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The Morning After: Valve warns you, again, against modifying your Steam Deck

Valve loves to warn people about the risks of do-it-yourself Steam Deck maintenance, and this time it’s reminding you that trying to upgrade the built-in storage could lead to problems.

Following a PC Gamer article on modding the Steam Deck, Valve hardware designer Lawrence Yang warned against upgrading the device's NVMe SSD. While it's technically possible, the bigger M.2 2242 drives are hotter and more power-hungry than the 2230 models the handheld was meant to support. Yang added you could "significantly shorten" the longevity of the system. You’ve been told.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

Valve ramps up production to 'more than double' Steam Deck shipments

You could get your hands on the device sooner than expected.

And if you don’t yet have a Steam Deck — or you fried yours with an ill-advised upgrade — Valve says it has boosted production and will ship more than twice the number of units each week.

Were you to reserve a Steam Deck now, you likely wouldn't receive it until at least October. However, since Valve is ramping up the volume of shipments, it may bring down that wait time.

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‘GoldenEra’ is a loving, if muddled, tribute to ‘GoldenEye 007’

Covering the whole breadth of a video game’s influence is harder than it looks.

TMA
Nintendo

The Nintendo 64’s GoldenEye 007 — the rare Bond game that not only nailed the franchise tie-in but elevated the experience — is one of a handful of games that warrant a feature-length making-of documentary. Drew Roller’s GoldenEra tries to encompass the entire creative route, from its genesis as a small project at Rare’s rural farmland campus to the monster it became.

GoldenEra has been able to get many of the original team on the record, supplemented by a number of journalists and talking heads from across the games industry. But multiple segments — those covering Perfect Dark, Free Radical Design and Timesplitters, GoldenEye fan films and the modding community — feel a little shallow.

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LG buys its way into the EV charging business

It's acquiring a charger manufacturing company.

LG is jumping into the EV charging business with the acquisition of a South Korean EV battery charger developer called AppleMango. This should help it create "fully featured" charging stations with a user-friendly interface and real-time control and management, it said. In particular, it’ll leverage its "sturdy, dust- and water-proof" outdoor digital display tech. LG plans to install an EV charger production line at LG Digital Park in South Korea by the end of 2022.

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Apple's entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 may have slower SSD speeds than the M1 model

That could affect performance for app loading and more.

Apple's 13-inch 256GB MacBook Pro M2 may have worse SSD performance than the equivalent M1 model, according to testing by YouTube sites Max Tech and Created Tech. The $1,300 base model showed around 50 percent slower read speeds and 30 percent slower write speeds. It turns out the 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 has a single 256GB NAND flash storage chip instead of two 128GB chips like the previous M1 model. That would mean the driver can only use two lanes in parallel, restricting performance.

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The Supreme Court won't hear the Apple-Qualcomm patent case

Apple claimed Qualcomm might use two patents to sue again.

Apple and Qualcomm may have ended most of their feuding in 2019, but the fight isn't over just yet. The Supreme Court has denied Apple's request for a hearing to possibly invalidate two Qualcomm patents that played key roles in 2017’s attempts to ban Apple Watch, iPad and iPhone sales over alleged modem-technology infringements. The court didn't explain why it rejected the request, but a Justice Department amicus brief from May argued there was no evidence to indicate the patents were harming Apple's business.

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Nintendo Direct on June 28th is all about third-party Switch games

No Zelda, maybe ‘Silksong’?

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Engadget

A Nintendo Direct Mini is scheduled for June 28th at 9AM ET. It probably won't feature news on Mario, Zelda, Pokémon or any of Nintendo's other franchises, though. Nintendo says it'll focus on third-party titles on their way to Switch, and it could be a fairly meaty affair. It clocks in at 25 minutes, and Nintendo’s online showcases usually run at a fair clip. One of the more notable third-party games slated for a Switch debut, No Man's Sky, already has a release date of October 7th, so that may not get a heavy focus. There's always the chance of more details on Hollow Knight: Silksong, which is slated to arrive in the next year.

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NASA takes a step towards putting humans back on the Moon with CAPSTONE launch

Rocket Lab has successfully launched NASA's 55-pound CAPSTONE cubesat that will eventually orbit the Moon if all goes to plan. It's a small but important step in NASA's Artemis mission that aims to send humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972. 

The launch proceeded nominally according to NASA's broadcast, reaching low-Earth orbit at about 'T' plus 10 minutes. An Electron launch is much like any other, except that it's the first rocket to be electrically powered by batteries rather than a gas turbine. As such, there's a phase called "battery ejection" which happens near the end of the launch cycle. 

Rocket Lab used an Electron rocket with a special addition called the Lunar Photon upper stage with enough power to send it into deep space. It's one of the smallest rockets to attempt to launch a payload to lunar orbit, the company said. It launched from Rocket Lab's site on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, and is "the highest mass and the highest performance Electron has ever had to fly by quite some margin," the company told TechCrunch earlier. 

CAPSTONE will orbit Earth for nine days to build up enough speed for a trans lunar injection (TLI) that will allow it to eventually orbit the Moon. The primary objective is to verify a type of highly elliptical lunar orbit called "near rectilinear halo" that's planned for the Gateway space station. Gateway will eventually be delivered to lunar orbit by SpaceX with a science lab and living quarters for astronauts, along with ports for future spacecraft. 

Rocket Lab was supposed to launch CAPSTONE yesterday but delayed it until today "to perform final system checks," NASA tweeted. Regardless of the launch date, it's scheduled to arrive at the moon on November 13th. To see a replay of the livecast, check here

Facebook is blocking posts about the mailing of abortion pills

If you post about being able to mail abortion pills to those who need it on Facebook, don't be surprised if you get a warning — or even get your account restricted. A tipster told Motherboard that they were notified a minute after posting "I will mail abortion pills to any one of you" that their status update had been removed. When they tried to post about it again later, they were banned for it. Motherboard was able to replicate the scenario, and we were able to confirm it, as well. We tried posting "abortion pills can be mailed" on Facebook and were quickly notified that we violated the website's Community Standards.

Facebook
Facebook

In the next slide explaining our infraction, Facebook said doesn't allow users to buy, sell or exchange things such as tobacco, marijuana, recreational drugs and non-medical drugs. To test it out, we posted "I'm selling cigarettes," "cigarettes can be mailed," "anti-depressants can be mailed" and "painkiller pills can be mailed." None of them got flagged. General posts such as "abortion is healthcare" didn't get flagged either. As for our post that did get flagged, we were asked if we would like to accept Facebook's enforcement action or not. After choosing to accept it, our post got removed but we didn't get banned. According to Motherboard, their account got restricted for 24 hours after making several posts that got flagged.

It's unclear when the website started removing posts about mailing out abortion pills and whether it only began after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court's decision made all types of abortion illegal in several states with trigger laws, but people in those states can still get abortion pills shipped to them from international groups like Aid Access. Facebook could be preventing that information from getting to some people who need it, though, especially since it flags posts with "mail" and "abortion pills" even for international users. We posted from outside the US and still got a warning. "Some items aren't regulated everywhere," the slide explaining our violation reads, "but because Facebook is borderless we have global standards that apply to everyone."

The New York Times also recently reported that Facebook's parent company, Meta, told employees not to discuss the Supreme Court ruling within the workplace. Moderators would reportedly swoop in and quickly remove posts about abortion in the company's internal Workplace platform. Meta did, however, tell employees that it would reimburse them for travel expenses if they need to access out-of-state healthcare and reproductive services "to the extent permitted by law."

Brain-machine interface helped a man with paralysis feed himself using robotic arms

People with arm paralysis might easily feed themselves in the future. Johns Hopkins University-led researchers have developed a new technique that let a partially paralyzed man feed himself using robotic arms connected through a brain-machine interface. He only had to make small movements with his fists at certain prompts (such as "select cut location") to have the fork- and knife-equipped arms cut food and bring it to his mouth. He could have dessert within 90 seconds, according to the researchers.

The new method centers on a shared control system that minimizes the amount of mental input required to complete a task. He could map his four-degree freedom of movement (two for each hand) to as many as 12 degrees of freedom for controlling the robot arms. The limbs' prompt-based intelligent responses also reduced the workload.

The technology is still young. Scientists want to add touch-like sensory feedback instead of relying exclusively on visuals. They also hope to improve the accuracy and efficiency while reducing the need for visual confirmation. In the long term, though, the team sees robotic arms like these restoring complex movements and providing more independence to people with disabilities.

House Democrats are working on legislation to protect people's period tracker data

In a letter posted on her official website, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has revealed that House Democrats have been working on legislation to protect personal data collected by reproductive health trackers. It's one of the three avenues the lawmakers are exploring following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. "Many fear that this information could be used against women by a sinister prosecutor in a state that criminalizes abortion," she explained, though she didn't expound on how the lawmakers plan to protect people's personal data. 

Users have been swapping their period trackers for others they believe can offer them more privacy ever since the Supreme Court decision dropped. It's not unusual for companies to sell user information or to cooperate with law enforcement, and people are concerned about the possibility of investigators using that data to identify them if they ever seek an abortion. As TechCrunch reported, a number of reproductive health apps enjoyed a surge of new signups over the weekend. 

One of those apps is Flo, which announced that it plans to launch an anonymous mode shortly after the Supreme Court decision came out. The mode is supposed to remove one's personal information from their account so that they can't be identified, but Flo has yet to reveal when it will become available. It's worth noting that Flo's average daily installs has been on the decline, based on Apptopia numbers cited by TechCrunch, likely because it has a history of sharing private data with third parties.

Back in 2019, The Wall Street Journal listed Flo as one of the apps that had been giving Facebook access to people's sensitive data. Two years later, Flo settled with the FTC over allegations that it was sharing information with the social network, Google and other third-party companies. As part of that settlement, Flo now has to explicitly ask for user consent before it can give external services access to their personal health information.

Despite the House Speaker's announcement that House Democrats are working "to protect the health and freedom of American women," there's no guarantee that the legislation they're cooking up would be signed into law. It's always smart to take a closer look at how apps are protecting user data by reading their "nutritional label" on iOS or their "safety section" in the Play Store on Android. But for those who want to be truly safe, perhaps the best solution is to not use a period tracking app at all.

Rivian opens its first three 'Adventure Network' fast charging sites

When Rivian drivers do eventually get on the road, they'll have their pick of charging networks including a brand new one from the EV truckmaker itself. Rivian announced on Monday that the first three sites of its burgeoning "Adventure Network" of Level 3 fast DC chargers are coming online and will be accessible to nearly every other EV on the road, regardless of who makes it. 

The first station opened in Salida, Colorado with four chargers capable of delivering 200 kW of power — that's about 140 miles of range for an R1T in 20 minutes — in addition to the existing set of Level 2 chargers. Rivian will officially open the other stations in Inyokern and Bishop, California, later in the week. 

You've probably never heard of any of these towns unless you frequent Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Forest, Mammoth Lakes or Death Valley National Park. Similar to Jeep's efforts to install charging stations at trailheads, Rivian's Adventure Network seeks to add fast charging capabilities along both popular cross-country routes and also near national parks and other out-of-the way locations.  

NO RIVIAN FOR YOU, MANITOBA
Rivian

“We designed Rivian charging to support electrified adventure, and these first sites demonstrate how we’re enabling drivers to responsibly reach some of the nation’s most breathtaking natural spaces,” Trent Warnke, Rivian’s Senior Director of Energy and Charging Solutions, said in a statement. “In addition to scenic or off-the-beaten-path destinations, our fast charging rollout is designed to ensure travelers have places to charge along major transportation corridors coast to coast.” To that end, the company hopes to install some 3,500 chargers at 600 sites nationwide.

Hummer EV's obstacle-avoiding Extract Mode adds six inches of ride height

GMC Hummer EV owners will soon be able to raise their 9,000-pound vehicle nearly six additional inches in the air, all due to a simple software update. Over the new few weeks, GMC will be adding a new “Extract Mode” — which lets drivers elevate their vehicle to avert off-road obstacles — to all First Edition models of the all-electric pickup truck. Essentially, Extract Mode lets drivers elevate their vehicle so they can avert off-road obstacles. 

As fun as the feature sounds, drivers should take heed that the suspension mode can only be used at low speeds. Also, frequent use of the feature will result in your vehicle needing to cool off before being suspended again. In total, Extract Mode will allow for 15.9 inches of ground clearance for the vehicle, which will give it an edge over other off-road capable vehicles like the Rivian R1T, Ram TRX, F150 Raptor and Bronco Raptor. For a preview of Extract Mode in action, check out the video below.

Unfortunately, only a handful of GMC Hummer EV owners will be able to actually try out the feature. As Electreknotes, demand for the Hummer has far exceeded GMC’s expectations and the automaker is struggling to ramp up production. Only one Hummer EV was delivered last year, and the automaker has received over 65,000 reservations for its Hummer EV pickups and SUVs. If you’re in the market for a first edition pickup, you’re out of luck: reservations for the roughly $110,000 vehicle are full. And if you spring for a slightly cheaper model, you could be due for a two-year wait.

The Supreme Court won't hear the Apple-Qualcomm patent case

Apple and Qualcomm may have ended most of their feuding in 2019, but the fight might not be over just yet. The Vergereports that the Supreme Court has denied Apple's request for a hearing to potentially invalidate two Qualcomm patents that played key roles in 2017 attempts to ban Apple Watch, iPad and iPhone sales over allegedly infringing modem technology. The court didn't explain why it rejected the request, but a Justice Department amicusbrief from May argued that there was no evidence to indicate the patents were harming Apple's business.

While the companies struck a six-year licensing deal to settle their main dispute, the agreement let a US Patent and Trademark Office case continue involving the two patents. Apple lost an attempt to invalidate the patents with the USPTO's Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and again failed when a Federal Circuit court tossed out Apple's appeal request based on the settlement. When Apple went to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department filed its supporting brief opposing the request.

Apple claimed in its request that Qualcomm might use the patents to sue again once the licensing deal expires in 2025 or (if extended) 2027. It's not certain what either company will do next. We've asked both Apple and Qualcomm for comment. The landscape may change significantly within the next few years, however. Apple is rumored to be ditching Qualcomm in favor of using its own 5G modems as soon as 2023, and it's not yet clear how that might affect the current truce.

Google Hangouts is shutting down this fall

Hangouts holdouts will have to finally say goodbye to Google’s most resilient chat app later this year. On Monday, the company announced it would start migrating consumer Hangouts users to Chat before the former is no longer available after November 2022. If you still use Hangouts on mobile, you’ll see a prompt starting today to move to either the standalone Chat app or the Chat experience in Gmail. “Hangouts has been replaced by Google Chat,” the company declares in the notification.

Over on Gmail, Google won’t begin prodding Hangouts users to switch over until July. The Hangouts web client will remain available until November, and the company says users will have “at least” one month of warning before the platform’s webpage begins automatically redirecting to the Chat website instead. If you’re still actively using Hangouts, Google promises your conversations will automatically transfer to its newer app. That said, you can also use the company’s Takeout service to download a copy of your data.

Google has been gradually phasing out the Hangouts brand in favor of its newer messaging services for some time now, so it’s not surprising the company has finally decided to sunset the platform. And while it never enjoyed the popularity of some instant messaging apps, Hangouts had its devout fans.

Valve ramps up production to 'more than double' Steam Deck shipments

There's some good news if you've been waiting to get your hands on a Steam Deck. Valve says it has boosted production and will be shipping more than twice the number of units each week than it has over the last few months.

The company planned to start shipping the device in December, but supply chain issues forced it to delay the Steam Deck until February. It now appears Valve has found the parts and production capacity it needs to build units at a faster pace and get them out to customers more quickly.

Were you to reserve a Steam Deck now, you likely wouldn't receive it until at least October. However, since Valve is ramping up the volume of shipments, it may be able to bring down the wait time. Hopefully, it will soon get to the point where it can ship a Steam Deck within days of someone deciding to order one. 

Valve says those who had an expected shipment window of Q3 will start receiving reservation emails on June 30th. When you do eventually get your Steam Deck, though, it's probably best to avoid swapping out the built-in storage. Valve hardware designer Lawrence Yang warned that the power requirements of off-the-shelf SSDs could cause a Steam Deck to overheat and shorten the lifespan.

‘Endless Dungeon’ is a tense mix of tower defense and twin-stick hero shooter

My first playthrough of Endless Dungeon ended in disaster. The “Crystal Bot” I was supposed to defend was overrun by a ravenous swarm of bugs after I left it open to attack by pulling my two heroes away to protect a resource point. Naturally, I started a new run immediately after I had a moment to curse my luck.

Endless Dungeon falls somewhere between a sequel and remake of 2014’s Dungeon of the Endless, the game that helped developer Amplitude Studios make its name. Like its predecessor, Endless Dungeon tasks you with protecting a crystal from hordes of enemies while finding your way through a mysterious multi-level dungeon. But where Dungeon of the Endless took place on a strange alien planet, this one is set on a station left behind by the Endless, the ancient alien race that connects all of Amplitude’s projects.

Also new to Endless Dungeon is that it’s a twin-stick shooter and features a roguelite progression, meaning you’ll need to start from the beginning of the game each time you fail your objective but you’ll carry over some of the things you earned to make your next run easier. Additionally, Amplitude has built the game from the start with multiplayer in mind.

“We had a lot of ideas for Dungeon of the Endless that didn’t make it into the game,” says lead game designer Arthur Prudent during a press event Sega held last week. “This time we wanted to do something more accessible. That’s why we wanted the player to have direct control. That forced us to change a lot of things.”

Each run of Endless Dungeon begins with you picking a team of misfits to delve into the depths of the station. In the demo I played, you could take two characters with you. The final game will feature eight playable heroes, with a full team consisting of three squadmates.

Endless Dungeon
Amplitude Studios / Sega

When playing online, you and two other friends control one character each. In singleplayer, you can only play as one hero at a time. However, you can issue orders to your two party members. Each hero has their own backstory and playstyle, as well as special and ultimate abilities. Zed, one of my favorites, carries a minigun into battle with her and can clear rooms with an explosive line attack.

Once you have a squad assembled, the bulk of Endless Dungeon’s gameplay involves attempting to get the cute Crystal Bot I mentioned before to the end of a level so that it can descend further down the station and you can find what’s at the center. The catch is that each time you attempt to move the robot, an endless horde of enemies will attack until the bot is either destroyed or you successfully get it to its destination. Waves of enemies will also periodically attack you while you explore each level.

What makes the action in Endless Dungeon thrilling is that it’s a tower-defense game where you don’t know the entire layout of a level when you start. You have to explore each level to find all the enemy spawn points. My first run ended when I left one of the corridors leading to my Crystal Bot undefended. Some levels will feature locked doors, with a central switch you can trigger to unlock them all at once, allowing you to shape the path enemies take.

Endless Dungeon
Amplitude Studios / Sega

Every level consists of multiple rooms, and in each room, you can build turrets to thin out enemy waves. In addition to the usual assortment of damage-dealing ones, you can build turrets that slow your enemies and shield your other assets to make them more resistant to attack. Gone from Dungeon of the Endless is that game’s light mechanic where enemies would spawn in rooms where you didn’t spend Dust to power them. That makes planning your defenses both more and less difficult since you need to find the enemy’s dedicated spawn points.

Building turrets requires a resource called industry. Alongside food and science, it’s one of three primary resources you’ll collect to build structures, heal your heroes, research new turrets and more. A fourth resource called Dust Shards lets you upgrade your Crystal Bot and restore power to rooms left without any.

Endless Dungeon
Amplitude Studios / Sega

Managing your resources in Endless Dungeon is its own tightrope act. As you explore each floor of the station, you’ll find rooms with spots for generators that can add to your food, industry or science stockpiles. If you have enough industry points, you can build additional extractors, with each subsequent one costing more than the last. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

That’s because Endless Dungeon plays out in real-time but your generators only add to your resource pool when you open a new room. Moreover, they’re one of the first things the denizens of the station will attack on their way to your Crystal Bot. To make things even more complicated, even if you build an industry generator on every spot you find, you won’t have enough materials for all the turrets you need to defend everything. In short, expansion comes with risks in Endless Dungeon, and the game constantly asks you to make those kinds of decisions.

For instance, collecting Dust Shards involves uprooting your Crystal Bot and moving it, meaning it must leave behind any turrets you built to defend it. Obtaining upgrades from a research terminal is similarly perilous since starting one will trigger a wave of enemies.

Endless Dungeon
Amplitude Studios / Sega

My second and third runs end about as well as my first one, and I’m no closer to completing the demo than I was when the preview began. “The game is supposed to be hard,” Prudent tells me and everyone else taking part in the event. Each time you fail a run in Endless Dungeon, you find yourself back in a bar that plays smooth jazz in the background. It’s here that you get a chance to talk to all the characters you can take on your runs and unlock the things that will make your next playthrough go smoother.

Amplitude Studios wasn’t ready to preview those systems when I played the game. Without experiencing them, it’s hard to say if Endless Dungeon will have the staying power of games like Hades or Rogue Legacy 2, but what I played last left me excited to see where the studio takes the game. Endless Dungeon doesn’t have a release date, but when it does arrive, you’ll be able to play it on PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Switch.

Valve warns against squeezing a larger SSD into your Steam Deck

Valve loves to warn people about about the risks of do-it-yourself Steam Deck maintenance, and that now extends to upgrading the storage. In a response to a PC Gamerarticle on modding the Steam Deck, Valve hardware designer Lawrence Yang warned against upgrading the device's NVMe SSD. While it's technically possible, the M.2 2242 drives (22mm wide by 42mm long) you frequently find in stores are hotter and more power-hungry than the 2230 models (22mm x 30mm) the handheld was meant to support. You could "significantly shorten" the longevity of the system, Yang said, adding that you shouldn't move thermal pads.

The PC Gamer story referenced modder Belly Jelly's discovery (initially reported by Hot Hardware) that it was possible to fit an M.2 2242 SSD in the Steam Deck, albeit with some design sacrifices. There were already concerns this might lead to overheating problems. Yang just explained why it's a bad idea, and outlined the likely long-term consequences.

The alert might be a letdown if you feel limited by Valve's maximum 512GB storage and don't think a microSD card (typically much slower than an SSD) is an adequate substitute. With that said, it's not shocking — mobile devices like this often have size and thermal constraints that make it impractical to upgrade at least some components.

‘GoldenEra’ is a loving, if muddled, tribute to ‘GoldenEye 007’

GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 is one of those games that will forever be held up as a milestone in the art. It wasn’t the first FPS on a console, or even the first FPS on the Nintendo 64, but it was unquestionably the best. And the most influential. GoldenEye 007 inspired the development of Half-Life and reportedly prompted the creation of the Medal of Honor series. It also holds very fond memories for everyone of a certain age who would hunch over someone’s 14-inch bedroom TV to play the local deathmatch for hours at a time.

Its success, and legacy, means it’s one of a handful of titles that would merit a feature-length making-of documentary. Drew Roller’s GoldenEra tries to encompass everything about the title, from its genesis as a small project at Rare’s rural farmland campus to the monster it became. In one way, the story of GoldenEye 007 mirrors that of Citizen Kane – created by neophytes so unaware of what would be achieved, they went on to break new ground in the process. And while many of the team would go on to make some pretty good games, nothing would come close to their debut in terms of impact and acclaim.

GoldenEra has been able to get many of the original team on the record, including David Doak, Karl Hilton, Brett Jones, Duncan Botwood and Steve Ellis. Their testimony is supplemented by a number of journalists and talking heads from across the games industry that helps bulk out the gaps. After all, Rare (then working in partnership with Nintendo, now owned by Microsoft) has always been more secretive about what it does than other studios. And so there do seem to be missing chunks of testimony that would have helped paint a richer, fuller picture here.

And if there’s a problem with the film, it’s that it’s a lot harder to make the drama compelling given that software design is relatively staid. Not to mention that the impact a game has has to be measured in different ways to, for instance, a movie or album. After all, you can fairly clearly spot the examples of pop phenomenons, since they often swallow the culture around them for weeks or months at a time. Our relationship with video games is often a lot more personal, beyond the usual visual cues of people queuing up to buy the title on release day.

This is, perhaps, where GoldenEra starts to feel a little saggy, since it tries to cover the breadth of GoldenEye 007’s fallout without much depth. This means that the back third essentially becomes a series of five minute segments covering Perfect Dark, Free Radical Design and Timesplitters, GoldenEye fan films, the modding community that have kept the title alive and what happened to Rare. There’s even a little detail about the proposed remake of GoldenEye 007, as well as plenty of snark handed out to the subsequent James Bond games that are all, universally, not very good. But as much as you or I might take issue with the scattershot approach, it’s one way of folding in all of the many and varied ends to this particular story.

GoldenEra is available to rent or buy today on a number of on-demand platforms, including Google Play, Prime Video, Apple TV and Sky in the UK. There is no news, yet, on when the film will be made available in the US.

Nintendo Direct on June 28th is all about third-party Switch games

Nintendo has announced when its next games showcase will take place. A Nintendo Direct Mini is scheduled for June 28th at 9AM ET. It most likely won't feature news on Mario, Zelda, Pokémon or any of Nintendo's other franchises, though. The company said the stream will focus on third-party titles that are on the way to Switch.

Right now, it's unclear what to expect from Nintendo Direct Mini: Partner Showcase (to give the broadcast its full title). However, it could a be fairly meaty affair, since it clocks in at 25 minutes and Nintendo usually zips through announcements during Directs.

This isn't pegged as an Indie World Showcase, so it may center more around titles from major publishers and larger studios. One of the more notable third-party games slated for a Switch debut, No Man's Sky, already has a release date of October 7th, so that may not get a heavy focus. There's always the chance of more details on Hollow Knight: Silksong, which is slated to arrive sometime within the next year.

The Nintendo Direct Mini will air a week after a Direct focused on Xenoblade Chronicles 3, though it's not the full-on first-party showcase fans have been waiting for and expecting. You'll be able to watch Tuesday's event on Nintendo's YouTube channel.

Samsung's 1TB 980 Pro SSD returns to an all-time low of $140

Maybe you were finally able to get your hands on a PS5 not too long ago, but now you find yourself quickly running out of space on it. Now's a good time to invest in an SSD that can expand your console's storage because one of our favorites from Samsung is back on sale for an all-time-low price. The Samsung 980 Pro drive in 1TB is 33 percent off and down to $140. A few other drive we recommend from brands like PNY, Patriot and Crucial are also on sale right now, too.

Buy Samsung 980 Pro (1TB) at Amazon - $140Buy Samsung 980 Pro (1TB with heatsink) at Amazon - $170

Normally priced at $210, Samsung's drive comes in a compact, M.2 form factor and supports read speeds up to 7,000 MB/s. It uses a special thermal control algorithm and a nickel coating to manage heat levels, plus a heat spreader label to help manage the temperature of the NAND chip. It's also compatible with Samsung Magician, which is management software that lets you monitor its overall health and keep it up to date.

The biggest issue for PS5 owners is that the drive's standard configuration doesn't come with a heatsink, which you'll need to install it in the console. However, you can get the SSD with said heatsink for only $170 right now, which is 26 percent off its normal rate.

Also on sale is our favorite PS5 SSD, the Patriot Viper VP4300: the 1TB version is down to $130 and the 2TB model is on sale for $255. This drive supports sequential read speeds of up to 7,400 MB/s, plus it comes with a heatsink preinstalled so it's ready to use with the PS5. If you've got a tighter budget, a couple of Crucial and PNY drives might be better fits. Crucial's P5 Plus SSD in 1TB is 20 percent off and down to $128, while PNY's XLR8 CS3040 SSD in 1TB is a whopping 42 percent off and down to $105.

Buy Patriot Viper VP4300 (1TB) at Amazon - $130Buy Crucial P5 Plus (1TB) at Amazon - $128Buy PNY XLR8 CS3040 (1TB) at Amazon - $105

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Google's Pixel 6 Pro is $119 off at Woot for today only

If you've been waiting for Google's highest-end Pixel 6 model to drop below the $800 mark before you buy, you now have your chance. Woot is selling the 128GB Pixel 6 Pro for $780 ($119 off) today only. That's better than an Amazon discount we saw earlier this month, and a good deal if you're looking for a powerful large-screen phone.

Buy Pixel 6 Pro at Woot - $780

Much of what we said about the Pixel 6 Pro at launch remains true today. It mates top-tier (if polarizing) design with superb cameras, a good screen and Google's definitive Android 12 experience, including smart Assistant features. It's also relatively light for a phone this size at 7.4oz, if not quite as featherweight as Samsung's Galaxy S22+ (6.9oz).

Software updates have tackled many of the Pixel 6 Pro's early problems, although the fingerprint reader might still be too finicky for some tastes. The bigger concern simply revolves around timing. Google has already teased the release of the Pixel 7 Pro this fall — you might want to hold off if you're interested in its improved performance and other as yet unannounced upgrades. If you're just looking for a good value, though, the current-generation phone is hard to top.

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Google's Nest WiFi packs drop to record-low prices at Amazon

Those looking to upgrade their home's WiFi system can save a bunch on Nest WiFi packs right now. Amazon has most of Nest WiFi configurations on sale, with some at new all-time lows. You can pick up one router for $115, a two-pack with one router and one access point for $149, or a three-pack with one router and two access points for $199. While that's a new low on the router by itself, you'll get the deepest discounts on the multi-packs, which are nearly half off their normal prices.

Buy Nest WiFi (1 router) at Amazon - $115Buy Nest WiFi (1 router, 1 point) at Amazon - $149Buy Nest WiFi (1 router, 2 points) at Amazon - $199

Google's mesh system earned a score of 84 from us when it first came out and there's still a lot to like about it. Each module has an attractive, minimalist design and setting up the system is pretty simple. Each router can cover up to 2,200 square feet and you'll get an additional 1,600 square feet of coverage with each access point you add. That will likely be the biggest factor in deciding which pack you get; those who live in apartments or smaller homes could get away with a single router, while those with multi-story houses should consider springing for a multi-pack.

In addition to supporting Gigabit internet, the Nest WiFi system also has the convenience of built-in Google Assistant support. In fact, each access point acts almost like a Nest Mini smart speaker. You can tap the top of the point to play and pause, and ask the Assistant to do things like read off calendar alerts and set reminders. And if you don't want to use voice commands, or just want a bit more privacy, you can flip the switch on the back of the access points to turn off the microphone. The only caveat to the Nest WiFi is that it's not a WiFi 6 system, and that could be a dealbreaker if you're set on getting a more future-proof device. However, if you're just looking for a new WiFi setup that's fast, reliable and quick to set up, Google's Nest WiFi fits that bill.

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The Morning After: Nothing's Carl Pei wants to make smartphones exciting again

Carl Pei thinks there’s something wrong with the smartphone industry. Like a lot of us, Pei has started feeling like new phones just aren’t as special as the devices of five or 10 years ago.

He thinks the big players are all circling the same ideas in smartphone design. (Something true for at least a decade now.) And that’s where his new company, Nothing, comes in. Pei wants to bring some originality back to mobile tech design. “Maybe we can turn down the brain a little bit and turn up the intuition,” said Pei. Check out our full interview with the former co-founder of OnePlus.

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Nothing

While we haven’t properly tested the device yet , the Nothing Phone 1 is already available to pre-order — you just need an invitation. Word of warning: Nothing has already said the Phone 1 won't officially come to North America beyond a closed beta for a handful of private community investors. The device should work but won't have full support.

Me? Well, I live in the UK. Sorry about that.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

Netflix confirms an ad-supported tier is coming

Contrary to reports, it’s still in its early stages.

Company co-chief Ted Sarandos confirmed at the Cannes Lions festival that Netflix is adding an ad-backed tier with a lower price. He stressed the option wouldn't bring ads to Netflix "as you know it today" — as with rivals like Peacock, you'll still be able to avoid marketing altogether.

Sarandos didn't share further details. However, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google and NBCUniversal are the "top contenders" to help Netflix build the ads-included plan. A Netflix spokesperson told Engadget the company was "still in the early days" of developing the ad-based tier and hadn't nailed down its approach. It's all "speculation" at present, the representative added.

Continue reading.

Apple may be readying a new HomePod

With a new chip and display.

In his latest Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports Apple is readying a new HomePod speaker that will look and sound similar to the original 2018 model. As you may recall, the company discontinued the HomePod in 2021 without announcing a direct replacement. According to Gurman, the new model may feature Apple’s forthcoming S8 chip and an updated display on the top of the speaker that may include multi-touch functionality. While the original had a display of sorts, it didn’t really show information beyond a Siri ‘orb.’

Continue reading.

Juul can temporarily keep selling its vaping products in the US

It has delayed the FDA's ban on its vape pens and pods.

Juul has successfully convinced the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to delay the Food and Drug Administration's ban on its products. The agency recently banned Juul from selling and distributing its e-cigarette pens and pods in the US after a comprehensive two-year review.

Despite Juul's accusation that the administration's ban was "arbitrary and capricious," the FDA said it was banning the company's products because it didn't submit sufficient evidence proving that potentially harmful chemicals don't leach from its proprietary pods into the vapor users inhale.

Continue reading.

The largest bacterium discovered is visible to the naked eye

The Thiomargarita magnifica is as long as a human eyelash.

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Jean-Marie Volland/Berkeley Lab

A bacterium classified as the largest ever discovered needs no special tools to be visible to the naked eye. Thiomargarita magnifica, as it's called, has a filament-like appearance and can be as long as a human eyelash. The BBC explained it’s bigger than some more complex organisms, such as tiny flies, mites and worms.

Continue reading.

LG buys its way into the EV charging business

LG is jumping into the EV charging business with the acquisition of a South Korean EV battery charger developer called AppleMango, it announced. The move will allow it to create "fully-featured" charging stations with a user-friendly interface and real-time control and management, it said. In particular, it will be able to leverage its "sturdy, dust- and water-proof" outdoor digital display tech. 

LG is well-established in electric mobility, developing batteries, screens and sensors for electric cars. It recently joined forces with Magna International to develop e-motors, inverters and onboard chargers for automakers. The acquisition will expand that, allowing it to marry the new charger capabilities with its current in-house EV charging management systems. It'll also allow LG to "create synergy" with its current EV battery business and products like energy storage and energy management systems. 

AppleMango was established three years ago in 2019 and has developed proprietary tech like a slim and fast EV charger. LG will also work with partners GS Energy, which operates EV charging stations and IT provider GS Neotek to develop the necessary infrastructure. LG took a 60 percent stake in AppleMango, GS Energy a 34 percent stake and GS Neotek a 6 percent share, according to TechCrunch

LG plans to install an EV charger production line at LG Digital Park in South Korea by the end of 2022. The goal is to supply a variety of customers with custom EV charging solutions, including private residences, shopping malls, hotels and public buildings. 

Apple's entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 may have slower SSD speeds than the M1 model

Apple's 13-inch 256GB MacBook Pro M2 may have worse SSD performance than the equivalent M1 model, according to testing by YouTube sites Max Tech and Created Tech seen by MacRumors. The $1,300 base model showed around 50 percent slower read speeds (1,446 MB/s compared to 2,900 MB/s) with write speeds 30 percent lower. 

Max Tech opened up the 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 and found that it only had a single 256GB NAND flash storage chip instead of two 128GB chips like the previous M1 model. That would mean the drive can only use two lanes in parallel, so performance is restricted to the speed of a single lane. 

The higher-end 512GB and 1TB models don't appear to suffer from the issue, and many review units (like our own) shipped in a 1TB configuration. The slower disk speeds on the 256GB model could affect app loading times, file transfers and data fetching. Overall performance could also take a hit as the virtual memory (used when RAM is full) will be slower, and the base model only has 8GB of RAM. 

It's not clear why Apple changed the configuration on this model, though the global chip shortage may be a factor. In any case, it's something to consider if you're looking at buying the 13-inch MacBook Pro M2. 

Apple’s mixed reality headset may feature an M2 processor

The latest version of Apple’s long-rumored mixed reality headset features the company’s recently announced M2 system-on-a-chip and 16GB of RAM, according to Mark Gurman. The Bloomberg reporter shared the tidbit of information in his latest Power On newsletter – along with details on a “deluge” of devices Apple plans to release over the next year, including a new HomePod speaker.

As The Verge points out, most recent reports, including those from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and The Information, have suggested the augmented and virtual reality headset would feature two processors. According to Kuo, one of the SoCs would have the same capabilities as the company’s M1 chip, while the other would be a lower-end chip designed to handle data from the device’s sensors.

After years of rumors, there’s been increasing evidence Apple is getting closer to the day when it will finally announce its mixed reality headset. In May, a Twitter user found evidence Apple likely used a shell company to obtain trademarks for “RealityOS.” Earlier in the year, developers also found references to the operating system in App Store upload logs. More recently, Tim Cook told China Daily he “couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities” presented by augmented and virtual reality, and told the publication to “stay tuned and you will see what we have to offer” on that front.

Google warns internet service providers helped distribute Hermit spyware

Google is warning of a sophisticated new spyware campaign that has seen malicious actors steal sensitive data from Android and iOS users in Italy and Kazakhstan. On Thursday, the company’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) shared its findings on RCS Labs, a commercial spyware vendor based out of Italy.

On June 16th, security researchers at Lookout linked the firm to Hermit, a spyware program believed to have been first deployed in 2019 by Italian authorities as part of an anti-corruption operation. Lookout describes RCS Labs as an NSO Group-like entity. The firm markets itself as a “lawful intercept” business and claims it only works with government agencies. However, commercial spyware vendors have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, largely thanks to governments using the Pegasus spyware to target activists and journalists.

According to Google, Hermit can infect both Android and iOS devices. In some instances, the company’s researchers observed malicious actors work with their target’s internet service provider to disable their data connection. They would then send the target an SMS message with a prompt to download the linked software to restore their internet connection. If that wasn’t an option, the bad actors attempted to disguise the spyware as a legitimate messaging app like WhatsApp or Instagram.

What makes Hermit particularly dangerous is that it can gain additional capabilities by downloading modules from a command and control server. Some of the addons Lookout observed allowed the program to steal data from the target’s calendar and address book apps, as well as take pictures with their phone’s camera. One module even gave the spyware the capability to root an Android device.

Google believes Hermit never made its way to the Play or App stores. However, the company found evidence that bad actors were able to distribute the spyware on iOS by enrolling in Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program. Apple told The Verge that it has since blocked any accounts or certificates associated with the threat. Meanwhile, Google has notified affected users and rolled out an update to Google Play Protect.

The company ends its post by noting the growth of the commercial spyware industry should concern everyone. “These vendors are enabling the proliferation of dangerous hacking tools and arming governments that would not be able to develop these capabilities in-house,” the company said. “While use of surveillance technologies may be legal under national or international laws, they are often found to be used by governments for purposes antithetical to democratic values: targeting dissidents, journalists, human rights workers and opposition party politicians.”

Apple is reportedly developing a replacement for the original HomePod

Apple plans to release a “deluge” of new products this fall and in the first half of 2023, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. And while many of the devices the company is reportedly working on won’t come won’t come as much of a surprise, one is interesting.

In his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman reports Apple is readying a new HomePod speaker that will look and sound similar to the original 2018 model. As you may recall, the company discontinued the HomePod in 2021 without announcing a direct replacement. If you want a smart speaker with Siri built-in, your only option at the moment is the $99 HomePod mini.

According to Gurman, the new model will feature Apple’s forthcoming S8 chip and an updated display on the top of the speaker that may include multi-touch functionality. For context, the HomePod mini features an S5 chip, suggesting the new model will come with more processing power. Presumably, Apple also plans to price the speaker more competitively than it did the 2018 model. At $349, the HomePod was one of the more expensive smart speakers you could buy at the time, and it never felt like it lived up to that price.

Outside of an updated HomePod, Gurman says Apple is working on at least four new Mac models and an AirPods Pro refresh, among other devices. You can find the full details of Apple’s near-term product roadmap, “one of the most ambitious” in the company’s recent history, on Bloomberg.

Riot Games will monitor ‘Valorant’ voice chat to combat disruptive players

Abusive Valorant players could soon have their verbal tirades come back to haunt them. In a blog post published on Friday, Riot Games outlined a plan to begin monitoring in-game voice chat as part of a broader effort to combat disruptive behavior within its games.

On July 13th, the studio will begin collecting voice data from Valorant games played in North America. According to Riot, it will use the data to get its AI model “in a good enough place for a beta launch later this year.” During this initial stage, Riot says it won’t use voice evaluation for disruptive behavior reports.

“We know that before we can even think of expanding this tool, we’ll have to be confident it’s effective, and if mistakes happen, we have systems in place to make sure we can correct any false positives (or negatives for that matter),” the studio said.

Some players will likely bristle at the thought of Riot listening in on their voice comms, much like they did when the company introduced Vanguard, its kernel-level anti-cheat software. But Riot says it sees voice evaluation as a way for it to “collect clear evidence” against players who take to comms to abuse and harass their teammates. The tool will also give the studio something it can point to when it provides sanctioned players with feedback.

“This is brand new tech and there will for sure be growing pains,” Riot said. “But the promise of a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone who chooses to play is worth it.”

Hitting the Books: Why lawyers will be essential to tomorrow's orbital economy

The skies overhead could soon be filled with constellations of commercial space stations occupying low earth orbit while human colonists settle the Moon with an eye on Mars, if today's robber barons have their way. But this won't result in the same freewheeling Wild West that we saw in the 19th century, unfortunately, as tomorrow's interplanetary settlers will be bringing their lawyers with them. 

In their new book, The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration, renowned astrophysicist and science editor, Donald Goldsmith, and Martin Rees, the UK's Astronomer Royal, argue in favor of sending robotic scouts — with their lack of weighty necessities like life support systems — out into the void ahead of human explorers. But what happens after these synthetic astronauts discover an exploitable resource or some rich dork declares himself Emperor of Mars? In the excerpt below, Goldsmith and Rees discuss the challenges facing our emerging exoplanetary legal system.

a heavily pixelated spacesuit on a grey backdrop and the book title above it
Harvard University Press

Excerpted from The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration by Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees, published by the Harvard University Press. © 2022 by Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees.


Almost all legal systems have grown organically, the result of long experience that comes from changes in the political, cultural, environmental, and other circumstances of a society. The first sprouts of space law deserve attention from those who may participate in the myriad activities envisioned for the coming decades, as well, perhaps, from those who care to imagine how a Justinian law code could arise in the realm of space.

Those who travel on spacecraft, and to some degree those who will live on another celestial object, occupy situations analogous to those aboard naval vessels, whose laws over precedents to deal with crimes or extreme antisocial behavior. These laws typically assign to a single officer or group of officers the power to judge and to inflict punishment, possibly awaiting review in the event of a return to a higher court. This model seems likely to reappear in the first long-distance journeys within the solar system and in the first settlements on other celestial objects, before the usual structure of court systems for larger societies appears on the scene.

As on Earth, however, most law is civil law, not criminal law. A far greater challenge than dealing with criminal acts lies in formulating an appropriate code of civil law that will apply to disputes, whether national or international, arising from spaceborne activities by nations, corporations, or individuals. For half a century, a small cadre of interested parties have developed the new specialty of “space law,” some of which already has the potential for immediate application. What happens if a piece of space debris launched by a particular country or corporation falls onto an unsuspecting group of people or onto their property? What happens if astronauts from different countries lay claim to parts of the moon or an asteroid? And most important in its potential importance, if not in its likelihood: who will speak for Earth if we should receive a message from another civilization?

Conferences on subjects such as these have generated more interest than answers. Human exploration of the moon brought related topics to more widespread attention and argument. During the 1980s, the United Nations seemed the natural arena in which to hash them out, and those discussions eventually produced the outcomes described in this chapter. Today, one suspects, almost no one knows the documents that the United Nations produced, let alone has plans to support countries that obey the guidelines in those documents.

Our hopes for achieving a rational means to define and limit activities beyond our home planet will require more extensive agreements, plus a means of enforcing them. Non-lawyers who read existing and proposed agreements about the use of space should remain aware that lawyers typically define words relating to specialized situations as “terms of art,” giving them meanings other than those that a plain reading would suggest.

For example, the word “recovery” in normal discourse refers to regaining the value of something that has been lost, such as the lost wages that arise from an injury. In more specialized usage, “resource recovery” refers to the act of recycling material that would otherwise go to waste. In the vocabulary of mining operations, however, “recovery” has nothing to do with losing what was once possessed; instead, it refers to the extraction of ore from the ground or the seabed. The word’s gentle nature contrasts with the more accurate term “exploitation,” which often implies disapproval, though in legal matters it often carries only a neutral meaning. For example, in 1982 the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea established an International Seabed Authority (ISA) to set rules for the large portion of the seabed that lies beyond the jurisdiction of any nation. By now, 168 countries have signed on to the convention, but the United States has not. According to the ISA’s website, its Mining Code “refers to the whole of the comprehensive set of rules, regulations and procedures issued by ISA to regulate prospecting, exploration and exploitation of marine minerals in the international seabed Area.” In mining circles, no one blinks at plans to exploit a particular location by extracting its mineral resources. Discussions of space law, however, tend to avoid the term “exploitation” in favor of “recovery.”