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Killexams : Microsoft Microsoft test Questions - BingNews Search results Killexams : Microsoft Microsoft test Questions - BingNews Killexams : Microsoft brings DALL-E 2 to the masses with Designer and Image Creator

Microsoft is making a major investment in DALL-E 2, OpenAI’s AI-powered system that generates images from text, by bringing it to first-party apps and services. During its Ignite conference this week, Microsoft announced that it’s integrating DALL-E 2 with the newly announced Microsoft Designer app and Image Creator tool in Bing and Microsoft Edge.

With the advent of DALL-E 2 and open source alternatives like Stable Diffusion in exact years, AI image generators have exploded in popularity. In September, OpenAI said that more than 1.5 million users were actively creating over 2 million images a day with DALL-E 2, including artists, creative directors and authors. Brands such as Stitch Fix, Nestlé and Heinz have piloted DALL-E 2 for ad campaigns and other commercial use cases, while certain architectural firms have used DALL-E 2 and tools akin to it to conceptualize new buildings.

“Microsoft and OpenAI have partnered closely since 2019 to accelerate breakthroughs in AI. We have teamed up with OpenAI to develop, test and responsibly scale the latest AI technologies,” Microsoft CVP of modern life, search and devices Liat Ben-Zur told TechCrunch via email. “Microsoft is the exclusive provider of cloud computing services to OpenAI and is OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies. We’ve started to do this through programs like the Azure OpenAI Service and GitHub Copilot, and we’ll continue to explore solutions that harness the power of AI and advanced natural language generation.”

Seeking to bring OpenAI’s tech to an even wider audience, Microsoft is launching Designer, a Canva-like web app that can generate designs for presentations, posters, digital postcards, invitations, graphics and more to share on social media and other channels. Designer — whose announcement leaked repeatedly this spring and summer — leverages user-created content and DALL-E 2 to ideate designs, with drop-downs and text boxes for further customization and personalization.

Within Designer, users can choose from various templates to get started on specific, defined-dimensions designs for platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn Facebook ads and Instagram Stories. Prebuilt templates are available from the web, as are shapes, photos, icons and headings that can be added to projects.

Microsoft Image Creator In Edge

Image Creator in Microsoft Edge and Bing.

“Microsoft Designer is powered by AI technology, including DALL-E 2, which means the ability to instantly generate a variety of designs,” Ben-Zur continued. “[It] helps you bring your ideas to life.

Designer will remain free during a limited preview period, Microsoft says — users can sign up starting today. Once the Designer app is generally available, it’ll be included in Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions and have “some” functionality free to use for non-subscribers, though Microsoft didn’t elaborate.

Another new Microsoft-developed app underpinned by DALL-E 2 is Image Creator, heading to Bing and Edge in the coming weeks. As the name implies, Image Creator — accessed via the Bing Images tab or, or through the Image Creator icon in the sidebar within Edge — generates art given a text prompt by funneling requests to DALL-E 2, acting like a frontend client for OpenAI’s still-in-beta DALL-E 2 service.

Typing in a description of something, any additional context, like location or activity, and an art style will yield an image from Image Creator. “Image Creator will soon create images that don’t yet exist, limited only by your imagination,” Ben-Zur added.

Unlike Designer, Image Creator in Bing and Edge will be completely free to use, but Microsoft — wary of potential abuse and misuse — says it’ll take a “measured approach” to rolling out the app. Image Creator will initially only be available in preview for select geographies, which Microsoft says will allow it to gather feedback before expanding the app further.

Microsoft Designer

Microsoft Designer.

Some image-generating systems have been used to create objectionable content, like graphic violence and pornographic, nonconsensual celebrity deepfakes. The organization funding the development of Stable Diffusion, Stability AI, was even the subject of a critical exact letter from U.S. House Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) to the National Security Advisor (NSA) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in which she urged the NSA and OSTP to address the release of “unsafe AI models” that “do not moderate content made on their platforms.”

Image-generating AI can also pick up on the biases and toxicities embedded in the millions of images from the web used to train them. OpenAI itself noted in an academic paper that an open source implementation of DALL-E could be trained to make stereotypical associations like generating images of white-passing men in business suits for terms like “CEO,” for example.

In response to questions about mitigation measures in Designer and Image Creator, Microsoft noted that OpenAI removed explicit sexual and violent content from the dataset used to train DALL-E 2. The company also said that it took steps of its own, including deploying filters to limit the generation of images that violate content policy, additional query blocking on sensitive subjects and technology to deliver “more diverse” images to results.

Users will have to agree to terms of use and the aforementioned content policy to start using Designer and Image Creator with their Microsoft account. If a user requests an image deemed inappropriate by Microsoft’s automated filters, they’ll get a warning. If they repeatedly violate the content policy, they’ll be banned, but have a chance to appeal.

“It’s important, with early technologies like DALL-E 2, to acknowledge that this is new, and we expect it to continue to evolve and improve,” Ben-Zur said. “We take our commitment to responsible AI seriously … We will not allow users to generate violent content, we may distort people’s faces and won’t show text strings used as input.”

Addressing some of the legal questions that’ve sprung up recently around AI-powered image generation systems, Microsoft says that users will have “full” usage rights to commercialize the images they create with Designer and Image Creator. (Among other hosts, Getty Images has banned the upload and sale of illustrations generated using DALL-E 2, Stable Diffusion and similar tools, citing fair use concerns about training datasets containing copyrighted images.) In other words, the company — adopting a commercial usage policy similar to OpenAI’s — won’t claim ownership of prompts, captions, creations or any other content that users provide, post, input or submit to the apps.

When asked whether Microsoft believes the images used to train DALL-E 2 were fair use, Ben-Zur declined to answer.

read more about Microsoft Ignite 2022 on TechCrunch

Wed, 12 Oct 2022 09:06:00 -0500 en-US text/html
Killexams : Apple Vs. Microsoft Vs. Treasury Bonds: The Battle Of Safe Havens Round-3
Padlock on hundred dollar bill

Aslan Alphan


Since my last update on the "Battle of Safe Havens" on 25th August 2022, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Treasury bonds have experienced a swift decline in price due to rapidly rising interest rates and a worsening macroeconomic environment.

Here's our past coverage of this intriguing battle:

Apple Microsoft performance


Treasury rates


In my previous note, I highlighted how slowing revenue growth and contracting margins at BigTech companies were making their valuations untenable in a rising interest rate environment. With the risk-free treasury rate (of 3.5-4%) higher than the free cash flow yield offered by so-called safe haven stocks like Apple and Microsoft, there is a lack of equity risk premium. This is a breach of the immutable laws of money.

With the 10-yr treasury at 4%, one could argue that high-quality businesses like Apple and Microsoft deserve a Price-to-Earnings multiple of ~20-25x (equity risk premium of 0-1%). And by this logic, Apple and Microsoft seem fairly valued right now.

Apple vs Microsoft Earning multiples


However, evidence suggests that the 'E' (earning) could be about to contract in upcoming quarters. Last Friday, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) pre-announced its Q3 results, and it was an absolute shocker for investors. AMD is gaining share in the PC market, and still, its PC revenues (distributed across Client and Gaming business lines) are down significantly in Q3. Now, some customers might be waiting for AMD's upcoming Zen4 devices, but the slowdown in PC markets is pronounced.

AMD Q3 Preliminary Results

AMD Investor Relations

As you may know, Apple and Microsoft have significant exposure to PC markets, and the pull forward from COVID could result in a sizeable hit to their topline in upcoming quarters. Before AMD, Micron (MU) and Nike (NKE) announced decent quarterly numbers, but an inventory problem is set to hurt margins in Q4 for both companies. With the Fed hellbent on fighting inflation, the threat of recession looms large. An earnings recession is coming, and even the likes of Apple and Microsoft are not immune to the broader economy. If (more like when) earnings estimates for Q4 and 2023 are revised lower, we will see another leg down in BigTech stocks (and, by extension, broader equity markets).

Despite significant valuation moderation, the near to medium-term risk/reward for Apple and Microsoft is still unfavorable for investors. Here are TQI's fair value estimates and projected returns for Apple and Microsoft:

Stock Price TQI Fair Value Estimate Next 5-yr CAGR Return (%)
Apple $140 $105.98 13.26%
Microsoft $234 $156.27 10.34%

Now, many DGI investors would happily accept double-digit CAGR returns, and if you are such an investor, buying Apple and Microsoft here is fine. At TQI, our investment hurdle rate is 15%, and since we are not getting that (just yet), I am still 'Neutral' on Apple and Microsoft.

What Do The Charts Tell Us?

Since Fed's hawkish pivot in Nov-21, broad market indices have entered a correction. In a rising interest rate environment, high-flying tech stocks have come under immense selling pressure. The Nasdaq-100 index [tracked by QQQ ETF (QQQ)] is re-testing June lows, and a breakdown of these lows could result in a decline to the pre-COVID range of $215-235 (for QQQ).

Nasdaq-100 index Moving Average

WeBull Desktop

Microsoft is a significant component of broad market indices like the QQQ and SPY, which means its price action tends to be similar to what we see in the broad market. Unfortunately, Microsoft has already broken below its June lows and is now looking nailed on to test the pre-COVID level of $210. My fair value estimate for Microsoft is only $156, and so, I am unlikely to turn into a buyer at $210, either. For now, Microsoft's stock is firmly entrenched in a downward falling wedge pattern, and I won't rule out a decline to the mid-100s. And that's where I would like to buy more MSFT shares.

MSFT moving average

WeBull Desktop

Apple is a bellwether stock, and while most tech stocks are falling in downward wedge patterns, Apple's stock chart is looking like a descending broadening wedge, which is a bullish continuation pattern.

AAPL moving average

WeBull Desktop

Technically, Apple is experiencing a correction, and it will likely move higher in the long term. However, in the near term, Apple looks set to re-test its June lows of $130, and if it breaks this key level, Apple could be headed down to its fair value of ~$105 (which is also the 200DMA level).

Considering the medium-term risk/reward [25-40% downside risk vs. 10-13% CAGR returns] for Apple and Microsoft, I rate both of them 'Neutral or Avoid or Hold' at current levels.

Bonds Are Now Looking Attractive

In order to fight persistently-high inflation, central banks across the globe have adopted quantitative tightening programs, which include interest rate hikes and liquidity withdrawal through balance sheet roll-off. The risk-free treasury rates in the US are now in the 3.5-4% range, and if the Fed sticks to its rate hike path, we could be headed even higher in 2023. After more than a decade, bonds are a real alternative to equities.

In the past, treasury yields have risen beyond the CPI inflation rate during periods of high inflation; however, this ongoing rate hike cycle may be close to peaking out as concerns around financial stability are growing and assets are deflating across the board.

Holding cash is not ideal if you plan to deploy this cash at a certain time in the future. And so parking it in highly-liquid, risk-free assets is a smart move. For those looking to invest in bonds, I want to share a Cash or Treasury management strategy.

A bond ladder is a collection of bonds with different maturities. Such an investment strategy is devised to get assured periodic cash flows. For example, we can invest in ten US treasury notes/bonds with a term length of 1, 2, 3, ... 10 years. Every year one bond matures, and that cash flow can be used as per need. For our investing operations at TQI, we are using T-bills such that one matures each month. In the case of our GARP portfolio, we had $45K (~43% of AUM) in cash that we planned to deploy over the next nine months. Here, we bought T-bills of $5K each with maturity/term lengths of 1 to 9 months. So, instead of $5K, we will have a somewhat greater amount to invest at the time of our planned bi-weekly capital deployments.

Building a bond ladder is simple, but if you have any questions, please share them in the comments section below.

Final Thoughts

We concluded our last update on "The Battle of Safe Havens" in the following manner:

According to the definition, a bear market ends with a 20% bounce off of lows, and we got this in exact weeks. Hence, by definition, the bear market is over, and a new bull market has started. However, I think it is still too early to call a bottom. A tighter monetary policy could lead to a growth slowdown and cause a recession. Despite the growing clamor for a Fed pivot, I still think inflation is too high, and the Fed will need to keep going for some time to come. The markets may go up with rates (as this has happened in the past), but these tightening cycles often lead to something breaking in the economy and eventually a crash in the stock market. Will this time be any different? I don't know.

I don't know where the market is headed next; nobody else knows either. The macro-environment remains challenging, and the Fed's QT [quantitative tightening] program is just getting started. With Apple and Microsoft trading at lofty valuations despite an evident slowdown in revenue growth and significant moderation in operating margins, I think the near to medium-term risk/reward from current levels is unfavorable for bulls. Yes, there are tons of opportunities in beaten-down growth stocks, but if the large caps get hit (in an earnings recession), the smaller cap stocks will likely continue to remain under pressure. Hence, I plan to stick with The Quantamental Investor's playbook for a bear market environment -

"Build long positions slowly using DCA plans, and manage risk proactively."

Source: Apple Vs. Microsoft Vs. Treasury Bonds: The Battle Of Safe Havens Round-2

How Are We Investing In These Uncertain Markets At The Quantamental Investor?

As we have seen in the "Battle of Safe Havens" series, traditional safe-haven stocks like Apple and Microsoft are not so safe for the near to medium term.

As of today, the entire June-August rally has been reversed, and it is fair to say this move was just another bear market rally. I have no idea where the market is headed next. So far, in this bear market, the selling has been very much measured. We haven't seen capitulation. Will the market (SPX) crash to $3,000 by year-end? I don't know. What I learned from Micron and Nike's results is that corporate earnings will come under severe pressure in upcoming quarters. Honestly, I think earnings will drive markets going forward because the multiple contraction is more or less complete (except for a few large-cap tech names like Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla (TSLA)). The top 10 S&P 500 companies are trading at 21-22x+ PE, whereas the remaining 490 are already at 13-14x PE.

Author's investment mandates

The Quantamental Investor

This is a very tricky market, but there are tons of incredible opportunities for individual stock investing. In all three of TQI's core portfolios [GARP, Buyback-Dividend, and Moonshot Growth], we are ready with cash (roughly 50% of AUM) if the opportunities improve. Our playbook for this bear market is simple - "Build long positions slowly using DCA plans, and manage risk proactively."

In the "Battle of Safe Havens", cash has been the winner so far; however, surging treasury rates are making treasury bonds a viable alternative to equities. If I had to choose between Apple, Microsoft, and the 2-yr treasury bond, I would go with the 2-yr treasury bond for the medium term.

Key Takeaway: I rate both Apple and Microsoft 'Neutral/Avoid/Hold' at current levels.

Thanks for reading, and happy investing. Please share your thoughts, questions, and/or concerns in the comments section below.

Mon, 10 Oct 2022 01:30:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : Army tester warns that Microsoft Hololens-based AR goggles could get soldiers killed

A hot potato: The Hololens-based AR goggles Microsoft provides to the US Army as part of a contract worth up to $22 billion have come in for more criticism after a user said they could endanger soldiers. "The devices would have gotten us killed," said the tester.

Microsoft was awarded a $480 million contract to provide the US Army with Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) headsets in 2018, marking the beginning of a project that has brought much controversy for both entities.

The initial agreement was expanded in March 2021, ensuring Microsoft will provide finalized production versions, parts, and support in an agreement potentially worth up to $21.9 billion across a decade. The Army ordered an initial 5,000 units, valued at $373 million, with around 121,000 to be delivered over the course of the deal.

The first batch of headsets was supposed to be delivered in the fiscal year 2021 but was delayed by a year—the first deliveries only arrived last month. But it seems they're not without some serious issues.

According to excerpts from an Army report dictated to Insider, a tester has warned that the headsets pose a danger to soldiers due to the light they generate while active, which could alert enemy forces to a wearer's location. The glow from the display is said to be visible from hundreds of meters away.

According to a Microsoft employee briefed about the event, the headset failed in four out of six evaluation events during a exact "operational demo."

Other complaints about the headsets include limiting a soldier's field of view, including peripheral vision, when worn. They're also bulky and heavy enough to impede a wearer's movement.

Microsoft is directing all questions about IVAS to the Army. The military branch says it remains committed to the program and that the operational test so far has generally been considered a success. It did note, however, that the results have shown areas where IVAS has fallen short and needs additional improvements.

The report marks another bump in the road for the long-term IVAS project. Microsoft's original deal resulted in an open letter of objection from employees, forcing CEO Satya Nadella to respond. In April, a Department of Defense oversight agency warned that the massive amount the Army was spending on the goggles could be a waste of taxpayer money as many soldiers weren't fans of IVAS.

Microsoft is said to have expected pushback against the goggles from the beginning. As for the Army, it keeps pointing to the introduction of night vision goggles in the 1970s that received similar criticisms but are now widely used.

Wed, 12 Oct 2022 23:55:00 -0500 Rob Thubron en-US text/html
Killexams : WithSecure highlights flaw in MS Office 365 Message Encryption

This website is using a security service to protect itself from online attacks. The action you just performed triggered the security solution. There are several actions that could trigger this block including submitting a certain word or phrase, a SQL command or malformed data.

Sun, 16 Oct 2022 20:48:00 -0500 en-US text/html
Killexams : Microsoft Surface Pro 9 hands-on: Can Intel and ARM models live in harmony?

On the one hand, the Surface Pro 9 is pretty much what we expected: a jump up to Intel's 12th-gen CPUs. But Microsoft surprised us with a huge shakeup for its tablet PCs. There's also a Surface Pro 9 running a custom SQ3 ARM chip, which also includes built-in 5G. Can an x86 Intel processor and a mobile ARM chip really sit side by side? We got a chance to compare the two new machines at Microsoft's hands-on event, and to be honest, we just have more questions.

Both models look and feel the same, save for the more visible 5G antennas on the Arm model. Microsoft representatives say performance is also comparable between the SQ3 and Intel's chips, something we'll have to fully test to believe. (An early Geekbench 5 test on a demo unit hit 978/4,760, which is far slower than Intel 11th and 12th-gen systems we've reviewed. Those figures could Strengthen with better software and firmware, though.) The same reps also noted that app compatibility with legacy x86 apps has gotten better for ARM devices, and there are an increasing number of native Windows apps which will run just fine across both platforms.

In either case, you're getting tablet PCs that can easily transform into functional laptops with their keyboard cases. Unfortunately, those are still sold separately, as is the Slim Pen 2 Microsoft introduced last year. The Surface Pro 9 won't change your mind about the viability of using a tablet as a PC, but on the Intel side it's nice to see a major speed bump.

The SQ3 Arm model also has a few features the Intel version doesn't, thanks to its neural processor. That includes some real-time enhancements to video chats, like blurring your background. (The video quality across both systems also look fantastic.) According to Microsoft, it's possible to bring those features to Intel chips when they have their own neural chips, but unfortunately those aren't available on Intel's current lineup.

Surface Pro 9

Microsoft representatives admitted there may be some confusion among some shoppers, since they can easily walk out of a store with two very different computers. But it sounds like the company is willing to deal with those usability bumps, rather than splitting the Surface Pro line once again.

Follow along with the rest of our news from Microsoft's 2022 Surface event.

Wed, 12 Oct 2022 03:29:00 -0500 en-US text/html
Killexams : Microsoft's GitHub Copilot AI is making rapid progress. Here's how its human leader thinks about it
  • GitHub's Copilot AI can write up to 40% of the code for programmers and is heading up to 80% within five years, says GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke.
  • This rapid AI advance is letting coders get their work done in less than half the time it used to take and has implications across all industries where software development is now critical, Microsoft board member and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman recently told a gathering of tech executives.
  • Still, Dohmke says as artificial intelligence accelerates and is adopted more broadly across companies, innovation remains a skill only humans can dominate.
Thomas Dohmke, GitHub CEO, speaking at the Collision 2022 conference in June at Enercare Centre in Toronto, Canada. © Provided by CNBC Thomas Dohmke, GitHub CEO, speaking at the Collision 2022 conference in June at Enercare Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Earlier this year, LinkedIn co-founder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman issued a warning mixed with amazement about AI. "There is literally magic happening," said Hoffman, speaking to technology executives across sectors of the economy.

Some of that magic is becoming more apparent in creative spaces, like the visual arts, and the idea of "generative technology" has captured the attention of Silicon Valley. AI has even recently won awards at art exhibitions.

But Hoffman's message was squarely aimed at executives.

"AI will transform all industries," Hoffman told the members of the CNBC Technology Executive Council. "So everyone has to be thinking about it, not just in data science."

The rapid advances being made by Copilot AI, the automated code writing tool from the GitHub open source subsidiary of Microsoft, were an example Hoffman, who is on the Microsoft board, directly cited as a signal that all firms better be prepared for AI in their world. Even if not making big investments today in AI, business leaders must understand the pace of improvement in artificial intelligence and the applications that are coming or they will be "sacrificing the future," he said.

"100,000 developers took 35% of the coding suggestions from Copilot," Hoffman said. "That's a 35% increase in productivity, and off last year's model. ... Across everything we are doing, we will have amplifying tools, it will get there over the next three to 10 years, a baseline for everything we are doing," he added.

Copilot has already added another 5% to the 35% cited by Hoffman. GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke recently told us that Copilot is now handling up to 40% of coding among programmers using the AI in the beta testing period over the past year. Put another way, for every 100 lines of code, 40 are being written by the AI, with total project time cut by up to 55%.

Copilot, trained on massive amounts of open source code, monitors the code being written by a developer and works as an assistant, taking the input from the developer and making suggestions about the next line of code, often multi-line coding suggestions, often "boilerplate" code that is needed but is a waste of time for a human to recreate. We all have some experience with this form of AI now, in places like our email, with both Microsoft and Google mail programs suggesting the next few words we might want to type.

AI can be logical about what may come next in a string of text. But Dohmke said, "It can't do more, it can't capture the meaning of what you want to say."

Whether a company is a supermarket working on checkout technology or a banking company working on customer experience in an app, they are all effectively becoming software companies, all building software, and once a C-suite has developers it needs to be looking at developer productivity and how to continuously Strengthen it.

That's where the 40 lines of code come in. "After a year of Copilot, about 40% of code was written by the AI where Copilot was enabled," Dohmke said. "And if you show that number to executives, it's mind-blowing to them. ... doing the math on how much they are spending on developers."

With the projects being completed in less than half the time, a logical conclusion is that there will be less work to do for humans. But Dohmke says another way of looking at the software developer job is that they do many more high-value tasks than just rewrite code that already exists in the world. "The definition of 'higher value' work is to take away the boiler-plate menial work writing things already done over and over again," he said.

The goal of Copilot is to help developers "stay in the flow" when they are on the task of coding. That's because some of the time spent writing code is really spent looking for existing code to plug in from browsers, "snippets from someone else," Dohmke said. And that can lead coders to get distracted. "Eventually they are back in editor mode and copy and paste a solution, but have to remember what they were working on," he said. "It's like a surfer on a wave in the water and they need to find the next wave. Copilot is keeping them in the editing environment, in the creative environment and suggesting ideas," Dohmke said. "And if the idea doesn't work, you can reject it, or find the closest one and can always edit," he added.

The GitHub CEO expects more of those Copilot code suggestions to be taken — in the next five years, up to 80%. Unlike a lot going on in the computer field, Dohmke said of that forecast, "It's not an exact science ... but we think it will tremendously grow."

After being in the market for a year, he said new models are getting better fast. As developers reject some code suggestions from Copilot, the AI learns. And as more developers adopt Copilot it gets smarter by interacting with developers similar to a new coworker, learning from what is accepted or rejected. New models of the AI don't come out every day, but every time a new model is available, "we might have a leap," he said.

But the AI is still far short of replacing humans. "Copilot today can't do 100% of the task," Dohmke said. "It's not sentient. It can't create itself without user input."

With Copilot still in private beta testing among individual developers — 400,000 developer signed up to use the AI in the first months it was available and hundreds of thousands of more developers since — GitHub has not announced any enterprise clients, but it expects to begin naming business customers before the end of the year. There is no enterprise pricing information being disclosed yet, but in the beta test Copilot pricing has been set at a flat rate per developer — $10 per individual per month or $100 annually, often expensed by developers on company cards. "And you can imagine what they earn per month so it's a marginal cost," Dohmke said. "If you look at the 40% and think of the productivity improvement, and take 40% of opex spend on developers, the $10 is not a relevant cost. ... I have 1,000 developers and it's way more money than 1000 x 10," he said.

The GitHub CEO sees what is taking place now with AI as the next logical phase of the productivity advances in a coding world he has been a part of since the late 1980s. That was a time when coding was emerging out of the punch card phase, and there was no internet, and coders like Dohmke had to buy books and magazines, and join computer clubs to gain information. "I had to wait to meet someone to ask questions," he recalled.

That was the first phase of developer productivity, and then came the internet, and now open source, allowing developers to find other developers on the internet who had already "developed the wheel," he said.

Now, whether the coding task is related to payment processing or a social media login, most companies — whether startups or established enterprises — put in open source code. "There is a huge dependency tree of open source that already exists," Dohmke said.

It's not uncommon for up to 90% of code on mobile phone apps to be pulled from the internet and open source platforms like GitHub. In a coding era of "whatever else is already available," that's not what will differentiate a developer or app.

"AI is just the third wave of this," Dohmke said. "From punch cards to building everything ourselves to open source, to now within a lot of code, AI writing more," he said. "With 40%, soon enough if AI spreads across industries, the innovation on the phone will be created with the help of AI and the developer."

Today, and into the foreseeable future, Copilot remains a technology that is trained on code, and is making proposals based on looking things up in a library of code. It is not inventing any new algorithms, but at the current pace of progress, eventually, "it is entirely possible that with help of a developer it will create new ideas of source code,," Dohmke said.  

But even that still requires a human touch. "Copilot is getting closer, but it will always need developers to create innovation," he said.

Tech companies have to figure out how to play offense in today's environment, says Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder



Fri, 14 Oct 2022 04:25:43 -0500 en-US text/html
Killexams : Microsoft will launch an AI graphics app powered by DALL•E

This summer text-to-image Artificial Intelligence (AI) softwares DALL∙E and Midjourney rose in popularity among architects, artists, and designers. With just a few descriptive keywords and phrases the models are able to collage together a visual representation of the input text using its memory database of visuals. While the results are sometimes memeable, the engineers are training the models to be smarter, proving that they are a design tool, capable of producing concepts and life-like renderings. And soon, Microsoft users will be able to reap the power of text-to-image AI through a new platform called Microsoft Designer, part of the Microsoft Office suite alongside Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Microsoft Designer will be powered by DALL∙E 2, a machine learning model developed by OpenAI first revealed in January 2021. The Microsoft program will have a similar interface to that of DALL∙E, a box where users can input their text prompt which will then generate visuals based on the input description. Users can then export the creation or use it on a variety of templates to design social media posts, invitations, posters, and other graphic content.

The app is designed to save users time and it can be managed by anyone, regardless of their artistic experience and capabilities.

“Designer invites you to start with an idea and let the AI do the heavy lifting,” Corporate Vice President for Modern Life, Search, and Devices Liat Ben-Zur noted in a press release. “As you work in Designer, every surface of the app is powered by AI to help ensure consistent, aligned, properly scaled, and beautiful designs, even with or without any inherent design ability.”

Microsoft announced the new program and integration at an event yesterday that teased a number of other products launching soon, including Surface computers, Windows 11 updates, and upgrades to Microsoft Edge. The Washington-headquartered technology company said it has future plans for Designer, and hopes to bring the tool to its search engine Bing and its web browser Edge. When Designer officially launches in app form it will be at no cost to users, however, Microsoft 365 subscribers will be granted access to premium features.

For those hurry to get their hands on the new software Microsoft will allow users to gain early access to test out its features and provide feedback. The form for doing so is available online.

Microsoft’s announcement comes just days after Open AI, the company behind DALL∙E opened the software to the public, doing away with the long waitlist and paywall to join and create content on the platform, Craiyon (née DALL·E mini developed by Boris Dayma for Hugging Face) still remains free to use online.

While AI and its capabilities are exciting, the future of the technology is also quite daunting, raising questions about labor, is there a future in which the role of an architect or designer is taken over by a computer? Similarly, inherent visual biases found within the data sets the models pull from and the issue of copyright and ownership on the generated visuals also will need to be addressed.

Thu, 13 Oct 2022 07:46:00 -0500 en-US text/html Killexams : DirectStorage 1.1 uses GPUs to optimize decompression performance and lower game load times

In a nutshell: Microsoft is on track to release DirectStorage 1.1 with GPU decompression to developers by the end of 2022. It's unclear which games will be the first to take advantage of it, but Microsoft promises to provide more API specifics and documentation with the release coming soon.

For those needing a quick refresher, games require massive amounts of data to build their immersive worlds. Every object, character and landscape has assets attached that dictate various aspects like color, shape and lighting. Collectively, the assets amount to hundreds of gigabytes of data which gets compressed to reduce the overall size of the game.

When it comes time to utilize the assets, they must first be transferred to system memory where they are then decompressed by the CPU before being moved into GPU memory for use as needed.

DirectStorage 1.0 dealt with the transfer process. Combined with advances in Windows 11, systems equipped with NVMe drives could use DirectStorage 1.0 to speed up load times by as much as 40 percent in some cases. With DirectStorage 1.1, Microsoft is turning its attention to decompression performance.

Up to this point, asset decompression has typically been optimized for CPUs only. DirectStorage 1.1 moves the task to the GPU which frees up the CPU to perform other jobs.

In an optimized test to highlight performance benefits from the test, scenes were shown to load nearly three times faster. The compression format used was GDeflate, a novel lossless standard optimized for high-throughput decompression with deflate-like compression ratios that was developed by Nvidia and Microsoft. In the test, the CPU was nearly freed up entirely.

Microsoft said it is working with AMD, Intel and Nvidia on drivers tailored to the format.

The tech certainly sounds enticing, but Microsoft's announcement did leave us with more questions than answers. Moving decompression duties off the CPU will of course free it up, but what sort of impact will the extra load have on the GPU? Are we going to see frame rates take a substantial hit to make way for faster load times? If so, gamers will no doubt have to dial in the sweet spot for the optimal gaming experience.

Fri, 14 Oct 2022 05:45:00 -0500 Shawn Knight en-US text/html
Killexams : Microsoft to update Office Pro Plus after Dutch ministry questions privacy

Microsoft plans to update its Office Pro Plus products by the end of April to address a series of privacy concerns raised in an audit commissioned by the Dutch justice ministry that flagged what the auditors called "high risks" to government users' privacy.

The update for many of the company's Office Pro Plus customers, which has been confirmed by Microsoft, will address concerns relating to a package of popular Microsoft programs — namely that they were sending diagnostic data from Europe to the United States without adequate documentation and user controls over what was sent.

Microsoft and the Dutch justice ministry agreed on the changes as part of an "improvement plan" with an April deadline. A ministry spokesman told POLITICO that if Microsoft's responses proved "unsatisfactory," the ministry could raise the concerns with European data protection authorities for further action that could include "enforcement measures."

In a statement, Microsoft's top privacy and regulatory counsel, Julie Brill, underscored that the Dutch ministry had commissioned the audit as a customer of Microsoft and had not sought regulatory action against the company.

“The ministry commissioned the report in its capacity as a customer to clarify how our services are run and we’re working with the ministry’s staff to share additional information and help resolve its questions as we would for all enterprise customers,” Brill said.

She added that the issues raised in the report, conducted by the Privacy Company, a Hague-based consultancy, relate to “diagnostic data in one product,” Office Pro Plus, and that the company is “confident this is consistent with Dutch law and GDPR,” Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation privacy law. Office Pro Plus includes a range of Microsoft programs.

“We feel good about what we’re doing to give customers transparency and choice on the diagnostic data they share with us, but we always want to do more,” Brill said. “In the coming weeks we will take additional steps to make it easier for customers to understand what data needs to go to Microsoft to run our services and why, and where data-sharing is optional.”

When Microsoft updates products, the update usually takes place worldwide for users of the product and the company gave no indication that would be different in this case.

Under the EU's data protection laws, the Irish Data Protection Commission is the “lead supervisory authority” in charge of making sure Microsoft complies with the rules. If the Netherlands chose to escalate its concerns, it could forward a request on the relevant issues to the Irish regulator. Meanwhile, any issues would be closely monitored by the European Data Protection Board, which gathers all EU data regulators, and the European Data Protection Supervisor, which may in turn start their own investigations that could lead to enforcement action.

A spokesperson for the Irish Data Protection Commission said it is “aware of this matter and its significance to companies using the Microsoft product in question. On becoming aware, the DPC immediately engaged with Microsoft seeking further information on the processing of telemetry data, in response to which Microsoft is providing detailed responses.”

Audit revelations

The Privacy Company, a consulting firm that the ministry contracted to do the audit, said in a blog summary of the findings that “Microsoft systematically collects data on a large scale about the individual use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.”

It added: “Covertly, without informing people ... Microsoft does not offer any choice with regard to the amount of data, or possibility to switch off the collection, or ability to see what data are collected, because the data stream is encoded.” A major concern of the Dutch was that the company sends the data back to its servers in the U.S.

Microsoft doesn't agree with some of the assertions of the Privacy Company's report but is making changes to its products as it routinely does to accommodate customers. The company has previously disclosed to customers its use of diagnostic data.

The new focus on privacy comes as different components of Microsoft, one of the world's most valuable companies, have recently faced scrutiny for a variety of privacy concerns, especially LinkedIn, which Microsoft bought in late 2016 for $26 billion.

Nicole Leverich, a spokesperson for LinkedIn, said “member data is never shared with customers on an individually identifiable level, only in aggregate for ad sales.” Last November, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission found that LinkedIn used the email addresses of around 18 million non-LinkedIn members to target individuals with ads on Facebook all in an effort to grow its customer base.

The regulators noted that LinkedIn’s actions violated its protection standards, although the dispute was amicably resolved.

Leverich said the company “fully cooperated with the DPC’s 2017 investigation of a complaint about a European advertising campaign and found the global processes and procedures we had in place were not followed. We took appropriate action and have made the internal changes to help protect against this happening again.” In Brazil last year, federal prosecutors said Microsoft had violated local laws with its collection of Windows 10 users’ data without getting proper consent. In 2016, France ordered Microsoft to cut back its collection of user data and to halt tracking of the web browsing habits of Windows 10 users without getting permission.

Despite these privacy dustups, Brill touted the exact steps Microsoft has made to Strengthen users’ privacy, including “new features in the Windows setup process, enhanced options for error data reporting in Xbox, a feature called Lockbox for Azure, and updates to our Privacy Dashboard including new tools for parents to manage their children’s settings,” she said.

Saint or sinner?

Microsoft has been the subject of a number of complaints to the Irish Data Protection Commission, according to a commission spokesman, but none were serious enough to warrant a statutory investigation, and of the 16 open investigations into multinational tech companies, none are related to Microsoft. There have been 3,500 complaints to the commission in total.

Unlike other tech companies, like Facebook, that have drawn fire for privacy issues and problems spreading fake news, Microsoft has set itself up as a paragon of good behaviour, welcoming scrutiny into the company and the broader tech industry. Company leadership routinely highlights its proactive investments in privacy. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments after Microsoft challenged an American search warrant for a customer email that resided in Microsoft's servers in Ireland, and last May, the company announced it was extending the privacy rights that are at the core of GDPR to its worldwide consumer customer base.

“Having the scrutiny is actually good, I think,” CEO Satya Nadella told the Washington Post last October. He urged the tech sector to Strengthen its behavior. “Anyone who is providing a very critical service needs to raise the standards of the safety of that technology and the security of that technology.”

The huge problems affecting Facebook have touched other companies as well, including Microsoft. The New York Times reported in December that Facebook gave Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, the ability to view the names of almost all Facebook users’ friends without permission and also had data-sharing arrangements with companies including Netflix, Spotify, Amazon and Yahoo.

“Bing did not maintain profiles based on Facebook data for advertising or personalization purposes, and we took significant engineering steps beyond what Facebook required to ensure this could not happen,” said Brill.

“We ended our contract with Facebook in February 2016 and data stopped appearing in search results.”

Tue, 11 Oct 2022 11:41:00 -0500 en-US text/html
Killexams : Hands On With Microsoft's Surface Pro 9: New Components Amp Up a Familiar Design

Microsoft pulled the wraps off its next generation of Surface products today, unveiling the Surface Pro 9, the Surface Studio 2+, and the Surface Laptop 5.

You can read our news coverage for an overview of the announcements, but we were also able to go hands-on with the Surface Pro 9 at a press event in New York. There's a lot to unpack about the various configurations, including features exclusive to some models, such as 5G connectivity. Read on for details and impressions below, and hop over to our separate hands-on for the Surface Studio 2+.

Surface Pro 9 Overview: Intel, Arm, and More

At the top level, the headline for the Surface Pro 9 announcement is that Microsoft is offering both Intel- and Arm-based versions of this device for the first time. Previously, the Surface Pro X was the Arm solution in the family (which brings its own positives and negatives), but it seems to have been subsumed into the mainline Pro model as a configuration option.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet from a straight view

There are core component differences, of course—we’ll get into the specs shortly—but Arm systems also change some of the features. The Arm model will be available with 5G wireless, most crucially, and Arm systems generally offer longer battery life (but diminished Windows performance). Microsoft also demonstrated some sweet camera and video-call tricks made possible by the Arm model's neural processing unit, or NPU, which can be offloaded with intensive tasks without straining the main CPU.

Apart from the camera features, none of this is really evident from a hands-on session. But the context comes from us having tested many Arm-based Windows systems in the past, and it is needed before running through the Surface Pro 9’s design and feature set.

Design Duplicate: The Same Slick Surface Pro

This year's Surface Pro design is unchanged, focusing on the introduction of Arm, the jump to 12th Gen Intel (“Alder Lake”) Core processors, and some new features. Let’s dive into each of these aspects in more detail.

Most of the changes to the Surface Pro 9 are component- and feature-based. On the surface (forgive the incidental pun), things mostly remain the same—the dimensions exactly match those of the Surface Pro 8. It measures 0.37 by 11.3 by 8.2 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.94 pounds, with a small asterisk to say the 5G-enabled model (more on that in a moment) is imperceptibly heavier.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet seen from the side to show its thinness

While not the most exciting development (who doesn’t look forward to some design tweaks?), this is still acceptable to me. My review of the Surface Pro 8 praises its slim, slick design, marrying the previous Surface Pro design with that of the now-dead Surface Pro X series. The thin bezels, the relatively roomy 13-inch display, and the useful kickstand are back, in a device that’s just as portable as before. Making the device thinner for the sake of it doesn’t add much (and doing so can diminish the performance ceiling), and the Surface Pro doesn’t need to be any lighter.

In summary, with keeping the same base design, the Surface Pro 9 impresses just like the Surface Pro 8 did before it. The tablet has the same anodized aluminum chassis, quality build, and flexible kickstand that we appreciated in the previous edition.

A close up of the USB-C ports on the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet

However, Microsoft has decided to follow Apple and end its relationship with the traditional audio jack, starting with the Surface Pro 9. This perfectly fine wired audio solution is yet again cut in the name of thinness.

Still, the Surface Pro's real-life usability remains high, and remains the benchmark for detachable 2-in-1s, even if it doesn't perfectly replicate the laptop experience. The “PixelSense” display is again sharp and smooth, with its 2,880-by-1,920-pixel resolution and 120Hz refresh rate.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Display

Usability, Keyboards, and Extras

With touch technology and the ability to recline nearly flat, this screen (combined with the Surface Pen, sold separately) makes for a portably sized canvas for digital artists and anyone else who stands to gain from sketching or drawing right onto their device. The Surface Pro 9, having released after the launch of Windows 11 (unlike its predecessor), comes with the operating system pre-loaded.

This is all supported by high-end features, like a 1080p webcam with Windows Hello support, a user-accessible SSD, and (in the Intel version) Thunderbolt 4 support. The Arm version will feature USB-C, too, but lack Intel’s more capable Thunderbolt technology.

Several color options for the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet

One aspect where the Pro 9 does offer new design options? Colors! The Pro 8 came only in platinum and graphite, where the Pro 9 will offer those two, as well as blue and green shades ("Sapphire" and "Forest," officially). 

There's also a Special Edition version of the device and keyboard, designed in concert with the UK-based firm Liberty, which brings a big dash of style. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it looks quite nice in person, thanks to a fabric finish on the keyboard and a matching pattern etched into the Pro 9's chassis.

The special edition Surface Pro 9 tablet seen in an open positionThe Special Edition Keyboard Cover for the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet

An important note, and one of the main questions people ask when it comes to the Surface Pro: Yes, the keyboard is still sold separately. (It does come in the matching new colors, though.)

The Signature Keyboard with the Slim Pen 2 is priced at $279, the Signature Keyboard alone for $179, and the more standard Pro Keyboard (with no pen dock/pen charger built in) for $139. The Liberty Keyboard plus Slim Pen 2 bundle is $299.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 KeyboardMicrosoft Surface Pro 9 Keyboard Stylus Slot

Choose Your Loadout: Intel Core or Arm?

Needless to say, even after spending time with the product in person, Surface Pro 9 performance (and the speed differences between Intel Core and Arm) will have to wait until we have review products on hand for testing. The specs themselves are plenty interesting, though, and will be a big part of anyone’s buying decision.

Generally speaking, Arm systems offer lesser performance than Intel solutions, because they run Windows x86 applications with an emulator. This results in sometimes sluggish performance or outright incompatibility, so it’s even more crucial than ever to look closely at which processor you’re buying and to think about your workload.

To that end, here are the options. The big upgrade for the Intel version is the jump to the 12th Generation silicon, where the Surface Pro 8 was running on 11th Gen chips. 

The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet hinge in an open position

The base model will start at $999 for a Core i5-1235U CPU, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The Core i5 model maxes out at 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. From there, you can opt for upgrades to a Core i7-1265U CPU, 16GB or 32GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD or 1TB SSD. There are a couple of color restrictions for the higher-end SKUs when ordering.

The alternative model uses Microsoft’s own Arm-powered SQ3 processor, a more potent version of the Surface Pro X's CPU offering and 5G enabled. The Surface Pro X's spirit lives on, both in the thin-bezel look that debuted there before making its way to the Pro 8, and in this silicon. 

The base model of the Arm Surface Pro 9 is priced at $1,299 for 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. It tops out at $1,899 for 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. 

Arm Advantages

One of the main reasons to go for the Arm version is the 5G capability, making this a truly road-ready productivity device for 2022. It's a bit of a balance compared to the Intel processor and its certainly stronger Windows performance, but it depends on your needs. Battery life should be superior to the Intel version, too: Microsoft rates the Arm model for as much as 19 hours of battery run time.

As mentioned, the general Windows performance could suffer, as Arm still runs many applications through emulation on Windows, a known (not Surface-specific) concession. Obviously, we can’t verify the performance or battery life of either model until we can fully test them.

It doesn't end at 5G connectivity, though. There are some inherent advantages in the SQ3 version's architecture, thanks chiefly to the NPU, which specializes in machine-learning applications. The main benefit relates to video call technology, which was demonstrated both in Microsoft's live stream announcement and during a live demonstration I saw.

A close-up of the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet's rear camera

The camera can autofocus your face, not for sharpness in the traditional sense of focus, but to move the camera to keep you in the center of the screen if you're moving or wandering while on video. Another feature is a "portrait" background blur style, which replicates higher-quality cameras, while also executing the blur in a more intelligent (and better-looking) way than those built into Zoom and other apps. I tested these both in person, and even with two of us on camera, the feature worked as advertised.

Finally, an impressive Voice Focus feature drastically cuts out or removes background noise. I know that this feature has been touted on virtually every microphone by now, but this proactive, AI-trained feature is much more effective.

The live stream demonstrated a nearby leaf blower and hair dryer being completely silent on a video call, and my live demo employed a crunchy bag of chips as the noisemaker. The feature definitely removed the bag noise almost entirely, though it did also soften the voice and give it an odd tone. To be fair, the bag was held directly up to the device, which is an extreme scenario. Even so, the bag crunch wasn't audible, which is impressive given how loud it was in person.

Crucially, these features can be enabled in Windows universally, taking priority over any application's camera and video settings, or you can override them with the app's settings. It's unfortunate that this is exclusive to the Arm version of the Surface Pro 9, but given that it's hardware-enabled for this chip, there's no getting around it.

The Takeaway: Pick Your Pro 9 Carefully

The Surface Pro 9 is an impressive and robust device, but potential buyers should also shop carefully. It was simpler in the past just to choose your preferred component loadout, but now there are some unique features (plus benefits and concessions) wrapped up in different models with different processors entirely.

The complete lineup of Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet colors

The average shopper doesn't likely know the difference between the Intel Core and SQ3 processor listings on the store's configuration page, and some features are generally advertised for the Pro 9 line, when they're not realistically available in all configurations. Take note of your workload and needs, and choose accordingly!

The Surface Pro 9 and other new devices are available for pre-order now, and will officially go on sale on October 25. Check back soon for our full review of at least one, if not both, of these Surface Pro 9 models.

Wed, 12 Oct 2022 09:03:00 -0500 en-au text/html
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