Bitcoin & Blockchain

The excitement over bitcoin and blockchain is overblown.  Blockchain may be a relatively secure way of storing information about transactions, but it is not cost-free.  The electricity and computing power used to create blockchains is expensive.  If you are tracking something that is very valuable, it may be worthwhile. but otherwise, the expense of creating the blockchain may it unreasonable to use blockchain.

Several sources (Morgan Stanley, CNBC)   say the breakeven point for mining Bitcoin is about %8,000 to $8,600.  Currently, the price of Bitcoin would not cover the cost of mining it in most places in America.  It may still be profitable in some places where electric power is really cheap. Another Bitcoin-friendly site puts the cost at just under $5,000.  Where power is cheaper, the cost is much less; in Venezuela, it is only a little over $500.

Blockchain works by creating codes that are hard to break.  The cost comes from the amount of time and computing power needed to break the code and add a transaction as a link in the blockchain.  Presumably, a blockchain could make the code easier to solve, thus requiring less computing power and energy, but then the blockchain would be less secure.  The current Bitcoin-blockchain formula sets an upper limit of 21 million Bitcoins.  Thus, using Bitcoins as currency would be like using gold, or any other item with a finite or limited supply.  The money supply could not keep up with increased production and economic activity, creating deflation.  This was one of the main reason the US dropped the gold standard.

The blockchain concept is not necessarily linked to Bitcoin.  For example, the Litecoin network uses a blockchain formula that requires only 2.5 minutes to create a new block, versus Bitcoin’s 10 minutes.  Litecoin can accommodate up to 84 million coins, versus Bitcoin’s 21 million.

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Apple’s Lack of Innovation

Apple’s new hardware and software is less than overwhelming for the iPhone and iPad, as well as the Mac.  Apple hardware is still good, but the difference between Apple and other brands is no longer as great as it used to be.  Perhaps the most glaring is the failure to build a Mac with a real touchscreen.  My wife, who uses her iPhone and iPad all the time, has difficulty using the mouse pad on my Mac when I try to show her something on it.  Apple should make a Mac that has a touchscreen that works just like an iPad and that will run iOS apps made for the iPhone and iPad.  From advertising, it looks like the Microsoft Surface has beaten Apple in this race, although I have never used a Surface.  I’m not sure exactly what features it has, but has certainly ended the perception that Apple is on the leading edge of technology.

Apple hardware is still among the best, but it is not without difficulties.  Highlighted is the inability to easily replace batteries or upgrade memory.  The iPhone is the most obvious, because weak older batteries have prevented older iPhones from running new software well.  Apple’s decision to slow down older iPhones certainly points to Apple shortcomings, whether in hardware, and in sales techniques, since it looks like Apple is forcing users to buy new phones when the phones worked perfectly well with the old software.

Apple has not had any new, exciting features to demonstrate either in hardware or software for the last few years.  Amazon’s Kindle makes Apple’s iBooks look bad as both hardware and software.  It’s hard to find iBooks, and they play on very few devices.  Apparently Apple thinks the people who use their devices are too stupid to read, and only listen to music.  Using facial recognition as a password has turned out to be interesting, but not a game changing development.  The Mac has been a neglected stepchild.  The iPhone is Apple’s bread and butter, but it hasn’t changed that much since it was first introduced.  It’s smarter and more powerful, but the voice features still don’t work well; it’s a better tablet than a phone.  I don’t think that adding emojis and cartoons has made the iPhone more productive, although it has made it more of a toy.

Basically, Apple has become the new Western Electric that builds sturdy, reliable, unimaginative hardware, like the phones that Western Electric built for the old Ma Bell AT&T.  Without Steve Jobs, Apple is just another phone company.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cloud and Mainframes

Yesterday IBM stock was up, apparently because of the success of a new mainframe it has introduced and because of its success in the computer cloud.  To some extent this illustrates how computer technology has fluctuated between centralized computing and stand-alone computing.  

First we had mainframe computers with dumb terminals connected to it by wires.  Then PCs came along, and everybody worked on his own computer at his own desk.  Then PCs began to be networked, so that they could talk to each other and to central database computers.  They could operate as stand-alone computers, or as dumb terminals connected to a mainframe.  Then the PCs shrank down to telephones, which had moderate computing power, but little storage for data nor enough display for complicated documents or data.  The telephones then began to connect to data in the cloud.  The cloud may be a warehouse full of servers, but it is still centralized computing, appearing much like the old mainframe with dumb terminals attached.  If you want to do any meaningful data processing on your phone, you have to connect to some centralized computing facility.  A distributed storage system like blockchain breaks up the central storage facility, but your phone is still pretty useless unless it is connected to some external source of data.  So, it’s not surprising that we are coming full circle back to the old IBM mainframe.  

A lot of the phone’s computer power is spent on internal processing of graphics or artificial intelligence functions, like Siri.  Despite having more computing power than the capsule that went to the moon, phones are still dependent on external computing power, mainly in cloud server farms.  

Windows 10 Mail Problem Fixed for Add New Account

Windows 10 Mail app began to malfunction contiurally.  It repeatedly gave me errors when trying to check my Hotmail account, although it worked fine for Gmail.  When I tried to repair the account, it said the repair was successful, but then gave the same error when I tried to check the account.  I tried to delete and reinstall the  Hotmail account, but when I did, the Mail add new account only produced a blank window.  There was no account to choose.  I sued several internet suggestions to remove the Mail app and reinstall it, but none worked until I tried this one:

https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/3175-reinstall-re-register-apps-windows-10-a.html

I used option 3 to reinstall and re-register all Windows apps for all accounts. This worked, and Mail is working again.  Thank you.

Gadgets

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I am disappointed that Microsoft Windows has dropped gadgets.  For a while in some version of Windows Microsoft offered gadgets.  Then they dropped them when Windows 8 came out.  Then someone offered gadgets that would run on Windows 8.  The 8gadgetpack was very nice; it looked good, worked well, and had the functions I was interested in.  As new versions of Windows 10 came out, they often disabled the gadgets, saying they were a security threat.  More recently there were reports that Russian hackers were targeting Microsoft Windows.  So, I decided to remove the 8gadgetpack, but I looked for a replacement.

The main replacement I have found is rainmeter.  There are many “skins” available for rainmeter that provide many of the same functions as the 8gadget pack.  My question is, however, whether rainmeter opens the same security holes for hackers that the 8gadgetpack does? From discussions on the Internet, it looks like some server farms use rainmeter; so, maybe it does not have the same vulnerabilities.

While working with rainmeter, I discovered a related program, xwidgets, that appears to work with rainmeter, but offers more interesting graphics and functions.  My favorite is “Old Time Widget,” which features a pocket watch much like my grandfather’s watch that I still have.  It also provides the functions I like to see how my computer is doing.  I hope it hasn’t opened a gigantic hole for hackers.

iTunes Update Destroys Driver

I was going to update an iPhone, and I got a notice that iTunes needed to be updated.  iTunes displayed a connection to the iPhone.  After I downloaded and installed the new version of iTunes, it no longer recognized the iPhone.  It would only connect to the the Apple Store.  This is not an improvement.  Apple messed up my evening.

This operation restored the driver, but then iTunes said it wanted to update again.  Crazy!

Connect your idevice to computer the go to device manager, expand other devices, you device should be listed there, right-click it the select update driver, click on search my computer for drivers, then browse to C/Program files/Common files/Apple/Mobile Device support/drivers click on Ok…..

From

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5803142?tstart=0

There is lots of bad advice on the web about how to fix this problem.  At least those fixes didn’t work for my problem.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update Kills WiFi

The Windows 10 anniversary update appeared to kill my wifi network.  I tried many suggestions which I found on the Internet, but none worked until I tried this one to reset the network adapter.   After you run it, you have to log into your wifi network again; so, you need your password for the wifi connection.

 

How to use ‘Network Reset’ to fix any Wi-Fi issue on Windows 10

Missing Apple USB Driver

None of my Apple devices would connect to iTunes on my Windows PC.  Apple help on the PC and the official Apple help sites on the web were also of no use.  This site, however, had the solution to my problem, which was to install the Apple USB driver.

http://www.syncios.com/fix-itunes-not-recognize-iphone-ipad.html

As it suggested, my Apple device was improperly located under Mobile Devices in the Windows Device Manager. It should be been under the USB list. I followed the instructions and it worked.

Thank you.

I did later find it in an Apple discussion here

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4066236

 

WordPress and Chrome

Sometimes Chrome will interfere with administering a WordPress blog. As an extra level of protection, WordPress sometimes adds a login that prevents machines from logging in. Before it lets you enter your real user ID and password, it will present a login screen and text that tells you what to fill in. Usually the login is just random letters and numbers, and the password is often expressed as the total of a sum of two numbers, so that the actual password number does not appear in the text.

Chrome does not display the page with the text and login screen. It simply displays a message saying that your login is not private. One solution to this is to login with another browser, like Firefox, with displays the page of additional security. Write down the ID and password, and you may be able to use it to log in via Chrome, although that pages does not appear. You enter the WordPress generated info on the first screen, and if you are lucky Chrome will then take you to real login screen.

Windows HomeGroup

The HomeGroup networking program in Windows 10 needs some work. It is a good idea which makes networking home computers much easier that networking them the old fashioned way. However, it looks like HomeGroup runs into trouble when the original PC on which it was set up leaves the network, and nobody knows the old password.

When you try to start up a HomeGroup connection or add a new PC to the HomeGroup, the program says that there is a group that you can join, but then it says the link fails. If you try to leave the old network and create a new one, you can’t.

There are a number of suggestions about how to resolve this problem in chatrooms and on websites offering advice on Windows. Usually you can get HomeGroup working again, but not easily.

One approach that seems to work sometimes, but not always, is to turn off all the computers on the network except one. Tell it to leave the HomeGroup, and then try to create a new HomeGroup. The trouble that often occurs is that it won’t let you create a new group; it says you have to join the old group. If you start with a brand new computer that has never been on the network, the new HomeGroup will probably work. You can then get the password that the new computer uses for the group and then use it to log in the older computers.

Microsoft needs to work on this problem. I suppose they want to force you to have only one HomeGroup on a network, but they should make it possible to create a new one to replace the old one, if the old one is not working.