Microsoft has always been acutely aware that the best way to get people to start using its programming tools is to catch them young. By the time a novice programmer has started down the route of Apache and PHP for web development, for example, they're unlikely to ever want to switch to ASP and .NET.
Consequently, Microsoft runs a number of schemes to ensure that its target market, ie students with an interest in technology, can get started using Microsoft development products as easily and cheaply as possible. And the current scheme, called Dreamspark, is about as good as it gets.
The idea behind www.dreamspark.com is as simple as it is attractive. If you're a university or high school student, you can download full versions of things like Visual Studio 2010, Expression Studio v3, and even Windows Server 2008 R2, for nothing. These are full products, that don't expire, and they come with a proper licence key.
The only deal is that you have to be a bona fide student. Also, there are rules about how you can, and can't, use the free products. You can't use them for commercial purposes, for example.
If you have an email account at a recognised educational establishment, ie something that ends with .edu or .ac.uk or edu.au for example, head on over to www.dreamspark.com.
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