The Fire Hose

Covering the news of the day at Microsoft

The Fire Hose

  • The NFL on Xbox One and Surface: Your own personal gridiron


    Quarterbacks rely on receiving a reliable snap as the first step toward a first down – and eventually a touchdown – every time they run a play. Now with the recently released Xbox One, armchair quarterbacks around the country have a true game-changer: being able to “snap” official NFL highlights, stats, news and scores – along with fantasy football – next to live TV broadcasts of NFL games. And with Surfacethe official tablet of the NFL – fans have a device that, at their fingertips, gives lightning fast responses as they blitz through apps like Xbox SmartGlass, NFL Mobile and NFL Game Rewind.

    NFL Fan = 14, Being overwhelmed by multi-tasking during games = 0. No flags on the play, but let’s get a recap and see what led to the NFL fan pulling ahead.

  • Microsoft Research team creates Seattle Gigapixel ArtZoom, an interactive city panorama

    ZOOM OUT. A vibrant city on the water, surrounded by mountains, teeming with life.

    ZOOM IN. Do I spy, with a 600 mm lens, a “Thriller” flash mob under the Space Needle? Wait, and what’s over there? Do I spy an opera singer serenading Elliott Bay from Pier 69? And over there, near the Broad Street and Aurora ramp, do I spy a protest?

    ZOOM OUT. On a sunny fall day, from the 25th-floor rooftop of a Belltown condo building, Seattle is a stunning city. From several vantage points on the roof, Microsoft principal research development lead Matt Uyttendaele and principal researcher Michael Cohen take it all in from the tallest building in the neighborhood.

    Their team is taking more than 2,000 rapid-fire shots on this particular day, from just before noon through the afternoon. They’re using cameras and lenses more common to photographers covering a football game, and they’re going to use one of the many technologies they have created over their years working in Microsoft Research – the Image Composite Editor (ICE) – to stitch together a seamless, 20 gigapixel (20,000 megapixels), super high-resolution 360-degree panorama image from a set of overlapping shots taken from that rooftop. (Most cameras are lucky if they can cut 20 megapixels, so the kind of resolution in these images will blow. Your. Mind.)

    The Seattle Gigapixel ArtZoom project pushes the boundaries of the ICE technology to deliver an image that allows anyone to pan and zoom through the city of Seattle with an amazing level of detail. In a fun twist, visitors to the site can discover more than 100 artists and performers in public spaces and in private buildings, near important Seattle landmarks and on random street corners, acting alone or interacting with onlookers. The team captured the city’s vibrancy by filling the panoramic image with the dancers and actors, painters and poets, acrobats and burlesque queens. This interactive image, along with information, videos and stories about the artists, can be found at Gigapixel ArtZoom.

  • Small businesses succeed by embracing modern technology

    Click on the image to download the full infographic.

    Did you know that businesses in need of a technology facelift have a whole new world of device options and capabilities at their fingertips? With a slew of versatile, touch-enabled new PC, tablet, 2-in-1 and All-in-One devices on the market, there is a Windows 8 device to match every mobility and productivity requirement. In addition, cloud technology has given small businesses access to the same powerful capabilities that larger companies use, but at a price small and medium businesses can afford.

  • Imagine Cup’s new prizes and opportunities give students new ways to succeed

    This July at the Imagine Cup World Finals in Seattle, the top team from each category – Games, Innovation and World Citizenship – will take home $50,000. Now, thanks to a trio of new partnerships, each of those teams is also going to have a life-changing experience.

    Microsoft VenturesMicrosoft YouthSpark and PAX will provide a customized Boot Camp for each of the category winners.

  • Here are David Rothschild’s data-powered predictions for 2014, from the Super Bowl to Hillary Clinton

    Microsoft researcher David Rothschild is legendary for his ability to literally predict the future using a unique and rigorous approach to data analysis. He correctly called the results of the 2012 presidential election in every state but one. He nailed 19 of the 24 Oscar categories this past year. And he’s constantly pushing the boundaries of predictive science through experimental live pollingonline prediction games and more.

    In this interview, David Rothschild tells you what to expect in 2014, breaks down his forecasting philosophy, and explains why you should trust professional gamblers more than cable news pundits. 

    Steve Wiens: So obviously you’re pretty good at this. What’s your secret sauce? 

    David Rothschild: I use a lot of publicly available data – gambling markets, polls, social media data and other online data. But I’m also lucky to have access to a large treasure trove of historical data at Microsoft that I use in order to understand the correlation between different inputs and outputs, things that we care about, as well as an infrastructure that allows me to gather that data continuously and continuously update it. I really owe a lot to Microsoft and my colleagues.

  • Small businesses: Stay safe, get up to date before Windows XP, Office 2003 support ends April 8


    The Windows XP standard desktop wallpaper, Bliss.

    The workplace has changed – we’re all more mobile and more social, and to stay competitive, small businesses need the right tools to compete. If businesses are running Windows XP or Office 2003 after April 8, they not only won’t have the right tools, but they run the risk of falling victim to malware because security updates and support for Windows XP and Office 2003 will cease.

    That’s why it’s important for small businesses to upgrade their technologies to Windows 8.1 and Office 365 now, before April 8. Ending support doesn’t mean that as of April 8 Windows XP and Office 2003 will suddenly stop working. However, there will be no more security updates or technical support for Windows XP, which may lead to serious problems, including:

  • Small business owner creates her mobile app in a few hours with Windows Phone App Studio

    For Holly Shore, a mobile app would save her a lot of time – and be a big help to her readers.

    Shore, a former fashion model who now devotes herself to helping other moms and clients make informed and healthy nutrition choices through her Integrative Mom site, spends a lot of time answering questions.

    “I have a good relationship with my readers. I will comment on posts, and respond with direct emails or texts, and I don’t mind that at all, but it does take up a lot of my time,” says Shore, who lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two young boys. “If they’re at the grocery store, and if they have the app, they can find what they need without waiting for me to get back to them.”

    In the video above, Shore shows how she created a mobile app using Windows Phone App Studio. Like others who need an app to grow their business – but who don’t know anything about writing software code – Shore used the tool, which takes users step-by-step through the process. In less than two hours, she had created an app that, with a little bit more tweaking, would be ready to submit to the Windows Phone Store for approval.

  • Seattle artist finds Surface 2 and Skype perfect tools to help make the world better

    When Seattle-based artist and entrepreneur Lauren Iida was in search of a go-to device that was light enough to carry around in her bag and robust enough to handle schoolwork, her dog walking business and Cambodia-focused independent art projects, the Surface 2 hit the sweet spot.

    “After three months with the Surface 2, I’ve definitely come to appreciate it a lot,” Iida says. “I use it every day. I was drawn to the Surface from a commercial I saw, about the functionality of it. It did a lot of things I would look for in a laptop, such as having Office, and I could also surf the Web. And, it was really small and portable … It’s more user-friendly than previous PCs, more intuitive.”

  • Check out these apps made by Microsoft BizSpark startups


    Microsoft BizSpark – a free program that provides startups with software, tools and a network of 50,000 to collaborate with – is also responsible for producing a bevy of Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps.

    The BizSpark Group Blog collected a few that will help you start 2014 on the right foot, including OFunnel, a BizSpark startup that went through the Seattle TechStars Accelerator in 2013. They have built what they call the "Google Alerts for Relationships." Douglas Crets also interviewed the founder, Kushal Shah, on The BizSpark Show.

  • 8-year-old creates Kids Zone app using Windows Phone App Studio


    Mohamed Tariq Jaffar Ali at the November Nokia DVLUP Day event in Cambridge, Mass.

    Like other 8-year-olds, Mohamed Tariq Jaffar Ali plays soccer. His favorite part? Scoring goals, once popping three past the goalie in one game!

    He also accomplished another goal off the field: creating an app, Kids Zonethat has been downloaded from the Windows Phone Store more than 1,200 times from people in many countries, including Portugal, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, India and Lebanon. The free app aggregates YouTube videos and clips from popular cartoons such as “Tom and Jerry,” “Curious George” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” and sorts them into channels easily accessible for kids – and their parents. Tariq, for instance, added Mickey Mouse as a channel for his 4-year-old sister.

  • 'Beast Quake' felt 'round world thanks to Windows Azure

    Seattle Seahawks fans—aka the 12th Man—rocked the world on Jan. 19.

    University of Washington seismologists and a handful of hard-core fans know it because they were doing some extra special listening (thanks to some last-minute help from Windows Azure).

    Researchers from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) have installed seismometers at Seattle's CenturyLink Field, home of the Super Bowl-bound National Football League's Seahawks. The seismometers measure seismic activity that results from fans cheering and stomping after big plays—affectionately dubbed "Beast Quakes" after an epic touchdown run that Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch ripped off during a 2011 playoff game. (That initial quake would have registered about a 2 on the Richter scale, according to PNSN.)

    But PNSN seismologists ran into a problem on Jan. 12 when the playoffs got under way in Seattle. Interest in their real-time seismic monitoring Web app Fan-o-Meter soared, but the team's lone Linux server couldn't handle the increased traffic. Only a fraction of the fans who visited saw any real-time data, and the PNSN team had no choice but to turn off the live stream and call it a failure.

  • Designing Xbox One: The inside story

    On a frigid Thursday evening last November, writer Jennifer Warnick lined up at the Microsoft Store in Seattle for the midnight launch of Xbox One. Consumers would buy over a million consoles in the next 24 hours – but Warnick was among the lucky few to share the moment with Carl Ledbetter, the guy who designed it.

  • #ICreatedThis: Celebrating the amazing things people do with our technology

    The #ICreatedThis series celebrates the creations of Microsoft employees and customers.

    As a kid, one of my great joys was coming home from school to show my parents something I made. “Look what I did” is a statement whose power we all learn at a very early age. Into adulthood, our careers and personal pursuits are often driven by the need to create. Whether it’s art, invention, science, or philanthropy, it’s great to sit back, reflect on something we’ve done and say “I Created This.”

    It is that spirit that we are presenting a series of posts on this blog and through our social media properties called #ICreatedThis.  The series celebrates the creations of Microsoft employees and customers.

  • 7 ways tech can help you ring in the New Year

    New Year’s Eve celebrations and traditions are as plentiful as there are cultures. But a few things always ring true around the globe – celebrating with family and friends, reveling in music and feasting on special food and drinks. Just as technology has made just about every other aspect of life a little easier, there are some great tech products that will help you count down to 2014 with panache with those you love – no matter where they are.

    Bing Food and Drink app
     Cook like renowned chef Tom Colicchio and create the perfect dinner menu for your New Year’s party.  Easily build a shopping list, and navigate step-by-step recipes hands-free using gestures with your Windows 8.1 tablet – no touching the screen with messy hands!

  • Lido Stone Works carves out a solid future with the Internet of Things

    For hundreds of years, stonemasons have used their hands, backs and tools to impose their will on unyielding materials. These days, those tools are intelligent devices — specialized machines and modeling software that take much of the physical labor out of the equation. That allows companies, such as Calverton, N.Y.-based Lido Stone Works to produce more stone creations in less time with greater accuracy than ever.

    “I’m a third-generation stone worker, and until recently I was still doing it by hand,” says Eliot Mazzocca, owner and president of Lido Stone Works. “I know all the difficulties involved in creating this element for someone's environment; now, a machine does it with finesse and ease, using the tools I would have picked up myself.”

  • Support for Windows XP and Office 2003 ends April 8, 2014 — what’s next?

    The Windows XP standard desktop wallpaper, Bliss.

    On April 8, 2014, after more than a decade, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003. What does this mean? Windows XP users will no longer receive new security updates, nonsecurity hotfixes, free or paid support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft.  

    Windows XP was released in October 2001, and its development began in the late 1990s. Office 2003 has had a similar history. Most Microsoft software is supported for 10 years; retiring a product is a normal part of any product lifecycle. Windows XP and Office 2003, however, have been supported for more than a decade, or since “Baywatch” went off the air.

  • Batter up! No chance you’ll swing and miss with these 5 baseball apps for Windows and Windows Phone

    The start of the Major League Baseball season is a time of hope for all fans of the game – even for fans of teams that haven’t come close to sniffing the playoffs in years. The season is still young, the players are still healthy and the possibilities seem limitless.

    And so, in the spirit of that optimism, we’ve rounded up five apps for Windows and Windows Phone to help keep you up to date on the latest scores, stats and news for your favorite team. Play ball!

    At Bat for Windows Phone, the official Major League Baseball app, was just updated to keep fans up to speed on breaking news and lead changes through push notifications. Subscribers also receive pitch-by-pitch tracking with realistic renderings of all 30 Major League ballparks.

  • Injured skier follows dream from Microsoft to Sochi

    Peru's flag-bearer Roberto Carcelen uses his Windows Phone during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb. 7, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

    Of course his race falls on Valentine’s Day.

    After all, Roberto Carcelen’s journey to the 2014 Winter Games is at its heart a love story. It began when he fell for a woman he met in cyberspace, prompting him to trade the beaches of his native Peru for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

    There, love led him at age 34 to his first pair of skis — and a flailing, comic outing on the slopes of Snoqualmie Pass. Love of country ultimately led him to becoming the first Peruvian to ever compete in the Winter Games.

    And now love has led him to Sochi, Russia. And on Valentine’s Day, Carcelen will represent Peru as he races in the 15-kilometer cross-country skiing event.

    He won’t medal. All he wants to do is cross the finish line.  

    It will be a painful trek. Barely three weeks ago, Carcelen broke his ribs while training in Austria. The doctor who viewed his X-rays says “I’m sorry, I don’t think you’ll be able to compete.”

  • Get 100 GB of OneDrive storage through new Bing Rewards special offer


    Last week saw the release of OneDrive, offering free cloud storage across Microsoft, iOS and Android devices. Today, Bing and OneDrive are offering 100 GB of OneDrive storage to all new and existing members of Bing rewards for just 100 credits. This level of storage is a $50 value, and is available for redemption at the Bing Rewards website. The storage is valid for one year from redemption and must be redeemed by June 30, 2014.

  • Great gifts under $100 for your gadget-head

    Affordable gifts for tech lovers
    Turn heads wherever you go with this phone’s unique metal design and polycarbonate back. With SkyDrive built in, your photos are automatically backed up to protect your holiday memories. $49 with two-year contract at AT&T; $0 up front with two-year contract at T-Mobile (pricing may vary).
    Nokia Lumia 925 Windows Phone
    December 12, 2013
    Turn heads wherever you go with this phone’s unique metal design and polycarbonate back. With SkyDrive built in, your photos are automatically backed up to protect your holiday memories. $49 with two-year contract at AT&T; $0 up front with two-year contract at T-Mobile (pricing may vary).
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    Got a gadget-head on your shopping list? When we hear “gadgets and tech,” we often think of high-ticket items, but there are plenty of cool technology options that won’t break the bank. We’ve gathered seven great gift ideas that any tech lover (and your wallet) will appreciate.

  • Accessible yoga for the blind using Kinect

    Kyle Rector helped develop Eyes-Free Yoga, which uses Microsoft Kinect software to help make visual exercise accessible to people without sight.

    Yoga is not an easy exercise for those who are vision impaired. Fortunately, Kyle Rector, a fourth-year PhD student at the University of Washington, has developed a way to make it more accessible. After sustaining a running injury that made her turn to yoga for exercise, she and her advisor, Julie Kientz, realized the potential of using Kinect to detect yoga poses. Using skeletal tracking, voice recognition and the ability to use software to help people improve the alignment of people’s bodies, they developed Eyes-Free Yoga.

  • 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.


  • What our customers are saying: Top enterprise trends of 2014

    The following post is from Susan Hauser, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Enterprise and Partner Group, Microsoft.

    In my travels, I chat with different customers across industries and geographies – from manufacturing companies in Europe to retailers in Asia to hoteliers in Latin America. As we approach the end of 2013, some key themes emerged from my conversations that are instructional to both what customers’ emerging needs are and where the technology industry is going. So, with the New Year upon us, what trends should your business anticipate? Here are a few that will play a role in defining the year to come:

    Internet of Things made real. We’re all familiar with the challenge of big data – how the volume, velocity and variety of data is overwhelming. Studies confirm the conclusion many of you have reached on your own: There’s more data crossing the Internet every second than existed on the internet in total 20 years ago. 

  • These apps and games travel well wherever you go


    As you settle into some much-needed downtime over the holidays, you might be juggling several devices with family members – but whatever you’ve got in your hands, you should be able to get back to what you were doing. To help you make the most of that grab-and-go experience, we’ve gathered some apps and games that help you pick up where you left off – so you’re not tethered to any one device.

    As long as you’ve got the app or game installed on your various devices and synced to the same account, you should be able to enjoy them seamlessly.


  • #MSFTCOSO POV: A year of progress as Microsoft’s chief online safety officer

    The following post is from Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer at Microsoft. Once a month on The Fire Hose, Beauchere gives her point of view on topics related to the global consumer online safety, privacy and security landscape. Follow the conversation on Twitter at #MSFTCOSO.

    One year ago, Microsoft began to chart a bolder course in its long-standing commitment to online safety. Since my appointment as both the company’s and the tech industry’s first Chief Online Safety Officer in March 2013, I’ve seen the industry as a whole re-up in consumer security, privacy and online safety, especially as these topics relate to children.

    For Microsoft, this heightened degree of focus has helped to amplify much of our ongoing work. This includes creating a stronger holistic technical vision within our devices and services, as well as implementing a new Online Safety Policy, Standards and Procedures that now formally codifies work that has been taking place for the past two decades.