Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus (2018) specs: Infinity Display and a dual selfie camera

There’s no denying that Samsung’s S-series has boasted some of the finest flagships ever made, but sometimes there’s no match for a bonafide bargain, and that’s what the South Korean giant seems to be delivering with its newly-announced A-series phones, the Galaxy A8 (2018) and Galaxy A8 Plus (2018).

As the new gold standard of Samsung’s mid-tier range, the Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus look to balance premium design with a steady performance all while retaining a modest price tag. On paper, this year’s A8 phones – which technically replace the Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7, respectively – appear to deliver on all counts.

Editor’s Pick

This time around both the 5.6-inch A8 and the 6-inch A8 Plus sport an elongated Infinity Display with the same 18:5:9 aspect ratio found on the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, and Note 8. Both panels are Super AMOLED displays with a 2220 x 1080 resolution.

Despite missing out on the curved edges of its premium counterparts, the A8 and A8 Plus both pack slimline bezels, while leaving enough room for the devices’ most unique feature – a front-facing 16 MP and 8 MP dual-camera. We’ll be putting the pair’s selfie-taking credentials and much more to the test at a later date for a full review, but for now, be sure to check out the table below for all of the key specs.

  Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) Samsung Galaxy A8 Plus (2018)
Display 5.6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED
2,220 x 1,080 resolution
441 ppi
18:5:9 aspect ratio
6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED
2,220 x 1,080 resolution
412 ppi
18:5:9 aspect ratio
Processor Unspecified octa-core platform
2.2 Ghz + 1.6 Ghz
Unspecified octa-core platform
2.2 Ghz + 1.6 Ghz
GPU TBC TBC
RAM 4 GB 4/6 GB
Storage 32/64 GB 32/64 GB
MicroSD Yes, up to 256 GB Yes, up to 256 GB
Cameras Rear camera:
16 MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture, phase-detection auto-focus, video digital image stabilisation (VDis) technology, hyperlapse, and Food Mode

Front camera:
16 MP + 8 MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture and Live Focus

Rear camera:
16 MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture, phase-detection auto-focus video digital image stabilisation (VDis) technology, hyperlapse, and Food Mode

Front camera:
16 MP + 8 MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture and Live Focus

Audio 3.5mm headphone jack
MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA
3.5mm headphone jack
MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA
Battery 3,000 mAh
Non-removable
Fast charging
3,500 mAh
Non-removable
Fast charging
Sensors Accelerometer Barometer
Fingerprint sensor Gyro sensor Geomagnetic sensor Hall sensor
Proximity sensor
RGB light sensor
Accelerometer Barometer
Fingerprint sensor Gyro sensor Geomagnetic sensor Hall sensor
Proximity sensor
RGB light sensor
IP rating IP68 water and dust resistance IP68 water and dust resistance
Network TBC
LTE Cat. 11
TBC
LTE Cat. 11
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
ANT+
Location (GPS, Glonass, BeiDou)
USB Type-C 2.0
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
ANT+
Location (GPS, Glonass, BeiDou)
USB Type-C 2.0
Software Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Colors Black, Orchid Grey, Gold, and Blue Black, Orchid Grey, Gold, and Blue
Dimensions and weight 149.2 x 70.6 x 8.4 mm
172 g
159.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
191 g

Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) and A8 Plus (2018) specs in the comments below! Is its dual-camera for selfies and (near) bezel-less design won you over?

Android WiFi: Android – LeaVe my baThRoom at-least !

android wifi


WiFi is a technology for wireless local area networking with devices based on the IEEE 802.11 standards. Devices that can use Wi-Fi technology include personal computers, video-game consoles, smartphones, digital cameras, tablet computers, digital audio players and modern printers. Wi-Fi compatible devices can connect to the Internet via a WLAN and a wireless access point. Such an access point (or hotspot) has a range of about 20 meters (66 feet) indoors and a greater range outdoors. Hotspot coverage can be as small as a single room with walls that block radio waves, or as large as many square kilometers achieved by using multiple overlapping access points.

Android allows applications to access to view the access the state of the wireless connections at very low level. Android provides WiFi API through which applications can communicate with the lower-level wireless stack that provides WiFi network access. Almost all information from the device supplicant is available, including the connected network’s link speed, IP address, negotiation state, and more, plus information about other networks that are available. Some other API features include the ability to scan, add, save, terminate and initiate WiFi connections.

WifiManager is the primary API for managing all aspects of WiFi connectivity. Get an instance of this class by calling Context.getSystemService(Context.WIFI_SERVICE). It’s Syntax is given below:-

WifiManager wifi = (WifiManager) getSystemService(Context.WIFI_SERVICE);


WifiManager class provides different methods to control WiFi activities:-

  • int addNetwork(WifiConfiguration config): Add a new network description to the set of configured networks.
  • WifiManager.MulticastLock createMulticastLock(String tag): Create a new MulticastLock
  • WifiManager.WifiLock createWifiLock(String tag): This method creates a new WifiLock.
  • boolean disconnect(): This method disassociate from the currently active access point.
  • boolean enableNetwork(int netId, boolean disableOthers): This method allow a previously configured network to be associated with.
  • int getWifiState(): This method gets the Wi-Fi enabled state
  • boolean isWifiEnabled(): This method return whether Wi-Fi is enabled or disabled.
  • boolean setWifiEnabled(boolean enabled): This method enable or disable Wi-Fi.
  • int updateNetwork(WifiConfiguration config): This method update the network description of an existing configured network.
  • boolean disableNetwork (int netId): Disable a configured network.

In order to scan a list of wireless networks, you also need to register your BroadcastReceiver. It can be registered using registerReceiver method with argument of your receiver class object. Its syntax is given below −

class WifiScanReceiver extends BroadcastReceiver {

   public void onReceive(Context c, Intent intent) {
   }
}
WifiScanReceiver wifiReciever = new WifiScanReceiver();
registerReceiver(wifiReciever, new IntentFilter(WifiManager.SCAN_RESULTS_AVAILABLE_ACTION));

The wifi scan can be start by calling the startScan method of the WifiManager class. This method returns a list of ScanResult objects. You can access any object by calling the get method of list. Its syntax is given below :-


List wifiScanList = mainWifiObj.getScanResults();

String data = wifiScanList.get(0).toString();

Example

Let’s see the simple example of wifi to enable and disable the wifi service.
To run this example you need actual Android device.
  • You will use Android studio to create an Android application under a package net.suven.android.androidwifi.
  • Modify src/MainActivity.java file to add necessary code.
  • Modify the res/layout/activity_main to add respective XML components.
  • Modify the AndroidManifest.xml to add the necessary permissions
  • Run the application and choose a running android device and install the application on it and verify the results.
Following is the content of src/MainActivity.java

package net.suven.android.androidwifi;

import android.net.wifi.WifiManager;
import android.os.Bundle;
import android.app.Activity;
import android.content.Context;
import android.view.View;
import android.view.View.OnClickListener;
import android.widget.Button;
import android.widget.Toast;


public class MainActivity extends Activity {
Button enableButton,disableButton;
@Override
protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
setContentView(R.layout.activity_main);

enableButton=(Button)findViewById(R.id.button);
disableButton=(Button)findViewById(R.id.button1);

enableButton.setOnClickListener(new OnClickListener(){
public void onClick(View v){
WifiManager wifi = (WifiManager)getSystemService(Context.WIFI_SERVICE);
wifi.setWifiEnabled(true);
Toast.makeText(getBaseContext(), "WiFI Enabled",
Toast.LENGTH_LONG).show();

}
});

disableButton.setOnClickListener(new OnClickListener(){
public void onClick(View v){
WifiManager wifi = (WifiManager)getSystemService(Context.WIFI_SERVICE);
wifi.setWifiEnabled(false);
Toast.makeText(getBaseContext(), "WiFI Disabled",
Toast.LENGTH_LONG).show();
}
});
}
}
Following is the content of activity_main.xml

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<RelativeLayout
xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
xmlns:tools="http://schemas.android.com/tools"
android:layout_width="match_parent"
android:layout_height="match_parent"

tools:context=".MainActivity">

<TextView
android:layout_width="wrap_content"
android:layout_height="wrap_content"
android:id="@+id/textView"
android:textSize="30dp"
android:text="ANDROID WIFI"
android:layout_above="@+id/textView2"
android:layout_centerHorizontal="true"
android:layout_marginBottom="11dp" />

<TextView
android:layout_width="wrap_content"
android:layout_height="wrap_content"
android:text="SCTPL"
android:id="@+id/textView2"
android:textSize="35dp"
android:textColor="#ff16ff01"
android:layout_above="@+id/imageView"
android:layout_centerHorizontal="true" />

<ImageView
android:layout_width="wrap_content"
android:layout_height="wrap_content"
android:id="@+id/imageView"
android:src="@drawable/suvenlogo"
android:layout_centerVertical="true"
android:layout_alignEnd="@+id/textView" />

<Button
android:layout_width="wrap_content"
android:layout_height="wrap_content"
android:text="Enable WiFi"
android:id="@+id/button"
android:layout_alignParentBottom="true"
android:layout_toStartOf="@+id/textView2"
android:layout_marginEnd="14dp"
android:layout_marginBottom="56dp" />
<Button
android:id="@+id/button1"
android:layout_width="wrap_content"
android:layout_height="wrap_content"
android:layout_marginLeft="76dp"
android:text="Disable WiFI"
android:layout_alignBaseline="@+id/button"
android:layout_alignBottom="@+id/button"
android:layout_alignParentEnd="true"
android:layout_marginEnd="20dp" />

</RelativeLayout>
Following is the content of AndroidManifest.xml
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<manifest xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
package="net.suven.android.androidwifi">
<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_WIFI_STATE" />
<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.CHANGE_WIFI_STATE" />
<application
android:allowBackup="true"
android:icon="@mipmap/ic_launcher"
android:label="@string/app_name"
android:roundIcon="@mipmap/ic_launcher_round"
android:supportsRtl="true"
android:theme="@style/AppTheme">
<activity android:name=".MainActivity">
<intent-filter>
<action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" />

<category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" />
</intent-filter>
</activity>
</application>

</manifest>
Following is the output of Application

android wifi enabled

android wifi disabled
Click here to download Source Code and APK

 Learn Android Programming?


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

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

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

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

Rubbish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Baloney.

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

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

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

***

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

Untrue.

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

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

***

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

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

 

 

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YoU are GeTTing HaCKed! -‘Cloak and Dagger Attack’


Android users may want to keep a close eye on the apps they download onto their devices as researchers have discovered a series of vulnerabilities in the operating system that relies on two particular Android permissions to work.

Dubbed Cloak & Dagger by the research team that discovered the vulnerability, the attack relies on abusing the SYSTEM_ALERT_WINDOW and BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE permissions in order to compromise the system.
System vulnerabilities
The way the exploit works is pretty straightforward: a malicious app gets downloaded and installed to the Android device, with the necessary permissions being granted without requiring the user’s input.

From there, hackers are able to perform Clickjacking, record keystrokes, phishing, and even installing a God-mode app, all without the user being aware of it.
God-mode-app
Illustrate the danger that the vulnerability poses, the researchers have prepared three videos that demonstrates the potential attacks that could be carried out.

The first one is called the Invisible Grid Attack, and it works by placing an invisible overlay over the device’s keyboard. With it, the hacker could identify the information that is being typed out.
The second video depicts a clickjacking attempt that eventually culminates in a God-mode application being silently installed in the background without the user even noticing it.

Finally, the third video showcasing how a hacker could steal a password by manipulating the overlays.


Even newest Android version Android Nougat 7.1.2 might get affected due to this attack. So be aware of it.
As google is working on this problem, they will be coming with a solution pretty quickly. Stay safe!

Want  to learn Android Programming?

The Stolen Honduran Election: Only The People Can Save Themselves

Current President Juan Orlando Hernández has destroyed whatever minimal legitimacy the state institutions once had.

‘The people are calling it a fraudulent and stolen election’, said Dr. Luther Castillo Harry, when I asked him about the late November election in Honduras. Castillo Harry, who was the National Commissioner of Ministry of Health in the Honduras, looks despairingly at his native country. The institutions in his country have succumbed to bribery and coercion. He nods his head in pain, thinking about how a combination of the oligarchy and the United States has suffocated Honduras.

The current president – Juan Orlando Hernández – has destroyed whatever minimal legitimacy the state institutions once had. In 2012, as the head of the Honduran Congress, Hernández sacked four of the five Supreme Court justices and put in their place those loyal to him. This Court, friendly to Hernández then suggested that the term limits on presidential power were ‘inapplicable’ to him. He could run for re-election in November 2017. When it became clear that he was not winning the popular vote, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) shut down its system. Thirty-six hours later, when the vote count appeared, Hernández was in the lead. He has now been declared the winner.

Castillo Harry’s despondency is not without basis. Things are so bad that even the Organization of American States (OAS), normally quite happy to toe the US line, has been outspoken in its condemnation of the stolen election. The OAS asked Dr. Irfan Nooruddin of Georgetown University to look at the TSE data and at the dramatic vote swing that occurred over the thirty-six hour period of silence. His report – published on 17 December – shows that there are glaring irregularities in the process. ‘The pattern of votes,’ Dr. Nooruddin writes, ‘is suspicious.’ He shows that the irregularities cannot be explained ‘as pure chance.’ This is out-and-out rigging.

Based on Dr. Nooruddin’s report, the OAS Secretary General – Luis Almagro – offered a most detailed denunciation of the election. It is worth reading in full, ‘Deliberate human intrusions in the computer system, intentional elimination of digital traces, the impossibility of knowing the number of opportunities in which the system was violated, pouches of votes open or lacking votes, the extreme statistical improbability with respect to participation levels within the same department, recently printed ballots and additional irregularities, added to the narrow difference of votes between the two most voted candidates, make it impossible to determine with the necessary certainty the winner.’ This is as close to an invalidation of an election as one could get.

The person who ‘lost’ the stolen election – Salvador Nasralla – of La Alianza de Oposición contra la Dictadura, the opposition front, has called for a re-election. This is just what the OAS has also demanded – ‘a new call for general elections.’

Hernández is not keen to call a new election. He has tried to use the full force of the military and police establishment to crush any protest. Hundreds of people have been injured and tens of them killed. The numbers rise with each hour. Castillo Harry says that the same kind of repression used in the 1980s is now visible. In fact, Hernández’s advisor for security comes from the CIA created death squad, Battalion 316. Sections of the security forces loyal to Hernández have been entering people’s homes at night, arresting them, disappearing them. ‘We have a large group of missing comrades,’ says Castillo Harry. They ‘have been captured and disappeared and are not yet reported as missing.’

But matters are not entirely grave. Castillo Harry points to the sections of the security forces that have refused to comply with the President’s orders. Four hundred members of the elite COBRAS special unit of the police returned to their barracks. They would not fire on their fellow Hondurans. Castillo Harry says that the President personally called the barracks to urge them on. He promised higher salaries and better benefits for the military if they too did his bidding. That there have been these some ‘human rights mutinies’ suggests that there is a fracture in the repressive forces. There is hope here.

The United States has fully backed Hernández in his campaign for re-election. Professor Dana Frank of the University of California (Santa Cruz) and a close observer of Honduras told me that Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelley was close to Hernández when Kelly ran the US Southern Command. He called Hernández a ‘good guy,’ a ‘great friend’ and said that Hernández was doing a ‘magnificent job.’ Stolen election or not, Frank says, ‘Everyone knows that the US wants Hernández in power no matter what.’

The US has an airbase – Palmerola (Soto Cano) Air Base – in Comayagua, fifty miles northwest of the capital Tegucigalpa. This is one of the few major US military bases in Latin America. It was set-up in 1983 for the US to support its contra allies in Nicaragua and its allies in the Honduran military. It is said in Honduras that the US actively participated in the coup against President Zelaya in 2009 because his agenda included the closure of this base. It should be pointed out that the US has directly intervened in the Honduras several times to protect its interests – in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1920, 1924 and 1925. Since the 1980s, however, it has relied on friendly people in the Honduran military and in the Honduran oligarchy to do its bidding. No wonder then that the US is keen to keep the oligarchy in power rather than allow left-leaning Nasralla and his popular alliance to take office.

Castillo Harry is on tour of the United States to speak out about the stolen election. He is being joined by mayors of several cities in Honduras, including Mayor Jose Arnold Avelar Hernandez, who is a leading member of La Alianza de Oposición contra la Dictadura. They would like the people of the United States to ensure that the Trump administration not be allowed to validate the stolen election. Heide Fulton, the top US diplomat in Honduras, said that the US ‘is ready to work with whomever is the winner.’ The problem is that in a stolen election, the winner did not necessarily win.

Dario Euraque, who was in the cabinet of the deposed government of Zelaya, told me that there is ‘extreme anger, sadness and hope’ in the country. Hope comes from the ‘mobilizations and creativity of the people despite the repression and isolation.’ These protests are indeed continuing. Frank agrees, ‘The current protests build on deep, brave commitments on the part of ordinary Hondurans.’ Castillo Harry says that these protests are ‘in the hands of the community based organizations.’ This element, he says, did not exist so robustly in 2009 to defend the government against the coup. Today, he says, there are more than 134 places around the country held by the resistance – with young people in the lead. Almost all those who have been killed are young activists.

‘Only the people save the people,’ Castillo Harry says, repeating a slogan that has appeared in the protests. The walls of cities and towns in Honduras have been painted with the orchid, the national flower. Until 1969, the national flower of Honduras was the rose, although the rose is not native to the country. The orchid however is native to Honduras. There is a poetic sense that this protest is of people who want to take their country back. The stolen election is perhaps the last straw.

 

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Seriously Claims Ignorance of CDC Banned Words Report

“It’s the first time I’m hearing of that,” he said.

During a CNN appearance, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told host Jake Tapper that he knew nothing about the reported directive from President Donald Trump’s administration for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other divisions under the Department of Health and Human Services, to stop using a list of banned words.

“Policy analysts at the Center for Disease Control as well as other divisions at the Department of Health and Human Services were given a list of forbidden words,” Tapper said to the treasury secretary. “Why would the Trump administration tell the CDC not to use a term like ‘science-based’?”

“It’s the first time I’m hearing of that,” Mnucnin said with a straight face. “I’m not aware of the directive at all.

The banned words list reported by the Washington Post includes “vulnerable,” “diversity,” “entitlement,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” 

Watch Mnuchin claim total ignorance below.

 

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SailCraft Online

The game of Battleship as played with pen and grid paper is a hundred years old. 50 years ago Milton Bradley turned it into a board game with plastic pegs. There have been various computer versions, and even a rather horrible movie in 2012. Now I found a mobile game called SailCraft or SailCraft Online, which is basically Battleship on speed with all modern Pay2Win conveniences.

The original game is strictly symmetrical, except for the player moving first having a slight advantage. But in SailCraft the two players don’t have the exact same fleet, nor do they even have the same size of grid. Instead your grid size and your special abilities depend on the ships you choose for your fleet, limited by the level of your mothership. Ships come in common, uncommon, rare and legendary types, and the more of the same ship you find, the higher you can upgrade them in level. Each ship has an active and a passive ability, and stats for how many spaces it adds to your grid and how much “luck” you have going first. Active abilities allow you to do different things than just targeting space D4 and hoping you hit the battleship: For example you can fire a torpedo, send out a bomber, or use a telescope to scout some grid spaces. There are also counter-abilities like a torpedo-net or anti-aircraft guns.

Overall that makes the game a lot more dynamic to play than the original. But obviously the player who has collected more powerful ships has a distinctive advantage, having more powerful active abilities and a larger grid on which to hide his ships. Fortunately there is a matchmaking system that prevents you getting paired against the top players while you are still in the lower leagues. Which makes the game okay playable without paying any money, or just buying the occasional special offer. Having endless amount of time isn’t much help, as you can only grind a certain number of chests full of ships every day.

I don’t think there is any game left that didn’t get this sort of monetization make-over in a mobile version, frequently based around collectible items. I’ve even seen coin dozer games that work like that. SailCraft has the advantage that the underlying game of Battleship is a relatively intelligent one, and you can actually outthink your opponent to a certain degree. I just don’t think I’ll ever make it to the very top, because that appears to require some serious spending, which I am not willing to do.

Zortrax M200 Plus print examples

I am getting the hang of my new 3D printer. So I’m posting the photos I promised. First is a comparison: The darker green wererat on the left is with the new printer, compared to the neon green on the right with the old printer. So, yes, for my miniatures the new printer is working fine, and better than the old one.

Next is an example of something my old printer frequently refused to do: Print half a dozen miniatures at the same time. The new one did these 6 bandits in one go without problems. I assume it has to do with the ABS printing hotter, so it still sticks to the previous layer even that layer has been printed a while ago.

The other advantage of ABS is that you can treat it with acetone vapors, which makes the surface glossy and hides imperfections. As an example the 3DBenchy model printed twice identically, with the right one being treated with acetone vapors for 1 hour. Note that for miniatures you better just use 15 minutes, after 1 hour fine parts like arms or swords tend to melt.

Finally I used a model of a bard with a lot of detail to see how it comes out. This is with 15 minutes acetone treatment. Looking closely you can still see the layers and imperfections. But remember that this is just 3 cm tall, so for this size this is as good as it gets. You can see the lute, the rapier, and even the jester’s hat is printing out fine.

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?

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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.

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.