Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy is a series of games which in the past has made me buy a Playstation 2 and 3, after having played FF7 on the PC. But then I didn’t like FF13 all that much, nor the MMORPG version FF14 (which might have more to do with MMO burnout and the botched first version than the quality of the final second version game). So I didn’t buy a Playstation 4. Nor did I ever buy any version of XBox, which means that I never got to even try Final Fantasy XV. However that is going to change in 2018, because FF15 is coming both to PC and mobile platforms.

If I buy the PC version, I am pretty confident that I will get a pretty much identical game to the console version, with at least equal if not better graphics. The main issue with console ports of games like Final Fantasy is usually that they don’t always create a new control scheme for stuff like inventory management, so you need to push a lot of buttons to go through sub-menus of sub-menus instead of using easier mouse + keyboard controls. That can be somewhat annoying, but is not really a serious downside. So I’d consider the PC version a conservative bet.

The mobile version, called the “pocket edition” is going to be released next week, February 9, and is conceptually much more interesting. Because in this pocket version they tried to reproduce the game as faithfully as possible on a platform which is both much less graphically powerful, and has a much more different control scheme. But people who saw the beta version were astounded how faithful to the original at least the start of the game is. Basically you see the same scenes, but with new graphics which are far better suited to the lower resolution and capabilities of the platform.

There have been a number of games in the past that were re-released with improved graphics, due to the constant increase of computer graphics quality. The reverse process, down-grading graphics to lower resolution, hasn’t been used that much. But of course the concept is very interesting if you think of porting games from the PC and console to tablets and phones. So I am definitely going to check out the Final Fantasy XV pocket edition. Especially since I don’t need to buy the full game to do so: You get the first chapter for free, and can buy the rest of the game chapter by chapter. Now that is an innovation I wish would apply to console games.

Android Wear Oreo update tracker (Update: More watches receive Oreo)

Update (12/18): Google has been rolling out Android Oreo to Android Wear devices for a week now and it has already gotten through a fair number of them. As pointed out by Android Police over the weekend, a few more have just made the list.

The Fossil Q Founder 2.0, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Wander, Michael Kors Access Bradshaw, and the Michael Kors Access Dylan, are now said to have received the update, though it might take a few days to show up on all watches. What’s more, the Gc Connect, which was removed from the Oreo waitlist without explanation in the last update, has made a triumphant return: it’s now listed as having received Oreo.

Google has announced the rollout of Android Oreo for Android Wear. While not as significant an update as Android Wear 2.0 was, the new Oreo software will nonetheless bring some useful tweaks, including a Touch Lock — supposed to help in wet conditions — notification channels, battery improvements, and adjustable vibration strength (you can read about what else is included in the update here).

Now, Google has revealed a list of Android Wear devices set to receive the update on its Android Wear help page, though we don’t know when individual watches will receive it. We’ll be tracking the progress of the Android Wear Oreo update deployment in the coming weeks and months in this article and you can find out what we know so far below.

Which smartwatches will get the Android Oreo update?

According to Google, these are the smartwatches due to receive Android Oreo:

  • Casio PRO TREK Smart (WSD-F20)
  • Casio Smart Outdoor Watch (WSD-F10)
  • Diesel Full Guard
  • Emporio Armani Connected
  • Fossil Q Control
  • Fossil Q Explorist
  • Huawei Watch 2
  • LG Watch Style
  • Michael Kors Access Grayson
  • Misfit Vapor
  • Mobvoi Ticwatch S & E
  • Nixon Mission
  • Polar M600
  • Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
  • ZTE Quartz

Which smartwatches already have Android Oreo?

The Android Oreo update has already rolled out to a handful of smartwatches, and these are:

  • Fossil Q Founder 2.0
  • Fossil Q Marshal
  • Fossil Q Venture
  • Fossil Q Wander
  • Guess Connect
  • Gc Connect
  • Hugo BOSS BOSS Touch
  • LG Watch Sport
  • Louis Vuitton Tambour
  • Michael Kors Access Bradshaw
  • Michael Kors Access Dylan
  • Michael Kors Sofie
  • Montblanc Summit
  • Movado Connect
  • Tommy Hilfiger 24/7 You

Note that the update for the devices listed above may have only recently started rolling out and not all devices may have received it.

Which smartwatches won’t get the Android Oreo update?

There are a number of popular watches that weren’t on the Google list which we’ve outlined below. These watches may still receive certain updates through the Google Play Store, but the software will remain on a previous version (such as Android Nougat).

  • Asus ZenWatch 2
  • Asus ZenWatch 3
  • Fossil Q Founder
  • Huawei Watch
  • Huawei Watch Ladies
  • LG G Watch R
  • LG Watch Urbane
  • LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE (including AT&T and Verizon versions)
  • Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Gen.)
  • Motorola Moto 360 Sport

That’s all we have right now but we’ll bring you more information on the latest Android Wear updates as we get it.

Next: Best Android Wear watches

Reimagining the Tax Code, Getting There with Grassroots Activism

Tax policy, which can be deadly dull, hasn’t inspired much enthusiasm for activist campaigns—until now. Advocates could leverage this energy to push for a progressive tax code.

The House and the Senate have reached an agreement on the final GOP tax bill and plan to vote on it sometime next week. However, there’s still aggressive mobilization against the legislation, fueled by progressive organizations like the Not One Penny and Stop the #GOPTaxScam coalitions; Indivisible; and Americans for Tax Fairness. These groups are working hard to disrupt a tax agenda that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy, even though in all likelihood the bill will pass. Tim Hogan, spokesperson for the Not One Penny campaign, says that regardless the outcome of the bill, this mobilization is a victory “in the court of public opinion.”

Indeed, Americans are strongly against the bill: a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly half of Americans who are aware of the legislation oppose it. And tax policy activism—a rarely- seen phenomenon—has played a role in raising awareness. This surge in activism could lay the foundation for a popular movement, not just reject the GOP’s giveaway to the rich, but to work toward a new, more equitable tax code.

In September, before the Republican tax proposals were released, Prosperity Now and PolicyLink, two economic justice organizations, released a report entitled “Making the Connection: Bringing Tax Wonks and Grassroots Activists Together to End Inequality.” The U.S. tax code, the report found, is an extremely “powerful lever … to drive inequality.” But as much as the tax code expands the divide between rich and poor, the report argues, that there is also serious potential for the tax code, reimagined, to bridge it.

And, as the report makes clear, that’s where activists could come in.

Not One Penny, spawned from April’s Tax March and officially launched in August, is a coalition of almost 50 organizations, demanding “Not one penny in tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.” While the Tax March largely brought people out to protest Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, the organizers wanted to bring attention to progressive tax policies, too. Following the initial action, Not One Penny shifted its focus. This summer, with a Republican tax proposal looming on the horizon, the group began training activists in anti-tax policy organizing.

Months later, after the release of the Trump tax plan and the eventual passage of the House and Senate proposals, demonstrations are taking place across the country to protest these trickle-down economics-oriented plans. Recently, five protestors were arrested in Maine after conducting a sit-in in Republican Senator Susan Collins’s office; Collins is a potential “no” vote when the conference bill comes back to the Senate. And in the spirit of the holiday season, New Jersey activists have confronted their Republican representatives with tax-themed Christmas carols.

As the Senate debated their tax bill, groups opposing the legislation set up a “People’s Filibuster” to protest the GOP proposal. For over 30 hours and throughout the night, different organizations “sponsored” hours, inviting activists and advocates to tell their stories. The speakers warned about the damaging effects of the House and Senate proposals on specific sectors like health care and the environment, and on certain groups such as graduate students, people with disabilities, and young families.

The “Making the Connection” report suggests that these types of protests could be leveraged to advocate for fairer tax policies, as such tactics have not frequently been utilized in tax policy advocacy. The report found that while almost 60 percent of the activists it polled had recently attended a rally or protest on an issue of public concern, just 5 percent had recently attended a rally or protest related to tax policy.

The report’s authors further explain that such low mobilization in regard to tax activism could be attributed to tax policy’s “messaging problem,” as advocates and the general public commonly think of tax policy as “complex, unapproachable, and downright boring.” Major barriers to effective progressive tax advocacy include a “knowledge deficit” concerning taxes, and a lack of a personal connection to tax policy.

But not only does the tax code work to raise revenue for the government (which everyone knows about), it also helps American households build wealth (which fewer people realize). That may be because, in our current tax code, most tax benefits are funneled toward the wealthy. According to the report, the top 1 percent of households received more federal dollars than the bottom 80 percent. The mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction? The government spends almost double on those credits for wealthier households than it does on Section 8 housing vouchers or Homeless Assistance Grants.

This preference for the wealthy is hard to detect, since programs like the mortgage-interest deduction are hidden inside the tax code, helping create a two-tier welfare system, where means-tested welfare programs for the poor are visible and known, but welfare programs for the wealthy, like deductions for homeownership, education, and retirement, help the rich build wealth but exist as “tax credits,” not “welfare.” The rich are lauded for taking advantage of the tax system (think of Trump saying that not paying taxes “makes me smart”), but means-tested welfare recipients are seen as moochers.

In other words, our tax code—even before the GOP makes it incalculably worse—exacerbates the nation’s vast economic inequality, in which the richest 1 percent of households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The tax code also contributes to the racial wealth gap, where the median white family owns 12 times the wealth of the median black family.

But, it also means that the tax code could also be a major force in reducing economic inequality. To right the imbalance and “shift the benefits distributed through the tax code to working families,” the “Making the Connection” report lays out concrete steps that advocacy organizations can take to make tax policy accessible to community organizers and grassroots activists.  

This support is necessary, says Jeremie Greer, Prosperity Now’s vice president of policy and research and a coauthor of the report, “because the personal connection to [tax policy] is underneath the tax code.” Greer says that “when [people] think about taxes, they think about the annual exercise of doing their taxes,” instead of associating the tax code with programs that help them.

The tax code contains housing credits, credits for low-income working families like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. The federal government uses that revenue to help pay for programs many communities rely on. One of the report’s survey respondents said that people often don’t realize that the EITC was the reason they received a tax refund. Another said that “many people don’t understand the connection between the taxes they pay and the roads they drive on or the schools their children attend.”

Other assistance programs outside the tax code are “very straightforward,” Greer says. Food stamps are for nutrition assistance. Housing vouchers help people with their housing. And the mortgage-interest deduction “is a wonky … and governmental way of talking about something,” he says. When talking to advocacy groups, Greer simply calls it what it is: a housing subsidy, which is one way to make tax policy clearer while helping people recognize how the tax code affects them personally.

Advocacy groups have been doing an excellent job of making the consequences of the Republican tax proposals both clear and personal. Lisa Beaudoin, executive director of ABLE New Hampshire, a disability rights organization, traveled to Washington for a recent Capitol Hill tax policy protest. She says, “Helping people understand the direct implications [that this tax bill has] in their lives … gives people something to hold onto and to fight for.”

The elimination of the individual mandate would threaten health care for millions of mostly low-income people. Multiple provisions, including the elimination of the medical expense deduction, would disproportionately hurt people with disabilities. And the reduction of the corporate tax rate is widely seen as a giveaway to wealthy Republican donors (as at least one Republican representative acknowledged).  

Anti-tax bill activism and the media coverage of the GOP bills have made an impact: Only 31 percent of Americans support the tax plan. But when the battle over the Republicans’ tax catastrophe is done, what will tax activists do then? It may be easier to advocate against polices that would be detrimental to low- and middle-income families than to campaign for fairer taxes, especially since progressive members of Congress have not put forth an omnibus proposal of their own.

Economist Gerald Friedman recently made the case at AlterNet that, “progressives should resist the temptation to simply attack the GOP giveaway to the ultra-rich; instead, they should articulate their own tax plan, one that would fund needed services, promote stable growth, and compensate the unlucky, including the victims of globalization.”

Many of Friedman’s policy proposals are not new to policymakers on the left; but they have not been bundled together in an overall progressive rewrite of the tax code. They include taxing capital income (such as profits from investments) at the same rate as income from work, and mandating new penalties on income stashed in offshore tax havens. Friedman also recommends strengthening the penalties on corporations that don’t provide benefits like health insurance and instituting a tax on carbon emissions.

The report’s policy proposals center on strengthening policies that already work, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and housing policy. The EITC lifts millions of families out of poverty, but really only works well for custodial parents. Greer says that people without children, including younger workers and the elderly, should be able to benefit too.

One such bill introduced by two progressive Democrats, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and California Representative Ro Khanna, would greatly expand the EITC along Prosperity Now’s lines. The Brown-Khanna plan increases the value of the credit for working families and gives childless workers greater access to the benefit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that this proposal would lift the incomes of 47 million households.

By introducing such a congressional bill now, when the Republican majorities in each house have no intention of giving it a hearing, of course, is to lay the groundwork for a more progressive tax code if and when the Democrats return to power.

Another such proposal, Greer points out, would be to create a tax credit that benefits renters as well as homeowners. Support for families that rent could help move them into homeownership—a transformation that would be further incentivized if Congress permanently established a program like the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, which temporarily came about during the Great Recession.  

Progressive leaders can’t simply say “no” to the Republicans’ plan to alter the tax code, because the status quo isn’t ideal either. Instead, a new, progressive tax code could help eliminate income inequality, make the wealthy pay their fair share, and finally give low- and middle-income families the resources they need to lead lives that are economically secure. If Democrats can retake power and activists get the support they need to transform public tax discussions, the party could be prompted to adopt new policies (which would require reforming campaign finance to curtail the Democrats reliance on big money) to make a new tax code a reality.

 

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Chrome will begin to block bad ads on February 15

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  • Chrome will begin blocking offending ads on February 15.
  • The offending ads include those that flash, play audio unexpectedly, and take up an entire page.
  • Sites will be given 30 days to get in compliances before ads are blocked on Chrome.

Advertisements are everywhere. Every time you leave the house, ads bombard you on the radio and the side of the road, If you stay in, you’re similarly assaulted when you’re watching TV, playing a game, or surfing the web. Ads are so pervasive that it’s the goal of some people to get rid of as many of them as possible. There are web browsers out there that block ads natively, but you might not expect Chrome to be one of them.

Google announced in June that Chrome would begin to block ads early in 2018. It’s not blocking every ad, though. Google joined the Coalition for Better Ads earlier this year and will use its standards for how the industry should improve ads for consumers. If a website doesn’t abide by those rules, Chrome will block ads on the site. This extends to ads from Google’s own advertising network.

See also

So, what kind of ads will be banned? As it turns out, they’re the ones people hate the most. Among them are full-page ad interstitials, ads that play sounds unexpectedly, and ads that flash quickly. While those might be obvious choices, not every ad will be. For that reason, the Coalition for Better Ads launched the Better Ads Experience Program. The program lays out guidelines for sites to display ads in a way that works for both the consumer and the site showing them.

Google will begin to block the offending ads on February 15. After 30 days of failure to adhere to the new standards, ads are removed. If Google does block ads on a site, the offender can submit their site for re-review after it fixes the issues.

What do you think of Google’s new ad blocking policy? Does it go too far? Not far enough? Let us know down in the comments.

Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus announced: Sleek, selfie-focused mid-rangers

Samsung just announced its new mid-range phones, the Galaxy A8 (2018) and Galaxy A8 Plus (2018).

Replacing the 2017 Galaxy A lineup, the Galaxy A8 and Galaxy A8 Plus feature attractive specs and a design that is inspired by the Galaxy S series. The coolest feature is the dual front cameras, which feature f 1.9 lenses and portrait mode.

A simpler naming scheme

In recent years, Samsung has released several popular phones in the mid range as part of the A series. The naming convention for these devices – Galaxy A3, Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7 – conflicted with the way Samsung names its most important devices, the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series.

With the 2018 generation, Samsung has renamed the Galaxy A5 to Galaxy A8 (2018) and the Galaxy A7 to Galaxy A8 Plus (2018).

We don’t know for now what happened to the Galaxy A3. Did Samsung kill it? Will it be folded in the Galaxy J series?

Front-facing dual cameras

The Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus are the first Samsung phones with dual front cameras. These mid-rangers beat out the flagships to the punch, though dual front cameras have been a fixture on mid-range phones from other manufacturers.

The cameras feature f 1.9 lenses – basically, the lower the number the better – so they should give your selfie nice background blurs.

One of the cameras is 16MP, and the other one 8MP. Samsung says you can switch between them to get the type of shot you like, which makes it sound like they have different widths of angle.

Portrait modes are all the rage, and the Galaxy A8 and Galaxy A8 Plus are jumping on the bandwagon. You can take selfies and adjust the amount of blur in the background, before and after taking the image – this feature is called Live Focus and we’ve seen it before on the rear dual camera of the Galaxy Note 8.

You also get stickers and a beauty mode to spice up your self-portraits.

Familiar design, competent specs

The new Galaxy A8 (2018) and Galaxy A8 Plus (2018) look a lot like Samsung’s 2017 devices, mixing a smooth glass back with a metallic chassis and the 18.5:9 display form factor.

They are available in black, orchid grey, gold and blue.

The Galaxy A8 features a 5.6-inch Full HD+ (“+” denoting it’s an 18.5:9 panel), while the A8 Plus goes up to 6 inches, but keeps the same resolution.

The two phones share most of the key specs, including the cameras (16 MP PDAF f 1.7 on the back), an octa-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32/64GB of storage.

The smaller A8 features a 3,000 mAh battery. The A8 Plus gets an excellent 3,500 mAh – that’s the same as the much pricier Galaxy S8 Plus.

Both phones feature fingerprint sensors (placed below the rear camera), USB Type-C, Samsung Pay (with MST, so you can use them on older points of sale), and IP68 water and dust resistance.

Comparing the Galaxy A8 to the current generation

Compared to the 2017 Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7, the Galaxy A8 (2018) and Galaxy A8 Plus (2018) offer updated designs that follow the Galaxy S series (much smaller bezels, fingerprint sensor is now on the back), as well as improvements to the processor, RAM and memory.

The biggest new feature is the dual front camera. The screens are also larger, though the actual size of the phone is almost unchanged. That’s probably why the battery capacity remained roughly the same.

Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus price and availability

You will be able to buy the Galaxy A8 (2018) and Galaxy A8 Plus (2018) starting from January. That’s the only detail that Samsung has revealed so far, but we expect to learn more at CES Las Vegas, when we’ll also go our hands on these two phones.

If the price of previous phones in the A series is any indication, the new A8 and A8 Plus will cost in the $350-$450 range, depending on the market.

Thoughts on the new Galaxy A8 (2018) and Galaxy A8 Plus (2018)?

Creating LOGO using Adobe Photoshop

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Logo is the most important asset of a company. Logo represents your  company.

The dictionary meaning of a logo is a symbol, sign, or emblem. Human beings have used such symbols throughout time to convey a succinct message. In present times, logos tend to be graphical in nature, designed for easy recognition of an organization. It is a tool to build an identity for the organization, as part of its trademark or brand, and to generate favourable thoughts and feelings about the organization.  

A logo needs to be original and memorable for the greatest impact.

logo




 A logo refers to an image that relates to a company. For example, the image to the right, is an example of the Suven Consultants logo.

Features of a Corporate Logo


Identify Target Market
What type of customers are you trying to attract? The success of your company’s branding efforts will rely on the customers you are pursuing. Trendy graphics and hip hop music may attract the younger consumer, but this type of advertising might turn off the mature customers. Cater to the interests of your potential clientele.

Legalities
Research your ideas so you do not infringe on another company’s brand. Developing your brand is a long term investment. Register your trademark legally to protect your company’s name from imposters and possible customer confusion.

Logo and Color Scheme
Choose simple color choices and an easy to read font for your company logo. Choosing a graphic that says something about your business helps in creating your unique brand name. A good example of an effective logo is the swirled red, white and blue Pepsi® circle. The simple logo dominates the cans and bottles it is printed on and the only reading required is to determine if it is regular, flavored, diet or caffeine free.

Celebrity Endorsements
Visual stimulation will help prospective customers remember you. Grab their attention with ads and commercials using a recognized person or character. Hanes® sales increased when Michael Jordan became a spokesperson for their national campaign and television commercials. Small businesses starting out probably cannot hire a famous celebrity like Michael but there are other ways to attract customers and create an identity for your business. Create your own character. Animated celebrities like M&M® candies have been brought to life on television and online ads. If you are directly involved with your customers in a retail environment, you could be the face of your company. If you are uncomfortable using actual photos, consider turning your picture into a cartoon. There are several photo programs that can transform a picture into a sketch with the click of a mouse. You could also hire a professional to animate your likeness and use it on all of your advertising.

Catchy Tag line or Jingle
“You deserve a break today” is not heard as often as it used to be but most people still remember that catchy jingle. That saying became popular before there were fast food restaurants on every corner. It was a treat for a woman to pick up dinner at McDonalds® and not have to cook. What does your company offer that can help the consumer? Your tag line should be short, easy to remember and send a message to your customer. Turn your tag line into a musical jingle and your company will become the brand consumers will remember.
As a final step, drag your gradient layer below all the other layers in the Layers window.

Your logo is now complete!

——–

What We Will Make

We will use Adobe Photoshop CS6 for this tutorial, though you’ll be perfectly fine with older versions of Photoshop as well.

Step 1: Create a New Document

Go to File -> New, or press CTRL+N in Photoshop. Select the appropriate width and height for your design. I like to have a large enough canvas to work with – around 1000px width and 600px height. You can always change canvas size later.

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Step 2: Create the Basic Shape

To create the effect that we want, we will make our logo with two overlapping shapes as shown below:
We’re going to use the ‘Pen’ tool to create our shapes. It’s the pen shaped icon on the toolbox to the left.

Now create a new layer. Name it Shape 1. Select the pen tool, select ‘shape’ in the tool properties at the top. Choose a bright red color for the fill (I used #ed1c24).
It’s useful to switch on the grid while drawing. Go to View -> Show -> Grid, or press CTRL + ‘. Create the shape as shown below:

For the second shape, instead of drawing it from scratch, we can simply duplicate the Shape 1 layer and flip it horizontally.
Select the current shape in the layers window on the right. Right click on it and select ‘Duplicate Layer’. Name the new layer Shape 2 you want.
Now select the duplicate layer, go to Edit -> Transform Path -> Flip Horizontal
You should have the following shape now:

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Step 3: Change Colors

Since we want to create an overlapping ‘Origami’ like effect, we will make one of our shape layers slightly darker in color to give the impression of depth.
Double-click on the Shape 2 thumbnail in the Layers window. The color selection pane should pop-up.

Select a slightly darker shade of color.
While you’re at it, drag the Shape 1 layer on top of the Shape 2 layer in the Layers window as well, such that Shape 2 appears to be behind Shape 1.

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Step 4: Creating the Shadow

Duplicate the Shape 1 layer as described above. Name it Shadow Layer Change the color of this new layer to black (#000000). Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. Choose a radius of 2.75 pixels. Your image should look like this now:

Now drag the Shadow Layer underneath Shape 1 in the Layers window. Right click on Shadow Layer and select ‘Create Clipping Mask’
Your image logo should now have the nice shadow effect.

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Step 5: Add the Text

We’ll now add text to our logo. Unfortunately, the default Windows font selection isn’t exactly too great. So instead of using tired, stale fonts like Arial, we’ll head over to Google Fonts and download a bunch of new, modern fonts.
For this project, I recommend downloading Raleway. This is just a personal preference though. You can choose any one of the hundreds of free fonts on Google Fonts. Some of my personal favorites are:

  • Open Sans
  • Roboto
  • Ubuntu
  • Exo
  • Lobster
  • Bevan

I choose Arial with font-weight of ‘bold’ and a font-size of 200px. Feel free to experiment with this if you want.
Place the text below the logo. For a bit of extra effect, add a drop shadow to the text. Right click on the text layer, select ‘Blending Options’. In the window that pops up, choose ‘Drop Shadow’ and pick the parameters:
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Step 6: Add a Background Gradient

This is the final step to give our logo a bit of dramatic flair.
Click the ‘Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer’ button at the bottom of the Layers Window.
Choose ‘Gradient’. In the window that pops up, select ‘Radial’ under Style. Make sure to check the ‘Reverse’ option at the bottom. 
Now, double click on the gradient color in the window. The gradient edit window will pop up. Play around with the colors and settings for a while until you find something you like.

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World of Hoplites

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

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

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

Elemental Evil: Session 12

In the previous session the heroes had finished the second keep of elemental evil and killed its boss, a wereboar. This session began with the realization that the group paladin was now infected with lycanthropy. And being just below level 5 they didn’t have the necessary remove curse spell to get rid of that. So instead of directly heading for the next keep, they returned to Red Larch again, where the local priests were able to heal the paladin from his curse.

On leaving the temple the group witnessed an attack on the town by two ankheg. They were able to defend the town, but the burrowing monsters caused a sinkhole to appear in the middle of the town square. Exploring that the group found a small dungeon (the “Tomb of Moving Stones”) with a temple inhabited by a priest of the earth cultists. They killed the priest and discovered evidence that he tried to convert a group of town elders, the “believers”, from a harmless excuse to spend evenings among men to a far more sinister cult of elemental evil.
The Tomb of Moving Stones is normally a far lower level adventure, designed to get a level 1 group started in Red Larch. In this case I thought it would be a nice opportunity to introduce the earth cult a bit more, before the group heads into their keep. The added advantage was that the xp from that dungeon got the group to level 5, which is what the next dungeon is designed for. As level 5 is a major jump in power, I thought it was wiser to do it that way.

Open beta weekend for Total War: Arena

If you’re not in the closed beta for Total War: Arena, but want to try out the game anyway, you can do so this weekend. They couldn’t move into complete open beta yet, because the game still needs some balancing, and after open beta starts there will be no more wipes. So they did an “open weekend during closed beta” event, where everybody with a Wargaming.net account can try the game for the weekend.

Total War: Arena is a lot of fun, but they still haven’t completely nailed it. Strategic play isn’t rewarded enough, while mindlessly shooting into the fray and causing friendly fire is rewarded too much. However ranged units are so damn inaccurate that if you punish friendly fire too much, they basically become unplayable. So there is still some work to be done on that front, and the devs admitted as much.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Reportedly Face New Financial Disclosures Lawsuit

The couple allegedly made significant omissions on their disclosure forms.

President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner were hit with a new lawsuit on Sunday alleging they made significant omissions on their federal financial disclosure forms.

Politico reported Sunday night that Washington lawyer Jeffrey Lovitky filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington alleging that the two White House aides neglected to share information about some 30 investment funds in which they are invested. They also are accused of hiding the value of two investment vehicles in which they’re involved as well as income derived from them.

A large number of the holdings Kushner did report, the complaint states, are not listed in full detail due to “prior confidentiality agreements.”

However, Lovitky’s complaint said these agreements do not apply under the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA).

“The [Ethics in Government Act] does not allow a reporting individual to refuse to disclose the underlying assets of an investment vehicle, on the basis that such disclosure would violate a pre-existing confidentiality agreement. Nor does the EIGA allow a reporting individual to refuse to disclose the amount of income derived from any underlying asset of an investment vehicle, on the basis that such disclosure would violate a pre-existing confidentiality agreement,” said the suit.

Politico’s Josh Gerstein described Lovitky as “a health care finance lawyer who sometimes files civil rights cases.” He filed a similar suit against Pres. Trump himself earlier this year.

Kushner and Ms. Trump have been hit with repeated accusations of hiding information from federal regulators including charges that they failed to disclose millions of dollars of art in their possession. Kushner has had to revise his reports of meetings with foreign operatives and Russian banking officials multiple times, adding “more than 100 names” to the list last July.

Read the full report here.

 

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