Microsoft has just unveiled the brand new Visual Studio 2013 development suite and together with it, the company also introduced cloud-based companion called Visual Studio Online.
This new service is based on Microsoft’s very own Windows Azure and comes with a freeware license for development groups of up to five users.
Visual Studio Online will, however, be offered in four different options, namely Visual Studio Online Advanced, Visual Studio Online Professional, Visual Studio Online Basic, and Visual Studio Premium with MSDN.
This last version comes with support for an unlimited number of users, as well as with integration with lots of development tools, such the desktop-based Visual Studio, Eclipse, and Xcode. It also includes support for Office 365 business apps and tools to host team projects on-premises and in the cloud.
At the same time, Visual Studio Online comes with support for Monaco, a new coding environment specifically designed for the cloud. According to ZDNet, Microsoft recently revealed that work on Monaco has started three years ago, as it’s based on a service providing users specific Visual Studio features right within a browser.
“Visual Studio Online, formerly Team Foundation Service, is the home for your project data in the cloud. Get up and running in minutes on our cloud infrastructure without having to install or configure a single server,” Microsoft said in the introduction of the new cloud-based service.
“Set up an environment that includes everything from hosted Git repos and project tracking tools, to continuous integration and an IDE, all packaged up in a monthly per-user plan. Connect to your project in the cloud using your favorite development tool, such as Visual Studio, Eclipse or Xcode.”
In the newly released Volume 15 of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIRv15), one of the key findings to surface relates to new insight on the Windows XP operating system as it inches toward end of support on April 8, 2014.In this post we want to highlight our Windows XP analysis and examine what the data says about the risks of being on unsupported software. In the SIR, we traditionally report on supported operating systems only. For this analysis we examined data from unsupported platforms, like Windows XP SP2, from a few different data points:Earlier today we published a blog post that discussed a new metric for analyzing malware
Microsoft will acquire Nokia’s devices and services unit and license the company’s mapping services in a deal worth $7.2 billion in a bid to bolster the company’s position in the smartphone market.
The software giant will pay $5 billion for “substantially all” of Nokia’s phone unit and another $2.2 billion to license its patents, the companies announced late Sunday. As part of the deal, Stephen Elop will step down as Nokia chief executive to become the executive vice president of the devices and services division. Elop, a former Microsoft executive, is one of a handful of candidates suggested to replace Microsoft Steve Ballmer, who is expected to retire by next summer.
“Today’s agreement will accelerate the momentum of Nokia’s devices and services, bringing the world’s most innovative smartphones to more people, while continuing to connect the next billion people with Nokia’s mobile phone portfolio,” Ballmer and Elop said in a joint statement.
Elop, the former president of the Microsoft Business Division, left the software giant three years ago this month to head up Nokia. He joined Microsoft in January 2008 after serving as COO of Juniper Networks and as an executive at Adobe Systems.
“Building on our successful partnership, we can now bring together the best of Microsoft’s software engineering with the best of Nokia’s product engineering, award-winning design, and global sales, marketing and manufacturing,” Elop said in a statement. “With this combination of talented people, we have the opportunity to accelerate the current momentum and cutting-edge innovation of both our smart devices and mobile phone products.”
Nokia Chairman Risto Siilasmaa will become Nokia’s interim CEO while the company searches for a permanent replacement.
“For Nokia, this is an important moment of reinvention and from a position of financial strength, we can build our next chapter,” Siilasmaa said. “After a thorough assessment of how to maximize shareholder value, including consideration of a variety of alternatives, we believe this transaction is the best path forward for Nokia and its shareholders. Additionally, the deal offers future opportunities for many Nokia employees as part of a company with the strategy, financial resources and determination to succeed in the mobile space.”
Also joining Microsoft as part of the deal are Jo Harlow, Juha Putkiranta, Timo Toikkanen, and Chris Weber.
The acquisition suggests that like Apple, Microsoft believes it needs more direct control of handset manufacturing to succeed in the smartphone market. The relationship between Nokia Microsoft and Nokia began in February 2011 when Elop, who had arrived at the beleaguered Finnish handset maker from Microsoft five months earlier, announced at a developer’s conference that Nokia was adopting Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone OS.
At the time, Nokia was lagging far behind in the smartphone wars and was looking to grown beyond its own MeeGo and Symbian platforms. Google’s Android OS was another contender, but Elop promised that a Microsoft partnership would encompass phones, developers, mobile services, partnerships with carriers, and app stores to distribute software.
Two days later at the 2011 Mobile World congress in Barcelona, Spain, Elop expanded on the news with a promise that Nokia would “swing” the market toward Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform. The company’s first phones began to arrive later that year with its first flagship device, the Nokia Lumia 900, arriving almost a year later at the 2012 CES.
Despite market domination by Android and Apple’s iOS, handsets running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system seem to be gaining in popularity, especially among new users. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reported this weekend that at the end of July Windows Phone dominated 8.2 percent of the five major European markets, including the UK, France, and Germany.
As part of the deal, Nokia will grant Microsoft a 10-year non-exclusive licence to its patents, and Microsoft will grant Nokia reciprocal rights to use to its location-based patents.
The deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, is still subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. When the deal closes, approximately 32,000 Nokia employees will transfer to Microsoft, including 4,700 in Finland and 18,300 involved in manufacturing.
ne of the appealing features that Windows 8.1 Preview was made available with was support for a wider range of devices, through several new and innovative APIs included in the platform release.
Windows 8 already offered support for various device scenarios, including print, sensors, and geolocation, but provided limited access to arbitrary devices (available only for dedicated device apps).
Windows 8.1 Preview, however, changes that, as support for APIs such as Point of Sale (POS), 3D printing, and scanning is included in the new platform release.
Furthermore, Microsoft explains that the new feature, paired with device protocol APIs, can deliver access to a wide array of new devices.
“Device protocol APIs, new to Windows 8.1, allow a Windows Store app to talk to a device over industry standard protocols like USB, HID, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, and Wi-Fi Direct,” George Roussos, senior program manager, explains in a blog post.
“As a developer, all you need to do is simply identify the device (leveraging metadata) and then open a communication channel to the device. Opening a channel prompts for user consent. This is a critical step to help prevent apps from accidentally or maliciously communicating with one or more devices without the user’s awareness.
“Once access is granted, the app can communicate with a device, including starting long data transfers, which can continue even if the user swipes to another app,” he also notes.
Through the aforementioned access to devices available via device protocol APIs, a series of new scenarios is supported in Windows 8.1 Preview, including IHV Device Access, which enables hardware vendors to come up with new apps for their products without the need of specific drivers.
Manufacturers will also be able to create a standard to allow communication with their devices, which means that developers can build new apps that could communicate with them.
Said access to devices also enables home developers to come up with their own software to communicate with non-standard devices.
Additional info on how to build, test, and deploy such applications can be found in a series of resources on Microsoft’s own website, including:
Using Geolocation and Geofencing in Windows Store pps [3-9034]
3D Printing with Windows [3-9027]
Building Windows Apps That Use Scanners [3-025]
How to Use Point-of-Sale Devices in Your App [3-029]
Apps for Bluetooth, HID, and USB Devices (focusing on Bluetooth RFCOMM) [3-026]
Apps for Bluetooth Smart Devices [3-9028]
Apps for USB Devices [3-924a]
Apps for HID Devices [2-924b]
“Windows 8.1 Preview provides rich support for apps to communicate with devices. By integrating standard devices (e.g. printers, sensors) or even custom devices seamlessly into your apps, users can enjoy a fast and fluid way of interacting with their favorite devices,” George Roussos concludes.
The next “space race” might be the race to develop a synthetic model of the human brain – one that Google and Microsoft will participate in, if a report is true.
And instead of trying to beat the Russians, this time the Americans will be racing against the Europeans, who have already announced their plans.
The New York Times reported Monday that the Obama Administration is close to announcing the Brain Activity Map, which scientists quoted by the paper say could be on the scale of the The Human Genome Project, a $3.8 billion project to map the human genome that, the Times reported, returned $800 billion in jobs and other benefits.
The Brain Activity Map would attempt to document how the brain works, from the tiniest neurons up through how possibly the different regions of the brain communicate with one another. If the project succeeds, the Brain Activity Map might give us an understanding of how the human brain “computes” data through its complex web of neurons. It might also help scientists solve brain-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Modelling the human brain, and figuring out how it works, has long been one of the Holy Grails of supercomputing, prompting fears of a “technological singularity,” where successively advanced artificial intelligences design ever more refined versions of themselves, leading to a future where humans become increasingly irrelevant.
On a more realistic scale, learning how people think could allow services to begin anticipating their needs, a problem companies like Google and Microsoft would be interested in solving. The Times reported that a Jan. 17 meeting at CalTech was attended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and National Science Foundation, plus Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm.
Google representatives did not return an emailed request for comment, possibly because of the U.S. President’s Day holiday. A Microsoft Research representative said that the company declined to comment.
Two of the foundations of the Times report were public statements: a tweet by NIH director Francis S. Collins, and a mention of the efforts to map the brain by President Obama in his State of the Union address:
“Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy,” Obama said, according to a transcript of the speech. “Every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. We’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race. We need to make those investments.”
Collins then tweeted: “Obama mentions the #NIH Brain Activity Map in #SOTU”.
The Other Horses in the Race: the EU
Funding for the U.S. effort could last as long as 10 years, and possibly top $3 billion over that time. But the bar was set earlier by a massive collaboration among more than 80 European research agencies, which won an award from the EU of one billion euros ($1.34 billion) to develop a computer simulation of the human brain, known as The Human Brain Project.
That will partly cover the intriguingly named “Neuropolis,” a building dedicated to ”in silico life science” that will serve, at least in part, as the computer infrastructure behind the effort. The Swiss Confederation, the Rolex Group, and various third-party sponsors are backing this part of the effort.
“The HBP will build new platforms for “neuromorphic computing” and “neurorobotics,” enabling researchers to develop “new computing systems and robots based on the architecture and circuitry of the brain,” according to the The Human Brain Project.
Other Horses: IBM’s/DARPA SYNAPSE
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, responsible for the initial funding and challenges to design self-driving cars and other public-private partnerships, has worked with IBM to develop SYNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics), whose ultimate goal is to build a “build a cognitive computing architecture with 1010 and 106 synapses” – not a biologically realistic simulation of the human brain, but one where computation (“neurons”), memory (“synapses”), and communication (“axons,” “dendrites”) are mathematically abstracted away from biological detail.
A Network of Neurosynaptic Cores Derived from Long-distance Wiring in the Monkey Brain: Each brain-inspired region is symbolically represented by a picture of IBM’s SyNAPSE Phase 1 neuro-synaptic core. Arcs are colored gold to symbolize wiring on a chip. (Source: Dharmendra S Modha)
Using 96 Blue Gene/Q racks at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the most powerful supercomputer in the world, the team achieved 2.084 billion neurosynaptic cores containing 5310 neurons and 1.37×1014 synapses, according to the blog of Dharmendra Mohda, the leader of IBM’s Cognitive Computing division. That’s only 1,542 times slower than real time.
IBM assembled its diagram of the interconnections inside the cerebral cortex of the macaque, a small monkey, as an early model of how the brain works.
IBM’s Watson, of course, is another example of how a computer can interact with humans, absorbing the reams of unstructured data and winning Jeopardy, among other things.
Google itself last year sat down to try and develop its own neural network, and then presented it with data from its own network. The result, as was somewhat widely publicized, was that the network ended up constructing an internal image of a cat, and then spent its computational efforts deciding which YouTube videos were and were not cats.
So how could Google or Microsoft benefit from a federal partnership? On the surface, they might receive federal funding for research. Cognitive computing on the order of what IBM is hoping to achieve, for example, can take millions and millions of dollars, even if the computing resources are already available. (The Times reported that the CalTech meeting was designed to determine if sufficient computing resources were indeed available; the answer is yes, the paper reported.)
Thinking the way that humans think would allow Google or Microsoft to anticipate even more what their users want, and to provide them with that data. Both companies can do that to some extent through data accumulated from millions of users; if the most common “t” word I search for is Twitter.com, Google can start pre-loading the page in the background. But thinking like a human thinks, and making the seemingly random associations that humans make thousands of times faster than we make, could mean everything from artificially-crafted memes to pre-processed sound bites for politicians.
Version 7.0 of DotNetNuke, an open-source content-management system that you’ve probably never heard of, is now released and bringing enterprise-level web content functionality to users committed to Microsoft-based infrastructure. The .NET-based DotNetNuke will be a significant player in a growing cloud-computing environment where Microsoft Web servers may be more relevant.
Web Servers: Where Microsoft Doesn’t Rule
Depending on how you examine the data, less than one-fifth of the world’s sites run Microsoft-based Web servers like Internet Information Server. And, unlike all the cool kids running open-source code like Apache and nginx, IIS players don’t always want to run popular content-management systems like Joomla, Drupal or WordPress.
[Update: The preceding paragraph was corrected to update an error regarding the capabilities of CMS systems and IIS. -BKP]
Let’s be honest: 16.52% of the world’s tracked Web servers running IIS in November 2012 is tiny compared to Apache’s 57.23% share. But having almost 17% of servers locked up is still a heck of lot of sites — 103.3 million, actually. Even if just 1% of them need a WordPress-like CMS, that’s a little over a million sites pining away.
It’s all very well to snicker at these shops and prescribe spinning up some Apache-on-Linux servers, and installing Joomla or one of the other CMSes. But CIOs make IT investments for a strategic reason and have put a lot of time and money into their infrastructure. Generally, they’re not just rolling dice, which means it’s not always easy to get them to shift to non-Microsoft technologies.
Enter DotNetNuke Corp., maker of its self-named .NET-based platform. The CMS plays very well with native Microsoft tech and provides CIOs a robust tool that compares favorably with Drupal. Since its initial release in late 2002, DotNetNuke has enjoyed a strong following within the Microsoft ecosystem, and has about 800,000 registered users, according to Shaun Walker, co-founder and CTO of the company.
Filling The .NET Gap
The latest iteration of DotNetNuke has a broad range of new features, with a new interface that includes a more-robust editor and version-management system, as well as Active Directory support so enterprise employees can plug into site-content systems seamlessly. Cascading-style-sheet management is reportedly a lot easier to use, which should make designers happy.
DotNetNuke is a bit of an oddity within the Microsoft world. It’s actually an open-source licensed platform, using an MIT software license. The MIT license is what’s known as a permissive license, which means the code for the software is open but users and developers aren’t required to publish their changes, as with restrictive licenses like the GNU General Public License. Walker highlighted this as one reason why Microsoft-oriented customers don’t have a problem with using an open-source platform.
That DotNetNuke’s potential market is such a small minority of servers in the world might seem like a liability, but Walker believes that there is a lot of potential for DotNetNuke just around the corner. With the advent of HTML5 and Java-based sites, “pretty soon the underlying architecture won’t matter as much.”
If development does shift more to the client-side layer, then the Web server layer where Apache, nginx, and IIS live would become more of an abstraction. Given the relatively low cost of cloud-based instances of even IIS, companies with more .Net assets and developers might therefore migrate to IIS in order to streamline their IT resources.
That’s the vision Walker has, but it remains to be seen if IIS can experience strong growth, even in the cloud, up against the free Apache and nginx servers.
For now, DotNetNuke soldiers on, filling a gap for IT managers who are still dedicated to the Microsoft Way.
Microsoft appears to be working on an augmented reality headset of its own, similar to Google’s Project Glass.
In a new patent application, the company describes a glasses-based system that overlays information onto the user’s view.
Unlike the Google version, though, it’s envisioned as something you’d wear specifically for live events rather than all day every day – at a baseball game, for example, where scores and other information could be displayed.
The glasses could be dished out to spectators at the beginning of an event, in much the same way as 3D glasses are at the movies today.
“A user wearing an at least partially see-through, head mounted display views the live event while simultaneously receiving information on objects, including people, within the user’s field of view, while wearing the head mounted display,” reads the application.
“The information is presented in a position in the head mounted display which does not interfere with the user’s enjoyment of the live event.”
Eye tracking would be used to work out where the user’s looking, and GPS to work out precisely where they are, and the data tailored accordingly.
While the patent application doesn’t mention the Xbox, the system looks an awful lot like the AR glasses leaked this summer as part of an internal Microsoft presentation on the future of the Xbox.
And as an eagle-eyed Geekwire writer noticed, one of its two inventors is Kathryn Stone Perez, executive producer on the Xbox incubation team.
Windows 8 is almost here, but despite Microsoft’s best efforts, there just aren’t that many Windows 8-style apps available yet. To kick-start the Windows 8 development community, Microsoft today announced that it is hosting a global hackathon in over 60 cities from November 9 to 11. Registration for the event is now open.
The hackathon, which Microsoft decided to call “Wowzapp 2012,” is mostly geared toward students, but a Microsoft spokesperson told me that it is open to all developers.
Microsoft will provide all participants with the necessary tools to build their apps, including Visual Studio 2012 Express (which, just like Visual Studio Professional, is free for students through Microsoft’s DreamSpark program). At the event, Microsoft app experts, developers and trainers will be on hand to help the participants develop their apps (or put the finishing touches on their existing apps). In addition to this help, participants will also receive a Windows Store registration code so they can submit their apps for to the Store.
“Windows 8 represents a prime opportunity for students to gain practical experience as developers and potentially earn money through app downloads in the Windows Store, before even graduating from college,” says Microsoft. “Whether a student wants to offer their application for free or make money from paid apps or advertising, the Windows Store provides the flexibility to do so.”
In addition to this program, Microsoft is also running Generation App and other initiatives to motivate developers to write apps for Windows 8. Just last month, Microsoft also hosted Appfest in Bangalore, India, the world’s largest non-stop coding marathon, where over 2,500 developers write Windows 8
The Linux Foundation has proposed a solution for the current conundrum Linux is facing, with the introduction of Secure boot specification for UEFI.
UEFI, Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, or as the Linux community calls it “The Secret Plan of Microsoft to Take Over the World” (cue evil laughter), is thought more as a necessary evil.
Unfortunately, the implementation of Secure boot has proven to hinder the development of Linux distributions. Secure boot can prevent the loading of an operating system that is not signed with an acceptable digital signature.
The Linux Foundation has found a solution to this problem, as explained by James Bottomley, from Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board.
“The Linux Foundation will obtain a Microsoft Key and sign a small pre-bootloader which will, in turn, chain load (without any form of signature check) a predesignated boot loader which will, in turn, boot Linux (or any other operating system),” said Bottomley.
The pre-bootloader has a few protections in place, insuring that it cannot be used as a vector for any type of UEFI malware to target secure systems.
This pre-bootloader can be used either to boot a CD/DVD installer or LiveCD distribution or even boot an installed operating system, in secure mode, for any distribution that chooses to use it.
Microsoft has yet to provide a signature, but The Linux Foundations says it is just a matter of time. The pre-bootloader will be available to download from their website.
James Bottomley also provided some technical details about the project. “The real bootloader must be installed on the same partition as the pre-bootloader with the known path loader.efi (although the binary may be any bootloader including Grub2). The pre-bootloader will attempt to execute this binary and, if that succeeds, the system will boot normally,” stated The Linux Foundation representative.
More information about the pre-bootloader will be made available once The Linux Foundation obtains the Microsoft key.
The latest language from the company once identified for its programming languages seeks to bring a higher class of developer into the Web apps space, without changing the foundation of the Web… even if such a change wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
As with so much else on the Web, platform engineers are largely of the mindset that it’s too late to do much about it now. The exceptions are companies whose backbones still have some swagger to them, especially in the face of something new called “competition.” While Microsoft has been taking fewer risks quantitatively of late, the risks it does take have been bigger: the Start Screen in Windows 8, the expansion of Xbox into a media platform, the splicing of Windows Phone with Windows PC, the abandonment of Silverlight in favor of WinRT.
One Giant Step Up From Level II BASIC
Microsoft’s introduction of TypeScript is not that big, and is not really a risk. In terms of product, it’s a free Visual Studio add-on (downloadable here) that enables more learned, professional developers to adopt more formal approaches in producing code for the Web. In terms of marketing, it’s a nearly no-cost way for Microsoft to put its stake in the ground in territory Google has been working to claim for itself.
Making The Editor The Enforcer
But for developers to get behind any language – even a supplemental one – they need a rich development environment that understands it natively, as rich as Eclipse for Java. Progress on that front for Dart has been mixed, which is not uncharacteristic of projects at Google.
By comparison, TypeScript has the virtue of inserting itself into an development environment that’s already somewhat rich: Visual Studio. Once the add-on is plugged in, VS 2012 recognizes TypeScript as a formal file type.
Then as you’re developing the script, as this sample from VS 2012 shows, the editor keeps track of the proper types of each variable, even when in this case, it has yet to be assigned a value. Here, pointing to member function getDist() reveals a tip showing it to be a function (the closed parentheses) whose return value is of type number.
Insert Devious Plot Here
If Microsoft is guilty of falling into any familiar pattern with TypeScript, it’s that it’s not the first product in its class. What TypeScript has going for it, though, is no particularly good reason not to be adopted by Web apps developers, except for the possibility of a preferable alternative. Standards are for communications systems and interfaces; options are for people. TypeScript is one more option, and in my view so far, a sensible one.
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