L.A. cancels iPads-in-the-schools program: a failure of vision, not technology

Macworld:

The failure of LAUSD’s iPad program isn’t that iPads (or any other devices the district may have chosen) weren’t a good fit. If there’s blame to be placed, it starts at the top. Deployments are only as good as the vision set forth before a Wi-Fi system or even a type of device is selected. If a school district isn’t going to follow Apple’s guidelines, it shouldn’t expect a successful project.

Apple does a lot of the legwork here by providing both the iPads and detailed guidelines for deployment. And other school districts around the world have documented their successes and failures. So when it comes to learning about best practices for deploying these devices in schools, it’s a simple matter of those in charge doing their homework.

This is an article I wrote for Macworld on the LAUSD/iPad situation.

Dropbox Cuts Pricing

Dropbox:

We don’t want you to worry about choosing the right plan or having enough space. So today, we’re simplifying Dropbox Pro to a single plan that stays at $9.99/month, but now comes with 1 TB (1,000 GB) of space.

They've matched Google Drive on the 1 TB monthly plan. Dropbox still offers the $99 annual plan, so it's actually cheaper than Google Drive if you pay annually. They've also released a number of new (and much appreciated) features.

TiVo Introduces A $50 Over-The-Air DVR For The Post-Aereo Era

Harry McCracken:

This new antenna-only TiVo--which competes with Simple TV and Tablo, two DVRs from startups--is a bit of an experiment. It'll only be available at 430 Best Buy stores beginning in September, and from BestBuy.com starting in October. As always with TiVo, there's also a charge for the service that provides the TV schedule and otherwise manages the box: $15 a month, with a one-year commitment.

Tom Rogers, TiVo's CEO, says that he was struck by how big a story Aereo's legal battle and ultimate downfall turned out to be: "I was surprised how much non-legal press, broad consumer press, that story was getting in terms of over-the-air channels and having some recording ability for them." About 30% of TiVo customers already used it only with an antenna; the company figured that even more cord cutters might be interested in a low-priced TiVo designed especially for them.

The problem with TiVo isn't the start up cost ($199 for the box isn't unreasonable), but it's the monthly fees. With a 1 year contract, it's $14.99/mo. Tablo is $50/year. TiVo needs to have a $9.99/mo option and not charge an additional monthly fee for TiVo Mini (currently $5.99/mo).

Understand your Wi-Fi with Airport Utility

The Sweet Setup:

Apple’s Airport Utility seems like a simple app on the surface, but with a little understanding of Wi-Fi technology, it provides valuable information when it comes to troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues. Wi-Fi, for all its simplicity, is a complicated technology and if you understand the basics, you’ll be much better off when it comes to configuring and troubleshooting your home Wi-Fi.

I recently published an article over at The Sweet Setup on how Apple's Airport Utility for iOS can provide some great information on the "health" of your Apple based Wi-Fi network.

Click here to read.

The Intel Problem

Stephen Hackett:

One huge gain Apple made when switching to Intel in 2006 was the ability to natively run Windows. While Apple certainly made fun of the Microsoft operating system (like in the ad above), the ability to run OS X and Windows side-by-side is a huge selling point for power users.

For example, I use modern.IE virtual machines to QA websites at work. If I were to be running an ARM-based Mac, I wouldn't be able to do this. As much as Apple might like to think its customers can be OS X-only, I'm not alone in these needs.

Stephen's 100% right. I know plenty of people in the enterprise and education who still use VMware for that 1 app they need to use that is Windows only.

JAMF Software Exec Talks Apple’s Evolution

Jeff Engel:

“Back in 2002, very few people considered Apple a viable enterprise solution,” says Halmstad, who serves as JAMF’s co-CEO. “We saw what they were doing with Mac OS X, and believed that their future was incredibly bright. In the early years, people always told us that we’d have to support Windows. We stayed focused on helping the enterprise succeed with Apple … and it has worked out very well for us and our customers.”

JAMF doesn't support Windows or Android. Some people see that as a negative, but I see it as a positive. With most enterprise vendors, Apple is treated as a 2nd class citizen (particulary on the Mac). JAMF is dedicated to Apple. If there was a printer company who only supported Apple, I'd use them. JAMF has a neat story, so I'd recommend reading the entire article.

Disclosure: JAMF Software sponsors Out of School, but I am a customer as well.

Tunnelbear

I wrote about using Cloak to stay safe on public WiFi a few weeks ago. A few days later, I got an email from the folks at Tunnelbear asking if I'd like to try their service. I had heard good things about it, so I gave it a shot.

Key differences between Cloak and Tunnelbear:
1. Tunnelbear is half the price of Cloak for the unlimited plan (it's even cheaper if you just need iOS VPN service)
2. Tunnelbear doesn't have the feature where it automatically connects based on the SSID being used.

Both services work well and are easy to use. Cloak's killer feature is the ability to "set it and forget it". Your choice is to basically save $50 and have to manually connect. If you rarely use a VPN, this might be a good choice. If you use it often, Cloak's automatic connection management might be worth the premium.

I've been told that the VPN backend on iOS 8 has been completely re-built, so these services should get even better.

Sponsor: Project Pingback

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We’ve developed a predictive search algorithm that uses millions of forum threads and discussions to find customers who want to buy what you offer but don’t even know you exist.

(And we’re completely free.)

Sell web hosting? We’ll find posts by people who are looking to buy web hosting and display the posts to you, letting you respond directly.

Message boards have always been sidelined by mainstream search engines – the wealth of almost 1 billion users has been almost written out of the Internet’s history, ignored by all but a few sites.

Conversations on forums are candid and honest. People ask for advice on how to shave, install software, or find the right product to buy – and yet, almost no one thinks they’re remotely useful or profitable. As an example, look at how Google axed its discussion search feature just last week.

No other service like Project Pingback exists - no one we know of finds users who would already be very interested in what you have to offer. Sites like HootSuite and Mention only find posts that have already mentioned your product – and they focus almost entirely on Twitter and Facebook.

Here at Project Pingback, we’re excited about what the future holds and the journey we still have to make to disrupt traditional brand monitoring and search. Would you like to take the journey with us?

We’re completely free, and you can visit our website here. Send us an email at contact@projectpingback.com to let us know what you think!

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Google is Stealing Away Microsoft’s Future Corporate Customers

Dan Frommer:

This says two things. First, Microsoft and other vendors like IBM still have a tight grip on the largest companies. Gartner analyst Tom Eid—who predicts that enterprise email alone will be a $5 billion global industry this year, growing about 10% from last year—confirms this. He estimates that Microsoft still commands 75% of the market’s spending, versus about 3% to 5% for Google.

But Google is capturing Microsoft’s future customer base. Perhaps this doesn’t hurt as much now, but as today’s smaller companies grow into tomorrow’s leaders, will they eventually switch to Microsoft products? Or will they stick with Google? (Or, also possible—but less dramatic—both?)

We've ran Google Apps since early 2010 at our school. We did a lot of training when we launched, but new teachers really don't require much since their personal email is usually powered by Gmail. We're seeing the generation of workers who used Gmail and Google Docs in high school and college come into the workforce. They understand that you can "be productive" without Outlook and Office. For Microsoft, this is a scary situation.

This quote from The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway always comes to mind here:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

How does Microsoft lose their enterprise grip? Gradually and then suddenly.

Hoboken School District: We’re Not Tossing Laptops, but Moving to “rolling Laptop Carts”

Dr. Richard Brockel:

As with any initiative, good school districts continue to monitor and evaluate its implementation to gauge effectiveness, and to revise and change direction as needed. Such was the case in the Hoboken School District. The one-on-one program was revised in favor of other programs for students in which the laptops could be utilized more effectively.

I'm not sure I've ever heard of a time when a shared deployment was more effective than a 1:1 deployment. The bottom line is that their program lacked vision and leadership from the beginning.

Via Ars

Tablo Review

We cut the cord a few years back, but we really missed prime time content in HD. Last fall, I picked up an antenna and quickly decided to purchase a TiVo in order to be able to record shows. I picked up a TiVo Mini a few months later in order to be able to watch live TV and recordings on another TV. I've got $300 invested in TiVos and paying $20/month for the service. While TiVo works well, it's not cheap on a recurring basis. The current model TiVo devices are also wanting to be your primary set top box. Along with the DVR experience, it includes Netflix, Youtube, etc. I'd really love to cut that fee down and possibily simplify my OTA TV experience. This is where Tablo comes in:

Like TiVo, Tablo hooks up to your antenna. You then connect your own USB hard drive up, and connect it to your home network (ethernet or WiFi). Then, you can use it just like a DVR. You can watch live TV and schedule recordings from Tablo's iPad, Android, or Roku apps. There are two Tablo models: a 2 tuner and a 4 tuner. The main reason you'd want a 4 tuner is watching TV remotely (away from your home network) uses a tuner up. If you were watching a recording remotely and your spouse was watching live TV, you might miss a recording. Here is some information from the Tablo FAQ page:

The number of tuners your Tablo has dictates its capabilities. Watching or recording a single live program requires a single tuner. Watching a recorded program does not require a tuner. Watching a recorded program streamed to a device away from your Tablo's home network requires a tuner.

Now that you understand what activities require a tuner, it's easy to do some 'tuner math'. For example, on a two tuner model, you could watch a show live while recording another. Or if you're stuck waiting in the doctor's office, you can set a show to record and watch a show on your tablet that you've recorded earlier.

On a four tuner model, someone can be watching the football game on the big screen, while another person watches a movie on a tablet all while recording two other live shows.

The 2 tuner can be ordered through Newegg for only $199. The 4 tuner is $299. This is pretty comparable to TiVo's pricing for the actual box. Keep in mind, you really only need 1 Tablo for your house. You'll need a TiVo or TiVo Mini at every TV. Where Tablo really becomes impressive is the monthly fees. The first thing to keep in mind is that it can work without paying anything additional per month. You'll see a reduced feature set (1 day guide data, etc), but it will work. The premium plan runs $4.99/month, $49.99/year, or you can purchase a lifetime subscription for $149.99. Subscriptions are tied to your account and not the device, so you can add as many Tablos as you'd like or change your Tablo unit at any time. If you want more details on what is included in the free vs paid, click here. With TiVo, I pay $240/year. With Tablo, I'd pay $50/year.

This all sounds great, but how does it work? The Tablo box included the actual device, a power supply, and an ethernet cable. One thing to keep in mine is that since Tablo doesn't connect directly to a TV, you can put it anywhere in your home. I highly recommend putting it on wired ethernet if possible. I unboxed the device and plugged up my antenna, my USB hard drive, the power cord, and the ethernet cable. I then fired up the iPad app and it discovered the device rather quickly. I had 1 software update to run and then the Tablo ran a channel scan to determine what channels I could get. It then went to work formatting the drive. The software was explicit that the drive had to be formatted to work with Tablo and asked me to confirm that I was okay with that. While formatting was taking place, the guide data was also downloaded. Scheduling records couldn't be easier. You can browse a nice list of show types: Prime Time, TV Shows, Movies, and Sports. The search feature works well and it shows full artwork for most shows. When you want to schedule a recording, you hit the record icon and can select all episodes or just new episodes. Live TV works as expected. I spent Saturday morning out on the porch watching the morning news live on my iPad.

Is there anything about Tablo I don't like? My only complaint is that launching a live TV channel takes longer than I would like. I'm guessing that it's caching a few seconds of content ahead of time to allow for uninterrupted watching. I've got a USB 3.0 hard drive attached along with wired ethernet, so I know it is nothing with my network. We mainly watch content that has been recorded and it loads extremely fast (similar to Plex or Netflix).

It just so happens that while testing the Tablo, my TiVo died during a software update. Although they are sending me a new one, I'm probably not going to open it. It's likely going to go on Amazon, and I'll be switching to Tablo for my OTA content and DVR functionality. It fits into my Roku based ecosystem, it's 75% less on a monthly basis (and even more if you pay annually), and it's drastically simpler. TiVo feels like a sledgehammer when I only need a rubber mallet. I don't need my DVR to play Netflix or YouTube. I have the Roku for that. I just simply need my DVR to give me my shows regardless of whether I am on my Roku or my iPad. If I want to watch my TiVo recordings on my iPad, it requires yet another box. If you are looking for a simple DVR solution for OTA content, Tablo is a great choice. If you are an Apple TV customer, you'll be glad to know that it supports AirPlay from your iPad.

Adding Bluetooth to a Car With an AUX Port

If you follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcast, you'll know that I recently purchased a car. One of my major annoyances with it is that it contained Bluetooth, but not Bluetooth audio. Bluetooth audio should be standard, but it's considered an upgrade. Thankfully, the car does have an AUX port. I obviously could use a 3.5mm cord, but I wanted to ditch the cords. I found a product on Amazon that claimed it could help me. It's the Miccus Mini-jack RX. It plugs into your AUX port and then can connect to your phone via Bluetooth. It's battery powered, but the manufacturer has a nice feature for using it with a car. When it's plugged up to USB, it will power on and off with the car. If you need an in-expensive way to add Bluetooth, this will serve you well. Overall, it's working great so far.

Why a New Jersey School District Decided Giving Laptops to Students is a Terrible Idea

Jill Barshay:

We had “half a dozen kids in a day, on a regular basis, bringing laptops down, going ‘my books fell on top of it, somebody sat on it, I dropped it,’ ” said Crocamo.

Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers.

“We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do,” said Crocamo. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”

Crocamo’s time was also eaten up with theft. Despite the anti-theft tracking software he installed, some laptops were never found. Crocamo had to file police reports and even testify in court.

Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. Crocamo installed software called Net Nanny to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. But Crocamo says students found forums on the Internet that showed them how to access everything.

This deployment was doomed from the start. It suffered from a lack of leadership. If you listened to our Deploy 2014 series, you'll see tons of red flags in this article. While suffering from a leadership problem, they also suffered a culture problem. The kids obviously didn't even attempt to take care of the computers. The teachers also didn't get enough training on how to integrate the technology in the classroom.

1:1 laptops isn't a bad idea. 1:1 laptops without a plan, purpose, and proper execution is a bad idea.

And the final kicker: the whole town was jamming the high school’s wireless network.

“A lot of people knew the username and password,” Toback said. “So a lot of people were able to walk by the building and they would get wireless access. Over a period of years, you had thousands of people. It bogged it down, it made it unusable.”

This is a solvable problem through a number of methods. The fact that this was a major problem is symbolic of the entire deployment.

Don't Use Dropbox As Your Only Backup

Jan Curn:

About two months later when I was preparing for a defence of my PhD thesis, I was looking for an old presentation but couldn't find it. The directory was there but it was empty. I would have never deleted these files, something must have gone wrong. I contacted Dropbox support which then broke the news to me: there was a delete event of 8343 files from 2014-04-29 at 14:57:30 GMT (UTC). Looking at the log record from this event, I realised most of the missing files were my photos! All the directories were still in place but many of them were empty, as if Dropbox randomly deleted some files and left some others intact. I was devastated. All those memories and the effort with collecting and organizing the photos…. gone.

From all this information it seems that Dropbox client first deletes files locally before it informs the server about the new selective sync settings. Consequently, if the client crashes or is killed before the server is contacted, the files remain deleted without any trace. After the client restarts again, it only sees there are some files missing and syncs this new state with the server. Unfortunately for me, Dropbox only keeps a copy of deleted files for 30 days (unless you pay $40/year for some Packrat feature) and I found out about this event after two months.

While I love Dropbox and Google Drive, I still recommend backing up to a Time Machine drive and an offsite cloud service like Backblaze. This is also why I still keep my pictures stored locally on my Mac even if I am syncing them to Google or Dropbox (selective sync on my pictures folder is off). At the end of the day, I don't trust anyone (even Apple) with the only copies of the only piece of data that I can't re-create or purchase.

Link via @lindertobias

I'd Rather Pay A Subscription

Jared Sinclair:

Considering the enormous amount of effort I have put into these apps over the past year, that’s a depressing figure. I try not to think about the salary I could earn if I worked for another company, with my skills and qualifications. It’s also a solid piece of evidence that shows that paid-up-front app sales are not a sustainable way to make money on the App Store.

There are a few iOS apps that are essential to my day to day computing happiness: Overcast, Reeder, Omnifocus, Evernote, Tweetbot, Byword, Pocket, Fantastical, and 1Password. Outside of Evernote and Omnifocus, all of these apps cost less than $10. In fact, I am pretty sure you could buy all of them for less than $30 total. Evernote is free with an optional subscription. Omnifocus is a (whopping) $20. I am happy to pay an Evernote subscription to enable additional features and to help the service survive. When Tweetbot 3 came out, I happily paid the minimal price of the new app. I use these apps daily and want them to continue development. Innovation and continued development cost money. If 1Password released a new paid version of their iOS app today, I'd upgrade immediately. It's an app that saves me time and manages something important to me.

I say all this to make the point that I'd gladly pay an addtional small subscription fee on top of the purchase price (or instead of) for the apps I use daily. I hope many developers use iOS 8 as a time to release a new paid version of their app. I'd like to see many developers release new paid editions on a schedule. I think 18 months from time of release seems like a fair upgrade cycle. We've got to make iOS app development sustainable for the big companies and the small companies.