Smartphone VR: Another 3D fad or the real deal?

This is the second in the three-part series looking at 3D imaging. In the first, we looked at why every time “3D” has failed to become totally mainstream. Today, 3D is back and trying to make a splash in mobile devices – this time in the form of “virtual reality.” Is VR — especially on smartphones — going to be a long-term success, or just another example of a 3D fad?

VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and similar “tethered” products have made great strides in the last few years. So-called “mobile” VR headsets, like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream, have been even more successful (or at least more widespread). They’re basically head mounts for your smartphone with some optics thrown in, and lately it seems like everyone is making one. But will it stick?

Having just looked at the fanfare-and-failure cycles of 3D in general, should we really expect VR to really have staying power? Will it make a big splash and then fade just like its predecessors?

Wikipedia A Samsung VR conference in 2016

At heart, VR headsets are stereoscopic “3D” displays, with the all same potential problems and an added twist. It’s “virtual reality” because it lets you look around at, and interact with, this illusory three-dimensional world. That requires displaying the correct images to create a stereo effect, figuring out where the viewer is actually looking, and changing the image to match in real time. 

At the heart of it, VR headsets are stereoscopic 3D displays, with the same potential problems as every other example of the species.

If you move your head to look behind something, then that something had better move out of the way in your field of view, just as though it were really there. VR requires combining a convincing stereoscopic display with the sensors and graphics processing power needed to render and update your virtual view in a smooth, convincing manner. This is part of why I said that augmented reality is an even bigger challenge: if you’re going to, say, place an imaginary creature on a real tabletop, then not only do you have to render the creature correctly but keep it in the proper relationship to its real-world surroundings.

A dedicated, “tethered” VR headset can pull off all of its assigned tasks pretty well. Connecting it to a standalone computer, which could be anything from a barebones notebook to IBM’s Watson, means you can throw as much processing power as you can muster at problems. But the simple fact that it’s a product designed solely for the purpose of VR means that it has displays, optics, head-tracking systems, and so forth than could all be optimized to that goal. That’s not to say these products are going to be the perfect answer, but they’ve at least got a big leg up on the other option.

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That other option is “mobile” VR, which is typically a plastic mount with straps to go over your head and lenses over your eyes, and you supply the rest— namely a smartphone, which provides the displays, processing, and position sensing needed to create a virtual world. This is, in my not-so-humble opinion, a remarkably bad idea.

That “s” on “displays” wasn’t a typo. Yes, your phone only has the one display, but here it’s forced to play the role of two. Left-eye and right-eye images have to be shown simultaneously, and it’s up to the optics in the headset to deliver those correctly to the eyes. That means only half the pixels on the screen are available for each image, which leads to an aspect ratio and resolution charitably described as “less than optimal.”

A Galaxy S8 features a 5.8″ 2960 x 1440 OLED screen at 570 PPI. It’s a really nice smartphone display in anyone’s book, but close to a 2:1 aspect ratio. Splitting it in two in a VR headset means each eye gets an almost perfectly square display to use. That’s not good when we’d really like to have a wide field of view. The human eye uses something roughly equivalent to a 5:3 aspect ratio (of course, it’s also not a nice clean rectangle, but rather a sort of fuzzy oval).

There are two ways to fix this. You could use the full area of each half, displaying pre-distorted image on the square space and relying on the optics to stretch the image to the desired wider area— the same sort of trick used in anamorphic movies. However, If the distortion introduced into the image isn’t exactly what the optics were designed to “undo,” you’ve got problems. The other option is to just not use the full height of the display. If, on the S8, we have a 1440 x 1440 space for each image, but we want, say, a 16:9 view, we could just center a 1440 x 810 image in that space and it would be good to go, albeit at well under half the phone’s full resolution.

We could just demand a higher resolution in our phone screens. “But Bob,” I hear you protest, “didn’t you just tell us a few weeks ago that packing more pixels onto a phone was a bad idea?” Yes, I did. That article also generated some comments which took me to task for ignoring the needs of VR. But that was my point: smartphone display choices should ignore VR, at least as a top priority.

Smartphone display choices should ignore VR, at least as a top priority

Phone-based VR headsets represent the entry level in the VR market. They suffer from too many compromises already to be the choice for serious VR users, and paying for the extreme levels of screen resolution needed to address just that one issue makes no sense. As good as they are, smartphone graphics processing and position/orientation sensors just aren’t up the task of matching what you can do with a dedicated headset and tracking hardware.

Again, consider the Galaxy S8. It’s got an MSRP of more than $700—over $200 higher than Samsung’s own Odyssey VR/MR headset, which features dual 1440 x 1600 OLED displays coupled with a full array of cameras, motion and position sensors, integrated headphones, and adjustments for interpupillary distance. Putting a higher resolution display in a phone just for VR is like paying to put a Ferrari engine in a Toyota Prius. Sure, you’d get a lot more power, but the platform just isn’t meant to do what you want. You’re better off just buying the product meant for that use in the first place.

Graphics processing burden goes up literally geometrically with increased resolution, which isn’t the best idea for a battery-operated device.

We could even put a 4K display into a phone, and get a great resolution for each eye. The graphics processing burden goes up geometrically with increased resolution. Even if you build the added power into the processor, it just isn’t the best idea for a battery-powered device. Phone-based VR is best for what it was supposed to be: a quick and relatively economical means of introducing VR into the consumer market. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking it’s the right answer for the serious VR fanatic.

It’s not like dedicated VR headsets are perfect either. They still suffer from all of the other problems we’ve described earlier with stereoscopic displays, with the additional concern that motion tracking and its resulting view is never going to quite match what we see in real life. VR is getting a lot of attention in education circles, to name one interested market, but how long will that love affair last if kids get severe eye fatigue from using it?

24th Air Force

There’s a way around even that concern, though. All we need is a display that can produce a real three-dimensional image, one that actually has the appearance of solid objects occupying space, and without any glasses, headsets, head tracking, or any of those burdens. We’ve even already seen examples of this; surely everyone by now has seen a hologram. You’ve probably even got a few in your wallet, on your credit cards.

So when can we replace our old-fashioned flat displays, and free us from all this stereoscopic nonsense?Stay tuned.

Retraction

For weeks I have been having problems with my XYZ Da Vinci Jr. 1.0w 3D printer. Some prints work just fine, while other fail. Even worse, some prints which work fine if I try to print a single figurine then fail if I try to print multiple copies at the same time. It was driving me crazy, until with a lot of testing and observing I finally found out what the problem is: Retraction.

So what is retraction in 3D printing? Imagine printing a model of the Eiffel Tower. There is a lot of empty space in such a model. Because the print is done layer by layer, from the bottom up, the print head has to print a small thickness where a girder is, then move without printing to the next girder. In order to prevent PLA from coming out of the print head and causing strings to appear between the girders, the stepper motor is pulling the filament back a little bit before moving. That pulling back is called retraction.

Now what is happening with my printer, and I am not 100% sure how or why, is that the stepper motor is more efficient during retraction than during moving the filament forward. It basically retracts too much, and then after the movement pushes forward the filament by too little. So if I print a piece with lots of empty spaces and lots of retraction happening, while the solid sections are relatively thin, I end up retracting more and more, until the end of the filament has completely left the hot part of the extruder head. While the print head is still moving, there is no more plastic coming out of the nozzle at all, and the print fails.

Now there is a lot of 3D printing software with millions of settings where you can change the setting for retraction. Unfortunately the XYZ Printers don’t work with any of those 3D printing programs. They only work with their proprietary XYZWare. Which is deliberately simplified to make “plug and play” printing for the average customer possible. Somewhere in the depths of the code there must be a retraction setting (you can observe the filament moving backwards), but there is no way to access or change that setting. And I don’t want to “jailbreak” my 3D printer with some modified firmware, because that has the potential to completely break it.

Right now my solution is simply to avoid printing models with too much empty space in them. That means printing miniatures one by one instead of in batches, which would be more practical for prints during the night. But the long-term solution will be buying a better 3D printer which isn’t so limited with what software I can use, and what settings I can change. Right now I am thinking of still waiting a bit with that, as I haven’t found the printer of my dreams yet. One important feature for me is being able to print via WiFi, and surprisingly few printers have that. I want a pre-assembled 3D printer with a sturdy frame, not a wobbly self-assembly kit. But of course I don’t want to spend a fortune on it either. My $500 printer is maybe not high enough quality, but I wouldn’t want to spend more than $2,000 even on a good printer. As the market is developing, I might find the printer I want next year.

Web Analytics :- key to e-coMMerce BusineSS

Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage. However, Web analytics is not just a process for measuring web traffic but can be used as a tool for business and market research, and to assess and improve the effectiveness of a website. Web analytics provides information about the number of visitors to a website and the number of page views.

Importance of Web Analytics
We need Web Analytics to assess the success rate of a website and its associated business. Web analytics used to

  • Assess web content problems so that they can be rectified
  • Have a clear perspective of website trends
  • Monitor web traffic and user flow
  • Demonstrate goals acquisition
  • Figure out potential keywords
  • Identify segments for improvement
  • Find out referring sources

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a freemium web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google Analytics is now the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. Google Analytics is offered also in two additional versions: the subscription-based Google Analytics 360, previously Google Analytics Premium, targeted at enterprise users, and Google Analytics for Mobile Apps, an SDK that allows gathering usage data from iOS and Android Apps.

Google analytics helps you to track and measure visitors, traffic sources, goals, conversion, and other metrics (as shown in the above image). It basically generates reports on −

  • Audience Analysis: As the name suggests, audience analysis gives you an overview of the audience who visit your site along with their session history, page-views, bounce rate, etc.
  • Acquisition Analysis: Acquisition means ‘to acquire.’ Acquisition analysis is carried out to find out the sources from where your web traffic originates. Using acquisition analysis, you can Capture traffic from all channels, particular source/medium, and from referrals and also Trace traffic from AdWords (paid search).
  • Behavior Analysis: Behavior analysis monitors users’ activities on a website.
  • Conversion Analysis: Conversion is a transaction by a user on your website. For example, download, checkout, buy, etc. To track conversions in analytics, you need to define a goal and set a URL that is traceable.

KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics is a powerful web analytics tool that delivers key insights and user interaction on your website. It defines a clear picture of users’ activities on your website and collects acquisition data of every visitor.

KISSmetrics helps you identify the following −

  • Cart size
  • Landing page conversion rate
  • Customer activity on your portal
  • Customer bounce points
  • Cart abandoned products
  • Customer occurrence before making a purchase
  • Customer lifetime value, etc.

Best Features of KISSmetrics

  • Ability to track effective marketing channels.
  • Figure out how much time a user takes to convert.
  • Determine a degree of which user was engaged with your site.
  • A convenient dashboard. You do not need to run around searching for figures.
  • Installation
  • Just sign-up for an account and customize accordingly.

Tracking
Add a java snippet under tag of the source code of your website.

Event Setting
By default, KISSmetrics sets two events for you − visited site and search engine hit. To add more events, click on new event, add an attribute and record an event name.

Setting up Metrics
Click on create a new metric. Select your metric type from the list. Give metric name, description, and event. Save metric.

Measures

You need to find a few key metrics for your business. You have a website and it has a tracking code in it.

Audience

Pageviews − Pageviews is the number of views of a page. Multiple pageviews are possible in a single session. If pageviews is improved, it will directly influence AdSense revenue and average time on website.

Bounce rate − Bounce rate reflects the percentage of visitors returning back only after visiting one page of your website. It helps you to know how many visitors do so. If the bounce rate of a website increases, its webmaster should be worried.

Pages per session − Pages/session is the number of pages surfed in a single session. For example, a user landed on your website and surfed 3 pages, then the website pages/session is 3.

Demographic information − Demographic data shows Age and Gender. With the help of Demographic Info, you can find the percentage of Male/Female visitors coming to your website. Analyzing the ratio of this data, you can make a strategy according to genders. Age group data help you find what percentage of age group visiting your website. So, you can make a strategy for highest percentage of age group visitors.

Devices − This data shows the devices info. In devices info, you can easily find how many percentage of visitors come from mobile, how many come from desktop, how many come from tablets, etc. If mobile traffic is high, then you need to make your website responsive.

Acquisition

Traffic sources − In the acquisition, you have to check all your sources of the traffic. Major sources of the traffic are −

Organic traffic is the traffic coming through all search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing….)

Social traffic is the traffic coming through all social media platforms (like − Facebook, Twitter, Google+, …)

Referral traffic is the traffic coming through where your website is linked.

Direct traffic is the traffic coming directly to your website. For example, typing the url of your website, clicking on the link of your website given in emails, etc.

Traffic Sources

Source/Medium − This metrics gives you an idea of the sources from where you are getting traffic (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Direct, Facebook…).

Site Content

Landing pages − Landing pages are the pages where the visitors land first (normally, home pages of the websites are the landing pages). With the help of this metrics, you can find the top pages of the website. Using this metrics, you can analyze how many pages are getting 50% or more traffic of the website. So, you can easily find which type of content is working for you. Further, based on this analysis, you can plan the next content strategy.

Site speed − Site speed is the metrics used for checking page timing (average page load time). Using this metrics, you can find which page is taking more time to load, how many pages have high load time, etc.

Want to Learn Digital Marketing?

Web scrapping tools,Sooo Muuch Data – Analysis Needed !

Web Scraping Tools

What is Web Scrapping?


Web Scraping (also termed Screen Scraping, Web Data Extraction, Web Harvesting etc.) is a technique employed to extract large amounts of data from websites. Web scraping software may access the World Wide Web directly using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or through a web browser.
While web scraping can be done manually by a software user, the term typically refers to automated processes implemented using a bot or web crawler. It is a form of copying, in which specific data is gathered and copied from the web, typically into a central local database or spreadsheet, for later retrieval or analysis.
These tools are useful for anyone trying to collect some form of data from the Internet. Web Scraping is the new data entry technique that don’t require repetitive typing or copy-pasting.
These software look for new data manually or automatically, fetching the new or updated data and storing them for your easy access. For example, one may collect info about products and their prices from Flipkart using a scraping tool.
Lets see some Web scrapping tools:

1. import.io

import.io offers a builder to form your own datasets by simply importing the data from a particular web page and exporting the data to CSV. You can easily scrape thousands of web pages in minutes without writing a single line of code and build 1000+ APIs based on your requirements.
Import.io uses cutting-edge technology to fetch millions of data every day, which businesses can avail for small fees. Along with the web tool, it also offers a free apps for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux to build data extractors and crawlers, download data and sync with the online account.

2. Webhose.io

Webhose.io provides direct access to real-time and structured data from crawling thousands of online sources. The web scraper supports extracting web data in more than 240 languages and saving the output data in various formats including XML, JSON and RSS.


Webhose.io is a browser-based web app that uses an exclusive data crawling technology to crawl huge amounts of data from multiple channels in a single API. It offers a free plan for making 1000 requests/ month, and a 5K/mth premium plan for 5000 requests/month.


3Scrapinghub:

Scrapinghub is a cloud-based data extraction tool that helps thousands of developers to fetch valuable data. Scrapinghub uses Crawlera, a smart proxy rotator that supports bypassing bot counter-measures to crawl huge or bot-protected sites easily.
Scrapinghub converts the entire web page into organized content. Its team of experts are available for help in case its crawl builder can’t work your requirements. Its basic free plan gives you access to 1 concurrent crawl and its premium plan for $25 per month provides access to up to 4 parallel crawls.

4. 80legs:

80legs is a powerful yet flexible web crawling tool that can be configured to your needs. It supports fetching huge amounts of data along with the option to download the extracted data instantly. The web scraper claims to crawl 600,000+ domains and is used by big players like MailChimp and PayPal.
Its ‘Datafiniti‘ lets you search the entire data quickly. 80legs provides high-performance web crawling that works rapidly and fetches required data in mere seconds. It offers a free plan for 10K URLs per crawl and can be upgraded to an intro plan for $29 per month for 100K URLs per crawl.

5. ParseHub:

ParseHub is built to crawl single and multiple websites with support for JavaScript, AJAX, sessions, cookies and redirects. The application uses machine learning technology to recognize the most complicated documents on the web and generates the output file based on the required data format.
ParseHub, apart from the web app, is also available as a free desktop application for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux that offers a basic free plan that covers 5 crawl projects. This service offers a premium plan for $89 per month with support for 20 projects and 10,000 webpages per crawl.

Want to learn Database Programming?

There Is No Constitutional Right to Education. That Needs To Change.

Legal scholar Derek Black argues that the 14th Amendment should have included a right to education.

Public school funding has shrunk over the past decade. School discipline rates reached historic highs. Large achievement gaps persist. And the overall performance of our nation’s students falls well below our international peers.

These bleak numbers beg the question: Don’t students have a constitutional right to something better? Many Americans assume that federal law protects the right to education. Why wouldn’t it? All 50 state constitutions provide for education. The same is true in 170 other countries. Yet, the word “education” does not appear in the United States Constitution, and federal courts have rejected the idea that education is important enough that it should be protected anyway.

After two decades of failed lawsuits in the 1970s and ‘80s, advocates all but gave up on the federal courts. It seemed the only solution was to amend the Constitution itself. But that, of course, is no small undertaking. So in recent decades, the debate over the right to education has mostly been academic.

The summer of 2016 marked a surprising turning point. Two independent groups – Public Counsel and Students Matter – filed lawsuits in Michigan and Connecticut. They argue that federal law requires those states to provide better educational opportunities for students. In May 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a similar suit in Mississippi.

At first glance, the cases looked like long shots. However, my researchshows that these lawsuits, particularly in Mississippi, may be onto something remarkable. I found that the events leading up to the 14th Amendment – which explicitly created rights of citizenship, equal protection and due process – reveal an intent to make education a guarantee of citizenship. Without extending education to former slaves and poor whites, the nation could not become a true democracy.

Why a federal right to education matters

Even today, a federal constitutional right to education remains necessary to ensure all children get a fair shot in life. While students have a state constitutional right to education, state courts have been ineffective in protecting those rights.

Without a federal check, education policy tends to reflect politics more than an effort to deliver quality education. In many instances, states have done more to cut taxes than to support needy students.

And a federal right is necessary to prevent random variances between states. For instance, New York spends US$18,100 per pupil, while Idaho spends $5,800. New York is wealthier than Idaho, and its costs are of course higher, but New York still spends a larger percentage on education than Idaho. In other words, geography and wealth are important factors in school funding, but so is the effort a state is willing to make to support education.

And many states are exerting less and less effort. Recent data show that 31 states spend less on education now than before the recession – as much as 23 percent less.

States often makes things worse by dividing their funds unequally among school districts. In Pennsylvania, the poorest districts have 33 percent lessper pupil than wealthy districts. Half of the states follow a similar, although less extreme, pattern.

Studies indicate these inequities deprive students of the basic resources they need, particularly quality teachers. Reviewing decades of data, a 2014 study found that a 20 percent increase in school funding, when maintained, results in low-income students completing nearly a year of additional education. This additional education wipes out the graduation gap between low- and middle-income students. A Kansas legislative study showed that “a 1 percent increase in student performance was associated with a .83 percent increase in spending.”

These findings are just detailed examples of the scholarly consensus: Money matters for educational outcomes.

The new lawsuits

While normally the refuge for civil rights claims, federal courts have refused to address these educational inequalities.  In 1973, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected education as a fundamental right. Later cases asked the court to recognize some narrower right in education, but the court again refused.

After a long hiatus, new lawsuits are now offering new theories in federal court. In Michigan, plaintiffs argue that if schools do not ensure students’ literacy, students will be consigned to a permanent underclass. In Connecticut, plaintiffs emphasize that a right to a “minimally adequate education” is strongly suggested in the Supreme Court’s past decisions. In Mississippi, plaintiffs argue that Congress required Mississippi to guarantee education as a condition of its readmission to the Union after the Civil War.

While none of the lawsuits explicitly state it, all three hinge on the notion that education is a basic right of citizenship in a democratic society. Convincing a court, however, requires more than general appeals to the value of education in a democratic society. It requires hard evidence. Key parts of that evidence can be found in the history of the 14th Amendment itself.

The original intent to ensure education

Immediately after the Civil War, Congress needed to transform the slave-holding South into a working democracy and ensure that both freedmen and poor whites could fully participate in it. High illiteracy rates posed a serious barrier. This led Congress to demand that all states guarantee a right to education.

In 1868, two of our nation’s most significant events were occurring: the readmission of southern states to the Union and the ratification of the 14th Amendment. While numerous scholars have examined this history, few, if any, have closely examined the role of public education. The most startling thing is how much persuasive evidence is in plain view. Scholars just haven’t asked the right questions: Did Congress demand that southern states provide public education, and, if so, did that have any effect on the rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment? The answers are yes.

As I describe in the Constitutional Compromise to Guarantee Education, Congress placed two major conditions on southern states’ readmission to the Union: Southern states had to adopt the 14th Amendment and rewrite their state constitutions to conform to a republican form of government. In rewriting their constitutions, Congress expected states to guarantee education. Anything short was unacceptable.

Southern states got the message. By 1868, nine of 10 southern states seeking admission had guaranteed education in their constitutions. Those that were slow or reluctant were the last to be readmitted.

The last three states – Virginia, Mississippi and Texas – saw Congress explicitly condition their readmission on providing education.

The intersection of southern readmissions, rewriting state constitutions and the ratification of the 14th Amendment helps to define the meaning of the 14th Amendment itself. By the time the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, state constitutional law and congressional demands had cemented education as a central pillar of citizenship. In other words, for those who passed the 14th Amendment, the explicit right of citizenship in the 14th Amendment included an implicit right to education.

The reasoning of both Congress and the state conventions was clear: “Education is the surest guarantee of the … preservation of the great principles of republican liberty.”

The rest is history. Our country went from one in which fewer than half of states guaranteed education prior to the war to one in which all 50 state constitutions guarantee education today.

The new cases before the federal courts offer an opportunity to finish the work first started during Reconstruction – to ensure that all citizens receive an education that equips them to participate in democracy. The nation has made important progress toward that goal, but I would argue so much more work remains. The time is now for federal courts to finally confirm that the United States Constitution does, in fact, guarantee students the right to quality education.

FCC officially repeals net neutrality rules: what now?

Huffington Post

Net neutrality is officially dead, but what does that mean for Internet users in the US and beyond? Will it ever come back? Read on to find out.

Editor’s Pick

Brief background

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about net neutrality, an ongoing debate in the US. Net neutrality required service providers to treat every content equally: no throttling, blocking, or providing preferential treatment for additional fee. These rules were one of the Obama-era FCC’s signature achievements, but with Ajit Pai in charge, a former Verizon employee, and two other Republicans, the organization’s stance on net neutrality has changed drastically. The FCC wanted to get rid of net neutrality altogether and undo the classification of ISPs as Title II common carriers, and that’s precisely what they voted to do on December 14.

December 14 vote

As expected, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal these landmark regulations just few days ago, the organization claiming that “the Internet wasn’t broken in 2015.” Pai commented, “We were not living in some digital dystopia. The main problem consumers have with the Internet is not and has never been that their Internet provider is blocking content. It’s been that they don’t have access at all.”

The two Democrat commissioners who dissented echoed the sentiments of net neutrality advocates: Jessica Rosenworcel says that the FCC’s “rash decision” gives Internet providers permission to “discriminate and manipulate your internet traffic.” Mignon Clyburn delivered a powerful and impassioned defense, claiming that the FCC’s vote was “particularly damning… for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate.”

Legal challenges?

Let’s first examine the legal implications, and the bottom line is that there will be lawsuits with a lot of interveners, challenging the FCC’s vote. Public interest groups like Free Press and Public Knowledge have already declared that they will challenge the repeal in court; the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he and other attorneys general from more than 15 states will file a legal challenge in the coming days.

These legal claims are likely to rely on the Administrative Procedures Act, which prohibits federal agencies from acting in a “capricious” manner, going back and forth on decisions with changes in political administration. However, as Wired points out, “As capricious as the current FCC’s about-face may seem, legal experts say the challenges won’t be a slam-dunk case. Federal agencies are allowed to change their minds about previous regulations, so long as they adequately explain their reasoning.” The onus is on the claimants to show that the FCC’s decision is a capricious one, which is going to be difficult to prove.

It’s going to be difficult to prove that the repeal was a capricious decision.

Net neutrality advocates may also point out that while the FCC claims that 7.5 million comments it received during the public review period were spam, created by bots, it is refusing to help investigations into what happened. It’s unlikely to have much weight, unfortunately.

Will average users feel the change?

Yes and no. It’s unlikely that Internet users in the US will be impacted – either positively or negatively ­– by the repeal overnight. As AT&T’s senior executive VP Bob Quinn points out, the Internet will “continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.” In fact, many service providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have promised not to block or throttle content. For now. The catch here is that their stance may change in the future, and even if it doesn’t and they continue to stay away from blocking or throttling content, they may still create fast lanes for their own services or for those who pay a premium.

Indeed, what we are likely to see in the future is an expanded form of zero-rating where service providers exempt certain streaming services from data counts. Carriers have been doing this even under net neutrality rules were (though the legal validity of this practice was called into question multiple times); without net neutrality rules, there is nothing even remotely getting in the way of these carriers from providing preferential treatment to its own streaming services.

Further, contrary to Pai’s statement that the Internet wasn’t broken even before 2015, and contrary to his supporters who claim that carriers won’t dare throttle or block content in fear of public backlash, the long-term effects of the FCC’s vote could be devastating. Comcast throttling BitTorrent connections, AT&T blocking voice-call services like Skype and FaceTime, or Netflix paying additional fees to Verizon are the sorts of behavior that we saw prior to net neutrality rules and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t return now that net neutrality rules have been repealed.

Comcast throttling BitTorrent or AT&T blocking FaceTime are the sorts of behavior that we saw prior to net neutrality rules.

Ultimately, the FCC’s decision gives significant leeway to ISPs: they may one day decide to block certain apps and websites, slow down content provided by competitors, bury relevant but unpaid search results, etc. Consumers in the US may end up having to choose Internet packages like TV channels, similar to what we see in some European countries. The most popular websites like Google, Amazon, and Netflix may one day be dispersed and inconveniently grouped into separate, overpriced packages. Want Google as well as Netflix? Pay up!

What about those outside the US?

Of course, given that the FCC is a US organization, its decision to repeal net neutrality rules won’t have a direct impact on other countries and users in other countries. However, if your country does have legislation similar to net neutrality rules, you might want to keep an eye on the political side of things. Policy decisions made in the US usually have a far-reaching indirect effect on neighboring countries, Anglophone countries, and countries that have special ties with the US.

Even if your country has made it clear that it wants to uphold net neutrality rules or the equivalent legislation, there may be financial factors to consider. If companies like Netflix or Spotify are adversely affected by the FCC’s decision in the US and are forced to pay more by ISPs, they will most likely increase monthly subscription fees for users in the US as well as for users outside the US.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, for those of you who are in support of net neutrality rules, there isn’t much to be done right now. Over the next few months, we will see legal battles between public interest groups and attorneys general and the FCC; we will see heated political debates; we will see predictions from both sides – those who are in favor and those who are not. Only time will tell if net neutrality rules were indeed preventing the arrival of cyber-dystopia or if they were simply an obstacle to corporate profit and further investment.

Galaxy S8’s fourth Android Oreo beta disables use of third-party docks with Samsung DeX

The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus might be more known for their near bezel-less designs, but one feature that isn’t nearly as talked about is Samsung DeX, which turns the phone into pseudo-desktops. Unfortunately for those who found the feature useful, the fourth Android Oreo beta prevents it from working with third-party docks.

According to XDA Developers, users are reporting that, when they connect their devices to third-party docks, Samsung DeX no longer pops up. Instead, connecting their Samsung smartphones to these docks only mirrors the smartphone display.

This is an interesting change, seeing how using Samsung‘s official DeX dock was not the only way to get the feature up and running. For example, back in September, someone turned a 2008 MacBook Pro into an almost fully-functional DeX laptop. Also, folks found out that they could connect the Galaxy S8 to the HP Elitebook X3, which was made to work with HP’s Elite X3 smartphone, and have Samsung DeX work just fine.

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It’s a somewhat depressing move on Samsung’s part, seeing how the company has also prevented folks from remapping the Bixby button. I understand that Samsung wants to sell as many DeX docks as possible, but if you want as many people as possible use the feature, why hinder the ability to do so?

XDA Developers brings up the point that Huawei’s Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro offer a DeX-like feature of their own, except that the phones do not require the use of a dock to make it work — all you need is a USB 3.1 Type-C cable. Maybe we’ll get to the point where Samsung doesn’t require a dock to have DeX work, but until then, I will continue to frown.

Of course, Samsung can change its mind once the final Android Oreo release rolls around, though we’ll keep an eye out if that’s the case.

Do you use Samsung DeX with your Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, or Note 8? If you do, do you find the feature useful? Let us know in the comments below.

7th Continent – Non-Spoiler Hints

As I mentioned before, some people consider the 7th Continent to be a very hard game. After playing some more and watching on Youtube how other people play, I think I know why. Basically the 7th Continent is Sid Meier’s definition of a good game: A series of interesting decisions. Which means that there is a very real possibility of making the wrong decisions. Now of course I can’t tell you which one is the good decision for each of the thousand cards in the game. But I can tell you how to avoid making systematically the wrong decisions in general gameplay.

1) The first easy systematic error is regarding your hand size. Every action in the game involves drawing cards (although sometimes you can draw zero of them); and whenever you draw cards, you can keep one of them. But at the end of the action you need to discard down to your hand size, which is just 5 in solo, 3 with two players, and even less with more players.

If you want to do well in the 7th Continent you need to first use the cards in your hand to get below your maximum hand size before you choose any action on a tile. That also means that when choosing cards to keep, the cards you can play quickly are better than those you might only need in certain situations. Think of it that way: Playing a card or discarding a card due to full hand size both end you with the card on the discard pile. But if you played it, you got some useful effect out of it, which is obviously better.

2) Look at the terrain tiles carefully. In the 7th Continent the artwork on the terrain tile is part of the gameplay and not just decoration. Most importantly look out for hidden numbers, which allow you to replace your current tile with one with more options. But other elements like plants can also become important, provided you found the information what that plant is good for. On some of the event cards the artwork is actually the clue to what is the right decision.

3) Hunt as much as possible. If a terrain card has animal tracks and a spot/observe action next to them, that frequently means a hunting ground. Unless your discard pile is empty, you’ll always want to hunt first, explore other stuff later. And of course you should cook the meat you find if at all possible.

These tips should get you started on a successful adventure full of exploration. If you still find the game too hard, you have two options: One is replaying from the start and using previous knowledge to concentrate on the essential stuff (my wife and me did much better on the starting isle the second time around). The other is to modify the rules. You can use the 777 card. Or you can create a save checkpoint, which is not foreseen in the rules: When you reach a card that feels like a major decision point in the game, e.g. a non-terrain card that asks you whether you want to go north, east, or west, you can simply take a notepad and write down the number of that card, as well as list the cards from your satchel/journal. Then if you die, you can restart from there instead of from the beginning, especially if you already did the beginning several times and don’t want to repeat it.

A ‘Security Robot’ for the Homeless Has Already Been Tried—It Didn’t Go Well

The 400lb machine that once patrolled outside the San Francisco SPCA prompted a backlash, as some argued its real mission was to drive people away.

To some who are homeless, San Francisco’s latest security robot was a rolling friend on five wheels that they called “R2-D2 Two”. To others living in tents within the droid’s radius, it was the “anti-homeless robot”.

For a month, the 400lb, bullet-shaped bot patrolled outside the not-for-profit San Francisco SPCA animal shelter, rolling around the organization’s parking lots and sidewalks, capturing security video and reading up to 300 license plates per minute. Homeless people who pitched their tents in an alleyway nearby complained they felt the beeping, whirring droid’s job was to run them off.

“We called it the anti-homeless robot,” said John Alvarado, who was one of numerous people camping next to the animal shelter when the robot arrived. He said he quickly decided to move his tent half a block away: “I guess that was the reason for the robot.”

Officials of both the SF SPCA and Knightscope, who rented the robot to the shelter, denied that the intention was to dislodge homeless encampments.

“The SPCA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal,” Knightscope said in a statement.

SF SPCA staff members said the facility had been plagued with break-ins, staff members had been harassed as they went to the parking lot and sidewalks were littered with hypodermic needles. Jennifer Scarlett, the SF SPCA president, said in a release that her organization “was exploring the use of a robot to prevent additional burglaries at our facility and to deter other crimes that frequently occur on our campus – like car break-ins, harassment, vandalism, and graffiti – not to disrupt homeless people”.

But after complaints about the program were shared widely on social media, the organization quickly admitted it had made a mistake in its choice of security guards – and fired the robot.

“Since this story has gone viral, we’ve received hundreds of messages inciting violence and vandalism against our facility, and encouraging people to take retribution,” said Scarlett, noting that their campus had since been vandalized twice. “We are taking this opportunity to reflect on the ‘teachable moment’.”

Some of the homeless people who crossed paths with the white security robot, which bore images of dogs and cats, as it patrolled outside of San Francisco SPCA this month thought it was a cute and a positive addition to the area.

TJ Thornton, whose tent is still pitched across the street from the shelter’s parking lot, nicknamed the bot “R2-D2 Two”. He liked how the machine made little whistling sounds as it moved along the sidewalk and how it would even say “hello” if you walked past it.

Thornton said he thought the bot had a positive influence on the neighborhood and relieved the pressure on local homeless people to always keep an eye on cars parked nearby. “People living on the streets actually watch out for the cars. If anyone does anything stupid, like breaking into cars, it reflects on us.”

Others saw the robot as Big Brother, surveilling their every move with video cameras. “That SPCA robot was the bane of our existence,” said Lexi Evans, 26, who has been living on San Francisco’s streets for 13 years. “It was driving us crazy.”

She said her group of friends had a tent encampment behind the SPCA. When they first saw the robot looking at them, they found it creepy. Then they noticed its white light flashing and thought it was recording their every move on video. Later they observed police officers coming to interact with the robot and wondered whether it was feeding information to law enforcement.

“We started feeling like this thing was surveilling us for the police,” said Evans, whose whole tent encampment has now moved around the block outside another business. “That’s officially invasion of privacy. That’s uncool.”

Evans said that once, someone became so angry with the thing that they knocked it over. The robot made a “whee-ooh wah” sound.

In another instance, somebody “put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors”, Scarlett, the SPCA president, told the San Francisco Business Times.

Trouble really started for the robot last week, when the city issued an order for it to stay off the public sidewalk or face a daily penalty of up to $1,000 for operating in the public right of way without a permit. Then the story hit the internet, with Scarlett telling the Business Times that “from a walking standpoint, I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment”.

But by Friday, SF SPCA was apologizing for having brought in the machine.

“We regret that our words were ill-chosen. They did not properly convey the pilot program’s intent and they inaccurately reflected our values,” said Scarlett. “We are a nonprofit that is extremely sensitive to the issues of homelessness.”

Knightscope’s robots have gotten into trouble in other cities. Last year, a similar robot allegedly ran over a 16-month-old toddler at the Stanford Shopping Center in the town of Palo Alto, causing minor injuries. Another Knightscope security robot became famous on social media for drowning itself in the fountain of the Washington DC office complex it was policing.

“I already miss it,” said Danica Dito, who works in the SPCA administrative offices. “Just the fact that it rolled around discouraged crime.”

 

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Trump Judicial Nominee Withdraws After GOP Senator Publicly Embarrasses Him

“Just because you’ve seen ‘My Cousin Vinny’ doesn’t qualify you to be a federal judge.”

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) questioned judicial nominee Matthew S. Petersen last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Petersen’s abysmal performance went viral.

Peterson, who has never handled a jury or bench trail, failed to correctly answer basic legal questions.

“Just because you’ve seen My Cousin Vinny doesn’t qualify you to be a federal judge,” Kennedy said in an interview that aired Monday. “And he has no litigation experience. And my job on the judiciary committee is to catch him. I would strongly suggest he not give up his day job.”

Kennedy suggested that President Donald Trump didn’t even care if his nominee was confirmed and inadvertently admitted that he wasn’t well-versed about his own judicial picks.

“[Trump] has told me, ‘Kennedy, when some of my guys send someone who is not qualified, you do your job,’” Kennedy explained.

Petersen withdrew from consideration on Monday.

Relive the former nominee’s most excruciating moments below.

 

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