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Friday, September 22, 2017

Academics protest as You Tube shuts down North Korean channels

Academics are angry that YouTube has shut down two North Korean news, and propaganda channels and has urged the company to reinstate them as they provided valuable insights about the country including into their nuclear program.
The two channels that were shut down were Stimmekoreas the top-ranked North Korean channel with 20,000 subscribers, and Uriminzokkiri that is also large with 18,000 subscribers. The channels regularly posted state TV news and other footage that attracted millions of hits. The channels were terminated on Friday September 9th for violating community guidelines. They did not explain how exactly they were doing so. Other countries often at odds with the US such as China, Russia, and Iran have channels that are used for propaganda purposes but have not been shut down. You Tube has not been very forthcoming in its explanation as to why the two channels were shut down.
Perhaps the US government put pressure on YouTube or it may be that You Tube is worried that North Korea is receiving ad revenue from the channels and that You Tube could be charged with violating US trade restrictions. Jeffrrey Lewis, an arms control expert said: “I know when I click on the videos I get ads. So perhaps they are nervous about sending that money on to the North Koreans. But honestly the YouTube ad revenues are not going to make or break the missile program.” If this is the reason for shutting down the stations You Tube could have at least said so instead of talking about community standards without indicating exactly what the stations had done wrong. One wonders if any notice were sent to North Korea explaining why the stations were shut down. I have not seen any response from North Korea as yet.
Stimmenkoreas is thought to be operated by a North Korean supporter who does not live in the country but posts high resolution photos and propaganda from the Korean Central News Agency in several different languages. Uriminzokkiri is directly tied to North Korea's propaganda apparatus and posts content aimed at North Koreans living abroad.
Lewis said that You Tube should reverse its decision in the interests of US national security:“North Korea is a country with thermonuclear weapons sitting on ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] that can reach the United States. It is really important to understand them even if we don’t like them. That starts by analyzing their propaganda. Even though it’s tendentious, you can learn a lot about a country from the lies they tell.”Not all propaganda are lies. Some of what is published by North Korean propaganda outlets is true while some of the material published against North Korea is sometimes false. Lewis also tweeted about his concerns: "Dear @YouTube, please stop doing this. Academics rely on this information to monitor and assess North Korea's missile programs."
Academics use official footage from the channels to measure how powerful missiles are by how fast they accelerate. They also glean information from the parts and machinery visible when Kim Jong-un makes factory visits. Lewis said: " When he visits a factory in the middle of nowhere and stares at machine tools it provides an important insight into the progress they are making.” If the North Koreans read this, they will no doubt make sure that Kim Jong-un's visits to factories are closely monitored and if they do show machinery it may be a prop designed to provide false information to US intelligence. The channels also give information about who Kim Jong-un surrounds himself one that can show who is more or less important and how his inner circle may be changing. Lewis pointed out that North Korea used You Tube as a primary distribution vehicle for their propaganda. Sometimes you do not know something was important until after an event has happened and the availability of searchable propaganda archives is quite valuable. Scott Lafoy a Washington-based imagery analyst said: “Tracking and digitally reconstructing events is going to be more difficult as these accounts get deleted".
This is not the first time You Tube has closed down North Korean channels. In November 2016 KoreanCentralTV!, NK Propaganda, and KCTV were also shut down. An article at the time claims it was because the stations could have made money through You Tube's built-in advertising system.
You Tube is headquartered in San Bruno California and is a subsidiary of Google. As of February this year more than 400 hours of content are uploaded to You Tube each minute every day. You Tube website is ranked as the second most popular website in the world by Alexa Internet. There are still many videos from North Korea on You Tube including numerous performances of the popular Moranbong all female marching band shown in the You Tube video below.
There are also numerous dramatic films some of which are very propagandistic as the appended video on one of the famous traffic girls. A famous film the Flower Girl an adaption of an opera whose text was said to be produced by founder of North Korea Kim il-Sung while in prison is available in several versions on You Tube. In spite of the fact that the film is mainly about the terrible conditions most of the population suffered under Japanese rule the film was banned at one time in South Korea:In South Korea, the film was deemed as communist propaganda and a symbol of the enemy, and screening was banned; police were often mobilised when university students were found playing the film on campus, and the students were often accused of being sympathetic with the North.[11] In 1998, the Supreme Court of South Korea ruled that The Flower Girl and six other North Korean films were "not favouring anti-ROK sentiments" in regards to national security laws.[11]Although the Japanese are the enemy in the film, they are not depicted as being as evil as some of those South Koreans who cooperated with them.
To watch on full screen click on the You Tube icon and watch on You Tube.

New technology allows seniors to remain at home longer

Many seniors want to stay in their homes as long as they can rather than go to an old folks or nursing home. New technology helps to make this happen while ensuring that the health and safety of the elderly is not compromised.
A new startup based in Cincinnati, TruSense provides technology that enables the elderly to stay safely in their own homes longer. The company uses smart home technology to help seniors, including motion sensors, temperature monitoring, leak detection, and even voice controls. The company offers a do-it-yourself kit of connected products along with a monitoring service and an app that enables family to keep track of the habits of their aging parents so that they will know if something unusual and dangerous may be happening.
TruSense does not have hardware of its own but depends upon SmartThings for its motion sensors and hub, and Amazon Echo Dot for its voice control. The two hundred dollar U.S. starter kit contains the following: six motion sensors; two contact or door/window sensors; a visitor sensor: a smart outlet; a hub; and an Amazon Echo Dot. You can add to the kit items such as a GPS tracker, a leak detector and a pendant or vehicle tracker.
As a result of all this technology, the TruSense app is able to track which room residents are in, and be able to chart their activity over time. The door or window sensors could be put on your fridge or kitchen cabinet to keep track of their eating habits. A motion sensor will allow the user to know when the occupants are sleeping or getting up in the morning.
TruSense charges $50 per month for its monitoring service. Customers are able to customize which notifications to receive. The Amazon Echo Dot, a speaker that one can control with you voice, can be used by house occupants to call the monitoring service for help.
While the monitoring fee is higher than some other plans, it is on a par with those of others offered by ADT and AT&T. Perhaps some elderly parents will want to place some controls over how much their concerned children monitor them. The appended video shows another device that can help monitor elderly parents.


Cryptocurrency guru Antonopolous explains bitcoin and blockchain technologies

Andreas Antonopoulos is a a Greek information security expert based in California but also a tech-entrepreneur and author. He has also quickly become one of the most ardent champions of healthy bitcoin practices.

Antonopolous has become a key player in the world of cryptocurrency. This article provides takes a closer look at his numerous activities involving blockchain technologies, including his testimony before the Canadian government and a significant speech at a recent conference in Africa. He has also been relentless in his criticism of those whom he felt posed dangers to the development of bitcoin and has refused to participate in activities that he found were not transparent.
Antonopoulos has a degree in Computer Science, Data Communications and Distributed Systems from the University College London. He has acted as a business consultant on open source and open networks as far back as 1990. His writings are extensive with over two hundred articles published. He is a a partner in Nemertes Research. He claims that the greatest threat to computer security is not so much experienced hackers as overly complex systems that are resulting from rapid technological changes in business operations.
Antonopoulos was at one time head of the Bitcoin Foundation's anti-poverty committee but he left in 2014 after disagreements with management of the foundation. Antonopoulos complained that the Foundation completely lacked any transparency in its operation. In January of 2014 he joined the firm Blockchain.info as Chief Security Officer, but later in September he dropped this role but stayed on as an advisor to the board. The company launched in 2011 and provides a cryptocurrency wallet as well as data on transactions and other aspects of the operation of the bitcoin blockchain..
By 2015 Blockchain.info had created over three million wallets for clients using their service. The company offers a dedicated service on the anonymous browser Tor to allow transactions to be carried out with greater privacy and making third party surveillance more difficult. The service claimed that transactions had exceeded one million by August 2016.
Antonopoulos was an early outspoken critic of the Mt. Gox trading platform, saying as early as April 2013 that it was a systemic risk to bitcoin, and a death trap for traders. He added it was run by people who were clueless. The platform was shut down in February of 2014. Bitcoin obviously recovered from its price decline.
Antonopoulos was also active in raising money to help out Dorian Nakamoto who was wrongly identified by a Newsweek article as the mystery creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. He was able to raise 50 bitcoins with a value of $23,000 at the time. The first commercial transaction with bitcoin was to purchase two pizzas in Florida that cost a cool 10,000 bitcoins.
On the 8th of October 2014 Antonopoulos testified before the Banking, Trade and Commerce committee of the Canadian Senate and answered questions on how the government could regulate bitcoin in Canada. Antonopoulos advised Canada not to try to regulate the area prematurely. He argued that the government should wait until the technology is better understood as regulation could stifle the technology in its early days.
Chair of the Committee Senator Irving Gerstein claimed that Antonopoulos was considered to be a bitcoin guru and as having virtually written the book on bitcoin. Antonopoulos laid out the advantages and opportunities involved in a decentralized financial system such as bitcoin and the blockchain represented. The current system he claimed was fragile and risks were introduced by the many layers of regulation required. It also created what he called cosy relationships between regulators and industry insiders resulting not only in corruption but to financial crises.
Antonopolous said that decentralization and security were key to the operation of the bitcoin blockchain system. Antonopoulos said: "The ability to innovate without permission at the edge of the bitcoin network is the same fundamental force that has driven internet innovation for 20 years at a frenetic pace, creating enormous value for consumers, economic growth, opportunities and jobs." He claimed that this unregulated ability to innovate would allow for the invention of new decentralized security mechanisms based on such innovations as smart contracts, decentralized audits and hardware wallets.
Some senators asked Antonopoulos about the use of cryptocurrencies for purposes such as funding terrorists or money laundering. He replied that bitcoin is not anonymous and that empowering people to have better access to the financial infrastructure was much more important than the misuse of the system by a few. Athonopoulos warned that digital currencies should not be transformed and contorted into structures adapted to the operation of banks since they were intended to present an entirely different paradigm. A YouTube video of Antonopoulos presentation to the Canadian Senate is appended.
Also appended is Antonopoulos's presentation in 2017 at the Blockchain Conference in Africa in which he distinguishes blockchain from lesser technologies.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame reveals action plan for Libya's transition period

New UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) Ghassan Salame has finally outlined his action plan for moving Libya through the transition period with a new constitution and elections next year for the presidency and parliament.

Salame notes that six years ago Libyans were promised a transition but the transition is continuing with no end in sight unless action is taken. Salame does not explain why. He does not mention that the House of Representatives (HoR) has twice refused to vote confidence in the UN-brokered Government of National Accord(GNA) as required by the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The last negative vote was on August 22, 2016 and a new cabinet was to be suggested within ten days. Nor is there any mention of the role of Khalifa Haftar the commander of the Libyan Armed Forces who from the first refused to recognize the GNA. He was so obstructive that there were plans to sanction him by the EU:"Two military leaders in the east of Libya, who say their forces will not respect any peace accord, also face sanctions. They are General Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the eastern forces and air force head Fakir Jarroushi. " Of course nothing of the sort happened. Haftar continued and met with many foreign leaders. Indeed he is now regarded as an indispensable part of the political solution: "Italy, along with France, the UK and other Western states and the UN have swung round to the view that Hafter, previously seen as an impediment to peace in Libya, has to be part of the political set-up." Salame does not even deign to mention Haftar by name let alone discuss his role in helping the transition to fail by refusing to recognize the GNA. This must be forgotten.
Also forgotten is UN Resolution 2259 of 2015: "Through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2259 (2015), the 15-nation body endorsed the 13 December Rome Communiqué to support the Government of National Accord as the sole legitimate Government of Libya. It called on Member States to cease support to and official contact with parallel institutions claiming to be the legitimate authority, but which were outside of the Political Agreement. " Yet many international authorities have dealt with members of the rival House of Representatives (HoR) government which does not recognize the GNA. There was great press coverage of a supposed crucial meeting and agreement in Paris hosted by France which included Khalifa Haftar who commands not the armed forces associated with the GNA government but those of the HoR parallel government. No one seems to bother to comment on the fact that the agreement is not between two rival heads of governments but between the head of the GNA and a military commander on the other side. It is not toothless UN resolutions that count but power. Supposed supporters of the GNA are led to ignore resolutions they supported. In all Salame's outline of his plan, I cannot find one explicit mention of the GNA except for noting that the advisory Hight State Council must be represented at a conference to consider amendments to the LPA.
The first stage in Salame's plan is described as follows:" The first stage in the process must therefore be to amend the Agreement. There is a broad consensus on the issues requiring amendments. Next week, on the basis of article 12 of the LPA, I am convening, in the UNSMIL offices, a drafting committee to formulate these amendments."
Salame does not explain what article 12 says or how it justifies convening a drafting committee to formulate amendments to the LPA. I am eager to see what the experts on Libya from various think tanks have to say about this. They may face some difficulties. The UN before has been involved in skirting parts of the LPA as illustrated in this post. The links to the LPA or Skhirat no longer take you to the text of the LPA but to the UN Support Mission in Libya website. A search for the text does not reveal the text. Fortunately, I have a copy of the text. The first problem is that there are two articles 12, one in the main text and one in the additional provisions. Here is the one in the main text:Article (12)The legislative authority of the State, during the transitional period, shall be undertaken by the House of Representatives, which was elected in June 2014; it shall practice its competencies based on the Constitutional Declaration and its amendment as per this Agreement.
This would seem to indicate that the HoR not the UN should be calling the conference. Anyway the HoR does not accept the sole legitimate government the GNA and so is not yet the legislative authority until it votes confidence in the GNA. How does this section justify the calling of a conference to make amendments? It does not even mention making amendments.
The other article 12 is in Additional Provisions: 

"Article (12)All institutions stipulated in the Libyan Political Agreement shall derive their legitimacy from the Constitutional Declaration and its amendment as annexed to this Agreement after its endorsement and adoption in its entirety, signing and entry into force. Should it be necessary to introduce subsequent amendment to the Constitutional Declaration that affects, whether directly or indirectly, the Agreement or any of the institutions that emanate from it, the House of Representatives and State Council shall commit to achieve consensus among themselves to agree on the format of such amendment. The final endorsement of this amendment shall be given by the House of Representatives, without amendment, based on the mechanism stipulated in the ConstitutionalDeclaration."

Perhaps this is the section that Salame is using as his basis for calling the group to draft amendments. The amending process referred to is only of the Constitutional Declaration not to the GPA. Notice that before there can be any amendments the Constitutional Declaration must have been amended and added to the agreement. The HoR has not yet done this or even adopted the agreement. The HoR would need to have done this before the amendment process could even take place. Neither article 12 can be a basis for whatever Salame is doing.

 In spite of continuing to spout the line that the LPA is the basis for future developments it would seem that violating the terms of the LPA is what will be happening. Note that Salame does not even bother to tell you who is to be the drafting committee. According to article 12 it should be the HoR and State High Council who draft the amendments by consensus. Salame talks of the two being at a conference to consider the draft amendments but also adds other stakeholders. Salame has simply added the process of drafting amendments but there appears to be nothing about that in the LPA. Note that this process is to be a Libyan process according to Salame but who decides who drafts the amendments and who will attend the conference to consider them? The UN it would seem.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Roku to offer a new free channel on all its devices

Roku which has a number of different streaming media players and also is built into what are called Roku TVs will offer a new free channel that will have no-cost content from existing channels plus new material.

The best free material on Roku will now be available in one channel. For those who are not familiar with Roku it is described by Wikipedia as follows:
The Roku Streaming Player, or simply Roku.. is a series of digital media player set-top boxes manufactured by Roku, Inc. Roku partners provide over-the-top content in the form of channels. The name comes from the Japanese word 六 (roku) meaning "six" and was named so because it was the sixth company that Anthony Wood (CEO 2002-) started.[2][3] A Roku streaming device gets data (the video stream) via a wired or Wi-Fi connection to an Internet router. The data is output via an audio cable, video cable, or HDMI cable. The device can be connected to any television set (or other video display device) with appropriate input connections.Since 2014 the company has also a type of smart TV which uses the Roku interface as the "brain" of the TV. A number of different firms manufacture the TV including TCL and Hisense with RCA also joining the group as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.
As well as aggregating no-cost content on existing Roku channels the new channel will also offer movies from partners that include MGM, Sony, Warner, and Lionsgate. Roku offers numerous free channels but also has many channels that require some type of fee. The free channels often have advertising but not all of them. I use Roku on one of two TVs I have but do not have cable on either TV. On the second TV I connect an old laptop to the Internet and then run content through an HDMI cable to the TV. The Roku player also can connect through an HDMI cord. As many TV's now have several HDMI ports, you can keep a computer and other devices connected as well as the Roku player. I have a laptop connected to the same TV as my Roku player. It is good for playing content that you have on a USB stick, external hard drive, a CD or DVD. You can keep your cable if you wish. Being frugal, aka "cheap", I cut the cord some time ago. Roku media players are widely available in Canada for around fifty dollars Canadian and even less for the lower end models. They are quite adequate if you have an older TV or a newer one with no special features.
Chief Marketing Officer of Roku, Matthew Anderson said: "We're at our best when helping a family's entertainment dollar go just a bit further. There are no subscriptions, logins or fees, and everything is in one place." To activate the Roku service you must open an account. However, unless you decide to subscribe to some of the channels that charge a fee there are no charges made to your account. The new channel will have movies with titles such as "Legally Blonde", "Up in the Air" , the Karate Kid" , "Monster" and "Ali". Titles will rotate in and out of the channel. Anderson claims that though the service is supported by ads there will be only about half the time spent on ads as on regular TV. He also says that the ads will be relevant and non-repetitive. Roku is not intending to launch its own original content at this time as Netflix has done. Netflix and several other services can be viewed on Roku if you have a subscription. Indeed Netflix has its own special button. The new channel is to be available on streaming devices in the US beginning today. There is no mention of whether it will be available in other countries such as Canada.
Often Netflix content available in the US is not available in Canada and other countries. This has resulted in many non-Americans using VPN's to disguise their addresses and using the US Netflix which has a great variety of material. However, Netflix has cracked down on this practice as noted in thisGlobe and Mail article. Roku in Canada also cannot stream some content that would be available in the US. However, I have found that there is a wide choice of material available here. Even if one does not subscribe to Netflix there are a number of full length movies available on You Tube and there are several free movie channels on Roku in Canada already.
Roku is planning on an initial public offering (IPO) worth $100 million dollars. The stock will list on Nasdaq with the symbol "ROKU". Roku needs an injection of funds as it spends heavily on research, marketing, and staff. In 2016 it had revenue of $398.6 million a significant increase of 25 percent over 2015. Net loss in 2016 was $42.8 million. Almost three quarters of its revenue came from selling its media players. The offering is backed by Twenty-First Century Fox, Fidelity, and Menlo Ventures. The IPO will be underwritten by Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, RBC, and others. The offering should provide the funds needed for Roku's further development.


New technology changes car shopping experience

The automotive sales industry is experiencing a change in the manner in which buyers are perceiving car ownership, use, and operation. Accompanying this are also changes in the way customers' purchasing experience is modified by new technology.

In earlier days the purchase of a car often began at a dealership after searching through the extensive automotive sections in a newspaper. Before there was much chance of comparing options the purchase was often determined by high pressure sales people providing information. Already technology has improved the chances of the consumer making a better buy by the presence of the Internet, websites, and online search capabilities. Websites such as TrueCar, Edmunds and numerous others make information readily available within seconds.
The new social media sites have made it much easier to receive opinions from friends and others about vehicles one is considering. Crowdtap polling found that 87 percent of respondents considered friend's comments when evaluating an auto.
Dealers too are employing new technology using video walls and tabletop touch screens to complement the physical shopping experience. Buyers can explore models before they take one for a test drive. Audi has actually developed a digital showroom that allows visitors to configure a life-sized virtual vehicle that uses a 3-D rendering technology. The appended video describes and shows the showroom. Soon you may be able to take models that interest one for a virtual test drive. A recent Forbes article notes:Virtual reality capabilities allow consumers to open doors, sneak a 360-degree peek inside and out, and even hear authentic sound effects of their potential new model. In response to consumer-driven expectations to research and buy online, companies are likely to begin selling cars and parts directly through their respective websites.
Consumers are already on their own changing the environment in which they shop for cars. 63 percent of those shopping for autos compare vehicles using mobile devices and 75 percent of shoppers would even consider buying entirely online. Dealers must provide a digital experience that allows vehicle comparison, payment details, and the possibility of purchase all online or they stand to lose business to competitors. As consumers do more research and comparisons online they may seek help from bots incorporating artificial intelligence. Carla designed by CarLABS is an example providing car-shopping advice to consumers but also dealers.
Another use of new technology that offers new selling points for cars is the ability of the car to connect to the many gadgets and applications that an owner already has such as a phone, tablet, usb stick, etc. Machine Research predicts that by 2020 90 percent of new cars will have a built-in connectivity platform. Some of these devices allow not only for entertainment but for information that can be used by repair shops to repairs vehicles. A recent article notes:
Connected vehicles that link to mobile devices, RFID readers on the road, traffic lights, and infrastructure provide the opportunity for improved navigation based on driving habits, traffic notifications, and alternate routes. General Motor’s OnStar system, for example, enables users to send an intended destination from their smartphone directly to the car’s navigation system.The connected cars can be tailored to deliver a personalized experience. Jaguar Land Rover has even introduced cars that learn the specific driving behaviors and preferences of their owners.
The bots that will help you through your research will soon seem more like humans as they become more capable of natural language processing (NLP). With the development of natural language capabilities and improved intelligence bots will sound like humans but with super-human research abilities. Gartner, a technology research firm predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of customer interactions will be managed without human intervention.
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Major cryptocurrencies retreat from recent highs

(September 5)The price of major cryptocurrencies plunged over the last few days in the biggest sell off since mid-July when the total value of the currencies fell from $72 bilion to $63 billion a drop of 12 percent.

On Friday September 2 the total value of publicly traded cryptocurrencies was down from a recent high of almost $180 billion to around $166 billion a drop of more than 7 percent. Bitcoin went from a high of $5,013,91 to a low of 4,619. 97 or a decline of more than $250 dollars.
On Monday September 4 declines continued. Bitcoin went down to $4,140. One reason for the decline is that the People's Bank of China has declared initial coin offerings (ICOs) illegal and demanded that such fundraising be halted immediately. The Bank has determined that more than 90 percent of recent ICOs are in violation of fundraising laws. There has been a huge number of Chinese ICOs of late:In the first six months of 2017, Chinese investors have pumped 2.6 billion yuan (USD 394 million) in ICOs, a government study said. The study further assumes this number to be much larger as it did not include sales through private placements, as per Caixin.
While the Chinese investors in cryptocurrencies are suffering huge loses the main western currencies, bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin also suffered declines on Monday.
The second-ranked currency etherium appears to be reviving. Ether the coin associated with etherium, having clocked a fresh three-week low of $270 levels earlier today, is now trading at roughly $305. This means ether is down 12.85% week-over-week, although, on a month-on-month basis the digital currency is holding 16.76% gains. So, on a larger scheme of things, the trend still appears bullish. On the year ether is up over 3,000 percent.
Bitcoin also appears to be recovering from its decline as it began to increase in value again today, Sept. 5: " Pushed lower by Chinese regulations today, the cryptocurrency bottomed out at $4,037.50. At the time of writing, bitcoin was trading up 0.83 per cent at $4,355.55." With the rapid rise in value of many of the main cryptocurrencies prices may be due for a correction in any event before any further rise. The quick return to an upward trend may be a sign that investors are still generally bullish on the currencies. However, the next few days may show that this was just a temporary move up before the currencies continue downwards from their highs It remains to be seen how many investors are waiting in the wings to jump in on any significant price declines. Perhaps they are already entering the market.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Tesla and Toyota plus others battle it out for best battery technology

oyota is reported to be working on an electric car that will be powered by a solid state battery. It hopes to begin sales of the new vehicle in 2022. The car is said to be based on an all-new platform and will be able to recharge in just a few minutes.

While there are many new types of batteries being researched Toyota believes that solid-state batteries are the closest to practical application for commercial purposes. The batteries are expected to be compact enough to be placed under the seats and the interior of the new cars should be roomy and comfortable.
A key difference between solid-state batteries and the commonly used lithium-ion battery is that the latter uses a liquid chemical electrolytic solution to regulate the flow of current between the anode and cathode of the battery but the former does not.
Solid state batteries can be up to six times faster charging than regular lithium-ion batteries. The battery can hold up to twice the energy density as well. The batteries can last up to ten years as compared to an expected two years for regular lithium-ion batteries. There are no flammable components and thus no batteries catching fire. There is also the possibility of using other chemicals to replace lithium which is scarce and will no doubt become more expensive as demand increases. An article by Android Authority states there are eight different major categories of solid state batteries with each one using different materials to form the electrolyte: Li-Halide, Perovskite, Li-Hydride, NASICON-like, Garnet, Argyrodite, LiPON, and LISICON-like.
Battery researcher Shinji Nakanishi talked of transitioning from the present Li-ion batteries to solid state batteries and then Li-air batteries. “We want our electric cars to go 500 km. And for this, we want rechargeable batteries that can generate 800 to 1,000 watt-hours per liter.” This would be two or even three times the energy density of the best present day Li-ion batteries. Toyota is also working on increasing the efficiency of its hybrid vehicles by 10 percent. Toyota is hoping to mass produce electric vehicles in China as early as 2019. China is now the world's largest car market. However, for now the Chinese plants plan to use lithium-ion batteries.
Presidentt Kazuhiro Tsuga of Panasonic said: “We think the existing technology can still extend the energy density of Li-ion batteries by 20 percent to 30 percent. But there is a trade-off between energy density and safety. So if you look for even more density, you have to think about additional safety technology as well. Solid-state batteries are one answer.” Panasonic provides batteries for Tesla the electric vehicle manufacturer. Battery expert Nagaki Yabuchi of Tokyo Denki University said that the density of Li-ion batteries can be increased by using a nickel-based material for cathodes but he expected the limits of lithium-ion technology would be reached by around 2020. While Tesla has a huge laboratory for evaluating new battery technologies so far the company has said it sees no viable replacement for lithium-ion batteries at present. It may be some time before new battery technology is developed sufficiently to be commercially viable. However, research is going ahead full steam.
The co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery along with a team of engineers at the University of Texas, Cockrell School of Engineering, in Austin, has now developed all-solid-state battery cells that would be safer, faster charging, rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars, and storage. The batteries would last longer than lithium ion batteries as well. Goodenough, who is still working at the ripe old age of 94 said: “Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted. We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries.”


Bitcoin activates Segregated Witness

(September 2) As volume of transactions vastly increased of bitcoin, problems arose concerning delays, costs, and other issues that led to discussions as to how to solve the problems.
Many bitcoin miners and others wanted to adopt what is called Segregated Witness a program that would remove some data from each transaction block and place it in a separate extended block. This would leave more room for data in the block. As well, the block size would be extended to 2 mb from the present one. The proposal was called SegWit2x since it would also expand the size of a block in the blockchain to 2 mb. from the present one. Coindesk describes what SegWit2x would do as follows:
First, SegWit2x seeks to upgrade bitcoin in two ways: It would enact the long-proposed code optimization Segregated Witness (SegWit), which alters how some data is stored on the network. It would set a timeline for increasing the network's block size to 2MB, up from 1MB today, to be triggered about three months after the SegWit activation
A deadline of August 1st was set for the decision on the issue. A group that disagreed with the SegWit2x proposal unilaterally changed the block size to 8 mb from one creating what is called a hard fork in bitrcoin creating a rival coin bitcash. The process is described in some detail in a recent Digital Journal article.
Investopedia defines Segregated Witness as follows:SegWit is the process by which the block size limit on a blockchain is increased by removing signature data from Bitcoin transactions. When certain parts of a transaction are removed, this frees up space or capacity to add more transactions to the chain.Segregate means to separate, and Witnesses are the transaction signatures. Hence, Segregated Witness in short, means to separate transaction signatures.The concept of SegWit was formulated by Dr. Pieter Wuille.
The appended video provides a very simplified explanation of SegWit but gives a general idea of what is involved.
The activation of Segregated Witness produced a soft fork rather than the hard fork that happened on August 1st producing two separate coins bitcoin and bitcash. The differences between a soft and hard fork is explained on the appended video posted in May before the actual bitcoin hard fork in August.
An agreement to activate SegWit was reached earlier in August actual activationdid not happen until August 23rd. The activation will allow more information to be incorporated into a block. A recent article also notes:Bitcoin blocks now have a weight limit instead of a size limit. Depending on the types of transactions included, this means that blocks can get up to 4 megabytes big — though some 2 megabytes is a more realistic maximum. This should decrease network fees for users, and speed up transaction confirmation times. As bitcoin magazine notes: Bitcoin blocks now have a weight limit instead of a size limit. Depending on the types of transactions included, this means that blocks can get up to 4 megabytes big — though some 2 megabytes is a more realistic maximum. This should decrease network fees for users, and speed up transaction confirmation times.
An even more important change is that bitcoin will now be able to incorporate second-layer technologies such as the Lighnting Network. Litecoin is alreadytrying to incorporate the network into its operations. The Lightning Network when operative should completely solve the problem of congestion caused by the increasing number of bitcoin transactions. A recent article says of the network: "The payment layer, first proposed by Joseph Poon and Tadge Dryja about a year ago, promises to support a virtually unlimited number of off-chain transactions among users, at nearly no cost – while leveraging the security offered by Bitcoin." Changes are happening very quickly with bitcoin and it looks as if in the future it will be much more versatile. According to the appended video that explains the Lightning Network, there has already been a Lightning Network transfer on the Litecoin system.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Burger King in Russia issues new Whopper Coin cryptocurrency

Russia has a new cryptocurrency created by American-based global fast food monarch Burger King. It is named after one of the company's products the Whopper so is called the Whopper Coin.
The Whopper Coin is actually part of a loyalty program but based on the same blockchain technology as bitcoin and a number of other cryptocurrencies. Burger King said that it would release Apple and Android apps next month that will enable people to save, share and even trade their coins. To look after the ledger that keeps track of who has the coins, spends them etc, Burger King has partnered with the startup Waves.
Russian Burger King customers will obtain one Whopper Coin for every rouble they spend on a Whopper. However, it takes a whopping 1,700 Whopper Coins to buy a Whopper. Customers will need a smartphone that can scan their receipt to receive their coins. Waves says it has already generated one billion Whopper Coins to use in the scheme. The Whopper at present must cost quite a few roubles as the BBC claims: "The current cost of a Whopper in Russia suggests customers will be able to get a free sandwich for every five or six they buy with real money." Some patrons of the Burger King in Russia have already claimed on social media that they had managed to claim Whopper Coins. Many other corporations may decide to replace their existing loyalty programs with the type of cryptocurrency-based system used by Burger King in Russia.
READ MORE: Ethereum a much more versatile competitor to Bitcoin
Dr Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, said that Burger King in Russia was the first major corporate brand to use cryptocurrency but he expected others to follow suit. He noted that present loyalty programs such as air miles have limited exchange options, but cryptocurrencies could be traded for national currencies or other assets. However, Hileman notes that MacDonald's is not likely to accept Whopper Coins in payment for Big Macs.
This could change in the future though, depending on what the value of the coins become in national currency. It might make sense for MacDonald's to accept them at near their value in the national currency. Emin Gun Sirer an associate professor at Cornell University said that reward points are a good case for the use of blockchain technology. Sirer is a director of the initiative Cryptocurrencies and Contracts.
Ivan Shestov, head of External Communications of Burger King Russia makes the Whopper Coin seem to be a marvellous new investment vehicle: "Now Whopper is not only a burger that people in 90 different countries love – it’s an investment tool as well. According to the forecasts, cryptocurrency will increase exponentially in value. Eating Whoppers now is a strategy for financial prosperity tomorrow." Max Pertovskiy of Waves naturally also had positive things to say: ‘We are glad that Burger King Russia has chosen Waves as a platform for its loyalty program launch and Whoppercoin distribution. We are sure that this decision will promote blockchain technology in Russia and will enable the promotion of its benefits and possibilities for a wide audience."
Burger King is a huge global Florida-based fast food corporation: "As of December 31, 2016, Burger King reported it had 15,738 outlets in 100 countries. Of these, 47.5 percent are in the United States and 99.5 percent are privately owned and operated, with its new owners moving to an almost entirely franchised model in 2013." Perhaps U.S. President Trump will tweet about this matter claiming that the Whopper Coin will improve relations between Russia and the U.S. Critics will say that the move is actually an attempt to sabotage U.S. loyalty programs by getting them to adopt the same schemes as the Russian Whopper Coin.


Etherium a versatile competitor of bitcoin

(August 30)Ethereum involves a cryptocurrency called ether that can be transferred between accounts and used to reward participant "miners" for computations they perform and can be transferred between accounts.

Ethereum is the second most significant cryptocurrency producer but potentially it could be even more important than bitcoin in that its platform can be used for many other functions.
Ethereum has a much wider use as an open-source, public blockchain-based distributed computing platform. Wikipedia describes a blockchain as follows:A blockchain... is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block contains typically a hash pointer as a link to a previous block,[6] a timestamp and transaction data. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. Functionally, a blockchain can serve as "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way." For use as a distributed ledger a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and a collusion of the network majority.

The term "smart contract" was used first in 1996 by Nick Szabo who described them as follows:"New institutions, and new ways to formalize the relationships that make up these institutions, are now made possible by the digital revolution. I call these new contracts "smart", because they are far more functional than their inanimate paper-based ancestors... A smart contract is a set of promises, specified in digital form, including protocols within which the parties perform on these promises"Among other functions Ethereum serves as a platform to register such contracts. It can also execute scripts.
Ethereum was proposed near the end of 2013 by Vitalik Buterin a programmer and cryptocurrency researcher. It was crowdfunded during July and and August 2014.The DAO or Digital Decentralized Autonomous Organization had a new decentralized business model for both commercial and non-profit enterprises:It was instantiated on the Ethereum blockchain, and had no conventional management structure or board of directors... The code of the DAO is open-source.
The DAO was stateless, and not tied to any particular nation state....The DAO was crowdfunded via a token sale in May 2016. It set the record for the largest crowdfunding campaign in history.
However, in June 2016 disaster struck Etherium as some users took advantage of a vulnerability in the DAO code to siphon off a third of the funds of the DAO to a third account. In July the Ethereum community decided to create a hard fork in the chain that was able to restore almost all funds to the original contract. Many users thought this violated the whole idea of the inviolability of the chain and they carried on with what is called Ethereum Classic. However, the forked Ethereum is the group who have prospered.
Ethereum has enjoyed strong corporate support through the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, CME Group, BNY, Mellon and numerous other corporations were among those who founded EEA in February of this year. The group now consists of 86 firms including Toyota, Merck, ING and numerous others. The corporations are particularly interested in using Ethereum to develop smart contracts. Julio Faura, chair of the EEA and also head of blockchain innovation at Banco Santander claim that the enthusiasm around EEA was remarkable. He noted that the EEA had members from many different backgrounds including pharma, mobile, banking, automotive, management consulting, and hardware.
Etherium is at just over $383 dollars, a far cry from Bitcoin which is over $4,600. Nevertheless it has risen a huge amount recently. Given its obvious usefulness to giant corporations it could continue to rise. Many of those who saw bitcoin and blockchain technology as a challenge to the status quo look on as corporations are rushing to use the new technology for their own ends. Governments such as China are considering issuing their own crypto currencies and many governments are also developing laws to regulate the industry.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

China may launch its own cryptocurrency while strictly regulating others

The People's Bank of China, the Chinese central bank, has already developed a prototype for its own cryptocurrency that could begin circulating in the near future alongside the official renmibi or yuan.
 

The bank will be simulating possible scenarios and also running mock transactions in cooperation with some commercial banks.
There are many benefits for China in developing such a currency and system:First, it would decrease the cost of transactions, and therefore make financial services more accessible, which would be a big help to the millions of people in the country who are unconnected to conventional banks. Second, as it would be supported by blockchain, it has the potential to decrease the rates of fraud and counterfeiting, which would be of service to the government’s attempts to reduce corruption — a key concern. Third, it would make the currency easier to obtain, which would increase the rate of international transactions, allowing for more trades and faster economic growth.
Some of the promoters and early developers of cryptocurrencies thought of them as providing an alternative to traditional capitalist banking systems which would allow financial transactions without third party intervention by banks and governments. Some of the strong libertarian strands are exhibited by some participants in the appended video.
However, as more and more merchants and buyers accept the main cryptocurrency bitcoin, companies and even governments are becoming more interested in them. The deputy of Russia's central bank said that “regulators of all countries agree that it’s time to develop national cryptocurrencies.” More and more stores are accepting Bitcoin payments in many different countries. Burger King in Russia has announced its own cryptocurrency the Whopper Coin. New bitcoins are not created by governments but by a process called mining as described in one of the appended videos and also discussed in the documentary video as well.
The second biggest cryptocurrency is Ethereum. Ethereum was recently endorsed by Microsoft and JP Morgan Chase. In late February this year these economic giants teamed up with ten other companies to form the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). Credit Suisse, ING, Bank of New York and Thomson Reuters are among the founding members of EEA.
A number of governments have legitimized bitcoin as a means of payment including Japan and Australia, and in many countries merchants will accept bitcoins as payment. Recently a study showed between 2.9 and 5.8 million users of cryptocurrencies most of whom are in North America and Europe.
Recently there have been many new initial coin offerings (ICOs) some of which may simply be money-making scams. The Chinese government is developing new rules that may be used to crack down on such offerings.
A draft of the regulations has been released by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council. In part it says: "If the department overseeing illegal fundraising activities found a fundraising without proper permission, or a fundraising that violates the relevant provisions of the State, and if one of the following circumstances is found, the department shall launch an administrative investigation. Other relevant departments shall cooperate with the investigation.…. to raise funds in the name of issuing or transferring equity, raising funds, selling insurance, or engaging in asset management activities, virtual currency, leasing, credit cooperation and mutual funds..."
The new regulations are happening after public outrage over several pyramid selling scams. The new regulations have not deterred Ripple, a company that specializes in international financial transactions using its cryptocurrency from continuing with its attempts to enter the Chinese market.
China is not alone in seeing unregulated cryptocurrency development as a problem. Australia has also introduced regulations as have other countries.