Oct 01

View on Microsoft’s September activities

Microsoft has announced that, in early 2016, it will no longer support RC4 cipher in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11. Google and Mozilla have also announced that they are ending support for RC4 in Chrome and Firefox.

This month saw a range of updates to Microsoft’s Cloud Platform product portfolio that included releases and previews covering the GS-Series virtual machines, Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA, Revolution R Enterprise in Azure Marketplace, SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.3, new JDBC 4.2 for SQL Server Driver, Visual Studio 2012 Update 5, Power BI content packs for Adobe Analytics and Azure Mobile Engagement, Azure SQL Database as well as previews of Azure SQL Database Elastic Database Basic and Premium tiers.

Microsoft has announced upcoming previews of its Azure Data Lake offerings, which will include Azure Data Lake Store (a single repository to capture data of any size, type and speed), Azure Data Lake Analytics (a service built on Apache YARN that dynamically scales and introduces U-SQL) as well as Azure HDInsight (a fully managed Apache Hadoop cluster service). Azure Data Lake Tools for Visual Studio will support development projects for Azure Data Lake.

While we are on topics of interest to developers, Microsoft has issued an updated Developer’s Guide to Windows 10 video series with a focus on building Universal Windows apps. The Virtual Academy training courses also allow downloading of source code from GitHub.

Under the auspices of focusing on core Windows 10 Camera and Photo apps, Microsoft has announced the end of support for some of the Lumia apps, which have been removed from the Windows Phone Store.

The apps include Lumia Storyteller, Lumia Beamer, Photobeamer, and Lumia Refocus (which will no longer work due to the termination of the online services) as well as Lumia Panorama and Video Uploader (which will continue to work).

The company continues its strategy of embracing non-Microsoft platforms and has even developed its own Linux distribution for Azure networking, which will be made available as the Azure Cloud Switch (ACS). OneNote now provides support for multitasking, Spotlight search and Apple Pencil on iOS 9 and iPad Pro. There were also demonstrations of a number of enhancements for Office running on the iPad Pro. In addition, Microsoft released HDInsight on Linux.

On the hardware front, Dell is to sell Surface Pro and Surface accessories in the United States and Canada followed by expansion into other worldwide markets. Acer has unveiled PCs and phones designed for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile respectively. Lenovo and Toshiba have also announced their hardware line-up for Windows 10.

For residents in the UK, Microsoft has introduced the display of UK Ordnance Survey Maps to Bing Maps.

Microsoft Office 2016 has been released and focuses on productivity and integration rather new product specific feature additions. The installation has been simplified to the point of creating great frustration (for me), in that you are not even able to specify where it should be installed. So be careful if you have a multiple drive system and your C drive is a small SSD with limited space.

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Sep 04

Microsoft releases Skype 6.0 for Android, iPhone and iPad

Microsoft is rolling out Skype 6.0 for Android, iPhone and iPad, which has been redesigned for each of the devices. Skype 6.0 for Android includes a floating action button, an enhanced search and improved messaging. Skype 6.0 for iPhone and iPad has an enhanced search and implements all the Skype for iPhone features on the iPad.

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Sep 01

View on Microsoft’s August activities

Microsoft has fully embraced delivering its products on non-Microsoft platforms as is seen by the continual development and releases of its flagship products on iPhone, Android, iPad and Mac. This month saw the delivery of preview versions of Skype for Business apps on iOS and Android, the release of Skype 7.11 for Mac as well as a public beta of Cortana on Android.

In addition, Microsoft announced the public release of Windows 10 IoT Core for the Raspberry Pi 2 and the MinnowBoard Max.

System Center Operations Manager management packs have been released for MySQL Server and Apache HTTP Server, which along with the Linux management packs improves Microsoft ability to provide LAMP stack monitoring. The two new management packs are open source and have been published on GitHub.

The company has also being very active in developing and evolving its cloud platform, which included another preview of Windows Server 2016 that supports containers and software-defined datacentres, the third technical preview of System Center Configuration Manager, an update to Microsoft Intune service, the release of row-Level Security for Azure SQL Database as well as the release of the fourth update to the Analytics Platform System (APS) Appliance.

Many of the articles published on Microsoft News have focused on Windows 10 apps and technical articles to encourage developers to build universal Windows apps. Microsoft claims that Windows 10 is now on 75 million devices and, as you might expect from a free upgrade, has exceeded comparable figures for Windows 7.

Microsoft has released another Windows 10 test build (10532) to insiders that includes changes to context menus, another version of its Edge browser, which has a range of enhancements, as well as a number of bug fixes.

After running Windows 10 since its release, here are my ”recommended” changes…

Unsolicited machine starts and battery longevity:

  • After upgrading to Windows 10, keep your machine powered on and running for some time (overnight or, depending on what’s on your machine, even longer) – this allows a number of post update background tasks to complete and, once done, CPU and disk usage will drop to normal levels
  • Disable “Allow wake timers” under the Sleep section of Advanced Power settings
  • Set “Run maintenance tasks at” to a time that your device is normally switched on and disable “Allow scheduled maintenance to wake up my computer at the scheduled time” – both these settings can be found under Automatic Maintenance
  • For Surface Pro, disable “Sdo Sensor V2” in the Device Manager
  • Disable “Hey Cortana” voice activation on mobile devices

Privacy:

  • Select “PCs on my local network” on the Choose how updates are delivered page (Settings, Windows Update, Advanced Options, Choose how updates are delivered) – prevents your machine serving updates to other users via the Internet
  • Disable any items under “For networks I select, share them with my” on the Manage WiFi Settings page (Settings, Network & Internet, WiFi, Manage WiFi Settings) – prevents automatically allowing your Outlook, Skype and Facebook contacts connecting to networks on which you have been connected

User Interface:

  • Enable Bold for Title bars (Settings, System, Display, Advanced display settings, Advanced sizing of text and other items) – my personal preference to improve the aesthetics of the white Windows Title Bars.

Do let me know if have any tips you think are worth sharing and whether you found the above of interest.

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Sep 01

Microsoft updates Power BI Mobile apps

Microsoft has released updates to Power BI Mobile apps, including iOS, Android and Windows apps. The updates include improved navigation on Android; customised colours for charts and tiles; view and explore native Excel reports directly from the iPad or Windows App; touch-optimised navigation between tiles in the Windows app; as well as an improved login and authentication experience.

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Jul 24

Microsoft announces Azure Rights Management support for iPad and iPhone

Microsoft has announced that Azure Rights Management now supports Office for iPad and on iPhone devices. The release allows rights protected documents on iPad and iPhone to be viewed natively within the Office application (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). The ability to create, edit and publish rights protected documents is not supported at this time.

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Jun 26

Microsoft releases Sway for iPad

Microsoft has announced the availability of Sway for iPad as well as an updated version of Sway for iPhone. Sway for iPad has been optimised for the larger screen and allows you to create, view and share Sways in landscape and portrait mode and includes a few additional capabilities, such as the Remix! button for trying out different layouts and styles.

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Feb 20

Microsoft announces handwriting in OneNote for iPad and OCR on all devices

Microsoft has introduced improvements for capturing content into OneNote that includes handwriting in OneNote for iPad and the addition of optical character recognition (OCR), which enables text search within all images that are added to notebooks saved on OneDrive. OCR works with any version of OneNote, from Windows Phone to Mac and OneNote Online.

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