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July, 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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July, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    UK Pilot of new Microsoft licensing scheme for schools


    We’ve introduced a new licensing scheme pilot for UK schools this morning, which introduces more flexibility, and potentially some cost savings for some of you. Here’s the summary of it:

    Subscription Enrolment for Schools

    The agreement option sits between our existing Select and School Agreement schemes:

    • The School Agreement (which is an annual subscription) has been chosen by a minority of state schools, when it has suited their need to have a simple, comprehensive licensing programme across all of their computers, where they need to have up-to-date software across all of their computers, and provides a way to license software with a low up-front cost.
    • The Select Agreement (which is a one-off perpetual licence) is chosen by the majority of state schools, as it provides complete flexibility about what can be licensed, and with no ongoing costs. With this, schools pay the entire software licence cost up front.

    The new pilot, the “Subscription Enrolment for Schools – UK Pilot” (SESP), is designed to allow schools to choose a mix of subscription and perpetual licences, by allowing them to choose which computers they want to buy subscriptions for (which means they always have the latest version of Microsoft software). They can then license other computers with Select licences. It also offers options such as ‘per-user’ licensing, which provides extra benefits such as staff and/or students being licensed to use the same software at school and on their own privately-owned home computers. This offers a combination of low up-front cost and increased flexibility

    image There are plenty of anecdotes flying around about school budget cuts, so keep this one ready up your sleeve if you need it! You may be able to use the scheme to save money on software purchases. Although bear in mind that software represent just 5-7% of the overall cost of school ICT spend, according to Becta’s “Managing ICT costs in schools” report. If you’re a network manager, it’s worth taking a look at the report before one of the other senior managers does – you don’t want them jumping to conclusions! For example, if they infer things from seeing this chart from page 6, you’ll want to show them the first bullet in page 7 which says “The annual TCO of ICT (including hidden costs) averaged around £50,000 for project primary schools and around £270,000 for project secondary schools”. And then ask them for some more budget!

    You can read a lot more about SESP on our website, and I’m nearly finished on a longer blog post which summarises all of the detail succinctly – more shortly.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Newcastle event next week - Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 networking


    Jonathan Noble has also let me know that there are still plenty of spare spaces at the free event at Newcastle University next Wednesday (the 8th), which will be looking at Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2 for education. And the agenda includes DirectAccess, BranchCache and XP Mode – all mentioned earlier in the week.

    Find out more on Jonathan’s blog, or just sign up directly at the VBUG site

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Typing in Arabic on a Qwerty keyboard – a simple free download


    In my local library I often pass by the computer section, where people are sitting typing away into Hotmail in languages I don’t understand (I live in rural Oxfordshire, so much of the time I think it’s eastern European languages). And I guess they’ve become fluent in finding the key combinations to create the accents, umlauts etc. But I’d never considered that it would be possible to send an email in Arabic from a qwerty keyboard.

    Microsoft Maren looks ideal for any computer where there may be a requirement for Arabic as well as Roman languages. For example, in a community access suite, or open access areas such as libraries.

    imageLack of access to an Arabic keyboard or lack of familiarity with one are two of the most common problems preventing Arabic users from communicating in their own language.

    But the team at the Cairo Microsoft Innovation Lab have, and they’ve created a simple Windows extension that allows users to easily chat, search, blog, email and create documents in Arabic, by converting it on the fly from Roman characters.

    It’s available as a free download from the Maren website, and there’s also a funky animation that shows how it works.

    Microsoft Maren allows you to type Arabic in Roman characters (Romanized Arabic, Arabizi, Arabish or Franco-Arabic) and have it converted on the fly to Arabic script.

    This download isn’t just for education institutions – you can also point students to the site if they want to download it for their home PCs.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 networking enhancements for education



    I’ve just finished reading the whitepaper about networking enhancements that are included within Windows 7, which are especially powerful when combined with Windows Server 2008 R2. Although I’m not the most technical person in the team, it made sense to me, and a couple of key features jumped out at me as being particularly useful in schools:

    DirectAccess for academic staff to replace VPN connections

    The scenario of VPN which the whitepaper describes matches my own use of VPN.

    When I’m working from home, I avoid using a VPN connection when I can, because all of my internet traffic is re-routed through it, and slows down downloads and other web access (VOIP is sometimes lower quality too). And if my machine goes into sleep mode temporarily, I have to go through all of the quarantine and security checks again when it wakes up. So I tend to ‘batch up’ the things I need to VPN for, logon, do them, and then logoff VPN again.

    But as a user, it means that if I get internal SharePoint links in email, I can’t click straight through. And I can’t quickly update my own SharePoint wiki etc. (And, similarly, the IT support team can’t automatically deploy critical updates or Group Policy changes until I next VPN in). I’m guessing that you have the same situation on campus.

    With Windows 7, the inclusion of DirectAccess means that teachers can have the same experience (and access) when they work at home (or from another remote location, like a wireless hotspot) as they would when they’re in school. So they can access your internal SharePoint, other intranet sites and any internal applications and data remotely. But it doesn’t re-route their general Internet traffic, so they still have full-speed web access. Unless you decide to change that too – which might be the case if you use the same methodology for laptops that you let students take home. For example, you could use this same technology to insist that all school-owned devices go through the school firewall and filters for all Internet access, even when used at home.

    There’s a lot of technical details (and acronyms like IPv6, IPsec and 56-bit key encryption) on page 5-6 of the whitepaper

    Better synchronisation for offline files and slow connections

    Windows 7 adds enhanced support for synchronising files between your own PC and a network share – with more sensitivity to bandwidth for broadband and WAN connections, and invisible background synchronisation of offline files. This will be particularly useful where staff keep master files on their local machine (like their curriculum delivery plan) but you want to protect them from losing it all by ensuring it is synchronised to a network connection.

    Well, the alternative is to implant the I-must-make-a-backup-every-day chip in your colleagues!

    Better support for saving money on electricity

    With the wider use of wireless and laptop trolleys around schools, you’ll be pleased to hear that Wake On Lan has been extended to wireless too – allowing you to use a more aggressive power-saving profile on your laptops and desktops, without compromising your ability to manage them.

    Don’t underestimate how much money this could save you. PC Pro put the potential power savings at nearly £50 a computer if you switch from Windows default power settings to the most energy efficient. With an estimated 1/2 million university-owned computers across campuses, that’s a big bundle of money. (I know that you don’t pay the power bills from the IT budget, but perhaps there’s an opportunity to get some contribution from the facilities teams to support the changes!)

    Have a read of the whitepaper – there’s a lot of straightforward and clear advice

    And bonus materials…

    As a bonus, there are more detailed technical documents on DirectAccess which are also useful:

    • DirectAccess Technical Overview
      Covers the functional and architectural aspects of DirectAccess, a technology introduced in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 to enable mobile workers to seamlessly connect to enterprise network resources when connected to the Internet.
    • Next Generation Remote Access with DirectAccess and VPNs
      Compares DirectAccess with VPNs and describes the scenarios that are most appropriate for each.
    • Using DirectAccess to provide secure access to corporate resources from anywhere
      Case Study: Although broadband services and Wi-Fi have dramatically improved, the connectivity experience for remote corporate users remains largely unchanged. Microsoft Information Technology (Microsoft IT) is adopting the DirectAccess feature in Windows® 7 and in Windows Server® 2008 R2 to enable employees to gain seamless remote access to corporate applications and data. The solution, which only requires Internet connectivity and credentials, significantly improves productivity and can be an important cost-saving mechanism.
    • DirectAccess Early Adopter’s Guide
      This guide introduces DirectAccess concepts, defines new terms, explains requirements for installation, discusses how to design DirectAccess architecture, and then steps you through installation and deployment.
    • Direct Access Step-by-Step Guide
      Step By Step Guide: Demonstrate DirectAccess in a Test Lab
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free Windows 7 Release Candidate download will end shortly



    This isn’t specific to schools, but as it hasn’t got much coverage worldwide, I thought it worth a mention. If you’re thinking of experimenting with Windows 7 in the summer holidays – eg testing some of your old educational software using the XP compatibility mode – then you may want to know that the free download of the Windows 7 Release Candidate will end on 15th August.

    The Release Candidate (RC) is our last public release before Windows 7 is finalised and actually released as a full product. The RC version is free to use until Spring next year, and although the download won’t be available after 15th August, you can run it right up until March 2010 without interruptions.

    Visit the download site to get a copy and a licence key

    It’s handy if you want to install a copy for:

    • Testing software compatibility
    • Seeing whether it runs on old cronky hardware (see this if you want an idea)
    • Running on one of your non-mission-critical computers whilst waiting for the final release
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free classroom posters for Office 2007 to brighten up the IT suite


    It’s now less than 3 weeks until the end of term for most schools, and I know that your thoughts will be turning to summer projects (unless you’re a teacher, in which case you are probably thinking about the blessed relief after 3 o’clock on the last day of term)

    In case you’ve got any IT suite work going on, or even if you just want to get on the right side of a teacher, you may be interested to know we have just one hundred of our big Office 2007 free classroom poster sets left. If you’d like a set just email Mir directly, and he will get them in the post straight away.

    Poster-Excel Poster-PowerPoint

    He has a pile of poster tubes, read to go, containing 8 of these posters (2 of each for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook).

    Poster-Word Poster-Outlook


    If you’d like to get a set, just email Mir with your name, school name and address.

    (If you just can’t wait, and you want to download the PDFs, then click here to get them from my SkyDrive)

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