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The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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September, 2008

  • FE blog

    What do you do when students arrive with their laptops?


    Here are two problem statements I heard from a college recently:

    Our staff and students expectations are rising – they expect us to provide them all with a laptop and we simply can’t afford it.

    We have a problem that students (and staff) arrive on campus with their own laptops, and are expecting to connect them to our network.

    Those statements were from the same college, and were separated by about 10 seconds. And it seemed to me that No.2 was part of the answer to No.1

    If you could enable students and staff to connect their own laptops, then you’d have a proportion of users happy and connected, and the number of students who would expect/need a college provided device would fall – perhaps to a manageable level?

    There’s no doubts that there are increasing expectations from students about the connectivity and services you’ll offer them through your ICT services (I read that Nottingham University are just about to experiment with WiMax), and if it isn’t already, it’s likely to end up on your IT development plan.

    I write all of this because, whilst searching for something else, I came across the La Trobe University case study from Australia, where they have implemented Network Access Protection, a feature of Windows Server 2008, to detect and manage the health of systems connecting to their network – including Windows, Linux and Apple computers. If you’re interested in the subject, you may want to read their case study, or better still, watch the video

    You can read their full case study here, and read more about Network Access Protection (NAP) here

  • FE blog

    Ed The Fed says "Stay safe out there"


    EdTheFedThumbI have a colleague, Ed, who’s a legend around here. He’s the Microsoft UK Chief Security Advisor. Obviously that’s a bit of a mouthful, which is why we call him “Ed the Fed”, because of his career history – which obviously makes him an ideal person to ask about Information Security. (I was going to share a picture of the real Ed, but I thought that you’d prefer the cardboard cutout of Ed from our atrium!)

    So I wandered along to Ed’s desk, told him about the dilemma education is facing with Information Security, and the new Becta Information Security guidelines, and he jumped into action.

    ���Ray”, he said, “you need to remember that this isn’t just about what you do with your IT systems – it’s also about what people do”…and that led to a long, long conversation.

    Good to his word, Ed wrote a great article for me – something that you can share with colleagues, friends and family – designed to ensure that anybody using a PC – whether it’s their home machine or their working laptop – can be more secure.

    The premise is that you need everybody in your organisation adopting safer practices, at home and in college. And raising their awareness and giving them a self-interest (eg making sure that they are safer on their home PCs) will help you improve information security.

    Anyway, over to Ed:



    Chief Security Advisor, Microsoft Ltd UK


    The “Pareto Principle” - or, sometimes “Just Enough is Good Enough”

    I was asked by my friend, Ray Fleming, to list a few things you can do NOW to help ensure a safer online experience. He looked at the title to this article, and then me, and said he already didn’t want to read any further. “It’s supposed to be an article giving our readers a ‘Top 10’ list of things to do NOW, Gibson! Not a place to be talking about the Peter Principle”.

    But let’s not be too hasty, Mr Fleming. The PARETO principle is simply the formal name to what we all know to be the “80/20 Rule”, or, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. And that’s the point of this article - of the scores of things you can do to be safer online, there are a few you can take right NOW that will take you more than 80% of the way to online safety. Follow my Ten Steps to Online Safety in 30 Minutes and sleep more soundly tonight.

    1) Do not start surfing the web or getting busy online until you have completed steps 2-6.

    2) ANTI-MALWARE: If you have not already done so, install Anti-Virus, Anti-Spam, and Anti-Phishing software. If you are using Windows XP with auto updates turned on, or Windows Vista, you already have Windows Defender, free. But you still need Anti-Virus software. Go to www.WindowsMarketplace.co.uk, click on ‘Security Downloads’ at the top of the screen, and look for an Anti-Virus product. Get something you trust.

    3) Turn on your Internet (ie, go online).


    a) Run Windows Update to ensure you have the most current security updates.

    b) Run the Secunia Online Software Inspector to make sure even your non-Microsoft software is up to date. This will also alert you if your firewall is not turned on

    5) Run Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) now. This will get rid of the vast majority of malicious software and other unwanted software on your computer.

    6) Go to www.GetSafeOnline.org - the UK Government campaign for online safety. If you have wireless Internet read the section on wireless security. Make sure yours is configured properly - read the instructions for your wireless modem - if all of this sounds unfamiliar to you, send me an email for help.

    SEE, you feel much better already, right. Why? Because you just spent 30 minutes to make sure you are at least 80% of the way to being safer online.

    If you have 15 more minutes, read on.

    7) SOCIAL NETWORKING: If you have little people at home or university, they are likely to be using a social network site such as MySpace, BeBo, FaceBook, etc. Make sure you and your little people spend 10 minutes reviewing www.SafeSocialNetworking.com - though focused on BeBo, its advice applies to all sites.

    8) PASSWORDS: Let’s face it, if you are like me chances are you can’t remember a lot of passwords. Don’t go overboard. If you can’t remember your passwords, you’ll end up writing them down - which defeats the purpose for having them to begin with. Try remembering patterns on the keyboard instead.

    9) DO NOT click on any links in an e-mail from someone you do not know.

    10) PHISHING FILTER: Internet Explorer 7 has a built in phishing filter. If you see a red bar at the top of your webpage, it means you are going to a known site that has malicious software. DO not go there!

    Send me an E-Mail to EdGibson@Microsoft.com if you have questions or concerns. I reply to all emails (presuming you ask a question rather than suggest a new place for me to live).

  • FE blog

    Take a fresh look at PowerPoint with pptPlex


    Try itI've been playing around with a new Office add-in for several months now, but it’s been behind closed doors. And now (ta-daaa!) it has been released onto the web.  pptPlex introduces a completely different way for how Powerpoint can be used for presentations and teaching, by removing the very typical linear format from the way it has been used up until now. Now you can think of your content as being on a great big canvas that allows you to focus in on the relevant content at the appropriate time and re-visit it quickly and simply.

    As the new term starts, if you our colleagues are looking at bringing a new style to presentations, lectures, briefings and/or tutorials then pptPlex could be for you.  On the site there's access to the download, FAQ, Blog and discussions about pptPlex.  My favourite things about pptPlex are:

    1. Zooming in and out of slides
    2. Organising presentations into sections for the "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you've told them"
    3. Navigating through the content the way I want to navigate - not just left to right
    4. Using live content (documents, spreadsheets etc)


    Take a look at the video for a snapshot of what it does:


    I've also seen that some one is using a Nintendo Wii controller to navigate.


    There are more videos here.

  • FE blog

    A chance to get up to speed – with Steve Ballmer in London


    At the end of this month, Steve Ballmer will be in the UK, and providing the opening keynote for our UK conference “Technologies to Change your Business”. As well as the usual slew of new product announcements, I noticed that Microsoft Research will be showing off some of the future technologies. At many events, these can make the highlights, as the team from Cambridge (and elsewhere globally) talk about what’s going on behind the closed doors of the research labs.

    If you’d like to come along for the afternoon, there are still some (free!) places available – you can register on the links below

    image“The fifth [computing] revolution is about more than personal empowerment and social interaction; we literally will get the tools to help us better understand and address global issues that affect billions of people, including education, healthcare, science, and environmental change.”
    CeBIT, March 3, 2008

    Technologies to Change Your Business:  How Customers Are Implementing Tomorrow’s Strategies Today

    The Microsoft Launch Event for IT Managers & Executives with Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft and Chris Ingle, Consulting & Research Director, IDC

    12.30pm – 5pm.  1 October 2008.  Royal Festival Hall South Bank Complex

    Some organisations see new products as an incremental improvement to what they do today – others look for the opportunity to make a step change in the way they deliver services & value to customers.  IT initiatives such as virtualisation, consolidation & hosted services are not in themselves new, and yet many customers still only scratch the surface of their potential – few are yet to embrace these strategies and use them extensively to deliver new value. 

    At the upcoming launch event, “Technologies to Change your Business”, we will not only be introducing the latest in the line up of Server technologies from Microsoft, Hyper-V and SQL Server 2008, but more importantly, showcasing customers who are taking these products and using them as the catalyst for significant change in their business. Additionally, we will be showcasing some of the future emerging technologies to come from Microsoft Research.


    12:15 Registration and Lunch
    13:00 Introduction – Martin Veitch, CIO Magazine
    13:15 Opening Keynote by Steve Ballmer: Microsoft's Vision for Software Delivered as a Service
    14:00 Taking Virtualisation to the Next Level: Achieving a Dynamic IT Infrastructure.
               Bruce Lynn, Microsoft
    14:40 Virtualisation vNext: Customer Case Study and Q&A
    15:00 Break
    15:30 Planning for the next wave of Technologies: Chris Ingle, IDC
    16:00 From Database to Data Platform. Delivering New Value to the Business.
              Keith Burns and Andrew Fryer, Microsoft
    16:30 Deriving New Value from Data and SQL Server 2008: Customer Case Study and Q&A
    16:50 Summary
    17:00 Close

    Register Now to join us for an afternoon of innovation, debate & insight as we launch the next wave of technologies to help you deliver new value to your organisation.

  • FE blog

    Ultimate Steal – Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man


    Whoops – when I wrote about the Ultimate Steal (Office 2007 Ultimate Edition for £38.95, only for students) I said it was open to all UK students who have a .ac.uk email address (and staff too).

    Of course, I’d forgotten something – we have also added Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students and staff from the beginning this year.

    So that means if you’re a student or staff member, and you meet the criteria (including having an email address that ends in '.ac.im', '.ac.gg', '.ac.je') then you’re in – part of the merry Ultimate Steal band!

    (I was reminded about this as I packed my suitcase for a trip to Jersey tomorrow. Normally, a trip to Jersey in September is nice and summery – but not this year I think!)

  • FE blog

    Letting your students know about the Ultimate Steal


    Last year, a few colleges, and quite a few universities, asked us for materials that they could use to let their students know about the Ultimate Steal offer (Office Ultimate 2007 for £38.95). And universities and colleges including Bristol, Kent, Stirling, Queens University Belfast, Salford, QMU Edinburgh, Bradford, Middlesex, Loughborough, Homerton College and Derby put up announcements last year on their student portal, or on their VLEs. This year, with staff also being eligible, we’ve already started to get queries from people asking for materials.

    Promoting on your college’s student VLE or website


    To make it easier for you, we’ve created a range of graphics banners (all looking like the above) which you can download and use. They are all on my SkyDrive folder, or you can download them using the links below – the numbers represent the width x height:

    160 x 600 - Right click to download

    250 x 250 - Right click to download

    300 x 250 - Right click to download

    468 x 60 - Right click to download

    728 x 90 - Right click to download


    And if white’s really not your colour, then how about the “Grab It” banner above?

    640 x 164 “Grab It” banner - Right click to download

    Promoting by email to your students

    Many colleges didn’t want their students to miss out on the offer and emailed them to let them know about it. If you want to take this option, there’s a standard email template to get you started

    Email template - Right click to download

    “But, why would we want to promote Microsoft’s offer?”

    And that’s a good question (Of course, I would say that, because I just wrote it!).

    Here are some of the reasons that universities have told me that they’ve wanted to tell their students:

    • Save their students money (because the “Home and Student” version in the shops costs more, and does less)
    • Being seen to be offering their students a better service
    • Make their life easier (eg if you have students with older, ropey copies of Office coming to you for support)
    • Improve the service from their Student Helpdesk
    • Help students improve the quality of their work, and collaborate with things like Groove
    • Reduce the number of dodgey DVD copies of software circulating around college, which brings with it virus risks etc

    Last year, the buzz about The Ultimate Steal made its way around universities pretty quickly, but it’s fair to say that many college students didn’t know about it until it had ended. This year, perhaps we can work better with you to make sure that none of your students pay too much for their copy of Office when they buy it!

  • FE blog

    The Ultimate Steal is back


    The moment you’ve been waiting for? Last year we ran a promotion called “The Ultimate Steal”, which offered a full copy of Office 2007 Ultimate Edition to students for £38.95. And, finally, it’s back!


    In a nutshell, The Ultimate Steal is:

    • A time-limited offer available to your college students as long as they have a .ac.uk email address (ends at the end of June next summer)
    • For Office Ultimate 2007, which can cost up to £500 to buy the retail version, as a digital download, with the option to buy a backup on DVD for £9.95
    • Also available to your college staff too, if they have a .ac.uk email address

    These days most students have a laptop or desktop computer, but they don’t always have the right software on it to help them with their studies. And our research said that they typically think that Office costs £100-£150 for a basic version. So instead of spending the money, many of them “borrow” a copy from a friend or parent.

    We’ve always made lower cost Academic licences available, but very few students know about them, or how to buy them. So that’s why we run The Ultimate Steal – it’s a way of helping students buy the right software, at the right price.

    Like last year, we're not going to spend lots of money advertising this - for one thing, it is only available to students with a .ac.uk email address, and so putting adverts all over the media isn't going to work. Most students found out about the offer from a friend, or from their college – many emailed their students to let them know about the offer, or put links up onto their intranets & VLEs

    Buying on http://www.theultimatesteal.co.uk is easy – register with your student/staff email address, and then login and go.

    Shortly, I’ll post up a standard email that you could use to let your students & staff know about the offer.

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