Microsoft’s Azure goals ominously echo its past Windows-everywhere strategy | A Certified Warditorial

Shades of “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish” from BITD? Let’s hope not!

 

Microsoft is striving to make its Azure cloud platform the world’s dominant computing platform, but in a multi-cloud world is Microsoft too Azure-centric?

 

Before iOS and Android usurped the PC by way of mobile, Microsoft’s Windows operating system ruled computing. As a once Windows-centric world has now embraced iOS, Android and Chrome, Microsoft has positioned Azure as a Super OS that embraces these other platforms.

 

Microsoft envisions Azure as a cloud platform that will run the world’s cross-platform apps, power tens of billions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, stream content like media and games and power intelligent edge devices. As a cloud provider second only to Amazon (AWS), and a company achieving billions of dollars of growth in its cloud business every year, Microsoft seems well on its way to its goal.

 

Still, Microsoft is trying to seduce the world into its Windows-for-everyone-and-everything like Azure-for-everyone-and-everything strategy. Despite Microsoft’s leadership (second to Amazon) position in a multi-cloud world, AWS and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are the preferred cloud services by many. Given this indisputable reality, perhaps Microsoft’s approach to the cloud should be as collaborative as its Windows and other cross-platform efforts have become.

 

 

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PyDev of the Week: Sean McManus

PyDev of the Week: Sean McManus

My apologies for being lazy this week and getting this out late. His story is more compelling than the standard fare, but that is still no excuse.

 

This week we welcome Sean McManus (@musicandwords) as our PyDev of the Week! Sean is the author of several books, including Mission Python: Code a Space Adventure Game!, which was reviewed on this site in March. There are free chapters from his book available here. You can learn more about Sean on his website. Let’s take some time to get to know him better!

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

 

I’m a writer specialising in technology. In recent years I’ve written several books to get children and young adults into coding. The launch of the Raspberry Pi and initiatives such as Code Club have helped to make coding much more accessible to young people than it was for many years.

 

As a kid, I loved programming my Amstrad CPC computer and in many ways it started me on my career path. I had listings and articles published in the leading magazines of the day, and my first book was about Amstrad programming. Today, I can still remember how much I loved programming as a kid, and I hope that my books bring some of that excitement to today’s budding coders…
How did you end up writing a book about games programming in Python?

 

It seems like there are lots of Python books that include small examples to show you how a particular feature works. That’s great, because it’s much easier to learn when the code is pared down to the essentials. However, that does leave many readers wondering what to do next, and how you bridge the gap between short programs of a couple of pages and more substantial projects. It’s one thing to know how a list works, for example, but how do you use that to create a map for a 3D game? How do you build on the basics to create something that does more than just demonstrate the language?

 

With Mission Python, the idea was to show a worked example of a game that goes beyond the basics. It’s a graphical adventure game, so there are lots of opportunities to learn about data structures (rooms, objects, interactions) and lots of customisation opportunities that you wouldn’t get with a simple arcade game. The game is set on a Martian space station where the air is leaking and you have to get to safety. It involves finding objects and solving puzzles, and uses a forced perspective like some of the early Zelda games. I was particularly pleased with a comment from one reviewer saying that it felt like the game came before the book, rather than the other way around as is often the case with educational books: I was keen for the game to be as “real” as possible, within the constraints of the slightly retro game format and what can be reasonably documented within the scope of a book..

 

Thanks for doing the interview, Sean!

 

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Working together to bring broadband to rural Veterans|Microsoft on the Issues

Working together to bring broadband to rural Veterans|Microsoft on the Issues

This isn’t some one-off PR move by Microsoft, they have a real commitment to Veterans companywide. It didn’t start with Satya Nadella, but he has enhanced it during his tenure. Even though I was not a veteran, most of my family was, so I have an appreciation for those that chose to serve.

 

Our nation’s Veterans have contributed to our country in so many ways, in countless locations around the globe. When they return home, many Veterans who reside in rural areas are not able to access broadband internet which is critical to using telehealth services, gaining educational opportunities, and growing a small business or running a family farm.

 

There are 2.7 million Veterans enrolled in Veterans Affairs (VA) who are living in rural communities, 42% of them do not have internet access at home which could support their use of VA telehealth services, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’, Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Rural Health. These rural Veterans live in areas where access to fast, reliable internet service may be limited or inaccessible and are facing higher rates of unemployment, longer drives to reach the nearest clinics and medical centers, and lower levels of educational attainment compared to their urban counterparts. Connectivity has the potential to improve this reality — with broadband, they can access telehealth services offered by the VA, identify and compete for well-paying jobs, improve and grow their own businesses, and take advantage of online education classes.

 

Microsoft and VA have been strategic partners, working together to improve the lives of Veterans, for more than 20 years. Today, I’m excited to share that Microsoft will begin expanding that work by helping VA to help bring connectivity to many Veterans living in rural towns and communities. Microsoft and its partners will be working with VA to provide capital, technology expertise, and training resources to bring broadband access to people in these underserved communities. Our hope is that this effort will unlock new economic opportunities, while also enhancing quality of life.

 

Through the partnership, we’ll help VA identify communities with Veterans in need and work with our internet service provider (ISP) partners across the nation to bring broadband services to those regions. Following our Airband Initiative model, we’ll also provide the Veterans in these newly connected communities with digital skills training so they can take advantage of the tools and services connectivity enables, including critical telehealth services provided by VA.

 

In the past 22 months, through the Microsoft Airband Initiative, we have seen firsthand just how many communities lack connectivity at broadband speeds and how this can hinder growth and new opportunities. We’ve also seen that partnering with ISPs to serve those most in need is an effective strategy to make progress quickly on this important issue. Our work with VA builds on those lessons and approach, which has resulted in partnerships that will bring connectivity to 1 million unserved rural residents in 16 states to date, with a plan to reach 3 million by 2022…

 

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GDPR’s first anniversary: A year of progress in privacy protection | Microsoft on the Issues

GDPR’s first anniversary: A year of progress in privacy protection | Microsoft on the Issues

May 25 marks one year since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation officially went into effect. GDPR is a groundbreaking privacy framework that empowers residents of the EU to control their personal information so they can use digital technologies to engage freely and safely with each other and with the world.

 

A lot has happened on the global privacy front since GDPR went into force. Overall, companies that collect and process personal information for people living in the EU have adapted, putting new systems and processes in place to ensure that individuals understand what data is collected about them and can correct it if it is inaccurate and delete it or move it somewhere else if they choose…

 

Empowering people to manage their information through our privacy dashboard

 

The driving force behind the global movement to modernize privacy laws is the new understanding people have of their right to privacy as technology changes how people create and share information. Around the world, there is a growing expectation that everyone should benefit from digital technology without losing control of their personal information. This is why Microsoft was the first company to provide the data control rights at the heart of GDPR to our customers around the globe, not just in Europe…

 

Map and table showing use of Microsoft Privacy Dashboard by country

 

But the demand is truly global. Japan ranks No. 2 in using the privacy dashboard and Canada is fifth. Other countries in the top 10 included Brazil, China, Mexico and Australia.

 

Transforming culture and advancing privacy throughout the digital economy

 

To elevate the importance of privacy and embed it in their operational systems, companies like Microsoft that have fully embraced GDPR have undergone a profound cultural shift that begins at the executive level and reaches across the entire organization. Today, at Microsoft our responsibility to protect our customers’ privacy is the starting point for everything we do. Our commitment to greater user control and empowerment is stronger than ever…

 

Toward a framework for new privacy laws in the U.S. and interoperability around the globe

 

No matter how much work companies like Microsoft do to help organizations secure sensitive data and empower individuals to manage their own data, preserving a strong right to privacy will always fundamentally be a matter of law that falls to governments. Despite the high level of interest in exercising control over personal data from U.S. consumers, the United States has yet to join the EU and other nations around the world in passing national legislation that accounts for how people use technology in their lives today…

 

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PyDev of the Week: Adrienne Tacke

PyDev of the Week: Adrienne Tacke

This week we welcome Adrienne Tacke (@AdrienneTacke) as our PyDev of the Week! Adrienne is the author of Coding for Kids: Python: Learn to Code with 50 Awesome Games and Activities and her book came out earlier this year. You can see what Adrienne is up to on Instagram or via her website. Let’s take some time to get to know her better!

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

 

I’m a software engineer in Las Vegas and have a degree in Management Information Systems from UNLV. I’ve worked in the education and healthcare industries and now focus on building awesome things in the fintech space. I love learning new languages (spoken and programming), eating every dessert imaginable, traveling the world with my husband, and finding ways to encourage more young girls and women to try out a career as a software engineer.

 

Why did you start using Python?

 

I truly began using the language when I started writing my book Coding for Kids: Python. It was a simple language that allowed me to focus on the programming concepts versus the syntax which is important for anyone new to coding.

 

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

 

My main languages are C# and JavaScript. I use these everyday for work. My first language was vb.net *blushes*. I don’t really have a favorite language, but I do strongly believe in some principles. These include separation of concerns, reusability, human-readable > machine-readable code, and clean code and design.

 

 

Thanks for doing the interview, Adrienne!

 

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Making accessibility easy to learn, use, build and master | Microsoft on the Issues

Making accessibility easy to learn, use, build and master | Microsoft on the Issues

Today, we are celebrating the eighth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The day was founded by two individuals, Jennison Asuncion and Joe Devon, who wanted to raise the awareness and visibility of accessibility around the world. Recently, I chatted with Jennison, an employee at LinkedIn, about where GAAD started and how the progress over the last eight years has surpassed all expectations. He noted that, “the goal of GAAD was to start a conversation, to get people interested about a topic that they may not think about on a day-to-day basis and raise awareness of the need for accessibility at every level.”

Jennison Asuncion
Jennison Asuncion

Jennison’s and Joe’s thinking has inspired our approach to GAAD this year. We want to make accessibility easy to learn, use, build, and master. Ultimately, we are all developers, whether we’re writing an email or making a website. Making accessibility part of how we do business around the world is essential. Thinking about it as a cultural shift, and how we manage a business is core to achieving this goal. Here are some areas where we can make a difference together.

 

Accessibility training

 

One of the most common questions on accessibility is, “Where do I start?” Whether an expert in the field or new to this gig, accessibility training materials are available to progress your skills and understanding. Over the last couple of years, we have been writing and producing materials, tried and tested them within the company and are now sharing with you all. Three resources for you to check out:

 

Snackable Training Series.Accessibility at a Glance” is an animated series of short, snackable videos that includes a mix of technical and non-technical subjects, highlighting everything from how to present inclusively to how to leverage User Interface Automation to build accessible Windows applications.

 

Webinars. The Disability Answer Desk team recently launched a monthly webinar series to fill up your buckets with accessibility knowledge on common use case scenarios.

 

Inclusive Design. One of the most important constructs to accessibility is Inclusive Design. Our Inclusive Design Series has hit a huge milestone with 1 million downloads of the toolkit series on https://www.microsoft.com/design/inclusive/.

 

What technology can empower you?

 

Technology is moving faster than ever before so our job is to make it easier to find what you need and empower you in that moment.

 

Summer Sway. Today we launch the 2019 Microsoft Accessibility Feature Sway (summer edition) for a quick and easy view of all features broken out by disability type updated with the latest wizardry.

 

Technology in the Classroom. Our friends at Microsoft Education are dedicating all of today’s episode to helping make it easier for teachers to include all their students.

 

Product features that change perspectives

 

Website Accessibility. Recently, we launched Accessibility Insights, to help software developers and website designers build more accessible software and websites.

 

Captions in PowerPoint now ready to use. Captions empower those of us who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, helping us get value out of presentations, engage in team meetings, and stay connected to friends and colleagues over long distances.

<snip>

At Microsoft, we are on a journey to be a learn-it-all company, not a know-it-all company. We don’t have all the answers, but we are constantly learning and working every day to improve our products, services and programs. We take pride in our approach and absolutely love your feedback! Please share your thoughts, feedback or questions with us through the Disability Answer Desk and Accessibility User Voice Forum. #LearningTogether

 

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The Christchurch Call and steps to tackle terrorist and violent extremist content | Microsoft on the Issues

The Christchurch Call and steps to tackle terrorist and violent extremist content | Microsoft on the Issues

This course of action is the smart and wise thing to do as a society and a government. Then there is POTUS45 (Paywall).

On May 15, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron brought together government leaders and representatives of technology companies to announce the “Christchurch Call to Action To Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online.” In response to the Call, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft issued a joint statement. The companies also published nine steps they’ll take to implement the Christchurch Call.

The terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March were a horrifying tragedy. And so it is right that we come together, resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence.

<snip>

– Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter

________________________________________________

In addition to signing the Christchurch Call, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft are publishing nine steps that they will take to address the abuse of technology to spread terrorist and violent extremist content. These nine steps include five individual actions that each company is committing to take, and a further four collaborative actions they’ll take together <snipped>.

 

As online content sharing service providers, we commit to the following:

Five Individual Actions

 

  • Terms of Use. We commit to updating our terms of use, community standards, codes of conduct, and acceptable use policies to expressly prohibit the distribution of terrorist and violent extremist content.

 

  • User Reporting of Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content. We commit to establishing one or more methods within our online platforms and services for users to report or flag inappropriate content, including terrorist and violent extremist content.

 

  • Enhancing Technology. We commit to continuing to invest in technology that improves our capability to detect and remove terrorist and violent extremist content online, including the extension or development of digital fingerprinting and AI-based technology solutions.

 

  • Livestreaming. We commit to identifying appropriate checks on livestreaming, aimed at reducing the risk of disseminating terrorist and violent extremist content online. 

 

  • Transparency Reports. We commit to publishing on a regular basis transparency reports regarding detection and removal of terrorist or violent extremist content on our online platforms and services and ensuring that the data is supported by a reasonable and explainable methodology.

 

<snip>

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How Microsoft Azure affects YOU and is way more exciting than you think | A Certified Warditorial

I am a large but not famous Microsoft fan, but where we are in 2019 proves that Scott McNealy from Sun Microsystems was correct BITD. “The Network is the Computer”. This is why Azure and AWS are leaders in the cloud space, with Google, IBM, and Sun successor Oracle lagging behind.

Microsoft’s Azure Cloud talk seems boring and mundane, but it’s actually where all of the action is.

 

Microsoft’s Azure cloud talk is boring to most phone- and gaming-obsessed tech enthusiasts. For most the cloud is that intangible thing, that does invisible stuff, that we know, like air, is important but isn’t very exciting to talk about, much less read about.

 

But for a world that every tech enthusiast knows is heading toward an increasingly cloud-dependent future – the cloud is literally where nearly all of the action will be. It’s already happening. Many people assume because of Microsoft’s high-profile failure with phones (and other consumer products) that the company lacks insight. Critics often view Microsoft’s cloud commitment as a narrow enterprise-focused distraction which contributed Windows phones downfall. I agree neglecting Windows phones should not have happened, but investing in the cloud is not a mistake.

 

Microsoft is wise to build a scalable Azure cloud computing foundation that will touch everything and virtually everyone on the planet. Microsoft’s Azure is targeting enterprise customers and employees, personal productivity for consumers, gaming, mixed reality, IoT for morning coffee, intelligent cars and much more. With a focus on four platforms: Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform, Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Gaming, Microsoft is positioning Azure as the world’s computer. If you think Azure doesn’t matter to you – think again.

 


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PyDev of the Week | Tania Allard

PyDev of the Week | Tania Allard

This week we welcome Tania Allard (@ixek) as our PyDev of the Week! Tania is a developer advocate at Microsoft. She is also a speaker at multiple conferences. If you’d like to learn more about her, you should check out her blog. She also has some of her projects up on Github for you to peruse. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Tania!

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

 

I am originally from Mexico but have lived in the USA and in the UK for the last 8 years.

 

I have a bachelor’s in Mechatronic engineering and have also always been fascinated by technology and I can class myself as a lifelong learner. As such I got a PhD from the University of Manchester in Data science applied to Materials science, during which I discovered and fell in love with Python. Since completing my PhD I have worked as a research software engineer, research engineer, data engineer, and more recently could advocate.

 

Apart from tech I love Olympic weightlifting, so I spend quite a good amount of time in the gym every week and I am already looking forward for this year’s competition season!

 

I also love craft beer and recently joined the women in beer scene in Manchester, UK where I live.

 

Why did you start using Python?

 

As I said before I did a PhD in Materials Science, but instead of focusing on the experimental side of things my work was focused on modelling materials for tissue replacement. Most of the people in my discipline were using MATLAB for such purposes (as did I at the beginning) but eventually I realized I needed something more flexible. I was also soon driven into the ‘open science’ movement and decided I should create not only all my analyses but also my thesis plots and research papers outputs using an open source programming language to encourage reproducibility and accessibility.

It was until I starts using Python that I discovered the open source community and never looked back.

 

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

 

Coming from a scientific computing background I know MATLAB, FORTRAN (spoiler alert I do think modern FORTRAN is really good), C/C++, R, Julia, and Assembly. More recently I have been diving into functional programming via Scala and also into Go.

 

Thanks for doing the interview, Tania!

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Protecting political campaigns from hacking | Microsoft on the Issues

Protecting political campaigns from hacking | Microsoft on the Issues

This is very much a step in the right direction. A challenge to open-source advocates to do something similar (LibreOffice are you listening!)

Today, at Microsoft’s Build Developer Conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced a new service from our Defending Democracy Program called Microsoft 365 for Campaigns, which brings the high-end security capabilities of our Microsoft 365 Business offering to political parties and campaigns.

 

The majority of security breaches faced by political campaigns originate from malicious phishing attacks and target email and filesharing systems. But many campaigns are ill-equipped to deal with these threats from nation-states and criminal scammers. We talked with campaign staffers and leaders in campaign technology and heard repeatedly that security solutions for email often were too hard to configure and too expensive. M365 for Campaigns addresses both issues by making it easy to deploy advanced security features at a much lower price.

 

Starting today, campaigns can sign up to be notified when the service becomes available in June by visiting https://m365forcampaigns.microsoft.com.

 

M365 for Campaigns will be available in June to all federal election campaigns, federal candidate committees, and national party committees in the United States, and we are exploring ways to bring the service to other countries in the future.

 

As we said when we announced the Defending Democracy Program, threats to our democratic processes from cyber-enabled interference have become a critical concern. We must all partner and do more to protect free and fair elections, and securing campaigns is an important part of this work.

 

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PyDev of the Week | Joel Grus

PyDev of the Week | Joel Grus

This week we welcome Joel Grus (@joelgrus) as our PyDev of the Week! Joel is the author of Data Science From Scratch: First Principles with Python from O’Reilly. You can catch up with Joel on his website or on Github. Let’s take some time to get to know Joel better!

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

 

In school I studied math and economics. I started my career doing quantitative finance (options pricing, financial risk, and stuff like that). I got very, very good at Excel, and I learned a tiny amount of SQL. But I kind of hated working in finance (and also I got laid off), so I joined an online travel startup as a “data analyst” doing BI stuff (lots of spreadsheets, lots of SQL, some very light scripting). That startup got acquired by Microsoft, who at the time had basically no idea what to do with my more-than-a-financial-analyst-less-than-a-software-engineer skillset. (Nor did I, really.)

 

Then in 2011 I saw that the winds were blowing toward “data science”, so I sort of BS-ed my way into a data scientist job at a tiny startup. I took a bunch of Coursera courses to fill in gaps in my knowledge, and then I learned to write (ugly) production code and discovered I really enjoyed building software. Through doing well in coding competitions I had the opportunity to interview for a software engineer job at Google, so I spent 6 really hectic weeks cramming computer science and then somehow passed the interview. I spent a couple of years at Google, and then I found I missed doing data and ML stuff, and so now I’m at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, where I build deep learning tools for NLP researchers. My current job is right at the intersection of deep learning and Python library design, which is a pretty great match for my interests.

 

I don’t really have time for hobbies 😢. I have an 8-year-old daughter, and I spend a lot of my free time with her, and then I keep agreeing and/or volunteering to write things and give talks and make livecoding videos, which takes up most of the rest. And then I have a podcast and a Twitter to stay on top of. I have long-term hobby goals of (1) learning jazz piano and (2) writing a novel, but I’m not really making much progress on either.

 

Why did you start using Python?

 

A long, long time ago I was taking a “Probability Modeling” class that was taught using Matlab. The site license for Matlab was only valid on-campus, which meant I couldn’t work on the assignments at my apartment, which was where I preferred to work. I discovered that there was a Python library called Numeric (the predecessor of NumPy) that would allow me to do the numerical-simulation things I needed to do, so I learned just enough Python to be able to do my assignments. Several years after that I had a job, and I inherited a bunch of Perl scripts, and I really didn’t want to maintain Perl code, so I started migrating them to Python, and the rest is history.

 

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

 

About 10-15% of my job involves writing JavaScript / React, which I actually really enjoy. (I might enjoy it less if it were 100% of my job.) The first year I was at AI2 I worked mostly in Scala, and after that I briefly worked on a project that was in Go. At Google I wrote primarily C++. The startup I was at before that used F#. For fun I used to write Haskell and PureScript. Part of me still dreams of having a Haskell / PureScript job, but at this point I’m so comfortable working in Python (and Python has so deeply entrenched itself as the language for doing machine learning) that it seems unlikely I’ll ever make the switch.

 

Thanks for doing the interview!

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Microsoft works with VA to provide Xbox Adaptive Controllers for veterans’ rehabilitation facilities

Microsoft has announced that it is partnering with Veterans Affairs to provide its Xbox Adaptive Controller to 22 initial VA rehab centers in the U.S. For those unfamiliar, the Adaptive Controller …

Source: Microsoft works with VA to provide Xbox Adaptive Controllers for veterans’ rehabilitation facilities