Managing Google Chrome via Group Policy and creating a Chromebook style Windows Laptop

Over the last few days I’ve been working at turning an old laptop into a Chromebook style laptop. Obviously its not a 100% chrome OS but I feel I’ve managed to achieve the best of both worlds. So here is a brief description of what I’ve done.

First I installed a fresh copy of Windows 8.1 onto the laptop and connected it up to my Domain. I then put the laptop into a new org unit on my Domain for testing and created a new group policy object in the org unit. Before I can use the group policy with Chrome I had to install the Chrome group policy templates. These are available from the site below along with a list, description and examples of all the policies you can set.

https://www.chromium.org/administrators/policy-list-3

After I’d installed the policies I opened up the group policy and set up the computer configuration to install Chrome via MSI (available here) and then setup my computer policy. How you set the policy depends on how you want it to work but I included things like

  • start up pages
  • enforcing safe modes
  • preventing developer tools
  • setting Ephemeral profile (forces chrome to log out on browser close)
  • hiding the web store
  • preventing incognito mode
  • restrict chrome to only my google apps domain users
  • forcing extension installs (more help on gathering update url for this here)

I then created a new user and a group policy for the user where I set the user configuration to lock down the windows laptop including preventing access to control panel, locking taskbars etc.

Finally I setup the laptop to auto logon as the new domain user and told chrome to automatically start on logon.

Now I have a laptop which is locked down, loads up quickly, auto loads chrome, sets chrome restrictions and then when a user has finished using Chrome they are auto logged out upon browser close. This can also be further enhanced by using Google Apps and setting the Chrome User Settings for different org units within your Google Apps Domain. Then each user will receive their own apps upon logon to chrome and access to their own Drive, Email etc etc.

Although this is only a brief explanation I hope it gives you an idea and points you in the direction of turning old laptops into chromebook style machines in your environment.

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Thanks

How to Install System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager – A Step by Step Guide

Just a quick post to point you to an amazing site I found this week. After a major server failure I needed to reinstall our SCCM setup. So I decided to take the opportunity to upgrade to the latest versions. As I didn’t have much time to research and read etc I decided to find a step by step guide. After a short time googling I came across this site and found it to be so good that I thought I’d share for others.

http://prajwaldesai.com/sccm-2012-r2-step-by-step-guide/

I hope you find it useful. Enjoy

How To Install Mac OS X Server

Any Mac can be easily updated to have a server roll by installing it from the App Store for just £13.99 or $19.99. For more information about OS X Server click here to visit the Apple OS X Server Website. Below is a simple step by step guide on how to do this.

1. Goto the App Store and search for OS X server.
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2. Click the buy button and follow the normal procedures to purchase an app through the Mac App Store.

3. Once the server app has downloaded and installed you will find an icon for it in the launch pad or you can search for it using spotlight.
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4. Run the server app and you will be presented with a setup screen. Click continue.
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5. You will now be presented with a terms and conditions agreement. You need to agree to these to continue.
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6. Next you will be asked to enter your mac username and password to authorise the app with the mac.
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7. The setup process will now take place and will go through a number of process taking a few minutes.
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8. Eventually the bar will reach the end and server will load presenting you with a simple help screen about the different features in Mac OS X server.
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That’s it, the only option initially setup is file sharing allowing you to customise how you want your server to be configured.

GeneeTouch 42″ Interactive LED Touchscreen Review

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This week I received our first touchscreen for the school. After much deliberating and several trials I decided to go with the GeneeTouch LED Screens. I purchased these from Interactive Education. I found the sales team to be extremely helpful and willing to bend over backwards to ensure I got what the school wanted. They offered us several options so I could get these screens within the budget I had available. Although they offered me installation I decided to not take this as I knew myself and the caretaker would be able to install them. The package I got included the bracket for fixing to the wall and several bits of software to help the school make the most of the new touchscreens. The whole process of ordering the screens was simple and a week later they arrived.

So now we have them the caretaker and myself set aside an hour after school to fit the first screen. This is the 42″ model and I had decided to put this into our reception classroom. The screen is replacing a simple projector and IWB installation which I removed in 15mins ready for the new screen to be installed. 30 mins later the caretaker and myself had the screen mounted on the wall and connected to the teachers laptop. 5 mins later the windows 7 laptop had installed the drivers and I was interacting with the laptop via the screen.
I found using the screen to be just like a tablet or smartphone, but with a more robust feel. It was very responsive and accurate. The thing which hit me the most though was the sharpness and clarity of the screen. Although the screen is only 42″ it was still clearly visible from anywhere in the classroom. I also didn’t need to close any blinds to see the screen due to the brightness being so much better than traditional projector, IWB setup. After playing around and learning the touch features of windows 7 I then decided to install the software which came with the screen. This allowed me to carry out a simple calibration to make the touch even more accurate.
A few extra things worth noting about the screen is the amazing amount of connections available. This makes the screen extremely adaptable and usable in almost any setup type.

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It also comes with a sound, VGA and USB cable to make the connections. These cables are all 5 meters long making the screen location very flexible. The screen is also has a slot in the back to allow the installation of a mini pc and make it an all in one solution. The screen also comes with tuff glass making it almost indestructible. I decided to show this to the teacher by hitting the screen hard and ouch did it hurt, but more importantly the screen was unmarked. The remote control is also nice to use and features some little tools like freeze which gives you the traditional projector freeze. This we find is a tool the teachers in our school love. Also worth noting is how quickly the screen turns on and off.

Anyway now the screen is installed I got the Headteacher to have a look and he was very impressed saying how nice it looked and he was surprised how clear and responsive the screen was. He also wanted to play a video on the screen which looked and sounded fab through the built in speakers.

It’s also worth noting I installed this into a classroom with a teacher who is almost ready to retire, hates change and hates computers. You may ask why, but my idea is if she can use it then anyone can. So it’s nice to report that after a few days use she commented how much easier it was to use than her old IWB and she is no longer worried about using her computer in lessons. I think that is the perfect result. This is because the screen just works, she doesn’t have to calibrate every time someone slams the door and she knows the kids can see it easily. She can also use the remote control easily as its just like a normal tv remote. She has allowed her children to have a play with it. This has changed the way they interact with the board and the quality of work they produce on it as they are using their finger and not a pen. The children also don’t find using the screen unusual or strange as they are used to using touchscreen tech like iPads.

So to finish this post of I would recommended an interactive screen as the perfect replacement for any IWB setup. I’m now looking at how I can get more of these into our classrooms. With the benefits of cheap running costs it makes sense to get these into the classroom and bring the classroom into the modern touch generation. I would also recommend talking to interactive education to purchase these GeneeTouch screens as they have the best prices with fantastic sales and support. They will also send people to demo the screens and assess your install locations advising on size and install type required. So all in all a win win solution for me.

Apple Configurator – What is it?

Over the last week I’ve been getting to grips with Apple Configurator and thought I’d report my findings. First this app is free and its only available on a mac and Apple have no plans to bring a version to Windows. The app is designed to help you setup iOS devices quickly and easily(ish).

The app has 3 sections to it, the first is prepare mode. This mode allows you to prepare a device for use and offers several options to it. One of the main options is supervise. Supervise locks the iOS device to that mac, thus preventing it from being used with iTunes on any other system. Another cool option is the ability to upgrade the iOS. You can also restore a backup to the device and finally you can assign profiles. Profiles have been around for a while on iOS devices but with the extra option of supervise and the latest ios6 you can now do some really cool things. I actually only used the profiles to send across our wifi settings and to connect the device to a Mobile Device Management system we are using. A final thing you can do is install apps either free or paid. So in a nutshell prepare mode allows you to setup your iOS devices and lock them down and this maybe all you need from the app.

The second section is Supervise this is only used if you set the iOS device to be supervised in prepare mode. It basically allows you to manage supervised devices when they are plugged in. You can alter most things you setup in prepare mode. Right clicking also allows you to backup a device and unsupervise a device. It’s worth noting when a device is unsupervised it is wiped and restored back to factory settings. However any paid apps you have used via apple Configurator will be allowed to be reinstalled onto another device.

The last mode is Assign. This allows you to assign a supervised device to a user. Users can be imported from a directory or simply added manually. Users can also be grouped allowing classes to be assigned devices easily. Assign allows you to send documents to a device and take documents off. I’ve also been told that it takes a snapshot of the device when you check it back in and when you check a device out again it restores that snapshot to it. This should allow multiple users to one device very easily and works well with a sync and charge storage cart.

A few further things worth noting you can set the image of the lock screen on devices and add a users name or picture to it using the preferences in Configurator. However this only works in supervised mode. Apple Configurator can also manage upto 30 devices at once making configuration changes very fast.

More information can be found here.

How to setup Android Device for Office 365

Here are the most basic steps to Configure Office365 on your android device.

  1. On your android device, in your mail app, press the menu button and press ,New Account’.
  2. Press “Microsoft Exchange” or “Microsoft Exchange ActivSync” to add your new account.
  3. Enter your fully qualified e-mail name (eg. mike@co365lab.com) into the Email box and your password into the password box. Press Next.
  4. The android device will use Office365’s autodiscover feature to fill in the server box. If it doesn’t type in ‘mail.office365.com’. Leave the domain box blank. In the username box type in your email address. Click Next.
  5. You can now customize the items that the android device will synchronize. Unless you’re doing something pretty unique, there is no reason not to synchronize them all. Select how often you wish it to check. and Click Next.
  6. Give the account a name for example ‘Office 365’. Click Finish Setup.

How to Setup iPad/iPhone for Office 365

Here are the most basic steps to Configure Office365 on your iPhone/iPad:

  1. On your iPad/iPhone, under Settings, select “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” Add Account.
  2. Press “Microsoft Exchange”  to add your new account.
  3. Enter your fully qualified e-mail name (eg. mike@co365lab.com) into both the Email and Username fields and your password.  Click Next.
  4. The iPad/iPhone will use Office365’s autodiscover feature to fill in the server box.  Click Next.
  5. You can customize the items that the iPad/iPhone will synchronize.  Unless you’re doing something pretty unique, there is no reason not to synchronize them all.

Instructions from http://www.configureoffice365.com/