Skype bot airport action, Retpolining into 2019, old Kubernetes versions for the chop in Azure, and much more Microsoft

Boop beep boop beep boop, your flight's cancelled

BSOD at Heathrow
Crash landing ... BSoD at Heathrow Airport, UK (Source, by Paul Eagles)

Roundup While the drama of the aborted Windows 10 October update continued to unfold last week and excited buyers received their shiny Surface devices, Microsoft kept itself busy flinging out new development tools and battling buggy CPUs.

Harrassed travellers to have a glorious, Skype-based future?

Heathrow passengers struggling to work out where their gate is, why the speed at which a "Go to gate" announcement can switch to "Closing" defies at least one core principal of the theory of relativity, and how it is that a flight showing as "Boarding" is often anything but will be delighted to know that Microsoft is riding to the rescue with Skype bots and artificial intelligence.

The London airport already makes heavy use of Microsoft technology, such as Azure, to manage the more than 200,000 passengers that pass through it every day. It now plans to add machine learning and AI into the mix to cope with the additional load of a third runway, according to Chief Information Officer Stuart Birrell.

As well as using the technology to deal with passenger flow and flight schedules, Birrell ominously remarked: "Skype-based bots is something we are looking at for passenger interaction."

Something to look forward to then.

Spectre and Meltdown fix impact reduced to 'Noise Level'

The impact of fixes to deal with Intel's buggy chips could be reduced as Microsoft implements its take on Google's Retpoline mitigation in Windows 10. A tweet from Mehmet Iyigun, a development manager on the kernel team at Microsoft, confirmed that the fix will be enabled in next year's Windows 10.

Microsoft's current fix for the flaw slams the brakes on PCs, with slowdowns being reported as anywhere from 2 to 30 per cent, depending which benchmark you look at.

With the Retpoline approach, Microsoft reckons the impact will be reduced to "Noise Level".

Alas, Retpoline has its own issues as chip makers play whack-a-mole with determined security researchers and, of course, Windows fans are going to have to wait until next April for the fix. There are no plans to enable it in the October Update, which remains, for the time being, on the naughty step at Microsoft's HQ.

Kubernetes support in Azure is simplified... by killing off the elderly

Developers beware. Microsoft's new Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) will be dropping support for some older versions of the container technology from 30 November.

Kubernetes 1.7, which first made an appearance on 30 June 2017, and version 1.8, which appeared three months later, are both for the chop, along with all the patch versions of both. Microsoft's policy is to support only the last four minor versions – the current release and three previous minor versions. This will, in theory, leave 1.9, 1.10 and 1.11 supported along with 1.12, when Microsoft adds it.

Support for Kubernetes 1.12 should be imminent in AKS. The Azure Container Service (ACS) engine picks up new releases on day one, and AKS aims to be updated within 30 days of that, so long as nothing is too wobbly.

A crop of Core releases

Microsoft emitted fresh previews of its .NET Core, ASP.NET Core and Entity Framework Core platforms last week, taking version 2.2 of the software to Preview 3.

ASP.NET Core introduces the concept of Parameter Transformers to routing, which gives developers a few more toys in the box when it comes to generating routes. A new service, LinkGenerator, has arrived and is intended to support generating paths and absolute URIs with or without an HttpContext. There is also the slew of performance increases that Microsoft seems to trot out with every release. The HTTPClient gets a special mention with a 60 per cent throughput improvement on Linux (20 per cent in Windows) thanks to improvements in connection pool locking contention.

The Entity Framework Core update brings both good news and bad news.

The good news: Spatial extensions are now enabled for the SQLite provider and reverse engineering is now possible for databases containing spatial columns. The newly added CosmosDB provider has also seen some love, with asynchronous query execution now possible and SaveChanges(), EnsureCreated() and EnsureDeleted() executable synchronously.

The bad news, however, is that the team has opted to postpone the long-awaited function to reverse engineer database views into query types to version 3 of the Framework. Also teetering on the edge of postponement is that CosmosDB provider due to the Entity Framework Core team struggling to keep up with the evolution of Microsoft's "planet scale" database. ®




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