Pour one out for MSN Messenger, Zune, and more: Microsoft Graveyard gives a salute to the tech giants’ retired creations

Microsoft is an old (in tech terms, at least) company – and a very successful one at that, but not every product it makes is a success.

For every Windows 7, there's a Games for Windows Live. Every Microsoft Office, there's a Clippy.

To help people reminisce and revisit memories of Microsoft products gone by, a group of developers and tech enthusiasts has made an open-source site named Microsoft Graveyard

If that rings a bell, that’s probably because you may have come across Killed by Google, a similar website made by Cody Ogden, another developer and tech enthusiast, but for deprecated and discontinued Google products. Ogden made an analogous website for Microsoft products named Killed by Microsoft, and that heavily inspired the creation of the Microsoft Graveyard. 

Welcome to the (unofficial) Microsoft Graveyard

At Microsoft Graveyard, you can peruse the various products, services, apps, and other creations that Microsoft has launched and ended up ditching – both software and hardware. 

There’s plenty to reflect upon, as many people who have been using computing or mobile products for any portion of their lives have probably come across at least a couple of these. I know I have, and there’s also lots to learn about many of Microsoft’s attempts at innovation through the years (Microsoft Graveyard’s entries are in chronological order). 

The unofficial archive of discontinued Microsoft products was made by Victor Frye and a community of Microsoft enthusiasts, launching last week. The group calls the website “a passion project built because we have lovingly used many of these products before their untimely death.” You can read about products like MSN Messenger, Kinect, and many more. MSN Messenger (also known as Live Messenger) was a cross-platform instant messaging (IM) program used by many kids who grew up at the early stages of the internet as we now know it, and Kinect was a motion sensing gaming controller that was killed off just last year.

Go down memory lane for yourself to read about things like Windows Phone, Zune, the recently “deceased” Cortana, Clippy, and many more. Each entry is headed up with the name of the product, which links to a page where you can find more detail about it (sometimes a Wikipedia page). That followed the product’s lifespan and a paragraph description of the product. 

Clippy

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Go and see it for yourself, maybe even get involved

When you visit the website, you might notice that the first handful of entries are dated into the future and the icons are coffins instead of gravestones. That’s to indicate the Microsoft products that will be joining the rest of the discontinued “dead” products on the list in the near future. This includes products like Windows 10 (which still sees minor tweaks and updates), the Xbox 360 Store, and others. 

If you’re intrigued, I’d urge you to check out Microsoft Graveyard for yourself. As it’s an open-source project on GitHub, you can actually join the fun of compiling, contributing to, and maintaining the website. You can also follow the project’s ongoing development and updates on Threads

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Beeper Mini gives Android users a way to talk to iMessage on iOS right now

In November, Apple announced it will finally support the RCS messaging standard allowing Android devices and iPhones to communicate on a potentially more level playing field. The update won’t arrive until early 2024, but luckily there is a third-party solution that you can download today called Beeper Mini.

The app gives Android users the ability to send end-to-end encrypted texts to an iPhone using Apple’s very own iMessage protocol. This means both parties will see all messages in blue bubbles instead of forcing Android hardware to green bubbles. You don’t need an Apple ID to use the service. Even if you had one, the developer Beeper says it doesn't have access to your Apple account. Users will, however, need to give Beeper Mini permission to access their phone’s SMS and Call Logs to verify the number as well as sync to pre-existing conversations to convert them into proper iMessage chats.

Beeper Mini on Android

(Image credit: Beeper Mini)

Looking at the official Google Play Store listing, you’ll find Beeper Mini has a multitude of iMessage features. You'll be able to send full-sized photographs and videos to others as well as react to their content with an emoji. The app also allows you to join previously inaccessible iPhone-only group chats. Plus, the software offers a way to sync iMessages across other “Android or iOS devices, including” iPads.

Other notable features include typing status, read receipts, unsending, and more. Beeper Mini is available for download now. You will need to pay $ 1.99 to use the service although the developer is offering a seven-day free trial to start.

How it works

You may be wondering how is this even possible. It’s complicated to say the least.

The way it works, according to an official blog post, is that an SMS text is sent from an Android number to Apple’s “Gateway service.” The gateway then responds with its own message and sends the initial text to Apple servers registering it as an iPhone. This process was made possible by security researcher and reported high school student JJTech who reportedly managed to “reverse engineer” iMessage’s protocol. Beeper took JJTech’s work (presumably with their permission) and then implemented it in their app.

The developer also created the Beeper Push Notification service, or BPNs for short, to maintain a constant connection to Apple servers and to tell you of any new texts.

That’s the gist of how it works. If you want more details, we highly recommend reading Beeper’s post along with JJTech’s iMessage breakdown to get the full picture. 

Analysis: Potential trouble

Now you may be wondering, is Apple okay with this? It's tough to say. Things are a little weird right now.

Eric Migicovsky, CEO of Beeper, told TechCrunch a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act states that “reverse engineering for the purposes of interoperability is protected”, implying that the law protects them from litigation. 

This hasn’t stopped Apple from suing other companies using their services. However, now we have the Digital Markets Act which forces tech corporations to support interoperability for their messaging platforms. What’s more, the US DOJ (Department of Justice) has been going after titans in the industry over alleged antitrust violations. Right now, it’s going after Google.

Apple might let Beeper Mini slide on by to stay in the good graces of the DOJ. But it’s hard to say for sure. We’re in uncharted territory here. Apple could, at any time, strike down the app with the force of a thousand suns. It’ll be interesting to see how this situation plays out.

Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best Android phones for 2023.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

New Apple Vision Pro video gives us a taste of escaping to its virtual worlds

The promise of Apple’s Vision Pro headset – or any of the best virtual reality headsets, for that matter – is that it can transport you to another world, at least for a while. Now, we’ve just gained a preview of how Apple’s device will do this in a whole new way.

That’s because the M1Astra account on X (formerly known as Twitter) has begun posting videos showing the Vision Pro’s Yosemite Environment in action, complete with sparkling snow drifts, imposing mountains and beautiful clear blue skies.

It looks like a gorgeous way to relax and shut out the world around you. You’ll be able to focus on the calm and tranquillity of one of the world’s most famous national parks, taking in the majestic surroundings as you move and tilt your head.

This is far from the only location that comes as part of the Vision Pro’s Environments feature – users will be able to experience environs from a sun-dappled beach and a crisp autumnal scene to the dusty plains of the Moon in outer space.

Immersive environments

See more

The Environments feature is designed to be a way for you to not only tune out the real world, but to add a level of calmness and focus to your workstation. That’s because the scenes they depict can be used as backgrounds for a large virtual movie screen, or as a backdrop to your apps, video calls and more.

But as shown in one video posted by M1Astra, you'll also be able to walk around in the environment. As the poster strolled through the area, sun glistened off the snow and clouds trailed across the sky, adding life and movement to the virtual world.

To activate an environment, you’ll just need to turn the Vision Pro’s Digital Crown. This toggles what you see between passthrough augmented reality and immersive virtual reality. That sounds like it should be quick and easy, but we’ll know more when we get to test out the device after it launches.

Speaking of which, Apple’s Vision Pro is still months away from hitting store shelves (the latest estimates are for a March 2024 release date), which means there’s plenty of time for more information about the Environments feature to leak out. What’s clear already, though, is that it could be a great thing to try once the headset is out in the wild.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Bing Chat is acting like a sulky teenager, refusing to do its homework and throwing tantrums – what gives?

The last few weeks have brought some trouble for Microsoft’s flagship chatbot, Bing Chat, powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4 tech. People who have made use of Microsoft Edge’s ‘Compose’ box, which has Bing Chat integrated into it, have reported that it’s been less helpful in answering questions or falling short when asked to assist with queries.

Windows Latest investigated these claims and found an increase in the following response: “I’m sorry, but I prefer not to continue this conversation. I’m still learning, so I appreciate your understanding and patience.” 

When Mayank Parmar of Windows Latest told Bing that “Bard is better than you,” Bing Chat seemingly picked up on the adversarial tone and quickly brought the conversation to an end. 

After Bing Chat closed off the conversation, it provided three response suggestions: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you”, “Why don’t you want to continue?” and “What can you do for me?” Because these were provided after Bing Chat ended the conversation, they couldn’t be clicked.

What's Microsoft got to say about it?

You may find this behavior to be like I did – whimsical and funny, but a little concerning. Windows Latest contacted Microsoft to see if it could provide some insight on this behavior from Bing Chat. Microsoft replied by stating that it is making an active effort to observe feedback closely and address any concerns that come up. It also emphasized that Bing Chat is still in an ongoing preview stage and has plenty of development to go.

A Microsoft spokesperson told Parmar over email: “We actively monitor user feedback and reported concerns, and as we get more insights… we will be able to apply those learnings to further improve the experience over time.” 

Asking Bing Chat to write 

When looking at Reddit posts on the subject, Windows Latest discovered a user in one comment thread describing how they bumped up against a similar problem when using the “Compose” tool of Bing Chat, which is now integrated into the Edge browser. This tool allows users to try different tone, format, and length options for Bing’s generated responses.

In Windows Latest’s demo, the Compose tool also refused a request to simply write a tongue twister, and then started spouting excuses about humor being subjective and not wanting to generate harmful content. Puzzling. 

Another Reddit user asked Bing Chat to proofread an email in a language not native to them. Bing responded a bit like an angry teenager by telling the user to “figure it out” and gave them a list of alternative tools. The user then finally got Bing to do what they asked after they downvoted Bing’s responses and multiple follow up attempts.

One theory that’s emerged to explain this odd behavior is that Microsoft is actively tweaking Bing Chat behind the scenes and that’s manifesting in real time. 

A third reddit user observed that “It’s hard to fathom this behavior. At its core… AI is simply a tool. Whether you create a tongue-twister or decide to publish or delete content, the onus falls on you.” They continued that it’s hard to understand why Bing Chat is making seemingly subjective calls like this, and that it could make other users confused about the nature of what the tool is supposed to do. 

I tried it for myself. First in the Chat feature, I asked it for a maxim for the day that I could use as a mantra, which Bing obliged. It returned, “Here’s a maxim for you: ‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do.’ – Steve Jobs.” Checks out. 

Bing Chat replying to a request to provide a maxim for the day.

(Image credit: Future)

Next, I tried asking for a draft of an email to join my local garden club in an enthusiastic tone in the Compose feature. Again, Bing helped me out.  

Image 1 of 2

User asking Microsoft's Bing Chat to write a letter requesting to join the local gardening club.

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 2

Bing Chat's Compose feature writing a letter to join the local gardening club for the user.

(Image credit: Future)

As far as I can tell, Bing Chat and its AI are working as intended, but Windows Latest did provide screenshots of their trials as well. It’s intriguing behavior and I see why Microsoft would be keen to remedy things as quickly as possible. 

Text generation is Bing Chat’s primary function and if it straight up refuses to do that, or starts to be unhelpful to users, it sort of diminishes the point of the tool. Hopefully, things are on the mend for Bing Chat and users will find that their experience has improved. Rooting for you, Bing.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Windows 11 Copilot leak gives us a glimpse of the AI assistant in action

We know Windows 11 is set to get Microsoft’s Copilot built in, and we’ve just caught a glimpse of the AI assistant feature (well, actually, a couple of sightings, and we’ll come back to the other one later).

In case you missed it (unlikely, admittedly), Copilot is the Bing Chat-powered integrated AI that pops up in a side panel to help in Windows 11, and Windows Latest managed to get a peek at an early version (add your own seasoning, and plenty of it, as with any leak).

There’s a big caveat here, namely that the pre-release version of Copilot shown (in a very brief clip) isn’t fully functional by any means.

Still, it gives you a flavor of how the Windows 11 helper – an assistant with a much, much grander vision than Cortana – will perform, and what it can do.

Windows 11 Copilot Pre-release Version

(Image credit: Windows Latest)

We see the user instructing Copilot to turn on Dark Mode (which, ahem, it fails to do – as noted, this isn’t a proper working version), and a response to a food-based question (the queries work in much the same way as with the Bing chatbot already, and the three core personalities for replies are in here, too).

We don’t see much here, and nothing of the really cool tricks that Copilot will eventually be able to do (such as turning on multiple features in one fell swoop to help with a certain aim like ‘being more productive’, or summarizing content to go in an email, right there in the app, in-line).

However, Windows Latest does observe that Microsoft will use in-house plug-ins to customize the Bing Chat experience in Windows 11, and that Copilot will utilize a system of “action cards” to detect how you are using the OS, and offer up intelligent suggestions based on that.


Analysis: Where art thou, Copilot?

Okay, so while this glimpse of Microsoft’s AI is still very much early work, and not very exciting, it’s a useful hint that Copilot is ticking along progress-wise. Because we’ve not heard anything from Microsoft since the initial announcement of the AI, when we were told that it’d be in testing in June.

Now, June is almost over, and it seems unlikely that a preview build is going to show up later this week with a functional Copilot doing its query answering and settings manipulating stuff.

That said, we’ve caught not only this sighting of Copilot from Windows Latest, but there was another one at the weekend. That was provided by regular Twitter-based leaker Albacore, who pointed out that recent Windows 11 preview builds in the Dev channel have a Windows Copilot button (hidden – and when enabled, it doesn’t do anything, mind).

That’s another hint that things are coming into place for Copilot’s release to be tested in preview. However, we’ve got a feeling this will take a lot of internal testing before it gets to Windows Insiders, somehow. As the blurb in the Copilot side panel observes, it’s AI-powered, and “surprises and mistakes are possible”.

When it comes to a Bing chatbot query, a mistake is embarrassing enough, but with an AI embedded right into the heart of Windows 11, Microsoft is going to need to take a lot more care to avoid any potential blunders – even in testing.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft gives one of its oldest apps dark mode in Windows 11

Microsoft is further improving the Paint app in Windows 11, with new changes coming through in testing including a dark mode.

The new version of Paint (11.2304.17.0) is rolling out to testers in both Canary and Dev channels (and the latter just got a new preview of Windows 11, as you may have seen, with a nifty change allowing for viewing smartphone photos on the desktop).

As mentioned, one of the big tweaks for Paint here is the addition of a dark mode, and the app will automatically use it if you’ve turned on dark mode in Windows 11’s settings. (Note that you can turn off the option to automatically switch, mind).

Microsoft Paint Dark Mode

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Another useful change comes with zoom controls. Microsoft has given users a higher level of fine-tuning with the zoom slider, and you can set a custom zoom value if needed. On top of this, a ‘fit to screen’ option is now present which will do just that – zoom to match the size of the app window.

In the blog post describing all the changes, Microsoft further tells us that it has overhauled ‘Image Property’ dialog boxes to match Windows 11’s modern design, and fit with the new backdrop for the Paint client.

Finally, we’re informed that there have been “many accessibility and usability improvements” to dialog panels throughout the app, with better access key support (keyboard presses for interface controls, rather than having to use a mouse) and keyboard shortcuts in general.


Analysis: Could bigger changes be in the pipeline?

Accessibility has been a major focus for Microsoft with Windows 11 for some time now, and again and again, we’re seeing either small tweaks or larger feature introductions coming through for the OS. Good stuff.

The dark mode looks smart and is another piece of the puzzle for those wanting this option throughout Windows 11, wherever they’re working.

Paint remains a popular app, so it’s not surprising to see Microsoft continuing to improve the software. Folks want more though (don’t they always), and we’re still seeing calls for layers to be introduced to the app.

If you remember, the addition of layers is something we’ve seen (in the early stages) from the modding community, and recently an innovative Paint hack brought in the ability to create simple animations.

Maybe – just maybe – those are features we might see Microsoft officially working on in the future. Who knows, stranger things have happened, and the software giant certainly appears keen to keep on motoring ahead with Paint improvements.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Windows 11 update gives Paint another brush-up for its menus

Microsoft continues to refine one of its oldest apps in an upcoming Windows 11 update, with Paint seeing more improvements in its design for picking colors, resizing objects, and more.

While Microsoft's recent update brought emojis to Notepad and the return of Windows Media Player, Paint had previously seen a refreshed design to match the overall look of Windows 11, but a dark mode is nowhere to be seen for now.

With Sun Valley 2, the first major update scheduled to come in the second half of 2022, we may see further improvements to Paint to help quickly repair or resize photos to send over WhatsApp.

But these latest changes make us wonder what could be next for Paint, or another app that's yet to receive a similar refresh.


Analysis: Can Maps be next to see a refresh?

Paint refreshed design in Windows 11

(Image credit: Windows Latest)

Now that Paint is about to see more of its context menus get a modern refresh to match its previous updates, a future update of Windows 11 looks to unify more of its older apps with its new ones soon.

With Paint, Snipping Tool, and Notepad all receiving refreshes in their design to match Windows 11, there have also been some apps that have seen a change of name.

Command Prompt recently changed to Terminal, while Groove Music also changed to Windows Media Player.

But there are still other apps that would benefit from a refresh. Maps is a good example, with a design that looks confused, almost Frankenstein-ish that resembles Windows 8, Windows 10, and parts of Windows 11 all in one interface.

Maps app in Windows 11

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The maps displayed in the app are all in low-resolution, so if you're using a PC with a 4K monitor for example, expect to see crooked lines all across your route.

The windows for choosing a route also mimic the look of Windows 8, so if Microsoft is looking at other apps to refresh, Maps is a great candidate, especially when you look at how good the Maps app is in macOS 12 Monterey.

But regardless, it's encouraging to see the company constantly refine and improve its older apps for a new Windows release, and with Paint looking more like an app for 2022, hopefully we'll see Maps see the same kind of attention soon.

Via Windows Latest

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Windows 11 update gives Paint another brush-up for its menus

Microsoft continues to refine one of its oldest apps in an upcoming Windows 11 update, with Paint seeing more improvements in its design for picking colors, resizing objects, and more.

While Microsoft's recent update brought emojis to Notepad and the return of Windows Media Player, Paint had previously seen a refreshed design to match the overall look of Windows 11, but a dark mode is nowhere to be seen for now.

With Sun Valley 2, the first major update scheduled to come in the second half of 2022, we may see further improvements to Paint to help quickly repair or resize photos to send over WhatsApp.

But these latest changes make us wonder what could be next for Paint, or another app that's yet to receive a similar refresh.


Analysis: Can Maps be next to see a refresh?

Paint refreshed design in Windows 11

(Image credit: Windows Latest)

Now that Paint is about to see more of its context menus get a modern refresh to match its previous updates, a future update of Windows 11 looks to unify more of its older apps with its new ones soon.

With Paint, Snipping Tool, and Notepad all receiving refreshes in their design to match Windows 11, there have also been some apps that have seen a change of name.

Command Prompt recently changed to Terminal, while Groove Music also changed to Windows Media Player.

But there are still other apps that would benefit from a refresh. Maps is a good example, with a design that looks confused, almost Frankenstein-ish that resembles Windows 8, Windows 10, and parts of Windows 11 all in one interface.

Maps app in Windows 11

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The maps displayed in the app are all in low-resolution, so if you're using a PC with a 4K monitor for example, expect to see crooked lines all across your route.

The windows for choosing a route also mimic the look of Windows 8, so if Microsoft is looking at other apps to refresh, Maps is a great candidate, especially when you look at how good the Maps app is in macOS 12 Monterey.

But regardless, it's encouraging to see the company constantly refine and improve its older apps for a new Windows release, and with Paint looking more like an app for 2022, hopefully we'll see Maps see the same kind of attention soon.

Via Windows Latest

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

This Google Calendar update gives your co-workers nowhere to hide

Tracking down your office team mates and other colleagues should soon be easier thanks to a new update to Google Calendar.

The calendar app for Google Workspace is now able to show a range of status options in Google Chat, giving you extra information on what you or your co-workers are up to.

Previously limited to just showing when someone was out of office, Google Chat is now able to show a number of different statuses, including “in a meeting” or “in focus time”.

Google Calendar statuses

“We hope by surfacing these additional statuses, this will make it easier for your colleagues to identify appropriate times to message you,” the company wrote in its Google Workspace update blog post announcing the change.

Google Chat calendar statuses

(Image credit: Google Workspace)

Admins will also be able to configure specific options for displaying the new status, with the ability to toggle on and off – or completely disable it.

The feature, which will be on by default, has started rolling out now across Android, iOS and web users. It will be available to all Google Workspace customers, as well as G Suite Basic and Business customers. However, it won't be an option for Google Workspace Individual users or those with personal Google accounts.

The news is the latest update to Google Calendar as the company looks to help employees embracing hybrid working that are splitting their time between the office and home.

Recently, it revealed a tool that means Gmail users will now be able to specify whether they will be attending a meeting either virtually or in-person in their email RSVP.

As mentioned above, Google Calendar also recently launched “Focus time”, where users can block out periods of time where they can avoid meetings and get their heads down for actual work.

Setting such a marker in your Google Calendar will also allow users to automatically decline meetings, meaning no last-minute rush to finish off work.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

WhatsApp gives us a glimpse at Android-to-iOS chat migration

WhatsApp is not only one of the most popular chat apps on the market, it is also one of the fastest evolving. It's long been known that WhatsApp's beta program has given us an enticing glimpse into the future, revealing some of what's to come, and this is once again the case with the latest preview of the iOS version of the chat app.

The most recent preview shows that WhatsApp is going to make life a little easier for anyone moving from an Android phone to an iPhone. We have already seen chat migration enabled for people making the switch away from iOS, but now the focus is on users moving in the opposite direction.

In WhatsApp beta for iOS version 22.2.74, we are given a sneak preview of what the chat migration to the iOS process will look like. We have already seen some evidence of this in the beta version of the Android app, but now we know a bit more about how things are panning on the iPhone side of things.

It seems that the migration process will not be handled entirely by the main WhatsApp app itself, but will instead require the use of a Move to iOS app as well. Screenshots from the latest iOS app beta give us a clear indication of the look and feel of the Importing Chat History process.

Permission, please

WhatsApp chat migration

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

As you would expect, you need to grant permission for WhatsApp to access your chat history in order to start the migration process. Interestingly, and perhaps slightly worryingly, it seems that the offer to import chat history is a one-time offer. An on-screen message informs users that “You will not be able to import later if you skip this step”.

At this stage, we have no further information about when WhatsApp is planning to start the rollout of this feature to everyone. We also don't know anything about the versions of iOS and Android that will be supported, but more details are certain to spring up over the coming weeks and months.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More