New Internet2 partnerships bolster campus research efforts

University research efforts will be aided by partnerships with major tech companies.

Sixteen partnerships among universities and technology companies will deliver discounted cloud services to those participating campuses who are members of Internet2, a high-powered, research-intensive network consortium.

The new initiative, known as Internet2 NET+, offers “above the network” services to Internet2 member organizations and aims to cut down on the costs often associated with high-powered research and networking needs.

Internet2 counts among its members institutions of higher education, companies, laboratories, and other education and research networks.…Read More

Microsoft sees future in Windows 8 amid iPad’s rise

Windows 8 could spawn a new breed of hybrid machines.

Microsoft is scrambling to preserve what’s left of its kingdom, and it’s pinning its hopes on a new version of Windows that could spawn a new breed of hybrid machines: part tablet computer, part laptop.

Since the company released its Windows operating system in 1985, most of the sequels have been variations on the same theme. Not that it mattered much. Regardless of the software’s quality, Microsoft managed to remain at the center of the personal computing universe.

The stakes are much different as Microsoft Corp. puts the finishing touches on Windows 8—perhaps the most important piece of software the Redmond, Wash., company has designed since co-founder Bill Gates won the contract to build the first operating system for IBM Corp.’s personal computer in the early 1980s.…Read More

Gates to testify in $1B lawsuit against Microsoft

Microsoft’s Bill Gates has arrived at federal court in Salt Lake City to testify in a billion-dollar antitrust lawsuit accusing the software maker of duping a competitor prior to its Windows 95 rollout, the Associated Press reports. Utah-based Novell Inc. says Microsoft tricked them into thinking its WordPerfect writing application would be included in the Windows 95 rollout. Novell says it was later forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2 billion loss. Microsoft lawyers will open their case Monday with Gates’ testimony…

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City sets deal With Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. will provide New York City with an array of computer services under a five-year agreement announced Oct. 20, a coup for the tech giant in its race against Google Inc. for municipal contracts, the Wall Street Journal reports. The agreement, unveiled at a City Hall news conference by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will consolidate all previous agency-by-agency service arrangements with Microsoft into a single citywide contract. The agreement is expected to save the city $50 million over five years. The previous arrangement “was complicated, cumbersome and needless to say not very cost effective,” said Mr. Bloomberg. “The economic downturn forces governments and companies to look and see whether what they’ve been doing is really necessary and to see if they can do those same things better or less.”

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Microsoft proposes public health approach to internet infections

Microsoft has proposed a bold new internet security model based on the principles used to preserve public health on a global basis, USA Today reports. Scott Charney, corporate vice president of trustworthy computing at Microsoft, unveiled the software giant’s Collective Defense proposal on Oct. 5 during his keynote speech at the Information Security Solutions Europe (ISSE) conference in Berlin. Charney urged government and tech industry officials to act collectively to protect citizens and critical infrastructure from growing cyber threats. He compared unprotected and infected computers to unvaccinated and contagious individuals. Both, he said, can pose a threat to society. “We need to improve and maintain the health of consumer devices connected to the internet in order to avoid greater societal risk,” says Charney. “To realize this vision, there are steps that can be taken by governments, the IT industry, internet access providers, users, and others to evaluate the health of consumer devices before granting them unfettered access to the internet or other critical resources.” The model would require each PC to, in effect, present a “health certificate” that outlines its security posture before it could connect to the internet. Enforcement would come from internet service providers or some other authority…

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Microsoft releases newest version of web browser

Microsoft has released the latest version of its web browser, saying that it would work at faster speeds, deliver better graphics, and be less obtrusive to users, Reuters reports. Internet Explorer 9, unlike previous versions and many competing browsers, pushes itself into the background. Available in a public beta, or trial version, in more than 30 languages, IE 9 promises to be faster, cleaner, and more secure and will support evolving web technologies, such HTML5, a standard for presenting content. It is also more tightly integrated with the Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which the company hopes will begin to eat away at the dominance of Google. In IE 9, the rendering of graphics and text has shifted to the graphics card from the CPU, accelerating speed and visuals. As a result, Microsoft said, web sites will look and perform more like applications that are installed directly on a PC. IE has been the market leader in web browsers for many years, but has been losing share to Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome. IE had 51 percent of the worldwide browser market last month, according to StatCounter, compared to Firefox’s 31 percent and Chrome’s 11 percent. Apple’s Safari and Opera Software’s browser had about 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively…

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Has Microsoft brought the future of computers to campus?

Students can scan interactive maps on Microsoft Surface.
Students can scan interactive maps on Microsoft Surface (photo courtesy of Microsoft).

A developer of educational software since the 1960s, Brown University Computer Science Professor Andries van Dam has seen education technology trends come and go, but he’s recently zeroed in on Microsoft’s interactive desktop computer as a model for the future computer.

van Dam, a co-founder of Brown’s Computer Science Department, specializes in what he calls post-WIMP computer interfaces, meaning machines that don’t use the traditional windows, icons, menus, and pointers that have come to define the modern computer.

After working on Microsoft’s Surface, a table-sized computer that recognizes hand gestures and objects and allows multiple people to use the product simultaneously, van Dam said the multimodal interface will prove valuable to higher-education researchers examining how their institutions—and the general population—can move away from the antiquated point-and-click computing experience.…Read More

Project lets users explore the cosmos from a PC

Terapixel enables seamless panning and zooming over the entire night sky.
Terapixel enables seamless panning and zooming over the entire night sky.

In a project that aims to pull a new generation of students toward science and technology, Microsoft and NASA have teamed up to create what they say is the largest seamless, spherical map ever made of the night sky, as well as a true-color, high-resolution map of Mars that users can explore on their computers in 3D.

The mission, Microsoft and NASA say, is to inspire today’s students and spark interest in the STEM fields, and it appears to be working: In studying photos of Mars taken by a NASA spacecraft, a group of seventh graders in California earlier this year discovered a previously unknown cave, as well as lava tubes that NASA scientists hadn’t noticed.

“What we’re trying to do at NASA is make our data more accessible,” said Chris Kemp, chief technology officer for NASA, in an interview with eCampus News, “and we’re doing that by connecting students in the classroom and at home to a user-friendly platform.”…Read More

Student programmers solve real-world challenges

Team Skeek from Thailand took home the grand prize at this years Imagine Cup.
Team Skeek from Thailand took home the grand prize at this years Imagine Cup.

An interface that allows hearing-impaired people to communicate with others using an augmented-reality environment took home the grand prize of $25,000 in the eighth annual Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in Poland, a prestigious international programming contest for high school and college students.

Team Skeek, a team of university students from Thailand, was responsible for the project, which also took first place in the software design category.

The winning project, eyeFeel, allows hearing-impaired people to communicate with others using an augmented-reality environment that combines speech and face recognition, converts it to English from text, and generates virtual conversation text balloons and sign language animation in real time.…Read More

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup aims to inspire creativity

As the world’s best soccer players battle for the World Cup in South Africa, an elite group of student engineers will gather in Poland from July 3-8 to crunch code for Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, reports the Seattle Times. The competition will feature students showing off software aimed at fighting global problems—such as reducing hunger and poverty, and improving education and child health. The Imagine Cup competition has drawn 325,000 students from 100 countries this year. Microsoft uses the competition to spark software creativity and to encourage students to use Microsoft software. “It’s about getting the next generation of innovators doing exciting things not only for the world, but doing great and amazing things on the Microsoft platform,” said Jon Perera, general manager with the Microsoft Education group. The competition began in April with national finals that took place online and in 68 events in different countries. The finalists from those competitions—about 400 high school, college, and graduate students representing 78 countries—are competing in Warsaw. As in the Olympics, student teams compete for titles in several categories, such as game design and digital media. Microsoft, which declined to say how much it spends on Imagine Cup, awards $240,000 in cash prizes and pays for student travel to the national and international final events. Cash prizes range from $2,000 to $25,000. “Our jaws drop on the floor” when they see the entries, Perera said. A University of Washington team designed a touch-screen diagramming program for blind students to collaborate with other students; two United Kingdom students built a Facebook app to help families separated by natural disaster, such as the earthquake in Haiti, find each other online…

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