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Best Gaming Laptops Under $1500

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Pretty much everyone in this day and age owns a laptop. Maybe, they’ve just gone into university and need it for course work. Or possibly they’re of the older generation and need to keep up with online banking. Regardless of what your individual needs are, there is likely a laptop for the job. Including gamers.

As the demand for laptops rises, so does the market. With the number of companies competing for business, the cost of owning a laptop has dramatically dropped. For gaming-specific laptops, it used to be pricey to get one with decent specs. Nowadays, you can get a basic but functioning model for under $1000. Laptops of this price can run most games without noticeable lagging issues. If you’ve got $1500 to spend on your gaming laptop, then you can get something decent quality, with additional features on top of the basic model.

There is a lot to consider when purchasing a laptop, especially one for gaming. You want to make sure the processor can keep up. Also, it should have a high performing graphics card that runs the game at its highest intended potential. You need ample storage to store all your game data, and you’ll want a screen that has high-resolution.

It might sound like a lot, but with a $1500 budget, you can tick all your boxes. Let’s dive deeper into all these features and break down exactly what you should look out for when choosing a gaming laptop.

Reliable Gaming Laptop

Asus ROG Strix GL531GT

Asus ROG Strix GL531GT

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The Absolute Best Gaming Laptop

Alienware m17 17″

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Best Smallest Gaming Laptop

Razer Blade 15″

Razer Blade 15″

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1. Razer Blade 15″

Razer Blade 15″

Best Smallest Gaming Laptop

“Razer holds the claim to the world’s smallest gaming laptop with its Razer Blade 15″.”

Razer holds the claim to the world’s smallest gaming laptop with its Razer Blade 15″. Razer is a well-known and trusted brand in the gaming community and produce lightweight and slick gaming laptops. This one is the lightest, with the chassis weighing in under 4.5lbs! If it’s so thin, then where can you plug in external devices? Well, it doesn’t lose any of its connection options with a full range of ports on the body, including multiple USBs and even a full-size HDMI port.

It’s got the latest 8th generation processor and top of line GeForce graphics card from Nvidia. It’s the newest and highest performing GPU on the market. When you look at the laptop size, it’s incredible that it even fits in there. The screen is small, but still gives you more than enough to see what you’re doing while keeping it compact. Sound quality isn’t bad either with its dual speakers, rounding off the experience.

This gaming laptop is ticking every single box in terms of specs and comes in just under the $1500 mark. For that reason, it tops our list.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel i7-8750H 2.2 GHz Hexa Core Processor
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max GPU
  • Screen: 15.6″ full HD with sRGB coverage
  • Storage: 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD
  • Battery: 6hrs


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2. HP OMEN 15″

Good High End Gaming Laptop

“The OMEN is HPs first significant start in the high-end gaming world.”

We bring you another 15″ gaming laptop option, this time from HP. HP is another household name in laptops for all different purposes. They’ve got a large mid-range selection of gaming laptops and have now introduced the OMEN, which is their highest end.

The OMEN has the latest 8th generation processor, which delivers superior power regulation and an RTX GPU for graphics, which couples with its full HD IPS display.

It echoes the storage capacity of the Razer, with 1TB of HDD and 128GB of SSD. It weighs in a tad bit more at 5.2lbs, still decently lightweight. Where it differs, though, is in the price.

The OMEN is HPs first significant start in the high-end gaming world. Therefore, it comes at a lower cost than the previous and can save you two hundred dollars to spend on some cool accessories to complement its slick backlit keyboard.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel i7-8750H 2.2 GHz 8th Generation Processor
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 2070 8GB
  • Screen: 15.6″ Full HD
  • Storage: 1TB 7200RPM HDD + 128GB SSD
  • Battery: 5hrs


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3. MSI GL73 9SDK-219 17″

Best Compact Gaming Laptop

“The last two gaming laptops on our list have been compact and lightweight.”

Let’s head to the other side of the spectrum. The last two gaming laptops on our list have been compact and lightweight, Maybe, you don’t care about that, and you want something that makes a statement. For just under $1500, you can get yourself the MSI GL73 9SDK-219.

MSI are veterans on the laptop scene. They’re known for being the big guys, and their gaming-specific design allows for the most immersive experience possible with a laptop. The large, full-HD screen is 17.3″ and refreshes at a 144Hz rate, so even fast-paced gaming will display seamlessly.

Inside, it has a whopping 16GB of memory and 512GB SSD and has the latest Nvidia GeForce graphics card. This laptop has a solid chassis with an aluminum and red color motif to match the brand. It also has a red backlight on the keyboard. It’s just a beast.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H 2.6GHz Processor
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti 6GB DDR5
  • Screen: 17.3″ Full HD
  • Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
  • Battery: 5hrs


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4. Alienware m17 17″

The Absoulte Best Gaming Laptop

“If you want to stay ahead of the tech curve, then this is the best option.”

For another beast of a gaming laptop, we have the Alienware m17. This laptop is part of the gaming series from Dell and features the newest 9th generation technology. See, we told you you could get a 9th generation for under $1500. It comes in a few dollars over budget, but if you’re looking for a top of the line, then it’s worth the extra.

If you want to stay ahead of the tech curve, then this is the best option. Its CPU clocks in at 4.5GHz, and it’s got a ton of memory, making multitasking a breeze. It comes with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, which is more than enough. If you want more, it’s got the potential to upgrade to 32GB.

The storage also comes with upgrade options. It already features ample hybrid storage with 1TB of HDD and 256GB of SSD. If you want more than you can upgrade the storage drives.

Another thing to note is that while it already delivers good graphics, its Nvidia Geforce CPU is overclockable, which may be a huge draw for some.

So, with all these incredible features, where does it fall short? The only real issue is the size. Its screen size, coupled with its weight of almost 6lbs, means it’s not conveniently portable. It’s great if you plan to use it at home and keep it at your desk. If the intention is to travel with the laptop, then you may struggle.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H 2.6 GHz
  • GPU: Nvidia Geforce RTX 2060 6GB DDR5
  • Screen: 17.3″ Full HD IPS
  • Storage: 1TB HDD + 256GB SSD
  • Battery: 6hrs


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5. Acer Predator Helios 300

Good Budget Gaming Laptop

“The Acer Predator Helios is one of the most inexpensive on our list.”

We know you have a $1500 budget, but it never hurts to save a few dollars. The Acer Predator Helios is one of the most inexpensive on our list, coming in just over $1000. It still delivering some amazing features.

The design itself is super cool with its bold blue accents and unique body shape. It looks futuristic, and it’s lightweight weighing in at 5lbs. The screen is on the smaller spectrum at 15.6″ and is a Full-HD IPS.

The only place this laptop has a struggle is with 4K. If you’re after a higher resolution than 1080p, then it may not live up to your expectations. Inside, its CPU is an Intel i7 2.6GHz and has the latest high-performance GPU. For RAM, it’s more than adequate with 16BG for juggling multiple programs simultaneously.

The cooling system is top-notch, with its super thin AeroBlade fans. With this addition of quad-exhaust, it provides efficient cooling yet is quiet.

Where it excels above others of similar spec, is with battery life. The battery can last up to 6 hours, which beats many others on the market.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel i7-9750H 2.6 GHz Processor
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB DDR5 VRAM
  • Screen: 15.6″ Full HD
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Battery: 6hrs


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6. Asus TUF

Most Durable Gaming Laptop

“It finds a place on our list as the most durable and reliable gaming laptop.”

The name says it all; this gaming laptop is TUF. It finds a place on our list as the most durable and reliable gaming laptop you can get under $1500. The sophisticated red and black design makes it look like you spent a lot more on it than you did.

It’s the first one on our list without an Intel processor, as it’s fitted with an AMD Ryzen 7. There is not much difference in performance between the two processors. The AMD CPU runs at a lower price point. Some say that i7 will deliver better clock speeds, but AMD has a higher number of threads. Either way, the AMD Ryzen works just fine on the Asus TUF laptop.

The screen is 15.6″ Full HD, and with its Nvidia GeForce GPU, it has excellent visual performance. The memory and storage offer everything you need with 16GB of RAM, 1TB of HDD and 256GB SSD.

For the price, you get a long-lasting and well-performing gaming laptop. The only issues it seems to have it can sometimes run hot and you can hear the fans working to keep up.

Specifications

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3750H Processor
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti
  • Screen: 15.6″ Full HD Widescreen LED IPS
  • Storage: 1TB 5400RPM HDD + 256GB PCIe SSD
  • Battery: 6hrs


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7. MSI GL65 9SEK-065

Best Lightweight Gaming Laptop

“If you’re a fan of the MSI features but want something smaller and more lightweight than this 15″ laptop may tick all your boxes.”

The little brother to the MSI GL73 9SDK-219, this gaming laptop from delivers the same trusted performance, in a smaller package. If you’re a fan of the MSI features but want something smaller and more lightweight than this 15″ laptop may tick all your boxes.

Typically, the larger-bodied computers can support higher performing components, but this one keeps up with some larger models. The 15.6″ screen is 144Hz, which provides smooth and defined graphics. Its Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU produces the graphics.

Battery life is about standard for the size and can last around 5 hours on a full charge. It only weighs 5lbs, so it’s easy to carry around with you for gaming on the go. Where it falls behind is in storage, with only a 512GB SSD.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H Hexa Core 2.6 GHz Processor
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB DDR6
  • Screen: 15.6-Inch Full HD 144Hz 3ms Display with 72% NTSC (100% sRGB) Color Gamut
  • Storage: 512GB Solid State Drive
  • Battery: 5hrs


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8. Lenovo Legion Y540

Lenovo Legion Y540

Best Designer Gaming Laptop

“Its metallic build is super sleek, with the statement logo making it look like the designer bag of gaming laptops.”

Gaming experience and functionality are important, but some people are all about the looks. If that sounds like you, then for under $1500 you can score yourself a snazzy Lenovo Legion Y540. Its metallic build is super sleek, with the statement logo making it look like the designer bag of gaming laptops.

Luckily, it doesn’t come with the designer price tag and is about $1400. It also features a backlit keyboard for some extra flair.

But how does it function? The good news is that it doesn’t just boast good looks. It stacks up to others in terms of performance with the latest i7, 9th generation processor. It’s got 16GB of RAM and decent storage, delivering some good speed ratings. In the graphics department, it’s top of the line for the cost. All this in a 15.6″ package that weighs just over 5lbs.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H 2.6 GHz 9th Gen
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
  • Screen: 15.6″ Full HD
  • Storage: 1TB HDD + 512GB PCIe SSD
  • Battery: 5hrs


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9. Asus ROG Strix Hero II

Asus ROG Strix Hero II

Beautiful Design Gaming Laptop

“The ASUS ROG Strix Hero II is built with a mesmerizing design, keeping the needs of gamers in mind.”

The ASUS ROG Strix Hero II is built with a mesmerizing design, keeping the needs of gamers in mind.

It has decent hardware specs for its size and price. It has a 15.6″ full HD screen but weighs more than others of its size. The CPU is the 8th generation, which clocks up to 4.1GHz and has 16GB of RAM preloaded. It’s got decent storage with 512GB SSD, but you may want to upgrade at some point if you’re a hardcore gamer. The graphics card, however, is top of the line.

For features, its black chassis has a backlit keyboard that can is lit with the full spectrum of colors. It also has some additional gamer specific features like its extra-wide space bar and four other hotkeys. It comes in at the top end of the $1500 budget.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel i7-8750H 2.2 GHz Hexa-Core Coffee Lake Processor
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB DDR5
  • Screen: 15.6-Inch Full HD 144Hz 3ms refresh-rate IPS Display
  • Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Battery: 5hrs


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10. Asus ROG Strix GL531GT

Asus ROG Strix GL531GT

Reliable Gaming Laptop

“Many commend the series for reliability, and this model fits that description.”

The last gaming laptop on our list is another part of the Asus ROG Strix series, but with a few differences. Many commend the series for reliability, and this model fits that description. However, while many of the laptops in the series have attractive looks and high-performance specs, this model is more basic. It delivers function over style.

The reason this model enters our list is for the price. Since the features are more muted, it comes in at a better price point. It’s just over $1000, so you’ve got $500 still in your pocket.

The screen is 15.6″ and full HD IPS, but the refresh rate is lower than the other laptops in the series. It will still be able to run most games at reasonable frame rates with its Nvidia Geforce GTX 1650 GPU. Although, it doesn’t have ray tracing. Where storage is concerned, there’s enough to satisfy most gamers with 1TB of SSD.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel i7-9750H 2.6 GHz (12MB Cache) Coffee Lake Processor
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 4GB DDR5 VRAM
  • Screen: 15.6″ Full HD IPS Display
  • Storage: 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Battery: 5hrs


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CPU/Processor

Where processors are concerned, you will want something with at least a 7th generation, Kaby Lake CPU. They are an older model, so you could save some money in this department. Ideally, the CPU will be the newest 8th generation or Coffee Lake. It’s got more power than the 7th and delivers a higher level of performance all around. You don’t need the 8th generation, but it’s a good idea to get the latest model.

With the advance in technology, the 9th generation processors are already entering the market. Since it’s still new, we recommend a cautionary approach when purchasing a laptop with a 9th gen chip to make sure it hasn’t had any technical issues. If it has good reviews and is within your budget, then definitely purchase. You will find out information about individual laptop speeds in our reviews down below.

Graphics Card

Some may say that the graphics card is the most crucial part of your gaming laptop. For gaming on a PC, they can upgrade individual components within the body of their computers. They will purchase a computer with stock components. Then they can upgrade each part individually to the one of their choosing, making the whole build customizable. With laptops, you rarely have that luxury, so you will have to choose one with the GPU you want already installed.

If you’re looking at the specs, any laptop with Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti, 1080, 1070, 1060, or 1050 graphics cards is the older of the models. Though they still perform pretty well. If you want the most up to date and current graphics card, then keep an eye for the GeForce RTX. These cards come at a higher cost but have additional features compared to the older ones, and you can find them within the $1500 budget.

Laptop Screen

Laptop screens have gotten much better quality over the last few years, hitting full-HD resolutions at 1920×1080. The main things you want to keep an eye for are higher contrast ratio, more extensive color range, and IPS panels, which provide a more comprehensive range of view that maintains quality at all angles.

Many laptops will try to sell you on 300cd screen brightness, but it’s unnecessary. What’s more important is the contrast ratio. Another buzz phrase companies will use is ‘resolution that is better than high def.’ While this sounds great, most graphics cards can’t keep up the extreme resolution anyway and will result in low frame rates. You’re better off with a standard high-resolution screen that still provides fantastic quality and detailing with seamless frame rates.

Screens with glare can be frustrating while you’re playing games. Always moving your screen, so it doesn’t reflect light gets old quick. Luckily, it’s becoming a lot easier and more affordable to find anti-glare screens on the market, so keep an eye for that.

If you can find a screen with a high refresh rate, then go for it, as it will offer you a slicker overall visual experience.

Storage

While a decent storage drive won’t make your games operate any faster, it can shorten the loading time between levels. Storage will improve your overall experience for booting up, opening/saving files, and launching programs. We advise a solid-state hard drive, and it never hurts to have a new spacious hard drive just for gaming. Games can take up a ton of space on your drive, so the more storage, the better.

The two components that contribute to high performance are RAM and HDD or SSD storage. Where RAM is concerned, you’ll want to find a computer that has at least 8GBs of RAM minimum. SSD storage is your best bet, but a hybrid SSD / HDD is also a decent option.

Audio

As a laptop gamer, you may play all your games wearing headsets or at least headphones. This trend began to block out the noisy sound of the laptop running sound. Now that technology has improved, and laptops are quiet, you might get some use out of the laptop’s speakers. It will not be as good as an external speaker, but the quality is improving.

Battery Life

If you’re using a gaming laptop in place of a PC, then battery life may not be a huge concern for you. Likely you will have it stationary on your desk, and it can be plugged in at all times. However, if you use this as a portable gaming center, then battery life is essential. A laptop’s standard battery life with drain much quicker when you’re running high-def gaming software. However, many of the laptops on our list have shown some incredible battery life potential.

Do You Need to Spend $1500?

The more budget you have, the more features you can get on your gaming laptop. You can get a basic model that will run perfectly well for under $1000. But a pricier model will deliver a higher performance graphics system and overall faster speeds. If you plan to use any additional large applications, like video editing programs, then you will need the highest rate possible. It will probably set you back closer to $1500.

With $1500 you can get yourself a top-tier gaming laptop. For that price, it will fulfill your requirements for the most immersive gaming experience possible on a laptop. But $1500 is still a lot of cash to throw around on any old gaming laptop. You want to make sure you’re investing in one that is the best your money can buy.

That’s where we come in. We’ve done our research, so you don’t have to, and chosen the top 10 best gaming laptops you can get for under $1500. We’ve reviewed them all so you can decide for yourself which one is worth purchasing.

Conclusion

As a gamer in the market for a laptop, you want the best you can get within your $1500 budget. You now know what specs and features to look for and have ten laptop options to get you started.

With prices getting more affordable, it’s an exciting time for the gaming community. With $1500 you can get a high-quality laptop that will deliver an immersive and more enjoyable gaming experience.

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This start-up is offering stressed techies the chance to switch off at its cabins

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Slow Cabins is coming to Ireland and aiming to tap into the trend for low-impact, sustainable, digital-free tourism.

A hospitality rental company targeting techies who want to digitally detox is preparing to welcome its first guests in Ireland.

Founded in 2017, Slow Cabins seeks to offer people the opportunity to spend time away from their tech lives in relaxed, remote and eco-friendly surroundings.

It is currently taking bookings in Ireland and will open its first cabins here from 1 August. As well as Ireland, the start-up has operations in Belgium and the Netherlands.

All of its cabin locations are secret to purposely encourage guests to switch off and detox from their day-to-day stresses. Guests book their cabins without knowing the exact location, but all cabins are located within a two-and-a-half hour drive from major cities.

Within about two weeks of the trip, guests receive details with the exact location of their cabin. Even then, they may have to park their cars and hike to get to their accommodation.

The idea behind Slow Cabins comes from low-impact and sustainable tourism. Cabins are equipped with queen-sized beds, log burners, solar panels, dry toilets, fire pits, grills and large windows. Each cabin is powered naturally by sunlight and water.

“Recent European studies show that our resilience improves and stress levels decrease by up to 70pc after a stay in nature,” said Slow Cabins Ireland director Matthew Parkinson.

“Getting away from it all brings peace, energy and a sense of perspective. And that’s where Slow Cabins have an interesting role to play in a fast ‘always-on’ society. Profit is not our only goal, but rather a means to create more positive social and environmental impact,” he added.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

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Best podcasts of the week: Sam Smith charts 40 years of progress on HIV and Aids | Podcasts

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Picks of the week

A Positive Life: HIV from Terrence Higgins to Today
BBC Sounds, episodes weekly from 1 Jul
Sam Smith presents this series about the legacy of Terrence Higgins, one of the first people to die of Aids in the UK. The opening episodes tell the story of Terry, “the swashbuckler of life”, with London friends sharing their grief and confusion at his death. There’s optimism, too, as Smith hears from those who fought to make treatment available, and those living with HIV 40 years on. Hannah Verdier

The Last Bohemians
Widely available from 6 Jul

LA’s unsung heroines of rock’n’roll get their moment in the spotlight in the new series of Kate Hutchinson’s fierce female-applauding podcast. As always, the more offbeat characters are the best, starting with Angelyne, the “billboard queen” and hustler. Punk widow Linda Ramone and surrealist Penny Slinger are also coming up. HV

Dear Poetry
Audible, episodes weekly

Luisa Beck believes in the healing power of poetry and she’s spreading the love in a new podcast, with writers suggesting soothing texts to solve people’s problems. At one memorable point, author Luther Hughes gives a 21-year-old looking for love a poem with a powerful message: “You are that bitch – it’s gonna happen when it happens”. HV

Project Unabom
Apple Podcasts, episodes weekly

Notorious serial bomber Ted Kaczynski was the subject of an 18-year manhunt, and this podcast looks at what happened in that time. Host Eric Benson recalls Kacynski’s threats to stage more attacks if the Washington Post didn’t publish his manifesto, and shares interviews with a Dungeons and Dragons club that became the FBI’s initial suspects. HV

Algorithms
Audible, all episodes available

Comic Sadie Clark creates a podcast from her Edinburgh show – once called a “bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation”. It opens with main character Brooke’s mum (Alison Steadman) spying explicit photos of her online. One breakup later and she’s using the dating app she writes the algorithm for, with pleasingly clumsy results. HV

There’s a podcast for that

Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall filming Sex and the City: The Movie in 2007.
Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall filming Sex and the City: The Movie in 2007. Photograph: James Devaney/WireImage

This week, Hannah Verdier chooses five of the best TV companion podcasts, from Dolly Alderton’s Sex and the City show to a Scrubs rewatch with stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison.

Obsessed With …
The BBC’s companion series to talked-about shows including Killing Eve, Peaky Blinders and Normal People is always high quality. Line of Duty brought out the big guns with Craig Parkinson, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston all giving their theories ahead of the big reveal, while Sophie Duker secured Michaela Coel for the finale of I May Destroy You. But watchalongs don’t always need high drama, as Evanna Lynch and Riyadh Khalaf proved as they bravely tackled the slowly shifting quadrangle of Conversations with Friends.

Sentimental and the City
If you initially had problems with And Just Like That’s faux-wokery but then grew to love it like a Botoxed old friend, Caroline O’Donoghue and Dolly Alderton hear you. These are women who know their stuff, with O’Donaghue uttering the words: “I don’t like the look of Big on that Peloton and I’m worried” after seeing just the trailer. Their Sentimental Garbage miniseries on the Sex and the City sequel is a place where debate about the divisive depiction of ageing, sexuality and diversity sits perfectly with lighter moments, like giggling over Charlotte’s robot lines.

Squirrel Friends: The Official RuPaul’s Drag Race Podcast
There’s not exactly a shortage of RuPaul-related pods out there, but this one comes from inside the Drag Race community, with hosts Loni Love and Alec Mapa who’ve been there and done the guest judging. Cackling and spilling of the hottest tea comes as standard as they recap All Stars season seven, dissecting all the entrance looks, performances and personalities. Their love for RuPaul never waivers, as they dish out compliments, one-liners and behind-the-scenes gossip after every episode of the hit show.

The Stranger Things Podcast
All-American father-daughter duo Addi Darnell and Darrell Darnell gently mock each other while going into the intricacies of the disturbingly lovable drama in podcast episodes that are even longer than the latest instalments. Is “whet your appetite” a thing? What’s the difference between hellfire and heckfire? And why is Eddie still languishing in high school when his teachers must be so desperate to see the back of him? No fan question is left unanswered in the deepest dive out there.

Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald
With nine seasons of the US medical comedy-drama Scrubs settling into its new home on Disney+, it’s the ideal time to rewatch your favourite episodes – along with its two main stars . JD and Turk (Zach Braff and Donald Faison) are now six seasons into their recaps, screeching with laughter at on-set moments and fondly remembering the times they broke down and cried. Their friendship and unmistakable chemistry is as tight off-screen as on, but occasionally they stop nattering for long enough to welcome guests such as Heather Locklear and Seth Green.

Why not try …

  • The stranger than fiction story of “Ohio’s bear king”, complete with music from Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle in Beast Master.

  • A special dose of summer spookiness, with a trio of new episodes from Danny Robins’s Uncanny.

If you want to read the complete version of the newsletter please subscribe to receive Hear Here in your inbox every Thursday

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W3C overrules Google, Mozilla’s objections to identifiers • The Register

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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has rejected Google’s and Mozilla’s objections to the Decentralized Identifiers (DID) proposal, clearing the way for the DID specification to be published a W3C Recommendation next month.

The two tech companies worry that the open-ended nature of the spec will promote chaos through a namespace land rush that encourages a proliferation of non-interoperable method specifications. They also have concerns about the ethics of relying on proof-of-work blockchains to handle DIDs.

The DID specification describes a way to deploy a globally unique identifier without a centralized authority (eg, Apple for Sign in with Apple) as a verifying entity.

“They are designed to enable individuals and organizations to generate their own identifiers using systems they trust,” the specification explains. “These new identifiers enable entities to prove control over them by authenticating using cryptographic proofs such as digital signatures.”

The goal for DIDs is to have: no central issuing agency; an identifier that persists independent of any specific organization; the ability to cryptographically prove control of an identifier; and the ability to fetch metadata about the identifier.

These identifiers can refer to people, organizations, documents, or other data.

DIDs conform to the URI schema: did:example:123456789abcdefghi. Here “did” represents the scheme, “example” represents the DID method, and “123456789abcdefghi” represents the DID method-specific identifier.

“DID methods are the mechanism by which a particular type of DID and its associated DID document are created, resolved, updated, and deactivated,” the documentation explains.

This would be expressed in a DID document, which is just a JSON Object that contains other key-value data describing things like how to verify the DID controller (the entity able to change the DID document, typically through control of cryptographic keys) in order to have a trusted, pseudonymous interaction.

What Google and Mozilla object to is that the DID method is left undefined, so there’s no way to evaluate how DIDs will function nor determine how interoperation will be handled.

“DID-core is only useful with the use of ‘DID methods’, which need their own specifications,” Google argued. “… It’s impossible to review the impact of the core DID specification on the web without concurrently reviewing the methods it’s going to be used with.”

A DID method specification represents a novel URI scheme, like the http scheme [RFC7230] but each being different. For example, there’s the trx DID method specification, the web DID method specification, and the meme DID method specification.

These get documented somewhere, such as GitHub, and recorded in a verifiable data registry, which in case you haven’t guessed by now is likely to be a blockchain – a distributed, decentralized public ledger.

However, there is a point of centralization: the W3C DID Working Group, which has been assigned to handle dispute resolution over DID method specs that violate any of the eight registration process policies.

Mozilla argues the specification is fundamentally broken and should not be advanced to a W3C Recommendation.

“The DID architectural approach appears to encourage divergence rather than convergence & interoperability,” wrote Tantek Çelik, web standards lead at Mozilla, in a mailing list post last year. “The presence of 50+ entries in the registry, without any actual interoperability, seems to imply that there are greater incentives to introduce a new method, than to attempt to interoperate with any one of a number of growing existing methods.”

Mozilla significantly undercounted. There are currently 135 entities listed by the W3C’s DID Working Group, up from 105 in June 2021 and 86 in February 2021 as the spec was being developed. If significant interest develops in creating DID methods, the W3C – which this week said it is pursuing public-interest non-profit status – may find itself unprepared to oversee things.

Google and Mozilla also raised other objections during debates about the spec last year. As recounted in a mailing list discussion by Manu Sporny, co-founder and CEO of Digital Bazaar, Google representatives felt the spec needed to address DID methods that violate ethical or privacy norms by, for example, allowing pervasive tracking.

Both companies also objected to the environmental harm of blockchains.

“We (W3C) can no longer take a wait-and-see or neutral position on technologies with egregious energy use,” Çelik said. “We must instead firmly oppose such proof-of-work technologies including to the best of our ability blocking them from being incorporated or enabled (even optionally) by any specifications we develop.”

Despite these concerns, as well as resistance from Apple and Microsoft, the W3C overruled the objections in a published decision, a requirement for advancing the spec’s status. ®

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