Making Ocean Water Drinkable!

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Staying hydrated is a key factor for staying healthy. However, certain open-water oriented activities don’t allow for the carrying of liters of water, and although on first thought being surrounded by a vast expanse of water may seem ideal, sea water is far from safe to consume… that’s where Desalinator comes in!

Desalinator allows for the consumption of ocean water, due to an ingenious filtration system; contained within the opaque plastic housing are four stages of filtration; silica beads to remove debris, electrodialysis to separate the salt from the water, UV to deal with the bacteria and finally a charcoal filter as a final barrier (for the off chance anything nasty got through the previous stages). Safe, drinkable water passes through into the bottle, whilst the dirty brine exists through a second, external, channel.

All of this requires minimal human interaction. The user must simply scoop the water into the container, and let the filtration commence!

Designer: Matt Marchand

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I’m Developer and Security Researcher Felix Krause, and This Is How I Work

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Photo: Courtesy of Felix Krause

If you love or hate Apple, you should listen to Felix Krause. We’ve covered his security research several times on Lifehacker, as he exposed vulnerabilities on MacOS and iOS: how any Mac app could take a secret screenshot of your computer, or how iOS apps could steal your password with a fake login screen. And that research isn’t even his main job. We interviewed him about his many projects, including fastlane, a self-emailing app called Master Key, his security research, and how he ended up working at Twitter and Google.


Location: Digital nomad, spending most my time in New York
Current Gig: Building a mobile-CI system on top of fastlane
Current mobile device: iPhone X
Current computer: 2 x MacBook 15" 2017 (personal + work machine)
One word that best describes how you work: pragmatic

Working in New York
Photo: Felix Krause

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

Ever since I visited the Mountain View Google campus back in 2010, I had the life goal of working for Google in California. Every decision, when it comes to education, technology I learned and time spent, I aligned to achieve this goal. After various internships and side projects during high school, I started building automation tools for iOS developers in college, and they took off unexpectedly. Big companies started using my tool fastlane to automate their release process. Within a few months, multiple companies offered me to join them and continue work on fastlane, and I decided to join Twitter. Only 1.5 years after that, Fabric (Twitter’s developer tools department) got acquired by Google, which is where I am now.

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I’m living as a digital nomad, I blogged about the reasoning here, and recently wrote about a year of nomad living here. Right now I move to a new neighborhood in NYC every month.

Working in Bali
Photo: Felix Krause

Take us through a recent workday.

I live in NYC now, which means I don’t have to take a long shuttle ride every day, as is the case for many tech companies based in the Bay Area. When I get up, I check my notifications for about an hour, before heading to the office by walking for like 30 minutes and listening to audio books.

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At the office, I’d usually get most of my coding and high-focus work done before lunch time. As most of my team is based on the West Coast, most meetings happen in the afternoon. I’m not a fan of meetings, as most are inefficient and could be done via async communication. In big companies meetings are deeply built into their culture, and there is no way around them.

What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?

I don’t use a lot of devices. I don’t use any smart home devices, no smart watch, just my phone + MacBook. It’s a combination of most devices not being really useful, but also not trusting certain providers.

When it comes to apps, I use Major Key a lot, an open source app I wrote (not in the App Store), to quickly jot down thoughts as they arise. It’s extremely useful when you’re having a conversation and just had this really good idea, or need to write something down to follow-up on.

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I use Arc to track my location 24/7 (previously used Moves App which was shut down by Facebook), MyFitnessPal to track my macro intakes, Swarm to keep track of the places I visited, Bear Notes (as iCloud Notes lost my dataI wrote a migrator), Fantastical as calendar on all platforms, and of course Tweetbot (which I wrote I have a very custom setup for).

Working on fastlane
Photo: Felix Krause

What’s your workspace setup like?

As I work from various places, I always have my Roost Stand with Apple magic keyboard, magic trackpad and magic mouse with me. This allows me to have a decently ergonomic work setup in most locations. At the Google office, I have a 32" monitor and use my MacBook in clam-shell mode.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack?

The number one advice I give every professional that uses a computer is to set up custom shortcuts to open any app they use regularly; I wrote about it here. I also just found Vimium, which allows you to navigate on most websites using just keyboard shortcuts. Also the Major Key app mentioned before definitely made my life easier.

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I also pretty clearly separate creating from consuming: When I’m on my Mac I’m in work mode, when I’m on my phone, I read. That’s why apps like Major Key and Mail To Self (discontinued, I’m gonna write my own clone soon) are so useful: they allow you to send something to your Mac for when you’re in work mode.

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

I make heavy use of Trello and Inbox Zero. Trello is a joy to use, especially when you learn all their shortcuts. My Trello backlog is basically infinite, there is always something to do, and I have so many ideas for things I want to do. I know I’ll never get to do most of those though. I still want to track them to be able to attach notes and links as I research them further.

Working…somewhere
Photo: Felix Krause

How do you recharge or take a break?

I go to the gym almost every single day. It doesn’t only make me feel more confident, but also it’s critical to clear my mind. I put on my headphones, lift some weights and forget about what’s going on around me. It took me a while to be able to accomplish this flow state at the gym.

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I also love taking walks. It’s really nice to wander around Manhattan at night, crossing bridges with friends and just enjoying the beautiful New York skyline.

What’s your favorite side project?

I’ve been working on various telegram bots recently, from tracking my mood 3 times a day, to getting a message in the morning when it’s about to rain. I also co-founded danger together with @orta, a tool to define rules for pull requests.

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Besides that, I’ve been publishing privacy research in my free time. This has nothing to do with my day job, but just personal interest. Those posts generated an unexpected amount of attention, and made my Twitter activity unusable for weeks.

What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?

I just finished the audio book of Homo Deus, an excellent book about society and how it will change with technology.

What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?

I still believe there is more to be done when it comes to being aware of your personal happiness. I love the WaitButWhy articles, in particular the one about your life in weeks and choosing your career. I published a spreadsheet to create your own life in weeks, and did the same for the tentacles in the career post. I’d love to continue work on the mood tracking bot and make it easier to dive deeper into why you’re feeling a certain way, and detect trends.

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13 years after Steve Jobs said his mortality was a crucial tool for decision-making, people are writing their own eulogies as a career exercise

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Steve Jobs

  • Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered a memorable speech in 2005 about his struggle with cancer and facing his own mortality.
  • Thirteen years later, business executives are trying to attain similar clarity by writing their own eulogies.
  • Some leadership coaches say writing your own eulogy can help you realize what kind of person you want to be and what changes you need to make.

In 2005, Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered a memorable commencement speech to graduates of Stanford University.

In the 14-minute speech, Jobs detailed his battle with pancreatic cancer and explained how facing his own mortality helped him recognize what was important in life.

"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life," said Jobs, who succumbed to his illness in 2011.

"Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

Thirteen years after Jobs delivered that speech, business executives are finding a way to reach a similar epiphany: by writing their own eulogies. According to Fast Company, the exercise is becoming increasingly common in the business world, both in the US and in China.

The reasoning behind the exercise is that by imagining what might be said about you at your funeral, you’ll gain clarity on what kind of person you want to be and what changes you’ll need to make to achieve that.

The practice dates back decades, and has been recommended by therapists, psychologists, and business coaches.

"When we take the time to write our eulogies, it creates this magnetic pull power that draws us forward," executive coach Daniel Harkavy told Fast Company. "Our priorities and our vision for where we want to be as leaders and how we’ll get there come into sharp focus. This clarity enables us to make the best decisions, get up out of our comfortable patterns, create new habits, and start moving us toward a better future."

Read more: Obituary writers reveal the surprising things they learn by writing about the dead

Science seems to support the benefits of the eulogy technique, too. A 2012 study from the University of Missouri found that thinking about death can lead to positive changes in a person such as exercising, quitting smoking, and using sunscreen. It also found that thoughts of mortality "can lead to decreased militaristic attitudes, better health decisions, increased altruism and helpfulness, and reduced divorce rates."

Another paper from 2015 found that when people were reminded of death, it made them less likely to waste money in the present.

The research suggests why people stand to benefit from writing their own eulogies, and it’s something Jobs alluded to in his famous speech:

"Death is very likely the single best invention of life," Jobs said. "It is life’s change agent."

SEE ALSO: I was a principal software engineer at Apple for 15 years — this is what it was like to demo for Steve Jobs

DON’T MISS: When CEO Satya Nadella took over Microsoft, he started defusing its toxic culture by handing each of his execs a 15-year-old book by a psychologist

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NOW WATCH: Navy SEALs debunk 5 misconceptions about good leaders in the military and the workplace

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WTF is happening to crypto?

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Four days ago the crypto markets were crashing hard. Now they’re crashing harder. Bitcoin, which hasn’t fallen past $6,000 for months, has dumped to $4,413.99 as of this morning, and nearly everything else is falling in unison. Ethereum, flying high at $700 a few months ago, is at $140. Coinbase, that bastion of crypto stability, is currently sporting a series of charts that look like Aspen black-diamond ski runs.

What is happening? There are a number of theories, and I’ll lay out a few of them here. Ultimately, sentiment is bleak in the crypto world, with bull runs being seen as a thing of a distant past. As regulators clamp down, pie-in-the-sky ideas crash and shady dealers take their shady dealings elsewhere, the things that made cryptocurrencies so much fun — and so dangerous — are slowly draining away. What’s left is anyone’s guess, but at least it will make things less interesting.

The bag holder theory

November was supposed to be a good month for crypto. Garbage sites like FortuneJack were crowing about bitcoin stability while the old crypto hands were optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. Eric Vorhees, founder of ShapeShift, felt that the inevitable collapse of the global financial system is good for folks with at least a few BTC in their wallets.

Others, like the Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, are expecting a bull run next year and said his company was particularly profitable.

Ultimately, crypto hype moves the market far more than it has any right to, and this is a huge problem.

So who do you believe, these guys or your own lying eyes? That’s a complex question. First, understand that crypto is a technical product weaponized by cash. Companies like Binance and Coinbase will work mightily to maintain revenue streams, especially considering Coinbase’s current level of outside investment. These are startups that can literally affect their own value over time. We’ll talk about that shortly. Ultimately, crypto hype hasn’t been matching reality of late, a major concern to the skittish investor.

“I think that the downturn is due to things not going up as much as people had wanted. Everyone was expecting November to be a bull month,” said Travin Keith, founder of Altrean. “When things indicated that it wasn’t going that way, those who were on borrowed time, such as those needing some buffer, or those in the crypto business needing some money, needed to sell.”

Tether untethered

Tether has long been the prime suspect in the Bitcoin run up and crash. Created by an exchange called Bitfinex, the currency is pegged to the dollar and, according to the exchange itself, each tether — about $2.7 billion worth — is connected to an actual dollar in someone’s bank account. Whether or not this is true has yet to be proven, and the smart money is on “not true.” I’ll let Jon Evans explain:

What are those whiffs of misconduct to which I previously referred? I mean. How much time do you have? One passionate critic, known as Bitfinexed, has been writing about this for quite some time now; it’s a pretty deep rabbit hole. University of Texas researchers have accused Bitfinex/Tether of manipulating the price of Bitcoin (upwards.) The two entities have allegedly been subpoenaed by US regulators. In possibly (but also possibly not — again, a fog of mystery) related news, the US Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into cryptocurrency price manipulation, which critics say is ongoing. Comparisons are also being drawn with Liberty Reserve, the digital currency service shut down for money laundering five years ago:

So what the hell is going on? Good question. On the one hand, people and even companies are innocent until proven guilty, and the opacity of cryptocurrency companies is at least morally consistent with the industry as a whole. A wildly disproportionate number of crypto people are privacy maximalists and/or really hate and fear governments. (I wish the US government didn’t keep making their “all governments become jackbooted surveillance police states!” attitude seem less unhinged and more plausible.)

But on the other … yes, one reason for privacy maximalism is because you fear rubber-hose decryption of your keys, but another, especially when anti-government sentiment is involved, is because you fear the taxman, or the regulator. A third might be that you fear what the invisible hand would do to cryptocurrency prices, if it had full leeway. And it sure doesn’t look good when at least one of your claims, e.g. that your unaudited reserves are “subject to frequent professional audits,” is awfully hard to interpret as anything other than a baldfaced lie.

Now Bloomberg is reporting that the U.S. Justice Department is looking into Bitfinex for manipulating the price of Bitcoin. The belief is that Bitfinex has allegedly been performing wash trades that propped up the price of Bitcoin all the way to its previous $20,000 heights. “[Researchers] claimed that Tether was used to buy Bitcoin at pivotal periods, and that about half of Bitcoin’s 1,400 percent gain last year was attributable to such transactions,” wrote Bloomberg. “Griffin briefed the CFTC on his findings earlier this year, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.”

This alone could point to the primary reason Bitcoin and crypto are currently in free fall: without artificial controls, the real price of the commodity becomes clear. A Twitter user called Bitfinex’d has been calling for the death of Tether for years. He’s not very bullish on the currency in 2019.

“I don’t know the when,” Bitfinex’d said. “But I know Tether dies along with Bitfinex.”

Le shitcoin est mort

As we learned last week, the SEC is sick of fake utility tokens. While the going was great for ICOs over the past few years with multiple companies raising millions if not billions in a few minutes, these salad days are probably over. Arguably, a seed-stage startup with millions of dollars in cash is more like a small VC than a product company, but ultimately the good times couldn’t last.

What the SEC ruling means is that folks with a lot of crypto can’t slide it into “investments” anymore. However, this also means that those same companies can be more serious about products and production rather than simply fundraising.

SEC intervention dampens hype, and in a market that thrives on hype, this is a bad thing. That said, it does mean that things will become a lot clearer for smaller players in the space, folks who haven’t been able to raise seed and are instead praying that token sales are the way forward. In truth they are, buttoning up the token sale for future users and, by creating regulation around it, they will begin to prevent the Wild West activity we’ve seen so far. Ultimately, it’s a messy process, but a necessary one.

“It all contributes to greater BTC antifragility, doesn’t it?,” said crypto speculator Carl Bullen. “We need the worst actors imaginable. And we got ’em.”

Bitmain

One other interesting data point involves Bitmain. Bitmain makes cryptocurrency mining gear and most recently planned a massive IPO that was supposed to be the biggest in history. Instead, the company put these plans on hold.

Interestingly, Bitmain currently folds the cryptocurrency it mines back into the company, creating a false scarcity. The plan, however, was for Bitmain to begin releasing the Bitcoin it mined into the general population, thereby changing the price drastically. According to an investor I spoke with this summer, the Bitmain IPO would have been a massive driver of Bitcoin success. Now it is on ice.

While this tale was apocryphal, it’s clear that these chicken and egg problems are only going to get worse. As successful startups face down a bear market, they’re less likely to take risks. And, as we all know, crypto is all about risk.

Abandon all hope? Ehhhhh….

Ultimately, crypto and the attendant technologies have created an industry. That this industry is connected directly to stores of value, either real or imagined, has enervated it to a degree unprecedented in tech. After all, to use a common comparison between Linux and blockchain, Linus Torvalds didn’t make millions of dollars overnight for writing a device driver in 1993. He — and the entire open-source industry — made billions of dollars over the past 27 years. The same should be true of crypto, but the cash is clouding the issue.

Ultimately, say many thinkers in the space, the question isn’t whether the price goes up or down. Instead, of primary concern is whether the technology is progressing.

“Crypto capitulation is once again upon us, but before the markets can rise again we must pass through the darkest depths of despair,” said crypto guru Jameson Lopp. “Investors will continue to speculate while developers continue to build.”

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Smoke from California’s wildfires is drifting across the US to New York — and it’s making pretty sunsets

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  • California’s recent wildfires have killed at least 82 people. Nearly 700 others are still missing.
  • Smoke from the blazes is billowing high into the atmosphere and drifting across the US.
  • California’s smoky haze has created "smokestorm" conditions, but fine particles have spread as far as New York City.
  • The hazy smoke has changed the appearance of sunsets and sunrises, making them more orange in color.

The recent scourge of wildfires in California has claimed the lives of at least 82 people, and authorities report that nearly 700 others are still missing.

The Camp Fire in Northern California has proven to be the deadliest in the state’s history, killing 79 people. The blaze has scorched more than 150,000 acres of land, destroyed more than 15,000 buildings, and is about 70% contained as of Tuesday.

Read more: Satellite images show how the Camp Fire destroyed entire towns and killed dozens of people

But smoke from the expansive fire, along with contributions from the almost extinguished Woolsey Fire outside of LA, has not remained in California. Large clouds of fine particles have drifted to nearby states like Washington, creating hazy, smoky conditions that one meteorologist in Seattle called a "smokestorm."

Even finer particles of smoke have joined high-altitude jet streams and, as of Monday evening, made their way across the continental US. They even reached New York City, according to an experimental NOAA forecasting tool called High Resolution Rapid Refresh.

california smoke drift united states america forecast noaa earth system research laboratory hrrr

The image above shows a 4 p.m. EST forecast for yesterday, right before the sun set in eastern New York.

Specifically, the forecast showed levels of "vertically integrated smoke": fine smoke particles dispersed throughout various layers of the atmosphere.

"Wow. I knew tonight’s sunset over New York City seemed different, and I should’ve realized!" Kathryn Prociv, a meteorologist and producer for NBC News and the Today Show, tweeted on Monday. "Wildfire smoke is in the air, all the way from California."

Prociv included a photo of a sunset that she took from the Hudson River, as well as a NOAA forecast.

Her image is hazier and more orange-colored than is typical for the city. This may be because the smoke particles that wafted over the US — like other fine air pollutants — are as small as 2.5 microns, or about the size of a single microbe. Such particles can absorb bluer colors of sunlight and affect the look and color of sunrises and sunsets. They can also cool down air temperatures.

The animated map below shows the NOAA’s 36-hour smoke forecast as of Tuesday afternoon.

This forecast shows a thinning trail of smoke drifting across the US through Wednesday. That diminishing trend should continue, since California’s wildfires are increasingly being contained (and spouting less soot into the air).

However, far-flung smoky sunsets caused by wildfires may become a "new abnormal" for the US as climate change exacerbates dry, fire-spreading conditions in California and other states.

SEE ALSO: Here’s what Earth might look like in 100 years — if we’re lucky

DON’T MISS: California’s Camp Fire has melted cars and reduced bodies to bone — these images show the horror of the state’s deadliest fire ever

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A ‘firenado’ is a real thing — here’s how the dangerous phenomenon forms

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Can Bitcoin find its practical use case as a currency in Latin America?

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Matthew Carpenter-Arévalo
Contributor
Matthew Carpenter-Arévalo is a former Google and Twitter manager and current CEO of Céntrico Digital, a Latin American-based digital agency.

Eduardo Gomez started with Bitcoin in 2012, though he didn’t quite understand what he was getting himself into nor how it would change his life.

Back in his home country of Venezuela, the struggling computer science student signed up to manually process thousands of captchas at a time, and he received Bitcoin in return. Little by little, Eduardo became intrigued. He saw bitrapreneurs pop-up all around him as savvy hackers set up mining operations that took advantage of the country’s subsidized though irregular electricity. He started reading more, writing more, and pretty soon he became a recognized authority on all things crypto.

Eventually he would be hired by a company that allows people to purchase things on Amazon using Bitcoin. When Venezuela became unlivable, Eduardo’s company helped him and his support team relocate to Argentina. In a moment of euphoria, Eduardo wrote:

Though Venezuela crumbled around him, Eduardo found a way to opt-out of his government’s mass-imposed misery. He still worries about his family and friends, but he’s grateful to have had a choice. Unlike the Silicon Valley-based techno-libertarians and utopians who claim Bitcoin will save us from inevitable tyrannical government meddling, Eduardo feels Bitcoin actually did save him from tyrannical government meddling. He believes it can do the same for other Latin Americans, as well.

Since its triumphant arrival to mainstream polite conversation, Bitcoin and its underlying technology blockchain have promised to revolutionize everything from commerce to voting.

While blockchain appears to be fulfilling its promise, many wonder if Bitcoin will ever get around to acting as a viable currency rather than just a store of value or speculative asset.

While Bitcoin can be credited with spawning a new industry of cryptocurrency, in 2018 we still seem to be a ways away from purchasing ice cream or hourly parking with Bitcoin — or any other cryptocurrency for that matter.  

If Bitcoin is to become a viable means of exchange, Latin America would appear to be the currency’s first point of entry on its journey toward ubiquity. Indeed, the region’s long history of economic mismanagement makes Bitcoin adoption as much a necessity as a luxury.  

For example, when you arrive at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas you’ll see an official exchange rate listed above the currency exchange kiosks, and you might be tempted to cash-in your U.S. dollars for whatever the local currency happens to be that month.

Maybe even before you leave the airport someone, possibly a taxi driver, will approach you and offer a completely different and far more beneficial exchange rate. Though the government purports to control the exchange rate across the country of 30 million people, it struggles to control the exchange rate inside the airport.

If you’re dining in Buenos Aires and you offer to pay in U.S. dollars, you’ll be happy to know you’ll receive a favorable exchange rate for your Benjamins. However, once you pull a bill from your pocket, you may find yourself in a seemingly nonsensical discussion with the waiter about the quality of the bill and how the slightly bent edges means a lower rate than the one initially offered.

Finally, if you arrive in Quito, Ecuador as a tourist, you’ll be delighted to see that the country has no currency of its own in circulation: the country has used the greenback since a financial crisis in 1999 destroyed the banking system and the country’s currency. In an act of desperation, the country switched to the U.S. dollar.  

Your glee may turn to discomfort after you ask a taxi driver to break a $20 bill and you’ll see him fidget nervously and probably ask you for exact change. Few things are harder in the Andean capital than breaking a $20. Never having the right mix of bills is one of the downsides of not controlling your own money supply.

For your average tourist, these encounters are befuddling. To economists, these incidents are both sad and bemusing: all of the worst-case currency management scenarios first-year economics students study in textbooks seem to come to life in the countries that are fed by the Amazon river and its tributaries — like a twisted Narnia for economists.

To the local populations of the aforementioned countries, managing currencies has turned common people into artisanal forex traders. While annoying, volatile currencies have been around for as long as anyone can remember, and people adjust their behavior in order to survive. If you want to buy an apartment in Buenos Aires, for example, you’ll be expected to arrive with the payment in U.S. dollars in cash. Best to invest in a good briefcase.

Unequal access to technology often means unequal access to the benefits of technology.

As crypto enters its peak or its decent, depending on who you ask, Latin America offers the perfect testing ground for the technology’s practical application. Specifically, Argentines and Venezuelans would appear to be the test group for the use of crypto currencies as an alternative to unstable and unreliable national currencies.

In a parallel world, both Argentina and Venezuela would be the region’s richest countries, were it not for their leaders’ penchants for mismanagement and corruption. With oil reserves greater than those of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela should be thriving. Instead, its experiment with socialism has resulted in more than two million people leaving the country, a wrecked economy and a humanitarian crisis that threatens regional stability.  

Argentina’s current crisis is far more complex, and yet also more predictable due to the country’s history of boom and bust.

Despite the initial optimism voiced by foreign investors when a right-leaning pro-market government came to power in 2017, such optimism has not been reflected in support for the peso.

The peso has suffered due to, amongst other factors, a strengthening dollar, dwindling foreign currency reserves and investor mistrust. Inflation caused by past policies of over-printing money to service local debt combined with the current government’s elimination of energy subsidies means that Argentines can’t be sure on Monday what their money will be worth on Friday.

The theatrics of Argentina’s politics also doesn’t inspire confidence, and breaking news can often send the peso on nosedives. Stories of corruption unfold like Emmy-winning soap operas.  

For example, the recently discovered notebooks of a government chofer reveal that businesses close to the current president are alleged to have paid bribes to its bitter rivals from the previous government. Regardless of their ideological differences, Latin America’s political class is often united in its penchant for corruption.

The cyclical nature of Argentina’s currency crisis is what gives some hope that the country can become the first to develop a thriving national Bitcoin market. Already a hotbed for blockchain-based companies such as Ripio, Buenos Aires has a higher percentage of businesses that accept Bitcoin than New York. By the end of 2018, Argentina will have more than 100 Bitcoin ATMs, a number expected to increase to 1,600 by the end of 2019.

For Agustina Fainguersch, an Argentine entrepreneur who helps companies, including many in Latin America as managing partner at Wolox, manage digital transformation through the adoption of technologies such as the blockchain, Bitcoin is a practical solution for the average Argentine just trying to make ends meet.

“In Argentina, we exchange pesos into dollars and then back again within the span of a week,” she says. Given that the peso has lost 50 percent of its value against the dollar since the beginning of 2018, most are changing money for the purpose of short-term survival rather than long-term savings. “Many Argentines are often just trying to make sure they have enough money to cover basic expenses.”

According to Fainguersch, the advantage Bitcoin has over other currencies is its increasingly availability, and as such acts as an alternative to the U.S. dollar. Fainguersch has seen how, over the span of a few years, more and more Argentines can access the cryptocurrency and easily exchange pesos. “So long as it’s less volatile than the peso, it’s attractive. Argentine’s have a long history of navigating volatility,” notes Fainguersch.

That volatility, however, is also a risk that places Bitcoin at a disadvantage when compared to the U.S. dollar. Also widely available, the dollar is relatively stable and relatively easy to exchange, though not without burdens and risks, such as falsified bills, hence the extra-value placed on crisp bills.

The future of Bitcoin will depend on which narratives become the meta-narratives.

For Matías Bianchi, the Argentine political scientist and founder of the regional think-tank Asuntos del Sur, the demand for Bitcoin in Argentina follows a familiar pattern: Like much technology that promises to democratize access to something, the benefits of said technology most likely end up helping a wealthy few at the expense of the increasingly hard-luck masses.

In the case of Bitcoin, Bianchi opines that its adoption in Argentina is driven in large part by a wealthy class that has always looked for ways to subvert the country’s institutions to protect its wealth and to benefit from speculative financial activities. “Bitcoin allows the elites to opt-out of the poor decisions made by the government they help install.” After all, unequal access to technology often means unequal access to the benefits of technology.

For Bianchi, talk of an alternative to the national currency is elitist hogwash. Even if a larger and larger percentage of Argentines use Bitcoin, Bianchi argues, 100 percent of Argentines still need to use pesos. As such, opting out of the peso is a luxury for some but not for a viable solution for all. In Bianchi’s view of the world, Bitcoin is more like a modern-day offshore account that removes wealth from the economy and shifts the burden of bad government to the poor. It’s like a Cayman Islands account on your phone, and in countries where corruption is rife and stability is rare, such technology is bound to thrive.

For Venezuelans arriving in Argentina like the aforementioned Eduardo Gomez, their new country’s currency woes are not unfamiliar. As previously mentioned, Eduardo was a student in Venezuela when he first discovered Bitcoin. As the bottom fell out of the Venezuelan economy, Bitcoin mining became a popular activity in a country where everything is subsidized, including energy. Eventually the government caught on and cracked down, but not before a nascent Bitcoin community took form.

Undemocratic Socialist governments tend to replace economic elites with elites who are connected to the sources of power, and, according to Gomez, people with connections in the government eventually took over the Bitcoin mining space. Venezuela even launched its own cryptocurrency, the Petro, whose value is tied to oil production. The Petro has been met with skepticism from both crypto-enthusiasts as well as average Venezuelans who have long lost faith that the government responsible for their problems is capable of solving them.

As previously mentioned, Venezuelans have been leaving their country en masse to escape the entirely man-made crisis that has engulfed their country, and more than 130,000 have settled in Argentina. Gomez sees the parallels between Argentina’s current predicament and the one he left behind in Venezuela, though he feels Argentina’s crisis is tame compared to the complete social breakdown suffered in Venezuela.  

Compared to Venezuela, trading Bitcoin in Argentina is much easier: users in both countries use LocalBitCoin.bom to connect with buyers and sellers to facilitate converting money to and from local currencies. The process is somewhat archaic and not without risks. Unlike in Venezuela, in Argentina many money exchangers also offer Bitcoin exchange services. Whereas in Venezuela buyers and sellers run the risk of the government discovering their Bitcoin activities and blocking their bank accounts, in Argentina the government is more concerned about individuals not declaring their income or capital gains.

Both Argentina and Venezuela have offered the ideal conditions for the development of national Bitcoin communities, including the two key ingredients: subsidized energy and unstable national currencies.

As a result, both countries have benefited from the emergence of developer communities focused both on cryptocurrencies as well as blockchain-enabled technologies. Nonetheless, neither country is likely to fulfill the Bitcoin fantasy of replacing their national currencies, nor even overtaking the greenback as an alternative to unstable national currencies.

Bitcoin’s ultimate use cases are more likely to appear along the lines of existing power structures. Wealthy people in Argentina will use Bitcoin to hide their money. Corrupt Venezuelan officials will find a way to enrich themselves at the cost of the struggling masses. Having said that, if Bitcoin becomes as stable as the U.S. greenback, its use as a store of value will continue to increase.

Other innovations will also emerge: as Gomez points point, the launch of Coinbase’s USD coin, a cryptocurrency pegged to the U.S. dollar, could make it a lot easier for people to move money between dollars, pesos and bitcoins without the need to carry physical cash. One of Argentina’s leading Bitcoin thinkers, Santiago Siri, has proposed to the country’s Central Bank that it hold 1 percent of its foreign currency reserves in cryptocurrency. Though the plan is unlikely to succeed, Argentina’s desperate circumstances has opened the door for out-of-the-box thinking.

Is it easier for technology to co-opt power than it is for power to co-opt technology?

The emergence of Bitcoin as an alternative to the U.S. dollar will not reduce the need for sound monetary policy, nor will the stability promised by the U.S. dollar become less attractive for the average Argentine or Venezuelan looking to make ends meet rather than speculate away their savings. In either case, Bitcoin does not replace the need for sound institutions.

Of course, if President Trump is successful in gaining control of the U.S. Federal Reserve in order to begin manipulating monetary policy to benefit his short-term political agenda, the U.S. dollar could lose its attractiveness. So far, however, U.S. institutions appear to be fairly resilient in the face of the type of intrusive leadership Latin Americans know all too well.

Though its proponents will continue to tout Bitcoin’s superiority vis-à-vis fiat currencies, Bitcoin’s ultimate challenge is that it is hard to understand and will therefore be defined by stories we tell about it. In other words, the future of Bitcoin will depend on which narratives become the meta-narratives: will Bitcoin be defined by the Eduardo Gomez stories of individuals who escape systems of tyranny thanks to Bitcoin, or the corrupt government officials who receive bribes in their anonymous crypto-wallet, or the drug traffickers who evades detection by shifting from U.S. dollar payments to crypto?

Over 50 years ago Marshall McLuhan wrote, “the new media and technologies by which we amplify and extend ourselves constitute a huge collective surgery carried out on the social body with complete disregard for antiseptics.” Bitcoin is the perfect example of a surgery we are undertaking on the body politic without necessarily understanding the far-reaching consequences. We have to consider that making policy decisions based on the currency’s theoretical promise may not result in a better world.

At the same time, we should also be open to re-thinking how the world operates for the sake of empowering people through technology. The challenge for democratizing technologies is that they must take on and overcome existing power structures. In Latin America institutions are often weak, which is part of the reason why Bitcoin can flourish there: the poison and the antidote spring from the same well. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t powerful and resilient interests filling the voids left by those floundering institutions.

Ultimately the question for Bitcoin in Latin America and elsewhere in the world is following: Is it easier for technology to co-opt power than it is for power to co-opt technology? Argentina and Venezuela are putting that question to the test. The world watches.

from TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2BnH4Fc
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Make a Resolution For the Last Six Weeks of the Year

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The rest of November and December, which encompass both Thanksgiving and a morass of religious ceremonies, rampant consumerism, and insane eating, often feel like a wash. New Year’s Eve is a shining beacon, the time when we’ll reset all our filthy habits—so, why bother now? Because setting a pre-resolution-resolution can still turn some aspect of your life around.

A few years ago, I started setting goals for myself around Thanksgiving leading up to the New Year. At first, I was simply tired of sliding into the EOY decline marked by too much drinking, too much eating, and promises that I’d be at the gym on January first (or the second, at the latest). Creatively, I’d also come to a halt. Everyone’s too busy! New projects can’t start around the holidays. Why bother? It’s a depressing headspace to live in for a huge chunk of the year, but we all tend to do it. Here’s why you should stop.

Six Weeks Is A Long Time

If you diligently commit to something for six weeks, you will get better at it. A habit can be developed and have an effect in that amount of time. Learn the basics of an instrument, write a chapter of a book, start running in the mornings—whatever it is, if you start on Black Friday and keep up with it until New Year’s Day, you will see some significant improvement.

It Can Be Something Small

The holiday fog is about to take over, so if you decide to set a goal right now, even a small one will be better than the usual slump. Maybe you want to journal every day, read two books, volunteer. Do something new that you’ve been putting off. See what you can do right now, instead of waiting for the symbolic reset. A successful small step often inspires us towards bigger things.

It’s A Warm Up

The bigger thing is, in fact, the new year. Yes, New Years resolutions are corny and often abandoned before the ground thaws. However, they’re still ubiquitous for a reason: we want to believe we can change. We deserve to believe we can change for the better, and giving yourself a boost with a warm up resolution will help you with that belief. That might mean you embrace your big 2019 goals more optimistically and make more headway. You did a lot in six weeks; what can you do in a whole year?

Less Pressure

You don’t even have to tell anyone about your pre-resolution! It’s true that sometimes announcing my intentions helps me fulfill them. Few people care what you’re doing to improve yourself or your life, but there’s an accountability to being public with your efforts. At the very least, you’re a bit embarrassed when things fall through. That’s part of why there’s so much pressure to talk about resolutions in the first place.

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However, some of us don’t do amazing under pressure. Nobody will even think to ask you what your end of the year resolution is, so there’s no reason to talk about it unless you want to. It’s a private enterprise, which might end up feeling good. Or not, in which case you can crow from the rooftops about your intentions for next year.

It Just Feels Better

The end of the year is hard. You reflect on what’s happened, to you and to the world. The world is really rough right now. It can be satisfying to picture 2018 as being already in the trash, where it belongs, but time is rather meaningless, actually. Throwing almost one sixth of the year away is just tossing your own life and the potential its still offering you.

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Let yourself think of what good you can still do with this time, instead of falling into a hole you’ll have to dig yourself out of in January. Unlike most resolutions, which imply an improvement with no end date, you only have to do whatever it is for a month and a half. That’s both not that long and all the time in the world.

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11 moments from the International Space Station’s first 20 years

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It was November 20, 1998, when an unprecedented international coalition of astronomers, engineers and rocket scientists saw years of collaboration come to fruition with the launch of the International Space Station’s first component. Since then, the largest spacecraft ever built has hosted innumerable astronauts, experiments and other craft. Here are a few notable moments in the history of this inspiring and decades-spanning mission.

1984: Reagan proposes the ISS — without Russia

The space station was originally going to be a U.S. effort, but soon became a collaboration with Canada, Japan and Europe, excluding the then-USSR. American-Russian relations were strained then, as you may remember, and although many in the space industry itself would have preferred working together, the political climate did not permit it. Nevertheless, initial work began.

1993: Clinton adds Russia to the bill

The collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent rejuvenation of international relations led President Bush to bring them into the program in a limited fashion, as a supplier and as a guest on a shuttle mission. The next year, however, President Clinton one-upped him with the announcement that Russia would be a full partner. This was both a practical and political decision: Russian involvement would save billions, but it also helped bring Russia on board with other issues, like ICBM de-proliferation efforts. At any rate, designs were finally beginning to be built.

1998: The first components, Zarya and Unity, launch to orbit

Endeavour approaches Zarya when the latter was the only component in place.

Though persona non grata at first, Russia had the privilege of launching the first core component of the ISS on November 20, 1998, the anniversary we are celebrating today. The Zarya Functional Cargo Block is still up there, still being used, forming the gateway to the Russian side of the station.

One month later, Space Shuttle Endeavour took off from Launch Complex 39A (we’ve been there) carrying Unity Node 1. This too is up there now, attached since that day to Zarya.

2000: The first of many long-term occupants arrive

From left: Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev, aboard the station.

Almost exactly a year after Zarya went up, the first astronauts took up residence on the ISS — the first of 230 people so far to call the orbiting structure home. Bill Shepherd was NASA’s first representative, flying with cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev; they would stay for about 141 days.

2003: Columbia disaster delays expansion

The fatal breakup of Space Shuttle Columbia on reentry following its 28th mission was tragedy enough that other shuttle missions were scrubbed for over two years. As these were the primary means of the U.S. adding to and maintaining the ISS, this responsibility passed to Roscosmos until shuttle launches resumed in 2005; crewed launches wouldn’t resume until mid-2006.

2007: Kibo goes up

Numerous modules have been added to the ISS over the years, but Japan’s Kibo is the largest. It took multiple missions to deliver all the pieces, and was only made possible by earlier missions that had expanded the solar power capacity of the station. Kibo contains a ton of reconfigurable space accessible from the pressurized interior, and has been popular for both private and public experiments that must be conducted in space.

2010: Enter the Cupola

If Kibo is the largest component, the Cupola is likely the most famous. The giant 7-window bubble looks like something out of science fiction (specifically, the front end of the Millennium Falcon) and is the location for the station’s most striking photography, both inside and out.

2014: Beautiful timelapses

With the Cupola in place, capturing imagery of the Earth from this amazing view became easier — especially with the increasingly high-quality digital cameras brought aboard by talented astronaut-photographers like Alexander Gerst and Don Pettit. The many, many photos taken out of this aperture have been formed into innumerable beautiful timelapses and desktop backgrounds, as well as witnessing incredible phenomena like aurora and lightning storms from a new and valuable perspective. It’s hard to pick just one, but Don Pettit’s “The World Outside My Window” above is a fabulous example, and Gerst’s 4K compilation is another.

2015: Gennady Padalka sets time in space record

During his fifth flight to space, Gennady Padalka set a world record for most time in space: When he returned to Earth he had logged a total of 878 days and change. That’s well ahead of the competition, which is almost exclusively Russian — though NASA’s Peggy Whitson is right up there with 666 days over three missions.

2016: Chinese station calling ISS, please pick up

It’s hardly crowded in space, but it can get lonely up there. So it’s nice that those who have the honor to fly reach out to each other. In this case China’s taikonaut Jing Haipeng recorded a heartwarming video message from the Chinese Tiangong-2 space station greeting the incoming ISS crew and praising the community of global cooperation that makes all this possible.

2018: Soyuz accident threatens long-term occupation

A crewed mission to the ISS with astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin encountered a serious fault during launch, fortunately resulting in no injuries or fatalities but shaking up the space community. The Soyuz rocket and capsule had more than proven themselves over the years but no risks could be taken with human life, and future missions were delayed. It was possible that for the first time since it was first entered, the ISS would be empty as its crew left with no replacements on the way.

Fortunately the investigation has concluded and a new mission is planned for early December, which will prevent such an historic absence.

2019? First commercial crew mission and beyond

Russia has borne sole responsibility for all crewed launches for years; the U.S. has been planning to separate itself from this dependence by fostering a new generation of crew-capable capsules that can meet and exceed the safety and reliability of the Soyuz system. SpaceX and Boeing both plan 2019 flights for their respective Crew Dragon and Starliner capsules — though slipping dates and new regulatory attention may delay those further.

The ISS has a bright future despite its remarkable 20 years of continuous operation. It’s funded more or less through 2025, but there’s talk of new space stations from Russia and China both, while the U.S. eyes lunar orbit for its next big endeavor. It’s hard to imagine space now without an ISS full of people in it, however, and falling launch costs may mean that its life can be extended even further and for less cost. Here’s hoping the ISS has another two decades in front of it.

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A Chinese startup may have cracked solid-state batteries

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Vectorios2016 via Getty Images

Solid-state batteries have long been heralded as The Next Big Thing after lithium-ion, with companies from all quarters racing to get them into high-volume production. Dyson, BMW and car manufacturer Fisker are just a few names that have been working on the tech for the last few years, but now, reports suggest a Chinese start-up might be the first to have cracked it.

According to Chinese media, Qing Tao Energy Development Co, a startup out of the technical Tsinghua University, has deployed a solid-state battery production line in Kunshan, East China. Reports claim the line has a capacity of 100MWh per year — which is planned to increase to 700MWh by 2020 — and that the company has achieved an energy density of more than 400Wh/kg, compared to new generation lithium-ion batteries that boast a capacity of around 250-300Wh/kg.

Details beyond this are sparse. The headline news here, if accurate, would be that the company has managed to put solid-state batteries into high volume production, but it’s not clear how Qing Tao Energy Development has achieved this, nor what price points are involved. Furthermore, while a capacity of 100MWh is not to be sneezed at, it still only equates to fewer than 2,000 long-range EVs per year. Nonetheless, the news demonstrates that progress is happening in the solid-state battery arena. We might not feasibly yet be at high volume production, but we’re on our way.

from Engadget https://engt.co/2FzupDu
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Las trampas de los productos “sin azúcar añadido”

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El (razonable) recelo de los consumidores hacia los productos azucarados ha empujado a la industria alimentaria que los fabrica a sacar al mercado versiones "sin azúcares añadidos" de mermeladas, chocolates, helados, galletas y hasta cruasanes. ¿Son más saludables? ¿O, por desgracia, suponen más de lo mismo pero con un reclamo engañoso?

Seguir leyendo.

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