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These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.

Until the Pokémon Company actually releases the kind of Pokémon game for iOS that fans have been begging for, other developers will keep making games that try to approximate the addictive qualities of the massive monster-battling franchise on the mobile platform.

Monster Strike obviously owes a great deal to the Japanese franchise: the game tasks you with collecting and powering up anime-stylized battling monsters. Like Pokémon, these (sometimes) adorable monsters evolve, and it has RPG qualities like turn-based combat and buffs.

But developer Mixi has actually created a game that owes just as much to throwback physical classics like marbles and pinball as it does to Pokémon. The hybrid isn’t perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot more fun than it has any right to be. Here are three examples why.

Monstrous marbles: The combat in Monster Strike seems exceptionally straightforward. In single player mode, you have four monsters that appear as little marbles. You pull back, and then let them fly and hit enemies. If you do enough damage to your enemies, you’ll clear the stage. And while the bouncy physics makes any combo seem just like random pinballing, wrinkles appear as you play.

First, each of your monsters has a special power–my mech girl unleashed a huge fire laser while my cat-witch hybrid unleashed magical homing missiles–and if you knock into them instead of the enemy, that can often do much more damage.

There are also some additional tactical choices to choose from when you deploy their “Strike Shot,” a super powerful attack that varies depending on the monster. You can target boosts that will regain your health, augment your speed, or upgrade your power for a certain number of turns. Clearing a stage and its boss will unlock more monsters, gems to upgrade your monsters, and in-game currency.

A freemium game that is actually free: That’s one of the main reasons why I recommend Monster Strike: it’s a freemium game that actually doesn’t interfere game play with the need for in-app purchases. There are numerous in-game currencies to keep track of. The balance isn’t perfect at this point, but that’s largely in the player’s favor.

In terms of in-game currency, orbs are the main piece and can be earned by logging into the game for a couple days in a row, adding friends, or completing missions in the rather lengthy campaign (and constantly updating daily events). Orbs let you resuscitate your team when they die mid-mission, get “guest passes” to unlock special stages, and let you upgrade your Monster box which holds all of your monsters. After playing for a couple hours, I never hurt for orbs again–the game just seems to be giving them away.

There are other currencies in the game that are harder to come by. The gems that are necessary to upgrade your monsters are rare, and it requires a ridiculous amount of them to utilize. I evolved my main critter a couple of times into a water dragon, but got bored with hunting down gems. Some of this, admittedly, is because a lot of the best loot is available through multiplayer mode, which I haven’t been able to play (more on that in a second).

Daily updates + multiplayer campaigns = hours of game play: I played through the main campaign for several hours. The game does a good job of letting you level your monsters up as you progress, so you’re never overwhelmed. But in any single player mission, you’ll find that only three of the monsters are yours–the fourth is a “helper” that you can borrow from another player. Not only is it in your best interest to choose a super-powered helper, but you can also ask them to be your friend afterward.

It’s a clever move to add friends to build a network of fellow players, and that’s a huge factor in the game’s favor: the daily events show that the developers care about the experience, and making friends with other players helps build up a community.

You can recruit or join a team, but since this is limited to your immediate area (using location services), I found I didn’t have any players to connect with. Thus, some of the better monsters and gems were unavailable to me. While frustrating, I instead just hop back over to the single player campaign and get grinding.

While I admit that some of the art is rough, the currencies need to be better balanced, and the combat mechanic (like any RPG) gets repetitive, I actually found myself playing this game long after I normally would for a review. Monster Strike hits that sweet spot between a player’s collecting obsession and the challenge of frenetic combat on a daily basis. Best played in short sessions–but equally great as a time suck–Monster Strike is worth checking out.

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OK, so the robot apocalypse probably won’t happen any time soon, but the new robot sentries guarding Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus seem like something straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

According to ExtremeTech, each of the K5 security guard robots from robotics company Knightscope stands 5 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds, so you probably don’t want to mess with one.

The K5 robots don’t come with any weapons onboard–thankfully–but they use a suite of alarms, sirens, and cameras to monitor and patrol the grounds of Microsoft’s campus. If one spots trouble, it’ll either sound an alarm or dispatch a human security guard to its location.

ExtremeTech notes that the K5 can run for up to 24 hours on a single charge, and can recharge in only about 20 minutes. Its battery won’t die out in the field, though–these bots will return to the charging station by themselves when their batteries start to run dry.

The story behind the story: Robots are playing an increasingly large role in security and military operations. Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics, for example, has been working with DARPA to develop various robots to aid soldiers in combat settings. Meanwhile, South Korea deployed a robotic sentry to guard its side of the Demilitarized Zone in 2010. Unlike K5, though, South Korea’s guard robot came fully armed.

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In the latest round of a patent battle between Nvidia and Samsung, Samsung petitioned the US International Trade Commission to block the sale of Nvidia’s graphics processors in the US, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

The request, according to the ITC, would extend to both Nvidia’s graphics cards and systems on a chip, which means it could conceivably impact both Nividia’s GeForce graphics card line and its Tegra mobile processors.

The back-and-forth between the two companies began in September when Nvidia sued both Samsung and Qualcomm, alleging that the two companies infringed on some of Nvidia’s GPU-related patents. At the time, Nvidia said it requested that the ITC block Samsung Galaxy phones that contained certain chips from Qualcomm, ARM, and Imagination Technologies.

For its part, Samsung struck back against Nvidia with a patent lawsuit of its own earlier this month. In its complaint, Samsung claimed that infringed on six of its patents related to chip design and other technologies.

Why this matters: It may go without saying, but a ban on critical components such as graphics cards and processors could have a ripple effect across the tech industry, as it could affect other companies that use Nvidia’s chips in its products.

Engadget notes that “ITC complaints typically take less time to handle than lawsuits,” and that as a result, “there’s a greater chance that Nvidia and partners will have to yank their products.”

An Nvidia spokesperson told Bloomberg that it plans to lodge its own complaint with the ITC against Samsung, though, so this game of chicken is far from over.

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Symantec researchers have identified a particularly sophisticated piece of malware, called “Regin” that was likely developed by a nation state and has been used to spy on governments, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers and individuals since at least 2008.

“Regin displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen,” Symantec said in a statement Sunday, released along with a technical white paper about the malware. Indications are that Regin “is one of the main cyberespionage tools used by a nation state.”

Researchers have identified its use in 10 countries, mainly Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as Mexico, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Belgium, Austria and Pakistan.

Regin is a back-door-type Trojan, “customizable with an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target,” Symantec said, adding that “it provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance.” Its development probably took months “if not years” and “its authors have gone to great lengths to cover its tracks.”

Its first incarnation was used to spy on a number of organizations from 2008 to 2011 when it was “abruptly withdrawn,” with a new version showing up last year, Symantec said. Nearly half of the Regin infections that have been identified involve private individuals and small businesses, with attacks on the telecommunication sector apparently aimed at gaining access to calls routed through that infrastructure.

The malware is a multistaged threat, with each stage hidden and encrypted, except for the first stage, execution of which initiates a domino decryption chain and loads each subsequent stage. There are five stages in total, with each offering scant information about the entire malware package, Symantec said. “Only by acquiring all five stages is it possible to analyze and understand the threat.”

Regin also takes a modular approach, so that custom features of it are specific to its targets — an approach used with other advanced malware families, inlcuding Flamer and Weevil. The multistage loading aspect of Regin is also akin to Duqu/Stuxnet malware, the researchers said. It is likely that its development took months, if not years.

Researchers have identified dozens of payloads, with some specific and advanced payload modules found, including a Microsoft IIS Web server traffic monitor and a traffic sniffer aimed at mobile telephone base-station controllers.

“Regin is a highly complex threat which has been used in systematic data collection or intelligence gathering campaigns. The development and operation of this malware would have required a significant investment of time and resources, indicating that a nation state is responsible,” Symantec said. “Its design makes it highly suited for persistent, long-term surveillance operations against targets.”

Symantec further believes that “many components of Regin remain undiscovered and additional functionality and versions may exist.” Researchers are continuing their analysis and will provide public updates as additional discoveries about the malware are made, the company said.

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Samsung Electronics is considering a key management overhaul that could see the company’s head of TVs and home appliances also overseeing its under performing mobile business, according to a news report.

Boo-keun Yoon, a co-CEO who looks after Samsung’s consumer electronics business, could also be given control of the mobile division, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter. The decision is, however, not final, the newspaper reported.

The market share of the South Korean smartphone maker fell to 23.8 percent in the third quarter from 32.5 percent a year ago, according to research firm IDC. The company said last week it planned to cut the number of smartphone models it makes by about 25 to 30 percent in 2015.

The company’s net profit fell 49 percent in the third quarter. Unsold inventory piled up in warehouses because Samsung overestimated demand for its flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone, the Journal reported, quoting people familiar with the matter.

The new management structure could help the company respond more quickly to competition in its smartphone business, particularly from low-cost Chinese players.

Yoon is also expected to help Samsung compete in the Internet connected home market, as he has been a key advocate of the company’s move in this direction, including by signing off on Samsung’s acquisition of SmartThings, according to the Journal.

Samsung said in August that SmartThings will operate as an independent company within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center group. The company’s strategy is to create an open smart home platform that brings together third-party developers, device makers, and consumers.

On Monday, Samsung said it would not comment on rumors or speculation, when asked to comment on the report of the management changes.

If one of the scenarios being considered is finally adopted, the current co-CEO who heads the mobile division, J.K. Shin, may be moved out of his role. A third co-CEO, Oh-Hyun Kwon, who is in charge of components like semiconductors and display panels, could stay in his job, the Journal said, quoting people familiar with the matter. The three CEO model was adopted last year.

The report of the discussion on leadership changes comes ahead of an annual year-end reshuffle, but this year it assumes significance after Samsung’s chairman Kun-Hee Lee was hospitalized in May after a heart attack. His son Jay Y. Lee, now a Samsung vice chairman, is widely expected to take over from him, though the timing of his appointment is not clear, according to the report.

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Members of the European Parliament are readying a motion calling for the break-up of Google, by separating its search engine functionality from other commercial services, according to news reports.

A draft resolution calling for the break-up should be finalized early next week, with a vote potentially on Thursday, according to a report from The Financial Times. While the European Parliament has no formal power to break up the company, a vote to split Google could put pressure on the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.

The motion is backed by several German politicians and by the Parliament’s two largest political blocs, the European People’s Party and the Socialists, according to the newspaper. The Reuters news agency also reported on the plan.

A Google spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comments about the proposed break-up motion.

Google currently faces a long-running antitrust investigation in the EU. Google and the EU’s previous antitrust commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, agreed to a set of terms back in February, but after complaints from online publishers and other groups, the commission demanded more concessions from Google.

Consumer Watchdog, a consumer rights group and long-time Google critic, applauded the move. “This is exactly what needs to happen,” John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, said by email. “Search should be separated from Google’s other businesses. We called for this back in 2010 and the need to do this has become even clearer as Google’s power has increased.”

In 2010, the group called on the U.S. Department of Justice to split Google’s search service from other lines of business.

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Online retailer Newegg has beaten the Black Friday 2014 rush by revealing deals on brand name laptops, desktops, tablets and other products geared toward both hardcore gamers and everyday tech users.

Newegg says the deals will roll out between now and Black Friday, which has really stretched into nearly a month-long affair with the likes of Walmart, Best Buy and others sneak-peaking deals on everything from iPhone 6 smartphones to Xbox game bundles.

MORE:20+ Eye-Popping Black Friday 2014 Tech Deals

Among Newegg’s bargains:

*$50 off a $250 Asus 13.3-inch Chromebook with Intel Celeron N2830 (2.16GHz) processor, 2GB of DDR3 memor and 16GB SSD.

*Dell i3647-1846BLK Desktop PC with a Celeron G1840 (2.80GHz) processor, 4GB DDR3, 500GB hard drive. Priced at $300, down from $370.

*iView SupraPad i700-8G touchscreen tablet with an Intel Atom processor and Android 4.4 (KitKat) for $50 ($40 off the usual price).

*CyberpowerPC Gamer Xtreme H710 Desktop PC with an Intel Core i7 4790K (4.0GHz) processor, 8GB DDR3 and 2TB of storage, running Windows 8.1 64-bit. The price has been slashed from $1,100 to $800.

More pre-Black Friday deals here.

Dealwatcher DataScience says that retailers such as Newegg have come out aggressively this shopping season with sales that challenge bigger outfits.

“We’ve seen discount deal sites pop with strength this past year,” said Cory O’Daniel, co-founder and CTO of, in a statement. “They are consistently offering deals that outperform Amazon’s pricing and in many cases, are releasing more than 80 new deals daily. Now is the time of year for consumers to be prepared before they purchase and learn how to shop smarter all year round.”

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A federal judge in New York has given final approval to a settlement in which Apple will pay $450 million for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices for e-books.

Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan called the settlement “fair and reasonable.” It requires Apple to pay $400 million to consumers who bought certain books between 2010 and 2012, as well as $50 million in attorneys’ fees.

Although the settlement is final, Apple only has to pay that amount if it loses its appeal of a 2013 price-fixing ruling. If the appeal is successful, Apple will pay only $50 million to e-book purchasers and $20 million to attorneys.

A hearing on the appeal is scheduled for Dec. 15 in Manhattan. Lawyers for the e-book buyers have said they “strongly believe” that Apple’s appeal won’t be successful.

The iPhone maker was found guilty last year of conspiring with five big publishers to inflate prices for electronically downloaded books. The publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster — had already settled the charges against them for $166 million.

If Apple’s appeal is unsuccessful, there will be $566 million in total to divide among the affected consumers. They include millions of people who bought certain books from the five publishers between April 2010 and May 2012.

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Prices for 4K monitors have dropped below US$500, bringing them within the reach of cost conscious buyers looking to replace 1080p displays.

The prices have been falling steadily from $700 or more earlier this year. 4K monitors are available from Samsung, Sharp, Dell, Asus, Acer, Monoprice and small vendors.

4K gives a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, or four times deeper than conventional 1080p resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Dell is selling its 28 Ultra HD P2815Q monitor for $449.99, down from $699.99 when the product started shipping earlier this year. Newegg is selling 28-inch monitors from AOC and Planar for $499.99.

Samsung has also dropped the price of its 28-inch 4K monitor, the UD590, which is now selling for $599.99 through retailers like Best Buy and Newegg.

Not all 4K prices have dipped so low. Lenovo’s ThinkVision 28-inch Pro2840m is still selling for $799.99. It was announced in January and started shipping around the middle of the year.

It’s important to check all the features on lower priced monitors. They often have a all the main features and ports but suffer on refresh rates, which affect the display’s ability to cope with fast-moving images. For example, Dell’s P2815Q monitor has been criticized for its 30Hz refresh rate. Samsung’s UD590 has the more desirable 60Hz refresh rate via its DisplayPort 1.2, but it drops to 30Hz when connected to a PC via the HDMI port.

Increased competition is bringing prices down, as monitor makers try to attract buyers. Intel recently predicted that 4K monitor prices will fall to below $400 by the end of this year.

As with the other types of computer hardware, prices will continue to fall quickly over the next couple of years and then more gradually after that, said Jonathan Gaw, a research manager at IDC.

As more content takes advantage of 4K, including games and streaming video, buyers will be more motivated to buy 4K monitors, Gaw said.

The buyers are mostly consumers. Some want the latest and greatest display while others are merely drawn by the lower prices, said Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner.

The sub-$500 4K monitors basic features, so display makers would have to offer significant improvements to justify higher prices. For example, many don’t have touch screens. Other features that could command higher prices include sound bars, gesture recognition, cameras, wireless capabilities and more ports.

“The PC monitor industry is banking on two elements in hopes of getting people to pony up for higher-priced monitors: 4K and touch interfaces. Touch interfaces need the OS vendors and the application developers to create more compelling use cases,” Gaw said.

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When Microsoft released a critical update for multiple versions of Windows Server this month, it also pushed out a fix for several releases of the Windows client OS, including even the technical preview for Windows 10.

It was critical to get the patch out for Windows Server: An exploit affecting Windows Server 2008 R2 and earlier versions has already been detected, and Windows Server 2012 and later releases are vulnerable to a related but more difficult attack.

But the vulnerability isn’t present in the desktop versions of Windows. In Windows Server, the flaw allows attackers to employ the username and password of anyone in an Active Directory domain to get the same system privileges as a domain administrator, using a forged Privilege Attribute Certificate to fool the Kerberos Domain Controller that manages remote access.

The bulletin for the patch says there’s no security impact for the client versions of Windows. So why did Microsoft also release an update for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and the Windows 10 Technical Preview?

It’s because although they don’t have that specific vulnerability, looking into the Windows source code to understand how the Privilege Attribute Certificate could be forged revealed some older code that Microsoft was no longer satisfied with, a representative for the company told us. That could mean other potential attacks, although they declined to give more details.

“The ‘hardening’ on the client side is the replacement of older code with newer code. In our investigation, although we did not discover a vulnerability on these platforms, we did discover code that needed to be improved in order to meet our current security standards,” the representative said.

Although Microsoft hasn’t said whether Windows XP also had the problem code, it’s likely it does given the age of the code involved. As XP is out of support, only companies that are paying for extended support contracts would get an update for it — another incentive for anyone still using the older OS to upgrade.

The update applied to the Windows Server Technical Preview as well, but Microsoft said it doesn’t list security impact and severity ratings for previews. “As customers know, beta software is not fully supported and we do not want to cause customer confusion,” the representative said.

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