- Artificial intelligence (AI) is hitting the mainstream, though the first form of AI was invented in England, way back in 1951.
- Nowadays AI is used in a wide range of applications, from our personal assistants like Alexa and Siri, to cars, factories and healthcare.
- AI has the power to make massive improvements to our quality of life, but it’s not perfect.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is everywhere right now. In truth, the fundamentals of AI and machine learning have been around for a long time. The first primitive form of AI was an automated checkers bot which was created by Cristopher Strachey from the University of Manchester, England, back in 1951.
It’s come a long way since then, and we’re starting to see a large number of high profile use cases for the technology being thrust into the mainstream.
Some of the hottest applications of AI include the development of autonomous vehicles, facial recognition software, virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri and a huge array of industrial applications in all industries from farming to gaming to healthcare.
The Pros of AI
There’s no denying there are a lot of benefits to using AI. There’s a reason it’s becoming so popular, and that’s because the technology in many ways makes our lives better and/or easier.
Humans are great. Really, we’re awesome. But we’re not perfect. After a few hours in front of a computer screen, we can get a little tired, a little sloppy. It’s nothing that some lunch, a coffee and a lap around the block won’t fix, but it happens.
Whatever the reason, it’s common and normal for human attention to move in and out.
These lapses of attention can lead to mistakes. Typing the wrong number in a mathematical equation, missing out a line of code or in the case of heavy duty workplaces like factories, bigger mistakes which can lead to injury, or even death.
Speaking of tiredness, AI doesn’t suffer from sugar crashes or need a caffeine pick-me-up to get through the 3pm slump. As long as the power is turned on, algorithms can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without needing a break.
Not only can an AI program run constantly, but it also runs consistently. It will do the same tasks, to the same standard, forever.
For repetitive tasks this makes them a far better employee than a human. It leads to fewer errors, less downtime and a higher level of safety. They’re all big pros in our book.
Analyse large sets of data – fast
This is a big one for us here at Q.ai. Humans simply can’t match AI when it comes to analysing large datasets. For a human to go through 10,000 lines of data on a spreadsheet would take days, if not weeks.
AI can do it in a matter of minutes.
A properly trained machine learning algorithm can analyze massive amounts of data in a shockingly small amount of time. We use this capability extensively in our Investment Kits, with our AI looking at a wide range of historical stock and market performance and volatility data, and comparing this to other data such as interest rates, oil prices and more.
AI can then pick up patterns in the data and offer predictions for what might happen in the future. It’s a powerful application that has huge real world implications. From an investment management standpoint, it’s a game-changer.
The Cons of AI
But it’s not all roses. Obviously there are certain downsides to using AI and machine learning to complete tasks. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look to use AI, but it’s important that we understand its limitations so that we can implement it in the right way.
AI bases its decisions on what has happened in the past. By definition then, it’s not well suited to coming up with new or innovative ways to look at problems or situations. Now in many ways, the past is a very good guide as to what might happen in the future, but it isn’t going to be perfect.
There’s always the potential for a never-before-seen variable which sits outside the range of expected outcomes.
Because of this, AI works very well for doing the ‘grunt work’ while keeping the overall strategy decisions and ideas to the human mind.
From an investment perspective, the way we implement this is by having our financial analysts come up with an investment thesis and strategy, and then have our AI take care of the implementation of that strategy.
We still need to tell our AI which datasets to look at in order to get the desired outcome for our clients. We can’t simply say “go generate returns.” We need to provide an investment universe for the AI to look at, and then give parameters on which data points make a ‘good’ investment within the given strategy.
We’re on the fence about this one, but it’s probably fair to include it because it’s a common argument against the use of AI.
Some uses of AI are unlikely to impact human jobs. For example, the image processing AI in new cars which allows for automatic braking in the event of a potential crash. That’s not replacing a job.
An AI-powered robot assembling those cars in the factory, that probably is taking the place of a human.
The important point to keep in mind is that AI in its current iteration is aiming to replace dangerous and repetitive work. That frees up human workers to do work which offers more ability for creative thinking, which is likely to be more fulfilling.
AI technology is also going to allow for the invention and many aids which will help workers be more efficient in the work that they do. All in all, we believe that AI is a positive for the human workforce in the long run, but that’s not to say there won’t be some growing pains in between.
Windows 7 End of Life
It’s been a long run, but it’s coming time for Microsoft to end extended support for the Windows 7 operating system. Microsoft first released Windows 7 to the public over 10 years ago, and it was an instant hit with long-time Windows users.
Given the disaster that was Windows Vista, Windows 7 built on the strong underlying foundation of Vista. However, it added a lot of polish and robust device support which enticed customers that had been spoiled by the long-in-the-tooth Windows XP operating system.
Windows 7 Support Ends In January
Microsoft has set a January 14th, 2020 termination date for Windows 7 extended support. Microsoft issued the following warning earlier this year:
January 14th, 2020 is the last day Microsoft will offer security updates and technical support for computers running Windows 7. We know that change can be difficult, that’s why we’re reaching out early to help you back up your files and prepare for what’s next.
Simply put, Microsoft will no longer offer OS or security updates after January 14th — so you’ll be on your own. You’ll no longer receive patches to fix any major security exploits that may crop up with the operating system, which could be a major hindrance down the road. The one exception to this lack of support is that the Windows 7 version of the Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) suite will still provide signature updates for the foreseeable future.
Paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates Continue For Enterprise Customers
For enterprise customers that aren’t ready to give up on Windows 7, there’s an option to keep the update the train running — a paid option, that is. Microsoft is offering what it calls Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs), at a cost of $25 to $200 per workstation — per year. It’s an expensive way to keep updates flowing for legacy systems for corporations that are reluctant to upgrading to Windows 10, but even that support will hit a brick wall in 2023. At that point, Windows 7 will be 14 years old, and it would be pretty foolish to be using the operating system for mission critical operations.
Nag Screens Await For Windows 7 Users That Haven’t Yet Upgraded To Windows 10
If you’re a Windows 7 user, you’ve probably already seen the nag screens warning you that support is ending and that you need to upgrade to Windows 10. These pop-ups first started earlier this year, and presented themselves as a relatively small window that could be closed out easily.
However, Microsoft will shift to full-screen nag screens that are more annoying and designed to get your immediate attention starting on January 15th, 2020 (the day after support ends). The company says that the purpose of the full-screen pop-up is to explain “the risk of continuing to use Windows 7 Service Pack 1 after it reaches end of support on January 14, 2020” and that it “will remain on the screen until you interact with it.” The interstitial screens will be displayed on Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, and Windows 7 Ultimate.
Final Thoughts On Windows 7
The bottom line here is that Windows 7 is an old and tired operating system that will increasingly become a security liability as time goes on and given that the hardware requirements for the operating system aren’t overly taxing (at least compared to the hardware that Windows 7 runs on), there’s really no reason to be so stubborn with upgrading.
Windows 7 was a great operating system in its day, but it’s time to pass the torch and let Windows 10 take over the reins. After all, it’s been on the market for four years already, has had plenty of time to mature, and will be supported by Microsoft for years to come.
Top ten tips for maximizing your IT and computer network investment
Maximise the benefits – Invest in technology which will bring the most benefits to your business. Be clear on what you wish to achieve from using computer systems and seek advice on solutions which match your needs and your budget.
Keep your systems secure – Ensure you have up-to-date anti-virus and spyware software installed. Ensure you have firewall protection for your network to prevent access by internet intruders.
Emails – be on your guard – There have been many well–documented cases of email-borne viruses. Be very careful about opening emails or attachments from senders you do not recognise. Even if you recognise the sender, be careful if there is an unusual subject line.
Ensure your network is robust – If you have a network, ensure that the server is up to the job. Investment in a quality server will pay dividends in the long term.
Keep back-ups – Ensure you have a system in place for taking regular data back-ups. The loss of data in the event of a system failure could have serious repercussions for your business.
Computer support – Ensure you have appropriate maintenance cover for vital computer hardware and software. Even where warranties can be invoked there can be expensive downtime and loss of business continuity while awaiting replacement kit.
Avoid PC corruption – Do not allow PC’s to be overloaded with non business critical items such as games, music, pictures or software downloaded from the internet. As more such items are installed the greater the chances of the computer becoming unstable and failing, resulting in expensive downtime and disruption.
Training – If you are investing in new technology or systems, make sure that the staff using it are adequately trained so that output is maximised and downtime avoided.
Keep an open mind – Don’t rely on IT systems that you have always used as the best solution for your long-term business needs. The IT industry is dynamic and a variety of technologies are increasingly available which could be of benefit without breaking the bank. Where available ask for a demonstration.
Keep it simple – Seek IT advice that is jargon-free and places emphasis on the benefits to your business or organisation. Ensure that you have the right computing tools for the job which maximise efficiency and minimise problems.
Customer care phone calls
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These calls could come from any provider.
If you have a call, hang up the phone and then call your provider to check that this is a scam
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Friday’s unprecedented ransomware attack may have stopped spreading to new machines — at least briefly — thanks to a “kill switch” that a security researcher has activated.
The ransomware, called Wana Decryptor or WannaCry, has been found infecting machines across the globe. It works by exploiting a Windows vulnerability that the U.S. National Security Agency may have used for spying.
The malware encrypts data on a PC and shows users a note demanding $300 in bitcoin to have their data decrypted. Images of the ransom note have been circulating on Twitter. Security experts have detected tens of thousands of attacks, apparently spreading over LANs and the internet like a computer worm.
However, the ransomware also contains a kill switch that may have backfired on its developers, according to security researchers.
Wana Decryptor infects systems through a malicious program that first tries to connect to an unregistered web domain. The kill switch appears to work like this: If the malicious program can’t connect to the domain, it’ll proceed with the infection. If the connection succeeds, the program will stop the attack.
A security researcher who goes by the name MalwareTech found that he could activate the kill switch by registering the web domain and posting a page on it.
MalwareTech’s original intention was to track the ransomware’s spread through the domain it was contacting. “It came to light that a side effect of us registering the domain stopped the spread of the infection,” he said in an email.
However, Malwarebytes researcher Jerome Segura said it’s too early to tell whether the kill switch will stop the Wana Decryptor attack for good. He warned that other versions of the same ransomware strain may be out there that have fixed the kill-switch problem or are configured to contact another web domain.
Unfortunately, computers already infected with Wana Decryptor will remain infected, he said.
Friday’s ransomware attack first spread through a massive email phishing campaign. At least some of those emails appeared to be messages from a bank about a money transfer, according to Cisco’s Talos group.
Victims who opened the attachment in the email were served with the ransomware, which takes over the computer, security researchers said.
The Wana Decryptor itself is no different from other typical ransomware strains. Once it infects the PC, it’ll encrypt all the files on the machine, and then demand the victim pay a ransom to free them.
But unlike other ransomware, Wana Decryptor has been built to spread quickly. It does so by incorporating a hacking tool that security researchers suspect came from the NSA and was leaked online last month.
The hacking tool, dubbed EternalBlue, can make it easy to hijack unpatched older Windows machines. Once Wana Decryptor has infected the first machine, it’ll attempt to spread to other machines on the same local network. Then it will scan the internet for vulnerable machines.
“It creates a snowball-like effect,” Segura said. “A few machines will be infected, then it’ll try to contact more.”
Security firm Avast said it had detected more than 75,000 attacks in 99 countries, with Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan among the hardest-hit countries. The U.K.’s National Health Service was one of the biggest organizations hit by the ransomware.
The ransomware was designed to work in numerous languages, including English, Chinese and Spanish, with ransom notes in each.
Segura advised victims not to pay the ransom because it encourages the hackers. Instead, he says they should wait for next few days as security researchers study the ransomware’s coding and try to come up with free ways to solve the infection.
On Friday, Microsoft said users will be protected from the ransomware if they’re running the company’s free antivirus software or have installed the latest patches.