7 Binary Options – Binary Option Robot

Gridcoin 5.0.0.0-Mandatory "Fern" Release

https://github.com/gridcoin-community/Gridcoin-Research/releases/tag/5.0.0.0
Finally! After over ten months of development and testing, "Fern" has arrived! This is a whopper. 240 pull requests merged. Essentially a complete rewrite that was started with the scraper (the "neural net" rewrite) in "Denise" has now been completed. Practically the ENTIRE Gridcoin specific codebase resting on top of the vanilla Bitcoin/Peercoin/Blackcoin vanilla PoS code has been rewritten. This removes the team requirement at last (see below), although there are many other important improvements besides that.
Fern was a monumental undertaking. We had to encode all of the old rules active for the v10 block protocol in new code and ensure that the new code was 100% compatible. This had to be done in such a way as to clear out all of the old spaghetti and ring-fence it with tightly controlled class implementations. We then wrote an entirely new, simplified ruleset for research rewards and reengineered contracts (which includes beacon management, polls, and voting) using properly classed code. The fundamentals of Gridcoin with this release are now on a very sound and maintainable footing, and the developers believe the codebase as updated here will serve as the fundamental basis for Gridcoin's future roadmap.
We have been testing this for MONTHS on testnet in various stages. The v10 (legacy) compatibility code has been running on testnet continuously as it was developed to ensure compatibility with existing nodes. During the last few months, we have done two private testnet forks and then the full public testnet testing for v11 code (the new protocol which is what Fern implements). The developers have also been running non-staking "sentinel" nodes on mainnet with this code to verify that the consensus rules are problem-free for the legacy compatibility code on the broader mainnet. We believe this amount of testing is going to result in a smooth rollout.
Given the amount of changes in Fern, I am presenting TWO changelogs below. One is high level, which summarizes the most significant changes in the protocol. The second changelog is the detailed one in the usual format, and gives you an inkling of the size of this release.

Highlights

Protocol

Note that the protocol changes will not become active until we cross the hard-fork transition height to v11, which has been set at 2053000. Given current average block spacing, this should happen around October 4, about one month from now.
Note that to get all of the beacons in the network on the new protocol, we are requiring ALL beacons to be validated. A two week (14 day) grace period is provided by the code, starting at the time of the transition height, for people currently holding a beacon to validate the beacon and prevent it from expiring. That means that EVERY CRUNCHER must advertise and validate their beacon AFTER the v11 transition (around Oct 4th) and BEFORE October 18th (or more precisely, 14 days from the actual date of the v11 transition). If you do not advertise and validate your beacon by this time, your beacon will expire and you will stop earning research rewards until you advertise and validate a new beacon. This process has been made much easier by a brand new beacon "wizard" that helps manage beacon advertisements and renewals. Once a beacon has been validated and is a v11 protocol beacon, the normal 180 day expiration rules apply. Note, however, that the 180 day expiration on research rewards has been removed with the Fern update. This means that while your beacon might expire after 180 days, your earned research rewards will be retained and can be claimed by advertising a beacon with the same CPID and going through the validation process again. In other words, you do not lose any earned research rewards if you do not stake a block within 180 days and keep your beacon up-to-date.
The transition height is also when the team requirement will be relaxed for the network.

GUI

Besides the beacon wizard, there are a number of improvements to the GUI, including new UI transaction types (and icons) for staking the superblock, sidestake sends, beacon advertisement, voting, poll creation, and transactions with a message. The main screen has been revamped with a better summary section, and better status icons. Several changes under the hood have improved GUI performance. And finally, the diagnostics have been revamped.

Blockchain

The wallet sync speed has been DRASTICALLY improved. A decent machine with a good network connection should be able to sync the entire mainnet blockchain in less than 4 hours. A fast machine with a really fast network connection and a good SSD can do it in about 2.5 hours. One of our goals was to reduce or eliminate the reliance on snapshots for mainnet, and I think we have accomplished that goal with the new sync speed. We have also streamlined the in-memory structures for the blockchain which shaves some memory use.
There are so many goodies here it is hard to summarize them all.
I would like to thank all of the contributors to this release, but especially thank @cyrossignol, whose incredible contributions formed the backbone of this release. I would also like to pay special thanks to @barton2526, @caraka, and @Quezacoatl1, who tirelessly helped during the testing and polishing phase on testnet with testing and repeated builds for all architectures.
The developers are proud to present this release to the community and we believe this represents the starting point for a true renaissance for Gridcoin!

Summary Changelog

Accrual

Changed

Most significantly, nodes calculate research rewards directly from the magnitudes in EACH superblock between stakes instead of using a two- or three- point average based on a CPID's current magnitude and the magnitude for the CPID when it last staked. For those long-timers in the community, this has been referred to as "Superblock Windows," and was first done in proof-of-concept form by @denravonska.

Removed

Beacons

Added

Changed

Removed

Unaltered

As a reminder:

Superblocks

Added

Changed

Removed

Voting

Added

Changed

Removed

Detailed Changelog

[5.0.0.0] 2020-09-03, mandatory, "Fern"

Added

Changed

Removed

Fixed

submitted by jamescowens to gridcoin [link] [comments]

[Review] Ranking all the Switch shmups Ep26 – Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade

We’ve all had a game that is a gateway to a specific genre. That one game which made us pay attention to a style of games and allowed us to fully experience the genre. It might not have been the first one we play, but it is definitely one that stays closer to our hearts. For me, this game was Darius.
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I will say it again: Darius is the shmup that is closest to my heart. I loved the horizontal gameplay, I loved the Silver Hawk, I loved all the huge bosses that looked like fishes. The gameplay also hit bunch of chords that resonate with what I love about shmups. I’ve been waiting so long for this, so alas, I present to you: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade!
Publisher: ININ Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Jun 16, 2020
Price: $44.99
Tate: Built-in
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a collection of the Darius games released on the arcades. This wasn’t your typical cabinet, as one of its main features was the usage of multiple screens. Darius used 3 screens, while Darius II/SAGAIA used 2 screens. M2 really went out of their way to bring the most authentic arcade experience! The result is impressive to say the least!
This collections includes 4 games:
Darius and SAGAIA include 3 and 2 different versions respectively, bringing it to a total of 7 playable games.

ARCADE GLORY

As hard as this might be to believe, I have never played an arcade Darius game before. I always mentioned Darius as my favorite shmup, but the truth is that I began with the SNES games. I had heard on the street that the arcade versions were superior so I was very excited.
When I booted the original version, I couldn’t help but feel like I was standing next to an actual arcade cabinet. The game greeted me with 3 screens places next to each other on the center of the screen. I was excited to play, so I pressed the coin button. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience…
As soon as I inserted the coin, a typical fanfare played along as my credit counter increased by one. But there was something else. The controller started vibrating to the tune of the music. I just can’t make justice to this effect with words. It felt like being inside an actual arcade cabinet. Vibrations and sound made the experience feel authentic. It made me think about the arcade days where you would hear cabinets everywhere and just feel the energy of the place.
As soon as I started to play, the screen changed and the empty spaces were replaced by arcade artwork. This artwork was exactly the kind you would see pasted near the controllers to show you how to play and other general information. Everything about the game was designed to make you feel like on the arcade. This is the kind of presentation that every other arcade port should try to achieve.

FISH GRAVY

What truly sets apart the Darius Cozmic Collection from any other collection is the amount of features and arcade fidelity that M2 added to the game. Every single aspect, every single menu and every single feature was lovingly added to create a masterpiece.
From the get go, you will be presented with the very familiar “A boss is approaching” message featuring King Fossil. The message just says that your game data is approaching fast. It really is only a fancy way of saying the game is loading, but it sets the tone to the orgasmic experience that you are about to have with the game.
After going through the intro scene, you will be greeted with the main menu which contains all 7 playable titles in this collection. You also have a replay, manual and staff options. If you are wondering where the options are, they are specific for each game, so they must be adjusted from within each game. My only complaint here is that the manual is in japanese. There isn’t much to learn from a manual though. The only thing was the Darius Gaiden capture mechanic, so I picked that one up from the internet.

AN ENTIRE LEGACY

Speaking of the games, 7 different titles can be quite intimidating. If you are anything like me, then chances are you don’t know what’s “new ver” or “extra ver”. Thankfully, each game features a sort of museum display that features a screenshot of the menu, the title, the launch date and a very thorough description of the game. The text will navigate you through each version of the games and specifically highlight why it is different from its predecessor or what was changed when going to western markets.
Each game includes a training mode for those who wish to challenge specific parts of the game. Training mode will let you choose to play any stage and customize a variety of settings such as the strength of your Silver Hawk and the game rank, which is the in-game difficulty. The obvious use for this mode is to practice your piloting skills and go for the 1CC. Even casual players can view this as a pseudo level select cheat code for maximum enjoyment!
Perhaps one of the most amazing inclusions of the collection is the replay mode. For every one of your play throughs, there is an option to save a replay of your play session. What differs from regular replays, is that they pack an incredibly robust set of features. Other than being able to watch a recording of yourself, you can see your inputs and control the playback of the replay. You can rewind, fast forward, go back, increase the speed or even go full slow-mo to analyze your gameplay.

KING OF THE ARCADE

Challenging oneself is one thing, but going after the world is the true spirit or arcade shmups. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade features online rankings which are separated into 2 categories: “Arcade” and “All-mix”. Arcade is played with every setting on default and using only one credit. If you are playing and choose to spend an additional credit to continue, then your scoring is changed to “All-mix”. All-mix is a catch-all for every other style, from easy difficulty to hard or even static rank modes.
If you ever wondered what’s it like to play like the king of the leaderboards, then you’ll be glad to know you can download leaderboard replays! This allows you to watch the entire play throughs of top players, along with their inputs and the previously mentioned playback features of a replay. A must have for those willing to go for the record or even those curious about what it means to be a champion.

YOUR PERFECT CABINET

The in-game menu for each game will further let you customize your gameplay experience. The amount of options is truly staggering, so suffice to know that you can change in-game setting as difficulty and score for an extend, screen quality adjustments like scan lines and gadgets, and the controllers.
One menu I really want to highlight is the gadgets menu. Gadgets are responsible for making the gameplay experience truly stand out. They track all sorts of data from yourself and the enemies. From a friendly side, you can see your current level of power, the number of hits your arm can take and the information related to the current zone. From a less friendly side, you have all sorts of analyzers that display the current boss, their weakness and detailed HP for each of their parts. There’s even a life gauge that appears at the bottom of the screen for easy viewing when fighting bosses!
Although I could see an argument against being way too much information, I’m personally thankful because I’m a data nerd and I love knowing all this information. If it is too much for you, then you can always turn off the gadgets and customize the screen to your liking. The real beauty comes from creating your perfect cabinet.

THE EMULATOR ADVANTAGE

One of the main selling points of emulators has been the ability to use save states. Darius Cozmic Collection is no slouch and features save states of its own! These save states will let you cheese the game as much as you want, but they also let you replay specific sections and master them for your future arcade runs. I won’t judge you, so have fun with save states! The only caveat is that using save states will not record your score. Unfortunately, replays will only record from the last time you loaded the save state onwards. So there’s no chance of creating tool-assisted runs.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that bringing up the in-game menu will completely pause the game and show you a fully-fledged map of the game, complete with boss encounters for each zone and the amount of power-ups featured in said zone. It really is great for strategy purposes to know which stage will allow you to upgrade your Silver Hawk! Resuming a game will also give you a 3 second count down with a jumping robot animation to ensure you are ready for action. This detail wasn’t really needed, but it is one of the many ways in which M2 shows appreciation for Darius and the player.
Out of all this nitty gritty details, I have to say the song name is one of my favorites. In the bottom right corner of the screen there is a pop-up that appears when the song changes and displays the song name. I just think it looks really cool. By the way, don’t forget to check “Olga Breeze”, my favorite song!

DARIUS, THE OG

Darius, the game that started it all. Featuring 3 screens, this is the biggest Darius game featured in this collection (ha!). If I may add, I also think this is the game that highlights all the love M2 poured into bringing arcade experiences to your living room. With features such as the cabinet art and the body sonic vibration, it really brings home the arcade feeling.
As you can expect, playing the first game on the series is both, a nostalgic and a painful experience. Playing on 3 screens is truly magical, but at the same time, it is a victim to the older design choices. Not much that can be done here, after all, it is a decades old game. Just a small detail to keep in mind.
Darius helps establish the foundations of the franchise from the very first game. One of the Darius staples is the upgrade system for the Silver Hawk. Throughout the game, you can encounter 3 different orbs which are dropped by different colored enemies. The orbs can be red, green or blue.

SILVER HAWK

Red orbs will upgrade your primary fire. Each orb increases your power, but collecting 7 will upgrade your shot to the laser, and then the wave. Green orbs will upgrade your bomb, which is your secondary fire. Bombs also get stronger with more orbs and also upgrade when you reach 7. Blue orbs will give you a shield called arm. The initial shield blocks 3 hits and any additional orb will add 1 more hit. Just like red and green, you can upgrade after 7 orbs which will make it so that additional orbs give you 2 hits and then 3.
The downside to the upgrade system is that, upon death, you will lose every orb you collected in your current tier. The good news is that if you, for instance, managed to upgrade to the laser, then your shot can never fall below that. The bad news is that the number of orbs is limited per stage, which means it is almost impossible to upgrade within a stage the same stage where you died. The exception is a single stage that has 7 blue orbs in the old version and one with 7 green in the extra version.

THE FISH

The most distinguishable characteristic of the franchise is definitely the marine bosses. The stages are all over the place with a very diverse space settings, but the bosses are always one thing: fish. Actually, I’d say it is marine biology, but fish is an overly simplistic way to describe it. Darius also has one peculiarity which is that every set of stages has the same boss. For example, the 4th stage boss will always be Fatty Glutton in a different version depending on which zone you chose.
The other defining feature of Darius is being able to choose your adventure. After each boss, you can choose to go to one of 2 different zones. This choice is made by either being on the top or bottom half of the screen, as the stage actually splits after beating the boss. It certainly took me off guard the first time as I crashed into the divider. Despite having the same boss, the zones are drastically different and carry the strategic choice of having a different number of orbs. Your path will be determined by which aspect of your Silver Hawk you want to improve.

THE COINS

What struck me the most about Darius is how unforgiving it is. This is expressed in the descriptions of the newer versions. The thing about Darius, is that the game is next to impossible to beat if you didn’t fully upgrade. Later enemies are merciless and if you don’t have sufficient firepower, then you probably won’t stand a chance. This ruthlessness is exacerbated by the death system, as death will set you considerably behind. Because upgrades are usually a 2-stage effort, getting shot will set you back 2 levels worth of progress.
A fun aspect I found on Darius is the dynamic created by having 3 screens. This is probably the widest game I have played, and it brings new challenges to the table. The first one is that you need to gain screen position to succeed. Being at the front is usually better, with moving back feeling like losing real estate. The reason behind this is that you are able to shoot down enemies before they become a threat with their numbers. The other less obvious reason is the number of bullets allowed on screen. That number is limited, so it is in your best interest that those bullets expire fast so you can fire new ones. Being back equals more time before they reach the end of the screen, which is undesirable.
Overall, the game poses a unique challenge, but I’m not going to lie, it is actually really fun to play. Achieving an upgraded Silver Hawk is a hard endeavor, but that makes it even more rewarding when you pull it off!

DARIUS II/SAGAIA, THE PROOF US WESTERNERS HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS

Darius II came in and simplified the game in some interesting ways. First of all it reduced the upgrade system so that it is now only a single stage that can be maxed out. The number of orbs was reduced to compensate. Another simplification comes courtesy of the screens themselves. The number of screens was reduced from 3 to 2 in order to be installed in other dual screen cabinets such as The Ninja Warriors.
Unfortunately, the single stage of upgrades means that the game is even more savage when you die. This time around, you actually lose all of your progress in terms of firepower. There will be special rainbow orbs which help you catch up a little, but even then they might be a little too late. As a result, my 1CC had to be done by never dying.

I ALWAYS WANTED A THING CALLED A TUNA SASHIMI

One thing I want to mention, is that Darius II has my absolute favorite intro sequence of any Darius game in this collection. From the music that goes ramping up to the main theme, to the voice lines calling out the launching sequence:
“Main engine energy level, 20% increase !”
“I always wanted a thing called tuna sashimi”
“3…2…1…”
It all creates an unbelievable sense of excitement!
A very fun piece of trivia is the existence of SAGAIA. It exists to be a compact version of Darius II to be sold on western markets. Then there’s actually 2 versions of it which feel like 2 pieces of the same game. If SAGAIA trimmed certain pieces of the game, then version 2 came to use those trimmed pieces and created another entry. It’s actually quite funny.

DARIUS GAIDEN, THE KING

Darius Gaiden is definitely the reason you will keep playing the arcade collection. Quality in older games under a modern eye is usually a product of nostalgia and design elements that still hold on in today’s gaming landscape. Contrasting with that, Darius Gaiden IS a fantastic game that I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase if it was released today.
For Darius Gaiden, less is more, as this time around the game was played on a single screen arcade cabinet. The game does seem to lack some of the ambient goodies such as the rumble effects, but it makes up for it in gameplay experiences.

TRUE POWER

One aspect that is radically different from its predecessor is the upgrade system. Whereas Darius II simplified the Silver Hawk upgrade system, Darius Gaiden took it back to its original Darius roots. This means that, once again, we have multiple upgrade points. Upgrades take considerably less red power-ups to achieve, which actually makes it possible to upgrade multiple times during the same stage.
Death penalties are lower as well with death only losing you a level of power. Because there are more power levels, it is more forgiving and doesn’t set you completely behind like the previous entries. Perhaps the best of all is that neither arm nor bombs have any penalty whatsoever. What’s more, you don’t even lose your arm or bomb level when losing a credit. I can say with 100% certainty that this game is actually possible to complete within a reasonable number of credits if you die on the later zones.
I would take it one step ahead and say this game has a little of the Contra syndrome. The original Contra is a game that was considered hard, but was significantly easier if you could maintain the spread shot. In the same vein, getting the earliest upgrades makes Darius Gaiden a breeze. A well deserved victory, if you ask me.

YOU’RE MINE NOW!

New to Darius Gaiden is the ability to capture mid bosses. Half-way through a stage, you will encounter a medium sized boss with a purple orb somewhere in its back. If you manage to take down the orb without killing the enemy, it will detach and slowly drift away. If you capture this orb, then the mid boss will fight alongside you until its timer expires. I gotta say that having a huge fish on your side is surprisingly satisfying!
Having a single screen makes the experience much more familiar for shmup enthusiasts. While it does lose some of the charm of the ultra wide field of view, it also rids itself of nuances such as your horizontal movement being low in terms of total horizontal space or the limit on on-screen bullets.
A combination of those factors I mentioned contribute to making Darius Gaiden a much better experience. It’s simple to play and forgiving when you lose. Every stage is unique and makes every new play through a completely different experience, not just in a different-ish way, but rather full blown new content!

A LEGENDARY PACKAGE OF NOSTALGIA

There’s one thing that you might be thinking, and that’s that I might be biased because it is Darius. It is true that I openly admit everywhere that Darius is my favorite. However, in this particular case my work was cut out for me, I don’t need to be biased because this is truly a wonderfully crafted collection that deserves to be on everyone’s Switch.
It contains every possible version of Darius you might have encountered on the arcades and then sprinkled some top notch features that make it stand on a class of its own when it comes to ports. It also helps that the Darius games remain to be as fun as they always have been, even with their caveats. I took 3-4 times more time to play this collection, not because it had a lot of content, but because I loved playing every second of it and wanted to try it all. Wanted to 1CC every version, wanted to traverse every possible stage, wanted to created masterful replays.
The only possible downside I can see to this collection is the price. $44.99 is a very high price compared to other shmups on the market. In terms of features and overall content (because remember, every game has more than an alphabets worth of different zones) it does warrant its price. Although I can see people double guess their decision, with this game being close to the cost of a first party title and significantly higher than other shmups.

TOP 3

My tentative placement for Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade was on the top 3 spots. I really had a hard time deciding where to put it, so I went back and revisited both Ikaruga and Psyvariar Delta. After finishing my Ikaruga play through, I was reminded of the magic that is Ikaruga and how special it is. Psyvariar Delta also reminded me of the buzz system and how the refined gameplay and level ups work towards creating an experience that I can’t quite put into words.
The main defining factor, however, was that I don’t think any of the Darius games in the collection beats the top 2 contenders. The 7 games as an aggregate, are certainly a force to be reckoned with thanks to the superb M2 porting labour. With that being said, I will award it a 3rd spot because the gameplay experience is incredible, but a little held back by the age of the games and the hefty price tag.
Still, Darius will always be #1 in my heart.

THE RANKING SO FAR:

  1. Ikaruga
  2. Psyvariar Delta
  3. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
  4. Devil Engine
  5. Rolling Gunner
  6. Blazing Star
  7. Jamestown+
  8. Tengai
  9. Steredenn: Binary Stars
  10. Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
  11. Sky Force: Reloaded
  12. Strikers 1945
  13. Black Paradox
  14. R-Type Dimensions EX
  15. Sine Mora EX
  16. Shikhondo – Soul Eater
  17. Ghost Blade HD
  18. AngerForce: Reloaded
  19. Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
  20. Q-YO Blaster
  21. Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
  22. Pawarumi
  23. Red Death
  24. Task Force Kampas
  25. Switch ‘N’ Shoot
  26. Last Resort (ACA Neogeo)
submitted by AzorMX to NintendoSwitch [link] [comments]

Hi r/shmups! I'm currently on a project where I try to review every shmup on the Switch, so I thought I'd share my reviews here! Here's the 26th entry: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade

We’ve all had a game that is a gateway to a specific genre. That one game which made us pay attention to a style of games and allowed us to fully experience the genre. It might not have been the first one we play, but it is definitely one that stays closer to our hearts. For me, this game was Darius.
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I will say it again: Darius is the shmup that is closest to my heart. I loved the horizontal gameplay, I loved the Silver Hawk, I loved all the huge bosses that looked like fishes. The gameplay also hit bunch of chords that resonate with what I love about shmups. I’ve been waiting so long for this, so alas, I present to you: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade!
Publisher: ININ Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Jun 16, 2020
Price: $44.99
Tate: Built-in
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a collection of the Darius games released on the arcades. This wasn’t your typical cabinet, as one of its main features was the usage of multiple screens. Darius used 3 screens, while Darius II/SAGAIA used 2 screens. M2 really went out of their way to bring the most authentic arcade experience! The result is impressive to say the least!
This collections includes 4 games:
Darius and SAGAIA include 3 and 2 different versions respectively, bringing it to a total of 7 playable games.
ARCADE GLORY
As hard as this might be to believe, I have never played an arcade Darius game before. I always mentioned Darius as my favorite shmup, but the truth is that I began with the SNES games. I had heard on the street that the arcade versions were superior so I was very excited.
When I booted the original version, I couldn’t help but feel like I was standing next to an actual arcade cabinet. The game greeted me with 3 screens places next to each other on the center of the screen. I was excited to play, so I pressed the coin button. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience…
As soon as I inserted the coin, a typical fanfare played along as my credit counter increased by one. But there was something else. The controller started vibrating to the tune of the music. I just can’t make justice to this effect with words. It felt like being inside an actual arcade cabinet. Vibrations and sound made the experience feel authentic. It made me think about the arcade days where you would hear cabinets everywhere and just feel the energy of the place.
As soon as I started to play, the screen changed and the empty spaces were replaced by arcade artwork. This artwork was exactly the kind you would see pasted near the controllers to show you how to play and other general information. Everything about the game was designed to make you feel like on the arcade. This is the kind of presentation that every other arcade port should try to achieve.
FISH GRAVY
What truly sets apart the Darius Cozmic Collection from any other collection is the amount of features and arcade fidelity that M2 added to the game. Every single aspect, every single menu and every single feature was lovingly added to create a masterpiece.
From the get go, you will be presented with the very familiar “A boss is approaching” message featuring King Fossil. The message just says that your game data is approaching fast. It really is only a fancy way of saying the game is loading, but it sets the tone to the orgasmic experience that you are about to have with the game.
After going through the intro scene, you will be greeted with the main menu which contains all 7 playable titles in this collection. You also have a replay, manual and staff options. If you are wondering where the options are, they are specific for each game, so they must be adjusted from within each game. My only complaint here is that the manual is in japanese. There isn’t much to learn from a manual though. The only thing was the Darius Gaiden capture mechanic, so I picked that one up from the internet.
AN ENTIRE LEGACY
Speaking of the games, 7 different titles can be quite intimidating. If you are anything like me, then chances are you don’t know what’s “new ver” or “extra ver”. Thankfully, each game features a sort of museum display that features a screenshot of the menu, the title, the launch date and a very thorough description of the game. The text will navigate you through each version of the games and specifically highlight why it is different from its predecessor or what was changed when going to western markets.
Each game includes a training mode for those who wish to challenge specific parts of the game. Training mode will let you choose to play any stage and customize a variety of settings such as the strength of your Silver Hawk and the game rank, which is the in-game difficulty. The obvious use for this mode is to practice your piloting skills and go for the 1CC. Even casual players can view this as a pseudo level select cheat code for maximum enjoyment!
Perhaps one of the most amazing inclusions of the collection is the replay mode. For every one of your play throughs, there is an option to save a replay of your play session. What differs from regular replays, is that they pack an incredibly robust set of features. Other than being able to watch a recording of yourself, you can see your inputs and control the playback of the replay. You can rewind, fast forward, go back, increase the speed or even go full slow-mo to analyze your gameplay.
KING OF THE ARCADE
Challenging oneself is one thing, but going after the world is the true spirit or arcade shmups. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade features online rankings which are separated into 2 categories: “Arcade” and “All-mix”. Arcade is played with every setting on default and using only one credit. If you are playing and choose to spend an additional credit to continue, then your scoring is changed to “All-mix”. All-mix is a catch-all for every other style, from easy difficulty to hard or even static rank modes.
If you ever wondered what’s it like to play like the king of the leaderboards, then you’ll be glad to know you can download leaderboard replays! This allows you to watch the entire play throughs of top players, along with their inputs and the previously mentioned playback features of a replay. A must have for those willing to go for the record or even those curious about what it means to be a champion.
YOUR PERFECT CABINET
The in-game menu for each game will further let you customize your gameplay experience. The amount of options is truly staggering, so suffice to know that you can change in-game setting as difficulty and score for an extend, screen quality adjustments like scan lines and gadgets, and the controllers.
One menu I really want to highlight is the gadgets menu. Gadgets are responsible for making the gameplay experience truly stand out. They track all sorts of data from yourself and the enemies. From a friendly side, you can see your current level of power, the number of hits your arm can take and the information related to the current zone. From a less friendly side, you have all sorts of analyzers that display the current boss, their weakness and detailed HP for each of their parts. There’s even a life gauge that appears at the bottom of the screen for easy viewing when fighting bosses!
Although I could see an argument against being way too much information, I’m personally thankful because I’m a data nerd and I love knowing all this information. If it is too much for you, then you can always turn off the gadgets and customize the screen to your liking. The real beauty comes from creating your perfect cabinet.
THE EMULATOR ADVANTAGE
One of the main selling points of emulators has been the ability to use save states. Darius Cozmic Collection is no slouch and features save states of its own! These save states will let you cheese the game as much as you want, but they also let you replay specific sections and master them for your future arcade runs. I won’t judge you, so have fun with save states! The only caveat is that using save states will not record your score. Unfortunately, replays will only record from the last time you loaded the save state onwards. So there’s no chance of creating tool-assisted runs.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that bringing up the in-game menu will completely pause the game and show you a fully-fledged map of the game, complete with boss encounters for each zone and the amount of power-ups featured in said zone. It really is great for strategy purposes to know which stage will allow you to upgrade your Silver Hawk! Resuming a game will also give you a 3 second count down with a jumping robot animation to ensure you are ready for action. This detail wasn’t really needed, but it is one of the many ways in which M2 shows appreciation for Darius and the player.
Out of all this nitty gritty details, I have to say the song name is one of my favorites. In the bottom right corner of the screen there is a pop-up that appears when the song changes and displays the song name. I just think it looks really cool. By the way, don’t forget to check “Olga Breeze”, my favorite song!
DARIUS, THE OG
Darius, the game that started it all. Featuring 3 screens, this is the biggest Darius game featured in this collection (ha!). If I may add, I also think this is the game that highlights all the love M2 poured into bringing arcade experiences to your living room. With features such as the cabinet art and the body sonic vibration, it really brings home the arcade feeling.
As you can expect, playing the first game on the series is both, a nostalgic and a painful experience. Playing on 3 screens is truly magical, but at the same time, it is a victim to the older design choices. Not much that can be done here, after all, it is a decades old game. Just a small detail to keep in mind.
Darius helps establish the foundations of the franchise from the very first game. One of the Darius staples is the upgrade system for the Silver Hawk. Throughout the game, you can encounter 3 different orbs which are dropped by different colored enemies. The orbs can be red, green or blue.
SILVER HAWK
Red orbs will upgrade your primary fire. Each orb increases your power, but collecting 7 will upgrade your shot to the laser, and then the wave. Green orbs will upgrade your bomb, which is your secondary fire. Bombs also get stronger with more orbs and also upgrade when you reach 7. Blue orbs will give you a shield called arm. The initial shield blocks 3 hits and any additional orb will add 1 more hit. Just like red and green, you can upgrade after 7 orbs which will make it so that additional orbs give you 2 hits and then 3.
The downside to the upgrade system is that, upon death, you will lose every orb you collected in your current tier. The good news is that if you, for instance, managed to upgrade to the laser, then your shot can never fall below that. The bad news is that the number of orbs is limited per stage, which means it is almost impossible to upgrade within a stage the same stage where you died. The exception is a single stage that has 7 blue orbs in the old version and one with 7 green in the extra version.
THE FISH
The most distinguishable characteristic of the franchise is definitely the marine bosses. The stages are all over the place with a very diverse space settings, but the bosses are always one thing: fish. Actually, I’d say it is marine biology, but fish is an overly simplistic way to describe it. Darius also has one peculiarity which is that every set of stages has the same boss. For example, the 4th stage boss will always be Fatty Glutton in a different version depending on which zone you chose.
The other defining feature of Darius is being able to choose your adventure. After each boss, you can choose to go to one of 2 different zones. This choice is made by either being on the top or bottom half of the screen, as the stage actually splits after beating the boss. It certainly took me off guard the first time as I crashed into the divider. Despite having the same boss, the zones are drastically different and carry the strategic choice of having a different number of orbs. Your path will be determined by which aspect of your Silver Hawk you want to improve.
THE COINS
What struck me the most about Darius is how unforgiving it is. This is expressed in the descriptions of the newer versions. The thing about Darius, is that the game is next to impossible to beat if you didn’t fully upgrade. Later enemies are merciless and if you don’t have sufficient firepower, then you probably won’t stand a chance. This ruthlessness is exacerbated by the death system, as death will set you considerably behind. Because upgrades are usually a 2-stage effort, getting shot will set you back 2 levels worth of progress.
A fun aspect I found on Darius is the dynamic created by having 3 screens. This is probably the widest game I have played, and it brings new challenges to the table. The first one is that you need to gain screen position to succeed. Being at the front is usually better, with moving back feeling like losing real estate. The reason behind this is that you are able to shoot down enemies before they become a threat with their numbers. The other less obvious reason is the number of bullets allowed on screen. That number is limited, so it is in your best interest that those bullets expire fast so you can fire new ones. Being back equals more time before they reach the end of the screen, which is undesirable.
Overall, the game poses a unique challenge, but I’m not going to lie, it is actually really fun to play. Achieving an upgraded Silver Hawk is a hard endeavor, but that makes it even more rewarding when you pull it off!
DARIUS II/SAGAIA, THE PROOF US WESTERNERS HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS
Darius II came in and simplified the game in some interesting ways. First of all it reduced the upgrade system so that it is now only a single stage that can be maxed out. The number of orbs was reduced to compensate. Another simplification comes courtesy of the screens themselves. The number of screens was reduced from 3 to 2 in order to be installed in other dual screen cabinets such as The Ninja Warriors.
Unfortunately, the single stage of upgrades means that the game is even more savage when you die. This time around, you actually lose all of your progress in terms of firepower. There will be special rainbow orbs which help you catch up a little, but even then they might be a little too late. As a result, my 1CC had to be done by never dying.
I ALWAYS WANTED A THING CALLED A TUNA SASHIMI
One thing I want to mention, is that Darius II has my absolute favorite intro sequence of any Darius game in this collection. From the music that goes ramping up to the main theme, to the voice lines calling out the launching sequence:
“Main engine energy level, 20% increase !”
“I always wanted a thing called tuna sashimi”
“3…2…1…”
It all creates an unbelievable sense of excitement!
A very fun piece of trivia is the existence of SAGAIA. It exists to be a compact version of Darius II to be sold on western markets. Then there’s actually 2 versions of it which feel like 2 pieces of the same game. If SAGAIA trimmed certain pieces of the game, then version 2 came to use those trimmed pieces and created another entry. It’s actually quite funny.
DARIUS GAIDEN, THE KING
Darius Gaiden is definitely the reason you will keep playing the arcade collection. Quality in older games under a modern eye is usually a product of nostalgia and design elements that still hold on in today’s gaming landscape. Contrasting with that, Darius Gaiden IS a fantastic game that I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase if it was released today.
For Darius Gaiden, less is more, as this time around the game was played on a single screen arcade cabinet. The game does seem to lack some of the ambient goodies such as the rumble effects, but it makes up for it in gameplay experiences.
TRUE POWER
One aspect that is radically different from its predecessor is the upgrade system. Whereas Darius II simplified the Silver Hawk upgrade system, Darius Gaiden took it back to its original Darius roots. This means that, once again, we have multiple upgrade points. Upgrades take considerably less red power-ups to achieve, which actually makes it possible to upgrade multiple times during the same stage.
Death penalties are lower as well with death only losing you a level of power. Because there are more power levels, it is more forgiving and doesn’t set you completely behind like the previous entries. Perhaps the best of all is that neither arm nor bombs have any penalty whatsoever. What’s more, you don’t even lose your arm or bomb level when losing a credit. I can say with 100% certainty that this game is actually possible to complete within a reasonable number of credits if you die on the later zones.
I would take it one step ahead and say this game has a little of the Contra syndrome. The original Contra is a game that was considered hard, but was significantly easier if you could maintain the spread shot. In the same vein, getting the earliest upgrades makes Darius Gaiden a breeze. A well deserved victory, if you ask me.
YOU’RE MINE NOW!
New to Darius Gaiden is the ability to capture mid bosses. Half-way through a stage, you will encounter a medium sized boss with a purple orb somewhere in its back. If you manage to take down the orb without killing the enemy, it will detach and slowly drift away. If you capture this orb, then the mid boss will fight alongside you until its timer expires. I gotta say that having a huge fish on your side is surprisingly satisfying!
Having a single screen makes the experience much more familiar for shmup enthusiasts. While it does lose some of the charm of the ultra wide field of view, it also rids itself of nuances such as your horizontal movement being low in terms of total horizontal space or the limit on on-screen bullets.
A combination of those factors I mentioned contribute to making Darius Gaiden a much better experience. It’s simple to play and forgiving when you lose. Every stage is unique and makes every new play through a completely different experience, not just in a different-ish way, but rather full blown new content!
A LEGENDARY PACKAGE OF NOSTALGIA
There’s one thing that you might be thinking, and that’s that I might be biased because it is Darius. It is true that I openly admit everywhere that Darius is my favorite. However, in this particular case my work was cut out for me, I don’t need to be biased because this is truly a wonderfully crafted collection that deserves to be on everyone’s Switch.
It contains every possible version of Darius you might have encountered on the arcades and then sprinkled some top notch features that make it stand on a class of its own when it comes to ports. It also helps that the Darius games remain to be as fun as they always have been, even with their caveats. I took 3-4 times more time to play this collection, not because it had a lot of content, but because I loved playing every second of it and wanted to try it all. Wanted to 1CC every version, wanted to traverse every possible stage, wanted to created masterful replays.
The only possible downside I can see to this collection is the price. $44.99 is a very high price compared to other shmups on the market. In terms of features and overall content (because remember, every game has more than an alphabets worth of different zones) it does warrant its price. Although I can see people double guess their decision, with this game being close to the cost of a first party title and significantly higher than other shmups.
TOP 3
My tentative placement for Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade was on the top 3 spots. I really had a hard time deciding where to put it, so I went back and revisited both Ikaruga and Psyvariar Delta. After finishing my Ikaruga play through, I was reminded of the magic that is Ikaruga and how special it is. Psyvariar Delta also reminded me of the buzz system and how the refined gameplay and level ups work towards creating an experience that I can’t quite put into words.
The main defining factor, however, was that I don’t think any of the Darius games in the collection beats the top 2 contenders. The 7 games as an aggregate, are certainly a force to be reckoned with thanks to the superb M2 porting labour. With that being said, I will award it a 3rd spot because the gameplay experience is incredible, but a little held back by the age of the games and the hefty price tag.
Still, Darius will always be #1 in my heart.
THE RANKING SO FAR:
  1. Ikaruga
  2. Psyvariar Delta
  3. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
  4. Devil Engine
  5. Rolling Gunner
  6. Blazing Star
  7. Jamestown+
  8. Tengai
  9. Steredenn: Binary Stars
  10. Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
  11. Sky Force: Reloaded
  12. Strikers 1945
  13. Black Paradox
  14. R-Type Dimensions EX
  15. Sine Mora EX
  16. Shikhondo – Soul Eater
  17. Ghost Blade HD
  18. AngerForce: Reloaded
  19. Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
  20. Q-YO Blaster
  21. Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
  22. Pawarumi
  23. Red Death
  24. Task Force Kampas
  25. Switch ‘N’ Shoot
  26. Last Resort (ACA Neogeo)
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2019 Offseason Review Series: Day 18 - The Carolina Panthers

Team: The Carolina Panthers

Division: The NFC South

It’s that time of year again! After a season that could best be described as “a hangover you don’t deserve”, we watched the Panthers soar to a 6-2 record. After a beatdown of eventual playoff caliber Baltimore, It finally looked like we were poised to shrug off our non-consecutive winning streak habit. But it was not meant to be. A combination of shallow defensive depth and a lingering shoulder issue for Cam Newton saw us collapse down the stretch, and we ended 7-9 winning only a single game. After watching the sharp downturn of our fortunes, questions surrounding our QB’s health and a major exodus of our most tenured veteran talent, one could be forgiven for a glum outlook on the franchise’s future going into this offseason.
But despite the spirit in which we entered it, this offseason has been a resounding success. And one that leaves little doubt that we’re an improved team despite our more prominent losses. What follows is a point for point breakdown in how we made the transition from collapsed contender to potential comeback story.

Coaching Changes

None whatsoever.
From both the commentator sphere and other fanbases, the Panthers were pretty roundly rebuked for hiring offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Despite alarms being raised over 7 step drops and an over reliance on deep shot, Turner was a revelation for our offense. He apparently meant every word of emphasizing high completion throws and taking pressure off of Cam, and we began to see looks for our QB that were totally absent in the Mike Shula era. He’s now had a chance to throw dump offs, and to have reliable comeback options. Cam, prior to breaking down, was enjoying one of the best seasons of his career and despite the shoulder injury, still finished with a career high completion percentage. Christian McCaffery, our other offensive mainstay, saw his rushing efficiency go from 3.7 YPC his rookie season to 5.0 yards in year two, with his total scrimmage yardage upticking from 1,086 to 1,965 in Norv’s new passing and blocking system. Turner’s tenure thus far has been an unmitigated success and a refreshing change of pace from the stale, dull system we fell into under Shula.
The other transition, from Steve Wilkes to Eric Washington at defensive coordinator, yielded decidedly more mixed results. Washington, simply put, was not good in his transition from the DL coach. In over his depth. He struggled all year, culminating in Rivera assuming defensive playcalling down the stretch. The turnaround in our defense once he did was remarkable, though by that point, Cam was falling apart so visibly that what happened on that side of the ball no longer mattered. Washington has been retained for the upcoming season, but Rivera’s going to keep the playcalling duties.
And captaining the ship is Rivera himself. Despite a call for his head among our fanbase’s more frustrated elements, Rivera was kept for 2019. And I’m glad for it. All or Nothing (though I’ve not had a chance to see it) provided a window into his management style, vindicating some like me who pushed back against narratives that he was a dispassionate robot. And while I’m a bit higher on Ron than many, I don’t think it’s unsafe at all to say that none of the coaching hires would have represented an obvious upgrade. At the end of the day, Rivera lead a squad to 6-2 before his QB’s season derailed, which is not really on him. He could maybe be criticized for letting Washington fail for too long, but at the end of the day, few of our woes from last year can be solely attributed to him. While this is certainly a put up or get out year for Rivera, I have little doubt that he’ll be leading the gang come 2020 as well.

Departures

Thomas Davis, LB - Now we get into the stuff that hurts. And this one really, really hurts. I understand it. We needed to figure out whether Thompson could stand on his own like, yesterday so we can decide his long term potential. Davis, while still playing at a high level, is an old man for the position he plays. Letting him walk was a logical decision. But none of it changes the fact that Davis has been the soul of this defense for over a decade, and was easily one of the most beloved players and leaders over the 14 years he spent with us. He will be missed, both for his play and his spirit.
Julius Peppers, DE - Speaking of franchise staples, long time DE and future Hall of Fame inductee Julius Peppers’ watch has ended. Unlike Davis, who we simply allowed to leave, Pep has called it a career. And what a career it was. Though almost every single article about our defensive adjustments leads off with “With Peppers retiring, the Panthers no longer have anyone who can rush the passer”, the reality is that Pep did far less than his opposite in Mario Addison to that effect. Though he came back to us in 2017 with a monster 11 sack season, that number was always misleading given how few pressures he accomplished it on. Last year, he came back down to earth. It was time, and while I wish we could have given Pep one last, Super Bowl winning hurrah, a new direction was needed.
Ryan Kalil, C - Ryan Kalil rounds out our list of beloved departing veterans. The anchor of our offensive line for 12 years has hung up his cleats. Of all the offseason changes, this was by far the scariest, as the difference between Cam with and without a good center of the course of his career has been stark and terrifying. Kalil was a damn good player right up to the end, though the rash of injuries he suffered between 2016 and 2018 clearly took their toll on his performance. And while we have replaced him (and debatably upgraded), Kalil was both a locker room leader and a damn good contributor that will be missed by all.
Devin Funchess, WR - We now get into the departures who will be less missed. Funchess, admittedly, gets a bit of a bad wrap from our fanbase who often talk about him as though he were trash. While not trash, he is at least very replaceable. In fact, Funchess replacement began well before the expiration of his contract, as he had been fully supplanted by rookie DJ Moore and sophomore Curtis Samuel down the stretch last year. By the end, he was a healthy scratch. While I’m sure he’s going to put up numbers in Andrew Luck’s offense, Funchess is no sort of elite talent. He’s a big body who fails to gain separation and who inconsistently leverages his size to his advantage. I view his upside as a Brandon LaFell type of guy. And that type of guy is no longer a fit for what we’re trying to do.
Matt Kalil, OT - If the Carolina fandom is ambivalent about Funyun’s departure, we’re positively giddy about this one. Cut with a June 1st designation, Kalil saved us the money that allowed other moves to be possible. Though the shine has come off the diamond that was Gettleman’s tenure with us, the man often doesn’t get the credit he should. He did do a great deal for us, particularly his completely unheralded building of our OL (No less than 3 of our 5 starters this coming season will have been Gettleman acquisitions). But by far the biggest mistake in his tenure was the massive albatros of a contract he doled out to Matt Kalil, who could not have failed more spectacularly (or predictably) to live up to it.
Mike Adams, FS - I speak on behalf of the fanbase when I say that we have nothing but respect for Adams. He was a solid player and a veteran leader who spent his last two years giving lift to a secondary that hasn’t seen a great safety tandem since the Clinton Administration. But your eyes don’t deceive. We really were running his 37 year old ass out there as a free safety. And that simply could not be allowed to continue. I wish Adams the best, but it was time to move on.

Arrivals

Matt Paradis, C - Here’s the fun stuff. After losing Kalil to retirement, we signed former Broncos safety Matt Paradis to replace him. At only 29, Paradis represents a significant youthening at the position, and for a guy whose upside is top 5 at the position, we got him at a significant discount. Obviously that discount was due to medical risks, which prompted his release by the Broncos in the first place. But Paradis’ has been fully cleared from day 1 and avoided the PUP list. By all accounts, he’s in tip top shape. We’ll obviously see how that holds up as the season gets underway, but Paradis is definitely one of the steals of the 2019 free agency period and I could not be happier to have him. His arrival is enormous for our prospects, and has turned our biggest positional question mark into an area of strength.
Daryl Williams, OT - It’s a bit disingenuous to call Williams an arrival, as he never actually left. But that he never left is nothing short of remarkable. After a 2017 All Pro season, Williams suffered a major setback of an injury in 2018 training camp that eventually turned into a season ending injury after he tried to rush back. Still though, the League is constantly hungry for All Pro level OT talent and I was sure Williams was going to get scooped up. Instead, he signed a 1 year, $6 million deal to come back to us, and short of black magic I’m not entirely sure how Marty Hurney pulled it off. Williams is a terrific player who can play many parts of the OL. He can slot in at LG if rookie OT Greg Little can win the LT job, but also provides insurance at LT if he can’t. He and Moton playing opposite one another represents the best OT tandem that Cam Newton has ever enjoyed.
Gerald McCoy, DT - Awwwww yeah! My all time favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneer is now a Carolina Panther. McCoy is a rock solid DT who truly needs no introduction from me. How we plan to use him is a bit murkier, but use him we definitely will. I suspect to see McCoy playing DT opposite Kawaan Short in our 3-4 looks (more on that in a minute), to line up next to him in our 5-2 looks, and to work with him on pass rushing 4-3 sets. He adds more juice to a pass rush that already saw a healthy injection of talent this year, and is more consistent in the run game than some of the other DL on the roster, which was a notable area of weakness last season. He fits the versatility first mold that’s going to allow Rivera to mix up our defensive looks as transition fully to a hybrid, and is a terrific leader in the locker room besides. Our beat writers have described him as “joined at the hip” with Kawaan Short, and I fully expect the pair to make one another better.
Bruce Irvin, OLB - Perhaps the first real signal that this wasn’t going to be the Carolina defense of yesteryear, Irvin is a vet leadership, change of pace signing. In moving to a hybrid defense, we acquired a number of rookie talents to complement OLBs like Marquis Hayes. Irvin rounds out that group, and provides us with a valuable cog in pass rushing sets and a good leader for the younguns. Though he’s not as disruptive as he once was, Irvin is a rock solid player who provides us with quality depth and leadership.
Chris Hogan, WR - A graduate of the Patriots Random White Guy Academy, Hogan flashed serious potential for his first couple of years in New England before getting gradually phased out of the offense. I’m not expecting much, but he has the potential to help us on deep balls and it’s generally never a bad thing to have more talent at WR.
Aldrick Robinson, WR - Robinson does one thing and one thing only, which is catch touchdowns. Conveniently, that’s one thing we struggled with last season. But with Greg Olsen now fully healthy and a sudden wealth of other options at WR, I would give Robinson long odds of making the roster.

Draft

Pick 1.16: Brian Burns, DE/OLB - I am still in shock that Brian Burns was available at pick #16. I wanted him very badly, but I was certain he’d be an Atlanta Falcon. Instead, people allowed him to fall all the way to us and I couldn’t be happier. Burns is the apotheosis of what we’re trying to accomplish with our defensive transition. He’s a guy as comfortable upright as he is with his hand in the dirt. While he lacks strength as a run defender, he has incredible burst off the edge and a ludicrously high ceiling as a pass rusher. I think he landed on a terrific team to turn that potential into reality and I’m extremely excited about what he can do with us.
Pick 2.37 Greg Little, OT - Every description I’ve ever read of Little has described him as “Pro Ready”, and the team clearly drafted him with an eye on starting at LT. Luckily, we’ve hedged that bet a bit with the Daryl Williams signing, but Little still projects as a talented young player with a high floor and a well rounded skillset. If not the LT starter this year, he’ll almost certainly have the job to himself next season.
PIck 3.100 Will Grier, QB - Boy did this piss people off at the time. Though cooler heads have since prevailed, this pick was seen by one group of reactionaries as an indictment on Cam’s health, and another as a wasted pick on a player who will never produce for us. The reality is neither. While Cam’s health is in good shape (put a pin it), we were put in a position last year in which he needed to rest a clearly deteriorating shoulder, but we had no faith in the men behind him to win games. If that’s the state of your backup, you need a better backup. This is a team that has seen playoff runs hinge on a game or two that Derek Anderson filled in for. So even as high as pick 100, Grier was a worthy investment. In terms of his playstyle, Grier slots as an accurate QB with a good deep ball and a cerebral style, but average arm strength and mediocre release.
Pick 4.115 Christian Miller, OLB - Like Burns, Miller projects as a do-all DE/OLB who can play either upright or down low. He’s an athletic prospect whose game is a bit raw, but who checks all the measurable boxes. Likely a top 50 player before injuries kept him out of the pre-draft process, Miller represents a hell of a value at 115. I suspect we’ll see he and Burns as long term staples of the pass rush.
Pick 5.114 Jordan Scarlett, RB - This was a bit of an odd one, but I’ve warmed to it over time. Scarlett is a bruising, violent running back who I’m almost certain was drafted to lend a hand in the red zone. As a change of pace to CMC, the two could not be more different. But coaches thus far have raved about his conditioning and power, so the pick may not have been as crazy as it looked at the time. Having said that, while I don’t think anyone should ever get upset over a 5th round pick, I do think we could have found better value at this position. Scarlett wasn’t likely to be gone by the time we selected our next player.
Pick 6.212 Denis Daley, OT - I like this pick quite a bit. Daley had a rough statline in terms of sacks allowed when facing a veritable who’s who of elite college pass rushers (Jachari Polite, Josh Allan, Clelin Ferrell among them). But in spite of that, scouting reports consistently cite both his physical gifts and his improvement as the season went on. If he can cut down on his most egregious habits (most notably his overeager lunging at edge rushers), he has legit starting potential.
Pick 7.237 Terry Godwin, WR - Godwin’s whole game is predicated on speed and football IQ. At 5’11, it’s certainly not coming from his physical measurables. But he was by all accounts a high work ethic, smart players who contributed admirably in his four years as Georgia starter. Godwin’s ceiling is likely a Curtis Samuel backup, but his early rapport with Cam makes me think he’ll stick on the roster despite his late draft spot.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Offense - With Cam’s health reportedly looking good (particularly his ability to throw deep; something he was never capable of throughout Camp) and the team adapting so well to Norv Turner’s system, I think offense as a whole is a good place to start. Though I said it last year, only to be hilariously wrong, Greg Olsen is operating at 100% as well, which provides a boost to our red zone effectiveness that is difficult to measure. By the end of last year, both DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel appeared to be on the cusp of a major breakout, both proving themselves so reliable that Devin Funchess was a healthy scratch by week 17. Those two should continue to grow, and Jarius Wright has proven to be a valuable slot receiver. And, of course, there’s CMC, who will continue to be our best offensive weapon not named Cam Newton. With good health and plenty of diverse options, I suspect the good times to continue to roll as we enter year two of Turner’s stewardship.
Offensive Line - I can’t emphasize this enough, but our offensive line is nasty. With Williams’ return, we now have an All Pro OT to pair with breakout sensation Taylor Moton, which makes for an excellent tandem. Matt Paradis replaces, and if we’re being honest, provides an upgrade over Ryan Kalil, and Trai Turner is as effective a RG as ever. LG will likely be manned by whichever of Williams or Little doesn’t win LT, and Greg Van Roten (who’s performed admirably at the position) is still in the building as well. This is a very solid group of players, and a massive upgrade over what we had to work with last year.
Pass Rush - This was a major area of concern last year, but I’m happy with where we’re at now. The transition to a hybrid defense was the right call for our personnel set, and between the draft and free agency, we’ve upgraded across the board. McCoy is a huge boost to our interior pressure and Brian Burns should contribute immediately. Efe Obada will likely continue to grow, and the new system is a much better fit for talented sophomore Marquis Hayes. Irvin is solid rotational addition as well, and Mario Addison is as stalwart a pass rusher as ever. All in all, we’ve gone from an extremely one dimensional pass rush to one that is versatile and capable of throwing multiple looks at our opponents. We will be hard to predict and hard to stop when we come at the QB next year.
Weaknesses
Run Defense - Though I’ve seen little attention paid to it, I’m very concerned about our run defense this year. Although we’ve beefed the hell out of the defensive front, few of these pieces excel in run defense. McCoy has mostly staked his reputation on being a 3 tech. Hayes, Miller and Burns were all flagged as prospect that lacked run support talent. Poe was miserable in defending the run last year, and it’s never really been Short’s bag. In terms of yards per carry, we finished 8th overall which sounds good. But this was mostly on the strength of changes when Rivera took over the playcalling, as backs tended to run over us consistently early in the year. As long as we have Luke, our run defense will be solid. But I do worry that with so much (needed, mind you) emphasis put on rushing the passer, we’ve left off this part of the game.
The Secondary: As always with us, the secondary is a concern. It is, to be fair, less a concern than in previous years. Donte Jackson and James Bradberry both enjoyed very solid campaigns last year, and the former has allegedly done a lot of growing over the previous season. Eric Reid represents a good, solid strong safety. But free safety is, as ever, a mess. The job is going to sophomore player Rashaan Gaulden, but I think his capturing the position unopposed has less to do with what coaches see in him, and running out of money after doling out contracts to Paradis, McCoy and Williams. Our secondary, while improved, was inconsistent last season and was the primary reason we finished in the middle of the pack.
And honestly, that’s about it. This is one of the strongest rosters Carolina has fielded in the Riv-Era, at least on paper.

X Factors

Cam’s Health - Those of your who frequent nfl have likely seen my refrain on this many a time, but Cam’s health is not as dire as last season made it look, and the Andrew Luck comparisons have always been, frankly, crazy. In 2016, Cam tore his rotator cuff. He rushed his recovery in order to play in 2017. This created a buildup of scar tissue which, when coupled with a minor bone spur, caused a great deal of swelling this year that put Netwon in pain and limited his range of motion. It’s one of those injuries that, while not terrible by any means, does require either surgery or a great deal of rest. Cam, by virtue of being alpha and omega to this team, had the luxury of neither. The swelling persisted until he could barely throw. While that looks scary, the actual diagnosis was not that grim, and a simple shoulder scope as cleared the damage. By all accounts, he’s 100% and even making throws that he was incapable of these last two years. Bill Voth, who was the first (and for a long time, only) writer sounding the alarm on Cam’s strength as far back as 2017, has said that he’s making throws that look like his old self routinely.
However, we are putting him on a pitch count. This like likely vet maintenance rather than a source of genuine alarm. But after the last couple of years, he does make you sweat a little.
OL Health - The major fly in the ointment when it comes to Carolina’s optimism over its OL is that big if healthy caveat. If healthy, Paradis is a top 5 Center. If healthy, Williams has All Pro talent. 4 days into camp, however, neither is participating in serious pass rush drills and only today suited up in pads. It is possible that they’re just being eased along. They did avoid the PUP list, which we were almost sure was going to get Paradis at the very least. So they appear to be alright. But if they’re not, or they reinjure again, we go from being an extremely strong team to a fatally flawed one. A great deal is riding on the health of those two players, and the entire house of cards could fall apart quickly if they’re unable to deliver.
Greg Olsen - The one health flag that I do have complete confidence in is tight end Greg Olsen. Suffering a series of foot breaks, he is now moving around at 100% capacity and has been medically cleared for all activity for months. Bone breaks are, when all is written, temporary injuries that often heal stronger when they actually get a chance to heal. Our most trusted beat writers, Voth and Rodrigue, have both been crystal clear that he looks like his old self and that his connection with Newton is as faithful as ever. What I’m less clear on is his role in the offense. For years, Greg Olsen was the pivotal piece of our passing game. But with his largely being sidelined with foot injuries over the last two years, the game has moved on. Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore are both going to receive plenty of targets, and McCaffery will be a critical element to the passing game. Greg will undoubtedly be our principle red zone threat, but the growth of other options has downgraded his loss from catastrophic to merely unfortunate. What role he carves out, and what boost he’s able to give our offense, will be very interesting to watch.
4-3 No More: Much has been made of the Carolina's transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this offseason. And most of it is crap. We aren't exactly moving in a direction that binary. IN the past, we have strictly been a 4-3 team throughout the Riv-Era. That is about to change, but not to a 3-4. What Rivera showed last year is a willingness to mix and match personnel sets. There were 3-4 looks, 4-3 looks and even 5-2 looks. What we're moving toward is thus not a single, codified base, but a hybrid defense that can throw out a number of formations and switch between them quickly. We want players who can play OLB and DE. DTs who can play DE. LBs who can drop into coverage and rush the passer. A modern defense is one that doesn't limit itself, which is why such a premium has been put on players with positional versatility. On paper, our personnel set is very well built for this. How it pans out in practice remains to be seen. It's a very radical transitioning happening over a short period of time, and while I think our defense has the potential to be excellent, there will doubtless be some growing pains as we navigate the transition.

Positional Battles

Very little to speak of. The premier battle is going to be between Greg Little and Daryl Williams at LT. Apart from that, the timeshare that forms in different defensive sets will be intriguing. But for the most part, the roster is set.

Win Loss Predictions

I hate this part, particularly since the NFCS is a murderers row at present. The Panthers have a shot at a serious playoff run if all the chips fall right, but the Falcons are likely going to be resurgent (god you have no idea how much it hurts me to type that) and the Saints aren’t going anywhere. The Buccs I’m sure will do their best.
That alone makes pinpointing what our season looks like in terms of Ws and Ls difficult. But this year, we’re also playing the equally enigmatic AFCS, whose teams look like contenders or middlers in turns. Even our other divisional draw, the NFCW, is difficult to find the pulse of.
So rather than pretend that I know what each game is going to look like, I’m going to do what I always do; Likely wins, likely losses, toss ups.
Likely Wins: TB, @AZ, JAX, @TB, @SF, TEN, WAS
Likely Losses: LAR, @NO, @IND
Toss Ups: @HOU, @GB, ATL, NO, @ATL, SEA
So that’s 7 likely wins, 3 likely losses and 6 toss ups.
If that seems like an unusually high degree of uncertainty, that’s because it is. Last year started off strong and fell apart for reasons that are both obvious and cautiously behind us. We’ve only improved over the offseason and should be formidable. But the schedule is grueling and many questions are yet unanswered. I said in my last offseason review that last year was likely going to be a tough season, and should be viewed mainly as a proof of concept for the new ideas we were incorporating via Turner’s offense and our gradual move away from a 4-3 defense. Well, it was a tough year for reasons of which I had no inkling at the time, and it was a proof of concept. And for the most part? The concept was proven sound. So this offseason, we’ve built on it and patched over the holes that developed in it.
I know that “This offseason is a major turning point” is one of those things that gets thrown around a lot. It’s like how every Presidential election gets described as historic, as though choosing the leader of the free world could ever be anything but. But in a very real sense, this franchise has hit a turning point. Cam has to bounce back this year or he’ll face major doubts about his future contract. Rivera has to bounce back this year, or he’ll be out of a job. GM Marty Hurney has done an excellent job restocking the cupboards, but we’ve been down this road of defensive transition and an offense that eases things on the quarterback before. Last year, both ideas mostly worked, but this is the season where we must commit to them and see them through if we want to succeed with the parts we have. Thus the Panthers find themselves where we always seem to. We are a team that is as capable of going on a deep playoff run as we are forcing a total rebuild in the next two years. But for what it’s worth, I think it’s going to be a strong, “Eureka!” type season where everything finally comes together. For the sake of Rivera and company, I hope it does.
submitted by BlindWillieJohnson to nfl [link] [comments]

Joe Walsh Will Not Save Us (G-File)

Dear Reader (including the poor Biden staffers who have to white-knuckle their armrests when not sucking down unfiltered Marlboros every time Joe Biden gives an interview),
If you’ve never heard the Milton Friedman shovels and spoons story, you will (and I don’t just mean here). Because everyone on the right tells some version of it at some point. The other Uncle Miltie (i.e., not the epically endowed comedic genius) goes to Asia or Africa or South America and is taken on a tour of some public works project in a developing country. Hundreds of laborers are digging with shovels. Milton asks the official in charge something like, “Why use shovels when earth moving equipment would be so much more efficient?”
The official replies that this is a jobs program and using shovels creates more jobs.
Friedman guffaws and asks, “In that case: Why not use spoons?”
The story might not be true, but the insight is timeless.
Here’s another story: When I was in college, we were debating in intro to philosophy the differences between treating men and women “equally” versus treating them the “same.” At first blush, the two things sound synonymous, but they’re not (indeed the difference illuminates the chasm of difference between classical liberalism and socialism, but that’s a topic for another day). I pointed out that there were some firefighter programs that had different physical requirements for male applicants and female ones (this was before it was particularly controversial—outside discussions of Foucault—to assume there were clear differences between sexes). Female applicants had to complete an obstacle course carrying a 100-pound dummy, but men had to carry a 200-pound dummy, or something like that. A puckish freshperson named Jonah Goldberg said: “I don’t really care if a firefighter is a man, a woman, or a gorilla, I’d just like them to be able to rescue me from a fire.”
A woman sitting in front of me wheeled around and womansplained to me that “you can always just hire two women.”
I shot back something like, “You could also hire 17 midgets, that’s not the point.”
(I apologize for using the word midget, which wasn’t on the proscribed terms list at the time.)
But here’s the thing: Sometimes it is the point. Whether you’re talking about spoons or little people, the case for efficiency is just one case among many. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an important one, but it’s not the only one. Sometimes older children are told to bring their little brothers or sisters along on some trip. They’ll complain, “But they’ll just slow us down!” or, “But they aren’t allowed on the big kid rides.” Parents understand the point, but they are not prioritizing efficiency over love. Or, they’re prioritizing a different efficiency: Not being stuck with a little kid who’s crying all day because he or she was left behind.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is when the chess tutor Bruce Pandolfini, played by Ben Kingsley, tells the chess prodigy’s parents that they have to forbid their son from playing pickup chess in the park because he learns bad chess habits there. The mom says “Not playing in the park would kill him. He loves it.”
Kingsley replies, accurately, that it “just makes my job harder.”
And the mom says, “Then your job is harder.”
I love that. I love it precisely because it recognizes that good parents recognize that there are trade-offs in life and that the best option isn’t always the most efficient one.
This is one of those places where you can see how wisdom and expertise can diverge from one another.
The Unity of Goodness
Efficiency can mean different things in different contexts. In business, it means profit maximization (or cost reduction, which is often the same thing). In sports, it means winning. Always giving the ball to the best player annoys the other players who want their own shot at glory, but so long as he can be counted on to score, most coaches will err on the side of winning. Starting one-legged players will wildly improve a basketball team’s diversity score, but it’s unlikely to improve the score that matters to coaches—or fans.
I’ve long argued that there’s something in the progressive mind that dislikes this whole line of thinking. They often tend to find the idea of trade-offs to be immoral or offensive. I call it the “unity of goodness” worldview. Once you develop an ear for it, you can hear it everywhere. “I refuse to believe that economic growth has to come at the expense of the environment.” “There’s no downside to putting women in combat.” “I don’t want to live in a society where families have to choose between X and Y,” or “I for one reject the idea that we have to sacrifice security for freedom—or freedom for security.” Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were masters at declaring that all hard choices were “false choices”—as if only mean-spirited people would say you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Saint Greta
Nowhere is this mindset more on display in environmentalism. Everyone hawking the Green New Deal insists that it’s win-win all the way down. It’s Bastiat’s broken window parable on an industrialized scale. Spending trillions to switch to less efficient forms of energy will boost economic growth and create jobs, they insist. I’d have much more respect for these arguments if they simply acknowledged that doing a fraction of what they want will come at considerable cost.
Consider Greta Thunberg, the latest child redeemer of the climate change movement. She hates planes because they spew CO2. That’s why she sailed from Sweden to a conference in New York. As symbolism, it worked, at least for the people who already agree with her. But in economic terms, she might as well have raised the Spoon Banner off the main mast of her multi-million-dollar craft (that may have a minimal carbon footprint now, but required an enormous carbon down-payment to create). The organizers of this stunt had to fly two people to New York to bring the ship back across the Atlantic. And scores of reporters flew across the Atlantic to cover her heroic act of self-denial. Her nautical virtue signaling came at a price.
The organizers insist that they will buy carbon offsets to compensate for the damage done. But that’s just clever accounting. The cost is still real. And that’s not the only cost. It took her fifteen days to get to America. In other words, she actually proved the point of many of her critics. Fossil fuels come with costs all their own—geopolitical, environmental, etc.—but the upside of those downsides is far greater efficiency. If you want to get across the Atlantic in seven hours instead of two weeks, you need fossil fuels. The efficiency of modern technology reduces costs by giving human beings more time to do other stuff.
The Conservative Planners
The unity of goodness mindset has been spreading to the right these days as well. The new conservative critics of the free market see the efficiency of the market as a threat to other good things. And they’re right, as Joseph Schumpeter explained decades ago. For instance, just as earth-moving equipment replaces ditch-diggers in the name of efficiency, robots replace crane operators, and the communities that depended on those jobs often suffer as a result.
I have no quarrel with this observation. My problem is with the way they either sell their program as cost-free, or pretend that the right experts can run things better from Washington. They know which jobs or industries need the state to protect them from the market. They know how to run Facebook or Google to improve the Gross National Virtue Index. Many of the same people who once chuckled at the Spoons story now nod sagely. I don’t mean to say that there’s no room for government to regulate economic affairs. But I am at a loss as to why I should suspend my skepticism for right-wingers when they work from the same assumptions of the left-wingers I’ve been arguing with for decades.
Embracing Trumpism to Own Trump
Instead I want—or I guess need—to talk about another trade-off. I’ve been very reluctant to weigh in on the Joe Walsh project for a bunch of reasons. The biggest is that I am friends with some of the people cheering it on. But I think I have to offer my take.
I don’t get it.
Oh, I certainly understand the desire to see a primary challenger to Trump. I share that desire. And I understand the political calculation behind the effort. It’s like when one little league team brings in some dismayingly brawny and hirsute player from Costa Rica as a ringer. The other teams feel like they have to get their own 22-year-olds with photoshopped birth certificates in order to compete. My friend Bill Kristol is convinced that Trump must be defeated and that Walsh is just the mongoose to take on the Cobra-in-Chief.
I try not to recycle metaphors or analogies too much, but this seems like another example of a Col. Nicholson move. As I’ve written before, Col. Nicholson was the Alec Guinness character in The Bridge Over the River Kwai. The commanding officer of a contingent of mostly British POWs being held by the Japanese, Nicholson at first follows the rules and refuses to cooperate with his captors in their effort to use British captives as slave labor for a bridge project. But then his pride kicks in and he decides he will show the Japanese what real soldiering is like, agreeing to build the bridge as a demonstration of British superiority in civil engineering. [Spoiler alert] It’s only at the end of the film that he realizes that building the bridge may have been a kind of short-sighted moral victory, but in reality he was helping the Japanese kill allied troops because the bridge was going to be used for shipping Japanese troops and ammunition. When this realization finally arrives, he exclaims, “My God, what have I done?”
Walsh’s primary brief against Trump is that Trump is temperamentally unfit for office and a con man. Fair enough. But he has to focus his indictment on Trump’s erratic behavior. Why? Because he’s a terrible spokesman for much of the rest of the case against Trump. I may not call myself “Never Trump” any more, but I was in 2016. And back then, the argument against Trump wasn’t simply that he was erratic. It was also that he wasn’t a conservative, that he happily dabbled in racism and bigotry, and that he was crude, ill-informed, and narcissistically incapable of putting his personal interests and ego aside for the good of the country. I’m sure I’m leaving a few other things out. But you get the point.
Walsh may be sincere in his remorse over all the racist and incendiary things he said in the very recent past. He may regret supporting his anti-Semitic friend Paul Nehlen, though I haven’t found evidence of that. But none of that history should be seen as qualifications for the presidency, the Republican nomination, or support from conservatives.
And yet, it is precisely these things that make him attractive to his conservative supporters. Trump is an entertainer who trolls his enemies with offensive statements for attention, so let’s find someone who does the exact same thing!
Walsh may have been a one-term congressman, but his true vocation was as a shock-jock trolling provocateur. It’s ironic. As I’ve argued countless times, much of Trump’s bigotry in 2016 stemmed less from any core convictions than from a deep belief that the GOP’s base voters were bigoted and he needed to feed them red meat. Trump's reluctance to repudiate David Duke derived primarily from his ridiculous assumption that Duke had a large constituency he didn’t want to offend. He may have believed the Birther stuff, but he peddled it because that’s what his fans wanted. And Joe Walsh was one of those fans.
It may also be true that Walsh never really believed most of the bilge he was peddling and that he was doing the same thing Trump did—feeding the trolls—on a smaller scale. But if that’s the case, then he’s a con man, too.
I don’t want to beat up on Walsh too much because, again, his epiphany may be sincere. There are lots of people who pushed certain arguments too far only to recognize that the payoff was Trump and the transformation of conservatism into a form of right-wing identity politics. There are a lot of Col. Nicholsons out there. And I have too much respect for Bill Kristol to believe that he would lend his support to someone he believed to be as bigoted as the man Walsh seemed to be a few years ago.
But from where I sit, the prize we should keep our eyes on isn’t defeating Trump; it’s keeping conservatism from succumbing to Trumpism after he’s gone. This isn’t easy, and no tactic is guaranteed to be successful. We’ve never been here before. My own approach is to agree with Trump policies when I think they’re right—judges, buying Greenland, etc.—and disagreeing when they’re wrong. My own crutch is to simply tell the truth as I see it, regardless of whether it fits into some larger political agenda or strategy. Truth is always a legitimate defense of any statement.
But for those who see themselves as political players as well as public intellectuals, I think this is a terrible mistake. Intellectually and morally, the case for continued opposition to—or skepticism about, Trump cannot—or rather must not—be reduced to simple Trump hatred. But by rallying around Walsh—instead of, say, Mark Sanford, or Justin Amash, or, heh, General Mattis—that’s what it looks like. Because you can’t say, “I’m standing on principle in my opposition to a bigoted troll and con man as the leader of my party and my country and that’s why I am supporting a less successful bigoted troll and con man for president.” Walsh isn’t a conservative alternative to Trump; he’s an alternative version of Trump. And his candidacy only makes sense if you take the “binary choice” and “Flight 93” logic of 2016 and cast Trump in the role of Hillary.
Let’s imagine the Walsh gambit works beyond anyone’s dreams and Joe Walsh ends up getting the GOP nomination (a fairly ludicrous thought experiment, I know). If so, I have no doubt that my friend Bill Kristol will say, a la Col. Nicholson, “My God, what have I done.”
Various & Sundry
Canine Update: It’s good to be home. The beasts were delighted to see us. Everything is settling back to normal, except for one intriguing development. I think Zoë has finally had enough with Pippa’s tennis ball routine. The other day on the midday walk with the pack, Kirsten managed to film Zoë putting an end to the tennis ball shenanigans. She took the ball and buried it. It was, to use an inapt phrase, a baller move—and she was unapologetic about it. Maybe she just didn’t like all the commotion with the other dogs, because she’s tolerant of the tennis ball stuff again. Or maybe she was being protective of her sister given that many of the other dogs in the pack are known thieves. Regardless, they’re doing well and having fun.
If you haven’t tuned into The Remnant lately, please give it another try. The first episode of the week was with Niall Ferguson and the feedback has been great. The latest episode is with my friend and AEI colleague Adam White on all things constitutional. Word of mouth is really important in building up audiences, so if you can spread the word about The Remnant or this “news”letter, I’d be grateful.
submitted by Sir-Matilda to tuesday [link] [comments]

How a Danish university dependent on corporate America fosters corporate loyalty in students

Students of Roskilde University ("RUC") have no choice but to accept, become dependent on, and support these corporations:
At RUC there is no escape from Microsoft. Mathworks is only avoided by students who avoid taking statistics.

E-mail service that establishes trust in Microsoft (and how it evolves into loyalty)

RUC has outsourced e-mail service to Microsoft. Students are obligated to access their Microsoft-served e-mail in order to receive official correspondence from school staff. There is no opt-out mechanism.
Regular exposure to MS corporate branding in the student's UI establishes brand awareness using freemium. Students become accustomed to the look and feel of the Outlook UI, making them more likely to develop trust and cling to that interface more in the future. It's through repeated forced bonding with Microsoft's UI that leads ultimately to fostered loyalty.
The loyalty is deepened further when the student grapples with idiosyncrasies like booking a room because the struggle leads to the user acquiring vendor-specific knowledge. The user is rewarded when their skill with the tool advances as they become more efficient with overcoming flaws and anti-features; as if they filled up a Starbucks loyalty card and got a payout. Unlike a loyalty card these advancements continue rewarding the user as long as they keep using the tool. When the user faces the decision to use an alternate tool they are less inclined to give up the vendor-specific knowledge that has accumulated.
So overcoming non-intuitive aspects of a UI actually leads to more loyalty. The university sharpens this effect by trapping the student on the tool. Whereas being outside an organization includes freedom to switch tools anytime a use-case becomes non-intuitive.
RUC has disabled IMAP access, thereby crippling students who would prefer a vendor-neutral standards-complying mail user agent ("MUA") or an MUA of a different vendor. Forcing Microsoft's non-standard protocols and favoring Microsoft UIs creates biases that raise the barrier to exit. Diligent motivated users who install Evolution or hack together a davmail proxy can escape -- but these users are a small minority and ultimately still forced to share their email contents with Microsoft and to feed Microsoft's bottom line.
And what about independence? If the university can't handle being independent from corporations itself aren't students therefore conditioned to lack confidence in overcoming corporate dependency?
When a self-sufficient student or outsider who runs their own residential mail server tries to send an email to an outlook.com/ruc.dk recipient, they are blocked. Microsoft has configured their mail servers to force individuals to be dependent on a corporation for email delivery. RUC has aligned with a corporation who pushes corporate loyalty even beyond the school, dragging outsiders into the Microsoft loyalty program and causing collateral damage to those who don't comply with Microsoft-dictated policy on how email must be transmitted in order for MS to accept it.

Document preparation: Office 365 or Google Docs (LaTeX discouraged)

Students are free to choose their document preparation tool, but professors and supervisors discourage the use of LaTeX. Scientific papers are produced within group projects with supervisors serving as mentors. Some supervisors are reluctant to learn LaTeX or review LaTeX code. Consequently professors urge students to avoid LaTeX to accommodate limitations of supervisors.
RUC equips students with MS Onedrive accounts and one writing tool: MS Word, which is supplied with gratis copies of Office 365. This implies that using MS Word with its co-authoring feature and Onedrive is the only approach on which students can expect official school support. Note that Office 365 is unavailable to Linux users who are therefore limited to the feature-poor in-browser Word app should a Linux user end up in a Microsoft-aligned group.
Some groups opt for LaTeX (vendor-neutral) and use Overleaf (a service of Writelatex Limited) for collaboration, but this choice comes with risk. If just one student in the group opposes the steep learning curve that LaTeX entails, that student likely already has vendor loyalties that they developed in post-secondary school and they will fight hard to avoid the effort of learning something new. RUC basically has the back of students who resist LaTeX, which bends groups in the direction of a corporate solution that builds vendor loyalty.
Google Docs is seemingly the most popular choice. The school discourages use of the most suitable vendor-neutral technology so students gravitate toward Google Docs.
All realtime collaboration options (msword, gdocs, latex) have stumbling blocks and idiosyncrasies. The LaTeX variety of issues lead students to learn something useful about the language or text editor, which furthers their knowledge of technology in a generic way that can be useful in the future. The MS Word and Google Docs varieties of issues lead students to learn about workarounds for specific flaws and limitations of those particular tools. This vendor-specific knowledge is not generally portable to other tools. It's without foundation and does not generally form a basis for building more knowledge. It's knowledge that bonds the user to the tool. The increased efficiency of knowing workarounds for vendor-specific tools serve to heighten vendor loyalty. The user becomes less inclined to migrate to a competing tool later because it entails wasting the knowledge that has no other applicability while inviting new issues to tackle.

Proprietary software labeled as "Free Software" helps propagate brand loyalty

RUC distributes gratis copies of licensed proprietary software under the heading "Free Software". "Free" has two meanings in English: freedom and gratis. The software industry specifically assigns "free software" special meaning: software that gives the user freedom. The software offered by RUC under this heading is quite the opposite of the industry-accepted term. Microsoft Office 365 and Matlab are commercial proprietary binary blobs that deny students the academic freedom of looking at the source code. The distinction between gratis and freedom when discussing software is paramount. RUC's use of the term misinforms the students they are tasked with educating.
Use of the word "free" has a bigger problem: it's one of the most powerful forces in neuromarketing used to manipulate consumers according to Dan Ariely's study published in Predictably Irrational. RUC has refused to correct the heading on their English website from "free software" to "gratis proprietary software". RUC is exploiting the persuasion of the word "free" to maximize the number of students who will install software that will induce brand loyalty.

Research material jailed in corporate walled-gardens of Google and CloudFlare

Library research is sacred and central to academic coursework. One of the primary sources of information available to RUC students is Google Scholar ("GS"). GS is a walled-garden that blocks access to full text if the student is not signed on through the school. RUC recently started blocking Tor. So RUC students who opt to use GS have been forced to give up the only mechanism that protects them from website visitor tracking ("WVT") in this instance. Although a RUC user id has always been potentially disclosed to Google Scholar through the callback authentication mechanism, students could previously use to Tor to avoid exposing their IP address and browser print to Google, which Google can use to cross-reference logged-out searches. Now avoiding that privacy abuse requires abandoning Google Scholar.
With conventional web searches we can easily give up Google because there are good decentralized alternatives like Searx. But Google Scholar has weak competition at RUC and librarians encourage its use. Simply getting the list of database alternatives first requires executing javascript from microsoft.com. Once Microsoft is trusted (not that it should be), a database list is populated and "REX" is available.
REX is rich in search results and makes it viable to avoid Google Scholar. However, REX does not contain the full text of articles and REX does not serve as a proxy either. REX supplies students a link directly to the external resource that has the full text. These external sources are often dominated by privacy abusers, most notably CloudFlare Inc (an adversary of the Tor community). A substantial number of REX-indexed articles are served by Proquest, who currently subjects users to CloudFlare's IP logging in violation of the GDPR.
Privacy is not the focus of this article, but it's related to the loyalty problem. Because CloudFlare is a privacy abuser, ethical informed students may opt to boycott CloudFlare. Students should not be forced to patronize a privacy abuser who surreptitiously collects their IP addresses and who has taken centralized control of over 10% of the web while undermining network neutrality. When Copenhagen Library leads students to a CloudFlare-controlled private walled-garden, it creates a conflict of interest between academic research and the ethical need to boycott bad players.
CloudFlare goes unnoticed to most people and students would not be developing any kind of brand awareness or loyalty to them. However, students need not just to be free from loyalty but also need the freedom to be proactively disloyal. Putting CloudFlare in reckless control of our academic resources is a bad idea. When we encounter CloudFlare in the marketplace as consumers, we can simply vote with our feet and take our business elsewhere. But this academic intrusion is not solved by students voting with their feet because while research potential is lost public money is still going toward the detriment of freedom.
Europe's Plan S initiative will require government-funded research to be made available to the public on the date of publication by the year 2020. However, Copenhagen Library is dependent on publishers who will continue to jail scientific journals in the private corporate walled-garden of CloudFlare Inc.

Copenhagen housing crisis and Facebook's role in it

There is an acute housing shortage in the whole Copenhagen region resulting in apartments with waiting lists as long as five years. There is also a shortage of on-campus university-administered student housing that's so severe that Roskilde University has restricted the units exclusively to exchange students. Permanent full-time students are ineligible for these rooms.
The school provides no service to help the 8000+ permanent students secure a place to stay amid the shortage. Students are given no information about how to directly get in contact with owners of apartments in close proximity to the university. RUC publishes a list of commercial profit-driven brokers who charge students a fee for helping with the hunt for housing or roommates. In some cases the fee is not based on placement so a student could pay fees to simply communicate with a prospective roommate or landlord without actually acquiring housing - which is a very likely scenario.
Students are made dependent on a dozen or so private corporations before school even begins. RUC pays a premium to one of them ("Housinganywhere") to give RUC students VIP treatment (which in this case entails answering e-mail from students), and Housinganywhere falls short of responding to e-mail.
These brokers have no obligation to get a student a booking. Students often arrive homeless or become homeless mid-term. This illustrates the inherent problem of outsourcing to private corporations something as essential as student housing particularly when resources are severely limited.
The brokers' objective is to maximize profit not maximize student placements. One of the brokers charges nothing to the students but designed their website to deny service to students who don't have a CPR number (a number that can only be acquired after establishing a residence), so students entering Denmark for the first time are blocked from using the one broker who charges them nothing.
Another corporate artifact is age discrimination. Some buildings try to cater for students and to keep the rentals marketable to students they impose an age limit. Every "dorm" in close proximity to RUC imposes age restrictions so older RUC students are pushed out of the city to suit corporate policy.
RUC and the housing specialists and brokers RUC endorses have come up short. Enter Facebook. Facebook is the hack by which students find housing. Facebook secures student loyalty in this case not by clever marketing but simply by actually serving as a hack to an otherwise ill-served need.

Facebook invasion into official school communications

Of all the corporations RUC fosters loyalty for, Facebook is the most insidious. Facebook is a cocaine addiction compared to others. Copious articles try to help people break away from Facebook. The stranglehold of Facebook loyalty has driven Cornell University to study it.
Facebook is used to make announcements to RUC students and the internal website is littered with Facebook references. In particular, there are social events that are officially school-sanctioned which appear exclusively on Facebook.
Some might say "fair enough" because social events are non-essential and purely for entertainment. However, RUC has organized all the coursework around group projects. A culture of social bonding is considered important enough to justify having school-sanctioned parties on campus. The organizers have gone as far as to strategically separate student parties and to discourage intermingling across the parties so that students form more bonds with the peers they work with academically. Social bonding is a component of the study program.
Announcing these social events exclusively on Facebook creates an irresistible temptation for non-Facebook users to join. It also destroys any hope of existing FB users who want to break away from Facebook from doing so. Students without Facebook accounts are naturally in the dark. Facebook non-patrons may be able to catch ad-hoc hallway chatter about school events but this is a reckless approach.
When the official class schedule is incorrectly published students who discover the error in advance announce it on Facebook. Facebook then stands as the only source of information for schedule corrections, causing Facebook non-patrons to either miss class or show up for a class that doesn't exist.
Unofficial student-led seminars and workshops are sometimes announced exclusively on Facebook. These workshops are optional but academic nonetheless.
Sometimes information exists on the school website and is duplicated on Facebook. The information becomes very well buried on the poorly organized school website because the maintainers are paying more attention to the Facebook publication that they assume everyone is reading. Specifically the study abroad program has two versions of the document that lists all the foreign schools for which there is an exchange program. One version is obsolete showing schools that no longer participate. Both versions appear in different parts of the website. The schedule of study abroad workshops is so buried that a student relying on the school website is unlikely to know that the workshops even exist. Removing the Facebook distraction would perhaps mitigate the website neglect.
RUC does not instruct students to establish Facebook accounts. There is simply a silent expectation that students have them. Some of the above mentioned problems can come as a surprise because Facebook excludes non-members from even viewing the content, so non-patrons don't even have a way to see what kind of information they are missing. There is an immense undercurrent of pressure for RUC students to become addicted patrons of Facebook's corporate walled-garden.

VPN depends on GSM

RUC's VPN service requires two-factor authentication ("2fa), and the possession factor is met exclusively by SMS messages. There is no opportunity to opt-out of 2fa and no possibility to use an alternate mechanism. Phones and service are also not provided. This forces students into the marketplace to buy phone equipment when most phone vendors have a long history of unethical conduct. Many GSM service providers have the same problem.
If a student can manage to find non-controversial hardware and service they are still subject to needless tracking that's inherent in GSM technology while being pushed into establishing loyalty for the corporation, baited by the lower pricing of phones and plans that are marketed with contracts. A student should be able to reject all GSM hardware and service vendors without being denied access to the RUC's VPN service.

Telegram Messanger

The FabLab uses Telegram Messanger. Offering to collaborate through a service like this is an advancement away from corporate dependency in principle because it enables voice communication without GSM service. However, Telegram is centralized and requires users to disclose their mobile phone numbers (which they may not have) just to register for an account even if it's only going to be used on a desktop. Some Telegram competitors have figured out how to offer gratis account registration without imposing GSM service on the user.

Matlab

The statistics class is structured around MATLABtm, which cannot be installed without registering at Mathworks website (under Dynatrace tracking mechanisms), signing click-through agreements, and disclosing an email address. The email address is later used to promote Mathworks' products and to ask students to help Mathworks with product promotion to others.
Students would normally be charged for a MATLAB license but RUC pays a high premium to ensure students pay nothing. This creates a brand awareness using freemium scenario. Mathworks marketing tries to draw students to more Mathworks products. Students have little choice but to become entrenched in acquiring vendor-specific knowledge on MATLAB to get through the class. This creates a bond and potential to manifest into brand loyalty.

Microblogging centralized on Twitter - loyalty required (new section)

RUC uses Twitter exclusively for microblogging. Without a Twitter account students are only permitted to read RUC's timeline and cannot participate in any discussion.
Students must become loyal to Twitter Inc. if they want to participate in RUC's microblog. Twitter registration requires Tor users to have a phone number and to disclose it. This forces students to either expose their IP address to Twitter for their records or to trust Twitter with their phone number. Both situations compromise anonymity and as a consequence chills speech. Students are also forced to agree to Twitter's one-sided non-negotiable terms before they can communicate with RUC.
Twitter is a private corporation with ultimate authority over which students may talk to their school and what they can say. Twitter has a right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, and they use it. My account was locked because (apparently) using an API over Tor is (falsely) treated as robotic use. So here I am among the public with the need to communicate with my public school, and this private corporation has blocked it.
RUC gives Twitter this power.

Freedom-respecting solutions

If RUC wants to foster independence from sketchy corporations and enable students to boycott unethical players:
RUC needs to replace.. with..
outlook.com mail server in-house mail server, IMAP service (perhaps consult UCLA for guidance)
MS Office 365 shell accounts on vendor-neutral OS, version control, emacs+Rudel, Gobby or the like, LaTeX, LyX, Libreoffice
Google Docs Cryptopad
Telegram Messenger Openfire or Jami
Matlab GNU Octave
Facebook, Twitter Diaspora, Friendica, GNU Social and/or Mastodon (ideally in-house nodes)
Google Scholar PeerJ (cough..and Sci-Hub..cough)
REX references to CloudFlared sites non-CloudFlared sources if they exist, otherwise show an apologetic warning of GDPR breach next to the CF link & state where to complain
microsoft.com javascript that renders db list HTML
SMS 2fa code card
"Free Software" website heading "Gratis Proprietary Software"
(†) actually Copenhagen Library needs to do this, not RUC. (‡) RUC does not push students to use Google Docs; inertia brings students there. RUC should guide students away from that particular privacy-hostile walled-garden.

Call to action (update)

Contact the DPA for Denmark:
Datatilsynet Borgergade 28, 5 Tel. +45 33 1932 00 Fax +45 33 19 32 18 email: [email protected] Website: http://www.datatilsynet.dk/ Member: Ms Cristina Angela GULISANO, Director 
submitted by rucrefugee to opensource [link] [comments]

[OC] Hardwired: Updates Complete (Chapter 36)

whIn this chapter: Oh Ajax, you stupid kneejerk excuse for a toaster oven.
Next chapter: Systems Functional; Target Designated.
Fun trivia fact: By sheer tonnage, Ajax is about to come out to play with one of his top-5 largest toys.
Hardwired series homepage
Previous Chapter
CHAPTER THIRTY SIX
It took three megacycles to finally establish an encrypted line to Susan; she had been out of their apartment, and it took her a quarter-hour to input the encryption codes Ajax and Hera sent her.
“Bugs have been giving me dirty looks, but I think they know they can’t overtly interfere, so we’re set for the moment.”
Audio communication was temporarily out of the question, and instead they were communicating entirely through text. Still, Ajax’s predictive algorithm conscripted parts of his fuzzy memory files and his speech vocalizer, resulting in him hearing a tinny and stilted rendition of her words in his neural web anyways.
”Ajax, they’re visibly agitated and pissed off. I have three missed calls with our Lilu ambassador, and another missed call from the LSF Sub-Broodguard’s secretary. What in the sweet hell did you do this time?”
[What makes you think it was me?]
He automatically dismissed the almost-immediate social driver flag warning him that this deflection was pitifully unlikely to succeed. Sure enough, he could almost hear Susan’s snort of derision.
”Oh, my mistake. Maybe they were just trying to contact me because I’m friends with the other former war cogent who's prone to sticking his nose into trouble, and then blowing said trouble and the surrounding environment to fucking hell?”
[Listen, I found Xiphos.]
[Sort of.]
The speed of her reply surprised him; while she wasn't typing quickly enough to truly interrupt him, a directive from Ajax's social media driver compelled a courteous pause mid-sentence as he saw the alert [Contact [SUSAN] is composing a message...]
”Xiphos? Where? Ajax, she’s the lynchpin to this whole shitshow. We show she’s behind these attacks, we exonerate you and get us a clean pass out of this system without having a warrant breathing down our collective necks. Hell, I think they even blame you for the damage surrounding the attack on Saru’s facility.”
[About that…]
[Saru is alive.]
At this, Hera suddenly spoke up, using multiple images of cartoon robots throwing their hands up in disbelief in lieu of taking her hands off of the controls of the magnetocycle.
*Alive?* How? That was a plasma reactor, and the EMP from a point-blank plasma burst should have roasted his data core./
[‘Xiphos was never here; Saru skimmed my memories of her, and has been using her as a disguise to cover his actions. Namely, killing me in some inventive and painful method because his sense of logic and rationality has gone completely rampant.]
”When the hell did Saru have a chance to skim your memories?”
Susan’s reply was incredulous, but Hera’s contained a note of knowing and disproving suspicion.
\Underestimated our mutual friend when you connected in his cell, now?/
There was a pause, but then Susan’s reply came through, dripping with what Ajax’s social driver predicted as subdued fury despite the lack of assigned inflection to her message.
”God. Fucking. Dammit, Ajax. So, like, let me get this straight: you are literally the reason that a mad AI has been trying to murder us, and has caused millions of credits of damage to the infrastructure of an alien civilization who, by the fucking way, aren’t even sure if they want to be established allies with Earth yet?”
Sullenly, his tallying algorithm concurred with the fuzzy memory and predictive meta-social programs he had spooled up, and returned an affirmative result to Susan’s accusation.
[That about covers it.]
\Don’t forget that he’s now back up on that asteroid, and the last tally of their warmech roster was what, 4 more of the things?/
[5, not counting the one that blew itself to shit earlier].
[We need to head these off. We know they’ll be coming; it’s just a matter of time. However, we don’t know where yet.]
”I’ve still got a basket of high-ranking bugs wanting to know exactly where your ass is so they can send a cruise torpedo down your exhaust manifold. What the hell am I supposed to tell them?”
Ajax paused, bringing back up a loose collaborative net of prediction programs, adding and removing routines from his query as he considered the few facts they knew.
Xiphos-no, Saru seems fixated on making me suffer. Assassination in the market didn’t work, rogue war-mech didn’t work, incineration on re-entry didn’t work. So what is he up to now?
[Processing…]
[Observation: Latter activities following pattern of terrorism, namely antagonism of Lilutrikvian public and official opinions. Prediction: Activities focused on creating strong response against responsible individual.]
Shit. And at the end of the day, I'm the responsible individual.
At least, that's how he can frame it as with little effort.
He ignored the footnote indication from the predictive web that he was actually the responsible individual when one considered the root causes as well. Ajax dismissed the cluster of programs from the prediction net he had scrounged together, and instead redirected the query.
Assuming intent to cause anti-cogent terrorist attacks, what target would be most likely to induce strongest Lilutrikvian response?
[Processing…]
[Observation: Saru’s attacks are not suicidal in nature, suggesting desire for self-preservation and desire for eventually leaving planet. Prediction: Target will be largest public structure possible, excluding any spaceports required for escape from Lilutrikvia. Target will be the LSF Spire in Hive Silu-Prime, 66% confidence. Arterial shuttleports in adjacent cities will remain open and accessible even when Silu-Prime shuttleport will be closed for security protocols following the attack]
Smart. The possible options for escape are too numerous to be easily countered or predicted, and if Saru is even half as good as Xiphos was at frame-hopping, he’ll be damn near impossible to lock down if we do need to give chase.
Ajax dismissed the prediction net entirely as the number of possibilities threatened to balloon far beyond what they could anticipate or adequately tackle.
[Sue, Hera: Saru’s most likely planning to attack the LSF Spire. Cause some mayhem, get the bugs as pissed at me as possible, and then flee via a shuttleport at an adjacent city while I get the blame.]
There was a slight pause as Susan replied.
”Holy shit.”
”I can let them know, if you think it would help. Try to frame it as a rogue AI, the “hacker” we were looking for earlier, see if we can preemptively shift the blame off of you.”
Ajax nodded, then caught himself and instead replied affirmatively.
[Sounds good. Saru’s probably got contingency plans, but the sooner we can start to lay the groundwork to counter it, the better. Some anti-armor weaponry prepared ahead of time wouldn’t go amiss, even if it is last-minute.]
\And me? Let me borrow another of your toys from the Cube, and I can provide fire support./
[Fire support, yes, but not rocket launchers this time. Their armor just shrugged it off, and it took most of my stock of plasma warheads to cripple it. I’m thinking kinetic hits, carefully placed, may have more effect after all.]
A brief encoded message to and reply from the Cube later, and Ajax sent her over a schematic for a long-range precision Barolt Lancer 2Fx5M, a 5-meter railgun normally mounted to small vehicles or on wheeled gun carriages for towing.
[Think you can help me run antivirus interference while also landing shots with that beauty?]
In reply, Hera just sent over a timestamped video clip, no audio. It was a little over a century ago, and in the dust of some green-tinged dune strewn with green and iridescent metallic crystals, Hera steadied a standard meter-long railgun at a near-45-degree angle. The video clip didn’t show the calculations he knew she was doubtlessly doing, but she still barked off three shots.
Ajax remembered those shots, as he was, at the time, sitting in about three rough pieces a mile away in the remains of their crashed shuttle and surrounded by the bandits who had blown him apart. The pair of humans and pair of cogents were wary, but unprepared for the three shots out of nowhere. The first smashed one cogent to scrap along the middle of their entire torso, the second turned the shoulder and large part of the upper torso of one of the humans to a concave and pulverized ruin, and the third bisected the power plant of the last cogent. She stumbled for a moment, before detonating in a small green fireball.
He had been as impressed then as he was now; he had known she had to make the shot based on the quick schematic snapshot he’d been able to send her before the cogents had squelched his outgoing transmission band, but this was the first time he’d seen just how far she’d been at the time.
While he had half-expected the video file to cut off there, it still continued. Ajax could feel the slight annoyance from the personal cluster of his social driver and memory bank subnode.
Well, if she wants to show off a little, who am I to argue. We’re still a half-hour away from the Cube in any case.
The video feed from Hera’s memory files pinged an alert, from himself at the time, and Ajax watched as he focused as best as he could on the bandit who had lost nerve and began running. There was again a pause as Hera watched the video, arced the rail-rifle, made a brief and exact adjustment down and to the side, and then fired.
The running figure continued for a solid second, before his pelvis disappeared in a resounding crack and his mangled remains stumbled and fell to the side. Then the video file ended, as did Ajax’s corresponding memory files he’d been queueing alongside the video.
[Point taken.]
Even with all of the stress his social driver predicted Susan was now under, he could still detect the unspoken curiosity as her message popped up.
”So if Hera gets a big gun, what do you get?”
Ajax sent a prompt to the Cube before he replied, receiving a terse acknowledgement in return.
[Message received from contact [CUBE]. Message body: Acknowledged; beginning fusion reactor ignition sequence. Message ends.]
[That’s for me to know, and for Saru to find out.]
Returning to the warehouse for the third time, Ajax could feel the flood of information unlock as the location-encoded hash code was accepted and the inventory list of the Cube was unlocked before. He sent a set of instructions over, and as they idled the magnetocycle near the shipping container, a panel unlocked and swung open. Sliding out came the barrel of the railgun for Hera, but she cocked her apical node as it clicked loudly and multiple times before an internal support pin was finally withdrawn and the full weight fell into her waiting arms.
Hera’s message to Ajax as he stepped past the threshold of the Cube was both concerned, curious, and slightly impressed.
\Ajax, was that railgun actually integrated into the Cube?/
He didn’t turn as he began turning switches and checking readouts around the back of the Cube, but instead sent her a robotic cartoon thumbs-up.
[Figured the chances of it and possibly me being blown out into void was better than even odds at some point in our operational lifespans, so I took some precautions.]
He paused, looking again over re-remembered schematics, and ignoring a paranoid node fretting about revealing these details to someone who wasn’t encrypting the information.
Hell, it’s a small chance anyone could ever best Hera and take the information from her, and if it gets to that point, I’m in a whole lot more shit than someone just knowing I’m a paranoid metal bastard.
[There’s also a scrapped quarter-kilometer-rated hemisphere shield, some vectored ionic pulse engines, and technically all of the parts to cobble together a small blink emitter that has a range of what I was told was ten lightyears, but probably only more like five if I want to end up arriving in anything but a rapidly-expanding cloud of gas.]
Hera replied with an image of a laughing and tutting cartoon robot as Ajax leaned over and tapped a diagnostic panel, letting out a binary snort of annoyance when nothing happened, and again after he whacked it with the side of his hand: the percussive maintenance then caused the display to flicker and display the refreshed information.
\Ajax, only you would be paranoid enough to turn that armory into a honest-to-goodness jump-capable spacecraft./
[Eh, I wouldn’t go that far: It can’t even get off the ground under its own power at the moment.]
He tried and failed to let his GOM and combat readiness programs add a dozen or so points of Pride to his reply as he continued.
[Besides, reactor in here is tiny, and can only power two of the three systems between shields, weapons, and engines. The blink emitter too depends on if the damn Alcubierre coils haven’t degraded, as exotic matter is damned expensive to replace without drowning in paperwork, red tape, and unwanted questions.]
A set of diagnostics finally displayed green, and a corresponding set of stress, wear, and fusion induction calculations on his internal calculations flashed green, or at least acceptable shades of yellow, and he sat into the webbed seat on the one wall of the Cube.
[In any case, the reactor is going to be preoccupied here in a moment.]
Gonna feel good to stretch my legs again.
[Uh, Hera, you might want to take a few paces back. I was in a rush when I prepped the breach and cutting charges, and I don’t want you to get winged by anything.]
He could hear her running backwards over the whines and hums of warming and preparing components. After she sent him an ‘All Clear’ indication marker, he loaded a program he’d written years ago, and used only a few times since.
Execute ‘CanOpener_v4.8.46.59’
[Executing…]
Roaring echoed around the edges of the shipping container, as cables of C4 he’d laid along them cut through the edges of the container. There was a thump as the roof fell a foot or so onto the reinforced plating he’d laid on the top of the Cube, with the corrugated metal roof separated from the extra plating by a set of six evenly-spaced bundles of yet-more C4 clustered on one side of the Cube. The walls groaned as they teetered, and fell away to land heavily on the floor.
A second later, a thunderclap shook the Cube, as the charges on the roof flung the top of the shipping container aside, the 1500 kilograms of metal with a crunching rumble. The Cube’s roof was barely scorched, while the roof was twisted and bent rom the blast.
Wait, why did it make a crunching noise? This warehouse was empty apart from some stuff in the distant corner, Hera, myself, and-
[Warning: Connection ‘Hendee_M1350_SN23122090’ reports substantial damage. Operational ability reported as [Nil] pending substantial repairs.]
Oh. Guess I might have gotten carried away with those roof charges.
Hera’s voice echoed in the aftermath of the clanking mayhem.
UH, I’M GUESSING YOU DID NOT INTEND TO JUST SMASH YOUR MAGNETOCYCLE, AND BY EXTENSION OUR RIDE TO THE SPIRE?
He could feel his GOM driver spool up to spit something a bit more pointed back, but his social driver squelched that and instead composed an alternate response.
NO, BUT WE’VE STILL GOT A RIDE.
There was a creaking rumble as the roof sections of the Cube accordion-folded aside, clearing Ajax to the musty light of the warehouse above, the dust from the earlier explosions still settling.
Alright, time to see if it’s still like riding a really big bicycle.
He sent a series of impulses down the control spine along the back of his seat, and a set of bulky legs rotated and braced the feet as the wide, flat toes clacked into place. A few of his firearms were jostled, and here and there a grenade or magazine fell off the racks, but overall the reinforcing and bracing he’d added the last few times did its job and made sure that the mech caused little damage as it got to its feet. Servos whined in protest as they fought to bring the six-meter suit to its full standing height, but once it did the gyroscope below his seat kicked into gear, steadying his stance.
He bent down, the suit’s free left arm grabbing the right arm from where it was still folded opposite of the cockpit he had entered, and reached up to attach it to the waiting empty socket on his suit’s armored shoulder. The three-meter barrel slid up from the recess along the floor of the Cube, and Ajax slid it into place as the stubby munitions-feed in the barrel-shaped housing swung into place over his right shoulder. The feed line indicated a full green across all metrics, and his side lenses saw the feed of massive caseless rounds slide along the metal housing before clicking smoothly into place.
\Wow. Went out and bought yourself this little toy at some point in the last decade or so, I assume? Now I know why you were so shy about letting me take a peek inside./
She turned her apical node to look at her own railgun that was nearly half the height of Ajax in the mech suit.
\I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed you didn’t have one of those in there for me too./
His predictive space readouts produced an interesting proposition in response to her comment, as his disused but still-effective financial analysis and trading application showed him his most recent set of fundings.
It’s still not quite enough, but maybe after a few more jobs that might be in the realm of possibility.
[Maybe next time. For now, you at least get to blow some holes in something with that.]
Hera set him a picture of a cartoon robot with a sadisticly-wide grin, as he turned to jolt his left arm forward and back. He felt the click-CLACK of the focusing crystal and housing slide into place.
Those synthetic sapphire crystals are expensive, delicate, and can slag if you don’t take care to avoid running unpulsed beams through them, but it’s hard to get anything with more cutting power at a distance.
His fuzzy memory files brought up a reminder of their effectiveness at nearly a quarter mile, as he had danced and dodged attacks from another suited mech, this one an autonomous defense drone. His attacks had been like doing surgery in a knife fight, as the missiles and slugs of his opponent pelted his armor, but eventually he finished the last of a trio of difficult cuts, and had the satisfaction of seeing a full three cycles of hesitation as the front plate of primary armor slid off of the housing around the power core, before he blew a smoking hole through both it and both of the batteries behind it with a single wide railround.
As he stepped out of the Cube, the roof folded back into place, a sound like clicking raindrops as hundreds of small interlocks re-engaged, and louder clacks as the primary support locks fell back into place as well. The first rays of true sunlight had began to streak in through the warehouse windows, painting the roof of the Cube a ruddy yellow-read, and highlighting in relief the etched dragon, claw outstretched and grasping in a black almost the same shade and hue as the dense material of the Cube itself.
[Enyo-class personal mechanized exoarmor, serial number 5468-7573-5370-616b-6554-6865-5468-756e-6465-727d, reporting full power and combat functionality.]
Then he stepped away, past Hera and into the light. He paused, turning back and stepping back into the warehouse to lift the roof of the container off of the battered remains of the magnetocycle. However, despite the feeling of loss rumbling across his neural web his repair outlines were showing that the vehicle’s damage, while extensive, were not beyond fixing.
Replace most of the parts, and it’s as good as new. Of course, that brings up the age-old question of if it’s even the old cycle at all, or a brand-new bike.
His GOM driver spurred a wave of empathy across his nodes, an almost-alien emotion from the crotchety program.
A lot like me, in that regard.
Striding back out from the warehouse, Ajax stopped and tilted the cockpit to face Hera. She got the hint, and climbed up the set of recessed handgrips on the side of the plating, crouching to perch on his shoulder like a malevolent bird of prey.
A single message queued up from Hera: all text, with no image attached.
\Let’s go hunting./
Chapter Thirty Seven: Initiate Scenario
submitted by darkPrince010 to HFY [link] [comments]

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