Aside

Profile Manager is now working! Woo. Now I just need to find the time to actually play with it.

All down to Dave from Toucan.

The return of Profile Manager

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Wineskin: running Windows apps without Windows

Over the last few months I’ve been making use of an app called Wineskin, which lets you run Windows applications on a Mac without running Windows.  It utilises Wine, an open-source project which attempts to duplicate all the functionality of Windows libraries thereby enabling Windows executables to run on Linux/OSX/etc.  This doesn’t work with everything, but definitely with enough titles to make it useful.

The particularly cool thing about Wineskin though is that it installs all the Wine binaries inside a normal .app OSX application package.  You then install the software you want within this ‘wrapper’, thus enabling it to run on any Mac without requiring Wine or anything else to be installed first.  This is very handy in a school, as I can create wrappers for all the different Windows applications I want to run and then just drop them into the Applications folder of various Macs, via Apple Remote Desktop.  The user then just launches the app and starts using the program.  This makes for a much smoother experience that clicking on a VMWare Fusion shortcut, waiting for the virtual machine to start, clicking through the various ‘Download update!’ and ‘Buy the new version of Fusion!’ messages and then finally getting to your application.  Well I think so anyway.

Today I tried getting it to work with a BBC Active CD-ROM about ‘Rites of Passage’ in RE. It seems to function ok, although I’m having trouble moving the Wineskin ‘wrapper’ between computers.  The weird thing is that you can preview the whole piece of software online using Flash, which makes me just a little bit annoyed why they didn’t make a Mac version while they were at it.  I guess it can’t have be worth their while. And if they’re making and selling CD-ROMs, they are clearly not trying to be at the cutting edge of technology, especially as you would be increasingly hard-pressed to find a Mac with an optical drive anyway…

Erasing SMART Ink

One of the features of Smart Notebook 11, the latest version of the software used to run Smartboards, is a featured called ‘SMART Ink’.  It’s an evolution of the previous functionality that allowed you to write on any window using the Smartboard pens. Previous versions just put a big picture frame over to allow you to write, which was great for full-screen applications but not so good for windows that move around.  To get around this problem, SMART released SMART Ink, which ties the writing to a specific window, which can then be moved around the screen.  Which is all great in theory.

However, in practice it results in lots of ugly green boxes sitting in the title bar of every single window you have open, and even every little dialogue box as well.  And then when you move the window around, it doesn’t gracefully move with it but rather jitters around, destroying all the hard work Apple engineers have done in giving silky-smooth-graphic-card-accelerated windowing.

But not only that, it also seems to generally slow the Mac down, as acknowledged here and here by SMART. Not very smart.

Several people have suggested ways to remove the software, which I have roughly followed.  It basically involves removing the ‘SMART Ink’ login item from System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items and then killing the process using Activity Monitor.  It’s a bit of a faff to go computer to computer, but seems to have had a good impact on speed.

First day back…

I went back to school today to try and get ready for the beginning of term.  As always, there’s lots of jobs that come up along the way, but here are a few things I managed to accomplish today:

  • Apply for some ‘up-to-date’ Mountain Lion licences for some Mac Minis that we bought after Mountain Lion was finally announced.  I had to go into school to get some serial numbers and to get invoices from our reseller, but it was pretty straightforward. Today’s the last day that you can apply so I was cutting it a bit fine.
  • Set up a repository for Munki on our Mac Mini server.  We’ve been using Munki with much success just as a way to automatically install Apple’s software updates when the computer is logged out. It’s pretty handy!  However, I’ve been wanting to use it update other software (such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Flash Player), rather than having to push out packages using Apple Remote Desktop.  I followed a really clear guide on the Munki website, which took a bit of time to get my head around but seems to have worked fine.

Macs and Antivirus

Yesterday I noticed that the top free app on the Mac App Store was a piece of antivirus software. Very depressing.

Why is it depressing? Now I know there have been a few virus scares on the Mac recently, but on the whole OSX is much more secure than Windows. The problem with antivirus software is that it slows down a computer as it continually checks files and processes for errant behaviour. I’ve noticed that some of the Macs at school run quite slowly compared with my own MacBook Air, particularly with startup times. I suspect that the wonderful SMART software and drivers might be something to do with it, but probably Sophos antivirus is too. I’m under the impression that using Sophos is required by LGfL, but maybe it’s not. And it’s not as if all the iPads can run Sophos either…

…so maybe I’ll try removing Sophos and see what happens then. Am I being foolish and crazy?

LGfL Staff Mail on OSX and iOS

WordPress is wonderful because it tells me all kinds of fascinating information, such as what people were searching for when they ended up on this site. And one quite frequent enquiry is regarding LGfL’s Staff Mail settings on a Mac. It’s really easy to set up and here’s how…

  1. You need to be running Snow Leopard (10.6) or higher.
  2. Open up Mail and add an email account. Enter your name and email address etc.
  3. On the next screen, select ‘Exchange 2007’ as the type of server.
  4. Put in mail.lgflmail.org as the server. Then put in your USO username and password.
  5. It’ll ask you about adding contacts and calendar for the account. These can be handy for auto completing addresses of your colleagues
  6. All done!

The settings are pretty similar for iOS. You just need to select ‘Exchange’ as the type of account when adding it in Settings > Mail, Contacts & Calendars. The domain is lgflmail. Easy!

Do post a comment if my instructions don’t make sense…

Sarbanes–Oxley Act and Lion

Ok, take that back.

Apple probably do have to charge for Mountain Lion because of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which basically means you can’t add additional functionality to something you’ve already sold.  They get around this with iOS devices because Apple account for them over 2 years in a subscription model – you get free updates because Apple treat it as if you’re still paying for it!  The Mac isn’t accounted for like this so thus they can’t do free updates.

Rats. Maybe it’ll just be a token cost?