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Tech News

The first ‘blockchain baby’ is here

July 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

When you read the news that they put a baby on the blockchain, your reaction makes you one of two types of people. Either you think, Mon dieu, is there anything the magical fairy dust known as blockchain can’t solve? Or you think: Surely this is child abuse.

For the past few years, techies have frothed and proselytized over the potential salvation of blockchain, the tech behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. So it’s hard to even know what babies and blockchain could even have to do with each other. Typically, outside of grifter circles, blockchain is associated with vaporware, shady fraudulent ICO’s, or solving things that aren’t suited at all for blockchain’s “distributed ledger” system. Oh, and largely solving things that aren’t even problems.

Rather than try and part the foolish with their actual money, for once the crypto craze might be doing some useful good — which is how a baby ended up on the blockchain. In this instance, the international organization AID:Tech is using the technology as a way to get charitable donations to their destinations: as in, getting soon-to-be moms in need funds for things like vitamins and medical care.

Of course, we think, why not just give it to already-established care orgs — why make a whole blockchain mess out of it? This is an extremely reasonable question, seldom asked in the presence of crypto-critters. AID:Tech is a medical aid project positioned to combat the huge problem of fraud in the world of charitable donations, and to help at-risk women with their medical information. And on July 13th, a baby was added to a blockchain ledger (a first). This was followed by two more births on the 19th.

The idea of grafting blockchain to charity was to prevent fraud — which seems ironic given cryptocurrency’s reputation. Founder Joseph Thompson told CIO in a March interview:

In 2009, I ran 151 miles in the Sahra Desert as part of the tough world marathon, the 6-day Marathon des Sables. For the race, I raised over $120k for a charity I trusted. But the funds did not go where they were intended to.

With this experience, I became a cynic and decided never to donate again. But I always wanted to solve this problem. In 2010, I then saw the potential of Blockchain for traceability, and then the United Nations included this goal as part of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].

And so, in December 2015, hundreds of Syrian refugees at a camp in Lebanon took part in AID:Tech’s pilot program. The org partnered with the Irish Red Cross to give 500 digital credit cards to the refugees for use in a supermarket, each pre-loaded with $20 — in total, $10K was distributed to 100 Syrian refugee families.

“A traditional paper voucher system was simultaneously in place. These are problematic because fraudulent copies inevitably emerge,” wrote Irish Times. “Within a matter of hours, the same thing was

Tech News

Google no longer welcomes crypto-miners on the Play Store

July 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Getty Images

Google has updated its Play Store policy, and it’s clear that the fresh set of rules was created to keep out the new types of unsavory and unsafe content popping out these days. One of the changes Android Police has spotted is the addition of a cryptocurrencies section, wherein the tech giant states that crypto-miners are no longer allowed on its app marketplace. Applications that can manage crypto-miners are A-OK, but miners themselves are no longer welcome.

The new rule didn’t come out of left field. Google banned crypto-mining extensions from the Chrome Web Store back in April due to “malicious software developers who attempt to abuse the platform at the expense of users.” We’ll bet that’s also why the tech giant has decided to implement the same rule for Google Play.

The store will now also ban any app made to appeal to children but contain prohibited adult themes, most likely to prevent “Elsagate” apps from multiplying any further. If you’ll recall, one of the issues YouTube is grappling with is the spread of disturbing and violent videos masquerading as kids’ shows. Google Play has the same problem — while it’s probably not as bad for the platform as it is for YouTube, it’s also been hosting a bunch of kids’ application that actually contain creepy images and videos.

In addition to those two new rules, Google Play will now also ban any app that sells explosives, firearms and ammunition. Plus, it’s taking steps towards getting rid of low-quality, low-effort applications. Apps that rip off others without adding anything original or anything of value, as well as multiple applications with “similar content and user experience” created by the same developer will now get the boot. The Play Store will also kick out apps primarily made to serve ads and those that intend to mislead users by pretending to be something else entirely.

Tech News

Coinbase users can convert crypto into gift cards

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Getty Images

Coinbase announced today that it has teamed up with WeGift and customers in Europe and Australia will now be able to convert their cryptocurrency into e-gift cards. Gift cards are available for companies like Nike, Uber, Google Play, Ticketmaster and Tesco and Coinbase won’t collect any withdrawal fees when users buy the gift cards with their cryptocurrency balances. Customers will also get bonus credit on some of their e-gift card purchases. Gift cards for Nike, Ticketmaster and Uber offer six percent, three percent and two percent bonuses, respectively, for example.

In 2015, Coinbase launched the Shift debit card, which allows US customers to spend their bitcoin in stores and online via a Visa-backed card.

The gift card service is currently available in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia. Coinbase says it’s working to expand the selection of retailers you can purchase gift cards from over the next three months. It plans to extend the availability to additional countries soon after.

Tech News

Blockchain company Tron buys BitTorrent

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bill Hinton via Getty Images

A blockchain startup called Tron has closed its deal to buy the file-sharing service BitTorrent. Neither side disclosed how much Tron paid, but TechCrunch reports the price was around $126 million in cash. BitTorrent’s staff will work out of Tron’s San Francisco office.

Tron founder Justin Sun says the deal makes his firm the “largest decentralized Internet ecosystem in the world.” BitTorrent said in a statement last month it ” has no plans to change what we do or charge for the services we provide. We have no plans to enable mining of cryptocurrency now or in the future.” But it’s not clear if Tron has different plans, such as prompting its new userbase to start mining its TRX cryptocurrency.

One thing’s for sure: the BitTorrent and uTorrent clients are not going away, nor should its more than 100 million active users have to start paying for the base service any time soon. It appears other apps and services BitTorrent has launched over the last few years, such as the ad-supported music and video app BitTorrent Now, could remain too. However, it’s unclear whether we’ll see future BitTorrent products, or if Tron will focus more on maintaining the current services and bolstering Tron’s own offerings.

The acquisition closes a chapter in BitTorrent’s turbulent history. While it was committed to the notion of a decentralized internet, it still had to function as a business, and attempts to find an app or service that helped BitTorrent turn the corner didn’t really work out. The situation was in such a mess a couple of years ago that the company fired its dual CEOs, while BitTorrent hadn’t raised any money since 2008.

It’s official. BitTorrent is now part of #TRON. We pioneered the world’s largest decentralized p2p protocol, now we’re joining forces with TRON to build the future of the decentralized internet. Read more at https://t.co/ZoCPl5c5wS. @Tronfoundation @justinsuntron pic.twitter.com/EI3xP8Gdz2

— BitTorrent Inc. (@BitTorrent) July 24, 2018

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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