Author Archive: Martha Lee

Building A Business In Boston: Seven Tips For Getting Started thumbnail

Building A Business In Boston: Seven Tips For Getting Started

Forbes Boston Business Council to discuss the things fellow entrepreneurs need to know when looking to start a company in Boston. Here is what they said:

Photos courtesy of the individual members

1. Build An Employee-Centric Culture

Boston is a competitive, talent-driven market for the best and the brightest. If you aren’t attentive to the needs of your team, they are constantly being recruited by startups and enterprises alike. Creating an employee-centric culture and making sure you are always on the efficient frontier of salary, upside and working environment is vital. – Ted ChanCareDash

2. Do As Much As You Can Yourself At First

In the beginning, you will probably have no revenue, so you have to spend wisely. If you can do the work yourself, do it. Reinvest big windfalls into tools you can use to grow the business. Learn how to work for 20 hours straight, then find out which of your friends are willing to work all night, eat breakfast and return to their normal job. My friends made my business what it is. – Matteo Forgione, P.E.Forgione Engineering, Inc.

Forbes Boston Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners in Greater Boston.
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3. Make Thoughtful, Strategic Connections Beyond The Business Community

One of the best things about Boston—it’s tight-knit community—can also make it tough to navigate for business newcomers. Don’t go it alone. Be thoughtful and strategic about the connections that can and will help grow your business. Think beyond customers and prospects to referral sources, elected/public officials, vendors, employees, funders, strategic partners and community nonprofits. – Sandy LishThe Castle Group

4. Invest In Marketing

My advice to a fellow entrepreneur starting a business in Boston would be to prioritize marketing within the community. We use Hubspot, based in Cambridge, for content media and inbound marketing. It has really helped us get noticed and stand out among the competition. Also, get involved with the community as much as possible through charity work, partnership, events and executive groups. – Joshua HebertMagellan Jets

5. Research Your Target Demographic

I discovered that there was a specific underserved demographic that goes with the tech industry and that’s why these minor programs I introduced were growing so quickly. I pivoted the business services to capture that demographic and it’s been steady growth ever since. If you are already established, find the underserved demographic and see how you can change your business to meet those needs. – Meghan GardnerGuard Up, Inc.

6. Reach Out To Graduates

For every business, its raw material is its qualified workforce, and Boston has that in abundance. Being a college town, you can expect fresh talent every year pouring into the city and help bolster the startup landscape in New England. – Syed GilaniSafr Technologies Inc

7. Attend Networking Events As Often As Possible

Boston is one of those places that is often referred to as the “other Bay Area” This means that it’s viewed as a buzzing metropolis for business and it offers a large range of networking opportunities across all the services you would need to procure to run a successful business. Don’t underestimate the power of networking in a city like Boston. You can attend a gathering every week. – Alex AdamopoulosEmergn Limited

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If you own or are looking to start a business, you likely know that you’ll face a lot of ups and downs during your entrepreneurial journey, especially during the beginning phases. Part of those challenges can come from figuring out how best to build your business in your city of choice. What is the best way to establish yourself locally, for instance, or find skilled employees to help your business grow and shine? And what should you be doing after starting the company, in order to help it grow?

To find out more, we asked members of Forbes Boston Business Council to discuss the things fellow entrepreneurs need to know when looking to start a company in Boston. Here is what they said:

Members discuss a few things to keep in mind when planning on starting a business in Boston.

Photos courtesy of the individual members

1. Build An Employee-Centric Culture

Boston is a competitive, talent-driven market for the best and the brightest. If you aren’t attentive to the needs of your team, they are constantly being recruited by startups and enterprises alike. Creating an employee-centric culture and making sure you are always on the efficient frontier of salary, upside and working environment is vital. – Ted ChanCareDash

2. Do As Much As You Can Yourself At First

In the beginning, you will probably have no revenue, so you have to spend wisely. If you can do the work yourself, do it. Reinvest big windfalls into tools you can use to grow the business. Learn how to work for 20 hours straight, then find out which of your friends are willing to work all night, eat breakfast and return to their normal job. My friends made my business what it is. – Matteo Forgione, P.E.Forgione Engineering, Inc.

3. Make Thoughtful, Strategic Connections Beyond The Business Community

One of the best things about Boston—it’s tight-knit community—can also make it tough to navigate for business newcomers. Don’t go it alone. Be thoughtful and strategic about the connections that can and will help grow your business. Think beyond customers and prospects to referral sources, elected/public officials, vendors, employees, funders, strategic partners and community nonprofits. – Sandy LishThe Castle Group

4. Invest In Marketing

My advice to a fellow entrepreneur starting a business in Boston would be to prioritize marketing within the community. We use Hubspot, based in Cambridge, for content media and inbound marketing. It has really helped us get noticed and stand out among the competition. Also, get involved with the community as much as possible through charity work, partnership, events and executive groups. – Joshua HebertMagellan Jets

5. Research Your Target Demographic

I discovered that there was a specific underserved demographic that goes with the tech industry and that’s why these minor programs I introduced were growing so quickly. I pivoted the business services to capture that demographic and it’s been steady growth ever since. If you are already established, find the underserved demographic and see how you can change your business to meet those needs. – Meghan GardnerGuard Up, Inc.

6. Reach Out To Graduates

For every business, its raw material is its qualified workforce, and Boston has that in abundance. Being a college town, you can expect fresh talent every year pouring into the city and help bolster the startup landscape in New England. – Syed GilaniSafr Technologies Inc

7. Attend Networking Events As Often As Possible

Boston is one of those places that is often referred to as the “other Bay Area” This means that it’s viewed as a buzzing metropolis for business and it offers a large range of networking opportunities across all the services you would need to procure to run a successful business. Don’t underestimate the power of networking in a city like Boston. You can attend a gathering every week. – Alex AdamopoulosEmergn Limited

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Jumpstart Your Android App UI With a Material Design Template thumbnail

Jumpstart Your Android App UI With a Material Design Template

Google’s Material Design is one of the few design languages that have managed to stand the test of time. It’s been around for over five years now, and still continues to enjoy widespread popularity among Android users. The Android platform’s SystemUI adheres to the guidelines of this design language, as do most popular apps available on Google Play today.

Although Material Design’s guidelines are well-documented and easy to understand, implementing them correctly using the Android SDK and AndroidX requires lots of careful coding and testing, primarily because you need to support multiple pixel densities, screen sizes, device orientations, and Android versions. By using MaterialX, however, you can save all that time and effort.

Developed by Envato Elite author Dream Space, MaterialX is a premium Material Design UI components library available on CodeCanyon. In addition to basic UI components such as buttons, cards, and sliders, it offers hundreds of unique, hand-crafted Material Design layouts you can directly start using in your apps. As such, while working with these layouts, you won’t have to worry about tasks such as positioning UI components, adjusting their margins and paddings, or even animating them.

Let us now take a closer look at what MaterialX has to offer.

1. Navigation Components

It is very important that you have an attractive interface that allows users to move from one screen of your app to another. Material Design lists several components you can use to build such an interface, and MaterialX has implementations for all of them.

The most popular such component these days is the bottom navigation bar. MaterialX currently offers eight beautiful bottom navigation bars for you to choose from. Here are two such bars:

Sample bottom navigation bars

If you prefer using sliding drawers instead, this template gives you several options, all of which are geared towards different types of apps. For instance, if you’re building a news app, you can use the Drawer News component. Similarly, if you’re creating a mail-related app, you can use the Drawer Mail component.

Sample drawer components

Tabs, which usually complement top app bars, are also widely used in Android apps. MaterialX has a variety of tab views, which look good in both light and dark themes. As you might expect, all of them support the horizontal swipe gesture.

Sample tab components

2. Lists and Grids

Lists are an integral part of Android apps, and a well-designed list can dramatically improve your app’s user experience. MaterialX offers nearly a dozen different types of lists, including sectioned, animated, and multi-select lists. It also offers a few app-specific lists, such as lists for news apps.

Sample list views

If you need to show more than one item in a row, though, you’ll have to use one of the six different grids this template has. In addition to the commonly used basic and sectioned grids, MaterialX has grids for gallery apps and caller apps.

Sample grids

Cards are often used with both lists and grids. Because MaterialX has card templates for handling most use cases, you can now avoid creating your own cards from scratch. Some of the card templates can be used to create introductory or tutorial screens too.

Sample card view

It’s worth noting that MaterialX has separate components to display smaller lists, such as lists of tags and preferences lists.

3. Forms

Creating forms is hard. Convincing users to fill out and submit forms is harder still. Fortunately, MaterialX comes with a large number of beautiful templates for forms, which your users are going to enjoy filling in.

While creating forms, you are free to choose from either the generic form templates, such as those for sign-in and sign-up forms, or the domain-specific templates, such as those for eCommerce.

Sample forms

To make your life easier, MaterialX also has entire layouts dedicated to specific types of forms. Because these attractive layouts serve as full-fledged containers for the forms, you won’t have to add any other UI components to your layout while using them. Currently, there are layouts for login forms, phone number verification forms, and payment forms.

Dedicated form layouts

Note that many of the form templates have dark-themed alternatives too.

4. Form Elements

If you’re interested in creating forms yourself, instead of directly using Android’s default form elements, you could try using the elements available in MaterialX. They are usually better-looking and provide a more interesting user experience.

The template has a variety of buttons, pickers, and sliders, as you can see in the screenshots below:

Form elements offered by MaterialX

To facilitate displaying form-related messages, the template has several custom implementations for toasts, alert dialogs, and snackbars too.

5. Dashboards

An intuitive dashboard displaying lots of timely and context-sensitive data can be the ideal home screen for many kinds of apps, such as fitness apps, travel apps, and apps related to cryptocurrencies. MaterialX currently has 11 dashboards, each targeting a different domain. For example, here are two dashboard layouts, one for eCommerce apps and one for travel apps: 

Sample dashboards

All the available dashboards are comprehensive, well thought out, and visually pleasing. Therefore, you can usually start using them without having to make any customizations.

6. Social Screens

Adding simple social features to your app is a great way to improve user retention. Typically, all you need to do is allow your users to create profiles for themselves and share content with friends or followers. MaterialX has dozens of components that can help you save time while implementing both these features.

This template has nearly two dozen layouts for profile pages, each with a unique look and feel. While some are generic, most are designed to target certain user groups, such as photographers, freelancers, and job seekers.

Sample profile page layouts

Additionally, MaterialX has layouts for displaying user feeds and timelines. If you’re trying to implement Twitter-like functionality in your app, you’re going to find these layouts extremely helpful.

Layouts for user timelines

Lastly, if you want to allow your users to communicate among themselves or with your team in real time, MaterialX offers layouts that are very similar to those you see in apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.

7. Screens for Blogs

Do you have a WordPress blog already? With MaterialX, you can create an Android app for it effortlessly.

The template has a large variety of layouts you can use for displaying your posts. These pleasant layouts can smoothly render both text and images.

Sample blog layout

Additionally, there are many layouts for “about us” pages, which you can use to talk about yourself or your company, and “search” pages, which you can use while adding search functionality to your app.

Search page and about us page samples

Because blogs these days aren’t limited to just text and images, MaterialX has layouts for handling audio and video content too. The template has two layouts for video players and several for audio players, which support both independent sound files and playlists.

Conclusion

MaterialX is one of the most comprehensive Android app templates available on CodeCanyon. With over 2,250 sales and mostly five-star reviews, it’s also one of the most popular templates there. In my opinion, it’s a must-have for Android developers who want to dramatically improve the looks of their apps.

When you purchase a license for MaterialX, in addition to its source code, you’ll get access to all its documentation. You can refer to it to learn more about the template.

If you found this article useful, do take a look at the following articles too:

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Control: The Kotaku Review thumbnail

Control: The Kotaku Review

Control is the latest game from the makers of Max Payne, Alan Wake, and Quantum Break. It’s a twisted, haunting odyssey through an old post-WWII office building under siege by parasitic beings from another dimension. Control has all the standard elements of a regular third-person shooter, but its exhaustive world building and all-consuming eeriness make it much more.

You play as Jesse, a millenial loner with latent paranormal powers who’s trying to find her brother, Dylan. That search brings her to the Federal Bureau of Control, a secret government department that she believes kidnapped her brother as part of its mission to safeguard the country against other-worldly phenomena. But the FBC, housed in a New York City building called The Oldest House, is under attack by the Hiss, a malevolent, hive-like entity from another dimension that infects the minds of its hosts to bend them to its will.

The building is under lockdown as a result of the attack, which has killed the FBC’s director, Zachariah Trench. His service weapon, a gun that regenerates ammo, attaches itself to Jesse, making her the next director and leaving the player responsible for rallying the remainder of the Bureau and ending the lockdown. Along the way you gain powers like levitation and telekinesis, which allow you to explore new areas and fight in different ways.

Illustration for article titled Control: The Kotaku Review

Video games are full of repetitive actions. Sometimes they feel natural and effortless, like holding the run button in Super Mario Bros.—the sort of thing you don’t even realize you’re doing until you try to stop. Other actions can be laborious, like smashing the grab button in Dishonored as you rummage through a stranger’s belongings, not because you enjoy it, but out of fear that you might miss something if you don’t.

In Control, you can pick up and throw objects with your mind. On PS4 this entails looking at the object you want to move and holding down the right shoulder button. During my time with the game I did this hundreds of times: sometimes to clear a path forward, other times to kill enemies, and often because of the sheer pleasure I got out of ripping up a piece of the world and watching it float beside me, patiently waiting for my next command. It became neither monotonous or unconscious. At first the objects accelerate toward you, crashing into whatever might be in their way, before slowing down as they approach until they’re hanging idly in the air, only to speed back up again when eventually launched. This slightest bit of simulated resistance is visually and tactilely convincing.

Illustration for article titled Control: The Kotaku Review

I’ve thrown copy machines, trash cans, toilets, fire extinguishers, lamps, guard rails, oil drums, storage racks, office chairs, tables, potted plants, fans, and dozens of other pieces of debris. In addition to being able to grab hold of almost any object, nearly everything in The Oldest House can be destroyed. With a press of a button, wood splinters, rock crumbles, and stacks of paper detonate. The world eventually resets once you’ve wandered off long enough, which is part of the ancient power of The Oldest House. But the sumptuous sounds and visual detail of destruction never get old, whether hurling a filing cabinet at an enemy or just to see what kind of mark it leaves on the wall. It makes the world feel alive.

There are also practical consequences during combat. You can crouch behind cover, but I often destroyed that cover in my hunt for raw material to pummel the Hiss with. Like her regenerating service weapon, Jesse’s powers continuously recharge, quite rapidly in fact, encouraging you to trade off back and forth between bullets and telekinetic attacks, all while scurrying between cover. The Hiss usually attack in waves of five or more. Most are grunts carrying basic firearms. while others have supernatural powers similar to Jesse’s. A few wield rocket launchers and grenades, which an upgrade to Jesse’s abilities allows her to throw back at them. It’s incredibly satisfying, if sometimes hard to time. While the individual Hiss don’t have strong identities, collectively their abilities complement one another just enough to poise a real threat and force you to stay creative about how you demolish them.

At one point in the end of the game I was floating through the air dodging hunks of metal and gunfire while unloading on the enemies below me. Summoning a fire extinguisher, I hurled it at the forklift one of the Hiss was hiding behind, only to have it blow up, triggering a chain reaction with a nearby oil drum. The particle effects were beautiful, though they promptly sent the game’s framerate plummeting. In these moments, or others where action was taking place in some of the game’s larger zones, the game would chug. Control never crashed, even when it looked like it really wanted to, but it’s clear the game was operating at the limits of what my PS4 can handle. These technical obstacles never stopped me from enjoying the game or led me to accidentally die during a fight, but they did make me wonder just how much more enjoyable the game’s bigger shootouts could be on hardware that could actually handle them.

The game’s main story progresses at a steady clip. It’s told through short cutscenes and conversations with other characters, which are seamlessly interspersed with live-action footage, a technique Remedy Entertainment pioneered in 2016’s Quantum Break but which is used more sparingly in Control to maximize its unsettling effect. The jargon-heavy story, which starts out promisingly enough, never seems to quite deliver on its threat of menacing revelations, ending up more like a workplace drama than a mind-bending psychological horror show. Despite a tragic past, the emotional trauma of losing her brother, and finding herself trapped in a building governed by a dozen competing logics and accosted by demonically possessed bureaucrats at every turn, Jesse resists ever becoming completely overwhelmed by the strange events around her. She rolls with it, her fear softened by occasionally cheesy humor and an ongoing internal monologue, and the fact that she has a magical magnum and occult super powers.

While Jesse helps keep Control moored, The Oldest House is its true star. It’s a sprawling labyrinth of mid-century modern office interiors and long polished granite hallways. You start at the executive level, a series of open office areas filled with row after row of empty desk. As you travel through the House, it expands and deepens. You descend into the maintenance facilities, an underground network of pipes, control rooms, and atomic age machinery. Though you have the top-level blueprints for the entire building at your disposal, each subsequent level becomes harder to navigate and increasingly filled with enemies.

Illustration for article titled Control: The Kotaku Review

The Oldest House is linked together by a series of control points, little ritual spots on the ground that look similar to pentagrams. When Jesse encounters one, she can purge it of the Hiss’ corrupting influence and use it to heal, upgrade abilities and equipment, and fast travel to any previously unlocked control point. Outside of this network, there are some areas that can only be accessed on foot through elevators and back hallways, and still others that don’t show up on the map at all, linked via hanging light switches situated throughout the building that transport Jesse to a distant hotel and then back again to a new area. On paper, you progress through Control like any metroidvania-style game, in which acquiring new abilities and reaching new story beats allow you to backtrack and rediscover new parts of old areas. But the points that connect The Oldest House non-linearly to other planes of existence and back again make it feel like something more than just a effusively stylish, hyper-competent iteration of the formula.

At one point during the game Jesse remarks that while she should be terrified of The Oldest House, she actually finds its sinister sense of mystery inviting. The secret passages, rooms that metamorphose like a kaleidoscope, and invisible rifts to other planes of existence are affirming, manifestations that acknowledge the weirdness the rest of the FBC’s pencil pushers would prefer to measure and codify. As you unlock more powers, The Oldest House becomes open to your poking and prodding, and its little details—an office covered top to bottom in post-it notes, manic writing on a chalkboard—are as interesting as anything else in the game and well worth combing through its world for.

Illustration for article titled Control: The Kotaku Review

Modifications for Jesse and her weapons are also hidden throughout the building, or drop from enemies. This equipment offers stat bonuses to Jesse’s health, the recharge time for her powers, or the accuracy or damage of her weapons. You can also create your own mods from the crafting materials with names like Entropic Echo and Ritual Impulse procured during exploration and combat. But they’re all random, so you never quite know what you’re going to get. Additional resources can be spent to upgrade the level of the mods you can create. Contrary to how taut the rest of the game feels, the mod system, which provide boosts to things like health, power recharge speed, and shot accuracy, is mostly superfluous until you’re facing some of the game’s harder side missions, where grinding to get an additional five percent boost to gun damage might actually make a difference. Compared to everything else in The Oldest House, the mods, and the chests holding them, feel like filler.

Illustration for article titled Control: The Kotaku Review

More alluring are the pieces of lore are generously scattered throughout The Oldest House. Classified files, snippets of research, recorded interviews, and other fragments of intel elaborate on the building’s history, the competing interests of its top leaders, and inklings of who the Hiss are and what they want. Some of the game’s best writing, in keeping with Remedy’s track record, is tucked away in this secondary literature, making rummaging through every foreboding room a rewarding treasure hunt. These collectibles tell the story of a bureaucracy warped by its obsessions, which the game so beautifully conveys through the House’s ever-warping brutalist architecture.

Hidden in the depths of the Oldest House are beings you can’t destroy called Thresholds. They’re harrowing and deadly to come across, but on the surface a Threshold is just a cloud of rocks vibrating in intense patterns, as if screaming from having been severed from the rest of the rock during the construction of the building. I wanted to explore every dark corner and seemingly mundane board room of The Oldest House in hopes of discovering the secret behind the pulsing rock creature, or at least come across other equally weird anomalies.

Illustration for article titled Control: The Kotaku Review

Throughout the entirety of Control I had the sneaking suspicion that maybe these strange rock creatures were victims rather than monsters, marooned by the excesses and abuses of the FBC, just as Jesse believes her brother was. Dr. Darling, the Bureau’s top scientist, is depicted in a series of video reports littered about the building as a brilliant man too blinded by how good he is at his job to stop and wonder if it was the right one to be doing. As the game goes on, Jesse falls under a similar spell. It turns out she’s very good at killing the Hiss and helping the rest of the staff accomplish their tasks. Whether perpetuating this rudderless careerism is ultimately a good thing or not is a question the game does a commendable job of not answering.

Control utilizes Jesse’s journey from FBC new hire to employee of the month to showcase a workplace torn asunder by forces from a world beyond and bleeding out horrors. “A house is a machine for living in,” brutalist architect Le Corbusier wrote in his 1923 book Towards A New Architecture. The life that Control’s house makes possible is secretive, full of small compartments and hidden layers where the weirdness some people would prefer to bring under the harsh control of reason and protocol can blossom. Even if Jesse is ostensibly an occult cop working for the man, Remedy has made The Oldest House a machine without a master, leaving what it produces—shadowy histories, dazzling flights, no shortage of abysses that stare back—to whoever’s willing to venture inside.

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How to build bases in No Man's Sky thumbnail

How to build bases in No Man’s Sky

Building bases has been a staple in No Man’s Sky for a while now and with the latest update comes a whole new raft of building materials. With the influx of new players, and players returning to the game from years prior, we thought a base-building primer might help you get started in your new construction career.

What are bases?

Bases are your home in No Man’s Sky. They are permanent structures that can house all the equipment you need to play No Man’s Sky. From refineries, all the way to huge power stations and portals, your base can house them all.

Bases are also safe havens from the trials of the world you choose to live on. A lot of the planets on NMS have hazards that drain your life support and even if they are relatively clear, big storms can come from nowhere. As soon as you have a base with walls and a roof, you are safe from all the elements.

Location Location Location

Where to build bases

Finding the right place to build your home base is key. The game actively tries to get you to build your base early, on a planet it selects for you at random. This isn’t ideal as, more often than not, the planets around you are poisonous balls of deathly death, and you may not want to set up your permanent base there.

It always pays to take a look around the solar system you are in first, to find the best planet you can. Building the Hyperspace engine takes a little while, so you may not be able to go out of the system, but you don’t have to pick the nightmare-scape that Hello Games will randomly choose for you.

As far as building supplies go, you will want to look for planets with high concentrations of copper and carbon to start with. Of course, the more precious metals you have, the better — eventually you will need some money — but copper and carbon are the two building blocks of the game.

Where to find carbon

Everywhere, that’s where you can find it. Almost every planet has an abundance of carbon, especially if it has any fauna. Trees and plants give you a lot of carbon, though there are other ways to get it if you choose to live on a lifeless planet.

I cannot stress this enough; you can never have too much carbon. Early in the game, your buildings will be made from it, your refinery is powered by it, even the tool you use to get carbon needs carbon to power it. In other words, spend some time farming carbon from around the location you want to build your base. It will help clear the land for building anyway.

Where to find copper

Copper is a fairly common element in No Man’s Sky, but you may have to go off the original planet to find it. The easiest way is to head out into space once you have fixed your ship and use your scanner to scan the nearby planets once you are out of the atmosphere. This will highlight the common elements they have on them and you should be able to find a copper one in short order.

Head over to the area where you found the copper and start the harvest. You will need to have your terrain manipulator ready to go to get the copper out of the ground, and you will want to spend some time stocking up if you aren’t interested in staying on the copper-rich planet.

Machines you will need

There are several pieces of equipment you will need to build before you can start construction of your dream house, and one you will need to make that house a home.

Portable refiner

The portable refiner is one of the most important pieces of machinery in No Man’s Sky because it allows you to make all the complex metals you’ll need from the base elements you find on the worlds you visit.

Making a refiner is easy and uses just base elements, Ferrite dust — made into metal plating — and Oxygen. The blueprint for it is given to you as part of the main tutorial, so you should be able to find it by pressing up on the D-pad and selecting the Tech section.

Once you have a portable refiner built, you can use it as much as you like as long as you have the carbon you need power it. Remember the refiner is portable, so it’s often worth having one with you at all times — you can pick it up by holding square — while building another to leave at home.

Base computer

The base computer is the central hub of your base and is required to actually call a place your “Home base” in-game. Now that you have built your portable refiner, you can make this easily enough. The blueprint for the base computer is given to you as you play the game so by the time you are ready to build one, you should have the blueprint.

You will need to use the refiner to refine copper into chromatic metal, but that’s all you need. The base computer can be found in the Tech section of your build menu.

I would recommend finding a good spot for your base computer before you lay it down. It isn’t portable, so once you pick a place, that’s where it will stay. I made the mistake of putting it too close to a piece of scenery and it stopped me being able to build my base around it. Mine just sits outside now.

Construction Research Unit

While the Construction Research Unit (CRU) is not needed to make your original base, it will be needed to upgrade your base to new materials like metal or cement, as well as for adding new types of building pieces, like corner roofs or iris doors.

The construction needs only one carbon nanotube — you can make that in your backpack inventory out of carbon — and 20 magnetized ferrite. Magnetized ferrite is a double refined material that can be found in the world like copper, or refined from pure Ferrite. If you refine ferrite dust into pure ferrite, then put that pure ferrite back in the refiner it will become magnetized ferrite.

You do lose half your supply if you do it this way — it takes two ferrite dust to make one pure ferrite — but that’s better than walking across the whole world looking for it in some rocks.

How to build a base

The actual placement of buildings is pretty straightforward. The game gives you a lot of visual cues, as well as using a snapping technique to line up the corresponding edges so it’s easy to lay stuff down.

Once you have all the resources you need — you don’t have enough carbon, go grab some more — and all the machines pre-built, it’s time to start building!

  1. Find a large, clear area.
  2. Press down on your controllers D-pad to access the build menu.

  3. Use the left/right D-pad to navigate to Structures.
  4. Press up on the D-pad to access the Wooden structures.

  5. Select the piece you want to lay on the floor.
  6. Move the left thumbstick to choose its position.
  7. Press the R2 button to place the object into the world.
  8. Select the wall piece you want to use. Remember: each base needs at least one door panel.

  9. Use the ghostly outline to line up the walls where you want them.
  10. Press R2 to set the wall in place.
  11. Repeat until you complete your awesome house.

Upgrading your base

Everything we have spoken about above merely scratches the surface of what is possible with base building. We have provided you the building blocks (pun intended) but you will need to spend a lot of your time in the game perfecting your building skills.

Remember, building materials are key to the game, and if you want to build giant fortresses of glass and metal, you will need to find a place that has plenty of materials to make that happen.

I would also suggest building a portal, or finding an area with a terminal to build near early on in your building process. There are materials you will need to buy and having an easy way to buy things is extremely important.

Show us your creations

We would love to see your bases and for you to give us and the other readers your tips for making amazing bases. Head over to our Twitter and post us some screenshots!

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Bright, Modern and Ecological Exploration Centre thumbnail

Bright, Modern and Ecological Exploration Centre

Cardin Julien designed the reception pavilion for the new Mille-Îles River Park’s multifunction center in Laval, Québec, close to Montréal.

The building has many windows and was built with great environmental awareness. The project aims for a LEED NC 2009 level GOLD certification, water-saving was made through the use of rainwater, and the economy energy is at the heart of building design by the performance of the building envelope and the integration of plants (roofs and walls).

«In order for the project to integrate seamlessly into its environment, the use of wood was recommended for the building’s exterior. This material, which can also be found inside the building, fosters a warm environment and allows a connection between visitors and the nature around them. In addition, the structure was built in such a way that it preserves the mature trees growing on-site», we learn in the press release.

Credits: David Boyer

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Disappearing Plastics Stay Strong in the Shadows and Melt Away in the Sun thumbnail

Disappearing Plastics Stay Strong in the Shadows and Melt Away in the Sun

trying to craft temporary plastics. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has an entire program—dubbed Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems, or ICARUS—to fund research that could lead to the development of disappearing air-delivery vehicles, including Georgia Tech’s work.

A glider wing made from the polymer dissolves in sunlight. Credit: Paul Kohl

The task is daunting. Plastic consists of synthetic polymers, long chains of smaller molecules linked with superstrong bonds. Reverting them to their building blocks requires breaking each bond, akin to ripping apart a necklace bead by bead. Because this process can be affected by humidity, acidity, temperature and other factors in a material’s environment, the breakdown can take months—if it happens at all. “There are many synthetic plastics that kind of degrade,” Kohl says, “but it’s a slow and painful process.”

To make durable plastics that quickly destruct on command, Kohl’s team and some other researchers have turned to a molecule called poly(phthalaldehyde) (PPHA). Like all polymers, this one splits up into its building blocks when heated above a certain temperature. But in contrast to the plastics used in bottles and packaging, which only break down at very high heat, PPHA unravels while still below room temperature. This property makes it easy to break down but hard to stabilize.

To trick PPHA into being pseudo stable, Kohl and his colleagues linked the chain into a circle. “It only depolymerizes from the end inward,” Kohl says. With its tips linked together, the chain does not break down as easily. “It’s like peeling a banana,” Kohl explains. “It’s hard to peel from the middle.” Although the circle structure keeps the modified PPHA from breaking down at a typical room temperature, if a trigger snips just one bond, “the whole thing instantly depolymerizes and completely falls apart,” he says.

“It’s pretty clever, the way they have designed the polymer to unzip from that one bond breaking,” says Andrew Dove, a professor of chemistry at the University of Birmingham in England, who was not involved in the new research. The Georgia Tech team further fine-tuned the unzipping process by adding a soup of chemicals to the circular PPHA. In order to trigger the polymer’s undoing on command, the researchers mixed in a compound that becomes acidic in the presence of sunlight and then attacks PPHA bonds. And to slow down the speed of this degradation—thus giving a simple flying machine such as a glider enough time to complete its mission—they added additional compounds that react with and weaken the acid.

Even in its circular form, though, the PPHA was initially not quite stable enough for a long haul. Kohl and his colleagues discovered that impurities in the polymer—mainly traces of the catalyst boron trifluoride, which is used to assemble PPHA chains—were the main culprit. By removing all such impurities, they have boosted the material’s shelf life. “It should last for 20 years indoors, at room temperature,” Kohl says. “Fluorescent light does not bother it.”

Despite these improvements, the resulting plastic was hard to use because of its relatively brittle texture. But at the American Chemical Society meeting, Kohl announced that he and his colleagues have fixed that problem by adding ionic liquids—salts in liquid form—to the plastic. Doing so alters its mechanical properties in different ways: one type of ionic liquid makes the plastic tough and hard, perfect for glider wings, while another renders it soft and foldable for other uses, Kohl says.

DARPA has already used the plastic to make light, strong gliders and parachutes. Last October the agency field-tested one of these vehicles: dropped from a high-altitude balloon at night, a glider successfully delivered a three-pound package to a spot 100 miles away. After four hours in the sun, it vanished, leaving behind nothing but an oily smudge on the ground. Kohl says the plastic could dissolve even faster under a glaring midday sun, in some cases taking as little as five minutes.

The new plastic still faces challenges. For example, Dove emphasizes that the light-triggered degradation will limit its uses. “It’s a great idea,” he says, “but I’m not sure it’s going to translate into consumer plastics.” What’s left behind when the plastic disintegrates also matters. Nothing disappears completely, points out Ann-Christine Albertsson, a chemist at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. “The degradation products and how they interfere with the environment are important,” she says.

In this case, the leftover products—that oily smudge that was once the test glider—primarily consist of the ionic liquids with which the researchers treated the polymer. These substances are antimicrobial chemicals, similar to ones “used in hospitals in antibacterial wipes,” Kohl says. “However, they would not be appropriate for human consumption or touching food products. In the future, we will try to change them to [be] vaporizable.”

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Disappearing Plastics Stay Strong in the Shadows and Melt Away in the Sun thumbnail

Disappearing Plastics Stay Strong in the Shadows and Melt Away in the Sun

trying to craft temporary plastics. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has an entire program—dubbed Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems, or ICARUS—to fund research that could lead to the development of disappearing air-delivery vehicles, including Georgia Tech’s work.

A glider wing made from the polymer dissolves in sunlight. Credit: Paul Kohl

The task is daunting. Plastic consists of synthetic polymers, long chains of smaller molecules linked with superstrong bonds. Reverting them to their building blocks requires breaking each bond, akin to ripping apart a necklace bead by bead. Because this process can be affected by humidity, acidity, temperature and other factors in a material’s environment, the breakdown can take months—if it happens at all. “There are many synthetic plastics that kind of degrade,” Kohl says, “but it’s a slow and painful process.”

To make durable plastics that quickly destruct on command, Kohl’s team and some other researchers have turned to a molecule called poly(phthalaldehyde) (PPHA). Like all polymers, this one splits up into its building blocks when heated above a certain temperature. But in contrast to the plastics used in bottles and packaging, which only break down at very high heat, PPHA unravels while still below room temperature. This property makes it easy to break down but hard to stabilize.

To trick PPHA into being pseudo stable, Kohl and his colleagues linked the chain into a circle. “It only depolymerizes from the end inward,” Kohl says. With its tips linked together, the chain does not break down as easily. “It’s like peeling a banana,” Kohl explains. “It’s hard to peel from the middle.” Although the circle structure keeps the modified PPHA from breaking down at a typical room temperature, if a trigger snips just one bond, “the whole thing instantly depolymerizes and completely falls apart,” he says.

“It’s pretty clever, the way they have designed the polymer to unzip from that one bond breaking,” says Andrew Dove, a professor of chemistry at the University of Birmingham in England, who was not involved in the new research. The Georgia Tech team further fine-tuned the unzipping process by adding a soup of chemicals to the circular PPHA. In order to trigger the polymer’s undoing on command, the researchers mixed in a compound that becomes acidic in the presence of sunlight and then attacks PPHA bonds. And to slow down the speed of this degradation—thus giving a simple flying machine such as a glider enough time to complete its mission—they added additional compounds that react with and weaken the acid.

Even in its circular form, though, the PPHA was initially not quite stable enough for a long haul. Kohl and his colleagues discovered that impurities in the polymer—mainly traces of the catalyst boron trifluoride, which is used to assemble PPHA chains—were the main culprit. By removing all such impurities, they have boosted the material’s shelf life. “It should last for 20 years indoors, at room temperature,” Kohl says. “Fluorescent light does not bother it.”

Despite these improvements, the resulting plastic was hard to use because of its relatively brittle texture. But at the American Chemical Society meeting, Kohl announced that he and his colleagues have fixed that problem by adding ionic liquids—salts in liquid form—to the plastic. Doing so alters its mechanical properties in different ways: one type of ionic liquid makes the plastic tough and hard, perfect for glider wings, while another renders it soft and foldable for other uses, Kohl says.

DARPA has already used the plastic to make light, strong gliders and parachutes. Last October the agency field-tested one of these vehicles: dropped from a high-altitude balloon at night, a glider successfully delivered a three-pound package to a spot 100 miles away. After four hours in the sun, it vanished, leaving behind nothing but an oily smudge on the ground. Kohl says the plastic could dissolve even faster under a glaring midday sun, in some cases taking as little as five minutes.

The new plastic still faces challenges. For example, Dove emphasizes that the light-triggered degradation will limit its uses. “It’s a great idea,” he says, “but I’m not sure it’s going to translate into consumer plastics.” What’s left behind when the plastic disintegrates also matters. Nothing disappears completely, points out Ann-Christine Albertsson, a chemist at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. “The degradation products and how they interfere with the environment are important,” she says.

In this case, the leftover products—that oily smudge that was once the test glider—primarily consist of the ionic liquids with which the researchers treated the polymer. These substances are antimicrobial chemicals, similar to ones “used in hospitals in antibacterial wipes,” Kohl says. “However, they would not be appropriate for human consumption or touching food products. In the future, we will try to change them to [be] vaporizable.”

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What happens to concrete when you mix it in space? ISS astronauts investigate thumbnail

What happens to concrete when you mix it in space? ISS astronauts investigate

iss concrete mixing experiment mics gerst 1
European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst works on the MICS experiment aboard the International Space Station. NASA

Concrete is a material used everywhere on Earth due to its strength and relatively light weight. That makes it a useful candidate for a material to build structures in space as well. But you can’t simply mix up cement in space the same way you do on Earth and expect to reach the same result. The astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) have been performing experiments to see how concrete reacts during the hardening process in microgravity, and how this affects its microstructure and material properties.

“On missions to the moon and Mars, humans and equipment will need to be protected from extreme temperatures and radiation, and the only way to do that is by building infrastructures on these extraterrestrial environments,” principal investigator Aleksandra Radlinska of Pennsylvania State University explained in a statement. “One idea is building with a concrete-like material in space. Concrete is very sturdy and provides better protection than many materials.”

The project is called the Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) project, and it involved mixing concrete in space for the first time. The researchers tested a number of variations of cement powder using different additives and ratios of powder to water. They found some key differences in the hardening process from what would happen on Earth, in particular, that the space concrete ended up being more porous which will likely make it slightly less strong.

“Even though concrete has been used for so long on Earth, we still don’t necessarily understand all the aspects of the hydration process. Now we know there are some differences between Earth- and space-based systems and we can examine those differences to see which ones are beneficial and which ones are detrimental to using this material in space,” Radlinska said. “Also, the samples were in sealed pouches, so another question is whether they would have additional complexities in an open space environment.”

It’s good news that mixing concrete in space is possible at all, even if the result is not quite the same as it would be on Earth. Eventually, concrete and other materials could be used to produce lightweight and strong habitats in space, and current research will improve the cement processing techniques to make the finished material more reliable.

The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Materials.

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The people policing the internet's most horrific content thumbnail

The people policing the internet’s most horrific content

Shawn Speagle

Image copyright
Shawn Speagle

Image caption

Shawn is still trying to process what he had to watch as a content moderator

In this digital self-publishing era people can record and produce their own content, a lot of horrific stuff that clearly breaches websites’ taste and decency guidelines. A growing army of moderators has the unenviable task of sifting through it all, sometimes at considerable cost to their mental health.

WARNING: article contains upsetting content.

Shawn Speagle worked as an online content moderator for six months in 2018. He’s still scarred by the experience.

“One of my first videos that I remember looking at was two teenagers grabbing an iguana by the tail and they smashed it onto the pavement while a third person was recording it.

“And the iguana was screaming and the kids just would not stop until the iguana was just pasted on the ground.”

Shawn was employed by a company called Cognizant in Florida which had a contract with Facebook. He speaks in a slow, considered way, still trying to process what he had to go through.

Image copyright
PA Media

Image caption

Facebook uses around 30,000 sub-contracted content moderators around the world

“I’ve seen people put fireworks in a dog’s mouth and duct tape it shut. I’ve seen cannibalism videos, I’ve seen terrorism propaganda videos,” he continues.

Hearing Shawn speak, it becomes clear why moderation has often been described as the worst job in tech.

Most of us internet users probably never give these moderators a second thought, yet there are hundreds of thousands of them around the world helping companies weed out disturbing content – ranging from suicide and murder videos to conspiracy theories and hate speech.

And now some are coming out of the shadows to tell their stories.

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Media captionWATCH: Film explores social media moderation

Shawn decided to speak out, despite having signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – a standard practice in the industry.

These NDAs are also meant to prevent contractors from sharing Facebook users’ personal information with the outside world, at a time of intense scrutiny over data privacy.

But Shawn believes Facebook moderation policies should be talked about openly, because staff end up watching upsetting content that is often left untouched on the platform.

As an animal lover, he was distraught that animal content “was, for the most part, never accelerated in any way shape or form”, meaning that it was never referred for removal.

For humans the rules were a little bit different, but also more convoluted.

More Technology of Business

The most common outcome was marking it as “disturbing” and leaving it on the platform. Shawn tells the BBC that, according to Facebook policy, seeing bodily innards, not in a medical setting, would result in the video being deleted.

He struggles to recollect any other examples that would result in content removal.

The stress of the job led to overeating and weight gain, Shawn says.

“I felt like I was a zombie in my seat. It really gets to you because I don’t have that bystander syndrome where I’m OK just watching this suffering and not contributing any way to deter it.”

He also could not get adequate psychological support.

The only time he tried to speak with the duty psychologist, Shawn says: “He flat out told me I don’t know how to help you guys.”

Despite all of this Shawn says he persisted for six months, not complaining, because he thought that although he worked through a subcontractor, “Facebook would get their act together”.

Facebook vice-president Arun Chandra was brought in especially to focus on the working conditions of the social media platform’s 30,000 moderators, who are largely employed by subcontractors in the US, India and the Philippines.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Where does the duty not to show upsetting content intersect with the duty to allow free speech?

Mr Chandra says that he had already visited over 15 sites around the world and that he always spoke with moderators directly.

He denies that there was a “broad scale problem” and stresses that their subcontractors, like Cognizant and Accenture for example, were “reputable global companies”. Facebook will be introducing formal audits later this year, he says.

He also confirms that Cognizant’s contract remains in place following an investigation.

But Shawn Speagle believes lots more could be done to improve working conditions.

“The place was absolutely disgusting,” he alleges. “There was only one restroom in the entire building and there were 800 employees.

“People were smoking in the building; people were drinking in the parking lot and having sex in their cars.”

Workers were often young, inexperienced and poorly paid, he says.

The BBC approached Cognizant for comment but it has not yet responded.

Image copyright
Stella Kalinina

Image caption

Prof Sarah Roberts thinks governments may have to force online publishers to clean up their act

Facebook’s Mr Chandra says that a psychologist is now available across all of the subcontractors’ sites during all shifts and that the pay has been been increased – but only for US-based moderators.

Sarah Roberts, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has spent years investigating the world of internet moderation for her newly published book, Behind the Screen.

She believes websites and social media giants have assumed that automation, AI, and machine learning would make the need for human content moderation redundant.

“I think that Silicon Valley is putting a primacy on computation over all other things,” she says.

“So, if a workforce can be maintained cheaply and be treated as expendable, until such time that computation can fully be brought in, then so much the better.”

Prof Roberts thinks the difficulty for social media companies is that they have “built up a global user base predicated on the notion that we should all be able to do and say and share and show whatever our heart desires pretty much at all times”.

Changing that culture from within would be a “tall order”, she believes, which is why tougher legislation might be needed. But this is more likely to come from European Union countries rather than the US.

While this debate rages on, real people, like Shawn Speagle, live with the consequences of sifting through the internet’s filth.

Diagnosed with night terrors, he is on several medications, is scared of driving after watching so many car crash videos and is startled by loud noises.

“Looking at this stuff eight hours a day five days a week. It is something even veterans and ex-military can’t handle,” he concludes.

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Ginkgo Bioworks’ dev shop for genetic programming is now worth $4 billion thumbnail

Ginkgo Bioworks’ dev shop for genetic programming is now worth $4 billion

Ginkgo Bioworks is now worth $4 billion after a $290 million capital infusion that will give the company the cash to dramatically expand its developer shop for genetic programming.

The Boston-based company is one of a handful of U.S.-based early-stage companies that are on the forefront of developing the tools to modify genetic material for everyday applications.

“Cells are programmable similar to computers because they run on digital code in the form of DNA,” said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks, in a statement. “Ginkgo has the best compiler and debugger for writing genetic code and we use it to program cells for customers in a range of industries. Today’s fundraise will allow us to expand our technology and continue our drive to bring biology into every physical goods industry — materials, clothing, electronics, food, pharmaceuticals and more. They are all biotech industries but just don’t know it yet.”

Ginkgo makes money in two ways. The company sells its development services to anyone who comes in with an idea. Kelly said that it’d be like any agreement with an entrepreneur who hires a coding shop to develop an application.

For example, if an entrepreneur wanted to develop houseplants that smelled like roses or lilies, they could approach Ginkgo, pay a (not-insignificant) fee and Ginkgo would do the research into designing something like a lily-scented fern. (Kelly puts the sticker price on that kind of development somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million, so a founder best believe their product can sell.)

“You don’t need to come in with deep biological know-how,” Kelly says. “The question is, is capital interested in the problem?”

The other way that Ginkgo is approaching the market is by taking equity stakes in businesses that rely on its technology.

Those take the form of joint ventures with companies like Bayer (the first joint venture partner for Ginkgo) and the launch of Joyn, a $100 million spin-out that was created in the summer of 2018.

The two companies are collaborating on the development of seeds that require less fertilizer for growth — something that could save the industry millions and decrease pollution associated with traditional chemical fertilizers.

Since that first spin-out, Ginkgo has created three other companies and joint ventures. There’s the $122 million deal to produce rare cannabinoids with the Canadian cannabis company, Cronos; a partnership with Roche that was born out of Ginkgo’s acquisition of Warp Drive Bio; and Motif Foodworks, which is working on manufacturing alternative proteins with a $120 million in financing.*

Alongside these large-scale initiatives, Ginkgo has signed partnerships with the West Coast powerhouse accelerator program from Y Combinator and a new Boston-based life sciences-focused group called Petri to conduct development work for startups from those programs in exchange for an equity stake.

“We’re not going to have all the good ideas,” says Kelly. “We want to tap the much larger pool of smart people and really have them building on our platform. Of all of the people we can give value to, we can give the most to startups. If we can offer them to do their biowork without all of the fixed costs of building a lab,” that’s valuable, he says.

Investors in the company include Y Combinator, DCVC, MassChallenge, Felicis Ventures, General Atlantic, Baillie Gifford, Bill Gates and Viking Global.

An earlier version of this article mentioned three company spinouts. The collaborations with Roche and Cronos are not independent companies. 

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