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April, 2012 - 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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April, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    DreamSpark – Automating distribution of software to your labs and students via ELMS



    There are two options to distribute products to your students.

    The first, and most commonly used, leverage the e-Academy License Management System (ELMS) Webstore that comes with your subscription. ELMS is a Web-based software distribution system that program administrators can tailor to their department’s needs. ELMS is provided as a free benefit to DreamSpark member departments worldwide, so no additional fees apply in order to use it. Essentially, ELMS enables administrators to create a customized Web-based software and key distribution mechanism for their department, deploy it to their students, and enjoy the benefit of the maintenance-free record-keeping inherent to the ELMS system.

    Note: There is a brief deployment process, but the seamless record-keeping, broad distribution, and easy maintenance are significant! We highly recommend that all administrators consider the use of ELMS, which can be deployed in one of two ways:

    1. Campus-hosted downloads. This method of deployment allows administrators to create an account for their department on the ELMS Application Server, upload identities of all students in their department, and create a locally hosted (on-campus) download server that eligible students can use to get their software.
    2. Direct Student Download. This method of deployment allows administrators to create an account for their department on the ELMS Application Server, upload identities of all students in their department, and give eligible students access to a preconfigured download server.

    The second option is to use MSDN Subscriber Downloads to access any product keys that students may need to activate their products. While administrators cannot grant direct access to the MSDN Subscriber Downloads to students, they can download the software package and request keys from this site and give them to students.

    So what is ELMS?

    ELMS is a Web-based software distribution and management application hosted by e-academy. As a turnkey system, ELMS enables you to authenticate eligible students and faculty online and automate the ordering and distribution of DreamSpark software to students and faculty. 
    ELMS is available to all program administrators worldwide, and is currently available in six languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Portuguese-Brazilian. ELMS is available to your end-users in the following eight languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Turkish and Russian. When you request your ELMS, please be sure to indicate your language preference.

    To get your private URL to your ELMS, please fill out this request form. The support team will be able to give you instructions on how to setup and configure your ELMS system.

    ELMS Training Resources

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Open University saves over £2 Million with Lync 2010


    “We believe that the saving by deploying Microsoft Lync 2010 instead of buying a new PABX will be around £2 million over 5 years” says, Adrian Wells, Assistant Director of IT Infrastructure, The Open University.

    Check out the video below to learn more about the project and the benefits that Lync 2010 offers The Open University.



    (1) “Cloud Computing’s Role in Job Creation,” IDC, March 2012



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The facts about Windows licensing in schools


    If you are planning on buying some new PCs for your education institution, you should check that your school is properly licensed for genuine Windows software. It’s a good idea to check that your existing PCs are also compliant.

    Each PC running Windows desktop software needs to have its own full Windows desktop license. It’s a common misunderstanding that schools can save money by getting PCs without the Windows operating system preinstalled, and then use their Volume License to install a full OS. If you do this it means that your PCs are improperly licensed, which is a violation of Microsoft’s Licensing Policy and could lead to penalties if you are audited.


    So here are the facts. There are only two ways to acquire the initial full Windows license on a new PC. Preinstalled via a PC manufacturer (OEM), which is the most cost-effective way to acquire a Windows license, or through retail stores as a full packaged product (Retail / FPP). If you already have an Academic Licensing agreement that provides an upgrade, it does not cover the full license. Therefore you are required to have a separate, eligible, and full license for the initial operating system deployed on your school’s computers.

    Another scenario is that you might be buying new PCs for your school, but own some old PCs that already have Windows installed. Unfortunately it is not possible to transfer this across to your new machines. A Windows operating system that is preinstalled by a PC manufacturer (OEM), may never be transferred to newly purchased PCs, even if the original PC is no longer in use.


    Here are some helpful advice points so you can keep your institution compliant:

    · When purchasing PCs make sure your request for a quote includes a genuine operating system preinstalled

    · Resellers may attempt to save costs by excluding the Windows license. Getting Windows software preinstalled is your most
    cost-effective option. Getting an unlicensed PC is likely to cost you more in the long run

    · Using a Volume Licensing agreement to install the initial full Windows license on an unlicensed PC will leave your institution
    mislicensed and legally non-compliant

    · Make sure you understand licensing rules to avoid penalties

    For further information on Windows licensing visit:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    DreamSpark for students – here’s what you can do


    Imagine you want to build your own house; you’ve managed to acquire your piece of land, got your planning permission and grabbed a few raw materials. Now, do you grab your trowel and bricks cementing away with just a vague idea of what you want your finished house to look like? Of course you wouldn’t. Or at least I hope you wouldn’t. A similar concept applies to creating websites, applications and software, although there is obviously a much better chance of your website development succeeding that your house building endeavours without design. There is a distinct reason that my university lecturer created an entire module around design patterns and why Facebook considers designers the ‘key to the company’s long-term strategic success’.

    Design is important.

    expression studio 4

    Good applications, websites and software start at the design stage. We understand how important design is in the process of creating something that is going to lead the market by being beautiful, user-friendly, ground-breaking and unique, so we’ll tell you about something that may lead you in that direction. But firstly, let me ask you the same question that I ask at all of the presentations that I give, to all of the audiences that I encounter; have you heard of DreamSpark?

    DreamSpark is a comprehensive selection of the tools that professionals use to build real apps, real games and real solutions and it is absolutely FREE for students. If you’re a budding designer or you’re an avid software developer then download the Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Ultimate suite which gives you access to:

    · Expression Web 4 for creating compelling websites visually

    · Expression Blend 4 for creating rich web experiences, games, desktop apps and more

    · Expression Design 4 for creating sophisticated vector graphics

    · Expression Encoder 4 Pro for your video production needs

    If you need a little inspiration or help in getting started and using these tools there are lots of resources available for you.

    To learn how to use Expression Studio there are courses and tutorials available for you to get stuck into once you’ve downloaded the tools.

    Windows Phone is an amazing technology to start developing with if you’ve not done much development before or even if you’re a seasoned developer. Expression Blend is a great accompaniment to developing for Windows Phone as it enables you to do most of the design easily in an intuitive and simple user interface, especially using tools such as SketchFlow which comes included in the Expression suite. To learn how to use the Expression suite to design Windows Phone apps take a look at this video featuring Celso Gomes and Peter Blois.

    If it’s a bit of inspiration you’re after then have a look at ubelly’s interviews with designers who’ve worked on our top phone apps including IMDB, Twitter, Facebook and Shazam. There’s plenty more where that came from if that’s not enough here.

    Start designing some amazing stuff today!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Claire Young from the Apprentice talks to Microsoft about entrepreneurship


    In this episode of Edu Talk, the first in our series of video interviews with members of the education, business and technology communities, Claire Young, entrepreneur and founder of School Speakers, talks to Microsoft about why enterprising skills are important for young people in today's world.

    The full video can be viewed/downloaded below:

    Additional episodes of Edu Talk will be made available over the coming months. If you have any ideas of inspiring members of the community that we could interview as part of the Edu Talk series, please leave your ideas in the comments below.

    We hope you enjoy the first episode and look forward to sharing additional Edu Talk content with you soon.


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 8 Consumer Preview


    Its now been a month since the Windows 8 Consumer Preview was made available (time flies!). Since its launch, it has been great to see all the feedback from members of the education community and beyond about their experience of the new OS to date.

    David Pogue's comments, from the New York Times, are a personal favourite with these words “Microsoft has sweated the details, embraced beauty and simplicity, and created something new and delightful. Get psyched.”

    From a more personal perspective, I am loving the new OS. Windows 8, with its fast and fluid start screen and the flexibility to work how I choose across touch, mouse and keyboard is a match made in OS heaven. It really is Windows Reimagined, in my opinion, and I can't wait to get my hands on the final version when available.


    If you haven't tried Windows 8, you can download the consumer preview for free today at Any machine built for Windows 7 will run the consumer preview. Could be a good project for those still off for the Easter holidays :)

    As you would expect, we will be posting lots of content and information about Windows 8 leading up to launch and beyond, so watch this space.

    In the meantime, we would love to hear what you think about the consumer preview. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

    With over 100,000 code changes since the developer preview, I think you are going to love it!


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What is DreamSpark?


    DreamSpark is a platform that offers free software and tools to support students - it’s the place to get all our developer and designer tools for free. In this video, students, lecturers and IT Professionals explain what DreamSpark is and how it can be used.


    What is DreamSpark?


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Student Windows Phone developer Q & A


    Questions answered by Windows Phone expert Ben Lower

    Originally posted by Microsoft Student

    A big shout out to Ben Lower and all the student developers that participated in the exciting chat this morning on the Microsoft Student Facebook page! If you missed it or want to read the advice that Ben gave your peers, we have recapped the conversation below, everything from one of Ben’s colleagues cheering him on to Ben’s Aunt Susan wishing him good luck and all of the awesome student dev questions in between. Thanks again for asking such wonderful questions about your experience with developing with Windows Phone. Ben was excited that so many of you participated!

    From Ben, “Thanks to everyone for all the great questions & for your interest in learning more about Windows Phone. I highly encourage you to utilize the Find My Champ application ( to find Microsoft experts in your area who can help you with your developing questions on Windows Phone. You can also get the full source code for this app at

    Ben Lower

    Full recap below:

    Q: How would you define a scope for students as WP developers? Also is channel9's Absolute Beginner tutorial sufficient for developing Pro apps?

    Ben: Thanks for the questions. The scope could be whatever you want it to be. It depends on what you are trying to do – build ur skills as a dev, build experience, make money, etc. Absolute beginner is a good start. Also check the Windows Phone Jumpstarts (

    Q: What are the basic fields that I should be an expert in to be a Windows Phone developer?

    Ben: You need to be able to understand the context of mobile applications: you have a small screen, limited computing power, and all those sensors (GPS, accelerometer, etc.). Then, it really depends on what type of experiences/apps you want to create. You might need lots of design expertise, lots of data expertise. If you can build Windows Phone apps using C# and learn VB.NET languages, that will help. It really depends, but you also need to be able to code and to be good at learning as you go since you'll likely be forging new ground.

    Q: Is there any way to use Native Code coming to Windows Phone?

    Ben: We have received this request many, many times from developers and it's something that we are definitely investigating for possible future release. What is your specific need for native code use on Windows Phone?

    Q: I am wondering because I know that would be a very good push to the platform. By the way, I'm a last year student of computer engineering and I also have some experience (limited) developing in Android's platform, but since I got my Windows Phone I'm totally in love with it. So I was thinking to start developing some apps for WP. I'm also interested in an internship with Microsoft. Do you think starting to develop for the platform is a good beginning that could help me with my internship request?

    Ben: Cool and good luck in your final year. Getting some good apps or other project experience on your resume will definitely help your internship/job search. For Microsoft, check out

    Q: What kind of laptop are you using? It looks stunning!

    Ben: Thanks! I'm using Samsung series 9 with a custom, I ♥ WP ASCII art skin that I made.

    Q: Thanks for the live chat session! Any idea when AppHub will be available in more countries? It is quite expensive to use third party publishers to publish our apps.

    Ben: You are welcome! Thanks for joining us and for the question. We are always working hard to expand the number of countries for developers. In fact we just added 13 new markets for consumers yesterday ( Our goal is to make App Hub available in as many places as possible, but it's very complicated and so takes more time than we (and you :-)) would like. Where are you running into high expenses with a third party publishers?

    Q: Thanks for the answer Ben. Because I live in Macedonia, I need to go through . And if you look at the pricing page, it is simply too much for a student to pay :(

    Ben: I understand. I know that some of our global publishing partners have reduced pricing for students. Did you ask them? Also, try looking at who I know help students with lower pricing.

    Q: Thanks for Ben. Much better rates there. Could you tell us what is the ONE feature you like the most on the WP7? :)

    Ben: I love the People Hub the most because it brings all my contacts from Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook into one place and also merges with Facebook & Twitter status for my friends. I use it all the time!

    Q: I know C and C++ very well. I am interested in app developing for Windows 8 apps, so what other technical knowledge do I need? Is it possible with these skills or should I learn C# for XAML,XML. Can you please tell me all the possible combinations.

    Ben: If you want to build Windows 8 apps and Windows Phone apps today, then you'd likely be best served to focus on C# and XAML as those skills are pretty transferrable across both platforms.

    Q: Expression Blend for VS 11 is very buggy, sometime can't even copy and paste, it is laggy compared to developing in Windows 7.

    Ben: VS 11 is still in preview release and will be slow and have bugs :-) performance improvements usually come as we finish up the product for release.

    Q: Why doesn’t Microsoft make Windows OS in phone an open source, so that it can become widely used by everyone?

    Ben: Microsoft invests a lot in open source in various ways: Codeplex, ASP.NET MVC (, and others. It's not part of our strategy to open source the entire Windows Phone OS.

    Q: I have basic knowledge of C# and ASP.NET, but don’t know anything about windows phone development. Where do I start?

    Ben: Best starting point is our Getting Started Guide ( which will link you to great free tutorials and online resources.

    Q: Is this possible to make Android apps using .NET framework.

    Ben: Yes, you can use Mono ( to build Android apps using C# and .NET...but why would you want to put yourself through that pain & suffering ;-)

    Q: Would you recommend making a custom local search app (for offline use) for the windows phone 7.1 device for a beginner?

    Ben: That sounds like a very good project that will cover different aspects of the phone: GPS, maps, offline data storage, sync to web, etc. I'd always encourage you to focus on a project that you care about, as your passion will help you stick it out and really learn.

    Q: Many people think WP7 is not a good market to invest in. What is your view on the market compared to Android and iPhone?

    Ben: Windows Phone is a unique experience compared to our competitors. We offer developers and designers a unique canvas upon which to create engaging experiences. Most developers tell us they can get their apps built for us faster and easier than on other platforms. We provide free tools and students can join App Hub free of charge. Plus, you can still standout in our marketplace which isn't overrun with hundreds of thousands of apps. Nokia has essentially bet their company on Windows Phone and they are getting great traction with their first devices they have released. Not to mention that you have people like me and our Phone Champs ( who truly care about the success of our developers and will help you be successful.

    Q: I want to work on the Windows Phone application with database support. Does 7.1 SDK support SQL lite for apps or only7.5 supports? Are there links to resources where I can refer about how to work with local databases for Windows Phone apps. Also, can I write into the resource XML sheet of my app from input fields presented in the app? Can I use the XML as a storage resource?

    Ben: We added SQL CE support in 7.5. You can save your data locally to the device in many ways including XML. Watch this video for some amazing tips on how to manage local data storage and sync.

    Q: Hi Ben! Do you see the windows market as more of a niche market for business related applications? What other visual studio add-ons/plugins do you use for WPD?

    Ben: I don't see it as a niche market at all. We are seeing all sorts of apps & games. I use Telerik controls and the Silverlight Toolkit, but I spend most of my time in VS & Blend.

    Q: Hello Ben, I am creating a simple note taking application called Sribbble, and I only have two bugs that I have yet to find a fix. One is the textbox which seems to have a limited height. I have checked it's properties and max height, which is set to infinity, but when you type over 45 lines you are still able to type, but the text is not visible. You can scroll past that point, but the text just is not visible past about 45 lines. I checked other note taking applications and many of them have the same bug. Do you know of a way to work around for this? Thank you.

    Ben: Sorry that you're running into that issue with the textbox in Scribbble. I'm not sure on this, but you can ping @JeffWilcox on twitter who should be able to answer.

    Q: Thank you, Ben for this initiative! I'm wondering is there any news about Native Arabic Language Support in the next update of Windows Phone? I've been creating workarounds and Custom Silverilght Controls to let the text display correctly from right to left, I've also created a new Arabic Keyboard Layout to be able to develop apps in Arabic. The web browser used to display Arabic letters, but in reversed order and after the Mango update, the web browser acts really weird when it tries to render a page that contains Arabic content, not even in reversed order, sometimes you'll not be able to see the page contents at all.
    *If anyone needs help in displaying Arabic content in their windows phone 7 or any general help in building WP7 apps or Silverlight Apps feel free to contact me, I'll be happy to help! :)

    Ben: I've seen your work and give you props! Very cool that you implemented Arabic support. We understand the importance of supporting RTL and Arabic and are investigating possibility of that at some point in future.

    Q: I encounter a problem when using a map inside a pivot. It works on emulator without any problem but crashes on the phone. I found many developers have similar problems. Is there any simple way to overcome it?

    Ben: We don't recommend that you put a map control inside a pivot. There are workarounds mentioned in this MSDN article:

    Q: When manipulating sounds in the Silverlight, is it possible to create a global instance of the sound to be able to change its properties independently from what page is being navigated inside the applications?

    Ben: I believe this is possible, but I would need to look up on MSDN to be sure. Contact your local Phone Champ for more help on this question.

    Q: Hi Ben. I am from Macedonia, and this country is not supported by the App Hub, so we cannot do a developer unlock on a WP device. Before, there was Chevron, but they sold out all the tokens and I don’t know any other option. Is there any other option to unlock a device for development, or is there any option to get unlocked developer device?

    Ben: Sorry that we don't yet, support Macedonia, but you can check out our global publishing partners such as

    Q: Hi Ben. Is there any way to exit the application?

    Ben: You can exit apps on the phone by hitting the back button repeatedly until you exit

    Q: Hi Ben, I was wondering if in the future we'd have more control on how the keyboard is displayed and on how our app is scrolled (or not) when the keyboard appears. Dealing with this really was a pain.

    Ben: Not sure, but you can raise this and any other requests on We use this site all the time to get feedback from our devs and help us plan and prioritize our work.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    “Fail to prepare… prepare to fail.”


    Advice from Alan Richards, West Hatch High School. Words taken from the Virtualisation with Microsoft® Hyper-V eBook.

    “Fail to prepare… prepare to fail.” - That’s very much the mindset that’s needed by an organisation embarking on server virtualisation.

    The planning phase is vital and demands serious attention. It can’t he overlooked, hurried or entered into lightly. Information technology is core to any business from high street banks to the smallest of primary schools. Should it fail, or is not fit for purpose, then the business could fail. In a school or college that means failing the very people we are all here for – the students.  

    Should you run a trial?    

    Part of being meticulous about planning means you should think about running a trial ahead of full implementation. At West Hatch High School we ran a year long trial. Virtualisation was still quite new to schools and I believed it had to prove its worth.


    Virtualisation is now much more proven. So you may be happy to miss out the trial, and settle for researching what other people have done, and pulling together all of the information available in blogs, white papers and videos. I believe, though, that a trial’s still advisable. It may well save time and trouble later on by providing details about your network and how your infrastructure can cope with the demands of virtualisation.

    How you run the trial will depend on the information you want to discover, and to a certain extent, how much money you want to spend on the hardware.

    The purpose of your trial    

    A simple trial would consist of a single server with enough on board storage to cope with 3 or 4 virtual servers, and network connectivity to service the virtual servers. This type of test will allow you to monitor the loads on your network infrastructure, the actual network cards on the servers, and also allow you to monitor the end user experience.  

    If you have already decided on virtualisation and your trial is going to be used to simply collect data to help in the planning and installation phases, then you could go for a trial setup with a single server and the storage system of your choice.  

    This setup will allow you to collect all the required data but also make the transition to a full virtualised environment a lot easier.
    Whichever method of trial you decide on, the data collected will never go to waste as it can be used to inform your decision making throughout the process of virtualisation.

    Know your starting point

    Do the groundwork. Begin by finding out what what’s already in place and how it is being used. Before you can plan for how many virtual hosts, you need you need to know what servers you are going to virtualise and the load that they are under currently. The load on servers is an important factor in deciding on your virtualisation strategy. For instance, it would not be advisable to place all your memory-hungry servers on the same virtual host.  

    Finding out what you have can include:

    • A simple list of servers
    • Disk utilisation monitoring
    • Network monitoring tools to map out the network load and utilisation
    • CPU load

    All of these factors will help you to answer some of the key questions, which can include:

    • How many virtual hosts do I need
    • What size storage should I purchase
    • What type of storage (iSCSI, fibre channel etc.)

    Having full and accurate answers to these questions will be decisive in determining how well your virtualised environment performs.

    What to virtualise

    A major question you will have to ask yourself is what services you are going to virtualise. Theoretically you can virtualise any server,
    Windows® based or not. But just how far you go – whether you should virtualise everything, for example, simply because you can – is a question that has produced some very heated debates in the IT community.

    Take, for example, Active Directory, one of the core services in any Windows based domain. At its most basic level, it provides the logon functionality for users to access computers and therefore their network accounts. If this service fails, the network is fundamentally compromised, so one argument says that by virtualising it you are providing a level of fault tolerance because it isn’t a physical server. However, the downside here is to consider what happens if you’re virtual hosts are members of the domain and your virtualised domain controller fails. How do you log into your host if it requires a domain account to login?

    Obviously this is an extreme case, and there are ways around it. As a rule it is best practice to keep at least one physical domain controller to provide active directory functionality. You can then have as many virtualised domain controllers as you like for
    fault tolerance.

    The general point we’re making here, though, is that you need to weigh up carefully all the issues around what services you might virtualise.

    Other considerations that might arise include:

    • Physical connection. For example there is no way to connect to external SCSI connections in Hyper-V, such as tape drives
    • Security, both physical and logical (is it, for example, a company requirement to have your root certificate authority server locked away somewhere secure?)

    Microsoft® Assessment & Planning Toolkit

    While there is no substitute for ‘knowing your network’ there is a tool provided by Microsoft that will make life slightly easier for you. The Microsoft Assessment & Planning (MAP) toolkit will look at your current servers and provide you with suggested setups for your virtualised environment.

    But don’t take the solutions it comes up with as definitive answers. Regard them as helpful starting points for your own planning.
    You can download the tool for free from the Download Centre.

    Virtualisation with Microsoft® Hyper-V eBook

    This post has been taken from our Virtualisation with Microsoft Hyper-V eBook. View/Download the full eBook below:

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