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6
May

After Math: Robot revolutionaries


The whole “fear of SkyNet” trope is a bit moot at this point, seeing as how robots have already infiltrated our roads, skies and cafeteria-style eateries. You can already see it happening with Lyft adding 30 self-driving vehicles to its Las Vegas fleet, Sphero debuting yet another domestic robopanion, and gangs leveraging drone swarms to blindside the FBI. Numbers, because how else are we going to learn to speak the binary language of our future overlords?

0 times before: Drones have made themselves right at home in the criminal underworld. Typically leveraged for counter-surveillance these remote controlled quadcopters are now taking a more active role in illegal activities — specifically, buzzing FBI agents while they attempt a hostage rescue.

30 Lyfts: Remember those self-driving cars-on-demand cars we showed you back in January? Turns out, they worked so well that the company is expanding the pilot program to more than two dozen autonomous vehicles. The opt-in program still only delivers passengers between high-demand locations but at least you won’t have to worry about making small talk with the driver.

7 auto woks: Because who doesn’t want their next meal to come out of what is essentially a miniaturized cement mixer?

6 months: Testing autonomous vehicles on public streets is a risky — and occasionally deadly — stage for self-driving technologies. While companies like Waymo are attempting to instruct their vehicular AIs the rules of the road in virtual reality, Toyota is attempting to strike a balance between the two. The car company is currently constructing a test track in Michigan that will simulate urban driving environments (just without the pedestrians). It’s expected to open for operations by October.

10 Kilowatts: Get far enough away from the sun and even the most powerful solar-powered killbot will be next to useless. Good thing then that NASA has just finished testing these portable nuclear reactors for deep space missions.

$1,500: You would have thought that the Child’s Play series would have clued more of us in on the dangers of letting potentially possessed animatronic toys into our homes. But noooooooooo, here’s the Misty II from Sphero spin-off Misty Robotics trying to win hearts and minds right before it starts getting stabby.

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6
May

‘Eve Online’ turns 15 today, and its history is epic


Today is the 15th anniversary of the legendarily fascinating virtual world EVE Online, a massively multiplayer spaceship game that has become famous for the incredible stories that sometimes emerge from the community about heists and wars between thousands of players.

EVE is so interesting that it even has its own historian, Andrew Groen, a video game writer formerly of Wired who studies the politics and sociology at work in EVE’s virtual community over its 15-year history.

Groen raised $95,729 from a Kickstarter campaign to independently publish his first book, Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online, which has now sold 17,000 copies worldwide and is in its third printing. He’s currently Kickstarting a sequel which has already brought in more than $115,000 in support and concludes this week.

Empires of EVE is half Star Wars, half Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It is a true and fact-checked account of what happened inside EVE Online from the years 2003-2009 as player factions began to accumulate power and eventually wage a years-long war between more than 50,000 real players. It’s a space opera that takes place on our own internet, and all the characters are 2003 internet users attempting to build their own digital fiefdom.

The excerpt that follows is chapter four of Empires of EVE, and takes place near the beginning of the story.

A civil war in the north

On May 6, 2003 EVE Online officially launched to the public.

Thousands of players from hundreds of corporations (EVE’s equivalent of “guilds” or “clans”) excitedly logged into the game for the first time and made their move. Everybody had their plan when the game first launched: how they’d become rich, how they’d become powerful.

However, one of the greatest conquerors in New Eden’s history chose to remain still.

A group of hardcore strategy gamers from the community of a previous space-based multiplayer game called Homeworld decided to try to make a name for themselves in EVE. They called themselves “Evolution,” and they were led by the chiseled sneer of their tyrannical leader, a player who called himself “SirMolle.”

In real life, SirMolle was Par Molen, a 40-year-old Swede living in Denmark. He fixed air conditioners by day, and by night he commanded the most feared fleets in New Eden.

In an interview in 2014, SirMolle told me that Evolution’s original plan was to quietly take over “New Eden,” the name of the star cluster where the game takes place. It set out to become the Illuminati of EVE Online. The plan was to maintain a low profile, creep into the ranks of larger entities, and then use espionage to simply take over without anyone having noticed.

But Evolution found that espionage in a virtual world is long, dreary work. It takes months to earn the trust of your superiors, and the only way to do that is by acting normal. So infiltrating a corporation has more to do with being a diligent miner and soldier than being a stealthy assassin.

Rather than trudge through that boring work just to maliciously deceive people, Evolution’s leaders opted to stay silent and observe. Evolution had enjoyed quite the reputation as an organization of elite players during the beta phase, and that extra attention made things more difficult for its leaders. So they chose to hit reset for a month and quietly build. The leadership was waiting to see what the optimal move would be. And so, for the first month EVE Online was live, Evolution stayed quiet, building ships and plotting its move.

When it did make a move it headed toward Fountain, a region of space in the West that wasn’t controlled by a major alliance. There were a few corporations operating out of that territory, but none that individually posed a large threat to an organized force like Evolution.

It’s important to remember that the gaming world was much different in 2003 than it is in 2018. Today, voice communication and a strict chain of command are the default in EVE, but back then everything was informal. Many corporations only used in-game text chat which was much slower than being able to talk to your allies. It took a lot more effort and commitment to become a tight-knit group that could coordinate times to play together and talk on TeamSpeak. Evolution was highly organized. It had its own website, forums, and TeamSpeak server. This fact alone made it a formidable foe.

But Evolution’s players were also exceptionally devoted. Evolution itself was a communist organization focused almost exclusively on military pursuits. Each pilot had to submit an application to join, and if they were accepted they were expected to give up all of their belongings to the control of SirMolle, for the glory of the greater whole.

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SirMolle.

“I believe the first official war we had was with some entity in towards [the region of] Fountain,” said SirMolle to me in 2014. “We had like a three week war where we destroyed them, and they posted on the forums ‘Okay, we’re defeated.’

“That was the kind of level you had in the wars back then. It was very isolated with two corporations. It was 30 people altogether. It was concentrated to two or three systems, and you actually had honorable wars as in ‘I declare war on you.’ That changed over the years.”

But Evolution had trouble pacifying “the locals”—as SirMolle diminutively called them—and they resisted Evolution’s attempts to take over. The local corporations were successful at preventing their own eviction, and eventually a ceasefire was brokered which joined the corporations together as the “Fountain Alliance.”

However, the newly unified Fountain Alliance wouldn’t last long. Several Fountain Alliance leaders I spoke to described Fountain Alliance as a group that eventually became bogged down with bureaucracy. Five hour weekly council meetings became the norm as they discussed logistics, territorial mining rights, and endless other laborious topics. Nobody was having much fun, and EVE became work. A lack of fun is the silent killer of alliances in EVE.

The boredom and bureaucracy of Fountain Alliance became too much for Evolution over time. In a matter of just a few months Evolution left Fountain Alliance on amicable terms, said their farewells, and headed North.

SirMolle wanted to fight a war, and he was prepared to manufacture one if he had to.

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Andrew Groen

Casus Belli

Meanwhile, in the northern regions (Fountain is in the West,) a group called the Venal Alliance had formed and was in the process of consolidating power. The corporations of Venal Alliance worked together for mutual benefit, and made a lot of money in the process. What the Venal Alliance didn’t know was that one of its main corporations—a group called “Taggart Transdimensional”—had a bullseye on its back. Taggart and Evolution had fought months earlier in the EVE Online beta, and now that Evolution had left Fountain Alliance in the west to search for a war in the nearby north, there was no better target than its old enemy.

But Evolution couldn’t just march in and declare war against an innocent corporation. That would paint it as the villain, which would harm its recruitment, and potentially draw new allies to Taggart’s aid. SirMolle’s Evolution hoped to ruin Taggart’s reputation to get their allies in the Venal Alliance to abandon them. Evolution needed a proper reason to fight, and it set to work trying to manufacture one. A player by the name of “Mr. Blonde” turned out to be adept at this type of spywork.

The plan Mr. Blonde concocted was to send small raiding gangs into Venal Alliance territory and take cheap shots at Venal ships, the goal being to simply raise the blood pressure of the region. He wanted to make Venal afraid and get its leaders thinking about a fight. Venal Alliance didn’t take the bait though, and Evolution was forced to play along.

Text conversations still exist between the leaders of Evolution and Venal Alliance from this time as Venal Alliance sought answers for why its allies were being targeted. In the logs, SirMolle feigns ignorance and claims the shootings were surely caused by a spate of new recruits who didn’t understand Evolution’s sterling code of conduct. SirMolle assured Venal Alliance leaders that he’d look into the problem and get back to them. He gave Venal’s directors the runaround in every way short of asking them to submit a complaint to Evolution’s department of personnel. Then he posted these conversations in Evolution’s forums to have a laugh with his comrades in a forum thread titled, “Who? Me? What why? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaah.”

Venal Alliance wasn’t ready to go to war. It was wealthy enough that a few ship losses weren’t very meaningful. Especially when its leaders had been assured by their would-be enemies that these were isolated incidents that would be dealt with.

So Evolution kicked things up a notch. Mr. Blonde—also known by the nom de guerre “Femme Fatale”—set to work concocting a new plan to paint Taggart Transdimensional as the secret aggressor in a new war, planting evidence that Taggart Transdimensional was going behind their Venal Alliance allies’ backs to hire mercenary pirates to attack Evolution’s people.

“Independent sources are now stating that M0o, Sinister and Rus (well-known pirate factions of 2003 EVE) received payment from Taggart Transdimensional for [Evolution] ships proven destroyed,” SirMolle wrote in July 2003 on the public EVE Online forums.

Again, there are surviving conversation logs from this time showing Evolution players attempting to convince pirates from the accused factions to play along. In them, SirMolle sends a message to Stavros—leader of the most infamous pirate faction in EVE history, “M0o” (short for “Masters of Ownage,”)—and smugly tells him he’s going to give Stavros “an opportunity.” SirMolle requests that Stavros lie and say his alliance was paid to attack Evolution. But Stavros informed him that he’s mistaken and no such payment occurred.

SirMolle’s reply: “Meh.” He asked him to confirm it anyway.

Ultimately, Stavros refused, and SirMolle never found someone to lie on his behalf. So he had to do it himself and pretend he couldn’t say where he got the information from out of a need to keep his sources confidential.

It’s time…

You have been tried and found guilty. The verdict is simple; Annihilation.

Among the various accusations are these;

Paying known pirates ISK (EVE’s currency) for hits on Evolution.
Supplying same pirates with Ships/Equipment.
Withholding information and blatantly lying.

These accusations have been reviewed internally, and the answer is simple. Taggart Transdimensional will die.

Sincerely,
SirMolle, CEO, Evolution

Just days later, Evolution determined that public sentiment (which it judged by conversations with allies and responses on the Corporation, Alliance, and Organization Discussion section of the official EVE Online forums) was favorable enough for it to start its war. SirMolle’s pilots were behind him and the average player wasn’t willing to rush to the defense of Taggart. Evolution was being given the benefit of the doubt. And so, still feigning shock, Evolution formally declared war against a confused Taggart Transdimensional.

Some people demanded proof of Evolution’s allegations against Taggart Transdimensional, and SirMolle replied with such a transparent lie it’s a miracle it wasn’t figured out.

“Our statement is clear, we have no wish to try and convince anyone,” SirMolle wrote on the forums. “This statement is good enough for us, and our sources are valid. That is all that matters. You may make up your own minds. That is not our decision. Our decision is made.”

In other words, SirMolle said Evolution didn’t care if the public approved of his cause for war or not—an obvious lie given that that he was declaring the war and its causes on a public forum. He wanted the EVE-playing public to take Evolution at its word even though it would take mere seconds to copy the supposed evidence into a forum post.

Eleven years later, SirMolle tells stories like this with a laugh. He’s more than happy to admit his insatiable love of starting political fires, and he still clearly gets joy out of recounting the tales of his conquests over truth.

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Murder and Butchery

With impending aggression right on their doorstep and Evolution banging its war drums, the leaders of Venal Alliance convened to determine their official response. The decision was unanimously made to stand by Taggart Transdimensional and wage war against the invading forces of Evolution.

Evolution was not a large group by any standard. It had only a few dozen players, but it was spectacularly well-organized. As such, Evolution was ready to go to war. Its pilots had outfitted themselves in some of the best ships available. They were ready and willing to show up for battles, and most importantly they enjoyed warfare. Venal Alliance, by contrast, was a group that was largely set up for monetary gain. Even its best pilots tended to be former pirates who had more experience picking on defenseless miners than engaging in large fleet fights.

Evolution came north from Fountain through the regions Pure Blind and Tribute, and began its attack on Venal Alliance’s trade routes and mining spots.

“The war began, and we got slaughtered,” said Venal Alliance’s Jade Constantine in 2014. “Just outright murder and butchery. We lost ship after ship after ship.”

Warfare in July 2003 was more informal, but also more hectic than in the modern game. There wasn’t yet a system in EVE Online for defining which player groups owned which territory. It was very much defined by cultural understanding. The players knew who owned which territory, and didn’t need official records.

But this also meant that in warzones there were no battle lines, and nothing to specifically be gained by short-term victories. With no official sovereignty to take from an enemy the main goal was to figure out how they made money and disrupt their operations. Evolution knew this very well, and it became equal parts famous and reviled for its “hit and fade” attacks. An Evolution fleet would show up, inflict as much damage as it could, and then disappear before the enemy fleet had time to gather for a response.

Evolution’s enemies mocked its perceived cowardice and unwillingness to commit to a full fight. Evolution mocked them right back for expecting warfare to be conducted like renaissance-era musketeers exchanging volleys in turn. A dance would occur between the two enemies that stretched around the clock. Depending on where in the real world each fleet primarily hailed from, they would be dominant at different hours. When Evolution’s commanders didn’t feel they could win a fight, they would leave.

Occasionally, both would catch each other feeling confident and sparks would fly.

Bloody BKG

Few details remain of the battles from this time. What we do know is that the bulk of the fighting centered around the system BKG-Q2 in the heart of the Branch region, home to a valuable station that everyone wanted to control. The specifics of the individual battles were less important than the general fact that Evolution was handing out a beating on the battlefield. Yet Venal Alliance was winning on another front.

Venal’s figurehead leader, Jade Constantine, was hard at work waging a war of propaganda. From the very beginning, Venal Alliance’s vision was that of a free north. Jade Constantine crusaded to keep the northern territories free from the type of corporate dictatorships—like Evolution—that had sprung up all over the rest of New Eden. In those places the law was simple: anyone who isn’t a confirmed ally was kill-on-sight. Even if they were unknown, kill them. The thinking was that it wasn’t worth the risk to have random people in your territory in case they’re spies, saboteurs, or pirates.

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Jade Constantine.

The dream of Jade Constantine’s Venal Alliance was to create a territory where average players could come, do business, build ships, conduct commerce, and leave freely. It was a vision of a civilization that co-existed with the rest of EVE Online rather than trying to militarily protect itself from all potential threats.

“We were running a PR campaign at the time that was saying essentially that Venal is a free port,” said Jade Constantine in 2014. “This is a place of free trading. It’s **somewhere anyone from Empire space (the new player zone) can come out to. So why not come out and fight for the Venal Alliance against the Evolution oppressors?”

You might be thinking that this sounds a great deal more honorable than Evolution’s deceptive warmongering. The citizens of New Eden at the time largely agreed, and Venal Alliance was becoming the martyr in the north.

Jade Constantine is an extremely divisive force in the history of EVE Online, but an undeniably important one. At the time, many players hated seeing her face beside long propaganda screeds on the forums. Some saw her as pompous, self-righteous, and devious. They believed she twisted the facts to conform to her self-serving narrative. Jade carried herself with a pomposity that annoyed some, and she had a way of speaking down to dissenters, famously calling them “m’dear.”

The real life player behind Jade, was exceptionally talented at painting a picture of warfare for the people of New Eden. Every week, players could find a 2,000-word essay he’d written attempting to control the conversation.

When I interviewed the player behind Jade Constantine, he told me about an old English king whom he’d taken inspiration from. It’s the story of King Henry II of England in the 12th century who was traveling through Britain, putting down rebellions in his various territories. At one point he traveled to Ireland and put down a rebellion, only to be informed he’d have to go back to London to suppress an even larger one. The trouble was that his army had dwindled, and to make matters worse he was forced to travel through potentially hostile territory—Wales—to get there.

King Henry’s astonishing solution was to pretend he was the reincarnation of the legendary King Arthur. He hired seamstresses to create great white banners bearing Arthur’s sigil, a red dragon. He hired minstrels and storytellers to travel ahead of his army to tell stories of how Arthur had been seen again after hundreds of years. According to the tale, he arrived on the shores of Wales that winter with basically nothing except his knights dressed in exceptionally flashy garb. For whatever reason, the people of Wales bought it. Not only did Henry II gain safe passage through the territory, but the Welsh people joined his army by the thousands.

Cruse told me this story to illustrate a point about shaping a conflict through words, and how a story alone can change the course of history.

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Jade Constantine the Verbose

As a result of Jade Constantine’s propaganda/public relations campaign, Venal Alliance started attracting numerous new corporations from Empire space who wanted to try their hand at warfare in nullsec. Some people loathed Jade, but others believed in her vision of a free port in the untamed north.

Venal Alliance had a strong financial backbone, and these new recruits provided the manpower the alliance needed to keep the defense strong at all hours of the day. So Venal began buying dozens of small, cheap ships for the new players it described as its “meatshield.” The combination of an effective narrative, a bevy of new volunteers, and strong finances allowed it to stabilize as sufficient defenders of the north.

Unfortunately, defense was all its pilots could manage. It could stand its ground against Evolution, but Venal Alliance was far from winning the war. Its miners were safe enough to keep mining, and the merchant ships stayed safe, but the battles weren’t being won.

It wasn’t long before the members of Venal Alliance started to notice that the members of Taggart Transdimensional—the people Venal Alliance banded together to defend from Evolution in the first place—were barely ever seen anymore. Battles would break out and Taggart members weren’t fighting them. Taggart was an exceptionally wealthy corporation with a population of players that made up roughly 40 percent of the Venal Alliance. In battles, however, it represented far less than that.

Jade Constantine and others called for another gathering of Venal Alliance’s war council to discuss how to deal with this. Taggart heard their arguments and offered to help out its allies in the Venal Alliance by selling them battleships at “only” a 20 percent markup from the cost Taggart incurred in building them. Which, it tried to justify, was 15 percent less than they sold for on the open market.

I like to compare this situation to a person asking their friends to help them move house. Except when the friends arrive to help, the homeowner doesn’t move any boxes. When the friends inevitably complain, the homeowner feigns sympathy and tries to make amends by offering to sell them a hand truck for a profit. It was a deal that was obviously rejected and was borderline insulting.

Around this time, SirMolle of Evolution reached out to contact Jade Constantine for a parlay. He spoke to Jade with his trademark patronizing tone, telling her that Evolution had been impressed by the “fighting spirit” of the Venal Alliance. However, what Evolution wanted was to hurt Taggart Transdimensional, and SirMolle was frustrated that Taggart was so often missing from the battlefield.

So SirMolle offered his deal: throw Taggart Transdimensional out of Venal Alliance, and Evolution would recognize Venal Alliance’s sovereignty in the north and call a ceasefire with everyone but Taggart.

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This Treacherous Night

Jade took the deal back to Venal and called a meeting of what was known as “The Council of the Free Captains.” It was a midnight meeting where a dozen delegates from all factions within Venal Alliance got together to cast their votes.

Jade had gone to the leader of Taggart Transdimensional, a player named Ragnar, to discuss the meeting beforehand. She told him that she and her corporation—Jericho Fraction—were prepared to stick by Taggart if it started pulling its weight. Her proposal was to alter the Venal Alliance tax system which at the time mandated that each member corporation contribute 25,000,000 ISK per week to the alliance to cover ship replacements and ammunition for the war effort. Taggart was a very large corporation of over 200 people—several times larger than other Venal Alliance corporations—but it still only had to pay 25,000,000 per week, a tiny fraction of its earnings. Jade wanted to bring that up to an amount proportional to the massive size of the corporation.

This was a philosophical problem for Taggart Transdimensional.

Why? Because Taggart Transdimensional…were space libertarians.

Its leaders were stalwart believers in Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy both in EVE and in their ordinary lives. The name Taggart Transdimensional itself comes from Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged, which stars protagonist Dagny Taggart as a vice president of a railroad company called Taggart Transcontinental.

The leader of the corporation was Ragnar Danneskjold (also a character from Atlas Shrugged,) the single wealthiest person in all of EVE Online, worth an unthinkable billions of ISK.

This idea of having to pay a heavy tax to a government that would seek to control his actions was horrifying to Ragnar. He refused Jade Constantine’s deal.

Sensing that there was a very real chance Taggart could be abandoned by its allies, Ragnar moved to consolidate power. He privately consulted with the member corporations of Venal Alliance, and lobbied them to side with him.

“There is a rift coming and there is one side that is safe and one that is not,” Ragnar told one such corporation.

The day of the vote arrived. The ballots were cast and counted. The vote was 6 to 5; six votes in favor of preserving the Venal Alliance and standing by Taggart, five votes in favor of tossing them to the wolves. Taggart managed to survive, and the Venal Alliance was preserved.

Evolution heard every word of the meeting. It had a spy—again Mr. Blonde—in Venal Alliance’s midst and he was relaying the minutes of the meeting. To put it mildly, Evolution was disappointed. Venal Alliance banding together could spell the death of its campaign. If Evolution couldn’t break Venal in the previous months there was no reason to believe it would happen now. Especially with all of Venal’s foreign volunteers still flooding in from empire space.

But just as the Venal Alliance council meeting moved on to other matters, a spokesman for Ragnar interrupted to deliver a prepared statement.

“Taggart Transdimensional does not recognize the authority of this council, nor the voting power of a corporation 1/10th of our size having the same power to limit our sovereignty. It is clear that the anti-Taggart effort has been led by Jade Constantine, who has been bought off by Evolution. We will start with a 100 million ISK bounty on Jade Constantine. Taggart and our friends will remain in Venal and we will openly attack all of the pro-Evolution people that have just voted against their one-time friends in Taggart. This is fair warning. Thank you.”

— Ragnar, CEO, Taggart Transdimensional

(Edited for clarity.)

The Venal Alliance council was stunned. In the view of these council members, this vote was just a natural process of inter-alliance diplomacy. At first, it wasn’t clear Ragnar actually understood what had happened. Maybe he misheard the vote count and thought Taggart was being evicted?

No such luck. Taggart Transdimensional understood completely, and had declared war on its former allies who had the audacity to vote against them. Almost instantly, the region of stars called Venal shut down, and became a war zone.

Jade Constantine commemorated the occasion with yet another epic, soaringly dramatic forum post.

“I, Jade Constantine, take up the mantle of Ragnar’s 100 million ISK of blood money and wear it proudly as a shroud to brittle avarice and all the works of foolish craven traitorlord below. Death to Taggart, Death to Ragnar, Death to the memory of this treacherous night.”

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Battle lines

The Venal Alliance immediately demanded a re-vote in light of Taggart’s war declaration against its own allies. It should go without saying that this changed the minds of a number of swing votes. The original vote was 6-5 in favor of Taggart, but the new vote was 9-2 against Taggart (not counting Taggart’s vote.) It was partially meaningless given that Taggart had made no qualms about burning the alliance to the ground. But this was a moment for the other Venal Alliance corporations to reform and to clarify that their dedication was to Venal Alliance, not Taggart.

Venal Alliance as it once existed was now dead. The nine remaining members reformed and began calling themselves the New Venal Alliance, shifting their focus to destroying Taggart Transdimensional.

This was more difficult than it sounds, however. Taggart was still staggeringly wealthy and well-equipped. One of the first issues that divided the former Venal Alliance was that Taggart wasn’t showing up for battles. SirMolle himself was upset that Taggart wasn’t hurting enough. The members of the “New Venal Alliance” had just ended a large, highly destructive war against Evolution, and were now expected to fight a war against Taggart, which had barely taken any damage in that war. Taggart was fresh and flush with equipment for fighting a long war.

Taggart Transdimensional was not a fighting corporation, though. Its pilots liked to mine and make money, and they were exceptionally good at it. Taggart preferred to stick to its own niche while fighting its wars through proxies and mercenaries. It had all the resources needed to fight a war without the will necessary to see it through personally.

Taggart got together with the two other former Venal Alliance members who had voted to stand by it (former pirates who had been hired to become a makeshift military,) and the new group began calling itself the Northern Alliance. It attracted one more new member: the well-known pirate group “M3G4.” Taggart was now at the head of an alliance that featured some of the most feared pirate factions in the north of New Eden. It claimed Venal for its own uses and warned all others to evacuate.

However, Taggart had drastically underestimated the disastrous results of spurning its former allies when those allies voted democratically to stand by Taggart. It left an alliance of free spacers in favor of an alliance filled with hated pirates.

Jade Constantine’s propaganda machine used this to her advantage and was effective at painting Taggart in a horrible light. Jade rebranded Taggart Transdimensional as “Taggart Transpiratical.”

Over the next week the New Venal Alliance started receiving care packages from all over New Eden. People were sending ships and money and morale-boosting well wishes inspiring the New Venal Alliance to keep up the fight and wipe out the enemies Jade had painted as hypocritical capitalist snakes.

More foreign volunteers continued to come up North to fight with the New Venal Alliance. Venal Alliance had been through hell for the last two months, but its leaders understood better than anyone in New Eden how to make a war fun. It was managing to win wars while it was actually losing on the battlefield, because it understood that EVE players need to have a goal to stay entertained. The New Venal Alliance gave its members a goal using ideology, and attracted other players from around the New Eden star cluster because it offered these people something to believe in—a real reason to be playing this video game.

This alone would have been bad news for Taggart Transdimensional’s brand new Northern Alliance, but something else happened that Ragnar didn’t expect: Evolution was true to its word.

Evolution held up its end of the cease-fire bargain and stopped fighting the New Venal Alliance. Beyond that, Evolution went so far as to actually aid the New Venal Alliance in its oncoming civil war. Evolution supplied it with ships, minerals, and manpower, essentially making the New Venal Alliance into Evolution’s proxy for destroying its sworn enemies: Taggart Transdimensional and its gang of pirates.

The New Venal Alliance knew, however, that it wasn’t going to beat Taggart through force of arms. Taggart was simply too wealthy and could replace ships too easily. So Venal started training its new allies in unconventional tactics in order to disrupt Taggart’s income. One new corporation called Reikoku stood out from the crowd. Its pilots were new to EVE and Jade Constantine had recruited it as a mercenary unit and schooled its pilots in the dark art of “suicide ganking.”

The basic idea is to equip a cheap ship with 100% of the ship’s energy focused on burst firepower—with no concern for survivability—to almost instantly kill your enemy. This way you can attack them right in front of EVE Online’s NPC police force in high-security Empire space, and still be able to secure the kill. The NPC police will show up and destroy the attacking ship as well, but it’s cheaper, easier to replace, and not filled with valuable mining cargo.

“We basically funded a suicide ganking campaign against Taggart miners in northern Lonetrek,” said Jade Constantine. “Which was the other front of the war. To be quite honest, Reikoku did more to crush Taggart than anybody else because they absolutely loved [suicide attacks.]”

This went on for two weeks. The New Venal Alliance fought a series of battles for Venal itself while Reikoku hammered the Taggart supply lines and trade routes throughout Lonetrek to the south. Only fifteen days after this fighting officially began, a delegate from Taggart appeared in the EVE Online forums.

“Earlier today Ragnar Danneskjold officially stepped down as President and CEO of Taggart Transdimensional and declared his retirement from EVE. […] We wish to put the controversy of recent times behind us, and as such are wiping the slate clean. Our kill-on-sight list is empty, and we are declaring a unilateral ceasefire effective immediately. All bounties have been revoked, and all existing alliances have been dissolved. In particular, while Taggart Trandimensional has never condoned piracy, we have in the past been members of alliances which have included pirate corporations. This is no longer the case, nor will it ever be in the future.

We look forward to reaffirming our diplomatic and trade relations with all other corporations and alliances, and working towards a secure and prosperous future for all.

— GunnyP, new CEO of Taggart Transdimensional

October 2, 2003

The day before, Ragnar had undocked his famously rare and expensive Navy Issue Apocalypse-class battleship and made a proclamation in front of his people.

“I’m going away planetside for a time,” he is said to have written (some speculate that he was going on vacation.) “Fight hard. Fight to the last. Never surrender.”

And then he logged off and was never seen in New Eden again.

Though Taggart tried as hard as possible to hide it, this was a surrender. Taggart’s figurehead leader, Ragnar, had left the game suddenly and without explanation, and leadership fell to people who no longer believed in this war. They wanted to go back to building wealth, not squandering it on a pointless war. Taggart Transdimensional evacuated the north and tried to get back to the peace that used to be considered normal.

Almost every other corporation involved in the fighting agreed to the ceasefire eagerly. SirMolle was still skeptical, and didn’t seem happy to stop killing Taggart ships, but he went along with it.

Taggart had been wounded badly through all of this. Its membership had dropped catastrophically, and it had grown to depend more and more on mercenaries. Then a player named Anla Shok broke its back.

A former director in Taggart Transdimensional, Anla Shok, recognized the corporation’s weakness for the opportunity it was and executed the largest corporate theft in the first year of EVE. The still vast coffers of Taggart Transdimensional (filled to the brim when the ultra-wealthy Ragnar left his fortune) were looted. In total, 1.2 billion ISK was stolen from the shared corporate account all of the directors used to pool their funds—an incredible amount of money for the era that would have paid for hundreds if not thousands of ships.

Anla Shok then took the ill-gotten gains and joined Evolution.

Ragnar’s fortune would become the seed money SirMolle needed to embark on a mission to fulfill his destiny and conquer all of New Eden.

Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online is available in Kindle, audiobook, hardcover (currently sold out) and softcover versions. The Kickstarter for Volume II ends Thursday, May 10th.

Images: Razorien (Eve photography), Andrew Groen (Avatar images), CCP Games (Eve Online).

6
May

Apple Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Steve Jobs Unveiling the iMac


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the late Steve Jobs introducing the iMac, in what has become a defining moment in Apple’s storied history. Apple CEO Tim Cook commemorated the occasion on Twitter today.

20 years ago today, Steve introduced the world to iMac. It set Apple on a new course and forever changed the way people look at computers. pic.twitter.com/GbKno7YBHl

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) May 6, 2018

“This is iMac,” said Jobs, who had returned to the helm of Apple as interim CEO just eight months prior, after being ousted from the company twelve years earlier. A large crowd erupted with applause at the Flint Center, the same theater where Jobs unveiled the original Macintosh back in 1984.

The excitement centered upon the fact that the iMac didn’t look anything like other desktop PCs of the time. This wasn’t a typical boxy monitor-and-tower in dull beige. This was an all-in-one machine with curvy, translucent plastic, first in bondi blue, and later in several other colors of the rainbow.


Jobs was as charismatic as always on stage:

This is iMac. The whole thing is translucent. You can see into it. It’s so cool. We’ve got stereo speakers on the front. We’ve got infrared right up here. We’ve got the CD-ROM drive right in the middle. We’ve got dual stereo headphone jacks. We’ve got the coolest mouse on the planet right here. All of the connectors are inside one beautiful little door here—the Ethernet, the USB stuff. Around the back, we’ve got a really great handle here. The back of this thing looks better than the front of the other guys, by the way.

iMac was all about getting everyday people connected to the internet. In fact, the letter I in iMac stood for internet, according to Ken Segall, the creative director who came up with the name for the computer. It also stood for individual, instruct, inform, and inspire, according to Apple’s presentation.

More importantly, the iMac was a turning point for Apple, a company that had lost its direction by the mid-1990s. Apple was hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, had a bloated product lineup with over a dozen Macintosh models, and seemed to lack a clear plan forward. That is, until Jobs stepped in.

Jobs aimed to simplify Apple’s product lineup with a four-quadrant product matrix, with one desktop computer and one portable computer for consumers and professionals respectively. iMac filled the consumer-desktop quadrant.

Jobs in Apple’s press release for the iMac:

We designed iMac to deliver the things consumers care about most—the excitement of the Internet and the simplicity of the Mac. iMac is next year’s computer for $1299; not last year’s computer for $999.

Today we brought romance and innovation back into the industry. iMac reminds everyone of what Apple stands for.

The original iMac pioneered many industry firsts such as USB, FireWire, and quiet fan-less operation, and while the removal of the floppy drive and legacy ports was controversial, the computer ultimately pushed the industry forward.

The original iMac’s tech specs:

  • PowerPC G3 processor clocked at 233MHz
  • 15-inch display with 1,024×768 resolution
  • Two USB ports and Ethernet with a built-in software modem
  • 4GB hard drive
  • 32MB of RAM, expandable to 128MB
  • 24x CD-ROM drive
  • Built-in stereo speakers with SRS sound
  • Apple-designed USB keyboard and mouse
  • Mac OS 8.1

The strategy was effective, as the iMac kickstarted Apple’s return to profitability, just months after it flirted with potential bankruptcy. iMac sales topped 278,000 units in the first six weeks, and in October 1998, Apple reported earnings of $106 million in its fourth quarter, contributing to its first profitable year since 1995.

Apple’s naming scheme lived on with the iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007, and iPad in 2010, products that led it to become the world’s most valuable company.

The success of the iMac was due in part to a significant marketing campaign developed by ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day. The ads, both in print and video form, focused on the iMac’s design and the simplicity of both setting it up and connecting to the internet. A few of the spots featured actor Jeff Goldblum.


A sampling of taglines from the campaign:

  • Yum.
  • Sorry, no beige.
  • Chic. Not geek.
  • High-technicolor.
  • No artificial colors.
  • The rebirth of cool.
  • The most colorful way to the Internet.
  • Family vehicles for the information superhighway.
  • The thrill of surfing. The agony of choosing a color.
  • The most dramatically new Macintosh since the original.

In the two decades since, the iMac has undergone several revisions, keeping up with rapid technological advancements. Over those years, Apple’s attention to both design and function hasn’t wavered.

In 2002, the iMac received its first significant redesign, with a thin flat-panel display affixed to a white semicircular base with a cantilevered metal arm. In 2004, Apple integrated the main logic board, optical drive, and other components behind the display, allowing for a thinner aluminum stand.

iMac in 2002 on left and 2007 in middle, iMac Pro on right
In 2007, Apple ditched white plastic and gave the iMac an aluminum enclosure backed by black plastic. A model with a complete aluminum unibody enclosure was released in 2012. Starting in 2014, the iMac gained high-resolution 4K and 5K Retina displays. And, in 2017, the powerful iMac Pro was released.

It is 1998, though, that will always be remembered as the year Apple started a new chapter of success. Happy birthday to the iMac.

Related Roundup: iMacBuyer’s Guide: iMac (Don’t Buy)
Discuss this article in our forums

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6
May

Fortnite for Android: Everything You Need To Know!


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The hottest game of 2018 will be coming to Android in the coming months.

Fortnite has been blowing up lately. Millions of people have become obsessed with the game, both as players and just watching popular Twitch streamers play the game.

Interested to learn more about what the heck Fortnite is all about? Just keep reading.

What’s new with Fortnite?

May 4, 2018: Season 4 has begun, but still no word on Android app release date.

While we patiently wait for Epic Games to finish the Android version of the game, the game itself continues to evolve with the start of Season 4.

The latest update for the game started out with a bang, with a meteorite crashing into the Dusty Depot on the map and introducing a new upgrade called Hop Rocks that, when consumed, let you jump and float in the air, defying gravity. Other changes have come to the map and you can learn all about it from our friends from iMore.

Meanwhile, still no word on a firm release date for Android. We’re sure Epic Games is eager to get Android users in on the fun, but until then you can sign up for your Epic Games account and let them know which phone you’re planning to play on.

Sign up for Fortnite Mobile

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is what would happen if you combined two of the most addictive games out there — Minecraft and PUBG.

Fortnite offers a free 100-player Player Vs Player (PvP) Battle Royale game mode. Just like PUBG, you’re dropped onto the large island map and must arm yourself and outlive your competition. But in Fortnite, you always start out armed with a pickaxe which can be used as a melee weapon or for harvest raw supplies for building walls, ramps, and shelters.

It certainly adds extra layers of strategy to the format, creating essentially a perfect storm of addictive gaming action that’s as fun to watch as it is to play. Oh, speaking of storms all the action takes place in the eye of a deadly electrical storm meaning you can’t just hunker down and hide out the whole game. You got to keep moving.

How do you play the game?

Just like PUBG, your goal is to be the last man standing — with up to 100 players involved in each match, that’s no small task.

Each game starts with the players jumping out of the flying “Battle Bus” and parachuting down onto a giant island. Once landed, you must loot nearby buildings for items, guns, and ammo to defend yourself and attack other players.

You also need to keep an eye on the map, as every few minutes the storm closes in on the play area. If you’re caught in the storm, you slowly die so you do not want to forget to regularly check where you are on the map. Eventually, the play constricts to a tiny area for the final showdown between the remaining players — there can only be one winner!

Unlike PUBG, you’re able to carry more than two guns. Instead, you’re limited to the number of weapons and items you can carry at one time. Also, guns are color coded to denote their rarity — from grey (common) to orange (legendary) — and the rarer the gun, the deadlier it is.

Then there’s the crafting element. Every player starts out with a pickaxe which can be used as a melee weapon or used to break down trees and buildings to harvest the raw resources. You can then use these raw resources to build your own structures, whether it be a defensive wall to provide cover from an advancing enemy, a set of stairs to reach the second floor of a building or your own watchtower to snipe players from across the map. The resources you mine will determine the strength. Steel is stronger than brick, which is stronger than wood.

When will it be available for Android?

Fortnite has been available for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for a few months now, and is now widely available on iOS devices after a brief invite-only beta.

There have been no firm dates set for an Android release by Fortnite’s developer, Epic Games, but they have said to expect support for Android to come in the next few months. For now, Android users can head on over to Epic Games, log in or create your Fortnite Account, and then let the developers know which device you plan to play on which will also add you to the mailing list to be informed when the game eventually drops.

Until then, at least we’ve got PUBG to tide us over.

Will it be free to play?

Epic Games has so far released the PvP Battle Royale game for free across all platforms including the mobile version for iOS. The console version also has a paid game mode called Save The World that’s Player vs Environment (PvE). Save The World plays more like Minecraft, where you’re harvesting more resources and stocking up on loot to survive waves of AI enemies in a sort of tower defense-style of gameplay.

The PvE mode will not be available in Fortnite Mobile for iOS and, frankly, it’s the PvP mode that everyone is crazy for so that’s quite alright with us.

However, the iOS version offers in-app purchases for cosmetic items to customize your player and people sure have been buying stuff. According to this report from Sensor Tower analtyics, Fortnite Mobile players spent more than $1 million during the first 72 hours of its release on iOS. Wow.

So, to answer the question, you have the option to spend money on Fortnite if you want a cool looking character, but the game is free to play and you won’t need to pay to win.

Will there be support for Bluetooth controls?

Epic Games has indicated that Bluetooth controller support will be coming later, but as of right now only touchscreen controls are available.

Is it cross-platform?

Epic Games have indicated that you will be able to play Fortnite across all platforms. Your Fortnite profile can be connected to all the platforms you play on so you can add to your stats however you connect to the game.

Don’t be worried about getting mismatched as the one mobile player in a server of PC and console players. If you’re playing solo on mobile, you will only be matched up against other mobile players. If you join a squad with friends playing on another platform, then that squad will be matched against a multi-platform population, essentially making cross-platform play opt-in.

  • Learn more about Fortnite Mobile

Are you hyped for Fortnite?

We’ll be sure to let you know when the game launches for Android. Until then, you can create your Epic Games account and start playing on one of the other platforms to start getting a handle on the game

Android Gaming

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  • Best Android games
  • Best free Android games
  • Best games with no in-app purchases
  • Best action games for Android
  • Best RPGs for Android
  • All the Android gaming news!

6
May

From the Editor’s Desk: The disappointing reality of in-screen fingerprint


Why haven’t we seen in-screen fingerprint in more Android flagships? Simple: The current tech is pants.

Finding a way to embed a fingerprint scanner into the display of your handset is seen the holy grail of smartphone biometrics. As phone makers push relentlessly towards the vision of “full-screen” devices, in-screen fingerprint provides yet another way to bump up that all-important screen-to-body ratio.

In-screen fingerprint also offers a futuristic edge — a much-needed differentiator in a homogenous marketplace of interchangeable, commoditized glass slabs.

So it’s no surprise to have seen this burgeoning technology cropping up in supply chain rumors around future devices, particularly concerning the two biggest players in this industry: Apple and Samsung. It’s been a couple of years since we first heard whispers of a full-screen Galaxy handset with a fingerprint scanner in the display. Indeed, Samsung’s current button setup, with a pressure-sensitive virtual clicky home key, seems to have been designed around this concept.

Yet so far, outside of a few concept devices from China, it has failed to materialize.

That’s why, going into my review of the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS, the thing most alluring to me about this $2000 handset was that, finally, someone was shipping a flagship phone fingerprint behind the display.

My enthusiasm, however, evaporated within minutes of actually using the feature. The process of registering fingerprints in the in-display sensor hammers home just how slow the new sensor is compared to the capacitive fingerprint tech we’ve been using for the past several years. We’ve been spoiled by effortlessly quick fingerprint scanners in smartphones for the past few release cycles. In-screen fingerprint, at least as it’s implemented in the Mate RS, is like going back to a fingerprint scanner from 2014 or 2015, with waits of up to a second to unlock.

There’s no reason to suspect Huawei of cheaping out in a phone that goes for up to $2600 in the markets where it’s sold. The company is surely using the best components available to it. But those components are slow.

There are also practical issues. Since it’s an optical sensor, which has to actually see your fingerprint to scan it, the phone has to light up the area around the sensor as you press. That’s fine in daylight. In a dark bar or bedroom? Annoying.

In 2018, in-screen fingerprint is a tech demo: Functional, but slow and unreliable.

On the Mate RS in particular, it also takes time to find the in-screen sensor and press it. (Current optical sensors require pressure to work properly, as the sensor needs to see a flat image of your fingerprint.) Given that the sensor is about a quarter of the way up the display, it’s not somewhere that’s easy to find by touch alone — since the sensor in is in the screen, you can’t feel where it is. In addition, there’s also no haptic feedback to guide you. Instead, you’ll need to look at the device, and find the telltale glowing target.

And once you’ve done that, you in most cases you might as well have used Huawei’s excellent face unlock feature, which is quicker and more reliable.

Even after registering four fingerprints on the Mate RS, I ran into way more hiccups than I have from a traditional fingerprint scanner in at least three years. On some occasions, no amount of repositioning would allow me to unlock, and I can only assume that the optical sensor is more easily thrown off by gunk on the screen, or my fingertips, or changes in temperature, or whatever other day-to-day stuff you shouldn’t need to worry about when unlocking your phone.

inscreen-fingerprint.jpg?itok=wkAL5cZL

It’s a hassle to use, and even when it works it’s painfully slow. It’s telling that Huawei provides two other (excellent) unlock methods in the Mate RS — face unlock and a traditional fingerprint scanner on the back — because using in-display fingerprint alone would be maddening.

Of course, the $2000 starting price of the Mate RS gives Huawei and Porsche Design plenty of wiggle room to include these extra components. The Mate RS itself is also something of a quirky device, not expected to sell in large numbers. I couldn’t imagine Samsung wanting to shell out for an in-display fingerprint scanner and a backup capacitive option around the back, in a phone with traditional flagship pricing and expected sales numbering in the tens of millions.

Instead, every big-name flagship phone has made the (probably correct) decision to stick with the tried-and-true capacitive fingerprint technology while waiting for in-display tech to improve.

That said, it’s also hard to avoid the conclusion that face unlocking in smartphones, even without a dedicated IR laser array like Apple’s FaceID, is improving at a far quicker pace than in-display fingerprint. The former is here today in phones including the Mate RS, and works so well that I’ve basically ignored the in-screen fingerprint scanner throughout my entire time with the handset.

The demand for in-screen technologies is unlikely to wane anytime soon, but the stuff that’s shipping today lacks the maturity required in such a core part of a modern smartphone. Give it a couple of years, and in the meantime appreciate the speed and accuracy of your current phone’s fingerprint scanner.

What else is going on?

  • Oh right, it’s Google I/O next week. Andrew has a great rundown of everything we’re expecting to see in Mountain View from next Tuesday. Personally, I’m hoping for details on the future of Material Design, further revelations around Android P, and a clearer picture of where Wear OS is going.
  • I’d also love to hear something more concrete on Google’s plan around the Fuchsia operating system. Eventually it’ll need to bring developers into the loop on the next-gen OS, and I/O is as good a time as any to do that.
  • As good as the LG G7 ThinQ (you’re welcome) is, I agree with Daniel Bader that it won’t do much to get LG’s mobile division out of its current rut. The company is treading water with another solid phone that probably won’t move the needle. And rumors of an LG V35 this summer, presumably followed by a V40 in the fall, paint a schizophrenic picture of the company’s late-2018 roadmap.
  • We’re also not far off from OnePlus 6 launch season. And I agree that, with an anticipated price rise, the camera is the one thing that has to improve this year.
  • Just as important: Consumer trust. 2017 was a year of embarrassing blunders for OnePlus, ranging from the comical (send your phone in for a firmware update for HD Netflix) to serious (credit card data breach). Once the 6 is out in the wild, OnePlus needs the next 12 months to pass without any high-profile screw-ups.

That’s it for now. See you at I/O next week!

-Alex

6
May

Amazon has big discounts on its Echo, Kindle, and Fire hardware for a limited time


Some great prices have returned.

Amazon has launched a new sale that includes nearly all of its own hardware, including the Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, Fire TV Sticks, Kindle E-readers, and more. This promotion brings the Echo Dot back down to just $39.99, the Fire TV Stick down to $29.99, Fire Tablets for $39.99, and Kindle E-readers to only $59.99.

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You can make the deals even sweeter by adding two Echo Dots to your cart for a total of $59.98. That’s an additional $20 off and brings each of them back down to Black Friday pricing. Bundling the Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick drops the price for both down to just $64.95, which is $5 less than buying them separately right now.

Be sure to check out all of the hardware discounts now, before they disappear.

See at Amazon

6
May

Best microSD Cards for Galaxy S8 in 2018


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What are the best microSD cards for the Galaxy S8?

Following in the footsteps of the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S8 offers support for microSD cards so you can increase the storage of the phone. This time around, however, Samsung has increased the onboard storage from 32GB up to 64GB, so many people may find that more than enough. But if you’re worried about filling that 64GB up with music, video or pictures, you should grab a microSD card and put it all there so you can easily access it.

Here are some of the best options to put in your new Galaxy S8, divided into performance and value options.

  • Performance options
  • Value options

Performance options

These cards are all rated U3, which is a speed classification shorthand for UHS Speed Class 3, offering a minimum sequential write speed of 30MB/s. Why does this matter? Because without a card this fast, the Galaxy S8 can’t record 4K video to an external card.

SanDisk Extreme 32GB

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If the 64GB that Samsung gives you inside the Galaxy S8 isn’t enough for your daily needs, adding a bit more doesn’t have to cost a ton. SanDisk’s high-performance microSDHC UHS-I Card ($19) offers transfer speeds of up to 80MB/s and with its U3 rating it is capable of handling 4K video.

Adding 32GB of storage to a 64GB phone may seem a bit weird, but if you aren’t looking to spend a lot this may be the way to go at under $20 for the card. If you want a bit more storage, you can get the 64GB SanDisk Extreme for just under $32.

See at Amazon

PNY U3 Pro Elite 128GB

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If you’re planning to do a lot of 4K video recording, you’ll want a fast and reliable card in your phone. PNY’s U3 Pro Elite 128GB card adds plenty of storage and the speeds you need. Classified at U3, it is great for video, and it is capable of up to 95MB/s read and 90MB/s write. At around $60, this is a relatively inexpensive option, and it is highly-rated and reliable.

See at Amazon

Samsung 256GB EVO Select microSD

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Samsung’s own 256GB EVO Select microSD card (around $120) is one of the best to go for if you are ready to just go all out on storage. With read speeds of up to 100MB/s and write speeds of up to 90MB/s you can quickly and easily transfer files to and from the phone. It’s also U3 classified which makes it perfect for 4K video.

With the speed and storage capacity comes a larger price tag on this card, but if you want the biggest on the market this is the way to go.

See at Amazon

Value options

If you don’t care about 4K video capture and just want a card that stores media for playback, or captures exclusively 1080p video on the Galaxy S8, these cards cost significantly less than U3-speed options.

Samsung EVO 128GB microSD

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Samsung’s EVO 128GB microSD card (about $45) isn’t the company’s top offering, but it comes with decent speeds and a price tag to match. With up to 48MB/s read and write (Class 10 or U1 classification), it can handle 1080p video without a problem. If you want a Samsung-branded card that doesn’t break the bank, this is the one to go with.

See at Amazon

SanDisk Ultra 128GB microSD

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SanDisk is a well-known company when it comes to memory cards and storage products, and cards like this show you why. The SanDisk Ultra 128GB ($40) is a Class 10 card that comes with a 10-year warranty and has quick transfer speeds (up to 80MB/s), so it should check many of the boxes that you look for in a microSD card.

See at Amazon

SanDisk Ultra 200GB microSD

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If you’re looking to add a lot of extra storage at a relatively low cost, the SanDisk Ultra 200GB microSD card (around $70) is the way to go. This Class 10 card provides transfer speeds of up to 90MB/s and can record Full HD video. If you like to keep your digital library with you at all times, you’ll want one of these.

See at Amazon

Your favorite?

Do you have a favorite microSD card that isn’t listed here? Be sure to drop a comment below and let us know which card it is, and why you like it!

Updated May 2018: Updated pricing information and shop links. These are still your best options for the Galaxy S8!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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6
May

YouTube pulls hundreds of videos over essay cheating ads


YouTube doesn’t have it easy managing the ads it automatically inserts itself, but it’s another challenge entirely to manage the ads baked into the videos themselves. The online video giant has pulled over 1,400 videos after a BBC investigation found more than 250 channels had mid-video ads for EduBirdie, a Ukraine-based essay cheating service. YouTube had given some of these channels until May 4th to edit the ads out of their videos, but not all of them made it before the cutoff point.

It’s not certain if YouTube will let users re-upload videos without the ads. The promos aren’t strictly illegal, but they do violate YouTube’s ad policies.

Not surprisingly, those affected are upset. In some cases, they’ve lost months’ worth of video in a heartbeat. They’ve also complained that YouTube didn’t do enough to communicate its policies on ads like these, although that argument only hold so much water given that EduBirdie was clearly intended for cheating.

YouTube has promised changes: it’ll be “working with creators going forward” to help them understand that these ads aren’t acceptable. It still faces an uphill battle, though. It’s not easy to detect baked-in ads like this, as they often vary significantly from video to video — unlike music, YouTube can’t just scan for familiar cues. Moreover, many video creators don’t fully understand policies even when content is potentially illegal. It could be a long, long while before unscrupulous ads become a rarity.

Source: BBC (1), (2)

6
May

Ben Heck’s mini pinball game: Analysis and programming


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Ben is moving walls around, but don’t expect him to quit his day job to become an architect just yet. After a few tests on the pieces for the modular miniature pinball kit, it has been decided that the angles need to change for the pinball run. That means a redesign is in store. Meanwhile, Felix has received the final design of the printed circuit board from OSHPark, and based on some initial tests it appears to be a-okay! What do you think of the build so far? Let the team know over on the element14 Community.

6
May

Facebook’s friend suggestions helped connect extremists


When you think of internet giants fighting terrorism online, there’s a good chance you think of them banning accounts and deleting posts. However, their friend suggestions may prove to be just as problematic. Researchers have shared a report to the Telegraph revealing that Facebook’s “suggested friends” feature has been connecting Islamic extremists on a routine basis. While some instances are almost expected (contacting one extremist brings up connections to others), some of the suggestions surface purely by accident: reading an article about an extremist uprising in the Philippines led to recommendations for “dozens” of local extremists.

And in at least one case, the suggestions helped recruiting efforts. An Indonesian ISIS backer sent a friend request to a non-religious New Yorker in March 2017, leading the man to support the group in the space of six months.

Facebook has been taking action, but the report noted that less than half the accounts had vanished in a six-month period. The company would also remove posts identified as terrorist content, but didn’t always ban the user in question. One terrorism suspect in the UK managed to get his account reinstated nine times despite posting propaganda videos.

A company spokesman stressed that their current approach “is working,” with 99 percent of Al Qaeda- and ISIS-oriented content removed automatically. At the same time, it acknowledged that there’s “no easy technical fix” and that it would “continue to invest” in both human reviewers and tech to catch extremist material.

The situation should improve, then, but this illustrates one of the central problems with curbing extremism online: the same features that help you stay in touch can inadvertently fuel terrorists by linking them to similarly vicious people. It also illustrates how far internet behemoths like Facebook have to go in fighting terrorism. Although there have certainly been improvements, there are still areas where extremists can spread their message.

Source: Telegraph

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