TIME Companies

How HP Could Once Again Dominate Silicon Valley

HP has shown it can innovate — but can those innovations save the company?

Throughout Hewlett-Packard’s 48 years, it’s innovated many technologies that became commonplace: pocket calculators, laser printers. But for much of the past decade, the headlines about HP have centered on the Silicon Valley pioneer’s revolving door of CEOs, boardroom controversies and – more recently – its slow, painful turnaround.

CEO Meg Whitman has slashed 55,000 jobs in an ambitious restructuring. As the company prepares to split into two, the fruits of that effort are winning over investors who have pushed HP’s stock up 190% in the last two years — or nearly five times the Dow Jones’ rise. Throughout all of this, what HP hasn’t been portrayed as is what it was early on: an engine of innovation.

In recent months, however, new initiatives at HP have emerged to suggest that’s starting to change. In particular, HP has unveiled three innovations in printing, personal computing, and data analytics that each has the potential to influence or even reshape their respective markets. Even if that doesn’t happen, each one shows a new flair at HP to take bold new approaches in established markets.

Last month, HP announced its long-awaited entry into the 3D-printing market. While younger, smaller players like Stratasys and 3D Systems have dominated the nascent 3D-printing market early on, HP held back until it could deliver a breakthrough 3D-printing technology that could become the kind of industry standard HP has set in traditional printing. With its multi-jet fusion technology, HP seems poised to achieve just that.

Based on HP’s thermal inkjet technology – an area where HP is strong in expertise and intellectual property – multi-jet fusion promises 3D printers that offer higher resolution, lower cost and printing that the company says is 10 times faster than leading 3D printers on the market. HP’s first 3D printers will use thermoplastics, while in time HP hopes to employ metal, ceramics and other materials.

HP says it plans to make the new systems available starting next year to large and small manufacturers alike. That may seem like a late entry, but multiple analysts expect annual revenue in the 3D-printing market could rise north of $10 billion by 2020. HP says it expects its printers to be revolutionary, and some analysts agree. To persuade them, HP has a video showing how a chain link printed in less than half an hour can lift up a one-ton car.

Along with its 3D printing technology, HP also unveiled Sprout, a machine combining a PC, a projector and a 3D scanner. There’s nothing quite like Sprout on the market, and it’s hard to describe – it’s simpler just to watch a video of it – but basically the Sprout blends a tablet-like touchpad, a 14.6-megapixel camera, a projector and a scanner into a product HP calls immersive and intuitive.

Sprout is a risky product in that it sells for $1,900 at retailers like Best Buy, but it doesn’t have a pre-defined market. HP developed the idea out of an interest in bridging the physical and digital world, says spokesperson Elizabeth Pietrzak. “The target is more psychographic rather than demographic,” she says. Which means, basically, people who make things: designers, hard-core scrapbookers and school teachers, for instance.

Sprout is designed for creators who don’t have the training or the patience to use design software. HP is planning on building newer, specialized applications for markets like architectural design and health care, and it’s inviting developers to create still other applications for the platform, which HP built on Windows 8. Sprout may not end up being as disruptive as multi-jet fusion. But it shows HP is willing to innovate in areas where there is more potential than predictable outcomes – an approach that defines many startups.

Perhaps the most disruptive innovation HP is working on is something called the Machine. It’s a name at once understated and potentially pretentious, but what HP wants to do with the Machine is to create wholesale an entirely new computing architecture for the era of big data. As cloud computing and the Internet of Things demand systems that manage ever larger amounts of data, the drain on the electrical grid gets bigger.

HP’s answer is to create computing technology that can handle much more data using much less power. The Machine is being built with this goal in mind, and to reach it HP had to come up with multiple innovations: a software-defined server called Moonshot that uses 89% less energy and requires 80% less space; lasers a quarter the size of a human hair that use photonics instead of copper wires; and memristors that use ions to fuse memory and storage, making them faster and cheaper than DRAM or flash drives.

The Machine is the brainchild of HP Labs, which had earlier announced pieces of the plan, like Moonshot and memristors. In June, the company announced the Machine and discussed what may prove to be the hardest piece: an entirely new, open-source operating system. HP is also working on stripped-down versions of Linux and Android that could run the Machine on devices like smartphones.

HP expects products and services using the Machine to ship in four or five years. As with any ambitious project, the Machine faces uncertainty and questions. Will HP execute on the different pieces and integrate them into a seamless system? Will third parties embrace the Machine as a standard? Will other cash-rich tech giants build their own versions of the Machine first?

Whatever the answers to those questions, HP is showing that it’s pushing to return to its innovative roots. Earlier this month, venture capitalist Ben Horowitz talked about how big companies can innovate, arguing that the key is to have a secret insight that no one else understands, one that often comes from years of experience. HP has plenty of experience, much of it hard fought, and it’s boosted its R&D budget to 3.1% of revenue from 2.3% in 2010.

“Innovation has been a large part of our ethos over the years,” says HP’s Pietrzak. “Now we’re on a path where we can invest back in R&D.”

In Silicon Valley where young pups seem to rule, HP is an old dog, and one that has been through its share of scrapes in recent years. But it’s also showing that it can still learn some pretty intriguing tricks. And with any luck, those tricks could bring it to the forefront of tech innovation again.

TIME Security

Sony Pictures Shuts Down Systems After Cyberattack

A message from the hackers bears a picture of a skeleton and threatens to release the company's "top secrets"

Sony Pictures Entertainment was forced to shut down its worldwide email and computer network on Monday after being targeted by hackers who threatened to reveal the company’s “secrets.”

A message entitled “Hacked by #GOP” with a picture of a skeleton in the background appeared on company computers Monday morning, Deadline.com reported.

“We’ve already warned you, and this is just a beginning,” the message read, going on to state that the hackers have obtained “all your internal data including your secrets and top secrets.” They then threatened to release the data by 11 p.m. if their demands aren’t met, but no demands have apparently been made clear yet.

According to Variety, all Sony Pictures employees were told that the issue could take anywhere from a day to three weeks to resolve and have been instructed to turn off their computers and disable wi-fi on their handheld devices.

TIME Gaming

Blood-Sucking Video Game Pulled From Kickstarter

The game would have extracted blood when you lose a point

A video game that sucks players’ blood has been pulled from Kickstarter for unspecified reasons.

“Blood Sport” is a project designed to “raise the stakes” of gaming, so that whenever a player gets hit in the video game, they lose blood in real life. Instead of the normal “rumble” that indicates an avatar has suffered a blow, Blood Sport players would be hooked up intravenously to their consul, so that blood could be taken out of their arteries.

“All we’re doing is hacking a pre-existing blood collection machine to take your gaming experience to the next level,” the creators wrote on their Kickstarter page. The technology is equipped with a feature that determines how much blood a player can lose without passing out.

The gaming technology could be used to stage “blood donation gaming events,” they said.

The Kickstarter was suspended Monday, for unspecified reasons. It had already raised almost $4,000 of its $250,000 goal.

TIME the big picture

How Smartphones Could Evolve Into Something Totally Different

FRANCE-ECONOMY-TELECOMMUNICATION-SMARTPHONES
People show their smartphones on December 25, 2013 in Dinan, northwestern France. Philippe Huguen—AFP/Getty Images

Smartphones may become modular computers you drop into larger interfaces like "dummy" tablets or laptops.

One of the more interesting comparisons of computer speeds often checks the computing power aboard NASA’s Apollo moon missions to the computing power in your smartphones. Indeed, The Daily Grate actually compared how much more powerful your phone is compared to the computer that tracked all the Apollo missions and flew grown men through the narrowest event windows while guiding a tin can in the infinite reaches of space — the Apollo computer had 1 MHz of processing speed, your iPhone 5s sports 1.3GHz in two cores.

I’m not sure if the Apollo crew actually understood how underpowered their computers were, but thankfully they didn’t ask the question, and came back in one piece. However, the idea that we have this kind of computing power in our pocket could make smartphones the most important computing device we have, eventually powering all kinds of personal computing products.

About 23 years ago, I wrote a paper on what I called back then a “vision for modular computing.” I’ve traveled a great deal in my career, and in the early days, I lugged portable computers that looked like singer sewing machines. Once clamshell-style laptops came out, I started carrying them instead — but they weighed 6-9 lbs. and had short battery lives. But I envisioned — or actually longed for — a time when I could just carry a small modular computing core with me, plugging it into a TV in my hotel room or fitting it into a screen and keyboard on the flip side of an airplane seat tray.

I wanted the full power of a personal computer in a small device that could connect into all types of stationary devices. Now I know I was describing then what smartphones have become today, although they have the screen and keyboards built in as part of their design.

But that might not be the endgame for smartphones. In one of the more interesting products on the market this year, Asus has created something that embodies part of that original vision I had for modular computing. The Asus PadFone X is a unique product that includes a smartphone which slides into and powers a 7-inch tablet. The idea here is that all of the computing power is based in the smartphone, while the tablet simply mirrors what’s on the smartphone. However, if you undock the phone from the tablet, the tablet does nothing — all you get is a blank screen. The PadFone costs $199 without a contract and works with AT&T’s prepaid program.

The PadFone’s idea to put the computing power in the smartphone and using it to power a tablet is quite interesting and very much modular in design. I’m hearing another angle on this in the works in China, wherein you’d take a smartphone and pop it into a laptop clamshell design, using the smartphone as the core processor mirroring the device’s operating system and apps on a 12-inch laptop screen with a full keyboard. Motorola had a product like this a few years back called the Atrix Smartphone with LapDock. The Atrix never took off because 2011’s smartphones weren’t powerful enough to deliver on the idea, among other reasons. But the concept of using a smartphone docked to a laptop shell is now being tossed around design shops in Asia, and we could see new versions of the idea sometime next year.

The smartphone-based modular computer has plenty of potential, and what Asus delivers with the PadFone could just be scratching the surface. It would not surprise me if someday my original modular computing vision finally plays itself out in ways that make the smartphone the center of our computing experience and it becomes docked into tablets, laptops and desktops that powers our future computing experiences.

TIME Video Games

The 10 Craziest Things I’ve Done in Far Cry 4 So Far

Ubisoft

Ubisoft's Nepal-inspired Himalayan sandbox doubles as an adrenaline-junkie thriller

Far Cry 4 throws a spanner into the narrative that Ubisoft lost its mojo this year, by which I mean the Assassin’s Creed Unity debacle, though “debacle” probably overstates the issue.

A quick word about Unity: It’s not a bad game, it’s just not the series-upending shift we were led to expect. Plus, it shipped with bugs, a glitchy navigation system and a tendency to stutter in game-impacting ways when fighting amongst the game’s ballyhooed masses. No wonder Ubisoft delayed the game’s release from October. In hindsight, they should have pushed it off to December, or even early 2015.

Not so Far Cry 4, which shipped relatively trouble-free and flush with incremental improvements in accord with the studio’s modest prerelease claims. If you come to Ajay Ghale’s Himalayan romp expecting narrative profundity, or a more subversive take on the Westerner-in-exotic-climes trope, you should probably look elsewhere. But if you just want Far Cry 3‘s elaborate playscape with a better sense of activity equilibrium and all the play systems not so much further sanded as subtly sandpapery (offering gratifying pushbacks, particularly in combat scenarios), this is it.

It’s also the most Point Break of the games in the series, bristling with utterly preposterous high octane thrills. Here’s a list of the ones I’ve managed to pull off so far:

Hijack a vehicle…from another vehicle

You can execute this bit of vehicular derring-do one of two ways: driving alongside another vehicle, looking toward the driver and clicking the takedown button, or doing the same from your lofty perch in the “Buzzer,” the game’s able gyrocopter.

There’s even an achievement for the vehicle-to-vehicle version of this stunt, but you’ll need to pull it off riding shotgun, meaning you’ll want to recruit a skilled co-op pal and driver to help you do the deed.

Take an outpost by lobbing grenades from the gyrocopter

It’s a measure of how important verticality is to Far Cry 4 that each time the game deposits you in some new story-space, it gives the elevation alongside the place name–and the gyrocopter’s your ticket to exploiting it.

Why wouldn’t you take Far Cry 4‘s versatile sky-ride with you everywhere, circumventing combat snarls and geographic chokepoints?

It’s a workable theory if you’re trawling for loot chests, masks and all the game’s other collectible miscellany (below its stall point, anyway). But in practice, Ubisoft has built in offsets that complicate aerial ubiquity, namely this one: the gyrocopter moves like a floating boulder, meaning you’re easy prey for snipers as well as the game’s insanely distance-accurate combat regulars.

But if you’re intrepid and handy with the game’s M-79 grenade launcher, you can knock out the game’s smaller outposts quickly, helped along by the miracle of kickback-free physics.

Square off with a herd of honey badgers

The toughest animals in Far Cry 4 by a Kyrati mile if you’re hunting by way of bow and arrow aren’t its deathly-fleet tigers or you-flattening bears, they’re a little creature the world barely knew before this video went viral. Good luck taking just one out with a bit of recurved carbon fiber and fletching, much less a pack if you happen to invoke the unfortunate wrath of a squadron.

Irony, thy name is mellivora capensis.

Take a radio tower by wingsuit

This one’s tricker than it sounds: you’ll need (a) a sense of optimal height and distance, and (b) timing to deploy your parachute, and (c) further spot-on aiming to steer your parachuting body onto the sloped rim of the tower’s topmost areas, and (d) to do all of that with a tower that’s situated low enough so you don’t stall out the gyrocopter climbing to a high enough altitude to make a, b and c possible.

No, you can’t simply land the gyrocopter on the tower top and step out. I’ve tried at least a dozen times, and maybe I’m just inept, but the game always ejects me (and the gyrocopter) several meters off the side of the tower.

Note: Be careful you don’t steer into the zip-line as you’re parachuting in, or you’ll hook that by accident and find yourself angling all the way back to the ground in a blink.

Take a fortress while riding an elephant

You’ll need the “elephant rider” skill to saddle a pachyderm, but once you have it, you’re all but invincible in small scrums where you can overpower enemies by charging and bashing them. (vehicles, too.) There’s even a related elephant-riding achievement, and you can hasten progress toward it by directing your four-legged be-trunked tank at one of the game’s guard-choked fortresses.

Yes, the guns-a-blazin’ route invites the guards to sound the alarm and call in reinforcements, but so long as you’re adept at knocking helicopters from the sky with the grenade launcher, those extras become opportunity targets.

Pro tip: It’s best to stealth-eliminate any snipers on the ramparts first, else you’ll find yourself ended moments after alerting the guards to your presence.

Get chased all the way up a radio tower by a killer tiger

I kid not, this happened to me. After lobbing bait near the base of a tower and rushing past a lured tiger–then attacking my enemies–to scale the first ladder, I discovered tigers in Far Cry 4 are as deft at jumping impossible distances as the domestic cats I’ve owned when it comes to clambering up kitchen larders.

In other words: heights in Far Cry 4 offer fleeting respite from giant man-eating cats.

Climb Eklo Beindu Summit and watch the sunrise

Eklo Beindu Summit would be the mass of vertiginous cliffs and precipitous overhangs situated in Far Cry 4‘s south-central area, and they represent the most impressive instances of combat-free, grapple-based sightseeing I’ve encountered so far. If you want to get lost in the game’s climbing puzzles for upwards of hours, angling ever-higher as you scan for grapple points and optimal swing arcs over chasms, Eklo Beindu offers several worthy collectibles, and better still, some of the game’s finest views.

Kill an enemy from 60 or more meters away with an arrow or bolt

Another achievement-related feat, this one’s best performed by an outpost that’s situated near foothills or a cliff, so you can take advantage of height to get close enough to spy your target while maintaining sufficient distance.

The game doesn’t model wind, so you’ll always fire straight, you’ll just need to take into account gravity and aim slightly over your target instead of dead on.

Fly thousands of meters in the wingsuit

Fly 5,000, in fact, and there’s an achievement in the bargain. The quickest way to do this: take the gyrocopter as high as it’ll go near Khilana Bazaar (the first outpost you’ll liberate in Kyrat’s southwestern area), leap out, fly as far as you can, then pull up the map, quick-travel back to the outpost’s safe house (re-parking a gyrocopter that sits just up the road), and repeat.

Catch sight of a giant bird carrying a pig into the sky

Not a piglet, I’m talking about a full-grown fattened swine here. Birds in Far Cry 4 are second only to the honey badger when ranking wildlife by unexpected creepiness. Think the gooney birds in J.B. Stamper’s Tales for the Midnight Hour.

TIME apps

Crossy Road Is Your New iPhone Game Addiction

It's Frogger meets Flappy Bird

Why did the chicken cross the road? To avoid getting slammed by a car, plowed by a train or swept downstream by a raging torrent. At least, that’s the goal in Crossy Road, a new free iPhone game that’s destined to become the next Flappy Bird: A super-addictive, hard-as-heck game that you just won’t want to put down.

Crossy Road is what would happen if the evil geniuses who thought up Frogger built a new game for the mobile era. The idea is to take your character, whether it be a bird, duck, chicken or otherwise, and get it as far upfield as possible while dodging cars, trucks, trains, raging rivers and a pesky eagle that wants to make a meal of you — all while collecting coins as you go to unlock new characters. There’s no end goal to speak of, save making it further than you’ve ever made it before.

Crossy Road’s simplicity, along with its colorful visual palette and quirky soundboard, gives it the same appeal as Flappy Bird: You can play it for two minutes or two hours and love every second of it, either way. I downloaded it on a whim before the weekend, and ever since have found myself coming back to it every time I had a free second on the subway or couch. It’s the sort of game that, given a little love from its developers in the form of new features down the road, could remain a constant presence on my iPhone for a long time coming.

Still, Crossy Road isn’t totally free; it’s “freemium.” You can get more gold coins to unlock new characters by watching in-app video adds or straight-up paying for them with your hard-earned dollars. The prompts to watch those ads can be a little annoying, and I’d gladly pay a dollar or two for an ad-free version of the game. Still, while the various playable characters add some visual and audio variety, they don’t actually help you make it upfield any easier — so you can have just as much fun with Crossy Road if you don’t pump any money into it at all.

Crossy Road, from developer Hipster Whale, is now available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.

TIME Regulation

FCC Spectrum Auction Raises Over $30 Billion in Battle for Airwaves

FCC’s first spectrum auction in six years raised three times more than expected

Companies have bid more than $30 billion to get a slice of the mid-range frequency spectrum auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission last week.

The FCC offered what is called AWS-3 frequencies, which are a mid-range spectrum similar to those controlled by Dish Networks. Auction 97, as it’s called, kicked off Nov. 13. It’s one of the first to offer that type of frequency and one of the biggest sales of new frequencies since 2008.

Pre-sale estimates put the value of the airwaves at $10.1 billion, but interest from companies pushed the bidding well over that value. The final and winners won’t be revealed until the auction ends and the FCC awards certain frequencies.

Certain airwaves are more valuable than others. A New York City block of frequencies sold for a reported $1.19 billion.

The spectrum is a valuable commodity because it allows wireless companies to add more capacity for cellular data and other wireless services. New frequencies, which may only be bought through an FCC auction, have been in short supply until now and companies are battling to get a slice to be able to increase their services and speed.

Dish, America Movil, T-Mobile US and AT&T are all said to be participating in the bidding.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME How-To

8 Netflix Tricks You Just Can’t Live Without

US Online Streaming Giant Netflix : Illustration
In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is seen on September 19, 2014 in Paris, France. Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

Find out how to hide the embarrassing stuff you've been streaming

One of the main reasons Netflix is so popular is because of its simplicity. It’s painfully easy to queue up a movie on your laptop, video game console or mobile device and start watching in mere seconds. But that simplicity means there are a lot of features to Netflix that the average customer may not be using.

Here, we’ve rounded up some useful tips to help you get the most out of Netflix:

See What Movies Are Coming and Going

Netflix’s lineup of movies and TV shows is constantly changing as the company gains and loses licensing rights for different content. It’s difficult to get a full picture of the Netflix library from within the app itself, but a variety of third-party websites can help. Sites like Instant Watcher and What’s New On Netflix offer a daily rundown of new releases on the streaming service. Finding out when movies are going to be removed is a little trickier, because Netflix has purposefully obscured that information. However, the site Now Streaming updates regularly with lists of movies that will soon be going offline.

Get Better Search Options

Search options on Netflix are fairly limited, which can make it hard to ferret out quality movies from the service’s vast amount of content. Sites like Instant Watcher let you filter options by parameters such as year released as well as rating on Netflix and Rotten Tomatoes. And if your favorite movie isn’t on Netflix right now, you can use Can I Stream It or WhereToWatch to find out where else a film might be available to stream legally online.

Use Your Phone As a Remote

On the PlayStation 3, customers can use their phone or tablet to control Netflix instead of a video game controller. First, make sure your mobile device and your PS3 are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Then boot up the Netflix app on both devices, and your phone or tablet can be used to control the movie playing on the big screen — this also works if you’re watching Netflix via a Google Chromecast.

Get Smarter Recommendations

Netflix prides itself on its algorithms that are supposed to serve up content you’ll love that you didn’t even know you wanted. But the process only works if you feed the company a lot of info about what you enjoy. Rate movies regularly to get more precise recommendations, and don’t forget to fill out your taste preferences in your account settings. You can access the taste preferences list by selecting the “Your Account” option on the Web-based version of Netflix.

Change Subtitles

Tired of Netflix’s signature yellow subtitles? You can choose among eight different text colors as well as a background color to place behind the text. The font and text size can also be adjusted. The options are available in the “Your Account” settings on the Web version of Netflix.

Eliminate Buffering

There’s no bigger buzzkill during a riveting movie than being hit with a buffering screen. Netflix has a hidden menu to help you banish buffering. Press Shift + Alt + Left Click (or Shift + Option + Click on a Mac) while streaming a show to bring up a diagnostic screen. Click “Screen Manager,” then select the “Manual” checkbox to alter the stream’s bit rate. A lower number will lower the image quality of the program but will also allow you to watch on a slower connection without constant hiccups. When the buffering screen hits video game consoles and other living room streaming devices, try inputing the code Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Up, Up, Up, Up on the controller or remote to deactivate Netflix, then reboot it.

Make Profiles for Multiple Users

When you’re sharing your Netflix account with multiple friends and family members, the service’s recommendation algorithm can get pretty muddled. Separate the Law and Order fans from the documentary junkies by setting up separate profiles. You can have five in total and each will get its own viewing history and tailored recommendations. Create new profiles using the “Manage Profiles” option in the settings menu on Netflix.com.

Erase Your Viewing History

You gave into your base desires and binged on Bridezillas for five hours one rainy Sunday afternoon. It’s OK—no one ever has to know. Netflix will let you see a log of your vieiwng history and wipe specific items from the record books across all devices. Simply go to the “Your Account” option in the settings menu, click “Viewing Activity” and click the X on any shows you want to erase. Then you can go on watching trashy reality TV with impunity.

Read next: How to Stop Accidentally Closing Your Browser All the Time

TIME apps

The 5 Best Apps for Dominating Black Friday With Your iPhone

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s U.K. Asda Supermarket Entices Shoppers With Black Friday Deals
Customers push loaded shopping carts through crowded aisles as they look for bargains during a Black Friday discount sale inside an Asda supermarket in Wembley, London, U.K., on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Find the best deals—and parking—with these great shopping apps

With the advent of online shopping, if you think great, in-store Black Friday deals are a thing of the past, think again. According to a study by Accenture, 66% of respondents said they planned to chase down the shopping holiday’s one-day sales in 2014, up 11% over last year. And while hunting for great deals, 24% of them will be armed with smartphones to sniff out the best deals.

Don’t get outsmarted by these thrifty, tech-savvy shoppers. Before you hit the malls, make a plan and load your iPhone with these five great shopping apps:

Black Friday by SlickDeals
Ever wonder how to become as frugal as the misers on Extreme Couponing? Check out Slickdeals.net and find out. This forum, frequented by penny-wise shoppers worldwide, is a great place to find discounts on items on your shopping list. But in addition to its website and app, Slickdeals launches its Black Friday app once every year full of leaked newspaper circulars, all the deals at featured stores, and other great discounts that are voted on by its loyal users. The app is a huge time-saver, as you’re able to quickly discern between excellent bargains and overpriced items by relying on the experience and expertise of these fervent, year-long penny-pinchers.

Black Friday by SlickDeals is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Coupons.com
It’s understandable if you overlooked this one in the App Store, because the name doesn’t evoke cutting-edge tech. But with loyalty card linking abilities and Passbook-integrated coupons, it’s one of the smartest ways to get instant discounts with a smartphone. With both online and in-store offers, grocery and retail deals, and GPS-enabled notifications, the app uses every smart tool at its disposal to save you money. And it’s linked to some very big, popular brands like Toys R Us, JCPenny, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, so you really can’t afford not to download it.

Coupons.com is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Chameleon
As most Black Friday survivors will admit, the key to a successful shopping experience is getting in and out as quickly as possible. Chameleon makes this possible by telling you the aisle and inventory status of items on your shopping list. It only works at participating businesses, but with big box partners like Best Buy, K-Mart and Target, they are the exact places where you’ll need help on Black Friday. Just open the app when you’re in the store and search for the items you need. The app also doubles as a price scanner and can collect reward points redeemable for gift cards. Of course, “Alex from Target” could also help you find your items, but good luck finding him amidst the Black Friday mobs.

Chameleon is available for free on the App Store.

ParkWhiz
I’m going to throw this out there at the beginning: ParkWhiz feels wrong. An app that allows users to reserve and pay for other people’s private parking spots, this sneaky little life-saver should be on every urban shopper’s phone come holiday road rage time. Like Uber, only for parking spots, ParkWhiz lets parking garage and individual spot owners rent out their spaces when they’re not being used, giving frantic shoppers a place to stow their vehicles. Once you’ve reserved and paid for your spot, a QR code is displayed on your phone’s screen, which you can scan to get access at the lot. It feels like you’re stealing someone’s spot. (only you’re actually paying.) But there is something even more wrong than that: driving around for hours and finding no parking spots at all.

ParkWhiz is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

RedLaser
See that Candy Crush machine in your kid’s hands? It’s actually a high-powered supercomputer that can mash the Internet to find you the best prices on everything in your shopping cart. (everything except for your child, that is.) RedLaser uses your smartphone’s camera to scan the barcode on an item and show you its price everywhere you can buy it, whether that’s online or next door. A shopping tactic called “showrooming,” retailers cringe when they see customers do this. But don’t feel guilty— web-savvy stores have price-matching policies that will gladly take your money in exchange for the product. In fact, maybe you should reward their business acumen by loading one of their loyalty cards into RedLaser — the app can also keep track of that information for you, too.

RedLaser is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

TIME Video Games

Top 10 Video Games of 2014

From Mario Kart 8 to Dark Souls II, these are the best video games of the year.

  • 10. Velocity 2X

    Velocity 2X
    FuturLab

    A shoot-em-up meets a platforming game meets a stopwatch with a stick, Velocity 2X thrills and punishes and ultimately delights. Want to zip a spaceship through vertical obstacle-riddled levels that require precision execution of unique button sequences? Fold those split-second demands into a sidescrolling maze of daises, chutes and teleportation portals? Alternate between both in levels that unfurl like nested lines of code, shifting from one to the other like a crazy interstellar duathlon? Then play Velocity 2X.

  • 9. Sunset Overdrive

    Sunset Overdrive
    Insomniac Games

    Sunset Overdrive taps the same screwball vein as developer Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank series, only with a grownup twist. Imagine a punk quasi-parkour game by way of a zany skateboarding simulation by way of a metropolis-sized circus playground that wants you to know it knows it’s a nerd-power fantasy. Think Tony Hawk meets Sam Raimi crossed with Sid Vicious multiplied by pinball.

     

  • 8. Shovel Knight

    Shovel Knight
    Yacht Club Games

    The best NES game you never played sporting glorious high-definition pixel-block levels and incredible chiptunes and superlative platform-bounding gameplay. Shovel Knight is something like a crowdfunded miracle, the new archetype in gaming (or any other creative medium) for what letting developers who know exactly what they’re doing actually do it, unencumbered.

  • 7. Monument Valley

    Monument Valley
    Ustwo

    Making the impossible possible, Monument Valley celebrates non-Euclidean geometry, beautifully bizarre architecture and the art of silent storytelling. Combine royalty with optical trickery, trajectory-fiddling with bonsai pruning, aesthetic contemplation with tactile interaction and you wind up with something like designer ustwo’s delightful, enigmatic puzzler.

  • 6. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

    Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
    Interactive Entertainment/Warner Bros

    In Shadow of Mordor, developer Monolith fashions a Middle-earth playground that finally works. You play as Talion, an undead Gondorian ranger merged with a wraith-like entity and endowed with supernatural abilities. The game’s unusually clever and hierarchically organized enemy orcs as well as Batman Arkham series-inspired combat dovetail brilliantly, producing something that shines with or without the Tolkien license.

  • 5. Mario Kart 8

    Mario Kart 8
    Nintendo

    A carnival of race tropes, a grab bag of driver profiles, tactics and race types, a melange of little gameplay iterations and configuration tweaks and “Holy crap, I’m racing up and down that?” moments jammed into a single game. This is the best of all Nintendo’s Mario Karts to date: lavish, kaleidoscopic, gasp-inducing, ingenious, exotic, balletic and something you’ll be playing for a very long time.

  • 4. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

    Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
    Blizzard Entertainment

    Part of the allure of Blizzard rolling its bejeweled carriage through the hoof-tramped mud of a played-out genre (collectible card games) is the Blizzard name. But that names signifies scrupulous playtesting and elaborate design values, all of which converge here to make Hearthstone the quickest, slickest, goofiest, most lavish online CCG around.

     

  • 3. Dark Souls II

    Dark Souls II
    From Software

    A game that celebrates the notion of death as strategic outlook, Dark Souls II is less an improvement on its predecessors than a superlative alternate take. It rejiggers its rules in ways that echo through its combat subsystems, revitalizing the approaches you can take as you hew to its otherwise familiar approach-study-fight-die-repeat formula.

  • 2. Alien: Isolation

    Alien: Isolation
    The Creative Assembly

    You, a derelict space station, platoons of deranged androids and one relentless, homicidal, agile, terrifyingly perceptive xenomorph. Creative Assembly’s hulking orbital haunted house may be the most frightening game of hide-and-seek ever made. It’s also a stunning homage to Alien film artists H.R. Giger and Ron Cobb’s conceptual work, a chance to inhabit and scrutinize the world they and director Ridley Scott created in 1979 as if it in fact existed.

  • 1. 80 Days

    80 Days inkle

    80 Days is less about gameplay subversion than stylish, thoughtful immersion, employing a beloved genre–interactive fiction–to set you loose in a reimagined, politically contemplative rendering of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days. Here be mechanical golems, underseas trains and steam-powered creatures as you traverse a game world (designed by a British-Indian woman) that doubles as trenchant commentary on the nature of colonialism.

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