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  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    So, do you know how big Visual Studio is?



    Well there is Visual Studio IDE, then there is Team Foundation Server and Office integration and… well you get the picture.



    Yes its a vast set of products which as academics and students you get for FREE via DreamSpark

    Continuous Improvement

    Additionally we have now adopted a continuous delivery schedule of both the Visual Studio IDE and Team Foundation Server to continuous delivery with a 3 monthly cadence. Yes, that means that you should now be upgrading your Team Foundation Server every Quarter and that your developers should be updating their client. Before you all shout yes we know this is issue for managed desktop estates so… You know what… they don’t have to upgrade huge services packs in addition to windows updates, VS updates are now a “patch” that just updates your install.

    With the move to continuous improvement and service delivery comes many problems that need solving. Like any continuous service improvement programme these may create new problem but rather than fix them, and like real world examples these raise a number of important learning issues which are vital for the modern IT professional and developer to understand and work out benefits vs risks.

    For example students should be continually asking the following questions in relations to their exercises and assignments.

    1. How to deploy with minimal production impact?
    2. How to update the database without hours of down time?
    3. How to update different components of our application on different cadences?
    4. What if I update one and not the other?

    If you solve these problems not only will you be able to deliver more frequently, but what you will deliver will be in smaller chucks and therefore at a significantly lower risk. Not only that, in solving your deployment problems and essentially continuously practicing them you minimise the risk of delivering to production any significant issues or problems. The result is happy consumers…

    So what has Microsoft doing about this

    Just 3 months after RTM and barely 6 weeks after the Visual Studio 2012 launch the first quarterly update, Visual Studio 2012 Update 1, became available and planning for Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 started.With the launch of Visual Studio Team Foundation Service the Team Foundation Server team, arguably responsible for the most complex component of Visual Studio are delivering even more frequently.

    The summary is:

    • Team Foundation Service updates every 3 weeks
    • Visual Studio Client updates quarterly

    They are effectively on a 3 week Sprint cycle and are delivering new features to production every three weeks as well as hotfixes every Monday if needed. So for more keep an eye on Brian Harry Blog site see

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    A quick review of 2012..


    To celebrate the last year Microsoft has put together a video to highlight the 12 biggest moments of 2012.

    2012 has been a pretty epic year in the UK with the Royal Jubilee, Royal Wedding and people everywhere sharing two weeks of inspiration during the London Olympics.

    2012 has been a momentous year at Microsoft, which experienced its biggest launch year in its history. The company introduced the world to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, announced its family of Surface PCs, showcased a new version of Microsoft Office, and released Halo 4. Ensuring we keep up a steady rhythm of advancements and innovation across our most popular products for individuals and businesses.

    So a huge thanks for all the support in 2012.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to seeing you all in 2013.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Season Greetings.. Win a Windows 8 Slate for Christmas and training resources for Jan 2013



    All App Builders registered in the Windows Store as a UK developer with an App in the Windows Store by 24 December have an amazing opportunity to win some great prizes. And this isn't just for apps from now - it's all Apps, including ones already in store. For every day until 24 December CreativeBloq will draw out an app that is in store from their list of registered participants Register Here

    Free training and resources for developers

    Join a UK community


    Getting Started with a Windows 8 app
    Find all the resources you need to start creating a great Windows 8 app.



    Free Developer Tools
    Templates. Kits. Tools. Everything you need to build your app.

    Join a UK community


    Windows Azure Poster
    This poster introduces Windows Azure for developers and summarises the benefits, such as global coverage and extensive language support.



    App Promotion Opportunity
    Does your app have a unique feature? A beautiful design? Email us with a description of the app, including what it does, your background and a link to the app store.

    Upcoming Events for Windows and Azure in 2013

    Windows Azure


    Online, Throughout January and February - Six Steps to Windows Azure - Join us for our Six Steps to Windows Azure programme which offers a series of free technical events and online sessions to guide you through how to take advantage of the Windows Azure platform.

    Register Now

    On Demand - Windows Store app development for IOS developers

    apple-ipad iphone

    Learn the ins and outs of the Windows platform from iOS developers who are now building Windows apps.

    Watch Now

    Windows 8


    London, 11 January - Ideas to Apps: Session 1 - Ideas and UX - This 'Ideas to Apps' Workshop series is tailored to help people with awesome apps ideas through the complete development process, from idea generation through to designing, building and even marketing an app.

    Register Now


    London, 26 January - Ideas to Apps: Session 2 - Match-Making - In session 2, we'll match you with developers and designers who can help make your app idea a reality.

    Register Now


    Monetise on your Windows 8 Apps

    Getting your app live in the Windows Store and monetised via Microsoft Advertising couldn't be easier, just follow these three simple steps;

    1. Build an app for Windows 8

    2. Download the Microsoft Advertising SDK

    3. Register in the PubCenter

    With the Microsoft Advertising SDK for Windows 8 you determine the advertising experience in your app - allowing you the flexibility to provide the most integrated user experience possible. As the app publisher, you have the opportunity to attract unique and valuable audiences that advertisers will pay to reach. By connecting the advertiser to your app audience with relevant and engaging experiences, you create value for advertisers and users, and revenue for yourself. View More Information

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    TEACH WHAT THEY CRAVE Cloud Computing, Introduce students to and educate them in the new computing paradigm



    Windows Azure Storage pricing has been reduced and two key Windows Azure Active Directory features are now offered at no charge. In addition, the Windows Azure Media Services Encoding Reserved Units preview is now available.


    Windows Azure Storage

    Effective December 12, 2012, we announced another price reduction for Windows Azure Storage by 28%. This follows our March 8, 2012, reduction of 12% furthering our commitment to best overall value in the industry. We also added more value to our storage offerings in a number of ways. For more information, please read our Windows Azure blog or refer to the Storage section of Data Management on the Pricing Details webpage.


    Windows Azure Active Directory
    To help make identity management in the cloud accessible and available to every business and organization in the world, we now are offering two key features of Windows Azure Active Directory at no charge.

    • Access Control provides centralized authentication and authorization by integrating with consumer identity providers such as Facebook or by using an on-premises deployment of the Windows Server Active Directory service. With Access Control, you can create a single application that can allow users to sign in with both their organizational credentials stored in Windows Azure Active Directory or Windows Server Active Directory, or by using popular consumer identity services like Microsoft Account, Facebook, Google, or Twitter. Historically, Access Control has been priced by number of transactions, but now it is available at no charge.

    • Core Directory and Authentication enables capabilities such as single sign-on, user and group management, directory synchronization, and directory federation. These capabilities are currently free of charge in the Windows Azure Active Directory Developer Preview and will remain free of charge after Windows Azure Active Directory reaches general availability.

    Please note that additional capabilities such as Windows Azure Active Directory Rights Management will be available as separately priced options. For more information, please refer to the Identity section of our Pricing Details webpage.

    Windows Azure Media Encoding Reserved Units preview

    Starting today, you can take advantage of improved media task processing throughput with the Media Services Encoding Reserved Units preview. Encoding Reserved Units allow you to process media tasks in parallel at a rate equal to the number of reserved units purchased. During preview, the original Media Services Encoding will remain free of charge. However, Encoding Reserved Units will be charged at the rate of £60.0039 each per month, calculated on a daily basis using the highest number of reserved units that are provisioned in the account in the corresponding 24-hour period. For more information, please refer to the Media section of our Pricing Details webpage.

    Curricula Resources and access to Windows Azure of Educators and students

    Introduce students to and educate them in the new computing paradigm using the Windows Azure platform for development, labs, and projects; take advantage of free and long-term access to top cloud resources.


    Phone Application Development

    Teach the fundamental concepts and design guidelines of mobile computing using top professional developer tools and comprehensive training resources. Inspire students to create apps for Windows Phone.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Think Computer Science 2012



    On the 11th December 2011,  the DPE Academic team exhibited at the annual Microsoft Research Cambridge Think Computer Science event held this year at The Imperial War Museum, Duxford.



    A suitably expansive and fun  venue for the focus of the event - Inspiring 12-14 year old school children to “Think Computer Science”

    Our presentation and exhibition was titled. Cool things! Devices!

    Students and teachers had a chance to check out the brand new Windows Surface, Windows Phone 8, Kinect, .NET Gadgeteer and interact with robots!


    DreamSpark gives you an opportunity to try professional-level developer and designer tools for free. Great for both students and teachers, DreamSpark supports you by providing software for learning, teaching and research purposes.


    Welcome to Microsoft UK Students – the place to talk tech, share your knowledge, and find information to stay ahead of the curve. If you’re looking for technology that’s making waves across the web, you’ve come to the right place. www.facebook/microsoftukstudents

    Faculty Connection

    Faculty Connection is an online set of real-world resources and shared peer knowledge for technology educators so you have relevant and applicable tools and information at your fingertips. Get free access to software, curriculum materials and other learning opportunities. For teachers:


    “..Through the work at Microsoft Research in Cambridge and our collaborative partnerships, we strive to inspire and support students early on in their education. Think Computer Science is an annual event we hold to showcase the work of computer science researchers, to educate and enthuse students about the field of computer science…”

    Over 640 students attended the event and were able to learn from the inspirational talks, view and interact with the latest technologies in production and in development. The talks from the event will be loaded on to the ‘Gallery’ section of the website in the coming weeks.  I would encourage you to take a look.

    The students were able to get hands-on with the latest Windows Phone 8 Handsets from HTC and Nokia and Windows 8 Intel and Windows RT Surface devices.

    Nokia-Lumia-920 htc-8x-1

    AsusVivoTab surface1 SurfaceRt

    As well as learn about Microsoft’s program, designed to make available Microsoft developer tools to help students and teachers advance their learning and skills through technical design, technology, math, science, and engineering activities.



  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Hear from Kimi Sulopusti team leader and game designer of Dare to be Digital Winning 2012 team Kind of a Big Deal


    Guest post from Kimu Sulopuisto, team leader and game designer for Starcrossed


    The Finnish student team Kind of a Big Deal was representing Northern Europe in the game development competition Dare to be Digital 2012.

    I’m the team leader and game designer, and our game is called Starcrossed. When we were invited to Oslo, Norway for the qualifiers, we started with a rough concept for a 2D mobile platformer game where the player character uses a bazooka to launch himself from asteroid to another while avoiding the extreme temperatures of outer space.


    We even brought the judges a Windows Phone and a playable version of Starcrossed to show them our idea. It was very barebones, but along with a fluent pitching presentation it was enough to impress the judges and qualify us to take part in Dare to be Digital 2012 in Scotland.



    In the Dare competition we had nine weeks to bring Starcrossed to life. We went through much iteration in regards to the movement mechanics, art style, scoring system, level design and much more.

    The mentoring we received from industry professionals (Ruffian, Cobra Mobile and Jagex to name a few) was invaluable and helped us shape the game into a cohesive product. Many also wanted to see the game published, and so we set ourselves the goal to have Starcrossed in the Windows Phone Marketplace by the end of the year.

    As for the competition, it came to a close in the Protoplay event where the participating teams got to showcase their games to an audience of more than ten thousand visitors. We were announced as one of the three winning teams and returned home with a BAFTA “Ones to watch” nomination!


    We then spent the autumn polishing our product and creating more content. The end result was a fast and whimsical space platformer game that attempts to charm with its polished presentation and simple mechanics. Now we have published Starcrossed on the Marketplace, and it’s been met with very positive end-user feedback. This isn’t the last you’ll see of Starcrossed, either. Other mobile devices are likely to get their version early 2013.



    Check out Starcrossed on the Windows Phone Marketplace: and check out this video

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Get your free HTML5 exam voucher


    Learn to develop Windows Apps with HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3

    Get your free HTML5 exam voucher

    Take the online course for free

    Get ahead of your competition: Earn your MCSD certifications and start developing Windows 8 web and Windows store apps.

    We’ll get you started with our “Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3” course and exam for FREE.

    Register for the free online course, and receive a free voucher for Exam 70-480 (also available for Academic 72-480 and Academic IT Academy 73-480) to prove what you know. Act now: This offer is available for a limited time only.

    More details see

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Nokia and Windows Phone Geek come together to bring you the Lumia Geek 8-Week Challenge!




    Nokia and Windows Phone Geek come together to bring you the Lumia Geek 8-Week Challenge!

    They simply want you to show your best, coolest Windows Phone 7.5 and 8 apps between now and 8 January 2013, and you could win some big prizes, including a free trip and passes to Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, an App Demo in the WIP Jam at Mobile World Congress, customized Nokia gear, and much more. 

    Here’s the deal: You make the apps, put them in the Windows Phone Store, and then enter them in the contest.

    Now is the time to start. You have less than four weeks to show Windows Phone and Nokia your greatest Windows Phone apps.

    So get over to Windows Phone Geek now!

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Starcrossed, for Windows Phone 7 by Kind of a Big Deal is now live in the Windows MarketPlace achieving a NEW Record of achieving the shortest time after Dare to publish their game to the commercial market..




    Dare to be Digital is a video games development competition for extremely talented students at Universities and Colleges of Art.

    Teams of 5 students, usually a mix of artists, programmers and audio, assemble at Abertay University for 9 weeks during June to August to develop a prototype video game, receiving mentoring from industry. The students also receive a weekly stipend of £150 per student, free accommodation at the University's halls of residence and a team budget of £200.

    At the end of the competition, the prototypes are displayed at talent showcasing event Dare ProtoPlay. The general public and industry experts get to play and vote for the games.  At the Dare awards ceremony, three prizes of £2500 will be awarded to the three highest scoring teams based on the criteria of innovation and creativity, market potential and use of technology (none of the three will be specifically attributed to any particular criterion). Seven months later the winning teams attend the BAFTA Video Games Awards to compete for the coveted "Ones to Watch Award".

    Sounds good, yes? here are the benefits to student who take part:

    • Enhance your CV
    • Get mentoring from the industry
    • Produce a demo to take to interviews
    • Hone your skills and get the experience that employers are looking for
    • Expose your skills and work to games industry luminaries / potential employers
    • Experience working as part of a team
    • Weekly stipend of £150
    • Team budget of £200
    • Free accommodation at Abertay's halls of residence throughout Dare
    • Build industry contacts
    • Work with friends and make new ones from across the globe
    • Opportunity to start your own games studio
    • Work on your own ideas
    • Exhibit your game at Dare ProtoPlay where thousands will play it
    • Chance to win one of three £2500 prizes
    • Chance to win the BAFTA Ones to Watch Award

    Dare 2012 winners announced at Dare ProtoPlay

    So on the 14th August 2012  The three BAFTA-nominated winners of Dare to be Digital were revealed at the climax of Dare ProtoPlay. Over the weekend a record-breaking audience of 10,000 people played the 15 games over three days at the free Dare ProtoPlay games festival in Dundee.

    The three games who now compete for the exclusive BAFTA ‘Ones to Watch’ award at the 2013 BAFTA Video Games Awards are:

    - Starcrossed, for Windows Phone 7 by Kind of a Big Deal (team leader Kimi Sulopuisto, Petri Liuska, Andrew MacLean, Minttu Meriläinen, Vili Viitaniemi)

    - Pixel Story, for PC by Loan Wolf Games (team leader Martin Cosens, Luke Harrison, Ashley Hayes, Thomas McParland, Benjamin Rushton)

    - Project Thanatos, for PC and virtual reality headset by Raptor Games (team leader Hugh Laird, Andrew Coles, Tom Kemp, Tom Laird, Alexandra Shapland)

    Kimi Sulopuisto from Kind of a Big Deal said: “This is the biggest thing I’ve achieved in my life. I’d absolutely encourage anyone looking to make their own games to enter Dare to be Digital – you’ve nothing to lose, and you could win so much.”

    Martin Cosens from Loan Wolf Games said: “This is absolutely amazing. For anyone wanting to make games, I’d say don’t hesitate, just do it. Don’t let anyone curb your ideas or hopes, as things like this can happen – you can get into Dare to be Digital, and get nominated for a BAFTA.”

    Hugh Laird from Raptor Games said: “We were hoping and praying we’d get nominated for a BAFTA – it really justifies nine weeks of hard, hard work. And we didn’t expect to win the audience award, which is just the icing on top.”

    Johnny Minkley, BAFTA Games Committee member and Dare judge, said: “I’m hugely impressed with the standard of all the games on show and the professionalism and passion of all the Dare to be Digital teams.  “It was a hard choice for the judges, but all three BAFTA nominees are strong games and very different games. It will be a really tough decision for the judges to pick the final BAFTA winner at the Video Games Awards next March.”

    Loan Wolf Games were also the winners of the brand new £25,000 Channel 4 prize. They will now be funded and supported to complete their game for a full commercial release.

    Raptor Games also won the public vote for the Intel Visual Computing Tools Audience Award, with each team member receiving an Intel Ultrabook.

    Kind of a Big Deal were supported to take part in Dare to be Digital by the Scottish Government as this year’s Nordic competitor, as were the Chinese and Indian teams.

    Professor Louis Natanson, who leads computer games education at Abertay University, said: “The entrants to Abertay University’s Dare to be Digital get better and better every year, and all 15 teams have done something incredible – built a professional, playable and exciting game in just nine weeks. “The BAFTA-nominated winners – Kind of a Big Deal, Loan Wolf Games and Raptor Games – stood out from the tough competition for their exceptional game design, playability and commercial appeal, but all 15 teams have the experience now to enter the games industry or start their own businesses.  “We look forward to seeing, and playing, many successes from them in the future.”

    This year’s Dare ProtoPlay festival was also expanded to include Dare Indie Fest, a conference for budding entrepreneurs and a showcase of games from independent companies.

    Dare Indie Fest was presented by the Abertay Prototype Fund, which provides grants of up to £25,000 to small and startup games companies.  Over 40 games were available to play for free throughout the Dare ProtoPlay weekend, including the 15 student games and new titles from independent game developers from across the UK and as far afield as Romania. Continued Scottish Government support of £85,700 enabled teams from China, India and Finland to take part in Dare to be Digital this year. Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop officially opened the Dare ProtoPlay festival on Friday.  Support from EventScotland enabled Dare to be Digital to expand into the City Square marquee.  The event was also supported by Ukie, Dundee City Council and Interactive Tayside.

    I am pleased to announce that the Winning Game  - Starcrossed, for Windows Phone 7 by Kind of a Big Deal (team leader Kimi Sulopuisto, Petri Liuska, Andrew MacLean, Minttu Meriläinen, Vili Viitaniemi) is now live in the Windows MarketPlace achieving a NEW Record. Ensuring their app was published into the commercial marketplace – via the Windows Phone Marketplace in the shortest time after Dare.

    Starcrossed is a whimsical 2D platformer game where you guide a crash-landed astronaut back to his home planet, using a rocket launcher to send him flying through space from one asteroid to another. Gravity plays a pivotal role as it will affect the astronaut’s movement. Temperature is also important: be careful not to expose the astronaut to the burning heat of the sun or the freezing conditions of outer space for too long!

    Starcrossed was created during the Dare to be Digital 2012 games development competition. The game was one of the winning entries and is nominated for BAFTA "Ones to Watch" award 2013.Features:- Intuitive one-touch controls- 30 levels of fast and quirky gravity-based gameplay- Various different planets, each with their unique properties- Vivid colours and a painterly look- Original sound and music Watch the game trailer at: Follow the team at:  Find their publisher at: and

    Watch out for our guest blog from Kimu Sulopuisto from Starcrossed tomorrow, where he will discuss Starcrossed and his experience of Dare and  Windows Phone 7 and what a Kind of a Big Deal achieved from the event.

    If your really interested in competitions and gaming then check out

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    TouchDevelop – Making apps for mobile devices on mobile devices


    Guest blog by David Renton , Extended Lecturer in Computing, Reid Kerr College in Paisley, Scotland


    I recently took part in a Microsoft Partners in Learning Virtual University series on TouchDevelop delivered by Jonathan 'Peli' de Halleux who works for Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA. The series was part of a PIL Appathon Competition for educators around Europe, the final stage of which will be a 24 hour Appathon in London just before BETT in January 2013. I had no idea what to expect from the series and had no idea about what TouchDevelop was. The series was excellent and I know have a firm understanding of the fundamentals of TouchDevelop and how to create simple apps using it. It was also a fantastic experience to be part of a community of learners from around Europe sharing experiences during online sessions and via PIL network forums.   


    I teach Games Development at Reid Kerr College in Paisley, Scotland and I currently mainly use XNA with C#; however we have been looking at different tools to introduce students to programming such as Scratch, Kodu and MIT App Inventor, as XNA can be quite a jump for students who have never programming before. We are also keen to get students creating APPs and after learning about TouchDevelop I think it is a great platform to achieve these goals.   


    The really big difference about TouchDevelop and other dev tools is that it allows you to actually code and test your APP on a mobile device. You can choose to develop on a PC and then package it as an APP, but you can code on any device which has a modern HTML5 browser. So if your device can run IE10 or the latest versions of Safari or Chrome, you will be able to use TouchDevelop to code and test APPs on your device. I have used a variety of platforms successfully with TouchDevelop; on desktop PCs I have used IE10 in Windows 8 and Chrome in Windows 7. I have also used Safari on both the iPhone and iPad and on my Windows 7 phone I have used the dedicated TouchDevelop APP. So although TouchDevelop only creates APPs for the Windows Marketplace on WP7/8 and Windows 8, you can develop and test APPs via the TouchDevelop site on your favourite browser on pretty much any device.  



    Coding with TouchDevelop on iPhone 


    Another great part of TouchDevelop is the community aspect to it. The scripts (APPs) you publish are available to the rest of the community to use and play, which means if you don’t know how to do something you can look up someone else’s script doing a similar task and you will quickly find the solution. You can also take other user’s scripts and alter them and credit is still given to the original publisher as it shows how many variations of your scripts are out there. You can also build libraries yourself and then these libraries can be used by other users when creating their own apps and once again you can see how many scripts are using your library. One other great feature of TouchDevelop is the ability to have a high score table which the community can immediately contribute to as soon as you hit the publish button from your script. This is not publishing it as an app on the marketplace it is just making it available for the community to try out and it only takes 2 or 3 lines of code.


    High Score Table 


    TouchDevelop comes with a variety of libraries which makes most tasks easy to do. I have been working a lot with the game board, which has built in functions for dealing with sprites, collisions, physics and touch events.



    Pong created in TouchDevelop

    Once I got used to working with the interface and the language I was able to quickly put together some games. I created a touch version of PONG in about 2 to 3 hours, in which you use your finger to control a Bat by sliding your finger up & down to try and defeat an AI controlled Bat. I also created a Space Invaders clone called TouchInvaders which took me roughly about 4 hours to get a working version, although I did go back later and tweak it to add shields and play about with the controls.  



    TouchInvaders on iPhone



    TouchInvaders running in Chrome on a Windows7 PC


    TouchInvaders running in IE10 desktop browser on a Windows 8 PC


    TouchInvaders running in IE10 on a Windows 8 PC


    TouchDevelop is still in its infancy and therefore has a number of minor bugs, but the Microsoft team are constantly working on these and improving it and adding functionality on almost a daily basis. Overall I would say that TouchDevelop has amazing potential and is a good alternative to some of the other tools out there that can be used to teach programming at a beginner’s level, however unlike Scratch it actually allows you to make games I would want to play.

    David thanks for your comments and if your interested in learning more about touchdevelop see

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