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Mint 18.3: The best Linux desktop takes big steps forward

82b39_59889ea0e4b0515f57c1f717-1280x7201aug082017115810poster Mint 18.3: The best Linux desktop takes big steps forward


82b39_59889ea0e4b0515f57c1f717-1280x7201aug082017115810poster Mint 18.3: The best Linux desktop takes big steps forward


The rising tension between IoT and ERP systems

The Internet of Things is the new frontier. However, generations of ERP systems were not designed to handle global networks of sensors and devices.

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I run many operating systems every day, from macOS, to Windows 7 and 10, to more Linux desktop distributions than you can shake a stick at. And, once more, as a power-user’s power user, I’ve found the latest version of Linux Mint to be the best of the best.

Why? Let’s start with the basics. MacOS has been shown to have the worst bug I’ve ever seen in an operating system: The macOS High Sierra security hole that lets anyone get full administrative control. Windows, old and new, continues to have multiple security bugs every lousy month. Linux? Sure, it has security problems. How many of these bugs have had serious desktop impacts? Let me see now. None. Yes, that would be zero.

Oh, and by the way, in using Linux desktops for over 25 years now, I have needed to use an anti-virus program because, for all practical purposes, there are no Linux viruses. Yes, I know you’ve read stories saying they exist. And, they do, but you must actively try to infect your system to get them.

Then, there’s ease of use. Despite ancient FUD, Linux, especially the new Linux Mint 18.3 but really all current Linux desktops, are simple to use. Mint’s Cinnamon interface uses a classic Windows, Icons, Menu, and Pointer (WIMP) interface. If you’ve ever used Windows XP, you’ll feel completely at home.

Want to install an application? Sure you can use shell-based tools such as apt-get on Debian-based Linux distributions or yum on the Red Hat family of operating systems. But, ordinary desktop users need not bother with these. Instead, they can just use an app store approach such as Mint’s Software Manager. You search for your app, you point, you click. Not very hard is it?

Want to update your system to a new one? With Macs and Windows, that can take hours. With Mint, it took me less than an hour and most of that was waiting for the download to complete. Compare that with Windows, where as a friend recently pointed out, just updating a Logitech mouse driver took about 10 minutes.

Linux desktops are also fast even on older hardware. High Sierra runs as fast as pouring maple syrup on a cold day on my maxed out Mac Mini with its 3.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM. Windows 10, on my Dell XPS 8700 with a 3.6 GHz Intel Core i7-4790 processor and 16GBs of memory, runs fast enough to be useful, but fast is not the word I’d use to describe its performance. Mint 18.3, on my 2011 Dell XPS 8300 with its 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 8GBs of RAM, charges along like a champ. I wouldn’t waste my time trying to run Windows or macOS on a six-year-old box.

But enough about Linux vs. the others, let’s talk about Linux Mint 18.3.

82b39_59889ea0e4b0515f57c1f717-1280x7201aug082017115810poster Mint 18.3: The best Linux desktop takes big steps forward

Linux Mint 18.3 is easy to use and works like a charm


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If you’ve never installed Mint before, you can download its ISO files from the Mint Downloads. There are still both 64-bit and 32-bit versions for the Cinnamon desktop, but unless you’re running a really old system, just down the 64-bit version. Then burn the ISO image to a DVD using a tool such as ImgBurn. Or, you can put it on a bootable USB stick with a program like Rufus.

Then, boot your computer using the DVD or stick and make sure Mint works with your computer. If it does — and I’ve never met a PC it wouldn’t work on — you can then install it. For further details see my How to install Linux Mint on your Windows PC article.

The one possible problem is if your PC has a newer NVIDIA graphics. In that case, for a better display, use NVIDIA’s own drivers rather than the open-source ones provided by NVIDIA. To do this, take the following steps:

  • Run the Driver Manager
  • Choose the NVIDIA drivers and wait for them to be installed
  • Reboot the computer

If you’re already running an earlier version of Mint 18, click on the Refresh button in Update Manager to check for any new version of mintupdate and mint-upgrade-info. If there are updates for these packages, apply them. Then, refresh the packages and install any updated package. Finally, launch the System Upgrade by clicking on “Edit-Upgrade to Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia”. Within an hour, you’ll be running the latest, freshest version of Mint.

This version is based on Ubuntu 16.04.3. Like 16.04, it’s a long-term support version. Mint developers will support it until April 2021. This distribution is based on the 4.10 Linux kernel.

82b39_59889ea0e4b0515f57c1f717-1280x7201aug082017115810poster Mint 18.3: The best Linux desktop takes big steps forward

Anyone who tells you it’s hard to install programs on Linux doesn’t know what they’re talking about.


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This version features a revamped Software Manager. It’s now more attractive than ever, much — three times — faster, and, more importantly, it makes it easier than ever to find the programs you’re searching for.

The Software Manager also supports Flatpak. This is a Red Hat software installation system. It enables you to install bleeding-edge applications even if their dependencies aren’t included with Linux Mint.

Linux Mint 18.3 comes with Flatpak installed by default and the new Software Manager fully supports it. This lets you install such programs as GNOME Games 3.26, even though these games couldn’t ordinarily run in Linux Mint since it requires the GTK 3.18 Linux toolkit.

Another new addition, which I really like, is the almost completely rewritten default BackUp program. It, as Mint points out, “is now dedicated to making a backup of your home directory, nothing less and nothing more”. Once restoring, files are placed back where they were before with their original permissions and timestamps.

It also runs in user mode so you no longer need to enter your password. The steps required to perform a backup or to restore data are much simpler. Tour configuration choices are remembered so you can repeat backups often without the need to repeat your setup instructions over and over again. This makes backing up and restoring your most important personal files easier than ever.

What about your system files and installed software? No problem! Timeshift, which makes system snapshots easy, saves everything on your system, except your personal data. It works hand-in-glove with the Linux Mint Backup Tool.

If something goes awry with your desktop, the new System Reports makes looking at your crash reports much easier. This program can also be used to get a quick look into the state of your system and software.

Mint 18.3 also comes with the newest version of Cinnamon: Cinammon 3.6. This comes with many small improvements and one truly significant one. The important new feature is it now supports GNOME Online Accounts. For me, the real win is that you can now access Google Drive and the personal cloud program OwnCloud resources directly from the Cinnamon Nemo file manager.

This lets Mint users — like macOS with iCloud and Windows users with Microsoft OneDrive — work directly with Google and OwnCloud files from Nemo. Google has promised it would integrate Google Drive with Linux since Drive rolled out in 2012. Google never kept that promise. Today, if you want to work directly with Google Drive from Linux, you need to purchase InSync.

GNOME Online Accounts looks like it could replace InSync. It doesn’t. Yes, it gives you access to Google Drive files from your desktop, but it does it by mounting Google Drive in your file system. That means every time you access it from your desktop you have to connect with it over the internet. Even with my 120MB internet connection, that can be painfully slow. What’s really needed is a local copy of your Google Drive.

Still, it gives you cloud drive access directly from the file manager and that’s still handy. It also lets you sync your Gmail and Google Calendar with the Evolution email client. Evolution happens to be my favorite email program, so that makes me happy.

Mint also includes the usual collection of handy open-source user programs. These include LibreOffice, Firefox, GIMP, for photo editing, Slack, and Pidgin for instant-messaging clients. You can also install Chrome and other programs.

Now, at this point, I usually hear hardcore Windows users complaining about not having Microsoft Office. Guess what? You can. Office Online, Microsoft’s browser-based office-suite, gives you lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. If you really, really have to have full Microsoft Office, CodeWeavers’ CrossOver 17 for Linux now supports MS-Office 2016.

I’ve been running Mint 18.3 since it first showed up on November 27. Like its predecessors, I’ve found it to be not merely the best Linux desktop, but the best full-featured desktop of any sort. Download it now and find out why I love it so. Enjoy!

Related Stories:

Smartphone pedometers underestimate steps, but valuable health tool: study – Surrey Now

A recent study looking at iPhone’s built-in pedometers is a step toward using the tool as a clinical intervention in improving people’s health, a University of B.C. researcher said.

Smartphones pose an opportunity for researchers to gather objective data on the public’s health and physical activity but before they can be used, the accuracy of the devices need to be tested, lead author Mark Duncan said in an interview Saturday.

“This was very much a first step to make sure that we understand what the data looks like and how well it represents the actual behaviour,” he said.

The study involved 33 participants testing the phones in regular living conditions and in a lab.

Comparing users’ step count on the iPhone pedometer with an accelerometer worn on their waists in their day-to-day life, the study found the iPhone was underestimating the number of steps by 21.5 per cent or 1,340 steps.

The phones fared better in lab tests where accuracy was within five per cent when users walked at a normal pace.

At a slow pace of only 2.5 kilometres an hour, the accuracy of the phones dropped between 7.6 and 9.4 per cent.

Duncan said the discrepancy is likely due to people forgetting to carry their phones at all times.

“If someone goes off to the washroom or to the kitchen and leaves their phone on their desk, obviously it’s not going to count those steps,” he said.

While the accuracy of the device isn’t strong enough to be a primary research tool, Duncan said the information is valuable for the average user interested in improving their health.

“If your goal is the standard 10,000 steps per day and the phone says you’ve completed that, chances are you’ve done a bit more which is not a bad thing for your health,” he said.

READ: Study finds dogs smarter than cats

READ: UBC ‘sailbot’ found after 18 months at sea

It could also be a tool for physicians to monitor and prescribe more activity to their patients, especially as more Canadians carry smartphones.

“There is quite a lot of research saying physicians want to be able to prescribe more physical activity and help their patients to become more physically active but they lack the time and the tools to do so,” he said. “This is potentially one tool that a health care provider could use to both assess physical activity and tell their patients to use it as a tool to increase their physical activity.”

He said now that researchers understand the accuracy of the devices, they can begin testing whether it’s effective to use smartphone pedometers as a motivational tool to increase a user’s physical activity.

Smartphones could also be used to compliment other studies by providing an indicator of participants’ past level of physical activity. Duncan said a challenge with trials is that some people increase their level of activity because researchers are monitoring them, skewing outcomes, and having that historic data can help flag a change in behaviour.

The study was published last month in the Journal of Sports Sciences.


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Study finds iPhone health app miscounts your daily steps

Ever find yourself a few steps shy of hitting the 10,000 mark? Turns out your smartphone might be holding you back.

The popular iPhone health app isn’t the most reliable personal trainer, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.

Researchers found that the iPhone app can underestimate the number of steps taken in a day by as much as 20 per cent.

“Any time you’re measuring something, there’s going to be a little bit of error,” said Mark Duncan, PhD candidate at UBC’s School of Kinesiology and lead author of the study.

But sometimes, it’s not the technology itself that’s entirely to blame.

Two separate tests

Duncan’s study used 33 participants and was divided into two parts: a lab test, and a test in ordinary living conditions.

In the lab, participants walked on a treadmill. Their steps were both manually counted and tracked using two iPhones — a personal phone, and a lab phone.

“At lower speeds, [the iPhones] were less accurate, missing about nine to ten per cent of steps,” said Duncan.

However, the gap narrowed at speeds above five kilometres per hour, missing less than five per cent of steps, a figure that Duncan says is more in line with traditional pedometers.

0bf83_apple-watch-launch Study finds iPhone health app miscounts your daily steps

iPhones tend to be more accurate at counting steps when users walk faster than five kilometres per hour — the same standard walking speeds utilized by Google and Apple maps apps. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

A 20 per cent gap

But the greater discrepancy occurred in the second phase of the study, when participants tracked steps outside the lab.

In addition to keeping their phones on while they went about their daily routine, they also wore fixed accelerators around their waists for three days, which tracked how fast and how far they moved.

According to the study, the iPhone underestimated the accelerometer data by an average of 21.5 per cent, or 1,340 steps per day.

Duncan says the gap is significant — but the iPhone might not be entirely to blame.

“A lot of that could be attributed to people not necessarily bringing their phones with them, or carrying them in their [backpacks] instead of on their persons — like in their hands, or in their pockets.”

Leaving your phone behind when you make a trip to the bathroom, or run out to grab a coffee at work, seems to be where the error stems from, Duncan says.

Study finds iPhone health app miscounts your daily steps

Ever find yourself a few steps shy of hitting the 10,000 mark? Turns out your smartphone might be holding you back.

The popular iPhone health app isn’t the most reliable personal trainer, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.

Researchers found that the iPhone app can underestimate the number of steps taken in a day by as much as 20 per cent.

“Any time you’re measuring something, there’s going to be a little bit of error,” said Mark Duncan, PhD candidate at UBC’s School of Kinesiology and lead author of the study.

But sometimes, it’s not the technology itself that’s entirely to blame.

Two separate tests

Duncan’s study used 33 participants and was divided into two parts: a lab test, and a test in ordinary living conditions.

In the lab, participants walked on a treadmill. Their steps were both manually counted and tracked using two iPhones — a personal phone, and a lab phone.

“At lower speeds, [the iPhones] were less accurate, missing about nine to ten per cent of steps,” said Duncan.

However, the gap narrowed at speeds above five kilometres per hour, missing less than five per cent of steps, a figure that Duncan says is more in line with traditional pedometers.

0bf83_apple-watch-launch Study finds iPhone health app miscounts your daily steps

iPhones tend to be more accurate at counting steps when users walk faster than five kilometres per hour — the same standard walking speeds utilized by Google and Apple maps apps. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

A 20 per cent gap

But the greater discrepancy occurred in the second phase of the study, when participants tracked steps outside the lab.

In addition to keeping their phones on while they went about their daily routine, they also wore fixed accelerators around their waists for three days, which tracked how fast and how far they moved.

According to the study, the iPhone underestimated the accelerometer data by an average of 21.5 per cent, or 1,340 steps per day.

Duncan says the gap is significant — but the iPhone might not be entirely to blame.

“A lot of that could be attributed to people not necessarily bringing their phones with them, or carrying them in their [backpacks] instead of on their persons — like in their hands, or in their pockets.”

Leaving your phone behind when you make a trip to the bathroom, or run out to grab a coffee at work, seems to be where the error stems from, Duncan says.

Chrome 63 vs Windows 10 Edge: Google steps up rivalry with site …

69ea2_5a09aaa160b2a3d340901db2-1280x7201nov152017125857poster Chrome 63 vs Windows 10 Edge: Google steps up rivalry with site ...

Google’s latest effort to pry businesses odd Internet Explorer and keep them away from Windows 10 Edge is a new security feature called site isolation, which handles each page in its own process.

With the release of Chrome 63, enterprise admins will be able to configure Chrome to render content for each site in its own dedicated process.

According to Google, keeping each site isolated from other sites in Chrome offers enterprises the strongest security. The technique is designed to thwart attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in the renderer process to run malicious code inside Chrome’s render sandbox and steal information.

However, it does come with a significant overhead, bumping up Chrome’s memory usage on PCs by between 10 and 20 percent.

Chrome’s optional, per-site isolation comes as Microsoft continues to harden Windows 10 Edge using hardware-based virtualization through tools such as Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG), which allow Edge to run in an isolated hardware environment.

In October, Microsoft said that WDAG marked a major breakthrough in sandbox technology since it offers a shield against attacks on the kernel, which is unprotected if an attack escapes the browser sandbox.

The good news for end-users is that Google and Microsoft are competing fiercely on the security front, adopting different approaches to protect against new attacks.

69ea2_5a09aaa160b2a3d340901db2-1280x7201nov152017125857poster Chrome 63 vs Windows 10 Edge: Google steps up rivalry with site ...

With Chrome 63, businesses can also configure policies to restrict access to extensions based on the permissions required.


Image: Google

The one-site-per-process feature has been an equally important project for Chrome. Justin Schuh, engineering lead for Chrome security, earlier this year said site isolation was the biggest difference in Google’s approach to security and would make it superior Microsoft’s new Edge defenses. The technology promises to prevent remote code execution inside Chrome’s renderer sandbox.

Admins can choose to turn on Chrome’s site isolation for all sites or select a list of websites to isolate to run in their own rendering process. Google suggests including sites that users log into and important sites such as productivity site or intranet.

Chrome now also offers admins the ability to set a policy that blocks access to extensions based on the permissions they require.

This feature adds to the ability to whitelist and blacklist certain Chrome extensions. Admins have a large selection of permissions to block, including audio capture, USB, and video capture.

Additionally, Chrome 63 introduces Transport Layer Security version 1.3, which is enabled for Gmail in the updated browser.

Google is bringing NTLMv2 support to Mac, Linux, Android and Chrome OS. NTLM or NT LAN Manager is a Microsoft authentication protocol for Windows.

Chrome 64, due out in early 2018, includes support for NTLMv2 and Extended Protection for Authentication. Chrome’s support for non-Windows platforms brings Chrome on these to the same level as Chrome on Windows.

The company will also offer admins some leeway on an incoming crackdown on antivirus software that injects code into Chrome processes. Google argues that this is an outdated process that causes crashes.

Chrome warnings will advise users to uninstall the antivirus. It is encouraging vendors to use other methods, such as Chrome extensions and Native Messaging. Starting with Chrome 66 in April 2018, users may see a notification to update or remove the offending application.

To cater to business, Google will offer a new policy that gives admins extended support for critical apps that need to inject code into Chrome to function.

Finally, Chrome 63 includes fixes for 37 vulnerabilities. Google paid researchers $46,174 for reporting the Chrome bugs, including an award to Microsoft’s Offensive Security Research Team.

Previous and related coverage

Google will lock down Chrome on Windows

Does the Chrome web browser crash on you in Windows? Google plans on fixing a common cause for these problems.

Five tricks to make Google Chrome faster and better

Here are five tricks to help you speed up your browser and increase your productivity.

Top Google Chrome extensions to enhance your productivity, security, and performance

If you are a Google Chrome user and you’re not making use of extensions, then you are really missing out. Here is a selection of extensions aimed specifically at boosting your productivity and privacy.

Read more on Google

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University study shows iPhones can miss 21% of your steps – but half of it is your fault

If you use the Activity or Health app on your iPhone to keep track of the number of steps you walk each day, you’re probably doing better than you think. A study by the University of British Columbia found that the iPhone underestimates the number of steps people take by up to 21.5% …


3b66d_screen-shot-2017-03-30-at-14-48-26 University study shows iPhones can miss 21% of your steps – but half of it is your fault

NordVPN

The study tested iPhones against the gold standard for measuring steps: a waist-mounted pedometer. The team also performed laboratory tests where the number of steps walked on a treadmill were counted manually, to provide an absolute measure.

What they found was interesting. For faster walking speeds, in a lab environment, the iPhone was off by less than 5% – an accuracy considered acceptable even in a dedicated pedometer.

For slower walking paces, however, the iPhone underestimated the number of steps by as much as 9.4%. And in real-life use, the iPhone missed 21.5% of steps – an average of 1,340 per day. The UBC says this is explained both by slow walking and by the fact that people don’t take their phones with them everywhere when they are at home or work. Trips to the bathroom and water cooler are two examples where study participants left their phones behind.

The good news, though, is that the study found that inaccuracies consistently resulted from under-reads, not over-reads.

“For people who are already tracking their steps, they can rest assured that if their phone says they’re getting the recommended 10,000 steps in a day, they are probably getting at least that many, and they are working toward better health,” said lead author Mark Duncan. “From a public health point of view, it’s better that it underestimates than overestimates.”

The study was published in the Journal of Sports Sciences.


Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

Chrome 63 vs Windows 10 Edge: Google steps up rivalry with site isolation security

1ba91_chromeenterpriseupdates01-max-1000x1000 Chrome 63 vs Windows 10 Edge: Google steps up rivalry with site isolation security

With Chrome 63, businesses can also configure policies to restrict access to extensions based on the permissions required.


Google

Google’s latest effort to pry businesses off Internet Explorer and keep them away from Windows 10 Edge is a new security feature called site isolation, which handles each page in its own process.

With the release of Chrome 63, enterprise admins will be able to configure Chrome to render content for each site in its own dedicated process.

As Google notes, keeping each site isolated from other sites in Chrome offers enterprises the strongest security. The technique is designed to thwart attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in the renderer process to run malicious code inside Chrome’s render sandbox and steal information.

However, it does come with a significant overhead, bumping up Chrome’s memory usage on PCs by between 10 and 20 percent.

Chrome’s optional, per-site isolation comes as Microsoft continues to harden Windows 10 Edge using hardware-based virtualization through tools such as Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG), which allow Edge to run in an isolated hardware environment.

In October, Microsoft argued that WDAG marked a major breakthrough in sandbox technology since it offers a shield against attacks on the kernel, which is unprotected if an attack escapes the browser sandbox.

The good news for end-users is that Google and Microsoft are competing fiercely on the security front, adopting different approaches to protect against new attacks.

The one-site-per-process feature has been an equally important project for Chrome. Justin Schuh, engineering lead for Chrome security, earlier this year said site isolation was the biggest difference in Google’s approach to security and would make it superior Microsoft’s new Edge defenses. The technology promises to prevent remote code execution inside Chrome’s renderer sandbox.

Admins can choose to turn on Chrome’s site isolation for all sites or select a list of websites to isolate to run in their own rendering process. Google suggests including sites that users log into and important sites such as productivity site or intranet.

Chrome now also offers admins the ability to set a policy that blocks access to extensions based on the permissions they require.

This feature adds to the ability to whitelist and blacklist certain Chrome extensions. Admins have a large selection of permissions to block, including audio capture, USB, and video capture.

Additionally, Chrome 63 introduces Transport Layer Security version 1.3, which is enabled for Gmail in the updated browser.

Google is bringing NTLMv2 support to Mac, Linux, Android and Chrome OS. NTLM or NT LAN Manager is a Microsoft authentication protocol for Windows.

Chrome 64, due out in early 2018, includes support for NTLMv2 and Extended Protection for Authentication. Chrome’s support for non-Windows platforms brings Chrome on these to the same level as Chrome on Windows.

The company will also offer admins some leeway on an incoming crackdown on antivirus software that injects code into Chrome processes. Google argues that this is an outdated process that causes crashes.

Chrome warnings will advise users to uninstall the antivirus. It is encouraging vendors to use other methods, such as Chrome extensions and Native Messaging. Starting with Chrome 66 in April 2018, users may see a notification to update or remove the offending application.

To cater to business, Google will offer a new policy that gives admins extended support for critical apps that need to inject code into Chrome to function.

Finally, Chrome 63 includes fixes for 37 vulnerabilities. Google paid researchers $46,174 for reporting the Chrome bugs, including an award to Microsoft’s Offensive Security Research Team.

Previous and related coverage

Google will lock down Chrome on Windows

Does the Chrome web browser crash on you in Windows? Google plans on fixing a common cause for these problems.

Five tricks to make Google Chrome faster and better

Here are five tricks to help you speed up your browser and increase your productivity.

Top Google Chrome extensions to enhance your productivity, security, and performance

If you are a Google Chrome user and you’re not making use of extensions, then you are really missing out. Here is a selection of extensions aimed specifically at boosting your productivity and privacy.

Getting Bitcoin on Grandma’s Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps – Bitcoin …

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...

So, you’ve helped mom buy some bitcoins and grandma is starting to feel a little left out. Being the perfect grandchild you are, you want to make her feel included in the latest family craze. However, grandma doesn’t believe in spending ridiculous amounts of money on an iPhone, she uses an affordable, tasteful Android. So let’s introduce grandma to cryptocurrencies in three easy steps.

Also read: Getting Bitcoin on Mom’s iPhone: 3 Easy Steps

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 1

Step 1: Quick! Get Grandma to the Google Play Store!

Similar to mom, grandma is up to date with all the latest apps like: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. She knows about the Google Play Store. Ask her to click on the triangle icon (Fig. 1). Now get her a pen and some paper before we move on.

In the Search Bar, type in “bitcoin wallet.” She’ll have a plethora of choices to choose from. For grandmothers, we suggest three popular choices: MyceliumBread or Bitcoin.com. Each has an intuitive interface and is easy to use.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 2

Bitcoin.com has a super solid wallet. With over 805,000 wallets created, our wallet is easy to use for beginners and robust enough for experts. Upon downloading the Bitcoin.com wallet, both bitcoin and bitcoin cash wallets are automatically set up for you.

Step 2: Download your Wallet

Grandma then should click Bitcoin.com’s wallet for Android in the play store. We’re going to walk-through Bitcoin.com’s wallet.

Right after she presses, “install,” a progress bar will appear as it downloads. This should take a few seconds depending on grandma’s internet connection.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 3

Ask her to click the app symbol. Click “get started.” Three ‘pages’ of simple instructions follow. Click “create bitcoin wallet.” It should then confirm her wallet has been created. It should ask for an email notification. Enter her favorite email address. Click “continue.” Click “confirm.”

Now is perhaps the most important part. Remember that paper and pen you gave her? She should see “No backup, no bitcoin.” Click on “backup wallet.” She’ll be warned about what she is about to do. Click “got it.” No screenshots, click “I understand.”

Make sure to write down the 12-word secret passphrase on a piece of paper and put that paper in a safe place. You’ll find those in the wallet’s settings at any time.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...

Step 3: Getting Bitcoin

Obtaining bitcoin for grandma on her Android is as easy as getting bitcoins on your mother’s iPhone. If she wants to purchase a few bitcoins she can use a platform like Localbitcoins that asks for very little personal information. This way she can meet someone locally to buy her first Satoshis, but it’s probably a good idea to go along with her for her first meetup. Moreover, if she doesn’t mind sharing personal information then she can also download the easy-to-use app, Coinbase, which can also be downloaded to her Android. Check out the video on how to use Localbitcoins below.

Grandma is done! Now grandmother can have a wonderful dinner conversation with the family on how you helped her buy those wonderful bitcoins that keep appreciating in value.

What do you think about helping senior citizens get started in bitcoin? Are they too old to understand it? Or did they just not have enough guidance? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Google Play and Shutterstock.  


Express yourself freely at Bitcoin.com’s user forums. We don’t censor on political grounds. Check forum.Bitcoin.com.

Getting Bitcoin on Grandma’s Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps – Bitcoin …

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...

So, you’ve helped mom buy some bitcoins and grandma is starting to feel a little left out. Being the perfect grandchild you are, you want to make her feel included in the latest family craze. However, grandma doesn’t believe in spending ridiculous amounts of money on an iPhone, she uses an affordable, tasteful Android. So let’s introduce grandma to cryptocurrencies in three easy steps.

Also read: Getting Bitcoin on Mom’s iPhone: 3 Easy Steps

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 1

Step 1: Quick! Get Grandma to the Google Play Store!

Similar to mom, grandma is up to date with all the latest apps like: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. She knows about the Google Play Store. Ask her to click on the triangle icon (Fig. 1). Now get her a pen and some paper before we move on.

In the Search Bar, type in “bitcoin wallet.” She’ll have a plethora of choices to choose from. For grandmothers, we suggest three popular choices: MyceliumBread or Bitcoin.com. Each has an intuitive interface and is easy to use.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 2

Bitcoin.com has a super solid wallet. With over 805,000 wallets created, our wallet is easy to use for beginners and robust enough for experts. Upon downloading the Bitcoin.com wallet, both bitcoin and bitcoin cash wallets are automatically set up for you.

Step 2: Download your Wallet

Grandma then should click Bitcoin.com’s wallet for Android in the play store. We’re going to walk-through Bitcoin.com’s wallet.

Right after she presses, “install,” a progress bar will appear as it downloads. This should take a few seconds depending on grandma’s internet connection.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 3

Ask her to click the app symbol. Click “get started.” Three ‘pages’ of simple instructions follow. Click “create bitcoin wallet.” It should then confirm her wallet has been created. It should ask for an email notification. Enter her favorite email address. Click “continue.” Click “confirm.”

Now is perhaps the most important part. Remember that paper and pen you gave her? She should see “No backup, no bitcoin.” Click on “backup wallet.” She’ll be warned about what she is about to do. Click “got it.” No screenshots, click “I understand.”

Make sure to write down the 12-word secret passphrase on a piece of paper and put that paper in a safe place. You’ll find those in the wallet’s settings at any time.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...

Step 3: Getting Bitcoin

Obtaining bitcoin for grandma on her Android is as easy as getting bitcoins on your mother’s iPhone. If she wants to purchase a few bitcoins she can use a platform like Localbitcoins that asks for very little personal information. This way she can meet someone locally to buy her first Satoshis, but it’s probably a good idea to go along with her for her first meetup. Moreover, if she doesn’t mind sharing personal information then she can also download the easy-to-use app, Coinbase, which can also be downloaded to her Android. Check out the video on how to use Localbitcoins below.

Grandma is done! Now grandmother can have a wonderful dinner conversation with the family on how you helped her buy those wonderful bitcoins that keep appreciating in value.

What do you think about helping senior citizens get started in bitcoin? Are they too old to understand it? Or did they just not have enough guidance? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Google Play and Shutterstock.  


Express yourself freely at Bitcoin.com’s user forums. We don’t censor on political grounds. Check forum.Bitcoin.com.

Getting Bitcoin on Grandma’s Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps – Bitcoin …

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...

So, you’ve helped mom buy some bitcoins and grandma is starting to feel a little left out. Being the perfect grandchild you are, you want to make her feel included in the latest family craze. However, grandma doesn’t believe in spending ridiculous amounts of money on an iPhone, she uses an affordable, tasteful Android. So let’s introduce grandma to cryptocurrencies in three easy steps.

Also read: Getting Bitcoin on Mom’s iPhone: 3 Easy Steps

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 1

Step 1: Quick! Get Grandma to the Google Play Store!

Similar to mom, grandma is up to date with all the latest apps like: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. She knows about the Google Play Store. Ask her to click on the triangle icon (Fig. 1). Now get her a pen and some paper before we move on.

In the Search Bar, type in “bitcoin wallet.” She’ll have a plethora of choices to choose from. For grandmothers, we suggest three popular choices: MyceliumBread or Bitcoin.com. Each has an intuitive interface and is easy to use.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 2

Bitcoin.com has a super solid wallet. With over 805,000 wallets created, our wallet is easy to use for beginners and robust enough for experts. Upon downloading the Bitcoin.com wallet, both bitcoin and bitcoin cash wallets are automatically set up for you.

Step 2: Download your Wallet

Grandma then should click Bitcoin.com’s wallet for Android in the play store. We’re going to walk-through Bitcoin.com’s wallet.

Right after she presses, “install,” a progress bar will appear as it downloads. This should take a few seconds depending on grandma’s internet connection.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...
Fig. 3

Ask her to click the app symbol. Click “get started.” Three ‘pages’ of simple instructions follow. Click “create bitcoin wallet.” It should then confirm her wallet has been created. It should ask for an email notification. Enter her favorite email address. Click “continue.” Click “confirm.”

Now is perhaps the most important part. Remember that paper and pen you gave her? She should see “No backup, no bitcoin.” Click on “backup wallet.” She’ll be warned about what she is about to do. Click “got it.” No screenshots, click “I understand.”

Make sure to write down the 12-word secret passphrase on a piece of paper and put that paper in a safe place. You’ll find those in the wallet’s settings at any time.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ... Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps - Bitcoin ...

Step 3: Getting Bitcoin

Obtaining bitcoin for grandma on her Android is as easy as getting bitcoins on your mother’s iPhone. If she wants to purchase a few bitcoins she can use a platform like Localbitcoins that asks for very little personal information. This way she can meet someone locally to buy her first Satoshis, but it’s probably a good idea to go along with her for her first meetup. Moreover, if she doesn’t mind sharing personal information then she can also download the easy-to-use app, Coinbase, which can also be downloaded to her Android. Check out the video on how to use Localbitcoins below.

Grandma is done! Now grandmother can have a wonderful dinner conversation with the family on how you helped her buy those wonderful bitcoins that keep appreciating in value.

What do you think about helping senior citizens get started in bitcoin? Are they too old to understand it? Or did they just not have enough guidance? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Google Play and Shutterstock.  


Express yourself freely at Bitcoin.com’s user forums. We don’t censor on political grounds. Check forum.Bitcoin.com.

Getting Bitcoin on Grandma’s Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps

So, you’ve helped mom buy some bitcoins and grandma is starting to feel a little left out. Being the perfect grandchild you are, you want to make her feel included in the latest family craze. However, grandma doesn’t believe in spending ridiculous amounts of money on an iPhone, she uses an affordable, tasteful Android. So let’s introduce grandma to cryptocurrencies in three easy steps.

Also read: Getting Bitcoin on Mom’s iPhone: 3 Easy Steps

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps
Fig. 1

Step 1: Quick! Get Grandma to the Google Play Store!

Similar to mom, grandma is up to date with all the latest apps like: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. She knows about the Google Play Store. Ask her to click on the triangle icon (Fig. 1). Now get her a pen and some paper before we move on.

In the Search Bar, type in “bitcoin wallet.” She’ll have a plethora of choices to choose from. For grandmothers, we suggest three popular choices: MyceliumBread or Bitcoin.com. Each has an intuitive interface and is easy to use.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps
Fig. 2

Bitcoin.com has a super solid wallet. With over 805,000 wallets created, our wallet is easy to use for beginners and robust enough for experts. Upon downloading the Bitcoin.com wallet, both bitcoin and bitcoin cash wallets are automatically set up for you.

Step 2: Download your Wallet

Grandma then should click Bitcoin.com’s wallet for Android in the play store. We’re going to walk-through Bitcoin.com’s wallet.

Right after she presses, “install,” a progress bar will appear as it downloads. This should take a few seconds depending on grandma’s internet connection.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps
Fig. 3

Ask her to click the app symbol. Click “get started.” Three ‘pages’ of simple instructions follow. Click “create bitcoin wallet.” It should then confirm her wallet has been created. It should ask for an email notification. Enter her favorite email address. Click “continue.” Click “confirm.”

Now is perhaps the most important part. Remember that paper and pen you gave her? She should see “No backup, no bitcoin.” Click on “backup wallet.” She’ll be warned about what she is about to do. Click “got it.” No screenshots, click “I understand.”

Make sure to write down the 12-word secret passphrase on a piece of paper and put that paper in a safe place. You’ll find those in the wallet’s settings at any time.

 Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Grandma's Android Phone: 3 Easy Steps

Step 3: Getting Bitcoin

Obtaining bitcoin for grandma on her Android is as easy as getting bitcoins on your mother’s iPhone. If she wants to purchase a few bitcoins she can use a platform like Localbitcoins that asks for very little personal information. This way she can meet someone locally to buy her first Satoshis, but it’s probably a good idea to go along with her for her first meetup. Moreover, if she doesn’t mind sharing personal information then she can also download the easy-to-use app, Coinbase, which can also be downloaded to her Android. Check out the video on how to use Localbitcoins below.

Grandma is done! Now grandmother can have a wonderful dinner conversation with the family on how you helped her buy those wonderful bitcoins that keep appreciating in value.

What do you think about helping senior citizens get started in bitcoin? Are they too old to understand it? Or did they just not have enough guidance? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Google Play and Shutterstock.  


Express yourself freely at Bitcoin.com’s user forums. We don’t censor on political grounds. Check forum.Bitcoin.com.

Getting Bitcoin on Mom’s iPhone: 3 Easy Steps

 Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps

New technology can be intimidating. With the holiday season in full swing, a  topic of conversation around the family table is bound to be bitcoin, especially as its price continues to the moon. And remember how last year mom finally got around to upgrading to a smart phone, her first iPhone? Well, now is the perfect moment to introduce her to a hinge of human history, cryptographic currencies, … and you can do it in three easy steps.

Also read: New To Bitcoin? Welcome! Here’s How To Take Those First Steps

 Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps
Fig. 1

Step 1: Quick! Get Mom to the App Store!

Flipping through mom’s iPhone, immediately noticeable are applications (apps) she’s already found: Pinterest, Netflix, Groupon. Clearly she knows her way around the App Store. Ask her to click the A icon (fig. 1).

In the Search Bar, thumb the phrase “bitcoin wallet.” That should list multiple wallets, handily rated to grab her attention, and just a click away from download. For mom’s purposes, suggest three popular choices: Airbitz, Bread, or Bitcoin.com. Each has an intuitive interface, and each is beyond easy to use.

 Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps
Fig. 2

Airbitz, now called Edge (in beta), is just lovely. It offers discounted gift cards, and merchants who accept bitcoin, along with the usual wallet features (fig. 2). Bread is great in its own way as well, and might be less cluttered. It has simple Send and Receive functions as its only options. Both are wonderful choices.

We’re going to walk-through Bitcoin.com’s wallet. It is streamlined and incredibly useful for newbies. It’s also closing-in on a million downloads. Mom will dig it.

Step 2: Download a Wallet

Before any next step, get mom a piece of paper and a pen.

Mom then should click Bitcoin.com’s wallet for iOS (near the Apple logo), the operating system undergirding iPhone. The wallet was actually updated just days ago, and version 4.0.4 includes bitcoin and its most-popular ”fork”, bitcoin cash, capabilities.

Right after she presses download, “get,” “install,” a corresponding icon will appear on the phone’s home screen. It should also show a progress bar as it loads. This shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes depending on mom’s internet connection.

 Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps
Fig. 3

Ask her to click the icon (fig. 3). From there, she’ll be prompted through the very basic setup procedures. A snazzy aspect of the Bitcoin.com wallet includes, at every new juncture, a principle or hint as to why what is prompted is being prompted. Mom is receiving an education as she installs.

Click “get started.” Three ‘pages’ of simple instructions follow. Click “create bitcoin wallet.” It should then confirm her wallet has been created. It should ask for an email notification. Enter her favorite email address. Click “continue.” Click “confirm.”

Now is perhaps the most important part. Remember that paper and pen you gave her? She should see “No backup, no bitcoin.” Click on “backup wallet.” She’ll be warned about what she is about to do. Click “got it.” No screenshots, click “I understand.”

 Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps

 Getting Bitcoin on Mom's iPhone: 3 Easy Steps

It will then give mom a 12 word seed, a randomly generated set of words, to use as a recovery phrase. Have mom write down these words in order. Click “I’ve written them down.” She’ll then be re-prompted to confirm her recovery phrase in the exact order given.

She’s now setup to send and receive bitcoin. Be a good lad, yeah?, and send her a few Satoshis to get her excited.

Step 3: Getting Bitcoin

The best way mentally to grasp cryptocurrency is to use it. The holidays give bitcoiners the perfect chance to spread crypto literacy and offer something probably no one else will even consider when it comes to mom.

Sitting there, transferring money from your phone to hers will delight her to no end. And doing it more than one time will allow her to see how addresses are refreshed and regenerated to facilitate pseudo-anonymity. Cool stuff.

If she gets the bug and wants to dive right in, an easy to use site that doesn’t ask for too many personal details is Localbitcoins. And, unlike exchanges of the formal variety, she keeps her key/seed to herself. But, tag along with her the first time she meets up with a bitcoiner on a café to exchange some old fiat for shiny new crypto, please.

Well, you’ve done it now. Mom can brag to her friends she is riding the wave of financial freedom, becoming her own bank. Soon, she’ll be wearing crypto-gear around the house, using lingo such as “Hodl,” and will probably run circles around you pretty quickly.

What do you think about all this? Is it a good idea to help the elderly get into bitcoin? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Apple, Pixabay, Shutterstock.  


Make sure you do not miss any important Bitcoin-related news! Follow our news feed any which way you prefer; via Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, RSS or email (scroll down to the bottom of this page to subscribe).

Four Steps to Improve Soil Health

Nearly 75 years ago, USDA soil scientist Charles E. Kellogg wrote: “Essentially, all life depends upon the soil.” Expressing a similar sentiment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”

Think about it: No matter how much management, labor and fertilizer you apply, and regardless of the quality of seed you plant, it’s the soil that underpins how much food and fiber you produce.

In celebration of World Soil Day, Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist, shares four steps to a Systems Approach to soil management. “Farmers have always looked at the individual components of soil health, such as fertility, tillage and water management, but to really improve soil, we have to look at all the components together,” he notes.

The first step is defining your soil health objective. “I like to define soil health as sustained productivity,” Ferrie says. “But we could also call it ‘maintaining profit,’ not just for ourselves but for our kids and grandkids.”

Soils were not created equal in terms of yield capacity. “Soils differ in their ability to produce a crop,” Ferrie explains. “Your lightest soil, even in the best of health, may not keep up yieldwise with a darker soil in poor health. It’s like comparing a 17-year-old to an 80-year old. Even though both are healthy, the teenager is more athletic.

“Even if he’s overweight, the 17-year-old may still outrun and outjump a fit 80-year old. With soils, too, some are naturally more athletic. But by making all our soils as healthy as possible, we maximize each one’s productive capacity.”

The second step is knowing the difference between unhealthy and healthy soil. The characteristics of unhealthy soil, the kind you want to—have to, if at all possible—improve, include:

  • Poor tilth, which includes crusting, compaction and fields struggling to get a crop up
  • Disease problems, especially seed rot and early Pythium
  • Poor infiltration. Water runs off unhealthy soil, while it soaks into healthy soil—often in fields that are side by side
  • Ponding, resulting from poor drainage
  • Low water-holding capacity—the soil dries out while healthier fields stay green
  • Unbalanced fertility, caused by pH issues
  • Clay knobs where the topsoil has been eroded

The characteristics of healthy soil include:

  • Deep topsoil. Yes, you are limited by what nature and years of erosion have provided, but you can still maximize the health and productivity of whatever soil you have, Ferrie says.
  • Balanced nutrients and proper pH
  • Good drainage, whether naturally or because you installed drainage to remove high water tables, which also lets you make field passes in a timely fashion without causing compaction.
  • Usable water-holding capacity to withstand drought
  • Good soil tilth. “Using tillage, we can eliminate sudden density changes, improve infiltration, increase usable water-holding capacity and decrease surface and subsurface hardness,” Ferrie notes. “However, doing the wrong tillage at the wrong time can destroy everything we’ve accomplished.”
  • Resistant to adverse events, which is the defining characteristic of healthy soil—the one that jumps out at you from the road or the combine monitor.
  • Strong and diverse microbial populations. The good things you do for your soil are actually aimed at supporting the microbial populations, Ferrie says. “For example, we tend to think we are applying fertilizer to feed crop plants, but those nutrients must be processed by microorganisms and then released to the plants,” he explains. “When we apply lime, we are applying it not for the corn crop, but for the microbes,” Ferrie adds. “Corn can live with a pH as low as 4.0. But soil microbes can’t.
  • Free of toxins, which includes herbicide residues, allelopathic substances and acids

The third step is evaluating the management aspects of soil health—think of them as chemical, physical and biological.

You already understand the chemical side. It’s the nutrient and pH analysis that you find on your soil test.

“Physical aspects like soil texture—the percentage of sand, silt and clay particles—make some soils more ‘athletic’ than others,” Ferrie says.

There’s a huge difference in the size of those particles. “Think of it like this,” Ferrie says. “If a sand particle is a 747 airliner, a silt particle is a Cessna and a clay particle is a hummingbird.”

Another physical aspect is aggregate stability. “Healthy soil has particles bound together, in a crumblike structure, or soil aggregate,” Ferrie says. “Different sized aggregates create macropores, which hold water that can be extracted and used by plants. Smaller pores, called micropores, also hold water, but it is bound tightly to soil particles and unavailable to plants.

“In healthy soil, if you immerse an aggregate in water, it will hold together. If the aggregate falls apart, sand
remains in the upper layer, while silt and clay shift downward in the soil profile. This changes macropores into micropores, inhibiting water percolation,” Ferrie explains.

“So aggregate stability translates directly into available water-holding capacity—the amount of usable water your soil can hold above the water table,” he summarizes.

“For practical purposes, the water-holding capacity determines how heavy a population you can plant—something you must understand to use variable-rate technology.”

Another physical property of soil is penetration resistance. You can think of it as compaction or soil strength. When soil is free of compaction and dense layers, it is easier for crop roots to penetrate. It’s also easier for water to move upward, via capillary action.

The biological aspect is organic matter—the portion of soil that was once living plants or animals. That’s one of the things that makes soil microorganisms so important. They mineralize organic matter into nutrients that crop plants can use.

Soils with higher levels of organic matter can retain more nutrients. This is called cation exchange capacity (CEC) and is expressed as a numerical value.

“We’re looking for a balance of chemical, physical and biological aspects,” Ferrie says. “It’s possible to have high soil fertility levels due to manure applications but poor soil biology and physical health. An organic farmer could have great physical and biological properties in his soil but poor chemical health. For healthy soil, you must manage all three components.”

Each component—chemical, physical and biological—can be tested, providing benchmarks to measure your progress in improving soil health.

The fourth step is to start improving the health of your soil. Tackle the easiest steps first. These include balancing fertility and pH levels and using vertical tillage to remove compacted layers, Ferrie says. Improve drainage if you and your landlords can afford the investment.

After that, the options get tougher. “Reducing tillage is beneficial,” Ferrie says, “but it may delay planting, especially in northern areas. No-till may be difficult in poorly drained soils. Some can’t be no-tilled until you improve structure. Changing tillage systems requires its own Systems Approach, from planting through harvest.”

“Diversified crop rotations are better for soil health, but they don’t fit many operations that have specialized in a few crops for efficiency,” he says. “For new crops to be practical, they require markets, storage capacity and often livestock.”

Cover crops, in conjunction with no-till, have the highest potential to improve soil health. “Cover crops can provide diversity for soil microbes; improve soil aggregation, water filtration and storage; suppress weeds; reduce soil erosion; and recycle crop nutrients so they won’t escape and pollute water sources,” Ferrie says.

“But just like adding new cash crops to your rotation, cover crops require knowledge and good management to be successful—so do your homework first. Decide what cover crop to plant, based on the cash crop that will follow it next spring.

“Decide now when you’re going to kill the cover crop next spring—and who will kill it, you or your retailer,” Ferrie says.

Determine whether you will have to pay a carbon penalty because of the increased residue created by the cover crop—and, if so, how you are going to pay it. Whether there’s a carbon penalty will depend on which cover crop you plant and which cash crop follows it.

Short growing seasons add to the challenge. “Planting a cover crop without fully understanding all these things is failing to apply the Systems Approach,” Ferrie says.

The conundrum with soil health is maintaining profit as you make improvements. “The most profitable farms may not be the healthiest, and the healthiest farms may not be the most profitable,” Ferrie says. “But when you find that balance, you’ll have a farm that is healthy, profitable and sustainable for your generation and generations to come. Those are the fields our kids and grandkids will farm in the future. Let’s leave them a legacy of healthy, sustainable soils.

“That’s the goal we have to keep in mind as we invest our time, money and effort in improving soil health. It will be worth the effort,” he adds.

 

Four Steps to Improve Soil Health

Nearly 75 years ago, USDA soil scientist Charles E. Kellogg wrote: “Essentially, all life depends upon the soil.” Expressing a similar sentiment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”

Think about it: No matter how much management, labor and fertilizer you apply, and regardless of the quality of seed you plant, it’s the soil that underpins how much food and fiber you produce.

In celebration of World Soil Day, Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist, shares four steps to a Systems Approach to soil management. “Farmers have always looked at the individual components of soil health, such as fertility, tillage and water management, but to really improve soil, we have to look at all the components together,” he notes.

The first step is defining your soil health objective. “I like to define soil health as sustained productivity,” Ferrie says. “But we could also call it ‘maintaining profit,’ not just for ourselves but for our kids and grandkids.”

Soils were not created equal in terms of yield capacity. “Soils differ in their ability to produce a crop,” Ferrie explains. “Your lightest soil, even in the best of health, may not keep up yieldwise with a darker soil in poor health. It’s like comparing a 17-year-old to an 80-year old. Even though both are healthy, the teenager is more athletic.

“Even if he’s overweight, the 17-year-old may still outrun and outjump a fit 80-year old. With soils, too, some are naturally more athletic. But by making all our soils as healthy as possible, we maximize each one’s productive capacity.”

The second step is knowing the difference between unhealthy and healthy soil. The characteristics of unhealthy soil, the kind you want to—have to, if at all possible—improve, include:

  • Poor tilth, which includes crusting, compaction and fields struggling to get a crop up
  • Disease problems, especially seed rot and early Pythium
  • Poor infiltration. Water runs off unhealthy soil, while it soaks into healthy soil—often in fields that are side by side
  • Ponding, resulting from poor drainage
  • Low water-holding capacity—the soil dries out while healthier fields stay green
  • Unbalanced fertility, caused by pH issues
  • Clay knobs where the topsoil has been eroded

The characteristics of healthy soil include:

  • Deep topsoil. Yes, you are limited by what nature and years of erosion have provided, but you can still maximize the health and productivity of whatever soil you have, Ferrie says.
  • Balanced nutrients and proper pH
  • Good drainage, whether naturally or because you installed drainage to remove high water tables, which also lets you make field passes in a timely fashion without causing compaction.
  • Usable water-holding capacity to withstand drought
  • Good soil tilth. “Using tillage, we can eliminate sudden density changes, improve infiltration, increase usable water-holding capacity and decrease surface and subsurface hardness,” Ferrie notes. “However, doing the wrong tillage at the wrong time can destroy everything we’ve accomplished.”
  • Resistant to adverse events, which is the defining characteristic of healthy soil—the one that jumps out at you from the road or the combine monitor.
  • Strong and diverse microbial populations. The good things you do for your soil are actually aimed at supporting the microbial populations, Ferrie says. “For example, we tend to think we are applying fertilizer to feed crop plants, but those nutrients must be processed by microorganisms and then released to the plants,” he explains. “When we apply lime, we are applying it not for the corn crop, but for the microbes,” Ferrie adds. “Corn can live with a pH as low as 4.0. But soil microbes can’t.
  • Free of toxins, which includes herbicide residues, allelopathic substances and acids

The third step is evaluating the management aspects of soil health—think of them as chemical, physical and biological.

You already understand the chemical side. It’s the nutrient and pH analysis that you find on your soil test.

“Physical aspects like soil texture—the percentage of sand, silt and clay particles—make some soils more ‘athletic’ than others,” Ferrie says.

There’s a huge difference in the size of those particles. “Think of it like this,” Ferrie says. “If a sand particle is a 747 airliner, a silt particle is a Cessna and a clay particle is a hummingbird.”

Another physical aspect is aggregate stability. “Healthy soil has particles bound together, in a crumblike structure, or soil aggregate,” Ferrie says. “Different sized aggregates create macropores, which hold water that can be extracted and used by plants. Smaller pores, called micropores, also hold water, but it is bound tightly to soil particles and unavailable to plants.

“In healthy soil, if you immerse an aggregate in water, it will hold together. If the aggregate falls apart, sand
remains in the upper layer, while silt and clay shift downward in the soil profile. This changes macropores into micropores, inhibiting water percolation,” Ferrie explains.

“So aggregate stability translates directly into available water-holding capacity—the amount of usable water your soil can hold above the water table,” he summarizes.

“For practical purposes, the water-holding capacity determines how heavy a population you can plant—something you must understand to use variable-rate technology.”

Another physical property of soil is penetration resistance. You can think of it as compaction or soil strength. When soil is free of compaction and dense layers, it is easier for crop roots to penetrate. It’s also easier for water to move upward, via capillary action.

The biological aspect is organic matter—the portion of soil that was once living plants or animals. That’s one of the things that makes soil microorganisms so important. They mineralize organic matter into nutrients that crop plants can use.

Soils with higher levels of organic matter can retain more nutrients. This is called cation exchange capacity (CEC) and is expressed as a numerical value.

“We’re looking for a balance of chemical, physical and biological aspects,” Ferrie says. “It’s possible to have high soil fertility levels due to manure applications but poor soil biology and physical health. An organic farmer could have great physical and biological properties in his soil but poor chemical health. For healthy soil, you must manage all three components.”

Each component—chemical, physical and biological—can be tested, providing benchmarks to measure your progress in improving soil health.

The fourth step is to start improving the health of your soil. Tackle the easiest steps first. These include balancing fertility and pH levels and using vertical tillage to remove compacted layers, Ferrie says. Improve drainage if you and your landlords can afford the investment.

After that, the options get tougher. “Reducing tillage is beneficial,” Ferrie says, “but it may delay planting, especially in northern areas. No-till may be difficult in poorly drained soils. Some can’t be no-tilled until you improve structure. Changing tillage systems requires its own Systems Approach, from planting through harvest.”

“Diversified crop rotations are better for soil health, but they don’t fit many operations that have specialized in a few crops for efficiency,” he says. “For new crops to be practical, they require markets, storage capacity and often livestock.”

Cover crops, in conjunction with no-till, have the highest potential to improve soil health. “Cover crops can provide diversity for soil microbes; improve soil aggregation, water filtration and storage; suppress weeds; reduce soil erosion; and recycle crop nutrients so they won’t escape and pollute water sources,” Ferrie says.

“But just like adding new cash crops to your rotation, cover crops require knowledge and good management to be successful—so do your homework first. Decide what cover crop to plant, based on the cash crop that will follow it next spring.

“Decide now when you’re going to kill the cover crop next spring—and who will kill it, you or your retailer,” Ferrie says.

Determine whether you will have to pay a carbon penalty because of the increased residue created by the cover crop—and, if so, how you are going to pay it. Whether there’s a carbon penalty will depend on which cover crop you plant and which cash crop follows it.

Short growing seasons add to the challenge. “Planting a cover crop without fully understanding all these things is failing to apply the Systems Approach,” Ferrie says.

The conundrum with soil health is maintaining profit as you make improvements. “The most profitable farms may not be the healthiest, and the healthiest farms may not be the most profitable,” Ferrie says. “But when you find that balance, you’ll have a farm that is healthy, profitable and sustainable for your generation and generations to come. Those are the fields our kids and grandkids will farm in the future. Let’s leave them a legacy of healthy, sustainable soils.

“That’s the goal we have to keep in mind as we invest our time, money and effort in improving soil health. It will be worth the effort,” he adds.

 

Dangling A Carrot For Patients To Take Healthy Steps: Does It Work?

Patricia Alexander knew she needed a mammogram but just couldn’t find the time.

“Every time I made an appointment, something would come up,” said Alexander, 53, who lives in Moreno Valley, Calif.

Over the summer, her doctor’s office, part of Vantage Medical Group, promised her a $25 Target gift card if she got the exam. Alexander, who’s insured through Medi-Cal, California’s version of the Medicaid program for lower-income people, said that helped motivate her to make a new appointment — and keep it.

Health plans, medical practices and some Medicaid programs are increasingly offering financial incentives to motivate Medicaid patients to engage in more preventive care and make healthier lifestyle choices.

They are following the lead of private insurers and employers that have long rewarded people for healthy behavior such as quitting smoking or maintaining weight loss. Such changes in health-related behavior can lower the cost of care in the long run.

“We’ve seen incentive programs be quite popular in the insurance market, and now we are seeing those ramp up in the Medicaid space as well,” said Robert Saunders, research director at the Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University.

Medicaid patients who agree to be screened for cancer, attend health-related classes or complete health risk surveys can get gift cards, cash, gym memberships, pedometers or other rewards. They may also get discounts on their out-of-pocket health care costs or bonus benefits such as dental care.

Under the Affordable Care Act, 10 states received grants totaling $85 million to test the use of financial rewards as a way to reduce the risk of chronic disease among their Medicaid populations. During the five-year demonstration, states used the incentives to encourage people to enroll in diabetes prevention, weight management, smoking cessation and other preventive programs. The states participating were California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Texas and Wisconsin.

Medi-Cal, for example, offered gift cards and nicotine replacement therapy to people who called the state’s smoking cessation line. Minnesota’s Medicaid program handed out cash to people who attended a diabetes prevention class and completed bloodwork.

An evaluation of these programs, released in April, showed that incentives help persuade Medicaid beneficiaries to take part in such preventive activities. Participants said gift cards and other rewards also helped them achieve their health goals. But the evaluators weren’t able to show that the programs prevented chronic disease or saved Medicaid money. That’s in part because those benefits could take years to manifest, according to the evaluation.

Overall, research on the effectiveness of financial incentives for the Medicaid population has been mixed. A report this year by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that they can induce people to keep an appointment or attend a class but are less likely to yield long-term behavior changes, such as weight loss. And in some cases, the report said, incentives are given to people to get exams they would have gotten anyway.

The center’s report also found that penalties, including ones that limit coverage for people who don’t engage in healthful behaviors, were not effective. Instead, they can result in increased use of emergency rooms by restricting access to other forms of care, the report said.

Some of the biggest factors preventing Medicaid patients from adopting healthful behaviors are related not to medical care but to their circumstances, said Charlene Wong, a pediatrician and health policy researcher at Duke University.

That makes administering incentive programs more complicated. Even recruiting and enrolling participants has been a challenge for some states that received grants through the Affordable Care Act.

“The thing that is most likely to help Medicaid beneficiaries utilize care appropriately is actually just giving them access to that care — and that includes providing transportation and child care,” said Hannah Katch, one of the authors of the report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Another barrier is being able to take time off work to go to the doctor.

But health plans are eager to offer patients financial incentives because it can bring their quality scores up and attract more enrollees. And medical groups, which may receive fixed payments per patient, know they can reduce their costs — and increase their profits — if their patients are healthier.

Providing incentives to plans and medical groups has created a business opportunity for some companies. Gift Card Partners has been selling gift cards to Medicaid health plans for about five years, said CEO Deb Merkin. She said health insurers that serve Medicaid patients want to improve their quality metrics, and they can do that by giving incentives and getting patients to the doctor.

“It is things like that that are so important to get them to do the right thing so that it saves money in the long run,” she said.

Agilon Health, based in Long Beach, Calif., runs incentive programs and other services for several California medical groups that care for Medi-Cal patients. The medical groups contract with the company, which provides gift cards to patients who get mammograms, cervical cancer exams or childhood immunizations. People with diabetes also receive gift cards if they get their eyes examined or blood sugar checked. And the company offers bonuses to doctors if their Medicaid patients embrace healthier behaviors.

The incentives for patients are “massively important for the Medicaid population, because the gaps in care are historically so prevalent,” said Ron Kuerbitz, CEO of Agilon. Those gaps are a big factor pushing up costs for Medicaid patients, because if they don’t get preventive services, they may be more likely to need costlier specialty care later, Kuerbitz said.

Emma Alcanter, who lives in Temecula, Calif., received a gift card from her doctor’s office after getting a mammogram late this summer. Alcanter, 56, had noticed a lump in her breast but waited about two years before getting it checked, despite reminders from her doctor’s office. “I was scared they were going to find cancer,” she said.

Alcanter finally decided to get screened after her first grandchild was born. The gift card was an added bonus, and Alcanter said it showed her doctors cared about her. Her mammogram revealed that the lump wasn’t cancer, and she plans to use the gift card to buy a present for her grandson.

KHN’s coverage in California is supported in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation.

Related Topics

Cost and Quality Medicaid


Apple COO Jeff Williams on Apple’s next steps in health

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23238_104872311-jeff-williams-handout.530x298 Apple COO Jeff Williams on Apple's next steps in health

Apple COO Jeff Williams is increasingly speaking out about his personal passion for health care.

In Williams’ view, the future of medicine involves the patient at the center of the health experience armed with their data. And Apple can play a pivotal role in collecting this information through its massively popular consumer hardware like the iPhone and Apple Watch.

The company on Thursday announced its next step into the space with a first-of-its-kind study, the Apple Heart Study, to collect data on whether its smartwatch can detect a type of abnormality with the heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation.

Williams spoke with CNBC on the details of the study and the company’s interest in health. Here’s a transcript of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.

CNBC: Let’s jump right into the news. Can you give me an overview of how the Apple Heart study will work?

Jeff Williams: It’s just a simple study, and people do studies all the time, but we think this is a really, really special time. To date all of the work that we’ve done with the Apple Watch and the heart rate monitor has been focused on heart rate, and in the last Watch, our last course, we released a discordance feature which allows people to get notifications if the heart detects an eminently high heart rate when it thinks they’re at rest. With the (Heart Study) app, the watch will look at heart rhythm.

CNBC: How will it look at heart rhythm?

Williams: The EKG is actually is actually the electrical signal in your heart. And then your heart chambers beat, and it pumps blood, but you can tell a lot about heart rhythm by looking at the pulse wave, as the blood flows from the veins. And so that’s what the Photoplethysmogram (PPG) on the watch does. It looks at the pulse wave, and we can look at those beat-to-beat intervals, which allows us to look and detect irregular heart rhythms. And we can tune this to look for irregular heart rhythms that are consistent with atrial fibrillation. And that’s a big deal. I think you probably know a bit about it, but just to make sure we’re all up to speed: AFib (atrial fibrillation) is when your heart chambers beat asynchronously. And the problem with that is, the blood starts to pool, and you know, your blood is designed to clot. That’s what keeps you from bleeding to death when you get a cut. And the problem is, if it starts to clot in your heart and then that travels, it can cause problems like stroke. And so AFib is a leading cause of stroke. And stroke is a leading cause of death around the world.



23238_104872311-jeff-williams-handout.530x298 Apple COO Jeff Williams on Apple's next steps in health


CNBC: And people often don’t feel it coming?

Williams: One of the big challenges with AFib is that people with AFib often don’t feel the symptoms — it’s asymptomatic. There are pretty clear interventions available, but people don’t know they have the problem. So we believe that detecting AFib will put people in a better position to effect their health and hopefully save a lot of lives. That’s what this study at the highest level is about. The way this is gonna work, anybody over age 22 in the United States — there’s a few conditions we exclude, people who are already being treated for AFib and other things — but, in general, anybody can download this app, starting tomorrow. That’s a new way to do studies. This is a bit of a breakthrough in that it’s a virtual clinical trial. There are probably some other clinical trials that have used apps to some degree, but one broadly available to a large population is one we think will deliver a better perspective. Many trials are done with a limited amount of people and they’re based in a certain limited geography, and this gives us a much broader population and the ability for many, many people to participate. And we’ve taken a very thoughtful approach to this, and we’ve embraced the medical community. What we didn’t want to do was just release an app that said, “we think we’ve detected AFib” and let the customer sort it out from there.

CNBC: Say more about that participation with the medical community.

Williams: We’ve taken a broad view of the translational aspects of this to the medical community. So what will happen is, when the watch detects an arrhythmia consistent with AFib, it will notify the user, and the user will then be able to connect with a study physician. Obviously if there’s an immediate concern, the study physician could address that. The most likely step that a physician takes after someone has the symptoms of arrhythmia is, they would get an ECG patch. And so as part of this study, the study coordinators will send the people an ECG patch. And the customer will wear that and mail it back in. And then there’s a follow-up with the customer. So we’re following the customers through and the ultimate goal of this is, is to verify our ability to really empower people with more information about their health with respect to arrhythmias.

CNBC: Understood. And the video aspect with the study physician, is that going to be through a telemedicine-type service?

Williams: It is. We partnered with American Well, and they are going to provide the physician’s support, and the customers have a choice of a regular phone call or a video conference. And the video conference is useful, because sometimes you can see things from a physician’s standpoint when you’re interacting with a patient, so we’ve built that into the app. The patch is being sent from biotelemetry and will be pulled back and read and I think it’s a really neat opportunity to look at arrhythmia across a broad population. Our primary goal is to detect arrhythmias consistent with AFib with the ultimate goal of reducing strokes and saving lives — that’s the primary goal. What’s interesting is there’s a real secondary opportunity here to advance heart science. One of the things that became clear to us, when we were working in the study — we met a lot of key opinion leaders, cardiologists, and there are — one of the things we discovered is, there are pretty clear guidelines about what to do with someone who has AFib if they are older and have certain conditions. What there is a lack of clarity on is what to do with younger people with AFib. All of the cardiologists we spoke to said there’s a real dearth of information, because the prevalence is low and it hasn’t been studied adequately. And now we have an opportunity with so many people wearing Apple watches, to contribute in a really different way, and hopefully we can learn a lot about arrhythmia in people who are younger, and contribute to heart science and help people live a better life. And so, that’s a really interesting aspect of this that I think a few people will take note of.

CNBC: Absolutely. And I’m wondering, as well, about the regulatory aspect of this, because I’m assuming that you talked to FDA about how to communicate back to a user, you know, “Hey, we think that you might be having an arrhythmia, you should talk to one of our physicians.” Can you talk or speak a little bit to that?

Williams: We certainly worked with the FDA. We have Stanford Medicine leading the study, which we think is fantastic. We’ve engaged with the FDA and we plan to submit the results to the FDA, so we’ve taken into account all of the appropriate language not to inappropriately alarm people and try to make this a very positive experience for our customers.

Farr: Do you see the Apple Watch as a potential medical device in the future if the study results come back positive and you find that you can use this as a first line of defense health-monitoring tool?

Williams: First off, I can say, I already think that Apple Watch can help people with their health and for their medical activity, but in terms of classifying it as a regulated medical device, I do not view that this study will make the Apple watch hardware a regulated medical device. What the software that the app, or the software, for this particular indication, will be labeled is to be determined. We don’t know what that is yet.

CNBC: Got it. And so where did this come from, this desire to want to use the watch to save lives in this way? I’ve heard on stage these stories of people saying, “the Apple watch saved my life.” Was it very organic? Or did you have this vision of it being a tool for this purpose in the beginning?

Williams: You know, it’s interesting. It has been a very organic journey. We didn’t wake up one day and say, “well we’ve done the phone, we’ve done the iPad, why don’t we knock out health next.” That’s not how it happened. We knew when we built Apple Watch that it was the most personal device we’ve ever made, and we thought we had an opportunity to help people live a better life with their health, but, quite honestly, we’ve been really surprised with the deluge of letters and emails we’ve gotten where just the simple heart rate monitor was able to have such an impact on people’s’ lives. And we’ve been really inspired and we want to do even more. There’s been a lot of speculation about what Apple may or may not be doing in health. But I’ll tell you our focus is empowering consumers, empowering individuals to play a more active role in their health. Most of us live in an era, or in a world where you go see your doctor when you’re sick, you do what you’re told, and that’s really it for your view of the medical world. You play a very passive role. You’re a passenger in the car. And it’s very clear to us that the future is very different. The future is people are going to be more empowered with information about their health and they’re going to play a more active role. They’ll sometimes drive the car. And a lot of people say, “Well, what does that mean for physicians?” And I don’t think it reduces the role of the physician at all. Rather, I think it arms the physician with more information, and it gives them engagement with an engaged consumer — and that changes behavior. And that’s what most physicians would say, “If I could drive behavior change, I could have a real impact on health.”

CNBC: I think there’s been so much speculation, because Apple is a company that is associated with consumer delight. You think about the healthcare experience and it’s just often very terrifying. Is that something that has drawn you into health? And how do you look at the entirety of the health care experience, where there are so many opportunities for Apple to make a difference, whether it’s kind of pulling data together into the phone or, you know, tracking health conditions on the watch, and say, “This is what we’re going to prioritize”?

Williams: I guess what I would say is there are huge opportunities here. Our focus right now is on empowering the individual. There’s lots of places when you pull on the thread where this could lead, but we’ve got a lot of work to do to empower consumers, get them engaged, and there’s just a ton of opportunity beyond that.

CNBC: Is this a personal passion for you? I get that feeling in hearing you talk about it.

Williams: It absolutely is. It’s a personal passion for me, it’s a personal passion for the members of our health team, and the entire executive team has embraced this. It’s not hard to get excited about this. The reality is, if you ever have a loved one that has a serious health condition, everything else you thought was a priority in life falls to the bottom of the list. And we see so much opportunity, and can’t think of a better use of Apple resources.

CNBC: And is this a real business for Apple? Is this a business that you envision making real money in, or is it more something that you approach with a philanthropic lens, where you say “our consumers need this and we can do them a service”?

Williams: You know, we haven’t spent a ton of time on that, in terms of trying to reconcile those two. I do think there’s a real opportunity to empower people, and if in the process they wear more watches and other things, that’s good for us. But right now, our goal is to make the best products and services we know how to make, and we assume everything else will sort itself out down the road.

CNBC: You’re a hardware guy and super knowledgeable on sensors. Is there any other interesting opportunities that you see in hardware, you know, beyond just the wrist or potentially more on the wrist that we haven’t explored yet?

Williams: There’s nothing to announce now. What I would say is, when you start measuring the human body, it’s really interesting and difficult. Engineers, we often solve difficult problems — really challenging problems — but at least the electrons flow the same way every time. And the human body is this constantly changing thing. And so I think there are plenty of challenges but there’s still opportunity.

CNBC: I have a personal interest in the medical records space and some of the remaining issues around interoperability of data, like getting health information to one place. So it was exciting for me to go down to Cedars-Sinai hospital recently and talk to some patients who had the health app on the iPhone. They pulled it up and they could see their medical record and their labs and a bunch of other data sources all in one place. Which is a new, relatively new thing. What do you see as the potential here, and how does that lend itself to the mission of empowering consumers to bring this data onto the phone — making the phone a personal health record?

Williams: You know, we’ve announced already the ability to import health records. And we believe that every person in the world ought to have their health information. We think the right place for the health information to exist is with the person on their device. And we believe from a privacy standpoint, that where that information gets shared should be — should be completely up to the individual. There’s nothing more personal than your health information. And so we view that as the future. It’s really unfortunate that today, uh, the pieces of your medical record and history are spread and sitting in servers of various companies around the world, and it ought to be sitting on the device that you carry every day. And so, that we view as the future.

CNBC: So we might see more from Apple in that area?

Williams: Stay tuned.



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Andy Rubin, Android Creator, Steps Away From Firm Amid Misconduct Report

“Any relationship that Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual and did not involve any person who reported to him,” Michael Sitrick, the spokesman, said. “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while Google or since.”

Google declined to comment on Wednesday on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Rubin’s departure. The company’s policies do not prohibit co-workers from having romantic relationships, but its code of conduct states that such relationships can create actual or apparent conflicts of interest. If that happens, the code of conduct says, “It may require changes to work arrangements or even the termination of employment of either or both individuals involved.”

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The allegations against Mr. Rubin come amid a wave of sexual harassment and misconduct accusations against prominent politicians and high-profile figures in the entertainment, media and technology industries, forcing a broad re-examination how women are treated in the workplace.

In Silicon Valley, a male-dominated bastion, several venture capitalists, including Steve Jurvetson and Dave McClure, have stepped down from their posts after investigations into their behavior. In some ways, Mr. Rubin is an even bigger name in the tech industry because of how widely used his products are.

Mr. Rubin helped popularize the use of keyboards on phones by introducing the Sidekick device in 2002. He went on to develop Android, which was acquired by Google in 2005. Android software now runs on about 80 percent of the world’s smartphones.

Mr. Rubin’s departure from Google surprised many industry watchers because he had started an effort to build a robotics unit at the company, going on an buying spree that led to the acquisition of at least eight robotics companies as part of what appeared to be part of a long-term project to commercialize robotics technology. Google transferred oversight of the Android group to Sundar Pichai, who is now Google’s chief executive, in 2013.

After leaving Google, Mr. Rubin started Playground, which is part venture capital firm and part technology-hardware incubator. Google is among its investors.

Mr. Rubin founded Essential and released the company’s first product, a premium smartphone running Android software, this year. He positioned the phone as having high-end features and materials like Apple’s iPhone but without closed proprietary software like Apple’s iOS operating system. Even before shipping a single product, Essential was valued at more than $1 billion.

Follow Daisuke Wakabayashi on Twitter: @daiwaka


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Intel Steps Up To Showcase Leadership In Autonomous Vehicles And The Internet Of Things

2017, Christopher R. Wilder

Gordon Moore mural at Intel’s Customer Experience and Integration Center, Chandler, Arizona.

Over the past few weeks, I have been with
Intel
Corporation learning about its Internet of Things (IoT) product roadmaps from security, healthcare, retail, energy, smart cities, and, perhaps most interestingly, how
Intel
is leveraging IoT to extend the customer experience. This week I will be in the Bay Area with
Intel
’s Autonomous Vehicle (AV) team getting a deeper dive into its vision for the future of mobility. Across the board, one of the things that has impressed me the most with
Intel
’s overall IoT strategy is its focus on experience, rather than just on technology—although the tech is impressive too.

Moving autonomous vehicles beyond just a science experiment

Intel
and its Mobileye division believe autonomous driving is not just a product; it is an industry. As the industry advances,
Intel
is working diligently to be the tip of the spear when it comes to safety, technology, standards, and sustainability. Recently,
Intel’s
Mobileye released a framework to help automakers, technology companies, and regulators to understand the fundamental pillars of safety assurance and economic scalability in this highly fragmented and heterogeneous marketplace.

The autonomous vehicle industry has progressed through various levels of automation. At Levels 1 2, the driver maintains control of the car, but the automobile can make split decisions such as deploying brakes on its own if needed. Level 3 refers to the vehicle taking over all driving functions, but the driver can disengage or re-engage as required. At Levels 4 5, the vehicle is fully autonomous—the human becomes a passive participant in the operation of the automobile. For example, a Level 5 car will not have a steering wheel or other human-operated controls such as stick shifts, pedals, or rear-view mirrors.
Intel
believes the initial use cases for Level 5 vehicles will be with ride-sharing, fleet automobiles, and trucking.

At Levels 4 5 the biggest conundrum for the industry is dealing with regulations and security. From a legislative perspective, there is not enough historical data or regulatory experience to fully understand the liabilities of autonomous vehicles. There are many questions that need addressing from a regulatory perspective, including:

  1. Should an intoxicated rider be charged with DUI in an autonomous vehicle?
  2. How would an autonomous vehicle take direction from police or firefighters?
  3. How would an autonomous vehicle deal with driver duties in the event of an accident?
  4. What happens if an autonomous fleet vehicle’s cargo flies off or becomes unstable?
  5. How are insurance, parking violations, and infringements handled if there are no occupants in the car?

Thankfully,
Intel
is developing framework and methodologies for addressing each situation—from conclusively evaluating and determining responsibility in the event of an accident, to dealing with the nuances of resolving legal issues.

Many organizations are looking at ways to provide foolproof security methods, to ensure that data collected from autonomous vehicles is secure, accurate, and scalable. Although autonomous vehicles offer a phase shift in convenience and efficiency, they present a whole new world of security challenges that need to be addressed before these vehicles reach critical mass. Sensors, cameras, and measurement systems create a significant cybersecurity attack surface.
Intel
and others in the industry (like
Apple
Inc.,
Delphi Automotive
,
Google
Inc.,
Microsoft
Corp.,
NVIDIA
Corporation, and
Qualcomm
) must lead the way in designing reference architectures, frameworks, and technologies to protect these automobiles and their passengers. While Blockchain is a promising way to secure and validate “black box” information in the case of an accident, additional security measures such as end-to-end solutions from line encryption, message signatures, multifactor or near field communications (NFC) authentication, and dynamic cryptographic procedures are critical components for an overall security solution. However, because most of these sensors and “gadgets” connect to the Internet through a standards-based ODB2 port, a remote hacker could potentially use this as an entry point into the vehicle’s most sensitive systems—brakes, accelerator, GPS, and other onboard solutions. Nobody wants their car to drop into reverse when they are going 70 KPH.

After WhatsApp threat, Indonesia steps up Internet obscenity purge

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia said on Tuesday it will summon executives of messaging services and search engines, including Google, to demand they remove obscene content, but dropped a threat to block WhatsApp Messenger after “GIF” images were taken off the service.

The Internet is already partly censored in Indonesia, but the latest steps mark an escalation against a background of growing conservatism in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

“We will call all providers, including Google to clean up their network,” said Semuel Pangerapan, a director general at Indonesia’s communication and informatics ministry.

Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ministry vowed on Monday to block Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) WhatsApp Messenger within 48 hours if the service did not ensure that obscene Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) images were removed.

WhatsApp said on Monday that message encryption prevented it from monitoring the animated graphics files, known as GIFs, that are available on the app through third-party services.

It said it had asked the government instead to work with those providers, which integrate their technology into WhatsApp to allow users to enter keywords to search for GIFs.

Tenor Inc, one of the third parties, said on Tuesday it had “already implemented a fix for the content issues”.

Users of Whatsapp Messenger on iPhones were unable to access Tenor GIFs on Tuesday.

“We see now that they have done what we asked,” Pangerapan said. “Therefore, we won’t block them because they have responded to us.”

WhatsApp Messenger is widely used in Indonesia. Civil servants and ministers, including Minister of Communication and Information Rudiantara, are among the heaviest users.

Giphy Inc., a New York City GIFs company that also works with WhatsApp, did not respond to requests for comment. Giphy offers partners a feature to filter inappropriate images.

Indonesia’s warning did not appear to target Gboard, a keyboard app developed by Google that provides comparable GIF search results but must be installed separately from WhatsApp on most devices.

Rudiantara has vowed in the past to clamp down on pornography sites and, after meetings with representatives of Google, Twitter Inc and Facebook in August, he said his ministry’s priority was to protect Indonesians from content that promoted radicalism, terrorism and drugs.

Rudiantara, who uses one name, said however that the government was not trying to foster “a regime of censorship”.

NETIZENS SKEPTICAL

Indonesia blocks access to websites offering criticism of Islam, dating services and sex education, research published in May by Tor Project, a non-profit maker of Web browsing tools, showed.

Indonesia had 69 million monthly active Facebook users by the first quarter of 2014, ranking it fourth globally after the United States, India and Brazil, company data showed.

Some reaction on Indonesian social media to the threatened block of WhatsApp was skeptical.

“While you’re at it, why don’t you block Twitter too, (and) if necessary all browsers in the Playstore, because it’s way easier to search for porn there than on WhatsApp,” wrote one Twitter user, with the handle @jnessy.

The country’s regulators have reached settlements with several technology companies after threatening to shut them down. In August, Indonesia announced it would block Giphy’s website for showing gambling-related ads. Access was soon restored after it agreed to cooperate with regulators.

Bans were similarly rescinded in recent years on social media websites, such as Tumblr, and the chat app Telegram, which regulators had said was “full of radicals and terrorist propaganda.”

The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) had urged the communications ministry to block pornographic GIF images accessible via emoticons, complaining that children could easily reach them, according to news website kompas.com. Terms of use for WhatsApp, Tenor and Giphy specify users must be at least 13.

Writing by Ed Davies and John Chalmers; Editing by Clarence Fernandez