Ashampoo WinOptimizer 11

Keep your Windows PC running in tip-top shape with this must have optimization utility.

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Security and performance optimization are some of the most needed, important computer features today. With all of the security issues that seem to be cropping up now-a-days, the more you can do to protect yourself, the better off you’re going to be. Having the right tools in your toolbox for this is important, and its one of the biggest reasons why I like WinOptimizer 11 from Ashampoo. Its one f the best Windows utilities you can find on the internet today.

Taking care of your PC is often difficult. With WinOptimizer, you get all the assistance you need. It gives you the most your PC can deliver, allowing you to concentrate on your work, rather than concerning yourself with its performance. For example, new in Ashampoo WinOptimizer 11 is Game Booster. With it, you can automatically free system resources and shut down non-essential system services during game play so that your games run faster and more efficiently. It kills all non-gaming essential services (but not processes) and enhances multimedia processing.

Services for mobile devices support, VoIP, browsers that consume a lot of RAM and Office apps like Word or Excel and their associated services will be shut down; but can be easily restored when you’re done playing your game. The best thing is that Game Booster can be activated manually through Live Tuner’s system tray context menu, a shortcut on the apps overview page, or automatically when a game or system intensive app is started.

One of the app’s newest and biggest features is User Rights Manager. This is a comprehensive module that allows anyone with admin rights to the box adjust system restrictions for a single user or for multiple accounts, based on the internal Windows system Policy Editor. A backup of all user restrictions is created automatically in the background before changes are saved.

For example, you can set policies like always opening flash drives as write protected. You can prevent access to admin features by non-admin users, hide varying shutdown options, prevent access to Control Panel’s System properties that control Display, Bluetooth, Power Management, Network connections, etc. If you have shared computers anywhere in the house and inquisitive computer users, limiting access to these things can save you a lot of grief and troubleshooting later.

I’m always very critical of system utilities for a number of reasons. In many ways they make self service a whole lot easier. However, the more advanced THEY get, the more advanced YOU must get in order to understand the system changes you’re enabling. The biggest reason why I like WinOptimizer from Ashampoo is that they give you the options and capabilities without overwhelming you with all the technical mumbo-jumbo that goes along with it.

WinOptimizer 11 is one of better Windows utility apps on the market today. Its fast, easy to use and understand, yet gives you access to all of the options that many corporate system admins have via the Windows Group Policy Editor, without having to deal with its much more complicated interface.

Ashampoo is one of my favorite software publishers. They have some really awesome apps, and this is definitely one of them. The addition of User Rights Manager and Game Optimizer alone justify the upgrade costs. However, it has a great deal MORE to offer. Download this now and find out for yourself why Soft32 thinks this is a must have for your PC.

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UPDATED – Amazon Releases FireTV

It’s a direct shot across the Apple TV bow. How the industry, and Apple specifically should respond remains to be seen…

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Amazon recently announced the Amazon FireTV, a set-top box similar to the Roku box, Chromecast and of course, the Apple TV. However, there were a few gotchas with the device that have me – and a number of other people – scratching their heads. It’s a good first effort, but; well… I don’t want to get ahead of myself…

Amazon’s FireTV has a similar look to the Apple TV, Apple’s “hobby-based” content streaming project that has them pulling in a great deal more revenue from their content ecosystem than I think most people think or Apple is willing to admit. If you have an iDevice and buy ANY content on iTunes, having an Apple TV so you can play that content on your television set is a no-brainer.

I think Amazon had the same thought. They want to give people that have adopted their ecosystem the opportunity to do the same things – watch their purchased or rented video, listen to their music, etc. on their television sets. However, based on the recently debunked rumors, it seems to me that Amazon had a chance to hit a home run, and instead, swung and missed.

The FireTV… yeah… it doesn’t support Amazon Prime Video. Meaning that you can’t use it to stream any content to your TV from the vastly popular and PAID streaming service Amazon gives its Prime members as part of their (now) $99 annual member fee. Whoever made that decision needs to be hunted down and shot fired.

Apple TV is successful because it allows users to stream items from the iTunes media store as well as a user’s iTunes library. Everything that Apple can stream to your Mac or PC, can come through the Apple TV. Users can also buy and rent content from the set top box.

Amazon won’t stream Prime Instant Video through the FireTV. There’s absolutely NO incentive for any Amazon Prime member to buy the box, even after the $20 price increase most of us have recently been subject to. Again, what idiot thought THAT up? While I understand that they are trying to entice other, new customers and users – many of which may not be Amazon Prime users to the ecosystem – what better way to cement current users into the ecosystem than through a set top box that supports their ENTIRE ecosystem and also allows those users to purchase additional content? I know there was purpose and thought behind the decision not to support Prime Instant Video. I just think their logic is flawed and the decision was, well… wrong.

In my opinion, Apple TV has no direct competitor. Yes. You’re right…there ARE other streaming set top boxes out there. The Roku box and Roku Streaming stick are two big examples at the front of the pack. However, even though it can stream content from external services like Netflix as well, it doesn’t have an ecosystem it could support. The FireTV does.

This decision just feels as though someone was asleep at the wheel. Amazon needs to reexamine it and correct it ASAP. I was seriously considering purchasing one UNTIL I found out it doesn’t support Prime Instant Video. Now, I wonder if I will even bother looking at the product pages for it.

How about you? Are you interested in the FireTV even though it doesn’t support Amazon Prime Instant Video? Would it encourage you to purchase an Amazon Prime membership if it did? Why don’t you join me in the comments below, and tell me what you think of this development.

UPDATE – This article was originally based on initial information available on the internet at the time just before the announcement of the set top box. Much of what you see above has been updated to indicate that Amazon FireTV DOES in fact support Amazon Prime Streaming Video. This is a huge win for Amazon as well as users of Amazon Prime as it corrects nearly every issue I brought up with the service.

What makes this an even more compelling buy, especially if you have most, if not all of your media content purchased through one of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, is that like the Apple TV, now you have access to all of your purchased content as well as Amazon’s Prime Streaming Video service.

If you do not have a set top box AND have an Amazon Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD tablet, this is the streaming set top box you need to purchase.

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HTC One (M8) Initial Impressions

I have seen the new hardware; and it is good… if you have 3 hands.

As I’ve said, I’ve been in mobile devices for a long time. I’ve used nearly all of them, too; at least on the Windows Mobile and Android side. I had nearly every Compaq iPAQ. I had all the Palm Tungsten T devices (T, T2 and T3… that hardware was totally awesome – solid and well built).One of the biggest and most important tenants of mobile device use has consistently been one handed use.

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With the HTC One (M8), it’s just not possible. The phone is very wide, with the body measuring 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm (5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 in). Don’t get me wrong. The device fits very nicely in my hand(s). The problem is that you can’t use the device with one hand. The average person’s hand isn’t wide enough and their thumb isn’t long enough to enable one handed use on a device that’s nearly 5.5″ tall and 2.7″ wide. However, it fits well in the one hand that you do use to hold it. The device’s curved back lends to the comfort you do feel, holding the device

This is a big problem with the current smartphone screen size trend as I see it. You can’t work the device with one hand. You must use two, meaning that in order to successfully use the device for the task at hand, you must focus all of your attention on it and nothing else. You also don’t get to have anything else in your hands. This means that you can’t be at the office, walking down the hall on your way to another meeting with a notebook, tablet or a cup of coffee in one hand while you check newly arrived mail with your smartphone in the other. You either need to be empty handed or you have to stop and put something down so you can use your phone. Not totally intuitive or user friendly, if you ask me; and I think it’s the biggest reason why Apple hasn’t jumped on the new wide screen fad/ paradigm shift up to this point. Jobs was all about one handed use (which is also another reason why he didn’t like styli. You had to use both hands AND it was another thing to carry and lose…)

The screen is clear and bright. It’s easy to read and easy to view content on. For someone firmly in the middle of life where eyesight is currently an issue (and it most certainly is with me), this is a great screen to have on a mobile device. Fonts are easy to read and are crisp and clear. Video is easy to view on the large 1080p compatible screen.

The other thing that struck me right off the bat was the dot case and the clock/weather screen. I activated the phone on Saturday 2014-03-29, shortly after I did my unboxing. The first thing I did was put it in the dot case, because it was included and I honestly didn’t want any scratches or blemishes on this device while I had it on my watch.

When you opened and then closed the case, the device clock and current weather conditions would activate as you expected it to. It did that pretty consistently…for about the first hour and a half that I had the device going. Shortly after that, it stopped displaying the time and current weather conditions when the case closed. Now when you close the case, the display just goes dark. The only way to get that information to display is to double tap the case while the cover is closed.

Amazingly, the device detects the double tap through the case cover and displays the time and current weather. However, I have been all through the device’s settings. I can’t find any information or settings page where you control what happens with that case. I find that very aggravating. I didn’t change anything on the device to make that cease from functioning. The HTC One (M8) just stopped doing it on its own. Yeah… I don’t get it.

The dot case itself, however, is a dark gun metal grey. It’s a dark contrast to the HTC One (M8)’s light gunmetal grey metal casing. I like the way it looks. It’s unique in the mobile device world, as I’ve never seen anything like it before; and it does a decent job of protecting the device. The only thing I don’t like about it is that there’s no good way to use the device with any kind of a universal device cradle in my vehicle with the case on.

In order to use the device in the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount for example, you have to bend the cover back around the back of the device. This produces two potential problems.

1. Hinge Stress
Unless the plastic in the case will be able to withstand a great deal of stress, I can see cracks developing in the hinge over time. The whole thing makes me nervous; but I’d rather not risk scratching the beautiful screen without one.

2. Flexible Cover
The Arkon mounts I have in my Camry allow me to secure my iPhone 5 as well as any other mobile device (in this case the HTC One (M8)) while I’m driving. That way, I can use either/both device’s built in GPS functionality and/or audio players while the vehicle is moving. However, the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount likes to grab the dot case cover while its wrapped around the back of the device and not let go of it when you try to remove the device from the universal mount. I can see the cover tearing away from the case backing, especially if there’s stress cracks in the hinge. You can use a side gripping mount like the Arkon Mobile Grip 2 mount; but honestly, I don’t feel that the device is as secure as I do with the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount.

I’ve done a lot of talking about the screen today – size, resolution, etc. as well as the device’s dot case. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have some thoughts on Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat and HTC’s implementation of it on the HTC One (M8) as well as device performance.

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Codelobster PHP Edition

Create cool web sites and apps with this free portable IDE for Windows.

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There’s a huge movement from the White House to get the children of the country to learn to program. The thought and idea behind this is that if they start at a young age, they’ll get very good at it, and perhaps have jobs available to them to help them through paying for a college education and/or to continue to support them after they get out of college. The earlier they start, the better they will be.

Unfortunately, development tools can be expensive; and there are a lot of languages to pick from. Some of the easiest and most valuable languages are web-based; which is why I like things like Codelobster PHP Edition. It’s a free, easy to use PHP development environment for Windows and I think you’re going to like it.

Most IDE’s are expensive. You can pay up to $500 USD for a single seat license for some tools, and even more for others. Codelobster PHP Edition is free and it can auto highlight PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, with autocomplete. It also has a powerful, built-in PHP debugger, a code validator, and a SQL manager. Help is also very near. If you get stuck, you can always tap F1 and get the help you need. The internal debugger also automatically senses your server settings and configures the files you need so you can use the debugger. This is totally awesome on a free tool.

Coding and integrated development environments that support a number of languages – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP – are usually very expensive. Finding one that’s free, let alone with code and pair highlighting, autocomplete as well as context and dynamic help is pretty cool. Codelobster PHP Edition also supports code collapsing, allowing you to shrink up entire blocks of code so that you can find what you want or need to work in quickly and easily. This is really cool to have in a free tool, and the fact that Codelobster PHP Edition has it is pretty awesome.

Another big plus is that the app also supports a plug-in architecture, so if you want to include, JQuery, SQL or other snippets and objects in your code, you can. However, those plug-ins may not be free, so you need to be aware of that.

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Recover and restore your WhatsApp data with Tenorshare WhatsApp Recovery

It set a record, that’s for sure. Facebook recently entered into an agreement to purchase WhatsApp for $19B USD, and totally stunned the world. Google was interested as well, but despite their offer to pay $10M to WhatsApp to let them know if anyone was interested in acquiring WhatsApp, Google missed out on the sale. Its definitely one for the record books.

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WhatsApp is very much like Apple’s iMessage. It allows users to send and receive text messages, pictures, etc. from your iDevice of choice including iPhone 5s/5c/5/4s, iPad 2/4/Air and mini, as well as iPod Touch 4th and 5th generation, with just a few clicks. It doesn’t matter how the data was lost – deletion, failed jailbreak, bad update, etc. – WhatsApp Recovery will bring it back. You can recover data directly from the device, or from a saved iTunes backup.

The cool thing about the app, aside from the fact that it can save your WhatsApp bacon, is that it can recover just about any app related data, down to the conversation level. It doesn’t matter if it was a group or individual conversation. It also supports iTunes 11 and iOS 7.x. its smart recovery options will automatically detect your devices and iTunes backup.

Tenorshare makes some really great recovery software. It’s the kind of software that helps you sleep well at night, knowing that your data, regardless of where it is or might be, is safe and recoverable, despite what might happen to your iDevice.

The software runs on both Mac and Windows operating systems. The biggest issue I have had with WhatsApp Recovery (or other Tenorshare apps) is that the recovery actions don’t work well with VM apps that capture USB port functions when specific devices are connected to your computer.

download Tenorshare WhatsApp Recovery

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Microsoft’s Goal for 2014 – Don’t Die

It’s a lofty goal. It’s one I hope they succeed at.

You know, I had a quick thought – Microsoft is this year’s RIM. What I mean is, everyone knows that Blackberry is on its way out. It might take them a few more years to die, but unless something really horrible and press-worthy happens, they’re pretty much done. The bulk of the IT press has moved on to other, more interesting targets subjects.

However that doesn’t mean that Microsoft isn’t doing its best to try to stay relevant. Whether or not they succeed still remains to be seen; but I hope they succeed. The company is too deep into enterprise. They’ve got their fingers too deeply into the way I work and into the tools I use on a daily basis to get things done. While there are a few decent Microsoft Office alternatives out there, I don’t know of any [real] Windows alternatives that are worth seriously exploring at this time.

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I love OS X. It’s my OS of choice; but I don’t know of many organizations that deploy it in the enterprise. At least I’ve never been part of one. The same can be said of Linux. Both of these are awesome consumer alternatives, but when it comes to getting things done at the office, it’s Windows or nothing for many companies.

This being the case, my good friend, Preston Gralla had an interesting column. He’s wondering if after Windows 8.1, which was a free update to all Windows 8 users, and Windows 8.1 Spring Update (or whatever they’re really going to call Windows 8.1 Update 1), if Windows will be free at each client endpoint or not. Many Linux distributions are free for home use, and OS X is also free. Preston asks a good question regarding Windows. Will all versions of Windows also be free?

According to Preston (and, honestly, I happen to agree with him) – probably not. Windows endpoint licensing is still a very big business for Microsoft – $4.1 and $4.3 billion in the quarter ending in March 2014. That’s a huge amount of revenue that Microsoft would be giving up if it made Windows free. An ad-based OS based on Bing and sales of Microsoft Services won’t make up for that in a year, let alone in a quarter. Don’t count on a free desktop version of Windows any time in the future.

Updates, Service Packs, yes…perhaps. But full desktop licenses..? Not likely gonna happen. Microsoft may pass on the licensing fees for Windows Phone and perhaps low end Windows tablets (those in the < $250 range). Microsoft doesn’t make a lot of money on Windows Phone and wants to jump start sales of Windows 8 (read Windows RT-based) tablets. They won’t be leaving a lot of money on the table related to those and could conceivably write off those licensing fees to cost of doing business. However, I don’t see Microsoft leaving their mac-daddy money for Desktop Windows licensing on the table. It’s too lucrative a business for Microsoft to abandon that level of revenue to the cost of doing business.

Now, about the RIM analogy… yeah, Microsoft has to do something to help stimulate business. PC Sales are really falling off; and they are desperately trying to find a way to bring people’s money out of mothballs and to a bank account near them.

PC usage is being abandoned for tablets and smartphones. Both Android and iOS are doing well in this new computing space because casual users can spend small amounts of money and still get the basic computing experience – mail, social networking, web browsing – in a small, light, very portable form factor that doesn’t cost as much as a PC.

Microsoft pretty much has the enterprise market fairly well in hand…at least for now. The consumer market where tablets and smartphones are really taking over the computing experience is where they are having the most trouble. They need to figure out how to capture a decent amount of market share here, or they’re going to face further revenue problems. BYOD and CoIT movements are very popular and businesses are making a serious dent into Microsoft’s enterprise market. With basically no presence in the mobile computing market (i.e. the market that many consumers are embracing for their computing experience) the amount of shrinking PC sales overall, and with CoIT/BYOD intruding on what has historically been a solid Microsoft market, Microsoft has to act and act quickly.

If they don’t, they could see themselves exiting the market entirely; and that would be very unfortunate.

No other desktop computing platform commands the level of support that Windows does. Most other mobile computing platforms – even though they can stand on their own – have a symbiotic relationship with what can be considered their desktop counterpart. I hate to beat a dead horse here – Ballmer’s already been replaced by Satya Nadella – but Microsoft’s failure to perform strongly in the mobile market is becoming a bigger and bigger mistake every day.

Nadella needs to get someone with a clear mobile computing vision in place over at Microsoft and he needs to get them in place and moving Microsoft’s mobile platform moving immediately. Without a solid mobile vision, Microsoft is going to face a really tough road in the future. They’re a LOT bigger than RIM/Blackberry, and having the same thing happen to them that happened to Blackberry is going to be, at least I think, nearly unrecoverable not only for Microsoft, but for the computing industry as a whole. Microsoft is too big to die. They have too big of a shareholder base…too big of a consumer and enterprise user base to be allowed to fail.

However, I don’t see anyone on Nadella’s SLT – Senior Leadership Team – with a clear and credible mobile computing vision right now. Windows Phone is and has been a marketing train wreck since 2006 (when it was still Windows Mobile). Microsoft Surface Pro tablets are ok, but the dual MetroUI/ ModernUI and Desktop interfaces need to be rethought and reworked. It might be VERY anti-Microsoft to totally admit defeat and separate the two, but it might be the only thing left to Microsoft at this point that will allow them to move forward.

Combine Windows Phone and Windows Tablet into a single OS (much like iOS is) and leave desktop Windows to its own devices. Market the hell out of mobile computing. Get units in the hands of end users. Make them affordable, high quality and easy to update. Hell, give them away with the subscription of Office 365 if you have to; but do something and do something serious and soon.

If you don’t, consumers may be happy to leave One Windows at the office and leave home computing to iOS and Android, where they’re much happier and the update, upgrade and hardware cycles are familiar, easy and well established.

What do you think? Am I totally off my nut? Is it premature to compare Microsoft to hot mess that Blackberry is, or are they kissing cousins? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and give me your thoughts on it all?

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It’s Official – Hell Froze Over

Or Microsoft really did get a new CEO with fresh ideas…

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Satya Nadella is starting to make his presence known at Microsoft. Not only did Tony Bates and Tami Reller leave the organization, with additional executive changes still likely to be made; but Microsoft recently announced that its going to make its Xbox Live gaming service available on iOS.

Yes. You read that right…

Microsoft is seriously looking to bring its Xbox Live gaming hub to not only iOS, but Android as well.  Now the platform will be available on every major mobile OS, according to The Verge. The news broke due to a job posting at Microsoft that indicated that, “[Microsoft wanted to] create a modern framework that is open-source, lightweight, extensible and scalable across various platforms including Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.”  Microsoft later confirmed the intent to revive social, mobile gaming. Currently, that effort is blocked by proprietary networks, like Apple’s Game Center.

There’s huge money to be made, here. Limiting mobile gaming to their own platform, Windows Phone and Windows Store, is hurting Microsoft right now.  There aren’t a lot of users on either mobile Microsoft platform, and there are literally millions on both iOS and Android that could provide a huge revenue stream for Microsoft. Xbox is an immensely popular console gaming platform, and not every Xbox user is a Windows Phone user. Being able to play Xbox games, with saved progress from your console and vice versa, will be a huge win on both the iOS and Android platforms.

It’s clear to me that this is a result of Satya Nadella’s new influence. Prior to that, I don’t think either Ballmer or Gates would have sanctioned this kind of move. Julie Larson-Green’s “One Windows” mantra also wouldn’t have supported this effort. It deemphasizes Windows, or at least would have in the eyes of the older organization.

So is this a good idea?  Do you have an Xbox and carry either an iPhone or an Android smartphone? Do you want to see an Xbox Live gaming hub on iOS and Android devices? Is that a good idea, or is this just going to make things weird?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole matter. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below, and let me know what you think?

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Mt. Gox is Mt. Gone

The Bitcoin exchange has filed for bankruptcy protection.

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You can’t say no one didn’t see this coming. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan after losing what has been validated at 750K customer owned Bitcoins and 100K Bitcoins of its own. The losses represent approximately $474M based on a Bitcoin price of $558.

Mt. Gox has ¥6.5 billion in outstanding debt. Approximately ¥2.8 billion in cash cannot be accounted for.

“I am deeply sorry,” Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles told reporters in Japanese, offering a ritual bow of apology. “There were weaknesses in the system.” The website, mtgox.com remains off line.

While Gox is apologetic, other investors are seeking justice. One investor, declining to be recognized, said, “This is not just a civil matter. They knew they had lost these coins and continued to operate the exchange and accept deposits. You can’t sell something you don’t have and not be committing fraud.” Other investors are alleging that the bug that was exploited to misappropriate all the funds was something that had been well known in the Bitcoin community for years.

However, the issue appears more clouded and much more complicated than a mere hack. Kenji Saito, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Media and Governance at Japan’s Keio University indicated that, “the [bug] is too small [of an exploit] to shut down one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in the world. Rather, it must be that Mt. Gox has [been defrauding] its customers, [well in advance of the] February 2014 [announcement].”

Japanese authorities are conducting an investigation of Mt. Gox, following is closure.

In the US, Gox was subpoenaed by Federal prosecutors in New York. According to an unidentified source for the Wall Street Journal, Gox has been asked to preserve specific documentation. The US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York declined commenting, citing the ongoing investigation.

Now… I’ve heard a lot of speculation from a number of people here at the office saying that crypto-currencies are all going to die and this is the end of Bitcoin, Dogecoin, etc. While I’m certain that would make many international governments very happy (Bitcoin is a universal currency, and largely unregulated), I am not entirely certain that it’s going to kill the commodity. However, it certainly hasn’t done Bitcoin any favors; and its likely made its universal acceptance that much more difficult as well as pushed that possibility further out into the future.

What do you think? Did Mt. Gox defraud its investors and customers? Were they aware of the vulnerability in their systems and ignored it; or were they caught off guard? What about the ¥2.8 billion in missing cash? What’s going to happen to crypto and other digital currencies? Please tell me what you think in the discussion area, below. I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.

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