Microsoft Teams: More, More, More

January 12, 2021

Last week I was on a Zoom video call. Zoom is pretty easy to use. What’s interesting is that the cyber security organizer of the meeting could not figure out how to allow a participant to share a screen. Now how easy is it to use Microsoft Teams compared to Zoom? In my opinion, Microsoft Teams is a baffler. The last thing Teams needs is another dose of featuritis. Teams and Zoom both need to deal with the craziness of the existing features and functions.

I have given up on Zoom improving its interface. The tiny gear icon, one of the most used components, is tough for some people to spot. Teams has a couple of donkeys laden with wackiness; for example, how about those access controls? Working great for new users, right? But Microsoft who is busy reinventing itself from Word and SharePoint wants to be the super Slack of our Rona-ized world. Sounds good? Yep, ads within Office 10 are truly an uplifting experience for individuals who use Windows 10 to sort of attempt work. Plus, Teams adds Channel calendars. Great! More calendars! Many Outlooks, many search systems, and now calendars! In Teams!

I noted this BBC write up: “Pupils in Scotland Struggle to Get Online Amid Microsoft Issue.” I thought teachers, parents were there to help. The Beeb states:

A number of schools, pupils and parents have reported the technology running slowly or not at all.

What’s Microsoft say? According to the Beeb:

A Microsoft spokesperson said: “Our engineers are working to resolve difficulties accessing Microsoft Teams that some customers are experiencing.” When pressed on whether demand as a result of home schooling was causing the issue, Microsoft declined to comment.

Just like the SolarWinds’ misstep? Nope, just working to make Teams more interesting. Navigate to “Microsoft Teams Is Getting a More Engaging Experience for Meetings Soon.” If the write up is accurate, that’s exactly what Microsoft has planned for its Zoom killer. The write up reports an item from the future:

Microsoft is working on making Teams meetings more engaging using AI and a “Dynamic View” to give more control over meeting presentations.

And what, pray tell, is a more engaging enhancement or two? I learned that in the future (not yet determined):

The Dynamic view is said to let you see what’s being shared and other people on the call at the same time. With the call being automatically optimized in a way that lets participants both see the important information that’s being shared and the people presenting it in a satisfying way.

News flash. The features appear to add controls (hooray, more controls) and the presentation seems just fine for those high-resolution displays measured in feet, not inches.

Bulletin. Just in. More people are using mobile devices than desktop computers. How is Teams on a mobile device with a screen measured in inches, not feet?

Oh, right. Featuritis and tiny displays. Winners. Maybe not for someone over the age of 45, but that’s an irrelevant demographic, right?

Stephen E Arnold, January 12, 2021

DarkCyber for January 12, 2021, Now Available

January 12, 2021

DarkCyber is a twice-a-month video news program about online, the Dark Web, and cyber crime. You can view the video on Beyond Search or at this YouTube link.

The program for January 12, 2021, includes a featured interview with Mark Massop, DataWalk’s vice president. DataWalk develops investigative software which leapfrogs such solutions as IBM’s i2 Analyst Notebook and Palantir Gotham. In the interview, Mr. Massop explains how DataWalk delivers analytic reports with two or three mouse clicks, federates or brings together information from multiple sources, and slashes training time from months to several days.

Other stories include DarkCyber’s report about the trickles of information about the SolarWinds’ “misstep.” US Federal agencies, large companies, and a wide range of other entities were compromised. DarkCyber points out that Microsoft’s revelation that bad actors were able to view the company’s source code underscores the ineffectiveness of existing cyber security solutions.

DarkCyber highlights remarkable advances in smart software’s ability to create highly accurate images from poor imagery. The focus of DarkCyber’s report is not on what AI can do to create faked images. DarkCyber provides information about how and where to determine if a fake image is indeed “real.”

The final story makes clear that flying drones can be an expensive hobby. One audacious drone pilot flew in restricted air zones in Philadelphia and posted the exploits on a social media platform. And the cost of this illegal activity. Not too much. Just $182,000. The good news is that the individual appears to have avoided one of the comfortable prisons available to authorities.

One quick point: DarkCyber accepts zero advertising and no sponsored content. Some have tried, but begging for dollars and getting involved in the questionable business of sponsored content is not for the DarkCyber team.

Finally, this program begins our third series of shows. We have removed DarkCyber from Vimeo because that company insisted that DarkCyber was a commercial enterprise. Stephen E Arnold retired in 2017, and he is now 77 years old and not too keen to rejoin the GenX and Millennials in endless Zoom meetings and what he calls “blatant MBA craziness.” (At least that’s what he told me.)

Kenny Toth, January 12, 2021

DarkCyber for December 29, 2020, Is Now Available

December 29, 2020

DarkCyber for December 29, 2020, is now available on YouTube at this link or on the Beyond Search blog at this link. This week’s program includes seven stories. These are:

A Chinese consulting firm publishes a report about the low profile companies indexing the Dark Web. The report is about 114 pages long and does not include Chinese companies engaged in this business.

A Dark Web site easily accessible with a standard Internet browser promises something that DarkCyber finds difficult to believe. The Web site contains what are called “always” links to Dark Web sites; that is, those with Dot Onion addresses.

Some pundits have criticized the FBI and Interpol for their alleged failure to take down Jokerstash. This Dark Web site sells access to “live” credit cards and other financial data. Among those suggesting that the two law enforcement organizations are falling short of the mark are four cyber security firms. DarkCyber explains one reason for this alleged failure.

NSO Group, a specialized services company, has been identified as the company providing technology to “operators” surveilling dozens of Al Jazeera journalists. DarkCyber points out that a commercial firm is not in a position to approve or disapprove the use of its technology by the countries which license the Pegasus platform.

Facebook has escalated its dispute with Apple regarding tracking. Now the social media company has alleged that contractors to the French military are using Facebook in Africa via false accounts. What’s interesting is that Russia is allegedly engaged in a disinformation campaign in Africa as well.

The drone news this week contaisn two DJI items. DJI is one of the world’s largest vendors of consumer and commercial drones. The US government has told DJI that it may no longer sell its drones in the US. DJI products remain available in the US. DJI drones have been equipped with flame throwers to destroy wasp nests. The flame throwing drones appear formidable.

DarkCyber is a twice a month video news program reporting on the Dark Web, lesser known Internet services, and cyber crime. The program is produced by Stephen E Arnold and does not accept advertising or sponsorships.

Kenny Toth, December 29, 2020

Another Xoogler Explains Algorithmic Manipulation

December 25, 2020

I don’t want to make a big deal about a former Google engineer talking about algorithmic manipulation. I know what happened to the Google AI expert who pointed out that training data can and does bias how numerical recipes make decisions.

I spotted this 2019 statement in an ancient write up called “‘YouTube Recommendations Are Toxic,’ Says Dev Who Worked on the Algorithm.” The speaker is a Xoogler (the semi official name for someone who worked at the Google) who allegedly worked on the YouTube recommendation algorithm. Now keep in mind that the Google is a pretty chaotic outfit, and it is possible for people to “work on” something and the outside world will have zero idea whether the contribution was a quality test or something substantive like fiddling thresholds to meet a harried superior’s goal. (Bonus time causes some interesting activities I have heard.)

Here’s the quote, and I have put in bold face the important statement which I found important and possibly accurate:

“It isn’t inherently awful that YouTube uses AI to recommend video for you, because if the AI is well tuned it can help you get what you want. This would be amazing,” Chaslot told TNW. “But the problem is that the AI isn’t built to help you get what you want — it’s built to get you addicted to YouTube. Recommendations were designed to waste your time.”

The write up does not dig into wasting time. I want to share my perception of the time wasting angle. In the good old days, Web sites wanted to be sticky. That’s why mere search engines became portals and eventually massive one stop shops with everything in one “experience.”

For YouTube, the more time a person invests in watching videos on YouTube, the more ads Google can slam into the video. If you think there are a lot of ads for a video now, just wait until the “game plan” is rolled out to the Googlers in the Spring of 2021.

Therefore, the purpose of the YouTube algorithm is to create opportunities to display ads. Are these relevant or irrelevant. I must say that I am quite adept at clicking past blandishments for Grammarly, Liberty Mutual, and many other hapless companies dumping cash into the coffers of the world’s most wonderfulest Web search system. Grammarly, isn’t “wonderfulest” a real word when used with “Google”? Maybe I should as DeepMind? Oh, right. DeepMind is busy doing healthy things and losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Burn that ad inventory. Absolutely.

Stephen E Arnold, December 25, 2020

DarkCyber Video News Link Fixed for 12-15-20 Video

December 22, 2020

Maybe it was I? Maybe it was AMP? Google knows, of course. If you were trying to locate the December 15, 2020, DarkCyber video news program, the malformed url has been fixed. No more “Video not found” messages, at least for now. Since I was fully responsible and those AMP messages are ever so helpful, I was able to reform myself, obtain another copy of the video url from the ever reliable Google, and make this change. I’m off to don a hair shirt and a barbed wire undergarment to remind myself to improve. Oh, both garments have a Google logo. Inspiration at hand.

Stephen E Arnold, December 22, 2020

DarkCyber for December 15, 2020, Now Available

December 15, 2020

The DarkCyber video news program for December 15, 2020, is now available at this link. This week’s program includes:

  • Fact or fiction: Work around iCloud security for an iPad
  • Germany opens backdoor to one encrypted email system
  • The Dark Web and Covid is a thing
  • Smart weapons and surgical strikes: The future of war
  • NSO Group in the spotlight again
  • Current information about beam weapons.

You may also view the program via the embedded player on the Beyond Search Web site at this link. Plus, no begging for dollars and no advertising.

Kenny Toth, December 15, 2020

Cisco Webex: An Amazing Assertion

December 9, 2020

I am not a fan of video meetings. I am not thrilled with video in general. I did, however, read “Webex Could Finally Be Catching Up to Zoom and Microsoft Teams.” Cisco acquired Webex in 2007. So that’s 13 years ago. At the time WebEx was better than previous solutions. Hey, anyone remember Databeam? The article, not surprisingly, focuses on what Cisco WebEx is now going to do in the zooming 2020s. Put that aside. This is the passage in the write up which caught my attention:

This is why we are driven to deliver a Webex experience that is 10x better than in-person—and at the same time make in-person interactions 10x better too.

Now most in person meetings I have attended were generally awful. Years ago a lawyer and Washington, DC, big wig named Manning Muntzing could run good meetings: Started on time, agenda, and a time limit. Dick Cheney, the Halliburton executive who accidentally shot his attorney, also ran a good meeting. I won’t comment on how disagreements were handled.

But Silicon Valley meetings in venture backed companies were not good experiences when revenue goals were not met. Often there were wizards toying with mobile phones, coming and going, occasional smirking, and a lot of fidgeting.

Now Webex is going to make a meeting 10x better. Okay. And the interaction thing. Yeah, that works well in the Rona era. Yep, 10x. Now. After 13 years. Got it.

Stephen E Arnold, December 9, 2020

Venture Outfit Explains Obsolescence to Main Stream Media, Amazon Twitch, and Google YouTube

December 8, 2020

I am delighted to admit that I am not involved with TikTok or other whizzy video confections. Ever try Neverthink? The name explains the service. I did, however, read “Live, Social, and Shoppable: The Future of Video.” This is a breezy, MBA, venture firm style report. More remarkable, the document appears to be available without registration hoops, crazy pop ups, or blandishments to call us for investment advice.

What the write up does do is make the poobahs stunned with the announcement that Wonder Woman is headed to streaming get another gut shot. You can work through the report, the jazzy graphics, and the little icon forests yourself.

I want to focus on a single section called “The Video First Future,” specifically, the education statements. The main idea is, in my opinion,

… video can enhance the excitement of mastering a subject and the motivation to learn.

What’s this mean? First, hasta la vista to the traditional textbook publishers, a group already tethered to revenue with a thin cotton cord. Second, YouTube variants like Udacity and its compatriots must confront change. Third, the TikTok thing is a harbinger of the future of learning.

Yep, TikTok. The write up points out:

These types of platforms take academic curriculum and mix it with fun. The resulting edutainment is a hit for both kids and parents. How can a customer churn when their kid likes their class as much as Saturday morning cartoons and video games? In these kid-friendly entertaining education platforms, kids get that immediate feedback and virtual rewards whenever they get an answer right.

The anigif example requires a knowledge of Chinese and a certain youthful spirit to appreciate.

Several observations:

  • Cultural differences in managing hungry young minds play no part in the write up
  • The issue of controlling the information generated from these platforms is not considered
  • The future suggests that game-ification, psychological strokes and slaps, and fragmented attention are the new big thing.

Perfect for generating interest in new investment funds and for sending shock waves of fear through organizations not into the TikTok-ization of information. Perhaps there is an existential question which YouTube must answer, “Can we avoid the fate of the media our service has disrupted?”

Focus may be a challenge for thumbtypers, regardless of their age and Fortnite skills.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2020

Shocker: Online Learning Teaches Little

December 1, 2020

I may be misunderstanding “Failing Grades Spike in Virginia’s Largest School System as Online Learning Gap Emerges Nationwide,” but I think the main idea is that online learning does not teach the way students-teachers in an old-fashioned class do. You will have to pay to read this most recent report from a Captain Obvious “real news” outfit.

Back to the “news” flash.

The write up states:

But one Fairfax high school teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the school system, said he is doing all of these things — and still, 50 to 70 percent of his 150 students are achieving D’s and F’s, whereas before they had earned B’s and C’s.

There you go. We’re teaching students something, just not what the school hopes will be learned. What subject do students learn? Inattention perhaps.

Another factoid. Sit down and take a deep meditative breath before reading:

Younger Fairfax students are struggling more than older ones: The percentage of middle-schoolers receiving at least two F’s quadrupled, while the percentage of high-schoolers scoring at least two F’s increased by 50 percent. The percentage of students with disabilities earning at least two F’s, meanwhile, more than doubled, while the percentage of children for whom English is a second language receiving at least two F’s rose by 106 percent to account for 35 percent of all children in this group. Among racial groups, Hispanic students were most affected: The percentage of these students with at least two F’s jumped from 13 to 25 percent. Comparing grades achieved in past years with grades this year showed that the drop in passing grades is significant and unprecedented.

Had enough? I haven’t. Several observations:

  1. Traditional educational methods evolved toward a human “teacher” presenting information.
  2. Students were monitored and tested.
  3. Peer pressure operated in a social setting like an old-fashioned school room.
  4. Peer mediated instruction took place in non-class settings; for example, at a lunch table or talking with a friend at a school locker.
  5. Old-fashioned family structures often reinforced “learning.” Example: Consequences if lessons were not completed.

Thumb typers now have to face up to a reality in which their expertise at inattention creates a false sense of knowledge.

The problem is that moving learning to Zoom or some other online platform has a shallow experiential pool. Traditional education benefits from a long history. Maybe online will catch up, but if the students are ill prepared, inattentive, and unable to draw upon a knowledge framework — not likely.

Anyone ready for the new Dark Ages? Whoops. News flash. We are in them. Plague, social unrest, and students who are not acquiring equipment for reading.

Hey, everyone has a smartphone. What could go wrong? TikTok and YouTube autosuggest are just super.

Stephen E Arnold, December 1, 2020

DarkCyber for December 1, 2020, Now Available

December 1, 2020

DarkCyber reports about Maltrail, an open source cyber tool for detecting malicious traffic. Crime as a Service matures. Now anyone can point-and-click through a ransomware attack. Bad actors helpfully make cyber crime less of a hassle. Insider threats — what DarkCyber calls “the Snowden play” — are becoming more prevalent. Why? A need for money, revenge, or a dose of that old Silicon Valley attitude.

The feature in this episode is a summary of the next-generation in entity recognition from videos and still images. Face recognition is not the most reliable technology in the world; however, researchers from China and Japan have figured out how to match a person’s gait to an individual. Ergo gait recognition. A link to the technical details appears in the program.

The program features a brief extract from a conversation between Robert David Steele, a former CIA professional, and Stephen E Arnold (owner of Dark Cyber). Arnold describes some of the less appreciated reasons why digital information creates new challenges for law enforcement and intelligence professionals. Good news? Not really.

The final story in the program addresses the urgent need for counter unmanned aerial systems by local, county, and statement law enforcement agencies. Individuals are ramming drones into police helicopters. The DarkCyber discussion of this problem includes a link to a series of recommendations promulgated by the British government to address this kinetic use of drones.

DarkCyber is produced by Beyond Search. The video program appears every two weeks. The third season of DarkCyber begins in January 2021. The program is non-commercial, does not accept advertising, and does not beg for dollars. How is this possible? DarkCyber is not sure.

You can view the program at this link.

Kenny Toth, December 1, 2020

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