Core-PHP vs FrameWorks-in-PHP

PHP can be considered more as a revolution in the web development arena. Beginning with scripting of simple web pages, PHP today has evolved into a language that powers almost 60% of the web. Well, it has been extensively modified to develop frameworks and content management systems to ease the tasks of developers. Essentially, frameworks have some pre-coded functionalities that developers require on a regular basis and content management systems are built with the end user in mind.
We assume that Core PHP means solving a Mathematical problem by using paper and pen. Frame work means solving Mathematical problem by using a calculator.

Core PHP-Solving Mathematical Problem

Only some students can achieve results by using paper and pen as same as in PHP. Only a few of the developers can write the code in an easy way and reliable format.
Core PHP uses the PHP script in its purest form. A developer needs to know the language thoroughly in order to write a clear and concise code using core PHP. Only the experts can write flawless and reliable code using its core form.

Framework – Solving Mathematical problem

Everyone can achieve the result by using the calculator as same as in PHP. Even beginners can write the code in easy way and reliable format.
Frameworks are basically time savers. They have a rich set of functionalities available so that the developer does not have to embed the same code again and again. These frameworks generally have a fixed set of rules and hence the code can be passed on from one developer to another without any hassles. 
In core PHP one developer may not be able to read another developer’s code that easily. Frameworks on the other hand provide consistency in the code and are big time savers when the project needs to be handled by several developers at the same time. Frameworks rarely allow you to write bad code. This ensures less time in debugging and helps you deliver your project faster.
Frameworks Advantages:
  • Framework introduces an extra layer to wrap your business code which in turn provides better manageability and easily workability in teams. If you take an example of any MVC( Model-View-Controller)framework; you can understand that the teams can separately work on Model, Views and controller part. ORM (Object-relational mapping) provides easy scalability.
  • A framework gives you some tools and function to make it easier for yourself. For example the database seeds, the form request classes, the migrations, and so on.
  • In framework everything come as set of predefined codes, helpers, libraries. So, you don’t have to write your own pagination, security code or integrate someone else’s pagination, security scripts. Framework follow specific standard which makes the codes more organized. Besides, frameworks have organized MVC pattern that separate your code into 3 categories, excluding the probability of code.
  • Framework is better because almost everything is provided, you need to write less code and there is less to worry about.
  • Frameworks usually have security classes in the core. Some methods of Input class have flags to clean XSS from _POST or other global array.

Disadvantages:
  • You need to learn more as there is a specific learning curve for specific frameworks.
  • Frameworks are slower than core PHP code.

Core PHP code Advantages:
  • Core PHP offers you a lot of freedom a lot of space for imagination and invention.
  • If code is small; going with procedural PHP/Core PHP is good idea.

Disadvantages:
  • You need to write lots of code that may already be written.
  • There is more to consider about, like security (SQL Injection, XSS), organization of code, separation of business logic, view etc., (that frameworks already do it for you).
Enhance Projects
Everyone wants to move into sophisticated technologies. If any website or web applications have developed in Core PHP, it is difficult to enhance the website components, but if website or web applications has developed in Frame Work PHP, it is very easy to enhance the features.
Lets see some of the widely used PHP Frameworks:

1.Laravel

According to Sitepoint’s recent online survey it is the most popular framework among developers. Laravel has a huge ecosystem with an instant hosting and deployment platform, and its official website offers many screencast tutorials called Laracasts.
Laravel has many features that make rapid application development possible. Laravel has its own light-weight templating engine called “Blade”, elegant syntax that facilitates tasks you frequently need to do, such as authentication, sessions, queueing, caching and RESTful routing. Laravel also includes a local development environment called Homestead that is a packaged Vagrant box.

2.Symfony 

Symfony is a flexible, scalable yet powerful PHP frameworks for MVC application. There are plenty of reusable PHP components that can can be used like Security, Templating, Translation, Validator, Form Config and more. Like Laravel, it’s alss modularize with Composer. Its goal is to make your web application creation and maintenance faster with less repetitive coding.

3.CodeIgniter 

CodeIgniter is a lightweight PHP framework that is initially released in 2006. CodeIgniter has a very straightforward installation process that requires only a minimal configuration, so it can save you a lot of hassle. It’s also an ideal choice if you want to avoid PHP version conflict, as it works nicely on almost all shared and dedicated hosting platforms.
CodeIgniter is not strictly based on the MVC development pattern. Using Controller classes is a must, but Models and Views are optional, and you can use your own coding and naming conventions, evidence that CodeIgniter gives great freedom to developers. If you download it, you’ll see it’s only about 2MB, so it’s a lean framework, but it allows you to add third-party plugins if you need more complicated functionalities.

4.CakePHP 

CakePHP is a PHP framework that support version 4 and above. It is easy to learn with fast and flexible templating. The integrated CRUD (create, read, update and delete) is a handy feature in CakePHP for your database interaction. It also has various built-in feature for security, email, session, cookie and request handling.

5.Yii 2

Yii is a generic Web programming framework, meaning that it can be used for developing all kinds of Web applications using PHP. Because of its component-based architecture and sophisticated caching support, it is especially suitable for developing large-scale applications such as portals, forums, content management systems (CMS), e-commerce projects, RESTful Web services, and so on.
Yii is a full-stack framework providing many proven and ready-to-use features: query builders and ActiveRecord for both relational and NoSQL databases; RESTful API development support; multi-tier caching support; and more.

5. Phalcon

The Phalcon framework was released in 2012, and it quickly gained popularity among PHP developers. Phalcon is said to be fast as a falcon, because it was written in C and C++ to reach the highest level of performance optimization possible. Good news is that you don’t have to learn the C language, as the functionality is exposed as PHP classes that are ready to use for any application.
As Phalcon is delivered as a C-extension, its architecture is optimized at low levels which significantly reduces the overhead typical of MVC-based apps. Phalcon not only boosts execution speeds, but also decreases resource usage. Phalcon is also packed with many cool features such as a universal auto-loader, asset management, security, translation, caching, and many others. As it’s a well-documented and easy-to-use framework.

6.Slim

Slim is a lightweight micro-framework for PHP inspired by Sinatra, a Ruby framework. It has a tiny size without overkill learning curve. It’s built with incredible routing system and focuses on RESTful API with all HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) supports. To use it, you need at least has a PHP version of 5.2+.

7.Zend

Zend Framework is a scalable and full featured object-oriented PHP framework.It has an online training and certification which make it popular and used by plenty of enterprise organizations. With its OOP (object-oriented programming) and design patterns consistency, you can easily extend custom classes and use only what you need.

8.Nette

The Nette Framework is another player in the world of php web application frameworks – but like most others, it has its right to be here. It comes with great and powerful features, and makes life easier for web developers. Nette uses revolutionary technology that eliminates security holes and their misuse, such as XSS, CSRF, session hijacking, session fixation, etc.
Nette is modern php framework which supports  AJAX / AJAJ, Dependency Injection, SEO, DRY, KISS , MVC, Web 2.0, cool URL

Want to learn Web Technologies?

Is Trump an ‘Aspiring Despot’ or a ‘Bumbling Showman’? Why Not Both?

Author Brian Klaas warns the damage of Trump’s presidency will last a generation.

The presidency of Donald Trump has forced the American people to confront questions most of us had never before considered possible. What happens when a president has no respect for the Constitution and the country’s democratic institutions and traditions? When a president and his allies consider themselves above the law, what is to be done? If a president creates his own version of reality by behaving like a political cult leader, what forms of resistance are effective — or even possible? Is the president of the United States a fascist and demagogue who may be under the influence of the country’s enemies?

Too many Americans believed their country to be exceptional and unique. This blinded them to the threat to democracy embodied by Donald Trump — as well as other members of the extreme right-wing — until it was too late to stop him from stealing control. Moreover, the rise of Trump’s authoritarian movement (dishonestly operating under the mask of “populism”) has both empowered and revealed the tens of millions of Americans who have authoritarian or fascist leanings. The threat to American democracy is deep; it will take a long time to purge this civic sickness and political disease from the body politic.

In an effort to understand the true dimensions of Trump’s rise to power as a direct threat to American democracy, I recently spoke with Brian Klaas. He is a fellow in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics. In addition to writing columns and essays that have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, Foreign Affairs and numerous other publications, Klaas is the author of several books. His latest, published in November, is “The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy.”

In our conversation, Klass explained his view that Trump is an aspiring despot whose behavior mimics other authoritarians both past and present, the role of Fox News and other elements of the right-wing media in maintaining and expanding Trump’s malignant reality and power, and the decline of the country’s prestige and influence abroad because of Trump’s regime.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

How was Donald Trump able to win the White House?

I think that there are people who have been legitimately disaffected by stagnant wages for 30 years and growing income inequality. That is part of the story. But that is not the main story, given the backlash against immigration as well as Obama’s presidency and what that tells us about race relations. We also cannot overlook the fact that Trump’s voters have a median household income of about $72,000 a year.

We also have a third and often not-spoken-about trend where there simply are lots of authoritarian voters in every Western country. Effectively these are people who do not care about democratic processes or procedures; they don’t care about democratic values; they care about winning and they care about the government doing for them.

What previously existed was a sort of unspoken agreement that elites did not encourage these people. What Trump has done that will have lasting ramifications for the United States is that he has broken that dam and brought fringe elements into the mainstream — and there are now elites who will actually cater to them. But I fear it’s going to be many years, if not decades, before the proverbial Trump genie can be put in the back in the bottle and democracy can be restored to its full and proper functioning.

Why did the mainstream news media normalize Trump? What explains the allure of the narrative that Trump’s election was somehow about “economic anxiety” as opposed to white racism and racial backlash?

Because it is a nice story that many of us would like to believe. White racism is central to the story of the rise of Trumpism, and for the media to tell the story about America that basically says, “This president was elected because we have racial problems,” is much harder for people to square with the country’s mythology. I also think many journalists and other observers have very little experience with authoritarianism. I think minorities also saw this coming and were much more aware of it and much more prescient in seeing how damaging Trumpism could be than white people.

Is Trump a fascist? Why do you think so many in the mainstream media and America’s political class are afraid to describe him using that language, or at aminimumto label him an authoritarian?

He is an aspiring despot. That distinction is important because I have studied fully authoritarian societies where there are no checks and balances, no free media, no different branches of government, and it is far worse than the United States. But in terms of tactics, there is in immense amount of evidence to support the fact that Trump is behaving like an authoritarian and that he is mainstreaming fascism. Like other despots throughout history, Trump scapegoats minorities and demonizes politically unpopular groups. Trump is racist. He uses his own racism in the service of a divide-and-rule strategy, which is one way that unpopular leaders and dictators maintain power. If you aren’t delivering for the people and you’re not doing what you said you were going to do, then you need to blame somebody else. Trump has a lot of people to blame.

Others who want to deny that Trump is a fascist or authoritarian will object that he is too bumbling and incompetent for such strong labels to apply.

I completely disagree. You do not have to be effective to be destructive. Most despots are bumbling. Around the world we have seen examples of how they are often comical idiots and egotistical head cases. Despots are not necessarily the smartest people.

Trump is extremely destructive. The analogy I use is the idea that democracy is like a sand castle. It takes a long time to build and much longer to perfect. Trump is just washing it away. He is a wave and the castle is not going to be knocked down in one single tide. But the castle, and our democracy, gets eroded steadily over time. That is where we are now. How does a democracy function when a third of its people are cheering authoritarian tactics, embracing them, pushing for more candidates to mimic them, and fundamentally believe a huge number of things that are false? Because if you think about what democracy is, at its core it requires a shared reality to create consent of the governed.

The long-term corrosion of democracy that Trump is inviting is not going to end when he leaves office. It is going to be a persistent problem where he has opened up the possibility for a much more insidious and effective successor.

Moreover, I always thought that a Trump-like figure had the potential to break down the barriers between democracy and authoritarianism in America. The dazzling showmanship is essential. So if you imagine a genuinely scary authoritarian, a Mussolini in America type, we would actually stop that person very quickly. By comparison, Trump has this distracting quality because he’s a bumbling showman who seems harmless to some people because of those traits. This has created a creeping authoritarianism where the envelope is being pushed farther all the time.

Another important aspect of how Trumpism and his petit-fascist movement have taken hold is that the Republican Party is largely in agreement with his agenda. Political polarization and gerrymandering have made Republicans largely immune from accountability by the American people.

Polarization is absolutely essential as a precursor to authoritarianism because you need to have political tribalism. Republicans are afraid of their base. They are not afraid of a Democrat beating them. This is partly because of demographic clustering, but it’s also largely due to gerrymandering. And gerrymandering intensifies all of the incentives to be extreme. Consequently, if a Republican does not march in lockstep with Trump, he or she may face a primary challenger. The alternative is winning an easy election against a Democrat. On top of that you have Fox News and a broader right-wing echo chamber that are de facto outlets for Trump, akin to some type of state-sponsored media in an authoritarian or dictatorial regime.

Is there a magic number where a certain percentage of the population has to support an authoritarian for that democracy to fully fail?

I do not believe that there is necessarily a specific number. What is ultimately most important is the longevity of the person in power and how much of a rebuke they get from the public.

Therefore, one of the few positive scenarios I have for looking into the future is what I label as “Trump vaccine.” This is basically the idea that because Trump embodies bumbling recklessness and impulsivity, he is a weakened form of authoritarian populist. This means there is a plausible scenario where a sufficient backlash effectively neutralizes him, yet he also exposes all the weaknesses in our democratic system. Ultimately, Trump acts like a vaccine who strengthens the immune system of American democracy.

But I do not think that is going to happen because America is experiencing the slow decline of its democracy. You see this all the time in places like Turkey or Russia or Belarus, where a quasi-democratic system is getting hollowed out. This pattern of testing the waters is very familiar to me — it’s exactly what [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has done in Turkey.  He just pushes the envelope every day. And the less backlash there is, the more he does it.

How much of Trump’s strategy is intentional? Is he just a useful idiot for the Republican Party and other elements of the radical right-wing? 

Regarding consequences, the distinction is less important. But in terms of intentionality, it is important to understand why someone does what they do. Some of the worst authoritarians in history are not necessarily strategic thinkers.

I don’t know whether Trump has some sort of grand strategy. Frankly, I would be extremely surprised if he did because virtually nothing Trump does fits into a strategic framework. Many of his goals are being passed and advanced in spite of him, as opposed to because of him. Authoritarians don’t need to have a grand strategy. Because they are narcissists, they are often making it up as they go along.

What roledoesthe Russia collusion scandal and Trump’s response to Robert Mueller’s investigation play in your analysis of America’s descent into authoritarianism? 

Any democracy needs to have a functioning rule of law that is separate from politics. In authoritarian states the rule of law is a weapon that the leader uses against his enemies and to reward his friends. The people who are guilty are whoever the authoritarian leader says are guilty. We are sliding down that path before our eyes every day. Trump has threatened Hillary Clinton with jail. He has pardoned a political ally, [former Phoenix sheriff] Joe Arpaio. This is a clear signal from Trump to anybody who is involved in the Russia investigation that he will reward his allies with pardons, and if they turn, that avenue will get cut off. This is very common under authoritarian rule, where justice is dealt out based on alliances and there are investigations of opponents.

I think the other aspect is obviously related to the notion that the president is above the law. For example, the question is absolutely settled that Donald Trump’s campaign at least attempted to collude with Russia. If they didn’t succeed, then fine. But that does not make the intent any less insidious. It is the equivalent of trying to commit a crime and failing. This is where when Trump gets cornered, if it is between him and the system, there is no question he will try to tear down the system. If politicized rule of law becomes the new normal, how do you return to normal? Trump and his allies are opening up a Pandora’s box that may serve him in the short term politically but is a massive affront to the functioning of American democracy over the long term.

You are in London now. You have also traveled all over the world. How does America under Donald Trump look to our allies and also to our enemies?

It is an unprecedented disaster in terms of America’s reputation in the world. He has decimated longstanding alliances and the country’s gravitas across the globe in a matter of months. A survey in June 2017 looked at the change of confidence in United States leadership between Obama and Trump. It fell 75 percent in Germany, 71 percent in South Korea, 70 percent in France, 57 percent in the United Kingdom and 54 percent in Japan. These statistics obscure the fact that the rest of the world sees the United States as a tragic joke. It is immensely embarrassing to be an American abroad. They don’t understand how this person was not absolutely demolished in the election.

There are also long-term strategic problems that come from what Trump has done to America. People don’t understand that “America First” is actually code for America alone. The more Trump pushes for short-term transactional diplomacy that really does not advance our long-term national interests, the more U.S. power is going to decline and the 21st century is going to be dictated by China.

Even for the people who want to have a muscular strong America in the world, Trump is an unmitigated disaster.

What scares you about America under Donald Trump? Is there anything that gives you hope for the future?

The scariest thing about Trump is the lack of backlash against him. This is enabling the Republican Party’s complicity with him and perhaps causing irreparable damage to American democracy. Trump could have been contained much more effectively if Republicans had stood up to him and upheld the values they professed for a long time in terms of democratic principles.

I am hopeful because I have many friends who did not care about politics a year ago and do now. If the American people are to save democracy, they must use their voice to impact the system. We are in a critical moment where the way that citizens behave in response to Trump will dictate whether this is a break that can be repaired or the start of some very disturbing developments and the slow death of American democracy.

The hope lies in the possibility that people stand together, and the 66 percent of the country that does not like Trump sets aside the partisan bickering and says, “We can agree that this person is not fit to be president and that the way that he is behaving is a threat to our democracy.” If this happens, then American democracy can survive and actually improve. It is the only way that Trump and what he has unleashed can potentially have a positive ending.

 

 

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Dungeons & Dragons today

Dungeons & Dragons is over 40 years old, and I have been playing it for over 35 years. So what is the most surprising aspect of D&D today for me is how popular the game has become suddenly. A streamlined 5th edition and good use of social media, including celebrity support, has moved D&D into the main stream. People now actually watch other people play D&D on Twitch, and not just when it is Vin Diesel or Wil Wheaton. “D&D player on Twitch / YouTube” is now actually a method to become “internet famous”.

I liked 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. It is a great combination of role-playing game with a balanced tactical combat game for experienced players. But it is not a suitable game for a mass market, it is far too complicated for that. The much less balanced, much quicker, much easier 5th edition is far more suitable for mass popularity.

It also helped that the makers of Dungeons & Dragons stopped shooting themselves in the foot with their internet policy. In the early days of the internet, TSR was notorious for going after fans putting D&D-related materials on the internet. It took a change of owner in 1997 to Wizards of the Coast and then Hasbro in 1999 to get the company to realize that fans on the internet are free advertising. With a game that is hard to explain to somebody who has never played it, a Twitch / Youtube video of interesting people like Chris Perkins running a game with Acquisitions Incorporated at PAX might actually be superior advertising to anything else.

The only people somewhat unhappy by the current popularity of D&D are the makers and fans of Pathfinder. Pathfinder had shoved D&D off the throne of top pen & paper roleplaying game for several years during 4th edition, only to be left in the dust by 5th edition. Now they are planning a comeback with Pathfinder second edition, with a playtest starting in August.

Build a Game Without Coding : Android- LeaVe my baThRoom at-least !

Do you have innovative ideas about android games but don’t know how to code ?
Then do not worry about it. If you are interested in making your own games and don’t know coding then you may be  surprised to know that there are many development programs/tools available which do not require any programming or coding skills.

There are software called Game Builders which provide drag and drop facility to create games.But before you start developing your games you must know following things:

  • You should decide Narrative of your game and also how your game would look like.
  • Decide Rules and Control for the game
  • Last but very important Graphics and Music for the game
Lets check out some game builders

1. GameMaker

Looking for a tool that will allow you to make games not just for mobile devices also for video game system then GameMaker is the perfect tool for you. It is popular and most robust tool. It provides customization for development environment by choosing predefined skins or create your own.
GameMaker Studio 2 is the latest and greatest incarnation of GameMaker!
It has everything you need to take your idea from concept to finished game. With no barriers to entry and powerful functionality, GameMaker Studio 2 is the ultimate 2D development environment!


Following  games developed using GameMaker

  • Galactic Missile Defense
  • wanderlust:adventures

    2. BuildBox

    Buildbox is the world’s first software that truly allows anyone to create amazing games regardless of technical skill. Due to its unique user interface, making games becomes a fluid process that doesn’t require any scripting, programming or software design experience. It provide various option such as drag and drop,it also support to create any imaginable 2D games.


    Following  games developed using BuildBox
    • Color Switch
    • The Line Zen
    • Trump On The Run

    Conclusion

    In Today’s Android gaming industry  it is very easy to develop games.There are thousands of new games are being published both by big companies and individual developers but not all of the game makers know how to code. Even you can make games without writing any single line of code.

    So if you have any innovating idea about games but don’t know programming then  simply use game builder tools to develop your own game.

    Interested to learn Android Programming ?

    Creating our own factory method in Java

    Creating our own factory method in Java

    Any factory method is created as a method belonging to an interface or abstract class. Hence that method is implemented, in the implementation classes or sub classes as case may be.

    What are factory methods ?

    A factory method is a method that creates and returns an object to the class to which it belongs. A single factory  method replaces several constructors in the class by accepting different options from the user , while creating the object.

    For example, to create a factory method getFees() that will give the fees details for a course in an engineering college, we need to perform the following steps :

    1> create an interface or abstract class
    interface Fees {
       double showFees();
    }

    2>  Implement the abstract , public methods of the above interface.
    class CSE implements Fees {
    public double showFees(){
    return 120000; // assumed some constant figure
    }
    }
    // their can be more implementation classes also.

    3> Create a factory class that contains factory method by the name getFees(). Mostly factory methods are written as static methods.
    class CourseFees{
    public static Fees getFees(String course){
    if(course.equalsIgnoreCase(“CSE”))
    return new CSE();
    else if(course.equalsIgnoreCase(“ECE”))
    return new ECE();
    else return null;
    }
    }

    // getFees() method takes the coursename from the user and creates an object either to CSE class or ECE class depending on the user option.

    4> Call the factory method like this :
    Fees f = CourseFees.getFees(name);

    // In the preceding code, an object of CSE class or ECE class is returned by getFees() method. Since CSE and ECE are the implementation classes of Fees interface, we can use Fees interface reference ‘f’  to refer to the objects of these classes. Hence, if we call f.showFees(), then the showFees() of that particular class either CSE or ECE will be executed and corresponding fees will be displayed.

    // complete program : combining all 4 steps as above
    import java.io.*;

    interface Fees {
       double showFees();
    }

    class CSE implements Fees {
    public double showFees(){
    return 120000; // assumed some constant figure
    }
    }

    class ECE implements Fees {
    public double showFees(){
    return 110000; // assumed some constant figure
    }
    }

    class CourseFees{
    public static Fees getFees(String course){
    if(course.equalsIgnoreCase(“CSE”))
    return new CSE();
    else if(course.equalsIgnoreCase(“ECE”))
    return new ECE();
    else return null;
    }
    }

    // using factory method
    class Sctpl {
    public static void main(String args[]) throws IOException {
    BufferedReader br = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(System.in));
    System.out.println(“Enter course name”);
    String name = br.readLine();
    Fees f = CourseFees.getFees(name);
    System.out.println(“The fees is Rs “+ f.showFees());
    }
    }

    Elemental Evil: Sessions 5 and 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Printing heroes at home

    There is a piece of good news for the few of us who like to print D&D miniatures in 3D at home. And two pieces of bad news. The good news is that Hero Forge is now offering the digital download option on their website. You can use their excellent editor to create a D&D character of one of many different races, with lots of different equipment and pose options. And then instead of choosing a material to have it printed by them, you choose digital download and get an .stl file.

    The two pieces of bad news are that a) that option costs $9.99 per miniature, which is only slightly less than the $14.99 for the cheapest printed option. I consider it worth it, but it might not be for everybody. And b) you don’t get the file immediately, but sometimes “after one business day for processing”, sometimes after a few minutes. So if you want to print a more common miniature, like a wizard with a staff and pointy hat, you’d better first check sites like Thingiverse for a free version. However I really like Hero Forge for the less common hero miniatures, or the ones you want with very specific equipment.

    The .stl files are of very high resolution and end up being 75 MB large. When I want to edit them on Tinkercad (e.g. for adding print supports), I first need to use Meshmixer to reduce the number of triangles and the file size. And of course a typical home printer isn’t producing that high resolution miniatures. But it’s a bit like with photographs, it’s better to have too high resolution and scale it down than having too low resolution.

    If you want to try it out, check out the Hero Forge Digital Downloads info page. It links to your user profile (if you have an account with them), where you can download two demo .stl files for free.

    Where to buy the best phones of 2017

    We’ve now crowned the winner of our best Android phone of 2017 award, and you can view all the results at the previous link. After testing the handsets in various categories, the best phone honor went to the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, while you guys voted for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as your favorite of the past 12 months. 

    If you aren’t the proud owner of one of these handsets yet, there’s just enough time to pick one up before the end of the holiday season. We’ve rounded up the best deals we can currently find on the phones from our list and laid it all out for you below. Devices are listed in alphabetical order based on manufacturer, with links to where you can each handset underneath. Enjoy. 

    BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition

    Given that it’s a limited edition device, that isn’t officially sold in the US, the BlackBerry KEYone isn’t easy to get hold of at a low-cost price. It did get a reduction in Canada when it was first released, a 24-hour flash sale offering $100 CAD savings, but you’ll be lucky to find it for much less than $700 now. That’s the current asking price on Amazon, though top-rated eBay seller never-msrp has it at even cheaper. 

    never-msrp is usually an eBayer to be cautious of because it sells many international unlocked models that come without a US warranty. As that’s the same circumstances as on Amazon, though — just at a much better price — it’s worth taking a look at. 

    Buy Now: Blackberry Keyone 64 GB – $545.99
    Buy Now: BlackBerry Keyone black edition 64 GB – $699

    Google Pixel 2 XL

    The Google Pixel 2 XL arrived with its fair share of problems, but a few OTAs later and it’s back in action as one of the finest phones available right now. Currently, it’s on sale at the official Google Store with savings of around $75 until December 31 — and it looks like that is the only place you’ll get such a price.

    What’s more, you can make use of Google’s trade-in program to give up your current device for an even better deal; check out the two storage variants at the Google Store via the buttons below. 

    Buy now: Google Pixel 2 XL 64 GB – $774
    Buy Now: Google Pixel 2 XL 128 GB – $874

    Huawei Mate 10 Pro

    The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is our phone of the year, but it’s another handset that you can’t officially get in the US. That’s set to change early next year, with more information to be unveiled at CES 2018, but in the meantime, your best bet will be to get it through Amazon. You’d be taking your chances with third-party sellers on international devices without warranty, but if you’re okay with that, the Mocha Brown variant at $844.99 is the best deal you’re likely to get right now.

    Buy Now: Huawei Mate 10 Pro 128 GB – $844.99

    LG V30

    The LG V20 saw plenty of deals in its time, so you’d expect the same to happen in time with the latest LG flagship, the V30. Though it was the subject of a flash sale but a week ago, it’s back at $799 or more at most retailers now or more, and with most of the major carriers. We’ll keep our eyes peeled on this one, but until another deal pops up you can check out the cloud silver variant on AT&T at the button below.

    Buy Now: LG V30 64 GB – $799

    Lenovo Moto Z2 Force

    No other Moto Z2 Force deal comes close to what T-Mobile is offering, serving up the recent Lenovo flagship for $435 (the handset is still upwards of $600 in many corners of the internet). If that doesn’t float your boat. you can get it for $11.00 per month on a Sprint Flex 18-month contract, down from $33 per month, which ain’t bad savings either. 

    Buy Now: Moto Z2 Force 64 GB – $435
    Buy Now: Lenovo Moto Z2 Force 64 GB – $11 per month

    Nokia 8

    The Nokia 8 is another smartphone which isn’t officially supported in the US, but you can pick it up warranty-less and for GSM networks (like AT&T and T-Mobile) at Amazon for $480. It’s available in all four color variants at, though Tempered Blue is the least expensive, and Amazon undercuts the prices of a number of other resellers who are charging a bomb for it.

    Buy Now: Nokia 8 64 GB – $479.43

    OnePlus 5T

    OnePlus tends to discount its accessories rather than its hardware, which is why it avoided the Black Friday shenanigans last month. Thus, the best offer for the OnePlus 5T is still directly from OnePlus — coming in at $499 and $559 for the 64 GB and 128 GB models respectively.

    That being said, if you’re a student, OnePlus does provide 10% discount on any order, including those on the OnePlus 5T: full details here.

    Buy Now: OnePlus 5T 64 GB – $499
    Buy Now: OnePlus 5T 128 GB – $559

    Razer Phone

    The Razer Phone landed this year and the company hit the ground running. While its camera is substandard, its display, audio and performance capabilities are well above average, and it doesn’t look half bad, either. 

    It’s a brand new phone and will cost you $699 from the official Razer store, however, as we noted yesterday, you can get it with a Leviathan Mini Bluetooth speaker worth $180 if you order by the end of today (December 19): just use the promo code PHLVLUP at the checkout when you’re ordering the phone.

    Buy Now: Razer Phone 64 GB – $699

    Samsung Galaxy Note 8

    The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was the fan favorite handset of 2017, and it was a runner-up in our own tests. It’s been seen for around $949 since launch and still costs that in most places. You can pick it for a fair discount eBay right now without warranty, but considering the last Note’s troubles, I’d hesitate to recommend it without some kind of protection.

    You can get the Note 8 for up to $400 off with Samsung’s official trade-in offer (which you can find via Samsung.com at the first link below) while Amazon has it available for a slightly lower price at $919 (Midnight Black color only).

    Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 64 GB – $950
    Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 64 GB – $919.42

    Sony Xperia XZ1

    There were probably fewer words written about the Xperia XZ1 online than there should have been. It might not have had the trendy bezel-less design of other flagships, but it’s still an excellent phone. Most places are holding firm with a $599 price tag at the moment, but this is already $100 less than what the XZ1 was introduced for; check it out on Amazon underneath.

    Buy Now: Sony Xperia XZ1 64 GB – $597.90

    Have you seen any better deals than what’s on our list? Let us know what they are in the comments.

    Charles Sykes, Anti-Trump Conservative, Looks for Common Ground with the Left

    Some conservatives are just as horrified as progressives.

    Charles J. Sykes is among the more reasonable conservative voices in America now. Formerly a popular conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin, he once specialized in the sort of invective that drives ratings and barroom rants: The Census Bureau was a “bully”; Bill Clinton’s Justice Department was not unlike the Nazis; and so on. In the words of Milwaukee Magazine, he lived in “a Chicken Little reality where the sky is always falling and every public figure is forever running for cover.”

    Then came Trump. During the 2016 campaign, Sykes broke ranks with Republicans over the candidacy of the oft-bankrupted real estate mogul. Sykes wrote a book titled How the Right Lost Its Mind. He became a regular contributor to the New York Times and a cogent critic of Trumpism. 

    When I spotted Sykes at the Miami Book Fair, I had to ask him a question many people are asking: Can the left and right unite to get rid of Trump?

    Here’s our conversation, edited for length.

    Jefferson Morley: The country is in an emergency situation with Trump, and I think every possible solution should be considered, even things that haven’t been tried before, like the left working with the right. What could the left learn from the right at this moment when we have an incompetent, ignorant, impulsive, deceptive president?

    Charles J. Sykes: First of all, I agree with every way you just described him, so let’s start with that. We have some commonality. If there is a Venn diagram between left and right, there’s not a lot of overlap these days, but there is some overlap, and that overlap is crucial on things like the truth ought to matter. Facts ought to matter. Rule of law ought to matter. Let’s find that common ground.

    I find it interesting that people on the left are now suddenly very interested in the whole idea of checks and balances, and that’s OK because this is now an emergency, so let’s talk about it.

    People on the right have to come to grips with, have we become a post-intellectual, post-knowledge movement? I think that’s important.

    The one suggestion I would make [to the left], no political conversation can begin by people saying, “Will you confess now that you are a bigot and you’ve always been a bigot?”

    Also recognize that there are conservatives who are as horrified, if not more horrified than you are, by what’s happened.

    JM: What was the moment for you in the last few years when you realized what was coming? Was there an ‘aha’ moment?

    CJS: No, there wasn’t one moment. It was this long, soul-crushing slog where I kept thinking, “This can’t happen. This won’t happen,” and then the growing recognition that the conservative movement was much more broken than I had thought. I thought I understood what [the movement] was about. I thought I understood who we were. And then I started to realize, this can’t be happening, if I was right.

    There were two phases of this, both of which had their own soul-crushing qualities. The first was Trump’s rise to the nomination over other much more acceptable candidates, and the way the Republican electorate was voting for this man who was so manifestly unfit, so obviously a con man.

    It wasn’t that the information was not available. And this was helped by the capitulation of much of the conservative media. To watch Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and others play this disingenuous, sick game of enabling him, I don’t know what game they were playing, but it had disastrous consequences.

    The second phase, which was just as disillusioning, was watching all the people who… understood who Trump was—and in Wisconsin we voted against him overwhelmingly—fall in line behind him, one by one, because it was a binary choice, tribal politics. No matter how awful or terrible he was, no matter how many women he sexually assaulted, no matter how many disabled reporters he mocked, at least he wasn’t as hateful as Hillary Clinton.

    I don’t think I was naïve about how partisan we’ve become, but the power of that tribalism was really on display there.

    JM: You talk about being surprised. I think people on the left would say there’s a straight line from George W. Bush to Donald Trump, and that’s what set the stage for this. So you can’t exempt yourself from blame.

    CJS: I don’t. I went back and I said, OK, I had been wrong about some things that I obviously did not fully understand, and I may have participated in myself. As you go back, you start to realize, wow, here are some warning signs I should have seen…

    But there is a discontinuity between the party that used to listen to William F. Buckley and now listens to Sean Hannity; that used to read Edmund Burke and now reads Ann Coulter. So some things are not a straight line.

    JM: Did you have a favorite among the Republican candidates?

    CJS: I expected all along I was going to support Marco Rubio or someone like Marco Rubio. But he didn’t even last long enough to get to Wisconsin.

    JM: Now we live in a social media world. We have the Facebook behemoth. Can we ever get back to having credible sources of information that are not immediately impugned and sidelined because of people’s preconceived notions?

    CJS: That is an urgent question. That may be the most urgent question. You ask, was there an ‘aha’ moment for me? I think it was sometime in the middle of 2016 when I realized that I was no longer able to push back against fake news. So with people I had known for 20 years, I could not penetrate this alternative reality silo. They were immune. Nothing outside that bubble was credible to them. That was the ‘oh shit’ moment: where they had succeeded in delegitimizing everything on the outside. I don’t know how we put that back together.

    JM: Is Robert Mueller our savior? How do you think about the Russia investigation?

    CJS: It is immensely important. This is one of the most disillusioning parts of what’s happening: the failure on the part of conservatives to recognize that this is a fundamental issue of our democracy, if we had the Russians trying to undermine our democracy, this is very big and deep.

    Having grown up in the era of Ronald Reagan to hear Republicans say, “It’s not that bad.”… I had a caller on the CSPAN show I just did who was defending Vladimir Putin, saying, “Putin stands up for his people just like Donald Trump.”

    Obviously, this is a serious investigation. Don’t expect the Trump base to be moved because the battlefield has been prepped already: “this is biased, this is a witch hunt.” I actually believe if we had this media environment in the 1970s, Richard Nixon would have survived Watergate. I’m not kidding. Imagine if he had a Hannity and a Breitbart News and a Fox News.

    On the other hand, I think that this is like turning over a rock. You are going to find so many things besides just the Russian collusion. We say that Donald Trump is a con man and a fraud, but that’s the way he’s done business for years. Now suddenly you have a guy [Mueller] who is going to get everything.

    … I think if Trump tries to fire Mueller, I think you will have a full-fledged constitutional crisis.

    JM: I feel like that’s inevitable: He will fire Mueller.

    CJS: I think that anything that is conceivable, is perhaps likely. So, going back to your original question, that’s when you have to have Democrats and principled Republicans voting together. That’s when you are going to need conservative Republicans to say we’re going to draw the line.

    It has already begun to a certain extent. Don’t underestimate the significance of John McCain, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and to a lesser extent Ben Sasse. They’re not running for reelection, so that’s a downside. The upside is that they speak for a lot of Republicans who are not willing to speak out. So there’s a residual potential there—unless you scare them off.

    JM: So if you’re a congressman from Wisconsin and somebody says here’s an article of impeachment, are you ready to vote for that?

    CJS: Now? No, it’s premature. This is one of the rare moments where I think Nancy Pelosi is the real voice of political savvy. She understands: Keep your powder dry. Don’t burn it all until the real stuff comes down. To talk about impeachment at this point, all it does is reinforce the instinct to circle the wagons.

    You know more stuff is coming. Wait until you get it. Don’t cry wolf.

    JM: Do you think Trump will survive his term?

    CJS: I assume he will, yes. But the issue of the women [he groped or assaulted] is going to come back…. You have this massive cultural shift and it’s inevitable that his accusers are going to get their moment. You have this contrast between all of these other men whose careers have been annihilated. And here you have the president of the United States who has never apologized, who has paid no price for this whatsoever. Republicans are going to have to answer: Do you believe these women or do you not believe these women? That is coming.

     

     

    Google is now prioritizing mobile sites to provide better results for mobile devices

    best facts apps

    We all saw this coming. All the way back in November 2016, Google said it would begin prioritizing websites that have a mobile-friendly, responsive design in favor of traditional desktop online websites. Google is following through on that promise as it’s now implementing this new prioritization method for a “handful of sites.” Quite frankly, the move makes sense given that an ever-increasing amount of people are searching constantly from their phones. Especially when you aren’t at a computer, it’s easier to just pull out the phone that’s in your pocket to search for something.

    See also

    We’ve all been there, searching for something on Google, when we finally find the information we need, when *gasp*, it’s a desktop site. The change to mobile-first indexing will ensure that this doesn’t happen as often.

    Traditionally, Google’s crawling and ranking systems only looked at the standard desktop layout of a website. This is no longer going to be the case.

    Google will now use content from mobile sites to create and rank listings, which will allow for more relevant results for mobile users. Google is “evaluating sites independently on their readiness for mobile-first indexing,” and the shift is “closely being monitored by the search team.” If your website is already mobile-friendly, you shouldn’t have to do anything. However, Google does have some guidelines for site owners:

    • Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
    • Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: it should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
    • Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
    • No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
    • Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
    • Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.

    Thoughts on this change?