What is an AI PC?
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What is an AI PC?

What is an AI PC?

Last week I suggested that you would need something like a PC to run deep AI on your device. At Taiwan's recent Computex, there was the claim that they will sell tens of millions of "AI PCs". The problem is that the definition of an AI PC and what specs it needs is still vague.

The term itself comes from Intel and their definition is any laptop with a Core Ultra CPU that also has an NPU. Yes laptop, but there were not any other specs provided. Microsoft uses the term Copilot+ PC to describe a suitable device. At Computex, the terms were used interchangeably. An NPU, or Neural Processing Unit, is a specialised processor designed to perform AI tasks faster than GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) and CPUs (Computer Processing Units).

- Like any new device there must be a performance number, and for an NPU this is a TOP, or Tera Operations per Second, where TOP is a measurement of the potential peak AI inferencing performance based on the architecture and frequency required of the NPU. The current expected level is 40 TOPs, but this will not last for very long. Intel's next-gen Panther Lake chip will bring 100 TOPs, well above their current 48 TOPS Lunar Lake NPUs. Since there are no AI PC benchmarks yet, these numbers are largely meaningless, as NPUs are measured in different ways by different manufacturers. Bottom line is that we need at least another year of this new technology before things start to settle down and apples are compared against apples, just not from Apple itself yet.

- I've already started to see advertisements for Copilot+ compatible devices. Yes, that's the one with the "record-everything-you-do" feature. I'm looking for a new PC myself but I will be avoiding such specs for the time being. There has been a lot of electronic chatter since the earlier announcement of Recall. Microsoft has metaphorically been hammered by negative feedback and finally the response is that the feature will be opt-in and no longer on by default. They also claim a beefing-up of security in the data store.

- Security testers have expressed concerns about safety and some have already created tools that can extract the snapshots and the data inside. As of typing this, the data is held in a non-encrypted SQLite database that is part of the local file system. As an aside, imagine a lawyer asking for discovery from your computer. James Forshaw from Google's Project Zero initially suggested gaining access would be simpler after getting Admin access. After two days, he amended this level of access down to an easily available token and revised his security estimate downwards.

- After about three weeks of this, still pretending everything was hunky dory, Microsoft decided to announce some changes. Let's see how this goes after the initial June 18 testing release.

- If you have been in and around the computer software development industry for a while, then you will have heard of the term Agile. These days it's more of an advertising term that is thrown around by senior management usually in the form of "of course we are an Agile shop", or similar. I studied it in various forms over the past few years and at its core, it's a development process for a stable development team.

- According to recent research by the Engprax consultancy, Agile is not all that it is promised to be. The group asked 600 software engineers, split between the US and the UK, and the result was that 26.8% of software projects following Agile practices were more likely to fail than succeed. The study also showed that projects with clear documentation before the development started led to a 97% increase in success. When I took the course, the focus was on working software over documentation. In one course I took, documentation was not even mentioned. Other results showed a 65% failure to deliver on time, and just ensuring the requirements are close to the real-world problem gives a 57% increase in success. That is a lot of numbers, but it could be time for followers of Agile to take a harder look at the viability of flowing the current practices without some changes.

- Last year, there was a data breach of genetic testing data from 23andMe. An estimated 14,000 accounts were accessed leading to exposure of data of close to 7 million users. After five months of external access, the company found out about the breach from a Reddit post. The hackers appeared to primarily target Ashkenazi Jewish customers and the cybercriminal, known as Golem, released a series of antisemitic statements along with the data. The UK and Canada have joined to investigate this breach. This is yet another example of public facing data being illegally accessed. The data could potentially be used by insurance companies to deny claims and insurance coverage based on genetic analysis. Companies holding such sensitive data should be held to a much higher standard of security and in this case, it looks like that security and even basic monitoring of access was not there.

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

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