Bye bye Skype. Hello mumble!

After Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype things have gone from bad to “omg are you kidding me?”.   Skype now installs bloatware on your computer and the frequency of adverts being displayed on your screen increasing dramatically I felt it was time to leave the sinking ship.

Don’t get me wrong, I used Skype daily and it’s still got some great projects running but Microsoft have a history of really messing up services like Skype but forcing us to all use them.  Sure we loved Skype before it got bloated, I remember when I used to install Skype and only use it for calls, now I’m constantly finding myself in a state of frustration when I have 20 ads to close, 50 payment reminders or the service fails to perform.

Primary Technology out-grew Skype.  I didn’t want video conferencing, I wanted more people in an audio call and PrimaryT now has 20+ members of staff so I needed something distraction free, light weight, reliable, free and barrier free.

Skype’s recent partnering with Facebook and MySpace sends even more shudders down my spine.  I don’t trust Microsoft much and I don’t trust Facebook at all, I’m not alone on this and there are plenty of reasons why such as Microsoft’s patent on eavesdropping calls and the idea of integrating Facebook with my audio calls leaves me in a dark, worried place.  We should also remember that voice / language detection technology is so advanced that if you think a transcript can’t be made of your phone conversations you are horrible naive (a bit like the Facebook facial recognition stuff everyone said wasn’t computationally possible).

I also worry about the idea of bringing “credits” into social networks, at what point will I have to pay to ask someone to be my friend?

Say hello to Mumble

I was first introduced to Mumble by a member of the Piraten Partiet, they use it with hundereds of people to hold their voice conferences.  Imagine 400 people on one phone call?  It should be chaos right?  Wrong.  If you are a gamer: Mumble is like Vent/Teamspeak but completely open source and much better audio quality.  If you’re not a gamer..  What you need to know about Mumble is that it’s a client/server service.  You can’t make calls to land lines.  A few major downers for teachers are that you need someone to host a mumble server for your school and there is no video calls.  Who even finds video calls productive anyway?  I never did…

Mumble’s client is great, it’s so unbelievably easy to use and lightweight, the whole project has a really good feel to it and I expect to see some really great things coming soon!

What Microsoft’s purchase of Skype means for Primary Schools

Microsoft’s $8.5bn purchase of Skype has raised a few eyebrows, but we don’t care about most peoples, what we care about is how this purchase will affect Primary Schools.  In this post I am going to try to summarize the real life impacts of such a purchase and how you should consider using Skype in the classroom.

Things we can expect:

  • Skype will come bundled with Windows 8.
  • Open source & tech folks will stop using Skype and begin looking at alternatives.
  • Google will be panicking.
  • Windows Mobile 8 will have a big emphasis on VOIP connectivity
  • Microsoft will attempt to play a bigger part in mobile data connectivity
  • Skype and the VOIP stuff used for Xbox Live will be integrated
  • You will be able to Sign into Skype using your XBLA or account

Microsoft will use Skypes deep telco contracts to leverage cheaper mobile communications.  With all these new connections and contracts it is conceivable Microsoft will partner with a manufacturer to provide a data connected laptop/netbook using the Amazon Kindle model of data.  The kindle model of data is basically a pay once, use forever but it has recently been announced this is likely to be subsidized by adverts appearing on your device.   You should seriously think about where you stand on Ads in the Primary School Classroom.  I think the potential use of these “light internet use netbook devices” could be perfect but basic net browsing however they won’t be suitable for 5+ pupils in the same classroom browsing “rich-content”, whatever that is in 3-10 years time.

If you are interested in e-Safety then I would say that now is a great time to have a really good think about the e-safety risks that Skype poses, especially if it is going to be installed natively on Microsoft Windows devices.  Skype has the same e-safety challenges of Facebook, it just gets less attention because it currently isn’t as widely adopted.

You may be wondering if you should sign up for the Skype in the Classroom and I would say go ahead, it’s unlikely Microsoft will lose this battle in the same way they lost[/committed suicide] the MSN battle.  Skype was running at a loss and Microsoft has basically “bailed it out” and given it a long future.  At Primary Technology we use Skype as our main source of voice communication and we have no plan to leave it as it provides great value.  We will leave Skype is a good, open source source, distributed telco connected solution appears, I doubt that though.

So to summarize..  We are one step closer to getting 4G connected Windows devices, we have an elevated e-safety issue to address, Microsoft own yet another part of your life.

Internet explorer 10 websocket support

Internet Explorer 10 preview came out today and it doesn’t support websockets which is a huge shame 🙁 Chrome does, Firefox supports them but it’s disabled by default.. Others also support Websockets.

Websockets makes your internet experience better by giving you the ability to have faster data responses on websites. This means that really-real time web applications such as Etherpad and PrimaryWall can be adopted easier.

What Microsoft’s new EES licensing model means for Primary Schools

Today is the first day of Microsoft’s EES licensing and this has massive implications if your school uses Microsoft Products.

I am not going to cover the student licensing model because I’m relatively confident this model wont fit for most Primary Schools.
The new licensing model we will look at covers Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office licensing.  We are also ignoring Exchange and Sharepoint CALs(CAL Suite).

What does this all mean in real terms?

  1. You pay Microsoft per year for licensing
  2. Teachers can use Microsoft Office at home
  3. An average 2 form entry will be paying for 30 members of staff
  4. Updates to latest versions of products without any extra cost (Software Assurance).

When might EES not be appropriate?

  1. EES may also not be cost effective if you purchase OEM licenses or don’t use Microsoft Office.
  2. EES may not be useful if your school does not have a high quantity of devices (netbooks/laptops) running Microsoft Office.
  3. If your school intends to NOT purchase new hardware or new Microsoft products.
  4. If you don’t want to get into an annual rolling contract with Microsoft due to funding uncertainties or due to a requirement of a grant etc.

Time for some maths…

All of these figures are based on a 2 form entry school buying new Microsoft Office licenses every 5 years.
Standard licensing model:
Cost per office license per machine, £32
Average # of devices with office installed, 80
*Windows License — Excluded because is OEM (Roughly £50 per device)
Average cost every 5 years — £2560
Ergo cost per year on Non EES per device license model — £512

Average cost per EES Office license per member of staff — £20
Average # of staff members per 2 form entry: 30
Ergo cost per year for office on EES: £600
Ergo cost per year for Windows on EES: £600
Note that I haven’t covered any Server CALS.

To summarize

EES breaks even at roughly 100 devices in a 2 form entry school but the advantage is that staff can use Microsoft Office at home so don’t need their own copy.
It is unlikely EES will be cheaper than OEM as buying a device without windows lately is difficult however XP Pro upgrades are roughly £50 per device so if you buy 15 devices per year then EES Windows Licenses work out better value. A smart hardware manufacturer should see this opportunity and provide OS free hardware so that schools can leverage this new licensing model.

Hopefully someone from Microsoft can respond with some information about CAL licensing and any mistakes in this post. Word on the street is CAL pricing will be staying relatively similar for Server CALS, this pricing isn’t due to be released till May.

I quickly bashed up an EEE license cost calculator so you can see if it’s cost effective for your school to move or not

If you want to know more about EES please get in touch with Primary Technology who will be happy to help.