Microsoft's 2015 Build developer conference: Join us Wednesday

Beyond a more classic look and feel that did away with the missteps of its predecessor, Windows 10 is de

It’s time for Microsoft Build, the software maker’s annual developer conference where it serves up a glimpse of the future along with guidelines for building products and services for the estimated 1.5 billion Windows users in the world.

Microsoft’s objective for this year’s Build is pretty straightforward: Convince the world that the newest version of its Windows operating system, Windows 10, adds enough new features and technology to push the software forward and gain mainstream acceptance — not become another detour.Build, which starts Wednesday, April 29, will offer a glimpse at the future of Windows, Microsoft’s smartphone ambitions and the HoloLens augmented reality headset.Microsoft

Build, which lasts three days starting Thursday, April 29, has typically been a place for in-the-weeds discussions about cloud computing and software architecture. We’ll see a lot of that. But the summer release of Windows 10 — along with promised new info on Microsoft’s ambitious HoloLens augmented reality headset — makes this year’s Build a make-or-break event for the Redmond, Wash., company and its CEO, Satya Nadella.

Everyone gets that there’s a lot riding on what happens this week, with interest high in watching an industry titan try to regain its swagger. Tickets, priced as high as $2,100 in January, sold out in 45 minutes. In 2014, Build tickets didn’t sell out for a full day.

Nadella’s keynote presentation starts at 8:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday, and we’ll be bringing you all the news and commentary from inside San Francisco’s Moscone Center. I’ll be live blogging along with Nate Ralph, who will be providing commentary and photography from the event.

 

Windows 10, which Microsoft will offer as a free upgrade for a majority of Windows users for the first time, has the potential to solve some of Microsoft’s most pressing problems.

“Windows 10 will be a service across an array of devices and will usher in a new area … where the mobility of the experience, not the device, is paramount,” Nadella told investors last Thursday after Microsoft announced earnings and said that its profit topped Wall Street’s expectations.

One of the biggest differentiators for Windows 10 is the ability for developers to write to a single codebase. Developers will write to a single code base, allowing them to create a so-called universal app that will work across any device so long as that device runs Windows 10. Those devices can include phones, tablets, PCs, the Xbox One game console, TVs and even the new HoloLens headset.

“There will be one way to write a universal application, one store, one way for apps to be discovered, purchased and updated across all of these devices,” Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of operating systems, said at the September unveiling of Windows 10.

Microsoft also is expected to talk about its Office 365 subscription service — which delivers its productivity applications now over the Internet for an annual fee — as well as its Azure cloud computing platform. Software makers now view annual subscriptions and cloud computing as the gifts that keep on giving. Microsoft is no exception — and has begun a strategic shift away from one-time purchases of its Windows OS and Office application suite.

The company’s cloud businesses are growing fast and on schedule to hit $6.5 billion in sales this year. Growth in that division helped send Microsoft’s stock up more than 10 percent last Friday after its latest earnings report.

Microsoft has also promised a flagship Lumia phone this year to replace the Lumia 930. It must might trot the device out at Build. Microsoft released the Lumia 930 last summer after the company purchase Nokia’s handset division in April 2014 for $7.2 billion.

Though that acquisition has increased sales of Microsoft smartphones, which now hover around $2 billion a quarter, Microsoft’s Windows Phone software still holds a paltry 2.7 percent market share. A new flagship phone to rival Apple’s iPhone 6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S6 may help Microsoft gain more ground, especially if developers can simultaneously release one app for the PC, tablet and smartphone.

Debian 8.0 'Jessie' is out and even Microsoft is celebrating

 

The wait is over. Debian 8.0—“Jessie”—will be released on April 25, after a nearly two-year development cycle for the next release of this long-standing Linux distribution.

Microsoft is even throwing Debian a birthday party, complete with cake. Sure, it’s basically just an advertisement for Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing platform, but it’s still amusing.

Software, security, and desktop updates

 

debian iceweasel browser

The majority of the packages included with Debian have had their versions bumped to the latest ones. From desktop environments and desktop applications to server software, system tools, and libraries, Debian now includes more of the latest software. Debian 7.0 Wheezy was released back in 2013, so there are about two years of new software included along with Debian here. New versions of Debian and Linux distributions don’t just bump package versions—all these bits of software from different projects are tested to make sure they work properly together and form a stable system.

The old and insecure SSLv3 protocol has been disabled across this release, with system cryptography libraries and applications compiled without support for it. Many packages are now compiled with more “hardened” compiler flags for security purposes—these provide additional protection against buffer overflows and other attacks.

Debian 8.0 Jessie switches back to GNOME as the default desktop environment. In Debian 7.0 Wheezy, Xfce was the default. GNOME fought back and has improved immensely since then. Specifically, Jessie includes GNOME 3.14.

debian installer desktop environment

But it’s not all bad news if you loathe GNOME Shell. Along with the usual universe of Linux desktop environments, the MATE and Cinnamon desktops popularized byLinux Mint are also available in Debian Jessie.

Want to stay up to date on Linux, BSD, Chrome OS, and the rest of the World Beyond Windows? Bookmark the World Beyond Windows column page or follow our RSS feed.

Systemd is now the default in Debian, too

This is the release that sees Debian switch to systemd from the old SysV init system. It was previously included with Debian 7 Wheezy as a technology preview, but it’s now the default for everyone in Debian 8. The Debian project had to switch to something, and systemd won out. Ideally, you shouldn’t notice any differences. Even if you’ve written your own SysV init scripts, systemd is designed to be a drop-in replacement that supports all your old scripts.

Further reading: Meet systemd, the controversial project taking over a Linux distro near you

This decision was made after much drama and debate, and the Devuan project is upset about it and working on forking Debian sans systemd. But it remains to be seen if Devuan has enough staying power to bring together a large number of people to spend years on creating a forked version of Debian. It’s a huge job.

Debian is just the latest Linux distribution to switch to systemd. Ubuntu just switched to systemd with Ubuntu 15.04, for example. Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, openSUSE, Arch, and various other distributions have also adopted it in the past.

debian installer boot menu

Debian should just work on more PCs

Modern computers that use EFI boot mode instead of BIOS boot mode have been a bit of a pain point, but Debian 8.0 Jessie has seen a lot of improvements here. Computers with broken EFI implementations should now be handled much more gracefully. Debian Jessie should even boot and install on Intel-based Macs without any additional third-party software. This hopefully isn’t something you’ll even need to think about. Debian should “just work” on more computers, just as the latest version of the Linux kernel should make more hardware “just work.”

Windows 10 Store to Offer Apps, Music, and Video in One Place

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Microsoft, carrying on with its unification plan for Windows 10, on Thursday announced that a new unified Store is now rolling out to Windows Insiders using the new operating system. This store will not only feature ‘universal’ Windows apps that work across devices like laptops and phones, will also offer music, movie, and TV show content in one place.

Formerly, with the Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps, users had two separate libraries and stores for their audio and visual content. These will be unified in Windows 10 – if you recall, the company had announced the Xbox Music and Video apps were being rebranded as Music and Video apps in the new OS, and preview versions of the apps were released last month.

While the unified Store Beta already featured a Movies & TV section with last month’s Windows 10 Technical Preview release, the section was empty. Now, forwarding the unified Store experience, the section has been activated for Windows Insiders running the latest build of the preview. Users will now be able to browse and search for videos, rent or purchase movies & TV shows, and play them in the Video Preview app. Users of the Xbox Video app will also see their entire collections in the Video Preview app as well.

With the new Store beta app that includes the updated Movies & TV section, users will be able to purchase and access content across their Windows 10-based devices.

Microsoft in its blog post introducing the revamped Store beta app, said, “The experience you will see today is unfinished and we have a lot more work to do. For example – you won’t see movie or TV details like cast and crew and you’ll only be able to stream video content right now. But don’t worry – offline download capability will be coming!”

The new Movies & TV section of the Store beta can be accessed by US, Canada, Mexico, Austria, Belgium (only movies – no TV content), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand users.

While the video section has gone live, Microsoft promises the Music page will go live in the coming weeks.