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October, 2008 - The UK Higher Education Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The HE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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October, 2008

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Ultimate Steal Q & A


    I’ve had a few questions recently about the Ultimate Steal promotion – where students & staff with a “” email address can buy Office 2007 Ultimate for £38.95 for home use. Working on the assumption that other people are interested in the same questions, here’s my answers to the Ultimate Steal Frequently Asked Questions:

    What’s in the Office 2007 Ultimate version?

    Amazingly, I couldn’t find a table which compared the different versions of Office available for education – because both the home user versions and the business versions are relevant, and they’re normally on two different comparisons. So here’s my handy table of all of the educationally relevant versions of Office, and what’s in each one:


    Your university probably licences Professional (Plus) or Enterprise for your work use.

    And for your home computer, it’s most likely you’ll have Home & Student.

    Which is where the Ultimate Steal promotion comes in handy! It gives you everything - including Groove, which is a good way to securely synchronise files between multiple computers/users, and OneNote, for collecting text, web and multimedia information together as a series of note pages. Normally Office Ultimate would cost £500+ via a retailer, which is why we’re so strict about users needing a “” email address to qualify for The Ultimate Steal.

    Will there be an Ultimate Steal for Mac users?

    Yes, there will be, but it’s not ready yet - it’s due for release in January. The delay is waiting for the digital download version to become available. In the meantime, If you want a Mac version (sadly the download isn't available until late summer), and you’re a student, then pop over to one of our partners that sell educational licences for students. They are RM, Software4Students and the Pugh student shop, and from under £35...

    Can I use my Hotmail email address?

    The way we validate that you are a student is by sending your access code to your email address. So if you try to sign up with a hotmail/gmail/yahoo/ email address, then the system will tell you that it’s not valid. (Despite this, hundreds of students every week try, and then send us requests to let them use their hotmail address. But it’s not going to work :-)

    Where do I get support for Ultimate Steal?

    Before you ask, No, it’s not me!

    The Customer Support link on the Ultimate Steal home page not only answers 90% of the questions that people ask the support team, but also has a “Still need help?” section where you can contact the Ultimate Steal support team directly. Now, if you have given them a chance to help you, and not getting the support you need, drop me a line (using the Email link at the top of this page), then I can see if I can help. But please…give them a chance to respond first.

    One student (no naming & shaming) sent 7 emails to the support desk, put 3 comments on this blog, and then sent me 3 emails – all within a two hour block between 9pm & 11pm on one day. And still hasn’t responded to the email sent from the support desk the next day…

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Using Sharepoint as a VLE

    Have you considered Sharepoint in the role of a VLE?  I know that some universities are already doing this either with bespoke development, using the SharePoint Learning Kit (SLK) from or just out of the box functionality.  I've been working with a partner, eLearningforce, which has created SharePointLMS.  There's an excellent blog article here which talks about the fact that SharePoint might be the last server you'll ever buy :
    Take a look at the table comparing functionality with other VLE products on the market.  The great thing about using Sharepoint as a VLE is that pretty much every university, in the UK at least, is licensed for staff already so this becomes a matter of getting more functionality and value out of existing and familiar technology.  I've often been asked to help a university write a business case for Sharepoint.  A starting point could be to look at how much is currently spent on funding the licensing and/or maintainance of the institutional VLE and then look at the compartitive costs of SharePoint.
  • The UK Higher Education 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

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft collaborates with Universities to make educational games


    This seems to have started from one of my colleagues in Microsoft Research wanting to improve his language skills through the medium of role-playing games.  It worked but it seems that not many people understand why.

    So, Microsoft is now co-funding an initiative with a number of universities to find scientific evidence supporting the use of gaming as a valid educational tool. For more information take a look here.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Some help to keep your students safer from email scams


    For many students starting at university this year it will be their first experience of living independently and many will be feeling vulnerable and perhaps not always on their guard from potential scams.  Email is a lifeline for millions of students and regrettably it is being exploited by a minority waiting to pounce on vulnerable individuals.  There are many lines of defence built into a university's and hosted email infrastructures to help protect against email scams but often the last and best line of defence is a combination of education and awareness allowing people to recognise common types of email scams.

    Thankfully, the team on the HoTMaiL blog have posted this entry:!5D6F5A79A79B6708!7926.entry

    It lists in some detail the 5 most common types of email scam, which are:

    1. Verify your account now to avoid it being closed!
    2. A large sum of money is due to you if you just give us your personal information.
    3. You won something!
    4. The sudden emergency!
    5. If you don’t forward this email, something bad will happen.

    Also listed is information on what to do if you receive a questionable email.  The content of the article has a slight leaning to HoTMaiL but much of it is generic to any reader.

    The post has plenty of information on how to spot these.  For many people reading this blog, you might be tempted to believe that it's easy to identify these scams but for the young and vulnerable it's surprising how tempting it can be to follow the rabbit and get lured into the scam.

    Why not take the content from this posting, modify it to make it more relevant to your students and place it on your student pages?  The worse thing we can do is assume this is obvious to everyone.

  • The UK Higher Education 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!

  • The UK Higher Education 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)

    There’s a lot of interest in virtualisation from universities at the moment, because of both the technical flexibility it can give, and especially because of the potential energy & cost savings it can deliver. Some universities have told me about a doubling of electricity costs in their data centre in the last year, and suddenly virtualisation starts to look even more attractive!

    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.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Oxford University and Microsoft Launch IT Collaboration


    Oxford University publicly launched its "Groupware Project" on the 15 October with a series of presentations from the Vice Chancellor (John Hood), Microsoft's UK Managing Director (Gordon Frazer), Oxford's IT Director (Paul Jeffreys) and the Director of Oxford University Computing Services (Stuart Lee).

    It's with great pleasure for my Microsoft colleagues and me to announce that Oxford has chosen Microsoft products for its Groupware solution.  This will see Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint deployed to all the university's 32,000 staff and students to enable them to communicate and collaborate more effectively.  The collegiate university selected Microsoft following a thorough investigation of the university's needs and evaluating these against a number of possible solutions.

    During the launch, Professor Paul Jeffreys gave some of the reasons for Oxford's choice:

    "The Microsoft solution was strongly favoured over competitors because of the range of Groupware functions that it offers, its ease of use, the size of the installed user-base, its interoperability with existing applications, its market share, and developments anticipated on the software roadmap."

    Following the formal launch, the audience of some 150 delegates visited booths outside Said Business School's Nelson Mandela lecture hall to gain further understanding on how the solution will begin to take shape.  Several members of OUCS and colleagues of mine from Microsoft were on hand to discuss elements of the project from Identity to SharePoint.  Nick Umney on the SharePoint booth was inundated with excited question for the whole day.  It was fantastic to see so much passion and commitment to the project from both Oxford and Microsoft and I look forward to continuing to work with Oxford through the delivery of the project.

    more information is here.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Update on the Ultimate Steal


    The Ultimate Steal logoFor most universities, students have been back several weeks but when I was at Oxford last week for the launch of their Groupware project they reminded me that it was their first week of the academic year.  So, they might have missed some of the on going dialogue the rest of us have been enjoying about the Ultimate Steal and, for that matter, perhaps lots of others have too.

    The main area of focus is around how to let students know about the offer, as in this post.  For one of our London universities which only gave the Microsoft email address to its students as some kind of punishment to us then I do hope they are reading this posting.  One request was a presentation to play on the plasma screens around the university advertising this cheap (and legal) way to buy office.  I've posted a deck in my Skydrive folder for just this purpose (it's in Office 2007 format).


    Officelive workspaceI've also put a slide in there about OfficeLive Workspace just to make sure that students are using everything possible that's free.  IMHO, this is not only significantly cheaper than a memory stick but also much more flexible and secure.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows Vista in Higher Education - Why do students want it and Office 2007?

    Map image

    I went to visit the University of Sheffield this morning (my hometown) to catch up with one of their teams which has a massive enthusiasm for Vista.  The bad news is, I fell off my bike in my rush to get there and now I'm bruised all over.  The good news is they signposted me in the direction of this article which states that the university must ensure that its students consider the University to be leading edge and that part of this must include providing up to date software.  This has led to all student open access machines having Office 2007 installed before the start of the academic year 2008/9.  Go Sheffield!

    Whilst on the subject of students and state of the art software.  Some of my colleagues over in the US have done a bit of research into what're the key things students find useful in Vista.   There's a focus on mobility here, laptop or UMPC users; here they are:


    • Choice of devices
      1. Express personality
      2. Consumer choice to suit needs
      3. Students on any budget have a wide choice to suit requirements
    • Choice of applications
      1. Vista has wide range of apps to suit learners needs
    • Network and Sharing Center, an easy-to-use interface graphically showing the connection status of the computer
    • A simple wizard to create or join networks
    • Peer-to-Peer platform support for collaboration with Windows meeting space
      1. Small Group collaboration
      2. Sessions Near Me
      3. Multi-Party file sharing
    • Productivity with integrated search, live icons and thumbnail views of files students will find the documents they want quicker
    • Make presentations easier
      1. Network Projection and Presentation Settings
      2. Collaborate more efficiently
      3. Windows Meeting Space
    • Resume work quickly
      1. Sleep - Power State
      2. Power Plans
      3. Network Center
    • Update files automatically
      1. With Sync Center
      2. Offline Files and Folders
    • Configure settings quickly
      1. Windows Mobility Center
      2. Most frequently used settings
    • Power management:
      1. Power plans to control and manage battery life based on how you are working.
      2. Efficiency and environmental concern
    • Integration with Live
      1. Think back to the small group collaboration
      2. When no longer on Campus, there's still the need to easily share
      3. Live messenger - where would they be without it after all these years?
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