Spotify could soon let you turn off personalized recommendations

While we're patiently waiting for Spotify Wrapped 2023 to drop, it seems as though a tweak is on the way in terms of how recommendations are served up: Spotify would appear to be testing the option to turn off personalized recommendations.

This comes from code spotted in a beta version of one of Spotify's apps, by a MacRumors source. At the moment though, we don't know much else about this potential new feature or how it might work if it rolls out to users.

Personalized recommendations are of course based on listening history and habits, so presumably most people will want to keep them switched on to see more music that matches their tastes. Without the personalization, presumably the recommendations would be what's trending and popular, or picked out by Spotify staff.

It does seem that this will be an optional extra for users, so personalized recommendations are by no means going away. It might also be useful if someone else (like your kids) are using your Spotify account – though the Taste Profile features do help you modify the way your recommendations work, to some extent.

Keep on tracking

By default, Spotify does of course keep tabs on everything you do in the app, to make sure you're never short of something to listen to – you can have playlists automatically continue with related music, for example. These algorithm-driven recommendations apply to Spotify audiobooks and podcasts too.

There's a possibility that some people just don't want to be driven by algorithms and AI, or don't want Spotify keeping tabs on every playlist they put on, or both. Until we get an official word on what this new setting might mean, we can only speculate about why it would be implemented.

This built-in tracking is what makes features such as Spotify Wrapped 2023 work, giving you a deep dive into all the tracks you've played over the years – and perhaps surfacing some listening trends that you wouldn't otherwise have noted.

We will of course keep you posted if we hear anything else about what might be happening with Spotify and personalized recommendations. In the meantime, check out our Spotify tips and tricks guide to get more out of the music streaming service.

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Microsoft kills off Windows 11’s troubleshooters – so where can you turn for help?

Microsoft has begun the process of phasing out its helpful built-in Windows Troubleshooters. These troubleshooting tools had come built-in to Windows systems since their debut in 2009 with Windows 7, and were created to run diagnostic processes and automatically identify common Windows problems, and then resolve them.  

In a recent support document, Microsoft outlined its plan to retire various Troubleshooters, starting with the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT), which will be pulled as part of the next Windows 11 update. The exact date of when this will happen hasn’t been announced yet. 

Microsoft also lays out a deprecation timeline that it looks to put in place over the next three years:

  • 2023 – Begin redirecting some of the troubleshooters to the new Get Help troubleshooting platform
  • 2024 – Complete the troubleshooter redirection and remove the rest of the troubleshooters
  • 2025 – Remove the MSDT platform

Microsoft goes on to explain what this will mean a significant departure from the MSDT platform for Windows users, as many of the troubleshooters we’re familiar with are based on it. 

A number of these will be rerouted to another newer user help platform, Get Help. Any troubleshooters that don’t fall into this category will be axed, but until then, it seems that they will continue to work.

Windows 11 leak

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Where the troubleshooters can be found

To access the suite of troubleshooting tools in Get Help, you have to go to Windows Settings. 

To find this, I suggest you do the following: 

Go to Start  >  Settings

Then type in Troubleshoot into the search box that says Find a setting in greyed out text.

Finally, go to Other Troubleshooters / Additional Troubleshooters (depending on what your system displays) in the Troubleshoot window

I recommend this because my troubleshooting settings are in a slightly different location to the one Microsoft outlines in its post. 

This should lead you to a whole host of different specific troubleshooters.

Detailed breakdown of the changes

If you’re running Windows 11 version 22H2 or an older Windows version, including Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7 or any other earlier version, you won’t be affected by this. You will be able to use the legacy troubleshooters as normal.

Lower down in its support document, Microsoft also details explicitly what each current troubleshooting tool will be converted to in its new Get Help iteration. Under this list, there’s a detailed list of Troubleshooters that will be getting the chop. 

Microsoft notes that this will begin with the next release of Windows 11, hinting that some troubleshooter tools may get removed ahead of others (but not elaborating beyond that). 

When you run the new version of Windows 11 that has this change, Microsoft explains that you should see a system message that explains the new troubleshooting process. Hopefully, this should mean that if you do encounter a problem in Windows 11, you’ll be able to find a solution within the Get Help app.

Finally, if you have feedback about this specific change, you can relay it to Microsoft in the Troubleshoot window by scrolling to the very bottom and clicking Give feedback


(Image credit: Pixabay)

Possible reasons for this major move

BleepingComputer speculates that a possible explanation for this strategy is that this is a correction of previously updated features that were targeted in zero-day exploits. 

A zero-day exploit is a vulnerability in software that is already being exploited by cybercriminals and hackers on the day it becomes publicly known or the developers of the software discover it (hence meaning they have zero days to comfortably work on it). The MSDT had known vulnerabilities that attackers could have capitalized on and then run all kinds of harmful processes remotely on a user’s system.

This is a pretty major move for Microsoft, coming alongside its much discussed removal of WordPad from future updates. Windows is still the most widely-used operating system for PCs, which makes it a big target for hackers. 

With attackers now being able to pump out malicious code using AI tools, it’s good to see that Microsoft hasn’t lost sight of the fact that it’s still one of the biggest targets for hackers, and that it has its work cut out to combat them.

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Meta Quest 3 may have the ability to turn any table into your personal VR keyboard

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently took to Instagram to preview a potential virtual keyboard feature for Quest headsets.

Posted on his official account, the short clip shows Zuckerberg and Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth typing away on a VR keyboard while wearing a Quest 2 headset. The device was able to accurately track their finger movements and display what they were writing on screen without requiring any extra peripherals. According to Zuckerberg, he was able to achieve 100 wpm (words per minute) while Bosworth hit 120 wpm. To put that into perspective, the average typing speed of an adult is 40 wpm so it does perform well.

If development bears fruit, it could solve a longstanding problem with virtual reality. 

Typing in VR is a slow process. You’re forced to enter inputs one at a time since floating VR keyboards can't match the speed of a physical device. Sure, you can purchase one of the best physical keyboards out there to get the speed that you want. But then you’re forcing yourself to carry around an extra peripheral alongside the VR headset just to get the user experience you want. Things can get cumbersome.

A work in progress

There is still work to be done over at Meta’s Reality Labs research unit where this tech was developed. 

News site UploadVR points out in their report the headset requires “fiducial markers” to work properly. Fiducial markers are those black and white squares you see in the Instagram video. They assist the hardware in calibrating itself so it knows where to place the virtual keyboard. The end goal here would be to one day not need those squares for help so the VR helmet can project the keeb on any flat-enough surface.

Personally, we worry about typing feel. This technology already exists with laser keyboards that can project the keys onto a flat surface. The problem with these projections is typing feels terrible because you’re just mashing your fingers into a table, and we fear Meta’s feature will essentially be the same thing. This may be fine for the occasional email, but we can’t imagine using a VR keyboard for an entire day’s work. 

VR peripherals

It's important to mention Meta is holding a two-day Connect virtual event from September 27 to 28. It's been confirmed the Quest 3 headset will make its debut at Connect, and perhaps a beta test for the VR keyboard will be announced then. An official launch date seems unlikely. As stated earlier, there's still work to be done.

We’re also curious to know if the company will finally show off its wristband device at the event.

If you’re not aware, Meta has been working on a wristband gadget that can read the electrical signals in a person’s arm to register inputs. The latest trailer for this gadget shows it can be used for simple gestures like twitching your finger to control a video game avatar. However, back in 2021, an earlier prototype displayed the ability to function as a virtual keyboard by using the same electrical signals. It’s unknown at this time if Meta scrapped the wristband feature in favor of the headset keyboard or if it’s still in the works.

Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best wireless keyboards if you’re looking for a keeb to pair up with your Quest headset. 


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Got a blank YouTube homepage? You may now need to turn on your watch history

YouTube users from across the internet have reported encountering a homepage completely devoid of content. That’s because the platform has decided it will no longer provide video recommendations if an account's watch history has been turned off “and [has] no significant prior [history]” available. 

The company quietly made the announcement on a support page explaining certain features like your personal home feed require a watch history to function normally. Moving forward, users who won’t allow YouTube to keep track will only see a search bar at the top of their page plus the four buttons on the left-hand guide menu. The platform states this update is to provide people a “more streamlined [experience] for those… who prefer to search rather than browse recommendations.” It can also push users to become more acquainted with subscribed channels or the Topics tab as they won’t be distracted by a wall of videos.

Rolling out

A YouTube Community Manager said these changes will be rolling out slowly, “over the next few months” starting today, but as stated earlier, a few already have the update. Posts on X (formerly known as Twitter) and Reddit show the blank home pages on the YouTube mobile app as well as on desktop. All you’ll see is a window stating your watch history setting is currently disabled. 

You can check if the patch has reached your account by going over to your Google Account’s Activity Controls. Scroll down to the bottom and you'll see the YouTube History entry where you can turn it off or make a few adjustments. Return to your account and see if anything’s different. 

watch history entry in Activity Controls

(Image credit: Future)

User response

The response from users has been mixed. On one hand, you have people who are pretty happy, even ecstatic, since their YouTube account will be a lot cleaner. Home feeds won’t be inundated with unwelcome content just because they played a random video one time. Others, however, are less keen stating this kills a “huge part” of YouTube. Part of the fun is having the algorithm feed you videos you may like, leading you to discover hidden gems on the site. Some simply don't like the idea of having a completely empty home page or needing to reactivate their watch history.

See more

Now if only YouTube would allow us to opt out of seeing advertisements, but that’s wishful thinking. We’ll just have to make do with installing an ad blocker on our browser. 

Speaking of which, be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best ad blockers for 2023

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Stable Doodle AI can turn doodlers into artists

Stability AI, the developer behind Stable Diffusion, has launched a new generative AI that can turn simple sketches into high-definition images.

It’s fittingly called Stable Doodle and it's quite user-friendly. According to the announcement, “anyone with basic drawing skills” can try out the tech right now for free on Stability AI’s ClipDrop website.

The way it works is you begin by doodling something on the drawing board with the pencil tool. Next, you enter a prompt in the text box underneath to tell Stable Doodle what you drew. The AI needs some direction. You can also instruct it to emulate particular styles or famous painters such as Vincent Van Gogh. If you’re stumped, select “No Style” below the board and you will be given 14 different art forms to emulate, from origami to anime.

Click “Generate” when you’re ready, wait a few seconds, and then three images will show up in a grid alongside the original sketch. You can download the content in high definition or have the AI start over. Of course, there is an eraser tool present if you make a mistake or you want to wipe the board clean.

To give you some examples, below is a collection of drawings we had Stable Doodle create with the sketch we drew, plus a prompt.

Image 1 of 3

Stable Doodle generated image of cats

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 3

Stable Doodle generated image of mech

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 3

Stable Doodle generated image of a happy dog

(Image credit: Future)


As fun as it is, there are some limitations. First, anonymous users can only generate three sketches at a time before Stability AI asks you to wait 21 hours. You can wait the full amount of time to regain access or you can sign up for a free account. After signing up, it appears the limit is removed as we were able to create more than three pieces of art without issue. Do note the website doesn’t save sketches or generated content, so be sure to download them.

The other limitation is that the quality of “ the final output is dependent on the initial drawing and description”. You don’t have to be a master artist, however, clean sketches do improve the chances of getting clean artwork. If you compare our generated content and Stability AI's, the latter is much cleaner. There are fewer errors. But it's okay if you're not a great artist, as other reports hint at the fact the AI seems to rely more on the text prompts than what you draw.


The work isn’t over yet as there are plans to expand the AI. A company spokesperson told TechCrunch that Stable Doodle will one day allow users to upload their own sketches as well as introduce “use cases for specific verticals [like] real estate applications”. In the reveal, Stability AI states it envisions the tech helping professionals “free up valuable time” by creating important assets like “[materials] for presentations decks” or business logos.

It’s unknown when this update will roll out, although we did ask.

As mentioned earlier, you can try out Stable Doodle by going to ClipDrop or downloading the official ClipDrop app from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best AR art generators for 2023

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Wordle hard mode adds an extra layer of challenge – here’s how to turn it on

Wordle is the word-a-day game taking the internet by storm. The popular word game present a daily challenge in which you must guess a five-letter word in six guesses or fewer. Wordle will then keep track of your stats, including win rate percentage, and a breakdown of the number of tries it takes you to reach the correct answer each day.

While Wordle's strict ruleset already makes the game quite challenging, there's actually a secondary mode tucked away in the options menu – for those wanting an even greater challenge. It doesn't change up the words you'll be guessing in any way, but it does impose further restrictions that could make your Wordle experience that much tougher.

Under normal rules, Wordle will notify you of letters you've guessed correctly. A green tile indicates you've got the right letter in the right place, while a yellow tile tells you that letter is in the word, albeit in a different spot. Meanwhile, a greyed out tile tells the player that letter isn't in the word at all.

That's also the case on hard mode, but there's one big difference. With hard mode, you're forced into using all the yellow tiled letters you've accrued so far. So for example, if you've guessed the word to be “CHIMP” and “I” and “M” flag as yellow, you'll be required to use those letters in your next guess.

To many of you, this may not seem like much of a restriction. After all, using the correct letters gives you a better chance of guessing the word, right? Well, yes and no. The more yellow letters you have in your guess, the fewer new letters you'll be able to play with on subsequent guesses, and this can be especially strict when you consider you only have six guesses to begin with.

Wordle on iOS

(Image credit: Wordle)

How to access Wordle hard mode

Activating hard mode on Wordle is simple enough, and just requires you to head into the site's settings menu. You can do so by tapping or clicking the cog icon in the top right of the screen. It's just right of the title, and next to the option to view your overall statistics.

Once you're in the settings menu, the very first option, “Hard Mode,” is what you're after. By turning that on, you'll now be required to use all correct letters you've uncovered in subsequent guesses.

The settings menu also contains options for a dark theme and a color blind mode for those who may need it. The former might be a good option to reduce eye strain if you tend to spend a lot of time thinking about each guess.

And that's it! With hard mode activated, you can back out of the settings menu and experience your daily Wordle challenge with added restrictions. Do note that there doesn't seem to be any added benefit to playing on hard mode, and it can be turned off at any time by simply re-entering the settings menu and tapping the option once again, reverting Wordle to its default rules.

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