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

best facts apps

We all saw this coming. All the way back in November 2016, Google said it would begin prioritizing websites that have a mobile-friendly, responsive design in favor of traditional desktop online websites. Google is following through on that promise as it’s now implementing this new prioritization method for a “handful of sites.” Quite frankly, the move makes sense given that an ever-increasing amount of people are searching constantly from their phones. Especially when you aren’t at a computer, it’s easier to just pull out the phone that’s in your pocket to search for something.

See also

We’ve all been there, searching for something on Google, when we finally find the information we need, when *gasp*, it’s a desktop site. The change to mobile-first indexing will ensure that this doesn’t happen as often.

Traditionally, Google’s crawling and ranking systems only looked at the standard desktop layout of a website. This is no longer going to be the case.

Google will now use content from mobile sites to create and rank listings, which will allow for more relevant results for mobile users. Google is “evaluating sites independently on their readiness for mobile-first indexing,” and the shift is “closely being monitored by the search team.” If your website is already mobile-friendly, you shouldn’t have to do anything. However, Google does have some guidelines for site owners:

  • Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
  • Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: it should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
  • Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
  • No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
  • Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
  • Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.

Thoughts on this change?

Galaxy S8’s fourth Android Oreo beta disables use of third-party docks with Samsung DeX

The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus might be more known for their near bezel-less designs, but one feature that isn’t nearly as talked about is Samsung DeX, which turns the phone into pseudo-desktops. Unfortunately for those who found the feature useful, the fourth Android Oreo beta prevents it from working with third-party docks.

According to XDA Developers, users are reporting that, when they connect their devices to third-party docks, Samsung DeX no longer pops up. Instead, connecting their Samsung smartphones to these docks only mirrors the smartphone display.

This is an interesting change, seeing how using Samsung‘s official DeX dock was not the only way to get the feature up and running. For example, back in September, someone turned a 2008 MacBook Pro into an almost fully-functional DeX laptop. Also, folks found out that they could connect the Galaxy S8 to the HP Elitebook X3, which was made to work with HP’s Elite X3 smartphone, and have Samsung DeX work just fine.

Editor’s Pick

It’s a somewhat depressing move on Samsung’s part, seeing how the company has also prevented folks from remapping the Bixby button. I understand that Samsung wants to sell as many DeX docks as possible, but if you want as many people as possible use the feature, why hinder the ability to do so?

XDA Developers brings up the point that Huawei’s Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro offer a DeX-like feature of their own, except that the phones do not require the use of a dock to make it work — all you need is a USB 3.1 Type-C cable. Maybe we’ll get to the point where Samsung doesn’t require a dock to have DeX work, but until then, I will continue to frown.

Of course, Samsung can change its mind once the final Android Oreo release rolls around, though we’ll keep an eye out if that’s the case.

Do you use Samsung DeX with your Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, or Note 8? If you do, do you find the feature useful? Let us know in the comments below.

Scientists Have Just Beaten Down the Best Climate Denial Argument

Even the best contrarian arguments against climate change have not withstood scientific scrutiny.

Climate deniers have come up with a lot of arguments about why we shouldn’t worry about global warming—about 200 of them—but most are quite poor, contradictory and easily debunked by consulting the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The cleverest climate contrarians settle on the least implausible argument—that equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS, how much a doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase Earth’s surface temperature) is low, meaning that the planet will warm relatively slowly in response to human carbon pollution.

But they have to explain how that can be the case, because there are a lot of factors that amplify global warming. For example, a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which is itself a greenhouse gas, adding further warming. Warming also melts ice, leaving Earth’s surface less reflective, absorbing more sunlight. There are a number of these amplifying ‘feedbacks,’ but few that would act to significantly slow global warming.

Clouds are one possible exception because they both act to amplify global warming (being made of water vapor) and dampen it (being white and reflective). Which effect wins out depends on the type of cloud, and so whether clouds act to accelerate or slow global warming depends on exactly how the formation of different types of clouds changes in a hotter world. That’s hard to predict, so many contrarians have wishfully argued that clouds will essentially act as a thermostat to control global warming.

Research suggests if anything, clouds amplify global warming

A new study published in Nature by Stanford scientists Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira found that so far, the global climate models that best simulate the Earth’s global energy imbalance tend to predict the most future global warming. These results suggest the ECS is around 3.7°C. This is higher than the previous best estimate of 3.1°C, and if correct, would shrink our carbon budget by about 15 percent.

The study found that the biggest contributor to the difference between the accurate and inaccurate models was in how well they simulated cloud changes. And while it’s just one study, several prior papers arrived at similar conclusions.

For example, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Climate found that climate models that most accurately simulate recent cloud cover changes in the east Pacific point to an amplifying effect on global warming and thus a more sensitive climate. Another 2010 study by Andrew Dessler using satellite observations showed that in the short-term, clouds likely amplify global warming, though the long-term effect may be different.

In 2012, a paper published in Science by John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that similar to the new Nature study, climate models that most accurately simulated observed cloud changes are also the ones that are most sensitive to the increased greenhouse effect. 

Similarly, a 2014 paper published in Nature found that the least sensitive climate models incorrectly simulate water vapor being drawn up into the atmosphere to form clouds in a warmer world. In reality, as lead author Steve Sherwood explains in the video below, scientists observe water vapor being pulled away from those higher cloud-forming levels of the atmosphere.

Contrarian arguments have not withstood scientific scrutiny

Former MIT scientist Richard Lindzen (one of the most often cited, and most often wrong contrarian climate scientists) was among the first to argue that clouds act as a climate thermostat. He developed a hypothesis in 2001 that as the atmosphere warms, the area covered by cirrus clouds will contract like the iris of an eye to allow more heat to escape into space, thus slowing global warming. His ‘iris hypothesis’ was quickly disproved by subsequent research, but that hasn’t stopped climate contrarians from continuing to make the argument.

More recently, other contrarian scientists have used a combination of climate models and recent observational data to similarly argue that Earth’s climate is relatively insensitive to the increased greenhouse effect (they call these “observational estimates” of ECS). This group often likes to refer to themselves as ‘lukewarmers,’ but really they just cherry pick this one way to estimate ECS because it seemed to yield a relatively low result, while ignoring the other methods that point toward a significantly more sensitive climate.

Over the past two years, climate scientists have identified several flaws in the method that yielded lower estimates of ECS. At this year’s American Geophysical Union conference – the largest gathering of climate and Earth scientists every December – there was a session devoted to this very topic. As one of the presenting climate scientists Andrew Dessler put it:

There’s still significant uncertainty about how clouds will respond to global warming, but the evidence points to an amplifying effect, or at least not a significant dampening. The new Nature study adds to the mountain of evidence ruling out the contrarian argument for an insensitive climate. Clouds aren’t going to save us; only rapid cuts in carbon pollution can do that.

 

Related Stories

  • Wall of Shame: Top 10 Climate Deniers in the Trump Administration
  • How the Right-Wing Media Totally Distorted Positive News on Climate Change
  • How Pollution and Climate Change Hurt Children Most of All

How The GOP’s Money Grab Will Squeeze Public Schools

The GOP is about to make it harder for communities to raise money for schools.

Republican leaders in Congress make no secret of prioritizing tax cuts for their wealthy donors and corporate allies over the needs of people who work for a living. Donald Trump presented himself as a different kind of Republican—a populist who would look out for ordinary Americans. But, with the president’s full-throated support, Republicans are poised to pass a reverse Robin Hood tax plan that lavishes benefits on corporations and the very wealthy at the expense of Americans just trying to get by.

Americans get it, even though the GOP has tried to keep them in the dark. Republicans in Congress have rushed to ram(link is external)through the most sweeping tax overhaul in three decades without a single hearing, before the final bill has been scored or even seen except by a select few, and without one Democratic vote in favor. Why the hurry? Why not wait(link is external)—as President Obama did after Republican Scott Brown was elected to take Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat—until Sen.-elect Doug Jones can be seated?

That would respect the will of voters, and it would allow for transparency so the details of this far-reaching tax cut legislation for the wealthy can be examined. But GOP leaders are digging in: They know that time, sunlight and their dwindling Senate majority all work against them, so they’re operating as swiftly and secretly as they can. Even so, only 26 percent(link is external) of voters approve of their plan.

A key reason is that for all the talk of this being a “middle-class tax plan,” this is a tax increase plan for millions of middle-income Americans. Even with the deductions that Republicans have been shamed into restoring, such as those for high medical expenses, taxes could go up(link is external) for 87 million middle-class families, including 67 million making less than $100,000 annually. It will strip 13 million Americans(link is external) of their health insurance and raise premiums on the individual market(link is external) by an average of $2,000 per year. That doesn’t even count the automatic Medicare cuts(link is external) of $25 billion next year this corporate tax cut bill triggers, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic cuts(link is external) to other social services over the next decade.

It’s estimated that more than 60 percent of the tax cuts will go to the wealthiest 1 percent(link is external) of Americans. The plan lowers the top tax rate for upper-income households and slashes the corporate tax rate. While union members will no longer be able to deduct their dues, people who own private jets(link is external) will get a break. This is an obscene transfer of wealth upward at a time of record corporate profits and income inequality, while sticking it to wage earners, whose incomes have been stagnant for decades.

Perhaps worst of all, the GOP plan pays for corporate tax cuts by eviscerating the deduction for state and local taxes(link is external), which pay for public education, public colleges, public safety and infrastructure. Millions of people will pay more taxes and, as a result, that will make it harder for states and communities to raise money for these public investments. Squeezing funding for public schools and services is especially cruel at a time when at least 29 states are spending less(link is external) on public education than before the Great Recession.

Raising taxes on ordinary Americans still won’t cover all the breaks for corporations and the wealthy, so the GOP is mortgaging America’s future—by jacking up the federal deficit(link is external) by at least $1 trillion. This will limit our ability to invest in the infrastructure, health, education and retirement programs the country needs, and will saddle ordinary Americans with the tab for generations to come.

Republican lawmakers’ erstwhile aversion to deficits may be gone for now, but not for long. House Speaker Paul Ryan already has said, “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.” Translation: Blow up the deficit though tax cuts, then use the debt as an excuse to slash education, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, housing and hunger programs—shredding the social safety net(link is external).

The AFT and our members have worked around the clock to mitigate some of the most harmful elements in earlier versions of this legislation. But given the rushed, dark-of-night process the GOP has used, we are still discovering new ways the bill will harm working families, such as parents of college students likely seeing a larger tax increase under the bill than taxpayers in general. Sadly, most but not all Republican lawmakers have sided with donors(link is external) and turned their backs on their constituents. They have made the calculation that between tweetstorms, the holidays and the 24-hour news cycle, Americans won’t notice or won’t object to this reprehensible rewarding of the rich at the expense of everyone else. But GOP lawmakers’ hypocrisy and contempt(link is external) for people who work hard for a living will not go unnoticed—now or in November.

Is story important?

I am currently watching a series of YouTube videos (overview page on this blog) of a group currently playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the official Storm King’s Thunder adventure. I watched some of their video on previous adventures, and must say that they are both better than average players and their videos have better than average production values. What I found particularly interesting in this series was that I have read Storm King’s Thunder and dismissed it as basically unplayable. But they are doing just fine playing it. Why?

The keyword here is suspension of disbelief. Storm King’s Thunder starts out in a very linear fashion with a series of events befalling a fortified village. Within one week the village gets bombarded from the air by giants in a floating castle, then the residents move out and find shelter in a bat cave where they get captured by goblins, the goblins start looting the village, the adventurers arrive and start killing the goblins, then the Zhentarim (a semi-evil political faction) try to take over the empty village, and then a horde of orcs attacks. (In the videos the DM replaced the orcs by more Zhentarim, but added an deus-ex-machina dragon saving the village). So the adventure for the group consists of searching through the abandoned village and killing the goblins, then beating back the Zhentarim, then beating back the orcs, and then finally going to the bat cave and freeing the kidnapped villagers. Then the villagers send them to another town very far away for rather flimsy reasons, and there the adventure loops backs to the giants. As far as stories in D&D adventures go, this is one of the less believable ones. But of course if you don’t care and just enjoy the ride, a lot of fun can be had.

It reminds me a bit of MMORPGs, where the story can also be rather weak, but is basically just an excuse to lead people to gameplay. In the D&D videos the story leads not just to gameplay in the form of combat, but also to fun situations where the DM describes a situation in more detail and the players come up with all sorts of plans and ideas instead of just rolling for initiative. A good group and a good DM are the ones where the players constantly fire off ideas, and the DM rolls with them. Then the actual story of the adventure becomes a less important backdrop, because the important story is the one that evolves from the players being in unusual situations. The art as a DM is to get people to play that way. I’m working on that.

Here’s How Trump Is Pitting Local Police Against the FBI

Malcom Nance explains how Trump is using the ‘authoritarian playbook.’

SNBC contributor Malcom Nance reportedly scared the “bejesus” out of viewers on Sunday when he pointed out that President Donald Trump was following the authoritarian playbook by pitting police against federal law enforcement.

“Do I have to be the one that comes out and tells the American public, the last time we had a crisis of this magnitude was the Civil War,” he explained. “The Civil War, they at least used the precepts of the Constitution to make a legal separation from the United States.”

“Other than putting troops in your house, many of these things are happening,” Nance continued. “If he takes away the fundamental ability for us to police ourselves, to police the president of the United States, then he has done the ultimate in obstruction of justice. He is dismantling the Constitution and it cannot stand! We cannot allow it to stand.”

He added: “Everybody who is watching this who is in government right now who would think this is good, then you’re just doing a [Communist Party propaganda agency] politburo. Okay? We don’t need Saddam Hussein’s People’s Council here. What we nee to do is defend this nation’s democracy.”

 

MSNBC viewers immediately reacted to Nance’s words with alarm. One viewer noted that Nance had scared the “bejesus” out of her.

Watch the clip below.

 

 

Related Stories

  • Trump Is Really Trying to Set the World on Fire
  • Unbelievable Censorship: Trump Bans CDC from Using These 7 Words
  • Why Even the Idea That Neocon Senator Tom Cotton Might Run Trump’s CIA Is Scary

The return of third class travel

When railway travel was new in the 19th century, carriages came in three claases, 1st for the rich, 2nd for the middle class, and 3rd for the working class. That sort of class system went out of fashion in the 1950’s, and since then most railways only have 2 classes. So do many airplanes, having business and economy as choices, with “1st class” only available on a few long-haul flights.

I am currently sitting in a train, 1st class carriage, from Brussels to Paris. And I’m reading an announcement that from December on this high-speed railway will have economy, comfort, and prestige instead of 1st and 2nd class. Which of course means that if you travel economy, you are effectively travelling in 3rd class, there being two better options on offer. That isn’t an outlier, airlines have started to introduce “economy plus” between economy and business, also turning economy into 3rd class. We aren’t quite back to wooden benches yet, but everybody knows how comfort has diminished in economy class over the last decade. Frequent travellers have many a horror story to tell.

Somehow I feel there is a vicious circle involved here. As the name “business” suggests, the target customer for a business seat is a traveller whose ticket has been bought by his company. But many companies have become less generous over the years, forcing their employees to travel economy, at least on shorter voyages. So the idea of railroads and airlines is to get companies to at least pay for an intermediate option. But of course the response of companies is going to be to never pay for business class again, the economy plus option being deemed sufficient.

Of course a 3 class system is also a symptom of a less egalitarian, more unequal society. And as a student of history and economy I know that unequal societies have a strong tendency to go horribly wrong. So 3rd class isn’t something I think is a good idea.

Elemental Evil: Sessions 13 & 14

I just noticed that I am behind on my reporting on the Elemental Evil campaign. In the previous reported session the group had reached level 5 and was about to head for the Sacred Stone Monastery. Sessions 13 and 14 were about the adventures of the group in that monastery. However once again it has to be remarked that this particular group is mainly interested in the combat aspects of D&D, and less interested in the role-playing aspects. And the campaign has been chosen with this preference in mind, containing a lot of dungeon crawls. Nevertheless even in that campaign the group still managed to avoid most opportunities to find out more about the story, and spent those two sessions mostly in combat encounters.

The group entered the Sacred Stone Monastery via the garden and from there into the main hall. However that was exactly what the bad guys had planned for invaders, as the main hall contains a trap that drops the group down into the dungeon and into a cage with an Umber Hulk. Having beaten the Umber Hulk and then some orog and ogre guards, the group liberated a group of slaves used for mining work. That included members of the Mirabar delegation, which in the book is the official story hook. However the group showed absolutely no interest in asking them about what had happened to the delegation, and allowed the slaves to leave unescorted.

Next the group entered a part of the dungeon in which a Lich lives. A Lich is a challenge rating 21 monster and obviously not meant as a combat encounter for level 5 characters. But in spite of the Lich just being a bit grumpy and not immediately attacking, the group decided against getting information from him, and just fled. Having otherwise cleaned out the basement, the group found another staircase up, and found themselves in the middle of the monk’s quarters, where a big fight ensued. That included the boss of the place, a blind female monk with the name of Hellenrae. Just like in the previous two elemental keeps, the group killed the boss, looted the magical key part the bosses are carrying, and then legged it.

Then they returned to Red Larch to rest and recuperate. But the next morning at breakfast in the inn, they were attacked by four hell hounds. That was a bit annoying for the sorceress, who mainly had fire-based spells like scorching ray and fireball, to which the monsters were immune. But although they took heavy damage from fire breaths, the group prevailed and sent the dogs packing. They (correctly) concluded that the hell hounds had been sent by the one cult they hadn’t visited yet, the fire cult. As they had previously heard about druids planning a fire ritual at a location which corresponded to the location of the fourth elemental keep on their ancient map, they plan to go there in the next session.

Elemental Evil: Session 11

In the previous session the group entered Rivergard Keep, the second of the elemental evil surface keeps. More by chance than by design they had managed to enter directly into the main building where the boss resided. However the boss was described in the adventure as being a wereboar who was out hunting at night. So the group ended up looting his room without having killed the boss. But that only got them treasure, and not the elemental key they were after.

Searching the building further resulted in them finding a group of commoners sleeping in a dormitory next to the kitchen. They carefully abducted one without waking up the others and questioned him. That gave them a bit more information about the keep and the boss, including the fact that he was out hunting and would return later in the night. But first they searched the great hall and found a letter in which somebody from Red Larch warned about a group of troublemakers, giving the description of the group. They also found a secret door, leading to a staircase downwards.

They followed the staircase and ended up at a landing of an underground river, complete with two rowboats. So they boarded those and followed the river further. However the river was guarded by a group of aquatic ghouls, who managed to topple one of the boats, which made the combat somewhat more interesting. Poppée the wild magic sorceress tried to save herself with magic, which resulted in a wild magic surge that ended up randomly summoning a unicorn. The unicorn was understandably confused by being summoned into water, and decided to “save” Poppée by teleporting her and itself out. But of course the others didn’t know what happened, only that Poppée had disappeared. After killing the ghouls it turned out that the way was blocked anyway, by the same sort of portal they had already encountered near Feathergale Spire, requiring the 4 elemental keys to open. (An addition of mine to the adventure to prevent them from randomly wandering into a dungeon of 4 levels higher than the surface keep).

The group went back up into the keep and in the courtyard also found back Poppée. However in preparation of the adventure I had decided to randomize the time of return of the keep boss by letting the group roll for an encounter every time they crossed the way the boss would take home. And by chance this encounter now took place. As the boss had an entourage the fight was challenging, with a priest of the water cult casting sleet storm on the group. The group managed to kill the opponents without waking the rest of the keep up, but the paladin got bitten by the wereboar.

As the boss had the elemental key on him, the group decided to flee and leave the rest of the water keep be. On the one hand that was understandable and consistent with their actions in the air keep. But technically they are skipping a bunch of combat encounters and thus xp. I think I need to make sure that they don’t kill the boss of the next keeps too early and rush through the adventure, the adventure isn’t designed for that.

Gardmore Abbey 5E rerun – Session 3

Having accompanied Sir Oakley to the temple of Gardmore Abbey and defended him against mad harpies, it turned out that the job of the heroes wasn’t finished. The 3 sacred vessels needed to purify the temple were missing, and so now they are on a quest to find them, among some other quests. A closer examination of the temple revealed a staircase down into the catacombs, with fresh footprints leading there. The group decided not to follow, but made a short rest and then headed over to the wizard’s tower.

Now I have to mention that the 4 locations in which the group can meet an evil group of rival adventurers are determined by the 4 cards drawn for that group. The first encounter was hearing of the group in Winterhaven, the second encounter was the group helping the rivals in the garden to fight giant spiders and being left holding the bag for their effort. The third encounter, in the first room of the catacombs, the group avoided by going there. And by pure chance the location where they wanted to go, the wizard’s tower, was the location for the 4th encounter. So while the group was resting the rival adventurers “moved” to the wizard’s tower.
On the way down to the wizard’s tower the group had an encounter with a Galeb Duhr and two Rust Monsters in the gate house. However the monk and the druid weren’t wearing any non-magical metal at all, the ranger stayed at a distance, and the barbarian succeeded all saving throws to turn his extra weapons into rust; so the Rust Monsters weren’t really all that scary for this particular group. Being under no time pressure the group made another short rest.
Again they discovered traces of the rival adventures, them having left climbing gear in place to descend the slope to the wizard’s tower without taking the detour through the orc camps. And finally the two groups met again, this time with the evil group in full health and ready to strike. The ensuing combat was a tough one, as the evil group had the same level 5 and outnumbered the players 5 to 4. However I had deliberately not optimized them, and so the players ultimately prevailed. With 3 of the evil group members down, the player druid offered them terms of surrender (“give us your cards and leave the abbey forever”), which they accepted. As I give out full xp even for diplomatic victories this fight got the group up to level 6, but I told them they needed to return to Winterhaven for that.
In Winterhaven there was some chaos, because their previous “diplomatic victory” had involved letting loose a beholder, who had passed by the town, burned down the church, and killed the priest, before moving on. One always needs to consider the possible consequences of not killing your enemies!
Now level 6 and back at the abbey they found the wizard’s tower’s door had been breached during their absence by a group of orcs, which then had been slaughtered by forces unknown. Mistrustful of the gargoyle statues in front of the door they first attacked them, but that was a short and easy fight. Inside the barbarian librarian found a scroll on a bloodstained sheet covering a large female form. Taking the scroll of course awoke that form, a female flesh golem, the failed attempt of the wizard to resurrect the love of his life. The fight against the golem was a bit harder, also due to some random magical effects in the room. Before going up the tower we decided to stop the session and continue next time.