iPod Touches and Parasync

With great rejoicing, a set of 16 iPod touches arrived the other day, along with a clever Parasync case and docking system thingy.  The idea is for them to be used as digital still/video cameras with children, plus the use of apps such as Safari etc.  I have always been a bit snooty about syncing devices, being rather loathe to spend substantial amounts of money on a glorified USB hub in a box, but I think I am now convinced of their value, if only that 16 devices can all be charged using just one power lead.

Setting them up was a little bit more of a challenge, partly because I was trying to be too clever.  I initially tried using Apple Configurator to set them up, which would allow me to set a pretty lock screen with the iPod number on it.  However, this didn’t work so well, with several iPods refusing to accept the configuration profile.  They also then didn’t allow images to be downloaded to iPhoto or iMovie as the ‘Supervision Mode’ configuration profile essentially completely locks the device down.

I then tried the old-school but tried-and-tested approach of using iTunes (boo!).  Which worked really well! The steps were as follows:

  1. Disable automatic backups
  2. Download apps etc. on iTunes
  3. Plug in one iPod, sync across apps and set it up just how you want it (e.g. email accounts etc.)
  4. Backup that iPod to iTunes (right click on it in the left hand column and select ‘Backup now’), making sure that the backup is encrypted (this saves all the passwords etc.)
  5. Plug all the other iPods in and then restore from the initial backup
  6. Rename all the iPods to their correct names

I also used iPhone Configuration Utility to add a configuration profile for the Wifi and for Meraki on each device.

Definitely much quicker!

I showed the iPods to the staff team quickly at today’s staff meeting (after a few Q jokes as I open up a slightly formidable flight case) and people seemed enthusiastic.  Hopefully they will get used regularly across the school!

Setting up iPads pt.2

Or, Spectacular, Spectacular!

Today we had a go at setting up all the iPads. It was not entirely successful, perhaps even spectacularly disastrous, but definitely informative.

Here was the plan:

  1. Setup Apple ID on one device per class set, redeem iTunes vouchers and then download required apps
  2. Backup to iCloud
  3. Restore from iCloud on the other iPads in the class set
  4. Sit down and have a cup of tea, marvelling at how quick and easy all that was

Alas, no.

iTunes vouchers

Didn’t think this would be a problem, as our Apple reseller sent us enough iTunes voucher codes. However, two of them weren’t working so I thought I would just buy some from my own iTunes account and then claim back the expenses. The first try worked, but when I tried to create a second gift voucher, it just wouldn’t let me. Instead we had to take a trip to Morrisons to physically buy a second voucher. Hey ho.

Download apps

Setting the apps going was very simple as I had emailed a list of iTunes URLs to the iPad. A few taps later, all the apps had been bought and were starting to download. However, I hadn’t reckoned on the school’s 20mbps connection and the large size of apps like Pages, Keynote and Numbers. It took about an hour to download 6 iPads of apps…not pleasant!

iCloud backup

The backup to iCloud was easy peasy, as was the restoring from backup (to begin with). However, we then hit issues of iPads not thinking we were in the UK and then promptly deleting all the pending apps.

There was also the issue of the lock screen names that Apple Configurator had done for us. To get round this, you just had to plug the iPad back into the Mac with Apple Configurator on and let it reapply the name and the configuration profiles (for wifi etc). This had to be done before entering any passwords and re-downloading apps.

I’m hoping that leaving the iPads in their boxes happily downloading apps overnight will result in a set of setup iPads in the morning. I’m also hoping that the pain at this point will result in slightly more straightforward day-to-day usage of the iPads. Hopefully!

Setting Up iPads pt.1

Yesterday I finally had the time to start setting up the iPads at school. Yay!

The first job was to get the wifi going. We’re putting in Ubiquiti’s UNIFi wireless access points, which seem pretty good but also very reasonably priced. They have ceiling-mountable access points which can then be configured by a web-based controller you install somewhere on your network. All the points aren’t in yet, so I just had one sitting on the table in the room I was in. I couldn’t get the controller to work for a while, but thankfully our amazing technician got it working (something to do with conflicting ports).

I could then begin unboxing iPads. They came in bigger boxes of 5, so it was a case of entering the serial numbers on a spreadsheet, labelling each one and then making a big pile of the smaller, white boxes. Opening the first few is fun, but it does get a little tiresome after a while!

The next step was to use Apple Configurator to do a simple bit of setting up, mainly just to set it so that a custom wallpaper and iPad name appears on the lock screen. To do this, I had to use the ‘supervise’ mode, which means the iPad can only be connected to the one Mac which you’re running Apple Configurator on. This could be a real pain with syncing carts and iTunes, but I’m planning on running a completely ‘cloud’ setup, requiring no wired syncing, so this should be ok.

I didn’t manage to figure out how to deploy configuration profiles at this point, as I was hoping to set up wifi using a configuration setting rather than doing it manually. I didn’t finish them all though, so I might try that when I finish setting up the rest of them.

Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Create all the relevant Apple IDs (one per class)
  • Create @me.com email addresses
  • Decide on and download the apps on one iPad per class
  • Backup that iPad to iCloud and then restore it to the other iPads in the class set
  • Put on Parental Controls to stop apps being deleted
  • Set up iWork apps with an internal WebDAV server
  • Setup classroom macs so that downloads from iTunes automatically install on the class iPads
  • Put in cases and deploy!

Not too much really!