Whither the World’s Fair?

The moniker “Expo 2017” is currently being bandied about in North America. In the US, various optimists, often plain vanilla citizens like you and me, have launched web sites and forums promoting a return of the world’s fair–or Expo 2017 in this case–to America. In Canada, at least four cites and/or organizations have recently promoted the idea of an “expo”, with one of the first efforts publicly unveiled in Montreal in 2007.

In America, the idea of a world’s fair–an officially sanctioned one, that is, will conceivably remain a distant dream until Washington comes to its diplomatic senses and rejoins the Bureau of International Expositions, or BIE–the governing body in Paris which awards world’s fairs in much the same fashion as the IOC decides who gets to hold the next Olympic Games. Just like the Olympics, an aspiring world’s fair applicant is required to invest a considerable amount of energy and expense putting together a bid, and, of course, impressing the appropriate officials. Unless, perhaps, you’re the city of New York which, after a clash with French dignitaries, decided to hold its 1964/1965 World’s Fair without BIE approval. At the time, superpower America had enough clout that many of the nations who were subsequently prohibited by the BIE from participating decided to show up anyway, posing as trade and tourist organizations.

Right after New York, and only a skip across the border, the city of Montreal staged what is often considered to be the most successful (and BIE approved) world’s fair of all time. Set on a sprawling venue of two man-made islands and a peninsula in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, Expo 67 introduced a number of technological and cultural “firsts”–including the now ubiquitous moniker “expo” itself.

There are “expos” for everything now, from computers to kitty litter, while the mighty world’s fair that spawned these cheap imitations hasn’t been seen in North America for decades. Even if a city here managed to secure an official bid for “Expo 2017” it would be for a much smaller affair, a “recognized” expo limited by the BIE to 25 hectares exhibition area. That’s because there have always been two types of world’s fairs, a very large one (a “universal expo”) and, in-between, a smaller one (a “special expo”)–both of which are now, respectively, called “registered” and “recognized” fairs. In 2017, unfortunately, only the smaller recognized expo is allowed.

Nevertheless, I would argue that the world’s fair not only needs a major boost in North America, but that North America desperately needs another world’s fair. No other event has the collective potential to attract a huge audience to the latest cultural and scientific endeavours humankind has to offer. With our planet in the precarious state we have put it in, and North America no longer as influential and respected as it used to be, a world’s fair, properly staged and presented with the latest social and environmental initiatives, could be the political and technological beacon of hope this continent is yearning for. Of course, that might mean that Expo 2017 would need to encompass a great deal more than 25 hectares exhibition area and would need to address a lot more than the narrowly restricted theme (the fair’s purpose) officially allowed by the BIE for a smaller “recognized” expo. This could be done, with a little creative thinking (and without resorting to New York’s 1964 strategy), but that’s for another article to address.

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The Future of Android Games, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

Mobile gaming has come a very long way since the introduction of crude & simple games like Snake and Pong which were available on early Nokia phones. Mobile processors and graphics are now as powerful as desktop computers were just a few years ago. Older generations still remember lugging around a Game Boy or Game gear and begging their parents for another game. New generations literally have access to 100’s of thousands of games on their mobile device.

In short, mobile gaming has exploded in just a few years time. In the month of July 2016 there were 63.1 million arcade games downloaded & games in the “strategy” category generated $195M revenue. In a recent study over 37% of mobile app users with 30 minutes of free time choose to play games over any other activity. We’ve all seen it and we’ve all done it ourselves, whether its waiting for an appointment or sitting at the airport, we pull out our mobile device and jump into a quick game to kill the time.

So what does all of this mean for the future of android gaming? For starters, the massive amounts of revenue and user interest in android gaming has bolstered continuous innovation and fierce competition in the global marketplace. For example, just 12 months ago, top executives were saying they didn’t see any major benefit to augmented reality. With the release of Pokemon Go and estimates citing as much as $500 million in revenue in just 60 days, I think we can all agree augmented reality is here to stay. Virtual reality is another area that has been picking up steam in recent months. You can now buy virtual reality headsets at local gas stations for a mere $30. Or if you’re on a budget you can purchase Google Cardboard for as little as $7.00. There are still only a limited number of VR enabled games but that number is increasing daily. Not only that, as more and more people experience VR we are sure to see a blockbuster release sooner or later.

Let’s take a look at some real life examples of recent game releases. Dawn of Titans which was recently released on Google Play was in development for over 2 years. This is akin to the development cycle of a mid-level PC game release on Steam. The game features mass controlled troops, world building elements and impressive graphics. A few years ago this would be considered a major release for the Android platform. These days this is just another drop in the massive pond. With over 2.4 million apps and games currently listed on Google Play it’s become harder and harder to stand out. This is actually good news for gamers as developers are working harder and faster to create new innovative titles to attract users.

I firmly believe that both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) titles are going to gain more traction in 2017. Major developers who can pump out triple A content can’t be left in the dust while indie developers pump out AR and VR enabled games. They will be forced to port existing titles and come up exciting new ways to interact with the mobile devices.

There are many gimmicky games available that utilize the phones microphone, gyroscope, camera and accelerometer. However, these sensors combined with AR and VR could bring a whole new experience to gamers. Imagine walking through a recreated 3D world that represents your neighbourhood, immersed in full virtual reality, and using your phone as a targeting device to defend against waves of zombies. This is already possible with the technology that is available, it just needs to be packaged in a user friendly way that people can enjoy. Combining meticulous graphics with well thought out virtual reality experiences would be impressive indeed. If you’re familiar with PC based virtual reality demo’s you already know how immersive the experience can be. It’s only a matter of time before these same experiences make their way to our mobile devices en masse. And to think, only 30 years ago we were playing Mario on our beloved Nintendo consoles. Let’s not even mention the Virtual Boy that burned your eyes after 2 minutes of playing tennis. Android games and mobile games in general have come a long ways since then and they will continue to push barriers even further in the near future.

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Cleveland Has A Better Chance Than Chicago To Return To The World Series

The youth of the Cubs, epitomized by the selection of Kris Bryant as the National League Most Valuable Player, has many people discussing a return to the World Series next year and beyond for the team from Chicago’s North Side. In actuality, it seems that their opponents in this past Fall Classic are more likely than the Cubs to reach it again in 2017.

Several key members of the Cubs are facing free agency, most notably closer Aroldis Chapman and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler. Postseason pitching hero Jon Lester will return, but veteran battery mate David Ross has retired. The loss of his personal long time catcher, who was brought over from Boston to Chicago primarily at Lester’s request, may cause the left hander to be less effective in 2017.

Cleveland, on the other hand, will be adding a star player to a lineup that managed to somehow win the pennant without him. Outfielder Michael Brantley, the team’s M.V.P. in 2015, will return after missing nearly all of last season due to injury. They will also get back catcher Yan Gomes, who missed much of the season as well. The path to the playoffs promises to be easier for Cleveland next season. Two of the perennial powers that rival the Indians in the American League Central division, Detroit and Chicago, are going to be considerably weaker as they enter rebuilding mode. The Tigers are looking to trade veterans such as Julio Iglesias and Ian Kinsler in hopes of getting top prospects, and the White Sox are marketing ace left hander Chris Sale and center fielder Adam Eaton.

Also weaker are the teams the Indians breezed through in the playoffs, which saw Cleveland win seven of the eight games in the two rounds. Boston, who was swept in three games by Cleveland, will very likely miss the presence of “Big Papi” David Ortiz. The perennial All-star and likely Hall of Fame designated hitter retired after the season.

Toronto, who was dispatched by Cleveland in five games in the Championship Series, will be losing at least one of its key sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Both All-Stars are free agents this winter, and each will command contracts so large that it would be impossible for the Blue Jays to sign the duo.

On the other hand, the Cubs’ most probable playoff opponents are likely going to be stronger. Washington, which finished behind Chicago for most victories last season, is seeking to acquire Sale from the White Sox. That acquisition would strengthen an already formidable starting rotation, anchored by Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The Nationals are also on target to sign Fowler away from Chicago. The Dodgers, who came just two games from wresting the pennant from the Cubs, are actively pursuing several power hitters that could push them over Chicago in the playoffs. Milwaukee outfielder and former National League M.V.P Ryan Braun continues to be linked in possible trades with Los Angeles.

While there is no doubt that the Cubs will be the favorites to win the pennant again in 2017, Cleveland might be an even better bet to repeat. After all, they won it last year without two of its best players, both of whom should be healthy in the spring.

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Top 5 Features Added in Revit

A building information modeling (BIM) software, Autodesk Revit, has been useful for architects, structural engineers, MEP engineers, designers and contractors, enabling them to design structures and buildings in 2D and 3D, as well as being 4D BIM capable. It’s first version was released more than a decade back and since then it has seen many updates and new version releases, some have been just incremental updates serving for bug corrections and some have been significant technological updates.

Compared to the 2017 update, the previous 2 editions did not provide any significant upgrade until their ‘release 2’ (R2) editions were released. The 2017 update brings about 50 new, refreshing features which will prove to be immensely useful in creating BIM models. All the new features within the update are equally important and will be useful during the life cycle of a project, but out of those let us discuss the 5 most important features from Revit 2017. 1. Text Editing:

The most awaited feature in Revit since the time it was introduced, text editor has been included in the latest edition of Autodesk Revit. This provides a completely redesigned text engine which is compatible with imported files such as AutoCAD DWG files. The text editor in Revit 2017 also brings corrections to the flaws of text editor from earlier editions and lets users seamlessly switch between text editing mode and viewing mode without causing any unexpected disruptions in text.

2. Global Parameters:

Global parameters feature which was introduced in Revit 2016 R2 version, has received a much needed update in the 2017 edition. The latest update brings in the power of parametric families into the project environment. Applying global parameters to multi-segments is possible in this version, also grouping the parameters becomes easier, as does filtering and reordering. Even though the upgrades do seem to bring a lot of additional features, they do come with their limitations, such as the parameters can only be assigned to certain system family categories and only to user defined instance properties.

3. View Template:

View template is a very simple yet powerful feature added in Revit 2017 which enables the user to share data and reuse schedules. This feature automatically updates all the schedule changes whenever they are affected within their respective templates.

4. Calculated Values in Annotations:

An essential and a long overdue feature introduced in Revit 2017 is Calculated Values in Annotations. It is a useful feature that allows the user to document projects with annotations that allow calculated values and which obey pin restrictions maintaining consistency and accuracy of the project. A tag created with calculations in it can be used with any tag type and pinned to an element allowing the user to reposition that element without actually moving the pin position.

5. Railing Host:

Railing Host or Hosted Railings, is another valuable feature introduced in Revit 2017 (SHOULD THIS SAY 2017?) along with Calculated Value in Annotations feature. With this feature it is now possible to host the railings on Walls, Roofs or Slab Edges and the railings will adjust with variations in slopes and surfaces.

There are a host of other additions and updates in Revit 2017 apart from the ones listed above. It remains to be seen what if any flaws exist during real time use or if they truly result in the enhancements promised. Although, considering the supposed flaws that may exist, Revit 2017 is a huge step forward.

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How Can I Set Up An Online Business?

If you’ve been considering setting up an online business you’ve most likely been motivated by sheer volume of buying and selling that is now taking place on the internet.

More and more people are buying products and services online. And if you set up your own online business you can claim your cut of this expanding marketplace. Here are the 5 steps to follow to set up an online business.

1. Pick Your Market

If you’re going to set up an online business your first task is to determine what type of business it’s going to be. Are you going to sell products or services? You can sell your own products or you can sell products produced by other businesses who will pay you commissions on your sales. Or you may choose to set up a membership website or offer teaching and coaching services online.

Getting a website online isn’t as complicated as you may think. Initially you’ll need to purchase a name for your website (known as a domain name). Next you need to ‘rent’ some space on the internet (known as website hosting). Lastly you’ll need a software package that will make it possible for you to put written text, images, videos etc onto your website. There are many website building programs available that make this whole procedure very easy.

3. Get Visitors To Your Website

When you website is online you have to get potential customers to visit it. There are two main ways to do this. You can use free website traffic techniques or paid website traffic techniques. Both have their pros and cons and the most effective traffic tactic to use a mixture of both.

4. Develop A Customer List

It’s doubtful that your website visitors will want to buy anything from you on their first visit to your website. They may visit your website and never return. But obtain a visitor’s email address with a special email capture form, you can remain contact with them via email. Your emails can keep them informed about your business and encourage them to return to your website. If you offer something of value for free in return for someone’s email address they are more likely to give you their email address. This can be something as straightforward as a free report or eBook that is relevant to your industry.

5. Provide Value

The content material on your website and in your emails, articles or blog posts has to be more than continuously trying to sell. When you provide high quality, useful information to your target audience will come to know, like and trust you. Your prospective customers will then be more willing to buy from you and continue to be as loyal customers for many years.

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