Looking for the perfect diet? Play video games for 3 minutes

Wii Fit
Trend diets have always been all the rage, the gimmick just changes with time. Once upon a time, people strapped into a large rubber band that purportedly vibrated the weight off. Eventually, people […] via http://ift.tt/1dV4ZGw

The Curious Incident of the Disappearing Gabe Newell AMA

When it learned that Gabe Newell would be paying it a visit today, Reddit freaked out. When he never showed up, it freaked out again.

If you’re not a gamer, you’re probably wondering, “Who the hell is Gabe Newell?” But for those in the online gaming community, and especially on Reddit, the Valve co-founder and managing director is a full-blown celebrity.

Newell, or “Gaben” as he is often called, helms the company that both runs the popular PC gaming store Steam and has cranked out a string of hit game series on both console and PC, including Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and most recently, Dota 2.

According to this post made from Newell’s previously used Reddit account, he was supposed to show up for an “Ask Me Anything” interview, or AMA, at 1:00 pm PST. This sent his admirers into a tizzy because today is March 3, or 3/3, and for the past seven years Valve fans have been clamoring for a third entry in the Half-Life franchise.

Reddit moderators seemed to be at fault, at first; Newell’s initial post had no details other than his name, the 1:00 PST time and this picture, showing him in front of a computer monitor with Reddit on the screen. However, the post was made too far in advance, breaking the AMA community’s rules, and moderators locked the comment thread so that the only visible comment was Newell’s link to his picture. All the other comments showed up as “[deleted].”

Still, though: The date. The cryptic AMA announcement. It had to be intentional, right? Right?!

Maybe not. On top of the no-show AMA, which has left moderators perplexed and apologetic, I’m not yet convinced that Newell himself made the post in the first place.

Reddit asks AMA participants to prove their identities with pictures of themselves, as Newell supposedly did. These pictures often work in Reddit or the words “Hi Reddit” in some way to show that they’ve been taken just for the AMA.

But that picture of Newell sitting in front of Reddit posted today? It’s more than a month old, as evidenced by the timestamp on the Reddit post behind him: “22 hours ago,” even though the post was made on Jan. 14. It’s possible that Newell’s Reddit account was compromised and that some clever troll seized on the 3/3 date, knowing that everyone would overreact.

A Valve representative did not respond to an emailed request for comment. To be continued…

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The Fix: Optimize your smartphone

The Fix: Optimize your smartphone

Welcome to the second episode of CNET’s The Fix, where we show you how to use the latest tech, and how to make the most of the gadgets you already have.

This time around, we’re talking about something every one of you carry around: a smartphone. They’ve become an indispensable part of daily life, and when they underperform or run out of power, it can feel like betrayal.

To help you out, we’ve got some general advice that can make your phone faster and your battery last longer. First off, to see if your browser is slowing you down, Eric Franklin, Sharon Vaknin, and I put three browser options through a speed test. The result may get you to try something new.

After that, Sharon shares some useful tips for extending your phone’s battery life, and Eric gets down to brass tacks on why and when you should replace your battery.

Let us know what you think, and be sure to send us ideas for future episodes. We want this to actually help people, so hand your tech dilemmas over to us — or better yet, tell us about a useful fix you’ve discovered that’s worth sharing.

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With Square Capital, Square Begins Offering Controversial Merchant Cash Advances

merchant cash advance

Franz Pfluegl/Shutterstock

Square’s search for new revenue streams is pushing it toward a controversial industry: Merchant cash advances.

The financial product, which operates outside of the regulation of loans, is often a last resort for financing for business owners that either have bad credit, can’t get a bank loan, or can’t get a bank loan fast enough. So the business owner agrees to pay a “lender” a cut of future sales, plus a fixed cost on top, to get a lump sum of money up front.

On Wednesday, The Information reported that Square was experimenting with extending capital to some of its customers, but few other details were available. Since then, Re/code has viewed two emails sent to business owners that describe the product — Square Capital.

The pilot test for Square Capital comes as Jack Dorsey’s company is looking for new areas of growth and new products to offer small business owners as it decides whether to raise another round of funding or pursue an IPO.

This is how Square Capital works. In one of the emails, Square offers to provide the business owner with a lump sum payment of $7,300. In return, Square charges the owner $1,022, which works out to 14 percent of additional cost. As a result, the business owner will end up having to pay Square back $8,322 in total.

Square tells the business owner he or she has as long as needed to pay Square back. “Your $7,300 in Square Capital will only cost $1,022 regardless of how long it takes to pay back,” the email reads.

But this is one way cash advances differ from loans — the business owner doesn’t decide when to repay Square. Instead, Square takes the payment in the form of a 10 percent cut of the business owner’s credit- and debit-card sales every day until the debt is paid. So the business will be done repaying Square the total of $8,322 once it has reached $83,220 in sales made with credit or debit cards.

The amount owed to Square — in this case $8,322 —  does not change no matter how long it takes to hit that number, but the quicker a business pays off the cash advance, the more expensive it is. You can see this by comparing them based on a standard metric of borrowing, the annual percentage rate of interest, or APR.

If the business has moderate sales and takes a year to reach the $83,220 required to fully pay off the cash advance, the APR on the above example remains at 14 percent. If it only takes six months, however, the APR rises to 28 percent. And if the business has a fabulous first month after the advance in which it pays Square back completely, the APR jumps up to at least 165 percent.

Square is already handling payments for these businesses, so it likely has a very good idea of how long it will take a given business owner to pay it back. But it’s not clear how good or bad of a deal these cash advances are for business owners without knowing what the duration of the payback period is. The two business owners that received the Square Capital emails that Re/code viewed did not respond to my request for information on how quickly they would generate the sales needed to repay Square.

There are certainly use cases in which a cash advance could make sense for a business owner. If a business has a one-time unexpected expense come up, for example, and can’t get a loan or can’t get one quickly enough, a cash advance could be helpful.

The biggest criticism of these types of financial products is that the lender is cutting into a business’ daily cash flow to repay the advance, often during a period when a business can least afford it.

Square spokesman Aaron Zamost declined to comment.

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