What China is doing to create a tech edge over the US

It used to be that any time a product bore the all-too-familiar ‘Made In China’ stamp, it was a sign of poor-quality. How things change. These days, China doesn’t just create cheap toys and the flotsam of the past. Nor does it just assemble devices for Apple, or make clothes for Nike.

China manufactures over 70 percent of all smartphones. Chinese brands accounting for half of the world’s market share. China also produces 80 percent of the world’s solar panels, air conditioners, PCs, and much more. It’s the world’s industrial powerhouse. Block miners in China are even estimated to control around 80 percent of the Bitcoin network hash rate.

There are two regions dominating the digital world and they’re both on the Pacific ocean. The West Coast of the U.S. houses Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla, Illumina, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The East Coast of China is home to Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, and Shenzhen.

Once strictly an importer of foreign technology, China has now become an exporter. The country set the new record for filing the most patents in a year, growing its patent filings more rapidly than any other top 10 country.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), together with divisions from Alibaba, Baidu, and Didi, noted in a September report just how fast Chinese tech companies are reaching unicorn status— achieving a valuation of over $1 billion.

According to the report, these companies take just four years to hit the magical $1 billion mark, on average. In comparison, U.S. companies take seven years. 46 percent of these Chinese-founded unicorns get there in two years, compared to just nine percent in the U.S.. The number of unicorns is almost on par, too. Deloitte and China Venture’s sixth Sino-US Unicorn Research Report revealed, China has just under 40 percent of world’s unicorn corporations. The U.S. tops the list with just over 42 percent. Third-place was India, which accounts for only four percent.

China recently set the new record for filing the most patents in a year, growing its patent filings more rapidly than any other top 10 country.

Part of the reason for this is the natural size of the Chinese and U.S. markets, internet user growth rates (increases in which are conducive to the creation of new start-ups), and gaps in the market. While some U.S. tech giants are expanding overseas —Google just announced a new AI research center in Beijing— we’ve yet to see aggressive moves from Chinese giants beyond some moves into India. That appears to be at least partly down to the ongoing development of China’s own market, where internet penetration is just over 53 percent.

These new Chinese unicorns are popping up far quicker and far bigger than U.S.-based ones, and it’s these that will shape the disruptive forces of the future domestically and eventually all over the world.

So how did we get here?

Open-source information

Open-source and sharing of information plays a bigger role in China than in the United States.

In the U.S., patents and copyrights once designed to protect intellectual property (IP) are now often used to aggressively hunt down infringements and seek damages, which stifles creativity and development. The idea of working together and sharing ideas is fostered by students and hobbyists, but not in corporate environments. The open-source world of software hasn’t found much uptake in hardware.

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According to Managing Director of Shenzhen-based Hax Hardware Accelerator Duncan Turner, patents aren’t created in China to fight copycats and exert legal pressure, they’re used for trades between companies to share information.

The Chinese counterfeit consumer goods industry, which are known as ‘Shanzhai’ in China, has been a key for domestic skill creation. The industry operates largely in a legal grey area, and a number of serious cases of IP theft has been made it a hot topic for companies, and increasingly political.

Unlike in the US, patents aren’t created in China to fight copycats and exert legal pressure, they’re used for trades between companies to share information.

The Shanzhai industry has showcased the skills of engineers and designers who manufacture near-identical devices to leading brands at far lower costs. Yet as China’s middle class class gains more purchasing power, they are increasingly after genuine brands, which has changed the nature of Shanzhai businesses.

Though the Shanzhai model was once the only way for Chinese entrepreneurs sell devices in their once-poor country, a different path is opening. Moving with the same speed and mindset as before, many of these companies are now focused on the creation of new cutting-edge products and brands, with innovative and increasingly influential ideas. Wired’s 2016 documentary, Inside Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of hardware, featured names like Andrew ‘Bunnie’ Huang, Seeed Studio founder and CEO Eric Pan, David Li, Richard Chiang, and many more, and showed the incredible depth of electronics manufacturing, making, and hacking that made Shenzhen as it is today.

Customer-to-business innovation

A separate BCG report highlighted ‘customer-to-business’ innovation in China, where product ideas come from customers through feedback, as well as intent and data analysis. These ideas are quickly produced, and can be just as quickly removed if unpopular.

This is different to the traditional model, where US companies create products based on more limited data and hope it will sell. The Chinese tech ecosystem is also far more concentrated and geared toward rapid action. It’s able to turn concepts into prototypes in days or weeks, rather than months.

In 2016, China’s online marketplace users generated 20 million product reviews and 2 million questions about products every day.

The BCG report details the incredible depth of data gathered by major Alibaba ecommerce marketplaces Taobao and Tmall. These sites are different to our familiar Amazon marketplace and focus on a rich experience over efficiency. Where Amazon users favor one-click, fast shipping, Taobao and Tmall offer entertainment, social sharing, and community. Alibaba has insisted it is in the social commerce business, rather than e-commerce.

In 2016, these marketplaces’ users generated 20 million product reviews and 2 million questions about products every day. Users spend much more time on these sites, often visiting them more than seven times a day. This makes them mega-hubs for data in a country with fewer Government restrictions on the collection and use of data. This allows for greater personalization and recommendations, and also helps businesses create and tweak new products based on deeper consumer insights.

Diversity

Gender diversity is technology is a hot topic. Although not telling the full story, a simple comparison between Uber and Chinese ride-sharing app of choice, Didi Chuxing, offers some insight: At Didi, women occupy over 37 percent of its tech staff. Uber, cruelled by toxic culture claims, sits at just 15 percent.

Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, said at a conference earlier in the year that women were the ‘secret sauce’ to the company’s success, while urging firms to copy his playbook and “hire as many women as possible”. More than one-third of Alibaba’s founders are women, and a similar percentage hold senior management roles.

China’s authoritarian regime doesn’t offer a bastion of freedom and open-doors for skilled foreigners to consider immigration, but some laws have changed to fast-track highly-skilled professionals. Hugo Barra’s tenure at Xiaomi helped it grow from being just a domestic Apple-clone company to one with a global presence.

More work needs to be done to welcome more diversity into the workforce, but as many Chinese University students unable to find work, the country has to strike fairly fine balance.

In the U.S., many of Silicon Valley’s top companies have been founded or run by immigrants or the children of immigrants. This includes Steve Jobs at Apple, Sergey Brin at Google, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and many more. It’s clear that making your country attractive to the world’s best and brightest is a competitive advantage—as Nadella says himself:

Changes pursued by the Trump administration are putting this advantage at risk.

China: The meteoric rise continues

China’s growth has underpinned the global economy. Its efforts to gain equal footing with the West has spurred a middle class bigger than the entire U.S. population and created tremendous business opportunity.

That same growth is spurring China’s technology and digital firms to go further. As China’s unicorns catch up to those of the United States, the race to become biggest and best is on.

A ‘Security Robot’ for the Homeless Has Already Been Tried—It Didn’t Go Well

The 400lb machine that once patrolled outside the San Francisco SPCA prompted a backlash, as some argued its real mission was to drive people away.

To some who are homeless, San Francisco’s latest security robot was a rolling friend on five wheels that they called “R2-D2 Two”. To others living in tents within the droid’s radius, it was the “anti-homeless robot”.

For a month, the 400lb, bullet-shaped bot patrolled outside the not-for-profit San Francisco SPCA animal shelter, rolling around the organization’s parking lots and sidewalks, capturing security video and reading up to 300 license plates per minute. Homeless people who pitched their tents in an alleyway nearby complained they felt the beeping, whirring droid’s job was to run them off.

“We called it the anti-homeless robot,” said John Alvarado, who was one of numerous people camping next to the animal shelter when the robot arrived. He said he quickly decided to move his tent half a block away: “I guess that was the reason for the robot.”

Officials of both the SF SPCA and Knightscope, who rented the robot to the shelter, denied that the intention was to dislodge homeless encampments.

“The SPCA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal,” Knightscope said in a statement.

SF SPCA staff members said the facility had been plagued with break-ins, staff members had been harassed as they went to the parking lot and sidewalks were littered with hypodermic needles. Jennifer Scarlett, the SF SPCA president, said in a release that her organization “was exploring the use of a robot to prevent additional burglaries at our facility and to deter other crimes that frequently occur on our campus – like car break-ins, harassment, vandalism, and graffiti – not to disrupt homeless people”.

But after complaints about the program were shared widely on social media, the organization quickly admitted it had made a mistake in its choice of security guards – and fired the robot.

“Since this story has gone viral, we’ve received hundreds of messages inciting violence and vandalism against our facility, and encouraging people to take retribution,” said Scarlett, noting that their campus had since been vandalized twice. “We are taking this opportunity to reflect on the ‘teachable moment’.”

Some of the homeless people who crossed paths with the white security robot, which bore images of dogs and cats, as it patrolled outside of San Francisco SPCA this month thought it was a cute and a positive addition to the area.

TJ Thornton, whose tent is still pitched across the street from the shelter’s parking lot, nicknamed the bot “R2-D2 Two”. He liked how the machine made little whistling sounds as it moved along the sidewalk and how it would even say “hello” if you walked past it.

Thornton said he thought the bot had a positive influence on the neighborhood and relieved the pressure on local homeless people to always keep an eye on cars parked nearby. “People living on the streets actually watch out for the cars. If anyone does anything stupid, like breaking into cars, it reflects on us.”

Others saw the robot as Big Brother, surveilling their every move with video cameras. “That SPCA robot was the bane of our existence,” said Lexi Evans, 26, who has been living on San Francisco’s streets for 13 years. “It was driving us crazy.”

She said her group of friends had a tent encampment behind the SPCA. When they first saw the robot looking at them, they found it creepy. Then they noticed its white light flashing and thought it was recording their every move on video. Later they observed police officers coming to interact with the robot and wondered whether it was feeding information to law enforcement.

“We started feeling like this thing was surveilling us for the police,” said Evans, whose whole tent encampment has now moved around the block outside another business. “That’s officially invasion of privacy. That’s uncool.”

Evans said that once, someone became so angry with the thing that they knocked it over. The robot made a “whee-ooh wah” sound.

In another instance, somebody “put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors”, Scarlett, the SPCA president, told the San Francisco Business Times.

Trouble really started for the robot last week, when the city issued an order for it to stay off the public sidewalk or face a daily penalty of up to $1,000 for operating in the public right of way without a permit. Then the story hit the internet, with Scarlett telling the Business Times that “from a walking standpoint, I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment”.

But by Friday, SF SPCA was apologizing for having brought in the machine.

“We regret that our words were ill-chosen. They did not properly convey the pilot program’s intent and they inaccurately reflected our values,” said Scarlett. “We are a nonprofit that is extremely sensitive to the issues of homelessness.”

Knightscope’s robots have gotten into trouble in other cities. Last year, a similar robot allegedly ran over a 16-month-old toddler at the Stanford Shopping Center in the town of Palo Alto, causing minor injuries. Another Knightscope security robot became famous on social media for drowning itself in the fountain of the Washington DC office complex it was policing.

“I already miss it,” said Danica Dito, who works in the SPCA administrative offices. “Just the fact that it rolled around discouraged crime.”

 

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Google expands booking features for travelers with price tracking and deals

Google

We are a week and a half away from Christmas, but it’s still not too late to fly away for the holidays — it’ll just cost a pretty penny to do so. If you’re okay with that, Google updated its suite of travel applications and services to feature price tracking and deals.

Starting with Google Flights, the search giant is leveraging its machine learning chops to take a look at historical price data to let you when is the best time to book a flight. Once you let Google Flights know where you want to go, you can choose to have it send you tips like “prices won’t drop further” or “prices are less than normal.” That way, you can be better informed as to whether you should book your flight now or wait a bit longer.

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Moving right along, Google’s hotel search results offer similar information. Because you’re dealing with hotels, Google lets you know if rates for a specific room are higher or if the surrounding area is busier due to a local event. That way, you can better plan when to make a hotel room reservation, though you can opt for email alerts whenever prices fluctuate.

Finally, Google’s Trips app now features a “Discounts” section. As the name implies, the section nets you deals for things like tickets, tours, activities, and attractions. Discounts vary based on where you’re located, though the app also leverages Google’s travel-booking features.

Overall, the new features sound very familiar to what services like Kayak and Hopper already offer. The main difference is, since many folks are already deeply immersed in Google’s ecosystem, these are just more reasons why they shouldn’t leave that ecosystem.

The flight and hotel price tracking are currently rolling out worldwide, whereas the Discounts tab inside of the Trips app will be available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

What is Dash? — a short guide

CoinJournal

What is Dash? It’s a cryptocurrency. At it’s simplest, Dash is a form digital cash you can send over the internet to a friend or retailer without a middleman like a bank.

Read: What is cryptocurrency?

Dash began its journey in 2014 and is currently the sixth largest cryptocurrency in the world by market cap — behind Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, IOTA, and Ripple. But how is it different from Bitcoin, what are its advantages, and how much does it cost? You’ll find answers to these questions and more below.

Dash vs Bitcoin

The Merkle

Dash is similar to Bitcoin in many ways. You can use it to make purchases online or hold on to it as an investment. It also runs on a publicly disclosed blockchain that records each transaction.

Read: What is a blockchain? – Gary Explains

But Bitcoin has its share of problems Dash is trying to solve. Speed is one of them. Dash transactions are confirmed in four seconds, while sending Bitcoins to someone can take 10 minutes or more.

Then there are the fees. The average Bitcoin transaction fee is around $6, compared to only $0.4 you have to pay to send someone Dash. But the fee will increase when more people start using the cryptocurrency.

A big problem with Bitcoin is also that it doesn’t have a governance structure. This means important changes can’t be made without a hard fork that brings a new cryptocurrency to the market, which is how Bitcoin Cash was born. Dash is different. It has a voting system in place so that important changes can be implemented quickly.

Unlike Bitcoin, Dash is self-funding. 45 percent of newly created Dash goes to the miners, and 45 percent to masternodes. The rest — 10 percent — goes to a treasury for funding the development team, marketing, customer support centers, and so forth.

There are a few other differences between the two cryptocurrencies, but these are the major ones.

What are the advantages of Dash?

What is Dash? BitcoinCloudMining

Two of the biggest advantages of Dash are the speed and low fees already mentioned above. You can send money to anyone in the world for less than $0.4 in four seconds — try doing that through a bank.

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Banks charge higher fees, especially if you’re sending money abroad. A transaction can also take up to a few days to complete, although most banks can speed up the process, if you’re willing to pay extra.

Another benefit is anonymity. Although all transactions are public, you don’t have to share personal info like your name and address. However, this can also be a drawback. Dash, Bitcoins, and other cryptocurrencies that provide anonymity have been used by criminal organizations because the money can’t be traced back to them. Some claim their popularity among bad guys is one of the main reasons we’ve seen such a large increase in their value so far.

How to buy, store, and spend Dash?

What is Dash? Dash

Buying Dash is easy. You can get it the same way as many other cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin. Make an account on an exchange like BitPanda or Kraken and buy Dash with your local currency.

There are also a few locations in the US where you can buy Dash from an ATM. It’s the easiest way to get the cryptocurrency, although the fees are high. If you live in Austria, you can buy it at over 400 Post branches and about 1,300 Post partners.

How can you store Dash? You keep the cryptocurrency in a digital wallet, one of which you can download from the company’s website. The alternative is to keep it in a hardware wallet such as the Ledger, which is a much safer method due to the reduced risk of getting hacked.

Businesses that accept Dash include hosting providers, online casinos, and even advertising agencies.

Where can you spend it? Dash isn’t as acceptable as standard currencies like dollars and euros, but there are many businesses that have embraced it. These include hosting providers, online casinos, and even advertising agencies — see full list here. You can also use it as an investment, which we’ll talk more about in the next section.

How is it created and how much does it cost?

What is Dash? Waffal

Dash is created through a process called mining, same as Bitcoins. Mining requires specialized computers that search for solutions to difficult math problems. If the solution is correct, a new block is added to the blockchain and the miner is rewarded with some of the Dash created.

How much does a Dash cost? Its price goes up and down all the time as a result of supply and demand. At the time of writing, you can get one for around $690 — though the exact value of Dash can be seen in the updated widget below. This makes it far less valuable than Bitcoin, which currently costs around $15,800 per piece.

Dash has proven to be an excellent investment so far, as its value has been increasing ever since its introduction. For example, if you had invested $1,000 at the beginning of 2014 when one Dash was worth $0.3, you would have $2.3 million today. Cryptocurrencies have made people into millionaires in a short period of time, which is why everyone is talking about them these days.

If you bought $1,000 worth of Dash at $0.3 per coin in 2014, you would have $2.3 million today.

But before you get too excited and go online to buy Dash, keep in mind that investing in cryptocurrencies is risky. Sure, most of them have increased in value in recent years, but that doesn’t mean the trend will continue. The price can go down as fast as it went up, so make sure to never invest more than you can afford to lose.

What is Dash?


There you have it. These are some of the basic things about Dash. Will it become an important part of our daily lives in the future? No one can be sure, especially because there are many cryptocurrencies on the market — over 1,000. Not all of them will be able to survive, although it looks like Dash is on the right path for now.

Have you ever used Dash or any other cryptocurrency? Let us know in the comments.

Where to buy the best phones of 2017

We’ve now crowned the winner of our best Android phone of 2017 award, and you can view all the results at the previous link. After testing the handsets in various categories, the best phone honor went to the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, while you guys voted for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as your favorite of the past 12 months. 

If you aren’t the proud owner of one of these handsets yet, there’s just enough time to pick one up before the end of the holiday season. We’ve rounded up the best deals we can currently find on the phones from our list and laid it all out for you below. Devices are listed in alphabetical order based on manufacturer, with links to where you can each handset underneath. Enjoy. 

BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition

Given that it’s a limited edition device, that isn’t officially sold in the US, the BlackBerry KEYone isn’t easy to get hold of at a low-cost price. It did get a reduction in Canada when it was first released, a 24-hour flash sale offering $100 CAD savings, but you’ll be lucky to find it for much less than $700 now. That’s the current asking price on Amazon, though top-rated eBay seller never-msrp has it at even cheaper. 

never-msrp is usually an eBayer to be cautious of because it sells many international unlocked models that come without a US warranty. As that’s the same circumstances as on Amazon, though — just at a much better price — it’s worth taking a look at. 

Buy Now: Blackberry Keyone 64 GB – $545.99
Buy Now: BlackBerry Keyone black edition 64 GB – $699

Google Pixel 2 XL

The Google Pixel 2 XL arrived with its fair share of problems, but a few OTAs later and it’s back in action as one of the finest phones available right now. Currently, it’s on sale at the official Google Store with savings of around $75 until December 31 — and it looks like that is the only place you’ll get such a price.

What’s more, you can make use of Google’s trade-in program to give up your current device for an even better deal; check out the two storage variants at the Google Store via the buttons below. 

Buy now: Google Pixel 2 XL 64 GB – $774
Buy Now: Google Pixel 2 XL 128 GB – $874

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is our phone of the year, but it’s another handset that you can’t officially get in the US. That’s set to change early next year, with more information to be unveiled at CES 2018, but in the meantime, your best bet will be to get it through Amazon. You’d be taking your chances with third-party sellers on international devices without warranty, but if you’re okay with that, the Mocha Brown variant at $844.99 is the best deal you’re likely to get right now.

Buy Now: Huawei Mate 10 Pro 128 GB – $844.99

LG V30

The LG V20 saw plenty of deals in its time, so you’d expect the same to happen in time with the latest LG flagship, the V30. Though it was the subject of a flash sale but a week ago, it’s back at $799 or more at most retailers now or more, and with most of the major carriers. We’ll keep our eyes peeled on this one, but until another deal pops up you can check out the cloud silver variant on AT&T at the button below.

Buy Now: LG V30 64 GB – $799

Lenovo Moto Z2 Force

No other Moto Z2 Force deal comes close to what T-Mobile is offering, serving up the recent Lenovo flagship for $435 (the handset is still upwards of $600 in many corners of the internet). If that doesn’t float your boat. you can get it for $11.00 per month on a Sprint Flex 18-month contract, down from $33 per month, which ain’t bad savings either. 

Buy Now: Moto Z2 Force 64 GB – $435
Buy Now: Lenovo Moto Z2 Force 64 GB – $11 per month

Nokia 8

The Nokia 8 is another smartphone which isn’t officially supported in the US, but you can pick it up warranty-less and for GSM networks (like AT&T and T-Mobile) at Amazon for $480. It’s available in all four color variants at, though Tempered Blue is the least expensive, and Amazon undercuts the prices of a number of other resellers who are charging a bomb for it.

Buy Now: Nokia 8 64 GB – $479.43

OnePlus 5T

OnePlus tends to discount its accessories rather than its hardware, which is why it avoided the Black Friday shenanigans last month. Thus, the best offer for the OnePlus 5T is still directly from OnePlus — coming in at $499 and $559 for the 64 GB and 128 GB models respectively.

That being said, if you’re a student, OnePlus does provide 10% discount on any order, including those on the OnePlus 5T: full details here.

Buy Now: OnePlus 5T 64 GB – $499
Buy Now: OnePlus 5T 128 GB – $559

Razer Phone

The Razer Phone landed this year and the company hit the ground running. While its camera is substandard, its display, audio and performance capabilities are well above average, and it doesn’t look half bad, either. 

It’s a brand new phone and will cost you $699 from the official Razer store, however, as we noted yesterday, you can get it with a Leviathan Mini Bluetooth speaker worth $180 if you order by the end of today (December 19): just use the promo code PHLVLUP at the checkout when you’re ordering the phone.

Buy Now: Razer Phone 64 GB – $699

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was the fan favorite handset of 2017, and it was a runner-up in our own tests. It’s been seen for around $949 since launch and still costs that in most places. You can pick it for a fair discount eBay right now without warranty, but considering the last Note’s troubles, I’d hesitate to recommend it without some kind of protection.

You can get the Note 8 for up to $400 off with Samsung’s official trade-in offer (which you can find via Samsung.com at the first link below) while Amazon has it available for a slightly lower price at $919 (Midnight Black color only).

Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 64 GB – $950
Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 64 GB – $919.42

Sony Xperia XZ1

There were probably fewer words written about the Xperia XZ1 online than there should have been. It might not have had the trendy bezel-less design of other flagships, but it’s still an excellent phone. Most places are holding firm with a $599 price tag at the moment, but this is already $100 less than what the XZ1 was introduced for; check it out on Amazon underneath.

Buy Now: Sony Xperia XZ1 64 GB – $597.90

Have you seen any better deals than what’s on our list? Let us know what they are in the comments.

Deal: Nova Launcher Prime on sale for $0.99 (was $4.99)

Nova Launcher Prime is regarded as one of the best launchers on Android. It’s sitting right now with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars at the Google Play Store, based on hundreds of thousands of reviews, and if you’ve never used it before, now might be the time.

As pointed out on Reddit, Nova Launcher Prime has been reduced from $4.99 to just $0.99 — the same offer it launched this time last year. This is the unlocked version of the free Nova Launcher app, which comes with a slew of extra customization options and advanced features, like notifications badges, gestures, and more.

Editor’s Pick

Nova Launcher allows you to alter many aspects of your Android phones home screen, such as the app drawer, folders, dock, and their aesthetic, and has received a number of Android 8.1 Oreo features lately, including adaptive icons and the custom dock widget.

Nova Launcher sits on our best Android Launchers list and it doesn’t look like it will be moving anytime soon. We don’t know how long this deal will last, but you can find the free and Prime versions of the app in Google Play via the buttons below (note that Google Play says Nova Launcher Prime hasn’t been updated since December 2016 but it will still unlock the latest content found in the regular app).

Download Nova Launcher
Download Nova Launcher Prime

Google is now prioritizing mobile sites to provide better results for mobile devices

best facts apps

We all saw this coming. All the way back in November 2016, Google said it would begin prioritizing websites that have a mobile-friendly, responsive design in favor of traditional desktop online websites. Google is following through on that promise as it’s now implementing this new prioritization method for a “handful of sites.” Quite frankly, the move makes sense given that an ever-increasing amount of people are searching constantly from their phones. Especially when you aren’t at a computer, it’s easier to just pull out the phone that’s in your pocket to search for something.

See also

We’ve all been there, searching for something on Google, when we finally find the information we need, when *gasp*, it’s a desktop site. The change to mobile-first indexing will ensure that this doesn’t happen as often.

Traditionally, Google’s crawling and ranking systems only looked at the standard desktop layout of a website. This is no longer going to be the case.

Google will now use content from mobile sites to create and rank listings, which will allow for more relevant results for mobile users. Google is “evaluating sites independently on their readiness for mobile-first indexing,” and the shift is “closely being monitored by the search team.” If your website is already mobile-friendly, you shouldn’t have to do anything. However, Google does have some guidelines for site owners:

  • Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
  • Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: it should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
  • Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
  • No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
  • Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
  • Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.

Thoughts on this change?

Gardmore Abbey 5E rerun – Session 3

Having accompanied Sir Oakley to the temple of Gardmore Abbey and defended him against mad harpies, it turned out that the job of the heroes wasn’t finished. The 3 sacred vessels needed to purify the temple were missing, and so now they are on a quest to find them, among some other quests. A closer examination of the temple revealed a staircase down into the catacombs, with fresh footprints leading there. The group decided not to follow, but made a short rest and then headed over to the wizard’s tower.

Now I have to mention that the 4 locations in which the group can meet an evil group of rival adventurers are determined by the 4 cards drawn for that group. The first encounter was hearing of the group in Winterhaven, the second encounter was the group helping the rivals in the garden to fight giant spiders and being left holding the bag for their effort. The third encounter, in the first room of the catacombs, the group avoided by going there. And by pure chance the location where they wanted to go, the wizard’s tower, was the location for the 4th encounter. So while the group was resting the rival adventurers “moved” to the wizard’s tower.
On the way down to the wizard’s tower the group had an encounter with a Galeb Duhr and two Rust Monsters in the gate house. However the monk and the druid weren’t wearing any non-magical metal at all, the ranger stayed at a distance, and the barbarian succeeded all saving throws to turn his extra weapons into rust; so the Rust Monsters weren’t really all that scary for this particular group. Being under no time pressure the group made another short rest.
Again they discovered traces of the rival adventures, them having left climbing gear in place to descend the slope to the wizard’s tower without taking the detour through the orc camps. And finally the two groups met again, this time with the evil group in full health and ready to strike. The ensuing combat was a tough one, as the evil group had the same level 5 and outnumbered the players 5 to 4. However I had deliberately not optimized them, and so the players ultimately prevailed. With 3 of the evil group members down, the player druid offered them terms of surrender (“give us your cards and leave the abbey forever”), which they accepted. As I give out full xp even for diplomatic victories this fight got the group up to level 6, but I told them they needed to return to Winterhaven for that.
In Winterhaven there was some chaos, because their previous “diplomatic victory” had involved letting loose a beholder, who had passed by the town, burned down the church, and killed the priest, before moving on. One always needs to consider the possible consequences of not killing your enemies!
Now level 6 and back at the abbey they found the wizard’s tower’s door had been breached during their absence by a group of orcs, which then had been slaughtered by forces unknown. Mistrustful of the gargoyle statues in front of the door they first attacked them, but that was a short and easy fight. Inside the barbarian librarian found a scroll on a bloodstained sheet covering a large female form. Taking the scroll of course awoke that form, a female flesh golem, the failed attempt of the wizard to resurrect the love of his life. The fight against the golem was a bit harder, also due to some random magical effects in the room. Before going up the tower we decided to stop the session and continue next time. 

BlackBerry ditching Priv updates is a frustrating missed opportunity

BlackBerry’s track history in the enterprise game and the marketing material plastered all over its website would lead anyone to believe that it’s one of the few smartphone companies actually taking the security issue seriously. So it was a little surprising to hear that BlackBerry is cancelling its smaller updates for the Priv, and so soon after declaring that it wouldn’t be providing a Nougat update to the handset either. It’s a disappointing situation for fans of the Priv, and even more disconcerting for customers who rely on BlackBerry to protect their sensitive information.

Now, I’m fully aware that providing long running updates for aging handsets that aren’t selling anymore is an expensive and often frustrating endeavor for OEMs. However, BlackBerry is missing a trick by not positioning itself as the major manufacturer with security at its forefront, by going a step further than the minimum two years of patches that almost every OEM promises.

BlackBerry Indeed, BlackBerry, indeed…

The case for long-running security updates cannot be understated these days. Although there are plenty of reactionary scare stories about various vulnerabilities, the fact that our mobile devices are increasingly used to store sensitive banking information, make mobile payments, and secure our biometric data makes patching exploits regularly more important than three or four years ago. Not forgetting BlackBerry’s historic audience of business users looking for additional security and encryption for sensitive emails, contacts, documents, and the like.

Between biometric storage, online banking, and payments, the case for long running security updates cannot be understated.

Ditching this commitment to Priv owners is poor form. But just as importantly, this decision leaves customers uncertain about the state of similar update promises made for the KEYone, Motion, and DTEK series. Can we take BlackBerry more seriously on security matters than any other OEM anymore?

The crux of the matter, for me, is that this announcement isn’t just disappointing for Priv owners, it undermines the whole concept and potential of BlackBerry as the go-to brand for serious Android security. That’s a particularly disappointing revelation for the enterprise market, where companies need an OEM they can rely on to keep a fleet of handsets secure in the long term.

No one else, bar perhaps Google, has been tackling this issue seriously enough, and certainly no major brand has gone as far as BlackBerry in the amount of marketing emphasis placed on security. The company’s Document Locker and Privacy Shade are great features for the privacy conscious, as are the company’s Hub+ apps and its broader Secure Platform. However, without also ensuring that the operating system is kept up to date and secure too, the hard work on the software front is undermined.

BlackBerry could have owned the privacy and security niche in the Android space, but that trust fades with the Priv.

I should make clear that BlackBerry isn’t completely ditching all its obligations with the Priv. The company states that it would “engage [its] partners as needed to develop and deliver necessary patches” should any critical problems arise, and that it would “fulfill all warranty obligations” regarding the handset. Even so, what counts as critical or only a moderate security issue, and how high up the priority queue the Priv would be for a fix are concerning unanswered questions.

Based on its well-earned historic reputation, BlackBerry could have owned the privacy and security niche in the Android space. A solution very much needed given the price comparison with Apple’s iPhones. Instead, BlackBerry may find that its potential customers flock to Apple for its ability to provide updates over many years, or to Samsung for the promises made by Knox.

BlackBerry’s compromise on this issue is the introduction of a “trade-up” program for Priv owners and those holding onto BB10 and BBOS devices. While all the details aren’t out in the open yet, the gist is that existing customers will be able to purchase a newer KEYOne or Motion handset with some sort of discount. Perhaps that will tide some customers over, but as I already mentioned, what happens if/when BlackBerry gives up on updates to these handsets within the next two years also?

No matter which way you slice it, BlackBerry failing to properly update the Priv to Nougat, not even Oreo, and refusing to extend important security updates beyond the “standard” 2 years promised by everyone else is an undeniable sign that the company isn’t willing to go the distance with security. That’s more than a little disappointing.

Oracle Joins the White House in Global Campaign to Empower Girls and Women

Oracle Education Foundation
The Oracle Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization funded by Oracle Corporation. Its mission is to “inspire students globally to think, connect, create and share — using technology to help them dissolve boundaries, fulfill their potential, and create a better society.”
Oracle teamed up with the White House back in April to donate money to support the Obama administration’s Computer Science for All initiative. The goal is to empower and engage student through various computer science programs in over 1,100 US institutions. They hope the money and attention will draw young people around the world into learning about science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The company committed $200 million to the cause.

On the heels of Oracle’s $200 million commitment to support Computer Science (CS) Education for All,the White House announced Oracle’s additional $3 million investment to immerse girls worldwide in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The company’s commitment of direct and in-kind funding supports “Let Girls Learn,” a U.S. government initiative aimed at helping adolescent girls around the world go to school and stay in school.

We want more girls focused on building upon science and math fundamentals and we want more women choosing the technical disciplines because they are both prepared to do so and because they believe it will advance their career opportunities,” Oracle’s (female) CEO, Safra Catz, said in a statement.

OWL

Oracle will offer more than 65 educational events and reach over 55,000 young girls globally through a powerful nexus of its corporate social responsibility programs spanning Oracle Academy, Oracle Education Foundation, Oracle Giving and Volunteers, (OWL), and Oracle Diversity and Inclusion. Events will include summer computing camps, codefests, workshops and conferences designed to encourage and inspire adolescent girls to become original thinkers, creative designers and enterprising trailblazers.

The money will help to fund programs to send 55,000 young girls around the world to various summer computing camps, codefests, workshops and conferences. Additionally, Oracle plans to expand its CS efforts in Egypt with an additional investment of nearly $1 million in educational resources and services over the next four years. The commitment is part of a new collaboration between the Ministry of Education in Egypt, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Oracle Academy, Oracle’s philanthropic educational program that impacts more than 2.6 million students in 106 countries. The partnership will support computing education in nine newly-created STEM schools throughout the country, including one boarding school exclusively for girls which will accept up the top 10 percent of girls across the governorates, reaching 150 girls each year and providing three years of paid education for each girl.
With the donation, Oracle joins several other technology companies which are participating in the White House’s computer science program. Both Google (GOOG, +0.89%) and Salesforce (CRM, +0.17%) (as well as the Cartoon Network) said they would donate in aggregate over $60 million to the program when it was first announced.
As part of the company’s global campaign to support girls and women in technology, Oracle will drive several notable projects:
  • Oracle Academy will team with Arizona State University and others under the USAID Build-IT project to help women in Vietnam develop into IT leaders.
  • Oracle Education Foundation and Oracle Volunteers will team to teach girls coding, electrical engineering and project management through girls-only workshops for Design Tech High School (d.tech), an innovative, free California public high school. Oracle is building d.tech’s new facility at its headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., making d.tech the world’s first public high school on a technology campus.
  • Oracle Giving and Oracle Academy will award grants and sponsorships globally to nonprofit organizations striving to increase girls’ access to educational opportunities and encourage them to pursue degrees in computer science and STEM fields.
  • Oracle Giving will continue its support for MentorNet, which engages STEM professionals in the virtual mentoring of undergraduates, 66% of whom are women.
Oracle Academy, a computer science educational program, and Burning Glass Technology, an analytics company, recently did research and found that programming jobs grow 50 percent faster than the market average. As technology is increasingly present in people’s personal and professional lives, there is a need for computer science learning.

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