Windows and Search: A Work in Progress, Slow Progress

June 13, 2019

Unless you know a file’s specific name, trying to find it using the Windows search function sucks. The Windows search function is notoriously bad in each version from 1995 to the latest Windows 10. Searching on a Windows PC is so bad that Apple makes a point of stating how fast and accurate its Spotlight Search function is. In June 2019, Microsoft debuted its latest Windows version dubbed 1903. MS Power User explores how Windows’ 1903 has changed search (or so Microsoft claims) in the article, “How To Use The Enhanced Windows 10 Search in 1903.”

It is hard to understand how a company that revolutionized how people interact with computers cannot get a simple function correct. Yes, search has its own complexities that require well written code, but it remains one of the simplest machine learning functions compared to language translation, photo editing, and processing audio files. MS Power User agrees that Microsoft let the ball drop when it comes to search, but 1903 might be software patch it needs:

“Microsoft’s Windows 10 has had search as one of its pain points ever since it debuted. Search was often panned for being slow, inaccurate and sometimes just for not finding anything at all. With Windows 10 1903, Microsoft has tackled that. First. Cortana and Search were split apart so the Windows team could tackle both individually. This means that Cortana gets better at Cortana things, while search gets better at Search things. With 1903, those seeds have already borne some fruit.”

To improve search with 1903, users have to adjust the search settings. Windows 1903 has two options: “classic search” and “enhanced search.” By selecting the enhanced search option, the full power of Windows search is projected over a computer’s entire hard drive. Windows classic search sucks. Why is Microsoft still including it in their OS when there is a better option? In fact, why are they even forcing users to choose between the classic and the enhanced search?

A good OS should not make its user work harder. A good OS is a tool that is supposed to easily organize and communicate information. Windows, you are letting me down.

Whitney Grace, June 13, 2019

Bing and Ad Revenue: Fake News or Cash Money?

June 13, 2019

No one ever thought it would happen, but Bing is actually making more money via ads than Google. Cue the double take and head scratching. How is this possible? Bloomberg explores how in the article, “Bing’s Not The Laughing Stock Of Technology Anymore.”

Microsoft’s search engine is ten years old and was build upon the company’s first effort to rival Google. Bing was advertised as a “decision engine” compared to Google that only found things. Bing has been a joke for the past decade, but under current CEO Satya Nadella’s guidance Bing makes Microsoft a tidy profit.

CEO Nadella’s approach to Microsoft has been less about taking on giants, but rather being pragmatic about products and their purpose. Bing stopped hemorrhaging money when Nadella stopped tossing funds at it and cut down on costs. Bing was placed at the forefront of Microsoft products, where users would see and be persuaded to use it. Bing’s ad revenue grew twelve percent last year, which did not trail far behind Google’s seventeen percent growth.

Microsoft does not concentrate all of its energy on Bing, instead its search engine is more of a side hustle that brings in money that is directly injected into other areas. Bing has also forced Google and Microsoft to stop bullying one another for ad revenues. Apparently the two companies accept that they each exist and work around one another. Bing meanwhile continues on:

“Bing may remain a side gig for Microsoft, and certainly it failed as the strategic counter strike to Google. But birthdays are best if you don’t think about what might have been and instead appreciate what you have. So happy birthday, Bing. You’re not the laughingstock of technology anymore.”

Bing might be doing well, but Google continues to pull more accurate results. Has Bing’s results accuracy improved? Not really.

Whitney Grace, June 12, 2019

Microsoft and Oracle: Fear Helps Make New Friends

June 6, 2019

I found “Microsoft, Oracle Team Up on Cloud Services in Jab at Amazon” amusing. The real news outfit Thomson Reuters reported this unusual big company relationship when I was making my way through torrential rain in lovely West Virginia coal country. The mist did disguise the land renewal, but this Microsoft Oracle relationship is going to make for a nifty road trip video.

Imagine. The elegant Larry Ellison and the sleek Satya Nadella explaining how old school databases are the pajamas made for the cool cats. Amazon and Google will pay attention to this odd couple because it makes very visible the fear which both companies have for their database futures. Forget the cloud. We’re talking databases anywhere: On premises, hybrid, in the cloud, or residing in some wonky quantum storage thing yet to be made stable, affordable, and usable by a normal rocket scientist.

The news report does not wax poetic, nor does it offer much in the way of addressing the fear thing. I did note this statement:

The two companies said the high-speed link between their data centers would start with facilities in the eastern United States and spread to other regions. They will also work together to let joint users log into to services from either company with a single user name and get tech support from either company. The move comes as both Oracle and Microsoft are courting large businesses and government customers considering moving computing tasks currently handled in their own data centers to cloud providers.

I would point out that Oracle has chosen to add its legal pointy stick to its approach to database efficacy. Microsoft, on the other hand, is working overtime to explain that it is the solution to a range of data management issues. If one does not think about Microsoft’s struggles to update its Windows operating system, the PR sounds darned convincing.

I wish to offer a couple of observations:

First, Amazon and Google continue to capture the attention of the next generation of innovators. Oh, I know that there are clever Microsoft and Oracle wizards inventing the future at this very moment. But let’s be real: Amazon has an innovation ecosystem. Google may not have the perseverance to make its products work and then “put wood behind” some to make them competitive, but the Google does have a low cost phone and the ability to go off line because of configuration errors. Amazon, on the other hand, is evolving into an innovation platform. I am not sure the database technologies are what makes Amazon attractive to smaller firms and specialists, but Amazon is revving the bulldozer’s engine.

Second, Microsoft and Oracle are “look back” technology providers. I think both companies share many of the adorable traits of Hewlett Packard (any flavor) and IBM. In today’s business environment, which is similar to the weather around Oklahoma City, being old is not what I interpret as a plus.

Third, the two besties have somewhat different personalities. Microsoft wants to be a do gooder. Oracle wants to fly its fighter jet over the San Jose suburbs. Microsoft wants to be the big dog in Seattle. Oracle wants to be relevant. Microsoft wants to avoid the fate of Vista. Oracle wants to keep the myth of the structured query language alive. Amazon and Google, on the other hand, just want to avoid regulation and emulate the business success of pleasant people like JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and a couple of other “good business men.”

To sum up, fear is tough to explain away. The exchange of fraternity rings and an appearance at the fraternity party or the high school reunion is in the future. Town & Country material I believe. Will the two parties dance each dance together at these shindigs?

Stephen E Arnold, June 6, 2019


Microsoft and Misconduct

May 20, 2019

Microsoft acknowledges it has a problem with workplace misconduct, and is dedicating resources to get to the bottom of it. Quartz reports, “Microsoft Is Tripling the Size of its Team Investigating Workplace Misconduct.” Since March 2019, the company has been coping with reports of harassment and discrimination that were first expressed on their internal message board. Within a week of those reports, some preliminary changes were implemented, including increased manager training and a promise of more data transparency. Writer Dave Gershgorn tells us:

“Microsoft’s head of HR, Kathleen Hogan, told employees she had met with 100 men and women who have come forward about misconduct inside the company, a number Microsoft confirmed to Quartz. Hogan will focus on reforming five areas of internal culture: behavior, manager expectations, investigations, accountability, and data transparency. Each of those areas was also mentioned in a letter Nadella sent to Microsoft employees last month. Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith also told employees that the company is expanding its Corporate, External, & Legal Affairs (CELA) team, which investigates these matters, from 7 people to 23. The senior leadership team (SLT) now meets every week about this topic, employees were told, though a Microsoft representative notes that company culture has long been a staple of the weekly SLT meetings.”

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella allegedly said: “I want people to point out my flaws.”

Admitting there is a problem and making an effort to fix it is often the wisest course. We shall see where Microsoft takes it from here.

Cynthia Murrell, May 20, 2019

Microsoft: No, Not Cortana

May 9, 2019

Microsoft has a small room filled with its Bob-type products: Windows ME, Windows Vista, the notorious chatbot, but now Cortana can take its place amongst its brethren. Cortana was Microsoft’s answer to Siri and other digital assistants that live in mobile devices and smart speakers. Cortana never gained the same popularity as its competitors. MS Power User reports on the story in the article, “Cortana Retreat Continues As Microsoft Ditch Wunderlist Integratior.”

Services that allow Cortana integration are slowly fading away. Microsoft will no longer support Cortana on Skype, but now Wunderlist will no longer allow users to sync their lists and tasks with Cortana starting April 15. One of the reasons why Microsoft might no longer wish to support Wunderlist is that that company is replacing it with a new alternative:

“In this case, it is not clear if it is due to Cortana or Wunderlist both being sunsetted, but likely its a bit of both.  Wunderlist is being replaced by Microsoft To-Do and in a statement Microsoft said: ‘We’re not currently working on new features for Wunderlist as we’re concentrating on our new app, Microsoft To-Do. Once we are confident that we have incorporated the best of Wunderlist into Microsoft To-Do, we will retire Wunderlist.’”

Microsoft is into the cloud just without Cortana. “Wunder” about that? No, I don’t.

Whitney Grace May 9, 2019

Microsoft Inspires a Fresh Meme

May 8, 2019

I read the “two r’s and two s’s” person’s article “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella Throws the Doors Open Ahead of Build.” Tucked in the write up is the phrase “talented nerd.” Here’s the passage:

When asked about diversity and inclusion, Nadella insists that the whole notion of giving the “talented jerk” a pass is over. “That’s done,” he says. “In 2019, to succeed, I hope anybody joining this industry starts by saying, ‘I want to be great by honing my skills, but I want to create energy around me where people of all genders and ethnicities can contribute.’”

About whom is Microsoft speaking? The Google founders, the Twitter person, or the Zuck? Perhaps it is the head of Windows 10 updates?

Stephen E Arnold, May 8, 2019

Microsoft: More Security Excitement

April 15, 2019

I read “Microsoft Informs Hackers Had Accessed Some Outlook Account Emails for Months.” The write up reports:

Microsoft has revealed that a hacker had access to the email addresses, folder names, and subject lines of emails, but not the content of emails or attachments of the Outlook users for three months.

That’s 90 days. Windows Defender was, I assume, on the job. The good news is that the bad actor was not able to read emails. The hacker wasn’t able “to steal login details of other personal information.” That’s good news too. Plus, Microsoft has “disabled the credentials used in the hack.”

Whoa, Nellie.

Windows Defender and presumably one or more of the companies offering super smart, super capable security services were protecting the company. I am besieged each week with requests to read white papers, participate in webinars, and get demonstrations of one of the hundreds of cyber security systems available today. These range from outfits which have former NSA, FBI, and CIA specialists monitoring their clients’ systems to companies that offer systems based on tireless artificially intelligence, proactive, predictive technology. Humans get involved only when the super system sends an alert. The idea is that every possible approach to security is available.

Microsoft can probably afford several systems and can use its own crack programmers to keep the company safe. Well, one caveat is that the programmers working on Windows 10 updates are probably not likely to be given responsibility for mission critical Microsoft security. Windows 10 updates are often of questionable quality.

A handful of questions occur to me:

  1. Perhaps Microsoft’s security expertise is not particularly good. Maybe on a par with the Windows 10 October 2018 update?
  2. Maybe Windows Defender cannot defend?
  3. Perhaps the over hyped, super capable cyber security systems do not work either?

Net net: With many well funded companies offering cyber security and big outfits entrusted by their customers with their data, are the emperors going to their yoga classes naked? Ugh. Horrible thought, but it may be accurate. At least put on some stretchy pants, please.

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2019

MSFT Harbors Crypto Mining in Third Party Apps

March 11, 2019

For those people not deep in the weeds, crypto currency mines are these shadowy pockets of servers that are out of our grasp, literally and figuratively. However, it was recently discovered this type of operation is a lot closer to home than most of us assume, and that’s a problem for security and intelligence professionals. We learned more from a recent TechRadar story, “Microsoft Store Apps Caught Illegally Mining Crypto Currency.”

According to the story:

“[U]nbeknownst to the users that download these apps, they secretly use the processors of the PC they are installed on to mine for crypto currency. According to Symantec, these apps come from three developers: DigiDream, 1clean and Findoo, and it is likely they were developed by the same person or group due to the malicious code Symantec found.”

A more meaningful review of apps in the Microsoft Store seems to be needed. Expensive? Yes. Likely to happen? Maybe.

Patrick Roland, March 11, 2019

Microsoft in China: Bing Back

January 25, 2019

Gone. Now back. For now.

I read “Microsoft’s Bing Accessible in China after Hours of Outages.” The source is the ever reliable, real news outfit Bloomberg. Yep, the group which runs the hardware compromise stories without sources.

Anyway I learned:

Posting on one of China’s biggest social networks, Weibo, multiple users commented that “Bing is back” and “Bing returns to normal.” Bloomberg was able to independently verify that access to the search engine in the country was once again possible.

Is the Bing system comprehensive?

Yeah, about that.

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2019

China Is the Winner: Bing Go

January 24, 2019

I read “China Appears to Block Microsoft’s Bing as Censorship Intensifies.” The write up explains that Bing has gone. Perhaps the Avis search system will return, but I think that some work may be required.

What’s interesting is that I understood Microsoft to be filtering certain results from the index used by those users firing queries from the Middle Kingdom.

The write up explains:

If the block proves to be permanent, it would suggest that Western companies can do little to persuade China to give them access to what has become the world’s largest Internet market by users, especially at a time of increased trade and economic tensions with the United States.

There may be some interesting implications; for example:

  • Chinese nationals who are working for Microsoft may find themselves subject scrutiny. That could bring bad tidings to the individuals and possibly their families.
  • The Redmond giant has big plans for its cloud services. In China, the weather forecast could turn grim. I suppose one can think of the possible prohibitions against Microsoft technology as a form of raining on a parade.
  • Google’s floundering in China and the more recent dust up about as special China style search system may suggest that the online ad giant is not on the same wave length as the government of China.

To sum up, this is significant if less interesting than having one’s mobile phone alert a user when a person of “low social credit score” is near.

Stephen E Arnold, January 24, 2019

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