Encrypted Video Conference Calls With Signal

No intro paragraph needed. Title says it all. Let’s get started:

If a group chat for everyone that needs to be on the conference call doesn’t yet exist, you’ll need to create one and add participants. Once it exists, anyone can join in a conference or bail out at any time. They can do it by text, audio, and/or video as long as the group exists.

You can inform everyone that you’d like to start at a particular date and time and they’ll need to set their own reminders to show up.

To Create a Group

(To JOIN an existing conference call, go to your existing Signal group, then skip ahead to step #8)

  1. Start Signal.
  2. In the lower right, tap the blue icon with the pencil in it to start a new conversation.
  3. You’ll see “New group” at the top.
  4. Type in someone’s name from your contacts. Tap their name in the search results and they’ll be added to the group.
  5. Repeat step 4 for everyone you want to be in the group.
  6. Once done adding participants, in the lower right, tap the right arrow in the blue circle.
  7. Enter a Group Name. This will be visible to all participants. Then hit the blue pill button in the lower right with “create” in it.
    1. The group now exists
  8. Anyone in the group can now text the whole group or join a video or audio call. Tap the camera icon in the upper right hand corner.
  9. You will join an existing video conference OR if you’re the first one, you’ll start one.
  10. While IN the conference call, tap anywhere on the screen where there is NOT a button or other control… for example, tap on someone’s face, and you’ll get 4 icons at the bottom of the screen. To toggle your camera, hit the camera icon. To toggle your microphone, tap the microphone button. Swipe up to switch between views of each member.

Anyone in the group can come and go as they please. Anyone can participate as video+audio or audio only or just send texts.

The group stays forever until someone deletes it.

Enjoy your encrypted conference calls!

Brave now part of the Decentralized Web

On January 19, 2021, the Brave browser released version 1.19.86. A MAJOR feature was added:

IPFS support

Now, if you enter an IPFS URL, such as:

ipfs://Qmf93BEm2UsgEm949QY3uSrXxn5UfDH83ZFSvQsBGyxPRt

It will resolve the reference and deliver to you the file.

The method in which it resolves this depends on your local settings and whether or not you’re running a local IPFS node, the IPFS browser plugin, or neither. In all 3 cases, it will still resolve the URL and find and deliver the file.

In addition to that, it will give you the option of running an IPFS node on your PC. I highly recommend doing that, IF you’re not low on resources. All it takes is a single button click.

Then YOUR PC becomes part of the global InterPlanetary File System network, increasing the geographical distribution of files and speeding up the global performance of the entire network, in addition to speeding up YOUR use of it. Any file, DAPP (distributed application), or decentralized website (which is just a DAPP, BTW), will load for you much faster the second time you access it AND it’ll be available to you even when you’re offline!

IPFS is a critical part of the infrastructure of the new world wide web, which is being built out as fully decentralized and censorship resistant. Unlike centralized websites that get bogged down and slow down when more people use them, DAPPs actually get FASTER as more people use them!

This is a BIG deal that IPFS is now fully supported in a browser.

Go get the Brave browser here. It’s build from the Chromium source code, so it looks and feels similar to Chrome and all Chrome extensions work in it. It also strips out all the Google spyware and has an ad blocker built in, so browsing is faster without all the page loading delays caused by the ridiculous amount of ads loaded in most web pages these days.

IPFS: Bypassing Big-Tech Censorship

Government Censorship

It used to be abusive, dictatorial, tyrannical 3rd world governments that blocked and censored information from the victims that lived in oppression under their rule. Technologies like TOR and encryption products were invented to help squeak through the iron fists of the banana republic tin pot governments hold on information flow.

Tech Censorship

Now, as you’re probably painfully aware by now, web sites, apps, and even PEOPLE in FIRST WORLD countries are being DELETED from the internet by a small group of emotional and sanctimonious people with little interaction with the vast majority of the public. But they are running the technology services that everything runs on and they’ve decided that THEY are your moral superiors and overlords and have appointed themselves the arbiters of “truth” and “morality” and are now ENFORCING that, aggressively on everyone, especially those in the first world. And the scary part about it, is these are the same people the created many of the technologies to HELP third world victims circumvent their government’s censorship!

Liberators

Now, there’s a NEW group of technology experts working to create new technologies to liberate the victims of censorship in the first world, as well as those in the third world. They’re reinventing the world wide web. The problem with the current (legacy) web is that it’s centrally controlled. All the technologies for creating your own website are dependent on multiple 3rd parties, each of which are in control of one or more aspects of your website. They are:

  1. DNS (Domain Name System)
  2. Registrars
  3. ISP (Internet Service Provider)
  4. Web Hoster
  5. Storage Provider
  6. Database Provider
  7. Client Software for users (Browsers)

IPFS solves the problems of:

  • Web Hosters
  • Storage Providers
  • DNS (partially)

Here’s how it works…

Volunteers, like you and me, and even some organizations, run software on their PCs that makes them nodes in the IPFS global network. If you want to “publish” a file, you simply make it available via your local node. That’s it. It would probably help if you give out the hash of the file. With that hash, people can request the file form the IPFS global network. The network will hunt through the nodes until it eventually finds YOUR file, then will deliver it to the requester. As a result of that request and transfer, your file is now in more than one place. The NEXT person that requests the file could get it from any of those places, and it gets replicated again.

The more a file is requested, the more it spreads and the faster its found by those requesting it. After it’s been replicated once, you could even turn off your machine and people can STILL get it.

You can even publish a website onto IPFS instead of a web hoster. Now your website is decentralized and available even if you shut down your PC from which you originally published it. Side note: If it’s decentralized, it’s an “app”, not a website.

Since there’s no central server, there’s no one place to attack to try to bring your site down.

Since there’s no central server, NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, not even the U.S. government can take down your app. In fact, not even YOU can take it down! The ONLY way it disappears is if people stop requesting it AND no one has your files “pinned” (marked as “do not delete”). Most files will eventually get deleted if they’re not accessed enough as newer files being requested start filling up the nodes’ storage space, older ones get flushed out.

How to Install your first BitCoin wallet app

This is part of a multi-part series of articles on how to get started in cryptocurrencies. This article is the first step you need to take: Installing your first wallet app. Before you do anything else, you must first create your own BitCoin wallet.

What does this mean and why?

In the cryptocurrency world, YOU are your own bank. That means YOU are 100% in control of your cryptocurrency and no one else. This means no one can steal your funds… not a bank, not the government, not hackers that hack a cryptocurrency exchange.

What’s a cryptocurrency exchange?

A cryptocurrency exchange is a CENTRALIZED authority where you can buy cryptocurrency with fiat currency. One of the articles in this series will cover that. Fiat currency is money you’ve been using your whole life like U.S. dollars, the British pound, the Euro, etc… Currencies created by and issued by governments are “fiat” currencies. Cryptocurrencies are created by citizens with complex computer code and not under the control of governments and are not assigned to any one country. They are borderless.

A cryptocurrency exchange is essentially a centralized bank. They are your “on ramp” and “off ramp” for cryptocurrency. (they’re not the ONLY way to acquire crypto) Before you buy any cryptocurrency with fiat from an exchange, you need to have your own, personal cryptocurrency wallet set up so that you can immediately transfer your purchased crypto into your own personally controlled wallet. If you don’t do that, you’re not in control of your crypto. “Not your keys, not your crypto”.

Not Your Keys, Not Your Crypto!

People often make the HUGE mistake of purchasing crypto, but then NOT moving it to their own, personal wallets. This is why people WRONGLY claim that crypto is always stolen. IT IS NOT! If they had moved their crypto into their own personal wallet files, the massive thefts of crypto that happened at exchanges like Mt Gox would NEVER have happened!

The REASON people lost money with exchanges is because they made the fatal mistake of LEAVING their crypto IN A CENTRALIZED BANK! Hackers got ahold of the central bank’s keys and stole millions of dollars worth of crypto… FROM THE BANK! Only the users that FAILED to move their crypto into their own wallets ever lost anything.

DO NOT MAKE THAT MISTAKE!

Install the Electrum BitCoin wallet app on your PC. Below, is a video demonstrating the entire process.

There are MANY wallet apps for MANY cryptocurrencies. I created a website for decentralized apps and services and I’m adding more to it all the time. Here’s a (growing) list of cryptocurrency wallets. Electrum isn’t the only one.

Cryptocurrency Wallet Apps

Decentralization Central

Moving to decentralized services and apps has recently become critically important if you want to maintain your sovereignty and your free speech, free from big-tech authoritarian censorship.

This is so important that I’ve dedicated my time to creating a hub for decentralized services and apps. I registered a domain name, secured it with an SSL certificated, and wrote an online, searchable database for anyone to access, listing dozens (and growing) of fully decentralized apps, DAPPs, and services, as well as some that aren’t necessarily 100% decentralized, but useful nonetheless, plus a few companions services and apps that may not, themselves be decentralized, but support decentralization.

Without further ado, allow me to officially introduce…

DecentralizationCentral.com <– Click here!

And yes, you can switch to light mode if you wish. Just click the dark/light button at the top of the page, next to “About”.

The services are easily discoverable by browsing the dozen or so categories. Each category houses multiple services. You can also use the search bar to search for both services and categories of services.

Each service has its own informational page, describing the service and listing the decentralization features it has. Each feature is color coded. A fully decentralized service will have all decentralization features listed in green.

Below that is a list of icons representing the platforms the service is support on.

And below the list of platforms supported, is a list of useful links. Note that SOME links are not regular web links. We ARE, afterall, talking about the next, decentralized web, which has new kinds of links that require new kinds of browsers to support them. Almost all links are traditional links that will work with your traditional (legacy) browser.

The new kinds of links you may run into are:

  • IPFS (InterPlanetary File System)
  • dat:// (beaker browser)
  • TOR .onion links (for the TOR network)

Please peruse this database and try out any of the services that peak your interests. And check back often. I’m constantly updating it with more decentralized products and services and adding new features.

Things to expect in the near to mid-term future:

  • Video demonstrations
  • Blogs
  • More informative text for each service… more like a wiki page.
  • User editable pages plus users being able to add more services.
  • How-to articles to get you started into the world of decentralization.
  • Forums
  • The ultimate goal will be having a fully decentralized version of this website.

What are your thoughts on big tech censorship and how to protect yourself from it? What would be useful for YOU in those services and on the DecentralizationCentral.com website? Let us know in the comments.

BitCoin Just had its 2020 Halvening: Here’s what that means

What Happened?

Earlier today (2020-05-11), the amount of new BitCoins awarded to each minor that hits the jackpot of finding the right hash to validate the latest block of transactions now gets rewarded HALF the amount of BitCoin that they would have been awarded for each block mined for the last 4 years. For the last 4 years, up until earlier today, every block that was mined, 12.5 BitCoins were awarded to the miner that mined it. Now, and for the next 4 years, any minor that mines a block will be awarded only 6.25 BitCoins.

Why did that happen?

Creating new BitCoins is like printing money. It shouldn’t be done unless it has to because doing so floods the market with new coins and reduces the value of every coin already in existence. This is called “inflation”. But, the miners have to be incentivised to run their expensive hardware and burn through their expensive electricity, therefore, they are rewarded with a small amount of new coins. But, also built into the algorithm is a maximum limit of 21 million total BitCoins. There aren’t that many BitCoins yet, and this halvening algorithm is part of the reason why. By cutting in half, the reward, every 4 years (more specifically, every 210,000 blocks mined), it will take 144 or so years before the last BitCoin is mined.

What does this mean?

For miners, it means their income is cut in half… but only in the short term. BitCoin is deflationary by design, so the value of BitCoin has been and it is expected to continue to go up over time.

For consumers, it doesn’t mean much, at least not in the immediate future. The price of BitCoin has not been immediately effected by prior halvening events. For the most part, it should be business as usual.

For HODL’rs (people that Hold On for Dear Life… saving for the long term), it should reinforce the future value of their BitCoin.

For day traders, given prior halvenings that turned out to be non eventful, they probably won’t experience much of a difference either.

Conclusion:

For the most part, there’s more hype than action… every halvening, but the algorithm for the halvening is critically important for the long term viability of BitCoin.

What’s the best crypto-wallet for daily use?

Cryptocurrency is different than fiat money, as you probably already know.  But those differences make a HUGE impact on how you choose which wallet software to use.  And it’s all about control… YOUR control over your own money.

Let’s begin…

Rather than telling you which wallet apps are best, I’m going to lay out the features you need to look for in wallets, and the ones you need to DEMAND.  In other words, in the “demand” features, you should remove any wallet from consideration that does NOT have the complete “demand” list.  Other features, that may help, but are not deal breakers will be listed as “nice to haves”.  One of the reasons I’m not listing any wallets is because that would make this article dated eventually.  What I’m presenting here should be relevant for decades to come.

DEMAND

  1. Open Source:  If the software wallet you’re considering is NOT open source, then ditch it immediately!  Why?  Because open source wallets have no secrets.  Their entire source code is freely available for anyone to inspect, to guarantee there are no malicious intentions hidden behind the scenes.  Closed source wallets are a black box and you’re throwing out any chance of verification of honesty and relying SOLELY on the word of the wallet creator.  The whole point of cryptocurrency technology is that you DO NOT TRUST ANYONE ELSE WITH YOUR MONEY!  And that INCLUDES programmers… ESPECIALLY programmers!  And I say that AS A PROGRAMMER, MYSELF!
    1. Addendum:  Just because a wallet CLAIMS to be “open source”, doesn’t mean it IS.  For example, I could publish a closed source wallet and just CLAIM it’s “open source” and people would just believe it and download and use it, while I never publish the source code.  So, if some app CLAIMS it’s open source, DON’T BELIEVE THEM… EVER!  You go and FIND the source code (usually on https://gitlab.com or https://github.com) and verify the source code exists.  A reputable wallet author will also provide you a link to the source along with the binary to download.
    2. In addition to FINDING the source code, make sure you download the app FROM the source code repository’s binaries, NOT from an app store or anywhere else!
    3. If you’re a programmer, just download the source and compile it yourself and use THAT!  If you’re NOT a programmer, do #1.2 above.
  2. Must be an app that runs on your own hardware.  In other words, if it’s a website, then you’ve just completely obliterated the ENTIRE PURPOSE of cryptocurrency.  A website “wallet” is NOT a wallet.  It’s a BANK!  THEY are a centralized authority holding YOUR money.  By definition, if YOU are not in control of it, then it isn’t YOUR money, it’s THEIRS.  They ALLOW you to access it, until they DON’T!  Stay away from online wallets, with the brief exception of online exchanges where you EXCHANGE your cryptocurrency for fiat money or vice/versa.  But as SOON as you acquire crypto from an online exchange, you MOVE IT IMMEDIATELY into your OWN wallet!
    1. This means that you must DOWNLOAD an app (desktop or mobile).  And I recommend staying away from browser plugin wallets.  Browsers are just not a safe enough environment.
  3. Your keys or seed phrases are not transmitted over the internet FOR ANY REASON!  Your keys ARE your money!  Whomever holds they keys, holds and OWNS the money.  This is the very core and soul of cryptocurrency.  It’s its reason for being.  NO ONE other than YOU should EVER know your seed phrase or passwords… EVER!!!

NICE TO HAVES

  1. Easy to use user interface.  A lot of people mistakenly think this is a “demand” feature, but you’re better off with a klunky UI that puts you in control of your crypto rather than a sleek and polished wallet that doesn’t meet all the “demand” features.
  2. light vs full node.  What does this mean?  The most secure wallet will be one that’s ALSO a full node on the network for that cryptocurrency.  But to do that, it would need to download the ENTIRE blockchain for that cryptocurrency.  For a popular cryptocurrency, like #BitCoin, that would mean HUNDREDS OF GIGABYTES of data (eventually TERABYTES!) and hours or days of downloading, plus consuming all that space on your hard drive, forever.  It would also mean that your PC would be an actor in the BitCoin network, processing transactions.  That’s actually a GOOD thing for the network, but NOT a good thing for your local resources.  If all you’re looking for is a wallet, a full node is beyond overkill.  It’s like running a whole grocery store just because you need a refrigerator for your Milk.  I’m not discouraging you to NOT be a node.  By all means, PLEASE DO run a full node.  It helps the whole crypto community.  But, it’s not necessary for YOU if all you want is a wallet.  A “light” wallet is JUST a wallet, not a full node.  As such, light wallets are the only kinds of wallets that are available on mobile.  A full node requires a desktop PC, plugged into the electrical outlet.

Other Considerations

There’s another kind of wallet that I’m on the fence for at the moment, because it violates demand #1:  It’s NOT open source.  However, it has some other interesting security features.

The Samsung cryptocurrency wallet

I know I said I’m not going to recommend any specific wallet, and I maintain that.  I AM, however, going to TALK ABOUT one:  The Samsung cryptocurrency wallet meets all the other demand features, but it IS NOT OPEN SOURCE!  However, it has an important security feature no other software based wallets have.  That is, modern Samsung phones and tablets have a hardware based key store.  This is a special, isolated chip that can store encrypted versions of your cryptocurrency keys.  This hardware IS robust and is an important, core feature of the Samsung Knox (now known as “Samsung Secure Folder”) isolated security environment.  It’s the only mobile environment approved by the US Department of Defense for its employees.  Take that however you like.

What is Samsung Knox (or “Secure Folder”)?  You know how you enter a PIN or a password, or a pattern, or a fingerprint, or a face image to unlock your phone?  Well, on Samsung phones, you have all that, PLUS another, completely isolated, secure environment INSIDE of that.  It’s like a smartphone within a smartphone.  Once you set up “secure folder”, you get a SECOND smartphone environment, with another home screen and another set of apps.  Apps installed inside this secure area are NOT accessible to apps outside of it.  I personally install all my financial apps inside of this area.  My games and less sensitive apps and data are stored in the regular phone area.

Side note:  Whether you use the Samsung crypto wallet or not, you SHOULD install the mobile wallet you DO use inside the Samsung Secure Folder area on your phone (if you’re using a Samsung device).

The Samsung Cryptocurrency wallet is a software mobile wallet, and just like all other mobile wallets, it encrypts your seed phrase to your cryptocurrency with your password.  But the difference is that it stores that in the isolated, secure chip.  THAT makes it immensely more secure.  HOWEVER, the app is NOT open source!  Hence my hesitation of recommending this app.  We have no way to know what’s REALLY going on inside the Samsung wallet, because it’s closed source.

My Compromise:

So, here’s my recommendation:  If you DO use the Samsung wallet, never have more in it than you’d ever put in your real, physical wallet.  In other words, in the days when you’d have a wallet in your pocket with cash in it (you remember that right?  That green paper that you’d trade for stuff?), you’d rarely carry more than about $100, because that’s all you’d need for 1 day and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you lost it or if it were stolen.

I recommend the same practice with the Samsung crypto wallet.  Only store about $100(USD) worth of crypto in your Samsung wallet.  If you run across a local place that accepts crypto, you can spend it, but if there’s ever any kind of a breach with Samsung’s OS and/or software, you’re not going to lose too much.

And I’ll give the same $100 limit advice for ALL OTHER mobile wallets too!  Store the remainder of your fortunes in multiple hardware wallets or multiple desktop wallets.

Conclusion

Cryptocurrency was created for the purpose of YOU being in control.  Therefore, it’s pointless to store your cryptocurrency in a place that you DO NOT control.  As always, don’t put all your eggs or cryptos in one basket.  Don’t put your life savings into your mobile wallet.

Addendum

Speaking of not putting all your eggs in one basket:  As you start accumulating more and more wealth in cryptocurrency, either by continuous investing or by the value of it rising, it’s smart to create more digital wallets and spreading your crypto among them.  Don’t store all your passwords and seed phrases in the same place.  Following these practices, if any of your wallets are ever compromised by your own failures to protect them, you won’t lose ALL of your assets.

In the comments below, tell us what wallets YOU use… THAT FIT THE DEMANDS listed here?  Please keep the conversation limited to those that fit the minimal demand list.

Debunking another Flat Earth Video

Amazingly, there are grown adults in first world countries that believe the earth is flat.  They frequently post videos “proving” their B.S., military grade stupidity, thinking they’ve outsmarted the rest of the world.  It’s amazing and sad to see.  Here’s yet another one that I’ll be debunking here.  Although, MUCH of what they provide lacks source material, so we don’t know what they’re showing.

Debunking this video:

h t t p s : / / w w w . y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = G 8 f J N _ 6 N H h 4

  1. at 00:12 seconds in, showing 2 images of the space jump, one showing a label on the capsule and one not.
    You have to provide sources. Show us the video. Is one from a rendering or a test at a different time?
  2. at 00:22 seconds in, an astronaut suddenly appearing from nowhere: Again, CONTEXT MATTERS! Was this just NASA’s broadcast switching from one recording to another? It’s CRITICAL for you to show us the source material, otherwise, there’s no way to confirm or debunk.
  3. car in space: No argument is actually given, therefore, there’s nothing to refute.
  4. 1:04, showing blockiness around the earth in a photo from the moon.
    I’m surprised the video maker knows enough about a paint program to increase the contrast, but not enough to know that this is a VERY WELL KNOWN artifact of lossy image compression. Also, your video is at 720×480… EXTREMELY LOW RES. Why?

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compression_artifact
  5. Picture of full earth over moon horizon: AGAIN DUDE! SOURCE MATERIAL!!!! Where the HELL did you get this image from? Is it claimed to be authentic or is it an artists work that you found on the internet???
  6. https://epic.gsfc.nasa.gov/epic-galleries/2016/solar_eclipse/full/168_2016068234208.png image with tilted box: More than likely they rotated the image so the north & south pole line up for your viewing pleasure. There’s no up or down in space. Neither the satellite nor its camera are necessarily oriented perfectly with the earth’s axis of rotation with the top of the camera perfectly lined up with true, earth north. I moved the levels down even MORE in my local paint program, and you know what I found? STARS!
    1. Also, notice in both YOUR and MY level modifications, there are horizontal bands that line up with the rotated box frame?  Those are artifacts of the CCD.  A fake wouldn’t have these and certainly wouldn’t hide them in low levels.
    2. If these were fake, there’d be no reason to have a non black background, no reason to rotate it (just manufacture it in the orientation you want), and no need to put stars in there far below the viewer’s ability to see, hidden in the very low gray scales. All of your “evidence” is evidence of it being real. Here’s a link to the gallery it came from: https://epic.gsfc.nasa.gov/galleries/2016/solar_eclipse
  7. 1:22 Saturn’s moon Enceladus: What are you trying to prove here? Again, you’ve revealed more detail of the surface of the moon that wasn’t visible in the original image and revealed stars that weren’t visible in the original image. Why hide this in a fake? You’re providing evidence that it’s real.
  8. 1:29 Green edge between moon and earth. Again, if it were fake, they’d have it perfect with no artifacts. This is likely an artifact of the CCD on the camera or the lenses. Everyone has seen these ghosting effects in cameras.
  9. 1:34 The earth and “copied” clouds. OMG! We’ve been debunking this one over and over and over for YEARS! That’s NOT AN IMAGE THAT NASA CLAIMS IS REAL!!! That’s the original iPhone wallpaper. There are multiple articles on how the artist created the image. Again, I’ve debunked this one so often, I write a blog post about it here: Does NASA fake photos of Earth?
  10. 1:47 yet AGAIN… JPEG COMPRESSION ARTIFACTS!!! How many DECADES do you want us to explain this to you before you finally understand what everyone else already understands?
  11. 1:58 Apollo 15 image. Ghosting on analog film is a VERY WELL known phenomenon. How many examples of this do you have in this video???
  12. 2:13, yet again, more JPEG artifacts!
  13. Poor lense, bandwidth, & compression problems in ISS footage.

OK, I’ve spent enough of my free time just on the first 3 minutes and 29 seconds of this 20 minute video… 13 innuendos in all.  I’ve debunked 100% of everything shown up to that point, though no proofs were shown of any claims, only innuendos, but I debunked those.  I never saw a top 10 count in that time segment though.  Maybe it’s later?  Maybe I’ll get back to it when I’ve got more time to waste.  But for now, I’ve got a life to get back to.

360 Degree Panorama Experiment

This is an experimental post, testing out a control to present my 360 degree panoramic photos.  If this works right, below you should see three 360 degree panoramas. One of a Victorian like bedroom in the Biltmore Estate.  Click and drag inside the image to look around. Another of a room by the grand staircase. And a third at the Stable Cafe.

 

[wpvr id=”3675″]
[wpvr id=”3663″]
[wpvr id=”3678″]
[wpvr id=”3683″]
[wpvr id=”3686″]
[wpvr id=”3689″]
[wpvr id=”3692″]
[wpvr id=”3695″]