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Bash, better biometric security, Cortana and a flood of chatbots coming to Windows 10

Mar 31, 20164 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

There’s a lot of things coming out of Microsoft’s BUILD conference, some good, some bad. Here are three, dealing with Bash shell, Windows Hello biometric security, Cortana and the coming flood of chatbots.

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Credit: Illus_man/Shutterstock

There's a lot of things coming out of Microsoft's BUILD conference, but here are three.

Bash coming to Windows 10

There are now 270 million monthly active devices running Windows 10 and some of those people behind those machines surely use Linux as well. After Microsoft rolls out the Windows 10 "Anniversary" update this summer, those folks can have the "real" Bash shell in Windows.

First you would need to turn on Developer Mode in Windows settings and download the Bash shell from the Windows Store, but then you open the Start menu and type "bash" to open cmd.exe running Ubuntu's /bin/bash, explained Dustin Kirkland, part of Canonical's Ubuntu product and strategy team. Then you have "full access to all of Ubuntu user space."

It's not Ubuntu via a virtual machine or in a container. Microsoft's Scott Hanselman said, "This is a genuine Ubuntu image on top of Windows with all the Linux tools I use."

Windows Hello biometric security coming to apps and web

The same Windows 10 Anniversary update coming in late July will bring improved Windows Hello support to the Edge browser. "The idea here is to let you use the same technology that powers 'Windows Hello' -- the login security feature of Windows 10 that supports fingerprint scanners, facial recognition and even iris scanners -- to log into other services, as well," reported TechCrunch. "This feature probably wouldn't be all that interesting if it only worked for Windows apps, but the company is also extending it to web apps."

Microsoft claims it will work with any browser as "other top browser makers have expressed interest in supporting" the feature, but Microsoft Edge is the first to implement it.

Cortana and the coming flood of chatbots

Another announcement at the Build conference may help explain why Microsoft was so quick to relaunch Tay on Twitter. After the first try saw Tay turn into a sexist racist, the short-lived return of Tay saw the chatbot have another meltdown which included tweeting about smoking pot in front the police, followed up with asking another Twitter user to "puff puff pass?" In the end, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella admitted Tay "wasn't up to the mark" and Microsoft was "back to the drawing board," but the company believes chatbots are the next big thing.

In fact, Microsoft released its Bot Framework at the Build conference after Nadella said, "Bots are like new applications that you can converse with." Nadella wants developers to embrace AI and create smart chatbots, hopefully smarter than Tay, and have Cortana act as the go-between. Nadella added, "We want to build intelligence that augments human abilities. It's not going to be about man versus machine, it's going to be about man with machines."

Skype group manager Lilian Rincon showed how a bot could interact with Cortana during a Skype text conversation. Cortana acted as "the agent" brokering a conversation with a third-party bot. An example given by BBC included the app listening in "to a conversation between friends about a trip" and then suggesting "introducing a bot representing a local hotel." The "booking could then be carried out as though a conversation were taking place between the user and a sales representative."

Put another way, Cortana listened in, figured out the user would attend a conference, blocked calendar and travel time for the conference and then introduced a hotel bot into the conversation to show thumbnails of different room choices as well as pricing. After a user booked a room, it would be automatically added to the calendar.

"And because Cortana understands a user's connections," added TechCrunch, "she also suggested that the user message a friend who lived in the city - and even helpfully wrote some of the message text to the friend on the user's behalf."

Yeah, that's not creepy.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.