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29
Jan

Buying with bitcoin helped make this homebuyer a $1.3 million profit on his new house


Why it matters to you

While this may not be a common tale for bitcoin, it shows that the cryptocurrency is an increasingly accepted tender.

Sometimes, making a payment results in a big payday — for you. At least, if you’re making that payment with a volatile cryptocurrency that has a tendency to undergo rather large swings in worth. One bitcoin enthusiast managed to luck into not only a new house, but a $1.3 million profit as a result of his payment choices. Rather than taking out a mortgage, cutting a check, or arriving with a suitcase of cash, a recent California homebuyer decided to purchase a $4 million estate with the cryptocurrency.

As Bitpay CCO Sonny Singh told Speaking to Bloomberg Markets, a real estate developer approached Signh and his company to discuss an offer for an expensive property made using bitcoin. Singh helped the developer understand the logistics of the payment method, and after some negotiations, the final asking price of $4 million was settled upon.

More: Bitcoin anonymity no longer guaranteed; summons served to U.S. exchange

But while the developer was deciding on the price, bitcoin was experiencing some major movement of its own. When the transaction was initiated, bitcoin was worth just $750. But by the time it was time to make the cryptocurrency payment, the value of the tender had actually increased to over $1,000 (for the first time since 2013, actually). That meant that the buyer ultimately made about $1 million on his $4 million purchase.

“The buyer actually ended up making about 25 percent in the currency exchange rate, essentially, in the appreciation,” Singh said. “He got a house for pretty much 25 percent cheaper.”

Such stories, though not apocryphal, are certainly rare, so we’re not necessarily suggesting that you make all your future purchases with bitcoin with the hopes that a good exchange rate will end up benefiting you. But all the same, it looks as though bitcoin is becoming an increasingly accepted manner of payment, which may just spell opportunity for the savvy buyer.

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29
Jan

Genetic engineering dragonflies into light-responsive, cybernetic drones


Why it matters to you

Cybernetic insects could aid in pollination and rescue missions, keeping humans out of harms way.

Cybernetic insects may sound like something out of dystopian fiction, but they’re being developed in labs around the world. And their uses may be more beneficial than you’d expect. Some researchers have proposed remote-controlled insects for surveillance, while others think they can help sniff out explosives and aid in search and rescue missions.

Up until now, these insects have mainly been controlled by firing electrical impulses through electrodes plugged into the little invertebrate — a technique that’s been effective but clunky and energy hungry.

Now engineers at Draper and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at Janelia Farm have begun work on DragonflEye, a project to develop a more sophisticated technique that may usher in an evolution for cybernetic insects.

“Previous attempts to guide insect flight used larger organisms like beetles and locusts so that they could lift relatively large electronics systems that weighed up to 1.3 grams,” senior biomedical engineer at Draper, Jesse J. Wheeler, told IEEE Spectrum. “These systems did not include navigation systems and required wireless commands to guide flight.”

More: These giant cyborg beetles can be controlled remotely, and could one day replace drones

Rather than hardwire electrodes into the muscles or nervous system, Draper is experimenting with optogenetics, an approach that uses genetic modifications to tweak organisms so they respond to light. This technique would allow for smaller electronics systems, meaning they could be fit onto smaller and more agile insects, such as bees and dragonflies.

With optogenetic stimulation, the insect will be equipped with a specially designed DragonflEye backpack that can collect energy from the sun via mini solar panels and allow the insect to navigate autonomously. Rather than forcing the insects to respond by firing electrodes, Draper researchers will use optrodes to engage specific neurons that control the insects steerings. This method will enable more reliable control, according to Wheeler, while wirelessly transmitting environmental data to an external server.

After a year of research, Wheeler and his team are prepared to test their dragonflies with the DragonflEye backpacks and monitor their movement with hi-speed cameras. “This will allow us to develop precise onboard tracking algorithms for autonomous navigation,” he said. They will then focus on controlling the dragonflies through optical stimulation coming from the backpack, while developing the better, lighter DragonflEye 2.0.

29
Jan

RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic review: A near-perfect adaptation


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There were two types of kids when I was growing up in the 90s — those who spent summer going on family vacations to theme parks, and those of us who dedicated hours making our own theme parks in RollerCoaster Tycoon.

I was very much apart of the latter group. Because of this, there will always be a special place in my heart for RollerCoaster Tycoon. So you can imagine my elation when I found out that Atari was bringing the full Rollercoaster Tycoon game that I remember from my childhood to Android, blending the first two games in the original PC series into RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic (RCTC).

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For those unfamiliar with the franchise, RollerCoaster Tycoon is a theme park construction and management simulator that positions the player as an omnipotent, all-seeing God-like figure in the sky who must build, tweak and manage the day-to-day operations of various theme parks. You sometimes start out with a pre-existing park that needs to see its profits or popularity increased, or are given a mostly empty plot of land and given instructions to convert the space into a thriving, profitable theme park filled with coasters, rides and various shops and food stalls.

One of the game’s key features is the ability to custom design your very own rollercoaster — from old-school wooden behemoths to modern steel coasters with as many hairpin turns, loops, and spine-chilling drops as your budget (and physics) will allow. You’re also responsible for keeping the park clean and the rides up and running, which means you must must also manage the park’s staff, which include handymen, mechanics, security and entertainers.

“One of the game’s key features is the ability to custom design your very own rollercoaster — from old-school wooden behemoths to modern steel coasters with as many hairpin turns, loops, and spine-chilling drops as your budget (and physics) will allow.”

There are a total of 95 different theme park scenarios available to unlock and play, and they’re all included in the base cost of the game. You must continually complete park goals to unlock new park scenarios, meaning you’re probably not going to run out of things to do for a good long while playing RCTC. You’re allowed to have multiple saves for all the parks you work on, so you’re never limited or stuck building one park at a time.

This isn’t Atari’s first attempt at bringing RollerCoaster Tycoon to Android, but it is their first attempt at porting over the pure RCT experience to mobile devices — the less said about the free-to-play abomination that is RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile the better.

Instead, RCTC offers you a complete game (which actually combines elements from the first two PC games in this franchise), ad-free, with the crazy in-depth analysis and statistics you remember from playing the original game on PC. The visuals and audio have been recreated to perfection. It’s so nostalgic to hear shrieking guests as they whizz across the screen on your custom-built rollercoaster and that sweet ka-ching sound of making money — but porting a full PC game to Android phones does offer some challenges.

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The most glaring issue is converting the keyboard and mouse controls to a touch-based interface. This game is packed with expandable menus with tabs, small buttons, and often requires intricate movements for placing rides and features around the park. I’ve been playing RCTC on the 5-inch screen of the Google Pixel, and things definitely get cramped at times — especially when you’re trying to tap a small food stall or feature amongst a crowded path of guests or other features. Using the two-finger pinch to zoom in and out is essential for getting anything done.

“This game is packed with expandable menus with tabs, small buttons, and often requires intricate movements for placing rides and features around the park.”

Placing larger pre-designed rollercoasters into tight spots can be challenging, since you’re unable to just tap and drag it into place. Instead, you’re left kind of tapping around until the game gives you the go-ahead to build on the selected footprint. The limited viewing angles also make constructing new attractions in a crowded park an issue, though this is mitigated by the option to temporarily toggle scenery, structures, guests (and pretty much anything and everything in the park) from view in the game’s settings.

While playing on your phone is a tad cramped, these issues are alleviated when you have a bit more screen real estate to work with, which makes RCTC a dream to play on an Android tablet.

I’ll be honest and say I’m inherently biased towards overlooking RCTC’s shortcomings simply because I spent so much free time as a kid messing around in this game. Completing the goals and unlocking new parks were always secondary to designing the most ridiculous coasters and park layouts I could imagine… along with occasionally testing coaster limitations by launching cars full of unsuspecting guests off to a fiery demise. These are still options, but i’m really enjoying the challenge of beating all 95 scenarios. It’s going to take a while.

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If this also describes your experiences , it’s definitely worth the price of admission to take a stroll down memory lane spending time getting reacquainted with this gaming gem. Best of all, you can now take your parks with you everywhere and play them during your commute or lunch break.

“The best part of RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic is the way it can totally suck you in for hours on end.”

For RCT newbies coming into this game with fresh eyes, experiencing it for the first time on Android is less than ideal, and likely to be a cramped and occasionally frustrating experience. As mentioned, this game relies on a TON of menus here to build, edit and examine the details of every inch of the park. If you’re still learning the ropes of the game’s interface, it may feel overwhelming as you’re just kind of thrown into the game with no tutorial — left to your own devices to figure out how to churn a profit and keep your guests happy.

However if you’ve got an affinity for city-building simulators for mobile, but hate the reliance on free-to-play game mechanics with construction wait times, in-app purchases, and other annoyances, you won’t find those here. There is the option to buy three available expansion packs, which include new park scenarios and themes along with a toolkit for designing your own rides to import into the base game. These are entirely optional, and nothing that you’re likely to consider until you’ve spend significant time with the base game.

Perhaps the best part of RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic is the way it can totally suck you in for hours on end if you’ve got time to kill. There’s so much to do; from improving the services and layout of your park, to adding decorations from a particular theme, to tweaking the price of everything to maximize profits. It’s unrestrained micromanagement at it’s finest.

For a blast from the past — or a compromised introduction to one of the finest, most customizable simulator games you’ll ever play — check out RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, available for $5.99 from the Google Play Store.

Download: RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic ($5.99)

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29
Jan

Lyft donates to the ACLU in response to Trump’s immigration ban


More than a few tech companies have voiced opposition to President Trump’s Muslim-focused immigration ban, but Lyft is going the distance by making a firm financial commitment. The ridesharing outfit has promised to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years in a bid to “defend our Constitution.” Trump’s policy goes against both Lyft’s inclusive beliefs and the “nation’s core values,” the company says, and the team “will not be silent” on issues like this.

Lyft is taking a decidedly different stance than Uber. While Uber isn’t endorsing the immigration restrictions and is compensating drivers left hung out to dry, it’s not directly contributing to opposition movements — and critics believe it has an incentive to soften its response. Uber’s CEO is part of Trump’s presidential policy forum, after all. Also, the company drew flak on January 28th when it responded to a JFK airport cab strike (in solidarity with anti-ban protests) by turning off surge pricing and encouraging Uber drivers to “scab.”

The $1 million isn’t a lot for a firm that generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, even if it’s still operating with hefty losses. Moreover, this helps Lyft reinforce its image as the kindler, gentler alternative to Uber. However, it’s still not very common for the tech world to donate to organizations in response to specific political issues. It won’t be shocking if others follow suit, even if it’s just for the sake of good publicity.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Lyft Blog

29
Jan

Apple Removes Tool to Check if an iPhone or iPad is Activation Locked


Apple has removed its Activation Lock status checker on iCloud.com at some point in the past few days. The tool enabled users to enter the serial number or IMEI of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and find out if the device is secured with Activation Lock, helping buyers avoid purchasing a device locked to another user.

A user purchasing a used iPhone on eBay or another website, for example, was able to request the device’s serial number and use Apple’s tool to verify that Activation Lock had been turned off. If the device was still locked, or if the seller refused to provide the serial number, then it was likely lost or stolen.

The iCloud page where the tool was available now returns a “Not Found” page aka 404 error. Apple also removed the following reference to the tool from a related Find My iPhone support document earlier this week:

How do I check for Activation Lock before purchasing a used device?

When you buy an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch from someone other than Apple or an authorized Apple reseller, it is up to you to ensure that the device is erased and no longer linked to the previous owner’s account.

You can check the current Activation Lock status of a device when you visit icloud.com/activationlock from any Mac or PC.

Apple has not explained why it removed the page. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Activation Lock, enabled automatically when you turn on Find My iPhone, is designed to prevent anyone else from using your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch if it is ever lost or stolen. A device with Activation Lock enabled requires the owner’s Apple ID and password before it can be used, even if it is erased or reactivated.

Last year, a number of users who purchased a brand new iPhone experienced an Activation Lock issue where their device was locked to someone else’s Apple ID. Apple disabled Activation Lock for affected users upon being provided proof of purchase, but it is unclear if the strange issue factored into the page’s removal.

Activation Lock was introduced alongside iOS 7. The tool to check the Activation Lock status of a device had been available since October 2014.

Tags: Activation Lock, Find My iPhone
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29
Jan

After Math: Shady deals


It’s been a heck of a week for soupy sales. In addition to all of the wild proclamations (and subsequent walk-backs) made by the Trump administration, D-Wave somehow found a buyer, California’s power companies went looking for handouts, Faraday Future got itself sued already, Google banned a bunch of bunk ads and word on the street is that cassettes are the new vinyl. Numbers, because what else can you trust?

29
Jan

Ben Heck’s smart retro boombox


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In the 1980s and ’90s, boomboxes were in their heydey. The sight of a person carrying a huge music player on their shoulder was iconic — until the Walkman came along, anyway. The Ben Heck Show team decided it was time for a retrofit, using the Intel Edison module, an Arduino-compatible breakout board and a USB soundcard. Their goal: make the Boombox smarter while still keeping its original parts. After all, the more parts they keep, the easier the device is to modify. What tech would you retrofit with modern hardware? Let us know over on the element14 Community.

29
Jan

How to start using Plex on your PC


Ready for a media management and streaming system without the limits of your old “solution?” Meet Plex, a largely free streaming and management system for all your downloaded media.

What is Plex?

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Bloomua/Shutterstock

Plex is an organization and management system for streaming your video, music, data and photos around the house. This may sound familiar — in fact, if you already have an Apple TV or other set-top box/smart TV arrangement, you may be wondering why you would even need to use Plex.

More: Plex Cloud gets more storage options with Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive support

Like other streaming services, you can pause media, resume where you left off, keep track of your recent shows or videos, and so on. Plex goes the extra mile, letting you stream your own library of downloaded content. It uses a server configuration to organize and play files from a variety of sources — your laptop, your desktop, or your phone, for instance.

Plex doesn’t care what brand or type of media file you have, and most of the important components are free to download. You can also download it for Apple TV and many other devices you may already have.

As Plex has grown over the years, it has developed not only options for detailed media management via the Plex Media Player (a reincarnation of the old Plex Home Theater) but also extras like Plex Channels, apps across a range of devices, and compatibility with everything from Linux to Google Drive. Chances are good that no matter the streaming manager you are currently using, Plex is bigger. That makes Plex more suitable for those who prefer to tinker with and customize their software.

29
Jan

6 tricky Huawei Mate 9 problems, and what to do about them


The Huawei Mate 9 is a great follow-up to the Mate 8, and potentially a solid replacement for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7. Like every great smartphone, however, it has its fair share of issues, ranging from the typical to the more unique. If you’re looking into getting the Mate 9 — or already have one — it’s good to know what problems you may run into and how to address them. That’s where we come in. We’ve compiled a list of Huawei Mate 9 problems, with the workarounds and potential solutions you might need to deal with them.

More: The 10 best cases to protect your Huawei Mate 9

Issue: Overheating and Battery drain

Although the Mate 9 has decent battery life, some users have noticed their battery drains more quickly than expected, even with minimal usage. Some users have also reported instances of overheating, such as in this thread over on the XDA developer forums. Huawei told Digital Trends that it will “provide enhancements” to fix any issues in the next over-the-air update. In the meantime, here are some possible solutions.

Potential solutions:

  • Start by checking to see which apps are using the most battery life. To do this, go to Phone Manager > Remaining, then swipe up on the screen and tap Consumption Level.
  • You can also go to Phone Manager > Remaining > Optimize. Doing so will prompt your phone to check for power consumption issues and optimize your Mate 9’s performance. You can also manually optimize your phone by tapping Items need to be optimized manually.
  • For battery drain, consider enabling the setting that closes apps when the phone is locked. Open Phone Manager > Lock screen cleanup, then toggle the switch next to the apps you want to close. Keep in mind, however, that you will not receive new messages or emails from messaging, email, and social media apps if they’re closed using this method.
  • Users on the XDA-developers forums have suggested that apps such as Facebook and Messenger can cause battery drain and overheating. Try deleting them and check to see if the issue continues. The Exchange and Google Calendar apps have also been said to cause battery drain due to syncing issues.
29
Jan

Spaceworks may have a real-world stasis chamber for space travel by 2018


Why it matters to you

Long-term stasis is a crucial step toward making deep-space travel possible.

A process traditionally used to treat cardiac arrest or traumatic brain injury is now showing promise as a possible method to enable long-term space travel through hibernation. Behind this effort is John A. Bradford, president of Spaceworks, and making this a reality is much closer than you might think.

Doctors refer to this strategy as something called “therapeutic hypothermia.” Essentially, the body is cooled slowly to a temperature between 32 and 34 degrees Celsius (normal body temperature is 37C). This will slow down both heart rate and blood pressure, giving doctors additional time to work on serious health issues.

More: As billionaires ogle Mars, the space race is back on

The patient stays in stasis for about 2-4 days, although the technique has worked for as long as two weeks without any measurable harm. There’s evidence that even longer periods of stasis may be possible: a Japanese man once survived 24 days in a hypothermic state after a fall off a mountain ledge in Japan.

Bradford hopes through additional work to extend the safe period for stasis out to months, and says this technology and the equipment necessary can be automated easily and made space-ready.

Now, don’t assume that these stasis chambers will be like those you see in science fiction movies. While single person pods do work well, having enough of these would add a lot of additional weight to a spacecraft. Instead, Spaceworks is working on an open chamber capable of holding multiple crew members.

“There would be some robotic arms and monitoring systems taking care of [the passengers]. They’d have small transnasal tubes for the cooling and some warming systems as well, to bring them back from stasis,” Bradford told Quartz in an interview. Another key difference from sci-fi is how stasis would work.

Instead of a single period of stasis, crew members would have rolling periods of stasis, which would also offer a benefit in that someone would always be awake to respond to emergencies and perform monitoring tasks of other crew members still in stasis.

While stasis seems to be figured out, there are other issues that are not. One of the biggest is the long-term effects of low gravity, which can lead to a whole host of medical issues. Bradford and his team are working on methods to keep crew members “exercising” even during stasis: one potential solution being electrical stimulation — already used in physical therapy today.

Current plans are to start animal testing next year, followed by human tests in space and aboard the International Space Station. In the long term, Spaceworks is already starting to think about interstellar space missions, and how such a stasis system may be able to support hundreds of crew members aboard these ships.