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Value privacy? DuckDuckGo is the answer to breaking up with Google

(TECHNOLOGY) DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn’t listen to home recordings, sell you stuff, or track your every movement. They just provide search results.

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DuckDuckGo search engine

A recent Wired editorial caught our eye, urging folks to consider using DuckDuckGo instead of Google. As someone who does use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine, it made me smile.

In the modern world of telecommunications, the only real currency is trust. When you buy an iPhone or an Android, you’re not really buying a set of features. You’re buying assurance that the cell phone company you’ve chosen isn’t going to screw you over too badly. You have a device in your pocket that tracks you, everywhere you go.

Even when you have location services off, your smartphone knows where you are through a combination of the Wi-Fi networks nearby and your phone’s motion sensor. Here’s an article from nearly a decade ago talking about how this process is 90% accurate. How much better do you reckon it’s gotten since then?

The thing is, Apple and Google both kinda suck at the privacy thing. Here’s an article about Siri recordings being made when Siri isn’t meant to be turned on, and the quality assurance contractors who then have to listen to people having sex. (Apple is ending the contractor program, after a public outcry.) Here’s an article about a big ol’ leak of Google Home recordings, many of which were made without the user activating Google Home. Here’s an article about Amazon leaking 1,700 audio recordings from someone’s Alexa to a complete stranger!

So your phone companies don’t really protect you that well. Apps take advantage of this too. If you still have the FB app, you should probably delete it! Here’s a story about a psychiatrist realizing that Facebook was suggesting that her patients add each other!

So privacy matters, and Google sucks at it. Google is also a HUGE business. It’s an enormous company that wields so much influence on ours lives that there is an entire industry now called “search engine optimization” dedicated to unraveling its whims.

And what whims! One major update a few weeks ago caused a 30-40% drop in traffic for some websites. These updates are pretty opaque, and a whole constellation of websites has arisen to help the search engine optimization workers (or SEOs, for short) untangle what those updates mean, and why their traffic has suddenly gone down.

And at this point, Google only kinda wants to serve you results. Mostly they wanna serve you ads, and highly-optimized shopping results. One of the big problems facing SEO workers right now is that you can bust your ass to get a company to the front page of results, and it may not matter if you don’t crack the top 3. Because people do most of their Internetting on their phones now, and ads take up most of the screen space when someone Googles.

So Google isn’t great at privacy AND their priorities are skewed. But this is an article about DuckDuckGo, right? And we’ve barely covered it! So let’s talk about that a little.

DuckDuckGo doesn’t save your searches. It forgets everything you search. And you know what? That feels incredible. There are drawbacks. When I type the letter L into DuckDuckGo, it doesn’t immediately suggest “Leonard Bernstein shirtless” like Google does. But the ten seconds it takes to type that out is worth the knowledge that my data isn’t being stored by my search engine.

And yes, Google pours a ton of money and attention into their algorithms, and they’ve got a years-long head start on DuckDuckGo. But usually, DuckDuckGo still manages to get me exactly what I want. Sometimes, it’s even better at giving me what I want. Because it’s not serving me ads, or trying to second-guess me. It just…gives me the thing I asked for.

There are still some instances that send me to Google. If I’m looking for a specific image or gif, for instance. Or if I’m looking for a certain news story. And there are certain niche searches where Google’s experience is necessary. But for the vast majority of what I need, DuckDuckGo is there, serving up only what I want and protecting my privacy while it does. And it feels GREAT.

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Real Estate Technology

Are Millennials going to buy into 3D printed hotels?

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) 3D printed anything became a giant attention getter a couple years ago, but could the biggest winners be odd tourist attractions?

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3D printed star

If you were ever wondering what the next marketing to the millennials ploy would be, well wonder no more! It’s 3D printed hotels.

Habitas is the company that “…is a global hospitality group created by a diverse community of people seeking human connection, authentic experiences, and a better future. We measure success not by the number of stars given, but the number of smiles received, hearts warmed, minds opened, and friends made.

If that isn’t trying to appeal to the millennial crowd with buzz phrases then I don’t know what is. Even their descriptions of the “experiences” they offer are filled with buzz word salad. I’ll get to those later

I’m all for 3D printed products, if there is a cheaper, more flexible, creative way to produce things you need, then do it! I can count dozens of times I would love to just print out some tool I don’t want to go buy or some lego piece I swear was just in my hand.

3D printed homes are an amazing feat, because of their low cost, and quick build times. This technology could help millions buy a home with all the features they want for less than the price of a car.

It only makes sense that hotel chains, or new hotel companies would want to join in this revolutionary tech. A company could build a hotel cheaper, quicker, and more remotely. Habitas is pushing hard on this last point.

Habitas has 3D printed hotels in Africa, 2 in Mexico with one on the way, and in Bhutan. These places were chosen to bring customers out of their normal habitat into places unknown, just like their statement claims.

Their “rooms” look pretty sparse and open, literally open. Many don’t seem to have walls or windows, so they look like glorified tents, but again without walls. That would put me firmly outside my comfort zone, which might be the point.

Habitas open room

The $200-$400/night price on the other hand has me really wondering what the company is thinking. I assume the cost is because they offer a dive into the deep end of culture, but I see a company who wants to profit from the fyre festival crowd.

Their locations are some of the hottest places on earth, and there is not an AC to be seen in their “rooms”. But hey maybe not everyone wants to be comfortable when they sleep.

The rooms aren’t everything with this kind of company, they also have amazing “experiences” to offer. Things like a 3 day Reintegration which sounds amazing.

If perception is reality, we are masters of design. Our lives are our greatest masterpiece. With fervent desire and child-like wonder, we bring fantasies to life, creating realities far better than our dreams. Together, we share these worlds with one another, traversing borders in search of adventure. When we open our eyes, under starlit skies and dancing candlelight, we are home.

We welcome you to Reintegration, our immersive three-day wellness gathering at our home in Tulum. Through breath work and yoga, we’ll reconnect to the creator in all of us. Tantalizing concerts, exotic ingredients and local escapes await us. This is an open call to discover ourselves both in conversation and silence, travel and stillness.

Only when we return to the source of our power can we embrace what lies ahead.”

What? Yoga, food, and music. Ok, well sure that sounds good I guess. How much for that light experience?

“Starting from $2,015”

My wallet just died, so did my bank account, and I can’t eat this week. I’ve been on a week long cruise with all food included, and went to multiple beaches in different countries for half that.

I’m a realist, and that first paragraph in the description is nonsense. Just because we can perceive doesn’t necessitate that we can create. This Reintegration doesn’t walk you through creating anything, it’s yoga and eating. So how can you share something you haven’t created with someone else who also hasn’t created anything? I don’t know about anyone else but creativity is not the source of my power, mine is stress.

This description stressed me out enough to write this story, so I guess it’s working. At least I didn’t pay $2,000 for the pleasure though.

Regardless of the wording, the cost, and the no walls (I’m comfortable in my box), this may be a great experience for those who can afford it, and are looking for vague spiritual guidance. Plus the rooms do look aesthetically pleasing regardless of missing amenities

But for the vast majority of millennials who I know can’t afford this, and recognize this kind of pandering to pry food money out of our pockets, we don’t need this.

We need the 3D printing technology to focus on houses that we can afford. So please 3D print something more than a roof to do yoga under.

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Real Estate Technology

Google Maps’ new default route will prioritize green over speed

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) Sorry commuters, but Google Maps will be updating their routes’ priority from ‘fastest’ to ‘greenest’ route within the next year.

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Google Maps ready to plot a new route inside of a car.

Google is making it easier for you to offset your carbon footprint. The Google Maps app will soon default to the greenest route instead of the fastest one.

To find the most environmentally friendly route, Google is taking insights from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab. Its navigation algorithm will consider factors like slopes, inclines, road type, and traffic congestion to find the most eco-friendly route.

For those in a rush, this might be a cause for worry, but there is no need for that. You have the option to adjust your preference settings to turn this feature off. Also, the app will default to the greenest route only when the estimated travel time of the fastest route is about the same. If the most fuel-efficient route is longer, Google Maps will give you other options to compare ETAs and carbon emissions.

“What we are seeing is for around half of routes, we are able to find an option more eco-friendly with minimal or no time-cost trade-off,” Russell Dicker, a director of product at Google said.

The feature is set to launch on Android and iOS in the U.S. later this year and will expand to other countries.

Also, Google is supporting cities that have established low emission zones by alerting a driver when they will be passing through a low emission zone that restricts some vehicles from passing through them. These warnings will inform users if their car is allowed in that area so they can choose another form of transportation or select a new route if they need to. In June, these low emission zone alerts will launch in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and the UK.

In addition, Google Maps is making it easier to compare different routes and modes of transportation with a “comprehensive view”. Instead of switching between tabs to view different destination times, you’ll be able to compare car, cycling, public transportation, etc. all in one place.

Google’s new eco-friendly navigation option, along with the other Google Maps app updates, is part of the company’s commitment to reduce and help its users reduce their environmental footprint. Since 2007, the tech giant has been carbon neutral, and it plans on being carbon-free by 2030. With these changes, the company seems to be making strides in the right direction to get there.

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Real Estate Technology

How fake images are infiltrating suburban geography

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) The rise in quality of deepfakes has even lead to the development of fake images in geography and housing. Here’s what to look out for.

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A digital map open on a computer, where one has to be wary of fake images.

With the onset of the computer age, we have seen a great deal of false information spreading around the world. From photoshopped images to presidents broadcasting fake information, there is a lot to be wary of. The internet is rife with data that truly needs to be verified at any given turn. The dangerous part is not only what people can do with that information, but also how they can hide things with it.

Satellite imagery has been on the rise for a few decades. An image that is already grainy and hard to see would be child’s play to alter. Maybe even to create from scratch. Tagging GPS coordinates are a simple alteration inside of photoshop too. Fakes, upon fakes, upon fakes.

In 2019, the US military warned about the possibility of fake geographical information being perpetuated across the internet. It then actually came true to the embarrassment of the Chinese government. Satellite “evidence” was used to report detention camps hidden away in the countries. The “camps” turned out to be re-education facilities for China’s mentally deviant populace. However, that’s another rabbit hole to run down. The point here is that the images that were released in 2015 showed absolutely no facility and then pictures in 2018 showed a massive facility.

An assistant professor, Bo Zhao, with the University of Washington decided to illustrate this again with a study. His opinion was “the first step to tackling these issues is to make people aware there’s a problem in the first place”. He and his colleagues published a paper on “deep fake geography”. They conducted experiments in generating and detecting imagery for suburban homes, which clearly demonstrated the affect of this technology on our economy. They were able to easily convert the shape and layout of a neighborhood in their images.

From this work we have a few new terms to be aware of. Threats of “paper towns” and “trap streets” are two of the new resounding terms. These new ideas can lead to a modicum of potential issues. The team actually created a software that has the ability to create these fake images. They did the work themselves, leading one to believe that the basic knowledge is there for anyone with a little know-how.

The moral of the story is, don’t trust anything from the internet. It’s all an opinion coming from some other flawed human being, and you don’t ever really know why people are putting that information out there. Always know and check your sources.

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