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The Mars Express spacecraft is finally getting a Windows 98 upgrade

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Engineers at the European Space Agency (ESA) are getting ready for a Windows 98 upgrade on an orbiter circling Mars. The Mars Express spacecraft has been operating for more than 19 years, and the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument onboard has been using software based on Windows 98. Thankfully for humanity and the Red Planet’s sake, the ESA isn’t upgrading to Windows ME.

The MARSIS instrument on ESA’s Mars Express was key to the discovery of a huge underground aquifer of liquid water on the Red Planet in 2018. This major new software upgrade “will allow it to see beneath the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before,” according to the ESA. The agency originally launched the Mars Express into space in 2003 as its first mission to the Red Planet, and it has spent nearly two decades exploring the planet’s surface.

MARSIS uses low-frequency radio waves that bounce off the surface of Mars to search for water and study the Red Planet’s atmosphere. The instrument’s 130-foot antenna is capable of searching around three miles below the surface of Mars, and the software upgrades will enhance the signal reception and onboard data processing to improve the quality of data that’s sent back to Earth.

Mars’ south pole, as seen from Mars Express.
Image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

“We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS,” explains Carlo Nenna, a software engineer at Enginium who is helping ESA with the upgrade. “Not least because the MARSIS software was originally designed over 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!”

The ESA and operators at the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) have relied on a technique to store lots of high-resolution data on the MARSIS instrument, but it fills up the onboard memory quickly. “By discarding data that we don’t need, the new software allows us to switch MARSIS on for five times as long and explore a much larger area with each pass,” says Andrea Cicchetti, a MARSIS operation manager at INAF. “The new software will help us more quickly and extensively study these regions in high resolution and confirm whether they are home to new sources of water on Mars. It really is like having a brand new instrument on board Mars Express almost 20 years after launch.”

The ESA hasn’t detailed the exact software that the MARSIS is being upgraded to, but it’s unlikely the team has upgraded its CPU and enabled TPM 2.0 in the BIOS to get Windows 11 installed. Right?



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Intel launches Arc Pro GPUs that are designed for workstations and pro apps

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Intel is launching its Arc Pro series of GPUs today, designed primarily for powerful desktop workstations and laptops. The Intel Arc Pro A40 and A50 will both be available for workstations, while the A30M will be available in pro-focused laptops. All three GPUs are capable of hardware-based ray tracing and AV1 hardware acceleration — and are designed with AI tasks and creator apps like Adobe Premiere Pro in mind.

The Intel Arc Pro A40 will ship in a small single-slot form factor with 3.5 teraflops of graphical power, eight ray-tracing cores, and 6GB of GDDR6 memory. Intel is targeting this GPU at slimline workstations or small form factor PCs.

The larger A50 steps up to a dual-slot form factor, 4.8 teraflops of graphical power, eight ray-tracing cores, and 6GB of GDDR6 memory. Due to its dual-slot design, this is probably more suited to traditional workstations. Both of these workstation GPUs will also include four Mini DisplayPorts for multiple monitor configurations. Intel supports two monitors at 8K 60Hz, one at 5K 240Hz, two at 5K 120Hz, or four at 4K 60Hz.

Intel’s Arc Pro A50 dual-slot GPU.
Image: Intel

While you can technically play games on these GPUs, they’re not designed for gaming. Instead, Intel is optimizing these for pro tasks and creator apps like Blender, HandBrake, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve Studio, and many more. Intel is targeting to get these GPUs certified for apps within engineering and construction, architecture, and manufacturing. These GPUs will also support full AV1 hardware acceleration, in what Intel calls an industry first.

The Mobile A30M GPU will include 3.5 teraflops of graphical performance, eight ray-tracing cores, and 4GB of GDDR6 memory. It’s designed to use between 35 and 50 watts of peak power, and display outputs will depend on laptop configurations from OEMs.

Intel has set expectations low for its recently launched consumer gaming GPUs, and the company isn’t offering up any indications on workstation performance just yet. Intel says its Arc Pro range of GPUs will be available from mobile and desktop partners later this year.



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What we bought: This LED desk lamp gave me the best lighting for video calls

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Over the past two years, my work-from-home situation morphed from temporary to permanent, and I’ve had to reconfigure my home office as a result. I purchased a standing desk, a monitor, and spent countless hours rearranging my furniture. One of my primary concerns is that I have a relatively small space, and therefore prefer things that can pull double duty. So when I decided to update my desk lamp, I knew I needed a multi-tasker that wouldn’t take up a lot of real estate. For me, the Edge Light from Lume Cube ended up being the perfect solution.

Prior to purchasing the Edge Light, I relied mostly on a lamp that I bought from CB2 nearly twenty years ago. It’s good looking but it has a large six-inch base that takes up quite a bit of space. It also doesn’t provide the right lighting environment for video calls. While it’s serviceable enough as a desk lamp, the light is just too warm and subdued for Zoom sessions. Plus, it’s not flexible enough for me to angle the light to illuminate my face properly. That’s a problem when, like most everyone else, I was suddenly having multiple video meetings a week. I really noticed it when I was a guest on a podcast; watching the video back made me realize how poor the lighting was.

Lume Cube
Lume Cube

Engadget

That prompted me to purchase a cheap ring light from Amazon, but I soon realized that was a mistake. Suddenly I had not one but two lamps taking up residence on my small desk. I knew I needed to rethink my entire lighting situation.

That’s why I was glad when I saw that Lume Cube, which is known for its portable photo/video lighting rigs, had come out with the Edge Light late last year. It’s essentially an LED desk lamp that also doubles as a video conferencing light. On top of that, it’s a clamp-on model, which means it wouldn’t take up a lot of space. It is fairly pricey at $120, but since it appeared to solve so many of my pain points, I decided it would be worth it.

I’ve now had it for a few months, and I absolutely love it. It has freed up so much real estate on my desk. It’s tall enough to position behind my webcam when I need it for video calls, and thanks to its five pivot points, I can easily swing it around so that I can use it to illuminate my desk. The lighting is fantastic, too – I can adjust both the brightness and the warmth so that it’s bright but not too harsh. According to the company, it provides multi-level diffusion for soft light and has a color adjustability between 3200 and 5600K.

Lume Cube
Lume Cube

Engadget

The controls are pretty intuitive – simply tap the circular button to switch between brightness and warmth, and then tap the plus and minus signs to adjust the levels to your liking. The buttons are all “soft touch,” meaning they don’t need any pressure. On top of that, the lamp actually comes with two charging ports – one USB-A and one USB-C – which I am always using to charge up all of my various devices and accessories.

Perhaps my one complaint is that the light does produce a tiny bit of glare on my glasses when it’s positioned directly in front of me. The company suggests getting two Edge Light lamps to reduce this effect, but that’s a little too rich for my blood. I’ve since managed to angle the light so that the glare isn’t as bad, which is good enough for me.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Locke and Key season 3 review: it ends with a whimper

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When it debuted in 2020, Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Locke and Key got off to a pretty good start. Based on the brilliant comic series from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez, the show tells the story of the Locke family and their sprawling ancestral home in Massachusetts that also happens to be home to some very cool magical keys. The first season of the show mixed the comic’s dark family drama and fantastical premise with some high-school hijinks ripped right out of Riverdale. But with season two, a lack of a great villain and a sped-up pace took away from what made the show so interesting — namely the magic and the mystery. Now, the series is back with a third and final season that attempts to wrap things up once and for all. But despite some good ideas, it’s not the course correction Locke and Key really needed.

This review contains spoilers for the third season of Locke and Key.

Season 3 picks up right where the previous one left off, which means that — at least initially — the Locke family is living life as if everything is normal. But there are some important changes. Older brother Tyler (Connor Jessup) is off building houses in Montana after an aimless road trip, and more importantly, he’s living a simple life after voluntarily deciding to purge any magical memories from his brain. On the other end of the spectrum, Locke mom Nina (Darby Stanchfield) has used the keys to restore her memory of magic so she doesn’t feel so separated from the rest of her family. (In the Locke and Key universe, everyone naturally forgets about the existence of magic once they hit adulthood unless you make use of a special key.)

Early on, Tyler returns home for his uncle’s wedding and things get pretty awkward since he doesn’t remember any of the big life events that happened over the past two seasons. There isn’t much to say to his little brother Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) and sister Kinsey (Emilia Jones), and he gets pretty suspicious that everyone is keeping something from him. He’s forced back into it all again, though, because — as the finale of season 2 teased — we now have a new villain in the form of Frederick Gideon (Kevin Durand), a British soldier from colonial Massachusetts who, in the modern day, has been possessed by a powerful demon. The main thing you need to know is that Gideon wants to use the keys to collapse the wall between our world and the glowing blue realm of demons — for reasons that are never entirely clear.

There are a few things the new season does well. For starters, there’s the introduction of new keys that are full of possibility; just like in the early days of Locke and Key, it’s a lot of fun to learn about the keys and what they can do. In season 3, we’re introduced to a time-travel key with some very important limitations and a key-powered snow globe with the potential to trap victims indefinitely. As always, these keys “whisper” to the Locke family whenever the time is right for them to appear. I also really enjoyed some of the more imaginative scenes, when the head key — which literally lets you venture into someone’s mind — is put to use. Much of the show’s climax takes place in the brain of a hardcore theater kid, which makes it extra, well, extra. There are some great performances here, too, most notably from Scott as Bode; he’s as obnoxious as ever, but he also takes a detour as a surprisingly effective villain, giving some strong Chucky vibes.

But all of that is mostly undone by the rest of the show. For one thing, despite the seemingly straightforward premise, things are far too complicated. At this point in the story, you pretty much need a spreadsheet to keep track of what’s going on with everyone. You have to worry about the powers and locations of the various keys and who does and doesn’t remember magic as well as the fact that certain characters have changed their body or appearance. I often had to pause the show to try to remember some of the logistical details.

More important, though, is the fact that, just like in season 2, the new villain sucks. Gideon isn’t as bad as the extremely unscary Gabe (Griffin Gluck), but that’s not saying much. When the big baddie both looks and sounds goofy, it’s hard to ever feel too worried about the safety of the Lockes. It’s especially disappointing because season 1 had an incredible villain in Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira), who was equal parts menacing and manipulative; sadly, she only makes a brief appearance in the story’s concluding chapter.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that season 3 is mercifully short. It’s only eight episodes long, compared to the 10 of previous seasons, and a few episodes are only around half an hour long. The show doesn’t take long to get to its conclusion, which wraps things up a little too neatly for my liking. As with season 2, it’s not like the new episodes of Locke and Key are bad, per se; they’re just okay — which, given the source material and its fascinating premise, means they’re quite the disappointment.

Season 3 of Locke and Key starts streaming on Netflix on August 9th.

Disclosure: The Verge recently produced a series with Netflix.



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