WhatsApp now lets you use secret codes to lock your private chats

WhatsApp is making its Chat Lock tool even more secure by introducing Secret Codes that will hide private chat rooms.

The way it currently works, Chat Lock takes conversations and places them into a separate folder that can only be opened with either your phone’s password or biometric login. This can be helpful if you share the device with others. However, it doesn’t stop other people who know the password from taking a peek at any time. Secret Codes addresses this by allowing users to implement a second password separate “from what you use to unlock your phone”. Creating one, according to WhatsApp’s announcement, will cause your locked folder to disappear from your inbox as an extra layer of privacy.

To make hidden chats reappear, the company states you’ll have to type your recently created code directly into the search bar on the main page. If you don't wanted the locked folder to be totally, you have the option to keep them there. 

WhatsApp is also making it easier to lock up chats. Now all you have to do is long press a conversation, tap the three dots in the upper right-hand corner, then select Lock Chat in the drop-down menu.

How to add a secret code

Let’s say you have a couple of locked chats you want to keep hidden. 

To start, tap the three dots in the top right corner, then select Chat Lock Settings. Activate Secret Code and come up with a password. What’s interesting is you can use emojis in the code alongside numbers, letters, and punctuation marks and get pretty creative. Do note the password you create must either be four characters long or be a single emoji.

We have a couple of examples in the image below.

WhatsApp Secret Code examples

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

Now, if you go to the main page, the locked folder is gone (although you can disable the disappearing folder by turning off Hide Locked Chats in the settings). Type in the code you just made into the search bar to make the conversations reappear.

Finding locked chat on WhatsApp

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

Be aware this update is for WhatsApp on mobile only as the locked chats aren't present anywhere else. No word if any of these features will make their way to desktop. Secret Codes is rolling out and will be available globally “in the coming months”. Keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. 

Jam-packed week

This past week has been a busy one for WhatsApp as the platform recently made two other updates. We first saw the desktop app gain the ability to send “self-destructing photos and videos” which will automatically delete themselves after being opened once. A little bit before that, WhatsApp released a beta giving select users access to AI assistants with most of them sporting a unique “personality” like the anime nerd as well as the dungeon master that’ll tell you a choose-your-own-adventure story.

Big things are happening on WhatsApp with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. While we have you, we recommend following TechRadar’s official WhatsApp channel to get our latest reviews right on your phone.

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Secret trick installs Windows 11 without the bloatware – but Microsoft is looking to fix it

One of Windows 11’s most frustrating habits is filling your PC with apps and games you don’t want or use – but a new trick has been discovered that lets you install Windows 11 without all that junk.

As Windows Latest found, the trick is pretty easy to pull off – all you need to do is set your region to English (World) during the setup process.

Choosing this (or European English) in the ‘Time and currency format’ drop-down list during setup causes an issue where Windows 11’s setup services cannot communicate with Microsoft’s services, due to them using the en-001 and en-150 language codes.

This causes an “OOBEREGION” error message to appear. While that might seem a little scary (it even puts the error name in red, just for emphasis), you can select ‘Skip’ which will continue with the installation.

Even better, it means you’ll end up with a fresh Windows 11 installation with no annoying bloatware – just the basic, essential, apps.

Bloatware begone!

“Bloatware” is the less-than charitable name for apps and games that come pre-installed on your devices. If you’ve ever bought a PC or laptop from a major manufacturer, you’ll likely find that the first time you boot up Windows 11, there are a load of additional applications already installed, such as trials for anti-virus software.

While some pre-installed apps may be useful, for most people, these applications are never used, and simply take up space on your hard drive, slow down Windows when it boots, and can even throw up annoying pop-up notifications asking you to subscribe.

Sadly, in recent years, Microsoft has been getting in on the act as well, which means even if you build your own PC, or perform a clean install of Windows 11, there will still be unwanted apps included.

So, this rather useful trick is certainly welcome, as it’ll mean you’ll get a much cleaner experience, and your Start menu will only be filled with essential Windows apps, as well as any apps you install yourself.

This doesn’t stop third-party apps from your laptop manufacturer appearing, but if you want to perform a clean install from Microsoft’s own installation software (rather than from the software your PC/laptop manufacturer provides), then you’ll get a fresh bloatware-free version of Windows 11.

You’ll need to put your region back to your current location when done, to make sure everything works as normal.

Unfortunately, this workaround may not last forever, as Windows Latest reports that a Microsoft spokesperson told the website that the company was aware of it, and is looking into it.

That means Microsoft is likely to patch this out in an upcoming Windows 11 update. This is a shame, but not entirely surprising. Like manufacturers of the best laptops, Microsoft likely gets money from the makers of the apps and games it preinstalls, so it’ll want to make sure they get installed.

This workaround also exploits an issue with how Microsoft’s services struggle to handle some language codes, and the company will also be keen to fix that, especially if it could lead to other, less useful, side effects.

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Google says its secret AI weapon could eventually outsmart ChatGPT

Google’s DeepMind laboratory is currently developing a new AI system called Gemini with claims it’ll rival, if not surpass, ChatGPT, according to a report from Wired.

In order to surpass ChatGPT, the developers plan on integrating an old “artificial intelligence program called AlphaGo” into the upcoming language learning model (LLM). What’s special about AlphaGo is it's “based on a technique” known as reinforcement learning where the software tackles tough problems through sheer trial and error. As it makes “repeated attempts”, the AI takes feedback it receives from each failure to improve its performance. DeepMind seeks to outfit Google’s future LLM with the ability to plan, or at the very least, solve complex problems.

If you combine that with a generative AI’s ability to grab information from the internet and then reformat it into natural-sounding text, Gemini has the potential to be more intelligent than any other artificial intelligence in the world. At least, that’s the idea. DeepMind co-founder and CEO Demis Hassabis claims that “if done correctly, [Gemini] will be the most beneficial technology for humanity ever”. Bold words.

The AI is deep in development at the moment – “a process that will take a number of months”, according to Hassabis. It will also cost Google a ton of money as the project price tag ranges from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. For the sake of comparison, ChatGPT cost over $ 100 million to make. 

Analysis: Too good to be true?

Gemini certainly sounds interesting, but at this stage, we’ll remain skeptical. Our chief concern is with AlphaGo itself.

If you don’t know, AlphaGo first came to prominence back in 2016 when it defeated a champion player at the board game Go which is notorious for being incredibly complex and difficult despite its apparent simplicity. The AI was able to win because of the reinforcement learning technique mentioned earlier as it was able to “explore and remember [all] possible moves”. 

As interesting as that is, how does AlphaGo being good at a board game also make it good at solving complex problems or generating content? One set of skills for a specific scenario doesn’t mean it'll all translate well into another field. Plus, is it a good idea to have a generative AI trial and error its way to an answer? AI hallucinations are already a problem. AlphaGo can help Gemini improve faster; we just hope the growing pains aren't made public.

Secondly, Hassabis’ statement of development taking mere months is concerning. When ChatGPT rose to prominence back in early 2023, Google quickly pumped out its own AI-powered chatbot Bard, a move that drew a lot of criticism from employees. Some labeled Bard as “a pathological liar” due to its sheer amount of misinformation. It was even referred to as “worse than useless.” Perhaps it would be a good idea for Google or DeepMind to extend the development cycle from months to years. Train Gemini for a while longer. After all, what’s the rush?

In the meantime, check out TechRadar's recently updated list of the best AI writer for 2023. 

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Microsoft Edge could be the secret weapon to boost your PC performance

Boosting your PC performance could get a welcome hand from Microsoft Edge, which is getting a new tool to help spot issues that could slow down your machine.

The new Performance Detector feature will help browser users debug performance issues caused by common problems such as running multiple windows or tabs.

These activities can lead to your device running slower, affecting battery life and user experience, but Microsoft says its new tool could spell an end to such worries.

Microsoft Edge Performance Detector

Performance Detector will be able to see any issues caused by unnecessary tabs or the use of extensions that may be hogging bandwidth.

When switched on, the tool will be able to monitor how Edge is running, and if it detects  any issues, can recommend actions or fixes. This will most likely be through pop-up alerts or notifications, but Microsoft has yet to confirm the exact details.

The feature is currently available to testers in the Microsoft Edge Canary scheme, meaning it should receive a wider public launch soon – although there's no concrete information on this just yet.

The tool will run alongside the existing Microsoft Edge efficiency mode, which looks to help users extend their battery life by minimizing how much power and system resources the browser uses.

This is done through a number of features, including setting background tabs into sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity, and also fade sleeping tabs in order to save memory and CPU usage.

Microsoft says that engaging efficiency mode will help not only improve battery life on your device, but also allow whatever version of Windows you may be using to perform more effectively – although this will depend on exactly what device you are using.

Efficiency mode has also emerged in Windows Task Manager, where users can employ it to push the application in question down the priority list when it comes to system resource allocation, helping boost performance and battery life.

Via Windows Latest

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TikTok secret algorithm is a big ‘Duh!’

TikTok’s powerful algorithm steering the social media activity of millions of daily users is no longer a mystery.

In a new New York Times report that outlines information gleaned from what’s been verified as an official document, TikTok’s algorithm is laid bare. Wait for it: It prioritizes retention and time spent, and is insanely obvious.

Boiled down to its essence, the TikTok algorithm looks for video likes, comments, and how much of the video you watch (a fully watched video is obviously worth more than one you stop or scroll past before it’s complete).

The system understands, based on tags and other details, what each video is about. If you like a certain kind of video and watch it all the way through, or even pause it repeatedly and then still complete playing it, those are positive signals for the algorithm.

Since TikTok’s goal is to bring you back to the platform as often as possible, and retain your attention once you’re there, the algorithm will then feed you more of the kind of videos you’ve indicated that you like/prefer through the TikTok algorithm

It’s an addictive, virtuous circle, right?

Videos that string together a story – and get you to watch all of them – can supercharge the influence of that topic in the algorithm to give you more of that kind of meaty content.

A path to content addiction

When I started watching TikTok videos a few years ago, virtually all of them were 15 seconds or less. My feed was full of magic tricks, DIY, and people doing dances. None of this, even back then, was random. I was interested in learning new magic tricks (I’ve been an amateur magician almost all my life), I love home hacks, and couldn’t get enough of the dances because I appreciated the skill, and wondered how people of all ages (including mine!) had the skill and energy to learn and do them. What I watched fed all the videos I saw. To this day, my youngest child often comments that I see a very different TikTok than they do.

Nowadays, I watch longer, storytelling videos, like those from Elise Meyers, whom I stumbled on a few months ago when she told this lengthy and hilarious tale about a blind date who picked her up, drove them to Taco Bell, and then bought 100 tacos.

She’s a brilliant storyteller. I know this because now I’ve consumed dozens of her videos thanks to the algorithm, which is feeding me more and more of them (along with other long-form story-telling videos).

These three-minute TikToks are obviously a boon for TikTok’s core goal of collecting and retaining more users. Time spent as a metric isn't unique to TikTok. Anyone who runs a content website knows the value of more time (and pages) consumed, which usually translates into more served ads.

Down the rabbit hole

What’s notable, though, is that TikTok’s algorithm still allows for discovery. Yes, there’s a lot of showing you more of what you clearly like or want (to the possible detriment of those who may be in a dark place and are gravitating to depressing/angry/harmful videos).

On the other hand, TikTok retains a bit of serendipity. Every once in a while, I see a video that has nothing to do with my likes or interests (at least as I express them on TikTok), but I get hooked. That’s how Elise Meyers happened. These random videos are usually a product of extreme popularity elsewhere on TikTok, which then drives that content into your feed, for you to feed the algorithm with fresh attention info.

The downside of this fairly simple algorithm is that it can appear to get stuck. Suddenly, I have five or six Elise Meyers in one feed session, and even I can’t slog through that many minutes of her crazy stories. I usually take a break and then come back to them.

I’ve also found that, once you understand the TikTok algorithm, you can untrain and retrain it. If I find too much of one kind of video in my feed. I do some hashtag searches and then rabbit-hole down a few fresh topics.

This usually works until I gravitate back to my old haunts (magic, DIY, FX, Elise Meyers) – and then I’m back to where I started.

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