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Experts are warning it could take 'weeks' to fix the global IT outage – here's what we know

Techradar - Sat, 07/20/2024 - 05:00

While some computers are starting to get back online after yesterday's massive Windows outage took down numerous critical systems across the world, there's still a lot of troubleshooting to do – and it could be weeks before everything gets back to normal, according to experts.

The collapse was caused by a faulty update made to the Falcon software run in the cloud by a cybersecurity company called CrowdStrike. Falcon is critical to the protection of numerous IT platforms, and – importantly – the Windows operating system. When the bug reached Windows computers, it caused blue screens of death across the world.

As CrowdStrike continues to work with customers and partners to resolve this incident, our team has written a technical overview of today’s events. We will continue to update our findings as the investigation progresses. https://t.co/xIDlV7yKVhJuly 20, 2024

IT departments, as well as engineers from CrowdStrike and Microsoft, are scrambling to get everything working again. The one bit of good news is that the problem has been identified, and a fix is rolling out – there's no suggestion of any hacking taking place, so your Windows systems are protected. They just might not turn on.

"The fix will have to be applied to many computers around the world," Adam Leon Smith of the British Computer Society (BCS), the Chartered Institute for IT, told Sky News. "So if computers are getting blue screens and endless loops, it could be more difficult and take days and weeks."

Other experts are calling the huge disruption a warning that changes need to be made. "This is a very, very uncomfortable illustration of the fragility of the world's core internet infrastructure," Ciaran Martin, the former chief executive of Britain’s National Cyber Security Center and a professor at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, told the New York Times.

What is still being affected?

The knock-on effects of the CrowdStrike bug are being felt all over the world. While critical systems affecting transport, health, e-commerce and other infrastructure are now largely functioning again, the backlog from yesterday still needs to be cleared. You might well notice more problems as we go through the rest of the week.

If you're flying today or tomorrow, airports are advising customers to check with their airline for the latest information – it's possible that your flight has been moved around – and the same goes for other booked transport routes, with tens of thousands of passengers still not where they want to be. You might find that the gig you missed due to the outage has been rescheduled too.

Systems have been restored to the police departments 911 call center after a widespread outage that began late last night.July 19, 2024

The NHS in England is telling patients to keep their scheduled appointments unless they're told otherwise. Over in the US, several 911 networks were affected by the computer problems, though these are now mostly back online. While the picture is certainly getting better, we've still got a long way to get back to normal.

In the meantime, authorities are warning users to be on their guard against scams linked to the CrowdStrike outage. Be suspicious of any emails purporting to come from CrowdStrike, Microsoft, or any other IT support source that you're not familiar with. Keep an eye on official sources of information, like CrowdStrike's social media channels, and trustworthy publishers (like TechRadar).

How do I fix the CrowdStrike bug?

If you've found your own Windows PC affected by the CrowdStrike bug, it most likely won't be able to boot up. As The Verge reports, some users are finding repeated reboots eventually solves the problem – Windows eventually snags the updated files which allows the computer to start up (connecting your PC directly to your router can help).

Windows should load up the Windows Recovery Environment if your computer won't start, and from there you do have the option to roll back the most recent update to your machine: Microsoft has instructions for this here. If you don't see the Windows Recovery Environment, try pressing F11 as your system starts up.

Windows Recovery Environment

The Windows Recovery Environment (Image credit: Microsoft)

Another option is to head into Safe Mode: from the Windows Recovery Environment interface, choose Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Advanced Startup Options > Startup Settings > Restart. Pick 4 to go into Windows Safe Mode.

Safe Mode runs Windows in a stripped-down state, so don't be surprised if your PC is a lot slower than normal. In File Explorer, head to C:\Windows\System32\drivers\CrowdStrike, and delete any files matching “C-00000291*.sys”. Restart your computer in the normal way, from the Start menu, and you should be back up and running. 

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Global CrowdStrike Outage Proves How Fragile IT Systems Have Become

NYT Technology - Sat, 07/20/2024 - 04:03
While in some corners of Silicon Valley people worry about the risks of A.I., a simple failed software update caused a worldwide outage.

CrowdStrike Issue, Not Russia or China, Caused Tech Outage

NYT Technology - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 21:02
With each cascade of digital disaster, new vulnerabilities emerge. The latest chaos wasn’t caused by an adversary, but it provided a road map of American vulnerabilities at a critical moment.

Google is about to start scrolling through all your pictures for its 'Ask Photos' feature

Techradar - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 18:00

Google's AI-fueled Ask Photos feature, previewed at Google I/O 2024, has begun initial testing, as first shared by 9to5 Google. Ask Photos employs Google's Gemini AI to search a user's photo library using natural language without first organizing and tagging the image. Google hasn't shared any release date, but it looks like a select group of users are being asked to try it out and offer feedback before a broader rollout.

Ask Photos essentially expands Gemini's ability to parse visual information from a user's photos. The AI can then comb through images, presumably those in an album or on a device that the AI has permission to access and search through. It's not just a keyword hunt either, as the AI can also answer questions posed by the user. For instance, at the initial demonstration at Google I/O, CEO Sundar Pichai showed how he could use it to ask his phone for his license plate number, with the answer provided thanks to a photo of the license plate in his album. 

The version highlighted by 9to5 Google was discovered by a user on his Pixel 8 Pro. Unlike the official demo, where Ask Photos had its own tab, the feature now seems to be available on the Search tab via an "Ask" button next to the search bar. Tapping the button brings up Ask Photos as a new interface, including sample prompts and space to write your own response to the question, "What would you like to see?" Some aspects of the feature are still undergoing testing, though, as the "Photos of me over time" sample prompt brought back a technical error response and a suggestion to "Use classic search." Regardless, the feature apparently disappeared shortly after the user first saw it. 

Google Ask Photos reading license plate numbers out of the photo library#GoogleIO pic.twitter.com/ElSEQHrvVwMay 14, 2024

Visual Search

Employing Gemini to look through photos obviously benefits users, especially those who have a lot of poorly organized images. Google Photos has some ability to find photos of specific events and people, but applying Gemini's AI models would vastly improve the platform's abilities. The AI could far better discern what photos are in the same place, identify people across different time periods, and otherwise organize images based on detailed criteria. 

Ask Photos is ultimately just another facet of Google's work to embed Gemini into every product and service it offers. Of course, the feature's apparent limitations and technical issues at the moment highlight the complexity of doing so. But, when combined with related rollouts like making Gemini available from the lock screens of Android phones, the bigger picture becomes clear, even without asking Gemini for help.

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25 Million Watched Trump’s Speech at the R.N.C. on Thursday

NYT Technology - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 17:16
Viewership peaked on Thursday night starting around the 15-minute mark of Donald Trump’s speech, as he delivered a vivid reconstruction of last weekend’s assassination attempt.

Windows 11 gets pushy with another pop-up – this time for Microsoft’s backup app – and all this is getting tiresome, frankly

Techradar - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 14:37

Windows 11 has witnessed the introduction of yet another piece of nagging designed to drive the use of another Microsoft service – but as always, this is in danger of having the opposite effect.

Windows Latest flagged up a fresh move regarding Microsoft’s promotional activity: a pop-up to push the Windows Backup app (which was introduced to Windows 11 and 10 last year).

Windows Backup does what the name suggests, providing a client to handle backing up the files on your PC, and it leverages OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage locker, to do so.

Windows Latest was treated to a nag, which appeared as a notification (in the right-hand side notifications panel, on the desktop) pushing the Windows Backup app. It informed the tech site: “Your PC is not fully backed up. Backup is not turned on for Credentials and Folders. Back up now to save them if something happens to your PC.”

As the site notes, this is apparently being implemented via a server-side update (so it could automatically come to your Windows 11 machine at any time – though we’d hope it’s only showing for those who aren’t using the backup app already, of course).

The notification gives you the option to dismiss it or elect to ‘Back up now’ – choose the latter, and Windows Backup kicks into life and starts syncing your files with OneDrive (as well as backing up system settings, apps, and your whole PC, essentially).

Windows Backup is designed for consumers and works for those logged in to a personal Microsoft Account in Windows.

As Microsoft made Windows Backup a system app, it’s on all Windows PCs by default, which has been controversial for the likes of business computers which won’t use the app – they still can’t remove it, even though it’s for consumers only as mentioned.

Angry business man screaming on laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock / ra2 studio) Analysis: Promo center, please...

There are a couple of issues here. Firstly, more nagging, Microsoft – really? We’re getting a bit tired of this, and while every little pop-up might seem a small move in itself, they all add up to a fatiguing experience in the wider Windows experience.

Here’s an idea – a ‘promo center’ in Windows 11, a part of the interface you can visit that highlights all the features and capabilities you might be missing that aren’t turned on yet (like the Windows Backup app). You can visit here if you’re genuinely curious to see how you might improve your Windows installation via Microsoft’s other services, and all this kind of messaging is confined here – and doesn’t appear unwanted in everyday use of the OS, when it officially becomes ‘nagging’ as it were.

Depressingly, this will never happen, but hey, we can but hope.

The other issue is that many people with a OneDrive account will have the basic free allocation of 5GB of storage space. That’s not going to go very far towards backing up the contents of an entire PC. So you’ll have to fork out for more space via a OneDrive subscription – which is clearly what Microsoft is driving at with this new initiative.

At the same time, it is a great idea to have your PC backed up in this way – or in some way, ensure you have some kind of backup system in place – and there’s nothing wrong with OneDrive, either. It’s just the way Microsoft has gone about things here, which is off-putting and, as we noted at the outset, is perhaps more likely to persuade folks not to use OneDrive out of principle and seek out another cloud backup service instead.

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Goodbye GPT-3.5, OpenAI's new GPT-4o mini AI model is all about compact power

Techradar - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 13:00

OpenAI has added a new large language model (LLM) called GPT-4o mini to ChatGPT and its APIs. As the name implies, the GPT-4o Mini model is a smaller version of the GPT-4o model introduced in May. The mini model is designed to balance the power of GPT-4o with a more cost-efficient approach.

GPT-4o mini has much of the functionality of its larger cousin, though the API only has text and vision support for now, with image, video, and audio inputs and outputs still in the works. Like GPT-4o, the new model has a context window of 128,000 tokens, or eight times that of GPT-3.5 Turbo. The new model also comes with enhanced safety features. Along with those built into GPT-4o already, GPT-4o mini added new techniques that make it more resistant to jailbreaks and improper prompt injections, among other issues concerning developers looking to deploy AI APIs broadly.

Ready for bigger jobs

OpenAI suggests the bigger context window and other upgrades, such as improved non-English text understanding, will make GPT-4o mini especially useful for processing big documents or linking multiple interactions with the AI model. For example, it could provide better recommendations in online stores, speed up real-time text responses for customer service, and produce accurate and detailed answers to students studying for an exam more quickly than other models. OpenAI has visions of GPT-4o automating and streamlining business processes thanks to its ability to fetch data and take actions with external systems. For businesses using the API, the cost is notably reduced to just over half the price per token of GPT-3.5 Turbo.

"OpenAI is committed to making intelligence as broadly accessible as possible," OpenAI explained in its announcement. "We expect GPT-4o mini will significantly expand the range of applications built with AI by making intelligence much more affordable."

GPT-4o mini is part of the recent wave of smaller LLMs like Google's Gemini Flash and Anthropic's Claude Haiku. According to OpenAI, however, GPT-4o mini blows them out of the water when it comes to many of the standard tests. The model scored 82% on the Massive Multitask Language Understanding (MMLU) benchmark, compared to 77.9% and 73.8% by Gemini Flash and Haiku, respectively. The same goes for the MGSM and Human Eval tests, where GPT-4o Mini hit 87% and 87.2%, while Gemini Flash had 75.5% and 71.5%, and Haiku had 71.7% and 75.9%. In other words, GPT-4o Mini wins out on textual comprehension in addition to math and coding tasks, as can be seen in the graph below. 

GPT-4o Mini Eval

(Image credit: OpenAI) Mini Model Major Plans

The introduction of GPT-4o Mini represents a significant step in making advanced AI more affordable and accessible, according to OpenAI. Lower costs plus better performance will likely help incorporate AI into everyday applications. The same goes for ChatGPT users, who can all access the model starting this week. OpenAI also has plans to introduce fine-tuning capabilities for GPT-4o Mini within the API.

The broader picture shows another step in ChatGPT's evolving services. As OpenAI phases out GPT-3.5 for ChatGPT, the focus shifts to the next stage of providing more powerful models. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has long hinted at how GPT-5 will "substantially improve" upon the existing models. At the same time, the leaked OpenAI scale for measuring AI power shows there is still a long way to go to the still-mythical artificial general intelligence (AGI) that can perfectly mimic the workings of the human mind. 

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CrowdStrike defect rocks airlines, banks and government agencies. Here's how to prepare for next time.

Memphis Business Journal - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 10:29
Experts say the CrowdStrike defect that caused a Microsoft outage Friday morning highlights the risk that comes with a global, interconnected system of technologies. Here's how you can prepare your own business for any future disruptions.

What We Know About the Global Outage

NYT Technology - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 08:56
Everything from airlines to banks to retailers were affected in many countries.

Social Media Reacts to an Attempted Assassination; Tech Elites for Trump; and TikTok’s Jawmaxxing Trend

NYT Technology - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 04:03
“The 2024 internet is just different than the internet we lived on four years ago.”

Data for A.I. Training Is Disappearing Fast, Study Shows

NYT Technology - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 04:02
New research from the Data Provenance Initiative has found a dramatic drop in content made available to the collections used to build artificial intelligence.

How Getty and Shutterstock Are Building AI Image Generators

NYT Technology - Fri, 07/19/2024 - 04:02
Companies like Getty have begun developing A.I. models with their own data, part of a broader push to build artificial intelligence with licensed content.

Meta Exploring Stake in Ray-Ban’s Parent Company

NYT Technology - Thu, 07/18/2024 - 16:47
Meta is discussing taking a stake of as much as 5 percent of EssilorLuxottica, which makes eyewear brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley, people with knowledge of the talks said.

Ford Plans More Gas Trucks, Fewer Electric Vehicles

NYT Technology - Thu, 07/18/2024 - 14:35
Ford, General Motors and other automakers are slowing investments in electric vehicles and doubling down on more profitable gasoline cars and trucks.

Tinder's new AI will pick out your best photos for your dating profile

Techradar - Thu, 07/18/2024 - 13:30

Choosing the best photos for your dating profile can be tough, so Tinder created a virtual curator to help you out. The artificial intelligence-powered Photo Selector will analyze your shortlist of potential photos directly from your phone and suggest those its model predicts would present you at your best.

To use the feature, a Tinder user takes a selfie for the AI to know what they look like, then permits the app to look at photos on their phone. The AI model picks out images for the user to review and decide whether to add them to their profile. Photo Selector is coming first to Tinder users in the U.S. this month, with international rollouts later this summer.

Tinder hopes the AI tool will smooth the path for setting up a dating profile. According to its own Online Opinion survey of young single people, 52% struggle to pick a profile image for dating apps, and single people under 25 spend 33 minutes on average picking a photo for their dating app profile. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that 68% of them welcome the idea of AI assistance in picking their photos.

Though Tinder doesn’t outright say so, the study did suggest straight men in particular need the help. Straight single women find profiles with at least four images highlighting a man’s personality more attractive, and more than one face photo ups a guy’s chance of matching by 71%. 

“We’re proud to be the first dating app to roll out an AI tool that can make the profile-building experience significantly easier -- an area we know is one of the hardest parts of dating,” Tinder CEO Faye Iosotaluno said in a statement. “As the category leader, we’re pushing ourselves to define the industry’s best use cases for meaningful consumer AI integrations,” 

Discreet AI

Tinder didn’t make much of any privacy issues with regard to the new feature, even though access and use of personal photos with AI models may make some nervous. Users might inadvertently expose sensitive or private images by granting the app access to their camera rolls. The company has data protection policies and security measures in place, but when it comes to something as intimate as photos for dating apps, it’s easy to imagine some hesitating without enough transparency and trust regarding how the images are used, stored, and protected.

That’s on top of the facial recognition element. While it is necessary to curate the photos successfully, the biometric data involved is arguably even more sensitive. Tinder may have to make an extra effort to assure users their data is anonymized when the AI processes it and that it’s not shared with third parties. Still, as AI assistants and related tools become more ubiquitous, ones that help people’s online profiles pop, whether on dating apps or anywhere else, will likely become very common.

“As demonstrated by our Photo Selector feature, we’re developing AI tech to assist you in making decisions, not to make them for you,” Iosotaluno said.

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How Elon Musk Came to Support Trump and the GOP

NYT Technology - Thu, 07/18/2024 - 12:32
The world’s richest man, once deeply skeptical of Donald J. Trump, has now endorsed him and has emerged as a central character in the presidential race.

Carlos Espina is a One-Man Telemundo on TikTok

NYT Technology - Thu, 07/18/2024 - 10:03
Carlos Espina is among a new kind of social media personalities whom politicians, especially those in the Biden White House, view as modern-day broadcasters.

Apple isn't using YouTube data in Apple Intelligence

Techradar - Thu, 07/18/2024 - 09:28

After a report revealed that numerous companies relied in part on YouTube video transcription data to train their AIs, Apple is stepping forward to clarify its use of and plans for OpenELM, which was trained on the controversial Pile data.

Apple contacted TechRadar after reading the report detailing how the company that provided Pile, EleutherAI, apparently used the YouTube Subtitles data set, an act that would be counter to the social video platform's data use policies. 

While not speaking directly to the issue of YouTube data, Apple reiterated its commitment to the rights of creators and publishers and added that it does offer websites the ability to opt out of their data being used to train Apple Intelligence, which Apple unveiled during WWDC 2024 and is expected to arrive in iOS 18.

The company also confirmed that it trains its models, including those for its upcoming Apple Intelligence, using high-quality data that includes licensed data from publishers, stock images, and some publicly available data from the web. YouTube's transcription data is not intended to be a public resource but it's not clear if it's fully hidden from view.

Just for research

Three iPhones on a blue and red background running Apple Intelligence

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple also builds research models and that's essentially what OpenELM is, a tool for learning more about language models. In a paper on OpenELM (PDF), researchers note that they did train it on Pile data.

Apple says, however, that OpenELM is for research purposes only and it's not used to power AI features in any Apple devices, which would include, among other things, the best iPhones, best iPads, and best Macs. What's more, it appears OpenELM's moment in the sun is almost done. Apple told us it has no plans to build future versions of the model.

While all this may offer some solace to the YouTube creators (including TechRadar) whose data was scrapped for Pile and used in, among other models, Apple's OpenELM, it does not address the fact that EleutherAI apparently did the scraping without YouTube or the creators' permission and then handed it to companies like Apple.

What remains to be seen is what YouTube does next. For now, though, Apple's made it clear that it was one and done with OpenELM and that data will never be a part of Apple Intelligence.

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Windows 11 22H2 is nearing retirement - but 23H2 is coming to the rescue, as Microsoft opens upgrade floodgates

Techradar - Thu, 07/18/2024 - 08:56

Windows 11 version 23H2 is finally available to download and install for all eligible users, and it's about time, as 22H2 is nearing its end-of-support.

Microsoft announced the 'broad availability' of Windows 11 23H2 in a release health dashboard update on July 17, 2024  (spotted by XDA). It's markedly later than the same milestone for the previous 22H2 update, which happened in January 2023, right at the start of last year.

In fact, it's cutting things fine for Microsoft, really, as the final push to persuade folks to upgrade to 23H2 isn't leaving much breathing room before the end-of-life for 22H2, which rolls around in October 2024. So, it's not surprising Microsoft is keen to get people upgrading to 23H2 now.

While we can only guess at the reason for this tardiness with the full rollout of 23H2 being initiated, it might be down to this version of Windows 11 having more issues to unpick, which must have taken some time to iron out - we can only presume.

Updating will hopefully be straightforward to do as, according to XDA, 23H2 has the same system requirements as older versions of Windows 11. You can check what version of Windows 11 your device is running by going to Windows Update (found in the Settings app) and clicking on Update History

If you’re not already running Windows 11 23H2, you should be able to download and install 23H2 by going to Windows Update and pressing the Check for updates button. 

Windows 11 Update showing on laptop in an office

(Image credit: TechRadar) Considering 22H2's end-of-support date

Not only is it approaching a year since 23H2’s initial release, but Windows 11 22H2’s end-of-support date is quickly approaching as we mentioned. This isn’t unusual, as every Windows product released has a lifecycle, which is essentially a plan for the product’s development, implementation, and, ultimately, its deprecation. 22H2’s end-of-support date is set for October 8, 2024, and Microsoft will stop releasing monthly security updates for it after this date.

Monthly security patches are important as both the tech companies that release them and industry experts recommend that you install them as soon as they’re available, as they contain protective measures to help secure your PC against newly devised attacks and address freshly discovered vulnerabilities. When Microsoft stops releasing these, any devices running 22H2 will be left at risk.

For this reason, devices running Windows 11 Home and Pro will be forced to update to 23H2 (unless they are managed by IT departments of organizations - then they might be exempt). After this happens, these devices will be eligible to receive the latest security patches for 23H2.

A man looking thoughtfully at a computer in an office

(Image credit: Shutterstock/dotshock) The future of Windows 11 with version 23H2

Windows 11 23H2 is slated for an end-of-support date of November 11, 2025. When compared to its predecessor 22H2, it brings in changes including taskbar regrouping that enables users to see each new app window as a separate icon, a new volume mixer which allows users to control the volume of various apps and playback devices more easily, and native 7Z and RAR file format support.

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Deezer's new AI playlist producer challenges Spotify, Amazon, YouTube Music to a DJ battle

Techradar - Wed, 07/17/2024 - 19:00

European music streaming service Deezer has turned to artificial intelligence to help users curate playlists. The new Playlist with AI feature produces a list of songs based on text prompts describing anything from a musical genre or time period to your current emotions or activities. 

Playlist with AI is currently in beta, with a random 5% of Deezer’s subscribers selected to try the feature out. The company is likely eager to push it to more customers, though, as the idea of a text-to-playlist AI tool is rapidly spreading. Spotify’s AI DJ, Amazon Music’s new Maestro, and YouTube Music’s AI-generated radio are all out or in their own testing phase. Like its rivals, Playlist with AI interprets text prompts provided by users using an AI model to cull the Deezer music library for appropriate songs, including ones the user has never played before.

“We’re excited to bring this AI-powered feature to Deezer users around the world,” Deezer vice president of product Alexandra Leloup said in a statement. “Whether you need the perfect soundtrack for a workout, a romantic evening, or a nostalgic trip down memory lane, our Playlist with AI feature will curate a new musical experience within a matter of seconds, and offers endless possibilities to easily discover new music.”

DJ AI

Deezer has been playing with AI for a while now. Users can already use the Flow feature to compile AI-generated playlists, though those are limited to specific moods, genres, and songs previously added to a favorites list. There's also the AI-powered tune identification tool SongCatcher.

AI-powered playlist creators will only heighten the rivalry among the platforms providing them. As personalized playlists become more popular, streaming services may treat them as a necessary, standard feature. There are broader implications for the music industry as well. AI-driven recommendations could help emerging artists gain exposure. By including lesser-known tracks that fit users' specified criteria, AI can introduce new talent to an audience that might never discover them otherwise. 

That's all to the good, except, of course, if the music labels pay to up the weight of their clients' music in the algorithms to play more often on more possible text prompts: a kind of post-modern Payola (the scandal when radio stations were secretly paid to play certain songs by record labels). That might ruin the personalization of the playlist and upset music fans if not done in an open, well-marked manner. 

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