RAv3 and VNC

One of the joys of LGfL 2.0 is that a lovely firewall is installed in your school, which by default blocks nearly anything getting in or out. One of the things that is blocked is Log Me In, a remote access tools used by schools to log into servers etc when offsite. This has not been enormously popular, but thankfully there is an alternative which is in many ways better. It’s called RAv3.

RAv3 is a service offered by Atomwide, which uses some clever Cisco back-end to allow secure remote access. I don’t really understand it all completely, but there’s quite a lot of information on their support site. Once it’s turned on, you can set up which servers or computers you want remote access to and then which users get which access. There is a web-based portal at rav3.lgfl.org.uk with various different options.

One of the technologies is called ‘any connect’, which basically opens up a secure VPN tunnel into the LGfL 2.0 network, using your USO to authenticate. For the Mac, it involves downloading a bit of software, but that means you can also go in direct from the app rather than using the web-based portal.

Once you’re in, you can then use Screen Sharing to view any servers using VNC (such as a Mac server in our case). At first I was at a bit of a loss to know how to do this, as obviously all the servers don’t appear in the network browser in the Mac. But then I discovered I just needed to use Finder’s ‘Connect to Server…’ and then type vnc:// followed by the IP address of the server. Amazing! Now I can check my server wherever I am…

LGfL 2.0 attempt 1.1

A weekend or so ago, our most excellent technician did the fantastic job of switching our school over to our LGfL 2.0. We were going to wait until the Easter holidays to do it until someone from LGfL pointed out that we were running two broadband connections, which was costing lots of money so please can you switch over as soon as you possibly can, thank you.

The switchover did involve moving all the admin computers into the curriculum subnet as the new firewall couldn’t cope with different subnets using the same cabling. But all seems to be working now. I’ve managed to tame WebScreen enough so that most people can access most of what they need, and we’ve turned off all the proxy servers so that people can even get Internet access.

How has anyone else found the switch?

In real iLife

Yesterday was fun and got to see a bit how useful iLife apps can be with children.

In the morning I was teaching music with Year 3, where we were doing some preparation for making a radio show all about saving the environment. I had pre-chosen some songs with an eco-theme and then got children listening to some of them to try out work out the environmental message and to decide if they liked them or not. To do this, I got children to search for the songs on the iTunes Music Store and then listen to the 90 second previews you can now get. It would have been more ideal if we had headphones for everyone as it was a little noisy, but that will have to wait until the next financial year.

After school, I had another instalment of iMovie club. We ended up having a go at using the ‘trailers’ feature of iMovie 11, which groups of 3 deciding which film genre they wanted to do, printing off a storyboard and then starting to film their footage using Flipcams. The final product may not make a huge amount of sense, but it’s definitely giving children the experience of sequencing shots together and trying to tell a story. We’ll see next week how good the final product is.

Updating to iLife 11

Due to some training I did today that made use of the ‘Trailers’ feature of iMovie 11, we needed to finally upgrade our iMac suite to iLife 11.  I hadn’t fancied buying 18 retail boxes of iLife discs when the upgrade first came out and was instead waiting to see what volume licensing Apple offered.  The educational price is about 2/3rds of the App Store price, which is nice, but still requires an App Store download code for each seat.  However, Apple do suggest that you just download it on one machine and then use Apple Remote Desktop to copy the app to the required machines. This seems to work fine!

I was slightly concerned that I would have to copy across any iLife related files in /Library etc., but it seems that all the sound effects and loops now live within the app itself (I hope!).

The advantage of doing it this way is that the apps now update themselves using Software Update rather than through the App Store, which makes managing them using Munki much easier.  I’m not quite sure what will happen come Mountain Lion though, as Software Update is being folded into the App Store.  Hmm… we shall see!

Atomwide Training

Today I had some training at Atomwide‘s headquarters in Orpington, having a reasonably technical look at the range of services they offer, such as USO, Staff Mail, London Mail, WebScreen filtering and remote access. It was really good to see some human faces instead of just interacting with a support site, but also to understand the bigger picture of how everything works.  With the demise of any sort of local authority level ICT stuff, it feels like very little is now communicated to schools about  what’s going on with LGfL.  And because of data-protection, Atomwide can’t just email everyone just because they’ve got all our email addresses, even though I wish they would.

It was a very organised day, with precise start and finish dates, and an individually wrapped and named sandwich at lunchtime, which had been previously ordered on their support site weeks earlier.  Atomwide certainly are very thorough in their approach to ICT, with a deep commitment to an audit trail, and it was helpful to talk through issues we had been having.

Some thoughts:

  • I didn’t know I had to create the aliases for our Staff Mail accounts, so they don’t end in @lgflmail.org but rather @myschool.com.  I was wondering why lots of the new staff’s email accounts weren’t working correctly, but now I know it was my fault.  Or rather I only found out today that it was my fault.
  • LGfL 2.0 doesn’t let things like logmein for remote access for security, but the new solutions actually seem quite powerful once you know how.  They also offer VNC support, which is good for remotely accessing Macs.
  • I also didn’t know anything about distribution lists, but do now.  Will be playing with that over the next few weeks, as some members of staff have been asking about how to easily send an email to all the teachers.
  • Despite being warned off AD-Sync by someone from LGfL, it does still seem like an attractive proposal.  I’m all for teachers only having to remember one login for everything and so I’m willing to sacrifice some local-level control over our Active Directory.
  • WebScreen 2.0 is the new web filtering service on LGfL 2.0 and apparently I need to go back at another time for a day’s training on how to use it!  But I think I’ve gleaned enough information to be able to make the WWW actually useful when we do the switch.

Hopefully I will now be in a better position to manage the switchover to LGfL 2.0 that is happening this weekend…we’ll see!

“The New iPad”

It’s always fun watching the latest Apple Special Events, even though it’s sad that there’s no Steve Jobs any more.  I think I really like Tim Cook, perhaps particularly his calm and slow manner but also cheeky sense of humour.

So, iPad 3.

Or should I say, “The new iPad”.  Not sure that would have gotten past Mr Jobs, especially as devices always used to be referred to as if they were a person in the room, i.e. iPad, iPhone rather than the iPad or the iPhone.  But I guess they’re doing things a bit differently now.


  • Retina display looks amazing.  People might complain that it’s just a screen, but the iPad is just screen, so it’s a pretty important part of the equation.  It’s pretty funny how it’s got more pixels than a HD TV as well…
  • Throwaway remark from one of the developers that the new iPad has more processing power/memory etc. than the PS3 or XBOX360. Not bad…
  • The iPad is starting to be able to do thing much better than a normal ‘PC’ would, i.e. using a finger to paint on touch-up effects in iPhoto.
  • The iSight camera is nice.  But why iSight?  Not sure why they dug that name out again, having replaced front-facing cameras with the ‘FaceTime camera’ moniker.

The thing I’m most excited about though is the reduced iPad2 price, especially with an educational discount (and no VAT) added on – the iPad starts to become very, very affordable in schools.  Looking forward to finding out the ICT budget in April…

iPad 3…

iPad 3 on Wednesday…exciting!

The expectation seems to be for a retina display and the loss of the home button. Excited about the first, less hopeful about the second!

What I’m particularly hopeful about is the possibility of them still selling the iPad 2 but at a reduced rate – now that would really help with my budget at school! But they probably would cripple it with 8GB of storage…that might just be a bit too limiting. But we shall see.