Wildfire Destruction in The Western US Has Doubled in Just 10 Years

It can be tempting to think that the recent wildfire disasters in communities across the West were unlucky, one-off events, but evidence is accumulating that points to a trend.

In a new study, we found a 246 percent increase in the number of homes and structures destroyed by wildfires in the contiguous Western US between the past two decades, 1999-2009 and 2010-2020.

This trend is strongly influenced by major fires in 2017, 2018 and 2020, including destructive fires in Paradise and Santa Rosa, California, and in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

In fact, in nearly every Western state, more homes and buildings were destroyed by wildfire over the past decade than the decade before, revealing increasing vulnerability to wildfire disasters.

What explains the increasing home and structure loss?

Surprisingly, it’s not just the trend of burning more area, or simply more homes being built where fires historically burned. While those trends play a role, increasing home and structure loss is outpacing both.

As fire scientists, we have spent decades studying the causes and impacts of wildfires, in both the recent and more distant past. It’s clear that the current wildfire crisis in the Western US has human fingerprints all over it.

In our view, now more than ever, humanity needs to understand its role.

Wildfires are becoming more destructive

From 1999 to 2009, an average of 1.3 structures were destroyed for every 4 square miles burned (1,000 hectares, or 10 square kilometers). This average more than doubled to 3.4 during the following decade, 2010-2020.

Nearly every Western state lost more structures for every square mile burned, with the exception of New Mexico and Arizona.

Adapted from Higuera, et al., PNAS Nexus 2023, CC BY

Humans increasingly cause destructive wildfires

Given the damage from the wildfires you hear about on the news, you may be surprised to learn that 88 percent of wildfires in the West over the past two decades destroyed zero structures. This is, in part, because the majority of area burned (65 percent) is still due to lightning-ignited wildfires, often in remote areas.

But among wildfires that do burn homes or other structures, humans play a disproportionate role – 76 percent over the past two decades were started by unplanned human-related ignitions, including backyard burning, downed power lines, and campfires. The area burned from human-related ignitions rose 51 percent between 1999-2009 and 2010-2020.

This is important because wildfires started by human activities or infrastructure have vastly different impacts and characteristics that can make them more destructive.

Unplanned human ignitions typically occur near buildings and tend to burn in grasses that dry out easily and burn quickly. And people have built more homes and buildings in areas surrounded by flammable vegetation, with the number of structures up by 40 percent over the past two decades across the West, with every state contributing to the trend.

Human-caused wildfires also expand the fire season beyond the summer months when lightning is most common, and they are particularly destructive during late summer and fall when they overlap with periods of high winds.

As a result, of all the wildfires that destroy structures in the West, human-caused events typically destroy over 10 times more structures for every square mile burned, compared to lighting-caused events.

Maps of where wildfires have burned in 21st century in Western US
Adapted from Higuera, et al., PNAS Nexus 2023, CC BY

The December 2021 Marshall Fire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes and buildings in the suburbs near Boulder, Colorado, fit this pattern to a T. Powerful winds sent the fire racing through neighborhoods and vegetation that was unusually dry for late December.

As human-caused climate change leaves vegetation more flammable later into each year, the consequences of accidental ignitions are magnified.

Putting out all fires isn’t the answer

This might make it easy to think that if we just put out all fires, we would be safer. Yet a focus on stopping wildfires at all costs is, in part, what got the West into its current predicament. Fire risks just accumulate for the future.

The amount of flammable vegetation has increased in many regions because of an absence of burning due to emphasizing fire suppression, preventing Indigenous fire stewardship and a fear of fire in any context, well exemplified by Smokey Bear.

Putting out every fire quickly removes the positive, beneficial effects of fires in Western ecosystems, including clearing away hazardous fuels so future fires burn less intensely.

How to reduce risk of destructive wildfires

The good news is that people have the ability to affect change, now. Preventing wildfire disasters necessarily means minimizing unplanned human-related ignitions. And it requires more than Smokey Bear’s message that “only you can prevent forest fires.” Infrastructure, like downed power lines, has caused some of the deadliest wildfires in recent years.

Reducing wildfire risks across communities, states, and regions requires transformative changes beyond individual actions. We need innovative approaches and perspectives for how we build, provide power, and manage lands, as well as mechanisms that ensure changes work across socioeconomic levels.

Graph showing how wildfires and structure loss vary by state
Adapted from Higuera, et al., PNAS Nexus 2023, CC BY

Actions to reduce risk will vary, since how people live and how wildfires burn vary widely across the West.

States with large tracts of land with little development, like Idaho and Nevada, can accommodate widespread burning, largely from lighting ignition, with little structure loss.

California and Colorado, for example, require different approaches and priorities. Growing communities can carefully plan if and how they build in flammable landscapes, support wildfire management for risks and benefits, and improve firefighting efforts when wildfires do threaten communities.

Climate change remains the elephant in the room. Left unaddressed, warmer, drier conditions will exacerbate challenges of living with wildfires. And yet we can’t wait. Addressing climate change can be paired with reducing risks immediately to live more safely in an increasingly flammable West.The Conversation

Philip Higuera, Professor of Fire Ecology, University of Montana; Jennifer Balch, Associate Professor of Geography and Director, Earth Lab, University of Colorado Boulder; Maxwell Cook, Ph.D. Student, Dept. of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder, and Natasha Stavros, Director of the Earth Lab Analytics Hub, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Size, Sex and Breed May Predict Dogs’ Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer is common in dogs. About one in four will develop cancer at some point during its lifetime—and that proportion rises to an estimate of nearly 50 percent after a dog passes its 10th birthday. A new analysis of thousands of dogs finds that traits such as size, breed and whether an animal has been fixed are associated with how soon our furry friends might get diagnosed with the disease.

Researchers have examined the age of cancer diagnosis in dogs in the past—but those studies have mostly looked at specific breeds or cancer types. Some have been conducted in Europe, where the common breeds, as well as other factors such as neutering or spaying practices, differ from those in the U.S., says veterinary oncologist Andi Flory, co-founder and chief medical officer of PetDx, a California-based pet diagnostics company. “We really wanted to develop something that was applicable to the population of dogs that we have here [in the U.S.],” she says.

To determine what factors were associated with age of cancer diagnosis, Flory and her team at PetDx evaluated previously collected data from 3,452 dogs in three separate groups. Two of those groups of samples came from academic sites within the U.S.: one from the University of California, Davis, and another from a consortium that included Colorado State University, the Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin–Madison and others. Samples from the third cohort were collected in a prior study by PetDx, which was carried out at 41 different sites in several countries, including the U.S., Canada and Brazil.

The researchers found that, overall, the dogs’ median age at cancer diagnosis was 8.8 years. Males were diagnosed at a younger median age than females (8.4 versus nine years). And neutered and spayed dogs were spotted later than those that had not been fixed (8.9 versus 7.9 years in males and nine versus 7.3 years in females). The team also found that purebred dogs tended to be detected at younger median ages than mixed-breed ones (eight versus 9.5 years) and that larger size was associated with earlier diagnosis. Dog breeds with the youngest median age of cancer diagnosis (seven years or earlier) included mastiffs, Saint Bernards, Great Danes and bulldogs. Those on the other end of the spectrum included bichon frises, West Highland white terriers and American Staffordshire terriers, all of which had a median age of diagnosis of 10.5 years or more. The results were published this week in PLOS ONE. 

“I’m happy to see more larger-scale studies like this in veterinary medicine because it wasn’t very long ago that we really didn’t have this kind of research,” says Lisa Moses, a veterinarian and bioethicist at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in this work. “It certainly adds to what we know about the onset and diagnosis of cancer in different purebred dogs, which is certainly interesting—and, in the future, will be important to people like me, who are clinical veterinarians.”

Based on these findings, as well as evidence regarding tumor size and progression from prior studies in humans and canines, the authors of the study recommend that all animals start cancer screening at age seven and that breeds with a lower median age of diagnosis get screened earlier. Being able to detect cancer earlier can enable veterinarians to provide families with more options for treatment and care, Flory says. PetDx offers a blood-based canine cancer test called OncoK9, which works by searching for cancer-associated mutations in DNA floating outside of cells. The test, which is available in North America, costs around $500. Liquid biopsy assays “are considered multicancer detection tests,” says Jill Rafalko, director of scientific communications at PetDx. “We’re looking for any genomic alterations in the blood, which could signal a variety of different cancer types that could be present in that dog.”

But experts who are not involved in this study are wary of the cancer screening recommendations. A key problem, according to Cheryl London, a veterinary oncologist at Tufts University, is the lack of effective early canine cancer screening tools. “If we’re talking about true cancer screening, we don’t have the tools in veterinary medicine to actually do that yet,” London says. Tools commonly used in veterinary practices, such as ultrasounds and x-rays, are not sensitive enough to detect most early cancers—and based on the data published by PetDx to date, neither are liquid biopsies, she adds. (London is on the scientific advisory board of One Health Company, a California-based company focused on diagnostics and personalized therapies for canine cancer.)

PetDx published a validation study of OncoK9 in PLOS ONE in 2022. It reported an overall sensitivity (the ability to pinpoint true cases) of 54.7 percent and a specificity (the ability to avoid detecting false positives) of 98.5 percent. In general, the test’s detection rate was much higher for larger and more advanced cancers: while the rate for large metastasized cancers was 87.5 percent, the one for small, localized cancers was just 19.6 percent.

Another issue is that the team based its recommendation to screen two years prior to the median age of diagnosis based solely on the modeling of physical characteristics of tumors, Moses says. As a veterinarian, “I’m way more concerned about issues like morbidity and quality of life,” she adds. What’s missing, according to Moses, are studies showing that early screening will lead to tangible benefits for dogs’ health and well-being. “As a clinician, I need a lot more information about whether or not knowing this information sooner is going to help me help dogs,” she says.

London notes that while the data from this study are useful for confirming previously identified patterns in canine cancer diagnoses, the fact that a company selling a screening test for cancer is making a recommendation as to when to start using the test is a “major of conflict of interest.” Based on the information currently available, “we have no ability to make a screening recommendation,” London says. “You’re asking people to spend a lot of money. The consumer has to be aware of what the tests can and can’t do. And right now they cannot detect cancer early—period.”

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First Impression From Galaxy Unpacked 2023: Galaxy S23 Ultra Combines the Best of Camera and Gaming Experience

Samsung has once again raised the bar in the world of mobile technology by unveiling its latest Galaxy S23 Series at the Galaxy Unpacked 2023 event. These new devices represent the pinnacle of what is possible in terms of both photography and gaming capabilities. Designed for those who demand the best of both worlds, the Galaxy S23 Series offers a seamless blend of cutting-edge camera technology and powerful performance to deliver a truly unparalleled mobile experience. 

Check out this video to know about how you can #ShareTheEpic with the Galaxy S23 Series.

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Let’s look at the epitome of all – the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and how you should be ready to upgrade to the future of technology.

Epic night photos: Unveil the Beauty of Darkness with Nightography

Unleash the power of night photography with the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s Nightography feature. This advanced camera technology allows users to capture the night’s beauty easily. The camera’s advanced image stabilization and low-light capabilities capture stunning shots even in the darkest environments. So whether you’re out on a night-time hike or exploring a new city at night, the Nightography feature ensures you never miss a shot and capture the magic of the night. The Night Selfie with 12 MP Camera lets you capture the true you, even in low-light conditions. With Night Portrait, you’ll be the star of every shot, no matter the time of day. The Galaxy S23 Ultra takes it one step further with its Night Video feature, allowing you to capture ultra-steady videos with less noise for a more cinematic experience. And for photography enthusiasts, the Expert RAW feature gives you professional-grade editing capabilities to capture and edit like a pro. The night is yours to explore with the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Game On: The Fastest Gaming Experience on Galaxy device 

In addition to its camera capabilities, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is also a powerhouse for gaming. It features the fastest Snapdragon chip yet on a Galaxy device – Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, boasting 24% more efficient than the previous version and backed up by a 41% faster GPU and a 34% faster CPU. So whether playing the latest mobile games or streaming your favourite content, the device’s state-of-the-art hardware ensures an immersive gaming experience. The device’s high refresh rate display provides smooth and responsive gameplay, while the powerful chipset ensures that you can run even the most demanding games without lag. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is available with 12GB of RAM and 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB of built-in storage, so you can store all your games and data without worrying about running out of space. 

Power Play: Long-Lasting Battery for Non-Stop Entertainment

Another highlight of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is its battery life. The device boasts a long-lasting battery as it comes with 5000 mAh battery, which means you can spend more time using your phone without constantly searching for an outlet. With the Galaxy S23 Ultra, you can game, take photos and videos, and stay connected all day without worrying about your battery life. In addition, the device’s super-fast charging also ensures that you can quickly charge the battery, even when you’re on the go. 

Pixel Perfect: 200-Megapixel Camera for Stunning Clarity

The Galaxy S23 Ultra stands out with its 200MP Super Quad Pixel AF camera, one of the highest-resolution cameras ever in any smartphone. With this camera, users can capture every detail of their surroundings and zoom in to see even the smallest details in their shots. In addition, the camera ensures that every detail is captured with stunning clarity, so whether you’re taking landscape photos or portraits, you can be sure that every detail will be captured most stunningly. The 12 MP Dual PDAF front sensor for selfies is made to step up your selfie game to another level. The Super HDR adjusts your shots for epic details and hues by displaying more colour even in tricky shadows or back-lit shots while the Detail Enhancer (AI) utilizes deep-learning AI to intelligently improve your photos with incredible depth and detail even in dim light.

Upgrade to the future of photography with the Galaxy S23 Ultra!

Eyes on the Prize: Enhancing Visibility and Comfort

The Galaxy S23 Ultra come with a new feature called Adaptive Vision Booster, which allows for adaptive outdoor visibility, making it easier to game or stream no matter where you are. It adjusts the display to provide the best viewing experience for your surroundings, whether in the sun or a dimly lit room. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is designed to make your visual experience as seamless as possible.

Epic Features Comes Epic Design 

The Galaxy S23 has the toughest glass on a Galaxy device yet—Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 (Front and Back) and enhanced durability with aircraft–grade strength of Armor Aluminium frame. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is available in three exquisite colours—Phantom Black, Green, and Cream. 
All of this, while keeping the planet in mind. Galaxy S23 Ultra uses more sustainable materials than previous Samsung Galaxy smartphones. 
It uses recycled aluminium, glass, plastic, ocean bound plastic and naturally dyed colours. 

Ideal for photography enthusiasts or gaming fans, the Galaxy S23 Ultra provides the best photography experience with its sleek sustainable design and durable construction. 

The smartphone also comes with an embedded S Pen that lets you write, sketch, doodle or edit photos and videos, while giving you an impressive amount of control.

Epic connectivity with the Galaxy Ecosystem 
With Galaxy S23 Ultra you can enjoy continuous experience across all your Galaxy devices. The latest UI, One UI 5.1 of the Galaxy S23 Ultra allows you to seamlessly shift between your Galaxy devices such as Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Buds, Galaxy Book laptops and Samsung Smart TV.  

And, last but not least, if privacy is a concern, sweat not as you are going to love Galaxy S23’s Security and Privacy dashboard with Samsung Knox. 

A New Era of Mobile Technology: The Galaxy S23 Ultra 

In conclusion, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra offers stunning night photography with its Nightography feature, an immersive gaming experience with the fastest processor on a Galaxy device, and non-stop entertainment with its long-lasting battery and super fast charging capabilities. 

Watch out for this space for details on the price and bundled offers that Samsung will announce soon.

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Rojak gin to bandung soju: This S’porean’s distillery makes unique spirits with Asian flavours

With origins dating back to 2015, Compendium Spirits is a unique distillery in Asia that uses only regional ingredients to create its own base ferments and distillates.

The 38-year-old founder, Simon Zhao, started the business after he graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Chemical Engineering degree, and gained a passion for brewing and distilling.

His background in sciences and love for homebrewing helped him to produce alcohol that was not only of high quality, but also unique in terms of its flavour.

He used to share his creations with family and friends for free, and their valuable feedback helped him develop his skills as a distiller, eventually earning himself the nickname “Simon the Bootlegger”.

Then in 2015, he founded Rachelle the Rabbit Meadery — fondly named after his daughter — which was Singapore’s first and only meadery back then.

Interestingly, this is not his first business venture. He used to be in the apparel trade but realised that it wasn’t a good fit for him, so he decided to pursue his interest in alcohol-making instead.

Pivoting from meadery to distillery

The distillery started out as a meadery, producing mead with honey as a base ferment, but as the business became more commercially viable, Simon and his team decided to delve into the spirits industry.

“Spirits made more business sense as there is a ready market for it,” he explained.

Rojak gin / Image Credit: Compendium Spirits

In 2019, Simon took his business to the next level by launching his first distilled product, the Rojak Gin, which used honey as the base distillate and became the flagship product.

This was followed by the rebranding of the business as Compendium Spirits in 2020, which was meant to be a collection of spirits from Southeast Asia.

The idea was to create a new flavour each year, and by the time Rachelle turns 18, there will be 18 different flavours dedicated to her, so to speak. This somewhat transpires from the Chinese Nu Er Hong tradition.

– Simon Zhao, founder of Compendium Spirits

The company has since launched several other products, including Singapore’s first single grain whiskey, the Hom Mali Rice Whiskey.

Tapping on regional ingredients across Asia

What mainly sets Compendium Spirits apart from other distilleries is its use of only regional ingredients like Hom Mali rice and honey from Thailand, gula melaka from Indonesia, and molasses from Malaysia.

We source from within Southeast Asia as much as we can — save for things like juniper berries since they don’t grow here — as that ties in with our identity. We are a distillery in Asia using Asian raw ingredients and Asian sensibilities to create products uniquely from the region.

It’s meant to be the answer to the question: if gin (or vodka, or whisky, or rum) were to originate from this part of the world, what could it be like?

– Simon Zhao, founder of Compendium Spirits

compendium spirits
Image Credit: Compendium Spirits

The company also produces its own base spirits in-house, which is a departure from most distilleries that use NGS (Neutral Grain Spirit) and additives.

Although this takes more work and effort, Simon stressed that it naturally enhances the flavour and resonates with their Southeast Asian ethos.

“It helps too that we started as a meadery, meaning we are strong in fermentation as well as distillation. We own the entire production process from raw ingredient to bottle. The only thing missing now is a farm,” he remarked.

He added that the R&D process at Compendium Spirits is organic, with Simon taking inspiration from customers, industry friends and other sources.

The team often tries out small batches of their creations first. If the outcome is good, the product is kept and developed further. If not, they experiment with another flavour or find another way to produce the desired result. This process of trial and error is what helps Compendium Spirits create truly unique and delicious spirits.

compendium spirits
Image Credit: Compendium Spirits

Our ideas come from everywhere. For instance, the sojus have all been inspired by local desserts. Ondeh Ondeh, Bandung and Pineapple Tart are all flavours folks from here, which the region are already familiar with.

Our Spiced Rum is made using kampot peppers from Cambodia. It’s a very valuable spice that originates from Southeast Asia, and we want to show how it can really work in a spirit too. We are now experimenting more with base ingredients once again. With the Hom Mali Rice Whiskey a success, we are looking at different rice strains now, and experimenting to see how different they are.

– Simon Zhao, founder of Compendium Spirits

However, not all their attempts have been successful, such as creating bitters. Although a Singaporean version of bitters has potential, they have yet to nail down the exact flavour profile, so this still remains a work-in-progress.

Education efforts all around

In addition to its commitment to using only regional ingredients, Compendium Spirits is also dedicated to creating a better and more conscious drinking experience. The company aims to educate consumers about the importance of drinking better and the role of sugar in alcohol production.

Additionally, Simon has faced a major challenge in educating people about his brand and the concept of craft spirits.

There are many layers to understanding what I’m trying to do with Compendium Spirits. It’s craft as opposed to mass, local as opposed to international, natural as opposed to synthetic, and more.

The educational challenge is also different for different product categories. Explaining about gin often leads to questions about flavour, but with whiskey, the questions are usually more about technicalities and production methods. People ask a lot about the relatively high price point as well, which leads to explanations about the production process and how it differs from the norm.

– Simon Zhao, founder of Compendium Spirits

As the business advances past its launch stage, where establishing a presence was the main focus, Compendium Spirits now focus on creating more “complex” products.

compendium spirits
Image Credit: Compendium Spirits

For one, it has introduced a bespoke barrel-aging service called Chartered, which is the first of its kind in Singapore.

“In a nutshell, it’s a service that allows anyone to own and buy a whole barrel of aged spirit, and which can be tailored completely to their needs. Want to make a cask strength whiskey aged in an ex-rum barrel then bottled with a label with your name on it? You can totally do that,” explained Simon.

Beyond that, the programme enables the co-creation of a barrel of spirit directly with customers. This hands-on learning approach helps to increase education about the brand and how they work.

So far, the demand for workshops and masterclasses has been high, as it offers the perfect setting for customers to learn about the distillery and enjoy drinks while having fun.

Separately, Compendium Spirits also faced challenges in the B2B market, as it is harder to convince bartenders and others in the alcohol trade to switch to using their products. To overcome this, they work closely with bars, hotels and F&B groups to create unique recipes and customised products to suit their individual needs.

“We find that once someone understands what we do, it just continues snowballing into something bigger and bigger. That’s exactly the kind of working relationship we enjoy and want,” said Simon.

Adapt and innovate

compendium spirits simon zhao
Image Credit: Compendium Spirits

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a mixed impact on the business. Direct e-commerce sales improved dramatically thanks to their DIY cocktail boxes, but declined as restrictions eased.

[The boxes] came with everything you needed, including equipment and garnishing, to make your own cocktails at home. These kits sold exceptionally well during that initial period, but around the 2022 mark when restrictions eased, the demand for these boxes were no longer there.

We had to be adaptive once again, and in many ways, return to the former ways of doing business. The good thing is that there’s now demand from corporates for the cocktail boxes as workshop implements. We just have to keep being flexible and go with the flow of what the needs currently are.

– Simon Zhao, founder of Compendium Spirits

To date, Compendium Spirits has received an investment of S$2 million and is expecting more funding to enable its next stage of growth. The company has steadily maintained a two-digit growth year-on-year, and has in fact reached a point where their production capacity can no longer meet demand.

In the year ahead, the company has big plans in store, including a major partnership and new venture that emphasises education and experience on distillery processes to help consumers better understand how alcohol is really made.

Ultimately, its goal is to become a leading player in the spirits industry in Southeast Asia by using agriculture from the region to create unique, locally-inspired spirits.

Featured Image Credit: Compendium Spirits

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How to ensure a successful remote working environment

Adam Coleman, CEO of HR tech company HRLocker, advises Irish employers on remote working essentials.

After many years of being on the fringe, remote working has finally made it to the mainstream. And that means more people are discovering that you can work from almost anywhere.

Last year, I set out on a six-week road trip to learn about this aspect of the future of work. With my trusty VW camper and a head full of questions, I travelled through Ireland to mainland Europe. I met with HRLocker colleagues, consulted with thought leaders in the remote work community and enlisted the voices of digital nomads throughout Europe.

At night I slept at campsites and occasionally on roadsides (legally). Many colleagues generously offered a bed for the night in their homes. In the daytime, I worked a four-day week. My productivity soared. I was inspired and motivated to make remote working work for HRLocker and promote the benefits to a wider industry audience.

My six-week trip might sound like a vacation, but it was far from it. Sure, I was spending time in dynamic cities throughout Europe. But I asked everyone I met the same question: What do you think of remote working?

They answered my call, and here’s what I learned. Making remote working work needs an active will on the part of the employee and employer. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your people have the necessary capabilities, are managed effectively, and have the tools they need to make remote work succeed.

Let’s unpack what that means in reality.

Capabilities remote workers need

If your employees can do their job with a laptop and strong Wi-Fi, they could do it in Barbados, Estonia, Portugal or Mexico. Especially since all of these countries offer digital nomad visas. Having the income and you as a supportive employer means the world is their oyster. But, just because they can be a digital nomad, doesn’t mean they have to be one – or they’ll have what it takes to make it work.

Remote working works for some, but others might be uncomfortable switching between their home, a coffee shop and a co-working space. Your people will need to be flexible and able to adapt to change. Remote workers have to have versatility at their heart and be open to different types of remote working, not just a digital nomad fairytale.

Working remotely requires a change in mindset. Some of your people will find it trickier than others. Going from office-based environments where supportive colleagues and resources are on hand to working solo is a major shift. They’ll have to be resilient and capable of solving problems independently, be that overcoming the usual day-to-day issues or remote work-specific challenges.

Remote work also requires a different outlook on time. One of the most important things I learned during my travels was that the way output is measured has to change. Over those six weeks, I tried to stick with a four-day week. But I discovered that the number of days or hours was arbitrary. Your remote workers must be able to balance their schedules and outputs with time-sensitive business-critical demands.

Managing your remote workers

Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can govern what’s important in the physical workplace, remote workers also have a hierarchy of needs. But these are not just equipment or IT needs. Sure, employees won’t get very far without a laptop, company software or remote access to customer records. But these things sit at the bottom of the pyramid of what you need to provide remote workers.

As an employer looking to make remote work effective, you need to foster a culture that embraces and seeks to include remote workers as much as it does centralised workers. You must consider your staff’s differing needs, boundaries and time zones. After all, you don’t want that ‘urgent’ request to land in their inbox at 1am.

You must ensure that leaders and co-workers are mindful that they could be working very different hours than their colleagues or teams, and to factor this in when waiting for a response or check-in. Before embracing a remote-first culture, companies must implement frameworks to educate, harmonise and manage all workers at all levels, regardless of location.

Businesses also need to find a balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication so that time is used effectively and needs for connection are met. Do your teams need to make every decision on a Zoom call? Or can they work something out over Slack?

The more distributed your workforce is, the harder it will be to find meeting slots that suit everyone. When you and your employees select a new remote working location, you need to plan how frequently you want your people to connect ‘live’.

Many remote companies choose yearly retreats, where all employees (remote or centrally located) can meet in person. These events help employees connect, collaborate and realign themselves with the company’s mission and values.

Remote working doesn’t have to mean your people constantly work in silos. It should mean that they can work from an inspiring location, have fulfilling experiences and integrate work and life better.

The right tools for the (remote) job

Technology is fundamental to effective remote working. The right project management system can help workers perform better, find it easier to complete tasks and inspire collaboration. And a top-of-the-range HR system makes organising a distributed workforce achievable.

When it comes to managing remote workers, employee management software solutions are there to safeguard your interactions. Cloud-enabled solutions like document management ensure all staff can store, access and manage information from anywhere effortlessly.

Online information portals give your staff on-demand access to information like their total reward statement. A digital communication channel also means they can access resources quickly and easily in a way that overcomes those tricky time differences.

Tech can also be the key to gathering all-important feedback and insights from your workforce about your remote work policy. For instance, pulse surveys that allow employees to respond anonymously mean they’re more likely to be honest.

Technology also enables remote working and fuels the work-life blend, a world where work and life fit together. A world where you and your people can get the job done but not at the expense of a child’s first football match or that pottery evening class.

For too long, people have been forced to fit life in around work. Now, remote work offers the opportunity to make work fit with lives. Let’s not waste it!

By Adam Coleman

Adam Coleman is the CEO of cloud-based HR software company HRLocker.

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Tech layoffs in 2023: A timeline

After a year in which technology companies announced massive layoffs, 2023 is looking no different — in fact, the year is starting off worse than 2022.

The problem: Big Tech companies like Amazon, Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce and Facebook went on a hiring binge during the pandemic when lockdowns sparked a tech buying spree to support remote work and an uptick in e-commerce, and now they face revenue declines.

It’s not only tech giants who are conducting layoffs. Smaller tech firms were also caught up in pandemic-generated hypergrowth and are now suffering the consequences.

Although global IT spending is forecast to rise in 2023, with enterprise software and IT services experiencing the greatest growth, the overall increase is expected to be modest, with data center systems and communications services growing by less than 1%, according to market research firm Gartner. Meanwhile hardware sales are forecast to decline.

Continuing supply chain issues, inflation, and the war in Ukraine are also having an impact on both business and consumer spending, leading to fears of recession.

According to data compiled by Layoffs.fyi, the online tracker keeping tabs on job losses in the technology sector, more employees at tech companies have been laid off in January than in any other month since the start of the pandemic.

Employers in the tech sector collectively cut more than 150,000 jobs in 2022 — and in just the first three week of 2023, layoffs climbed to more than 30% of that figure.

While high-profile tech companies such as Amazon and Microsoft have already announced significant job cuts this year, the silver lining for technology pros is that many of the layoffs involve non-technical staff. In fact, a lack of experienced tech talent means companies have been raising salaries for IT professionals, with consultancy Janco Associates predicting that raises for IT pros could jump 8% in 2023.

Here is a list — to be updated regularly — of some of the most prominent technology layoffs the industry has experienced recently.

January 2023

Despite revenue rising 11% in 2022, during an announcement about its fourth quarter financial results, SAP said that due to net income dropping by 68%, the company would be undertaking some restructuring, resulting in layoffs.

Whereas companies such as Google or Salesforce announced across-the-board layoffs based on performance review criteria to reverse over-hiring during the pandemic period, CEO Christian Klein said that the job cuts are part of “a targeted restructuring” and not performance-based.

“We definitely didn’t over-hire,” Klein said, noting that revenue grew faster than SAP employee growth in 2022.

The layoffs are expected the affect around 2,800 staff, or 2.5% of SAP’s global workforce.

After spinning off most of its infrastructure management division as a new business, Kyndryl, in November 2021, and selling some assets of its Watson Health business in January 2022, on the same day as IBM’s Q4 2022 results were announced, the company said it was eliminating 3,900 job roles, or 1.5% of its global workforce.

On a conference call with analysts to discuss the results, CFO Jim Kavanaugh didn’t directly mention the job cuts, instead alluding vaguely to the situation by admitting the business would have some stranded costs to address in early 2023, resulting in a “modest” charge of about $300 million

Later that day, in an interview with Bloomberg, Kavanaugh explained that those stranded costs related to staff left with nothing to do following the asset disposals and as a result, they would be laid off from the company.

In a statement, a spokesperson for IBM said it was important to note the charge is entirely related to the Kyndryl spinoff and healthcare divestiture.

“[The job cuts are] not an action based on 2022 performance or 2023 expectations,” the spokesperson said.

Google’s parent company Alphabet announced it was cutting 12,000 jobs, around 6% of its global workforce. An internal memo from Sundar Pichai said that he takes “full responsibility for the decisions that led us here.”

The company will be paying affected employees at least 16 weeks of severance and six months of health benefits in the US, with other regions receiving packages based on local laws and practices.

The news comes four months after Alphabet posted lower-than-expected numbers for its third financial quarter, where it fell behind both revenue and profit expectations. However, while overall revenue growth slowed to 6% in the quarter for Alphabet, Google Cloud grew 38% year-on-year to $6.9 billion.

On Jan. 18, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed in a blog post that the company would be cutting almost 5% of its workforce, impacting 10,000 employees.

The chief executive chalked up the downsizing maneuver to aligning its cost structure with its revenue structure while investing in areas that the company predicts will show long-term growth.

The Seattle-based tech giant reported its slowest growth in five years for the first quarter of its fiscal 2023, due largely to a strong US dollar and an ongoing decline in personal computer sales, causing net income to fall by 14% to $17.56 billion from this time last year. Rising cloud revenue helped to soften Microsoft’s growth slowdown.

Google-backed, India-based social media startup ShareChat said it is laying off 20% of its workforce to prepare for oncoming economic headwinds.

“The decision to reduce employee costs was taken after much deliberation and in light of the growing market consensus that investment sentiments will remain very cautious throughout this year,” a spokesperson said.

The move is expected to impact over 400 employees out of the company’s approximately 2,200 staffers. The company did not disclose the roles and the exact number of workers affected by the decision.

Alphabet, Google’s corporate parent, also announced there would be layoffs at its Mountain View, California-based robotics subsidiary Intrinsic AI, eliminating around 20% of its workforce or roughly 40 employees.

“This (downsizing) decision was made in light of shifts in prioritization and our longer-term strategic direction. It will ensure Intrinsic can continue to allocate resources to our highest priority initiatives, such as building our software and AI platform, integrating the recent strategic acquisitions of Vicarious and OSRC (commercial arm Open Robotics), and working with key industry partners,” according to a company statement.

Verily — a life sciences firm also owned by Alphabet and headquartered in San Francisco — is downsizing its workforce by 15% to simplify its operating model. The move comes just months after the company raised $1 billion.

According to an email sent by CEO Stephen Gillett to all its employees, the downsizing is part of the company’s One Verily program, which aims to reduce redundancy and simplify operational aspects within the company.

As part of the new One Verily program, the company said it will move from multiple lines of business to one centralized product organization with increasingly connected healthcare systems.

Enterprise data management firm Informatica announced plans to lay off 7% of its total workforce through the first quarter of 2023, the company said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The move by Informatica, headquartered in Redwood City, California, will incur nonrecurring charges of approximately $25 million to $35 million in the form of cash expenditures for employee transition, notice period, severance payments and employee benefits, the company filing showed.

The company said it expects the layoffs to be completed by the first quarter of 2023 but added that there might be limited exceptions.

At the beginning of 2023, San-Francisco based Salesforce announced it will lay off about 10% of its workforce, roughly 8,000 employees, and close some offices as part of a restructuring plan.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company disclosed that its restructuring plan calls for charges between $1.4 billion and $2.1 billion, with up to $1 billion of those costs being shouldered by the company in the fourth quarter of 2023.

In a letter sent by Salesforce’s co-CEO Marc Benioff and attached to the SEC filing, he told employees that as Salesforce’s revenue accelerated through the pandemic, the company over-hired and can no longer sustain its current workforce size due to the ongoing economic downturn. “I take responsibility for that,” Benioff said.

Seattle-based tech behemoth Amazon said it would be laying off more than 18,000 staff, with the bulk of job cuts coming later this month. The news confirmed a December Computerworld article reporting that Amazon layoffs were expected to mount to about 20,000 people at all levels While several teams are impacted, the majority of the job cuts will be in the Amazon Stores and People, Experience, and Technology (PXT) organizations.

According to a note from CEO Andy Jassy, the layoffs are a result of “the uncertain economy.” He also said that Amazon had “hired rapidly over the last several years,” but added that the layoffs will help the company pursue more long-term opportunities with a stronger cost structure.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Age of Empires II’s Xbox edition features surprisingly great gamepad controls

Playing Age of Empires II (AoE II) on an Xbox Series X with a controller is a surreal experience for me.

After all, even though AoE II has received several solid re-releases and expansions (Dynasties of India dropped just last year), the iconic real-time strategy (RTS) title is still the same 23-year-old game I spent hours playing as a child on my parents’ chunky, grey-coloured desktop.

But real-time strategy (RTS) games can really only be enjoyed with a mouse and keyboard, right? With very few exceptions to this rule, including Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2, this is the opinion I’ve held for decades, particularly with titles from the late-90s-to-early-2000s golden era of the genre (I blame StarCraft 64).

Thankfully, Age of Empire II Console Edition for Xbox breaks this trend with surprisingly intuitive and fluid gamepad controls.

“I have to be honest with you and say that the work [on the controls] was more challenging than we originally anticipated. When we first started, we did what everybody does, ‘let’s just take the whole PC game to console and just map to controller.’ It works, but it doesn’t feel great — it’s not smooth…” said Earnest Yuen, executive producer at World’s Edge, in an interview with MobileSyrup.

In A0E II‘s Console Edition, every aspect of commanding your units is cleverly mapped to a controller button. For example, instead of making a square around your troops with a mouse like you would in the PC version of the game, on Xbox, you form a green circle by holding down the A button. You can also select idle Villagers by pressing up on the D-pad, any military unit by hitting left, and access villager properties by clicking the right joystick. Other easy-to-access actions include the left trigger to chain commands, the right bumper to access the mini map and the X button for attack move/special actions.

“The first challenge that we encountered is moving the cursor on the screen, because the PC version of Age of Empires II is all about clicking, in a sense. Translating that experience to a controller using an analogue stick is cumbersome. The first thing we tried was a multi-cursor — that didn’t feel right,” said Alex Liu, design director at World’s Edge.

Liu explained that to do Age of Empires II justice, the team needed to reimagine how to control the game.

“How can we make a game that’s 20 plus years old and beloved by fans feel fresh, new and welcoming for new players… The Xbox game introduces quite a few new features, from automation to new ways to build stuff and to control units — all of these are things we developed in the process in order to make the game more accessible for people.”

Additions to the AoE II include automation mechanics, a first for the Age of Empires franchise, but a move Yuen and Liu say was necessary to adapt the title to console. You can set Villagers to automatically build farms around town centres or ask them to seek out and gather resources with defined automatic presets like ‘Food and Wood’ foraging, allowing you to concentrate more on building military units and battle.

If this sounds complicated, you aren’t wrong, but after moving through AoE II‘s comprehensive tutorial, the actions became second nature; except for switching to different Command Menus with the Y button (for some reason, that didn’t click with me — at least not yet). Still, I never felt my controls were limited in the few hours I’ve spent with AoE II on the Series X. In fact, I enjoyed leaning back in my computer chair and playing familiar campaigns like ‘William Wallace,’ ‘Joan of Arc,’ ‘Atila the Hun’ and more with only a gamepad. Sometimes I found myself wishing my cursor would move a little more accurately via the joystick, but for the most part, the experience was excellent.

Another critical aspect of Age of Empires II Console Edition worth highlighting is how good the game looks running on the Xbox Series X in 4K. Of course, AoE II is over two decades old, and a remake should look this great on a modern console, especially given it’s a port of 2019’s Definitive Edition for PC. I constantly zoomed in and out of the battlefield and marvelled at its detail. As a long-time fan of AoE II that remembers the game looking stunning back in 1999, even though it didn’t, the fresh coat of 4K paint lines up perfectly in my imagination (our minds have a funny way of preserving gaming memories and making them look better than they actually did).

Of course, you can ditch the gamepad for more traditional mouse and keyboard controls, which I spent a few hours doing. With this control method selected, everything plays exactly like the game’s PC version, only on an Xbox console.

“I personally feel it’s important to give players choice… Let players play the game the way that they want to. If a player wants to play with mouse and keyboard, let them,” said Yuen, when asked why it was necessary to still offer more traditional RTS controls in AoE II‘s console version.

Other things worth noting about AoE II‘s Console Edition include that saved files are transferable between the Xbox and PC, making it simple to start a ‘Skirmish’ on Xbox and then continue that same battle on your PC (this feature definitely would have come in handy for me in the ’90s).

While playing Age of Empires II on Xbox, one of the key things running in the back of my mind was how similarly the Age of Empires IV console port will play when it releases later in 2023. It makes sense for World’s Edge to use the title’s surprisingly capable gamepad controls as a testing ground for AoE IV‘s console release later this year, and that is precisely what the studio plans to do.

“That’s definitely the goal. Alex worked with the design lead on Age IV console as well, so they do exchange notes. Our goal is to make sure that once you learn how to play on console through II, you’ll be able to play Age of Empires IV on console as well in a similar fashion,” said Yeun.

As someone who has spent a lot of time playing AoE II over the past few years, first with the HD remake back in 2012 and then the Definitive Edition in 2019, I’m more interested in diving back into AoE IV on the Series X. While I played the game on PC back when it released, my desktop’s aging hardware didn’t allow it to run at top settings or in 4K. Will I opt for mouse and keyboard controls or gamepad, though? I’m still not sure, but after spending a few hours with the Console Edition of Age of Empires II, I’m leaning more towards the chilled-out experience playing with a controller offers.

Age of Empires II Definitive Edition launches on Xbox consoles on January 31st. It’s worth noting that if you own the PC version of AoE II: DE, you’ll already have access to the Xbox version, and the same goes for the Console Edition.

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Samsung Galaxy A14 5G review: A solid smartphone full of surprises, that gets the job done- Technology News, Firstpost

– Battery life
– Aesthetics and design
– Lower-specced variant one of the cheapest 5G phones in the market
– Impressive main camera
– 3.5mm jack
– Expandable Storage and virtually expandable RAM
– Vibrant LCD display

– Mono speaker
– No OIS in any of the cameras
– No IP rating
– 15W charging, with no charging brick in the box
– Bezels and bottom chin

Price: Rs 20,999 for the 8GB + 128GB variant

Rating: 4/5

Although smartphone manufacturers tend to focus most of their resources in hyping up their flagship devices, it is the mid-range segment where they face some of their fiercest competition. The first smartphone that Samsung launched this year, the Galaxy A14 5G may look rather simple and plain on the surface. However, considering that it costs Rs 20,999 for the top, 8GB + 128GB variant, and can be had for cheaper after discounts and offers, we have to say that the device has the potential to shape up to be one of the best 5G devices under Rs 20,000. There’s also a 4GB + 64GB variant as well as a 6GB + 128GB variant which costs even less.

Image Credit: Tech2 | Mehul Reuben Das

What Samsung has done with the Galaxy A14 5G may be that they have focussed on what really makes a budget smartphone good, and ticked most of the boxes they could. The Galaxy A14 5G is a device that gives you the hand feel of a far more premium device, something that would cost around Rs 35-40,000, but at almost half that price.  

The Galaxy A14 5G is feature loaded, has some pretty solid specifications and is genuinely a good phone who are looking for something that gets the job done without too many distractions. However, there are a few flaws as well. So how does the Galaxy A14 5G hold up, and more importantly, is it worth your hard-earned money? 

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (1)

Image Credit: Tech2 | Mehul Reuben Das

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G review: The design
The Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is simple but elegant looking. Our test unit was a light green unit, which looked particularly chic, thanks to the textured back that the device gets. The rear panel, which has been made using plastic, also has this shimmery effect that looks particularly premium especially when the light hits it at an odd angle. The textured rear panel ensures that it does not attract any smudges or fingerprints. Other than green, you get to choose from two more colours, dark red, and black.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (5)

Image Credit: Tech2 | Mehul Reuben Das

Coming to the front of the display, the first thing you will notice is that the device has some conspicuously large bezels. The bottom chin, in particular, stands out quite a bit. Although the device comes with a pretty sizeable 6.6-inch display, the bezel makes the screen look a tad bit smaller. On the front, we also get to see the front-facing camera behind a teardrop notch. 

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (8)

Image Credit: Tech2 | Mehul Reuben Das

On the right, we get to see the volume rockers, as well as the power button. The power button also doubles up as the fingerprint scanner. The left side has no buttons and houses the sim tray, which also has a slot for a microSDXC slot.

At the bottom, we see a speaker grille that houses one of the speakers, as well as the USB Type-C port. Much to our surprise the device comes with a 3.5mm jack. 

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (9)

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At the rear, we get three rear cameras all of which stand vertically on their own, along with the LED flash. There is no camera module or a camera island as such which actually gives the device a premium and somewhat minimalistic appeal from the rear. 

The Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is built like a tank and feels solid to hold. All in all, as far as aesthetics are concerned, the device looks simplistic and elegant. The only flaw with the hardware is that the device doesn’t come with an IP rating, so it’s not dust or water-resistant.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (10)

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Samsung Galaxy A14 5G review: The display
The bezels of the display of the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G  will have you believe that the display isn’t something to write home about. That, however, couldn’t be far from the truth. The Samsung Galaxy A14 comes with a 6.6-inch FHD+ PLS LCD display with a resolution of 1080×2408 pixels, set in an aspect ratio of 20:9. The display supports a refresh rate of up to 90Hz, which gives users a buttery smooth experience. 

The display comes with an HDR10 certification is vibrant, sharp and very clear, even under direct sunlight. We had no problem reading off the screen or playing games, even under the sun, although, the dark portions of videos do get a little difficult to deal with. 

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (7)

Image Credit: Tech2 | Mehul Reuben Das

All in all, while the Display may only be an LCD panel, it gets the job done, easily. As typical with most Samsung phones, the display is sharp and vibrant enough, so much so that unless you have been using a smartphone with an AMOLED panel, you wouldn’t actually realise that the display that you’re using doesn’t have the same level of crushing blacks and that high a contrast ratio. For people who have been using other phones with LCD panels, the display will certainly feel more refined and more saturated.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G review: The camera
The Samsung Galaxy A14 5G has a triple camera setup at the rear. The main camera is a 50MP sensor, paired with an f1.8 lens and shoots wide. The other two cameras are 2MP each, one for macro and the other for depth. 

The main camera comes with PDAF or Phase Detection Auto Focus and takes some pretty awesome photos, especially in the daylight. The photos are vibrant and crisp when they have adequate lighting, and take photos that have plenty of details. In certain situations especially when the light isn’t optimal, the photos showed a little too much processing. The dynamic range is pretty solid, but we reckon Samsung can do a better job, once it pushes out an update that optimised the camera better.

At night though the camera struggles. The pictures get a little grainier but still usable. The Night mode does tone things down a bit, however, it becomes quite clear that the photos have been processed a lot. Also, the Night Mode turns the camera a little slower than the normal shooting settings. With that being said, we aren’t complaining exactly, as most smartphones at this budget will have this issue.

You can get the camera to take photos with some pretty good bokeh, but you will have to use the portrait mode for that, and more importantly, hone in on the focusing point properly. The camera also comes with a bunch of filters to play with, if that’s your thing.

As for the front-facing camera, it is a 13MP sensor. The device gave us some decent shots, considering the price. The fixed-focus camera gives us plenty of details, and the colours are also accurate. The front-facing camera does have the tendency to overexpose the face a little to brighten it up, but then again, that’s an issue with almost all smartphone cameras at this pricepoint.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (6)

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As for videos, the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G shoots 1080p videos on the 50MP main sensor, as well as the front camera. Both cameras can shoot videos at up to 30fps. You get some sort of EIS, which quite frankly, is a bit of a downer. 

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G review: The performance, software experience and UI
The Samsung Galaxy A14 is a rather capable smartphone thanks to an octacore, Exynos 1330 CPU, and the Mali-G68 MC4 GPU. The SoC has been properly optimised for the Galaxy A14 which makes its performance rather snappy in day-to-day tasks.

Our test unit had 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB of UFS 2.2 internal storage. We also get RAM Plus, which offers the option to increase the physical memory by an additional 8GB RAM. Furthermore, you also get a dedicated microSDXC slot so storage won’t exactly be an issue.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (13)

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Given that this is not a top-tier flagship device, the scores that it gets in benchmarks do not break records. However, in our day-to-day usage, which involved some pretty intense gaming sessions and quite a bit of multitasking, it did really well.

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The device handled lighter games like Alto’s Odyssey rather well. Moreover, it handled more demanding games like Asphalt 9 and Call of Duty Mobile decently as well at 60fps albeit at low graphic settings without any issues. 

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (12)

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The Samsung Galaxy A14 runs on OneUI 5, which is based on Android 13. You get Android 13 straight out of the box, so that’s a massive plus. As divisive as OneUI can be, OneUI 5 is definitely one of the better versions, and with the Galaxy A14, you’re truly getting the best features that the UI has to offer, of course, barring flagships like the S22 Ultra or the Galaxy Fold 4.

There is some bloatware, mainly in the form of Samsung’s own apps. – it is actually much easier than turning off app recommendations in smartphones from other brands. 

As for connectivity, the Samsung Galaxy A14 comes with WiFi, BlueTooth 5.2 and USB Type-C 2.0 port. We also appreciate that the device has a 3.5mm port, as users will be needing it. The device only has a mono speaker at the bottom and no speakers at the top, not even an earpiece. Naturally then, content consumption and gaming without a headphone may be underwhelming for some.

The device also comes with both SA and NSA bands, for a total of 10 5G bands, which covers most of the popular bands that 5G operators are operating on. During our 5G tests, we were easily getting about 450MPBS at about 500 metres away from a tower, which is usually where and how we do these tests. 

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G review: The battery life
Speaking of battery life, we can only say good things about it as we were thoroughly impressed. The Galaxy A14 has a 5000mAh battery. Because we are using an LCD panel, and because the CPU isn’t that power-hungry, we get a pretty impressive battery life

You’ll easily get over 8-10 hours of screen on time at 70 per cent brightness, and over 14 hours of usage time. Our typical usage included watching videos, browsing the internet, some amount of gaming, going through emails, conference calls with the office etc.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (2)

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The Galaxy A14 supports 15W wired charging, provided you have a supporting charging block. The device does not come with a charging brick, but only with a USB-C to USB-C cable. This is another aspect of the Galaxy A14, especially when you consider what the device costs, and that smartphones in this budget, support up to 80W charging. Samsung should have provided a USB-A to USB-C cable. During our tests, we were consistently getting to the end of the day, with about 25-30  per cent of battery while daily driving it. 

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G review: The verdict
Given that the Samsung Galaxy A14 costs about Rs 20,000 or perhaps even lower, depending on offers and discounts, it ticks a lot of the correct boxes, especially for someone who’s looking for a budget smartphone from a reputable and established brand.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Review (11)

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Yes, there are a ton of options from other manufacturers at this price point which offers a ton of more features and have slightly better hardware. But then, they are known to have terrible after-sales services, and availability of spare parts. 

We also like the fact that Samsung has pledged two years of Android OS updates, and four years of security updates.

Performance, even though not chart-topping is still solid, and not something that you can complain about. Unless you’re a pro gamer or an ultra-heavy user, you won’t find any issues

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is a pretty solid device, one that we can confidently recommend people go for, if they want to go for a mobile phone brand that has been around for decades now. 

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Make The Most Out Of Your PS5 With These Tips & Tricks

It has been a little over 2 years since PS5’s release, and still, the unique-looking console remains hard to get for some. Meanwhile, among the bunch who’ve managed to get themselves a PlayStation 5, a fraction of users do not fully understand their device and all it can do. That is precisely where this guide comes in.

This guide will tell you how to get the most out of your new PS5 console and DualShock controllers. From setting automatic settings for games to getting into games quickly, this guide will take you through the process.

Use these to get the most out of your PlayStation 5

1. Familiarity with DualSense

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Sony’s DualSense is a game-changing console controller in itself. Apart from the new design and the great feel of the controller’s grip, the standout feature is definitely the haptic feedback intricated into the PS5’s DualSense.

While the controller might seem a bit of a gimmick to some players, much of which can be owed to current games that do not have the proper integration with what DualSense is capable of. Meanwhile, as of now, Astro’s playroom is probably the only game that takes advantage of the haptic and motion sensors on the controller, apart from a few next-gen games. Now, since we’re talking about getting familiar with the DualSense, Astro’s Playroom is undoubtedly the game for this and is sure to get you familiar with the upcoming games with better DualSense support.

2. The PS button is much more than it seems

ps5 dualsense ps button
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In the previous generations of PlayStation controllers, the PS button on the controller did not use to do the same thing as it does on the new DualSense controller. The controls on the PS4 DualShock controllers were plain simple; a single press of the PS5 button took you to the home screen of the PS, and a double press of the PS button enabled players to switch between applications.

However, on the new DualSense controller, it’s not quite the same, and thanks to muscle memory, many players would struggle to use the PS button to the fullest. Interestingly, this is what the PS button does on the DualSense.

  • Single tap: Opens up the control center.
  • Double tap: Brings up the current game’s progress and other information about the game.
  • Long press: Takes players to PS5’s home screen.

3. Trophy videos are gimmicks; turn them off

playstation 5 trophies
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Whenever you win a trophy in a game, the PS5 automatically saves video evidence of it. While this might be favorable for some PS5 users to share an achievement on social media or simply boast among friends. It’s not a practical choice for anyone to keep this feature on. Mainly since saving these videos on your PS5’s disk will consume space.

While it might not make a big difference right away, after playing multiple games, these videos are sure to increase and consume disk space enough to accommodate a small game. Also, considering the 15-second videos will be saved in 4K, the point stands still.

Meanwhile, thanks to Sony, players can turn this feature off in settings. To turn off the automatic save of trophy videos on PS5, head over to settings and follow this path; Settings > Captures and Broadcasts > Trophies. From here, you can disable the Save Trophy Videos setting.

4. Use cards to get into games quickly

ps5 game cards
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Rather than launching the game from the home screen of the PS5 by hitting the play button, there’s one more option that will get players into games quickly. That is, by using game cards, which will also help players bypass the menu. Using cards, players will be directly taken to the point in the game that is featured on the card they select.

While players can access the cards through various methods; however, the quickest is to scroll down from a game on the PS5 home screen to the “activities” section and then hit “square” on a card.

5. Change the way notifications show

playstation 5 notifications
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Its quite irritating when unwanted notifications show up in the middle of a gaming session. Particularly when the player is in the middle of unimportant quest or be in the middle of a competitive match. Interestingly, Sony has taken care of it by allowing players to choose to turn off notifications amid games and even change the duration for which they appear on the screen.

To change the notifications settings, players need to follow this path; Settings > Notifications. From here, the console gives options to switch off the notifications entirely. Moreover, players can also change the settings based on the notifications types.

6. More control with power-saving settings

power saving playstation 5
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For the PS players wishing to have more control on the power consumption of their console, this setting is quite handy. Players can choose the time after which their console will go to sleep mode, and even set the time for the controller to switch off when not in use.

To set the power saving settings of the PS5 and its accessories, go to Settings > System > Power Saving. From here on, players can further choose for how long will the console continue to supply power to the USB ports during the rest mode.

7. Say no to spoilers!

ps5 spoilers
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This one’s for the player who wish to have a spoiler free gaming experience. Not just before starting off a game, but players have the option to bypass any spoilers beyond any point in the game. To disable any spoilers, players will need to follow this path on the console; Settings > Saved data and Game/App settings > Spoiler Warnings.

From here, players need to click on “Warn about game spoilers.” This will not only bypass any spoiler before installing the game but also any spoilers of a far-out checkpoint in the game.

8. Customize the control center

ps5 control center
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Customizing the control center of the PS5 will not only enable players to access certain settings quickly but also gives players the ability to make the control center clutter free. Players can customize the control center to their liking while the menu is open.

As we mentioned earlier, a single press of the PS button on the DualSense will open the control center. Now, press the start button to start making changes to the PS5’s control center.

9. Choose to log in offline

ps5 appear offline
Image via Fossbytes

Choosing to log in to the PS5 while appearing offline is a handy feature for the players who want to enjoy a quiet gaming session and not inform their PS buddies about it. Players have the option to log in offline directly when they log in to the console, provided they haven’t switched on the automatic login.

Interestingly, players can also choose to appear offline from the control center. For this, bring up the control center with a single press of the PS button on the DualSense, go to profile, and then choose offline.

10. Gameplay stats make it easy to track progress

ps5 game report
Image via Fossbytes

This is a new feature that Sony has given to the PS5, enabling players to view the stats for each game they play. This feature shows players how much time they’ve spent on each game, how many trophies they’ve unlocked, the overall progress, and the time a particular game was last played.

To view the gameplay stats, players will need to click on the profile picture on the PS5’s home screen and then go to profile. Here you can see all your progress of all games, and even your friend’s.

And there you have it, some basic settings and features you can use to make the gaming experience better on the PS5 while also doing so much more. For now, we’re going only with these 10 settings. However, in the future, we’ll update this list with more options.

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Scientists spot 1st gamma-ray eclipses from strange ‘spider’ star systems

Astronomers have detected the first gamma-ray eclipses from a “spider” star system, in which a superdense rapidly rotating neutron star called a pulsar is feeding on a stellar companion. These never-seen before gamma-ray eclipses are caused by the low-mass companion star of the pulsar moving in front of it and very briefly blocking high-energy photons.

An international team of scientists has found seven spider systems undergoing such gamma-ray eclipses, while scouring more than 10 years of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. In one case, the finds helped the scientists to discover how a spider system is tilted in relation to Earth, and to determine the mass of the pulsars in such systems. In the future, the research could help scientists define what mass marks the dividing line between neutron stars and black holes.

“One of the most important goals for studying spiders is to try to measure the masses of the pulsars,” Colin Clark, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Germany and lead of the research team, said in a statement (opens in new tab).

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