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Showing posts from 2017

How to provision Google Classroom using GAM and sync to Capita SIMS

This is a guide (or documentation for my own use!) to the provisioning of Google Classrooms across a large domain and how to achieve ongoing sync of student members. The advantages of doing this are:

Teachers don't have to do anything - all their classes are just there.You can add multiple teachers to classrooms. No inviting a secondary teacher.Students have all their classes at the start of the term.Students are automatically in the correct classes.Classes have totally consistent names.You can do it for FREE - however, there are paid for options if you don't want to go the DIY approach. The following requires you to have the student, staff and optionally, guardian emails on SIMS.

Step 1 - Setup up GAM - you need this to do command line processing on your domain. It's a very powerful tool to do batch commands.

Step 2 - Export a list of current Classrooms and archive any you don't want. I'd recommend this as it means users will only see the ones for the current academi…

How to Sync Students to Hapara Teacher Dashboard from Capita SIMS MIS

As a long time user of Hapara Teacher Dashboard, I thought I should document how you can update classes on a daily basis from Captia SIMS - the most common MIS in the UK and the one we use.

Step 1 - Generate a suitable students report (same one I use for syncing Google Classroom - see another blog post...)
Step 2 - Set this report to run on a schedule and output to a network share on a Virtual machine that is online all the time. You do this with the "commandreporter" on your SIMS server. An example command that lives in a batch file that runs as a scheduled task (the username and password is a SIMS user with sufficient privileges to run the report):

"C:\Program Files\SIMS\SIMS .net\commandreporter" /user:USERNAME /password:PASSWORD /report:"haparastudents" /OUTPUT:\\Win10man\gam\hapara\hapara.csv /QUIET

Step 3 - Write a script to reformat the csv file to an acceptable Hapara format. So key things:

Convert "/"'s into "-" as you cannot …

Collecting Photos/Videos with a Google Form

I recently realised that an easy way to collect and sort Photos and Videos was to use Forms. We had to take photos of every room in the school and have them archived for easy discovery in the event of an insurance claim. So I made a simple form that had the room name as the first question and a file upload question for the next:

I linked this to a spreadsheet and added the formula =split(C2,",") to an extra column. This simply splits the list of image urls into separate cells to make them clickable.

On a phone, you just load up the form, add the room number, hit the upload button, select upload file and choose Camera. You can then add photos straight from your camera. 

Took a couple of minutes to setup and no photo organising required at the end of the process.

Quite a neat way of uploading photos and automatically organising them. Also useful as multiple people can use the form and upload photos to the same folder and have their names added to the start of the file name as …

Enabling Windows resizing on Play Store Apps on ChromeOS

ChromeOS devices that support Android Apps from the Play Store are starting to receive Android 7.1.1. One of the main features is better windows sizing. Brief video on how to enable this feature:

Dell Chromebook 11 3189 - touch/flip Chromebook

I've been using the Dell 3189 for a couple of weeks now and have become quite fond of it. It terms of specs, its the same as the Acer R11 and Viglen 360 so:
N3060 processor
32Gb SSD
IPS screen
Touch flip design

So don't expect amazing performance - just a solid workhorse. So the figures are:

Octane (now depreciated): 8821
BrowserBench: 21.5

The Dell has a reassuringly solid feel to it. There is no case flex, the devices has a pleasing texture to it and the edges are rubberised. I've not dropped it - but I'm guessing it will survive a few knocks.

The charger port is an large circular connector and looks hard to break. So no fancy USB-C. In terms of connectivity there is just two USB ports, headphone, SD card and HDMI. The screen is a pleasing IPS display and has good brightness and viewing angles. The Dell activity light is still there as on earlier Dell Chromebooks - did anyone every use it?

I've been using it on ChromeOS 58 - Stable Channel and there is no…

Asus C213N Chromebook - a new touch/flip device.

Yesterday I received a new touch/flip Chromebook, the Asus C213N. This is a device that I first saw at BETT 2017 and its just getting to the point of release. The example I have is a pre-release sample and there is still a little work to do ChromeOS wise - but it's looking good.

Specifications Intel N3350 dual core processor. A fair step up from the N3060/50 found on cheaper Chromebooks.
4Gb DDR3
32Gb SSD - some space for those Android apps.
Matt 11" touchscreen
Full 360 degree rotation
Two cameras - one one above the screen (the normal position) and one at the top of the keyboard to use in tablet mode.

2 USB C ports - for all those fun USB C devices and charging.
2 USB2 ports

SD card slot (micro)
Headphone jack
Power and volume control
1.25kg - about the same as an Acer R11
Aesthetics Its black (with a little grey) and plastic. However, it does have rubberised edges to absorb those student induced impacts. The screen hinge is very similar to the one seen in Acer R11 and seem…

Mobility Print by Papercut on ChromeOS

We have been using Papercut to offer managed Cloud Printing for our ChromeOS users for many years now. The most recent v17 release of Papercut introduces Mobility Print which allows direct printing to your networked devices.

From the end users point of view, it's almost the same as using Cloud Print, however, there are a few important differences.

Mobility Print does not require your print server to talk to the internet. For Cloud Printing, this can be tricky as for Cloud Print to work you really need to bypass any ssl inspection you do for that server.Its faster - doesn't need to send jobs to the cloud and back.Will work even if Google Cloud Printing has one of its moments - rare - but they do happen!You need to push the Mobility Print Chrome App.The printer is deployed to anyone with the app installed - not shared to groups or individuals as in Cloud Printing.You need to do a little DNS work for it to function across vlans.

This is what it looks like as an end user:

Network Wide Ad Blocking

You might want to block ads across your entire network. There are various approaches to doing this.

Ad Blocking Extensions You can push these to Chrome via Chrome Management and Group Policy. While these work well, users can configure then and they do have an impact on performance. It only applies to the browsers on managed devices and one browser. You cannot easily configure what is blocked centrally.
Content Filter Your content filter/firewall may have an option to configure this.
Manually adding to your hosts file.  This is what we do. You can download a hosts file that will block most ads here. This can be added to your gateways hosts file and this will block ads for all devices and browsers with no configuration required on client devices. This will apply to all devices and browsers. You can also manually tweak what is blocked for everyone. Video of how to do this on a Linux gateway below:

Every Circuit running on an R11 Chromebook

We have been deploying Android Apps to our managed R11 Chromebooks for a while now. Every Circuit caught my eye as we have been looking for a nice way of simulating electric circuits for a while. Seems to work rather well on a Chromebook - see video below:

New Acer R11 vs Viglen 360 Chromebook

I've just been trying out two of the latest touch/flip 11" Chromebooks - the Acer R11 (2017 model) and the Viglen 360. On paper these are very similar devices:

Processor: N3060
RAM: 4Gb
Storage: 32Gb SSD
Both touch/flip - IPS 1366x768 displays
Keyboards - identical
Both around the £200 ext VAT price range.

Features that differ:

Viglen 360
Has a removable battery - not convinced of the point of this in a Chromebook.
3 USB3 ports
Ruggedized design - built like a tank.
Screen - slight movement when touched.

R11 (2107 model)
Has Android Apps available now on the stable channel.
Screen - little movement when touched - feels more solid.
Only one USB3 + one USB2

Which would I buy? Well as a private buyer, the R11 without a doubt (the Viglen is Edu only...) - Android Apps and its a much nicer looking device. If I was looking for a trolley device, I might consider the Viglen for the warranty (3 years) and the tank like build (its weight does not matter if its not being lug…

Restricting the use of consumer accounts on domain joined PC's

If you have domain joined PCs that can be managed via group policy and you use G Suite, then you might want to restrict the use of consumer accounts on your machines. If a user can use a private account, they can do a range of things that can potentially bypass content filtering and other policies you have set in the management console in G Suite.

The best way to prevent this is at the network level - see the Google help page here. This means that all devices on your network will be prevented from using consumer accounts. Many firewalls and content filter providers (e.g. Securly) have this as a setting now. However, if you are not able to use this approach, or want to set it on specific users only, then the lastest Group Policy Templates have policies to enable it.

There are two policies for this. One to block signin to Chrome from non domain accounts and the other to block non domain login to things like GMail.

Restrict who can sign into Chrome:

Restrict who can sign into G Suite to…