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Tech News

SEC halts sketchy Kodak-branded cryptocurrency mining scheme

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Spotlite

One of the more surprising gadgets to appear at CES this year was a Kodak-branded cryptocurrency mining computer, which might have seemed like an easy way to make money if you leased the machine. But economists said the math never added up, and the proposed profits were nigh-on impossible. Spotlite, the company behind the plan, now says it will not move forward with leasing the machines. CEO Halston Mikail told the BBC that the Securities and Exchange Commission had blocked the scheme.

Spotlite planned to lease the bitcoin-focused Kodak KashMiner (and rigs dedicated to other cryptocurrencies) for $3,400 for two years, and it would give you half of the currency the machine generates while pocketing the rest. In its marketing, Spotlite said the computer (essentially a third-party device with a sticker slapped on the side) would generate a value of $375 per month, or a total of $9,000 over the two years, given an average bitcoin price of $14,000. Yet that overlooks how bitcoin fundamentally works, in that mining the coin becomes more difficult and time-consuming as more of the currency is generated, and disregards the wildly fluctuating market.

An economics professor said the price of bitcoin would need to hover at around $28,000 to deliver Spotlite’s suggested level of return; the current value is $6,597, or less than a quarter of that mark. Bitcoin’s all-time high was $19,783, which it hit in December, and it has only nudged above $14,000 for a few weeks in December and January. So, actually netting a solid return from the Kodak KashMiner seemed highly improbable.

Spotlite had planned to store the machines at Kodak’s headquarters in Rochester, New York, to take advantage of low-cost electricity there. The goal was to have hundreds of machines in place, and Mikail had said his firm already had 80 up and running there. However, Kodak told the BBC the devices were never installed at its office. The company also claims that the computer was never officially licensed, though it’s not clear whether it took any legal action over the branding.

Mikail says Spotlite’s new plan is to run the mining operation privately, and it will install the rigs in Iceland. Maybe Spotlite will follow through this time. It never even finished the KashMiner website — the terms and conditions and privacy policy pages are full of lorum ipsum filler text.

Tech News

China busts World Cup gambling ring pulling $1.5 billion in crypto bets

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Matthew Horwood via Getty Images

Officials in China have busted a World Cup gambling ring that took in over 10 billion yuan (nearly $1.5 billion) in cryptocurrency bets, reports the South China Morning Post. Six individuals allegedly connected to a dark web-based crime syndicate have been arrested and authorities have seized cryptocurrencies found in their possession worth over 10 million yuan. In a statement, police in the Guangdong province said that gambling platform they ran accepted bitcoin, ethereum and litecoin.

The platform reportedly collected bets over the course of eight months, bringing in 330,000 users from around the world. Over 8,000 individuals were named as agents, earning commissions when they attracted new members. While this is apparently the first ring to be busted that used cryptocurrency, authorities in the country have been working to crack down on gambling, which is largely illegal across China. So far, they have reportedly arrested 540 suspects and frozen 260 million yuan (~$39 million) as part of an effort to stem illegal World Cup betting.

Chinese authorities haven’t been big fans of cryptocurrencies. The country banned initial coin offerings last year and has been making moves to shut down access to domestic and foreign cryptocurrency exchanges.

Tech News

Major League Baseball is going crypto

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Lucid Sight

By Daniel Roberts

Later this summer, Major League Baseball digital collectibles are coming to the Ethereum blockchain. Lucid Sight, a blockchain gaming company, is launching MLB Crypto Baseball, through a licensing deal with MLB.

Baseball fans might ask: Huh?

Ethereum, launched in 2015, is a decentralized platform for “smart contracts,” which are automated agreements for an exchange of value. It runs on a blockchain, the same peer-to-peer, immutable, public ledger technology that bitcoin runs on. The cryptocurrency of Ethereum is ether. (So ether is to Ethereum as bitcoin is to the bitcoin blockchain.)

Because of Ethereum’s usefulness for smart contracts, it has become a proving ground for blockchain-based games, where users collect and trade one-of-a-kind items that no one can duplicate or steal. On a blockchain, each digital item (or contract) is verified and tamper-proof.

The most popular blockchain game has been CryptoKitties, in which users buy and trade unique digital kittens, and pay for them in ether. The game launched in November and has been extremely popular among crypto fanatics; users have spent $25 million worth of ether on CryptoKitties to date.

And now MLB is following suit. In MLB Crypto Baseball, users will pay in ether to buy digital avatars tied to specific moments in recent games. They can then sell the items, or in some cases, earn rewards and stickers. The game is a decentralized app, or “dApp.”

‘We talked a long time ago about bitcoin’

Kenny Gersh, MLB’s executive VP of gaming and new business ventures, says that MLB has been eyeing cryptocurrency for a long time, and rejected other ideas before settling on doing a game with Lucid Sight.

“We talked a long time ago about bitcoin and whether we should accept it as payment for MLB.tv and some of our other products, and we opted not to,” Gersh says. “At the end of the day we decided that isn’t our business, we’re not in the speculation business. We’re in the business of delivering baseball to fans. So this game is a more interesting intersection of blockchain technology and what we do.”

CryptoKitties had a direct influence on the new MLB game. “We were already talking to Lucid Sight around the time that CryptoKitties first came out,” Gersh says, “and then CryptoKitties sort of validated it a little bit more.”

Pro sports jumping on the crypto trend

Just last month, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings announced they will begin mining ether and donating the proceeds to a local charity. MLB is the second pro sport to hop on the crypto trend, but it is doing something very different from the Kings, and doing it league-wide.

In-person attendance at MLB ballparks this season has fallen to an alarming low, and MLB is hopeful that the crypto game, among many efforts, could lure young people back to baseball fandom.

“That is 100% one of the strategic goals of this

Tech News

Business and gaming boost PC shipments for the first time since 2012

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Base image: Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Supposing you’ve followed the PC’s steady downward spiral over the last few years, the following news might surprise you: Between April and June worldwide PC shipments marked a 1.4 percent increase compared to the same timeframe last year. Market analysis firms Gartner and IDC agree that it’s largely due to business customers upgrading to Windows 10 laptops, desktops and workstations. But the latter asserts that shipments totaled 62.3 million units (representing a 2.7 increase) while the former reports shipments jumped by 62.1 million units (a 1.4 percent increase). The biggest areas of growth? Premium models and entry-level machines.

It’s important to note that this is an increase in computer shipments, not sales — even though one impacts the other, they’re different numbers entirely. More than that, this is just three months, with both firms noting that the same period last year was relatively soft. Still, any news is good news for PC makers. HP led the pack, notching nearly 8 percent increased shipments, with Lenovo, Dell, Apple and Acer rounding out the rest of the top five, according to IDC.

Gartner says that this won’t last long, though, predicting that business demand will drop in two years once organizations have finished upgrading for Windows 10. Consumer sales weren’t anything to write home about, with Gartner saying that folks like you and me continue “to impact market growth” because more and more people are doing typical computer tasks on their smartphones and tablets instead.

However, IDC says that hardware shipments for folks who demand more from their computers — gamers — grew. If you pause a moment, it’s not too difficult to piece together what happened here. Last summer, cryptocurrency mining was all the rage and drove GPU prices through the roof, leaving people who wanted to play the Prey reboot at the highest resolution possible in a lurch. Now that crypto has fallen out of the zeitgeist, it means more people are able to afford gaming PCs.

Tech News

Opera tests an in-browser cryptocurrency wallet on Android

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Opera

Opera is embracing the cryptocurrency movement by testing an Ethereum wallet in its Android mobile browser. It makes Opera the first major browser to add a built-in crypto wallet. You can import an existing wallet or create a new one, and it allows you to send and receive money directly in the browser, as well as make online purchases where merchants support crypto transactions.

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Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency around, with a bit less than half the market cap of bitcoin, but far outpacing other coins. Opera chose the Ethereum platform in part because of how developers have embraced it to create apps with games, collectibles, exchanges and gambling; the browser supports some of these apps and the wallet can store tokens and collectibles such as unique digital cats from the game CryptoKitties. Opera says that the browser will support other currencies in the future.

Opera, which recently added a tool to stop sites from mining coins through your browser, is hoping to expand adoption of cryptocurrency by making it more user friendly yet secure. The browser protects the wallet with Android’s system lock instead of complex passwords, and all of the keys that control the wallet remain on the device and aren’t uploaded anywhere. Opera is testing the wallet in a private beta, and you can sign up if you’re interested.

PC News and Reviews

Major AMD Radeon Add-in-Board Partner TUL Corporation Lost 60% of Revenue In Wake Of Crypto Slump

July 11, 2018 — by Wccftech.com0

vega-64-mining-monero-740x416.jpg

It looks like we finally have what appears to be one of the first clear looks at the financial impact of the crypt- mining slump that has been going on since the beginning of last quarter: TUL Corporation, one of the largest AIB partners of AMD lost approximately 60% of revenue due to a slump in graphics card sales. This is something that can be directly attributed to mining going out of fashion as the crypto market crashed and mining operations bled profitability.

TUL Corporation lost 60% of sales of AMD Radeon graphics cards as mining profitability drops

AMD’s RX Vega graphics cards were absolute beasts when it came to mining profitability and were punching far above their weight in terms of profitability and ROI (Return on Investment). This is one of the reasons that they were selling like hotcakes and it was almost impossible to get your hands on a Vega 56 or 64 in the heyday of mining. The slump in revenue was first spotted by Seeking Alpha and is very material in nature.

asrock-phantom-gaming-x-radeon-rx-vega-64-and-56-8g_5-copyRelated ASRock Phantom Gaming Lineup Gets Reference Radeon RX Vega 64 and RX Vega 56 Graphics Cards

The thing to keep in mind is that TUL Corporation is an AMD exclusive vendor, so their revenue directly corresponds to the health of the AMD-Radeon ecosystem. This data is the first time we have been able to get a clear look at how badly AMD Radeon graphics cards have been impacted by the mining slump. Keep in mind that NVIDIA graphics cards were not as outstanding in mining performance (with the exception of the 1060) and are much more competitive in gaming. That said, it is clear that NVIDIA GeForce ecosystem will be feeling this burn as well – albeit maybe not to this extent.

Image Credits: Seeking Alpha

TUL Corporation saw a high of $42.0 Million USD (1,318,159,000 NTD) in March and have since collapsed to $13.2 Million USD (405,589,000 NTD) in June. The company sold Radeon graphics cards worth $97.8 Million USD (2,995,987,000 NTD) in the first quarter of 2018 but only managed to push $40.6 Million USD (1,244,050,000 NTD) worth of cards in the second quarter – this is less volume than the month of March. From its peak in March, the company sales have collapsed by 57.6% in June, while on a quarter over quarter bases, sales have collapsed by 58.4%.

The primary problem that the company will face right now is that AMD does not have an NVIDIA competitor planned anytime soon and is struggling to find a value proposition in the mid-end market as well. Once NVIDIA starts to feel the hurt of the cryptocurrency slump, they will simply roll out their next-generation graphics card lineup – which should boost revenue once again. As of this moment, AMD’s flagship does not offer competitive performance to the NVIDIA flagship – and this difference is only going to increase once green launches its Turing architecture.

We expected AMD and board partners to have higher sensitivity to the cryptocurrency market because of the simple fact that the value proposition of Vega to gamers is far less than NVIDIA cards and this is finally showing. You can read my exclusive on the inside story of Vega and why this was a necessary cost for AMD to pay to make a Zen/x86 comeback. The silver lining in all of this is that Radeon fans will finally be able to buy Vega graphics cards at a resonable (or what passes as reasonable nowadays anyways) pricing. The RX Vega 56 can be had for as low as $444 now with the Vega 64 going for as low as $688.

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Tech News

Sirin Labs' $1,000 cryptocurrency phone arrives this November

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

There are only a handful of cryptocurrency-related smartphones in the works, but Sirin Labs thinks that it has the best. The company most famous for the $14,000 Solarin privacy phone is back to launch the Finney, a device for the blockchain crowd.

The Finney is named after Bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney, and is described as a “state of the art mobile device” for the “blockchain era.” The handset bears a passing resemblance to its predecessor, but aside from one pretty nifty hardware feature, it’s what’s inside the phone that counts.

At first blush, the Finney clearly comes from the same company as the Solarin, even down to the teardrop camera frame. But here, the top fifth of the backplate now slides up in a manner that’s reminiscent of an old Nokia slider.

Slide out the back and you’ll find a secondary display, called the Safe Screen, that’s only used for crypto transactions. The company says that the Safe Screen runs on dedicated firmware that lets users check where there coinage is being sent before they pay. The slider also activates the cold storage wallet that is designed to hold a significant number of different cryptocurrencies.

The Finney is running on a forked version of Android that, much like with the Solarin, the company promises has been made significantly more secure. It will need to be, too, since the phone offers access to a specific blockchain-related app store and the aforementioned cold wallet. Specs-wise, as we outlined previously, the handset is running with flagship specifications, including a Snapdragon 845 and 6GB RAM.

The other big notable feature, however, is Token Conversion Service (TCS), which is way to overcome the Balkanized nature of cryptocurrencies. Since so many coins are launched on a regular basis, it’s hard to know where to place your money. TCS, however, acts as a form of automatic broker, exchanging your SRN coins into the tokens necessary to carry out a specific purchase.

Amit Krelman, Sirin’s head of R&D, explained the idea using the notion of a blockchain-focused equivalent to Uber. Rather than having to stand, in the rain, buying tokens to hire a car, TCS will handle all of it for you, automatically. He was less clear, however, on how exactly the system would handle long transaction times and processing fees, an issue that plagues Bitcoin on a regular basis.

Of course, carrying all of your cryptocurrency around with you on your phone seems rather unwise given the risk of theft. It’s a point that Sirin CMO Nimrod May believes is a misunderstanding about how folks would use crypto in the real world. He said that users would simply load their Finney with the quantity of coinage that they’d need that day, and leave the rest in a secure location at home. Although that seems like far more effort than simply carrying a credit card around, and that has the added benefit of fraud protection.

Whereas the

Tech News

Sacramento Kings will mine cryptocurrency to support good causes

June 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings have a history of experimenting with cutting-edge tech, and now they’re using it to better their community. The basketball team plans to mine Ethereum in an arena-based data center as part of a new MiningForGood initative. The cryptocurrency they’ll generate will help Sacramento-based causes, starting with the Build Black Coalition helping local black residents with technology education and workforce development. It’s reportedly the first team anywhere to mine digital money.

The Kings are using MiningStore-made crypto machines that will solve complex math to verify coin transactions, sending “a share” of those transactions to MiningForGood. They’re not simply handing over all the cryptocurrency they make, then, but they could still be donating significant sums when one Etherium coin is worth about $436 as of this writing.

It’s easy to be cynical about the news when the Kings didn’t fare well during the last NBA season. It draws attention to an outfit that you might easily overlook instead of, say, another California team. Still, it’s hard to object to a team taking advantage of technology to donate to a good cause on a recurring basis — the only real danger is that a steep drop in Ethereum’s value might hurt the project.

Tech News

Florida is appointing a cryptocurrency czar

June 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

KeremYucel via Getty Images

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis believes his state needs to start keeping a closer eye on cryptocurrency and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). That’s why he created a position for a state-specific cryptocurrency czar who’ll be in charge of looking at how current securities and insurance laws apply to digital currencies and ICOs. The official will also help conjure up crypto regulations for the state. In addition, all ICO and cryptocurrency companies based in Florida will now be required to register with the Office of Financial Regulation and will be under the supervision of the new czar.

In an announcement released by his office, Patronis said Florida needs to be able to provide “an appropriate level of scrutiny” for the increasingly popular currency in order to protect its residents. ICO scams are becoming more rampant, after all, and Florida’s huge senior citizen population is especially vulnerable to falling for their schemes. The CFO said:

“We cannot allow the cryptocurrency industry to expand in Florida unfettered and unchecked with the potential for so many, including our large population of seniors, to be exploited. By taking an active, comprehensive and balanced approach, our state will provide an appropriate level of scrutiny for emerging digital asset technologies. It is absolutely essential that Florida create safeguards to protect our consumers from fraud.”

The US Securities and Exchange Commission named a nationwide crypto chief in early June, but Patronis clearly thinks Florida needs someone who can focus on activities happening in the state.

Tech News

Facebook lifts its ban on crypotcurrency ads

June 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Denes Farkas via Getty Images

At the end of January, Facebook banned any advertisements promoting cryptocurrencies because they are “frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices,” the company wrote in a blog post. Now the platform has softened its position and will permit ads involving cryptocurrencies, but only from advertisers who have been approved by Facebook after a vetting process. Even then, ads about binary options an initial coin offerings are still prohibited, at least for now.

Prospective advertisers must submit an application (available here), including disclosing any licenses they have, whether they’re traded on a public stock exchange and other background info that might be relevant to posting cryptocurrency ads. But this, too, may change based on feedback Facebook receives, the company’s product management director Rob Leathern wrote in a blog post.

When reached for comment, Facebook confirmed to Engadget that this was not a ‘reversal’ but an update to its January ad policy change, which it promised to revisit at the time. But it also reflects a mellower mood on cryptocurrency than at the beginning of the year, when bitcoin was in the middle of a free-fall from its December high water valuation over $19,000. Now it’s rested at just over $6,000 (as of this writing), and in the interim, Facebook even started considering its own coin. It remains to be seen whether Twitter and Google will also relax their stances on banning cryptocurrency ads.