Accessing iBooks from online

Just a proof of concept that uploading an iBook for parents at schools can happen as easily as a Parent iBook proof of concept download link.

How to get it working in WP

So you’re going to need to add a MIME type to your WordPress if you want to download iBooks from it =)

Go find a plugin

I’m not going to tell you to jump in and modify your function or phpconfigs – go find a plugin. I use Manage Upload Types v1.2  by Jeremy Madea you can get it by visiting the Manage Upload Type plugin site.

Once you have a MIME type configuration tool you will need to add the following type:

ibooks        application/x-ibooks+zip

It only took a little googling to find This solved my question Re: Ibooks – download website link not working on the Apple Support forums. So full kudos to v76yo who already did the hard work for us.

iTunes U – Course image title bar colour

How obscure can those little finishing touches be?

Currently we’re doing a set of Course Images for an iTunes U course so we can get a College wide branding.

We wanted to now how to get the title of the course label across the bottom to be the colour we wanted. We could tell that it was automatically grabbed from the image and after some emails back and forth to Apple we found out that there is a specific pixel that is used to select the colour.

So we could brand each area with their colours and still have a nice constant look and feel we decided to try it out. Unfortunately  we had a bit of a communication break down and add to that nowhere on the net we could find the answer we just went off and trial by error found the right one. Thats when realised that engineers count different to us.

 

what I’d google search for this article: iTunes U course image title bar colour  how to set or change

 

engineers:

 

everyone else

 

Its not really that confusing when you look at the picture:

iTunes U course title bar colour pice

 

 

The image has to be 600*600px…

yes we know that it says “or larger”, we tried uploading a 1200*1200px image on our first few times and it didn’t work. We adjusted the image size to 600px and it went up first shot.

We’ve been discussing if we should make an app for creating the cover images and setting the title bar colour if you’re interested just leave a comment  and we’ll let everyone know what happens.

eBoard Solutions

update (8 March 2012)The new Apple TV released this morning provides 1080p HD – it also runs on iOS5.1. The current process will not work with the new Apple TV or iOS5.1. If you update your Apple TV to iOS5.1 you currently will not be able to use the device as an eBoard. FireCore will undoubtedly release a new Seas0nPass and aTV3 flash eventually and I’ll let you know when they do.

A simple software solution to implementing a scalable eBoard system. The first eBoard system using Apple TV 2 hardware was conceived and deployed at a college and it came with a few provisors. Namely that the number of manageable number of eBoards would be no more than 5, but after the introduction of the initial 3 their value and the promise of their potential, meant that with in months they are burgeoning on having 25+ eBoards through out the college. The solution below will be cheap enough that primary schools could afford to set this up.

When you consider adding an Apple TV 2 adds wireless mirroring, you can understand how for a very small outlay you could also add them to existing projectors (many colleges are doing this, and financially it makes sense) to provide the same functionality of an expensive custom system. You might be thinking by this point “Well that’s nice but you started of saying only 5…?” and thats what I’d hope you would be thinking, as well as how incredible the advantages of adding Apple TV 2’s to classroom projectors is.

So why 5? well simply the set up and management get out of control very quickly and at a college where there are lots of MacBooks, iMacs or iPads the traffic across the bonjour network (not to mention mDNSResponder hiccups on windows hardware) means that even with a small 1 to 1 cohort your eBoard will drop connection with the managing iTunes account. Also to refresh the eBoards requires a script to reset iTunes on the managing computer. So managing more than 5 eBoards using the standard setup just becomes too much overhead.

The Solution

In the interests of people that don’t actually read the whole article I will leave out the original design and in place I will leave the revised version yay! So here is what your going to need to do and why this solution might only be temporary. Even though I generally hate hearing the solution to Apple hardware solutions requiring Seas0nPassing (JailBreaking) I have to admit that in a college this is the only way to keep costs down and infrastructure change to a minimum. This also provides the first problem as thanks to a ruling in 2010 the US Copyright Office essentially made Seas0nPassing legally acceptable, that is until later next month when the rulings time limit  will run out. Hopefully the ruling will be be made permanent (go here to help the EFF make that happen) and I won’t have to write a new and more complex solution later.

What you need

Hardware:

  • Apple TV 2
  • TV (720p or higher)
  • HDMI cable (not expensive ones)
  • Micro USB cable

You will also want something to mount the TV where you want it and something to mount the Apple TV 2 where you want it. The Apple TV 2 requires line of sight for the remote control to work so take that into consideration. Also if you mount the Apple TV 2 in a bracket, ensure that it is not enclosed by metal as it will affect the wireless signal (check it in place to make sure the connection and signal is fine before you do anything drastic.

Infastructure:

  • wireless network that allows bonjour (port 5353)
  •  power
  • computer

If you have a wired connection and you can get an ethernet cable to the Apple TV 2 there is obviously no need for the wireless network, but add an ethernet cable to the hardware requirements. Check that the reflections in the room won’t interfere with viewing the TV from the most common angles. Yes, I’ve seen things installed with out the power points in place so check.

Software:

You are also going to need a install all the above software on to the computer before we start. This can be done from any computer there is no specific requirement to use either a Apple or Windows OS.

What to do

Test that the Apple TV 2 has connection to the network from where you plan to install the  TV. The Apple TV 2 has no facility for connection to the internet through a proxy so just having signal to the network is all that you need. Install the TV and test the Apple TV configuration connects to your network.

Seas0nPass:

Get your computer with the latest version of iTunes and an internet connection, you’ll also need the apple TV 2, a power cord for the Apple TV 2 and the micro USB cable. follow the instructions here to Seas0nPass the Apple TV 2. The only tip that might help here is that sometimes the USB cable doesn’t provide enough power to get the Apple TV 2 into DFU mode, so you can jump start that bit by plugging in the power cord and once the DFU mode is initiated (quick flashing light)  remove the power cord.

Be patient I did 4 in a row perfectly then had one that took 5 attempts to get right, just know that it will work and you have every right to hate the iTunes error messages. A quick google search will help with the codes but basically make sure the power cord doesn’t stay attached, don’t put the HDMI cable near it until it is Seas0nPassed and make sure you disconnect any devices that are connected to your iTunes this includes connection with Wifi Sync.

aTV Flash:

After successfully Seas0nPassing the Apple TV 2, go and install and mount the Apple TV 2 to the TV. Configure it to the network settings (get the IP address of the Apple TV 2) and then return to you computer to start the aTV Flash. Make sure you are on the same network as the Apple TV 2 as this program will find the Apple TV 2  with out it being physically connected to your computer. Run aTV Flash on the Apple TV 2 by selecting the correct IP address.

DropBox:

 This is optional if you have a solid shared drive structure at your college, but this way allows for connection from anywhere, anytime and ensures there is an independent backup of the messages. This is where management and scalability becomes much easier too, in fact even with the original setup this is the key to managing multiple eBoards. Download and install DropBox onto the managing computer, many IT Admins won’t necessarily like the idea of installing DropBox onto a server and that is not  a problem, just install it on a computer that will have un interrupted connection to your network and to the internet. Get a SMB share setup with the folder structure that matches how you want to deploy the eBoards. Connect your managing computers file connection to the SMB share to be synced in the DropBox.

Now based on who you want to be able to manage each eBoard share the synced folders setting permissions through DropBox. This means that the Staff or Students that are in charge of updating the eBoard can set up DropBox on their devices and instantly update to the eBoards by copy files into the correct folder on their local device.

XBMC: 

This is the part that makes Seas0nPassing worth it, go to your Apple TV 2 and you will find that aTV Flash will have installed a Management option on the Apple TV 2 menu, inside you can navigate through and enable XBMC. Once installed, enter the XBMC main menu item, from here you can navigate through to Pictures. Add the SMB share folder for the eBoard and thats it working. From here I suggest going through and disabling the majority of the menu options and adding your own graphics to brand the setup  and as a tip don’t remove the settings  menu from the main menu of XBMC.

Interestingly you can use XBMC from behind a proxy  to access the internet and even set up a http control panel to manage it but you won’t really need it unless you plan on taking over all the Apple TV 2’s and broadcasting the same looping video or something similar as XBMC was designed much like the Apple TV 2 to be a personal entertainment system.

Keynote – PowerPoint:

The eBoard is designed to show pictures only, this means either becoming very efficient at Photoshop or utilising presentation software. Create your own template that suits your users and brand it so it looks like the kind of message board you intend the eBoard to feel like. Store the template in a shared drive available from the DropBox this way the slides for each eBoard can use the previous  days layout. Both Keynote and PowerPoint allow you to export presentations as a set of pictures and uploading, deleting and managing existing pictures in the shared DropBox folder allows ownership and control of the eBoards for Staff and Students.

The Conclusion

With iPad mirroring intact and all the advantages that the Apple TV 2 and an iPad provide in conjunction they should be considered a smart board killer. The apps and the flexibility of having students engage with this type of system is both scary and exciting the benefits are huge and policy is the best method for developing correct use. Colleges and schools can use the scalability of this implementation for a variety of scopes and the flexibility of the system allows anyone to set this up. It is also, despite what it might sound like above, a very simple process to get them into place. There are many ways to setup an eBoard the advantages of which are quickly realised once in place.

If you have any questions or need any help contact me or leave a comment below.

Final Tips:

Make sure the Apple TV 2 is set to never sleep and the screen saver is not on.

Use the same type of settings in the XBMC too.

iPad mirroring and passwords will become a big issue, make your policy about who can use the Apple TV 2 as a mirroring device, who has password access  etc. very clear from the start.

Staff passwords are vulnerable whilst being projected on any screen and with the iPad showing the character for a brief second, Staff and Studtends need to know not to type passwords when they are mirroring.

Choose a good theme from XBMC and spend a bit of time branding the look of it.

If you need to refresh something thats not working for some reason on the Apple TV 2 there is an option in XBMC to do a restart and it will reset the devices cached memory.

eBoard Messaging system using TV2s

TV2s as a cost effective implementation of a college message board system

After many a false turn and problem discovery (they lurk behind every corner) we finally have a generic styled multi user eBoard system. I’m finishing of the documentation still and will be training the relevant staff early next week on how it all works.

A few quick tips if your heading down the path though :

  • TV2s are near the cheapest solution you’ll find (until the RasberryPi)
  • You don’t need commercial grade TVs just get something BIG and currently TV2 is only capable of 720p, so no need for a super HiDef TV cause it’ll go to waste. Try and get a TV with an auto on and off timer, most TVs come wit this standard.
  • Teach the TV to recognise the TV remote as an TV@ remote.
  • Don’t forget you need HDMI cables too, The Apple ones available online are actually great for price and they’ll arrive with the devices.
  • If your behind a proxy – forget about internet connectivity (unless you have a Kolbe iProxy setup), this also means expect to take them offsite to do the required updates before installation as they have no proxy settings.
  • You will need a single dedicated machine and NO it can not be your server (Your Server is probably on a different vLAN by now anyway right?)
  • Figure out who your invested users are early, once people see it working during testing they’ll all want in. Having selected the managing staff early will make them endeavour to make it work (if it isn’t updated daily then you wasted a heap of money on what could have essentially been done with a printer).
  • Get a slick Keynote, intact get it so good that it can double as your College external presentations template, the branding will give all staff and students a sense of ownership too.
  • No matter what your ICT department thinks, it can be done, infact there are so many ways to do it I plan on posting the best way we have discovered.
  • AirPlay is awesome and dangerous… Make sure you know early on how you want to deal with AirPlay mirroring as it is the great extension of the device and is not easily traceable. Get your policy right before it goes in and let the staff know not to type passwords whilst mirroring.
  • Dropbox is your answer – for many reasons the most important of which is that the service automatically updates folders and connection even after outages. No need to write SSH keys and scripts.
  • Dropbox is your answer – yep its important enough to mentioned twice, this is the simplest way to control staff access and even student level access if you wish, just share the appropriate folder… so simple. Plus you effectively allow staff the freedom to share pictures and information from anywhere (imagine that Pilgrimage, Ski Trip or Conference being uploaded in real time)
  • Don’t rush it, the eBoards are a form of communication, it’s better to get them right than turn people off them by implementing them badly. Get the right people involved.