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

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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.

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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?

Land of Livia

For the last two weeks I have been playing Land of Livia. Overall that took me maybe an hour, which pretty much tells you the most important thing you need to know about the game: It uses real time as a game element. And no, you can’t speed that up with microtransactions, there aren’t any. The prelude chapter is free, and then the first chapter costs just €4.49. But you need to be at ease with the slow flow to enjoy it.

Land of Livia is a role-playing game with not much in the way of graphics. Your main activity is going on quests, which nets you gold and equipment, which increases your three main stats. Your level depends on your highest stat. Each quest has a success chance based on the corresponding stat, and just requires you to wait up to 1 hour in real time. If you choose a quest that is comparatively difficult, your chance to succeed is low, but if you should succeed the reward is comparatively more valuable to you. Apart from going on quests, you can move, spend money listening in taverns to find new locations, or play mini-games to improve gems or discover lore. Overall you follow a main story, but there are side-stories as well, so it isn’t completely linear.

I tried to play this on my iPad, but somehow my typical tablet use wasn’t a good fit with the pace of the game. Then I started playing on my iPhone instead, with a silent notification every time a quest finished, and that worked much better. But of course sometimes I don’t notice, or I am in a situation where I can’t pull out my phone to make a move. So progress is rather slow. Might not be for everybody. However, as the game is free to try, I can only recommend you check it out for yourself.

The One Scenario in Which Trump Would Risk Impeachment and Fire Robert Mueller

The president reportedly expects to be exonerated soon.

President Donald Trump believes that special counsel Robert Mueller will soon send him a letter that completely exonerates him of any wrongdoing — but the president’s allies fear that such a letter will never come.

CNN reports that Trump has recently been boasting to allies that the Russia probe will be over very shortly, and that Mueller will personally exonerate him. The president believes this, CNN’s sources say, because his attorneys have tried to manage him by telling him that he faces no real danger from the probe.

However, some of the president’s allies believe this is delusional, wishful thinking — and they fear what Trump will do if that exoneration letter never comes.

One Trump ally tells CNN that the president will likely have a “meltdown” after months go by without an exoneration letter, after which “he’ll try and fire Mueller and then be impeached.”

Another Trump ally similarly warns that Trump’s lawyers are playing a dangerous game by buttering him up with happy talk about the Mueller probe ending shortly.

“I’ve known him long enough to know that disappointing him is a problem and they’ve built up a level of expectations for him that are unrealistic,” the source said. “[They’ve] lulled him into a false sense of security.”

 

 

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Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo all slash smartphone orders by over 10%

  • Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo are all cutting smartphone orders by over 10% in Q4 2017.
  • The companies are sitting on more and more inventory as worldwide smartphone demand has dropped.
  • Xiaomi is still performing well despite the struggle of fellow Chinese device manufacturers.

One of the smartphone trends that might have flown under the radar in 2017 is the explosion of Chinese cell phone manufactures. While they have been steadily growing for years, this was the year that companies like Xiaomi were able to top Samsung in the important market of India. Huawei is the world’s third largest device manufacturer and occasionally tops Apple for second and OPPO and Vivo (both owned by BBK) are both in the top three in China.

Editor’s Pick

To say it has been a good year for these companies would be an understatement. But, it looks like Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo are preparing for a slower start to 2018. According to a report from DigiTimes, the three companies are cutting smartphone orders by over 10%. The information comes from sources at suppliers for the trio of companies.

As demand for new smartphones falls, the companies are now sitting on more and more inventory.

The one company that seems to be immune from the slowdown is Xiaomi. The company continues to be bullish in both online and retail environments. Xiaomi is continuing its surge in India, which saw it overtake Samsung in the country. India looks to be an interesting battleground for 2018 as Samsung and Xiaomi battle it out at the top and Huawei looks to increase its presence.

See also: Report: Samsung’s global market share will fall in 2018

Xiaomi and Huawei are also both expected to increase their presence in the United States next year. Rumors of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro’s release on Verizon and AT&T have heated up recently and Xiaomi is reportedly in talks with US carriers to carry its phones as well, according to Bloomberg.

Despite cutting orders, it looks like 2018 is shaping up to be a good year for Chinese smartphone manufacturers.

Former CIA Official Suggests Trump Campaign Team May Have ‘Welcomed’ Russian Election Interference

No one bothered to report an obviously relevant Trump Tower meeting.

Former CIA and U.S. Defense Department official Jeremy Bash told MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace that President Donald Trump’s actions after being cautioned by the FBI about Russia raise serious red flags.

Bash specifically noted that the Trump team’s disinterest in informing the FBI about a Trump Tower meeting with Russians following the bureau’s alert is suspicious.

“I think the fact that the campaign, the candidate was warned and that the candidate and the campaign did not then go back to the FBI after the Trump Tower meeting is a huge red flag that, not only were they unconcerned with this Russian overture,  but they welcomed it and in some ways want to conceal it,” he said. 

“To have warned the FBI would have been to expose their own conduct, the campaign’s own conduct, and that is something that Bob Mueller will be very, very interested in.”

Watch the segment below.

 

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3D printing larger objects

Since I bought my 3D printer I have printed hundreds of miniatures for my Dungeons & Dragons game. The miniatures are in a classic 1 inch = 5 feet that is 1:60 scale. So a typical medium sized miniature has a 25 mm base and is around 28 mm tall. As I have written earlier, the main problem of printing objects that size is that printing anything less than 1 mm thick tends to fail, so I had to “fatten” some miniatures or give them oversized weapons to work. Now that I have a good selection of miniatures, I am more often printing larger objects, and the challenges are different.

Now “larger objects” on my 3D printer are limited to 150 mm in any dimension due to the size of the printer itself. Over the last month I printed several objects that were at or close to that limit: Two dice towers, a hinged box, a card tray and two card holders for the 7th Continent, and JoyCon holders for the Nintendo Switch. Apart from the box, which was more of a tech demo to show that you can print a hinged object in one piece, the other objects would be either hard to get anywhere, or be much more expensive. Thus there is some utility to printing these larger objects yourself. The 3D printer also automatically makes items hollow, filled with some honeycomb structure, so a bulky 3D printed object is quite lightweight.

While with larger objects there are no more problems with too thin parts, the main downside of these objects is that the uneven surface is far more prominent. If you are used to holding plastic items in your hand which have a smooth and shiny surface, the 3D printed objects are notably different. Along the Z-axis the layer structure is very visible. And on inner surfaces where the printer had to move across empty space to get to the other side of the object there are irregular imperfections. To some extent you can clean the object up using a sanding sponge. But unless you want to spend hours sanding the object will never be totally smooth and shiny like a commercial injection-molded item.

I still don’t believe in a future where we all just 3D print everything we need instead of buying mass-produced items. However there are a few niche applications where a 3D printer can produce a larger object of some use.

Wondering what comes next

The liberal world order has been defined as standing for “greater individual freedom, greater choice, support for democratic forms of government, a fundamental faith in free-market capitalism and private enterprise, a belief in constitutional forms of government with divided powers, an independent judiciary, separation of church and state, a strong support for free trade and an aversion to protectionism, among other things”. Obviously there is a lot to like about these values. Most economists believe that this system is the one that is best suited to the creation of wealth. However the predominance of the liberal world order in the last 30 years has also demonstrated that while the system is good for the creation of wealth overall, it isn’t all that good in the distribution of that wealth. That not only leads to a lot of opposition, but is also somewhat self-defeating in the long run: Concentrated wealth is less good at further powering the economy than distributed wealth.

In the USA and a lot of other places the current main opposition against the liberal world order comes from the right, from nationalism, protectionism, populism, and ethnocentrism. However if you look at those right-wing forces enacting policies like the current US tax reform or the Brexit from the UK, it is likely that the right will not solve the problem of wealth distribution any better than the liberal world order (and will presumably create less wealth in the first place). Blaming foreigners and the media will only get right-wing politicians so far until the people realize that they aren’t in fact “better off than they were four years ago”. It is that, and not the whole lot of unrelated shouting about various values, that ultimately will bring change. The liberal world order failed the people, but the conservative version isn’t doing any better. So I’m wondering what will come next.

One likely answer is in the form of people like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. The economic left might one day look like a good answer to people whose main concern is wealth distribution, because the economic left has always stood for redistribution of wealth. However the economic left also has some policies in their book that hinders wealth creation more than necessary for a fair distribution. And they have a long history of ending up with “more equal than others” policies that aren’t in fact much closer to a fair distribution of wealth than the conservative version.

What an optimist could hope for would be a reformed liberal world order, the same values as above but with a priority for wealth distribution and against too much wealth concentration. A vision like in Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism. However if you look at how the world previously solved excesses of wealth creation, there are only few examples of peaceful solutions (e.g. Theodore Roosevelt) and lots of examples of the wealth ending up destroyed or redistributed through war and revolution. A pessimist would buy gold coins instead of bitcoins.

RonyaSoft Poster Printer

Just some unsolicited free advertising for a software I bought this weekend: Ronyasoft’s Poster Printer costs $19.95 for a home license. It is a software that takes an image and prints it at any size you want over multiple pages of paper. You can crop the image to print just the part you want. And if you print over multiple pages, you can add helpful guides on how to glue the whole thing together to give a good-looking poster. The software is quite user-friendly and it was easy enough to figure out all the options. And I’m quite happy with the results.

Obviously I am using the software to print out battlemaps for my Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Specifically this weekend I am printing the battlemaps for Madness at Gardmore Abbey. I still had the images from the Cartographer’s Guild from the last time I played. But at the time I thought I’d never play that adventure again, and threw away the printouts, so I had to print them again.

If you followed my posts about battlemaps you might notice that this is somewhere a step back in quality. For my last 4E campaign I didn’t print the poster maps myself, but sent them out to a poster printing website. Great quality, no need to glue pages together, and better water-resistance of the final product makes those poster maps really nice. However they cost between $10 and $20 per map, depending on size. And for Gardmore Abbey I need 24 maps. That’s a bit too expensive for my taste.

In a way there is a difference in the economics of this between 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons and 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. My recent experience with playing 4E adventures in 5E shows that 5E is about three times faster than 4E. Madness at Gardmore Abbey in 4E took my group 18 sessions to play through over a whole year. In 5E I can probably do it in 6 sessions or so. So with a lot less time spent on any single battlemap, I am less willing to spend too much money on one. However I do plan to play the Zeitgeist campaign, which is the only one that I have a complete set of poster maps for, in 5th edition somewhere next year. I’m just waiting for the official conversion.

Rupert Murdoch Seems to Have Forgotten That He Fired Bill O’Reilly

The only sexual-harassment problem they’ve had at Fox News was Roger Ailes, he said.

In light of the news that the Walt Disney Company had reached a deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch spoke to Sky News TV about the move and other business matters at the empire.

But when the topic of sexual harassment allegations came up and whether they affected the network, Murdoch called the accusations “nonsense.”

“It’s all nonsense,” he said. “There was a problem with our chief executive, over the year, isolated incidents.” Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes stepped down in 2016 after over 20 women accused him of sexual harassment, and News Corp paid $45 million in settlements related to those allegations. Upon his departure, Ailes was awarded a $40 million exit package.

Murdoch told Sky News TV, “As soon as we investigated he was out of the place in hours — well three or four days. And there has been nothing else since then.”

Since then, since Ailes left News Corp, there has actually been quite a bit else.

The network’s biggest star, Bill O’Reilly was fired in April following numerous sexual harassment allegations and after the New York Times discovered that Fox had paid at least $13 million in settlements over complaints made against him. The network also terminated host Eric Bolling in September, after Huff Post reported that Bolling had sent unsolicited pictures of his genitalia to at least three female colleagues. Host Chris Payne was also suspended this summer after allegations of sexual harassment. He was later reinstated.

Murdoch claims the accusations were “largely political because we are conservative. The liberals are going down the drain. NBC is in deep trouble.”

The media industry, like Hollywood, the food industry and politics, has come under scrutiny for a culture of predation by men in power and systematic sexual misconduct. From NBC’s Matt Lauer, to CBS’s Charlie Rose, to PBS’s Tavis Smily, allegations of sexual harassment or assault have not been confined to conservatives. But to ignore how pervasive allegations specifically at Fox News have been is a very selective understanding of this current moment.

“There are really bad cases and people should be moved aside,” Murdoch said. “There are other things — which probably amount to a bit of flirting.” According to Sky News, the 86-year-old said that he did not believe sexual misconduct allegations had “affected investor sentiment towards his businesses.”

 

 

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Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms

The last time I wrote about idle games was nearly 2 years ago. In that time the games have evolved further. And if you look at my Steam account, Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms is a game I have played for over 300 hours. Or rather, not played. Or to be even more precise, played for a few hours, but have left running on my computer for over 300 hours. It’s complicated!

Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms combines the idle game genre with the RPG genre, and sprinkles a bit of an endless runner into the mix. You start out with one dwarven warrior, Bruenor (who is “famous” in the lore of D&D) on a side-scrolling screen encountering endless hordes of monsters on his way. The dwarf kills monsters, and you can help by dealing damage through clicking on monsters. Every monster drops gold. And that gold can be used to increase your click damage, or to increase the level of Bruenor, or unlock additional heroes and level those up. Once you have fulfilled certain requirements, e.g. kill 25 monsters, you can advance to the next level, where there is the next endless stream of monsters.

Because that is the point of an idle game, there isn’t a whole lot to do. However the game has more strategic depth than one would think, because you need to arrange your heroes in a formation. And with levels each hero acquires special abilities which influence his neighbors in the formation. At one point you will have more heroes available than there are slots in the formation. And selecting the best heroes in the best formation is far from a trivial task. In addition there are some story elements, mostly in the form of friendly banter between the heroes. So for an idle game it is the most interesting and strategic game I know. Yeah, I know, that isn’t saying much. But, anyway, I keep “playing” this.

The math behind the game is interesting in as far as it is exponential, and human brains have problems with exponential. Your stats and gold found quickly go up into million, billions, trillions, quadrillions, etc., until you switch to scientific notation in the settings because you don’t even know the units any more. The one thing that remains linear is gems, with just a handful of them dropping every 5 levels at each boss. With gems you can buy chests, which contain things like helpful potions or gear for your heroes. And, because this is a free-to-play game, of course you can also buy those chests for real money. I probably spent more than I should have, but sometimes when I feel down I use buying special offers in free-to-play games as a sort of retail therapy, and this is my current game of choice for this. I don’t claim that this is rational behavior. 🙂

One of the more interesting choices to do in this game is choosing when to stop a run and to start over. At the end of a run you get divine favor in function of the amount of gold you gathered. And that divine favor increases the amount of gold you will find on the next run. The exponential math is tuned in a way that your divine favor basically determines how far you get in a run, because at some point gold gathering and level gaining becomes very slow, while the monsters keep getting harder and harder, until you can’t beat them any more. So the ideal strategy is doing a run until you hit a progress wall, and then reset to collect divine favor and start the next run. The game is organized in a way that this also over time gives you access to different stories and locations. To make this trickier you can also spend your divine favor for bonuses, but of course if you spend too much the lack of divine favor hurts you more than the bonuses help.

The reason for my 300+ hours is something that I am not really happy about: Idle offline gives far less rewards than idle online. For example while the game is running online, you can set the levels to auto-advance. The latest patch even added “familiars”, which are legal click-bots, but also only work when the game is running. Thus one is pushed towards leaving the computer on for example at night. The whole thing smacks a bit of mining bitcoins, only that the rewards of the game are less valuable than bitcoins. Offline you still gather gold and divine favor at the level you currently are, but with diminishing returns. If you are on holiday and offline for a week you don’t come back with a huge amount of divine favor collected, you’d have gathered more online in a day or two. Still it is nice to get at least some rewards while offline.

Overall I like the game for the D&D Forgotten Realms theme, and the relatively large number of non-trivial decisions you need to make to advance. But it remains an idle game, and I am well aware that this won’t be everybody’s cup of tea.