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Showing posts from May, 2017

Drones aren’t having their mainstream moment yet

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Write about technology for any amount of time, you’ll get run through the hype wringer. It’s impossible to avoid. After all, it’s the excitement of new technologies that drew so many of us to this field in the first place. And when DJI debuts a productlike the Spark, the word “game changer” gets tossed around a lot, just like it did with last year’s Mavic Pro. But disruption takes time. Even at the breakneck speed of technology, change rarely happens overnight. In hindsight, it’s easy to pinpoint the mainstreaming of a technology on a single event, like the launch of the first iPhone. But that short-term memory wipes away a lot of the preamble and ramp up. In hindsight, it’s easy to forget, say, how much of a struggle the earliest Android phones had. The word “mainstreaming” has been tossed around among those who follow the drone world. Here’s a CNN story from 2013 titled“Drones go Mainstream.”And here’s Slate with“2015 Was the Year Drones Went Mainstream.”And of course, one for the Mav…

Could the UK be about to break end-to-end encryption?

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Once again there are indications the UK government intends to use the law to lean on encryption. A report inThe Sun this week quoted a Conservative minister saying that should the government be re-elected, which polls suggest it will, it will move quickly to compel social media firms to hand over decrypted data. The paper quoted an unnamed government minister saying: “The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long”, and suggested that all tech companies with more than 10,000 users will face having to significantly adapt their technology to comply with the decryption law. The relevant Statutory Instrument, to enable UK government agencies to obtain warranted access to decrypted data from communications service providers, currently sitting indraft form, will be voted through parliament within weeks of a new government taking office after the June 8 general election, according to the report. As is typically the case when strong encryption comes back under political …

Blockchains are the new Linux, not the new Internet

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Cryptocurrencies are booming beyond belief. Bitcoin is up sevenfold, to $2,500, in the last year. Three weeks ago the redoubtable Vinay Gupta, who led Ethereum’s initial release, published an essay entitled “What Does Ether At $100 Mean?” Since then it has doubled. Too many altcoins to name have skyrocketed in value along with the Big Two.ICOsare raking in money hand over fist over bicep. What the hell is going on? (eta: in the whopping 48 hours since I first wrote that, those prices have tumbled considerably, but are still way, way up for the year.) A certain seductive narrative has taken hold, is what is going on. This narrative, in its most extreme version, says that cryptocurrencies today are like the Internet in 1996: not just new technology but a radical newkindof technology, belittled or ignored by by most, which has slowly and subtly grown in power and influence over the last several years, and is about to explode into worldwide relevance and importance with shocking speed and m…

The difference between smartphone gimmick and game changer

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It’s hard to find a legitimately bad flagship phone these days. Sure, one peeks its head out from time to time, but on a whole most phones are pretty good. The screens, the cameras, the internals. There are always a few bits that could use improving (see: battery and durability), but the gulf between good and bad isn’t any near where it once was. And for the past several generations, most flagship devices even more or less look the same. Sure, the fingerprint reader/home button gets moved around here or there, but most casual observers probably couldn’t pick a non-iPhone/Galaxy out of a lineup. Perhaps it’s a matter of copied intellectual property, or maybe there really is an ideal form factor for a pocket-sized communication device that’s mostly screen. It’s tough to distinguish yourself when you’re not a top-tier smartphone company – a qualifier that, in the States at least, seems to apply to pretty mucheveryone who isn’t a Samsung or Apple. Given how cut throat the overcrowded indust…