Monday, 9 May 2016

Pass4sure 70-461 Question Answer

You have a database that contains the tables shown in the exhibit. (Click the Exhibit button.)


You need to create a view named uv_CustomerFullName to meet the following requirements:
The code must NOT include object delimiters.
The view must be created in the Sales schema.
Columns must only be referenced by using one-part names.
The view must return the first name and the last name of all customers.
The view must prevent the underlying structure of the customer table from being changed.
The view must be able to resolve all referenced objects, regardless of the user's default schema.
Which code segment should you use?
To answer, type the correct code in the answer area.


Answer:

CREATE VIE W Sales.uv_CustomerFullName
WITH SCHEMABINDING
AS
SELECT FirstName, LastName
FROM Sales.Customers

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Pass4sure 70-461 Question Answer

You have a database that contains the tables shown in the exhibit. (Click the Exhibit button.)
You deploy a new server that has SQL Server 2012 installed. You need to create a table named
Sales.OrderDetails on the new server. Sales.OrderDetails must meet the following requirements:
Write the results to a disk.
Contain a new column named LineItemTotal that stores the product of ListPrice and Quantity for each row.
The code must NOT use any object delimiters.
The solution must ensure that LineItemTotal is stored as the last column in the table. Which code segment should you use?
To answer, type the correct code in the answer area.

Answer: CREATE TAB                                               

Monday, 28 March 2016

Microsoft Is Learning To Be A Partner But Keeping Its Competitive Edge


For all the talk of a new Microsoft, the company can still throw in a dash of the old. The only question is, which one will show up at any given time?

On the one hand, there’s little doubt the 40-year-old software giant is undergoing a cultural overhaul under Chief Executive Satya Nadella.

Once famously hard-edged and competitive, Microsoft in the past few years has surprised the technology industry with moves to better link its products to those of rivals. Conciliatory gestures toward the likes of Apple and Salesforce, far-fetched just a few years ago, have softened Microsoft’s public image.

That spirit is likely to be on display again beginning Wednesday this week, as Microsoft hosts its annual Build developer conference in San Francisco, an event where executives are expected to outline the company’s technology aims and how partner companies fit in.

 Beneath this surface, however, even a kinder, gentler Microsoft will still throw a few punches in the service of its core interests, say business partners and analysts who track the Redmond company.

Glimpses of that are visible in Microsoft’s two main corporate priorities: the push to spur adoption of the new Windows 10 operating system, and a bet-the-company effort to pull customers into Microsoft’s network of software delivered over the Internet — the much-heralded cloud computing.

In recent months, the company has irritated some Windows users with an aggressive push to upgrade to Windows 10, targeted flailing cloud-based note-taking startup Evernote with a new software tool, and briefly uninvited a cloud-computing competitor from a Microsoft conference.

“Microsoft is willing to break some glass along the way, as long as they don’t shatter it all,” said Patrick Moorhead, who dealt with Microsoft during stints at PC builder Compaq and chip-maker AMD, and now tracks the company at his private analysis firm. “They’re saying, ‘We’re going to move in this direction, we know we’re going to inconvenience some people, but this is the way that we think the industry is going over time.’ ”

New Windows


At last year’s Build, Terry Myerson, the Microsoft executive overseeing Windows, outlined where Microsoft was going with Windows 10, the then-upcoming version of the 30-year-old operating-system franchise. Microsoft, he said, aimed to have Windows 10 running on 1 billion devices within three years.

To meet that ambitious goal, Microsoft offered the software as a free update for home users, accompanied by a series of computer prompts to update. This year, those prompts switched for many to an automatic download and upgrade offer as part of Microsoft’s Windows software-update function.

The lack of an obvious “no, thanks” option rubbed some Windows users the wrong way.

Ron Loomis, a 68-year-old real-estate appraiser in Olympia, said he woke up one day earlier this month to find his home computer running Windows 10, an update he said he didn’t authorize. He rejected a prompt to approve the new software-license agreement, which reverted his system back to Windows 7.

After lunch, he found his PC again prompting him to try the new software.

“They seem pretty much to have decided that you’re going to have Windows 10,” Loomis said. “So what’s the point in asking?”

Microsoft says it offers users an option, not a requirement, to update and that the process requires people to affirmatively click through prompts multiple times. Ultimately, the company says, the software’s beefed-up security features and automatic updates are better for most users than older versions of Windows.

That hasn’t stopped people like Loomis from crying foul, arguing Microsoft is pushing a product they don’t want.

“They’re being aggressive in encouraging customers and compelling customers to make the move,” said Stephen Kleynhans, an analyst who tracks operating systems for researcher Gartner. “They really do want to get the older platforms out of the market.”

Cloud territory


Microsoft’s push also extends to the cloud, another commitment the company made last year at Build with a bold target.

Nadella said Microsoft’s range of business-focused cloud-computing products, including the Office 365 productivity suite and Azure data-center services, would be taking in $20 billion a year in revenue by 2018, a hugely ambitious goal for a set of businesses that, in many cases, didn’t exist just a few years ago.

To meet that target, Microsoft has lit a fire under its product groups, sales force and network of software resellers.

To entice customers to move to the cloud, Microsoft has started releasing some of its latest features first into its Web-based software variants, with those updates going to traditionally purchased versions later.

An executive of one Washington state software firm said the all-in move to the cloud was too quick for some software resellers who built their business off commissions for selling Microsoft’s out-of-the-box software.

“I see what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” said the executive, who didn’t want to be named for fear of jeopardizing business relationships with Microsoft. “They want to move everyone to the cloud, which is recurring revenue for them. But it is not always a great choice for the consumer.”

For partners who’d rather continue to rely primarily on noncloud business, he added, “they’ve made it inconvenient in many ways.”

Old ways


Okta, a San Francisco startup that builds software that enables businesses to manage their employees’ logins to cloud-based services, is one company recently exposed to the Microsoft sharp elbows — albeit temporarily.

The company does much of its work helping companies log on to Microsoft’s Office 365 Web-based productivity suite. During the past two years, Okta has showed off its products at Microsoft trade shows.

That symbiotic relationship has a complication, though.

As part of its effort to replicate its roster of business software in the cloud, Microsoft recently ramped up its effort to sell its Enterprise Mobility Suite, a product that performs many of the same functions as Okta’s and competes head to head in that marketplace. In media interviews, fast-growing Okta hasn’t been shy about its ambitions to win in the nascent market.

Earlier this month, after Okta put down a deposit to exhibit its products at a Microsoft information-technology conference, the San Francisco startup received a letter from Microsoft revoking the sponsorship. The reason: “broad competition between our companies.”

After a news story on the decision — and resulting critical reactions — Microsoft reversed itself and said Okta could, in fact, sponsor the event.

For Todd McKinnon, Okta’s chief executive, the decision smacked of the Microsoft of yesteryear.

“It’s ‘openness and fairness’ where they’ve lost, and old tactics where they think they can win,” McKinnon, in an interview, said of Microsoft’s posture. “They think they can take their (server and desktop software) business and replicate it in the cloud. But they don’t have to lose for us to win. That’s an old-school mentality.”

Microsoft says the Okta decision was an oversight, something of a hiccup on the way to turning over a new corporate leaf. Some observers agree.

“It takes a long, long time to change a culture,” said Jeffrey Hammond, who tracks developers at researcher Forrester. “For some people, they resist. It takes years to turn over managers, directors, vice presidents.”

The technology industry is littered with complicated relationships and changing allegiances.

Microsoft’s first markets, programming languages and associated software, made it a partner of the likes of IBM and Apple. But as the company’s ambitions broadened and Microsoft grew into a software juggernaut in the 1980s and 1990s, those relationships soured.

Similarly, one of the big, early moves in Microsoft’s newfound openness came in 2013 when the company announced that its cloud-computing platform would support database software made by Oracle. It was a break in decades of occasional hostility between the companies.

Of course, that partnership didn’t mean an end to all competition.

This month, Microsoft fired an unambiguous shot at Oracle, announcing that it would release a version of its previously Windows-only database software for Linux operating systems, a corner of the market dominated by Oracle.

“Oracle could be, conceptually, viewed as a partner when (the first) move happened,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with researcher Directions on Microsoft. “Now it’s very clear. Microsoft is reminding people that they may be a partner, but they’re also a competitor. You just need to be aware of where you fall.”

Monday, 21 March 2016

Microsoft Agrees Hiring Go-Go Dancers For Its Xbox Party Was Wrong

Microsoft says it was "unequivocally wrong" for hosting a party with scantily dressed female dancers during a video game developers' conference.

The party sparked a firestorm of criticism this week, in an industry that's been struggling to overcome longstanding complaints that it has objectified women and made them feel unwelcome as players and game-builders. In response, the head of Microsoft's Xbox division issued a statement saying the after-hours entertainment "represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values."

An Xbox spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the dancers, who wore abbreviated school-girl outfits as they reportedly greeted party-goers and danced on platforms. The party was held Thursday night during the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Several people who attended the after-hours party complained on social media that they were offended and disappointed at seeing the go-go dancers. Some also noted the irony that, just hours earlier, Microsoft had sponsored a "Women in Gaming" luncheon to promote diversity in the industry.

In a statement, Xbox chief Phil Spencer acknowledged the event "disappointed many people" and pledged to "do better in the future."

Xbox also released an email that Spencer sent to employees, which said the criticism was deserved. "I am personally committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion is central to our everyday business," he added.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Microsoft's New Software Turns Minecraft into A Testing Ground for AI


Artificial intelligence has beaten the ancient board game of Go, but can it master Minecraft? Researchers from Microsoft are opening up the game to computer scientists who want to train up AI programs.

Using games to test an AI's ability to teach itself a set of rules is an established approach, but most games used so far have been fairly simple. In February last year, for example, the Google-owned DeepMind (the same company that's tackled Go) created an AI that taught itself to play 49 Atari games. This was an incredible achievement, but the games involved were basic, including titles like Breakout that required the AI to only master a few rules (hit blocks; get a high score) in a two dimensional world.

At the time, DeepMind acknowledged that the next step would be to move onto more complex games, and Microsoft is allowing exactly the sort of next step. "Minecraft is the perfect platform for this kind of research because it’s this very open world," said Katja Hofmann, one of the researchers from Microsoft's Cambridge lab in a press release. "You can do survival mode, you can do ‘build battles’ with your friends, you can do courses, you can implement our own games. This is really exciting for artificial intelligence because it allows us to create games that stretch beyond current abilities."


To allow computer scientists to plug their programs into Minecraft, Hofmann and her colleagues created AIX: an open-source platform that acts as an AI interface for the game. Hoffman says that using this software, researchers will be able to test their AI on all the complex decision-making the game demands. You can tell an AI controlling a character to find the highest spot in the game, for example, and then the computer will have to work out how to navigate the terrain, make weapons, and kill zombies. Just like real life, of course.

Using Minecraft also allows researchers to test AI as if they were operating a physical avatar. "It allows you to have 'embodied AI'," AIX software engineer Matthew Johnson told BBC News. "So, rather than have a situation where the AI sees an avatar of itself, it can actually be inside, looking out through the eyes of something that is living in the world We think this is an essential part of building this kind of general intelligence." The company says this means AIX is a stepping stone to creating the sort of AI-interface that could one day be applied to real-life robots.

Unsupervised learning of the sort that AIX fosters is the next big step for artificial intelligence. Although deep learning systems created by companies like Facebook and Google have proved incredibly successful for commercial applications in recent years, the sort of intelligence they display is narrow. They can understand spoken commands and recognize images, for example, but they still make common sense mistakes. Tools like AIX will help create better methods for AI to teach themselves, and, subsequently, start to learn what the whole world is like, not just a small slice of it.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Microsoft just joined Facebook and fired a huge shot at Cisco

Microsoft on Wednesday made waves in the tech industry when it announced that it is giving away for free some software it designed for its own internal use called Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC).

And this news can't be making Cisco happy.
SONiC is software used to run an up-and-coming type of computer network switch that is rising in popularity, known as software-defined networking (SDN), that threatens to overturn Cisco's stranglehold on the network switch industry.

SDN takes all the fancy features that an expensive switch offers and puts them into software, making networks easier to program, update and change. You still need the hardware, but you can use less of it, or less expensive models.

Microsoft is giving SONiC software away as part of its work with the Open Compute Project (OCP), an organization founded by Facebook to build "open source" hardware for data centers the same way that the people behind the Linux operating system do with free, open source software.

OCP hardware designs are available for free for anyone to use, change, and contribute changes back to the group to use. Contract manufacturers are standing by to build the hardware.

By extension, companies like Microsoft are contributing the software needed to run hardware to OCP, like SONiC.


Facebook has also been taking shots at Cisco's world. It has been designing creative new network switches that use low-cost hardware and open source software and giving those designs away to OCP. Several companies are building Facebook's switches and selling them.

Microsoft developed SONiC to use in its own cloud computing data centers.

It's using it now to support its Azure and Office 365, Azure CTO Mark Russinovich tells Business Insider.

"We have it in production. One of the things we wanted to do was submit something that we were confident was well-thought through and would work," he says.

(By the way, Russinovich is a famous and high-profile guy at Microsoft. He joined the company when Microsoft bought his company, Winternals, in 2006, software that was beloved by IT professionals. He's been popular speaker at many Microsoft conferences, ever since, and he's written a bunch of tech-suspense-thriller novels, too.)

Two big partners are missing


Microsoft then lined up partners for SONiC, to help other companies adopt it.

They are:

  • Arista, makers of software programmable switches and Cisco's hated rival
  • Broadcom, the company that manufactures many of the chips used in network equipment
  • Dell, which has been heavily involved in OCP and has been going after the SDN market in a big way
  • Mellanox, another company that offers a programmable switch.

Two big names not working with SONiC? Cisco and VMware. VMware is the company that offers its own SDN software and wants to lead the SDN revolution.

Specifically, what SONiC does is offer a standard way to to control and program a network switch, the piece of equipment at the center of every computer network.
SONiC will work with any just about switch as long as it exposes its guts and allows itself to be programmed. That theoretically includes certain Cisco switches.

"People can take advantage of different switches from different vendors and have them plug into their software-defined networks, Russinovich told us. This "makes it easy to move from one to another vendor, or mix and match from different vendors."

That can't be music to Cisco's ears.
It's built its network equipment empire – owning as much as 60% of the market  – by making its products very sticky. Network engineers study for years to master the intracacies of operating a Cisco network, which makes these folks loath to buy, and learn, another vendor's software.

In fact, that's the main reason Cisco is currently suing Arista. Arista designed its software to work a lot like Cisco's.

The isn't the first networking project Microsoft donated to the OCP. In July, it OCP accepted some software that also helps companies program their networks.

As for how this affects Cisco or any incumbant network vendor, Russinovich tells us it doesn't matter. SDN is the future and it's here now.

"It's the reality of networking. Networking has to become software defined to operate at the agility of a hyperscale cloud, or any large data center that wants to support the speed that businesses want services to be deployed."

Cisco does have game in the SDN market. It's got its own super-fast Nexus 9000 switch, which run some of Cisco's optional, programmable software. And Cisco says it is selling very well.

But OCP is still challenging Cisco's whole model, offering new and lower-cost choices for building networks.

Cisco's new CEO might see the writing on the wall. He's been acquiring companies at a frantic pace to get Cisco into the next big things.

A couple of decades ago, Microsoft was at war with Linux and tried to destroy it. Now the company says it loves Linux. Funny, Microsoft didn't actually mention Linux or Debian in the two blog posts it wrote about SONic, but does say so on the GitHub page hosting SONic.

There might be a bunch of technical reasons for that choice. But there's also a rational business reason. Linux is already open source and Windows is not. Windows is proprietary. By giving this Linux software away for free, Microsoft isn't giving away any part of its own protected operating system.

It is simply doing to Cisco what Linux once did to Microsoft.



Monday, 7 March 2016

Top Story: Hackers Are using Microsoft Word To Steal Your Money



We've told you before how hackers like to disguise malicious program files as harmless documents, images or music files, and how to spot them. However, hackers can also use regular files to cause problems, specifically Word documents.

Using a specially crafted Word document, such as ones from the Microsoft Word Intruder exploit tool, a hacker can crash Word and open a hole to slip in a ransomware virus or data-stealing Trojan. That's why you should never open attachments from unsolicited emails, even if they appear harmless.

For businesses it's even worse. Using the "Hawkeye" version of this attack, some hackers have been stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies.

The way "Hawkeye" works is that a hacker creates or buys a Word file designed to crash unpatched computers. Then they choose what kind of virus they want to use and add it to the file. In the case of "Hawkeye," it's a keylogger.

The hacker then sends the Word file to the employees at businesses in a general industry. Typically, the email will say the Word document contains an order or quote request so it gets to an employee who deals with finances.

Once an employee opens and runs the Word document, the keylogger installs. Then the hacker waits for the employee to log in to their company email account and steals the username and password.

The hacker logs in to the email account themselves and waits for the company to send out an invoice to a high-value client. Then the hacker sends out their own follow-up email from that email address telling the client that the account number for the payment has changed.

The new account is one the hacker set up, so when the company's client pays, the money goes straight to the hacker. Depending on the industry and client, this payout could be upwards of $1 million.

In analyzing the Hawkeye attack, security experts found that hackers started with a few thousand scam emails and ended up with only a handful of successful scores. However, because they were so high-value it makes the scam worthwhile.

The other takeaway is that thanks to tools and services available on the black market, even low-skilled hackers working alone or with friend can launch this attack.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Pass4sure 70-461 Question Answer

You have a database that contains the tables shown in the exhibit. (Click the Exhibit button.)
You deploy a new server that has SQL Server 2012 installed. You need to create a table named
Sales.OrderDetails on the new server. Sales.OrderDetails must meet the following requirements:
Write the results to a disk.
Contain a new column named LineItemTotal that stores the product of ListPrice and Quantity for each row.
The code must NOT use any object delimiters.
The solution must ensure that LineItemTotal is stored as the last column in the table. Which code segment should you use?
To answer, type the correct code in the answer area.

Answer:  CREATE TAB

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Surface Book Review: 24 Hours With Microsoft's Ultimate Laptop

Microsoft calls it the ultimate laptop. The Surface Book is striking, it stands out from the crowd, and it has seen Microsoft enter the luxury laptop market with an impressive slice of style. But can it do the job of a laptop?

I’ve received a review unit from Microsoft to help me answer that question.



Just to reiterate, this isn’t a full-blown review. Having had the laptop for just over twenty-four hours, I’ve been able to sketch out my initial impressions and can see areas that I want to explore in more detail over the next month. It takes time to work through a complicated device like the Surface Book, even though it should be simple enough to be picked up and used by almost anybody. So this is that first sketch, the details will be filled in with a long-term review later in March.

The Surface Book has been available in a number of territories since it was announced in October 2015, and in that intervening time it has picked up numerous software updates, bug-fixes, and generally picked up a bit more polish. I don’t think it’s fair to say that it was rushed out, but Microsoft’s commitment to continually evolve Windows 10 as a software platform has been reflected in the number of updates that Windows 10 and the Surface Book has received since last year.

It did mean that the first hour out of the box I left the Surface Book to download a significant batch of updates, and I was advised to install a number of driver and firmware updates as well as the over-the-air patches. The Surface Book was still usable during this time and I would assume that in the early period of sales, Surface Book buyers will have done their research and realise this is to be expected. For newcomers to the platform there’s no indication why this is all going on, and that might be a more user-friendly thing to offer.



The Surface Book is Microsoft’s first laptop, which means that Windows 10 on the device should be regarded as the definitive product. Just as the Surface and Surface Pro range shows an OS running Redmond’s tablet vision, this is the desktop view of its future. That vision includes a heavy use of the cloud to share data, which meant that during the first few minutes of use the settings from my Surface Pro were synced to the Surface Book – my themes, wallpapers, and app lists were waiting for me. It wasn’t a direct clone, but it was enough to make me feel comfortable in the Surface Book environment.

Again this just happens in the background as the default behaviour of Windows 10 is to sync data to the cloud at every opportunity, which feels more like a smartphone OS approach than a desktop OS approach. Windows 10 has a ‘tablet’ mode to help modern apps work with a touchscreen and I’ve tended to leave this on when working with the Surface Pro because it just felt right. Not so with the Surface Book. The increase in screen size, the larger trackpad, and the excellent keyboard scream laptop. I’m more than happy to stay in the desktop mode on the Surface Book.

The hardware echoes this feeling of a platform that is from ‘five minutes into the future’. The hinge has rightly picked up much of the attention. All design is a compromise, and Microsoft’s decision to have the Surface Book screen detach from the base into ‘clipboard’ mode has been turned into an aesthetic advantage with the rolling nature of the fulcrum hinge.


Any time you can turn a simple hinge into something that sells your product, you have to thank the designers. I’d say this is the stand out feature – it looks different to everything else on the market. Almost all of my worries about how well-balanced the Surface Book were unfounded – the laptop is stable while working with the screen at any angle, the hinge has enough friction to hold a position, and it’s smooth to open and close the device without requiring any excess pressure.

I still worry about how this hinge will cope while travelling. I’m worried enough to consider travelling with the unit split in two so there’s no space between the two sections when it is pushed into a tight space in a carry-on bag. Surely the jam of overhead lockers will expose the Book to more pressure than I would put on it at home? That’s something I’m going to look at in my long-term review. The mammoth SXSW festival is due to take place in Austin, and I’m going to take the Surface Book as my ‘conference computer’ to see how it copes with two transatlantic flights and eleven days of portability. That should tell me a lot about the Surface Book in the real world.



Maybe it’s me, but I was hoping the fulcrum hinge would act as a safe space to carry the Surface Pen. Unfortunately not. It’s the same pen as the Surface Pro, which is broadly circular in cross-section with a chord sliced off to provide a flat surface that can magnetically attach to the left side of the screen. That leaves it hanging on the outside of the machine and not a suitable place while travelling. Being able to tuck it in the space between the screen and keyboard while closed is an obvious answer that Microsoft has not taken. Carrying the Surface Pen has not been elegantly answered, and when so much focus has been placed on design by Microsoft, this is a curious omission at best.


The Surface Pen is behind my biggest issue with the Surface Book. Although the fulcrum hinge keeps the laptop stable on a desk (or a lap), there’s more weight in the screen than most laptops to allow it to be used as a tablet. Tapping on the screen with the Surface Pen or my finger on the top half of the screen and there’s a very slight amount of flex where the screen and base connect. It’s just enough to register as a wobble, and to feel that the screen is moving away from me rather than registering a pen or finger input.

The Surface Pro, with its full width kickstand, does not have this issue, and I can’t believe it didn’t come up in testing. Which means this is acceptable to Microsoft, and that’s a bit of a disappointment. Yes, the Surface Book is far more a laptop than a tablet with a keyboard (in the way that the Surface Pro range is) which means there’s going to be far more use of the touchpad and the keyboard, but I already find myself actively avoiding using the touchscreen in a way I never did with the Surface Pro. That’s not what I expected.

I’m already missing the lack of a kickstand on the clipboard when it’s away from the keyboard base. There’s no natural way to prop it up for a good viewing angle – your choice by design is in your hand, or flat on the table. Microsoft would likely stress that most people will use the Surface Book primarily as a laptop and in pure tablet mode for about a fifth of the time. That’s certainly how the battery usage is split over the two batteries, and is likely behind the decision to place the key peripheral ports on the base of the device. A kickstand would disrupt the graceful look of the Surface Book when closed, but should that be traded against usability? How I manage the two modes and the time spent is something I’ll address in the aforementioned long-term review in four or five weeks time here on Forbes.


The best word to describe the Surface Book so far is comfortable. After I switched it on and logged onto my existing Microsoft account, it worked away in the background to get itself up to date, it synced my preferences over to give me ‘my’ machine, and because of that everything in Windows 10 was where I expect it to be. The on-boarding process is smooth although the updates do extend the perceived time this takes.

The two headline features of the fulcrum hinge and the detachable tablet (Microsoft can brand it the clipboard as much as possible, it’s still a minimalist Windows 10 tablet) are easy to use, stand out well, and in the main do not get in the way of normal operation of the Surface Book as a laptop although I need more time to decide if the flaws above are outweighed by the positive benefits.



And I’ll touch briefly on the keyboard and mouse. They are going to be the key input devices on the Surface Book and Microsoft has spent time to get these looking and feeling right. The keys have a relatively large amount of travel, which suits my typing style of direct and hard key presses. The bounce back of the key provides me with more than enough feedback and with a similar keyboard layout to the Surface Pro devices it’s easy to switch between devices. The touchpad’s large surface area and glass construction is instantly familiar (especially to MacBook users…) and offers accurate input and multi-touch facilities for extra commands at my fingertips.

The Surface Book is a pricey machine, but the evidence of that price is obvious in my first moments with the machine. The question now is how much do these artistic flourishes impact on the day-to-day use of the device, can it be a workhorse machine and remain stylish, and has Microsoft created “the ultimate laptop” that it professes? That’s going to take me more than twenty-four hours, so check back later in March to get my definitive answer. Right now, it’s looking good.

Microsoft Shores Up Its Cyberattack Defenses



With a touch of a button on the wall outside Microsoft Corp. ’s Cyber Defense Operations Center, opaque windows turn clear, offering visitors a glimpse of the high-tech bunker where the software giant’s security engineers work to thwart hackers.

The new facility is at the heart of Microsoft’s campaign to rebuild its reputation for security at a time when the number of potential targets for cyberattacks—from smartphones to corporate servers and Web services—has exploded.

The center isn’t just a workspace it’s also a showcase. When the glass turns clear, clients can look on as engineers battle hackers from behind dual-screen workstations. Pillars around the room are hung with giant monitors listing the latest threats. The far wall bears the directives “protect,” “detect,” and “respond” in huge block letters.

Microsoft has long been viewed as doing too little to protect its customers from cyberattacks. The company has said, however, that its customers need to feel safe running Windows, storing data in its OneDrive online data-storage facilities, basing operations on its Azure cloud-computing service, and using numerous other Microsoft products.

“Microsoft has been on the fringe of security for some time,” said Duncan Brown, research director at IDC Research Inc. “Now, they are putting it at the center of operations.”

On Tuesday, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith is scheduled to give a keynote speech on security in cloud computing at the annual RSA digital-security conference in San Francisco.

The Microsoft facility, which opened in November, brings together roughly 50 security experts from Microsoft’s Office and Windows group, its Xbox and Azure divisions and several other business units. The idea is to unify its disparate security teams, as well as the roughly 3,500 other security employees spread among offices nearby and throughout the world.

Microsoft declined to disclose the center’s cost, but it said it spent $1 billion on security last year, including acquisitions.

Microsoft isn’t alone in building a cybersecurity war room. Tech companies including networking-equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. and cybersecurity company Symantec Corp. have set up their own operations centers to monitor and foil attackers—and to impress customers.

The seed for the Cyber Defense Operations Center was planted by Microsoft’s earlier Cybercrimes Center, which opened in 2013. There, the company combined various groups to take on problems like child exploitation on the Internet. Microsoft found that combining Web-based investigators with its Windows and Office units yielded quicker results than having those groups work independently.

Early last year, company executives visited tech and telecommunications companies to learn how they shared data among their security teams. Those visits led Microsoft to design an open collaborative space. The company decided to face computer monitors away from the viewing area so visitors couldn’t see any sensitive information.

The ubiquity of Microsoft’s products makes it a big target for hackers. The latest Windows 10 operating system is far more secure than predecessors, largely because it includes free upgrades that are installed automatically in the background, ensuring it has the latest protections.

Still, Microsoft, with its vast reach in personal computers, game consoles, computer servers and Web services, remains under constant attack. It thinks the new center will help it respond more quickly. That’s important because attackers went undetected on victims’ networks for a median of 146 days in 2015, according to an estimate by cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc.

“Minutes matter, and seconds matter,” said Bryan Casper, a security-incident-response manager at the center. “So, looking across the room at someone is better than waiting for an email.”

According to Microsoft, the key to rapid response is an emerging technology known as machine learning. The company has hired a group of so-called white-hat hackers known as the Red Team to attack its networks and software. Machine learning programs watch those incidents, as well as real attacks, to learn what attacks looks like and improve defenses. The system sifts the billions of pieces of data—customers logging in and out, using various software features, uploading and downloading files—looking for patterns that match, possibly indicating an attack.

“We can be much more predictive about security than we’ve been in the past,” said Pete Boden, Microsoft’s general manager of Cloud and Enterprise Security.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Microsoft’s Outlook.com Now Has An Overhauled Look And Features


Microsoft announced that it has started rolling out a revamped version of Outlook.com with new features and a new look. The company says that it is rolling out the new version as fast as possible, with millions of accounts being upgraded each week.

According to Microsoft’s Official Blogs announcement, “The Outlook team is on a mission to bring you the best email and calendar experience at work, at home across all your favorite devices. In recent months, we made several updates to our desktop and mobile apps, launching Outlook 2016 and delivering a steady stream of updates to our iOS, Android and Windows 10 apps. Today, we are announcing an important milestone for Outlook.com.”

Existing Outlook.com users will get these upgrades soon. The new Outlook.com is built on an Office 365-based infrastructure so users get the benefit of an email service that’s used worldwide, along with all the features spotted on Office 365.  Microsoft allows you to do things like stay on top of that address book and automatically add flight info to calendars.

In terms of new features, Outlook.com will also allow you to edit documents and respond to emails side by side. The company says, “Managing edits in an attachment can be an arduous multi-step process, especially in other email services that don’t work well with Office documents. Outlook.com is deeply integrated with Office, with a new side-by-side editing feature designed to simplify this process. You can now view or edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents and photos while simultaneously replying to the original message.”

The biggest feature added to the new version is add-ins. Users can now add a GIF file from Office 365 or even search for and share restaurant reviews from Yelp. You can even manage your o-do list from Wunderlist, among many other things. Soon, users will also be able to schedule a Skype call right from Outlook.com.


Microsoft's New Surface Book Update Will Fix Sleep Problems


When we reviewed Microsoft's Surface Book back in October we noticed a number of weird issues. Bluescreens and driver crashes occurred frequently, and the docking app for the display crashed occasionally. Microsoft assured us that some of the issues would be addressed before consumers started purchasing the devices, but they weren't. A growing number of Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 owners have been voicing their issues recently.

Paul Thurrott labelled the problems Microsoft's "Surfacegate" last month, and Surface owners have been turning to Microsoft's support forums. Now the software maker has now been forced to finally respond. Microsoft is rolling out new firmware updates today for the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 that address power management problems and Intel driver issues. Microsoft doesn't state whether this addresses all of the complaints, but Surface boss Panos Panay notes he has been reading blogs, comments, social media, and forums to take in all the feedback.

"We are committed to continuing to improve Surface," says Panay. "And to continue to help all our customers realize the full benefits of the latest silicon and Windows 10." This latest silicon, Intel's Skylake processor, has been particularly troublesome. According to sources at Microsoft, the company has been struggling with the power management of Intel's new Skylake chipsets.

Microsoft isn't alone, either. Dell has suffered similar problems with Intel's Skylake chips, and has had to issue a number of BIOS updates to address early glitches with power management. OEMs generally have a few bugs with any processor transition, but we've heard there have been a few more issues with this architecture transition.

Microsoft is addressing some issues today, and will continue to push fixes through Windows Update. Despite the feedback and issues, Panos Panay is still pumped about Surface. "We are pumped that many of you love your Surfaces," says Panay. "Keep the feedback coming."

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Pass4sure 70-461 Question Answer

You develop a database for a travel application. You need to design tables and other database objects. You create a stored procedure. You need to supply the stored procedure with multiple event names and their dates as parameters. What should you do?

A. Use the CAST function.
B. Use the DATE data type.
C. Use the FORMAT function.
D. Use an appropriate collation.
E. Use a user-defined table type.
F. Use the VARBINARY data type.
G. Use the DATETIME data type.
H. Use the DATETIME2 data type.
I. Use the DATETIMEOFFSET data type.
J. Use the TODATETIMEOFFSET function.

Answer: E

CORRECT TEXT
You have a view that was created by using the following code:





You need to create an inline table-valued function named Sales.fn_OrdersByTerritory, which must meet the following requirements:

Accept the @T integer parameter.
Use one-part names to reference columns.
Filter the query results by SalesTerritoryID.
Return the columns in the same order as the order used in OrdersByTerritoryView.
Which code segment should you use?
To answer, type the correct code in the answer area.

Answer:


CREATE FUN CTION Sales.fn_OrdersByTerritory (@T int)
RETURNS TABLE
AS
RETURN
(
SELECT OrderID,OrderDate,SalesTerrirotyID,TotalDue
FROM Sales.OrdersByTerritory
WHERE SalesTerritoryID = @T
)

Monday, 8 February 2016

Steve Ballmer Continues His Critique Of Microsoft's Mobile Efforts in A New Interview

As Microsoft’s largest individual shareholder, former CEO Steve Ballmer has been vocal about what he feels Microsoft needs to do in order to raise its mobile profile. For example, a few weeks ago, Ballmer asserted that the Universal Windows Platform won’t fill the app gap, citing Android apps running on Windows Mobile as the best path forward. However, Project Astoria, which would have enabled Android apps on Windows, has been put on ice.

In a new interview with Business Insider, the former CEO applied even more public pressure to Satya Nadella, urging him to provide a clearer direction for Microsoft's mobile efforts:

The company really has to chart a direction in mobile devices. Because if you're going to be mobile-first, cloud-first you really do need to have a sense of what you're doing in mobile devices. I had put the company on a path. The board as I was leaving took the company on a path by buying Nokia, they kind of went ahead with that after I told them I was going to go. The company, between me and the board, had taken that sort of view. Satya, he's certainly changed that. He needs to have a clear path forward. But I'm sure he'll get there.

Ballmer, of course, was the leader responsible for the tech giant’s perennial weakness in mobile. In the interview, he appears to suggest that the correct strategy course was set when he decided to acquire Nokia’s hardware division, but that Nadella has “certainly changed that.” It’s unclear, but Ballmer was perhaps referring to Microsoft’s retrenchment last year from the handset business to stem losses.

Steve Ballmer may also be applying private pressure to the current CEO, revealing that he meets with Satya Nadella “four or five times a year—either to brainstorm something or just as a shareholder, we'll sit down and chat. That's always quite helpful for me and hopefully him in terms of thinking things through.”

The former chief executive, however, had nice things to say about other Microsoft businesses, albeit taking credit for his contributions to a resurgent Microsoft, the topic of a recent Neowin editorial.

If you look at the transition to Office 365 we started when I was there, I'm excited about that and I think the company's doing a great job on that. When you take a look at the transition from server software to Azure, what's going on in terms of cloud infrastructure, the company is absolutely the No. 1 company serving enterprise backbone needs, which is fantastic. From a client perspective, I really think the work Microsoft's doing with Surface, with HoloLens, with Xbox, that stuff's absolutely essential to the company's future.

In addition to managing his large shareholder stake in Microsoft, Ballmer discussed his sizable investment in another company, Twitter. He believes in the power of Twitter’s pervasiveness, while expressing confidence in CEO Jack Dorsey’s potential to improve the company’s core product. “I see a lot of upside of the power of very important service with a very good brand,” Ballmer said.

On the non-business side of his expanding interests, Ballmer also spoke about joining his wife Connie’s philanthropic efforts, focusing on “intergenerational poverty” and “child welfare.” She has spent a lot time over the years on this initiative, he said, and hopes to soon formulate how exactly they would further make a “real contribution.”

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Avoid Windows 10 Cumulative Update KB 3136562


Yesterday, a post on Reddit unveiled a new cumulative update for Windows 10, called KB 3136562. There are download links in the reddit to valid x64 and x32 versions of KB 3136562, which point to Microsoft's official Windows Update download site.

Several intrepid Windows 10 build 1511 customers, attracted to a new cumulative update like a moth to the flame, decided to install the update and discovered that it bumps the Windows version (type winver in the Cortana search box) to 10586.79.

There is no KB article posted for KB 3136562, and I've seen no reports of KB 3136562 being offered through Windows 10's forced updates.

As best I can tell, the last official cumulative update for build 1511 was on Jan. 27. It's KB 3124262, cumulative update 8, version 10586.71.

My advice: Don't touch KB 3136562. Although this is the first time I've seen a Windows 10 update posted prematurely to the download.windows.update.com site, that kind of screw-up has happened with Windows 7, in particular.

The two release actions are independent of each other: Just because there are bits on windows.update.com doesn't mean the update is ready.

If you install this unannounced KB 3136562, there's no telling if the real Cumulative Update 9 will install over the top of it, or if you'll be stuck trying to back out this one.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Pass4sure 70-461 Question Answer

You develop a database for a travel application. You need to design tables and other database objects. You create the Airline_Schedules table. You need to store the departure and arrival dates and times of flights along with time zone information. What should you do?

A. Use the CAST function.
B. Use the DATE data type.
C. Use the FORMAT function.
D. Use an appropriate collation.
E. Use a user-defined table type.
F. Use the VARBINARY data type.
G. Use the DATETIME data type.
H. Use the DATETIME2 data type.
I. Use the DATETIMEOFFSET data type.
J. Use the TODATETIMEOFFSET function.

Answer: I

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Microsoft Acquires Minecraft’s Modified Version For Schools

When Microsoft acquired the creator of the game Minecraft in 2014, the giant software company instantly got a cachet bump with children, picking up a blockbuster game app for a generation of kids who didn’t depend on its products the way their parents did.

Now Microsoft hopes Minecraft can help it in classrooms, another area where its once-mighty grip has been shaken by companies such as Google and Apple.

Last week, Microsoft announced that it had acquired MinecraftEdu, a modified version of Minecraft tailored for use in schools. Over the last several years, MinecraftEdu has attracted a strong following and is used in over 7,000 classrooms in more than 40 countries.

The modifications to the game were created by a startup, TeacherGaming, that Microsoft is not acquiring. Microsoft declined to say how much it was paying for MinecraftEdu.

While Minecraft is known as a game, it is more akin to a digital sandbox, inside which players can construct anything they want, much of it out of block-shaped materials. The creative, rather than destructive, possibilities of Minecraft have caught the eyes of educators, who see it as a supplemental learning tool for everything from anatomy and earth science to math and literature.

In the Santa Ana Unified School District in Orange County, Calif., for example, elementary school students in social science classes have met up inside the game and re-created the features of local historical sites they have studied, such as the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. Students in science classes there have used it to demonstrate their understanding of building circuits.

Super popular


Most of Minecraft’s appeal is as entertainment, though. There are more than 100 million registered Minecraft players. It is the top paid app, years after the game was introduced, on the two dominant mobile app stores from Apple and Google, and is the best-selling PC game of all time, according to Microsoft. More than 160 million people have watched over 5 billion hours of Minecraft videos on YouTube.

In short, Minecraft continues to be a huge success a year and a half after Microsoft bought Mojang, the Swedish creator of the game, for $2 billion. But it has not yet buttressed other Microsoft businesses the way company executives had hoped.

Some believed, for example, that making Minecraft available for Microsoft’s smartphones could give the struggling devices a lift. They are still struggling.

“Now that we’re a little way down the road from the acquisition, it still isn’t clear to me what the synergies are between Microsoft’s core business and Minecraft,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research.
“To be sure, Minecraft itself continues to be a very successful and popular franchise,” Dawson said, “but I’m not seeing any evidence that Microsoft is somehow benefiting beyond the performance of Minecraft itself as a stand-alone entity.”

The competition


Classrooms could be a test of whether Microsoft can use Minecraft to achieve broader company objectives.
Throughout school districts in the United States, computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system are facing more competition than ever from competing devices, including iPads from Apple and Chromebooks running a Google operating system.

Microsoft offers productivity tools — like Office 365 Education, which includes PowerPoint and OneNote, a digital notebook system — free to teachers and students. And some teachers say they are excited about using Microsoft apps such as Skype, the video conferencing platform, as educational tools with their students.

But Google has made strong inroads in schools, reporting recently that its free software program for classrooms, called Google Apps for Education, was now used by more than 50 million students, teachers and administrators worldwide. In such a competitive landscape, the positioning of Minecraft for the classroom as Minecraft: Education Edition may help Microsoft gain more visibility in schools.

“Obviously, we want to increase the connection Microsoft has to students and teachers,” said Anthony Salcito, vice president for worldwide education at Microsoft. Of products like Skype and OneNote, he added: “Many of these offerings are underused by education.”

Joel Levin, a former computer teacher in New York who co-founded TeacherGaming, the startup that created MinecraftEdu, said the emphasis on creation was what made Minecraft a compelling tool for learning.

“I think it wouldn’t work as well as it does in classrooms if it wasn’t so fun to play,” Levin said. “The term ‘chocolate-covered broccoli’ is often applied to bad learning games. It’s fun, so kids are engaged. That gets them in their seats.”

Friday, 15 January 2016

Microsoft R One Big Data Tool To Rule Them All?


Microsoft MSFT +3.77% wants a slice of the big data analytics pie. Truth be told, it has already baked and served itself up a portion by acquiring the R-language and data crunching specialist Revolution Analytics, a purchase it completed in spring of 2015.

In non-developer-speak then, R is a popular open-source statistical computing language well suited to the ‘new’ world of enterprise class big data analytics. For the record, we used to call this stuff ‘data mining’ back in the 1990s (some people still do), so don’t believe ALL the big data hype you read — regardless, times have changed and we’re better at it now.

In Microsoft’s own words, the pitch here is as follows, “Microsoft R Server is your flexible choice for analyzing data at scale, building intelligent apps and discovering valuable insights across your business.”
Four key elements of big data analytics

Named (most probably) after its founders Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman, R performs at its best when used for big data statistics, predictive modeling and machine learning. In terms of use, we must now appreciate that there is more than one type of analytics ‘thing’ or ‘function’ that we might want to do:
  • Big data analytics can be data preparation — elements such as de-duplication and time stamping data to know when it was created.
  • Big data analytics can be data exploration — finding out what the core characteristics of the data set are.
  • Big data analytics can be data visualization — charts and graphs to make interpreting data trends easier.
  • Big data analytics can be data modeling — building up the logic so we know how different parts of data relate to each other.

Enough big data foundations already, what Microsoft is doing here is making sure that R Server boasts really good multiplatform support and is essentially open from the core. Remember how Microsoft has (arguably impressively) flummoxed us all by getting the open source religion and preaching it from every minaret in town? This, in effect, is a play for one big data tool to rule them all if you will.

One tool to rule them all

In the words of Joseph Sirosh, corporate VP at Microsoft Data Group, “[Microsoft R Server enables] enterprise customers to standardize advanced analytics on one core tool, regardless of whether they are using Hadoop (Hortonworks, Cloudera and MapR), Linux (Red Hat RHT +0.00% and SUSE) or Teradata TDC +4.35%. [We are committed to] building R and Revolution’s technology into our broader database, big data and business intelligence offerings and to bring these benefits to customers and students – on-premises, in the Azure cloud and to new platforms.”

IDC analyst for business analytics and information management Dan Vesset is convinced that Microsoft is playing an ‘important role’ (his words) in bringing big data analytics modeling and productivity tools and deployment tools to a broader audience.

“Advanced and predictive analytics is about developing and testing new models. But it’s also about their incorporation by developers into production deployments of decision support and automation solutions that can benefit the whole organization,” said Vesset.
… and now, it’s over to Redmond for the news

The ‘news hook’ connected to this discussion hinges around the fact that Microsoft has made a new Microsoft R Server Developer Edition (with all the features of the commercial version) now available as a free download — and, the Microsoft Data Science Virtual Machine will include a pre-installed and pre-configured version of Microsoft R Server Developer Edition.

Also, Revolution R Open is now known as ‘Microsoft R Open’ — a product name almost worth getting T-shirts printed for, were it not grammatically incorrect.

According to the powers that be in Redmond, “Revolution R Open is now called Microsoft R Open and Microsoft continues its commitment of support for the open source R project, and to releasing regular updates to its enhanced, free distribution of R. Microsoft R Open makes it easier to build reliable applications with R on Windows, Mac and Linux by simplifying the management of R package versions. Microsoft R Open is 100% compatible with all R scripts and packages, and just like R is open source and free to download, use and share.”

Is Microsoft doing well in open source big data analytics? Would that there was a highly amusing sarcastic remark to make as an epitaph here… almost none of the trade press were scathing to any degree whatsoever and one even used ‘Hooray!’ in the headline. It’s all about market domination though isn’t it? Microsoft is no charity. That’s that about as caustic as we can get here.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Xbox Live Down: Microsoft's Gaming Service Having Some Problems


Microsoft’s Xbox Live is having some issues today, reports on Twitter suggests and Microsoft concerns. The official status page lists “social and gaming” services as “limited.” Microsoft support has responded, saying they’re aware of the problem and are working on it, tweeting:

“We’re looking into some troubles with Xbox Live. Keep an eye on this page for the latest updates: http://xbx.lv/XBLstus ,” as well as a few other updates.

Among those affected is Snoop Dogg, and he is not happy about it (NSFW language in the video).




This is just a week after a high-profile outage from Playstation Network, making for an inauspicious start to 2016 for both major console manufacturers. It’s especially ironic, considering that both Xbox Live and PSN emerged from Christmas largely unscathed, despite some threats from DDOS groups. At this point, intermittent outages just seem to be par for the course when it comes to gaming services: whether or not you consider that acceptable is a different matter, but neither major console network can claim something close to perfect stability.

I’ve experienced some trouble with multiplayer games, though I’ve been able to watch Hulu without any difficulty, indicating that this isn’t any sort of full scale outage. Still, it’s bad news for Microsoft, and one hopes they get things sorted out soon. Check back here for updates.

Microsoft wants you, yes you, to Write Bits of Windows 10. For free

POLL Microsoft has followed through on its December 2015 promise to open-source Chakra, the JavaScript engine in its Edge browser.

Chakra's now yours for the footling, here on GitHub, under the MIT licence.
That document permits anyone “to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software”. So Microsoft really is letting Chakra into the wild.

Redmond also says its own ongoing efforts on “key components of Chakra” will henceforth be conducted “in the open.”

Microsoft thinks there's a two-way street here. The company “will be accepting community contributions and input to ChakraCore,” writes Chakra principal PM manager Gaurav Seth. “Once the changes from any pull request have been vetted, our goal is to ensure that all changes find their way to be shipped as a part of the JavaScript engine powering Microsoft Edge and the Universal Windows Platform on Windows 10.”

You read that right: Microsoft wants community code to end up in the Universal Windows Platform, the runtime that makes it possible for apps to run in Windows 10 on a PC or phone.

In return, you get a very fine JavaScript engine to pop into your own programs, should you feel the need to do so.

“We believe that developing in the open will allow the team to collaborate even more deeply with more developers around the world, resulting in better products for everyone,” enthuses Seth.

Is he right? Open source is a wonderful thing, but it's often represented as the antithesis of Microsoft's approach. The Reg imagines a great many open source enthusiasts would balk at the idea of contributing code that might end up in Windows, no matter Microsoft's radical attitude adjustment in recent years.

Which is why we run polls and allow comments on stories: feel free to let us and your fellow readers know whether you'd be happy to offer up code to Windows with a slacktivist vote or a longer missive.
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