Henry Kissenger died 3 days ago.
Henry Kissinger, the most powerful U.S. diplomat of the Cold War era, who helped Washington open up to China, forge arms control deals with the Soviet Union and end the Vietnam War, but who was reviled by critics over human rights, has died aged 100.
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We all want those nice, aesthetically pleasing Instagrammable photos. However, not all of us are blessed with high-end fancy tools, studio lights, and whatnot. Those things can cost thousands of dollars. And if we do get a professional photographer to do it, we’d still be spending quite a hefty am...
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Amazon has redesigned its Alexa mobile app with a focus on improving the software’s layout and reorganizing key sections.
The tech giant has been incrementally making changes to Alexa throughout 2023 like the time it added a new Home Shortcuts Bar. But instead of drip-feeding users, Amazon seemingly saw fit to roll out the rest of the update in one big push.
The first thing you’ll notice is the Home tab is more structured than before. As TheVerge points out, the old app had a random assortment of “Most Relevant” and “Recently Used” items on the Home tab. The layout is more compartmentalized with a Shortcuts carousel at the top, an Activity section in the middle, and Favorites at the bottom taking up a large amount of space.
According to Amazon, Shortcuts “organizes devices by category and” displays commonly-used features like Routines. If you don’t use certain features, users can customize the carousel to better suit their needs. That area will even show you the current status of your smart home gadgets. The availability of the status readouts is a bit strange, however. The announcement states it will first come to users who have “20 or fewer devices” before expanding to others in the coming months.Easily-accessible information
Activity cards will display “time-sensitive information” like reminders or upcoming alarms. Looking at the preview image, upcoming events are placed at the front. The rest will be hidden although you can tap See All to expand the menu.
Favorites offer quick access to frequently used devices, so you can control them with a single tap. At the time of this writing, eight device types are supported including smart lights, locks, and cameras just to name a few. Amazon says it has plans to expand this list later down the line.
The Devices page has been revamped too, effectively becoming the app’s new settings menu. Groups, located at the top of this page, pool all the connected hardware in a house’s room together for easier configuration. But if you prefer to tweak them individually, each gadget will appear in the list below. Amazon also took the time to upgrade the software’s search function. Now you can sort devices by alphabetical order, the date they were added, their name, or using certain keywords.Availability
The updated Alexa app is making its way to Android and iOS, however, we should mention the latter will have an exclusive feature called Map View.
This tool creates a digital floor plan of your house and then pins all your connected smart home gadgets so you can see where everything is located. It will only be available to a select group as a preview in the United States. No word on when it’ll see a widespread release or if it’ll roll out to Android although we did ask Amazon for more details. This story will be updated at a later time.
Until we hear back, check out TechRadar's list of the best smart speakers for 2023.You might also like
The hits keep on coming at OpenAI. After dismissing CEO and Co-Founder Sam Altman, inviting him back, and reinstating him as CEO just a few days ago, the ChatGPT developer is apparently pulling back, at least temporarily, on its plans for a GPT Store.
Earlier this month during the first OpenAI Dev Day, Altman introduced the concept of "GPTs", basically custom versions of the ChatGPT generative AI model. These bespoke versions would use custom data and therefore do what you wanted them to do. They'd be less generally smart, like the current ChatGPT that turned 1 this week, and much more specifically smart to your needs. Perhaps the most exciting part of this announcement was that you'd be able to post and buy these custom GPTs in an online GPT Store.
Now, Axios is reporting based on a developer memo it obtained that OpenAI is pressing pause on the GPT Store launch at least until early 2024. In the memo, according to the report, OpenAI wrote, "While we had expected to release it this month, a few unexpected things have been keeping us busy!“
That comment, if real, might be a nod toward the tumult that consumed OpenAI over the last two weeks.A new beginning
Of course, all that is in the past now. On November 29, Altman posted a message on the company blog praising his team and even holding out an olive branch to former board member and computer scientist Ilya Sutskever who may have promoted the fire drill that prompted Altman's removal.
"I love and respect Ilya, I think he's a guiding light of the field and a gem of a human being. I harbor zero ill will towards him," wrote Altman on Wednesday.
Perhaps notably, Altman made no mention of "GPTs" or the GPT store in his post. Instead, he focused significant attention on AI safety, writing the company has three immediate priorities and listing this as the first: "Advancing our research plan and further investing in our full-stack safety efforts, which have always been critical to our work."
There's no indication in the reported memo that OpenAI is pausing GPTs work or really any part of its march toward Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), of which Altman writes, "One of the most important things for the team that builds AGI safely is the ability to handle stressful and uncertain situations, and maintain good judgment throughout."
Assuming this pause memo is real, the delay to early 2024 is just a matter of a few months. Knowing OpenAI and the rapid development pace of ChatGPT and the large language model (LLM) powering it, the delay could shrink to weeks.
All told, it's back to AI business for OpenAI.You might also like
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Windows 11 laptops could soon benefit from improved battery life thanks to a change in the works currently in testing.
The new feature called ‘Energy Saver’ is in the freshly released preview build 26002 of Windows 11 in the Canary channel (the earliest testing avenue).
Microsoft describes it as an extension of battery saver, and it reins in system performance to give you more battery life. The blurb for the feature notes it will limit some background activities, so apps and the system may run a bit slower, or be a touch less responsive when you return to them, but your laptop will last longer.
Energy Saver can be set to kick in when your battery percentage drops to a certain level, or you can manually select it. In the latter case, the option is present in the quick settings accessed via the system tray (far right on the taskbar).
Speaking of the quick settings panel, in build 26002 Microsoft has applied some other work here, including experimenting with a tweak that makes it pop up faster and act more responsively, which will be a useful addition to the mix.
Furthermore, dealing with VPNs has been improved in quick settings, with the introduction of the ability to turn your VPN on or off with just a single click.
For all the gory details of the changes made in build 26002, check out Microsoft’s blog post (spoiler alert – they’re not all that gory).Analysis: Energy Saver – and Money Saver, too
What we don’t know yet is how much effect this new Energy Saver will have in extending battery life, but Microsoft is certainly billing it as a more heavy-duty method of eking out greater longevity than battery saver, so that’s promising.
What’s also interesting with this feature is that while it’s designed for laptops, Microsoft is also allowing it to be used for desktop PCs (or notebooks plugged into the mains and not running on battery, for that matter).
In short, this allows you to save a bit of money when running your desktop PC all day – maybe you work from home and do so, like us – if you’re happy with somewhat constrained performance levels, of course. With power bills being what they are, though, and the cost-of-living crisis still very much around, it’s a useful option to have. Not to mention an environmentally-friendly choice, to boot.You might also like...
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.
(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.
(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.You might also like
To commemorate one billion monthly active users, Google is introducing several new customization options on its Messages app.
What’s particularly interesting about the update is that a few of the features are reminiscent of what you find on Apple’s own Messages app. For example, you have Photomoji, allowing you to clip specific parts in a photograph and use them as emoji reactions. iOS 17 has something similar called Stickers. In Google Messages, cutouts are “saved in a special tab for reuse”, plus other people in a group chat can use the same Photomojis at any time.
The similarities don’t stop there. Google Messages is adding Profiles that let users create an introductory biography about themselves alongside their name and a picture. Its iOS counterpart would be Contact Poster. In addition, the app will now have animated Screen Effects akin to the message animations on iPhone. Unlike iOS, you can’t activate the colorful displays whenever you want as Google’s rendition requires you to enter specific “prompt words”. The full list of prompts isn’t in the announcement, although it does mention two.
Typing in “I love you” will launch a bunch of hearts. Entering “it’s snowing” would presumably cause snowflakes to fall from the top. There wasn’t a demo showcasing the latter so we can’t say for sure.Unique inclusions
Of course, the update isn’t only about copying Apple.
There are Voice Moods that’ll let you slap an emoji onto a voice recording, giving it extra visual flair. Additionally, Google states it’ll be “increasing the bitrate and sampling rate” on vocal messages to improve audio quality. Next, you can change the color scheme of a chat, namely the text bubbles and background, to whatever you want via Custom Bubbles. This can help you differentiate conversations so you don’t accidentally send the wrong text to your mom when it was meant for a friend.
(Image credit: Google)
The last two aren’t as impactful, but they can add some nice flourishes to a chat. Now when you react to a message with an emoji, a short animation called a Reaction Effect will play at the same time. Also, standalone emojis sent through the app will sport extra visual effects like sparkles.
Once you get the patch, you can try out most of these features so keep an eye out for when it eventually arrives. The two outliers are Voice Moods and Reaction Effects; both of which are currently in beta. To try those out, you’ll have to become a beta tester for Google Messages, according to the official support page.Android update
Besides the Messages update, Google is adding new features to other Android platforms. A lot is being implemented so we’re only going to mention the more impactful additions.
Moving forward, smartwatches running Wear OS can now control more smart appliances like vacuums and groups of smart lights. The TalkBack tool is being given an AI voice that’ll read out text descriptions to help blind people understand the content in front of them. And finally, Live Caption on smartphones will be available in more languages.
Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best Android phones for 2023.You might also like
Right now, there’s no need to use one of the best webcams to record yourself in video calls and meetings, as there are plenty of third-party apps that let you use your phone as a webcam. Even Apple has got in on the act with its Continuity Camera system, and it now seems that Microsoft also wants a slice of the pie.
According to Android Authority, Microsoft is working on adding this functionality to its Phone Link app that helps connect Android phones to Windows. That could be a major boost to anyone who doesn’t want to spend money on a webcam when they already have excellent cameras built into their smartphone.
Android Authority claims that code in the 1.23102.190.0 version of the Phone Link app gives the game away. The outlet has spotted code strings that reference setting up a camera stream on your computer, with controls allowing you to switch to the front or back cameras, enable Do Not Disturb, and more.
As well as that, there look to be a raft of video effects that you might be able to apply, ranging from HDR and night modes to soft focus, image stabilization, face retouching, and more. There’s also an 'auto-framing' feature that sounds similar to Apple’s Center Stage.Plenty of competition
(Image credit: Apple)
Phone Link can already access your camera, but in its current state this just mirrors video-calling apps on your phone. The new code, on the other hand, suggests that Microsoft is working to bring video-conferencing functionality into Phone Link itself.
It’s not known which devices this feature will be available on, but Android Authority speculates that it could end up being limited to products that include Phone Link as a system app. That would include a number of the best Samsung Galaxy phones, as well as the OnePlus 11 running Android 14, for example.
When – or if – this feature does launch, it’ll face some stiff competition. For instance, the Camo app is a superb tool for using your phone as a webcam, and contains a ton of fine-grained control for perfecting your videos. Microsoft will need to work hard to overcome that challenge.
Stepping back for a moment, there’s no guarantee that this feature will eventually make it into Phone Link. It could be that Microsoft is simply experimenting with it, and might scrap the feature before launch. Time will tell, but if Microsoft can do what Apple has done with Continuity Camera it could be a great addition for Windows and Android users.You might also like
Check your Windows 11 Start menu for an HP app that’s mysteriously installing itself without permission
Windows 11 and Windows 10 users are reportedly experiencing a puzzling situation whereby an unwanted HP app is being installed on their systems without their knowledge.
Windows Latest flagged up this rather peculiar problem that affected the writer’s PC, as well as others according to reports.
The application in question is HP Smart, and we’re told it’s being errantly installed from the Microsoft Store. It’s an app which allows for controlling HP printers or MFDs (multifunction devices that also scan), and it’s being installed on non-HP PCs and also those not connected to an HP printer, which is pretty mystifying.
Windows Latest has been in touch with Microsoft about the problem, and the software giant said it was aware of these reports, and will be in touch soon to share further details on the matter.Analysis: Not so smart move
This is an odd one, for sure, but it seems Microsoft has an investigation underway and we’ll get the results of that soon enough. Stay tuned.
If you’re curious about whether you’ve been affected, you can just jump into the Start menu and scroll down to the ‘H’ section of the app list to see if HP Smart is present. If so, the cure is simple enough – just right click on the entry for the app, and select uninstall. (The app may also be present under the ‘recently added’ section at the top of the menu).
Whether the app could end up being installed again after you remove it isn’t made clear. At any rate, we’d imagine Microsoft will have the solution to this one before long.
It should be noted that in the past there’ve been complaints of the HP Smart app being installed on PCs when people have, for example, taken their computer to a friend’s house and gone on a network that has an HP printer. In other words, Windows detects the presence of the HP printer and then automatically grabs the app. So perhaps what’s going on here is a false detection of HP hardware triggering the installation, but we’re just guessing here.
Really, there should never be a case where software is installed without the user’s knowledge, and there should always be a prompt to show what’s about to happen, and to check that it’s okay to go ahead with the installation.You might also like...
2024 is about a month away, and to celebrate the end of the year, Google has named the winners of the Google Play’s Best of 2023 Awards.
For the sake of brevity, we're going to primarily focus on the best Androids apps as the company introduced a new categories for this year, such as Best with AI and Best Multi-device App. This caused the list to grow by a significant amount so we couldn’t include the likes of the best Chromebook or best tablet apps (If you’re curious to know, the winner of the best Chromebook app is FlipaClip, software that can help people create 2D animation, and the winner for best tablet app is Concepts, a vector-based drawing tool).
Google states the list on its blog is centered around the American winners. Other countries are said to have different winners. However, when we looked at other region, the entries matched the US list except for a single outlier which we’ll shout out later on.Android Apps of the Year 1. Imprint: Learn Visually
(Image credit: Future)
Google has given the Best App of 2023 award to Imprint: Learn Visually, an education software that strives to teach you new skills and the world around you in bite-sized lessons. It offers a personalized experience where you can learn about topics that interest you from human history to psychology. And Imprint does this via eye-catching visual storytelling.
(Image credit: Future)
Spotify has earned the Best Multi-device App award for allowing music streaming across a variety of locations – be it in the kitchen, on the commute to hike, or out on the town. The company highlights the service’s ability to “remotely control playback on another device”. Plus, you can download your favorite songs for offline listening. What’s interesting, it's the only music streaming app on the whole list.
(Image credit: Future)
At the beginning of November, Google allowed people to come in to vote for what they believed was the best app of the year. Winning the Users’ Choice Award is ChatGPT, which isn’t surprising in our opinion. ChatGPT took the world by storm in 2023 as one of the premiere generative AI platforms and whose technology fuels Microsoft’s Bing Chat. On top of that, 2024 is shaping up to be a big year for it.
(Image credit: Future)
If you’re looking to make new friends or have recently moved to a different city, the company recommends installing Bumble For Friends (BFF for short) on your smartphone. It differs from the regular Bumble app as it doesn't focus on helping you find dates. Instead, BFF is all about helping you make genuine friendships, as the name suggests, with others in your local area
(Image credit: Future)
Voidpet Garden: Mental Health won the Best for Personal Growth award and it’s pretty unique. Its goal is to help you practice mindfulness and self care as a way to improve your mental health. It does this in a Pokemon-esque manner by having you collect Void Pets which are said to be creatures born from negative emotion. You raise these creatures by completing tasks in order to turn them into celestial-looking dragons with each representing a positive attribute about the user.
(Image credit: Future)
Artifact: Feed Your Curiosity is similar to Imprint: Learn Visually in that it’s an app that can teach users about the world, but it does so in a different way. The service functions like X’s (formerly known as Twitter) Explore page by offering a curated stream of news articles from across the internet. It covers a variety of topics like the tech industry, politics, and gaming. Users even have the option to mark certain stories as clickbait for better curation.
In the UK, the award went to ReciMe, a social platform where home cooks share their family recipes.
(Image credit: Future)
Aware is another mental health app like Voidpet Garden although it takes a more grounded approach towards mindfulness. It’s a type of journaling software housing “science-based exercises [alongside] live guided sessions”. You don’t have to create an account, plus it’s totally free. No subscription necessary.
It’s worth mentioning this has the least amount of downloads out of everything on this roundup although we do expect it to grow exponentially since it won the Best Hidden Gem award.
(Image credit: Future)
Despite winning the Users’ Choice award, ChatGPT was effectively snubbed by Google as it didn’t get the crown for Best AI. That honor went to Character AI, an app filled with personality-driven chat bots that you can talk to. For example, you can talk to Amelia Earhart, Julius Caesar, or Poseidon, God of the Ocean. People can even talk to Whiskers the Cat.
As you can probably guess, it’s not meant to be taken seriously. It aims to be a fun interactive experience – almost like a video game.
For families, Google has given the nod to PAW Patrol Academy, an app where young kids ages two to five can learn problem-solving skills, gain confidence, and get in touch with their creative side. It features characters from the popular animated series in a variety of interactive adventures as well as clips from certain episodes. What’s more is it doesn’t need to connect to Wi-Fi so kids can enjoy it on the go.
(Image credit: Future)
(Image credit: Future)
Rounding out the list of Google’s best Android apps for 2023 is AWorld in support of ActNow. Its purpose is to teach people how to counteract climate change by calculating their carbon footprint and learn how they can change their lifestyle to reduce the impact they may have on the environment. The software will recommend basic activities like planting trees to lessen carbon emissions or use natural products among other things. AWorld will also encourage you to join group challenges by completing a set number of environmentally-friendly actions.
And that’s Google’s list of recommendations.If you want to know what’s at the top on iOS, check out TechRadar’s roundup of the 14 best iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch of the year – according to Apple.You might also like