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Category: Technology

The Edge: 5 Ways Big Tech Companies Have Used Data to Transform Their Business

“Big Tech” are the Tech Giants, also known as the Big Five. They are Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Microsoft. These are the dominant companies in search, online advertising, e-commerce, social media, computer software, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud services, and more. The companies are all “unicorns,” having market capitalizations of over $1 trillion up to $3 trillion.

Jaron Lanier, an early advocate and inventor of virtual reality, says, “If an online service is free, you can bet it is feeding a scheme that makes money by subconsciously manipulating people.” They achieve this manipulation by collecting and mining data with the help of artificial intelligence and then make money selling the results to the highest bidder. 

Here are five ways that Big Tech uses data to transform their business.

1. Algorithms

Big Tech created complex algorithms called “algos,” for short. An algo is a program that optimizes for a specific function, such as relevance or engagement. Using algos made these companies billions in profits.

Goggle’s algos are so powerful that they can predict a user’s behavior before the user thinks about the idea. Not only does Google know you better than your mother does, the algos know you better than you know yourself.

Meta has some algos that optimize for engagement. They learned that social media posts, which provoke outrage, attract more attention. This phenomenon is why negative information, even if untrue, spreads so quickly. Using this method is how the company keeps users engaged.

2. Big Data Mining

People using web content create a dataset of user information everywhere they go online. There is also mobile-phone tracking data showing where a person went, even if their phone is off. These two datasets can be combined and mined for insights.

Did you know that there are thousands of dataset repositories on the web? Scientists, researchers, students, or anyone interested in data mining can search for datasets using the Google tool.

Big Data mining looks for trends and gives insight into patterns that are not obvious and may be counter-intuitive. All Big Tech companies have massive data mining programs in progress and use many datasets to train AI.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Alphabet, through Google AI, is making such rapid advancements with artificial intelligence that it recently sparked a controversy about whether AI is sentient or not. One software engineer claimed that the AI was demonstrating self-awareness. Google promptly fired him for publicly making these claims and leaking confidential information.

Perhaps we can forgive him if he became confused between AI and human responses. The AI running behind the scenes for the Google Assistant, which you activate by saying, “Hey Google,” feels very humanlike at times. The huge amount of data collected by Google allows it to train the AI to simulate human responses, which are uncannily similar to what a real human person sounds like.

4. In-App Purchases

If you download an app from the Apple App store that contains in-app purchases, you may use the app for free. However, some users will make an in-app purchase. This purchase may be a digital collectible, premium feature, or game enhancement.

This strategy turns a free app into a revenue generator. Did you know that Apple takes a 15% to 30% cut of the sales? Elon Musk says that is ten times too high. Providing the App Store to let people download apps makes billions for Apple. More importantly, the data collected from app use is extremely valuable and allows Apple to track individuals across multiple devices. 

5. Privacy Moats

Apple thwarted Meta by cutting off access to iPhone user data by using the trend toward privacy concerns as an excuse. In May 2021, Apple added the App Tracking Transparency feature to the iPhone, allowing users to opt-out of advertising tracking.

Before this change, advertisers could track iPhone users across applications. Now, users can turn off this ability. They did this in droves.

Meta complained that the new policy cost them $10 billion in annual revenues. Moreover, the user data is still available to Apple, just not to others. Apple is expanding its mobile advertising efforts, which may partially explain this policy change.

Under the guise of protecting users’ privacy, Apple created a privacy moat. Apple retains its exclusive access to iPhone user data, giving Apple a significant competitive advantage.

The 5 Best 80s Computers

The popularity of shows, like Stranger Things, has brought all the retro goodness of the 80s back into conversation. Music, Dungeons and Dragons, and even the nostalgia for movie rental stores has gained popularity. All of the retro conversations have Generation X basking in the nostalgia and younger generations enjoying the novelty.

Nothing was more 80s than the personal computer. The 1980s were the first time that the average person could buy a computer for home use. Families across the US and the entire world flocked to stores to jump into the future with a home computing system. And we have fond memories of our very first computers. We talk about the types of word processing available and the computer games we all played. Even pong, a pretty basic game by today’s digital standards, is something we remember well.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, pinpoint the five best computers of the 80s, and find out why people loved them so much.

5 Best 80s Computers

In the 80s, computers were the newest craze. The idea of being able to log on to your own computer, in your home, was basically the newest fad. But it’s one that stuck around and evolved over time. 

Parents thought it was the wave of the future for their kids (and they were right). And kids wanted to play the latest games without going to an arcade. 

Here are the five best 80s computers and why they made our list:

IBM PC 

We can’t compile a list of 80s computers without the IBM PC. This was the granddaddy of them all. Also called the IBM Personal Computer Model 5150, this model was released in 1981. It was the model that began the whole personal computer revolution. Think of it as the Cadillac of computers. It had all the bells and whistles, the best technology of the time, and, of course, a very high price tag. Saying you had this computer gave people the impression that 1. you knew computers, and 2. you could afford quality.

Apple IIe

Who doesn’t know Apple? That fun logo wasn’t just on Macs back in the day. It all started with the Apple series and the Apple IIe was the most popular model. It was also the longest-running and last model with the Apple name before the company switched to Macintosh. The Apple IIe was affordable but still well built. There was no shame in telling your friends you just got a “two e”.

Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 was one of the best-selling computers of all time. It was faster, had better storage capabilities, and was more affordable than many models. The popularity alone made this a good model to have. Most people were familiar with the Commodore.

Compaq

What was so great about the Compaq? It was billed as completely IBM-PC compatible, but at a fraction of the price. And that sales point made it a super popular model. After all, who doesn’t want the bells and whistles of the best-ranked computer, at a much lower cost?

Macintosh 

Of course, Macintosh had to make the list. After all, Macs are still one of the most popular computers on the market today. Yes, Apple gets two mentions, but we’re talking about computers, so that fits. 

The 80s was the beginning of the personal computer craze. It was the foundation for how we work and play and these five models started it all.

5 Tips to Launch Your Dream Career as a Game Developer

If you have a strong passion for gaming and want to leave your mark on the video game world, a game developer career is definitely the way to go. The average salary of $115,000 per year doesn’t hurt either, making it well worth the effort it takes to break into this competitive industry. And you can count on it being an uphill battle, for sure, especially if you’re located in an area fairly saturated with talented tech professionals. Fortunately, you can get past the initial hurdles and achieve great success by simply following these five tips on how to launch your dream career as a game developer.

Target a Niche

Although it’s good to have a broad view of the game development landscape as a whole, you need to focus on a niche to truly stand out from the crowd. There are many roles to consider in the game development world, such as:

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  • Concept artist
  • Storyboard artist
  • UI designer
  • Level designer
  • Animator
  • Programmer
  • Scriptwriter

To figure out your niche, think about where you want to focus your talents to start. As you advance your career, you may get to try out additional roles, especially if you work in small teams. So, you won’t be stuck with your initial choice if it’s not what you expected.

Get Well Educated

While you don’t have to go out and get a bachelor’s degree in computer science, game design, and the like, it certainly can’t hurt. Your degree will ensure you gain the right skills needed to excel in the industry while giving you a competitive edge.

If you do decide to go without formal education, do as many free tutorials as possible to build a strong skillset. Then, put your newfound skills to work in completing your own projects, like creating characters, building levels, and writing stories.

Build a Strong Portfolio

As you put your all into completing your own projects, start building a large portfolio full of your best work. You can then use the portfolio to demonstrate your game design skills whenever you’re ready to apply for your first job in the field.

A website format works best for a game developer portfolio. As you complete each web page, go in-depth about the process of making each piece to show the tools and techniques you used along the way.

Join the Gaming Community

A strong professional network is key in landing your dream job in the game design field. You can start building that network by joining gaming communities all over the web.

You might want to start by participating online at: 

  • GameDev.net
  • Indie Gamer
  • Devmaster
  • Quora

As you dig around online, you’ll also find groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and other platforms dedicated to your niche of choice.

Start Networking at Tech Events

Attending game design conferences and other tech events is a great way to build your professional network. Start by looking for conferences hosted in your area – unless you have a big travel budget, that is. If you’re in Western Washington, for example, the Game UX Summit might be a great conference to attend.

At each event, focus on building relationships above all else – and the help building your career will naturally follow. Do what you can to volunteer your time helping others as well, so you can gain a great reputation in the industry.

With these tips on your side, you’re well on your way to a lucrative and rewarding game developer career. Just be sure to keep your eye on the prize and you’ll soon start to realize your dreams of becoming a leader in the game design world.  

5 Tips To Make Your Life Easier Using Tech

Just think about where society was about 100 years ago. There were only a handful of cars on the road and nobody knew what a cell phone was. Some might argue that technology has hampered society in certain ways, but nobody can argue that the benefits overall far outweigh any of the negatives. Society makes our lives easier in ways that you might not even think about. Here are some aspects of your life that tech makes easier.

5. Organization


Perhaps you’re old enough to remember the days when you had to write down pretty much everything or ask people to remind you to do things. Now, you’re able to organize almost every aspect of your life thanks to technology. Need to remind yourself to take your daily vitamin? There’s an app that can do that. The same goes for organizing all of your paperwork (think Google Drive) and even store photographs that you want to look at years from now. Technology is getting rid of filing cabinets faster by the day.

4. Finances


Technology is making it simple to take your finances into your own hands. It used to be that you had to run to the bank and deposit cash, but almost everything is digital now. Even stocks have become insanely simple as you’re able to trade with the push of just a couple of buttons on your phone or computer at no charge thanks to apps like Robin Hood. We could also talk about cryptocurrency for hours on end, but we’ll just remind you that it’s there for now and you can research it at your own leisure.

3. Health

It wasn’t too long ago that people were putting little pedometers in their pockets to see how many steps they were taking in a given day. Now you don’t have to worry about that little Tamagotchi sized archaic device. Instead, most of us have smart watches that not only track steps, but also every detail of your health. From quitting smoking or drinking to your nutrient intake to your body fat percentage, you can do it all from just your phone and watch. It’s also cutting down on insurance premiums since the data is right there to show your provider.

2. Work-Life Balance

Before everyone was connected to high speed internet from their homes, you had to drive to the office and make sure that you were on time so that you didn’t miss a single thing. Now, you don’t even need to leave your home in a lot of cases to get your work done. Telecommuting with services such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and more make it easy to be a remote worker and instantly communicate with your work team. This means more time with your family and less time commuting and wasted office time.

1. Navigation

Speaking of driving to the office, you might still need to do that for your job. If that’s the case, technology is making it easier to travel every day. You can get a shared ride (Uber, Lyft, etc.), find real time traffic thanks to Google Maps and Waze or get the times for public transportation and pay it all through your apps. Needless to say, technology has made almost every aspect of our lives easier.

Is A Smart Home Right For Me?

As we move deeper into the future that many science fiction movies, books and television shows predicted for us decades ago, the technology is starting to match that of science fiction. Included is the fact that everything is ‘smart’ now and tends to come with an app for our mobile devices. It’s not just watches and cars, either, as homes altogether can be converted into smart homes. What is a smart home, though, and is it the right choice for you, especially when considering the costs?

For starters, there isn’t just one project that you can undertake that will make your home into a smart home. Instead, you’ll have to work on one at a time, focusing on eventually bringing it all together. This includes the lighting, thermostats, audio, security, safety and even lawn and pool care. While these were all expensive when they first debuted, converting certain parts of your home into smart home features is easier and cheaper than ever.

Think of a smart home as an investment. While it might be seen as a luxury with a lot of fancy bells and whistles, smart homes bring a lot of features that will not just maintain your home’s value, but also increase it in the long run. Being able to lock your doors and monitor the premises through cameras will cut down on insurance, while lowering the lights when not in use, not running the sprinklers while it’s raining and turning the thermostat to a higher temperature when nobody’s home will save you thousands in energy bills.

There is one caveat to running a smart home, and it’s the fact that you’ll have to be connected to the internet. While your cell phone will still be able to pick up mobile data when the internet goes out, the same might not be true for your smart devices as these run mostly on wi-fi. Assuming that your internet is working, you can use your phone as a hub to control everything. User interfaces are becoming easier to use, as well, making it simplistic for even the most beginner user. Using this hub also lets you know how much you’re saving in energy and allows you to set timers to adhere to your schedule.

So is a smart home right for you? The answer is probably going to be yes unless you have problems with maintaining a solid internet connection or don’t have the money to spend at the moment. Since it doesn’t have to be done all at once, you can chip away at the costs with one project at a time. If you want to start off with something small, a device such as an Amazon Alexa can be a good hub for your audio needs and to set reminders as you work your way up with feeling more comfortable using all of the apps.

As for the internet, new technology is making it so that smart home devices can still run when not connected. This includes Thread, a technology that is helping with this issue. “ And looking at current use cases, the biggest elephant in the room in terms of bandwidth are cameras,” said Vividh Siddha of Thread and Apple. Once this issue is taken care of, you won’t have to rely on your bandwidth to keep your smart home at its smartest.

How To Know Which CRM To Use For Your Business

Nothing is more important to your business than having a satisfied customer base, which is why a customer relationship management process (or CRM, for short) is vital to thrive. These days, there are a lot of CRMs that are vying for your business, so it can be a bit overwhelming to try and pick from all of these platforms that allow you to consolidate your calls, emails, meetings and much more. So when your business is browsing for the perfect CRM, there are some things to consider. Let’s break down what makes a CRM the right one for your business.

What Your Company Needs

Not all CRMs are built the same, and in some cases, you don’t need many of the services that are offered. Because of this, some small businesses end up paying too much money for a CRM, paying for services that go unused. Before you use a CRM, think about what it is exactly that you’ll be using it for. Are you trying to generate sales leads? Retain customers on a monthly basis? Identify the most glaring concerns and, from there, find which CRM is the most highly rated in that particular category. 

Furthermore, will your business need additional customer support that you don’t have the staff for currently? Some CRMs will allow you to purchase a feature that routes questions to a call center. You can have the easier FAQ type calls sent this way, and CRMs such as Freshsales, Agile and Nextiva have call center capabilities to use.

Test the Features

Just like any service that knows that it’s worth your business, a good CRM will allow you to test their services through a free trial. In most cases, the top CRMs are offering a free trial that runs for 14 days, while some such as Freshsales runs for 21 days. This allows you enough time to get familiar with the user interfaces and see if the options in the service are what you need. You can adjust the subscriptions from there so that you’re only paying for what you’re going to be using.

Ease of Use

While you might consider yourself tech savvy, there may be some people within your business that aren’t going to be able to navigate quite as well on some platforms. Because of this, you want to pick a CRM that’s going to be easy for all employees of your business to use. Interfaces are much different when looking from one CRM to another, and ones like Pipedrive were rated as the easiest to navigate while also offering the ability to manage from your mobile phone. That’s another key aspect for ease of use, as some CRMs can only be accessed from a desktop.

Word of Mouth

Before even hopping into the free trials for some of the CRMs that you haven’t used yet, try asking around to see what other businesses are using. Other businesses will have their preference, so try to find someone in the same field that has a CRM. If you can’t find anyone, then online reviews will always help. Currently, the top reviews for CRMs are being given to Zoho, Monday, Zendesk and Insightly just to name a few. 

What Is A White Hat Hacker – And Do They Ever Get Into Trouble?

Hackers have been all over the news in our current era where everything feels like it’s based off of the internet. With that, our data is on the internet, including card numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers…basically every sort of number. Hackers can get their hands on this information if you’re not careful (and sometimes even if you are careful). People that do this are known as black hat hackers. These are the ‘bad guys’ of the internet that steal data for their own personal gain. Think of identity thieves or bank robbers, hence the “black hat” like the villains from old western films would wear.

White hat hackers, though, are on the opposite end of the spectrum. White hats are the ones that are trying to bolster your private data, and they can actually do that through hacking. White hats receive permission from agencies and companies to try and find any potential areas that can be breached. This is completely legal, and those that have permission aren’t subject to any criminal charges. In fact, most white hats are employed by those that they’re trying to hack. However, it does get a bit trickier when you’re talking about those that didn’t get permission.

A subset of the white hats is known as a gray hat hacker. White hat hackers simply find weaknesses and then don’t do anything with the information that they’ve obtained in their hacks. Black hats have very malicious intent, and gray hats are somewhere in between. Gray hats are those that find and exploit weaknesses, but don’t use it for their own monetary gain via an individual. Instead, they may tell a company that they’ve found weaknesses and will fix it for them for money or a job.

Of course, this falls into a legal “gray” area, if you will, as some of them violate laws with their hacking but don’t get severe punishments due to not actually stealing anything. In most cases, gray hats are subject to a small fine or even a warning. That doesn’t mean that all white hat and gray hat hackers haven’t been subject to legal trouble, though, especially in recent years. The US Department of Justice has ramped up efforts against all hackers, especially when it comes to extortion.

A new policy called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is trying to weed out these hackers that use their talents to exploit for money. “The new policy acknowledges that claiming to be conducting security research is not a free pass for those acting in bad faith,” the DOJ said. “For example, discovering vulnerabilities in devices in order to extort their owners, even if claimed as ‘research,’ is not in good faith.”

With that in mind, you have to be very particular with what you’re doing as a white hat hacker and make sure you’re getting permission to do what you’re doing. As of now, the Department of Justice is not seeking any legal action against those that fall under the definition of white hat hackers, but those in the gray area should be on high alert. “Good faith security research means accessing a computer solely for purposes of good faith testing, investigation, and/or correction of a security flaw or vulnerability,” the DOJ said.

5 Best Value Laptops Right Now

When you need a new laptop, you need something that can work hard but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. If you really want value, these five laptops are all currently affordable while offering something special.

 

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

 

You can find a Lenovo Chromebook duet on Amazon for as low as $269. As a Chromebook, it is lightweight and minimalist. Its hardware is ideal for searching the web, having virtual meetings, word processing, and other traditional productivity tasks. It’s pretty much the least amount of money you can spend on a reliable laptop. But, for those who spend a lot of time gaming or editing videos and pictures, this is not the device for you.

 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

 

If you need a little more power under the hood, the Surface Laptop Go is a great option. The surface series has been respected as a value computing option for years, and at $649.99, the Go lives up to that reputation. It has a great mid-tier processor, a very fast hard drive, and enough RAM to work hard day in and out. While this laptop still isn’t great for heavy video processing, for just about any task, it will do great, and you likely won’t need an upgrade for half a decade or more.

 

Let’s give an honorable mention to the Surface Go 2 tablet, which is only $385. Its performance is comparable to the Laptop Go, but it has a smaller screen and keyboard.

 

Acer AN515

 

If you want a value option that can break into heavier video processing, then this is a great option. It’s available for around $750, and it includes a dedicated graphics card that can handle games and video editing software. It’s fast all around too. You probably won’t find a better bang for your buck among laptops with dedicated video processing.

 

MacBook Air 13.3

 

Macs are not known for being cheap, but if you’re in love with the Apple ecosystem and want to save a few dollars, then the Air 13.3 is the best option. With the newer M1 chips, they are fast, have a long battery life, and cost a lot less than top-of-the-line MacBook Pros. A new Air 13.3 will start at about $1,000, but you can get a certified refurbished or pre-owned laptop for as little as $500.

 

Acer Swift 3

 

We’ve covered the lowest cost, better performance, video editing, and Mac options. The last on the list is the most durable value laptop. The Acer Swift 3 is often marketed for students, and that’s because it comes in a durable frame. It’s designed for a little more use and wear. Despite that, it has the most powerful default processor on this list. It’s still light and fast, and it can certainly last for the entirety of a school career. It is currently retailing at $634.

 

Those are your five best value laptops right now.

 

How to Speed Up Your PC

For most people, a slow PC is typically a sign that it might be time for an upgrade. However, that isn’t always necessarily the case. There are a number of steps that you can use to speed up your PC and squeeze some extra life out of it before it’s time to buy a new one. You just need to keep a few key things in mind.

 

First, you should always go through and remove any software that is installed that you’re not actively using. Most new computers come with a host of programs installed that nobody ever touches. This is commonly referred to as "bloatware." Go through and make a list of the applications that you absolutely need. Separate those from the ones that you never plan on using. Then, go through and uninstall all of the useless ones. You should see a bit of a speed boost right away.

 

In a further effort to free up hard drive space, you could also consider uploading a lot of those old documents that you’re not really working with anymore to the cloud. Cloud services like Dropbox are inexpensive and some even have free tiers that give you a set amount of storage space for free. This is a great way to take a little bit of the pressure off your hard drive. It should also give you a performance boost along the way. 

 

In terms of actual upgrades, know that you don’t have to run out and buy a new computer. You can be selective about what you upgrade to give your machine a performance boost. Figure out how much RAM (random access memory) is currently installed in your computer. Then, go online and type in the brand and model number to see the maximu amount of RAM your machine can support. If you’re financially able to, buy as much as you can to get that speed backk to where it needs to be. You can have a professional install it, or you can likely do it yourself. You’ll be able to find RAM installation instructions for your specific computer online.

 

Along the same lines, consider upgrading your older hard drive to a new solid state alternative. Older hard disk drives with spinning platters tend to take awhile to recall information, especially as they fill up. This is a big part of what is giving your PC that slow feeling. A SSD has no moving parts and can recall data almost instantly. Not only will this make it easier to work with files, but it will also allow applications to load much faster as well.

 

Finally, you could consider reinstalling your computer’s operating system in an effort to achieve that speed increase you’re after. The instructions for how to do this will vary depending on the operating system you’re using. Just make sure that you back up any important files that you can’t afford to lose before you do so to avoid any potential problems. 

5 Best Value Phones Right Now

Are you looking for an affordable and reliable phone? Do you have a limited budget for a new phone? By focusing on the best value phones, you can find an option that fits your needs.

Nokia 6300 4G

Do you have a very strict budget? If you have limited funds for a new phone, then the Nokia 6300 4G is a good value option to meet your needs. The phone is less than $100 and offers more than 7 hours of battery life. Since the phone is very basic, it is not ideal for any individual looking for a high-resolution smartphone. It does offer reasonable connectivity, texting, and phone services, so it is a good value phone if you are looking for a basic phone.

Google Pixel 5A

The Google Pixel 5A is a reasonable smartphone if you have a limited budget. Although the phone does have a higher price tag than some other options, it is half of the price of the Google Pixel flagship phone and offers many of the same benefits. It is particularly useful if you need a phone with an excellent camera. The phone has a long battery life and reasonable RAM to handle most tasks.

Apple iPhone SE 2022

If you are looking for a value smartphone, then the iPhone SE 2022 may be a good choice for your needs. Although it is slightly more expensive than other value options, it also features an excellent set of cameras, fast processing times, and a battery life that exceeds seven hours. A key benefit of an Apple iPhone is the long-lasting service. The phone is likely to last for several years with proper maintenance due to the availability of Apple services.

Motorola Moto G Power

The Motorola Moto G Power is a value phone with a mid-range price. The phone features a powerful battery life that lasts more than 16 hours. The camera on the phone is reasonable and it provides a similar speed to other affordable phones. Since the phone focuses on providing power for an extended period, it is a good option when you need a reliable phone that will not run out of battery throughout the day.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is a budget-friendly smartphone that offers a nice camera, a reasonable battery life, and long-lasting support. The phone receives up to four years of security patches, which makes it a long-lasting option. The phone has a mid-range price that makes it a great option when looking for an affordable and powerful phone.

A limited budget for a new phone does not mean giving up on quality. The best value phones offer a reasonable battery life, an affordable price, and functionality that is similar to other phones. By clarifying your specific needs, you can find the right phone.