Shears, Pistons and Stackable Fences, the Minecraft 1.7 Beta Update
Minecraft Beta version 1.7 is out and we're all overjoyed. Well, some of us are. There's a fairly large section of the Minecraft community who find redstone fairly confusing and therefore don't see much point in pistons besides the most simple of tasks. But you know what? That's okay. We're not all electrical engineers - yet. But if you're sitting there thinking that 1.7 offers you nothing, then I have good news, there's more in this update (which was only intended to be a holdover for the 1.8 Adventure update, which promises to blow all our tiny little minds) than was dreamed of in your philosophy.
For starters, there are shears. Shears are crafted by placing two iron ingots diagonally in the crafting grid. They can be used left click styles to cut leaf blocks off trees, and they can be used right click styles to shear sheep. This is quite a significant event for people who always wanted to do a bit of Minecraft topiary, but didn't know how. Keep in mind, leaf decay mechanics are still in place, so you'll still need for there to be wood around if the leaves aren't going to just disappear once you place them.
The other change mentioned in my title is the ability to stack fences. Prior to 1.7, stacking fences meant building up a fence from other materials, then building your stacked fence from the top down. It was awkward and needlessly time consuming and it is no more. Now you can toss fences on top of fences until the cows come home. Or so the cows can't leave home. Yeehaw.
The other major change is the ability to put a torch on top of a fence post. Finally you can light paddocks and other fenced areas without awkwardly putting a torch on the ground. It's now possible to have a torch lit corral for midnight cowboy shenanigans, or whatever it is you most prefer to get up to when you play Minecraft.
And then of course, there's Pistons. I cover how to make Pistons here, but it's not really how one makes pistons that should concern you. It's what can be made with pistons. Pistons open doors. Literally doors that were set in stone. Literally. They will forever change the way we Minecraft, if only we can work out how to get the redstone torch and wire configurations right. Don't be too daunted though, pistons are easily placed and operated by levers that require no redstone at all and can be used for things like dams and secret hatches without an advanced degree.
Like the good lord Notch said on the seventh day - go forth and craft!