Imagine Cup 2011–Team Software4Life (Spain)

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Earlier this week, I introduced you to the first of five teams competing in the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup, Team Note-Taker. Today, I’m going to introduce you to Team Software4Life from Spain.

Team Software4Life is made up of Cristian, team mentor, and Luis, Pedro, Cesar, and Gonzalo. Their project is called WaterSense, and the goal is to streamline the availability of drinking water. Why is a project like this needed, you ask? In some areas of the world, drinking water is not as plentiful as it is in developed nations.

Team photoWaterSense aims to change this with their 3-part solution. The first part is WaterSense Mobile. This is a tool designed to be used by volunteers in developing countries to identify potential water shortages. The second component is WaterSense NGO. This is what is used by NGOs to examine and analyze the data collected by volunteers through WaterSense Mobile. The final piece is a social component called WaterSense FB. This component lives on Facebook and enables users to see where projects are going on and enables users to donate and track where their donations are going.

This is one project that I am incredibly curious to see in person. Water is an absolute necessity for life, and I believe that any project that can bring clean drinking water to those who need it is worthy of praise.

For more on WaterSense, I strongly encourage you to visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, and stay tuned here for more from New York City.

Imagine Cup 2011–Team Note-Taker (USA)

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The Worldwide Finals of the 2011 Imagine Cup by Microsoft will be upon us in about three weeks. Over these next few weeks, I’ll be introducing you to some select teams that will be competing July 8th-13th in New York City.

Today, I’ll be introducing Team Note-Taker. Team Note-Taker is based out of the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC) at Arizona State University.

Led by team leader David Hayden and Mentor John Black,5607507820_f581754579_z along with Shashank Srinivas, Michael Astrauskas, and Qian Yan, Team Note-Taker has created a portable assistive device consisting of a robotic camera, a tablet PC, and Microsoft OneNote 2010.

Inspiration for this project comes from David Hayden who is legally blind and decided he was not going to let his blindness get in the way of pursuing a dual degree in both Computer Science and Mathematics.

notetaker-prototypesThe Note-Taker presents its users with a split-screen view of live video from the camera and a Microsoft OneNote notebook. By using gestures (pinch to zoom, tap to focus, etc.) users can control the camera and take notes at the same time.

By using a solution such as the Note-Taker, students who are vision impaired can reduce the time and struggle in keeping up with their sighted peers in classes.

The Note-Taker is an innovative approach combining software and hardware in an easy to use way and at an affordable price point.

Team Note-Taker took first place in the Software Design category of the US Imagine Cup finals. Will they take it all the way in New York City? Stay tuned right here to find out!

(All images property of their respective owners. Imagine Cup logo, property Microsoft Corporation, Team Note-Taker photo, property Microsoft Corporation, Note-Taker prototypes photo, property Wired.)

Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 | Part 1: Introduction

Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 is an awesome product from Microsoft. MultiPoint Server is designed as a solution to provide what I’ll call “one-to-many” or “shared” computing. By “one-to-many” I mean that MultiPoint Server runs on one server and provides the computing power for up to 20 users at the same time.

What are some of the possible usage scenarios? With the ever shrinking education budgets here in the United States, schools are having to find new ways to do more with less. Instead of buying a lab full of workstations, schools can buy MultiPoint Server and thin client hardware at a fraction of the cost. Another example is a small business looking to keep their costs low, can deploy MultiPoint and thin clients to all their employees. The possibilities are endless.

I’ve included below a slide listing the cost of MultiPoint Server. Note that this is for the software only and does not include server hardware or client hardware and is based on Volume License channel pricing.

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In Part 2, I’ll walkthrough the initial installation and setup of MultiPoint Server 2011.

Hey students, want free Microsoft development tools?

dreamsparkIf your answer to the question is yes, than have I got a deal for you!

Microsoft has a program called DreamSpark. The DreamSpark program is a way for you as a student to gain access to Microsoft technologies that you can then use to create amazing applications for the PC, the cloud, and the phone.

Dreamspark includes some really amazing things such as:

  • Visual Studio 2010 Professional
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard
  • Expression Studio 4 Ultimate
  • SQL Server 2008 Developer Edition
  • Robotics Developer Studio 2008 R3
  • Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools
  • Virtual Lab training for SQL Server, Visual Studio, and Visual Basic
  • IT Academy Student Pass
  • 1 Year free membership to the App Hub and Windows Phone Marketplace (Yes, FREE! There is no $99 fee for students to build and sell Windows Phone 7 apps.)

All it takes to join DreamSpark is sign up, get verified as a student, and download the software.

I highly encourage any student that wants to get hands on experience with Microsoft technologies to sign up for Dreamspark and start playing and creating.

To find out more about DreamSpark, visit http://www.dreamspark.com

Microsoft software now available to ASU students for free

Hello my fellow Sun Devils! This post is specifically for you.

As an ASU student you can get access to over 300 different pieces of Microsoft software for free. Yes, FREE! You’ll have access to such pieces of Microsoft goodness like Windows 7, the entire Expression suite,  and Visual Studio.

All you need to do is be an active ASU student enrolled in a science, technology, education, or math class. (STEM classes for short as they are commonly referred to within the education community.) For a complete list of qualifying courses, click here.

To access the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDNAA, for short), you’ll need to follow these steps.

1. Go to the ASU MyApps portal (http://myapps.asu.edu) and login with your ASURITE

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2. In the search box, type in “MSDNAA” (no quotes) and click Search.

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3. Click the “Download from 3rd party” button to login to the MSDNAA portal

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4. Once on the MSDNAA Portal, you can either use the drop-down menu to select the software you are looking for or use the search box to navigate the portal.

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5. Once you have chosen a piece of software, you’ll need to add it to your cart. Click the “Add to Cart” button. If you have multiple pieces of software you want to download, add them to your cart first, and then download them all at the same time. You’ll be prompted with a usage guideline agreement. Read the agreement and click the “I accept” button if you agree to guidelines.

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6. When you are ready to Checkout and download your software, click the “Check Out” button

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7. Fill out your name and e-mail address on the next page, and then click “Next”

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8.  You’ll be shown an confirmation page. To download your software, click the “Download” button

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9. You’ll be taken to a details page. Click the “Download” button. It will ask you to download a small file to your computer. Download this file to your computer. This is how the software will be downloaded. Open the file, and choose a location to download the software.

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10. Click Continue. Your software will download, and you can monitor the progress at the bottom of the download window.

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That’s all there is to it.

Mobile Learning with Blackboard

School has started and my university uses the Blackboard Learning Management System, and I was told about a feature called Blackboard Mobile Learn that may enhance my learning experience.

Blackboard Mobile Learn is available for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices over Wi-Fi, and Blackberry and Android devices on the Sprint network.

Mobile Learn allows students to access the same features available through Blackboard on a PC such as accessing grades, discussions, and content uploaded by instructors.

I’ve been trying out Mobile Learn to see what, if any, value it brings to the student learning environment. Since I’m not on the Sprint network, I can’t test it on my Android based devices, so my tests come from the iPad version.

When Mobile Learn is launched, you’re asked to search for your university. After typing in the search criteria and selecting the university you are prompted with either the login prompt provided by blackboard or the Single Sign On prompt used by the university.

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Once logged in, you are able to choose from a list of available classes or view the Dashboard. In the Dashboard you will be able to see notifications of new content that has been added to each available class.

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Navigating within a class on Mobile Learn is much the same as using Blackboard on a PC or Mac. The overall structure is the same, and the same features available on a PC are available within Mobile Learn. For instance, if you need to register a TurningPoint branded clicker, the registration tool is available and will open in a browser window within Mobile Learn.

Accessing content that is in the form of PDF files, Word documents, PowerPoint slide shows, or other common file types is incredibly easy through Mobile Learn. When you select a piece of content, for example, a PDF file of notes for Biology class, you are presented with two options. The first is to open the file in the browser, and the second is a direct link to the attached file. If you tap the button to open the attachment, it will open within Mobile Learn, and you can browse the PDF file just as you would normally.

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What impressed me the most about Blackboard Mobile Learn is the feature parity with accessing Blackboard from a PC. My testing has shown that if it’s accessible through Blackboard on a PC, then it can be accessed from Mobile Learn. The only real limitation seems to be, in this case, the iPad itself. If content contains Flash or Windows Media Video, then it won’t play, as the iPad does not support those types of files.

What I’m not so impressed by is the business deal between Blackboard and Sprint. I do not see many, if any, students who use Sprint. It’s Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile that students are using. To be honest, while Mobile Learn provides some compelling features, I wouldn’t change to Sprint just so I could use it on my cell phone. Hopefully, we will see this change and Mobile Learn will be available to any user on any cellular network.

A couple other minor annoyances are that there is not an ability to choose a school as a default. There have been times where the search I have used to find my school has stayed and other times I have had to search for the school all over again. For most people, being able to search for the school once and setting that school as the default would be a good feature to have. Another thing is that the application will occasionally hang after I login and I won’t be able to open any classes or open the dashboard, but after going back to the home screen and re-launching Mobile Learn, everything works okay.

Overall, I’m giving Blackboard Mobile Learn 3.75 out of 5 stars, with a full point deduction for partnering with Sprint and a quarter point deduction for the inability to set a school as the default when launching the application.

Introduction to Office 2010 Click-to-Run

Beginning with the introduction of Office 2010, Microsoft is introducing a new delivery mechanism for Office, called Click-to-Run. This technology enables a user to only download parts of the software that the need, rather then install everything at once.

As a part of the release of the Office 2010 Beta, you can download and try out Office 2010 Home and Business edition using the Click-to-Run technology. Click here to download Office 2010 Home and Business Edition.

The way that Click-to-Run works is that a user downloads a small file (2MB in size). This file contains information about the product to be installed, and creates shortcuts, sets file associations, etc. When an application in the suite is launched, it downloads certain parts of the software to allow them to be functional, and then downloads new features the first time they are launched.

Below are some screenshots of the Click-to-Run experience.