Hascon

Today Hascon 2017 starts, the convention of Hasbro, one of the world’s largest toy and board game makers. Obviously gamers have little interest in the latest news on My Little Pony or Monopoly, but as Hasbro bought Wizards of the Coast, who previously bought TSR, Hasbro controls two of the biggest names in tabletop gaming: Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. But the one reason I am interested in Hascon is the promised reveal of “Magic Digital Next”, the next generation platform for playing Magic the Gathering electronically.

Right now Magic Digital Next doesn’t have a lot of goodwill from the community. Too much went wrong or was badly handled with the previous incarnations like Magic the Gathering Online or Magic Duels. Personally I am still quite angry that Hasbro dropped Magic Duels like a hot potato in June. They should have waited with that until Magic Digital Next is actually available, not 3 months before we get to see the first playable alpha version at a convention. I am also unhappy that they didn’t even make the slightest effort to bring Magic Duels in a state where it would still be viable to play until Magic Digital Next is released. Instead they left it as it was after they added the Amonkhet expansion, so the computer is only ever playing decks around that expansion instead of using decks from all previous expansions. And more than half of the daily quests are still for online multiplayer only, which is a problem when players leave an abandoned game and the remaining players can’t find matches any more.

Then there is of course the issue of “virtual property”. Previous versions of electronic Magic sold you virtual boosters of cards. If you are forced to switch to a new product, you lose your virtual card collection of the previous versions and have to start over. Legally of course you never really owned those electronic Magic cards. But players don’t feel like that, especially with platforms like MtGO where cards can be traded with other players for real money. I liked Magic Duels because it altered the rules of how many rare and legendary cards you can use, which made building up a full collection much more affordable. I doubt the next version will have that feature.

I am still on the fence about Magic Digital Next (I assume they’ll announce another name for it this weekend). I left MtGO long ago because it was too PvP-centric for me, which resulted in an environment full of card sharks, scams, and toxic players. I mostly used the PvE part of Magic Duels, which for me was probably the best incarnation of Magic on a tablet. So my appreciation of Magic Digital Next will mostly depend on whether it supports more than a token AI and PvE play. These days far too many game developers have become extremely lazy, and beyond a tutorial make their games mostly PvP, basically using their customers as content for other customers. As they never solved even the basic problems of that approach for virtual cardgames, like stalling or quitting at the first sign of trouble, I wouldn’t be interested in a PvP version of electronic Magic the Gathering.

[EDIT: The new name is Magic the Gathering Arena, more info here.]

Buying a console for a single game

I bought a Nintendo Switch mostly because I wanted to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I don’t regret that decision: I already had 165 hours of fun with Zelda, and there is still some DLC content I haven’t done; I can even imagine playing it again with a different approach. And I have already a small library of games for the Switch that I might enjoy as well. However, as a general approach, buying a console because you want to play one specific game on it has its limitations. And this week I’m pondering these limitations due to the release of Monster Hunter: World.

Monster Hunter: World looks like a game I would like to play. In many aspects it is quite similar to Zelda, being an action-adventure open world game. However this week it comes out only on the Playstation 4 and the XBox One, neither of which I own. A release on the PC is only foreseen in “late 2018”, with not even a date fixed.
The most likely scenario is that I will just wait. And if I wait until late 2018, I might also wait until 2019+ for some Steam sale. There are a bunch of reasons why I don’t really consider buying a PS4 or XBox One to play Monster Hunter: World or any game: First of all I simply don’t have the room for several consoles in my den / man cave; I have an enclosed TV cabinet, which already holds the TV, the Switch, a BlueRay player, the cable box, and a Chromecast. All of which pretty much fills the enclosed space *and* the available HDMI connections on the TV. Second I already think that console games are rather expensive on their own, so adding the price tag of a console to one or few games makes them feel excessively expensive, even if I could afford that excess. And third both the PS4 and the XBox One are closer to the end of their cycle than to the beginning. Next year or so the PS5 and “XBox Two” or whatever it will be called will come out. If I haven’t felt the need to buy one of the current consoles in the last 5 years, now might be a bit too late. Especially when I know that Monster Hunter: World will be eventually released on the PC (and will look better there). Anyway, I already got far too many games and far too little time to play them all.

So, yeah, buying *one* console for a single game I am okay with. But I balk at repeating that for a second or third console, because that feels like a slippery slope into a bottomless money hole for me.

Google+ – Posts, Circles, Sparks & Hangouts !!!

Google+ (Google Plus) is an interest-based social networking site owned by Google Inc. Launched in 2011, this platform brings together people with similar interest. Such group of people can build a community and share their ideas through photos and posts.

Google+ is unique in way in that it allows more transparency in what one shares and with whom it is shared. The Google+ menu bar is displayed on other Google services when one logs in the google account.

Some of the most prominent features of Google+ are as follows −

  • Posts where one can update the status.
  • Circles are used to share information with different groups.
  • Sparks offer videos that users might like.
  • Hangouts & Huddles are for video chat with a friend or a group of friends.

Uploading a Post:

We can upload posts on our Google+ profile easily and share it with people in our communities/circles or others who we want to share it with. When we share our post, it is visible on the receiver’s news feed. The post also appears on our profile page and people can comment, like, or share the post. We can also tag people to our post using “+ and their name.

Let’s go step by step and learn how we can upload a post in Google+.

Step 1 − Open your Google+ account.

Step 2 − On the profile page, at right bottom corner click on write icon to write new post.

Step 3 − Write the post. We can also copy paste the content.

Step 4 − Tag anyone if desired. Add the location if needed.

Step 5 − Select whether the post should be public or private.

Step 6 − Once done, click the ‘Post’ option. The post appears on our page as well as on the profile page of the persons tagged to the post.

Google Plus – Circles

Google Circles can be used to group together different people. It may different members of the family, colleagues, or a group of people having similar interest. When we add people to a particular circle, they receive a notification of being added to the circle. Members of a circle can view the posts and photos in the circle. We can also add or remove people from circles at any time. Circles help to share the right information with the right people.
For example, it is a great way to share jokes with ‘friends’ circle, while sharing business matters with ‘work’ circle. People added to circles can also be available on our Google Hangout. By default people and pages added to circles are publicly visible. However, we can change the privacy options from settings. 

How to Create a Circle?

Step 1 − Open Google+ account.

Step 2 − Click ‘People’ from the navigation menu.

Step 3 − Click the ‘Following’ tab as shown in following screenshot.

Step 4 − Scroll down and click New Circle as seen in the above screenshot.

Step 5 − Name the circle and once done, click ‘Create’.

Adding People to Circles

Step 1 − Open the profile of the person who is to be added to the circle.

Step 2 − Click the circle that the person is to be added to.

Step 3 − Click Done.

Removing People From Circles

Step 1 − Open the profile of the person to be removed from the circle.

Step 2 − Click the circle that the person is in and from the menu uncheck the circle.

Step 3 − Click Done.

Google Plus – Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a communication platform developed by Google which includes instant messaging, video chat, SMS and VOIP features. It replaces three messaging products that Google had implemented concurrently within its services, including Google Talk, Google+ Messenger (formerly: Huddle), and Hangouts, a video chat system present within Google+. Google has also stated that Hangouts is designed to be “the future” of its telephony product, Google Voice, and integrated some of the capabilities of Google Voice into Hangouts. Users can be messaged by their Google+ accounts.

This platform also offers “hangouts on Air” option using which we can broadcast live video chatting and discussions to the world through your Google+. These video chats and discussion is accessible to all. It can be edited and a copy of the broadcast can be shared though YouTube channel.

To broadcast our Hangouts on Air, all we need is −

YouTube channel − Make sure to have a YouTube account. Create an account, if there isn’t one.

Google+ profile − Make sure the Google+ page is connected to YouTube account. Nowadays they are automatically connected, however existing users should connect it to Google+ page.

Creating a Hangout

Step 1 − Open Google+ page.

Step 2 − Search for Hangouts in the drop-down menu located on the left side of the page.

Step 3 − Click “+ New Hangout”. Check and add people to be added to Hangouts.

Step 4 : Choose the format for Hangouts, i.e. either video or text hangout. We can also alter text chat to video chat any time by clicking the camera button that appears on the top of the chat window.

We can share emoticons or pictures through Hangouts. We can also add filters to the pictures and videos. When we are done chatting, click the Close (x) button.

Google Plus – Events

Google+ Events page helps in organizing an upcoming event or occasion. It helps anyone using Gmail to add certain events in their calendars. All information about the particular event can be populated with just one click.

The event automatically gets added to Google calendar of those who are invited and are already in the circles. We can invite as many people or even the entire circle/community at the same time. Click ‘+invite name, circles’ and select the privacy as ‘public’. By doing so, anyone can find the event and access the details.

Events automatically get synchronized with guests’ calendars. Everyone attending can share the photos/videos to the shared album. Guests can even inform whether they are going to attend the event or not. If there is a change in the date of the event, guests will be notified by email. They will receive a notification for the change in place, date, time, etc.

Creating a Google+ Event

Step 1 − Open Google+ account.

Step 2 − Click the ‘Events’ tab.

Step 3 − Click ‘Create event’.


Step 4 − Fill all the information about the event such as ‘Title’, ‘start/end date’, ‘location’, ‘description’.

Step 5 − Upload the cover picture. Make sure the cover picture depicts the event.

Step 6 − Check/uncheck the following options.

  • Guests can invite other people.
  • Guests can add photos.
  • Hide guests list.

Step 7 − Add more description via ‘Advanced’ tab.

Step 8 − Invite people who we want to come to the event by clicking the green ‘invite’ button.

Step 9 − Publish the event.

Google Sparks:



Google+ SPARKS is a feature you can use to get all the info about your interests (if you can’t see it by clicking the link, here is a screenshot).
You can click on any of the images (categories) you want, and add it to your interests. I chose to type in my interests instead, and keep up with stuff I am interested in. Creating a spark “Movies” just seems like too much.
Once you chose your interests, you will be able to see a link to each of them under your profile picture. Any time you want to see what is going on in the world, that is related to your interest, click on it and you will get a page filled with news, posts, information.
For example, I can stay up to date with anything related to “blogging”,”Programming” or which ever interest I add, as you can see it in my list of Sparks.

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Skill vs. Gear in Zelda – Breath of the Wild

I have played 120 hours of Zelda – Breath of the Wild now, and my main game character is advancing very nicely; I’m now able to kill boss mobs and tough mini bosses with relative ease or even farm them when required. More because I was interested in the technology than because I needed the boost I bought a couple of amiibo, which are Nintendo’s “toys-to-life” figurines: You can scan them with your controller and have the amiibo appear in your game, or trigger some sort of bonus effect. But because I was relatively advanced in the game already when I got them, they didn’t really change much.

So I was wondering how much of an impact it would make if one had those amiibo right from the start of a game. Now normally you can have only one save game in normal mode and one save game in master mode for Zelda. But that is per “profile”, so you can easily just create another profile and start a new game from scratch without affecting your main game. I did that, and it turned out you can’t use amiibo at the very start. You need to play until finishing the first shrine, and then you can turn the amiibos on in the options. And at that time the treasure chests you get from amiibo contain stuff like rusty or travelers weapons; which are still useful that early in the game compared to tree branches and bokoblin weapons, but certainly not game breaking. You need to finish the whole “tutorial”, that is all four shrines and get the paraglider, before the amiibo result in the “normal” treasures, e.g. the guardian amiibo drops guardian weapons and shields.

So while I was testing that, I had another idea: You can finish the tutorial in well under 1 hour, so how does a new character in an 1-hour old game compare to a character that has been played for 120 hours? If your first character was lost and weak, was that because you were still learning the game, or was that simply that he didn’t have the stats and gear you get from playing a long time?

So I took my new character without even exchanging the first 4 spirit orbs to the toughest place in the game, Hyrule castle; dressed in the starting shirt and trousers, and equipped with nothing more than can be found in the tutorial. And I am happy to report that I was doing quite well there: I basically cleaned out the place, except for the game end boss of course. I got the complete royal guard armor, which involves getting three pieces from the bottom, middle, and top of Hyrule castle. And I didn’t just sneak through the castle, but actually killed even tough mobs like moblins and guardians. Of course then I found lots of awesome weapons, so my new character now has a very impressive armory, much better than anything you can get from the amiibo.

In short, knowing the game helps a lot, and the best way to get great gear early is using that knowledge to loot the toughest places in the game. I probably won’t play that second character much, because doing the same 120 shrines again isn’t going to be all that fun, but it is interesting to know that in Zelda – Breath of the Wild skill beats gear.

Working with Adobe After Effects


About :

Adobe After Effects is a software program that allows its users to create animation and other special effects for graphic-related projects. Graphic designers use it to provide their projects with layer-based animation. After Effects is part of the Adobe family of software and is compatible with other Adobe software.

Index

1. Creating a New Composition and Importing Files

2. Building a Composition with Layers

3. Adding Animations, Effects, and Preset

4. Previewing and Rendering Your Composition 



1. Creating a New Composition and Importing Files



I. Make and set up a new composition. 

Projects in Adobe After Effects are called compositions, or comps. At the Welcome screen, locate and click on the “New Composition” button in the right column. If you already have the program open, you may either click on the “Composition” tab and select “New Composition” or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+N. Every time you create a new composition, a “Composition Settings” window will appear on your screen.

  1. Locate “Preset” and click on the drop-down menu. The menu is divided up into four sections, respectively: web settings, standard definition broadcast settings (NTSC and PAL), HD settings (the most commonly used), and film settings. Select the top HD preset: “HDV/HDTV 720 29.97.” This selection with automatically set the width, height, and frame rate.
  2. In the second row, locate “Start Timecode” and “Duration.” Leave the “Start Timecode” at 0. “Duration” refers to the total length of the project, from start to end. Set the “Duration” to the required length for your composition.
II. Save your composition. 

Before you begin to work on the composition, you should always name and save the project. Click on the “File” tab at the top of the screen. When you select “Save,” a “Save As” window will appear. 
At the top of the window, type in the name of your composition. Select a location to save this file to and click the “Save” button at the bottom of the screen. The saved composition will appear in the “Project” tab to the left of the screen.
While you may save this file in any location, it is recommended that you save your composition near your “Footage” file. This file is located within the “Exercise Files” folder.

III. Import files into Adobe After Effects. 

In order to create a composition, you need material to manipulate and animate. 
Select File>Import>File or double click on the “Project” tab. Select all of the files you wish to import and hit “Open.” The imported files will appear in the “Project” tab.
 Alternative methods include:

  • Double click anywhere on the “Project” tab.
  • Strike “Command + I.”
  • Drag images directly into the “Project” tab.



2. Building a Composition with Layers


I. Add files to your composition. 

A composition is a composite graphic, or a composite of layers. Each individual layer of your composition is made up of a file. All of the layers combined form a composite graphic. There are several ways to add a file to your composition.

You may drag and drop files from the “Project” tab into the “Timeline” tab (located at the bottom right of the window), the “Composition” window (located to the right of the “Project” tab), or the “Layer” tab (located directly below the “Project” tab.)

II. Organize and edit the layers. 



Once the files appear in the “Layer” tab, you may begin to manipulate the files. From this tab, you may alter the order of the files and edit the appearance of a file.
To adjust the hierarchy of the layers, drag a file up or down the list. The order of the files will alter the appearance of the composition (see the “Composition” window.) Files at the top of the layer list will appear over files at the bottom of the layer list.

To alter the appearance of a file, click on the sideways triangle next to the layer’s number. This will open up a “Transform” menu. From this menu, you may alter the following properties: anchor point, position, scale, rotation, and/or opacity.

III. Generate a timeline for your composite graphic. 



The “Timeline” function allows you to animate the graphic—it controls when each layer is or is not visible. The “Timeline” is located to the right of the “Layer” list. Each layer has it own life bar within the timeline, which you can trim, extend, or group with other layers as desired.

IV. Trim your layers.



Select a layer from the list. Move your cursor over the line dividing the list and the timeline so that a double arrow appears. Click and drag the double arrow across the timeline to produce a translucent grey box (this indicates that a clip is trimmed.) Stop once you reach the moment you would like the layer to appear.


The red line with the Blue tab indicates your current time known as play head. You can use this line to help you automatically trim layers. Select the layer you wish to trim. Drag the red line to your desired starting or ending point for the layer. Strike  ”
Command + [ ” to automatically trim a layer to the right of the red line, strike ” Command ] “.


V.Transform your 2D layers. 



When you work within the “Composition” window, you may manually position, or transform, the layers. Select a layer from the list. Move your cursor over the “Composition” window and zoom, or scroll, out. A set of handles will appear around the composition. This indicates the the layer may be transformed, or positioned.
  1. To shrink or expand the layer, click on the handle, press ⇧ Shift, and drag your cursor towards the inside or outside of the window.
  2. To rotate an element, press Ctrl+W. This will activate the rotation tool.
  3. To move a layer on a 2-D plane, click on the element you want to move and drag it to its new position.

VI. Create 3D layers. 




To create a 3D layer, return to the “Layer” tab. The column directly under this icon controls the 3D settings for each layer. To activate this feature, check the layer’s blank space in this column. Return to the “Composition” window—if you activated the 3D property, a Y, X, and Z handle will appear on the layer’s anchor.

VII. Transform your 3D layers. 




To move a 3D layer, press CTRL+W to activate the rotation tool. Hover your cursor over the X or the Y axis. Click on the axis and drag your cursor to the left and right or up and down. The Z axis should always remain at “0.”

VIII. Apply the parent function to your layers. 



The parent function allows you to tie your layers together. One layer, the parent, will drive the actions of another layer, the child. The child layer, can still move independently of the parent.

  • Select the child layer (the layer that you want to apply the keyframes to)—this layer will become the child.
  • Locate the “Parent” category in the layer tab.
  • In the “Parent” column for this layer, locate the curly-q shaped icon in the child’s row. Click on the icon and draw a black line from the icon to the “Layer Name” section of parent. Through this process, the child will become tied to the parent.


3. Adding Animations, Effects, and Presets

I. Set up keyframes. 


Keyframes mark exact points in time when changes are to occur to a layer’s properties. This function, which is represented by a little stopwatch, allows you to animate your composite graphics.

  1. Move your red “Current Time Indicator” line to the moment at which you would like to activate a keyframe.
  2. Select a layer from the “List” tab.
  3. Expand the layer’s “Transform” or “Contents” tab.
  4. Click on the stopwatch icon next to the property you wish to alter. This will record a keyframe at the current time indicator. A yellow dot or a greater than/less than symbols will appear on the timeline to mark the keyframe.
  5. To see your keyframes on the timeline, lasso the layers you wish to view and press “U.”
  6. To move a keyframe, select a keyframe symbol on the timeline by lassoing it and then drag it to its new location. You may also copy and paste keyframes.

II. Animate keyframes. 



Keyframes allow you to animate your project. You may alter any of the properties listed under the “Transform” or “Contents” tab. There are two basic forms of animation: with ease or linear. If a layer in animated with ease, the layer will ease into and out of the motion. If a layer is linearly animated, the layer will start and stop moving abruptly and it will also move at the same rate the entire time. Altering a layer’s position is an example of linear animation.

  1. Click on the stopwatch next to “Position.”
  2. Move the red line to the point at which you would like the layer to be off the screen.
  3. Click on the layer’s anchor point.
  4. Hold down “Shift” as you drag the layer completely off of the screen. The motion path will appear as a purple dotted line and each related keyframe will appear as a purple square. To preview your animation, scrub the red line over the timeline.

III. Include effects and presets. 


Click on “Window” and “Effects and Presets.” You will see a list of various animations and effects that are available for application to your project. Simply drag and drop the effect or animation selection onto the layer to which you’d like to apply it. You should see the change immediately.

  • Effects include 3D, color correction, and various camera views.
  • Transition options include wipe, fade and checkerboard.
  • You may remove selections by dragging them off your projects.


4. Previewing and Rendering Your Composition


I. Preview your project. 

Select “Windows.” From here, click on “Time Controls.” A preview pane will pop up where you can select “Play” to see a rough draft of your project. If you wish to see a more finished version, click on “Ram Render Play.” If your project is especially long or requires a large amount of memory, adjust the resolution before you preview it. After clicking to play it, the video will run continually until you click on the screen to stop it.

II. Export your composition to Render Queue. 



If you need to produce and deliver a high-quality composition, export your project to the Render Queue. The Render Queue is built into Adobe After Effects.
Click on “File” at the top of the window. Select “Export” followed by “Add to Render Queue.” Instead of “File,” you may click on “Composition” and select “Add to Render Queue.”
In your Render Queue, locate “Output Module” and click on the linked text to the left of this section. A dialogue box will appear on your screen. From this screen, you can change the video and audio output settings. Click “Ok” when finished.

In your Render Queue, locate “Output To” and click on the linked text next to the left of this section. Another dialogue box will appear on your screen. The screen you prompt you to select a location to save your rendered composition. Click “Ok” when done.
Click on “Render” to export the composition.









III. Export your composition to Adobe Media Encoder. 


The Adobe Media Encoder will produce a compressed version of your composition. The Media Encoder will also export files that are compatible with specific web platforms. While your project is rendering in the Media Encoder, you may continue to work in Adobe After Effects.
Click on “File” at the top of the window. Select “Export” followed by “Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue.” You may also select “Composition” followed by “Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue” or drag the file directly into the “Adobe Media Encoder Queue” tab.
Locate the “Preset Browser.” Select the format for your composition. Drag this preset from the browser onto the file in the “Adobe Media Encoder Queue.”
In the queue, locate “Output To” and click on the linked text next to the left of this section. A dialogue box will appear on your screen and prompt you to select a location to save your rendered composition. Click “Ok” when done.
Click on the green play button to begin the export.

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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?

What is Ethereum? — a short guide

What is Ethereum EthereumPrice

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

Read: What is a blockchain? – Gary Explains

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

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

What are smart contracts?

Wikimedia

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

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

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

How is Ether created and where can I get it?

CoinSpectator

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

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

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

How much does it cost and what determines the price?

Crypto-News

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

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

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

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

The Merkle


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

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

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

Dice Brawl: Captain’s League

I have a strange fascination with the game Monopoly, must be some memory of my childhood where games weren’t as plentiful as today. But somehow the various computer versions of Monopoly never really excited me. But now I found a nice little game on iOS called Dice Brawl: Captain’s League, which is basically a pirate themed Monopoly on speed, and it is fun.

The board is much smaller, and there are only two players. It is styled as PvP, but the opponent always reacts so fast, and never quits, that I suspect it is fake PvP against an AI controlled opponent just using the name and deck of another player. That is pretty much the only sort of PvP I like. So just like in Monopoly you roll two dice, move around the board, and if you land on an empty spot you can build a fortress there. If you land on your own fortress you can increase its level. If you land on an enemy fortress, you take damage, but then you can try to attack it and conquer it. The player with the most fortresses after 8 turns wins, unless a player gets killed in combat earlier.

This being a mobile game, it comes free but then uses the Gacha game or lootbox mechanic. In the lootboxes you find captains, ships, and crew members of various rarities. By finding more of the same card, you can level that card up. And the various cards have skills which you can then use in battle. The obvious idea is that you spend money to buy lootboxes, but I found the game well playable without doing so.

Overall a fun little game which isn’t overly exploitive, unless you are the kind of player that easily gets sucked in by lootboxes.

Understanding Out of the Abyss

*Spoiler Warning*: This post contains spoilers about the Dungeons & Dragons adventure “Out of the Abyss” (OotA).

My first contact with Out of the Abyss wasn’t great. I was a player in a campaign based on that book, but the DM was a) inexperienced and b) had removed the starting chapter and removed it by a series of other adventures before leading us down into the Underdark. Now I can see the motivation for that: OotA starts the players as slaves of the Drow, in shackles, without gear; a start that is both somewhat cliche for the genre, and not the most pleasant one for the players. However after preparing the adventure now for another group I see how this start is absolutely essential to the adventure. Removing it leads to exactly the problem we had, that is wandering through the Underdark with no motivation, being unclear of the goal and purpose of the adventure.

The whole first half of Out of the Abyss is motivated by that start: The players escape and are pursued by the Drow. They are looking for a way back to the surface, while having to survive a harsh and strange environment, and having to find means to equip themselves. It is dark fantasy, it is a game of survival. And it doesn’t work without that start in slavery. If you ever want to play this, ask your players first if they are okay with a dark survival campaign instead of the more generic heroic fantasy.

To understand Out of the Abyss one needs to see how it inverses the sandbox approach of certain other D&D adventures, for example Princes of the Apocalypse. In Princes of the Apocalypse the dungeons and encounters are described in much detail, but it is left to the DM and players to figure out how to get from one dungeon to the next. That doesn’t work very well, because the dungeons have different levels, and playing them through in an order other than by level results in problems. Out of the Abyss takes a very different approach: The main story from the start to at least the mid-point, escaping from the Underdark, is linear. You best play chapter 1 first, then chapter 2, then chapter 3, etc., because it makes sense geographically and story-wise. But what exactly happens in each of the chapters is left open and is to be created by the interactive storytelling between DM and player. Chapter 1 is very clear about this being about a prisoner escape, but how exactly the players escape from prison is left to them. If they don’t do anything the DM has some events that will push them in the right direction, but ideally the DM first lets the players try their own ideas, and allows any half reasonable plan to succeed. The goal is for the DM and the players to both drive the story forward. D&D should never be adversarial, and for OotA it wouldn’t work at all if the DM didn’t “help” the players to escape.

One of the early highlights of that approach is chapter 4, Gracklstugh. There you get a complete description of a Duergar city in the Underdark, complete with who the different power factions are and what their interaction is. But you are left to play that city as a sandbox, the adventure doesn’t tell you where to start or which faction to support. Played right this might be a great short city adventure on its own. The obvious disadvantage of the approach, and thus of all of Out of the Abyss, is that it requires a great amount of preparation and/or improvisation from the Dungeon Master. This is very much a campaign for expert DMs. And I’ll find out in how far it works with newbie players, because that is who I am going to play it with.

Now is the Time to Learn Functional Programming !


What is Functional Programming?

Functional programming (often abbreviated FP) is the process of building software by composing pure functions, avoiding shared state, mutable data, and side-effects. Functional programming is declarative rather than imperative, and application state flows through pure functions. Contrast with object oriented programming, where application state is usually shared and collocated with methods in objects. It is a declarative programming paradigm, which means programming is done with expressions. In functional code, the output value of a function depends only on the arguments that are input to the function, so calling a function f twice with the same value for an argument x will produce the same result f(x) each time.
Functional code tends to be more concise, more predictable, and easier to test than imperative or object oriented code but if you’re unfamiliar with it and the common patterns associated with it, functional code can also seem a lot more dense, and the related literature can be impenetrable to newcomers. Some of the popular functional programming languages include: Lisp, Python, Erlang, Haskell, Clojure, Java etc.

Functional programming languages are categorized into two groups, i.e. 
Pure Functional Languages:- These types of functional languages support only the functional paradigms. For example − Haskell.
Impure Functional Languages:-  These types of functional languages support the functional paradigms and imperative style programming. For example − LISP.

Functional Programming Characteristics:

  • Function Closure Support
  • Higher-order functions
  • Use of recursion as a mechanism for flow control
  • No side-effects
  • A focus on what is to be computed rather then how to compute it
  • Referential transparency

Functional Programming Features:

First-Class Functions:- It means that you can store functions into a variable. i.e.

var add = function(a, b){
return a + b
}

High-Order Functions:- It means that functions can return functions or receive other functions as parameters. i.e.

var add = function(a){
return function(b){
return a + b
}
}

var add2 = add(2)
add2(3) // => 5

Pure Functions:- Pure Functions mean that the function doesn’t change any value, it just receives data and output data, just like our beloved functions from Mathematics. That also means that if you’d pass 2 for a function f and it returns 10, it’ll always return 10. Doesn’t it matter the environment, threads, or any evaluation order. They don’t cause any side-effects in other parts of the program and it’s a really powerful concept.

Closures:- Closures mean that you can save some data inside a function that’s only accessible to a specific returning function, i.e the returning function keeps its execution environment.

var add = function(a){
return function(b){
return a + b
}
}

var add2 = add(2)
add2(3) // => 5

Immutable State:- Immutable State means that you can’t change any state at all (even though you can get a new state).

Advantage of Functional Programming

  • Easier to write parallel code. The reason is immutable data structures.
  • More powerful expressions making the code more terse. Monoids, functors, lambdas to name a few.
  • Extensive type checking and a very powerful type system (in typed ones).
  • Homoiconicity in languages like LISP, which makes writing DSLs extremely easy.

Functional Programming v/s Object Oriented Programming

Functional Programming OOP
Uses Immutable data. Uses Mutable data.
Follows Declarative Programming Model. Follows Imperative Programming Model.
Supports Parallel Programming Not suitable for Parallel Programming
Its functions have no-side effects Its methods can produce serious side effects.
Flow Control is done using function calls & function calls with recursion Flow control is done using loops and conditional statements.
Execution order of statements is not so important. Execution order of statements is very important.

Functional Programming in Python

Python is not a functional programming language, but it is a multi-paradigm language that makes functional programming easy to perform, and easy to mix with other programming styles. Lets see the example of calculating total sum of values in a list. In this example we are using an imperative style function.
Calculating total sum of values using normal method

def sum_lst(lst):
total = 0
for number in lst:
total += number
return total

As we can see, our function has only one variable called total that is updated on every iteration. This is clearly a case of a mutable variable.

Now lets try a functional approach:

def sum_lst(lst):
if not lst:
return 0
else:
return lst[0] + sum_lst(lst[1:]) # values are returned but no variable is changed

This time we are not updating any variables and are using recursion, which is the functional programming way of doing loops.

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