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  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Xbox Kinect


    So what are you doing or planning on doing with Microsoft Kinect? 

    Are you interested in the official Kinect SDK when it becomes available?

    How about using the Kinect to fly a drone?

    Want to know more about this project watch the following

    Natural Kinect-Based Interface for Quadrotor Control (Parrot AR. Drone)

     So please let us know how your using or planning on using Kinect?


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Visual Studio Online



    So are you using Visual Studio?

    Are you using Team Foundation Server?

    Are you implementing any Application Lifecycle Management solutions that covers the range of software development activities from requirements capture through to development and onto testing and release into production.

    Well if not.. why?

    - TFS has strong version control, with an ALM element, and also supports GitHub.
    - The platform offers integrations for Eclipse, JIRA, MS Project, as free Add-Ins.
    - It’s possible to have unlimited VU’s for Load testing as long as you have Visual Studio Ultimate
    - There’s an option to have customisable Process Templates, and the user can also customise Burndown charts through Reporting
    - In terms of Release Management, Workflows can be added using PowerShell
    - Team Rooms can be used for enhanced collaboration, such as requesting feedback
    - Excel can easily be used for bulk update to TFS, which is useful in migration

    Here’s just a few links you may find useful to learn more about Visual Studio, TFS and ALM:

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Creating a PHP web site with a ClearDB MySQL Database, all with a FREE Azure Student Account




    As a student developer, you can be NEVER aware of too many technologies, having an experience of a varity of services and technologies simply helps demonstrate your skills and competences.

    With the new offering from DreamSpark you can spin up web sites and databases using various technologies including PHP, Node.JS and .Net and MySQL.

    In this blog I will be talking about using PHP on a Microsoft Azure Student Sunscription using the free MySQL ClearDB Database.

    In this blog I will cover:-

    Step 1. Setting up Azure

    Step 2. Creating a new PHP WebSite on Azure

    Step 3. Configuring a MySQL database on Azure

    Step 4. Uploading files to Azure

    Step 5. Connecting a Github repo to Azure

    Step 6. Connecting a PHP app to a MySQL database on Azure

    Right lets get started

    Step 1. Setting up Azure

    Creating a simple Hello World PHP Web app running on a MYSQL ClearDB database hosted on Azure.

    In this blog we will be connecting to the database.

    Deploying the web site via FTP

    Setting up continuous integration and deployment through Github.

    Prerequisites please ensure you have signed up to and activated your Azure Subscription see this blog.

    Login into you Azure Portal via


    Step 2. Creating a new PHP WebSite on Azure

    Choose New Web + Mobile then select Web App as seen in the screenshot below.


    Provide an arbitrary URL name for your web site and click create


    This process should take a few minutes, after this your app should be up an running. In fact, you should see it in the list of Web Sites and it should have a status of "Running".


    Click the name of the app to enter its dashboard, and take some time to look around – get familiar with the various screens.

    The screen, designed to get you up and running with the most common features quickly, and the rest are self explanatory.


    If you visit your app in the browser now, you'll get an a successfully messgae. T


    This is fine. After all, we didn't do anything yet. Let's configure a database before moving on.

    Step 3. Configuring a MySQL database on Azure

    Go to Create – Data and Storage – MySQL Database

    We want to create a new MySQL Database,


    On the next screen of the wizard, give it a database name and select create


    After a few minutes later, the resource should be ready and linked.


    If you go to the dashboard now you should see your database


    To manage your database, click manage Database




    You can also use other tools such as Oracle's MySQL Workbench or any other SQL management tool if you prefer.

    When you create a MySQL database on Windows Azure, the database is actually created on ClearDB. ClearDB databases can be connected to remotely, and that's what we'll do.

    Download MySQL Workbench and opt to create a new connection. In the window, fill in the data from the previous screenshot – the host name, user name and password. You can even download SSL keys from ClearDB (see screenshot below) and use them in the SSL tab of the connection in MySQL Workbench to make your connection more secure.


    After pushing Test Connection, Workbench should connect successfully. After pushing connect, it should display an empty database.


    To set up a basic table with some sample data we'll be retrieving, paste the following SQL statements into the SQL tab in Workbench, and click the "Execute" button, represented by the thunderbolt icon in the SQL tab's toolbar. Naturally, replace "DatabaseName" with the name of your own database.

       1: USE `sitepoint01` ;
       3: CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS `DatabaseName`.`hello_world` (
       5:   `data` VARCHAR(45) NULL,
       6:   PRIMARY KEY (`id`))
       7: ENGINE = InnoDB;
      10: USE `DatabaseName`;
      11: INSERT INTO `DatabaseName`.`hello_world` (`id`, `data`) VALUES (1, 'I was retrieved from the database!');
      13: COMMIT;

    We now have data in our MySQL database. Keep in mind that you can also use Workbench's excellent Model editor to build tables and relations graphically, then export it all directly to your remote database. Remember to save often, though – Workbench is a fantastic tool, but it can be very buggy and often crashes.

    Step 4. Uploading files to Azure

    Uploading files to Windows Azure apps can be done in two ways: through source control, or via FTP.

    Using FTP to upload files to Azure

    If you go to your web site dashboard, you can create a  FTP  account

    We will need to set up a FTP publishing/deployment account to try it out you can get the full url of the FTP and FTPs server from the Settings – properties screen

    Url should be in this format ftp://**************

    Under Settings – Publishing Deployment Credentials - create an FTP user.


    Once done, make sure you have an FTP client installed on your machine – I'll use FileZilla for the purpose of this article.

    Connecting couldn't be more straightforward. Simply enter the credentials into the New Site dialog of FileZilla as shown below, and click connect.


    As soon as the directory tree opens, you can navigate to /site/wwwroot/

    you should 1 single file hoststarting.html remove this and upload your php file.

    Create Index.php in your favourite code editor and change the contents to the following:

       1: <?php
       2: echo "Hello World";
       3: ?>

    Then, upload index.php to Azure.

    Now if you visit your web app's URL (the URL can be seen in the Dashboard among the other data in the right hand side column), you should see the infamous Hello World message.


    Step 5. Connecting a Github repo to Azure

    To deploy via Github

    First step is add git ignore to the host directory you can download it here .gitignore and you need to create a in your favourite txt editor.

    These just make for a clean repository. Every repo should have a README file, no matter how trivial, and a .gitignore file which makes sure no junk is committed.

    If you're on Windows, and you haven't installed Git tools for Windows yet, do it.

    You can also download the Git Student Developer Pack from DreamSpark The GitHub Student Developer Pack assembles a great set of tools and services, free to students! Get your own domain name with SSL, explore crowdsourcing, email services, and much more. Combined with the free Visual Studio Community 2015 and Visual Studio Online, it’s an unbeatable combination to get your coding project off the ground. Get your GitHub Student Developer Pack today  These tools come with a bash app (among other useful items) which makes the Git repo setup process identical on all operating systems.

    Now cd into the app's local folder, and run the commands:

       1: git init
       2: git add .
       3: git commit -am 'First commit'


    Now create a new repository on Github. I called mine "mywebsite". Add the origin to the repo we just initialized locally, as per Github's instructions.

       1: git remote add origin
       2: git push -u origin master
    simply replace Lee/mywebsite with your details

    With our app's repo now online, let's configure it in Azure's management panel.

    Go to either the dashboard of your web site then setting then publishing – continuous deployment select Github,


    click next, authorize whatever Azure is asking you to authorize and find the repo you just created in the list of offered repositories.

    A few seconds should go by and the deployment should be ready. In fact, as soon as it finishes processing, your app's files on the Azure instance will already be updated.

    If you refresh the view in your FTP client now, you'll notice our README and .gitignore files are there too. It's all automatic. It really is that simple!

    Now whenever one of your another devs updates your Github app and you accept their pull request into the master branch, Azure will automatically take care of keeping it up to date.

    Step 6. Connecting a PHP app to a MySQL database on Azure

    When connecting to the database, we need to let PHP know which credentials to use to connect to MySQL. But if we include them directly into the file, everyone will be able to see our password in Github. Hence, create a config.php file in the app's local folder with the following contents (replace the credentials to match yours, of course):

       1: <?php
       2: // Replace with your own
       3: $sUsername = 'enteruser';
       4: $sPassword = 'enterpassword';
       5: $sHost = 'enterhostname';
       6: $sDb = 'enterdbName';

    To ensure these secrets never get commited simply add the following lines at the top of our .gitignore file – this addition simply ensure that git ignores your config.php file and settings.

       1: # Configuration
       2: config.php

    Finally, upload the config.php file to the server manually via FTP. This makes sure it stays put – it will be ignored by the auto-deployment and by our local Git repo.

    Now re-open the local index.php file, and change its contents to the following:

       1: <?php
       3: require_once 'config.php';
       5: try {
       6:     $oConn = new PDO('mysql:host='.$sHost.';dbname='.$sDb, $sUsername, $sPassword);
       7:     $oConn->setAttribute(PDO::ATTR_ERRMODE, PDO::ERRMODE_EXCEPTION);
       9:     $oStmt = $oConn->prepare('SELECT data FROM `hello_world`');
      10:     $oResult = $oStmt->fetchAll();
      12:     foreach ($oResult as $aRow) {
      13:         print_r($aRow['data']);
      14:     }
      16: } catch(PDOException $e) {
      17:     echo 'ERROR: ' . $e->getMessage();
      18: }
      19: Save

    , run git commit -am 'Reading from DB' in your app's folder, followed by a git push.

    Observe the deployment screen in your app's management panel – the deployment history will be growing with every push to the master branch. Your app should already be up-to-date – Azure instantly pulls the Github content.

    If you now re-visit your app's URL, you should get an "I was retrieved from the database!" message displayed.


    As you can see, building and deploying an PHP WebSite with a  MySQL database all on Microsoft Azure is really easy.

    You have also learn that you can have an automated deployment process set up in minutes, all hosted on a highly scalable and reliable infrastructure with built-in metrics and beautiful dashboards to make managing your app as easy as possible.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Power Up: The Beautiful Game Competition


    Exclusive for UK Games Developers


    Microsoft and supporting games industry partners are working together to help encourage the growth in the UK games industry which seeks to recognise and help game studios and developers of all sizes. As part of this ambition we have developed a competition which seeks to provide new Store opportunities for your games as well as helping you to get your titles discovered and downloaded.

    Go to:

    Power Up: The Beautiful Game competition commences from 3rd March until 20th June 2014. The competition is open to all UK games developers who port and publish their new or existing games titles to Microsoft Windows 8 and/or Windows Phone Stores. Each game entered will receive points based on a wide range of game experiences, as well as recognising the quality of the game, any marketing activities, plus the number of downloads the games get on the Windows or Windows Phone Stores. The top 20 games with the most points secured will win great prizes for their developers but all entrants have an opportunity for their games to be discovered and downloaded by 100,000’s to millions of players. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your game(s) to a much wider audience and be generously rewarded.

    Boost your downloads

    We want to ensure that your game is discovered and downloaded. The quality of the game does not always guarantee success. As such we have partnered with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) to provide some guidance on good practice apps marketing. Visit the competition website for more details.
    Points are awarded for: Game experience – quality of audio execution, visual execution and gameplay. Downloads per store – as an additional measure of the game’s quality we will count the downloads in both the Windows and Windows Phone store.


    Prizes galore!

    A total prize fund in excess of $50,000! Prizes include: Unity Pro licenses, Supercar all inclusive weekend rental, holiday in Slovakia, Nokia Lumia
    1520, 1020s and 520s, Dell Tablet, a Chartered Institute of Marketing Apps Marketing course, a chance to attend a special mentoring event with
    selected Board members from TIGA and UKIE, and an awards ceremony at Dolby’s prestigious theatre in Soho Square. For full prize listing go to:


    The Resources

    How to score points and win plus details of the prizes on offer see.The competition

    Enter the competition by completing our online registration form. Register now
    Download our one page marketing plan template. Marketing plan
    Find out more about our partners in Power Up: The Beautiful Game. Industry partners
    Full details of the competition rules. Terms and conditions
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    UK Students Help Microsoft understand and support your use of DreamSpark





    We need to know that you value DreamSpark  help us, help the next generation of students

    We are inviting students to complete a short survey to help us better understand how the DreamSpark programme is supporting your skills development, learning outcomes and career potential. We would like to understand what range of applications and tools have been of use to you, how often you use them and how effective they have been in supporting your skills development. Most importantly, we would like to understand how effective access to DreamSpark has been in supporting your coursework and test results. You also have a chance to let us know about any particularly positive or negative experiences you have had so we can ensure that in the future we are delivering an even better service.


    We are only looking for a few minutes of your time and all responses remain anonymous. Just to give you a little more of an incentive to help us gather this data we are offering one lucky student an Xbox360. Just click here

    The student questionnaire is at

  • 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

    Educated desktops – Building and maintaining your PC labs

    A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of Andrew Fryer and his colleague Simon May company as we spent most the week on the Microsoft Stand at BETT one of the largest education events in the world. Simon and Andrew, task was to field questions from the attendees which include some of the hardest working IT Professionals in the industry, those supporting the IT in schools, college and Universities.

    As Andrew states in his original blog Agility is essential to cope with the new influx of students every year as well as is the need to deploy every more applications to keep up with the latest standards for the curriculum and the way each subject is taught.

    Some of these examples below are relevant to my previous discussions in regards to System Center 2012, curricula enhancements and training so I am sure you find them of interest in preparation for this years refresh plans.

    The following blog is by Microsoft UK IT Pro Evangelists Andrew Fryer. Originally posted on the UK Technet Blog Insufficient data from Andrew Fryer IT Pro Evangelist

    Teaching the next generation of IT Professionals.

    IT_Academy mva

    There was a lot of coverage in the press last week about teaching coding and development as part of ICT, however I had two separate requests from ICT educators about teaching how to maintain and fix problems on PCs, because that’s what their students had asked for. We discussed setting up virtual machines on Hyper-V and using snapshots to allow a damaged desktop to be fixed and then being reset with the problem for the next lesson. I also think some of the information on clustering and virtual machines on the Microsoft Virtual Academy could be reused in class rooms or certified training via Microsoft IT Academy in the form of MTA.

    Remote Desktop Services & App-V.


    One way to deal with the problem of matching up students and teachers to the applications they need , irrespective of where they are working is to use App-V (application virtualisation) as this deploys a virtual copy of an application to a desktop based on the groups a user belongs to i.e. it won’t show up in programs in control panel and can run side by side alongside earlier versions of the same application which it would normally conflict with.

    Another approach is to use Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and it was no surprise at BETT to see all the hardware vendors sporting their latest thin client devices, and personally I like the LG and Samsung offerings where the thin client was just part of the LCD panel. However not every application likes running as a remote desktop and you can end up creating a lot remote desktops for each type of user. The trick here is to use App-V with RDS so that the applications run virtually inside the remote desktop session and a given user only gets the applications they need even though you only have one or two standard desktops in RDS (the guidance on how to do this is here).

    Another good thing about RDS is that it reduces heat in the classroom if thin client devices are used and also reduces the background noise, although the noise from pupils will still be the same! It is possible to implement RDS without also deploying Citrix or Quest technologies on top, however both of these partners’ offerings add ease of use and manageability to what the raw RDS experience delivers.

    Digital Inclusion


    RDS can be setup so that these personalised remote desktops are available to staff & students working at home or other locations and this means they can use their own devices to interact with a school. Of course laptops are expensive and can be difficult to justify on a limited budget, so to level the playing field there is Get On Line @ Home, which provides affordable reconditioned hardware with Windows 7 + Office 2010 with telephone technical support included.

    Thanks to Andrew for producing this post. For a list of upcoming events which the UK TechNet team are delivering see and for details of your education account managers to discuss this further see

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Looking at something new for over summer? Windows 8


    With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Developer Tools being widely available for the past few weeks and with previews of great, immersive Metro style apps like Cut the Rope, The Telegraph, Flixster, Evernote and a tonne more already in the Windows Store we’ve received quite a number of questions about when UK developers can start building Windows 8 apps and get them into the Store.

    The Windows Store is not yet open for general app submission. However…

    If you are interested in getting your personal, institutional, department or society app into the Store or even developing a windows 8 game before or soon after general availability then your local UK MSDN team can help in getting a registration code that is needed for submission to the Store.

    For those people with application plans;

    1. You apply to join our UK Windows 8 for Application Developer LinkedIn Group
    2. We will reply asking you for some details of what it is you are building and then admit you into the group.
    3. You build a great app following the guidance that we have online and which meets the Store certification requirements.
    4. We will use the LinkedIn Group to invite you to an Application Excellence Lab at Microsoft in Reading where you’ll work with an engineer to ensure certification requirements are being met and that the app is providing a great experience to the user.
    5. You leave the lab with a registration code that lets you begin the app submission process at the Windows Store.

    In addition to that process, we’d encourage everyone interested in learning more about Windows 8 and Metro development to come attend  one of our the UK Techdays events or camps  where you can talk through this process in person and also apply to join our LinkedIn Group which we’ll use to share the details of the app excellence labs.

    Note that the availability of labs is limited and invitations will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis but this will in no way limit your ability to submit an application via the regular submission process once the Store is open for general availability.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Phone 8 hardware unveiled



    Windows Phone

    Recently our device maker partners held events where they showcased their amazing Windows Phone 8 hardware for the first time. In case you missed the events, check them out below, or see the full line-up on

    ativs_main  HTCHomepageHerolumia820_main lumia920_main

    Nokia Event

    HTC Event

    Samsung event

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Power UP competition for Windows 8 Game Developers



    Microsoft has launched a developer contest called 'Power Up'. The competition is aimed at UK Inide Developers who want to develop and
    publish awesome games for Windows 8.  

    If you are using .Net or 3rd Party Frameworks like GameSalad, GameMaker, Construct2 or if your an existing developer using XNA today to develop Xbox Indie titles why not port your existing titles or create a new ones for the Windows 8 “Power Up” competition and be in with a chance to win some “money can’t buy” prizes.  

    We have worked with MonoGame in the UK recently at a University hack to port existing XNA games to Win8 RT and then develop those games to be published in the Windows 8 Store.  You can read more details here.

    If you’re the winner of ‘Power Up’ you will win some amazing prize, including a free PR campaign, mentoring with industry leaders drawn from
    the Boards of UKIE and TIGA and a commercial trailer for your awesome Windows 8 game app. You simply need to ensure game is published in the UK Windows 8 Store before December 14th.  Full entry details, terms and conditions can be found at

    Prizes range from free PR for a month, mentoring by industry veterans, Nokia smartphones, Visa Gift Cards from YoYo Games to name but a few.

    The competition is open now and you have until December 14th, 2012 to enter. To be in with the chance of winning one of our fantastic prizes, after
    successfully submitting your app to the UK Windows 8 store, follow the steps
    below to enter the competition.

    Send the following details to Andrew Webber, UK Marketing Lead for Indie Game App Builders at

    • Your name
    • Studio Name
    • Email Address and Phone
    • Name of the Game App
    • Include a copy of your Store Certification email for the App you are submitting.

    There is no limit to the number of entries, all entries need to be received by 11.59PM GMT 14th December 2012.

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