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Silicon Valley’s Meh Middle

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The Silicon Valley myth doesn’t leave much room for companies that are neither raging successes nor spectacular flameouts. But to fully understand the tech industry and ensure that its goals don’t go off the rails, we need to talk more about the companies that are in the meh middle.

You probably know the myth I’m referring to. There are wild stories of companies that started from almost nothing and grew up to become Apple, Facebook or Uber. Then there are the horror stories of start-ups that burned bright and spectacularly flopped like the first iteration of the office rental start-up WeWork and the blood testing company Theranos.

Those polar opposites are the start-ups that people write books and make movies about. The untouchables and the unforgivables are the images that we hold in our minds of technology companies.

But most of life isn’t success or failure, it’s the mushy in-between, and this applies to most start-ups, too. There exists a vast middle ground of overlooked young tech companies that are definitely not winners but are not losers, either.

I’m talking about companies like Dropbox, Box and Cloudera that were once hot enough to be on the covers of business magazines and have survived but hardly set the world on fire. They are not whales nor are they minnows. Dropbox, a digital file-storage service, is worth about as much as Levi Strauss.

Buying their stock didn’t make a bunch of people super rich. Cloudera, which sells software for businesses to wrangle their data, agreed on Tuesday to sell the company for a share price that was far less than what a big investor paid when Cloudera was a relatively young start-up in 2014. Dropbox and Box, also a business software company, are worth roughly the same or below what they were on the days they went public in 2018 (Dropbox) and 2015 (Box). These companies’ technologies either proved to be not super relevant or they were supplanted by something better.

There are lots of start-ups that took off during the post-financial crisis tech boom, earned oohs from techies and got tons of money thrown at them, had initial public offerings and then … eh. They’re fine. Others were sold or quietly disappeared.

(One caveat: I would have put Square in the meh middle until the past year or so, when its technology, including digital storefronts for small businesses, proved vital during the coronavirus pandemic. That shows that companies can sometimes quickly shift from meh to great, or from meh to dead.)

The problem is that people in and around technology are happy to blare about companies, THIS IS GOING TO BE HUGE, and then hardly mention them when they don’t become stars.

Ignoring the meh middle should matter to all of us for two reasons. First, it is a missed opportunity to understand what went right and what went wrong. I joked on Twitter that there should be a Midas List for meh, referring to the annual Forbes rankings of the most successful start-up investors. And why not? People and companies who didn’t live up to the hype might have lessons for us.

And second, excluding the middle distorts the picture of Silicon Valley and reflects a harmful tendency to consider anything short of a world-changing idea barely worth noticing. This creates a perverse incentive to overhype anything new and overlook start-up ideas that might result in worthy but unspectacular companies.

I wish that just OK received more attention. Shooting for the moon in Silicon Valley can lead to Google and Facebook. It can also lead to WeWork and Theranos. I don’t want meh to be the goal, but I also wish that the in-between weren’t so invisible.




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Nature and humans collide in these eight winning images from the 2021 BigPicture Competition – Photos News , Firstpost

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The annual photography competition encourages photographers to contribute their work to celebrate Earth’s rich diversity and inspire action to protect it.

1/8

The ‘Out of the Ordinary’ category in the 2021 Big Picture Competition was won by Canadian Peter Mather’ for his image title ‘Klukshu Ice Bears.’ Grizzly bears delay their hibernation to fish for some salmon in subzero temperatures that leave them covered in icicles that dangle from their fun and tinkle when they walk.

American Ralph Pace is an environmental activist and photographer and his picture titled 'Sign of the Tides' won him the Human/Nature category. In November 2020, for the first time, he saw a face mask in the ocean and here you can see that a discarded face mask, in the shape of a sea turtle, attracted the attention of a curious California sea lion.

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American Ralph Pace is an environmental activist and photographer and his picture titled ‘Sign of the Tides’ won him the Human/Nature category. In November 2020, for the first time, he saw a face mask in the ocean and here you can see that a discarded face mask, in the shape of a sea turtle, attracted the attention of a curious California sea lion.

Indian nature and wildlife photographer Sarang Naik captured a wild mushroom growing around his house after illuminating it with a flashlight. His picture titled 'The Goblet of Fire' won in the Art of nature category.

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Indian nature and wildlife photographer Sarang Naik captured a wild mushroom growing around his house after illuminating it with a flashlight. His picture titled ‘The Goblet of Fire’ won in the Art of nature category.

Self-taught photographer Shane Kalyn won the Winged Life category with his image titled 'Beak to Beak' that captures two ravens inspecting the other's beaks after they were done preening each other's feathers.

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Self-taught photographer Shane Kalyn won the Winged Life category with his image titled ‘Beak to Beak’ that captures two ravens inspecting the other’s beaks after they were done preening each other’s feathers.

Spanish electrician and photographer Fran Rubia was the winner of the Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora category with his drone image titled 'Another Planet' of an extinct volcano in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Iceland. The red visible in the image is iron oxide that is being hit by Iceland's midnight sun.

5/8

Spanish electrician and photographer Fran Rubia was the winner of the Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora category with his drone image titled ‘Another Planet’ of an extinct volcano in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Iceland. The red visible in the image is iron oxide that is being hit by Iceland’s midnight sun.

Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur Hope's image titled - Hope in a Burned Plantation - was the Grand Prize winner of the 2021 Big Picture Competition with her image of a kangaroo that had paused in the middle of a burned eucalyptus plantation during the Australian bushfires of 2019 and 2020.

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Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur Hope’s image titled – Hope in a Burned Plantation – was the Grand Prize winner of the 2021 Big Picture Competition with her image of a kangaroo that had paused in the middle of a burned eucalyptus plantation during the Australian bushfires of 2019 and 2020.

The winner of the Terrestrial Wildlife category was wildlife Canadian photographer Michelle Valberg and her image titled 'Boss' that captures a spirit bear, one of a few hundred white bears. The image was captured mid-head shake after he was searching for salmon roe in a river

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The winner of the Terrestrial Wildlife category was wildlife Canadian photographer Michelle Valberg and her image titled ‘Boss’ that captures a spirit bear, one of a few hundred white bears. The image was captured mid-head shake after he was searching for salmon roe in a river

Vietnamese photographer Yung-Sen Wu and his image titled Barracuda were the winner of the Aquatic life category, where he was able to finally capture a fish-eye view of the battery of barracuda swimming in the Blue Corner.

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Vietnamese photographer Yung-Sen Wu and his image titled Barracuda were the winner of the Aquatic life category, where he was able to finally capture a fish-eye view of the battery of barracuda swimming in the Blue Corner.

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Free games including GTA V have infected 222,000 PCs with cryptojacking malware

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In brief: Once again, we’re being reminded of the inherent dangers that come with free cracked games from forums and other sketchy sources. Malware called “Crackonosh,” which installs cryptomining software on a device, has been found in 220,000 computers, a result of downloading games such as GTA V for nothing.

Security researchers at Avast write that Crackonosh, which has been around since 2018, has been found in free games given away on forums and torrent sites. They include Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K19, Far Cry 5, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018.

Once infected, the malware surreptitiously installs cryptomining software that mines Monero without a user’s knowledge. It’s thought to have earned over $2 million for its authors, who are believed to be from the Czech Republic—Crackonosh means “mountain spirit” in Czech folklore.

Avast writes that Crackonosh installs itself by replacing critical Windows system files and abusing the Windows Safe mode to impair system defenses. It’s able to avoid detection by disabling security software, operating system updates, and using other anti-analysis techniques, making discovery and removal very difficult.

Diagram of Crackonosh installation

As with all cryptojacking, users often only discover something is wrong when their system slows down, components wear out quickly, and electricity bills skyrocket.

Crackonosh has been found in more than a dozen countries, including:

  • Philippines: 18,448 victims
  • Brazil: 16,584 victims
  • India: 13,779 victims
  • Poland: 12,727 victims
  • United States: 11,856 victims
  • United Kingdom: 8,946 victims

Being even more difficult to trace than cryptos such as Bitcoin, Monero, which launched in 2014, is a digital currency popular among cybercriminals. JavaScript-based Monero miners, usually provided by Coinhive, were found to have been planted on several services a few years ago, including The Pirate Bay, Showtime, Kodi, and more. Coinhive itself, a legitimate service, closed down in 2019, though Monero cryptojacking hasn’t gone away, as this discovery proves.

This is the second example this month of malware being spread in free games. A report revealed that millions of PCs had been infected using pirated games. Once compromised, the trojan stole data and even hijacked webcams to photograph users.

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Windows 11 is free, but your CPU might not be supported

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Windows 11 is arriving later this year as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users, but many are discovering that their hardware isn’t compatible. Microsoft has altered its minimum hardware requirements, and it’s the CPU changes that are most surprising here. Windows 11 will only support 8th Gen and newer Intel Core processors, alongside Apollo Lake and newer Pentium and Celeron processors.

That immediately rules out millions of existing Windows 10 devices from upgrading to Windows 11, and even devices like Microsoft’s own Surface Studio 2 which the company is still selling right now for $3,499.

Windows 11 will also only support AMD Ryzen 2000 and newer processors, and 2nd Gen or newer EPYC chips. You can find the full list of supported processors on Microsoft’s site, but here’s the basic breakdown:

Windows 11 support for Intel

  • Intel 8th Gen (Coffee Lake)
  • Intel 9th Gen (Coffee Lake Refresh)
  • Intel 10th Gen (Comet Lake)
  • Intel 10th Gen (Ice Lake)
  • Intel 11th Gen (Rocket Lake)
  • Intel 11th Gen (Tiger Lake)
  • Intel Xeon Skylake-SP
  • Intel Xeon Cascade Lake-SP
  • Intel Xeon Cooper Lake-SP
  • Intel Xeon Ice Lake-SP

Windows 11 support for AMD

  • AMD Ryzen 2000
  • AMD Ryzen 3000
  • AMD Ryzen 3000
  • AMD Ryzen 4000
  • AMD Ryzen 5000
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2000
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3000
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 3000
  • AMD EPYC 2nd Gen
  • AMD EPYC 3rd Gen

Many Windows 10 users have been downloading Microsoft’s PC Health App (available here) to see whether Windows 11 works on their systems, only to find it fails the check. As Microsoft now requires a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), this has led to some additional confusion around hardware support.

Windows 11 will require a TPM capable of 2.0 support, and UEFI Secure Boot. Both of these technologies are designed to improve the security of Windows, and prevent malware and ransomware from tampering with encryption keys and other secure elements of the operating system.

While Microsoft has required TPM support for OEM hardware certification since Windows 10, it hasn’t actively required Windows to have this fully enabled. That’s changing in Windows 11, and it means if your laptop or PC shipped without these BIOS options enabled then you’re going to have to go searching for a setting to switch on.

Windows 11 has new hardware requirements.

“Almost every CPU in the last 5-7 years has a TPM,” explains David Weston, director of enterprise and OS security at Microsoft. Weston is recommending that Windows 10 users failing Microsoft’s Windows 11 upgrade checker requirements should ensure BIOS options for “PTT” on Intel systems are enabled, or “PSP fTPM” on AMD devices. As every BIOS has different settings, you might need to refer to your laptop’s manual if you’re struggling to find the option.

If you’ve enabled TPM support but you’re still not passing the Windows 11 upgrade checker, it’s likely because your CPU isn’t supported. Intel has confirmed Microsoft’s Windows 11 CPU requirements. “A broad range of Intel-based platforms are expected to support Windows 11: 8th Gen and newer Intel Core processors, as well as Intel Pentium processors and Intel Celeron processors from the ‘Apollo Lake’ generation and newer,” says an Intel spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.

This is the first significant shift in Windows hardware requirements since the release of Windows 8 back in 2012, and the CPU changes are understandably catching people by surprise. Microsoft is also requiring a front-facing camera for all Windows 11 devices except desktop PCs from January 2023 onwards. It’s another change that will shape the hardware that Windows 11 will run on in the coming years.


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