Hashtag Trending Jan.15-Microsoft’s software update triggers installation hassles; eBay fined for harassment campaign; AI girlfriend apps

Microsoft users hit a rough patch – literally.  The EU is challenging Apple to allow third party app stores on its devices, eBay is fined 3 million dollars for harassing a blogger who posted an unfavourable review and surprise, surprise, AI girlfriend apps are sneaking into the GPT store.

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I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.

Microsoft’s recent software update, intended to fix a BitLocker vulnerability, is causing installation headaches for Windows 10 users. 

Released on January 9, the update aimed to prevent attackers from bypassing BitLocker encryption using the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE). However, it’s been hit by Microsoft’s infamous quality control issues. 

Users are encountering a cryptic error message, which some reports attributed to insufficient disk space in the recovery partition.

Microsoft’s solution involves the end user resizing the recovery partition, daunting for the average user, fairly risky and definitely not for the faint of heart. 

Social media reaction predictably expresses widespread frustration, with users finding the workaround “too technical and scary.” Many are urging Microsoft to correct the issue themselves, rather than expecting users to handle such technical challenges.

The reaction is hard to miss. We’ll see if Microsoft responds.

Sources include: The Register

Contrary to expectations, CES 2024 in Las Vegas has not been dominated by groundbreaking AI gadgets. The event, which attracted over 130,000 attendees and more than 4,000 exhibitors, showcased a variety of technological advancements across personal tech, transportation, health care, and sustainability. However, the anticipated surge in AI-driven innovations didn’t materialize.

There were notable mentions at the event included GyroGear’s hand-stabilizing glove for tremor sufferers, priced at $5,899, and SK Group’s AI Fortune Teller, an emotion-reading machine for fortune telling. Hyundai’s flying taxi concept, a new device called the Rabbit and of course we reported that Volkswagen has gone “all in” and put ChatGPT into its user control systems.

Despite these innovations, the overall presence of AI at CES 2024 was less pronounced than expected. Too early? 

Sources include: Reuters 

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, has told Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, that the company must allow third-party app stores on its devices. This directive came during a meeting in San Francisco and Palo Alto with leaders of US Big Tech firms, including Apple, Google, Broadcom, and Nvidia. 

While the EU and Apple haven’t released detailed information about the meeting, Vestager’s brief summary on Twitter/X suggests that the conversation revolved around the long-standing issue of Apple’s exclusive control over its App Store. This meeting follows the EU’s previous ruling that Apple Music violates EU antitrust rules. 

The EU’s stance indicates a push for more open competition and consumer choice in the digital marketplace, challenging Apple’s traditional business model. 

This development could significantly impact how Apple operates in the EU, potentially leading to major changes in its App Store policies and practices.

Sources include: AppleInsider 

eBay has been hit with a $3 million fine, the maximum criminal penalty, for a harassment campaign against a Massachusetts couple, David and Ina Steiner. The couple, who published critical reports about eBay in their newsletter, EcommerceBytes, were subjected to an 18-day terror campaign in August 2019. 

This campaign was orchestrated by eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, Jim Baugh, and involved six co-conspirators.

The harassment included sending disturbing deliveries like a bloody pig mask and live insects, publishing Craigslist posts for sexual encounters at the victims’ home, and even installing a GPS tracker on their car. 

The Steiners’ ordeal, described as a “never-ending nightmare,” was part of an attempt to “take down” the couple by then-CEO Devin Wenig and then-chief communications officer Steven Wymer.

The FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) were involved in the investigation, which led to the conviction of all seven former eBay employees on felony charges. Baugh, identified as the ringleader, received a 57-month federal prison sentence. eBay has admitted to all facts uncovered in the case and expressed apologies to the Steiners. The company is now required to retain an independent corporate compliance monitor to prevent such conduct in the future.

I followed this when the story first broke, but I have to say I had real trouble believing that a large company would actually engage in this type of behaviour. Sadly, it’s true – and thankfully, the courts have reacted.

And ironically, if irony still exists, is that the verdict comes during Stalking Awareness Month a time that is supposed highlights the severity of stalking as a crime.

Sources include: Ars Technica

Perplexity AI, an AI-powered search engine startup, has raised a significant $73.6 million in a funding round, boosting its valuation to $520 million. 

Founded in August 2022 by a team of engineers with expertise in AI, distributed systems, search engines, and databases, Perplexity AI offers a chatbot-like interface for users to ask questions in natural language. 

The platform responds with AI-generated summaries and source citations, allowing for follow-up questions for deeper exploration. 

Subscribers to Perplexity’s Pro plan can access additional features like model switching, image generation, and document analysis.

Despite the competitive landscape with giants like Google and Microsoft, Perplexity AI aims to differentiate itself with more robust search filtering and discovery options, and by serving its own GenAI models through an API available to Pro customers. 

The company, which claims to have 10 million active monthly users, faces challenges such as the high costs of running GenAI models and concerns around misuse and misinformation. However, the significant investment and rapid growth indicate strong investor confidence in Perplexity AI’s potential to redefine AI-powered search.

I’ve checked it out and it’s kind of interesting. I’ve added it to my list of research tools which also includes Consensus, one of the new GPT’s in the new OpenAI GPT store.

Sources include: TechCrunch 

And speaking of the new GPT store, it was inevitable. Despite the supposed guidelines, the AI girlfriends are appearing.  A search on the word girlfriend pops up the latest round. I’m sure there will be more. 


But there’s a ray of hope. There’s also a GPT called “Dating Advice from your ex-girlfriend” and it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s funny and uh… pretty perceptive. 

For instance, here’s part of the advice that she gave to our audience:

Encourage them to balance their tech use with real-world interactions. While technology connects us, it’s also important to disconnect sometimes and engage in face-to-face interactions. Suggest tech-free date ideas or activities that encourage personal connection.

As a public service, and instead of banning these AI girlfriends, maybe OpenAI should insist that anyone who signs up for an AI girlfriend should first take a course from “Dating Advice from your ex-girlfriend.”  Just a thought.

Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a special weekend interview show we call “the Weekend Edition.” 

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I’m your host Jim Love.  Have a marvelous Monday.

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