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Amazon says no to Bitcoin

Amazon says no to Bitcoin

Amazon’s head of payments Tom Taylor has said that the company has no plans to add support for Bitcoins to its webshop, despite rivals doing exactly that.


Amazon has indicated that it’s not going to join in the cryptocurrency revolution by adding support for Bitcoin to its payment system, even as increasing numbers of its competitors do exactly that.

Bitcoin, created by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, is a distributed, decentralised cryptocurrency based on proof-of-work principles: set your computer generating SHA256 hashes for transaction validation and you’ll get rewarded with Bitcoins of your very own, generated at an ever-decreasing rate by the algorithm itself. The cryptocurrency is free from governmental control, anonymous yet entirely traceable – until you attempt to convert Bitcoins into fiat currency or vice-versa, of course – and runs on a decentralised system of volunteer computers.

It sounds remarkable, but Bitcoin’s meteoric rise from being worth fractions of a penny to a high of more than $1,000 per coin has been fraught with difficulties. Amateur coding errors in major Bitcoin exchanges like MT Gox – originally set up to be a trading site for Magic: The Gathering cards, hence the name – has led to the loss of millions of dollars in Bitcoins and a significant drop in their value on the open market. For every country like the US which is making its laws more Bitcoin-friendly, there are countries like China which have banned the use of the cryptocurrency outright.

In the UK and US, increasing numbers of retailers are accepting payment in Bitcoin – largely out of a hope that it will continue its rise in value, recover from the recent slump and make yesterday’s £50 payment double in value or more. Amazon, however, has said it won’t be joining the revolution. ‘Obviously, it [Bitcoin] gets a lot of press and we have considered it,‘ Tom Taylor, head of Amazon’s payments arm, told Re/code in a recent interview, ‘but we’re not hearing from customers that it’s right for them and don’t have any plans within Amazon to engage Bitcoin.

At the time of writing, a single Bitcoin was valued at just shy of £300 – a significant dip from its high of more than £600 before the recent crash.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/bit-tech/news/~3/ZFJ-BvX2qqg/1


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Not tonight, darling, I’m online shopping

“Not tonight, darling, I just don’t want to listen to you.”


(Credit:
Amazon/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

I know that Nancy Reagan always encouraged us to “just say no.”

But it’s not easy, is it? Some people can be terribly insistent, nagging even. Some can sulk or get aggressive.

Thankfully, it seems that Americans have found a new way to tell their significant others that they don’t have a significant mood for sex: they say they’re busy online shopping.

You might think I’m making it up. And I might think that people who create these surveys are making it up too.

All I can tell you is that the cashback rewards site EBates commissioned TNS to perform a study among 1,000 American adults that emitted fascinating conclusions.

Some 10 percent of women say they use their mobile devices — and the excuse of shopping on them — to deter their lovers from getting amorous.

But here’s the nugget that might astound even more: 13 percent of men admitted to doing the same thing.

I confess that I hadn’t considered online shopping as a means of expressing emotions toward another person. I certainly couldn’t imagine telling a lover that I wasn’t feeling carnal because I was trying to decide which pair of camel boots to buy.

And you’ll forgive me, I hope, if I mention that survey respondents often seem to have enjoyed a touch too much Bacardi.

But for some people mobile shopping has become the equivalent of the invented headache. It brings with it the luxury of not being forced to take a couple of Advil, in the hope that this will somehow lift your libido.

This splendidly twisted survey, performed between March 14 and 17, further offered that passive-aggressive shopping is also directed at annoying co-workers, annoying people on public transit and, of course, annoying in-laws.

The original purpose of this survey was merely to examine mobile shopping habits. It seems that 45 percent of Americans use their mobile devices to shop — and 10 percent claim they do it daily.

Perhaps these are the 10 percent who stand in front of me at Starbucks desperately waving their phones at the scanner, only to get more reaction out of the whipped cream on their frappuccino.

Tellingly, 49 percent of the respondents in this survey confessed that shopping on their mobile device cures boredom while they’re waiting in line. And 24 percent somehow couple mobile shopping with watching reality TV.

Perhaps Americans are just frightfully confused. (No “perhaps” about it)

In essence, though, what is the difference between sex and online shopping?

In the latter, it’s much harder to haggle.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/iTfjSBtETBk/

The 404 1,444: Where we’re trapped in a phone booth (podcast)

Categories: News Tags: , , , , , ,

Useful! The drone with an 80,000-volt stun gun

And he’s down.


(Credit:
Popular Science/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

In the midst of the youthful fireside embrace of the future that is South by Southwest, it’s refreshing that someone is thinking of the real future.

This is a future where books, shoes, and vacuum cleaners will be flying toward your house, courtesy of Amazon drones.

It’s also a future in which a machine might tell you that you’ve been a bad boy and punish you on the spot.

An invention exhibited by a design and development company called Chaotic Moon (Motto 1: We Are Smarter Than You) offered an example of a potential weapon for good (or not so good).

You might think it a loving weapon, as it’s called CUPID. In which case, you might think love is a drone that can zap someone with 80,000 volts from a flying stun gun.

80,000 volts might not sound like all that much. On the other hand, police tasers, ones that spawned the great phrase “Don’t tase me, bro,” might only offer around 50,000 volts.

In the video above, CUPID (short for Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone) takes down an intern. He doesn’t get up with ease. Or, in fact, at all.

Talking to The Verge, designer William “Wurley” Hurley said: “We thought a lot about how could this be used. Perhaps there’s a raid on a house and somebody runs. Why send somebody with a gun chasing him down the alley? The drone could just go and detain them and then you could just go and pick them up.”

So, yes such a drone might be used to protect your property. It could also be used to zap an ex who came over to discuss your relationship. Or the FedEx guy, just for fun.

No one is suggesting that CUPID is currently anything more than a thought-provocation.

However, on hearing that a federal judge ruled this week that commercial drones are legal, some people might be tempted to develop a CUPID beauty of their own.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/0D3PDND0aRA/

This ‘Back to the Future’ hoverboard will blow your mind

Tony Hawk pulling a “360 Hoverboard Hoax McTwist” for the well-produced, but ultimately phony, HUVr product teaser.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Nick Statt/CNET)

A hoverboard, like the wondrously 1980s pink variety Marty McFly cruises on in “Back to the Future Part II,” is universally accepted as the most awesome thing we don’t yet have. The wheel-less skateboard that floats above the ground and travels as if by magic has even become a bit of a pop culture trope recently for semi-sarcastically lamenting the slowness of technological innovation, of wanting the future right now. Sure, we have cell phone computers,
car-sized roving science labs on Mars, and gigantic particle accelerators capable of recreating miniature versions of the Big Bang, but a hoverboard? Now that will be the day.

Unfortunately, anyone who stumbled onto a quickly-going-viral video Tuesday from a mysterious company called HUVr were probably devastatingly disappointed to learn, almost immediately depending on your incredulousness, that it was too good to be true. The hoverboards in the video don’t just surpass the most advanced superconducting research of as little as three years ago, but blow it completely out of the water.


(Credit:
HUVr)

The board not only sustains more weight than the 100kg limitation of “Mag Surf” — a hovering technique developed in 2011 that employs a liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductor and a magnetic track — but it can also be controlled by a smartphone, lift a person off the ground, travel at high speeds, and seemingly extend a electromagnetic field to curved objects like ramps. “The Future Has Arrived,” the company’s site reads, with a product launch this December. As far as hoaxes go, this one is well-produced and elaborate.

In an attempt to make it even more believable, demonstrations include Tony Hawk whirring in mid-air, Terrell Owens being vaulted four feet off the pavement from a flat-ground standstill, and Moby convincing us that even he, the tech noob that he is, can use HUVr.

There’s a good number of tip-offs throughout the video that we’re being hoodwinked, namely that ensemble cast of awestruck celebrities that also includes Los Angeles rapper Schoolboy Q, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, and Back to the Future’s very own Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). In fact, it’s likely that a good number of celebrities were roped into the stunt both because it’s hilarious and also because it acts as a solid point of distraction from the fact that no actual members of the supposedly real MIT-spawned company are identified.

Claiming to have developed it at MIT’s Physics Graduate Program in the summer of 2010, the team behind HUVr is showcased on the Web site stereotypically folding their arms. In an enjoyable and pointed skewering of a startup’s standard hyperbolic nonsense, they describe their hoverboard with enough buzzword runarounds to make even the most skeptical of Y Combinator diehards clap with joy.

They also look like Hollywood’s version of “nerdy startup folk,” like the people whose faces it actually put in front of the camera at Google headquarters for the filming of “The Internship” or the actors that made the cut to be in Amazon’s “Betas.”

This group of arm-folding smart people totally could have invented a hoverboard, Los Angeles producers think.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Nick Statt/CNET)

The contact page for HUVr has a company e-mail, though no one replied to my request for comment. Neither did MIT, which probably thought having to debunk a viral hoverboard hoax video ridiculous. Don’t worry, so did I.

There’s a few other, more telling hints. Ignoring of course the video’s opening disclaimer — “The following demonstrations are completely real” — one only has to wait until the last third of the video when things get really wild. With montage music playing, Owens is there catching a football, Moby is filming himself riding the board with his iPhone, and Hawk is doing his best re-creation of what his facial expressions looked like ten years ago at the peak of a halfpipe exit mid-900. All of the stunts look impossible, even if HUVr was remotely resembling modern hover technology, and the whole scene devolves into a self-aware parody.


Terrell Owens just invented a new sport.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Nick Statt)

So what’s actually going on here? Some postulate that it’s a “Back to the Future IV” teaser. That sounds plausible, though that film has never been officially announced, having been endlessly wrapped up in debunked rumors for years. However, with Lloyd’s involvement in the video, alongside the DeLorean he arrives in, there’s a chance a viral marketing operation of this magnitude really is proof the long-awaited film is on its way to production.

There’s another point of film history that also lends credence to the fact that this might be related to an official announcement of the fourth installment. Let’s recall that the Back to the Future series’ director Robert Zemeckis perpetuated a hoax after the release of the second film, claiming in a behind-the-scenes feature that hoverboards were real and not available to the public because of safety concerns. He kept that up, making sure it was featured in the “extras” section of the trilogy DVD box set.

Whatever the purpose of this, Internet debunkers were quick to suss out the source of the video’s production. On the online portfolio site of Lauren Biedenharn — a costume designer and an artist based in Los Angeles where, as well as being the home of Hawk, Schoolboy Q, and Consentino, the video was shot — the most recent line of her resume reads, “Commercial: Back to the Future HUVR BOARDS.” Her employer and the producer of said commercial: comedy video Web site Funny Or Die.

And so it goes. Another day, another wasted 24 hours without real hoverboard technology. Let’s hope that “Back to the Future IV” is the real deal, so that the time exhausted on HUVr at least results in a much-needed Dr. Emmett Brown reprising.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/ogABSB-6LMo/

RC helicopters appear to take off with woman in tow

HULC modified RC helicopter

This may be the strongest RC helicopter in the world.


(Credit:
HeliGraphix)

We’ve seen quite a few unusual uses for drones in the past year, including everything from pizza drops to Amazon deliveries. But what if you could deliver a whole person? It might not be that much of a stretch if a video showing two RC helicopters lifting a woman off the ground is real.

German group HeliGraphix specializes in using RC helicopters for filming and stunts. The group’s HULC (Heavy Ultra-Lifter Crane) project took two Gaui X7 helicopters and upgraded the equipment to handle more weight, enough to lift a person. Lady Gaga required a massive flying contraption to achieve the same effect the two relatively small copters recently pulled off.

According to HeliGraphix, the total payload, including the weight of the helicopters, cameras, mounts, and the woman herself, totaled 124 pounds. There was some debate about whether or not to make the attempt with the heavy go-go boots as part of the costume, but the boots won out. It didn’t seem to put a damper on the choppers’ lifting prowess.

HeliGraphix spent four months and nearly $14,000 on developing the project. There is a trade-off to feeding that much power through an RC helicopter. The batteries are drained after just 40 seconds of flight. That means we won’t be seeing Amazon drafting these for furniture delivery anytime soon.

The video evidence will likely result in a lot of people saying, “That’s fake!” However, RC specialist sites and Gaui, the maker of the helicopters, aren’t questioning the feat, and HeliGraphix insists it’s real. The group has painstakingly documented the upgrades, adding to the believability of the stunt.

(Via Reddit)

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/JZucgsBd0OI/

RC helicopters appear to take off with woman in tow

HULC modified RC helicopter

This may be the strongest RC helicopter in the world.


(Credit:
HeliGraphix)

We’ve seen quite a few unusual uses for drones in the past year, including everything from pizza drops to Amazon deliveries. But what if you could deliver a whole person? It might not be that much of a stretch if a video showing two RC helicopters lifting a woman off the ground is real.

German group HeliGraphix specializes in using RC helicopters for filming and stunts. The group’s HULC (Heavy Ultra-Lifter Crane) project took two Gaui X7 helicopters and upgraded the equipment to handle more weight, enough to lift a person. Lady Gaga required a massive flying contraption to achieve the same effect the two relatively small copters recently pulled off.

According to HeliGraphix, the total payload, including the weight of the helicopters, cameras, mounts, and the woman herself, totaled 124 pounds. There was some debate about whether or not to make the attempt with the heavy go-go boots as part of the costume, but the boots won out. It didn’t seem to put a damper on the choppers’ lifting prowess.

HeliGraphix spent four months and nearly $14,000 on developing the project. There is a trade-off to feeding that much power through an RC helicopter. The batteries are drained after just 40 seconds of flight. That means we won’t be seeing Amazon drafting these for furniture delivery anytime soon.

The video evidence will likely result in a lot of people saying, “That’s fake!” However, RC specialist sites and Gaui, the maker of the helicopters, aren’t questioning the feat, and HeliGraphix insists it’s real. The group has painstakingly documented the upgrades, adding to the believability of the stunt.

(Via Reddit)

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/JZucgsBd0OI/

RC helicopters appear to take off with woman in tow

HULC modified RC helicopter

This may be the strongest RC helicopter in the world.


(Credit:
HeliGraphix)

We’ve seen quite a few unusual uses for drones in the past year, including everything from pizza drops to Amazon deliveries. But what if you could deliver a whole person? It might not be that much of a stretch if a video showing two RC helicopters lifting a woman off the ground is real.

German group HeliGraphix specializes in using RC helicopters for filming and stunts. The group’s HULC (Heavy Ultra-Lifter Crane) project took two Gaui X7 helicopters and upgraded the equipment to handle more weight, enough to lift a person. Lady Gaga required a massive flying contraption to achieve the same effect the two relatively small copters recently pulled off.

According to HeliGraphix, the total payload, including the weight of the helicopters, cameras, mounts, and the woman herself, totaled 124 pounds. There was some debate about whether or not to make the attempt with the heavy go-go boots as part of the costume, but the boots won out. It didn’t seem to put a damper on the choppers’ lifting prowess.

HeliGraphix spent four months and nearly $14,000 on developing the project. There is a trade-off to feeding that much power through an RC helicopter. The batteries are drained after just 40 seconds of flight. That means we won’t be seeing Amazon drafting these for furniture delivery anytime soon.

The video evidence will likely result in a lot of people saying, “That’s fake!” However, RC specialist sites and Gaui, the maker of the helicopters, aren’t questioning the feat, and HeliGraphix insists it’s real. The group has painstakingly documented the upgrades, adding to the believability of the stunt.

(Via Reddit)

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/JZucgsBd0OI/

$7,000-per-month tech interns are making bank, says report

February 28th, 2014 No comments

Intel intern

An Intel intern from 2012 from the group’s “Call Me Maybe” video.


(Credit:

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
)

If you had to hazard a guess as to which company pays its interns the most, which would you pick? Google perhaps? Close. Maybe Twitter? Very close.

Twitter is in the Top 3, but the No. 1 company is probably not one you’ll guess. It’s Palantir Technologies, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based software and services company that largely works on government contracts.

According to a report released Friday by Glassdoor, an online jobs and career company, Palantir’s average monthly base pay for an intern is $7,012. It’s enough to make you think you’ve gone into the wrong field of work. Glassdoor’s report was gathered from anonymous information provided by the site’s users and is based on companies with at least 20 intern salary reports shared over the last two years.

Hot on the heels of Palantir comes VMware with an average salary of $6,966, followed by Twitter at $6,791, LinkedIn with $6,230, and Facebook at $6,213. Microsoft, Ebay, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Nvidia aren’t too far behind. Intel might sound relatively stingy at $4,648 down in the 23rd spot — until you compare it to Glassdoor’s average pay calculation for all interns on its site, which lands between $2,400 and $3,100 per month.

Glassdoor also collected comments from interns about their jobs and working environments. A support engineer intern at Palantir had this to say: “Work is motivated by a real mission. Very few people are there just for money.” A Microsoft Research intern lauded the housing,
car rental, and relocation subsidies.

Perhaps the most interesting comment comes from a Yahoo Tech intern, who mentions “free lunch and snakes.” That came from a former employee at Yahoo’s Champaign, Ill., office. It’s probably just an unfortunate typo — snacks, perhaps? — but some reptile fans may consider it a significant perk. Check out the full top-25 list below.

25 highest paying companies for interns
(Credit:
Glassdoor)

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/-7v-jhsTDU0/

Making headphones mono

February 27th, 2014 No comments


(Credit:
Monoprice)

I recently received an e-mail from a reader, Raul, whose daughter is deaf in one ear. She loves music, but with headphones she’d only get one channel.

While my initial thought was for a fairly simple fix, as I researched to be sure, it turned out to be more complex than I figured.

A short and long answer, to follow.
The short answer is this: a stereo to mono adapter. Specifically, and this is the important part, a stereo male to a mono female. As in, the part that plugs into the
iPod is stereo (with two plastic rings, as seen above). These can be found in the form of an adapter plug, or a “Y” cable.

The opposite (mono male to stereo female) is far more common, but for what we’re talking about it’s not what we’re looking for. Also, most “stereo to mono” Y cables merely split the signal, so each mono female end is getting just one channel.

The long answer
What has to happen is the stereo channels have to be mixed down to a single channel, and that channel must be sent to both ears. This way, Raul’s daughter, and anyone else wanting both channels in one ear, can get all the music. There are plugs that do this, and cables. RadioShack, Amazon, and Monoprice all have options. Reading through the comments on Amazon, it seems there are people who got this to work exactly as we’re discussing.

However, they don’t always work like that. There are multiple ways for an adapter like this to work (or not work, depending on how you look at it). The simplest way is to mix the stereo channels down into one channel, so one side of the headphone gets both channels. That’s a lot more power getting sent to one earphone, so you’ll likely have to turn down the volume. Also, if that’s not the ear/side you want/need to use, you’re out of luck.

For example, I asked Monoprice about theirs, and this is what Albert Cardenas, product manager for consumer audio, had to say:

“On PID 7160, it does ‘combine’ the stereo signal into a summed single signal. However, it will only send the summed signal to the left side of the headphones.”

Worse, many seem to be poorly built. Also on Amazon, I found myriad complaints on the various plugs from several different companies, ranging from poor build quality to not working as intended.

One last wrinkle
With most audio gear, these types of adapters should work fine. However, it’s possible it might not work at all. Audio guru Brent Butterworth pointed out a possible electrical issue. Because both channels are now connected, each portion of the amp (left channel and right channel) sees both headphones and the other amp. So it changes how the amps are going to react. With most gear this is probably fine, but with some it could cause issues (excessive heat, low volume, no sound at all, and more). A good rule here is if you plug it in, and it you don’t get any sound or really low volume, and it’s not a defective plug, don’t push it as it might damage your gear.

The software option
Finally, there are two software options you can try for listening to music in mono: enabling it within your computer’s software player, or re-ripping all of your music.

While it sounds like it should be an easy thing to do in software, switching between mono and stereo isn’t that common. However, if you use a music player compatible with WinAmp plugins (Media Monkey, Foobar2000, MusicBee or the newly-revived
WinAmp) you can download a plugin called Somewhat Mono. Install the plugin to the Plugins folder of your player, and if you’re using Media Monkey (for example) you enable it by going to Tools Options Player DSP Plugins Somewhat Mono. The plugin is a simple slide with the left hand equalling mono and the right hand true stereo, and with everything in between. Of course, this won’t work for your mobile device, just a PC.

WinAmp plugin Somewhat Mono enables mono for compatible players


(Credit:
Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET)

Sadly, if you use
iTunes or even Windows Media, re-ripping is your best option. With a little time investment, you can convert tracks on iTunes to mono. This re-conversion of lossy audio isn’t ideal, but if the alternative is only hearing one channel, the loss in sound quality might be OK. Alternately, if you’re burning CDs, you can just set to burn them as mono. These settings can be found under Edit Preferences Import Settings.

Not a perfect solution by any stretch, but an option.

Bottom Line
Again, male stereo to female mono. Check the comments before you buy, or get it from a store where you can return it. Seems like build quality is often pretty rotten, and they don’t always work as intended. Fortunately, they’re all cheap.


Got a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he’s written on topics like why all HDMI cables are the same, LED LCD vs. plasma, active versus passive 3D, and more. Still have a question? Send him an e-mail! He won’t tell you what TV to buy, but he might use your letter in a future article. You can also send him a message on Twitter @TechWriterGeoff or Google+.

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