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June, 2009 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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June, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools 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 can’t believe it would 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 – eg all those sixth formers heading to uni – 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 free or 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 “OMG, I’ve just printed my CV in the school office” moment!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What does Windows 7 run on?



    In Thursday’s blog post on Windows 7 release dates, I asked if you’d had a chance to run the Beta or Release Candidate version on one of your older machines yet – and I received a welcome deluge of emails from people who had.

    It would take me ages to give you all of the scientific details of configurations, so instead I’ve gone for a ready reckoner table of the responses.

    Thanks to the EduGeek community too, as they have continued to provide more examples of kit they’ve tried it on. The emerging view is that whilst it will install on 512MB RAM, it is slower than XP on older kit, but when you move to 1GB RAM it’s faster.
    You can read more on the EduGeek Windows 7 forum

    I haven’t yet received a single email from somebody who has failed to get Windows 7 running on one of their computers, which I think is probably even more significant than the detail in the list below! (See the bottom for my own inglorious failure!)

    So, for your delight and delectation…

    Fabulous successes

    Manufacturer Laptop Basic Spec Notes
    Acer Aspire One 16GB SSD disk Alex Billing has been running this since Beta release
    Acer Travelmate C110 1GHz Centrino 1.5GB RAM Everything was fine, but needed new graphics driver
    Apple MacBookPro 2GB RAM, 32GB disk Grumbledook (aka Tony) had this working with the Beta and the RC – see the comments for more
    Apple MacMini 1GB RAM Grumbledook again – this time a little trickier, and reported as quite slow and needing quite a few driver tweaks.
    Asus Eee PC 1000H 1GB RAM, 80GB Disk Ceri had this running Win 7 at BETT
    Dell Mini 9 1GB RAM, 16GB SSD disk Reported as “faster than XP SP3”! And this was on the Beta
    Dell Mini 12 1GB RAM, 1.6Ghz Atom Chris reported “it works great, noticeably faster than the install of Vista that came with it”
    Dell Optiplex 745 Desktop Ceri Morriss has been running it for a while on his desktop, and also runs well on 755
    Dell Studio 15 4GB RAM Chris pointed out that this worked perfectly (I’d hope so too, with a greedy 4GB of RAM!)
    Elonex Webbook 1GB RAM, 80GB Disk Ceri had this running Win 7 at BETT
    Ergo Microlite 512MB RAM & 1.4GHz proc Ben said “It's a bit slow with the 512 especially when swapping to disk but general performance seems better than XP”
    HiGrade Notino L100 1GB RAM, 80GB Disk Ceri had this running Win 7 at BETT
    HP Tablet 2710p 2GB RAM Chris Rothwell reported it as “snappy”!
    HP MiniNote 2GB RAM Alex Pearce says this one is fine too
    HP Compaq 6735s 2GB RAM Rob reported that it needed a driver installing for HP DriveGuard 3D*, but apart from that everything else worked straight away.
    * Thanks Rob, for telling me that I'd read "3D" and assuming it was a graphics card. Double thanks for telling me in an email, rather than shaming me publically
    Lenovo T61p 2GB RAM, 160GB Disk Working well as on laptop used every day
    Lenovo X61 2GB RAM, 100GB Disk My every day laptop - Better performance than Vista
    RM One 512MB RAM Teky says it’s slow with 512MB RAM
    Samsung R40 1GB RAM, 80GB Disk My demo laptop - Simple install and didn’t require any additional drivers later.
    Samsung NC10 1GB is okay,
    2GB is better
    Alex Pearce reports he’s “very happy” on this!
    Matt recommend getting 2GB
    And the Cookie Monster said that the best bit is waking from Sleep in 3 seconds
    Sony Viao 1GB RAM, 1GHz processor Leighton didn’t have the model number for this (his wife’s!) but he reckoned it was at least 5 years old. He did have to download the Vista drivers for wireless and sound, but apart from that, it was easy.
    Toshiba NB100   Ceri had this running Win 7 at BETT
    Toshiba Portege M400 2GB RAM Leighton Searle reported this was a straightforward install
    Toshiba Satellite Pro A10 1GB RAM and 2 GHz Celeron Alex Billing at Wilsthorpe College says “…but the one that impressed me is the 8 year old Toshiba Satellite..which runs very smoothly, I think even better than it runs XP”
    Zeem1 from EduGeek reported it runs well on just 512MB RAM “unless I try and do too many things at once”!
    Toshiba Tecra M700   Accura2000 reported “Everything works and the touch screen has better support than in Vista”
    Viglen Dossier NS   This is a very old computer – DrPerceptron from EduGeek reported “I could NEVER get it to run XP SP2/3 properly – and it works faultlessly…doesn’t run Aero, but then I didn’t expect it to work at all”

    Also, take a look at the Windows Club forum, where somebody has Windows 7 running on an old P2 processor (266MHz) and 96MB RAM - which is definitely NOT in my list of "recommended things to do". And PC World are reporting "Windows 7 hits a new low" - the 'new low' is lower specification hardware.

    Glorious failures…

    Manufacturer Laptop Basic Spec Notes
    Asus Eee PC 900 1GB RAM, 12GB Disk This was one of the very early EeePCs, so not a surprise!
    I tried and failed, because the 12GB storage was on two physical drives– one was 4GB and the other was 8GB. And Windows 7 needed more than 8GB to install.
    However, I read an article over the weekend that gave me some hints, and I’m going to have another bash, just to be able to say “Yes, it works!”
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Building a school website in SharePoint


    SharePoint has become an established standard across a large number of schools, local authorities and Regional Broadband Consortia. It is the platform underneath Glow in Scotland, and many of the learning platforms in use in schools. I think one of the key reasons it because it can provide a way to integrate all of the different IT systems across the schools – from your MIS to your learning platform, as well as everyday document management.

    Less people are using it to run their external website, ending up with schools with two different web systems, which results in students and staff having two different places to refer for information.

    Esher College have standardised onto one technology, and are using SharePoint for their external site too – with help from Parabola Software. Although they have three portals – one for the public site, one for student and one for staff, it is possible to link information between the portals and provided the user has access rights it’s seamless.

    I’d be interested in hearing about schools using SharePoint for their external website – just add a comment to the blog, and give a link to yours.

    (For more inspiration, take a look at this list of Top 10 SharePoint 2007 sites, with examples from outside of education, worldwide)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Good Blogging Guide - Did I get onto the first page of Google?


    On Wednesday I wrote a blog post on how to improve your blog’s position in search engines, as part of my “Good Blogging Guide” series. It was all about search engine optimisation for blogs, and gave some simple to follow strategies. My goal was to demystify Search Engine Optimisation (SE) by writing an ‘SEO in plain English’ guide.

    As a throwaway idea at the end of the post, I thought I’d better try and demonstrate that it works – although I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out. This is what I said:

    Can I really prove it works?

    Let’s experiment shall we...

    Currently my blog doesn’t show up at all when you search for ‘seo in plain english’ or ‘search engine optimisation for blogs’  – which isn’t a surprise, because I haven’t pressed publish yet. So let’s see if anything has happened by the end of the week

    Check for yourself here:

    SEO in plain english (currently 163,000 results)

    Search engine optimisation for blogs (currently 26,500,000 results)

    So what happened?

    I can’t actually believe it! Hence my over-the-top, intended-to-be-humorous, created-2-minutes ago, graphic:


    By Wednesday afternoon, about an hour after publishing, the second search was already showing up on the first page of Google.

    By Thursday morning, the second search was on the first page still and the first search was on Page 3

    And now it is the end of the week, I just checked to see what has happened:

    The first search, “SEO in plain English” is now on the Google third page, at position 3 (amended to reflect Thom's comment)

    image (I’m thinking that to get above a website called “”
    would require a miracle – although the site appears to be dead, so there’s a chance)

    And the second search, “Search Engine Optimisation for blogs”, is on the Google first page too, at position 1 and 2:


    And other phrases? Well, the whole series has also turned up on the first page at position 2, 2, 5 and 7 if you search for phrases like Good Blogging Guide (for which there are 2 billion pages!). It also makes it to page on of Google when searching on the tenuous phrase blogging page one of Google

    It has suprised me – I hadn’t really expected to see that kind of result. I’m going back over my blog to “SEO” some other bits! After all, it was only four simple steps. (Or maybe I should go and write the book…)

    * Apologies to my colleagues in the Bing team, who will be smouldering about the fact I’m talking about Google. Take a look at my original post to see why.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 Application Compatibility in education


    A last week I wrote “Windows 7 is getting closer”, and one of the readers on the Universities blog 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. (I’m wondering if 450 applications is a record – do schools use that many?) 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

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How to Blog Better in education with MirandaMod


    I have spent the afternoon and evening today at the Institute of Education in London, participating in a series of workshops about blogging practice in education – specifically in the context of schools. I had been invited to talk about my experiences of blogging both personally and professionally, and cover again some of the material that I’d talked about at the blogging workshop.

    Subjects included everything from “why blog” to “how do I get on the front page of the search engines”. And the thorny challenge of how to safely blog within an institutional mindset that might not understand it.

    We moved from generic blogging discussions onto looking at blogging within a classroom context, which was a different approach all together.

    You can get the mindmaps from the meeting on the Mirandamod wiki and download my “Blogging Good Practice” slides from my Skydrive.

    Hopefully the recordings of the meetings will also shortly be available, which I think will be much more useful, because they will capture the deeper discussions, and the practical experiences and opinions from everybody in the meeting – physically and virtually.

    It’s been a really interesting experience, and makes me determined to turn my PowerPoint presentation into a series of blog posts – because the PowerPoint slides don’t really carry enough of the information.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Bing and StatCounter


    I use a web service called StatCounter on this blog, to keep an eye on where my readers are coming from, and what they are interested in.

    As well as detailed stats, it also gives me interesting maps like this, which shows me where the readers are located:


    Search Engines – in the US and Europe

    Logging on this morning, I also discovered that they track search engines, and had a story on their blog about, and the jump in use since it was launched last week.

    The chart below tells the story, with jumping to second most used search in the US.

    Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Search Engine Market Share

    I changed the chart, to look at use in Europe (unfortunately they don’t have the same kind of stats for just the UK), which showed that in Europe Google is overwhelmingly the number one search engine (note the scale difference), and also that habits haven’t changed that much since Bing arrived. The stats look like this:

    Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Search Engine Market Share

    I can now understand why, especially in the Europe, getting onto the first page of Google results matters so much. The research shows only a minority of people ever go beyond the first page, so if you show up on page 2 of a web search, you don’t exist for the majority of web users!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    SharePoint in Welsh – SharePoint ar gael in Gymraeg


    Welsh SharePoint launch - it looks suspiciously like a karaoke competition!

    During half-term week, we joined the Welsh Assembly Government at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay, to launch Welsh language support for SharePoint. Steve Beswick, of Microsoft, and Meri Huws, of the Welsh Language Board, officially launched the pack with Jane Hutt, the Welsh Assembly Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills.

    This follows on from the work we did a little while ago to make Windows and Office available in Welsh. We do all of this through making a free Language Interface Pack available for download, which you can then use to convert your system over.

    There are already quite a few schools and local authorities in Wales using SharePoint – for example, Swansea run their learning platform on it, and the addition of the Welsh language option will extend the potential use.

    JulieDaviesYsgolGyfunBrynTaweJulie Davies, a teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Bryn Tawe in Swansea explained why it was so important:

    FirstquotesAs a school and centre of excellence for Welsh medium education, we have always taken advantage of new Welsh language initiatives and resources. We are very excited to see a large IT company recognising and responding to the need for more resources in our first language. I believe Swansea Edunet which is based on SharePoint will improve communication within the school, and create an effective learning community for staff members and pupils.Endquotes

    But why SharePoint in Welsh, and why is it so important to education? Well, the answer on the day was:

    FirstquotesMae Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 yn darparu lleoliad sengl, integredig lle gall defnyddwyr gydweithio’n effeithiol, chwilio am wybodaeth, rheoli cynnwys a llyfnhau prosesau gweinyddol. Mae’n integreiddio’n hawdd â systemau TGCh sydd eisoes yn eu lle, ac mae’n gymorth i wneud penderfyniadau ar sail gwybodaeth drwy cynorthwyo i staff gael hyd i wybodaeth yn haws, i’w rhannu ac i adrodd arni.Endquotes

    You can find the English version of this in the Welsh Language Board press release in English (Welsh version here)

    Download Information

    The downloads are now publicly available using the URLs below.  I got a surprise checking these links – the pages are all in Welsh!

    SharePoint Server 2007 Language Pack  (X86)

    SharePoint Server 2007 Language Pack  (X64)

    Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Language Pack 

    Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Language Pack (X64)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Good Blogging Guide – Part Six – When things go wrong


    Hopefully this is the chapter you’ll never need. So I’ll make it short!

    image Imagine the scenario.

    You have been blogging for a while, and you have the support and encouragement of other people in your school/local authority. Things are looking good. What could possibly go wrong?

    One of the common things is that somebody somewhere says something inappropriate online, and then somebody in your school comes along and says “Well, you’re an expert in the Internet, can you fix it?”. It could be something like a comment on a YouTube video, or Facebook, or even a comment on your blog. Or somebody else writes a blog post referring to yours, and saying what a half-wit you are.

    What do you do?

    AirForce Blog AsessmentFortunately, official help is at hand. Instead of having to spend hours/days/weeks explaining to your head teacher why you can’t block YouTube/Facebook across the whole country – or having to defend your blogging - then how about using this flow chart from the US Air Force?

    It deals with the steps in responding (or not) to a negative blog posting about them. I have found also that it is incredibly useful to use when talking to people who don’t yet fully understand the implications of social media, and the community habits. After all, if an organisation as big and hierarchical as USAF can deal with online communities with a simple flow chart, then it makes an effective point.

    It starts with “Has someone discovered a blog post about your organisation?” and walks through scenarios of people, which it refers to as:

    • Trolls
    • Rager
    • Misguided
    • Unhappy Customer

    It then provides common sense advice for dealing with each situation. As a set of rules of engagement, it’s simple to understand and clear to work through.

    The diagram is self explanatory – and ideal to share with colleagues. You can download a PDF of the Air Force Blog Assessment.

    If you’re interested in reading more about the USAF’s social media interactions, then read WebInkNow’s article about it, or take a look at the US Air Force Live blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Are you going to the Learning Gateway conference in July?


    For those who are going: I’m now writing my presentation on Information Security (where, if I mention losing USB memory sticks, I’ll be very clear to make sure I say Leicester City instead of Leicestershire, unlike this week at the SIMS Conference), and so if you’re going to be there, add a comment, drop me an email or a tweet to let me know what questions you would want answers to.


    For everybody else: If you’re into SharePoint and the Learning Gateway, it’s likely to go down as the most relevant CPD event of the year. I’m sure that your head will want to find the money once they’ve realised that it can help you to help your school with hitting DCSF targets for online parental reporting and learning platforms, make staff collaboration easier and even help you plan ahead for remote possibilities like a swine flu outbreak in your area!

    Full details of the Learning Gateway Conference are on my earlier blog post. It’s not a Microsoft event (Alex Pearce from Great Barr School is making this all happen!) but there are a few Microsoft people speaking, and I have been bumping into various people who are all going to be there.

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