ICOs are becoming funds

What does a startup do with $48 million? $130 million? $1.7 billion? This question – one integral in the whole ICO craze – hasn’t quite been answered yet but it’s going to be far more interesting as ICOs and cryptocurrencies transform from purely product-oriented companies into actual funds. Take the news that the creator of the TRON token bought BitTorrent for $140 million purportedly to lend legitimacy to the platform. “One shareholder we spoke to says there are two plans,” wrote TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden. “First, it will be used to ‘legitimize’ Tron’s business, which has met with some controversy: it has been accused of plagiarizing FileCoin and Ethereum in the development of its technology. And second, as a potential network to help mine coins, using BitTorrent’s P2P architecture and wide network of users.” Given a $4.8 billion market cap, the cost of buying a beloved network brand,
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ICOs are becoming funds

What does a startup do with $48 million? $130 million? $1.7 billion? This question – one integral in the whole ICO craze – hasn’t quite been answered yet but it’s going to be far more interesting as ICOs and cryptocurrencies transform from purely product-oriented companies into actual funds. Take the news that the creator of the TRON token bought BitTorrent for $140 million purportedly to lend legitimacy to the platform. “One shareholder we spoke to says there are two plans,” wrote TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden. “First, it will be used to ‘legitimize’ Tron’s business, which has met with some controversy: it has been accused of plagiarizing FileCoin and Ethereum in the development of its technology. And second, as a potential network to help mine coins, using BitTorrent’s P2P architecture and wide network of users.” Given a $4.8 billion market cap, the cost of buying a beloved network brand,
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Bag Week 2018: The Bitcoin Genesis Block backpack will centralize your belongings

Welcome to Bag Week 2018. Every year your faithful friends at TechCrunch spend an entire week looking at bags. Why? Because bags — often ignored but full of our important electronics — are the outward representations of our techie styles, and we put far too little thought into where we keep our most prized possessions. It’s difficult to show people that you love blockchain. There are no cool hats, no rad t-shirts, and no outward signs – except a libertarian bent and a poster of a scantily-clad Vitalik Buterin on your bedroom wall – to tell the world you are into decentralized monetary systems. Until, of course, the Bitcoin Genesis Block Backpack. Unlike the blockchain, this backpack will centralize your stuff in a fairly large, fairly standard backpack. There is little unique about the backpack itself – it’s a solid piece made of 100% polyester and includes ergonomically designed straps
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The long Cocky-gate nightmare is over

I’ve been wanting to write about Cocky-gate for some time now but the story – a row between self-published authors that degenerated into ridiculousness – seems finally over and perhaps we can all get some perspective. The whole thing started in May when a self-published romance author, Faleena Hopkins, began attempting to enforce her copyright on books that contained “cocky” in the title. This included, but was not limited to, Cocky Cowboy, Cocky Biker, and Cocky Roomie, all titles in Hopkins oeuvre. Hopkins filed a trademark for the use of the word Cocky in romance titles and began attacking other others who used the word cocky, including Jamila Jasper who wrote a book called Cocky Cowboy and received an email from Hopkins. After taking up the cause on Twitter and creating a solid example of Streisand Effect, Jasper changed the title of her book to The Cockiest Cowboy To
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This simple robot offers more cowbell

Fellas, you’re gonna want that cowbell. And what better way to get that cowbell than with an automatic cowbell-playing robot that uses simple components to create a musical experience like no other. The system, built over at Adafruit, includes a simple Arduino controller, a potentiometer to control the speed of the cowbell hammer, and a few audio systems to play back some BÖC and the immortal words of The Bruce Dickinson: “More cowbell.” It even includes a controller to activate a fog machine for a little extra rock and roll. You can download the code for the system here and there is a full build guide here. Ultimately this is one of the silliest DIY projects I’ve seen in a while but, as you may recall, the only prescription for certain fevers is obviously more cowbell.

Dank learning system autogenerates memes

We all know that in the near future humanity will come to a crossroads. With 99% of the world’s population currently tasked with creating memes and/or dank memes, what will happen when computers get better at it than humans? Researchers may have just found out. Using machine learning, a pair of Stanford researchers, Abel L. Peirson V and E. Meltem Tolunay, have created a system that automatically generates memes including the ones visible above. Their system, they’ve discovered “produces original memes that cannot on the whole be differentiated from real ones.” You can read the report here. The system uses a pre-trained Inception-v3 network using the long short-term memory model to produce captions that are applicable to a particular picture. Humans then assess the humor of the meme, rewarding the system for true LOLs. The researchers trained the network with “400.000 image, label and caption triplets with 2600
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Tainted, crypto-mining containers pulled from Docker Hub

Security companies Fortinet and Kromtech found seventeen tainted Docker containers that were essentially downloadable images containing programs that had been designed to mine cryptocurrencies. Further investigation found that they had been downloaded 5 million times, suggesting that hackers were able to inject commands into insecure containers to download this code into otherwise healthy web applications. The researchers found the containers on Docker Hub, a repository for user images. “Of course, we can safely assume that these had not been deployed manually. In fact, the attack seems to be fully automated. Attackers have most probably developed a script to find misconfigured Docker and Kubernetes installations. Docker works as a client/server architecture, meaning the service can be fully managed remotely via the REST API,” wrote researcher David Maciejak. The containers are now gone, but the hackers may have gotten away with up to $90,000 in cryptocurrency, a small but significant amount for
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VR helps us remember

Researchers at the University of Maryland have found that people remember information better if it is presented in VR vs. on a two dimensional personal computer. This means VR education could be an improvement on tablet or device-based learning. “This data is exciting in that it suggests that immersive environments could offer new pathways for improved outcomes in education and high-proficiency training,” said Amitabh Varshney, dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at UMD. The study was quite complex and looked at recall in forty subjects who were comfortable with computers and VR. The researchers was an 8.8 percent improvement in recall. To test the system they created a “memory palace” where they placed various images. This sort of “spatial mnemonic encoding” is a common memory trick that allows for better recall. “Humans have always used visual-based methods to help them remember information, whether it’s cave
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AssistENT offers an anti-snoring device you stick in your nose

If you sleep next to someone who snores you know that the endless horking and honking isn’t very fun… and it makes the snorer’s life even worse. Some students and doctors in Baltimore, Maryland, however, have created something that acts like an internal breathing strip to help you breathe better and snore less. Called assistENT, the company uses small, reusable rings that fit into the nostril and open the septum. You insert and remove them yourself with a little pair of forceps and they can survive sneezing and, one would assume, a good, hard midnight snoooorrrrrk. Patrick Byrne and Clayton Andrews created the product and it recently won the $10,000 “Use it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for best product. Other members of the team include Melissa Austin, Talia Kirschbaum, Harrison Nguyen, Theo Lee, and Eric Cao. The team will be running a Kickstarter soon and is looking into a
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New technology can see your body through walls

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has created a system that can see your body through walls, recreating your poses when you walk, sit, or simply stand still. It uses RF waves to sense where you are and then recreates your body as a simple stick figure. It’s called RF-Pose. From the release:
The researchers use a neural network to analyze radio signals that bounce off people’s bodies, and can then create a dynamic stick figure that walks, stops, sits and moves its limbs as the person performs those actions. The team says that the system could be used to monitor diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS), providing a better understanding of disease progression and allowing doctors to adjust medications accordingly. It could also help elderly people live more independently, while providing the added security of monitoring for falls, injuries and changes in activity patterns.
The team is
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Build your own L3-37 droid complete with voice interaction

Robot maker Patrick Stefanski has created a 3D-printed – and animated – model of L3-37, the droid in the recent Solo movie. L3-37 is one of the funnest – and woks – droids in recent memory and this recreation is fun and ingenious. Stefanski used Alexa voice controls to let the robot head respond to voice commands and he set the wake word to “Hey L3” to which the robot responds with a grumpy “What!” The version you see above is painted and weathered but you can 3D print your own pristine version from here and then add in a Raspberry Pi and Arduino with a simple servo to control the head motion. In all it looks like a lot of fun and the hardest part will be printing all of the larger head parts necessary to recreate L3’s saucer-like dome. It could make for a nice weekend
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Notorious Kindle Unlimited abuser has been booted from the bookstore

A few levels past the bestsellers and sci-fi/romance/adventure titles on Kindle Unlimited, in the darkest corners of the Kindle Direct Publishing market, there are books that are made entirely out of garbage designed to make scammers hundreds of dollars a day. One user, who called his or herself Chance Carter, was one of the biggest abusers of the KDP system and, more important, made over $15 per book they uploaded to the system, over and over, for books that contained no real content. Carter, according to the Digital Reader, would create large novels out of other books. The books, which were simple hack jobs written by Fiverr writers, were hundreds of pages long and, on the first page, featured a recommendation to flip to the last page to get a free giveaway. KDP pays authors for both paid downloads as well as for pages read and it doesn’t sense
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Bitcoin price falls but doesn’t flatline

Those not looking at the Bitcoin markets lately will either gasp or smile. Bitcoin, down from its all time high of around $19,000, is now floating at $6,785 as of this writing. To many this means that either the Bitcoin experiment is over or, to many more, that it has just begun. There are plenty of folks who will have been hurt by this crash. I was speaking with a Romanian entrepreneur about his friend who bought BTC on a credit card only to find that he is wildly underwater. The volatility is also frightening to folks who might have gotten in on the last run up only to find themselves back at the start. I pity the poor waiter who a friend saw making Bitcoin trades at $18,000 during his shift. I hope he sold. But there are no signs that the cryptocurrency train is stopping. Startups around the
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LIV is Kickstarting a beefy and bold chronograph for race lovers

LIV Watches is a crowdfunding darling with a number of Kickstarted watches under its belt. Now it’s offering a unique set of watches to backers, including the Liv Genesis GX-AC, an automatic chronograph with date. The watch runs a Sellita Caliber SW500, visible through the see-through back, and features a screw down crown and massive metal pushers. The company prides itself on the size of its watches and this piece is no exception. The GX-AC isn’t wildly big – at 46mm it’s just a bit bigger than most Android Wear watches – and it fits nicely thanks to a rounded rubber band that hugs the top and bottom of the case. There is a small running seconds hand at nine-o’clock and registers for minutes and hours at noon and six. [gallery ids="1654222,1654220,1654219,1654218,1654217"] If you’ve seen automatic chronographs before you know what you’re in for – a standard movement encased
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A friendly reminder: Don’t put passwords in Trello

A new bit of research from David Shear at security firm Flashpoint found that there are hundreds if not thousands of open Trello boards containing passwords, login credentials, and other potentially sensitive stuff including employee on-boarding documents. He and Brian Krebs reported the boards to Trello although some folks have already been notified by well-meaning hackers who wrote “Change your password” on some of these public boards. “One particularly jarring misstep came from someone working for Seceon, a Westford, Mass. cybersecurity firm that touts the ability to detect and stop data breaches in real time,” wrote Krebs. “But until a few weeks ago the Trello page for Seceon featured multiple usernames and passwords, including credentials to log in to the company’s WordPress blog and iPage domain hosting.” Another Trello board made at Red Hat in 2017 offered passwords to a pair of online test servers. Trello worked with
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Photos on social media can predict the health of neighborhoods

The images that appear on social media – happy people eating, cultural happenings, and smiling dogs – can actually predict the likelihood that a neighborhood is “healthy” as well as its level of gentrification. From the report:
So says a groundbreaking study published in Frontiers in Physics, in which researchers used social media images of cultural events in London and New York City to create a model that can predict neighborhoods where residents enjoy a high level of wellbeing — and even anticipate gentrification by 5 years. With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, the model could help policymakers ensure human wellbeing in dense urban settings.
The idea is based on the concept of “cultural capital” – the more there is, the better the neighborhood becomes. For example, if there are many pictures of fun events in a certain spot you can expect a higher
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Anker’s Spirit earbuds are wireless and waterproof

Anker, a battery maker turned accessory house, recently releases the $39 Spirit X earbuds under their Soundcore brand. Aimed at runners and other heavy sweaters, the earbuds are completely waterproof under the IPX7 rating, a classification that means it can stand up to 1 meter of submersion. What this means is that you get a surprisingly cheap and rugged set of work-out earbuds that you’re not afraid to get a little dirty. I tested a pair and found them quite nice for running. The rubber ear hooks kept them in place and the sound quality was not horrible, especially compared to my previous pair of Philips corded headphones. The sound quality, while a bit muffled, is what you’d expect from a standard pair of sports headphones and the rubber earbuds stayed in place quite nicely. The company claims that the headphones have a 12 hour battery life which is about
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Packhelp raises a seed round to spread the love of beautiful boxes

When we last left Packhelp they had raised €350,000 to build a business out of custom packaging. Their original hunch – that companies wanted cool, custom packaging for their products – was correct and now they’ve gone back to the VC trough for €2 million. The round, raised from Speedinvest x, PROFounders, and Market One Capital, will go to growing the Polish business internationally. It is run by Wojciech Sadowski, Konrad Kwiatkowski, Maciek Woźniczko, and Maciej Zając. “Before Packhelp, four of us were running a digital agency,” said Sadowski. “One of our clients asked us to order custom boxes for his product. We did some research and it turned out that it is almost impossible to place an order for small quantity of boxes. Why? Because normal printing houses require high minimum orders (>500 pieces) and a lot of technical knowledge, they offer very long turn around (30-45 days) and
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The erosion of Web 2.0

It seems quaint to imagine now but the original vision for the web was not an information superhighway. Instead, it was a newspaper that fed us only the news we wanted. This was the central thesis brought forward in the late 1990s and prophesied by thinkers like Bill Gates – who expected a beautiful, customized “road ahead” – and Clifford Stoll who saw only snake oil. At the time, it was the most compelling use of the Internet those thinkers thought possible. This concept – that we were to be coddled by a hive brain designed to show us exactly what we needed to know when we needed to know it – continued apace until it was supplanted by the concept of User Generated Content – UGC – a related movement that tore down gatekeepers and all but destroyed propriety in the online world. That was the arc of Web
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Bitcoin exchange abandons Poland even as the government invites it to a working group

In a delightful bit of irony BitBay, a Central European exchange, has shut down operations in Poland even as it received an invitation by the Polish government to participate in a national blockchain working group. The news, which appeared in a Tweet, states that the group will assess regulations for cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and ICOs. “Our exchange has received an invitation from the PFSA to participate in the Blockchain Working Group. 💪 As we have recently said, we do not want to abandon crypto activity in the Polish community,” wrote BitBay.

Poland has had an odd relationship with Bitcoin. First, some of the central banks funded a YouTube propaganda

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