While Windows 7 wobbled, AI continued its relentless march at Microsoft

Plenty of Python news emitted from Redmond in this week's round-up

The gang at Microsoft continued their busy start to 2019, dodging falling masonry, wobbly updates and toppling cloud services.

Windows 7 update woes reach the lab (and Windows 10)

Some Windows 7 users had a less than productive start to the week as Microsoft issued its usual monthly update… and broke networking for a whole bunch of them. Because you can never have too much of a good thing, the company also borked licensing for some unfortunates.

The gift of the monthly update has continued giving, as far an advisory from optic-botherer Carl Zeiss is concerned. The advisory, seen by El Reg, warns of a start-up error caused by the patch in its Zen Black software, affecting various instruments including the LSM 710, 780, 880 and 700.

This time it isn’t only just the Windows 7 update (KB4480970) getting the long finger-point of blame. KB4480962, for the 2015 Enterprise Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) of Windows 10 (aka 10240), is also getting a kicking.

The issue manifests itself as database errors on start-up and the solution, according to the microscopy experts, is to uninstall the update and get the damn thing blacklisted to stop Windows Update cheerfully trying again.

There’s no word on when there might be a fix, but at least Windows 7 users can take some solace that they are not alone.

Azure wobbles

While Azure storage in the UK South region became temporarily forgetful thanks to borked software on a storage scale unit, some customers of the company’s Azure DevTest Labs service enjoyed a bit more than a day off with Virtual Machine problems kicking off at 16:30 UTC on 8 January.

Azure DevTest Lab is a service aimed at rapidly provisioning development and test environments in Microsoft’s cloud, as well as integrating with continuous integration/continuous delivery pipelines. Assuming the thing stays up, of course.

Microsoft’s hardworking engineering team spotted the issue within a recent Azure Portal UI deployment task and slapped on a hotfix to mitigate the problem. By 00:52 UTC on 10 January, the company reckoned the majority of affected customers were able to enjoy their VMs once more.

Microsoft loves Python

While some bits of its infrastructure may have been a little less than stable last week, Microsoft continued to add to Azure’s feature-set by making good on its promise to add Python 2.7 to its Azure App Service for Linux.

Yes, we still have problems getting our heads around Microsoft’s born-again evangelising of Linux, too. The days of attempted penguin culls are long past.

December had seen public previews of images for Python 3.6 and 3.7, but the release of support for the venerable Python 2.7 will ease compatibility issues for developers keen to give Microsoft’s cloudy service a go.

The news comes hot on the heels of Python 3.7 making an appearance in the Microsoft Store, courtesy of the Python Software Foundation. Free, of course, the interpreter is rated for ages 3 and up and allows Windows 10 users to run applications and scripts written in the language.

The Windows distribution of Python has, of course, been available from the Python Software Foundation web-site for years but the arrival of the language in the Microsoft Store will allow the locked-down "S" versions of Windows 10 to join the party (including the education target market of S-mode PCs).

The Python team is also at pains to warn that things might not be entirely stable and, because it is a store app, behaviour such as writing to TEMP locations or the Registry are unlikely to work. If you want to poke at Windows’ internals, then you’ll have to bite the bullet and download the full version.

The final bit of Python excitement to be emitted from the halls of Redmond concerned the company’s Cognitive Services Speech SDK with a Python API for version 3.5 or later of the language arriving for Windows 10, Linux and macOS. Node.js also got some love from the team as well.

One of the goals of Speech Services is getting app developers to use the Azure-powered tech to perform Speech to Text (and vice versa) functions as well as perform translation of spoken audio. Not using something supported by that SDK? Fear not, there’s also a REST API to play with (although you’ll have to make do without the SDK’s streaming functionality.)

AI is King of the Hill

Microsoft has spent the last few years slapping the AI moniker on pretty much anything it could. It is therefore no surprise to find the company head and shoulders ahead of its peers when it comes to, er, hiring engineers with AI skills.

A survey by supplier of electrowidgetry, RS Components, looked at the job boards for tech companies and found the Windows giant was hungriest for AI talent, with 36 per cent of total jobs demanding the tech (or 1,964 out of 5,440). Its cloudy competitor Google sought 837 AI boffins (or 18 per cent of the 4,568 total openings) and Amazon was looking for a mere 297 AI-aware engineers.

As far as Microsoft is concerned, at least, AI continues to be the flavour of the month. ®

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