Tag Archives: feature

Mixer comes to Minecraft

UPDATE: This feature is now out of beta and launches properly today with the 1.2.5 release! Weeee!

The 1.2.5 beta is BURSTING AT THE SEAMS with great new Minecraft features (though it really shouldn’t be bursting at all – that’s probably a bug). One of these new features is incorporating Mixer. Mixer is a livestreaming platform for sharing and broadcasting live video directly from in your games! It’s a great way to interact with other players – take a look at the video above for a better idea of how it works with Minecraft.

In the Beta, you’ll now be able to launch a Mixer broadcast from within Minecraft. Better yet, you can make certain parts of your game interactive via buttons on Mixer! So, for example, if you were doing a parkour run, you could use the /mixer command to let your viewers vote on what obstacles spawn in your path! Please don’t spawn a brick wall for me to run face-first into. Yes, I know it’ll be funny. Please don’t do it anyway.

UPDATE: The Mixer team have put together a map specifically for this purpose! You can get it here! Some streamers have already been testing these interactivity tools out during the beta, so check out TangoTek, Impulse5V, YourMCAdmin and Direwolf to see what’s possible or join in the fun!

Mixer is part of the 1.2.5 beta on Android, Windows 10 and Xbox One (later this week). When the update launches fully, later this year, we’ll be bringing these Mixer features to more Minecraft platforms. A separate mod for Java players will be coming later this year as well.

To see how you can use Mixer in Minecraft, and how to make your own interactive broadcast, head over to this page on the official Mixer site!

SD-WAN-only devices disappearing as market matures

SD-WAN is evolving from stand-alone technology to just another feature within WAN edge appliances that deliver multiple application-centric services to remote and branch offices.

The trend is due to an alignment between the interests of SD-WAN vendors and enterprises. The former sees revenue potential in SD-WAN’s rising popularity while the latter wants consolidation of network infrastructure for the branch.

In a survey scheduled for release next month, the Enterprise Strategy Group, based in Milford, Mass., found that 60% of IT organizations in medium to large companies preferred SD-WAN as a feature within a broader package of branch network services. Only 36% of the 300 respondents thought of the technology as a stand-alone product.

SD-WAN vendors that deliver the traffic-routing software the way customers want will have access to a fast-growing market. IDC estimates revenue from SD-WAN infrastructure and services will increase nearly 70% annually to more than $8 billion in 2021.

SD-WAN’s attraction

Enterprises are turning to SD-WAN-only appliances to lower the cost of connecting branch offices to cloud-based business applications. Rather than backhaul all traffic to the corporate data center, companies can separate packets marked for the cloud and send them directly to the internet — a faster and less expensive option.

Startups selling SD-WAN appliances that plug into an enterprise’s network infrastructure have dominated the market for the last few years. Today, companies are looking for more versatile hardware that incorporates SD-WAN, WAN optimization, firewalls and IP services such as voice over IP.

“With time, you’ll see SD-WAN products shift from dedicated single-function hardware to software loads on multifunction appliances,” said Andrew Lerner, an analyst at Gartner.

Suppliers on that path include Cisco, CloudGenix, Nokia-owned Nuage Networks, Riverbed, Silver Peak, VeloCloud Networks Inc. and Versa Networks. The vendors, however, are not equal.

“They might architect their solutions differently, use different nomenclature, have different approaches to building a partner ecosystem, and be further or lesser along the path to bringing the vision to fruition,” said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.

Choosing the right SD-WAN vendor

More than 40 companies sell WAN edge infrastructure, including SD-WAN, so trying to separate those with products that match an organization’s needs will take work. In a recent market report, Gartner had recommendations for making the right choice:

  • Everything should begin with the applications served by the network. Technologies that meet their requirements are the best candidates for the shortlist.
  • Choose an SD-WAN vendor with products that are in line with the organization’s long-term WAN and application architecture. Purchases shouldn’t operate in a silo.
  • Companies ready for an edge router refresh or replacement should consider SD-WAN alternatives.
  • Do not assume that a single set of WAN edge functionality will fit the needs of every business unit and branch office. Create a list of requirements for each location.
  • Finally, because SD-WAN favors the use of broadband for internet connectivity, do not assume legacy MPLS connections for applications are dead. Gartner expects a mixture of internet and MPLS connections to provide enterprises with the needed performance, reliability and security for the next three years.

Undocumented Word feature could lead to system information theft

Researchers have found an undocumented Microsoft Word feature that can be abused by attackers in order to obtain the system information of a victim.

The undocumented Word feature was detailed by Alexander Liskin, heuristic detection group manager, Anton Ivanov, senior malware analyst, and Andrey Kryukov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. A hidden feature known only as was discovered by the Kaspersky team in malicious attachments contained in suspected phishing emails. The field contained links formatted in Unicode rather than the intended ASCII format, which are ignored by Word and are used by the attackers to send GET requests to malicious domains.

According to the researchers, targeted attacks using the undocumented Word feature can be very hard to detect because malicious documents “contained no macros, exploits or any other active content.”

“A close inspection revealed that [the malicious documents] contained several links to PHP scripts located on third-party web resources. When we attempted to open these files in Microsoft Word, we found that the application addressed one of the links. As a result, the attackers received information about the software installed on the computer,” the Kaspersky researchers wrote in their analysis. “This code effectively sent information about the software installed on the victim machine to the attackers, including info about which version of Microsoft Office was installed.”

The researchers noted that the undocumented Word feature was present in versions of Office for Windows, iOS and Android, but said other productivity suites like LibreOffice and OpenOffice did not call the malicious links. The research team also noted there is no official documentation for the field.

Avihai Ben-Yosef, CTO of Cymulate, said the system information theft could likely be just the first stage of an attack.

“[Knowing the] version of Office will allow hackers to identify whether or not the client that opened the Word document is vulnerable to known exploits that could be used to hack them. Imagine that hackers are building a database by simply sending thousands of emails to users and collecting information about those that opened the document,” Ben-Yosef told SearchSecurity. “Hackers will know if their Office version is vulnerable to a specific exploit and will be able to trigger an attack when they feel like it.”

Intelligence is king in cyberattacks as well as cyberdefense.
Marina Kidronhead of the Skybox Security Research Lab

Marina Kidron, head of the Skybox Security Research Lab, said spear phishing campaigns, like the ones abusing this undocumented Word feature, may not always present an imminent threat to an organization, this type of system information theft “could make or break a targeted attack.

“Intelligence is king in cyberattacks as well as cyberdefense. Targeted attacks are traditionally more complex than distributed attacks, such as ransomware, because they have — and need — more context on the environment they’re working in. With more context, attacks can be crafted to have better chances of evading detection,” Kidron told SearchSecurity. “This can render signature-based intrusion detection systems ineffective and raises the importance of good cyberhygiene stalwarts like network segmentation and vulnerability management. If an attack slips through the intrusion detection system, you need to be sure vulnerabilities with active or available exploits have been mitigated, access is limited and controls are in place to prevent the spread of the attack.”

Salesforce Einstein AI expands reach as Dreamforce approaches

Salesforce Einstein AI is getting a feature boost moving into its second year. Salesforce Sales Cloud users will be the first beneficiaries, as the company hopes email and lead-scoring tools will help sales managers sort information more quickly and give salespeople more efficiencies to execute on opportunities.

Separately, Salesforce Analytics will include features to examine and derive insights from data sources outside the Salesforce platform. The company built new hooks into Google BigQuery, as well as Amazon Redshift, but — perhaps more importantly — Salesforce opened up its data analytics to give developers the capability to hook CRM data to a customer’s employee compensation, orders, accounting, shipping or inventory data, to cite a few examples, and automate report generation and analysis of sales commissions, supply chains or a number of other business processes.

And development will continue, according to Salesforce. “This is an extensible framework,” said Ketan Karkhanis, general manager for Salesforce Analytics. “So, one can imagine we are going to keep driving more connectors into the pipeline.”

Salesforce Einstein AI bows new features

Salesforce added new Einstein AI features to its Sales Cloud, in pilots now and to be made generally available early next year. Einstein Forecasting, a tool for managers, dashboards insights for tracking overall sales and can pinpoint deals that might be in danger of not closing on time or need a push to get back on track in order to meet goals.

Einstein Opportunity Scoring applies artificial intelligence (AI) to CRM data to zero in on deals most likely to close. It then crosses that information with insights on executive engagement, deal size and other factors. The hope is these rankings will help sales agents prioritize which deals to focus on.

Perhaps the most useful of the new features, said Brent Leary, partner at consulting firm CRM Essentials, is Einstein Email Insights, which not only locates emails for sales agents to answer first through natural language processing, but also suggests verbiage with which to reply. Suggestions can include a number of tasks, such as scheduling a meeting or writing a quote.

It’s getting harder and harder for people to read their email. This increases the opportunity to actually convert sales.
Brent Learypartner, CRM Essentials

“It’s getting harder and harder for people to read their email,” Leary said, because volume for many workers is increasing, but the amount of time between meetings and other tasks isn’t. “This increases the opportunity to actually convert sales.”

Leary added that B2B companies with well-established workflows will be better equipped to use these new tools first. Furthermore, B2C companies with large data sets — perhaps generated by smartphone apps used by customers or internet-of-things tools generating data streams — will be in line to reap firstfruits of the new Salesforce AI capabilities.

“Data provides fuel for those insights,” Leary said.

More capabilities are likely to come in advance of the company’s November Dreamforce user conference, said Lynne Zaledonis, product marketing vice president for Salesforce Sales Cloud. The features announced today help automate manual processes and make for time for sales agents to focus on selling instead of data entry, she said. Some of the features were on Salesforce’s product roadmap; others came from meetings with customers testing new ideas.

“[Developing] artificial intelligence, we’ve learned a lot about things they were interested in, and we’ve reprioritized or tweaked them — and we continue to do that,” she said.

Salesforce Ventures puts $50 million focus on AI developers

To help foster development of apps and other tools utilizing new AI functions and data connectors, Salesforce Ventures will shovel $50 million into the Salesforce AI fund. Those monies will support developers working on AI projects.

First in line to receive support from the new fund, the company said, will be Highspot, which makes sales content tools for automating presentation and pitch production, among other things, and Squirro, whose “context intelligence” tools dredge unstructured and structured sales and service data.

Also in the initial round of fundees for the Salesforce AI fund is TalkIQ, launched late last year. The company makes speech-to-text transcription tools and, once calls are transcribed, applies AI to analyze the transcriptions and uncover patterns that can be used to improve a company’s operations.

Juniper adding microsegmentation to Contrail cloud

Juniper Networks Inc. has added tools for network microsegmentation in Contrail — an important feature for users of the software-defined networking controller, but a capability that’s unlikely to reverse Juniper’s decline in security revenues.

Juniper introduced the capability this week, along with other security features the company labeled as Juniper Contrail Security. In general, Juniper is focusing its latest stab at strengthening its security portfolio on companies with multiple data center environments in a Contrail cloud.

Microsegmentation tools, which have become a popular way to contain malware in the data center, allow corporate IT staff to build a zero-trust security zone around a set of resources, such as network segments and workloads. In network virtualization within SDN, microsegmentation adds firewall capabilities to east-west traffic.

VMware and Cisco have had microsegmentation capabilities in their SDN products, NSX and Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), respectively, for several years. NSX has outpaced ACI deployments in the data center, primarily because microsegmentation has become its leading use case for protecting applications that run on top of VMware’s ubiquitous server virtualization products.

Contrail cloud use case

Companies use Juniper Contrail and vRouter — the vendor’s virtualized router software — to create a network overlay that extends across cloud-based environments in multiple data centers. The core users of Contrail and Juniper switches include cloud companies that provide infrastructure, platform or software as a service. Others include large financial institutions.

With the latest release, companies can use the Contrail cloud console to carve up their data center LAN and intradata-center WAN, and then create and distribute policies that establish restrictions on communications between network microsegments. Also, Juniper is providing tools that give companies the option of using third-party firewalls for policy enforcement.

The capability is available for cloud environments using bare-metal servers, Linux containers built and managed through the Kubernetes system, and OpenStack — the modular architecture for creating and managing large groups of virtual private servers. Kubernetes and OpenStack are open source technologies.

 Juniper has contributed Contrail’s source code to the open source community through an initiative called OpenContrail. Contrail is a Juniper-supported binary version of OpenContrail, which is available under the Apache 2.0 license.

Juniper has contributed the source code of its latest security features to the OpenContrail community, said Pratik Roychowdhury, the product manager for Contrail. The site GitHub is the online repository for OpenContrail.

“Everything that I’m talking about in Contrail Security is out there [on GitHub],” Roychowdhury said. “Anyone can essentially go and take a look at the source code.”

Other Contrail cloud security features

Besides microsegmentation, Juniper has added other features to the Contrail console. They include a visual depiction of interactions between applications in hybrid cloud environments and analytics that detect anomalies and suggest corrective actions.

The latest features are useful to companies using Juniper switches or its SRX firewalls running alongside other vendors’ switches, said Lee Doyle, an analyst at Doyle Research and a TechTarget contributor. Either scenario would be helpful to Contrail adoption.

“Contrail is one of many SDN controllers that has struggled to break through [a competitive market],” Doyle said. “It’s not contributing a huge amount of revenue.”

What is contributing a growing share of Juniper’s revenue is switching. In the quarter ended June 30, revenue grew nearly 32% year over year to $276 million. However, the company’s overall market share is small at 3.4%, according to stock research firm Trefis.

Security, on the other hand, remains a weak spot in Juniper’s portfolio. Revenue has fallen from $670 million in 2012 to $318 million last year, according to Trefis. In the June quarter, revenue fell 12% to $68.7 million.

“Quite frankly, the focus right now on security has been on achieving stability and returning to growth,” Juniper CEO Rami Rahim said in an online transcript of the July earnings call with financial analysts. The transcript is available on the financial site Seeking Alpha.

Take a Lap on Some of Your Favorite Tracks, Reimagined in Forza Motorsport 7

Earlier this week, the folks at ComputerBild published a feature on tracks in Forza Motorsport 7. Featuring a discussion with Turn 10 Studios creative director Dan Greenawalt, the article pointed out the many cutting-edge systems that Turn 10 uses to bring the tracks to life with new weather scenarios and alternate times of day that literally cast the tracks of Forza Motorsport 7 in a brand-new light. If you haven’t already done so, check out the article now.

Suzuka Circuit, Completely Rebuilt

It’s one thing to read about the changes coming to tracks in Forza Motorsport 7 but it’s a very different thing to see them for yourself. Suzuka is a prime example; like all of the real-world tracks in Forza Motorsport 7, Suzuka is officially licensed and completely rebuilt with High Res assets designed to look fantastic at native 4K and on the entire family of Xbox consoles. Not only is the track completely rebuilt and updated, Suzuka also features wet weather conditions for the first time in Forza history. Imagine tackling the “S Curves” at full speed, or barreling around the harrowing 130R, only this time battling the dynamic puddles that line the edges of the circuit, and the blinding spray of the cars in front of you. The same challenge that real-world drivers face at Suzuka lap-after-lap, will now be your challenge as well.

Returning Fan-Favorite, Maple Valley

I might be wrong, but I could swear I heard an audible gasp of excitement on the Interwebz back at E3 when we confirmed that Maple Valley would be returning with Forza Motorsport 7. Is there a more lauded, more beloved track in the Forza universe? Whether you’re looking to test your sideways skills on one of Forza’s best drifting tracks, or you want to push the edges of speed on its sweeping corners, Maple Valley is a masterpiece in every respect. Like Suzuka, it will also feature wet weather conditions as well – also a first in Forza history.

I want to make sure that you all understand what I mean when referring to conditions like weather and time of day. In Forza Motorsport 7, we’ve built tracks with a central goal in mind: Making every time you return to a track a unique experience. That goal manifests itself in a variety of ways.

Rapidly Changing Dynamic Weather

There’s no such thing as a simple “rain” setting in Forza Motorsport 7. Not for Sebring or the Nürburgring, or Brands Hatch, or any other track where wet conditions are available. Instead, the team has created a system that can smoothly transition through multiple weather conditions per track, and those conditions can (and often will) change throughout a race. You might start off with gray skies and fog on a track like Sebring, only to find yourself in the middle of a thunderstorm two laps later. The lights might go green at Silverstone during a light rain, only to find drivers in dry conditions by the end of Lap 2. As in the real world, conditions change and sometimes change quickly, and its up to drivers to react to those changes.

Bringing Time of Day to Life

Those dynamic conditions extend to time of day too. Turn 10 is building on the sky technology that was first seen in Forza Horizon 3, capturing real skies that bring life, motion, and color to every track in the game. Check out the screenshot of the observation tower at the Circuit of the Americas against a darkening sky – one glance is all it takes to recognize a Texas sky at dusk. Even Laguna Seca – a track that has been in Forza Motorsport since the very first game; a track that all of us have driven hundreds, if not thousands of laps on – feels completely new in Forza Motorsport 7.

Whether you’re talking time of day or the weather you’re driving in, it all comes back to thatcentral goal: every race should feel unique. When you’re playing through the Forza Driver’s Cup single player campaign, you’ll experience that first-hand. Take a race at a track like Silverstone as an example. Maybe the first time you play it, you’ll battle the elements in a typical British downpour. Go back and revisit that same race in campaign, your conditions may be completely different; in fact, you may not encounter rain at all. The developers at Turn 10 have introduced probability into the various race conditions scenarios; meaning that there is a percentage chance that the weather conditions might (or might not) change. One race, things will go from bad to worse; the next time around, conditions might stay in your favor. It’s that element of chance – and the need to prepare for whatever the race throws at you – that promises to make racing in Forza Motorsport 7 so exciting.

For me, weather and time of day are a game-changer. It will add the kind of variety and challenge that was only hinted at in previous versions of the game. The unpredictable conditions you drive in will affect your race more than ever before, and all of it runs at the rock-solid 60 fps that Forza Motorsport fans expect.

See below for all 32 tracks available to play in Forza Motorsport 7, and as always, stay tuned to ForzaMotorsport.net for more Forza Motorsport 7 goodness as we draw closer to launch, and don’t forget to pre-order Ultimate Edition for early access on Sept. 29.

Brands Hatch

Circuit of the Americas

Daytona International Speedway

Dubai Circuit

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Maple Valley Raceway

Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello


Rio de Janeiro

Sebring International Raceway

Silverstone Racing Circuit

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

Suzuka Circuit

Virginia International Raceway

Yas Marina Circuit

Bernese Alps

Mount Panorama Circuit

Circuit de Catalunya


Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Sonoma Raceway

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe

Lime Rock

Long Beach

Autodromo Nazionale Monza

Test Track Airfield


Road America

Road Atlanta

Top Gear

Watkins Glen

Configure Windows Storage Spaces to serve up hot data fast

One way is through Windows Storage Spaces, the storage virtualization feature available in Windows Server 2012 and onward. Storage Spaces pools available storage resources and shifts more frequently used data onto flash media through its tiered storage functionality.

Files that are often accessed, changed, read and written to could be stored on solid-state media, while old data and archives in less demand are fine on slower, less expensive hard disk media. This arrangement significantly expands the capacity of a storage pool at a more manageable cost without sacrificing performance. Administrators have the option to set up simple spaces with no resiliency or mirrored spaces — two or more copies of data that are stored separately — for fault tolerance in the pool, similar to RAID, to avoid data loss. Technically, Windows Storage Spaces works with as little as one solid-state drive (SSD) and one hard disk drive (HDD), but shops typically need more storage than that.

With Windows Storage Spaces and a full disk enclosure, it just takes a few PowerShell commands to set up the hot fast drives and cold slow drives, then make the pool available to the network.

How to set up Windows Storage Spaces

First, create the storage pool with this PowerShell script:

$s = Get-StorageSubSystem

New-StoragePool -StorageSubSystemId $s.UniqueId -FriendlyName StorageSpacesPool -PhysicalDisks (Get-PhysicalDisk -CanPool $true)

Change the assigned media type — SSD or HDD — to the disks that make up the pool in the following PowerShell commands.

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | Get-PhysicalDisk | {some criteria, maybe size, to identify your SSDs} | Set-PhysicalDisk –MediaType SSD

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | Get-PhysicalDisk | {criteria to pick out your HDDs} | Set-PhysicalDisk –MediaType HDD

After the assignments, double-check the disk configuration:

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | Get-PhysicalDisk | Sort MediaType | Format-Table FriendlyName, Size, MediaType, HealthStatus, OperationalStatus -AutoSize

Next, set up the tiers:

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | New-StorageTier –FriendlyName HotHot –MediaType SSD

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | New-StorageTier –FriendlyName ColdCold –MediaType HDD

Finally, set up the resiliency, simple spaces and mirrored spaces features:

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | Set-ResiliencySetting -Name Simple -NumberOfColumnsDefault 4

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | Set-ResiliencySetting -Name Mirror -NumberOfColumnsDefault 2

$SSD = Get-StorageTier -FriendlyName HotHot

$HDD = Get-StorageTier -FriendlyName ColdCold

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | New-VirtualDisk -FriendlyName SimpleSpace -ResiliencySettingName Simple –StorageTiers $SSD, $HDD -StorageTierSizes 32GB, 128GB -WriteCacheSize 1GB

Get-StoragePool StorageSpacesPool | New-VirtualDisk -FriendlyName MirroredSpace -ResiliencySettingName Mirror -StorageTiers $SSD, $HDD -StorageTierSizes 32GB, 128GB –WriteCacheSize 1GB

There are some caveats. The host OS must run Windows Storage Spaces on a physical machine. Also, Microsoft will not support a just a bunch of disks (JBOD) enclosure that is not listed as compatible with Storage Spaces on the Windows Server Catalog site. A storage pool on an unsupported JBOD enclosure will probably work, but if problems occur, Microsoft won’t work to resolve them.

Windows Storage Spaces vs. Storage Spaces Direct

While the names are similar, the two Storage Spaces features in Windows Server differ. Some in IT believe Storage Spaces Direct in Windows Server 2016 supersedes Storage Spaces. But that is not the case, and both features still exist.

Storage Spaces — and Clustered Storage Spaces — is available in Windows Server 2012 and onward. Windows Storage Spaces is essentially software RAID with logical volume pooling and built-in software fault tolerance.

Storage Spaces Direct is only available in the Datacenter edition of Windows Server 2016 and executes its functionality quite differently. It creates pools of different types of media logically addressed together and then deconstructed and reassigned on the fly — the epitome of software-defined storage.

Which should you use?

If you’re not on the Windows Server 2016 Datacenter edition, the choice is clear: Use Windows Storage Spaces.

For medium-sized shops, the price tag of Storage Spaces Direct — still substantially below the cost of a software-defined storage area network product — might still be too high.

Windows Storage Spaces offers the advantage of connecting standard commodity hardware, such as spinning disk drives and solid-state drives, with regular servers, which operate on less expensive Windows Server 2012 editions. Most shops either already use or are planning a migration to this server OS or later versions.

Microsoft is releasing a version of Windows 10 that lets you control the system with your eyes

W10 Eye ControlWindows 10’s Eye Control feature can be used by people with disabilities to operate using only their eyes.Microsoft/YouTube

Microsoft is using eye-tracking technology to allow Windows 10 users to interact with the system using nothing other than their eyes, the company announced in a blog post (which we first saw via VentureBeat).

The technology itself comes from Tobii, a Swedish company that has long worked on eye controlled systems, which is now partnering with the Redmond giant to make the feature part of Microsoft’s operating system (OS).

What Tobii refers to as “eye gaze” will appear inside Windows 10’s accessibility settings as “Eye Control” in the OS’ newest Windows Insider preview build (16257, for those keeping track), and will use your computer’s camera to understand where on the screen you are looking at.

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Not all cameras work with Windows’ Eye Control, however, and Tobii’s own Eye Tracker 4C will be the first one to support the new feature.

As soon as you activate Eye Control, a little “launchpad” will appear on the screen, and depending on where you lay your eyes, the system will let you use your eyes as a mouse, fire up an on-screen keyboard (US layout only, for now), activate text-to-speech, or reposition UI elements.

The keyboard is possibly the most interesting feature of Eye Control: You can either type by looking at each letter individually, or use what Microsoft calls “shape-writing,” which works like swipe keyboards on a touch screen.

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To type a word, stare at the first and last letter for about a second, and “simply glance at letters in between;” Windows 10 will guess what word you were thinking of, and also offer up to four different predictions in case its first choice was wrong.

“With eye tracking, devices can better understand our intentions, a key ability in creating truly natural human-computer interaction,” said president of Tobii Tech Oscar Werner in a statement, VentureBeat reports. “Eye tracking support in Windows 10 has the potential to form a new paradigm that fundamentally transforms how we interact with our devices.”

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Scrutinize the Office 365 roadmap to steer clear of trouble

Microsoft wants Office 365 administrators tracking every new feature and update that it puts out, but that’s not as easy as it sounds.

The cadence of releases for a cloud-hosted product can be a perk, with a steady arrival of innovative tools and functionality. But it can also be a pain, particularly if Microsoft deprecates a component that a business needs.

On its Office 365 roadmap website, Microsoft lists more than 200 features in development, rolling out or recently launched. New or upcoming features range from Advanced Threat Protection Status — which reports on the malware that ATP catches — to an option for users to delay or choose when Office 365 sends their message. As Microsoft expands Office 365 into a security, collaboration, cloud storage, private branch exchange and communication suite, IT admins must stay updated on the latest changes on the platform and alert users on the availability of new apps and features.

These Exchange and Office 365 experts — all TechTarget contributors — offered their insights on how Office 365 administrators can adapt to Microsoft’s constant changes and their experiences with how businesses handle the twists and turns of the Office 365 roadmap.

Perils of constant change

Michel de RooijMichel de Rooij

Many organizations use IT Infrastructure Library-based processes to implement new Office 365 features, which can be problematic because of the service’s rapid rollouts. Instead, look to Microsoft’s Office Insider program, with its fast and slow update rings, to bring updates into your business at the right pace.

Editor’s note: Microsoft’s Office Insider program allows Office 365 subscribers to receive early access to new features that they can test out and provide feedback on.

Let a few power users and IT operate on the fast ring to try out new features, but remember that those updates might never arrive based on your region. For example, I still haven’t received Focused Inbox in Outlook 2016, despite running First Release in Office 365 and Insider Fast for Office 2016. Microsoft sometimes pulls features, which happened to the automatic creation of groups for delegates. Also, Microsoft can turn new features on by default, often without administrative controls. An organization that signs up for these early releases needs to be comfortable with a certain amount of unpredictability.

Finally, Microsoft seems to push for certain features that its customers do not care for, such as the option to create Office 365 Groups when you actually want to create distribution groups.

It’s difficult for email and collaboration tool admins to act proactively against the sudden changes in Office 365’s roadmap, but they should always provide feedback to Microsoft when they have strong opinions about features. Administrator pushback caused Microsoft to pull the change for automatic creation of groups for delegates. There will be discrepancies between what the software provider develops and what customers are comfortable with or actually use.

Keep track of the Office 365 roadmap for changes, both for planned updates and those in development — the latter might arrive sooner than you think.

For more from Michel de Rooij, please visit his contributor page.

Users want the latest and greatest

Reda ChouffaniReda Chouffani

Office 365 changes constantly. Users will hear about new features and demand training for them. Administrators have to adapt, and they might even block new features from end users until IT can thoroughly test these updates. But admins cannot restrict the flow of enhancements as a long-term solution; users will still want to get what’s new. The IT staff needs to consider what users want while it evaluates whether these features provide a tangible benefit to the company.

New features can also be disruptive after organizations adopt and master them, if the service changes. For example, Microsoft offered a free version of its cloud-based business analytics Power BI feature, but some of its capabilities — such as dashboard sharing — disappeared when a new edition superseded the old. Early adopters of Power BI had to choose between a trial or the paid version — or lose the capability altogether.

Office 365 changes constantly. Users will hear about new features and demand training for them.

There are risks, but Office 365’s constant updates can benefit those who plan ahead. Microsoft helps IT departments implement and adopt platform features with its free FastTrack service. FastTrack ensures the IT team uses best practices with Office 365 and also provides technical assistance with implementation of its services.

For more from Reda Chouffani, please visit his contributor page.

Keep an eye on the roadmap

Neil HobsonNeil Hobson

Microsoft’s Office 365 roadmap site lets administrators understand what lies ahead for significant service and feature updates. This roadmap is split into five categories: in development, rolling out, launched, previously released or canceled. To avoid issues, administrators need to check the roadmap regularly for new items that might affect their Office 365 deployment. This gives them the early visibility required to commence high-level planning.

As new features on the roadmap near rollout, Microsoft posts announcements to the Message Center, which can be found within the main Office 365 administration portal. The Message Center also contains dated announcements about changes and actions that prevent or fix issues. Announcements contain a short description of the feature or issue, information on how it will affect the organization, actions to prepare for the update and a link to more detailed information. It is vital that administrators check Message Center posts often to be fully prepared for the imminent changes. Some actions must be completed by a specific date to avoid problems.

Admins can configure Office 365’s tenant release option to manage how the platform pushes out new features. An organization selects the First Release option to receive new features early. Admins can then choose to release those features to the entire organization or just specific users. Alternatively, the Standard Release option means that new features come via the default release schedule.

For more from Neil Hobson, please visit his contributor page.

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