Looking to get into ForEx/Binary Options safely with no previous experience other than paper silver trading.
Hi everyone. I was cruising the web and came across a video add for an app that piqued my interest in Binary Options, which reminded me that I wanted to learn about trading ForEx. This add professed an app that would do your trading for you, based on the parameters you set, with an 85% success rate. It was called the Guardian Angel Wing app. The minimum starting investment was $250, then they would gift you with another $125 and you could "start trading right away!" They use Opteck as a broker. I did some reading and tried to find some reviews and of course I could only find feeedback from people who were unhappy with it. It still got me thinking about how I hate the 9 to 5 grind and I am looking for ways to put more irons in the fire. Is there a way for a guy who is a blue collar joe to get into these sort of markets without taking massive losses? I'm providing for a family and don't have a lot of money to risk. That's why I was attracted to this GAW app, but I don't have the warm, fuzzy feeling I am looking for with that particular app. I traded a paper silver account for a year with a small investment, and by the end of the year I had increase the investment by 38%. Although I have no training or experience, I had a gut feeling on the prices of PM's and I would sell on highs and buy on lows. It seemed simple enough and worked for me, but the company I was dealing with changed their policy and made their minimum account holding price a little too high for me to be able to participate anymore. I just want something I can plink around with on my cel phone, jump in when I see a low and sell off when I see a high, and have the money stashed safely in an account when I am not actively trading. Is there anything out there for me? I also posted this on /trading - I am not a bot or a spammmer - Just looking for quick guidance and straight answers. Thanks in advance to anyone who offers constructive advice! TLDR: Noob looking for an easy Android App to trade ForEx or Binary Options with, without a big buy-in price. Preferably an App that has a free demo account for me to learn on first.
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Updated projectile VFX to better represent its hitbox, especially when it is traveling towards your POV
We’re keeping an eye on the overall power level of Paranoia, but as a first step wanted to resolve visual issues where players hit with Paranoia appear outside of its impact on their screen.
Blade Storm (Burst Fire)
The time between consecutive Burst Fire use has increased from 0.33 seconds >>> 0.45 seconds
Daggers thrown in Burst now have a damage falloff that begins at 12 meters and drops steadily (to 35 damage) at max falloff
Headshot multiplier on Burst Fire reduced from 3x >>> 2x
While we continue to investigate some of her outsized strengths, we think the burst fire on her Blade Storm has been over-performing at long ranges. The burst fire is intended to be a close range attack, but we found it frequently getting frags at over 20 meters away. These changes aim to rein in its effective range while retaining its close range potency.
Viper now starts the round at 100 fuel (previously 50)
Now that Viper can place her wall pre-round, we want her to be able to act with her team right at barrier drop without the tension of also trying to maximize her fuel for an initial move.
Vulnerable debuff applied from Snake Bite now lingers for 2 seconds after leaving Viper’s acid
Immediately dropping the vulnerable debuff upon exit wasn’t creating the threat we’ve hoped for when we added it. This change should make the Viper (and team) advantage window more realistic, as well as project a unique threat on opponents playing around it.
Move speed doubled while casting
Viper now fast equips her weapon after casting, re-equip times vary per gun—but on average will reduce her weapon down time by .4 seconds
The combination of a slow placement and re-equip time was resulting in Viper players getting too hurt or killed while casting ults in a situation we felt should be pretty safe. This change should increase the positional options available while casting, and get your weapon up sooner.
Fire rate bonus decreased from 25% >>> 15%
At its previous fire rate, we felt Empress was too effective when using heavies/smgs, AND too fast to master the change in spray pattern on rifles. We hope this change allows us to address both issues at once, while also giving us a chance to have a unified fire rate increase (matching Brimstone’s stim below) that players can learn and master.
Fire rate bonus increased from 10% >>> 15%
Paired with Reyna’s change (above), we felt Brimstone’s stim could use a little more punch. This also unifies our two fire rate increase buffs, making them easier to learn.
Increased price from 4500 >>> 5000
Decreased scoped movement speed from 76% >>> 72%
Adjusted weapon deadzone from becoming inaccurate at 30% movement speed >>> 15% (become inaccurate sooner, become accurate later when stopping)
Firing rate reduced from .75 >>> .6
Instant equip time adjusted from 0.3 >>> 0.5 (instant equip plays after tapping orb, bomb defuse/plant tap, Jett Cloud Burst, and Phoenix Curveball)
Leg shot damage decreased from 127 >>> 120
Jump land inaccuracy state changed from gradual >>> binary
Jump land inaccuracy duration increased from .2 >>> .225
Jump land inaccuracy value increased from 5.0 >>> 7.0 (more inaccurate for .225s after a land)
During this patch, the chances of being in an hour+ queue should be notably reduced
This is already a very rare occurrence, but it can happen more often for high rank players—especially in premade groups. We are also doing some tuning behind the scenes to keep high rank matches found after long queue times reasonably balanced and fair.
Riot ID Reviews
Players that have been reported for inappropriate Riot IDs will now be reviewed automatically after the match has ended. If their name is flagged as inappropriate, they will be forced to change their Riot ID the next time they log in to the Riot Client.
Removed Multi-line Breaks in Chat
Some sneaky people were impersonating system messages to troll others into quitting a match. Enough!
Changes to party push to talk settings will now take effect immediately
The chat window can now be pinned to stay open across menus
Social Panel Sorting Logic
Sorting algorithm for the social panel has been updated to make it more intuitive for players as they interact with it.
Fixed issue where Sova’s hitbox was incorrect while using his Owl Drone
Fixed bug where Omen’s glowing eyes weren’t properly removed when he cancelled his ult
Fixed a bug where Custom Game preferences would be wiped after navigating away from the Custom Game lobby
Fallout 4 feels to me like a huge, shallow time sink with no payoff and not enough memorable things. [POTENTIAL FALLOUT 4 STRUGGLE SESSION]
I've spent about 60 hours on Fallout 4 in the last few weeks, and I've finally realised that Bethesda games are enormous time wasters. At least Fallout 4 and Skyrim are. The complaints below might be anodyne to a lot of the people here, or they might be very controversial, but these things are hitting me particularly hard while replaying Fallout 4. I've played it before, but having spent so much time with it recently, the realisation has dawned on me more harshly. Bethesda build these amazing worlds with so much detail and complexity to them, only to inundate you with hours of fetch quests, bore you with a main quest that has no substance, and have you follow a map marker to the detriment of the world they’ve built. They encourage you to look down at the bottom of the screen to the degree that you never have to actually look around at the world to try and find a solution to whatever problem the game throws at you. Even if you turn the objective marker off, the problem that the games have is that 1) some quests require you to know the exact location of an item for you to progress and 2) you're incentivised to look at the bottom of the screen to find new locations to explore instead of just stumbling across them naturally (or with the help of your Pip-Boy map). You're not encouraged to just look at the world. You're not encouraged to memorise the landscapes or routes from one location to another. The fast travel isn't the problem here, either. It has everything to do with the way the game pushes you to walk in one direction nonstop until you reach your objective, and the way new locations are shown to you before you even find them. It's hard to call this "distracting" when it's a fundamental way the game is constructed. You're meant to look at the bottom of the screen. They clearly want your eyes there at all times. Another problem I have is that almost no companion in either Fallout 4 has a legitimate reason to follow you or feels motivated - ideologically or opportunistically - to do so. I can’t recall a single one of them struggling to have a reason to follow you and just doing it because that’s what the game expects of them. While this problem extends to Skyrim, I want to keep the complaints to Fallout 4 since that's the topic of the sub. Preston has possibly the best reason to follow you: You saved his life and the lives of his friends, and he has nothing else to fight for after the Minutemen are disbanded and his friends find safe haven in Sanctuary. So he doesn't bug me that much. But Piper follows you for basically no reason, because you answer some questions. Does she require you to find her a scoop for her newspaper, or uncover dirt on the mayor? Nope. Nick Valentine kind of abandons his job to follow you after he does a job for you, which makes it seem like he doesn't actually have a full-time job with an employee working for him; he doesn't even require your assistance to work through a different job before he agrees almost unconditionally to follow you. Paladin Danse following a wastelander - even one that helped him in a rough spot - makes even less sense because that's the sort of shit that if his commanders found out about they'd probably reprimand him. They fucking hate Paladins associating with wastelanders. This is established canon. Deacon immediately likes you despite knowing very little about you and requires no convincing for him to follow you. John Hancock is pretty similar. There's just no depth to these companions and even though they all have distinct personalities, the lack of conflict and the lack of conversation options makes them feel very boring and bland. They're fun and entertaining but only on a surface level. What annoys me more about this is that they will idolise you if you do enough odd tasks to placate them. Pick a bunch of locks with Piper around? She'll sleep with you after you pass a speech check. Use chems around Hancock? He'll tell you what a hip, rad person you are with basically no effort on my part as a player. Just be an asshole to everybody with Cait around? She will fall in love with you. It's so stupid to me. Again, Preston is the one whose affection for the player makes the most sense and requires the most effort; you have to do a lot of pro-Minutemen quests or do a lot of good deeds and stand up to shitty people for him to like you. His loyalty feels earned, and he's pretty much the only one that applies to. But I honestly don't think the level of trust applies to the other characters. They trust you if you just do enough random things they like. They'll spill their guts to you or sleep with you despite having few conversations with them and not helping them with any personal problems. Give Piper a pep talk about her sister, and you're all set. It's frustratingly shallow. Literally nothing in this game comes anywhere close to earning Cass's or Boone's or Arcade's or Veronica's trust in Fallout: New Vegas. It's honestly kind of a joke by comparison. Those characters won't just follow you for any reason. You can't just twiddle your thumbs to make Boone follow you. You have to help him meaningfully, and even then he only leaves because he doesn't trust anybody and wants to be gone. Veronica follows you only after she senses you aren't hostile to the Brotherhood of Steel, and because she wants a traveling companion. There are explicit and clear reasons why people follow you in that game. And if you want to earn their trust and get them to live in the endgame with relative peace, you need to do an enormous amount to do so. And if you don't want to help them? If you dislike them and don't want anything to do with them? You can literally kill them yourself. The game gives you that option. With Fallout 4 the character relationships feel arbitrary and meaningless, like there's no weight to the beliefs or decisions of anybody. It doesn't help that every character is potentially bisexual and you can technically fuck every single one of them. Just throw on some Fashionable Glasses, drink some alcohol, and wear some fancy clothes, and passing their speech checks is easy. You can coerce people in this game to do things easily. Which I guess brings me to the fact that there is almost no capacity to roleplay in this ostensibly roleplaying game. You don't have to make sacrifices to accomplish goals, and you don't have to choose a specific path. You can pretty much do anything you want with few limitations, which sounds freeing and liberating, but it actually removes the whole idea of playing a role from a series that has emphasised that for years. An RPG where you can pretty much do anything without risking alienating most people in the world because you chose one side over another is not really an RPG. And when you get around to interacting with people, the dialogue choices are limited as hell, you can't kill essential characters like Preston (which makes saving or helping him a foregone conclusion), questlines play out in an incredibly boring and linear fashion, and outside of a few moments the game doesn't actually give you a lot of room to decide the outcome of major incidents. You don't even have to actually choose one group over another when it comes to combating the Institute. The endings are simplistic and practically binary. I know it's a bit of a meme to compare the choices you have in other Fallout games with this one, and the consequences of those choices, but you have no room to roleplay as a person you want to be in this game. High or low INT doesn't impact the dialogue or speech checks. High or low charisma impacts things minimally. You're pretty much going to have 1 of 2 conversations every time you talk with anybody about anything. Even when you come to the crossroad where you have to choose a side in the main conflict of the game, you can play your cards right and bring everybody together, which sounds good in theory, but it isn't earned in a way that makes the opposing sides set aside their conflict. Ideology dissolves under the weight of the player making decisions that has fuckall to do with these people and their opposition to one another, and it makes it seem like the Minutemen, Brotherhood, and Railroad opposing one another in any way is baseless and petty. There's just nothing to these conflicts. If the characters in your game set aside their differences because the player did 1 thing, then you haven't written compelling conflicts. You've written lousy artifices to trick people into being motivated into bringing them together (which is insultingly easy) or choosing one side over another (which you don't actually need to do). The settlement minigame is kind of cool, but ultimately pointless. The game doesn't change the least bit whether you decide to build settlements or not. There's no reward to it, and very rarely do you need to build settlements to unlock questlines or get a character to like you. It all feels so damn hollow and pointless. For a game that demands so much time from the player to do things, there's nowhere near enough payoff to justify it. I could just go play Rust or Minecraft or another type of game for a more thorough and less frustrating experience building settlements. So yeah, that's how I feel about Fallout 4, and even Skyrim for the most part. They're big beautiful time wasters with no real substance. I remember next to nothing about Skyrim after spending a hundred hours in it and while I remember more about Fallout 4, I don't remember being challenged in any meaningful way. I mostly remember shambling from place to place, helping settlement after settlement with raiders and super mutants, until I got bored and went off to Diamond City to fuck around with the main quest that I found underwhelming, and meeting people who don't force me to analyse their beliefs or my own. The conflicts are mostly petty, the quests I'm given feel like tedious chores, and it's all an excuse to get you to explore the world that they ultimately don't even want you to look at because they force your eyes down to the bottom of the screen. It's numbing, repetitious, and draining. I feel part of my soul dying the more I play either one of these games. Apologies for the melodrama of the writing by the end there, but I'm very frustrated with this game and don't think I'm gonna play it further. I really don't feel like there's a point to anything. I'm becoming a nihilist thanks to this game.
I'm reading every Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award winner. Here's my reviews of the up to 1980 (Vol 4)
It is that time once more, folks. Links to previous posts at the end, links to full length blog reviews are all in one comment. Man Plus by Frederik Pohl
Plot: A normal human could not survive on Mars... our only option? Cyborgs!
Page Count: 183
Award: 1976 Nebula
Worth a read: No... but consider it for a laugh.
Primary Driver: (?????????)
Bechdel Test: Pass... but a real weak pass.
Review: Imagine if you took subplots from a trashy romance, a political thriller, a horror flick, and a space travel story... and forgot to put in the main plot. Starts decently, spirals wildly out of control with astounding speed. Almost worth reading to experience the hilarious concluding deus ex machina. This one is probably in the "so bad it's good category" - but sweet skittles is it bad. Also, turn on safe search if you look this book up.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
Plot: After a pandemic causes infertility (and every other apocalypse hits), the only way for humans to survive is through cloning. But are they really human?
Page Count: 251
Award: 1977 Hugo and 1977 Locus
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: Disappointing and disjointed. There are a lot of messages here that just get blended together to nothingness. Cumbersome writing, uncompelling characters, bland dystopia, and just a dull story. Odd choices on where to discuss science at length and where to just skip over it. First third was its own story originally, and is the best part.
Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle
Plot: There is no joy like dying to advance science, at least according to Doctor Rat.
Page Count: 243
Award: 1977 World Fantasy Award
Worth a read: No... but worth a glance at a chapter or two.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: N/A
Technobabble: Frequent descriptions of animal experiments.
Review: This book is truly horrifying to read. It's about the gruesome nature of animal testing - and cruelty to animals in general - and is chock full of graphic animal gore. It's the child of The Jungle and Animal Farm but without subtext. Consider checking it out to read a couple of chapters - the grotesque fascination wears thin. Some might consider the unambiguous use of Nazi imagery for animal testing to be a step or three too far.
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Plot: The Heechee left behind technology so advanced that we cannot understand it; that doesn't stop us from using it to get rich or die trying.
Page Count: 313
Award: 1977 Nebula, 1978 Hugo, and 1978 Locus SF
Worth a read: Yes. Very yes.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: Really good. Cleverly bounces between the story as it unfolds and therapy sessions afterwards - we know that our hero survives, but something terrible has happened. A bit too Freudian. Still, excellent job of making a complex protagonist, interesting world, compelling story. Wanting to know what went wrong kept me reading - and it pays off.
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Plot: Turns out Middle Earth had other jewelry too.
Page Count: 386
Award: 1978 Locus Fantasy Award
Worth a read: Yes.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This is epic fantasy in its purest form; it is myth and legend, at times obtuse, but absolutely riveting. Tolkien's world is fully immersive. Had the physical book to follow the story, the audiobook for pronunciation, and laptop for family trees. Absolutely worth it - even as a casual LoTR fan.
Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
Plot: Something sinister is haunting Franz Westen, and dealing with it involves unearthing answers that might be best left buried.
Page Count: 183
Award: World Fantasy Award 1978
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This is a horror story. Atmosphere is excellent. Book begins with some truly unsettling images and world building. The narrative itself is slow and frequently self-indulgent, but atmosphere stays on point. A qualified recommendation; but some scenes from this will stick with me for quite a while.
Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre
Plot: Long after the end of the world as we know it, Snake wanders the world, healing those she meets to the best of her abilities.
Page Count: 288
Award: 1978 Nebula, 1979 Hugo, and 1979 Locus
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Minimal to moderate.
Review: Less-is-more world building with good execution. A lot of interesting tidbits to keep you wondering what the rules are, who the people are, and so on. Story itself can be slow and stakes are consistently low. "I'm going to a place, surprise! something comes up, I will go to another place along the way." Characters are well written though not particularly complex.
Gloriana, or The Unfulfill'd Queen by Michael Moorcock
Plot: In an alternate timeline, Queen Elizabeth I rules over the vast empire of Albion and must do her best to manage a corrupt and twisted court.
Page Count: 368
Award: 1979 World Fantasy Award
Worth a read: Absolutely No.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This book is remarkable in that it combines shockingly dull and lengthy exposition with some truly awful and problematic ideas about sex. A whole lot of parallel world court intrigue that just does not matter at all. The actual plot starts developing halfway or later into the book - and is not interesting. The title addressing Gloriana's inability to orgasm is a big ol' red flag. A deeply unpleasant read. Really awful.
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
Plot: Humans have built many marvels, but nothing can compete with a space elevator.
Page Count: 317
Award: 1980 Hugo and 1979 Nebula
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Fail
Review: Overall enjoyable. Main narrative is about the space elevator, secondary is about an equally ambitious ancient building project - woven together in interesting ways. The science and vision offered are interesting, though characters are not and tension is infrequent. Marred somewhat by some truly bizarre (and underdeveloped) side plots and unnecessary epilogue.
The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip
Plot: All the wizards left behind were riddles, and the only one who might be able to solve them is the biggest riddle of all.
Page Count: 578 (Full Trilogy)
Award:Harpist in the Wind (Book 3): 1980 Locus Fantasy
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Fantasy Babble: Minimal.
Review: It's an epic fantasy trilogy. It's a good one. Kinda loved it. Heroes and villains are complex, magic is interesting and coherent. Excellent characters. Cool development of powers, though it is far more power sprint than power crawl. Pacing can be odd; a few long pauses followed by frenetic scenes. Very well written. A satisfying read.
Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn
Plot: The Southerners picked the wrong keep to invade; Ryke will do everything he can to get it back.
Page Count: 240
Award: World Fantasy Award 1980
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Fantasy Babble: Minimal.
Review: The sweet, sweet taste of subpar writing. World building: "You people from the hot South are not used to how cold it is here up North!" Character Development: "You mean... I don't just need to indiscriminately murder people?!" and "You mean... women can fight too?!" Writing Quality (Verbatim): "He thought it might have ben a room in Tornor. The room was hot. He went to the window to open the shutters. They stuck. He had to force the latch. At last one opened."
Titan by John Varley
Plot: The intrepid crew of the Ringmaster crash in alien territory and must figure out how to survive.
Page Count: 309
Award: 1980 Locus SF
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Minimal to moderate.
Review: It is hard to find such a dumb book that takes itself so seriously. Some legitimately interesting exploration bits not enough to redeem this one. Extremely juvenile. Raises interesting questions and offers insultingly insipid answers. There are elements that are quite good - particularly some crisp dialogue - but it's just not worth it.
Any questions or comments? Fire away! A truly massive thank you to u/gremdelfor mailing me a bunch of books! People like you are what make this endeavor worth the effort. I’ve been using this spreadsheet, as well as a couple others that kind Redditors have sent. So a huge thanks to u/velzerat and u/BaltSHOWPLACE At the request of a number of you, I’ve written up extended reviews of everything and made a blog for them. I’ve included the links with the posts for individual books. I try to put up new reviews as fast as I read them. Take a look in the comments for that link! The Bechdel Test is a simple question: do two named female characters converse about something other than a man. Whether or not a book passes is not a condemnation so much as an observation; it provides an easy binary marker. Seems like a good way to see how writing has evolved over the years. At the suggestion of some folks, I’m loosening it to non-male identified characters to better capture some of the ways that science fiction tackles sex and gender. For a better explanation of why it’s useful, check out this comment from u/Gemmabeta
A thorough evaluation of the 9/18 PTS update and base changes, as well as almost everything else coming up.
Hello, here’s another round of Esamir Rework reviews. I’ll also cover the Indar base changes, the storm, vehicle balance changes and new infantry gear. I’m not going to touch on outfit resource changes here, since this post is long enough already. I’d like to give shoutouts to aln-isolator , [NWYT]Praefectus, the pilots of [SACA] and everyone else who helped give feedback. Here’s the image gallery. This time around the bases listed in the document match the order in which they appear in the gallery. https://imgur.com/a/5pd5VFj Esamir has a new skybox which is much less bright. I can now see vehicle weapon tracers when shooting. This is a long asked for change. Andvari: 3 points now, 12 min cap with 2 points, 4 mins with 3 points. Consider adjusting the timers. Ymir: No changes to terrain that I can see. It’s a 12 minute cap with two points owned, and 4 minutes with 3 points. Might consider reducing those slightly. Apex Genetics has had its wall adjusted somewhat, as well as the rocks surrounding the triple stack. There are now more routes for infantry to enter the base. Aurora Materials: Sunderer garage and surrounding terrain seem to have been lowered slightly. Also, there’s now a rock at the end of the garage, which reduces the possible angles the bus inside can be shelled from. The slope between the crescent building and the road has had some paths added for infantry. Overall, good changes. However, there’s still one issue here, and that’s the possibility of shelling the triple stack balcony from the ridge NW of the base. Additional purple spikes from the cluster behind the spawn room could be positioned to block this firing angle. Eastwake Harborage: Point has received a new structure above it. It’s now on the bottom floor of a triple stack that has an expanded balcony around its second floor. This gives point holders a lot of additional cover, but the problems with this base still exist. There’s still a ridiculous distance between spawn room and the point with minimal cover from vehicles/bolters/LAs- a literal Death Valley. The area immediately around point is still extremely harasser friendly and could use some props to obstruct harasser movement. In its current position, the teleporter room is useless since infantry leaving it must still advance through Death Valley. Sundy positions are a bit sketchy, too. Fortunately, I’ve had a long discussion and now believe this base could be fixed with a couple tweaks. Consider replacing the AI turret outside the spawn room with an AV gun. This would discourage excessively aggressive vehicles from camping Death Valley. Likewise, replacing the light vehicle pull with an MBT pull gives defenders a bit more potential firepower, and increases the area attacking vehicles must cover to protect their own vulnerable spawns. This base would also benefit from the moving of primary teleporter room to a point higher up the hill and closer to the point, as shown by squad waypoint in this image: https://i.imgur.com/TuEee9F.png. A second teleporter here at hearts waypoint https://i.imgur.com/JUbXklc.png gives defenders another route into the point without going through Death Valley. At these two locations sunderer garages could be built to create safer spawn points for attackers.https://i.imgur.com/QWblfz4.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/w4HR05n.png Echo valley: Rocks have been added on the exterior side of the vehicle terminal to give it some cover. However, they aren’t close enough to each other to prevent me from driving through with a Kobalt bus, nor is there anything stopping me from hacking the terminal or using a GSD to get through the shield and then start driving around the base. Placement of a couple rocks in very specific spots would stop this. Secondly, a crate has been placed between bridges to give infantry another path into the point building. It’s a cool concept, but it needs some form of obstruction to prevent me from driving harassers or possibly larger vehicles onto the two bridges and blasting point directly. Thirdly, consider some form of sight blockers on the west wall to reduce the potential for LAs to spawn camp. Excavion DS-01E: Cover has been placed over both tunnels, which is an excellent change. MBT pulls have been added to this base, though they could stand to be moved slightly closer to the spawn room to deter attackers from hacking them and flooding the base with AI vehicles. A point is located in a long narrow building near the eastern tunnel exit. B is in a triple stack on the south side. C is located immediately west of the drill site. Capture timer is 4 minutes with two points and 1 minute with all 3. This base is mostly fine, but could do with some small tweaks for increased cover. At A point the point holders have few options for cover inside. There are two small smokestack structures (pictures in gallery) that could be replaced with actual buildings to provide more cover from aircraft for players moving around inside the base. Timers could probably be increased slightly. Overall though it’s in a decent state. Genudine Gardens: Some props have been added throughout the base that’ll prevent harassers from turboing around like maniacs, but the gigantic hole in the wall in one corner needs to be closed off somewhat to prevent vehicle entry or at least make it more difficult. This base would be fine if that hole were sealed or obstructed better. Grey Heron: Additional cover has been placed on the side of the staircase leading from spawn to B/C point. The secondary route for defenders has been fleshed out- the door now is high enough to get under, and there is a hole in the floor that allows defenders to drop down to the lower level. Cover has been added on the B side of this base. For improvements, I still think a roof is needed over the stairs from defender spawn to the lower level. A wall alone won’t stop tanks from shelling it. C could use a bit of cover, but I’m concerned that adding too much will turn it into a fortress. You can enter this base with harassers, so some bollards should be added to each entrance to prevent that. Jaegers’ fist: Sunderer garage has been added, and the trench has been improved. This base has some odd issues from an infantry perspective, namely that attackers and defenders have the exact same routes to the point, as shown in the gallery. I have no ideas for how this could be improved. I still believe the point needs some kind of roof to block HESH spam and A2G, preferably a solid one to deter LAs from doing C4 bombing. BL-4 Recovery and Vidar Observation Post both have spawn rooms and light vehicle terminals. This is a pretty good change, allowing closer vehicle pulls and a shorter sundy reinforcement distance for attacks on the surrounding facilities. Jord Amp Station: More cover has been added around C point. This is a good change, but doesn’t change the fact that A is still inside the station. Mani Lake: This one has undergone the most terrain edits, and consequently has become a lot less vehicle friendly. The two trenches leading into the base have had barricades installed, allowing infantry to move through but not vehicles. The hills surrounding the base have had their exterior faces steepened significantly, preventing treaded vehicles from driving up them. This change is excellent, but needs a bit of tuning. The Western Ridge’s southern tip has a shallow enough slope that tanks can still drive up it. On the large mountain to the West on the far side of the road, there’s a small protrusion that should also be levelled. Once these two spots are taken care of, this base will be fine. Overall, the changes are very good here. Mattherson’s Triumph: The Sunderer NDZ has been reduced in radius, which allows the defenders to deploy inside the south tower for a safer position. This is a good change. The ridgeline to the NE has had its northern face steepened significantly, preventing tanks from driving up that side. However, the SW face has become easier to traverse, so the ridge is still usable for bombardment of the catwalks and A point. If this goes live in this state, it’s not a total disaster since tanks driving up that will be very exposed to AV fire from the tower, but it still could stand to be addressed. Likewise, there’s still a nice spur sticking out of the north end from the NW ridge that allows tanks to easily shell defender spawn and A point. The fix here is simple- flatten the spur completely. A point needs additional work. At minimum, the windows on each tower in the room where A point/SCU would normally go should be sealed off to reduce the angles point holders must watch. There’s very little cover on the ground, especially when you consider all the angles A can be shot at from. I believe the point could be enclosed in the same type of building used at Chimney Rock’s point on Amerish. The bridges are a mixed bag. They’re identical copies with one rotated 180 degrees, which means that crate placement favors the attackers on B side and the defenders on the C side. Picking one crate pattern for all 4 bridge ends is one possible fix. I’m still not sold on the idea of both points being on bridges. They’re very exposed to A2G spam and bolters. Overall, at the very least the terrain edits are a nice start, and the sunderer NDZ change is very welcome. Nott Communications: This base is now entirely underground. Attackers enter by overloading a shielded gate, and then drop down into an amp station interior. These gravity lifts are one way, but please consider adding an up lift to replace one of the drop pads. A point is in the position where A points usually are in amp stations. B and C are in the room where SCU would be normally positioned. At the end of this room where the tunnels and back door would normally be is a one-way teleporter, which is the only way for anyone to get out of this base right now. Defenders spawn underground and there’s a one-way shield leading to where the vehicle bay normally is. To improve this base, I’d make the one-way shield a two way shield, and reverse one of the grav lifts. I could not test the cap timer since I did not feel like ghost capping half a continent. Pale Canyon: Some cover has been adjusted by the big yellow tanks on the SE side. A new route has been placed through the rocks at the NW corner of the base. This is an interesting change, but I don’t know how that’ll play out on live since currently I can park a bus inside the base at the same location. The Rink: The ground texture at A point is now ice, so it’s actually an ice rink. Too bad you don’t slide around here. Saerro Listening Post: Trees added to A point to break LOS between attacking vehicles and the tower. The wall between A and B has had some new gaps placed in it to allow infantry to get in. Interesting changes for sure, but I don’t know how they’ll play out. The Traverse: The bridge has been resurrected, although it’s in a heavily damaged state. It’s now an infantry only playground, unless you’re a bold harasser or magrider driver. Because the storm was here, I really couldn’t stick around and take a long look at this. Lastly, the bottom of the pit has been raised a bit and paths to the bottom have been defined more clearly. There also have been some changes to roads around the continent, but nothing major. Indar: TI Alloys: The removal of the bridge is a failure to understand why TI Alloys is such a difficult base to attack. On live servers, TI currently suffers from horrific sunderer placement options which combine with its central location to create a base that’s easy to defend. From the North, attackers must park their bus and attack up a hill through narrow ravines into entrenched defenders backed up by AI harassers, sunderers, ANTs, lightnings and even occasional MBTs. From the South, attackers have two bus spots: One is placed to the south-east, below the point. The other is placed directly south of the spawn room on the far side of the road. Both of these options are suboptimal- on the south east spawn the bus can easily be sniped by vehicles shelling from the Crown, driving down from the Crown, or by vehicles streaming out of the vehicle pull. The south bus on the far side of the road is also not ideal, since infantry have to cross the road and deal with a flood of vehicles as well as an angry AI turret. The only decent spawn location is at the end of the rock bridge, since that one’s reasonably safe from enemy vehicles and doesn’t involve attacking from the low ground. However, this position’s impeded by the fact that attackers from the north inevitably gravitate to the eastern side of the base since that’s safer from the defenders, forcing a three way that never ends. The result is a base that can’t be broken except by routers. The removal of the rock bridge changes none of this, but instead creates more problems. The safe sundy position on the bridge is gone entirely. Further, the bridge’s removal allows tanks to bombard Ti from the Crown once more, since it served as a line-of-sight blocker. The new attacker foot path to the north east is extremely vulnerable to bombardment from the Crown. As far as the base interior goes, a new wall has been added to the interior of the point room structure. This might give attackers a better chance to get to the point, but at the same time it might make things easier for the defenders should they conduct an organized push since there are fewer angles to set up a crossfire from. So how can Ti be improved? I’d start by bringing the bridge back, or at least a small section of it to allow for a safe sunderer position at the east side. For the south, consider a tunnel leading under the road. This allows infantry to get to the base safely. I’d also consider adding in more props to restrict the passage of vehicles through the spawn room area to the northern side of the base. Removing the Kobalt bus fiesta there will make it easier for attackers to push in from the north. Lastly, if the bridge is not restored, consider creating a rock wall at the north east section of crown to prevent tanks from raining hell on anyone fighting at Ti. Crown: The removal of D point is honestly a good thing. It wasn’t fun for anyone to attack since it’s open ground and below a cliff which enables C4 spam against vehicles and requires attackers push against entrenched infantry. Since Crown becomes a three point again, now the base cannot be stuck in a perpetual stalemate. I’m not a fan of where A point was moved to, either. I think if the rock bridge were kept then Crown would be mostly fine. With the three non-vehicle points it has on live. The issue with A being on that southern bridge is that if the attackers set up sunderers to control B, then they get A almost for free and can contest C as well. B point has been moved farther towards the center of the mountain and the tunnel system lengthened a bit, and a lot of cover has been removed at the initial entrance room that exists on live.The extra tunnel into B is an interesting idea and gives a better chance of an attack from the North succeeding, but at the same time it’s just another tunnel choke point to for aoe spam to create nasty farms. C is also problematic if it’s supposed to be the easy point for defenders to contest. It’s a fair distance from the tower, and it’s also open ground which is prime for A2G farming. I’d suggest moving this one into one of the nearby buildings if A must stay in the position it’s at on PTS. I’m not convinced the base needed any point position changes apart from the removal of D point. The current point layout on PTS favors an attack from the SE very heavily, and attacks from the East or North are far more difficult. While old A was very close to the tower, at least it provided a convenient point for attacks from the East. None of the changes really address the problem of poor bus location options, and with the current terrain there really aren’t many good potential spawn options. At most some garages could be added. Ceres Hydroponics: Defenders now have a slightly shorter path to the point when pushing from the NE side of the base. The point itself has much less cover. I’m not going to make judgements on this without seeing how it plays out. The Esamir storm: I’m not sure what this thing is supposed to do. The entire point of the game is large scale battles, yet this thing rolls around the map destroying the biggest fights. There’s nowhere safe from it. Sunderers will get destroyed even if put in garages. When outdoors infantry can be instagibbed by lightning for staying outside too long, and even when indoors their shielding takes frequent chip damage from environmental effects. The shield damage consistently drops players down about 150 shield points that constantly recharge, but this is enough to start messing with TTKs. For example, a commissioner can consistently OHK players. Since the shield damage is not synchronized across all players, it’s possible to be forced into gunfights where you have no hope of winning not because you were in a bad spot or outplayed, but simply because the game decided it’s your time to die. This applies doubly for lightning bolts which will randomly strike you down. There’s a text warning, of course, but random OHK mechanics really shouldn’t be a thing. You cannot use steel rain in the storm. For vehicles this is obnoxious too. Ground vehicles lose most of their mobility, which will punish new players with poorly certed vehicles even more. Aircraft are even worse off, losing most of their vertical thrust. At times I felt like even afterburning upward was barely enough to keep the aircraft airborne. Vehicles kept in the storm for too long will simply be instagibbed, which cripples sunderers as spawns. The storm also destroys base turrets and terminals. There are counters to the storm, though. Infantry can deploy lightning rods bought with merit that allow them to fight outside, but it doesn’t stop shield chip damage, and can equip an insulated armor suit at the cost of flak armor, nanoweave, or shield capacitor. This suit slot appears to be bugged and doesn’t actually reduce the chip damage taken by your shields. Carapace seems to be immune to this chip damage. Vehicles can equip insulated armor in the defense slot. This mitigates the performance hit to vehicles, reduces the damage taken by lightning, and prevents the storm from instagibbing your vehicle. Now, this is less of a problem in the first place for aircraft and tanks, but it screws over sunderers. Sunderers are already fragile enough even with deployment shield equipped, but forcing spawn buses to use this module and rely on their low hull HP is a very bad idea when paired with random lightning strikes and the severe lack of garages Esamir has. With all that out of the way, the question I have to ask is why is the storm designed like this? It seems like a band-aid fix for zerging and actively punishes trying to create large fights. It cripples the vehicle game, negatively affects the infantry game, creates inconsistent TTKs, and only adds frustrating game mechanics. If the center of the map ends up with stalemates, it’ll circle around there endlessly preventing any kind of progress through the pile of three point bases. Why this, when there’s a lot more interesting concepts that could be used? For example, maybe the storm could reduce the rate at which players can spawn at a base/sunderers/routers. Maybe it could jam radaprevent Q spotting. Consider reducing shield chip damage to 50 shields instead of 150 to reduce TTK variance. There’s a lot more interesting ways it could change the game without being the anti-fun mechanic that it’s currently set up as. Infantry gear: Lightning grenade: Cool, you can launch a targeted lightning strike when in the storm. More instagibs is what the game needed. Lightning rod: This temporarily redirects lightning strikes near you. This is a solution to an obnoxious problem that doesn’t need to exist. Condensate grenade: Reduces movement speed and ROF by 20% for six seconds. This is a terrible idea in an FPS game. This doesn’t create interesting gameplay situations. Instead of being outplayed, players hit by this just lose since the game’s punishing them for playing. Keep this in RPGs and RTS games. Now, we do have status grenades already, but do we need one that’s as powerful as this one is? BEC grenade: Similar to Condensate Grenades, this is a horrible addition to the game. Anything that hurts player mobility/damage output is a bad idea. Neutralizer Device: Campaign reward that allows players to acquire abandoned vehicles, and apparently strip ability energy from players too. I like the idea of vehicle acquisition, but I don’t know if we’ll ever see the second use of this tool. Abandoned vehicles: Around the continent are the hulks of abandoned tanks, sunderers and aircraft. They come with a special ability that I haven’t really tested, HEAT cannons and the first generation ES top gun. For the sake of loadout parity for all 3 abandoned MBTs I’d like to suggest the Prowler get a Gatekeeper instead of the Vulcan. Vehicle changes: Havoc missiles: Are these things still necessary, with the liberator nerfs? These things seem redundant now, and they’ll punish rep gal balls unnecessarily hard while valkyries with rep monkeys can probably still dodge these things easily. Phalanx AA turret range increase: This doesn’t fix any of the problems with the current AA setup. Instead, it’s going to just annoy A2A players who are flying along at high altitude and getting plinked by base AA guns, which is the reason the things got their range capped to begin with! Honestly I think these things should be replaced by weapons like Bastion CIWS guns. Those things are nasty at close range but their damage output falls off heavily at range. Liberator: -500 HP and ESF nosegun resist from 85 to 80. While the liberator needed some changes regarding its durability and repair tanking in particular, this change spectacularly misses the mark on many levels. This change skews ESF vs Liberator combat too far in favor of ESFs. When paired with air locks this brings down the TTK to incredibly fast levels (around 9 seconds, which isn’t even enough for three dalton shots) In this post, mystoganofedolashttps://www.reddit.com/Planetside/comments/ivjg8t/rock_paper_scissor_balance/ explains in great detail the liberator issues- it’s a blatant hard counter to ground vehicles, and gets brutally hard countered by ESFs on PTS. Hard counter mechanics are terrible in an FPS game. In this sort of rock-paper-scissors gameplay, things boil down less to individual ability and more towards who has an exact counter to something, which is extremely boring. There’s no skill in using A2A missiles, just as there’s minimal skill in hovering over tanks and daltoning them. In this post here https://www.reddit.com/Planetside/comments/ivsssx/did_some_basic_math_regarding_the_upcoming/, taltharius demonstrates that -500 HP barely changes anything in the case of liberators eating multiple AP shells before hitting fire suppression and flying off. Skilled gunnery should be rewarded, and sloppy flying should be punished. So how can this be improved? Consider reducing vulnerability to ESF noseguns slightly. Adjusting Liberator resistance against tank shells, light anti-vehicle, gatling guns, and infantry rockets will increase the damage libs take from ground fire and punish poor flying/reward skilled aim. Possibly consider increasing MBT main gun elevation angles slightly, to reduce the ability of liberators to hover over tanks with minimal counterplay. Harasser: Nanite cost to 300. Oh boy this one misses the mark completely. The problem with harassers has never really been cost related, but rather one that got introduced with CAI. The harasser itself is not overpowered and its efficiency in combat drops off hard at higher levels of gameplay. Only when harasser numbers become overwhelming (3 or more harassers vs 1 MBT) do the harassers stand a chance of defeating the best tank crews, and even then the tank usually can take 2-3 harassers with it. Harasser vs tank gameplay is extremely boring and very binary. If the harasser has a CQ AV gun it’s forced to fight at point blank which means I delete it easily. If it uses halberd or ES long range AV we both enter a boring poke fight where neither one does significant damage to the other. Even if the harasser opens up with rear hits the MBT still has an overwhelming advantage in firepower and hit points. With tanks, the problem since CAI has been poor muzzle velocity of HEAT shells which makes hitting difficult and what most players will have equipped, pathetic Basilisk DPS against everything (Kobalt kills stock harassers 4 seconds faster), Skyguards being helpless against every ground vehicle, and the Viper not having the accuracy to deal with small moving fast targets. Small changes to these three weapons will reduce harasser vs tank complaints. Harasser vs Harasser is broken, for a different reason. Harassers have a weakness to gatling guns, which means that the Vulcan and Aphelion rip through harassers while the Mjolnir specializes in fighting heavy vehicles. In practice, this means that for low/average skilled car crews, vulcans are disproportionately powerful since less skilled players won’t know to keep outside minimum damage range. At higher levels an Aphelion car is very hard to fight. Toning back harasser weaknesses to gatling guns might improve this situation, but at the same time it might nerf the Aphelion too much. At the very least this’d probably reduce vulcan whine somewhat. Overall, I have mixed impressions. The base changes are mostly for the better, but the storm, infantry gear, and vehicle changes are mostly bad or miss the mark completely.
Jeph's attempts to represent every major marginalized group in the United States have absolutely wrecked this comic, and ended up accurately representing nobody.
Jeph...is not a great writer. I know we all have fond memories of QC in its "glory days," but participating in the reread I've started to realize something. Jeph's ability to write a good story is limited to what he himself experienced in his formative days and while he was writing the early strips: life as a mid-twenties-something guy, pining after attractive girls that came and went from his little indie music scene.And he does it well, because he's drawing on what he knows. The dialogue is realistic! Comics don't all end with a shitty-punch-line delivered by a sp0rk-holding-rando...because Jeph probably didn't interact with people like that. The main characters come off as real people because most of them are probably based, consciously or not, off of people Jeph really knew and interacted with. It's also real. There's plenty of dialogue that reads as entitled, or would now be considered entirely unacceptable in Jeph's writing. See Sarah's "rape/hump" dialogue. This is how Jeph and his friends *probably* spoke. I know that I threw around the word 'rape' much more casually when I was young and immature than I do now. (It also bothers me that Jeph tries to hide the fact that he's grown out of this mindset, but that's a different post altogether.) Or look at Faye's alcoholism storyline - probably the best writing the comic has seen. It's compelling and readable because it's something Jeph himself has dealt with - he knows those feelings of helplessness and addiction. It's true to life, and as a consequence the writing is almost naturally well done. And it makes sense! Because things proceed like a person's life often does, for Marten. People come, people leave. You fall in love with one girl, she leaves and you meet another. It's realistic because it's based in reality. It's fun because it has goofy situations, interesting characters, and a "very-pretty-if-you-don't-look-too-hard-at-it" sci-fi angle. Then we come to today. Look at how the cast has changed. Aside from having no protagonist, there is not a single main character that Jeph can really relate to on any real-world-experience level. As far as I know, he does not identify as a woman, as a person of color, as someone who is queer, or as someone who is transgendered. There's nothing wrong with that or writing about it, but it's definitely going to make writing characters who *are* living those lives a little harder to write. You don't have the dialogue to draw on. You don't have those interactions with other characters as lived-experiences to draw on. So you've got two choices. You either write what you *imagine* them to be and sound like, or you do your research. Let's talk about the first, and more problematic of the two options, first. I would encourage everyone to go check out /menwritingwomen for some good examples of why it can be this way. Even if you're doing your best to write it realistically, it's probably going to come off as often-times awkward sounding dialogue. Effectively every female character in the comic has been reduced to this. When they're not serving Jeph's purpose to represent their marginality (May opining the life of a convict, Roko having a dissociative episode, Brun acting emotionlessly and/or discussing clocks, the list goes on) they're acting like Jeph probably *imagines* women act around other women. Because Jeph has never *been* a woman alone with another woman, and he doesn't know the intricacies of homogenous gender conversations of the opposite sex more than a cis-gendered woman could explain had by men alone. It invariably turns to stereotypes - boobs, appearances, relationships. It also gives you characters, even if you represent them well, who are defined by the one characteristic you created them for. Brun is my favorite example for this. Do we know *anything* about this girl? We know she's an out-of-work bartender, enjoys clocks , and has autism. We know *so* much about her autism and almost nothing else about her because that's probably what Jeph has to draw on. I don't know that he's ever met someone with autism, let alone spoken with them about their life and experiences. We also know that everyone wants to fuck her, but that's its own weird can of worms that I don't really want to address right now. So what's the alternative, if you want to write about a person who is different from you? I don't think that artists should be constrained and I also think representation is really important. I think that Jeph's *intentions,* to write a comic that accurately represents the lives of members of marginalized groups, *especially* considering everything that's been going on in the United States is an admirable thing. And he actually does hit some elements quite well, actually. I know this sub likes to bash on the realism of Clinton's perceived sexual revelations, but queerness doesn't require foreshadowing to appear in someone's life and Jeph understands this. But, if you're going to do it, do your research. Be forewarned that from this point onwards, I'm speaking *solely* on theory. I don't get the sense that Jeph has ever researched the communities and issues he's trying to write about, save for the woketwitter threads he reads. Everything he writes now reads like it came out of a 15-post-long twitter thread explaining the virtues or disvirtues of this and/or that. I do not get the sense that he's ever strived to understand anything more than the broad-strokes of an issue, know the key-phrases and topic catchphrases, and sets off to write about it. For starters, *talk* to these communities. Reach out, past Twitter and Deviantart, and get a real understanding of what you're writing about. Meet transgendered people. Work with children with autism. Work with convicted felons. That's what good writers *do* when they want to understand the subjects they're writing about. Yes, that's hard when you're trying to represent *everyone,* so maybe it's time to scale back and focus in a little harder on one issue that's important to you, Jeph. Here's how I want to conclude this: Jeph wants to represent the marginalized in his comic, and he wants to offer sincere political commentary. I do not believe he does it just for the woke points (although, yes, his Patreon is the specter that will always loom over him). But if it's going to be at all quality, Jeph needs to narrow things down tremendously. Choose your target, do your research, and continuously write about that character, giving them the chance to develop naturally. Otherwise, it's going to be more of this herky-jerky bullshit forever. Edit: Read comments, decided to add a bit more. A lot of this comes from Jeph's mixed attempt at what he's doing. On one hand, he's admitted he's trying to make this comic a safe space for trans and other non-binary folk, which I think is great. On the other hand, he's simultaneously telling the stories of the lives of marginalized folks and write social commentary about the world as he perceives it. And there's nothing wrong with that...except for that you end up with, frankly, shitty storytelling and messages that don't come across very clearly. He has these intense lead-ups, like Faye coming out to her mother, or Roko's dissociative episodes, or Elliott confessing his attraction to someone who (as far as he knows) is a straight man. And then it just...gets resolved. No difficulties, no problems, just smooth sailing. And hey, if Jeph just wants to tell a friendly story there's nothing wrong with that, but it isn't really telling the stories of the marginalized. Because the truth is that those stories usually don't have happy endings. They don't usually end with accepting parents, or a problem that can be resolved with a snap of the fingers. They're oftentimes painful and they're intense, and if Jeph as an author is going to tell these stories then it is his responsibility to tell the truth. I think doing anything else is irresponsible, frankly. He's giving his readers, many of whom are younger and impressionable, a false sense of how these stories usually go. And I don't agree with the, "It's just supposed to be lighthearted," angle either. Plenty of shows have managed to maintain a tone while handling serious issues. Adventure Time is a great example of this.
I did not think we'd get here. COVID cases are in the single digits, and many cases are off-campus (https://health.gatech.edu/coronavirus/health-alerts). Test positivity rates are incredibly low (https://gatech-covid-tracker.com/). I think we can say that Georgia Tech has navigated through it's first wave of COVID cases. How did this happen? I'm not an epidemiologist, and even Dr. Fauci himself wouldn't be able to give you a 100% correct answer, because nobody can give you a 100% correct answer - there are too many unknowns. But, we can look at a few factors. 1.) Modified herd immunity threshold. Immunity is likely a real phenomena with COVID-19. Yes, there are now 7 confirmed cases of reinfection, but immunity is not a binary thing. It is not as if every person infected with COVID will either be immune, or they will be as unprotected as the rest of us. It's likely that the majority of COVID cases will gain some sort of immunity, and some will gain no immunity. For the sake of simplicity, let's just assume everyone infected with COVID at our campus has immunity. Georgia Tech has, in total, around 900 positive COVID cases. There are ~14,000 people on campus if you wildly extrapolate from a few surveys taken on this subreddit - if anyone could find where the actual number is, it would be helpful. Additionally, around 5-10% of the US was probably infected in the original Feb-March surge, which would be 700-1400 people. This brings us to 1600-2300 immune people in a population of 14000. The herd immunity threshold is given by (1-1/R0). Uncontrolled, the R0 for SARS-CoV2 is ~4. This means roughly 75% of the populace must be infected to gain "true immunity" - IE, you can do whatever you want, no distancing, no masking, etc. Obviously this is a bad idea. But, we aren't letting SARS-Cov2 spread uncontrollably. Mask compliance is high, people are trying to distance, people are washing their hands more often, etc. R0 is a function of environmental parameters as well - increasing distancing and hygiene decrease your R0. So what is the R0 with distancing and masking? That's a big question, but estimates from New York and Western Europe say it was somewhere around 0.8-1.1. A college campus will have a higher R0 than a typical state or nation, so we'll shift this up to 1.1-1.3. This brings our herd immunity threshold to anywhere between 9-23%. We currently have in the range of 11.5%-16%, and some cases on campus may have gone totally undetected. Here's a twitter thread by an MIT data scientist if you want to read more about the "modified herd immunity" phenomena. 2.) The people who took the most risks have already gotten COVID. Anecdotally, and logically, this makes sense. People going to bars, frat parties, etc have already been infected, and that was our "first wave". Unfortunately, I don't know how to quantify this in any meaningful way, but it is probably a factor. 3.) Behavior change. People could've seen the surge in cases and decided to be more careful - get tested weekly, avoid indoor dining, go to the CRC early in the morning when it's less crowded rather than in the middle of the day, etc. This would lower R0 as well and aid with point 1, although again, I don't know how to meaningfully quantify this. But it is a possible factor. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ If you made it through the above, congratulations. The question now is what Tech should do. Frankly, I feel like I am wasting both money and time this semester. This is unavoidable, and not Tech's fault or USG's fault - just a virus doing it's thing. But, just as governments - those of New York, China, South Korea, Germany, etc - gradually eased back on restrictions as the first curve was crushed, I believe Tech can and should do the same. We should not throw the floodgates open and let all hell break loose - but I think we can slowly loosen the screws in a manner that improves educational experiences, and in a way that avoids a second wave. Remote learning sucks. At least for intro classes, there is far better free material on Coursera - made by people who know how to deliver content online and who have been doing it for years - as opposed to professors who were thrown into this a few months ago. As we all know, many "hybrid" courses are pretty much all online. I'd suggest the OPTION - for both professors and students, mandates are a god awful idea - to have more in-person hybrid sections. This won't give me my money's worth - but it'll give us something. As of now, I have three hybrid classes - and yet have not had a single in person class. These classes can be conducted in a safe, distanced/masked manner, as to keep our R0 low and keep reaping the rewards of the "modified herd immunity" discussed above. This might be difficult to implement in the middle of this semester, but I think it can be implemented next semester, in the absence of mass vaccination until (in the most optimistic case) February-March. Other things include opening up lounges in dorms. Also, I know visiting other dorms is technically banned, but everyone I know is ignoring that rule. Many people aren't even aware of that rule - might as well just get rid of it if compliance is close to nil. But, I'd prefer more in-person classes above all else. This was a long post. Ultimately, COVID is a game of trades - we could lock everyone in their homes until there's a vaccine, but that would destroy our society. We could let everyone run wild until there's a vaccine - again, that would destroy our society. It's a multivariate optimization problem, where we are trying to maximize safety, education, and the student experience. I'm just a dude trying to help us find that maximum. TLDR: COVID-19 first wave beaten due to number of factors. More in-person classes would be nice.
Main tank here for the last 10+ seasons, main Rein. I’ve been trying to figure out why it feels so terrible right now, even with CC toned down. What I feel is that the massive amounts of damage in this game, matched by the massive amount of healing, has taken away a lot of the ability of a main tank to manage personal HP as a resource. One of the basic things I’ve always kept in mind as rein is safely facetanking damage, utilizing the 200 points of armor to reduce damage taken, and allowing that to be healed up. 300 hp has been my mental “safe spot” for judging my aggression. Lately, however, I find that even at full HP, I can never feel safe even just firestriking without the risk of going to extremely low HP or even dying. What I’ve sort of realized is that this mid-ground health doesn’t even really exist anymore. It feels like you are either being pocketed at full hp, or you’re dead, and there’s extremely little time in between. Once I noticed this, I thought “hey, maybe I’m just bad” so in the main tank streams I watch (super and cloneman, for example) I paid special attention to their health totals throughout games, and I noticed a very similar pattern. They would spend the majority of the time either above 400 hp while getting healed, or would immediately drop to roughly 100 hp, where either they’d have to get hard pocketed back to full or die. I think that the damage and healing creep has removed an entire tool (health management) from the tank role, leaving them more reliant on healers than ever before. Specifically, the idea of “facetanking” damage is just too risky now. I can’t alternate my health pool and my shield because there is too high a risk of getting bursted down even within short moments. I think DPS aren’t made as miserable by this because they’re naturally squishy, and by nature don’t want to be focused by multiple members of the enemy team, whereas with tanks that’s your base job. This also leads into CC feeling even worse because the short stun of a cree flashbang is absolutely enough time to get burst down without a bubble or pocket. I also think this is why double-shield is so prevalent, as a symptom of the fact that, with regard to HP pools, the idea of taking “safe amounts” of damage isn’t reliable, and so the best option is to take no hp damage at all, by only playing behind shield where it’s impossible to get burst without the warning of the shield breaking, and to have fortify/suck to keep you from being burst when that shield does go down. I guess basically, how I’d describe the problem I’m witnessing is that the damage and healing creep have made tanks feel far too squishy because of an inability to utilize the middle ranges of HP. As for solutions, I’m not sure the best option, outside of something like a % nerf to both damage and healing across the board, which obviously is an oversimplified solution, but something needs to be done imo to make tank hp pools relevant and not feel like quite such an alive/dead binary. Welcome thoughts, and for now, you can find me queueing support.
Space-time rippled as the Horns of Glory snapped into real space. The normally smooth transition from FTL subspace travel back to the laws of relativity was instead dangerously jarring, as the inertial dampeners struggled to hold the innards of the massive warship in their proper places. After straining mightily for the briefest of moments, they failed, throwing Admiral Halon Va and the rest of his bridge crew violently into their restraining harnesses. The ship shuddered under the immense stress, then settled, drifting silently through space on minimal power. “Tactical, get me a status report for the fleet on screen now. I want updates the instant ships jump in.” The Admiral’s voice was still firm and authoritative; it was taking every last shred of resolve he had to keep it that way. “Lieutenant Roshin, put a detail together and work with medical. I’m sure that re-entry caused more than a few extra injuries. Get as many of the crew patched up and ready for emergency action as fast as you can. I want a full casualty report as soon as possible. And if you find Science Officer Lentith and he’s still alive, send him to the bridge immediately.” Admiral Va settled back into his command chair, drawing creaking sounds from the over-stressed frame as it absorbed the weight of his massive form. The bridge was completely silent now, the command crew entirely focused on the tasks at hand. Or they were too afraid to say anything; Va couldn’t be sure. He was thankful for their silence, though. He didn’t have any answers for them about his failure. Keying in a few commands on the command panel at his station, the damage report for his ship popped up, the bridge lights flickering from the extra power draw. The Horns of Glory floated before him in hologram form. Long and slender, the ship was over two kilometers from bow to stern. At least, it had been a few hours ago. The forward 20 percent of the holographic ship was flashing red, indicating heavy damage. This was inaccurate, however, as the forward 20 percent of the ship simply wasn’t there anymore. The graceful lines and carefully crafted angles of the ship's armor were an unrecognizable slagged mess, and deep gouges had been cut into the inner decks all over the ship. Whole sections were missing amidships, two of the main reactors were offline, all the primary weapon batteries had been completely destroyed, and most of the critical systems were barely functioning. It was a miracle that she had survived the jump. That morning, Horns of Glory had been the greatest feat of Arien’Ra engineering, and it was now a barely functioning hulk. And it had all happened under my command, thought Va. He had no time to wallow in his failures, however, as at that moment tactical finally reconnected to the fleet command systems. The hologram of Horns of Glory quickly scaled down, appearing as a small, flashing, red point of light floating in loose formation with several other points of light. Most of them were flashing red as well. A constant stream of data and various reports scrolled down the right side of the hologram, listing in no uncertain terms the doom that Va had subjected his command to. If Va had thought that the bridge was quiet before, it was nothing compared to the complete stillness that now settled over them. No one so much as moved a muscle, as they all sat in stunned silence, reading the reports. Occasionally, the hologram would flash, and a new point of light would join the formation, adding more data to the pile spelling out their damnation. After 30 ticks, new points of light had stopped appearing. Admiral Halon Va had lost over 60 percent of his fleet, and not a single other dreadnaught had survived the slaughter. His defeat was total, and the Federation navy was crippled. Science Officer Beredarin Lentith had been the first member of his family not to enroll in command school in eight generations. They had been some of the finest members of the fleet the Vorqual race had ever contributed to the Federation. His brothers and sisters had all enrolled, which meant that as far as he was concerned, his family had more than fulfilled their duty to the Federation. Military life wasn’t for him, anyway; he wanted to explore. The Federation had been around for over 3000 years, and there were still vast swathes of the galaxy that they knew nothing about. They were still encountering new species every few hundred or so years, and there was nothing he wouldn’t give to find the next one. That had been the dream that directed him away from the military and into academia. The odds of actually finding a new race were so small, though. There were still at least 200,000,000 unexplored systems in the galaxy. There just wasn’t time to visit them all... He snapped out of his reverie as he stepped over the body, or rather, what was left of the body, of a Zelnassi marine. Most of it was just a green stain on the corridor wall at this point, though there had been enough of the chitinous armored torso to partially obstruct his path. The young lieutenant quickly continued on towards the bridge. If he was being honest with himself, becoming an expert on the area of unexplored space directly between the Federation and it’s largest military rival wasn’t the smartest of ideas. Between his family reputation and his unique knowledge base, he was just asking to get pressed into service. Which was exactly what had happened immediately upon the recent outbreak of hostilities. And now here he was stepping over corpses, marveling at the fact that he had somehow survived this long. He still couldn’t believe the insanity of the Dominion forces. Boarding an enemy ship MID-COMBAT. It was like something out of a youngling’s tale from before space travel. It was pure madness, but there were the bodies to prove that it had happened. He gingerly stepped around the remains of yet another Zelnassi. The signs of battle continued all the way to the bridge, where he found security forces still holding quickly fortified positions around the bridge entrance. There were more Zelnassi bodies at their feet. Berendarin shuddered. He had been closer to death than he thought. He quickly pushed those thoughts out of his mind. He could only imagine why he was needed on the bridge so urgently. The door slid open, and Lentith walked into a completely silent room. Admiral Va was slouched at his command station, his enormous arm propped up on the chair arm and supporting his massive, horned head. Lentith didn’t even know that Arien’Ra COULD slouch. Nevermind that the fastidious Admiral could or would ever do such a thing. Maybe things were somehow worse than he thought. No one seemed to notice him enter, so he announced himself to the Admiral. Though he didn’t shout, his voice echoed in the deathly silent room, startling most of the bridge command. Two of the other Vorqual officers swore, and the tiny Jezren manning the com station let out a high pitched sound somewhere between a squeak and chirp. Berendarin would have found it quite funny if the situation wasn’t so dire. Admiral Va immediately snapped back to being the hulk of muscle and horn that imposed his will on a room just by being in it. His booming voice only added to his authority. “Science Officer Lentith. I’m glad to see you’re still alive. Are you seriously injured?” Berendarin had almost forgotten that he had walked the entire way to the bridge holding a bandage to his head just above his left eye. The drop out of subspace hadn’t been kind to him. He pulled the bandage away, revealing a dark orange stain on the bandage and a crack in the bone plate above his eye. “I’m fine, sir, just one of the outer plates, and the bleeding has already stopped.” “Good. Commander Vortith is currently overseeing the emergency repairs. Take his seat. You are going to help me find a way back home.” “Sir? I’m sorry I don’t understand. Why don’t we just go back the way we came?” “That’s not possible. Most of our supply ships and tenders were destroyed when that third wave of Dominion ships hit our flank. Almost all of our pre-prepared fuel reserves are gone. On top of that, some of our ships are so damaged that they don’t have another long jump in them. And if we run into any enemy ships, the whole rest of the fleet is done for. We barely qualify as a fighting force in the state we’re in.” “Is it really that bad?” “It’s worse, but we don’t have time to get into the details. You’re the expert on this section of the galaxy. I need you to find the fleet a hiding hole. Somewhere away from the known jump routes through the Spur. Any system where we can use the few miners we have left to scavenge up some fuel, and get some critical repairs done while we’re at it. And from there either wait for reinforcements or get ourselves patched up enough to limp home. Wherever it is, it needs to be close. I’m not leaving any ships behind because they can’t make the jump.” “Oh. Just that?” The lieutenant knew that Arien’Ra were strict herbivores, but with the look that the Admiral shot him, he couldn’t help but think about the fact that his head would easily fit into that giant, molar filled mouth. “And away from any known pirate hideaways. Like I said, our fleet can’t take any more fighting. And find it quickly. It won’t be long before the Dominion fleet locates us.” “I. Uh. Sure. I’ll see what I can find.” Berendarin shrank into the commander’s chair next to the enormous Arien’Ra, desperately wishing he had been more professional. If he had acted like a proper soldier, it might soften the blow of telling the Admiral that what he wanted was next to impossible. If he had a few weeks, he might be able to find something. So much of the Spur was still un-surveyed. The odds of there being anything useful to the Admiral in the databases was absurdly low, and there was even less of a chance he’d be able to find it in time for the information to matter. He began pouring through his notes anyway. It was better than waiting around to die, which, if the situation was as dire as the Admiral made it sound, was the only other option. He spent the next hour lost in his notes, finding nothing, while the bridge crew went about piecing the ship and the fleet back together. The young scientist had all but given up on the Admiral’s impossible request when a raucous cheer went up from everyone on the command deck. “Sir,” The coms officer called out, “The Consul’s Pride just dropped out of subspace and is hailing us, sir. The main communication screen lit up, and Berendarin Lentith looked to see the face of his oldest sister on screen, strapped into the captain’s chair of her dreadnaught. He let out a sigh of relief; Baraquen was his favorite sibling. Her uniform was drenched in a deep orange blood stain at the shoulder, and she was covered in what looked like flecks of green gore from a Xelnassi. The artificial gravity was clearly malfunctioning, as the captain’s restraining harness was the only thing keeping her from floating around her bridge. But the bone plates of her jaw were turned as always into her calm, self assured smile “My apologies for the delay in joining you, Admiral Va. We had some… guests shut down our drive mid jump. We had to deal with them before we rejoined the fleet. I assume there is a plan to get us back to federation space?” “It’s good to see you in one piece, Captain Lentith,” the Admiral responded. He was barely able to keep the relief from his voice. “And there is indeed a plan.” Berendarin returned to his research as the two ranking officers in the fleet went over the details of their current predicament. He was glad his sister had survived, and not just because they were close. It would have been a terrible blow to the whole family to have lost not only their future matriarch, but the ship she commanded as well. A member of his family had been commanding that dreadnaught uninterrupted for the last 5 generations. Military service had never appealed to Berendarin, but his family history was certainly still important. And then the solution to the current problem hit him like a driver round. He let out a gasp and tore into his notes with a fervor. Both Admiral Va and his sister’s projection turned to look at him, but he didn’t notice. After a few seconds of curious silence from the rest of the onlookers, Berendarin practically jumped out of his seat. “Admiral, I think I’ve got something that will work.” The young Lieutenant punched a few commands into his datapad, and a set of stellar coordinates popped up on the navigation terminal. “It’s a main sequence star, about 500 light years from us, fairly close to the edge of the Spur. It’s not anywhere near any established jump routes. The Consul’s Pride made me think of it.” He nodded towards his sister’s face on the ship's screen. “Our great, great grandsire took the Consul’s Pride through the system on her shakedown run a little over 300 cycles ago. Chased a band of Qorthi slavers out of the system. The outer four planets are all gas giants. If we can’t find Helium 3 there, I don’t know where else we should look.” On screen, Captain Lentith looked impressed, but Admiral Va clearly didn’t seem too sure. “We’re supposed to be going away from Dominion forces, not into them. What were the Qorthi doing there?” “There are also four rocky inner worlds in the system, Sir, according to reports from the encounter. Apparently, the third planet is a Class 7 Deathworld, and the Qorthi were running some experiments on the primitive lifeforms there. They were caught completely by surprise by the Consul’s Pride, and it was the first time that she fired her weapons in anger. I can’t find any reports of Dominion ships in that section of the Spur since.” There was a long pause before Va responded. “Good work, Lieutenant. I knew my trust in you wasn’t misplaced.” Admiral Va replied, before turning to the rest of the bridge and booming “Coms! Tactical! Get those coordinates to every ship in the fleet. I want every ship we have left formed up and ready to jump as soon as possible. Any captain who feels that his drives can’t make the jump is to focus all repair efforts on getting their drives functioning immediately. I will transfer repair crews from less damaged ships to more damaged ships if that means we jump even a tick earlier. Get to it everyone. I’m not losing any more of my fleet today.” The four revolution long jump to Science Officer Lentith’s newfound sanctuary had done wonders for Halon Va’s mental state. The initial shock of his fleet's terrible defeat had worn off, and he had been able to focus on what came next. Repair crews were able to stabilize most of his ship's core systems, and he was no longer worried about the life support systems cutting out and killing the rest of his crew. There had also been time for him to visit with the wounded. To thank them for their sacrifices. He had expected it to be an act of contrition, maybe even a chance to start begging for forgiveness. But there had been no anger in his crew, and no blame hung on his horns. Most had just been relieved that he had survived, and had expressed as much. He would be forever grateful to them for that. Most importantly, the four revolutions in hyperspace had given the admiral time to really think about what had gone wrong in the nebula. He had barely rested in the preceding four revolutions, spending every scrap of spare time in his office, pouring over records from the battle. That’s where he found himself now, tucked behind his massive ceramic and titanium alloy desk of Tellarim design. It had been custom made for him upon his promotion to this command, a gift from the high admirals and the council. It was the only luxury that Va allowed in his office. The rest of Va’s space he kept strictly utilitarian. There were no trophies adorning his walls, as was customary for other members of his species. The plain bulkheads of his office were instead lined entirely with screens, and each of them were now filled with footage and reports from the battle, running on loop. Va soaked it all in. The more he watched, the more a singular conclusion crystallized in his mind. He had done everything right; he was sure of that now. 1000 years of doctrine and theory for fighting the Dominion had gone into his preparation for that battle, and he had followed it to the letter. And he had been winning. Then that attack on his flank by the Zelnassi had blown all of that out of the airlock. Something significant had changed in the way the Dominion fought... Commander Vortith’s voice rang out over the com system. ”Admiral Va, we’ll be transitioning back to real space in moments.” “Thank you. I’ll be there shortly. And get Science Officer Lentith to the bridge. I want him nearby just in case. He’s the only one who has any idea of where we are.” The Admiral pulled himself from his desk. He would have to leave the rest of his analysis for later. There was just enough time for him to reach the bridge and settle into his command chair before the Horns of Glory snapped back to real space. This time, the inertial dampeners held. “Tactical, status report.” “All ships accounted for, Admiral. Though the Consul’s Pride, several cruisers, and three of our escorts are all reporting massive failures in their Drive Cores. They won’t be jumping anywhere anytime soon.” “Wonderful.” Va wasn’t sure if he meant that sarcastically or not. “Get scans up and running and deploy the pickets that aren’t crippled in a standard scouting formation. How close are we to the nearest gas giant?” “We’re approximately half a light tick from the system’s innermost gas giant, sir.” “Excellent. Deploy the rest of the fleet. Put us in a high orbit around the planet in a defensive formation, and get our miners working immediately. Once our orbit is stable, I want every hand, paw and hoof in the fleet working on repairs.” “Yes sir.” Admiral Va settled into his command chair for a long shift. It would be a drawn out, boring process to refuel the ships. With his fleet limping along, and only two functioning miners, it would take far longer than it should. After all the chaos of the last few revolutions, boring would be a welcome change of pace. Va started to relax, sinking into his chair’s acceleration padding. His fleet and his crews were finally safe. The first priority would be to get one of the subspace beacons repaired and to get word back to the Federation that the fleet still existed. And hopefully call for aid. He was sure to be stripped of his rank as soon as contact was made, but hopefully he would avoid a Tribunal. That was an unpleasant prospect… “Sir, we have unidentified ship signatures appearing from around the planet we’re approaching.” Va had never heard panic in the voice of his young sensors officer before, but it was certainly there now. Va understood the sentiment, though. He found it difficult to keep the panic from his own voice as he started issuing orders “Bring the fleet up to combat status immediately. How many ships are there?” “I’m showing 35 individual signatures. All approaching us at combat speed and still accelerating. At current speeds, they will intercept us in just over 30 ticks, sir.” “I want details as soon as you have them, Lieutenant. Size, make, estimated firepower. Who they are. And keep scanning the system. Find out where they came from.” The panic had partially subsided for Va. 35 unknowns was not too terrible a threat. He still had almost 240 warships under his command. Still, if there was a way to avoid combat, he had to try. His fleet couldn’t suffer any more losses. “Coms, any attempt by these unknown ships to contact us?” “I”m not sure, sir,” the diminutive Jezren at the coms replied. “There’s nothing on standard communications channels. The ships are transmitting something, but I can’t figure out what it is.” “Admiral,” the Lieutenant at the sensors station called out. “I think I might have an idea of where these ships came from. Preliminary scans show there is extensive urbanization on the third and fourth planets, as well as what appear to be habitation sized artificial satellites around the second and sixth planets. One of the moons of the gas giant we’re approaching shows signs of habitation as well. All of them are emitting significant signal pollution. This system clearly already belongs to someone, and they’re broadcasting everywhere.” Halon Va, High Admiral of the Combined Federation Fleets, turned, slowly and with as much composure as he could muster, to face the young science officer seated to his left. Berendarin sat, mouth agape, staring transfixed at the sensor readouts in front of him. Va had never seen a Vorqual more confused in his life. “I want answers, Officer Lentith.” “I… I don’t.. This doesn’t make any sense,” the young science officer stammered. “There shouldn’t be anything here.” “Admiral,” The comms officer cut in, “The signal that we’re picking up from the unknown ships is definitely some kind of communication. I managed to put together audio from it.” “Play it,” commanded Va. A series of short, guttural, and completely unintelligible sounds came over the speakers in reply. There was a short pause before the sounds repeated themselves again. “Coms, what was that?” “No idea, sir, but it’s being transmitted on loop. If it is intended as a communication, our translators have no idea what to do with it.” “Admiral.” The voice came from Va’s left, and was barely audible. Va turned yet again to look at the young science officer. His gaze was locked on the tactical readout, and there something in his eyes that Va couldn’t recognize. A mixture of pure terror and something else. Was it wonder? The young Vorqual’s voice was still barely above a whisper when he continued to address the admiral: “I think we should run the transmission through First Contact Protocols.” Captain Benjamin Alvarez-León slammed against his restraining harness as the USCS Aurora started it’s decel burn. He had pushed the engines on the outdated cruiser to their limits, and the ship groaned in protest as it started counteracting his rather zealous acceleration orders. He hoped that his mad scramble with his small squadron of outdated ships had been an overreaction. The alternative was something he’d rather not think about. All Ben had was the reserves; the rest of the fleet was on maneuvers at Sirius. The Admiralty had wanted to test the new, fully modernized fleet’s maneuvering abilities in the gravwell of a binary system. And, in their infinite wisdom, they decided they needed ALL of the new fleet assets, leaving nothing in Sol except for the handful of cruisers and escorts that couldn’t match the capabilities of the modern ships. A handful of cruisers and escorts that were now hurtling towards more than 200 unknown contacts. It was the unknown part of all of this that was unnerving Ben. There were no familiar energy signatures. No familiar scan data. No IFF. No signals coming off the contacts of any kind for that matter. Two of the contacts were too big to even be ships. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were moving towards Jupiter in formation, Ben wouldn’t even think they WERE ships. “So what do you think, Alexi?” Ben asked, turning towards his second in command. “You and the rest of the bridge crew are always making inane bets. Have you whipped up an over-under for what we’re throwing ourselves at yet?” “Haven’t had time,” came the quick reply from Ben’s right. The short, stocky man from Vladivostok was missing his trademark joviality. “Though, my money is on them being Ithacan, sir.” Ben bristled at Alexi calling him sir. They’d been friends for twenty years, damnit, and had been practically joined at the hip since going through the Academy together. Outranking him still felt a little off. Now was hardly the time to worry about formalities, though. “What makes you think they're from Ithaca?” “It’s the only thing that makes sense. The locals have been getting increasingly radical, and Ithaca is the only sector where reports of piracy have been increasing.” “Yeah, I could see a rebellion coming from Ithaca,” Ben added slowly, turning over that scenario in his head. “But there’s no way they could swing something of this magnitude. There aren’t even any shipyards in the sector. And even if there were, there’s no way they could keep the construction of over two hundred ships a secret.” Alexi could only offer him a shrug in response. It was at that moment that the coms station informed him there was a transmission incoming from the unidentified ships. Ben instructed the ensign to play it, and the bridge was suddenly filled with a stream of grotesque bleating noises and strange grunts, with the occasional recognizable syllable interspersed throughout the transmission. Ben thought he picked out ‘dentify’ from the mess, but he wasn’t sure. There was a long moment of silence on the bridge. “What the hell was that?” When no one had any answers for him, Ben tapped his command console and recorded a new message to broadcast. “This is Captain Alvarez of the USCS Aurora. Unidentified ships, please clarify. Your transmission is badly garbled. We did not receive your identification. You are still trespassing in Commonwealth space and are on an unauthorized course towards Jupiter. Begin decelerating immediately and re-identify yourselves.” He wouldn’t admit it to the crew, but Ben was profoundly unsettled. Something was deeply, deeply wrong about this whole situation. Not only was he vastly outnumbered by these things, but they were unwilling to communicate properly. He was almost believing this whole thing was some kind of bizarre prank. “How much longer before we can get a decent visual on these things? “Any moment now, sir.” A new transmission arrived just then, and Ben had it played back immediately. This time, instead of almost bovine bleats and grunts, the sounds coming over the speakers were mostly intelligible. Or, they would have been, if any of the syllables were in the right order. It was almost like a toddler was rattling off all of his new favorite sounds, spitting them out in a random order and not knowing how they went together. There were still a few heavy grunts sprinkled in, just for good measure. Before Ben could process this new joke of a transmission, the contacts finally started slowing. In a matter of moments, the strange wall of contacts was hanging lazily in Jupiter’s orbit, barely moving fast enough to keep their orbit from decaying. They were still in perfect formation. “Huh. Well, I guess that’s something.” With nothing to do but sit back and wait as his ship closed the distance, Ben tried to relax and began running over all of the possibilities in his mind of what the new contacts could be. He came up with nothing. Well, nothing feasible, anyway. He took a series of long, calming breaths, trying to clear his mind and focus. This was no time for his imagination to be running wild. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that logic was failing him. Something was off. Something… “Captain, bringing visual of the unknown contacts up on screen now.” Ben actually felt his jaw drop. Every contact on his display was clearly a ship. Most were long and spindly, wrapped in layers of some kind of highly reflective armor; a fleet of crystalline arrows hanging in the darkness. The two largest contacts, which Ben had just moments ago thought were too big to be ships, were large enough on the screen for him to clearly see details. In addition to their immense size and strange armor, both ships were dotted with what were clearly weapons platforms, though what kind, Ben couldn’t tell. Noticeably, almost all of the ships on his screen were heavily damaged. Chunks were missing from some ships, and most had deep lines gouged into their hulls. Any form of decorative paint or markings had been burned away. Something had put these ships through absolute hell. But still, the damage could not take away entirely from the elegance of the ship’s designs. They were graceful and sleek, completely different from anything Ben had ever seen before. It was all so different. So strange. So very, very… Alien. Despite every effort he had made to avoid the word, it finally forced itself to form inside Ben’s mind, and forced him to acknowledge the reality that legitimate, extra-Solar life was hanging in the darkness in front of him. It forced him to acknowledge the screams he had been suppressing in the back of his mind. The screams of his imagination crying out in glorious triumph over reality. And with those screams came a deluge of accompanying thoughts and emotions. He was a child again, staring up at the stars above Armstrong and wondering what else, and who else, was out there. He was a teen again, signing his name to the Academy enrollment paperwork, determined to get out there between the stars and see the galaxy himself. He was a young officer again, screaming and pleading with the Admiralty to at least consider a modern First Contact scenario. He was sitting in his command chair now, hurtling towards honest-to-god aliens, all of his dreams made manifest in an instant. He was overwhelmed. He was terrified. And he had never imagined that he could feel such elation. It was the young warrant officer at the coms that snapped Ben out of his reverie. “Sir, the contacts are hailing us on all standard channels, requesting a video feed.” She sounded very, very nervous. Ben immediately stood up, straightening his uniform as best he could. “If they’re anything less than genocidal monsters, I’m going to offer them aid and repairs. As long as they’re peaceful, there’s no reason not to extend them the full hospitality of humanity.” “Ben,” Alexi asked, clearly choosing his words carefully, “Are you sure that’s the… Wisest course of action? How will the Admiralty respond to Goddamned alien ships docking at Hephaestus?” “Alexi, in the 250 years the Commonwealth has existed, the First Contact protocols haven’t been updated since the charter was signed. No one has cared. This has been nothing but a fantasy for most people. I am NOT letting this opportunity get away. Every child that has ever looked up at the stars and wondered finally got an answer, and I will not waste this moment. We’re making friends, the Admiralty and the government be damned.” “You do realize you’re potentially deciding the fate of our entire species on a whim, right?” “Is there someone else you’d prefer to have making this call?” Alexi, apparently deciding that there was not, stood up and straightened his uniform, standing next to his friend as he ordered the connection of the video feed. The channel connected, and the human bridge crew found themselves looking at the bridge of a ship crewed by not one, but three alien races. The largest alien in the center of the screen opened its mouth to speak. This time, instead of bleats and grunts, a choppy, mechanical voice that didn’t sync up to the alien at all proclaimed from the bridge speakers in broken, stuttering English: “I. Am Admiral. Halon. Va. Of the Federation of. Sentient Races. Greetings and. Welcome. To the. Galaxy.” Ben couldn’t suppress his smile. “On behalf of the United Solar Commonwealth, and all of Humanity, greetings, and welcome to Sol. Your ships look like they’ve had a bad time on your way here. If there’s any way we could aid with your repairs, we’d be happy to help.” Slave 782 slammed his right appendage onto the control console hard enough to rupture his outer membrane and smear ichor over the panel. It had been four days since the battle in the nebula, and with the latest round of reports, he finally had to admit that the rest of the Federation fleet had escaped him. It was a minor frustration, all things considered, but the escape prevented this from being a total victory. Still, he had proven his worth to his owners in this battle, and his experiments with the Zelnassi had paid dividends beyond his wildest imagination. He had earned a command today, and with every success in that command, his ability to bargain for his people's freedom only increased. For what he would be asking, it might take the total defeat of the Federation to earn that kind of leverage. Also frustrating, but not a task that he couldn’t handle. It would be a long war, he was sure, but like his owners, he was patient. He would earn his freedom, even if it meant reducing the entire Federation to glass. NEXT
An excessively detailed guide on how to start shaving, and doing so discretely, based on my personal experience.
Hey dudes and dudettes, I'm an 18-year-old kinda non-binary but mostly just confused male and I recently started shaving my legs and didn't want my parents to know. I thought seeing as though there are always so many questions from people about shaving and doing stuff discretely that I'd go through EVERYTHING of note that I learnt/discovered, so that you can do it too! This is pretty excessively detailed, so I'd recommend reading over it a few times so you get a vibe for what to do and what not to do and then just do it whatever way you figure out to work for you. If anyone has questions, or any other tips they wanna add (or you just wanna point out a spelling mistake), feel free to leave a comment! If it's really personal feel free to DM me but don't DM me your dick or a request for pics, soz.
Stuff you'll NEED:
An electric implement which can be used for trimming your leg hair, e.g. hair clipper, beard trimmer. I used the thing I use on my face.
A razor (can be a men's razor, not only are they fine to use, many women prefer them because they apparently shave closer and smoother. But yeah don't fret) [I used a men's Gillette Fusion5 ProGlide and would recommend it, don't get the higher tier ones unless you want a powered one cause they're the same handle in a different colour with different blades included, but you can use any Fusion5 branded blade with any Fusion5 branded handle] EDIT: I have now used a base Fusion5 blade, and there's almost no difference really. The ProGlide blades are a touch smoother and apparently the one up from that is better for your skin, but really, the cheapest one definitely gets the job done. I believe, however, that the base Fusion5 HANDLE isn't as good as the ProGlide. I would recommend getting the ProGlide handle (everything above that handle is the same in different colours until you get to powered razors).
Moisturiser, or something VERY usable as moisturiser. Normal soap won't do the trick, this is a really important thing to get right as you'll end up with horrible red polka-dot torture victim legs if you fuck it up. It can be a little weird feeling buying moisturiser as a teen male considering what we usually use it for, but hey. I used Cetaphil gentle skin cleanser at first EDIT: After a few more shaves, I would now definitely say Cetaphil isn't enough, I'm now trying Aloe Vera.
Stuff that you should really have but isn't essential:
Shaving cream, or something usable as shaving cream. Not as important to get right as moisturiser, many women use body wash and conditioner and stuff like that. I think the furthest you could go is something like shampoo, but conditioner would be better. You can use men's shaving cream but you'd need a lot compared to what you use on your face and you'll smell all male afterwards which is whatever. EDIT: if you get red spots and irritation after your first few shaves and you're not using something decent as shaving cream, USE A SHAVING CREAM.
probably other stuff if your skin has a history of being particularly sensitive
This probably shouldn't be the only thing you look at regarding how to shave. There's a whole bunch of stuff, like exfoliating and stuff like that, which I completely didn't do, which worked for me but might not for you. I'm not an expert, don't get mad at me if I say something technically not perfect. I'm trying to give practical advice to help you peeps out.
the initial clipping
If you're anything like me, your legs will be insanely hairy. You obviously can't just run a razor over hair as long as men's leg hair gets and expect it to shave anything, so you're first going to have to trim it. Girls will suggest you use scissors if your hair is too long, this is ridiculous advice, I think they just don't realise how god damn long men's leg hair is. Scissors work when you have neat little pricks, not when you have a small rainforest. You're gonna want to use something powered, like a beard trimmer, or hair clippers, or a circular saw, or I actually used a trimmer bit thing which is part of the electric razor I use on my face, and although it's small, it did the trick. You can work with what you have here. You're hopefully only going to need to do this bit once or twice, so don't worry too much about damaging the device. Depending on what you're using, you'll probably need to make sure your legs are sufficiently soaked with warm water first. I'm not quite sure if this is necessary at this point but I did it just in case, as the trimmer I used is pretty exposed, so it was cutting pretty close. If you're using something like a hair clipper with a guide on then you probably don't need to do this bit wet but it's better safe than sorry. The point of shaving wet is that it softens your hair slightly and opens your pores and some other things I forget, but if you shave real close while dry then you could get razor burn and similar ailments, which as I'll explain later are a pain in the butt (especially if that's we're you're shaving gotem). Now if you're using something as exposed as the trimmer I used then make sure you don't press too hard. The thing to remember is that electric shavers, and in fact even manual razors if used correctly, are fucking sharp, and they're going to cut whatever comes around, regardless of how much force you put into it. You might need to go over the same bit a few times, but pressing harder isn't going to help you, instead it'll leave behind slightly inflamed red marks for days, which don't hurt that much but they're obviously not good, and can probably get infected or something. You won't really feel when you give yourself one of these, and you'll only notice them come up a few minutes later, so just be careful. Once you're finished, I recommend moisturising just for good measure. Now, when you're done and you've dried off by patting your legs dry (do not scrub them, pat them, this is how you will always dry your legs from now on), there will be a lot of hair to clean up. Like so much fucking hair. There'll be hair on the floor and the walls and the shower screen and fucking everywhere. To clean up the bulk of it will take like ten minutes on its own, but if like me you're a bit paranoid and don't want your parents to find out, I would say it'd take like 30 minutes or more, so I'd make sure you have about an hour of time to clean up. Also, something which I didn't consider until after doing it is that running a hot shower will leave condensation on the mirror and everything and make it obvious that you showered, so while it's not that conspicuous, you might wanna also have that hour buffer to let that all go away so that they don't pick up on the fact that you're having a shower whenever you're alone (or in my case going against my normal schedule of having a shower at night). You can also wipe the bathroom mirror or whatevs with a towel if you're worried but make sure it's not a towel you mopped your hair up with like the one my idiot ass used. Anyway, after you've trimmed, you'll probably (read: definitely) have missed a few spots. It's hard to see if you've missed a bit when you're dealing with so much hair and it's all wet and sticking to your body. I would dry off and wait a day or so, checking your legs out for missed spots, then go again. Eventually you'll have prickly cactus legs but they're manageable, and it's a base that you can use a razor with. If you have limited alone time and you don't have any discrete way of shaving (e.g. by using a manual non-electric razor in your normal showers) then you can leave your legs just trimmed as they are for a while (a week and a bit, I would think) before you go back in the danger zone and do the next step, so feel free to take a break here.
Oh hell yeah we're up to actually shaving. You'll need any razor. Literally any. Men's, women's, manual, electric, whatever, it'll work great. I personally would recommend going for something not powered which therefore doesn't make noise, as you can then shave in your normal showers without outing yourself. Also as I mentioned before, many women prefer to use men's razors so don't worry. If you want, just use the thing you use on your face, cause that's the least suspicious thing to do. I actually went a bit cheeky and used my Mum's at first before quickly buying my own Gillette Fusion5 ProGlide (men's razor so wasn't very intimidating to buy), which seems to do pretty darn well. Anyway so get in a warm shower. You're meant to leave it for like 15 minutes to get an absolutely perfect shave, but you can get perfect over time, for now just make sure you're decently warm before you start shaving. If you have it, you should put shaving cream on your legs now (or conditioner apparently works pretty well too so that's actually what I used initially EDIT:, but I found that it wasn't quite enough and I still ended up with the red spots of doom, so maybe try something a bit better). It doesn't matter too much seeing as though you're already wet and warm, but it'll make your razor's job easier and depending on what you use it'll make your job easier by showing you where you've already done. It'll also reduce the risk of irritating your pores and blah blah. Start at your ankles and work going against the grain in short, 6cmish (2 and a bit inches I think) strokes, applying basically no pressure. If you get a huge amount of irritation after this then try going with the grain next time, but going against it is obviously more convenient to do standing in the shower, and will give a closer shave. I recommend working in a circle around the circumference of your leg and then moving up a bit but do whatever works. Over time you'll develop a less robotic technique, but this is a great way to start. I know some girls that do big strokes all the way from their ankles up to their thighs and while that might work with more consistently shaved hair, you probably can't do it on your first shave. Definitely try to overlap slightly, like as you go up the leg start your strokes lower than where you're up to so that half of each stroke is covering the area you've already shaved or something like that. It's pretty hard to see hairs when you're in a shower and bending over awkwardly to reach your legs so try and keep track. I find that feeling for prickly areas is the best way to find where you've missed. Your knees and ankles will be the easiest areas to cut yourself on so watch out with them. Don't forget to do the back of your legs, especially the inner of your knee. Other easy spots to miss include your knees, inner thighs, and if you're a bit lean like myself, the valley between the bone and back muscle on the inside edge of your shins (hard to explain but you'll get it if you get it). There's nothing wrong with taking it slow so take as long as you need. Once you've done both legs, apply moisturiser (if you wanna be extra good then apply one which you can put on dry after you've gotten out of the shower). EDIT: there's no such thing as too much moisturiser, and if you start having issues like red dots and shit then not moisturising properly is a decent culprit. END EDIT. When you dry your legs remember to just pat them down. After shaving you'll find a few things. One is that you probably will have gotten a bit too eager and cut yourself in a few places. It won't hurt, and you probably won't notice until a while after you've done it or even not until you're out of the shower, but holy shit some areas will bleed like mad. I got a cut on my knee that just pissed blood for like 45 minutes. Now, you could bandaid these areas, and that's not a bad idea, but I was worried that would lead to scabbing, so I lightly patted the blood off of them every now and again. You'll adjust to the ideal force and cutting angle over time, so don't worry, cuts will become rare. For me it took about three shaves to get to something decent, the first time I over-did it and cut myself a heap, the second time I under-did it and ended up doing effectively nothing, and the third time I got it just about right, and then I upgraded razor and cut myself again oops. I think it's one of those things where your brain adjusts over time without you even thinking about it. Anyway, as well as cutting yourself, you'll likely find that you've missed a bunch of areas. For me I found that some areas, like on my shins and around my ankles, there were like about half a dozen scattered hairs which the razor missed in an otherwise smooth area. These I found easy to just pluck out with a pair of tweezers. This sounds like it'd be painful, but weirdly I found that especially after a warm shower, it didn't really hurt at all, and I could actually remove hairs by pulling really slowly and they came out with almost no pain. I also used this on the few little hairs that have grown on my feet. This might be different for your hair though so YMMV. There'll be other areas where there are a lot of quite long hairs, and for these areas you can choose whether you cut them with scissors or whatever or run over them again with whatever powered thing you used for the initial shave. Finally, if you're like me, you won't get as happy about having shaved legs as you'd think you would. I found that while I didn't get super gushy about them after the initial few minutes, I found that looking at them made me go "yep those are my legs" instead of making me feel uncomfortable or as though they were ugly or didn't belong to me. I definitely don't regret it, it's just I'm not ecstatically euphoric, just no longer dysphoric (which I guess counts as being euphoric but whatever). I also found that it made me want more (or less, in terms of hair). I spent a touch over half an hour manually tending to the hair on my feet using the tweezers and scissors of a Swiss Army Knife, but then I looked at myself naked and realised that I also wanted to shave my butt and dick hair, which is a separate exercise I haven't gotten to yet (although I'm probably just going to repeat a similar process to what I suggested here albeit a bit more gingerly around my privates). The fact is though that I feel better about myself, and that's great. The big bit for me is done; the part of my bottom half that people will see now represents me in the way that I want it to. But now it's more about how I want to see myself, and that's kind of comforting in a way, cause it shows I'm not faking this shit for attention or anything. Anyway yeah, now just shave your legs with a razor every now and then and you'll be good! Don't shave every day, at absolute most shave every second day. Try and leave it for a few days though if you can. I definitely shaved every second day for a little bit when I first started just so I could hone in on the little missed spots and stuff like that, but once you get going don't feel like you have to have ultra smooth legs every second of every day. Even if you go around wearing shorts/a skirt every day people probably won't notice two or three days of stubble unless they get creepily close for strangers. And if they're your friends and they're complaining about three day stubble then you should probably try and get better friends especially considering how big of a deal it is to do this stuff in the first place as men. Just remember that you're looking way closer than anyone else is going to, so if you can see lots of tiny little black stubbly dots then that doesn't mean other people are going to. It doesn't always need to be as close a shave as your face cause people get way closer to your face than your legs. I think some people on this sub need to realise that they don't need to be 100% perfect with everything to look 100% perfect. Anyway yeah that's my immensely detailed guide to shaving your legs as a man living at home. Hope it helps some people. EDIT: If you get red spots of badness, here are some suggestions. Also if you wanna be real careful, do these things regardless, at worst it'll be a better shave. - start using shaving cream if you aren't already - use better moisturiser if you're using something a bit dodge for moisturising. - exfoliate your legs before shaving them, this means get a loofah/facewasher and shove some soap on and then scrub your legs. And if that still doesn't work then here are some more inconvenient methods that might work - moisturise your legs regularly - shave with the grain instead of against the grain (this won't be as close a shave but it's better for avoiding ingrown hairs) In the case you do get the horrible rednesses, moisturise moisturise moisturise. It'll make it sting less, it'll make it look better, and it'll reduce the potential damage. I recommend doing it after drying off at the end of an unsuccesful shave in the shower but any time is a good time. A further edit: You might be wondering about other options, like waxing, using an epilator, and hair removal cream. While these are all great options which could get you a far better shave which lasts longer and is easier to do, there are a couple of problems to consider. First off, none of the methods I just listed are easy to do in secret. By contrast, not only is owning a razor is a perfectly normal thing for a man, you probably already have everything you need in your house, and even if you are hiding everything to do with it, it won't take up much space or be particularly conspicuous, because even the creams associated with shaving are used for a vast variety of non-gendered purposes. Also, shaving with a manual razor is basically silent in the shower, and you can easily ditch half-way through a shave. Shaving is also relatively speaking very quick, it obviously will add a bit of time to your showers, but it's not like an hour long process. Another good thing about shaving is that it's basically the default, and most women either shave or have shaved in the past, so you can easily find advice online or ask your girl friends if you need a hand. It's also fairly affordable, even if it isn't the cheapest option out there. You have options, definitely, but I personally think that shaving is the most realistic hair removal option to do discretely, and that arguably outweighs the difficulty and occasional frustration that comes with it.
As you may have seen, I sent the following Tweet: “The Apple ARM MacBook future is coming, maybe sooner than people expect” https://twitter.com/choco_bit/status/1266200305009676289?s=20 Today, I would like to further elaborate on that. tl;drApple will be moving to Arm based macs in what I believe are 4 stages, starting around 2015 and ending around 2023-2025: Release of T1 chip Macbooks, release of T2 chip Macbooks, Release of at least one lower end model Arm Macbook, and transitioning full lineup to Arm. Reasons for each are below. Apple is very likely going to switch to switch their CPU platform to their in-house silicon designs with an ARM architecture. This understanding is a fairly common amongst various Apple insiders. Here is my personal take on how this switch will happen and be presented to the consumer. The first question would likely be “Why would Apple do this again?”. Throughout their history, Apple has already made two other storied CPU architecture switches - first from the Motorola 68k to PowerPC in the early 90s, then from PowerPC to Intel in the mid 2000s. Why make yet another? Here are the leading reasons:
Intel has, in recent years, been making significant losses both in reputation and in actual product value, as well as velocity of product development, breaking their bi-yearly “Tick Tock” cycle for the first time in decades. Most recently, they have fallen well behind AMD’s processor lines in cost to performance ratio, CPU core count, core design (monolithic design vs “chiplet”), power consumption to performance, silicon supply (Intel with significant manufacturing process and yield issues), and on-silicon security features. While Intel still wins out in certain enterprise and datacenter applications, as well as having a much better reputation for reliability and QA (AMD having shipped numerous chips with a broken random- number generator that prevented even booting some mainstream operating system), the number of such applications slowly dwindles with each new release from AMD, and as confidence among decisionmakers in enterprise increases. In the public consciousness, Intel is quickly becoming a point of ridicule against Apple’s Mac lineup, rather than a badge of honor.
By moving to their own designs, Apple will be free from Intel’s release schedule, which have recently been unpredictable and faced with routine delays due to poor manufacturing yields. Apple will be able to update their Mac lineup on their own timeline, rather than being forced to delay products based on Intel’s ability to meet the release window. This also allows them to leverage relationships with other silicon fabricators to source chips, rather than relying on Intel ’s continued “iteration” that’s leading to a “14nm++++++++++” process, or the continued lack of product diversity with the 10nm process. Apple will also be free to innovate in the design of the silicon platform, rather than being limited by Intel’s design choices. By having full control of the manufacturing and development cycle, Apple can bring even more in-house optimization to the macOS, as they have been for iOS and iPadOS over the years.
Using an ARM architecture on the Macs allows for a more unified Apple ecosystem, rather than having separate Mac and iOS-based products. The only distinction will be the device form factor and performance characteristics.
The x86_64 architecture is very old and inefficient, using older methodologies for processor design (CISC vs ARM’s RISC), and the instruction set continues to require support in silicon for emulating 1980s-vintage 16-bit modes, as well as ineffectual and archaic memory addressing modes (segmentation, etc.) The x86_64 architecture is like a city, built atop a much older city, built atop a yet older city, but every layer is built with NYC infrastructure levels of complexity that suited its time and no further.
Over the last 10 years, Apple has shown that they can consistently produce impressive silicon designs, often leading the market in performance and capability, and Apple has been aggressively acquiring silicon design talent.
A common refrain heard on the Internet is the suggestion that Apple should switch to using CPUs made by AMD, and while this has been considered internally, it will most likely not be chosen as the path forward, even for their megalithic giants like the Mac Pro. Even though AMD would mitigate Intel’s current set of problems, it does nothing to help the issue of the x86_64 architecture’s problems and inefficiencies, on top of jumping to a platform that doesn’t have a decade of proven support behind it. Why spend a lot of effort re-designing and re- optimizing for AMD’s platform when you can just put that effort into your own, and continue the vertical integration Apple is well-known for? I believe that the internal development for the ARM transition started around 2015/2016 and is considered to be happening in 4 distinct stages. These are not all information from Apple insiders; some of these these are my own interpretation based off of information gathered from supply-chain sources, examination of MacBook schematics, and other indicators from Apple.
Stage1 (from 2014/2015 to 2017):
The rollout of computers with Apple’s T1 chip as a coprocessor. This chip is very similar to Apple’s T8002 chip design, which was used for the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2. The T1 is primarily present on the first TouchID enabled Macs, 2016 and 2017 model year MacBook Pros. Considering the amount of time required to design and validate a processor, this stage most likely started around 2014 or 2015, with early experimentation to see whether an entirely new chip design would be required, or if would be sufficient to repurpose something in the existing lineup. As we can see, the general purpose ARM processors aren’t a one- trick pony. To get a sense of the decision making at the time, let’s look back a bit. The year is 2016, and we're witnessing the beginning of stagnation of Intel processor lineup. There is not a lot to look forward to other than another “+” being added to the 14nm fabrication process. The MacBook Pro has used the same design for many years now, and its age is starting to show. Moving to AMD is still very questionable, as they’ve historically not been able to match Intel’s performance or functionality, especially at the high end, and since the “Ryzen” lineup is still unreleased, there is absolutely no benchmarks or other data to show they are worth consideration, and AMD’s most recent line of “Bulldozer” processors were very poorly received. Now is probably as good a time as any to begin experimenting with the in-house ARM designs, but it’s not time to dive into the deep end yet, our chips are not nearly mature enough to compete, and it’s not yet certain how long Intel will be stuck in the mud. As well, it is widely understood that Apple and Intel have an exclusivity contract in exchange for advantageous pricing. Any transition would take considerable time and effort, and since there are no current viable alternative to Intel, the in-house chips will need to advance further, and breaching a contract with Intel is too great a risk. So it makes sense to start with small deployments, to extend the timeline, stretch out to the end of the contract, and eventually release a real banger of a Mac. Thus, the 2016 Touch Bar MacBooks were born, alongside the T1 chip mentioned earlier. There are good reasons for abandoning the piece of hardware previously used for a similar purpose, the SMC or System Management Controller. I suspect that the biggest reason was to allow early analysis of the challenges that would be faced migrating Mac built- in peripherals and IO to an ARM-based controller, as well as exploring the manufacturing, power, and performance results of using the chips across a broad deployment, and analyzing any early failure data, then using this to patch any issues, enhance processes, and inform future designs looking towards the 2nd stage. The former SMC duties now moved to T1 includes things like
Fan speed, voltage, amperage and thermal sensor feedback data
FaceTime camera and microphone IO
PMIC (Power Management Controller)
Direct communication to NAND (solid state storage)
Direct communication with the Touch Bar
Secure Enclave for TouchID
The T1 chip also communicates with a number of other controllers to manage a MacBook’s behavior. Even though it’s not a very powerful CPU by modern standards, it’s already responsible for a large chunk of the machine’s operation. Moving control of these peripherals to the T1 chip also brought about the creation of the fabled BridgeOS software, a shrunken-down watchOS-based system that operates fully independently of macOS and the primary Intel processor. BridgeOS is the first step for Apple’s engineering teams to begin migrating underlying systems and services to integrate with the ARM processor via BridgeOS, and it allowed internal teams to more easily and safely develop and issue firmware updates. Since BridgeOS is based on a standard and now well-known system, it means that they can leverage existing engineering expertise to flesh out the T1’s development, rather than relying on the more arcane and specialized SMC system, which operates completely differently and requires highly specific knowledge to work with. It also allows reuse of the same fabrication pipeline used for Apple Watch processors, and eliminated the need to have yet another IC design for the SMC, coming from a separate source, to save a bit on cost. Also during this time, on the software side, “Project Marzipan”, today Catalyst, came into existence. We'll get to this shortly. For the most part, this Stage 1 went without any major issues. There were a few firmware problems at first during the product launch, but they were quickly solved with software updates. Now that engineering teams have had experience building for, manufacturing, and shipping the T1 systems, Stage 2 would begin.
Stage 2 encompasses the rollout of Macs with the T2 coprocessor, replacing the T1. This includes a much wider lineup, including MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, starting with 2018 models, MacBook Air starting with 2018 models, the iMac Pro, the 2019 Mac Pro, as well as Mac Mini starting in 2018. With this iteration, the more powerful T8012 processor design was used, which is a further revision of the T8010 design that powers the A10 series processors used in the iPhone 7. This change provided a significant increase in computational ability and brought about the integration of even more devices into T2. In addition to the T1’s existing responsibilities, T2 now controls:
Full audio subsystem
Secure Enclave for internal NAND storage and encryption/decryption offload
Management of the whole system’s power and startup sequence, allowing for trusted boot (ensure boot chain-of-trust with no malicious code/rootkit/bootkit)
Those last 2 points are crucial for Stage 2. Under this new paradigm, the vast majority of the Mac is now under the control of an in-house ARM processor. Stage 2 also brings iPhone-grade hardware security to the Mac. These T2 models also incorporated a supported DFU (Device Firmware Update, more commonly “recovery mode”), which acts similarly to the iPhone DFU mode and allows restoration of the BridgeOS firmware in the event of corruption (most commonly due to user-triggered power interruption during flashing). Putting more responsibility onto the T2 again allows for Apple’s engineering teams to do more early failure analysis on hardware and software, monitor stability of these machines, experiment further with large-scale production and deployment of this ARM platform, as well as continue to enhance the silicon for Stage 3. A few new user-visible features were added as well in this stage, such as support for the passive “Hey Siri” trigger, and offloading image and video transcoding to the T2 chip, which frees up the main Intel processor for other applications. BridgeOS was bumped to 2.0 to support all of these changes and the new chip. On the macOS software side, what was internally known as Project Marzipan was first demonstrated to the public. Though it was originally discovered around 2017, and most likely began development and testing within later parts of Stage 1, its effects could be seen in 2018 with the release of iPhone apps, now running on the Mac using the iOS SDKs: Voice Recorder, Apple News, Home, Stocks, and more, with an official announcement and public release at WWDC in 2019. Catalyst would come to be the name of Marzipan used publicly. This SDK release allows app developers to easily port iOS apps to run on macOS, with minimal or no code changes, and without needing to develop separate versions for each. The end goal is to allow developers to submit a single version of an app, and allow it to work seamlessly on all Apple platforms, from Watch to Mac. At present, iOS and iPadOS apps are compiled for the full gamut of ARM instruction sets used on those devices, while macOS apps are compiled for x86_64. The logical next step is to cross this bridge, and unify the instruction sets. With this T2 release, the new products using it have not been quite as well received as with the T1. Many users have noticed how this change contributes further towards machines with limited to no repair options outside of Apple’s repair organization, as well as some general issues with bugs in the T2. Products with the T2 also no longer have the “Lifeboat” connector, which was previously present on 2016 and 2017 model Touch Bar MacBook Pro. This connector allowed a certified technician to plug in a device called a CDM Tool (Customer Data Migration Tool) to recover data off of a machine that was not functional. The removal of this connector limits the options for data recovery in the event of a problem, and Apple has never offered any data recovery service, meaning that a irreparable failure of the T2 chip or the primary board would result in complete data loss, in part due to the strong encryption provided by the T2 chip (even if the data got off, the encryption keys were lost with the T2 chip). The T2 also brought about the linkage of component serial numbers of certain internal components, such as the solid state storage, display, and trackpad, among other components. In fact, many other controllers on the logic board are now also paired to the T2, such as the WiFi and Bluetooth controller, the PMIC (Power Management Controller), and several other components. This is the exact same system used on newer iPhone models and is quite familiar to technicians who repair iPhone logic boards. While these changes are fantastic for device security and corporate and enterprise users, allowing for a very high degree of assurance that devices will refuse to boot if tampered with in any way - even from storied supply chain attacks, or other malfeasance that can be done with physical access to a machine - it has created difficulty with consumers who more often lack the expertise or awareness to keep critical data backed up, as well as the funds to perform the necessary repairs from authorized repair providers. Other issues reported that are suspected to be related to T2 are audio “cracking” or distortion on the internal speakers, and the BridgeOS becoming corrupt following a firmware update resulting in a machine that can’t boot. I believe these hiccups will be properly addressed once macOS is fully integrated with the ARM platform. This stage of the Mac is more like a chimera of an iPhone and an Intel based computer. Technically, it does have all of the parts of an iPhone present within it, cellular radio aside, and I suspect this fusion is why these issues exist. Recently, security researchers discovered an underlying security problem present within the Boot ROM code of the T1 and T2 chip. Due to being the same fundamental platform as earlier Apple Watch and iPhone processors, they are vulnerable to the “checkm8” exploit (CVE-2019-8900). Because of how these chips operate in a Mac, firmware modifications caused by use of the exploit will persist through OS reinstallation and machine restarts. Both the T1 and T2 chips are always on and running, though potentially in a heavily reduced power usage state, meaning the only way to clean an exploited machine is to reflash the chip, triggering a restart, or to fully exhaust or physically disconnect the battery to flush its memory. Fortunately, this exploit cannot be done remotely and requires physical access to the Mac for an extended duration, as well as a second Mac to perform the change, so the majority of users are relatively safe. As well, with a very limited execution environment and access to the primary system only through a “mailbox” protocol, the utility of exploiting these chips is extremely limited. At present, there is no known malware that has used this exploit. The proper fix will come with the next hardware revision, and is considered a low priority due to the lack of practical usage of running malicious code on the coprocessor. At the time of writing, all current Apple computers have a T2 chip present, with the exception of the 2019 iMac lineup. This will change very soon with the expected release of the 2020 iMac lineup at WWDC, which will incorporate a T2 coprocessor as well. Note: from here on, this turns entirely into speculation based on info gathered from a variety of disparate sources. Right now, we are in the final steps of Stage 2. There are strong signs that an a MacBook (12”) with an ARM main processor will be announced this year at WWDC (“One more thing...”), at a Fall 2020 event, Q1 2021 event, or WWDC 2021. Based on the lack of a more concrete answer, WWDC2020 will likely not see it, but I am open to being wrong here.
Stage3 (Present/2021 - 2022/2023):
Stage 3 involves the first version of at least one fully ARM-powered Mac into Apple’s computer lineup. I expect this will come in the form of the previously-retired 12” MacBook. There are rumors that Apple is still working internally to perfect the infamous Butterfly keyboard, and there are also signs that Apple is developing an A14x based processors with 8-12 cores designed specifically for use as the primary processor in a Mac. It makes sense that this model could see the return of the Butterfly keyboard, considering how thin and light it is intended to be, and using an A14x processor would make it will be a very capable, very portable machine, and should give customers a good taste of what is to come. Personally, I am excited to test the new 12" “ARMbook”. I do miss my own original 12", even with all the CPU failure issues those older models had. It was a lovely form factor for me. It's still not entirely known whether the physical design of these will change from the retired version, exactly how many cores it will have, the port configuration, etc. I have also heard rumors about the 12” model possibly supporting 5G cellular connectivity natively thanks to the A14 series processor. All of this will most likely be confirmed soon enough. This 12” model will be the perfect stepping stone for stage 3, since Apple’s ARM processors are not yet a full-on replacement for Intel’s full processor lineup, especially at the high end, in products such as the upcoming 2020 iMac, iMac Pro, 16” MacBook Pro, and the 2019 Mac Pro. Performance of Apple’s ARM platform compared to Intel has been a big point of contention over the last couple years, primarily due to the lack of data representative of real-world desktop usage scenarios. The iPad Pro and other models with Apple’s highest-end silicon still lack the ability to execute a lot of high end professional applications, so data about anything more than video editing and photo editing tasks benchmarks quickly becomes meaningless. While there are completely synthetic benchmarks like Geekbench, Antutu, and others, to try and bridge the gap, they are very far from being accurate or representative of the real real world performance in many instances. Even though the Apple ARM processors are incredibly powerful, and I do give constant praise to their silicon design teams, there still just isn’t enough data to show how they will perform for real-world desktop usage scenarios, and synthetic benchmarks are like standardized testing: they only show how good a platform is at running the synthetic benchmark. This type of benchmark stresses only very specific parts of each chip at a time, rather than how well it does a general task, and then boil down the complexity and nuances of each chip into a single numeric score, which is not a remotely accurate way of representing processors with vastly different capabilities and designs. It would be like gauging how well a person performs a manual labor task based on averaging only the speed of every individual muscle in the body, regardless of if, or how much, each is used. A specific group of muscles being stronger or weaker than others could wildly skew the final result, and grossly misrepresent performance of the person as a whole. Real world program performance will be the key in determining the success and future of this transition, and it will have to be great on this 12" model, but not just in a limited set of tasks, it will have to be great at *everything*. It is intended to be the first Horseman of the Apocalypse for the Intel Mac, and it better behave like one. Consumers have been expecting this, especially after 15 years of Intel processors, the continued advancement of Apple’s processors, and the decline of Intel’s market lead. The point of this “demonstration” model is to ease both users and developers into the desktop ARM ecosystem slowly. Much like how the iPhone X paved the way for FaceID-enabled iPhones, this 12" model will pave the way towards ARM Mac systems. Some power-user type consumers may complain at first, depending on the software compatibility story, then realize it works just fine since the majority of the computer users today do not do many tasks that can’t be accomplished on an iPad or lower end computer. Apple needs to gain the public’s trust for basic tasks first, before they will be able to break into the market of users performing more hardcore or “Pro” tasks. This early model will probably not be targeted at these high-end professionals, which will allow Apple to begin to gather early information about the stability and performance of this model, day to day usability, developmental issues that need to be addressed, hardware failure analysis, etc. All of this information is crucial to Stage 4, or possibly later parts of Stage 3. The 2 biggest concerns most people have with the architecture change is app support and Bootcamp. Any apps released through the Mac App Store will not be a problem. Because App Store apps are submitted as LLVM IR (“Bitcode”), the system can automatically download versions compiled and optimized for ARM platforms, similar to how App Thinning on iOS works. For apps distributed outside the App Store, thing might be more tricky. There are a few ways this could go:
Developer will need to build both x86_64 and ARM version of their app - App Bundles have supported multiple-architecture binaries since the dawn of OS X and the PowerPC transition
Move to apps being distributed in an architecture-independent manner, as they are on the App Store. There is some software changes that are suggestive of this, such as the new architecture in dyld3.
An x86_64 instruction decoder in silicon - very unlikely due to the significant overhead this would create in the silicon design, and potential licensing issues. (ARM, being a RISC, “reduced instruction set”, has very few instructions; x86_64 has thousands)
Server-side ahead-of-time transpilation (converting x86 code to equivalent ARM code) using Notarization submissions - Apple certainly has the compiler chops in the LLVM team to do something like this
Outright emulation, similar to the approach that was taken in ARM releases of Windows, but received extremely poorly (limited to 32-bit apps, and very very slow)There could be other solutions in the works to fix this but I am not aware of any. This is just me speculating about some of the possibilities.
As for Bootcamp, while ARM-compatible versions of Windows do exist and are in development, they come with their own similar set of app support problems. Microsoft has experimented with emulating x86_64 on their ARM-based Surface products, and some other OEMs have created their own Windows-powered ARM laptops, but with very little success. Performance is a problem across the board, with other ARM silicon not being anywhere near as advanced, and with the majority of apps in the Windows ecosystem that were not developed in-house at Microsoft running terribly due to the x86_64 emulation software. If Bootcamp does come to the early ARM MacBook, it more than likely will run like very poorly for anything other than Windows UWP apps. There is a high chance it will be abandoned entirely until Windows becomes much more friendly to the architecture. I believe this will also be a very crucial turning point for the MacBook lineup as a whole. At present, the iPad Pro paired with the Magic Keyboard is, in many ways, nearly identical to a laptop, with the biggest difference being the system software itself. While Apple executives have outright denied plans of merging the iPad and MacBook line, that could very well just be a marketing stance, shutting the down rumors in anticipation of a well-executed surprise. I think that Apple might at least re-examine the possibility of merging Macs and iPads in some capacity, but whether they proceed or not could be driven by consumer reaction to both products. Do they prefer the feel and usability of macOS on ARM, and like the separation of both products? Is there success across the industry of the ARM platform, both at the lower and higher end of the market? Do users see that iPadOS and macOS are just 2 halves of the same coin? Should there be a middle ground, and a new type of product similar to the Surface Book, but running macOS? Should Macs and iPads run a completely uniform OS? Will iPadOS ever see exposed the same sort of UNIX-based tools for IT administrators and software developers that macOS has present? These are all very real questions that will pop up in the near future. The line between Stage 3 and Stage 4 will be blurry, and will depend on how Apple wishes to address different problems going forward, and what the reactions look like. It is very possible that only 12” will be released at first, or a handful more lower end model laptop and desktop products could be released, with high performance Macs following in Stage 4, or perhaps everything but enterprise products like Mac Pro will be switched fully. Only time will tell.
Stage 4 (the end goal):
Congratulations, you’re made it to the end of my TED talk. We are now well into the 2020s and COVID-19 Part 4 is casually catching up to the 5G = Virus crowd. All Macs have transitioned fully to ARM. iMac, MacBooks Pro and otherwise, Mac Pro, Mac Mini, everything. The future is fully Apple from top to bottom, and vertical integration leading to market dominance continues. Many other OEM have begun to follow in this path to some extent, creating more demand for a similar class of silicon from other firms. The remainder here is pure speculation with a dash of wishful thinking. There are still a lot of things that are entirely unclear. The only concrete thing is that Stage 4 will happen when everything is running Apple’s in- house processors. By this point, consumers will be quite familiar with the ARM Macs existing, and developers have had have enough time to transition apps fully over to the newly unified system. Any performance, battery life, or app support concerns will not be an issue at this point. There are no more details here, it’s the end of the road, but we are left with a number of questions. It is unclear if Apple will stick to AMD's GPUs or whether they will instead opt to use their in-house graphics solutions that have been used since the A11 series of processors. How Thunderbolt support on these models of Mac will be achieved is unknown. While Intel has made it openly available for use, and there are plans to have USB and Thunderbolt combined in a single standard, it’s still unclear how it will play along with Apple processors. Presently, iPhones do support connecting devices via PCI Express to the processor, but it has only been used for iPhone and iPad storage. The current Apple processors simply lack the number of lanes required for even the lowest end MacBook Pro. This is an issue that would need to be addressed in order to ship a full desktop-grade platform. There is also the question of upgradability for desktop models, and if and how there will be a replaceable, socketed version of these processors. Will standard desktop and laptop memory modules play nicely with these ARM processors? Will they drop standard memory across the board, in favor of soldered options, or continue to support user-configurable memory on some models? Will my 2023 Mac Pro play nicely with a standard PCI Express device that I buy off the shelf? Will we see a return of “Mac Edition” PCI devices? There are still a lot of unknowns, and guessing any further in advance is too difficult. The only thing that is certain, however, is that Apple processors coming to Mac is very much within arm’s reach.
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