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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.

Tech News

The top 10 most ridiculous job titles in tech

(TECHNOLOGY) The tech industry is an interesting sector – diverse, open-minded, beautifully nerdy, and sometimes trying too hard, especially when it comes to job titles.

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When it comes down to it, the Internet is all about memes and people constantly getting mad about one thing or another. I’m usually playing on the side of memes, but I joined the other group when I stumbled upon a CB list of the 25 Most Absurd Titles in Tech.

Absurd doesn’t even begin to cut it.

This list is a perpetual head-shaker and there’s clearly some stuff going on in the world of tech that needs to get a reality check.

All 25 of these titles are terrible, but I challenged myself to narrow it down to the 10 worst. Let’s work our way backwards.

10. Full Stack Magician – First of all, a small typo in the second word could really change your profession. Second of all, my concept of a Full Stack Magician is the guy walking around Denny’s playing card tricks for a few extra bucks on a Saturday night. How in the world am I supposed to know that “magician” is shorthand for “engineer”? Two very different things, friends.

9. Humbly Confident Product Designer – I don’t know about you, but humble and confident are often times two traits that don’t sit at the same table, let alone work together to describe a job title. As you might guess, it’s someone in product design who is self-assured. And humble about it. To me, this is something that should be determined in an interview personality test and a reason behind why one gets the job of product designer. It should just be included without having to be part of your LinkedIn title.

8. Chief Heart Officer – What comes to mind here is Dr. Webber on Grey’s Anatomy. This title was developed for Claude Silver of VaynerMedia in 2014. “Being Chief Heart Officer means being in touch with the heartbeat of every single person at this agency,” she later wrote. A nice concept, but, come on.

7. Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence – This one, developed by Microsoft (really, y’all?), has Star Trek written all over it. Apparently it was developed for Microsoft’s researcher, James Mickens, due to his personality. Should your personality really influence your job title? This Staff Writer votes “nope.”

6. Meme Librarian – I put this on here because I’m both jealous and confused. Getting paid to archive memes? Sign me up! But, also, what the hell? According to CB, this title was invented at Tumblr to describe the role occupied by Amanda Brennan, who researches fandoms and trends. The Tumblr team uses the data collected by Brennan’s team to better understand the unique communities, languages, and relationships that emerge on the platform.

5. Remote Funnel Marketing Ninja – Am I supposed to be going to work with this title or mastering a game on Super Nintendo? Responsibilities apparently include “architect[ing] funnels based on customer goals” and “creat[ing] & connect[ing] ActiveCampaign lists to Gravity Forms in landing pages.” Neat job description, but the job title is trying too hard.

4. Tax Wrangler – This is funny to me because I’m picturing getting audited by John Wayne. What it actually means, according to Automattic is, the in-house tax wrangler is in charge of “researching multi-state sales and use tax regulations” and working on “sales, property, excise and VAT taxes” for a company of 600+ people. Ok, sure.

3. Security Princess – Okay, but do I get to wear a beautiful gown and crown? Why the gendering of a role!? This title was designated to Parisa Tabriz at Google where she was formerly a security engineer. Her job was to find holes in the Chrome browser. I’m confused where Cinderella comes into play, but, whatever.

2. Weekend Happiness Concierge – In my travels, this title belongs to whoever owns the couch I’m crashing on any given weekend (I kid). This is simply a customer support agent, with concierge derived from the powerful role in 18th century European courts. To me, it just sounds like someone who brings you an extra pillow at a hotel.

1. SVG Badass – It was hard to pick number one, but I had to go with this. You mean to tell me that you’re going to walk into a networking event filled with other professionals and hand out business cards that say “badass”? In tech events, that will fly, but not outside of that bubble. Change the ‘bad’ to ‘dumb’ and we’ll be on the same page.

In order of #1-25, the original list consisted of: Innovation Evangelist, Dream Alchemist, Weekend Happiness Concierge, Happiness Engineer, SVG Badass, Time Ninja, Innovation Alchemist, Security Princess, Retail Jedi, Software Ninjaneer, Tax Wrangler, Remote Funnel Marketing Ninja, Content Hero, Meme Librarian, Happiness Manager, Conversion Optimization Wrangler, Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence, Innovation Sherpa, Digital Prophet, Chief Heart Officer, Brand Warrior, Wizard of Light Bulb Moments, Direct-Mail Demigod, Full Stack Magician, Humbly Confident Product Designer.

FFS.

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Tech News

Make it harder for Facebook to track you around the web

(TECH NEWS) Facebook remains in hot water, but you can make a simple choice that puts you in control of your data. Check it out.

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Firefox has long been an industry leader in security, which is why it’s no surprise that they’re the first large browser to roll out an anti-tracking add-on geared toward making life difficult for everyone’s favorite social media platform: Facebook.

Facebook Container is a deceptively powerful add-on, allowing you to prevent Facebook from tracking and analyzing your browsing behavior while you navigate around the Internet. After installing it in Firefox like any other add-on, you log into your Facebook account inside of the container; from that point on, any Facebook tracking will be confined to the Container tab in which you’re using FB.

The primary purpose of the add-on is, of course, to limit the amount of information that Facebook can extrapolate from your browsing history. There’s still plenty of information that you can give to Facebook simply by scrolling through your News Feed page, but at least they won’t know what size of underwear you’re buying.

Another obvious ramification of using Facebook Container is its ad-blocking capabilities. Unlike a traditional ad-blocker, it won’t force-hide ads; instead, it will hide your activity, meaning you’ll see fewer targeted ads based on your browsing activity and habits. This is likely to cut down on frustration from users who feel inappropriately targeted or singled out by the social media giant’s often-invasive ads.

In addition to its numerous qualities, it also comes with a few downsides—though for the privacy-minded, they’ll probably not feel like game-changers. The main issue is that sharing buttons and those cute little “Like” buttons you see all over the Internet won’t work when you use the add-on since you’ll be logged out of FB everywhere else in Firefox.

Naturally, using the social media buttons outside of the Firefox add-on kind of defeats the purpose of using the add-on to begin with, so this shouldn’t be a huge problem.

You also won’t be able to log into websites that use your FB login information as a credential automatically, which—as Mozilla puts it on the product page—is “to be expected.”

If you’re the kind of person who says “I’d delete my social media accounts, but I need it to stay in contact with so-and-so,” at least once a week, this add-on for Firefox may be for you—and, even if you aren’t a Firefox user, their browser updates over the past six months make switching worth a try.

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Tech News

Anti-surveillance mask – creepy, ingenious, or potentially illegal?

(TECHNOLOGY) Advances in surveillance tech have impressed the masses, but as our cultures consider the risk and reward, some are preparing to protect themselves from overreaching technologies and governments.

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anti-surveillance prosthetic

How many surveillance cameras do you pass when you walk down the street? Most of us don’t know and prefer not to think about it. We know that public and private entities, from social media sites like Facebook, to law enforcement agencies, are using facial recognition software. In most cases, we haven’t actively consented to this surveillance, and we don’t know what will be done with information – but it also seems like there’s not much we can do about it.

Enter artist Leo Selvaggio, who is interested in “increasing the amount of public discourse about surveillance and how it affects our behavior in public space.” Selvaggio has launched a venture called URME Surveillance, whose focus is “protecting the public from surveillance and creating a safe space to explore our digital identities.”

URME is doing this is in an unusual, and admittedly kind of unnerving way. The site provides masks, in the likeness of Selvaggio’s face, that you can wear in public to protect your own mug from ending up on file. These “Personal Surveillance Identity Prosthetics” are sold at cost – Selvaggio isn’t in it for the profits. There’s a $200 resin prosthetic, a set of 2D paper masks for large groups (protestors?), and a downloadable PDF paper mask that fits together like a 3D puzzle, giving the mask more dimension than the flat, 2D version.

paper anti-surveillance

“Our world is becoming increasingly surveilled. For example, Chicago has over 25,000 cameras networked to a single facial recognition hub,” explains the URME website. “We don’t believe you should be tracked just because you want to walk outside and you shouldn’t have to hide either. Instead, use one of our products to present an alternative identity when in public.”

Is this product a genuine solution to non-consensual surveillance? Or is it simply an artist’s attempt to make a statement? The 3D resin mask is fairly realistic, but with the wearer’s eyes peeking out of the mask’s holes, it’s creepy, to say the least.

anti-surveillance face

While the mask may thwart surveillance cameras, it will probably attract attention from other people nearby – so perhaps anonymity isn’t the goal.

It’s more about making sure that your face doesn’t end up in a databank; or at the very least, inspiring conversation about the topic of public surveillance. Potential customers should also be advised that many states and cities have laws against wearing masks in public.

Regardless of the ultimate intention, the fact that Selvaggio is willing to sacrifice his own likeness to Big Brother means that he takes the issue seriously. Cameras linked to facial recognition software will identify and track Selvaggio, regardless of who is under the mask. URME has actually tested the product using Facebook’s “sophisticated” facial recognition software.

Selvaggio even acknowledges that people could use the mask to commit crimes, which could land him in hot water. However, he has “come to the conclusion that it is worth the risk if it creates public discourse around surveillance practices and how it affects us all.”

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