December 9, 2018 - Episode 515 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, China's phones are looking for a home, Valve has found a new competitor, and the internet is having a change of heart.

Viper Gaming V765 Mechanical RGB Illuminated Gaming Keyboard - Episode 183 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch has a hands-on with a gaming keyboard he is currently reviewing for Tom's Hardware: the Viper Gaming V765 Mechanical Keyboard. This keyboard is designed for gamers, featuring a shorter actuation distance, making it easier to respond quickly while gaming. The switches are an uncommon white, which makes they click, but not require as much pressure to actuate. But it is also good for regular typing, as the keys put less pressure on your fingers, meaning you can type more and longer without fatigue. While he has not published the full interview, Avram is incredibly impressed with the keyboard, especially for the price.

Chinese smartphone companies mired in surging new global concern

Over the past few years, fears over Chinese smartphones manufacturers has grown. In the US, under the previous administration, Congress banned the import of any Huawei phones, later downgraded from an outright ban to a governmental ban. Under the current administration, bans were renewed and expanded to include ZTE, and then reduced once again. Following the US lead, Japan has reportedly banned governmental use of both manufacturers' handsets.

These bans come from reports of Chinese government-backed software included on the phones, with the intent to log keystrokes and data transmissions. These fears were raised after several security firms raised concerns over some software discovered deep inside the Android operating system installed on handsets tested. Handsets are not the only concern, however, as UK telecom company BT has announced they will not use Huawei's hardware for their 5G installation and will, in fact, remove all existing Huawei hardware over the next 2 years.

Adding to Huawei's global troubles is the arrest of CFO and deputy chairman, Meng Wanzhou. She was arrested by Canadian authorities at the request of US law enforcement, with extradition expected quickly. While charges have not been made public, it is likely that it has to do with violations of international sanctions against Iran. The company has reportedly shipped handsets to the country, despite sanctions over human rights concerns.

During the last Olympic games, Samsung had to scramble to deal with the sanctions themselves. While not shipping handsets to Iran regularly, their plan, as a title sponsor, was to give special phones to every Olympian. Unfortunately, sanctions prevented them from following through on the gifting to both Iran and North Korea. Olympians from those nations were required to return the phones after the games. Huawei could certainly learn a lot from the commitment of Samsung in this case.

This will not be the end of troubles for these two manufacturers, however. With 5G installations underway internationally, Huawei stands to lose a lot in their network infrastructure sales. And, if more countries follow the lead of the US and Japan, handset sales will be a problem, as well.

December 2, 2018 - Episode 514 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Apple is looking to the past, the FTC is looking to the future, and Google is looking at a revolt.

2018 Holiday Deals You Can Still Get - Episode 182 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch talks about some of the Holiday deals that are still available. While Black Friday used to be a single day, it expanded into Cyber Monday, and today it encompasses nearly the entire month of December. Some of the deals that are available expire on Cyber Monday, there are still a ton of deals that you can get for yourself or a loved one right now.

Apple is hoping to prevent customers from suing using old ruling

What do Apple and concrete blocks have in common? The Supreme Court has been asked to answer that exact question. In the 1970s, a group of concrete block manufacturers got together to regulate the price they all charged for their product. This guaranteed that the price of the product would be higher than if they competed against one another. The State of Illinois sued, claiming that the inflated costs of blocks would increase the price of construction projects for the state.

The case made it to the US Supreme Court, who ruled that the state could not sue for damages because damages could not be proven. The Court said that it would be impossible for any court to unravel the cost distribution from supplier to sub-contractor, sub-contractor to general contractor, general contractor to state with any meaningful way. As such, they ruled that only the direct customer of the company could sue for damages from anti-trust.

Now, how does this apply to Apple? The company is trying to use this ruling to prevent consumers from suing over anti-trust issues. Specifically, a class-action lawsuit filed in 2011, claims that Apple is using its monopoly position as the exclusive app store provider for iOS to gouge consumers on price. Apple has argued that they do not set the price for the products and provide distribution as a service to app developers, so the app developers are their customer, not the consumer.

While Apple claims that their App Store is a service for developers, and is more like being the owner of a mall rather than a store (despite its name), the Justices did not seem to buy into the argument. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said,

The first sale is from Apple to the customer. It's the customer who pays the 30 percent.

This ruling has the potential to have major repercussions throughout the industry, as legally defining who the customer of an app distribution platform is, could change the way Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and more, treat their consumers. If consumers are not customers, these companies could increase their fee to developers because they can retain a monopoly. If consumers are customers, and the lawsuit can continue, we might see alternate distribution methods appear on Apple devices.

mIQrotech Uses Modern Technology to Prevent Ecological Disasters (PLuGHiTz Live Special Events)

The Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence are two hot topics for 2018, so it is a natural pairing to bring them together. One incredibly interesting industry that has been in need of a technological upgrade is the oil and gas industry, so mIQrotech has brought the power of modern connected technology to oil and gas pipeline management. On the surface, this might sound like a strange market to go into, but in reality, these technologies can help prevent natural disasters and slow-moving ecological events.

These pipelines currently have sensors as part of their infrastructure, but they are not terribly modern. Each current sensor monitors only a single data point and is not able to transmit the data wirelessly. That means that either a person has to go to the sensor to collect the data, or there has to be an entire network of cables that runs along the entirety of the pipeline. Plus, because they are physically tethered, they need access to both the inside and outside of the pipes, giving additional points of failure. In fact, almost 3% of the failures on pipelines leading to leaks come from the sensors themselves.

That's why mIQrotech is bringing modern sensors, which can transmit their data wirelessly, read quickly and monitor more than one data point to the industry. Their goal is to reduce pipeline leaks by knowing the warning signs ahead of time, and predicting the leaks before they happen. This is where the AI comes into play. By analyzing the data collected by all of these sensors, their system is learning what happens before a leak, so that is can be stopped, preventing further damage to the pipeline, surrounding property, and the environment. They project 96% accuracy in predicting an issue before it happens, which is a win for everyone.

mIQrotech is taking reservations now for their platform.

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takeabed Helps You Plan Trips with Local Experts and Friends (PLuGHiTz Live Special Events)

In decades past, the way we planned our travel was very different from today. Rather than going to a website and hoping that the place we are headed has a hotel and excursions that are worth paying for, we would go to an expert on the topic: a travel agent. Losing the travel agent means we lost that expert advice and trusted recommendations on where to go and what to do while there.

A new platform called takeabed is trying to return the expert advice without having to rebuild the infrastructure that was needed to have travel agents all over the country. Taking advantage of the growing gig economy, takeabed is turning your friends into the travel agents. There are a lot of benefits to having your friends help you with your travel plans. Theoretically, your friends know you and the things you enjoy, and therefore are able to recommend experiences from their own past that they believe would be a good fit for you. This takes the expertise of the agent and adds the benefit of personal knowledge.

If you are traveling to an area where none of your friends have experience, you can actually engage a local takeabed agent to get an expert view from an established local expert. Working with your friends or a local expert can significantly reduce your chances of staying in a hotel that is a problem, and can help you avoid places that sound interesting but are actually tourist traps. Instead, you can find those hidden jewels that you might have missed previously.

Obviously agents have a benefit of making a commission on their sales. The better the agent, the more likely people will want to work with them to help plan their trips, so they have an incentive to help you plan a good trip and not just a profitable one for them. The best part of all of this is that booking through takeabed does not cost any more than booking with the major online platforms, so you get the best recommendations and the best prices, all at once.

takeabed is available now for both agents and customers to sign up through their apps and company website.

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Logitech planning to expand their product line again with Plantronics

It was only a few months ago that popular computer accessory manufacturer Logitech announced the purchase of Blue Microphones. This once beloved brand lost some of its brand loyalty after designed Skipper Wise left the company, but has remained popular among YouTubers and game streamers. When paired with Logitech's keyboards, mice, and webcams, the company now has everything it needs to produce a full streaming package.

According to a report from Reuters, Logitech may be looking to expand its offerings with the purchase of Plantronics. Plantronics is best known for their headsets, including wired, Bluetooth, and even gaming. While Logitech makes gaming headsets, it is not really the proc=ducts that they are best known for. They purchased gaming headset manufacturer Astro to help augment their internal offerings. Adding the expertise of Plantronics, in both microphone quality and in noise cancelation, Logitech is poised to make a big play for the growing streaming market against current leader Razer.

If this report is accurate, the purchase will be the largest ever for Logitech, coming in at $2.2 billion. While that price may sound like a lot, it is actually a bit of a steal. Earlier this year, Plantronics purchased commercial phone and teleconferencing manufacturer Polycom for $2 billion. That means that the indirect price of the Plantronics purchase is only $200 million, just about the price they paid for Blue Microphones ($117 million) and Astro ($85 million) together.

Depending on what their intentions truly are with Plantronics, there is the possibility that there are divisions that will need to be spun off, or made to function independently. While it seems that the majority of their purchases have been to strengthen their gaming and streaming prowess, the purchase of Plantronics brings with it a number of commercial products. In addition to Polycom, Plantronics is still the largest manufacturer of phone headsets for call centers and offices. However, when combined with Logitech's own c920 webcams, there could be a strong play for the office, as well.

Wampei Allows All Businesses to Accept Bitcoin as Easily as Cash (PLuGHiTz Live Special Events)

Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Etherium, have become a major topic of conversation, not only among technologists but also among the general population. As the value of Bitcoin skyrocketed, interest in its usage did as well. As the value has dropped, interest has not diminished by much. But, the problem is, few people understand exactly how to take advantage of this new style of virtual currency. If you are a retailer or a restaurant, for example, how can you accept Bitcoin in your establishment? Credit cards are easy enough, with payment processors available a dime a dozen, but what about cryptocurrencies?

Enter Wampei, the non-standard payment processor bringing cryptocurrency to a variety of businesses. Accepting cryptocurrency creates a number of efficiencies. For example, businesses have no need to worry about chargebacks, a massive source of loss for many businesses, because they not only lose the money but also the product, adding insult to injury. Since cryptocurrency works like cash, once a transaction is complete, it is complete - no take backs.

Also, since there are no financial institutions involved, the cost of transactions is far lower. With credit cards, companies can pay upwards of 10% of the transaction as a fee to the payment processor, depending on the processor and the type of card used. That means that products have to sell for a higher price to make up for the loss to the processor. With Wampei, however, they're not really a processor - more of a facilitator. Businesses whose average transaction is under $500, which is probably most, can save up to 80% over accepting credit cards.

With Wampei, you also don't need to have a bank account, which is not the case for credit cards. You can store your company's Bitcoin is an offline, protected wallet and only have enough available online for refunds, similar to having cash in your register. Converting your Bitcoin to standard currency is also fairly easy, as ATMs have begun popping up all over.

For more information on Wampei, or to sign up to begin accepting Bitcoin, check out their website.

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