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.


  • Department of Defense employees now able to use Microsoft Lync 2013 to connect to information network

    Earlier this month, Lync 2013 added a new accreditation to the fold by achieving JITC certification for Voice, Video, and Instant Message & Presence (IM&P) at the Joint Interoperability Testing Center in Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with this certification, that’s a fancy way of saying it enables Department of Defense (DoD) organizations to connect software, like Microsoft Lync 2013, to the DoD’s information network. Becoming JITC certified is one of the primary ways of validating software’s ability to work and interoperate on the DoD’s Defense Information Switched Network (DISN).

  • Start your company’s social journey with this new interactive toolkit from Yammer


    Companies that use social tools in the workplace get benefits including increased employee engagement, more productive teams, better-connected organizations and greater customer loyalty, according to a recent Microsoft survey. If you’re ready to start your company’s social journey, the Yammer team now has a new interactive toolkit designed to help you put benefits like these to work for you.

  • 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.

  • Use Bing Pulse to join the conversation on the FOX News Channel’s ‘Special Report with Bret Baier’

    Political animals can share their opinions and reactions using the Bing Pulse online voting tool to interact more with the FOX News Channel’s “Special Report with Bret Baier.” and FOX News Channel (FNC) are teaming up on this endeavor, which gives viewers a chance to provide their real time responses to the nightly, hour-long program that goes over the day's news and offers a daily discussion of political issues.

  • ‘Internet of things’ added to hall of fame for words, i.e., the Oxford English Dictionary

    In a move that surprised very few people, the Oxford English Dictionary in August officially added a number of buzzworthy words to their online dictionary, including, yes, “buzzworthy,” but also “Internet of things,” which is defined as “a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.”

    We’ve been talking about the Internet of things for some time here at Microsoft. For instance, a little over two years ago, we introduced intelligent systems, which is how enterprises take advantage of the Internet of things. Companies are bringing intelligent systems powered by Microsoft into healthcare facilities, the factory floor and even onto the streets of Paris.

  • Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM now available to Volume License customers

    Beginning Tuesday, TechNet and MSDN subscribers now have access to Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM (release to manufacturing build). This also includes access for Volume License customers with an active Software Assurance (SA) agreement, as you receive a TechNet subscription as part of SA.

    As Erwin Visser notes in the latest Windows for Your Business blog post, there’s no time like the present to start your company’s planning for Windows 8.1.

    Windows 8.1 Enterprise is designed with businesses in mind, Visser says, pointing to a host of new capabilities only available in the Enterprise edition, as well as new industry-leading security features.

  • 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.

  • ‘On the Whiteboard’ goes behind-the-scenes of Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 launch

    In this episode of “On the Whiteboard,” Editor Pamela Woon is in New York City for the launch of the next generation of Surface devices. She talks to Brian Hall, the general manager of marketing for the Surface team, and gets the inside scoop on the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2.

  • 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.

  • Build SharePoint development environments quickly on Windows Azure

    Developers, if you need to create a SharePoint 2013 development environment quickly or want to build apps for SharePoint, you’ll need a machine with SharePoint 2013 and Visual Studio 2013 installed on it.

    Luckily for you, we have released a Windows Azure developer image that comes with SharePoint 2013 and Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate RC pre-installed. The image also contains scripts to provision and configure SharePoint 2013 with or without an Active directory running on a different machine.

  • 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:

  • New all-in-one PCs from HP announced at IFA

    On Thursday at the IFA show in Germany, HP announced two new all-in-one PCs based on a revolutionary adjustable design that allows for more positioning choice and control. Meet the HP ENVY Recline 23 TouchSmart All-in-One PC (above) and the HP ENVY Recline 27 TouchSmart All-in-One PC (below).

    Available in both 23-inch and 27-inch versions, these all-in-ones feature 10-point touch, making games and apps like FreshPaint more engaging than ever. And the fourth-generation Intel Core i processors will provide the power you need to run multiple apps at once without slowing things down, while NVIDIA discrete graphics will ensure movies run smoothly and clearly.

  • 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.

  • That’s 32 months in a row for Xbox 360 at the top of the US console market


    Xbox 360 maintained its lead in the U.S. console market during August, marking the thirty-second consecutive month it took the number one spot.

    According to The NPD Group, a market research firm, Xbox 360 sold 96,000 units, more than any other console in the U.S. during August.

  • Microsoft introduces the Surface 2, Surface Pro 2 and Surface accessories


    On Monday, Microsoft added two new members to the Surface family of tablets – the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2.

    Surface 2 (pictured left) and Surface Pro 2 (pictured right) will each have significant updates, including improvements to processing power and battery life, display and camera resolution and the Kickstand, which now has dual angles, so it’s more comfortable for you to use on your lap or at your desk. Enhancements in Windows RT 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro will make Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 even more powerful and customizable.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Preparing South Africa’s next generation of IT leaders: Microsoft partners with NetHope Academy to tackle youth unemployment

    Training South Africa’s next generation of IT leaders

    Current Microsoft Students to Business participants interning at Microsoft.

    Longtime partners NetHope and Microsoft are collaborating once again to address rising youth unemployment in South Africa. Through the company’s Microsoft Students to Business program, Microsoft is helping curb joblessness that affects half of the country’s young people.

    “We want to be locally relevant,” said Charlene Verzmoter, human capital development manager for Microsoft South Africa. “We want to see how we at Microsoft can address some of the unemployment issues facing South Africa.”

  • App of the Week: Stay in the game with Fantasy Football for Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox 360

    Screen shot 2

    At last, it’s football season again, and thanks to Microsoft’s game-changing partnership with the NFL, you have more ways than ever to follow the action from your TV, phone, tablet or desktop.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.