I would like to take a moment to personally thank the team at Microsoft for giving us the wonderful Windows phone!
My first phone was a Lumia 620—it taught me what a smartphone was. Then I got the fantastic 830 which was amazingly powerful and allowed me to do so much more.
For the last while I have been using the brilliant Lumia 950. With its elegant design, it turns heads in Starbucks: “What is that old lady doing with that neat phone, wonder what it is?” I love showing it off!
Yes, I am a senior with shaky hands (thanks to WordFlow I am able to “type” quite fast). I heard rumours that Microsoft is going to discontinue Windows phones. If there is a business reason for that, I’ll understand and it’s OK. However, I need to tell you what an important part the beautiful Lumia 950 plays in my life.
With my phone, I stay in touch with family and friends by SMS, email and Facebook. As a senior, the one thing I have lots of is time. I fill it with the Lumia in many ways. I have been learning a new language, imagine at my age, using Duolingo. Of course, I read a lot with the Kindle app—I like how I can adjust the size of the text. A confession, I like to relax by watching movies on Netflix, and I can adjust the volume of the headphones without bothering anyone else.
Then there are the mundane things like checking the weather, finding out when the next bus is due at my stop (I have a tile for that), adding doctor’s appointments in the calendar (my memory is not so good anymore). Shopping online is wonderful.
I like how easy the phone is to use, and how I can set up the start screen with large tiles for the things I use. I deeply appreciate the attention to detail that has gone into building this wonderful phone and software.
Virtual Shields — what’s that and why is that exciting (at least to me it is)? It has to do with the IoT (Internet of Things) and Microsoft’s commitment to it.
Microsoft yesterday announced at the Build 2015 conference two new collaborations with microcontroller makers Arduino: Windows Virtual Shields and Windows Remote Arduino.
What is a Shield
Arduino is famous for its Arduino Uno series of development kits used by so many who are active in IoT development (an example is shown in the photo).
By contrast shields are boards that can be plugged on top of the Arduino PCB – extending its capabilities. The different shields follow the same philosophy as the original toolkit: they are easy to mount, and cheap to produce.
That brings us to the virtual shields. Windows Virtual Shields for Arduino, which enables Arduino “sketches” (small programs) to access the built-in sensors on Microsoft Lumia phones. All that’s required is an Arduino UNO, a bluetooth module, a supported phone, and usage of the VirtualShield library and functions. The photo shows a prototype “weather station” controlled by a Lumia smartphone.
As Microsoft’s Steve Teixeira explains, “Windows Virtual Shield for Arduino enables developers to tap into the incredible power of Windows 10 devices through wireless protocols. A Lumia 530 contains well over $200-worth of Arduino shield sensors and capabilities, and we’ve made it easy to access all of those sensors and capabilities from an Arduino as if they were standard hardware shields. Imagine being able to create an Arduino project that includes GPS, Web connectivity/parsing, touch display, speech technologies and more. We’re particularly fond of the picture the weather project we’ve created that lets you bring your children’s drawings to life.”
19 Regions Worldwide
To make the cloud possible, Microsoft has interconnected datacenters in 19 regions around the world. That allows for geo-reliability. A natural, or unnatural, disaster in one region will not bring the entire cloud down.
Each datacenter consists of up to 16 buildings, where each building can house two jumbo jets!
Each region has approximately 600,000 servers – not little PCs but top of the line computers.
Mostly the cloud is used by major corporations to provide services to their customers. Microsoft uses its own cloud to provide for example Office 365 and the Bing search engine.
The attraction of the cloud is that it makes available “virtual computers”. The size and capacity of this computer varies according to demand. During quiet times, the spare capacity in the cloud is freed up for other users who might be experiencing peak demand.
The big computing task of a corporation running on a virtual machine, might in actuality be distributed over several physical servers in the datacenter.