# Thursday, 17 May 2018

Many Machine Learning solutions have the same steps in common. For example, you will need to retrieve data from one or more sources; you will want to split your data into training and testing subsets; and you will want to clean up your source data. I refer to these as "plumbing tasks” because they are common to so many projects; and spending time coding these tasks takes time away from working on your data and your solution.

Azure Machine Learning Studio can help.

Azure Machine Learning Studio or "ML Studio" is a graphical design tool for building machine learning solutions. It includes a design surface and a set of shapes to perform specific tasks.

To work with ML Studio, drag a shape onto the design surface, set some properties, and connect the inputs and/or outputs to other shapes to build the workflow of your solution. For example, you can drag an "Import Data" shape onto a form and set information about the data source and data type. This is "plumbing" code that you do not have to write.

MLStudio-01

If a shape for a desired task does not exist, there are shapes that allow you to write custom code. Supported languages are Python and R.

When you finish building and testing your solution, buttons at the bottom allow you to configure and deploy a web service, so that your model is accessible via a simple API. There is even a test page, allowing you to call this API from within your browser.

You can get a free trial at https://studio.azureml.net/

There are limits to the free version. You cannot configure the size and number of instances on which it will run, and you are limited to 10 GB storage. If you cannot work within these restrictions, you can sign up for an Azure account and pay for the resources you use. Current pricing is available at this link.

MLStudio-02

If you are looking for a quick and simple way to build a machine learning solution, Azure Machine Learning Studio may be the tool for you.

Thursday, 17 May 2018 23:58:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 15 May 2018

I have been working with North American universities since joining Microsoft almost 5 years ago.

The school year is winding down for most colleges, so I'd like to talk about ways that Microsoft is helping university students in North America.

Azure for Students

This offering provides $100 Azure cloud computing credit free to any student. It is a good opportunity to learn about cloud computing and test the services in Azure. You can sign up with an EDU email address at http://aka.ms/Azure4Students. No credit card is required.

  • $100 credit for 1 year
  • Access to all of Azure
  • No credit card required

Microsoft Student Partner

Microsoft Student Partners (or MSPs) serve as Microsoft advocates on campus, providing workshops and information about Microsoft technology. In exchange, they receive education from Microsoft and (sometimes) a few prizes. It is a good way to increase the networking, education, and employability of a student. You can learn more at https://imagine.microsoft.com/msp

Student Ambassador

This program is similar to the MSP program, but it is run by the Microsoft Recruiting organization.

Student Hackathons

Student hackathons have become very popular the last few years. At a hackathon, students get together on campus and build hardware and software projects in teams. Many hackathons offer prizes for the best projects and students from other universities are often welcome. Microsoft has sponsored a great many hackathons over the years, offering money, prizes, Azure credits, hardware, and mentors to answer student questions. I have personally been involved in dozens of hackathons the last 3 years.

Imagine Cup

Imagine Cup is an international competition for teams of students who build amazing projects and want to turn them into a business. The top teams in each participating country are invited to the national finals for a chance to pitch their projects to a panel of judges, who select a few teams to advance to the International Finals. The top prize for this competition is $100,000 US and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. You can learn more about Imagine Cup at https://imagine.microsoft.com/Compete

DataFests

Recently, I have been involved in a few DataFests. A DataFest is a competition on campus in which students are provided a set of data they have not yet seen; and asked to provide insights into the data. Students are free to use any tools they want and many present summaries, visualizations, and predictive analyses about the data. For the 3 DataFests in which I was involved (two at the University of Toronto and one at Duke University), Microsoft provided funds for food, free Azure credits, a workshop to show how to use MS's data science tools, and mentors to answer student questions.

Internships

Microsoft offers opportunities for university students to intern with the company. Most take place in Redmond in the summer. This is a great chance to work with a product team, learn new skills, and enhance your resume. These internships are very competitive, so students are encouraged to apply early in the school year. You can learn more and apply for internships at https://careers.microsoft.com/us/en/students-and-graduates

Academic CSE Team

This is the team for which I have been working this past year. We have coordinated and executed many of Microsoft's programs around university education. My responsibilities have included talking with professors, TAs, and students about how to incorporate Azure into their classes, meeting with MSP, and mentoring at hackathons and DataFests.

And So...

Microsoft is committed to helping students learn about software and computer science. The above list is some of the opportunities for students provided by Microsoft. Microsoft’s new fiscal year begins in a few weeks and there is not guarantee these programs will remain the same next year. In fact it’s likely there will be some changes.I don't know what programs will be offered going forward, but I expect a continuing strong commitment from my employer.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018 14:54:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 14 May 2018
Monday, 14 May 2018 09:33:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 13 May 2018

Freddy Cole at the Jazz ShowcaseFreddy Cole looked every bit of his 83 years as he was helped onto the stage last night at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago's Printer's Row.

Until he sat at the piano. At that point he was transformed. For an hour and a half, he showed a strength and grace that belied his 8 decades. His command of piano and vocals was a strong as a man half his age.

He launched from one song to the next, never taking a break to chat with the audience until the final few minutes.

Although Cole can claim 3 Grammy nominations, he will always be remembered as the younger brother of legendary singer Nat "King" Cole. But he does not shun that comparison, as his set included three of Nat's songs (Paper Moon, L-O-V-E, and A Blossom Fell) and he recently released an album of songs made famous by his brother. Close your eyes and the richness of Freddy's voice is reminiscent of his late brother's talents.

Cole stuck mostly to ballads, but pleased the local crowd near the end of his set with a rendition of Ray Price's swinging "On the South Side of Chicago", which brought an ovation from his hometown.

His piano and vocals were accompanied by drums, upright bass, and guitar. Of course, the attention was mostly on Cole, but his talented Adam Moezinia took many solos. Bassist Elias Bailey stayed in the background until the last few songs when he became more and more bold with his solos and complex playing.

Freddy and DavidIn the end, Freddy Cole closed the set with a song called "Goodbye", accepted a standing ovation, and was helped from the stage, again transformed into a fragile old man. Until the night's second set.

Sunday, 13 May 2018 14:49:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 12 May 2018

Day 2 of Microsoft's annual Build conference began with a keynote presentation hosted by Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore. This was much shorter than the Day 1 keynote and focused on Microsoft 365. The presentation was split into the following "chapters":  

  • Windows  
  • Windows Developers  
  • Office Development  
  • Microsoft Graph

For me, the most interesting topic was Adaptive Cards - a technology that allows you to add functionality to Office Applications, Microsoft Teams, or SharePoint. Organizations can create Cards that access user and group data in Microsoft Graph and share data across applications.

Many of the features discussed in the keynote are available by joining the Insiders Program and using early releases of Windows and Office. Information on the Insiders Program is here.

You can watch the full keynote below or click this link.

Below are my raw notes as I watched.

Windows
    Timeline
    Apps save data to Graph (in cloud)
    Data available across devices
   
    Shipping in-box PC app
        Data from phone available on PC
        e.g., read and reply text from PC
        Sets (available in Windows insider build)
            Office / Graph / Web working together
           
   
Windows Developers
    Fluent Design System
    Decoupling parts of Windows to make it easier to add to apps
    UWP XAML Islands
        All Windows Application can access Fluent Design System
        No threading across processes
    Some controls designed for Win10
    <WPF:WebView />
         Edge-based
        Available in WPF app
    Microsoft is using ML to improve products
        e.g., Grammar checking in Word
    Windows UI Library (WinUI)
        available via NuGet
    .NET Core 3 preview available later this year
    MSIX
        Application Containers
        Simpler deployment
    Android Emulator compatible with Hyper-V
    Notepad now supports Linux line feeds
    Change to MS Store revenue sharing
        Consumer apps: Increase dev revenue share to 85%
        95% if your campaign drives user to store (via web site or app)
   
Office Development
    Deployment
        Deploy custom functions to all users in your organization
        Deployment centralized
    Adaptive cards
        Post / update GitHub comments and issues from Outlook
        Payments from Outlook email message
        Build Your own cards at adaptivecard.io
    Customization to MS Teams
        Tab Extension
        Same as SharePoint extension
     Sample app: Click in teams to launch PowerBI report
    Build Adaptive Card for MS Teams
    MS Store has "Teams" section
        
Microsoft Graph
    Microsoft Graph Powers Microsoft 365
     Users sign into app with Microsoft Graph identity
    Get user data across apps: Provide personalized experience
    Extend Graph group or user schema: Add new properties
    Microsoft Graph UWP Controls available today
        Open Source
        https://aka.ms/windowstoolkit

Saturday, 12 May 2018 04:36:38 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, 11 May 2018

Microsoft held its annual Build conference this week in Seattle. Years ago, these large developer conferences were a chance for Microsoft to reveal everything they had been working on for the past year. In recent years, the company has been much more open, allowing users and customers to see products as they develop. But that did not mean that Microsoft did not have some big announcements this year.

The Day 1 keynote was hosted by CEO Satya Nadella and CVP Scott Guthrie and focused on developer tools and cloud computing. Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, and the Visual Studio ecosystem took center stage.

For me, the most interesting announcements were Azure Dev Spaces, Azure Cognitive Search, Azure Databricks, Kubernetes as a Service, and DevOps Projects.

Of course, the most exciting part came 3 minutes into the keynote, when they announced that the 2 youngest Build attendees were the 10- and 12-year-old daughters of my friends Tibi and Nicoleta!

You can watch the full keynote below or click this link.

Below are the notes I took during the keynote.


3 core pillars
     Privacy
        Privacy is a Human right
     Platforms
         Azure
        Microsoft 365

Key Technologies
    Ubiquitous computing
        Distributed, event-driven, and serverless
         Azure:
            50+ regions
            70+ certifications
            Open Sourcing Azure IoT Edge
    Artificial Intelligence
        Project Kinect for Azure
            Ultra-wide field of view
   
    Multi-Device, Multi-Sense experience
         near field, far field
        mixed reality
        Microsoft 365
        Cortana
        Cortana + Alexa integration
       
Microsoft Remote Assist
    Video calling
    Image sharing
     Mixed reality
    Integration with MS Teams
Microsoft Layout
     Share and edit designs in real time
    Mixed Reality
   
Accessibility

Azure areas
    Dev Tools + DevOps
    Containers + Serverless
    Internet of Things
    Data
    Artificial Intelligence
   
Dev Tools + DevOps
    Visual Studio Live Share
         Works across PC and Mac
        Works across VS and VS Code
        Watch co-workers code, keyboard, mouse, and debugging context
        Work independently or together
        Secure connection
        Free!
    Open Source
        Microsoft is the single largest contributor to GitHub
        Launching today: Text API (Linting and Code analysis)
        App Center + GitHub integration
            Continuous integration app from within GitHub
            Testing on physical mobile devices hosted in Azure
    DevOps
        Branch from Kanban board tasks.
        Azure Portal: DevOps Projects
            CI/CD pipeline
             Integrated with VSTS project
            Deploy to App Services or Kubernetes
            Any language or platform

Containers + Serverless
    Kubernetes as a Service
        View health of each container
        Logging available
            Query, show charts
    Azure Dev Spaces
        Run and debug in a private space in Azure
    Azure Event Grid
        Serverless composition
        Workflow executed
       
Internet of Things
    IoT Edge
    VS Code project consisting of containers
    Containers running on local device
    Azure Function running on local device

Data
    Cosmos DB
        New pricing options
        Global Scale
        Multi-Master Write Support (much faster writes: trillions of reads & writes per second)
        Reduced Write Conflicts
        Graphical interface in Azure Portal: Deploy data globally

Artificial Intelligence
    Azure Cognitive Search
        Index and analyze data in Azure
    Azure Databricks
         Spark-based analytics

Friday, 11 May 2018 02:54:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 09 May 2018

$image[5][6].png

IMG_0442We stood in San Francisco's Creativity Museum, waiting for the announcement of the top six teams at the Imagine Cup US Finals. Twelve teams from universities across the country had qualified for the US Finals, earning a trip to California and a chance to pitch and demonstrate their software, hardware, and business ideas to a panel of judges. Coding, planning, pitching, and judging were complete on this warm California evening and all that remained was the award announcements. The top six teams would win cash prizes up to $10,000 and a chance to compete in the International Imagine Cup Finals held in Redmond, WA in July.

IMG_0425One by one, the finalists heard their names called and were called to the stage to accept their awards. The winners jumped with joy and hugged one another when they were called. It was a reward for months of planning and hard work.

IMG_0434I was able to be a part of this event for the first time this year, serving on the selection committee, advising as a team mentor, and assisting the judges during and after the presentations. I was impressed by the projects, which showed remarkable creativity; I was impressed by the presentations, which were far more polished than anything I could have done at their age; I was impressed by the judges and their commitment doing to a thorough evaluation and providing constructive feedback; and I was impressed by the team that pulled together this amazing event, involving hundreds of students, professors, mentors, judges, contractors, and volunteers.

IMG_0424Students elected to solve real world problems, including

  • Using cameras and artificial intelligence to assist wheelchair-bound people;
  • A drone that captures and analyzes images to detect potential forest fires;
  • A HoloLens app to assist with remote, real-time training;
  • Using Facial Recognition AI to reunite separated refugee families

IMG_0444Every student with whom I spoke told me that Imagine Cup was a great experience and I have to agree. I am looking forward to the Canadian Imagine Cup Finals in Vancouver, BC later this month!

 

IMG_0422

IMG_0423

Wednesday, 09 May 2018 11:33:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 08 May 2018

IMG_0394The DataFest concept was created back in 2011 by the American Statistical Association. Students are provided a large data set and are given 2 full days to report on some useful insights and/or visualizations about the data.

IMG_0388I attended the ASA DataFest at the University of Toronto May 1-2. The event was organized by UT Professor Nathan Taback, who served as host.

The students – all from U of T - worked in teams of 2-4 and presented their findings on the evening of the second day. This was a judged competition with prizes for the top 4 teams.

Students had no knowledge of the data set before it was made available to them when they showed up at the venue. Data was provided by the Indeed job search engine and included information on job postings in the United States, Canada, and Germany.

IMG_0406 Following Dr. Taback's opening remarks, I delivered a presentation on Data Science tools in Azure, including demos of Machine Learning Studio and Azure Notebooks. Over half the teams ended up using these tools in their analysis.

IMG_0407In addition to the opening ceremonies, I served as a mentor during the DataFest and a judge at the end. Several professors and students donated their time as mentors during the event and judges included professors and industry professionals. I also recruited local MVPs Atley Hunter and Vivek Patel, along with user group leader Ashraf Ghonaim to serve as mentors and/or judges.

Almost 200 students attended, and 19 teams presented their findings on Day 2.

IMG_0414The winning team used Azure ML Studio to split users into low, medium, and high salary ranges and determine the factors required to move from one level to the next level above.

Microsoft donated prizes and money for food to the event (along with my time) and Azure credits for the students to use.

Tuesday, 08 May 2018 12:01:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 07 May 2018
Monday, 07 May 2018 11:18:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 06 May 2018

5/6
Today I am grateful for:
-My first time attending and mentoring at an Imagine Cup Finals event
-A post-event party at the Creativity Museum in San Francisco last night

5/5
Today I am grateful to meet new people in far-away cities.

5/4
Today I am grateful to play ping pong for the first time in years.

5/3
Today I am grateful for a successful DataFest at the University of Toronto and that I was asked to present the awards at the end.

5/2
Today I am grateful for all the students who signed up for an Azure account after my presentation yesterday.

5/1
Today I am grateful for nice weather in Ontario yesterday.

4/30
Today I am grateful to make it safely to Waterloo, ON yesterday.

4/29
Today I am grateful for a visit to the Field Museum yesterday with Jeff and Lynn.

4/28
Today I am grateful to spend the week working with smart engineers to build a cool app for the Seattle Storm WNBA team.

4/27
Today I am grateful to see Infinity War last night.

4/26
Today I am grateful for a team dinner last night at the Hard Rock Café.

4/25
Today I am grateful for a visit to the Museum of Pop Culture last night in Seattle.

4/24
Today I am grateful to those who had a kind word for me yesterday when I was feeling down.

4/23
Today I am grateful for my new computer

4/22
Today I am grateful to Michael and his team for 10 years of hard work to host a consistently excellent Kalamazoo X conference.

4/21
Today I am grateful to wake up to this view.
Image may contain: sky, cloud, skyscraper, tree and outdoor

4/20
Today I am grateful to deliver my final lecture of the UIUC academic year.

4/19
Today I am grateful to attend an OpenHack event in the Willis Tower and learn about IoT.

4/18
Today I am grateful for a Polsky Center mentor reception at The Kitchen in River North last night.

4/17
Today I am grateful to finish my taxes on time.

4/16
Today I am grateful to work from home on a bad weather day.

4/15
Today I am grateful for:
-My first visit to the Museum of Broadcast Communications and the SNL exhibit
-An excellent concert by the Average White Band last night in Hyde Park

4/13
Today I am grateful to return home safely after a week on the road.

4/12
Today I am grateful to see a Clippers - Lakers game at the Staples Center last night.

4/11
Today I am grateful for my first visit to the University of Southern California yesterday.

4/10
Today I am grateful for my first Azure University Tour stop in Austin, TX.

4/9
Today I am grateful for dinner and a Durham Bulls game yesterday with Christine and Cosby last night.

4/8
Today I am grateful for
-an exciting overtime Hurricanes-Lightning hockey game last night
-my first time at PNC Arena.

4/7
Today I am grateful for my first visit to Durham, NC.

4/6
Today I am grateful for my first bike ride of the year.

4/5
Today I am grateful I was able to find some badly-needed Advil in my unpacked boxes yesterday morning.

4/4
Today I am grateful for Superdawg with Tim last night

4/3
Today I am grateful for:
-Lunch with Jimmy yesterday
-Attending the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four last night

4/2
Today I am grateful for Yelp, which helps me find a good meal in an unfamiliar city.

Sunday, 06 May 2018 16:55:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)