The Fire Hose

Covering the news of the day at Microsoft

September, 2013

  • A toolkit to make everyday tasks easier for journalists, bloggers and anyone who publishes online

    Whether you’re a daily news reporter working on deadline, a local blogger out in the field or a freelance copywriter working from home, there are apps that can help you do your work faster and better.

    Back in the day, when I was a print journalist in Baltimore and in Seattle, I took notes using pens and reporter’s notebooks, then came back to the office to crank out stories on Microsoft Word. But as I started covering more tech stories (including for Microsoft itself), I discovered all kinds of products and programs that helped me do my job.


  • This just in from IFA in Germany: Acer announces updated device models, including the Aspire R7

    On Monday at IFA in Germany, Acer announced updates to several devices, including the Aspire R7 (shown above) – a unique 15.6-inch laptop that comes with a unique “Ezel Hinge” that allows you to move its HD display forward and into four different modes: “Ezel Mode,” “Notebook Mode,” “Display Mode” and “Pad Mode.”

    With “Ezel Mode” you can have the display float over the keyboard at various angles, and the device can be used as a traditional laptop or like a tablet sitting on a table. Find out more here. On Monday Acer is announcing it is updating the Aspire R7 to come with fourth-generation (Haswell) Intel Core processors.

  • No flag on this play: Microsoft’s partnership with the NFL brings game-changing experiences to sports fans

    On Tuesday, Microsoft shared more details about the multi-year, landmark partnership with the NFL that was announced back in May, with game-changing NFL experiences for Xbox One and Surface. The NFL on Xbox One completely reimagines the way you experience football from the comfort of your home. You’ll experience interactivity with live games, stats, scores, highlights and your Fantasy Football team, all together on your TV. And while you’re watching at home, Surface technology is at work in the stadium, protecting your players on the sidelines. An eClinical Works Electronic Medical Records (EMR) application for Surface enables team trainers and doctors to have player medical information at their fingertips, which will quickly help determine whether potentially injured players can get back in the game or if they should call it a day.

  • Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 coming in October

    On Monday at the sold-out Directions EMEA 2013 conference in Vienna, the Dynamics team announced that Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 will be available in October 2013. This release builds on last year’s launch of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 and reinforces the value of Microsoft Dynamics NAV as a business solution that is quick to implement, easy to use and powerful in supporting your business ambitions.

    Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 reflects Microsoft’s long-term commitment to the NAV partner community and adds significant new value for small- and midsized customers in areas including interoperability with Office 365, enhanced cash management capabilities and powerful usability enhancements.

  • The Next Chapter: An open letter from Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop

    Microsoft to acquire Nokia Devices & Services, accelerating the Windows ecosystem Nokia and Microsoft have always dreamed big – we dreamed of putting a computer on every desk, and a mobile phone in every pocket, and we’ve come a long...
  • Break stuff, fix stuff, drive fast and fly high with new ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ arcade app for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8

    Inspired by Disney’s animated hit film, “Wreck-It Ralph” delivers five high-energy arcade games in one app for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.

  • Now you can create notebooks and edit sections with OneNote for iOS


    If you’re a fan of OneNote – I sure am – and you also use it on an iOS device, then you’re going to like what the latest update brings you: namely, the ability to create new SkyDrive notebooks and edit sections on the iPad.

  • Free in September for Xbox Live Gold members: ‘Magic 2013’ and ‘Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas’

    Games with Gold brings Xbox Live Gold members more free games for Xbox 360. Here’s what they get free in September:

  • Making a small-footprint device? New Board Support Packages help you hit the ground running

    If you’re going to make a small-footprint device or even a “virtual device,” you need a Board Support Package, better known as a BSP. Windows Embedded Compact 2013 comes with three BSPs in the box, and while those are great offerings, partners fill out the BSP landscape to enable a lot more hardware options.

    In the first three months since the release of Windows Embedded Compact 2013, platform partners added 18 more BSPs, and many more are in the works. So where do you find all of them? The Windows Embedded team has created a searchable catalog, plus you can find a few notable BSPs highlighted on the latest Windows Embedded blog.

  • Great River Medical Center distributes medication faster and more safely with intelligent system

    Great River Medical Center, a 378-bed health system in southeast Iowa, was finding it difficult to deliver medication to patients in a safe and timely way. The hospital pharmacy’s manual processes for ordering, verification and distribution were cumbersome; the average time from order to dosing was 90 minutes — an unacceptable length of time for a hospitalized patient in need of a new medication. Pharmacy managers requested more staff, but were told to find other ways to streamline their systems due to budgets constraints.

    “Consultants recommended that we needed to increase automation,” says Darwin Cooley, pharmacy director, Great River Medical Center. “We were doing too much manually, which wastes both pharmacy and nursing time and decreases accuracy. We were overwhelmed by the number of calls from nurses and physicians who were waiting for medication.”

    Great River had been using Omnicell automated medication cabinets since 2000 to manage inventory and verification of orders at the nursing station, but the rest of the hospital’s medication management system was manual. Three members of the pharmacy staff would walk through the storage shelves — often getting in one another’s way — to pull medications listed on printed restock lists, and then a pharmacist would hand-check each dose before technicians finally delivered them to automated dispensing cabinets at 28 nursing stations. Calls from nursing staff for missing or late medications led to further delays, as pharmacists were wasting time on scores of daily interruptions.

  • HTML developers: Here’s what’s new for you in Blend for Visual Studio 2013


    The Visual Studio Blog has published an in-depth post that breaks down some of the most important improvements made to HTML/CSS development in Blend for Visual Studio 2013.

  • The journey of ‘Ryse: Son of Rome’ from early prototypes to Xbox One launch title

    In a guest post over on Xbox Wire, Brian Chambers and Patrick Esteves from Crytek share their perspective on how “Ryse: Son of Rome” evolved from an Xbox 360 exclusive built around Kinect-controlled combat to an Xbox One launch title primarily played with a controller.

    “Ryse” began as a first-person game, with Crytek working on how they could blend that perspective with the potential of Kinect. That led to three prototype versions of the game: one played exclusively with Kinect, one that combined Kinect and a controller and one that played with a controller (and showed the lead character, Marius, on screen). Every version had its fans at Crytek, but over time the preference was clearly leaning toward the controller-based prototype that showed Marius on screen. Since that was also more compatible with Crytek’s increasing focus toward a more cinematic, character-led experience, they presented the reinterpretation of the game to folks at Microsoft, who shared their excitement and agreed that this was the right approach for “Ryse.”

  • How to develop Office apps with cross-browser consistency

    If you’re developing apps to run in an Office Web App, browser compatibility is probably top of mind. You want your app to be fully functional within Internet Explorer 9 and 10, and the most recent versions of Safari, Chrome and Firefox. However, a feature supported by one browser may not be supported by another. Ensuring cross-browser compatibility is still the developer's responsibility, but the team on the Apps for Office and SharePoint blog wanted to make it easier. In this post, they walk you through a real cross-browser testing scenario that identifies browser inconsistencies, what the problem is, and then how to fix it.

  • Here are a few tips and tricks for using in-app purchases

    Sales of in-app purchase items have increased by more than twenty-fold in the Windows Phone Store over the last six months, according to the Windows Phone Developer Blog.

    “Windows Phone apps with the highest in-app revenue share some key characteristics, which we believe could be valuable to you as a set of best practices for implementing in-app purchase,” writes Bernardo Zamora in a blog post.

    According to Zamora, some of those key characteristics and best practices include:

    · They use in-app purchase to extend or accelerate gameplay, or to unlock highly valuable content.

    · They have a high replay value, to give users incentive to spend more time in the app.

  • New Lenovo ThinkPad Ultrabooks unveiled at IFA 2013


    Lenovo unveiled a host of new ThinkPad Ultrabooks Tuesday at IFA 2013.

    “These new ThinkPads include form factors that are 20 percent thinner than other ThinkPads with up to a 20 percent reduction in bezel size. They also feature the new ThinkPad precision keyboard and a larger multitouch trackpad that supports gestures in Windows 8,” writes Brandon LeBlanc over on the Windows Experience Blog.

  • ‘Halo 4’ Global Championship video now available on demand

    In case you missed Sunday’s “Halo 4” Global Championship, Xbox’s Major Nelson has posted the on-demand video! Be sure and check it out.

  • App of the Week: Time Warner Cable puts up to 300 channels of live TV on your Xbox 360


    Time Warner Cable subscribers can now watch up to 300 TV channels live using the new TWC TV app for Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Gold membership required).

    The latest News Center App of the Week features all your favorite shows from stations like HBO, AMC, MTV and Food Network, and offers Kinect voice and gesture controls for effortless browsing. On-demand viewing will also be available within the app later this year, wrote Yusuf Medhi in an Xbox Wire post last week.

  • Xbox One to launch Nov. 22 in 13 markets; more Day One consoles now available for pre-order

    Xbox One will be available on Nov. 22 in 13 launch markets – Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, U.K., and U.S. – announced Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Marketing, Xbox Strategy and Business, on Wednesday.

    “We are humbled and gratified by the tremendous interest in Xbox One from game fans everywhere,” Mehdi said. “We have sold out of our pre-order supply in the U.S. faster than at any other time in our history and we are on path to have the biggest launch of an Xbox ever. We look forward to celebrating with millions and millions of gamers this holiday.”

    Mehdi also shared that a limited number of additional Xbox One Day One consoles are now available for pre-order. Reserve yours now.

  • Only Wednesday: Save 100 bucks on a Nokia Lumia 1020 and its fantastic 41-megapixel camera


    At midnight ET Wednesday, launched a 24-hour “flash sale” of the Nokia Lumia 1020 with Windows Phone 8. 

  • Microsoft intern creates bridge between women in tech and future students in computer science

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    A continuing problem in technology is the lack of women in the industry, but one Microsoft intern has taken the initiative to try to increase the presence of women in computing.

    As described in the Microsoft Research Connections Blog, Ayna Agarwal, a student at Stanford University, co-founded she++, “a community that seeks to inspire women’s involvement in computer science.” Agarwal organized a robust conference on women in technology in April 2012 – Stanford’s first. More than 250 people attended to hear from a lineup of inspirational women engineers from companies such as Google, Facebook, Dropbox and Pinterest.

  • The Wild West gets wilder with ‘Six-Guns’ supernatural twists, now on Windows Phone 8


    Buck Crosshaw is an outlaw who’s escaped to the Wild West, only to encounter some unnatural enemies. But through his character in “Six-Guns,” you can shoot your way through 40 missions, and accomplish tons of tasks. You can also race horses, take out robbers and fend off more adversaries along the way.

  • You can send video messages with the latest version of Skype for Windows Phone


    The free Skype app for Windows Phone just got a fresh update that includes the ability to trade video messages asynchronously with your contacts, the Skype Blog reports. The new version of the app is available now in the Windows Phone Store.

  • Sony launches VAIO | Flip PC – part laptop, part tablet, part viewer

    The Sony VAIO | Flip PC that launched Wednesday is ready to go, however you need it. Use it as a tablet to browse the Web from your couch, a laptop to write an email or type a paper, and a viewer when you want to watch a movie on a plane. Sony added a unique second hinge to the display to ensure it would easily flip and transform as quickly as your needs.

    The VAIO | Flip PC is a powerhouse, driven by Intel’s latest fourth-generation processor (up to Core i7) and optional NVIDIA graphics. Pair that with the TRILUMINOS HD display, and you have a fantastic venue for watching movies and TV shows.

  • Do you speak C++? Join ‘GoingNative 2013’ live on Channel 9, Sept. 4 - 6

    If you practice C++ programming language, here’s your chance to become more fluent. GoingNative 2013 kicked off Wednesday, offering three days of sessions and panels geared to help C++ developers gain deep and practical knowledge – on topics from libraries to compilers. This technical event features distinguished and up-and-coming subject experts, and is geared to “inform and educate the global C++ developer community with the latest information about ISO C++11 and draft C++14,” according to the GoingNative 2013 site.

  • Sony VAIO Tap 21 is 30 percent lighter than its predecessor

    On Wednesday, Sony launched the VAIO Tap 21, the successor to the VAIO Tap 20 that is 30 percent lighter than its predecessor (it’s cased in aluminum).

    The VAIO Tap 21 has a freestyle stand that lets you change the angle of your screen with just one hand – prop it up to work, or lay it flat to play games, whatever suits your fancy. It also boasts 10-point multi-touch and Near Field Communication.