Random phone shutoffs; Is AI a fad?; Windows Copilot

Bob's Tech Talk

Q. Sometimes my smartphone shuts off suddenly. The screen goes dark, and none of the buttons work. After a few minutes, it works again. Should I look for a replacement?

A. Modern smartphones take their internal temperature continuously. These modern computing miracles still have to obey the laws of physics, and when they get too hot, bad things happen.

As a result, smartphones are smart enough to hibernate instantly when they feel a little toasty. The causes are many, everything from laying in open sunlight to processing photos or videos.

Because smartphones are so good at hiding the fact they are actually complex computers, a suddenly unresponsive phone might seem like a failure. But if the cause is thermal, and the effect is unexpected sleep, that failure is really a feature.

The temperature can change in milliseconds inside a phone, and there is usually no time to warn the user that it needs to take a break. This is why mysterious shutdowns happen without warning, either before or after.

The way to tell if this is a serious problem or “normal” is to pay attention to patterns of behavior. The phone does not always need to feel warm to the touch in order to overheat, although that will occur sometimes. If the problem happens once or twice, or only happens on sunny days, there is a good chance the sudden shutdowns are normal, if inconvenient.

Q. Is Artificial Intelligence a revolutionary new technology or a fad?

A. There is no question that we have been bombarded with news about AI in the last year, and this summer the hype reached a fever pitch as Google, Apple and Microsoft each announced ambitious future plans.

However, calling AI a new fad is a bit of a misnomer. AI, under different names such as machine learning, has been in our devices for at least a decade. Only in the last year have large language models captured everyone’s attention as the next big thing.

So a new fad? No. But how revolutionary will it become? No one really knows the full answer to that yet. First off, none of the newest features have shipped, and promises of “later this fall” sometimes quietly change to “in the next few years.” Remember self-driving cars that work? Or jet packs?

As I write this, AI has inspired impressive demos. But not until useful everyday features are in widespread use will we have any sense of what was sizzle and what is steak.

Q. What is the difference between AI on Windows 11 and Copilot+ PCs?

A. AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is everywhere this summer. In many ways it represents the leading edge of innovation for personal computers.

Microsoft Copilot is the name Microsoft has chosen to describe a suite of advanced features that fall under the umbrella term “AI.”

Copilot+ PCs are specific PC models that are powerful enough to support all the features available as part of Copilot.

Unless you purchase a Copilot+ PC, you will have to wait until fall before a version of Copilot is available for some existing PCs as part of a Windows 11 update. Given the processor power needed for AI features, most existing PCs will probably only support a subset of Copilot features.

“Recall” is one of the marquee features in Copilot. It is also one of the worst ideas I have ever encountered in computing. The feature, which was removed suddenly after its announcement, takes a snapshot of your screen every few seconds and stores it on your computer. I am far from the only critic who thinks the idea is a security nightmare. Even if you do not use Recall, when you communicate with someone who does, anything you share on screen will be recorded.

George Orwell never imagined something so invasive. I do not know how the Recall mess will sort itself out, yet I fear it will eventually reappear later this year.

Wander the Web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

Open AI on the Web

ChatGPT from openai.com is considered the best large language model right now, and there is no need to wait for it to show up on your favorite device. Use it for free on the Web today. https://chatgpt.com/

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Click on the “Game” link in the yellow menubar to play a web version of the classic text adventure, celebrating its 30th anniversary. And Don’t Panic! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03v379k

Future Progress

This page shows progress bars to future events. One of many great places to explore on neal.fun.


Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades. He can be contacted at techtalk@bobdel.com.