Microsoft releases Azure Bot Service and Cognitive Services Language Understanding

Microsoft has announced two new development tools designed to advance conversational artificial intelligence experiences. Microsoft Azure Bot Service and Microsoft Cognitive Services Language Understanding (LUIS) are now available.

“Conversational AI, or making human and computer interactions more natural, has been a goal since technology became ubiquitous in our society. Our mission is to bring conversational AI tools and capabilities to every developer and every organization on the planet, and help businesses augment human ingenuity in unique and differentiated ways,” Lili Cheng, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s AI and research group, wrote in a post.

The Azure Bot Service is designed to help developers create conversational interfaces while LUIS is designed for developing custom natural integrations.

The Bot Service provides an environment where these conversational bots can interact with customers on multiple channels across any device. Channels include Cortana, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. “Intelligence is enabled in the Azure Bot Service through the cloud AI services forming the bot brain that understands and reasons about the user input. Based on understanding the input, the bot can help the user complete some tasks, answer questions, or even chit chat through action handlers,” the Microsoft Azure Bot Service and Language Understanding team wrote in a post.

Language Understanding is the key part of the “bot brain” that enables them to “think” and “reason” in order to make appropriate actions. The Language Understanding solution supports a number of languages in addition to English, and comes with prebuilt services for English, French, Spanish and Chinese. In addition, it provides phrase suggestions to help developers customize LUIS domain vocabulary in Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French, Portuguese,German and Italian.

In addition, the company announced new capabilities for Azure Bot Service and Language Understanding. These features include: an updated user interface, an expansion of up to 500 intents and 100 entities for more conversational experiences, ability to customize cognitive services, and intelligent APIs that enable systems to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret.

“Think about the possibilities: all developers regardless of expertise in data science able to build conversational AI that can enrich and expand the reach of applications to audiences across a myriad of conversational channels. The app will be able to understand natural language, reason about content and take intelligent actions,” the Azure team wrote. “Bringing intelligent agents to developers and organizations that do not have expertise in data science is disruptive to the way humans interact with computers in their daily life and the way enterprises run their businesses with their customers and employees.”

Microsoft previews Quantum Development Kit

Microsoft is helping to democratize quantum computing with the announcement of the Quantum Development Kit. The company first announced plans to develop a Quantum Development Kit in September at its Ignite conference.

“Quantum computing takes a giant leap forward from today’s technology—one that will forever alter our economic, industrial, academic, and societal landscape. With the preview release of the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit, we are one step closer to realizing this vision,” the Microsoft Quantum Team, wrote in a post.

The kit is designed to get developers up to speed with programming on quantum computers. According to the company, developers do not need to be experts in quantum physics. The kit is deeply integrated with Visual Studio, so aspects will be familiar to developes who already use VS to develop apps.

“What you’re going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know well, services you already know well,” Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president in charge of the company’s quantum effort, said in an announcement. “There will be a twist with quantum computing, but it’s our job to make it as easy as possible for the developers who know and love us to be able to use these new tools that could potentially do some things exponentially faster – which means going from a billion years on a classical computer to a couple hours on a quantum computer.”

The Quantum Development Kit includes the Q# programming language, a quantum computing simulator, and resources for building quantum computer apps.

The Q# programming language was designed specifically for quantum. It is a high-level programming language that includes a native type system for qubits, operators and abstractions, according to the company. The quantum simulators will enable debugging support and support for simulations that requires more than 40 qubits. The kit will also provide a trace simulator for optimizing code to run on quantum computers.

In addition, the company is providing a suite of documentation, libraries and sample programs to get people familiar with aspects of quantum computing such as quantum teleportation.

This is just one piece in Microsoft’s plan to build a “full-fledge quantum computing system, “which includes everything from the quantum computing hardware to the full software stack,” according to the company.

Microsoft confirms download issues with latest Windows 10 preview builds

Microsoft yesterday confirmed that some Windows 10 Insiders may have trouble in downloading the latest Insider builds for both Fast and Slow Rings. The Redmond Giant informs Insiders that users trying to install Insider Build with version 17046 or 17025 on fast and slow ring will be seeing an error “80096004”.

This error is due to internal issues being found at Microsoft and Insiders have been advised to wait for a new Insider Build to be released for being able to download. The company also confirms that Insiders would also face issues with downloading additional language packs or other features.

Microsoft Insider Team member Brandon LeBlanc in a Tweet confirmed that if users have been able to download the latest build then they should face no issues, but if you are seeing error in downloading the latest builds, then you would need to wait for a new Insider build for Windows 10 users on both Fast and Slow

See the post below:

FYI: Build 17046 (Fast) & Build 17025 (Slow) will fail with error code 80096004. Also: attempted downloads of language packs or additional Windows features (FODs) will also encounter an install failure. Details here:

We are currently not sure as to what is causing the issue, but Microsoft is currently working on a fix and should be able to roll out a new Insider Build as early as Friday. If any of our users have been able to install the latest build do let us know if you are facing any issues, in the comments below.


Microsoft is not bringing Android app emulation to Windows Phone again

Back in 2015, when Windows 10 Mobile mattered for Microsoft, the company planned to bring Android and iOS apps on its Windows Phone, which obviously was a pretty big deal, given the fact Windows Phone is dead as critics had claimed that the apps available on Windows Phones pale in comparison to their Android and iOS counterparts.

In case you were hoping/expecting Microsoft to bring back the Android app emulation on Windows 10 Mobile device again, Microsoft’s Senior Program Manager on the Windows Insider Program yesterday confirmed that the company is not bringing Android app emulation to Windows Phone again. “No, we’re not bringing Android app emulation to Windows 10 Mobile,” Brandon LeBlanc tweeted.

Not so long ago, a Windows Phone user posted on the Feedback Hub requesting the Redmond giant to bring back the Project Astoria, as it would give unsupported Windows Phones a new life. Microsoft engineer later faced criticism when he responded to the feedback without even reading it.

Don’t get your hopes down as the developer is testing a new version of Windows Phone Internals tool, it will basically allow you to install custom ROMs. Technically you will be able to install Android operating system and its app on your Windows Phone.

Windows Phone Internals Tool will bypass SecureBoot on modern Lumia Windows Phone, this allows “custom ROMs, Mass Storage Mode, Root access and many more hacks to all Windows Phone 8 and Windows 10.”


Microsoft’s Xbox One X sales higher than expected in its first week

Microsoft launched its Xbox One X last week and the company was successful in selling 80,000 units in the United Kingdom in the first week of its launch. The Xbox Marketing Chief confirmed the number of units sold and the company is expecting it to increase the sales in other parts of the world as well.

However in spite of the encouraging sales of the Xbox One X the company plans not to include the console in its Black Friday Deals since the company expects the device to show positive results in the coming holiday season.

Microsoft announced the Xbox One X at its E3 2017 on June 11, 2017 and is said to be the most powerful gaming console ever built by the company with a 4K resolution display.

It also has 12 GB of GDDR5 RAM of which 9 GB can be used by developers for their games. Microsoft will be using a custom GPU engine for Xbox One X which runs at 1172MHz. Xbox One X also has an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for 4K movies and entertainment and 1TB of storage.

Microsoft also announced that existing Xbox One accessories will also work on the new Xbox One X. Microsoft is expected to use “super sampling” for the One X that will make new games look much better on 1080p TVs.

Microsoft lays out plans for VS Code in 2018

Microsoft is already planning for Visual Studio Code’s future with a new roadmap and focus areas for 2018. The company plans to tackle VS Code from three perspectives next year: happy coding; Node, JavaScript and TypeScript; and a rich extension ecosystem.

For “happy coding,” the team wants to make the code editor more pleasant to work with by making it more flexible when working with position editors and panes, multi-selection and supporting multi-root workspaces. “You will see a significant focus on the fundamentals in the next few months as well, focused on performance, localized language support, and accessibility so that every developer can be productive with VS Code,” the team wrote on the roadmap. Fundamentals will include: improved startup performance, memory consumption, accessibility, language support packs, Windows update experience, and serviceability.

The team will also continue to update the editor to support the best code editing, navigation, and understanding experiences for TypeScript and JavaScript. In addition, it will make it easier to configure debugging of Node based applications and support client and server side debugging. Other language improvements include refining the Language Server Protocol; improving the debug adaptor protocol; enhancing JavaScript discoverability; and working with the TypeScript team.

“Of course, VS Code is not just a Node, JavaScript, and TypeScript tool. Our rich extensibility model and extension ecosystem means that you can install support for just about every language and framework, from C++ to C# to Go, Python, and more,” the team wrote.

Other updates on the horizon include improving the extension recommendation system, improving extension searching, simplifying the ability to track down issues, showing users more information about extension usage, and enhancing the language API.

The full roadmap is available here.

News digest: Google renames API.AI to Dialogflow, the Cloud Foundry Container Runtime, and Microsoft’s UWP support for .NET Standard 2.0

Google has a new name for its API.AI solution: Dialogflow. API.AI first started out as an API that could add natural language processing capabilities to applications, services, and devices. According to the company, over the past year it has grown into more than just an API with new features such as its analytics tool and 33 prebuilt agents, which is why the company decided it was necessary to rename the solution.

“Our new name doesn’t change the work we’re doing with you or our mission. Our mission continues to be that Dialogflow is your end-to-end platform for building great conversational experiences and our team will help you share what you’ve built with millions of users,” Ilya Gelfenbeyn, lead product manager at Google, wrote in a post.

The company also announced two new features for Dialogflow: an in-line code editor and multi-lingual agent support.

CFCR becomes the Cloud Foundry’s default method for deploying containers
The Cloud Foundry Foundation has announced that Cloud Foundry Container Runtime (CFCR) is now the default Cloud Foundry approach to deploying containers using Kubernetes and BOSH. Users can now use the Container Runtime to deploy Kubernetes or application runtime for a Cloud Application Platform. This project was originally donated to the Cloud Foundry Foundation in June by Google and Pivotal, in order to expand choice for Cloud Foundry’s massive user base.

“The technology has progressed quickly—after only four months in incubation, the first commercial offering has already been launched. Container Runtime expands the capabilities of Cloud Foundry beyond Application Runtime, giving enterprises more options to take advantage of cloud-native best practices,” said Abby Kearns, executive director for the Cloud Foundry Foundation. “With nearly 70 percent of enterprises using containers in some capacity, choice is critical. This expansion enables businesses to take advantage of the power of Kubernetes combined with BOSH, an open source, enterprise-grade management tool.”

Microsoft adds UWP support for .NET Standard 2.0
Microsoft has announced a major update to UWP for .NET developers, which is their largest release since shipping .NET Native with Windows 10. The company is adding support for .NET Standard 2.0, which will give UWP developers access to about 20k more APIs. The update will also allow developers to migrate code into UWP apps more easily. UWP apps use .NET Core for debugging and .NET Native for release builds. This release adds incremental build support for .NET native, making debugging with .NET Native more approachable, according to the company.

Sauce Labs announces Extended Debugging for Selenium tests
Sauce Labs has announced Extended Debugging for Selenium tests, which provides faster resolution times for fixing errors. This tool combines browser console log information with networking data in order to determine the cause and location of a problem.

“Automated testing is the backbone of continuous delivery. By adding Extended Debugging to our platform, we’re ensuring that our customers can identify the root case of test failures faster,” said Lubos Parobek, vice president of product at Sauce Labs. “This has been a much anticipated addition to our platform as browser and networking failures can often be difficult to reproduce, troubleshoot and fix.”

Anchore releases Anchore Cloud 2.0 
Anchore announced the release of Anchore Cloud 2.0, a series of software tools that provides developers, operations, and security teams with a means to achieve proper container compliance, both on-premises or in the cloud. Anchore Cloud is a SaaS product built on an open source analysis and policy engine, and allows users to look for container images on both public and private registries. Anchor is integrated with popular open source tools such as Jenkins and Kubernetes.

“Anchore Cloud 2.0 gives users the tools necessary to achieve a controllable containerized software flow in a way that can be certified by the user for their specific needs,” said Daniel Nurmi, CTO and cofounder of Anchore. “Coupled with our open source on-premise engine, Anchore Cloud 2.0 provides users the ability to quickly and easily integrate powerful inspection, reporting, and security and compliance checks into their existing or new container build environments.”

Syncfusion updates Dashboard and Data Integration platforms
Syncfusion is announcing an update to their Dashboard and Data Integration platforms. In this release, the Dashboard Platform and Data Integration Platform will be integrated, enabling users to access workflows from the Data Integration Server in the Dashboard. New Dashboard features include advanced sorting options for the Dashboard Designer, a common ODBC connection, a waterfall chart widget, and a widget for radar and polar charts.

The Data Integration Platform now offers a user-friendly design for processors, process groups, and ports, allowing views to be expanded and collapsed. It also features support for monitoring tasks, and allowing disk and JVM memory to be monitored.

“We’ve been very pleased at the success of our Data Platform,” said Daniel Jebaraj, vice president. “We’ve taken some innovative steps toward simplifying effective data usage for businesses, and we hope to continue improving the platform with releases like this.”

Microsoft and Amazon announce deep learning library Gluon

Microsoft has announced a new partnership with Amazon to create a open-source deep learning library called Gluon. The idea behind Gluon is to make artificial intelligence more accessible and valuable.

According to Microsoft, the library simplifies the process of making deep learning models and will enable developers to run multiple deep learning libraries. This announcement follows their introduction of the Open Neural Network Exchange (ONNX) format, which is another AI ecosystem.

Gluon supports symbolic and imperative programming, which is something not supported by many other toolkits, Microsoft explained. It also will support hybridization of code, allowing compute graphs to be cached and reused in future iterations. It offers a layers library that reuses pre-built building blocks to define model architecture. Gluon natively supports loops and ragged tensors, allowing for high execution efficiency for RNN and LSTM models, as well as supporting sparse data and operations. It also provides the ability to do advanced scheduling on multiple GPUs.

“This is another step in fostering an open AI ecosystem to accelerate innovation and democratization of AI-making it more accessible and valuable to all,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post. “With Gluon, developers will be able to deliver new and exciting AI innovations faster by using a higher-level programming model and the tools and platforms they are most comfortable with.”

The library will be available for Apache MXNet or Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit. It is already available on GitHub for Apache MXNet, with Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit support on the way.

Microsoft Windows 10 Fall Creators Update SDK now available

Developers can start preparing their applications for the next update of Windows 10 with the newly available Windows 10 Fall Creators Update SDK. The SDK features new tools for building mixed reality experiences, modernizing applications for today’s workplace, and building and monetizing games and apps.

“Windows 10 Fall Creators Update provides a developer platform that is designed to inspire the creator in each of us – empowering developers to build applications that change the way people work, play and interact with devices. To truly fulfill this platform promise, I believe that our developer platform needs to be centered around people and their needs.  Technology should adapt and learn how to work with us,” Kevin Gallo, corporate vice president of the Windows developer platform, wrote in a post.

According to the company, the next wave of virtual and augmented reality is mixed reality. With Windows Mixed Reality, developers can create immersive experiences that are reusable across platforms and device form factors. “Windows 10 was designed from ground up for spatial interactions and the next wave in this journey is Windows Mixed Reality, uniting the digital and real world to create a rich, immersive world. As humans, we interact with space constantly, and Windows Mixed Reality will feel the most natural for users,” Gallo wrote.

To modernize apps for the workplace, the SDK enables developers to create and update existing apps with Visual Studio 2017 version 15.4, integration of .NET Standard 2.0, and an improved Windows 10 deployment system.

In addition, developers can build better game and app experiences with the Expanded Resources feature in the Fall Xbox One Update, the Xbox Live Creators Program, and the Mixer SDKs for major game engines and languages.

News Digest: InterBase 2017 Update 1 release, Microsoft no longer adding new features to Windows Phones, and more

Embarcadero Technologies announced release of InterBase 2017 Update 1

Embarcadero Technologies has announced the release of InterBase 2017 Update 1. This update adds 32-bit and 64-bit support for MacOS for InterBase 2017 Developer and Server Editions.

It also includes bug fixes for Windows and Linux and support for Windows 10 Creator’s Update. The new update provides SQL support for Expression Indices, as well as GROUP BY and ORDER BY Expression.

Update 1 is available to all InterBase 2017 customers. It is provided as a patch install kit for Windows and Linux Server Editions and as full install kits for InterBase ToGo and MacOS.

Microsoft will no longer be adding any new features to Windows Phones

Microsoft has announced that they will not be releasing any new features for Windows Phones. Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s VP of Windows Experience tweeted yesterday stating that they will continue to support the platform with bug fixes and security updates, but not add any new features or hardware. Microsoft had been trying for a while to get developers to develop apps for Windows, but was not successful in competing with Android or Apple in that department, essentially killing the Windows App Store. This announcement comes after last week’s news that they would be bringing Microsoft Edge to Android and iOS.

ZeroStack offers smooth migration path from Eucalyptus cloud environment to ZeroStack’s Intelligent Private Cloud platform

ZeroStack has announced that their Intelligent Private Cloud platform offers a smooth migration path from the Eucalyptus cloud environment, which is nearing end-of-life. While Eucalyptus required complex integration and maintenance, the ZeroStack platform will allow IT departments to implement a development environment with simple point-and click provisioning. Developers will be able to self-provision cloud resources and tools, which will take some of the burden off of IT staff.

“Some developers have been working with Eucalyptus for years now, but now they must move on,” said Kamesh Pemmaraju, vice president of Product Management at ZeroStack. “We offer the industry’s most sophisticated cloud-based DevOps environment that puts developers in the driver’s seat and slashes costs for IT infrastructure management teams. We welcome Eucalyptus users to the next-generation ZeroStack cloud platform.”

Jetty 9.4.7 released

Jetty has announced the release of Jetty 9.4.7. This update provides many bug fixes and enhancements. This is the first Jetty release that will have early JDK 9 support, with full support expected for Jetty 10. Jetty 9.4.7 is available on the Eclipse Jetty project page and the Maven Central repository, and they recommend that all users upgrade to this version as soon as possible.