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Pillar is the blockchain built for average folks, not ultra tech nerds

(TECH NEWS) Pillar is a next-level blockchain wallet that will help you keep your digital life in order without the hindrance of having to rely on someone else.

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New and exciting

I’m excited today. In tech, you only get to say the following phrase so often and really mean it. This is new.

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Meet Pillar, which aims to be an equal and opposite option to the present digital trends at work in finance, security and the distribution of economic power.

Use it, don’t own it

If you’re an entrepreneur, a businessperson, a power user of any kind of technology – really, if you’ve interacted with currency and/or tech in the past ten years – you know the prevailing paradigm is “X as as service.”

Everything from public transport to Peggle has been reimagined as something you use rather than something you have.

The resources necessary to functioning in society belong to someone else and are implemented by millions of someone elses, a workforce of service professionals often employed on a contract rather than traditional salary or wage-benefit basis. Them’s the breaks in This Modern World. Ownership is so 20th century.

Pillar says otherwise.

World changer

We’ve talked about blockchain at American Genius. Here’s how it could be a huge deal for tech security. Here’s a great primer on what, you know, it even is. The short version is that a blockchain is a secure, anonymous way to buy goods and services, built on high-end cryptography and the basis that nobody ever has all the information, all the time. Bitcoin’s the one you’ve most likely heard about, but there are all kinds of others.

Pillar would be another, “cryptocurrency” to use the (silly) word, but with a vital addition: it’s actually built to do something.

Bitcoin and its kindred represent a new transaction paradigm, an approach to buying and selling that removes public and private middlemen of all kinds. That’s a big deal by itself – in theory. In practice Bitcoin and its kindred have stayed curiosities. They haven’t put an offer in the world that appeals to anyone outside a core community of early adopters and various fringes. I say it with love: it’s hipster money. By comparison, Pillar claims, direct quote, to be “a world changer.”

It could be.

Pillar as a pillar

Unlike Bitcoin and friends, Pillar isn’t just a blockchain-based currency. It’s an implementation of blockchain-based currency, a means of making it do things that actual people need their money to do. The titular Pillar is a core of information available only to you, accessible through an AI assistant with access to various carefully demarcated parts of it for the services you use it to pay for. It’s a blockchain wallet.

To paraphrase our primer, at present blockchain appeals primarily to people who need or want their transactions to be private.

Frankly, that was a reasonable concern when the biggest security holes in the modern money system were credit card numbers and talkative bank tellers.

As more services are digitized, things get less secure. Honestly, now: how many of you out there use the same password for more than one thing? I do, and I literally do this for a living.

Blockchain security

How many of you trust important data to a service that may or may not exist in ten years? I’ve got a half-terabyte of stuff on someone else’s cloud server and 175 games on Steam. Either one goes belly up, and all that information wafts away like a summer breeze, along with the not inconsiderable amount of money I spent on it.

How many of you centralize with one service for convenience, in spite of what seem like weekly breaches, leaks and hacks?

I swear to Insert Deity Here, right now I am writing this on a Chromebook, in Google Docs, with one eye on a big file I’m uploading to Drive.

Not to be alarmist, but the plain fact is, that’s information you don’t control. It lives with somebody else, and by accident or malice something untoward could go down. It’s the downside of the digitized world: only big companies own the infrastructure to implement day to day services like transactions and identity protection.

Pillar and its $50 million ICO (that’s Initial Coin Offering, since obviously they’ll be taking investments in blockchain currencies) intend to see that changed.

It’s the first serious effort I know of to implement blockchain as a consumer proposition, offering blockchain security with the tools necessary for an ordinary person to actually use the functionality blockchain provides.

Pillar’s paradigm is the opposite of how things are done right now. More often than not, that means it’s nonsense, a geek pipe dream that will never hit the big wide world.

New, but not

But blockchain is already hitting the big wide world. Pillar’s offer, in essence a take on Bitcoin and other blockchain-based currencies that work for the average consumer and have a reason for existence other than Sticking It To The Man™, might well be enough to make it the next step forward in the digital marketplace, “like Uber, but for shifting beyond the Uber paradigm to owning your own dang stuff again.”

That could be a thing.

#Pillar

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Tech News

A reusable, cloud synced notebook?? I’ll take 10!

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) The future of note taking is here with Rocketbook Wave, a microwavable, reusable notebook that stores all of your musings on the cloud.

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Not just any notebook

Some folks just can’t go paperless. Try as we might, the satisfaction inherent in the pen-and-paper medium is firmly engrained.

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Everyday we are bombarded by reminders that paper is increasingly unsustainable—which is why Rocketbook’s reusable notebook, the Wave, is a potential life-saver.

Smile and Wave

The premise behind the Rocketbook Wave is simple, yet elegant: you write in the notebook like you normally would—up to 80 pages’ worth—and then snap a photo of each page using the accompanying smartphone app. The photos are scanned to enhance their image quality, then they’re delivered into a cloud account.

You can even cross off a symbol at the bottom of the page to scan the note into a specific, customized location, and each page has its own QR code for later reference.

Note Game So Cold, Had to Defrost

That’s all fine and dandy, but how do you wipe the Rocketbook Wave to reuse it? Well, you put the book in a machine that you use to eliminate stuff (e.g., nutritional value) every day…

You put it in the microwave.

Counterintuitive as it may be, a few minutes in the microwave with a mug of water and minimal attentiveness will result in a clean notebook, making it ready for another round of note-taking, doodling, or what have you.

With Paperless, You’ll Pay for Less

The obvious benefits of the Rocketbook Wave are twofold. Firstly, you won’t have to worry about running out of paper, and you’ll have a backup in case Mitch from chemistry lab sets your belongings on fire (again).

Equally as important, though, is the sustainability factor: if you’re even remotely worried about the environment, $27 gets you a notebook that won’t quit.

Fine Print

As with anything, there are a couple of caveats that accompany the rush of using the Rocketbook Wave. For one, you can’t erase a single page at a time—it’s all or nothing. This is a non-issue if you don’t mind scanning everything into the cloud as a matter of practice, but it’s something to be aware of.

More importantly, however, is the type of ink you have to use. If you don’t write with a Pilot FriXion utensil, the ink will remain on the pages and no amount of microwaving will wash it away.

These aren’t likely to be deal-breakers, of course. If you’re interested in picking up a Rocketbook Wave for yourself, they’re for sale now starting at $27 on Rocketbook’s official site.

#RocketbookWave

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Taskiness is the note taking app for those who ditched the last one

(TECH NEWS) We all love trying new note-taking apps but for some of us we just end up reverting to to old habits. Taskiness is here to change your habits and keep it that way.

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In the great realm of to-do apps, there are lots to choose from: heck, I’ve even made a hobby to write about them – but what makes them so popular is that people have a hard time adapting to a system. With so many solutions, there are so many to try!

Startup, Taskiness, hopes to solve that by being the first note taking system that uses natural language processing – where you take notes and it then it pulls tasks out.

Over 1300 people have already signed up, and Taskiness hopes to keep all those people off the to-do list app rotation and give them a more permanent solution. Feature wise, Tackiness is fundamentally made of two components:

Notes – the “place for the thoughts” where you take notations and comments.

Taskiness boasts four key benefits to this functionality, which basically looks like a standard notepad:

– You can organize the notes how you want (much like you can on a pad of paper) rather than being forced to work in the confines of the app.
– Easy input – as easy as writing into old school MS notepad – so no field form entry, no awkward forms/templates
– “Natural language” – basically, this is the largest feature of the app, it recognizes how you write to pull tasks from notes and to better utilize your note taking. This is especially important as it helps with the natural feel of the app.
– Synchronization across all platforms – which is a must feature and you should never use an app that doesn’t have cloud functionality – this isn’t 2004.

Tasks – the place for “action” where your to-do list is extracted from your notes. Most of us some kind of to-do list, and Taskiness hopes to keep you hooked by emphasizing:

– Focus – where it highlights tasks that are relevant to you immediately (as to avoid getting bogged down by the list).
– Snooze – where you can use those alarm clock skills you’ve been developing since junior high to snooze tasks and avoid your to-do list from becoming an inventory list of things never to be finished.
– Rich text – that uses that natural language to pull deadlines and priorities and “much more” – this is perhaps the advantage of the app. This keeps you from having to spend time organizing your to-do list so it becomes more of a passive partner than just another thing to do.

Taskiness currently has a backlog for registration, and is most likely not going to be free – but it looks like a promising app. It was recognized by Betalist as one of the most popular startups of October – and both it and fellow Medium call out “Iris” look like a promising to do solution.

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Five inexpensive VPNs to keep you all sorts of secure

(TECH NEWS) If you work on public internet or are just looking to beef up your internet security VPNs could be your answer. Here are five worth looking into.

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We must speak, as we so often do, of l33t h4x0rz.

Let’s get blunt. We have reached the point in the evolution of technology where access to your personal data is equivalent to access to everything you own. Data security breach, which involves fewer twentysomethings with improbable hair and more Russian state actors than 90s movies led me to believe, can be the end of a business, especially a small one.

Frustratingly, the mainstream market hasn’t really produced perfect solutions for that. At present, you really have two options.

Option one, you roll with AppleFacebookGoogleSoft. Different companies, same model: hand your data to a giant organization with an affirmative interest in keeping it confidential. That can work! It can also, y’know, not. A lot.

Option two, full infogeek. Pull together All The Information and put it behind tight security you control. We’re big fans of this. On the other hand, we’re geeks. Doing this successfully requires knowledge, specialty tools and changes in behavior that may not be practical for you.

Ain’t exactly optimal, those options. So for the love of the white hat, what’s to do? Where’s the middle ground between “put it in a big sack and hand it to HugeCorpCo” and “lock every 0 and 1 in a painstakingly handcrafted box?”

Meet your friend, the VPN. Virtual private networks aren’t just the irritating things you have to sign into before another constructive day on the cube farm. For any entrepreneur or freelancer who isn’t into a rad Linux solution, a VPN is a straight-up necessity. They’re how you Internet without people keeping logs (your ISP does), tracking your activity (everybody does), or carrying off your innocent data to the dark web or the Kremlin.

Better yet? There are lots of good ones that are inexpensive, reliable, and only a Google away. Here’s 5. Unranked, because every VPN is a beautiful snowflake.

IPVanish wins at efficiency. They own 100 percent of their resources, rather than outsourcing any work to third parties. That means high speed and optimal security, since their commitment to keeping zero information on their clients can’t be undercut by nosy contractors.

NordVPN has tech wizardry going for it, with double encryption and even an optional kill switch that automatically disconnects you from the Internet if anything goes amiss with the VPN. Nord also wins at most devices per subscription, and will happily wrap up to 6 of your robots in the warm embrace of infosec.

Private Internet Access, in addition to winning the Most Straightforwardly Named Product Ever award I just made up, is great for power users, with unlimited bandwidth and a subscription allowing up to 5 devices. It’s also super simple, designed to run in the background while you go about your digital day, so for folks who aren’t looking for bundled apps or a shiny interface, this is your guy.

PureVPN gets compatibility cred, since it’s usable across Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows and even provides proxy workarounds for Chrome and Firefox. It also has a frankly enormous server network, which is good news for speed freaks.

TunnelBear, in addition to being adorable, is extremely user friendly. It’s kind of the anti-PIA, with a rich interface and lots of shiny features. Those features include neat security tricks like Intellibear, allowing users to selectively VPN into particular sites, and Vigilant Mode, which makes like Nord and blocks Internet traffic in case of outages.

Snowflake jokes aside, the list really isn’t ranked, and for reason. Your VPN will be your gateway to the Internet. What works for you is totally contingent on what you do and what you need. There are only two definitive rules.

One, never free. A free trial is fine. “Free VPN” is online shorthand for “place all your information in this bucket, which I will then steal, seal and sell to the Internet’s many, many buyers of evil buckets of data.”

Two, it’s a numbers game. There are countless choices for VPNs on the market. The entries on our list offer substantially similar services to dozens of others. What makes our 5 special?

Twelve bucks. The maximum cost of each of the 5 VPNs above is less than twelve dollars per month. Most cost less: spring for a subscription and you can get the average cost down to 2 or 3 dollars monthly. But month to month, no obligation, even the most expensive entry on the list – that’s a tie between NordVPN and PureVPN – costs you less than twelve dollars a month.

Beat that for peace of mind.

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