Monday, 25 September 2017

Uploading your class to Google GSuite admin for Schools.

If your school has Chromebooks or anything that uses Google services, at some point, either as a head or an IT leader, you're going to realise you need to upload your entire school to Google Admin console. This can seem like an overwhelming task.

You could input this information pupil by pupil (not advised) or you can upload a .csv ('comma separated value file' or 'spreadsheet'). 
Stay with me, it doesn't matter if you don't know what this means or not. 

You also need to input every pupils email address, and create a unique password for them. Imagine trying to make 200-300 passwords up!
Doing this manually is a wicked waste of any teacher or secretaries time. So I'm going to share my tips for simplifying this seemingly overwhelming task. 

Fig 1

Login to you google admin console. Click Add Multiple users. (see fig 1 - this option only shows up under USERS and the top level of the organisation). 

Select add multiple users. Then click download as .CSV (see fig 2)

Fig 2

Once that file has downloaded, upload it to your google drive. (open and login). 

Drag the file into your google drive. 

Goto and open the spreadsheet you just uploaded. 

When you open the sheet, you'll see many columns, the only ones we need are columns a through to d
a) First Name
b) Surname
c) Email Address
d) Password

The first two you will need to have ready on a spreadsheet first. Ensure that they're in the correct order (Column 1 First names, Column 2 Surnames) and simply copy and paste that data into the spreadsheet. 


Now we need to populate the email address field. In the box to the right of the surname of the top student (should be row 2) 
We need to tell the spreadsheet to create an email address

This example assumes you'll want your email address to look something like this. 

For a pupil with the name John Doe

If your list is first names and surnames we need to pull the first initial from the pupils first name. 

Assuming the first pupil on your sheet is in row 2, in cell F,2 type 


This lovely little string tells the sheet to pull the first letter from the Cell with the name in it (A2) and add a full stop & then add the surname, and then the school domain. NB - Don't actually write put your schools ACTUAL domain example '' 

In a nutshell, this will create the email for the pupil. Which may seem like a lot of hard work for one pupil. However, now you have it, you can drag the box to the bottom of the list and it will auto populate the email address column. 

To do this, select the column with the equation in, either double click the small blue square, or drag the small blue square (see fig 3) in the bottom right of the cell straight down column C. This will duplicate the equation relative to the rest of the data and create your email addresses.
Fig 3

NB - If you want to differentiate pupil emails from teacher emails (and avoid duplicates), you may want to either use your teachers full names on their accounts, just use Mr or Miss/Mrs etc, or add a .p to all of the pupil accounts. In the last eaxmple, that would mean the equation you entered above would look like this


The only thing different being the & dot p

This would create the email address


Amend any email addresses manually (Lose the EQUATION and just type over the data in the cell with a made up email address). 


First thing we need to do is to add a plug in to google docs, which is much easier than it sounds. Follow this link and click install.

When the plugin is installed select all of the cells in the password column 

Fig 4
On the tool bar (Fig 4), choose Add-ons, Random Generator and Start.

From here, it's really simple to decide how to generate your passwords. 

For simplicity for the children, I've chosen a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and I've excluded special characters. I've also made the passwords 8 characters in length. 

Fig 5
Once you've chosen your options simply click the generate button (Fig 5) and within a second or so, you'll have all of your random passwords generated as well as the emails. 


Now we made it this far we simply need to copy the data we've generated into the original CSV file on your desktop. Select all of the data and press CMD and C or CTRL and V. 

Copying and pasting into numbers (Mac), just pastes the data (not the equations) which is exactly what we need. 

On Excel, Click Paste Special and select Text only or Values only. 


It's plain sailing now, go back to Step one and click add multiple users, then upload your CSV file. 

I hope this helps make what is an otherwise agonising job, somehwat more bearable and considerably less time consuming. 

Disclaimer - I accept no responsibility for incompetence. The above is intended to be a guide only and is followed at your own risk etc etc, It's your responsibility to ensure you don't mess up your schools g-suite account, unless you want to hire me. In which case the email is

Friday, 22 September 2017

Microsoft Store Customer Care.....

So; family sharing.

Setting up a family account with either Google, Apple or Microsoft has a number of benefits, for example locating your kids (and wife), controlling PC access, checking web history, setting parental controls and generally looking after your family online.

Plus, the great benefit of sharing apps between a number of family devices. For example; Minecraft, which our family is heavily into, having built @chester_craft on Xbox 360 and having over 2 million downloads via maps for minecraft on Android (Search Chester if you want it for free).

We've used family sharing on Apple devices in the past, Downloading Minecraft on the Parent iOS device, and easily downloading it for free on a childs device.
However everything over at Apple hasn't always been plain sailing, sometimes I've had problems with purchases, which have needed rectifying.
Once my very young daughter inadvertently bought £12 of in app purchases (while in app purchasing was still in it's infancy). In that situation, via iTunes, I logged into my account clicked 'report a problem' next to the item, filled out a quick form, explained whats happened and had the issue resolved with shockingly good customer care very quickly.

When I recently purchased a PC for work (for a Minecraft job oddly) I ensured that family setting was working as best as I could. My children are listed on my family correctly on my account page and should be able to share apps purchased via the Microsoft Store. 'The shopping bag icon in my taskbar' as this guy on hold keeps reminding me about every 3 minutes (I'm 46 minutes on hold as I type, I've just had a battery low warning on the handset as I have it on speakerphone, so I'm not hopeful).

Anyway, in my first month, I purchased Minecraft for Windows, with the view of getting our Chester map onto it later (I teach digital media in schools as well, so it could be used for educational purposes). A couple of months back, I bought my two girls Acer laptops with Windows 10, primarily for school, but also, we ought to be able to play Minecraft together, like we do on Xbox, only full screen. Alas no. When my daughter logs in, using her child account on her laptop, her only option is to buy it for £22.49.

So I tweeted @Microsoftstore and stated that it should be easier than this.
The first reply sent me to a Minecraft help page. I replied that this didn't address the problem.
The next solution was to log in using my daughters account on my PC, effectively creating a new user profile on my computer - which I don't really want, but nevertheless, I did it anyway. But disappointingly, that didn't work either. Via Twitter, again I explained that when she did this, on my computer, the store said she could 'play' or 'buy to keep'(? Huh) But on hers, it still said 'Buy', or 'play free trial'. None of which acknowledged that it was in our 'family library' and ought to be obtainable free of cost.

So, back on twitter and I'm redirected to some help pages for the Microsoft store. I click the obvious connection to contact them (email) and this lets me share the support page with someone else (aaargh).

I find another link which takes me through to what appears to be a Tezcorp robot.

Here's our chat.

Basically she wants to explain Emoji's in Skype to me after a question about Minecraft and family sharing? Go figure, one of the most powerful IT comanies in the world and a question with the phrases 'minecraft' and 'family sharing' results in an answer about skype and emojis. Pull the plug on this junk Microsoft it does your reputation as much good as the HMRC robots. 

So (obviously) I return to Twitter - where I'm asked if I tried calling. Like they used to do in the olden days. Alas, I have not, and I come to the realisation that perhaps a good old fashioned phone call might be the only way.

I point out however that the page I have been directed to has no UK phone numbers, and I'm offered another one, which (thank goodness has an 0800 number). I thank them for the freefone number, but then I'm directed to another page, with an 0344 number, no thanks, I'll stick with the freefone number.

(Spoiler alert - Phone has just died this story has a sad end).

So I call and after only a couple of minutes I speak to the first person. Sadly, he cannot help me, but he knows a guy who can and puts me through. 12 minutes later and my saviour answers, however, he can only help me with Microsoft store purchases. Huh, I explain, that's exactly what I'm having a problem with, but no, he insists he's not the man to resolve my problem, but, it will only be a matter of seconds before some supreme super hero is helping me. The next 40 minutes are spent listening to the same music on loop, which lasts approximately 3 minutes, with a guy with the mosht [sic] infuriaching achent telling me how great Microshoft productsh are. Until the phone dies.

So for now, this is the end of the story, hopefully I'll be able to update with a successful resolution, but for now, my advice is, if you have a family and want to share apps, shtick with Google or Apple.

Life is too short.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

How to smackdown ransomware forever.

If your local ATM display showed that it had a virus would you be worried about your bank balance? I'd assume the answer is 'of course not'. As you'd know the bank would be keeping it safe.

If the worry of a ransomware attack on your computer concerns you, then it's possible you may want to rethink the way you manage your files. Cloud based storage has existed in various guises for many years now. The first service I used was Dropbox. Google are now (in my opinion) market leaders in this respect, with Microsoft a close second. iCloud is sadly too dependant on Apple powered devices to be taken seriously, where as the other solutions are happy on a number of platforms; including Apple.

If you still use 'my documents' or your home folder on your computer to store your most important documents, or worse still, your desktop, then ransomware will still most likely be a worry. This will be more true if you don't keep regular backups of your data. However, One drive and Google Drive both have desktop clients, for PC and for Mac, which will allow you to synchronise your data with their cloud service.

I ran a session last month for a school trying to integrate better with Google Drive (their school has a suite of chromebooks) and I've done similar work for staff in a neighbouring school. Helping them rely less on USB drives, and more on cloud based solutions. It surprised me how many people didn't already use this for their backups.

The ATM is pretty much a 'terminal' for a bank, although it might be networked, it's nothing more than a slave computer. Your laptop, or desktop should operate in a similar manner. Whilst its ok to keep sensitive data on your computer, it should at the very least be backed up, but for ease of use, having it synchronised with Google Drive, or One drive will take ALL of the worry of ransomware away from you.

If your machine becomes infected, you'll know that you can either simply reinstall your operating system (windows or Mac OS) and carry on as normal. In the interim period, all of your files can be accessed via another machine. Tablet, mobile, laptop or desktop with internet access.

Google Drive software has just been updated to a 'backup and sync' program, which is a far more descriptive title for what it actually does. Not only does the app give you a google folder to place important items. to save you the hassle of changing the way you work, it also allows you to sync your home or my documents folder AND... your desktop. So if someone asks you where X is if you've ever replied.... 'Ah it's on my desktop on my home computer', so long as you have your mobile, you'll be able to access that file..... EVEN if in the meantime, your home computer is infected with ransomware!

If you need any help setting up a worry free workstation.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Is it easy flying a drone?

This is a question I get asked more often than most others. And for the part, I answer without thinking. Yes, I say, If you can fly one of the cheaper drones, you'll find the more expensive one's simple.
And to a degree that's true.

The smaller £30 drone's like the one I started with, the Hubsan H107 is a real handful. In fact the first time I took it out, a few days after Christmas (wihtout my glasses on) I lost sight of it at about 50ft, the wind got hold of it and I spent the next 40 minutes traipsing round a field looking for the little flashing lights, which fortunately, because of the quick loss and lack of power going to the motors were still flashing. (They usually only last 6-7 minutes).
The reason the smaller drones are harder to control (and thus better to practice with) is because they don't carry any technology that would aid the pilot. No GPS, no ultrasonic or visual sensors, no altitude controls or compass, although the Hubsan does have a gyroscope to keep it stabilised. However the real (hardcore) racing drones are harder still. These guys really deserve your respect. Anyone who can control one of these and fly it through small hoops has serious skill (or years of experience).

By contrast the pricier professional drones are equipped with an abundance of safety equipment, which makes them much harder to crash. But, not crashing is only half of the problem. When you're flying you still need to have considerable spatial awareness. When your drone is facing away from you, the controls are logical. When you're flying towards yourself, these controls are reversed. If you're landing in a tight spot, this confusion can quickly become panic if the drone drifts too close to, well, anything. The right thing to do in this emergency is to lift as rapidly as possible, but this emergency procedure takes preparation.
In addition if you're going to capture video, then there are a number of additional skills you need. Especially if you want to get creative with your shots. While it's true that there are a number of automated tools to help you get the perfect shot, none of the one's I've seen are smooth as manual inputs.
For example, you want to do a flyover of a house or an object. You have a number of options.

Gain altitude and accelerate over the object. (easy, looks a bit dull, final shot will be looking over the subject).

Gain altitude and accelerate whilst panning the camera down (not too difficult, looks ok).

Gain altitude, accelerate, pass on the left or right, slowly counter-rotate the drone towards the object and pan down to keep the object centre (much more difficult, but looks amazing).

Now lets say that the object is moving, fairly quickly and you're looking to get a shot like this one?

Was that easy? Honestly, no, it wasn't. It took every ounce of concentration from spotting it in the distance, to decreasing altitude, flying backwards, spinning at the same speed the train passed, regaining altitude and keeping the framing right until it disappeared. With only one chance to get it right, I felt an overwhelming relief when I realised I'd captured it.

So there you have it, is a drone easy to fly? Yes, it's easy to keep in the air. Can be tricky landing if you haven't practised first and is pretty complicated if you want to make great looking video. If you want to fly around for 10 minutes at high altitude and put videos on youtube. Yeah, Simple. Enjoy it, it is an amazing amount of fun to master.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Why should I pay..... again?

It's important if you're going to hire a drone operator that he or she, or the business that they represent are properly insured and qualified. I know this, and hopefully those who hire drone operators to carry out any work for them, know this as well.
How you go about finding a legitimate drone operator is more of a quandary. There are now a number of drone registers appearing who will put the customer in contact of a legally qualified operator. Regardless of the size of the work or the location in the UK, these drone registers will point you in the direction, or let you search on their website for a local drone operator to you. 
For those of us running a one man show; who look after the site survey, risk assessments, video capture, flight, equipment, video edit, final production and delivery, who can keep the cost low for clients, this is a considerable additional expense, especially if we decide to register with more than one. 

But how do small businesses get found if not via the multitude of drone registers? 

Well, I'm hoping word of mouth and reputation, based on previous projects that are evidenced online, oh, and ability! I appreciate that this is perhaps naive, but I begrudge paying even more than I've already paid out, to appear on a list of approved operators: when one already exists.

It's called CAP 1361 and it's published by the CAA. It's a list of all of the drone operators in the UK who have already paid up to £900 for training and assessment, £400 for insurance and £130 for their Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) certificate from the CAA. Two of these considerable costs reoccur every year. 

It's been a tough first year for Rough Cuts in terms of Drone work. Most of the business income has been from other video and support work. This year it's unlikely we'll recoup or make a profit on the Drone arm of the business. But next year, thanks to a new partnership, it's likely we'll recoup and start making profit perhaps 2-3 months in. But if I was to start with the registers, although more work might come in, it would take significantly longer. 

So to my point, if you're in need of a drone operator and you want to keep costs low, and support local business my advice would be to use google maps to check for local drone operators and ensure that they have PFCO, in order to save time, just check to see if the drone operator is on CAP1361. 

Here you are, here's a link -

We're under Rough Cuts!


Google Drive for Desktop.