Microsoft takes legal action against COVID-19-related cybercrime  | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft takes legal action against COVID-19-related cybercrime  | Microsoft On The Issues

Today, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed documents detailing Microsoft’s work to disrupt cybercriminals that were taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to defraud customers in 62 countries around the world. Our civil case has resulted in a court order allowing Microsoft to seize control of key domains in the criminals’ infrastructure so that it can no longer be used to execute cyberattacks

To further protect yourself against phishing campaigns, including BEC, we recommend, first, that you enable two-factor authentication on all business and personal email accounts. Second, learn how to spot phishing schemes and protect yourself from them. Third, enable security alerts about links and files from suspicious websites and carefully check your email forwarding rules for any suspicious activity. Businesses can learn how to recognize and remediate these types of attacks and also take these steps to increase the security of their organizations

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PyDev of the Week: Philip James | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Philip James | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Philip James (@phildini) as our PyDev of the Week! Philip is a core contributor for Beeware project. He has worked on several  other open source projects that you’ll learn about in this interview. He is also a popular speaker at PyCons and DjangoCons. You can find out more about Philip on his website or check out his work on Github.

Let’s spend some time getting to know Philip better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

My name is Philip, but I’m probably better known on the internet as phildini. That nickname came from a stage name; I used to do magic shows in high school for pocket money. In the Python community, I’m maybe best known as a frequent conference speaker, I’ve spoken at PyCons and DjangoCons around the world for the past 5 years. Beyond being a speaker, I’ve helped organize some Python meetups and conferences, and I serve on the PSF Conduct Working Group as it’s Chair. I’m also one of the early Core Contributors to the BeeWare project.

I’m the Head of Engineering at a personal finance company called Trim, where we try to automate saving people money on things like their Internet bill. I also co-run a publishing company and print shop called Galaxy Brain with a friend I met while I was at Patreon. We started as a Risograph print shop, making a zine about wine called Adult Juice Box and doing art prints. Galaxy Brain has been moving into software with the pandemic, because accessing our studio is harder, but we’re planning on keeping the printing going once things calm down. It’s kind of hilarious to us that we moved into software as an afterthought; I think we both resisted it for so long because the software is our day job.

Why did you start using Python?

I can remember helping to run a youth retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains in… I want to say 2005 or 2006, and one of the adults on the trip, who’s still a very good friend, showing me Python on a computer we had hooked up to one of the camp’s projectors. My first Python lesson happened on a 6-foot widescreen. Then in college, I took a couple courses on web applications and didn’t want to use PHP, so I started building apps in Django. That got me my first job in programming, then a job at Eventbrite, which got me into speaking, and the rest is history.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

College theoretically taught me C and Java, but I know them like some people know ancient Greek — I can read it, but good luck speaking it. Towards the end of college I picked up some C#, and I really enjoyed my time in that language. It hit a lot of nice compromises between direct management and object-oriented modern languages, and I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that Visual Studio was such an incredible IDE.

Since I moved into web programming, I’ve picked up Javascript and Ruby, enough that I can write things in them but not enough to feel comfortable starting a project with them. Web development is in this really weird place right now, where you can maybe get away with only knowing Javascript, but you need a working familiarity with HTML, CSS, Javascript, Python, Ruby, and Shell to be effective at a high level. Maybe you just need to be good at googling those things.

I’ve recently started going deep on a language called ink, which is a language for writing Interactive Fiction games. We used to use this term “literate programming” way more; ink (along with twine and some others) is how you “program literature”. You can use ink to make standalone games or export it into a format that will drive narrative events in more complex Unity games. Stories and narratives don’t lend themselves well to modularization in the way programmers think of it, so it’s been fun watching my optimize-everything programmer brain clash with my get-the-narrative-out writer brain as I learn ink…

Thanks for doing the interview, Philip!

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Microsoft launches initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft launches initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy | Microsoft On The Issues

Around the world, 2020 has emerged as one of the most challenging years in many of our lifetimes. In six months, the world has endured multiple challenges, including a pandemic that has spurred a global economic crisis. As societies reopen, it’s apparent that the economy in July will not be what it was in January. Increasingly, one of the key steps needed to foster a safe and successful economic recovery is expanded access to the digital skills needed to fill new jobs. And one of the keys to a genuinely inclusive recovery are programs to provide easier access to digital skills for people hardest hit by job losses, including those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities.

To help address this need, today Microsoft is launching a global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year. This initiative will bring together every part of our company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft.

Read more about the initiative on the Official Microsoft Blog and at https://aka.ms/skills.

Official Microsoft On The Issues Content | The Old Fire Hose

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PyDev of the Week: Florian Dahlitz | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Florian Dahlitz | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Florian Dahlitz (@DahlitzF) as our PyDev of the Week! Florian is a contributor to the CPython programming language and the PyTest framework. He is also a contributor to Real Python. You can check out Florian’s personal blog or get his newsletter to keep up-to-date with him.

Let’s spend some time getting to know Florian!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

My name is Florian and I’m studying applied computer-science in Germany. I’m currently working on my bachelor thesis focusing on natural language processing. In my free time I code as much as possible, write blog posts about things I discovered or learned, and I’m doing a lot of sports!

Why did you start using Python?

I started my programming journey in January 2015 by learning PHP, HTML, CSS, and Javascript. However, I ended up with the wish of implementing things outside the web. That’s why I introduced myself to C and somehow ended up coding mostly in Java and Python.

Python is such a beautiful language providing beginners an easy start. However, you are free to grow in complexity and even built large infrastructures on it (just have a look at Netflix, YouTube, and Instagram).

The people in the Python ecosystem are very kind and it makes so much fun to work with them. That’s why I eventually ended up spending most of my time in the Python ecosystem.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

As I already mentioned, I started by coding in PHP, HTML, CSS, and Javascript and ended up learning C, Java, and Python. Although I’m working on a few projects where I need to write Java code, I’m mostly working with Python, which is also my favourite programming language – by far!…

Thanks for doing the interview, Florian!

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Increasing election security monitoring in cloud computing | Microsoft On The Issues

Increasing election security monitoring in cloud computing | Microsoft On The Issues

Today, we have an exciting announcement we believe will help increase election security while enabling election officials to take advantage of the advanced capabilities of cloud computing.

For years, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and state and local governments throughout the United States have worked with the non-profit Center for Internet Security, Inc. (CIS) to monitor the security of election-related data. This is enabled by Albert Network Monitoring, which examines internet traffic and connection attempts on networks owned and run by election officials – including voter registration systems, voter information portals and back-office networks.

Albert provides network security alerts for both basic and advanced network threats, helping organizations identify malicious activity such as attempted intrusions by foreign adversaries or cybercriminals. Data from these sensors is sent in near-real-time to the CIS Security Operations Center, which is monitored around the clock every day by expert cybersecurity analysts.

To date, cloud computing providers, such as Microsoft Azure, have not been compatible with Albert sensors. This presented election officials with the difficult choice of selecting powerful, secure and cost-effective cloud computing options, or hosting the data on local servers if they wanted to take advantage of the added security of Albert. Today, through a partnership with CIS, we’re providing a new choice by making Microsoft Azure compatible with Albert for the first time.

We’re starting this journey through a pilot, which will begin this week, with 14 county Supervisors of Elections in Florida. Moving forward, Microsoft and CIS will look to open the capability to states and jurisdictions across the United States.

Today’s announcement is the result of collaborative work between Microsoft’s Azure Global engineering team and CIS’s engineering team, in partnership with Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program. In the coming months, we look forward to sharing more details about our work to help secure the 2020 elections and future elections in the U.S. and around the world.

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New Bill Would OK Telehealth Anywhere For 6 Months After COVID-19 Emergency | mHealthIntelligence

New Bill Would OK Telehealth Anywhere For 6 Months After COVID-19 Emergency | mHealthIntelligence

I can really go for this. There is no reason why this hasn’t happened sooner, but whatever it takes for this to happen is fine by me.

A new bill before Congress would give providers freedom to use telehealth on patients anywhere up to 6 months after the COVID-19 crisis, bypassing site restrictions and licensing issues…

“The location of the provision of such services shall be deemed to be the (state in which the provider is located) and any requirement that such physician, practitioner, or other provider obtain a comparable license or other comparable legal authorization from the (state in which the patient is located) with respect to the provision of such services (including requirements relating to the prescribing of drugs in such secondary State) shall not apply,” the bill states.

The rest of the post has as its source: New Bill Would OK Telehealth Anywhere For 6 Months After COVID-19 Emergency

PyDev of the Week: Adrin Jalali | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Adrin Jalali | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Adrin Jalali (@adrinjalali) as our PyDev of the Week! Adrin works on the popular scikit-learn package as well as Fairlearn, an AI package for Python. You can see what else Adrin is up to via his website or by checking out his Github profile.

Let’s spend some time getting to know Adrin better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I did computer science and then bioinformatics for my master’s and PhD (which is yet to be defended!). I’m born and raised in Iran, then moved to Canada, and now live in Germany. Things I read include (leftist) economics, philosophy, diversity and inclusion, leadership, and ethics/fairness. I love cycling outside the city, and staying up all night with friends on a weekend.

Why did you start using Python?

I used to use R as a bioinformatician, and was maintaining two packages. Then I somehow studied Python over a weekend, and started coding in Python. It felt so natural that I stayed with the language. That was 2012.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

I started with QBASIC, then Pascal, Delphi, C, C++, C#, Matlab/Octave, and R.

C++ was by far my most favourite language for a long while. I guess now it’s Python and C. I’m curious about Rust though…

Thanks for doing the interview, Adrin!

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A Supreme Court ruling upholds the rights of the nation’s Dreamers  | Microsoft On The Issues

A Supreme Court ruling upholds the rights of the nation’s Dreamers  | Microsoft On The Issues

Today’s sunny morning in Seattle brightened even further with the good news from the United States Supreme Court that restores legal protection for nearly 700,000 Dreamers, including more than 60 Microsoft employees. It was on their behalf that, in 2017, Microsoft filed a lawsuit with Princeton University and a Princeton student, Maria Perales Sanchez, to object to the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. We acted quickly because we saw firsthand this issue’s importance to the nation’s talented Dreamers and DACA’s critical benefits for every part of the American economy.   

Little did we know in 2017 that this case would bring Microsoft to the steps of the Supreme Court for the fifth time in little more than a decade. This has been a good week at the Supreme Court for the rights of people who live in the United States. As a company that has brought a wide range of important issues before the Court, we constantly appreciate the hard work that takes place within its four walls. Today’s decision marks an important milestone, and we’re gratified that the Court once again has provided a thoughtful and fair outcome to a complicated legal issue. 

We also appreciate that today’s decision, while critical, is but one more step in a long and winding road. The DACA debate will continue, and the big question now is what comes next. 

Our plea is for a national discussion that involves more light and less heat. A path that starts with a recognition of the Dreamers’ collective importance to our country. A conversation that brings people together in a bipartisan spirit in a creative search for common ground. A discussion that encourages the White House and Congress to work together. An approach that gives people the time and space to be thoughtful. A route that avoids precipitating another crisis in a year that has already had more than its share. 

Some may suggest that this path sounds more like a dream itself. But it’s what the nation and our economy need. 

Consider this: While Microsoft was the only company in the country to file a lawsuit to contest DACA’s rescission, when the case reached the Supreme Court, we were no longer alone. By 2019, 145 businesses signed amicus briefs supporting DACA. And the business community was joined by an even broader group that included 210 educational institutions, 129 religious organizations and 109 municipalities. All of us stood together to underscore the Dreamers’ talent and importance to the economy and the country. 

And that was before anyone had heard of COVID-19. 

The past few months have provided even more dramatic evidence of the role that DACA registrants play in our country. More than 30,000 of them work in the healthcare space alone. They are nurses, lab technicians and respiratory therapists who serve Americans from all backgrounds as our country responds to a pandemic that is unique in our lifetimes. Another 200,000 Dreamers provide other essential services, working in pharmacies and grocery stores and delivering vital goods to our front doors. In the middle of a pandemic, any step that puts Dreamers at risk can put all of us at risk. 

We filed this lawsuit because we believed at Microsoft that it was important to stand up for our employees. To make clear that we had their backs. But along the way, we’ve come to appreciate even more clearly how important the Dreamers are for all of us.  

The summer of 2020 comes in a year of crisis, but it provides a potential inflection point for the nation’s future. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, it’s a time to reflect on and recommit ourselves to racial equity and justice, especially for the country’s African American and Black populations. It’s a time that calls for thoughtful action to protect the rights of people in a fair manner. It’s a discussion that needs to bring people togetherwhile making room for the nation’s Dreamers. 

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New tools to secure democracy | Microsoft On The Issues

New tools to secure democracy | Microsoft On The Issues

In recent months, we’ve worked closely with political campaigns and parties who are protected by our AccountGuard threat notification service and conducted hundreds of security trainings ahead of the 2020 elections. We’ve heard one repeated request throughout these engagements: Those involved in the democratic process want more protection for what we call identity management, or the ability for their staff to securely log into their accounts and access their email and files while preventing unwanted intrusions. Greater security in this area would help prevent the “hack-and-dump” scenario where cybercriminals or foreign governments steal a campaign official’s emails and release them online.

Starting today, we’re bringing Microsoft’s enterprise-grade identity and access management protections to AccountGuard members in the U.S. at no cost to further help secure them ahead of the 2020 elections. We’re also announcing a new partnership with Yubico to provide phishing-resistant security keys to AccountGuard customers. For political campaigns and committees, these services will be offered through Defending Digital Campaigns, a non-profit and non-partisan organization that has been authorized by the Federal Elections Commission to provide campaigns with free or low-cost technology from a variety of companies. Our Defending Democracy Program will also work directly with democracy-focused non-profit organizations and think tanks enrolled in AccountGuard to help them use these protections.

There are a range of identity and access management protections we’ll offer as part of this, but five examples, which we believe are protections that benefit all campaigns, include:

Multi-factor authentication: While all Microsoft business and consumer email services support multi-factor authentication, what we’re announcing today contains extra protection against phishing for those using this important feature. Customers can now use the Authenticator app on their phones or hardware keys from Yubico as another factor for identity protection.

Single sign-on: This feature enables one set of credentials to be used securely across hundreds of cloud apps, making it easier for a staffer or campaign official to access the apps they need with a high level of security but also more quickly and easily.

Conditional access policies: This is the ability for a campaign to help ensure only the right people are logging into their network by setting conditions such as the behavior people can use to navigate to their accounts, where they are physically located, what kinds of devices they might be using and what applications they might be using.

Privileged identity management (PIM): This includes security features enabling campaigns to manage, control and monitor access to important resources in the organization. PIM will provide time-based and approval-based authorization to access certain resources and lessen the risk of excessive, unnecessary and misused access permissions to sensitive resources.

Access governance: Campaigns have vendors, staffers and volunteers who come and go, and this set of features helps automatically terminate access when they depart an organization or complete a project, shrinking the number of entry points for a hacker.

Our new partnership with Yubico, the recognized industry leader in physical security keys, will provide YubiKeys to AccountGuard customers for defense against phishing and other cyberattacks. Yubico will provide 10 YubiKey 5 Series security keys, to be used on compatible computers or phones, to any AccountGuard-covered organizations for free, for a limited time, plus up to an additional 40 keys at a 50% discount.

We know that many political campaigns do not have dedicated IT support staff, and today’s news comes with hands-on help for those that need it. Deployment assistance for the technologies in today’s news will be provided to AccountGuard customers as an included benefit through our FastTrack program or through our FastTrack-ready partners. A dedicated team of deployment engineers will be available to help provide remote assistance and guidance, and Microsoft partner Patriot Consulting Technology Group will offer additional onboarding support, integration and trainings.

Any AccountGuard-eligible customer can learn more about enrolling in AccountGuard or taking advantage of the tools announced today by contacting AccountGuard@microsoft.com. While we’re offering this to U.S.-based AccountGuard customers ahead of the 2020 U.S. election, we will explore offering it in other geographies in the future.

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Social contact as the new scarce resource | Microsoft On The Issues

Social contact as the new scarce resource | Microsoft On The Issues

In any time of uncertainty, it is critical we leverage data-driven approaches when solving problems. About a decade ago, we wrote on this blog how we used a data- and model-driven approach to guide us to the cloud as the future of enterprise computing. Today, we’re applying the same foundational approach while benefiting from the power of our cloud and AI capabilities to unpack today’s source of great uncertainty: COVID-19. In the white paper we are releasing today, we outline a policy framework to help governments think through the impact of COVID-19 and recovery strategies. We have also included an economic model that quantifies economic impact.

Economic impact framework

As the white paper highlights, our economic impact model is built on a large dataset of economic signals and takes insights from economics and epidemiologists to define scenarios and estimate GDP impact. We ingest real-time data as well as traditional economic data, use our Azure AI capabilities to drive insights, our Azure cloud to run calculations, and we update the latest numbers weekly on our Power BI dashboard. We continue to evolve and improve the model as we ingest new signals and learn more from others through our discussions with policymakers and NGOs. But policymakers don’t merely predict GDP; they help shape it. As we engaged with them, we saw the need for a framework and data that helped them navigate this.

covid strategy graphic

Social contact budget

“Social contact” used to be something we didn’t have to think about. It was a byproduct of going to the store or the gym, often viewed as a positive byproduct. Since the start of COVID-19, it comes at a high price. Today, it can perhaps be compared to carbon emissions: an unwelcome byproduct of economic activity. One can lead to pollution; the other to infection. In economic terms, social contact has become a scarce resource. It has become the linchpin between managing infections and protecting the economy – it is what is driving up infection rates but is also needed for economic activity. By treating it as an economically scarce resource, it raises three critical questions that we began to address in the paper in a data-driven way:

  1. How much room do we have to open the economy (“social contact budget”)?
  2. How do we best spend the budget (“return on social contact”)?
  3. How do we grow our social contact budget over time (“reducing cost of social contact”)?

On the first question, the lower the transmission rate “R” (R being the average number of secondary cases per infectious case), the greater the social contact budget and thus the more room there is to open up parts of the economy while avoiding a second wave of infections, which is very costly from a health and an economic perspective. Second, as is true with any budget, we must spend it wisely. Depending on what a policymaker optimizes for (e.g. GDP, employment, avoiding bankruptcy), we created data-driven views on how to optimize return on social contact. Industries that can work from home should work from home, as the ones who cannot need the social contact budget more. For the ones who really depend on social contact, we should use data to inform decisions. For example, the figures below compare various industries on their propensity to drive social contact vs. GDP.

cost of social contact graph

Finally, over time, the budget can be expanded through changes in behavior as people adjust to the “cost of social contact” and through measures such as massive testing and contact tracing. These measures essentially weaken the relationship between social contact and R. They ensure that social contact happens between healthy people that do not carry the virus so, over time, we can essentially make social contact free again, as it should be.

This crisis is unprecedented, and no single person or organization has all the answers. New perspectives often appear by recognizing and connecting patterns across silos. We’ve been working with epidemiologists whose work focuses on the potential loss of lives. Economic models and scenarios highlight the loss of livelihoods. As we started discussing this with NGOs and global policymakers, we became aware of the synergies between these workstreams, and we sought an integrated perspective.

In the paper, we detail this framework and share data we have been collaborating on with policymakers. It is by no means perfect. We are already collaborating with a number of organizations on improving this work and getting additional data. Our hope is that, by publishing this work, we can invite others to contribute and leverage it so that we can bring more perspectives to bear on one of the great challenges of our lifetime.

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PyDev of the Week: Kyle Stanley | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Kyle Stanley | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Kyle Stanley (@Aeros1415) as our PyDev of the Week! Kyle is a core developer of the Python programming language. If you’d like to see what Kyle is working on, you can check out his Github profile. You can also connect with Kyle on LinkedIn.

Let’s spend some time getting to know Kyle better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

Hi, my name is Kyle Stanley. I’m a 23 year old college student finishing up the last year of my B.S. degree (Information Systems Technology, Programming spec.). Most notably, I was recently promoted to the role of core developer for CPython, the default/reference implementation of the Python programming language (in April 2020). I mostly contribute to the standard library through reviews and my own authored changes, as both a hobby that I enjoy and a means of building my professional experience in the software development industry. Most of my significant contributions have been to the modules asyncio and concurrent.futures.

I’m also decently active in various CPython development communities, such as discuss.python.org, python-dev@python.org, and python-ideas@python.org. Although, I probably end up spending far more time reading posts from the wide variety of experts in the community than I do writing my own posts. Over time, I’ve discovered that there’s an infinite well of knowledge to be gained from the discussions, as long as one has the time and patience to sort through the significant volume of content to find the “hidden” gems. I’m very grateful to the many active experts on there.

Outside of CPython, I’m involved in the Python Discord community (https://ift.tt/2zpcE47) as a Moderator. As far as other hobbies go, I also enjoy programming challenge sites such as Codewars, reading fantasy novels, playing RPG video games (recently Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord), watching various sci-fi TV series such as Star Trek, and riding my bike.

Why did you start using Python?

~6-7 years ago, Python was my first serious programming language. From back in high school when I joined my school’s STEM academy, I had a strong interest in technology and wanted to pick up programming as a skill once I realized how fundamentally important it is for many IT career paths. After a significant amount of “testing the waters” with other languages, I found Python to have the most intuitive and human-friendly syntax out of the languages that had significant real-world utility. Although there is a significant amount of depth underneath the surface, I find that the core syntax seamlessly flows from thought to code.

What projects are you working on now?

I have a few ongoing CPython projects, but my most substantial current project is probably asyncio.ThreadPool, which is a high-level asynchronous thread pool designed to be used as a context manager (e.g. “async with asyncio.ThreadPool() as pool:“). The primary use case for it in CPython is concurrent execution of long-running, IO-bound subroutines (non-async functions/methods) that would normally block the event loop (such as for network programming, DB connectors, inter-process communication, file IO, etc.), particularly for existing code or libraries that can’t be easily converted to use async/await. Threads have a bit more overhead than using coroutines (`async def` functions/methods), but when it’s not a realistic or available option to convert the existing code to use them, it’s often far more efficient to execute the subroutine in a thread pool rather than blocking the event loop for a significant period of time.

This can technically already be done using the existing `asyncio.loop.run_in_executor()` method, but it’s significantly less intuitive, and gives far less flexibility to the user for controlling when the thread pool’s resources are created and finalized. Also, it’s a more long-term goal for asyncio.ThreadPool to have a completely asyncio-native implementation, instead of relying upon concurrent.futures under the hood (which wasn’t really a viable option for `loop.run_in_executor()`). There’s a non-trivial cost incurred in the conversion process, so converting to a completely asyncio-native version could very likely result in significant performance improvements. We’re starting with one that relies on concurrent.futures for initial stability and giving users the chance to provide feedback on the API…

Thanks for doing the interview, Kyle!

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Fighting child exploitation as an industry | Microsoft On The Issues

Fighting child exploitation as an industry | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. We’ve developed and shared technologies such as PhotoDNA and a grooming detection technique, we’re investing in research to help better understand the problem, we’re participating in collective action and are working to educate consumers about keeping kids safe. We also know this problem will not be solved by one company and that it requires us to work together as an industry and across society.

We are proud to be a founding member of the Technology Coalition in 2006, but the world has changed since then. Technology is more advanced, and there has been an explosion of new internet services and companies around the globe, including mobile and online video streaming. The number of people online – more than 4.5 billion in 2020 – has added to the challenge of keeping the internet a safe place. As a result, the technological tools for detecting and reporting child sexual exploitation and abuse content have become more sophisticated, but so too have the forms of abuse we are seeking to prevent and eradicate.

This week, we joined leading technology companies in announcing Project Protect, a strategic vision for the future of the Technology Coalition focusing on five key areas:

  • Tech innovation: Microsoft is proud to have contributed important technology including PhotoDNA and a grooming detection technique to this fight, and recognizes the importance of accelerating development and usage of groundbreaking, interoperable technology to address new abuse vectors.
  • Collective action: Convening tech companies, governments and civil society to create a holistic approach to tackle this whole-of-society issue. We all have a role to play and believe collaboration must be a catalyst for deeper commitment. Our recent efforts include developing a series of targeted public announcements to help parents, caregivers and children stay safe at home – and stay safe online – during the challenging times of COVID-19.
  • Independent research: Funding research with the End Violence Against Children Partnership to advance our collective understanding of the experiences and patterns of child sexual exploitation and abuse online, and learn from effective efforts to prevent, deter and combat it.
  • Information and knowledge sharing: We recognize that abuse often starts on one platform and migrates to others. By facilitating information, expertise and knowledge-sharing among companies, we can advance our ability to respond to these challenges and, importantly, help small and mid-size companies advance the fight.
  • Transparency and accountability: Increasing accountability and consistency across the industry through meaningful reporting of child sexual exploitation and abuse content across member platforms and services. This will be done in conjunction with WePROTECT Global Alliance.

These focus areas are the result of significant research and expert consultation conducted by Technology Coalition member companies as well as what each of us have learned through fighting this horrific problem on our respective platforms. We know this announcement must be followed by hard work and concrete action, and we at Microsoft look forward to making contributions in these areas alongside the other companies in ways that produce real results.

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PyDev of the Week: Dong-hee Na | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Dong-hee Na | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Dong-hee Na (@dongheena92) as our PyDev of the Week! Dong-hee is a core developer of the Python programming language. You can see some of what he has been working on over on Github.

Let’s take some time to get to know him better!

Dong-hee Na

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

Hi, My name is Dong-hee Na, and I am the software engineer of Kakao Corp. I got my BS in Computer Science from Chungnam National University. My hobby is taking a look at the open-source compiler projects. And as you know, these days, I use most of my own extra time working on the CPython project.

On the other side, I research well-designed projects or try to implement a simple stage implementation to understand the theory which I have interests. Recently, I am watching the MIR project which is kind of JIT framework project and it looks like a very interesting project for me.

Why did you start using Python?

The first time I learned Python was because I took the undergraduate data structure class by using Python. My first impression was that the language is so simple that it was very easy to write pseudocode. The time I learned Python more deeply was to contribute to Dropbox’s Pyston project. This project aimed to implement the LLVM-based Python JIT compiler. This project made me dig in Python more in-depth since I needed to check the Python compiler worked properly.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

Apart from Python, The languages I know are C/C++, Go, and Java/Scala.

C/C++, Python, and Go are languages that I use a lot for open source projects.

IMHO, all the languages have their own area and position, I try to use proper languages for each situation and resources.

My favorite language is Python so I use Python for my personal projects and algorithm problem-solving. But also, to develop my skills in the area of system programming, I recently made efforts to improve my C/C++ ability…

Thanks for doing the interview, Dong-hee!

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PyDev of the Week: Seth Michael Larson | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Seth Michael Larson | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Seth Michael Larson (@sethmlarson) as our PyDev of the Week! Seth is the lead maintainer of urllib3. He also writes a Python blog. You can see some of Seth’s other contributions over on Github.

Let’s take a few moments to get to know Seth better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a current resident and native from Minneapolis Minnesota, I got my degree in CS from the University of Minnesota.

I’m a big fan of Minnesota sports, Gopher and Vikings football, Twins baseball, Wild hockey. Besides that

I really enjoy being outdoors.

Why did you start using Python?

My first introduction to Python was in my “intro to CS” class at university. I fell in love with the simplicity of the language and the Open Source community. I’d known some programming before
going to university so it wasn’t my first programming language but I really enjoyed what Python had to offer.

I remember getting excited by how straightforward sockets and network programming were in Python compared to C or C++, that was definitely a feature that grabbed my attention.

What other programming languages do you know?

I know some basics about web frontend languages like HTML, CSS, JS but not enough to list them on my resume.99% of my language knowledge is Python-related, and it’s by far my favorite…

Thanks for doing the interview, Seth!

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Microsoft invests $2.5M in CREATE, a new center for accessible tech at the University of Washington

Microsoft invests $2.5M in CREATE, a new center for accessible tech at the University of Washington
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The University of Washington is launching a new Center for Research and Education on Accessible Technology and Experiences (CREATE) and Microsoft is helping to fund the effort with a $2.5 million inaugural investment.

Microsoft and the UW have long been aligned in a shared commitment to accessible technology and a world that is more accessible through technology. With a leadership team from six campus departments in three different colleges, CREATE will build upon the UW’s existing work in education, research and translation.

“This is the next step in a long-standing journey to empower people with disabilities with accessibility and technology advancements,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a news release Thursday. “UW has truly embedded accessibility as part of their culture and we’re proud to support their next step to drive thought leadership on accessibility to empower people with disabilities.”

Microsoft and the university have worked together in the space for more than a decade, driving innovation in accessibility research. This partnership has led to student internship and career opportunities, and ongoing research engagements with the Ability Team at Microsoft Research.

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PyDev of the Week: Cristi Vlad | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Cristi Vlad | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Cristi Vlad (@CristiVlad25) as our PyDev of the Week! Cristi teaches cybersecurity with Python on his Youtube Channel. He has also authored some books and writes on his blog. You can see his books there too.

Let’s take some time to get to know Cristi better!

Cristi Vlad

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I always loved numbers. With a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering, I decided to pass on a great job opportunity in the field upon finishing my studies and to try my shot at computer stuff.

There was something about the combination of entrepreneurship and improving my physiology that had a hard pull on me. So I began studying how to improve my physical and mental capacity, I delved into biochemistry, human anatomy and the scientific literature of sorts and I ended up writing 7 books on physical improvement.

With an innate curiosity, I always tried teaching myself computer programming but, failed miserably for a couple of times. I tried learning JAVA, as I wanted to also wear the hat of Android developer. This was between 2011 and 2015.

I thought of giving programming the last shot and if I were not to make any progress, I would quit the effort completely.

Why did you start using Python?

JAVA was definitely not the way to go for me. It was ugly and unappealing. So my next best shot had to be something clean, intuitive, and very straight-forward. And that was Python. This was 2015 and Python had a well-established community of warm developers.

So I bombarded myself with resources to assimilate Python, with a large emphasis on practice. I practiced a lot on the combination of genomics and Python, using biopython and other libraries. That saved me. I began feeling I wasn’t completely retarded when it came to computer programming.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

Python is by far my favorite language. However, as I began having a better hold of it, I also explored other concepts, such as Javascript, C++, C, Bash and Assembly.

Thanks so much for doing the interview, Cristi!

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COVID-19 has only intensified the broadband gap | Microsoft On The Issues

COVID-19 has only intensified the broadband gap | Microsoft On The Issues
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We are living in a new world, a world racing online as social distancing forces many of us to work, communicate and connect in new ways. In the United States alone, state and local directives have urged 316 million Americans to stay in and, when possible, work from home. As communities around the world adapt to a world with COVID-19, broadband connectivity and access are more critical to our lives and livelihoods than ever before.

Broadband already powers much of our modern lives, but COVID-19 has acted as an accelerant, a fuel of sorts that has driven many essential activities online. All learning, services, commerce, most workplaces and daily interactions online require a high-speed connection to the internet. Those without access to this online world – more that 18 million Americans with 14 million living in rural areas, according to the Federal Communications Commission – risk falling farther behind. While 18 million is a big number – more than the entire populations of Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee combined – a new study has found that the actual number of people lacking access to broadband in the US is closer to 42 million.

A problem intensified by COVID-19

Lack of broadband for rural populations, both in the United States and in the developing world, just can’t be ignored. That’s why, in the last three months, we’ve doubled down on our Microsoft Airband Initiative to expand the number of people reached. As of March 31, we’ve helped provide 1.2 million people with access to broadband in rural, previously unserved areas of the United States. This is almost double our total from December 31, 2019, and up from 24,000 people in the whole of 2018. We’re doing the most recent work by donating hotspots and wireless connectivity equipment, and expanding our digital skills offerings by developing COVID-19-specific digital skills offerings for rural communities.

The COVID-19 virus has created a national crisis. But it has also created an important opportunity. It’s time to galvanize the nation and recognize the obvious. Broadband has become the electricity of the 21st century. Well before the end of the 20th century, we recognized that no American should live without electricity. As we embark on the third decade of the 21st century, every American deserves the opportunity to access broadband…

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New AI-powered knowledge hub to fuel social innovation | Microsoft On The Issues

New AI-powered knowledge hub to fuel social innovation | Microsoft On The Issues
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One of the defining aspects of COVID-19 is its disproportionate impact on underserved communities and the harsh spotlight it shines on existing social equity issues around the world. From access to quality education, jobs or affordable healthcare, COVID-19 is magnifying virtually every inequality in our communities.

Never has there been a more important time to capture the moment to create the solutions the world needs to make a positive and lasting contribution to the social inequity issues of our generation. Solutions will come from all corners and technology innovators will need to play their part.

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In this environment of collective problem-solving, we need an easy way for developers to identify the greatest unmet needs, whether through cholera detection or COVID-19 treatments, where technology can play a critical role in helping address these challenges. Similarly, we need to map these social challenges to available funding sources and collaborators to fully understand the opportunities for solution creation…

X4Impact will help social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, citizen developers, funders and foundations identify where they can deploy their time and talent to collectively build a better world. Leveraging the power of AI, X4Impact aggregates content from hundreds of thousands of IRS 990 and 990-PF filings, private investing filings with the SEC and active grants from the federal government, foundations and private companies, in addition to content from over 5,000 trusted sources. The result is over 30 million units of knowledge indexed under the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and 231 impact indicators. With access to this market intelligence, we can collectively build much-needed solutions at a new level of scale and impact…

While the platform will launch this July, we call on tech trailblazers to join the public interest movement now by registering at x4i.org to receive an invitation to demo the platform. This work builds on our current offers for all nonprofits and we recommend reviewing our COVID-19 Resource Guide for Nonprofits to learn about additional support.  At Microsoft, we are committed to learning how to better drive social innovation each day while evolving our social business model to help move nonprofit missions forward and drive social good.

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Statement on the recent Greenpeace report | Microsoft On The Issues

We agree that the world confronts an urgent carbon problem and we all must do more and move faster to reach a net zero-carbon future. The reality is that the world’s energy currently comes from fossil fuels and, as standards of living around the world improve, the world will require even more energy. That makes realizing a zero-carbon future one of the most complex transitions in human history.

We’re up for the challenge. That’s why we have committed to be carbon negative by 2030 and to removing all the carbon we’ve emitted since our founding by 2050. We will shift to 100% supply of renewable energy for the carbon-emitting electricity consumed by all our data centers, buildings and campuses by 2025. Technology can accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon future, so we are helping our customers reduce their carbon footprints and co-innovating low-carbon solutions. We’re also using $1 billion of our capital for climate innovation, including developing new technologies for carbon capture and removal. We are also supporting policies that advance an inclusive transition to a low-carbon future.

We’re encouraged by the growing number of energy sector commitments to transitioning to cleaner energy and lowering carbon emissions, but they can’t do it alone. Businesses, governments and civil society can rise to the challenge to meet the world’s growing energy demands and achieve a net zero carbon future.

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