Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Google Drive Going Away Message

The Google Drive App is a seriously awesome resource for backing up your digital stuff. Running on your MacBook, Google Drive is a lot like a virtual flash drive - but without the likelihood of dying in your washer, landing in the grocery store parking lot, or suffering some other kind of failure. I've posted a few times on the benefits of using Google Drive with your MacBook here, and here, and here and here and here,  It's an excellent resource for backing up your MacBook and the stand alone files some are still using like word docs, presentations, exam view tests, PDFs, videos, and other things you might store locally.  Numerous times during the last four years, the Google Drive App has allowed people to quickly and painlessly recover from hardware failures and software collapses. It does a great job of backing up  and - when disaster strikes - restoring your stuff.

Last fall, Google announced the retirement of the Google Drive App for Mac and PC computers.  As the  end of February nears, Google is scaring the daylight out of users, warning them that Google Drive for Mac/PC is going away soon.

Google's indelicate, panic inducing drive warning

While the Google Drive App for Mac and PC may be going away, Google Drive cloud based storage is, at this point, not going anywhere. And while the app itself is being retired, it is being replaced with two refreshed versions. Google File Stream is intended for business and education accounts. Google Backup and Sync is intended for consumer accounts. In my review of both products, I find they both work well, are easy to install and use, and each offers a fresher interface. Personally, I like the look and feel of Google Backup and Sync better than File Stream. It's just a bit cleaner. However, File Stream offers the ability to backup and sync Team Drives, which many EWG users are beginning to explore. If syncing Team Drives is important to you, consider using File Stream.

The deprecation of the Google Drive app running on your MacBook or PC is no reason to stop using Google Drive as your cloud based backup. Simply upgrade to File Stream or Backup and Sync. For those still using discrete, standalone files, an automatic backup and sync tool like those mentioned is still beyond important. Update your MacBook today to keep your backups current.

If you have questions about which Google Drive backup and sync tool is right for you, (and you're an EWG employee ;-)), contact me.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Embed Video from Google Drive

Youtube is arguably an easier, better place than Google Drive for video distribution. The statistics YouTube keeps on your videos include information about your audience, how many times your video has been viewed, at what point people stopped watching your video, and a lot more. Yet, there may be occasions when, for whatever reason, you just want to host a video in Google Drive. The video below shows how to embed a Google Drive video in your blogger blog, or anywhere else.

You can also upload video directly to your blog. While uploading directly is quite easy, you get less control over and less information about your video and how it is being used.

Video uploaded directly to Blogger

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Top EWG Tech Tips For 2018

Traveling throughout the district, I get to see tech supporting powerful, collaborative, thought provoking activities every day. I also get to see simple things that slow down or otherwise break tech. Remember, tech only breaks when you need it most so avoiding any kind of tech disruption is key. As the calendar year begins anew, I thought a top ten tech tips would be helpful.  Here it is.

  1. Take your laptop to the printer. Few things are worse than trudging back to your room to reprint after digital demons devour your first or second print job. Take your laptop to the printer.
  2. Large radius power cable loops are charger friendly. Bend your power cable sharply and tightly, and it will break. Replacements are expensive, and IT people will growl at you for wrecking their equipment. Again, make big radius, cable friendly loops when storing your power supply. 
    Cable friendly loops
  3. If you still use lots of standalone office apps like word, excel, or powerpoint, ExamView, or something else not cloud based, Google Drive is still your friend. On the MacBook, you can use Google File Stream to automatically sync your documents and other files to your Google Drive. Think of Google File Stream as a virtual flash drive that automatically backs up your stuff. That your stuff is backed up is important, because no one else is backing up your stuff. Use Google File Stream today, and use it tomorrow. Once the smoke escapes its MacBook confines, it's too late to start. Oh, and that smoke? It's your data -potentially years of work - going to a digital oblivion.
  4. Still using a flash drive as every day storage for documents, curriculum, student work, tests, and other important stuff? Stop it. Before you send your flash drive through the laundry, lose it at the grocery store, or it just quits working - (taking years of data with it), migrate to the cloud. We're a Google school, so using and backing up to Google Drive makes sense, but you can also use Dropbox, Onedrive, iCloud, or something else. Get over the fallacy that you can keep your flash drives and data safer than cloud based providers.
  5. Still emailing documents, PDFs, and other files to colleagues? 1996 was a long time ago. Collaborate and share through GDrive or something else, instead. That way, everyone enjoys access to the same, current, up-to-date document.
  6. It's okay to upgrade your MacBook to High Sierra. Sure, for years you were told not to because it would break your wifi connection at school. That is no longer the case, and upgrades are now recommended. Plug your device in, hit the upgrade button from the Apps Store update tab, and let the process happen. Your MacBook will perform better, enjoy longer battery life, and also provide better end user security.
  7. Rebooting your Chromebook, MacBook, iPad, or other devices fixes most problems. Sound not sounding? Clicker not clicking? Display not displaying? Reboot. Do this before submitting a ticket or calling IT.
  8.  Be kind to display adapter dongles. Using a display adapter dongle as a laptop rest is a proven way to make sure it is broken when you
    Dongles are not weight bearing supports!
    need it most. It should bear no weight nor suffer twisting, torquing strains.
  9. Do not perform any laptop, iPad, or network upgrades during the school day or just before you want to use your device, especially if your students are testing, presenting, performing, or otherwise involved in some kind of learning activity. Ditto for final project/exam periods. Updates will always take longer than expected, especially if the margin of time to upgrade approaches the amount of time available.
  10. If your students are to watch a video during class time, consider projecting it through a single device, rather than having everyone stream the video. Our district's bandwidth is awesome, but 25 plus streams from Youtube or some other media source is likely to give everyone in your class a good dose of the buffering hour glass. Playing a video on one device is roughly analogous to carpooling; something we should probably do more often.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Would you like underwear with that lesson?

Yes, Google, Facebook, and others have connected the dots between your work accounts, your personal accounts, and the accounts of your significant others. Recent events unfolded to reinforce that notion last week while using my laptop during a second grade interactive whiteboard faculty CPT.

During the session, while tapping the board and more or less randomly clicking links to demonstrate interactive mode, I landed on the weather channel's home page. There, in a giant banner add, was a graphic for underwear of the brand recently purchased by my significant other. Of course, the add drew snickers, incited crowd ridicule, and a encouraged general guffaw fueled disruption. Once things settled down, one teacher thoughtfully asked, "How can I prevent an advertisement like that from displaying on my screen?"

The simple answer is to use an add blocker. Add blockers are available for most browsers, including Chrome. A quick view of the Chrome Web Store shows at least a few available.
Add Blocker Extensions
One Chrome add blocker which is particularly effective and easy to use is u-block origin. Its five star user rating matches its ease of use and efficacy. U-block origin works wonderfully. It is not, though, without concern. Simply installing the extension requires users to accept to fairly hefty permissions. U-block can Read and change all the data on web sites you visit and Change your privacy related settings. So, one must have a good amount of faith that u-block's publishers don't collect that data or intentionally change privacy settings (both now or in the future) for their gain and your loss.

Would I use u-block for my school account? Probably. It is favorably viewed by the using public. U-block's code is publicly hosted on github, meaning its source code is largely available for review. U-block has, as of this writing, 68 contributors; if there was a problem with data theft or other nefarious activity, such issues would likely be discovered, disclosed, and used to discredit u-block.

Would I use u-block for a personal account through which I conduct online banking or other sensitive material? Not yet. Stay tuned, though, that could change. If it does, I'll provide an update.

Finally, much of what we take for granted as being free on the internet is really not free. Advertisements support much of what we enjoy, what we use, and what we increasingly rely on. Advertising revenue pays the light bills, keeps big server farms cool, and buys more hard drives so you can upload more videos and photos of your holiday gatherings, vacations, and cats. Many sites will force you to reconcile that reality with a plea to your moral sensibilities as they ask you to stop running the ad blocker - which publishers can detect and which they will try to circumvent. Spy versus spy, version 2017...

Friday, December 15, 2017

Aspen Attendance Issues

Some senior high teachers are experiencing problems sending attendance to the office. Simply put, teachers click "Post" to send attendance, and Aspen reports that the attendance was sent to the office. However, the office doesn't actually receive the attendance. The cause of the problem, I imagine, is an Aspen bug. Or, perhaps it's really a feature. Who knows? If you would like to enjoy an increased likelihood that the office actually receives your attendance, use the method described in the accompanying video.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Connect Your Phone to EWG_Staff

There are many reasons for connecting your personal device to the district's network. A few include:

  • Save on your personal data plan.
  • Some rooms have no cell service at all. Connecting to the district's network gives your device a connection.
  • Speed the upload of images and videos to your drive. Your connection to the school's network will greatly improve your upload and download times.
Of course, there are reasons you might not want to connect to the school's network. A few include:
  • Your activity is logged.
  • Your traffic, however unlikely, *could* be intercepted by district personnel.
  • Resources you might ordinarily access like reddit, for example, may be blocked.
In my mind, the benefits of connecting to the district's network outweigh any concerns. The speed, availability, and reliability is simply outstanding.  In the case of lower floor rooms at Metcalf, accessing resources through district wifi may be the only way to connect, period.

To connect to ewg_staff, you will need to know the username and password of your old windows account. That's the account you probably haven't used since receiving your MacBook Air in June, 2014. The username format is first_last with *no* @ewg... following; just first_last. The password is, well, whatever you used back in 2014. Perhaps. What? You forgot that username and account from 2014? Ouch! Take a look at the included video. It shows you how to use your MacBook Air to look up your username and password; the same username and password that you can use to connect to ewg_staff. If, after watching the video, you are still stuck, let me know.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Epson Interactive Whiteboards

The (fantastic!) new projectors in second and third grade classrooms try to install software the first time you connect your MacBook. It's okay to install it; it helps your MacBook connect to the projector.

Sadly, that software install lacks the drivers to make your whiteboard's interactive features fly. To make matters worse, it actually messes with and disables the click feature of your trackpad when you are connect to the projector via usb cable. Why does this happen in 2017? I don't know. Built in obstacles are annoying. In this case, though, an easy solution exists. Simply install the Easy Interactive Driver (which Epson should have bundled with the projector's own software install). The Mac version is available from Epson's site.