website tracker
February, 2010 - The UK Higher Education Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The HE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
Home     rss feed     email us     our website

February, 2010

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 in Welsh


    We’ve just released the Language Interface Pack for Windows 7 in Welsh. It’s free as a result of the collaboration between Microsoft and Welsh Language Board. As the press release makes clear, we pay for the work, and the Welsh Language Board provide the translators through the Cymen translation company of Caernarfon. They then get busy translating big swathes of Windows 7 into Welsh with us.

    You can read the announcement from the Welsh Language Board for more details.

    Download the Welsh Language Pack for Windows 7

    I’m told that this page contains the download (well, it certainly looks Welsh, doesn’t it)


    There's a complete "How to Install with Welsh Language pack" guide here

    imageWe have plenty of other things in Welsh too – like Office 2007, Office 2003, Digital Literacy Curriculum and SharePoint ar gael in Gymraeg. And there are 48 other languages for Office here

    Things you didn’t know about Welsh?

    • The longest place name in the United Kingdom, and one of the longest in the world, is
      Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave).
    • Welsh is spoken by about 25,000 people in the Chubut Valley, a colony of Welsh immigrants in the Patagonia region of Argentina.
    • To secure communications without using complicated cryptography, Welsh regiments serving on peace missions in Bosnia (now known as Bosnia and Herzegovina) simply used their native language.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Website hosting for students for a pound a month


    Students get lots of offers all of the time – but many of those are based on ‘lifestyle’ things – food, drinks, trips. So I thought it was worth sharing this news – that we’ve put together an offer for your students that could well set them up for their careers.

    imageWith we’ve put two sets of things together.

    • Website domain and webhosting
    • Free developer and designer tools for students, from our Dreamspark programme. It includes the Expression suite of design and web tools, Visual Studio and other software.

    It means that your students can have their own website and domain name (hopefully not Smile) which they can build their own website on, or use to host a blog etc.

    All that a student needs to do is to register at the site, using their email address, and they can then get started.

    I think this might be the cheapest web and domain hosting available to students today – it’s certainly the lowest cost I’ve seen for this range of services.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Guidelines on web usability – useful for university web projects


    When I wrote the Good Blogging Guide last year, I concentrated on audience, purpose, search and writing like a real person. What I spent little time on was the technical side of blogging and the web – navigation, usability, content such as images, and other areas.

    But the COI (Central Office of Information) for the Government have produced an excellent, and easy-to-read, set of usability guidelines for creating usable website in the public sector. It includes technical and design advice, as well as some very good pointers towards writing effective web content.


    If you’re involved in a website project – whether that’s external for the general public, or an internal site for students and staff, it is a very worthwhile read. Useful too if you’re planning a new SharePoint 2010 project.


    You can download the PDF’s of both guides too:

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Optimising remote access – and saving money


    If you are providing secure remote access to your IT systems for staff, then you may want to review whether there are more efficient ways of enabling it. Especially now that there are sophisticated built-in capabilities in the Windows systems that you’ve got running on your servers and laptops. (eg DirectAccess built into Windows 7, which some education institutions are starting to use as an effective replacement for other VPN technologies).

    I’ve just finished reading a case study, of the London Borough of Brent, who are going to be saving themselves £459,000 a year, and reducing their carbon footprint by 4.46 tonnes a year. They are using the Microsoft Intelligent Application Gateway 2007 to protect their data centres, and provide a VPN, web firewall and endpoint security management – and through this reducing their total IT cost and reducing the travel related costs of remote employees. Tony Ellis, the Head of IT at the council, was quoted in the case study:

    Our estimate for savings of £459,000 is highly conservative and in addition there are many non-cashable benefits. On Microsoft Office 2007 alone, we forecast that we’ll have a return on investment by year three of more than £42,000, while with a competitor solution we would still be in deficit by £70,000 in year three.

    Although it is local government, rather than a university, I think that the challenges they face are very similar – a large number of workers, increased need for remote access, and a more mobile workforce. And a pressing need to maximise the benefit of their IT investment.

    You can read the whole of the Brent case study on our worldwide site

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Free anti-virus protection for home computers – good news for staff and students


    I was suprised to discover I hadn’t blogged this before. So if you’ve renewed an anti-virus subscription for your home computer since last October, when this was launched, then I’m sorry!

    We have launched a free anti-virus programme, Microsoft Security Essentials, which is for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, and comes with lifetime updates. It’s simple to install and very easy to use. And free.

    The “free” bit is restricted to home users, because we don’t believe that this is the right solution for campus-wide anti-virus protection. You need a centrally managed anti-virus solution, where you can force settings so that all of your machines are updated automatically all the time, and that your users can’t switch off updates. For campus use, there’s Microsoft Forefront, which is a cost-effective managed protection system (free trial here)

    Here’s the official blurb:

    Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

    Microsoft Security Essentials is a free* download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple.

    Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long computer wait times.

    You can download Microsoft Security Essentials free from

    If you’ve got students who are bringing in files on a memory stick, or uploading things to your systems, then it’s in your interest to help them get protected, to reduce the risk of virus infections on your campus computers.

    Here’s a banner and link that you could put onto your website or intranet:

    And there’s also an image that you could use for your noticeboards for staff or students.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows Azure in four minutes


    Things are changing very rapidly in the way that ICT services can be delivered and used in education. Although most of the developments from major ICT providers aren’t specific to education, they are addressing the issues that education faces today.

    Windows Azure logo blOne of the developments is the Windows Azure system, which is designed to allow you to run services and develop applications for a cloud-based system, instead of having a bigger pile of servers within your university.

    The detail of how these services work, and how you can use them to build applications and services for your university is covered in tons of details on website, but what I’ve been missing is a simple overview.

    The official summary blurb for Azure describes it thus:

    The Windows Azure platform offers a flexible, familiar environment for developers to create cloud applications and services. With Windows Azure, you can shorten your time to market and adapt as demand for your service grows.

    Windows Azure offers a platform that is easily implemented alongside your current environment.

    - Windows Azure: operating system as an online service
    - Microsoft SQL Azure: fully relational cloud database solution
    - Windows Azure platform AppFabric: makes it simpler to connect cloud services and on-premises applications

    And I’ve found a short video that provides an overview of Windows Azure in a much more digestible form. Having watched it, I can now describe it to other people much better (and now fully appreciate why it’s a good thing!).

    The best simple introduction I’ve seen for Windows Azure

    If you can’t see the video above, then here’s a direct link.

    Interesting though: Steve Marx has blogged about how he made this video - using just PowerPoint & Community Clips. I’m envious of his talent.

    The issue that is highlighted by the video is how you can use the Azure platform to build an application or service that grows over time. But in the world of universities, I imagine that it also has a critical capability to be able to provide 'bursts’ of services, to match the natural rhythm of the academic year. For example, providing application and server bandwidth for processing applications, or around setting up student residence services, which may be heavily used in some parts of the year, but only need a trickle of support the rest of the year. And also the ability to drop down to 5% of normal usage for the summer break. Unless you’ve got a highly virtualised and actively managed datacentre, it’s likely that today it’s difficult to scale for the troughs as well as the peaks.

    If this is a bit lightweight for you, then you may prefer to read the Introducing Windows Azure whitepaper (PDF) – just one of many whitepapers on Windows Azure

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Ready-made IT user documentation


    When I started working at Microsoft, I hadn’t been in such an open, technology rich culture before. And with so many IT systems around, and so many different software resources, my head was buzzing. In fact, I remember that at the end of the first week, the number of links in my Favourites was massive – just to internal websites.

    I’d never used internet telephony, encryption, instant messaging, live meeting, SharePoint or Groove before, so I was all at sea until I could play around and work out how they were supposed to operate. Meanwhile, people who’d been at Microsoft for a while were metaphorically whizzing past me, as they collaborated, shared, published and distributed information. Whilst I was trying to work out how to answer my desk phone.

    imageOne of the godsends for me was a set of documents called Work Smart Guides, which walked me through the basics of some of the new technology I was encountering.

    As our IT team describe it, Work Smart Guides bridge the gap between technology and users. Work Smart guides provide employees with scenario-based, best-use productivity aids on Microsoft products and technologies.

    We produce them because we expect to see more consistent, productive, and cost-effective use of products and technologies across the company – which helps the business ROI on IT investments, as well as helping people to understand the benefit the IT team deliver to users.

    Ready-made IT guides

    I found out today that we have also published them for customers to modify and use. This seems a great step – because I’m guessing that every university in the UK is producing user documentation where 80-90% of the content is identical. So these guides would make a good starter for 10, either for the format, or the instructions, or the simple screenshots. As an example, here’s the Email Basics one.

    The subjects covered in the step-by-step guides for users include:

    • Environmental sustainability (hints like using Balanced power settings on your laptop)
    • Protecting data with BitLocker
    • Getting started with email
    • Transfer files and settings to a new computer
    • Collaborating with SharePoint
    • An overview of collaboration tools
    • Customising SharePoint sites
    • Integrating Outlook with SharePoint
    • Basics of managing email (Are you a stacker or a filer?)
    • Office tips
    • Outlook email signatures
    • New features for users in Windows 7

    Download the Work Smart Guides

    You can download the customisable versions of Work Smart materials from TechNet. There are 23 of them, and they come in one big Zip file for you to play with.

    Bonus: You should also be looking at the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder, described by Long Zheng as a miracle tool. It does what it says on the tin, and the best bit is that the document it creates is brilliant for creating user guides, with screen shots and step-by-step instructions.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Getting the cold-shoulder the day after Valentine’s Day?


    From today, if you’re running Windows 7 RC (Release Candidate) - ie the pre-release version from last summer - then your computer will start to remind you that you really, really need to get on with upgrading to a fully released version of Windows 7. I know that quite a few IT people in universities installed it on their own netbook or laptop. And some of those have been too busy since last August to get around to putting the released version on. If you’re running the RC version still, then I guess this is about finding time to move. After all, you’ve already got the licence under your Campus Agreement)

    So, if you’re running the released version of Windows 7, you’re good. But if you’ve left upgrading too long, then you need to pay attention to it.

    If you don’t, your friendship with the Release Candidate is going to be a bit like a failing relationship in your personal life:

    • From 15th Feb it’ll start by nudging you and dropping hints – like a little message here and there.
    • From 1st March, things will be a little frostier – every two hours you’ll get the silent treatment (well, a controlled shutdown) and when it is talking to you again, it’ll claim to have forgotten everything you’ve said (ie it won’t save your work when it shuts down).
    • And then finally from the first of June it’ll be terminal decline – painting your wallpaper black, announcing “This copy of Windows is not genuine” on your desktop, and refusing to talk to your friends (or at least, your Windows Update server)

    More details, and advice about making the switch, on the Windows Team blog

    This won’t be news to you – it was all covered in depth when we gave you the download for the RC. Just a nudge to get on with it before 1st March.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    How many people are using Windows 7 in Higher Ed in the UK?

    • 0 Comments Blog statsI just had a look at the statistics for visitors to this blog, for UK universities. The answer appears to be nearly a quarter now. The table is the last month’s visitors.

    Although I don’t believe that it means that a quarter of all HE computers are running Windows 7, I do believe it is representative of IT staff in universities. And they’re probably already planning whether they are going to roll out Windows 7 to the rest of the college at Easter or in the summer.

    imageQuickly find all the other Windows 7 posts on this blog

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Technologies for the Scholarly Communications Lifecycle



    Some of my education colleagues were over in Redmond recently and part of the briefing was from Microsoft Research (MSR) on the work they are doing to enhance scholarly communications with software and services.  The mission of this work is to focus on data and information flow in a coordinated and seamless manner.

    The output of all this is a series of applications and perhaps the most relevant to Higher Education are:


    Trident Scientific Workflow Workbench

    Research Desktop

    Zentity (Research-Output Repository Platform) v1.0

    The Research Information Centre (Beta)

    Libra Academic Search

    There are many other tools on here, all of which seem to be either service/hosted or free to download from Codeplex.  One that looks particularly interesting is the Conference Management Toolkit, which handles the complex workflow of academic conferences.  Also, the Electronic Journals Service could help facilitate self-publishing of workshop and conferencing proceedings and smaller journals.


    The full site is here

Page 1 of 2 (11 items) 12