The Fire Hose

Covering the news of the day at Microsoft

February, 2014

  • US Partners: Join your Microsoft SMB regional team for the March partner call

    Diane Golshan, writing on the US Partner Team blog, reminds partners to join your Microsoft small- or medium-businesses regional team for the March partner call in the monthly series. The calls cover a wide variety of topics — technology, sales and marketing information and resources for resellers that serve SMB customers. You’ll hear from Microsoft experts about opportunities, resources and tips for building your business and best practices.

    You can register for the March call, as well as the series of calls for each region through June 2014, using these links on the Microsoft Events website:

  • Author cites Microsoft’s CityNext initiative as good example of aligning business and social interests

    Microsoft’s CityNext initiative was cited recently as an example of good corporate citizenship that helps companies’ business interests as well as societal needs. The praise came from Alice Korngold, author of “A Better World, Inc.:...
  • Skype: Grandparent tested, and approved

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    Don’t let distance separate you from those you hold dear, especially grandparents! Skype is the perfect tool for keeping in touch when extended family members are far away.

    On the Play Blog, Jeff Bogle shares how his kids use Skype to bring their grandparents into the living room for Science Sunday experiments, or a quick weeknight bedtime story.

    Whether grandma or grandpa are across town or across the country, Skype helps everyone stay connected, and ensures the most important people get to share a piece of your family’s day-to-day life.

  • Xbox Live Gold members get free ‘Civilization Revolution’ and ‘Dungeon Defenders’ in March

    XboxLiveGold games March

    “Games with Gold” gives Xbox Live Gold members two free games to keep each month, and for March, those games are “Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution” and “Dungeon Defenders.”

    From March 1-15, “Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution” (normally $29.99) will be free for Xbox Live Gold members, and from March 16-31, Xbox Live Gold members can download “Dungeon Defenders” (normally $14.99) for free.

  • Gartner names Microsoft as a leader in Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms

    Gartner has put Microsoft in the “Leaders Quadrant” of the research firm’s 2014 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Platforms. The nod was given based on Microsoft’s completeness of vision and ability to execute in the BI and analytics market.

    In addition to detailed evaluations of Microsoft and other key vendors, Gartner’s report addresses significant market trends. For example, in just one year the willingness of survey respondents to put mission-critical data in the cloud jumped from 30 percent to 45 percent, notes the Cloud & Enterprise (C&E) News Bytes Blog.

  • Throw an award-winning Oscars party with help from these apps


    Whether you’re a newbie to Academy Award viewing shindigs or a polished veteran, the Windows Experience Blog has collected tips that could help bring home the best party statuette Sunday, using Windows apps.

  • Try the new Power BI for Office 365 and schedule daily data refreshes for your team to peruse over their morning coffee

    With the new availability of Power BI (Business Intelligence) for Office 365, you can now schedule workbook refreshes so your team sees fresh data when they arrive at the office each day.

    That’s just one example of the functionality described in a new post by the Office Blogs. Among the other project management features introduced by Power BI, you’ll also find the ability to add your workbook to the self-service Q&A to allow team members to query your data results using natural language.

  • Now in the Windows Store: ‘FlowDoku’ reinvents sudoku

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    If you’re a fan of sudoku, “FlowDoku” reinvents it with colorful shapes that you can now play on Windows PCs and tablets.

  • New multiplayer maps, skins part of ‘Mars’ Chosen Pack’ downloadable content for ‘Ryse: Son of Rome’

    "Ryse: Son of Rome's" new "Mars' Chosen Pack" downloadable content is now available, and it includes the new Survival multiplayer mode, five new multiplayer maps and a new Gladiator Skin.

    New Arena Mode maps Pyramid and Obelisk take you into the heart of Egypt. And you can enter the Colosseum as two new contenders: Oswald and Legionnaire.

  • Soccer fans: ‘FIFA 14’ kicks off on Windows Phone

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    For soccer fans, “FIFA 14” is hard to beat for its generous selection of real players, teams and leagues along with new touch controls for every pass, shot and tackle – and now it’s available at the Windows Phone Store.

  • Bring your inner Titan: Xbox One hosts ‘Titanfall’ launch events March 10 on Twitch and at SXSW

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    Get ready for launch, “Titanfall” launch that is. The game that has been described as the “most addictive” ever is getting a huge welcome, with more than 6,000 retailers nationwide planning midnight openings March 11, when “Titanfall” goes on sale, and launch celebrations planned March 10 on Twitch, as well as at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin.

    Tune in to the live broadcast using the Twitch app on Xbox or at twitch.tv/xbox starting at 8 p.m. PT for incredible gameplay action, and catch special appearances by Respawn’s Vince Zampella and Abbie Heppe; Yusuf Mehdi, Xbox corporate vice president of marketing, strategy and business; Xbox Live’s own Major Nelson; Spike TV host Geoff Keighley; Twitch’s Jon Carnage, and many others.

  • Microsoft files Supreme Court amicus brief in support of ending overly broad patents

    On Friday, Microsoft filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of affirmance in the Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank case.

    “Our interest in this case is to ensure the Supreme Court understands the difference between true technological innovations and the types of business method patents at issue in this case. Adobe and HP joined Microsoft on the brief,” Horacio Gutierrez, deputy general counsel and corporate vice president of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post Friday.

  • Making a difference for eye health in India

    Juhee Ahmed

    Wherever Microsoft does business, we are active members of the communities in which we live and work.  At the Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC) in Hyderabad, some employees took a particular interest in the needs of the visually impaired. 

    Juhee Ahmed and fellow employees of the MSIDC contributed to create a the Mobility & Sensory Stimulation Park—the first of its kind in the world. The park, which was fully funded by contributions received from MSIDC employees through the Microsoft Employee Giving Campaign, exposes visually challenged people to non-visual sensory experiences.

  • Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School now accepting applications

    The Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School is now accepting applications, and encourages women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and students from smaller colleges to apply.

    The school takes place over eight weeks, from June 16 to Aug. 8, at Microsoft Research’s New York City lab to provide an introduction to large-scale data analysis for local undergraduate students who are interested in attending graduate school in computer science and related fields.

  • Windows Experience Blog’s latest favorites include Bing Maps Preview and WPCentral

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    Bing Maps Preview for Windows 8.1

    Brandon LeBlanc’s monthly series of his favorite Windows and Windows Phone apps continues with Bing Maps, e-readers and news and reviews.

  • The business benefits of saying ‘goodbye’ to Windows XP and ‘hello’ to Windows 8.1

    By now you’re probably aware Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP on April 8, and Peter K. Han, Microsoft vice president of U.S. OEM, says he doesn’t want to repeat what you already know, but rather focus on the benefits to your business of using Windows 8.1.

    Han, writing on the US Partner Team blog, points to four key areas where Windows 8.1 is the right fit for today’s businesses:

  • Hands-on: NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti graphics card delivers intense PC gaming

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    A reference card based on the new GTX 750 Ti GPU.

    Over at the Extreme Windows Blog, Gavin Gear has been testing the GeForce GTX 750 Ti, one of the first GPUs based on Maxwell, a new graphics platform from NVIDIA that pushes the limits of both performance and efficiency.

    “The specs look great on paper, but the real story is told when you put your GPU to the test with intense PC gaming,” Gear says.

  • Latest Next Big Thing collection from indie devs includes ‘Blender Defender: Fruit Slicer’ and ‘Jolly Fish’

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    "Blender Defender: Fruit Slicer"

    The Next Big Thing collection showcases Windows Phone apps from independent developers every month. Amongst the latest batch of 31 are games with teddy bear-stealing monsters, fruit zombies and little jelly fish.

  • Kinect for Windows v2 developer explores body imaging capabilities

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    Zubair Ahmed demonstrates the hand color frame received from the Kinect for Windows sensor.

    Zubair Ahmed, a participant in the Kinect for Windows v2 developer preview program, put his new v2 Kinect for Windows sensor through its paces and shares his findings in two blog posts, writes the Kinect for Windows Team.

    In his first post, Ahmed demonstrates how to use the body source data captured by the Kinect sensor to draw bones, hands and joints and overlay them on top of the color frame that comes from the sensor.

  • Kinect for Windows course simplifies creation of Windows Presentation Foundation apps

    Kinect for Windows developers can use a set of features, “KinectInteraction,” to create Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) applications in which the movement of the user’s hand controls an on-screen hand, much like the movement of a mouse controls an on-screen cursor, writes the Kinect for Windows Team.

    Now, András Velvart, a Kinect for Windows MVP, has created an online video course, "KinectInteraction with WPF and Beyond,” that provides step-by-step instructions on how to create WPF applications, and teaches students how to customize the look and feel of the controls provided by Microsoft.

  • Intelligent Systems competency assures experience and skills for Microsoft Partner Network

    The newly launched Intelligent Systems competency follows through on a commitment to offer Microsoft’s partners more program options and greater partner benefits. It’s the culmination of the combined efforts of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and Windows Embedded to transition program administration for the Windows Embedded Partner Program ecosystem into the MPN.

  • Win this Skype contest, and you could be on your way to Europe for two weeks

    In “Rerouted: a Skype travel challenge,” travel blogger Mike Corey wound up bungee jumping in Italy, dancing in France and scuba diving in Greece. With the help of his friends on Skype and Twitter, Corey made it across Europe. Now, you have the chance to follow in his footsteps (bungee jumping is optional) with an all-expense paid trip that’s being offered by Skype.

    For two weeks, you and a friend will travel across Europe, with stops in Istanbul, Athens, Milan and Montpellier, before ending your trip in Barcelona, writes Vanessa Henry on Skype’s Big Blog. And to document the trip, you’ll receive the same tools Corey used on his: a Surface Pro 2 and a Nokia Lumia 1020.

  • ChronoZoom and zombies head to SXSWedu

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    The beta version of ChronoZoom released about a year ago, quickly earning the team behind it the SXSW Interactive Award for Best Educational Resource. At this year’s SXSWedu event, curriculum designer David Hunter will present his Zombie-Based Learning Curriculum, as well as the ChronoZoomers Guild project that utilizes ChronoZoom to teach historical thinking in a time-traveling scenario.

  • Microsoft employees launch new college scholarship for students with disabilities

    Microsoft employees have created a new scholarship to encourage more high school seniors living with a disability to enroll in college, to realize the impact technology can have on the world and to explore careers in technology.

    The Microsoft DisAbility Scholarship is a grassroots effort begun by the company’s internal Cross Disability Employee Resource Group, writes Daniel Hubbell on the Microsoft Abilities Blog. Each year, a panel of Microsoft volunteers will select high school seniors with visual, hearing, cognitive, mobility or speech disabilities to receive individual $5,000 scholarships for study at four-year or two-year universities, colleges or technical colleges.

  • Lync 2013 for desktop gets new features, including support of high-resolution monitors

    High resolution Lync

    There have been four major updates to the Lync 2013 Desktop Client since it was released a year ago, including new features such as Q&A manager, embedded IM images, Lync Meeting recording options and spellcheck. The February update adds three more features: the ability to toggle pictures of sender/receiver, support of high-resolution monitors, the ability to transfer files and pictures in a Persistent Chat room and the ability to toggle pictures of sender/receiver in an IM conversation.

    Screens on new 4K Ultra HD monitors and notebooks offer an incredible display, but also present some visual challenges, the Lync team says in a blog post. When users increase resolution, it “inherently decreases the size of each pixel,” which then means content on the display appears smaller. “Previously, icons in Lync could have looked fuzzy and pixelated in these high resolutions, but with the February update, the team has addressed this issue with support for 200 percent DPI scaling.”