“Thanks, babe. Can we nip to Mandy’s? I need to borrow some shoes.”
Ten minutes later . . .
“Can we stop to get some Prosecco on the way?”
“Aww, thanks babe. You really love me don’t you?”
He does. But while he’s waiting he loves playing Atari computer games in his Tesla even more. Simply pop the Model 3 in Park and use the steering wheel to play all your Eighties favourites on the turbo-powered touchscreen.
You’ll find classics including Missile Command, Asteroids, Millipede, Super Breakout, Beach Buggy Racing 2 and more.
Suddenly, hanging around for your missus or getting stuck in a two-hour jam on the M62 isn’t so much of a ball ache when your car doubles as an arcade on wheels. And that’s just the latest over-the-air software update sent free to Tesla owners, everywhere.
Press the “Emissions Testing Mode” and the car FARTS like a whoopee cushion when indicating left or right. SANTA mode automatically plays Christmas tunes and jingles when you turn.
And this one’s for you, Stan Collymore. ROMANCE mode with its roaring log fire, warm heating and soppy love songs for a bit of in-car how’s your father. More sensibly, there’s a DOG mode which keeps the cabin at a set temperature to stop pets getting fried in the summer.
But strip away all that icing and you are still left with a beautiful gem of a car that’s fast, minimalist, roomy and, of course, electric. We’ve had to wait three years for the “smaller, more affordable” Model 3 to arrive on these shores in right-hand drive. But it was worth it.
It’s still not quite the “$35,000 people’s Tesla” Elon Musk promised but at the new lower price of £37,000, it’s not far off. Finance starts at £395.
The full name for this base car is Standard Range Plus, which means it is rear-wheel drive and has a 50kWh battery that will do 258 miles between charges.
The Long Range 75kWh version at £46,000 is all-wheel drive, faster, and has a 348-mile range. But for another £3k, you’ll want the top spec Performance that minces a Porsche. It’ll do 0-60mph in just 3.2 seconds and keep on pushing up to 162mph.
Here’s what else you need to know. The Model 3 has no key. You open it with a hotel-style door card. Or via your smartphone.
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There’s no instrument panel behind the steering wheel, either. Or buttons. Except for the hazard lights in the roof. Everything else — speedo, satnav, air con and so on — is on the 15in touchscreen.
I’d personally want head-up display which projects speed and satnav on to the windscreen in front of you. It’s better than having to look down and left to check how fast you’re going. And the ride comfort isn’t brilliant. It needs more suspension travel and better damping.
That said, the Model 3 is easily my favourite Tesla. I’ll go further, it’s probably my favourite electric car, full stop. If the Yanks can ship them here quick enough and keep chipping away at the price, it’s game on.
TESLA MODEL 3 Price: £37,340 (incl plug-in grant) Battery: 50kWh 0-60mph: 5.3secs Top speed: 140mph Range: 258miles C02: 0g/km Out: Now
Tesla’s new ‘dog mode’ means you can safely lock your pooch in the car on a hot day without opening a window
The Google Home Max is big, very loud, and the ultimate in minimalist Hi-Fi design.
So, yeah, that statement contradicts just about everything you’ve heard about the voice-activated, premium-price, smart speaker. While one critic has described it as “bulky,” I’m happy to argue that thanks to the thoughtful design, the speaker blends in nicely with my living room, as if it were camouflaged.
There are also questions surrounding the price of the Google Home Max. (It was $400 when it debuted in September 2017; now it’s on sale for $250 in the Google Store — still not cheap.) You might wonder if its wise to spend that much money on a smart speaker tied to one company’s service, even if that service — Google Assistant — is getting smarter every day. But the Google Home Max sets out to do only a few things, and it does them fantastically, if you can come to terms with the reality that people might be listening to you to improve the service.
Here’s what I learned in my week with what I’ll call “Max” after Google sent over the smart speaker for me to test out.
Day 1: “Tell Me Sweet Little Lies”
First impressions: This thing is heavy for its size. At 11.7 pounds, you’ll want to avoid dropping this if you can.
My apartment has an open-plan kitchen-lounge area, and I situated Max in the middle next to the dining table and projector. The first thing I did, naturally, was put on some classic dinner party music. “Okay Google, play Fleetwood Mac.”
As you may expect, the sound is much richer and deeper than the Google Home Mini. Vocals are sharp, instruments feel balanced, and I can pick out layers from across the room at low volume. It’s crystal clear and puts my old iPod dock to shame.
I put it through its paces with some Nine Inch Nails, and I’m equally satisfied with the results. Spotify integration is great: I can ask it to play some ‘70s music, and it will call up a relevant playlist. I ask it to play my Discover Weekly, and for some reason it starts playing Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Sometimes algorithms can reveal a little bit too much about our taste.
Day 2: Chernobyl
It’s the evening. I fire up Chernobyl onto the projector. The sound travels through the rear 3.5mm jack fantastically, and it’s surprising how few smart speakers offer this feature. As I watch Paul Ritter barking orders around the reactor (while trying to ignore the Friday Night Dinner comparisons in my head), I’m impressed by the speaker’s clarity. Dialogue is crisp and understandable.
One of my favorite things about the Google Home Max is that it switches sources seamlessly. That sounds like a small benefit, but it’s a far more user-friendly product than a byzantine sound bar that requires some sort of secret handshake to make the sound work.
My previous speaker, an old and rather large iPod dock, switches sources by holding the play button for two seconds. A shorter press is play and a longer press puts it to sleep. The Google Home Max, in this light, is a godsend.
Day 3: Is This Love?
The Google Home Max is the purest expression of a Hi-Fi system. The concept is sublime, and I feel this is sometimes lost in technology coverage.
It’s a single, seamless, white curved box. A fabric mesh manages to blend with the plastic rear, making it seem like one. A power cable on the rear continues this seam out to the socket.
I can stand in front of this white box, speak the name of practically any song in the world, and listen to it almost instantly. There’s no buttons, no dials, no fiddling with discs or records. Unlike the Amazon Alexa, the listening lights are also hidden behind the fabric mesh. I can run my finger along the long side to turn the volume up or down, but I don’t even need to do that.
A lot of reviews focus on size, performance, specs, connectivity with Internet of Things gadgets — which are important factors! But there’s something to be said for the minimalist beauty of the Google Home Max, which is a better-looking device in your home than an Amazon Echo or Sonos One.
Day 4: OK, It’s Better Than a Regular Remote Control
Today, we used it to watch Snowpiercer. The dialogue came through brilliantly, and being able to control the volume from my phone was a nice little bonus. If anything, it’s better than a regular remote, as I’m more likely to have my phone in hand.
Day 5: What if Google Axes It?
One issue has been kind of niggling at me: What if Google, on a whim, cut off support for the Home Max? The website Killed by Google counts 171 terminated projects, including Hangouts and Inbox by Gmail.
To put this to the test, I switched off the wifi to see what it could still do.
“I can’t connect to the wifi network! You may want to check the connection settings in the Google Home app.”
No luck. It seems the speaker does, however, play the input through the 3.5mm jack even without wifi. Bluetooth basically doesn’t work, as you need to enter the Google Home app, connect it to the same network, and then visit its settings to enter pairing mode.
It seems like a small concern, but Google has inexplicably axed other products and services before, and I’m not convinced it wouldn’t try to do the same thing again. It recently discontinued the Chromecast Audio, a small, circular device with audio outputs that hang around the back of a Hi-Fi to offer wifi-powered sound. The popular device got rave reviews, and there’s no clear replacement in sight.
That brings me to another point: Is the Google Home Max better than a non-smart Hi-Fi system paired with a wireless dongle? (Here’s Marques Brownlee explaining how you can do it.) A pair of good quality speakers can be had for less money.
You’d get better stereo sound separation, more connections, greater flexibility further down the line, and you’re not at the mercy of a service provider. Add in a Bluetooth dongle for wireless smarts, or even a Chromecast Audio for wifi connectivity. It should be noted that if you buy two Google Home Max speakers, they act as a pair, and you’ll achieve stereo sound that way.
Yes, the Home Max is always on and requires no fiddling about with inputs and buttons. But is a big smart speaker like this really that smart of a buy?
Day 6: When the Best Isn’t Perfect
A friend came by to try out the Home Max. He peppers it with questions, some of which it struggles to properly understand. It works fine with “how many official ethnic groups are there in China” (56) and “how many uncontacted tribes are there in the world” (more than 100), but ask it to recite the ending speech from Blade Runner, and it gives a muddled response that includes the famous “tears in rain” line but then goes on to explain the director’s intentions.
It’s hard to really say if this is a negative, though. Google Assistant is the best A.I. assistant I have used, giving smarter answers with more natural language than Siri or Alexa. It’s an industry-wide problem that will hopefully improve as time goes on.
Day 7: I Look Out Toward an “All-in-One” Future
The Google Home Max is a fantastic piece of kit. It sounds excellent, it’s powered by the super-smart Google Assistant, and it even has a 3.5mm jack for plugging in older devices.
My biggest concern is the age-old question of whether integrating everything is a good idea. I look at my giant old iPod dock, with a 30-pin adaptor that nobody uses, and wonder if it really benefits from sporting a defunct connector. Services and plugs come and go. While going the integrated, all-in-one route looks cool and works in a more straightforward way, will you need to replace your speakers if something better than Google Assistant ever comes along? Replacing a Home Mini would be a lot less painful than the expensive Home Max.
There are no clear answers here. Integration has its benefits, and the Google Home Max has that in spades. Google has knocked it out of the park with a product that looks, sounds, and works great. Just make sure you consider your options first.
When my pack rat father moved into what turned out to be his last home, he did downsize, relatively speaking. Still, even as a single man in his late 50s, he felt that his new place, a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom house with an office, attic and two sheds in East Asheville’s Beverly Hills neighborhood, lacked adequate storage space.
And so, as one does, he single-handedly built a sizable new workshop, mostly from hoarded and scavenged materials. Into that building, he stuffed a tractor-trailer’s worth of his most prized possessions: tools, building materials, vintage toys, hardware, Christmas decorations and much more.
Four years later — after a bout of furious tidying in expectation of visitors — he laid down on his living room floor and died. He was 62.
A self-employed insurance agent, my dad left a business in full swing, along with his home and outbuildings and their contents, but no will.
At the time, I lived in Boston, where my amusements included a full-time job, an hourlong commute and a toddler. As my dad’s only child, the task of settling his affairs fell to me.
In light of this backstory, it’s little wonder I’d be interested in the grimly named — but actually quite life-affirming! — concept of Swedish death cleaning.
Book of the dead
Author Margareta Magnusson published The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter in January 2018, but the book has recently seen an upsurge in interest, says Ryan Matthews, assistant bookstore manager at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe. In fact, Malaprop’s is sold out of the title and has two copies on backorder, while the seven copies held by the Buncombe County Public Libraries were all checked out during the first week of July.
Although the 17 total copies Malaprop’s has sold don’t qualify Magnusson’s book for blockbuster status — especially compared with the 631 volumes of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing the shop’s customers have snapped up to date — it’s still a strong showing for a niche volume that’s been out for over 18 months.
“This is a small book about this relatively obscure practice of Swedish death cleaning,” Matthews notes. “The fact that it’s sold 17 copies in Asheville, North Carolina, does say something about this moment that we’re in as a culture.”
The message of the book, according to Asheville resident Amie Paul, is simple: “Don’t leave a burden for your children. Clean house before you die, and clean it when you’re young enough to do it yourself. If there’s something that really means a lot to you and you love it and you’d like to see it every day, keep it. If you never use it — especially for tchotchkes — narrow that down so you’ve only got a few special ones.”
Other people’s history
For Paul, who’s in her 60s, accumulating possessions is something of a birthright. She is the eldest daughter of a New Orleans family whose famous ancestor, Eliza Jane Nicholson, in 1876 became the first female newspaper publisher in the United States when she took over The Picayune after her husband’s death. Nicholson, a poet and writer, then ran the paper until her own death in 1896.
“I was basically raised looking at old photographs, going through jewelry boxes, going up to the attic and getting out the silver trunk and being told the stories of all of that stuff,” Paul explains. “And I think because of all of that, or maybe because genetically I was hard-wired to be a collector, I’ve kind of been a collector of things.”
Paul now sees her collecting as a mistake — “A big one!” she laughs — and she’s remaking herself as a “disperser” who’s busy finding the right homes for her possessions.
Items with historical value, such as Nicholson’s garnet Victorian locket containing wisps of Paul’s grandfather’s and her great-uncle Leonard’s hair, may find a new home with The Historic New Orleans Collection museum, which already has some artifacts associated with the family, Paul says. Photos of her mother, Elizabeth Fischer, taken during her 1948 rule as Queen of Carnival now decorate Paul’s friend’s Airbnb in New Orleans.
With help from her husband, retired Warren Wilson College professor Graham Paul, Amie Paul has scanned many other family pictures. “I still have these two boxes of historical photographs, but I no longer feel like I have to guard them with my life because they’ve been scanned. When I figure out what to do with them — whether it’s donate them or sell them in an antique shop or shred them — I’ll be free to do that.”
More practical household items, including the camping equipment Paul says she knows she’d never use again now that her children are grown, have been donated to organizations such as Homeward Bound and Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.
Magnusson’s book resonated with Paul because it’s more of a philosophy than a how-to text. “It really is about simplifying your life and taking away the burden from the next generation,” she says. “And at the same time, I have given a lot of things away that have gone to places where I think they will be appreciated, and that makes me happy.”
Professional organizer Roberta Anderson says she’s read Magnusson’s book two or three times herself and has recommended it to many clients.
“I feel like, as we age and as we come toward the end of our time here, people look around and say, ‘Wow, I have so much stuff. Who’s going to handle this when I’m gone?’” Anderson notes. “Especially people who have handled death cleaning for friends and family and have been through other people’s stuff — that’s a major motivator.”
Although she now consults with organizing clients full time, Anderson is also a registered nurse. She says she’s noticed that clients who have gotten their homes and lives under control have also experienced “a marked improvement in health,” which she attributes to decreased stress. “We have this stimuli all the time of things that we need to do and things that need to be accomplished, and it just gets really overwhelming,” she explains. “And people don’t even recognize that as a stressor in their lives.”
Anderson sees an interesting parallel between Magnusson’s and Kondo’s recommendations about the order in which cleaning should happen. Both advise beginning with clothing before moving on to furniture and household items. Photographs, letters and other sentimental objects should be saved until the end of the process.
“The art of decluttering is really about decisions,” Anderson says. “Once you’ve gone through most of your house, you’ve built that decision-making muscle up enough that, when you get to that hard category of sentimental items, it’s just a little bit easier for you.”
With her 80th birthday coming up in October, Lynne White is death cleaning on behalf of both clients and herself. She’s been in the organizing field for the past 15 years with her life and business partner, Scott Bird, 73.
“If we get called on a really tough job and there’s so much stuff, we come home and the next day start downsizing yet again,” White says. “Because we don’t want our kids to have to go through that.”
A former art gallery owner and then real estate agent who specialized in staging properties for sale, White says the aesthetic benefits of organizing shouldn’t be minimized. “I can make a linen closet look beautiful in 15 minutes just by folding what’s already in there,” she confides, revealing that most organizers are also “great folders.”
People are amazed to find “how good it feels to have order and how peaceful it can make you feel knowing that your paperwork is organized and your home is in place,” White says. “It doesn’t have to be minimalist. There are homes with lots of stuff in them that are artistic in a way. It’s not just strip it down, but creating a comfortable zone of minimalism.”
For White, getting started is the most important step.
“If you just set a short amount of time aside, you can work a miracle for yourself,” White says encouragingly.
And then, with more bite, she adds, “Just take the book and do what it says, dammit.”
The game eliminates the season pass and loot crates.
You can play the technical test right now.
You can preorder the game for $50 on .
Gears 5 launches in September and The Coalition keeps on providing us with new details about the game. Recently, Gears 5’s Multiplayer Design Director discussed servers and balance tuning. The franchise will feature 60 Hz servers for the first time with this installment, and there is one tuning setup across core and competitive multiplayer modes.
There’s a technical test going on right now which you can take part in. If you’ve preordered the game or are an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, you can simply download the file and play it on Xbox One or Windows 10. When you’re playing, you’ll notice that there’s a new “Allies” system in place. If you play with friends, you earn “Honor” and upgrade your in-game relationship to the next level. You’ll also be awarded bonus experience at the end of every match.
This is definitely an interesting take on getting friends to play with each other. Other titles, namely Destiny 2, feature similar mechanics and they work rather well. However, only time will tell how it fares in Gears 5.
If you’re playing the multiplayer test, you’ll notice that the game looks stunning and runs at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (FPS) on Xbox One X. Gears of War 4 ran at 4K 30 FPS during the campaign and 4K 60 FPS during multiplayer. This time around, both modes are the same frame rate.
A personal journey
Explore Sera. Skim across glaciers, sail over deserts, and descend into sunken ruins to discover the largest and most diverse Gears world ever created.
Excellent and affordable Xbox accessories
Up your Xbox experience with one (or all) of these budget accessories, all of which are approved by the gamers of Windows Central.
($15 at Amazon)
This charging kit keeps your Xbox One wireless controllers juiced up, and it offers batteries for two controllers. At just $15, this is hands-down our favorite budget charging companion.
($19 at Amazon)
This brilliant little USB splitter hub attaches perfectly to the side of your Xbox One S console. It’s ideal for use with chargers, controllers, headsets, and more.
($13 at Amazon)
Proudly display your Xbox gamepads with this stylish and functional stand. The licensed design is minimalist and black, and it has a hidden storage compartment, making the price of $13 a real steal.
Want to experience a place that’s out of this world, but can’t afford a $250,000 ticket to outer space? In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic moon landing, Airbnb is inviting travelers to stay at five “interstellar” homes around the globe—for just $11 a night. (Those interested in taking advantage of the meteoric deal will have a small window to score a reservation: bookings are only available tomorrow, July 20, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET.)
From a hand-made rocket ship in New Zealand to a futuristic flying saucer in the United Kingdom, these one-of-a-kind dwellings promise to transport voyagers to a galaxy far, far away—without having to leave Earth.
Nestled on a remote, four-acre parcel on a quiet island in Tobermory, Scotland, this quaint aluminum pod offers an escape like no other.
Fit for two, the sustainable residence touts a queen-size bed, a full bath, a kitchenette, a living room with a floor-to-ceiling dragonfly windows, and a small lounge area with a fireplace. Guests can marvel at the Big Dipper or Orion’s Belt from the wooden deck, which overlooks the Sound of Mull.
Solar lights line the driveway of this minimalist steel cabin in Twentynine Palms, California, which boasts a separate “stargazing portal” where guests can sleep in an open-air space beneath the glittering night sky.
The stylish industrial-style loft, which sleeps six, has a living room (complete with a pull-out couch and smart TV); a full bathroom with a rain shower; a kitchen with a gas stovetop; two bedrooms, each with a queen-size bed; and a dining room—all with mountain views. Additional outdoor perks include a fire pit, a hammock and a soaking tub.
Modeled after Apollo 11, this cozy one-bedroom capsule overlooking Mt. Cook in Pukaki, New Zealand, can accommodate up to two and features a toilet, shower, sink, and microwave. (And yes—there’s hot water and air conditioning.)
The property’s host, Peter, built the module from scratch and integrated a clear Perspex roof, so that guests can fall asleep while gazing at the stars.
Head to Joshua Tree, California, for this lunar-inspired desert getaway. Powered entirely by solar panels, the property has a main home and a guest house with more than enough room for six, including a king-size bed.
Amenities include a small gym and an outdoor area with a grill, a fire pit, and a hammock. There’s also a telescope inside, for those who want a closer look at the constellations.
Up to four guests can sleep inside this earthbound UFO in Redberth, England, accessible via a remote-controlled hatch.
Inside there are two convertible sofas and a double bed, plus a dining area, a wardrobe, and kitchen essentials including a kettle and a microwave. For those looking to cook, the quirky home features a covered outdoor barbecue area with seating.