Microsoft is offering free tests of online backup for Windows Server 8 via its Azure cloud storage service, which could be a convenient way to protect data without having to spend a lot of time designing and cash outlay deploying private backup.

Microsoft Online Backup Service is open to beta testers willing to give the company feedback and to accept that they only get 10GB of space.

They can access the cloud storage by installing an Online Backup Agent on Windows Server 8 and downloading backed up data to any server they choose.

Uploaded data is compressed and encrypted, with only those data blocks that have changed being sent in order to reduce time and bandwidth. The software runs data integrity checks for corrupted data and any problems are fixed during the next upload, according to a Microsoft Windows Server blog post about the program.

The online backup server only supports Windows Server 8, the post says.

Microsoft has kicked off its nationwide series of one-day camps to train developers in how to create eye-popping Metro-style apps to populate its Windows Store.

The apps could also be crafted for deployment privately, but the point of the instruction is to encourage developers to incorporate key features of Windows 8 into their designs. For example the system search charm - an icon that accesses system controls - can be incorporated so that when users are within an application, they access the same charm in the same place to search within the application. The idea is to give users a sense of comfort about how things work in Windows 8, even if they switch from application to application.

Those attending the workshops should be familiar with HTML5/JavaScript, XAML/C# and C/C++. And they should bring their own laptops for one-on-one coaching with their particular application.

Having trouble testing devices with Windows 8? There's free software (at least before July) that can help out. PC Driver Headquarters Inc. has released a version of its Driver Detective software for all the Windows 8 versions that have been released so far. The driver software is itself a beta.

The idea behind it is making it simpler to test devices on Windows 8 PCs by reducing manual hunting down of the necessary drivers, the company says in a press release. Because the drivers are automatically provisioned, the time it takes to set up tests is reduced.

Microsoft's Windows Phone Challenge grabbed a lot of attention for the wrong reason, at least from Microsoft's perspective.

The challenge - to call up an app faster on a non-Windows smartphone than a Microsoft employee could on a Windows Phone - was accepted by a man in California, and it looked like he had won.

But the manager of the Microsoft Store in Santa Clara said he hadn't won, and the reason wasn't clear to the challenger, Sahas Katta, who blogged about the experience.

Other outlets picked up the story and within days, Microsoft had relented and given him the prize - a laptop and a Windows Phone. He says he'll auction both and give the proceeds to charity.