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Bitcoin recovers above $4,000 after dropping to over one-year low

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What a difference a year can make. Last year at this time, bitcoin was in the middle of a 217-percent rally that saw its value peak in December near $20,000.

Now the largest cryptocurrency is struggling to stay above $4,000 – losing almost 28 percent in value this week and briefly hitting its lowest level since September 2007 at $3,477.58 in early Sunday trading, according to data from CoinDesk.

It bounced back to $4,029.42 in evening trading, up 5.4 percent from its 24-hour open. Other cryptocurrencies finally entered positive territory in late trading as well. Ethereum was up 3.7 percent from its 24-hour open, while Litecoin gained 7.9 percent. XRP edged up just under 1 percent, according to CoinDesk.

This week’s sell-off marked the largest one-week decline since April 2013 when bitcoin lost over 44 percent of its value, according to CoinDesk.

The cryptocurrency’s most recent troubles began in mid-November, when it dropped below $6,000. That was a turnaround from its relatively steady October when U.S. stocks got hammered.

Bitcoin enthusiasm has waned dramatically since the last holiday season. The cryptocurrency jumped from $6,088.35 in mid-November 2017 to $19,326.49 on Dec. 17, 2017. Year to date in 2018, bitcoin has declined almost 70 percent.

Cryptocurrencies in general are facing increased regulatory scrutiny, putting pressure on their values.

In mid-November, the Securities and Exchange Commission handed down its first civil penalties against a cryptocurrency company. Both CarrierEQ, which does business as Airfox, and Paragon Coin settled with the agency for registration violations as part of a wider SEC crackdown on fraud and abuse in the industry.

Citing three unnamed sources, Bloomberg News also reported last week that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating if market manipulation caused bitcoin’s 2017 rally.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/11/25/bitcoins-and-other-cryptocurrencies-get-hammered-post-thanksgiving/2108033002/

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Spotify Wrapped will tell you which songs and artists you loved the most in 2018

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If you’re like me, you spend hours upon hours listening to Spotify each and every single week. Sure, there are competitors out there from the likes of Apple and Google, but Spotify seems to have simply nailed the overall user experience in a way that others still haven’t been able to match.

With 2019 right around the corner, Spotify, as it did last year, updated its Spotify Wrapped website which provides subscribers with an interesting and comprehensive snapshot of their music listening habits over the past year. So if you’re at all curious about how many hours you’ve spent listening to Spotify or which songs you listened to the most over the past few months, SpotifyUnwrapped is there to help you out.

Once you navigate over to the website, one of the first things you’ll see is how many hours you spent listening to Spotify over the last year. As for me, I apparently spent 8,031 minutes listening to music this year. It may seem like quite a bit, but some die hard music lovers out there have spent in excess of 80,000 minutes on the streaming site over the past few months.

Beyond that, Spotify Unwrapped will also tell you which artists you listened to the most, which songs you had in heavy rotation, and which genre you tend to gravitate towards to the most. Perhaps the coolest thing, though, is that Spotify gives users an option to check out a Tastebreakers playlist which is described as follows:

Start 2019 by broadening your horizons. We’ve made you a playlist of songs from genres and artists you don’t normally explore – and we think you’ll like it.

I was skeptical at first, but the Tastebreakers playlist Spotify’s algorithm curated just for me was surprisingly great. It’s definitely worth a shot if you’re looking for some new artists and genres to enjoy.

Source: https://bgr.com/2018/12/06/spotify-wrapped-2018-stats-top-songs-artists/

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N.Y. Today: Why Police Drones Are Coming

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Drones, but not for ‘warrantless surveillance’

What they’ll use them for: The New York Police Department announced on Tuesday that officers will use 14 drones to map crime scenes, watch over large events and aid search-and-rescue operations. But they won’t be used for “warrantless surveillance.”

What officials won’t say: The Times reports that police officials rejected recommendations that would have required them to disclose regularly how often they were using drones and why.

What officials will say: The police will voluntarily report “aggregate data” regarding the drone program, said Devora Kaye, a department spokeswoman.
What critics say: It’s unclear whether the police have the legal authority to fly the drones or whether they need authorization from the City Council.

Flying drones in the city could be considered reckless endangerment, and current laws may not carve out an exception for law enforcement.

Why it matters: “Like any tool, drones can be used for good or for less-than-honorable purposes,” said Jim McKinley, who edits criminal justice stories for The Times’s Metro Desk.
The drones could reach remote crime scenes, getting close to hostages or examining bombs — but “they could also be used to peer into people’s windows.”

Critics, he said, want the government “to keep an eye on the people keeping an eye on us.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/nyregion/newyorktoday/new-york-news-police-drones-strand-bookstore.html

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Project Fi is now Google Fi, and it will work with iPhones and most Android devices

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Three years after it first launched, Google is making its cell service a little more official today. Project Fi is graduating into something a little more ambitious and getting a new name in the process: Google Fi. But the bigger news is that it’s also going to support more phones — a lot of phones — including the iPhone and “the majority of Android devices.”

This isn’t the first time that Fi has worked with Apple devices; you could get a data-only SIM for iPads as secondary devices before. And technically, a Fi SIM has always worked in an iPhone, provided you adjusted the data settings on the phone. But now Google is supporting iPhones directly for new customers, though it says that the support is in beta and requires “a few extra steps to get set up.” There will be a new Google Fi iOS app to help ease the process along.

More specifically, you’l find that Visual Voicemail won’t work anymore, but iMessage will. iOS won’t pull the right MMS and data connections automatically, but it does work with just a few copy-and-pastes into settings.

For Android phones, setup should be a lot more straightforward. Though by going with Fi instead of a more traditional carrier, you should be aware that all customer support happens online or over the phone. In my experience, that hasn’t been a big issue, but sometimes it is nice to have a store to walk into to get in-person help.

Google Fi is an MVNO, which stands for “mobile virtual network operator.” That means that your actual service comes from larger carriers; Fi uses T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular as its backbone. However, only a few phones (like the Pixels and others that Google sells) are able to dynamically switch between those carriers’ networks, and that doesn’t change today. Like before, phones that aren’t explicitly “designed for Fi” are stuck on T-Mobile’s network. Here’s how Google Fi will work with iPhones, for example.

Whatever network you’re technically on, Google allows people with phones running Android 9 Pie to route their data through its own VPN. However, Google Fi still has some catching up to do with other carriers when it comes to other features, including support for the RCS Universal Profile for texting and number sharing for things like LTE smartwatches.

But the real difference with Fi is the pricing model: it’s much simpler than what most other networks offer. It’s $20 for a phone line and $10 per gig of data you use — capped at $60 under a newer program it calls “Bill Protection.” The reason I like it is that you can get a data-only SIM, which costs no additional money per month beyond the data you use it on it. I think it’s one of the best deals in wireless. But depending on your data habits, the same might not be true for you.

Until now, I’ve had a shadow of a doubt about Google’s commitment to the Project Fi service. It’s not just that it was dubbed a “project,” but also that Google has, shall we say, a mixed record when it comes to providing communication services. Fi grew out of Google Voice in some ways, a service that has had sporadic stretches of stagnated support. And that’s to say nothing of Google Fiber, the broadband service that started with an aggressive rollout before faltering.

The expanded support helps to alleviate some of those concerns. And perhaps in another sign to show that it’s serious, Google is looking to juice sign-ups and sales with a deal that essentially pays for your phone, though it’s only going to be offered today, November 28th. It applies to both new subscribers and current customers:

For any phone you purchase [from Google Fi], you’ll receive the same value back in your choice of travel gift cards, which you can spend on flights with Delta and Southwest or lodging with Airbnb and hotels.com. Alternatively, if you’d rather set up Google Fi on your current phone, you’ll earn $200 of Fi service credit when you sign up today.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/28/18115264/google-fi-iphone-android-project-official

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