Free Xamarin Training for Your New Year’s Weekend

Paul Ballard

30 Dec , 2016  

New Year’s Eve weekend is a time to party, but for the geeks among us, it may also be a good opportunity to curl up with some dev training videos.

Enter Microsoft/Xamarin with their on-demand recordings of Xamarin Dev Days sessions. The mobile development training event takes place periodically in cities around the world, and as of this month, you can also participate virtually via Xamarin Dev Days Live on Microsoft’s Channel 9. (Hat tip to Petri’s Paul Thurrott for first pointing this out.)

The five-episode track, which first aired Dec. 14, kicks off with Introduction to Xamarin,  Cross-Platform UI with Xamarin.Forms and Cloud First Apps with Azure. The “afternoon” sessions are more hands-on; you can follow along as the instructors walk through building an app.

Log on and get to brainstorming about what you’ll build in 2017.

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Teach Cortana New Tricks (and Reach Her Users) With the Cortana Skills Kit

Paul Ballard

14 Dec , 2016  

Microsoft announced Tuesday that it’s introducing a Cortana Skills Kit, allowing developers to add new capabilities to the virtual assistant.

Developers using the kit will be able to turn their web services, bots created with the Microsoft bot framework, and existing Alexa skills into new skills for Cortana. Currently in private preview, the kit will be more widely available in 2017.

Microsoft partners already using the kit include Expedia, which trained Cortana to book hotels using its bot, and CapitalOne, which programmed Cortana to have hands-free, natural language conversations with users about their money.

Developers can sign up here to be notified when the kit is available.

The Cortana Skills Kit was part of a small flurry of AI-related announcements Microsoft made this past week, as the company continues its push to “democratize AI” (and make Cortana more competitive with Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa).

Microsoft is partnering with manufacturers on a range of Cortana-enabled IoT devices, with and without screens. The Cortana Devices SDK will allow manufacturers to integrate Cortana across devices and platforms, and Harmon Kardon has already released a sneak preview of what appears to be an Echo-like audio system, set to debut next year, that combines Cortana with its speakers.… Read more

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Microsoft Outlines Plans for Budget VR, Will Share Dev Kit in February

Paul Ballard

8 Dec , 2016  

If you’re not ready to shell out $3,000 for a Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality device, you’re not alone, and Microsoft knows this. That’s why it’s partnering with companies including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo to create a line of lower-cost augmented and virtual reality headsets for the Average Joe or Jane Gamer.

The head-mounted displays (HMDs), will start at $299, according to details revealed during yesterday’s keynote at the company’s WinHEC hardware event in Shenzhen, China. They’ll draw on the same Windows Holographic technology that powers HoloLens, but unlike the standalone HoloLens, they’ll need to be connected to a PC to operate.

System requirements for using the HMDs, which are set to start shipping in the first half of 2017, are as follows, according to

CPU: 6th or 7th generation Intel Core i5 mobile dual-core CPU with Hyperthreading or equivalent

GPU: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 (GT2) or equivalent or greater DirectX12-capable GPU

RAM: 8 GB+ Dual Channel required for integrated graphics

Video-out: HDMI 1.4 with 2880×1440 @ 60 HzHDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.3+ with 2880×1440 @ 90 Hz

HDD: 100GB+ SSD (Preferred)/HDD

USB: USB 3.0 Type-A or USB 3.1 Type-C Port with DisplayPort Alternate Mode

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 for accessories

The upshot of this is, of course, that developers will enjoy a much broader market for apps and games.… Read more

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Non-Admin Users Can Now Create Symlinks in Windows 10

Paul Ballard

6 Dec , 2016  

With the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft is making it easier for developers to create symlinks, virtual files that link to actual physical files located somewhere else. The change should speed development in Windows 10, making use of symlinks on the platform as seamless as it already is on Linux and OSX.

As Microsoft notes in a blog post, symlinks are widely used by developers to save disk space and for swifter deployment of projects, and are supported by code repositories like GitHub. While Linux, OSX and other Unix-based systems allow symlinks to be created without restrictions, Windows 10 users have until now needed a command-line console elevated as administrator to make and modify the links.

But starting with the Creators Update, any Windows 10 user with Developer Mode enabled will be able to create symlinks using either the mklink command or the CreateSymbolicLink API. Microsoft’s got some information on how to do this here.

Windows 10 Insiders running Build 14972 can go ahead and preview the feature now.



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Microsoft Bets Big on Quantum Computing

Paul Ballard

22 Nov , 2016  

Microsoft has hired several of the world’s foremost quantum computing experts, doubling down on the effort to build a machine that could solve complex problems much more quickly than a digital computer.

Microsoft hardware guru Todd Holdmdahl will lead a research team focused on using a unit of quantum information called a topological qubit to create scalable quantum hardware and software.

The team will include physicists Leo Kouwenhoven of Delft University of Technology, Charles Marcus of the University of Copenhagen, ETH Zurich’s Matthias Troyer and David Reilly of the University of Sydney.

Unlike digital computers, quantum computers would have the ability to process multiple solutions to a problem simultaneously rather than sequentially, potentially speeding up scientific quests to combat climate change and feed the world’s population, among other goals.

“There is a real opportunity to apply these computers to things that I’ll call material sciences of physical systems,” Holmdahl said in a Microsoft blog post. “A lot of these problems are intractable on a classical computer, but on a quantum computer we believe that they are tractable in a reasonable period of time.”

While the qubits that quantum computers could run on are notoriously finicky–requiring very cold environments with minimum intereference to retain their quantum state–Microsoft’s researchers believe that topological qubits will be more tolerant to outside inputs like heat and electrical noise.… Read more

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Yes, Microsoft Just Joined the Linux Foundation

Paul Ballard

17 Nov , 2016  

Microsoft’s commitment to open-source reached a new high Wednesday when the company announced it’s joining the Linux Foundation.

The company that once sought to build a wall around its proprietary software kingdom will now join corporations like Intel, Huawei and Samsung as high-paying Platinum Level members of the foundation, according to TechCrunch. The Linux Foundation supports the scaling of open-source projects including Node.Js, drawing on the 25-year history of the most popular open-source operating system.

Microsoft has been cozying up to the Linux community under CEO Satya Nadella, surprising developers by adding Linux command lines to Windows 10 and bringing SQL Server to Linux. Redmond has also open-sourced Visual Studio Code and the entire Xamarin SDK, among other company resources.

As Microsoft shifts its focus to the cloud, company leaders have realized that shared software development is the key to success in that arena.

“As a cloud platform company we aim to help developers achieve more using the platforms and languages they know,” Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group, said in announcing the Linux Foundation membership.

Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin noted Microsoft’s evolution on open source: “Microsoft has grown and matured in its use of and contributions to open source technology,” Zemlin said.… Read more

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Microsoft to Release Mac Version of Visual Studio

Paul Ballard

14 Nov , 2016  

In a month of many surprises, Microsoft has one more for developers everywhere: It’s finally bringing Visual Studio to Mac.

A preview version of Visual Studio for Mac will debut at this week’s Connect conference, according to a blog post the company published and later deleted. (Thanks to our friends over at Engadget for saving a cached version.)

Based on Xamarin technology, the Mac version of Microsoft’s integrated development environment is primarily designed to support development for  iOS, Android and Mac, as well as server development via .NET Core. It’s powered by C# and includes F# support.

With Mac and Windows versions of Visual Studio available, developers working on different platforms will be able to collaborate on projects without converting files. Microsoft is also promising a companion Mac version of Visual Studio Code, the streamlined version of VS for quickly editing source code.

The move to make Microsoft’s integrated development environment available to Mac users is the latest sign of the company’s new platform-agnostic, cloud-focused strategy.

“This is an exciting development, evolving the mobile-centric Xamarin Studio IDE into a true mobile-first, cloud-first development tool for .NET and C#, and bringing the Visual Studio development experience to the Mac,” reads the blog post.… Read more

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Microsoft Open-Sources Azure Container Services Engine

Paul Ballard

8 Nov , 2016  

Microsoft on Monday announced a number of updates to Azure Container Services that it says will make the container service more open and flexible.

First up: The Kubernetes cloud orchestrator is now available in preview for Azure Container Services. This gives ACS customers a choice of orchestration technologies, with support for DC/OS, Swarm and Kubernetes.

Microsoft is also open-sourcing the engine it uses to create Azure Container Service deployments, with the code available on GitHub. “This new open source project…will allow us to share with the community how we deploy DC/OS, Swarm and Kubernetes and collaborate on best practices for orchestrating containers on Azure, both public and on Azure Stack,” reads a Microsoft blog post.

“Furthermore, with the ACS Engine, you can modify and customize deployments of the service beyond what is possible today. Finally, with your help, we can take contributions from the community and improve the service running in Azure.”

Containerization is becoming increasingly popular as a virtualization technology for businesses. Microsoft has also promised to unveil a new integration of Visual Studio and Azure Container Services for developers. Set to drop November 14, the new experience will allow developers to “easily set up continuous integration and deployment of multicontainer Linux applications using Visual Studio, Visual Studio Team Services and the open source Visual Studio Code,” according to Microsoft.… Read more

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Can Microsoft Beat Slack at its Own Game?

Paul Ballard

3 Nov , 2016  

It was less than two months ago that rumors of a Microsoft competitor to Slack, the messaging app popular in tech and other creative industries, began leaking to the public.

Microsoft Teams has been quick to market, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announcing Wednesday that commercial customers in 181 countries are now previewing the app. And now you can download Microsoft Teams yourself, with desktop versions for Windows and Mac available on the Microsoft website. Mobile versions for iPhone, Android and Windows are also available.

Included with Office 365 Business and Enterprise, the service offers both text and Skype-enabled video chat, facilitating communication among users whether they’re sitting near each other or working remotely.

The Office 365 and Skype integration make Microsoft Teams a winner among large companies that want to improve their internal communication. But smaller, more nimble businesses may appreciate that Slack enables communication with anyone–freelancers, vendors and others not part of their organization. They also may want a service that at its most basic level is free, without having to purchase Office 365.

As The Verge’s Tom Warren points out, Microsoft has open-sourced the Teams APIs and is encouraging developers to build extensions. How developers choose to innovate on each platform may determine their usefulness in the future.… Read more

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Learn About Azure Container Services in Latest Wintellect Webinar

Blaize Stewart

31 Oct , 2016   Video

Azure Container Services is one of the hottest implementations of Containers-as-a-Service for many reasons. Unlike many other CaaS implentations, ACS is pure Docker, yet it is fully backed and supported by many popular tools for Azure administration. When deployed, it is production ready, secure, and easily scaled.

This one-hour webinar will demonstrate the power and efficiency of ACS and how you can use it for your applications. Click on the video above to view, and give us your feedback in the comments.… Read more

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