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Robert Triggs / Android Authority

We’re three months on from the launch of the Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, and it’s been far from smooth sailing to say the least. Between an iffy fingerprint scanner, dubious charging metrics, and a completely broken December update, the phone doesn’t look as well polished as it did at its premiere. Some are quickly falling out of love with Google’s latest flagship.

A rocky start will hardly come as a surprise if you’ve followed any of Google’s hardware launches over the past decade. The company has rightly earned a reputation for hit and miss hardware; the Pixel 6 is simply the latest in a long list of troubled devices that are by no means limited to smartphones. While launches do occasionally slip up, we’d certainly expect better from Google, especially when spending up to $1,099 on the 512GB Pixel 6 Pro model.

Google Pixel: A history of caveats

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The Pixel 6 Pro gets a lot right in the hardware department, in fact, it is Google’s best flagship package to date. But between the fingerprint scanner, good but not astounding cameras, limited 5G mmWave support, and performance that’s slightly behind industry leaders, the Pixel 6 Pro’s hardware was never in the same league as the most expensive handsets in the business. With software acting as Google’s unique selling point, bungled updates are the last thing the phone needs.

Looking back, we can make similar complaints about Google’s other premium-tier Pixels. The $999 Pixel 4 XL had poor battery life, limited storage, and its Soli radar unique selling point was poorly utilized. It also prevented the phone from being sold in India, a key market for Google. Not to mention a camera package that was already falling behind the flexibility of its rivals.

Affordable phones done right

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Turning to Google’s more affordable portfolio, it’s stacked to the rafters with highly recommended phones. The $299 Pixel 3a introduced budget phone consumers to Google’s camera prowess and software ecosystem, albeit with a compromise on waterproofing and wireless charging. But while other budget manufacturers often forgot about their phones once they left the factory, Google offered a flagship-tier update pledge that made its phone a much better long-term purchase.

Google perfected this formula with the Pixel 4a, bundling an excellent display, camera, and more memory for a very reasonable $350, while the 4a 5G cost $499. It was certainly as good a pick as Apple’s $399 iPhone SE, which was 2023’s hot seller. The more recent Google Pixel 5a and 5a 5G (pictured above) continue a similar trend, mixing solid hardware with excellent value.

Related: Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5 — What’s the difference and should you upgrade?

The value for money and subsequent success of Google’s more affordable products have earned it a lot of goodwill from both customers and pundits. But it only takes one poor release to undo years of praise.

Why does Google insist on trying premium?

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Getting to the heart of the matter, Google’s mid-range phones offer a little bit of everything you want. Decent enough performance, a good camera, solid battery life, and update support that will last pretty much as long as you intend to keep the phone. All at a price that won’t break the bank. But the same can’t be said for its premium phones, which haven’t quite had the best performance, camera, charging, or other bells and whistles. So why doesn’t Google double down on what it’s good at and focus exclusively on the mid-tier?

See also: Google Pixel 6a — all the rumors

Ultimately, Google still feels the need to be seen competing with the high-end players, particularly in the US where premium brand recognition is king. Apple is cementing its lead with this strategy and Google doesn’t want to be seen as the “cheap” option, even though that’s probably already the case. Although the Pixel 6 Pro might not be absolutely cutting-edge, it’s still a showcase for Android 12 and what Google can do with a bigger budget. Not forgetting that it gets pundits talking about the phone’s unique features, such as live transcription and Magic Eraser, which are also available on the more affordable Pixel 6. Would the industry pay as much attention to Google if it only sold budget phones? Probably not.

A half-baked high-profile release isn’t worth damaging Google’s affordable handset reputation.

One day, Google may defy history and nail a flawless premium-tier smartphone. With its new custom processor and its unique vision for machine learning integration, Google is still clearly in the same league as Apple and Samsung in terms of innovation. But premium products have to offer an uncompromised high-end experience too. Even though we’re five premium Pixels in, Google still has a lot to learn.

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What Is A Virtual Machine? (Why And When To Use It)

If you work in or around the software industry, you have probably heard of virtual machines. If not, you may be wondering what they are and what they are used for.

As a software engineer, I use virtual machines daily. They’re potent tools in software development, but they have other uses as well. Also known as VMs, many businesses use them because of their flexibility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness; they also prevent disasters from runaway software testing.

Let’s take a look at what virtual machines are and why they are used.

What is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine is an instance of an operating system (OS) such as Windows, Mac OS, or Linux running within the main OS of a computer.

Typically, it runs in an app window on your desktop. A virtual machine has full functionality and acts like a separate computer or machine. In essence, a virtual machine is a virtual computer running inside another computer known as the host machine.

Image 1: Virtual Machine running on a laptop.

A virtual machine doesn’t have hardware (memory, hard drive, keyboard, or monitor). It uses simulated hardware from the host machine. Because of this, multiple VMs, also referred to as “guests,” can be run on a single host machine.

Image 2: Host machine running multiple VMs.

The host can also run multiple VMs with different operating systems, including Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. This capability depends on software called a hypervisor (see Image 1 above). The hypervisor runs on the host machine and allows you to create, configure, run, and manage virtual machines.

The hypervisor allocates disk space, schedules processing time, and manages memory usage for each VM. This is what applications like Oracle VirtualBox, VMware, Parallels, Xen, Microsoft Hyper-V, and many others do: they are hypervisors.

A hypervisor can run on a laptop, PC, or server. It makes virtual machines available to the local computer or users distributed across a network.

Different types of virtual machines and environments require different types of hypervisors. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Types of Virtual Machines

System Virtual Machines

System VMs, sometimes called full virtualization, are run by a hypervisor and provide the functionality of an actual computer system. They use the host’s native operating system to manage and share system resources.

System virtual machines often require a powerful host with fast or multiple CPUs, large amounts of memory, and tons of disk space. Some, which run on personal or laptop computers, may not require the computing power that big enterprise virtual servers need; however, they’ll run slow if the host system is not adequate.

Process Virtual Machines

Process Virtual Machines are quite different from SVMs—you may have them running on your machine and not even know it. They are also known as application virtual machines or managed runtime environments (MREs). These virtual machines run inside a host operating system and support applications or system processes.

Why use a PVM? They perform services without being dependent on specific operating systems or hardware. They have their own little OS with only the resources they need. The MRE is in a separate environment; it doesn’t matter if it runs on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, or any other host machine.

One of the most common Process Virtual Machines is one that you have probably heard of and may have seen running on your computer. It is used to run Java applications and is called the Java Virtual Machine or JVM for short.

Types of Hypervisors

Most of the virtual machines that we are concerned with use a hypervisor because they emulate an entire computer system. There are two different types of hypervisors: Bare Metal Hypervisors and Hosted Hypervisors. Let’s take a quick look at both of them.

Bare Metal Hypervisor

BMHs may also be called native hypervisors, and they run directly on the host’s hardware instead of running within the host’s operating system. In fact, they take the place of the host’s operating system, scheduling and managing hardware use by each virtual machine, thus cutting out the “middle man” (the host’s OS) in the process.

Native hypervisors are normally used for large-scale enterprise VMs, which companies use to provide employees with server resources. Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services are VMs hosted on this type of architecture. Other examples are KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware vSphere.

Hosted Hypervisor

Hosted hypervisors run on standard operating systems—just like any other application that we run on our machines. They use the host’s OS to manage and distribute resources. This type of hypervisor is better suited for individual users who need to run multiple operating systems on their machines.

These include applications like Oracle VirtualBox, VMware Workstations, VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop, and many others. You can find more detailed information about hosted hypervisors in our article, Best Virtual Machine Software.

Why Use Virtual Machines?

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a virtual machine is, you can probably think of some excellent applications. Here are some of the top reasons people use virtual machines.

1. Cost-Effective

Virtual machines are cost-effective in numerous situations. One of the most prominent is in the corporate world. Using physical servers to provide resources for employees can be very expensive. The hardware is not cheap, and maintaining it is even more costly.

The use of virtual machines as enterprise servers has now become the norm. With VMs from a provider like MS Azure, there are no initial hardware purchases and no maintenance fees. These VMs can be set up, configured, and used for just pennies an hour. They can also be shut down when not being used and incur no cost at all.

2. Scalable and Flexible

Whether they are enterprise servers or VMs running on your laptop, virtual machines are scalable. It’s easy to adjust the resources to fit your needs. If you need more memory or hard disk space, just go into the hypervisor and reconfigure the VM to have more. There’s no need to purchase new hardware, and the process can be completed rapidly.

3. Quick setup

A new VM can be set up quickly. I have had cases where I needed a new VM setup, called my co-worker who manages them, and had them ready to use in less than an hour.

4. Disaster Recovery

If you are trying to prevent data loss and prepare for disaster recovery, VMs can be a terrific tool. They are easy to back up and can be distributed in different locations if needed. If a third party like Microsoft or Amazon hosts the virtual machines, they will be off-site—which means your data is safe if your office burns down.

5. Easy to Reproduce

Most hypervisors allow you to make a copy, or image, of a VM. Imaging lets you easily spin up exact reproductions of the same base VM for any situation.

In the environment that I work in, we give every developer a VM to use for development and testing. This process allows us to have an image configured with all the needed tools and software. When we have a new developer onboarding, all we have to do is make a copy of that image, and they have what they need to get working.

6. Perfect for Dev/Test

They allow a tester to have a clean new environment for every test cycle. I have worked on projects where we set up automated test scripts that create a new VM, install the latest software version, run all required tests, then delete the VM once the tests have completed.

VMs work splendidly for product testing and reviews like the ones we do here at chúng tôi I can install apps in a VM running on my machine and test them without cluttering my primary environment.

When I am done testing, I can always delete the virtual machine, then create a new one when I need it. This process also allows me to test on multiple platforms even though I only have a Windows machine.

Final Words

As you can see, virtual machines are a cost-efficient, versatile tool that can be used for many applications. No longer do we need to purchase, setup, and maintain expensive hardware to provide server access for testers, developers, and others. VMs give us the flexibility to easily and quickly create the operating systems, hardware, and environments we need—at any time.

What Makes A Smart Developer? (Is It Google?)

“But I can just Google it.”

I was staring across my desk at a mop-haired young man who was interviewing for a Java software developer position on my team. He was responding to a question about memory management, but he wasn’t really answering the question.

He hemmed and hawed for a few seconds and that’s when he blurted his Google answer.

This young gun obviously didn’t know the answer to my question. Yet from his perspective there was a feeling of “who cares?” because the answer could always be Googled.

(Doesn’t “Googled” sound better than “Binged” – which is actually a real word with bad connotations? Something Microsoft overlooked in their focus groups! But I digress…)

Back to the young man sitting in my office. Actually, “young dude” would be more appropriate. He showed up to the interview in sandals, baggy pants, and a very colorful button-down shirt with a skinny tie.

(Is that even appropriate, even in the casual world of software development?Sure, our company had a casual dress culture, but I was always taught to dress conservatively for an interview because you can’t change a first impression. Sorry, I digressed again.)

My goal when interviewing a developer is not just to see how smart they are, but whether they’ll be a fit for our culture and work well within our team. Not that fitting is enough – they need real skills. If someone is a great guy (or gal), but can’t answer a moderately tough question – like “what ‘s the best algorithm to maintain a free list for heap-based dynamic memory allocation?” – then they won’t receive a job offer.

Is this unreasonable? Upon further reflection, maybe it is.

When I was first interviewing for jobs as an IBM mainframe developer, I took many written tests about COBOL, JCL and CICS. I knew going in that there would be a test, so I prepared for it.

And in one case, I had a headhunter provide me with a sample test. I simply memorized the answers. And, lo and behold, when I sat down to take the actual test I was pleasantly surprised: it was identical to the so-called “sample test” the recruiter had provided.

Well, I aced it and got the job offer. And I felt no guilt because in my mind I remember thinking “but I can just look it up anyway.” Hmmm, I think I had a good point.

Now, how different was that from this Johnny-developer sitting across from me with his Google answer? Why memorize anything when you can easily look it up?

He was actually being more honest about it, wasn’t he?

There was no World Wide Web when I was interviewing for those jobs back in age of “big iron.” But we did have manuals and books. So I could and did look up basic syntax or solutions to tricky problems.

But my situation isn’t really comparing apples to apples. Here’s why.

Back in the day, if I came across a challenging problem during my design of a COBOL application, I’d get out my COBOL II manual and check the index. Let’s say, looking for examples of using reference modification (i.e. string manipulation).

I’d likely find it under “R” and see a bunch of page numbers that may or may not have what I’m looking for. I’d flip through those pages. If I didn’t find what I was looking for, I’d get out another book written by some COBOL expert and go through the same index search.

And if I didn’t find the answer there, I’d get in my car and go to the library or bookstore to continue my search.

One thing we did have was email, so I could also email a bunch of my colleagues to see if they had recommendations. But I had to wait on their responses and in those days people weren’t constantly checking email.

My point is that this process could take a very long time, taking a big chunk out of my productivity.

Today, Johnny-developer can simply Google “reference modification examples” – and presto!I did this for kicks and found The University of Limerick computer science department provided a few good examples. That’s fitting, given that Saint Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. But I needed no Irish luck to find this answer. I needed only Google.

So maybe Johnny-developer’s Googling answer was the right one. Perhaps asking direct questions about syntax or other such things that can be easily referenced online is not the best approach to determine how smart a developer is.

What I really needed to know is: can Johnny-developer use logic to solve problems on his own and as part of a team, while showing true understanding of the platform he’ll be working on?

Domain Age: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

Does Google favor older, established domains in its search results?

These are just a couple of the questions surrounding domain age as a ranking factor – a topic that has been hotly contested and debated during the past two decades.

We know that Google at least considered it as part of a document scoring algorithm at one point in time.

Read on to learn whether domain age is really a Google search ranking factor.

The Claim: Domain Age As A Ranking Factor

The claim here is twofold:

The longer Google has had a domain in its index, the more it will benefit your search ranking.

The longer the domain is registered, the more it will benefit your search ranking.

Basically, here’s the argument:

Let’s say you registered two domains, one in 2010 and the other in 2023. Until three months ago, you never published a piece of content on either site.

That means Google will consider the 2010 domain “stronger” – simply because it was registered more than 10 years prior to the second site, and it should have an easier time ranking.

Does that seem logical?

The Evidence For Domain Age As A Ranking Factor

Back in 2007, some folks in SEO believed domain age to be one of the top 10 most important ranking factors.

More recently, some have pointed to this Matt Cutts video as “proof” domain age is a Google ranking factor.

Why?

Because in it, Cutts said: “The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one-year-old is really not that big at all.”

To some, this makes it sound like Google uses domain age as a ranking signal – although perhaps not a very important one.

The Evidence Against Domain Age As A Ranking Factor

The thing is, that video is from 2010.

And here’s what else Cutts actually said:

Registrar data doesn’t matter at all. It’s too difficult to gather and Google doesn’t have access to enough of it for it to be a reliable signal.

What Google was able to measure was when the site was first crawled and when the site was first linked to by another site.

Even then, he stated,

“The fact is it’s mostly the quality of your content and the sort of links that you get as a result of the quality of your content that determine how well you’re going to rank in the search engines.”

A 2005 patent application called “Information retrieval based on historical data” by Matt Cutts, Paul Haahr, and several others gives us a bit more insight into how Google perceived these domain signals at the time.

The patent outlined a method of identifying a document and assigning it a score composed of different types of data about its history.

This data included:

Information about its inception date.

Elapsed time measured from the inception date.

The manner and frequency in which the content of the document changes over time.

An average time between the changes, a number of changes in a time period, and a comparison of a rate of change in a current time period with a rate of change in a previous time period.

At least one of the following: the number of new pages associated with the document within a time period, a ratio of a number of new pages associated with the document versus a total number of pages associated with the document, and a percentage of the content of the document that has changed during a time period.

The behavior of links relate to at least one of appearance and disappearance of one or more links pointing to the document

There’s a lot more, but already you can see this patent was never only about domain age.

There are elements of links and content quality/freshness in here, too.

Domain age may have been a factor back then. But there’s no clear evidence it was a direct ranking factor so much as a weak signal inside of a more comprehensive document history score (and that was/maybe still is the ranking factor… maybe).

In any case, John Mueller has been clear on this one:

Domain Age As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Google has said domain age is not a ranking factor – and we have no reason to doubt them on this one.

How long you register your domain doesn’t matter to Google’s search algorithm.

Buying old domains won’t help you rank faster or higher. In fact, you could inherit junk links or other negative associations that could hurt your SEO efforts.

But again, that’s not purely because of the age – it’s what happened to that domain during those years.

Bottom line: Google does not use domain age as a direct search ranking signal.

Featured image: Paulo Bobita

When The Best Tool For The Job Is An Animal

After DARPA announced, somewhat sheepishly, that after $19 billion and six years of research, they had concluded that the best bomb-detecting device is a dog, we got to thinking: what other instances are there in which you’d reach not for a traditional tool, but for an animal? These eight examples range from the medical to the military to the culinary fields, but all have one thing in common: there’s no better tool for the job than an animal.

Dolphins of War

The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP), based in San Diego, CA, began in 1960 when the military examined the Pacific White-sided Dolphin, trying to figure out the secret to its hydrodynamic body with the aim of improving torpedo performance. (Given 1960s technology, the NMMP never managed to solve the puzzle.) That later expanded to other marine mammals of the Pacific, especially other dolphins and California sea lions, which led to the discovery that these animals are not only trainable but fairly reliable even while untethered in the open ocean. NMMP has been a controversial program, but the Navy insists that the program complies with all available statutes, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. The NMMP also states that, despite rumors, marine mammals have never and will never be used as weapons themselves. No attack dolphins. So what does the NMMP do now? Dolphins are used as undersea mine detectors, even finding more than 100 in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War in 2003. Dolphins and sea lions are used as sentries to find and alert the military to unauthorized swimmers and divers, and sea lions are used to retrieve objects from the ocean depths (at this they outperform human and robotic swimmers by a fair margin).

Mites in Your Cheese

Porcine/Canine Mercenaries

Truffles, of the black French variety from Perigord as well as the white Italian version, are renowned for both their enticing flavor and aroma, and the heart-attack-inducing prices they can bring. Considering they can fetch thousands of dollars a pound, making truffles one of the most expensive natural objects on the planet, you might expect that science has devised all kinds of amazing, high-tech ways to find the pungent mushrooms beneath the ground. But you’d be wrong. The two main tools used to find truffles? Pigs and dogs. Truffle hogs are have been the traditional truffle-hunting tool of choice for hundreds of years–their strong sense of smell and apparent deep love of truffles makes them ideal tools for the job. Studies have indicated that a chemical in mature truffles is also found in the musk of male pigs and boars when in heat, so sows will make a beeline for any mature truffles they can find. But despite the romantic image of a Frenchman walking his truffle pig through the forests of Perigord, pigs haven’t really been in use for quite a few decades. Dr. Charles Lefevre, president and founder of New World Truffieres and the Oregon Truffle Festival, as well as one of the foremost truffle experts in North America, notes that there are quite a few reasons pigs have been replaced by man’s best friend. Aside from the basic problem that pigs, unlike dogs, will try to eat the truffles before a human can snatch them up, “pigs don’t have all that much stamina,” says Lefevre, “and they’re less inclined to try to please their handlers.” Then there’s the modern-day oddness of transporting a pig around. “Truffle-hunting is always a surreptitious activity–you don’t want other people to know about it,” says Lefevre, who compares it to hunting for hundred-dollar bills in the forest. “It’s a lot harder to transport a pig around, and people will know what you’re doing if you’re walking a pig.” Dogs have taken prominence in truffle-hunting–they have to be trained, unlike pigs, but it doesn’t seem especially difficult. One breed, the lagotto romagnolo (which is related to poodles and water dogs), has been long bred for truffle-hunting, though the Oregon Truffle Festival offers training for all sorts of dogs. Essentially, you just have to imprint the dog with the smell, and reward them for finding truffles. “People use all sorts of breeds,” says Lefevre. “The individual dog is much more important.” But why, in 2011, are we still using dogs? Surely we can plant truffles, or at the very least use machines to find them, right? The problem, says Lefevre, is that truffles are “like a tomato: they take a long time to ripen, and they ripen at different times.” And an unripe–“immature,” in truffle-speak–truffle is “worthless in cooking.” So the dog’s role “isn’t really to find truffles, but to pick the truffles that are ripe.” There are some artificial sensors that can detect the chemical compounds in truffles, but they’re nowhere near as effective as dogs, which can calculate location based on wind patterns and strength of scent, and, best of all, take you right to the site of the truffle. Mechanical devices are used like metal detectors–not nearly so efficient.

Pest Control

What’s the best way to get rid of an animal? To ask Dan Frankian, owner of Hawkeye, the answer is…another animal. Frankian is a licensed falconer and pest control expert, with four offices in the Toronto area. His main customers are city governments and airports, and they go to him for two main reasons: his methods of getting rid of animals (most often birds like seagulls and geese, but also skunks, beavers, raccoons, and more) are frequently more humane as well as more effective than other methods. And his methods rely heavily on raptors–birds of prey–and other animals. Pests aren’t just annoying; as we all learned from the Hudson River emergency airplane landing, birds can be a legitimate hazard, especially overpopulated species like gulls and geese. Parks and bodies of water can be swiftly polluted by geese, which excrete more than two pounds a day, and they often cause auto accidents. Modern methods of ridding areas of these pests often fall back on killing en masse with nets, which is kind of unpopular and gruesome, or using mechanical devices, often audio-based, to scare pests away. Frankian does, in a Bond-like way, have a rare “license to kill” from the Canadian government, but says it’s more effective to scare. “You can kill all of them, if you want,” he says. “They won’t learn. Scaring them is faster.” Frankian has an arsenal of more than 100 raptors, mostly hawks and falcons but also including a few owls and even three bald eagles (which he refers to as “the big bang in bird control”), as well as five dogs. He demonstrated his technique with Clara, a five-year-old Harris hawk, in this slideshow. Basically, he stakes out territory, flying the hawk around the entire area to be monitored (in this case a gull-infested landfill). “This basically tells every gull out there that this is no-no territory,” he says. Once a gull sees a raptor acting this way, marking its territory and even hunting a bird or two, it’s unlikely to come back–whereas a simple kill trap would remove gulls but not discourage them from coming back.

Sniffing Bombs

Human innovations are pretty good at replacing some of our senses, especially sight and hearing, with mechanical or electronic equipment. But one sense in which natural, organic versions outstrip human inventions by a laughable degree is that of scent. The Pentagon recently announced that after six years and a whopping $19 billion in spending, some of the world’s best scientists and engineers concluded that the best bomb-sniffing device is…a trained dog. The most sophisticated detectors ever invented can detect maybe 50% of IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. But a simple soldier accompanied by a trained dog can detect 80%. Dogs proved so efficient, in fact, that the Pentagon shifted this team’s focus from detecting bombs to simply disrupting them–radio jamming to mess with the frequencies used to detonate bombs, aerial sensors to scan bomb-heavy areas, that kind of thing. Dogs are ideal for this kind of work in the field, thanks to their physical endurance, easy trainability, and eagerness to please their handlers. But they’re not the only animals found to be far better at detecting explosives than anything we humans can come up with. In Israel, bomb-sniffing mice are being tested in airports, and early tests showed them detecting bombs 100% of the time.

Laboratory Testing

The Nose Knows

Sniffing isn’t restricted to bombs. As it turns out, the schnozzes (scientific terminology, look it up) of some animals are so delicate that they’re capable of smelling all kinds of things far beyond the reach of our puny proboscises, let alone any robotic sniffers we could create. It’s true: animals are capable of smelling disease. Earlier this year, we reported on the Gambian pouched rat, a giant rodent (about three feet long, including a long tail) that looks more like a hamster, with its cheek pouches and white tummy as well as its intelligent and friendly disposition. But, as Belgian Bart Weetjens figured out, the pouched rat’s amazing sense of smell and trainability would enable it to do much more than serve as an exotic pet (or, if we’re being honest, an occasional invasive species). Weetjens started APOPO, an NGO that uses these rats as both bomb sniffers and disease sniffers. As bomb sniffers, the rats (or as they’re known in-house, HeroRATS) are well-suited: they’re native to sub-Saharan Africa, where they’re often deployed; they have a long lifespan at 6-8 years; and are trained to work for food, rather than a bond with a handler, as dogs do, which means they can be swapped to different handlers without losing efficiency. They also are light enough to walk over buried land mines without triggering them, unlike dogs. But it’s their abilities as disease sniffers that’s most amazing. Tuberculosis, a widespread and destructive disease, is especially prevalent in the developing world, and the only detection methods available are nearly a century old and notoriously unreliable. Typically, TB is found using a microscope to a stained sample of phlegm. But this method misses as many as 60 to 80 percent of cases, because there needs to be a very high number of the offending bacteria in the sample to spot. Even worse, microscopy is very slow, only able to sift through about 40 samples per day. The HeroRATS are better than this option in every conceivable way. Trained to spend longer at infected samples and scratch at them, they can test the same 40 samples in less than seven minutes. Not only that, but the rats were able to detect 44 percent more positive cases than microscopy. Plus, rats are cheap, especially compared to the newer, admittedly more accurate models endorsed by the World Health Organization. But the rats are affordable, far better than current options, and, come on, kind of adorable.

Medical Maggots

Maggots, which are actually fly larvae, earn a morbid reputation, as they feed on dead flesh. But before you pass judgment, remember that sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Maggots have been used for medical purposes since antiquity, and they’re still used today in certain cases. Maggot therapy, as it’s called, involves introducing maggots to an exposed area of flesh, where they will clean the area of necrotic, or dead, tissue while leaving the living tissue intact. Most recently, maggot therapy has received attention for its effectiveness in treating MRSA, a bacterium that’s resistant to most antibiotics and which often includes flesh-eating types, which can cause serious injury or death if untreated. Without the benefits of antibiotics, this bacteria can only be removed through invasive surgery, and that surgery is often imprecise; surgeons are simply not as good at identifying dead from living tissue, and any surgery to debride, or remove necrotic tissue, results in an unwanted loss of living tissue. As Professor Andrew Boulton of the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester, said at the time of that 2007 study: “Maggots are the world’s smallest surgeons. In fact they are better than surgeons. They are much cheaper and work 24 hours a day. They remove the dead tissue and bacteria, leaving the healthy tissue to heal. There is no reason this cannot be applied to many other areas of the body, except perhaps a large abdominal wound.” Even better, maggots actually secrete certain antibiotics that serve to disinfect the wound, and maggot secretions also include allantoin, a substance used in many cosmetics and toiletries as a skin-soothing ingredient. Modern use of medical maggots was reintroduced in 1989 as a last-ditch option to remove newly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A type of green bottle fly (pictured) larva is often used, marketed under the name “Medical Maggots,” and can be prescribed by any physician. The maggots are placed in either a cage or a ventilated pouch–they need oxygen to survive–and feed on the necrotic tissue. It’s a remarkably safe procedure; the maggots have no interest in living tissue, will stop feeding when full, and cannot reproduce, as they are of course in the larval stage. They do have some drawbacks; medical maggots have a short lifespan, cause what is described as an “uncomfortable tickling sensation” (though you have to believe that’s better than the alternative), can only be used in certain cases (a moist wound with available oxygen is essential), and of course some patients find the idea of medical maggots distasteful. In a 2008 study, maggot therapy was found to be just as effective as leading hydrogels used for debridement, and debridement was much faster. Morbid? Maybe. But it’s proven to be more effective than our best surgeons.

Ashes Of Creation Release Date: When It It Coming Out?

It’s been a long time since we saw a truly original MMORPG break through the genre’s increasingly stale and crusty exterior and reach new creative bounds. Promises have been made, hearts have been broken and disappointment has been aplenty in a genre overpopulated with auto-play, cheap gacha mechanics, and a seeming lack of will to see something new and novel.

Finally, all of that seems slated to change with Intrepid Studios’ highly anticipated Ashes of Creation. 

What is Ashes of Creation?

Ashes of Creation is quite possibly the most ambitious MMORPG project ever imagined (discounting notable scams) and one seemingly coming to fruition, slowly and steadily. The game is set to feature the most dynamic, energetic worldbuilding ever created through its unique Nodes mechanic, an absolutely gargantuan map, and one of the widest and thoughtfully developed spectrums of PvP and PvE content you’re likely to see for quite awhile.

Why is Everyone So Excited?

The Nodes mechanic is the source from which all of the incredible depth of Ashes of Creation flows. The almost 500km map is divided up into about 100 “nodes” that develop independently from one another and feature their own unique characteristics. As players spend time in a node, hunting, completing quests and other activities, it contributes towards that Node’s civilizational progress. On launch day, the world of Ashes of Creation will be utterly empty; but soon those empty, undeveloped Nodes will become villages, then towns, cities, and eventually a glorious, bustling metropolis. Other than a few starter cities, the entire world and everything in it will be entirely shaped by player activity.

And that’s just scratching the surface of the Node system. The way in which the Node develops is dependent on who develops it. If Orcish players contribute more towards a Node’s development, the next stage of civilization will take on an Orcish aesthetic, and so on and so forth with the other races. Nodes come in four types: Divine, Economic, Militaristic and Scientific Nodes, each of which have different effects on the landscape and content in its zone. Players can also be elected as mayors of nodes, responsible for their management and oversight, setting laws such as taxation and making management decisions regarding construction and Node development.

As a Node grows and develops, it directly impacts the direction the world takes. Dungeons, quests, events — everything depends on the Node, and not all Nodes can grow to maximum size nor are they ever static fixtures of the landscapes. Unlike other MMOs where major cities, landmarks, and areas are there to stay, that giant city on the hill or village hidden in the forest can be destroyed forever. Instead of a linear path that ends with the server being full of max-level nodes and nothing else to do, Nodes can be assaulted and everything in it sent to the afterlife. It’s pretty wild, there’s lots of reasons you might want to do that, and the large-scale player-driven means of accomplishing both developing and destroying a node involve mechanics of a magnitude hitherto unseen in any online game.

Again, this is just scratching the surface of just one mechanic at play in Ashes of Creation — albeit the most important one. And it sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder, when will Ashes of Creation be released?

With many MMORPG fans over the moon with what Ashes of Creation has the potential to become, the question reverberating throughout the internet is “when will Ashes of Creation come out?”

And the answer is, fortunately or unfortunately, not for a while. Despite several years of coverage and ongoing updates, the game is currently still in Alpha and we could easily be as far as two years from a real Ashes of Creation release date.

But don’t despair! There’s a lot to be positive about. Intrepid Studios has made a commitment to transparency throughout the process and is as engaged with the community as any MMORPG fan could ask for. The team has seemingly ramped up production this year too, with enormous amounts of in-game footage showing the successful operation of many of its ambitious mechanics from real-time Node development to player elections to PvP content.

There are even regular monthly live streams that players can tune into to see the latest in testing as it happens so you can make sure we don’t have another Chronicles of Elyria on our hands. Intrepid is incredibly open about their process. So much so, it seems to be a core principle of development; openness, regular feedback, and consistent engagement.

Ashes of Creation Price: Will It Be Free to Play?

Ashes of Creation will not be free to play, and will instead come with a $15 dollar a month subscription in the style of WoW. There will, however, not be a box price to purchase the game, and Intrepid has made a firm and repeated commitment that Ashes of Creation will always and forever be free of any traces of pay-to-win anywhere in the game. For further monetization, there will be an in-game store featuring only cosmetic items with no effect on gameplay whatsoever.

How to Follow Ashes of Creation Development

With intrepid ramping up development this year, and doling out larger and larger chunks of footage, it’s pretty easy to stay up to date on the goings on in the world of Ashes of Creation. If you’re as interested as everyone else in keeping a close eye on what’s happening with the game, considering donating or participating in testing, we’ve compiled a few useful links for you to check out.

There’s a No-NDA Alpha planned for later this year, meaning that content creators and testers will be able to release real in-game footage and present it in whatever way they want. So, if you’ve somehow managed to remain skeptical of any of Intrepid’s content thus far, keep your eyes peeled because before year’s end we should have an unvarnished look at where the game is and a better idea of how long we have to wait to step foot in the lands of Verra.

Pumped for Ashes of Creation? So are we! Make sure to follow along with us as we keep an eye on Ashes of Creation’s further development, and keep your fingers crossed that it lives up to its potential — because if it does, Ashes of Creation will be an MMORPG for the ages.

Special shoutout to TheLazyPeon, whose video on Ashes of Creation is a great place to learn more about the specific mechanics of the game, from Nodes to its combat system and developmental history.

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