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The plot to revive Mt. Gox and repay victims’ Bitcoin – TechCrunch

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It was the Lehman Brothers of blockchain. 850,000 Bitcoin disappeared when cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox imploded in 2014 after a series of hacks. The incident cemented the industry’s reputation as frighteningly insecure. Now a controversial crypto celebrity named Brock Pierce is trying to get the Mt. Gox flameout’s 24,000 victims their money back and build a new company from the ashes.

Pierce spoke to TechCrunch for the first interview about Gox Rising — his plan to reboot the Mt. Gox brand and challenge Coinbase and Binance for the title of top cryptocurrency exchange. He claims there’s around $630 million and 150,000 Bitcoin are waiting in the Mt. Gox bankruptcy trust, and Pierce wants to solve the legal and technical barriers to getting those assets distributed back to their rightful owners.

The consensus from several blockchain startup CEOs I spoke with was that the plot is “crazy”, but that it also has the potential to right one of the biggest wrongs marring the history of Bitcoin.

The Fall Of Mt. Gox

The story starts with Magic: The Gathering. Mt. Gox launched in 2006 as a place for players of the fantasy card game to trade monsters and spells before cryptocurrency came of age. The Magic: The Gathering Online eXchange wasn’t designed to safeguard huge quantities of Bitcoin from legions of hackers, but founder Jed McCaleb pivoted the site to do that in 2010. Seeking to focus on other projects, he gave 88 percent of the company to French software engineer Mark Karpeles, and kept 12 percent. By 2013, the Tokyo-based Mt. Gox had become the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, handling 70 percent of all Bitcoin trades. But security breaches, technology problems, and regulations were already plaguing the service.

Then everything fell apart. In February 2014, Mt. Gox halted withdrawls due to what it called a bug in Bitcoin, trapping assets in user accounts. Mt. Gox discovered that it had lost over 700,000 Bitcoins due to theft over the past few years. By the end of the month, it had suspended all trading and filed for bankruptcy protection, which would contribute to a 36 percent decline in Bitcoin’s price. It admitted that 100,000 of its own Bitcoin atop 750,000 owned by customers had been stolen.

Mt. Gox is now undergoing bankruptcy rehabilitation in Japan overseen by court-appointed trustee and veteran bankruptcy lawyer Nobuaki Kobayashi to establish a process for compensating the 24,000 victims who filed claims. There’s now 137,892 Bitcoin, 162,106 Bitcoin Cash, and some other forked coins in Mt. Gox’s holdings, along with $630 million cash from the sale of 25 percent of the Bitcoin that Kobayashi handled at a precient price point above where it is today. But five years later, creditors still haven’t been paid back. 

A Rescue Attempt

Brock Pierce, the eccentric crypto celebrity

Pierce had actually tried to acquire Mt. Gox in 2013. The child actor known from The Mighty Ducks had gone on to work with a talent management company called Digital Entertainment Network. But accusations of sex crimes led Pierce and some team members to flee the US to Spain until they were extradited back. Pierce wasn’t charged and paid roughly $21,000 to settle civil suits, but his cohorts were convicted of child molestation and child pornography.

The situation still haunts Pierce’s reputation and makes some in the industry apprehensive to be associated with him. But he managed to break into the virtual currency business, setting up World Of Warcraft gold mining farms in China. He claims to have eventually run the world’s largest exchanges for WOW Gold and Second Life Linden Dollars.

Soon Pierce was becoming a central figure in the blockchain scene. He co-founded Blockchain Capital, and eventually the EOS Alliance as well as a much-derided “crypto utopia” in Puerto Rico called Sol. His eccentric, Burning Man-influenced fashion made him easy to spot at the industry’s many conferences.

As Bitcoin and Mt. Gox rose in late 2012, Pierce tried to buy it, but “my biggest investor was Goldman Sachs. Goldman was not a fan of me buying the biggest Bitcoin exchange” due to the regulatory issues, Pierce tells me. But he also suspected the exchange was built on a shaky technical foundation that led him to stop pursuing the deal. “I thought there was a big risk factor in the Mt. Gox back-end. That was my intuition and I’m glad it was because my intuition was dead right.”

After Mt. Gox imploded, Pierce claims his investment group Sunlot Holdings successfully bought founder McCaleb’s 12 percent stake for 1 Bitcoin, though McCaleb says he didn’t receive the Bitcoin and it’s not clear if the deal went through. Pierce also claims he had a binding deal with Karpeles to buy the other 88 percent of Mt. Gox, but that Karpeles tried to pull out of the deal that remains in legal limbo.

The Supposed Villain

Sunlot has since been trying to take over the rehabilitation proceedings, but that arrangement was derailed by a lawsuit from CoinLab. That company had partnered with Mt. Gox in 2012 to run its North American operations but claimed it never received the necessary assets, and sued Mt. Gox for $75 million. Mt. Gox countersued, saying CoinLab wasn’t legally certified to run the exchange in the US and that it hadn’t returned $5.3 million in customer deposits. For a detailed account the tangle of lawsuits, check out Reuters’ deep-dive into the Mt. Gox fiasco.

CoinLab co-founder Peter Vessenes

This week, CoinLab co-founder Peter Vessenes increased the claim and is now seeking $16 billion. Pierce alleges “this is a frivolous lawsuit. He’s claiming if [the partnership with Mt. Gox] hadn’t been cancelled, CoinLab would have been Coinbase and is suing for all the value. He believes Coinbase is worth $16 billion so he should be paid $16 billion. He embezzled money from Mt. Gox, he committed a crime, and he’s trying to extort the creditors. He’s holding up the entire process hoping he’ll get a payday.” Later, Pierce reiterated that “Coinlab is the villain trying to take all the money and see creditors get nothing.” Industry sources I spoke to agreed with that characterization

Mt. Gox customers worried that they might only receive the cash equivalent of their Bitcoin according to the currency’s $483 value when Gox closed in 2014. That’s despite the rise in Bitcoin’s value rising to around 7X that today, and as high as 40X at the currency’s peak. Luckily, in June 2018 a Japanese District Court halted bankruptcy proceedings and sent Mt. Gox into civil rehabilitation which means the company’s assets would be distributed to its creditors (the users) instead of liquidated. It also declared that users would be paid back their lost Bitcoin rather than the old cash value.

The Plan For Gox Rising

Now Pierce and Sunlot are attempting another rescue of Mt. Gox’s  $1.2 billion assets. He wants to track down the remaining cryptocurrency that’s missing, have it all fairly valued, and then distribute the maximum amount to the robbed users with Mt. Gox equity shareholders including himself receiving nothing.

That’s a much better deal for creditors than if Mt. Gox paid out the undervalued sum, and then shareholders like Pierce got to keep the remaining Bitcoins or proceeds of their sale at today’s true value. “I‘ve been very blessed in my life. I did commit to giving my first billion away” Pierce notes, joking that this plan could account for the first $700 million he plans to ‘donate’.

“Like Game Of Thrones, the last season of Mt. Gox hasn’t been written” Pierce tells me, speaking in terms HBO’s Silicon Valley would be quick to parody. “What kind of ending do we want to make for it? I’m a Joseph Campbell fan so I’m obviously going to go with a hero’s journey, with a rise and a fall, and then a rise from the ashes like a phoenix.”

But to make this happen, Sunlot needs at least half of those Mt. Gox users seeking compensation, or roughly 12,000 that represent the majority of assets, to sign up to join a creditors committee. That’s where GoxRising.com comes in. The plan is to have users join the committee there so they can present a united voice to Kobayashi about how they want Mt. Gox’s assets distributed. “I think that would allow the process to move faster than it would otherise” Pierce says. “Things are on track to be resolved in the next three to five years. If [a majority of creditors sign on] this could be resolved in maybe 1 year.”

Beyond providing whatever the Mt. Gox estate pays out, Pierce wants to create a Gox Coin that gives original Mt. Gox creditors a stake in the new company. He plans to have all of Mt. Gox’s equity wiped out, including his own. Then he’ll arrange to finance and tokenize an independent foundation governed by the creditors that will seek to recover additional lost Mt. Gox assets and then distribute them pro rata to the Gox Coin holders. There are plenty of unanswered questions about the regulatory status of a Gox Coin and what holders would be entitled to, Pierce admits.

Meanwhile, Pierce is bidding to buy the intangibles of Mt. Gox, aka the brand and domain. He wants to then relaunch it as a Gox or Mt. Gox exchange that doesn’t provide custody itself for higher security. Despite the recent crypto recession with prices at multi-year lows, he believes there’s room for another exchange with a brand tied to the early heyday of Bitcoin.

“We want to offer [creditors] more than the bankruptcy trustee can do on its own” Pierce tells me. He concedes that the venture isn’t purely altruistic. “If the exchange is very successful I stand to benefit sometime down the road.” Even if the revived Mt. Gox never rises to legitimately challenge Binance, Coinbase, and other leading exchanges, Piece believes it’s all worth the effort. He concludes, “Whether we’re successful or not, I want to see the creditors made whole.” Those creditors will have to decide for themselves who to trust.

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Samsung One UI 3 update released for USA Galaxy S20 phones

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Today the One UI 3 with Android 11 OS was finally released for the Samsung Galaxy S20 family of devices. If you’re using a Samsung Galaxy Note 20, there’s good news for you as well – just so long as “in the coming weeks” sounds like an amount of time you’re willing to wait for this same update. The Samsung One UI 3 with Android 11 OS update will begin to rollout today “in the US on Galaxy S20 series devices” per Samsung’s official press release.

The Samsung One UI 3 with Android 11 OS update includes a “new, refreshed design” that’ll revitalize and reinvigorate the Samsung phone experience. A Samsung suggested in its most updated set of details on the update, this includes “visual enhancements to highly important information on the home screen, lock screen, notifications, and Quick Panel.” This update also includes “new visual effects” for the device’s user interface, including Dim and Blur.

This update includes an improved set of abilities in the Samsung Galaxy S20 standard camera app. Samsung suggests that the auto-exposure system works better, and that autofocus has been improved. The standard Gallery app has an update that allows the user to better organize categories “to quickly find photos.”

This update adds the user ability to customize the “share sheet” for sharing images, videos, and documents. There’s a newly redesigned set of lock screen widgets that’ll allow users to view important information and control music without needing to fully unlock the device.

This update also adds “Samsung Free,” which might not be particularly welcome by some users. This is “a tailored channel full of news, games, and free content from Samsung TV Plus all available with a simple right-swipe from the Home screen. Cross your fingers we’ll have the option to disable this screen, or you can bet there’ll be feedback.

If you own a Samsung Galaxy S20, Samsung Galaxy S20+. or Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, you’ll likely find the One UI 3 with Android 11 OS update available this week. Drop in to your Settings and scroll all the way to the bottom to find System Updates – tap in and check!

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Galaxy S21 S Pen must-have features for the stylus to thrive

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There is no shortage of talk about the death of the Galaxy Note line next year and most of those revolve around one or two “facts”. Samsung is undoubtedly grooming the Galaxy Z Fold series to eventually take its place but perhaps more significant is how the Galaxy S21 will reportedly gain its signature feature, the Wacom-powered S Pen. That will naturally raise questions on whether the stylus is still relevant today, enough to justify the added cost of a digitizer for what most might consider an esoteric feature. There are actually a few things that Samsung can do to make sure it actually gets the message across this time.

Missed Opportunities

It would almost be a shame if Samsung axed the Galaxy Note 21, given that it will be the series’ tenth birthday next year. That is also how long the S Pen has been in existence and it’s both amusing and tragic that there is still some confusion and doubt about its raison d’être.

Sure, the phone stylus has its share of fans and loyal believers and there are even some from Apple’s camp who continue to believe every year that the iPhone would finally support something similar. Unfortunately, Samsung itself may have contributed to the disillusionment and hesitation over what should have been its killer feature.

From the very beginning, the Galaxy Note line was poised to be the phone for productivity and serious work. While the early Android phones and iPhones allowed people to consume content on a small screen, the Galaxy Note’s large screen and stylus clearly indicated it wasn’t your typical smartphone. It may have been ahead of its time, though, as it would take years before Apple, who ridiculed its gigantic display, would itself upsize its iPhones.

But while the Galaxy Note had the hardware to sell its productivity and creativity message, it sorely lacked the experiences that would convince all but the geekiest of users. Android itself would have an app ecosystem problem that would last it for years but Samsung was pretty much a heavyweight back in those days.

Unfortunately, it didn’t use that influence to help things turn in Android’s favor, like convincing major brands or cultivating app developers to create long-lasting experiences around the S Pen. It was too busy reinventing the wheel and establish itself as a not-Android Android phone maker to focus on that.

Admittedly, Samsung did try to build an app that showcased the stylus’ power. It even made that S Note app available on mobile and Windows PCs, predating what Microsoft would later accomplish with OneNote. Unfortunately, S Note has undergone so many incompatible changes over the years that it felt unwise to put one’s digital life in Samsung’s basket.

Creativity and Productivity Redux

That’s not to say that the S Pen has outlived its usefulness. In fact, it might only be getting started. Smartphones have become truly powerful computers in our pockets that we can and do use for work these days. The app market, even on Android, has matured enough to support that use case. Samsung just needs to send the right messages to convince consumers that they will need, or even want, a stylus, messages that go beyond contrived and painful on-stage testimonies and demos.

A phone is not a tablet

It’s almost too easy to compare and contrast the Galaxy Note phones with the success of the iPad Pro line and its Apple Pencil. It’s easy enough to want those same experiences from Apple’s premiere tablets to be available on smartphones, too. While current handsets are definitely capable, it would miss out on the things that make a smartphone better than a tablet.

Samsung needs to sell the next S Pen-enabled phone not as a phone in its own right and not as a shrunken down tablet. It has to focus on experiences that take advantage of the phone’s size and portability, like quick note-taking anywhere, sketching out thumbnails, marking documents, and the like. Admittedly, Samsung already has laid the foundations for these, it just needs to make one more change.

Pledge of consistency

The S Note app, later Samsung Notes, are actually powerful tools for their times but few would consider it a reliable productivity tool the way some would look at Apple’s basic Notes app. Samsung’s note-taking app has changed drastically over the years, sometimes in incompatible ways that meant losing your old notes. It added new features, for sure, but also removed just as much. It is hard to trust a tool that would be the repository of your digital life and thoughts.

Your notes weren’t available elsewhere either, which made the idea of keeping them there less appealing. Samsung Notes now syncs with Microsoft OneNote, partially addressing that problem but it also creates a different problem. Now users will have to wonder how long before Samsung abandons its own Notes app, making it harder to invest in its features.

More stuff, less fluff

To be fair, Samsung has tried to get people excited about the S Pen but it almost seems like it ran out of ideas in the past years. Some of the new features, particularly the Bluetooth-powered gestures, felt pointless and useless anyway. Users don’t always need more new features and would probably appreciate it more if Samsung focused instead on polishing apps and experiences.

Developers, developers, developers

Android still has a bit of an app ecosystem problem even to this day. While iOS has one or two top apps in each category, Android would have half a dozen, few of which can be considered complete or almost perfect.

Google is pretty bad at long-term cultivation of apps and developers and Samsung is no different. Sure, it does highlight some apps and holds contests to motivate developers. These are mostly one-off marketing stints, however, and isn’t enough to keep developers invested in the platform, especially considering Android’s notorious monetization problems compared to iOS.

Wrap-up

The Galaxy Note is on its way out, whether it happens next year or not. Its key feature, however, will most likely live on, even for a little while. Whether or not it becomes a defining feature of Samsung’s future premium flagships, however, will depend a lot on how Samsung handles its messaging.

All the pieces are in place and the time is ripe for a true stylus-enabled Android phone, but only if Samsung doesn’t squander the opportunity yet again.

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Best Cases for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

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This year Apple unleashed four all-new iPhone models in varying colors and sizes. No matter which one you choose, you’ll want a case to keep your phone safe. While the iPhone 12 Pro has a new ceramic shield display and a rugged stainless steel design, it’s still fragile enough that you’ll want protection from daily wear and tear. So, here’s a roundup of the best iPhone 12 cases and iPhone 12 Pro cases, as they fit both phones.

We’ve gathered a list of iPhone 12 Pro cases in several different styles from thin cases, rugged cases, clear cases to show off a specific color, a wallet case, and more. Either way, we’ll help you keep that expensive new phone safe.

Spigen Liquid Air Armor Case for iPhone 12

When it comes to buying a case for any phone, our first choice is usually Spigen. They offer a wide array of sizes, durability, colors, and more to fit any user’s style or needs at an affordable price. I use the Spigen Liquid Air Armor as it’s not too thin, nor is it too thick.

A perfect middle ground to keep your new iPhone stylish without being too bulky. The Spigen Liquid Air offers military-grade protection, a textured anti-slip finish, and air cushion technology in the corners for added drop protection. Buy it on Amazon

Shamo iPhone 12 Clear TPU Case

Some people just want a thin, cheap, lightweight case offering little protection and peace of mind without spending $40. We don’t blame you, which is why this clear TPU case for under $6 is a great option.

The Shamo’s clear TPU case is rugged, durable, shockproof, and has raised edges to keep that beautiful screen safe. Give it a try. Buy it on Amazon

Caseology Parallax iPhone 12 Case

Another great option is Caseology, which makes several styles similar to Spigen. Our favorite is the Caseology Parallax, as it utilizes a dual-layer design to protect your iPhone 12.

The Parallax has a soft impact-resistant TPU shell on the inside, surrounded by a tough polycarbonate plastic outer bumper shell. Then, they reinforce the corners and add a textured wavy back to prevent accidental drops. It’s a tremendous all-around case. Buy it on Amazon

Apple Silicon iPhone 12 Case with MagSafe

We know some people like to buy Apple-branded everything, including cases. And while Apple’s custom silicone cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 are great, they don’t offer a ton of protection for the price.

Still, it’s stylish, has a soft microfiber finish on the inside to keep the phone safe, and packs built-in magnets to work perfectly with MagSafe. Most cases still work with wireless charging, but this ensures a perfect Apple experience. Buy it on Amazon

Otterbox Commuter Series Case for iPhone 12 / 12 Pro

By far, one of the best cases for all iPhones and a brand you’ve likely owned before is Otterbox. They make durable and excellent products, built to last, and will keep that big screen and all those cameras safe. My favorite case from Otterbox is the Commuter series, as it’s not a brick, but still super tough.

Otterbox added textured designs on the sides for an improved grip, made the case tough as nails, and uses a new silver-based antimicrobial coating to protect against common bacteria that may end up on our phones. Buy it Now on Amazon

Smartish iPhone 12 Wallet Case

Convenience is more important than ever these days, so you might as well combine your wallet and phone into one. That way, you can grab your phone, keys, and go. The Smartish iPhone 12 and 12 Pro series of wallet cases are some of the best. They use comfy textured sides for a solid grip, a soft drop-resistant TPU shell, then raise the back enough that you can fit three credit/debit/ID cards plus some cash at the same time — safely.

Whether it’s three cards or one, they’ll never fall out. Previously known as “CM4” Smartish makes a great iPhone 12 wallet case worth trying. Buy it Now on Amazon

Spigen Tough Armor Kickstand Case for iPhone 12

If you’re looking for one of the best rugged iPhone 12 Pro cases, look no further than the Spigen Tough Armor. It’s an excellent dual-layer case built to handle whatever life throws at you.

They use a soft TPU inner core, a hard polycarbonate outer core, and impact-absorbing foam lines inside the case. Not to mention the nifty popout kickstand for hands-free Netflix, YouTube, or gaming sessions. Buy it Now on Amazon

Razer ArcTech Pro Gaming Case for iPhone 12

The best iPhone 12 case for gamers is probably the Razer ArcTech Pro, for several reasons. While it’s rugged, durable, and has dual-layered corners for added drop protection, it’s the overall design built for gamers that you’ll enjoy.

Razer added venting holes to the rugged case, then an all-new thermally conductive lining to help send heat out of the case for improved performance and battery life during those Fortnite matches. Plus, they added an antimicrobial coating to the back (because it’s 2020) to prevent bacteria buildup and promote good hygiene. Buy it Now on Amazon

AIMOSIO Aramid Fiber Minimalist Thin iPhone 12 Case

Minimalists looking for a sleek, stylish, yet functional case for the iPhone 12 will want to consider something made from aramid fiber.

The fibers are military-grade, bulletproof, yet super thin. As a result, you get one of the sleekest and most durable cases around. They’re a bit expensive and don’t keep the screen all that safe, but everything else about aramid fiber cases is great. Buy it Now on Amazon

Incipio Duo iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Case

Finally, for now, is the fantastic Incipio Duo case for the iPhone 12 series. Incipio thinks of everything when they build cases for new phones. For this year, the iPhone 12 Incipio Duo case offers 12-ft drop protection, which is huge. They use oversized raised edges around the bezel of the glass to keep the screen safe, not to mention tiny little rubber feet on the back to prevent your phone from sliding off surfaces like a table.

They claim the strong antimicrobial coating on the outside eliminates 99.9% of germs and bacteria from the case, which is essential these days. Buy it Now on Amazon

Disclosure: SlashGear uses affiliate links, If you click on a link in this article and buy something we’ll get a small cut of the sale.

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