November, 2011

  • Upgrading your PC? Why not give someone access to the internet?

    Sean Nicholson, OEM 3R (Redesign, Reuse, Recycle) program manager, Microsoft

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    Schoolchildren in Madagascar using refurbished PCs to learn IT skills

    Every year around 20% of the PCs in use worldwide finish with their owners. Many will be broken or very old, but around half of them can still be reused, especially as entry level PCs for internet use and learning IT skills. These reused PCs represent some of the most affordable ways for people to own a PC with commercial prices starting from under $100 and donated PCs just requiring the cost of cleaning them up, testing, and performing a clean software install.

    Microsoft has been supporting the reuse of PCs for over 5 years. In our last financial year we helped over 400,000 PCs be reused by schools, universities, not for profit organizations and technology access programs around the world. This work is part of our Registered Refurbisher Program, which has both commercial software licenses that any refurbished PC can use, along with special Citizenship software licenses that only education, non-profits and specially approved recipients are allowed to use. The refurbishing organization can be commercial or charitable and may use both license types depending on who they are supplying the refurbished PC to.

    The Citizenship software licenses offer Windows 7 for around $6 and Office 2007 for a similar fee. The fees are used to cover the cost of running the program as well as support the reuse of PCs. For example Microsoft has been sponsoring the International Computer Refurbishers Summit (ICRS) for the last few years which many non-profit refurbishers attend to share knowledge on PC reuse. Microsoft also operates a program for large commercial refurbishers called Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher.

    Microsoft defines a refurbished PC as a PC that has been used, is over six months old and has its original motherboard and processor. The refurbishers may choose to upgrade things like memory, graphics and disk storage. The refurbishers are also required to follow local environmental legislation and international data wiping standards to ensure no confidential or personal data is left on the used PC.

    Currently we have over 2,500 organizations that have joined the program from over 80 countries. They range from small non-profits who refurbish fewer than 50 PCs a year, up to large organization's handling tens of thousands, often sponsored by governments. Some of our large commercial refurbishers operate programs that allow corporations to donate their used PCs to help others, for example Serious Good from Redemtech. Directories of all the organizations in our PC refurbishment programs along with guidance on buying a refurbished PC can be found here.

    To support this work we have developed special software tools that make reimaging a refurbished PC easier, especially when you have to do hundreds at a time. Unlike the new PC production line where each PC is the same model, with the same device drivers, a refurbishers production line handles snowflakes in that each PC is different and will require different configuration options. We have also produced guides on disposal of your PC which you can read here along with guidance on the licensing rules when reinstalling Windows operating system on PCs.

    While reusing PCs is great for the environment my favorite part of running the citizenship refurbisher program is meeting and hearing stories around the impact these affordable PCs have on people lives.

    Please consider joining our Refurbisher Program , or buying from one of our refurbishers.

  • Extending our commitment to help U.S. Veterans find employment

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    Returning U.S. veterans face major challenges finding civilian employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics October unemployment report showed that the unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was 12.1 percent compared with 8.4 percent for nonveterans. A year ago we announced a program aimed at addressing that issue, the Elevate America Veterans initiative. It’s a program focused on working with nonprofit organizations to provide veterans and their spouses with the training and support services they need to transition from the military to civilian employment.

    Today we are expanding that commitment. Working with the U.S. Department of Labor in a liaison role, we are announcing the availability of new training voucher ”packages” that will enable veterans to obtain, at no cost, selected e-learning, test preparation and certification for Windows 7 and Office 2010 or selected IT Professional e-learning, test preparation and certification. These vouchers will be available in the five communities in the United States with the highest number of post 9/11 era veterans and distributed in partnership with local Workforce Areas, including:

    · Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (WA)

    · San Diego Workforce Partnership (CA)

    · Houston-Galveston Area Council (TX)

    · Northern Virginia Workforce Board (VA)

    · First Coast Workforce Development/Worksource Florida (Jacksonville, FL)

    Each of these areas will receive 1,000 voucher packages per year for two years, totaling 10,000 packages. We will also be providing support for in-person tutorial assistance for veterans to ensure they are successful in their training and certification. Each of the local Workforce Areas will help connect the veterans and their spouses to potential employers in their area.

    Veterans can find more information about resources available from Microsoft, including specific locations where the vouchers will be distributed at the Elevate America veterans initiative website.

    This new voucher program is an expansion to our existing Elevate America veterans initiative, and our work with six nonprofit organizations who are providing veterans with technology skills, job training and placement programs to help give veterans and their spouses the skills and resources they need to be successful in today’s civilian work force. The nonprofits providing these services in their local communities include:

    · Able-Disabled Advocacy, Inc., San Diego, CA; San Diego VetWORKS

    · Bellevue College, Bellevue, WA; Project Succeed

    · Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont Inc, Charlotte, NC; Elevate America's veterans initiative

    · Gulf Coast Workforce Board, Panama City, FL; Mission: 21st Century (M:21c)

    · Per Scholas INC., New York, NY; Microsoft Veterans Employment Project

    · Veterans Inc., Worcester, MA; Veterans Inc. Employment & Training Program

    Through this work we continue to learn best practices in how we can scale support for the thousands of veterans and their spouses who can benefit from this type of support.The new voucher program increases our investment in the Elevate America Veterans initiative to over $12 million in cash, product, training and certification resources and other services.

    Related posts:

    · Read the official press release

    · Elevate America Veterans web site

    · Microsoft, Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Richard Burr Convene Roundtable on Veterans and Unemployment

    · Joining Forces to Increase Job Opportunities for Military Spouses

    · Bringing veterans to Microsoft

    · Elevate America helps U.S. veterans to find employment

    · Stories from the front lines: Elevate America veterans

    · Supporting our Veterans

    Guest posts:

    · Asking for help is strength, not weakness – Wounded Warriors Project

    · Calling all Businesses—Hire More Veterans with Disabilities - Paralyzed Veterans of America

    · Responding to the Emerging Needs of Veterans – Veterans Inc.

    · Veterans Build Success at Bellevue College – Bellevue College

    · The Private Sector Steps up for Vets - Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

    · Benefits of Hiring a Veteran – Gulf Coast Workforce Board

    · Serving our country’s heroes – Goodwill Industries

    · More than meets the eye – American Legion

    · A tribute to success – Able-Disabled Advocacy

    · Our Duty - USO

  • Movember: Welcome to Moustache Season

    Tom_MoranMy grandfather was a fire department chief, and I can still remember him in his uniform – white hat, boots, heavy jacket and gloves.  He was a hero to me.  He was also a survivor of prostate cancer.  Each of my other grandparents had cancer, and many of my friends and family, from 2 years old to 90.  In fact, this is not uncommon – 1 of 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and 1 of 3 women.  In fact, by the time you finish reading this post, 2 men will have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  And by the time you finish this post and visit my site, 1 man will have died from prostate cancer.  In Movember, the month formerly known as November, we are focusing on men’s health issues.  The ‘we’ is nearly 800,000 men (Mo Bro’s) and women (Mo Sistas) who have signed up worldwide to be part of a movement to highlight and help make progress on health issues that disproportionately affect men, such as certain types of cancer, diabetes, suicide and depression.  So far, we’ve been part of raising nearly $43,000,000 this year alone.  So welcome to moustache season:   

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    The Mo Sistas in support of Movember

    Every Movember men register at www.movember.com, start the month clean-shaven and grow a moustache for 30 days. The moustache becomes the hairy ribbon for men's health and the guys growing them become walking, talking billboards for the cause. To date, over 1.1 million men and women have supported Movember, raising $174 million through the power of the moustache.

    "Movember is truly becoming a movement for menʼs health in the US," said Adam Garone, CEO and Co-Founder of Movember. "Through the simple act of growing a moustache, we are funding successful awareness and education programs through the Movember Foundation, research through our partner

    Prostate Cancer Foundation, and support programs through our partner LIVESTRONG.”

    Movember funds are hard at work. Thanks to support of their Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, Movember is funding a number of prolific outcomes in the US, including:

    · PCF Research Program: Whole Genome Sequencing For the first time ever scientists have constructed a complete genetic map of prostate cancer.

    · PCF Research Program: 25+ Subtypes of Prostate Cancer Researchers have identified 25+ subtypes of prostate cancer.

    · LIVESTRONG Movember Partnership Initiative Providing free cancer navigation resources for any man affected by any cancer at any stage.

    I am proud of the nearly 450 Microsoft employees, men and women, who have signed up to be part of this – people like Matt Bielich, who guides our Microsoft Mo “network”, Paul Redmond, my team captain, Kees Pronk, a fundraising machine, and Cynthia Snyder, Mo Sista extraordinaire who brought in pink moustaches for all the ladies.  We all have our own reasons for participating.  For me, I do it to honor the memory of my grandparents, I do it for myself and my family so I can enjoy a happy and healthy life, and I do it for all of our kids so that they might not have the specter of cancer haunting their futures. 

    It is easy for YOU to get involvedStart by visiting my site at http://mobro.co/slowmoshun – I would love for you to leave a comment, or a note of encouragement.  You can also visit the main Movember site, or the Microsoft Movember site, to learn more about these health issues, the movement and what it takes to join or sign up your own team for next year.  Look at starting an effort within your school, club, team, company, or even retirement community – there are groups from government agencies, universities, and private companies all growin’ and showin’ their new Mo’s. 

    Finally, if you happen to see someone sporting a brand new Mo, and perhaps seeming a bit uncomfortable, say hello - there’s a good chance they are one of my new MoBros!  If it is a bright neon lime green moustache, it’s probably me…

  • STEM Hero: Looking up at the stars and advancing curriculum with Curtis Wong

    When your children look up at the sky, do they ever ask you what is going on millions of miles above their heads? Did you ever ask the same question? Back when Curtis Wong was a young boy growing up in smoggy Los Angeles, he dreamt of being able to clearly see and learn about the beautiful images of the sky, which he could only see in books. With that dream in mind, Curtis now uses his education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to make STEM subjects more accessible and more fun.  Just look at the World Wide Telescope and Project Tuva, both of which show that STEM subjects can be taught in new more exciting ways.

    I was fortunate to have a quick chat with Curtis the other day and got to learn a bit more about how he came to work on such amazing projects. Since it was just us in the room, I made sure to tape it and believe me, if you are a teacher or student, this is not one to miss. Without further ado, here is Curtis:

     

    You should check out World Wide Telescope and Project Tuva, after all, they are free to use!

  • Accessibility at the Partners in Learning Global Forum

    LaDeana Huyler, Microsoft Accessibility

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    This week, at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington, D.C., more than 700 of the most innovative educators from around the world came together to discuss their big ideas. These extraordinary educators are focused on improving teaching and learning through the effective use of technology in the classroom. One way educators are creating a better future for students is through helping their students with disabilities learn and communicate in new ways with accessible technology.

    Educators are faced with the challenge of both integrating technology into the classroom and teaching students of all learning styles and abilities, including students with disabilities. Students with disabilities face unique challenges in learning and in life. Microsoft has long been dedicated not only to building accessibility into our products but also providing accessibility resources for educators.

    We are continually growing our commitment to accessibility in education by listening to what teachers need and creating the accessibility training resources they request. In response such requests, Microsoft recently published Accessibility Curriculum Resources for Special Education for Windows 7 and Office 2010 . This curriculum resource provides specific examples and best practices that show how the PC can be personalized for students with learning style differences or physical disabilities. And, it shows educators how to create accessible documents and teaching materials in Office 2010. Teachers are using Office 2010 to prepare effective teaching tools to support students with disabilities. With Office 2010, teachers can create animated instructional presentations, convert documents to audiobooks, and include subtitles with audio and video media. They can also check the accessibility of a Word document, Excel worksheet, or PowerPoint presentation with Accessibility checker.

    Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is just one example of a school district that is leading the way, and I had the privilege of touring their staff training center and visiting with their accessibility specialists this week. Loudoun County Public schools has a ten-person assistive technology team that utilizes the built-in features in Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office products to help educators throughout their district incorporate accessibility best practices into the curriculum in a cost-effectively way. Read how Loudoun County Public Schools uses familiar technology to make learning more accessible for all students. At the Global Forum, teachers had an opportunity to attend the accessibility teacher training workshop and get hands-on experience using the accessibility features of Windows and Office. We also shared the story of a blind student named Ignacia Picas who attends Colegio San Benito, a school in Santiago, Chile that uses accessible software to help Ignacia reach the top of her class. Ignacia using a laptop running the Windows operating system and its accessibility features, Microsoft Office, and JAWS screen reading software to fully integrate into her classroom and maintain a near-perfect grade point average. Her teachers provide her with quizzes and exams in Microsoft Word document.

    While here, we have met with educators from Chile, Portugal, Germany, Australia, Russia, the United States, and Ireland to have in-depth discussions and share best practices about the use of accessible technology in schools. On the Partners in Learning network, we plan to continue this global dialogue to help educators worldwide lead the way in engaging students through accessible technology.

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