macOS Sonoma 14.4 will bring new emojis and bug fixes soon – here’s how to try the public beta

A new beta version of macOS Sonoma 14.4 has just been made available for the public, allowing Mac users to get an early look into what the new update may entail in its final form – as well as getting to try out some of the new features and fixes. 

Among the regular refinements and bug fixes we normally see with most small software updates like this, macOS Sonoma 14.4 also offers new emoji characters! The new emojis include a melting face (perfect for a hot day – or a response to bad news on a particularly slow work day), two hands making a little heart, and a moose, amongst others. 

The fixes address some issues reported by testers and developers from the first public beta, which include potential issues with Safari and Messages. I’ve been running on the previous public beta version, and I’ve noticed issues with my messages not syncing between my iPhone 15 and Mac Mini, and since downloading the beta I’ve noticed some improvements with getting notifications and syncing message threads, which is good news for anyone else currently experiencing that issue. 

Want to give it a go yourself? Here’s how

If you’d like to download the public beta of macOS Sonoma 14.4 yourself and give it a go, you can sign up for access straight from your device's settings menu. You can access the public beta by heading over to your System Settings, going to the software update page ‘General’ section of the menu, and clicking on the option labeled ‘Beta updates’. 

Once you do that, a small pop-up will appear to let you decide between enabling developer or public beta updates. We would recommend not selecting the developer option if you’re a regular user planning to try it on your personal Mac or Macbook because beta updates in general can be quite unstable and are not really intended for everyday use – and the developer-targeted version is liable to have even more bugs.

Plus, compared to the public beta versions of updates, developer versions are likely to have features or changes that might never be made available to the public in the long run. Instead, if you enable the public beta of Sonoma 14.4 you can get an early look at features that are more likely to be part of an actual public release. 

Via PC Tablet 

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Microsoft’s next major Windows 11 update could bring the biggest AI upgrade yet

It’s beginning to look like we’re getting another Windows 11 update in the second half of 2024 which could bring even more artificial intelligence (AI) features to the operating system. 

Windows Latest spotted references to the update, dubbed “Hudson Valley” and also known as Windows 11 24H2, in a support document – and it looks like Microsoft might not have wanted the existence of this update to be made public.

However, Windows Latest spotted references to the EnumDeviceDrivers function, used by system admins and developers to interact with Windows 11’s drivers.

The document that references this function also mentions Windows 11 Version 24H2. The document elaborates that update 24H2 will modify how Windows 11 retrieves information from the EnumDeviceDrivers function.

You can check out the document for yourself, but it’s intended for developers and other similar professionals, so it’s a bit of a dry read.

AI for the Windows guy

So, there you have it – Microsoft is planning to update 24H2, which we can assume it’s actively working on, and we can look forward to it sometime in Q3 or Q4 of 2024 if Microsoft doesn’t change course. This news follows recent reports that made reference to a new preview build that’s currently being internally tested, which suggests it could be the biggest AI upgrade coming to Windows 11 to date. 

The last major Windows 11 update we saw was Windows 11 23H2, which  Microsoft rolled out at the end of 2023, which included a preview of the Windows Copilot AI-powered digital assistant.

While insiders, tech experts, and Microsoft enthusiasts are eagerly watching for any news about the next iteration of Windows, unofficially known as Windows 12, Windows Latest also speculated that we may not be getting this for a little while. The former head of Windows and Surface at Microsoft, Panos Panay, left Microsoft in a surprising move and this leads some to think that whoever takes over probably won’t begin their tenure at Microsoft by heading up the next huge Windows release.

Microsoft’s been clear and consistent with its intent to integrate AI into multiple Windows features and apps, like Windows Copilot and Cocreator AI-powered assistants for apps like Notepad and Paint. This looks like it’ll be the Windows 11 update that will carry on this process and we’ll have to keep watching for when more information about Windows 11 24H2 comes out, and if Microsoft is indeed putting more AI efforts into Windows 11, it could mean Windows 12 won’t be here any time soon.

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Windows 11 could bring your desktop to life with AI-enhanced ‘moving wallpapers’

Windows 11 is set to receive a whole new look and feel with an upcoming update, thanks to an AI-powered feature that will revamp the desktop experience. 

Internal documents spotted by Windows Latest suggest we may get something akin to a ‘live wallpaper’ for users' desktops. This would make the wallpaper look like it's 'popping out’ of your screen when you move your cursor across the display, with its appearance changing based on the cursor's movement. 

In addition to this, Windows Latest hints at the potential of adding a ‘parallax effect’ to the desktop background, making the wallpaper move more slowly in the background than the windows and apps that are on top, giving the illusion of depth to make your background look more immersive. 

Microsoft has been pushing hard on AI integration, putting a lot of time and effort into implementing artificial intelligence into its products since the success of the new and improved Bing, and it seems that every facet of Microsoft’s products may be graced by AI at some point. 

Cool wallpapers incoming  

We’re probably only going to see AI-powered wallpapers on devices that can support the movement detection required to create the desired effect, so we might first see the feature on newer, more powerful machines. 

It’s exciting to see Microsoft using AI to improved the aesthetics of your device, even if it is just a nifty wallpaper at this stage. From what we can tell, these depth and movement effects should work with most images you might use as a desktop background, and should save you from having to search for (and install) live wallpaper applications.

This could also be the first step in creating a truly immersive and interesting background with the help of AI, as we may soon see new features pop up once Microsoft makes the feature available. Hopefully, the company will build on that, and introduce more fun and engaging ways to make your device your own.

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Nvidia explains how its ACE software will bring ChatGPT-like AI to non-player characters in games

Earlier this year at Computex 2023, Nvidia revealed a new technology during its keynote presentation: Nvidia ACE, a ‘custom AI model foundry’ that promised to inject chatbot-esque intelligence into non-player characters in games.

Now, Nvidia has more to say about ACE: namely, NVIDIA NeMo SteerLM, a new technique that will make it easier than ever before for game developers to make characters that act and sound more realistic and organic.

We’ve heard about NeMo before, back when Nvidia revealed its ‘NeMo Guardrails’ software for making sure that large language model (LLM) chatbots such as the ever-present ChatGPT are more “accurate, appropriate, on topic and secure”. NeMo Steer LM acts in a similar but more creative way, allowing game devs to ‘steer’ AI behavior in certain directions with simple sliders; for example, making a character more humorous, or more aggressive and rude.

I was a bit critical of NeMo Guardrails back when it was originally unveiled, since it raises the question of exactly who programs acceptable behaviors into AI models. In publicly accessible real-world chatbot tools, programmer bias could lead to AI-generated responses that offend some while appearing innocuous to others. But for fictional characters, I’m willing to believe that NeMo has huge potential. Imagine a gameworld where every character can truly react dynamically and organically to the player’s words and actions – the possibilities are endless!

The problems with LLMs in games

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. While SteerLM does promise to make the process of implementing AI-powered NPCs a lot more straightforward, there are still issues surrounding the use of LLMs in games in general. Early access title Vaudeville shows that AI-driven narrative games have a long way to go, and that’s not even the whole picture.

LLM chatbots such as ChatGPT and Bing AI have proven in the past that they’re not infallible when it comes to remaining on-topic and appropriate. Indeed, when I embarked on a quest to break ChatGPT, I was able to make it say things my editor sadly informed me were not fit for publication. While tools such as Nvidia’s Guardrails can help, they’re not perfect – and as AI models continue to evolve and advance, it may become harder than ever to keep them playing nice.

Even beyond the potential dangers of introducing actual AI models into games – let alone ones with SteerLM’s ‘toxicity’ slider, which on paper sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen – a major stumbling block to implementing tools like this could actually be hardware-related.

Screenshot of 'Jin the ramen shop owner', an AI-generated non-player character.

Nvidia’s Computex demo of ‘Jin the ramen shop owner’ was technologically impressive but raises a lot of questions about AI in games. (Image credit: Nvidia)

If a game uses local hardware acceleration to power its SteerLM-enhanced NPCs, the performance could be affected by how powerful your computer is when it comes to running AI-based workloads. This introduces an entirely new headache for both game devs and gamers: inconsistency in game quality dependent not on anything the developers can control, but on the hardware used by the player.

According to the Steam Hardware Survey, the majority of PC gamers are still using RTX 2000 or older GPUs. Hell, the current top spot is occupied by the budget GTX 1650, a graphics card that lacks the Tensor cores used by RTX GPUs to carry out high-end machine-learning processes. The 1650 isn’t incapable of running AI-related tasks, but it’s never going to keep up with the likes of the mighty RTX 4090.

I’m picturing a horrible future for PC gaming, where your graphics card determines not just the visual fidelity of the games you play, but the quality of the game itself. For those lucky enough to own, say, an RTX 5000 GPU, incredibly lifelike NPC dialogue and behavior could be at your fingertips. Smarter enemies, more helpful companions, dynamic and compelling villains. For the rest of us, get used to dumb and dumber character AI as game devs begin to rely more heavily on LLM-managed NPCs.

Perhaps this will never happen. I certainly hope so, anyway. There’s also the possibility of tools like SteerLM being implemented in a way that doesn’t require local hardware acceleration; that would be great! Gamers should never have to shell out for the very best graphics cards just to get the full experience from a game – but I’ll be honest, my trust in the industry has been sufficiently battered over the last few years that I’m braced for the worst.

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Following Bing AI, Google could bring AI writing tools to Chromebooks

Google is supposedly preparing to introduce an AI-aided feature that will help users write, rewrite and edit text – and it could be coming to Chromebooks.

Google is putting in major efforts in this direction, already having announced Project IDX at its I/O conference earlier this year

Project IDX is a program that is currently in a preview stage that will help developers with all kinds of actions, from code development to previewing their projects on different platforms, and is enhanced with AI. Throughout I/O 2023, Google explained how it was adding artificial intelligence capabilities into its products and services in the near future.

Google's generative AI tools

There are already a range of AI-charged writing features incorporated into Google products. 

In Gmail and Google Docs, you may have seen “Write for me” or “Help me write” which give you ideas and suggestions to help you write for professional purposes. On mobile devices, Google has also added a “Magic Compose” option in Google Messages to revise a reply you’ve written, or to draft a reply based on the context of your ongoing conversation.

Two phone screens drawn in a cartoony style, the space around the phones and screens are covered in messages, drawings of file types and emojis

(Image credit: Google)

Rumblings around Google's new works

As for this latest rumor, 9to5Google suggests that there are five codenames for it at present, including “Orca,” “Mako,” and “Manta.” Apparently, “Orca” will appear in the ChromeOS right-click menu when you are editing a piece of text. After you select the text and click on Orca (whatever it looks like in the version it’s presented in), Orca will prompt the “Mako” UI to appear in a “bubble.” 

The Mako feature will then give you three choices for what it can do with your text, according to inspection of the code. The first is that you can “request rewrites” for the selected text and possibly give you some options of AI-revised versions. The second option will let you choose from a list of “preset text queries,” which 9to5Google proposes will suggest styles to rewrite your text. The final option will let Mako swap your text for a version that it suggests into whatever program, app, or page you’re working in. 

When you ask Orca to open a Mako suggestion bubble, then the Manta UI will send your original text input to Google’s servers, and then receive the generated suggestion to present to you. 

This means that the process of reworking your text doesn’t happen on your local ChromeOS machine. Presumably like the Magic Compose feature, you ‘ll have to provide clear consent to send your writing to the Google servers in this way.

9to5Google found that these mechanisms seem to be embedded into an upcoming version of ChromeOS, assuming it will show up in a future update. This will mean that it might be possible for the Orca UI to show up in nearly any app on your ChromeOS device (such as any of the best Chromebooks). It suggests this new writing assistant might be in the 118 ChromeOS update, due in mid-October. We don’t know this is the case definitely, and if you’re interested, be on the lookout for more intel from Google itself. 

Asus Chromebook

(Image credit: Future)

Possible Chromebook X exclusive?

There are also signs that Orca/Mako/Manta might only be incorporated into Chromebook X devices. Chromebook X is set to be a line of high-end laptops and tablets that was reported earlier this year. As Chromebook X will have higher spec requirements than existing Chromebooks, it could mean that when this feature is rolled out, it may not be available for all existing ChromeOS devices. 

This would be a pity and maybe a missed opportunity, in my opinion, and I hope that this won’t be the case. Microsoft has also recently debuted an AI assistant writing feature for its Bing AI chatbot in the Edge browser, and as far as we know, that won’t require any hardware beyond that which can run the latest versions of Windows 11 and Edge. 

Based on my experience of Bard, it still has a way to go to match ChatGPT (another AI tool, which Microsoft’s Bing AI is based on) in terms of writing (and rewriting) ability. We’ll see how widespread the availability of this AI-assisted tool is, but the more users that have access to it, the more it can improve.

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Bring an old PC back to life with Windows 10 thanks to the new bloat-free Tiny10

A new release of Tiny10 is out, a version of Windows 10 that strips away all the bloat so it’s a lean, mean, multitasking machine (hopefully).

Neowin spotted that Tiny10 x64 is now available, slotting in alongside the existing Tiny10 x86 installation (and of course, Tiny11 – the similarly lightweight take on Windows 11).

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What’s the difference between x64 and x86? Well, the latter is 32-bit Windows 10, whereas the former and fresh version of Tiny10 is a 64-bit incarnation. This means it can run 64-bit software and is more performant in general, plus it’s more secure, too (though note that your PC must have a 64-bit CPU – which it should do, unless it’s really old).

In short, the new x64 version is the one you want unless your PC is incapable of running it (due to the processor not being 64-bit).

As the developer points out, the key element here is the inclusion of the component store (also in the x86 version), which allows for Tiny10 to receive Windows updates. That is, of course, vital to maintain the security of the OS.

Note that Tiny10 x64 is labeled version 23H1 purely because it has been released now – in the first half of 2023 – and this does not refer to the version of Windows 10 it’s based on (which, in fact, is Windows 10 LTSC 21H2, build 19044.3031).


Analysis: One tiny step for Windows 10

Tiny10 is designed to be installed on an old PC, as with its seriously streamlined and debloated nature, it’ll run fast enough even on pretty ancient hardware. And as mentioned, this x64 take has advantages for better performance and security over the previous x86 release of Tiny10.

You can run Tiny10 on a PC that only has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of drive space, that’s how lean it is – and it’s likely to work okay with less system memory than that (maybe much less, as previous experiments have shown). Indeed, 1GB should be enough.

While Tiny10 is a useful option to get some additional life out of an ailing potato PC, there are caveats to bear in mind. We can’t be sure of the exact contents of any modified Windows installation (ISO file), so if you download and install Tiny10, you do so at your own risk (grab it here if you’re happy to proceed). That said, the developer has been around for some time, with no complaints from users yet.

Also, this is still a Windows 10 installation – just a heavily tinkered with and stripped-back one – so you will still need a valid license key to run it (though a Windows 7 or 8 license should do fine, too).

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Chatbot or adbot? Microsoft could bring adverts to ChatGPT-powered Bing AI

Don’t look now, but Microsoft is exploring the idea of pushing adverts with its Bing AI chatbot.

The ChatGPT-powered AI hasn’t been around for long, but has already achieved a measure of success driving more traffic to the Bing search engine, which is one of Microsoft’s main aims with the chatbot, naturally.

However, another target Microsoft is now sighting up is the addition of advertising to monetize the chatbot in a more concrete way, as evidenced by a freshly written post on the Bing blog site.

The content makes for worrying reading – though it’s a predictable avenue for Microsoft to assess, and we should note that this is very much early days still. The blog post talks about “exploring” the use of ads and that it’s mulling over “some early ideas,” so we shouldn’t get too carried away at this point.

The ideas Microsoft is toying with include making it so that if the user hovers over a link, it’ll pop up a panel containing further links to a publisher’s content. And also placing a “rich caption of Microsoft Start licensed content” next to a chat answer, meaning driving traffic to these Microsoft Start partners (and sharing ad revenue with that partner).

Microsoft further states: “We’re also exploring placing ads in the chat experience to share the ad revenue with partners whose content contributed to the chat response.”


Analysis: A case of greed before need?

Oh dear, oh dear. And another oh dear for good measure. Microsoft seems to be losing sight of the purpose of its ChatGPT-fueled AI here. It’s supposed to be a useful tool, a smart addition to Bing to let people search in a new way, and do a whole lot more to help them besides, with a bunch of other tricks up its sleeve (from knocking up artwork or poetry, to providing swift aid to gamers, kind of).

So, Bing AI is all about helping folks, right? Well, nobody believes Microsoft is doing this out of the goodness of its own heart. Of course there’s an agenda, and that’s to push Bing search to compete better with the highly dominant Google. Fair enough: Bing needs some kind of secret weapon, you can’t argue with that, and finally, it looks like the AI chatbot might be the answer.

Google is even worried, having rushed its rival AI, Bard, onto the stage, fumbling its lines in the process (and not getting nearly the same amount of attention as Bing AI, which is already well underway with updates being applied regularly by Microsoft).

But a measure of early success appears to have left Microsoft with dollar signs flashing before its eyes, perhaps blinding it to Bing’s original purpose. So now, we have Microsoft thinking about getting greedy (there’s evidence of this with the company’s attitude elsewhere regarding the AI, too). Bing traffic isn’t enough in the way of monetization, perhaps, so why not do adverts, too?

We’ll tell you why not – because people are tired of you trying to jam adverts into everything, Microsoft. Like your online services, or the Windows 11 interface, over and over, with the latest example coming earlier this week in the form of (veiled) ads for the Start menu. And now the Bing chatbot?

We’re not surprised, really, but we are getting fed up with the condition Microsoft seems to suffer from, the main symptom of which is a sickening and relentless compulsion to cram in adverts with its products and services. Let’s call it ‘ad nauseum’, and let’s further hope a cure can be found.

Via Neowin

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Uber to bring train and airplane tickets to its app this summer

Uber is expanding its travel options by giving people the opportunity to pay for car rentals and purchase tickets for trains, planes, and coach buses, but only in the United Kingdom.

Uber states the reason for this change is to make cross-country travel easier to plan as it’ll serve as a central hub of sorts instead of dealing with numerous apps and websites. You can just have everything on one app.

The official list of all rail companies, airlines, and other travel partners that will take part in Uber’s service has yet to be revealed. The full list will arrive in the coming months before the service officially launches in during the summer of 2022.

In the same announcement, Jamie Heywood, Uber’s Regional General Manager for the UK, Northern & Eastern Europe, said these changes were a “natural progression.” Heywood points out that people have already “been able to book rides, bikes, boat services, and scooters on the Uber app…” for years. He added that Uber will be incorporating hotel bookings later on in the year.

The announcement also clarifies that Uber is not providing these services themselves; there won’t be an Uber Train or Jet flown by a gig pilot. It’s simply a travel agent feature.

As for outside the UK, Uber didn’t state or even imply whether or not the all-in-one travel service will be making its way to other countries and cities.

This isn’t some random change as Uber is well known for incorporating new services in an effort to become more than just a ride-hailing app and be a Do Everything app.

In early March 2022, Uber introduced its Uber Explore feature on the app that lets people check out the local nightlife as well as make dinner reservations and see the reviews on these places. From there, Uber wants you to book a ride to a nightclub or use Uber Eats to order food.

Uber is a company that attempts to incorporate as much as it can as it has had a storied history of hemorrhaging money and reporting massive net losses.

According to its third-quarter results for 2021, Uber had a net loss of $ 2.4 billion thanks to some bad investments. Its fourth-quarter went a lot better as the company earned a net income of $ 892 million.

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Uber to bring train and airplane tickets to its app this summer

Uber is expanding its travel options by giving people the opportunity to pay for car rentals and purchase tickets for trains, planes, and coach buses, but only in the United Kingdom.

Uber states the reason for this change is to make cross-country travel easier to plan as it’ll serve as a central hub of sorts instead of dealing with numerous apps and websites. You can just have everything on one app.

The official list of all rail companies, airlines, and other travel partners that will take part in Uber’s service has yet to be revealed. The full list will arrive in the coming months before the service officially launches in during the summer of 2022.

In the same announcement, Jamie Heywood, Uber’s Regional General Manager for the UK, Northern & Eastern Europe, said these changes were a “natural progression.” Heywood points out that people have already “been able to book rides, bikes, boat services, and scooters on the Uber app…” for years. He added that Uber will be incorporating hotel bookings later on in the year.

The announcement also clarifies that Uber is not providing these services themselves; there won’t be an Uber Train or Jet flown by a gig pilot. It’s simply a travel agent feature.

As for outside the UK, Uber didn’t state or even imply whether or not the all-in-one travel service will be making its way to other countries and cities.

This isn’t some random change as Uber is well known for incorporating new services in an effort to become more than just a ride-hailing app and be a Do Everything app.

In early March 2022, Uber introduced its Uber Explore feature on the app that lets people check out the local nightlife as well as make dinner reservations and see the reviews on these places. From there, Uber wants you to book a ride to a nightclub or use Uber Eats to order food.

Uber is a company that attempts to incorporate as much as it can as it has had a storied history of hemorrhaging money and reporting massive net losses.

According to its third-quarter results for 2021, Uber had a net loss of $ 2.4 billion thanks to some bad investments. Its fourth-quarter went a lot better as the company earned a net income of $ 892 million.

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WhatsApp may soon bring polls to group chats

WhatsApp might soon introduce a new feature that will allow users to conduct polls within groups. The feature can be expected to roll out to the final version in the coming weeks. The new feature is currently being tested on iOS, but may also come to Android.

As reported by Android Police and WABetaInfo, the Meta owned messaging app may soon enable polls for groups. Polls have been present on other apps like Twitter, Telegram and even Facebook.

The report has indicated that the feature is currently being tested in WhatsApp’s 22.8.0.72 beta version showing that you can create a question followed by adding choices for responses. The number of choices is limited to 12 and they can be rearranged in any order, according to the report. The polls feature was already under development. However, it is only in the recent beta version we have got to see the work in progress.

WhatsApp polls

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

It is unclear as of this time if these would be admin restricted or not. However, it may be possible that WhatsApp may create options within the group to control and restrict who can create these polls within the group. More details could emerge in the coming weeks while this feature nears completion.

WhatsApp’s Communities vision

While WhatsApp recently rolled out multi-device logins for Android and iOS users, the instant messaging app has been working on a dedicated Communities feature as well. This would allow members of multiple groups to be part of a single group as well. These can be created by group admins only and give them greater control over managing multiple groups too.

From a larger perspective, it looks like WhatsApp is looking to turn itself not just into an instant messaging app for friends, families and businesses. But instead, it's looking to create a similar experience to the one Discord offers.

WhatsApp could be aiming for a similar experience where members from various groups who have a common interest are able to meet members from groups that they aren’t a part of. Although it is interesting to see these new features, we would have to wait and see how they would work in real-world usage.

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