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Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker: Everything you need to know

Form your ninja team and prepare for multiplayer battle.


Naruto games have come a long way. The anime franchise’s video games reached new highs with the previous generation launches of Naruto: Rise of a Ninja and its sequel, Naruto: Broken Bond. Then came the Storm series, which has been in development by CyberConnect2 for quite some time.

That long-running series seems to have taken a sabbatical while Namco Bandai tries something new, however. It’s Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, and it’s quite unlike any other Naruto game released to date. Why’s that? We’ll tell you everything you need to know.

What is Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker?

Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is best described as a MOBA, short for multiplayer online battle arena. These games typically have two teams of varying sizes fighting to achieve some sort of victory. In Shinobi Striker, these teams will have four members each, and everyone has their own set of abilities, responsibilities, and skills to help will their team to victory.

Like much of the Naruto games to date, Bandai Namco is publishing the title, but it’ll be developed by someone else: Soleil. The studio is relatively unknown, with its only notable work to date being a forgettable third-person shooting game for PC.

It’s interesting, then, that they were chosen to keep the Naruto cash cow flowing at the franchise’s most pivotal moment.

Aside from the huge shift in gameplay dynamics, Shinobi Striker will boast an improved graphics style. It’s still a cel-shaded engine as is appropriate for video games based on anime and manga, but the engine features more bold characters with deeper shadows, sharper lines, and more vivid colors. It’s also still damned smooth with much of the action being rendered at 60 frames per second.

Is it a new Naruto adventure?


Nope. Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is just a pure MOBA, and if you know anything about these games you know that there isn’t much of a story or adventure to be had. All we know about what’s going on in this game is that there’s some sort of ninja tournament going on, and that sets the stage for these ninja teams to come together and fight.

The concept isn’t random, with these sorts of competitions being commonplace in the world of Naruto. The team concept isn’t foreign either, as the earliest parts of becoming a ninja in Naruto’s world is taking a ninja exam and training as a team of three with a seasoned sensei.

While some fans are sure to be disappointed that there won’t be much in the way of a narrative here, it makes sense. Boruto is the son of Naruto, and his tale is only just now getting started after the conclusion of the original Naruto and Shippuden arcs. There isn’t a whole lot of material publicly available to make a meaty adventure or even a light storyline to follow, but it appears Namco still wanted some sort of Boruto game to get the train rolling.

That’s why this is the perfect time for them to try something new. The jury is still out on whether it’ll take off and be the next big thing, but that’s the beauty of it — we didn’t expect a Boruto game this early on anyway, so any potential stumbles we’ll get with this release can be easily forgiven. (And if you know anything about anime fans, you’ll know how unforgiving they can be when you botch the source material.)

What do you do in this game?


More often than not, you’ll just be fighting. But Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker isn’t a fighting game in the traditional one-on-one sense. You’ll be going in with three other friends or strangers to take on a team of equal participants in a 3D arena-like setting.

Yes, you’ll still have basic attacks such as light and heavy, and you’ll still get to unleash powerful jutsus — or ninja techniques — to dish out damage against your foes. Build enough of your chakra to get access to an ultimate jutsu that’ll change the fight dramatically.

In between all of the flashy abilities is a bunch of utility you can use to your advantage. There’s a huge leap ability that lets you jump halfway across the map if you charge it up long enough, you can stick to walls by throwing your kunai at them (useful for recovering from a cliff dive on stages that have death pits in them), run up walls to meet your opponents from any vantage point, and more.

All of this goes down in a few different game modes:

  • Combat Battle: This is straight up 4v4 fighting. The ninja team with the most kills wins.
  • Flag Battles: Capture the flag. Take the enemy flag back to your base for a point, all the while defending your own.
  • Base Battles: This is the equivalent of domination or control in other games. Basically, hold as many control points as you can to gain points.

Games are queued up from a shared hub world not unlike those featured in games such as Destiny or Dragon Ball FighterZ. You’ll be able to see other players walking around as they prepare to jump into their next battle. It’s here where you can meet your master shinobi trainers, customize your character, hit up the training grounds, or get in line for your next fight.

As you can see by now, Shinobi Striker is not your typical Naruto game, and things get even better the deeper you go.

Create your own character


That’s right: you can create your very own ninja! The player can make an avatar that they’ll use in battle. These highly customized avatars let you make the Naruto ninja you’ve always wanted. Whether you make a husky brawler from the stone village to a more tactical fighter from the Hidden Leaf, you can finally create your idea of the perfect ninja.

You’ll be able to customize almost everything about them. On the cosmetic side, you’ll choose your hair, mouth, eyes, pupils, eyebrows, nose, face paint, and skin colors. You can wear different outfits, too, with your starting outfit being determined by which hidden ninja village you choose to represent, and those outfits have a number of alternate colors you can choose from.

On the combat side of things, you’ll be able to equip your characters with a loadout based on one of four classes:

  • Defense: These guys are slower, but bulky, and offer a lot of CC and utility to help your damage dealers do work.
  • Attack: These are more balanced characters that typically get up close to the action to combo their enemies down.
  • Ranged: Ranged characters can sit up on a rooftop and throw fireballs at people from afar. Enough said.
  • Healer: Someone has to keep the team healthy, right? These support-style characters mainly care about keeping their killers alive to keep the damage pumping out.

To be clear, a team composition doesn’t have to consist of one of each class. You can mix and match these styles however you like. You can even change things up on the fly. Does your team need more defense to stop a barrage of attacks from the enemies? Double up on defense to create a front line of defense for your more vulnerable characters. You’ll be able to create multiple loadouts on your avatar, so you’re certainly not stuck with just one style of play when you need a change of pace.


Each class has a number of associated jutsus that can be learned. Expect more offense-oriented options for attackers, while defenders won’t exactly be throwing out any Rasengan, but may do well with, say, a water prison.

Your list of possible jutsus in the beginning won’t be long, but you’ll be able to learn more by talking to various “master” characters in the shared hub world. They’ll let you train to learn the move. Presumably, different masters will give you access to different jutsus, though we’re not sure how, exactly, you’ll go about actually training just yet.

When you just want to sharpen your skills without the stress of fighting another team weighing you down, you can head to a VR training facility to fight against practice dummies. It isn’t actual VR, mind you, but the mode should provide the perfect place to hone your techniques.

Can you play as Naruto characters?


Worried that you won’t be able to play with some of your favorite Naruto characters in Shinobi Striker? Well, worry not. There are as many as 20 playable characters in the game to start, each with their own class and list of moves.

Gaara, kage of his hidden sand village Sunagakure, is more of a defensive ninja. One of his special techniques is the Grand Sand Mausoleum. This technique traps opponents into or outside of a sand tomb, effectively keeping a foe in place to take a beating or protecting an ally from receiving one.

Deidara, who hails from the hidden stone village of Iwagakure, is another interesting character. He’s ranged, so he can do his bidding without having to get into his enemies’ faces. Deidara’s Explosive Style jutsu lets him chuck fire bombs at people. And he can even do it while hanging from the side of a building. How cool is that?

And remember folks: you can learn these moves on your own avatar at some point, so if you don’t want to play as these characters you can still tap into their limitless potential.

Here’s the full list of who you’ll be able to play as in Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, as well as their respective classes:

  • Boruto Uzumaki: Attack
  • Choji Akimichi: Defense
  • Deidara: Range
  • Gaara: Defense
  • Hinata Hyuga: Heal
  • Itachi Uchiha: Range
  • Kabuto Yakushi: Heal
  • Kakashi Hatake: Attack
  • Kisame Hoshigaki: Defense
  • Konan: Defense
  • Mitsuki: Defense
  • Naruto Uzumaki: Attack
  • Pain: Attack
  • Rock Lee: Attack
  • Sai: Range
  • Sakura Haruno: Heal
  • Sarada Uchiha: Heal
  • Sasuke Uchiha: Range
  • Shikamaru Nara: Heal
  • Yamato: Defense

That’s a pretty sizable list all on its own. And yes, it’s missing some heavy-hitting names from the Naruto universe — I’m personally in need of Jiraiya, Sarutobi, Guy Sensei, and Tsunade — but planned DLC is sure to help fill out the gaps as time moves on.

Is there a beta?

Well, there was a beta. A closed beta back in February was the public’s first chance to play it, and an open beta period followed throughout the month of July. It has since concluded, however, and there’s no indication that we’ll be treated to a third beta period ahead of the game’s launch date.

Pre-order Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker


Standard pre-orders of Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker will get an exclusive in-game clothing option. You’ll be able to dress your character up in Naruto’s Hokage costume, which is the costume he wears as the leader of the leaf village. The title of Hokage — or any type of kage, really — is pretty significant, so bring your A game if you’re going to be wearing it. You also get access to Pain as a Master sensei, so you can learn his moves on your own ninja fighter. You’ll be able to snag the standard edition for $59.99.

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There’s also the Uzumaki Edition, which is exclusive to Europe. You’ll get the base game and the aforementioned pre-order bonuses, of course, but you’re also getting the season pass and a figurine that features both Naruto and Boruto. It’s a real father and son thing that’ll warm the hearts of any Naruto fan.

As for that season pass, we’re promised at least 9 DLC packs over the game’s lifespan. It’s not clear what sort of content will be in these DLC packs, but we’ll guess you can expect new characters, cosmetics, and moves to be part of the deal once they’re made available.

When can you play it?

Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker launches August 31st for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Put on your ninja bandana, equip your kunai, and get ready to lead your team to victory.

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Not everyone wants Android to be ‘open’

The way Google keeps walking the line between open and closed keeps biting it in the ass.


There’s a really cool Google I/O moment from a few years back that sticks out in my mind. It was shortly after I published a book on using Android tablets, which it caught the attention of Vic Gundotra. He pulled me aside and thanked me for helping people who weren’t super techy learn, and learn to love, Android. That was a big part of the theme that year, making it clear Android was ready for everyone. The language was a direct response to public opinion, due in no small part to the Droid marketing on Verizon. Android was the phone of choice for “power users” instead of people who just wanted a phone — or an iPhone.

There’s a reasonable argument to be made for Android suffering right now due to its open nature.

At the time, Google was trying to change the perception of Android as a whole. It took a couple of years to pull this off, and along the way, Android gained a reputation for being less open. Building Android from source nowadays looks nothing like the Android you get on a Pixel, because so much had been moved into Play Services in order to guarantee a certain level of experience across the platform. There’s no denying Android as a whole is better off now than it was a few years ago, but it’s also true Google sacrificed quite a bit of that “open” nature we nerds loved so much to get here.

And, if I’m totally honest, I’m OK with it. Linux Server Admin Russell from ten years ago would slap me for saying it (and goodness only knows what Jerry is going to do to me when he reads this) but I don’t really need Android to be open. That’s not why I use it these days.

I use it because notifications are excellent, the way apps interoperate with one another is unparalleled, and I enjoy the tight integration of Google’s services with the rest of my workflow. I don’t really need the platform to be open source to get any of those things. I don’t root my phone. I stopped installing custom ROMs. And the overall benefit of this open platform occurs behind closed doors these days.

In fact, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that Android is suffering right now from its open nature. The EU decision levied against Google is only happening because manufacturers don’t pay for specific license agreements to use the platform.

We have idiots installing custom ROMs on Galaxy Note 7 phones because enough of Android is available for people to make their own fixes to the things Samsung installed to stop people from using the phones. Fortnite is about to be released outside the Play Store by default, and when a bunch of people have infected phones from installing fake versions of the game we’re going to see a bunch of articles about how insecure Android is compared to iOS.

In each of these situations, Android is not closed enough to stop these things from being a problem, and it’s no longer open enough to make everyone happy. Google has been walking this line for years now, and the consequences of this are starting to really stack up. I’m OK with Google stepping over the line and closing Android. But I know that’s an unpopular opinion among many others, and the arguments for why I am wrong are, frankly, sound.


Some other things rattling around in my brain:

  • Andrew, Hayato, and I are going to be in NYC later this week for the Note 9 launch. There isn’t much we don’t know at this point, which is fairly standard for a Samsung event at this point. Still, the Note fans have good reason to be excited.
  • With Fortnite likely only heading to high-performance Android phones, are gaming-focused devices like the Razer Phone and ROG Phone going to start being more popular? Is Fortnite a game that sells phones in the same way games can sell consoles? I don’t think it is, but you can bet Razer and ASUS are going to push for it as we move into the Fall.
  • I’ve never been more excited for the launch of a new version of Android. I’ve been using Android P from Day One, and have loved every minute of using it. There are so many things it just does for me, and that’s going to be an important part of how I use phones moving forward.
  • It felt weird to get excited about a bike helmet, but that’s my life now I guess.
  • I wrote all of this on the new Surface Go. I’ve used every Surface to date, Microsoft does a good job with these tablets. But compared to comparably priced Chromebooks in schools? I’m not sure Microsoft is ready to compete yet.

That’s it for now, get ready for an exciting week!



Spyro Reignited Trilogy: Everything you need to know


Spyro is flying back onto our screens with a whole host of visual and gameplay enhancements. Here’s everything you’ll need to know about his return this September

10 years after the last Spyro game released we’re finally get a new one! … Sort of. Riding off the coattails of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy’s success, Activision is remastering the classic adventures of everyone’s favorite purple dragon.

After months of eager speculation, Activision confirmed in April that the Spyro Reignited Trilogy would be gracing our consoles this fall to coincide with the series’ 20th anniversary.

Your favorite classic Spyro games all under one roof

Similar to the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy features complete remasters of the first three Spyro games: Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Though the word “remaster” is specifically used when referring to the compilation, in reality I’d say it’s closer to a remake. You aren’t just getting a slight bump in resolution and frame rate like you usually see with remasters. The Spyro Reignited Trilogy appears to be anything but half-baked.

It could have been easy for Skylanders developer Toys For Bob (who are helming the development process for the Reignited Trilogy) and Activision to just toss out a quick remaster of the first Spyro game and be done with it, but both companies decided to go the extra mile. Yes, this is likely due to money and the success of the N. Sane Trilogy, but we’re reliving some of our favorite childhood memories nonetheless.



As I mentioned previously, each game’s visuals received an overhaul, making them worthy of a 2018 release. You won’t be dealing with blurry polygons and textures that look all blended together. You’re getting detail! Water will look more realistic (as realistic as Spyro gets). Castles will actually have noticeable stones. The colors will be vibrant, not washed-out. How you remember it as a kid is how it will look today. We all know how we look back on games and imagine them to be much more beautiful than they actually are. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.


Some would argue that this removes a certain charm that the originals exuded. With nostalgia affecting our opinions, it’s hard to say definitively if the Reignited Trilogy will lose that spark of magic. Toys For Bob co-studio head Paul Yan, however, assured that they went to great lengths to capture the essence of the original’s aesthetic while modernizing it for today’s audiences.

“When you look at the original game and you squint your eyes at it, there’s a lot of imagination that you had to do at the time to fill in the blanks,” said Yan in an interview. “For us, it’s taking the game, and asking: What do people remember about this? It was important to start with the memories as opposed to how do you interpret exactly what’s on the screen.”

Yan stated that the team at Toys For Bob looked for any opportunities to “embellish and add more lushness and detail” when necessary, but took care in keeping the visuals familiar.



In addition to improved graphics, its gameplay mechanics have received some love as well. While it’s certainly important to preserve the feel of playing the originals, Toys For Bob also wants to ensure that the Reignited Trilogy features satisfying controls that can hold up against the best 3D platformers today. Twenty years have gone by since Spyro first released, and in that time a lot of competition in the genre has popped up. Any old clunkiness would be a hindrance to the experience.

Because the source code was not available to Toys For Bob, the studio rebuilt the classic games using a tool they dubbed the “Spyro Scope,” which allowed them to track variables and use them as a foundation for the Reignited Trilogy.

“We basically had the entire game running, then simultaneously this (tool) is pulling numbers and data on everything: coordinates for the level mesh, the placements for every single character, for every single gem, the value of what those gems are,” said Yan in an interview at San Diego Comic-Con.

As alluded to above, every level will be a perfect recreation of its original counterpart, right down to the location of certain enemies and gems. You won’t be thrown into any new locations unless Toys For Bob has some surprises up their sleeve that they haven’t revealed yet. All in all, over 100 levels are being remade between the three Spyro games.

Alterations and additions


Though the stories won’t drastically differ from what you remember, the developer is expanding on its narrative when appropriate, breathing new life by adding small details throughout the world. So what you’ll be getting are details meant to flesh out the universe and characters more, not turn the narrative upside down.

The Reignited Trilogy will feature a new soundtrack alongside new voiceovers for the characters. Don’t worry too much, though, because you can still choose to listen to the original soundtrack should you prefer that option. Stewart Copeland, who composed the music for the original games, is back and working on a new track for the Reignited Trilogy.

When can you play it?


The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is set to release on September 21, 2018 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version has not been revealed, but considering that the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy made its way to Switch recently, I’d imagine it’s not out of the realm of possibility to hold out hope for a Switch release of Spyro.

You can pre-order the Spyro Reignited Trilogy for $39.99. It doesn’t appear to have any special or collector’s editions, but Funko is making a Spyro & Sparx Funko Pop! that will release this September as well if you just want a little something extra in the form of a cute collectible.

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How to make money fast in No Man’s Sky


Earning money in No Man’s Sky can be a grind, but a few simple steps can make it faster and easier

When you’re not out exploring the awe-inspiring worlds of No Man’s Sky, you’re likely looking for a way to make a quick buck. Nearly every upgrade in the game will cost you units unless you want to grind long hours and search for rare materials. If you just can’t wait that long to earn millions and buy your favorite starship, here’s how to earn a ton of money fast. We’re talking millions.

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Exploit the trade market (Post-patch 1.53)


Every galaxy has a space station, and every space station has a Galactic Trade Market terminal. An easy way to exploit the market is to find a Superconductor blueprint (a Superconductor itself sells for about 2 million units) and then craft the required materials, which cost a fraction of the price. You’re essentially spending a small amount of money to make millions once you sell back the finished product. Just rinse and repeat and you’re good to go.

Note: Make sure you don’t do this too often in a single galaxy or it will drive the price down. You’ll need to hop around a lot to exploit the system.

The required materials to craft a Superconductor are as follows:

  • Nitrogen Salt – 50,000 units
  • Thermic Condensate – 50,000 units
  • Enriched Carbon – 50,000 units
  • Semiconductor – 400,000 units

no-man%27s-sky-enriched-carbon.jpg?itok=Now here’s where the process will get a bit different from what you may expect, or at least, it’s the same process with a few extra steps added. After the game’s latest patch, update 1.53, you can no longer purchase Enriched Carbon, Nitrogen Salt, and Thermic Condensate from other merchants aboard space stations. Meaning there isn’t a super quick way to get these materials like there used to be other than by crafting them. Luckily, crafting them isn’t too hard as you can still purchase the raw materials required to do so.

Here’s what each requires:

  • Enriched Carbon: 250 Radon and 50 Condensed Carbon
  • Nitrogen Salt: 250 Nitrogen and 50 Condensed Carbon
  • Thermic Condensate: 250 Sulphurine and 50 Condensed Carbon

You may not be able to get the crafted materials from merchants anymore, but they still sell plenty of raw materials that you can use to craft whatever you need. Carbon is one of the most common elements you’ll come across, and its condensed form is easily found on planets as well, or can be processed from Carbon through a Portable Refiner.

no-man%27s-sky-nitrogen-salt.jpg?itok=yTThe Radon, Nitrogen, and Sulphurine can then be purchased from merchants for a small price. Nitrogen and Sulphurine are fairly cheap themselves at around 25 units a pop. Purchasing 250 will set you back a little over 6,000 units, which is nothing. Radon itself is around the same price, but it can also be refined from Sulphurine if you’re having trouble finding merchants who sell it.

Combing the Nitrogen Salt and Thermic Condensate will produce a Semiconductor, which needs to be combined with Enriched Carbon to form a Superconductor.

Since you’ll be crafting more than usual, you’ll need the required blueprints for each.

How to find blueprints

The steps required to find these blueprints out in the wild are relatively simple, but may need to be repeated a few times as it’s up to chance.

Build a Signal Booster.
Use a Navigation Point to scan for Secure Frequencies.
Once it locates a Manufacturing Facility, head to that waypoint.
Stay in your ship and blast open the door, circling around to avoid Sentinel forces as necessary.

Enter the building and interact with the center console.


no-mans-sky-inside-manufac-facility.jpg?At this point you’ll be asked to solve a quick problem by choosing one of the options it gives you. For example, if the facility’s machines are overheating, you’ll need to choose the option to flush them out with coolant. You’ll then receive an item after bringing the facility back online. If it’s not any of the blueprints you need, you’ll need to use your Signal Booster again to search for another Manufacturing Facility. Eventually you’ll come across the correct blueprints.

I managed to luck out and find Semiconductor and Enriched Carbon blueprints at the first couple of Manufacturing Facilities I hit up, but it could take you the better part of a few hours to find all of the blueprints. Still, it beats spending a few weeks. This is the most tedious process, but once you find the blueprints you’ll have them for good, so you won’t need to keep searching for more. The hard part is over.

Can’t find Navigation Points? Scan your surroundings and you’ll eventually come across some. They look like small blocks/diamonds. They are also common on space stations and in buildings where they are labelled as Encrypted Navigation Data. There’s a chance you could either get Nav Points or Nanite Clusters from interacting with them.

Harvest eggs


No Man’s Sky NEXT introduced an alien enemy called Biological Horrors. They’re high damage, high health monsters that pop up when you try to harvest their larval core, which can be acquired from Whispering Eggs found throughout various planets, especially nuclear and toxic ones riddled in radiation, near abandoned buildings. This method is a bit slower than the above, and it doesn’t offer as good a return on investment, but it’s another way to make some fast money.

To complete this method the easy way, you’ll need to make sure you have enough materials to craft a Base Computer and enough Carbon to make four walls.


Find Whispering Eggs. (Not to be confused with Humming Eggs)
Set up your Base Computer.
Build four walls around the batch of eggs.
Shoot an egg outside of the walls and wait for the Biological Horrors to crawl out of the ground.
Use your jetpack to fly inside of the walls.
Harvest your larval cores in peace.


Biological Horrors cannot climb or jump into your secure area once the walls are up, so you’re safe to gather the larval core. Each sells for roughly 90,000 units.

Of course you can always opt to do it the hard way and skip building the protective walls if you’re a masochist. Just watch out for the swarm of Xenomor- I mean Biological Horrors.

Scan planets

The following methods are slower and not as rewarding as the previous two, but they’re the quickest if you’re looking to make a few thousand units because you’re short on cash at the moment and don’t need millions to purchase whatever item you’re eyeing. These are less about hoarding millions and more about getting small lumps of cash as quick as possible.

Almost every planet will have its own species of flora and fauna that can be scanned for units. Finding a new animal or mineral can snag you a couple hundred to a couple thousand units at a time.

Even better, scan planets for Ancient Ruins. At these locations you’ll find items known as Gravitino Balls, which sell for about 20,000 units a piece. Sentinels will attack once you gather one, so be prepared for a fight

Check out our No Man’s Sky: Beginner’s Guide and everything you need to know about its NEXT update.

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Could Snap save the internet from fake news? Here’s the company’s secret weapon

Vagelis Papalexakis UC Riverside

When Snapchat was first pitched as part of a Stanford mechanical engineering class, the course’s horrified teaching assistant openly wondered if the app’s creators had built a sexting app. Less than a decade later, Snapchat could help solve one of the biggest problems currently facing tech: stopping the spread of “fake news” online.

With this goal in mind, Snap Research — the research division of Snap, Inc. — recently donated funding to a University of California, Riverside project, aiming to find a new way of detecting fake news stories online. The algorithm UC Riverside has developed is reportedly capable of detecting fake news stories with an impressive accuracy level of up to 75 percent. With Snap’s support, they hope to further improve this.

“As I understand it, they’re very interested in having a good grasp on how one could understand this problem — and solve it ultimately.”

“Snap is not one of the first companies that would come to mind given [this problem],” Vagelis Papalexakis, Assistant Professor in the Computer Science & Engineering Department at UC Riverside, told Digital Trends. “Nevertheless, Snap is a company which handles content. As I understand it, they’re very interested in having a good grasp on how one could understand this problem — and solve it ultimately.”

What makes UC Riverside’s research different to the dozens, maybe even hundreds, of other research projects trying to break the fake news cycle is the ambition of the project. It’s not a simple keyword blocker, nor does it aim to put a blanket ban on certain URLS. Nor, perhaps most interestingly, is it particularly interested in the facts contained in stories. This makes it distinct from fact-checking websites like Snopes, which rely on human input and evaluation instead of true automation.

“I do not really trust human annotations,” Papalexakis said. “Not because I don’t trust humans, but become this is an inherently hard problem to get a definitive answer for. Our motivation for this comes from asking how much we can do by looking at the data alone, and whether we can use as little human annotation as possible — if any at all.”

The signal for fake news?

The new algorithm looks at as many “signals” as possible from a news story, and uses this to try and classify the article’s trustworthiness. Papalexakis said: “Who shared the article? What hashtags did they use? Who wrote it? Which news organization is it from? What does the webpage look like? We’re trying to figure out which factors [matter] and how much influence they have.”

For example, the hashtag #LockHerUp may not necessarily confirm an article is fake news by itself. However, if a person adds this suffix when they share an article on Twitter, it could suggest a certain slant to the story. Add enough of these clues together, and the idea is that the separate pieces add up to a revealing whole. To put it another way, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are that it’s a duck. Or, in this case, a waddling, quacking, alt-right Russian duck bot.

“Our interest is to understand what happens early on, and how we can flag something at the early stages before it starts ‘infecting’ the network,” Papalexakis continued. “That’s our interest for now: working out what we can squeeze out of the contents and the context of a particular article.”

The algorithm developed by Papalexakis’ group uses something called tensor decomposition to analyze the various streams of information about a news article. Tensors are multi-dimensional cubes, useful for modeling and analyzing data which have lots of different components. Tensor decomposition makes it possible to discover patterns in data by breaking a tensor into elementary pieces of information, representing a particular pattern or topic.

“Even a ridiculously small number of annotated articles can lead us to really, really high levels of accuracy”

The algorithm first uses tensor decomposition to represent data in such a way that it groups possible fake news stories together. A second tier of the algorithm then connects articles which are considered to be close together. Mapping the connection between these articles relies on a principle called “guilt by association,” suggesting that connections between two articles means they are more likely to be similar to one another.

After this, machine learning is applied to the graphs. This “semi-supervised” approach uses a small number of articles which have been categorized by users, and then applies this knowledge to a much larger data set. While this still involves humans at some level, it involves less human annotation than most alternate methods of classifying potential fake news. The 75 percent accuracy level touted by the researchers is based on correctly filtering two public datasets and an additional collection of 63,000 news articles.

“Even a ridiculously small number of annotated articles can lead us to really, really high levels of accuracy,” Papalexakis said. “Much higher than having a system where we tried to capture individual features, like linguistics, or other things people may view as misinformative.”

A cat-and-mouse game for the ages

From a computer science perspective, it’s easy to see why this work would appeal to Vagelis Papalexakis and the other researchers at UC Riverside — as well as the folks at Snapchat. Being able to not only sort fake news from real news, but also distinguish biased op-eds from serious journalism or satirical articles from The Onion is the kind of big data conundrum engineers dream of.

The bigger question, however, is how this algorithm will be used — and whether it can ultimately help crack down on the phenomenon of fake news.

Snap’s contribution to the project (which amounts to a $7,000 “gift” and additional non-financial support) does not guarantee that the company will adopt the technology in a commercial product. But Papalexakis said he hopes the research will eventually “lead to some tech transfer to the platform.”

The eventual goal, he explained, is to develop a system that’s capable of providing any article with what amounts to a trustworthiness score. In theory, such a score could be used to filter out fake news before it even has the chance to be glimpsed by the user.

This is a not dissimilar idea to machine learning email spam filters, which also apply a scoring system based on factors like the ratio of image to text in the body of a message. However, Papalexakis suggested that a preferable approach might be simply alerting users to those stories which score high in the possible fake category — “and then let the user decide what to do with it.”

One good reason for this is the fact that news does not always divide so neatly into spam vs. ham categories, as email does. Sure, some articles may be out-and-out fabrication, but others may be more questionable: featuring no direct lies, but nonetheless intended to lead the reader in one certain direction. Removing these articles, even when we might find opinions clashing with our own, gets into stickier territory.

“This falls into a gray area,” Papalexakis continued. “It’s fine if we can categorize this as a heavily biased article. There are different categories for what we might call misinformation. [A heavily biased article] might not be as bad as a straight-up false article, but it’s still selling a particular viewpoint to the reader. It’s more nuanced than fake vs. not fake.”

Ultimately, despite Papalexakis’ desire to come up with a system that uses as little oversight as possible, he acknowledges that this is a challenge which will have to include both humans and machines.

“I see it as a cat-and-mouse game from a technological point of view,” he said. “I do not think that saying ‘solving it’ is the right way to look at it. Providing people with a tool that can help them understand particular things about an article is part of the solution. This solution would be tools that can help you judge things for yourself, staying educated as an active citizen, understanding things, and reading between the lines. I don’t think that a solely technological solution can be applied to this problem because so much of it depends on people and how they see things.”

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Here’s how to hide your active status on Instagram

Love using Instagram, but also love your privacy? Earlier this year, Instagram added Activity labels, allowing followers and people you direct message to see the last time you were on the social media platform. Now, there’s a green dot to further indicate when you are online.

The label states how long it has been since the profile has been active, such as, “Active 2 hours ago” or “Active 5 minutes ago,” and the green dot appears next to profile pictures when users are online. Instagram Direct messages also have “seen” and “typing” activity updates in chat threads. It’s quite similar to Facebook Messenger.

Business profiles, in particular, can benefit from an activity monitor that shows they are on and ready to chat with potential customers who have questions. You may also want your friends or fans to know that you are active at certain times of the day so they know when to expect new posts, or so they know they can chat with you.

But for many others, this is a big nuisance. They don’t want to broadcast when they are on Instagram because it gets in the way of their privacy, their job, or how hard they are avoiding their ex. Fortunately, you can turn the feature off. Here’s how to hide your active status on Instagram.

Turning off your activity status

Step 1: Head to your Profile Icon. You can find this on the bottom right corner of your Instagram window. Select it.

Step 2: Now you’ll be at your profile page, where you can see the basic stats about your Instagram profile. Head to the upper right edge of the screen to select Settings. On Android phones, this looks like three vertical dots. On iOS, it’s a gear icon.

Step 3: Scroll down until you find the Privacy and Security section. Here, select the option that says Activity Status. This will show a toggle labeled “Show Activity Status.” By default, this is typically switched on. Toggle it off, and you’re done.

Important notes

With the activity status button toggled off, your activity status will never appear to anyone else on Instagram. But that means you will not be able to see anyone else’s activity status, either, so you’re also blinding yourself with this change.

If you’re truly annoyed by the status feature, you probably don’t mind skipping out on it altogether. But if the time comes when you really want to see the status of another profile, you can always go back and briefly flip the Show Activity Status back on so you can check on a friend, client, or other profile quickly before turning it back off.

On a final note, if you look through Instagram’s settings, you’ll notice plenty of additional security features you can enable. That includes comment controls, how photos of you are treated, two-factor authentication to prevent hacking, removing followers, and more. If you are truly worried about being stalked on Instagram or love your privacy, it’s worthwhile going through these features and enabling those that help out.

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Unknown virus halts factories that make iPhone chips

One of the world’s largest manufacturers of semiconductors and processors has been forced to halt operations due to a computer virus that has affected several of its factories. According to Bloomberg, a computer virus disrupted production at several factories owned by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. on Friday evening.

Many of the details surrounding the virus remain unclear. No individual or organization has taken credit for the attack though TSMC representatives have said that the virus was not introduced by a hacker. As of right now, TSMC has not stated rather this virus was a form of ransomware or something else so details are scarce. TSMC has said that the virus affected several of their fabrication tools though the problem has been contained. Some of the affected factories have resumed operations, but several will remain closed until at least Sunday afternoon.

During a phone call with Bloomberg, a TSMC representative acknowledged that the company had been hit by viruses before, but never one quite this bad.

“TSMC has been attacked by viruses before, but this is the first time a virus attack has affected our production lines,” TSM Chief Financial Officer Lora Ho told Bloomberg.

Regardless of the details behind the attack, it clearly comes at a bad time for TSMC. The company is currently the sole producer of the processors that power Apple’s iPhones and it was in the midst of ramping up for the launch of the company’s latest smartphones. Currently, we don’t know what impact, if any, this virus will have on the production of the new iPhone or TSMC in general. During the course of her conversation with Bloomberg, Ho declined to give any specifics regarding the financial impact of this attack — though she did say that the company would release a statement on Monday once they had completed its assessment.

Aside from this issue, both Apple and TSMC are having a good year with Apple boasting a market value in excess of $1 trillion. For its part, TSMC, is predicting strong growth in the latter half of this year thanks in large part to its work with Apple on the iPhone.

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Best Wireless Headphones for the Google Pixel 2


What are the best wireless headphones for the Google Pixel 2?

The Google Pixel 2 is a great phone, but you’re going to need a quality pair of Bluetooth headphones thanks to the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Fortunately, there are a plethora of options to choose from, from “Made for Google” options like the Pixel Buds to tried and tested classics. We’ve tried to round out a list that offers a good variety of styles and price points, so you should be able to find the right pair for your needs.

  • Anker Soundcore Pro
  • OnePlus Bullets Wireless
  • Bose QuietComfort 35
  • Jabra Move Wireless
  • Libratone Q Adapt
  • Skullcandy Ink’d
  • Sony H.ear Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • Jaybird X3 Sport

Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro


Anker may be more famous for batteries than headphones, but its new Soundcore series of wireless Bluetooth headphones are fantastic. Anker is extremely generous with its sizing here, offering four sizes of ear tips and wings, plus clips and other amenities, included for just $50.

Of course, no headphones are worth the cost if they sound bad, and thankfully Anker has spent a lot of time making sure the Soundcore Pros sound great, from deep bass to smooth highs and pleasing mids. A single charge gets about 10 hours of battery life, and they have an 18-month warranty in case anything goes wrong. Highly recommended!

See at Amazon

OnePlus Bullets Wireless


OnePlus has always made great phones for less than its competitors, but did you know the same is true of its accessories? The Bullets Wireless headphones are a fantastic-sounding, well-designed pair of wireless earbuds. Technically they’re neckbuds, which mean the cord wraps comfortably around the neck taking stress (and gravity) off the headphones itself, so they’re easily worn for hours at a time.

The best part of the Bullets Wireless is their charging — you get 5 hours of playback from 15 minutes of charging through USB-C. The second best part? They’re only $70, and worth every penny!

See at OnePlus

Bose QuietComfort 35 II


When it comes to over-ear noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs are basically the gold standard. The Bose brand is synonymous with high-quality audio products and the QC 35s are a great example of their craftsmanship.

Featuring some of the best noise cancellation you’ll find, these are ideal options for your noisy commute or for frequent travelers who want to cut out the sound of the airplane engines. Cutting out that distracting noise is important and with 20 hours of battery life, you can wear them comfortably for hours without worrying about these dying on you. There’s also a button for quickly accessing Google Assistant, which is awesome.

Sure, these puppies will set you back $349, which is a fair price for what is arguably the best noise-cancelling headphones out there. They’ve been reviewed well by most people who’ve tried them, including AC’s own Phil Nickinson, who called them nearly perfect. If noise cancellation and comfort are your biggest factors when buying headphones, you have to consider Bose.

See at Amazon

Jabra Move Wireless


Not looking to break the bank on headphones? You’ll want to consider the Jabra Move Wireless on-ear headphones. They’re lightweight and durable with a headband made of stainless steel and dirt-resistant fabric on the ear cups. You get up to 8 hours of music playback and 12 days of standby time on a single charge.

They were selected by the Wirecutter as the best budget wireless Bluetooth headphones you can buy after testing 115 models. They say the sound quality and comfortable fit belies the lower price, so if you’re looking for Bluetooth headphones that sound great at a great price, pick up a pair for as low as $69.

See at Amazon

Libratone Q Adapt


These on-ear headphones from Libratone are featured in the Google Store as a “Made for Google” certified accessory. They’ve got a great look to them and feature adjustable noise cancellation, a touch interface for controlling playback and volume, and a built-in microphone for taking calls.

While the Pixel 2 did away with the headphone jack, there’s a good chance that you still own several products that use them, so Libratone has included an optional 3.5mm cable for those times when you’d prefer a wired connection.

The Q Adapt cost $249, which is a fair price to pay for excellent sound and tremendous comfort in a smallish package.

See at Google

Skullcandy Ink’d Wireless Bluetooth Headphones


Looking to inject a bit of fun into your headphone life without emptying your bank account? Skullcandy’s Ink’d headphones are available in a bunch of bright and playful colors (Miami Blue pictured here), and at $50 they’re relatively easy to replace if they get lost or break.

The best part is that they sound really good, have 8 hours of battery life, and are extremely comfortable to wear for long periods thanks to their neckbud design.

See at Amazon

Sony H.ear Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones


Sony’s wireless over-ear headphones are jam-packed with features such as noise-canceling, NFC connectivity, and a handy carrying case for traveling. They’re wireless with Bluetooth 4.1 technology, but also include a 3.5mm cable with inline volume controls. They have digital noise-canceling that adapts to your surroundings to cut out unwanted sound and deliver high-resolution audio to your ears.

They’ve got a sleek and comfortable design that you can wear for hours, and you can expect up to 20 hours of playback time on a battery charge. If they die, you’ve got a wired connection available, so make sure you got your headphone adapter with you.

These will run you just over $300, and they are arguably better than Sony’s more-expensive WH1000XM2

See at Amazon

Jaybird X3 Sport


Jaybird has been making quality headphones for quite some time and the Jaybird X3s are no exception.

You can get a full week of workouts on a single charge and a quick 15 minutes of charging will get you a full hour at least. If you rely on your tunes to get you through a workout, check out the Jaybird X3 wireless earbuds and enjoy.

These headphones come in Blackout or Sparta (white) colors, and they’re sweat- and rain-proof, so you can pour your heart and soul into every workout without worrying about frying them. Pricing starts around $100.

See at Amazon

What have you tried?

What are your favorite wireless headphones that you’ve tried? Any thoughts on the options we’ve listed here? Let us know in the comments!

Update, August 4: We’ve reworked this list a bit, removing some models and adding a few more. Enjoy our choices from Anker, OnePlus, and Skullcandy!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

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  • Join our Pixel 2 forums

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Samsung’s PowerBot, the iPad Pro, laundry detergent, and more are all discounted today

Whether you’re looking for new tech gear or household items, we’ve got you covered.

We found plenty of great deals today that include big discounts on the Anova sous vide precision cooker, the Samsung PowerBot robotic vacuum, the iPad Pro, and more! Most of these prices will be gone when the day ends, so don’t miss your chance to save big!

View the rest of the deals

If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you’ll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

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