StarCraft War Chest Supports StarCraft II eSports



Blizzard is starting a limited-time offer that is designed to generate interest in StarCraft – and to financially support StarCraft II eSports. StarCraft War Chest has three phases that will unlock on separate dates.

Phase I unlocks on July 19, 2017. Phase II unlocks on August 16, 2017. Phase III unlocks on September 23, 2017. Starting on October 4, 2017, there will be a Double XP bonus. The purpose of the extra XP is to help players to complete their War Chest. That same date is the purchase deadline for StarCraft War Chests. The War Chest offer closes on November 4, 2017.

War Chest: BlizzCon 2017 introduces more than 70 new items (spread across three phases), including sprays, emoticons, exclusive portraits, and StarCraft II’s first army-wide skins, all for a steeply discounted price.

On July 19, players can choose to purchase a War Chest for an individual StarCraft race (Protoss, Terran, or Zerg) for $9.99. Or, players can buy the entire collection for $24.99. The first War Chest you purchase unlocks some loot for other Blizzard Games: A Tal’darim pet for Diablo III, a Heroes of the Storm Loot Chest, and a free Hearthstone card pack.

Each War Chest begins with a single unit skin and an exclusive portrait. Additional skins are divided into three phases, and each can be unlocked by playing Multiplayer or Co-op matches during or after the corresponding phase, until by the end of the challenge you have a full set.

Progress is applied retroactively to newly purchased War Chests. If you have unlocked 5 rewards from the Zerg War Chest, and you purchase a Protoss War Chest, you will immediately unlock 5 Protoss rewards. Progress is shared across War Chests, so if you purchase more than one, you can work on them all simultaneously.

Blizzard states that 25% of all War Chest purchases go directly to StarCraft II eSports. The first $200K will be added to the $500K BlizzCon 2017 prize pool, with any surplus contributing to StarCraft II event production.


OxyLED T35 LED Desk Lamp Review



The OxyLED T35 Desk Lamp is a small silver grey LED desk light powered by USB. It’s a neat idea given the availability of USB ports and reduces the need for mains power sockets, which are always in short supply. Let’s take look and see if the T35 can replace my Anglepoise.

The T35 has three main parts – a weighted base, an upright with microUSB power socket and a cross-piece with two rows of white LEDs at the end of the longer side. The cross-piece is hinged at the upright to raise or lower the light. and can fold parallel to the upright. The base is 13.5 cm across and with the cross-piece horizontal, the light is 24.5 cm tall. At full reach, the T35 is just under 45 cm. From a distance the silver grey finish does a fairly good impression of being metal, but it’s obviously plastic when you touch it.

In the box, there’s the lamp itself along with a 1.5 m USB cable. The cable is white, which might appeal to Apple lovers, but I would have preferred a colour matched cable in dark grey. Even black would have been better in my opinion. It’s also a pity that the microUSB port isn’t a bit lower down the the upright…or a right-angle microUSB plug would have been good too.

Some descriptions of the T35 refer to the lamp as being USB-charged but let’s be clear here: it’s USB-powered as there’s no battery. Pull out the cable and the light goes off. Obviously the T35 can be run from a USB battery pack if needed. The low voltage is good for children too – no-one’s going to get a shock off this.

On the plus side, the OxyLED lamp can adjust the LED brightness. Tap the on/off button once and the T35 comes on full power (160 lm), but now hold the button and the brightness will slowly fade to the desired level. Tap it again and the light will go completely off. I like this feature as I can get the light level just right. The LEDs put out a slightly yellow colour, which is much better than the harsh blue white of some LEDs.

The max power output of the T35 is 4W so clearly there are energy-saving benefits over a normal desk lamp that at worst, has a 60W incandescent bulb. The LEDs are expected to have a 20,000 hour lifespan. That’s over 2 years.

Where it goes wrong for the T35 is the price – it’s currently on Amazon.co.uk for a penny under GB£40 (though it’s a slightly more reasonable US$29.99 on Amazon.com). That’s too expensive for a plastic light without a battery no matter how stylish. I think somewhere around £15-£20 would be about right.

Thanks to OxyLED for providing the T35 for review. Unboxing video below.


Sitpack 2 Gets Shorty



Continuing their mission to make waiting a little more comfortable, Sitpack have announced version two of their portable compact seat. At first glance, the new model looks exactly like the old one but there are two important improvements which will be covered shortly. I reviewed the original Sitpack back in May and as most of the review still stands, this update will focus on the new features only.

As a quick refresh, initially the Sitpack looks much like a 500 ml drinks can and weighs about the same. Made from glass-fibre reinforced polycarbonate, it’s secret is that it opens up and telescopes out into a T-shaped lean-to seat. The tired owner then rests on the Sitpack with a slight lean backwards. It’s surprisingly effective once any self-consciousness is overcome.

The new version 2 has two main improvements. First, Sitpack v2 has more height adjustment. The telescopic leg has six segments and in the first version, the only adjustment involved the topmost segment which could be extended or collapsed. Simply, v1 only had two different heights (87 cm or 75 cm). With the new version, each segment can be collapsed if needed and v2 has six possible heights, from 32 cm to 87 cm in 11 cm increments. This makes the Sitpack v2 much more useful for shorter people and children, though I have trouble getting my kids to sit still at any time…

I received an early production model of the new version and the instructions still had dire warnings about not collapsing any tubes other than top one, but I’m sure this will be addressed before the Sitpack v2 goes on wider sale. Here’s the Sitpack fully extended showing all the segments on the left, and it shortened to just four segments on the right. As before, the leg locks into place by twisting the segments.

     

The second change involves the rubber foot, which now pops in and out much more easily. With v1, getting the foot out was easy enough with some tugging, but getting it back in involved much twisting and pushing. There’s no change to the foot itself, but there’s now a plastic collar to ease it in to the Sitpack tube.

Currently the Sitpack is available in three colours; Pitch Black, Easy Blue and Black Camo. Base pricing is in euros but the Danish outfit sells to Europe, UK, USA, Canda, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong, to name just a few. The Black and Blue editions are currently €47 (GB£41, US$54) and the Camo one is slightly more at €55 (GB£48, US$63).

Thanks to Mono+Mono for providing the Sitpack for review.

 


Amazon Meals #1212



Amazon is out to rule the world and they will be targeting our stomachs next with home delivery of meals that just need a little prep. I get you caught up on what has been happening including my trip to the east coast.

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Braille Manuals Now Available for Many Apple Products



Apple LogoApple popularized the “it just works” slogan many years ago, when it was promoting its Macintosh computer line as the easy-to-use solution compared to Windows PCs. Apple has internalized the “it just works” concept to the point where its products are shipped with skimpy manuals that contain little more than a brief overview and basic user guide. While Apple products can be surprisingly intuitive at times, some users may need more than what Apple’s stock manuals have to offer. That rings especially true for visually impaired users, who’ll get practically no use at all from Apple’s standard manuals.

The Media and Accessible Design Lab (MAD Lab) at the Lighthouse for the Blind has recently released fully authorized braille manuals for many Apple products:

For blind braille readers who use Apple products, this is a huge step towards tech literacy. The iOS manuals provide detailed insight into optimizing these products and leveraging the accessible features for personal and professional use. The embossed manuals offer a complete set of directions on how to use each Apple operating system, intelligently organized into multiple volumes of interpoint Braille.

Braille manuals are currently available for Apple Watch, iPhone iOS 10, AppleTV, and macOS Sierra 10.12. The manuals can be ordered from Adaptations, the Lighthouse’s shop that features products for visually impaired customers. Special BRF documents of the Apple manuals can also be downloaded and printed out using braille-capable printers.


Apple Previews New Emoji Coming Later this Year



World Emoji Day is celebrated on July 17. Apple celebrated by sharing some of its new emoji that will be coming to iOS, macOS, and watchOS later this year. In addition, the App Store highlighted apps that create or do fun things with emoji, and iTunes Movies featured emoji in place of select movie titles.

Love them or hate them, emoji have become a fun way to express an emotion on social media. Personally, the only emoji I have used are the ones that automatically appear when you post something on Twitter about a current event. For example, people who tweeted #ElectionDay during the 2016 election got an automatically placed ballot box emoji in their tweet.

With thousands of emoji available on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac, there are many ways to add personality to every message. New emoji include Woman with Headscarf, Bearded Person, and Breastfeeding, and food items such as Sandwich and Coconut. More animals and mythical creatures like T-Rex, Zebra, Zombie and Elf are a fun way to describe situations and new Star Struck and Exploding Head smiley faces make any message more fun. 

I like that Apple has added some diversity into the new emojis. There already are emoji of women doing various things, but none of them were wearing a headscarf. The Breastfeeding emoji can be used as a quick way for nursing moms to share their experiences on social media.

I like that the Elf emoji shows an Elf who has dark skin. There are some emoji that allow people to select a version of it from a variety of skin tones, and Apple chose to feature the Elf with dark skin. It’s a nice way of including people of color who also happen to be geeks.


Pokémon GO Fest – Play Worldwide Together



Niantic released some additional information about the Pokémon GO Fest that will take place in Chicago, Illinois. It turns out that Pokémon GO Trainers everywhere can participate in a global challenge with Trainers who are at the Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago. You can help them unlock special rewards worldwide.

The Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago will take place starting at 10:00 AM and ending at 7:00 PM CDT on July 22, 2017. There will be three Challenge Windows: 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM, 12:00 AM to 12:30 PM, and 3:00 PM to 3:30 PM.

During the Challenge Windows, Trainers in Grant Park will attempt to unlock perks for Pokémon GO players around the world by catching certain types of Pokémon. Each Pokémon-type will be tied to a different perk, so Trainers at the park will need to carefully choose which Pokémon they catch.

  • Fire-type: Candy Bonus
  • Water-type: XP Bonus
  • Grass-type: Stardust Bonus
  • Electric-type: Reduces the distance players must walk to hatch an egg
  • Rock-type: Buddy Distance Bonus
  • Normal-type: Encounter Rate Bonus

Meanwhile, Trainers outside of Chicago will attempt to catch as many Pokémon as possible during the Challenge Windows to extend the duration of the bonuses unlocked by those attending the event. If Trainers around the world catch enough Pokémon, a mystery challenge will be unveiled in Grant Park that, once completed, will unlock an extra-special bonus across the globe.

In other words, Pokémon GO players who are not able to attend the Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago can still participate from wherever they are. Your efforts can help unlock special rewards.


All-Girls Robotic Team from Afghanistan Granted Entry to U.S.



FIRST Global organizes a yearly international robotics challenge to ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among more than two-billion youths across the world. The all-girls team from Afghanistan has now been granted entry to the United States after the team’s initial visa applications were denied.

The FIRST Global Challenge is an annual robotics game that addresses the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the United States of America’s National Academy of Engineering. Each year, a different Grand Challenge will take center stage as the theme of that year’s FIRST Global game, which will be held in a different nation’s capitol each year.

Team Afghanistan is the first robotic team with The Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) based on Herat, Afghanistan. The team members are from Towhid, Malakai Jalalai and Hoze Karbas High Schools. All of the members of Team Afghanistan are girls.

The girls went through the visa process twice, with both attempts resulting in a denial. The Washington Post reported that, after persuading their parents to let them attend the FIRST Global Challenge, the girls made two 500-mile trips from their hometown of Herat in Afghanistan to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to apply for visas.

Forbes reported on June 29, 2017, that the team’s robot had permission to travel to the United States for the competition, but the girls themselves were not allowed to go. The girls had planned to watch their robot compete via Skype.

The Associated Press reported today “The White House on Wednesday said President Trump intervened to allow the team to come to the U.S. after looking at several options, the National Security Council eventually settled on “paroling” the girls, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.”

The 2017 FIRST Global robotics game will be held at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The opening ceremony is in the early evening of July 16, and the two days of FIRST Global gameplay are July 17, and 18. The closing and award ceremony is in the early evening of July 18.


Spooler Turns Twitter Threads into Blog Posts



Spooler was created by Darius Kazemi. (@tinysubversions). He makes all kinds of interesting stuff, and you can find links to it all at Tiny Subversions. Spooler turns Twitter threads into blog posts. It is currently in early beta, and, as such, Darius Kazemi says “expect bugs”.

I decided to give Spooler a try because I was curious about it. I’m not a person who writes daily threads on Twitter, but I have written some. Later, I take the thread I wrote and manually transcribe it onto Tumblr. It’s a bit tedious.

Start by creating a thread on your Twitter account. I learned that you have to do the thread properly – by replying to the previous tweet in the thread – all the way through. If you don’t connect the tweets in your thread that way, Spooler can only identify the last tweet in the thread. But, if you do it right, Spooler can see the entire thread, and will turn it into a blog post.

After your thread is done, go to the Spooler website and give it permission to access your Twitter account. This part of Spooler functions just like whatever other applications you have connected to your Twitter account.

Give Spooler the link to the last tweet in your thread, and it automatically turns your entire thread into a blog post. Spooler allows you to tweet a link to that blog post for people to read.

It’s super easy to use! I wasn’t sure if Spooler would work for me because my Twitter account is private, but it did. I believe that the people who follow me on Twitter can read my Spooler blog post. I’m not sure if people who do not follow me can access the Spooler post I wrote if they look at it on the Spooler website. I wrote that thread specifically so I could test out Spooler. I don’t mind who reads it.

Darius Kazemi wrote a blog post about building Spooler. It is an interesting read for people who want to know his decision making process.


Activision Blizzard Announced Sale of Overwatch League Teams



Activision Blizzard has announced the sale of the first Overwatch League teams for major global cities to seven entrepreneurs and leaders from traditional sports and esports. The Overwatch League is the first major global esports league with city-based teams.

The new team owners include:

  • Robert Kraft, Chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots (Boston)
  • Jeff Wilpon, Co-Founder and Partner of Sterling.VC and COO of the New York Mets (New York)
  • Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals (Los Angeles)
  • Ben Spoont, CEO and Co-Founder of Misfits Gaming (Miami-Orlando)
  • Andy Miller, Chairman and Founder of NRG Esports (San Francisco)
  • NetEase (Shanghai)
  • Kevin Chou, Co-Founder of Kabam (Seoul)

Overwatch is a video game created by Blizzard Entertainment. Among Blizzard’s stable of twenty #1 games over the past two decades, Overwatch is the fastest to reach more than 30 million players. Overwatch was built from the ground up for online competition, with memorable characters and a fast-paced action designed for the most engaging gameplay and spectator experiences.

The Overwatch League, slated to begin later this year, is a unique opportunity for owners and players. As the first major esports league to feature a city-based structure, the league will drive the development of local fan bases.

For the first season of the league, regular-season matches will be played at an esports arena in the Los Angeles area, as teams develop their local venues for formal home and away play in future seasons. Matches will be played each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. A full schedule and information about ticket sales will be announced closer to launch.

The league will create value for team owners through advertising, ticketing and broadcast rights revenues, with teams receiving an equal share of all league-wide net revenues. Teams will also keep all local revenues generated through their home territory and venue up to a set amount each year, unprecedented in esports; above the set amount, a percentage is sent to the league’s shared revenue pool.

In addition, teams will have a license to operate and monetize up to five amateur events in their home territory each year, and to benefit from the sale of league-affiliated fan items in Overwatch, with 50% of the revenues going into the net shared revenue pool for all teams.