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  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Office 2010 availability dates for UK universities

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    imageWe have been developing Office 2010 for quite a while now – and many of you have been taking part in that by running the beta versions (at the last count, 7.5 million people have downloaded the beta version).

    Late on Friday, Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 reached their last stage in the development process – called Release To Manufacturing (RTM in geek-speak). That means that it is finished and ready to go, and the code is then released to be made into the final product – whether that’s creating the DVDs that you buy in a shop, or creating the download websites for our volume licence customers.

    Making the physical disks takes a little longer than the download sites, so here are the dates when you will be able to get hold of Office 2010:

    • April 27 – If you already have Office and bought Software Assurance you can download from the Volume Licensing Service Centre
      This covers all universities who have a Campus Agreement, and those of you who’ve bought Office 2007 under the Select licence with the Software Assurance.

        • May 1 – You can buy new Office 2010 licences from your Microsoft partner under Campus Agreement or Select.

            • June – Home users can buy a retail copy of Office 2010 from the shops

            If you’ve missed it, here’s a brief overview of what’s new in Office 2010.



          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            What is our CIO thinking about?

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            imageIf you are responsible for IT in a large organisation, then one of the biggest challenges you face is the huge pressure from internal and external forces for constant change – and also to reduce your budgets. The Microsoft Chief Information Officer Tony Scott is no different. I recommend taking ten minutes to watch the video he’s just recorded “Critical Trends within IT 2010” where talks about critical trends facing the IT industry, including cloud computing, virtualization, and the ongoing need to reduce costs and improve efficiency. He also talks about the changing role of the CIO, which is becoming more central to all organisations.

            This video is part of a larger series created by the Microsoft IT team (the ones who keep our internal network moving forward). Part of their role is to share their good practice with our customers. After all, they are often deploying beta versions of our new products in a live, mission-critical IT environment – so they learn a lot of things in advance of our customers.

            One of the ways that they do this is through TechNet, where they run a section called “Microsoft IT Showcase: How Microsoft Does IT”. As you’re working on your IT strategy plans for the next year, and especially if you are implementing any of our new products, it makes a great additional resource to use (mainly because the pragmatic advice is based on real-world deployments, rather than theoretical designs).

            They publish a wide range articles, white papers, and webcasts on issues from cost-cutting, new product deployments, to identity and access management.

            I’d also recommend their video Centralized Server Virtualization Drives IT Cost Reduction, which is one of their most viewed case studies. It describes the process, the cost savings, and the user and organisational benefits of the changes “



          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            Maintaining High Availability for Microsoft.com

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            There’s an interesting TechNet article all about how our IT team keep Microsoft.com up and running. Alongside the article, there’s also a webcast available, so that you can explore the story in more detail. As learning becomes more reliant on technology generally, and the web specifically, then there are some strong parallels with the challenges faced by IT teams in universities.

            The Microsoft corporate Web site, Microsoft.com, is one of the largest and most heavily visited sites on the Internet, yet it maintains consistently high availability ratings. The team that operates the site meets these demands through a combination of carefully planned infrastructure; collaboration with other teams; and use of technology for maintenance, monitoring, and change management.

            During the past eight years, Microsoft.com has achieved one of the highest rankings on the Internet in terms of site availability as measured by Keynote Systems Inc., an independent third party. According to the Keynote reports, Microsoft.com has been available more than 99.8 percent of the time for the past five consecutive years, and more than 99.9 percent of the time for the past two years. The site generates more than 1.2 billion hits per day from more than 57 million unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. This traffic generates 200 million daily page views, averages 30,000 Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) requests per second, and results in an average of 750,000 concurrent client connections.

            The Microsoft.com Operations (MSCOM Ops) team within Microsoft Information Technology (Microsoft IT) operates more than 300 production servers that host approximately 900 Web applications. Based on Internet Information Services (IIS) and Microsoft® SQL Server® database software, the infrastructure design takes advantage of newly released tools and features in support of the team's goal to be an early adopter of Microsoft technologies.

            The article describes how team identifies and mitigates potential points of failure to deliver continuous availability for Microsoft.com—even while adopting new Microsoft technologies in the production environment, and includes best practices developed over years of operating a highly available, large-scale, and continuously performing Web infrastructure.  The best practices address:

            • How to identify and address availability issues through building in redundancy and evaluating the need to design solutions to geographic-segmentation challenges.
            • Process guidance, including suggestions about when, during the software development life cycle (SDLC), operations and applications engineers can work together to support delivering high availability.
            • General guidance on planning for, building, and using proper monitoring based on understanding site traffic.

            imageRead the full Technet article or watch the webcast






          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            More Moodle advice – The Moodle on SharePoint white paper

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            image

            The team over at the Microsoft Education Labs have been busy over the last few weeks. If you’re new to it, Education Labs was created by the Microsoft Education Products Group to build and release new product prototypes and useful add-ons, specifically for education use.


            Following on from the Office Add-In for Moodle earlier in the week, there’s some further advice and support from the Education Labs team for Moodle that may be useful to you. If you’re either using Moodle, or considering it, then you may want to consider how you set it up. Because Moodle is an open source product, it’s often assumed that it should be installed on an open source server – like a Linux box. But the challenge with doing that for many universities is that it doesn’t therefore easily integrate with their existing ICT systems – for example, managing users and files on your existing network infrastructure.

            However, there’s a more positive way to deploy Moodle, which is to install it on your existing infrastructure, rather than having to add additional complications. The most powerful bit of your infrastructure to add it to is your SharePoint – because it fills in some of the gaps of a conventional Moodle system. First, it helps prevent data loss. For example, if a lecturer deletes a file by mistake and wants to get it back, you’ll easily be able to go into SharePoint and restore it from the recycling bin – rather than it being lost forever. Secondly, you can take advantage of versioning in SharePoint. If a lecturer or student overwrites a file by mistake, it can be restored to a previous version from SharePoint.  Finally you can use SharePoint’s search capabilities to search across the content of all of your content, whether it is in your SharePoint file storage, or in your Moodle system (currently there is no equivalent file search capability in Moodle).  Perhaps most importantly, staff can get these benefits while continuing to use the Moodle user interface they are accustomed to, meaning no new training.

            How do you install Moodle on SharePoint?

            So if it makes so much sense to run your Moodle on top of your SharePoint, how do you do it? Well, we’ve published a white paper that explains how to set up SharePoint as the file system for Moodle. It doesn’t need any special programming – if you have SharePoint and Moodle, it is a matter of configuration. 

            You can download the full white paper here (click on the Read It link) which can help you plan your strategy.

            imageQuickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog






          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            Are you ready to deploy Windows 7? Need a bit more help?

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            Thanks to Rich from Bechtle, I know where you can get some help. Rich has just blogged about the Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal on his Software Ruminations blog.

            Windows 7 Deployment – the Learning Portal

            We spend almost $10 billion a year on research and development, and so each time we release a new product, there’s new things it can do. And a lot of the R&D spend is focused on making IT easier. If you’re running a reasonably big IT system (as most education IT systems are), then one of the things that has been a hassle is deploying new versions of software, and managing the complex IT networks that are out there.

            When we developed Windows 7, the engineers spent quite a bit of time working out how to make the deployment process easier, and building tools to help that process. That’s good. The downside is that things have changed. If the last time you rolled out a new operating system was when you deployed Windows XP, then you’ll find that it has (a) got much easier and (b) changed the steps you take. All those previous tools – like Ghost and other specific deployment applications – may no longer be the best, quickest, cheapest and easiest way to deploy Windows.

            And the Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal takes some of the pain out of getting yourself up to date. Instead of dumping all of the information onto you, it allows you to take a series of mini-tests:

            • Preparing for deployment
            • Configuring an image
            • Migration
            • Compatibility testing
            • Deployment Methods

            At the end of each test, you get a mark, and links to specific TechNet pages relating to the topic – so that you only need to read the stuff you don’t know, not waste time sifting through the stuff you already know. And the links point you towards things like articles, How-To guides, Step-by-Step procedures etc.

            And there’s an incentive too – the first 150 people to pass get a free MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) self-study guide, and the first 500 get a voucher for a free certification exam – so that you can get a new qualification for your CV/annual performance review.

            imageGo to the Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal




          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            Problem solving with ICT – the language barrier solved?

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            At the Cambridge and Oxford Colleges IT Conference I talked about the future of technology, and what the world will look like when today’s new secondary school students arrive in the workplace. I’ve used our Productivity Future Vision video, and then discussed the technology and ideas behind the scenarios, including looking at some of the work going on in research labs around the world that contribute to our views of what the world will look like in a decade.

            In the first ten seconds of the video, it shows two students, on different continents, talking and having their words translated in real-time. But this was a “vision” of how the world might look in ten years’ time. Ahd technological change is moving faster than I imagined. Take a look at the video below (or use this link) which shows a project underway in the Microsoft Research labs. Two users, one phone call, two languages – and a simultaneous live translation.

            If you look carefully, it’s obviously not foolproof yet, but as this is a very early prototype, its astonishing in its current accuracy. Having watched my daughter use web translation tools to help her with her Spanish homework, I can’t imagine what she’s going to do with this kind of technology.

            As for me, I’m hoping that it will help translate from “Call Centre English” to “English English”, and also from “American English” to “English English” (especially if it can also automatically translate meanings – like when a US colleague talks about his new pants).

            There’s an interesting article on the TechFest 2010 event (which is where this was shown) with much more about the Translating! Telephone project.



          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            Chemistry Add-In for Word 2007/2010

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            The Microsoft Research (MSR) teams around the world are always cooking up clever new bits of code, and many of them get incorporated into new products as they roll off production lines in the future. However, they aren’t part of the product teams in the conventional sense – they have much more latitude to play with ideas, and come up with ideas which aren’t solely linked to products. (As opposed to the developers, eg in the Office team, who’s job it is to make sure they build new features into their specific products).

            imageBut sometimes the two worlds come together – as with the free Chemistry Add-In for Word from the team in Microsoft Research Cambridge. Working with the Unilever Centre for Molecular Science Informatics, they’ve come up with an add-in that makes it easier for students and researchers to include chemical information – such as labels, formulas and 2-D depictions, within a Word document. And easy to edit afterwards.

            And the bonus news is that this is free. So you can delight your chemists at no cost.

            imageFound out more about, and download, the Chemistry Add-In for Word


            If you want to find out if your science lecturers and students would find this useful, there’s a short video to demonstrate what it does, and a User Guide (which, intriguingly, on page 15 has advice on how to “Edit an Atom” – perhaps the software’s more powerful than I imagined!)

            ps You can find all of the other published downloads from Microsoft Research on their download page



          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            Launch Announcement - New Moodle Integration for Office

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            The Microsoft Education Labs team have just launched the Office Add-in for Moodle (or should it be the Moodle Add-in for Office?). This launch builds upon the success of the availability of the Microsoft Live Services Plug-in for Moodle which launched last July. 

            The idea behind the add-in is simple. Now, when you got to Open or Save a file in Office 2003 or 2007, you can select to ‘Open from Moodle’ or ‘Save to Moodle’ directly. This makes it easier for your users to use Moodle natively, and hopefully will encourage them to make better use of your Moodle installation. (If you have a SharePoint-based learning platform, you get similar functionality in Office 2010)

            The “Office Add-in for Moodle”

            View Slide ShowUploading files to Moodle is now much easier.  The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (versions 2003 and 2007) that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications.  With the OAM, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications.  You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.

            So what do you need in order to start using the add-in?  OAM does not require anything to be installed on the Moodle server (note we only tested against Moodle versions 1.8-1.9).  Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the add-in and access their documents.  Once installed, the add-in adds two menu items to your File menu (Office 2003) or the Office Button menu: Open from Moodle and Save to Moodle.  In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in.  Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in.  Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.

            We focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodles come from teachers. We’ve gotten some requests already about adding support for students and assignments, but we want to hear from you.  So check it out, and let the EducationLabs team know what you think and if there’s anything you want them to work on.  In order to get this beta tool in your hands right away and to get feedback before this gets fully locked down, we decided to roll this out before embarking on synchronization with other add-ins and other Moodle functionality. 


            It’s worth browsing on the Education Labs site for other projects recently released www.educationlabs.com

            imageFind out more about, and download, the free Moodle add-in
            Read other posts on Moodle on this blog





          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            Online Services event with Perspicuity

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            Gemma Yussuf has asked me to let you know about an event from one of our education partners, Perspicuity. We’re hosting it here in Reading on 23rd April.

            If you’re wondering how cloud-based services will influence your IT strategy going forward, then it’s a good opportunity to spend half a day getting a perspective on the scope and scale of the online services we’re offering.

            Here’s the detail from Gemma:

            Please join us, on Friday 23rd April, to find out how the Online Services model could transform the way you deliver IT to your campus

            Learn how you can streamline communication and simplify IT management, without compromising data security, compliance or process control.

            • Understand the cost and productivity benefits of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and other online collaboration tools
            • Learn how you can combine hosted services with on-premise applications: we will look at integration; data security and integrity; identity management; compliance; information governance and process management
            • Find out why a subscription approach to system development costs less and delivers better results
            • Hear about Middlesex University’s experiences: the operational and cost benefits of an on-demand approach to infrastructure and development

            The event runs on Friday 23rd April 2010, at the Microsoft Campus in Reading (directions here), either in the morning (10:30-12:30) or afternoon (14:30-16:30)

             

            If you’d like to come along, then drop an email to Gemma with your full name, organisation and contact details. Or give her a call on 0118 909 7805.






          • The UK Higher Education Blog

            MSDN Magazine – free downloads

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            imageI have to admit, much of the content in the MSDN Magazine goes whooshing over my head. But I know that some of you love nothing more than digging into coding, and would love nothing more than an evening of thread diagnostics (whatever that is?).

            But did you know that you can download all of the MSDN magazines, free, as PDFs?

            So you could, at this very moment, be enjoying the March edition, with news on Thread Diagnostics, Extreme ASP.NET, IIS Smooth Streaming and UI Frontiers (this month, all about MIDI Music in WPF Applications).

            If you know what ‘contravariance’ means, then enjoy.

            Archive of the MSDN Magazine



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