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Hitting the Books: Why lawyers will be essential to tomorrow’s orbital economy

The skies overhead could soon be filled with constellations of commercial space stations occupying low earth orbit while human colonists settle the Moon with an eye on Mars, if today's robber barons have their way. But this won't result in the same freewheeling Wild West that we saw in the 19th century, unfortunately, as tomorrow's interplanetary settlers will be bringing their lawyers with them. 

In their new book, The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration, renowned astrophysicist and science editor, Donald Goldsmith, and Martin Rees, the UK's Astronomer Royal, argue in favor of sending robotic scouts — with their lack of weighty necessities like life support systems — out into the void ahead of human explorers. But what happens after these synthetic astronauts discover an exploitable resource or some rich dork declares himself Emperor of Mars? In the excerpt below, Goldsmith and Rees discuss the challenges facing our emerging exoplanetary legal system.

Excerpted from The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration by Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees, published by the Harvard University Press. © 2022 by Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees.

Almost all legal systems have grown organically, the result of long experience that comes from changes in the political, cultural, environmental, and other circumstances of a society. The first sprouts of space law deserve attention from those who may participate in the myriad activities envisioned for the coming decades, as well, perhaps, from those who care to imagine how a Justinian law code could arise in the realm of space.

Those who travel on spacecraft, and to some degree those who will live on another celestial object, occupy situations analogous to those aboard naval vessels, whose laws over precedents to deal with crimes or extreme antisocial behavior. These laws typically assign to a single officer or group of officers the power to judge and to inflict punishment, possibly awaiting review in the event of a return to a higher court. This model seems likely to reappear in the first long-distance journeys within the solar system and in the first settlements on other celestial objects, before the usual structure of court systems for larger societies appears on the scene.

As on Earth, however, most law is civil law, not criminal law. A far greater challenge than dealing with criminal acts lies in formulating an appropriate code of civil law that will apply to disputes, whether national or international, arising from spaceborne activities by nations, corporations, or individuals. For half a century, a small cadre of interested parties have developed the new specialty of “space law,” some of which already has the potential for immediate application. What happens if a piece of space debris launched by a particular country or corporation falls onto an unsuspecting group of people or onto their property? What happens if astronauts from different countries lay claim to parts of the moon or an asteroid? And most important in its potential importance, if not in its likelihood: who will speak for Earth if we should receive a message from another civilization?

Conferences on subjects such as these have generated more interest than answers. Human exploration of the moon brought related topics to more widespread attention and argument. During the 1980s, the United Nations seemed the natural arena in which to hash them out, and those discussions eventually produced the outcomes described in this chapter. Today, one suspects, almost no one knows the documents that the United Nations produced, let alone has plans to support countries that obey the guidelines in those documents.

Our hopes for achieving a rational means to define and limit activities beyond our home planet will require more extensive agreements, plus a means of enforcing them. Non-lawyers who read existing and proposed agreements about the use of space should remain aware that lawyers typically define words relating to specialized situations as “terms of art,” giving them meanings other than those that a plain reading would suggest.

For example, the word “recovery” in normal discourse refers to regaining the value of something that has been lost, such as the lost wages that arise from an injury. In more specialized usage, “resource recovery” refers to the act of recycling material that would otherwise go to waste. In the vocabulary of mining operations, however, “recovery” has nothing to do with losing what was once possessed; instead, it refers to the extraction of ore from the ground or the seabed. The word’s gentle nature contrasts with the more accurate term “exploitation,” which often implies disapproval, though in legal matters it often carries only a neutral meaning. For example, in 1982 the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea established an International Seabed Authority (ISA) to set rules for the large portion of the seabed that lies beyond the jurisdiction of any nation. By now, 168 countries have signed on to the convention, but the United States has not. According to the ISA’s website, its Mining Code “refers to the whole of the comprehensive set of rules, regulations and procedures issued by ISA to regulate prospecting, exploration and exploitation of marine minerals in the international seabed Area.” In mining circles, no one blinks at plans to exploit a particular location by extracting its mineral resources. Discussions of space law, however, tend to avoid the term “exploitation” in favor of “recovery.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/hitting-the-books-the-end-of-astronauts-goldsmith-rees-belknap-press-140056539.html?src=rss

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Apple reportedly won’t challenge historic Maryland store unionization vote

Apple will reportedly not challenge the recent vote by employees at its Towson Town Center retail location in Maryland to unionize. Citing a “person familiar with the company’s plans,” Reuters reports the tech giant will participate in the bargaining process “in good faith.” Apple declined to comment on the report.

On June 19th, workers at the Towson Town Center Apple Store voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Of the approximately 110 employees who were eligible to participate in the election, 65 voted yes. Towson Town Center was the first Apple retail location in the US to vote on unionization after organizers at a store in Georgia called off an election over intimidation claims.

If the reporting from Reuters is accurate and Apple does not plan to challenge the Towson vote, the company’s approach would put it at odds with much of corporate America. Amazon, for instance, quickly came out against the historic vote at its JFK8 facility in Staten Island, saying it would appeal the result over allegations the Amazon Labor Union had intimidated workers and committed “electioneering.” Even if their appeals are ultimately thrown out, companies will typically challenge union votes as a way to delay the bargaining process and pour water on other organizing efforts.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/apple-reportedly-wont-challenge-towson-town-center-union-vote-160917346.html?src=rss

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Google tells workers they can relocate ‘without justification’ following Supreme Court decision

Google will allow employees to move between states in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In an email obtained by The Verge, the company’s chief people officer, Fiona Cicconi, said workers could “apply for relocation without justification,” and that those managing the requests would be “aware of the situation.” Cicconi also reminded workers Google’s employee benefits plan covers medical procedures that aren’t available in the state where they live and work.

“This is a profound change for the country that deeply affects so many of us, especially women,” Cicconi says in the email. “Everyone will respond in their own way, whether that’s wanting space and time to process, speaking up, volunteering outside of work, not wanting to discuss it at all, or something else entirely.”

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as part of its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization eliminated the constitutional right to abortion. According to an analysis published by The New York Times in May, as many as 28 states could either ban or severely restrict access to abortions in the days and weeks ahead. Some states like Texas had so-called trigger laws in place that went into effect immediately following Friday’s decision.

The effects of such a monumental shift in American politics have been felt across tech. Mere hours after the Supreme Court announced its decision, Flo, one of the most widely used period tracking apps, said it would introduce a new “anonymous mode” in response to privacy concerns following the ruling. Some companies like Meta have also reportedly told employees not to openly discuss the ruling.

Update 4:57PM ET: Google confirmed the authenticity of the email and told Engadget it has not changed its relocation policy since the Supreme Court's ruling.  

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/google-tells-employees-they-can-relocate-following-supreme-court-abortion-ruiling-181926101.html?src=rss

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FromSoftware’s next game is ‘in the final stages’ of development

FromSoftware fans may not have to wait years before they get the chance to play the company’s next game. In a recent Japanese-language interview translated by Gematsu, Elden Ring director and From president Hidetaka Miyazaki said his studio’s next game is in “the final stages” of development. Miyazaki shared the tidbit in response to a question about a previous interview he gave in 2018.

At the time, he told 4Gamer.net that FromSoftware was working on “three-and-a-half games.” Since then, the studio has released all but one of those projects. In 2018, we got Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and PSVR exclusive Déraciné. This year, From came out with Elden Ring, leaving only one of the projects Miyazaki mentioned in 2018 unaccounted for. "Development is currently in the final stages," he told 4Gamer.net this week when asked about the state of that game.

Miyazaki didn’t go on to share any other details on the project. However, some fans, citing a Resetera leak from January, have speculated the unannounced game could be a new entry in From’s long-running Armored Core series. The studio hasn't released a new mainline entry in the franchise since 2012. In the same interview, Miyazaki also said he was already working on his next game as director, and that he would like to create a "more abstract fantasy" title in the future. 

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/fromsoftware-next-game-final-stages-of-development-193259546.html?src=rss

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Meta has reportedly barred employees from discussing abortion on internal channels

Meta has told employees not to discuss the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to The New York Times. Pointing to a May 12th memo it shared after a draft of Friday’s decision was leaked by Politico, the company has deleted messages on its internal communication tools that mention the topic. In the document, the social media giant reportedly said it “would not allow open discussion” about abortion within the workplace due to “a heightened risk of creating a hostile work environment.”

One employee took to LinkedIn to voice their frustration with the situation. “On our internal Workplace platform, moderators swiftly remove posts or comments mentioning abortion,” said software engineer Ambroos Vaes. “Limited discussion can only happen in groups of up to 20 employees who follow a set playbook, but not out in the open.” Meta did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment.

On Friday, Meta also told employees it would reimburse the travel expenses of employees in need of access to out-of-state healthcare and reproductive services “to the extent permitted by law.” That’s a policy many tech companies, including Google, had in place before Friday’s decision and that they reiterated after the Supreme Court announced its ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Friday’s action wasn’t the first time Meta moved to prevent its employees from dicussing a contentious topic at the workplace. The company updated its Respectful Communication Policy following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. At the time, the company told employees they could no longer discuss political and social issues in company-wide Workplace channels.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/meta-reportedly-bars-employees-from-discussing-215635091.html?src=rss

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Nothing’s Carl Pei thinks everyone else’s smartphones are boring

Carl Pei thinks there’s something wrong with the smartphone industry. That’s not to say the handsets on sale today are bad. Across the board, modern mobiles are faster, more sophisticated and take better photos than previous generations. But like a growing number of tech enthusiasts, Pei has started feeling like new phones just aren’t as special as the devices that came out five or 10 years ago. So ahead of the launch of the Phone 1 on July 12th (pre-orders begin today), I sat down with the founder and CEO of Nothing to learn how the mobile startup is trying to bring some innovation, quirkiness, and maybe even a bit of fun back to the smartphone market.

Now there’s a very logical explanation for why recent phones don’t possess the same kind of wow factor. Back when the iPhone made its debut, it felt like a revelation. “I used to watch all the launches. I was in Sweden, so I stayed up until midnight or 4AM to see what was coming out,” said Pei. But in recent years, that excitement has waned, with Pei often skipping big keynotes and relying on condensed recaps to stay informed. And it’s not just Pei that feels this way.

“When I talk to consumers, they are also quite indifferent,” says Pei. “When doing focus groups, some consumers said they believe smartphone brands are holding features back intentionally just so they have something to launch for the next iteration, which is not the truth. But if consumers feel that way, it's a sign that they're kind of bored.”

The big issue for Pei is one of stagnation. With major players like LG and HTC having exited the market or becoming irrelevant, the smartphone industry is dominated by a handful of huge corporations like Apple, Samsung, and Google. “You have a few big companies and the way they work is more structured and systematic,” said Pei. “They have technology roadmaps from partners like Qualcomm, Sony or Samsung Display, so they know what's coming. They do a lot of consumer research, they get their feedback and they look at their competitors and the overall market landscape.”

However, Pei feels that approach leads to a lot of sameness. “So they have this information, they analyze it, and then they create a very rational product that is going to do well on paper because they used all this great data,” said Pei. “But the problem is everybody's using the same data and everybody's using the same analysis. So if the input is the same and the method is the same, the output is more or less the same as well.”

That’s one thing Pei is trying to change with Nothing’s upcoming handset, the Phone 1. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel – or in this case, the phone – Pei wants to bring some originality back to mobile tech design. “Maybe we can turn down the brain a little bit and turn up the intuition,” said Pei, which is a mantra that has resulted in some of the Phone 1’s more unique features including its design, embedded lighting and glyph interface.

Pei says the inspiration behind the Phone 1’s design comes from a concept the team describes as “raw technology meets human warmth,” or technical warmth for short. “It's got this machine-like nature to it, but also has quirky and very human elements as well.” That’s why instead of hiding the inside of the device behind an opaque back, like you see on so many other phones, Nothing uses transparent glass that exposes components like the Phone 1’s wireless charging coil, heat pipes, and more. In a lot of ways, it feels like a modern industrialist take on the Game Boys and iMacs with see-through plastic shells we got in the 90s and early 2000s.

“I think one thing we’re trying to accomplish is to bring people back in time to when they felt more optimistic about gadgets,” said Pei. This desire to make tech fun again is actually something Nothing carried throughout its entire design process, right down to Phone 1’s codename Abra, which is a reference to the psychic Pokemon of the same name. (For the record, Pei says his favorite ‘Mon is Squirtle.) There are other quirks too, like the heat pipe at the bottom of the phone that looks like an elephant and the red indicator light in back that lets people know when a video is being recorded.

See if you can spot the elephant hidden in the Phone 1's design.

However, while Pei wants to bring fun back to gadgets, Nothing always falls back on the core design principle of form following function. Pei said “We don't do ornaments. We can design different things and unique things, but they always have to be functional.” The best example of this is the Phone 1’s glyph interface, which uses 900 LEDs arranged across the back of the device to create a sophisticated notification system unlike anything out right now.

By allowing owners to assign unique combinations of lights and sounds to different contacts, the idea is that people will be able to see who is calling or texting without looking at the screen. Even the Phone 1’s ringtones evoke old-school analog synths combined with the noise of a dial-up modem, it’s both fresh and retro at the same time. On top of that, the lights glow when the phone is wireless or reverse wireless charging, while the small strip of LEDs next to the charging port can show how much juice the phone has – once again, without ever seeing the screen.

That said, having big ideas about phone design and actually making them a reality are very different things. Making phones is hard, and trying to break into the market as a startup is damn near impossible. If you look at the industry today, the only company that has really broken through in the last decade is OnePlus, which was co-founded by Pei and received significant backing as part of BBK Electronics’ tech umbrella. Meanwhile, the junkheap of failed smartphone startups is littered with ambitious companies like Essential (whose branding and IP are actually now owned by Nothing) that teased similarly big ideas, but went belly up before ever making a second-gen device. Or consider more mainstream companies like Motorola, who failed to make modular phones more than a novelty with its Z-series devices. And ever since, Moto has largely played it safe by shelling out endless rehashes of its G-series line.

“The reason why this industry is very hard is because it requires end-to-end capability,” Pei said. “If you're going to create a smartphone company, every single team has to be at least seven out of 10. And some of them have to be even better if your product is going to stand out in some way.”

“Your supply chain team has to be great. Your mechanical engineering, your software, engineering, your industrial design, your sales, your marketing, your customer support,” said Pei. And if we look back at the PH-1 which had an innovative design and a team with serious pedigree, in the end, a handful of issues like its high price and weak camera quality at launch ultimately spelled doom for Essential.

On the flipside, despite Pei claiming that Nothing has already sold more than 560,000 pairs of its Ear 1 buds, there are concerns about the Phone 1 being overhyped. Some commenters online have even compared Nothing’s community forums to a cult based on early reactions to what remains an unreleased device. But when it comes to hype, Pei feels like there’s only one road that leads to success.

“One is the path we currently are taking. We try and create the maximum interest for a product at launch. That sets really high expectations for the product to deliver. And if it does, things go really well. If it doesn’t, maybe it fizzles out.”

However, the challenge is that if a company tries to reign in the hype, the product may never take off regardless of quality. Pei said “In this path, we at least have a chance to try and deliver a great product. The second option is being a small company with no marketing budget is that no one will know about your device. So even if the product is good, the result is still that nobody cares. You don't even have a chance to prove yourself. This is actually our only logical option.”

So while the design of the Phone 1 is quite unique and eye-catching, Pei preaches a pragmatic approach. Instead of taking a huge swing right out the gate, Pei is looking to gradually grow Nothing’s business and ecosystem, starting with its first earbuds and soon, its first phone.

“We’re a fast follower. We didn't invent smartphones. We didn't invent Android, but we have experience in this market. We see ways in which we could do it better and some gaps in the market.” But Pei knows Nothing needs to take it one step at a time. “We need to gradually build to a position of strength. Then when you’re strong, you can go and do something really, really innovative, because you’ll have a business that’s stable enough to take a lot of shots.”

However, while the success (or failure) of the Phone 1 is still to be determined, I appreciate that not only is Pei challenging billion-dollar giants with a new smartphone startup, Nothing is also trying to shake things up in the process. “I think this device is the beginning of something different, but it’s also a gift to our industry,” said Pei. “We're not saying this is a revolutionary product that's going to change the entire industry overnight. But maybe it's going to plant a germ in people's minds.” In a sea of similar-looking glass bricks, Pei hopes the Phone 1 will encourage customers to ask for more creative devices while also sparking larger companies to take more risks. “Some of it will fail. But ultimately, the smartphone market is going to be much more dynamic and we'll improve faster as an industry.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/interview-with-nothing-ceo-carl-pei-thinks-everyone-elses-smartphones-are-boring-090011028.html?src=rss

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Nothing Phone 1 pre-order reservations start today

You can finally put money toward the Nothing Phone 1 — provided you can join an exclusive club. Nothing has opened pre-order reservations for its first smartphone using an invitation code system. Private community members go first, and will have 48 hours to use their code, place a £20 (roughly $25) non-refundable deposit and secure an order opportunity on July 12th. Everyone else can sign up for a waiting list that will deliver invitations in batches.

If you do go ahead with an order, Nothing will deduct the deposit from the purchase and supply a further £20 credit to use toward either a Phone 1 accessory or Ear 1 earbuds. The company hasn't yet revealed the price of the phone itself. As Nothing warned earlier, the Phone 1 won't officially come to North America outside of a closed beta for a handful of private community investors. The device should work, but won't have full support.

If the pre-order strategy sounds familiar, it should. Nothing founder Carl Pei's former outfit OnePlus used an invitation system for years. The effect may be similar. Invitation-based orders help manage tight supply (by controlling sales and improving demand estimates) while creating a cachet that might spur demand. It's not clear when you'll get to order a Phone 1 on a whim, but don't be surprised if you end up waiting awhile.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/nothing-phone-1-invitation-only-pre-order-date-090013827.html?src=rss

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SpaceX accuses Dish of ‘faulty’ analysis in ongoing battle over 5G spectrum

Dish's plan to use 12GHz radio spectrum for its 5G network could drastically affect the Starlink satellite internet network, SpaceX said in a letter to the FCC. "If Dish’s lobbying efforts succeed, our study shows that Starlink customers will experience harmful interference more than 77 percent of the time and total outage of service 74 percent of the time, rendering Starlink unusable for most Americans," wrote SpaceX senior director David Goldman. 

Dish has asked the FCC to allow it to use the 12Ghz band for a terrestrial 5G network, despite potential satellite interference with Starlink and other services, including its own Dish Network. Dish and its allies in the 5Gfor12GHz coalition recently published research saying that doing so would be "highly feasible" and that Starlink and similar services "will experience zero harmful interference with 5G."

However, SpaceX called the analysis "faulty" and told the FCC that "no reasonable engineer" would believe the studies. "SpaceX urges the Commission to investigate whether Dish and [Dell-owned] RS Access filed intentionally misleading reports," it said. The Elon Musk-owned company also pointed out that the studies don't align with Dish's own filings from December 2019 that "concurrent sharing of spectrum... is not viable in the 12 GHz band." 

Dish said that its "expert engineers are evaluating SpaceX's claims in the filing," in a statement to CNN Business, but there's no comment yet from the FCC. Previously, FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel called the case "one of the most complex dockets we have... it's going to take a lot of technical work to make sure that the airwaves can accommodate all those different uses without harmful interference."

Spectrum battles have been waged frequently over the last several years, with one of the most recent being over potential 5G interference with aviation usage. Recent studies have found that countries exploiting spectrum have significantly expanded their economies compared to other nations. 

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/spacex-claims-that-dishs-5-g-expansion-would-severely-impact-starlink-094558391.html?src=rss

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Juul can temporarily keep selling its vaping products in the US

Juul has successfully convinced the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to delay the Food and Drug Administration's ban on its products. The agency recently banned Juul from selling and distributing its e-cigarette pens and pods in the US after a comprehensive two-year review. It ordered the company to remove its products from the market and has even started telling retailers from pull them from shelves. This temporary reprieve will allow Juul to keep selling its vape pens and pods — and will allow retailers to keep carrying them without the fear of facing penalties — while the court reviews its appeal on the FDA's decision. 

In its request for an emergency stay, Juul called the FDA ban "arbitrary and capricious." It also said that the agency issued the ruling after "immense political pressure from Congress," because it became politically convenient for them to blame Juul for the popularity of vaping among young people, "even though several of its competitors now have a larger market share and much higher underage-use rates." 

Despite Juul's accusation, the FDA didn't mention youth vaping in its decision. Instead, the agency said it was banning the company's products, because it didn't submit sufficient evidence proving that potentially harmful chemicals don't leach from its proprietary pods into the vapor that users inhale. The agency explained: "...some of the company's study findings raised concerns due to insufficient and conflicting data – including regarding genotoxicity and potentially harmful chemicals leaching from the company's proprietary e-liquid pods – that have not been adequately addressed and precluded the FDA from completing a full toxicological risk assessment of the products named in the company's applications."

Juul, of course, disagreed that it hasn't provided sufficient information and data to the agency. In a statement it sent to Engadget, the company said: "In our applications, which we submitted over two years ago, we believe that we appropriately characterized the toxicological profile of Juul products, including comparisons to combustible cigarettes and other vapor products, and believe this data, along with the totality of the evidence, meets the statutory standard of being appropriate for the protection of the public health."

Juul has a long history of butting heads with the FDA, particularly over underage vaping. Its fruit-flavored vape products were once pretty popular among young people until it suspended their sales and stuck to selling menthol and tobacco-flavored pods. Juul also faced a Federal Trade Commission and a House investigation into whether its marketing efforts targeted teens. Things have changed over the past few years: According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most high school students that use e-cigarettes now favor Puff Bar over any other brand. 

According to The New York Times, the court gave Juul until Monday to file an additional motion. The FDA will then have until July 7th to respond to that. It still remains to be seen whether Juul will be able to continue selling its vaping pens and pods in the US throughout the course of its appeal. Sources told The Wall Street Journal that Juul has started exploring its options if it fails to reverse the ban completely, including filing for bankruptcy.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/juul-stay-fda-ban-vaping-us-082841776.html?src=rss

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Recommended Reading: A blockchain primer

Does the crypto crash mean the blockchain Is over?

Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics Radio

In this installment of Recommended Listening, Freakonomics Radio begins a three-part series on all things blockchain. The podcast will tackle everything from Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to NFTs and the technology that powers it all. 

Spotify’s billion-dollar bet on podcasting has yet to pay off

Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg

Shaw takes us inside Spotify's big spending spree, from what was happening behind the scenes, the decision to hand Joe Rogan a mountain of money and a rift between the company and the Obamas over content. "All told, the Obamas recorded about 15 hours of audio for Spotify," he explains. "Technically, they fulfilled their deal, but their output was less than what Rogan releases in a couple of weeks."

How OXO conquered the American kitchen

Dan Kois, Slate

The story behind the company that created the Good Grips handle and took over the kitchen "for customers of differing abilities and confidence levels," becoming the top culinary gadget maker in terms of market share. 

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/recommended-reading-a-blockchain-primer-140011351.html?src=rss

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