The Fire Hose

Covering the news of the day at Microsoft

September, 2013

  • Got bandwidth? Microsoft Research and university researchers team up to find white spaces

    Joint research conducted by Microsoft Research and The Chinese University of Hong Kong reveals that in a typical city, more than 50 to 70 percent of spectrum in the TV band goes unused. These vacant frequencies are called TV white spaces.

    Demand for radio frequency spectrum (the airwaves wireless devices use) continues to increase throughout the world. However, access to spectrum is still regulated by strict licensing systems. As a result, a large amount of the white space spectrum that could be meeting demand goes unused. Regulators have started to recognize the inefficiency of the status quo, and are beginning to open up access to unlicensed white spaces.

    While this is good news, it poses a new problem: How will wireless devices find these frequencies?

  • Brad Anderson offers a ‘friction-free’ and flexible path to the cloud at OpenWorld 2013

    Last week, Corporate Vice President of Windows Server and System Center Program Management Brad Anderson became the first Microsoft executive to deliver a keynote at Oracle OpenWorld. Times they are a changin’, and in a very positive way. In his keynote, Anderson showcased how Microsoft and Oracle are working together to give customers flexibility and choice.

    “Oracle workloads running on Windows Server are some of the most common configurations in the data center, and I certainly feel a stewardship and I feel a responsibility to make sure that that is friction-free for all of you,” said Anderson.

  • Windows Phone Week kicks off for developers – join an event near you

    Passion for developing for the Windows Phone platform runs deep for Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs) Matteo Pagani, Joost van Schaik and Rodolpho Marques do Carmo. What else could explain the initiative behind creating a multi-nation developer event?

    Inspired by the Windows Megathon event last April, Pagani, van Schaik and do Carmo (from Italy, the Netherlands and Brazil, respectively) met via Skype to brainstorm on how to ignite global interest in the mobile platform that unites them. 

    From that meeting emerged Windows Phone Week, the first community-driven global series of events conceived and delivered by the Windows Phone MVP community. The events, which span 17 cities across 14 markets, aim to bring developers together to explore options for Windows Phone app and game development.

  • Customer wins and expanded partner program show Surface means business

    Monday’s announcement that Delta is equipping 11,000 pilots with Surface 2 (see video above) is getting a lot of attention.  But it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of businesses adopting Surface. To find out about companies in fields from banking to sales to education turning to Microsoft’s tablets, check out this Surface Blog post.

    You’ll also find out about independent software vendors including SAP and the Omega Group that are participating in the AppsForSurface program, which provides devices and funding for app design to get key enterprise apps on Surface and Windows 8. And you’ll learn about new third-party accessories specifically for businesses. Head on over to the Surface Blog to read all about it and view some of the accessories.

  • Meet the new Surface family up close. Find an event near you

    This time it’s personal. With the Sept. 24 announcement of Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 and all their cool accessories, we gave you videos, images and a webcast. Now the Surface team is hitting the road to show you the new devices up close and in person.

    See the Surface Blog post for a list of times and locations across the United States. In addition to seeing the new devices you’ll get a chance to win prizes and meet members of the team, including Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Surface.

  • Delta to equip more than 11,000 pilots with Surface 2 devices

    In a guest post on Monday over on The Official Microsoft Blog, Mike Wysocki, director of Delta Flight Operations Technical and Operational Support, announced that more than 11,000 Delta pilots will be equipped with Surface 2 devices running Windows RT 8.1.

    “The innovative handheld tablet puts in the hands of our talented group of aviators the right tools to do their job and do it well as they fly more than 160 million passengers safely every year,” writes Wysocki.

  • Translation tech powers automatic subtitles for everyday life

    The world is a big place, but advancements in language translation are making it a little smaller every day. A shared understanding emphasizes what we have in common, rather than the chasms that keep us apart. While we’re not living with “Star Trek”-like universal translators yet, we are able to point smartphones at unknown signs with words instantly translating on the screen before our eyes. It’s not magic, but it sure feels like it.

    It’s a pretty great place in time to be as we celebrate International Translation Day Monday. It’s an amazing time to revel in the reach of our translation services, no matter where you are in the world, and no matter what device you’re using.

  • Microsoft’s Windows Azure achieves critical Federal security milestone

    Starting Monday, it’s going to be easier for government organizations to benefit from secure cloud computing.

    As Susie Adams, chief technology officer for Microsoft Federal, explains on The Official Microsoft Blog, “Microsoft received notice that Windows Azure was granted the FedRAMP Joint Authorization Board (JAB) Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO). Windows Azure is the first public cloud platform, with infrastructure services and platform services, to receive a JAB P-ATO.”

  • Windows 8 app developers can start testing apps on up to 81 devices starting Oct. 9

    At the launch of Windows 8, we allowed customers to roam their apps on up to five devices, giving customers who embraced the new operating system the flexibility needed to run their apps on all their Windows 8 devices. At the same time, the five-device limit was put in place to protect app builders' investments and to help prevent abuse.

    Since then, we’ve received a growing amount of feedback from many developers and from our most enthusiastic customers that the five-device limit was not enough for them to meet their needs. Developers asked for more flexibility in implementing their business models, and customers wanted to run those apps on a greater variety of tablets, laptops and desktops.

    In response to that feedback, and as we announced at the Build conference in June, we're increasing the app roaming limit to remove friction from the app installation process.

  • See ‘Forza Motorsport 5’ and Xbox One Impulse Triggers in action

    Earlier this week, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson visited the global headquarters of Turn 10 Studios in Redmond, Wash., and explored the all-new Xbox One controller’s Impulse Trigger functionality with “Forza Motorsport 5.”

    In the exclusive Xbox Wire video above, Turn 10 Studios Creative Director Dan Greenawalt reveals how the Impulse Trigger and haptic technology transforms the racing experience on Xbox One, providing three-dimensional feedback that brings fans closer to the driving seat and actually improves their racing skill. Check it out above and for more information, visit

  • Microsoft hosts panel on modernizing the teaching profession and the importance of STEM

    On Wednesday, leading policy makers, educators and industry leaders gathered to address approaches to modernize and elevate the teaching profession to meet the demands of a globally competitive world at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

  • Xbox One Tour to rock gamers’ worlds, starting Oct. 1

    Xbox fans, mark your calendars: Next week the Xbox team officially kicks off their “Area One” tour, giving fans in 75 different cities around the world a chance to experience the new generation of gaming before the Nov. 22 launch of Xbox One.

  • Mobile developers: Make your life easier and your apps better using Web services

    Some of the best apps and games out there today tap into online information to give customers real-time data such as weather, stock and news services. Social networking and game playing networks are also part of that connected world, and part of what has driven the smartphone revolution.

    It isn’t difficult for developers to build these types of experiences by using Web services that already exist and taking advantage of friendly .NET APIs like WebClient, HTTPWebRequest or the PCL library HTTPClient.

  • Crackle’s mini-series ‘Cleaners’ available to Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox users before anyone else

    If you use a Windows Phone or Windows 8 device – or are an Xbox Live Gold member – you can catch Crackle’s original mini-series, “Cleaners,” for a week before anyone else, starting Friday.

  • Learn how to build mobile business apps at Silicon Valley Code Camp

    Cloud computing has opened doors to cool and powerful new business apps that just keep getting more impressive. The tools to build those apps are getting more impressive, too, and no one knows that more than 15-year business app developer Beth Massi, who is senior program manager for Visual Studio at Microsoft. Massi is heading to the world’s largest code camp – Silicon Valley Code Camp – on Oct. 5 - 6 to share some of her knowledge on building HTML5-based mobile business apps using Visual Studio LightSwitch and Visual Studio 2013.

  • Ever forget how to find an article you absolutely positively wanted to read? Enter the Reading List app

    We’ve all had the experience of finding an awesome article – only to have to run to a meeting, pick up a call or get back to a task at hand. And then, hours or days later, we find ourselves either forgetting about the article or spending time searching for it. With the Reading List app that comes with Windows 8.1, you now have an easy way to bookmark content you want to read later.

    And it’s not just articles from websites. You can also bookmark content from other apps. This way, you can have all the content you care about in one attractive app. And the bookmarks in Reading List stay updated from one Windows device to another. So you can bookmark something on your work PC and read it later on your Surface when you’re sitting on your couch later. It’ll be there waiting for you.

  • Best Buy Windows Phone app a best bet for electronics shopping


    The Best Buy Windows Phone 8 app has undergone a major makeover, so if you’re shopping for home electronics, this is the best place to start. It’s now got Live Tile and Speech support and Reward Zone account management.

    This free app makes it even easier to shop Best Buy’s catalog and find great deals. You can easily compare products, find stores, and even check for smartphone upgrade opportunities. Have a favorite Best Buy store in your neighborhood? Pin it to your Start screen and it’ll update with specials that pop to your attention at a glance. And you can also now use your voice to shop.

  • Building a device on Windows Embedded 8.1? Read Avnet’s Q&A with Windows Embedded’s John Coyne

    Getting time with Windows Embedded’s OEM engineering lead John Coyne can be a feat in itself, but Avnet’s Steve Gereb managed to lock him down for an interviewpublished Sept. 17 on the company’s Intelligent System blog.

    Why their interest? Avnet is one of the world’s largest distributors of electronic components, computer products and embedded technology.

    The interview is worth a read for anyone looking to build devices and services with Windows Embedded 8.1. Coyne talks about some of the technical advantages of the new, modern OS, how to work within Windows 8.1 product activation procedures, and how the new world of Windows Embedded allows developers to light up a new solution in as little as 45 minutes.

  • Get ready for ‘Xbox Fitness’: Famous trainers to track your heart rate, pump you up on Xbox One

    Meet “Xbox Fitness,” a new online service built exclusively for Xbox One that takes the world’s most popular fitness videos and makes them interactive. The extensive library from the world’s biggest fitness brands, including Beachbody’s P90X (Tony Horton) and INSANITY (Shaun T), Jillian Michaels, Tracy Anderson, will be available for free with Xbox Live Gold memberships through December 2014.

    Using precision Kinect technology, “Xbox Fitness” can read your heart rate without a monitor, see which muscles are most engaged by measuring the power, force and transfer of weight in your body, and track the quality of your performance by measuring your balance, tempo and form.

  • Microsoft tech galore on display at Maker Faire 2013

    Heard of Maker Faire? It’s an event that draws a crowd with one thing in common: a passion for making things. You’ll see amazing inventions, artwork, DIY projects, robots, electronics projects and lots more. It’s hard not to be energized by the atmosphere of innovation, sharing and fun. The Extreme Windows Blog’s Gavin Gear attended this week’s Maker Faire 2013 in New York City, where Microsoft was on hand with a tent full of technology, projects, prototypes and tools.

    See the video above and read the blog post for snippets and snapshots. You’ll see Windows 8.1 3D Printing, robotics that work with Kinect, Windows Embedded devices, Project Spark – a platform that enables you to create amazing 3D environments and interactions using multi-touch or other input methods – and more.

  • ‘What if my device could …?’ Surface team thinks beyond keyboards

    On Monday, Microsoft introduced the next generation of Surface: Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2. Beyond the devices, the world got a glimpse into what it truly means to click in and do more. The Surface Remix Project showed that productivity can go well beyond Microsoft Office and click in keyboards. In this case, a special cover, or “blade,” lets you remix your favorite songs and share them with the world.

    Leading up to Monday’s event, a small group from the Surface team took a break from the Microsoft campus to get a different perspective on what their product could do. As Ralf Groene, creative director for Surface, describes in a blog post, the team traveled to Pasadena, Calif., for a three-day design workshop with a group of students at the Art Center College of Design.

    “The students we worked with were students from industrial design, graphic, interaction and information design. A diverse team, just like our team in Redmond,” Groene said. “What happened there was super awesome.”

  • Get in the driver’s seat with gameplay video footage in ‘Forza Motorsport 5’

    Turn 10 Studios, maker of the highly anticipated “Forza Motorsport 5” racing title for Xbox One, made three big announcements on Thursday.

    First, Turn 10 unveiled the first-ever direct-feed gameplay video footage (see the video above). The video features the 2012 Pagani Huayra racing in the snowy elevations of the infamous Bernese Alps circuit.

  • Who knew Skype was a contact sport? How to iron out contact issues and enjoy more video calls

    Ever try to make a Skype video call to a friend, and it didn’t go through? The problem may well be that your friend never accepted the contact request you sent them.

    Matthew de Beer, author of Skype’s Tips & Tricks blog, reveals that and more in his Wednesday post about contact issues. Head on over to get details on the video call issue above, how to change who can contact you, how privacy settings work with group calls and chats, and more.

  • Mutations be gone: Microsoft .NET releases immutable collections

    Nine months after preview, the Microsoft .NET team has released a ready-for-primetime package of immutable collections on the NuGet Gallery. I know what you’re thinking, “The .NET Framework already includes many highly tuned generic collections, so what’s the fuss?” Those familiar with collections know that read-only collection types are in essence facades over collections that can change at any time.

  • Microsoft outlines opportunities to help fight climate change

    Microsoft Chief Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard penned a piece over on the Microsoft Green Blog on Wednesday that talks about some of the opportunities the company sees in efforts to help tackle climate change.

    Last week Microsoft joined the growing number of companies who have signed on to the Climate Declaration, a nonpartisan statement from the business community that says “tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st Century.”