May 03

Microsoft announces Surface Laptop

Microsoft has announced that its Surface Laptop will be available for purchase in June 2017. The laptop runs on Windows 10 S, a new edition of the operating system that only runs Microsoft Store applications and is designed to reduce management overheads.

The laptop weights 2.76lbs, is 14.47mm at its thickest point, uses a 13.5” PixelSense LCD touch screen display and comes with a 7th Generation Intel Core processor. Microsoft claims a battery life of 14.5 hours.

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Jan 25

Microsoft announces availability of high spec Surface Book and Surface Pro 4

Microsoft has announced that more powerful versions of Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 are now on sale in the United States and Canada. These products feature 1TB of storage with 6th Generation Intel Core i7 processors and 16GB of RAM.

Microsoft has also launched its gold Surface Pen offering 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. The pen is on sale in Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

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Nov 02

View on Microsoft’s October activities

Gartner has positioned Microsoft as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems.

Microsoft has started reminding its customers that extended support for SQL Server 2005 ends in April 2016 and uses the opportunity to promote to the latest version of SQL Server.

Updates to Power BI include custom visualisations, group options and mobile notifications, while the Power BI Desktop October update included 23 new or improved features.

During October, Microsoft has been promoting many of its new and updated offerings as well as continuing to push Office 365, which is now available from local datacentres in India. The recently released Office 2016 has features such as Clutter, which only work for Office 365 users and not for the one-time purchase version. Microsoft plans to release updates with new features that will be dependent on an Office 365 subscription.

There has been a flurry of activity around newly announced devices and Windows 10 hardware. As part of this campaign, Microsoft has opened a flagship store in New York City and announced the availability of the new Microsoft Band, Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 for purchase.

Microsoft’s partners have been announcing their Windows 10-based hardware offerings. These include HP, Dell with new XPS Devices, Acer’s new line of Windows 10-optimised Laptops and All-in-ones, Toshiba’s dynaPad Tablet, LG Electronics as well as Lenovo’s new YOGA 900 devices.

Microsoft and Dell have announced hybrid cloud solution and program offerings. The Cloud Platform System Standard (CPS Standard) being the newest addition to the Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS) family.

The Skype division has been active with the release of Skype Translator for Windows desktop app that includes six voice languages (English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish) as well as 50 messaging languages. The Skype for Web feature allows chats using a browser interface. Microsoft has also released Skype for Business iOS app and added new video filters with their updated Skype for Android, iPhone and iPad.

Factoids of the month include Microsoft Azure hiring people around the world with open source skills and Windows 10 running on 110 million devices.

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Oct 08

Microsoft unveils new Windows 10 Devices

Microsoft has announced its line-up of new devices, which includes Lumia phones designed for Windows 10 and upgrades and extends its Surface range. The new flagship phones are the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, with the Lumia 550 providing a more affordable option. The Surface family now comprises the Surface Book, Microsoft’ first laptop and Surface Pro 4, which is faster, thinner and lighter than its predecessor.

The company also revealed Microsoft Band 2, which includes a barometer, and announced the availability of Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition.

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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 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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