Gardmore Abbey 5E rerun – Session 1

I ran the 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey back in 2013/2014 and consider it to be the best official 4E adventure. So now I am running it again in a 5E version with different players. I’m not going to write a blow-by-blow journal on this one, but I do want to write down an outline of what happened and my thoughts on it.

In the first session the players started in Winterhaven, where they learned that the card of the Deck of Many Things they had found was one of a set. Lord Padraig of Winterhaven has at least one other card, and is interested in the full deck in order to defend his town. So he told the group about Gardmore Abbey, where most of the cards apparently are scattered, and asks them at the same time to scout the layout and number of orcs there. The players manage to get more information about the abbey from the library of the mage Arris, from Lord Padraig’s counselor Valthrun, and from a bard singing ballads about the place in the inn. Lord Padraig also provided the group with a squire and horses for faster travel between Winterhaven and the abbey.

At the abbey I gave the players a picture of a front view of Gardmore Abbey. And after the scouted the outside of the abbey a bit more, I gave them my player map of Gardmore Abbey. Now the principle of the adventure and the map is that the players can approach the abbey from any side they want: Frontal assault on the main gate, climbing the wall to the north of the gate, going through a hole in the wall to the south of the gate, or try to get up the hill from the un-walled back side. From all the groups I’ve read on the internet having played the adventure none ever choose the frontal assault on the main gate. In reality the main gate isn’t all that heavily guarded, but a frontal assault on a large army of orcs just doesn’t appear to be a good idea.

So this group went through the hole in the south wall. From there they could go to the watchtower, or straight up the hill through a fey forest, or north along the wall back towards the orc main keep. They first tried the watchtower as a probably vantage point, where they saw some weird scenes from back in time through the windows. They decided not to pursue that further, still didn’t want to move towards the orcs, and thus went up the hill through the fey forest, in order to get a view from the top.

So they came across a magical fountain where a group of high elves was camped. The elves were mistrustful, but not hostile. Their leader Berrian Velfarren told the adventurers that he was here in search of traces of his father, who disappeared centuries ago. He also believed that there were documents somewhere giving the elves some claim on the fey forest. And his sister Analastra had gone missing. After receiving some visions from the magical spring, the group followed the path further up the hill. They came across the groundskeeper’s cottage, where they fought the owlbears now inhabiting it and found the documents the elves were looking for. Then the came to the garden behind the main keep, where another group of rival adventurers were fighting spiders. Trying to help them resulted in the rival adventurers disengaging and leaving the heroes with the spiders. But they did found a sword they had heard about in a ballad about a lost paladin.

Further up the path the group came across some nymphs playing a game of telling each other secrets, and learned some of the secrets of the abbey, including the fact that the missing father had last been seen in the watchtower. Then they came to a bell tower, where Analastra was fighting two displacer beasts and a nest of stirges. The highlight of that fight was the druid keeping Analastra alive with healing words, while using a Call Lightning spell to damage the displacer beasts and eliminating the nest of stirges. Having rescued the sister, the group returned to the elves to rest there.

As they had already finished two of the three quests of the elves, and Berrian had promised them his card of the Deck of Many Things for finishing all three, the group headed to the watchtower next. The elves had said that they couldn’t find an entrance to it. But after some experimentation it turned out that the group’s card opened the door. But stepping inside the group was trapped in some extra-dimensional space connected to the Far Realm, a plane of chaos. In the first room they fought a black pudding (who destroyed the druid’s armor) and two mimics, who had been disguised as cards forming a bridge. After that fight we stopped because it was getting late. But having finished encounters 13, 12, 9, 10, 11, and 14 of the adventure was good progress, 6 encounters out of 33.

On the combat side the encounters were tough, which was mostly because of two players missing from the group of five. Next session we should be up to 4 players, which will be easier. But I didn’t have to cheat or remove monsters, the adventure was still doable with just 3 players of level 5. They earned about 40% of the xp needed towards level 6, so I think that by the end of the adventure they will be at least level 7, if not 8. However I don’t really have a good follow-up adventure for level 8 characters in store, as all of the official 5E adventures start at low level. Except for the Rise of Tiamat, but that one is the second part of a story that starts with Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

Elemental Evil: Sessions 7

In the previous session the group basically finished the shortened Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure that I used to get them to level 3. In this session I handed out some treasure, and then played the transition to the main adventure, Princes of the Apocalypse. PotA by itself has a relatively weak story hook, but I had added several pointers to the Elemental Evil cults, especially the air cult, in the pre-adventure. So now telling them about the missing delegation was just one additional hook, which I used to also open up the option of going after the water cult. The general idea is to give players some options, playing PotA neither completely linear, nor completely sandbox.

So the players arrived at Red Larch and collected some information. They already knew about the tower of the air cult, but now they could see its location and find out that the locals thought it was just a hunting lodge for young knights from Waterdeep who liked aerial mounts. From the Order of the Gauntlet contact they got the information that a dwarven history book like the ones transported by the missing delegation had been seen in Womford. And a shephard in the tavern gave them the information that he had seen fresh graves south of Sumber Hills.

The whole role-playing from Phandalin to Red Larch took quite some time, but in the end the group decided to head towards the fresh graves and check them out, and to go towards the air cult tower from there. In the graves they found two dead members of the Mirabar delegation, as well as two different cultists, one of which they could recognize as an air cultist. While wondering who had buried them and closing the graves again, they were attacked by air cultists on giant vultures.

The encounter as written in the book wasn’t dramatic enough for my taste, so I had added a fourth air cultist as well as some helpful Aarakocra. But as the giant vultures by themselves were already rather strong, this made the fight rather tough, with several people having to made death saving throws before being healed by their friends. But in the end all went well. Their new Aarakocra allies explained to them that they could approach Feathergale Spire either from the top, but there was a drawbridge, or from the bottom through Sighing Valley. The group preferred the stealthy approach to knocking at the front door, and so I know what to prepare for the next session.

Chrome will begin to block bad ads on February 15

best android browsers featured image

  • Chrome will begin blocking offending ads on February 15.
  • The offending ads include those that flash, play audio unexpectedly, and take up an entire page.
  • Sites will be given 30 days to get in compliances before ads are blocked on Chrome.

Advertisements are everywhere. Every time you leave the house, ads bombard you on the radio and the side of the road, If you stay in, you’re similarly assaulted when you’re watching TV, playing a game, or surfing the web. Ads are so pervasive that it’s the goal of some people to get rid of as many of them as possible. There are web browsers out there that block ads natively, but you might not expect Chrome to be one of them.

Google announced in June that Chrome would begin to block ads early in 2018. It’s not blocking every ad, though. Google joined the Coalition for Better Ads earlier this year and will use its standards for how the industry should improve ads for consumers. If a website doesn’t abide by those rules, Chrome will block ads on the site. This extends to ads from Google’s own advertising network.

See also

So, what kind of ads will be banned? As it turns out, they’re the ones people hate the most. Among them are full-page ad interstitials, ads that play sounds unexpectedly, and ads that flash quickly. While those might be obvious choices, not every ad will be. For that reason, the Coalition for Better Ads launched the Better Ads Experience Program. The program lays out guidelines for sites to display ads in a way that works for both the consumer and the site showing them.

Google will begin to block the offending ads on February 15. After 30 days of failure to adhere to the new standards, ads are removed. If Google does block ads on a site, the offender can submit their site for re-review after it fixes the issues.

What do you think of Google’s new ad blocking policy? Does it go too far? Not far enough? Let us know down in the comments.

Simplified : Client_Server – Socket Programming in Java

Client_Server – Socket Programming in Java

java socket programming



Client -server communication

At a basic level, network-based systems consist of a server , client , and a media for communication. A computer running a program that makes a request for services is called client  machine. A computer running a program that offers requested services from one or more clients is called  server machine.

Client-Server Architcture


What are Sockets?

In Client-Server architecture, you have two processes (running client-Server programs) that want to communicate with each other. For that, they have to establish a communication link between themselves. There is a network available,they just need to connect to this network , for this they use sockets.

Sockets in client server architecture

A socket is one endpoint of a two-way communication link between two programs running on the network.

An endpoint is a combination of an IP address and a port number. Every TCP connection can be uniquely identified by its two endpoints. That way you can have multiple connections between your host and the server.
The java.net package in the Java platform provides a class, Socket, that implements one side of a two-way connection between your Java program and another program on the network. 

How do I Open a Socket ?

If you are programming a client, then you would open a socket like this:
 Socket s;
s
= new Socket("Machine name", PortNumber);
Where Machine name is the machine you are trying to open a connection to, and Port-Number is the port (a number) on which the server you are trying to connect to is running. When selecting a port number, you should note that port numbers between 0 and 1,023 are reserved for privileged users (that is, super user or root). These port numbers are reserved for standard services, such as email, FTP, and HTTP. When selecting a port number for your server, select one that is greater than 1,023!


It is a good practice to handle exceptions. The above can be written as:

    Socket s;
try {
s
= new Socket("Machine name", PortNumber);
}
catch (IOException e) {
System.out.println(e);
}
If you are programming a server, then this is how you open a socket:

    ServerSocket ss;
try {
ss
= new ServerSocket(PortNumber);
}
catch (IOException e) {
System.out.println(e);
}
When implementing a server you also need to create a socket object from the ServerSocket in order to listen for and accept connections from clients.

Socket clientSocket = null;
try {
serviceSocket
= ss.accept();
}
catch (IOException e) {
System.out.println(e);
}

How do I create Buffered Reader?

Java BufferedReader class is used to read the text from a character-based input stream. It can be used to read data line by line by readLine() method. It makes the performance fast. 
    try {
BufferedReader br = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(ss.getInputStream()));

}
catch (IOException e) {
System.out.println(e);
}

How do I create an output stream?

On the client side, you can create an output stream to send information to the server socket using the class  of java.io:
    PrintStream output;
try {
OutputStream ostream = sock.getOutputStream();
DataOutputStream dos = new DataOutputStream(ostream);

}
catch (IOException e) {
System.out.println(e);
}
The class DataOutputStream allows you to write Java primitive data types; many of its methods write a single Java primitive type to the output stream. The method writeBytes is a useful one.

How do I Close a Socket ?

On the client side:

    try {
output
.close();
input
.close();
s
.close();
}
catch (IOException e) {
System.out.println(e);
}

On the server side:

    try {
output
.close();
input
.close();
ss
.close();
}
catch (IOException e) {
System.out.println(e);
}
Let’s see java code for one-way communication using socket programming:

Client Side Code:
import java.net.Socket; 
import java.io.OutputStream;
import java.io.DataOutputStream;

public class SCPTL
{
public static void main(String args[]) throws Exception
{
Socket sock = new Socket("localhost", 5000);
String message1 = "Learn-Intern-Certify from SCPTL";

OutputStream ostream = sock.getOutputStream();
DataOutputStream dos = new DataOutputStream(ostream);
dos.writeBytes(message1);
dos.close();
ostream.close();
sock.close();
}
}
Server Side Code:
import java.net.ServerSocket;            
import java.net.Socket;
import java.io.*;

public class SERVER
{
public static void main(String args[]) throws Exception
{
ServerSocket sersock = new ServerSocket(5000);
System.out.println("server is ready"); // message to know the server is running

Socket sock = sersock.accept();

BufferedReader br = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(sock.getInputStream()));

String message2 = br.readLine();
System.out.println(message2);
sock.close(); sersock.close();
}
}

Output:

Client:

Client side output
Server:

Server side output

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Amazon has shipped three times more smart speakers as Google

Right now, two heavyweights are vying for control of your living room. Google and Amazon are battling it out with their smart speakers, and so far, consumers are the winners.

The smart speaker war is the topic of a new report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The report is bringing some surprising findings, like the total number of smart speakers sold and just how dominant Amazon has been so far. As of September 2017, Google has shipped 7 million Google Home products, whereas Amazon has shipped almost three times (20 million) as many Echo devices. Keep in mind that these numbers are just through September and don’t take into account the holiday shopping season.

The question is why? Why is there such a disparity between the two companies? What is Amazon doing so well that Google isn’t?

One of the biggest reasons for Amazon’s healthy lead is that it was on the market first. When people think of smart speakers, the Echo lineup is likely what they think of first simply because it has been around longer and they have had more exposure to it. The first generation Echo hit the market in June 2015 and Google didn’t release the Home until November of 2016, giving Amazon almost a year and a half head start.

That head start gave Amazon time to come up with other products too. When it added the Echo Dot to its lineup in March of 2016, it gave customers a much cheaper way to get a smart home speaker. The results speak for themselves: the Echo Dot has been Amazon’s biggest seller. That’s despite not going on sale for more than a year after the original Echo.

The lessons Amazon learned with the Echo Dot have spread to the rest of its lineup. Products like the second-generation Echo are cheaper than ever before. You can now get an Echo for as little as $79, even though they were upwards of $180 when they launched. Temporary price reductions are also getting more extreme, like the Echo Show which you can get for $80 off its normal asking price.

Editor’s Pick

Google is doing its best to keep up. It dropped the price of the Google Home Mini, which competes with the Dot, to $29 for the holiday season. It also slashed the price of the original Google Home down to $79 for the same period. To fill out its lineup, it finally released the Google Home Max that it announced earlier this year. The Home Max is a $399 smart speaker that offers all of the functionality of the Google Home or Home Mini but with a premium audio experience. Amazon currently has no competitor for the Home Max.

Why is Amazon so intent on beating Google to the bottom? It all has to do with getting people into the Amazon ecosystem. You might be shocked to learn that the Amazon doesn’t make much off the products it sells. It currently sits at a 3% operating margin, whereas Google is at 26% and Apple 27% this fiscal year.

The Echo Dot is an opportunity for Amazon to sell even more products, and thus, make more money. Discounting it to $30 entices shoppers to throw it in their cart since its so cheap. Once the Dot is in their home, they’re more likely to subscribe to Amazon Prime for things like music streaming or to purchase more items from Amazon’s marketplace.

See also: Echo vs Dot vs Tap vs Show: Which is right for you?

While the two companies are sitting pretty with almost 100% of the market share right now, Apple is coming. The HomePod was announced earlier this year and will start shipping early in 2018.

The speaker will be priced at $350 and compete with the Home Max for the premium smart speaker crown. With Apple customers willing to pay more for the company’s products, can it challenge for control of the living room or will its lack of competition for the at the low end of the price range hurt its chances? We’ve yet to hear plans for a cheaper speaker that would compete with the Dot/Home Mini or the Echo/Home.

If you’re looking to pick up a smart speaker for yourself or a loved one this holiday season, check out the links below.

  • Amazon Echo – $79.99
  • Amazon Echo Dot – $29.99
  • Amazon Echo Show – $149.99
  • Google Home – $79
  • Google Home Mini – $29
  • Google Home Max – $399

Deal: Misfit Vapor gets a $60 price cut on Amazon to $140

The Misfit Vapor finally went on sale in late October, after the Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch was supposed to launch sometime in the late summer of 2017. The price for the smartwatch was $199.99, but now Amazon has cut the price down for the Vapor to just $139.59. That’s over $60 off for a product that first launched less than two months ago.

Editor’s Pick

That may be a clue that sales of the Vapor may not be doing as well as Misfit thought, or it could just be a holiday sales promotion. In any case, getting such a big price cut for this smartwatch makes it more attractive. It has a 1.39-inch AMOLED display, a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 4 GB of internal storage, a 44 mm satin-finished stainless steel casing, and a touch-enabled bezel that lets you access the UI without using the touchscreen.

Unfortunately, the Misfit Vapor does not have a dedicated GPS chip inside, which was something the company said would originally be included with this smartwatch. It also lacks an NFC chip, so you can’t use it to buy stuff in stores via Android Pay without a phone. However, it does have an optical heart rate sensor and a water resistance rating of up to 50 meters, which means you can use it while swimming. Android Wear 2.0 support means you also get access to Google Assistant, along with customizable watch faces and access to all the new Google Fit features.

Get it at Amazon

Deal: Nova Launcher Prime on sale for $0.99 (was $4.99)

Nova Launcher Prime is regarded as one of the best launchers on Android. It’s sitting right now with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars at the Google Play Store, based on hundreds of thousands of reviews, and if you’ve never used it before, now might be the time.

As pointed out on Reddit, Nova Launcher Prime has been reduced from $4.99 to just $0.99 — the same offer it launched this time last year. This is the unlocked version of the free Nova Launcher app, which comes with a slew of extra customization options and advanced features, like notifications badges, gestures, and more.

Editor’s Pick

Nova Launcher allows you to alter many aspects of your Android phones home screen, such as the app drawer, folders, dock, and their aesthetic, and has received a number of Android 8.1 Oreo features lately, including adaptive icons and the custom dock widget.

Nova Launcher sits on our best Android Launchers list and it doesn’t look like it will be moving anytime soon. We don’t know how long this deal will last, but you can find the free and Prime versions of the app in Google Play via the buttons below (note that Google Play says Nova Launcher Prime hasn’t been updated since December 2016 but it will still unlock the latest content found in the regular app).

Download Nova Launcher
Download Nova Launcher Prime

A Guide To Better Google Search Techniques

A web search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The search results are generally presented in a line of results often referred to as search engine results pages (SERPs). The information may be a mix of web pages, images, and other types of files.
The Internet is so full of information that it’s nearly impossible to check its limits. That’s why, search engines were developed to maintain a search-able database of the web’s content. People employ the use of search engines to look up for information on the web.
Google Search, commonly referred to as Google Web Search or simply Google, is a web search engine developed by Google. It is the most-used search engine on the World Wide Web, handling more than three billion searches each day. You type in the query, and the search engine provides you with the search results. In most cases you’re satisfied but sometimes, you’re not. This is where learning the proper techniques to type in your search query comes in handy

Why The Need To Learn Proper Search Techniques?
Everyone including students, researchers, writers, etc. requires information, and they use search engines for that very reason. People spend most of their time continuously looking for the right information because they’re not aware of the proper search techniques. Learning and using good search techniques will help you in the following ways:
  • Better search results
  • Saves your time

How To Use Google.com

Google is a smart and intelligent search engine with many exciting features. But not all the features are rolled out instantly for all versions. Google.com is always first to get feature updates, and then updates are provided in versions specific to different countries such as google.co.uk, google.co.in, or google.sh.
Google’s version for your country might not support all the search techniques described below. That’s why, it’s suggested to use google.com to avail maximum benefits of the search features and techniques.
 Note: Typing google.com automatically redirects you to its version for your country, but you can override this behavior by going to www.google.com/ncr.

Basic Search Techniques

1. Keep It Simple

Keep your search simple and web-friendly. Start by entering one or two words, and gradually adding relevant or important words, if you’re unsatisfied with the results. Less is more for a search engine; meaning the less words you query for, the more results the search engine provides as output.
For example:
Query: [who is the prime minister of India]
Better query: [prime minister of India]

2. Order Of Keywords

Select the right keywords to make your search. Search results completely depend on the given keywords, and if keywords are chosen wisely, then results are more efficient.
Put yourself in the shoes of the author, and think of what words he/she would use to write/describe what you’re trying to find. If you’re looking for a phrase or quote, then keep the order of the words as accurate as possible to get the optimum search results.

3. Skip Unnecessary Parts

Google is smart enough to handle most of your typos, and other things that could just be ignored. That’s why you should skip those things in your query to save time.
You should not worry about the following when writing a search query:
  • Spelling
  • Cases (uppercase or lowercase)
  • Punctuation (dot, question mark, exclamation mark, and more)
  • Special characters (plus, minus, brackets, and more)

4. Social Search

Google is really good at handling searches related to people and social networks. You can search for people and their social profiles using:
+[profile-name]
By adding a ‘+’ before a profile-name, you can search for Google+ profiles and pages.
#[word]
Using the ‘#’ before a word enables you to search for hashtags in Google+, Twitter, and more social networks.
For example: [#privacy]
@[person-name]
You can search for social accounts associated with a person’s name by putting the ‘@’ sign before his/her name.
For example: [@rocky jagtiani]

5. Get Sunrise And Sunset Times

You can use Google to get sunrise and sunset times for many cities of the world. Type your search query in the format of [sunrise place-name] or [sunrise zip-code] to get the sunrise time for the specified location. For sunset times, just substitute the words as per the following style of [sunset place-name] or [sunset zip-code].
For example:
  • [sunrise chembur] 
  • [sunset pune]

Advanced Search techniques

You can use the Google Advanced Search form for a more convenient search

6. Synonym Search:

You can use the synonym search feature to tell Google to even search for synonyms of a specified word in the search query. This is helpful for when you want to search for a word and all its similar words without having to spend time looking for them individually.
Using the tilde symbol (~) before a word tells Google to search for the words and its synonyms too. Type your search query in the format of [~synonymWord otherWords] to search for the word and its synonyms in a single search.

7. Search For Numbers In A Range

You can tell Google to search within a range of numbers, such as dates, prices, and measurements. Using two periods (dots) between two numbers makes Google search within that number range and skip other results.
Using two periods after a number indicates a lower minimum (number..) while putting it before the number indicates a higher maximum (..number). Type your search query in the format of [firstNumber..secondNumber otherWords] to search between a specified lower and upper bounds.

8. Search Using File Types

You can tell Google to search for a specified type of file for your query. Using filetype operators before a type of file tells Google to search only for specified file types and skip other files. Type your search query in the format of [filetype:type otherWords] to search for a specific file type.
For example: [filetype:pdf free java tutorial]

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Unbelievable Censorship: Trump Bans CDC from Using These 7 Words

The forbidden words include “vulnerable,” “diversity,” and “science-based.”

Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly banned the Center for Disease Control from using seven words and phrases, including “science-based” and “transgender,” in documents it is working on for next year’s budget.

 

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  • ALEC Backs Extreme Climate Denial, Constitutional Rewrite and Corporate Lobbyists

Deal: Grab the Jaybird X3 Bluetooth earbuds for just $80

I love a good pair of Bluetooth earbuds. Since they’re wireless, they’re extremely convenient to wear while working out or laying in bed, and I don’t miss the drop in sound quality compared to wired earbuds. Sure, I have to remember to recharge them from time to time, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for convenience. 

One of the best pairs of Bluetooth earbuds I’ve ever owned is the Jaybird X3. I was lucky enough to pick them up earlier this year on sale and I have enjoyed them ever since. I routinely cycle back and forth between them and the V-MODA Forza Metallo Wireless depending on what mood I’m in or what activity I’m doing.

See also

The X3’s are great for working out. They’re sweatproof (not waterproof), and provide a good fit. I’ve never had an issue with them falling out of my ears when I’m active. They also sound pretty decent and get loud enough to block out most everything else around me.

I recommend them to my friends who are looking for a decent pair of earbuds without breaking the bank. Now, they’re back on sale and you can pick up a pair for just $80, a $50 savings. These are great as a last minute shopping gift. Or, you could just grab a pair for yourself guilt free since they’re almost half off.

If you want to pick up a pair, you can hit the buttons below for the listings from Amazon and Best Buy. Amazon has them in four colors and Best Buy offers them in six, including exclusive Camo and Platinum paint jobs. 

get the Jaybird X3 from Best Buy
get the jaybird x3 from amazon