Ballyhoo about Bali, Azure Migrations and Mac OneDrive users get some on-demand love

Microsoft had a busy first week of the year. How about you?

Roundup It wasn't just the Windows Insider team celebrating 2019 with a fresh emission, the rest of Microsoft joined in too.

Mac parity with Windows 10 at last! In OneDrive. Sort of

Placeholders Files On-Demand (FOD) has been a thing in Windows 10 since the Fall Creators Update, back in 2017, introduced functionality to replace the dropped, and much missed, feature of Windows 8.1.

FOD allows users to "see" an entire OneDrive folder structure, but the files are only downloaded when needed rather than having to keep the whole thing synchronised. Competing cloud service, DropBox, does something similar via SmartSync although you'll need the Professional or Business versions to use it (and Pro works out at just shy of £20 a month if you want to be billed monthly).

OneDrive has the functionality built in unless, of course, you wanted to use something other than Windows.

However, as spotted by Twitter user Tero Alhonen, Mac users are now able to get in on the fun, as the macOS OneDrive client is receiving an update to enable the functionality.

To be fair, the feature has been in preview for those brave enough to have a crack at it after being announced at September's Ignite event.

We have yet to see the feature appear on our Mojave desktop, although judging by the rumblings in the UserVoice forum for the feature, the preview has not been an entirely happy experience, with users reporting problems connecting to SharePoint folders or prodigious battery consumption.

However, with the software now in General Availability, those niggles will surely have been dealt with, right?

Linux users, of course, still need not apply. Microsoft's born-again attitude to open source does not yet extend to a fully fledged client for the cloudy service.

Hey, you, get onto our cloud

The US government may still be playing a constitutional version of chicken, but the ongoing shutdown hasn't stopped Microsoft adding new toys to get lawmakers to do more with its cloudy services.

Last week, Azure Migrate took a bow for Azure Government. Azure Migrate originally plopped into the hands of ordinary users just under a year ago and is geared up toward discovering what you actually have on-premises (in terms of the likes of Windows or Linux VMs) and what you might need to do to migrate to Microsoft's Azure service.

It will also, of course, give you an idea of cost (including Azure Hybrid Benefit for those old Server licences you might still have knocking around).

Azure Government users will be delighted to know that discovered metadata can now be stored in an Azure Government region, as well general US and Europe geographies. Other geographies need not apply right now. The tool, of course, allows a user to plan a migration to over 30 regions, but storing the discovered metadata? US and Europe only at the moment.

Windows is updating your democracy. Please wait.

An amusing tweet concerning a 2 January meeting in the White House Situation Room with a cluttered Windows 10 desktop clearly visible in the background triggered the expected online debate. Objectively, we're relieved it wasn't Windows XP. Subjectively, all those icons could well send the more tidy-minded at Vulture Central over the edge.

However, as folk speculated on what delights Microsoft could be slurping from Windows 10 in the White House (answer – not a lot, unless someone silly is in charge of US government IT) that rarest of things broke out. A reasoned discussion on Twitter.

Microsoft's Ned Pyle waded into the telemetry debate, pointing out that it does serve a useful purpose (in his example, backing up a case to kill off SMB 1).

The problem, of course, is that while getting telemetry from users is very useful for OS vendors (including the likes of Ubuntu), customers can find the tools to control the slurpage a tad confusing and European governments have raised an eyebrow or two over the collection.

And that's just Windows 10. Office has also joined the data dancing with its own telemetry collection, which made a surprise appearance last year with the option of "Basic" or "Full". No "Argh, argh, stoppit, stoppit", alas. Although Microsoft continues to be at pains to point out, as does Pyle, that the telemetry is scrubbed squeaky clean.

Or translated to Balinese.

Visit Tahiti Bali, it's a magical place. And then forget all about it

As if to ram home how keen it was that users get control of data collected about them, Microsoft allowed whisperings of a Research project, currently in Private Beta, to escape the halls of Redmond.

A tweet from a user with a Twitter handle of @Longhorn (and subsequently retweeted by inveterate poker of Windows innards, the WalkingCat) highlighted the project.

As we've mentioned, it is, alas, in private beta and the code entry page appears to have been swiftly moved from the public gaze, but according to @Longhorn it "is a project that can delete all your connection and account information (inverseprivacyproject)".

While the site may be gone, a paper on Microsoft Research's site on "Inverse Privacy" (PDF) gives an insight into where the Windows giant might be going with the project.

An item of your personal information is inversely private if some party has access to it but you do not. We analyze the provenance of inversely private information and its rise to dominance over other kinds of personal information. In a nutshell, the inverse privacy problem is unjustified inaccessibility to you of your inversely private information. We argue that the inverse privacy problem has a market-based solution.

So there. Something to allow users to manage all data collected about them.

The concept sits very well with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's pronouncement that "Privacy is a human right" during his keynote at November's Future Decoded event. It may not, however, sit quite so well with the likes of Facebook or the inhabitants of Mountain View, whose Chrome browser Microsoft would dearly like to see atop Windows on Arm before long. ®

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