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How to Stop People from Following You on Instagram

Instagram continues to add deeper account management tools, and starting today you’ll be able to manually remove followers. This feature has been available for users with private accounts for a while, but now it’s available for everyone.


The blockchain begins finding its way in the enterprise

The blockchain is in the middle of a major hype cycle at the moment, and that makes it hard for many people to take it seriously, but if you look at the core digital ledger technology, there is tremendous potential to change the way we think about trust in business. Yet these are still extremely early days and there are a number of missing pieces that need to be in place for the blockchain to really take off in the enterprise.

Suffice it to say that it has caught the fancy of major enterprise vendors with the likes of SAP, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon all looking at providing some level of Blockchain as a service for customers.

While the level of interest in blockchain remains fluid, a July 2017 survey of 400 large companies by UK firm Juniper Research found 6 in 10 respondents were “either actively considering, or are in the process of, deploying blockchain technology.”

In spite of the growing interest we have seen over the last 12-18 months, blockchain lacks some basic underlying system plumbing, the kind any platform needs to thrive in an enterprise setting. Granted, some companies and the open source community are recognizing this as an opportunity and trying to build it, but many challenges remain.

Obstacles to adoption

Even though the blockchain clearly has many possible use cases, some people still have trouble separating it from its digital currency roots, and Joshua McKenty, who helped develop Open Stack while working at NASA and now is head of Cloud Foundry at Pivotal, sees this as a real problem, one that could hold back the progress of blockchain as an enterprise technology.

He believes that right now bitcoin and blockchain are akin to Napster and peer to peer (P2P) technology in the late 90s. When Napster made it easy to share MP3 files illegally on a P2P network, McKenty believes, it set back business usage of P2P for a decade because of the bad connotations associated with the popular use case.

“You couldn’t talk about Napster [and P2P] and have it be a positive conversation. Bitcoin has done that to blockchain. It will take us time to recover what bitcoin has done to get to something that is really useful [with blockchain],” he said.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Newsmakers – Getty Images

A recent survey by Deloitte of over 1000 participants in 7 countries found that outside the US in particular this perception held true. “When asked if they believed that blockchain was just “a database for money” with little application outside of financial services, just 18 percent of US respondents agreed with that statement versus 61 percent of respondents in France and the United Kingdom,” the report stated.

Richie Etwaru, founder and CEO at Hu-manity and author of the book, Blockchain Trust Companies sees it as a matter of trust. Companies aren’t used to dealing from a position of trust. In fact, his book argues that the entire contract system exists because of a total lack of it.

“The hurdle [to widespread blockchain adoption in the enterprise] is that those who have traditionally designed or transformed business models in large enterprise settings have systematically and habitually treated trust and transparency as second, sometimes third level characteristics of a business model. The raw material needed are the willingness and executive level alignment and harmonization around the notion that trust and transparency are the next differentiators,” Etwaru explained.

The volatility of new technology

Blockchain was originally created as a system to track bitcoin (digital currency) ownership, and it’s still used extensively for that purpose, but a trusted and immutable record has great utility to track virtually anything of value and enforce a set of rules. We have seen companies like trying to use it to enforce content ownership, Hu-manity, which wants to enforce data ownership, and the IBM TrustChain consortium to track the provenance of diamonds from mine to store.

Photo: LeoWolfert/Getty Images

Rob May, who is CEO at Talla and whose company helped launch a blockchain called BotChain to track the authenticity of bots, says finding good use cases could help ultimately determine the technology’s success or failure. “Blockchain has a bunch of different use cases, and they are usually either all lumped together or poorly understood separately,” May said.

He believes that in many instances today, companies don’t understand the advantages of blockchain, which he identifies as immutability, trust and tokenization, the latter of which can help finance blockchain initiatives (but which can also contribute to confusion with digital currency use cases).

“Right now, businesses are missing real blockchain opportunities and instead throwing blockchain in places where it doesn’t belong. For example, they are trying to use it for smart contracts, and that stuff isn’t ready. They also try to use it for cases that require a lot of speed, and again blockchains aren’t ready,” he said.

Finally, he says, if you don’t require immutability, trust and tokenization, you might want to consider a different approach other than blockchain.

Please identify yourself

Like any network, identity will be at the core of any blockchain network because it is imperative that you understand whom you are communicating with. Charles Francis, a senior analyst at Accenture says for now blockchains will remain private for the most part, but authentication will become increasingly important as we eventually have blockchain-to-blockchain communications.

Photo:  NicoElNino/Getty Images

“Initially blockchain-to-blockchain connections will be manually set up and you will manage your network in a private model and bad actors will be immediately obvious,” he explained. But he believes that we will require a system in place to ensure we are authentically who we say we are as we move beyond private networks.

Jerry Cuomo, IBM Fellow and VP of Blockchain says that there will come a time when there are multiple networks and we will need to set up systems for them to communicate. “There won’t be one blockchain network to rule them all. It’s a very safe bet. Once you make that statement, these systems need to work together,” he said. “All [the different pieces of networks] need identity and the identity better play across networks. My identity on one network better be the same on another network,” he explained.

For Etwaru it comes back to trust, and a trusted identity would be a natural extension of that. “Transformational blockchain use cases require a network of trading partners to start to operate in a more trusted and transparent way, not just one individual,” he said.

Moving toward adoption

All this said, there is still a steady march toward adoption in the enterprise. As Talla’s May says, there may be open questions, but that just represents a big opportunity for smart companies. “If you are interacting with a network instead of a single company, whose throat do you choke when something goes wrong? I think you will see many companies in the blockchain space do what Red Hat did for Linux. Enterprises need consulting help and better frameworks to think about how [blockchain] networks will work, since Ethereum isn’t a product per se in the traditional sense,” he said.

Gil Perez, SVP for products and innovation, as well as head of digital customer initiatives at SAP says he’s seeing companies with real projects in production. “It is beyond just wanting to do something. We’re doing large scale implementations and pilots. For example, we did one in the pharmaceutical industry with over a billion transactions,” he said.

In fact, SAP has a total of 65 companies working on various projects at different stages of progress at the moment. Perez says the next level of adoption will require a way to involve multiple parties, not just a single company, as with a supply chain example, which involves moving goods and paperwork across multiple countries involving many individuals.

Photo: allanswart

He also points out the importance of making sure there is good data because ultimately, if you have bad data in an immutable record, that is going to be a serious problem. That requires the companies involved to come together and agree to a common system to enter and agree upon each piece of information that moves through the system and that is a work in progress.

May sees blockchain technology transforming the way we do business in the future and providing a more standard way of interacting than today’s hodgepodge of vendor approaches.

“Now that blockchain is here, what if we could launch a standard and have shared marketplace by all apps in a space? So as a developer, you write your [application] add-on one time and it works with any [similar application] that supports that standard, and they share one giant marketplace. But how do you get them to share a marketplace? Blockchain and tokens provide decentralization and incentives such that, if you set the right rules, maybe you could do it. That could be transformational,” he said.

As with any new technology, the more it scales the more the tools and adjacent technologies are required. We are still in the early stages of discovering what those are, and before the technology can take off in a big way, we will need more underlying infrastructure in place. If that happens, blockchain could be just as transformational as May suggests.

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Here’s why you couldn’t buy anything for the first few hours of Amazon Prime Day


Prime Day was a success by almost all accounts with over 100 million products sold, but there were overshadowing site issues as well.

Many users reported seeing the errors, including Amazon’s dog-filled error page, and thanks to CNBC we now have some insight as to why. According to internal documents, Amazon failed in having enough servers to handle all the customers. Within the first few minutes after things kicked off on 3 p.m. Eastern Time on July 16, many customers started seeing problems.

Per the report, an “auto-scaling” feature was supposed to kick in when demand from customers got too high. This didn’t happen, which resulted in teams at the company manually adding and deploying servers. CNBC notes that Amazon’s proprietary request server, Sable, which provides “computation and storage services,” was the primary cause of the breakdown. Read more…

More about Amazon, Amazon Prime, Server, Prime Day 2018, and Tech


The Smarthome Industry Has Reached a Plateau. Here’s What’s Holding It Back

There’s a problem with the smarthome industry—multiple problems, actually. And after experiencing a huge boom over the last few years, smarthome as a whole has reached a plateau of sorts.


The Best Powerline Network Adapters

If you want high-speed network access throughout your home and Wi-Fi isn’t cutting it, you’ve probably considered running Ethernet cables. But why not take advantage of the power lines you already have going everywhere?

Power line networking isn’t a new idea—it’s been around in primitive forms for decades. But the consumer standard known as HomePlug AV has been refining the technology significantly as of late, and today’s best adapters can give you speeds and latency good enough for 4K video streaming and low-latency games. It’s not as fast as Ethernet or the best Wi-Fi setups, but it’s relatively cheap and super-easy: just plug the adapters in and you’re good to go. Best of all (especially if you’re renting your living space), it requires no permanent rewiring or installation.

We’ve selected the best overall powerline network adapter, the best solution for those on a budget, and the best for people who want to expand both their hardline network and Wi-Fi at the same time. Note that the adapters below can’t replace the connection directly to your internet service provider: you’ll still need to plug at least one adapter into your home’s primary modem or a router.

The Best Overall: TP-Link AV2000 2-ports Gigabit Powerline Adapter Kit TL-PA9020P ($100)

Users and experts agree: TP-Link’s new AV2000 adapter is the best around. This updated version of a basic adapter uses the new AV2000 standard to get maximum data throughput on the electrical upline, downline, and ground, resulting in a theoretical maximum speed of two gigabits per second. Real-world use will be around half that (thanks to variables in your home’s electrical wiring), but anyone who isn’t using the absolute fastest fiber internet connection won’t notice anyway. This model includes double gigabit Ethernet connections on both ends for connecting multiple devices, switches, or Wi-Fi routers, and a pass-through electrical outlet to make sure you can connect it directly to the wall outlet for maximum speed. Reviewers found that, among the limited options available for AV2000-equipped hardware, this model offers the fastest and most consistent speeds. And at $100 for two adapters (one to connect directly to your router or modem, one to extend the network), it’s not much more expensive than competing models offering considerably lower speeds.

The Best Budget Extension: TRENDnet Power Line 1200 AV2 Adapter Starter Kit TPL-420E2K ($55)

If all you need is a single connection to that one room that’s out of Wi-Fi or Ethernet range, this TRENDnet kit will do the trick. It uses the slightly older AV1200 powerline standard, so real-world speeds will top out at about 500-600 megabits per second. But that should still be enough for high-definition video and pretty much anything less demanding. With a single Ethernet port and no power outlet pass-through it’s a little short on creature comforts, but it will get the job done if running a long Ethernet cable isn’t an option. And at $55 for the base connector and expansion unit together, it’s extremely economical—keep in mind that you can add new expansions later if you want to connect more outlets to the network. Refurbished versions can be found for even less.

The Best Multi-Device Extension: TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender AV1200 Powerline Edition ($119)

Even if you want a hardline connection to specific devices, you probably already have a Wi-Fi network in your home. If you want to expand both of them at the same time with the minimum amount of hardware, this combination device is for you. The primary connector takes Ethernet from your ISP-installed modem or router, but the paired device rebroadcasts the connection over Wi-Fi in addition to outputting it to three gigabit Ethernet ports. It’s an ideal companion for the outlet behind your TV—you could hard connect a game console, smart TV, and a web-enabled Blu-Ray player, all while having a handy nearby Wi-Fi signal for wireless-only tablets and phones. If you’d prefer to simply extend your Wi-Fi network without setting up a new access point, the handy “clone” feature will copy the SSID and password of any installed router it’s connected to. The extra Wi-Fi hardware means there’s no pass-through outlet on the expansion device, but it’s an acceptable trade-off for users in this very particular niche. Similar but more expensive TP-Link variants offer faster powerline data with fewer Ethernet ports, or slower Wi-Fi speeds with an outlet pass-through.


How to Add Custom Startup Programs to Windows 10

Custom-Startup-Programs-Windows-10-FeatuWindows comes bundled with a feature that enables programs to start up upon boot. This feature could be helpful, for instance, for cloud-syncing services. But in other cases, they may increase boot time considerably. Booting your PC along with other apps can constitute a significant drawback on your productivity. You may want to shorten this time. Some users may prefer to have a couple of essential applications start up with Windows upon booting. You can resolve all these peculiar needs in a few simple steps in Windows 10. This article will show how to create a custom startup app list. Related: Is Your Windows 10… Read more

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Uber, Lyft driver creepily livestreams videos of his passengers on Twitch


If you’re in the St. Louis area, you may be getting filmed by this guy who drives for Uber and Lyft.

Hundreds of Uber and Lyft rides have been broadcast live on Twitch by driver Jason Gargac this year, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday, all of them without the passengers’ permission.

Gargac, who goes by the name JustSmurf on Twitch, regularly records the interior of his car while working for Uber and Lyft with a camera in the front of the car, allowing viewers to see the faces of his passengers, illuminated by his (usually) purple lights, and hear everything they say. At no point does Gargac make passengers aware that they are being filmed or livestreamed. Read more…

More about Uber, Lyft, Twitch, Livestreaming, and Entertainment


Save Time With Custom Search Folders in Microsoft Outlook

Searching in Outlook is pretty easy, but why bother typing out the same searches over and over if you perform them regularly? Custom Search Folders let you save those custom searches so you can get back to them with just a click or two.


What the ‘Someone Is Typing’ Bubbles in Messaging Apps Actually Mean


Whether it’s a series of blinking ellipsis or an explicit notification that “someone’s typing,” the messaging feature known as a typing indicator is both a useful tool and a source of anxiety for many people. But knowing more about how it works can at least limit the guessing games that cause us stress.

Read more…


Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 ‘Mystery Box’ collector’s edition revealed

These days, every big-name video game franchise sees special and collector’s editions for their titles, and the Call of Duty series is a shinning example. But for this year’s release of Black Ops 4, publisher Activision has taken things well beyond including the yearly season pass and other digital goodies. They’ve just announced the super special Black Ops 4 Mystery … Continue reading


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