Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft Teams free version takes on Slack, Cisco Webex

Microsoft has introduced a free version of Teams that uses the vendor’s online Office suite in providing a no-cost way for people to compare the collaboration app against rivals Slack and Cisco Webex Teams.

The Microsoft Teams free version, launched this week, is designed for small businesses or groups of people within a company that does not have a commercial Office 365 subscription. The web version of Teams works on all major browsers except Apple Safari. Support for the latter is coming “very soon,” Microsoft said.

The introductory offer is meant to sell Office 365 as much as Teams. In announcing the free team collaboration app, Microsoft said users could “discover the value of Office 365 as they grow and scale.” People can create content within Teams using the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, which are all part of the cloud-based Office suite.

Collaboration vendors, such as Slack, Atlassian and Google, have used the freemium product model for years to attract people willing to test the platforms as an alternative to email. In launching its free product, “Microsoft has to learn what other players in the market know — how to convert the free users to paid users,” said Wayne Kurtzman, an analyst at IDC.

Microsoft has to learn what other players in the market know — how to convert the free users to paid users.
Wayne Kurtzmananalyst, IDC

Microsoft’s lure for conversion is its online Office suite, Kurtzman said. “It’s a good differentiator that is perceived by users as valuable.”

Along with integration to the Office apps, Microsoft is providing organizations with the tools for adding third-party app integrations. Teams also has a store for downloading any of 140 business apps, including Cisco’s Webex online meeting software, Evernote, and Trello.

A person using the Microsoft Teams free version can create groups that collectively do not exceed 300 people. Microsoft does not restrict the number of chat messages and offers online audio and video calling. 

A Teams group has up to 10 GB of file storage, plus an additional 2 GB per member for personal storage.

Microsoft Teams free version shows vendor wants to win

With the free Teams product, Microsoft is telling it’s largest rivals — Cisco and Slack — that the company is in the market “to win it — or at least significantly disrupt it,” Kurtzman said. However, the competitors have advantages. Slack has more than 1,500 third-party app integrations, and Cisco’s Webex Teams is a video-centric collaboration platform that works well with Cisco’s networking hardware and software.

Microsoft is preparing for battle by simplifying its collaboration portfolio. The company has said it will replace Skype for Business Online with Teams, a move that raised concerns that Teams won’t have the same telephony tools. Microsoft has tried to ease customer anxiety by rolling out Teams calling features, such as call delegation and direct routing.

Call delegation lets a user receive someone else’s call — a necessary feature within enterprises. Direct routing enables companies to use their existing telephony infrastructure with Teams. However, accessing that function requires a company to have Teams and Phone System — formerly called Cloud PBX — as part of an Office 365 subscription.

TextWorld: A learning environment for training reinforcement learning agents, inspired by text-based games – Microsoft Research

Today, fresh out of the Microsoft Research Montreal lab, comes an open-source project called TextWorld. TextWorld is an extensible Python framework for generating text-based games. Reinforcement learning researchers can use TextWorld to train and test AI agents in skills such as language understanding, affordance extraction, memory and planning, exploration and more. Researchers can study these in the context of generalization and transfer learning. TextWorld further runs existing text-based games, like the legendary Zork, for evaluating how well AI agents perform in complex, human-designed settings.

Figure 1 – Enter the world of TextWorld. Get the code at aka.ms/textworld.

Text-based games – also known as interactive fiction or adventure games – are games in which the play environment and the player’s interactions with it are represented solely or primarily via text. As players moves through the game world, they observe textual descriptions of their surroundings (typically divided into discrete ‘rooms’), what objects are nearby, and any other pertinent information. Players issue text commands to an interpreter to manipulate objects, other characters in the game, or themselves. After each command, the game usually provides some feedback to inform players how that command altered the game environment, if at all. A typical text-based game poses a series of puzzles to solve, treasures to collect, and locations to reach. Goals and waypoints may be specified explicitly or may have to be inferred from cues.

Figure 2 – An example game from TextWorld with a house-based theme.

Text-based games couple the freedom to explore a defined space with the restrictions of a parser and game world designed to respond positively to a relatively small set of textual commands. An agent that can competently navigate a text-based game needs to be able to not only generate coherent textual commands but must also generate the right commands in the right order, with little to no mistakes in between. Text-based games encourage experimentation and successful playthroughs involve multiple game losses and in-game “deaths.” Close observation and creative interpretation of the text the game provides and a generous supply of common sense are also integral to winning text-based games. The relatively simple obstacles present in a TextWorld game serve as an introduction to the basic real-life challenges posed by text-based games. In TextWorld, an agent needs to learn how to observe, experiment, fail and learn from failure.

TextWorld has two main components: a game generator and a game engine. The game generator converts high-level game specifications, such as number of rooms, number of objects, game length, and winning conditions, into an executable game source code in the Inform 7 language. The game engine is a simple inference machine that ensures that each step of the generated game is valid by using simple algorithms such as one-step forward and backward chaining.

Figure 3 – An overview of the TextWorld architecture.

“One reason I’m excited about TextWorld is the way it combines reinforcement learning with natural language,” said Geoff Gordon, Principal Research Manager at Microsoft Research Montreal “These two technologies are both really important, but they don’t fit together that well yet. TextWorld will push researchers to make them work in combination.” Gordon pointed out that reinforcement learning has had a number of high-profile successes recently (like Go or Ms. Pac-Man), but in all of these cases the agent has fairly simple observations and actions (for example, screen images and joystick positions in Ms. Pac-Man). In TextWorld, the agent has to both read and produce natural language, which has an entirely different and, in many cases, more complicated structure.

“I’m excited to see how researchers deal with this added complexity, said Gordon.”

Microsoft Research Montreal specializes in start-of-the art research in machine reading comprehension, dialogue, reinforcement learning, and FATE (Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics in AI). The lab was founded in 2015 as Maluuba and acquired by Microsoft in 2017. For more information, check out Microsoft Research Montreal.

This release of TextWorld is a beta and we are encouraging as much feedback as possible on the framework from fellow researchers across the world. You can send your feedback and questions to textworld@microsoft.com. Also, for more information and to get the code, check out TextWorld, and our related publications TextWorld: A Learning Environment for Text-based Games and Counting to Explore and Generalize in Text-based Games. Thank you!

July Patch Tuesday brings three public disclosures

Microsoft announced three public disclosures from the 54 vulnerabilities released in the July Patch Tuesday.

An elevation of privilege public disclosure (CVE-2018-8313) affects all OSes except Windows 7. Attackers could impersonate processes, cross-process communication or interrupt system functionality to elevate their privilege levels. The patch addresses this issue by ensuring that the Windows kernel API enforces permissions.

“The fact that there is some level of detailed description of how to take advantage of this out in the open, it’s a good chance an attacker will look to develop some exploit code around this,” said Chris Goettl, director of product management and security at Ivanti, based in South Jordan, Utah.

A similar elevation-of-privilege vulnerability (CVE-2018-8314) this July Patch Tuesday affects all OSes except Windows Server 2016. Attackers could escape a sandbox to elevate their privileges when Windows fails a check. If this vulnerability were exploited in conjunction with another vulnerability, the attacker could run arbitrary code. The update fixes how Windows’ file picker handles paths.

A spoofing vulnerability in the Microsoft Edge browser (CVE-2018-8278) tricks users into thinking they are on a legitimate website. The attacker could then extract additional code to remotely exploit the system. The patch fixes how Microsoft Edge handles HTML content.

“That type of enticing of a user, we know works,” Goettl said. “It’s not a matter of will they get someone to do it or not; it’s a matter of statistically you only need to entice so many people before somebody will do it.”

Out-of-band updates continue

Chris Goettl of IvantiChris Goettl

Before July Patch Tuesday, Microsoft announced a new side-channel attack called Lazy FP State Restore (CVE-2018-3665) — similar to the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities — on supported versions of Windows. An attacker uses a different side-channel to pull information from other registers on Intel CPUs through speculative execution.

Jimmy Graham of QualysJimmy Graham

Microsoft also updated its Spectre and Meltdown advisory (ADV180012). It does not contain any new releases on the original three variants, but the company did update the Speculative Store Bypass, Variant 4 of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. This completed coverage for Intel processors, and Microsoft is still working with AMD to mitigate its processors.

Microsoft released out-of-band patches between June and July Patch Tuesday for a third-party Oracle Outside In vulnerability (ADV180010) that affects all Exchange servers.

“We don’t have a lot of info on the exploitability,” said Jimmy Graham, director of product management at Qualys, based in Foster City, Calif. “It should be treated as critical for Exchange servers.”

New Windows Server 2008 R2 servicing model on its way

Alongside its June Patch Tuesday, Microsoft announced plans to switch the updating system for Windows Server 2008 SP2 to a rollup model. The new monthly model will more closely match the servicing model used for older Windows versions, enabling administrators to simplify their servicing process. This will include a security-only quality update, a security monthly quality rollup and a preview of the monthly quality rollup.

“The 2008 Server users out there now need to adopt the same strategy, where they had the luxury of being able to do one or two updates if they chose to and not the rest,” Goettl said.

The new model will preview on Aug. 21, 2018. Administrators will still receive extended support for Windows Server 2008 SP2 until January 2020. After that, only companies that pay for Premium Assurance will have an additional six years of support.

For more information about the remaining security bulletins for July Patch Tuesday, visit Microsoft’s Security Update Guide.

Execs: Content management in the cloud not as easy as it looks

TORONTO — Companies like Oracle, SAP and Microsoft are pushing content management in the cloud, and they’re joined by OpenText, which announced the containerization of its systems for use on public clouds, such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and AWS.

“Friends don’t let friends buy data centers.” That was OpenText CEO and CTO Mark Barrenechea’s recurring joke during his OpenText Enterprise World 2018 keynote, during which the company unveiled its cloud- and DevOps-friendly OT2 platform.

Barrenechea later clarified to reporters that while some customers are standardizing on AWS and Azure, most OpenText cloud customers are on OpenText’s private cloud. Opening OpenText apps and microservices, such as its Magellan AI tools, to the public clouds will also open up new markets for content management in the cloud, Barrenechea said.

But several speakers from the stage — including celebrity nonfiction writer and Toronto native Malcolm Gladwell — cautioned that while the cloud might bring convenience and freedom from data center upkeep, it also brings challenges.

The two most frequently mentioned were data security and process automation, as well as a related issue: automating bad or unnecessarily complicated processes that should have been fixed before their digital transformations.

Data security getting more complicated

If you have 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, I would venture to say that it’s no longer top-secret.
Malcolm Gladwellauthor

The internet of things and mobile devices comprise a major security vulnerability that, if left unsecure, can multiply risk and create entry points for hackers to penetrate networks. Opening up content management in the cloud — and the necessary multiplication of data transactions that comes with it — can spread that risk outside the firewall.

Persistent connectivity is the challenge for Zoll Medical’s personal defibrillators, said Jennifer Bell, enterprise CMS architect at the company. Zoll Medical’s IoT devices not only connect the patient to the device, but also port the data to caregivers and insurance providers in a regulatory-compliant way, which mandates data security the whole time.

“Security is huge, with HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and everything,” she said.

IT leaders are just beginning to grasp the scale of risks.

At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), even “smart microscopes” with which researchers take multi-gigabyte, close-up images have to check in with their manufacturer’s servers every night, said Matt Eisenberg, acting chief of NIAID’s business processes and information branch.

“Every evening, when the scientists are done with those devices, it has to phone home and recalibrate. And this is blowing the infrastructure guys away, because they’re not used to allowing this kind of bidirectional communication from something that really doesn’t look or feel like a computer or a laptop,” Eisenberg said.

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell giving conference keynote
Author Malcolm Gladwell delivering keynote at OpenText Enterprise World 2018

Meanwhile, Gladwell warned that data security threats are coming from every direction, inside and outside of organizations, and from new perpetrators.

Also coming under the spotlight was security of content management in the cloud when Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden were able to steal sensitive military documents and hand them over to WikiLeaks, Gladwell said.

Government data security experts are having a hard time preventing another such breach, he continued, because security threats are rapidly changing. The feds, however, haven’t; they’re stuck with Cold War-era systems and processes that focused on a particular enemy and their operatives.

“It’s no longer that you have a short list of people high up that you have to worry about. Now, you have to worry about everyone,” Gladwell said. “If you have 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, I would venture to say that it’s no longer top-secret.”

Cloud: BPM boon or problem?

Content management in the cloud by way of SaaS apps can also bring process automation, AI and analytics tools to content formerly marooned in on-premises data silos. It can also extend a workforce beyond office walls, giving remote, traveling or field-based workers access to the same content their commuting co-workers get.

That’s if it’s done right.

Kyle Hufford, digital asset management director at Monster Energy, based in Corona, Calif., serves rich media content to an international marketing team that must comply with many national, state and local regulations, as well as standardized internal processes, approval trees and branding rules.

His job, he said, is opening access to Monster Energy’s sometimes-edgy content worldwide, while ensuring end users stay compliant.

The work starts with detailed examination of how a process is done before moving it into the cloud.

“People think there [are] complexities around approvals and how to get things done,” Hufford said. “In reality, they can take a 15-step process and make it a two- or three-step process and save everybody time.”

Panelists at OpenText Enterprise World 2018 conference
Panelists at OpenText Enterprise World 2018 conference, from left to right: Marl Barrenechea, OpenText CEO and CTO; Gopal Padinjaruveetil, vice president and chief information security officer at The Auto Club Group; Jennifer Bell, enterprise content management architect and analyst at Zoll Medical; Kyle Hufford, director of digital asset management at Monster Energy; and Matt Eisenberg, acting chief of the U.S. NIAID business process and information management branch.

As mature companies like SAP, Microsoft, OpenText and Oracle make big pushes into the cloud and bring their big customers along to migrate from on-premises systems, process issues like these are bound to happen, said Craig Wentworth, principal analyst for U.K.-based MWD Advisors.

Wentworth advised enterprise IT leaders to take a critical look at the vendor’s model in the evaluation stage before embarking on a project for content management in the cloud.

“I worry that, sometimes … software firms that have been around for a long time [and add] cloud are coming to it from a very different place than those who are born in the cloud,” Wentworth said. “Whilst they will be successful certainly with their existing customers, they’ve got a different slant to it.”

Meet Surface Go, starting at $399 MSRP, it’s the smallest and most affordable Surface yet – Microsoft Devices Blog

Today, Microsoft announces Surface Go: the most portable and affordable Surface product yet.

Many of us play different roles throughout the day, moving from work or school to home and everywhere in between. Our team designs every Surface to adapt to that dynamic lifestyle, to strike a balance between performance and versatility, form and function. Our products don’t do just one thing because people don’t do just one thing.

We pioneered categories like the 2:1 to provide the mobility of a tablet with the performance of a laptop, inspiring new ways of creating. As you pursue your passions, connect with friends and family, and work with your team, the products you’re able to take on the go with you are the ones that can keep up with the huge range of things you want to accomplish. This is true whether you’re a parent and a product-maker like me or a student and amateur photographer like my daughter.

That’s the idea behind the design of Surface Go – our smallest, lightest, and most affordable Surface yet. When we designed this device, we had to ask ourselves what people want and need from a 10” Surface. The answers seem obvious – lightweight, productive, and accessible to more people. I’m pumped to introduce you to Surface Go, because it’s all those things, and so much more.

The power and connectivity in a device this small gives you the style and productivity Surface is known for in a more convenient package. At just 1.15 pounds and 8.3 mm thin, Surface Go packs portable performance into a 10” device. Starting at $399 MSRP, it represents a new entry point for the Surface family, while keeping the premium qualities that have come to define it.

Surface Go offers a stunning, custom-built high-resolution PixelSense Display that supports Surface Pen with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, low pen parallax, low latency, and precision for accurate note taking, drawing and computer-aided design. The custom calibrated 3:2 display is soft on your eyes while you’re working and vibrantly high-contrast when you want to watch videos, create art, or edit photos.

In portrait mode, the screen was designed to render the page to the scale of most school textbooks, and in landscape mode, it can render pages side by side as if you were holding a paperback book in hand. At the approximate size of a composition notebook, writing on the screen feels natural and intuitive.

Since my two youngest daughters have started using Surface Go, I see them watching movies, reading, and drawing on it every day. It’s the perfect device for them. And for me, whether I’m at home, in the office, or on a plane, putting my Surface Pen on the screen and letting my thoughts flow is a necessary step in my creative process. It’s how I work. It’s so easy to carry Surface Go with me so I can capture those moments, instantly.

Surface Go is small and mighty, giving you the performance you need to be productive. A device powered by the 7th Generation Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y, in a fanless design, offering up to nine hours of battery. Our team worked closely with Intel to optimize power, performance, and battery for the most critical tasks people perform every day.

Being able to run Office apps on this device with its portability is one of the things that was critical to the experience we had in mind when we designed Surface Go – the productivity of having the apps you use for work and school with the flexibility to relax and read or watch a show on Netflix or Hulu.

Our new Surface Go Signature Type Cover is custom-made for Surface Go integrating design features that give the user the best typing experience possible, with ergonomic key pitch and exceptional key travel. It also has high precision tuning and Windows Precision Trackpad that supports five-point multi-finger gestures, and you can connect the new Surface Mobile Mouse to work the way that you want.

A built-in kickstand with full friction hinge that extends to 165 degrees helps you stay in your flow from tablet to studio mode, and a Windows Hello camera allows for familiar, quick, and secure sign-in using face recognition.

Surface Go also has the ports you need, including Surface Connect for charging and docking; USB-C 3.1 for data, video, and charging; a headphone jack; and a MicroSD card reader for storage expansion. All designed to help you be more productive whether you’re studying in a library, working on a plane, or sharing your content in a boardroom on a 4K monitor.

Surface Go with Wi-Fi will be available for pre-order tomorrow, July 10 in select countries*, with products beginning to hit shelves on August 2. We’re also happy to share that an LTE model will be arriving later this year.

For a family at home or on the move, an expert on the front line of a business interacting with customers, or a school that wants to provide its students with the most versatile tools for learning, this device offers a premium experience with incredible value.

Wherever the day takes you, and whatever unique tasks await you along the way, Surface Go moves with you.

Meet Surface Go, starting at $399 MSRP, it’s the smallest and most affordable Surface yet

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*Availability:

Surface Go will be available for pre-order beginning on July 10 in the following markets, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

In the coming weeks, Surface Go will be available for pre-order in Japan, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and in China with more markets to follow.

** To learn more join us on our Facebook page at 6AM PT on July 10. 

Updated July 10, 2018 7:37 am

Taking Pride in being an ally for the LGBT community

By Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK

This year’s London Pride Festival will be held on Saturday, July 7. I see this annual event as a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity and inclusion that makes the capital – and this country – such a great place to live and work.

Hundreds of Microsoft staff will take part in London Pride, with thousands more joining similar celebrations across the world, including Cambridge (August 11), Manchester (August 25) and Reading (September 1). These can be a beacon of hope, and I have loved reading about our employees in Scotland, North America, Brazil, Japan, Poland and elsewhere joining Pride events to embrace who they are as they do what they love.

This is why Pride and being an LGBT Ally is important for everyone at Microsoft.

Many of those taking part are members of GLEAM, Microsoft’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employee resource group, which has a strong following globally. Microsoft has a long history of diversity and inclusion that continues to this day, and I believe it is one of our strongest assets. In 1993, our company was one of the first in the world to offer employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners; while last year we hosted our first LGBT leadership conference, in Ireland, featuring leaders from more than 20 countries.

This year I want to do more for our LGBT staff, partners and customers. I am delighted to announce that Microsoft Rewards users can now turn the points they earn into cash and donate it to Stonewall, an LGBT equality charity based in the UK.

Stonewall has been supporting the LGBT community for 29 years, working to transform institutions and change hearts, minds and laws so people can feel free to be themselves. I am proud that Microsoft is helping people support this cause to change lives for the better.

Find out more about Microsoft Rewards

To get involved, sign up for a Microsoft Rewards account and earn points by using the Bing search engine, completing online quizzes and buying certain products via the Microsoft Store. You will then be able to give these points to Stonewall in the form of cash.

Microsoft and Stonewall share a mission: to empower individuals. Whether it’s empowering people to achieve more or make change happen, the goal is the same – to help everyone be the best they can be.

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Microsoft announces design and construction teams for Redmond campus modernization | Stories

REDMOND, Wash. — July 3, 2018 On Tuesday, Microsoft Corp. announced the consortium of architects and general contractors it has selected to work together to design and build almost 3 million square feet of new workspace on 72 acres of its Redmond campus. This is part of a multiyear campus modernization project announced in 2017, which will create new office space, public amenities and infrastructure.

The team includes architecture firms LMN, NBBJ, WRNS Studio and ZGF Architects; general contractors Skanska, Balfour Beatty, GLY and Sellen; and lead landscape architect Berger Partnership with OLIN. Project management for the redevelopment was awarded to CBRE, JLL and OAC Services Inc. Construction of the new buildings is expected to commence later this year and be completed in 2022.

“Our new campus will be more open and modern, focused on sustainability, connectedness and accessibility. The workplaces will feature more natural light and foster the type of creativity that will lead to ongoing innovation, advance the industry and benefit our customers,” said Rob Towne, regional director of Puget Sound, Global Real Estate & Facilities at Microsoft. “The firms we selected for this project will bring our vision to life.”

An overarching goal of the campus modernization is creating a healthy, inspiring workplace that supports the needs of Microsoft employees. The project will include:

  • 18 new buildings, ranging from 180,000 to 220,000 square feet, clustered into four distinct villages that will be blended together to create a unified campus.
  • Accessibility features to enhance mobility and ease of access for all employees.
  • Buildings that are four to five stories in height, encouraging physical activity and interaction between employees.
  • Spacious atriums and courtyards for improved daylighting and direct connections to the outdoors.
  • Thoughtful sustainable design strategies to support the symbiosis of people and place, while respecting the unique ecology of the region.
  • Fronting 156th Avenue Northeast, the primary corridor of access to East Campus, a future gateway to serve those arriving via Sound Transit’s Redmond Technology Center light rail station. It will also welcome arrivals from a pedestrian-and-cyclist-only bridge over State Route 520, which will connect to the west campus.
  • To emphasize the importance of health, movement and easy access to a variety of amenities, the campus will be organized around the experience of pedestrians and cyclists. Vehicular traffic — including drop-off and parking areas — will be relegated to the campus periphery and underground structured parking.

For more information, visit https://news.microsoft.com/modern-campus/.

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Special Olympics open in Seattle with celebration of inclusion; Microsoft CEO applauds athletes’ spirit

Special Olympics
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addresses the crowd at the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Sunday. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games opened in Seattle on Sunday at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium with a parade of athletes and musical performances and inspiring moments meant to showcase acceptance and inclusion.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was among the dignitaries who took the stage to offer encouraging words to those in attendance. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant is the premier corporate partner for the Games.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addresses the crowd at the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Sunday. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Here are Nadella’s comments in full:

“It’s such an honor to be here today. The energy, the enthusiasm in this stadium is palpable and it’s incredible. On behalf of everyone at Microsoft I want to extend the warmest of welcomes to all of you to Seattle.

“Your courage, your spirit and the pursuit of passion are truly inspiring. We can’t wait to watch all your hard work and training come together as you compete this week. But Special Olympics is about much more than just sports and competition. It’s a model for building a more inclusive world. A world where everyone is celebrated for their unique abilities. A world where everyone is invited to participate.

“Being right here in Husky Stadium, I’m reminded of one of my favorite books, ‘The Boys in the Boat.’ It’s based on an inspiring story about a University of Washington crew team that against all odds made it to the 1936 Olympic Games and took home the gold. It’s a reminder of the power of teamwork and perseverance, and there’s a passage that’s fitting for us all here today. There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing, it’s called ‘the swing.’ It only happens when all the eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one of the team is out of sync with those of the others. An inclusive world — that’s what good swing looks like.

“Together you’re showing the world what is possible when we reflect the perspectives and the experiences to everyone. So enjoy the moment. You have achieved so much and you’re building such an amazing, inclusive world.”

An athlete is carried into Husky Stadium on his teammates’ shoulders as others high five members of the Blue Thunder drum line. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

More than 4,000 athletes and coaches from the across the United States are scheduled to compete in 14 team and individual sports across Seattle as the Games run through Friday. Tens of thousands of family members, volunteers and spectators have converged on the city.

‘Defining moment’ for Seattle as Microsoft, Amazon, others support Special Olympics USA Games

Sunday’s festivities, broadcast live on ESPN, were emceed by actor Taye Diggs and featured musical performances by DJ Marshmello, Charlie Puth, Allen Stone and Heart’s Ann Wilson, who sang the “National Anthem.” The Seattle Seahawks’ Blue Thunder drum line participated and the team’s recent draft pick, Shaquem Griffin, served as grand marshall for the parade of athletes into Husky Stadium.

Microsoft President Brad Smith was among a number of executives who would be competing in the first-ever ESPN / Special Olympics Unified Sports Challenge at the UW’s Husky Ballpark later on Sunday.

(GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The execs, their employees, celebrities and Special Olympics athletes — on teams of five people — were competing in multiple Unified Sports challenges including Hot Shot Basketball, Penalty Shot Soccer, Electronic Dance Game, Bocce, Inflatable Dart Board, Football Accuracy Challenge, Giant Memory Game and Golf Putting.

DocuSign also participated with a team led by CEO Dan Springer and Starbucks’ team was led by Vivek Varma, EVP for public affairs. Seattle sports celebs competing included Gary Payton, Steve Largent, Walter Jones, Apolo Ohno, Jim Zorn, Kasey Keller and more.

Microsoft President Brad Smith speaks at Husky Stadium in his role as honorary chairman of the Games. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Microsoft’s Smith also took the stage at Husky Stadium as honorary chairman of the Games to offer his own comments in support of the athletes. Here are those comments in full:

“All of us in Seattle have been working for the last 2 1/2 years to get ready. To get ready for today. To welcome all of you and your family and your friends. We are so happy that you are here.

“Every time a city has the opportunity to host an Olympic event or a World’s Fair, it’s an opportunity not only to be a great host, but to create a legacy. Fifty-five years ago, Seattle hosted the World’s Fair and it built a legacy, an icon — the Space Needle, a symbol that people associate around the world with this place. But this week we will build a bigger legacy still. It is in each and every one of you.

“Together we have an opportunity to build a legacy of understanding, of appreciation, of commitment. A commitment for each of us to bring out the best in ourselves, to bring out the best in everyone around us. That is what each and every one of you represent.

“When we think about what we will all do this week, whether we’re competing or spectating and cheering all of you on, this is a week when we can do even more than rise together. We can stand together, we can stick together and more than anything else we can build together. Let’s build a legacy, a legacy that lasts.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee greets the crowd in Seattle on Sunday. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)
Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver cheers on the athletes alongside Frannie Ronan, an 8-year-old gymnast from Kirkland, Wash., and the youngest competitor in the Games. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee officially welcomed the Special Olympians to the state. In addressing the crowd, Inslee said everything needs to be done to fight back against the “dark forces” of fear that work against inclusion in society.

At the end of the Opening Ceremony, the Flame of Hope completed its journey to Seattle and into Husky Stadium. Jennifer Goodley, a 37-year-old powerlifter from Bremerton, Wash., took the final handoff and lit the official cauldron.

Special Olympics 2018 USA Games cauldron (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Griffin, the Seahawks’ inspiring rookie, who had a hand amputated as a young child, then declared the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games officially open.

DJ Marshmello performs as one of the musical acts for the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

If you want to follow the Games more closely throughout the week, a new, free mobile app was launched over the weekend. The app, developed by AppInteract on Microsoft’s Azure platform, features sports schedules, details on athletes and teams, venue information, events and news. Download for iOS or Android.

ESPN will also provide in-depth coverage throughout the week on its app and on ESPN.com. And ESPN3 will carry live streaming coverage from swimming competition taking place at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

Special Olympics USA Games choir (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

What is Active Directory? – Definition from WhatIs.com

Active Directory (AD) is a Microsoft product that consists of several services that run on Windows Server to manage permissions and access to networked resources.

Active Directory stores data as objects. An object is a single element, such as a user, group, application or device, such as a printer. Objects are normally defined as either resources — such as printers or computers — or security principals — such as users or groups.

Active Directory categorizes objects by name and attributes. For example, the name of a user might include the name string, along with information associated with the user, such as passwords and Secure Shell (SSH) keys.

The main service in Active Directory is Domain Services (AD DS), which stores directory information and handles the interaction of the user with the domain. AD DS verifies access when a user signs into a device or attempts to connect to a server over a network. AD DS controls which users have access to each resource. For example, an administrator typically has a different level of access to data than an end user.

Other Microsoft products, such as Exchange Server and SharePoint Server, rely on AD DS to provide resource access. The server that hosts AD DS is the domain controller.

Active Directory services

Several other services comprise Active Directory. They are Lightweight Directory Services, Certificate Services, Federation Services and Rights Management Services. Each service expands the product’s directory management capabilities.

Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS) has the same codebase as AD DS, sharing similar functionalities, such as the API. AD LDS, however, can run in multiple instances on one server and holds directory data in a data store using Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

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How to use the identity and access tool
from Microsoft

LDAP is an application protocol used to access and maintain directory services over a network. LDAP stores objects — such as usernames and passwords — in directory services — such as Active Directory — and shares that object data across the network.

Certificate Services (AD CS) generates, manages and shares certificates. A certificate uses encryption to enable a user to exchange information over the internet securely with a public key.

Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) authenticates user access to multiple applications — even on different networks — using single sign-on (SSO). As the name indicates, SSO only requires the user to sign on once rather than use multiple dedicated authentication keys for each service.

Rights Management (AD RMS) controls information rights and management. AD RMS encrypts content, such as email or Word documents, on a server to limit access.

Major features in Active Directory Domain Services

Active Directory Domain Services uses a tiered layout consisting of domains, trees and forests to coordinate networked elements.

A domain is a group of objects, such as users or devices, that share the same AD database. Domains have a domain name system (DNS) structure.

Group Policy Management console
Active Directory’s Group Policy Management console gives admins a tool to customize user and computer settings in their organization.

A tree is one or more domains grouped together. The tree structure uses a contiguous namespace to gather the collection of domains in a logical hierarchy. Trees can be viewed as trust relationships where a secure connection, or trust, is shared between two domains. Multiple domains can be trusted where one domain can trust a second, and the second domain can trust a third. Because of the hierarchical nature of this setup, the first domain can implicitly trust the third domain without needing explicit trust.

A forest is a group of multiple trees. A forest consists of shared catalogs, directory schemas, application information and domain configurations. The schema defines an object’s class and attributes in a forest. In addition, global catalog servers provide a listing of all the objects in a forest.

Organizational Units (OUs) organize users, groups and devices. Each domain can contain its own OU. However, OUs cannot have separate namespaces, as each user or object in a domain must be unique. For example, a user account with the same username cannot be created.

History and development of Active Directory   

Microsoft offered a preview of Active Directory in 1999 and released it a year later with Windows 2000 Server. Microsoft continued to develop new features with each successive Windows Server release.

Windows Server 2003 included a notable update to add forests and the ability to edit and change the position of domains within forests. Domains on Windows Server 2000 could not support newer AD updates running in Server 2003.

Windows Server 2008 introduced AD FS. Additionally, Microsoft rebranded the directory for domain management as AD DS, and AD became an umbrella term for the directory-based services it supported.

Windows Server 2016 updated AD DS to improve AD security and migrate AD environments to cloud or hybrid cloud environments. Security updates included the addition of privileged access management (PAM).

PAM monitored access to an object, the type of access granted and what actions the user took. PAM added bastion AD forests to provide an additional secure and isolated forest environment. Windows Server 2016 ended support for devices on Windows Server 2003.

In December 2016, Microsoft released Azure AD Connect to join an on-premises Active Directory system with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) to enable SSO for Microsoft’s cloud services, such as Office 365. Azure AD Connect works with systems running Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016.

Active Directory versus Workgroup

Workgroup is another Microsoft program that connects Windows machines over a peer-to-peer network. Workgroup allows these machines to share files, internet access, printers and other resources over the network. Peer-to-peer networking removes the need for a server for authentication.

Main competitors to Active Directory

Other directory services on the market that provide similar functionality to AD include Red Hat Directory Server, Apache Directory and OpenLDAP.

Red Hat Directory Server manages user access to multiple systems in Unix environments. Similar to AD, Red Hat Directory Server includes user ID and certificate-based authentication to restrict access to data in the directory.

Apache Directory is an open source project that runs on Java and operates on any LDAP server, including systems on Windows, macOS and Linux. Apache Directory includes a schema browser and an LDAP editor/browser. Apache Directory supports Eclipse plug-ins.

OpenLDAP is a Windows-based open source LDAP directory. OpenLDAP enables users to browse, search and edit objects in an LDAP server. OpenLDAP also features copying, moving and deleting of trees in the directory, as well as enabling schema browsing, password management, LDAP SSL support, and more.

Nimble Collective Now Powered by Microsoft Azure Accelerates the Future of Animation | Nimble Collective

Nimble Collective and Microsoft Azure

— Nimble Collective on Microsoft Azure extends global reach;  plans to revolutionize animated content creation —

June 28, 2018 – MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA  – Today, Nimble Collective, the leading cloud-based animation technology platform, announced that it is available and optimized on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. As Nimble Collective’s exclusive cloud partner, Microsoft Azure provides storage and compute services to power Nimble’s high-end animation platform, rendering workloads and media asset management. As a Microsoft partner, Nimble will receive go-to-market and market development support from one of the world’s largest enterprise salesforces.

Microsoft Azure’s support of Nimble lets us expand our global reach to bring new voices, stories and artists to the world of animation,” said Rex Grignon, Co-Founder, CEO, Nimble Collective. “It will help us further reduce cost, complexity and enable new and established studios to accelerate their animation production. Nimble Collective is excited to partner with a platform company, with a trusted public cloud – Microsoft Azure – to deliver a world-class cloud-based animation production and management solution.”

Nimble Collective’s cloud-based animation production platform streamlines the traditional animation studio infrastructure. With full end-to-end production capabilities hosted in Microsoft Azure’s secure hyperscale environment, Nimble’s platform integrates everything digital animators need, including streaming workstations, asset management, license brokering, versioning, elastic compute farm to MPAA certification. All of which is seamlessly woven together in a browser-based workflow that dramatically simplifies and improves archaic animation processes.

“We go beyond data and storage to deliver a complete industrial-strength platform that dramatically lowers barriers to entry for every animator.” said Grignon. “Microsoft Azure uniquely gives us the features, performance, and scalability to offer our customers better user experiences, reliability and security a fraction of the cost of in-house studios.”

“Microsoft is committed to helping content creators achieve more using the cloud with a partner-focused approach to this industries transformation,” said Tad Brockway, General Manager, Azure Storage, Media and Edge at Microsoft Corp.  “We’re excited to work with innovators like Nimble Collective to help them transform how animated content is produced, managed and delivered.”

“This partnership with Azure represents further validation of the promise of Nimble Collective and we can’t wait to see what the future holds” said James Bennett, Co-founder/Creative Director with Shomen Productions. “Nimble is our solution of choice for our remote based production studio. We’re impressed with their user-friendly pipeline and amazing support team.”

About Nimble Collective

Founded in 2014 by Academy Award-winning animators and technology entrepreneurs, Nimble Collective is revolutionizing the animation content market by offering studio-level capabilities without the costly and complex infrastructure. With all the production capabilities of the animation pipeline hosted in a secure cloud environment, animators and their collaborators, wherever they are in the world, are able to spend more time creating instead of managing infrastructure. With Nimble Collective, studios can spend more time creating, and save up to 75% on overhead and drive faster time to market. Nimble Collective is the brainchild of animators Rex Grignon (Toy Story, Madagascar, and founding head of character animation at DreamWorks), Jason Schleifer (Lord of the Rings, Megamind) and Scott LaFleur (How to Train Your Dragon, Megamind). Learn more at NimbleCollective.com.

Media Contact for Nimble Collective

Juliet Travis
Liftoff Communications
510-612-9622
juliet@liftoffcommunications.com