If you're a student or an educator, you shouldn't have to pay for Microsoft software. It's that simple - if you're a student, you're probably cash strapped. If you're an educator, you're helping people build a better future. Trying to make money off students and educators is, IMHO, not right.

Following my (very brief) presentation on accessing Microsoft software at 'Mix On Campus', I thought it'd be a good idea to do a blog post on all the different ways we're making sure TAFEs and Uni's can get their hands on the software that they want / need (the list is specific to Australia only in some regards):

 1) MSDNAA

Technically speaking, MSDNAA is not free - universities / TAFEs have to pay a subscription fee. But the subscriptions are supplied at what is essentially cost price, and goes towards paying for call centres and supporting infrastructure (MSDNAA subscriptions are not designed to drive revenue). So if your faculty is paying the $500 a year for a new online subscription, and they have 500 students registered in their courses over that period, it works out to be $1 per student. Each student enrolled in that faculty can then download several thousand dollars of software onto their own home machine (university labs can also be kitted out with this software). See your TAFE / university IT administrator for more. To find out if your school has an MSDNAA subscription, click here.

2) Express Editions

Hobby developers can download free express editions of SQL Server, VS08 and XNA Games Studio from here. Express Editions are reduced feature versions of the full versions

3) Imagine Cup

Imagine CUp is a technology competition for students where we challenge you to use your skills to help change the world. If you enter, your efforts are rewarded with free downloads of Microsoft tools, including Expression web design products and Visual Studio. You can register for Imagine Cup here, and get news on how Imagine Cup works in Australia from here.

4) Become a Microsoft Student Partner

Microsoft Student Partners act as our eyes and ears on campus. They are high calibre stduents who are rewarded for their hard work by receiving free trips to Tech.Ed and a whole swag of free product. They also get a free MSDN subscription, which gives access to some really good developer tools including Visual Studio Pro 2008, SQL Server, Windows Sevrer and more.

Being an MSP also helps you add some great firepower to your resume, and it is a great learning experience. If you would like to be an MSP and get that MSDN subscription, and you think you have what it takes, I am currently soliciting applications to be an MSP in 2008, so check the website for application details.

5) Read the blog

This is not just a shameless plug for this blog :D 

If you check back regularly, we run competitions and giveaways of free software (and other stuff).

There's also a big announcement in the pipeline that will make it much easier for students to get free Microsoft software. I'm not at liberty to say what that news is yet, but when I'm allowed to make a public announcement of this news, this blog will be the first place you'll hear about it. I love how mysterious I'm being right now.

6) Faculty Connection

If you are a lecturer teaching MS technologies, take 5 minutes of your time to have a look at Faculty Connection (especially make sure you check out the curriculum repository). Faculty Connection is there to ensure teachers have all the content they need to teach our technologies in universities, including access to free software. You need to register for the site to access the free software.

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In other news, the final Mix On Campus event went down at UTS last Friday. Sydney was, in my humble opinion, the best, but this was a very interesting exercise in what makes a good event. Many thanks to all who turned up and who made the event much cooler - with the learnings from this year, next year will hopefully be doubly good :D