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The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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August, 2009

  • FE blog

    Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 – in Tony Hart mode


    This collection of videos is very clever – as you work your way through it, you’ll see that you eventually end up with some screencasts showing particular features of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. But what is riveting on the journey is the way that you navigate your way around the videos – using hand drawn animations and hotspots on each video to give you a route to learn more.

    It comes from the team of DeepFat and JamesOne (some of you will have met James at our Windows for Education event) who are part of our evangelism team. They have been exploring the features of Win7 and WS2008 via the medium of art, some YouTube annotations and then some screencast videos. You can start here and then click through to the stuff you're interested in.

    I wonder if this has also got potential for revision gateways and other learning resources – basically linking a series of videos together, with some navigation – rather than the conventional channel/menu approach.

  • FE blog

    Your invite to the UK Launch for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010


    Find out more and register

    Apparently we've had well over 1,000 registrations since we announced it. I'd recommend putting yourself on the wait list.
    Sorry. I'll work on a list of alternative events/webcasts to attend 

    From now through to January, it’s going to be a season of launches. And the kick-off event for the whole series is the UK Technical Launch for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, which is going to a big event at Wembley stadium on the 6th October.

    The agenda is packed – with a ‘desktop’ and ‘server’ stream (time to make it a team trip?), and we’re also expecting the event to be packed too – with a thousand spaces available.

    The theme for the event “The New Efficiency” is something we’ll be talking about more during the year, as it’s something that fits in with the current budget climate in education.

    Wembley Stadium Join us on 6 October in the conference rooms at the spectacular Wembley Stadium to hear from Microsoft's technology specialists on the new efficiency of the server and desktop. We have two tracks of content for you to choose from, one covering Windows 7, and the other covering Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. If you can't watch it all on the day - don't worry, all the content will be available online after the event.

    For those who couldn’t make it to the Windows in Education event last week, this is a good alternative. Although it isn’t specifically for education, we had some of the same speakers – James & Gareth – and I know that there will be plenty of things covered which fit into your IT thinking.


    If you only do two things before you head off for the Bank Holiday weekend, I’d recommend:

    • Register for your place (as the event is currently full, you can only add yourself to the waitlist for a place, either because somebody drops out, or if we manage to squeeze more chairs in!)
    • Add it to your Calendar (to stop anybody inviting you to a dull meeting on that day)
  • FE blog

    Another take on qualifications – have you thought about the Microsoft IT Academy?


    IT Academy Programme 2 b If you’re running the ICT systems in your college, and NOT involved with delivering the ICT curriculum, then you may want to forward this onto somebody in charge of curriculum side. Although it’s got ‘IT’ in the title, the IT Academy is actually all about curriculum development and helping your students/staff (or potentially others in the community) to gain commercially valuable qualifications.

    imageI’ve spent a few hours in the company of the team who promote the Microsoft IT Academy scheme in the UK. Basically the scheme offers colleges, universities and schools the chance to deliver Microsoft’s IT training and qualifications to your students, staff and your wider community. The qualifications that you can deliver will help your students (or parents in your community) raise their skills to prepare for employment – either business or technical roles as web developers or systems administrators.

    The chart on the right (click on it to see the BIG version) shows the routes to the qualifications that students can attain. And because the qualifications are instantly recognisable in the commercial sector – like MCSE qualifications – it is an instant help with preparing for employment.

    But this isn’t just about student qualifications – it can also be used to provide training and qualifications for the wider community, and this is exactly how some of the current IT Academies use it – to generate a revenue stream and to increase community and business engagement.

    Once you’ve signed up to be an IT Academy, the scheme includes:

    • Free Microsoft eLearning (over 300 courses)
    • Free Microsoft software licences
    • Big discounts on Microsoft Certifications and Courseware
    • Free MSDNAA & TechNet Plus Subscription
    • Free Microsoft Certified Trainer Membership

    Currently about two-thirds of UK colleges and universities offer the IT Academy programme. So it could be that your college is already doing it (in which case you might have some of these benefits already).

    But the key question I asked the IT Academy team was about cost. Because although they describe everything above as ‘free’, I’d assumed that the annual fee would be prohibitive. The actual answer is that it costs around £1,100 for a college to become an IT Academy. Especially if you factor in the cost of an MSDNAA & TechNet Plus subscription, this is a great deal.

    Although there’s tons of information about IT Academy on our education website, I think there’s probably too much info there, so instead of reading it all I’d recommend giving the Prodigy team a call, or dropping them an email, to get them to explain it to you in plain English. (Just like buying software, IT Academy works the same way – you get access through our partners, rather than directly from us. In this case the partner is Prodigy)

    Email the IT Academy team or call them on 0845 3991553.

  • FE blog

    Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Conference – Sept 29 in London


    SQL Server 2008 Grid v I’ve just heard that the first ever Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Conference is being held in London on Tuesday September 29th.  Although it is not an education-specific event, there is a good agenda with excellent presenters that could be of use to you if you are running complex databases. It’s obviously useful for IT managers, and information managers, database administrators and architects will find real value to add to their knowledge of how to get the most out of SQL Server.

    The agenda focuses on some of the major data management challenges that we know SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition is more than ready to handle: high-performance and scalability, robust security, virtualisation, data warehousing and business intelligence.

    The cast of presenters includes:

    • Donald Farmer & Mark Linton from the SQL Server Development team
    • Mark Whitehorn, independent consultant and author on databases and data management
    • An array of Microsoft technical expertise on SQL Server, data management and Business Intelligence

    The agenda includes specific topics on using SQL Server in heterogeneous data environments (i.e. Oracle) and SQL Server as the data platform of choice for business critical applications such as SAP. It also includes a closer-look at the SQL Server 2008 R2 functionality in a presentation by Donald Farmer from the SQL Server development team.

    The full agenda, which includes a choice of tracks for the afternoon, is available on the website

    The event is free, and given that effective database management is top of the list for many organisations, you may want to book your place as soon as you can.

    You can book directly on the Microsoft events website, or register by phone on 0870 166 6670 (quoting event reference 4125)

  • FE blog

    Student Competition - Code to the Power of Windows 7


    image I’ve just heard about our Code7 competition, for students. The European finalist prize is a paid trip to the PDC09 event in Los Angeles in November - plus a snazzy award – and there are a bunch of other prizes. And there’s 6 weeks until the closing date on 10th October.


    If you’ve got students in your college that are into software and development, it’s a great way to engage them into thinking about application development, and to get them to turn an idea into a succinct summary – because the entry method is a 3-minute video!

    Full details are on the Code7 Contest website, but here’s some of the headline information.

    “Take three minutes to video yourself describing and demonstrating your application idea for Windows 7 and you could win big.

    Your application should support one or more of the following Windows 7 scenarios:

    • Simplify My Life - Develop an application that makes the things customers do every day faster and easier, with fewer clicks, simpler navigation and easier ways to connect.
    • More Media, More Places - Design a great application to help customers create, edit, organize and share media.
    • Gaming - Make it fun and exciting for customers to get their game on.
    • Work from Anywhere - Help make customers more productive at home, at work, or on-the-go.
    • Safeguard Your Work - Help customers protect their data, whether it resides on their PC, USB devices or on a network infrastructure.
    • Applications for a Better Tomorrow - Use the power of your code to help communities prepare and plan for a better future.”

    This is a worldwide competition run from the States, and I noticed there’s some important small print in the rules – or at least, it’s important if you live in any of the countries named – which is: Void in Cuba; Iran; North Korea; Sudan and the Province of Quebec, Canada.”. I wonder what Canada have done to be lumped into the same list as Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Sudan?

  • FE blog

    At last, the UK Education website gets a makeover


    I’ve got two daughters who think that the best things on TV are reality makeover programmes (our TV at home seems to alternate between Grand Designs and Gok’s Fashion Fix), but they didn’t get as excited as I did about our makeover project – taking the Microsoft UK Education site and adding a pile of new features to it.

    This is what the site looked like before Friday:


    And since Friday morning, it has looked like this:


    Whilst the new look and feel is nice (and has had some good feedback in its first four days) there are some much more important changes to the navigation and design that are important to me.

    • We’ve added specific sections for Schools, Further Education, Higher Education, Teachers and Students
      The previous design did indeed have a colourful tab bar for sections, they only got you to a single page. None of the rest of the content (for example the products section) was separated. Which means that Schools were seeing products only suitable for Further Education, or vice versa. We’ve got further improvements planned for each of these sections – but obviously content changes had to wait until they existed!
    • There is better linking between this blog and the website
      For example, you can now click on a blog story in the website, and read it right there, without having to jump across to the blog (on a different website)
    • We have tags to help find relevant information
      The whole www.microsoft.com website is enormous, and sometimes impenetrable to navigate. And even the little bit sitting under the UK Education site was becoming unwieldy – with over 140 pages of content to navigate. So now we have added tags to the home page, allowing you to jump straight to key content, without having to search through the menu structure. “Licensing” is a good example – it is one of the most often-read sections, but was previously buried in the menus.
    • We have updated some of the content
      But, to be honest, we have plenty of content updates to do still. Most of our focus has been moving to the new site structure, and now we hope to get lots of content updates between now and the start of term.
      (A note on the “we” in the last sentence – the team’s not as big as you might think – it’s me and Gordon who’re responsible for keeping this all going and up-to-date, with others dropping by to help! K
      eeping the content up-to-date is like painting the Forth Bridge – we’d never have managed to get it all updated before we moved, and so we’d never have moved. It is easier on the new site for us to make small changes quickly, without having to get a big project kicked off)


    Go and visit the site – and then let me know what you think – either by adding comments here, or drop me an email, including any thoughts about what you’d like to see, based on how you use the site.

  • FE blog

    Managing Costs at Microsoft using IT – An insider’s view


    I was in a training session on Friday, when we were joined by the Microsoft IT team – the clever chaps that keep our IT network running right across the business, seemingly in the face of all of the odds.

    I believe that the odds really are stacked heavily against keeping the IT system stable, because each user has complete control over their own computer – for example, I can hit F12 and rebuild any machine at any point, self-install software and am encouraged to use everything from Instant Messenger to development tools.

    imageAsif Jinnah who manages the UK IT systems, talked about what they have been doing to reduce our internal IT running costs, and although our challenge is different to yours, I thought you might enjoy hearing some of our story of balancing the need to grow our business whilst managing our IT costs. Asif recorded a presentation for the virtual TechNet conference in June in the IT Management Auditorium section, and you can watch his full presentation, as well as download his slides, which are full of facts and figures:

    • We manage 250,000 computers via SMS, including 124,000 Vista clients, and 20,000 Windows 7 clients
    • There are over 350,000 internal SharePoint sites
    • Over the last 4 years, the IT team have delivered a 44% decrease in IT cost per head
    • We have over 500 virtual servers, running on a 16:1 host ratio
    • OCS is saving us £160,000 a month on telecoms

    There’s also an interesting part about the reductions we made when we changed the way we ran our internal IT help desk – which resulted in reduced costs and reduced user satisfaction!

    You can find the whole presentation by going to the Virtual TechNet site, and looking for the "Growing the Business and Managing Costs – An Insider’s view” presentation in the IT Management Auditorium


  • FE blog

    Free Event - Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2 – 21 Aug 2009


    Although it’s a little bit last minute, I’ve grabbed at the chance to get some of our Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 brains together on Friday 21st August, in our Thames Valley Campus in Reading. It’s August, and I know that it is one of the busiest times for IT teams, however you probably have a bit more control over your diary than a normal month. So here’s your invitation to:

    imageI’d like to invite you to come along to our Windows workshop, where you’ll have the chance to hear about Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and to explore what they mean for education. The agenda includes James O’Neill from our Developer and Platform Evangelist team, and Richard Lane, one of our Account Technology Specialists, exploring how the new products launched this year can help you to streamline your ICT infrastructure and improve the ICT management and user experience. With Windows 7 available to existing Campus Agreement customers from the end of this week, and Windows Server 2008 R2 available from the 19th August, it seems like the perfect time to take a day out of school to understand how it fits into your future plans (available from 1st September if you’re one of the unlucky ones and you don’t have a Campus Agreement yet).

    There are already a number of education institutions planning to implement Windows 7 this summer, and so we hope to make the day as interactive as possible, with plenty of time for discussion with your peers from other schools, to compare notes and experiences (there will be people attending who’ll have implemented Windows 7 by the 21st, so hopefully they’ll have practical advice for us all!)

    To allow for those making longer journeys, we’ll start at 10am and finish by 3pm.

    If you’d like to attend the free Windows in Education day, then simply drop an email to Sam Mills, who’ll reserve you a place, and send you confirmation details for how to get to our Reading campus.

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