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HTC Now Has An Entry-level Blockchain Phone.

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HTC has announced a new entry-level phone aimed at cryptocurrency users called the HTC Exodus 1S, a followup to the $699 Exodus 1 that was originally released last year. The Exodus 1S is a much cheaper device at €219 (around $244), and offers much less powerful hardware built around a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor.

The Exodus 1S’s big new cryptocurrency feature is that it’s able to run a full bitcoin node, which HTC says is a first for a smartphone. It’s something the company has been talking about wanting to do since the announcement of the original Exodus 1. Speaking to Forbes, HTC’s Phil Chen said that being able to run a full node means that the phone can relay, confirm, and validate bitcoin transactions, which offers more privacy and also allows you to contribute to the security of the network.Running a full bitcoin node is not without its limitations

Running a full bitcoin node on a phone comes with its limitations. HTC recommends that you connect the phone to Wi-Fi and plug it into a power source while it’s running the full node, and you’ll also need to buy an SD card with a capacity of 400GB or more if you want the phone to be able to hold a full copy of the Bitcoin ledger. The Exodus 1S will also not be able to operate as a mining node.

Outside of its blockchain capabilities, the HTC Exodus 1S features entry-level hardware. It’s got a 5.7-inch HD display, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and it has a single rear-facing 13-megapixel camera. It charges over MicroUSB, but at least you get a 3.5mm headphone jack.

HTC’s Exodus phones are an ambitious attempt by the company to appeal to cryptocurrency enthusiasts as its smartphone sales have plummeted in recent years. Compared to the Exodus 1, the cheaper starting price of the Exodus 1S could make it appealing as a secondary device to experiment with.

The HTC Exodus 1S won’t be available in the US, but you can now order it from HTC’s site in Europe, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Naturally, HTC will happily accept payment in bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, Binance coin, and bitcoin cash for the phone.

(Source: theverge.com)

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How The Streaming Era Is Changing Music.

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The music industry is enjoying a renaissance. After 15 years of declining revenue, Recorded Music New Zealand achieved double digit growth in 2015 and again in 2016.

The renewed upward trend is largely thanks to streaming, which now makes up 50 per cent of local music industry revenue.

As consumers, we're all grateful for the huge variety of music we have easy access to these days. But what impact is streaming having on how music is made?

One thing's for sure: in the streaming era, music producers have access to a wealth of data thanks to Spotify and its competitors. They know which songs are skipped after a few seconds, which songs in a playlist get the most listens, and what styles – even what type of drum beat – is most likely to catch your attention.

Pop songs in the streaming era tend to have very catchy beginnings and a hook-filled opening thirty seconds. That's because of our short attention spans and the need to get us hooked quickly. According to music site Pitchfork, "in order for a stream to count toward chart tallies and, reportedly, for royalty payouts, a given song must be played for at least 30 seconds".

Of course, popular music has always been defined by the prevailing format of the time. From the 7-inch records of the 1950s and 1960s, to the visually appealing pop and hair metal bands of the MTV 1980s, to the early digital era of the iPod when playlists became so important.

In the streaming era, playlists have become even more critical – with one key difference. It's likely you don't create them yourself now. They're either automated for you using algorithms that examine your listening habits, or they're curated by tastemakers employed by the streaming companies.

New Zealand's own Zane Lowe has been a big beneficiary of the playlist trend. Since 2015, he's been a DJ on Apple Music's streaming radio station, Beats 1. If you're a 1990s tragic like me, you may remember him from the band Breaks Co-Op or his stint on Auckland music station Max TV. But now his audience is global and vastly bigger, as his 724,000 Twitter followers attest.

Indeed, Lowe is so influential in the music industry now that Elton John cold calls him regularly.

So for music producers, the keys to pop music success in the streaming era include cramming your hooks into the first thirty seconds of your songs and getting the attention of tastemakers like Lowe. But that doesn't help the majority of musicians, who often struggle to make a living from meagre streaming revenues.

As with any artistic endeavour in the age of social media, it's incredibly difficult to get attention for your work. As an author of books, I can vouch for that. But at least musicians have access to Bandcamp, an independent music platform where they can sell their songs and albums direct to consumers.

As a music fan, Bandcamp is like a mix between Spotify and the iTunes Store. That's because you can both stream and purchase digital downloads.

New Zealand artist Aldous Harding sold her self-titled debut album directly on Bandcamp (which is where I bought it). So it's a great platform to find new artists, especially thanks to Bandcamp's own curated playlists.

Bandcamp shows that digital downloads are still relevant in the streaming era, although every year they're declining. According to Recorded Music New Zealand, downloads made up 29 per cent of revenue in 2014. But just two years later, that figure was down to 13 per cent.

The reality is that many of us don't buy CDs or download digital albums anymore. There's no need to, when Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming apps have the back catalogue of most of your favourite artists. If indeed you even listen to albums anymore.

As for the current generation of kids, they're much more likely to discover and consume music on YouTube than on Spotify. In a recent music consumption report, the IFPI stated that 85 per cent of 13-15 year olds stream music and nearly 8 in 10 kids use a video service like YouTube for that purpose.

According to the IFPI, across all age groups YouTube accounts for 46 per cent of time spent listening to on-demand music. That's more than all the music streaming apps combined.

The streaming era in music is far from perfect. Some artists complain about the minuscule royalties they receive from the likes of Spotify, while the music industry continues to battle YouTube over repeated copyright infringements.

As for us music fans, when we can listen to all of The Beatles' back catalogue on Spotify and discover new artists on Bandcamp, we can't complain.

That said, I like having a personal music collection. Partly because I want to support the artists I love by buying their music.

I still use iTunes as my music hub, but it gets buggier every year. And while I could upload my music files into Spotify, I've found the user experience to be lacking.

So I'd love a better way to store my Aldous Harding albums. Other than that, viva la streaming revolution.

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Twitter Finally Makes An Important Security Change.

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Twitter recently announced that users can disable SMS-based two-factor authentication, a requirement the company has held onto despite the increased security risk of receiving 2FA codes via SMS.

Two-factor authentication, widely considered a best practice when it comes to keeping your online accounts secure, adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts by requiring a six-digit number after you've entered the correct password for your account. Originally, two-factor codes were delivered primarily via text message, but that's proven to be problematic. For example, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's account was hacked in August.

The person(s) who had control of his account posted hateful messages before they were deleted. They were able to gain access to his account and get around two-factor authentication by switching the SIM card linked to his phone number and then receiving the SMS two-factor authentication code in a practice commonly referred to as SIM swapping.

With Twitter dropping the requirement, you can now opt to receive its 2FA codes strictly through third-party apps or a dedicated security key. Not only is this more secure, but you'll also be able to access your codes even if your phone can't receive text messages, like on a long flight. If you already have 2FA enabled on your Twitter account, or you've been holding out until the company ditched the SMS requirement, here's what you need to know.

a screenshot of a cell phone

Twitter lets you hide replies, Google makes it easier to get movie tickets.

Set up 2FA for your Twitter account

If you haven't taken the time to set up two-factor authentication for your Twitter account, now is as good a time as any. It only adds a few seconds to the login process, but goes a long way toward keeping your account secure. We're going to cover setting up 2FA with an authentication app like Google Authenticator or 1Password. If you aren't sure which app to use, we have a guide of the top password managers, most of which include authentication features.

a screenshot of a cell phone: You're no longer required to leave text message 2FA codes turned on. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Visit the Account section of your account on Twitter.com.
  2. With the Account tab selected, click on Security.
  3. Next, click on Two-factor authentication.
  4. You'll be shown three different options: Text message, Authentication app and Security key. Select Authentication app.

The rest of the process will vary depending on which app you're using but generally consists of scanning a QR code created by Google that will allow the app to create your 2FA codes. After scanning the QR code, you'll be asked to enter the six-digit number displayed in your app to verify it's set up correctly.

Going forward, anytime you log into your Twitter account, you'll be asked for your 2FA code after entering your password. Again, it adds a couple of seconds to the process, but it's worth it.

a hand holding a cell phone: Ditch the text message codes. You're safer for doing so. Jason Cipriani/CNET

Stop Twitter from sending text message 2FA codes

If you already have two-factor authentication set up on your account and use an authenticator app, it's a good idea to disable text message codes. This will prevent the possibility of someone gaining access to your account via SIM swapping.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Visit the Account section of your account on Twitter.com.
  2. With the Account tab selected, click on Security.
  3. Next, click on Two-factor authentication.
  4. Remove the checkmark in the box next to Text message, and accept the change if prompted.

Twitter isn't the only website that uses 2FA. Apple, Google and Facebook each offer the added layer of security. Even Fortnite has 2FA. Remember, the added layer of security is for your own protection, and yes, it's a slight inconvenience, but at the end of the day that's far less than the amount of time and headaches you'll have to deal with if someone gains access to your accounts.

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The First Troublesome Signs For Netflix May Be Emerging Following The Launch Of Disney+.

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The commentariat seems to be coalescing around two schools of thought at the moment when it comes to the hottest two streaming rivals right now, Disney+ and Netflix.

One assumption is that Netflix’s pre-eminence as the king of the streaming hill remains assured, with Disney+ reportedly having amassed an audience so far that’s only a sliver of Netflix’s. Analysts have noted in recent days that the launch of Disney+ also doesn’t seem to have interrupted the normal cadence of Netflix app downloads, and there’s also an assumption that the streaming landscape is plenty big enough for more than one major provider of content.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings himself has kept his public remarks about Disney+ mostly diplomatic, insisting at one point in recent days that Disney is the rival that Netflix “has the most to learn from.” Meanwhile, the other school of thought is that the first worrying signs for Netflix may nevertheless be starting to emerge.

That is, if the results of this new survey offer a hint of things to come.

According to a survey recently conducted by Kill the Cable Bill of 1,000 people who’ve recently cancelled their Netflix subscriptions, most of them cited Netflix’s somewhat regular price hikes (and the departure of content from the service, which includes the imminent loss of favorites like Friends and The Office).

Among the survey’s findings:

Most of the cancellers had been with Netflix for more than a year. After that, the next largest group had been subscribed for between 7 and 12 months.

25% of those who cancelled said they won’t be re-upping with Netflix anytime soon. 17% said they’d return for sure, and almost 60% said they weren’t certain whether they’d ever come back or not. (Former Amazon Studios executive Matthew Ball once told me statistics like these aren’t the slam dunk that outlets sometimes think they are, since there tends to be a sizeable disconnect in the streaming industry between people’s preferences and what they say they’ll do versus what they actually end up doing.)

Also worth noting, the survey found that for about half of the Netflix subscribers who cancelled, they decided that the service had become too expensive. That’s after Netflix raised prices earlier this year, the largest in the company’s history, which pushed the most popular plan up to $12.99 a month from $10.99.

Granted, there’s a lot to pick apart here if you still count yourself a Netflix bull, and I’m certainly in the category of people who think Netflix doesn’t have any reason to worry anytime soon. I took a deeper look just a few days ago at how Disney+ has had little effect on Netflix so far, and November alone has some of Netflix’s most hotly-anticipated debuts. The Crown season 3 was added to the service in recent days, and Martin Scorsese’s Netflix-exclusive The Irishman arrives on the service next week. And yet another much-anticipated new Netflix series, The Witcher, is coming in December.

All of which is to say: Be wary of attempts to use the launch of Disney+ to write an early obituary for Netflix. The service has proven itself resilient enough by now to weather tough competition, changing consumption habits, and more, all while it’s shown over and over again that it can correctly anticipate future challenges like the shift away from DVDs and the need for original programming, to name just a few.

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New Facebook App Pays People To Take Part In Surveys.

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Facebook on Monday introduced a "Viewpoints" app in the US that pays members of the social network for taking part in surveys.

The new market research app will be used to improve the Facebook "family" of offerings including Instagram, WhatsApp, Portal, Oculus and the core online social network, according to product manager Erez Naveh.

The app could blunt criticism that Facebook keeps to itself profits made by taking advantage of data shared on the social network.

"We believe the best way to make products better is to get insights directly from people who use them," Naveh said in an online post.

Points can be accumulated to earn payments, which will be sent to people via PayPal.

People who set up accounts in the Viewpoints app will be invited to take part in programs, the first a well-being survey intended to gather insights that can be used to curb negative effects of social media and enhance its benefits, according to Naveh.

Personal information such as name, age, gender, and country of residence will be gathered while setting up Viewpoints accounts, which are only open to people 18 years of age or older.

"We won't sell your information from this app to third parties," Naveh said.

"We also won't publicly share your Facebook Viewpoints activity on Facebook or on other accounts you've linked without your permission."

Viewpoints is only available to US Facebook members, but the California-based internet giant planned to expand it to more countries next year.

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