Get a Surface Pro 4 with keyboard for $659.99

If you know me, you know I have no love for Microsoft. Maybe it’s the Xbox One that forced an hour-long software update last night, when all I wanted to do was watch a Blu-ray. Maybe it’s the Windows operating system that still can’t find my printer after waking up from sleep mode.

And don’t get me started on the Surface tablet, which is shown far and wide with a keyboard — even though a keyboard is not included. (Oh, you want one? That’ll be an extra $129.)

surface-pro-4-with-keyboard-and-pen.jpg
Don’t worry, you actually get the keyboard with this purchase.

Microsoft Make no mistake, I wouldn’t mind owning a Surface Pro 4 — but it’s useless to me (and, I suspect, to 90 percent of other people) without a place to type. Forcing me to buy an expensive keyboard separately just feels like an insult.

Now that Mr. Crankypants has had his say, this: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Always Deals (via eBay) has the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Type Cover for $659.99 shipped. Same model purchased directly from Microsoft without a keyboard: $849.

Let’s go straight to the specs: This isn’t the entry-level Surface, but it’s not the loaded one, either. You get a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of SSD storage and Microsoft’s widely praised PixelSense Display 12.3-inch touchscreen. There’s a stylus included as well.

I consider all that to be sufficient horsepower for everyday computing. If you need to edit video or routinely keep 20 tabs open in your browser, the system is probably going to drag a bit.

As for storage, 128GB can go quickly. If you end up needing more, you can always plug media into the Surface’s microSD slot or single USB 3.0 port. The latter is a bit of a sore spot, as it can be tough to subsist on just one USB outlet.

It’s a testament to this product that people seem to really love it, despite the Great Keyboard Insult. I will admit I haven’t spent any meaningful time with one myself, so I’ll turn you over to CNET’s review. Verdict: “The best-in-class Windows tablet — so long as you’re prepared to pay extra for the required keyboard cover accessory.” Cough, ahem, cough.

Your thoughts?

Bonus deal: It’s starting to seem really ludicrous to spend $600-$700 on a phone, or even $400-500 on a phone. Not when there are deals like this: For a limited time, Amazon has the LeEco Le S3 unlocked dual-sim GSM phone for $149.99 shipped.

Check out a few of the key specs: 5.5-inch HD display, octa-core Snapdragon processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, metal body, fingerprint scanner and USB-C. The dual SIM slot effectively gives you the option of two phone numbers, though I’m not sure if both SIMs can be active simultaneously or what.

Now for the bad news: The phone has no headphone jack or microSD slot, and it doesn’t support NFC. But this phone was $250 when it debuted in late 2016, so there’s no question $150 makes it worthy of consideration. Certainly it forces you to reconsider spending three or four times as much on your next phone

Indian government likely to spend USD 7.8 billion on IT in 2017

The Indian government is estimated to spend USD 7.8 billion on IT in 2017, 7.5 percent increase from 2016, according to Gartner. This is down from Gartner’s previous projection of 9.5 percent for government’s IT spending growth in 2017.

Indian government likely to spend USD 7.8 billion on IT in 2017

“The 2 percent revision in our outlook is primarily due to the effects of demonetization and a drop in industrial production,” said Moutusi Sau, principal research analyst at Gartner. “However, spending plans like affordable housing scheme, and increased loans to small and medium enterprises by the government are likely to have a positive effect on IT spending in the next few quarters.”

IT services which include consulting, software support, business process outsourcing, IT outsourcing, implementation, and hardware support are expected to grow 10.8 percent in 2017 to reach USD 2 billion, making it the largest IT spending category. Devices which include printers/copiers/MFPs, mobile devices, PCs and tablets are expected to grow 10.4 percent in 2017 to reach USD 1.1 billion.

The software segment includes enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM), desktop, infrastructure, vertical specific software and other application tools. The software segment is expected to grow 10.8 percent in 2017 to reach USD 1.1 billion. Segments like ERP/SCM/CRM will be the fastest growing with 14.5 percent growth in this category.

The forecasts provide total enterprise IT spending, including internal spending and multiple lines of detail for spending on hardware, software, IT services, and telecommunications for vertical industries and 43 countries within seven geographies of the world.

US bill aims to quash Open Internet Order, prevent its return

A bill introduced Monday by some U.S. senators aims to repeal net neutrality rules under the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order, and ban the agency from issuing similar regulations in the future.

The legislation aims to give some permanence to recent moves by the Republican-dominated FCC to repeal provisions of the 2015 order. There are concerns that if the FCC at some point comes under the control of Democrats, it will promptly restore the rules under the 2015 Open Internet Order.

The Restoring Internet Freedom Act was introduced by Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, and is cosponsored by eight other Republicans including Ted Cruz, senator for Texas, and Rand Paul, senator for Kentucky.

US bill aims to quash Open Internet Order, prevent its return

FCC chairman Ajit Pai introduced last week his own plan to modify parts of the 2015 net neutrality rules, including the FCC’s two-year-old classification of broadband as a regulated telecom-like service. The FCC will vote on May 18 to start repealing the rules.

The 2015 rules, which reclassified broadband as a regulated public utility by invoking Title II of the Communications Act, were introduced by the agency under the administration of President Barack Obama. The FCC had voted 3-2 in February 2015 in support of the rules that would prohibit providers from selectively blocking or throttling or offering paid prioritization of internet traffic.

The bill has been introduced on the same day an appeals court declined to rehear its decision last June to uphold the 2015 net neutrality rules. Broadband trade groups are expected to appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court. “We’ve always supported legislation to resolve the ‘net neutrality’ fight but a Supreme Court ruling may be the only way to motivate Democrats to negotiate after two years of rebuffing Republican offers to compromise,” said Berin Szóka, president of nonprofit think-tank TechFreedom, in a statement after the court decision.

A version of the bill introduced last year had proposed to prohibit the FCC from reclassifying broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service and from imposing certain regulations on providers of such service.

Pai has proposed rolling back the Title II classification and the reinstating of the information service classification of  broadband internet access service, combined with a “light-touch” regulatory framework. The removal of the Title II classification would return regulatory control of the privacy practices of internet service providers from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission, which already monitors the privacy practices of Internet companies like Google and Facebook, the FCC said.

“Few areas of our economy have been as dynamic and innovative as the internet,” said Lee in a statement Monday. “But now this engine of growth is threatened by the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order, which would put federal bureaucrats in charge of engineering the Internet’s infrastructure.”

Shortly after Pai’s proposal was unveiled, Lee said he would introduce legislation to permanently remove the FCC’s “ability to issue net neutrality regulations.”

Infosys to hire 10,000 in the US as Trump focuses on local hires

Indian outsourcer Infosys is hiring 10,000 American workers over the next two years, in the wake of a review of U.S. visa rules and an emphasis on local hires by the administration of President Donald Trump.

Infosys said Monday it will open four new “Technology and Innovation Hubs” in the U.S., focusing on cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, user experience, emerging digital technologies, cloud, and big data.

The first such center is coming up in Indiana in August and is expected to create 2,000 jobs by 2021 for American workers, besides boosting the state economy.

Infosys to hire 10,000 in the US as Trump focuses on local hires

The company plans to hire both experienced technology professionals and recent graduates from major universities, and local and community colleges, besides setting up training programs in areas such as user experience, cloud, artificial intelligence, big data and digital offerings, and core technology and computer science skills.

The American staff that the company plans to hire over the next two years is a small percentage of the over 200,000 staff the Bangalore company employed as on March 31 this year. The company like its peers benefits from low-cost staff in India, delivering services to customers worldwide mainly from offshore locations in the country. Some of these outsourcing companies have recently come in for criticism for displacing American workers with low-cost hires from India.

Infosys and others have come under scrutiny by the Trump administration over their use of the H-1B visa program.

Trump believes that the program has to be reformed as visas are currently awarded “in a totally random lottery,” which he added was “wrong.” Trump wants the visas to be given to the most skilled and highest-paid applicants and the program should not be used to replace Americans.

Companies like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Cognizant get the lion’s share of visas by putting extra tickets and applying for a large number of visas in the lottery raffle, according to the Trump administration.

Indian software and services trade body, Nasscom, however, says that there is a shortfall of computer science majors in the U.S workforce. “All companies, including U.S., Indian and other global companies tend to hire locally and bridge the skills gap by bringing in highly skilled professionals to temporarily work in the U.S. on H-1B and other visas,” Nasscom said recently. It said staff of Indian companies on visas are paid on an average over 35 percent higher than the minimum prescribed exempt wage of US$60,000, apart from visas and related costs.

Infosys said it is also contributing to skills development in the U.S. Since 2015, over 134,000 students, more than 2,500 teachers and almost 2,500 schools across the U.S. have benefited from computer science training and classroom equipment funded by the Infosys Foundation USA. The foundation also partners with organizations like nonprofit Code.org to advance the development of skills of millions of students, it added.

Microsoft adds a Surface Laptop to its growing stable of devices

Microsoft has added a new laptop to its growing stable of Surface devices, and it’s amazingly thin and fast.

The Surface Laptop has performance, features and design that will redefine the category, said Panos Panay, corporate vice president at Microsoft during an event in New York City on Tuesday.

Microsoft adds a Surface Laptop to its growing stable of devices

The 13.5-inch laptop is the first pure laptop in the product line and offers an elegant design. Microsoft’s other portable Surface devices include the Surface Pro, which is a tablet, and the Surface Book, which is a 2-in-1.

The Surface Laptop is 14.5 millimeters thick and weighs 1.25 kilograms. It runs on Intel’s Core i5 or i7 processors based on the Kaby Lake architecture, and has up to 1TB of SSD storage.

The device will ship on June 15. The entry-level Surface laptop with Core i5 is priced at $999. The Core i7 configuration isn’t yet known.

The device is priced high considering it doesn’t have a discrete graphics processor, said Bob O’Donnell, principal analyst at Technalysis Research. But it’s got an amazing design, he said, adding that Microsoft now has a full stable of PC products in its arsenal.

It runs on Windows 10 S, which is targeted at students. With Windows 10 S, you’ll be able to only run apps available through Windows App store. That gives it functionality much like a Chromebook.

Other PC makers will ship Windows 10 S laptops starting at $189 later this year. The Surface Laptop, though, will perhaps be the most powerful laptop based on Windows 10 S, which was also launched on Tuesday. The device can be upgraded to Windows Pro for those who want to run apps not in the Windows App store, but it’s not known if the upgrade, which would make it a full-blown laptop, will cost extra.

The Surface Laptop is lighter and faster is than any MacBook Air or Pro in the market, Panay said. He spent close to half an hour explaining the nitty-gritty: There are no hinges, bumpers or screws visible, and it has a smooth finish.

The device has a touch screen, and can display 3.2 million pixels, like other Surface devices. It supports the Surface Pen for note taking and drawing on screen.

The battery life is about 14.5 hours, according to Panay. The laptop will boot up quickly and can be placed in sleep mode without battery life being lost.

Java modular battle heats up as Oracle criticizes Red Hat, IBM

Amid a budding controversy surrounding the module system planned for Java, Oracle’s chief Java architect, Mark Reinhold, lashed out today at Red Hat and IBM’s opposition, saying the companies are simply guarding their own interests.

In an open letter to the Java Community Process (JCP) Executive Commitee published Friday morning, Reinhold was highly critical of the two rival vendors. The current disagreement centers on Java Specification Request 376, which focuses on the module system featured as part of Project Jigsaw. Red Hat Middleware initially agreed to the goals and requirements of the JSR, but then worked consistently to undermine them, Reinhold said.

“They attempted to turn this JSR into something other than it was intended to be. Rather than design one module system that is both approachable and scalable, they instead wanted to design a ‘meta’ module system via which multiple different module systems could interoperate on an intimate basis,” he said. “I can only assume that they pursued this alternate goal in order to preserve and protect their home-grown, non-standard module system, which is little used outside of the JBoss/Wildfly ecosystem.”

Opposition by Red Hat and IBM to the module system could even hold up the upcoming release of Java Development Kit (JDK) 9 in late July; modularity is slated to be the marquee feature, enabling better scalability in Java. Red Hat’s Scott Stark, vice president in the company’s JBoss Java middleware group, has argued that the Java module system presents problems for applications and even sets up two separate worlds for developers: one for modules and one without them.

The JSR is meant to provide a module system approachable by all developers, Reinhold said. It is used in JDK 9 via Java Enhancement Proposal 261. Public review balloting on JSR 376 is scheduled to end on May 8, and IBM and Red Hat are expected to vote no.

Designing a “meta” module system would be an interesting project, but it would be even larger in scope and more difficult than JSR 376, Reinhold said. “By focusing on an audience of module-system experts, it would likely result in a design that is far from approachable by all developers. That is why I repeatedly pointed out to Red Hat Middleware that many of the features they advocated were out of scope, but they chose not to accept those decisions.”

IBM, meanwhile, has said very little during the course of JSR 376, Reinhold said. “After they announced that they would vote against it, they later sent a list of specific issues to the EG (Expert Group)—but only in response to a request from another EG member. None of those issues is new, many of them were discussed long ago, and IBM was silent during most of the discussions.”

Reinhold added that he can only conclude IBM has decided its own interests are served by delaying JSR 376 as well as JSR 379, which pertains to Java Standard Edition 9 and is the basis of JDK 9. This was “regrettable,” Reinhold said.

Reinhold says JSR 376 was not perfect, but it reflects years of development, testing, and refinement with much feedback from developers. The current proposal provides a solid foundation for future work, he said. “It is time to ship what we have, see what we learn, and iteratively improve. Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.” He stressed his opposition to further delays, which could go on for years and could result in a bloated, complex design that no developer would ever use.

Reinhold noted that just yesterday he proposed a revision to the automatic modules part of the proposal after issues were raised. The revision has been received positively, he said.

Modularity in Java has been such a complex issue that it was pushed out from Java 8, which was released in March 2014, and has delayed the release of Java 9.

Azure, AI, JavaScript headline Microsoft Build 2017

At its Build 2017 developer conference in Seattle this week, Microsoft will put its Azure cloud and Windows 10 front and center with sessions ranging from cloud services to artificial intelligence to programming languages.

The company will provide a road map for the Azure Compute platform and discuss how to use the cloud service for continuous delivery. Brendan Burns, co-founder of the Kubernetes container orchestration platform and the lead on Azure Container Services, will talk about containers redefining how reliable cloud systems are built, while another session will cover Windows Communication Foundation microservices in Windows containers for use on Azure. Build will also feature a session on linkage between the Node.js JavaScript platform and Azure.

In fact, JavaScript will be a particular focus of Build 2017, with one session touching on building cross-platform applications with Facebook’s React Native framework. Microsoft’s tools for React/React Native, Relay, and Litho, such as the Visual Studio Code editor, will be covered, and another session will feature Google’s Angular JavaScript framework and its use of Microsoft’s TypeScript typed JavaScript superset.

For developers, Microsoft will delve into its F# “functional first” language, particularly its importance to the .Net platform moving forward and tools for it in Visual Studio 2017. Linux and C++ development via the Visual Studio 2017 IDE will be featured as well. One session will cover the future of Visual Studio itself, including plans to extend it to new platforms and application categories, and another session will discuss the future of C#.

Build will dedicate a session to the 2.0 upgrade of the ASP.Net Core platform for building cross-platform cloud apps, including details on the Razor Pages app model. The Microsoft Teams Developer platform will get bots, connectors, and new features at the conference.

For Cortana, Microsoft’s personal digital assistant, Build will have a session on advanced architectures and development practices when engineering Cortana skills for multiple device types. Another presentation focuses on Cortana advanced language and skill design via the Cortana Skills Kit.

Microsoft will cover how to use artificial intelligence and APIs to extract business insights from videos and improve consumer engagement. Predictive modeling using R scripts and SQL Server machine learning services will be discussed as well.

On the Windows front, Microsoft will discuss the future of its new Edge browser, and Windows 10 and Universal Windows Platform for building multiform-factor Windows apps will be covered in a session about bringing desktop apps to UWP and Windows Store using Microsoft’s Desktop Bridge technology.

Dell EMC’s newest switches will come with its open network OS

Dell’s drive into open networking accelerated on Monday with the announcement of the first switches to ship with OS10, the company’s network operating system that’s based on open source.

At Dell EMC World in Las Vegas, the company introduced two data-center switches running OS10 Enterprise Edition, an enhanced version of the open-source OS that Dell announced early last year.

Dell EMC's newest switches will come with its open network OS

The software is based on technologies from the Linux Foundation and the Open Compute Project and is already available through an extended beta to customers who already have hardware. The Enterprise Edition is a complete software platform, including Dell’s networking stack, but its open-source foundation means it can be extended with third-party software, said Jeff Baher, Dell EMC’s executive director, networking.

Dell was one of the earliest of the big vendors supporting open networking, a movement to separate hardware from software and some software components from others. The idea is to prevent lock-in to proprietary equipment, operating systems and interfaces.

The company already sells switches that are compliant with ONIE (Open Network Install Environment), so customers can buy them without software and install third-party OSes from companies like Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks. The new gear is available that way, too.

OS10 is Dell’s platform of the future, which over time will be the basis of all its network equipment and eventually computing and storage products, too. As the distinctions between those components blur, analysts say some enterprises and service providers will want a common OS to get the kind of flexibility that big cloud companies like Amazon and Google enjoy in their homegrown data-center infrastructure.

On Monday, the company announced the S5100-ON series, a line of in-rack switches based on OS10 with 25-Gigabit Ethernet ports. These are a match for the latest Dell EMC PowerEdge servers, which also have 25-Gigabit, the company said.

The 5100 line has 100-Gigabit Ethernet uplinks that are designed for fabrics that link racks in a data center for “east-west” network traffic. The 5100-ON series is expected to ship by the end of October, starting at approximately US$22,000 with OS10.

Dell EMC also introduced the S4100-ON series of OS10 top-of-rack switches designed for densely packed 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports or Fibre Channel interfaces at 8Gbps, 16Gbps or 32Gbps. The S4148U is a unified Ethernet and Fibre Channel switch to connect to EMC storage. The first models in the S4100-ON line are set to ship by the end of July, starting around $12,000 with OS10.

Also on Monday, Dell EMC unveiled the N1100-ON series of campus switches for small and medium-size environments. They will have available port configurations with Gigabit or 10-Gigabit Ethernet and can be used with Aerohive’s HiveManager NG cloud-based management system. The N1100-ON series should ship by the end of July.

Microsoft pulls plug on Windows 10’s debut version

Microsoft will issue the final security update for the debut version of Windows 10 tomorrow.

Windows 10 1507 — Microsoft tags feature upgrades with a yymm label — will receive its last security patches on May 9. The retirement date had been quietly announced last month when it appeared on several support documents.

“The time has now come to end servicing for version 1507,” one of those documents stated.

Tomorrow is also May’s “Patch Tuesday,” the month’s release of security updates for Microsoft’s products. The company’s selection of May 9, as well as answers several officials gave last week during an online Q&A, signal that it will retire Windows 10’s versions on Patch Tuesdays, just as it has ended support for other OS editions on those 12 days throughout the year.

Stopping support for Windows 10 editions is as important to Microsoft’s “Windows-as-a-service” model as is its cadence of shipping two feature upgrades annually. The company has pledged to support an individual edition, such as 1507, for just 18 months, not the 10 years it provided for previous Windows editions.

The cut-off guaranteed Microsoft would not be burdened by a requirement to maintain an increasing number of versions, letting it instead focus on just two iterations of Windows 10 at a time.

In the end, Microsoft supported Windows 10 1507 for 21 months rather than the pledged 18.

Using the 18-month lifecycle, Windows 10’s second edition, version 1511 — released Nov. 12, 2015 — should also fall from support this month. But because of other arcane rules Microsoft follows, 1511 will be supported at least through October, according to Nathan Mercer, a senior product marketing manager, in a reply during last week’s Q&A.

That would provide 1511 with two years of support.

Microsoft hasn’t set end-of-support dates for Windows 10 1607 or 1703, the upgrades released in August 2016 and April 2017. Under the 18-month guideline, 1607 should head to retirement in January 2018 and 1703 shuffle off in September 2018. However, it’s likely that Microsoft will extend 1607’s date of demise, as it did to 1507 and 1511, to separate it from the latter.

Windows 10 1507 LTSB — the “Long-term Servicing Branch” version of the original release — will continue to receive security updates, Microsoft has said. The LTSB track is available only to customers running Windows 10 Enterprise.

Although Windows 10 1507 will continue to operate without restrictions after tomorrow, without future bug fixes, the operating system “could become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses,” Microsoft warned. To continue to receive updates, users must upgrade to 1511 or later.

Why Edward Snowden loves open source

Infamous government hacker Edward Snowden believes open source is a fundamentally better way to use technology compared to proprietary technology that he believes disempowers users.

Snowden was interviewed at the open source cloud computing project OpenStack Summit in Boston via video from a non-descript location and spoke about his personal use of open source technology. In 2013 Snowden, then a government contractor, leaked classified information about government surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency, which brought him worldwide fame.

Why Edward Snowden loves open source

Speaking specifically about cloud computing technology, Snowden said clouds from Amazon and Google are fine, but noted that customers using these products are “sinking costs into an infrastructure that is not yours… you’re investing into things you don’t control or shape.” Snowden raised the question: “When you’re running things in Google’s cloud, Amazon’s cloud, how do you know when you’re being spied on?” Whether its happening legally or illegally, Snowden argues these vendors could use customers’ information “at a layer that’s hidden from you.” There have been no credible reports of cloud vendors spying on customers.

Snowden encouraged attendees of the OpenStack Summit to “direct the future of the internet in a more free and fair way.” One way to do that, he says, is to use open source tools to build computing platforms that customers build and host themselves, which gives users more control over how data is handled.

Amazon Web Services explains on the Data Privacy section of its website that customers control their own data. “Customers maintain ownership of their customer content and select which AWS services process, store and host their customer content. We do not access or use customer content for any purpose other than as legally required and for maintaining the AWS services and providing them to our customers and their end users,” the site states. “We never use customer content or derive information from it for marketing or advertising.” Cloud vendors also offer a variety of ways that customers can encrypt data stored in the public cloud, including offering customers the ability to hold their own keys to the encryption.

Snowden is also worried about data privacy when it comes to smartphones and other technologies. “All systems should be designed to obey the user, they should not deceive or lie to the user. They shouldn’t hide from the user,” he said. Snowden said he’s working on open source code projects that allow users to verify the status of their phones, for example, to ensure that when WiFi or networking features are disabled that they truly are.

Snowden said he used a variety of open source tools to facilitate his 2013 leaking of thousands of classified government documents, including the Debian open source operating system and the Tor Project, which helps protect users anonymity.

Snowden has been charged with espionage and theft of government property by U.S. authorities. He’s currently in asylum in Russia.