Categories
AI

Siri’s 10-year anniversary is a reminder of Apple’s wasted head start

Ten years ago today, Apple’s digital assistant Siri was revealed with the promise that the iPhone maker had finally figured it all out.

“For decades, technologists have teased us with this dream that you’re going to be able to talk to technology, and it’ll do things for us,” said Apple exec Phil Schiller, taking the stage at the launch of the iPhone 4s. “Haven’t we seen this before, over and over? But it never comes true.”

The problem, said Schiller, was that voice interfaces were too reliant on simple syntax. Call Mom. Dial 555-2368. Play Beethoven. “What we really want to do is just talk to our device,” he said, “and your device — in this case, your phone — will figure out what you mean and help you get what you want done.” He paused before bringing up the next slide, showing a familiar icon of a microphone cut-out in burnished aluminum. “That’s a feature on the iPhone 4s we call Siri.”

Described by Schiller as a “humble personal assistant,” Siri gave 2011’s iPhone a dose of star power during a difficult time for Apple. Just months before the phone’s unveiling, a relative unknown at the company, then-chief operating officer Tim Cook, had been named CEO. The day after Schiller’s presentation, Apple’s legendary co-founder Steve Jobs would die from pancreatic cancer. Analysts were cool on the company’s prospects but praised Siri as a potential game-changer. One called it “a powerful harbinger of the future use of mobile devices,” while another said it was “the beginning of a new user experience [for] all of Apple’s mobile and Mac products.”

A decade later, the sheen has worn off Siri’s star. “It is such a letdown,” was how Schiller described the promise of voice interfaces past, and such a description could easily be applied to Apple’s contribution to the genre. Everyone who uses Siri has their own tales of frustration — times when they’ve been surprised not by the intelligence but the stupidity of Apple’s assistant, when it fails to carry out a simple command or mishears a clear instruction. And while voice interfaces have indeed become widespread, Apple, despite being first to market, no longer leads. Its “humble personal assistant” remains humble indeed: inferior to Google Assistant on mobile and outmaneuvered by Amazon’s Alexa in the home.

Looking back on a decade of development for Apple’s personal assistant, there’s one question that seems worth asking: hey Siri, what happened?

Looking back to 2011, initial reactions to Siri were incredibly positive, with reviewers impressed by the feature’s responsiveness and accuracy. “The crazy thing about Siri is that it works — at least most of the time — better than you’d expect it to,” was The Verge’s judgment; “It’s kind of like having the unpaid intern of my dreams at my beck and call,” said CNN; “Siri saves time, fumbling and distraction, and profoundly changes the definition of ‘phone,’” said The New York Times. All in all: Apple seemed to be living up to its promises.

But reading these reviews now, it’s clear Siri was graded on a curve. Its novelty and ambition invited generous appraisals, but when reviewers noted frustrations, they caveated that the software was only in beta and that any rough patches would surely be smoothed away in due time. A detailed run-down of Siri in 2011 from Ars Technica highlights problems familiar today, with the assistant dinged for mishearing instructions in loud spaces and mangling complex commands. An instruction to “Send a text to Jason, Clint, Sam, and Lee saying we’re having dinner at Silver Cloud” is interpreted with Siri texting Jason: “Clint Sam and Lee saying we’re having dinner at Silver Cloud.”

Siri had a first-mover advantage, but it didn’t take long for rivals to emerge. Samsung introduced S Voice on the Galaxy S3 in 2012; that same year Google Now was launched for Android (replaced by Google Assistant in 2016); in 2014 Microsoft brought out Cortana for Windows Phone; and also that year, Amazon went its own way by introducing customers to Alexa on the Echo smart speaker. Speaking to your computer quickly became an expected feature not just on mobile devices, but a whole range of gadgets.

Looking through reviews and comparisons of digital assistants in this period, two things stick out. The first is that people soon get bored of Siri. As reviewers tackle iPhones after the 4s, they often note incremental updates to the assistant but never dedicate much space to it its features. Partly, this seems just because the changes are so small (e.g., retrieving sports results in iOS 6; integrating Wikipedia in iOS 7; introducing ‘Hey, Siri’ in iOS 8), but also because the novelty has worn off.

By the time we get to reviews of the iPhone 8 in 2017, Siri is mentioned in passing, if at all. Our own review summarizes the assistant’s contribution in a single line: “Siri sounds a lot nicer as well, although it’s not any more capable than before.”

iPhone 4S Siri

Siri on the iPhone 4s impressed reviewers for its sheer novelty. But Apple never kept up the momentum.
Image: The Verge

The second major trend is that once competitors did arrive, Apple’s advantage evaporated quickly. A comparison of Siri and Samsung’s S Voice in 2012 notes that the latter already “offers a very good approximation” of Apple’s digital assistant, while a head-to-head test in 2014 shows that “Google Now crushes Siri.” By 2017, The Verge noted that Siri “feels largely half-baked,” and a dissatisfaction with digital assistants in general had begun to creep in. We point out that these assistants can answer basic questions just fine but fail to reliably do things for the user — like booking cinema tickets or ordering food. At least, not without creating new problems of their own.

Looking back, it’s clear that Siri’s big problem is that it failed to maintain momentum. The basic roster of tasks that made Apple’s digital assistant so appealing in 2011 — setting alarms, taking notes, and so on — were never significantly expanded upon. The ability to answer trivia questions and retrieve sport scores is fun, but not as significant an upgrade as telling a computer to complete tasks using just your voice. Meanwhile, rivals replicated and then exceeded what Siri could do. They began to offer more reliable dictation, better language understanding, and integration with third-party skills. Siri just didn’t keep up.

So, where did things go wrong? How did Apple lose its lead? The answer is complicated.

Many suggest Apple’s dedication to privacy means it can never keep up with rivals like Google whose business involves collecting users’ data because that data is incredibly useful when it comes to improving AI systems. I don’t buy this as a reason for Siri’s failure, though. First, because Apple’s love of user privacy is far from absolute. (In 2019, for example, The Guardian revealed that “a small proportion” of Siri recordings were being passed to contractors for analysis, with a whistleblower claiming they overhead discussions “between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters and so on.”) And secondly, because Apple is a two-trillion-dollar company. If it wants to circumvent the messy problems of collecting user data, it can, simply by paying to generate this data. Yes, analyzing random Siri interactions is helpful, but there are other ways to achieve the same improvements.

A more convincing explanation is management dysfunction. In 2018, The Information published a damning report on the comings-and-goings at team Siri. It noted that there was deep-seated disagreement within the company about how Siri should work (is it a feature focused on search and retrieval, or an assistant that carries out complex tasks?). These disagreements stemmed back to Jobs’ original plans for Siri but had devolved into “petty turf battles and heated arguments” between rival factions. They were exacerbated by a lack of leadership and continuity in the Apple execs overseeing Siri. As one former employee told The Information: “When Steve died the day after Siri launched, they lost the vision […] They didn’t have a big picture.” This tallies with the feature’s stalled development after its initial launch.

Other problems are rooted in Apple’s ideology of technology development. For example, The Information’s report claims that Apple exec Richard Williamson made the decision to only update Siri once a year, following the company’s cadence of new hardware and iOS updates. This seems to have slowed progress. (Williamson, who refuted this claim, left Apple in 2012 after spearheading the disastrous Apple Maps launch. Scott Forstall, another executive involved in Siri and Apple Maps, departed that same year. Read into that what you will.)

There’s also Apple’s walled garden approach, which means Siri has always worked well with iOS features but played badly with third-party services. While testing Siri in preparation for this story, I was consistently surprised by its failure to execute simple tasks on popular iOS apps. Siri can’t send a voice memo on WhatsApp; can’t post a story to Instagram; can’t record a run on RunKeeper; and can’t open up The New York Times crossword. Sure, some of the blame for this lack of interoperability lies with outside developers, but it’s also Apple’s job to encourage such functionality through toolkits and the like. The company certainly doesn’t lead by example, either. When I ask Siri for information I know is stored in iOS, like “show me photos from last August,” it just performs an image search for the phrase “last August.”

Not close, and no cigar: results when you ask Siri to “show me photos from last August.”
Image: The Verge

Instead, Apple uses Siri to herd people back to its own inferior apps like a shepherd directing sheep off a cliff-face. If I ask Siri for directions, it prompts me to reinstall Apple Maps (when I habitually use Google Maps and Citymapper). If I try to send an email to my boss, Siri tells me, “I’m sorry I can’t do that,” and then directs me to the App Store to download Apple’s default mail app (I use Outlook). And, here’s a sign of how slipshod Siri’s development is right now: when this happens, Siri sets up a search for “mobilemail” on the App Store. This, of course, isn’t the name of Apple’s mail app, but an ID used by iOS developers, and so it draws a blank when you search for it on the App Store. That’s the kind of broken functionality you get when a company isn’t thoroughly testing its own product.

This last point, though, highlights a problem particular not just to Apple’s assistant, but to voice interfaces more generally, and that is one of expectations.

When Schiller introduced Siri in 2011, he stressed time and time again that Siri would understand users — that it knows what they are saying, just like a real person. This set the bar too high for Siri’s functionality. If you treat voice interfaces as if they have the same level of fluency and knowledge as a human being, you will always be disappointed. We speak, and they stumble. We guess what they’re capable of, and they disappoint. Usually because they don’t support the app or command we thought they would. Each failed interaction then teaches users: don’t trust this feature. By comparison, screens and displays tell us clearly what we can and cannot do. They offer menus, directions, and buttons. A voice offers only itself and our projections of intelligence. For Siri, users have been guided by Apple’s flair for the theatrical. They expect too much, and Apple delivers too little.

Here’s a true story. I took a break just now from writing this article to make a cup of tea and remembered that I had a meeting in an hour’s time. Worried it might slip my mind, I did what I often do in these situations: I asked Siri to set a reminder. “Siri, remind me at ten to five that I have a call,” I said. “Okay,” said Siri, “Setting a reminder for tomorrow at five: you have a call.” I tried again. This time Siri created a reminder for ten o’clock in the evening. The third time, I paused mid-command, trying to think of a clearer way to word my query. Siri got tired of waiting and beeped at me: “What do you want me to remind you of?” And at that, I gave up.

It’s true that Siri and its ilk are often disappointing, but they still tempt users because they hold great potential. Despite the problems associated with voice interfaces, the technology represents a genuine advance. I regularly use Siri for quick tasks, like taking notes, setting timers, and making searches. And when it works, it works seamlessly and unthinkingly. It’s a genuine time-saver. Siri can do much more, too, especially if you’re willing to dive into the world of Apple Shortcuts and smart home commands.

As an accessibility tool, voice controls and dictation have opened up modern gadgets to many more users, and since Apple introduced Siri in 2011, the company has launched a number of products that rely heavily on voice. This is either because screen real estate is limited (the Apple Watch) or it’s nonexistent (the AirPods and HomePod). In years to come, we can expect Apple’s augmented reality glasses to be added to this list. With this in mind, Apple urgently needs to fix Siri — not ignore it.

AirPods, HomePod, and Apple Watch — all products where Siri is helpful or essential.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

If you want to be optimistic, then there are some signs the company is turning the ship around. AI, in general, has received much more attention from Apple in recent years. From poaching Google’s head of machine learning in 2018 to designing its own AI processors to the regular launch of AI-enhanced features, the company is clearly paying more attention to the field. And, best of all, Siri itself has seen a few significant improvements, with on-device processing and availability on third-party hardware added this year.

I’m still skeptical, though. For a start, even when it comes to basic commands, it often seems Siri is not just standing still but moving backward. With iOS 15, Apple removed a decent chunk of Siri’s functionality, including tasks related to notes and photos, and third-party integrations like ride-hailing and payments. Other basic commands, like checking voicemail, also seem to have recently disappeared (whether temporarily or not isn’t clear).

The big problem, I think, is that Apple still doesn’t know what it wants Siri to be. Is the feature simply a way to control your phone with your voice — letting you navigate apps and find content? Or is it something more ambitious — an actual assistant capable of carrying out complex tasks on your behalf? Apple tends to present Siri as the latter in marketing materials, while users find its functionality limited to the former. As someone who reports on AI and machine learning, I think we’re still many, many years away from building computers that truly understand us. Language is just too complex, too deeply rooted in human experience and culture, to be brute-forced by the sort of statistical models we’re throwing at the problem. And while, yes, there are lots of impressive new language systems out there, none of them are reliable enough to create a flawless digital assistant.

If Apple wants to salvage Siri, I think it needs to reset expectations and focus on core competencies instead. It’s interesting to compare Siri’s launch with that of its competitors. When Google introduced Google Assistant in 2016, for example, the focus was less on solving complex tasks and understanding users’ every whim, and more on making the company’s basic search functionality accessible in more places. It was a tighter focus that gave Google the space to surprise, rather than disappoint. (Though the company has certainly over-promised in later ads, too.) Siri, by comparison, surprised us all when it launched in 2011, but has since burned out that goodwill. Apple needs to re-focus on the basics rather than push into a future that doesn’t yet exist. It needs to start listening.

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Categories
Computing

How to start a Twitter Space

Conversations on Twitter aren’t limited to threads and replies and DMs. Twitter now offers a way to communicate with other users without text. It’s called Twitter Spaces and it lets you host, join, or listen in to live audio conversations on particular topics, all from within Twitter.

If you want to start your own Space on Twitter, we’ll go over how to start one depending on your device, as well as answer a few of your more pressing questions about it.

How to start a Twitter Space on Android and iOS

At this time, you can’t start a Space on the web, but you can start one on its Android and iOS apps. Here’s how to start a Twitter Space on the Android and iOS apps:

Step 1: For Android: Open the Twitter mobile app on your device and select the blue Plus sign icon in the lower right corner of your screen.

For iOS: Open the Twitter mobile app on your device and press and hold the blue Plus sign icon. You have to press and hold this icon because simply selecting or tapping it only brings up the compose box for creating new tweets, which is not what you want.


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Step 2: For Android: From the menu that pops up, select Spaces.

For iOS: Select the Spaces icon that appears. It’s purple and kind of looks like a squat oval microphone with a plus sign.

Twitter Spaces menu option.

screenshot

Step 3: In the Create your space screen that appears, go ahead and name your Space, select its topics, and/or toggle on the Record space option (if you want to record your Space).

Twitter Spaces create your space screen.

screenshot

Step 4: Then choose the Start your space button. You may be prompted to permit Twitter to have access to your microphone.

You’ll then be prompted to invite people to join your Space if you’d like. If you’d rather not, select Skip. You can also share your Space via a Tweet by selecting the Share with a Tweet button.

When you’re done with your Space, choose the red End option in the top right corner of your Space. Then select Yes, end to confirm.

A Twitter Space in progress.

screenshot

Step 5: On Android, you can also start a Space by selecting the Spaces icon at the bottom of your Twitter Home screen. (The Spaces icon looks like a squat oval microphone.)

On the Spaces screen, select the blue Spaces icon (another squat oval microphone, but this one has a plus sign), located in the bottom right corner of your screen.

Then follow steps three and four as usual.

Selecting the Spaces tab icon in Twitter for Android.

screenshot

Can anyone start a Twitter Space?

Yes, at this time, anyone with a public (no protected tweets) Twitter account can start a Twitter Space, provided that they do so via the Twitter mobile app (for Android or iOS).

If you can’t meet the above requirements, you won’t be able to start a Twitter Space, but you’ll still be able to listen to Spaces on the web version of Twitter and you’ll still be able to listen in, join, and speak in Spaces if you’re using the Twitter mobile app for Android or iOS.

Why can’t I start a Space on Twitter?

If you can’t start a Space on Twitter, it’s most likely because of one of these reasons:

  • Your account is private (has protected tweets). According to Twitter, such accounts can’t create Spaces. However, though private accounts can’t create a Space, they are allowed to speak in others’ Spaces and they can join Spaces. If a private account joins a Space, the other participants will be able to see them.
  • You’re trying to create a Space on the web version of Twitter. At this time, Twitter says that the web version of its platform does not support the ability to start a Space. You’ll need to download the Twitter mobile app for Android or iOS in order to be able to start a Space.

Editors’ Choice






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Categories
AI

Tesla AI Day event: start time and how to watch the live stream

Today is Tesla’s AI Day, a sequel of sorts to the company’s Autonomy Day event held in 2019. The event, which will be held at Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, will be livestreamed for the public starting at 5PM PT / 8PM ET (though the event may not actually begin until closer to 5:30PM PT).

We don’t have a lot of details about what will be announced, but based on the invitation, we’ll get a keynote address by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, hardware and software demos from Tesla engineers, test rides in the Model S Plaid, and “more.” Musk has also tweeted that the “sole goal” of the event is to lure experts in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence to come work at Tesla.

Tesla usually holds around two public events a year. This year, we got the Tesla Model S Plaid launch event in June, and now AI Day. Over the past few years, Tesla has been holding events, not to unveil new products, but to highlight certain technologies that the company views as crucial to its future development. Last year, Tesla held its first Battery Day event, at which it discussed plans to drive down the cost of battery development with the goal of producing a $25,000 electric car.

AI Day is expected to pick up on the themes first introduced during Autonomy Day, which include the manufacturing of Tesla’s own silicon computer chips to power it’s Full Self-Driving advanced driver assistance feature.

This AI Day comes at an awkward time for the company. Earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it was investigating Tesla’s Autopilot for the nearly dozen incidents in which its cars crashed into emergency vehicles. Two Democratic senators also called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla’s marketing practices for potentially misleading information.

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Categories
Security

Google will start distributing a security-vetted collection of open-source software libraries

Google announced a new initiative Tuesday aimed at securing the open-source software supply chain by curating and distributing a security-vetted collection of open-source packages to Google Cloud customers.

The new service, branded Assured Open Source Software, was introduced in a blog post from the company. In the post, Andy Chang, group product manager for security and privacy at Google Cloud, pointed to some of the challenges of securing open-source software and stressed Google’s commitment to open source.

“There has been an increasing awareness in the developer community, enterprises, and governments of software supply chain risks,” Chang wrote, citing last year’s major log4j vulnerability as an example. “Google continues to be one of the largest maintainers, contributors, and users of open source and is deeply involved in helping make the open source software ecosystem more secure.”

Per Google’s announcement, the Assured Open Source Software service will extend the benefits of Google’s own extensive software auditing experience to Cloud customers. All open-source packages made available through the service are also used internally by Google, the company said, and are regularly scanned and analyzed for vulnerabilities.

Currently, a list of the 550 major open-source libraries being continuously reviewed by Google is available on GitHub. While these libraries can all be downloaded independently of Google, the Assured OSS program will see audited versions distributed through Google Cloud — mitigating against incidents where developers intentionally or unintentionally corrupt widely used open-source libraries. At present, this service is in early access mode and is expected to be made available for wider customer testing in Q3 2022.

The announcement from Google comes as part of an industry-wide drive to improve the security of the open-source software supply chain and one that has also been supported by the Biden administration.

In January, a group of some of the nation’s largest tech companies met with representatives of federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to discuss open-source software security in the wake of the log4j bug. Since then, a recent meeting of the companies involved resulted in a pledge of more than $30 million in funding to boost open-source software security.

Besides contributing funding, Google is also putting engineering hours toward keeping the supply chain secure. The company recently announced the formation of an “Open Source Maintenance Crew” that would work with the maintainers of popular libraries to improve security.

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Categories
Security

Russian military reportedly hacked into European satellites at start of Ukraine war

American government officials told The Washington Post that the Russian military was responsible for a cyberattack on a European satellite internet service that affected Ukrainian military communications in late February.

The hack affected the KA-SAT satellite broadband network, owned by Viasat, an American satellite communications company. On February 24th, the day the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the KA-SAT network was hit by outages that affected Ukraine and surrounding regions in Europe. A few days afterward, Viasat blamed outages on a “cyber event,” but did not release further details.

Though Ukrainian officials have not fully disclosed the impact, the outage is believed to have caused significant communications disruptions at the beginning of the war.

The NSA was reported to be collaborating on an investigation with Ukrainian intelligence services, but no results have been officially announced. However, anonymous officials reportedly told the Post that US intelligence analysts have now concluded that Russian military hackers were behind the attack.

A request for confirmation sent by The Verge to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) had not received a response by the time of publication.

Officials from Viasat told Air Force Magazine that the attack was conducted through a compromise of the system that manages customer satellite terminals, and only affected customers of the KA-SAT network, a smaller broadband provider that Viasat bought last year from French satellite operator Eutelsat.

At the outset of the conflict, commentators feared that Russia could launch widespread and destructive cyberattacks. While one perspective holds that such attacks have failed to materialize, the slow release of additional information gives credence to the suggestion that many attacks may have occurred in the shadows.

In the aftermath of the hack, CISA and the FBI issued a joint cybersecurity advisory to satellite communications providers, warning that the agencies were aware of possible threats to US and international networks, and advising companies to report any indications of malicious activity immediately.

As the war in Ukraine continues — and US opposition to Russia grows in the form of sanctions — the Biden administration has issued increasingly serious warnings about the possibility of Russian cyberattacks on US infrastructure.

On Monday, President Biden advised US businesses to take added precautions against hacking, citing “evolving intelligence” that Russia was preparing to target the US with cyberattacks. Then on Thursday, the Department of Justice unsealed indictments against four Russians accused of mounting state-sponsored cyberattacks against the US, publicly releasing details of a highly sophisticated hacking campaign involving supply-chain software compromises and spear-phishing campaigns against thousands of employees of companies and US government agencies.

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Categories
Game

Xbox Game Pass gets one big game after another to start November

We already had a feeling that November was going to be a big month for Xbox Game Pass, and now Microsoft has confirmed it by sharing the new arrivals for the first two weeks of the month. For many, the main draw in the first half of November will be Forza Horizon 5, the latest first-party game from Microsoft Game Studios. However, there are still plenty of big additions to look forward to aside from Forza Horizon 5.

The new arrivals begin tomorrow, with the additions of Minecraft: Java Edition and Minecraft: Bedrock Edition on the PC version of Game Pass. There are some key differences between these two versions, with the biggest one being that the Java Edition allows for mods and modded servers. In the days before Microsoft acquired Mojang and unified the Minecraft experience across various platforms with the Bedrock Edition, the Java Edition on PC was all we had.

While playing with mods sounds cool – and it is – it should be noted that Minecraft: Java Edition players can only play with other Java Edition players. That means those who want cross-platform play will have to stick with the Bedrock Edition, which is more of a curated version of Minecraft that offers features like the Minecraft Store. So, in short: if you want to play with mods or on modded servers, pick the Java Edition, but if you want cross-platform multiplayer, the Bedrock Edition is the version for you.

On that same day – November 2nd – we’ll also see Unpacking launch on the cloud, console, and PC versions of Xbox Game Pass. Unpacking, a day-one release for Xbox Game Pass, is a puzzle game where you’ll be unpacking boxes and decorating new spaces on moving day.

On November 4th, we’ll get two more additions to the Xbox Game Pass lineup: It Takes Two (cloud, console, and PC) via EA Play and Kill It with Fire (cloud, console, and PC). It Takes Two is the big star here, with its co-op multiplayer storyline that involves two parents who try to fix their struggling marriage after magically transforming into dolls. It’s a fantastic co-op game from Hazelight and should be a priority when it lands on Xbox Game Pass later this month.

If there’s a single “big day” for Xbox Game Pass in the first half of November, it’s November 9th. On that day, we’ll see Football Manager 2022 (PC), Football Manager 2022: Xbox Edition (cloud, console, and PC), and Forza Horizon 5 (cloud, console, and PC) join. The Football Manager games need little introduction after all these years, but it’s worth pointing out that the Xbox Edition will feature Xbox touch controls through Cloud Gaming, meaning you don’t need to pair a controller to your phone to play it.

Forza Horizon 5 is undoubtedly the big star of the month, and this time around, we’ll be heading to Mexico. We’ve already seen a lot of gameplay footage from Forza Horizon 5, and it looks to be another solid entry in the series. If you’re looking to get particularly excited, be sure to check out the full Forza Horizon 5 map, which is completely free of any icons so you can see all the roads, highways, and even trails you’ll be able to drive.

While November 9th might be a big day for Xbox Game Pass, November 11th certainly gives it a run for its money. On that day, we’ll see Grand Theft Auto: San Andres – The Definitive Edition (console) and One Step from Eden (console and PC) join Xbox Game Pass. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: The Definitive Edition is one part of the upcoming Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, giving players a taste of the remade PS2-era GTA games.

One Step from Eden, on the other hand, is an indie deck-building strategy game that takes inspiration from titles like Slay the Spire and Mega Man Battle Network. It’s one of the higher-profile indie games in recent memory, and it’s worth the bandwidth for anyone who wants a fresh take on the very popular roguelike genre.

With a new round of additions comes a new round of departures, and on November 15th, it’ll comprise Final Fantasy VIII HD (console and PC), Planet Coaster (cloud and console), Star Renegades (cloud, console, and PC), Streets of Rogue (cloud, console, and PC), The Gardens Between (cloud, console, and PC), and River City Girls (cloud, console, and PC). Those are some big titles, and if you’re currently playing any of them, you’ll want to finish up before the 15th rolls around.

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Categories
Computing

Windows 11 Start Menu Can Be Replaced With New Stardock App

Windows 11 caused an uproar with major changes made to the beloved Start Menu. But popular Windows utility developer, Stardock, has a beta version of an application that makes Windows 11 feel a bit more familiar.

Microsoft doesn’t currently let you revert back to the “classic” Start Menu in the beta versions of Windows 11 — to the dismay of some. But that’s where Start11 comes in, which allows you to do exactly that.

Once installed, Start11 gives you the ability to change the appearance of the Windows 11 Start Menu and revert back to its classic version. And when we say “classic,” we don’t mean Windows 10. The beta version of Start11 brings back the design of the old Windows 7 Start Menu.

Stardock has long provided many PC desktop enhancement utilities that are designed to enable you to control the way Windows looks, feels, and functions. The StartX family is one of the most popular customization tools for Windows that Stardock released, which offers the Windows 7 classic Start Menu for those on Windows 10.

Today, Stardock released a beta version of Start11 that gives you the option of making your Start Menu look like that of Windows 7, with a list of your apps on the left and some settings on the right. The app gives you the option to revert to the Windows 7 Start menu or opt for a modern look. The latter has more or less the same features but is built with elements of the newer Windows 11 design language, such as rounded corners.

The recent release consists of quite a few features for the Start menu. It includes options to customize colors, fonts, shortcuts, and icon sizes. The taskbar even supports tweaks such as custom textures, transparency settings, blur effects, and more.

For now, this is only a beta version, though. According to Stardock, it doesn’t host all the features it’s going to offer in the future. Stardock plans on adding updated pages or tabs, and new features for enterprise customers. Stardock CEO Brad Wardell says he plans on adding much more functionality to the app.

Start11 costs $5 with special upgrade pricing if you have a previous StartX license, and works with Windows 10 as well, so you can buy it even if you’re not planning on upgrading to Windows 11 anytime soon.

Windows 11 is set to release later this year, currently in beta through the Windows Insider program. It’s a full refresh of the operating system, though the changes to the Start Menu have certainly commanded the most attention from potential upgraders.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Pokemon GO Fest 2021 start times and rundown in kickoff videos

This weekend starts Pokemon GO Fest 2021, with all sorts of celebratory events and happenings therein. The game Pokemon GO started approximately 5 years ago, making this the official fifth anniversary event, and the biggest Pokemon GO event of the year. With the start of the event series, Niantic CEO John Hanke presented a video welcoming everyone to the party and another “podcast” was released by the company to start the event off right.

Below you’ll see the first “Pokemon GO Fest 2021: Event Kickoff” video with Niantic CEO John Hanke. This video gives users a quick overview of what the event will consist of and how the world of Pokemon GO is going right this minute. It’s been a long time since we called it – and it remains true today: Pokemon GO is the best game EVER: Here’s why (June 30, 2016).

Niantic also released a video with Niantic 3D designer Crag Kintzmann. This video shows a step-by-step process of constructing this year’s official Print at Home kit for Pokemon GO Fest 2021. This design was created in the first place by Niantic designer Ting Tey. You can find this kit at Niantic ready to download and print.

Finally there’s a Pokemon GO “podcast” of sorts from Niantic in the form of a video posted to YouTube. This video has a still frame of two Pikachu near the Pokemon GO Fest 2021 logo, onstage and ready for musical action.

Pokemon GO Fest 2021 has a start time of 10AM local time on July 17, 2021. This event ends at 6PM local time, also on July 17. The second half of the event will begin at 10AM local time on July 18, 2021, and will end at 6PM local time this same day. Take a peek at the timeline below for more information on the goings-on with this event and tips on how to succeed in this multi-day journey.

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Computing

Windows 11 No Longer Lets You Use Old Windows 10 Start Menu

Changes to the Start Menu have been the most noticeable and controversial feature of Microsoft’s new Windows 11 operating system. But in the early builds of Windows 11, retrieving the old Windows 10 Start Menu was always just a few clicks in Settings away. According to the changes made in the latest version of Windows 11, however, that’s no longer the case.

The shift happened in the second build of the Windows 11 beta software, which is now available through the Windows Insider program. Among other notable changes to the Start Menu, Microsoft has apparently removed the option from Settings entirely, leaving you with the bright and shiny new Start Menu whether you like it or not. And yes, that means there’s no option for left-aligning the Taskbar either.

There are a couple of caveats, however. First, there is actually a way to get back the Windows 10 Start Menu, but it’s anything but straightforward. The folks at Tom’s Hardware have discovered a backdoor method that involves tweaking a registry. Obviously, anything involving a registry change isn’t recommended and could cause some serious issues with your device. Then again, you’re on beta software to begin with, so you should be treading lightly anyways.

Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind that Windows 11 is still in its early stages of development. While the central features and design elements are likely here to stay, we’ll likely see a host of changes made between now and its eventual release date toward the end of this year. Because the ability to revert back to the Windows 10 Start Menu was already available in the initial builds, it’s not hard to imagine Microsoft bringing it back.

That’s especially true if there’s an uproar around its disappearance. Judging by the hostile reaction some have had toward the new Start Menu, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft changed its mind once again in this regard. Giving people the option to switch between the old Start Menu and the new one has few downsides. It’ll make the stodgy traditionalists happy and encourage more of them to upgrade when the time comes.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see what Microsoft decides as additional builds of Windows 11 roll out over the coming months.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

New Windows 11 Build Improves the Start Menu

A little over a week after Microsoft launched Windows 11 in an early preview with the Windows Insider program, the new operating system is already seeing some big updates.

Microsoft just announced a new Dev Channel build of Windows 11, improving the Start Menu and adding fixes that “make the Windows 11 experience even better.

The big improvement in this build of Windows 11 is a new search box in the Start Menu, making it easier to find what you’re looking for, without the need to open the dedicated search app. Other changes include the return of the Power Mode settings in the Power and Battery page, as well as the ability to right-click on the volume icon in the taskbar to troubleshoot sound problems.

Some smaller changes coming in this build relate to system alert dialogue boxes. The alert for battery running low and display settings all now feature Windows 11’s new visual design. Microsoft even simplified refreshing the desktop, so that you no longer need to click “show more options.”

More importantly, this latest build fixes the “PrintNightmare” vulnerability in Windows. Separate out-of-band patches fixed it in Windows 10, but today’s release patches up the remote code execution exploit in Windows 11. Other fixes cover bugs in the settings app, notifications, lock screen, Widgets, and more.

The full changelog for this build is available on Microsoft’s website and is pretty significant in length. We just hit the highlights. The log also lists several bugs which might impact your experience if you opt to install the early preview of Windows 11. These include bugs with File Explorer, search, and widgets,

As a reminder, if you’re not already enrolled to test Windows 11, you can do so right now on compatible PCs via the Windows Insider Dev Channel in just a few steps. Microsoft invites those who are beta testing Windows 11 right now to participate in a “bug bash” where quests can be completed related to the new operating system via the Feedback Hub.

At the end of those quests, you can earn a virtual badge. Quests cover looking over the new Start Menu, trying out the new multitasking features, and more.

Editors’ Choice




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