It's not a good time to be working for Microsoft, but it is a good time to be a shareholder or executive. Stock is up over 30%, net income is up and the CEO Satya Nadella got a nice 10% raise. Regular workers received no pay rise, or effectively a 5% pay cut due to inflation. Microsoft has rationalised it as pat and generic reasons like a "competitive environment" and the "global macroeconomic uncertainties". In reality, Microsoft is using the money to jump into the AI wave through a multibillion-dollar partnership with OpenAI.
- The internet is not always helpful. I was recently looking for an open-source alternative for Microsoft Visio but the initial search engine hits I received were all pay-to-use after a "free download" or a trial period. That last term is all but meaningless because, for the most part, I can download most things for free even if they are pay-to-use but I then need to register them. Open-source used to mean truly free and yes, there are still products out there in that original category. Sadly, the term appears to have been hijacked into more of a software-as-a-service. I did finally find two that are free and between them can do the job, Draw.io and OpenOffice Draw. The latter is decent for basic stuff but if you want, say, the equivalent of a context diagram, then the former is a better choice.
- With doomsayers predicting AI will kill us all, stories are coming out to show how it can help humanity. Using a neural network, scientists have identified an antibiotic that can combat the superbug Acinetobacter baumannii found in hospitals. The scientists built a model to learn what compounds and structures would limit the bacteria's growth. The model cut a sample set of 6,680 compounds down to 240 that resulted in nine candidates of which Abaucin was found to be effective. The process reduced the overall testing time considerably.
- One by-product of the great AI rush is the demand for CPUs, GPUs and data communications connections. With people starting to test AI products, there has been more demand for computer resources at all levels. I don't think this was anticipated and it will take a while for the demand and supply to balance out. When AI starts to move onto local machines, then the demands will become more personal and I suspect will eventually push the need to upgrade our devices.
- Another "why didn't we think of that?" moment is coming with remote doctor's appointments. If the doctor wants to take a look at your big toe, the options are limited. If you are flexible enough then you could lift your foot up to whatever camera you have. If you have a notebook, you could put it on the floor and use the attached camera. A better option is to have a webcam with a nice long USB cable so you can pluck it off your computer and lower it for a nice view of your toe. Remember this the next time you get a new webcam.
- In the modern Western world, it is okay to be overweight. Some magazines even celebrate this. When you get on a plane your baggage is weighed so the load managers know what they can add to the flight. In the past, an average passenger weight was accounted for, but in the modern world, the added kilos are enough to have the loaders worried. Airlines like Air New Zealand have started weighing passengers. Initially, this will be voluntary but thanks to physics they need a new average passenger weight calculated for flights.
- So where is the world going when it comes to crypto? No, I don't just mean Bitcoin. I'm referring to the whole gamut of different electronic currency options. In the beginning, it was a way for those who wanted to stay out of the eye of governments to conduct business and bypass taxes. In the modern era, governments want to implement a digital currency so they can control the flow of money and who can make payments. There is a corresponding move to get rid of cash or physical currency to allow this to occur.
- Then there are the investors who lost a fortune when FTX crashed. One example is Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, Temasek. Even the big boys can make mistakes in the market, completely fooled by the apparent respectability the company was given by senior US figures. So where does that leave crypto? There will be those who still invest as world currencies rearrange themselves when the petrodollar collapses. Whether or not these turn out to be good investments is a question only the future can reveal or answer.
- Bored on the farm? Did you know you can jailbreak John Deer farming machines and play Doom while working? Neither did I. Some people have a lot of time on their hands like the guy who rendered Doom in Teletext. Legend.
James Hein is an IT professional with over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.