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As strong as your weakest link: A look at application vulnerability

September 6th, 2016 No comments

When it comes to patching and updating software vulnerabilities, operating systems and web browsers seem to get all the love.

But in reality, vulnerabilities in those two types of software usually account for a minority of the publicly disclosed vulnerabilities published in the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), the U.S. government’s repository of standards-based vulnerability management data.

Where are the rest of the vulnerabilities? The majority are in applications (i.e. software that doesn’t ship as part of operating systems or browsers), and unless you’re spending time protecting those too, your application layer could be a big chink in your IT armor. CIOs, CISOs and their security teams need to focus on assessing and patching known vulnerabilities in all business apps, or they could in fact be missing the bulk of the vulnerabilities that exist in their environments.

Vulnerabilities in applications other than web browsers and operating system applications accounted for 44.2% of all disclosures in the second half of 2015.

Vulnerabilities in applications other than web browsers and operating system applications accounted for 44.2% of all disclosures in the second half of 2015.

But separating core OS applications and web browsers from the rest of the application layer can be a bit murky. Comparing vulnerabilities that affect a computer’s operating system to vulnerabilities that affect other components, such as applications and utilities, requires a determination of whether the affected component is part of an operating system. This determination is not always simple and straightforward, given the componentized nature of modern operating systems.

For example, some programs (like photo editors) ship by default with operating system software, but can also be downloaded from the software vendor’s website and installed individually. Linux distributions, in particular, are often assembled from components developed by different teams, many of which provide crucial operating functions such as a graphical user interface (GUI) or Internet browsing.

To help companies navigate this issue and facilitate analysis of operating system and browser vulnerabilities, the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report distinguishes among four different kinds:

  • Core operating system vulnerabilities are those with at least one operating system platform enumeration in the NVD that do not also have any application platform enumerations.
  • Operating system application vulnerabilities are those with at least one OS platform enumeration and at least one application platform enumeration listed in the NVD, except for browsers.
  • Browser vulnerabilities are those that affect components defined as part of a web browser, including web browsers such as Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari that ship with operating systems, along with third-party browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
  • Other application vulnerabilities are those with at least one application platform enumeration in the NVD that do not have any OS enumerations, except for browsers.

With those distinctions in mind, the latest SIR reports that disclosures of vulnerabilities in applications decreased in the second half of 2015, but remained the most common type of vulnerability during the period, accounting for 44.2 percent of all disclosures — a big number that any organization’s security team should be paying attention to.

Meanwhile, the other categories are important too. Core operating system vulnerability disclosures increased dramatically from the first half of the year, moving into second place at 24.5 percent. Operating system application disclosures decreased slightly to account for 18.6 percent, while browser disclosures increased by more than a third to account for 12.8 percent.

The key to keeping any organization safe is to stay on top of all disclosures, no matter which part of the stack they belong in. To stay on top of possible vulnerabilities across your software stack, take a look at our latest Security Intelligence Report and the information available through the NVD. And for a high-level look at the top 10 trends and stats that matter most to security professionals right now, be sure and download our 2016 Trends in Cybersecurity e-book.

How do digital youth of the “app generation” learn, communicate, and express themselves

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Katie Davis, an assistant professor from the University of Washington Information School to discuss her role and a book she co-authored called, The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World

The University of Washington is the first to have an Information or iSchool focused on youth and technology. Tell us about the school and your students’ focus of study.

Our digital youth faculty teaches a range of courses and provides research experiences for undergraduate, masters, and PhD students. We aim to prepare world-class digital youth researchers, practitioners who work directly with young people, and innovators who design and create digital tools and services for youth. One of the courses I teach, called Youth Development and Information Behavior in a Digital Age, explores new research on the impact of digital media tools and practices on youth development, including academic development.

How did you become interested in writing about kids’ use of technology and, in particular, apps?

My interest began over 10 years ago, when I was a fourth grade teacher. At that time, technology was becoming increasingly central to young people’s lives, both inside and outside of school. As a teacher, it was clear to me that this trend was only going to get bigger. I started to think about the many implications involved with respect to how young people learn, communicate with other people, and express themselves.

I was fortunate that when I came to Harvard as a doctoral student, my advisor and now co-author, Howard Gardner, was starting to ask similar questions. During the course of our research, we came to an important realization: whereas earlier generations have typically been defined by political or economic events (think of the World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Movement), this generation of young people is defined—and, importantly, defines itself—more by the technologies they use. Apps weren’t part of the cultural zeitgeist when we started our research, but as the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and the slogan “there’s an app for that” became a common saying, we realized that apps served as a fitting metaphor for what we were observing in our research. In our book The App Generation, we alternate between referring to apps metaphorically, to illuminate particular themes in our findings, and literally, to explore how teens use various apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  

What are the benefits of our app-driven lifestyle, and what might be some of the drawbacks?

In the book, we introduce the idea of an app mentality that many of today’s youth seem to exhibit. The app mentality suggests that whatever human beings might desire should be provided by apps. If the app doesn’t exist, it should be devised by someone right away. If no app can be imagined or created, then maybe the desire simply doesn’t or shouldn’t matter.

We see both positive and negative variations on the app mentality. A world permeated by apps is in many ways a terrific one. Apps are great if they take care of ordinary things and free us up to explore new paths and form deeper relationships. They are great also as they increasingly become tools for productive work, offer us ways to stay connected to our friends and family, and even provide us with avenues for new experiences. When apps are used in this way, they are app-enabling.

But there’s a less optimistic view of apps. There’s a danger that we become overly dependent on apps for the answers, for social connection, for our sense of ourselves. There’s a danger that we look to apps before we look inside ourselves. If this happens—if we start to see more of our apps than ourselves in our experiences, actions, self-expressions—it’s our argument that we have become app-dependent.

How can technology foster and enhance our creativity?  By the same token, does your research indicate that technology can dampen our artistic abilities? 

Digital media can open up new avenues for youth to express themselves creatively. Yet, it’s important to consider the fact that app developers constrain artistic expressions in specific ways. For instance, if you’re using a painting app, your color palette is limited to the hues that the designer programmed into the app. In a music composition app, your tonal range is similarly limited. Of course, sophisticated users can create their own workarounds and break free from the constraints of the underlying code. But realistically, most people will work within the parameters of the original app, and that raises important questions about how such boundaries affect the creative process.

We explored changes in youth creativity over a 20-year time span, analyzing over 350 pieces of visual art produced by high school students and nearly 100 fiction stories written by middle and high school students between 1990 and 2011. Though we were expecting to find that creativity in the visual and literary domains would either rise or fall together, our analysis uncovered a surprisingly divergent pattern. We found that certain dimensions of creativity, such as originality, experimentation, and complexity, have diminished in the literary domain while they’ve increased in the visual domain. 

The literary pieces written in recent years tended to be more mundane—there was less experimentation with genre, character types, and setting. Whereas a story from the early 1990s might involve a character who metamorphosed into a butterfly, there was very little such deviation from reality in the more recent pieces. In contrast, the pattern we detected in the visual art was one of increasing experimentation and sophistication. Contemporary artists were more likely to draw on the expansive selection of media at their disposal to create layered works that hold the eye longer with their increased complexity and unexpected composition.

We’ve considered these findings in terms of the role of digital media, though we can only offer our best hypotheses rather than draw a direct connection between technology and changes in youth’s artistic productions. With respect to the visual art findings, we note that digital media provide a wider, easier, and cheaper array of tools for youth to express themselves creatively. In addition, the Internet has expanded access to sources of inspiration as well as opportunities to receive feedback and recognition for one’s artistic productions.

With respect to writing, it’s hard to tell if kids are writing less, but the type of writing they do online is often quick, fleeting, and very much tied to the everyday and mundane. These characteristics mirror the patterns we saw in our analysis of youth’s creative writing. It’s also worth noting, for writing at least, the likely influence of our education system’s increasing focus on standardized testing over the last 20 years. Such a focus rewards writing the perfect five-paragraph essay rather than taking risks in one’s writing.

What surprised you when you started researching and writing your book?

My biggest surprise has been hearing teens express real ambivalence toward digital media and its role in their lives. When I talk with teens, I typically ask them to imagine what it would be like to go through a day (then a week, a month, and longer) without their phones, apps, or social media. The initial reaction is fairly standard: what an unpleasant, hard-to-imagine scenario! They’d be disconnected from their networks of friends and followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; they’d be unable to conduct research for school; and they’d be deprived of the many sources of entertainment they enjoy online and through apps. After going through the list of what they wouldn’t have or be able to do, many teens start to consider what they might gain: uninterrupted, lengthier face-to-face conversations; more time for personal reflection; fewer distractions when doing homework.

This ambivalence toward technology tells me that youth recognize many of the same opportunities and challenges around their digital media use as adults. I think this recognition is a great entry point for family members, teachers, and others who work with and support youth to engage them in conversations about the positive and negative aspects of technology, and through these conversations help one another to use digital media in an app-enabled way.

What can parents, teachers, coaches, and others do to help raise responsible, tech-savvy consumers?

A good place to start is with our own technology use. We should remember that adults are powerful models for youth. They see us tied to our laptops, smartphones, and tablets, and they’re taking note! We have the opportunity to model moderation in technology use, show kids there’s a time to put these devices away and be fully present.

Adults can also provide app-enabled experiences that emphasize open-ended exploration and personal initiative over more structured, top-down, and constrained activities. We’ve sampled a variety of apps—many of them with an educational bent—during the course of researching and writing The App Generation. Apps like Minecraft, Scratch, and Digicubes seem (unfortunately) to be among the minority that encourage open-ended exploration and creation. Others we’ve sampled are packed with a lot of bells and whistles that have little relation to the purported learning objectives and leave little room for users to exercise their own creativity and initiative.

Finally, we think computational skills should be emphasized to a greater degree in K–12 education so that kids are able to modify apps as they wish, even create their own. This is something that the UW iSchool does very well in its Informatics and Master of Science in Information Management programs. The ability to understand how apps and other technologies work constitutes a new—and critical—literacy for this new digital era. 

Should industry be thinking how to design responsible products, services and apps that foster being a good digital citizen?

Yes, I think designers have a responsibility to consider how their apps are likely to be used, for good and bad. Of course, it’s impossible to anticipate all the different ways one’s creation might be used or modified.

My iSchool colleague, Professor Batya Friedman, has pioneered an approach to designing technologies and tools that take into account what humans care about. Called value-sensitive design, this approach seeks to account for the values of both direct and indirect stakeholders in a principled and systematic manner throughout the design process. A value-sensitive design approach encompasses more than digital citizenship. Designers could use such an approach to think about app-enablement vs. app-dependence during the design process, and attempt to design so that users are encouraged to use apps in an open-ended way, as non-constrained as possible.

Categories: apps, child safety, family Tags:

How do digital youth of the “app generation” learn, communicate, and express themselves

September 11th, 2014 No comments

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Katie Davis, an assistant professor from the University of Washington Information School to discuss her role and a book she co-authored called, The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World.

The University of Washington is the first to have an Information or iSchool focused on youth and technology. Tell us about the school and your students’ focus of study.

Our digital youth faculty teaches a range of courses and provides research experiences for undergraduate, masters, and PhD students. We aim to prepare world-class digital youth researchers, practitioners who work directly with young people, and innovators who design and create digital tools and services for youth. One of the courses I teach, called Youth Development and Information Behavior in a Digital Age, explores new research on the impact of digital media tools and practices on youth development, including academic development.

How did you become interested in writing about kids’ use of technology and, in particular, apps?

My interest began over 10 years ago, when I was a fourth grade teacher. At that time, technology was becoming increasingly central to young people’s lives, both inside and outside of school. As a teacher, it was clear to me that this trend was only going to get bigger. I started to think about the many implications involved with respect to how young people learn, communicate with other people, and express themselves.

I was fortunate that when I came to Harvard as a doctoral student, my advisor and now co-author, Howard Gardner, was starting to ask similar questions. During the course of our research, we came to an important realization: whereas earlier generations have typically been defined by political or economic events (think of the World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Movement), this generation of young people is defined—and, importantly, defines itself—more by the technologies they use. Apps weren’t part of the cultural zeitgeist when we started our research, but as the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and the slogan “there’s an app for that” became a common saying, we realized that apps served as a fitting metaphor for what we were observing in our research. In our book The App Generation, we alternate between referring to apps metaphorically, to illuminate particular themes in our findings, and literally, to explore how teens use various apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

What are the benefits of our app-driven lifestyle, and what might be some of the drawbacks?

In the book, we introduce the idea of an app mentality that many of today’s youth seem to exhibit. The app mentality suggests that whatever human beings might desire should be provided by apps. If the app doesn’t exist, it should be devised by someone right away. If no app can be imagined or created, then maybe the desire simply doesn’t or shouldn’t matter.

We see both positive and negative variations on the app mentality. A world permeated by apps is in many ways a terrific one. Apps are great if they take care of ordinary things and free us up to explore new paths and form deeper relationships. They are great also as they increasingly become tools for productive work, offer us ways to stay connected to our friends and family, and even provide us with avenues for new experiences. When apps are used in this way, they are app-enabling.

But there’s a less optimistic view of apps. There’s a danger that we become overly dependent on apps for the answers, for social connection, for our sense of ourselves. There’s a danger that we look to apps before we look inside ourselves. If this happens—if we start to see more of our apps than ourselves in our experiences, actions, self-expressions—it’s our argument that we have become app-dependent.

How can technology foster and enhance our creativity?  By the same token, does your research indicate that technology can dampen our artistic abilities? 

Digital media can open up new avenues for youth to express themselves creatively. Yet, it’s important to consider the fact that app developers constrain artistic expressions in specific ways. For instance, if you’re using a painting app, your color palette is limited to the hues that the designer programmed into the app. In a music composition app, your tonal range is similarly limited. Of course, sophisticated users can create their own workarounds and break free from the constraints of the underlying code. But realistically, most people will work within the parameters of the original app, and that raises important questions about how such boundaries affect the creative process.

We explored changes in youth creativity over a 20-year time span, analyzing over 350 pieces of visual art produced by high school students and nearly 100 fiction stories written by middle and high school students between 1990 and 2011. Though we were expecting to find that creativity in the visual and literary domains would either rise or fall together, our analysis uncovered a surprisingly divergent pattern. We found that certain dimensions of creativity, such as originality, experimentation, and complexity, have diminished in the literary domain while they’ve increased in the visual domain.

The literary pieces written in recent years tended to be more mundane—there was less experimentation with genre, character types, and setting. Whereas a story from the early 1990s might involve a character who metamorphosed into a butterfly, there was very little such deviation from reality in the more recent pieces. In contrast, the pattern we detected in the visual art was one of increasing experimentation and sophistication. Contemporary artists were more likely to draw on the expansive selection of media at their disposal to create layered works that hold the eye longer with their increased complexity and unexpected composition.

We’ve considered these findings in terms of the role of digital media, though we can only offer our best hypotheses rather than draw a direct connection between technology and changes in youth’s artistic productions. With respect to the visual art findings, we note that digital media provide a wider, easier, and cheaper array of tools for youth to express themselves creatively. In addition, the Internet has expanded access to sources of inspiration as well as opportunities to receive feedback and recognition for one’s artistic productions.

With respect to writing, it’s hard to tell if kids are writing less, but the type of writing they do online is often quick, fleeting, and very much tied to the everyday and mundane. These characteristics mirror the patterns we saw in our analysis of youth’s creative writing. It’s also worth noting, for writing at least, the likely influence of our education system’s increasing focus on standardized testing over the last 20 years. Such a focus rewards writing the perfect five-paragraph essay rather than taking risks in one’s writing.

What surprised you when you started researching and writing your book?

My biggest surprise has been hearing teens express real ambivalence toward digital media and its role in their lives. When I talk with teens, I typically ask them to imagine what it would be like to go through a day (then a week, a month, and longer) without their phones, apps, or social media. The initial reaction is fairly standard: what an unpleasant, hard-to-imagine scenario! They’d be disconnected from their networks of friends and followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; they’d be unable to conduct research for school; and they’d be deprived of the many sources of entertainment they enjoy online and through apps. After going through the list of what they wouldn’t have or be able to do, many teens start to consider what they might gain: uninterrupted, lengthier face-to-face conversations; more time for personal reflection; fewer distractions when doing homework.

This ambivalence toward technology tells me that youth recognize many of the same opportunities and challenges around their digital media use as adults. I think this recognition is a great entry point for family members, teachers, and others who work with and support youth to engage them in conversations about the positive and negative aspects of technology, and through these conversations help one another to use digital media in an app-enabled way.

What can parents, teachers, coaches, and others do to help raise responsible, tech-savvy consumers?

A good place to start is with our own technology use. We should remember that adults are powerful models for youth. They see us tied to our laptops, smartphones, and tablets, and they’re taking note! We have the opportunity to model moderation in technology use, show kids there’s a time to put these devices away and be fully present.

Adults can also provide app-enabled experiences that emphasize open-ended exploration and personal initiative over more structured, top-down, and constrained activities. We’ve sampled a variety of apps—many of them with an educational bent—during the course of researching and writing The App Generation. Apps like Minecraft, Scratch, and Digicubes seem (unfortunately) to be among the minority that encourage open-ended exploration and creation. Others we’ve sampled are packed with a lot of bells and whistles that have little relation to the purported learning objectives and leave little room for users to exercise their own creativity and initiative.

Finally, we think computational skills should be emphasized to a greater degree in K–12 education so that kids are able to modify apps as they wish, even create their own. This is something that the UW iSchool does very well in its Informatics and Master of Science in Information Management programs. The ability to understand how apps and other technologies work constitutes a new—and critical—literacy for this new digital era.

Should industry be thinking how to design responsible products, services and apps that foster being a good digital citizen?

Yes, I think designers have a responsibility to consider how their apps are likely to be used, for good and bad. Of course, it’s impossible to anticipate all the different ways one’s creation might be used or modified.

My iSchool colleague, Professor Batya Friedman, has pioneered an approach to designing technologies and tools that take into account what humans care about. Called value-sensitive design, this approach seeks to account for the values of both direct and indirect stakeholders in a principled and systematic manner throughout the design process. A value-sensitive design approach encompasses more than digital citizenship. Designers could use such an approach to think about app-enablement vs. app-dependence during the design process, and attempt to design so that users are encouraged to use apps in an open-ended way, as non-constrained as possible.

Categories: apps, child safety, family, Tips & Talk Tags:

Weekend Reading: Dec. 20th Edition–‘Biggest holiday season yet’ for Windows Phone and Windows Store apps

December 20th, 2013 No comments

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on the momentum building behind Windows Store and Windows Phone Store app downloads, how Bing broke out of the (search) box in 2013 and a Microsoft researcher who uses data to power his predictions.

Buoyed by new gift cards and other promotions, as well as the “biggest holiday season yet,” app development for the Windows Phone Store and Windows Store is going strong. “We’re already seeing momentum build with the (Windows) Store surpassing 12 million transactions per day and Windows Phone Store surpassing 200,000 apps,” writes Todd Brix on the Windows Phone Developers Blog, who encouraged developers to finish and update apps to meet these demands. “Taking into consideration the Microsoft and partner promotions and consumer purchase of Microsoft and Xbox gift cards in retail locations, we are forecasting over $100 million to be available for consumers to buy apps and games this holiday season across 100 retailers in 41 markets.” Some apps and games we highlighted this week include the NORAD Tracks Santa apps, the Staff App Pick: American Airlines and LiveATC, the Amtrak app, Phriz.be, the Gameloft Games collection, “Girls Like Robots,” “Subway Surfers,” “Nemo’s Reef,” Zinio, “Avengers Alliance,” Viber, “Catan” and “Riptide GP2.” To show that you don’t have to be a professional developer to get in on the action, small business owner Holly Shore created her mobile app within hours with Windows Phone App Studio.

In 2013, Bing broke out of the search box. It evolved to power a wider range of services and devices than ever, from voice search in Xbox One to Siri’s Web search results. In Windows 8.1, you can use the Search Charm to explore your files, Web results and more with a single query. Third-party developers can now benefit from Bing technology, including optical character recognition, translation, maps and voice controls, using the new Bing Developer Center. These are just some of the many ways Bing redefined search in this breakout year. You can also check out this infographic for some surprising 2013 stats.

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Microsoft researcher David Rothschild is legendary for his ability to literally predict the future using a unique and rigorous approach to data analysis. He correctly called the results of the 2012 presidential election in every state but one. He nailed 19 of the 24 Oscar categories this past year. And he’s constantly pushing the boundaries of predictive science through experimental live polling, online prediction games and more. In this interview, David Rothschild tells you what to expect in 2014, breaks down his forecasting philosophy, and explains why you should trust professional gamblers more than cable news pundits.

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On Wednesday, University of Colorado Health (UCHealth), one of the state’s largest healthcare providers, announced its migration to Microsoft Office 365. This decision was made in large part due to Microsoft’s long-standing commitment to data security and privacy and because the company supports HIPAA requirements beyond what other vendors provide. Microsoft was the first major IT cloud provider to offer a comprehensive, peer-reviewed Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for all of its customers. The BAA, and its subsequent updates to reflect new product offerings and changes in the law, has been widely accepted within the industry as a best practice, and has helped Microsoft establish itself as a trusted healthcare data steward.

Consumers found big savings on Xbox 360 games, adds-ons, avatars and more with the “Countdown to 2014” daily deals from the Xbox Game Store that began Tuesday, Dec. 17. In addition to those great deals, we saw the debut of the Xbox Video and Xbox Music apps for in the Windows Phone Store. Windows Phone 8 is the only phone that offers Xbox Video support this holiday season, which means you can buy and download favorite movies and TV shows from the Xbox Video service and watch them wherever you go. Use your Xbox Music Pass to stream from a catalog of tens of millions of songs using the Xbox Music service. Also, you can use the Verizon FiOS TV app now on Xbox One and Snap View to watch two programs at the same time.

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we helped out last-minute shoppers with eight tech gifts that won’t break the bank and five no-stress downloadable gifts.

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Thanks for stopping by this edition of Weekend Reading. Happy holidays, wherever you are!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

Mark your calendars: Announcing Build 2014

December 13th, 2013 No comments

The following is a post from Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President and Chief Evangelist, Developer & Platform Evangelism.


It seems like we were just gathered in San Francisco for Build 2013 and yet a lot has happened since that time. Windows 8.1 is in the hands of consumers and there is a great selection of new devices at all sizes and price points coming in time for the holidays. Last month, we released Xbox One and sold more than two million units in the first 18 days. And we continue to see the addition of great new apps, with differentiated user experiences, coming to the platform from top names such as Flipboard, Instagram, Waze, Vine and Mint alongside thousands of local apps growing every day.

The momentum just keeps building and that is why I’m so excited to announce our next developer conference, Build 2014, which will take place April 2 to April 4 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Save the date and mark your calendar for registration, which opens at 9 a.m. PT on Jan. 14 at www.buildwindows.com.

As always, Build is a time to bring developers together to talk about our latest products, platform advances, tools and offerings, all of which come together to create unmatched apps and scenarios. With Windows, developers can create new experiences to reach hundreds of millions of devices on peoples’ desks, in their homes, in their pockets and in their living rooms. At this year’s event, we’ll talk about what’s next for Windows, Windows Phone, Windows Azure, Windows Server, Visual Studio and much more.

So pay a visit to www.buildwindows.com, plan to register on Jan. 14, and join us for three days of immersive presentations delivered by the engineers behind our devices and services. Be among the first to see what’s next from Microsoft. We’ll look forward to seeing you at Moscone!

Scenes from Build 2013
1|4
Last June, Microsoft welcomed over 6000 developers to Build 2013 in San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
Microsoft to developers: Welcome to Build!
December 13, 2013
Last June, Microsoft welcomed over 6000 developers to Build 2013 in San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
Image: Web | Print

Categories: apps, Build, developers Tags:

Weekend Reading: Dec. 6th Edition – Microsoft stands up for customer privacy

December 6th, 2013 No comments

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on Microsoft’s role in protecting customer data, how 150,000 students, administrators and staff members in Canada have started using Office 365 and Microsoft Research’s first Artist in Residence.

Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of Microsoft’s Legal & Corporate Affairs, wrote about how “many of our customers have serious concerns about government surveillance of the Internet.” He added, “We share their concerns. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to access customer data. Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data.”

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that Canada’s second-largest public school board – the Peel District School Board – has deployed Microsoft Office 365 to more than 150,000 students, administrators and staff members. And, in another big boost for educators, schools and universities that use Office 365 ProPlus for faculty and staff can now extend the service to students for free. Small businesses also received more help in setting up Office 365 from the latest video in the Garage Series, as you can see below.

James George is Microsoft Research’s first Artist in Residence, who is as at home amongst algorithms and software code as he is in galleries and behind a camera. For three months, the Idaho native relocated to Redmond from his current home in Brooklyn as the first Microsoft Research Artist in Residence (AiR). And in a way, it was a homecoming for the University of Washington alum, who graduated with a computer science degree. George straddles that border between art and technology, and has no problem blurring those lines in his work. Starting Dec. 3, his art installation, “Instance,” will inhabit the Studio 99 art space in Redmond, right in the heart of Microsoft Research.

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James George, Microsoft Research’s first Artist in Residence

The week after U.S. Thanksgiving continues the holiday gift-giving frenzy, and we gave you some great ideas to make it less crazy for you. For the DIY set, nifty gifts are close at hand with these tech tips and tools. For the voyagers in your life, these holiday gifts brighten and lighten globe-trotters’ travels. And for that ultimate gift-giver – you know, that jolly guy in the sleigh who makes lots of stops around the world – Microsoft has put a fresh spin on the annual tracking of Santa’s journey through the launch of the 3D, touch-optimized NORAD Tracks Santa project.

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The Bing Maps Preview app for Windows 8.1 brings the world to your fingertips – in 3D. It gives you personalized local recommendations via Local Scout and smart notifications, real-time traffic updates and a 3D mapping experience of more than 70 cities (and counting) across the globe. Read more about it on Next at Microsoft and the Bing Search Blog. Bing also released a report of its top searches in 2013 – with lots of familiar names and faces (Beyonce, Tim Tebow and the Dallas Cowboys among them).

The Windows Store and Windows Phone Store gained apps and games that satisfied both adventure seekers, home buyers and many more shoppers. You had a lot of new choices to shop from this week, including the Staff App Pick: Zillow and the App of the Week: (download NOOK and take advantage of special offers in the U.S., the U.K. and Spain). You can also find “Dungeon Hunter 4” for free from the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store and manage personal finances through Mint.com from the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store. A new Lync app for Windows 8.1 now gives you control of a shared screen and other improvements. Yammer – Microsoft’s social networking service for the workplace – just updated all of its apps with an updated design and a long list of handy new features.

If you’re looking for Windows Phone apps, you’ve got a lot to choose from with these deals and new offerings: Super Photo, “Crumble Zone” and “Final Fantasy” (the latest Red Stripe Deals collection in the Windows Phone Store), MyFitnessPal, “Wheel of Fortune” and Cisco WebEx Meetings.

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This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we watched an internationally renowned wedding and lifestyle photographer capture a wedding using a Lumia 1020.

Thanks for stopping by this edition of Weekend Reading, which is heading into the homestretch as we say the long goodbye to 2013. See you next week!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

NORAD Tracks Santa project goes 3D, touch-device optimized with some help from Microsoft

December 3rd, 2013 No comments

The following post is from Roger Capriotti, senior director of product marketing, Microsoft. It was originally published on The Fire Hose.


 The redesigned homepage for NORAD Tracks Santa.

The redesigned homepage for NORAD Tracks Santa.

Every December, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (“NORAD”) serves the important role of ensuring that Santa’s journey around the world is safe. Since 1955, children of all ages have tracked his route with the help of NORAD’s radar, satellites and jet fighters. This year, Microsoft has lent a hand to make the experience the most magical yet, putting a fresh spin on the time-honored tradition with the launch of the new www.NORADSanta.org.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has worked with NORAD Tracks Santa. Last year, we provided our interactive Bing Maps to give people at home an interactive visual of Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, which was powered by Windows Azure, as well as apps for Windows and Windows Phone that allowed people a platform to play and learn.

This year, we are raising the bar particularly around the Web experience, which brings holiday cheer to tens of millions of people every year. The Internet Explorer team in particular had a vision for how to fuse the possibilities of the modern Web with the magic of Santa. Inspired by NORAD Tracks Santa’s long history and the Claymation style classic holiday movies, the Internet Explorer team partnered with NORAD to rebuild the Web experience from the ground up.

Santa’s interactive North Pole Village is featured on www.NORADSanta.org

Santa’s interactive North Pole Village is featured on www.NORADSanta.org.

The new online experience is more than just a way to track Santa on Dec. 24. It lets you immerse yourself in the holiday throughout the month of December. With a nostalgic, 3D Claymation look and feel, the new site features a recreation of Santa’s village that you can explore to discover new games daily, music, videos and more. The site is fully touch-enabled, which makes for a truly immersive experience, if you are using a touch device. On Dec. 24, a touch-enabled 3-D globe will light up as Santa begins his journey worldwide. With a modern browser like IE11, you will be able to spin the globe with a swipe of a finger and pinch and zoom to get an in-depth look at Santa’s stops. Bing Maps is at the heart of the journey again. Whether you’re mapping Santa’s route in a browser on a computer or in an app, you’ll see beautiful, high-fidelity images. Bing Maps is the canvas on which Santa’s journey is plotted.

“The Internet Explorer team and everyone at Microsoft have taken the spirit of the holidays that’s central to what we do with NORAD Tracks Santa and helped bring it to today’s modern web and devices,” Stacey Knott, NORAD Tracks Santa Program Manager, told us. “We’re hearing so many fun comments from people who are checking out the new website and apps and love what they see.”

Of course, the magic doesn’t stop there. Many people love to watch Santa’s progress on the site, and call the NORAD hotline to get the latest news straight from the command center. While you can still dial the number from a telephone, voice calling enabled by Skype this year means that with just one click, you and your kids can interact with the NORAD Tracks Santa Command Center to check in on Santa’s status any time you want.

 Santa’s arcade is one of the featured games on the site. New ones are available daily leading up to Christmas.

Santa’s arcade is one of the featured games on the site. New ones are available daily leading up to Christmas.

We’ve also made it easier than ever to track Santa with apps for Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone. The Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 apps will feature live tiles that allow you to track Santa straight from your start screen. And behind the curtain, Windows Azure keeps the whole thing running amidst the incredibly high traffic anticipated for Dec. 24.

This has been quite the journey for us, though it’s nothing compared to the one Santa will make later this December. For a look into NORAD’s history and our work with them, check out our mini-documentary on modernizing the tradition. And, make sure to try your hand at the games unveiled each day and track Santa on Dec. 24 at www.NORADSanta.org.

You might also be interested in:

•    Students: Your school might be able to give you Office 365 at no cost through Microsoft’s new Student Advantage benefit
•    See the most popular Bing searches of 2013
•    Before you hit the mall, download these Windows Phone apps

Gobble gobble! 8 apps you need to make it through Thanksgiving!

November 26th, 2013 No comments

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Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the things we’re thankful for and reconnect with family and friends over a good meal. Here are eight apps for Windows and Windows Phone to help make sure you have a safe, hassle-free and enjoyable holiday.

Bing Food & Drink

The Bing Food & Drink app is a must-have on your tablet or laptop for Thanksgiving. The new app makes it easy to explore recipes from all around the world, choose from more than 100,000 wines and cocktails, and learn tips from celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Tom Colicchio to make your next meal a taste-tempting success with family and friends. Not that you have to be a celebrity chef to cook a mean bird or get those garlic mashed potatoes just right.

Bing Food & Drink provides immaculate photos (as seen in the screenshot above), easy-to-follow instructions and tools such as a shopping list and meal planner to help you prepare your Thanksgiving dinner. You can also use the app to enter notes or upload your own favorite recipes, and then share them with a single tap of your finger – a great way to make the relatives happy when they ask for your sweet potato pie recipe!

One of the coolest features of the app is its “Hands Free Mode.” Here’s how it works: Let’s say you’re preparing Swedish meatballs and you’re ready to move on to the next step in the recipe, only your hands are all sticky from handling the ingredients. No worries in THIS kitchen. With the “Hands Free Mode,” you can navigate recipes with a simple wave of your hand. No more messy fingers on your device’s glossy, pristine gorilla glass!

On a related note, the Rachael Ray show will feature Colicchio on Dec. 3. During the show, he will show off some of his favorite cooking items, including the Bing Food & Drink app. Don’t miss it!

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving Recipes by iFood.TV

Thanksgiving Recipes by ifood.tv has everything you need to prepare an awesome meal. As soon as I open the app on my Surface, I’m greeted by a menu of tiles that includes video recipe categories such as cakes, casseroles, drinks, gravy, pie, sauce, soup and stuffing. And, of course, there are countless turkey recipes – roast turkey, cider brined turkey, turkey with almonds and apricots and more.

You can also search by course, ingredients, method, taste and interest. Maybe you don’t want to do the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing meal. My wife is from New Orleans, which means I eat a lot of Southern food. We’re giving serious consideration to replacing one of our regular side dishes with a chicken and sausage gumbo recipe that we found in the Thanksgiving Recipes app.

If you’re like me and you have more success watching someone else prepare a recipe as opposed to following one from a book, then Thanksgiving Recipes and its massive library of thousands of videos might just be right up your alley. You can find it in the Windows Store.

Prefer to cook with your Windows Phone close by? I also recommend Yumvy and AllRecipes.

Cocktail Flow

Cocktail Flow for Windows

Cocktail Flow is one of my favorite apps for when my wife and I entertain guests. I am not a connoisseur of cocktails by any stretch of the imagination, but this app for Windows and Windows Phone sure goes a long way in helping me make passable drinks for my friends and family.

The first thing you’ll notice about the app is its sleek, sparse and easy-to-navigate set-up. You don’t need to know a thing about making cocktails to get started. The app has three guides for entry-level cocktail creation that go into measurement units (what does it mean when a recipe calls for “one part Bourbon whiskey, one part Sambuca”?), glassware, barware and garnishes.

One of my favorite features in Cocktail Flow is the Cabinet. Here’s how it works: you swipe through a menu of spirits, mixers and liqueurs, selecting the ones you have in your actual bar cabinet and Cocktail Flow will generate drink ideas for you. For example: in your bar you’ve got some vodka, gin and bourbon whiskey, as well as some sugar syrup, grenadine, lemon juice and orange juice and some triple sec. Whammo! Cocktail Flow comes up with 11 different drinks you can make for your guests.

The app also breaks down drinks by spirit and by color. So, if someone asks for something with rum in it, all you have to do is tap on the rum category. If someone asks for something red or blue, all you have to do is tap the red or blue category. Easy peasy!

Alcohol Free Drink Recipes

And for those Thanksgiving guests who don’t drink, there’s always the Alcohol Free Drink Recipes app for Windows Phone.

The app has more than 200 alcohol-free drink recipes to choose from. The app breaks down drinks by category – soft drinks, shakes, cocoa, cocktails and coffee and tea.

Wait, cocktails? You bet. Ever heard of an Afterglow? It’s one part grenadine, 4 parts orange juice and 4 parts pineapple juice. Mix and serve over ice. Done. What about a Cranberry Bomber? Four ounces of cranberry juice, ½ ounce of OJ, two tablespoons of grenadine, one tea spoon of honey and a dash of cola. Garnish with a slice of lemon. (Of course.)

You can also add any drinks you have a particular taste for to your Favorites list using the menu bar.

Instagram

Instagram

Thanksgiving is a great time to reconnect with those family and friends you don’t get to see as often as you’d like throughout the year, and one of the best ways to capture those precious moments is on your smartphone’s camera. Pair that with the newly arrived Instagram app for Windows Phone, and you’ve got a great combination. Grab a picture from your Windows Phone Photos Hub, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram – it’s that easy.

You can even share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare right from the app. Turn everyday moments into works of art with Instagram for Windows Phone 8. The new app is now available for free in the Windows Phone Store!

Waze

Waze for Windows Phone 8

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go, right? Lots of us spend at least a little time in the car and on the roads on or around Thanksgiving, shuttling from one relative’s house to another. The last thing we want to deal with is holiday traffic, if it can be at all avoided.

Sometimes, your best sources for the most up-to-date traffic and road reports are other drivers ahead of you – and the free Waze app now available for Windows Phone 8 devices can deliver their advice exactly when you need it.

Using crowd-sourced info, Waze plugs you into a network of drivers who share real time traffic alerts and road info to find you the best route in real-time. With just a tap, you can join the Waze community of drivers and share your own reports about traffic, accidents, road closures and more to improve everyone’s daily commute.

Other perks include automatic re-routing as conditions on the road change, and personalization as the app learns your frequent destinations, commuting hours and preferred routes. Waze can also notify a person that you’re on your way by sending a live ETA and a link showing you as you drive, and also helps find the cheapest gas station along your route.

Bing Weather App

Bing Weather App for Windows Phone

It’s equally important to stay mindful of the weather as you travel about by plane, train and automobile for the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s easy to do that with the Bing Weather App for both Windows and Windows Phone.

The app helps you prepare for the latest conditions with hourly, daily and 10-day forecasts. It allows you to compare weather from multiple providers, check radar maps and view historical weather. You can also get current weather information for your location and for the other places you care about, like a family member’s city or your next vacation destination.

The Maps feature allows you to go deep in detail with radar, temperature, precipitation, cloud and satellite maps. And for those planning to hit the slopes while on vacation over Thanksgiving, there’s even a feature that lets you check the weather at ski resorts around the world with snow forecasts, ski trail maps, ski deals and news, Web cams and 360-degree panoramas.

Bing Sports App

Bing Sports App for Windows Phone

Watching football on Thanksgiving has become as much a staple of our holiday tradition as cranberry sauce and apple pie. As in years past, there will be three NFL games televised: The Green Bay Packers versus the Detroit Lions at 12:30 p.m. ET on Fox, the Oakland Raiders versus the Dallas Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS and the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Baltimore Ravens at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

It won’t be easy though, keeping up with all that football between eating dinner, catching up with old friends and family and shooting photos with your Windows Phone. So, you’d better have the Bing Sports App for Windows Phone so you can stay up to speed on the top scores, top stories, slideshows and videos. Both the Windows and Windows Phone apps are highly customizable, so I can follow news, scores and stats from my favorite sports and my favorite teams. Plus, I can even pin my favorite team to my start screen, creating a tile for one-touch access to all the latest team updates.

You might also be interested in:

· Wave your hands to control content on Redbox Instant by Verizon for Xbox One
· New Walgreens app for Windows 8 makes prescription refills and photo printing easy
· German hospital uses Microsoft technologies to create an intelligent operating room

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog

Get automatic app updates

March 19th, 2013 No comments

If you have Windows Phone 8 you might be aware of our strong security stance of offering only digitally signed apps you can download from your phone or from the web in Windows Phone Store.

Now we’ve taken another step to help reduce risk and increase safety with your PC apps. Security updates for Windows 8 apps will be automatically installed as they are ready. This will include updates for programs that come pre-installed for Windows 8 (like Mail) and for apps that you download.

For more information, read the announcement at Microsoft Security Response Center or the official policy page.

Categories: apps, security updates Tags:

Being safer when using mobile apps

February 20th, 2013 No comments

From social networking to changing the channels on your TV, there are mobile apps for nearly everything you want to do. But when you install a mobile app, you need to exercise as much caution as when you download software for your computer.

No matter what kind of phone you have, install apps from a trusted source.

For a Windows Phone, you can only install apps from Marketplace. Doing so ensures that any app you install has been digitally signed, which helps reduce your risk and increase phone safety. A restrictive development policy is a major reason why the chief research officer of the security firm F-Secure gives the Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system a high security rating.

For more mobile phone security tips, see Secure your smartphone.

 

Categories: apps, Microsoft, security, Windows Phone Tags:

Being safer when using mobile apps

February 20th, 2013 No comments

From social networking to changing the channels on your TV, there are mobile apps for nearly everything you want to do. But when you install a mobile app, you need to exercise as much caution as when you download software for your computer.

No matter what kind of phone you have, install apps from a trusted source.

For a Windows Phone, you can only install apps from Marketplace. Doing so ensures that any app you install has been digitally signed, which helps reduce your risk and increase phone safety. A restrictive development policy is a major reason why the chief research officer of the security firm F-Secure gives the Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system a high security rating.

For more mobile phone security tips, see Secure your smartphone.

 

Categories: apps, Microsoft, security, Windows Phone Tags: