Google’s Project Loon head is getting into nuclear power

Google X’s raison d’être is embracing far-out ideas, so it’s no surprise, really that former director Mike Cassidy is wading into the decidedly choppy and always controversial waters of nuclear energy.

Cassidy, whose most recent tenure at Google found him heading up the company balloon-based internet initiative Project Loon, has been quietly working on launching Apollo Fusion. The company is a new energy startup working to develop “revolutionary hybrid reactor technology with fusion power to serve safe, clean, and affordable electricity to everyone.” (It’s also apparently the name of a racing bike. Go figure.)

The company’s recently updated site opens with the words “Let’s quietly redefine what’s possible,” which seems to describe its launch strategy as much as anything. Bloomberg, which first noticed the new information, notes that, until a few days ago, Apollo Fusion’s site simply sported a definition of nuclear fusion, and not much else.

Of course, nuclear power is still a going concern, albeit less eagerly embraced than during its salad days. In October of last year, the U.S. opened a nuclear reactor in Tennessee — its first new one in 20 years. And a number of companies like Transatomic and UPower are promising safe new alternatives to the nuclear power of decades past. The new technologies, coupled with ever-increasing concerns about climate change, have caused many to reconsider nuclear energy as a potential alternative.

As its name implies, Cassidy’s solution is fusion-based, following in the footsteps of companies like the Jeff Bezos-backed TriAlpha Energy and Helion Energy. Fusion, which fuses together rather than splits atoms, is considered safer than the more traditional fission, including less waste created as a byproduct. There also isn’t the same risk of meltdown.

Various versions of fusion technologies have been the subject of undelivered promises for decades, including, notably cold fusion. That was debunked shortly after it was first proposed in the late-1980s.

Cassidy himself doesn’t appear ready to offer up much more information on the subject, though he did acknowledge what may likely be an uphill battle in the recognition of nuclear energy as a viable alternative power source.

 “Environmentalists have struggled for a while over whether nuclear power is good or bad,” he told Bloomberg in an otherwise decidedly limited conversation. “I think most of the more thoughtful environmentalists now view nuclear as good. If you can find a way to do nuclear power that doesn’t have the downsides, the risky, runaway meltdowns, or things like that, it’s a real win for the planet.”

It’s no surprise, of course, that the site features a prominent declaration of safety for the company’s technology. The site explains, “Apollo Fusion hybrid power plants are designed for zero-consequence outcomes to loss of cooling or loss of control scenarios and they cannot melt down.”

After all, for many, notions of nuclear power still elicit troubling images of tragedy, bolstered by recent events like 2011’s Fukushima disaster. Public opinions don’t appear to be trending in a positive direction, either. A Gallup poll from roughly this time last year notes that, for the first time (since the poll was launched in the mid-1990s), a majority of Americans oppose nuclear energy, at 54 percent.

At the very least, it’s hard to imagine too many Americans feeling comfortable with a plant opening in their backyard.

Apollo’s site ticks off other boxes as well, including emission-free production and inexpensive construction and operation. And, the site adds, “Because they’re inherently safe, Apollo Fusion power plants can be nestled in the communities they serve, to make power right where customers need it.”

Again, likely an uphill sell, no matter how safe the new technology is stated to be. Still, Cassidy says the company’s tech has already won over a few key players: namely, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both of whom are reportedly “super enthusiastic” about Apollo’s work, though neither currently count themselves among backers of the company.

FCC Chairman Pai pushes for access over competition in rural broadband

You may be familiar with FCC Chairman Pai as the Trump-appointed monster working devotedly to dismantle your internet freedom and security, but that’s not really how it is. Pai is certainly on the unpopular (to say the least) side of the net neutrality debate, but in the matter of connecting underserved communities to the internet, he is sincere, as a couple of recent items on the FCC docket show.

The April open meeting, due to take place on the 20th, will largely focus on notices of proposed rulemaking and inquiry into reducing barriers to deployment of both wired and wireless infrastructure.

The reasoning is sound, I’ve heard from people on both sides of the issue. Red tape at the state and city level is a significant obstacle to companies looking to lay fiber, put up new wireless hardware and so on. Here, you might have to petition the local utility and two cable companies for access to a pole or line. Here, it might be as simple as an online form. It need hardly be said that this greatly favors incumbent companies.

Interestingly, the notice of inquiry is looking at “where the FCC could use its preemption authority to prevent the enforcement of state and local laws that inhibit broadband deployment.” Essentially, where should they exert federal clout, overwriting local law and markets?

This is especially interesting because Pai himself loudly argued against doing just that when it came to overriding state laws forbidding municipal broadband. Apparently the shoe is on the other foot now; I contacted the FCC for details on this.

Today brought two other actions clearly intended to further the cause of quick deployment of internet services to rural or underserved areas.

First is the establishment of the task force that will be overseeing bids and grants under the Connect America Fund and Mobility Fund, multi-billion dollar sources for deployment of new infrastructure. This isn’t some unprecedented move — these funds would have had to be managed one way or the other — but it would also be easy to background it rather than personally call out the expectations and people involved.

Second, and less straightforward, is the rollback of obligations on the part of Charter Cable. The company had agreed in the terms of its merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House that it would roll out internet to 2 million new customers. But the FCC added a rider saying that half those connections must be “overbuilt,” or offered to people who have connections already.

Pai’s FCC reversed this rider, with the logic that 2 million new connections is better than 1 million new ones and 1 million added as a second choice. Makes sense, right? But the point of the overbuild requirement is to ensure there’s competition on a market that, especially with mergers like this one, is more and more dominated by giant companies.

Pai’s opposition to net neutrality regulations, among other things, is largely based on the idea that the market will figure these things out. In that case, one would think he would support providing an alternative ISP for a million people who (as is common) only have one, perhaps two, to choose from. But is that more important than getting decent broadband to some people who have none at all?

It’s revealing that Pai leans toward the latter option, toward greater connectivity, sooner — even if that comes at a cost to the competition in which he places so much trust.

Update: The FCC commissioners’ individual statements on the Charter requirement, published just after this went live, speak to this compromise. “In this Order we must decide either that competition must suffer or unserved Americans should go without broadband,” summarized Commissioner Clyburn. It’s the former for now, but hopefully these goals will not always be in competition.

Clenbuterol and its anabolic properties

There is still a debate that whether Clenbuterol is an anabolic steroid or not. But bodybuilders generally agree that Clen is not an anabolic steroid, but still possess the properties of it. The drug actually used to treat asthma medically and veterinary purposes. Its rapid muscle growth property used to redistribute and generate lean muscle mass in livestock. In the bodybuilding fraternity, Clenbuterol is looked as a miracle drug between male and female. Clen has the tendency to deliver real results without the stigma associated with performance stimulants.

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Since clen is not a steroid, it does not produce rapid muscle growth. The growth of muscle will be constant and subtle. Due to this, it has fewer side effects associated with liver and hormonal system. Clen produces a powerful anti-catabolic effect, a goal which every bodybuilder wants to achieve. In this stage anti-catabolic property slows down cellular breakdown in the body that in turn slows down the protein breakdown, making it easier to put on muscle. Clen can be generally taken about 8-10 weeks that results in increased strength along with lean muscle tissue, at the same time lowers body fat. Muscle tissues have receptors.

Clen & body receptors:

When clen works throughout the muscles create different effects from nine different receptors found in the body. These are called “adrenoreceptors” which are stimulants respond to the activity in the human body. Clen interacts with beta-2 receptors, stimulates and hugely increases metabolic energy to burn fat, build muscle mass. When your Beta-2 receptors receive stimulates the body temperature is increased thus, in turn, increases the metabolic rate. Improving cardiovascular efficiency is the positive benefit of Clenbuterol. It decreases fat mass and increases lean muscle mass.

Clenbuterol dosage begins at 20 mcg. Before increasing the amount, be sure the tolerance of your body. Though it is not a steroid, still it is potent. It has been recommended to take not more than 120 mcg per day. Since it has long lasting power in the body, it is better to take in the morning to avoid sleep disturbance at night. Due to its adrenaline type effect, it should not be taken with other performance stimulants. Most of the bodybuilders’ dreams come true due to Clenbuterol as it increases the lean muscle simultaneously decreasing body fat. It helps in a sturdy workout and delivers faster recovery from the soreness due to the strenuous training.

Ketogenic diet:

Healthy fats are good for the body and it is must for metabolism. The healthy fats are naturally available in whole eggs, nuts, salmon, lean portions of red meat, peanut butter. People who stick on to the Clenbuterol weight loss plan should pair it with such a Ketogenic diet. This diet plan involves with a high protein intake along with a moderate fat intake. It helps you to stay with energy levels so that the tissue is maintained out of the necessary fat. The Proper Ketogenic diet contains meager Carbs so that your body will turn capable of completing any difficult activities. From the above discussion, it has been concluded that though Clen is not an anabolic steroid, still it yields the same effects to the bodybuilders.

Growth and Sex Hormones

Essentially, the hormones in your body are your body’s delivery people to each other. The organs and glands in the endocrine system are the ones that are responsible for creating them. There are many procedures that are affected by the stream of hormones, and the creation of these hormones is important in the best possible growth and advancement of a human from birth. There are two main sorts of hormones, which are peptides and steroids. They affect many procedure of the body, including two general procedures which are growth and sexual health.

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Growth hormones

Growth hormones are hormones of the peptide variety and are vital in the growth of kids into adults. This is because it stimulates the growth and cell production of a human; subsequently, the normal production of the growth hormone is essential to the normal growth of a person from youth to adolescence to adulthood.

There are two sorts of the growth hormone; mainly, the Somatotropin and the Somatropin. The Somatotropin are the sorts of growth hormones that are created naturally in animals, whereas the Somatropin is the kind that is created via a recombinant DNA technology that is utilized for youngsters with growth issue and insufficiencies. Its general functions are to increase calcium retention, increase bulk, advance lipolysis, and stimulate the growth of all internal organs, even the brain. There is also such a mind-bending concept as an overabundance of the growth hormone, which will bring about abnormal growth in the body as well.

Sex hormones

The sex hormones are of the steroid variety. While there has been a great deal of research done to this area of hormonal improvement in the past years, there are still a considerable measure of things that researchers and the general open don’t understand about it. Men and women create different sorts of hormones from each other. The male sex hormone is called testosterone, whereas the female sex hormone is called estrogen. The difference of sex hormones is essential because it affects how the man or the woman is created according to their sex. Meaning, the more testosterone a man has, the more he will grow “manly” traits in the physical, emotional and mental aspect, and the other way around. The same goes for women and the estrogen that they deliver. While each sex has a tad bit of the sex hormone of the inverse sex, men or women who groups a greater amount of the traits of the inverse sex may experience the ill effects of hormonal imbalance.

There is such an unbelievable marvel as safety of Somatropin for both men and women. Women take an estrogen supplement for vanity reasons, for example, wanting for a gentler and suppler body and less body hair. Men have been known to take testosterone supplements for lifting weights or if they require more vitality to have the capacity to sustain a certain exercise regimen.

There are still a great deal of things that are not understood about hormones, for example, how exactly it affects women and their emotions.

Facebook, Twitter still failing on hate speech in Germany as new law proposed

Facebook and Twitter have once again been criticized in Germany for failures to promptly remove hate speech being spread via their platforms.

At the same time, the German government has presented a draft bill aimed at more effectively combating hate criminality and criminal offenses on social network platforms, arguing that the companies’ ongoing failures necessitate tighter regulation — with a potential fine of up to €50 million being floated for social networks breaching what are intended to be binding standards for dealing with complaints and removing criminal content.

As with many EU countries, Germany has specific hate speech laws that criminalize certain types of speech, such as incitement to racial violence. The issue has stepped up the domestic political agenda in the country in recent years, following the refugee crisis — with Germany taking in a large number of asylum seekers.

The country also has elections this year, heightening concern over the role social media can play in shaping and influencing public opinion.

“There can be just as little space in the social networks as on the street for crimes and slander,” said Federal Justice and Consumer Protection Minister, Heiko Maas, in a statement today (translated from German via Google Translate). “The biggest problem is that the networks do not take the complaints of their own users seriously enough.”

Back in December 2015, Facebook and Twitter gave a commitment to the German government that they would remove criminal hate speech from their respective platforms within 24 hours. Google also agreed to do so on YouTube.

Last May, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft also all agreed with the European Commission on a code of conduct that committed to removing hate speech within 24 hours.

However, in the latest German government-funded study monitoring the performance of the companies, the Ministry of Justice said Facebook has become worse at promptly handling user complaints, saying the company deleted or blocked 39 percent of the criminal content reported by users — a seven percentage point decline versus the first test of its performance.

In addition, only one-third of content reported by Facebook users was deleted within 24 hours of the complaint being made, according to the survey.

Twitter’s performance is also criticized, with the survey finding that only one of a hundred user messages had been erased, and none of the deletions took place within 24 hours.

The pair’s failings also contrast negatively with Google, which is reported to have made significant improvements regarding YouTube content complaints since the tests began — with the study finding that 90 percent of user-reported criminal content was deleted from the platform, and 82 percent of the deletions occurred 24 hours after the notification.

“Google shows with the platform Youtube that it is better,” said Maas. “Therefore, it is now clear that we must further increase the pressure on social networks. We need legal regulations to make companies even more obligated to eradicate criminal offenses.”

We reached out to Facebook and Twitter for comment on the findings. Twitter declined to make a statement but a spokesman said the company has made changes in the past few weeks aimed at reducing the spread of abusive content on its platform which may not have been in place at the time of the survey.

However, these tweaks appear most focused on using technology to try to automatically identify abusive/problem accounts, or give more tools to users to enable them to filter their own feeds, rather than putting more resource into content complaint processes specifically. (Although Twitter does claim to have improved the transparency of the reporting process, such as notifying users when a complaint has been received and if it is being acted upon.)

At the time of writing, Facebook had not responded to our questions, but we’ll update this story with any response. Update: In an emailed statement a spokesperson for the company said: “We have clear rules against hate speech and work hard to keep it off our platform. We are committed to working with the government and our partners to address this societal issue. By the end of the year over 700 people will be working on content review for Facebook in Berlin. We will look into the legislative proposal by the Federal Ministry of Justice.”

Responding specifically to criticism that it does not take user complaints seriously enough, Facebook said it has changed its internal procedures for interpreting its community standards guidelines in recent months, and has also provided specific guidance for its Community Operations (CO) team regarding hate speech in Germany.

It also said it has “invested heavily” in the CO team — both globally and locally in Germany. By the end of 2017, Facebook says it will have more than 700 employees working with content moderation partner Arvato, based in Berlin.

 It also disputes the result of the German government-funded survey (which was carried out by, saying the results “do not mirror our internal experience and tests by independent organizations such as FSM” — claiming the latter’s tests of its processes found the opposite: a significant improvement in removing illegal content. (An FSM test based solely on user flagging from January found 65 percent of illegal content was removed from Facebook within 24 hours, and overall it had a deletion rate of 80 percent, according to Facebook.)

“We do not believe that the results of the current tests reflect the progress we have made in improving our systems and will analyze this test thoroughly,” Facebook said, adding: “Obviously, we are disappointed by the results and we would like to thank for testing our systems and will study all the reports carefully to help us improve the way we operate. We have clear rules against hate speech and work hard to keep it off our platform. We are committed to working with the government and our partners to address this societal issue.”

Last week Facebook also came under fire in the U.K. for content removal failures pertaining to child safety, after a BBC investigation found the platform failed to promptly respond to the vast majority of reports the journalist made. The news agency had been checking Facebook’s own claims of improved performance after an earlier BBC investigation unearthed secret Facebook groups being used to share child abuse imagery. But it concluded that Facebook had failed to improve over the past year.

Facebook is also facing continued pressure for how its platform is misappropriated to spread so-called “fake news” — an issue that has gained prominence in the wake of the U.S. election when large numbers of bogus political stories were seen to have circulated via the platform — potentially influencing how Americans voted. CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially tried to shrug off the issue, before conceding at the turn of the year that the billion+ user platform does indeed have “a greater responsibility than just building technology that information flows through.”

Since December, Facebook has been piloting a series of measures aimed at fighting the spread of fake news problem, including in Germany since January, working there with local third-party fact-checking organization Correctiv to try to identify and flag dubious content.

However, early signs are that Facebook’s efforts on the fake news front are not too promising either, with Recode reporting earlier this month that it took the platform a full week to label one made-up story as “disputed” — despite the source being a self-confessed fake newspaper.

“Shouldn’t/couldn’t Facebook move faster on this stuff, especially when it’s a clear-cut case like this one? Yup! But that would require Facebook to make these kinds of (easy) calls on its own, and Facebook really doesn’t want to do that,” was Recode’s Peter Kafka’s conclusion of its performance there.

Germany’s Maas also touches on the fake news issue, arguing that the proposed domestic law to tighten content complaint procedures for social media platforms will also help kill fake news.

“We will not establish a commission of truth in a free society in which freedom of expression applies. But because the rules we propose are directed against the spread of criminal content, they are also a means against criminal ‘fake news,’” he said. “‘Fake News’ are punishable, for instance if they fulfill the facts of the offense, slander or the evil slander.”

Among the proposals in the draft law are that social networks operating in Germany be obliged to:

  • Provide users with a readily identifiable, directly accessible and constantly available procedure for the transmission of complaints about criminal content
  • Deal with user complaints without delay and to examine the relevance of criminal law
  • That obviously criminal offenses be deleted or blocked within 24 hours of receipt of the complaint
  • To delete or block any criminal offense within 7 days after receipt of the complaint and
  • To inform the user of any decision regarding his complaint

The obligation to delete or block criminal content reported by a user would also apply to all copies of the criminal content on the platform, under the proposals.

The draft law would also require social network operators to report quarterly on the handling of complaints about content relevant to criminal law — including detailing the volume of complaints; their decision-making practices; and the “staffing and competence of the work units responsible for dealing with the complaints.”

These reports would also have to be made accessible to the public online.

Social networks that do not create an effective complaint management system capable of deleting criminal contents effectively and swiftly could be punished via fines of up to €5 million euros against the individual person responsible for dealing with the complaint, and larger fines of up to €50 million against the company itself. Fines also could be imposed if the company does not comply fully with its reporting obligation.

The proposed law also would require social networks to appoint a “responsible contact person” in Germany who could be served in criminal proceedings and civil proceedings — and would themselves be on the hook for a fine of up to €5 million.

Rock stars party, MCs invest

In the world of music, rock stars party while MCs invest.

Following the launch of Jay Z’s new VC vehicle, Arrive, earlier this month, we did a data pull on how music industry moguls spend their ducats. And hip hop artists are way ahead of rock stars when it comes to making tech investments, according to an analysis of Crunchbase data.

There are more than a dozen hip hop and pop stars in the Crunchbase data set who have invested in startups. Several of them have only done one deal or last invested years ago.

About six, however, are pretty consistent investors or are deeply enmeshed in the tech scene. Rock stars, by contrast, weren’t prolific investors, with the occasional exception like U2’s Bono, a co-founder of media and technology investment firm Elevation Partners.

 On the hip hop and pop side, here’s a rundown on the top celebrity investors and the deals they’ve done.
  • Snoop Dogg: Snoop’s portfolio is interesting because it contains investments in both cannabis and caffeine. It remains a matter of medical debate whether these two substances are a complementary or toxic combination. As investments, however, both appear to be growth sectors. Snoop is a co-founder of Merry Jane, a media site for the cannabis lifestyle, and a founder of Casa Verde Capital, an investment firm that has backed marijuana delivery service Eaze and pot packaging provider FunkSac. He’s also a backer of social media site Reddit and invested in the chain Philz Coffee, sports content startup GameOn and commission-free stock-buying platform Robinhood.
  • Though still most famous as a rapper, musician and founding member of the Black Eyed Peas, is well-known in techie circles, too. He’s founder of, a Hollywood-based technology company that developed a smartband and recently rolled out hip-looking Bluetooth earphones. He’s also made investments in Honest Dollar, a retirement savings app, and startup incubator Shellanoo Group, according to Crunchbase.
  • Nas: In addition to selling millions of records, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known as Nas, has been a remarkably prolific investor, holding stakes in at least 42 startups, according to Crunchbase. Like Snoop, he’s invested in Philz Coffee and Robinhood. More recent investments include DoseDr, a mobile app for diabetics, and Exo, a maker of protein bars containing cricket flour. In addition to making personal investments, Nas is a partner at QueensBridge Venture Partners, a Los Angeles-based early-stage tech investor.
  • Chamillionaire: Much like his musical career, Hakeem “Chamillionaire” Seriki’s turn as a venture investor started out on a very lucrative note. He participated in a $1.5 million Series A round for digital media talent scout Maker Studios in 2010. The company sold to Disney a few years later for upwards of $500 million. Chamillionaire liked venture capital so much, he signed on as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Los Angeles VC firm Upfront Ventures two years ago.
  • John Legend: The Grammy-winning R&B singer is a co-founder of Bungalow Clothing, a seed-funded online clothes shopping service that pairs customers with personal stylists. He also invested in a Series A round for Thrive Market, a socially conscious online food retailer, and Gobbler, which offers media project management tools.
  • Jay Z: The rapper and business mogul has both a large portfolio of investments and a track record for generating exits or big follow-on rounds. In January, Sprint bought a 33 percent stake in Tidal, the online music service he co-founded, paying around $200 million according to some media outlets. He also participated in a $5.2 million Series A round for air travel startup JetSmarter, which closed on $105 million in Series C funding in December. His entertainment company, Roc Nation, has made a number of early-stage investments, too, leading to its involvement this month in the launch of Arrive, a platform for developing and funding startups.

Jay Z isn’t the only one on the active investor list who has invested in early-stage companies that have gone on to raise larger rounds. Snoop, for instance, joined a $10 million round for Eaze in 2015, and the company went on to close a $13 million round the next year. Legend, meanwhile, participated in a $33 million round for Thrive, which went on to raise $110 million a year later.

Still, when it comes to return multiples, it will be hard for anyone to top Chamillionaire’s Maker Studios investment. If he keeps making those kinds of deals, many are predicting he’ll have to change his name to Chabillionaire.

Clarity Money raises another $11 million to help users improve their financial health

Founded by serial entrepreneur Adam Dell, Clarity Money makes a personal finance app that aims to help users lower their monthly bills and improve their financial health along the way. Just three months after launch, the company is announcing another $11 million in funding from RRE Ventures and Citi Ventures.

Clarity Money uses machine learning and AI to identify actions its users can take to reduce spending or lower their costs. After downloading the app and linking up checking and credit card accounts, the app provides suggestions for subscriptions they can cancel, bills they can potentially negotiate lower and refinancing options that might be available to them.

The key value prop comes from reducing the friction associated with taking action on one’s finances. That means not only educating users about what’s happening with their money, but also enabling users to unsubscribe from services or take advantage of affiliate offers with a single click.

The company makes money from refinancing or low-interest credit card offers that people choose, but maintaining user trust means ensuring any decisions they make are in the consumer’s best interests. “We want to make sure people trust Clarity Money to present an option that is better for them,” Dell told TechCrunch.

To expand its business, Clarity is announcing another $11 million in Series A financing. That follows a $3.5 million seed round that the company raised eight months prior, from investors that included RRE, Bessemer Venture Partners, Soros Capital and Maveron Ventures.

 Having known Dell for about 25 years and having invested in his previous startup MessageOne, RRE Ventures managing partner Stuart Ellman was an early investor in Clarity. But he decided to double down on Clarity Money after Dell built out his team and brought the product to market. “Adam has the maturity and the gravitas to cut the deals they needed,” Ellman said. “This is a combination of the right product and the right people needed to roll this out.”

Citi Ventures managing director Luis Valdich also talked up the caliber of the team Dell has built. While Citi Ventures typically invests in companies that are a little further along, Valdich said he was impressed by how quickly Clarity Money was growing.

Their investment comes just three months after Clarity launched to the public. In that time, the company has already had more than 100,000 users sign up and link an account in the app. As a result it’s analyzed more than $10 billion in transactions and on average has saved users $300 by helping them cancel subscriptions.

Samsung’s pocket watch is a weird concept that raises interesting questions about wearables

Samsung’s hybrid pocket watch concept raises a lot more questions than it answers. That’s due, in part, to the fact that the company isn’t offering all that much information about what appears to be an analogue pocket watch with smart functionality announced in a press release tied to the Baselworld jewelry and watch show happening next week in Switzerland.

“Concept” is, naturally, a key word here. Really, Samsung seems to be doing a bit of peacocking here as it simultaneously tries to fit in and stand out among more traditional watch vendors at the event. The release carries all sorts of self-congratulatory tidbits like, “Samsung continues to lead the smartwatch category; connecting traditional Swiss design and innovative technology” and “Gear S3 is more than just a smartwatch, it is a beautifully designed watch that puts a timeless spin on the smartwatch category.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone take a crack at the idea, though aside from an Indiegogo campaign for an “open-source anti-smartphone” and some 3D printed at-home hacks, no one has seemingly really dared to go full throttle into the niche upon niche that is the smart pocket watch.

Chances seem pretty slim at this point that such a device will ever see the light of day, even from Samsung, a company notorious for flooding store shelves with a million different variants on a given theme.

Even so, the time is right for companies to start making big, bold, weird experiments in the wearable space. The smartwatch category has suffered, in part, from a flooded market of likeminded devices. Smartphones are one thing. The technology quickly transformed from luxury to perceived necessity. Smartwatches aren’t nearly there yet – and at this rate, may never be. For now they’re, at best, a proxy for our smartphones.

 A few companies (Samsung included) have had enough success for the space to make sense, but the rest of the competition is essentially fighting over scraps.

If nothing else, Samsung’s hybrid pocket watch raises some interesting points about the space. Like, if a watch isn’t designed to be worn on one’s person, can it really be classified as a wearable? How much of the wearable category’s value is derived from the body real estate it occupies? Devoid of a wrist strap, doesn’t the thing more or less become a tiny, much less useful smartphone?

Samsung is also showing off a number of devices created alongside Swiss watch designer Yvan Arpa, which, like the pocket watch, appear to exist more to bolster the profile of the company’s existing product than to hint at any forthcoming release.

After all, the super luxury smartwatch may be the greatest niche of all. Sure, Tag has had some relative success with its Connected device – at least enough to justify a second generation of the product – but four digits is a lot to ask for a product designed to be upgraded ever couple of years. Even the nicest smartwatch likely won’t be getting passed along to the grand children.

Apple gives indie gamers a permanent home on the App Store

Breaking into the App Store can be difficult enough, but for small-time mobile game developers it’s even more of a challenge as they go up against billion-dollar, global publishers who dominate the top charts, like Supercell, Activision Blizzard, Niantic, EA, Tencent and others who can afford to invest millions in marketing budgets and advertising. Apple is now hoping to level the playing field a bit, by giving indie games a new and highly visible home on the App Store.

Throughout the week, Apple has been highlighting indie gamer content in a dedicated section on the App Store’s home page, where it often features new releases, favorites, staff picks and other recommendations.

This hub, dubbed “Celebrating Indie Games,” includes a number of new releases and debuts from independent game developers, but also some of the best, all-time titles for iOS gaming. Further down the page, indie games are further broken down into category spotlights – like lists of those with “incredible sound design” or “unforgettable stories,” for example.

The selections were chosen by the App Store’s Editorial team, and include a mix of both paid and free-to-play titles.

Initially, this collection appeared to be just another promotion meant to give indie titles a push. Apple often hosts featured collections like this on its App Store in order to showcase new releases, interesting apps and other exclusive content.

The launch of the hub was preceded by other promotions on indie games, including discounts and other prominent placements for new, indie releases. Apple said it would be highlighting indie titles throughout the month, from March 9th through 20th.

However, according to a tweet posted on Thursday by the App Store Games Twitter account, the indie games hub will be a permanent installation on the App Store, after the promotional period wraps. In March, Apple suggested its refreshing the content in the indie hub daily, but presumably that pace will slow when the “Celebrating Indie Games” push ends.

For indie developers – that is, those who are small, self-published, and self-funded, according to Apple’s definition – the change could greatly impact their discoverability on the App Store. A dedicated section for finding these titles offers developers a way to get in front of potential new users, without having to pay for App Store Search ads, or other ads on sites like Facebook.

Games remain one of the most popular categories of apps and account for the majority of App Store revenue. According to data from Sensor Tower, more than 80 percent of all money earned through Apple’s App Store came from mobile games in 2016. App Annie’s figures were slightly lower, at 75 percent of all App Store revenue.

Last year, mobile gaming also was poised to take a larger share than PC gaming with $36.9 billion in revenues, up 21.3 percent worldwide, Newzoo’s report said.

The promotional efforts seem to be working. Currently, titles like Botnicula, Surgeon Simulator and Prune – all of which are being featured in the new hub – are sitting high on the App Store’s Top Paid Apps chart at #7, #1, and #5, respectively.

LinkedIn open sources Flashback, a tool for mocking internet traffic

LinkedIn, the social network for professionals that is now owned by Microsoft, is making one of the tools that it has developed in-house for its own work open for use by others. The company today announced that it would be open sourcing Flashback, a tool for mocking internet traffic for developer tests, under a BSD two-clause license.

In a blog post, LinkedIn said that it had been using Flashback to test things like reliability, scalability, and speed on new code before deploying it more widely. You can see an example of how it works here.

Flashback was based on Betamax — not the old video standard, but a another tool developed to mock actions of web services and REST APIs in developer tests by “intercepting HTTP connections initiated by a web application, and then later replaying them.” (‘Betamax’ because it was inspired by another tool, the VCR library for Ruby.)

The key difference, write creators and LinkedIn engineers Shangshang Feng, Yabin Kang, and Dan Vinegrad in a blog post, is that Flashback can work in an isolated environment, whereas Betamax, like other proxies, requires internet connectivity to work.

“Flashback is designed to mock HTTP and HTTPS resources, like web services and REST APIs, for testing purposes. It records HTTP/HTTPS requests and plays back a previously recorded HTTP transaction—which we call a ‘scene’—so that no external connection to the internet is required in order to complete testing,” they write.

The reason for building a tool that didn’t require a connection to the internet was because of problems they encountered when using Betamax. These included the fact that LinkedIn’s test environment does not have internet access for security reasons; and the code had use cases that required authentication protocols like OAuth and OpenId, which required complex HTTP-based interactions that didn’t work with Betamax replays.

 This is not the first time that LinkedIn has outsourced some of the code that it originally developed for proprietary purposes. For example, in 2015, it also outsourced FeatureFu, a toolkit for building machine learning models.

The reason that LinkedIn open sourced FeatureFu was because it was no longer seen as a “business differentiator” for the company. That may have been the case here, too, but so was the fact that when LinkedIn presented the tool publicly, they saw requests from the developer community to use it for their own projects.

While LinkedIn is open sourcing Flashback, it’s also going to continue to work on it to expand its functionality — which could also point to what LinkedIn itself may be working on down the road for its 465 million users.

“We’d like to see if we can support non-HTTP protocols, such as FTP or JDBC, in the future,” they write, “and maybe even give users the flexibility to inject their own customized protocol using the MITM proxy framework. We will continue improving the Flashback setup API to make it easier to support non-Java languages.”