefox install files.

While the messages can be dismissed, they’re yet another example of Microsoft infesting thier products with annoyances. This change escalates Microsoft’s war against Chrome even further. Why Microsoft thinks it’s a good idea to include this garbage is beyond me, but it may only make people install Chrome just to spite Microsoft.

Works Cited

Warren, T. (2018, September 12). Microsoft tests ‘warning’ Windows 10 users not to install Chrome or Firefox. Retrieved September 20, 2018, from https://www-theverge-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2018/9/12/17850146/microsoft-windows-10-chrome-firefox-warning?amp_js_v=0.1#amp_tf=From %1$s&share=https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/12/17850146/microsoft-windows-10-chrome-firefox-warning

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Nintendo Switch Online Need to Know

Nintendo Switch Online is well, now online…more than a year after the console launched!  This marks the very first time Nintendo has charged for online play.  Nintendo fans had it pretty good until now.

The service goes operational at 11pm EST on 9/18/18 in the US. You can access the service for a full seven days before your free trial ends.

There are a few payment packages, starting at $3.99 per month, or $19.99 for a year. Compared to competing services such as Xbox Live at $40 a year or PlayStation Plus at $60 a year, Nintendo Switch Online looks like a bargain. But not everyone with a Switch is going to sign up for the service, and if your friends don’t maybe you should think twice.

Nintendo Switch Online will let you take part in online matchmaking for games like Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, or the many other games that just aren’t complete until you’ve played with others, whether in your living room, or online.

Signing up is also the way to get HD remasters of older classics. Nintendo Switch Online members will get 20 NES games at launch, with three additional games coming on a monthly basis, with upgraded graphics and some limited online / two-player functionality. You’ll be able to use these games for some time without internet before your Switch requires you to phone home online and make sure you’re still a paying customer.  This could give those with tight budgets the time to get funds together to keep their games and enjoy them without risk, such as children with an allowance that doesn’t fall on the billing date or adults with unpredictable incomes like restaurant workers or uber drivers.

Of important note is that Fortnite is unaffected by this and will not require Nintendo Switch Online.

Works Cited

Leger, H. S. (2018, September 18). Nintendo Switch Online arrives on your console today: Here’s what you need to do. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://www.techradar.com/news/nintendo-switch-online-arrives-on-your-console-today-heres-what-you-need-to-do

 

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30 day thoughts on assurance wireless

Nobody wants to have their cellphone shutoff because they have an income problem, but fortunately the government realizes that in order for people to get back to work, they need a phone for employers to call.  Some internet to do those online applications wouldn’t hurt, and a way to text government services like the bus system or crisis lines is also helpful.

So, the FCC funds through the Universal Service Fund a program called, “The Lifeline Program.”  These phones are simply that, a lifeline, not a luxury device.  In my stated, it’s called Assurance Wireless, and other states use Safelink.  They do offer flip phones, but are phasing them out in favor of smartphones because they are multipurpose and can be used to get access to other government needs based programs.

Here’s a few takeaways after we put one to the test for a month.

  • With the data saver feature on the android based ANS UL 40, 1GB should last you most, if not all of the month.
  • $5 per extra gig is a good deal, and can be paid for with cash via Virgin Mobile Top Up Cards, or even paypal.
  • The credit and debit card payment system however was very unsatisfactory and charged a few times.
  • Customer service will give you extra data if you complain and are nice.  So be nice.
  • The network is 4g, but it is Sprint, so the coverage could be better.
  • You can use your data on the device itself, or tether.  We recommend you tether to something beefier, and keep a powerbank handy.
  • The display is tiny and the phone chews through it’s battery in 2 to 3 hours.  So keep a power bank handy.
  • The processor and ram make it sluggish and under powered.  1gb of ram is not enough.
  • You can sign up for the program by fax, email, or at a outreach booth.  I preferred email.
  • You should be grateful this exists, and use it often as this is a use it or lose it benefit program.
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Apple and Google Pay coming to 7 Eleven Very Soon

7 Eleven has never been known for being technologically advanced, except when it comes to cold beverages and security systems. Still,  the convenience store chain has been notably slow on the uptake of mobile payment technology compared to other similar outlets.

The company said that it is bringing Apple Pay and Google Pay to “most” of its U.S. stores. Samsung beat its two major competitors to the store likely the two companies reached some sort of agreement behind closed doors.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced earlier this summer that support at 7-Eleven stores was coming, along with the CVS pharmacies. The addition of the payment options should help make this manner of mobile payment popular among many users. The company has more than 66,000 stores worldwide. The U.S. currently makes up about 14 percent of that market.

Works Cited

Heater, B. (2018, September 10). Apple and Google Pay are finally coming to 7-Eleven this month. Retrieved September 11, 2018, from https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/10/apple-and-google-pay-are-finally-coming-to-7-11-this-month/