School For The Visually Impaired Teams Up With Microsoft

Shen Yan-lin can mix music by computer. His fingers whip across the panel of a smartphone from app to app, changing settings at the same high speed.

The faithful Windows user who studied PCs mostly by himself just wants more precision when using Narrator, a built-in Microsoft tool that literally reads things aloud, voicing text and describing notifications or calendar appointments.

Shen, 18, is in his third year at Taipei School for the Visually Impaired, which partners with Microsoft to provide feedback on Narrator and other accessibility features of its operating system.

Shen is “totally blind,” to use his own words. The screen readers are crucial.

“Only direct users of the screen readers will understand the challenges on the frontlines,” Shen said.

“Because Microsoft and my school cooperate, I’ve been paying attention to accessibility matters.”

Shen grew up in a rural, mountainous part of Taiwan where local schools for the visually impaired offered little computer education. He was supposed to take his first course in computers in third grade but didn’t start until sixth grade because the schools fell short of resources.

“Curiosity” about the outside world that he cannot physically see piqued an interest in the internet in middle school, Shen said. It was then that he memorized the keyboard by touch and sound. Thanks largely to his self-education to date and daily voluntary use of PCs, Shen can now use Windows to do his high school homework.

Shen, 11 other students and three teachers from the Taipei School for the Visually Impaired have met twice with members of Microsoft’s Taiwan staff since May 2017 to pass on feedback based on their routine interaction with computers. Some ideas collected get sent back to Microsoft’s head office in the United States.

Shen signed up separately, at Microsoft’s request, for the company’s Insider program, allowing him to submit ideas regularly. “I raised ideas to Microsoft,” Shen said, “and I hope they will become part of a later development update.”

Skype, which Microsoft acquired in 2011, should make it easier for PC users with standard keyboards – the best kind for the visually impaired – to type in mobile phone numbers, telephone extensions and Chinese characters, he said.

Another area of improvement identified by Shawn Chi, Shen’s teacher: Narrator “sometimes might misplace the meaning” that users are looking for, he said, and might announce the wrong results when users go from file to file on a PC.

Microsoft, which uses that feedback to improve its Windows accessibility features, says it’s now working on three “fixes” based in part on the Taipei school’s feedback: supporting Chinese-language typing on Skype for a desktop Narrator, allowing more adjustments in Narrator’s volume, and letting Narrator read pictures.

Microsoft and the Taipei school of just 20 students found each other in May through Taipei city council member Wang Wei-chung.

It occurred to Wang that Microsoft would want to know how the students were faring with accessibility, while the students could use the experience to take a lead in shaping computer technology.

“I think the visually impaired school’s kids need more platforms and shouldn’t just be people who always need help,” Wang said.

“Accessibility features in Windows operating system are a first step. What I hope is that the kids can use the accessibility features and study those tools, and then make more inventions and do more things to help people around the world.”

School principal Tsai Ming-tsang sees engagement with Microsoft as a chance to give voice to a “weak group.”

“That a child can be on his own and independent is a moment of pride for us,” she told at a November ceremony for Microsoft’s Computer Science Education Week Kick off campaign in Taiwan.

Shen said he may study computer science further after graduation, but fears a lack of instructors who are qualified to teach him. He leans instead toward jazz drumming, something he has practiced since middle school.

At the Microsoft event in November, Shen showed his use of software to mix music from the official school song with vocals and sound effects for the school’s 100th anniversary.

Aisha Buhari Urges Nigerians To Know Their Consumer Rights

Aisha Buhari Thanks Nigerians for Supporting Husband’s AdministrationThe wife of the Nigerian President, Aisha Buhari, has urged Nigerians to understand their rights as consumers, in order to stand up to market abuses that undermine those rights.

She said the rights of the consumer must be protected and those on the wrong side of the law should be made to understand that.

“Their rights come to an end where the rights of the consumers begin”, Aisha said.

Mrs. Buhari made the remarks in Abuja, during her appointment as Consumer Ambassador of Nigeria, by the country’s Consumer Protection Council, as part of activities to mark the World Consumer Rights Day 2017.

Represented by the wife of Nasarawa State Governor, Mairo Tanko Almakura, she thanked the Management of the Consumer Protection Council for the honour bestowed on her.

She said: “The campaign for consumer rights is a noble cause and I assure the Commission of my support and commitment towards driving the campaign embarked by the council.”

The Director General of the Consumer Protection Council, Dupe Atoki, said digital technology, though beneficial, has exposed consumers to online threats such as cybercrime, data theft and invasion of privacy.

Atoki stated that this year’s theme tagged ‘Building a Digital World Consumers  Can Trust’ is intended to call attention to these consumer issues.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah and the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu in their goodwill messages highlighted the important role of the Council in protecting the rights of consumers.

The agency said the stakeholders workshop, which is scheduled for Thursday, March 16, 2017 will feature presentations from Google, Microsoft, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), among others.

Bill Gates Commends African Youths Innovation

Bill GatesPhilanthropist and Founder of Microsoft, Mr Bill Gates, says the power of the youths in Africa should be harnessed and their ability to drive innovation must be encouraged and given an opportunity to thrive.

He was the keynote speaker at the 14th Annual Nelson Mandela Foundation Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa, where he acknowledged some young Africans who have created groundbreaking innovations.

Mr Gates identified economic, social and health challenges prevailing in the continent as some of the factors that could hinder their development and that of the future of Africa.

He emphasized the need for African leaders to multiply the talents for innovation by the whole of Africa’s growing population, and that depends on whether all of Africa’s young people are given the opportunity to thrive.

“Nelson Mandela said poverty is not natural, it is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.

“We are the human beings that must take action and we have to decide now because this unique moment won’t last.

“We must clear away the obstacles that are standing in young people’s way so that they can seize all their potential.

“If young people are sick and malnourished, their bodies and brains will never fully develop. If they are not educated well, their minds will lie dormant. If they do not have access to economic opportunities, they will not be able to achieve their goals,” he said.

Free Xbox Gold Upsets Chinese Gamers

 XboxMicrosoft has announced that it will offer Gold Xbox Live service for free in China.

The news, however, disappointed some console owners who believe a subscription would enable them to access more content.

The BBC reports that China’s Xbox Gold service is very limited compared with other markets in order to comply with the country’s strict censorship laws.

The free trial was supposed to have ended this week.

China is the only country which has access to a regionally locked-down version of the free online Gold service.

Regular membership in most countries includes: Online multiplayer functions, free online games and discounts on others.

Online games still require government’s approval before they can be launched in China, which means that many are unavailable.

 

Bill Gates Named Richest Man Again

bill gatesThe Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, has been declared the richest man in the world for the 16th time by Forbes Magazine’s annual ranking of global billionaires.

Bill Gates again beat Mexican businessman, Carlos Slim to the top spot.

Mr Gates’ net worth rose by over $3bn (£1.94bn) from $76 billion to $79.2 billion putting the Microsoft Corp co-founder at the top for the 16th year in the last 21, Forbes said on Monday.

Mexico Telecommunications mogul, Carlos Slim Helu ranked second, worth $77.1 billion, while Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chief Warren Buffett was third, at $72.7 billion.

Legendary US investor, Warren Buffett, regained third place in the list with a net worth of $72.7bn, from Amancio Ortega, the founder of Spanish fashion chain, Zara.

Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of Inditex SA, which includes clothing retailer Zara, was fourth at $64.5 billion, while Oracle Corp Chairman, Larry Ellison, was fifth at $54.3 billion.

There are a record 1,826 billionaires in the world, Forbes said, an increase of 181 in the past 12 months.

Obama To Sign Executive Order On Cyber Security

obamaThe U.S President, Barack Obama, is expected to sign an executive order on Friday which is aimed at encouraging companies to share information about cyber security threats with the government and each other, a response to attacks like that of Sony.

Obama will sign the order at a day-long conference on cybersecurity at Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The order of the summit sets the stage for new private-sector led “Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations” (ISAOs) – hubs, where companies share cyber threat data with each other and with the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr Obama, who will be joining at the summit with top US security officials, is planning to call on private tech firms to share more information with law enforcement, potentially placing him at odds with the companies.

A senior member of Britain’s National Crime Agency is also due to appear, along with executives from Microsoft, Facebook and Google.

Mr Obama “wants to build support for efforts to better protect against cuber-threats and share more information about cyber-attacks”, the White House said.

Michael Daniel, Obama’s cyber coordinator, in a conference call with reporters said: “We believe that by clearly defining what makes for a good ISAO, that will make tying liability protection to sectoral organisations easier and more accessible to the public and to privacy and civil liberties advocates”.

Cybersecurity industry veterans said that Obama’s anticipated order would be a modest step in one of the president’s major priorities which is the defense of companies from cyber attacks.

Obama has proposed legislation to require more information-sharing and limit any legal liability for companies that share too much. Only Congress can provide the liability protection through legislation.

In the last summit, Obama said cybersecurity was a “challenge that we can only meet together, adding that ”it’s going to bring everybody together – industry, tech companies, law enforcement, consumer and privacy advocates, law professors who are specialists in the field, as well as students – to make sure that we work through these issues in a public, transparent fashion.”

Other dignitaries are microsoft vice-president Scott Charney and Chief Executives from Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Chinese Employees At Microsoft’s Nokia Arm Protest Mass Layoffs

microsoft“Hundreds” of Chinese employees at Microsoft Corp’s Nokia phone business protested on Friday against mass layoffs that the U.S. tech company announced last month, according to an employee present and pictures posted on social media networks.

Protesters held banners and shouted slogans against “Microsoft’s hostile takeover and violent layoffs” for five hours until “they had sore throats,” said the employee who participated in the demonstration and so declined to be identified.

The protesters would convene on Friday afternoon to discuss demands they would present to the company, the employee said.

Microsoft announced on July 17 the deepest job cuts in its 39-year history, amounting to 18,000 positions. Microsoft said up to 12,500 of those jobs would come from Nokia, the Finnish handset maker it bought in April in a $7.2 billion friendly takeover.

The protests took place at a Beijing research center and factory employing 2,400 people, according to a statement from organisers and amounted to the latest in a string of troubles for the U.S. software giant in China.

Microsoft offices in four cities were raided this week by Chinese authorities as part of an ongoing anti-monopoly investigation announced on Tuesday.

More broadly, labor disputes have risen across China over the past year in tandem with a slowdown in growth in the world’s No. 2 economy.

Since taking the helm of Microsoft in February, Chief Executive Satya Nadella has pledged to slim down his company to compete with nimbler internet-based rivals.

Microsoft earlier this year said it would make changes company-wide within 18 months of closing the Nokia acquisition that would lead to costs-savings of up to $600 million per year.

The latest cuts, which will be completed by June 30, 2015, represent about 14 per cent of Microsoft’s worldwide workforce.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to provide immediate comment by telephone and did not respond to questions by e-mail.

Experts Stress Need For Effective Business Managing Through Cyber Security

Nigeriaweb_prog_businessmorningns have been advised to protect their computers in order to manage their businesses effectively.

This is an advice from Mr Seyi Olaleye, a computer analyst and it professional, and Mr Oluseyi Osifalujo, Executive Director at Precise Financial Systems Limited, given on Channels Television’s Business Morning programme.

According to them, the decision by Microsoft not to support the Microsoft XP software will expose organisations to a growing risk as the number and severity of security exploits grow, and continued support from Microsoft will be costly.

They added that organisations should reduce user rights on the machines, and minimise web browsing and email use on the personal computers.

Billionaires PledgeTheir Fortunes To Bill Gates’ Charity

Nine more wealthy families and individuals have pledged to give at least half of their fortunes to charity as part of a philanthropic campaign by two of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

The Giving Pledge, which was launched by Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, and investor Buffett in 2010, said on Tuesday that billionaires joining the campaign included New York-based real estate magnate Stephen Ross.

The announcement came just a few days after Florida lawmakers shot down a bid by Ross’s Miami Dolphins NFL team to win tax dollars to help finance a $350 million upgrade of the Sun Life stadium outside Miami.

In addition to Ross, the new group of billionaires taking the pledge included hedge fund manager Paul E. Singer, the founder and president of Elliott Management Corp, and Sara Blakely, the founder of shapewear brand SPANX.

Forbes magazine has called Blakely the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire.

Entrepreneur Craig McCaw, who built McCaw Cellular into the largest U.S. cellular company, is also among new signatories together with his wife, Susan, as is Britain’s Lord Ashcroft.

The Giving Pledge does not accept money or tell people how to donate but asks billionaires to make a moral commitment to give their fortunes to charity during their lifetime or after death.

The Giving Pledge now has 114 signatories. The full list of billionaires, and personal letters from many outlining their charitable commitment, can be seen at www.thegivingpledge.org.

Microsoft Did Not Violate Google Patent: ITC Judge

Microsoft Corp did not violate a patent owned by Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility when it made its popular Xbox, an administrative law judge at the International Trade Commission said in a preliminary decision issued on Friday.

A final ITC decision in the case is due in July.

The fight over the Xbox video game console is related to the larger smartphone patent war between Apple, Microsoft and the mobile phone makers who use Google’s Android software, including its subsidiary Motorola Mobility.

Motorola Mobility accused Microsoft of infringing five patents when it filed its complaint in 2010. Four have been dropped.

One patent remains, according to the ITC docket for the case. That patent allows devices to communicate wirelessly over short distances.

If the ITC finds that a company infringes upon a patent, the infringing product can be barred from importation into the United States.

“We are pleased with the administrative law judge’s finding that Microsoft did not violate Motorola’s patent and are confident that this determination will be affirmed by the commission,” said David Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, Microsoft, in an emailed statement.

Google said it was disappointed.

“We are disappointed with today’s determination and look forward to the full commission’s review,” said spokesman Matt Kallman in an emailed statement.

Tech companies have spent billions of dollars to buy patent portfolios that they can use defensively or offensively, and still more money litigating the cases around the world.

The long-running Xbox case has seen many twists and turns since it was filed in late 2010.

In April 2012, ITC Judge David Shaw said in a preliminary decision that Microsoft infringed four patents and did not infringe on a fifth.

But instead of deciding the case, as is usual, in June 2012, the trade panel sent the case back to the judge for reconsideration.

In January, following an antitrust settlement with federal regulators, Google asked a trade panel to drop two patents from the complaint because they were essential to a standard. These types of patents ensure interoperability and get special treatment.

Google had promised the Federal Trade Commission that it would no longer request sales bans based on the infringement of standard essential patents because they are supposed to be broadly licensed on fair and reasonable terms.

The FTC, U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office argue that companies should not request sales bans when filing infringement lawsuits based on patents that are essential to a standard in most cases. Standard essential patents ensure that devices are interoperable.

The ITC is a popular venue for patent lawsuits because it can bar the importation of infringing products and because it issues decisions relatively quickly.

Motorola Mobility filed related lawsuits against Microsoft in federal courts in Wisconsin and Washington. They are both stayed pending an ITC decision.

The case is at the International Trade Commission, No. 337-752.

Review: Five favourite tablets of 2012 – itproportal

Microsoft founder Bill Gates was the man of the moment, when in 2001 he unveiled a prototype tablet computer.

Bill Gates however made history after he showed knowledge of events on the evolution of tablets before it started to happen, because now the tablet market has exploded, with mobile computing due to eclipse traditional PCs in the near future.

Though Apple can take credit for taking tablets mainstream with the introduction of the first iPad in 2010, the Cupertino-based company is certainly not the only player in that market nowadays. And so with the holiday season on the horizon, a list of five favourite tablets of 2012 has been compiled to guide you this Christmas.

 

Apple iPad mini

Apple’s miniature tablet is likely to top many Christmas wish lists this season, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise – the iPad mini packs a slew of impressive features in its slim, 7.9in frame. It offers a richer experience than some of the other tablets in the 7in category by being slightly bigger, but its major selling point is that it is considerably more portable than the full-size 9.7in iPad. At just 308g and thumb typing-friendly, it’s a great option for anyone looking for a lightweight tablet. Plus, it has an IPS LCD display with a 1,024 x 768 pixel resolution, as well as both rear and front-facing cameras.

The device promises up to 10 hours of battery life, so it’s particularly useful for commuters or those who spend a lot of time travelling. Another feature in the iPad mini’s favour is Apple’s App Store, with an unbelievable library of titles available, 275,000 of which were designed specifically for the iPad. The iPad mini is available in two colour schemes – black and slate or white and silver – and ships in Wi-Fi-only or Wi-Fi + cellular models, with three storage options – 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB, depending on what your usage is like. Pricewise, the iPad mini starts at £269 and runs to £529 for the 4G enabled 64GB model.

 

Apple iPad with Retina display

Apple’s fourth-generation iPad sits at the higher-end of the tablet spectrum, its Retina display boasting a dazzling 9.7in screen with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. But though the incredibly sharp display is its primary calling card, the latest iPad is chock-full of other attractive features. The new Apple A6X processor, for instance, means that graphic-heavy applications and CPU-intensive tasks are considerably faster and more fluid; according to Apple, it’s twice as fast and twice as powerful as its predecessor, making it ideal for media consumption.

Apple’s iOS is one of the factors setting the fourth-gen iPad apart from offerings from competitors – the mobile operating system is tighter, more streamlined and altogether smoother than Android. The new iPad in particular counts Siri among its premier features; Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant promises improved voice recognition and can look up movie times, manage your calendar, and post Facebook statuses for you. There’s also Apple’s unmatchable App Store, which is home to hundreds of thousands of apps, running the gamut from games to fitness management to music production. Ultimately, if you’re prepared to swallow the price – it starts at £399 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi-only device and ranges to £659 for a Wi-Fi + cellular model with 64GB of storage – it’s the best large-format tablet on the market.

 

Google Nexus 7

Google’s Asus-produced Nexus 7 proved to be incredibly popular when it was released this summer, and its recent refresh alongside the larger Nexus line-up will likely continue to be just as coveted throughout the holiday season. Here we have a budget-friendly 7in tablet that’s fantastic for everyday use and is virtually unrivalled in the value-for-money department – so much so that some competing manufacturers and retailers were forced to cut their own prices in response.

On the operating system front, it runs the latest version of Android, 4.2 Jelly Bean, which adds features like Gesture Typing and more integrated Google Play media, including books, music, and films. As for hardware, the Nexus 7 features an IPS LCD screen with a resolution of 1,200 x 800 pixels that, despite not being ground-breaking, certainly does the trick. It’s powered by a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC, which is impressive for such a small, affordable device.

The Nexus 7 is available in 16GB and 32GB storage iterations, but lacks a microSD card slot, which could prove to be a deal breaker for some customers. However, its attractive pricing is difficult to resist; it may not be the best tablet out there but, maxing out at £239 for a 32GB model with Wi-Fi and 3G, it certainly won’t break the bank.

Google blew the display on Apple’s fourth-generation iPad out of the water when it unveiled its Nexus 10 earlier this autumn. The Samsung-made device boasts a 10in display with a 2,560 x 1,600 pixel display, giving it the title of the highest-resolution tablet in the world. And, coupled with Google Play’s improved media offerings, the Nexus 10 is an optimal tablet for watching videos, editing photos, and browsing the web.

But an astounding screen isn’t all this high-end tablet has to offer – it also runs the latest version of Android, so it benefits from the slight tweaks introduced via Jelly Bean 4.2, including the new Photo Sphere app and live turn-by-turn GPS navigation. All of that is powered by a dual-core ARM processor with 2GB of RAM, so it will prove to be a thoroughly capable tablet with less battery drain than its quad-core rivals. Surprisingly, the Nexus 10 is Wi-Fi-only and ships in either 16GB or 32GB variations with no microSD slot. If you want to avoid going down the Apple route, the Nexus 10 is almost certainly your best alternative – and priced at £319 or £389, it’s also a fair bit cheaper.

 

Microsoft Surface with Windows RT

The launch of Surface marked Microsoft’s first foray into tablet production – a sturdy, impressive hybrid tablet billed as a happy medium between a conventional tablet and a productivity-friendly notebook. Surface sets itself apart from the other devices on this list by shipping with a smartcover that offers a full touch keyboard – a spill-resistant one, at that. At 10.6in and with a solid build, it veers close to notebook territory, but the 1,366 x 768, 16:9 widescreen display offers a rich experience that feels very much like a hybrid and not simply a tablet with a keyboard attached.

The device runs Windows RT, Microsoft’s touch-optimised operating system for ARM-based hardware (in this case, the SoC in question is an Nvidia Tegra 3). Accordingly, Surface fits in well with the company’s broader ecosystem, which also encompasses Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. While that means it will initially suffer from the scarcity of apps in the Windows Store, it will benefit from a much welcome boost in the form of Microsoft Office and tight integration with other Microsoft products like SkyDrive and Skype. In terms of capacity, it comes in 32GB and 64GB models, with a microSD card slot for an additional 64GB of space. In the end, Surface is a surprise contender, so if price is no object – it ranges from £399 to £559 – this could be the device for you.

Microsoft acquires StorSimple a cloud-integrated storage provider

Microsoft announced today that it will acquire cloud storage vendor StorSimple.

The terms of the purchase were not disclosed.

The move is designed to advance Microsoft’s Cloud OS vision and enable its customers to better leverage hybrid cloud computing, the two companies said.

StorSimple, which opened three and a half years ago and began, shipping appliances this spring, is among a relatively new breed of companies to offer an appliance that stores data onsite while replicating or mirroring it to an offsite, public cloud storage provider.

Among other companies selling cloud-connected appliances are Nasuni and TwinStrata.

Cloud-connected appliances are particularly popular with businesses that have branch offices because the technology allows data to be accessed quickly at a branch while being stored locally for corporate and disaster recovery purposes.

StorSimple uses encryption to protect data that’s sent over the Internet to cloud providers such as Microsoft’s Windows Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Rackspace. StorSimple addresses WAN bandwidth issues by using data reduction technologies such as compression and de-duplication to eliminate multiple copies of data.

StorSimple’s appliances have capacities ranging from 2TB to 20TB and a starting price of around $40,000. They are certified for use with VMware and Microsoft’s HyperV hypervisor.

StorSimple said its approach of integrating on-premises storage with cloud storage is well aligned to Microsoft’s vision of a Cloud OS, “a consistent platform spanning a customer’s data centre, a service provider’s data centre and Windows Azure.”

Customers faced with explosive growth in data are looking to the cloud to help them store, manage and archive that data. But, to be effective, cloud storage needs to integrate with IT’s current investments.

StorSimple’s approach helps customers seamlessly integrate on-premises storage with cloud storage through intelligent automation and management.