Microsoft Office and other Windows software on your iPad

In an earlier blog I introduced our “future desktop” project. One key element of that project is the ability to make Microsoft Windows based software packages available across a greater range of platforms. The technology we use for this is provided by Citrix, and you can use it now on your mobile device. This only applies if you are a registered student with RGU, or a member of staff, and for students I’m afraid that some license restrictions apply at the moment. For example, we can’t provide access to Microsoft Office for students but we do offer a version of Open Office and a growing number of other applications.

So, if you are staff or student at RGU, and want to take Citrix for a test drive on your iPad – download the app and have a look – it’s free!

Full instructions can be found under “MyApps – advanced and device support” on our web site.

On an iPad, download the free Citrix Receiver app. When you first fire it up, select “add account” to the menu that pops up. The address to enter is “http://myapps.rgu.ac.uk”. Press “next” and then you will see a screen where it asks for the description of the account (anything you like), username, password and domain. Enter your normal username, leave the password blank, and put in “rgu.ac.uk” for the domain. It will then pop up with a further screen entitled “enter credentials.” At this point enter your password, it will verify your account, and if all goes well you will get a menu with all the applications you are entitled to access.

Try launching Microsoft Word or any other application you fancy. Here is a screen clip from Microsoft Word on my iPad:

Just touch the screen in place of mouse clicks. If you want the keyboard to pop up, touch the pull down arrow at the top of the screen and you should get a menu as follows:

Touch the keyboard icon and you can start to type. It’s worth exploring “gestures” to see how to right click, zoom, drag the mouse etc. If you do that, you will see that a three finger tap is another way to call up the keyboard. If you have more than one application open, the two finger tap will toggle between application windows (like Alt+tab). Press the “home” icon to get back to the list of applications and launch another one.

If you have a bluetooth keyboard (I use the standard Apple one), and pair it with your iPad, you can type on a full size keyboard and everything starts to get really good – full version of Microsoft Office applications and you can type away on your keyboard. If you have one of the Apple VGA adapters and a suitable monitor, you can plug your iPad into an external monitor. Depending on which iPad version you have you may then have to go into Settings and turn on the external display. Now you have a full size keyboard and monitor. . .

If you want to have even more fun, and if you have an iPhone, you can fire up Citrix on the iPhone, turn on Bluetooth on your iPhone and iPad. Click on “pair” on your iPad Citrix App and then on your iPhone touch the wee pointer arrow at the bottom left of the screen of Citrix app.

It should ask you to accept the iPad connection. Now your iPhone acts as a trackpad. So, now you have a full size keyboard, external monitor and a (pretty expensive) mouse!

I digress. Most of the time, the whole purpose of this app is to provide you with the convenience of access to all your University Windows based software applications when you are on the move – you are unlikely to be carrying your monitor and keyboard in your back pocket. It does, however, serve to illustrate where some of this might go. Give it a few years and it might be increasingly normal to drop by a convenient keyboard and monitor, hook up your iPad and off you go.

The Citrix app works on the iPhone too, and Windows Mobile and Android platforms. Mind you, Microsoft Word on an iPhone is stretching things with such a small screen – but yes, you can use it.

Andrew McCreath

Advertisements

IT and Audio Visual Technology in our New Campus Spaces

Readers familiar with our University campus in Aberdeen will know that we are currently constructing a stunning new building at our Garthdee Campus. If you want to see some great photos on how this is shaping up look at Daniel Doolan’s Blog. During the design of this building, we have given a great deal of thought to the part that IT and Audio visual (AV) technologies should play to create state of the art space for our staff, students and visitors. I had a chance this week to go through some of the more detailed specifications for different types of space, and I thought I would share some of the key features with you. This is a team effort involving IT Services, DELTA, Estates & Property Services and colleagues from across the University working together.

The new building will, of course, be wireless enabled throughout – including a bit of outdoor coverage for the lovely sunny weather usually experienced in Aberdeen at this time of year.

All our teaching classrooms and lecture theatres will be equipped with overhead projection and sound – the larger rooms will have two projectors. No surprises there, but we have made sure that in addition to any fixed PC in the rooms, we will be able to easily connect to these systems laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices – wirelessly if required. We will use “short throw” projectors where possible to reduce shadows from people walking in front of the projection. Fixed video cameras will be in most of these rooms for lecture capture, streaming video to overflow space, video conferencing and for remote participation. You would think that sound was straight forward, but a lot of thought has gone in to balancing sound from, for example, a video being shown along with the lecturer speaking, so that there is an even distribution of sound through the room without those at the front being deafened so that those at the back can hear.

We’ve designed the controls and operation of IT and AV equipment in each type of space to be basically the same so that staff can walk into any space and not have to waste time figuring out how to get things working. Sound, projection and lighting will all be controlled from a console – or possibly even from your iPad.

I don’t think we will be seeing any VHS players, DVD players or the likes in our new spaces – we expect all media to be streamed either from external sources or from our Virtual Learning Environment.

We’ve also been looking at the furniture layout in these rooms – moving away from fixed rows of desks and seats and towards flexible configurations of desks close to power and data connectivity.

A fully functional “mockup” of the new space and associated equipment is being put together in DELTA’s offices at the moment, and once it is ready they will be encouraging people to come and “test drive” the new equipment and look at the furniture options. They will also support staff development to help staff prepare to use the new facilities.

Meeting rooms will of course also be equipped with similar IT and AV, except that we will use flat screens instead of overhead projectors for the smaller rooms.

The new building will have a much better “signage” system with flat screens in key public areas on which we can display University wide messages, local messages, and television and other media broadcasts.

All this will be built in to the new Campus building which is opening in the Spring of 2013. However, we have always said that we don’t want to end up with a “two tier” campus and we plan to implement the same new technologies across existing buildings as these are refurbished. We are also planning to kit out a few existing rooms over the Autumn so that staff can become accustomed to the new facilities and controls ahead of the new Campus building opening in 2013 – watch this blog for more info nearer the time!

print@rgu

Over the past 12 months, and with significant preparation before that, the University has been putting in place a new Print Strategy. One of the core elements of this strategy has been to move printing away from desktop or local inkjet / laser printers and onto larger “multifunction devices” (MFDs) – i.e. photocopiers. Like most organisations we have photocopiers widely placed across the campus and today’s models are capable of acting as printers and scanners as well as traditional photocopiers. Hence the term “MFD”.

Desktop printing is really expensive. The cost per page is much higher than printing centrally or from MFD’s and we calculate that we will save a six figure some of money annually by shifting away from desktop printing. The print strategy is being rolled out stage by stage and already some Schools and Departments have moved across to using the new MFDs and have stopped using desktop printers.

As well as providing a more cost effective approach to printing, this new print strategy is also essential for our “future desktop” strategy. Leaving aside the cost, desktop printing is only useful if you have a desktop computer! As we move to a whole new world of IT running on mobile devices, shared workstations, from home etc we need to be able to print from any device to one of these shared MFDs. That’s where print@RGU comes in.

Traditionally, when you print from a PC you will specify the printer where you want your print to come out. With print@RGU, however, you send your print to a central queue. It sits there until you decide which printer (MFD) you wish to use. Once you are at the printer, you swipe your ID card through a special card reader (currently being installed on our MFD fleet) and a simple menu will pop up on a small screen attached to the printer. From there, you can see all the print jobs you have in the queue and you can choose which ones you want to print. If you’ve changed your mind, you can delete the print and save paper.

I was given a demonstration of the new system yesterday, and the rollout is going to start over the next few weeks. As it becomes available, you can use it on your main desktop computer to have more control over when your printouts come off the printer and the flexibility to choose any printer. If you have a laptop you will be able to use it to print to the nearest printer. This will work for staff and students. You will also be able to send your documents to the print@RGU queue from your home computer (to print off when you are next on Campus) or from your iPad, iPhone, Android etc.

There will be various ways to do this, and more detailed instructions will be issued in due course by IT Services as each stage becomes available- follow the “RGU_ITHelpdesk” on Twitter and /or check the web site if you want to get the latest info.

What will you be using in 5 years time?

You will perhaps have noticed that a few of entries in this blog have been in relation to the “desktop”. We’ve had an entry about our “future desktop” project, the “personal environment” as a key priority in our new IT Strategy and more recently a summary of how we are setting about buying PC’s for 2012/13. Desktop devices are always going to be of great interest to our staff and students – they are the “first contact” with our IT resources, define a huge part of the user experience and how we can get the best out of IT, and we spend a lot of money on them!

I will shortly be opening up some wider consultation on how we see the future landscape here and what principles should guide what we provide to staff and students. The traditional desktop device – whether Windows or Apple, desktop or laptop – dominates the IT provision in most organisations today. Typically, depending on a combination of user / technical requirements and affordability, these are refreshed on a 3 – 5 year cycle. So, on current trajectories, some equipment that we buy this year will still be in use in 2017. In such a fast changing world, we will need to be very careful with our procurement year on year to make sure we don’t end up with excess legacy equipment and to make sure that we can keep pace with major changes in what people expect to use. In the post about “MyApps” I explained some of the steps we were taking now to allow our services to be delivered onto a range of devices in future.

So, what might we expect in five years time?

Some kind of workstation is probably going to remain important. The need for a full size screen / keyboard is almost certainly going to be essential for significant and complex content creation, media work, multi tasking etc. Behind the workstation might be still be a desktop PC (though it’s anyone’s guess what the operating system will look like), or it might be a laptop docked to the workstation, or it might be a low powered “thin client” device. In some cases it will be a tablet computer, such as a future iPad, or even a smart phone. These devices even today can be hooked up to a full size monitor and keyboard – it’s not quite the experience of a desktop computer, but surprisingly close – especially if you combine it with MyApps.

For mobile access, in some shape or form tablet computers such as the iPad and Android platforms will increasingly dominate. Today’s versions are not yet as good as a full power laptop for significant and complex content creation etc, but they will catch up year on year – I would guess in 5 years time still not a full laptop replacement device but much much closer than they are today.

We will (or should) print less. Mobile platforms are great for reading and some organisations are already giving out iPads in order to remove print costs.

So, still a continuing need for the workstation and keyboard, but the underlying platform shifting heavily to mobile formats. The nature of software applications will evolve during this transition too. We will still be using “desktop” style applications in 5 years time, but accessing them through a variety of platforms and mixing their use with mobile based apps and richer web environments.

We’re planning for all this to happen, but facing some uncertainties:
• the speed at which “tipping points” will be reached
• the balance between what the University provides and what staff and students will bring in themselves

We want to be poised ready to “catch the wave”.

The Gartner CIO briefing on “the future of client computing” makes an interesting further read.