New Spotify beta adds looping videos to music discovery as part of major updates

Spotify has announced two major updates: a slew of new features coming to its Car Thing device and the launch of Canvas looping videos on its mobile app. 

Both updates have begun rolling out to Spotify users. The Car Thing features will be limited to the U.S. and iOS users will get the update first. Android owners will get everything at a later date. 

Canvas has a greater reach as the videos will release in beta across the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada for the Spotify mobile app.

More hands-off control

Car Thing was designed as a more convenient way to control Spotify while you drive and that core functionality is being expanded. Owners will now be able to see incoming calls on their screen where they can either answer the call or dismiss it.

Another big change is “Add to queue” which Spotify claims is one of its most requested features. It’s essentially the same feature on the mobile app where you can add songs or podcasts to a tracklist, but now you can use your voice.

There’s also going to be a new “Add to queue” icon on the touchscreen to add the song to a playlist or you can press and hold the dial to do the same thing. Other features include the ability to use your voice to ask Spotify for a personalized playlist and to control other media.

Looping recommendations

Canvas videos appear to have been inspired by Tik-Tok as a way to help people discover new types of music. Every day, Spotify will recommend you 15 Canvas loops based on the music that you like. You can scroll through the personalized selection to hear a preview and the Canvas for each song.

If you like what you see and hear, you can add the song to a playlist or follow the artist straight from the Canvas loop. The feature will also allow you to post the Canvas onto a social media app and have it loop in the background of a Story.

Canvas will be right on the mobile app’s home screen and will be created by the artists themselves to offer a sneak peek into the creative process. The full list of artists that will be in the Canvas section is unknown, but Spotify did reveal singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo as one of them.

Spotify didn’t say how long Canvas videos will be; whether it’s a 30-second loop or up to a 3-minute stream like TikTok.

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New Spotify beta adds looping videos to music discovery as part of major updates

Spotify has announced two major updates: a slew of new features coming to its Car Thing device and the launch of Canvas looping videos on its mobile app. 

Both updates have begun rolling out to Spotify users. The Car Thing features will be limited to the U.S. and iOS users will get the update first. Android owners will get everything at a later date. 

Canvas has a greater reach as the videos will release in beta across the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada for the Spotify mobile app.

More hands-off control

Car Thing was designed as a more convenient way to control Spotify while you drive and that core functionality is being expanded. Owners will now be able to see incoming calls on their screen where they can either answer the call or dismiss it.

Another big change is “Add to queue” which Spotify claims is one of its most requested features. It’s essentially the same feature on the mobile app where you can add songs or podcasts to a tracklist, but now you can use your voice.

There’s also going to be a new “Add to queue” icon on the touchscreen to add the song to a playlist or you can press and hold the dial to do the same thing. Other features include the ability to use your voice to ask Spotify for a personalized playlist and to control other media.

Looping recommendations

Canvas videos appear to have been inspired by Tik-Tok as a way to help people discover new types of music. Every day, Spotify will recommend you 15 Canvas loops based on the music that you like. You can scroll through the personalized selection to hear a preview and the Canvas for each song.

If you like what you see and hear, you can add the song to a playlist or follow the artist straight from the Canvas loop. The feature will also allow you to post the Canvas onto a social media app and have it loop in the background of a Story.

Canvas will be right on the mobile app’s home screen and will be created by the artists themselves to offer a sneak peek into the creative process. The full list of artists that will be in the Canvas section is unknown, but Spotify did reveal singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo as one of them.

Spotify didn’t say how long Canvas videos will be; whether it’s a 30-second loop or up to a 3-minute stream like TikTok.

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Windows 11 update adds folders to the Start menu

Windows 11 is getting some big changes to its core interface, including folders for the Start menu (at long last).

Microsoft has announced that folders are going to grace the Start menu as of now, with an update rolling out for Windows 11 happening right off the bat (though as ever, that rollout will reach some PCs before others).

We’ve already seen how this feature works, at least in testing, as Start menu folders debuted in a preview build of Windows 11 back in February.

These app folders pretty much do what you’d expect, and mean that you’ll be able to create folders within the Start menu via an easy process. All that’s required is dragging and dropping one app icon onto another, then a folder will be created, complete with mini app icons displayed in the folder graphic to indicate what’s inside. You can also name these folders to help with organizing and seeing what’s what at a glance.

Start menu showing pinned apps organized into folders

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Other nifty features being introduced for Windows 11 with this incoming update include tabs in File Explorer, which facilitate your desktop folder windows having multiple tabs like a web browser, allowing you to keep many folders open within one window.


Analysis: A bit of a head-scratcher, but welcome nonetheless

It’s great to see folders arrive for the Start menu in Windows 11, as they are a useful tool for obvious organizational reasons, helping to keep the menu streamlined.

Indeed, the absence of this pretty basic feature in the Start menu was one of the head-scratchers about Windows 11’s interface, given that this ability was present in Windows 10 (and versions way before that, for that matter, as a fairly fundamental piece of the UI customization jigsaw). Why wasn’t it brought over with the initial launch of Windows 11, and why has it taken so long for the functionality to arrive in Microsoft’s newest OS? Well, whatever the case, it’s here now.

Indeed, it’s here right now, which is another talking point here. We’d expect these kind of interface changes, ones that are fairly big adjustments, to be bundled up in the big annual update for Windows 11 (due in the second half of the year). Mainly because it gives Microsoft lots of shiny new things to point out, in a ‘look at all this load of fresh stuff that’s arrived for our OS’ kind of way.

Still, Microsoft has been moving towards deploying new features outside of the major Windows updates, and we’ve seen, for example, monthly Windows 11 updates bring forth the likes of Android app support (in testing) plus refreshed Notepad and Media Player apps.

More flexibility in feature delivery is doubtless needed now Microsoft’s cadence has dropped from two upgrades per year to a single annual affair – and we’re certainly not complaining about getting important capabilities and introductions for Windows 11 sooner rather than later. But if big chunks of functionality are arriving before Sun Valley 2, it makes you wonder if the impact that the latter makes in terms of changes will be lessened when it turns up later in 2022.

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Windows 11 update adds folders to the Start menu

Windows 11 is getting some big changes to its core interface, including folders for the Start menu (at long last).

Microsoft has announced that folders are going to grace the Start menu as of now, with an update rolling out for Windows 11 happening right off the bat (though as ever, that rollout will reach some PCs before others).

We’ve already seen how this feature works, at least in testing, as Start menu folders debuted in a preview build of Windows 11 back in February.

These app folders pretty much do what you’d expect, and mean that you’ll be able to create folders within the Start menu via an easy process. All that’s required is dragging and dropping one app icon onto another, then a folder will be created, complete with mini app icons displayed in the folder graphic to indicate what’s inside. You can also name these folders to help with organizing and seeing what’s what at a glance.

Start menu showing pinned apps organized into folders

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Other nifty features being introduced for Windows 11 with this incoming update include tabs in File Explorer, which facilitate your desktop folder windows having multiple tabs like a web browser, allowing you to keep many folders open within one window.


Analysis: A bit of a head-scratcher, but welcome nonetheless

It’s great to see folders arrive for the Start menu in Windows 11, as they are a useful tool for obvious organizational reasons, helping to keep the menu streamlined.

Indeed, the absence of this pretty basic feature in the Start menu was one of the head-scratchers about Windows 11’s interface, given that this ability was present in Windows 10 (and versions way before that, for that matter, as a fairly fundamental piece of the UI customization jigsaw). Why wasn’t it brought over with the initial launch of Windows 11, and why has it taken so long for the functionality to arrive in Microsoft’s newest OS? Well, whatever the case, it’s here now.

Indeed, it’s here right now, which is another talking point here. We’d expect these kind of interface changes, ones that are fairly big adjustments, to be bundled up in the big annual update for Windows 11 (due in the second half of the year). Mainly because it gives Microsoft lots of shiny new things to point out, in a ‘look at all this load of fresh stuff that’s arrived for our OS’ kind of way.

Still, Microsoft has been moving towards deploying new features outside of the major Windows updates, and we’ve seen, for example, monthly Windows 11 updates bring forth the likes of Android app support (in testing) plus refreshed Notepad and Media Player apps.

More flexibility in feature delivery is doubtless needed now Microsoft’s cadence has dropped from two upgrades per year to a single annual affair – and we’re certainly not complaining about getting important capabilities and introductions for Windows 11 sooner rather than later. But if big chunks of functionality are arriving before Sun Valley 2, it makes you wonder if the impact that the latter makes in terms of changes will be lessened when it turns up later in 2022.

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Mozilla adds new paid tier for its developer network

Mozilla has launched a new paid subscription service to further support the development of its Mozilla Developer Network (MDN).

While developers already rely on MDN to find documentation and code samples for CSS, HTML and JavaScript, MDN Plus will add three new features in the form of Notifications, Collections and MDN Offline.

As technology is every changing, staying on top of the latest developments can be difficult especially for busy programmers. With notifications in MDN Plus, subscribers get informed on all of the latest developments such as documentation changes, the launch of new CSS features and more after following a page. 

MDN Plus' collections feature meanwhile allows you to pick MDN articles you want to save as well as pages you frequently visit so that you have them stored in one convenient place when you need them most.

Sometimes developers need to access MDN when they don't have a strong internet connection or are completely offline. MDN offline leverages a Progressive Web Application (PWA) to gives users access to MDN Web Docs even when they lack internet access so that they can keep working uninterrupted.

MDN Plus

MDN Plus originally came about after Mozilla surveyed over 60k MDN users between 2020 and 2021 to learn that many of them wanted a customized MDN experience.

Now Mozilla's new subscription service for developers is available in the US and Canada though the company plans to expand it to other countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore in the coming months.

For developers interested in subscribing to MDN Plus, there are three plans to choose from including a supporter plan for those that want to spend a little extra to support the continued development of MDN.

The first plan is MDN core and it is intended for developers that want to test out a limited version of the service before purchasing a plan. Next up is MDN Plus 5 which offers unlimited access to notifications, collections, MDN offline and other upcoming features for $ 5 a month or $ 50 for the year. MDN Supporter 10 though is for MDN's loyal supporters that want everything under MDN Plus 5 along with early access to new features and a direct feedback channel to the MDN team. It's only slightly more expensive at $ 10 per month or $ 100 for the year. 

Mozilla is also offering a 20 percent discount for developers that subscribe to one of MDN Plus' annual subscription plans.

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Meta finally adds decent admin features for Facebook Groups

Meta has announced new features for admins in Facebook Groups to better moderate users' posts while making it easier for users to join in through QR codes.

While social networks have had the mammoth task of tightening up moderation, Meta has tried to improve its practices on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

But it's Facebook Groups that have been bearing the brunt of misinformation in recent times, which is why Meta is stepping up its cause to help out the admins of these groups with more powerful features.

However, it remains to be seen if these will make a big difference in the ever-changing world of 2022.


Analysis: Will new features be enough?

New admin features in Facebook Groups

(Image credit: Facebook)

The blog post states other new features, such as being able to automatically approve or decline new users, based on the answers that they give when applying to be part of a group. There's also another useful new feature that allows admins to suspend users who have already had their recent posts muted, and their new posts still break the guidelines of the group

Meta has stated that it has 1.8 billion people that use Facebook Groups, with over half of all its users being members of five or more active groups, so new features for admins to help moderate these posts will always be welcome.

However, these are the types of features that should have been there years ago. Our US Editor-in-Chief, Lance Ulanoff has been receiving prompts to tighten up his security on Facebook, with a feature called Facebook Protect.

Facebook Protect in iOS

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The consequence of not enabling Facebook Protect is a full-lock-out of your account, restricting you from accessing the social media website.

This looks to be applicable to accounts with blue ticks for now, but there's always a chance that Meta will open this up to all users as an added security feature.

This comes back to Meta's stance on security and moderation. While it's welcome to see these updates for Facebook Groups, its approach to challenging misinformation on Pages statuses, Reels and even photos still has a long way to go to correct the narrative for current news around the world.

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Wordle hard mode adds an extra layer of challenge – here’s how to turn it on

Wordle is the word-a-day game taking the internet by storm. The popular word game present a daily challenge in which you must guess a five-letter word in six guesses or fewer. Wordle will then keep track of your stats, including win rate percentage, and a breakdown of the number of tries it takes you to reach the correct answer each day.

While Wordle's strict ruleset already makes the game quite challenging, there's actually a secondary mode tucked away in the options menu – for those wanting an even greater challenge. It doesn't change up the words you'll be guessing in any way, but it does impose further restrictions that could make your Wordle experience that much tougher.

Under normal rules, Wordle will notify you of letters you've guessed correctly. A green tile indicates you've got the right letter in the right place, while a yellow tile tells you that letter is in the word, albeit in a different spot. Meanwhile, a greyed out tile tells the player that letter isn't in the word at all.

That's also the case on hard mode, but there's one big difference. With hard mode, you're forced into using all the yellow tiled letters you've accrued so far. So for example, if you've guessed the word to be “CHIMP” and “I” and “M” flag as yellow, you'll be required to use those letters in your next guess.

To many of you, this may not seem like much of a restriction. After all, using the correct letters gives you a better chance of guessing the word, right? Well, yes and no. The more yellow letters you have in your guess, the fewer new letters you'll be able to play with on subsequent guesses, and this can be especially strict when you consider you only have six guesses to begin with.

Wordle on iOS

(Image credit: Wordle)

How to access Wordle hard mode

Activating hard mode on Wordle is simple enough, and just requires you to head into the site's settings menu. You can do so by tapping or clicking the cog icon in the top right of the screen. It's just right of the title, and next to the option to view your overall statistics.

Once you're in the settings menu, the very first option, “Hard Mode,” is what you're after. By turning that on, you'll now be required to use all correct letters you've uncovered in subsequent guesses.

The settings menu also contains options for a dark theme and a color blind mode for those who may need it. The former might be a good option to reduce eye strain if you tend to spend a lot of time thinking about each guess.

And that's it! With hard mode activated, you can back out of the settings menu and experience your daily Wordle challenge with added restrictions. Do note that there doesn't seem to be any added benefit to playing on hard mode, and it can be turned off at any time by simply re-entering the settings menu and tapping the option once again, reverting Wordle to its default rules.

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Telegram’s 12th update for the year is out – Adds reactions, hidden text and more

The thing about the instant messaging platform Telegram is that it is always on the ball when it comes to rolling out updates. As 2021 winds to a close, they have come out with the 12th update for the year and the second in  December. Now users can add iMessage-style reactions, translate messages, get themed QR codes and even have an option to hide texts such as spoilers. 

This update is Telegram 8.4, and is being rolled out to all Android users. With each new update, Telegram seems to take a new leap. The previous one significantly improved user privacy, both for individual and group chats.

iMessage-style reactions now on Telegram

Telegram Update December 2021

(Image credit: Telegram Blog)

Telegram, it may be recalled, was the first messaging app to add animated and interactive emojis. Now, six of these emojis — thumbs up, thumbs down, heart, fire, party, and star-eyes — are being made available as reactions to share feelings and feedback – without sending any messages. Basically, Telegram would now allow users to send reactions that attach to specific messages instead of sending as their own messages. 

This is a feature that Android systems are still to crack with conviction. It is popular on iMessage, and on platforms like Slack. 

To send a quick reaction, users need to simply double-tap a message. Users can also change their default reaction to another emoji in Settings.

“While Reactions are available in private chats, in groups and channels, the admins decide whether to turn on reactions and choose which reaction emoji are available in the chat,” Telegram said.

How to hide text and kill spoilers on Telegram

Telegram Update December 2021

(Image credit: Telegram Blog)

Another interesting update is the one to hide particular part of a message in the chat, as well as in the chat list and notifications. 

This hidden text update to help mask spoilers. So if you want to hold forth about say about Minnal Murali and his epic fight with the antagonist Shibu but others in the group have still not caught the film, all you need to do is select any part of your text when typing and choose the new 'Spoiler' formatting. When others in the group are ready to read it, they just need to tap the spoiler text to read it.

One more interesting new feature that is available for Telegram users now is they can translate any message into another language, right within the app. Users can enable Translation in Settings > Language and a dedicated Translate button will be added to the context menu when selecting a message. The list of available languages for translation depends on your phone's operating system. Users can also exclude any language they speak fluently – which will hide the translate button for those messages.

The latest update also adds the ability to generate QR codes for any user that have a public username. Tap the new QR code icon next to the username of a person (or from a chat's info page), choose the colors and the pattern of your choice, then print, post or share the QR code to other apps.

Telegram has also redesigned all the context menus for macOS with new shortcut hints and animated icons for every single menu item in the app.

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