Microsoft Student Insider Kickoff 2011

If you’re reading this, it means that I have arrived in Seattle, Washington for the 2011 Microsoft Student Insider kickoff and 2011 Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Summit.

Over the next eight days, I’ll be meeting with various product groups, meeting new people, and hopefully gathering information that I can share with you my readers. (Might be tough, as both events are covered under Non-Disclosure Agreements.)

I don’t have a schedule yet for the Student Insider kickoff, but will have one in the morning, and as I know more, you’ll know more.

For MVP Summit, I’ll be meeting with the Windows Home and Small Business Server team as well as attending some fun sessions to learn some new things.

I’ll be taking lots of pictures over the next few days, and will have a link posted to a photo gallery as soon as the first batch of photos are uploaded.

Seattle-bound for MVP Summit and Student Insider Meetup

I’ll be in Seattle February 23rd-March 3rd for Microsoft Student Insider stuff and the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit. I’ll be taking my new SLR digital camera with me and taking lots of pictures, so look for those over the course of those eight days.

Please join me in welcoming the following to the Student Insider program for 2011:

  • Den Delimarsky –@denniscodedennisdel.com – Den is what I consider a Windows Phone Ninja. He knows the platform inside and out and blogs about it extensively on his own website and on DreamInCode.
  • Drew Devault – @sircmpwnsircmpwn.blogspot.com – Drew is an XNA and Silverlight wizard (and he’s still in high school!)
  • Billy O’Neal – @MalwareMiniGunwinwrench.com
  • Steven Nowak (Don’t have any blog or Twitter handle for Steven yet. When I do I’ll update this.)

MVP summit content is covered under the Non-Disclosure Agreement, so I’m not able to talk about what I’ll be doing there, other than to say that I’ll be meeting with the Home and Small Business Server team at various points through out the week. If you have any questions that you want me to try to answer, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Tech students, want to get ahead of the curve?

If you answered yes to the above question, then may I suggest that you check out an offer that Microsoft has for you.

Microsoft is offering all students a free 30-day pass for access to Windows Azure. Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing offering, and by using tools that you are most likely already familiar with such as Visual Studio, IIS, C#, and SQL Server, you can build web applications that are highly reliable, scalable, and can be built quickly.

The 30-day trial pass includes:

  • 4 small compute instances
  • 3GB of storage
  • 250,000 storage transactions
  • Two (2) 1GB Web Edition databases
  • 100,000 Access Control transactions
  • 2 Service Bus connections
  • 3GB in/out data transfer (per region)

By signing up for and using Windows Azure, you will gain valuable experience into the future of computing. More and more companies are moving towards cloud based computing, and you as a student and an end user are already using cloud-based services. If you own an iPod or a Zune and buy music through Apple or Microsoft, that’s a cloud service. If you like Dominos pizza and order online, you’re using a cloud service (powered by Windows Azure). Are you a Gmail user or a Hotmail user? Then you are a user of a cloud based service. See where I’m going with this? Cloud computing is where the future is at.

If you’re ready to dive in, click here, and use the promo code AC30D to sign up. (there isn’t a continue button, so you’ll have to press enter after typing in the promo code.)

If you’re not so sure, and want to learn more about Windows Azure, click here.

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.

Sitting in the Terminal

Wow, what a busy last couple of days. It has truly been a fast paced whirlwind trip to Seattle for Student Insider training at Microsoft. I’m sitting here in the terminal waiting for my flight back to Phoenix, and looking out the gray skies and watching the rain fall.

I flew up here to Seattle on Wednesday in the early afternoon, and spent the last two days at Microsoft’s main campus meeting with people in Microsoft Research, Xbox, XNA, Office, Windows Azure, and meeting some more famous names like Scott Hanselman and Frank Arrigo (Happy belated Australia Day, Frank!).

I have been chosen to be Microsoft’s IT Student Insider. I personally think that the term IT Student Insider is somewhat ambiguous. I see myself as providing more of a broad perspective on Microsoft and their offerings, and also trying to focus in on how Microsoft products can help consumers and business users achieve their goals.

There are a grand total of 6 insiders in this first wave of the program. As the program develops and matures, I think that the number will grow and that there will be insiders across many areas at Microsoft. Below, I’ve listed my fellow Insiders, and their disciplines.

Name

Discipline

Blog URL

Twitter username

Ryan Bucinell

Programming

http://www.dreamincode.net/forums/blog/swiftstriker00

@swiftstriker00

Patrick Godwin

Programming

http://www.ximplosionx.com

@ximplosionx

Joe Osborne

Expression / Design

http://www.geekadelphia.com

@joeosborne87

Jeremy Bray

Windows

http://www.globalgeeknews.com

@globalgeeknews

Ashley Myers

Imagine Cup

http://www.organizefish.com/blog

@organizefish

Tom Ziegmann

IT

http://www.tomontech.com

@tziegmann

I encourage all my readers to read my fellow Insiders blogs and follow us on Twitter. Who knows, we just might have some cool stuff to give away at times. 😉

I want to take a moment to highlight a fellow Insider, and his name is Patrick Godwin. When I had been told about the program, I was under the impression that it was for college students only. However, when I met Patrick, I found out that he was only 16. Yes, sixteen! Patrick’s focus is development, and it was very evident during our talk with Scott Hanselman that Patrick knows his stuff. I was blown away by how much he knows, and he has a real passion for Microsoft, and Microsoft’s development technologies. It’s great to have you with us Patrick!

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be posting more about training and some of the people that I met with. Until then, I want to say Thank You to Microsoft for hosting us, and I’ll be back soon.