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Showing posts from 2016

Turn a flip chromebook into a whiteboard with Android Apps

If you install Sketch for Keep, Google Keep and Handraw on a flip Chromebook (R11 in my case), you can turn it into a whiteboard/drawing pad that saves your notes and doodles to Google Keep. If you use whiteboards in the classroom - you could use these apps if your students have R11's or similar.

Managed Android Apps on ChromeOS on an Edu G Suite Domain

Android Apps via the Play Store have been available on consumer accounts for some time on selected devices. We have 1:1 Acer R11's and have recently had the opportunity to trial them on G Suite Edu accounts.

From the point of view of the end user, they see the Play Store App appear on the shelf and have to agree to the terms and conditions. After that, force installed and pinned apps are immediately installed and they get access to the Google for Work Store. This only contains apps you have approved for that user.

For the administrator the steps are:

Enable Play Store Apps for the domainEnable access to the Play Store for specific Sub-OUs or usersAdd apps to Play for WorkSet permissions for each app - can install, force install or pin to shelf. This can be done differently for each app and each OU and is therefore very granular. 
Issues so far

Apps take a while to appear in the Play Store for users. Initially only force installed apps appear.You cannot set the permissions of multipl…

File upload option in Google Forms

The file upload option appeared in Google Forms a few days ago. Its got a some neat features beyond just collecting files.

Restrict the type of file uploadCreates a folder in the owners Drive with a folder structure for each question.If you collect user names, it adds the persons name to the uploaded files filename.If you make a spreadsheet, it pops hyperlinks to all the uploaded files into the sheet.
Brief demo:

Ericom AccessNow on a Server 2016 RDP VM

Server 2016 was released a couple of days ago so I thought I'd spin up a Server 2016 RDP VM and see how it all works. I've also installed Ericom AccessNow on the machine which is the application that allows web access to a Windows desktop - important to us as we are largely ChromeOS.

I've used a few local group policies and to lock stuff down and made a mandatory profile (made by copying the default profile) to give users an appropriate experience. I'll test it over the next couple of weeks and then maybe switch from our older 2012R2 setup to this. Gives users a nice Windows 10 feel.
Brief demo of what it looks like so far.
And after a few more tweaks.....

Using YouTube Live Streaming

Hangouts on Air disappeared as a thing a little while back. However, its really just moved to 'Live Streaming' in YouTube. Apps like Screencastify are great for quick videos, but for longer videos and ones that switch between screencasting and webcam footage, this is a better option. You can also record up to 8 hours of video (on a verified channel) with no limitations of local storage.

Brief video guide below:

Old Apple running Cloudready from Neverware

We have some old Apples (2008/9 models) that have become troublesome to manage and were only ever being used as web browsers. So to rejuvenate them and make them into productive systems, we decided to give Cloudready from Neverware as go. This is essential a build of ChromeOS that you can install on a wide range of hardware and for a $15 licence fee you can enroll and manage as any other ChromeOS device.

Installation is simple. Just follow the guide to make a bootable USB stick. Pop into your Apple, turn it on and boot to USB and it takes care of the rest. After installation, make sure you remove the stick before booting into ChromeOS for the first time.

Video of one of our devices:

Securly Web Filtering - some deployment thoughts

Webfiltering is one of those necessary evils and has plagued me in one way other another since I started to do anything with school IT management. On one hand people expect free and easy access to the internet and on the other we are expected to be able to report on every action of every user on the network on any type of device.

This blog post is not about the wrongs and rights of webfiltering, more a technical perspective on the Securly product and some of the features and deployment pitfalls.

We have just moved to using Securly. Previously we were using OpenDNS Umbrella and GoGuardian Admin on ChromeOS devices. We moved due to this combination not providing the level of reporting that is required as of September 2016 (in the UK) and the combined cost of these two produces being considerably higher than Securly.

Onsite its much the same as OpenDNS. We point our Gateways DNS to Securly's DNS servers rather than OpenDNS. This obviously takes a few seconds to do. On Chro…

HP 11 G5 Chromebook

I got my hands on one of the new HP 11 G5 Chromebooks today and have spent a little time with it. The model I get had the following basic spec:

Processor: Intel N3060
RAM: 4Gb
Screen: 11" IPS 1366x768 touchscreen
Ports: 2 USB, 1 HDMI, power, headphone and micro SD (as opposed to the usual SD found on most Chromebooks)

Few Pictures (first one sitting next to a 4Gb R11)

A brief video comparison to the R11 4Gb

The inclusion of the N3060 processor gives it the edge in terms of performance over the R11 and it's thinner than most Chromebooks. However, for touch to be really useful, I think you need the flip functionality which I believe is coming in a variant of the G5. 
I could see this being a solid staff or 1:1 device.

Google Play Android Apps on the Acer R11 Chromebook

I've spent a few days trying out various apps on the Acer R11 (you can also do this on the Pixel 2015 and the Asus Flip). While it's a bit buggy at the moment, it does show great promise and most apps work without issue. Those that don't work are generally games.

My favorite apps from a productivity point of view are:
GMail - very fluid
Google Drive - faster than web version
Google Docs/Sheets/Slide - all work well
Microsoft RDP - works well
WiFi Analyser
Google Keep - great for written notes
INKredible - for making and organising written notes
Google Photos
BBC News
IP Tools
iPlayer Radio
Play Newsstand - can fail to load sometimes
BBC Weather
Skype & Hangouts

All of the above work largely without issue. Once you get into games - some are OK, some just crash on loading e.g. Angry Birds, QuizUP etc

Video demo of some of the apps I've tried and use:

I'm sure stability will improve quickly and I look fo…

Google Cast for Education

Google Cast for Education was finally release today in open beta. This app allows you to turn any devices that runs Chome into a Chromecast receiver. In addition there is a layer or permissions which means you 'share' the display with other people (students) and can invite them to share their screen.

Seems to work really well and is totally independant of the network - so as long as all devices can see the internet you are good to go. Did a little demo here:

Delete a specific email using GAM

If a user send an inappropriate email to a loads of people or get stung by some sort of email exploit you can quickly delete the email from all of the recipients using a GAM command.
Step 1 - get the email header Go into Google Vault and search for the offending user or someone known to have got the message.
Click show details and grab the email ID. This will be a long string of characters followed by
Step 2 - find out who has the email Go into Google Vault and find the original message sent by the offending user. Look at the details to see who got it. Copy the list and dump it into a spreadsheet. Clean up to just a list of emails with a column header 'mail'. Save as a csv file.
Step 3 - delete messages with GAM Put your CSV file in your GAM folder - this e.g. assumes its called mail.csv
gam csv mail.csv gam user ~mail delete messages query rfc822msgid:MESSAGEIDHERE doit

The alternative nuke option is:
gam all users delete messages query rfc822msgid:MESSAGEI…

Server upgrade tips - get more for less

With the gradual move to the cloud, local servers are perhaps less needed than they were. However, there are a range of services that still need a server - gateways, firewall, domain controller, rdp servers, SIMS, print servers and so on. While I've tried to scale back on the need for these - new things that people want to run seem to keep popping up.

So how do you meet the need for reasonably fast local servers on a small education budget? Well rather than going direct to retailers of the latest server kit, consider picking up a few parts secondhand and putting them together yourself. You can build a pretty respectable rig for not that much money if you know the parts to go for. So I've set out a few examples of parts I've used below to either build new servers from scratch or zoop up other ones.
New build Our main staff rdp server, print server and it support helpdesk (running Spiceworks) live on this machine.

Brief demo of the rdp side of things running in Chrome (using…

Network File Share for ChromeOS

This is a brief demo of the Network File Share for ChromeOS app. This allows you to easily add Windows/SMB shares to your file manager in ChromeOS. Seems to work quite well. I've managed to access all our network shares and Windows Home Directories with this app.

Using SSL Certificates with Ericom Secure Gateway, Spicesworks or anything that needs a PFX file

Some local services that you might run require the use of a SSL certificate in the form of a PFX file - so one with an embedded private key. It took me some time to figure out exactly how to generate these and I've put together a short video which takes you through the steps. If you want to use the resulting PFX file with Spiceworks, see this article - you will need step 3.

This is the approach you need if you are using Ericom Secure Gateway alongside AccessNow or Connect. These are the sort of tools you can use to give ChromeOS users access to Windows apps.

Hopefully it will save someone some head scratching! Today it took a few minutes to renew a certificate and get it installed, previously it has taken me hours.....

Q&A in Google Slides

Did a short demo of the new Q&A feature in Google Slides (and the laser pen!) in the video below. Really very easy to do.

Fix video playback from Google Drive on Intel ChromeOS based devices

Since ChromeOS v48, some videos when played back from Google Drive fail at certain points in playback. To get it to start again, you have to reload the page and skip past the section causing the issue.

This has been flagged with the Chromium developer team and is down for a fix in v51. However, as a temporary workaround, in chrome://flagsdisable "Hardware-accelerated video decode Mac, Windows, Chrome OS" and restart. The videos will then play fine.

This setting has to be changed on a per user basis.

Brief video of changing the flag:

Securing Google Apps for Education GMail

Over the past year or so there have been lots of posts on various G+ communities about issues with GMail delivery (particularly to groups) and accounts being exploited by email spoofing. So I thought it might be an idea to bring together the steps you need to take to knock these issues on the head into one place.

The steps:

Configure your domain to use SPF (sender policy framework)Configure your domain to use DKIM (Domiankey identified mail)Configure your domain to use DMARC (prevents email spoofing)Force all incoming SPAM into admin quarantine Numbers one and two will improve your email flow and prevent your messages (particularly ones going to groups and certain outside agencies) being marked as SPAM.
DMARC relies on the SPF and DKIM being correctly configured first. All messages you send will be checked and ones that fail either SPF or DKIM will be actioned in accordance with a rule you set.
The final step prevents end users ever seeing anything in their SPAM folder. All SPAM ends u…

Bulk creating Google Groups and Calendars in Google Apps and populating them with users for free

Suppose you want to make loads of groups and calendars and populate them with users and don't want to spend any money on any tools to do it. Well you can use GAM and a couple of scripts to do this. In a school you might want a Google Group and Calendar for each teaching group. You can achieve this using paid for tools such as Hapara's TeacherDashboard and tools that sync your MIS to AD and then to Google Apps - but these cost money and in the second case assume you actually have active directory.
So this is how to do it without any of those tools and zero cost.
Creating Groups You will need a csv file with a list of group names first - classes names perhaps. Save the csv file to your GAM directory. Run the following command:
gam csv groups.csv gam create group ~groups
groups.csv = your csv file, the 'groups' in ~groups = the name of the column of groups in the csv file. Populate with group owners You might want teachers to be group owners. So to add them to the groups …