Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How much $500,000 XRP Donation to Artificial Intelligence Research will cost tomorrow?


Donation to MIRI

The creator of Ripple and original founder of Mt. Gox, Jed McCaleb, recently made a donation worth roughly $500,000 in XRP to artificial intelligence researchers the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI).

Going on the XRP-USD exchange rate at the time of the donation, McCaleb’s became the largest single contribution in the Institute’s history. Though values have fluctuated and MIRI will not convert the donation into half a million US dollars straight away, it is still a startling amount and could be worth even more if the XRP value rises in future.

Currently, 1 XRP, the currency of the Ripple Network, is worth around $0.02. However, there are experts’ predictions that it will go up in the nearest future. It is not expected to jump as sharp as its twin-brother Bitcoin, since Ripple intends to support steady and well-founded growth of its assets.

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MIRI

The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization focusing on safety issues related to the development of ‘Strong AI’, or smarter-than-human artificial intelligence. Known as the Singularity Institute until January 2013, MIRI has a mission to ensure the creation of such intelligence has a positive impact on humanity.

Among its advisory board are names often associated with future studies, Transhumanism and the technological Singularity: Nick Bostrom, Aubrey de Grey, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Foresight Nanotech Institute co-founder Christine Peterson. Ray Kurzweil was also a director from 2007-10.

Jed McCaleb

Jed McCaleb left his main role at Ripple Labs in July last year, but is still a director there. He is known to have an interest in AI research and development, and the technological Singularity.

He founded the current Mt. Gox in 2009, converting an old exchange for Magic: The Gathering Online trading cards into the world’s first bitcoin-USD exchange in Tokyo. He sold the site to its current owners, Tibanne Ltd., in 2011. McCaleb was also the creator of the eDonkey2000 P2P filesharing network.

Thanks to this history he is sometimes mentioned as possibly one of the real identities behind bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

From Bitcoin to Ripple

First it was Bitcoin. Who could predict that virtual game currency could turn into real investment? There were few early believers, there were few early adopters.

According to Norwegian news outlet NRK, Kristoffer Koch decided -- on a whim -- to invest 150 kroner (about $26) in 5,000 bitcoins in 2009, soon after the Bitcoin network first came into existence. Koch is said to have discovered the virtual currency while writing a thesis on encryption and decided to put down a small investment out of sheer curiosity.

Unaware of just how successful bitcoins would soon become, Koch says he promptly forgot about his digital stash; that is, until a flurry of media coverage about bitcoins caught his attention earlier this year.

Koch reportedly had to scour his memory for the password to the encrypted wallet that held his investment. When he finally figured it out in April, he says he was stunned by what he found. "It said I had 5,000 bitcoins in there. Measuring that in today's rates it's about five million kroner," Koch told NRK, according to a Guardian translation. That's about $850,000.

That’s was in April 2013, and the same investment as of today costs is more than $4 million. In June 2012, Bitcoins were worth $5. By April 2013, they were up to $266. Then they dropped to $70 in April, steadily raised by December 2013 to $1,200, and now above $820.

Virtual money turned real! But we all a bit too late to jump in the carriage. But maybe that is not the case with the new trendy start-up Ripple.

Ripple, a platform that just received funding from Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and others, has created both an alternative to Bitcoin and a distributed currency exchange for Bitcoiners (and others) who aren’t comfortable using only Ripple’s currency, known as XRP.
The Ripple network is a protocol. It’s like HTTP for money. Users, merchants anyone can use it for free without a license.

The Ripple platform serves two purposes: it’s a distributed open-source payment network, and it’s the home of the newly minted XRP currency. As a payment network, Ripple provides free global payments without chargebacks (minus a $0.0001 per transaction network charge, implemented as a security precaution against hackers), the ability to pay in any currency using a distributed currency exchange, and an open protocol that any developer can use.

Participants can exchange dollars, yen, Euros, and even completely made-up currencies, all of which are entered into the system via "gateways." Larsen says: "A UI designer and myself can be a gateway to each other. A gateway can be a friend, neighborhood, a group. Most gateways will be larger. It’s like the way Paypal works--you give them $100, they create a $100 balance."

The only currency that doesn’t need to be entered into the Ripple platform from a gateway is XRP. This is an advantage over Bitcoin: Ripple is its own currency exchange.

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What make me think this scheme has a serious future:
* The Ripple protocol is an open standard that can federate existing payment networks, similar to how Simple Mail Transfer Protocol federated messaging systems in the 1980s.
* Currency exchanges in Ripple are automatically processed at the best available rate with no fees or added margins. 
* Ripple allows users or businesses to transact in different currencies without exposing themselves to undesired foreign currency exchange risk. It allows instant cross-currency payments: you can send one currency (dollars, euros, pounds, etc.) and the recipient receives another (yen, yuan, rupees, etc.).
* Ripple can provide fast transactions (transactions can typically be settled in only a few seconds).
* Ripple's was designed to be counterfeit-proof.
* Ripple makes micropayments cost-effective – even payments less than a penny — opening the Internet to business models that would previously have been impossible. 
* No fear of inflation, since the total amount of Ripple currency XRP remains constant.
* Ripple was developed by the people who gained their experience on virtual currencies and translated their knowledge to the new scheme.
* Ripple got support and funding by several very serious entities.

Here are some disadvantages as well:
* While opening Ripple account is easy and very fast, you will not be able to perform any transactions before your Ripple wallet becomes funded.
* You need a very small amount of at least 20 XRP (at the moment 1 XRP costs a bit more than 2 cents), but getting it may be challenging at first. You may purchase it easy, if you have Bitcoins, or with dollars, but the process is very manual. The getaways for such transactions are very crowded, and it may take significant time and efforts to do so.

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How to start with Ripple:
1. Open your account: https://ripple.com/client/#/login
2. When you first create a Ripple wallet, it will need to be activated before it can be used.  This prevents accounts from being created automatically by computers and used in fraudulent ways. Activating an account involves transferring a minimal number of XRP into the account (this number is currently 20 XRP, though it can change from time to time – see https://ripple.com/wiki/Reserves for details).  Until the account is activated, you will not be able to use it for funding your account with other currencies, sending and receiving, and trading.
3. If you know someone who already has a Ripple account, you can ask your friend to give or lend you the required number of XRP. As said, you can purchase bitcoins and convert them into XRP, which can be used to activate your account. You can participate in one of the Ripple Labs giveaways to get XRP for free.
4. Current giveaway you can get XRP for free is sponsored by ComputingforGood.org. While you donate your idle computing power to scientific research, you will get XRP from Ripple Labs. Anybody with an internet-connected computer or Android device can participate, and unlike mining Bitcoins, does not require super-duper hardware.  Follow the instructions on the site: https://www.computingforgood.org/
5. Install the software, leave it run by itself, and make some Ripples, while giving your unused resources to the just cause, like Cancer Research, Environment, and others.

Other useful links:
1. XRP Talk is holding several giveaways, which will help to start and fund your account. Website: https://xrptalk.org/forum/28-giveaways/
2. SnapSwap.us is giving away 2,000 XRPs when you open up an account and link it to Dwolla! Also, receive 500 XRP with your first deposit of $10.00 or more from your bank account to your Ripple Wallet, and 3 XRP with every subsequent $1.00 deposited, up to 300 XRP per transaction and up to 2,000 XRP total.
3. The OpenCoin.in forum is giving away 1 XRP for every forum post and awarding 100 XRP every week to the member who posts the most that week!
4. Ripple Faucet. Come once a day and enter your Ripple address to get 0.1 to 1 XRP. Not much, but fast and easy. Website: http://ripplegiveaway.com/. Website should be already funded to get into the raffle.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Was your Snapchat account hacked? Check Now!


This is not a happy day for the famous online service Snapchat. Thanks to a gap in the service's security, the phone numbers and usernames for as many as 4.6 million accounts have been downloaded by a Web site calling itself SnapchatDB.info.

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According to the hacker’s statement, people tend to use the same username around the web so you can use this information to find phone number information associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply to figure out the phone numbers of people you wish to get in touch with.

The last two digits of the phone numbers are remaining unexposed in order to minimize spam and abuse. 

The hack was seemingly intended to urge Snapchat to tighten its security measures. The anonymous hackers said they used an exploit created by recent changes to the app, which lets users share photos or short videos that disappear after a few seconds.

"Our motivation behind the release was to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed. It is understandable that tech startups have limited resources but security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does," the hackers said in a statement to technology blog TechCrunch.

The hack appears to be real, affecting at least one member of the TechCrunch editorial team and possibly Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel himself.

To see whether your account is among the compromised, you can use this basic Web site, whipped up by a couple of developers named Robbie Trencheny and Will Smidlein that simply checks the list for your details. Website: http://lookup.gibsonsec.org/lookup

Snapchat claims that the potential damage from such a hack is insignificant, because it would require a "huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code," to match usernames to numbers.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel in November was widely reported to have turned down a $3 billion all-cash takeover offer from Facebook. Do you think now, that he should take the offer?

About Snapchat

Snapchat is a mobile app you can download to your iPhone or Android smartphone, which you can then use to “chat” with friends through photos, videos and captions. You can sort of think of it to be like texting with pictures or videos. One of the most unique things about Snapchat is the “self-destructing” feature for photos a few seconds after photos have been viewed. When you chat with a friend by sending them a photo, the photo is instantly deleted seconds after it’s been opened by the recipient.

The heaviest Snapchat users are teenagers and young adults who submerge themselves in social media and are pretty addicted to their smartphones. Because Snapchat photos self-destruct automatically, a big trend has emerged: sexting via Snapchat. Kids are basically taking provocative photos of themselves and sending to their friends/boyfriends/girlfriends using Snapchat, and they feel more liberal about doing it because they know that those photos get deleted after a few seconds.

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While the Snapchat hackers have remained anonymous, the Syrian Electronic Army claimed credit for hacking the official blog and social network accounts for Microsoft's Web calling service Skype.

A post published Wednesday on the official Skype blog featured the headline, "Hacked by Syrian Electronic Army. Stop Spying!"

The group also posted the contact information of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Corp's retiring chief executive, on its Twitter account along with the message, "You can thank Microsoft for monitoring your accounts/emails using this details. #SEA"

That message was an apparent reference to revelations last year by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, was part of the NSA's program to monitor communications through some of the biggest U.S. Internet companies.

A message posted on Skype's official Twitter feed this week, apparently by the hacking group, read: "Don't use Microsoft emails (hotmail, outlook), they are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments. More details soon. #SEA". Similar messages were posted on Skype's official Facebook pages and on a blog on its website before being taken down in late afternoon.

Skype acknowledged today it had been hit with a “cyber attack” but said no user information was compromised.

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