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Microsoft Survey Shows Online Civility is Declining During the Pandemic

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More people are online than ever. Sure, that was a trend surging upwards for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth. Increasing numbers work online, and global lockdowns means people have been seeking all their recreation online. Unfortunately, the internet has also lived up to its reputation and Microsoft shows online civility has been going down during 2021.

As we move further into the second year of the pandemic, it seems online civility is dwindling. A survey of 11,067 people across 22 countries by Microsoft shows 82% of the countries were seeing net-worse net civility during the COVID crisis.

Microsoft surveyed age groups between 13 and 74 and asked about 21 common online risks spread across four categories: behavioral, personal, reputational, and sexual. Germany, Poland, Philippines, Hungary, and Italy showed the biggest decline in online civility. Four nations – Peru, Mexico, India, and Colombia – displayed net-positive results.

17% of people says they had observed an improvement in online civility, although 30% said it was worse. This is compared to 26% and 22% in 2020.

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Stats

Other important notes to take from the survey include:

  • ““A greater sense of community” tumbled 12 percentage points to 50% from 62% in 2020;
  • “People have been more encouraging to each other” dropped eight percentage points to 49% from 57% last year; and
  • “People have come together more to deal with the crisis” was down six percentage points to 53% from 59% in the previous study.
  • People are taking out their frustrations online” was up seven percentage points to 67%;
  • “People are less tolerant” edged up to 59% from 54% last year; and
  • 54% of respondents said they had experienced or witnessed more personal attacks and negative comments this year compared to 53% in 2020.”

While it is a meme to say people are just nastier to each other online, it is still disappointing to have it proved. Microsoft says a full report focused on the survey will be published on February 8, 2022, which is Safer Internet Day.

Tip of the day: Did you know that your data and privacy might be at risk if you run Windows 10 without encryption? A bootable USB with a live-linux distribution is often just enough to gain access to all of your files.

If you want to change that, check out our detailed BitLocker guide where we show you how to turn on encryption for your system disk or any other drive you might be using in your computer.

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Samsung Exynos 2200 with AMD mRDNA GPU Tech Details Leak Online

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It is known that Samsung is working on a new Exynos processor that will be a hybrid chip in collaboration with AMD. Specifically, the silicon will have an mRDNA GPU, based on the RDNA 2 architecture from AMD. It will be called the Exynos 2200 and today some information has leaked regarding its specifications.

Known Leakster “Ice Universe” has published details about the Exynos 2200 SoC. It seems the mRDNA GPU will feature six of AMD’s RDNA 2 Compute Units. This will provide the chipset with 384 stream processors. Samsung will construct the SoC on its soon to launch 4LPP FinFET process.

Ice Universe has been on a role this week because before the latest leak, he also revealed the codename for the Samsung chip. Actually, there are two codenamed for both the Samsung and AMD technology.

The Exynos 2200 itself is being developed under the codename “Pamir”, while the AMD GPU technology is known as “Voyager” internally.

Competition with Qualcomm

Other details that have emerged about the chipset suggest is that it is testing across cores of Cortex X1 and Cortex X2 to test for power.

The big question is how will the 2200 fare against the latest Qualcomm technology? That is the Snapdragon 895, which should be announced soon. Well, the Exynos 2100 was a good match against the Snapdragon 888, but Qualcomm’s chip bested Samsung’s in terms of GPU performance.

Samsung clearly took that to heart, hence the collaboration with AMD on the Exynos 2200. It remains to be seen if this means the Exynos will better the Snapdragon 895 in terms of graphics.

Tip of the day: With many reachable wireless access points popping up and disappearing again, the available networks list can become quite annoying. If needed you can use the allowed and blocked filter list of Windows 10 to block certain WiFi networks or all unknown WiFi networks.

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Business Technology

Microsoft Tackled Trickbot with Ground-Level Router Replacement

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In an effort to take down the persistent Trickbot malware, Microsoft went on a door-to-door mission to replace affected routers in Brazil and other Latin American nations. According to The Daily Beast, the hacking ring known as Trickbot continues to be a problem online despite the efforts of the cybersecurity community.

Last year, Microsoft and a coalition of security firms took down TrickBot. On a global mission, the companies removed one of the largest malware botnets. Microsoft said at the time it was unlikely to be the last we heard from Trickbot. To that end, the company Microsoft Defender continued to hunt for traces of the malware.

“Trickbot [is] one of the world’s most infamous botnets and prolific distributors of ransomware,” Microsoft has previously said. “As the United States government and independent experts have warned, ransomware is one of the largest threats to the upcoming elections. Adversaries can use ransomware to infect a computer system used to maintain voter rolls or report on election-night results, seizing those systems at a prescribed hour optimized to sow chaos and distrust.”

In the new report, The Daily Beast points out the group continues to have a presence online. Hackers behind the Trickbot group are from Belarus, Russia, Suriname, and Ukraine.

Next Wave

Trickbot was one of the biggest botnet malwares, so it was unlikely to go away easily. Indeed, the company says over one million machines have been infected by TrickBot malware. In the report, Amy Hogan-Burney, general manager for Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit admits the botnet remains a “continued challenge”.

One way to prevent a breach is to relace the router, so Microsoft went right to the source. The company partnered with local internet service providers in Latin America and replaced routers. It marks a rare example of a company taking a ground-level hardware approach to preventing malware attacks.

Tip of the day: Tired of Windows 10’s default notification and other system sounds? In our tutorial we show you how to change windows sounds or turn off system sounds entirely.

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Business Technology

Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot Met with Backlash from Open Source Copyright Advocates

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At the end of last month, Microsoft introduced GitHub Copilot, a service that allows programmers tools to write code more easily. However, it seems Copilot is not welcome by some programmers, who have rejected the service. Some going as far as to say the GitHub tool breaches copyright.

GitHub Copilot system runs on a new AI platform developed by OpenAI known as Codex. Copilot is designed to help programmers across a wide range of languages. That includes popular scripts like JavaScript, Ruby, Go, Python, and TypeScript, but also many more languages.

“GitHub Copilot understands significantly more context than most code assistants. So, whether it’s in a docstring, comment, function name, or the code itself, GitHub Copilot uses the context you’ve provided and synthesizes code to match. Together with OpenAI, we’re designing GitHub Copilot to get smarter at producing safe and effective code as developers use it.”

One of the main criticisms regarding Copilot is it goes against the ethos of open source because it is a paid service. However, Microsoft would arguably justify this by saying the resources needed to train the AI are costly. Still, the training is problematic for some people because they argue Copilot is using snippets of code to train and then charging users.

 

Fair or Not?

Honestly, the negative response towards GitHub Copilot by some users is failing to land with me. If code that has been generated by machine learning even something that could be copyrighted? It is also unclear whether Copilot replicates the training snippets exactly of not.

In other words, it should be fine for Copilot to surface code snippet suggestions to users without breaching copyright… again, if any copyright should exist in the first place.

Let’s not forget some people are still annoyed by Microsoft buying GitHub for $7bn, while the company’s increased closeness to OpenAI has also caused plenty of grudges to be formed. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds to the latest round of criticism.

Tip of the day: Is your system drive constantly full and you need to free up space regularly? Try Windows 10 Disk Cleanup in extended mode which goes far beyond the standard procedure. Our tutorial also shows you how to create a desktop shortcut to run this advanced method right from the desktop.

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Business Technology

LinkedIn Profile Blocking for Tiananmen Square Mentions Highlights Microsoft’s China Problem

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Microsoft often champions its human rights efforts and has gotten behind several movements aiming for more freedom. However, as a private company seeking to make profit, the company must balance those commitments with appeasing customers and partners. Sometimes that balancing act means there are some clear contradictions in Microsoft’s policy compared to practice.

This has been evident recently in China, where Microsoft has fallen foul of censorship in the country. China is noted as, well, having a less than stellar human rights record. Freedom of information is patchy in the country at best.

Microsoft and indeed other companies have to go through significant censorship before their products can be used in China. It is the same for movies, music, TV, games, and all other forms of media.

In terms of Microsoft, this involves censoring/removing content that highlights some of the less than glowing parts of China’s history. A notable example if the Tiananmen Square massacre. As you might expect, Microsoft is not permitted to show any information on Bing Search related to the event, including images of the infamous Tank Man.

LinkedIn Profile Blocking

Recently, Microsoft accidentally spread that censorship worldwide, meaning the Tank Man image was off limits for Bing users around the world. In the latest clear indication Microsoft kneels to China’s demands, the company actively hides LinkedIn profiles in China if they mention Tiananmen Square.

Cybersecurity researcher Kevin Beaumont discovered the censorship. Before hiding a profile, LinkedIn sends the following messages to users:

“Your LinkedIn profile is an integral part of how you present your professional self to the world. That’s why we believe it’s important to inform you that due to the presence of prohibited content located in the Skills & endorsements section of your Linkedin profile, your profile and your public activity. such as your comments and items you share with your network, will not be made viewable in China. Your profile and activity continues to remain viewable throughout the rest of the countries in which Linkedin is available. We will work with you to minimize the impact and can review your profile’s accessibility within China if you update the Skills & endorsements section of your profile. But the decision whether to update your profile is yours.

In February 2014, we began offering a localized version of Linkedin in China. We believe that people everywhere can benefit from Chinese individuals connecting with each other and Linkedin members in other parts of the world, and that the creation of economic opportunity can have a profound impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities.

While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China. As a reminder, your profile will remain viewable throughout the rest of the countries in which Linkedin is available.”

Rock and a Hard Place

Sure, LinkedIn is essentially apologizing in a “we don’t agree but want to make money” kind of way, and that’s exactly the problem Microsoft faces in China. As a massive market, it make economic sense for the company to play China’s games and censor content locally. However, it comes at the cost of making the company look hypocritical.

Let’s be clear again, this is not an issue unique to Microsoft. It is a universal problem for any company wanting to do business in China. One question is, why do companies keep bowing to China’s rules and not take a unified stance? Well, once again it comes down to money. Never forget a private company is more interested in profit that your human rights, no matter how noble they may appear.

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Business Technology

Microsoft to Beef Up Legal Division Amid Increased Regulatory Scrutiny

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U.S. regulators are starting to take a tougher stance against Big Tech companies, following the lead of European lawmakers. While Microsoft has avoided the first of major investigations, the message is clear… big tech is changing and scrutiny will increase. Microsoft president Brad Smith says the company is responding to the change by beefing up its legal and corporate affairs division.

Speaking to Axios, Smith, who also serves as Microsoft’s chief lawyer, says the company will increase the division by 20% over the coming fiscal year. The drive is part of a wider recruitment push by Microsoft that is targeting key areas of its business.

“This reflects a conclusion that this decade will bring expanded tech regulation around the world,” Smith said. “As I sometimes put it inside the company, the 2020s will bring to tech what the 1930s brought to financial services.”

While Microsoft is boosting its legal team to help thwart legal action from regulators, there is another motive. With a wider legal team, the company will be able to better position itself to adhere to regulations and avoid litigations.

“While I think it is easy for people to focus just on antitrust law and just the U.S., what is happening is much bigger and broader than that,” Smith said. “This is a sweeping set of changes. The wise course in our view is to start to prepare what it takes.”

Interestingly, Microsoft’s decisions to increase its legal arsenal comes just as a private agreement with Google to avoid suing each other comes to an end. Microsoft and Google have avoided legal wrangling because they have been participating in a legal truce. This six-year pact is about to come to an end, so the floodgates may open.

Big Tech Investigation

Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon are currently all under investigation for anti-trust. Those are Microsoft’s biggest rivals and they are being targeted by five bills presented to the House this month.

Those five bills give regulators more funds to beef up investigations and punishments against offending Big Tech companies. Specifically, there will be a focus on stopping monopolization practices, such as companies buying smaller competitors.

The bills and investigation are aimed at the four companies with criteria they have a $600 billion market cap and over 50 million monthly active users. Interestingly, Microsoft fits the criteria but is not part of the investigation.

Earlier this month a Republican politician called for Microsoft to be included in such an investigation.

Tip of the day: Thanks to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) you can run complete Linux distributions within Windows 10. In our tutorial, we show you how to install Ubuntu or other Linux packages and how to activate the bash shell.

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Business Technology

Microsoft’s Leaked MS Poll Shows How Employees Rate Working for the Company

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Microsoft has over 160,000 employees around the world and you probably think it would be pretty good working for the company. However, what do a majority of those employees really think? Well, a leaked internal poll shows what 132,000 of Microsoft’s staff think about working for the tech giant.

Each year, the company conducts the MS Poll, an internal employee satisfaction survey. In this poll, Microsoft staff can offer their opinion on a wide range of work areas, such as work/life balance, compensation, benefits, and leadership.

Microsoft has a good reputation as an employer, and it seems the MS Poll backs up that feeling. The survey shows employees are overwhelmingly positive about their work experience with Microsoft. Specifically under the category of “work group health” which includes inclusion, career development, and work/life balance.

However, there was a little more dissatisfaction when they were asked if they get a “good deal” financially by working for the company.

Details found by Business Insider show 123,000 of 149,000 eligible employees took part on the 2021 MS Poll. That’s 88% of the company’s staff, with the remaining 12% opting not to participate.

Results

The “inclusion index” category drew the most responses, with 90% providing positive responses for “authenticity, belonging, belief in the commitment to diversity”.

Some other categories were less effusive, but still delivered positive results. For example, the “performance” category saw 66% respond favorably, while “deal” saw 73%. This latter category seems to be about whether an employee believes they get a good deal by working with Microsoft.

“Pay” has often been one of the more contentious points of the MS Poll over the years. For example, in 2020 just 55% of those asked believed their bonuses, salary, and equity were comparable with similar jobs at other companies. Unfortunately, no data regarding compensation has been leaked this year.

However, it did show that 84% of employees surveyed gave a favorable response to the “Work Group Health Index” category.

Tip of the day:

Did you know that your data and privacy might be at risk if you run Windows 10 without encryption? A bootable USB with a live-linux distribution is often just enough to gain access to all of your files.

If you want to change that, check out our detailed BitLocker guide where we show you how to turn on encryption for your system disk or any other drive you might be using in your computer.

Source Winbuzzer

read more
Business Technology

Microsoft Switches All Services to Exclusively Use SHA-2

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Microsoft is finally leaving SHA-1 behind and is moving all of its services to Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-2). Specifically, the company says the transition will start from next month, making all services SHA-2 exclusive.

Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA-1) is a quarter of a century old and is a system that creates hashes through cryptographics. Major weaknesses were found in SHA-1 by Google back in 2017 and browsers have been adopting SHA-2 since.

Microsoft is going a step further and moving all services under the newer algorithm. This completes a move Microsoft has been discussing for years. Back in 2019, the company signaled its intentions to switch to SHA-2:

“Unfortunately, the security of the SHA-1 hash algorithm has become less secure over time due to weaknesses found in the algorithm, increased processor performance, and the advent of cloud computing,” Microsoft said at the time.

“Stronger alternatives such as the Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-2) are now strongly preferred as they do not suffer from the same issues.”

Transition

SHA-2 is a newer improved version of SHA-2 and provides enhanced security and better performance. Microsoft will now let the SHA-1 certificate expire and move to SHA-2 Trusted Root Certificate Authority. The company says this will happen from May 9, 2021 at 4PM PT.

Microsoft is not making a big deal of this move, and describes it as “uneventful”. That’s because the company already tested all the major apps. Still, the company is urging enterprise customers to also make the switch:

“Manually installed enterprise or self-signed SHA-1 certificates will not be impacted; however we strongly encourage your organization to move to SHA-2 if you have not done so already.”

Tip of the day:

Did you know that your data and privacy might be at risk if you run Windows 10 without encryption? A bootable USB with a live-linux distribution is often just enough to gain access to all of your files.

If you want to change that, check out our detailed BitLocker guide where we show you how to turn on encryption for your system disk or any other drive you might be using in your computer.

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Report: Apple and Google Continue Taking Telemetry Data Even When Users Opt Out

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Tech giants Apple and Google have a duopoly in the mobile platform market with iOS and Android. This dominance allows the companies to dictate a lot to customers, who have little choice as alternatives. However, both Apple and Google insist they allow users to opt out of sharing telemetry data, but a new report shows that’s not the case.

“Both iOS and Google Android transmit telemetry, despite the user explicitly opting out of this,” wrote researcher Douglas Leith from Trinity College in Ireland, who publishes an academic paper detailing is findings.

The research, titled Mobile Handset Privacy: Measuring The Data iOS and Android Send to Apple And Google (PDF), shows Google is the worst offender. Specifically, the company takes 20 times more data from Pixel phone users on Android that Apple does from iPhone users on iOS.

“The phone IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM serial number and IMSI, handset phone number etc. are shared with Apple and Google,” Leith points out. “When a SIM is inserted, both iOS and Google Android send details to Apple/Google. iOS sends the MAC addresses of nearby devices, e.g. other handsets and the home gateway, to Apple, together with their GPS location. Currently there are few, if any, realistic options for preventing this data sharing.”

It is worth noting Leith did not use pre-installed apps or third-party apps when conducting his test. Instead, he looked specifically at OS-level functions.

“Google collects a notably larger volume of handset data than Apple,” Leith adds. “During the first 10 minutes of startup, the Pixel handset sends around 1MB of data to Google, compared with the iPhone sending around 42KB of data to Apple. When the handsets are sitting idle, the Pixel sends roughly 1MB of data to Google every 12 hours, compared with the iPhone sending 52KB to Apple — i.e., Google collects around 20 times more handset data than Apple.”

The report shows iOS and Android tap into the back-end servers ever 4.5 minutes. That means the platforms are regularly giving Apple and Google access to data. More importantly, this happens whether the phones are in use or not.

Apple and Google Response

Of course, taking data from users even if they choose not to share information is not a good look, especially for Google, which has a long history of privacy and data issues. Leith contacted both Apple and Google for their take on the report.

Apple did not respond directly to Leith, but publicly criticized the research. The company continues to maintain it does not take telemetry data if the user opts out. Google responded to Leith:

“Google responded with a number of comments and clarifications. They also say that they intend to publish public documentation on the telemetry data that they collect.”

In an official public statement, the company says the following:

“We identified flaws in the researcher’s methodology for measuring data volume and disagree with the paper’s claims that an Android device shares 20 times more data than an iPhone. According to our research, these findings are off by an order of magnitude, and we shared our methodology concerns with the researcher before publication.

This research largely outlines how smartphones work. Modern cars regularly send basic data about vehicle components, their safety status and service schedules to car manufacturers, and mobile phones work in very similar ways. This report details those communications, which help ensure that iOS or Android software is up to date, services are working as intended, and that the phone is secure and running efficiently.”

Tip of the day:

Do you know the built-in repair tools SFC and DISM of Windows 10? With many problems they can get you back on track without loosing data and using third-party programs. In out tutorial we show you how to use them.

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Business Technology

Microsoft PowerPoint Gets Auto Fix Tool for the Web

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Microsoft has been boosting the capabilities of PowerPoint for Microsoft 365 customers in recent weeks. Among the recent additions is the Presenter Coach expansion and deeper integration with Microsoft Word. In the latest update, Microsoft PowerPoint is receiving a feature called Auto Fix.

As the name suggests, Auto Fix in Microsoft PowerPoint automatically helps you to organize slides and presentations. Formatting across a presentation is usually a time consuming and frustrating experience. With Auto Fix, PowerPoint will do the hard work for you.

The feature automatically adjust spacing, sizes, connectors, and alignments. Microsoft says there are some limitations, such as a lack of support for SmartArt, group shapes, and any slide elements that overlap.

To try Auto Fix:

  1. Create or open an existing presentation that includes multiple components that need to be formatted in PowerPoint for the web.
  2. Select two or more elements on a slide.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • Right-click one of the elements and select Auto Fix.
    • On the Home tab, in the Drawing group, click Arrange, and then select Auto Fix.
  4. The alignment of the shapes on the slide will be automatically fixed.

Microsoft is rolling out Auto Fix to PowerPoint for the Web now. Only 10’5 of Production users will get the feature at first, with a wider launch coming soon.

Recent PowerPoint Updates

Microsoft recently launched an AI-powered tool that converts Word documents to PowerPoint. The aptly named Export to PowerPoint presentation tool is now available for Word for the web. Also this month, the company released the Presentation Coach across platforms.

The tool is designed to give users instant feedback on their oral presenting skills including warnings for filler words, tips about culturally inclusive words, or flagging cliches. Presenter Coach is only active in rehearsal mode to ensure students aren’t distracted while actually giving the presentation. At the end of a rehearsal, students get a report with detailed stats.

Tip of the day:

Due to the various problems that arise with microphones, it can often be necessary to perform a mic test, but those wondering how to hear yourself on mic in Windows 10 are often left stumped. Microsoft’s OS doesn’t make it especially intuitive to listen to microphone playback or play the microphone through speakers. In our tutorial we show you how to hear yourself on mic with just a few clicks.

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