Noel Erskine, Technology Coordinator Norris Schools

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This app rocks for managing your cloud storage right from your computer like a local hard drive.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In several of my articles, I have mentioned the Gladinet product and how you really need to look at it for managing many of your online free (or purchased) cloud storage services. In this short article, I will let you know a little bit about the product and how you can easily have over 30+ gig of storage on the cloud, all accessible by clicking on a drive letter from within your computer.

Once this product is installed, it maps a drive letter (default is Y drive) to your computer where you can click on the drive, just like it was a local drive on your computer, and get to many of your online services and manage them by just dragging and dropping files.

Online services that you will want to have that are free, and are supported by this product:

  • Microsoft's Sky Drive. (25 Gig Free) See my January 17th 2012 article on this one: http://goo.gl/Q1JyE
  • Amazon's Cloud drive.   (5 Gig Free) (If you have an Amazon account, you already have this and may not even know it.)  https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/learnmore
  • Box.net (5 Gig Free)  http://box.com/
  • It will also connect to your Picasa site for pictures (1 Gig Free). (Works for regular Gmail accounts and Google Apps accounts.) 
  • It will connect to your Google Docs. If you have Google Apps for Business or Schools, then it will only connect to that account if you buy the full version and not the free version.


These services are free, and offer their own sync software, etc... but are not supported by Gladinet. I wanted to mention these because they are great services that you will want to have for their service, mobile apps, software, etc...

  • Dropbox (2 Gig free and more for friend recomendations.) https://www.dropbox.com/ 
  • SugarSync (5 Gig free)  https://www.sugarsync.com/

I am using the free version of Gladinet and love it.  If you buy the product, you can connect to your Google Apps account as well as setup folders locally to automatically sync to your cloud services. (Similar to what the DropBox and SugarSync software packages do for you.) You are given all of the pro features for a few days, so you can try them out to see if you want to keep those services.

After the product is installed, you add your cloud storage services and then go to your Y drive and you see them all there! If you need to add more services or delete services you will start the Gladinet Cloud Desktop Console program found on your start menu. The install adds the Gladinet Cloud Desktop program to your start up, so when you reboot your computer it starts automatically.  (If you are in a school that controls your start up and start menu, you may need to start this program each time manually for your Y drive to show up.)


Enjoy, this is a great product and an easy way to manage all of your files on the cloud.

A Windows 7 Desktop and MS office all on the cloud, all free, with this cool app for your iPad!

Friday, January 20, 2012

  • Imagine an app where you can run a Windows 7 desktop right from your iPad.  
  • Imagine having Office 2010, media player and other apps on that desktop.  
  • Imagine 2 gig of free storage on that virtual Windows 7 machine. 
  • And one more thing... can it be free?

Wow, that's a long list, but that day has arrived!
onlive.com offers this and more.  I heard about this app a couple days ago, but did not get a chance to try it out, so this morning I took a few minutes, setup my account, downloaded the app, and kicked the tires on this baby. Being in the tech business, I keep current with technology and trends. I see a lot of things that would of given us cardiac arrest five years ago... but this app may just do that anyway.  It' amazing what can be done virtually anymore and all from the cloud... and the heart stopper.... the free plan has some great features.

A couple days ago, I tried the CloudOn product, which has a few similarities with it's own pro's and Con's.  Right now, that product is free, but they do not have their pricing structure and plans in place, so that scares me a little bit. There are some things I really like about this product too, so you will want to check it out on your own. (The online keyboard is much better.)

In short, you have a  Windows 7 desktop on your iPad that has Microsoft Office, Media Player, and a few other tools all on the start menu for you to use.  (Make sure you try out the Microsoft Surface Collage program on this desktop as well, it pretty cool. ) You save your files to the "My Documents" folder, and then those files are also available on a website (Similar to DropBox and other cloud services) where you can upload or download files from. With the free plan, you have 2 give of free space.

Right now, tablets are awesome media consumption devices, but can be a little cumbersome with media creation.  (Maybe an external keyboard would help with this, but I do not lug one around.) Right now, this is the only downside to using the onlive.com product.  The problem is compounded a little because they do not use the iPad on-screen keyboard, but instead you have to use the on-screen pop-up Microsoft keyboard, that I find even more cumbersome. (Maybe an external Bluetooth keyboard would be a must for using this product all the time.)

It's not perfect.  Just like any tech guy, I have a wish list, but for now it's a short one:
  • Offer a desktop app that will sync a folder locally from your computer to the onlive.com storage space on the cloud. (Similar to Dropbox's program.)
  • Offer the capability to use the iPad's on-screen keyboard instead of the Microsoft one. 
  • Keep it free for the 2 gig, so I can continue to promote the product. (Dropbox, Sugar Sync, and others have... so hopefully these guys will too.)

Visit this site to learn more.  Signup for your account, download the app, and get started. http://desktop.onlive.com/

Remember... Keep in mind, there are many Cloud products and services that are offering some great free features, but proceed with caution. This time in the tech world reminds me of the 90's and all of the free services and new tech innovations that we see coming out daily.  When I went to Comdex in the late 90's I saw a lot of cool tech start-up and a lot of great vaporware that never made it to market.  Wow did they give away the t-shirts, pens, and more, but the the Bubble burst.  So... what is my point? Some of these services are here to stay. (Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs, etc...)  But some of these companies may not make it, so always keep backups of your files in another location when working with some of these "start-up" companies and products. Use them, they have great features that you can put to use today, but I would not create my only resume on one of these new services and never have a copy somewhere else. 

Techy note:  For those of you managing a network, you need Port 443 open as well as ports 16384-16640 for UDP traffic out.  

Over all... 4.5 stars for this one.  Amazing technology and amazing feature set in the free product.  Thanks onlive.com!

The SkyDrive IOS app and 25 Gig of free storage make this app a winner for everyone.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I have mentioned a lot of Cloud Services that offer free space, but sometimes it comes down to the convenience of the app and service.  Back in April, I talked about keeping all of your files in the cloud, and mentioned Microsoft's Sky Drive.  Today, I want to expand on that service, and tout it's 25 Gig of free storage (Yes, 25 Gig!) that comes with Microsoft's SkyDrive. There are no services or products that you must own, all you need is a free account.

With the release of Microsoft's IOS app for the iPhone (And you can use it on the iPad), the SkyDrive and it's 25 Gig of free storage just became that much more usable. This app allows you to easily upload and download files from your iPad or iPhone right from this 25 gig of storage in the cloud. The app itself is allows you to easily add a photo or video from your device to the SkyDrive.  You can also play any music or videos that you have on your SkyDrive right from your IOS device. I even clicked on a text file in my SkyDrive and it opened up on my iPad for viewing. I like the way DropBox integrates it's IOS app right from your camera, but with 25 gig of space and it's integration with the Gladinet program... the Microsoft SkyDrive product has it's benefits as well.

Many people do not realize, that if they already have a Microsoft Live account (If you have a HotMail account... you have one!) you already have a SkyDrive and your 25 Gig of space is waiting for you. I am hoping that they come out with an app specifically designed for the iPad, but the iPhone app running on my iPad is not bad either. If you really want to add more functionality from your computer, Gladinet has you covered.  If you have not used the Gladinet product http://gladinet.com/, it's worth looking at especially if you have a lot of Cloud storage services and want to access them easily from your computer.  (Look for an upcoming blog article about this program in the future.)

Learn more about Skydrive, and signup if you do not have an account: http://explore.live.com/skydrive-get-started
Get the IOS apps for SkyDrive here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/skydrive/id477537958?mt=8

Mac vs. PC vs. ??? Who cares, it's probably a mute point.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The operating system will always be a conversation topic and important, but for the most part those conversations will only be important for the IT departments and those involved in the computer industry.  The end user will not really care.  With everything heading to the web and more content being delivered through a web browser, very few will care if it is running on a MAC, PC, Chrome, or Linux based OS.  The writing is on the wall with Adobe dropping a lot of it's flash development and moving to HTML 5, and the industry is seeing that direction as well. Once again, Steve Job's decision to not support Flash, may of been the correct decision. (I am biting my tongue now, since many great educational sites like Spelling City use flash to deliver it's content.)

So the reality is,  as a technology coordinator I will still care about the OS.  I will still promote one platform within my district to reduce overhead costs and maintenance, thus allowing our department to continue to provide a level of service that our district staff has become accustomed to. I will continue to promote purchases that give us the biggest bang for our buck. But concerning the OS...students, staff, and all of our end users will continue to care less and less.  Their major concern (And mine too) will be... Do we have enough bandwidth and do we have a good wireless signal.

Apple TV for the classroom, some benefits, hacks and more. (Updated 5-29-12)0

Monday, January 9, 2012

This was my first look at the AppleTV 2, and I figured for $99, what did I have to lose. For $99 you get a really small device, that comes with a nice simple remote.  The device (Apple TV box) plugs into power and then to your TV through an HDMI cable. (The HDMI cable is not supplied with your $99 purchase.) If you need to hook the Apple TV to a projector or other device that will only accept a VGA cable, then you can purchase a HDMI to VGA converter. You can get one from MonoPrice inc. for around $40 and a HDMI cable for $2.50. Both are fresh off the boat and seem to work fine.

Here is the setup I ordered (March 2011 part numbers)
8126 HDMI® to VGA & R/L Stereo Audio Converter --> UPDATED:  Order this instead - http://www.kanexlive.com/atvpro
6359 3ft Ultra Slim SVGA Super VGA 30/32AWG M/M Monitor Cable w/ ferrites (Gold Plated Connector)
5361 1.5ft SVGA Super VGA M/M Monitor Cable w/ ferrites (Gold Plated)
3872 1.5ft 28AWG High Speed HDMI® Cable w/Ferrite Cores - Black
4084 2X4 SVGA VGA MATRIX Switcher Splitter Amplifier Multiplier 250MHz


Some points and notes on the AppleTV 2 and uses for the classroom:

  • The best feature for the classroom is probably the AirPlay, where the Apple TV shows your entire Apple iPad2 screen on the TV. (This requires IOS 5 or higher on the iPad 2). Hooked into a classroom projector or large LCD TV, this can add a lot of functionality to your iPad for the classroom. (Airplay also sends video playbacks to your TV as well.)
  • If you use your TV or an external audio device hooked to the AppleTV for music, then this thing offers hundreds of radio stations. It has an amazing selection and all are free. This alone, would be worth it for the consumer if this feature is important to you. 
  • The interface and remote are nice and easy to use.
  • It has great graphics, with only HDMI out.
  • All of the Movies, TV shows, etc... are all expensive, if purchased through the normal Apple TV offerings. ($5 per movie to rent, and $3 per TV episode to purchase.)
  • It offers a great interface for NetFlix, YoutTube, Flixter and a few other services. (Small list, but well done.) For the consumer... if you have Netflix, and do not have a device that streams it easily, then buy this thing.)
  • A lot of the content offered on the AppleTV is driven for the consumer, so depending on the classroom... uses may be more limited concerning content. (Unless you Jailbreak it and add content.)
  • The device comes with wireless, but also includes a network connection. It includes a digital audio out, but I was unable to test that aspect of the device. 


Hack it for more content and features. 
Being the typical tech guy, I first needed to figure out what I can do to hack this thing and add more content and functionality.  So here it goes...

First Jail Break the Apple TV 2, so you can add more services. Jailbreak it using Seas0nPass. Great directions are here: http://www.redmondpie.com/jailbreak-apple-tv-4.4.4-untethered-using-seas0npass-how-to-tutorial/

You may want to watch this YouTube on adding XBMC to your Atp prior to doing any of the following steps.

Next start adding extras:
Add XBMC:
(This is what I did, but if you add nitoTV in the next section, you can do it from there.)
Open up your terminal/ssh application and enter the following command to log in to your ATV2:
ssh root@YOUR.ATV2.IP.ADDRESS  OR ssh root@apple-tv.local
You will be asked for a password: default password is alpine
Continue to enter the following commands:

apt-get install wget
wget -O- http://apt.awkwardtv.org/awkwardtv.pub | apt-key add -
echo "deb http://apt.awkwardtv.org/ stable main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/awkwardtv.list
echo "deb http://mirrors.xbmc.org/apt/atv2 ./" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/xbmc.list
apt-get update
apt-get install org.xbmc.xbmc-atv2

It will then start it's install.

After XBMC is installed, it will show up as a menu item on your AppleTV2.  You will want to look at how to add programs and video sources to get a lot of the great content.  (If you do not read more about how to do this, you will think that XBMC really added little to this device.)

Add the Navix plug-in to your XBMC:
http://www.funkyspacemonkey.com/navix-xbmc-plugin-appletv-2-stream-full-movies-tv-shows-video
This program add-in to XBMC adds a lot of content and movies.
Add the Crackle plug-in to your XBMC:
http://appletvblogr.com/2011/05/how-to-install-crackle-on-appletv2-tutorial/
Other XBMC add-ins via ZIP files:
http://xbmc.git.sourceforge.net/git/gitweb.cgi?p=xbmc/plugins;a=summary
http://nervion.us.es/xbmc/addons/dharma/ (I used the TED add-in)


Add Bluecop's Video Plugin Repository
Download this zip 
Download the above zip and then in the Add ons section of XBMC choose install from zip.
This will get you HULU, CBS, ESPN, and a bunch more. (Make sure you install the hulu and free cable video add-ins that this repository adds. With the ESPN plug-in, enable all of the ESPN channels.)
Note: Copy the zip to your Atv via SSH or Cyberduck  to /private/var/mobile folder.
Other repository sites:
http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=Unofficial_add-on_repositories

To Transfer files to your Apple TV2:
You will need to do this for certain installs, including installing some XBMC plug-ins from a Zip file. (Specifically IceFilms, Navix and others.)
Nice tutorial: http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=HOW-TO:Install_an_Add-on_from_a_zip_file_on_ATV2
(I used Putty when I first logged into my AppleTV, but later on I staring using Cyberduck for file transfers. I would recommend Cyberduck.)

Add nitoTV:
Allows for Streaming from computers, has some nice plug-ins (Overflow, HD remote support, etc...)
Visit this site: http://www.funkyspacemonkey.com/install-nitotv-jailbroken-appletv-2g-mac
Home page of project for more info: http://wiki.awkwardtv.org/wiki/NitoTV
Video of top 5 add-ins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R3xMpyqUAo
If you are changing the weather feed app in nito, here is the file:
/User/Library/Preferences/com.nito.nitoTV.weather.plist (Open it with Wordpad to edit it. (SSH into the TV box to edit)

Remote HD now supports Apple TV2:
http://www.appletvhacks.net/2011/03/22/remote-hd-now-supports-apple-tv-2/#more-1017

A how-to on Jailbreaking, Nito, XBMC and IceFilms:
http://sliced-apple.com/2011/06/17/how-to-jailbreak-install-nito-xmbc-and-icefilms-to-your-apple-t-v-2/ (Most of this will be review from the above procedures, but good info and new info on adding the IceFilms plug in to the XBMC add-on.
Info for just IceFilms: http://www.sinfuliphone.com/showthread.php?t=77175

What was gained by the Hacks I did?

  • A lot more content.  Some of the content is consumer oriented and some would be great in the classroom. (A few academic channels in XBMC, etc...)
  • Apple TV control from my iPad using the RemoteHD program.
  • Ability to customize the look and feel of the interface.
  • A RSS feeds display program. (Part of Nito)
  • Weather displays. (Part of XBMC and Nito)
  • And again... a LOT more content. (If this is for your home use... it's a must to Jailbreak and add XBMC.) The content alone makes Netflix seem like a small listing of videos. 
There are some hacks that I would not do for classroom use, so you would want to evaluate what features you would need for your classrooms.  I know there are many more hacks and add-ins that may offer more functionality, so have fun discovering them.  (And drop me a note if you find some!)


I will probably be doing a few more articles on this since I know we will be facing some other issues and considerations if we decide to deploy these devices in our classrooms.  So keep an eye out for more AppleTV blogs coming in the following month or two.  In the meantime... don't bother me, I am watching AppleTV.