Congress Explores Blockchain Energy Usage From Mining

On January 20, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee of the U.S. Congress House Energy and Commerce Committee discussed blockchain energy usage and other concepts related to mining and consensus.

Representatives then took to the floor with statements and questions. A few used their time for partisan attacks and political grandstanding, yet most made an honest effort to ask questions that either tackled the energy-related issues at the core of the hearing or sought broader context on the uses and potential applications of blockchain technology.

Federal Reserve Releases Paper on Digital Dollar, Seeks Public Comment

The Federal Reserve has released a 40-page paper [PDF] on its study of a digital dollar. It seeks public comment as it takes no position at this time.

Instead, it provides an exhaustive look at benefits such as speeding up the electronic payments system at a time when financial transactions around the world already are highly digitized. Some of the downside issues the report discusses are financial stability risks and privacy protection while guarding against fraud and other illegal issues.

Peloton Pauses Production of Bikes, Treadmills Over Decreasing Demand

Peloton is pausing production of its bikes and treadmills in February-March, according to internal documents obtained by CNBC.

Peloton has essentially guessed wrong about how many people would be buying its products, after so much demand was pulled forward during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s now left with thousands of cycles and treadmills sitting in warehouses or on cargo ships, and it needs to reset its inventory levels.

Twitter NFT Profile Photos Roll Out to iOS Subscribers

Twitter NFT profile photos are rolling out to members of the Twitter Blue subscription in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

At launch, Coinbase Wallet, Rainbow, MetaMask, Ledger Live, Argent, and Trust Wallet are supported. After authenticating, you’ll select the NFT you want to showcase. Twitter says that, currently, JPEG and PNG NFTs minted on the Ethereum (ERC-721 or ERC-1155 tokens) can be used as NFT Profile Pictures.

Court Rules Blocking Ads is Not Copyright Infringement

Publisher Axel Springer claimed that blocking ads is copyright infringement, but a German court disagreed.

The Court notes that ruling otherwise would represent a “disproportionate encroachment” on users’ freedoms to make various choices, including not to load images to save bandwidth, to deactivate Javascript, or block pop-ups or tracking elements. It would also render translation tools and aids for visually impaired people as copyright infringing.

Instagram Subscriptions New Way to Support Your Favorite Users

Instagram Subscriptions, launching on Wednesday, is a way for people to support their favorite profiles. TechCrunch reports:

Through the Subscriptions product, creators can choose their own price point for access to their exclusive content. There are eight different price points to choose from, starting at $0.99 per to month to as much as $99.99 per month, depending on how much a creator believes their content is worth. Most creators will likely start towards the bottom of that range, at price points like $0.99, $1.99, $2.99, $4.99, or maybe even $9.99 per month, before experimenting with higher pricing like $19.99, $49.99, or $99.99 per month.

'Cash App' From Block Now Supports Bitcoin Lightning Network

Block, formerly known as Square, has added support for Bitcoin’s Lightning Network upgrade. This lets users send bitcoin to anyone around the world within seconds.

The Lightning integration is made possible by the Lightning Development Kit created by Spiral, which is funded by Block. Cash App customers will also be able to send bitcoin to any compatible wallet that accepts Lightning Network payments, without being charged fees.

NSO Targets: A List of People Infected With Pegasus Spyware

Omer Benjakob has put together a helpful list of NSO targets that includes every individual believed to have been infected with the group’s Pegasus spyware.

So far, targets have been found across the world: from India and Uganda to Mexico and the West Bank, with high-profile victims including U.S. officials and a New York Times journalist. Now, for the first time, Haaretz has assembled a list of confirmed cases involving Pegasus spyware.

ProtonMail Now Blocks Tracking Pixels and Hides Your IP address

ProtonMail now blocks tracking pixels and hides your IP address, the company announced on Wednesday. The web app is mentioned so these features may not be present in the mobile apps.

By default, ProtonMail on the web now protects your privacy by: Blocking tracking pixels commonly found in newsletters and promotional emails, preventing senders from spying on your mail. Hiding your IP address from third parties so your location remains private.

Update: A ProtonMail spokesperson confirmed that this is indeed only for the web app, and expanding it to the mobile apps is part of development plans.

Twitter Misinformation Reporting Feature Expands to More Countries

Twitter misinformation reporting is a feature the company announced in August 2021. Now it’s rolling the tool out to Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines, reports TechCrunch.

The ability to flag tweets as misinformation allows users to more quickly and directly flag content that may not fit into existing rules, as well. But the reports themselves are tied into Twitter’s existing enforcement flow, where a combination of human review and moderation is used to determine if a punitive action should take place.

'Wordle!' Developer Sells App Proceeds to Charity

The game Wordle has taken the internet by storm recently. But, there’s a similarly-named app named Wordle! and the developer speaks.

Cravotta chalks the sudden increase up to “major publications” failing to specify “that this was an ‘internet browser’ only game, so naturally people went to the App Store to search Wordle.” Even without that, though, the sudden spate of hard-to-parse, link-free tweets promoting the browser game probably got plenty of people assuming it was a reference to a mobile app.

Hot Cakes Selling Like Microsoft's Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X

Sales of the Series X and S of the Xbox variety have been wildly popular, a report says recently.

The boss of Xbox discussed the commercial performance of the two consoles on a recent New York Times podcast. The Xbox Series X and S were released 14 months ago on November 10, 2020, and Spencer says that “at this point, we’ve sold more of this generation of Xboxes, which is Xbox Series X and S, than we had any previous version of Xboxes.”

'TinyML' Wants to Bring Machine Learning to Microcontroller Chips

TinyML is a joint project between IBM and MIT. It’s a machine learning project capable of running and low-memory and low-power microcontrollers.

[Microcontrollers] have a small CPU, are limited to a few hundred kilobytes of low-power memory (SRAM) and a few megabytes of storage, and don’t have any networking gear. They mostly don’t have a mains electricity source and must run on cell and coin batteries for years. Therefore, fitting deep learning models on MCUs can open the way for many applications.

Cloud Platform 'Cryptee' Now Warns You of Insecure URLs

The team behind Cryptee, an end-to-end encrypted platform for documents and photos, announced new features for 2022. One in particular caught my eye.

We’ve improved our URL boxes on mobile. Cryptee can now intelligently detect and warn you if your links are insecure. (i.e. using “http” instead of “https”) All insecure links are automatically highlighted yellow, and all secure links are highlighted green.

FTC Oculus Probe Examines Meta for Potential Anticompetitive Practices

Bloomberg has a report (paywalled link) about an FTC Oculus probe launched recently along with multiple states. A paywall-free summary can be found in the link below.

The agency is seeking to explore how Meta may be using market power in the VR space to stifle competition – in particular whether the Oculus app store might be discriminating against third parties selling apps that compete with Meta’s software. The inquiry also includes a probe into sales practices and pricing for the Quest 2 headset, at $299 notably less expensive than many rival models, according to the report.

Netflix Price in 2022 Rises For Customers in US, Canada

Netflix price in 2022 has risen for customers in the U.S and Canada, depending on the plan. This is the first price increase since October 2020.

The standard plan, which allows for two simultaneous streams, now costs $15.49 per month, up from $13.99, in the United States. The U.S. price of Netflix’s premium plan, which enables four streams at a time and streaming in ultra HD, was increased by $2 to $19.99 per month.

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Mozilla 'Pixel Hunt 'Study Aims to Track Facebook Tracking You

Mozilla is launching a study called Facebook Pixel Hunt. The goal is to track Facebook tracking around the web.

According to its own privacy policy, Facebook may collect information about you across the web even if you don’t have a Facebook account. One way Facebook performs this tracking is through a network of “pixels” that may be installed on many of the sites you visit. By joining this study, you will help Rally and The Markup investigate and report on where Facebook is tracking you and what kind of information they are collecting.

New Mexico School District Employee Sentenced For Part in Scheme Stealing Students' iPods

A school district employee in New Mexico named Kristy Stock has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for being part of a scheme looking to steal and resell over 3,000 iPods. Engadget reported the devices were meant to go to Native American students.

While overseeing the program, Stock was supposed to use federal grant money to buy iPods to distribute to students. However, thanks to help from other conspirators including her friend James Bender and Saurabh Chawla, the group ended up shipping the stolen iPods to Maryland where they were listed on eBay before being sold at a “substantial” markup. Due to his own account having previously been suspended due to security concerns, Chawla was forced to use Bender’s eBay account to list the stolen devices for auction, with Bender serving as an intermediary. Later, between 2015 and 2018, Stock communicated directly with Chawla, providing info on the make, model, color and quantity of devices before agreeing on a price and putting them up for auction.

New Venmo Gift Wrapping Feature Can Make Your Payments Fancy

Venmo gift wrapping is a new feature that adds eight new designs for sending and receiving payments.

Customers can send a gift-wrapped payment in just a few simple steps, at no additional cost. Simply tap the “Pay or Request” button on the home screen and add the recipient, payment note and payment amount. Customers can then tap the gift-wrap icon (next to the “Pay” button) and choose the gift-wrap they’d like to send along with their payment, where they will be able to preview the animation before confirming and sending the payment.

What is Web3? Explaining the Technology Stack in This New Ecosystem

A recent report from Coinbase examines the web3 stack, or the various protocols and blockchain technologies that make up the ecosystem.

Where a third party like Facebook owns your identity and data in Web2, your identity in Web3 can move fluidly between platforms without your data being captured and monetized by service providers. While Web2 apps are centrally controlled, tokens in Web3 grant users the right to help govern the services they use, representing a form of ownership in the platforms themselves.

Latitude Studio Launches 'Voyage' Platform for AI Games

Latitude, the studio behind A.I. Dungeon, is launching Voyager. This is a platform for other AI games and provides creation tools.

Voyage, which will launch as a subscription-based service, looks to deliver on that curiosity further with a suite of new games. In Medieval Problems, players take the role of a king who has to solve problems in his kingdom, much like the Reigns series. Rather than choosing between a few options, players will type anything they want and the computer will generate a unique response.

Coinbase Plans Four Weeks of Employee Relaxation in 2022

This year Coinbase plans to give employees four weeks of recharge time after the intensity of the crypto boom in 2021.

We know this approach wouldn’t work for every company, and we also know Coinbase isn’t for everyone. But if you want to work at the cutting edge of crypto and tech — and if you’re excited about pushing your skills to the limit while knowing you’ll have regular opportunities to recharge — there’s no better place to be.

Here's How The GitHub Mobile Team Ships Releases With Automation

The GitHub Mobile team published a report on Wednesday sharing how they ship releases using automation.

Shipping a mobile app is not an easy task. Before a build goes out to our users’ hands, we must make sure the end result is properly built, all written tests are passed, and any critical issues are captured by testing. Also, we compose release notes with changes since our last update. All of these tasks can be quite time-consuming.

What's a 'Wordle?' Here's the Story of This Popular Game

If you’ve been wondering what a “wordle” is as I have, fear no more. The New York Times tells its story.

It’s been a meteoric rise for the once-a-day game, which invites players to guess a five-letter word in a similar manner as the guess-the-color game Mastermind. After guessing a five-letter word, the game tells you whether any of your letters are in the secret word and whether they are in the correct place. You have six tries to get it right.

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