My Asus P121 Slate and hopes for Windows 8


A few months ago I won a competition in which I won a Asus EEE P121 Slate and I’ve been using it a lot more that I thought I would have.  I recently moved house and its become the best gadget for on the road and within the house.  I thought I would share what we (my wife and I) have been using it for and how useful a Windows Slate really is in a home.



I actually won the better of the 2 specs of this device with includes

  • Intel i5 Processor (x64)
  • 4.00GB RAM
  • 64GB SSD
  • Windows 7 Home Premium


My main machine that I work from is a Dell Precision M6400 which is a big, heavy laptop which is great for virtualisation but other than that its hard to move around without straining some muscles!

The Slate came with a Bluetooth keyboard and I was recently doing a lot of coach traveling in around Canada and have the Slate with me.  I could set the Slate upright on the table in front of me and use the keyboard on my lap allowing me to relax better on the seat, I was constraint by having a normal laptop on me and the height of the screen.

The battery would last about 4 – 5 hours which covers most journeys.

The built in webcam is very good – while away I used it a lot with Skype catching up with friends back at home and the built is mic didn’t pick up much background within the room.

Since getting back I’ve also brought a Bluetooth mouse as I find sitting on the train, typing away and then using your finger or pen to click can become a bit frustrating but having a mouse solves this problem.  Even though I’ve had this mouse I still find myself using the keyboard and using the touch screen features rather than a mouse – I guess it just depends on the situation.

One thing I have found with the case is that it fits very nicely over my car steering wheel allowing me see the screen at a good height while relaxing back in the chair…and no I don’t do this while driving Winking smile.

This is one of the times I really enjoy having a touch device.  I can use the keyboard on my lap and easily reach the screen to click.

At Home

This is a great device for home – if you are thinking you whether to get one or now – trust me it’s worth it for home!

When we moved into the house we didn’t have the right cable to link the TV up to the aerial and we still don’t.

The slate comes with a mini HDMI port and I had a mini HDMI to HDMI so I can easily link up the device to the TV.  This allows us to watch:

  • BBC iPlayer
  • ITV Player
  • 4 on Demand (4oD)
  • Sky Player

If we want to watch something that is being played live we can use TV Catch Up and stream it through the Slate on the TV.  Yes this does mean the TV only works if the internet is working but we also downloaded some films into the client of SkyPlayer so we have something to watch.  (this is also useful when you are bored on a train or in the car waiting for you next meeting)

Sometimes I find the Slate in the kitchen being used to read the Food Recipes off the BBC Food site.  If the cooking continues to be this good – I’m happy to find the Slate there Smile.

I’m a big IE9 fan now its been released but I still have Google Chrome on my Slate and Laptop and yesterday was the day I found Angry Birds for Google Chrome.  It works great with the Slate.


Improvements!?!! Yes there are some improvements I would like to see within the OS more than anything else.  These are around the touch keyboard is anything – I would like to set the keyboard to allows loads in the same position with the same size keys every time.  I would help to learn key placements.

I would also like to have a 3G Sim Card built into the device so i can easily access the internet from anywhere.

Windows 8

This week Microsoft showed off Windows 8 for the first time and used a Slate to do that with.

Dear Microsoft,
Can I please have Windows 8, NOW!

I can’t wait for the betas to come out.  I’ll be installing it straight away but can I also make a request.  I love the interface and would like some key apps on release.

These include:

  • BBC iPlayer
  • ITV Player
  • 4oD
  • Sky Player
  • Angry Birds
  • A simplified Outlook client
    • This is similar to the email client you get on your Windows Phone.  Something to quickly view your emails.  I can then jump into the full Outlook to do other complicated email stuff.

If you haven’t seen Windows 8 yet – take a look at the video below.

Oh – and go buy a Windows Slate – the best gadget I ever had!


What is a Learning Platform? Short Story


The Learning Platform StoryAre you like Mr Jones? Spending most of the day teaching all the kids about Shakespeare or about the Universe and have no time to get all the information you need to organise that school field trip or check your email.

Or are you like Mrs Lloyd who has to move around from room to room with textbooks, laptop, work sheets, school diary and everything else!?

Well there is a tool out there that can help you. The Learning Platform!

The Learning Platform is a web based tool that can help you with your day to day management, worksheet storage, email and data tracking.

You can view all your school policy documents, an up to date school wide calendar, pull information from the Internet through RSS and talk about the latest news in discussion boards. You’ll never have to worry about the kids finding the answer sheets again as you’ll be able store them securely in the Learning Platform.

You could also build a student page and give them all the latest news from in and around the school, exam timetables in a calendar or store all the worksheets in a curriculum area.

The Learning Platform StoryLittle James never gets his homework done as he always loses his worksheet on the way home. But with the Learning Platform he can log on from home and can get those worksheets and get his homework done.

Little James parents are always telling him off because they never get the school newsletter, it always gets lost with those homework sheets. But now they can login into the Learning Platform and see the latest news, documents, even see if Little James is attending his lessons and getting good marks!

The Learning Platform StorySally is doing her homework but stuck on her Maths question-she logs onto the Learning Platform and starts a instant communication to her friend Lucy. But she is stuck too!

Sally decides to email her maths teacher. Mr Simpson is enjoying his evening with a cup of coffee and his phone buzzies to say he has an email. He looks at the email and sees it is from Sally, so he sends her a reply and she carries on with her homework.

David always brings the wrong books to school but now he logs into the Learning Platform before leaving and checks his timetable.

The Learning Platform StoryMrs Jones decides she wants to start doing more lessons on the computers so she books the laptop trolley through the Learning Platform and hands them out to her pupils the next lesson.

She has set them an online quiz, and they have 15 minutes to find as much as they can about Romeo and Juliet on the Learning Platform. The pupils use search to find a streaming video that Mrs Jones found and a whole load of other information. They start the quiz and at the end all the results are there for the pupils to see, Mrs Jones can see how her class are doing and Little James parents can see how well he is doing in his lessons!

The Learning Platform Story

Using SharePoint Search in Education and Schools: Part 1


SharePoint is being used more and more in education with schools implementing the product but one of the common things I see it that schools don’t use the full capability of the product.  I’ve had many conversation about SharePoint and that there aren’t many people out there that know everything about the product.  With there both a developer and IT Pro story, SharePoint its bigger than you think.

One of the big feature that really isn’t used in the education space is search.  Search is a great tool and everyone uses either Bing or Google to find information on the internet.

In this series of blog posts we’re going to take a look at how we can use search within your school.


With SharePoint search we can tell it to search multiple locations in and outside of your SharePoint farm.  Within SharePoint you can search file names and the file content, the content of a webpage or a wiki page.  If you blog in your environment, while searching, it will show the content and the categories.  With SharePoint Search you can search for anything within your farm.

We can also configure SharePoint Search to search other location and these are:


File Servers

On average a school will have at least 500GB of data stored on their file servers for personal storage as well as shared areas.  Some schools will have other shared areas for curriculum use or an admin/office area.  All this data can be stored in many areas across a network and searching for a bit of content can become very difficult.

Once configured correctly while searching in SharePoint it can locate files within your shared area and show you a link to file for you open it.


Within your school you most likely to have old websites such as your old intranet site or if you are using another Virtual Learning Environment you will have content stored in there.  These sites will have valuable information which can then be found through the search engine/search centre.

We can also configure search to include external websites within your search results.  This can include your schools website, your schools blog site or other website on the internet.


In recent months I have a been trying to integrate Moodle and Search in different ways.  In this scenario and the right configuration of both environments will be able to search content such as courses, discussion forums and content within documents.


What we use to Search

When we search in SharePoint we can do this from many areas across the site.

On each page you will be able to search the site you are in and the search panel is located in the top right of the site but this won’t search everything for you.  As you can see in the image below you are only searching within the site you are in.


Microsoft have also created a site template that is just for search called the Search Centre.


With the Search Centre you can search anywhere search is configured and your username has permission to. 

Understanding the search crawler

Through out this series of blog posts I’m going to mention the Search Crawler and its a good idea if I talk about it briefly.

When we configure search to look at different locations we are configuring the search crawler.  For the search to know where things are it needs to crawl that location.  In other words for you to be able to search for a document on your SharePoint farm it needs to know its there and when the search crawler runs it will look at the file and place the location in the search database. 

The crawler is what search’s the location for text and documents.

Look out for the next blog post in the new year as the schools return from their holidays.

Selling it to the Senior Leadership at your School…..


I was recently at a school and we had a bit of difficulty in trying to get the finance board/governors to approve the new £120,000 ($150,000) wireless network.   The wireless is N standard and designed to allow over 2,000 devices to use it at the same time.  The network back bone was already CAT6 so it we could provide a lot of the wireless points with power through Ethernet but even though that’s all good its not easy to get the the finance approval group to spend that amount of money when budgets are tight and most schools are having to reduce budgets rather than spend more.

We saw this vital technology as a key part to our development of the school and transforming the teaching at the school.  Just telling them that it improves education at the school isn’t going to get it approved.

We were asked to give a presentation as to the benefits of the wireless networks.

A few years ago I saw a presentation that linked IT Services to the business goals and issues within the current organisation.  For the presentation I put together some slides that showed how the wireless system would benefit each of the goals and targets for the departments, e-learning and the school.

These targets are

E-Learning Objectives

  • Increase student collaboration
  • Home learning
  • Devices for pupils

Departmental Objectives

  • Increase Student access to resource online
  • Changes to exams (online examinations)
  • Ability to access online exam preparation material

School Objectives

  • Effective tracking of student progress
  • Raise Attainment
  • Raise literacy standards
  • Setting and monitoring home learning

The first thing we did was mapped the different objectives between the levels of the school to each other.  For example if E-Learning got Device for Pupils right it would help the school to increase is attainment levels.  But looking at it the other way if E-Learning don’t get device right, the school can’t reach its goal to increase attainment.


We then took the IT system at the school and linked these to the E-Learning Objectives as well, mapping where the product and services to any of the objectives.


As you can see from the image above is how the Learning Platform affects all the school, department and e-learning objectives.

What School Objectives would be impacted by no Wireless System

Now it was just a matter of showing the links between the wireless network and the school objectives.

What you will see is that the wireless system impacts all but one of the objectives throughout the school – if the finance board don’t approve the wireless they can’t expect the school, each of the departments or the e-learning to achieve its objectives.


Content for the Learning Gateway


I recently spoke at an event about engaging users in your Learning Gateway with the right content in the right areas.

You have content everywhere.  Don’t think that content is just a Word document or SCORM files you have brought from a content supplier.  Content is everywhere, it changes everyday, the school newsletter, the latest year 10 football team win or the gossip around the staff room, your MIS system.

Below is a table I showed in a recent presentation and how you can list all your content. 

Down the side of the table you list all the content from around the school while at the top you list the areas of where you can present this information.


If we evaluate this we can now see where we can put that content both within the Learning Gateway and external sources such as the school website, Twitter and Facebook.


From the table above we can now see where we can advertise that the school football team beat the local rival school, and of course you want to share that will the outside world.

Looking at it from another angle, when you have filled in this table you can see what content needs to be on your website and the different areas of the Learning Gateway.


The 10 examples of content above are very few that you could have.  Each teaching department could fill something like this in and get at least 20 different ideas of what content to deliver and where.

TechNet Virtual Conference – 19th June


With in the next 2 weeks Microsoft are hosting a online conference.

I’ve personally not attended a online conference yet but I guess we all have to start somewhere.

There’s a good agenda for the day which includes Windows 7, Windows 2008 R2 and OCS 2007 R2.  Viral who is someone I have got to know quite well at Microsoft is talking about SharePoint while Emma Healey is also talking about Virtualisation.

If you are available for the day or maybe it’s something to setup in the office so the whole team and listen and watch, register here.

Free Software…DreamSpark…Part 2


Back last year I did a post about how higher education students can get free software which included Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and Expression Studio.

I’m finding in my school there are more and more students who enjoy playing with software, finding out what it does and learning from it. Because of this I always seem to be challenging myself on how I can help these pupils and hope to be starting some after school clubs that will allow these pupils to learn more.

Well you can now get this for your high school students too.

Looking at the list, there is a great number of peices of software now, XNA Games Studio for one – imagine your pupils creating educational game as part of the ciricullum.

You need to register your school first through this link before students can download anything.

Click here to find out more

Does Microsoft Translator answer the question for Languages and E2L


The other day I had a feed come though on my RSS and Twitter from Mike Gannotti’s blog talking about Microsoft Translator.

This is a great new webpart/widget that you can add to your site which will change the text to one of 12 languages.


I’ve thought for a while now whether we should be taking advantage of the multi language opportunities in SharePoint for those who have English as a second language (E2L)?  SharePoint can help them deliver the information that they need/want in their native tongue but this can be a lot of work for the team who are in charge of E2L – translation of a page can take a lot of work.  In some schools they don’t have anyone in this position full time and when they do have time they normally are helping a pupil anyway.

I’ve submitted to give the translator a trial on my SharePoint farm.  I hope that this can help these pupils as they struggle to come to a new culture and for them to feel settled in at a new school in a new country.

When I’ve got access I’ll show a few examples in different languages.

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Back from Sierra Leone and the rest of my travels.


Well actually I’ve been back a few weeks but its been so busy since I got back.  All positive though.  We have had a lot of press coverage in Birmingham about Sierra Leone which is helping to raise more money.

The trip was amazing – Sierra Leone is such a beautiful country with such bad poverty.  We went the local market one day and locals were buying bread for 20 or 50 Leones (the local currency), where a can of Coke would cost us 1000 Leones and œ1 ($1.5) is 5000Leones.  Scary thoughts.

They are so excited about us bring computers over.  Can’t believe we will help set up the first computer lab in a school in the country.

We did visit the only place they teach computers in the country.  The computers were so old and I found the teaching book.  "Microsoft Office for Windows 95"  How times have changed…

We took 1000s of photos and if you want to see them add me as a friend on facebook and have a look, they are amazing.  We’ve been donated a Gallery at the Mailbox (posh area of Birmingham, UK) where we can display the images and people can buy them and the money goes to the charity – which is why they aren’t on flickr.

As I mentioned we have had a lot of press coverage and have a look at articles here.

Here are two of my favourite images

The lad in the black and white photo work for the hotel where we stayed.  Their job is to fill the water tub so water can be used in the baths of the 5 room hotel.  The kid on the right nearest the camera can’t go to school, well all of them can’t but he use to go to school and can’t any more because his dad can only afford for one of his sons to go.  Now his younger brother is old enough he goes to school instead.  School costs around $7 a term.

The 2nd is my favourite of all.  Just sums up my whole trip.