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  • FE blog

    Taking the search out of ‘Search and Rescue’'


    If you’re a follower of technology, you will have seen all of the news from Microsoft’s PDC Conference in the States last month, where there were the first insights into Windows 7 and the launch of our new Internet strategy with Windows Azure, Live Mesh etc.

    Much of the coverage focused on the technology, but what made me sit up and take notice was that UK customers have been some of the first to start using these new technologies. For example, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) were featured for their use of Windows Azure to help them grow their search and rescue systems. I’ve met the RNLI IT team a couple of times, and I know that they run a very sophisticated IT system, but it was a surprise to see that they were so involved in such leading edge technology.

    They have been building a new system for lifesaving on Windows Azure. At PDC delegates saw this short video explains what the MOB Guardian system is all about and why they’re looking at Windows Azure as the next step forward to help them widen the use of the system.

    <a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=efed47e0-1b7a-4c44-9af5-8e603470c981" target="_new" title="RNLI and AWS Mob Guardian Windows Azure Testimonial">Video: RNLI and AWS Mob Guardian Windows Azure Testimonial</a>

    (Video link)

    In a nutshell, MOB Guardian is a device that sits on a seagoing vessel and fires an alarm to a monitoring centre should the crew get in to trouble. Scaling this system was the challenge and that’s where Azure comes in with compute power on tap and the potential for huge cost savings.

  • FE blog

    Excellent BitLocker deployment advice


    As you may know, I enabled Windows Vista’s BitLocker encryption on my laptop a couple of weeks ago, and since that time I have been reassured to know that should something happen to my laptop, all of the data on it is fully encrypted and secure. The whole process was very smooth – I simply enabled it in the Control Panel, and the encryption happened in the background over a morning. If you’re thinking of doing something similar for your laptops, you would benefit from reading an excellent TechNet article written by the Microsoft IT team – they’re the people that keep all of our in-house IT systems running.

    The article deals with both the technical, and managerial issues, of managing the introduction, and also gives a unique insight into the challenges of change in a very tech-savvy environment. And the article is incredibly honest about the challenges faced, and the lessons learned. Here’s an extract:

    Lessons Learned

    Lessons learned during Microsoft IT's BitLocker deployment include:

    • Microsoft IT tried to retrofit the environment with BitLocker. A better approach would have been to move forward with new computers and then upgrade only existing computers that had the highest security risk.
    • Microsoft IT thought BitLocker would be easier to deploy than it was. Microsoft IT relied on the BitLocker Preparation Tool to handle all aspects but found during testing that it failed in some situations, primarily due to locked files when trying to shrink the partition.
    • Hardware needs rigorous testing at scale. Computers that test well in a lab environment sometimes yield different results in a production environment. In other words, one computer in a lab might look fine but thousands in the production environment have variance, such as differences in the BIOS.
    • Recognizing high-business-impact data is a difficult, industry-wide issue. Few tools are available that enable organizations to find the types of high-business-impact data that users have on their computers.

    Read the whole article here, and if you have time take a look at the whole IT Showcase section – a large section of the website in which the Microsoft IT team share their experiences in running a complex IT infrastructure (The “How Microsoft IT reduces costs” section is especially interesting)

  • FE blog

    Office for the Web


    I go away on holiday, and suddenly tons of things get announced. Hurrah. I should holiday more!

    Alongside all of the Windows announcements (the first public view of Windows 7 and the new cloud-computing platform, Windows Azure), we also previewed the Office Web Applications which will be included within the release of the next version of Office in early 2010.

    For colleges, this will be an important development, as it will mean that you will be able to have complete transportability of documents and work (with complete fidelity*) between home and college, regardless of whether your students have Office at home or not, or have an older or more recent version than you use in college.

    First Look: Office 14 for Web

    I don’t think that moving to web-based Office applications is the right thing for everybody, in all circumstances, because a lot of what students (and teachers) do today involves a rich mix of media and data, and it would be wrong to assume that everybody is online all of the time. But it provides another element of flexibility. It’s still a year away, but the Beta will be available sooner, and we’ll all get the chance to play with it and see what it can do.

    * With complete fidelity: This is something that I think is quite important to students & teachers. If I create a document where the pictures all line up, and it looks perfect, I don’t want to transfer it to another piece of software which makes it look different. Sometimes (but decreasingly) I get that experience moving between Office 2003 & Office 2007, but I have seen some wild changes moving between different applications which use .odt, simply because there doesn’t appear to be a standard way to implement an open standard! What the team demonstrate on the video above is that one of their clear focus areas it to ensure that when you move from the Office suite to the web suite, and back, it retains all of the information, and all of the formatting is consistent.

  • FE blog

    Live Services to Your Collaborative Campus


    Web-based services and ‘cloud computing’ are very topical at the moment, especially following a number of Microsoft announcements at the Professional Developer’s Conference earlier this week. So why not join Salford Software and Microsoft to discuss the challenges facing colleges in the provision of collaborative environments for working and an enhanced learning experience.

    Come and talk to specialists from Salford Software and Microsoft to find out how technologies such as Live@edu, Identity Lifecycle Manager and SharePoint can meet the requirements of the Further Education sector.

    To register your free place at this event, please complete the form below including details of any special requirements you may have.

    Date: 9 December 2008
    Location: Microsoft Offices, Cardinal Place, Victoria

    Register at: http://www.salfordsoftware.co.uk/education/event_details.html?event=96

    Event Reference: MSLON0


  • FE blog

    BitLocker’d up


    To the famous Diana Ross tune I’m Coming Out*

    I’m BitLocker’d up,
    I want the world to know,
    Got to let it show,

    I’m BitLocker’d up,
    I want the world to know,
    Got to let it show…

    I don’t know why it took me so long to get started. My new laptop has a TPM chip in it, and even though it doesn’t contain any sensitive customer data on it, it deserves to be encrypted. And so, this morning I went into Control Panel and set BitLocker encryption. It was an incredibly easy process. To demonstrate, here’s the four things I had to do:

    • imageIn Control Panel, go into Security
    • Then I chose BitLocker Drive Encryption
    • I then had to reboot and tell my PC that I really did want BitLocker to control my TPM chip (ie press “Y”)
    • And then finally to store my BitLocker “password” on a USB stick (which is now carefully locked away, and not stored in my laptop bag!)

    imageAnd for four hours, this message moved across my screen while I continued working

    And that’s it. I’ve now got a fully encrypted laptop, with an encryption system certified by the CESG (The Govt’s National Technical Authority for Information Assurance).

    Having read that last week’s data loss could be up to 1.7 million people’s records (is anybody keeping a count?), then I will sleep easier..

    Want to use BitLocker yourself?

    1. Make sure you’ve got Windows Vista Business or Enterprise version
    2. Preferably choose a computer with a TPM chip
    3. Prepare the machine (there’s a techie stage involved, which all of our laptops have done to them before they leave the Lenovo factory)
    4. Get BitLocker’d up… (catchy tune still in your head?)

    (And if you just want to BitLocker an USB memory stick, to protect some data being transported, read Jerry’s BitLocker instructions here)

    * Note to self: If Diana Ross song leads in wrong direction, I might have to disable comments on this post!

  • FE blog

    Virtualisation on Tour – November to January


    VirtualisationUnplugged Between November and January, we’re running a free “Virtualisation Unplugged” roadshow – 9 events, 7 cities, 420 PowerPoint slides (only joking…I think)

    Virtualisation is a buzzword today, because of both the technical flexibility it can give and especially because of the potential energy & cost savings it can deliver. Suddenly virtualisation starts to look even more attractive when you look at the rising costs of energy within a college, and the potential to reduce the number of physical servers in your server rooms.

    Although originally focused on consolidating resources in the data centre, virtualisation now has applications across the IT spectrum, driving down costs and improving agility. 

    Virtualisation Unplugged will replicate the format of the successful Exchange Unplugged tour of last year, so the event will provide a top to bottom view of the Microsoft Virtualisation strategy and give you the information you need to go back to the campus to make this actionable.

    The day runs from 9:30 – 4:30, and is hopefully coming to a city near you. The day includes how to virtualise with System Center, Hyper-V, MDOP (to virtualise applications), VDI (to virtualise desktops) and finally Terminal Services 2008. Who could resist booking?

    To find out the dates, and register, for events in Edinburgh, Cambridge, London, Leeds, Reading and Barlborough (yes, I had to ask too – turns out to be near the city with the twisty spire – Chesterfield) check out the Virtualisation Unplugged website.

  • FE blog

    Virtualisation Unplugged at the Royal Academy of Music, London



    Virtualisation is all the rage, and as a result it is gaining attention across the whole public sector, including education. Originally focused on consolidating resources in the data centre, virtualisation now has applications across the spectrum: driving down costs, improving responsiveness and reducing carbon emissions — with the potential to dramatically improve productivity and reduce cost.

    Of course, with the launch of Windows Server 2008, the capabilities of the Microsoft virtualisation system have made a leap (described by a colleague, in a silver-tongued moment as “a comprehensive end-to-end toolset for creating, managing and securing a virtual infrastructure”) . There’s a chance for you to catch up with the story, and see what it possible at Virtualisation Unplugged on 24 October 2008, at the Royal Academy of Music in London





    Introduction to Microsoft all-up story on virtualisation


    Customer Presentation




    Server Virtualisation with Hyper-V

      Technical session introducing Hyper-V — The Microsoft server virtualisation offering


    Management of Virtual Servers
      including other vendors such as VMware




    Role-based Computing
      Delivering the right set of services using the right virtualisation method


    Application Virtualisation using App V
      formerly known as Softgrid




    Virtualisation Futures 
      Where are we going with virtualisation?


    Questions and Answers



    Find out more, and register here

  • FE blog

    Event – Relationship Management Systems in FE


    I’ve had a note from Charlotte Holder at Morse about an event that they are running on 2nd December in London, for FE college senior management teams. Depending on your role, this may not be of immediate interest to you, but you may want to pass the details onto a colleague.

    Charlotte writes:

    MORSE_Tag_2Col_CWe would like to invite you to join us at an exclusive morning event on Tuesday 2nd December to explore how, in the Further Education sector, business can be greatly increased and employer engagement made more effective, through the use of intelligence-led systems.

    Colleges are becoming increasingly effective in responding to employer needs and diversifying their income base. However, growing levels of business by tracking contacts with employers and capitalising on intelligence gathered by customer-facing staff continues to present a major challenge for the sector.

    This session, which has been jointly arranged by Microsoft UK and Morse, will focus on how Relationship Management Systems can be utilised to more accurately target your business development resources. Importantly, the event will also demonstrate how the system may help your organisation build an evidence base toward Training Quality Standard certification, as well as providing an opportunity to network with an invited group of fellow principals and senior managers.

    Date:                    Tuesday 2nd December, 2008 

    Time:                    10.00am – 1.00pm

    Venue:                  Soho House, LondonW1D 4EB

    Facilitator:            Keith Finney, Director, FE Partnerships

    The agenda will cover

    • Turning leads into project wins to maximise Return on Investment
    • Automating employer interaction processes to strengthen relationships, meet deadlines and improve college reputation
    • Ensuring better cross collaboration between departments, employers, strategic partners and sub-contractors
    • Introducing new systems to capture and manage information such as matching training solutions to employer needs

    The content of the day is specifically aimed for principals or their senior staff nominee.

    Interested in attending? Drop an email to Charlotte at Morse to book your place.

    Having re-read the invite note, I’m presuming when Charlotte said “We would like to invite you to join us”, she meant YOU not me! Okay – checked it – it really was an invite for YOU not me!

  • FE blog

    What do you do when students arrive with their laptops?


    Here are two problem statements I heard from a college recently:

    Our staff and students expectations are rising – they expect us to provide them all with a laptop and we simply can’t afford it.

    We have a problem that students (and staff) arrive on campus with their own laptops, and are expecting to connect them to our network.

    Those statements were from the same college, and were separated by about 10 seconds. And it seemed to me that No.2 was part of the answer to No.1

    If you could enable students and staff to connect their own laptops, then you’d have a proportion of users happy and connected, and the number of students who would expect/need a college provided device would fall – perhaps to a manageable level?

    There’s no doubts that there are increasing expectations from students about the connectivity and services you’ll offer them through your ICT services (I read that Nottingham University are just about to experiment with WiMax), and if it isn’t already, it’s likely to end up on your IT development plan.

    I write all of this because, whilst searching for something else, I came across the La Trobe University case study from Australia, where they have implemented Network Access Protection, a feature of Windows Server 2008, to detect and manage the health of systems connecting to their network – including Windows, Linux and Apple computers. If you’re interested in the subject, you may want to read their case study, or better still, watch the video

    You can read their full case study here, and read more about Network Access Protection (NAP) here

  • FE blog

    Ed The Fed says "Stay safe out there"


    EdTheFedThumbI have a colleague, Ed, who’s a legend around here. He’s the Microsoft UK Chief Security Advisor. Obviously that’s a bit of a mouthful, which is why we call him “Ed the Fed”, because of his career history – which obviously makes him an ideal person to ask about Information Security. (I was going to share a picture of the real Ed, but I thought that you’d prefer the cardboard cutout of Ed from our atrium!)

    So I wandered along to Ed’s desk, told him about the dilemma education is facing with Information Security, and the new Becta Information Security guidelines, and he jumped into action.

    “Ray”, he said, “you need to remember that this isn’t just about what you do with your IT systems – it’s also about what people do”…and that led to a long, long conversation.

    Good to his word, Ed wrote a great article for me – something that you can share with colleagues, friends and family – designed to ensure that anybody using a PC – whether it’s their home machine or their working laptop – can be more secure.

    The premise is that you need everybody in your organisation adopting safer practices, at home and in college. And raising their awareness and giving them a self-interest (eg making sure that they are safer on their home PCs) will help you improve information security.

    Anyway, over to Ed:



    Chief Security Advisor, Microsoft Ltd UK


    The “Pareto Principle” - or, sometimes “Just Enough is Good Enough”

    I was asked by my friend, Ray Fleming, to list a few things you can do NOW to help ensure a safer online experience. He looked at the title to this article, and then me, and said he already didn’t want to read any further. “It’s supposed to be an article giving our readers a ‘Top 10’ list of things to do NOW, Gibson! Not a place to be talking about the Peter Principle”.

    But let’s not be too hasty, Mr Fleming. The PARETO principle is simply the formal name to what we all know to be the “80/20 Rule”, or, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. And that’s the point of this article - of the scores of things you can do to be safer online, there are a few you can take right NOW that will take you more than 80% of the way to online safety. Follow my Ten Steps to Online Safety in 30 Minutes and sleep more soundly tonight.

    1) Do not start surfing the web or getting busy online until you have completed steps 2-6.

    2) ANTI-MALWARE: If you have not already done so, install Anti-Virus, Anti-Spam, and Anti-Phishing software. If you are using Windows XP with auto updates turned on, or Windows Vista, you already have Windows Defender, free. But you still need Anti-Virus software. Go to www.WindowsMarketplace.co.uk, click on ‘Security Downloads’ at the top of the screen, and look for an Anti-Virus product. Get something you trust.

    3) Turn on your Internet (ie, go online).


    a) Run Windows Update to ensure you have the most current security updates.

    b) Run the Secunia Online Software Inspector to make sure even your non-Microsoft software is up to date. This will also alert you if your firewall is not turned on

    5) Run Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) now. This will get rid of the vast majority of malicious software and other unwanted software on your computer.

    6) Go to www.GetSafeOnline.org - the UK Government campaign for online safety. If you have wireless Internet read the section on wireless security. Make sure yours is configured properly - read the instructions for your wireless modem - if all of this sounds unfamiliar to you, send me an email for help.

    SEE, you feel much better already, right. Why? Because you just spent 30 minutes to make sure you are at least 80% of the way to being safer online.

    If you have 15 more minutes, read on.

    7) SOCIAL NETWORKING: If you have little people at home or university, they are likely to be using a social network site such as MySpace, BeBo, FaceBook, etc. Make sure you and your little people spend 10 minutes reviewing www.SafeSocialNetworking.com - though focused on BeBo, its advice applies to all sites.

    8) PASSWORDS: Let’s face it, if you are like me chances are you can’t remember a lot of passwords. Don’t go overboard. If you can’t remember your passwords, you’ll end up writing them down - which defeats the purpose for having them to begin with. Try remembering patterns on the keyboard instead.

    9) DO NOT click on any links in an e-mail from someone you do not know.

    10) PHISHING FILTER: Internet Explorer 7 has a built in phishing filter. If you see a red bar at the top of your webpage, it means you are going to a known site that has malicious software. DO not go there!

    Send me an E-Mail to EdGibson@Microsoft.com if you have questions or concerns. I reply to all emails (presuming you ask a question rather than suggest a new place for me to live).

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