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June, 2009 - 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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June, 2009

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 – All of the Release Candidate DVD's have gone...


    Sorry, they've all gone now!

    Although you’ve probably already downloaded this over your megastream Internet links, I’ve laid my hands on some ‘Windows 7 Release Candidate’ DVDs just in case. Over the next week, I’ve got a series of blog posts planned to talk about some of the features of Windows 7 that will be particularly useful to universities, and you may want to install a copy of it, so that you can try them out in your particular situation. So if you’re interested in spending a little more time understanding what Windows 7 does, and have a spare computer hanging around, then email me and I’ll pop one in the post to you.

    Four interesting things about this:

    1. “Release Candidate” (RC) is the penultimate release before we say “Yes, it’s definitely final and released”. Once we’ve done that, we then call it RTM, or Release To Manufacturing. This RC version is free to use for a year, whereas the RTM version is the final one that you pay for. (Of course, at the end of the year, you then need to upgrade to the released version or revert back to whatever your computer was previously licensed for)
    2. Although we generally advise you not to run the Release Candidate for business critical computers, I know quite a few education customers who already run it on their own laptops/netbooks. I have been running the beta (earlier) version of Windows 7 on my demonstration laptop since January, and have just moved my main laptop onto Windows 7. Because we like inventing new words at Microsoft, we call this “dog-fooding” (as in “We eat our own dog food”). Basically, it’s part of making sure that it’s good enough for you to use, by starting to run our business on it.
    3. This is the first time I can remember that the new version of Windows runs on lower spec hardware than the previous release! We’ve dragged a few older laptops out of various storage cupboards (where they’d been put because they ran Windows Vista poorly) and they all seem to cope quite well with Windows 7. I’ve also talked to a few customers in education who say that it good running on various netbooks, which have definitely been a challenge with Windows Vista.
    4. You should play around with the BitLocker feature, mentioned in the video accompanying yesterday’s blog post, because of the new mode called BitLocker to Go. This gives you encryption protection for USB Memory Sticks (think: ‘personal data loss’) but as I was reading a bit more about it last night, I discovered it also allows you to specify a default that any USB Memory Stick can be read, BUT only encrypted memory sticks can be saved to. This seems really useful in a school – it means that academics/students can be allowed to bring in their lesson plans/videos/pictures etc from home on a memory stick, but you can stop them copying data onto it.

    Anyway, if you’d like me to send you a installation DVD and you're in the UK, then email me and I’ll pop one in the post to you.

    (I'm afraid that if you're outside the UK, you'll need to download a copy - from this link)


    Small print: When they’re gone, they’re gone!

    Another bit of small print: We have copies for the 32-bit version. Somebody has just asked for a 64-bit, which we don't have, but you can download that from this link:

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 is getting closer



    The Windows 7 team announced it will be available on October 22nd – that’s the date in the stores, so I don’t know if we’ll get the version for education (ie the Volume Licence version) any earlier. Even if it was earlier, I guess it’s unlikely it’ll be in time to roll it out before the end of the summer holidays (shame). Given the positive feedback that seems to be flowing around the current Release Candidate (did you know you can install that and run it free until July next year?), perhaps we could collaboratively build a list of devices people have been running it on – especially some of the entry-level netbooks and laptops.

    As an aside, if you, or a student you know, is going to buy a new laptop this summer then the Windows 7 team also mentioned that there will be news soon on the Windows 7 Upgrade Option. My understanding is that this is similar to the “Tech Guarantee” we’ve offered in the past, where if you buy a new PC after a certain date, you qualify for a low-cost upgrade to Windows 7. More details when I have them…

    What does Windows 7 run on? Share your experiences

    Time for sharing – what devices have you got Windows 7 running on already, and what spec? Add a comment to the blog, or drop me an email via the link above, and I’ll publish a table in a couple of weeks, based on typical experiences of computers that are in schools today. Given the experiences of running Windows Vista on older laptops, the real interest is not going to be “Does it run on what I’m going to buy this summer?”, but “Does it run on what I bought last summer, and the summer before?”

    Here’s my list so far, for my own laptops:

    Manufacturer Laptop Basic Spec Notes
    Lenovo X61 2GB RAM, 100GB Disk My every day laptop - Better performance than Vista
    Samsung R40 1GB RAM, 80GB Disk My demo laptop - Simple install and didn’t require any additional drivers later.


    And finally, my second favourite feature of Windows 7

    After I told you my favourite Windows 7 feature last week, I’ve now decided what my second favourite feature is – you can setup the default printer according to your location.

    imageThis is great for me, as I use my laptop in the office, at home, and out and about. I’d be working at home, hit PRINT, and then realise it was going to a printer somewhere in Reading. And there’s been more than one occasion when I’ve had to ring somebody and ask them to grab something urgently from the printer and put it in the shredder!

    Now, with Windows 7, I have set up my default printers so that at home it prints on my inkjet (connected through my home PC) and in the office, it will print to the nearest printer to my desk.

    Your staff can avoid that awful moment when they’re sitting at home, and realise they’ve printed their holiday booking on the printer at work.


  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 Application Compatibility in education


    A last week I wrote “Windows 7 is getting closer”, and one of the readers posed the question about Application Compatibility – their point was that they used over 450 applications, so couldn’t we test them all to check they work on Windows 7. Hopefully it’s no surprise to learn that we can’t do all of that, but that there’s been a big focus on overall application compatibility in Windows 7 – back to both Windows Vista and Windows XP.

    Later today, Mark Russinovich is hosting a worldwide roundtable on Application Compability that you might want to join in. As it is a single event for the whole world, it is at 7pm our time tonight, but I’ve had a look at the telly schedule and there’s nothing exciting on (thank goodness Britain’s Got Talent has finished – for so many reasons!).

    Here’s the blurb:


    “Windows 7 is approaching fast and from the application standpoint is very similar to Windows Vista. We’re going to examine Windows 7 application compatibility not only from the perspective of moving from Windows Vista, but also for those coming from Windows XP. Join us to discuss the most common challenges around application compatibility when coming from a legacy operating system, why changes were made along the way, compatibility technologies inside the OS and methods for getting incompatible applications to run on Windows 7. Along the way we share tips and tricks, demonstrate free tools to analyze and fix applications and answer your specific questions about application compatibility live.”

    You can attend using this link – just logon a few minutes before 7pm:

    As part of the “virtual” experience, you may submit your questions about Windows 7 Application Compatibility to the panel live during the event—or submit questions in advance to

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Security quiz – gloves off!


    There are lots of stories going around the UKHE circuit about security at the moment, particularly email security.  One area that’s really tough to get right as the danger from social engineering (here’s a hint to the quiz).

    So, have a look at this and let me know how you get on.  I’m looking for the fastest responses to getting all of these right and it looks like you can win a full copy of Windows 7 as part of the process.

    This quiz is also a great way to show how Silverlight can be used in a teaching/learning context that brings real user engagement with the content and assesses capability on the way.

    I would love to hear your feedback on both the Security quiz and the medium to deploy it.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft HE community - EduCoMS


    On Tuesday, I’m travelling down to meet Eduserv and UCISA to discuss the EduCoMS community website which looks to have had zero activity for around 6 months since Jonathan Noble from Newcastle posted an article on Windows Vista and the one before that was from me, also on Vista.

    I should have asked this earlier but what does the community want?  Please let me know via email if you can.  Jonathan Noble has already and he came up with some good ideas (check his blog) and I’d love to hear more.

    Alternatively, start using the site and make your feelings known there and I look forward to supporting you where I can.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Recovering lost USB memory sticks



    You must have seen them – plaintive, desperate or just plain panic. It hasn’t taken long for the USB memory stick to turn into something that everybody has (and yet, I can still remember that sense of satisfaction when I was given my first freebie memory stick with 16MB of memory!). Now it’s not uncommon to see students with 2GB memory sticks plugged into whatever computer they are using.

    BUT as well as being a solution to portable data storage, they are also a problem. Because one day it might go missing. And it is not uncommon to find desperate pleas around computer suites asking for help in finding a missing USB memory stick.

    We’ve been suggesting for a while that students use either SkyDrive or Office Live Workspace to store files online. It also means that they can share files if they choose, and collaborate on work. And in the case of Office Live Workspace, they can Open & Save into their storage on the web, directly from Office. And they are both free.

    But, it’s a bit of a boring subject isn’t it? Until you’ve lost your memory stick. (A bit like doing PC backups – boring until it’s too late!)

    So the Office Live Workspaces team have created a video that just might appeal to your students.

    Ever wondered where student’s lost memory sticks end up?

    So now you know.  And you can either encourage students to use their free Office Live Workspace individually, or provide it as a free service to all of your students through the Live@Edu service

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Office tools coming to a browser near you soon


    Microsoft Office Live WorkspaceAnother update on the earlier post today on Office Live Workspace.   Many of you will already know that there are office application editing capability is coming to OLW but here are some screenshots of what they are likely to look like.  Surprisingly similar to the PC tools.


    Personally, I can’t wait for this to launch because it means I can then access my study documents anywhere and from any PC.

    This is a good site in general for what’s going on on OLW and some good edu content in there.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Dealing with university email spam


    Over the last few months, there have been a few occasions where universities have been falsely identified as spammers – either because their mail sending services inadvertently set of spam detectors, or because they were genuinely being used to re-route spam mail. This problem is likely to increase rather than decrease, as so much of our daily email is categorised as spam. Yale University found out that 94% of all email that went through their own servers was spam last autumn, which is only slightly higher than the average.

    Understandably when a spammer is blocked, the ISP or mail provider doesn’t tell them, otherwise it would turn into a cat-and-mouse game between spammers and email services.

    So if your university email is blocked by an ISP or email service, the first you may know about it is when one of your students or staff tells you that an important email they sent didn’t arrive.

    JANET have provided some generic advice on avoiding false-positives on spam detection, and my colleague Ben has provided some very specific advice on how to ensure that your university email system isn’t blocked by Hotmail or other Microsoft mail services.

    Email_3[1]Ben’s is a step by step guide, with a lot of very specific links and instructions that you can follow, including a good deal of background reading to help you to understand why the situation happens, as well as how to avoid it.

    Sometimes you can have your mail blocked because recipients report it as spam in their mail client (eg if you have a mailing list which includes potential applicants, and they report your newsletter as spam to their mail service provider), so it is definitely worth following Ben’s guidance, especially if somebody in your university is planning any massive e-mailshots this summer. In those cases, you may feel that it is unfair that you’ve been identified – but spam is measured through the eyes of the reader, and not everybody trusts the “unsubscribe” option, and simply ticks the “this mail is spam” button instead.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Ultimatesteal…going soon


    Cheap office, and more – for students only!

    Practically everything that you’d need for under 40 quid!


    The Ultimate Steal is ending this month.

    Only days to go! Ends June 26, 2009.

    Get it while you can.

    Microsoft® Office Ultimate 2007 for just £38.95

    Get this only at


    Microsoft® Office Ultimate purchased by eligible students and faculty contains the latest Microsoft Access (database), Excel, PowerPoint, Word, OneNote, InfoPath, Groove, Publisher and Outlook.

    Why risk unreliable and unsupported pirated versions when you can have the genuine thing for just £38.95?

    +’This incredible offer is only available for students and faculty of UK further or higher education institutions (uni or college) – to register you will need a valid .ac email address.

    Only available at

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    A picture is worth a thousand words


    I believe that everyone, including academics, love to see a good diagram or schematic and they appreciate that students have made the extra effort to communicate their point. Use Microsoft Office Visio to build diagrams and schematics for use in your assignment and coursework. It’s a great way to show-off to your professor’s what you’ve learnt and at £36.95 it’s a small investment. It’s great to help you articulate complex ideas and through more effective visuals.

    If you’ve got complex ideas that you have to communicate, and you need to keep your word count under Visio is the perfect software to add to your kit. You can get the special students price only at

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