Microsoft gets more invasive
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Microsoft gets more invasive

TECH
Microsoft gets more invasive

Microsoft Windows has added a new feature that will record everything you have ever done on your computer. It does this through a new AI feature called Recall for Copilot+ that allows Windows 11 to take screen snapshots every few seconds. Allegedly these are encrypted and saved to your hard drive (filling it up?). No, this is not a new episode of Black Mirror, but a disturbing change in Microsoft's attempt to track everything you do and fill up your hard drives. It may do this for your Zoom calls and meetings (it will record other people on the other end of a call without their permission). This may also include capturing the data you enter into secure forms, including passwords.

- None of this is new. Microsoft had somewhat similar functionality with the Timeline feature in Windows 10, which they discontinued in 2021. It didn't take continuous snapshots though. The general feedback from the wider community has not been kind, so there's a chance that this may be pulled by Microsoft at some stage, albeit a small one. Microsoft has responded that they will not use this feature to invade an individual's privacy. Or as they put it, "the Recall index remains local and private on-device, encrypted in a way that is linked to a particular user's account". Those that have been reading my column for long enough may remember when a German security company found that Microsoft was sending back all kinds of information from people's systems and that was a long time ago. Since then, they have been caught out multiple times by various groups grabbing more info than they had claimed.

- As an exercise I tried to see if I could upgrade one of my computers to Windows 11. I was informed that since I didn't have TPM 2.0 enabled I couldn't. According to Microsoft, TPM (Trusted Platform Module) is used to improve the security of your PC. It's used by services like BitLocker drive encryption, Windows Hello and others to securely create and store cryptographic keys, and to confirm that the operating system and firmware on your device are what they're supposed to be, and haven't been tampered with. This often requires a separate chip on your motherboard to implement, but some makers have included it into their chipsets. It's been around for 20 years and version 2.0 came out in 2016, so my PC probably has it but is turned off in BIOS.

- A quick search finds that you can upgrade without this being there and can also turn it off after you upgrade if you have it. To bypass this and other requirements, you can use a utility called Rufus from here: rufus.ie/en/. Note to use the Standard version, not the portable one. Do a search for installing Windows 11 using Rufus, eg from YouTube's Memory's Tech Tips. The summary is as follows: Disk Management > Create a Virtual Hard Disk of 16GB in a folder of your choice, then initialise and format it with a name like VSUB. Open Rufus, and it will detect the drive. Next to Select, click on the arrow and fetch the Windows 11 ISO for your current system language. If not sure, check how to do this using something like Powershell. Under Boot selection in Rufus, leave the default settings, click on Start and click on all confirmation boxes as required. When done, you open the virtual drive and run the Windows 11 setup. After installation, you can delete the virtual drive and the Rufus download. If you have any questions, check a YouTube video and follow along.

- Will artificial intelligence create a refresh in PC sales? This is a good question. If you want to run AI on your PC with any speed and depth, then the better specs your machine has, the faster things will run. A phone, tablet or even most laptops will not be able to provide the pure power and potentially the memory required to do this at higher levels. That may change in the future, but to run AI well on smaller devices requires linking to an offsite AI version of some kind. To be fair, for many and even the majority, that will be enough. The problem today is that most AI's have significant bias towards one side of the ideological spectrum and for about half of the people in the Western world at least, that is not acceptable. An AI should be neutral and provide all the information necessary for a fully informed decision. In some subject areas, that is currently impossible.

- Finally for this week, you will remember the image of a robot dog carrying a flamethrower. China recently showed pictures of its machine gun carrying robot dog that looks suspiciously like the Boston Dynamics flamethrower version. The firing of the machine gun was carried out by a soldier but suggestions of an AI version to conduct surveillance to identify and strike enemy targets have been mentioned. China also has a smaller version that they say will locate obstacles like fences and other items. It can also jump and lie down. This will not end well.


James Hein is an IT professional with over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at jclhein@gmail.com.

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