Overhangs and supports in my 3D prints

Typical home 3D printers use the fused filament fabrication technology, which consists of melting a thread of plastic in a nozzle and building up the printed object with the molten plastic from the bottom up, layer by layer. As a consequence you can’t just print any shape you want: Everything needs to be connected to the bottom layer with an angle of no more than 45°. For my particular application, printing figurines of heroes and monsters for Dungeons & Dragons, that is certainly a problem. Think of a hero with his arm stretched out, holding a sword, or a dragon with spread wings: These parts are “overhangs”, which when seen from the bottom up start up in the air, and thus can’t be printed like that.

The solution to the problem is supports, temporary parts of the model for printing which are removed after the print is finished. Most printers even have software to automatically create such supports. Unfortunately for my particular printer, the XYZ Da Vinci jr. 1.0w, the automatically created supports don’t work very well. The software simply creates supports straight up from the bottom under every minor overhang. That creates far more supports than actually needed, wasting material and producing lots of ugly connection spots on the underside of the model.

For some time I created supports manually, using Tinkercad. That is somewhat fiddly, and also far from optimized. Again the supports I design are mostly straight up from the bottom. Choosing the right number of support points is somewhat hit and miss, so sometimes I print a model, see where my design didn’t really cover an overhang, and then have to add more supports.

But recently I found a much better solution. The free Autodesk Meshmixer software has the possibility to generate supports in the Analysis – Overhangs menu. There are even tons of parameters you can set to optimize those supports. And instead of simple straight up supports, the software produces angled and branched supports, which use much less material. You can also optimize the thickness of the support and the width of the tip to create supports that are stable to print but minimize the size of the connection points.

This software has quite opened up my possibilities of printing miniatures for my game. For example the Princes of the Apocalypse cover art shows a winged female with a spear. Between the wings and the spear she would have been nearly impossible for me to print. But now I printed her with the Meshmixer generated supports and even managed to make her “fly”, her feet not touching the ground. Now I’m only limited by the fragility of the wings and spear when printed at 1:60 scale.

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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A ‘Security Robot’ for the Homeless Has Already Been Tried—It Didn’t Go Well

The 400lb machine that once patrolled outside the San Francisco SPCA prompted a backlash, as some argued its real mission was to drive people away.

To some who are homeless, San Francisco’s latest security robot was a rolling friend on five wheels that they called “R2-D2 Two”. To others living in tents within the droid’s radius, it was the “anti-homeless robot”.

For a month, the 400lb, bullet-shaped bot patrolled outside the not-for-profit San Francisco SPCA animal shelter, rolling around the organization’s parking lots and sidewalks, capturing security video and reading up to 300 license plates per minute. Homeless people who pitched their tents in an alleyway nearby complained they felt the beeping, whirring droid’s job was to run them off.

“We called it the anti-homeless robot,” said John Alvarado, who was one of numerous people camping next to the animal shelter when the robot arrived. He said he quickly decided to move his tent half a block away: “I guess that was the reason for the robot.”

Officials of both the SF SPCA and Knightscope, who rented the robot to the shelter, denied that the intention was to dislodge homeless encampments.

“The SPCA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal,” Knightscope said in a statement.

SF SPCA staff members said the facility had been plagued with break-ins, staff members had been harassed as they went to the parking lot and sidewalks were littered with hypodermic needles. Jennifer Scarlett, the SF SPCA president, said in a release that her organization “was exploring the use of a robot to prevent additional burglaries at our facility and to deter other crimes that frequently occur on our campus – like car break-ins, harassment, vandalism, and graffiti – not to disrupt homeless people”.

But after complaints about the program were shared widely on social media, the organization quickly admitted it had made a mistake in its choice of security guards – and fired the robot.

“Since this story has gone viral, we’ve received hundreds of messages inciting violence and vandalism against our facility, and encouraging people to take retribution,” said Scarlett, noting that their campus had since been vandalized twice. “We are taking this opportunity to reflect on the ‘teachable moment’.”

Some of the homeless people who crossed paths with the white security robot, which bore images of dogs and cats, as it patrolled outside of San Francisco SPCA this month thought it was a cute and a positive addition to the area.

TJ Thornton, whose tent is still pitched across the street from the shelter’s parking lot, nicknamed the bot “R2-D2 Two”. He liked how the machine made little whistling sounds as it moved along the sidewalk and how it would even say “hello” if you walked past it.

Thornton said he thought the bot had a positive influence on the neighborhood and relieved the pressure on local homeless people to always keep an eye on cars parked nearby. “People living on the streets actually watch out for the cars. If anyone does anything stupid, like breaking into cars, it reflects on us.”

Others saw the robot as Big Brother, surveilling their every move with video cameras. “That SPCA robot was the bane of our existence,” said Lexi Evans, 26, who has been living on San Francisco’s streets for 13 years. “It was driving us crazy.”

She said her group of friends had a tent encampment behind the SPCA. When they first saw the robot looking at them, they found it creepy. Then they noticed its white light flashing and thought it was recording their every move on video. Later they observed police officers coming to interact with the robot and wondered whether it was feeding information to law enforcement.

“We started feeling like this thing was surveilling us for the police,” said Evans, whose whole tent encampment has now moved around the block outside another business. “That’s officially invasion of privacy. That’s uncool.”

Evans said that once, someone became so angry with the thing that they knocked it over. The robot made a “whee-ooh wah” sound.

In another instance, somebody “put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors”, Scarlett, the SPCA president, told the San Francisco Business Times.

Trouble really started for the robot last week, when the city issued an order for it to stay off the public sidewalk or face a daily penalty of up to $1,000 for operating in the public right of way without a permit. Then the story hit the internet, with Scarlett telling the Business Times that “from a walking standpoint, I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment”.

But by Friday, SF SPCA was apologizing for having brought in the machine.

“We regret that our words were ill-chosen. They did not properly convey the pilot program’s intent and they inaccurately reflected our values,” said Scarlett. “We are a nonprofit that is extremely sensitive to the issues of homelessness.”

Knightscope’s robots have gotten into trouble in other cities. Last year, a similar robot allegedly ran over a 16-month-old toddler at the Stanford Shopping Center in the town of Palo Alto, causing minor injuries. Another Knightscope security robot became famous on social media for drowning itself in the fountain of the Washington DC office complex it was policing.

“I already miss it,” said Danica Dito, who works in the SPCA administrative offices. “Just the fact that it rolled around discouraged crime.”

 

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Bridge Constructor Portal is not the Portal game you expected, and that’s just fine

When Bridge Constructor Portal was announced earlier this month, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t taken aback. After all, I have played the first two Portal games, and while this mobile spin-off incorporates some of the series’ elements, I wouldn’t call it the follow-up that Portal fans have been clamoring for.

Even so, $5 isn’t asking for a lot, and, at least on paper, Bridge Constructor Portal has plenty to offer.

The game tasks players with being able to use metal girders and suspension wires to build bridges. These bridges allow the always-moving vehicles to get across from one side of the level to the other. Because the game employs a realistic physics system, you have to make sure that the bridges you build properly distribute weight. Otherwise, the bridges will collapse under all the stress.

Whereas previous Bridge Constructor games stopped there, however, Bridge Constructor Portal, you guessed it, uses elements of the Portal series to make the levels that much trickier. For example, many levels include sets of portals where you can hurl vehicles, companion cubes, and other objects through. Items like propulsion gel, sentry turrets, and aerial faith plates are also present and accounted for.

With that combination, the more you progress within Bridge Constructor Portal, the more you realize that the levels end up looking like a frenzy of flying vehicles than your typical roadway. Then again, there’s nothing typical about the game, so I suppose it’s fitting.

As with the Portal series, objects sent through portals maintain their momentum, so you will have to think about how to best use them. It’s no surprise, then, that things can get rather complicated, rather quickly, and they do. The unlimited number of dry runs lend to the send of progress, however, and lend to a sense of accomplishment once you finally get past a certain level you might be stuck on.

Also lending to that sense of accomplishment is the way that Bridge Constructor Portal scales the difficulty. Each level allows you to either get by with one vehicle or a convoy of them. The risk is greater with completing levels with a convoy of vehicles, since you have to account for the greater weight and increased chance of collisions, but you get to brag about it to others.

Not that completing levels with one vehicle is a trivial matter — the game’s mind-boggling levels will make you think hard about how best to approach them, so there is no feeling of scraping by if you manage to get one vehicle from one side of the level to the other.

Editor’s Pick

Making that journey a bit more fun is GLaDOS, the dry and sometimes sarcastic AI voiced by Ellen McLain. She is as witty as ever and brought a smile to my face when I heard her voice, only for that smile to go away as I realize that my bridge engineering skills are not as good as I might think they are.

Poor bridge engineering skills aside, I never felt like Bridge Constructor Portal wasn’t fun. Sure, it might not have been the Portal game I was expecting, but it’s great to look at, the music selection is spot-on, and the game itself was fun to play. Making things better, levels beg to be replayed, since there is usually more than one way to complete them.

If you want to catch a glimpse of what’s possible with the Portal series beyond the Portal gun, Bridge Constructor Portal will be available tomorrow, December 20 for $4.99. The game will also be released for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in early 2018 for $9.99.

Do You Do These 5 Things With Your Cellphone That Health Officials Say You Shouldn’t?

You don’t sleep with your phone—do you?

Radiation from your cellphone could be bad for more than just your mental health, California state health officials warn.

The California Department of Public Health has just released the first-ever guidelines on avoiding too much exposure to the radiation cellphones emit. State officials said one of the reasons for releasing the guidelines is that statistics show cellphone use is at an all-time high, with 95 percent of Americans using cellphones each day, Pew Research Center notes.

Perhaps another reason the guidelines are coming out now is due to pressure from researchers and others. Karen Smith, of the state health department, said there is widespread public concern over cellphone safety, according to a San Francisco CBS station.

Psychologist and UC Berkeley professor Joel Moskowitz sued the health department in 2009 for its refusal to release information on the risks of cellphone use to the public. He won the lawsuit this spring. “People are being injured and harmed by the delay in having this information accessible to them,” Moskowitz told San Francisco’s CBS News affiliate.

Potential Risks

Cellphone use may increase the risk of cancer, but the scientific evidence so far is inconclusive, mainly due to the relatively short period of time cellphones have been around.

Cellphone radiation could be harmful due to the type of radio waves the devices emit: non-ionizing radiation. Tissues close to phone antennas—which exist inside of every smartphone—can be heated by the radiation, as the FDA, American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute all recognize. When you hold your phone up to your head, those nearby tissues include your ears and brain.

Some studies have linked cellphone radiation exposure with brain tumors and other brain cancers, as the American Cancer Society acknowledges, but most studies have not shown conclusive evidence one way or another. Because cellphone use has only been widespread for a few years, as ACA notes, it is impossible for any study to conclude what the long-term health effects of exposure could be.

Higher levels of exposure to non-ionizing radiation are known to impact the health of human cells and DNA, but whether cellphones can expose us to those higher levels is a question researchers are still working to answer.

AlterNet ran an article by Christopher Ketcham in 2011 exploring the widespread reports of cellphones and WiFi making people and animals sick. For the first time in human history, Ketcham noted, people are being exposed to electromagnetic frequencies from cellphones, WiFi and digital meters 24 hours a day. He quotes David O. Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York, who said, “Radiofrequency radiation has a number of biological effects which can be reproducibly found in animals and cellular systems. We really cannot say for certain what the adverse effects are in humans. But the indications are that there may be—and I use the words ‘may be’—very serious effects in humans.”

While the National Cancer Institute’s official stance is that cellphones likely do not emit high enough levels of radiation to affect human health, at least in the short term, its fact sheet on cellphone safety states: “Radiofrequency exposure from cellphone use does cause heating to the area of the body where a cellphone or other device is held (ear, head, etc.). However, it is not sufficient to measurably increase body temperature, and there are no other clearly established effects on the body from radiofrequency energy.”

Other research shows that cellular phones could potentially lower sperm count, cause headaches, and intefere with sleep, hearing and memory retention.

CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta warned in 2012 that the risks of cellphone radiation are largely unknown. See the video, below:

An Atlantic article from earlier this year notes that a study published in PLUS ONE concluded there is a “‘significant’ association between long-term mobile phone use and the risk of glioma,” a type of brain tumor.
“But the actual significance of the link is questionable,” the Atlantic piece states. “The data they used spanned 11 studies between 1980 and 2016, but the researchers themselves acknowledged the evidence is limited and much of the data is ‘poor quality.’ The biggest takeaway, then, may be their conclusion that more study is needed.”
 
As in the U.S., European health experts continue to argue over the potential risks of cellphone radiation amid lack of long-term studies. A large-scale cellphone health study, the COSMOS project, is currently working to track the phone usage and health of more than half a million people across Europe. The study began in 2007 and will continue for the next two to three decades.

The New Guidelines

Since the long-term risk of cellphone use is unknown, why not take some simple, commonsense steps to reduce radiation exposure just in case? This was the apparent thought process behind California’s new guidelines.

The risk of cellphone radiation exposure can increase or decrease exponentially based on some simple do’s and don’ts. It’s a matter of tweaking a few basic habits.

Here are five things not to do, according to the California guidelines for cellphone health, “How to Reduce Exposure to Radiofrequency Energy from Cellphones.”

1. Don’t hold your phone up to your ear.“Use the speakerphone or a headset instead,” because “wireless (Bluetooth) and wired headsets emit much less RF energy than cellphones.” The guidelines also suggest sending text messages rather than talking on the phone whenever possible.

2. Try not to use your phone if you’re in a fast-moving vehicle.“Your phone puts out more RF energy to maintain connections to avoid dropping calls as it switches connections from one cell tower to the next unless it is in airplane mode,” the guidelines state.

3. Avoid using your phone when you have one or two service bars showing.“Cellphones put out more RF energy to connect with cell towers when the signal is weak,” the guide notes.

4. Don’t carry your phone in your pocket, bra or holster close to your body.The guidelines suggest you carry it in a backpack, briefcase, purse or elsewhere, so that the device is kept several inches away from your body. A few inches can make a difference, it notes. Also, put phones on airplane mode when carrying them close as the devices don’t emit RF energy when in airplane mode.

5. Never sleep with your phone under your pillow or near your head. Karen Smith from the state health department suggests keeping your phone at least an arm’s length away from your body when sleeping. You should also turn your phone off or on airplane mode while you sleep, the guidelines note.

 

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Is Sea of Thieves an MMORPG?

Sea of Thieves wasn’t high on my radar until its release this week. But the headlines of servers crashing due to too many players strongly reminded me of, well, every MMORPG launch ever. So I was wondering whether the description of “multiplayer action adventure” meant that it was something completely different than a MMORPG, or whether Sea of Thieves basically is a MMORPG and they just changed the label because MMORPG isn’t fashionable any more.

I am wondering if this is something I should buy. However the game is not on Steam, and as we all know, PC games that are not on Steam basically aren’t real. 🙂 And buying a game at full price at release when everybody is complaining about overloaded servers and lack of content doesn’t feel like a good idea. I’d really like to have a better idea about the gameplay first: How necessary is PvP? How twitchy is the gameplay? Et cetera, et cetera.

Anybody here playing who can give me advice?

Best GPS running watches (December 2017)

There are plenty of great fitness trackers on the market right now, each of which cater to different users with different needs. Just need to keep an eye on your daily activity levels? Maybe the Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin vívosport will suit your needs. Looking for something even cheaper than that? Garmin’s vívofit 3 or Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 might do the trick. But if you’re a more serious athlete that needs something a bit more powerful—something that can track your long runs and not skimp on the handy watch features—what are your options? Today, we’re going to walk you through our list of the best GPS running watches on the market.

Related: The best fitness trackers | Which Fitbit is right for you?

If you’re a serious runner and need something that will accurately track your routes, has a big, easy-to-read screen, a built-in heart rate monitor, and of course, a GPS, this list is for you. Some of the options on here are a bit pricey, but that’s par for the course in this segment of wearables.

Without any further delay, let’s get started!

Editor’s Note: We will update this list as more devices hit the market.

Best GPS running watch

Garmin fenix 5

Garmin’s fenix 5 lineup is finally here, and these are the best GPS running watches on the market right now.

All three fenix 5 models come with preloaded multisport functionality for running, hiking, swimming, biking, and more. They all feature Garmin’s impressive Elevate heart rate trackers, built-in GPS (of course), water resistance up to 100 meters, as well as navigation features with a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter.

They all also feature a variety of connected features that make these devices true smartwatches. Users can get call, text and email smartphone notifications. All Sapphire models are also Wi-Fi enabled, so users will be able to connect with their home network and upload statistics even if their smartphones aren’t around.

Not crazy about the regular fenix 5? The smaller fenix 5S might be for you. It has all the same specs as the fenix 5, though it’s built for people with smaller wrists and has a slightly smaller battery. Looking for something even more beefy than the fenix 5? The fenix 5X is much larger and comes with preloaded with TOPO U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other navigation features like Round Trip Run and Round Trip Ride. The 5X will even display guidance cues for upcoming turns.

Read more

  • Garmin fenix 5 review
  • Wrists-on with Garmin’s new fenix 5 line at CES 2017
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Runner-up

Garmin vívoactive 3

best fitness trackers

Garmin’s vívoactive 3 is a huge step up from its predecessor, the vívoactive HR.

For starters, the vívoactive 3 actually looks like a watch this time around, and it will look nice on your wrist whether you’re at the gym or the office. It’s comfortable too, and has a bright, colorful touchscreen display.

There are a total of 15 activity tracking profiles built in, so most athletes will be covered here. It also has a super accurate GPS and heart rate monitor, a battery that will last around five days on a single charge, and plenty of great smartwatch features built in.

If you don’t mind spending close to $249 on a GPS running watch, you should definitely consider the vívoactive 3.

Read more

  • Garmin vívoactive 3 review
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Honorable mention

TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music

TomTom’s Spark 3 Cardio + Music is a great option if you aren’t interested in the Garmin vívoactive HR.

It has everything you need in a GPS running watch – an accurate heart rate monitor, a built-in GPS (of course) and support for a ton of different running applications. Plus, this model comes with a Route Exploration feature that not only lets you track where you’ve run, but also lets you get routes from any website and upload them to your watch if you’re interested in trying out a new route.

It’s worth noting there are a few different models in the Spark 3 lineup: the TomTom Spark 3, Spark 3 Music, Spark 3 Cardio and our pick, the Spark 3 Cardio + Music. Though less expensive, the Spark 3 and Spark 3 Music unfortunately don’t offer a heart rate monitor. The Spark 3 Cardio certainly offers a lot for the money, though we believe the onboard music storage and pair of Bluetooth headphones that come with the Spark 3 Cardio + Music provide a better value overall. The Cardio + Music model only costs $60 more.

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Also read: The dark side of fitness trackers: how to avoid common mistakes that could hurt your fitness goals

Best budget GPS running watch

Polar M200

If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Polar M200.

This is a waterproof running watch with a built-in heart rate sensor and GPS that will track your speed, distance and route during a run, and will also keep tabs on your daily activity, steps, calories burned, sleep time and quality. This is also a sleek-looking device. In our opinion, it’s much better looking than its predecessor, the Polar M400.

Plus, this device also comes with Polar’s Running Index, which will show you how your running performance is improving overtime. In the Polar Flow app, you’ll get a Running Index score that’s automatically calculated after every run, based on your heart rate and speed data.

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Polar

Best smartwatch for running

Polar M600

See more Polar M600 photos

Polar’s M600 sport watch is by far the best GPS running smartwatch on the market.

With a built-in GPS, IPX8 water resistance rating, optical heart rate monitor and 4GB of on-board storage, the M600 is quite the feature-packed watch. It also comes with support for Polar’s wonderful Flow app, allowing you to track just about any activity you can think of – rowing, skiing, hiking and much more. You’ll also be able to squeeze about two days of battery life out of this thing, which is impressive for an Android Wear watch.

You can certainly find Android Wear devices for less than the $300 asking price, but the M600 provides much more than other devices.

Read more

  • Polar M600 review
  • Polar M600 specs, price release date and everything else you should know
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Buy now from Polar

So there you have it – our list of the best GPS running watches on the market! Did we miss anything? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Next: How to use your fitness tracker to actually get fit – a comprehensive guide

Google expands booking features for travelers with price tracking and deals

Google

We are a week and a half away from Christmas, but it’s still not too late to fly away for the holidays — it’ll just cost a pretty penny to do so. If you’re okay with that, Google updated its suite of travel applications and services to feature price tracking and deals.

Starting with Google Flights, the search giant is leveraging its machine learning chops to take a look at historical price data to let you when is the best time to book a flight. Once you let Google Flights know where you want to go, you can choose to have it send you tips like “prices won’t drop further” or “prices are less than normal.” That way, you can be better informed as to whether you should book your flight now or wait a bit longer.

Editor’s Pick

Moving right along, Google’s hotel search results offer similar information. Because you’re dealing with hotels, Google lets you know if rates for a specific room are higher or if the surrounding area is busier due to a local event. That way, you can better plan when to make a hotel room reservation, though you can opt for email alerts whenever prices fluctuate.

Finally, Google’s Trips app now features a “Discounts” section. As the name implies, the section nets you deals for things like tickets, tours, activities, and attractions. Discounts vary based on where you’re located, though the app also leverages Google’s travel-booking features.

Overall, the new features sound very familiar to what services like Kayak and Hopper already offer. The main difference is, since many folks are already deeply immersed in Google’s ecosystem, these are just more reasons why they shouldn’t leave that ecosystem.

The flight and hotel price tracking are currently rolling out worldwide, whereas the Discounts tab inside of the Trips app will be available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Not Just Inauguration Protesters: Medics, Observers and a Journalist Face 50 Years in Prison

The prosecution somehow saw medics’ bringing of first aid gear to the January 20 protest as being “prepared for war” and “aiding and abetting the riot.”

Final arguments are underway today in Washington, D.C., in a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States: the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Donald Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest D.C. after the inauguration on January 20, some separated from the group and vandalized nearby businesses and vehicles. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area. The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant. We get an update from Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout the first J20 trial.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with an update on a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States. Final arguments are underway today in Washington, D.C., for the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest D.C. after the inauguration, on January 20th, some separated from the group and broke windows of nearby businesses and damaged cars. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area.

The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant from the moment of their arrest. Earlier this week, Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz threw out the felony charge of inciting a riot for the six people on trial now, meaning they now face up to 50 years in prison instead of up to 60.

This comes as police conduct on Inauguration Day has come under scrutiny by the ACLU, and the chief detective in this case is a police union official who tweeted that police showed great restraint during the inauguration.

Well, for more, we go to Washington, D.C. We’re joined by Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout this first J20 trial.

Jude, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain what has happened so far and the significance of the judge throwing out the charge.

JUDE ORTIZ: Right. Thank you so much for having me on again.

So, since I was on last, the prosecutor has rested their entire case with all the so-called evidence against the defendants, and then the defense has also put on their witnesses to—like as part of their right to have witnesses come and testify on their behalf. That process for the defense was very short, about only about half a day in court. And then, now it’s into the like final arguments stage. So the prosecutors had their argument first, and then each of the defense attorneys for the defendants are putting on their arguments. This morning at 9:30, there will be the final two defendants, will have their closing arguments, and then the prosecutor will do a rebuttal. Then there will be some more kind of like legal housekeeping to do, before it goes to the jury.

So, the judge throwing out the inciting a riot charge was a huge development in the case. It’s something that after the prosecutor rests their case, defense attorneys will almost always file a motion to have the charges dismissed. In D.C., it’s called a motion for judgment of acquittal. And it’s a formality, for the most part. It’s rarely ever successful. So it was really notable that one of the most significant charges against the defendants, not only in this trial bloc, but also in the case as a whole, was found, in this case, at least, to have no evidentiary basis at all. So, basically, the judge said that the state did not meet the burden of proof, and that charge therefore was dismissed, and the jury will not have to deliberate on that one at all.

AMY GOODMAN: So, but explain what that means, because we’re talking about numerous cases that will follow this one. Does this judge preside over all of these cases if the inciting to riot remains in the other cases?

JUDE ORTIZ: At this point, the judge is assigned to all the other cases. It’s important to note that there’s another case that is scheduled for this coming Monday for seven defendants, but that one probably will not be happening on Monday, because the jury will still be deliberating on this case. So, it’s unclear when the second trial will begin. It’s looking like it might be in January. And then, on March 5th of next year, all the way through October of next year, are all the remaining trials. And starting in May, there’s a trial scheduled for every single week. But the judge has indicated that her rotation, her job assignment, is switching from criminal court to family court as of January 2nd, so there will be a new judge or judges beginning in 2018.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you see this case as so significant for free speech in the United States?

JUDE ORTIZ: So, on January 20th, the police rounded up everyone who they can get a hold of in this vicinity. The police commander who testified at the beginning of the trial, or towards the beginning of trial, was very clear, both in his testimony as well as recordings from the police radio, that they were interested in the protest—it was an anti-fascist, anti-capitalist march—and they responded to that kind of preemptively by having around a hundred riot cops and their like lieutenants and sergeants, whatnot, there at Logan Circle, where the protest was scheduled to depart from and begin. And that commander said that rather than doing what is typical in D.C., where they do rolling road closures to facilitate the exercise of free speech, instead they showed up with numerous vans full of riot police, and then they followed the march and began, pretty much immediately, to start to crack down on the march. That commander repeatedly used the word “anarchist” to describe everybody who was there. And that officer—or, that commander and other officers talked about everybody being like one group with nefarious intent.

So, from the outset, because of the alleged politics of the march and of the people who were there, the police responded in this very heavy-handed manner that culminated in them rounding everybody up and mass-arresting people. And the prosecutor has continued that by going forward with these charges against everyone. So, when that is the kind of method of operations, for the police going hand in hand with the prosecutor, that sends a very chilling message to anybody who’s interested in going out in the streets and voicing dissent, especially dissent to Trump, dissent to the rise of fascism, dissent to white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, like all these other like very devastating systems of oppression.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude, Assistant U.S. Attorney Qureshi, the second-ranking prosecutor, who made closing arguments, said, in those arguments, a street medic was guilty by being present, and asked, “What do you need a medic with gauze for? She was aiding and abetting the riot. That was her role,” Qureshi said. Respond to that.

JUDE ORTIZ: So, that’s an entirely ludicrous claim. Medics have been at protests across the country for decades to be able to provide first aid type of care to people who are injured in various ways. One of the most notable ways people get injured at protests, as your listeners and viewers know, is by actions from the police. On January 20th, there was a massive amount of pepper spray deployed by police on people, sometimes directly in the face, sometimes on the side or from behind. And we saw this in trial through body cam—body-worn camera videos. There’s also a lot of body-worn camera videos of police knocking people down from behind with their batons. One of the officers who testified ran his bike directly into a protester. And so, there’s all these different ways that the people who are out there like in the streets can get injured very easily. There’s also the elements to deal with. In January, it was very cold, for the January 20th inauguration protest. Lots of different reasons why you’d have medics there in order to like render aid to people who get injured.

That prosecutor said that the supplies that were there kind of show that the medics, in general, were kind of like prepared for war, which is a—it’s as insulting as it is ludicrous to say that people who were out there in the streets were prepared for war, especially when you saw the Department of Homeland Security helicopter video showing all the police operations that were happening there on Inauguration Day, how the police took this like paramilitary approach, that was also supported by the National Guard in order to like corral people and use chemical and projectile weapons against people. So, if there was any kind of warlike conditions, that was coming from the police and from the government, and not from people who were there to render aid.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about some of the videos submitted as evidence in this case by federal prosecutors. This includes video by the Canadian YouTuber Lauren Southern, who the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as, quote, “tiptoe[ing] at the precipice of outright white nationalism.” Southern was there on January 20th, Inauguration Day, and was kettled during the protest, but was allowed to leave without being arrested. Prosecutors also submitted video evidence from the right-wing militia group Oath Keepers, who infiltrated protest planning meetings and secretly recorded them. Prosecutors also presented video from the discredited far-right group Project Veritas, just one day after The Washington Post reported Project Veritas had tried to dupe them with a false story of sexual misconduct by a woman undercover pretending to be a victim of Roy Moore. Go into this and why this matters, Jude Ortiz.

JUDE ORTIZ: It’s appalling to see so much of the state’s—the prosecution’s case and their so-called like evidence coming from overtly far-right sources. So, the Project Veritas video that you mention, it did come out in the courtroom as like a main piece of evidence, exactly like one day after that story broke. And one would think that that would kind of discredit or like cast into doubt like the kind of truthfulness or the usefulness of that evidence. The prosecutor and the police officer who was testifying about it gave no indication that the source of it was at all even a question mark or some cause of concern. The state, through various witnesses, the detectives who like testified about the video and whatnot, admitted that they did no kind of forensic investigation or examination of the tape to make sure that it wasn’t doctored in some way. Project Veritas, of course, is notorious for doctoring in the editing of their videos. And they were presented to the jury as one of their main pieces of evidence, and especially with the idea of conspiracy.

And so, when so much of the so-called evidence against these defendants and the defendants at large depends on this kind of so-called like investigative work of far-right actors, it really shows how the state itself, but with their police investigators, undercover cops infiltrating political protest planning meetings, the undercover and plainclothes police who were present on the march and like in the streets that day—all of these different like state actors were not able to find the evidence that would substantiate the charges the prosecutor has been so ferociously pursuing, and so they have to supplement that and really kind of create the evidentiary base through drawing on the far right.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the main detective working full time on the J20 case, Greggory Pemberton. On Inauguration Day, January 20th, he tweeted D.C. police officers used a, quote, “inspiring amount of restraint” and showed “professionalism.” Last November, he also tweeted about, quote, “disingenuous ‘activists’ who peddle lies and falsehood.” During the J20 trial, defense lawyers played this clip of an interview Pemberton gave to the far-right media outlet One America News Network, praising President Trump.

GREGGORY PEMBERTON: He certainly has a message of law and order, and he really is appealing to a lot of police officers. … Police officers want to hear that someone is going to come in and not allow this divisive, vitriolic rhetoric of this false narrative that all police officers are inherently criminal racists that are out here committing crimes against the citizens, and that they’re going to come in and put a stop to that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude Ortiz, as we wrap up, can you respond to the significance of his involvement with the case and what he’s saying here?

JUDE ORTIZ: Yes. The detective, Pemberton, has claimed that he has looked through hundreds of hours of videos, hundreds of times, since January 21st. It’s been his full-time job, his only assignment. He was able, through that review, to present various compilation boards of photographs, as well as videos and PowerPoints, to give to the jury for their deliberations, that claims to have documentation of the location of each of the defendants all throughout the march, and presenting this as if that’s something that, like, being present like in the streets is a sign of guilt and is evidence of guilt of all these charges.

So it’s a tremendous amount of work that is like put in for these like very politically motivated way—or, reasons. And those political motivations are pretty clear when you look at his Twitter feed, with all of the far-right and pro-Trump things that he has promoted, like through retweets and through likes and through his own comments on Twitter. He claimed on the stand that that was only in the kind of exercise of his position as a board member of the police union. But whether that’s true or whether it’s his own personal opinions, those opinions that are put forward are very much in favor of like right-wing causes and very much against liberal or progressive, like radical-left causes and movements. And he’s even done very inflammatory and insulting things, like saying “black lies matter”—L-I-E-S—instead of “Black Lives Matter,” and discounting that entire movement, that has been so prominent in responding to police violence and brutality across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, shortly after winning the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump tweeted his thoughts on dissent. He tweeted, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag–if they do, there must be consequences–perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Your final comment, Jude Ortiz?

JUDE ORTIZ: I think comments like that show the kind of concerted effort and nature of repression of social movements in the United States. I want to clarify that: I mean like left social movements. The right social movements, that have become more prominent and public under Trump, have been facilitated by the state. We’re seeing that in places like Charlottesville. We’re seeing that in places like St. Louis and all across the country. People need to recognize like how things are shifting, and be ready to be out in resistance, to dissent and to not be scared away. And this case is a very important part of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude Ortiz, I want to thank you for being with us, member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout this first J20 trial. And we’ll keep you updated on this and other trials as they go on.

 

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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.