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!

Robert Reich: A Guide to Why the Trump-Republican Tax Plan Is a Disgrace (for When you Confront Your Republican Uncle Bob During the Holidays)

Shame on Trump and the Republicans who have lied to the pubic about its consequences.

Here are the 3 main Republican arguments in favor of the Republican tax plan, followed by the truth.

1. It will make American corporations competitive with foreign corporations, which are taxed at a lower rate.

Rubbish.

(1) American corporations now pay an effective rate (after taking deductions and tax credits) that’s just about the same as most foreign based corporations pay.

(2) Most of these other countries also impose a “Value Added Tax” on top of the corporate tax.

(3) When we cut our corporate rate from 35% to 20%, other nations will cut their corporate rates in order to be competitive with us – so we gain nothing anyway.

(4) Most big American corporations who benefit most from the Republican tax plan aren’t even “American.” Over 35 percent of their shareholders are foreign (which means that by cutting corporate taxes we’re giving a big tax cut to those foreign shareholders). 20 percent of their employees are foreign, while many Americans work for foreign-based corporations.

(5) The “competitiveness” of America depends on American workers, not on “American” corporations. But this tax plan will make it harder to finance public investments in education, health, and infrastructure, on which the future competitiveness of American workers depends.

(6) American corporations already have more money than they know what to do with. Their profits are at record levels. They’re using them to buy back their shares of stock, and raise executive pay. That’s what they’ll do with the additional $1 trillion they’ll receive in this tax cut.

***

2. With the tax cut, big corporations and the rich will invest and create more jobs.

Baloney.

(1) Job creation doesn’t trickle down. After Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush cut taxes on the top, few jobs and little growth resulted. America cut taxes on corporations in 2004 in an attempt to get them to bring their profits home from abroad, and what happened? They didn’t invest. They just bought up more shares of their own stock, and increased executive pay.

(2) Companies expand and create jobs when there’s more demand for their goods and services. That demand comes from customers who have the money to buy what companies sell. Those customers are primarily the middle class and poor, who spend far more of their incomes than the rich. But this tax bill mostly benefits the rich.

(3) At a time when the richest 1 percent already have 40 percent of all the wealth in the country, it’s immoral to give them even more – especially when financed partly by 13 million low-income Americans who will lose their health coverage as a result of this tax plan (according to the Congressional Budget Office), and by subsequent cuts in safety-net programs necessitated by increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

***

3. It will give small businesses an incentive to invest and create more jobs.

Untrue.

(1) At least 85 percent of small businesses earn so little they already pay the lowest corporate tax rate, which this plan doesn’t change.

(2) In fact, because the tax plan bestows much larger rewards on big businesses, they’ll have more ability to use predatory tactics to squeeze small firms and force them out of business.

***

Don’t let your Uncle Bob be fooled: Republicans are voting for this because their wealthy patrons demand it. Their tax plan will weaken our economy for years – reducing demand, widening inequality, and increasing the national debt by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

Shame on the greedy Republican backers who have engineered this. Shame on Trump and the Republicans who have lied to the pubic about its consequences.

 

 

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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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What is PATH and CLASS-PATH all about in JaVa ?

What is PATH and CLASS-PATH 


Many problems in the installation and running of Java applications are caused by incorrect setting of environment variables (global system variables available to all the processes running under the system), in particular, PATH, CLASS-PATH.

PATH Variable:

PATH is basically an environment variable on Unix-like operating systems, DOS, OS/2, and Microsoft Windows, specifying a set of directories where executable programs are located. In general, each executing process or user session has its own PATH setting.
When you launch a program from the command line, the operating system uses the PATH environment variable to search for the program in your local file system. PATH maintains a list of directories for searching executable programs.
If the program cannot be found in these directories, you will get an error. For example, if Java Compiler “javac.exe” is not found in the current directory and all the directories in the PATH, you will receive this error when compiling java source code:

ERROR:javac is not recognized as an internal or external command.



 For Java applications, PATH must include the following directories:
  • JDK’s “bin” directory (e.g., “c:Program Filesjavajdk1.7.0_{xx}bin”), which contains JDK programs such as Java Compiler “javac.exe” and Java Runtime “java.exe”.
  • “c:windowssystem32” and “c:windows” which contain console programs and commands.

How To set Path in java?

There are 2 ways to set java path:
  1. Temporary.
  2. Permanent.
1.Temporary path of JDK in windows:

  • Open command prompt
  • copy the path of jdk/bin directory
  • write in command prompt: set path=copied_path

Let’s see it in the figure given below:


2.Permanent path of JDK in Windows:
  • Right click on ‘My Computers’ and open ‘Properties’.
  • In Windows Vista or Windows 7, go to “Advanced System Settings”. Else go to next step.
  • Go to ‘Advanced Tab’ and click on Environment Variables button.
  • click on new tab of user variables
  • write path in variable name and paste path of bin folder in variable value.
  • Click on OK botton.

Setting JAVA path in Linux OS:

Setting the path in Linux OS is same as setting the path in the Windows OS. But here we use export tool rather than set. Let’s see how to set path in Linux OS:

export PATH=$PATH:/home/jdk1.6.01/bin/


CLASS-PATH in java:

The CLASS-PATH is an Environment variable is one way to tell applications, including the JDK tools, where to look for user classes. Class-path in Java is the path to directory or list of the directory which is used by Class-Loaders to find and load classes in Java program.
It would be impractical to have the JVM look through every folder on your machine, so you have to provide the JVM a list of places to look.  Therefore you need to set your class-path such that, JVM should be able to locate all your resources like classes, files, jars etc.
Setting CLASS-PATH:

In order to set Classpath for Java in Windows you need to specify the value of environment variable CLASSPATH, the name of this variable is not case sensitive and it doesn’t matter if the name of your environment variable is Classpath, CLASSPATH or classpath in Java.

Steps:

    How to se Java Classpath in windows and Unix Linux

  1. Go to Environment variable window in Windows by pressing  or you can go from rig“Windows + Pause “–> Advanced –> Environment variable ht click on my computer than choosing properties and then Advanced and then Environment variable this will open Environment variable window in windows.
  2. Now specify your environment variable CLASSPATH and put the value of your JAVA_HOMElib and also include CURRENT DIRECTORY by including (dot or period sign).

Now to check the value of Java classpath in windows type “echo %CLASSPATH” in your DOS command prompt and it will show you the value of directory which is included in CLASSPATH.

  • You can also set classpath in windows by using DOS command like:
set CLASSPATH=%CLASSPATH%;JAVA_HOMElib;

This way you can set the class-path in Windows XP, windows 2000 or Windows 7 and 8, as they all come with command prompt.


Setting CLASS-PATH in LINUX:

To set Class-path for Java In Linux, you can simply export CLASSPATH=”your classpath” from either your .bash_profile or .bashrc script which will run whenever your login into your Linux or Unix Machine. Now to check the value of Java CLASSPATH in Linux type “echo ${CLASSPATH}” this will print the value of Classpath in command prompt. By using the export command, you can set the classpath for Java in Unix, Linux, Solaris, or any other UNIX operating system. 
What are main differences between CLASSPATH and PATH?

  1. Path is an environment variable which is used by the operating system to find the executables. Classpath is an environment variable which is used by the Java compiler to find the path, of classes.i.e in J2EE we give the path of jar files.
  2. PATH is nothing but setting up an environment for operating system. Operating System will look in this PATH for executables. Classpath is nothing but setting up the environment for Java. Java will use to find compiled classes.
  3. Path refers to the system while classpath refers to the Developing Environment.

Want to learn more about java?

‘Whoa, Whoa’: Fox Panel Goes off the Rails After Guest Suggests FBI Plotted to Assassinate Trump

The right-wing media has lost its mind.

Fox News contributor on Tuesday said that it was possible that the FBI had plotted to assassinate President Donald Trump — although he quickly backed off when “Outnumbered” host Harris Faulkner expressed alarm at his baseless speculation.

Appearing on “Outnumbered,” guest Kevin Jackson said that Congressional Republicans need to get to the bottom of what FBI agent Peter Strzok meant when he said that there needed to be an “insurance policy” in the event that Trump got elected.

Even though the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Strzok’s “insurance policy” quote referred to his sincere belief in the need to investigate Trump because he was possibly compromised by Russian intelligence services, Jackson immediately went off the deep end and suggested much darker motives.

“What was his intent, right?” Jackson asked. “Because that’s exactly what FBI Director, former FBI Director [James] Comey said when he was letting Hillary Clinton off the hook. And his intent, regardless of whether it was an assassination attempt or whatever, it was definitely something…”

At this point, a surprised Faulkner interjected and said, “Whoa, whoa!” Jackson then responded by toning his rhetoric down a notch.

“Well, I’m just saying, we don’t know what it was,” Jackson said. “When you say, ‘we’ve got to make sure that this guy doesn’t get in at all cost,’ what does that mean? So I’m saying there’s a spectrum of what does it mean, but one thing that we know for sure, is that he was plotting in an election against a candidate, and there’s FBI fingerprints all over this.”

Later in the segment, Jackson admitted that everything he has heard about FBI plots to kill Trump has come from social media accounts that were “nothing credible.”

Watch the video, via Media Matters, below.

 

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Uses and abuses of challenge

Once upon a time, in a past so long a go that few people remember it, computer games came with an options menu in which you could choose the difficulty and challenge of the game yourself. The idea was that all of us would like games to be both winnable and not a pushover, but because preferences on how easily winnable a game should be, as well as experience and skill in a game, vary from user to user, it would be best to have several options in order to please everybody. Now that was way back when games still came in a box. With games increasingly switching to a “game as a service” online experience, difficulty settings fell out of favor. Somehow it appeared to make more sense if the same orc in World of Warcraft held the same challenge for each player, with the only variable being the power level of the player himself. With less and less single-player games around, and PvE games being more and more replaced by PvP, difficulty setting have become increasingly rare.

I’ve been playing a bunch of pseudo-PvP games on my iPad lately. Pseudo because I don’t necessarily fight another player online at the same time, but my army fights his computer-controlled army. That usually was nice enough at the start of the game. But then with each win I gained some sort of trophies or ranking, so that later I was matched against more and more powerful players. Ultimately it was obvious that this was a no-win proposition: The better I did, the more likely it became that I would lose the next game. The only strategy that worked was to deliberately lose games, to drop down in rankings, to then win the now easier PvP games in order to achieve the quests and goals the game set me. But that sort of cheesy strategy isn’t exactly fun.

The other type of game I played recently is the one in which your performance doesn’t actually matter at all any more. I played Total War: Arena, but many team vs. team multiplayer games fall into the same category: The contribution of any single player to the outcome of a 10 vs. 10 battle is only 5%. That gets quite annoying if you come up with a brilliant move and outmaneuver another player and crush him, only to find that the 9 other players on the enemy team obliterated your 9 team mates, and you lost the battle. Especially since in Total War: Arena you end up with more rewards having done nothing much in a won battle than for a great performance in a lost battle.

Finally my wife was complaining about a problem with challenge levels in her iPad puzzle games: The games are free to play, they get harder and harder with each level until you can’t beat it any more, and then the game offers you a way out: Use some sort of booster, which of course you need to pay real money for, to make the too hard levels easy enough to win again.

Somehow I get the feeling we lost something important when difficulty sliders went out of fashion. However the discussion of difficulty and challenge is complicated by the fact that this is one of the issues where gamers are the most dishonest about. Gamers tend to say they want more challenge, but when you observe what they are doing, e.g. attacking the enemy castle in a PvP MMORPG at 3 am in the morning, it is clearly that they are mostly occupied with avoiding or circumventing any actual challenge. Pay2Win and loot boxes wouldn’t be such an issue if gamers weren’t actually spending their money on improving their chances to win. If most gamers were so interested in challenge, then why is there so much cheating and botting going on? People want to win, by any means, and by talking up the challenge they want to make their win look more impressive. Which is kind of sad, if you think about it, that their positive self-image depends on being a winner in a video game. Many a fragile gamer-ego can’t admit that they’d quite like a relaxing game that doesn’t constantly challenge them to the max. I do.

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.

Elemental Evil: Sessions 5 and 6

It appears I forgot to chronicle the previous session of my D&D home campaign. The last report was from early July, after which we had a summer break, and then resumed mid-August, and then continued yesterday. Both of these sessions were action-centric, with the group clearing out first the abandoned village of Thundertree and then the goblin stronghold of Cragmaw Castle from monsters. A “door-monster-treasure” type of gameplay can be a lot of fun, but the details aren’t always all that interesting in a journal of events. So I will summarize and concentrate on the highlights in this post.

Thundertree is an abandoned village a day’s travel from Neverwinter. The eruption of Mount Hotenow, which caused quite a catastrophe for Neverwinter half a century ago, destroyed the village of Thundertree. Erdan, the druid of the group who is prone to visions and nightmares, dreamed that the eruption of Hotenow was caused by a group of chanting fire cultists, but probably didn’t go as planned, as the cultists were killed in the event. What remained in Thundertree was mostly abandoned houses, with a population of ash zombies and twig blights. The group had gone to Thundertree to meet the druid Reidoth, who was supposed to know the location of Cragmaw Castle. Their “pet goblin” Droop also claimed to be able to find the way from Thundertree to Cragmaw Castle. They met Reidoth, who was able to provide a safe haven in the village, as well as the directions needed.

After clearing out most of the village from monsters, the group came across another group which likewise was engaged in fighting twig blights. That group was wearing blue armor and white robes, beset with feathers. They explained that they were from a club of aerial enthusiasts, and were in Thundertree to try to tame a griffon nesting here, or get eggs from his nest to raise as aerial mounts. The heroes agreed to accompany them to the griffon’s lair in the highest tower of Thundertree. But once there the air cultists tried to becalm the griffon by offering the adventurers up as sacrifice, so the group ended up killing both the cultists and the griffon. They were able to make the link between a symbol the cultists carried and the same symbol they had seen on a letter to Glasstaff in Phandalin.

On the way to Cragmaw Castle the group tried to question Droop for information about the castle. That was somewhat complicated by the fact that Droop could only count to 3, and used “3” as an answer to any question about numbers in which the answer exceeded 2. Not trusting the goblin’s offer to negotiate safe entry into the castle, they knocked him out and attached him to a tree, guarded by the paladin (the player was absent that session). Instead they built a camouflage out of branches and approached the less guarded south side of the castle at night. From there they could see into the banquet hall, but the goblins there didn’t look out the arrow slits. So they managed after a few attempts to unlock the side door. But they didn’t like the idea of advancing with the goblins in the hall behind them, so they decided to attack there.

From there they moved clockwise room by room. That enabled them to eliminate most guards in small groups. However it did move them more towards the entrance of the castle, instead towards the throne room. The toughest fight was against a group of hobgoblins. Popée the sorceress used a web spell on them, but between succeeded saving throws initially and later the web wasn’t all that effective. Then they tried to burn the web, but in 5E that deals only 2d4 damage, and the player rolled double 1s, so the spell wasn’t really a big success. The hobgoblins however had an ability with which they dealt an extra 2d6 damage if next to an ally. And two of them rolled critical hits, which doubles the number of dice on all damage, knocking the druid out of his bear form. After another fight in the central chapel of the castle the group had enough and decided to go back into the woods to take a long rest.

Returning to the castle they found that the bugbear King Grol had obviously noticed that the group had raided his castle and killed most of the goblinoids in there. So King Grol has gathered all the remaining defenders in the chapel, including a priest from the air cult. That ended up being a tough fight, with Theren being knocked down to zero health, but then rescued. The air cultist priest was a real menace, with a dust devil spell that prevented the archers and casters from sniping from the back. But Popée used a scroll of lightning bolt on King Grol and his pet wolf, killing the wolf and seriously damaging the bugbear. Soon after all the bugbears were dead. The priest tried to transform into gaseous form and flee, but didn’t make it out of the arrow slit in one round and concentrated fire killed him before his next round. At this point it had gotten rather late, and we ended the session.

What does a DM need to know?

I recently offered a young player of D&D who was interested in becoming a Dungeon Master to give him some pointers on how to be a good DM. But while I have been a DM for nearly 4 decades now, it isn’t actually all that easy to describe what makes a good DM. In some ways it is more an art than a science. And where it is a science, it is a badly documented one.

The basic role of a DM is easily described: He sets the scene, asks the players what they do, and then reacts to their answer by telling them the consequences of their actions, thus setting the next scene. Rinse, lather, repeat. What makes the description of a good DM so complicated is that different people are good DMs in very different ways. You ask a player what he specifically liked with a DM, and realize that whatever that was, it was probably something optional. For example when I ask for feedback from various players in different groups of mine, I frequently get told that they appreciate my preparation of visual playing aids: Battlemaps, 3D printed miniatures, handouts. But you can play with another good DM who doesn’t use any of those! Another DM might be appreciated for his creation of fantastic worlds, but you can play great games without those as well. Some DMs are great play-actors doing accents and voices for NPCs, but you don’t need that either. So what is the stuff that is actually essential?

Dungeons & Dragons, and any other pen & paper role-playing game, inherently always exists on two different levels: Horgar the barbarian swings his battleaxe and with a satisfying crunch decapitates the evil wizard. John the player of Horgar declares that he wants to attack the evil wizard and rolls a 20 on his attack. Horgar and John need each other. Without John, Horgar doesn’t exist. Without Horgar, John isn’t playing D&D. I believe that an awareness of those two levels, and a constant effort to keep the two levels in balance with each other, might well be the most important part of a DM’s job. Concentrate too much on the story, and the players get bored because they don’t get to roll dice any more. Concentrate too much on the dice, and you end up playing a board game.

Corollary to that is the need for balance between DM actions and player actions. D&D is a game of interactive story-telling. Take the interaction away, and it becomes a lot less interesting. No DM’s hour-long monologue beats Netflix in entertainment value. But letting the players role-play alone without feedback on the consequences from the DM only leads to people becoming lost and confused. Players need “agency”, the ability to influence the story and the outcome of situations. But that agency only makes sense in the context of there being a story and a situation to overcome. The DM needs to make sure that he tells the players enough for them to understand what is going on, so they can act, but also to leave enough room for different choices and original ideas from the players.

That gets us to another important point: The “never say no” rule. It isn’t an absolute rule, because it applies only to constructive input from the players. But the idea is that as long as the player proposes something constructive, the DM should accept the proposal and try to work with it. You can still judge that the idea is very unlikely to work, and require the player to succeed in a very difficult roll. But that is still far better than letting the players propose lots of things and always saying no until by chance they come upon the one solution you previously decided was the good one. Saying yes can change the whole campaign to something you hadn’t imagined, but that is the beauty of it. The goal is not to have the story proceed on predetermined rails, but to have everyone at the table contribute to the story and together create something greater than one man’s story. In my Zeitgeist campaign the players were a group of policemen working for the king; but it was up to the players whether they wanted to play those policemen as the Keystone Cops or the Gestapo or something in between.

While these rules certainly don’t cover everything a DM needs to do or needs to be, I do think that they are among the most important for success. What other advice would you give a new DM to help him become a good DM?

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?