Sep
22
2020
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Microsoft brings new robotic process automation features to its Power Platform

Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired Softomotive, a player in the low-code robotic process automation space with a focus on Windows. Today, at its Ignite conference, the company is launching Power Automate Desktop, a new application based on Softomotive’s technology that lets anyone automate desktop workflows without needing to program.

“The big idea of Power Platform is that we want to go make it so development is accessible to everybody,” Charles Lamanna, Microsoft’s corporate VP for its low-code platform, told me. “And development includes understanding and reporting on your data with Power BI, building web and mobile applications with Power Apps, automating your tasks — whether it’s through robotic process automation or workflow automation — with Power Automate, or building chatbots and chat-based experiences with Power Virtual Agent.”

Power Automate already allowed users to connect web-based applications, similar to Zapier and IFTTT, but the company also launched a browser extension late last year to help users connect native system components to Power Automate. Now, with the integration of the Softomotive technology and the launch of this new low-code Windows application, it’s taking this integration into the native Windows user interface one step further.

“Everything still runs in the cloud and still connects to the cloud, but you now have a rich desktop application to author and record your UI automations,” Lamanna explained. He likened it to an “ultimate connector,” noting that the “ultimate API is just the UI.”

He also stressed that the new app feels like any other modern Office app, like Outlook (which is getting a new Mac version today, by the way) or Word. And like the modern versions of those apps, Power Automate Desktop derives a lot of its power from being connected to the cloud.

It’s also worth noting that Power Automate isn’t just a platform for automating simple two or three-step processes (like sending you a text message when your boss emails you), but also for multistep, business-critical workflows. T-Mobile, for example, is using the platform to automate some of the integration processes between its systems and Sprint.

Lamanna noted that for some large enterprises, adopting these kinds of low-code services necessitates a bit of a culture shift. IT still needs to have some insights into how these tools are used, after all, to ensure that data is kept safe, for example.

Another new feature the company announced today is an integration between the Power Platform and GitHub, which is now in public preview. The idea here is to give developers the ability to create their own software lifecycle workflows. “One of the core ideas of Power Platform is that it’s low code,” Lamanna said. “So it’s built first for business users, business analysts, not the classical developers. But pro devs are welcome. The saying I have is: we’re throwing a party for business users, but pro devs are also invited to the party.” But to get them onto the platform, the team wants to meet them where they are and let them use the tools they already use — and that’s GitHub (and Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code).

Dec
19
2018
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Microsoft launches a new app to make using Office easier

Microsoft today announced a new Office app that’s now available to Windows Insiders and that will soon roll out to all Windows 10 users. The new Office app will replace the existing My Office app (yeah, those names…). While the existing app was mostly about managing Office 365 subscriptions, the new app provides significantly more features and will essentially become the central hub for Office users to switch between apps, see their pinned documents and access other Office features.

The company notes that this launch is part of its efforts to make using Office easier and help users “get the most out of Office and getting them back into their work quickly.” For many Office users, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel are basically their central tools for getting work done, so it makes sense to give them a single app that combines in a single place all the information about their work.

Using the app, users can switch between apps, see everything they’ve been working on, as well as recommended documents based on what I assume is data from the Microsoft Graph. There’s also an integrated search feature and admins will be able to customize the app with other line of business applications and their company’s branding.

The app is free and will be available in the oft-forgotten Microsoft Store. It’ll work for all users with Office 365 subscriptions or access to Office 2019, Office 2016 or Office Online.

Nov
28
2018
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AWS tries to lure Windows users with Amazon FSx for Windows File Server

Amazon has had storage options for Linux file servers for some time, but it recognizes that a number of companies still use Windows file servers, and they are not content to cede that market to Microsoft. Today the company announced Amazon FSx for Windows File Server to provide a fully compatible Windows option.

“You get a native Windows file system backed by fully-managed Windows file servers, accessible via the widely adopted SMB (Server Message Block) protocol. Built on SSD storage, Amazon FSx for Windows File Server delivers the throughput, IOPS, and consistent sub-millisecond performance that you (and your Windows applications) expect,” AWS’s Jeff Barr wrote in a blog post introducing the new feature.

That means if you use this service, you have a first-class Windows system with all of the compatibility with Windows services that you would expect, such as Active Directory and Windows Explorer.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy introduced the new feature today at AWS re:Invent, the company’s customer conference going on in Las Vegas this week. He said that even though Windows File Server usage is diminishing as more IT pros turn to Linux, there are still a fair number of customers who want a Windows-compatible system and they wanted to provide a service for them to move their Windows files to the cloud.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it provides a path for Microsoft customers to use AWS instead of turning to Azure for these workloads. Companies undertaking a multi-cloud strategy should like having a fully compatible option.

more AWS re:Invent 2018 coverage

Apr
19
2017
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Microsoft to shut down Wunderlist in favor of its new app, To-Do

 Microsoft acquired the popular mobile to do list application Wunderlist back in 2015, and now it’s preparing users for its eventual demise with the release of its new application “To-Do,” announced today. The new app was built by the team behind Wunderlist, and will bring in the favorite elements of that app in the months ahead, Microsoft says. The company also added that… Read More

Mar
23
2017
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Running Percona XtraDB Cluster on Windows … in Docker

Percona XtraDB Cluster

Percona XtraDB ClusterIn this blog post, we’ll look at how to run Percona XtraDB Cluster on Windows using Docker.

This is a follow-up to my previous post on Percona XtraBackup on Windows. The fact is that with Docker you can now run a variety of software applications on Windows that previously were available only for Linux platforms.

We can run (to evaluate and for testing purposes) several nodes of Percona XtraDB Cluster on a single Windows box.

The steps for this are:

  1. Setup Docker on the Windows box.
    https://docs.docker.com/docker-for-windows/install
  2. Create a Docker network.
    docker network create net1
  3. Bootstrap the cluster.
    docker run -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=test -e CLUSTER_NAME=cl1 --name=node1 --net=net1 perconalab/percona-xtradb-cluster
  4. Join the nodes.
    docker run -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=test -e CLUSTER_NAME=cl1 -e CLUSTER_JOIN=node1 --net=net1 perconalab/percona-xtradb-cluster

Repeat step 4 as many times as you want.

The result: the cluster is now running on Windows!

Mar
20
2017
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Running Percona XtraBackup on Windows … in Docker

Percona XtraBackup

Percona XtraBackupIn this blog, we’ll look at running Percona XtraBackup on Windows via a Docker container.

The question whether Percona XtraBackup is available for Windows comes up every so often. While we are not planning to provide regular releases for Windows, I decided to share a way to run Percona XtraBackup in a Docker container (especially since Docker support for Windows has become more and more stable).

For this exercise, I created a playground Docker image: perconalab/percona-xtrabackup.

First, we need to prepare a few things to make it work:

  1. Install Docker on Windows (the current version I am running is 17.03)
  2. Enable the sharing of disk C in Docker settings
  3. Find out the IP address MySQL is running on (192.168.1.122 in my case)
  4. Grant backup-required privileges for the xtrabackup user:

GRANT RELOAD,PROCESS,LOCK TABLES,REPLICATION CLIENT ON *.* TO 'xtrabackup'@'192.%' IDENTIFIED by 'xtrapassword'

Now, let’s assume our datadir is in C:/mysqldata, and we want to backup to C:/mysqlbackup. Needless to say, that XtraBackup image must run on the same server as MySQL’s datadir (since XtraBackup needs to access the data to copy it).

Now to take a backup we execute:

docker run --rm -it -v //C/mysqldata:/var/lib/mysql -v //C/mysqlbackup:/xtrabackup_backupfiles perconalab/percona-xtrabackup --backup --host=192.168.1.122 --user=xtrabackup --password=xtrapassword

We find our backup in C:/mysqlbackup when it is done.

Enjoy!

Feb
01
2017
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Google Cloud takes aim at Microsoft customers with new Windows VMs

disrupt_sf16_diane_greene-3758 Google announced several new products today aimed at luring IT pros who are using Windows in their data centers to the Google Cloud Platform. With that in mind, Google introduced support for Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise and Windows Server Core on the Cloud Platform. In addition, the company announced support for SQL Server Always-On Availability Group for customers who are concerned about… Read More

Sep
26
2016
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Windows Server 2016 will come with commercial support for Docker Engine

docker_whale_dockerconeu Microsoft loves to talk about how we are now living in a “cloud first, mobile first” world, but in this world, there is still plenty of room left for Windows Server. Today, at its Ignite conference in Atlanta, the company announced that Windows Server 2016 will be available for purchase on October 1 and will then ship in mid-October. That’s pretty much in line with… Read More

Jun
26
2015
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Tips for avoiding malware from a lesson learned

Tips for avoiding malware from a lesson learnedIn a recent article on the Percona blog, I recommended readers to a tool called CamStudio for making technical screen recordings. The blog post was very popular and got 300+ Facebook likes in a short time. Providentially though, a reader commented that the installer (as downloaded from the project website) installed “pretty annoying adware on [his] PC.”

As I had been using a slightly dated installer, which did not show this issue, I started looking into the reader’s claims. Besides finding that the reader was correct in his claims about the project website’s installer, I found that even the installer from sourceforge.com (a well known open source download site) had a significant amount of adware in it.

However, the worst had yet to come. Reading through the CamStudio forum on SourceForge, I found out that the CamStudio binaries had apparently been plagued by adware and possibly also viruses and malware. I am however always somewhat suspicious of such reports; consider for example that CamStudio’s competitor TechSmith sells a very similar product (originally based on the same source code I believe) at $299 US per license. Not saying it happened, but one can easily see why competing companies may try to eliminate the open source/free competition.

Still, being cautious, I ran my older original installer (which did not have the adware issues) through virustotal.com, a Google service I learned about during this ‘adventure’. “Guess what” my daughter would say. It had a malware Trojan (Trojan.Siggen6.33552) in it which had only been discovered by a anti-virus software company last April, and only one in 56 virus scanners picked it up according to https://www.virustotal.com! Once the situation was clear, I immediately removed the blog post!

Clearly this was turning out not to be my day. Reading up on this Trojan proved that it was ‘designed for installation of another malware’. Given that Trojan.Siggen6.33552 had only been discovered in April, and given that it may have been installing other malware as per the anti-virus company who discovered it, I quickly decided to reinitialize my Windows PC. Better safe then sorry.

As I mentioned to my colleague David Busby, when you have something happen like this, you become much more security conscious! Thus, I did a review of my network security and was quite amazed at what I found, especially when compared with online security reports.

For example, we have uPnP (universal plug and play) on our routers, Skype automatically installs a (quite wide) hole in the Windows Firewall (seemingly even where it is not necessary), and we allow all 3rd party cookies in all our browsers. One would think this is all fine, but it makes things more easy for attackers!

     Besides virustotal.com, David showed me https://malwr.com – another great resource for analysing potential malwares.

Did you know that with the standard Skype settings, someone can easily work out your IP address? Don’t believe it? If you’re on Windows, go to Skype > Tools > Options > Advanced > Connection and hover your mouse over the blue/white question mark after ‘Allow direct connections to your contacts only’. You’ll see that it says “When you call someone who isn’t a contact, we’ll keep your IP address hidden. This may delay your call setup time.“ And apparently on Linux this option is not even directly available (more info here).

So, for example, to make Skype more secure I did 1) untick ‘use port 80 and 443 for additional incoming connections’, 2) setup a fixed port and punched a hole in the Windows firewall just for that port, for a specific program, a specific user, and for a specific IP range (much more restricted than the wide hole that was already there), 3) Removed the “Skype rule” which seemingly was placed there by the Skype installer, 4) Disabled uPnP on my router, 5) Disabled Skype from using uPnP, 6) Ticked ‘Allow direct connections to your contacts only’. Phewy. (Note that disabling uPnP (being a convenience protocol) can lead to some issues with smartTV’s / consoles / mobile phone apps if disabled.)

     All our networking & software setup these days is mostly about convenience.

Further reviewing the Windows firewall rules, I saw many rules that could be either removed or tied down significantly. It was like doing QA on my own network (phun intended :). The same with the router settings. Also did a router firmware upgrade, and installed the latest Windows security patches. All of the sudden that previously-annoying ‘we’ll just shut down your pc to install updates, even if you had work open’ feature in Windows seemed a lot more acceptable :) (I now have a one-week timeout for automatic restarts).

For the future ahead, when I download third party utilities (open source or not), I will almost surely run them through virustotal.com – a fantastic service by Google. It’s quite quick and easy to do; download, upload, check. I also plan to once in a while review Windows firewall rules, program security settings (especially for browsers and tools like Skype etc.), and see if there are Windows updates etc.

The most surprising thing of all? Having made all these security restrictions has given me 0% less functionality thus far.

Maybe it is indeed time we wake up about security.

The post Tips for avoiding malware from a lesson learned appeared first on MySQL Performance Blog.

Nov
10
2014
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Microsoft’s CEO Breaks Down The New Soul Of His Company

satya nadella Microsoft is a company with a new cloud focus, a new CEO, and new re-org, and a massive new hardware business that brought in around $3.5 billion in revenue in its most recent across two device categories alone. So if you aren’t completely sure what the hell Microsoft is, I don’t blame you. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, speaking to the media last week at an event on… Read More

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