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Bitcoin adoption could spike with 21 Inc.’s help

Bitcoin used to be a buzz word, but what is it really? How do you use it, where do you get it, and why do you want it? We have all these answers and more.

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Bitcoin

Bitcoin may soon be part of your daily life

Bitcoin used to be a daily buzz word; from why you needed it to how to use it, everyone was buzzing about the currency. Now, scuttlebutt surrounding the newest currency kid on the block is scarce at best, but it is still around, still relevant, and here’s why:

Bitcoin experienced a plummet from a high price of $1,242 in December 2013 to a mere $238, according to Stratechery. Now this may seem to make my point about Bitcoin being relevant invalid, but consider this: 21 Inc., a Bitcoin-focused startup, announced they had raised $116 million.

While they didn’t specifically state this was for furthering Bitcoin, Andreessen Horowitz and Matthew Pauker said, “Bitcoin is going to change the way that people and businesses and even machines interact with each other, but for Bitcoin to realize that vision we need mass adoption. It can’t just be for Silicon Valley.”

Wait, what’s Bitcoin?

Herein lies the problem: people do not understand what Bitcoin is, how it’s useful, and why it should interest them. If you’re in the “what the heck is Bitcoin” group, you’re not alone. Here’s what is it and how you can use it (and why it’s probably the next trendy thing).

Bitcoin is digital currency. When I say digital, I mean completely digital, operating free from banking institutions. Okay, not completely digital, as you can attain physical Bitcoins, but this does defeat the original premise behind an “all digital” currency and enthusiasts greatly prefer the digital variety.

So, Bitcoin is 98% digital. I liken Bitcoin to tokens that you used to get in gaming arcades, with one exception: Bitcoin currency can be broken down into fractions (called satoshis). Using the token example, you gave the machine $1, you got four tokens. With Bitcoin, those 4 “tokens” could be divided into multiple fractions, giving you more bang for your buck…or Bitcoin.

When you decide to spend a Bitcoin, the transaction is submitted to a global peer-to-peer network. Compare this to those old illegal music downloading sites, only this is legal. Then, the transaction is verified, entered into public record (also called blockchains). These blockchains have a record of every Bitcoin ever made, so they know who own each one, including fractionals, which helps prevent fraud. These p2p networks are not verifying for free though, they are rewarded with Bitcoins for their efforts, making the Bitcoin system self-supporting. Think of it like PayPal’s fees, only digital.

Don’t get confused, these will be common words soon

When tech gurus and Bitcoin enthusiasts talk about Bitcoin, you’ll hear words like “cryptographic keys” and “cryptocurrency.” These can be confusing for newbies, who aren’t even sure what Bitcoin does; let’s face it, it can be confusing even if you do know what Bitcoin does. This is a complicated way to describe how the information is transferred. Bitcoin uses public key encryption4 techniques for security.

Basically, when a new Bitcoin address is created, a cryptographic key pair is also created. This consists of a public key and private key. These keys are unique, long strings of letters and numbers; a bit like when you have the computer generate a secure password for your site, or email. This keeps Bitcoin secure, and unique to the address that created it.

If you’re ready to get your feet wet in the Bitcoin world, there’s a great primer that even a kiddo can understand. Just remember the one caveat of Bitcoin: the balance isn’t insured, as it isn’t held by any institution. If a hacker breaks into your computer, or your hard drive crashes, you could lose all your “money.”

Now you get it, so let’s circle back to 21 Inc.

For the more advanced Bitcoiners, let’s look at what 21 Inc. is really doing with the money they raised. To understand what they’re doing, you need to know a little about Bitcoin mining. Mining refers to the computer-intensive process of generating Bitcoins. Any computer can mine a Bitcoin with freeware, but it takes a great deal of space and time to complete the process, due to the complex algorithms.

Miners use computers to track and record pending Bitcoin transactions every ten minutes into a new block. Then, they must be verified. The first miner to solve the algorithm and verify the transaction, uploads the results to the Bitcoin network.

This upload, or algorithm answer, is also called a block. When the rest of the Bitcoin network confirms the solution, the block is added to the block chain. The miner who solved the algorithm is then paid 25 Bitcoins for their efforts. Now you can see why some Bitcoin enthusiasts love it: the thrill of the problem solving and reward.

Now, on to 21 Inc. They “unofficially” announced on Medium. 21 Inc. stated, after much hard work, they’ve “created an embeddable mining chip, which [they] call the BitShare.”

This BitShare chip “can be embedded into an internet-connected device as a standalone chip, or integrated into an existing chipset as a block of IP to generate a continuous stream of digital currency for use in a wide variety of applications.” To clarify this, BitShare, simplifies that long computer-intensive process and places it in a chip. This allows you to use your mobile devices as Bitcoin mining devices, along with a whole host of possibilities. This chip could simplify the mining process and allow more users to adopt the Bitcoin concept.

And finally, the Bitcoin crux and why 21 Inc. is so important

Thus, the Bitcoin crux: to be successful and really get off the ground, more users need to adopt the concept. However, the very users that need to adopt it, have passed it off as a fad, or of something of disinterest.

Given the chance to try Bitcoin though, these same users, may begin to understand and enjoy the experience. 21 Inc. is hoping to bridge the gap between the Bitcoin enthusiasts and the “what the heck is Bitcoin” group.

21 Inc. wants to be the AOL CD of Bitcoin by “giving every user a free trial of Bitcoin at near-zero marginal cost” and to onboard millions of users.

This may help bring the additional users needed to the Bitcoin game. It certainly worked for AOL; remember all those CDs hanging in WalMart, Best Buy, and the like. What do you think? Will more users help bring Bitcoin into the usability sphere, or will it require something more to get Bitcoin off the ground?

#BitcoinAdoption

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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Business Finance

Can you afford missing a paycheck? Finance tips for freelancers

(FINANCE) Freelancers who are not always promised a regular paycheck could benefit from staying on top of their finances. Here’s our tips!

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Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay. We all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here are a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have to, and remember this is an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start-up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving) or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. If the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on your toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more) of your paycheck.

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax nor investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Tech News

iOS 15 beta has blur nude photos opt-in, but its not without fault

(TECH NEWS) To protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos.

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Woman looking at Apple iPhone representing new iOS 15 beta that will blur nude photos.

In a move to protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos received in the Messages app. Amid privacy concerns, the feature has yet to be released.

The option to blur nude photos is opt-in, reports The Verge, and does not prevent users from choosing to view the photos in question even after being implemented.

This iteration of the feature is distinct from the original one insofar as it will no longer alert a parent or guardian when nude photos are encountered. While this may seem like a controversial change, several experts pointed out that exposing nude content on a child’s device in some households could result in abuse or, as Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Kendra Albert suggests, the outing of “queer or transgender children to their parents.”

With the most recent version of this feature enabled, children who receive inappropriate photos via the Messages app would be able to do two things: choose to avoid (or see) the content, and choose to send a report to a trusted adult if they see fit to do so.

Blurring photos is just one of several aspects of Apple’s Communication Safety suite, a feature that aims to prevent child sex abuse by making it easier for children to avoid and report predatory content.

 

Child on electronic device- iOS 15 beta that will allow blur nude photos should protect children.

Another feature that Apple has tested – but not released – is their Child Sex Abuse Imagery Detection (CSAM-detection), which scans and reports iCloud content that shows child pornography or abuse to Apple moderators for further review. As one can imagine, the feature drew mixed criticism, the majority of which came from privacy advocates.

While the vast majority of humanity can (hopefully) agree that fighting against child exploitation is a noble cause, these groups argue that scanning and reporting individuals’ personal photos via an algorithm opens the door to government interference and increased surveillance. Switching the algorithm’s baseline to scan for things like anti-government content, for example, would be easy, these groups posit, making the feature extremely dangerous in principle.

There is no current release date set for any of these aforementioned features, though iPhone users can reasonably expect them to drop at some point during iOS 15’s development.

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Tech News

Amazon Music debuts synchronized text transcripts for popular podcasts

(TECH) The first feature to hit Amazon Music is auto-generated and synchronized text transcripts for their most popular podcast shows. Sign us up!

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Amazon Music Transcripts

Amazon set out to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts last year by acquiring the podcasting network, Wondery. Now, the company is doing just that with the launch of its auto-generated and synchronized podcast transcripts feature on Amazon Music.

According to an Amazon Music tweet, with this feature, you’ll be able to “Roll it back, jump ahead, and follow along” with the podcast you’re listening to. For instance, you can scrub through the transcript to find that line of text with that quote or movie and book suggestion you can’t quite remember. When you tap on a particular line of text in the transcript, you’ll be able to jump straight into that specific part of the podcast. I can already see all the time saved! But, if you just want to read along as you listen, you can do that, too. The transcript will match the audio as you’re hearing it.

Right now, the company is only rolling out podcast transcripts in the US on both iOS and Android devices. When it will expand to other countries isn’t known, and the feature isn’t available for all podcasts yet. For now, it is only available on a selection of popular podcasts like Smartless, Crime Junkie, This American Life, Uncommon Ground, and Modern Love, but more are coming.

Amazon Music Homescreen

To use it, all you have to do is open the podcasts tab on Amazon Music and select one of the podcasts you’d like to listen to. Of course, you’ll need to select a show with the podcast transcription feature to see it. When your show is playing, on the top of the album art and in fullscreen mode, the transcriptions will be available for you to read along to.

Oh, and if you’re worried about having to read through the ads, you have nothing to fret about. Ads won’t be transcribed. Instead, the transcription will read “audio not transcribed” when they are playing.

So far, Amazon seems to be going strong in the podcasting game with the release of podcast transcripts. The feature makes it easy to search and find what you are looking for in a show. And, for those on a long and noisy bus and subway ride, you’ll finally be able to read the information you previously couldn’t hear.

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