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Microsoft PowerToys Receives PowerLauncher Tool

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Microsoft has this week introduced a new tool for its PowerToys app collection. Specifically, the service now includes a PowerLauncher.

As the name suggests, the new tool is a quick launcher. It has some interesting additions such as support for plugins and a search ability.

PowerLauncher was developed by Jessica Yuowono, a Program Manager for Microsoft. The App allows users to launch an app instantly and search for other tools. Other features on the service include auto-complete.
Microsoft says PowerLauncher is designed to make it faster to find search results than the Win+S shortcut. Indeed, the company says the launcher can replace that key group. However, the tool is currently under review and not available widely on PowerToys just yet.
In the meantime, you can see its details on GitHub.
New PowerToys
Last year, rolled out its re-tooled PowerToys in preview. Two features are part of the preview, which is a reimagining to the suite that has its roots in Windows 95.
With ShortcutGuide, users can hold the Windows key for a customizable amount of time to get a list of keys they can combine it with. This overlay taps into the content on a user’s screen, pointing out taskbar elements, shortcuts, and more.
FancyZones is arguably more useful. With it, users can choose between preset window layouts or create their own.
In October, Clint Rutkas returned to Microsoft to head up the PowerToys division. Rutkas was with Microsoft for years, including as Senior PM for the developer platform. In June he decided to move to Facebook as a Developer Advocate.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft President Calls EU Plan to Ban Facial Recognition a ‘Meat Cleaver’ Solution

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Microsoft president Brad Smith has issued a more cautious response to the EU’s proposed facial recognition ban than competitors. The Union is reportedly mulling a ban of up to five years for facial recognition tech in public areas while it works out how to prevent abuses. The tech has been found to be in use by several law enforcement agencies across the world, with concerns that it infringes citizen’s human right to privacy.

However, in a conference arranged by Bruegel (via VentureBeat), Smith indicated that he’s reluctant to support the ban. The chief legal officer and president of Microsoft pointed out some of the positives of the tech, such as reuniting families with missing children.

“I’m really reluctant to say let’s stop people from using technology in a way that will reunite families when it can help them do it,” he said. “The second thing I would say is you don’t ban it if you actually believe there is a reasonable alternative that will enable us to, say, address this problem with a scalpel instead of a meat cleaver.”
It’s not the first time Smith has referred to the example, perhaps because Microsoft was accused of doing the opposite by helping the US’ ICE. He’s referencing the use of the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) by the Dehli Police to trace 3,000 missing children in just four days. But while that’s an achievement, the use of the tech by Indian law enforcement is a concern to many Indian citizens. The tech is being deployed increasingly across airports, cafes, and more recently political rallies across India. One concern is that children are being used as positive press while it both tests and improves the system’s capabilities.
Tech Advances Faster than Regulation
This is where the trouble may lie with Smith’s statement. Currently, how can Europe ensure that facial recognition is only used for good? We’ve previously seen governments secretly mass surveilling their population without their knowledge, tapping into global internet infrastructure and forcing companies to hand over data.
Well, Microsoft executive suggests that we’ll only discover those answers by actively using the tech. “There is only one way at the end of the day to make better technology and that is to use it,” he said.

He has previously said Microsoft welcomes regulations surrounding the software and has turned down a law enforcement request to use the tech. At the same time, though, the tech giant has been accused of working with universities linked with the Chinese government to further the tech. Smith also says he has no issue passing the tech to governments, saying it’s the purpose and lack of bias that’s important.
In contrast, Google’s Pichai was more supportive. He said it was important governments tackle it sooner rather than later and notes that it may require a “waiting period” while governments and tech companies think about how he’s being used. However, the CEO also called for different rules for different sectors. One example given was self-driving cars.
So it seems Smith and Pichai agree that the EU should be cautious in regulation, but the Google CEO is generally more concerned about the tech’s widespread use. The question with facial recognition is always whether the good outweighs the bad, and Pichai seems to lean more towards the latter side.

Source – Winbuzzer

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LinkedIn Embraces AI to Thwart Fake Profiles

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Social media networks face a major battle in keeping peace on their platforms. One major problem is people creating profiles to post inappropriate content, which could be anything from offensive images, false advertising, or profanity and hate speech. AI is helping to handle such profiles and LinkedIn has explained how it handles the situation.

The Microsoft-owned platform has over 300 million monthly active users. While it’s arguable LinkedIn’s business-centric model does not make it as open to hate speech as Facebook or Twitter, the platform faces its own specific issues with fake profiles.

In a blog post, software engineer Daniel Gorham explains LinkedIn previously used human curators to find words and phrases on a block list. If words or phrases were found that breached terms of service, a profile would be taken down.
However, the effort behind maintaining such a policing effort was too costly. Gorham points to the following issues with this method:
“Scalability. This approach is a fundamentally manual process, and significant care must be taken when evaluating words or phrases.
Context. Many words may be used in both appropriate and inappropriate contexts. For example, the word “escort” is often associated with prostitution, but may also be used in contexts such as a “security escort” or “medical escort.”
Maintainability. Blocklists only grow larger over time as more phrases are identified. Tracking performance as a whole is simple, but doing so on a phrase-by-phrase basis is non-trivial. Significant engineering effort is required to ensure the stability of the system is maintained.”
AI Approach
Instead, LinkedIn turned to artificial intelligence and machine learning. The company now uses an AI model that has a convolutional neural network. Basically, this is an algorithm that uses image analysis.
“Our machine learning model is a text classifier trained on public member profile content. To train this classifier, we first needed to build a training set consisting of accounts labeled as either “inappropriate” or “appropriate.” The “inappropriate” labels consist of accounts that have been removed from the platform due to inappropriate content.”

Source – Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Backs Google Legal Fight to Stop APIs Becoming Copyrightable

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Microsoft has joined other tech giants, such as IBM, in filing court documents that support Google before its court battle in the US. Google is facing the Supreme Court to decide if copyright applies to the interfaces of software applications.

Specifically, the court will hear the Google vs Oracle case in March. Oracle had previously gained an advantage when the US Court of Appeals reversed a previous decision that deemed Google’s use of Java API package in Android as “fair use”.

With the decision reversed Google appealed to the court and a new date (March) was set move through the case again.

On January 6, Google issued its opening brief and has gained support from several rivals. IBM, Mozilla, and Microsoft are among the 27 “friend of court” briefs siding with Google. All the companies believe software APIs should not be copyrightable.

Microsoft Briefing

Microsoft said last year’s decision “takes an unduly narrow view of fair use that elevates functional code to the same level of copyright protection as the creative expression in a novel”.

According to Microsoft, if the decision is applied it will create a “problematically narrow standard” for evaluating use of code.

“While Google used the software interfaces at issue for the same purpose as in Oracle’s Java platform – allowing a program to invoke computer functionalities – it incorporated them into a completely different platform that opened new possibilities for programmers and consumers,” wrote Microsoft.

Microsoft points out APIs are vital for interoperability across numerous services, such as web browsers and the cloud. If company’s can copyright APIs, Microsoft argues it would harm the industry and customers.

“If, as in computing’s early days, every device had its own proprietary interface, one could never add a product outside a particular vendor’s offerings to the system. But in today’s interoperable ecosystem, consumers generally can choose smart products based on their merits and functionality, without worrying about compatibility with their existing system,” wrote Microsoft.

Source – Winbuzzer

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New Microsoft Launcher Preview Gets It Surface Duo Ready

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Microsoft Launcher’s 6.0 preview launched yesterday, and it appears to make several adjustments to suit the upcoming Surface Duo. The dev team says its rebuilt the launcher on a new codebase which has enabled several important features.

The most notable one for the Dual-screen Duo is a landscape mode. You can now use Microsoft’s Android experience in practically any orientation, the dock simply moving to the end of the screen as everything rotates.

It also adds a full-fledged dark mode, turning the search bar, news, timeline, settings, and everything else true AMOLED black. This should save your eyes in the dark, while new icons bring it closer to the modern design language.

Microsoft also says the launcher features better memory performance, new widgets, and improved activities, search UI, apps list, and dock. It’s probably one of the biggest overhauls to the launcher yet, and ensures Duo users will have a pleasant, Windows-like experience despite the differing OS.

Unlike other previews, this one is delivered as a separate app, rather than an opt-in. That may be because all of the features of the main app aren’t there yet. My experience has been next to flawless so far, but Microsoft also warns that there could be a lot of bugs.

“This is an Alpha version of the Microsoft Launcher so as such some features may not work properly, or the experience may be unstable,” said the dev team. “Additionally, this version only contains a subset of the standard features from the main app.”

Source – Winbuzzer

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Google Discloses the Winners of Its Android Search Engine Auction, and Bing Is Included

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Google has unveiled the search engines that will feature as options for European Android users in the near future. The company was previously slapped by a €4.34 billion fine, partly for “Illegal tying of Google’s search and browser apps”. Shortly after, it announced that users will be able to choose which default search and browser they want.

Controversially, though, the alternatives were sold away to the highest bidder. Google has now announced the result of those bids, which vary somewhat for each country. Its own engine will always be available, of course, and DuckDuckGo will be offered universally.

In the UK, Microsoft’s Bing makes its sole appearance, hitting first, followed by DuckDuckGo and Info.com. Also featuring in some countries is GMX, a subsidiary of United Internet, and privacy-focused search engines Qwant and Privacy Wall.
The bidding will open again in four months, but not everyone is happy. Ecosia boycotted it under moral grounds, saying that selling promotion space goes against the EU’s wishes for an open and free internet.
The ruling has essentially been used for profit by Google when it could have simply let users enter their engine of choice when setting up a new Android device. For its part, Alphabet Inc. stresses that users can still customize and change their search provider after the initial setup.
“As always, people can continue to customize and personalize their devices at any time after set up,” it wrote in an August blog post announcing the auction. “This includes selecting which apps to download, changing how apps are arranged on the screen, and switching the default search provider in apps like Google Chrome.”
Whatever your thoughts, EU users will see the option from March 1 when they start up a new phone or reset their OS. The choice will affect their search engine across Chrome and the home screen while installing the provider’s app.

Source – Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Announces Bing for Commerce Integrated Search

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Microsoft is on a commerce push ahead of its attendance at NRF 2020 Vision, the world’s largest retail trade show, next week. In its latest announcement, the company launched Bing for Commerce. A new intelligent search component for Bing, the tool focuses on personalization searches for retailers.

In a blog post to announce the addition, Microsoft points out to a research study that shows 80 percent of shoppers leave a website if its searches are not powerful. In other words, shoppers value being able to easily search for products on a retail site.

Bing for Commerce helps retailers make their on-site search engines more powerful. It leverages Microsoft AI technology and Bing intelligence to driver searches.

Among the tools offered by the new integration are product search accuracy, customized visual search capabilities, and product recommendations.

Features

  • Intelligent Product Search: Intelligent search reads into user, product & brand intent with natural language processing and contextual understanding to deliver more relevant results – and happy shoppers.
  • Custom Visual Search: Help customers find what they want, even when they can’t describe it. Bing Custom Visual Search is trained on images from your catalog so your customers can use their mobile devices to “shop the look”.
    • Personalization and Product Recommendations: Surprise and delight customers, while also helping grow your average order values. Bing Intelligence provides personalized and contextual recommendations to reveal similar or related products. Shopping made easy.”

    Bing for Commerce is functional across PC and mobile. Microsoft says the tool is now available in public preview for larger retailers. It will also be included in the upcoming Dynamics 365 Commerce suite.

    Source – Winbuzzer

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Why you should migrate PST files

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It’s been almost five years since Practical 365 and Quadrotech co-published the Complete Guide to Eradicating PST Files.

It continues to be one of our most successful eBooks, receiving thousands of downloads each year, yet the PST problem isn’t going away anytime soon, as many organizations continue to ignore these ticking time bombs.

One of the most common retorts from IT managers or finance directors is that if PST files aren’t causing you any issues right now, why invest time and money in dealing with them? Well, below I will detail all the sordid details surrounding PSTs and why they must be dealt with before they sabotage your organization.

PST Issues: Security and Compliance

Perhaps the most compelling issue is Security and Compliance. In the age of GDPR and other regulations, data in PST files requires modern protection. However, these files do not support such security.

Since PSTs are portable and can be stored virtually anywhere – laptops, desktops, removable media, local networks, etc. – this makes them extremely difficult to identify and vulnerable. This is especially true when you consider what information may be contained within email to begin with. Inevitably, many will contain critical and highly sensitive information, such as intellectual and industrial property; personnel data and records; marketing plans and product launch info, along with corporate financial data. In the event a company laptop goes missing or is compromised, you can see how this could potentially put the organization at risk.

To make matters worse, if PST files are saved locally to a desktop or laptop outside of company backup parameters, the issue is further compounded because they’re neither backed up nor protected. Many organizations have stopped backing up local hard drives on end-user workstations as they have adopted cloud storage such as OneDrive for Business or Box. PST files don’t live in this space well, resulting in many companies rolling the dice and losing these recovery options.

Managing PST files becomes a job in itself. Not only can these files be easily deleted, just finding them typically requires a substantial investment in both time and technology. If an organization is faced with a legal hold, or a discovery request, they will struggle to locate these files. Native tools are too limited to perform a proper search of these files across your environment. This puts an extreme burden on IT, hinders the process and increases costs of litigation discovery. Without the use of third-party tools, admins must conduct a massive search exercise and often need to work with end-users, something that may not be even allowed depending on the case.

If the costs for producing data are high, you will not find relief if something goes wrong and have to pay fines. PST files, and the content in them, are also easily deleted and there is no real control to prevent this. Depending on the laws in your country, this creates new challenges. These laws continue to evolve and take stricter stances on protecting data. For example, in the US changes were made in 2015 to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. According to amendment 37e, companies can now be fined for not taking the proper measures to preserve this data. In Europe, the GDPR regulations cover preservation, management, and deletion of data – all key aspects of the regulations.

Depending on the regulation, companies could find themselves faced with sanctions, fines and expenses related to the discovery order.

The fact that PSTs are portable, rarely backed up, hard to search for and easily deleted – this is all cause for a perfect storm if your organization ever needs to comply with a discovery order.

Corruptible, Irretrievable and Irreparable

PSTs are notoriously unreliable (they were never intended to store large amounts of data long-term) and there are many ways they can become corrupt. When this happens, the file simply can’t be opened, and the user is unable to access the email. PST files are also extremely fragile and have a very limited propensity for recovery, so a lot of times corruption leads to permanent data loss. Simply put: sometimes they can be repaired, sometimes they cannot be, but most often some data is lost. Here are some common scenarios that can cause corruption:

  • Any interruption while the file is being created or updated such as closing Outlook abruptly, PC crash or a power outage – this will prevent the PST file from saving data correctly
  • Storing PSTs on a central file server, making them accessible over the network
  • Interruption in network connectivity will corrupt, as will two users attempting to open the same PST file at the same time
  • Ransomware/Virus/malware that has corrupted data on the system, including PSTs
  • Hardware issues, such as physical damage
  • Incorrectly recovering files (often this happens with bad recovery software)

This trifecta – the fact that they are easily corruptible and, in some cases, irretrievable and irreparable – is not just a drain on IT resources, it is a costly IT nightmare. Outside of IT, this data loss can have a massive impact on users resulting in customer frustration in terms of lost contracts, poor brand image, wasted time, legal risk, and more)

They’re just annoying

Aside from the IT torment described above, PSTs are just plain annoying. For one, they are specific to a device, so they are only accessible using that copy of Outlook and they cannot be accessed through OWA (Outlook Web App) or mobile devices. They are inaccessible by any other device attempting to access that particular mailbox.

Second, because these nasty little files are housed locally, they’re able to bypass fixed data retention policies and compliance requirements including deletion or classification policies applied against the mailbox. This enables end-users to archive data for longer periods of time than may be necessary by law, which means they can be subpoenaed during litigation.

Lastly, their file growth size is an utter nuisance. Let’s say the average size in your organization is around 2GB, so multiply by that by the number of employees in an organization, and you’ll see that the size of all employees’ PST files can easily exceed terabytes. This can have a major impact on enterprise storage requirements and restore times.

The Solution

Most organizations express the need for a technology solution that will help them discover the files, determine ownership, remove passwords, repair the corrupt files, and then migrate the files to Office 365 as efficiently as possible.

Migrating these files to Office 365 has a wealth of benefits. Once moved to the cloud, messages are easily accessed, storage costs are rendered nonexistent, and IT burdens are eliminated. It’s highly advisable that enterprise organizations seek out a technology solution for eliminating PSTs in their ecosystem and remove the associated risks.

Because unlike a ticking time bomb, there’s no discernible sound that will alert you to the presence of this costly, GDPR-infringing PST file in your IT environment, you never know when the contents might explode into your business, causing IT and management headaches, costs, data loss, or potential reputational damage.

Source – Vanguard

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Microsoft Debuts Bing Page as A Search Profile for Individuals

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Microsoft has announced a new Bing tool that provides users with more control over their personal results on the search engine. Called Bing Pages, the feature provides settings for changing how you appear in results.

Bing Pages has launched in beta and is not just focused on Bing but works across Microsoft services. Users can customize their page to reflect which content they want to be displayed. For example, they can manage social media feeds from the page.

For individuals with media profiles, Microsoft says Bing Pages is a low cost but effective way of promoting themselves on search results. Furthermore, organizations can manage their online persona on services such as Outlook and Skype.

Yes, this is taking a leaf directly from Facebook’s, ahem, book. Essentially, users can now create a Bing profile which heavily resembles what a Facebook Pages profile would be. However, whereas Facebook’s offering is limited to its platform, Bing Pages work across search and Microsoft services.

Setup

On the sign-up page for the new tool, users enter information about themselves. For example, you can add social media accounts, website URL addresses, and email addresses. In an eyebrow raising addition, Microsoft is requiring a Twitter account to authenticate users.

Microsoft has not been forthcoming with a slew of details about how that works. Of course, it’s worth remembering Bing Pages is in beta so expect more information in the near future. Included in that info would be when Microsoft expects a full launch of the tool.

Source – Winbuzzer

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Frostpunk, Tekken 7, and FTL Are Coming to Xbox Game Pass This Month

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Just a week after announcing GTA V for Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft has unveiled four new titles. In another major win for the subscription service, Frostpunk, FTL, Tekken 7, and Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet are coming this month.

There are two stand-outs here. The first is Frostpunk, a critically acclaimed city-building strategy game that has players managing the last city on a frozen earth. Created by the team behind This War is Mine, it forces players to make tough decisions to keep their colonists alive while keeping a tense atmosphere and engaging story.

FTL: Faster than Light is also excellent in its own right. The rouge-like real-time strategy game has been around a good while now and has players managing their space-crew through a randomly generated galaxy. The title can be incredibly frustrating, but intensely rewarding the few times everything comes together.
Tekken and Sword Art
Tekken 7 also received quite a bit of praise from the press on its 2017 release, but recent balance changes have left players frustrated at times. The fighting game series has had plenty of time to mature since its first release in 1994, and Tekken 7 was the first game after a six-year hiatus. The story concludes the clan war between members of the Mishima family while bringing strong visuals via Unreal Engine 4 and tight, satisfying combat.
In all, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is the hardest sell here. Based on an anime, its western audience is niche to begin with, but it also struggles with some questionable graphics and lackluster storytelling. Thankfully, game pass subscribers only have to pay a small monthly fee to try it out, so now is probably the best time to give it a go.
Frostpunk will launch on January 9 with Sword Art, with the others coming soon. Of the four, two will come to Gamepass for PC: Frostpunk and FTL.

Source – WinBuzzer

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