Windows: If you want to have an even more exciting Apollo 11 week, it’s easy to try out beautiful simulations of different Apollo missions on your PC—for free. All you need is the open-source application Orbiterand the Project Apollo add-on, which is a heck of a lot easier to manage than going to Space Camp.
Though Orbiter can be a pretty hardcore flight simulator, it (thankfully) comes with varying levels of realism and difficulty for more casual players. In other words, if you just want to zoom to the moon and back, you won’t break a sweat trying to figure out the ins and outs of your 1960s-era computer.
Installing Orbiter and the Apollo mission modules
Orbiter and the Apollo missions currently only run on Windows systems (sorry Mac and Linux users). The good news is that Orbiter has relatively low system requirements, and most PCs and laptops should be able to run it.
We recommend grabbing some of the official high-resolution texture packs and/or third-party graphics packs, so your trip to space looks as good as possible. Once you have the app up and working, make sure you grab the Project Apollo add-on as well. That’s your key to the moon.
Also, space is pretty quiet—as in, Orbiter doesn’t come with built-in sounds, so you’ll need to also install those if you want a bit more ambience for your trip.
Once everything is installed, launch the Orbiter_ng.exe file from the Orbiter installation folder. There are plenty of settings you can configure, but it’s recommended that you turn on “Complex flight model,” “Limited fuel,” “Gravity-gradient torque” and “Nonspherical gravity sources” under the Parameters tab.
When you’re ready to play, click the Scenarios tab and select one of Orbiter’s built-in scenarios or one of the Apollo add-on modules, then click “Launch” to initiate the mission. If you find that it’s way, way too over your head, there are some tutorials available. Otherwise, spend some time with Go Play In Space, a super-useful website that’s designed to get you up to speed on Orbiter without overwhelming your non-astronaut mind. (The Orbiter Forum is also an excellent resource.)
Those of you who are still running Windows 7 or earlier need to install critical patches that fix a recently-discovered security bug on older versions of Windows.
Earlier in May, Microsoft disclosed to its users that a serious security vulnerability—dubbed “BlueKeep”—was found on Windows 7 and other previous versions. BlueKeep could potentially grant hackers full remote access to someone’s PC through Windows’ Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) by using code that exploits the vulnerability (also known as a “worm”). Such worms have recently begun to appear online, which you can see an example of in the video below.
After the BlueKeep bug was discovered, Microsoft released patches for all affected version of Windows on May 14. The problem is that only a small fraction of vulnerable users have installed these updates. According to Wired, a recent scan of Windows machines shows that at least 922,225 vulnerable PCs remain unpatched, though the actual number could be much higher. If you’re among the hundreds or thousands of users who have not updated your machine, do so now. The risk of keeping your PC unpatched is too great to ignore, even if you’re running a business and upgrading your stable of work computers is a lengthy chore.
If you chat with all your friends who game via Discord, it makes a lot of sense to show off what you’re playing. It’s a conversation starter, it tells your friends what console you’re using and maybe even gives them a sense of your mood. (Everybody has their own comfort games).
If you’re playing on PC or Xbox One, sharing your activity on Discord is as easy as downloading an app and signing in. On PlayStation 4 it’s a bit trickier: PS4 does not have official Discord integration, but a third-party developer has created a Discord app that will show your PS4 activity, similar to how Discord does it on its own platform.
To use it, download the PlayStationDiscord app on your computer. There are buttons for the Windows and Mac versions on the site. Once you’ve installed it, open the app and sign in with your PSN account. (As Windows Central points out, the app signs into PSN using an OAuth login, so it does not store any login info). Once you’re logged in, make sure “rich presence” has been enabled.
Tustin, the developer, put up a full video breakdown on YouTube, in case you want to see the whole process and what each screen looks like.
In case you’re wondering, Rich Presence is an API feature that allows third-party developers to create apps that independently surface information to users’ Discord accounts. There are third-party apps that use it to let Discord show people what you’re listening to on iTunes and watching on Netflix, among other things.
There is one downside to Rich Presence apps, including PlayStationDiscord—they only run so long as your computer is on and the app is running. Presumably, this isn’t a problem if you are actively using Discord while you’re playing, but if you’re playing PS4 without the app open, or if you were planning to use Discord on your phone, the information will not show up unless you leave the app on in the background.
Windows: The concept of “spring cleaning” fills me with dread. Organizing your archives of stuff—physical or digital—is a lot easier to do as a year-round activity, rather than on one terrible day (or days) when it’s pretty outside and you’d rather be doing anything else.
Thankfully, it’s incredibly easy to see if you’re wasting precious space on your computer, a practice that sounds incredibly dorky to do but is worth every gigabyte saved if you don’t have that much spare room on your desktop or laptop’s drive to begin with.
I don’t set an annual reminder for myself to do this; I just get that feeling that it’s been a while since I took a detailed look at my drives’ contents. And I’m always surprised by the results; an errant file here or a weird folder there can add up to multiple gigabytes’ worth of savings. And even if that’s not a huge percent of the 500GB SSD I use as a primary drive, it makes me feel like I accomplished something for the day—which is priceless.
There are plenty of techniques you can use to clear out the digital crap on laptop or desktop, but there are two I tend to focus on: the “automatic” method and the “manual” method.
Let Windows do the work for you
Hit the Start button and type in “Disk Cleanup.” Load the utility, and your operating system will immediately ask you which drive you’d like to scan. Pick one and click “OK.”
In a very short amount of time, Windows will report back with a few different measurements, including:
How much space your temporary internet files take up
How much stuff is in your Downloads folder
How much data your recycle bin contains
How full your Windows “Temp” folder is getting
If you click on “Clean up system files” and re-scan the drive, you’ll get a few extra measurements. These include updates for Windows that the operating system automatically keeps on your drive “just in case,” as well as temporary files left over from any Windows installation you might have done.
In other words, click that button, take a peek at the overall results, and see how much space you can save by having your operating system removing files you no longer need. It’s a quick and easy way to save a few gigabytes—or many more.
Use an app that shows you the largest space-suckers on your drive
I’ve talked about this utility before, but I think WizTree is a must-have for any Windows PC. You don’t even have to install anything to use it. Grab the portable version, launch the 32- or 64-bit executable, pick a drive, and click on the “Scan” button. Within seconds—three for my SSD and four for my HDD—you’ll get a list of all of your PC’s parent folders, sorted by how much space on your hard drive they’re taking up.
As you dig in deeper, you’ll get the same treatment for any folders within folders you’re viewing. This allows you to quickly dig down and find the most data-packed folders on your computer. You might not be able to do anything with this information (if you know your Videos folder is packed full of content, for example), but WizTree might also help you find peculiar folders that are full of things you’ve forgotten about—in my case, 9GB of Skyrim mods that I didn’t realize were still buried on my primary drive, rather than my drive dedicated to gaming.
I also like that WizTree can show you what kinds of files are eating up the most space within any folder, which can help you determine if something shouldn’t be somewhere—a ton of .TMP files in a folder, for example, or an .MKV you accidentally copied to your Pictures folder in addition to your Videos folder. You can even use the File View tab to see the worst offenders for space in any folder.
WizTree is free to use and one of the fastest drive-analyzing tools around. I’ve loved it since I heard about it last year, and it has helped me save gigabytes’ worth of space ever since. This, and Windows’ built-in Disk Cleanup tool, take almost no time to run, and will have you computer feeling fresh and free in as much time as it takes you to eat your lunch.
Video game players have been jumping over pits and collecting keys in platformers for a long time. Mobius twists the usual perspective to add fresh challenge and mind-teasing trickery.
Mobius is a riff on classic platformers that’s currently available for the PC. You control an adorable little dude with overalls who needs to collect coins and keys. The hitch is that everything takes place on a Mobius strip. These twisted cylinders double back over themselves in strange ways. In Mobius, a quick mouse click can expand or squash the strip, creating alternate pathways and new perspectives. The result is a mixture of platforming and puzzling. It’s a mini-crash course in how small tweaks to a game’s visuals can alter how we play.
I’ve featured a similar game in the past, Triforce, which took The Legend of Zelda and placed the action on spinning donuts and other shapes. That game recontextualized a familiar game world into an altered experience that was both mind-blowing and nostalgic. Mobius operates on a similar level, but with mechanics. I’ve jumped over plenty of pits, but the slightest camera tilt in Mobius makes what would usually be a simple leap much more difficult.
The end result is silly fun, but it’s also a chance to think about video game standards and what it means to break from the mold. Mobius is a short burst of cheeky puzzling that’s worth checking out. There’s both a full game and an in-browser demo for anyone eager to get a little twisted.
Windows: While a normal Windows 10 installation isn’t usually that difficult to manage, there’s probably a lot running under the hood of your operating system that annoys you. Maybe it’s a feature or two you wish you could turn off, or perhaps you’re concerned about what kind of data Microsoft collects on that which you do on your PC—or where it’s located.
You might not even know what options you can tweak (or turn off) in your operating system, which is where the cleverly named O&O ShutUp10application comes in to play. It’s a simple application that makes it incredibly easy to tweak various aspects of Windows 10 that are normally buried or otherwise inaccessible to regular people. More importantly, the app comes with some helpful warnings so you don’t accidentally disable something you shouldn’t (like automatic updates).
To get started, all you have to do is download the app and run it. That’s it. There’s no installation to speak of, which already makes me thrilled. When the app loads, it’ll look like this:
You’ll see a bunch of different options you can turn on and off—some might already be enabled—as well as a handy “recommend” column that gives you a little more advice as to whether you should really mess with that setting or not. What I love about O&O ShutUp10, though, is that you can get even more information about what each setting means by simply hovering your mouse over each line and clicking, like so:
While you probably shouldn’t just go through and enable everything that’s recommended en masse, I would use that little green checkmark as a guide while you explore the app. Enable any related setting and you’re probably fine. Once you start getting into the yellow “limited” category, however, it gets a bit dicier. You might not want to, for example, disable all apps from accessing your microphone or camera—or maybe you do. Just remember you toggled that setting the next time you’re about to hop on a video conference.
Similarly, turning off an app’s ability to access your location might sound good for privacy, up until the app starts serving you content in another language because it has no idea where you actually are. You could, however, prevent Windows Update from downloading third-party hardware drivers, assuming that you keep up on this sort of thing yourself and get the latest drivers for your components directly from their manufacturers.
As for the scary red “no” exclamation point, I’d leave those be. Having apps run in the background of your system is helpful and good, as are Windows Updates—unless you really want to see if others have any issues with a major incoming Windows update before you install it, I suppose.
If you’re feeling anxious, you can use the app to help you create a System Restore Point (via the Actions drop-down menu) if you’d like a little safeguard before you make any tweaks. You can also click to quickly undo all the changes you’ve made in the app, reverting yourself back to the vanilla Windows 10 experience.
The Game Bar is what pops up when someone presses the Windows key plus G while playing a game on a Windows PC, giving quick access to screenshot, capture, and streaming tools. Now it does a bit more: Friends lists, messaging, Spotify access and the ability to drop funny text on screenshots. Or just regular text. Memes.
A post on Xbox Wire details today’s update, which requires you to have downloaded the Xbox Insider Hub from the Windows Marketplace. Game Bar users can now customize a number of on-screen overlays, or widgets, to help perform gaming-related tasks. There’s a social widget, where Xbox Live friends and messages appear. A volume widget, which lets Spotify users access the app directly from the overlay and control the volume. There’s even a PC performance monitor, good for making people with ridiculously powerful computers feel better about themselves.
The other major addition is new screenshot-sharing functionality. Before sharing on Twitter or saving to the computer, users can type meme text along the tops and/or bottoms of their captured images, like so.
Yep. You can only use all-caps Impact font, for maximum 2006 I Can Haz Cheezburger aesthetic.
Hit up the Xbox Wire post for instructions on how to enable the new Game Bar functionality on your PC. It will change your life in an incredibly insignificant way.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection will soon include Halo: Reach and be available on the Windows store and Steam, Microsoft announced today during its Inside Xbox livestream.
Rather than make every game in the collection available all at once on PC, Microsoft said the collection will roll out one game at a time, starting with Halo: Reach and going in chronological order from there. Microsoft is pitching this incremental approach as a way to make the games available sooner rather than waiting until the entire collection is ready. The games will run at 60fps and support 4K.
On Xbox One, Halo: Reach multiplayer will be available as a free add-on for everyone who already owns the collection, while the single-player campaign will cost extra. Halo: Reach doesn’t yet have a release date on either PC or console.
At launch, The Master Chief Collection consisted of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4. In 2015 343 Industries added Halo 3: ODST to the collection. The addition of Halo: Reach means it will soon contain every Halo shooter except for Halo 5, and that every game in the series will be available on Xbox Game Pass.
The last Halo game to get ported to PC was Halo 2 in 2007. Since then, every new game has been exclusive to the Xbox platform. A few years ago Microsoft began developing a free-to-play Halo game for PC using the Halo 3 engine. It was playable for a short time in Russia but was eventually canceled.
Modders later tried to bring that PC Halo game back to life but in April of last year those efforts were put on hold after Microsoft stepped in.
I like free games. And I’m not just talking about freeware or open-source titles that are either maddeningly complex or of occasionally suspicious quality. Triple-A titles, when discounted to the low price of zero, are great.
To clarify: I’m not against paying developers for their incredible work. I am, instead, completely in favor of taking advantage of any promotions that get you today’s top games for absolutely nothing. They’re out there. You just have to be diligent about finding and responding to them, or else your gaming gravy train will pass right on by.
Here’s a brief look at the places I go to for free games. If I’ve left any out, let me know in the comments and I’ll update this post with your recommendations.
One of the best resources for free games (and free goodies for your games) is Twitch, but with a caveat. In order to take advantage of Twitch’s frequent giveaways, you need to be an Amazon Prime member. That gets you Twitch Prime, and Twitch Prime gets you free stuff.
If you’re a teenager, you don’t even need your own costly Amazon Prime account. If your parents have Amazon Prime, you can take advantage of that by linking your “Teen login” to their account. You’ll get Twitch Prime, they’ll get their usual Amazon Prime bill, and all will be well with the world.
To keep tabs on Twitch’s offers, I bookmark Twitch’s handy hub. There, you’ll see the full, free games you can add to your account and play forever. You’ll typically get new titles once a month, but I like to check back every other week or so just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. (You could also subscribe to Twitch’s various social feeds to receive announcements when Twitch adds new titles.)
Additionally, Twitch also gives you free add-on bundles for games you might be playing—typically skins, loot boxes, mounts, virtual currency, et cetera. These just tend to appear on Twitch Prime whenever, so you’ll want to make sure you’re visiting the site decently enough (at least once a month) to catch them.
One of the newest digital distribution services on the block, Epic Games’ online store has a sweet setup for the frugal: You get one free game every two weeks. Simple. Check back every two weeks—it’s worth making a recurring calendar reminder given the quality of the offered titles—and you’ll be able to add a new game to your account.
The newsletter, as well as GOG.com’s social feeds, is the best place to hear about any one-off free games the service offers from time to time, which has included titles like Shadow Warrior 2, Full Throttle Remastered, and the ever-creepy SOMA.
You can also bookmark GOG’s search results for free games on its service and revisit that regularly. And there’s also the sprawling “free games” thread on GOG’s forums that’s worth checking.
Though primarily a storefront for all sorts of deep discounts on packages of games, Humble Bundle will occasionally toss out a free title as part of its limited-time sales (or as a solo offering). You typically have a tiny window to claim some of these free titles, so it’s worth signing up for Humble Bundle’s newsletter, following its social feeds, or checking out a simple Google search every now and then to make sure you don’t miss any awesome, free games.
It’s tough to keep track of every free game that drops on these services (and others). Thankfully, there are plenty of people willing to put in the legwork so you don’t miss out on anything free—be it the latest Assassin’s Creed game or some random indie title you’ve never heard of before. I recommend following these subreddits (or this multireddit) for all your free gaming needs:
Partitioning your hard drive sounds like a technically involved task that most people don’t need to bother with—but it’s actually relatively simple to do, doesn’t have to cost you any money, and can make your computing life easier and more productive. Here are the advantages of a partitioned hard drive, and why you might want to do it.
Partitioning splits your hard drive into multiple drives: You don’t actually take a saw to your internal disk, but you do split it up into chunks at the lowest level of the operating system. The end result is that as far as Windows or macOS is concerned, you’ve got two drives installed rather than one.
If you’re using a desktop computer you can, of course, physically install a second hard drive instead. It’s a tidier option than partitioning, though it means opening up your computer case and spending more on an additional drive. As long as you’ve got the storage space to spare, partitioning makes the most sense for most people.
The benefits of partitioning
Partitioning is usually done with a specific purpose in mind, rather than on a whim. One of those purposes that we’ve written about before is dual-booting operating systems—with two partitions available, you can, for example, run macOS on one of them and Windows on another (Apple has an official tool for this, as we’ll explain).
As long as both partitions are visible to your computer as it boots up, you can choose which OS you want to make use of. All of your applications and files are typically kept separate from one another, though in some situations you can set up a dual-boot system so that files on one drive can be seen and accessed from the other.
Even if you’ve got no interest in setting up a dual-boot configuration on your computer, you can still benefit from a separate partition for your key files and folders—all those photos, videos, documents, music, and other crucial files that you rely on day to day.
Why have them on a separate partition? Quite simply because it isolates them from whatever operating system you’re running—you can reset and refresh Windows without worrying what’s happening to your data, or even switch to a different operating system altogether without affecting the files stored on the data partition. It also makes data recovery easier if your OS partition is damaged or corrupted in some way.
In fact many computers now come with an emergency partition all set up instead of the old recovery disc that used to be supplied—if you can’t boot up your laptop or desktop normally, you can boot from this recovery partition instead and get back your data.
Having a separate data partition also makes sense from a backup or encryption point of view: You can focus on this one particular drive without having OS files and applications get in the way. It’s easier to point a backup program to a whole (partitioned) drive than picking out files and folders individually.
How to partition a hard drive
Both macOS and Windows have built-in partitioning tools that do the basics, and third-party alternatives are available for both OSes if you need something that’s more advanced or professional.
In the case of macOS, the tool you want is Disk Utility (find it in Applications or search for it in Spotlight). You’ll see your main internal drive appear, then your options are to either click the Partition button or the Plus button above the Volume label.
Modern-day Macs make use of a new file storage system called APFS (Apple File System), and it has its own alternative to partitions in the form of volumes (the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, which can get confusing). You still get the choice of either creating a new partition or a new volume in Disk Utility, but Apple is pushing users towards volumes as the faster and simpler option.
A lot of the differences are behind the scenes: Volumes can change size dynamically, for instance, while partitions have a fixed size. For most purposes you can go ahead and use a volume, though partitions are still useful for maintaining compatibility with non-APFS systems (if you want to install Windows, for instance).
Creating a volume or partition only takes a couple of clicks in Disk Utility. You’ll need to name the new disk space, and specify its size if it’s a partition (you can set a minimum and maximum size for a volume too, but it’s easier just to let macOS manage everything itself).
If you want to create a partition specifically to install Windows alongside macOS, use Apple’s Boot Camp utility—launched from Utilities inside Applications, or the Spotlight search. The setup wizard takes you through the process of creating a new partition and installing Windows on it.
Over on Windows systems, the built-in tool you need is Disk Management—just search for it from the search box on the taskbar (it may well appear as Create and format hard disk partitions, which gives away its primary purpose).
This integrated Windows tool isn’t quite as slick or intuitive as its macOS counterpart. First you need to reduce the size of your existing hard drive partition by whatever size you want the new partition to be: Right-click on it and choose Shrink Volume to do this. Once some space has been cleared, you can right-click on that and pick New Simple Volume to get the new partition formatted and ready to access.
If you’re installing a different operating system on the newly created partition, you can usually skip that last step: The OS installer will do the job for you and get everything set up so the partition is accessible.
When it comes to choosing how much space to leave for your new partition, it’s not an exact science. Obviously it depends on how much room you have available in total, and what you want to do with your newly partitioned space: A whole separate operating system is going to take up more room than a few documents.
In the case of Apple’s Boot Camp, 64GB is the minimum you need to run a copy of Windows alongside macOS, and 128GB is recommended for the best experience (you wouldn’t really want to buy a Windows PC with 64GB of storage). You can use that as a guide to how big your new partitions should be.
Third-party partitioning programs offer a few advanced features on top of that, like easier partition management, partition merging and resizing, and built-in data recovery tools. They can be worth the outlay, if you’re going to be doing a lot of partitioning and need something more user-friendly.
EaseUS Partition Manager is one of the best options for Windows: There’s a free edition that’s easier to use than Windows’ own Disk Management, and the Pro version (with cloning, converting, migrating and other advanced features) will set you back $40 (a free trial is available).
Also high up on our list is MiniTool Partition Wizard—as with the EaseUS application, you’ve got a basic free edition and a more advanced Pro version ($40 with a free trial). It’s got perhaps the friendliest interface of all the programs we’ve mentioned here, and includes just about everything you’ll need.
Paragon Hard Disk Manager is a good bet for Mac and Windows and also costs $40 (and also offers a free trial). While the macOS Disk Utility and the Windows Disk Management tool will do the job well enough, Paragon Hard Disk Manager throws in extras like partition recovery, easy disk copying, and easier partition resizing.
Also worth a look is Stellar Partition Manager, $40 for macOS, again with a free trial available—it can work with Boot Camp partitions too, if you’ve created them with Apple’s official tool. It offers a very similar feature set to the Paragon software for macOS, so you might want to check for specific functionality if you know you’re going to be needing it.