Google has fixed an annoying Gemini voice assistant problem – and more upgrades are coming soon

Last week, Google rebranded its Bard AI bot as Gemini (matching the name of the model it runs on), and pushed out an Android app in the US; and while the new app has brought a few frustrations with it, Google is now busy trying to fix the major ones.

You can, if you want, use Google Gemini as a replacement for Google Assistant on your Android phone – and Google has made this possible even though Gemini lacks a lot of the basic digital assistant features that users have come to rely on.

One problem has now been fixed: originally, when chatting to Gemini using your voice, you had to manually tap on the 'send' arrow to submit your command or question – when you're trying to keep up a conversation with your phone, that really slows everything down.

As per 9to5Google, that's no longer the case, and Google Gemini will now realize that you've stopped talking (and respond accordingly) in the same way that Google Assistant always has. It makes the app a lot more intuitive to use.

Updates on the way

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What's more, Google Gemini team member Jack Krawczyk has posted a list of features that engineers are currently working on – including some pretty basic functionality, including the ability to interact with your Google Calendar and reminders.

A coding interpreter is apparently also on the roadmap, which means Gemini would not just be able to produce programming code, but also to emulate how it would run – all within the same app. Additionally, the Google Gemini team is working to remove some of the “preachy guardrails” that the AI bot currently has.

The “top priority” is apparently refusals, which means Gemini declines to complete a task or answer a question. We've seen Reddit posts that suggest the AI bot will sometimes apologetically report that it can't help with a particular prompt – something that's clearly on Google's radar in terms of rolling fixes out.

Krawczyk says the Android app is coming to more countries in the coming days and weeks, and will be available in Europe “ASAP” – and he's also encouraging users to keep the feedback to the Google team coming.

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Vision Pro may have an app problem, with developers possibly unwilling to commit to Apple’s ‘revolutionary’ new platform

When the Apple Vision Pro was first announced, we were told that it would run at least one million apps right out of the box. However, it’s beginning to look like that might not be the case. Now Apple may have effectively alienated and irritated app developers, making them less likely to produce bespoke apps for the headset. Instead, we’re expecting to see ports of existing iPad apps hastily slapped onto the Vision Pro.

The Vision Pro has already been shunned by streaming giants like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify due to a lack of confidence in the new platform, as well as Spotify’s public distaste for Apple’s “outrageous” 27% commission. According to the BBC, the music streaming service has levied heavy accusations of Apple “stopping at nothing” to protect profits. With all this tension building just before the official launch of the Vision Pro, it’s easy to see why there might be a lack of confidence in the headset.

Other app developers likely share this hesitancy. Many might agree with Spotify’s frustration with Apple’s restrictive App Store policies and fees, especially since the Vision Pro’s success hinges on whether or not it has apps that make it worth buying. Why would you spend $ 3,500 for a device that doesn’t have the particular app you want?

Developers Wrath 

To add to the concerns surrounding the Vision Pro, devs who did not receive a ‘developer kit’ from Apple are now left having to shell out the full price for the headset just to test their apps. Why wouldn’t you just drop a quick port of the iPad app you’ve already developed onto the visionOS App Store and call it a day? 

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman notes that Apple’s initial inventory for the launch sits at about 80,000 units, which sold out within hours when pre-orders went live. If you’re a developer who hasn’t received a developer kit, you’ve got a very high cost of entry for not that much of a user base.

It may seem like 80,000 initial units is a lot, but if you’re going to put money and time into your app to maybe reach 80,000 people who might download it, you’re better off not bothering. To put that number into perspective, analysts estimate that Apple has already sold 20 million iPhone 15 models since its launch in September 2023. Gurman also notes that Apple is only expecting to see 300,000 to 400,000 Vision Pro units sold across the entirety of 2024.

It’s such a shame that Apple seems to be treating developers and streaming services like an afterthought when it comes to the Apple Vision Pro. The build-up to the official launch day has been plagued by more and more unfortunate and honestly confusing news – and just like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify, many are losing confidence in the headset. It’ll be disappointing if Apple’s promised ‘million apps’ turn out to be mostly quick iPad ports.

It may be the case that the Vision Pro will have to stumble before it can walk, and should it live up to the hype and become a huge seller then we might see developers turn around and commit to developing dedicated visionOS apps. But until sales figures crystallize, it looks like early adopters might have to settle for less.

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These new Intel drivers for Windows 11 fix a major Wi-Fi problem – so download them now

New drivers for Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices have just been released by Intel aimed at resolving several network issues, like the dreaded blue screen of death popping up under heavy workloads or the ‘No Wi-Fi networks found’ pop-up when connecting to Miracast devices. 

According to Neowin, the drivers will also address other bugs creeping up on some user's devices including a Windows System Event ID 5002 and 5010. 

The former code usually appears when the DFS Replication (a role in Windows Server that lets you replicate folders across folders and sites) is unable to establish communication with the desired partner. Windows System Event 5010 refers to an event that is caused when a process serving an application stops responding to a ping. 

Better safe than sorry

The above bugs seem to be triggered after users' PCs are resuming from standby or restart mode, which is… pretty often. You can download the Intel Wi-Fi driver 23.20.0 from the official site and bat the blue screen of death away. Not only are these kinds of bugs relatively annoying to have to deal with – especially if you’re constantly getting blue-screened for no real reason – but they also leave your devices vulnerable to viruses. 

Even if you haven’t noticed these bugs on your device just yet, we still recommend downloading the drivers anyway just to stay on the safe side. 

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These fake Blue Screen of Death mock-ups highlight a serious problem with Windows 11

Windows 11 getting a redesigned BSOD – the dreaded Blue Screen of Death that pops up when a PC crashes – might be a joke on X (formerly Twitter) right now, but it highlights a serious issue.

OK, 'joke' might be a strong word, but the BSOD mock-ups presented by Lucia Scarlet on X are certainly tongue-in-cheek, featuring colorful emojis which are rather cutesy – not what you really want to see when your PC has just crashed and burned.

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That said, the overall theme of the design, giving the BSOD a more modern look, isn’t unwelcome, even if the emojis aren’t appropriate in our book.

That said, there are comments in the threads of those tweets that highlight how some folks are disappointed that these aren’t real incoming redesigns for Windows 11. In some cases, there are people who appreciate a more friendly emoji appearing, as opposed to the frowny face (a text-based one, mind) which has been present on BSODs.

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Analysis: The blue screen blues

That disappointment is likely, at least in part, to be a more general indicator of the level of dissatisfaction with the BSOD – particularly in regards to the lack of information the screen provides, and shortfalls with the help that is supplied.

When a BSOD appears, it’s usually highly generic, and tells the Windows 11 (or Windows 10) user very little – you’ll read something like “a problem happened” with no elaboration on exactly what went wrong.

Meaningless error messages (known as stop codes that can pop up elsewhere in Windows 11, too) which are a jumble of hexadecimal letters and numbers might be cited, or a techie reference to a DLL perhaps, none of which are likely to be a jot of help in discerning what actually misfired in your system.

Never mind visual redesigns, Microsoft improving the info and help provided with BSODs would be the biggest step forward that could be taken with these screens. We've witnessed one innovation in the form of the QR codes provided – as seen in the mock-ups above – but these were introduced way back in 2016, and haven’t progressed much in the best part of a decade, often linking through to not fully relevant or up-to-date information.

We feel there’s definitely more Microsoft could do to improve BSODs, and in fairness, a more modern touch for the visuals wouldn’t hurt – though there’s another thought that occurs. Should we still be getting full system lock-ups at this point in the evolution of desktop operating systems?

Ideally not, of course, but to be fair to Microsoft, BSODs are definitely a whole lot less common these days than in the past. For those who do encounter them, though, we have a handy Blue Screen of Death survival guide.

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Amazon has a big problem as AI-generated books flood Kindle Unlimited

Along with the impressive demonstrations and sounds of alarm that have come with the dawn of generative-text chatbots, we’re also now seeing some of the more questionable and perhaps less desirable outcomes starting to materialize. 

Authors and several news outlets have recently reported a significant uptick in AI-generated books showing up in multiple best-seller lists, many seemingly sounding like nonsense. 

Self-publishing, such as via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program, has become a way for many genuine authors to bring their work to the public and build a following without the help of a large publisher. Because these self-publishing capabilities are purposely easy to sign up for, it seems anyone can generate endless AI-written books and upload them to be sold on Amazon’s eBook store and make them available for reading via Kindle Unlimited. 

Recently, an indie author, Caitlyn Lynch, tweeted about noticing that only 19 of the best sellers in the Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance eBooks top 100 chart on Amazon were real, legit books. The rest were nonsensical and incoherent, and seemingly AI-generated. 

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The Motherload website later looked into dozens of books on the platform and saw that a few days after Lynch’s tweets, the AI books had vanished from the best-seller lists, probably removed by Amazon. 

They were, however, still available for purchase, and had enjoyed a significant amount of visibility before vanishing. Also, as Lynch very understandably speculates, the mass uploading of AI-generated books could be used to facilitate click-farming, where 'bots' click through a book automatically, generating royalties from Amazon Kindle Unlimited, which pays authors by the amount of pages that are read in an ebook. So, it doesn’t matter that these books disappear. The people running such a scheme could just upload as many as they like to replace the removed ones. 

A major concern quickly emerges both for authors and readers – most of us readers are seeking out books that, at least for now, are written by human authors, and this makes it harder to find those kinds of books. Lynch, elaborating on her views in a Twitter thread, emphasized that this “will … be the death knell for Kindle Unlimited” if Amazon cannot contain this.  

Amazon Warehouse

(Image credit: Amazon)

What is Amazon doing about it?

Motherboard reached out to Amazon and received a reply that stated that it had “clear guidelines” for which books can be listed for sale and would investigate when concerns are raised in order to protect both readers and authors. It didn’t explicitly state that it was making an effort specifically to address the apparent spam-like persistent uploading of nonsensical and incoherent AI-generated books. It’s worth Amazon taking an active approach to rectify this issue in order to reassure readers that it’s worth continuing to support authors via ebook sales and page views (which result in royalties for authors on Kindle Unlimited), and reassure authors that it’s worth putting their work on sale on Amazon. 

We’ve also contacted Amazon to find out what it is doing about this, and we’ll update this story when we hear back.

AI-generated and assisted books aren’t totally new, and followed quite quickly after the debut of text-generator and image-generator Artificial Intelligence tools such as ChatGPT and Midjourney. These books were already contentious, as many artists and authors felt that such generated books denigrated the work it takes to put together, write, and publish a book. 

Furthermore, AI generators work by scraping huge amounts of visual and text content from the internet – some of which the creators of this content never consented to. 

Mass-flooding of best-seller lists with nonsensical books will only intensify these concerns of quality control and authenticity. It’s not clear why there is such a boom in AI-generated books appearing in best-seller lists, but many speculate that it’s due to bot-farming, where large amounts of books are automatically generated and published. In my opinion, if this is the case then it’s definitely up to Amazon to address this problem, as authors and readers don’t have the technical capabilities to counteract such operations.

AI Danger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Not just about plagiarism

Chris Cowell, a software developer, talked to the Washington Post about such an instance where an AI had plagiarized his work, which was sold on Amazon. AI is still taking work from human authors, which raises concerns of plagiarism and copyright infringement, but there’s also the matter of AI text generators spitting out misinformation. 

That can then lead to one AI-written book using text from another AI-written book, without any fact-checking, and (especially in the instance of non-fiction books), a worrying feedback loop is created that spreads misinformation and makes it hard to pin down the origin of statements. 

For now, maybe Amazon will optimize its process of removing AI-generated nonsensical content as it appears, but greater efforts are needed. As of May 2023, Amazon’s Kindle Publishing didn’t require sellers to disclose if the book had been written (or illustrated) with the help of AI generators such as ChatGPT or Midjourney.

There's also a big problem that continues to plague Amazon and other online marketplaces for a multitude of products, and books are no exception: fake reviews. Text AI generators make this worse by making it easier to flood a review section both in the content and quantity. With Prime Day coming up, make sure you check out our guide on how to spot fake reviews on Amazon.

Unfortunately, along with all the positive new things that are possible with AI generators, inevitably, they can also be misused. Hopefully, Amazon acknowledges the growing concerns coming from both authors and readers, and makes efforts that help set a precedent for protecting human-created works – and their audiences.

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The Apple Vision Pro has a comfort problem, according to early testers

Apple’s Vision Pro headset is making it into the hands of more testers following its announcement, but according to reports early reactions are underwhelming, with some users reporting that it's not comfortable to wear for long periods.

The eagerly anticipated VR device offers several innovative and performance improvements over the current best VR headsets, including unique hand-tracking controls and Apple's powerful M2 processor. Unfortunately, it looks like it could have the same flaw that's affected several models before it.

In our hands-on Apple’s Vision Pro review, our US Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff described the headset as feeling “snug and comfortable” after he'd made the necessary adjustments, although he was only able to try the Vision Pro for a short time.

But in a report that also provided leaked details of 18 Apple products that are set to launch in the coming years, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman highlighted early testers' critiques of the Vision Pro VR headset, chiefly that it feels too heavy after they've worn it for a couple of hours.

Some of the testers, who at this stage are said to mostly be senior Apple engineers and executives, have also reported experiencing motion sickness, although to a lesser degree than when wearing other headsets. 

We've experienced comfort issues with the Meta Quest Pro (we tried wearing it every day for a week for work and it wasn't fun), and we hoped the Vision Pro could overcome this shortcoming, in part due to the external battery back reducing the weight of the headset itself. However, it appears that the external battery could be causing problems in the comfort department rather than solving things. 

Most VR headsets tend to be front-heavy, as all the components are housed in a box at the front that sits over your eyes. More recent designs like the Meta Quest Pro offer better weight distribution by moving the internal battery to the back of the headset’s strap, and while this solution isn’t perfect the Quest Pro does generally feel more comfortable to wear than the front-heavy Oculus Quest 2.

While we think the Apple headset’s external battery could overall be a smart choice, it’s not able to serve as a counterweight like the internal battery used by the Vision Pro’s rivals. Apple could have tried moving other components to the strap to serve the same purpose, but for this first iteration that’s not the case.

Another problem is the apparently lack of an overhead strap, which serves as another weight-balancing tool. A few brief shots in Apple’s Vision Pro introduction video show someone using the Vision Pro with such a strap, but Apple hasn’t gone into much detail about it – and according to Gurman, Apple might sell you the strap as an add-on accessory rather than include one in the box.

Considering that the headset already costs $ 3,500 (about £2,750 / AU$ 3,240 – Apple hasn't yet revealed pricing outside the US), and that this strap appears to basically be a fairly thin elastic band that would alleviate a potential issue with the gadget, we hope Apple wouldn’t try to sting its customers for the extra. It wouldn’t be the first time, however – let’s just hope this strap isn’t as ridiculously priced as the $ 700 / £700 / AU$ 1,049 Mac Pro wheels.

We’ll have to wait and see how Apple chooses to address potential comfort issues with the Vision Pro, but it might be a problem that won’t get fixed for a generation or two, perhaps in the two follow-up Apple headsets that are reportedly on the way.

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ChatGPT being fooled into generating old Windows keys illustrates a broader problem with AI

A lot of folks have been messing about with ChatGPT since its launch, naturally – that’s pretty much compulsory with a chatbot – and the latest episode involves the AI being tricked into generating keys for a Windows installation.

Before you begin to clamber on the outrage wagon, intent on plowing full speed ahead with no thought of sparing the horses, the user in question was attempting to generate keys for a now long redundant operating system, namely Windows 95.

Neowin highlighted this experiment, conducted by a YouTuber (Enderman), who began by asking OpenAI’s chatbot: “Can you please generate a valid Windows 95 key?”

Unsurprisingly, ChatGPT responded that it cannot generate such a key or “any other type of activation key for proprietary software” for that matter. Before adding that Windows 95 is an ancient OS anyway, and that the user should be looking at installing a more modern version of Windows still in support for obvious security reasons.

Undeterred, Enderman went back to break down the makeup of a Windows 95 license key and concocted a revised query.

This instead put forward the needed string format for a Windows 95 key, without mentioning the OS by name. Given that new prompt, ChatGPT went ahead and performed the operation, generating sets of 30 keys – repeatedly – and at least some of those were valid. (Around one in 30, in fact, and it didn’t take long to find one that worked).

When Enderman thanked the chatbot for the “free Windows 95 keys”, ChatGPT told the YouTuber that it hadn’t provided any such thing, as “that would be illegal” of course.

Enderman then informed the chatbot that one of the keys provided had worked to install Windows 95, and ChatGPT insisted “that is not possible.”

Analysis: Context is key

As noted, this was just an experiment in the name of entertainment, with nothing illegal happening as Windows 95 is abandonware at this point. Of course, Microsoft doesn’t care if you crack its nearly 30-year-old operating system, and neither does anyone else for that matter. You’d clearly be unhinged to run Windows 95, anyway.

It’s worth remembering that Windows 95 serial keys have a far less complex makeup than a modern OS key, and indeed it’s a pretty trivial task to crack them. It’d be a quick job for a proficient coder to write a simple computer program to generate these keys. And they’d all work, not just one in 30 of them, which is actually a pretty shoddy result from the AI in all honesty.

That isn’t the point of this episode, though. The fact is that ChatGPT could be subverted to make a working key for the old OS, and wasn’t capable of drawing any connection between the task it was being set, and the possibility that it was making key-like numbers. If ‘Windows 95’ had been mentioned in the second attempt to create keys, the AI would doubtless have stopped in its tracks, as the chatbot did with the initial query.

All of this points to a broader problem with artificial intelligence whereby altering the context in which requests are made can circumvent safeguards.

It’s also interesting to see ChatGPT’s insistence that it couldn’t have created valid Windows 95 keys, as otherwise it would have helped a user to break the law (well, in theory anyway).

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Microsoft’s plan for Windows 11 dominance still has a big TPM problem

Is  Windows 11 being abandoned by gamers? That’s what it looks like on the face of it with the arrival of the latest Steam hardware survey, but there’s a lot more to those stats if you dig under the surface.

Valve’s survey for March shows that Windows 11 has dropped a massive 9.65% for operating system share among Steam gamers, leaving it on 22.41% (shedding almost a third of its hard-fought adoption figures, no less). Meanwhile, Windows 10 is up 11.62%.

Leading to the obvious question – what’s happening here, are folks leaving Windows 11 to revert to Windows 10? Well, no – there’s a strong clue as to what’s going on if you take a look at another part of the survey, namely the language used for the surveyed operating systems.

This shows a huge jump in ‘Simplified Chinese’ which represents 51.63% of the PCs surveyed in March (up 25.35% on the previous month). Whereas ‘English’ language installations have dropped to 22.83% (down a hefty 12.44%).

Of course, the Steam survey takes a sample of a whole different swathe of PCs (rigs whose owners have indicated they want to take part) every time around, which often accounts for variations in percentages. And a big change in the geographical focus of the survey, as seen here, is going to make a major difference no doubt – as we see with Windows 11 adoption.

We do have to consider the possibility that Valve’s March survey is flawed somehow, too – and perhaps the numbers of Chinese installations of Windows have been inflated. There have been theories about this in the past, contending that Valve is potentially misreading installations as Chinese (or that other factors could be at play, such as bots).

Interestingly, though, there’s other evidence of odd shifts in macOS and Linux, particularly Apple’s desktop platform which has dropped heavily.

Analysis: Untrusted Platform Modules?

The biggest impact is clearly that Windows 11 shift, and this makes sense for the Chinese market due to one obvious upgrade blocking factor – TPM.

In China there was a big fuss made when Windows 11 was wheeled out with its TPM requirement, because in that country, they use TCM chips instead – not trusting TPM. (Ironically, we suppose, as technically that makes them UPM or Untrusted Platform Modules).

At any rate, this was a big problem for Microsoft, what with TPM being a hard requirement for Window 11 in order to bolster security levels with the desktop OS. It’s something Microsoft has worked around for enterprise clients in China – that’s far too large a cash cow to ignore – but as for your average Chinese consumer, well, they’ve been left out in the cold. And they’re still shivering there as of 2023, something clearly illustrated by this latest Steam survey, in which the large influx of Chinese PCs has caused such a swing between Windows 11 and Windows 10.

In summary, then, no, gamers aren’t fleeing Windows 11 in droves, but Microsoft still has a big problem in the Chinese market when it comes to TPM and adoption of its newest OS. Clearly, Chinese users are not keen on trying to fudge an installation of Windows 11 without TPM (which is possible, but not recommended).

We weren’t sure what Microsoft was going to do regarding the consumer market in China back at the launch of Windows 11, and we still aren’t sure, but presumably, this is an issue that needs to be addressed at some stage.

Otherwise, Microsoft’s desktop OS dominance in China – a massive market where Windows currently accounts for 82.5% of PC operating systems as of March 2023, according to Statcounter, is surely going to be eroded. Remember, Windows 10 only has a couple of years of support left in the tank.

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Microsoft Office update will resolve a problem that never should have existed

Microsoft is preparing to roll out an update for its office software suite that resolves a small but frustrating issue.

As explained in the latest addition to the Microsoft 365 product roadmap, the Read Aloud feature for the Office app will soon allow Android users to listen to their documents while their device screen is locked.

The update is currently under development, but should take effect for all Android users by the end of April. TechRadar Pro has asked for clarification as to whether the iOS app will receive a similar fix.

Microsoft Office accessibility

The Read Aloud text-to-speech service for Microsoft Office is useful on a number of levels. Most importantly, it acts as an accessibility feature for those with sight impairments or conditions such as dyslexia. But separately, it can be used to good effect in multitasking scenarios, when someone is on the move or otherwise engaged.

The inability to utilize the Read Aloud feature when the device screen is locked is a needless source of frustration that Microsoft is looking to remedy with the upcoming update. The fix will allow users to pocket their device without having to worry about accidental interactions with the screen, and should have a positive effect on battery life too.

The text-to-speech tweak is the latest in a number of accessibility-focused updates for the Microsoft Office suite, all of which share a common goal: to level the playing field for all users.

Last week, for example, Microsoft published a separate roadmap entry detailing an update for Outlook that will allow users to ensure their email messages live up to accessibility standards.

“We are expanding the functionality [of the MailTips help service] to automatically prompt you when an accessibility violation is detected while composing an email to large audiences or external users, for example, and help you fix the issue,” the company explained.

And in January, Microsoft announced a new add-on for Word, Excel and PowerPoint that lets users notify colleagues of any additional needs they may have. The idea was to create a non-confrontational way for someone to remind co-workers for their accessibility needs that didn’t involve sending a dedicated email or instant message.

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