John McAfee’s Building $100 Gadget To Block NSA (Mashable.com)

I guess it was only a matter of time before a top tier name tossed their hat into the recently energized privacy arena. At least with a big name behind it (and the fact that it’s just now being created), confidence will probably be high that the device will be as secure as they say.


Johnmcafee

John McAfee — the controversial founder of the anti-virus software company McAfee and has been under investigation for the shooting death of his neighbor in South America — wants to create a gadget called “D-Central” that would theoretically block the National Security Agency (NSA) from accessing your information.

During a speech at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center this weekend — and as reported by The Verge — McAfee detailed how he aims to build a $100 device that works with smartphones and other devices, so personal data can’t be accessed by the government. It would work on a small private network that others wouldn’t be able to infiltrate. “There will be no way [for the government] to tell who you are or where you are,” McAfee said.

The device would be localized and the network only covers a distance about three blocks long. Although there isn’t a prototype just yet, McAfee said it should be done in about six months and as of right now, it’s round in shape with no screens, the report said.

“We have the design in place, we’re looking for partners for development of the hardware,” he added.

The “D-Central” concept isn’t entirely new. Occupy.here, which was developed as a part of the Occupy movement, offers a distributed network of Wi-Fi locations for people to communicate — and in its case, especially activists and supporters.

Meanwhile, FredomBox has built a secure system for connected devices and offers free and private chatting. The device, funded via Kickstarter, is priced at $50 and plugs into the wall.

Plated Lets You Be The Gourmet Chef (Mashable.com)

Folks who know me know I’m serious about food (I used to write a restaurant review blog) and I love spending time in the kitchen. However, I have tons of friends (and even family) who don’t feel confident in the kitchen but still wished they could make a gourmet meal from time to time.

Plated.com piggybacks onto social media and has come up with a great answer: you pick the recipe you want, they locally source your entire meal and ship it to you, and you follow the easy instructions to make a fantastic meal for your friends and family.

Done!

I’m in love with this idea. Too bad it’s not yet national! For you lucky folks in the Northeast (DC to Boston) and the Midwest (all of IL, IN, and MI, along with major cities like St. Louis and Cleveland), try this out. Enjoy something amazing. And take all the credit. Just be sure to toss the box in the trash before company arrives.
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Plated-delivery-box

Busy schedules affect our food choices. It isn’t just laziness that leads us to take-out and delivery — long days at work, school or raising kids can squash even the best of dinner intentions. Who has the time or energy to prepare a full meal, and a healthy one to boot?

Plated, an online service and TechStars alum that delivers fresh, local ingredients to your doorstep, wants to return the complete cooking experience to your kitchen. It saves you the time it usually takes to find healthy recipes and ingredients by providing all the necessities for a gourmet meal. All you need is about 30 minutes to make it.

Co-founders Nick Taranto and Josh Hix came up with the idea for Plated after they graduated from Harvard Business School, when they noticed their busy schedules directly influenced their diets. Plated’s “dinner kit” is their solution. After you select a chef-designed recipe (the team releases a new featured menu every week), you receive locally sourced ingredients in a biodegradable box, which is designed to keep the contents fresh in your fridge for five days.

“We believe that most people want better, more nutritious, less greasy food, and they’re willing to put in 20-30 minutes of work in order to get it — if given the choice,” Taranto says.

Placing an order requires a minimum of four plates at $15 per plate, so pricing is definitely geared more toward multiple people than individuals. However, the potential for leftovers may still save you money in the long run. Plated also offers a membership for cheaper plates and automatic delivery options.

We spoke with Taranto about his reasons for creating Plated, how it’s “built on the back of social media” and what the team is planning next.

Q&A With Plated Founder Nick Taranto

Plated Cofounders
Plated co-founders Josh Hix (left) and Nick Taranto. Image: Plated 

How did you come up with the concept for Plated?

I met my co-founder, Josh, at Harvard Business School in 2008. After we both moved back to New York City, we found ourselves making bad food decisions, spending way too much money to eat crap. We knew there had to be a better way, and we seized the opportunity to build the “Warby Parker of food.” Our mission is to reconnect people with their food.

Sustainability and sustainable farming are popular topics right now. Can you talk about Plated’s commitment to that, and how you partner with local vendors?

At Plated, we are committed to providing delicious and convenient meals with a whole lot of honesty. Honesty means knowing exactly what is going into our meals by seeing, feeling, holding, chopping and cooking raw ingredients. We avoid processed foods, especially ones that rhyme with “butylated hydroxyanisole,” because we prefer our mashed potatoes without a heaping tablespoon of carcinogens.

We source our meats from local purveyors that are committed to raising livestock responsibly, without the use of hormones. We prefer our animals au naturel, and only work with businesses that share our vision of what constitutes fresh and sustainable. We also work with responsible companies to make sure that most of our fish is wild-caught. We love knowing exactly which boat threw out a line to catch our salmon fillets.

Our philosophy on food is that it should be really fresh and really real. Again, we want to reconnect people with their food — from farm to dinner table.

Where is Plated available?

We have warehouses in New York, Chicago and San Francisco [currently delivering across the Northeast and the Midwest], and we will be nationwide within the next few months.

Plated HQ Meeting
The Plated team gathers for a meeting at the Manhattan headquarters. Image: PlatedHow do you select the featured recipes?

Elana Karp is our Cordon Bleu-trained in-house culinary director. She works with chefs across the spectrum, ranging from Michelin-starred restaurateurs, to cookbook authors, to up-and-coming sous chefs toiling away in New York City’s best restaurants.

How can Plated become a social platform for its users?

We built Plated on the back of social media. [The process of] cooking and eating is one of, if not the the most, shareable things that people do. There are 12 #foodporn photos uploaded to Instagram and Pinterest every second. We are working behind the scenes on building out our platform to turn this content into commerce.

Plated Calendar

What kind of customer base have you and your team seen?We have thousands of customers spread across the country. Our customers are aspirational foodies — folks who want fantastic food experiences, but don’t have the time to spend two hours at the farmers’ market three days per week. Pre-kids, dual-income households are where we find our most fanatical customers.

How does Plated compete with sites such as Seamless and Delivery.com? What sets Plated apart in the online delivery space?

We believe that most people want better, more nutritious, less greasy food, and they’re willing to put in 20-30 minutes of work in order to get it — if given the choice. Within the next year, you’ll see a number of initiatives directly … competing with take-out as a category.

What’s your favorite featured recipe?

Hands down, the sesame-encrusted tuna with avocado and seaweed — nom nom!

Images: Plated

Geek Bar: Chicago’s Answer For Where To Drink If You’re A Geek (Mashable.com)

I don’t really drink alcohol, but I’d DEFINITELY be a patron of a bar like this if it launched anywhere within a 100-mile radius of me. (C’mon, Seattle!) You can check out their Kickstarter (which is still accepting money) and check out the Mashable article which includes a great, very geeky video.

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Kickstarter has helped fund a lot of great ideas within the past few years, from an affordable 3D printer to the world’s first fruit piano. On Thursday it will add a new success story to that list: a full-service bar.

The brainchild of self-proclaimed geeks David Zoltan and Mathew Wolff, Geek Bar Chicago is billed as a place where geeks, games and booze will all come together under one roof. The project has enjoyed enormous success on Kickstarter, raising its initial goal of $9,750 within the first day.

Since then, Geek Bar has raised well over $30,000, and its creators have decided to get ambitious. If the campaign reaches its final stretch goal of $70,000 by the time funding closes on Aug. 22, Wolff and Zoltan will buy a life-size replica of the Iron Throne, from HBO’s Game of Thrones, to feature in their bar.

Clearly these two aren’t afraid to show their inner (and outer) nerd.

Still, $10,000 isn’t much to start a whole bar, not to mention Kickstarter’s ban on posting new businesses, so the founders came up with a mixed funding strategy. The money to actually launch Geek Bar came from traditional investors, who provided the several hundred thousand dollars necessary to get the bar off the ground.

However, according to Wolff and Zoltan, investor money only got them as far as “four walls, a bar and a kitchen.” They want to build the rest of the bar — its charm, character and content — with help from the community.

“Kickstarter was always a part of our overall strategy,” Zoltan says. “The investors got us far enough so we can get into the space and at least have the bare bones of what we need. The Kickstarter is to geek the place out, to put up all the trappings and all the cool things that are going to make the geekdom of the geek bar.”

The pair really wants the community to be invested in the bar’s plans. “That’s a really important thing when you’re [starting] a bar that’s centered around a particular culture — that they have some ownership,” Zoltan adds.

Current plans, for which the two say they have raised more than enough money, will include long, custom-built tables with outlets for laptops and extra room for board games. The space’s two bars will be themed, with one to resemble a mad scientist’s lair and the other designed around cyberpunk epics such as Blade Runner
and Serenity.

Geek Bar Sketch
Image: Geek Bar Chicago

Menus will feature not only geek-centric food and drinks such as the Cthulutini (named after one of H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional deities), but also a selection of board games that waiters bring to your table. Small touches add to the overall atmosphere, including servers in lab coats, action figures hidden in the chandeliers and TVs playing sci-fi movies instead of ESPN.

The question is, can it work?

Part of the challenge in creating Geek Bar will be breaking the traditional view of geeks as awkward, isolated people who would rather sip root beer in a basement than ever set foot in a bar. It doesn’t help when countless TV shows and movies depict geeks as a parade of helpless introverts. Even recent coverage of Geek Bar only grudgingly admits that geeks might actually want to leave the house on a Saturday night.

According to Wolff and Zoltan, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There’s a “totally false image people seem to have of what a geek or nerd is,” Wolff says.

There’s a “totally false image people seem to have of what a geek or nerd is,” Wolff says. “People seem to see them as entirely antisocial, socially awkward and just clumsy in any kind of social environment. Whereas honestly, D&D is being played by groups of four, five or six very close friends from high school on through college. It’s a very social thing that you share; it’s not isolating.”Zoltan agrees with his business partner, emphasizing that skeptics have the geek demographic all wrong.

“Geeks want to be social,” he says. “It’s not a culture in which doing things on your own is prized or really desirable. They like to go out, they like to be with other people and share and be passionate about these things that they do. So I think that geek bar is a needed thing in that community. When you can throw a stone down any street in Chicago and hit a half a dozen sports bars and faux Irish bars, where are the bars for geeks? There’s a huge hole in the community as far as places that cater to geeks.”

Community is at the heart of this entire project. The goal of the Geek Bar is to build a space where people can gather and share the things that they love. After all, if a city can host hundreds of bars for people to gather over football and baseball games, why can’t it have one for everyone who supports Star Trek and Marvel Comics?

“We’re talking about a culture of people here in the city that has never really had a good outlet,” Wolff says. “I mean, you stay at home and you play your games. You stay at home and you watch your shows. [When] you go to work, you talk about your passions with your coworkers. You invite your friends to some random bar or some random restaurant, and you talk about stuff, but there’s no place actually inviting you to come in and share that passion with people who you don’t already connect with.”

Binary Bar
Image: Geek Bar Chicago

Still, whether or not you can name of all the Doctors of Doctor Who, Zoltan and Wolff hope there’ll be a place for you at their bar.

“We’re still going to have a great burger,” Wolff says. “It’s going to be a gastropub. All the stuff that we put around that concept won’t change what’s at the core, which will be food that just tastes delicious and that’s very accessible. We want to have some fun with it, we want to inject some science, some fun playful notes to it, but at the end of the day you can come in and get a great burger and a craft beer.

“The idea is, hopefully, you will get out of Geek Bar what you want.”

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