Category Archives: Technology

Wireless Tips

wifi-297697_1280Wireless networking seems to be something of a mystery to a lot of organisations that we speak with, however more and more it’s becoming a critical part of their infrastructure. If you get it right, you’ll have a rock solid experience comparable to being physically cabled. Get it wrong, and you’ll be cursed to live a life of buffering videos and frustrated staff.

The topic is enormous, however to get started we’d like to cover off a few little tips and tricks that we’ve picked up working with schools on their wireless design.

◉ Think of wireless as a half-duplex medium. Technically researchers have found a way to achieve full duplex communication, however the wireless access point you’re using will not be. Only one device gets to speak at a time, and before the device talks it listens to see if anyone else is already talking. The more devices you have on a radio, the more chance you will try to talk at the same time as another device. If this happens, you’ll both wait for a random period of time and try again.Put simply, more clients per radio will have an exponentially more detrimental affect on your clients. In line with what we’ve seen at schools using multi-media in class, we suggest ensuring you allow 10-20 clients max per radio. In a school this probably means you’re going to be using an access point per classroom.

◉ Restrict the use of 2.4GHz wherever possible as it tends to be a more congested spectrum. Andrew at Revolution WiFi has an excellent perspective on the problem here however in short – you probably want to use 2.4GHz as little as possible – especially if you’re in a space where you have poor wifi neighbours. The use of software programmable radios is an excellent strategy and there are vendors today who allow you to be flexible with your approach to radios (for example use dual-5GHz radios on a single AP). The traditional “fixed 2.4/5Ghz” radio vendors can and do work, but you’re going to be doing an awful lot more tweaking and chances are you’re going to have some AP’s deployed with radios turned off.

◉ Consider cell-sizing as a critical part of your design. Some wireless clients are fairly bright about working out the best signal to use, and you can rely on them to select the radio you want them to. Others are not, and some will hang onto a signal for dear life (iPads are notorious for this) even when that is not what you want them to do. If you design your cell sizes appropriately, you can minimise the chances that the device connects to the “wrong” access point. Just throwing every radio onto max may end up harming your wireless experience more than you might expect.

◉ Reduce the number of SSID’s that you use. Seriously. If you have more than 2 SSID’s, you probably need to check whether you really really need them. Again I’ll point you in the direction of Andrew over at Revolution Wifi to take a look at the SSID overhead calculator. I recently paid a visit to a school that had 7 SSID’s actively broadcasting, and in many spaces around the school had a decent chunk of co-channel interference going on. In one space where they were having plenty of problems, I observed 3 different AP’s sharing the same 2.4GHz channel, with a signal strength that was fine for my device, and 7 SSID’s on each. Using Andrew’s maths, approximately 77% of all airtime was being consumed with beacon frames… No wonder they were having a pretty poor time there!

◉ Do you really need 802.11b? Chances are high that you don’t and so you should disable it. If you have an 802.11b client it’s like having a tractor on a single lane road. Yes it still needs to get from A to B, and it can do so – but everyone else is stuck behind it and gets frustrated at how slow the tractor is moving. You can pick up a USB wireless dongle for about $50 and turn that old device into an MX5.

We’ve seen a number of wireless environments dramatically improved by simply addressing the five points listed above. Of course this is by no means comprehensive and as with all wireless networks, proper design is absolutely crucial to delivering an excellent experience. We’d love to hear some “rules of thumb” or tips and tricks that you’ve employed to eke the best out of your wireless deployment.

Our trip to EduTech 2015

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Michael from Catalytic IT were lucky enough to attend the EduTech conference in Brisbane early June, in order to gain a better understanding of the latest educational ICT trends.

The conference began with a visit to the NetBox National Users Group, where we learned about the upcoming changes for v30.  For those of you who are struggling with SNI challenges at the moment, this will be a welcome update.

We also got the opportunity to meet up with some local and interstate schools and get a feel for what they were doing, and the challenges they were actively facing.  We then caught up with our former colleagues (and still partners) Datacom for a catch up and a quiet drink.

Things began in earnest for us on Tuesday as we got the opportunity to listen Eric Mazur discuss his vision for rethinking assessments, as he argued that assessment methodologies in use today do not accurately reflect the skills we want to give our students.  A fascinating insight into his thought process, and certainly some implications for integrators as we look to help implement systems that support peer and self-assessment and more instantaneous feedback.

We also got to take a sneak peek into Design39 – an innovative new style of school (https://sites.google.com/site/design39campus/portrait) and it was fascinating to see the concepts that were embraced when starting from scratch.  We listened to a session by the Dell Security team and picked up some great stats to demonstrate the importance of securing your networks appropriately.  We also got to take a look into the infrastructure and thought process behind the BYO program at Kristen School in Auckland – a very well thought out approach and one we certainly picked up a few tips/tricks that we intend to put to use amongst our schools (particularly the BYO experience).  We rounded off a great day with dinner/drinks with NetBox Blue and Seqta (it was definitely the place to be on Tuesday night!)

Our final day began with an utterly fascinating presentation by Larry Johnson from NMC as he walked us through networks between the generations.  We also got to hear from Paul Lister (Scots College) as he walked through the process of finding the right partner for your school – an approach we thoroughly endorse and the values he espoused (Trust and Accountability) are tenants of any engagement we pursue.  We heard from Kevin Richardson from Immanuel College in Adelaide as he walked us through their approach to BYOT and we were quite impressed with how much they managed to achieve with relatively fewer resources.  It was also quite interesting to listen to Mitch Miller walk through their cloud strategy (they’ve moved pretty much all of their core infrastructure away from the school to Amazon), the hurdles they’ve faced and how they overcame them.

Throughout the conference we made sure we had a chat with suppliers/vendors that we thought had innovative solutions.  New connections were made and we hope to share some innovative solutions that have come from those connections as they occur.  All in all it was a great opportunity to see what others were doing, learn from their mistakes and hopefully help our customers prepare for educational ICT trends.

DEP Now in Australia

Corporate-owned deployments made simple.

The Device Enrollment Program (DEP) provides a fast, streamlined way to deploy your corporate-owned Mac or iOS devices, whether purchased directly from Apple or through participating Apple Authorized Resellers.

• Zero-touch configuration for IT.
• Streamlined setup.
• Wireless supervision.

For further information check out http://www.apple.com/business/dep/
Or if you want some help streamlining your deployment contact us

CryptoLocker – File Screens

*** Please note, this is not a cure for CryptoLocker, it is simply one of a number of steps you can take to protect your school.  Up-to-date Anti-Virus and User Education are the most effective tools at your disposal ***

Catalytic IT have seen a number of schools come up against the dreaded CryptoLocker virus, which has been out in the wild for some time.  As a general rule your best protection is firstly end user education, and secondly the use of a solid centralised AV solution to provide reporting.

In this BYO(D/T/whatever) world, increasingly we see unmanaged or semi-managed devices introduced onto the school network.  We can perform compliance checks to ensure that they have an Anti-Virus program installed, however some vendors are better than others, and we’ve seen machines that claim to be fully protected utterly filled with malware.  Now combine this CryptoLocker infested machine with access to school file shares and you have a recipe for disaster.

A machine that can access school shares, with read/write access, can encrypt those same files and hold you to ransom.  Here’s the kicker: even if you run Anti-Virus on your file server, you won’t be told there’s an infection out there as it’s not actually infecting your files with a virus – it’s simply encrypting them.  If you combine this with encryption on public shares (perhaps in an infrequently accessed location) and relatively short backup windows (say we keep backups for 2 to 3 weeks) it’s entirely conceivable that you won’t be able to restore those encrypted files from backup!

However, there is something you can do (above and beyond making sure your clients have good Anti-Virus and only the access they require).  For a long time, Windows Server has had “File Screen” functionality built-in to the file server role.  We outline a process below to ensure you are notified if CryptoLocker (as we’ve seen it) encrypts those files on your network shares:

Firstly, you need to ensure that your file server can notify you if a file system event occurs that you want to be told about:

1)   Launch the File Server Resource Manager (this usually sits under Control Panel->Administrative Tools-.File Server Resource Manager)

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2)   Right click on File Server Resource Manager (Local) and select “Configure Options”

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3)   Configure the Email Notifications tab of your file server with the appropriate details for your school/company

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4)   Send Test E-mail to ensure that your settings are correct and working as expected.  You should receive a test email.

Now that you have configured e-mail notification on your file server, you need to configure the File Group, which is essentially the string that you’re looking for on the server to let you know that CryptoLocker has crept onto your shares:

5)   Right click on File Screening Management->File Group and select “Create File Group”

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6)   Enter the File Group name as “CryptoLocker” and under “Files to include:” enter “*DECRYPT*.*” then select Add

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7)   Select OK and you now have a File Group

Now that you have created a File Group you will want to create a “File Screen Template”

8)   Right Click on File Screening Management->File Screen Templates and select “Create File Screen Template”

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9)   In the Settings Tab set your Template Name to whatever you like (i.e. CryptoLocker-Template) and set your screening to Passive Screening, then select CryptoLocker from your file groups below

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10)   Check the “Send e-mail to the following administrators” check box on the E-mail Message tab

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11)   Select the Send warning to event log check box on the Event Log tab:

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12)   Select OK and you have now created your File Screen Template

Finally your last step is to actually apply this template to folders that your staff/students can access.

13)   Right click on File Screening Management->File Screens and select “Create File Screen”

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14)  Define the path to the shared folder you wish to protect through the Browse button, and choose your newly created template from the drop down list under “Derive properties from this file screen template (recommended)” then select Create

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15)  Repeat this process for each of the shared folders that could be conceivably written to by staff/students
16)  You’re done – from now on you should be notified when a staff member or student with CryptoLocker encrypts a folder on your shared drives

Note: The above process addresses the file names that we have seen, however variants may use different file names, which may require you to modify the file groups regular expression to capture.  As always you should ensure that you rely on multiple approaches to protect your network.

9.4 of the Casper Suite Released

Version 9.4 of the Casper Suite is now available. From BYOD support to enhancements to the Self Service app for iOS and OS X, this newest version gives today’s can-do IT a smart and simple way to enable user productivity, reduce help desk tickets, and help ensure their BYOD program is successful and secure.

Finally, BYOD made manageable
The mobile device explosion is driving demand for BYOD programs. But cost, complexity, and user revolt are causing challenges for many of them. The Casper Suite addresses every one. Designed specifically for personally owned iOS and Android devices, the Casper Suite BYOD solution is a lightweight and cost-effective mobile device management option that lets IT enforce data security, ensure user privacy, and accelerate BYOD program adoption.

Check out the new features 

To discuss making use of these new features or implementing Casper in your environment contact us here

iOS 7

Apple® today released iOS 7, featuring a completely redesigned stunning new user interface, will be available to iPhone®, iPad® and iPod touch® users as a free software update. iOS 7 has hundreds of great new features, including Control Center, Notification Center, improved Multitasking, AirDrop®, enhanced Photos, Safari®, Siri® and introduces iTunes Radio℠, a free Internet radio service based on the music you listen to on iTunes®. In addition, iOS 7 has been engineered with deep technical and design integration with both iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c.

“iOS 7 is completely redesigned with an entirely new user interface and over 200 new features, so it’s like getting a brand new device, but one that will still be instantly familiar to our users,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “Next month we’ll be shipping our 700 millionth iOS device, and we’re excited about what our hundreds of thousands of iOS developers are doing to bring great new features to their apps.”

Apple engineered iOS 7 to take full advantage of the advanced 64-bit technologies in iPhone 5s, including the native 64-bit kernel, libraries and drivers. All the built-in apps have been re-engineered for 64-bit, and iOS 7 provides a seamless developer transition with Xcode® support and the ability to run both 32-bit and 64-bit apps. iOS 7 also provides deep integration with the new Touch ID™ sensor and takes full advantage of the new iSight® camera sensor to enable new features like automatic image stabilization, Burst Mode and Slo-Mo video with 120 fps. Combined with the new Camera App in iOS 7, iPhone 5s provides up to two-times faster auto-focus, faster photo capture and better dynamic range. iOS 7 is designed to complement the gorgeous exteriors of iPhone 5c, with matching wallpapers and translucency that carry the color through the entire experience.

With more than 200 new features, iOS 7 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch includes:

  • Control Center, which gives you quick access to the controls you want in one convenient place with just one swipe from the bottom of your screen;
  • Notification Center, now available from the Lock screen so you can see all your notifications with a simple swipe, and the new Today feature gives you an at-a-glance view of your day with a summary of the important details such as weather, traffic, meetings and events;
  • improved Multitasking that gives users the ability to switch between their apps in a more visual and intuitive way, and iOS 7 pays attention to which apps you use most and automatically keeps your content up to date in the background;
  • AirDrop, an entirely new way to quickly and easily share content with people nearby;
  • new Camera app filters so you can add real-time photo effects, a square camera option, and you can quickly and easily switch between your four cameras—video, photo, square and panorama—with just a swipe;
  • a redesigned Photos app that introduces Moments, a new way to automatically organize your photos and videos based on time and location;
  • full-screen browsing with Safari’s new redesigned user interface, the new smart search field helps simplify searching, and there’s a new view for your bookmarks and your Safari tabs;
  • Siri with new male and female voices,* Twitter search integration, Wikipedia integration and Bing web searching within the app; and
  • iTunes Radio, a free Internet radio service featuring over 200 stations and an incredible catalog of music from the iTunes Store®, combined with features only iTunes can deliver.**

 

Additional new iOS 7 features include a new Find My iPhone Activation Lock, that requires your Apple ID and password before you can turn off Find My iPhone, erase data or re-activate a device after it’s been remotely erased; FaceTime® audio for high quality calls over a data network; and new ringtones, alarms, alerts and system sounds.

iPhone, iPad and iPod touch customers have access to the revolutionary App Store℠, which offers more than 900,000 apps in 155 countries around the world. iOS 7 now features Popular Apps Near Me, a new way to find apps based on your current location, and iOS 7 will automatically keep your apps up to date. More than 50 billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store to date, offering customers an incredible range of apps in 23 categories, including newspapers and magazines in Newsstand, games and entertainment, business, news, sports, health and fitness and travel.

iOS 7 will be available as a free software update starting on Wednesday, September 18 for iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation). Some features may not be available on all products.

OS X Mavericks

SAN FRANCISCO—October 22, 2013—Apple® today announced that OS X® Mavericks, the 10th major release of the world’s most advanced desktop operating system, is available for free from the Mac App Store℠. With more than 200 new features, OS X Mavericks brings iBooks® and Maps to the Mac®, includes a new version of Safari®, enhances multi-display support, introduces Finder® Tabs and Tags and delivers new core technologies for breakthrough power efficiency and performance.

“Mavericks is an incredible release, which introduces significant new apps and features, while also improving the performance and battery life of your Mac,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “We want every Mac user to experience the latest features, the most advanced technologies, and the strongest security. We believe the best way to do this is to begin a new era of personal computing software where OS upgrades are free.”

OS X Mavericks introduces innovative new features, including:

  • iBooks, which gives you instant access to your iBooks library, more than two million titles in the iBooks Store™, and works seamlessly across your devices;
  • Maps, which brings powerful mapping technology to the desktop and lets you plan a trip from your Mac and send it to your iPhone® for voice navigation on the road;
  • a streamlined Calendar that estimates travel time between appointments, and provides a map with weather forecast;
  • a new version of Safari with Shared Links, which helps you find what’s new on the web by consolidating links shared by people you follow on Twitter and LinkedIn;
  • iCloud® Keychain®, which safely stores your website usernames and passwords, credit card numbers and Wi-Fi passwords and pushes them to your trusted devices so you don’t need to remember them;
  • enhanced multi-display support, which makes using multiple displays easier and more powerful, with no configuration required;
  • interactive Notifications, allowing you to reply to a message, respond to a FaceTime® call or even delete an email without leaving the app you’re using;
  • Finder Tabs, which help unclutter your desktop by consolidating multiple Finder windows into a single window with multiple tabs; and
  • Finder Tags, a powerful new way to organize and find your files located on your Mac or in iCloud.

Mavericks also includes new core technologies that boost performance and improve the battery life of your Mac. Timer Coalescing and App Nap intelligently save energy and reduce power consumption. Compressed Memory automatically shrinks inactive data to keep your Mac fast and responsive. Mavericks also delivers significant performance enhancements for systems with integrated graphics through optimized OpenCL support and dynamic video memory allocation.

Pricing & Availability
OS X Mavericks is available today for free from the Mac App Store. Any Mac capable of running OS X Mountain Lion can also run Mavericks. You can upgrade to Mavericks for free directly from OS X Snow Leopard, Lion or Mountain Lion. For a complete list of system requirements and compatible systems, please visit www.apple.com/osx/specs. OS X Server 3.0 requires Mavericks and is available from the Mac App Store for $19.99 (US).

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Catalytic Device Management Now Live

For the first time in Western Australia, Manage all your Companies or Schools iDevices without extensive infrastructure and onsite training. Catalytic IT can now offer this service as a hosted solution, backed up by fully Certified Trained Administrators, High Speed connection, High availability server uptime and Hosted in Western Australia.

More organizations are using Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV than ever before. Catalytic IT have been working with these products for over a decade. We have chosen to use the class leading JAMF Casper Suite to support an extraordinary Apple experience for the end user while meeting or exceeding organization goals and requirements.

Whether you work at a school, business, or government agency, the Casper Suite has been developed to meet your needs—because it’s supported by Apple specialists for the enterprise. Catalytic IT understand the potential of Apple in the enterprise and how to help you get where you want to be.

The Casper Suite is the leading endpoint management solution for Mac, iPad, iPhone and Apple TV. Secure and manage devices automatically, while enabling users to help themselves using Self Service on demand.

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