Tablo launches more affordable over-the-air DVR with cloud storage

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Nuvvyo's over-the-air Tablo DVRs are potentially big bargains if you want the convenience of recording shows without a pricey cable package, but the up front cost (dictated in part by the built-in storage) can make them daunting. The company has a si…
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Phiaton BT 150 NC review: Great sound and noise canceling in an affordable package

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Taking a step away from fitness-oriented audio, I have recently spent some time with Phiaton’s BT 150 NC noise canceling earphones. This is aimed at traveling professionals who want to have great noise canceling without breaking the bank. Phiaton manages that with the $ 150 BT 150 NC, all while providing very good sound quality and comfort.

As you well know, dear reader, cut corners are inevitable, especially when discussing anything with the word “affordable” attached to it.

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Phiaton BT 150 NC review: Great sound and noise canceling in an affordable package was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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6 Ways to Make Buying a House More Affordable in This Tech Age

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Colorful residential row houses in US capital before sunset in late autumn.

If you feel that buying a house has become less affordable in recent years, it’s not your imagination. A Harvard University study found that nearly 40 million Americans live in housing they can’t afford, meaning they’re spending more than 30 percent of their income on the place they own or rent. That represents a 146 percent increase over the past 16 years.

As the Harvard study found, home prices have gone up — by as much as 50 percent in some areas — but wages haven’t maintained the same pace. That means millions of Americans who dream of owning a home have felt themselves hampered by not just student debt and credit card debt but also by their reduced buying power.

The trick, then, is to find ways to make buying a house more affordable — and most of these have nothing to do with your income. Over the past six months I purchased a new home and then sold my old home. I’ve learned a lot about how to find homes online. In todays tech age buying a house is possible and finding the right deal is possible. Here is how I did it.

  1. Cut the commission.

Commission on real estate transactions sits at just over 5 percent nationwide. That’s a big chunk of change to fork over right as you’re moving into a new home that may need repairs or furnishing. Some people avoid commission by working with a friend who’s a realtor — and willing to give up his or her agent or broker fees.

Another option is to use a service like Beycome, which removes the middleman (aka the realtor) and allows buyers and sellers to interact directly. The platform digitizes the standard FSBO transaction by helping with listings, scheduling home tours, and finalizing the deal with a contract.

  1. Boost your credit score.

It’s no secret that a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate. Boosting your credit score from “fair” to “good,” for example, could make mortgage payments feasible — and improving your credit score could also help you qualify for loans or lines of credit for things you may want to do to the house in the future, such as replace furniture or build an addition.

To raise your score, pay all your bills on time, keep your credit card balances low, and avoid opening up new lines of credit when possible — every “hard pull” on your credit affects your score.

  1. Look for the best numbers.

Don’t settle for the first loan rate you’re given — shop around to see which lender can give you the lowest rate. Some people successfully counter one lender’s offer with another’s to get the rate they want with the lender they want. The other number you can look to lower alongside your interest rate is your down payment; determine whether the homes you’re looking at qualify for special programs. Some of these ask for down payments as low as 3 percent; the USDA Rural Development ProgramVA loans, and the Navy Federal Credit Union all offer zero-payment loans.

  1. Invest in DIY.

Fixer-upper homes and do-it-yourself projects haven’t just fueled HGTV; they’ve also helped lots of new homeowners quench their thirst for a home. Some repairs or renovations are, without a doubt, costly — replacing a roof or overhauling an entire kitchen can represent a big upfront cost.

But many houses on the market need TLC — say, a new coat of paint — or simply need to be tweaked in stages to meet a new owner’s preferences. Being your own general contractor means you get to spend money simply on materials, not on labor or mark-ups, meaning more money stays in your pocket. Each improvement will also result in more equity for you, so your hard work will result in real money earned down the road.

  1. Protect your investment.

One price that sometimes surprises new homeowners is the cost of home insurance. To keep the cost of a homeowner policy low, talk to your insurance company about bundling your home and car policies for a reduced rate.

You can also protect your home investment by looking for credits beyond the purchase price. A common credit is one awarded for overdue repairs, but some people are also able to earn credits for closing costs or home warranties. All of these options can reduce the overall cost of purchasing the home.

  1. Rein in your expectations.

If you’ve saved up for a home for years, you likely have your heart set on something very specific: Victorian style, lots of turrets, window seats built in for every kid, original hardwood floors. But the term “starter home” exists for a reason — most people need to “trade up” to a bigger home down the line.

It’s important to spend less than you can truly afford to cushion yourself against a market crash and to be able to save for the other priorities you might have, like retirement or college. Look for what meets your needs and makes you happy — while that 1990s ranch home may look a bit cookie-cutter compared to your beloved Victorians, if it’s in a good school district, close to work, and big enough for your family, it may be the smartest choice.

Buying a house may be less affordable than it once was, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. By looking for ways that you can increase the spending power of the money and credit you currently have, you can improve your chances of buying a house you can truly afford — and be happy to call home.

The post 6 Ways to Make Buying a House More Affordable in This Tech Age appeared first on ReadWrite.

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A Battle for Affordable Housing Is Being Waged Next to Apple Park

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Cupertino, California is in the midst of a housing crisis. And one of the battles for affordable housing is taking place less than a mile from Apple Park. Local developer Sand Hill Property Co. has tried for years to build housing at the site of the largely abandoned Vallco Shopping Mall. But the developer has […]
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A big win for new affordable housing next to Apple Park

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

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A dead shopping mall next to Apple Park has been fighting to reinvent itself as a mix of retail, offices and new housing for years, only to be blindsided by NIMBY groups seeking to protect high housing prices. A new state law, however, promises to streamline approval enable the market to solve California’s dire housing shortage.
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Huawei also announces the affordable Y7 Prime 2018 with 18:9 screen, dual rear cameras

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

It’s a big day for Huawei, as the Chinese company has unveiled a trio of high-end flagship smartphones, namely the P20, P20 Pro, and Mate RS. While those (especially the last two) focus on packing as many top of the line features as possible, Huawei’s also thinking about the youths who can’t afford any P20 whatsoever, not even the P20 Lite. And so it has created the Y7 Prime 2018, an affordable model that has young people everywhere in its marketing materials. Like any handset worthy of having “2018” in its name, it too comes with a tall 18:9 touchscreen (5.99″ in size), though with…

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Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad is its most affordable yet, supports Apple Pencil

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Apple new 9.7 inch iPad

Apple mixed things up on Tuesday with an education-focused event in Chicago, Illinois. The iPhone maker typically holds events in its home state of California, but opted to use Lane Tech College Prep High School as the venue for its latest keynote. And as expected, the iPad is taking center stage, as Apple has unveiled a new, affordable model with Apple Pencil support that will take on the Chromebook as a tool for students in the classroom.

Despite being its cheapest tablet to date, the new 9.7-inch iPad looks to be a relatively powerful device, with a Retina display, 8-megapixel camera, A10 Fusion processor, 10 hours of battery life, GPS, compass and LTE support. It costs $ 299 for schools, $ 329 for consumers and is available in stores starting today.

In addition to the new hardware, Apple is also preparing new versions of the Pages, Numbers and Keynotes apps, all of which will feature support for Apple Pencil. All three iWork apps will be loaded on the new iPad for free. Plus, Apple revealed that digital book creation is coming to iPad via the Pages app (which, as Apple said, will be loaded on iPads for free), and these user-made books can include photos, videos and Apple Pencil illustrations.

Apple also announced that free iCloud storage for students has been upgraded from 5GB to 200GB, which should be plenty of extra room for Pages documents and Keynote presentations.

The first brand new app that Apple showed off during the presentation is called Schoolwork. This cloud-based app lets teachers assign homework and track the progress of their students. Schoolwork is compatible with several other apps with the ClassKit API, all of which can be used to create assignments. Schoolwork is coming in June.

Finally, Apple also announced a few third-party accessories that will be compatible with the new iPad, including a $ 49 Crayon stylus and a rugged case and keyboard combo, both of which are being made by Logitech.

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Apple, Logitech Debut Affordable ‘Crayon’ and Rugged Case for iPad

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Along with a newer low-cost iPad and other education-focused platforms, Apple teamed up with Logitech to introduce two new accessories for its tablet lineup at its March 27 education event in Chicago. Crayon Stylus Chief among them is a new iPad stylus made by Logitech. The Crayon accessory is a stylus that Apple promises will […]
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These two indie platforms are partnering to help authors produce audiobooks at affordable prices

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Indie authors who publish through platforms like Amazon or CreateSpace usually don’t have the resources to publish an audiobook, which can be an expensive endeavor with production costs that self-published or first-time authors cannot afford. Now, self-publishing platform and ebook distributor Smashwords has teamed up with production platform and audiobook distributor Findaway Voices to give these indie authors a cheaper way to make audiobooks.

In an announcement, Smashwords CEO Mark Coker said today the deal would give “greater control over pricing and distribution” to authors and publishers, making it more “economically feasible” to get into audiobook production even with short or cheaper books. By using Findaway, Smashwords’ authors…

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Technology Needs to Make Healthy Food Scalable and Affordable

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Humm

Many have been calling the healthy and organic food category the next trillion-dollar industry. With allergen-free foods experiencing 30 percent sales growth in the U.S. and healthy snacks alone estimated to top $ 138 billion by 2020, it’s not surprising that 88 percent of consumers say they’ll pay more for access to healthy foods.

The demand is there, but the problem is scaling health food production to meet it. And many worry about what will happen if healthy food doesn’t become more cost-effective to produce: American adults hit an all-time high in obesity in 2017, with just shy of 40 percent considered obese. Nineteen percent of young people fit in the same category.

Some big corporations have jumped in the fray to produce healthy foods at scale, from Coca-Cola’s Honest Tea to PepsiCo’s KeVita kombucha. But many who purchase natural and organic foods argue that big corporations create synthetic products or dilute the richness of the products offered by smaller manufacturers using traditional methods.

The onus is on technology to make health food production more scalable and cost-effective, as Humm Kombucha’s Eric Plantenberg explains.

Old-School vs. High-Tech

Plantenberg, the chief sales and marketing officer at Humm, remembers watching his mother make kombucha in their family kitchen. His mother, a nurse who grew up on a largely organic farm, made the drink for its health benefits. “We’re full of low-nutrition food these days as a country,” he explains. “Thirty to 40 years ago, the entire food industry changed from producing high-nutrient food to high-caloric because it was less expensive to produce.”

Plantenberg continues, “It was a great ‘feed the world’ mentality, but it completely stripped foods of nutrients. And the bacteria in your stomach drives your tastes and preferences — if you eat an apple a day, you crave an apple because your body wants what it knows. People have been feeling bad — they’re unhappy with their bodies, not just in image, but in microbial discomfort — and it was a setup for the entire movement of natural foods.”

Humm was founded by friends Michelle Mitchell and Jamie Danek in the middle of the recession in 2009.  They got 15 orders after trying to sell the homemade product to friends. Plantenberg says it had a viral effect immediately — people felt better after consuming the fermented drink, even if they didn’t change their daily Snickers or McDonald’s habits. That momentum often propelled customers to take on other lifestyle changes, including food modifications.

But as the call for kombucha grew, the grassroots brand had to keep up with it, transitioning from making 10 gallons per week in the kitchen to making 250 in the first six months. The company struggled to figure out how to get bigger vessels, transport the large quantities, and manufacture 50,000 gallons each week. “How do you bridge a very small-batch process and scale it to something 20 million people are asking to drink?” Plantenberg asks.

Following a Steep Trajectory

Humm’s team felt the steep growth of the health food market. “We’ve been through a lot to figure out how to make the tech scalable,” Plantenberg says. “The affordability issue of clean, healthy food is very real. Natural products facilities’ processes are very labor- and time-intensive.”

He explains, “Whole Foods gets a bad rap, but the markup on junk food is so much higher than it is on healthy food. The whole supply chain of healthy foods is broken, and demand has far exceeded our capacity to make products. How do we do this and maintain our quality? A warehouse brand approached us to buy massive amounts of our product, but the quality has to remain the same.”

Mackenzie Stabler, the brand’s director of innovation, has been trying to help the brand do just that: “When Jamie and Michelle started out in the kitchen, they had recipe flexibility, but also inconsistencies from batch to batch. These days, we define quality as having consistency, but it has to make sense with our size.”

She said there’s very much been a relationship between technology and the brand’s ability to keep its products accessible. “Four years ago, we didn’t need a full lab and guard columns (GC). We measure consistency through technology: GC, data tracking, flavor profiles layered on top through GC information to see the peaks and valleys from batch to batch.”

Scaling up has been challenging, as what worked even a year ago doesn’t make sense now. The company has adopted data analysis akin to other high-tech business segments. “Everything we do now is through data collection, algorithms, and quality control software — we’re finding where things correlate, extrapolating trends and outcomes, and doing variable testing. It’s been huge in scaling our process development,” Stabler says.

Jumping Hurdles

Tweaking each aspect of the process to scale has created new hurdles to overcome. Stabler says the brand had a flavor in a conventional version that it had to reformulate as organic. It had created a sensory experience with one conventional product, but it couldn’t replicate it with a singular organic product. Instead, the brand put the new version together through all-organic flavor compounds and aromas.

Stabler says tech-fueled tweaks have also lowered the sugar in Humm’s kombucha, making the healthy product even healthier. “The relationship between sugar and acidity allowed us to change the flavors,” she says. “We had the same base product and just adjusted the sweetness or acidity in either direction and used the lab to determine the content of each item.” The brand’s new line extension has only 5 grams of sugar per serving.

But this testing carries a price. Stabler says mass-manufactured kombucha tends to share more similarities with juice from concentrate than 100 percent juice, which is more akin to handmade kombucha. “When a company is using concentrate, the first ingredient will be water; full-strength products will list kombucha first and then the ingredients of kombucha in parentheses,” she explains. “There’s no legal requirement to advertise whether it’s from concentrate or not; from concentrate is cheaper, diluted with water, and it doesn’t require the business to manufacture or grow cultures. They’re essentially a co-packer of a kombucha product.”

Healthy foods, Stabler says, are in the beginning stages of their revolution. “Go back to when beer started — looking at the tech advances, it was very similar to how kombucha has grown,” Stabler says. “But kombucha, until the 1980s, was a pocket thing that still resembled how it had been made in China and Russia. Now, we have mainstream demand to make more, but a consistent, safe product only happens with technology. You can’t do things the old-fashioned way and serve a million people. We want to be sustainable.”

As Humm’s experience proves, the healthy food market may be the next trillion-dollar industry, but it’s already flagged a ripe opportunity for entrepreneurs in the tech arena: healthy food manufacturing. If tech companies shift some of their focus to automating and streamlining the production of healthy food, data-heavy companies like Humm will be able to meet demand — and make people healthier — that much faster.

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