The Fire Hose

Covering the news of the day at Microsoft

August, 2013

  • Xbox Live wants to help you say goodbye to cheats and jerks

    One of the great things about Xbox Live is that it’s a community of passionate gamers. That said, most players are polite online and know how to socially adjust to people they’re playing with. But not everyone. Part of the reason is the medium itself; it can be challenging to pick up on social cues when you’re connected online and not face-to-face in the same room.

    With the new community-powered reputation model for Xbox One, the Xbox Live team wants to help you avoid the players you don’t want to play with. If you don’t want to play with cheats or jerks, you shouldn’t have to. Xbox One’s new reputation model helps expose people who aren’t fun to be around and creates real consequences for trouble-makers that harass good players.

  • App of the Week: SkyDrive lets you always have your files with you


    This week’s News Center “App of the Week” is SkyDrive, the powerful cloud storage service that lets you always have your files with you. SkyDrive is built into Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and it’s available for pretty much every other device and platform on the planet, too.

  • Developers: Be sure to check out the Windows Azure SDK 2.1 for .NET


    A major refresh of the Windows Azure SDK 2.1 for .NET was released Wednesday.

    The new release includes the following capabilities, according to ScottGu’s Blog:

    • Visual Studio 2013 Preview Support: The Windows Azure SDK now supports using the new VS 2013 Preview
    • Visual Studio 2013 VM Image: Windows Azure now has a built-in VM image that you can use to host and develop with VS 2013 in the cloud
    • Visual Studio Server Explorer Enhancements: Redesigned with improved filtering and auto-loading of subscription resources
  • Why pay for Wi-Fi, when you can get it for free with Skype Premium?

    Starting today and through the entire month of August, Skype Premium subscribers get Skype Wi-Fi for free. If you’re headed off for a vacation or have a business trip, you can check your email, catch up on news, make sure you’re in the know on what all your contacts are up to on Facebook and Twitter, share updates of your own and chat on Skype – all for free anywhere Skype Wi-Fi is offered, at more than 1 million hotspots worldwide.

    You can buy just as much Wi-Fi as you need with Skype Wi-Fi. No more paying for 24 hours of Wi-Fi at the airport for a two-hour layover or having to take out a credit card to make it happen. Just pay for it right out of your Skype Credit, and pay only for what you use. (Except in August, when you will pay nothing!)

  • Windows Phone developers: How to test your app before you ship


    In a post over on the Windows Phone Developer Blog on Thursday, Senior Content Developer Andrew Byrne describes a way for developers to test their apps with test data before those apps ship.

  • Internet Explorer team shares cupcakes and modern.IE tools with Bay Area developers

    On July 25 the Internet Explorer team released new developer tools for IE11, and the reception was amazing. On Wednesday the team took to the road to talk up the new tools and deliver free treats to developers in San Francisco. They drove through the city, handing out free cupcakes and spreading the word that with the free tools available at modern.IE, developing for Internet Explorer is now –ready? – a piece of cake.

    See the Exploring IE blog post for photos from the day, including visits to Mozilla and Google. All in all, the team took part in some great discussions about the challenges that developers face in building for the Web, and learned that nothing brings people together quite like a modern browser and delicious cupcakes.

  • Latest ‘Inside Windows Phone’ video focuses on imaging scenario resources for developers

    The latest episode of “Inside Windows Phone” provides developers with a walkthrough of some of the more powerful imaging developer scenarios possible on Windows Phone.

  • Developers: Beat the BlueHat Challenge and win custom Xbox Live avatar items (yes, a blue hat is one of them)


    If you’re a developer with a knack for spotting computer security problems, or just want to learn more about computer security, you’ll want to sign up for the Microsoft Security Research & Defense team’s BlueHat Challenge. It’s a series of progressively more difficult computer security problems designed to help you build and test your skills in three key areas: reverse engineering, vulnerability discovery and Web browser manipulation tricks.

  • Twitter app for Windows 8 updated with support for multiple accounts, new list features

    Screen shot 5

    The Twitter app for Windows 8 is freshly updated today with a handful of bug fixes as well as several welcome new features. The new version lets you manage multiple accounts, pin lists or user profiles to your start screen, and view lists from another user’s profile

  • Marc Whitten dishes on the latest Xbox One details

    Marc Whitten, Xbox chief product officer, sat down with Xbox Live’s Major Nelson this week to talk about Xbox One, and provided new details about the state of the platform, juicy hardware specs and more. You can hear a podcast of the conversation on Major Nelson’s blog post.

  • Find out why Major Nelson is red-hot excited about online gaming with Xbox One

    Let Xbox Live’s Major Nelson count the ways he’s excited about Xbox One’s online gaming features.

  • Check out 7 cool new indie games for Windows Phone

    "Flux Family Secrets: The Ripple Effect" for Windows Phone 8

    There’s a pretty amazing selection of games available for Windows Phone, and many of the coolest are from scrappy indie developers. The Windows Phone team features a selection of these in its Next Big Thing Collection, just updated with seven new games.

  • Want to save big on landline and mobile calls? Use Skype

    If you want to save money, Skype to Skype voice and video calls are tough to beat. But sometimes you need to call somebody’s landline or cell phone, either because the person you’re calling doesn’t use Skype or they’re away from their computer.

    Skype offers various payment options – Pay As You Go and subscriptions – to cover these calls. No matter which way you pay, you’ll likely find that using Skype to make calls to landlines or mobile phones translate into big-time savings. Because Skype calls cost as little as two cents per minute – domestically and internationally – you’ll almost certainly see the impact on your business’ bottom line.

  • Microsoft IaaS ‘2012 R2’ updates aim to enhance the experience on both sides of the infrastructure

    On Wednesday, the In the Cloud blog went over game-changing Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) innovations coming in “2012 R2.” In a post on Friday, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson focuses on the user experience for the teams who create the services offered (service providers), and the consumers (or tenants).

  • Can the cloud be secure? How Microsoft tackles the perpetual question

    As consumers and organizations come to embrace the idea of cloud services, attention on the security of those services is growing. We hear about breaches in private, on-premise systems all the time. Can the cloud be secure? It’s an important consideration for all of us. “It’s a challenging goal,” said Adrienne Hall, general manager of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, but as she shares in a blog post, Microsoft is laser-focused on building and maintaining trust in its cloud offerings.

  • Phishing scam asks for credit card info to ‘unblock’ email

    Unfortunately, scammers are creative and in seemingly endless supply. And Microsoft often hears of scammers trying to establish trust by using its name. Fortunately, a lot of savvy customers report these experiences. The Security Tips & Talk blog highlights a phishing scam that comes in the form of an email message claiming to be from Microsoft. The message states that the user’s email account is blocked and can only be unblocked with a credit card number. It’s not from Microsoft.

  • Security enhancements in Windows 8.1 help keep your data secure

    We shared the Windows security vision and how that vision translates into new security enhancements in Windows 8.1 at the Black Hat conference this week. The upcoming Windows 8.1 update offers a full spectrum of new and improved security capabilities, from features that enables devices to be fully locked down by IT, to remote security options for BYOD devices, to safeguard for personal devices that need to access business resources outside of work.

    Some high-level takeaways:

    Trustworthy hardware. The Trusted Platform Module is a hardware security device or chip that’s a great tool for the enterprise, but until now has been an optional piece of technology for consumer devices. TPM provides a number of crypto functions, including securely storing keys and performing cryptographic measurements. We’re working to require TPM 2.0 on all devices by January 2015, which will help IT departments be confident that the devices their employees bring to work are fully capable of complying with corporate security policies.

    Modern access control. With Windows 8.1, we’ve focused a lot of attention on the controls that IT departments can place on devices to restrict who can physically access a device. Windows 8.1 features first-class biometrics (go beyond swipe to capacitive full fingerprint), multifactor authentication for BYODs (more flexibility and control over how devices connect to internal networks), and trustworthy identities and devices (increased trustworthiness of PKIs that can be targeted by hackers).

    Protecting sensitive data. Businesses can protect their data even when it resides on their employees’ personal devices through pervasive data encryption and remote data removal, which will allow an IT department to wipe corporate data off a BYOD device without affecting personal data.

    Malware resistance. We’re continuing to step up our built-in malware resistance measures to stay ahead of attackers with an improved Windows Defender that enables it to detect certain bad behaviors in memory, the registry or the file system even before signatures have been created. Also, in Windows 8.1, there’s an API for Internet Explorer that enables anti-malware solutions to make a security determination before a binary extension is loaded (currently, malicious websites can sometimes access sensitive data by exploiting vulnerabilities in binary extension such as ActiveX controls).

  • Start your engines: NASCAR Mobile ‘13 is now on Windows Phone 8


    For those that thrive on the fast and the furious, the official NASCAR Mobile ‘13 app is a free way to experience the thrill of a live stock car race – without ever having to step foot near a racetrack.

    The Windows Phone Blog reports that you can use this Windows Phone 8 app to watch race videos, check driver information, standings and get the latest news.

  • FitLife620, ‘ilomilo’ and ‘Grow’ on sale in Windows Phone Store


    Each week in the Windows Phone Store, a trio of your favorite apps, indie games and Xbox titles go on sale for at least 50 percent off the original price. The latest Red Stripe Deals focus on fitness, a 3D world and feeding fish.

    You can create a custom fitness plan, track workouts and your progress to fighting form using FitLife620 ($1.49, regularly $2.99). It also helps you start with a baseline by tracking weight, waist circumference, chest circumference, and other health measurements. Creative types will probably enjoy “ilomilo ($1.99, regularly $4.99), a surreal 3D puzzle game where players try to reunite two friends. Finally, you might get a kick out of “Grow,” ($.99, regularly $1.99), a game in which the player channels a little fish with a big appetite through 78 levels and seven environments.

  • Everything you wanted to know, and probably more, about your GPU

    If you’re someone who likes a lot of information about what your PC’s doing behind the scenes, you might want to check out GPU-Z, a Windows-exclusive tool from TechPowerUp that can tell you nearly every detail about your GPU (and if you didn’t already know that stands for graphics processing unit, you probably don’t want to know every detail). There’s no installation required; you just download and run the executable. So now when you want to know what your GPU’s been up to, you don’t need to check its Facebook or review its text message history – you just need to run GPU-Z.

  • Bing on Windows Phone 8 gets new look, features


    Windows Phone 8 users will soon see upgrades for Bing that include a streamlined interface, new search result categories, richer results for popular websites, bigger thumbnails and faster results that use less data.

    Bing’s Search Blog gives a detailed preview of the upgrades Bing is rolling out for Windows Phone 8. They will show up automatically on U.S. phones in the coming weeks, with additional markets following.

  • Skype lands starring role in Off-Broadway play

    Fans of Skype and of theater get a rare treat with this week’s opening of “The Skype Show or See You in August,” which will run Aug. 9 to 25 at The White Box at 440 Studios in New York City. True to the show’s title, Skype plays a pivotal role.

  • You can help keep Xbox Live awesome

    It only takes a few bad apples to ruin a good thing, which is why the Xbox Live team has gone the extra distance with its reputation system and Smart Match feature that help people have great experiences in the community. But you can help out too.

    On Aug. 1, the Xbox team announced the beta of a new community feature tentatively called Xbox Enforcement United. Members like you can get involved to help ensure that Xbox Live remains a fun, fair and safer place for everyone.

  • Bing now features photography from social photo site 500px


    Like many hobbyist photographers, I use social photo site 500px as a go-to source of inspiration and ideas. The site is packed with the kind of eye-popping, “I can’t believe that’s real” shots that I can usually only dream of taking – but at least I now have a new place to enjoy them. Bing is teaming up with 500px to bring select photos from their site to the Bing experience.

  • GetMeRated photo app updated for Windows Phone 8


    Social media has made a lot of people eager for feedback – on their status updates, comments and especially their photos. The free GetMeRated app for Windows Phone 8 takes that up a notch by focusing on posting photos and the different ways the GetMeRated community can weigh in, such as giving and receiving ratings and making comments.

    You can also see updated stats for your most recent photo or track your favorite users via Live Tiles. With the latest update for Windows Phone, you can now initiate private photo chat sessions with other GetMeRated users.