# Thursday, 28 April 2016

Microsoft Cognitive Services uses Machine Learning to recognize text within pictures and exposes this functionality via a RESTful Web Service.

GCast 14: Cognitive Services - Thumbnail Generation

Thursday, 28 April 2016 12:12:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 25 April 2016
Monday, 25 April 2016 11:51:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Bloody Crown of Conan is the second volume in Del Rey's 3-volume set of the complete Conan stories by Robert Howard. While volume 1: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian included mostly short stories, this book contains 3 longer works: The People of the Black Circle; The Hour of the Dragon; A Witch Shall Be Born.

BloodyCrownOfConan The Hour of the Dragon is a full novel that takes Conan across many countries of the Hyborian world. It is set in a time when Conan has risen to be king of Aquilonia. Conan's enemies resurrect a dead spirit to enchant the king and steal his throne. Conan's quest to regain the crown leads him across much of the known world, where he fights numerous bottles and raises an army to retake Aquilonia. The action and the epic sweep of this story make it one of Howard's best and enhances this collection.

The other 2 novellas, while not as long or involved as The Hour of the Dragon are more complex than most of Howard's short stories.  By this point in his career, Howard seems to have hit his stride. The action flows freely, if violently, and we can enjoy the adventures of Conan who uses his nearly superhuman strength and skills to overcome nearly impossible odds.

The collection ends with a few uninteresting first drafts of Howard's unpublished Conan stories, followed by a fascinating essay analyzing the themes of the Conan series and the evolution of the character.

For escapism and adventure, it is difficult to beat these stories.

Saturday, 23 April 2016 16:28:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, 22 April 2016
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MadHacks is an annual weekend hackathon hosted at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI. The organizers decided to move the hackathon from the spring to the fall, which left a gap of nearly 18 months between events. To maintain interest, they decided to host a smaller, 1-day hackathon on April 16. The event was billed as MadHacks Spring Fever.

85 students formed teams and submitted 18 projects.

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MadHacks organizers

I served as a mentor and a judge at this hackathon.

I also delivered a 1-hour presentation on Microsoft Cognitive Services.

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Presentation on Microsoft Cognitive Services

4 judges evaluated all the submitted projects and chose the top 3. The quality of the projects made this difficult and we had to ask several of the teams to show their project again in order to make a selection.

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The judges

Many of the projects were Microsoft branded, such as Xbox games, Azure books, and Microsoft sleeping bags.

The winning projects were:

  1. UniTravel: A mobile application that mapped a route to a destination and calculated not only the time and distance, but also the estimated cost using various transportation options.
  2. Chemical Reactor: A web app that visualized atomic motion and formed new molecules if atoms collided with a force that exceeded the enthalpy required to bond.
  3. Cellular Automata Plant: A web app that visualizes the growth of plant cells over time in a given environment.

 

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The UniTravel team
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The Chemical Reactor team

The event was organized by University of Wisconsin Microsoft Student Partner Katie Anderson.

The projects created were particularly impressive, given that they were all created in 12 hours or less.

A much larger hackathon is planned at UW-Madison in the fall semester.

Friday, 22 April 2016 13:46:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 21 April 2016

Microsoft Cognitive Services uses Machine Learning to recognize text within pictures and exposes this functionality via a RESTful Web Service.

Cognitive Services - Optical Character Recognition

Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:52:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 20 April 2016

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The idea for the Global Azure Boot Camp began in 2013. Community developers from all over the world would hold a workshop in different cities on the same day. In fact, I organized and delivered a Boot Camp in the Detroit area that year, before I joined Microsoft.

On Saturday April 18, the 4th annual Global Azure Boot Camp took place in 161 cities around the world. While some cities focused on presentations and others on hands-on labs, all events provided education on Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.

Microsoft Regional Director Eric Boyd and Responsive X organized an event in Addison, IL – just outside of Chicago. Based on feedback, he received from attendees last year, Eric decided to reduce the length of the event to a half day, instead of a full day. The event was free to the public.

Eric kicked off the morning with an overview of Azure.

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Next, a representative from Baracuda Networks gave a presentation on Azure security.

I delivered a session on App Services, covering Web Apps, Mobile Apps, Logic Apps, and API Apps.

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The only downside to the Saturday event was the number of people who registered and did not attend – over 50%. This was almost certainly due to the fact that the Chicago weather that morning was the nicest it had been in a long time. Still, over 60 people showed up to learn about Azure and cloud computing.

Response from the audience was overwhelmingly positive. Many people stayed after to ask questions about Azure and about BizSpark.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016 14:37:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 18 April 2016
Monday, 18 April 2016 11:23:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 14 April 2016

Learn how to use the Microsoft Cognitive Services Face API to recognize faces and the properties of faces within image. This API is based on Machine Learning.

Cognitive Services - Face API

Thursday, 14 April 2016 21:26:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 11 April 2016
Monday, 11 April 2016 10:16:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 09 April 2016

I have a lot going on the next few months. Here is what is confirmed:

On April 9 (today), I will deliver the opening keynote at EnvisionDo: Tech in 2016 at the University of Chicago.

On April 15, I will talk about Azure App Services at the Global Azure Boot Camp in Addison, IL.

Later that same day, I will mentor student hackers at the Spring MadHacks hackathon in Madison, WI.

On Tuesday, April 26, I will present "Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services" at Geekfest in Chicago.

From April 27-29, I will mentor high school students at the FIRST Robotics competition in St. Louis, MO

On Saturday, April 30, Brian Lewis and I will deliver the opening keynote at the Chicago Code Camp in Chicago.

On May 26 and 27, I will deliver 2 presentations: “Open Source Technologies in Microsoft Azure” and “Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services” at IT Camp in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

On June 4, I will be one of the hosts of MVP Open Days in Downers Grove, IL.

On June 9, I will present “Building Powerful Enterprise Apps with Angular 2 and Typescript" at Open Source North in Minneapolis, MN.

On June 15, Shawn Wildermuth will interview me for his “Hello World” podcast in Chicago, IL.

On August 11, I will present "Building a TV show with Angular, Bootstrap, and Web Services" at MidwestJS in Minneapolis, MN.

I am waiting to confirm a few others. Watch this space.

Saturday, 09 April 2016 10:56:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, 08 April 2016

Wolfgang - 220x123 Last year, Security expert Wolfgang Goerlich began recording short videos from the front seat of his car. Each video lasted on only a few minutes and each covered a different topic of IT Security and/or infrastructure.

Now, you can watch many of these videos on Channel 9. This provides not only a different audience for Mr. Goerlich, but gives viewers the ability to subscribe to a video feed and to download different resolutions of the each video and even an audio-only track.

You can find these videos at https://channel9.msdn.com/blogs/stuck-in-traffic.

Friday, 08 April 2016 08:06:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 07 April 2016

Microsoft Cognitive Services (formerly Project Oxford) provides a set of APIs for analyzing images, video, speech, and language. Learn how to get started and start developing against these APIs..

Thursday, 07 April 2016 12:48:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 06 April 2016

Windows Server 2016 will contain support for Containers.

Containers are a method of software virtualization, similar Virtual Machines (VMs). As with Virtual Machines, you can create multiple containers on a single physical machine; and this allows you more flexibility, portability, and efficient use of hardware.

Unlike Virtual Machines, each container does not have to run an entire operating system. Instead, each shares a common kernel operating system.

Because of this, Containers tend to be is much lighter than VMs. One can create folders and files and install applications in a container and those applications will be isolated from other containers - even those on the same machine.

Here are some differences between Containers and Virtual Machines

  • At its lowest level, a Virtual Machine interacts with a virtualized hardware layer, while a Container interacts with an Operating System kernel.
  • A container tends to be much smaller than a Virtual Machine (mostly because it does not require an Operating System in the container itself).
  • The operating system of a container must be the same as the operating system of the computer on which it is hosted (although the host computer can be a VM). The operating system of a VM can be different from that of the machine on which it is hosted.
  • It usually takes less effort to create and configure a container than a VM (again, no operating system to install on a container)
  • Containers start up and shut down much faster than VMs. This makes them ideal for either scaling out new instances. Reboots  are also much faster, of course.

As you can see, most of the differences between Containers and VMs are advantages of Containers. Now that Windows will support both, I expect the popularity of Containers to increase dramatically.
Windows Server 2016 will contain support for Containers.

Containers are a method of software virtualization, similar Virtual Machines (VMs). As with Virtual Machines, you can create multiple containers on a single physical machine; and this allows you more flexibility, portability, and efficient use of hardware.

  • Unlike Virtual Machines, each container does not have to run an entire operating system. Instead, each shares a common kernel operating system.
  • Because of this, Containers tend to be is much lighter than VMs. One can create folders and files and install applications in a container and those applications will be isolated from other containers - even those on the same machine.
  • Here are some differences between Containers and Virtual Machines
  • At its lowest level, a Virtual Machine interacts with a virtualized hardware layer, while a Container interacts with an Operating System kernel.
  • A container tends to be much smaller than a Virtual Machine (mostly because it does not require an Operating System).
  • The operating system of a container must be the same as the operating system of the computer on which it is hosted (although the host computer can be a VM). The operating system of a VM can be different from that of the machine on which it is hosted.
  • It takes much less effort to create and configure a container than a VM (again, no operating system to install)
  • Containers start up and shut down much faster than VMs. This makes them ideal for either scaling out new instances.

As you can see, most of the differences between Containers and VMs are advantages of Containers. Now that Windows will support both, I expect the popularity of Containers to increase dramatically.

Wednesday, 06 April 2016 14:27:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 05 April 2016

Growing up, I was always aware of Conan the Barbarian. I knew of the comics but it was not a title I read regularly; I saw the Robert Howard books in the bookstore, but I passed over them for the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs; I watched the Schwarznegger movie but did not watch it twice.

Recently, I decided to read the Conan source material. Del Ray has gathered together all of Howard's Conan stories into a 3-volume set: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian; The Bloody Crown of Conan; and The Conquering Sword of Conan.

Robert Howard wrote dozens of stories of the iconic barbarian. These were originally published in pulp magazines of the 1940s, such as "Weird Tales".

The stories are presented in the order they were written, which matches neither their publication order nor the chronological order of Conan's "life". There is very little continuity to the stories. Conan wanders the world, moving from adventure to adventure. If we order them chronologically, we see Conan as first a lone thief, then a mercenary and a pirate, a warlord, and finally king of the empire he conquers.

Unlike many fantasy characters, Conan exists on our world, but lived during the fictional Hyborian Age, which took place after the destruction of Atlantis, but before most of recorded history. Many of the places to which Conan travels are places that still exist today with different names (Iranistan for Iran, Afghulistan for Afghanistan, Kambulja for Cambodia, and Vendhya for India,Pakistan & Bangladesh). Magicians, gods, demons, and giant deadly creatures were common in these lands during the Hyborian Age.

It is a world marked by wars and brutality, in which wars are common. There are civilizations, but a common theme of these stories contrasts the low morals of "civilized" aristocrats with Conan's own moral code.

Conan is a brutal killer; but he has a strong moral code. In one story, he agrees to kill the master of a beautiful enslaved woman in return for her promise of sex. After fulfilling his end of the bargain, the woman flees to avoid Conan. He finds her (and rescues her from a new threat) but does not hold her to the bargain.

Although Conan uses his violence to further agenda, he has his own code of honor and looks down on those who condone slavery or torture for pleasure.

When reading these stories, one has to deal with stereotypes and imagery that strike many of us as insensitive today. Women serve mostly as props in Howard's stories - scantily-clad spoils of battle who exist to be rescued by Conan - or as hyper sexualized amazons. The black men in these stories are often savage and superstitious; and we hear descriptions of cunning hooked-nose men in turbans. If you can accept these stories are a product of an earlier century, you can enjoy them more.

This volume concludes with some incomplete stories. It's fine to skip these but I read them for completeness.

I enjoyed my journey into the stories of Conan. The action is abundant (if often violent); and Howard provides drama within the confines of stories that typically have a  short and simple plot.

Tuesday, 05 April 2016 14:40:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 04 April 2016
Monday, 04 April 2016 14:29:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 03 April 2016

4/3
Today I am grateful that I now have cable TV in my apartment for the first time since moving to Chicago.

4/2
Today I am grateful for breakfast with Tim yesterday.

4/1
Today I am grateful to co-present with my son Tim at Indiana University last night.

3/31
Today I am grateful to attend The McDonald's High School All-American basketball games for the first time.

3/30
Today I am grateful for my first visit to the historic Harold Washington Library.

3/29
Today I am grateful that my son was offered a summer internship yesterday.

3/28
Today I am grateful for Easter dinner with family.

3/27
Today I am grateful for:
-An evening seeing Trevor Noah at the Chicago Theatre
-New clothes and Christina for helping me choose them.

3/26
Today I am grateful for: -Dinner with Dave and Bobbi. -Drinks with Gary and Patty

3/25
Today I am grateful for my new (to me) espresso machine and for the 2 cappuccinos I've had so far this morning.

3/24
Today I am grateful that my TSA Pre-Check status was approved.

3/23
Today I am grateful I was finally able to restore my personal email account yesterday.

3/20
Today I am grateful to see "Love and Information" at the Patinkin Theatre yesterday - my first time seeing live theater in years.

3/19
Today I am grateful for a day in St. Louis, with Nick, Darlene, Kevin, and Henry.

3/18
Today I am grateful for: -a chance to speak at Indy Software Artisans for the first time in almost 2 years. -a visit to my so Nick's home.

3/17
Today I am grateful I was able to unpack a bunch of boxes yesterday and remove some clutter from my life.

3/16
Today I am grateful for an amazing view of last night's lightning storm.

3/15
Today I am grateful for a good afternoon at the gym yesterday.

3/14
Today I am grateful for another Big10 Championship! #GoGreen

3/13
Today I am grateful to attend the St. Patrick's Day parade yesterday in downtown Chicago.

3/12
Today I am grateful for coffee with Tom yesterday.

3/10
Today I am grateful for a sushi dinner, and a walk around the South Loop on a balmy evening.

3/9
Today I am grateful for a surprise gift from my sons.

3/8
Today I am grateful for good dental insurance.

3/7
Today I am grateful for: -A long walk through the city yesterday -Relaxing in this apartment's Jacuzzi last night for the first time.

Sunday, 03 April 2016 14:00:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 02 April 2016

At the beginning of this semester, Microsoft hired a new Student Partner at Indiana University. A Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) is a college student responsible for helping promote the Microsoft platform on campus. Part of that responsibility involves hosting technical events.

This new MSP invited me to campus to co-present with him. He reserved a room, ordered pizza, invited students, and brought some giveaways. We decided to present on Project Oxford - a set of web services that use machine learning to analyze images, videos, and voice. A day before the presentation, Project Oxford was renamed to Microsoft Cognitive Services, so I had to rush to update my slides and re-test all my demos.

The event was a success. Students studying computer science and related fields attended, students who were curious about the technology attended, and one Informatics professor attended.

For me, it was a rewarding experience - in part because it was a chance to connect with students and to share a cool technology that Microsoft is offering;

But more importantly, I was excited to work with the new Indiana University MSP - Tim Giard.

Tim is my son and a junior majoring in Informatics at IU. This was our first chance to work together professionally and it was one of the highlights of my year.

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Saturday, 02 April 2016 14:59:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)