Windows 11’s Copilot AI just took its first step towards being an indispensable assistant for Android – but Google Gemini hasn’t got anything to worry about yet

Microsoft’s Copilot AI could soon help Windows 11 users deal with texting on their Android smartphone (and much more besides in the future).

Windows Latest noticed that there’s a new plug-in for Copilot (the recently introduced add-ons that bring extra functionality to the AI assistant), which is reportedly rolling out to more people this week. It’s called the ‘Phone’ plug-in – which is succinct and very much to the point.

As you might guess, the plug-in works by leveraging the Phone Link app that connects your mobile to your Windows 11 PC and offers all sorts of nifty features therein.

So, you need to have Phone Link app up and running before you can install the Copilot Phone plug-in. Once that’s done, Windows Latest explains that the abilities you’ll gain include being able to use Copilot to read and send text messages on your Android device (via the PC, of course), or look up contact information.

Right now, the plug-in doesn’t work properly, mind you, but doubtless Microsoft will be ironing out any problems. When Windows Latest tried to initiate a phone call, the plug-in didn’t facilitate this, but did provide the correct contact info, so they could dial themselves.

The fact that this functionality is very basic looking right now means Google will hardly be losing any sleep – and moreover, this isn’t a direct rival for the Gemini AI app anyway, as it works to facilitate managing your Android device on your PC desktop.

Expect far greater powers to come in the future

Microsoft has previously teased the kind of powers Copilot will eventually have when it comes to hooking up your Windows 11 PC and Android phone together. For example, the AI will be able to sift through texts on your phone and extract relevant information (like the time of a dinner reservation, if you’ve made arrangements via text).

Eventually, this plug-in could be really handy, but right now, it’s still in a very early working state as noted.

While it’s for Android only for the time being, the Phone plug-in for Copilot should be coming to iOS as well, as Microsoft caters for iPhones with Phone Link (albeit in a more limited fashion). Still, this isn’t confirmed, but we can’t imagine Microsoft will leave iPhone owners completely out in the cold when it comes to AI features such as this.

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Microsoft can be slow to cure bugs at times – but you won’t believe how long it took to fix a CPU-related glitch preventing Windows 11 upgrades

After over two years of waiting, Microsoft has finally lifted a block on some Windows 10 PCs with Intel Rocket Lake CPUs that prevented users from upgrading to Windows 11 – so those folks should now be free to migrate (should they wish).

We’re all by now familiar with Windows 11’s more onerous system requirements – which includes a stipulation for having TPM, and rules out older CPUs to boot, but Rocket Lake is contemporary silicon and officially supported by Microsoft’s newest OS. Rocket Lake is, in fact, Intel’s 11th generation, so it’s only three generations back from current 14th-gen chips (Raptor Lake Refresh).

However, as mentioned, some of those PC owners who have a Rocket Lake processor were prevented from upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11, and this was due to a compatibility issue with 11th-gen CPUs and some driver versions for Intel Smart Sound Technology (SST).

The problem is that older SST drivers could cause the PC to crash with a Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) when using Rocket Lake.

What’s really odd here is that the bug was discovered a long, long time ago – in November 2021 – and as Tom’s Hardware, which spotted this, points out, for those who had upgraded to Windows 11 and were hit by these BSoD crashes, a fix was offered up within weeks.

However, as is the case when a software or hardware compatibility issue is discovered, PCs that might run into the pinpointed gremlin are blocked from upgrading to prevent that from happening.

The trouble is Microsoft has only just lifted that block now, and finally marked the bug as resolved, almost two and a half years after this glitch was first discovered.


Analysis: Definitely not as fast as a speeding rocket

That’s not exactly moving fast, is it? And yes, the cure in this case did depend on an external source – an Intel driver update – but that was delivered in a relatively timely manner by Team Blue. As mentioned, the fix for those who’d already upgraded to Windows 11 on a Rocket Lake PC, and had run into the BSoD error, was provided not long after the issue was discovered.

So, why did it take Microsoft so long to actually get this fix delivered to Rocket Lake PCs via Windows Update, so the Windows 11 upgrade block could be removed? Well, we don’t know the answer, and the whole episode is very odd indeed. Until now, Microsoft just left the solution to this bug as pointing users to the Intel website to obtain the correct and updated drivers (rather than actually delivering them as part of Windows 10’s updates).

In case you wondering about the specifics here, the affected Intel SST driver versions are 10.29.0.5152 or 10.30.0.5152. If you’re running a PC with Rocket Lake on either of those versions, you need to upgrade to version 10.29.00.5714 or later, or 10.30.00.5714 or better, respectively.

You can now grab those versions via Windows Update – simply head there in Windows 10 and check for updates. Once installed, you should be free to upgrade to Windows 11, though not in every case – and not immediately.

Microsoft clarifies: “If your device still encounters this safeguard hold [block on upgrading to Windows 11] 48 hours after updating your drivers, it’s possible drivers for this Audio Controller [Intel SST] haven’t been developed for your specific device hardware configuration.”

So, bear in mind that even after installing the drivers, it could take up to 48 hours before you get offered the Windows 11 upgrade. However, if you aren’t offered it once you’ve waited out those two days, then you need to contact the manufacturer of your device and get them to help you on how best to proceed.

This is rather an anomaly, it has to be said – Microsoft taking such a ridiculously long time to get its house in order with a fix – and hopefully, we won’t be treated to any hold-ups quite this bad going forward.

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ChatGPT just took a big step towards becoming the next Google with its new account-free version

The most widely available (and free) version of ChatGPT, ChatGPT-3.5, is being made available to use without having to create and log into a personal account. That means you can have conversations with the AI chatbot without it being tied to personal details like your email. However, OpenAI, the tech organization behind ChatGPT, limits what users can do without registering for an account. For example, unregistered users will be limited in the kinds of questions they can ask and in their access to advanced features. 

This means there are still some benefits to making and using a ChatGPT account, especially if you’re a regular user. OpenAI writes in an official blog post that this change is intended to make it easy for people to try out ChatGPT and get a taste of what modern AI can do, without going through the sign-up process. 

In its announcement post on April 1, 2024, OpenAI explained that it’s rolling out the change gradually, so if you want to try it for yourself and can’t yet, don’t panic. When speaking to PCMag, an OpenAI spokesperson explained that this change is in the spirit of OpenAI’s overall mission to make it easier for people “to experience ChatGPT and the benefits of AI.”

Woman sitting by window, legs outstretched, with laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock/number-one)

To create an OpenAI account or not to create an OpenAI account

If you don’t want your entries into the AI chatbot to be tied to the details you would have to disclose when setting up an account, such as your birthday, phone number, and email address, then this is a great development. That said, lots of people create dummy accounts to be able to use apps and web services, so I don’t think it’s that hard to circumvent, but you’d have to have multiple emails and phone numbers to ‘burn’ for this purpose. 

OpenAI does have a disclaimer that states that it is storing your inputs to potentially use to improve ChatGPT by default whether you’re signed in or not, which I suspected was the case. It also states that you can turn this off via ChatGPT’s settings, and this can be done whether you have an account or not.

If you do choose to make an account, you get some useful benefits, including being able to see your previous conversations with the chatbot, link others to specific conversations you’ve had, make use of the newly-introduced voice conversational features, custom instructions, and the ability to upgrade to ChatGPT Plus, the premium subscription tier of ChatGPT which allows users to use GPT-4 (its latest large language learning (LLM) model). 

If you decide not to create an account and forgo these features, you can expect to see the same chat interface that users with accounts use. OpenAI will also be putting in additional content safeguards for users who aren’t logged in, detailing that it’s put in measures to block prompts and generated responses in more categories and topics. Its announcement post didn’t include any examples of the types of topics or categories that will get this treatment, however.

Man holding a phone which is displaying ChatGPT is, prototype artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI

(Image credit: Shutterstock/R Photography Background)

An invitation to users, a power play to rivals?

I think this is an interesting change that will possibly tempt more people to try ChatGPT, and when they try it for the first time, it can seem pretty impressive. It allows OpenAI to give users a glimpse of its capabilities, which I imagine will convince some people to make accounts and access its additional features. 

This will continue expanding ChatGPT’s user pool that may choose to go on and become ChatGPT Plus paid subscribers. Perhaps this is a strategy that will pay off for OpenAI, and it might institute a sort of pass-it-down approach through the tiers as it introduces new generations of its models.

This easier user accessibility could mean the type of user growth that could see OpenAI become as commonplace as Google products in the near future. One of Google Search’s appeals, for example, is that you could just fire up your browser and make a query in an instant. It’s a user-centric way of doing things, and if OpenAI can do something similar by making it that easy to use ChatGPT, then things could get seriously interesting.

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Windows 11 bug that made some users wrongly suspect they’d been hacked has finally been fixed – but it took Microsoft over a year

Microsoft has fixed a bug in Windows 11 that has been hanging around forever, pretty much – or for over a year anyway.

In fact, as Windows Latest observes, it took Microsoft fifteen months to fix the problem with File Explorer whereby it would simply pop into the foreground with no warning.

In other words, you might be busy working away at some task or other and File Explorer suddenly appears on top of all your other windows, for absolutely no reason.

An odd problem indeed, but we’re told that the cure is packaged up in the latest update for Windows 11. That’s the recently released cumulative update for December, also known as patch KB5033375.

Microsoft notes: “This update addresses an issue that affects File Explorer windows. When you do not expect them, they appear in the foreground.”

The bug seems to happen randomly on affected PCs, and worse still, Windows Latest says that it can occur on a roughly hourly basis in some scenarios, which is way too regularly for our liking.


Analysis: False hacking suspicions

The thing about this bug is that it isn’t just a distraction or annoyance, but more than this, it may make some Windows 11 users wrongly suspect that they’ve been hacked. After all, your PC doing things of its own accord, when you’re not touching the keyboard or the mouse perhaps, is a sign of potential compromise – and certainly a freaky thing to experience if nothing else.

In this respect, the File Explorer bug may have caused some undue worry on the part of those experiencing it, who may have been running virus scans and all sorts of other carry-on, imagining that there could be a potential breach of security on their system somewhere.

It’s good that this is fixed, but it should never take more than a year for a problem to be banished from Windows 11. There have certainly been some relieved users we’ve seen on the likes of Reddit rejoicing that this gremlin in the works has finally been dealt with, while scratching their heads at just how long it took Microsoft to untangle this one.

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Microsoft was quick to drop this Windows 11 pop-up that took annoying to new levels

Microsoft has reversed course to remove a pop-up that it was trying out with some Windows 11 users that attempted to discern why they were quitting out of OneDrive.

Specifically, this move concerned the OneDrive sync client which resides in the system tray on the far-right of the taskbar (the little cloud icon). As the name suggests, this client oversees the syncing of the files on your PC with OneDrive in the cloud.

If you close it, you’ll see a pop-up telling you that your files will no longer be synced to the cloud, which is a fair enough warning to issue – but then Microsoft incorporated something else for some users.

As Windows Latest reports – and Neowin first observed – as November began, Microsoft added a survey pop-up for those shutting down the syncing client which appeared after the aforementioned warning.

That dialog box was piped through to a small group of Windows 11 users, we’re told, and it asked them to give a reason why they were quitting out of OneDrive sync. Reponses included ‘I don’t want OneDrive running all the time’ (which it is, in the background, with this client) and ‘I don’t know what OneDrive is’ among others. (If the latter would be your response, check out our guide to using the cloud storage service).

This annoyed a fair few Windows 11 users as you might imagine, so Microsoft canned the idea.

Microsoft told Windows Latest: “Between Nov. 1 and 8, a dialog box temporarily appeared for a small subset of consumer OneDrive users when closing the OneDrive sync client asking for feedback on the reason they chose to close the application.

“The prompt was removed after a sufficient sample of user feedback was gathered. This feedback helps inform our ongoing efforts to enhance the quality of our products.”


Analysis: Repeated aggravation

Microsoft is constantly testing these kinds of more intrusive elements in Windows 11, whether it’s ‘suggestions’ or ads for its services or polls, and like most people, we find that quite frustrating. Okay, so this was a limited subset of users, and it was quickly reversed – we’re not surprised and can only imagine the reaction (indeed, we’ve seen some of it on Reddit).

What was overstepping the mark here is that not only was this poll sent to users on the release version of Windows 11 (it may have been a test, but it wasn’t deployed in preview builds of the OS), it actually appeared repeatedly.

Yes, Windows Latest tells us that this pop-up would be summoned for affected users every single time they quit OneDrive sync. Surely, when Microsoft got an answer out of the user, that should have been it, done and dusted as they say?

Hopefully Microsoft will learn a lesson from the spicy feedback on this one and not try to insert any more such surveys cluttering up the flow of using the interface (and certainly not outside of preview versions of Windows 11).

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that for OneDrive sync there is a middle-ground in terms of not quitting, but not having it running either – the pause option. Right-click the icon and you’ll find the choice to ‘Pause syncing’ which will do exactly what it says, plus you can set the length of time (to a fairly hefty pause of 8 hours, or even 24 hours, from the drop-down menu). The app will still be running, but doing nothing, and so it shouldn’t be consuming any noticeable system resources.

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Microsoft has finally fixed a cool Windows 11 Spotify feature – so what took so long?

Microsoft has just fixed one of Windows 11’s neatest features – one that Chief Product Officer Panos Panay called a ‘game-changer’ when it was first introduced back in 2021.

The pre-loaded Clock application in Windows 11 has long included a feature that allows you to link up your Spotify account and set it to play specific productivity-focused playlists while you’re employing the nifty Focus Assist feature.

However, as previously noted by Neowin, the functionality had been broken for months (since at least February 2023, potentially longer), and despite Spotify trying to rectify the issue, it turned out to be an expired certificate on Microsoft’s end breaking the feature. Users attempting to link their Spotify account to Windows Clock would be met with a blank screen and an endless “Connecting to a service” message.

Thankfully, it looks like the problem is now resolved – in part, it seems, due to Neowin’s diligent reporting. When Spotify confirmed that the bug was Microsoft’s fault, Neowin reached out to the Windows creator to report the issue. Lo and behold, a few weeks later, the problem has been fixed; you can now hook up your Spotify account to the Clock app with no difficulties.

Microsoft, please love all your children equally

However, it looks like the problem is still lingering in Windows 10 – when I tried to connect my Clock app to Spotify on my personal desktop PC (after checking for system updates), I got the same empty white window.

Microsoft has been getting more and more aggressive in its efforts to push users to upgrade to Windows 11, but this feels like a spectacular low point. If the problem is something as simple as an expired certificate for Spotify’s API access, why not fix it for both Windows 10 and 11?

Look, I don’t hate Windows 11 (although Microsoft’s recent boo-boo over ads in the Weather app did make me chuckle). I use it on my work laptop and it’s fine – in fact, it’s steadily improving, gradually adding great features and gathering pace among users. It’s been on the rise for a while in terms of adoption – a quick look at the OS section of the Steam Hardware and Software Survey shows that Windows 11 is now eating into its predecessor’s share of the PC gaming space with impressive speed.

But as my colleague Darren recently said, Microsoft should be using the carrot, not the stick, to boost Windows 11 adoption. I love Windows 10 – why don’t you, Microsoft? It’s one of the best operating systems ever made, and I don’t want to feel forced to abandon it because you’re not willing to fix simple bugs that can be fixed in its successor.

It’s also frankly not a good look that it took more than three months – and a direct complaint from a tech news site – to fix such a simple problem. Come on, Microsoft. Oh, and you can stop with all the Bing AI nonsense. If I wanted an AI on my desktop, I’d just use ChatGPT.

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