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September 26, 2021 - Episode 604 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

Hosted by Scott Ertz and Avram Piltch, F5 Live is a livecast covering the worlds of gadgets, gaming, Internet and media.

Episode 268 (Piltch Point)

posted 2021-09-26

Episode 268 (Piltch Point)

Hosted by Avram Piltch, Editor-in-Chief of Tom's Hardware, and moderated by Scott Ertz, The Piltch Point is a livecast covering news, reviews, and previews of devices and components.

Coinbase plans to offer Lend, SEC warns of securities lawsuit

Coinbase has announced plans to offer a new yield product called Lend, which will let users earn interest on their cryptocurrency holdings by lending the assets to others for a fee. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned the company that if it goes through with the plans to offer the new feature to users, the SEC will sue Coinbase.

The company announced the product offering in June, followed by opening up a waiting list for people who wanted to participate in the program. The original blog post said,

Today we're pleased to announce that after working closely with the SEC staff, we received approval to offer a security-based product called Coinbase Bundle. The bundle consists of any five cryptocurrencies available on Coinbase and weighted by market capitalization (and rebalanced at least once per day). Eligible customers can trade Coinbase Bundle using either their USD Wallet or Coinbase Pro account.

On the same day, SEC released a statement warning investors that Coinbase is planning to offer something called Lend which would be considered as security by the regulator and could lead to lawsuits against the company if it goes through with its plans. The company has received the warning earlier this year, but Coinbase has not yet received specific information on how Lend falls under securities regulations. The SEC statement says,

If a platform offers trading of digital assets that are securities and operates as an 'exchange,' as defined by the federal securities laws, then the platform must register with the SEC as a national securities exchange or be exempt from registration.

Paul Grewal, Coinbase chief legal officer said in an interview with WSJ that the SEC had told Coinbase earlier this year that it considered Lend product a security "but wouldn't say why or how they'd reached that conclusion." He added,

We are considering the implications of the SEC's guidance and will continue to work with them if appropriate. At this point, we have not concluded that Coinbase Bundle is a security.

In a more recent blog post by Grewal, posted this week, he responded to the SEC's threat, saying,

Coinbase's Lend program doesn't qualify as a security - or to use more specific legal terms, it's not an investment contract or a note. Customers won't be "investing" in the program, but rather lending the USDC they hold on Coinbase's platform in connection with their existing relationship. And although Lend customers will earn interest from their participation in the program, we have an obligation to pay this interest regardless of Coinbase's broader business activities. What's more, participating customers' principal is secure and we're obligated to repay their USDC on request.

We shared this view and the details of Lend with the SEC. After our initial meeting, we answered all of the SEC's questions in writing and then again in person. But we didn't get much of a response. The SEC told us they consider Lend to involve a security, but wouldn't say why or how they'd reached that conclusion. Rather than get discouraged, we chose to continue taking things slowly. In June, we announced our Lend program publicly and opened a waitlist but did not set a public launch date. But once again, we got no explanation from the SEC. Instead, they opened a formal investigation. They asked for documents and written responses, and we willingly provided them. They also asked for us to provide a corporate witness to give sworn testimony about the program. As a result, one of our employees spent a full day in August providing complete and transparent testimony about Lend. They also asked for the name and contact information of every single person on our Lend waitlist. We have not agreed to provide that because we take a very cautious approach to requests for customers' personal information. We also don't believe it is relevant to any particular questions the SEC might have about Lend involving a security, especially when the SEC won't share any of those questions with us.

It's really unnerving that the SEC felt it was a good idea to request the details of everyone who expressed interest in the feature. There's no telling what they had planned to do with that information, but it was unlikely good. As a user of Coinbase (though not one who showed interest in Lend), I appreciate that the company has rejected the request. However, it is likely part of the reason why the SEC is skipping the regulatory process and jumping right into the litigation pool.

The SEC is playing a double-edged game with the cryptocurrency industry. They constantly say that they want to have discussions about everyone's role in this new space, but if Coinbase is to be believed, their words and actions do not match. Hopefully this is not an actual signal of what is to come for the cryptocurrency industry, and simply an over-anxious regulator not knowing what is going on.

September 5, 2021 - Episode 603 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, GM and Subaru are going on break, Pokemon Go is listening to trainers, and Locast is shutting down.

How to Capture Your Screen in Windows 10 & 11 - Episode 267 (Piltch Point)

One of the tasks that many computer users want to do is share the content on their screens. This can be for a presentation, to create a tutorial video, or simply to save something that is not easily savable otherwise. However, even though the demand is high, most computer users don't know all of the different ways you can accomplish your goals. The good news is that Avram is here to show you how to do it.

Still Images

The most common need, of course, is for still images. For many, a whole window or whole monitor is sufficient, but for others, a small section is better. There are different ways to accomplish this.

Full Computer

If you want to capture the entire computer's display (all monitors currently connected, minus protected content), the easiest way is with the Print Screen key on your keyboard. By pressing this key, everything that exists (except your mouse pointer) will be captured and saved to your clipboard. From there, you can paste it into an email, chat program (like Teams or Slack), or a graphics program (like Photoshop or Paint). You also have the ability to save it directly to a file by adding the Windows key to the Print Screen key. The file is saved to your Photos folder under Screenshots.

Single Window

A similar built-in function is the ability to capture just the active window. This will capture everything that is not protected content. Pressing Alt + Print Screen will capture the current window directly to your clipboard. You can again paste it into your choice of program to share or edit. Just like the full computer option, you can also directly create a file by adding the Windows key.

Partial View

If you want to capture only part of the screen, this can be accomplished using the Snip & Sketch tool built into Windows. The quickest way to this feature is to press Windows + Shift + S and the tool will open to the snip feature. You can then select a rectangle, custom shape, current window, or full display. The best use is to draw a rectangle around the content you want, and it will be saved into your clipboard for external use.

You can also set a delay on the screenshot using the full tool. Search for Snip & Sketch in the Search box (not Snipping Tool). From there, you can determine a 3 or 10-second delay. This allows you to get things into place before the screenshot is taken. Once again, the image is saved to your clipboard.

Scrolling Windows

Sometimes you want to save an entire window, but more than can be seen on the screen at once. That's one of the places where PicPick comes in. In addition to being able to do all of the above tasks. this freemium app also allows you to pick a scrolling window and capture all of its content. The window scrolls in segments and the app stitches together a single image. The longer the window,'s content, the longer it takes to capture, and the longer the image.

Video

Xbox Game Bar

Built into Windows 10 and Windows 11 is the Xbox Game Bar. This tool gives a number of features, but the one most useful to non-gamers is the screen recorder. You can open the Game Bar by hitting Windows + G, or you can go directly to recording the screen by hitting Windows + Alt + R. This feature will record the active window and only the active window. If you select out of the window that is being recorded, the recording will end. The recordings are saved to your Videos folder under a folder called Captures.

OBS

The more advanced (and more complicated) way to record your screen is with the open-source OBS. While the software is designed for streaming and smaller-scale broadcasts, it also handles screen recording well. You add your monitor as an input, select it as active, and hit record. You can also zoom in, create scenes, and a whole lot more.

General Motors and Subaru have both announced a temporary production suspension this week, due to chip shortages. General Motors will halt production at nearly all of its facilities in the United States throughout the month of September, while Subaru will shutter its production facilities in Japan for four days. In general, chip shortages have affected nearly every industry - but almost no one has been hit quite as hard as carmakers have.

Subaru does not build all of its vehicles in one country, with some built in the US and others built in Japan. The Japanese production halt, which will take place September 7 through 10, will affect the production of the BRZ, Crosstrek, and Forester. In addition, the automaker also produces some general components in these plants, including engines and transmission.

General Motors, meanwhile, will shut down production of Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra vehicles at facilities in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Silao, Mexico next week. It will also idle the Wentzville, Missouri facility, which manufactures the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, for two weeks starting next week. Lansing Delta Township in Michigan, which produces the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, which produces the Cadillac XT5, XT6 and GMC Acadia, will see two weeks of downtime this month. Other non-US facilities being affected by the GM suspension include the CAMI plant in Canada, which produces the Chevy Equinox, and the San Luis Potosi facility in Mexico, which produces the Chevy Blazer.

All of these shutdowns will likely put an even bigger strain on the already struggling automotive market. The price for used pickup trucks has gone through the roof in recent months. In some cases, people have offered cash to strangers in public for their trucks (my father has had it happen twice). The existing strain has also been caused by the chip shortage, causing a shortage of new vehicles (especially trucks), which has driven up the price and demand for used trucks. Originally, the auto makers had hoped that the shortage would end quickly, continuing to produce the vehicles to the 99% mark, and then abandoning them in parking lots around the country. Unfortunately, that optimism has not produced a positive result.

Global shortages have been caused by a variety of issues for nearly every industry, many of which were brought upon because of the COVID lockdowns. Production facilities in Taiwan have been particularly affected, which has made the problem even worse. This is because many companies that design their own silicon do not produce the end result themselves. That process is done for many by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), one of the expert companies in the custom chip space. TSMC has had production speed issues, becoming the global bottleneck for many industries, despite currently operating at over 100% capacity in its facilities.

While TSMC originally estimated that it could be several years before things get better, the situation has eased some in recent months. Other manufacturers have stepped in to help produce chips, giving TSMC the ability to catch up on its backlog a bit. Hopefully, we will see the shortage begin to ease a bit within the next year.

August 22, 2021 Episode 602 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Skyrim has another version, T-Mobile has another data breach, and OnlyFans has a new plan for the future.

How to Make Your Number Pad Useful - Episode 265 (Piltch Point)

If you are using a laptop, you likely do not have a number pad on the right side of your keyboard. However, most standard keyboards have it, despite many people not using the section at all. Sure, accountants and programmers use it all day every day, but for the rest of us, it would be great to be able to use those keys for something else. Luckily, Avram has a couple of great tools to be able to put those 14 keys to your right to work for you.

SharpKeys

First up is a tool called SharpKeys. This tool is designed specifically to remap one to another. So, for instance, maybe you want to turn your number pad plus and minus keys into Windows volume up and volume down keys instead. Using SharpKeys you can do exactly that.

The benefit of using this particular tool is that it does not have to run in the background, using system resources. Instead, it makes changes to your Windows registry to actually tell Windows to treat the keys differently. This will reduce system lag while giving direct access to the computer's functionality. The downside of this is that it means you cannot do anything terribly advanced with the keys. It is a direct one-to-one map, and nothing more. If simple is your preference, then SharpKey is for you.

AutoHotkey

However, if you want to do more advanced functions with your keyboard, then you might want to give AutoHotkey a shot. With AutoHotkey, you can do a lot more than just map keys to one another. You can create macros, write common phrases, open programs, and run commands that do not have their own keyboard shortcuts.

Let's pretend that Notepad didn't have the ctrl + s keyboard shortcut for save. You could also type alt, f, s to access the menu manually. But, with AutoHotkey, you could turn one of the keys on your keyboard, or even a keyboard combination, into that same command. So, you could reprogram ctrl + s to manually type out alt, f, s and save the file.

Even more interesting, you can limit the scope of your keyboard macros. Perhaps you only want a particular shortcut to work in Microsoft Edge. You can set the context of ctrl + s to do something completely different, like clicking on a save button on the screen. Then, you could use the same key combination to do something else in Notepad.

Windows Mouse Keys

If you've ever thought that using your keyboard to move your mouse pointer might be a great use of your time and patience, then Windows Mouse Keys is available. You can search for "mouse keys" in the Windows 10 menu, or in the Settings app. This Windows feature allows you to use your number pad's arrow keys to move the mouse up, down, left, right, and all of the diagonals. Clearly this feature is not for everyone, but it could possibly put those keys to work.

Avram has a lot more information, including step-by-step instructions on how to install and use these tools over at Tom's Hardware.

Windows 11's Complicated Default Browser System - Episode 266 (Piltch Point)

With the upcoming Windows 11, Microsoft is introducing a lot of new features, as well as updated interfaces for long-time aspects of the operating system. While some updates are receiving praise, like the updated Microsoft Paint, others are not being received so well. One of those unpleasant changes is the default apps process. In the past, changing a default app, such as your browser, was a pretty easy process. In fact, in most browsers, you would receive a banner across the top saying, "This is not your default browser. Would you like to make it default?" If you clicked the button, you would receive a dialog allowing you to choose your new browser.

Today, however, this process is different. Unfortunately, it seems to be based around the terrible iOS 14 system, in which you need to choose the application from the default programs settings menu, rather than the task at hand (default browser). Under those settings, you get a ton of new options, rather than just choosing the default for the task. Among them is one option for HTTP and another for HTTPS. While there are two options available, they seem to be linked, meaning if you set one, the other changes.

So, you might be wondering why there are two options, and you would be right to wonder that. You might also wonder why the option isn't called "Default Browser" rather than mentioning specific protocols, which are tied together. All of this indicates a level of insight that Microsoft seems to be missing right now.

The company claims that the changes are intended to bring finer granularity to the control of which browser does what. In fact, you can have *.htm files open in a different browser from *.html files. Why you would want that is a mystery, but it is still an option. You can also change what program opens PDF files, and a whole lot more. But all of this was available before, just hidden behind an advanced menu - not available for your parents to get confused by.

There is also the issue of certain parts of the OS completely ignoring your default browser selection. For example, if you do a Windows Search and click on a result, it will not open in your default browser. Instead, it opens in Edge - no matter what. The same situation exists for the new Widgets panel - all links always open in Edge. Neither of these are new issues, but they are annoying nonetheless.

Fortunately, there is a tool called EdgeDeflector, which takes requests from Search and News and redirects them from Edge to your default browser. This works in current versions of Windows as well as Windows 11. Avram has a tutorial on how to install and configure EdgeDeflector, as well as how to change the default browser in the new Windows 11 interface available over on Tom's Hardware.

Apple's duplicitous relationship with developers: the FlickType story

Apple's relationship with developers is complicated. They single-handedly got a new generation of application developers interested in the industry. However, it seems that more often than not, developers and publishers are frustrated with the experience of working with Apple. This week, the developer of FlickType, Kosta Eleftheriou, announced that he will be shutting down the iPhone keyboard designed for blind users because of Apple's policies and behavior.

The company has accused the developer of violating App Store policies in the past but has left them alone for the past few years. This week, as part of a routine update to fix bugs related to the upcoming iOS 15, Apple accused them of requiring "full access" to the system, which it does not. FlickType is used by thousands of blind people around the world and was downloaded over 50 million times since its launch into app stores back in 2013.

In reality, the keyboard simply uses the VoiceOver feature, a part of the iOS Accessibility features which allows the system to read out loud the part of the screen on which a user is pressing. For users who are blind or with limited visibility, this feature for a keyboard is a game changer. Rather than relying on being able to see the keyboard, FlickType is able to read the keyboard to the user, making the full smartphone experience a reality previously not afforded to them.

While Apple did previously accuse Eleftheriou of improperly requesting elevated access to the device, the issue was resolved following a formal challenge. But, Apple apparently was not able to hide its true nature forever, bringing back that same complaint. It was this innocuous update, and Apple's inappropriate response, that was the final straw.

This is not the first time Eleftheriou has had a recent run-in with Apple. In addition to announcing the retirement of FlickType, he has also recently filed a lawsuit against Apple. He claims that Apple tried to use its size and power to force him to sell FlickType to Apple for an undervalued price. He refused to sell and filed the lawsuit instead.

This is far from the first time that a developer or publisher has had a ghi profile run-in with Apple's App Store policies. In 2009, Apple famously blocked Google Voice for offering duplicate features, which many other apps had provided previously, and have provided since. The following week, Apple censored the dictionary because it contained dirty words. Because it's a dictionary and contains words.

Most recently, of course, is the high profile case of Epic Games vs Apple. Epic Games has sued Apple, as well as Google, for using their power in the industry to harm developers through app store policies. Epic's big complaint is surrounding the forced usage of Apple's incredibly expensive payment system rather than being able to use its own system.

While FlickType is the latest victim of Apple's ever-changing, duplicitous relationship with developers, it will certainly not be the last. At some point, Apple is going to have to change its ways or risk losing more indie developers.

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