Windows Virtual Desktop is now in public preview

Last year, Microsoft announced the launch of its Windows Virtual Desktop service. At the time, this was a private preview, but starting today, any enterprise user who wants to try out what using a virtual Windows 10 desktop that’s hosted in the Azure cloud looks like will be able to give it a try.

It’s worth noting that this is very much a product for businesses. You’re not going to use this to play Apex Legends on a virtual machine somewhere in the cloud. The idea here is that a service like this, which also includes access to Office 365 ProPlus, makes managing machines and the software that runs on them easier for enterprises. It also allows employers in regulated industries to provide their mobile workers with a virtual desktop that ensures that all of their precious data remains secure.

One stand-out feature here is that businesses can run multiple Windows 10 sessions on a single virtual machine.

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It’s also worth noting that many of the features of this service are powered by technology from FSLogix, which Microsoft acquired last year. Specifically, these technologies allow Microsoft to give the non-persistent users relatively fast access to applications like their Outlook and OneDrive applications, for example.

For most Microsoft 365 enterprise customers, access to this service is simply part of the subscription cost they already pay — though they will need an Azure subscription and pay for the virtual machines that run in the cloud.

Right now, the service is only available in the US East 2 and US Central Azure regions. Over time, and once the preview is over, Microsoft will expand it to all of its cloud regions.

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The Plum Guide raises $18.5M to expand its ‘vacation homes for the elite’ service

Fancy knowing how ‘the other half’ lives? Well, part of it is down to tools which have been built specifically for them. Michelin Guide will tell you about the best restaurants on the planet. Similarly the The Plum Guide bills itself as the “Michelin Guide for Homes” as it picks the world’s best vacation rentals, holiday homes, short term lets and Airbnbs from over 25 different sites, then puts them into one. It does this using a combination of data and human curation.

It’s now raised £14m ($18.5m) from some of Europe’s leading early-stage investors to support its rollout to 12 new cities this year.

The Plum Guide differs from mass market booking platforms by selecting only the top 1% of properties in any city to feature on its site. By the end of 2019 that will mean almost 12,000 verified homes in the most sought-after cities for holiday rentals.

The latest funding round is led by Talis Capital, with participation from Latitude and Hearst Ventures, as well as Octopus Ventures – who led the Series A funding round.

It needs all this money because as well as using a data approach, it also sends actual human beings to vet every property in person and apply a “scientific Plum Guide test” which covers 150 points from proximity to cafes and transport, to speed of WiFi.

Since launching in London in 2015, the company claims to have achieved year-on-year growth of three times revenues, for three years’ running, adding homes in five new cities to the platform and saw repeat bookings jump 27% after it opened in Paris, its second location after London. It says customer referrals drive a quarter of all bookings.

In a statement Doron Meyassed, Founder and CEO, said: “We are on a mission to build a marketplace of the world’s most beautiful holiday homes. This isn’t some vague qualitative ambition. We mean it. We are taking a systematic and obsessive approach to vetting every single home on the planet and accepting only the top 1%.”

“We are clearly targeting a highly discerning group of affluent professionals that live in global megacities, love to travel and value great design, quality and locations,” says Meyassed. “Previously they have stayed away from the open marketplace booking platforms, which they consider too risky compared with the reassurance that a hotel provides.”

In other words, the startup is eating away at the luxury hotel market.

Matus Maar, Managing Partner and Co Founder at Talis Capital, said: “The consumer market has entered into an age of curation where data, ratings and reviews need to be carved into useful information to support buying decisions. We see huge value in businesses and teams that create a competitive advantage by being strategically data driven.”

George Henry, partner at LocalGlobe, commented: “Travel and accommodation continues to be a fast-growing market but the supply has become incredibly fragmented, especially in the p2p market. As consumer travel has always suffered from a very low NPS, we believe that a differentiated brand offering a more hands-on service powered by expert curation and data is going to continue to deliver a very unique experience.

The Plum Guide is in direct competition with the big home booking platforms (Airbnb, Booking.com, Home Away etc.) but claims it competes by using its algorithm to build a database of all the homes available in the city, then systematically putting it through five rounds of filtration to come up with the top homes. It also competes by ‘matchmaking’ people with the best homes.

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Shampoo magnate uses glasses-free 3D to push budget phones


Rokit

Remember how shampoo magnate John Paul DeJoria threw himself into the mobile world five years ago? He’s now offering smartphones — and they might be appealing if you find most budget phones a little boring. Rokit’s newly launched Io 3D and Io Pro 3D (above) both offer glasses-free 3D without the expense that usually comes with the tech. You won’t need to go to the length of buying a RED Hydrogen One just to bedazzle your friends. There’s even an “expansive” catalog of content to watch through an app that that hosts movies and other stereoscopic material.

Be ready for phones that are modest beyond the tentpole 3D feature. The Io 3D centers on a 5.45-inch, 1,440 x 720 display, a quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, a rear 8-megapixel camera and a front 2-megapixel cam. Move to the Io Pro 3D and you’ll get a 6-inch 2,160 x 1,080 display, an eight-core 2GHz MediaTek chip, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, a hybrid 13MP and 2MP rear camera system and a front 8MP shooter. Don’t expect excitement when you’re not gawking at 3D footage, then, although you do curiously get a year’s worth of health care services and insurance coverage (including death) for free.

The price is competitive, at least. You can order the Io 3D now for $200 (£140), and the Io Pro 3D for $300 ($250). There’s also a plain 2D phone, the 5-inch Io Light ($90) for those that only need the basics. They may be tougher sells when handsets like the Moto G7 are more powerful overall, but consider this: if you ever lose interest in the 3D, you’re out considerably less money than you might be otherwise.

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Enormous, weird fish washes up on an Australian beach. So, what is it?

This is certainly one very fishy encounter.

Two fishers stumbled across quite the surprise when they found a sunfish which had washed onto the beach at Coorong National Park in South Australia.

The photos, taken by Linette Grzelak, were posted on Facebook by National Parks South Australia on Tuesday, and boy, it’s a weird looking fish.

Grzelak told CNN they thought the fish was a piece of driftwood when they drove past it.

The strange-looking sea creature has since been identified by the South Australian Museum’s ichthyology manager Ralph Foster as an ocean sunfish (Mola mola), due to markings on its tail and the shape of its head.

It’s known for its large size, odd flattened body shape and fins, although in this case, Foster estimates the fish to be 1.8 metres (70 inches) long, which is about average for the species. 

The species was only discovered and named in 2017, and it’s known as the sunfish because it enjoys basking in the sun on the ocean’s surface.

“Researchers have been putting satellite tags and data loggers on these fish and found they will come to the surface and lay on their side on the surface, hence the name the sunfish,” Foster explained to the news outlet.

“Once they are warm enough they dive down several hundreds of metres and feed on jellyfish and stay down there for lengthy periods of time.”

Foster said very little was known about sunfish, and it’s only in the last few years researchers have known more with the help of technology.

“Because it had evaded recognition and was misidentified for so long it was named the ‘Hoodwinker Sunfish’ by its discoverer,” he added.

“It was thought to be a purely southern hemisphere species but just a couple of weeks ago one made the news when it turned up on a Californian beach, highlighting how little we know about sunfish in general.”

By the way, their size and tendency to sunbake means that boats can hit them, or in much bigger cases, actually sink yachts.

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Crowdfunded Nanoloop synth doesn't need a Game Boy to make beats


Nanoloop

Nanoloop has been a cornerstone of chiptune music for years, but using one has meant either owning a Game Boy or making do with a mobile app. You won’t have to make those compromises for much longer. Developer Oliver Wittchow and crew are crowdfunding a dedicated, handheld version of the music-generating wunderkind. You’ll still have a gamepad-like interface, four-channel synth and 4×4 matrix sequencer, just in a form factor that frees up your other gadgets.

This version replaces on-screen visuals with LEDs, and runs on either a pair of AAA batteries (for 50-plus hours) or a micro USB connection. A microSD slot is available to help you store your projects, and 3.5mm inputs and outputs help it sync with MIDI gear in addition to analog fare.

The project has already met its funding targets, but you can still pledge €97 (about $111) to the campaign if you want a Nanoloop. It’s poised to ship in August. That may seem like a lot, but it’s a small outlay if you’re committed to your craft.

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