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The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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February, 2010

  • FE blog

    Free anti-virus protection for home computers – good news for staff and students


    I was suprised to discover I hadn’t blogged this before. So if you’ve renewed an anti-virus subscription for your home computer since last October, when this was launched, then I’m sorry!

    We have launched a free anti-virus programme, Microsoft Security Essentials, which is for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, and comes with lifetime updates. It’s simple to install and very easy to use. And free.

    The “free” bit is restricted to home users, because we don’t believe that this is the right solution for campus-wide anti-virus protection. You need a centrally managed anti-virus solution, where you can force settings so that all of your machines are updated automatically all the time, and that your users can’t switch off updates. For campus use, there’s Microsoft Forefront, which is a cost-effective managed protection system (free trial here)

    Here’s the official blurb:

    Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

    Microsoft Security Essentials is a free* download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple.

    Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long computer wait times.

    You can download Microsoft Security Essentials free from http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials

    If you’ve got students who are bringing in files on a memory stick, or uploading things to your systems, then it’s in your interest to help them get protected, to reduce the risk of virus infections on your campus computers.

    Here’s a banner and link that you could put onto your website or intranet:

    And there’s also an image that you could use for your noticeboards for staff or students.

  • FE blog

    Guidelines on web usability – useful for college websites


    When I wrote the Good Blogging Guide last year, I concentrated on audience, purpose, search and writing like a real person (I hear voices saying “Look at yourself Ray, you’ve forgotten it all already!”). What I spent little time on was the technical side of blogging and the web – navigation, usability, content such as images, and other areas.

    But the COI (Central Office of Information) for the Government have produced an excellent, and easy-to-read, set of usability guidelines for creating usable website in the public sector. It includes technical and design advice, as well as some very good pointers towards writing effective web content.


    If you’re involved in a college website project – whether that’s external for the public, or just internal for students and staff, it is a very worthwhile read. Useful too if you’re planning a new SharePoint 2010 project.


    You can download the PDF’s of both guides too:

  • FE blog

    Getting the cold-shoulder the day after Valentine’s Day?


    From tomorrow, if you’re running Windows 7 RC (Release Candidate) - ie the pre-release version from last summer - then your computer will start to remind you that you really, really need to get on with upgrading to a fully released version of Windows 7. I know that quite a few IT people in colleges installed it on their own netbook or laptop. And some of those have been too busy since last August to get around to putting the released version on.

    So, if you’re running the released version of Windows 7, you’re good. But if you’ve left upgrading too long, then you need to pay attention to it.

    If you don’t, your friendship with the Release Candidate is going to be a bit like a failing relationship in your personal life:

    • From 15th Feb it’ll start by nudging you and dropping hints – like a little message here and there.
    • From 1st March, things will be a little frostier – every two hours you’ll get the silent treatment (well, a controlled shutdown) and when it is talking to you again, it’ll claim to have forgotten everything you’ve said (ie it won’t save your work when it shuts down).
    • And then finally from the first of June it’ll be terminal decline – painting your wallpaper black, announcing “This copy of Windows is not genuine” on your desktop, and refusing to talk to your friends (or at least, your Windows Update server)

    More details, and advice about making the switch, on the Windows Team blog

    This won’t be news to you – it was all covered in depth when we gave you the download for the RC. Just a nudge to get on with it before 1st March. And as most of you have got a Campus Agreement, your licence is already covered by that. You just need to find the time!

  • FE blog

    Windows 7 in Welsh


    We’ve just released the Language Interface Pack for Windows 7 in Welsh. It’s free as a result of the collaboration between Microsoft and Welsh Language Board. As the press release makes clear, we pay for the work, and the Welsh Language Board provide the translators through the Cymen translation company of Caernarfon. They then get busy translating big swathes of Windows 7 into Welsh with us.

    You can read the announcement from the Welsh Language Board for more details.

    Download the Welsh Language Pack for Windows 7

    I’m told that this page contains the download (well, it certainly looks Welsh, doesn’t it)


    There's a complete "How to Install with Welsh Language pack" guide here

    imageWe have plenty of other things in Welsh too – like Office 2007, Office 2003, Digital Literacy Curriculum and SharePoint ar gael in Gymraeg. And there are 48 other languages for Office here

    Things you didn’t know about Welsh?

    • The longest place name in the United Kingdom, and one of the longest in the world, is
      Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave).
    • Welsh is spoken by about 25,000 people in the Chubut Valley, a colony of Welsh immigrants in the Patagonia region of Argentina.
    • To secure communications without using complicated cryptography, Welsh regiments serving on peace missions in Bosnia (now known as Bosnia and Herzegovina) simply used their native language.
  • FE blog

    TechNet webcasts


    Each month the TechNet and MSDN teams over in the US host a wide range of webcasts on technical subjects.

    As they are held on Pacific Coast time, they first one of the day is normally at 4pm. There are others, later on in the evening, which are also good, but I know that you’re going to need a burning interest in something to turn up for a 9pm webcast.

    You can find this month’s webcasts on this page (all UK times), and also look at the future ones.

    Key February Webcasts

    Here’s the ones I think might be useful for you. Unfortunately the appropriate February ones all look like 7pm ones. Mind you, maybe you need an excuse to skip out of Corrie. And there is a special Higher Education one on the 24th at 9PM, on creating public-facing websites, which may also be of interest.

    SharePoint 2010 and social networking
    Thursday 18th, 7pm Momentum Webcast: Social Computing with SharePoint 2010 (Level 100)
    Ideal to understand how the new social networking features of SharePoint work, to help you plan for their use within your campus.

    Windows 7 deployment
    Monday 22nd, 7pm TechNet Webcast: Everything You Wanted to Know About Windows 7 Deployment in 90 Minutes (Level 200)
    Described as a “whirlwind tour of the tools and methods used to deploy Windows 7”, from manual, to automated light-touch and zero-touch installations.

    SharePoint website migration in Higher Education
    Wednesday 24th, 9pm TechNet Webcast: Higher Education, Public-Facing Web Site Creation (Level 200)
    In partnership with Dell, this looks at migration from an .NET content management system to SharePoint

    What does Level 100/200/300 mean?

    I can’t find an ‘official’ definition, so here’s my scale:

    • Level 100: If you can logon to a webcast, then the content won’t go over your head
    • Level 200: There’ll be some technical content, but the majority will be in plain English
    • Level 300: Propeller-Heads only. Personally, I only get about 30% of the Level 300 session
    • Level 400: As Steve Ballmer would say, “Developers, Developers, Developers”
  • FE blog

    How many people are using Windows 7 in UK colleges?


    Browser statsI just had a look at the statistics for visitors to this blog, for UK colleges. The answer appears to be nearly a quarter now. The table is the last month’s visitors.

    Although I don’t believe that it means that a quarter of all college computers are running Windows 7, I do believe it is representative of IT staff in colleges. And they’re probably already planning whether they are going to roll out Windows 7 to the rest of the college at Easter or in the summer.

    imageQuickly find all the other Windows 7 posts on this blog

  • FE blog

    Ready-made IT user documentation


    When I started working at Microsoft, I hadn’t been in such an open, technology rich culture before. And with so many IT systems around, and so many different software resources, my head was buzzing. In fact, I remember that at the end of the first week, the number of links in my Favourites was massive – just to internal websites.

    I’d never used internet telephony, encryption, instant messaging, live meeting, SharePoint or Groove before, so I was all at sea until I could play around and work out how they were supposed to operate. Meanwhile, people who’d been at Microsoft for a while were metaphorically whizzing past me, as they collaborated, shared, published and distributed information. Whilst I was trying to work out how to answer my desk phone.

    imageOne of the godsends for me was a set of documents called Work Smart Guides, which walked me through the basics of some of the new technology I was encountering.

    As our IT team describe it, Work Smart Guides bridge the gap between technology and users. Work Smart guides provide employees with scenario-based, best-use productivity aids on Microsoft products and technologies.

    We produce them because we expect to see more consistent, productive, and cost-effective use of products and technologies across the company – which helps the business ROI on IT investments, as well as helping people to understand the benefit the IT team deliver to users.

    Ready-made IT guides

    I found out today that we have also published them for customers to modify and use. This seems a great step – because I’m guessing that every college in the UK is producing user documentation where 80-90% of the content is identical. So these guides would make a good starter for 10, either for the format, or the instructions, or the simple screenshots. As an example, here’s the Email Basics one.

    The subjects covered in the step-by-step guides for users include:

    • Environmental sustainability (hints like using Balanced power settings on your laptop)
    • Protecting data with BitLocker
    • Getting started with email
    • Transfer files and settings to a new computer
    • Collaborating with SharePoint
    • An overview of collaboration tools
    • Customising SharePoint sites
    • Integrating Outlook with SharePoint
    • Basics of managing email (Are you a stacker or a filer?)
    • Office tips
    • Outlook email signatures
    • New features for users in Windows 7

    Download the Work Smart Guides

    You can download the customisable versions of Work Smart materials from TechNet. There are 23 of them, and they come in one big Zip file for you to play with.

    Bonus: You should also be looking at the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder, described by Long Zheng as a miracle tool. It does what it says on the tin, and the best bit is that the document it creates is brilliant for creating user guides, with screen shots and step-by-step instructions. Just stick “problem steps” into the search box of your Windows 7 Start menu.

  • FE blog

    Windows Azure in four minutes


    This blog post is definitely for the techies amongst you!

    Things are changing very rapidly in the way that ICT services can be delivered and used in education. Although most of the developments from major ICT providers aren’t specific to education, they are addressing the issues that education faces today.

    Windows Azure logo blOne of the developments is the Windows Azure system, which is designed to allow you to run services and develop applications for a cloud-based system, instead of having a big pile of servers within your college.

    Unless you’ve got a pile of developers in your college (and I know that some of you do!) then I guess you aren’t going to be buried in the detail of how these services work – because it will mainly be used by your suppliers, as they think about moving some of their applications to the cloud.

    The official summary blurb for Azure describes it thus:

    The Windows Azure platform offers a flexible, familiar environment for developers to create cloud applications and services. With Windows Azure, you can shorten your time to market and adapt as demand for your service grows.

    Windows Azure offers a platform that is easily implemented alongside your current environment.

    - Windows Azure: operating system as an online service
    - Microsoft SQL Azure: fully relational cloud database solution
    - Windows Azure platform AppFabric: makes it simpler to connect cloud services and on-premises applications

    And I’ve found a short video that provides an overview of Windows Azure in a much more digestible form. Having watched it, I can now describe it to other people much better (and now fully appreciate why it’s a good thing!).

    The best simple introduction I’ve seen for Windows Azure

    If you can’t see the video above, then here’s a direct link. However, as it’s a YouTube video, it may be blocked by your web filter – unfortunately I couldn’t find a copy anywhere else.

    Fascinating fact: Steve Marx has blogged about how he made this video - using just PowerPoint & Community Clips. I’m envious of his talent.

    If this is a bit lightweight for you, then you may prefer to read the Introducing Windows Azure whitepaper (PDF) – just one of many whitepapers on Windows Azure

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Further Education Briefing 2010


    Bookings are now open for our Further Education Briefing day, which this year falls on 19th March in London.


    Microsoft will be holding our annual Further Education Briefing on 19th March 2010 at our London offices in Victoria. The agenda for the event runs from 9:45 to 3:00 with breaks to catch up with colleagues from other colleges.

    As well as getting the latest news on Microsoft’s product roadmap, there will be the opportunity to hear from other colleges and to hear how they are responding to the economic pressures that all colleges are feeling. Of course, this current academic year is full of launches of new Microsoft products, and we’ll be able to use the day to bring all of this into context – explaining the value and relative importance of some of the key new product launches still to come.

    The event will be suitable for senior managers, whether or not they are involved in IT strategy on a day-to-day basis.

    Further Education Briefing Agenda

    09:15    Registration and coffee

    09:45    Welcome and Introduction

    10:00    Looking ahead a decade: The future vision of work

    10:40    Office 2010

    11:05    Break

    11:20    Microsoft SharePoint 2010

    11:45    Live@edu

    12:10    Lunch

    13:00    When budgets don’t meet aspirations - Customer case study

    13:25    Linking Moodle to your Microsoft infrastructure

    13:35    Introduction to “Cost saving and Revenue Raising”

    13:40    Virtualisation to reduce costs

    14:10    Office Communications Server    

    14:40    The Microsoft IT Academy

    15:00    Summary and close

    Amanda Bicknell, the Microsoft UK Further Education Business Manager will lead the day, introducing experts from Microsoft and case studies from our customers.

    We’ll be holding the briefing at our offices in Victoria, and there will be plenty of Microsoft colleagues available for discussions.

    You can book your place online now

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