Microsoft has yanked Windows 11 24H2 update from testing – is this a bad sign?

Windows 11 24H2 has apparently been pulled back from testing for the time being, with Microsoft hitting the pause button presumably due to issues with the major update due to land later this year.

If you recall, the 24H2 update was sent out to the Release Preview channel back on May 22, but Windows Latest noticed that on a PC in that testing channel, the update was no longer being offered.

After further investigation into why that might be, the tech site stumbled across an update (from the end of last week) to the original blog post introducing the preview build, where Microsoft states: “We are temporarily pausing the rollout of Windows 11, version 24H2 to the Release Preview Channel. We will resume the rollout in the coming weeks.”

That’s all Microsoft has said on the matter, leaving the question of why the update has been yanked open to debate. Well, we say that, but there’s a fairly obvious reason you can discern from examining the posts in Microsoft’s Feedback Hub about the 24H2 update, and it’s seemingly had quite a few problems.

Windows Latest observes that there’s a notable bug with a ‘RunDLL’ error box that keeps popping up annoying testers, and much more in terms of general stability issues, with apps and games freezing, stuttering, or crashing. Nasty.

Analysis: Time to fret about a delay? We don’t think so

This all sounds a bit worrying, and might make you wonder whether the Windows 11 24H2 update might even be delayed – if there are gremlins crawling around the inner workings serious enough to get the upgrade pulled from testing for the time being. Microsoft’s timeframe of the “coming weeks” for the return of the final test version (Release Preview) of 24H2 doesn’t sound too comforting either – hinting at a lengthier pause, perhaps.

Then again, we shouldn’t read too much into that statement – it’s standard language commonly used in these kinds of situations. Also, remember that the 24H2 update is still a good way off. It’s not expected to arrive until September 2024 or October, or thereabouts, so there’s still a lot of time to iron out any issues.

Rather than expecting that things are delayed, what’s more likely the case here is Microsoft was a bit too early in deploying Windows 11 24H2 to Release Preview. After all, we were a bit surprised when it emerged last month, and Microsoft did note that it was a very limited rollout initially (in an update to the blog post at the end of May). In other words, the company was being cautious here, and we can see why now.

Granted, there is a slight concern due to the issues present sounding pretty bad here, but for now, this feels like a misstep with an early release, rather than the alarm bells sounding for Windows 11 24H2 not being ready for its roughly rumored launch timeframe later this year.

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Microsoft improves File Explorer in Windows 11 testing, but appears to have second thoughts about some Copilot ideas

Windows 11 just received a new preview build and it makes a number of important changes to the central pillar of the operating system’s interface, File Explorer – and there’s an interesting announcement about Copilot here, too.

As you may be aware, File Explorer is what you’re using when opening folders on your desktop, and Windows 11 got web browser-style tabs in these folders courtesy of the first major update for the OS (at the end of 2022).

In the new build 22635 in the Beta channel, Microsoft has introduced the ability to easily duplicate a tab in File Explorer.

All you need to do is right-click on an existing tab, and there’s a new option to duplicate it – click that and a second copy of the tab will be opened. It’s a neat shortcut if you want to dive deeper into other folders inside a particular folder, while keeping that original folder open.

On top of this, the preview build ushers in multiple fixes for this part of the interface, including the solution for a memory leak when working with ZIP folders in a File Explorer window. A fix has also been implemented for an issue which means the spacing between icons in File Explorer becomes very wide.

There’s also a cure for a bug where a search wouldn’t work the first time you tried it, and it’d return no results. Microsoft also notes that it: “Fixed a few issues impacting File Explorer reliability.”

There’s not much else happening in build 22635 – check out the blog post for the full list of other tweaks – but Microsoft has taken a notable step back with Copilot.

The company notes that over the past few months in Windows 11 preview builds, it has tried out a few new ideas with the AI assistant, observing that: “Some of these experiences include the ability for Copilot in Windows to act like a normal application window and the taskbar icon animating to indicate that Copilot can help when you copy text or images. We have decided to pause the rollouts of these experiences to further refine them based on user feedback.”

Analysis: Some careful thought is required for Copilot visibility

It’s interesting to see that feedback has resulted in a halt on those Copilot experiments, though obviously Microsoft is careful not to say exactly why these changes have been rescinded (for now).

We were particularly skeptical about having Copilot effectively waving its hands at you from the taskbar, with that animation declaring it can help with something, so we aren’t too surprised Microsoft is having a careful think about how to proceed here.

If there is any behavior along those sorts of lines, it’ll have to be subtle, and users will need the ability to switch it off, if they don’t want animations on the icon (which is also happening with widgets on the taskbar, too). We’ll be keeping a close eye on Microsoft’s moves in this respect.

The work on File Explorer is good to see, and should make it more stable and reliable overall. Duplicate tabs are a useful shortcut to have brought in, as well, and were only recently spotted hidden in test builds, so Microsoft has moved pretty swiftly to officially introduce this change.

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Microsoft is testing small but impactful changes to draw your attention to Copilot AI on the Windows 11 desktop

Microsoft has made a relatively minor but pretty useful tweak for Copilot in testing, as part of the ongoing effort to bring the AI assistant into play more often with Windows 11.

This is part of the new Windows 11 preview build 22635 deployed in the Beta channel, and the change to Copilot is rolling out gradually, so not all testers in that channel will have it just yet.

The idea is a ‘new experience’ for Copilot that aims to boost your productivity in Windows 11. How exactly? Well, when you copy a text or image file, the AI’s icon in the taskbar has an animation that’s triggered to let you know the assistant can help with that file.

If you hover the mouse over the Copilot icon, you’ll then get some new options – for example with an image file, you’ll be presented with choices including creating an image like the current one, or getting Copilot to analyze the picture.

Windows 11 Copilot Options

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Build 22635 doesn’t do an awful lot more than these Copilot tweaks, but there is another change here for Windows Share. Microsoft is making it so you can use this functionality to share directly to a specific Microsoft Teams channel or group chat. (This is an ability that had been in testing previously, but was temporarily removed due to bugs – and it’s now reinstated).

As ever check out Microsoft’s blog post for the build to find out the full details and known issues in this preview release.

Analysis: Treading a fine line

The fresh tweaks for Copilot are simple but quick ways of interacting with files using the AI. Microsoft is putting these various abilities at the fingertips of the user, and highlighting that the AI can help with said animation on the icon. Clearly, the hope is that having brought Copilot to the attention of the person sat at the Windows 11 PC, this will result in more usage of the AI.

With this change being in the Beta testing channel – the step before Release Preview, where things are finalized for the stable builds of Windows 11 for everyday users – we’ll likely see this introduced with the 24H2 update later this year.

As to the overall concept of having Copilot pointed out actively, if Microsoft is planning to do more along these lines, it’ll have to tread a thin line between helping the user, and perhaps getting on the annoying side with too many little calls for attention.

There’s a fine balance with some aspects of OS development – such as, for example, when recommendations or suggestions in menus become more like adverts – and sometimes Microsoft has strayed beyond the acceptable boundaries, at least in our humble opinion. We’re hopeful this won’t be the case here, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the current Copilot rejigging in testing.

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Want to skip to the good bit of a video? YouTube is testing a smart AI feature for that

I’ve been increasingly driven to distraction by YouTube’s ever-more-aggressive delivery of adverts before, during and after videos, which is making it a challenge to even get to the bits of a video that I want to see without having some earnest voice encourage me to trade stocks or go to Dubai. Until now I’ve been too cheap to subscribe to YouTube Premium – but that may soon change. 

That’s because YouTube is apparently testing an AI-powered recommendation system that will analyze patterns in viewer behavior to cleverly skip to the most popular parts of a video with just a double tap on a touchscreen. 

“The way it works is, if a viewer is double tapping to skip ahead on an eligible segment, we’ll show a jump ahead button that will take them to the next point in the video that we think they’re aiming for,” YouTube creator-centric channel Creator Insider explained. “This feature will also be available to creators while watching their own videos.”

Currently, such a double-tap action skips a YouTube video forward by a few seconds, which I don’t find hugely useful. And while YouTube introduces a form of wave pattern on the video timeline to show what the most popular parts of the video are, it’s not the easiest thing to use, and can sometimes feel rather lacking in intuitiveness.

So being able to easily tap to get to the most popular part of a video, at least according to an AI, could be a boon for impatient people like me. The only wrinkle is that this feature is only being tested for YouTube Premium users, and is currently limited to the US.

But such features do tend to get a larger global rollout once they come out of the testing phase, meaning there’s scope for Brits like myself to have access to some smart double-tap video skipping – that’s if I do finally decide to bite the bullet and pay for YouTube Premium.

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WhatsApp is testing an all-knowing AI chatbot that will live in your search bar

WhatsApp is slated to receive a pair of AI-powered upgrades aiming to help people answer tough questions on the fly, as well as edit images on the platform.

Starting with answering questions, the upgrade integrates one of Meta’s AI models into the WhatsApp search bar. Doing so, according to WABetaInfo, would allow users to directly input queries without having to create a separate chat room for the AI. You'd be able to hold a quick conversation right on the same page. 

It appears this is an extension of the in-app assistants that originally came out back in November 2023. A screenshot in the report reveals WhatsApp will provide a handful of prompts to get a conversation flowing.

It’s unknown just how capable the search bar AI will be. The assistants are available in different personas specializing in certain topics. But looking at the aforementioned screenshot, it appears the search bar will house the basic Meta AI model. It would be really fun if we could assign the Snoop Dogg persona as the main assistant.

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AI image editing

The second update is a collection of image editing features discovered by industry expert AssembleDebug, after diving into a recent WhatsApp beta. AssembleDebug discovered three possibly upcoming tools – Backdrop, Restyle, and Expand. It’s unknown exactly what they do as not a single one works. However the first two share a name with other features currently available on Instagram, so they may, in fact, function the same way.

Backdrop could let users change the background of an image into something different via text prompt. Restyle can completely alter the art style of an uploaded picture. Think of these like filters, but more capable. You can make a photograph into a watercolor painting or pixel art. It’s even possible to create wholly unique content through a text prompt.

WhatsApp's new image editing tools

(Image credit: AssembleDebug/TheSPAndroid)

Expand is the new kid on the block. Judging by the name, AssembleDebug theorizes it’ll harness the power of AI “to expand images beyond their visible area”. Technology like this already exists on other platforms. Photoshop, for example, has Generative Expand,  and Samsung's Galaxy S24 series can expand images after they have been adjusted by rotation. 

WhatsApp gaining such an ability would be a great inclusion as it’ll give users a robust editing tool that is free. Most versions of this tech are locked behind a subscription or tied to a specific device.

Do keep in mind neither beta is available to early testers at the time of this writing. They're still in the works, and as stated earlier, we don’t know the full capabilities of either set. Regardless of their current status, it is great to see that one day WhatsApp may come equipped with AI tech on the same level as what you’d find on Instagram especially when it comes to the search bar assistant. The update will make accessing that side of Meta software more convenient for everyone.

If you prefer to tweak images on a desktop, check out TechRadar's list of the best free photo editors for PC and Mac.

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Don’t know what’s good about Copilot Pro? Windows 11 users might soon find out, as Microsoft is testing Copilot ads for the OS

Windows 11 might be getting ads for Copilot Pro, or at least this possibility is being explored in testing right now it seems.

Copilot Pro, for those who missed it, was recently revealed as Microsoft’s powered-up version of the AI assistant that you have to pay for (via a monthly subscription). And if you haven’t heard about it, well, you might do soon via the Settings panel in Windows 11.

PhantomOfEarth on X (formerly Twitter) spotted the new move from Microsoft, with the introduction of a card for Copilot Pro on the Home page of the Settings app. It provides a brief explanation of what the service is alongside links to find out more (or to get a subscription there and then).

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Note that the leaker had to dig around to uncover the Copilot Pro advert, and it was only displayed after messing about with a configuration tool (in Dev and Beta builds). However, two other Windows 11 testers in the Beta channel have responded to say that they have this Copilot Pro card present without doing anything.

In other words, taking those reports at face value, it seems this Copilot Pro ad is on some kind of limited rollout to some testers. At any rate, it’s certainly present in the background of Windows 11 (Beta and Dev) and can be enabled.

Analysis: Adding more ads

The theory, then, is that this will be appearing more broadly to testers, before following with a rollout to everyone using Windows 11. Of course, ideas in testing can be abandoned, particularly if they get criticized a lot, so we’ll just have to watch this space (or rather, the space on the Home page of Settings).

Does it seem likely Microsoft will try to push ahead with a Copilot Pro advert? Yes, it does, frankly. Microsoft isn’t shy about promoting its own services within its products, that’s for sure. Furthermore, AI is set to become a huge part of the Windows 11 experience, and other Microsoft products for that matter, so monetizing it is going to be a priority in all likelihood.

So, a nudge to raise the profile of the paid version of Copilot seems to likely, if not inevitable. Better that it’s tucked away in Settings, we guess, than somewhere more in-your-face like the Start menu.

If you’re wondering what benefits Copilot Pro confers, they include faster performance and responses, along with more customization and options – but this shouldn’t take anything away from the free version of Copilot (or it doesn’t yet, anyway). What it does mean is that the very latest upgrades will likely be reserved for the Pro AI, as we’ve seen initially with GPT-4 Turbo coming to Copilot Pro and not the basic free Copilot.

Via Neowin

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WhatsApp is testing a new self-destructing voice messages feature

WhatsApp is currently testing a View Once mode for voice messages as a “new layer of privacy” on the mobile app.

The feature functions similarly to the disappearing images and videos present on the platform. Meta is merely expanding it elsewhere. According to WABetaInfo, a new icon sporting the number one will appear in the chat bar while you record a voice note with the lock on. Tapping said icon enables the View Once mode (well it's more like Listen Once) preventing recipients from exporting, forwarding, saving, or recording messages. Once sent over, you, the sender, cannot listen to it nor can the other person play it again after the first time. It’s gone forever.  

WhatsApp Listen Once voice messages

(Image credit: Future)

As WABetaInfo points out, this tool has the potential to effectively eliminate “the risk of your personal or sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.” Messages can’t be shared with people outside the initial chat room, greatly reducing the odds “of unauthorized access.”

This update is available for both Android and iOS. If you’re interested in trying out yourself, Android users can join the Google Play Beta Program and install version 2.23.78 of the WhatsApp beta. iPhone owners can try to join the TestFlight program for WhatsApp. However, at the time of this writing it’s no longer accepting any more entrants, although it is possible a slot could open soon.

Going quiet

As for the future of WhatsApp, things will be getting a little quiet. None of the other beta features are as impactful or noteworthy as the self-destructing voice messages. Looking through WABetaInfo’s other posts, we saw that Meta is working implementing avatar reactions plus a redesigned audio and video menu for iOS. Nothing really ground-breaking.

It’s not surprising the platform is going silent at the moment as 2023 has been quite the year for WhatsApp. It’s seen multiple major updates these past 10 months or so from several quality-of-life changes to eight-person video calls on the Windows desktop app. And recently, the company began testing an AI-powered sticker generator for chats. Perhaps Meta is keeping its projects under wraps so it can kick off 2024 in a big way.

While we have you, be sure to follow TechRadar’s official WhatsApp channel. We post our latest reviews and news stories daily on there. 

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Google said to be testing new life coach AI for providing helpful advice to people

For the past several months, Google has been consistently rolling out generative AI tech like the launch of the Search Engine Experience and giving Chrome the ability to summarize news articles. In the future, the tech giant may be taking artificial intelligence into a new frontier: offering life advice.

This information comes from a recently published New York Times article detailing the company’s next big AI project. DeepMind, Google’s own artificial intelligence research lab, has been testing new technology that could effectively turn generative AI “into a personal life coach”. They state that DeepMind is trying to find a way to have their model “perform at least 21 different types of personal and professional tasks”. As we already established, this includes giving people life advice, such as  “ideas, planning instructions, [plus] tutoring tips”. 

For example, you could conceivably ask the chatbot to drum up a workout or meal plan if you want to lose weight. Or maybe you could ask for suggestions related to specific situations like what to do if you can’t make a friend’s wedding.

Intimate knowledge

Technically, these described functions are already present on Google Bard, so this is nothing new. What’s different, according to the piece, is that the company is seeking to improve the AI’s ability to “answer intimate questions about challenges in people’s lives.” To make this whole thing possible, DeepMind apparently brought together “100 experts with doctorates in different fields… [to] assess the tool’s responses”. 

Presumably, this group includes mental health professionals. The problem is that the New York Times doesn't provide concrete details. We don’t have opinions from any of the experts on exactly how good Google’s life coach chatbot is at the moment. 

Still, the main takeaway is whatever the tech giant is cooking up, it appears to be pretty substantial.

An AI arms race

What’s particularly interesting about this life coach project is it flies in the face of company policy. Google’s Bard Privacy Help Hub recommends not to rely on the chatbot’s responses for “medical, legal, financial, or other professional advice.” 

So, why the about face? The New York Times theorizes this could be part of an effort to overcome rivals like OpenAI. As pointed out in the piece, corporations and start-ups have been engaging in an AI arms race ever since ChatGPT launched, vying for the top position in the industry. Google essentially creating a “robo-therapist” may be the edge it needs.

There is, however, a chance this tech will never see the light of day. A DeepMind spokeswoman told the Times that developers are indeed testing the AI, but evaluations are not indicative of a “product road map.”

We will say the idea of an AI that can help with creating robust workout plans or tutoring people in a skill does sound pretty helpful. Hopefully, a breakthrough will come from these experiments.

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