Google ‘Walkout For Real Change’ to include ‘thousands’ Thursday

Google ‘Walkout For Real Change’ to include ‘thousands’ Thursday


JHVEPhoto via Getty Images

One week after a New York Times report dug into incidents of sexual misconduct — and departures afterward that included large payouts — among high-ranking Google and Alphabet executives, employees are proceeding with their planned protest. The Google Walkout For Real Change has listed five specific demands:

An end to Forced Arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees.
A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.
A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.
A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
Elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. Appoint an Employee Rep to the Board.

At 11:10 AM in their local time zones, starting in Tokyo, employees and contractors began walking out in solidarity and leaving this flyer behind. Organizers have said they expect thousands to participate.

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Fitbit finally returns to profit thanks to the Versa

Fitbit finally returns to profit thanks to the Versa


Cherlynn Low/Engadget

Fitbit was hoping it would return to profit after many months of losses, and it turns out that faith was well-placed. The wearable maker earned a net profit of $10 million for the third quarter of 2018, beating both its $2.8 million loss from a year earlier and the stiff 54.2 million loss from this spring. And it’s not shy about why it went from red ink to black — Fitbit mostly owes the recovery to smartwatches, and the Versa in particular.

The company sold slightly fewer devices than it did a year ago (3.5 million versus 3.6 million), but the ratio of smartwatches went up. It was making more money from each sale, even if it wasn’t moving as many devices as it once was. Versa sales clearly led that charge, with the lower-cost watch outperforming rivals from Garmin, Samsung and Fossil in the US. Fitbit was second only to Apple in the country, which is no mean feat for a company that debuted its first watch (the Ionic) 14 months ago and, to put it mildly, stumbled out of the gate.

Whether or not Fitbit can stay above water isn’t certain. The Versa’s $199 price and fitness focus help, but it also spent much of Q3 competing against old-in-the-tooth rivals. The Apple Watch Series 4 had only been out for a couple of weeks before the quarter was over. Now, Fitbit has to compete against both the Series 4 and rivals like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch during a full, fierce holiday quarter.

There’s also the matter of selling enough smartwatches in the long run. Fitbit was quick to acknowledge that its fitness tracker sales will likely keep dropping during the holidays, and that the uptick in smartwatches won’t necessarily make up the difference. It needs to keep growing its watch business if it’s going to thrive, and that’s not guaranteed to happen given the competitive landscape.

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Apple Just Can’t Stop Throttling iPhones

You can now download and install iOS 12.1. That means you’ll finally be able to use Group FaceTime (LOL), access over 70 new emoji, and get rid of the annoying image blur that caused “Beautygate.

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Spotify officially returns to Roku devices

Spotify officially returns to Roku devices


ASSOCIATED PRESS

As expected, has officially returned to Roku’s streaming platform. The music streaming app will be available on most Roku players and TVs running Roku OS 8.2 or higher. Access to the service starts today and will roll out to all supported device by the end of the year, according to Roku.

When using Spotify on Roku, you’ll be able to search albums and playlists and browse music recommendations right from your Roku device of choice. The app can be controlled using the Roku remote or via Spotify Connect, which allows you to navigate the app using a computer or mobile device.

In addition to running on Roku TV models running Roku OS 8.2 and higher, streaming player models 3600 and above will also get the app. Roku devices check for new software every 24 to 36 hours, though users can manually check for updates if you’re feeling impatient. To do so, open Settings > System > System update > Check now. Roku OS 8.2 is already available for Roku TVs and will roll out in the coming weeks for Roku players.

Spotify used to be available on Roku’s platform but disappeared last year because of technical issues. Last month, Roku promised the streaming music service would come back to its platform. The company revealed the imminent return in the release notes for Roku OS 9 earlier this month but made it official today.

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Cryptocurrency Finally Takes Off In The Porn Industry

Cryptocurrency Finally Takes Off In The Porn Industry

Note: Clicking links in this article may take you to websites that discuss adult themes.

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 25, 2018: Illustrations of a number of major cryptocurrancies, including Litecoin and Ethereum. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

According to recent market research conducted by the porn studio VogoV, as of 2018 about 470 adult video sites, 50 webcam platforms, and 35 sex shops worldwide accept cryptocurrencies (crypto for short) as a form of payment. That may seem like a lot, but relative to the overall size of the sprawling adult industry, it really isn’t. In fact, for an industry that prides itself on a history of early tech adoption and popularization, from VHS tapes to internet payment systems, porn has approached this new form of remuneration gingerly at best. Big and well known companies especially, like Pornhub and Wicked, flirted with accepting crypto for years before making any moves. And most sites long focused on accepting Bitcoin, arguably the best known and most dominant coin, rather than exploring new or numerous alternative cryptocurrencies. Early attempts to develop coins meant to serve the adult industry specifically, like 2014’s (a little on-the-nose) Titcoin, flopped miserably.

“Businesses didn’t need to use something hazy and new, like crypto,” says VogoV co-founder Aleksei Maetnyi, also known as Markus Dupree, his adult film performer and director pseudonym. “Traditional technologies worked, and still work, pretty well” for payments. Adult companies also recognized, he adds, that (until recently) few of their customers used, or were clamoring to pay with, crypto.

Since the middle of 2017, though, the adult industry has switched gears entirely. Last year, major sites like xHamster and Naughty America finally started accepting Bitcoin. Over the first half of this year, Pornhub and some of its sister sites announced partnerships with cryptocurrencies Horizon (formerly ZenCash), Tron, and Verge, and VRPorn.com started accepting Litecoin.

Simultaneously, and much more ambitiously, a number of entrepreneurs from the adult and crypto worlds have launched new coins and attendant payment infrastructures aimed at the adult industry. The creators of the OGO coin (VogoV), BOOTY token (SpankChain), Vice Industry Token, and WankCoin all seem to believe their systems can solve the economic woes bedeviling the industry—largely stemming from the fact few people pay for porn anymore—better than other crypto options. And they all seem to believe that, in short order, they will become the dominant crypto payment platform for adult websites and consumers worldwide, and perhaps other industries, too.

“This is an exciting time,” says Alex Hawkins, vice president of major adult tube site xHamster, “with really creative people exploring new systems.”

Cryptocurrency systems have a lot to offer the adult industry. Because credit card companies and banks consider porn a high-risk sector, rife with disputed transactions, adult sites pay considerably more in fees and workaround costs to process payments than most industries. VogoV’s materials claim these fees account for up to 13% of the cost of a digital porn purchase, but Maetnyi thinks it can go up to 19%. Crypto systems, argues Najva Sol, vice president of community at SpankChain, offer a clear record of definitive transactions that “mean that no one can consume a performer’s content and demand a fake refund or claim they’ve been frauded.” They also bypass the fees and infrastructure of banks, cards, and payment processors, radically reducing the cost of selling content digitally.

For consumers, cryptocurrencies promise a new type of anonymity. Although Hawkins argues that adult companies do a good job of trying to protect the privacy of their customers, porn buyers classically (and with some merit) fear that people in a bank or in their homes will be able to tell not just that they consume adult material, but what kinds, through their card statements. Cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, explains Sol, publicly record every transaction on a decentralized ledger, but use a pseudonym, potentially making it much more difficult for anyone to track a person’s porn habits. “Whether you’re a married religious conservative in the United States, a gay male in Indonesia, or a fetishist in the United Kingdom,” says Hawkins, “getting caught viewing or purchasing adult content can carry significant social and legal risks.” So a new degree of anonymity speaks to some.

“The benefits of cryptocurrency for adult businesses are so great,” says Lisa Moore, vice president of VRPorn.com, that “we would love to go 100% crypto in the future.”

Despite the fact that these benefits have been clear to many in the adult and crypto worlds since the early days of Bitcoin, it makes sense that crypto initiatives in this sector are only coming into the spotlight or taking off now. Crypto systems, points out Alec Helmy, founder and publisher of the adult industry news site XBIZ, come with a steep learning curve for any industry. A lack of consumer knowledge of, or engagement with, these systems for much of the past decade limited the appeal of pushing past early adoption barriers. But, Moore notes, 2017 especially witnessed a massive uptick in consumer knowledge and use of, and hype surrounding, cryptocurrencies. “With widespread mainstream adoption reaching a fever pitch,” explains Corey Price, vice president of adult streaming behemoth Pornhub, “we thought it an appropriate time to penetrate the market and start accepting cryptocurrencies.”

Despite increasing popular engagement with and enthusiasm about cryptocurrencies, though, initiatives in the adult industry probably won’t take off in earnest any time soon—especially those like Vice Industry, VogoV, and WankCoin that hope to build wholly new crypto systems.

Cryptocurrencies are still, Maetnyi admits, confusing for many consumers, conceptually and practically. This may be an especially big problem in porn world, Hawkins points out, because, “while fans of adult content come in all ages, actual purchasers of adult content tend to be slightly older, and are more conservative with their purchases and with the technology they use.”

The new coin systems burbling up in the adult industry are especially complex, as most currently seem to require that users buy one type of established cryptocurrency first, then exchange it for their novel token, and store and use it in a specific fashion—a far less intuitive process than paying with a card.

“Any system that requires massive hurdles, validation, mysterious transactions and transaction fees, and the creation of new accounts,” argues Hawkins, “is dead on arrival” in most cases.

Coins in general, and especially new and small ones, are also notorious for their value volatility. Many fail quickly too, or vanish, sometimes after their inventors seemingly make off will all of early adopters’ hard assets. As Sol summarizes things: “There are a lot of shitcoins out there.”

“The average porn consumer,” she adds, “doesn’t want to read a whitepaper, and a forum, and some Medium articles just to judge the validity of a payment option.”

Promises of improved privacy alone probably can’t motivate consumers to overcome these barriers. As Hawkins notes, most “porn consumers are driven by impulse and immediacy,” rather than a careful consideration of their anonymity—beyond, say, entering a private web browsing mode. Some tech critics also argue that no coin truly offers the perfect anonymity some may seek.

The adult world’s new crypto platforms are experimenting with all manner of incentives for user adoption. VogoV and Vice Industry advertise discounts on content at some partner sites if users pay with tokens. (Some sites already offer discounts for users paying in established currencies like Bitcoin. Discounts, alongside privacy promises, ideally acts as incentives for people to move away from streaming free porn and towards actually buying high quality content.) SpankChain and VogoV stress the measures they are taking to control price fluctuations in their tokens. VogoV also claims that its coin users can contribute to the porn making process by regularly providing input on the kind of scenes they want to see and voting on which potential scripts they want the studio to produce. The company has a lottery active now too, which offers early adopters a chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to attend an adult industry party. Vice Industry even offers to pay users tokens for watching porn; WankCoin claims that it will do the same in the near future. (This may seem counterintuitive, but basically they think this will lead to deeper and longer user engagement with content, and allow them to generate robust data on viewer habits, creating real value that is worth paying for.)

Maetnyi also tells me VogoV is investing heavily in user interface and experience research to try to make onboarding intuitive for any consumer. SpankChain, Sol says, takes pains to create and promote educational content. Sex workers using their platform help educate users as well, she adds.

Still, these incentives may not be enough to draw users to new crypto platforms. “Until consumers are comfortable with a particular coin,” argues Hawkins, “there will be limited use.”

“In some ways, this mirrors the early days of internet payment processing,” he adds, “where consumers were very hesitant to enter credit card numbers. Where would they go? Who could track it? What would they get? It took a while for major payment processors to emerge,” and through their size and partnerships to earn legitimacy in the eyes of consumers.

Established porn companies may be hesitant to lend legitimacy to new adult crypto systems via adoption or partnerships as well, limiting their ability to become ubiquitous and trusted payment infrastructures.

Granted, all these new initiatives have already built partnerships with at least a few adult sites or networks, although some of them are not exactly prominent industry actors. SpankChain and VogoV work openly and prominently with major figures in the adult industry as well, who can not only market systems to fans, but help position coins to make their cases for partnerships. And Vice Industry’s “we’ll pay you to watch porn” pitch has generated gobs of mainstream press attention, much of it fairly positive.

New adult-focused crypto platforms also make some strong business arguments for partnerships. Vice Industry’s promise of rich new data and better consumer engagement may be especially enticing—although one has to wonder about the value of data or engagement generated via a reward system that seems so gameable. (Vice Industry did not respond to a request for comment.)

Competition won’t be a huge problem for these platforms, as (in theory) they can all co-exist within the same industry. Most seem to plan to eventually accept not just their own tokens, but a wide variety on their platforms, perhaps including each other’s. Eventually, they could all become ubiquitous. Helmy likens this to the many equally viable and accepted credit card payment companies in the world today.

But, Maetnyi acknowledges, “most existing adult industry token projects will die,” whether due to flaws in their underlying models or due to their failure to build a broad enough usage ecosystem early on.

The perks these new systems offer may not be enough to garner a critical mass of partnerships for functional growth, utility, and legitimization. Most of these systems have faced a few hitches in their early days as well: SpankChain reportedly recently dealt with a hacking incident. Sol tells me a firm just declined to do a security audit for them “because of ‘optics.’” And this summer, Playboy TV sued the party that was supposed to make Vice Industry Tokens work on their site, alleging the company had failed to deliver. Given the false starts of earlier attempts at building adult industry crypto systems, and widespread skepticism about fly-by-night operations in the crypto world, any early foibles, even entirely understandable and forgivable ones, could generate skepticism.

Although startups like VogoV aim to partner with hundreds of porn sites and become ubiquitous and trusted within the next year, VRPorn’s Moore argues that most emerging porn-focused coin systems “have almost no traction whatsoever.” She believes that established tokens, like Bitcoin, will probably become the dominant crypto forces in the adult industry. Even if they are still somewhat volatile and don’t speak as explicitly to the needs of the adult industry, they similarly offer more efficient payments and new levels of consumer privacy. They also have larger and more active user bases and established payment systems and are easier to acquire for crypto novices by far.

“I’m not sure why a payment system intended for porn would be chosen over a more mainstream coin,” she adds. “But maybe one of these projects will find a clever way to succeed.”

Regardless of which types of tokens die or gain traction in the adult industry, though, Moore and others are convinced that crypto will slowly proliferate in the adult world as payment systems overall gradually grow better known, more widely used, and more intuitive.

“Many of the technologies that we take for granted in adult today took years before they gained mainstream acceptance,” notes Hawkins. “When we think of the internet revolutionizing adult content, it actually took nearly a decade before it became the default point of consumption.”

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‘Fortnitemares’ ends Sunday with a live in-game event

‘Fortnitemares’ ends Sunday with a live in-game event


Epic Games

Fortnite really got into the Halloween spirit with its Fortnitemares special event. Sadly, it will come to an end Sunday evening. But developer Epic Games wants to give fans a final treat, with a one-time event that will occur inside the game at 1PM ET.

There’s also the mystery of the pink cube — named Kevin by fans — that’s been hanging around the world of Fortnite. The cube is now projecting a laser beam straight into the sky, and is connected to the Cube Monsters — which Epic Games does not want you to refer to as zombies — that have been emerging all over the map. The event on Sunday will likely be linked to the cube.

Fortnite has done in-game events in the past, including a “High Stakes” jewel heist and a rocket launch that left a rift in the sky. Considering the awe that was left by the rocket launch event, fans should not miss out.

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Twitter test makes it easier to see the latest tweets first

Twitter test makes it easier to see the latest tweets first


Twitter

Twitter did start to restore some sense to timelines by letting you disable its “best tweets first” option, but it’s buried in the settings. What if you just wanted to flick it on and off? You might just get that chance. Twitter is testing a toggle right in the title bar that switches you between the latest tweets and top tweets with a couple of taps. You could quickly view the highlights if you think there’s a tweet you missed, and revert to the chronological order to view posts the way they were meant to be seen.

The test is available to a “small number” of iOS app users right now. It’s not certain how likely this is to expand, although product lead Kayvon Beykpour noted that feedback was “welcome.” Something tells us Twitter could get an earful — many people count on chronological timelines to follow breaking events or otherwise keep up with their friends. For them, the algorithmic approach merely gets in the way and drives them to use alternative apps.

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Lime removes some Segway scooters from fleet due to battery fires

Lime removes some Segway scooters from fleet due to battery fires


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Lime has removed a number of Segway Ninebot scooters from its fleet of rentals following the discovery of a manufacturing defect that could cause batteries to catch fire. The at-risk scooters were removed from the streets for testing and are now being charged at Lime facilities until the issue is fully resolved.

According to Lime, it first learned of the issue in August and responded by removing Segway Ninebot scooters from circulation. A total of about 2,000 scooters were recalled from Los Angeles, San Diego and Lake Tahoe, a Lime spokesperson told the Washington Post. The company worked with Segway Ninebot to create a software program that could detect batteries that could be at risk of going up in flames. Scooters with batteries that trigger the tripwire are deactivated and removed.

While the issue is ongoing, Lime is preventing its Juicers — freelancers who are tasked with collecting and charging scooters — from taking the devices. All charging will be done at Lime facilities, where trained staff will be on hand to deal with the batteries and monitor their health.

While Lime has stated “at no time were riders or members of the public put at risk,” The Washington Post reported there was an incident at the Lime facility in Lake Tahoe. An employee working at the facility reportedly heard a “loud bang” and discovered scooter at the location burst into flames. The local fire department was called to respond.

Lime noted there is also a new but unconfirmed report of another Segway Ninebot scooter model that has a similar battery issue. It is investigating those claims. The company also said there is an issue causing the baseboards of Okai scooters to crack when exposed to repeated abuse. The incidents highlight some of the problems that Lime and other scooter rental companies face in deploying their expanding fleets. Since most of the devices are made by other companies, they are reliant on those manufacturers to make a product that doesn’t, you know, explode or snap in half. That struggle doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

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Lime will reportedly test car-sharing service in Seattle

Lime will reportedly test car-sharing service in Seattle

Bike- and scooter-sharing startup Lime is looking to test car rentals in Seattle, according to a report from The Information. Lime, which launched in early last year and operates in markets across 26 US states, has boasted that its scooters have taken cars off the road in cities where it operates. Now, it’s reaching for a piece of the growing car-sharing market with a small host of around 500 cars made by Fiat Chrysler. There’s no concrete date set for when Lime will begin offering the new service, but an application submitted to Seattle’s car-sharing program in October indicates it could happen very soon.

Lime’s new car-sharing service would be similar to its scooter and bike rentals, as well as programs already in use by Car2Go and ReachNow. With those services, you can reserve cars scattered around the market area via smartphone app and drive them to your destination, leaving them for the next user. Lime’s decision to add cars to its bike and scooter-based business model mirrors recent moves by Zipcar, another car-sharing startup; that company recently added bikes to their car-based business.

This move is primed to put Lime in a similar market with Uber, a primary Lime investor. The Information’s report posits that the Seattle market is fruitful enough to support both Lime and Uber car services, but the relationship between the two services makes the news worth keeping an eye on. While ride sharing and car rental services are different things, the markets are similar enough that Lime and Uber could potentially see each other as competitors. Like Lime, Uber also offers bike sharing through its Jump bikes.

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Influencer Luka Sabbat sued for not shilling Spectacles on Instagram

Influencer Luka Sabbat sued for not shilling Spectacles on Instagram


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Luka Sabbat, a social media influencer with 1.4 million Instagram followers, is being sued for failure to, well, influence. According to a lawsuit filed by PR Consulting Inc., Sabbat breached a $60,000 contract he signed to promote Snap Spectacles on — wait for it — Instagram. The public relations agency said that, as part of the deal, he was supposed to post three Instagram Stories and one picture on his account. But, as it turns out, Sabbat didn’t fulfill his end of the deal: PR Consulting Inc. claims he only made one Instagram story and that the post he put up on his feed wasn’t submitted to it for approval.

Apparently, he also agreed to be photographed in public “wearing product tied to the ‘Spectacles Marketing Campaign'” during Fashion Week in Milan and Paris, but that never happened. Because of this, PR Consulting now wants the $45,000 it gave Sabbat up front, plus interest and other fees for “consequential and incidental damages.” That amount of money may seem crazy for just a few Instagram posts, but it’s actually nothing compared to the $1 million per post Kylie Jenner reportedly makes.

Even though this is one of the first lawsuits filed against an influencer for breach of contract on an Instagram campaign, as The Fashion Law reports, apparently there are many more like these happening behind the scenes. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, considering how often influencers are caught for questionable behavior on social media.

Remember that time Kendall Jenner was supposed to attend the doomed Fyre Festival but didn’t? (Although, in fairness, that could’ve been because of how terribly organized the event was.) Or what about when Kim Kardashian isn’t being transparent about whether her posts are ads? Simply put, the influencer culture has zero chill.

As for Snap, a company spokesperson told Engadget that the company “was not involved in this decision to pursue this complaint.”

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Cryptocurrencies Are Cooling, Just Ask The World’s Biggest Contract Chipmaker

Cryptocurrencies Are Cooling, Just Ask The World’s Biggest Contract Chipmaker

An employee inspects machines for the production of bitcoins and lightcoins at the ‘Kriptounivers’ (CryptoUniverse) mining centre during a presentation of the largest crypto currency centre in Russia in Kirishi on August 20, 2018. (Photo: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)

The world’s biggest contract chipmaker recently informed investors that sales were slowing due to “falling demand” for the microprocessors that specialize in blockchain mining. Almost two weeks ago, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) had to lower this year’s sales growth forecast to 6.5% from earlier estimates of between 7% and 9%.

“Chip orders are down,” says Zhang Jian, founder of Fcoin/F1, a cryptocurrency exchange from China. “This is a clear reflection of the continuing bear market within the cryptocurrency space. It is no secret that mining cryptocurrency has accelerated the advance and sales of computing power, but this pace has slowed significantly in Q2 and Q3.”

Cryptocurrencies are shedding some of their magic. The proxy for legal tender had once charmed investors while spawning countless fintech startups that are building services based on blockchain technology. But prices for bitcoin have slumped 60% this year, making it more difficult for the miners to turn a profit by using their powerful computer systems to generate and verify units of cryptocurrencies.

TSMC produces high-performance computing chips for clients like AMD, which has also been showing signs of a slowdown. This industry news report went so far as to say that AMD saw a “huge” decline in second-quarter business from crypto mining chips and that the company was not anticipating a rebound in the third. TSMC declined to discuss cryptocurrency mining chips for this report.

More on Forbes: Will Decentralization Powered By Blockchain Allow Greater User Privacy?

Interest in cryptocurrency mining has tapered this year in part because Bitcoin prices have tumbled. This commentary predicts a bear market through year’s end. Mining has also grown increasingly competitive and reward formulas more complex. When the market slumps, a miner’s equipment’s income will “sag a lot” and “even become unprofitable,” Intelligent Investing says in this July commentary.

“A decline in demand for cryptocurrency mining equipment has to do with the high cost of purchase,” says Peng Mao-jung, an international strategy center manager with the Taiwan government’s Industrial Technology Research Institute. “The lack of interest in mining equipment also has to do with the implosion of crypto prices.”

Just a leveling off in demand?

To be sure, slumping prices of cryptocurrencies aren’t the only reason for the slowdown. Orders for mining processors may have “leveled off” as buyers wait for an upgrade in chips from a 16-nanometer to a 7-nanometer process, says Shone Anstey, executive chairman and cofounder of BlockChain Intelligence Group, a Vancouver-based cryptocurrency tracking firm. Chips made through a 7-nanometer process would offer more power per machine, with more energy efficiency. Producers may find this scheme “profitable,” Anstey says for this post.

Mark Liu, chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., speaks during a forum at the Semicon Taiwan Future Starts in early September, 2018. (Photo: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg)

“The indicators are there that the market has been slowing down in preparation for this new family of mining chips to come into production,” he adds. “The increased power of these new mining chips may prompt the smaller mining operations to pool resources in order to scale up.”

Today bigger miners have an edge in generating new units of crytocurrencies because of their relative computing power.

Blockchain technology is expected to grow anyhow as financial institutions and stock exchanges use it more often. “The key factor that drives the growth of this market is the ability to share the ledger and continually reconciled database,” Peng says.

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CBS gives ‘Entertainment Tonight’ its own streaming service

CBS gives ‘Entertainment Tonight’ its own streaming service


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CBS expanding its repertoire of free streaming services. It just launched ET Live, a no-cost Entertainment Tonight offshoot that provides 24/7 coverage of celebrity news, fashion and other not-so-deep fare. It’s not a strict expansion of the TV show — it relies primarily on original programming with a new set of hosts (including Lauren Zima, above), and will only occasionally feature appearances from ET regulars. There will be tie-ins with CBS’ other online properties, though. Deadline notes that you’ll have quick access to ET Live from services like CBS All Access and CBSN, and you may see guest spots from ET Live elsewhere when there’s relevant news.

You can watch the service on the web as well as through Android, iOS, Apple TV and Fire TV. More platforms are “coming soon.”

CBS characterized ET Live as a “natural expansion” of its streaming strategy that would serve people who “expect content to be accessible anytime, anywhere.” In that regard, this is a hedge against not only cord-cutters, but the people who tend to watch IGTV, Snapchat Discover shows or other entertainment videos that are mobile-first or mobile-only. ET Live might be free, but it could be worthwhile for CBS if it keeps people from drifting to alternatives.

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Ford and Baidu team up to test autonomous cars in China

Ford and Baidu team up to test autonomous cars in China


Ford

There’s a new partnership in the autonomous vehicle game as Ford has announced it will be teaming up with Chinese internet company Baidu to work on autonomous vehicles, with testing set to begin in Beijing by the end of the year. The initiative hopes to achieve SAE L4 (a classification that measures level of human involvement) autonomous standards, meaning that vehicles can run autonomously within specific areas and under the correct weather conditions, within the next two years. And on the roads of Beijing, Ford will be joined by Mercedes-Benz, which too got approval to test cars in the capital city earlier this summer.

Because of the immense cost of creating this new technology, many companies have partnered up to split costs. These partnerships include GM and Honda with Cruise; Toyota, Aisin Seiki and Denso and Volkswagen and Mobileye. But partnerships alone won’t solve the immense challenge, as Cruise has reportedly been running into a host of issues. To potentially help mitigate these complexities, Ford issued a memorandum earlier this month asking for a common language to be implemented for self-driving cars, regardless of manufacturer.

Ford is also a founding member of the Apollo Committee, an advisory group for Baidu’s autonomous driving open platform. Ford and Baidu had also previously agreed to cooperate on research in artificial intelligence, digital marketing, and areas of connectivity.

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Controlling future summer weather extremes still within our grasp

Controlling future summer weather extremes still within our grasp

Continued burning of fossil fuels is likely to fuel even more extreme summers than that of 2018 because of its impact on the jet stream. The rapid disappearance of aerosols produced by pollution may, however, mitigate the impact until mid-century if countries like China phase out these fuels, according to an international team of climate scientists using climate models to predict changes in the occurrence of so-called Quasi-Resonant Amplification (QRA) events associated with persistent weather extremes.

These extreme paths for the jet stream bring about flooding, drought and wildfires. In 2018, summer weather included flooding in Japan, record heat waves in North America, Europe and Asia, wildfires in Greece and even parts of the Arctic. Heat and drought in California led to the worst wildfire season ever recorded.

The jet stream and extreme weather events

QRA events produce extreme summer weather when the jet stream exhibits broad north-south meanders and becomes stationary with the peaks and troughs locked in place.

“Most stationary jet stream disturbances will dissipate over time,” said Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director, Earth System Science Center. “However, under certain circumstances the wave disturbance is effectively constrained by an atmospheric wave guide, something similar to the way a coaxial cable guides a television signal. Disturbances then cannot easily dissipate and very large amplitude swings in the jet stream north and south can remain in place as it rounds the globe.”

“If the same weather persists for weeks on end in one region, then sunny days can turn into a serious heat wave and drought, and lasting rains can lead to flooding,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany.

In summer 2018, climate change impacts on extreme weather were no longer subtle, according to Mann.

“It played out in real time on our television screens and newspaper headlines in the form of an unprecedented hemisphere-wide pattern of extreme floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires,” Mann added.

Quasi-Resonant Amplification’s role

Mann notes that the phenomenon of QRA played an important role in producing that hemispheric array of unprecedented weather events.

Previous work by Mann and colleagues showed a connection between extreme climate events and climate-induced changes in the jet stream. While researchers cannot accurately identify QRA events in climate models, one thing the climate models capture very well is temperature change.

“QRA events have been shown to have a well-defined signature in terms of the latitudinal variation in temperature in the lower atmosphere,” explained Mann. “The change in temperature with latitude and how it responds to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations depends on physics that are well understood and well represented by the climate models.”

The researchers found that the pattern of amplified Arctic warming — Arctic Amplification — that slows down the jet stream also increases the frequency of QRA episodes.

Study co-author Dim Coumou, who is both at PIK and VU Amsterdam said we do not trust climate models enough yet to predict these types of extreme weather episodes because the models are too coarse.

“However, the models do faithfully produce large scale patterns of temperature change,” added co-author Kai Kornhuber of PIK.

The researchers report today (Oct. 31.) in Science Advances that the amplified Arctic warming, called Arctic Amplification, associated with human-caused climate change both slows down the jet stream and increases the frequency of QRA episodes.

They found that climate models, when used to project future changes in extreme weather behavior — because they are unable to capture the phenomenon of QRA — are likely underestimating how future climate change could lead to more persistent summer weather extremes like those during summer 2018. If carbon dioxide continues to be added to the atmosphere, the incidence of QRA and associated extreme weather events would continue to increase at the same rate they have over the past decades.

Aerosol’s effect on regulating temperatures

However, greenhouse gases are not the only consideration when looking at the future of Earth’s climate. Although the U.S. and Europe have switched to “cleaner” coal-burning methods, which remove aerosol-generating pollutants from emissions, many other areas of the world have not. Aerosols are particles suspended in the air.

If these countries, through midcentury, switch to cleaner coal-burning technology, then the mid-latitude areas of the world will warm and Arctic Amplification will diminish. This will occur because aerosols, especially in the mid-latitudes where there is abundant sun, cool Earth by reflecting heat away from the planet. Without those aerosols, that area of Earth will warm, mitigating any further increase in QRAs as the difference in warming between the Arctic and mid latitudes diminishes.

However, by mid-century, once the aerosols are no longer produced, greenhouse warming once more dominates climate. Curtailing the burning of fossil fuels can prevent an increase in persistent summer weather extremes, though the current rate of occurrence of summers like 2018 will likely persist. “The future is still very much in our hands when it comes to dangerous and damaging summer weather extremes.” Said Mann. “It’s simply a matter of our willpower to transition quickly from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

Also working on this project are Sonya K. Miller, programmer analyst, Penn State; Byron A. Steinman, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences and at Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota: Duluth; and Kai Kornhuber and Stefan Petri, Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany, partially funded this project.

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Kohler put Alexa in its newest bathroom mirror

Kohler put Alexa in its newest bathroom mirror

When you think of Kohler, you probably don’t think of the smart home. The 145-year old kitchen and bath fixture manufacturer is working to change that. Earlier this year, we took a look at Kohler’s Konnected line of products and how the company is bringing tech into our most private spaces. Front and center in Kohler’s campaign for tech-infused living is the Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror. It includes a built-in Amazon Alexa speaker and brings voice control into the bathroom. 

For many people, the thought of inviting Alexa into the bathroom is downright creepy, and I understand that. Privacy concerns are at an all-time high, and most of us have at least one ax to grind with technology or the internet these days. Still, I can see the convenience of being able to ask for your favorite song from the shower or make a to-do list while shaving. The hands-free element of smart speakers and voice assistants is perhaps at its most practical in a bathroom or kitchen context. So I get where Kohler is going.

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Still, there are big hurdles with this smart mirror — the price, for starters. At $1,200, it is expensive. It’s aimed at customers with deep pockets and a dedication to Alexa. It’s not a mirror for the rest of us. It also doesn’t work with Google Assistant or integrate with the smart home in any other way. If you’re ready to splurge, Kohler’s mirror is one fancy way to smarten your bathroom. Just know that its innovation doesn’t go too far beyond slapping an Alexa speaker onto a mirror with built-in lighting. A $50 Echo Dot ($50 at Amazon) would get you pretty close to the same experience with your existing vanity.

Design

Kohler’s Verdera Voice mirror is 33 inches tall and is available in three widths: 24, 30 or 40 inches. (We tested the 34-inch model.)  The tri-fold design includes two thin outer panels that each house an embedded LED bar. With a depth of just two inches, the mirror doesn’t feel as bulky as some designs. These Alexa-enabled mirrors don’t come in a medicine-cabinet style, so anyone looking for included storage will be disappointed.

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The light and visibility provided by the LED bars is great. This mirror is perfect for personal grooming and applying cosmetics, and the LEDs are dimmable via a touch control or the Kohler Konnect app, or by asking Alexa to dim the mirror to a specific brightness level percentage.

In addition to the two vertical LEDs, there is also a nightlight function and a motion sensor to activate the nightlight when someone steps in front of the mirror. It’s a nice touch and helpful for seeing your sink in the dark, but there isn’t really enough light to illuminate a bathroom floor and keep you from tripping.

Installation and smart mirror setup

Our Labs Manager, Steve Conaway, installed the Verdera Voice mirror in the CNET Smart Home above a pedestal sink. A well-illustrated guide with step-by-step instructions is included in the box and covers everything you need to know about mounting, wiring and centering the mirror. Once the mirror is  installed, you’ll need to connect it to your home Wi-Fi and enable Alexa smarts through the Kohler Verdera skill. Instructions in the manual for this portion of the setup are pretty slim.

Download the Kohler Konnect app, select the device you’d like to add to your Wi-Fi network, join a proxy Wi-Fi created by the app, then return and log in to your actual network with its password. This is the same process used by many smart home manufacturers, and while it’s not difficult, it is tedious. The first time I tried setting up the mirror, I had a problem connecting the mirror to the Wi-Fi. Turns out the mirror’s pairing mode had timed out. There’s no mention of how to troubleshoot this in the instructions, but the easy fix is to press the rubber reset button behind the control module for six seconds to re-initiate its pairing mode. Once you’re connected through the Kohler Konnect app, you can enable the Kohler Verdera Alexa skill.  

Alexa built in

Alexa’s smarts and the mirror’s speakers are both housed in a control module beneath the bottom edge. That’s also where dual, front-facing microphones listen for voice commands and where you’ll find touch controls to adjust volume and lighting levels. A separate blue light behind the module waves when Alexa hears her name and when she responds to your request, similar to the Amazon‘s Echo speakers.

If you’re worried about waterproofing and audio speakers, Kohler has you covered. The embedded speakers sit in the rear of the control module, sealed in a watertight housing to maximize sound quality while protecting the speakers from moisture. Sound quality in the Verdera Voice mirror won’t knock your socks off, but it is entirely adequate for any normal-size bathroom and plays music clearly.

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