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Creating a more accessible world with Azure AI

At Microsoft, we are inspired by how artificial intelligence is transforming organizations of all sizes, empowering them to reimagine what’s possible. AI has immense potential to unlock solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges.

One challenge is that according to the World Health Association, globally, only 1 in 10 people with a disability have access to assistive technologies and products. We believe that AI solutions can have a profound impact on this community. To meet this need, we aim to democratize AI to make it easier for every developer to build accessibility into their apps and services, across language, speech, and vision.

In view of the upcoming Bett Show in London, we’re shining a light on how Immersive Reader enhances reading comprehension for people regardless of their age or ability, and we’re excited to share how Azure AI is broadly enabling developers to build accessible applications that empower everyone.

Empowering readers of all abilities

Immersive Reader is an Azure Cognitive Service that helps users of any age and reading ability with features like reading aloud, translating languages, and focusing attention through highlighting and other design elements. Millions of educators and students already use Immersive Reader to overcome reading and language barriers.

The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria, New York, brings together an incredible diversity of students with different backgrounds and learning styles. The teachers at The Young Women’s Leadership School support many types of learners, including students who struggle with text comprehension due to learning differences, or language learners who may not understand the primary language of the classroom. The school wanted to empower all students, regardless of their background or learning styles, to grow their confidence and love for reading and writing.

A teacher and student looking at a computer together

Watch the story here

Teachers at The Young Women’s Leadership School turned to Immersive Reader and an Azure AI partner, Buncee, as they looked for ways to create a more inclusive and engaging classroom. Buncee enables students and teachers to create and share interactive multimedia projects. With the integration of Immersive Reader, students who are dyslexic can benefit from features that help focus attention in their Buncee presentations, while those who are just learning the English language can have content translated to them in their native language.

Like Buncee, companies including Canvas, Wakelet, ThingLink, and Nearpod are also making content more accessible with Immersive Reader integration. To see the entire list of partners, visit our Immersive Reader Partners page. Discover how you can start embedding Immersive Reader into your apps today. To learn more about how Immersive Reader and other accessibility tools are fostering inclusive classrooms, visit our EDU blog.

Breaking communication barriers

Azure AI is also making conversations, lectures, and meetings more accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. By enabling conversations to be transcribed and translated in real-time, individuals can follow and fully engage with presentations.

The Balavidyalaya School in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India teaches speech and language skills to young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The school recently held an international conference with hundreds of alumni, students, faculty, and parents. With live captioning and translation powered by Azure AI, attendees were able to follow conversations in their native languages, while the presentations were given in English.

Learn how you can easily integrate multi-language support into your own apps with Speech Translation, and see the technology in action with Translator, with support for more than 60 languages, today.

Engaging learners in new ways

We recently announced the Custom Neural Voice capability of Text to Speech, which enables customers to build a unique voice, starting from just a few minutes of training audio.

The Beijing Hongdandan Visually Impaired Service Center leads the way in applying this technology to empower users in incredible ways. Hongdandan produces educational audiobooks featuring the voice of Lina, China’s first blind broadcaster, using Custom Neural Voice. While creating audiobooks can be a time-consuming process, Custom Neural Voice allows Lina to produce high-quality audiobooks at scale, enabling Hongdandan to support over 105 schools for the blind in China like never before.

“We were amazed by how quickly Azure AI could reproduce Lina’s voice in such a natural-sounding way with her speech data, enabling us to create educational audiobooks much more quickly. We were also highly impressed by Microsoft’s commitment to protecting Lina’s voice and identity.”—Xin Zeng, Executive Director at Hongdandan

Learn how you can give your apps a new voice with Text to Speech.

Making the world visible for everyone

According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, more than 250 million people are blind or have low vision across the globe. Last month, in celebration of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Seeing AI, a free iOS app that describes nearby people, text, and objects, expanded support to five new languages. The additional language support for Spanish, Japanese, German, French, and Dutch makes it possible for millions of blind or low vision individuals to read documents, engage with people around them, hear descriptions of their surroundings in their native language, and much more. All of this is made possible with Azure AI.

Try Seeing AI today or extend vision capabilities to your own apps using Computer Vision and Custom Vision.

Get involved

We are humbled and inspired by what individuals and organizations are accomplishing today with Azure AI technologies. We can’t wait to see how you will continue to build on these technologies to unlock new possibilities and design more accessible experiences. Get started today with a free trial.

Check out our AI for Accessibility program to learn more about how companies are harnessing the power of AI to amplify capabilities for the millions of people around the world with a disability.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

For insider threat programs, HR should provide checks and balances

Insider threats are on the rise and firms are doing more to stop them, according to a new report from Forrester Research. But it warns that insider threat programs can hurt employee engagement and productivity.

One of the ways companies are trying to curtail insider threats is by analyzing employee personal data to better detect suspicious or risky behavior. But IT security may go overboard in its collection process, security may be too stringent, and practices such as social media monitoring might “lead to eroded employee trust,” Forrester warns.

An insider threat program can turn adversarial, impacting employees in negative ways. It’s up to HR to work with IT security to provide the checks and balances, said Joseph Blankenship, vice president and research director of security and risk at Forrester.

Blankenship further discussed project delays in this Q&A. His responses were edited for clarity and length.

Insider threats are increasing. In 2015, malicious insiders accounted for about 26% of internal data breaches. And in 2019, it was 48%, according to Forrester’s survey data. Why this increase?

Joseph BlankenshipJoseph Blankenship

Joseph Blankenship: I think it’s twofold. You have the ability for users to monetize data and move data in large quantities like they’ve never had before. The ease of moving that data — and the portability of that data — is one factor. The other big factor is we’re looking for [threats] more often. The tools are better. Whenever we see a new capability for threat detection, that’s usually the period when we see this increase [in discovered incidents].

Nonetheless, this must be a stunning finding for a lot of firms. How do they respond to it?

Blankenship: Probably like the stages of grief. We see that pattern quite a bit in security. An event happens, and we realized we are at risk for that event happening again. So now we put effort behind it. We put budget behind it, we buy technology, we build a program and things improve.

Accidental release of internal data accounted for 43% of all insider incidents. What does that say about training?

Blankenship: It’s also culture. Do employees actually understand why the [security] policy is there? Some of that is people trying to get around policies. They find that the security policy is restrictive. You see some of that when people decide to work on their own laptop and their laptop gets stolen. It’s usually people that are somewhat well-meaning, but they find that the policy is getting in their way. Those are all mistakes. Those are all policy violations.

Types of insider threats
Types of insider threats

Who is responsible in a company for ensuring that the employees understand the rules?

Blankenship: Typically it’s the CISO’s responsibility to do this kind of security education.

Is this primarily the job of the IT security department?

Blankenship: Certainly, it’s in partnership with human resources.

IT manages the internal security program, but many of the risks from an insider threat program are HR-related such as increased turnover or hiring. The HR department’s metrics suffer if the program creates employee friction. Is that the case?

Blankenship: I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. You have to make the employee aware: ‘Hey, we’re doing this kind of monitoring because we have important customer data. We can’t afford a breach of customer trust. We’re doing this monitoring because we have intellectual property.’ Things become a lot less scary, a lot less onerous, when people understand the reasons why. If it’s too heavy-handed, if we’re doing things to either punish employees or make their jobs really difficult, it does create that adversarial relationship.

What is the best practice here? Should HR or IT spell out exactly what they do to protect company security?

Blankenship: I don’t know if you get into all the specifics of a security program, but make the employees aware. ‘We’re going to be monitoring things like email. We may be monitoring your computer usage.’  

What is HR’s role in helping the company implement these policies?

Because HR is the part of the company responsible for employee experience, it is very much incumbent on them to work with the security department and keep it a little bit honest.
Joseph BlankenshipVice president and research director, Forrester Research

Blankenship: Because HR is the part of the company responsible for employee experience, it is very much incumbent on them to work with the security department and keep it a little bit honest. I’m sure there are a lot of security folks that would love to really turn up the dial on security policies. If you remember some years ago, the big debate was should we allow personal internet usage on company issued devices. There were lots of security reasons why we would say, ‘absolutely not.’ However, the employee experience dictated that we had to allow some of that activity, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to recruit any new employees. We really had to find the balance.

It sounds as if HR’s responsibility here is to provide some checks and balances.

Blankenship: There’s checks and balances as well as helping [IT security] to design the education program. There’s probably not a lot of security technologists that are amazing at building culture, but that is absolutely the job of good HR professionals.

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How to Resize Virtual Hard Disks in Hyper-V

We get lots of cool tricks with virtualization. Among them is the ability to change our minds about almost any provisioning decision. In this article, we’re going to examine Hyper-V’s ability to resize virtual hard disks. Both Hyper-V Server (2016+) and Client Hyper-V (Windows 10) have this capability.

An Overview of Hyper-V Disk Resizing

Hyper-V uses two different formats for virtual hard disk files: the original VHD and the newer VHDX. 2016 added a brokered form of VHDX called a “VHD Set”, which follows the same resize rules as VHDX. We can grow both the VHD and VHDX types easily. We can shrink VHDX files with only a bit of work. No supported way exists to shrink a VHD. Once upon a time, a tool was floating around the Internet that would do it. As far as I know, all links to it have gone stale.

You can resize any of Hyper-V’s three layout types (fixed, dynamically expanding, and differencing). However, you cannot resize an AVHDX file (a differencing disk automatically created by the checkpoint function).

Resizing a virtual disk file only changes the file. It does not impact its contents. The files, partitions, formatting — all of that remains the same. A VHD/X resize operation does not stand alone. You will need to perform additional steps for the contents.

Requirements for VHD/VHDX Disk Resizing

The shrink operation must occur on a system with Hyper-V installed. The tools rely on a service that only exists with Hyper-V.

If no virtual machine owns the virtual disk, then you can operate on it directly without any additional steps. Be aware that if a

If a virtual hard disk belongs to a virtual machine, the rules change a bit:

  • If the virtual machine is Off, any of its disks can be resized as though no one owned them
  • If the virtual machine is Saved or has checkpoints, none of its disks can be resized
  • If the virtual machine is Running, then there are additional restrictions for resizing its virtual hard disks

Special Requirements for Shrinking VHDX

Growing a VHDX doesn’t require any changes inside the VHDX. Shrinking needs a bit more. Sometimes, quite a bit more. The resize directions that I show in this article will grow or shrink a virtual disk file, but you have to prepare the contents before a shrink operation. We have another article that goes into detail on this subject.

Can I Resize a Hyper-V Virtual Machine’s Virtual Hard Disks Online?

A very important question: do you need to turn off a Hyper-V virtual machine to resize its virtual hard disks? The answer: sometimes.

  • If the virtual disk in question is the VHD type, then no, it cannot be resized online.
  • If the VM attached the disk in question to its virtual IDE chain, then no, you cannot resize the virtual disk while the virtual machine is online.
  • If the VM attached the disk in question to its virtual SCSI chain, then yes, you can resize the virtual disk while the virtual machine is online.

Resize a Hyper-V Virtual Machine's Virtual Hard Disks Online

Does Online VHDX Resize Work with Generation 1 Hyper-V VMs?

The generation of the virtual machine does not matter for virtual hard disk resizing. If the virtual disk is on the virtual SCSI chain, then you can resize it online.

Does Hyper-V Virtual Disk Resize Work with Linux Virtual Machines?

The guest operating system and file system do not matter. Different guest operating systems might react differently to a resize event, and the steps that you take for the guest’s file system will vary. However, the act of resizing the virtual disk does not change.

Do I Need to Connect the Virtual Disk to a Virtual Machine to Resize It?

Most guides show you how to use a virtual machine’s property sheet to resize a virtual hard disk. That might lead to the impression that you can only resize a virtual hard disk while a virtual machine owns it. Fortunately, you can easily resize a disconnected virtual disk. Both PowerShell and the GUI provide suitable methods.

How to Resize a Virtual Hard Disk with PowerShell

PowerShell is the preferred method for all virtual hard disk resize operations. It’s universal, flexible, scriptable, and, once you get the hang of it, much faster than the GUI.

The cmdlet to use is Resize-VHD:

The VHDX that I used in the sample began life at 20GB. Therefore, the above cmdlet will work as long as I did at least one of the following:

  • Left it unconnected
  • Connected it to a VM’s virtual SCSI controller
  • Turned the connected VM off

Notice the gb suffix on the SizeBytes parameter. PowerShell natively provides that feature; the cmdlet itself has nothing to do with it. PowerShell will automatically translate suffixes as necessary. Be aware that 1kb equals 1,024, not 1,000 (although both b and B both mean “byte”).

Had I used a number for SizeBytes smaller than the current size of the virtual hard disk file, I might have had some trouble. Each VHDX has a specific minimum size dictated by the contents of the file. See the discussion on shrinking at the end of this article for more information. Quickly speaking, the output of Get-VHD includes a MinimumSize field that shows how far you shrink the disk without taking additional actions.

This cmdlet only affects the virtual hard disk’s size. It does not affect the contained file system(s). We will cover that part in an upcoming section.

How to Resize a Disconnected Virtual Hard Disk with Hyper-V Manager

Hyper-V Manager allows you to resize a virtual hard disk whether or not a virtual machine owns it.

  1. From the main screen of Hyper-V Manager, first, select a host in the left pane. All VHD/X actions are carried out by the hypervisor’s subsystems, even if the target virtual hard disk does not belong to a specific virtual machine. Ensure that you pick a host that can reach the VHD/X. If the file resides on SMB storage, delegation may be necessary.
  2. In the far right Actions pane, click Edit Disk.
    Resize a Disconnected Virtual Hard Disk with Hyper-V Manager
  3. The first page is information. Click Next.
  4. Browse to (or type) the location of the disk to edit.
    locate virtual hard disk
  5. The directions from this point are the same as for a connected disk, so go to the next section and pick up at step 6.

Note: Even though these directions specify disconnected virtual hard disks, they can be used on connected virtual disks. All of the rules mentioned earlier apply.

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How to Resize a Virtual Machine’s Virtual Hard Disk with Hyper-V Manager

Hyper-V Manager can also resize virtual hard disks that are attached to virtual machines.

  1. If the virtual hard disk is attached to the VM’s virtual IDE controller, turn off the virtual machine. If the VM is saved, start it. If the VM has checkpoints, remove them.
  2. Open the virtual machine’s Settings dialog.
  3. In the left pane, choose the virtual disk to resize.
  4. In the right pane, click the Edit button in the Media block.
    Resize a Virtual Machine's Virtual Hard Disk with Hyper-V Manager
  5. The wizard will start by displaying the location of the virtual hard disk file, but the page will be grayed out. Otherwise, it will look just like the screenshot from step 4 of the preceding section. Click Next.
  6. Choose to Expand or Shrink the virtual hard disk. Shrink only appears for VHDXs or VHDSs, and only if they have unallocated space at the end of the file. If the VM is off, you will see additional options. Choose the desired operation and click Next.
    edit virtual hard disk wizard
  7. If you chose Expand, it will show you the current size and give you a New Size field to fill in. It will display the maximum possible size for this VHD/X’s file type. All values are in GB, so you can only change in GB increments (use PowerShell if that’s not acceptable).
    expand virtual hard diskIf you chose Shrink (VHDX only), it will show you the current size and give you a New Size field to fill in. It will display the minimum possible size for this file, based on the contents. All values are in GB, so you can only change in GB increments (use PowerShell if that’s not acceptable).
    shrink virtual hard disk
  8. Enter the desired size and click Next.
  9. The wizard will show a summary screen. Review it to ensure accuracy. Click Finish when ready.

The wizard will show a progress bar. That might happen so briefly that you don’t see it, or it may take some time. The variance will depend on what you selected and the speed of your hardware. Growing fixed disks will take some time; shrinking disks usually happens almost instantaneously. Assuming that all is well, you’ll be quietly returned to the screen that you started on.

This change only affects the virtual hard disk’s size. It does not affect the contained file system(s). We will cover that in the next sections.

Following Up After a Virtual Hard Disk Resize Operation

When you grow a virtual hard disk, only the disk’s parameters change. Nothing happens to the file system(s) inside the VHD/X. For a growth operation, you’ll need to perform some additional action. For a Windows guest, that typically means using Disk Management to extend a partition:

After a Virtual Hard Disk Resize Operation

Note: You might need to use the Rescan Disks operation on the Action menu to see the added space.

Of course, you could also create a new partition (or partitions) if you prefer.

Linux distributions have a wide variety of file systems with their own requirements for partitions and sizing. They also have a plenitude of tools to perform the necessary tasks. Perform an Internet search for your distribution and file system.

VHDX Shrink Operations

As previously mentioned, you can’t shrink a VHDX without making changes to the contained file system first. Review our separate article for steps.

What About VHD/VHDX Compact Operations?

I often see confusion between shrinking a VHD/X and compacting a VHD/X. These operations are unrelated. When we talk about resizing, then the proper term for reducing the size of a virtual hard disk is “shrink”. That changes the total allocated space of the contained partitions. “Compact” refers to removing the zeroed blocks of a dynamically expanding VHD/VHDX so that it consumes less space on physical storage. Compact makes no changes to the contained data or partitions. We have an article on compacting VHD/Xs that contain Microsoft file systems and another for compacting VHD/Xs with Linux file systems.

Note: this page was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated to be relevant as of December 2019.


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Author: Eric Siron

For Sale – 32GB DDR3 / Itx bundle

Had these sitting in a drawer for a while now (circa 2 – 3 months) but never got round to using them. They are still retail sealed and obviously I will honour against DOA plus help with any warranty requirements.

Full details here:

4x8GB Sealed kits, totalling 32GB.

Asking £70 inc

——————————————————–

Itx bundle:

1x Socket 1150 ECS H81H3-TI2 (1.0) Thin ITX motherboard
1x Pentium G3258 anniversary edition cpu
1x Stock Intel Fan / Heatsink
1x 4GB DDR3 Ram Stick
1x Sealed i/o shield
1x sata power breakout cable
1x pcie wifi card
1x HP PSU brick
Win 10 pro 64bit license tied to mobo

Motherboard specs:

Asking £60 inc
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For Sale – ideapad i3 8th, 2 x thinkpad i5 4th

hi

i have two laptops for sale. the thinkpads were recently fixed, i purchased them from ebay without ram and a dodgy hdd. changed hdds and added ram and works fine now.

1)
Lenovo ideapad 330s 15.6″
ryzen 5 2500u cpu – this was upgraded from the R3 it opriginallycame with, i didn;t do it, the person on ebay i got it from did.
4 gb of ddr4 ram
128 gb ssd drive
windows 10
small chip on screen caused by my missus! not really noticable in play, lovely overall laptop
£275.

2)
Thinkpad L440
core i5 4300M
8 GB of ddr3 ram
500 GB hdd’s
win 10
marks to casing from use, left vent plastic damage but good overall. £125 each.

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Author:

For Sale – PC2-6400 & PC3-8500 Sodimm memory

Free to a good ( or bad) home..

I’ve had to upgrade laptops to make the Win 10 install in them reasonably useable, and due to how the machines came with and what they support I’ve had to swap some modules out.

Can anyone make use of these?? They were working when removed and should be fine but obviously no warrant on them.

One of 2GB PC2-6400S

One of 2GB PC2-8500S

Two of 1GB PC2-8500S

I’ll even cover UK post but if they help you out please consider donating a few pounds to your favourite charity. Donation is entirely optional, and no I don’t want to know if you do or don’t donate.

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For Sale – PC2-6400 & PC3-8500 Sodimm memory

Free to a good ( or bad) home..

I’ve had to upgrade laptops to make the Win 10 install in them reasonably useable, and due to how the machines came with and what they support I’ve had to swap some modules out.

Can anyone make use of these?? They were working when removed and should be fine but obviously no warrant on them.

One of 2GB PC2-6400S

One of 2GB PC2-8500S

Two of 1GB PC2-8500S

I’ll even cover UK post but if they help you out please consider donating a few pounds to your favourite charity. Donation is entirely optional, and no I don’t want to know if you do or don’t donate.

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Author:

For Sale – ideapad i3 8th, 2 x thinkpad i5 4th

hi

i have two laptops for sale. the thinkpads were recently fixed, i purchased them from ebay without ram and a dodgy hdd. changed hdds and added ram and works fine now.

1)
Lenovo ideapad 330s 15.6″
ryzen 5 2500u cpu – this was upgraded from the R3 it opriginallycame with, i didn;t do it, the person on ebay i got it from did.
4 gb of ddr4 ram
128 gb ssd drive
windows 10
small chip on screen caused by my missus! not really noticable in play, lovely overall laptop
£275.

2)
Thinkpad L440
core i5 4300M
8 GB of ddr3 ram
500 GB hdd’s
win 10
marks to casing from use, left vent plastic damage but good overall. £125 each.

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Author:

For Sale – ideapad i3 8th, 2 x thinkpad i5 4th

hi

i have two laptops for sale. the thinkpads were recently fixed, i purchased them from ebay without ram and a dodgy hdd. changed hdds and added ram and works fine now.

1)
Lenovo ideapad 330s 15.6″
ryzen 5 2500u cpu – this was upgraded from the R3 it opriginallycame with, i didn;t do it, the person on ebay i got it from did.
4 gb of ddr4 ram
128 gb ssd drive
windows 10
small chip on screen caused by my missus! not really noticable in play, lovely overall laptop
£275.

2)
Thinkpad L440
core i5 4300M
8 GB of ddr3 ram
500 GB hdd’s
win 10
marks to casing from use, left vent plastic damage but good overall. £125 each.

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Author:

For Sale – Intel Pentium Gold G5400 @ 3.70GHz, 8GB DDR4 Ram, Intel UHD Graphics 610, 120GB SSD, 2TB HDD

Going by a quick Google search I would price them as follows:

PC without SSD & HDD – £130 posted
SSD & HDD – £40 posted

These prices are only applicable if the two offers above are accepted based on my pricing. I won’t ship one part out without the other, so unless both sell at the same time, I would still like the unit to go as a whole.

So what do you guys think?

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