Tag Archives: update

Stepping into each other’s shoes leads to better online shopping and a newly innovative relationship for Mastercard and Microsoft | Transform

Mastercard and Microsoft walked a mile in each other’s shoes – or in an update on the old adage, spent three days hacking together – and came up with a new service to make shopping online easier and more secure around the world, not only for shoppers, but also retailers and banks.

The collaborative experience also kicked off a new way of thinking about innovation that promises to lead to even more developments to help e-commerce thrive.

New York-based Mastercard is a leading technology company in the payments space, processing about $20 billion in transactions a day across more than 210 countries or territories. And Microsoft is one of the top e-commerce merchants in the world, with online sales from the Microsoft Store, Xbox, Azure, Office 365 and more.

Both companies have felt an urgency in shifting toward online payments – especially with the increasing popularity of mobile apps and devices – that has made security more difficult even as consumers expect greater ease of use. So they brought together teams of engineers to tackle the issue at the recent Microsoft global Hackathon at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters.

man at table holding credit card and looking at computer screen“Both our infrastructures are used in creating online transactions, so we owe it to our customers to make them safe, secure and simple,” says Raj Dhamodharan, Mastercard’s executive vice president of channel propositions and partnerships. “Through co-innovation our customers benefit, because we’re solving a pain point that otherwise might take years to solve.”

The collaboration comes amid changing cultures at Microsoft and Mastercard that are being fostered from the top down.

“Both companies have shifted their mentality that by partnering and bringing in diverse thoughts, we build better products and work better together,” says Will White, Microsoft’s director of payments. “The benefit is you get true innovation from two companies that have radically different missions, in different industries, with different constituents.”

Mastercard provides payment services to Microsoft’s online stores, and Microsoft sells technology services back. So the Hackathon teams built on that symbiotic relationship and experimented with ways to securely store payment info, exchange credentials and authenticate identity with biometrics – using a PC to make a theoretical purchase of a game on the Microsoft Store as a trial.

Microsoft’s double role as merchant and tech company gave Mastercard engineers a better understanding of the challenges both stakeholders face, says Mohamed Abouelenin, Mastercard’s director of product development and innovation.

“That helped us push the bar in developing new services to help provide the best experience for consumers,” Abouelenin says.

It was the first time Mastercard had participated in another company’s Hackathon. The experience energized both groups and left them wanting more.

“I saw a big difference in my team when they got back, in how they approach their jobs and have a more customer-oriented perception of things now,” says Anand Mallepally, Mastercard’s vice president of cyber and intelligence solutions, whose group is based in St. Louis. Physically being together in Redmond was “a gamechanger” for the engineers as far as seeing situations from each other’s perspectives, he says. “I can foresee more and more innovative ideas now.”

A hand holding a credit card with a chip over a payment machineThat’s crucial at a time when chips on credit cards are stopping more fraud, leading criminals increasingly to focus on online forums instead, says Mallepally, who’s been working on fraud prevention and digital platforms with Mastercard for more than 12 years.

His team has to tread carefully, however, acknowledging that security protocols can bring friction to the shopping experience. Shoppers are turned off when they have to remember passwords or go through extra verification steps; retailers sell less when transactions take extra time; and the banks that issue credit cards incur extra expenses when they have to develop and implement new safety measures. So it’s critical to consider enhancements to improve the consumer’s experience, along with additional protections.

The situation is complicated by a new regulation Europe implemented in September that requires banks to communicate with the customer for two-factor authentication before online purchases – even for recurring charges such as monthly bills for utilities or streaming services.

The bank might send a code to a credit card customer’s mobile phone or email address, for example, and the customer has to type that in on the checkout screen before a purchase can proceed. That’s expected to reduce fraud but increase friction. It’s also expected to be adopted by other markets around the world, including the U.S., in coming years.

index finger resting on phone screenBut biometric authentication on mobile devices – such as a fingerprint scanner – has been approved to allow consumers to skip that step.

That got Microsoft’s White to thinking.

“How do we level the playing field between the mobile checkout experience and the PC checkout experience?” he wondered. “And why can’t we make e-commerce payments as fast and simple as we have in the physical world, where you tap or insert a card and you’re done?”

The Hackathon teams found an answer to both, with an extra measure of innovation thrown in.

They decided to leverage the infrastructure Microsoft already has with its Windows Hello technology, which allows 900 million Windows 10 users to access their devices with a fingerprint or facial recognition, instead of a password. Through their combined efforts, they came up with a new feature that screens the user’s biometrics again and then, as long as they match the Windows Hello identification, automatically authenticates the buyer and approves purchases. The new service will give banks and merchants the assurance they’re dealing with actual customers, and shoppers won’t have to go through additional steps to prove themselves.

And the solution can be used across many types of computers, laptops and tablets, without requiring people to own or use a specific device, as the mobile-phone offerings do.

woman on couch holding credit card and looking at computer screen“It’s a solution that neither Mastercard nor Microsoft could have done on our own,” says Matt Rossmeissl, Microsoft’s general manager for commerce engineering operations. “We each had to bring our own expertise to the table to get this done. They’ve got the relationships with the banks, and we’ve got hundreds of millions of Windows devices out there.”

Biometric authentication is built to make online shopping easier for everyone, but it will be especially helpful for those with disabilities, says Priyanka Banerjee, a senior program manager under Rossmeissl. Entering a code for two-factor authentication is a difficult process for anyone who’s blind, for example, or can’t use their fingers to type, especially since those codes are time-limited and expire quickly. But biometric authentication removes that friction.

“Microsoft is very focused on inclusiveness and accessibility, and that’s something that hadn’t yet been thought of in this scenario” by financial services companies, Banerjee says. “What we have built can be extended to those with disabilities, with no extra setup required, and we can make the experience of everybody better.”

The collaborative process is also helping to bring the concept to market faster. The Hackathon engineers were able to accomplish in a few days together what would have taken a month or more apart, says Mallepally.

“We created a prototype in only a week’s time, and I think that will change the relationship between us and Mastercard going forward, because we’ll be more willing to try new things and go do growth hacking,” Microsoft’s Rossmeissl says. “We have at least 10 conversations in parallel going on with Mastercard now.

“If you approach a challenge with an open mind and go into it thinking that what we produce will be better if we work together and leverage our unique independent strengths, we’ll find solutions to problems that could be far better than what we could have done if we’d tried to solve them ourselves.”

All photos provided by Mastercard.

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Author: Steve Clarke

New to Microsoft 365 in September—updates to Microsoft To Do, PowerPoint, OneNote, and more

Every update we make to Microsoft 365 is about helping our customers transform the way they work. And this month, we’re introducing updates and features designed to help you collaborate more effectively, work more efficiently, and protect your data more proactively.

We updated the conversation experience for Yammer mobile, so it’s easier to discover and share the content that matters most, and a new PowerPoint for iPad feature makes it (finally!) easy to share a single slide. The updated Microsoft To Do app keeps you productive on the go, and now you can export Visio workflows to Microsoft Flow—a great way to streamline business processes and save your organization money and time. Also new in September: automated incident response with Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for more effective, efficient security.

What’s new in Microsoft 365

This September, learn how to build your business with Microsoft 365.

Watch the video

Collaborate, save time, and improve productivity with app updates

App updates streamline your mobile experience and help you conquer your to-do list across devices.

Join the conversation with beautiful new experiences for the Yammer mobile app—We updated the conversation experience for Yammer mobile, so you can connect, discover, and share in a way that’s easy on the thumbs and on the eyes. Highlights include a new card-based design that sharpens content, easy-to-read formatting and styling, a new grid layout for docs and images that makes it easier to preview and engage with multiple images or files, and link previews and inline videos right in the feed. To experience these improvements, simply update your Yammer app to the latest version.

Image of three phones side by side displaying a Group Conversation in Yammer.

Get more done with the new version of Microsoft To Do—This month, we unveiled a new version of To Do with a fresh design, access from anywhere, and better integration with Microsoft apps and services. You can choose from customization options and backgrounds (including dark mode) to tailor your experience and suit your lists. You can also sync To Do across all platforms to take your lists with you wherever you go. In addition, you integrate To Do with Microsoft 365 apps and services or have one centralized view of your tasks. Think of To Do as your new task aggregator—from Outlook to Planner and Cortana and the Microsoft Launcher on Android, you can now see your whole list in one place.

To get started, download the To Do app. And if you’re coming from Wunderlist, you can import your existing lists in just a few clicks.

Animated image of Microsoft To Do displaying a My Day to-do list.

Share, communicate, and collect feedback more efficiently and effectively

New app features let you share individual PowerPoint slides, stay on top of your notes in OneNote, and conduct more effective surveys.

Share individual slides and overcome public speaking jitters with new PowerPoint features—Sometimes you only need to share that one specific slide, and sending it via email or creating a separate file can be cumbersome. Now, exclusively in PowerPoint for the web, you can share a deck with a link to a specific slide. Just right-click the slide thumbnail, select Link to this slide, and copy the link.

Image of an individual slide about to be copied in PowerPoint.

We also released Presenter Coach in PowerPoint for the web in public preview. Presenter Coach uses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to give users real-time, on-screen feedback to improve public speaking skills. Rehearse your presentation and get helpful tips on pacing and using inclusive language, as well as avoiding filler words like “basically” or “um,” or developing a rote presentation style.

Stay on top of your most recent notes and adjust your color schemes in OneNote—Updates to OneNote allow you to take your notes with you on the go and personalize your experience. Recent Notes is now also available on Mac, helping you easily pick up where you left off on any device with a chronological list of pages you recently viewed or edited.

On iPad, we integrated OneNote with Sticky Notes, so you can surface your notes there and avoid toggling between apps. Finally, you can now switch to a darker canvas with the new dark mode in OneNote for Mac. All these new features are available now.

Animated image of a recipe being shared in OneNote.

Overcome language barriers in your surveys—The Microsoft Forms Pro app now offers the option to create surveys in multiple languages without having to merge separate documents. Multilingual support enables Pro users to reach a broader audience and helps respondents provide richer feedback by displaying questions in their preferred language. Beginning next month, you’ll be able to access multilingual support by clicking on the ellipsis in the top right corner and selecting Multilingual from the drop-down menu.

Animated image of a multilingual survey in Microsoft Forms.

Export Visio workflows to Microsoft Flow to quickly automate business processes—Designing processes quickly and automating workflows can help accelerate productivity, but it’s often easier said than done. Now you can easily create new automation flows in the familiar diagramming experience of Visio and seamlessly export them as a fully functioning workflow to Microsoft Flow. Built-in Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) stencils have sharing and commenting capabilities, simplifying development and collaboration. Once the workflow’s complete, you can publish it to Microsoft Flow with a single click. This capability is now generally available to all Visio Plan 2 users through the Visio desktop app.

Streamline IT management and security

New features simplify the management of corporate Android devices, making it easy to add Microsoft 365 customers and ensure endpoints and devices are secure.

Manage corporate-owned Android devices with Microsoft Intune—With support for Android Enterprise fully managed devices, Microsoft 365 customers can deliver a high-quality and feature-rich productivity scenario for employees on corporate-owned devices, while maintaining an extended set of policy controls over those devices. Intune support for Android Enterprise work phone management is now available.

To get started, check out our Intune documentation.

Image of three phones side by side setting up a device as a work phone in Microsoft Intune.

Save time when adding new employees to Microsoft 365—Adding and configuring new employees or freelancers to Microsoft 365 just got easier. Beginning this month, you can create and use a template to save time and standardize settings when adding people in the Microsoft 365 admin center. Templates are particularly useful if you have employees who share many attributes, like those who work in the same role and the same location.

Beginning this month, head to the Microsoft 365 admin center and select Users > Active Users > User Templates > Add Template.

Animated image of a user being added to an engineers list in the Microsoft 365 admin center.

Automate incident response with Office 365 ATP—We’re excited to announce the general availability of Automated Incident Response in Office 365 ATP, which applies powerful automation capabilities to investigation and response workflows, dramatically improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your business’s security teams. These capabilities are available to organizations with the Office 365 ATP Plan 2, Office 365 E5, and Microsoft 365 E5 Security SKUs.

Evaluate security products with ease—The new evaluation lab in Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection removes the challenges of machine installation and configuration. Security experts can verify a potential platform, familiarize themselves with the product, learn about new features, or use the lab environment for attack simulations.

The new evaluation lab is now generally available. To access it, select Evaluation and tutorials > Evaluation lab directly from the navigation menu.

Image of the evaluation lab dashboard in Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection.

Also new this month

  • The redesigned Outlook on the web is now generally available. The redesigned experience features a modern design, new and smarter features, and a faster framework.
  • Now generally available, Security Policy Advisor—introduced in public preview this spring—can examine your policies and provide recommendations to improve security.
  • Windows Virtual Desktop is now generally available, delivering a virtual, multi-session Windows 10 experience. Windows Virtual Desktop enables you to deploy and scale your Windows desktops and apps on Azure in minutes.

As always, every Microsoft 365 update reflects our commitment to improving the experience for you—so if you have feedback or ideas on how we can improve, don’t hesitate to let us know.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

For Sale – Retina Macbook Pro 13 inch Late 2013

Yes you can update it yourself easily, it doesnt need to be connected to iCloud. I have started downloading Mac OS High Sierra, and will install that.

Everything works perfectly. On closer inspection there are two dead pixels (one I had not noticed before now!). They are tiny, and only noticeable on a pure white background, and if you are really close to the screen. Under normal use, you will not notice them. I tried to take a few photos to show it as bad as possible.

If you look on the attached file, the first one is under the U and I in “restart required” and the second one is under the e in “software”.

No box, but it comes with a charger. I will also chuck in a case for it, its not an expensive one (£15 or so) but its ok, and it protects it well for transit too.

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How to work with the WSUS PowerShell module

In many enterprises, you use Windows Server Update Services to centralize and distribute Windows patches to end-user devices and servers.

WSUS is a free service that installs on Windows Server and syncs Windows updates locally. Clients connect to and download patches from the server. Historically, you manage WSUS with a GUI, but with PowerShell and the PoshWSUS community module, you can automate your work with WSUS for more efficiency. This article will cover how to use some of the common cmdlets in the WSUS PowerShell module, found at this link.

Connecting to a WSUS server

The first task to do with PoshWSUS is to connect to an existing WSUS server so you can run cmdlets against it. This is done with the Connect-PSWSUSServer cmdlet. The cmdlet provides the option to make a secure connection, which is normally on port 8531 for SSL.

Connect-PSWSUSServer -WsusServer wsus -Port 8531 -SecureConnection
Name Version PortNumber ServerProtocolVersion
---- ------- ---------- ---------------------
wsus 10.0.14393.2969 8530 1.20

View the WSUS clients

There are various cmdlets used to view WSUS client information. The most apparent is Get-PSWSUSClient, which shows client information such as hostname, group membership, hardware model and operating system type. The example below gets information on a specific machine named Test-1.

Get-PSWSUSClient Test-1 | Select-Object *
ComputerGroup : {Windows 10, All Computers}
UpdateServer : Microsoft.UpdateServices.Internal.BaseApi.UpdateServer
Id : 94a2fc62-ea2e-45b4-97d5-10f5a04d3010
FullDomainName : Test-1
IPAddress : 172.16.48.153
Make : HP
Model : HP EliteDesk 800 G2 SFF
BiosInfo : Microsoft.UpdateServices.Administration.BiosInfo
OSInfo : Microsoft.UpdateServices.Administration.OSInfo
OSArchitecture : AMD64
ClientVersion : 10.0.18362.267
OSFamily : Windows
OSDescription : Windows 10 Enterprise
ComputerRole : Workstation
LastSyncTime : 9/9/2019 12:06:59 PM
LastSyncResult : Succeeded
LastReportedStatusTime : 9/9/2019 12:18:50 PM
LastReportedInventoryTime : 1/1/0001 12:00:00 AM
RequestedTargetGroupName : Windows 10
RequestedTargetGroupNames : {Windows 10}
ComputerTargetGroupIds : {59277231-1773-401f-bf44-2fe09ac02b30, a0a08746-4dbe-4a37-9adf-9e7652c0b421}
ParentServerId : 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
SyncsFromDownstreamServer : False

WSUS usually organizes machines into groups, such as all Windows 10 machines, to apply update policies. The command below measures the number of machines in a particular group called Windows 10 with the cmdlet Get-PSWSUSClientsinGroup:

Get-PSWSUSClientsInGroup -Name 'Windows 10' | Measure-Object | Select-Object -Property Count
Count
-----
86

How to manage Windows updates

With the WSUS PowerShell module, you can view, approve and decline updates on the WSUS server, a very valuable and powerful feature. The command below finds all the Windows 10 feature updates with the title “Feature update to Windows 10 (business editions).” The output shows various updates on my server for version 1903 in different languages:

Get-PSWSUSUpdate -Update "Feature update to Windows 10 (business editions)"  | Select Title
Title
-----
Feature update to Windows 10 (business editions), version 1903, en-gb x86
Feature update to Windows 10 (business editions), version 1903, en-us arm64
Feature update to Windows 10 (business editions), version 1903, en-gb arm64
Feature update to Windows 10 (business editions), version 1903, en-us x86
Feature update to Windows 10 (business editions), version 1903, en-gb x64
Feature update to Windows 10 (business editions), version 1903, en-us x64

Another great feature of this cmdlet is it shows updates that arrived after a particular date. The following command gives the top-five updates that were downloaded in the last day:

Get-PSWSUSUpdate -FromArrivalDate (Get-Date).AddDays(-1) | Select-Object -First 5
Title KnowledgebaseArticles UpdateType CreationDate UpdateID
----- --------------------- ---------- ------------ --------
Security Update for Microso... {4475607} Software 9/10/2019 10:00:00 AM 4fa99b46-765c-4224-a037-7ab...
Security Update for Microso... {4475574} Software 9/10/2019 10:00:00 AM 1e489891-3372-43d8-b262-8c8...
Security Update for Microso... {4475599} Software 9/10/2019 10:00:00 AM 76187d58-e8a6-441f-9275-702...
Security Update for Microso... {4461631} Software 9/10/2019 10:00:00 AM 86bdbd3b-7461-4214-a2ba-244...
Security Update for Microso... {4475574} Software 9/10/2019 10:00:00 AM a56d629d-8f09-498f-91e9-572...

The approval and rejection of updates is an important part of managing Windows updates in the enterprise. The WSUS PowerShell module makes this easy to do. A few years ago, Microsoft began releasing preview updates for testing purposes. I typically want to decline these updates to avoid their installation on production machines. The following command finds every update with the string “Preview of” in the title and declines them with the Deny-PSWSUSUpdate cmdlet.

Get-PSWSUSUpdate -Update "Preview of" | Where-Object {$_.IsDeclined -eq 'False' } | Deny-PSWSUSUpdate
Patch IsDeclined
----- ----------
2019-08 Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework 3.5.1 on Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium-based Systems (KB4512193) True
2019-08 Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework 3.5.1, 4.5.2, 4.6, 4.6.1, 4.6.2, 4.7, 4.7.1, 4.7.2, 4.8 for Windows 7 (KB4512193) True
2019-08 Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework 3.5.1, 4.5.2, 4.6, 4.6.1, 4.6.2, 4.7, 4.7.1, 4.7.2, 4.8 for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 for x64 (KB4512193) True
2019-07 Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework 2.0 on Windows Server 2008 SP2 for Itanium-based Systems (KB4512196) True
2019-08 Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework 3.5, 4.5.2, 4.6, 4.6.1, 4.6.2, 4.7, 4.7.1, 4.7.2, 4.8 for Windows Server 2012 for x64 (KB4512194) True
2019-07 Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework 2.0, 3.0, 4.5.2, 4.6 on Windows Server 2008 SP2 (KB4512196) True
2019-08 Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework 3.5, 4.5.2, 4.6, 4.6.1, 4.6.2, 4.7, 4.7.1, 4.7.2, 4.8 for Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 for x64 (KB4512195) True
2019-07 Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework 2.0, 3.0, 4.5.2, 4.6 on Windows Server 2008 SP2 for x64 (KB4512196) True

Syncing WSUS with Microsoft’s servers

In the WSUS GUI, users can set up a daily synchronization between their WSUS server and the Microsoft update servers to download new updates. I like to synchronize more than once a day, especially on Patch Tuesday when you may get several updates in one day. For this reason, you can create a scheduled task that runs a WSUS sync hourly for a few hours per day. The script can be as simple as this command below:

Start-PSWSUSSync
Synchronization has been started on wsus.

Performing cleanups

A WSUS server can be fickle. I have had to rebuild WSUS servers several times, and it is a pretty lengthy process because you have to download all the updates to the new server. You can avoid this process by running a cleanup on the WSUS server. The Start-PSWSUSCleanup cmdlet performs many of these important actions, such as declining superseded updates, cleanup of obsolete updates and removing obsolete computers:

Start-PSWSUSCleanup -DeclineSupersededUpdates -DeclineExpiredUpdates -CleanupObsoleteUpdates -CompressUpdates -CleanupObsoleteComputers -CleanupUnneededContentFiles
Beginning cleanup, this may take some time...
SupersededUpdatesDeclined : 223
ExpiredUpdatesDeclined : 0
ObsoleteUpdatesDeleted : 0
UpdatesCompressed : 4
ObsoleteComputersDeleted : 6
DiskSpaceFreed : 57848478722

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For Sale – Retina Macbook Pro 13 inch Late 2013

Yes you can update it yourself easily, it doesnt need to be connected to iCloud. I have started downloading Mac OS High Sierra, and will install that.

Everything works perfectly. On closer inspection there are two dead pixels (one I had not noticed before now!). They are tiny, and only noticeable on a pure white background, and if you are really close to the screen. Under normal use, you will not notice them. I tried to take a few photos to show it as bad as possible.

If you look on the attached file, the first one is under the U and I in “restart required” and the second one is under the e in “software”.

No box, but it comes with a charger. I will also chuck in a case for it, its not an expensive one (£15 or so) but its ok, and it protects it well for transit too.

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For Sale – Gaming PC, i7 7700k, 16GB DDR4, GTX 1080ti, 240GB SSD, 1TB HDD

Quick note: These pictures show a GTX 1060 Strix. I will update them tomorrow in the light. Just to confirm the card in the machine is an ASUS ROG Strix GTX 1080ti Gaming 11G.

Here is an quick image to show the 1080ti strix installed. I’ll update tomorrow with better lighting. See the two PCIe power connectors and slightly thicker card.
[​IMG]

Personal delivery by me included. ~150 preferred but if you’re further ask me.
Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease for the love of satan don’t ask me to split

Specifications
Intel i7 7700k
ASUS ROG Strix GTX 1080ti Gaming 11G
Team Group Delta 16GB RGB 2666Mhz
ASUS Strix z270f Gaming RGB motherboard
Kingston A400 240GB SSD
Seagate 1TB HDD
NZXT x62 Kraken Liquid Cooler
NZXT H500i RGB Case
NZXT 5 port Internal USB Hub
NZXT HUE+ Advance Lighting Controller
EZDIY-FAB PCIe Vertical Flexible Cable Extension
Corsair CX850M 80+ Bronze PSU
TP-Link N900 Dual Band WiFi Card
2x NZXT 140mm intake fans (front x62 kraken)
1x NZXT AER RGB 140mm case fans (top)
1x NZXT AER RGB 120mm case fans (rear)
Windows 10 Pro (activated with key)

£1250

[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

Price and currency: 1250
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: bt / cash
Location: Birmingham
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
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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.

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Western Digital’s ActiveScale adds new DR, workflow options

Western Digital’s ActiveScale 5.5 object storage update adds asynchronous object distribution for multisite disaster recovery and new workflow automation options for customers that have massive-scale unstructured data storage needs.

Western Digital claims ActiveScale can deliver up to 75 GB per second of data throughput and pack more data into a smaller footprint than past product versions, thanks to its newly integrated 14 TB Ultrastar enterprise hard disk drives (HDDs). The highest capacity HDD available with prior ActiveScale systems was 12 TB.

ActiveScale’s starting capacity is 676 TB, and deployments generally exceed a petabyte, according to Erik Ottem, senior director of product marketing for Western Digital data center systems. The largest customer, a hedge fund, stores about 200 PB, he said.

Object stores such as ActiveScale are designed to scale out on commodity server hardware and offer a more economical alternative to file- and block-based storage for applications that don’t require the highest levels of performance. Target workloads for ActiveScale include analytics, high-performance computing and internet of things.

Asynchronous geo-spread

ActiveScale 5.5’s new asynchronous “geo-spread” feature will give customers a “more efficient and less expensive” option to protect data than replication does, Ottem said. The common “triple-mirror” architecture for object storage replicates a full copy of a file to three locations. But geo-spreading replicates only a portion of an object and parity bits, so that any two locations have sufficient data chunks and parity to reconstruct the full object, Ottem said.

Western Digital has long supported a “strong consistency” model with synchronous geo-spreading. The addition of the asynchronous option will now add an “eventual consistency” option for customers with latency between geographically dispersed sites and distribute data in the background, Ottem said.

“With geo-spreading, you manage one system in three locations instead of three systems in three locations,” Ottem said.

The ActiveScale geo-spread feature gives customers the choice of 18 erasure code options based on the number of data center locations they have, capacity and data durability requirements, Ottem said.

Data Pipeline Service

Another key new feature in ActiveScale 5.5 is a Data Pipeline Service designed to facilitate workflow automation. ActiveScale provides real-time object notifications and connection capabilities to a messaging service, such as Apache Kafka, to trigger a chain of events to get work done, Ottem said.

ActiveScale View
Western Digital’s new ActiveScale View user interface is patterned after Amazon’s Simple Storage Service dashboard.

Potential use cases for the Data Pipeline Service include virus checking, document analysis for fraud detection, healthcare image analysis or video transcoding for a media and entertainment application. Western Digital will provide written and video instruction materials to help users implement the new workflow automation capabilities, Ottem said.

The ActiveScale 5.5 update also adds an optional graphical user interface (GUI), patterned after Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3), to enable employees to create new object storage buckets without requiring IT assistance.

“Our traditional GUI was aimed at the IT audience, and this GUI is really aimed at end users. It doesn’t do everything. For instance, you don’t necessarily want your power user to do troubleshooting on which disk drive or which shelf needed to be replaced. But it does make a lot of sense to have your end user understanding what his bucket uses are and what versions are available,” Ottem said.

Western Digital offers two ActiveScale models: the P100 modular option for customers with their own racks and the X100 integrated system in a prepopulated rack. Ottem said channel partners set the pricing. Support for the new 14 TB HDDs — which offer higher density at roughly the same energy footprint — will increase the suggested retail price by 2.5% to 5%, Ottem said.

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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Full Product Release Now Available on Xbox One – Xbox Wire

Today, the Full Product Release (1.0) update for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) released for new and existing owners across the Xbox One family of devices. This is a big moment for the PUBG Xbox community, now over nine million players strong, who have been every bit an important part of the development process since we first launched in Xbox Game Preview in December 2017. With the support of fans and the team at Microsoft, it’s been an incredible journey and we’re just getting started.

The Full Product Release comes with several exciting updates, including the Xbox One debut of the Sanhok Map, available today, along with Event Pass: Sanhok, which unlocks awesome rewards for leveling up and completing missions. The Sanhok Map is included with the Full Product Release 1.0 update, and Event Pass: Sanhok can be purchased in the Microsoft Store or the PUBG in-game Store beginning today. For additional details on all of the new features included in the Full Product Release update today and in the weeks ahead, click here.

While Full Product Release represents an exciting milestone for PUBG on Xbox One, it does not represent the end of the journey. The game will continue to be updated and optimized, and we have an exciting roadmap of new features and content ahead in the months to come, including the winter release of an all-new snow map.

The Full Product Release of PUBG for Xbox One is available for $29.99 USD digitally and as a retail disc version at participating retailers worldwide. If you already own the Xbox Game Preview version of PUBG on Xbox One you will receive a content update automatically today at no additional cost.

As shared previously, we’re also providing some special bonuses both to new players and those who have supported PUBG over the past nine months.

To enhance the ultimate PUBG experience on Xbox, fans can also look forward to the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Limited Edition Xbox Wireless Controller, which is now available for pre-order at the online at the Microsoft Store and starts shipping to retailers worldwide on October 30 for $69.99 USD.

Be sure to tune into Mixer’s very own HypeZone PUBG Channel to catch the most exciting, down-to-the-wire PUBG action that give viewers the opportunity to discover streamers of all levels during the most intense moments of the game.

Whether you’re already a player or your chicken dinner hunt starts today – now is the best time to jump into PUBG on Xbox One!

VMware vSphere update tweaks HTML5 client, bundles AppDefense

A stand-alone update to VMware vSphere 6.7 sports a few upgrades and a polished HTML5 client interface, while another version bundles the company’s AppDefense security product with a higher price tag.

Besides the new interface, vSphere 6.7 Update 1 contains a vCenter Server Converge Tool and additional vMotion and snapshot capabilities for Nvidia Grid vGPUs and support for field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

Experts said these additional vSphere capabilities are useful, if not long overdue, but don’t elevate this release to a major one for vSphere customers.

“There are some nice things, like the vSphere Client, and the FPGA support for vMotion is good for people that will use the product every day … but it is a minor upgrade,” said Gary Chen, research manager for software-defined compute at IDC.

Gary Chen, research manager for software-defined compute, IDCGary Chen

Some of the higher-end technical improvements could attract some users who implement machine learning and AI capabilities, Chen said. However, the virtualization market is very well-penetrated, and the new release is more to evolve the product and keep customers on board.

Most end users will welcome the vSphere update’s tweaks to improve the HTML5 client, as well as vGPU vMotion additions, but those particular functions won’t drive greater adoption of the product, said Brian Kirsch, IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

VSphere Platinum plugs in AppDefense

The bundled version, vSphere Platinum Edition, contains vSphere 6.7 Update 1 and AppDefense, with a vCenter plug-in for AppDefense, and it offers application-level security, according to Mike Adams, senior director of product marketing for VMware’s cloud platform business unit.

“AppDefense can offer a good known state for what should be running in the hypervisor from the applications’ perspective,” Adams said. “So, if there is any deviation from that, admins will get an alert right away and be able to do something about it.”

Most IT shops will appreciate VMware’s continued focus on security with the bundling of AppDefense, Kirsch said. This, combined with NSX’s attention to east-west attacks, should curry favor with larger IT shops.

Bargain hunters beware

Why would you [buy] the bundle if you can buy [vSphere and AppDefense] cheaper separately?
Gary Chenanalyst, IDC

What could steal attention away from the products’ new features, however, is the Platinum Edition’s price tag of $4,195 per CPU, per year. The current edition of vSphere Enterprise Plus goes for $3,495 per CPU, per year, and the current SaaS version of AppDefense is $500 per CPU, per year, totaling $3,995.

Asked to explain the higher Platinum price tag, Adams noted the package includes $10,000 in promotional credits for VMware Cloud on AWS. He added that this, plus the AppDefense vCenter plug-in, “is of significant value” to users.

The additional $200 per CPU, per year, is a significant sum for some large IT shops that have hundreds of servers, each with four, eight or more CPUs. Many might opt to buy the products separately and pocket the savings.

“Why would you [buy] the bundle if you can buy them cheaper separately, unless they are not telling us something?” IDC’s Chen said.

The promotional credits for VMware Cloud on AWS may offer some incentive, but workloads that require the aforementioned horsepower in AWS will use that up relatively quickly. Buyers also should be aware that the credits are good for only six months and can be used only toward single-server instances, Chen said.

SearchServerVirtualization site editor Ryann Burnett contributed to this story.

StorageCraft update adds converged appliance, data protection

In a move that was hinted at earlier this year, the latest StorageCraft update revamps the OneBlox and ShadowProtect products into the new OneXafe and ShadowXafe. More than just a name change, both products bring significant changes, bringing together primary, secondary and cloud storage, and the means to back them up onto a single platform.

With OneXafe, the StorageCraft update integrates the OneBlox scale-out storage appliance with the company’s backup and data protection software. StorageCraft acquired object storage vendor Exablox in 2017 for its OneBlox platform.

“We’ve taken the technology and the products we bought through the Exablox acquisition, which is mainly the scale-out storage for primary and secondary markets, and tightly integrating that with the data protection technologies from StorageCraft,” said Shridar Subramanian, vice president of marketing and product management at StorageCraft Technology Corp.

OneXafe will come in HDD-equipped 4400-series models, which start at $14,000 for 144 TB, and all-flash 5400-series models, which start at $38,000 for 38 TB. They will be available later this year.

The StorageCraft update revamps ShadowProtect as well, with the new ShadowXafe. This data protection software product is tightly integrated with the company’s existing cloud-based disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) offering and boasts a near-instant recovery from physical or virtual machines. ShadowXafe’s features also include agentless support for virtual environments, service-level agreement-driven backup policy orchestration, and the ability to recover to dissimilar physical or virtual environments. The ShadowXafe software is currently available.

Screenshot of ShadowXafe dashboard
ShadowXafe’s dashboard

Although ShadowXafe makes up the data protection component of the total OneXafe package, both products can be purchased independently. ShadowXafe is hardware-agnostic and can be deployed to any system, and OneXafe without ShadowXafe is essentially a OneBlox appliance with hardware upgrades.

Render of OneXafe 4400 Series and 5410
OneXafe 4400 Series and 5410

Targeting the midsize enterprise, the StorageCraft update was designed to be easy to deploy. “We’ve made something that’s easy to manage and something that does primary, secondary and data protection,” Subramanian said.

With other vendors, IT administrators would have to pick out those three components piecemeal and then figure out how to build a backup infrastructure with them, effectively becoming “pseudo-system integrators,” according to Subramanian. “With our system, they don’t have to worry about any of those things. They can just put these solutions in play. It is a plug-and-play model, and they can grow capacity and protection capabilities as the need arises,” he said.

According to Amita Potnis, research manager at IDC, StorageCraft has had a history of enticing the midsize market with its object storage, which scales better than file-based systems.

“Generally speaking, when using a file-based storage environment, they probably will not have the ability to scale to the extent that an object store does,” she said. “I think having the ability to scale dramatically, and easily, and affordably, it would help midsize customers especially.”