Best language learning apps of 2021 – CNET

Want to learn a second language? There’s an app (actually, several) for that. Whether you’re planning an exciting trip abroad or you want to spend your down time doing something enriching, a language app can help you build your vocabulary, develop proper grammar, and eventually become fluent through lessons that are easy to digest — all from the comfort of your smartphone or laptop.

The best language-learning apps are also economical, especially when compared with formal schooling or tutoring with a language expert. Many have speech recognition, which is key to ensuring you have proper pronunciation. Others offer several language options, which is ideal when you want to pick up multiple languages.

Here are the 10 best language learning apps that make it easy for you to learn a language at your own pace. You’ll sound like a native speaker in no time!

Read moreDuolingo vs. Rosetta Stone: How to choose the best language learning app

Screenshot/Babbel

I found Babbel to be the most like a foreign language course you’d see in an online school curriculum. The minimalist layout of the Babbel app helps prevent a new language (French for me) from seeming overwhelming, without making it boring. Each lesson takes you through translations, and includes variations of the word or phrase, pictures and whether it’s formal or informal. If it asks you to spell a phrase, the letters are included.

You also get to see the new words you’re learning used in common conversations, listen to them (if you choose to have audio on), repeat the phrases, and learn more about verb groups. The 15-minute language lessons are easy to work into your day — whether it’s on your commute, before bed or on your lunch break. The My Activity module lets you track all your progress. 

Babbel is free, or you can subscribe to a package. A three-month subscription is $27, six months costs $46, and one year is $75.

Screenshot/Mondly

Similar to Drops, Mondly is a fun, colorful app that has multiple features to take advantage of even if you don’t subscribe to premium. I tried beginner Hungarian on this app, and I liked how it offered to show you different conjugations if you tapped on verbs. The app packs images, translations and auditory aids to help your specific learning style. 

The instructor also speaks the words and phrases in a rather melodic way that made it easier for me to recall them (even after trying different languages on different apps). 

On top of that, Mondly is offering a huge discount on its Premium features for the next five days. Lifetime access to Premium (which includes all 41 languages) is usually $2,000 annually, but it’s dropped to $90. If you subscribe to Premium, you’ll also get access to special kids lessons. 

Screenshot/Duolingo

As a regular Duolingo user, I enjoy the app’s colorful interface and short, game-like exercises. The app doesn’t restrict how many languages you can try to learn at the same time (personally, I think two is a good maximum if you want to retain anything). I use Duolingo to practice Spanish and German.

To make sure you don’t get rusty on the basics, even if you’ve “mastered” a skill by reaching a higher level, the skill can still “shatter” if you don’t review it consistently. Practice the skill again and it’ll repair itself. 

I like Duolingo’s user-friendly layout, and the “streak” feature, which motivates you to keep going by tracking the number of days you’ve reached your point goal. In the app, you can access resources such as Duolingo Stories, which are short audio stories that allow you to check your comprehension skills as you go. I also subscribe to Premium for $7 per month which includes an ad-free experience, downloadable lessons, and unlimited “health.” 

Screenshot/Memrise

One of my favorite parts of Memrise is the app’s use of short videos to show how real locals express different phrases in conversation. I tried the French course, and the first lesson alone let me listen to the tone of voice and casual pronunciation, as well as showing me the phrase’s literal translation and explained its gendered usage. The app also helps you spot patterns in the language to make it easier to improve your skills. 

A few lessons are available for free daily, but the full program unlocks if you subscribe to Memrise Pro. There are three plans — one month for $9, a year for $90 or a lifetime subscription for $140. 

Screenshot/Busuu

When you sign up for Busuu, you select the language you want to learn, and the app helps you determine how advanced you are with it and why you want to learn it, and to what level. From there, you set a daily study goal, and if you subscribe to the premium plan, it creates a study plan so you’ll reach your goal by a set date. For example, Busuu says if I study three times a week for 10 minutes a day, I’ll be pretty fluent in my chosen language in about eight months.  

Premium costs about $6 per month for a year. Even without premium, Busuu offered valuable tools if you want to learn a language. There’s also a Premium Plus option for about $7 per month for extra features. 

I tried Italian with Busuu and I liked the clean, bright layout of the app. Busuu also offers helpful reminders: The second time I logged in, it reminded me about “weak words” I needed to review to improve my vocabulary. In addition to listening to a phrase paired with a photo of the corresponding action, Busuu included helpful vocabulary tips (like that “ciao” can mean “hello” or “goodbye”).

Screenshot/Lirica

If you listen to any song enough, you’ll learn all the words through repetition — even if they’re in a different language. But how do you figure out what they mean? This is where the Lirica app comes in. This app is unique in how it approaches teaching Spanish and German. Instead of traditional teaching methods for learning a language, Lirica uses popular music by Latin and reggaeton artists to help you learn language and grammar. On top of learning the language, you’re also immersing yourself in the culture behind it. The app also includes facts about the artist while you’re learning.

Lirica has a one-week free trial and then it’s about $4 per month. For now, the app only offers Spanish and German, but its website says it plans to add more languages in the future. 

Screenshot/Drops

I tried my hand at Greek on the Drops app. The app’s fun, colorful layout definitely made the language (which has its own alphabet) less intimidating. The app shows users each word in the Greek alphabet and the English alphabet, and says the word and shows an image of it. Drops is constantly adding new languages, most recently, the app brought on Ainu, an indigenous Japanese language. 

If you don’t subscribe to premium for $10 per month, you have to wait 10 hours to access another lesson, but you can check out your statistics after completing the lesson (correct answers, wrong answers and words learned) and tap on the words you’ve learned to hear them pronounced again (and see them written in the Greek alphabet). This can give you a leg up when your next lesson starts. 

Screenshot/Netflix’s Roma

While not technically an app, the free Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension can be helpful on your journey to becoming multilingual. Install the extension and click the icon to launch the catalog of movie and TV show options. You do need a subscription to Netflix though. 

Once you launch the catalog, you can pick from hundreds of titles that use movies on Netflix to help teach different languages. For example, if you wanted to work on your Spanish, select the language in the dropdown menu, along with the country where you’re using Netflix. If you’re watching in the US, the extension generates 306 titles. To watch one of the films, just click the red “Watch on Netflix” button. Depending on the language you want to learn, you might have fewer titles to pick from.

As the series or movie plays, two sets of subtitles display at the bottom of the screen. One set is your native language and the other is the one you want to learn. The words highlight as they’re spoken, like a karaoke sing-a-long. You can listen to the dialogue phrase by phrase, pause and replay as needed, access a built-in dictionary and more. 

Pimsleur

Pimsleur is an app that offers 51 languages to learn, but delivers the information in what is basically the form of a podcast. Essentially, you’ll choose the language you want to learn and begin a 30-minute auditory lesson (which are downloadable and Alexa-compatible). The app also has a driving mode, so you can improve your language skills during long commutes without looking at a screen. 

You get a seven-day free trial. An Audio-Only subscription costs $15 a month, while a Premium subscription, which includes the 12 top selling-languages, is $20 a month. Features include reading lessons, roleplaying challenges and digital flashcards. 

Screenshot/Rosetta Stone

Perhaps the best-known language learning service, Rosetta Stone has come a long way since it started in the ’90s. My parents still have a box set of discs for learning Spanish somewhere in their house. It’s a lot easier now with the Rosetta Stone app, but you still need at least 30 minutes to complete a Core Lesson. 

I tried Rosetta Stone’s first Irish lesson, which was primarily auditory with images, though there are ways to customize the app to your learning preferences. The lesson started out fairly challenging, especially since I was completely new to the Irish language. But it did get easier as I went along. 

The iOS app got an update last year that brought augmented reality into the mix. This enables Seek and Speak, which is a scavenger-hunt-style challenge. Point the phone camera at an object and get a translation in the language you’re learning. 

Rosetta Stone has a variety of subscription options, depending on the language — for instance, Spanish is $36 for three months, $96 for a year or $179 for lifetime unlimited access to all of its languages. 

Now playing: Watch this: How Game of Thrones language High Valyrian comes to life


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PSA: You might want to avoid the gobs of Halo Infinite spoilers Microsoft just leaked

If you’re invested in the story of Master Chief, Cortana, and the fate of the Halo universe, you might want to keep your head down and start muting some keywords on social media until Halo Infinite arrives later this year — because vast spoilers for the game’s entire story are now floating around on the internet.

Note: we’ll be keeping this post spoiler-free, though.

Halo Infinite creative director Joseph Staten confirmed on Twitter that Microsoft accidentally leaked “a small number of Halo Infinite campaign files” when it launched the game’s first multiplayer beta yesterday on July 29th, saying they “can ruin the campaign experience for everyone.”

As far as we can tell, that’s no exaggeration — we found a plaintext dump on the web with over 800 strings of text that appear to be from Halo Infinite’s campaign. They seem to describe both your in-game objectives, and basic descriptions of the plot, all the way through the end of the story. (At least one of them literally describes a plot twist.)

We’re not linking to the strings, though they’re not terribly hard to find if you really want to spoil the campaign. But if, instead, you’re trying to keep spoilers away, might we suggest our guide on how to mute words on Twitter?

In lighter Halo Infinite news, developer 343 Industries recently revealed you’ll finally have a “drop weapon” button, hopefully leading to fewer randos teamkilling you just to claim your sniper rifle.

Best student credit card for August 2021 – CNET

Why get a student credit card? When it comes time to apply for a loan, finance a car or rent an apartment after graduating, having good credit is key; some employers even check your credit before making you a job offer. It can be hard to build credit from scratch and that’s why the student credit card system exists. Check out the best offers below. 

A student credit card helps students learn how to manage credit cards and begin building credit while limiting risk — kind of like a bike with training wheels. Spending limits are relatively low compared with a regular credit card. That means the chance of debt spiraling out of control, resulting in bad credit, is slimmer with a student card. There are a handful of great student credit cards out there. This list — which we’ll update periodically — will help you choose the one that’s best for you. 

The best student credit card overall

Standard APR: 12.99% to 21.99% variable (0% intro APR on purchases for the first 6 months)
Penalty APR: None
Late payment fee: Up to $40
Annual fee: $0
Cash-back rewards: 2% on gas stations and restaurants, up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter; 1% on all other purchases
Foreign transaction fee: 0%
Standout feature: No late fee for first late payment (up to $40 thereafter)
Eligibility requirements: No credit history required, proof of income 

The Discover It Student Chrome offers a winning combination of cash back and other rewards as well as lenient terms for first-time credit card holders. You won’t get dinged by the credit card company for a late payment — at least the first one — or have to deal with an exorbitant penalty APR. And, of course, getting 1 to 2% back in rewards each month is a welcome bonus. Note that Discover offers another similar student credit card, the Discover It Student Cash Back credit card, but the rotating bonus categories make things overcomplicated, especially for first-time cardholders. 

Features and rewards

Most student credit cards offer 1% cash back. The Discover It Student Chrome card bests that with 2% cash back on gas stations and restaurants, plus a generous cash-back match at the end of the first year. The match effectively doubles your first year’s bonus rewards, so if you receive $75 in cash-back rewards during the first 12 months, Discover will chip in an additional $75. We also like that the Chrome student credit card incentivizes good grades: You can earn a $20 statement credit for each school year you maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher (up to five years). 

Rates and fees 

Discover’s rates and fees are generally lower than competitors’. The APR charged on purchases ranges between 12.99 and 21.99% variable, and there’s an introductory six-month period with 0% APR. Students with the Discover It Student Chrome also don’t have to worry about a penalty APR, which some issuers will institute if a card holder misses a payment. There’s no late fee for the first late payment, but for the second instance the credit card company charges up to $40, which is comparable to what other cards charge. 

At the moment, most study abroad programs have been put on hold. That noted, the Chrome student credit card has no foreign transaction fees — though Discover isn’t as widely accepted outside of the US as Mastercard and Visa.

Best for students without a credit history

Standard APR: 18.74% variable
Penalty APR: None
Late payment fee: Up to $25
Annual fee: $0
Cash-back rewards: 1% on all purchases 
Foreign transaction fee: 0%
Standout feature: Low late payment fee
Eligibility requirements: No credit score required; no Social Security number required for international students 

Deserve Edu Mastercard positions itself as an alternative to the traditional banks and credit card issuers, and specializes in credit cards for students and first-timers. And the Deserve Edu student credit card checks many of the boxes: It offers 1% back on all spending, features a relatively low late-payment fee and comes with a flat 18.74% APR. While it offers a lower student rewards rate than others, its relaxed eligibility requirements are well suited for students with a brief or nonexistent credit history or other potentially disqualifying limitation — like not having a Social Security number, if you’re an international student. 

Features and rewards

The Deserve Edu student credit card offers 1% cash back on all purchases, which can be redeemed for statement credits in increments of $25. Card holders also get one year free of Amazon Prime Student — worth around $40 — and up to $600 of credit toward cell phone protection coverage when you pay your monthly bill with it. 

Rates and fees

The 18.74% variable APR is relatively low for a student credit card, and it’s not tied to your credit score, so you know exactly what the APR is at the outset. Rather, the APR is “variable” because it’s tied to the “prime rate” — a benchmark interest rate used by lenders that changes over time. With most other cards, you won’t know the exact APR certain until you’ve been approved, and if you have a limited or nonexistent credit history it could be on the higher end of the range of what the issuer advertises. If you miss a payment, there’s no penalty APR, though you may be charged a late payment fee of $25. (Still, that’s about $15 less than the fee charged by most other student cards.) Deserve doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

Best for students who plan to carry a balance

Standard APR: 14.99% variable
Penalty APR: Up to 29.99% variable
Annual fee: $0
Late payment fee: Up to $40
Cash-back rewards: 1% on all purchases; 5% cash back on Lyft through March 2022
Foreign transaction fee: 3%
Standout features: Free, unlimited access to credit score. Earn a credit limit increase after making five monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening when meeting credit criteria
Eligibility requirements: No co-signers, proof of income

The student version of one of our favorite cash-back credit cards, the Chase Freedom Student credit card has a lot to offer. The 14.99% variable APR is one of the lowest available for student credit cards, and you get a $50 credit when you sign up and make your first purchase within the first three months from account opening, a $20 good Standing bonus every year (for the first five years) and can earn a credit limit increase after five on-time monthly payments.

Features and rewards

Chase offers cardholders free and unlimited access to their credit score, which can be an important tool for those building credit from scratch. The credit limit increase is another nice feature as credit use is a primary factor in a credit score. Most credit experts recommend using less than 30% of your total credit available, so the higher the limit, the easier it is to keep your credit use low.

Its 1% cash back on all purchases is consistent with the category average and the 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022 is nice (though less practical for many in the coronavirus era). The $50 sign-on bonus can be triggered by making a single purchase in the first three months so you need not worry about hitting a high spending threshold. And the $20 annual reward can be redeemed for up to five years — as long as your account remains in good standing.

Rates and fees

Every cardholder gets the 14.99% variable APR — so you know what you’re signed up for at the outset. It’s best not to maintain a balance month to month, but if it happens once or twice, the interest can be lower than with other cards.

A few words of caution: This card’s late payment fee can run as high as up to $40 for a first late payment; most other student cards have a lower penalty or no penalty for first-time offenders; and if you’re planning on studying abroad, this card will subject you to a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Best for students who have a co-signer

Standard APR: 14.99% to 22.99% variable
Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
Late payment fee: Up to $40
Annual fee: $0
Cash-back rewards: 1.5% on all purchases
Foreign transaction fee: 0%
Eligibility requirements: Allows co-signers

Bank of America is one of the few card issuers that allows co-signers, who can be a parent, guardian — or anyone with a good credit score who’s willing to share the legal liability. On the other hand, any late or missed payments or high outstanding balances will also negatively affect the co-signer’s score. 

Features and rewards

This student credit card is essentially the same as Bank of America’s Travel Rewards card, which means it offers higher risks and rewards than most other student cards. You get a higher cash rewards rate — 1.5% back on all purchases — but fewer of the relaxed requirements for credit novices. And points can be redeemed only as statement credits against travel purchases; so, unless 1.5% of your spending is on taxis, Uber or Lyft, flights, baggage fees, hotels, rental cars, buses, trains, amusement parks or campgrounds, this card’s rewards aren’t particularly valuable.

Bank of America will grant you 25,000 points, equivalent to $250, when you sign up if you spend $1,000 during the first three months. That’s a higher threshold than you’ll find with other student cards, but also a higher reward. Bottom line: If you can time your credit card application with a large purchase, it’s worth it.

Rates and fees 

Bank of America offers an introductory 0% APR for the first year and no foreign transaction fees. That being said, this student credit card doesn’t mess around when it comes to penalties: The standard APR runs between 14.99% and 22.99% depending on your credit score, but if you’re late with a payment, you could be hit with the 29.99% penalty APR. That’s exorbitant — and it comes in addition to a $40 late payment fee. Students at risk of paying late should avoid this card at all costs.

In the table below, we’ve broken down the key features of each card to help you determine the best credit card for students.

Best student credit cards compared

Best overall Best for students without a credit history Best for students who plan to carry a balance Best for students with a co-signer
Discover It Student Chrome Deserve Edu Credit Card Chase Freedom Student Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Annual percentage rate (standard / penalty) 12.99% to 21.99% variable, with 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 6 months / None 18.74% variable / None 14.99% variable / up to 29.99% variable 14.99% to 22.99% variable
Late payment fee Up to $40 Up to $25 Up to $40 Up to $40
Cash-back reward rate 2% on gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter), 1% on all other purchases 1% on all purchases 1% on all purchases; 5% cash back on Lyft through March 2022 1.5% on all purchases
Eligibility requirements No credit history required, proof of income required No credit score required; no Social Security number required for international students Co-signers not allowed, proof of income required Co-signers allowed
Annual fee $0 $0 $0 $0

What’s the best student credit card right now?

The Discover It Student Chrome is our pick for the best student credit card right now due to its lenient terms for first-time cardholders, including no penalty for the first late payment, and a combination of cash back and other rewards. The Deserve Edu Credit Card is best for students without a credit history, while the Chase Freedom Student is a sound choice for students who plan to carry a balance. If the student has a co-signer, we recommend the Bank of America Travel Rewards card.

How does a student credit card work?

Student credit cards offer those with limited or no credit a way to start building credit and create a credit history. They generally come with lower credit limits than typical credit cards and don’t charge annual fees. And they often have novice-friendly features, including late payment forgiveness, incremental credit limit increases over time and credit education resources. Reward rates may be lower than for standard cash-back and travel credit cards, however, making student credit cards a lower-risk, lower-reward financial tool.

Are student credit cards a good option for first-time credit card holders?

Student credit cards offer those with limited or no credit a way to start building credit and create a credit history. They generally come with lower credit limits than typical credit cards and don’t charge annual fees. And they often have novice-friendly features, including late payment forgiveness, incremental credit limit increases over time and credit education resources. Reward rates may be lower than for standard cash-back and travel credit cards, however, making student credit cards a lower-risk, lower-reward financial tool.

How is a student credit card different from a secured credit card?

 While some people choose to build credit with a secured credit card — that is, a card where you’ve backed your credit limit with a cash deposit, student credit cards work a bit differently. These cards typically only offer a small credit line, sometimes just a couple hundred bucks. That way, the student can use the card to build credit without the risk of racking up too much credit card debt (which leads to bad credit), while the card issuer hopes that the card holder will transition into full-time employment and will use their card for everyday purchases for years to come.

What do you need to qualify for a student credit card?

A typical credit card application requires a high credit score (around 650 or so) and at least a few years of credit report history. To get a student credit card, however, you don’t necessarily need either, though some proof of financial experience and responsibility helps when it comes to securing a credit card offer. The card issuer looks at sources of income — even from part-time work or deposits from parents — as well as information about checking and savings accounts to get a sense of an applicant’s saving and spending. Luckily, once a student is able to get a card, simply making everyday purchases is an easy way to build credit (so long as the student is able to pay off their purchases).

What are the benefits of a student credit card?

In addition to more relaxed eligibility requirements, the best student credit card will offer some of the following features:

  • Special rules for credit newcomers such as minimal late fees and no-penalty APRs
  • Lower credit limits — usually between $500 and $2,000
  • Cashback rewards program on spending
  • A “reasonable” APR — usually between 15 and 20%

How do cash-back rewards work?

For all the cards listed above, “cash back” refers to a statement credit that’s applied to your account to lower your balance. For the Bank of America Travel Rewards card, for example, you can only redeem rewards against travel purchases. But for most other cards, cash rewards can be applied toward a balance regardless of expense type.

How we chose the best student credit cards

We evaluated 19 credit cards marketed specifically to students, and we selected four that stood out across a range of criteria, including APR, forgiveness for credit mistakes, cash rewards and lenient eligibility requirements. We urge students to consider important factors like interest rate, whether the card has an annual fee and if the card offers a cash advance before they make a decision. 

Cards we researched

  • CapitalOne Journey Student Rewards
  • Discover It Student Chrome 
  • Discover It Student Cash Back 
  • Deserve EDU Student
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students
  • CapitalOne Secured Mastercard
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students 
  • Citi Rewards + Student
  • OpenSky Secured Visa
  • BankAmericard for Students 
  • StateFarm Student Visa 
  • Wells Fargo Cash Back College 
  • Petal Visa 
  • Chase Freedom Student
  • CapitalOne Platinum
  • Discover It Secured
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Citi Double Cash Card
  • CapitalOne Quicksilver Cash

Disclaimer: The information included in this article, including program features, program fees and credits available through credit cards to apply to such programs, may change from time to time and are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please check the credit card provider’s website and review its terms and conditions for the most current offers and information. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

The comments on this article are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Here are the latest accusations Activision Blizzard employees have leveled at the company

More disturbing allegations of Activision Blizzard’s reported culture of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination have been reported in recent days, following a huge lawsuit filed against the company by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) last week.

Details in these stories may be challenging to read, so we are prefacing them with a content warning for descriptions of sexual harassment.

On Thursday, The New York Times posted a story of extremely distressing accounts of Activision Blizzard’s culture. Here is one from Shay Stein, a former customer service employee:

Ms. Stein, 28, who worked at Activision from 2014 to 2017 in a customer service role, helping gamers with problems and glitches, said she had consistently been paid less than her ex-boyfriend, who joined the company at the same time she did and performed the same work.

Ms. Stein said she had once declined drugs that her manager offered at a holiday party in 2014 or 2015, which soured their relationship and hampered her career. In 2016, a manager messaged her on Facebook, suggesting she must be into “some freaky stuff” and asking what type of pornography she watched. She said she had also overheard male colleagues joking that some women had their jobs only because they performed sexual favors for male superiors.

And former vice president Lisa Welch shared an account of how an exec asked her to have sex with him “because she ‘deserved to have some fun’ after her boyfriend had died weeks earlier.”

Vice published a disturbing report on Friday about the story of Emily Mitchell, a security researcher, who approached Blizzard’s booth at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in 2015 and was harassed by Blizzard’s representatives.

When she got to the table, she said she asked about the penetration testing position. Penetration testing, or pentesting, is the industry term for a security audit. Mitchell said she was wearing a t-shirt made by cybersecurity company SecureState, which had “Penetration Expert” on the front. One of the Blizzard employees first asked if she was lost, another one asked if she was at the conference with her boyfriend, and another one asked if she even knew what pentesting was.

“One of them asked me when was the last time I was personally penetrated, if I liked being penetrated, and how often I got penetrated,” Mitchell told Waypoint. “I was furious and felt humiliated so I took the free swag and left.”

Mitchell would later work as the COO at a company called Sagitta HPC (now Terahash), and when Blizzard wanted to hire the company in 2017, she reported the incident to founder and CEO Jeremi Gosney, according to Vice. Gosney posted his redacted email reply on Twitter in March 2017, demanding that Blizzard fulfill several conditions if they were to work together, including a “50 percent misogyny tax” where the proceeds would be donated to three charities supporting women in technology, and that Blizzard send a letter of apology to Mitchell.

Gosney confirmed Friday that the redacted name in the email was Blizzard.

IGN posted a big feature Friday detailing enormous challenges women have faced at Activision Blizzard. One harrowing example: men would walk into breastfeeding rooms, because at one point they didn’t have locks:

A source who has since departed Blizzard talked about how the room designated for breastfeeding didn’t have locks. “Men would walk into the breastfeeding room. There was no way to lock the door. They would just stare and I would have to scream at them to leave.” IGN understands that breastfeeding rooms have since been updated, with locks added to doors.

IGN’s article also added further detail to the allegation in the DFEH’s lawsuit that working at the company was “akin to working in a frat house:”

Such stories abound at Activision Blizzard, compounded by a drinking culture that until recently was “insane,” a source said. One woman told me she “doggedly avoided” drinking events on campus because of their reputation. Another talked about how it was “much more sexual” in Blizzard’s main office in Irvine circa 2015, with women being subjected to inappropriate touching in the chest area and elsewhere, “sometimes at the holiday party, sometimes not.”

Activision Blizzard has taken steps to attempt to address the problematic drinking culture by introducing a two drink maximum at company events, according to IGN, a policy that was put in place in 2018, a company spokesperson told the publication.

On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard employees walked out in protest of the company’s handling of the lawsuit. Employees had signed a letter Monday slamming the company’s initial response. A day later, CEO Bobby Kotick attempted to address the allegations and concerns ahead of the planned walkout, calling Activision Blizzard’s response “tone deaf” in a public letter. Just before the walkout, employees responded to Kotick’s letter in turn, saying that it “fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns.”

In a small positive step, the Overwatch League, which is owned by Activision Blizzard, committed Friday to donating to “worthy causes.” But the league took that step after Overwatch League teams the Washington Justice and the Houston Outlaws jointly announced Thursday they would be donating to RAINN and Big Sister Little Sister.

After accusations, Twitter will pay hackers to find biases in its automatic image crops

Twitter is holding a competition in hopes that hackers and researchers will be able to identify biases in its image cropping algorithm — and it’s going to be handing out cash prizes to winning teams (via Engadget). Twitter is hoping that giving teams access to its code and image cropping model will let them find ways that the algorithm could be harmful (such as it cropping in a way that stereotypes or erases the image’s subject).

Those competing will have to submit a description of their findings, and a dataset that can be run through the algorithm to demonstrate the issue. Twitter will then assign points based on what kind of harms are found, how much it could potentially affect people, and more.

The winning team will be awarded $3,500, and there are separate $1,000 prizes for the most innovative and most generalizable findings. That amount has caused a bit of a stir on Twitter, with a few users saying it should have an extra zero. For context, Twitter’s normal bug bounty program would pay you $2,940 if you found a bug that let you perform actions for someone else (like retweeting a tweet or image) using cross-site scripting. Finding an OAuth issue that lets you take over someone’s Twitter account would net you $7,700.

Twitter has done its own research into its image-cropping algorithm before — in May, it published a paper investigating how the algorithm was biased, after accusations that its previews crops were racist. Twitter’s mostly done away with algorithmically cropping previews since then, but it’s still used on desktop and a good cropping algorithm is a handy thing for a company like Twitter to have.

Opening up a competition lets Twitter get feedback from a much broader range of perspectives. For example, the Twitter team held a space to discuss the competition during which a team member mentioned getting questions about caste-based biases in the algorithm, something that may not be noticeable to software developers in California.

It’s also not just subconscious algorithmic bias Twitter is looking for. The rubric has point values for both intentional and unintentional harms. Twitter defines unintentional harms as crops that could result from a “well-intentioned” user posting a regular image on the platform, whereas intentional harms are problematic cropping behaviors that could be exploited by someone posting maliciously designed images.

Twitter says in its announcement blog that the competition is separate from its bug bounty program — if you submit a report about algorithmic biases to Twitter outside of the competition, the company says your report will be closed and marked as not applicable. If you’re interested in joining, you can head over to the competition’s HackerOne page to see the rules, criteria, and more. Submissions are open until August 6th at 11:59PM PT, and the winners of the challenge will be announced at the Def Con AI Village on August 9th.

What is diesel exhaust fluid and why is it more important than ever? – Roadshow

The days of brand-new production vehicles spewing massive black clouds of diesel exhaust fumes are over, largely thanks to the introduction of diesel exhaust fluid and selective catalytic reduction.

Getty Images

Diesel truck enthusiasts, long-haul truckers and especially fleet managers collectively had a Chicken Little moment way back in 2010 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated the use of selective catalytic reduction in diesel engines.

Why? Because the thing that makes SCR work its magic is a consumable fluid called diesel exhaust fluid, and owners of diesel vehicles were going to have to add it to their vehicles. Nobody likes paying more money for something inconvenient.

The reality of DEF and SCR turned out to not be that bad — once engine manufacturers got their heads around using and making the engines still reliable — and in the end, despite the added cost of the fluid itself, the increased fuel efficiency and reduced emissions made the hassle of topping off an extra tank of liquid once in a while kind of worth it.

So, how exactly does SCR work, and what role does DEF play in making that happen? We’ll explain.

First of all, selective catalyst reduction isn’t new technology, despite only having been mandated by the EPA in the last decade or so. It’s been around for nearly half a century and was first used in the power generation industry to reduce oxides of nitrogen from coal-fired power plants.

It’s that oxides of nitrogen thing that you need to keep in mind because it’s those compounds — nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide — that are the big problems with diesel combustion, and they’re what gave Volkswagen and their lot so much trouble.

Filling up on DEF is as simple as popping the cap and pouring in a jug, but you’ll do it a lot less often than you fill up your fuel tank.

picture alliance/Getty Images

So, in an SCR-equipped vehicle, the exhaust gas from the engine is routed first through a particulate filter to catch all the soot and ash generated from burning what is a relatively impure fuel. That takes care of the “rolling coal” aspect of old diesel engines that made them relatively unpopular in the US in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

From the particulate filter, the exhaust gas travels past a nozzle which sprays diesel exhaust fluid into the stream of gases. DEF is made from deionized water and a very pure form of urea. Yes, urea is found in urine — quit giggling, please — but this is a refined form of the compound and is mostly used in the agricultural industry as a component of fertilizer.

The hot exhaust gas and DEF then enter the catalytic converter where the urea from the DEF and the exhaust gas react with a variety of metallic compounds to convert nitrogen dioxide and monoxide into nitrogen and water. Nitrogen is the primary component of the air we breathe and is harmless to the environment. Water is, well, water.

This is obviously a super-simplified version of how SCR works, but it’s not unlike the way your gasoline-powered car’s catalytic converter works, aside from the extra step of injecting urea into the exhaust stream. Most modern diesel engines use SCR in combination with exhaust gas recirculation and a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to reduce emissions.

Exhaust gas recirculation or EGR is a common process that is used in nearly all modern ICE engines to reduce the amount of unburnt fuel in a vehicle’s exhaust gases. The downside to EGR is that it can negatively affect vehicle performance and fuel economy, plus it adds another complex system to an already complex machine.

As a response to the weaknesses of EGR, some companies are removing that system from their engines and using slightly more DEF to treat their exhaust gases, thus achieving similar results without the sacrifices in performance and economy.

All of this sounds good, right? Well, not everyone is convinced that SCR and DEF are good things. I mean, you probably have to fill it up all the time, right? And it’s expensive, right? Nope. A typical tankful of DEF will need to be refilled approximately every time you change your oil. It’s mostly water too, so it’s not going to break the bank. A 2.5-gallon pack of BlueDEF (as opposed to the stuff your dealer might sell) will set you back well under $20.

Understanding this increasingly visible emissions control system is becoming more and more critical as US truck manufacturers begin to offer more diesel models in traditionally gasoline-dominant segments. 

Each of the Big Three is either already offering or plans to offer a smaller-displacement lighter-duty diesel engine in their high-volume half-ton truck range. Ford’s had its V6 PowerStroke (now sadly discontinued), GM has its inline-six Duramax and Ram has the awesome 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6. All of these will have DEF tanks and SCR systems.

Where DEF really becomes critical is in big diesel engines. We don’t mean like your Cummins 6BT, we’re talking Class 8 semi-trucks. These vehicles do millions of miles over their lifespans, and their massive diesel engines go through a lot of fuel in that time. These vehicles go through a lot of DEF as you might imagine, so at truck stops, DEF is sold at the pump. 

SCR technology is also coming to the world of marine diesel. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) first introduced mandates limiting the amount of NOx emissions in 2000 and has since been tightening those regulations. With some marine diesel engines easily being the size of a house, their capacity for pollution is immense, so again, SCR and DEF go a long way towards cleaning these vehicles up.

“SCR is a technology that exists right now and is being employed all over the world to increase fuel efficiency and reduce NOx emissions,” said Charles Culverhouse, CEO of Old World Industries, makers of BlueDEF and Peak automotive chemicals, in an interview with Roadshow. “DEF works and its made from commonly available ingredients that are already being produced in vast amounts for the agricultural industry. The infrastructure is already in place.”

That’s an important thing to remember. The world isn’t going to abandon diesel anytime soon. We depend on diesel-powered vehicles — be they trucks, trains, or boats — to move our goods and ourselves around the world. While traditional diesel fuel may not be a great long-term solution for the planet, the SCR technology and the advent of more cost-effective biofuels mean that until we’re ready to abandon internal combustion entirely, we’re keeping things relatively clean.

Now playing: Watch this: The Jeep Wrangler goes diesel for 2020


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Horizon Forbidden West release gets pushed back to 2022, report says – CNET

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You’ll apparently have to wait a little longer for Horizon Forbidden West.

Screenshot by Mark Serrels/CNET

Sony has reportedly pushed back the release of PlayStation game Horizon Forbidden West to the first quarter of 2022, according to a Friday report by Bloomberg. The open-world game was originally scheduled to come out later this year on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles.

Horizon Forbidden West is the highly anticipated sequel to 2017 adventure game Horizon Zero Dawn and was announced during Sony’s PS5 event last month. You can catch a 15-minute peek Horizon Forbidden West running on PlayStation 5 hardware here.

Sony didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The reported delay isn’t surprising given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on game and movie development and releases. As they seek to curb the spread of the virus, many industries are still grappling with the challenges of employees working remotely.

Mastodon now has an official iPhone app

Decentralized social network Mastodon now has an official iPhone app. The nonprofit behind Mastodon launched the app on iOS today, supplementing an existing web version and several third-party apps for iOS, Android, and other platforms. The app is free and offers a similar feature set to Mastodon’s core service, although it doesn’t include Mastodon’s broad local and federated timelines.

Mastodon describes the app as particularly geared toward getting new users on board the nontraditional social platform. As we’ve outlined before, Mastodon looks similar to Twitter but is built around independently run communities (and the ActivityPub protocol) rather than a single central network. You can create your account on a community of your choice while following and messaging people in other communities as well. It’s an unusual design among modern social platforms, and offering an official iOS entry point could help ease people into it more smoothly. CEO Eugen Rochko confirmed plans for a comparable Android app, but there’s no timeline for releasing it.

Mastodon’s iOS app supports features like polls and sensitive content filters, and the app page subtly highlights its differences with bigger services like Twitter by mentioning Mastodon’s “ad-free, chronological timeline.” As mentioned above, however, you won’t find a section for local and federated timelines — Mastodon’s firehose of all public posts from your home community and the communities of people linked with it, respectively.

Rochko tells The Verge that those timelines were a “suboptimal” way to discover new content, and excluding them also reduced the potential for conflict with Apple, which has required some social networks to limit what users can find through their apps. (Reddit’s iOS app, for instance, makes you opt into NSFW content through the web.) For a different feature set, you can keep using one of the existing iOS apps — or just log in through the web.

Actor Bob Odenkirk says he had a heart attack, will ‘be back soon’ – CNET

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in acclaimed Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul.

AMC

Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad star Bob Odenkirk on Friday publicly thanked family, friends and the public for their support following his collapse on set this week due to an incident the actor says was a heart attack. 

“Thank you. To my family and friends who have surrounded me this week,” the actor tweeted. “And for the outpouring of love from everyone who expressed concern and care for me. It’s overwhelming. But I feel the love and it means so much.”

After the actor was rushed to the hospital, family and representatives said he was recovering from a “heart-related incident” and in “stable” condition.

“I had a small heart attack,” Odenkirk elaborated on Friday. “But I’m going to be OK thanks to Rosa Estrada and the doctors who knew how to fix the blockage without surgery.” The 58-year-old actor said he would take some time to recover, “but I’ll be back soon.” 

According to TMZ, Odenkirk required medical attention on set in New Mexico while filming the sixth and final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad spinoff.

As the news spread, many in the entertainment world, and beyond, expressed their concern for Odenkirk on social media. 

In an Instagram post Wednesday, Odenkirk’s Breaking Bad co-star Bryan Cranston expressed how anxious he was about the collapse. “Please take a moment in your day today to think about him and send positive thoughts and prayers his way, thank you,” Cranston wrote. 

Odenkirk’s Better Call Saul co-star Michael McKean also expressed support for Odenkirk.

Odenkirk’s most recent film Nobody came out earlier this year and saw the Emmy-winning comic actor transform into an ass-kicking action star.

Bose’s QuietComfort 45 headphones make a new appearance inside the Bose Music app – CNET

Bose QC 45 FCC

Bose’s QuietComfort 45 recently appeared in a new leak from the FCC. 

FCC

Bose’s QuietComfort 45 headphones recently made an appearance at the Federal Communications Commission. Now it looks like they can be found inside an official Bose app.

As spotted by a CNET reader, the still-unannounced headphones have shown up in Bose’s Music app on iOS and Android when trying to pair a product with the app over Bluetooth. While not much is revealed, the app does seemingly confirm the name will be the QuietComfort 45 (or QC 45). Volume buttons will be on the bottom of one of the ear cups, with a power/Bluetooth button on the side. 

Bose did not immediately respond to a CNET request for comment. 

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The Bose QC 45 has made new appearances in the company’s Music app. 

Bose

The new headphones are set to be a successor to the company’s QC 35, which was released back in 2016. CNET editor David Carnoy praised the QC 35, calling it the “best overall active noise-canceling wireless headphone to date.” In 2017 the company released a QuietComfort 35 II model that added an Action button to the left ear cup for summoning voice assistants like the Google Assistant. 

In recent years Bose has shied away from updating the QuietComfort line, introducing a new high-end headphone called the Bose Noise Canceling 700 in 2019.