XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Steam sales are so frequent that I rarely buy games that aren’t at least 50% off. Usually I just ignore the hype that surrounds new games, and just wait for the inevitable price decrease. More often than not the game a year later is not only half price, but also better than at release due to patches. Having said that, there are a few exceptions where I want to have a game on release day, at full price. The most recent example of that being XCOM 2: War of the Chosen for €39.99.

Now there are two main things to say about War of the Chosen. The first is that it is a very good expansion of the original XCOM 2 game, providing a lot of fresh fun with new maps, new aliens to fight, and new game mechanics. The second is that it is after all only an expansion, and to many people will not be worth 40 bucks. The expansion really improves the basic game with a wide range of options, but at two thirds of the price of a triple A game the thing appears rather expensive. Waiting for example for the Steam Christmas sale and hoping War of the Chosen will be cheaper then would be a completely rational decision.

One thing I liked about War of the Chosen was the advanced options menu, which now gives a wider range of choices than the original basic options menu. You can for example decide that you don’t like to be rushed through the game, and double the timer of the avatar project and/or of individual missions. Of course that does make the game easier, but not everybody appreciates the sort of difficulty which arises only from being forced to rush through content.

From the new monsters I probably like the zombies the most. They appear in large groups, but have a special feature where you get an additional action if you kill one. That allows for very satisfying chain kills, but carries the risk of you missing your shot and being overrun by a horde of zombies. I am less a fan of the new “chosen” aliens, which can be even more annoying than the previously patched in “rulers”.

The new factions which give you access to new soldier classes with a different system of talent tree are interesting. You probably appreciate them more if you always only used the 4 original classes. However I already used mods to have a wider choice of classes, and so that was less a drawback of the original game for me.

I started a new campaign because of War of the Chosen. However I can’t say I’m very much hooked. I have a range of other projects in my life currently, and playing XCOM 2 isn’t always on top of the list of my priorities. That is especially true on weekdays after work, as I find that the game requires some concentration. If I’m too tired I prefer more casual games, or even passive entertainment via Netflix. So I probably overpaid for the expansion, even if I don’t really regret it.

Elemental Evil: Sessions 15

In the previous session the group had cleared out the keep of elemental evil earth, leaving fire as the last keep to attack and get the fourth magical key from. A previous encounter with a druid had given them the information that an unknown druidic circle called the Circle of the Scarlet Moon had sent word throughout the Dessarin Valley was performing the Rite of the Wicker Giant, a ritual that was said to restore nature’s balance in the troubled region. As the location was at the same place as their ancient dwarven map showed for the fourth keep, they knew that this must be the elemental evil fire cult.

At the location they found a tower with a crumbled wall around it on top of a hill. Before stood the Wicker Giant, a huge giant-shaped bonfire that seemed to burn without being consumed. On the slopes of the hill were various camp sites, with smaller bonfires. All those fires caused a certain haze, lightly obscuring vision. The group visited the first camp site and met the druid they had previously saved. He told them the ritual would take place tomorrow, and nobody was allowed to go up the hill until then. The druids with him were celebrating in anticipation.

The group used the haze to sneak past the other camps and up the hill. The scouted that besides the tower and the Wicker Giant there was a pit with 3 hell hounds and a guard. Two figures danced around the Wicker Giant, and two guards were patrolling the scaffolding around the tower. At this point a very long discussion about what to do ensued. Finally the group went over the crumbled wall to approach the tower from the side away from the Wicker Giant and pit. They killed the guards coming under a silence spell without alerting the cultists on the other side of the tower. Then they entered the tower, and found room with a big hole in the floor and a staircase going up. Two more guards were in that room, which they killed, but this time without the silence. So we ended the session when they heard more guards being alerted a floor up.

I must say this session depressed me a bit. We got so little done, just compare this to the other post today of the other group I am playing with. People weren’t focused on the game, and had a hard time to make decisions. I think I need to do something to increase motivation, making the story a bit clearer, in spite of the group not making much effort to gather information. I was also slightly annoyed by the Princes of the Apocalypse chapter on this place: One discussed option was to wait for the Rite of the Wicker Giant. Fortunately they didn’t do that, because I found out that this option wasn’t foreseen in the book, and there was zero information what exactly the fire cult had planned to achieve with that ritual, and why they had invited the druids to it. There are some vague hints that the cult wants to recruit some, and sacrifice the others, but the sequence of events would have to be improvised by me if the group had chosen to wait.

Not Just Inauguration Protesters: Medics, Observers and a Journalist Face 50 Years in Prison

The prosecution somehow saw medics’ bringing of first aid gear to the January 20 protest as being “prepared for war” and “aiding and abetting the riot.”

Final arguments are underway today in Washington, D.C., in a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States: the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Donald Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest D.C. after the inauguration on January 20, some separated from the group and vandalized nearby businesses and vehicles. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area. The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant. We get an update from Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout the first J20 trial.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with an update on a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States. Final arguments are underway today in Washington, D.C., for the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest D.C. after the inauguration, on January 20th, some separated from the group and broke windows of nearby businesses and damaged cars. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area.

The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant from the moment of their arrest. Earlier this week, Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz threw out the felony charge of inciting a riot for the six people on trial now, meaning they now face up to 50 years in prison instead of up to 60.

This comes as police conduct on Inauguration Day has come under scrutiny by the ACLU, and the chief detective in this case is a police union official who tweeted that police showed great restraint during the inauguration.

Well, for more, we go to Washington, D.C. We’re joined by Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout this first J20 trial.

Jude, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain what has happened so far and the significance of the judge throwing out the charge.

JUDE ORTIZ: Right. Thank you so much for having me on again.

So, since I was on last, the prosecutor has rested their entire case with all the so-called evidence against the defendants, and then the defense has also put on their witnesses to—like as part of their right to have witnesses come and testify on their behalf. That process for the defense was very short, about only about half a day in court. And then, now it’s into the like final arguments stage. So the prosecutors had their argument first, and then each of the defense attorneys for the defendants are putting on their arguments. This morning at 9:30, there will be the final two defendants, will have their closing arguments, and then the prosecutor will do a rebuttal. Then there will be some more kind of like legal housekeeping to do, before it goes to the jury.

So, the judge throwing out the inciting a riot charge was a huge development in the case. It’s something that after the prosecutor rests their case, defense attorneys will almost always file a motion to have the charges dismissed. In D.C., it’s called a motion for judgment of acquittal. And it’s a formality, for the most part. It’s rarely ever successful. So it was really notable that one of the most significant charges against the defendants, not only in this trial bloc, but also in the case as a whole, was found, in this case, at least, to have no evidentiary basis at all. So, basically, the judge said that the state did not meet the burden of proof, and that charge therefore was dismissed, and the jury will not have to deliberate on that one at all.

AMY GOODMAN: So, but explain what that means, because we’re talking about numerous cases that will follow this one. Does this judge preside over all of these cases if the inciting to riot remains in the other cases?

JUDE ORTIZ: At this point, the judge is assigned to all the other cases. It’s important to note that there’s another case that is scheduled for this coming Monday for seven defendants, but that one probably will not be happening on Monday, because the jury will still be deliberating on this case. So, it’s unclear when the second trial will begin. It’s looking like it might be in January. And then, on March 5th of next year, all the way through October of next year, are all the remaining trials. And starting in May, there’s a trial scheduled for every single week. But the judge has indicated that her rotation, her job assignment, is switching from criminal court to family court as of January 2nd, so there will be a new judge or judges beginning in 2018.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you see this case as so significant for free speech in the United States?

JUDE ORTIZ: So, on January 20th, the police rounded up everyone who they can get a hold of in this vicinity. The police commander who testified at the beginning of the trial, or towards the beginning of trial, was very clear, both in his testimony as well as recordings from the police radio, that they were interested in the protest—it was an anti-fascist, anti-capitalist march—and they responded to that kind of preemptively by having around a hundred riot cops and their like lieutenants and sergeants, whatnot, there at Logan Circle, where the protest was scheduled to depart from and begin. And that commander said that rather than doing what is typical in D.C., where they do rolling road closures to facilitate the exercise of free speech, instead they showed up with numerous vans full of riot police, and then they followed the march and began, pretty much immediately, to start to crack down on the march. That commander repeatedly used the word “anarchist” to describe everybody who was there. And that officer—or, that commander and other officers talked about everybody being like one group with nefarious intent.

So, from the outset, because of the alleged politics of the march and of the people who were there, the police responded in this very heavy-handed manner that culminated in them rounding everybody up and mass-arresting people. And the prosecutor has continued that by going forward with these charges against everyone. So, when that is the kind of method of operations, for the police going hand in hand with the prosecutor, that sends a very chilling message to anybody who’s interested in going out in the streets and voicing dissent, especially dissent to Trump, dissent to the rise of fascism, dissent to white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, like all these other like very devastating systems of oppression.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude, Assistant U.S. Attorney Qureshi, the second-ranking prosecutor, who made closing arguments, said, in those arguments, a street medic was guilty by being present, and asked, “What do you need a medic with gauze for? She was aiding and abetting the riot. That was her role,” Qureshi said. Respond to that.

JUDE ORTIZ: So, that’s an entirely ludicrous claim. Medics have been at protests across the country for decades to be able to provide first aid type of care to people who are injured in various ways. One of the most notable ways people get injured at protests, as your listeners and viewers know, is by actions from the police. On January 20th, there was a massive amount of pepper spray deployed by police on people, sometimes directly in the face, sometimes on the side or from behind. And we saw this in trial through body cam—body-worn camera videos. There’s also a lot of body-worn camera videos of police knocking people down from behind with their batons. One of the officers who testified ran his bike directly into a protester. And so, there’s all these different ways that the people who are out there like in the streets can get injured very easily. There’s also the elements to deal with. In January, it was very cold, for the January 20th inauguration protest. Lots of different reasons why you’d have medics there in order to like render aid to people who get injured.

That prosecutor said that the supplies that were there kind of show that the medics, in general, were kind of like prepared for war, which is a—it’s as insulting as it is ludicrous to say that people who were out there in the streets were prepared for war, especially when you saw the Department of Homeland Security helicopter video showing all the police operations that were happening there on Inauguration Day, how the police took this like paramilitary approach, that was also supported by the National Guard in order to like corral people and use chemical and projectile weapons against people. So, if there was any kind of warlike conditions, that was coming from the police and from the government, and not from people who were there to render aid.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about some of the videos submitted as evidence in this case by federal prosecutors. This includes video by the Canadian YouTuber Lauren Southern, who the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as, quote, “tiptoe[ing] at the precipice of outright white nationalism.” Southern was there on January 20th, Inauguration Day, and was kettled during the protest, but was allowed to leave without being arrested. Prosecutors also submitted video evidence from the right-wing militia group Oath Keepers, who infiltrated protest planning meetings and secretly recorded them. Prosecutors also presented video from the discredited far-right group Project Veritas, just one day after The Washington Post reported Project Veritas had tried to dupe them with a false story of sexual misconduct by a woman undercover pretending to be a victim of Roy Moore. Go into this and why this matters, Jude Ortiz.

JUDE ORTIZ: It’s appalling to see so much of the state’s—the prosecution’s case and their so-called like evidence coming from overtly far-right sources. So, the Project Veritas video that you mention, it did come out in the courtroom as like a main piece of evidence, exactly like one day after that story broke. And one would think that that would kind of discredit or like cast into doubt like the kind of truthfulness or the usefulness of that evidence. The prosecutor and the police officer who was testifying about it gave no indication that the source of it was at all even a question mark or some cause of concern. The state, through various witnesses, the detectives who like testified about the video and whatnot, admitted that they did no kind of forensic investigation or examination of the tape to make sure that it wasn’t doctored in some way. Project Veritas, of course, is notorious for doctoring in the editing of their videos. And they were presented to the jury as one of their main pieces of evidence, and especially with the idea of conspiracy.

And so, when so much of the so-called evidence against these defendants and the defendants at large depends on this kind of so-called like investigative work of far-right actors, it really shows how the state itself, but with their police investigators, undercover cops infiltrating political protest planning meetings, the undercover and plainclothes police who were present on the march and like in the streets that day—all of these different like state actors were not able to find the evidence that would substantiate the charges the prosecutor has been so ferociously pursuing, and so they have to supplement that and really kind of create the evidentiary base through drawing on the far right.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the main detective working full time on the J20 case, Greggory Pemberton. On Inauguration Day, January 20th, he tweeted D.C. police officers used a, quote, “inspiring amount of restraint” and showed “professionalism.” Last November, he also tweeted about, quote, “disingenuous ‘activists’ who peddle lies and falsehood.” During the J20 trial, defense lawyers played this clip of an interview Pemberton gave to the far-right media outlet One America News Network, praising President Trump.

GREGGORY PEMBERTON: He certainly has a message of law and order, and he really is appealing to a lot of police officers. … Police officers want to hear that someone is going to come in and not allow this divisive, vitriolic rhetoric of this false narrative that all police officers are inherently criminal racists that are out here committing crimes against the citizens, and that they’re going to come in and put a stop to that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude Ortiz, as we wrap up, can you respond to the significance of his involvement with the case and what he’s saying here?

JUDE ORTIZ: Yes. The detective, Pemberton, has claimed that he has looked through hundreds of hours of videos, hundreds of times, since January 21st. It’s been his full-time job, his only assignment. He was able, through that review, to present various compilation boards of photographs, as well as videos and PowerPoints, to give to the jury for their deliberations, that claims to have documentation of the location of each of the defendants all throughout the march, and presenting this as if that’s something that, like, being present like in the streets is a sign of guilt and is evidence of guilt of all these charges.

So it’s a tremendous amount of work that is like put in for these like very politically motivated way—or, reasons. And those political motivations are pretty clear when you look at his Twitter feed, with all of the far-right and pro-Trump things that he has promoted, like through retweets and through likes and through his own comments on Twitter. He claimed on the stand that that was only in the kind of exercise of his position as a board member of the police union. But whether that’s true or whether it’s his own personal opinions, those opinions that are put forward are very much in favor of like right-wing causes and very much against liberal or progressive, like radical-left causes and movements. And he’s even done very inflammatory and insulting things, like saying “black lies matter”—L-I-E-S—instead of “Black Lives Matter,” and discounting that entire movement, that has been so prominent in responding to police violence and brutality across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, shortly after winning the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump tweeted his thoughts on dissent. He tweeted, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag–if they do, there must be consequences–perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Your final comment, Jude Ortiz?

JUDE ORTIZ: I think comments like that show the kind of concerted effort and nature of repression of social movements in the United States. I want to clarify that: I mean like left social movements. The right social movements, that have become more prominent and public under Trump, have been facilitated by the state. We’re seeing that in places like Charlottesville. We’re seeing that in places like St. Louis and all across the country. People need to recognize like how things are shifting, and be ready to be out in resistance, to dissent and to not be scared away. And this case is a very important part of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude Ortiz, I want to thank you for being with us, member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout this first J20 trial. And we’ll keep you updated on this and other trials as they go on.

 

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Unbelievable Censorship: Trump Bans CDC from Using These 7 Words

The forbidden words include “vulnerable,” “diversity,” and “science-based.”

Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly banned the Center for Disease Control from using seven words and phrases, including “science-based” and “transgender,” in documents it is working on for next year’s budget.

 

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World of Hoplites

I recently received an announcement telling me that I could sign up for the beta of a new Total War game, called Total War: Arena. Hmmm. While I did play some Total War games, I must admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of the series, mostly because of the extra stupid AI. So a PvP version to me sounded like a cheap ploy to eliminate the AI. But then I saw that the game was 10 vs. 10 players, with each player commanding some troops. And I thought to myself, “Oh, that looks like World of Tanks with hoplites, I’m interested!”, and signed up.

Today I got the activation code, and only then I realized that this doesn’t just look like World of Tanks with hoplites, it actually *is* World of Hoplites, programmed by the same people who made World of Tanks, Warplanes, and Warships: Wargaming.net. The “Total War” part is just some cross-branding marketing trick to attract the people who are Total War fans but don’t play any games from Wargaming.net yet. Well, best case scenario Wargaming.net programmed the gameplay and Creative Assembly provided the graphics. (Worst case scenario is the other way round).

So now I am downloading the beta, and I am looking forward to trying it out. In the interest of full disclosure I’d like to add that Wargaming.net is one of the small number of game companies from which I ever received freebies. After posting an interview with one of the devs my World of Tank account was set to receive 250 gold every day I logged on. And as I was playing a lot I ended up with still over 70,000 gold left in that game. But I already had spent money on WoT before, and unfortunately the World of Tank gold isn’t the same as the World of Warships gold, and probably also not the same as the Total War: Arena gold. So no freebies for me for the new game!

Squeeze play: compression in video interfaces

In 2014 the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) introduced the 1.0 version of its Display Stream Compression (DSC) specification, the first standard system for compressing video specifically intended for use with hardwired display interfaces. The DSC standard was also endorsed by the MIPI Alliance, paving the way for widespread use in mobile devices and other applications beyond VESA’s original PC-centric focus.

Last year, version 1.2 was published, extending the feature set to include the 4:2:0 and 4:2:2, YCbCr formats commonly seen in digital television, and the group continues to develop and extend DSC’s capabilities and features.

But why the need for compression in the first place? Is it a good thing overall? Simply put, DSC’s adoption  is driven by the seemingly-insatiable appetite for more pixels, greater bit depth, and ever-increasing refresh rates. While the real need for some of these is debatable, there’s no argument that, especially in mobile devices, there’s a need to deliver high-quality, high-definition images while consuming the bare minimum of power. That leads to the need for compression.

A 1920 x 1080 image – considered just a moderate “resolution” these days – at a 60 Hz refresh rate and using 24-bit per pixel RGB encoding requires transmitting almost 3 gigabits of information every second between source and display, and that’s not even counting the inevitable overhead. Move up to “8K” video, as is coming to the market now, and that rate goes up geometrically. 48 billion bits of information need to move every second. That’s fast enough to fill a 1 TB drive in well under three minutes.

Leawo The move from 1080p to 4K, HDR, and even 8K content requires more and more data, increasing the necessity for compression to shrink file sizes.

Digital interface standards like DisplayPort and HDMI have done an admirable job of keeping up with this growing appetite for data capacity. DisplayPort 1.4 is capable of over 32 Gbits/sec., and future versions are expected to push that to 40 Gbits and higher. But these increases come at a price; all else being equal, faster transmission rates always take more power, on top of the generally higher power requirements of higher-resolution displays. Something has to give.

Compression is actually a pretty old idea, and it’s based on the fact that data (and especially image data) generally contains a lot of unnecessary information; there’s a high degree of redundancy.

Let’s say I point an HDTV camera at a uniformly white wall. It’s still sending out that three gigabits of data every second, even though you might as well be sending a simple “this frame is the same as the last one” message after the first one has been sent. Even within that first frame, if the picture is truly just a uniform white, you should be able to get away with sending just a single white pixel and then indicating, somehow, “don’t worry about anything else – they all look like that!” The overwhelming majority of that 3 Gbits/sec data torrent is wasted.

In mobile devices, compression standards give us the means for connecting high-res external displays— like VR headsets— without chewing through the battery or needing a huge connector.

In a perfect situation we could eliminate everything but that single pixel of information and still wind up with a picture that would be identical to the original: a perfectly uniform white screen. This would be a case of completely lossless compression — if  we can assume that “perfect” situation. What eliminating redundancy does, though, in addition to reducing the amount of data you need to transmit, is to make it all that much more important that the data you are sending gets through unchanged. In other words, you’ve made your video stream much more sensitive to noise. Imagine what happens if, in sending that one pixel’s worth of “white” that’s going to set the color for the whole screen, a burst of noise knocks out all the blue information. You wind up with red and green, but no blue, which turns our white screen yellow. Since we’ve stopped sending all those redundant frames, it stays that way until a change in the source image causes something new to be sent.

The goal is to come up with a compression system that is visually lossless

So compression, even “mathematically lossless” compression, can still have an impact on the image quality at the receiving end. The goal is to come up with a compression system that is visually lossless, meaning it results in images indistinguishable from the uncompressed video signal by any human viewer. Careful design of the compression system can enable this while still allowing a significant reduction in the amount of data sent.

Imagine that instead of a plain white image, we’re sending typical video; coverage of a baseball game, for instance. But instead of sending each pixel of every frame, we send every other pixel. Odd pixels on one frame, and even pixels on the next. I’ve just cut the data rate in half, but thanks to the redundancy of information across frames, and the fact that I’m still maintaining a 60 Hz rate, the viewer never sees the difference. The “missing” data is made up, too rapidly to be noticed. That’s not something that’s actually used in any compression standard, as far as I know, but it shows how a simple “visually lossless” compression scheme might work.

If you’re familiar with the history of video, that example may have sounded awfully familiar. It’s very close to interlaced transmission, which used in the original analog TV systems. Interlacing can be understood as a crude form of data compression. It’s not really going to be completely visually lossless; some visible artifacts would still be expected (especially when objects moving within the image). But even such a simple system would still give surprisingly good results while saving a lot of interface bandwidth.

Synopsys An example of how DSC and DSI interoperate on host and device sides, and sample compression rates with and without DSC.

VESA’s DSC specification is a good deal more sophisticated, and produces truly visually lossless results in a large number of tests. The system can provide compression on the order of 3:1, easily permitting “8K” video streams to even be carried over earlier versions of DisplayPort or HDMI. It does this via a relatively simple yet elegant algorithm that can be implemented in a minimum of additional circuitry, keeping the power load down to something easily handled in a mobile product — possibly even providing a net savings over running the interface at the full, uncompressed rate.

If you’re worried about any sort of compression still having a visible effect on your screen, consider the following. Over-the-air HDTV broadcasts are possible only because of the very high degree of compression that was built into the digital TV standard. Squeezing a full-HD broadcast, even one in which the source is an interlaced format like “1080i,” requires compression ratios on the order of 50:1 or more. The 1.5 Gbits per second of a 1080i, 60 Hz video stream had to be shoehorned into a 6 MHz channel (providing at best a little more than a 19 megabit-per-second capacity). HTDV broadcasts very typically work with less than a single bit per pixel in the final compressed data stream as it’s sent over the air, resulting in a clear, sharp HD image on your screen. When unusually high noise levels come up, the now-familiar blocky “compression artifacts” of digital TV pop up, but this really doesn’t happen all that often. Proprietary systems such as broadcast satellite or cable TV can use even heavier compression, and as a result show these sorts of problems much more frequently.

In the better-controlled environment of a wired digital interface, and with the much milder compression ratios of DSC, images transmitted using this system will probably be visually perfect. In mobile devices, compression standards such as these will give us the means for connecting high-res external displays— like VR headsets— without chewing through the battery or needing a huge connector.

You’ll very likely never even know it’s there.

Must kNow Web Dev toolS – 2OI7

Must kNow Web Development toolS – 2OI7

WEB  DEVELOPMENT:

Web development broadly refers to the tasks associated with developing websites for hosting via intranet or internet. The web development process includes web design, web content development, client-side/server-side scripting and network security configuration, among other tasks.
Web development services helps your company to increase product knowledge, maintain communication between you and potential clients, sell your products or services, generate leads for the business, and increase the popularity of your company and much more.
web design has a direct impact on conversion. Changing simply the design elements of a web page for a marketing campaign can produce big lifts in conversion. In competitive advertising channels, small lifts in conversion can give you the edge over your competition. 
Let’s see some must know web development tools :

1.Sizzy

Sizzy is a development tool to test your responsive website in multiple viewport sizes on a single screen. It’s a super handy app as compared to the Chrome’s built-in mobile emulator. Sizzy also comes as a Chrome Extension.

2. CSS Grid Cheat Sheet:

Learning CSS Grid can be quite intimidating when it comes to a number of new properties, a new measuring unit, and also almost a complete new paradigm to build the web layout. This tool, as the name implies, is to help you get your feet off the ground with CSS Grid.

3. KAP

Kap is a neat little screen recorder for MacOS. It is an open-source app, built with web technology. One thing that I love in this app is that it offers converting the video right out-of-the box. Kap is a great alternative to record your apps or website’s live demo.

4. Material UI

Material Design (codenamed Quantum Paper) is a design language developed in 2014 by Google. Expanding upon the “card” motifs that debuted in Google Now, Material Design makes more liberal use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows.

5. Checker Service:

A great list of web apps to check a lot of stuff such as DNS, Load, Speed, SEO, Security, and SSL. Many of these tools are free, however, there are a few premium services listed therein that offer advanced features for users.

6. Yeoman:

Modern web development is by all accounts blending around various small, open source tasks and tools. Any semblance of Bootstrap, Compass and PhantomJS. Every bundle contributing a solitary perspective to another occupation – could test, CSS frameworks or code compilation.
Yeoman is Google’s endeavor to pull together the best of these applications under a solitary, customisable banner. Platform new web applications, staying up with the latest, auto-arranging your code, optimising your pictures. Yeoman has your back.

7. Launchaco:

Finding a great name for your startup is hard, and obtaining an available username handler on social media is even harder. Launchaco is a handy tool that allows you to find domain names, usernames for different social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc., and helps you generate a nice logotype of your business.

8. Mavo:

Mavo is a new open source project from Lea Verou. It is a library that turns bare HTML markup and a few custom attributes into a functioning web application. Mavo easier to follow as compared to the other libraries like Backbone, Vue.js or React as it allows less tech-savvy users to build web application quickly and easily.

Want to learn Web Technologies?

YouTube secures necessary deals for a paid music streaming service

  • YouTube recently signed deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Group.
  • Warner Music Group agreed to a deal back in May.
  • The deals with the three big labels pave the way for a new music streaming service.

The rumors of YouTube’s new music streaming service appear to be coming true. Earlier this month we told you about rumblings that the streaming platform would roll out a new subscription streaming service. Now, Bloomberg is reporting that YouTube has secured the necessary deals to make it happen.

According to the report, YouTube has just agreed to deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Group. Warner Music Group, the last of the big three music labels, agreed to a deal with YouTube earlier this year.

Universal confirmed that the agreement with YouTube will give artists more flexibility and better pay. In addition to the better royalty rates for rights holders, some songs and videos will only be available through this new paid service, according to a Bloomberg source. That source also indicated that earlier this year, Universal was able to take control of ad-supported channels. It also asked YouTube to improve the technology that scans for user-uploaded videos for copyrighted content.

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YouTube is currently one of the most popular platforms on the internet to stream music. Users can currently stream music for free, and the only revenue that rights holders see are from ad-based payouts and what channels see from YouTube Red subscriptions. This is in contrast to subscription-based services like Google Play Music, Spotify, and Apple Music that generate more revenue for music labels. The lack of revenue and approach toward protecting copyrighted material lead to friction between the streaming giant and music labels. But, this deal appears to sort out all of their issues.

Details on the new streaming service are nil right now. We expect that it will launch sometime in 2018, but we don’t have details yet on what it will cost or what it will include. If YouTube expects to turn users into paying customers, it’ll have to provide an incentive for them to pay up. Hopefully, that isn’t by restricting content that is currently free to stream.

What do you think YouTube’s new music streaming service will look like? What features would you want and how much would you be willing to pay?

Amazon readying huge Digital Day 2017 discounts on Wonder Woman, WWE 2K18, and more

Amazon has announced that Digital Day will once again threaten our wallets in a final end of year sale chock full of huge savings. The second annual Digital Day is scheduled for December 29th and Amazon says it will be offering over 5,000 deals on movies, TV shows, apps, eBooks, and mobile games.

If you missed out on the first Digital Day sale last year, think of it like Prime Day but exclusively for digital items. As the name suggests, the biggest deals will last for just 24 hours, although some will go live as early as December 26th. You can sign up here to stay up to date with all of the offers, or you can follow #DigitalDay on social media.

Amazon has provided a sneak peek at some of the headline deals which include 60% off the fantastic live-action Wonder Woman movie on Amazon Video, 33% off video games like Sonic Forces, Civilization VI, NBA 2K18, and WWE 2K18, and up to 75% off on Kindle best-selling books like The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, The Silent Corner, and Modern Romance.

Here are some of the rest of the Digital Day deals set to drop in just over a week, plucked straight from an Amazon press release:

  • $10 Amazon.com credit when you subscribe to HBO NOW on Amazon
  • Save 25% off $49.99 Lapis bundle for Final Fantasy Brave Exvius
  • Save 50% off all in-game items for Marvel Puzzle Quest
  • Save up to 80% off in-game items for Playrix games
  • Save up to 75% off ROBLOX New Year’s Eve themed wearables
  • Save up to 80% off best-selling Marvel graphic novels like Civil War II, House of M, World War Hulk, and Star Wars
  • Three free audiobooks when you sign up for an Audible trial
  • 25% or more off PC software like Rosetta Stone and Adobe Creative Cloud Photography
    First 3 months free in Daily Burn streaming workouts

Digital Day bargains can be purchased via Amazon’s online store, the Amazon App and the Amazon Appstore (exclusively on Android). We’ll be keeping an eye out for any other great Digital Day deals, so be sure to watch this space for updates.

What is Ethereum? — a short guide

What is Ethereum EthereumPrice

You may be asking yourself, “What is Ethereum?” Well, Vitalik Buterin, a Canadian programmer born in Russia, invented Ethereum in 2015 by. It’s a cryptocurrency much like Bitcoin that allows you to make payments online. It’s decentralized, offers low transaction fees, and runs on a publicly disclosed blockchain that records each transaction.

Read: What is a blockchain? – Gary Explains

Ethereum’s currency is called Ether and is currently the second largest in the world in market cap, behind Bitcoin. There are reportedly around two million wallets that hold it, up from 1.6 million in May — showing the growing popularity of Ether.

How is it different from Bitcoin? Bitcoin aims to become a globally adopted currency that could improve or even replace conventional money. Ethereum, on the other hand, is more than a cryptocurrency. It’s also a ledger technology used to build decentralized applications (dapps) with smart contracts.

What are smart contracts?

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Smart contracts are programs that automatically execute exactly as they are set up by their creators. Their purpose is to offer more security by removing the middlemen that we would otherwise have to use. Confused? Let’s take a look at a simple example.

Let’s say you want to ship a large gift to your friend and hire a trucker to do the job. For the trucker to know you’ll pay him, and for you to be sure the delivery will be made, you both sign an agreement for shared peace of mind. This takes time and can be expensive, as you need someone who will draw up the paperwork for you, and so forth.

This process can be simplified with a smart contract. You make the payment the day the package is picked up, and the smart contract will automatically transfer the money to the trucker as soon as your friend confirms the delivery has been made.

How is Ether created and where can I get it?

CoinSpectator

Like Bitcoins, Ethers are created through a process called mining. This requires expensive and specialized computers that have to perform complicated calculations. Mining is mainly done by large companies that are compensated for their work with newly minted Ethers.

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Unfortunately, you won’t make any money by mining with your personal PC, even if it’s a high-end model. So how can you get your hands on Ethers? You can earn them by providing goods and services to people who can pay you with the digital currency. The second option is to buy them from a marketplace like Coinbase with your credit card.

The Ethers you own are stored in a wallet secured with a private key. You can keep it in the cloud or offline, with the latter being a much safer option. The important thing is that you don’t lose the private key. If that happens, you won’t be able to access your money.

How much does it cost and what determines the price?

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Now that we have figured out the answer to the “What is Ethereum?” question, how much do Ethers really cost? Ethers were cheap when introduced back in 2015 — you could get one for less than a dollar. Their price has risen over the years and currently stands at around $430 each (exact value can be found in widget below). The sharp increase means Ethers can be a great investment, same as Bitcoins and many other cryptocurrencies. For example, if you bought $1,000 worth of Ethers in 2015 when they were worth $0.50 a piece, you would have $860,000 today.

Before you get too excited, keep in mind that investing in cryptocurrencies can be risky.

Before you get too excited, sell your house, and buy as many Ethers as you can get, let me remind you that investing in cryptocurrencies can be risky. Sure, a lot of them have increased in value in recent years, but that doesn’t mean this trend will continue. Cryptocurrencies are volatile, meaning their price can go up and down significantly in a single day. This makes them less stable than standard currencies like the dollar and euro.

How exactly do we determine their value? Like Bitcoins, gold, oranges, and every other item available on the market, supply and demand determine the price of Ethers.

The Merkle


Ethereum can be hard to understand at times. The same goes for Bitcoins and the rest of the cryptocurrencies available. But the fact is that they’re here to stay and might become a more important part of our daily lives in the future.

Many experts believe Ethereum has a lot of potential and could overtake Bitcoin as the largest cryptocurrency somewhere down the line. This is all speculation, though well within the realm of possibility. But like with stocks, gold, and other investments, no one can be 100 percent sure in which direction the price will move.

Hopefully we have given you an answer to the “What is Ethereum?” question. What are your thoughts on Ethereum and cryptocurrencies in general? Let us know in the comments.