NASA clears Boeing Starliner for July 30th test flight to ISS

More than 18 months after its failed first attempt to make it to the International Space Station, Boeing’s Starliner is ready for a second shot. Following a flight readiness review, NASA is moving forward with the craft’s upcoming July 30th uncrewed orbital flight test. Unless there’s an unforeseen delay, the capsule will launch from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral Station mounted on an Atlas V rocket at 2:53PM ET. Should NASA postpone the flight, it will again attempt to carry out the test on August 3rd at the earliest.

The purpose of the flight is for NASA to conduct an end-to-end test of Starliner’s capabilities. It wants to know if the capsule can handle every aspect of a trip to the ISS, including launch, docking as well as atmospheric re-entry. “[Orbital Flight Test-2] will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency said.

If the flight is a success, NASA will move forward with a crewed test of the Starliner. Steve Stich, commercial crew program manager at NASA, said that could happen “as soon as later this year.” Both Boeing and NASA have a lot invested in the viability of Starliner. For the aerospace company, its decision not to conduct an end-to-end test of the craft before its failed 2019 flight left the agency “surprised,” leading to questions about the project. Meanwhile, NASA is keen to have two capsules that can ferry its astronauts to the ISS. Right now, it’s limited to just SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. “It’s very important for the commercial crew program to have two space transportation systems,” Stich told reporters.

‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ trailer is a treat for ‘Voyager’ fans

CBS has shared the first trailer for Prodigy, its first-ever fully computer-animated Star Trek series. The clip introduces us to the show’s cast of disparate characters. They’re stuck on what looks like a mining colony and trying to find a way to escape. As it just so happens, they discover a grounded Starfleet vessel known as the USS Protostar, and it’s their ticket to adventure.  

Before the trailer ends, a familiar voice declares, “We’ve only just begun.” Star Trek: Prodigy will see Kate Mulgrew reprise the role of Captain Kathryn Janeway, albeit in holographic form. If you live outside of the US, you can see the clip on the official Star Trek Twitter account. We’ll note here CBS Viacom also shared a trailer for the second season of Lower Decks. Star Trek: Prodigy will debut this fall on Paramount+, before it eventually airs on Nickelodeon.

Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony included a light display with 1,800 drones

There may not have been any fans in the Olympic Stadium, but Japan still found a way to put on a show for the opening of the 2020 Summer Games. The host country charmed early with the parade of nations, which featured an orchestrated video game soundtrack, and then showed off the type of creativity it's known for with a performance involving the Olympic pictograms. But Tokyo saved the biggest spectacle for last.

Toward the end of the ceremony, a fleet of 1,824 drones took to the skies above the Olympic Stadium. Initially arrayed in the symbol of the 2020 Games, they then took on the shape of the Earth before a rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine," which was reworked by Hans Zimmer for the Olympics, played across the stadium.

We've seen displays like this before. At Super Bowl LI in 2017, a pre-taped segment featuring 300 Intel drones forming the US flag punctuated Lady Gaga's halftime performance. Technically, the drone show that occurred above Tokyo isn't the biggest ever. As of earlier this year, that distinction belongs to a 3,281-display Hyundai-owned car brand Genesis put on in Shanghai, China. But even with fewer drones involved, the Tokyo drone show was still impressive. 

If you missed the opening ceremony, you can watch it again at 7:30PM ET on NBC.

Facebook’s cloud gaming service hits iOS devices as a web app

Facebook has become the latest company to offer a cloud gaming service on iOS, only once again you won't access it through the App Store. Starting today, you can visit the Facebook Gaming website to add a Progressive Web App (PWA) that acts as a shortcut to the service on your iPhone or iPad. To do so, visit the platform's website and tap the "Add to Home Screen" option from the Safari share sheet.

It's not an elegant solution, but it's the same one employed by Amazon and Microsoft. When Apple tweaked its guidelines last September to allow for cloud gaming clients on iOS, it said games offered in a streaming service had to be individually downloaded from the App Store. That's a requirement both Microsoft and Facebook said was not congruent with how every other platform treats cloud gaming services.

"We've come to the same conclusion as others: web apps are the only option for streaming cloud games on iOS at the moment," Vivek Sharma, Facebook's vice-president of gaming, told The Verge of today's launch. "As many have pointed out, Apple's policy to 'allow' cloud games on the App Store doesn't allow for much at all. Apple's requirement for each cloud game to have its own page, go through review and appear in search listings defeats the purpose of cloud gaming."

The process of adding the web app is complicated enough that Facebook includes a short how-to when you first visit its Gaming website on Safari. You also have to know to navigate to the company's website in the first place. The reason for that is the App Store guidelines prohibit developers from using their applications to direct individuals to websites that feature alternative payment systems to those offered by Apple, and you pay for the in-game purchases offered in Facebook Gaming titles through Facebook's Pay platform.

How to clean and organize your PC

Outside of your phone, your PC is likely the one piece of technology you use the most. If for no other reason than that, you should take care of it. Not only will it last for longer, but it will also work better over the time that you keep it. In this how-to, we'll share some tips on how to take care of your PC. Of course, it's impossible to cover this topic from every angle, so think of this guide as an introduction more than anything else.

How to clean your computer and peripherals

Back to School cleaning products
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Windows PCs, especially desktops, come in various shapes and sizes, but the tips we're about to go through here will help you clean your computer whether you bought it prebuilt or put together yourself. If you own a laptop, look at our recent Mac organization guide. All the steps we detail there will work just as well for a Windows portable.

Before cleaning the inside of your computer, start with your display and peripherals. At this stage, all you'll need is some distilled water in a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth. You can buy the former at a grocery store or make it yourself. And if you don't already own any microfiber cloths, Amazon sells affordable 24-packs you can get for about $15. Once you have those in hand, spray the water onto a clean cloth and wipe down your computer's display before moving to the mouse and keyboard. You want to start with your screen to avoid transferring dirt and residue to the panel.

It’s possible to write an entirely separate guide on how to clean keyboards, but the short version is you'll want to pick up a keycap puller and use that to give you unobstructed access to any debris and gunk that has been building up under your keys. If the keycaps have a lot of dirt and residue on them, your best option is to soak them in warm water and use a toothbrush to scrub away the buildup. Give them plenty of time to dry before reinstalling them on your keyboard.

Back to School cleaning products
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Once you’re done with those, turn off your PC and unplug everything that's connected to it. You'll also want to switch off the power supply unit (PSU) by flipping the toggle on its outside to the "O" position. Next, push down on the power button a couple of times to discharge any static electricity that you might be carrying around.

If at all possible, do most of the steps we're about to describe outside. The last thing you want to do is go through the trouble of cleaning your computer and then let it pull in all that dust again.

Once you've moved your computer, start by removing the side panels. Most modern cases allow you to do this without any tools, but you'll need at least one screwdriver for most of the work we'll detail in a moment. When it comes to most screws inside your computer, a 4-inch Phillips screwdriver should be all you need. Some components, such as your GPU, may include Torx screws and the like, but don't worry about those for now since we won't be taking them apart. If you don't already own a decent set of screwdrivers and have something of a DIY streak in you, a driver kit from iFixit is your best bet. The 16, 32 and 62-bit kits it sells are an excellent starting point, and they'll come in handy with more than just your computer.

If your PC has any dust filters, remove those now and give them a rinse at the sink before setting them aside to dry. Depending on how long your computer has been collecting dust, you may want to remove some components such as the GPU to make it easier to clean everything. If that's something you feel comfortable doing and it's your first time removing any of the internals, use your phone to take photos of the interior. The images will help you put all the parts in their original place at the end. That's important to do since there's an optimal way to install many of the components in your computer. For instance, you always want to install your GPU in the fastest available PCIe lane. When it comes to removing any PCI cards, first unscrew its mounting bracket and then push the corresponding release on your motherboard before pulling the card out.

Back to School cleaning products
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Whether you decide to keep all your computer's internals in place or not, you'll need something to blow all that dust away. A can of compressed air is one option, but I like to use a Giottos Rocket Blower. It was designed for cleaning camera sensors and won't damage any of your components. It's also a one-time purchase. Whatever you have at hand, use it to blow away the dust that's been building up on your computer's internal components, fans and grills. Pay special attention to the heatsinks attached to your PC’s CPU, GPU, chipset and voltage regulators. They will likely have most of the hardest to remove dust in your system thanks to their tight fin stacks. What’s more, especially bad buildup can make them ineffective at cooling those components, which will, in turn, affect their performance.

When cleaning any exposed PCB, use an antistatic brush (like this one from OXO) instead of a microfiber cloth. You'll avoid damaging any of the sensitive components on the board. You can go over any non-electronic part with a dampened microfiber cloth.

At this point, all you need to do is put everything back in its place. As one final tip, if there's any way you can avoid leaving your desktop on the floor, you'll end up spending less time cleaning it since it won't be near all the dust and dander that collects there. If your desk setup or living space makes that not an option, a PC tower stand is a cheap but effective way to elevate your computer off the ground and help it pull in less debris.

How to organize your PC’s storage drives

CleanMyPC
MacPaw

If it's been a while since you've done an audit of all the software you have installed on your computer, the best place to start is in the Task Manager. It's here you can see how much of its resources your computer is devoting to specific processes. Since everyone will have different software installed on their PC, it's hard to offer blanket recommendations, but using the Task Manager you can get a sense of the apps that may be slowing down your computer. For most people, there will be two main culprits: bloatware and antivirus software.

If you bought your PC from a system integrator like Dell, it will almost certainly include software your computer doesn't need to operate. So you can safely uninstall those apps to improve performance and save on space.

This next tip may be contentious for some, but I believe as long as you avoid clicking on sketchy links and stay away from the dark corners of the internet, Windows Defender is all you need to protect your computer from the majority of malware that's out there. While there are good antivirus programs like Bitdefender and Malwarebytes, the majority cost far too much for what they offer and will only slow down your computer. If you don't feel comfortable uninstalling your antivirus software, then by all means, leave it on your computer.

While you're in the task manager, you'll also want to click on the "Startup" tab to see what programs your computer is launching when you power it on. You can speed up that process simply by limiting that list to as few apps as possible. As for the actual process of deleting any software you don't need, always uninstall programs from the Control Panel as this will leave the fewest leftovers when everything is said and done. If you've used Windows for a while, you'll have errant files, folders and registry entries all over the place. It's possible to cull those manually, but doing so can be time-consuming. So we recommend using a program like Iolo System Mechanic or CleanMy PC to complete a deep clean of your system.

If you have any mechanical drives installed in your computer, it's good to get into the habit of defragging them regularly. First, launch the built-in Defragment and Optimize Drives app and click the "Optimize" button. Depending on the size of your hard drive, this process may take a while. Don't defrag your SSDs, as you'll only shorten their lifespan for little to no performance improvement.

How to organize your apps, tabs and other windows

Melbourne, Australia - Jun 13, 2016: Clicking the Windows Store icon on Surface Pro 4. It is an app store for Microsoft Windows, allowing users to download apps, ,games, music, movies and TV shows.
ymgerman via Getty Images

Say what you will about Windows 10, but the fact is it comes with some of the best window management tools built right into an operating system. You don't need to download any additional software to organize your desktop, but there are some settings you can tweak to get even more out of its signature Snap functionality.

As you may already know, you can press the Windows and Tab keys at the same time to bring up the Task View pane. It's here that you can add additional virtual desktops. If you're not already using virtual desktops, they're great for organizing your active windows so that you don't have to constantly rearrange them when you're trying to find a specific one. You can quickly press the Windows key, Ctrl and either the left or right arrow keys to move between desktops. But to make things even simpler, head to the Settings app and into the Multitasking section of the System menu. Under the "Virtual desktops" heading, switch both settings to "All desktops." You can now use the Alt-Tab shortcut or taskbar to switch to any app on any desktop.

When it comes to wrangling your tabs, a lot of that will depend on the browser you use. But as a decent starting point, all the most popular ones include a feature that allows you to pin tabs. I use this to keep the websites I visit most frequently throughout a workday (in my case, Gmail, Trello and Google Drive) open at all times and at the top of my tab bar. In that way, those tabs never get lost among the countless other websites I might have open for a story I'm writing. What's more, in the case of Brave, the browser I use, I can use a handful of keyboard shortcuts to jump to those tabs quickly.

In closing, we want to highlight just how much customization Windows 10 offers you when it comes to the organization of your computer. As just one example, you can right-click on items located on the taskbar and start menu to put the apps and shortcuts you use most frequently within easy reach. However, if you want to really dig into all the options Windows 10 offers on that front, websites like Windows Central have detailed how-tos that are an excellent starting point.

Instagram tests Limits feature to curb targeted harassment

Instagram is testing a new feature called “Limits” that allows users to lock their accounts and limit any potential interactions when they feel they’re the target of harassment. In introducing the tool, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, referenced the recent Euro 2020 final, which saw three Black players on the English National team face a flood of harassment after England lost to Italy when the match went to a penalty shootout.

“Racism and hate speech have no place on Instagram,” Mosseri said in a video he shared on Thursday. “It is not only honestly fucked up to see people treated that way, but it breaks how Instagram works.”

In trying to curb harassment on the platform, Mosseri said Instagram plans to try to reduce hate speech to “as close to zero as we possibly can.” However, knowing that it will likely be impossible to completely eradicate all forms of racism from the app, the company also plans to give people new tools that will allow them “to take some power back.” That’s where Limits fits in. “We know that people sometimes are in temporary moments of real risk and pain, and we need to give them tools to protect,” Mosseri said of the feature.

Ahead of wide rollout, Instagram is currently testing Limits in select countries across the world. In the meantime, Mosseri promised the company would have more to share on how it plans to tackle racism on Instagram in the coming months.

Here’s everything EA announced at its Play Live 2021 event

Electronic Arts held its EA Play Live 2021 event today. During the approximately 40-minute presentation, we got a first look at Grid Legends, a new entry in Codemasters' ongoing racing franchise that will feature a single-player story with live-action performances. Lost in Random, the upcoming Tim Burton-inspired action-adventure game from Fe developer Zoink Games, also got a release date. It's coming out on September 10th on current and last-generation consoles, as well as PC. For Battlefield fans, EA offered a look at 2042's new Portal mode that will allow fans to create their own custom match types that they can share with the game's community.       

But EA saved the best news for last. In a short teaser, the publisher confirmed Motive Studios is working on a remake of Dead Space for PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S. In addition to more modern graphics courtesy of Dice's Frostbite engine, EA promised gameplay improvements, as well as new story and character elements. 

Senate bill would create exception to Section 230 to limit health misinformation

A week after Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared health misinformation an "urgent threat" to the US public, Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico have introduced new legislation that would modify Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act to strip liability protections from technology companies if their platforms help spread misinformation during a health crisis.

If passed, the Health Misinformation Act of 2021 would create an exception to Section 230 that would see social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter "treated as the publisher or speaker of health misinformation" when their platforms algorithmically amplify misleading health content. What falls under the definition of health-related misinformation would be decided by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The exception would only apply during a public health crisis, which the HMS Secretary would have to declare beforehand.

In establishing a rationale for the change, the bill cites a joint report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch that found that as much 73 percent of vaccine misinformation on Facebook can be linked to a group of 12 individuals known as the "disinformation dozen." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently referenced that same report, saying that many of those individuals are still active on the social network.

"For far too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans. These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation," Senator Klobuchar said in a statement. "The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how lethal misinformation can be and it is our responsibility to take action."

The bill's introduction also follows a recent statement made by President Joe Biden. He said platforms like Facebook were "killing people" by not doing more to stop vaccine- and health-related misinformation. "We will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by facts," a spokesperson for Facebook told Engadget after Biden made his comments. "The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period." The president later walked back his statement, noting the people using the platform to spread their misinformation were the ones doing harm but reiterated his belief that Facebook could do more to combat what was happening.

"We have long supported common industry standards and section 230 reform," Kevin Martin, vice-president of public policy at Facebook said after the news broke. "We believe clarification on the difficult and urgent questions about health-related misinformation would be helpful and look forward to working with Congress and the industry as we consider options for reform."

Update 10:54PM ET: Added comment from Facebook. 

Google expands Android Auto’s beta testing program

Google has long run an Android Auto beta program, but joining it was almost impossible before today. Those who tried to take part often got an error message that said the program was maxed out. Thankfully, that's no longer the case. Google is expanding the program, giving anyone with an Android device and a willingness to put up with bugs the opportunity to test the platform's latest features before they're available to the public.

"As a beta tester, you can help us build a better version of Android Auto. You can test how well new features work with your specific phone and vehicle in your part of the world," Google says of the initiative on a support page. "When you share your feedback, we'll use it to help plan improvements for future releases."

You can join the program by visiting the beta opt-in page Google has set up. Click the "Become a tester" button, and then download the beta version of Android Auto from the Play Store. If you eventually decide using unstable software isn't all it's made out to be, you can leave the program.

With Google inching closer to the official release of Android 12, the company likely wants to avoid a repeat of last year's Android 11 release. While the operating system was buggy as a whole at release, Android Auto suffered from some particularly rough bugs. There were numerous audio issues and missing apps. In some instances, the software was also known to 'soft-brick' devices like the Pixel 3 XL. So it's no surprise Google wants more help testing the software.

Tim Burton-inspired ‘Lost in Random’ comes to consoles and PC on September 10th

Electronic Arts will release Lost in Random, the latest entry in its ongoing Originals lineup, on September 10th, the publisher announced today during its EA Play Live event. First announced last year, the Tim Burton-inspired adventure game is the latest project from Fe developer Zoink. In Lost in Random, your character Even is on a mission to save her sister. A die named Dicey will join your quest, and their abilities are essential to your success. In its moment-to-moment gameplay, Lost in Random is a mix of a third-person adventure title and deck-building games like Slay the Spire and Griftlands.            

EA will release Lost in Random on Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. On PC, it will be available on both Steam and Origin.