How One Xbox Ambassador Played with 100 Gamers From 15 Countries in 100 Days – Xbox Wire

In a single tweet, one Xbox Ambassador challenged himself to bring gamers from all over the world, together on Xbox. Joining over 15 countries, choppyseize set out to connect and play video games with 100 Xbox Ambassadors in 100 days. Not only did he epically succeed, he single-handedly positively influenced gamer’s experiences all over the globe.

When we play together, we all win

This challenge was about bringing the Xbox Ambassador community closer together. Xbox Ambassadors are gamers who spread positivity, share knowledge, and are passionate about making Xbox a place where everyone can have fun.

Choppyseize dove head-first into this philosophy, challenging himself to create a fun way to bring like-minded gamers from across the globe together. “For us to be more inclusive means we need to focus on what unites us, as opposed to what separates us,” explains choppyseize. “The very nature of the Xbox Ambassador Program is people helping people.” And thus, the choppyseize 100 Xbox Ambassadors in 100 Days Challenge began.

Xbox Ambassador

Xbox Ambassador

Through his passion for gaming, choppyseize created an exciting way to play and connect with other Xbox Ambassadors. “When I saw choppyseize trying to play with 100 Ambassadors in 100 days, I knew I wanted in from the start,” said Air Head DLX an Xbox Ambassador who participated in the challenge. “Though an ambitious goal, I believed it was for a good cause, to bring people together. Bringing Ambassadors together to play and collaborate is a big part of what made me feel welcome here,” continued Air Head DLX.

Beyond connecting with Xbox Ambassadors himself, choppyseize helped other Xbox Ambassadors connect with one another, forming countless friendships along the way. Before the challenge began, Artyom Fassbender had never played with another Xbox Ambassador before. “I actually never played with anyone in the program and I have choppyseize to thank for changing that. I’ve made a lot of good friends through this challenge.”

From bringing people together to creating new, meaningful friendships, choppyseize’s challenge exemplifies what it means to be an Xbox Ambassador and shows all of us that it doesn’t matter where you play, you can have fun with anyone around the world.

Discovering a universal language

Playing with others across the globe can be fun and rewarding, but it comes with its own set of challenges, particularly timing. “Time zones were the hardest part. Some people were in a completely opposite time zone from me—my summer is their winter, my 6 PM is their 7 AM,” said choppyseize. After some careful planning, choppyseize and other Xbox Ambassadors were finally able to play each other.

Xbox Ambassador

Xbox Ambassador

It wasn’t just the fun of the game they enjoyed, but the company of one another. “One of the coolest parts of the challenge was getting an inside perspective on countries I knew nothing about,” said choppyseize. “I loved hearing stories about the lives or what day-to-day activities are really like for Ambassadors all over the world. I met and played with gamers from Iraq, Belgium, Holland, Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, Iran, Canada and many more.” This wasn’t just about playing a game, it was about bringing gamers, from diverse walks of life, together on Xbox.

As gamers, we don’t need a translator to know if we are having fun. Even during the challenge, choppyseize didn’t have trouble understanding fellow gamers. “Language barriers were not as much of an issue as I’d expected. Thankfully, gaming is a universal language.” Through gaming we know by our actions and positive gameplay that we are enjoying each other’s company. Video games are our language and we speak it fluently.

No matter the physical distance, Xbox Ambassadors are here to connect with each another in genuine and meaningful ways. The challenge choppyseize set out to do is exactly what the Xbox Ambassadors program is all about. This is what makes Xbox the best place to play, and it all starts with passionate and amazing gamers like you and choppyseize.

What will you do in the next 100 days?

Whether you go on to crush Mortal Kombat with your eyes closed or squad-up with new friends on Xbox Live, there will always be a place for passionate, welcoming gamers in the Xbox Ambassadors program. Become an Xbox Ambassador and let’s make Xbox fun for everyone, together.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Specialized network engineer skills deemed unnecessary by 2020

Network engineers are an invaluable part of any organization, but increased network complexity could make specialized networking skills superfluous by 2020.

Organizations now prefer generalized network engineer skills over specialized skills, according to a report conducted by Sapio Research on behalf of Teneo Inc., a technology integrator and consulting firm. Among those surveyed were 300 senior IT executives — 200 from the U.S. and 100 from the U.K. — from organizations with over 1,000 employees. The survey explored why network requirements transform to support digital transformation and networks in general.

Constant network transformation and a growing amount of network monitoring tools contributed to the decreased need for specialized skills, the report said. Organizations have difficulty keeping network teams up to date with new technologies and tools and even struggle to afford and balance these needs.

Network complexity leads to converging networking roles

By 2020, in-house network teams will likely take on a broader range of roles than they have in the past, according to 72% of survey respondents. With the growing amount of connectivity technologies — such as software-defined WAN, carrier networks, MPLS and cloud-based applications — network engineers need adaptable skills. Users expect networks to function quickly and smoothly, so network teams must understand and monitor various network technologies to meet user needs.

Specialized network engineer skills become less useful in a constantly changing network environment, respondents said, and keeping up with elaborate infrastructures is also difficult. Of those surveyed, 72% said they don’t require network engineers to have specialized skills. This is a result of growing workloads, in addition to a burgeoning need for up-to-date skills.

The growing repertoire of network monitoring tools is also difficult for organizations to balance and maintain. Network teams need to use more and more monitoring tools to provide receptive and reliable operations for their network and organization, according to the survey. Keeping up with current management and monitoring tools and updating network engineer skills are major challenges for organizations.

network monitoring issues
Continuous network transformation and industry changes strengthened the need to keep network engineer skills up to date.

Constant network transformation overshadows network engineer skills

Of those surveyed, 26% of respondents said they want their network teams to also perform non-network roles — for example, roles related to compliance and innovation. These converging roles can create difficulties for upskilling network teams. Upskilling is now less of a budgetary issue and more a challenge to ensure teams have up-to-date knowledge about complex network infrastructure and tools, according to the survey.

Increased network complexity forced 48% of those surveyed to dedicate most of their network teams’ resources and budgets to staying updated with network monitoring tools. Therefore, upskilling received fewer resources. Also, too many monitoring tasks are put on IT teams, which can lead to inadequate monitoring and management and staff members without proper skills.

Other areas that network teams’ resources and budgets go toward are personnel hiring and outsourcing to managed service providers. The growth in network monitoring tools caused such complex network transformation that network engineer skills — specialized skills, in particular — now toe the line of being more superfluous than beneficial.

The effect on network engineer skills globally

While U.S. and U.K. respondents generally had similar answers, the three main concerns for U.S. respondents were the following:

  1. suboptimal network monitoring and management without new hires;
  2. staffs lacking necessary or suitable skills; and
  3. spending more on network monitoring tools.

Network teams could obstruct their understanding of the network’s performance if they are unable to upskill their engineers. Overall, ensuring staffs are properly skilled weighed more heavily on global senior IT executives than other common concerns, such as understanding application performances.

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Find out how Dell helps ‘American Idol’ judge Randy Jackson and communications expert Rakia Reynolds | Windows Experience Blog

As a judge on “American Idol” for 13 years, Jackson had to constantly assess contestants and their potential, gauging who had that It factor that would propel them into superstardom.
You’ve probably heard of some of them: Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert.
Jackson had a lot of experience to make those calls. Catching the music bug when he was 14, listening to his brother’s band rehearse in their mother’s garage in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he would go on to play with Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and many others. By the time he was a fixture in American living rooms and mobile devices, he had racked up a long list of big names he’d played bass with, such as Journey.
He attributes success – including his own – with timing.
“When I was a kid growing up, I looked up to some of my music teachers in college. One teacher would always say, ‘The person that shows up at the right place at the right time with the right information will always get the job,’” he says.

Despite all his hobnobbing with the rich and famous, he still applies lessons he grew up with, like “A thing is all in the way you look at it” or “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
His parents taught the boy who is now a father of three to make sure he knew when to switch up his game – or pursue a new one.
As the owner of a music studio in Burbank, California, he’s also had to assess what technology fits best for his work, which includes producing EDM, trap, hip hop, Mariah Carey and music for TV shows. Though his studio started long after the days of tape and million-dollar consoles, he’d had the same equipment for 10 years before he decided to make a break from Apple.
“I’m dedicating a room to Dell because of the quality and the power and the innovation that these guys have come with in the last couple of years, which is just astounding,” Jackson says. “I’m a high tech and low tech guy. I love analog but I also love the latest, greatest technology. Music is now driven by technology. It’s about who’s got the best quality and best power. Dell does. And at the most affordable price.”
Jackson plans on stocking the room with Dell XPS products and a 39-inch curved monitor. He also can’t get enough of touchscreen capabilities.
“One of the guys that works with me on my team says we’ve been using Apple exclusively for some time. He came to me and he said, ‘You guys are not going to believe this, but I’m done.’ He says Apple’s quality has gone down, it’s not what it used to be,’’ Jackson recalls. “And he said, ‘Listen, I’m doing some research. We should check out this Dell stuff.’ And like me, I think a lot of people don’t know the power of Dell.”
He’s excited for the equipment’s potential to run the many DAWs (digital audio workstations) that he uses for recording, editing and producing audio files.

At CES earlier this year, he hosted a fireside chat about Dell Cinema, and how the quality of its picture, sound and experience would be a tempting alternative to going out to see a movie.
“You know what’s interesting about these guys at Dell? They keep outdoing themselves. You know the technology’s out there. But a lot of companies piecemeal it to you, because they know you want it. Not these guys,” he says.
For him, the process of upgrading is part of a lifelong mission.
“The greatest challenge is just trying to grow every year. And trying to stay humble and compassionate. And just trying to get better and trying to be a better person,” Jackson says. “You know what, I should get better at gaming because when my kids were younger, I played a lot. I’ve been working on my ‘Fortnite,’ I’ve been getting it together. This year, I’m vowing to be a better gamer. I want to join the ‘League of Legends.’”

Over on the other coast, entrepreneur Rakia Reynolds is embracing the next evolution of her Philadelphia-based Skai Blue Media multimedia communications agency.
“When I started off in this industry, there weren’t a lot of women that I could turn to that look like me that came from places like Newark, New Jersey. And for me it was important to have mentors around me that could guide me,” says Reynolds, who was also making the rounds at SXSW, along with Jackson. “So I’m really proud that I found people to help me with the entrepreneurial journey. And I’m proud that I’m going into my 10th year of business. So this is a year of celebration.”
She’s proud that she’s succeeded, as a Black woman in a business where people of color typically lack resources their counterparts take for granted; as a mother of three, who started her business when she was pregnant with her second child; and as someone who had previous careers in higher education and producing shows for MTV, TLC and Discovery Health networks.
Among her clients: Serena Williams, who she met in 2013 through the Home Shopping Network. Reynolds worked with her behind the scenes on social media and communications with HSN, and then became the face of Williams’ business. Reynolds was Williams’ on-air brand expert for a number of years and now Skai Blue Media continues to work directly with Williams on brand partnerships and social media.
Reynolds is also the face of Dell Small Business.
“I’m still shocked. We know what this current climate is like and to have a young black woman as the face of small business for Dell speaks volumes,” says Reynolds. “And for me it was such a moment of, ‘Wow, I must be doing something right or I must be doing a great job.’ I’ve always noticed there are two things that people evaluate when they meet you: Can they trust you and can they respect you. A company like Dell trusts me to be this person.”

“We love Dell products because we use them but it’s the community first,” Reynolds says. “As an entrepreneur, you get lonely. And I feel like with Dell, I’ve been able to be a part of such a great community, like the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur network. We have a WhatsApp group, a Facebook community. We can bounce ideas off each other. I can also run ideas by high performing executives at Dell. Some of the women at Dell have opened up so many doors for me, whether it’s introducing me to people or getting me to think about things a little differently.”
Dell’s mobile devices, she says, adapt well to her fast pace and on-the-move lifestyle.
“I don’t really have time to think about the functionality of things. I need something I can fit into my bag and that’s going to be there for me when I need it,” says Reynolds, whose go-to device is the XPS 13, which she uses to edit content and engage in video conferences with her team.
Reynolds embraces the non-linear path she’s taken to get to this point in her life.
“We live in an economy where everything is so accelerated or perceived to be accelerated and that puts so much pressure on us, to compare ourselves to other people and their timetables,” she says. “For me it’s been a steady, slow climb. It took time to figure out who I was.”
She would also tell others that they don’t always have to launch something. They don’t always have to be talking about something.
“I think sometimes we just have to be comfortable with saying, I don’t have anything going on today. Especially to a budding entrepreneur,” Reynolds says. “Not every day is going to be a day where you accomplish something. Not every day is going to be a day where you made some sort of impact, where you’ve done a really great job. And I just look at it a little differently than saying failing forward because not all failure is good failure. We glamorize this notion that failure is amazing and you should fail. And guess what, not all of us should fail because sometimes bouncing back is really hard and it sets you back. But what I’ve learned with setbacks is that you embrace it as a comeback.”
And to do that, she had to overcome challenges such as navigating spaces unfamiliar to her, like public relations and marketing – at least in the beginning. She knew she could produce content as a television producer. She knew she could write stories because she was editing luxury publications, producing fashion editorials. She knew she could help tell stories for other people.
She’s been doing that now for a decade, and as her business progresses she’s hoping to work with more marketing agencies that are trying to figure out the world of cultural competence, who are trying to understand how to tap into different audiences such as Generation Z, xennials and millennials.
“Our newest client is of the deaf community. And it’s something that I’ve never envisioned. They found us,” Reynolds says. “So the fact that we’ve entered this next phase of the business where we are being inclusive of all communities is the most rewarding for me.”

Wanted – WFH SFF or Chromebox (budget)

Discussion in ‘Desktop Computer Classifieds‘ started by IceAx, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. IceAx

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    Morning all

    Does anyone have a cheapie SFF or chromebox they are looking to shift for working from home.

    just needs to be able to run a browser with tabs open etc – would probably run linux on SFF.

    Thanks
    A

    Location: Warrington

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How to successfully migrate Exchange Servers

An Exchange Server migration is often an arduous process with more to do than you would expect, but using a checklist can eliminate some of the stress. Even after selecting a new destination, you must check compatibility, prepare your mailboxes and applications, and plan new certificates and licenses.

Exchange Server 2010 will reach its end of life in 2020, and the appeal of a hosted cloud service is strong for organizations that want centralized management, high availability and scalability. To that end, organizations have more reasons to migrate Exchange Servers to Exchange Online, Office 365 or a hybrid deployment.

No matter what your organization chooses, navigating server setup and protocols takes time and planning.

Step 1: Take stock and check compatibility

Whether you plan on moving to a hybrid configuration or making a full move to the cloud, you must understand your current Exchange Server configuration. Monitor the mail flow connectors, learn the configuration of email gateways, and double-check that all the OSes and applications meet the compatibility requirements before you begin; otherwise, you could run into problems later.

Older Office suites, such as Office 2010, also prevent new functionality, such as Office Groups, from working with newer versions of Exchange. Outlook versions before 2013 can also create connectivity and security issues.

A move is also the perfect time to take stock of what services your organization actually uses and cut costs. For example, organizations often pay to license advanced functionality that employees don’t need. Check these applications and services prior to a migration and make updates where needed:

  • Upgrade Microsoft Office and Outlook prior to a migration and install the latest cumulative updates and patches.
  • Ensure that Active Directory runs on a minimum of Windows Server 2008 R2 if you want to use Azure AD Connect with password write back.
  • Confirm third-party applications and VoIP platforms are compatible with Exchange Online and Office 365.
  • Plan any new licenses and certificates you will need.

Take note that modern applications often use Exchange Web Services, but Microsoft will no longer develop or update that functionality as of Oct. 13, 2020. If vendors have not adjusted their applications or prepared their VoIP platform for Exchange Online, you will have to plan around their unsupported products or work with them to find a solution.

Step 2: Set up your new deployment

Once you understand your current configurations, it’s time to prepare your new destination. For a hybrid deployment, your organization will likely only need two Client Access Mailbox servers if everything — other than relays left on premises for security — has been moved to Office 365.

First, use a service account to import third-party certificates, and then install Exchange. To relay email, create and deploy entries from the old servers.

Next, set relay connector permissions for SMTP-Accept -Any-Recipient to send messages outside of the organization. Then, reset the relays and any gateways to direct mail flow to the new server IPs and virtual directories configured to the right domain names. Also, check the virtual directory names on the old Exchange servers.

Finally, run the Hybrid Configuration wizard to complete the setup.

Step 3: Plan for hurdles specific to your destination

Whether you are moving to a new on-premises server, a hybrid environment or fully to the cloud, you must investigate the nuances of your Exchange Server migration. For example, Exchange Online offers an appealing alternative to on-premises servers, but moving to the hosted messaging application presents its own challenges.

Exchange Online cannot maintain access for department groups from Active Directory unless you configure the Exchange Servers to sync to Azure AD, set a mail-enabled security group and then classify it as a universal group. You cannot fix this with PowerShell because Exchange Online does not recognize group members from a non-mail-enabled security group.

Even if everything seems to be working, wait a few weeks before you decommission your old server to make sure that all the mailboxes, archives and public folders made the trip successfully.

Administrators will no longer be able to appoint users to add or remove members on distribution lists through the Outlook address book. In this regard, admins gain another task to choose the best option between giving users limited access to Exchange utilities, selecting a third-party product to give users the ability to manage groups in AD or moving groups to Office 365. If none of these options work for your organization, your help desk might have to take on the task.

Mailbox performance slows down when you migrate Exchange Servers away from on premises, which is why Microsoft recommends setting mailboxes to cached mode. In secondary mailboxes, cached mode makes any email from before the switch off of online mode inaccessible in Outlook. Currently, there is no solution for this issue.

Step 4: Decommission your Exchange Servers

Even if everything seems to be working, wait a few weeks before you decommission your old server to make sure that all the mailboxes, archives and public folders made the trip successfully. The old server can also provide a failback option if a prerequisite, update or connection was overlooked.

Before you decommission a server, you should perform the following tasks:

  • In the Exchange Admin Center, check the status of the new servers and remove old servers.
  • Send test emails to external and internal accounts to make sure the mail flow works.
  • Connect established remote PowerShell scripts to the new servers.
  • Make sure your Autodiscover settings point your new servers to the Autodiscover URL.
  • Check the Client Access Server settings for virtual directories in the Exchange Admin Center.
  • Reboot the server with some downtime or recycle MSExchangeAutodiscoverAppPool via IIS without downtime.

To decommission servers such as Exchange 2013, you must transfer the arbitration mailboxes to your new server database. Find out what system mailboxes you have with Get-Mailbox -Arbitration, and then uninstall the remaining programs and features. Finally, reboot Exchange 2013, and then shut it down for the final time.

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Tech that makes the world a witness to courtroom injustices across the globe – Microsoft on the Issues

Screenshot of TrialWatch app
The TrialWatch app.

In 1948, as the world recovered from the atrocities of the Second World War, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt, who led much of the work to craft the declaration, called it a “Magna Carta for all mankind.” The  world’s governments recognized in the declaration the fundamental right to a fair trial, including a “public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”

Sadly, more than seven decades later, there are too many days when this right remains elusive for people whose freedom and lives are at stake. In some parts of the world, trials function as instruments of oppression to silence government critics, jail journalists or target minority populations. This injustice is a global cause that Amal and George Clooney, co-founders of the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), have set out to confront.

Today in New York City, Microsoft announced a partnership with CFJ to help advance human rights through TrialWatch, a program that trains and equips trial monitors to document and determine whether trials are conducted in a fair way. CFJ’s strategy, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Columbia Law School and the American Bar Association, is to expose injustices, rally global support, and create pressure on nations to change. The foundation’s program will make the world a witness in courtrooms across the globe.

From the moment I first sat down with the Clooneys, I was impressed by their vision and struck by the similarity between their strategy and the successful work of election monitors in the 1980s. Just as election monitoring has boosted the fairness of elections around the world, CFJ’s TrialWatch project can promote fairer trials. But it’s difficult to pay equal attention to the critical daily proceedings that unfold in courtrooms in every corner of the globe. That’s why cutting-edge technology in the hands of human rights experts and volunteers can be a game changer by helping CFJ’s efforts scale.

As our developers have rolled up their sleeves to work arm-in-arm with CFJ’s team, they’ve incorporated artificial intelligence that will make human monitors and judicial experts more effective. AI-powered text to speech and language-translation capabilities will speed the input of data and enable experts around the world to help assess a trial’s fairness even if they don’t speak a local language. With this information, and backed by data science capabilities, CFJ can build quantitative and qualitative reports that will be reviewed and evaluated by its legal experts.

Our partnership with CFJ is a new cornerstone of the AI for Humanitarian Action program we launched last September at the United Nations General Assembly meetings. It builds on our ongoing partnership with the United Nations Human Rights Office, which is using new technology to better predict, analyze and respond to critical human rights situations around the world.

Already, the new TrialWatch technology has been deployed on a pilot basis in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America with work underway to rapidly expand further. It’s a showcase of how technology can make human beings more powerful, productive and effective.

By better protecting human rights in courtrooms, digital technology and CFJ’s volunteers and experts can help humanity curb oppression that’s as old as civilization itself. It’s a partnership the world needs to create a brighter future.

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Author: Steve Clarke

Slack Workflow Builder enables no-code customization

SAN FRANCISCO — Slack has unveiled in beta a workflow builder that requires no knowledge of computer coding. The visual tool gives users the ability to customize Slack using a series of templates.

Slack leads the market in third-party integrations, with 1,500 apps available in its directory. Many other developers have used Slack’s API to customize their company’s use of Slack, but building those customizations has always required some level of coding knowledge.

Slack Workflow Builder, introduced this week at the vendor’s Frontiers user conference, will give businesses a way to create custom uses of Slack without writing code. Slack plans to launch the builder later this year and is inviting customers to apply to be on the waitlist for a pilot program.

The tool drew immediate interest from Slack users.

“The Workflow Builder, and the exact example they gave for onboarding new hires, was very appealing to me,” said Amber Hobbs, senior technology manager at the Center for Community Change, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. “I want to take some of that back to our HR team.”

Two main uses of the tool are automatic messages and forms. Businesses can use the application to customize messages sent to users when they join a workspace or a channel. For example, an orientation message could be sent to new employees joining a channel for the first time.

Businesses can also create forms that users fill out within Slack. This could be useful for requesting time off, ordering business cards, providing feedback on a company event or ordering a computer monitor from the IT department.

“Workflow Builder allows any Slack user to save time by dragging and dropping elements to automate tasks,” said Wayne Kurtzman, analyst at IDC. “While this makes workflow faster, it’s designed to help the average worker and not replace workflow applications integrated into Slack.”

Screenshot of Slack Workflow Builder
An example of an employee orientation message in Slack created using Workflow Builder.

Slack focuses on end-user simplicity

Workflow Builder is based on technology developed by Missions, a former division of mobile app developer Robot & Pencils. Slack acquired Missions in July 2018.

The release of Slack Workflow Builder furthers the vendor’s push to make integrations and customizations more user-friendly. Earlier this year, the vendor released a toolkit to help developers build aesthetically pleasing and interactive integrations.

Slack is attempting to create a new way of collaborative working for teams, said Larry Cannell, analyst at Gartner. Many people customize email inboxes by automatically flagging and sorting email messages. Workflow Builder could bring the same kind of customization to group workflows.

However, end-user development tools can create headaches for IT departments, so Slack will need to provide strong administrative controls for Slack Workflow Builder.

“For IT to trust these user-crafted solutions, they will also have to address governance and risk management,” Cannell said. “It’s not that IT wants to control development, but it’s that IT becomes accountable for something they don’t even know exists.”

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Wanted – PC – £350 budget

Hi I’m also in NI (local enough, Larne).

Have the following for sale:

Ryzen 5 1600 CPU
MSi b350m Motherboard
G.Skill Trident Z RGB 3000Mhz 16GB RAM
GTX 1060 6GB GPU
500GB HDD
120GB SSD
EVGA 600w PSU
TP-Link Archer T6e WiFi Card
Windows 10 Pro

A little over your budget but its good specs for what you are looking for. For a local quick sale with collection I would take as close as you can get to £450.

Optional extra: Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite RGB Keyboard + Mouse (Mem-chanical) – additional £35

Optional extra: BenQ XL2411P 24″ 1080p 144hz Monitor – additional £125

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New Garage project bakes accessibility into game development via responsive spatial audio – Microsoft Garage

At Game Developers Conference 2019, we shared an early peek at Responsive Spatial Audio for Immersive Gaming, a Microsoft Garage project. The Unity plug-in helps developers infuse accessibility into games by making it easy to annotate game objects with descriptive text and present it to players through interactive audio cues. The project is now available worldwide in the Unity Store.

Baking accessibility into game development

A number of hackers have joined the cause to make games more accessible. For example, Ear Hockey, a Microsoft Garage project, is a game designed around the blind and low vision community, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a Hackathon project turned Garage Wall of Famer, is a game controller designed for gamers of all abilities. The Garage project team members who developed Responsive Spatial Audio are taking a different approach, focusing on the game developer by baking accessibility right into an easy, drag-and-drop interaction toolkit.
With Responsive Spatial Audio, game developers can tag 3D objects with descriptive text, and the experience captures these tags and spatial coordinates to help players navigate. As players traverse through the game world and encounter tagged objects and designated points of interest, they are guided by audio cues via a built-in, text-to-speech API. An accessible FPS controller presents relevant descriptions at the right time by monitoring player movement, scanning their surroundings for metadata, and cuing spatial audio guidance for objects in the frame of view.
Responsive Spatial Audio_Screenshot_202

Key features to provide a more accessible experience

Responsive Spatial Audio offers a number of features that make prioritizing accessibility easy.

Accessible FPS Controller Convey object descriptions within the player’s frame of view via audio cues and adjust the viewing frustum length and arc

Annotate Game Objects Tag and manage objects with descriptive text—tag once and descriptions appear everywhere the object does

Vantage Point Objects Add and manage vantage points, or invisible doorframe-like points of interests that convey a whole view (as opposed to objects within the viewing frustum). Present different descriptions based on the direction the player is facing

Accessible Navigation Aid player navigation with a suite of interaction tools including:

Guide players to a selected object via a navigation agent with an orientation and spatial beacon
Add a script to guide players to nearby vantage points with auditory beeps
Enable bump noises with custom sounds, that will play spatial audio  upon collision, intelligently based on the orientation of the player
Change background audio based on the location of the player
Indicate the global north and south of the game with spatial sound
Inventory UI Leverage an optional in-box inventory UI to easily manage a library of game objects
To see how you can incorporate Responsive Spatial Audio into your games, see the project in action in a demo accompanying the plugin in the Unity Store.

One step closer to seamless, accessible development

We sat down with Brannon Zahand and Evelyn Thomas, each Senior Program Managers in Accessibility R&D who champion accessibility in the gaming space, to hear their reflections on the project. “The idea that I can drag and drop this into a game, with very little work to implement it, is a game changer for the industry” shared Brannon. Evelyn attended GDC 2019 to talk to developers about best practices in accessibility, highlighting the project at a conference talk and Microsoft’s accessibility booth.

“The idea that I can drag and drop this into a game, with very little work to implement it, is a game changer for the industry.”

Responsive Spatial Audio was developed by Manohar Swaminathan, a Senior Researcher in Microsoft Research, based in Bangalore, India. Manohar has been working in graphics for years, but found a passion for accessibility while working on CodeTalk, a solution that empowers developers in the blind and low vision community to do more with Visual Studio. He was searching for ways to do more impactful work in India when he met and teamed up with former Research Fellow Venkatesh Potluri, a blind developer who was interested in enhancing his productivity. After releasing CodeTalk, Manohar was inspired to combine his background with games and VR to make the gaming space more accessible through audio. “We thought ‘Can we use rich, spatial audio content to replace the visual information that is missing?” and decided to give it a shot,” he shared. It’s Manohar’s hope that plug-and-play tools will inspire developers to create fun and inclusive game experiences accessible to all.

Try It Out

Responsive Spatial Audio and a demo are now available worldwide in the Unity Store. The team looks forward to hearing feedback via UserVoice.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Digilink launches new Microsoft Office 365 backup software

Digilink Limited is offering a new data backup program, called Easier Backup, for Microsoft Office 365 users that provides continuous, daily backup of files that pass through Office 365 for Business.

The program is a secure program for backing up Office 365 cloud data, according to Digilink. Backed up files can either be kept on site with no internet dependencies, or can be stored in an alternative cloud.

Additionally, the program has built-in capability to fully integrate with Hitachi Vantara’s Hitachi Content Platform. According to Digilink, this gives larger companies the ability to centralize their backups, while increasing security and reducing costs. Carbonite and Dropbox users can also integrate Easier Backup to use existing cloud storage capabilities.

Digilink provides a monthly subscription option with no upfront payment or commitment — Digilink charges a price per user, per month. Alternatively, users can outright purchase a perpetual license. The first installation is free of charge for any third-party consultant who plans to install it for one of their clients. There are no restrictions of the number of users at the target company.

For individuals and small businesses, Digilink has a $10 per month plan that allows up to five users, a small business plan for $18 per month for up to 10 users, and a $42 per month plan that allows up to 25 users. For those interested in a one-off payment for a lifetime license, there is a $140 license for up to five users, a $270 license for up to 10 users, or a $625 license for up to 25 users.

As the use of the cloud-based version of Microsoft Office continues to grow, many companies are offering a backup system to protect data and provide recovery options. Many users believe using SaaS means automatic backup and recovery, but that is not necessarily the case.

Veeam Software recently released its third iteration of its Microsoft Office 365 program. The Veeam program provides an on-premises copy of users’ Office 365 data that can be used for individual item recovery.

Acronis also has a cloud-to-cloud backup for Microsoft Office 365 that provides automatic backup of Office 365 emails, contacts, calendars and tasks; stores backup data locally or in the cloud; and it provides the ability to recover and deliver individual items.

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