Money and Technology

Saving, investing and making money with technology

OFM Expands Into Everyday Furniture With New Essentials Line

N.C. manufacturer to unveil over 100 different desks, chairs and tables over next two years

Holly Springs, N.C. – OFM, one of the nation’s leading office and school furniture manufacturers and distributors, announced today that it has officially launched its new Essentials by OFM line, dramatically expanding its everyday furniture with over 100 new desks, chairs, and tables, all being introduced over a two-year span.

“OFM has a built a great reputation, not just for the quality of our furniture, but also for our customer service,” said Blake Zalcberg, president of OFM. “Now everyone can enjoy what we have to offer, whether you’re searching for the perfect table for your living room or the right desk for your dorm room.”

The new Essentials by OFM line includes many of the products end-users need on an everyday basis. Currently, OFM already has 50 new models in stock including leather seating, mesh seating, folding tables and chair mats, and is expanding this list by the end of Q2 2017 into over 100 new items. The company just released a “racing style” leather gaming chair and a leather heated “Shiatsu” massage chair.   

Zalcberg says he sees how on a daily basis many of OFM’s dealers are going up against the largest companies and are constantly looking for new solutions that allow them to not only compete, but to win, and win while driving profits. This is one of the reasons Zalcberg says they introduced Essentials by OFM.

Started in 1995, OFM has long focused on furniture for the office and educational setting, offering its products through national retailers, mail-order catalogs and online dealers. The family-run company saw a market opportunity to expand into more consumer-oriented products with fast shipping and dependable customer service.

“We believe our dealers and customers will find this new line to be complementary to the OFM core product, “added Zalcberg. “A lot of companies selling this kind of furniture focus just on the product and we think that people are going to love our customer service as much as they love our chairs, desks and tables, regardless of their budget.”

About OFM
OFM is a family-run office and school furniture manufacturer and distributor headquartered in North Carolina with distribution centers there and in California, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. For more than twenty years, it has provided affordable, quality furniture through a nationwide dealer network, offering the latest concepts and designs to businesses, government, health care and educational facilities. Working with manufacturers in Mexico, Taiwan and China, OFM designs furniture to meet the highest industry standards which are sold through a variety of retailers, mail-order catalogs, and online dealers including Staples, Wayfair, Overstock, and National Business Furniture.                               

To learn more about OFM, visit: http://www.ofminec.com.

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Power Efficient Home Offices Can Save Money And Polar Bears

Does your father still use that fancy fishing rod you got him last spring? Did your significant other like the new watch, and that witty custom engraving? Do you enjoy working on your new 4K monitor, sharp enough to slice through a medium rare steak?

These might be the perks and gifts you could have afforded, had you paid more attention to power efficiency in your home offices. While it’s true that Toptal’s goal is to screen and select the top 3% of freelance software engineers, it’s also true that many remote developers overlook being power efficient. Also, we don’t exactly have a corporate headquarters with fancy plaques, reserved parking, and corner offices for top brass.

Most of us work from home, or from our own offices – most of us pay our own bills.

Of course, most freelancers didn’t start off that way. About 15 years ago, I was sweating and freezing at the same time as I was overseeing a green screen shoot in a cramped studio. There were a couple of dozen kilowatts worth of lighting and other equipment and the AC was on full blast. But it wasn’t enough, because the studio was like a sauna from the waist up and a fridge from the waist down. The AC couldn’t keep up and all the cold air just sank to the floor in seconds. It went on for days, and my employers weren’t too happy to see the damage at the end of the month. Our makeup artist almost ran out of supplies too.

But I wasn’t paying the electric bill, the company was.

Granted, this is a drastic example and most remote workers don’t burn hundreds of kilowatts of power per week, but saving a few dozen watts every hour can make a big difference at the end of the year. So, if you want to save a few hundred dollars or more and use them to treat your loved ones or yourself to something nice (rather than burning dead dinosaurs for fuel), keep reading.

Obvious Home Office Power Efficiency Tips

Let’s start with some more or less obvious tips. I won’t waste much of your time with the basics. Anyone can Google “home office power saving” and come up with loads of different guides, but I’ll save you the trouble and list the most important points:

  • Use power efficient lighting
  • Set your thermostat correctly (if available)
  • Use air conditioning unit for heating when possible
  • Check your insulation
  • Don’t forget to turn off lights and hardware
  • Select the right hardware and set it up for efficiency
  • Use good power strips, or smart sockets

Let’s take a closer look at these points, with an emphasis on the needs of the average Toptaler.

Power Efficient Home Office Lighting

Lighting is a good place to start. New bulbs are easy to retrofit, and high quality LED lighting is available around the world and on many e-commerce sites with worldwide shipping.

Traditional incandescent lighting is dead, and has been replaced by CCFL and LED lighting. Halogens are still used, but they can’t keep up with LEDs in terms of efficiency. Basically, you should focus on LED bulbs or modern fluorescent tubes. Both are available in a range of different color temperatures, so if you’re a “cool white” person like myself you should have no trouble finding something to match your needs – just make sure to check the Kevin temperature rating and find the right one.

power efficient home offices

Since we cater to a tech savvy audience, we should also mention connected LED RGB bulbs. Philips pioneered the concept a few years ago with its Hue LED lighting range , and cheaper alternatives are starting to show up as well. These solutions allow you to change the color temperature and intensity with just a few taps on your mobile, so they are ideal for people whose living room doubles as their office. They allow you to work under daylight or cool white light, then switch to low intensity warm light when you unwind and get in the sofa to watch TV.

Heating and Cooling Your Home Offices

If you happen to have a big home, this may be a big item on your power efficiency list. In case you are used to heading out to the office and coming back home 10 hours later, you’ve probably set your heating and air conditioning accordingly. But what happens when you start working from home?

If you have central aircon and heating, the most obvious approach would be to keep everything on because you don’t head out for work anymore – but this may prove very expensive in the long run. If you live in a studio apartment, you don’t have much choice, but if you’re in a house you do.

While you are technically still at home, you don’t have to heat or cool every single room just because you’re working in your home office. You need to focus on one part of your home and that’s it – don’t bother with the rest and treat it as if you were out. Of course, if you have kids or share your home with other people, this is not an option.

You can try to maximize heating efficiency by double-checking insulation in your home office, maybe even investing a small extra compared to the rest of your home, because that’s where you will be spending most of your time. You can also consider using small space heaters and portable fans to cut costs when it’s not necessary to heat or cool your whole home. Depending on the local climate, air conditioning can also be a significant expense during the summer. If you install a standalone AC unit in your home office, you can use it to efficiently cool down just one room without wasting power on the rest of your home. Modern inverter air conditioners deliver exceptional efficiency, and in addition to cooling they are also the most efficient way of heating your office, provided the temperature difference isn’t too big (this really depends on your location).

Also, if you happen to live in a warm climate and use air conditioning several months a year, you also need to take into account heat generated by all hardware in your office and heat generated by yourself. I am not going to quote Morpheus from The Matrix, because his BTU figures were a bit off and we’re looking for watts, but the average person dissipates more than 100W of heat an hour while sitting. Depending on what you do, your computer and monitor could use 100W to 500W, inefficient lighting 50W or more, and so on.

In a warm climate, all this extra heat has to be removed via ventilation or air conditioning. You will pay for each wasted watt.

save money with power efficient offices

This wouldn’t be the Toptal blog if we didn’t mention some geekier alternatives as well, so we will mention smart tech designed to shave off a few pennies from your energy bill. The Nest thermostat is probably the best known solution out there. Home automation is the next big thing, and we will undoubtedly see a lot more connected thermostats and all sorts of clever smart home appliances that will save more energy.

Nest claims its thermostat will pay for itself in about two years, assuming it’s installed in an average American home with a programmable thermostat. In any case, Nest is just a sign of things to come. While smart technology can’t make up for efficient heating systems and good insulation, in some cases it could cut your heating bill by a few percent (and we are talking about relatively big bills).

Of course, the easiest way to keep heating costs down is to drop the temperature, but I am not going to advocate that you freeze just to save a few bucks. Setting a sedentary reminder on a smart device is a good alternative, plus it’s good for your health. Instead of sitting behind your desk for 2-3 hours in one go, make sure to take short breaks every 45-60 minutes or so. If you’re working from home, you can use this time to do some basic chores. You don’t have to exercise, but taking the trash out, doing the dishes, or something along those lines should be enough to get your blood pumping so you won’t feel nearly as cold. Plus, it’s good for your eyes, spine, and cardiovascular system.

Another geeky way of boosting power efficiency comes from Elon Musk’s Tesla. The electric car maker recently announced Powerwall, a massive lithium-ion battery pack designed for homes. It is supposed to store energy during “peak solar” and allow homeowners to reuse it when the sun goes down.

The idea is not entirely new, a similar approach has been used by power companies for decades. For example, power companies use pumped-storage hydroelectric plants to store power during the night and reuse it during the day. Powerwall allows the individual homeowner to store power in pretty much the same way. It’s not just about solar. In many cases utility companies offer better rates during the night, and sell more expensive electricity during peak hours.

The Tesla Powerwall is set to ship later this year, with prices starting at $3000. The price may be a problem, especially if you need to replace the batteries every few years. Another issue may be the whole peak rate angle – if everyone decided to use such solutions, the concept of peak rates would probably disappear altogether, as home power storage would make demand flat around the clock. Economy of scale is another question. As the world moves to sustainable power generation, using solar and wind power, we will need more power storage options. Utilities will be able to create them at a much bigger scale – you can store a lot more energy in an artificial lake than a bunch of expensive lithium ion batteries that have to be replaced every 5-10 years.

Choosing the Right Hardware

Different people use different hardware in their home offices, which raises a few problems when dealing with this issue. For example, someone who spends most of their time working in standard office applications or doing much of their work in a browser doesn’t exactly need a very powerful computer. I know I don’t, but my friend has to play around with EMC Documentum on loads of virtual machines locally, so he needs a lot more processing power, RAM, and storage. Designers need bigger and better screens, more powerful GPUs, and so on.

However, no matter what you do there is probably room for improvement.

power efficient computer hardware

The good news is that the latest generations of Intel and AMD processors offer good power efficiency, and in many cases their integrated graphics are good enough for a lot of users, so many people are choosing to dispense with powerful discrete graphics. In case you don’t need exceptionally fast hardware or graphics capable of running the latest games, a mid-range PC or Mac should be more than enough.

If you are tempted to keep using your ancient desktop just because it’s “good enough”, you may want to do some math and figure out whether it’s worth it or not. The PC update cycle has slowed down to a crawl, and Intel claims the age of the average PC is about four years. If you have such an antiquated system, chances are you could get the same level of performance, or superior performance from a much quieter small form factor (SFF) desktop with vastly improved power efficiency.

Actually, I am typing this on one such machine because my old desktop decided to bid farewell to this cruel world a couple of weeks ago. It’s a PC, not a Mac mini, but the hardware is basically identical – an Intel Core i5-4200U processor with integrated graphics, 8GB of RAM, SSD and HDD. I usually use this machine as my HTPC and a portable backup, but it’s faster than my duly departed ATX desktop yet consumes about one fifth of the power, thanks to an ultra-low voltage mobile processor manufactured in a superior node (22nm vs 45nm) and modern hardware all around.

Of course, many developers use notebooks as their daily drivers, and they tend to offer the same efficiency as SFF systems based on mobile chips. This is also true of all-in-one (AIO) systems like the iMac, as they are usually based on notebook hardware mated to a big screen.

If you think you’re in the clear because you are using your notebook, it all depends on the type of processor you have inside, its age, and efficiency. Also, if you use an old external monitor, for example a five-year-old CCFL-backlit 1080p panel, chances are you are already wasting a lot more power than you would with a new LED-backlit monitor.

Even if you need a very powerful desktop, it’s always a good idea to choose the latest and most efficient components out there. They might cost a bit more than last year’s hardware, but if you will use the system for years and eight hours each day, even small efficiency gains should justify the premium. In some situations, a smart upgrade will pay for itself.

more power efficiency ideas

Another option is to get a secondary system and use it for only some tasks. For example, why use your office machine to watch streamed content on your TV if you can get a mini-PC or a stick PC for $100-$200? It will save power and reduce wear on more expensive components in your primary system. Intel is planning to bring more ultra-low voltage processors to the stick PC form factor, so a few years down the line these tiny machines could be used for more serious stuff.

Setting up Home Office Hardware

In case you’ve decided to get a new, more efficient desktop or notebook with a brand new monitor in tow, you can expect some efficiency gains, but you also need to set everything up correctly.

I know quite a few power users never embraced a lot of power efficiency features on their machines, not because they didn’t care but because many of these early features were immature and impractical. However, the latest versions of Windows and OS X, coupled with modern x86 platforms offer exceptional boot and recovery times. It has a bit to do with software, a bit to do with processors and motherboards, and a lot to do with fast solid state storage. I won’t go into the details, as you need to do a bit of research depending on which platform you use and what sort of hardware you have under the bonnet, but there should be some room for improvement. Set hibernation and sleep profiles to best meet your needs, with an eye on efficiency.

Obviously, on more powerful systems there is more room for improvement. You can’t save a lot if you’re already working on a new notebook, but you can on a desktop. In case you are building your own desktop system, as many enthusiasts do, choosing quality power supply units with a top-notch efficiency rating is important. Oh, one more thing – don’t get a huge PSU in case you don’t absolutely need it – get one that meets your wattage needs and sports a Platinum or Gold efficiency rating.

power efficiency and your computer

Using high-quality power strips is also a good idea, not only because it might protect your precious hardware (and even more precious data) in case of a power surge, but because power strips can be used to save a few watts too. The most obvious way of doing this is by flicking the off switch as soon as you’re done working, but this may not be practical for most people. It is a good idea if you don’t plan to use your office for a few days or weeks. You also need to think about organizing your hardware supply through two or more power strips, allowing you to switch off stuff you don’t use all the time with the flick of a button. All hardware wastes a bit of energy when it’s on standby, but we’re not talking about big numbers here.

One interesting option is to use smart sockets for some devices, effectively turning “dumb” devices like heaters or lamps into smart devices. These connected sockets can be programmed or controlled remotely, allowing you to save power and time in some situations, depending on your needs. Smart sockets and connected LED bulbs may also come in handy for security purposes. If you’re the traveling type, you can set use them to create the appearance of an occupied home, which might prompt local burglars to pay a visit to your neighbor’s home instead.

So How Much Can I Save?

To be honest, I have no idea. It depends on where you’re located, what you do, and which hardware you use.

Electricity prices vary from region to region, and the differences can be staggering. This is why I tried to steer clear of some certainties in this post. For example, a user in Denmark could save a fair amount of money by upgrading from an antiquated desktop to a SFF machine like an iMac mini or Intel NUC; but a user with the same hardware in Ukraine wouldn’t save nearly as much, so the upgrade is probably not worth it from an economic perspective.

Our audience is global, and so is our network, so we can’t offer one-size-fits all advice. Luckily, our audience also tends to know a thing or two about tech and math, so I am sure calculating how much money can be saved by boosting efficiency won’t be a problem.

For example, a conservative 100W reduction in power consumption (8 hours a day, 25 days a month), will save you just $24 a year, assuming a kWh price of $0.10. However, in developed countries you are likely to pay a lot more than 10 cents per kWh, so if you pay 30 cents like most people in Western Europe, you are looking at $72 a year. That’s not bad for a measly 100 watts during office hours. Over the course of your computer’s life cycle of 4+ years, that’s upwards of $300, which you can invest toward more efficient hardware rather than burn it.

Of course, saving 100W eight hours per day is peanuts in the big scheme of things, but bear in mind that we are talking about individual home offices here. You pay the bill, not your employer, and the savings might extend well beyond your home office. After all, you would be investing in your home, not just your home office, so money spent on efficiency tweaks could yield much bigger returns as you would be making both your home and your office a bit more efficient in one blow.

In many cases, savings of a few hundred dollars per year should be possible, if not easy, and you could recoup the initial investment in just a couple of years (excluding computer hardware, which we all have to upgrade anyway).

Granted, many people will argue that it’s simply not a lot of money, especially for well-paid software engineers. But over the course of a decade, hundreds have a habit of turning into thousands. However, it’s not just about the money. By making your office and home more efficient, you’re also making a family of polar bears happier.

Burning one kilogram of coal or oil produces between 2.5kWh and 3kWh of electricity, so a single home office with improved efficiency can save a couple of kilos of fossil fuels each week. To generate 100kWh of power, coal produces about 120kg of CO2, which is roughly the same as a modern compact car would generate over the course of a 1000km drive.

Still, we don’t have to invoke cuddly polar bears to feel good about ourselves. Most of us work from home offices , so we use cheaper household electricity and enjoy better prices than businesses in many parts of the world. Since we don’t commute or drive to work each morning, we already save a bit of money and reduce our carbon footprint.

Plus, we don’t get stuck in traffic.

This is an article from Toptal writers.

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Casino Mania: Live The High Life With Slots Online

An elegant and luxurious life style is something we all desire. Therefore online slot games depicting the life of the super-rich are very popular. Microgaming has two such online video slots that depict this theme in a perfect manner. Both have exciting and lucrative free spins features. You can play these games at online casinos like All Slots, Royal Vegas and Jackpot City.

High Society is the first of these. The high paying symbols are private jet, luxury yacht and limousine highlighted in gold. The other symbols are gold and silver ingots, executive briefcase, sack of money, diamond ring, gold watch and cuff links. The game logo is the wild symbol that can appear stacked on reels 1 and 5. The wad of currency is the scatter symbol. It awards payouts multiplied by the total payout when two or more appear anywhere on the reels in the same spin. Three or more scatter symbols trigger the free games feature in which you have to select from the two options provided. The Super Wild Reels option awards up to 20 free spins. You will get up to three wild reels in each spin. Play great online casino games today. If you land a scatter symbol on reels 1 and 5 in the same spin, then the free spins will retrigger. The Super Multiplier awards 10 free spins. The payout multiplier starts from 2x to 5x and increases during the free spins. Additional wild symbols can appear in reels 2, 3 and 4 as well.

The Finer Reels of Life is the other online slot game. It follows the slots engine made popular by Thunderstruck II with 243 ways to win. The high paying symbols are diamond, champagne, whisky and cigars, wine and cheese, coffee and chocolates. The game logo is the wild symbol with a 2x multiplier property. The golden star is the scatter symbol. The Wild Celebration feature can be triggered randomly and turns up to five reels wild. Each of the finer things offers its own set of free spins. The Coffee and Chocolate feature awards 10 free with a 5x payouts multiplier. The Wine and Cheese feature awards 15 free spins in which a special wild wine symbol randomly turns other symbols into wilds. The Whisky and Cigars feature awards 20 free spins in which symbols are randomly transformed into 2x or 3x multipliers. The Champagne and Diamonds feature awards 25 free spins with the popular Rolling Reels feature. Payout multipliers increase with consecutive wins till they reach 5x

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All You Need To Know About Online Gaming

There are many people who take part in online games each day, and many of them would admit to how addictive these games can be. This habit has influenced a significant growth of the online gaming industry with new companies emerging every day.

Players can now choose from a wide range of variety available for young children, teenagers, and adults. Many of the games you would find online are targeted for a specific age group. Those that are geared towards younger children are often times educational and interactive. On the other hand, those created for adult entertainment are usually constructed in such a way that the only thing they provide to their users is a way to beat boredom.

 

Benefits Of Online Gaming

Enhance memory

Online games provide a platform which is indeed very re-collective in terms of making a player get into the world of gaming. The biggest bonus of online gaming is that the player has a variety of games to pick from which are only a click away and play for fun or play for real money. Everyone is aware of the fact that humans normally do not utilize 100% of their brain function. Games like puzzles, logic based games, trivia and problem solving help brain function.

Recovery and health

Not all games you find online are for entertainment; rather most revolve around an educational background which is indeed a motivational area of comfort for children. Many non-profit organizations formulate games in order to help aid those children and adults which are suffering for specific kinds of illnesses.

Social interaction

There are communities formed within these games which indeed form a bond between all players and rather forms a community. The virtual world indeed is sometimes very promising when it comes to providing gamers a ground to voice out without their identity being given out.

Instant play

Since software installation is not needed, these games are ready to play using just your browser. All you have to do is to be connected to the internet and log in to your favorite gaming site. Select which ones are perfect for you. Once it loads, you are set for fun and excitement. With that said, players can now take advantage of the many online gaming companies available today. These are companies you can trust to give you high quality products for the entire family at all times. You can also follow the link below and have an experience of the online gaming world like never before.

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Donald Trump Limited Edition Inauguration Coin Liberals NEVER Thought They’d See; Petition To Ban Trump

 

Trump Limited-Edition Inauguration Coins Minted in the USA. Available for 4 Days Only!

President-elect Donald Trump “Inauguration Commemorative Coin” has been released for people to buy.

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States will be held on Friday, January 20, 2017, on the West Front of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C

To celebrate this important date in American history the coin was designed by Gilroy Roberts & Frank Gasparro and was minted to be sold in limited-edition celebratory coins, all the coins are made in the USA.

“This limited edition collector’s item was made to commemorate the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America,”

You can buy it directly from the official website by clicking here.

One side features Trump’s profile portrait and the reverse side is the official presidential seal.

Each coin comes with a certificate of authenticity and is handsomely showcased in an acrylic coin capsule.

The 2017 Presidential Inauguration is on January 20th in Washington D.C, and the coin is for sale for 4 days only! However, due to the limited quantity minted it may be completely sold out earlier.

Pictures of Proud Fellow Patriots

If you would like to have your image posted here. Please contact us via the link at the bottom of the page.

Where can I buy one?

You can buy it directly from the official website by clicking here.

Update: We were just informed that today, there is a special offer that let’s you buy the limited-edition coin for only $14.95 instead of $29.95. Offer still available as of Friday, January 13, 2017, but may expire soon.
Note: If you are trying to place an order and the website isn’t loading, try refreshing the page. Due to the high demand, the website may be having issues loading.
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Cryptocurrency for Dummies: Bitcoin and Beyond

Bitcoin created a lot of buzz on the Internet. It was ridiculed, it was attacked, and eventually it was accepted and became a part of our lives. However, Bitcoin is not alone. At this moment, there are over 700 AltCoin implementations, which use similar principles of CryptoCurrency.

So, what do you need to create something like Bitcoin?

Without trying to understand your personal motivation for creating a decentralized, anonymous system for exchanging money/information (but still hoping that it is in scope of moral and legal activities), let’s first break down the basic requirements for our new payment system:

  1. All transactions should be made over the Internet
  2. We do not want to have a central authority that will process transactions
  3. Users should be anonymous and identified only by their virtual identity
  4. A single user can have as many virtual identities as he or she likes
  5. Value supply (new virtual bills) must be added in a controlled way

Decentralized Information Sharing Over Internet

Fulfilling the first two requirements from our list, removing a central authority for information exchange over the Internet, is already possible. What you need is a peer-to-peer (P2P) network.

Information sharing in P2P networks is similar to information sharing among friends and family. If you share information with at least one member of the network, eventually this information will reach every other member of the network. The only difference is that in digital networks this information will not be altered in any way.

Cryptocurrency and Toptal

You have probably heard of BitTorrent, one of the most popular P2P file sharing (content delivery) systems. Another popular application for P2P sharing is Skype, as well as other chat systems.

Bottom line is that you can implement or use one of the existing open-source P2P protocols to support your new cryptocurrency, which we’ll call Topcoin.

Hashing

To understand digital identities, we need to understand how cryptographic hashing works. Hashing is the process of mapping digital data of any arbitrary size to data of a fixed size. In simpler words, hashing is a process of taking some information that is readable and making something that makes no sense at all.

You can compare hashing to getting answers from politicians. Information you provide to them is clear and understandable, while the output they provide looks like random stream of words.

P2P Protocols

There are a few requirements that a good hashing algorithm needs:

  1. Output length of hashing algorithm must be fixed (a good value is 256 bytes)
  2. Even the smallest change in input data must produce significant difference in output
  3. Same input will always produce same output
  4. There must be no way to reverse the output value to calculate the input
  5. Calculating the HASH value should not be compute intensive and should be fast

If you take a look at the simple statistics, we will have a limited (but huge) number of possible HASH values, simply because our HASH length is limited. However, our hashing algorithm (let’s name it Politician256) should be reliable enough that it only produces duplicate hash values for different inputs about as frequently as a monkey in a zoo manages to correctly type Hamlet on a typewriter!

If you think Hamlet is just a name or a word, please stop reading now, or read about the Infinite Monkey Theorem.

Digital Signature

When signing a paper, all you need to do is append your signature to the text of a document. A digital signature is similar: you just need to append your personal data to the document you are signing.

If you understand that the hashing algorithm adheres to the rule where even the smallest change in input data must produce significant difference in output, then it is obvious that the HASH value created for the original document will be different from the HASH value created for the document with the appended signature.

A combination of the original document and the HASH value produced for the document with your personal data appended is a digitally signed document.

And this is how we get to your virtual identity, which is defined as the data you appended to the document before you created that HASH value.

Next, you need to make sure that your signature cannot be copied, and no one can execute any transaction on your behalf. The best way to make sure that your signature is secured, is to keep it yourself, and provide a different method for someone else to validate the signed document. Again, we can fall back on technology and algorithms that are readily available. What we need to use is public-key cryptography also known as asymmetric cryptography.

To make this work, you need to create a private key and a public key. These two keys will be in some kind of mathematical correlation and will depend on each other. The algorithm that you will use to make these keys will assure that each private key will have a different public key. As their names suggest, a private key is information that you will keep just for yourself, while a public key is information that you will share.

If you use your private key (your identity) and original document as input values for the signing algorithm to create a HASH value, assuming you kept your key secret, you can be sure that no one else can produce the same HASH value for that document.

How Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency works

If anyone needs to validate your signature, he or she will use the original document, the HASH value you produced, and your public key as inputs for the signature verifying algorithm to verify that these values match.

How to send Bitcoin/Money

Assuming that you have implemented P2P communication, mechanisms for creating digital identities (private and public keys), and provided ways for users to sign documents using their private keys, you are ready to start sending information to your peers.

Since we do not have a central authority that will validate how much money you have, the system will have to ask you about it every time, and then check if you lied or not. So, your transaction record might contain the following information:

  1. I have 100 Topcoins
  2. I want to send 10 coins to my pharmacist for the medication (you would include your pharmacists public key here)
  3. I want to give one coin as transaction fee to the system (we will come back to this later)
  4. I want to keep the remaining 89 coins

The only thing left to do is digitally sign the transaction record with your private key and transmit the transaction record to your peers in the network. At that point, everyone will receive the information that someone (your virtual identity) is sending money to someone else (your pharmacist’s virtual identity).

Your job is done. However, your medication will not be paid for until the whole network agrees that you really did have 100 coins, and therefore could execute this transaction. Only after your transaction is validated will your pharmacist get the funds and send you the medication.

Miners – New Breed of Agents

Miners are known to be very hard working people who are, in my opinion, heavily underpaid. In the digital world of cryptocurrency, miners play a very similar role, except in this case, they do the computationally-intensive work instead of digging piles of dirt. Unlike real miners, some cryptocurrency miners earned a small fortune over the past five years, but many others lost a fortune on this risky endeavour.

Miners are the core component of the system and their main purpose is to confirm the validity of each and every transaction requested by users.

In order to confirm the validity of your transaction (or a combination of several transactions requested by a few other users), miners will do two things.

First, they will rely on the fact that “everyone knows everything,” meaning that every transaction executed in the system is copied and available to any peer in the network. They will look into the history of your transactions to verify that you actually had 100 coins to begin with. Once your account balance is confirmed, they will generate a specific HASH value. This hash value must have a specific format; it must start with certain number of zeros.

There are two inputs for calculating this HASH value:

  1. Transaction record data
  2. Miner’s proof-of-work

Considering that even the smallest change in input data must produce a significant difference in output HASH value, miners have a very difficult task. They need to find a specific value for a proof-of-work variable that will produce a HASH beginning with zeros. If your system requires a minimum of 40 zeros in each validated transaction, the miner will need to calculate approximately 2^40 different HASH values in order to find the right proof-of-work.

Once a miner finds the proper value for proof-of-work, he or she is entitled to a transaction fee (the single coin you were willing to pay), which can be added as part of the validated transaction. Every validated transaction is transmitted to peers in the network and stored in a specific database format known as the Blockchain.

But what happens if the number of miners goes up, and their hardware becomes much more efficient? Bitcoin used to be mined on CPUs, then GPUs and FPGAs, but ultimately miners started designing their own ASIC chips, which were vastly more powerful than these early solutions. As the hash rate goes up, so does the mining difficulty, thus ensuring equilibrium. When more hashing power is introduced into the network, the difficulty goes up and vice versa; if many miners decide to pull the plug because their operation is no longer profitable, difficulty is readjusted to match the new hash rate.

Blockchain – The Global Cryptocurrency Ledger

The blockchain contains the history of all transactions performed in the system. Every validated transaction, or batch of transactions, becomes another ring in the chain.

So, the Bitcoin blockchain is, essentially, a public ledger where transactions are listed in a chronological order.

The first ring in the Bitcoin blockchain is called the Genesis Block

To read more about how the blockchain works, I suggest reading Blockchain Technology Explained: Powering Bitcoin, by Nermin Hajdarbegovic.

There is no limit to how many miners may be active in your system. This means that it is possible for two or more miners to validate the same transaction. If this happens, the system will check the total effort each miner invested in validating the transaction by simply counting zeros. The miner that invested more effort (found more leading zeros) will prevail and his or her block will be accepted.

Controlling The Money Supply

The first rule of the Bitcoin system is that there can be a maximum of 21,000,000 Bitcoins generated. This number has still not been achieved, and according to current trends, it is thought that this number will be reached by the year 2140.

This may cause you to question the usefulness of such a system, because 21 million units doesn’t sound like much. However, Bitcoin system supports fractional values down to the eight decimal (0.00000001). This smallest unit of a bitcoin is called a Satoshi, in honor of Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous developer behind the Bitcoin protocol.

New coins are created as a reward to miners for validating transactions. This reward is not the transaction fee that you specified when you created a transaction record, but it is defined by the system. The reward amount decreases over time and eventually will be set to zero once the total number of coins issued (21m) has been reached. When this happens, transaction fees will play a much more important role since miners might choose to prioritize more valuable transactions for validation.

Apart from setting the upper limit in maximum number of coins, the Bitcoin system also uses an interesting way to limit daily production of new coins. By calibrating the minimum number of leading zeros required for a proof-of-work calculation, the time required to validate the transaction, and get a reward of new coins, is always set to approximately 10 minutes. If the time between adding new blocks to the blockchain decreases, the system might require that proof-of-work generates 45 or 50 leading zeros.

So, by limiting how fast and how many new coins can be generated, the Bitcoin system is effectively controlling the money supply.

Start “Printing” Your Own Currency

As you can see, making your own version of Bitcoin is not that difficult. By utilizing existing technology, implemented in an innovative way, you have everything you need for a cryptocurrency.

  1. All transaction are made over the Internet using P2P communication, thus removing the need for a central authority
  2. Users can perform anonymous transactions by utilizing asynchronous cryptography and they are identified only by their private key/public key combination
  3. You have implemented a validated global ledger of all transactions that has been safely copied to every peer in the network
  4. You have a secured, automated, and controlled money supply, which assures the stability of your currency without the need of central authority

One last thing worth mentioning is that, in its essence, cryptocurrency is a way to transfer anonymous value/information from one user to another in a distributed peer-to-peer network.

Consider replacing coins in your transaction record with random data that might even be encrypted using asynchronous cryptography so only the sender and receiver can decipher it. Now think about applying that to something like the Internet Of Things!

A cryptocurrency system might be an interesting way to enable communication between our stove and toaster.

A number of tech heavyweights are already exploring the use of blockchain technology in IoT platforms, but that’s not the only potential application of this relatively new technology.

If you see no reason to create an alternative currency of your own (other than a practical joke), you could try to use the same or similar approach for something else, such as distributed authentication, creation of virtual currencies used in games, social networks, and other applications, or you could proceed to create a new loyalty program for your e-commerce business, which would reward regular customers with virtual tokens that could be redeemed later on.

This article was originally posted on Toptal by Demir Selmanovic – Lead Technical Editor.

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Demir Selmanovic

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Universal Mind Unveils Digital Continuum, Bringing Clarity to Experience Design and Digital Product Development

New roadmap drives digital value by blending digital and physical touchpoints to deliver 360-degree customer experiences

Universal Mind, a digital consulting firm focused on enhancing human experiences and solving problems through technology, today launched the Digital Continuum, an unmatched interconnected best practices guide to create digital products that drive business value.

Universal Mind created the Digital Continuum by leveraging more than a decade of groundbreaking digital integration for organizations including Sony Music, Comcast, Ace Hardware, Vail Resorts and many more. From idea generation and Agile portfolio development, to program design and full deployment and integration, the Digital Continuum is a groundbreaking resource for companies exploring digital transformation.

“Most companies have trouble getting value out of their digital initiatives,” said Brett Cortese, Universal Mind president and CEO. “This is driven by the often overwhelming complexity involved in delivering the frictionless digital experiences their customers now expect when interacting with businesses.”

The Digital Continuum is a roadmap that guides companies through transformation with a collection of resources including the Digital Continuum Community. This roadmap illustrates how organizations can seamlessly integrate best practices across innovation, strategy, design, development and delivery to bring businesses and their consumers added value through digital. The Community provides a platform for organizations to collaboratively discuss, explore and provide valuable feedback on how these items have been put into practice and how they are evolving over time.

The goal of the Digital Continuum is to enable companies to maximize the business value of their digital products. One aspect of this is enabling companies to deliver a 360-degree user experience by developing consistent interactions across all touchpoints, physical and digital. To create the personalized and value-centric experiences customers demand, it requires focus across all eight mindsets of the Digital Continuum.

“We put in countless hours over the last many years examining successful organizations to develop the premium roadmap to enable organizations to provide valuable digital products to their customers,” continued Cortese. “The Digital Continuum is the revolutionary answer to bring companies into the digital world and ultimately drive significant business value.”

About Universal Mind

Universal Mind is an independent, digital consulting and services firm focused on enhancing human experiences and solving problems through technology. Founded in 2003, the company has more than 100 strategists, designers, developers, delivery managers, and agilists located in four offices across the U.S. and Canada, all who understand that true experience design and creation — and the resulting business value — happens at the intersection of PEOPLE, BUSINESS and TECHNOLOGY. For more information visit www.universalmind.com.

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3 Reasons Your Car Insurance Payment is as Much as Your Car Payment

If someone asked you whether paying for your car or paying for your car insurance is more fulfilling, it’d be no brainer. You’d likely say that paying for your trusty car, truck, or SUV is gratifying while sometimes paying for auto insurance may not feel the same. You may have even chatted with your friends about this very topic and come away more confused than ever based on that fact that you’re paying vastly different amounts than each other month in and month out.

Whether you’ve been questioning your rising rates, or are just plain interested to know how and why your insurance rates are somewhere in the ballpark of your actual vehicle lease or financing payments, it’s important to take stock of the factors that determine how much you pay in auto insurance premiums. From there, you can ensure that you’re enrolled in the best type of coverage for your lifestyle.

Your Driving Reputation Precedes You

We’re sorry to say that the fender bender you got in last winter doesn’t just disappear along with the melting snow. Or maybe you went through a James Dean-inspired rebellious phase a few years ago and racked up quite a few speeding tickets in a short period of time. It’s also possible that you’re a squeaky clean driver, in which case you enjoy generally lower premiums. Accidents and serious traffic violations raise auto insurance rates because in any reputable carrier’s eyes; more violations indicate riskier driving behavior and thus the likelihood that you’ll make a claim. Luckily, you can consciously work to improve your driving vigilance and habits and expect many types of blemishes on your record to decrease their impact after about five years.

You Don’t Have Ideal Coverage

It’s entirely possible that you’re at a point in your life where it would be useful to carefully evaluate your monthly expenses and identify the areas where you’re paying more than you need to. Are you currently enrolled for expensive collision coverage on an old vehicle that you drive only occasionally? You might find that liability auto insurance is the most cost-effective way to get the basic coverage you need. It’s worth at least double checking that the policy you pay for is the best option for you, because the worst-case scenario is that you spend a few hours of your time confirming that your auto insurance policy has you ideally covered if the unforeseen should occur.

It’s Not Personal—It’s Your Vehicle

Every movie breakup includes an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech, and that may also be the case for your car. Auto insurance premiums factor in the type of vehicle insured, so those sliding behind the wheel of a shiny sports car are going to pay differently than someone who drives a dependable sedan, for example.

According to Kelley Blue Book, here are some quick rules of thumb to apply when you’re assessing how the vehicle you drive is affecting your car insurance rates:

* Cars with a higher MSRP generally call for higher premiums because luxury models cost more to fix or replace. If you’re looking to save, opt for a more modest vehicle with a solid safety rating.

* You might derive great satisfaction from the commanding rev of your engine, but vehicles with higher horsepower signal to insurance companies that there’s an increased risk of an accident related to speed. If you really want to save on your premium, opt for a trim package with a more moderately powered engine.

* It’s worth it to research frequently and infrequently stolen types of cars, as owning a commonly targeted vehicle might translate to higher payments.

* Before you prioritize your need for speed with a sports car, it’s worth pondering whether you’re equipped to pay higher insurance premiums.

These three factors are quite important in evaluating why your car insurance costs you just about as much as your actual car does. With diligent research, it’s entirely possible to make sure that your car insurance costs are fitting into your budget while still meeting your coverage needs.

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How to Choose the Best Web Hosting Provider

Without the best web hosting, your ability to run a successful website is going to be seriously hindered. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to choose a web hosting provider at random. If there’s a situation that calls for some thought, consideration and research, choosing a web hosting provider is it. There’s a dizzying array of web hosting providers competing for your business. How can you pinpoint the best one? Start by keeping the following points in mind.

Technical Specifications for Your Website Hosting

The first thing you need to do when shopping for a web host is to evaluate your disk space and bandwidth needs. If your site will feature a lot of graphics, dozens of pages and get a lot of traffic, you’re going to need decent amounts of bandwidth and disk space. Unlimited plans are available, and they make life easier. If your site is going to be simple and not generate a huge amount of traffic, you should be able to get away with smaller amounts of disk space and bandwidth.

Keep compatibility in mind, too. In the excitement of looking for a website hosting provider, you might overlook one critical thing: the type of operating systems that are supported. You’re not going to want to switch operating systems, so double-check this point before settling for a provider.

Reliability and availability are critical characteristics to consider when shopping around for web hosting. The best web hosting providers offer availability rates of 98 and 99 percent. This is frequently referred to as “Uptime”. It’s easy to make such claims, though, so make sure to see if they make good on their promises.

Security is also an essential concern. Choosing a web hosting provider without learning about its available security features is a big mistake. Things like firewalls, daily backups and user authentication should all be included. It’s also nice to receive notifications whenever changes are made because they can alert you to suspicious activity.

Get a Feel for Web Hosting Pricing & Value

Some people choose web hosting providers strictly based on price. That’s not a great strategy, but you should definitely take pricing into consideration. The best providers offer options for every budget. In some cases, signing up for long subscriptions will qualify you for extra discounts.

Also, try to leave yourself room to grow. It’s great to choose a web hosting plan that suits your site’s current needs. With any luck, though, your site will grow and expand over time. Your needs could change. Switching to a new web hosting provider is a major hassle, so look for one that offers scalable plans. In other words, you should be able to upgrade to another plan easily if necessary. Low prices are always great, but if the low price comes with limits on space or bandwidth, you want to make sure the deal is really worth it.

In the same vein, you may want to note how many e-mail accounts are provided. Whether you think you’ll need dozens of email addresses or not, it’s nice to have the option to create as many as possible. In most instances, more expensive plans include larger numbers of email addresses. This feature isn’t very important to some people, but it is critical to others.

Always Investigate Hosting Providers’ Support and Customer Service

Even if you’re a whiz at setting up websites, it’s nice to know that help is available whenever you need it. Confirm that the web hosting provider has 24/7 support. Make sure that there are several ways to get support too. The most reliable providers provide support through email, phone and online chat.

Great customer support includes customer freedom. Review their policies to ensure that you have a clear money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with their product. After you’ve narrowed things down to just a few candidates, search for online reviews about each one. Ideally, the reviews should come from real people. Testimonials on web hosting providers’ websites don’t count. It shouldn’t take long to get a feel for how a web hosting provider treats its customers.

Look for Extras Beyond Web Hosting

In addition to providing the basics like bandwidth and disk space, a good web hosting plan will include at least a few extras. If you’re running an online store, look for providers that offer e-commerce solutions. If you’d like to be able to perform fast and easy updates, look for a provider that offers content management systems. Make sure that you’ll have access to statistics about your site too.

As tempting as it may be to just choose a web hosting provider and get on with your life, it’s better to take your time. By doing so, you’ll be able to find a provider that you can stick with for the long haul.

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Led Headlight: Review

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T2000 Tactical Headlamp Get The World’s Best Military Headlamp Absolutely FREE! Do you frequently suffer from Dim Light disorder? You know that awkward feeling a person gets, every time they turn on an old light only to discover it can barely light all the way to the bathroom — let alone down a dark hallway or country in case of an emergency. Truth be told, most people have the tendency to overlook the importance of owning a much superior headlamp for their home, car, boat, or their workplace.

Ask any police officer, fireman, military man, hunter or survivalist and all of them will explain to you how critical it is for them to have a headlamp beforehand at all times. In fact to many, not just any headlamp will do, youll find many of them armed with the best the ones deemed to have much superior quality and are highly advanced. Those other typical kinds, with clunky plastic halogen headlamps that require either type C or D batteries to function normally are practically useless. They break easily, very dim, and quite heavy.

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On the bright side, recent advancements in lighting technology mainstream have taken headlamps growing trends seriously and up a higher notch! Ideally, Compact LEDs have led to much smaller headlamps that relay more light, while using a fraction of the energy of which their old-fashioned, ordinary counterparts use. Although before you dash to a Home Depot to buy any kind of old LED headlamp, first you need to be aware of the new tactical headlamp, which uses the most advanced military technology and is currently available to the public.

Don’t miss out on this incredible deal, hurry and pick up your superior tactical headlamp from our department stores today — while stock last! Alternatively, click the link below to get Your Very Own Military Grade Tactical T2000 Headlamp FREE!

Check Out The T2000 Tactical Headlamps To See For Yourself:

Quick Overview:

Originally made of highly efficient and, most likely, nearly indestructible Machined Aircraft Aluminum, the T2000 Headlamp is highly effective and is capable of lighting to safety with a remarkable 1000 blinding lumens of light. It also features a brilliant cool Zoom feature, an SOS function mode to signal for any alerts, together with a strobe function mode which produces a massive frequency that mitigates a threat within milliseconds!

After testing this superior headlamp for the first time, several Navy Seal officers have declared Its the #1 Tool everyone should own as it could turnout being a lifesaver during a natural disaster. literally!

Massive orders are being released from Police Departments, Armed Forces and Fire Departments everyday! Also the National Gun Owners Association has allegedly endorsed a whopping 75% discount on every T2000 Headlamp for new customers, including the general public.

These premium lights normally sell for over $50 but TACTICAL is offering a one-time opportunity to claim these powerful survival devices absolutely free. When you claim your free T2000 headlamp you’ll be invited into the tight-knit TACTICAL community; allowing you and your loved ones insightful survival articles, news about game-changing survival products, exclusive VIP member discounts and so much more. In order to be prepared in the event of unforseen circumstances, we recommend TACTICAL’s VIP membership and the versatile T2000 headlamp, featuring technology used by police, firemen, and Navy SEALs alike. Disorient, illuminate, attract attention and more at the press of a button: claim your free TACTICAL T2000 headlamp today and join the world’s most dedicated survivalist community. To be fully prepared for any eventuality, we recommend a package of three. It has our vote so much that we made sure everyone on our staff had at least 3 in their house. If you want to make sure you and your loved ones are always prepared for the worst, this headlamp is a great start.

THIS IS AN ADVERTORIAL AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE
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