Thoughts and Reflections about Software (Part Two)

(Part Two) A Note of Reflection from Roland Munyard @ GLASSHOUSE

Thoughts and Reflection about Software – Part Two

Hello, Apple, Extreme, Jamf, Schoolbox, Sophos, VMWare, AWS

A distillation of my thoughts about how your technology is being used to facilitate education. It’s a reflection about the different types of software and services we use at our College, why I choose these technologies and how they work together.

These notes are intended also to be useful to my suppliers and vendors as an indicator of their value to me. hence a note of reflection and recognition.

In case you missed it.

Suggestions

A “light touch” is what is needed because humans only want it to work, first time, every time.

Like the air we breathe, we don’t want to have to think about it, but we know instinctively when it is fresh.

Technology can only ever be about people and humanity and any “big brother style” deviation from this principle of servanthood will fail miserably.

Apple Inc.

Circa 2009, I began introducing Apple Technology into the College with the intention that it would become our primary student and teacher learning platform.

Since the introduction of Apple Technology, we have harvested measurable gains in simplicity, productivity and functionality.

“When “creatives” need to write a paper, produce a movie, record a song, browse the internet, or create or consume information, they need to do so without concern, fanfare or inhibition.” – Roland Munyard

I chose Apple technology and hardware as our teacher and student platform because Apple was delightfully honest about what they could and would do for us.

Why

  • Apple Devices are simple to use, easy to manage and secure.
  • There was no intermediary or ambiguity about costs, delivery or warranty.
  • They were refreshingly clear about what you could or would not do.
  • The cost of ownership and licensing was precise and clear.
  • They delivered exactly what was advertised and promised.
  • User and Student privacy inbuilt into the operating system.
  • Their reliability and battery longevity can be demonstrated.
  • They deliver a consistent user experience.

Educational Reasons

  • Education and Apple go hand in hand. (they always have)
  • Managing a fleet of school-owned devices in education is easier than ever, with Apple School Manager, Jamf Software.
  • I’m able to give students and Teachers “Full Local Administration Rights” and still retain full of control over my Mac Fleet.

Additionally

  • Apple design and keep things simple.
  • Which tasks Apple undertook they did reliably and consistently.
  • Apple spoke openly about tasks they are either unable or unwilling to do.

A School Managed Fleet

  • We own our entire fleet.
  • We manage our entire fleet.
  • We self insure our entire fleet.
  • We use Apple School Manager and Jamf.

Apple Technology, to the best of my understanding, delivers a “Hassle Free” environment to students, teachers, and staff.

Over the past 10 years, Apple Technology has:

  • Reduced overall costs of ownership.
  • Apple produced excellent software which is easily managed.
  • Reduced staffing and consulting requirements.
  • Enabled me to introduce a high degree of automation.
  • Enabled me to introduce “self-management” to staff and students.
  • Provided a flexible, secure, consistent environment for learning and teaching.
  • Apple Technology works reliably for 5, 6, 7 years and sometimes even longer.
  • Reduced the cost or computer repairs and damages.

The fact that we self insure our entire fleet demonstrates our confidence in the hardware product.

During Lockdown

  • Our entire fleet went home effortlessly.
  • We had about fifty (50) Tech Support requests from teachers staff and students.

…. just let that fact linger in your mind for a few seconds.

Only about 50 Support Requests related to hardware or configuration of about 1500 or 1600 Apple Devices in the hands of Students, Teachers and Parents during the holidays and lockdown period,

What else?

  • We get a return of 1/3 of our capital investment cost after 5, 6, or 7 years.
  • Just this year, since the start of 2020 (the past four months) I have sold over $70,000 dollars worth of secondhand 2013 and 2014 MacBooks.
  • When we sell them, they are freshly re-imaged with the operating system available.
    We sell our old Macbooks for $400 each, after 5-year use in education.
    Whoever said Apple was an expensive solution?

What next?

I intend to keep things simple, keep things agile, pursue excellence, and continue to improve our fleet of Macs. Ever the Mac Evangelist, I may write a bit more about Tech and showcase our environment to school and organisations interested.

See also

JAMF

We have used Jamf at our College since 2010.

“I doubt that a distributed fleet of over 1700 Apple devices can be successfully managed without Jamf or a comparable MDM product.”

I believe Jamf was then, in 2010, and still is now, the easiest most versatile and complete solution available for deploying and managing Apple Technology.

I choose Jamf because they have an excellent reputation and strong relationships with Apple, evidenced by the early release of updates, in response to fresh Apple releases.

Why

  • Jamf is the leading MDM solution and has been for a long time.
  • Jamf has a polished “Self Service” feature which makes it easy for users to help themselves to applications and tools, and to run printer and configuration settings cleanup scripts.
  • Jamf is a “no surprises” solution to distribute computer management
  • Jamf has remained elegant and usable over the past ten years.
  • Jamf Cloud is accessible from anywhere and is easy to use.
  • Jamf Cloud works as expected every time.
  • Jamf Cloud is Highly Available.
  • Migrated to Jamf Cloud from Jamf On Prem (2 Days Notice. (woke up one morning and decided to go to Jam Cloud.)

Educational Reasons

  • A high degree of control of Student and Teacher devices.
  • Easy and rapid deployment of Applications and Services.
  • Advanced Self Service Features – Students can help themselves.
  • Easier for Students to use and manage themselves.

How

  • It started with a six-week onsite demonstration and evaluation of Jamf Software working successfully in my environment.
  • Jamf demonstrated to me that they could manage my Apple fleet simply, easily and quickly, which convinced me the Jamf was the right product for me.
  • That was over 10 years ago now and we have never looked back,

JAMF Cloud

We moved over to Jamf Cloud in 2019, which allows my entire fleet of MacBooks to be managed from anywhere in the world.

Jamf may appear to be an expensive solution but it works out cheaper, and over the long run. – (numbers talk and  I can show you the numbers).

What Else

My advice to anyone in technology is to keep things simple.

  • Use Jamf the way it was designed to be used.
  • Use Apple Technology the way it was designed to be used.
  • Don’t “shoehorn” other ideologies into Apple’s framework.

See Also

Extreme Networks

Why

I was looking for something which would be reliable as well as easy to manage and use.

“I desperately wanted to be able to plug any device, into any port, in any switch, in any building anywhere around the College campus.”

I was looking for what I understood to be a true “Software Defined Network” solution and began researching various solutions available to me.

Our existing vendor was, unfortunately, failing on Support and Maintenance,

How

Extreme set up a WiFi POC in three regions (The Library, Secondary Administration, two classrooms) and they were able to demonstrate Extreme gear working reliably in our environment.

Since moving over to Extreme Networks at the end of 2017.

“I can plug any Computer, Telephone, Printer, WiFi Access Point, IP Bell, IP Speaker or Video Camera into any ports on any switches across our network and it will work reliably.”

Extreme Networks competitors had lots of writing on their tins but were either unable or unwilling to demonstrate it working as advertised. Many competitors had software dependencies built-in. (point of failure, a broad highway directly into depths of unfulfilled promises and dreams).

You provided us with a single interface to manage our network, and our see our all our devices to be SDN.

Advantages:

I can only hope that my colleagues have some full functional version of SDN running on their networks, below is a list of what I believe to be some of the advantages of using Extreme.

  • Reduced staffing, (I can allocate staff to more useful projects).
  • Set and Forget, (very low maintenance however I still do scheduled audits).
  • Performance, (can’t remember when last we experience any network issues).
  • Return on investment, (feels expensive, but works out cheaper).

What Else?

Like Apple, the total cost of ownership is low once you factor in performance, ease of use, and continuity.

See also.

Schoolbox

Why

I choose Schoolbox for the following reasons,

  • Firstly, the time was right, our school was ready for a high-end solution.
  • Secondly, other schools I trusted spoke highly of Schoolbox.
  • Thirdly, I needed our school community and management to invest and be committed, to a single product it was the only way I could ensure we would all follow through on our investment, and ‘boy oh boy’ did they follow through!

How

Our College has 100% take-up of Schoolbox

After a year and a half later, Schoolbox is used by all the College.

  • All of Primary.
  • All of Secondary.
  • All of Administration.

I’ll admit that Pre-Covid we had about 50% usage and Post-Covid we have 100% usage, and the word on the street is that we are never going back to the “old way” of doing things.

What Else

Schoolbox is simple and easy to manage. Please keep it that way.

See also.

VMWare

VMWare is one of those products which is easily overlooked because it simply works as advertised.

  • We have used VMWare since 2005.
  • We have full redundancy and failover onsite in different server rooms.
  • VMWARE and VEEAM work seamlessly together.

See also.

Installing two Lenovo Think Systemservers (SR630)

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS takes care of all my backups, it’s the “Bank!“, where we store all our “stocks and bonds“,

“I just don’t trust hardware”, their little yellow and green light flashing gibberish to me night and day”, and then every now and then they flash orange or red signal to signal that the road ahead is fraught with interruption, pain, suffering and expense.

Since using Amazon, I’m confident that my backups are safe and I don’t much care whether the lights flash orange red green or yellow, so long as I’m not responsible for the changing colour back to green and so long my data is safe as I can gain access to my information speedily.

How

  • Cost-effective backup solution.
  • A reliable offsite backup solution.

The proof is in the pudding.

I have proved that I can successfully restore my entire infrastructure from AWS.

See also.

What is AWS Disk (Import Export)

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A Letter of Appreciation to my Suppliers – (Part One).

A Letter of Appreciation from Roland Munyard @ GLASSHOUSE – (Part One).

Hello, Apple, Extreme, Jamf, Schoolbox, Sophos and Scott

Part One: 

This is a letter of appreciation, a note of recognition, a call to reflect and consider how your partnership has served a small community of about 2500 students, parents, teachers and staff in a corner of the Sunshine Coast.

I would like each of you to know that variously and collectively you’ve been instrumental in making our lockdown a wonderful technological experience.

‘Wonderful’ Is perhaps a little rich, so instead, I will use words like, successful, effortless, seamless, uneventful, to describe our “Technology Environment”  and “User Experience” during the lockdown.

Each of your organisations has contributed in some way to delivering technology which is simple and easy to use.

Over the years, you have helped me avoid clutter, complexity and obfuscation, all of which I believe to be the enemy and inhibitor of progress and innovation.

Looking back over the years and in particular at 2020, I see clearly as one sees after the storm when the sun shines, and the air is crisp and clean, how different our lockdown experience appears to have been compared to other organisations I’ve read about.

  • We did absolutely nothing differently,
  • We did not need to tweak or touch our environments,
  • We did not need to work harder, or faster or longer,
  • We did not want for anything at all, we did not miss a beat,
  • We simply continued to use our regular technology and classes resumed at home.

I delight inefficiency, and as many of you know, my team comprises of  3.4 staff members, including myself. We manage over 1700 devices and 1200 students and 170 staff, and let’s say about 1000 parents.

It took us less than three days to unleash our entire fleet of technology to our student, teacher and parent community and most of that time was about requiring a signature from the parents, students or members of staff who loaned devices from us.

  • All 1160 students took home their MacBook or iPad (Year 1 – 12).
  • Every Teacher took home their MacBook + a 13” iPad Pro (1 + 1).
  • Every Teacher Aide took home MacBook + a 13” iPad Pro (1 + 1).
  • All Prep Parents were offered a MacBook or iPad Pro. (many accepted).
  • Administration Staff were offered a MacBook and iPad.  (a few accepted).
  • In total, about 1500+ devices went home.

Nothing needed changing; everything continued operating as usual.

  • Apple MacBooks and iPads worked seamlessly, onsite and offsite.
  • Jamf Cloud took care or software deployment and software updates.
  • Google Applications to care of Mail, Documents, Drive etc.
  • Schoolbox LMS took care of class management and learn onsite and offsite.
  • Sophos Cloud and Sophos Home took care of security.
  • Azure Single Sign-On continued as usual for all our applications
  • Scott my trusty Windows consultant took care of VMWare, Windows, and VEEAM.

As I said earlier, it was a simple, effortless exercise, so thank you.

Part Two: will follow in a day or two and will explain precisely how your contribution has helped me keep things simple, agile, and efficient.

Yes, there are dozens of layers of software involved, but you guys are the pillars I’ve chosen to trust and work with and I wish to thank you for our strong relationship.

Until then, please feel free to call me on 0410 210 870 and have a chat.

Kind regards

Roland

— o0o —

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An Illustrated History of Easter Eggs – James Thomson at Hacking with Swift Live 2019

 

A pleasant bit of nostalgia about easter egg

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Our Schoolbox Executive and Superuser Sessions

Our Executive and Superuser Sessions went very well and I am quite happy with what was accomplished on Thursday the 9th of April (All Day).

The Executive sessions are designed to ensure we are all working towards the same goal. Our trainer and guide Bell Chlosey managed the executive team well and did a great at keeping everyone focused and collecting information we needed to consider about our College and Community.

From what I could gather her task was to collect information from each of the stakeholders by asking strategic questions related to their specific area of responsibility and then taking us on a tour of Schoolbox demonstrating and revealing which parts of Schoolbox she believed we might be most interested in or advantaed by.

Our Executive Schoolbox Team 2019

By midday, I had successfully persuaded the key stakeholders who were part of the Executive to also attend the superuser session suggesting that they would very likely need to play a significant part helping me establish the initial framework and foundation.The Super User sessions were held immediately after the Executive sessions.

At the very least the executive team now have a better understanding about the size and scale of this project, a firm realisation that Schoolbox is a complex product which will require strategic planning and investment from every stakeholder to successfully roll out in our College.

On one hand, I’m a little disappointed to realise that my deepest fears about the company Schoolbox, as I’d suspected from the outset of this journey, are in fact true. “Schoolbox as a business” would like us to hurry slowly whereas I like to work and move swiftly by applying what I call “The Short Shap Shock”.

Rapid implementation mixed with and agility often works best and prevents projects from being derailed or becoming unnecessarily bureaucratic.

On the other, and quite naturally the product has the potential consolidate the various avenues we use in the college to share information and content with our students, staff and parents. Schoolbox will do also facilitate how we collect information from our staff, parents and students.

Executive and Super User Sessions

I’ll be careful to press forward with a strategic and well-timed, implication of some of the key features available in Schoolbox, those features which bring the highest return, other this might become an awkward and burdensome addition to our college if two many feature are enabled at once.

We’ve made significant progress, but unfortunately, we are still not very far down my list of initial objectives for Schoolbox,

What we have completed since 28th February 2019

  • Schoolbox Meetup / Conference in Melbourne
  • Executive Decision to invest in Schoolbox
  • Product Purchase
  • Schoolbox Installed (Production and Development)
  • Kick Start Meeting
  • Executive Session
  • Super Users Session

What we still have to do before November 2019

 

 

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Extreme Wireless Consulting Onsite April 2019

Extreme Wireless and Networking have been operational across our school campus for about 18 months with very positive results, and I’ll happily share our journey, experience, pre or post-Extreme across our campus,  with anyone who cares to ask me.

We have only just completed a full Audit and Tune-up of our Wireless was working well why would I possibly need two engineers on-site to do a tune-up on our Wireless Environment?

I feel it’s important to do scheduled audits of your environment, and to check the quality and performance of your software, having Extreme Services and Consulting on-site for a few days is a way being a way to evaluate on the quality and performance of our network.

Trusty Extreme Consultants April 2019

Lovedeep and John onsite for a few days auditing our network

Scope of Works

Extreme Wireless Scope of Works 2019Josh together with our two extreme consultants Lovedeep and John all got a lot done over the two days of consulting.

You can see some of my later notes about Extreme Networking here

  1. A Letter of Appreciation to my Suppliers – (Part One).
  2. Thoughts and Reflections about Software (Part Two)
  3. Extreme Connect Conference Scottsdale Phoenix Arizona

 

 

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SchoolBox has Arrived – 29th April 2019

In many ways this is the true first day for Schoolbox in our College.  I logged in successfully and had a look around Up until this point we’ve participated in a great deal of discussion, negotiating timelines, and strategising about outcomes and delivery.

Schoolbox has arrived 29th April 2019

I’ve always understood, and it’s been my experience that there is often much more to a new implementation than that which meets the eye. This explains why I feel comfortable but not entirely satisfied with the the progress we have made to this point in time.

 

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Schoolbox Kick-off Meeting on 1st April 2019

According to the Schoolbox the Kick Start meeting is simply a telephone call from a member of the Schoolbox Support team with your own IT Team designed your align their technical requirement with your own onsite technical resource.

Schoolbox Project Kick off Meeting

I was not clear about this at first so it came as some surprise to me that this was all it was, “There Customer and Support Team speaking with my Customer and Support Team”,  even so, it still took a little longer than I had expected it to.

They send me through a new customer form, again this was surprising because I had already completed a detailed form very early in our relationship, outlining our key stakeholders, billing, support and project stakeholders.

They previously and very kindly added me to their support Helpdesk which enabled me to open tickets and support request,  since then I have been very careful to use their Zendesk Helpdesk implementations for all my questions and support communication with Schoolbox.

Schoolbox Kick-off Agenda

Schoolbox Kick Off Meeting Agenda

I quite like the way Schoolbox work, you know where you stand and you have some idea are where you are going. They appear to be efficient at keeping notes, and setting achievable goals, and recording milestones along the way. All the same, I’m keeping my own set of records and planning notes.

I feel that Schoolbox is aligned with my plans and determination to make Schoobox a  successful project and implementation within our College.

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