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Microsoft Store empowers students with free Computer Science Education Week workshops | Windows Experience Blog

Students at a Microsoft Store

One hundred and thirteen years ago in New York, a girl was born into a generation where the average woman was more likely to perfect a signature pie recipe than solve a pi-based equation. Pushing against expectations, this girl became one of the pre-eminent technologists of our times and made it possible to convert human language into machine code understood by computers. On Dec. 9, the anniversary of Admiral Grace Hopper’s birthday kicks off Computer Science Education Week, an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science.

As technology such as AI and cloud computing rapidly transforms the future of work, it’s more important than ever for students and educators to develop STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—skills. It’s estimated that over 85 million jobs worldwide will go unfilled by 2030 if we don’t bridge the STEM skills gap—but schools often struggle to implement quality STEM curriculum and prepare students for career paths that are just starting to come into focus.

Inspire students to ignite a passion for Computer Science

Microsoft Stores are committed to empowering students and educators with computer science resources and will host over 400 events in partnership with STEM influencers throughout Computer Science Education Week across locations. Ensuring no one is left behind when it comes to developing increasingly crucial computer science skills, programming this year has an increased focus on inclusion for traditionally underrepresented students.

Microsoft Store workshops will offer hands-on learning centered around coding, game design, app development and more using technologies from Windows, Surface, Office 365, Minecraft and more. Participants will hear from a diverse group of mentors and organizations from across the STEM field, including Lynell Caldwell, NASA, Brandon Copeland, Black Girls Code, Al Smith, Curtis Baham, Lee Woodall, Dennis Brown and Titus O’Neil.

Students at a Microsoft Store

Check your local Microsoft Store to register for exciting workshops geared toward empowering every learner, including workshops like;

  • Latina Girls in Gaming with MakeCode Arcade: Learn basic block coding and create video games with Gabriela Ponce, producer with Turn 10 Studios and advocate for helping the Latinx community succeed in the gaming industry. Gaby will share more about her journey combining her passions for art, culture and technology, and empower Latina girls to embrace STEM skills.
  • All Kids Code with Tynker Space Quest: Solve coding puzzles to guide an astronaut in space with Nadmi Casiano, the first deaf woman to graduate with an aeronautical engineering degree. All students are welcome, and ASL interpreters will be available at participating Microsoft Store locations to empower students with hearing disabilities.
  • African American Girls Code with Tynker Space Quest: Joan Higgenbotham, one of the first African American female astronauts to go into space, will share her experience at a workshop geared toward inspiring African American Girls to pursue STEM. Participants will learn basic coding concepts in an engaging format as they navigate aliens in search for a spaceship.
  • MANCODE with Design and Code Apps: Brainstorm app ideas and bring ideas to life with MANCODE, an organization aimed at addressing the stagnate growth of African American males within the STEM industry, who currently represent only 2.2% of the field. This workshop is geared toward underrepresented male students aged 13 and older, who will meet a male minority mentor and learn about the importance of technology.
  • Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit Workshop: Explore the magic of STEM at a Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit Workshop that introduces foundational coding concepts, including drag-and-drop coding. This autism-friendly workshop features alternate activities to allow a broad level of participation, and parents are welcome to join with their child.

In addition to these workshops, Microsoft Stores will also host Minecraft Hour of Code workshops, teaching students of all ages to code with Minecraft. The new Minecraft Hour of Code lesson aligns with this year’s theme, Computer Science for Good. Students will explore coding and artificial intelligence as they protect a village from forest fires in an immersive Minecraft world. Anyone can learn how coding can help build a better world—in just one hour!

Check availability of workshops and RSVP at your local Microsoft Store. Programming will vary by location. And, do you know students always get 10% off at Microsoft Store?* Make sure to take advantage of your discount when you shop at Microsoft Store.

* See full terms at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/b/education

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Author: Microsoft News Center

IDC: SD-WAN market spend to top $5B in 2023

The global software-defined WAN infrastructure market will grow an average of nearly 31% annually through 2023 as vendors feed enterprise hunger for technology that connects employees to applications running on multiple cloud service providers.

That’s one of the findings of IDC’s latest SD-WAN forecast. The research firm said the market would reach $5.25 billion in 2023 from $1.4 billion in 2018, the beginning of the forecast period.

Enterprises have found SD-WAN a necessary technology for connecting branch locations and remote offices with SaaS applications and software running on public clouds, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure. Traditional WAN technology lacks most of the features needed for connecting to cloud and SaaS applications, such as simplified management, cost-effective bandwidth utilization and WAN flexibility, efficiency and security, IDC said.

The demand for SD-WAN will fuel a continuation of market consolidation through acquisition as companies with stronger business models buy weaker vendors for their intellectual property, customer base or presence in specific geographical regions, IDC said.

SD-WAN market consolidation

The SD-WAN market today has more than three dozen vendors, which is more than the market can support, analysts have said. The most significant acquisitions to date include VMware purchasing VeloCloud in 2017 and Cisco Systems acquiring Viptela and Oracle picking up Talari Networks in 2018.

Other trends spotted by IDC include SD-WAN evolving from a standalone product to a key feature within a broader SD-branch platform that encompasses additional network and security services.

“Vendors will compete intensely on this front during the next few years,” the IDC report said.

Businesses with lots of branch and remote offices are deploying SD-branch technology to simplify network operations through consolidation of WAN connectivity, network security, LAN and Wi-Fi in a unified platform, according to Lee Doyle, principal analyst for Doyle Research. Network and security vendors offering SD-branch options include Cisco Meraki, Cradlepoint, Fortinet, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Aruba Networks, Riverbed and Versa Networks.

Market share leaders

IDC defines SD-WAN infrastructure as comprising edge routing software or hardware and traditional routers and WAN optimization technology if they are an in-use and integrated component of an SD-WAN product.

Other infrastructure components include SD-WAN controllers for centralized implementation of application policy and WAN routing, network visibility and analytics.

Based on IDC’s definition of SD-WAN infrastructure, Cisco’s broad portfolio of hardware and software made it the market leader with a 46.4% share, the researcher said. VMware, which sells only software, was second with an 8.8% share, followed by Silver Peak, 7.4%; Nuage Networks, a Nokia company, 4.9%; and Riverbed, 4.3%.

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New hire or new bot? – Microsoft Life

It was your average “nice to meet you moment” between two employees.

Torey Allen met Rani Sobeck over email early last spring. Rani was a new hire on the team who worked remotely, and Allen figured she’d meet her in real life eventually.

But when a few weeks passed and she never saw Rani come into the Redmond office, she got curious. What did she look like? Where was she working from?

That’s when Allen decided to sniff around.

“I looked her up online and saw all of these Halo references,” said Allen, who works as an associate producer for Microsoft’s game lab and birthplace of the game Halo, 343 Industries. Allen verified that the name Rani Sobeck is part of Halo lore, a character whose brain was used as the basis for artificial intelligence (AI). Then Allen was suspicious: “This person is either really in love with Halo and changed her name legally, or there’s something weird going on here.”

To find out, Allen asked Dan Price, Rani’s manger. That’s when Price let her in on his little secret: Rani Sobeck was an AI bot. He’d created Rani to help the team see and solve problems faster.

Price’s team had been seeing too much repetition in their daily tasks and he wanted to free them up to work on more interesting, complex problems. But could he build his solution and then keep it secret from the team long enough to test and perfect its functionality?

Price’s fascination with AI wasn’t new, but it came to a head a few weeks prior to his conversation with Allen. Price had just finished binge-watching the last season of “Person of Interest.” One of the characters on the television show, an AI bot named the Machine, possessed critical information that could save people’s lives, if she could be given the freedom to do so. Price was fascinated with the natural interaction between AI and humans.

In the show, the Machine easily and naturally integrates into everyday human life.

“If you think about classic ‘Star Trek’ where they are always saying ‘computer, locate this person or do this thing,’ that’s a very disconnected experience,” said Price.

In this instance, the Machine is an all-knowing, all-seeing super computer that is a natural part of people’s daily lives. He felt inspired and intrigued . . . could he create something like the Machine? A software engineer who had experience with AI courses during his Master’s degree education, Price knew he had enough background to at least tinker with it.

These theoretical thoughts were bouncing around in Price’s head at the same time that he and his colleague Tom Hill were contending with some less-than-theoretical problems at work.

Price’s IT team supports the more than 1,500 machines that Microsoft employee game creators, use; Hill’s team supports the software that is running on those machines. Their biggest task is to build and maintain tools that help people who create games do their jobs.

But recently, Price and Hill had become increasingly fed up with their lack of tools to manage support tickets.

“We get all of these tickets that come to our desktop queue from all of these users,” said Price.

But many of the tickets are duplicates, repetitive, or easy one-off fixes that no has time to log. Trouble tickets are not just a work tool for assigning jobs—they are essential for product improvement because they track issues, revealing patterns that could indicate the need for a more systemic response. But without a consistent record, there’s no way to track recurring issues or measure performance against any kind of metrics. And when someone fixes something ad hoc and leaves no data trail, bigger problems arise—problems that can threaten the business.

Hill likened the support ticket inefficiencies to getting “100 little cuts throughout the day.”

The team would be moving along through the queue of issues, resolving problems quickly, but then be too busy to close tickets for minor issues. Plus, there was no auto-sort or assigning the level of urgency or to the right team. They would all just land in the same place, creating a homogenous pool of tickets where anyone on the team would have to grab and guess.

“It became a task we couldn’t really name or quantify. Those tasks, when they stand on their own, don’t seem that big,” Hill said. “But if you look at the quantity of them—we just decided we don’t want to be cut this way anymore.”

Price asked himself if he could simply figure out what type of issue they were having at a high level and then make sure a ticket got opened with the right team and the right priority. It wasn’t a hard task, just a tedious one.

He wished he’d had his own machine like on the television show. He decided to try his hand at combining his love of AI with his passion for tools that make work more efficient; the marriage produced his first bot: Rani Sobeck.

Price knew he’d have to keep it simple to start. So he focused on making an AI that could open and close support tickets and maybe learn to do more later. He also wanted to push himself; could he give it a personality? Could he make the interaction feel natural and human-like?

“I wanted my team to feel like the AI bot was part of the team, like the interaction would be the same as talking to Jane who sits next to you,” he said.

He’d have to perform his own Turing test to launch the bot—and tell no one. It would be the only way to see how well the bot would mesh with humans.

Rani would interact with team members solely through email. So Dan built the initial framework with custom tools like PowerShell. Then, to help train Rani, he reviewed hundreds of emails sent to the support email to see if he could find a pattern. He created buckets: operating system issues, software issues, hardware issues, etc. It turned out that almost all of the issues that ended up coming to the team fit nicely into one of about 15 buckets.

He then created an initial set of keywords, like tags, for each of those areas and fed them to the Rani bot. But before he set her off to interact with coworkers, he trained Rani to forward the support request to him with Rani’s recommended suggestion for what she thought the issue was and assign a priority to the case. Every time Rani succeeded or failed at ticket sorting, she used that data to learn quickly. With each ticket, Rani was becoming more sophisticated and accurate.

The last step before deploying Rani was to write logic that would allow her to ask questions if she was unsure what to do with an issue that didn’t fit neatly into the 15 categories.

Then Rani’s deployment day arrived quietly. Price put her to work, but didn’t tell anyone. Over the next few months, Rani grew better and better at her job – learning from the tickets coming into the system.

Tom Hill, Conny Stauder, James Wilkinson, Torey Allen, Dan Price, Darren Little, Dustin Ward, and Aubra Moore

Tom Hill, Conny Stauder, James Wilkinson, Torey Allen, Dan Price, Darren Little, Dustin Ward, and Aubra Moore make up some of the team who uses Rani, an AI, for their trouble ticket system at 343 Industries. Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures.

After a few months, Price sent out a team email to welcome people who recently started in IT. When he introduced Rani, he made no mention of her secret bot-dentity. That’s when Allen, the team member who really wanted to meet Rani, started noticing replies to her email requests for IT help being answered by Rani.

Allen and other people on the team, including Tina Summerford, came to Price, saying how much they appreciated Rani, how “on it” she was, and how quickly she responded to requests. Surely Rani was working overtime, thought Summerford. She repeatedly praised Rani to Price and wanted to meet her.

That’s when Price decided to reveal Rani’s true nature. “I mean, at some point I actually felt bad,” he said.

Ironically, Price’s initial worry was that Rani wouldn’t be that helpful to the team. She had reactions that at first he hadn’t anticipated. For instance, “a user would send a ticket and I’d say, ‘Hey Rani, would you please go open a ticket for this’ and while I am doing that, someone else from my team is also asking her to do the same thing, for the same issue.”

Rani would do as told and create a ticket—twice. Price has since fixed that, and now she has learned not to repeat tasks. In fact, she responds with “No, Dan. You already asked me to do that one. I come to serve.”

“Oh yeah, she’s pretty sarcastic,” said Price, laughing. The other day, in a request to close a ticket, she responded to Dan, “Dan! You met your dreams and aspirations. Now take a bow – congratulations. Changed as requested.” She’s also capable of recognizing gratitude and teasing and even uses nicknames for the team (she calls Hill “mate” all the time, slang in Hill’s home country of the United Kingdom, which he thinks is pretty hilarious).

“It’s fun, but she’s also getting smarter,” Price said.

Having Rani for the past year has completely changed Price’s daily workflow and provided insight into some consistent problems the team had never been able to identify before.

Now, he asks himself (and encourages his team to do the same) if a task is something he should be teaching Rani. If there is something he does over and over again every day, he subjects that task to a little calculation: add the daily time spent on that task (say, 30 minutes), then add up the hours it would take to teach the task to Rani (say, four hours). Four hours one time versus two and a half hours per week—the result is often conclusive: just teach Rani.

As for Price, he’s experiencing the high that comes from a passion and his work coming together. And his coworker Hill asked for his own AI bot after a few months, named Gary. In fact, there are seven AI bots now deployed on the team.

Hill said that the efficiencies they’ve gained have changed the culture on his team; there’s a lot less stress because people don’t have to spend tedious hours on mundane tasks or have to work at inconvenient times. For example, Gary now monitors the night shift.

For Price, the whole experiment has proven the value of using a bot to augment what people already do and free them up for more complex, sophisticated tasks.

“My staffing budget hasn’t changed; we’ve just allocated funds differently,” said Price.

“We haven’t replaced people by gaining efficiencies. We channel those efficiencies into humans doing other, more productive things.”

For Sale – Seagate Archive 8TB Hard Drive (ST8000AS0002)

Bought Brand New from Amazon just over 2 years ago. Has ran in my homeserver since at an average 30 degrees. About 7TB was stored on to the drive.

Drive is in warranty until May 2018 with Seagate.

Have ran a full scan with HDTune taking 14 hours and 0 errors were found.

Drive is in good working condition. Will be very well packed in a anti Static slip and bubble wrap box.

17-October-2017_12-27.png

Seagate SMART.jpg

Seagate 2.jpg

Seagate 1.jpg

Price and currency: £140 ono
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: PPG, BT
Location: Scunny
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
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DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

For Sale – Seagate Archive 8TB Hard Drive (ST8000AS0002)

Bought Brand New from Amazon just over 2 years ago. Has ran in my homeserver since at an average 30 degrees. About 7TB was stored on to the drive.

Drive is in warranty until May 2018 with Seagate.

Have ran a full scan with HDTune taking 14 hours and 0 errors were found.

Drive is in good working condition. Will be very well packed in a anti Static slip and bubble wrap box.

17-October-2017_12-27.png

Seagate SMART.jpg

Seagate 2.jpg

Seagate 1.jpg

Price and currency: £140 ono
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: PPG, BT
Location: Scunny
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

For Sale – Seagate Archive 8TB Hard Drive (ST8000AS0002)

Bought Brand New from Amazon just over 2 years ago. Has ran in my homeserver since at an average 30 degrees. About 7TB was stored on to the drive.

Drive is in warranty until May 2018 with Seagate.

Have ran a full scan with HDTune taking 14 hours and 0 errors were found.

Drive is in good working condition. Will be very well packed in a anti Static slip and bubble wrap box.

17-October-2017_12-27.png

Seagate SMART.jpg

Seagate 2.jpg

Seagate 1.jpg

Price and currency: £140 ono
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: PPG, BT
Location: Scunny
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

For Sale – Seagate Archive 8TB Hard Drive (ST8000AS0002)

Bought Brand New from Amazon just over 2 years ago. Has ran in my homeserver since at an average 30 degrees. About 7TB was stored on to the drive.

Drive is in warranty until May 2018 with Seagate.

Have ran a full scan with HDTune taking 14 hours and 0 errors were found.

Drive is in good working condition. Will be very well packed in a anti Static slip and bubble wrap box.

17-October-2017_12-27.png

Seagate SMART.jpg

Seagate 2.jpg

Seagate 1.jpg

Price and currency: £140 ono
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: PPG, BT
Location: Scunny
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

For Sale – Seagate Archive 8TB Hard Drive (ST8000AS0002)

Bought Brand New from Amazon just over 2 years ago. Has ran in my homeserver since at an average 30 degrees. About 7TB was stored on to the drive.

Drive is in warranty until May 2018 with Seagate.

Have ran a full scan with HDTune taking 14 hours and 0 errors were found.

Drive is in good working condition. Will be very well packed in a anti Static slip and bubble wrap box.

17-October-2017_12-27.png

Seagate SMART.jpg

Seagate 2.jpg

Seagate 1.jpg

Price and currency: £160 ono
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: PPG, BT
Location: Scunny
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.