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  1. Somehow, Microsoft is the best thing to happen to Chrome Airborne pigs also spotted (Image credit: Shutterstock) What strange times we live in. Who’d have thought that I’d be writing an article on how Microsoft is the best thing to happen to Google Chrome? A few years ago the idea of Microsoft getting involved in an open source project would cause a mixture of laughter and dread. You know… Microsoft, the foe of open source who had a CEO that once said that Linux was “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” The company that couldn’t make a decent web browser to save its life. But, believe it or not, I really do think that Microsoft’s involvement has made Chrome a much better browser. (Image credit: Pixabay) Learning to love open source First of all, Microsoft ditched its antipathy to open source a good while ago now, and it’s a now a platinum sponsor of the Linux Foundation, and in some metrics it’s also now the biggest open source contributor in the world. Basically, since dropping its opposition to open source, and not only embracing it, but putting its money where its mouth is, the thought of Microsoft being involved with an open source project is no longer the stuff of nightmares. It’s proved to be a valuable contributor to the open source community already. But how does this affect Google’s Chrome browser? Well, ever since Microsoft stopped using its own web engine, EdgeHTML, for its Edge web browser, and instead built a brand-new version that’s based on Chromium, it’s been contributing a steady stream of fixes and new features to Chromium – and those have not just been benefitting Edge, but Chrome as well. The latest example of this is Microsoft finally fixing an issue where notifications for Chrome doubled up in Windows 10, and clicking the wrong one would fail to open up the website that was sending the notification in Chrome. It managed the impressive feat of being both annoying and useless. However, Microsoft submitted code to the Chromium project that fixes the issue. While Microsoft fixing an issue that affects its operating system isn’t too surprising, there have been a number of other instances where Microsoft has made Chrome a better browser thanks to its input. Lending a hand I’ve complained before about how sick I am of Chrome being a massive RAM hog, and Microsoft has found a way to stop it gobbling up so much memory, while also draining less battery when run on a laptop, by preventing unnecessary disk caching when users watch videos. A Microsoft developer also recently fixed a particularly annoying quirk in Google Chrome that can result in you accidentally losing your current tab. And there are many other examples. OK, so all these fixes were primarily aimed at sorting out Chromium Edge, but the important thing is that they also improve a web browser people actually use. For anyone who’s been frustrated by Google’s handling of Chrome, the fact that Microsoft has been bringing improvements to the browser is a strange – but welcome development. I never thought I’d be celebrating Microsoft’s involvement in an open source project – but in this case, I’m very happy to be doing just that. Somehow, Microsoft is the best thing to happen to Chrome
  2. Microsoft wants to kill off Linux malware for good Project Freta detects Linux malware for free (Image credit: Shutterstock.com) Microsoft has unveiled a new threat detection service that it hopes can greatly improve security protection on Linux systems. Project Freta is a free cloud-based tool that is able to detect new forms of malware and other malicious software such as rootkits and cryptominers that Microsoft says could have previously gone undetected in Linux systems. The company notes that such threats can often be found lurking in Linux cloud VM images, putting users of the open-source platform at risk. Linux security Microsoft says that Project Freta offers a whole new way of detecting malware threats, going beyond existing methods that rely on sensors to predict the presence of something untoward. Such methods can often be swerved or bypassed entirely by malware authors, meaning a new approach was needed. Project Freta is able to analyse virtual machines (VMs) in order to learn about new environments and how they are affected by malware, before using this knowledge to spot emerging threats. Microsoft says Project Freta automatically analyses images of thousands of Linux cloud VMs in order to detect new forms of malware and sensor corruption, and supports over 4,000 kernel versions at launch. This makes it incredibly resilient, meaning malware authors would have to invest heavily in developing new threats that can get around the new scanning technology. Project Freta users, who will need a Microsoft account to access the service, can also submit a captured image to generate a report of its content, helping boost the initiative's reach and expertise. "We often think about the field of computer security as a field of walls and barriers that keep intruders out," Mike Walker, Microsoft Senior Director, New Security Ventures wrote in a blog post announcing the launch. "With Project Freta, we invite readers to think not of walls but of sunlight...Project Freta is a roadmap toward trusted sensing for the cloud that can allow enterprises to engage in regular, complete discovery sweeps for undetected malware." Initially only available for Linux systems, Microsoft says it plans to add Windows support for Project Freta soon, as well as AI technology that can boost decision-making potential. "We hope that Project Freta empowers administrators and responders and is used globally as it has been used at Microsoft: to hunt advanced intruders and their toolkits," Walker concluded. Via BleepingComputer Microsoft wants to kill off Linux malware for good
  3. Microsoft’s “new approach” to retail stores: Closing them forever Microsoft designed its retail stores to be cool like Apple's. It didn't work. Enlarge / Ironically, this boarded-up Microsoft Store location in New York City, seen on June 8, is one of the four in the world that will reopen—but as an "experience center" where you can't buy anything. Kena Betancur | VIEWpress | Getty Images 86 with 69 posters participating Microsoft's retail stores, like many retailers throughout the nation, have been closed for months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. If you were hoping to visit one again as restrictions in your state ease up, however, you're out of luck: the Microsoft Store is done for good. The company announced the closure today, amusingly, as the Microsoft Store taking "a new approach to retail," by which it means "not actually operating retail stores." Although four locations—in London, New York City, Sydney, and Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus—will remain open, they will become "experience centers," where one can see, touch, and play with Microsoft products but not actually purchase any. Microsoft naturally hailed the "strategic change" as a win, saying that online sales have grown and the product portfolio "has evolved to largely digital offerings," which, 2020 being what it is, is no doubt true. But Microsoft's stores, which began opening in 2009, were never able to escape the comparison to rival Apple's retail stores. That held particularly true in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, where the first Apple Store opened in 2001. Microsoft opened a store in the same mall eight years later, in 2009, and the comparisons were unavoidable. Brad Smith, who was then a Microsoft vice president and is now the company president, said at the time that the comparisons were simply "the nature of retail," adding, "you go to Saks and you're going to see some similarities to Nordstrom." I, too, have passed by the Tyson's Corner location regularly in the past decade. It's down the hall from the Apple Store, situated snugly between a Banana Republic and a Tesla showroom. But while the Apple Store always seems to be teeming with crowds, both the cars and the crisp button-downs on either side always seemed to elicit more joy than the showroom full of Surface tablets. Aside from some kids playing on the demo Xbox units, the Microsoft Store rarely seemed to attract a crowd. Microsoft’s “new approach” to retail stores: Closing them forever
  4. Microsoft is giving Linux a significant security update Linux and Android systems will be able to download Microsoft Defender ATP (Image credit: Shutterstock) Microsoft is hoping to boost its security protection for Android and Linux systems with a new release of its Defender Adavanced Threat Protection (ATP) app. A public preview, or first version of Defender ATP for Linux and Android devices can be installed from today, giving users a welcome security upgrade. Microsoft Defender ATP is a common presence on Windows devices around the world, offering a frequently-updated protection platform against a wide number of security threats. Microsoft Defender ATP for Linux After being announced earlier this year, the Linux version of Microsoft Defender ATP is generally available now, offering support for recent versions of the six most common Linux Server distributions, including Ubuntu 16 LTS or higher. "This initial release delivers strong preventive capabilities, a full command line experience on the client to configure and manage the agent, initiate scans, manage threats, and a familiar integrated experience for machines and alert monitoring in the Microsoft Defender Security Center," Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the news. The app can be deployed and configured using Puppet, Ansible, or using your existing Linux configuration management tool. (Image credit: Microsoft) Microsoft Defender ATP for Android was announced at the RSA security conference earlier this year as the company looked to address what is often the most highly-targeted platform for cyberattacks. The app offers full device-scanning capabilities to spot the latest malware threats and malicious apps, and will also be able to detect insecure sites and potential phishing threats while the user is browsing the web, as well as blocking access to any pre-determined sites set up by a company's IT team. IT teams can now quickly enable secuirty features via their dashbaord, with the changes rolling out immediately to prevent any infection. IT staff can also use the app to block compromised devices out of a corporate network, or stop users from accessing certain in-house apps once they have left the business. Such at-risk devices could also be stopped from accessing company resources such as OneDrive accounts or even the central Outlook mail server. "Knowing that each of our customers have unique environments and unique needs and are looking for more unification in their security solutions, we communicated our commitment to build security solutions from Microsoft, not just for Microsoft," wrote Rob Lefferts, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft 365 Security. "We are committed to helping organizations secure their unique and heterogenous environments and we have so much more in store for you this year." Microsoft had also announced a public preview for iOS devices earlier this year, however the company was not able to reveal it alongside the Android version, instead stating the app is scheduled for "later this year." Microsoft is giving Linux a significant security update
  5. Microsoft’s new Android antivirus app is now available in preview iOS version still due later this year Microsoft is launching a preview version of its antivirus software for Android today. The software giant revealed that Windows Defender was making its way to both iOS and Android earlier this year, but didn’t fully detail what to expect. We’re now getting a good idea of exactly why Microsoft thinks Android needs antivirus protection. The public preview for Android will include protection against phishing and go a step further than Google’s built-in malware protection to offer signature-based malware detection. “Scans are instantly performed detect malware and potentially unwanted applications (PUA),” explains Kanishka Srivastava, a senior program manager at Microsoft. “If a safe app is downloaded, the end user will see a lightweight notification letting them know the app is clean.” Microsoft’s antivirus software for Android. Microsoft’s web protections will include anti-phishing so that unsafe websites sent via SMS, WhatsApp, email, or other apps are instantly blocked. Microsoft is also using its Defender SmartScreen technology to also block unsafe network connections that malicious apps might try to create without a user’s knowledge. The Android preview app arrives more than a year after Microsoft started a public preview for its Defender antivirus on macOS. Microsoft renamed Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) to Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) as a result, and the Mac client also provides full virus and threat protection mixed with the ability to perform quick or full scans. Microsoft is also planning an iOS antivirus app, although it’s clear the company will be far more limited with what it provides on Apple’s operating systems. Apple sandboxes iOS apps by default and prevents most end users from sideloading apps without the App Store in the first place. It’s still not clear what the iOS version of Microsoft Defender will offer, exactly. “In the coming months we will be releasing additional capabilities on Android and you will hear more from us about our investments in mobile threat defense for iOS devices as well,” explains Rob Lefferts, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365 security. Microsoft is also making Defender ATP generally available on Linux today, allowing the company to offer a unified antivirus solution across desktop and server platforms like Windows, macOS, and Linux. Microsoft’s new Android antivirus app is now available in preview
  6. Karlston

    Microsoft Gives Up on Mixer

    Microsoft Gives Up on Mixer The company announced it's shutting down its livestreaming service and will soon redirect to Facebook Gaming. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins signed an exclusive deal to stream on Mixer last year.Photograph: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC Universal/Getty Images Microsoft’s livestreaming service Mixer will shut down on July 22 and is “teaming up” with Facebook Gaming to give partnered Mixer streams a new home, both companies announced on Monday. “It became clear that the time needed to grow our own livestreaming community to scale was out of measure with the vision and experiences that Microsoft and Xbox want to deliver for gamers now,” Mixer said in a post today. “So we’ve decided to close the operations side of Mixer and help the community transition to a new platform.” The news was first reported by The Verge. Partnered Mixer streamers tell WIRED they found out about the news when Microsoft announced it. Despite solid livestreaming technology and top talent acquisitions, including Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, Mixer has struggled to keep up with competitors Twitch and YouTube. In April, viewers watched 37 million hours of gaming content on Mixer to Twitch’s 1.5 billion and YouTube’s 461 million, according to data from streaming analytics company Arsenal.gg. The year-over-year stats are grim, too: Hours watched on Twitch grew 101 percent between April 2019 and 2020, while Mixer’s increased just .2 percent. Mixer launched in January 2016 as Beam. Just months later, Microsoft acquired it. The service’s pitch is super-low latency and direct streaming from Microsoft’s Xbox in addition to PC. In mid-2019, Blevins and Grzesiek—two of Twitch’s biggest stars—signed exclusive deals to stream on Mixer for undisclosed, likely enormous sums of money. Other streamers fled Twitch for exclusive deals with Facebook Gaming, a competing livestreaming service that launched its app on Android in April. (According to The New York Times, Facebook Gaming’s iOS app has been rejected from the Apple Store at least five times.) Facebook Gaming has seen healthy 72 percent month-over-month growth in hours watched between March and April. In April, gamers watched 291 million hours on Facebook Gaming—nearly eight times Mixer’s. At the same time, Facebook as a platform, and as a brand, has the charisma of a Hoobastank concert to much of Gen Z, who tend to prefer social media apps like TikTok or Snapchat and Instagram. Streamers with partner status on Mixer will have partner status on Facebook Gaming if they choose to move over. On July 22, Mixer.com will redirect to Fb.gg—Facebook Gaming’s website. Microsoft’s cloud streaming service, Project xCloud, will also find a new home on Facebook Gaming, although we don’t know what that will look like yet. “It wasn’t as much about return on sell, it was about finding a partnership that was the best things for the community and streamers,” Xbox head Phil Spencer told The Verge. “We think this is it, and it gives us a great place to launch more xCloud content and give gamers the ability to play from there.” As the original home for livestreamed gaming content, Twitch remains the major cultural hub for gamers. Its emotes, in-game loot offers, and other mainstays have a near gravitational pull on millions. And over the last several years, Twitch has expanded to include a flourishing and lively section for non-gaming content including talk shows, cooking, and trolling tech support scammers. When gaming entertainment content leaves Twitch—from streamers’ livestreams to entire esports leagues—viewership tends to plummet. While Grzesiek often attracted tens of thousands of concurrent viewers on Twitch, on Mixer, he averaged just about 5,000, according to data from TwitchTracker. Mixer will be remembered as a promising failure. Although it did many things right—including giving all partnered streamers $100 during the Covid-19 pandemic—the atmosphere wasn’t right for it to develop its own, self-sustaining culture. Microsoft Gives Up on Mixer
  7. Microsoft SQL Server/Express 2019 (x64) x64 | Languages:English | File Size: 2.18 GB Description: Software Microsoft SQL Server is a management system relational database (Relational Database Management System briefly RDBMS that kind of DBMS (short for Database Management System and means management system database) that is provided by Microsoft and developed. This tool, complete environment to to store, manage and retrieve data and information requested by the various software provides the model (Client / server) will follow; in this case, requests from client to server and by the review and analysis goes further, processes required, the information stored , The database is done and the results will be sent to the client. This is the basic version and as a 16-bit program in 1989 and the 2000 version was widely used by programmers. Facilities and software features of Microsoft SQL Server : -Store and manage databases and database types - Manage database with two OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing stands and means of online transaction processing) and OLAP (OnLine Analytical Processing stands and means of online analytical processing) -Ability to work with very large databases -high security storage and retrieval -Backup easily and with low volume -Ability to speed up searches FullText -Full compatibility with cloud services -Ability to thousands of users simultaneously access databases -Full reporting capabilities and advanced System Requirements: OS:Windows 10 TH1 1507 or greater/Windows Server 2016 or greater CPU:x64 Processor: 1.4 GHz/2.0 GHz or faster Processor Type:x64 Processor: AMD Opteron, AMD Athlon 64, Intel Xeon with Intel EM64T support, Intel Pentium IV with EM64T support Memory RAM:512/1GB Space:SQL Server requires a minimum of 6 GB of available hard-disk space. Resolution:SQL Server requires Super-VGA (800x600) or higher resolution monitor. Hardware: SQL Server 2016 (13.x) RC1 and later require .NET Framework 4.6 for the Database Engine, Master Data Services, or Replication. SQL Server setup automatically installs .NET Framework. SQL Server 2019 (15.x) requires .NET Framework 4.6.2. Requires:Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2 require KB2919355 before installing .NET Framework 4.6. Whats New Screenshots: Homepage: https://www.microsoft.com/ Download From workupload: Site: https://workupload.com Sharecode: /start/hubrf4UJ Download From Yandex.Disk: Site: https://yadi.sk Sharecode: /d/KbKyMMnNRDrinw
  8. Microsoft won't sell facial recognition technology to police Microsoft announced today that it would not provide facial recognition technology to third parties, particularly to law enforcement agencies, according to Washington Post. Until there are federal laws that govern how the technology can be safely deployed and used, the firm won't sell it to the police. The firm's competitors Amazon and IBM have already announced that they would be restricting access to the facial recognition technology, with the former saying that police forces will no longer be permitted to use its software. Until stricter regulations are in place, it will stay this way, the Seattle firm said. This step comes amidst the ongoing protests globally that are calling for an end to racism and police brutality after an African-American man, George Floyd, died in police custody. Matt Cagle, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union said (via Reuters😞 “When even the makers of face recognition refuse to sell this surveillance technology because it is so dangerous, lawmakers can no longer deny the threats to our rights and liberties.” Congress has been contemplating the regulation of facial recognition services for some time now. Earlier this year, London's Met Police started using facial recognition technology in several parts of the city. This wasn't well-received by human rights organizations who said privacy laws were being violated, as the service was able to identify anyone on the cameras at any given moment. Microsoft won't sell facial recognition technology to police
  9. Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI Microsoft News and MSN is increasingly being run by robots Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Microsoft is laying off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News and MSN organizations. The layoffs are part of a bigger push by Microsoft to rely on artificial intelligence to pick news and content that’s presented on MSN.com, inside Microsoft’s Edge browser, and in the company’s various Microsoft News apps. Many of the affected workers are part of Microsoft’s SANE (search, ads, News, Edge) division, and are contracted as human editors to help pick stories. “Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement. “This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic.” While Microsoft says the layoffs aren’t directly related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, media businesses across the world have been hit hard by advertising revenues plummeting across TV, newspapers, online, and more. Business Insider first reported the layoffs on Friday, and says that around 50 jobs are affected in the US. The Microsoft News job losses are also affecting international teams, and The Guardian reports that around 27 are being let go in the UK after Microsoft decided to stop employing humans to curate articles on its homepages. Microsoft has been in the news business for more than 25 years, after launching MSN all the way back in 1995. At the launch of Microsoft News nearly two years ago, Microsoft revealed it had “more than 800 editors working from 50 locations around the world.” Microsoft has gradually been moving towards AI for its Microsoft News work in recent months, and has been encouraging publishers and journalists to make use of AI, too. Microsoft has been using AI to scan for content and then process and filter it and even suggest photos for human editors to pair it with. Microsoft had been using human editors to curate top stories from a variety of sources to display on Microsoft News, MSN, and Microsoft Edge. Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI
  10. Microsoft's Surface Dock 2 and USB-C Travel Hub are available today Earlier this month alongside various other Surface devices, Microsoft announced the Surface Dock 2 and the USB-C Travel Hub. They're both available for purchase today, and they're the last to become available from this latest batch of Surface announcements. Aside from the Surface Connect adapter, the Surface Dock 2 has a number of improvements over its predecessor. It now has four USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports for 10Gbps data transfer speeds, and there are an additional two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports. On top of that, there's an Ethernet port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a power port. The USB-C Travel Hub has a more diverse range of ports. There's one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port, Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, and VGA. Presumably, you could even use this in combination with the Surface Dock 2 if you wanted to get crazy. The pricing on the Surface Dock 2 is $259.99, and the USB-C Travel Hub will run you $99.99. You can pick up the Dock 2 here, and the Travel Hub here. As an Amazon Associate, Neowin may earn commission from qualifying purchases. Source: Microsoft's Surface Dock 2 and USB-C Travel Hub are available today (Neowin)
  11. KB 4497165: Another Intel microcode update, another round of AMD stupidity While most of the Windows fanbase sat mesmerized by a very tiny mention in the Build conference — Project Reunion will bring together UWP and Win32! Windows Subsystem for Linux will be faster! PowerToys gets a 1990s-era keyboard remapper! — Microsoft re-released KB 4497165, the “Intel microcode updates.” Microsoft seems to re-release that patch from time to time, with no seeming rhyme nor reason. The KB article itself says it was last updated on February 25 (see the footnote “As of February 25, 2020, the update for these select products (CPUs) are available through Windows Update.”). Yes, the download notice (screenshot) says 2020-01, which doesn’t seem to correspond to anything. No idea why it’s coming out now and, as usual, Microsoft hasn’t said a thing. These Intel microcode updates, in case you missed the original sturm und drang, are a never-ending series of stopgap changes designed to minimize (but not eliminate) the threat of Meltdown and Spectre infections. While those of you in charge of banks, brokerage houses, and RSA encryption crackers should be concerned about the threat, normal Windows users needn’t worry. In spite of all the press and hoopla, there’s never been a garden-variety Meltdown or Spectre exploit that targets “normal” users. In addition to re-releasing the patch with no comment and no advice, I see that many people running AMD processors are getting KB 4497165 installed as well. It actually appears on the installed patches list. That isn’t supposed to happen – the patch is only for Intel processors – but, hey, this is Microsoft. My advice? Unless you’re at risk (clandestinely decrypting those political missives, eh?), forget about it. The patch doesn’t seem to hurt performance in any measurable way, so if you get it, don’t worry about it. Source: KB 4497165: Another Intel microcode update, another round of AMD stupidity (AskWoody - Woody Leonhard)
  12. Here's where you can download Microsoft's digital Build 2020 swag Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft had to hold its Build 2020 developer conference virtually. Since there's no in-person version of the event, attendees have to miss out on all of the free t-shirts, stickers, and other swag that they might pick up. Microsoft is still trying to make up for it, even though it's now a free event with over 100 thousand attendees. In fact, if you were one of the first thousand to register, the company sent out some stickers, a lunchbox, and even a virtual event badge. For everyone else, there's some digital swag that you can get your hands on. It's all posted on GitHub, and it includes Build-themed desktop wallpapers, a Twitter header that you can use on your profile, and Apple Watch faces. They're offered in a variety of dark and light themes. You can find the official virtual swag here, but for a little bonus, Scott Hanselman shared some of his wallpapers from his keynote this morning. You can find them over on Michael Gillett's WallpaperHub here. Source: Here's where you can download Microsoft's digital Build 2020 swag (Neowin)
  13. Microsoft unveils "fifth most powerful" supercomputer in the world Last year, Microsoft entered a partnership with OpenAI, investing $1 billion into the research firm. Through this collaboration, the Redmond giant planned to develop Azure AI capabilities in large-scale systems. At its Build 2020 developer conference today, Microsoft has unveiled the fifth most powerful publicly recorded supercomputer in the world. Built exclusively with and for OpenAI as a product of the aforementioned collaboration, the supercomputer hosted in Azure helps specifically support the training of large-scale AI models. Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott expressed delight at reaching this milestone, noting: "The exciting thing about these models is the breadth of things they’re going to enable. This is about being able to do a hundred exciting things in natural language processing at once and a hundred exciting things in computer vision, and when you start to see combinations of these perceptual domains, you’re going to have new applications that are hard to even imagine right now." The key difference between the newer types of learning models to many of the others developed by the AI research community are that these excel at handling a variety of tasks at the same time, such as different components involving language, grammar, context, and more. Microsoft Turing models and supercomputing resources are planned to be made available through Azure AI services and GitHub to assist developers in leveraging their power. The supercomputer developed by Microsoft and OpenAI to enable the training of such large scale models hosts over 285,000 CPU cores, 10,000 GPUs, and 400Gb/s network connectivity for each GPU server. It also features a "robust modern cloud infrastructure" along with access to Azure services, rapid deployment, sustainable datacenters, and more. Microsoft has compared it to other systems on the TOP500 supercomputers rankings list in order to back its "top five" statement. The Microsoft Turing model for natural language generation utilizes 17 billion parameters, allowing the process of "self-supervised" learning to be carried out in a much more nuanced manner. Similarly, these next-generation AI models also offer another advantage in that they only need to be trained once with a huge amount of data and supercomputing resources. For different tasks, these can simply be fine-tuned using much smaller datasets. On the advancement to this "AI at Scale" initiative, Scott noted: "By developing this leading-edge infrastructure for training large AI models, we're making all of Azure better. We're building better computers, better distributed systems, better networks, better datacenters. All of this makes the performance and cost and flexibility of the entire Azure cloud better." Other related announcements include the introduction of a new open source deep learning library for PyTorch, named DeepSpeed, and distributed training support for ONNX Runtime. The former reduces computing power required to train large distributed models, while the latter adds support for model training and up to 17 times performance improvements to the current version of ONNX Runtime. Source: Microsoft unveils "fifth most powerful" supercomputer in the world (Neowin)
  14. First look at the Windows Package Manager Microsoft released a preview of the Windows Package Manager today during the virtual Build 2020 conference. Windows administrators may use it to install first-party and third-party programs such as 7-Zip, KeePass, Arduino IDE, or Discord. The package manager, similar to package managers on Linux systems, enables users to search for, download, install, and uninstall programs and packages for the Windows operating system. Its main purpose is to automate the installation, updating and configuration of software on Windows. Windows Package Manager works similar to package managers on Linux or third-party Windows programs such as Chocolatey. Microsoft decided to release it as open source; interested users can check out the GitHub repository for documentation and download of the preview version of the Package Manager. The package manager requires at least Windows 10 version 1709 and may be installed either from the Microsoft Store (requires a Windows 10 Insider build and sending an invite email for now), or manually from GitHub. Once installed, open a Windows Terminal, PowerShell or Command Prompt instance to start using it. The command is winget and you may want to run it without any parameter to display the available commands and help first. The main commands available at the time are: winget install // to install a program. winget show // displays information about the specified application. winget source // to mange sources. winget search // to list all programs or specific ones. winget hash // to hash installer files. winget validate // to validate manifest files. The command winget search displays the list of programs that Windows Package Manager supports currently. A good selection of popular programs as well as developer tools is supported currently. Programs like vim, Whatsapp, GIMP, VLC, Steam, or Sublime Text can be installed using the Package Manager. Please note that uninstall functionality is not supported at this point in time. Microsoft plans to integrate the feature as well as list and update functionality soon into the program. The command winget install "program name" downloads the selected package and runs its installer. Programs seem to be downloaded from third-party sites (the developer site) and not from a repository that Microsoft maintains. The file location is displayed by winget. The package manager supports exe, msi, and msix installers currently. Winget may be run without elevated rights. The installation of some programs may require elevation, however and prompts will be displayed if that is required. The command winget show "package name" displays information about the program; this may include links to the homepage and license, download URL, SHA256 hash, and type of installer. Software companies and developers may wonder whether they may submit their programs to the Windows Package Manager so that they are included. Microsoft has information on the process on the Docs website. Basically, what developers need to do is create a package manifest that provides information about the application before they submit the manifest to the Windows Package Manager repository on GitHub. Scripting is supported; admins may create batch or powershell scripts to install multiple applications at once, e.g. @echo off Echo Install Powertoys and Terminal REM Powertoys winget install Microsoft.Powertoys if %ERRORLEVEL% EQU 0 Echo Powertoys installed successfully. REM Terminal winget install Microsoft.WindowsTerminal if %ERRORLEVEL% EQU 0 Echo Terminal installed successfully. %ERRORLEVEL% Closing Words Windows Package Manager could become an essential tool in the arsenal of Windows system administrators and also home users. It depends on a number of factors including if and how it is going to be integrated into Windows natively, the availability of packages, and functionality. Source: First look at the Windows Package Manager (gHacks - Martin Brinkmann)
  15. Project Reunion is Microsoft's new plan to unify UWP and Win32 Microsoft is kicking off its Build 2020 developer conference today, and it's dropping all of the news at once. One of the things it announced is Project Reunion, which is aimed at unifying UWP and Win32. For some time, Microsoft has been dealing with the fact that the Universal Windows Platform isn't as popular as was originally planned. In fact, the original plan was to get Windows 10 installed on a billion devices within two to three years, and that goal was abandoned less than a year after the release of the OS. And with many people still using Windows 7 and even Windows 8.x, most developers just stuck with Win32. Microsoft promised right from the beginning that Win32 apps would be available from the built-in Store, and over time, there was more and more of a focus on that. And then UWP features started coming to the platform that seemed at one point to be on its way to deprecation. Developers can add Fluent Design to Win32 apps, or compile them to run natively on ARM64 PCs. With Project Reunion, Microsoft is actually aiming to unify the two app platforms. The company is going to decouple Win32 and UWP APIs from the OS, and developers will be able to access them with NuGet, creating a common platform. Microsoft also says that it's going to make sure that these new apps or upgraded existing apps will work across supported versions of Windows, which presumably means older versions of Windows 10, since Windows 7 isn't supported anymore. That's significant though. Typically, new platform changes come with feature updates to the OS, so if you want an app that relies on them, you need the new feature update. But the Project Reunion platform isn't actually tied to the OS, so Microsoft can make platform improvements without requiring a feature update. One feature that's already been decoupled from the OS is WebView2. Yes, that's the one from the new Chromium-based Edge browser. Remember, Edge Spartan was also something that needed a Windows 10 feature update for platform improvements. Microsoft says that it's expanding WebView2 as part of Project Reunion so you can include the Chromium-based WebView2 to your apps. As mentioned, Microsoft has been working on all of this stuff for a while with WinUI, and the first step with Project Reunion is WinUI 3. You can check out the first preview now. Source: Project Reunion is Microsoft's new plan to unify UWP and Win32 (Neowin)
  16. Microsoft: we were wrong about open source Microsoft has embraced open source and even Linux in recent years Image by Alex Castro / The Verge Microsoft has admitted it was wrong about open source, after the company battled it and Linux for years at the height of its desktop domination. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously branded Linux “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches” back in 2001. Microsoft president Brad Smith now believes the company was wrong about open source. “Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the beginning of the century, and I can say that about me personally,” said Smith in a recent MIT event. Smith has been at Microsoft for more than 25 years and was one of the company’s senior lawyers during its battles with open-source software. “The good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn … that you need to change,” added Smith. Microsoft has certainly changed since the days of branding Linux a cancer. The software giant is now the single largest contributor to open-source projects in the world, beating Facebook, Docker, Google, Apache, and many others. Microsoft has gradually been adopting open source in recent years, including open-sourcing PowerShell, Visual Studio Code, and even Microsoft Edge’s original JavaScript engine. Microsoft has also partnered with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows 10, and it acquired Xamarin to aid mobile app development and GitHub to maintain the popular code repository for developers. Microsoft is even shipping a full Linux kernel in a Windows 10 update that will release later this month, and it moved to the Chromium browser engine for Edge last year. Microsoft is also collaborating with open-source communities to create PowerToys for Windows 10, and the company’s new open design philosophy may mean we’ll see a lot more open-source efforts in Windows in the years to come. Source: Microsoft: we were wrong about open source (The Verge)
  17. Microsoft's Surface Duo will reportedly come with a Snapdragon 855, 6GB RAM, and more Last October, Microsoft announced its new family of dual-screen devices, including the Windows 10X-powered Surface Neo and its Android smartphone, the Surface Duo. The Surface Neo is delayed now, but Duo is still on the way. And while Microsoft still hasn't told us much about the actual specs, Windows Central's Zac Bowden has the details. For the most part, the specs are pretty mid-range, something that OEMs often settle on when it's focusing on an innovative form factor instead. It's going to include a Snapdragon 855 chipset, which is last year's flagship SoC from Qualcomm. You'll also find 6GB RAM and either 64GB or 256GB of storage. On top of that, there's a single 11MP camera on the inside of the device. While we know about the two 5.6-inch 4:3 1800x1350 screens, the report details that those two screens are AMOLED. It also comes with a 3,460mAh battery, and there's no expandable storage. To answer the question about the mid-range specs, the answer is simply that Microsoft can't move as quickly as OEMs that are used to making smartphones. The Snapdragon 865 chipset requires that a phone include 5G, a requirement that Microsoft didn't know about when it designed the device. But again, every other smartphone OEM has adapted to this by now. That also doesn't explain the other mid-range specs in the Surface Duo, such as 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage in the base model. The 11MP single-lens camera is sort of due to the form factor of the device. There's no camera on the outside, because there's no screen to use as a viewfinder on the outside. That one camera doubles as a rear- and front-facing camera. It seems as though the biggest question left is what the price will be. Microsoft isn't known for making inexpensive Surface devices, but the PCs that it usually makes are usually premium. At this point, a dual-screen smartphone isn't unique, with LG on its third generation. Source: Microsoft's Surface Duo will reportedly come with a Snapdragon 855, 6GB RAM, and more (Neowin)
  18. Microsoft to start changing Chrome's search engine to Bing for opt-in customers Microsoft has revised its schedule for rolling out a Chrome browser extension to Office 365 customers; it plans to begin adding the extension to Google's browser this month. Microsoft Microsoft this week revised the schedule for rolling out a Chrome browser extension to Office 365 customers, which at one point would have forced users to switch to the company's own Bing search engine. Rather than deliver the Chrome add-on to version 2002 of Office 365 ProPlus between February and July, the Redmond, Wash. developer will instead begin adding it to Google's browser this month as part of version 2005, with a finish date yet to be determined. Microsoft did not offer a reason for the new schedule – unlike for other instances where it has cited the coronavirus pandemic for calendar changes – but it certainly needed more time after it had reversed itself in February. Critics pressured Microsoft to drop forced search change of Chrome At the top of the year, Microsoft quietly announced that it would change the default search engine of Google's Chrome to Bing – Microsoft's own search service – on PCs running Office 365 ProPlus, the productivity applications that serve as the heart of enterprise-grade Office 365 subscriptions. (As of April 21, Office 365 ProPlus was re-branded Microsoft 365 Apps, part of a larger renaming effort.) The change of Chrome's default search was required to implement Microsoft Search, which when tied to an Office 365 account lets users look up company information – internal documents stored on OneDrive or SharePoint, for example – from the browser's address bar. That functionality had already been baked into Microsoft's own Edge browser, which not surprisingly also tapped Bing as its search default. Customers wasted little time panning the move, calling it everything from "browser hijacking" to "malware" for the sneaky way Microsoft proposed to make Chrome a Bing-dependent application. Within a few weeks, Microsoft backtracked, saying it would not automatically deploy the add-on with Office 365 ProPlus. Details of exactly what Microsoft would do, however, remained cloudy until this week. Was 2002, now 2005 According to Microsoft, it will start providing the offer-the-extension with newly-installed and upgraded Microsoft 365 Apps version 2005 – the May update – rather than version 2002. The add-on will first be offered in late May to Windows devices that have been set to receive the Monthly Channel builds. Systems that receive Monthly Channel (Targeted) builds – which give customers an early look at the Monthly update, typically a week before that's issued – should see the add-on hit Chrome by the middle of this month. Unlike earlier this year, that's as far as Microsoft's latest schedule went. Both Semi-Annual Channel and Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) were listed as "to be determined" by Microsoft in the wide-ranging support document on the Chrome add-on. Note: The next slated Semi-Annual Channel upgrade for Microsoft 365 Apps should be version 2008, an August release. Microsoft also described under what conditions and how the use-Bing add-on would be installed to Chrome. As critics demanded when the company broached the subject, customers must opt in to receiving the Chrome extension; the Microsoft 365 Apps administrator does that by checking a new box in the admin center. Another requirement: an unnamed background service that runs behind the scenes, looks in the admin center and then installs the extension if it "sees" the checked box. The background service is installed automatically – it's actually the part that Microsoft will deploy this month to Monthly Channel and Monthly Channel (Targeted) builds – across the board. Once on the Windows machine, the service sits, waits and sniffs out the admin center box's status. The service will be added only to PCs joined using Active Directory, Microsoft said. "The background service is not installed if the device is joined only to an Azure Active Directory (AAD) domain," Microsoft said. The support document included instructions on how to prevent the background service from being installed in the first place, and described how to remove it once it had gotten into Windows. Suspicious minds might wonder whether, once the background service is in place, Microsoft could, at some future point, circumvent the opt-in of the checked box. Yet it's hard to see how Microsoft could automatically offer the add-on to large numbers of Windows devices managed by customers that want the extension without such a service. Cynics and the paranoid can, of course, use Microsoft's instructions to remove the service. Microsoft re-confirmed that it still plans to craft a similar add-on for Mozilla's Firefox browser. "Support for the Firefox web browser is planned for a later date," the company noted. Source: Microsoft to start changing Chrome's search engine to Bing for opt-in customers (Computerworld - Gregg Keizer)
  19. Microsoft, Apple open virtual dev conferences to all It's going to be all virtual, all the time, for this year's Microsoft Build event and Apple's traditional WWDC. Blame the ongoing pandemic for the shift. Apple Microsoft and Apple have both opened their annual developer conferences to all and will not charge admission for the virtual events. Microsoft will host its Build confab May 19-21 and Apple will start its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 22. Apple did not say how long WWDC will run, but historically the conference has gone from Monday to Friday. June 22 is the second-to-last Monday of the month. Previously, the companies had announced the cancellations of their usual physical events and replacement by all-digital versions. Both firms cited the ongoing pandemic as the reasons for their moves. "In light of global health concerns due to COVID-19 and related government actions in Washington State, we will deliver our annual Microsoft Build for developers as a digital experience, in lieu of an in-person event," Microsoft said in March. Apple said something similar a few weeks later, blaming the "current health situation" without using either "COVID-19" or "coronavirus" in its statement. Free Build Build registration, which last year cost $2,395, will be free for 2020. "It's not the Build we thought it would be, but it's gonna be special," wrote Scott Hanselman, principal program manager, in an April 20 post to a company blog. The two-day conference will start Tuesday, May 19, at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET, with the keynote address preceded by a message from CEO Satya Nadella. All sessions will be recorded for later on-demand viewing; those done live will be scheduled three times each 24-hour period - 8 hours apart - to account for the conference's global audience, and will include live Q&A. Longer, pre-recorded videos will also be available, Microsoft said. Registration requires a Microsoft Account, or one associated with work or school; the latter is typically linked to an Office 365 subscription and/or a Windows log-in. To register, users should start here. The conference will be held on the Build website. WWDC free for all devs Apple's WWDC will also be free this year - at least "free for all developers" - rather than costing the $1,599 charged in 2019. Unlike past years, when a lottery system was needed to decide who got tickets, everyone will get in. WWDC details were scarce, typical of an Apple announcement weeks before an event. "We look forward to sharing more details about WWDC20 with everyone as we get closer to this exciting event," said Phil Schiller, the company's head of marketing, in a May 5 statement. It wasn't clear, for instance, whether the sessions would be available to all free of charge, or whether some might be limited to members of Apple's registered developer program who have paid $99 for an individual membership or $299 for an organization's membership. (For example, only registered developers are able to download the earliest private betas of iOS, macOS and other code Apple issues throughout the year.) Apple will host the virtual WWDC on the conference's website and via the Apple Developer app on iOS, iPadOS and tvOS. Other technology firms that had planned large conferences have cancelled their events altogether. Google called off its I/O conference, for example. "We sadly will not be holding I/O in any capacity this year," the company said. Source: Microsoft, Apple open virtual dev conferences to all (Computerworld - Gregg Keizer)
  20. OneDrive's April Roadmap update includes version history on desktop and more Microsoft has published its monthly OneDrive Roadmap Roundup for the month of April which brings a host of new features. Last month’s update brought File Card improvements, some new features for the Android app, and more. The new features rolling out this month include sensitivity labels for OneDrive and SharePoint office files, the ability to view the version history of a file right from the desktop, and the ability to delete locked files. First up is the Sensitivity labels feature that lets admins create labels that denote the criticality of files based on the information in the documents. The Sensitivity labels feature is brought by the Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) framework and lets users set classifications to Office files using visual markings or through other protection policies. It was made generally available yesterday, and you can head to the announcement to learn more about the feature and availability. The next feature is the ability to view, restore, or delete previous versions of a file directly from the desktop via the File Browser or the Mac Finder. Users can now directly right click on a file and view a list of the previous version, and then restore the required versions. It is a nifty addition that saves users the time when looking for older versions of a document. This feature is currently rolling out to users. Lastly, the Redmond giant is bringing OneDrive for business users the ability to delete files that are either open on another tab, or by a different user. The firm says that it has received feedback that users were unable to delete files because it was left open by another user and forgotten about, in turn locking the document. The feature now lets the file owner override that lock and delete the file, regardless of where it was left open. The company also provided information on the Sync app update process, adding that the sync app on Windows and Mac goes through the Insiders, Production, and Deferred (formerly Enterprise) rings of validation before being released. The default is the Production ring. Source: OneDrive's April Roadmap update includes version history on desktop and more (Neowin)
  21. New earnings report shows Microsoft’s shift to cloud and subscriptions is working Azure's still going strong, and even Xbox avoided major losses. Enlarge / Xbox Series X, due in late 2020. It's tall. And it has a modified controller compared to the Xbox One pad. Xbox 11 with 11 posters participating The gauntlet of tech earnings reports has mostly come to a close, and there's a wide range of performance. Almost every part of the tech industry has been rattled by COVID-19, but Microsoft managed to report accelerated growth and strong performance for all of its businesses. It's a sign that the software company's efforts to reinvent itself may be working—and that cloud and subscription services will define the company (and with it, customers' experiences with its products) for years to come. Microsoft's Q3 2020 earnings report showed growth for all three of the company's business segments, which hasn't even always happened in a "normal" quarter. Productivity, which includes services like Office and LinkedIn, grew 16 percent year over year to $11.7 billion in revenue—that's a small step down compared to $11.8 in the immediate preceding quarter. Cloud, which includes Azure and GitHub, grew 27 percent year over year to $12.3 billion. And personal computing—an umbrella that covers Windows, Xbox, and Surface—grew a more modest 3 percent year over year to $11 billion. All told, Microsoft's revenue for the quarter was $35 billion, down $2 billion from the previous quarter but up 15 percent from last year's Q3. Even Xbox, which saw an 11 percent drop last quarter, grew by three points. Microsoft this week announced that Xbox Game Pass, a Netflix-like subscription for accessing about 100 games on the Xbox One and Windows 10 platforms, reached 10 million subscribers—more evidence that subscription services and the like are now integral to the company's strategy across all its businesses. To that point, Azure grew 59 percent year over year, and it remains the biggest contributor to the company's growth. Azure's rate of growth has been slowing steadily over the past year, though. While all this sounds promising, Microsoft cautioned that it may not be the end of the story. "The effects of COVID-19 may not be fully reflected in the financial results until future periods," the company wrote. It gave guidance to investors that it expects between $35.85 billion and $36.80 billion in revenue during its upcoming fourth quarter. If that ends up being accurate, it will have been the company's slowest growth quarter in a couple of years. While Windows and Office still make for the heart of Microsoft's business, it has focused on growing subscription services out of those things. It recently announced a new, pseudo-Prime-like home user subscription service called Microsoft 365, it plans to launch a new game console called the Xbox Series X later this year, and it continues to compete fiercely with Amazon's AWS cloud service with Azure. That struggle was exemplified in the messy back-and-forth over the JEDI government contract, which has seemingly resolved in Microsoft's favor only recently. Source: New earnings report shows Microsoft’s shift to cloud and subscriptions is working (Ars Technica)
  22. Microsoft’s Surface Earbuds user manual hits the FCC, hinting the launch may be soon The wireless earbuds are scheduled to launch sometime in spring Microsoft delayed its new Surface Earbuds from a 2019 release to spring 2020 in November, and although we’re still waiting to hear exactly when they’ll finally come out, the user manual for the earbuds has hit the FCC. That indicates the wireless earbuds could be coming out soon. What’s interesting in the manual are the details about the swipe gestures for the big circular touch pads on the Surface Earbuds: Image: FCC And if you were curious about what the differently sized earbud tips looked like, the manual gives a closer look at those: Image: FCC The manual also says that the Surface Earbuds will have eight hours of music playback, the charging case can hold up to 16 hours of battery life, and the case will charge over USB-C. New photos of the Surface Earbuds also appeared from the FCC. We’ve collected a few of those in the gallery below, if you want to take a closer look: The Surface Earbuds will also have dictation for Office apps. They’ll cost $249.99 when they launch. My colleague Dan Seifert got to try the Surface Earbuds when Microsoft announced them in October, and you can check out his impressions in this video: In addition to the Surface Earbuds, Microsoft appears to be preparing to launch an updated version of the Surface Headphones with 20 hours of battery life, up from 18 hours on the current model, as well as support for Bluetooth 5.0 and the aptX codec for high-definition audio. The Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2 could also be unveiled soon. Source: Microsoft’s Surface Earbuds user manual hits the FCC, hinting the launch may be soon (The Verge)
  23. One of the criticisms around Microsoft's Surface lineup is that it's been slow to adopt new technologies, whether it's the latest CPUs or the latest ports. With this year's lineup, the firm finally included USB Type-C on its Surface Pro 7 and Laptop 3; however, there's still no Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 3 is an Intel technology that offers 40Gbps data transfer speeds, and you can use it for things like connecting an external GPU or setting up multiple 4K monitors. Every OEM except for Microsoft has adopted it in their premium PCs, and some of them have even started including it in mainstream laptops. Being an Intel technology, you might have assumed that the reason it's not in the latest generation is because Microsoft used such a diverse range of chips. The 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 has AMD processors, and the Surface Pro X has a Qualcomm SoC. You'd be wrong though, because as it turns out, Microsoft says Thunderbolt 3 is insecure, according to a video tweeted by Microsoft leakster WalkingCat. Along with Thunderbolt, the video explains why Surface PCs don't have expandable or replaceable memory. Microsoft says you'd be able to freeze the memory in liquid nitrogen and put it in a reader to access data like BitLocker recovery keys. You can watch the full video above. What's interesting is that this would seemingly be confirmation that Microsoft has no plans to use Thunderbolt 3; otherwise, the above presentation makes for a pretty bizarre statement. Of course, every other OEM has been using Thunderbolt 3 for several years now. Those include Apple, HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, ASUS, and more. Source: Microsoft says Surface PCs don't have Thunderbolt for security reasons (via Neowin)
  24. Delays, deals and drastic actions: Microsoft responds to the pandemic Because it makes Windows and Office, two tech cornerstones of most modern corporations, Microsoft's response to the COVID-19 outbreak matters a lot. Here's a rundown of what's changed. smartboy10 / robertiez/ Getty Images The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed the Tokyo Olympics, scrubbed all college sports and silenced presidential campaign rallies, so it shouldn't be any surprise that the crisis has also upended plans Microsoft once had set in similar stone. But because of the work-at-home mandate set by many businesses, Microsoft has faced other pressures by dint of its place as the maker of Windows and Office, two technology cornerstones of modern corporations. Along with rivals Google and Apple, Microsoft was among the first U.S. firms to send employees home, one of the first to start tearing up calendars. Since early March, it's made a score and more changes to product timelines, launched deals specific to work-at-home or the pandemic, and taken action to shutter stores and symposiums. Computerworld has collected some of the many modifications Microsoft's made - think of this as a one-stop-shop for the changes that most affect customers, enterprise above all - and we'll continue to add to the catalog as long as the disruption lasts. Bookmark this page, come back soon and often. We'll try to keep it as fresh as possible. Delays and new dates Windows 10 1709 retirement deadline extended In mid-March, Microsoft added six months to the support lifecycle of Windows 10 Enterprise 1709 and Windows 10 Education 1709, telling customers that it would provide security updates until Oct. 13. The original drop-dead date had been April 14. The extension pushed the support lifecycle from 30 months to a total of 36 months, the longest ever for a Windows 10 upgrade. Third- and fourth-week Windows non-security updates cease in May Microsoft will stop serving all optional non-security releases - those designated as C and D updates, issued during the third and fourth weeks of each month, respectively - as of May. The reason: "We are prioritizing our focus on security updates," the company said in March. The stoppage will apply to all versions of Windows and Windows Server, from the newest (Windows 10 1909) to the oldest (Windows Server 2008 R2). Directive that would have disabled Basic Authentication in Exchange Online postponed to '21 In September 2019, Microsoft told customers using Exchange Online - a key component of Office 365 - that it would turn off Basic Authentication for several separate services and protocols, including Exchange ActiveSync, IMAP and POP, on Oct. 13, 2020. (Basic Authentication is the simple yet familiar username + password model; it is less secure from attack than Modern Authentication, which typically includes a multi-factor authentication (MFA) backup, such as sending a security code to the user's smartphone.) That Microsoft commandment has been postponed to "the second half of 2021." (Microsoft said it would declare a precise date "when we have a better understanding of the impact of the [COVID-19 crisis] situation." Edge will support TLS 1.0 and 1.1 until July Rather than follow through on a multi-vendor pledge to drop support for these obsolete encryption protocols in early 2020, Microsoft instead gave them a limited reprieve. Edge will ban TLS 1.0 and 1.1 "no sooner" than Edge 84, slated to release around July 1. The not-dead-yet Internet Explorer (IE) and the legacy Edge are to disable the protocols by default as of Sept. 8. Certifications' retirement deferred to January 2021 Near the end of March, Microsoft bowed to a rising tide of users' demands that they have more time to finish their work toward numerous certifications the company was going to retire this summer. In February, Microsoft announced that all "remaining exams associated with Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) [and] Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) will retire on June 30, 2020." The retirements were part of an overhaul of Microsoft's certification programs that emphasized role-based training versus the product-based certifications of before. A user-generated petition sought more time for people to finish exams for which they'd put time and money into preparation. Once the COVID-19 pandemic went global, test centers were shuttered and training classes canceled, making it impossible to complete everything by the deadline. Microsoft set the new retirement date as Jan. 31, 2021. The new deals Teams set free Microsoft launched free Teams in early March as one of its first responses to the developing pandemic. Restrictions apply, naturally, but they're not onerous. Sign up starts here. Businesses can also get everyone in the company onto Teams for free. The "Microsoft Teams Exploratory" program lets employees without Teams but with an Azure Active Directory-managed email address request a Teams license. (The request must be initiated by the user; it cannot be claimed by an IT administrator for a user.) The no-charge license will be good until the company's next enterprise agreement anniversary or subscription renewal that falls in or after January 2021. More information, including how administrators can manage the Teams license, can be found in this support document. Free Office 365 E1 In March, Microsoft rolled out a free offer for Office 365 E1 "in response to the increased need for employees to work from home (WFH) in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak." Interested businesses must work with their current Microsoft account representative - if they have one - or failing that, with a Microsoft reseller. (Customers can search here for a reseller if they're not now working with one.) The offer provides an E1 license for up to six months. The subscription plan, which costs $8 per user per month when purchased on an annual basis, is the lowest-priced Office 365 Enterprise plan and includes web-based apps (Word, Excel and so on) rather than the more capable desktop applications. It also includes cloud-based email, cloud storage and Teams, the so-hot-it's-on-fire video conferencing/meeting software. At that price, the offer is worth around $50 per user. More information is available here. (A plan analogous to E1, but for U.S. government agencies and offices, G1, can also be trialed free of charge for six months. Those details are available here.) Drastic actions Build 2020 goes just-digital, all Microsoft events follow suit Microsoft's annual developers conference, originally to take place in Seattle, was kept on the calendar but went digital-only in March, when Washington state was the U.S. viral hotspot. In early April, the company said that all its events through the end of June 2021 would be "digital-first," although like many organizations, simultaneously promised that it would "continue to evaluate the situation" and return to a pre-COVID approach "when the situation allows." Closed all retail Microsoft shuttered its retail stores - the bulk of the 80-plus locations are in the U.S. - in mid-March. "All Microsoft Store locations are currently closed until further notice," the company said on its location portal. The company has offered virtual workshops to replace the in-store training sessions it had run earlier. Not surprisingly, among those workshops is one called "Microsoft Teams Training for Business - Master working at home with Microsoft Teams." Source: Delays, deals and drastic actions: Microsoft responds to the pandemic (Computerworld - Gregg Keizer)
  25. Five steps Microsoft should take RIGHT NOW to help us through the pandemic Competitive decisions made in the past need to be re-examined in light of the world’s current COVID-fettered state. It’s time for Microsoft to look hard at how its behavior wreaks unnecessary havoc on a billion customers. We need to stop the Windows roller coaster. BlackJack3D / Getty Images Microsoft’s response to the COVID-19 threat has been admirable. From free six-month subscriptions to Teams and Bing’s COVID-19 tracker to enormous computing power for immunotherapy research to a joint project with the CDC on an assessment bot, Microsoft has more than lived up to its reputation for pitching in when times are bad. At the same time, though, those of us who are on the ground, trying to keep things running, are getting hit by some ancient bad decisions. What we need isn’t sexy or the stuff of fancy headlines. What we need is a stable environment to help the first-, second- and third-line responders get on with their jobs. Some of the decisions Microsoft made years ago have come back to haunt the billion or so people who rely on Windows. It’s time to rethink them. Postpone the release of Windows 10 version 2004 I don’t know anyone in the industry who supports Microsoft’s damn-the-torpedoes approach to Windows updates. We’ve seen some abeyance in the self-destructive update pace: Nowadays we’re expecting a “major” new version in the first half of the year, followed by a “minor” new version in the latter half. The problem, of course, is that each new version, major or minor, brings significant problems. The semiannual tempo may have made sense in a world where the competition was nipping at Microsoft’s heels. But it certainly makes no sense in a world where people’s lives depend on stability. Just look at the problems we had with the only “minor” upgrade delivered to date. Now we have the nextest, latest, greatest version of Windows 10 waiting in the wings, version 2004. With promises of Cortana getting the ax, more logon options, a taskbar for the Calendar app (ooh!), a File Explorer search that finally works (take that, 1909), reduced overhead in the indexer (where’s Magellan?), customizable virtual desktop names (aah!), and much more, this update — which was frozen in December — offers exactly nothing that’s worth clobbering a machine for an hour or a day. Isn’t it time to put the old “you gotta get the latest” mentality to bed? Microsoft should re-examine its motivations and take into account the pain that every upgrade has triggered. If 2004 causes just one critical outage or delay, will it be worth the price? Give Windows 7 security patches to everyone Microsoft hoped to push most customers from Windows 7 to Windows 10 by cutting off security patches. Demonstrably, that hasn’t worked. Nobody knows how many people dusted off old Windows 7 machines in order to work from home, or let their kids get online for school, but in my experience, the number is considerable. Microsoft’s already making Win7 patches. It’s just charging extra, and hiding the “Extended Security Updates” behind a bewildering bulwark of deployment garbage. Isn’t it time to give Win7 users a break, and keep them up to date? Extend the life of Win10 1809 Home and Pro Windows 10 version 1809 Home and Pro hit the support skids on May 12 — a little over a year since 1809 was declared “ready for business” (remember that stupidity?) in March 2019. Enterprise versions get an extra year. Microsoft has already extended the end-of-service date for Win10 version 1709 Enterprise and Education. Those are now set at Oct. 13. But what about 1809 Home and Pro? Microsoft’s going to be making security patches for 1809 well into next year. We’re hearing that the Powers That Be don’t want to let 1809 users off the hook. Why not give Home and Pro users a break? Stop the stupid 'optional, non-security' updates We’ve seen some relief here already. Microsoft has announced that it’ll stop producing and offering “optional, non-security, C/D Week” patches, with the last heap of offal offered this month. Far too frequently, unsuspecting Windows users clicked on a link to “Download and install” and found themselves stepping into something that was way out of their pay grade. Of course, Microsoft can’t stop releasing bug fixes. In a clarifying post, Microsoft confirmed that non-security patches would be included in the regular Patch Tuesday patches, and not in a separate late-month patch. Which means that the (inadequate) non-security patch testing that we had in place with "optional, non-security" patches is going away. Starting in May, we’ll get non-security patches bundled together with security patches, all of which are subject to the same level of testing that we’ve always seen on Patch Tuesday. Saints preserve us. Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t Microsoft limit its monthly updates to pressing, do-or-die patches and save the less immediate (“Important / Exploitation Less Likely”) patches for a quarterly rollup? Like, I dunno, a service pack? Microsoft may be able to convince the groups that publicize newly discovered security holes to hold off for a quarterly update. For the sake of everyone’s sanity. The bug count may not go down, but at least the critters will be localized. Start beta-testing updates Would somebody tell me why Microsoft has Insider Rings — groups of beta-testers — for the next version of Windows, and the next, and the far-off-into-the-future next, next version? I’m no fan of the Insider Program as it stands. Adding bodies doesn’t improve quality, and 18 million testers is three or four orders of magnitude too many for responsive testing. But the infrastructure is in place to conduct technical (as opposed to marketing) beta tests. Why can’t we have a simple invitation-only Insider Ring for 1,000 or so people who will actually test patches? Originally, the Release Preview Ring was designed to test patches shortly before they appeared. At least, I think that’s what was intended. The definitions of the Rings, and their implementation, have changed so much over the years it’s hard to tell who’s on first. Times have changed, and not for the better. It shouldn’t be that difficult to make an Insider Ring that actually tests patches prior to their deployment. One where feedback is carefully weighed. One where the testers know their stuff. One dedicated to the idea that Microsoft really can produce quality updates. I know. Pie in the sky. But it could happen — and it wouldn’t be all that hard to implement. All five of these suggestions require a serious rethink of Microsoft’s past decisions, taking into account the computing situation we’re in. They all have the potential of making the lives of a billion Windows users simpler, easier and more predictable. Have an idea for a change Microsoft could make that’d help the planet’s COVID-19 response? Tell me on AskWoody.com. Source: Five steps Microsoft should take RIGHT NOW to help us through the pandemic (Computerworld - Woody Leonhard)
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