Ads in Windows 11 are becoming the new normal and look like they’re headed for your Settings home page

Microsoft looks like it’s forging ahead with its mission to put more ads in parts of the Windows 11 interface, with the latest move being an advert introduced to the Settings home page.

Windows Latest noticed the ad, which is for the Xbox Game Pass, is part of the latest preview release of the OS in the Dev channel (build 26120). For the uninitiated, the Game Pass is Microsoft’s subscription service that grants you access to a host of games for a monthly or yearly subscription fee.

Not every tester will see this advert, though, at least for now, as it’s only rolling out to those who have chosen the option to ‘Get the latest updates as soon as they're available’ (and that’s true of the other features delivered by this preview build). Also, the ad only appears for those signed into a Microsoft account.

Furthermore, Microsoft explains in a blog post introducing the build that the advert for the Xbox Game Pass will only appear to Windows 11 users who “actively play games” on their PC. The other changes provided by this fresh preview release are useful, too, including fixes for multiple known issues, some of which are related to performance hiccups with the Settings app. 

A close up of a keyboard and a woman gaming at a PC in neon lighting

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Standret)

Pushing too far is a definite risk for Microsoft

While I can see this fresh advertising push won’t play well with Windows 11 users, Windows Latest did try the new update and reports that it’s a significant improvement on the previous version of 24H2. So that’s good news at least, and the tech site further observes that there’s a solution for an installation failure bug in here (stop code error ‘0x8007371B’ apparently).

Windows 11 24H2 is yet to roll out officially for all users, but it’s expected to be the pre-installed operating system on the new Snapdragon X Elite PCs that are scheduled to be shipped in June 2024. A rollout to all users on existing Windows 11 devices will happen several months later, perhaps in September or October. 

I’m not the biggest fan of Microsoft’s strategy regarding promoting its own services – and indeed outright ads as is the case here – or the firm’s efforts to push people to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11. Unfortunately, come next year, Windows 10 users will be facing a choice of migrating to Windows 11, or losing out on security updates when support expires for the older OS (in October 2025). That is, if they can upgrade at all – Windows 11’s hardware requirements make this a difficult task for some older PCs.

I hope for my sake personally, and for all Windows 11 users, that Microsoft considers showing that it values us all by not subjecting us to more and more adverts creeping into different parts of the operating system.


TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

ChatGPT just took a big step towards becoming the next Google with its new account-free version

The most widely available (and free) version of ChatGPT, ChatGPT-3.5, is being made available to use without having to create and log into a personal account. That means you can have conversations with the AI chatbot without it being tied to personal details like your email. However, OpenAI, the tech organization behind ChatGPT, limits what users can do without registering for an account. For example, unregistered users will be limited in the kinds of questions they can ask and in their access to advanced features. 

This means there are still some benefits to making and using a ChatGPT account, especially if you’re a regular user. OpenAI writes in an official blog post that this change is intended to make it easy for people to try out ChatGPT and get a taste of what modern AI can do, without going through the sign-up process. 

In its announcement post on April 1, 2024, OpenAI explained that it’s rolling out the change gradually, so if you want to try it for yourself and can’t yet, don’t panic. When speaking to PCMag, an OpenAI spokesperson explained that this change is in the spirit of OpenAI’s overall mission to make it easier for people “to experience ChatGPT and the benefits of AI.”

Woman sitting by window, legs outstretched, with laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock/number-one)

To create an OpenAI account or not to create an OpenAI account

If you don’t want your entries into the AI chatbot to be tied to the details you would have to disclose when setting up an account, such as your birthday, phone number, and email address, then this is a great development. That said, lots of people create dummy accounts to be able to use apps and web services, so I don’t think it’s that hard to circumvent, but you’d have to have multiple emails and phone numbers to ‘burn’ for this purpose. 

OpenAI does have a disclaimer that states that it is storing your inputs to potentially use to improve ChatGPT by default whether you’re signed in or not, which I suspected was the case. It also states that you can turn this off via ChatGPT’s settings, and this can be done whether you have an account or not.

If you do choose to make an account, you get some useful benefits, including being able to see your previous conversations with the chatbot, link others to specific conversations you’ve had, make use of the newly-introduced voice conversational features, custom instructions, and the ability to upgrade to ChatGPT Plus, the premium subscription tier of ChatGPT which allows users to use GPT-4 (its latest large language learning (LLM) model). 

If you decide not to create an account and forgo these features, you can expect to see the same chat interface that users with accounts use. OpenAI will also be putting in additional content safeguards for users who aren’t logged in, detailing that it’s put in measures to block prompts and generated responses in more categories and topics. Its announcement post didn’t include any examples of the types of topics or categories that will get this treatment, however.

Man holding a phone which is displaying ChatGPT is, prototype artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI

(Image credit: Shutterstock/R Photography Background)

An invitation to users, a power play to rivals?

I think this is an interesting change that will possibly tempt more people to try ChatGPT, and when they try it for the first time, it can seem pretty impressive. It allows OpenAI to give users a glimpse of its capabilities, which I imagine will convince some people to make accounts and access its additional features. 

This will continue expanding ChatGPT’s user pool that may choose to go on and become ChatGPT Plus paid subscribers. Perhaps this is a strategy that will pay off for OpenAI, and it might institute a sort of pass-it-down approach through the tiers as it introduces new generations of its models.

This easier user accessibility could mean the type of user growth that could see OpenAI become as commonplace as Google products in the near future. One of Google Search’s appeals, for example, is that you could just fire up your browser and make a query in an instant. It’s a user-centric way of doing things, and if OpenAI can do something similar by making it that easy to use ChatGPT, then things could get seriously interesting.


TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses are becoming AI-powered tour guides

While Meta’s most recognizable hardware is its Quest VR headsets, its smart glasses created in collaboration with Ray-Ban are proving to be popular thanks to their sleek design and unique AI tools – tools that are getting an upgrade to turn them into a wearable tourist guide.

In a post on Threads – Meta’s Twitter-like Instagram spinoff – Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth showed off a new Look and Ask feature that can recognize landmarks and tell you facts about them. Bosworth demonstrated it using examples from San Francisco such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Painted Ladies, and Coit Tower.

As with other Look and Ask prompts, you give a command like “Look and tell me a cool fact about this bridge.” The Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses then use their in-built camera to scan the scene in front of you, and cross-reference the image with info in the Meta AI’s knowledge database (which includes access to the Bing search engine). 

The specs then respond with the cool fact you requested – in this case explaining the Golden Gate Bridge (which it recognized in the photo it took) is painted “International Orange” so that it would be more visible in foggy conditions.

Screen shots from Threads showing the Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses being used to give the suer information about San Francisco landmarks

(Image credit: Andrew Bosworth / Threads)

Bosworth added in a follow-up message that other improvements are being rolled out, including new voice commands so you can share your latest Meta AI interaction on WhatsApp and Messenger. 

Down the line, Bosworth says you’ll also be able to change the speed of Meta AI readouts in the voice settings menu to have them go faster or slower.

Still not for everyone 

One huge caveat is that – much like the glasses’ other Look and Ask AI features – this new landmark recognition feature is still only in beta. As such, it might not always be the most accurate – so take its tourist guidance with a pinch of salt.

Orange RayBan Meta Smart Glasses

(Image credit: Meta)

The good news is Meta has at least opened up its waitlist to join the beta so more of us can try these experimental features. Go to the official page, input your glasses serial number, and wait to get contacted – though this option is only available if you’re based in the US.

In his post Bosworth did say that the team is working to “make this available to more people,” but neither he nor Meta have given a precise timeline of when the impressive AI features will be more widely available.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft Paint is becoming a digital art powerhouse thanks to this new AI assistant

Microsoft has recently held multiple events where it’s made it known that it’s serious about AI, and following the grand unveiling of its new AI assistant, Windows Copilot, the company has now introduced another AI bot, Cocreator, to help generate images in the iconic Paint app. 

TweakTown reports that that Cocreator’s been known about in the Windows-sphere since test versions of the feature were released through the Canary and Dev channels in September, two release channels of the Windows Insider Program which allows users to sign up to it to preview potential Windows versions and features to give feedback before they are widely released. After these releases, a version was released via the Beta channel (a third Windows Insider release channel) and, just last week, a Cocreator version made its way through the Release Preview channel (the fourth and final release Windows Insider channel that sees features before they’re integrated into upgrades for all users). 

Cocreator is powered by Dall-E, like Bing Image Creator, and works in a similar way. You give Cocreator a description of what you’d like to see composed, select the art style if you have one in mind, and Cocreator will try to create it. 

TweakTown calls the results “impressive” and other early reactions to the new tool are positive, partly due, no doubt, to it utilizing the latest version of OpenAI’s Dall-E. 

One of the first demonstration opportunities was spotted and posted by X (formerly Twitter) user PhantomOfEarth, who found a new 'first run' tutorial to take you through using Paint Cocreator for the first time in Windows version 11.2309.28.0 (in Canary and Dev). 

Windows 11 Update showing on laptop in an office

(Image credit: TechRadar)
See more

How to try Paint Cocreator for yourself

Cocreator is still being tested it seems, and to be able to try it, Microsoft asks you to sign up to the waitlist in the Cocreator side panel – and once approved, you should receive an email. Microsoft doesn’t elaborate what panel this is, but Nerds Chalk writes that you can alternatively get Paint Cocreator by first being in the Windows Insider Program (to which you’ll have to sign up to if you’re not) and install the latest Canary or Dev build. Then you should be able to update your Paint app through the Microsoft Store > Library

Whichever route you take, Cocreator is still being tested and the version you’ll see will be a preview one, prone to possible changes and developments. That said, with Cocreator being spotted in the Release Preview channel, it should appear soon in a Windows 11 update. The new Paint has already been something of a favorite among its fans, and this development will definitely make it a better-equipped creator playground. It’s already seen a major revamp with the addition of a layers feature and now Cocreator. 

To think, Microsoft was ready to send the basic (but much-loved) Paint into retirement a few years ago, but it might prove to be one of the most successful apps that draws users to Windows yet. I have many fond memories of playing around in Paint when I was a kid, and with its pack of new features, maybe it’ll ignite the imaginations of children and adults alike today. 

You might also like:

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More