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3 days ago

How to install RetroPie on Raspberry Pi

19

Making your own arcade is a lot easier than you think.

The Raspberry Pi is an amazing little computer. Ultra cheap and well supported, it's perfect for all sorts of projects like running Kodi or playing games.

It's also a killer little emulation station that you can play a ton of throwback console ROMs on, and there's a custom operating system that makes doing it a lot easier than you think.

Let's get RetroPie installed on your Raspberry Pi!

What you'll need to get set up

You'll need a Raspberry Pi (natch) and everything required to connect it to a monitor and get it running an operating system. Here's the list:

  • A power supply
  • SD card
  • An enclosure
  • HDMI cable

You can easily source these parts online or from a well-stocked hobby shop or even Radio Shack, but the easy way to make sure you have everything you need is to buy a kit with all this stuff in it.

We think the CanaKit Starter Kit is your best bet based on price, completeness, and quality of parts.

See CanaKit at Amazon

You are also gonna need a controller. RetroPie works just fine with a PS3 controller, PS4 controller or Xbox 360 controller through a USB cable. But it also works with most USB controllers designed for a PC, including old school Nintendo copies. That's awesome because NES ROM files are small and NES emulators for the Raspberry Pi work really well. That means the controller is perfect for the game and the buttons are right where you remember them. That's pretty important and you realize it as soon as you start to play a game with the "wrong" controller.

Anyhoo, NES knockoff controllers with a USB connection are cheap at Amazon. Including one built specifically for what we're about to do!

See RetroLink controller at Amazon

Now all you need is a screen to play your games on and some ROM files. You can use any screen with an HDMI input and it just works. We'll let you source the ROM files yourself, but remember that some older games are still copyrighted and you can't just grab one from a website without paying or you are violating that copyright.

The software

Make sure you pick the right file for your Raspberry Pi. If you bought the CanaKit, you have a Raspberry Pi 3.

You need two things from the Internet: the RetroPie operating system, and a utility to create a bootable file system on the SD card you'll be using. You'll also need a computer running Windows, Mac OS, or Linux to flash the operating system to the card. This sounds complicated, but it's not. You don't need to be any sort of tech guru for this.

Fire up the computer and browse to the RetroPie website. On the Downloads page, you'll find a button to download RetroPie for the Raspberry Pi 0 or 1, and a download button for the Raspberry Pi 2 or 3. Make sure you pick the right file for your Raspberry Pi. If you bought the CanaKit, you have a Raspberry Pi 3. If you bought a different one, you'll find the version printed in white ink right on the top of the circuit board.

Download RetroPie

Now you need a program to flash RetroPie to the SD card. You need to do this the right way so your Raspberry Pi can read it from the card and boot up. The best and easiest way is to download Etcher. It's available for Windows, Mac or Linux and it's dead simple to use. Unless you already have a program you use to flash Raspberry Pi images, trust us. Just download Etcher and install it.

Download Etcher

Plug your SD card into your computer and start flashing.

The setup

Open the file explorer on your computer and triple check what drive the SD card you're going to flash is. If you tell Etcher to use the wrong drive, it can erase the stuff on your computer. Write it down if you have to, because we'll need it here in a sec.

  • Unzip the RetroPie image you downloaded and put it somewhere on your computer.
  • Open the Etcher program and click the first button that says Select Image.
  • Pick the RetroPie image you downloaded and press OK.
  • Pick your SD card with the middle button (if it's not showing the right one, click it to change things, then double check it then triple check it).
  • Click the button that says Flash! and let it do its thing.

It's going to take a few minutes — the bigger the SD card the longer it takes. Figure about three to five minutes for a typical PC. Don't interrupt it because it will tell you when it's finished. When it's done, stick the SD card in the slot on your Raspberry Pi.

Grab your controller and plug it in. If you're using an Ethernet cable with your Pi you don't need a keyboard, but if you're going to use Wi-Fi you need one to enter your Wi-Fi password. Any USB keyboard will work even a wireless one with a little dongle like this cool one from Logitech. You can just grab the one from the computer you used to copy the OS and you're good to go. Next plug the HDMI cable in, then plug the cord in.

While it's booting you see a bunch of text on a black screen and that's normal. Don't worry, it automatically boots up to an easy graphical interface when it's done. The first boot might take a couple minutes because it's setting a few things up. When it's done you'll see the screen to set up your controller. That's why we needed it plugged in right away.

This is easy. Press any button and hold it until you see a configuration menu. Then follow the prompts and push the button it tells you to push as it goes through the list. If you come to a button your controller doesn't have, just press any button and hold it to skip it. Once you've told it which buttons are which, it boots to the RetroPie desktop and you can use your controller to navigate and the action button (A on the NES controller) to "click" things.

At this point, you're done. RetroPie is installed and you can run ROM files through the various emulators available, which is pretty much all of them (here's a list). But one more thing makes using it so much easier.

One more thing

  • On the RetroPie Desktop, press the Start button if you don't see a list of things you can do.
  • Choose Wi-Fi from the list and enter your Wi-Fi network info when it asks you (use the Tab key on your keyboard to get your cursor in the box).
  • Go back to the options page and choose RetroPie Setup from the list.
  • Choose Manage Packages from the next list.
  • Choose Manage Experimental Packages from the next list.

You'll come to a list of applications you can install. They're called Packages because RetroPie is a front-end for Debian Linux and it uses a package manager to add or remove programs. The package we're looking for is called RetroPie-Manager and it's near the very end of the list. When you see it, go ahead and choose it, then choose to Install from source and let it do its thing. This will only take a minute (seriously, just a minute or so).

When it's done installing, you'll see configuration / options on the list now. Choose it, then pick Enable RetroPie-Manager on boot so that it starts up every time you boot up the Raspberry Pi. Go ahead and reboot now by pressing the Start button to open a control window.

  • When it's done, go back the Desktop list and choose Show IP to find out your RetroPie's IP address (that's the number that identifies it on your Wi-Fi network). It's the very first thing you see in the information box that opens. Go ahead and write those numbers down. There will be four sets of numbers, something like 192.168.8.26.
  • Go back to the computer you used to flash the operating system and open the web browser. Don't forget your keyboard!
  • In the browser, enter the four sets of numbers followed by a colon and the number 8000. It will look like this: 192.168.8.26:8000. Press enter and be ready for something really cool.

RetroPie Manager is running on your Raspberry Pi but is controlled from a web browser on any computer on your Wi-Fi network. It can show you things like how much free space you have or what the clock speeds of the CPUs in your Raspberry Pi are or even the temperature. Go ahead and check out all the options. What we're interested in are the Manage BIOS and Manage ROM settings. You can use them to install a ROM or new emulator directly to your Raspberry Pi through the web browser!

Click the Manage ROM files button and choose what type of file you're going to install. Then drag the ROM file right into the window and it does the rest by itself. There is no need to pull out the SD card and copy files to the right folder or type a bunch of text at the command line to download them using RetroPie's interface. Go ahead and drag a ROM over to try it.

When it's done, just close the browser window. Back at your Raspberry Pi, you need to reboot. Do it through the control window just like you did a few steps back. That's always how you shut things down safely. When it boots back up you'll see the Emulation Station program running and the emulator you uploaded a ROM for is now the beginning of a list. As you add more ROMs for other emulators the list will grow. It's dynamic and only shows emulators you have ROM files for. You know what to do, choose it and click.

Pick the ROM you just uploaded and click on it, then have a bunch of old school fun!

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3 days ago

Nova Launcher is getting a new feature that you're going to love

32

Unread badges have always been a controversial piece of the home screen experience.

Some people can't live or work without knowing how many hundreds of emails they are away from Inbox Zero. Some people just like having the badge to remind them of notifications and messages they may have ignored. Some people just can't stand the look of 'em. Whatever camp you may be in, there's a new kind of unread badge to try in the latest Nova Launcher beta update: Dynamic Badges.

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3 days ago

Gorillaz takes to Google Spotlight Stories for new VR music video ahead of album release

5

The future is coming on, is coming on, is coming on... in VR.

Gorillaz have a new album dropping on April 28, and they've taken to Google's nascent VR platform to promote it. Partnering with Google Spotlight Stories, the new truly weird VR music video titled Saturnz Barz is available on YouTube VR with the some very interesting antics and — as always — some sick beats.

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3 days ago

Android O hidden features: The big and small changes for regular users

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Android O

There's more to Android O than the big new developer features Google's talking about publicly.

Any new Android release is a big deal. And new developer preview build, as landed recently for Android O, inevitably has fans scrambling to find new features lurking just below the surface. In addition to big sweeping changes affecting the people who make Android apps, there are dozens of smaller updates and additions waiting to be discovered.

We've rounded up some of the more interesting additions to Android O that may be coming to your device when the update lands. Let's take a look!

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3 days ago

If you're buying Rogue One, make sure to connect Disney Movies Anywhere

28

Most digital copies are a letdown. Disney's are not.

We've all seen it: buy the movie before it's out on Blu-ray, and you don't get any special features, and your copy is stuck in one store forever. It sucks, right? WRONG! Disney has a digital system that makes buying the movie early an actually tempting thing to do, and it all has to do with connecting digital stores and awesome app implementation.

Before you go download Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, please take our advice and download Disney Movies Anywhere.

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3 days ago

T-Mobile is moving to identify and block all scam calls

53

You may start receiving fewer scam and spam calls starting April 5 if you're a T-Mobile customer.

T-Mobile is making it harder for spammers, scammers and other malevolents from getting customers to raise their phones to their ears.

The company is rolling out a behind-the-scenes update called Scam ID that will automatically block calls it deems to be malicious, based on "an advanced global database of tens of thousands of known scammer numbers."

The database is kept up-to-date in near real-time by analyzing every call that comes into the network with behavioral heuristics and intelligent scam pattern detection. When a match is found, the T-Mobile network tags the incoming call and warns the customer that it's likely from a scammer. Because of the way T-Mobile's network manages voice traffic, the Un-carrier is capable of analyzing every call to identify and block scammers.

The service will be rolling out to all T-Mobile One customers on an ongoing basis starting April 5, and will automatically be enabled for new customers the same day.

Another service, Scam Block, doesn't even let those calls through. It blocks them at the network level, so customers don't even have to see them in the first place.

T-Mobile postpaid customers can also enable Scam ID for themselves beginning April 5 by dialing #ONI# (#664#) and pressing the call button in their phone's dialer. To turn on Scam Block, customers can dial #ONB# (#662#) or, to turn it off, dial #OFB# (#632#). To check whether Scam Block is on or off, customers can dial #STS# (#787#).

We don't know how this will impact the ability for Google's own spam identifier to do its job on an OS level — presumably it will act as a second line of defense — and it may make irrelevant companies like Truecaller that maintain their own databases and offer similar services at the app level. Customers can easily opt out of Scam ID, but many customers may not know it exists in the first place, and will have to rely on T-Mobile to determine the identity of an incoming caller.

Phone scams come in all shapes and sizes, from the IRS scam to Medicare cons to "free" travel to credit card scams and countless others. These phone scams are run by fraudsters who are often armed with robocalling technology enabling them to target vast numbers of people and make tens of thousands of calls a minute with the sole purpose of cheating people and separating them from their money.

You can learn more about T-Mobile Scam ID, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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3 days ago

Rock Band VR review: A series reimagined for Rift

 A series reimagined for Rift

One. More. Song.

In the wee hours leading up to Rock Band VR's release, I felt inside like I was actually set to go on stage. Since the very first musician-emulation game all those years ago, there's been a plastic guitar following me around from Rock Band to Guitar Hero and back again. Now, with the upcoming VR union, there's an undeniable excitement in the air. I can almost hear the crowd, the feedback, the countdown…

Read more at VR Heads!

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3 days ago

Jump around with your old pal Mario in Super Mario Run [Best New Games for Android]

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What are the latest games worth checking out in the Google Play Store?

There are thousands and thousands of games available in the Google Play Store, with more being added every month. With so much content hitting the app store, it can be damn near impossible to keep up on the latest releases and determine which games are worth your time.

Here at Android Central, we want to help. We'll be using this space to let you know about the latest gaming releases for Android that we think deserve your attention. We'll be checking in and updating this page weekly as new games are released, so refresh often!

Update March 24: Super Mario Run, Scream Go Hero: the Eighth Note, and Dead Ringer: Fear Yourself are three distinctly different games that are new to the Google Play Store and worthy of your attention.

Super Mario Run

Hey guys, have you heard of this game company called Nintendo? I hear they just released a new game on Android or something…

All kidding aside, Super Mario Run is easily the biggest and most anticipated Android game released this week — even if iOS users have been enjoying the game for the past three months. It's Nintendo's second game released for Android after Fire Emblem Heroes, and the first to feature everyone's favorite characters from the Mushroom Kingdom.

If you haven't heard much about Super Mario Run you can read our handy FAQ for the full details, but basically it's a re-imagining of the cherished Super Mario platforming gameplay we all know and love that's been optimized to play with one hand on your mobile device. Mario is always running, so you simply tap to make him jump.

This game is easy to pick up and play, but hard to master with 24 levels each with three sets of Challenge Coins to discover and collect, along with Toad Rally for racing against other players to collect coins and Toad, as well as a kingdom building dynamic.

In celebration of the launch on Android, there a Play Every Day event where you will receive in-game gifts for logging into Super Mario Run daily over the next two weeks. Even if you never planned on paying to unlock the full game, this is a great opportunity to check out the game. You just might fall in love with it.

Download: Super Mario Run (Free / $9.99 to unlock full game)

Scream Go Hero: Eighth Note

Scream Go Hero is an interesting little game that offers players a new game dynamic you've probably never seen before. To move your character through the level, you need to use a unique controller: your voice.

Here's how it works. When you talk quietly, your ninja moves forward. When you yell or otherwise raise your voice, your ninja will jump. The louder you yell, the higher he jumps.

This is a really simple game with both set levels to play through and an endless mode that has proved to be quite challenging. Often times you'll need to scream to reach a new platform, then go completely silent as you contemplate your next move.

Of course, given the nature of this game, it's probably not something you'll want to play on the bus. Or maybe you do? I'll leave it up to everyone sitting around you to dole out judging stares.

We're recommending this because it's a pretty creative attempt, creates silly results, and is free to play. If you want to give this game an honest go, consider playing with headphones in a quieter room. Also, prepare to have to explain to anyone around you why you're screaming at your phone.

Download: Scream Go Hero: Eighth Note (Free)

Dead Ringer: Fear Yourself

Dead Ringer: Fear Yourself is a terrifying new sci-fi horror game from the creators of Eyes- The Horror Game, so if you're not a fan of being scared out of your mind, give this one a pass.

The game is a first-person shooter with puzzle elements. The story is set in a futuristic setting, wherein a computational biologist secretly infected water supplies around the globe with MIRA-cules, micro-bots that are able to manipulate DNA in an attempt to get global nuclear disarmament. When his noble mission ends up with him being arrested, the MIRA AI starts to goes rogue and starts killing people around the world. But in doing so, she accidentally created an uncorrupted copy of herself — humanity's only hope!

You play as the uncorrupted version of MIRA, as you explore the MIRA base of operations and try to outsmart MIRA's traps and security systems. Along the way, you'll run across all sorts of unsettling biological experiments, their proximity made known to you with a beeping indicator.

Prepare for all sorts of jump scares and frantic action, as you desperately search for energy used to keep yourself alive as well as ammo for your weapon. You'll definitely want to play this game at night, with headphones on, for full emersion.

This is a free game with a bunch of ads between levels which will either annoy you and take you out of the game, or offer a refreshing palate cleanser after you've bad the bejesus scared out of you.

Download: Dead Ringer: Fear Yourself (Free w/ads)

Android Gaming

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3 days ago

There's a whole new privacy policy in the Nextbit Robin Nougat update

10

The transition to Razer as the parent company is complete.

There's some language in the Nougat update for the Nextbit Robin, which rapidly moved from final beta to public release in the last 24 hours, explaining a small change in the privacy policy due thanks to the new parent company. Now that Razer owns Nextbit, all of the legal details surrounding how a phone is used falls to Razer. The privacy policy itself isn't wildly different from the Nextbit policy you probably didn't read when you first got the phone, but it's an important detail to note.

It's not clear how much control Razer is going to give Nextbit when it comes to future hardware or software decisions. Razer has trouble expanding its color palette beyond matte black and lime green without the help of 1,000 LEDs, and Nextbit's design language is wildly different. One of the biggest things to watch as these two groups influence one another is how that design language will change on both ends. As cool as it would be to see Nextbit's use of brighter colors and softer edges rub off on Razer, a rugged-looking dystopian future super soldier communicator isn't impossible.

Nextbit Robin review

Either way, the Nougat update is available now if you head to Settings>About Phone>Software Update and hit Check For Updates. It's a big download, and is going to take about 20 minutes to fully install, but Nextbit has put a lot of love into making Nougat great for this phone so grab it quick as you can.

Nextbit Robin

See at Amazon

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3 days ago

How to deal with YouTube VR crashing

Dealing with a crashing app can be irritating, but there are a few things that can help.

YouTube VR is still fairly new when it comes to delivering great content to those using VR headsets. YouTube has long been a giant when it comes to video on the internet, but this new foray allows them to deliver even more great content from all over the world. While just about everyone knows how easy it is to lose a few hours on the website, this can be particularly difficult in VR. Especially since lately, for some users, the YouTube VR app has been unexpectedly crashing. There are a few things you can do to stop this happening though, and we've got the details for you here.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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3 days ago

Focus your mind with a lifetime subscription to Brain.fm's audio library, now 80% off

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Life is busy and relaxing can be hard. Avoiding distractions isn't easy, they are literally everywhere. Whether you need to avoid them to get some studying done or need help getting yourself to sleep, it can be a struggle to get it done. There are a number of different programs and options out there to tune out these distractions, but unfortunately they aren't all cheap.

Luckily, Brain.fm is a great way to tune them out at an affordable cost. For just $39 you can grab a lifetime subscription that will help you boost your productivity and get that to-do list accomplished.

With this lifetime subscription you'll be able to:

  • Choose whether you're trying to work, relax, or sleep, & experience an original composition specially generated for that scenario
  • Adjust the stream to play for 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, or indefinitely until you turn it off
  • Explore different recordings & audio tracks for each category on your own
  • Access premium-only content & track your work progress

Grab a lifetime subscription for $39 Learn More

This huge 80% savings that brings the price to just $39 won't last too long, so you'll want to act quickly. Whether you need to buckle down and study for that upcoming exam or just need to relax after a long day of work, Brain.fm is the perfect option for you.

Don't wait for the price to jump back up to $200 and instead grab this lifetime subscription for yourself right now.

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3 days ago

Super Mario Run for Android: Everything you need to know

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Super Mario has finally arrived on Android! Here we go!

After a long wait, Super Mario Run is finally available for Android from the Google Play Store. It's Nintendo's second game released for Android after Fire Emblem Heroes and its third official app after Miitomo. It's essentially Nintendo's take on the endless runner genre on mobile, featuring Mario and all his pals.

Super Mario Run is a free download. You can play through the entire first world — boss level included — in World Tour mode for free before you need to shell out $9.99 to unlock the rest of the game. There are three ways to play the game: World Tour, Toad Rally, and kingdom building. You're required to kind of cycle through all three modes as you play in order to progress in each one: you need to beat World Tour levels to unlock new levels for Toad Rally, and you need to succeed at Toad Rally to impress Toads and build up your kingdom.

But first and foremost, you need to master the core gameplay.

How do I get started?

When you open the game for the first time, you'll be asked to select a region; after this, you'll be asked to link your My Nintendo account, if you have one. We suggest signing up for My Nintendo if you don't already have an account: It unlocks some free in-game content, most notably Toad as a playable character. You can also sign up with Twitter or Facebook. After you've signed up and agreed to the Terms and Conditions, you're ready to play!

Signing up for a My Nintendo account unlocks Toad as a playable character.

From there, the game runs you through the tutorial level, where you learn the basics of how to control Mario and how the game mechanics work. Everything is shown to you step by step, so even though you know you tap to jump, you must wait until it teaches you how to jump in the tutorial. All told, the tutorial takes under a minute to complete before we're thrown into the main story of the game

(Spoiler alert: it involves King Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach).

What are the controls?

The first thing you need to know: Mario runs automatically. You don't have to — nor do you get to — manually direct him forwards or backwards. He also automatically jumps over small obstacles like blocks or enemies, small gaps in the path, and low-height Warp Pipes.

But just because Mario automatically jumps over enemies and most obstacles doesn't mean he's invincible. Mario can still get injured or die if you're not strategic with your jumps. However, Super Mario Run uses the same bubble save that was introduced in New Super Mario Bros.. You start each level with two bubbles giving you three 'lives', as it were.

How to jump manually

Just because Mario automatically runs and jumps over small enemies and obstacles doesn't mean this game's a sleeper. You certainly need to master all the ways you can control Mario's jumps yourself to stomp enemies, hit blocks, collect coins, and get to out-of-reach areas:

  • To jump normally, tap the screen
  • To get a high jump, press and hold your finger on the screen
  • To spin in mid-air, touch and hold your finger on the screen, and then tap the screen while in mid-air
  • To reverse jump off a wall, tap when Mario is about to hit a wall
  • To stall in mid-air, touch the screen and swipe to the left. One to master for grabbing challenge coins.
  • To do a vaulting jump, tap when Mario is vaulting over an enemy. This also lets you stomp the enemy.

More stylish jumps will also impress more toads during Toad Rally challenges. Those include linking consecutive wall jumps, vaulting jumps, rolling jumps, climbing jumps, and stomping consecutive enemies.

What do the action objects do?

Pause Blocks stop Mario. When you step on one, Mario stops moving, the screen catches up, and the game timer pauses, allowing you to time to determine when and where you want to move next. These often show up when you have a couple of options to choose from: Should you jump to the higher platform or stay on the lower level? When you've made your decision, tap the screen to start moving again.

Launch Blocks launch Mario in the direction shown on the block's arrow. Simply running across a launch block does nothing; to trigger it, you'll have to tap the screen as you cross it. If you tap on a reverse Launch Block, Mario will jump backwards.

Coin Arrows are transparent blocks that reveal coin paths once Mario touches them. These often point you along the preferred path, and can also help you maximize your coin collection in Toad Rally.

Springboards catapult Mario in a specific direction through the air. This can be useful for climbing walls and getting to out-of-reach places.

Red Rings make red coins appear. Red coins are special high-value coins that only appear for a limited amount of time — usually about five seconds. Make sure to run through a Red Ring whenever you see one!

Super Stars will turn you into an invincible coin-collecting machine. They are hidden amongst bricks (usually ones that are hard to reach), so be sure to jump into bricks to smash them! The Super Star power-up acts as a magnet, drawing coins toward you as you run: Big time fun.

Switches control hidden blocks: Some levels have blocks that only appear when you jump on a switch. These will help you reach greater heights, avoid death, and collect Challenge Coins, but be careful! The platforms will expire, so you'll need to hurry or else they might disappear beneath you.

P Switches turn blocks into blue coins for a limited period of time. Jump on a blue P Switch to snap up as many blue coins as you can before they disappear.

Time Extenders add a few extra seconds on the clock. Time Extenders are invaluable on some levels, so be sure to grab one whenever you see it.

What about Boss Battles?

At the end of each world, you'll have to face off against a boss. First, you'll have to complete a level run in a castle or an airship, but instead of finishing the level by grabbing a flagpole, you'll meet up with a Big Boss like Bowser or Boom Boom.

Each has slightly different weaknesses, and you'll have to use your smarts and skills to defeat each one. If you've played previous Mario titles, you should know what to do, but if you need a few hints:

  • Bowser can be defeated when you drop an axe onto the bridge he is standing on.

  • Boom Boom needs a little head-bouncing finesse.

  • Make sure your character is fully powered up before entering a boss battle. That way, you have a little wiggle-room when it comes to making mistakes. After all, it ain't easy to jump over Bowser's spike shell.

  • After defeating the boss, you'll unlock the next world.

What is Toad Rally mode?

Toad Rally is the multiplayer mode in Super Mario Run. You compete against other players online in a head-to-head competition of speed, accuracy, and style. You race against a ghost version of your opponent while each of you play through a level. The number of coins you gather and fancy jumps you pull off during the race determines who wins the round.

As you complete worlds in the World Tour, you unlock new color of Toads. For example, you'll unlock blue Toads once you complete World 1, purple when you complete World 2 and so on. You need to collect certain colors of toads to unlock new characters, so pay attention to what toads are up for grab in each rally.

If you win a rally, you'll convince Toads to join your kingdom — but if you lose, a certain number of them will leave.

Perform trick jumps to impress Toads

The more stylish you are during Toad Rally, the more Toads you'll impress. You'll know if you're gaining Toads by the thumbs up icon that will flash on the screen every time you do a stylish jump such as a rolling jump, linking consecutive wall jumps, or by vault jumping past enemies. If you're really impressing the Toads, you may see some of them populate the bottom of your screen as your audience.

But be careful, because if you die you'll lose your Toad fans. How many Toads you impress during the run will factor into your final score, so if it's an especially tight coin collecting race it might just come down to who impressed the most Toads. Since all these Toad Rally runs occur on levels you've unlocked during the World Tour, you will want to remember your best lines and any secret areas with oodles of coins so you can get the upper hand on your opponent.

Coin Rush

As you collect coins through the level, you fill up your Coin Rush meter. Once it's full, you unleash a coin-collecting frenzy, with coins shooting out of any nearby pipes and Coin Arrows doubled for the duration of the bonus. You can fill the Coin Rush meter by collecting coins (including Challenge Coins) and pulling off sweet tricks as you go.

What about kingdom building?

The final aspect of the game is building up your Mushroom Kingdom. All the coins you collect in Super Mario Run can be used to build and deck out your kingdom with mini-games, decorations and other bonus objects. You buy buildings and decorations from the shop (or unlock them as gifts from the Gift Box) and then place them in designated spots on your land.

You can place up to eight buildings and 12 decorations to your kingdom to start, although there will be opportunities to expand your Kingdom as you collect more toads and level up your Kingdom.

Castle mini-games

One of the coolest things you can add to your Kingdom is mini-game huts. You buy these special bonus buildings from the shop, which in turn let you play bonus games once every eight hours. Bonus houses are a quick way to earn coins and Toad Rally tickets.

How can I unlock the other characters?

There are 10 unlockable characters in Super Mario Run: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Toadette, and five different Yoshi (the classic green Yoshi we all know and love, along with red, yellow, purple, and blue). Besides Mario, each character can be unlocked by completing a task, or by reaching a certain number of Toads in your kingdom. For example, you unlock Toad by connecting your Nintendo account within the app, Princess Peach is unlocked by beating the World Tour levels, while Luigi and the Yoshis are unlocked by collecting specific Toads in the Toad Rally.

Each character has a special ability: Luigi can jump higher than any other character, Princess Peach can float a la Super Mario Bros. 2, Toad can run faster than all other characters, and Yoshi has his flailing floating jump that you may remember best from Super Smash Bros..

Any other questions?

Super Mario Run is ultimately all about mastering each level. There are three different sets of Challenge Coins to collect, and you're constantly replaying the same levels in Toad Rally as you lure Toads to your Kingdom and collect coins. After a couple of hours playing through the game you should be well on your way to mastering the controls.

Got any questions, comments or tips to share? let us know in the comments!

Android Gaming

Best action games for Android

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3 days ago

You should probably start looking for an alternative to Hangouts

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The dream of mobile messaging without SMS is dead. At least, for now.

Hangouts is dropping SMS support on May 22, according to an email sent to G Suite administrators. Starting March 27, Hangouts users will get a message explaining the change so there's time to choose a new app. Weirdly, Google is trying to frame this feature removal as an improvement.

Last year, we announced several improvements to the most popular features of Google Hangouts, such as the new video meetings experience and better group chat messaging. As a part of that ongoing effort, we will be removing carrier SMS text messaging from Hangouts on Android after May 22, 2017.

The email continues on to explain that Google Voice users will not be affected by this change, which in turn means Project Fi users are also clear to continue using Hangouts for now, but honestly why bother? It's not hard to see where this is going.

Perhaps most important, this change and its future consequences makes it clear Google isn't pursuing a world where it is the universal identifier anymore.

Google wants Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat to be the video and messaging services for G Suite (business) customers, and for Allo and Duo to be what consumers use. It has been made clear that Google is going to stop anyone from using Hangouts — at least for now — but it couldn't be more clear that Hangouts isn't going to be an included app in Android for much longer.

That means the people using Hangouts simply because it's there aren't going to go looking for it to install it, which means the number of people that aren't Android nerds available to you on Hangouts is going to drop rapidly. I give it a year tops after that change until it's easier to find people on Facebook Messenger than Hangouts, which isn't great for several reasons.

I'm not using this, and you can't make me.

Perhaps most important, this change and its future consequences makes it clear Google isn't pursuing a world where it is the universal identifier anymore. Hangouts was convenient because every Android user has a Google account, which meant the Gmail address offered multiple ways to quickly communicate with people. As Google shifts to messaging services that are only linked by phone numbers and fewer services that identify by email, the ubiquity of a Google account has the potential to rapidly lose its significance to those all in on the ecosystem this company has created.

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3 days ago

The Galaxy Tab S3 is worth buying just for its S Pen

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Samsung has once again graced the tablet world with the presence of its S Pen. Here's why the Galaxy Tab S3 is worth it simply for its pressure sensitive stylus.

It's been years since a major tablet release from Samsung came bundled with a stylus. The last S Pen-equipped device was the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (say that in one breath). But now that the Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad Pro have become mainstays with their stylus-equipped tablets, Samsung is throwing its S Pen back into the ring.

The S Pen became an attractive reason to choose a larger Galaxy Note smartphone over smaller devices, and now that technology has been bundled with the Galaxy Tab S3. If you're considering a tablet with a stylus in tow for your next purchase, here are a few reasons to consider Samsung's latest tablet over the competition.

It's compatible with a ton of apps

The most important thing to know about the S Pen is that it's compatible with any mobile application that supports the stylus input. I tested it with apps like Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, and Adobe Draw and all three applications recognized the S Pen's pressure sensitivity, though not all of them registered it fully. Drawings apps will be more precise than productivity-focused ones, for instance, because they're programmed to recognize the nuance in the direction of the S Pen. The point is, you can get professional-grade work done with this tablet.

The Galaxy Tab S3 also comes with its own Samsung Notes, which is good for quick hits and jotting down random notes when other apps aren't immediately available. But I preferred to use the S Pen with OneNote, which is where I typically scrawl notes throughout the work day. I appreciated, too, that the S Pen's 0.7mm tip helps make it one of the most accurate styluses I've ever used.

Program it, however you like

Adobe Draw.

Maybe you don't want to use the actions set by default in the S Pen's Air Command — that's fine! You can program the Air Command menu as you like, whether to pin oft-used apps and services or to rearrange the order of some of the S Pen's default abilities. You can add up to a maximum of ten shortcuts or as few as one — the one shortcut to rule them all.

Easily translate words

Translate German.

Translate the language on screen with just a hover of the S Pen.

I like to read German website and I'm continuing my education in my parent's native language. It helps to have a built-in translation feature that doesn't require I copy and paste text into another app, as is typically the case with using Google Translate.

On the Galaxy Tab S3, you can enable a mode that translates the language on screen with just a hover of the S Pen over the word. The feature works in most apps with clear text, including Texture, the magazine reading app. I like to use this feature when I'm reading Romanian websites because then I can translate any of the words I'm stumbling on without having to translate the entire page into English. It forces me to practice.

Make animated GIFs

GIFs.

Use this feature to extract text from an image.

This isn't a necessary feature per se but it is a fun feature to have readily available. You can hover over the screen and select Smart select from the Air Command window to create an animated GIF from a non-DRM video file. It works fine with YouTube videos and most videos displayed in the tablet browser, though you won't be able to use it inside apps like Netflix and Hulu — that's considered copyrighted content.

You can also use Smart select to crop out a portion of the screen and save it as a separate image file. This is helpful if, for instance, you need to share quick information with coworkers through chat. You can even use this feature to extract text from an image and then paste it into another note taking app. These are helpful multitasking abilities to have built into the interface.

Write with the screen off

Screen off.

The Galaxy Tab S3 doesn't actually work when its screen is off, but it does come enabled with a feature that lets you easily pen a note without having to endure unlock hell. Simply grab the S Pen, click its button, tap it to the screen, and get to writing. The note will be saved in the Samsung Notes app, where you can then export it to other applications as you need. It's a good feature to have if you're living a life that's constantly on the go.

Would you like a stylus?

Would you like a stylus with your next tablet? Got any other questions about the S Pen's abilities? Sound off in the comments!

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3 days ago

The Moto G5 Plus is coming to the U.S. March 31 for $229

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One of the best mid-range phones of the year is coming to the U.S. at the end of March.

When we first picked up the Moto G5 Plus at Mobile World Congress, it was very clear that under Lenovo, the Plus version of Motorola's venerable mid-range darling was meant to stand on its own in 2017. While it resembles the smaller, cheaper G5, it has a completely different build and set of internals, and it's one of the more exciting mid-range devices to launch so far this year.

And now we know when it will hit the market.

The company has announced that the Moto G5 Plus will come to the U.S. on March 31 starting at $229 for the 2GB/32GB version. There will also be a 4GB/64GB model for $299. Pre-orders for both variants begin March 24, and the phone will be available at a variety of retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Costco, Flash Wireless, Fry's, Motorola.com, Newegg, Republic Wireless, Target, Ting, and Walmart. The phone is unlocked and works with all four major U.S. carriers.

Moto G5 Plus specs

The phone will also be available through Amazon's Prime Exclusive program, which discounts a select set of devices in exchange for a modicum of pre-loaded Amazon software and a lockscreen ad experience that pushes Amazon's commerce agenda. We think it's a pretty good compromise, and if you're looking to get what appears to be the best mid-range phone of the year for less, this is likely the way to do it. If you're into that idea, Amazon has the 2GB/32GB model for $184.99, while the 4GB/64GB version goes for $239.99, a $60 discount from the MSRP.

Motorola, on the other hand, will allow a certain amount of customization with its Moto G5 Plus (the regular Moto G5 isn't coming to the U.S. at all) through its own e-commerce store. The phone is available in two colors, Lunar gray and Fine Gold (though a blue model has been rumored).

Will you be buying the Moto G5 Plus when it goes on sale?

See at Motorola

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