Microsoft releases its Azure Service Fabric to open source

Microsoft’s Service Fabric Team announced the open-source release of Azure Service Fabric under the MIT license yesterday. The team behind the distributed systems platform, designed to easily package, deploy and manage scalable and reliable microservices and containers, will be transitioning to a completely open development process on GitHub over the coming months.

While the Service Fabric repo available on the project’s GitHub contains build and test tools for Linux, allowing users to clone and build Service Fabric on Linux systems, run basic tests, open issues and submit pull requests, the team says it is “working hard” on migrating the Windows build environment to GitHub with a complete continuous integration environment.

“We’ve been developing Service Fabric internally for Windows for close to a decade, and most of that time it was a Microsoft-internal platform, which means we have close to a decade’s worth of internal Microsoft tools to migrate and processes to refine before we can put something usable out on GitHub,” the team wrote in a development blog. “When we started working on Linux support a couple years ago, we were a public product and already planning to go open source, so we made sure to use common, publicly available tools as much as possible.”

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The team began the transition in March of last year with the open-sourcing of elements of Service Fabric, including Reliable Services, Reliable Actors and the ASP.NET Core integration libraries, and have been moving other “small parts” of Service Fabric to GitHub, such as Explorer and the CLI over the course of the past year.

“We’ve heard from many of you about the importance of being able to participate in the development and direction of the platform that you depend on to run your mission-critical applications,” the team wrote. “We stay active on GitHub and Stack Overflow for that reason, and open sourcing the platform is the natural evolution to make that collaboration even better. That’s why we’re committed to making Service Fabric a successful open source project by moving our entire development and planning process onto GitHub, where we can openly collaborate with the community to make Service Fabric better for everyone.”

 

Microsoft is working on the next version of Windows codenamed Redstone 4, arriving in April as Windows 10 Spring Creators Update.

We’ve known for a while that Windows 10 Redstone 4 update will kill off some settings in the Control Panel and move them to the Settings app. Starting with Windows 10 Redstone 4 release, Fonts section will be moved to Settings app from the classic Control Panel.

While the Store was originally the home of apps and games just like Google Play Store, the software giant recently published the fonts in the Microsoft Store for Windows 10 devices as part of its effort to make the store a marketplace for apps, games, hardware and font. It looks like Microsoft is preparing to make another important step in this regard.

Today, we have discovered that Microsoft is planning to sell premium fonts in the Windows 10 Store. Buxton Sketch, a new font, for $1.99 is now available from the Microsoft Store.

The company describes Buxton Sketch as a casual print style handwriting font, this font supports Latin, Cyrillic and Greek in Windows 10 operating system, along with support for 590 characters designed for Microsoft services.

Buxton Sketch font

Windows 10’s new Settings app comes with all options currently available in Control Panel, for example, it allows you to manage new fonts, uninstall and preview the fonts. Furthermore, the new Font Management can be also used for getting information for each font, like name and version.

In the Microsoft Store, the font is displayed like a regular Windows 10 UWP app, with screenshots, compatible devices list and description. It’s worth noting that the new Windows 10 Font is not available for Windows Phone, apparently because the platform has been discontinued.

The Font is only said to be working with PCs, HoloLens, and Surface Hub. You can learn more about the new paid Buxton Sketch font at the Microsoft Store page.

Windows 10 Adds New “Ultimate Performance” Power Mode For Power Users

Windows 10’s latest version would be arriving on machines in the coming month. Codenamed Redstone 4, and possibly named Spring Creators Update, the update is moving towards stability. Its Insider builds have been separated from the active development of Windows 10.

Now, the insiders who earlier opted into ‘Skip Ahead’ and are still a part of it will receive Windows 10 Preview Builds under the RS_PRERELEASE branch, featuring the changes that may arrive with Redstone 5. Non-Skip Ahead users will get builds from the RS4_RELEASE branch.

Microsoft has released fresh Insider builds. Among the new features added is a new performance scheme called Ultimate Performance. Windows 10 Pro for Workstations users running Insider Build 17101 (rs4) or Build 17064 (rs5) can take the advantage of the new setting in Control Panel > Power Options.

Windows 10 Pro Ultimate Performance

As the name suggests, the power mode is designed for heavy-duty machines that can’t afford to cut down on performance during processing of extensive workloads. Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar said in the announcement post that they have been able to find areas in Windows where performance and efficiency tradeoff is made and a collection of settings allows the system to adjust itself according to the user behavior, policy, and hardware.

“This new policy builds on the current High-Performance policy, and it goes a step further to eliminate micro-latencies associated with fine-grained power management techniques.”

It goes without saying that the new power policy would require the system to consume more power while exploiting the hardware to its fullest. That’s why Ultimate Performance won’t be available on battery-powered Windows 10 PCs. Both OEM’s and users would be able to select the power plan as per their will.

Visual Studio Code will now ship with Anaconda

Microsoft has announced that Visual Studio Code will ship as part of the popular Python data science platform Anaconda. Microsoft first announced plans to bring Python to Azure Machine Learning, Visual Studio and SQL Server in September of last year.

According to Microsoft, “Visual Studio Code can easily be installed at the same time as Anaconda, providing a great editing and debugging experience for Python users, with special features tailor-made for Anaconda users.”

Microsoft has previously made investments in the Python community. It has already released a Python extension for VS Code and provides support for Python in Azure Machine Learning, SQL Server, and Azure Notebooks. According to Microsoft, the Microsoft Python Extension for Visual Studio Code is the most downloaded extension in the VS Code marketplace.

In addition, Microsoft created a team to support its Python extension, and will be extending that support for Anaconda environments as well.

According to the Anaconda team, VS Code is a good IDE choice for its users on Windows, macOS and Linux because of its debugging, code completion, and Git integration features. It also offers a number of extensions that developers can tailor to their specific needs.

“Anaconda, Inc. is excited to be able to make installation of Microsoft Visual Studio Code and the Python Extension for Visual Studio Code a more seamless experience for our Anaconda users,” Crystal Soja, product manager for the Anaconda Distribution and Anaconda Cloud, wrote in a post.

Microsoft’s Cortana music recognition feature has been retired

Microsoft’s Cortana music recognition feature has been retired. The company some time ago added the ability to identify songs through Microsoft’s Digital Assistant, Cortana.

But now some users are reporting that Cortana’s song recognition abilities are no longer available and the digital assistant ability to identify songs has been retired. To enjoy the functionality you would need to press the music icon on Cortana’s interface while playing music. The service then identifies the songs from the Groove library and brings you the results.

This functionality no longer works since the Digital Assistant does not have any library to search after the retirement of the Groove Music service. The news was confirmed by one of Microsoft’s Cortana Team Engineer in reply to one of the users stating: “What you are seeing is expected. Due to the shutdown of the Groove Music service Cortana music recognition has also been retired.”

If you are trying to access the service by tapping on the icon, you will now be greeted with a message stating “Song unrecognized”, “this service is retired”, but “music continues”.

Now with the retirement of Groove Music and unavailability of Shazam app from the Windows Store, the Windows 10 users are currently left with no music recognition app to download and use.

Microsoft expands its footprint

It’s funny to think that Microsoft was once just known for its personal computer operating system Windows and its office suite Microsoft Office. Since 1975 when it was first founded, the company has expanded to gaming, the cloud, virtual reality, mobile devices, artificial intelligence holograms and more. 2017 was another year of advancements and innovation as the company aimed to touch every surface of software development.

Visual Studio 2017 was officially released in March with four core pillars: fundamentals, cloud, mobile and DevOps. Microsoft has “expanded beyond the IDE into a family of tools that are now designed for a mobile-first, cloud-first world,” stated Julia Liuson, corporate vice president for Visual Studio. The release included new refactoring, search and navigation, code generation, analysis, IDE improvements, code editing, debugging and live uniting testing capabilities.

In May, the company outlined its vision for the future of computing at Microsoft Build. According to Microsoft SEO Satya Nadella, the future of computing “comes down to the design principles and choices we make. I believe we can make practical design choices that help enshrine our timeless values. The first one is that we empower people with technology. Let’s amplify their ingenuity. Let’s use technology to bring more empowerment to more people.” To do so, the company announced plans to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence in its applications and devices such as the Cortana Skills Kit, and new cognitive services for vision, speech, language and search capabilities. “Moving from a mobile-first, cloud-first world to a new world that is going to be made up of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge,” he said.

Other announcements at the Build conference included new additions to the Xamarin cross-platform development tools such as the Xamarin Live Player coding environment and the Visual Studio Mobile Center.

Microsoft built on its vision for the future of computing at the end of the year at Microsoft Connect. There, the company announced Visual Studio App Center, Visual Studio Live Share, a preview of Azure DevOps projects, Azure Databricks, Visual Studio Connected Environment for Azure Container Service, Visual Studio Tools for AI and Azure IoT Edge. “It’s never been a better time to be a developer, as developers are at the forefront of building the apps driving monumental change across organizations and entire industries, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group, wrote in a blog post.

The Microsoft Windows 10 Fall Creators Update SDK was released in October with new tools for building mixed reality experiences, modernizing applications for the workplace, and building and monetizing games and apps.

For the cloud, Microsoft announced Azure Cosmos DB, Cloud Migration Assessment, Azure Hybrid Use Benefit, Azure Site Recovery solutions, and joined the Cloud Foundry Foundation. In addition, Microsoft tackled containers, security, data business intelligence and blockchain in 2017 with the release of Azure Container Instances, Azure Container Service, a collaboration with Red Hat, the Microsoft Security Risk Detection tool, advances to SQL Server 2017, SQL Operations Studio, Power BI Premium, and becoming a part of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.

As for the Windows Phone, Microsoft decided to scale back with the announcement that it would no longer be adding any new features to the phone, but it would continue to support the platform with bug fixes and security updates.

Other big announcements for the year included Microsoft .NET Core 2.0 with improved performance, debugging and live unit testing; C# 7.0; and the Git Virtual File System.

Microsoft to bring Windows Defender Application Guard to Windows 10

Microsoft yesterday released a new Windows 10 Build 17063 to the Windows Insiders and the update introduced many new features, including Windows Defender Application Guard for the operating system. Since Microsoft wants to make Windows 10 the most secure operating system, with the upcoming Redstone 4 update, Microsoft will bring Windows Defender Application Guard to Windows 10.

While Windows Defender Application Gaurd (WDAG) is an enterprise-exclusive feature, it is also making its way to Windows 10 Pro SKU. This new security feature is already available for the Fast Ring Insiders, WDAG is now expected to ship with the next OS update which is set to arrive in the spring of 2018.

Microsoft claims that this technology would help Edge become the world’s most secure browser. Windows Defender Application Guard for Windows 10 will basically protect your machine against the malware using Hyper-V virtualization technology.

“Windows Defender Application Guard provides unprecedented protection against targeted threats using Microsoft’s industry leading Hyper-V virtualization technology. Check out this recent RSA talk on Window Defender Application Guard if you’d like to understand this feature in some more detail,” Microsoft explains in a blog post.

Earlier this year, Microsoft detailed this new technology in a presentation. Chas Jeffries, Lead Program Manager, Windows Enterprise and Security, at Microsoft Ignite provided an in-depth look at Windows Defender Application Gaurd, you can watch the presentation here

 

 

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: https://aka.ms/Cabs80096004

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.