3 Replies Latest reply on Sep 22, 2015 12:08 PM by CICT

    New Frontiers


      I hope some will find this interesting.


      We've mentioned before that we specialise in providing FileMaker in the cloud using Citrix XenApp to provide a full FileMaker experience from anywhere operating at office network speeds. Due to the success of this, we now choose to no longer do any local network development (which is rather useful as we're located in the East of England and Northern Ireland!).


      We're preparing for a local expo where we'll be launching our branded SaaS products, all running as above.


      To differentiate our stand, we're going to be running FileMaker 14 on an old XP laptop and it has also lead to our first experience of a ChromeBook; we picked up a refurbished HP laptop for under £120 incl. delivery and plus tax. It looks like a new piece of kit.


      So first impressions were that we'd bought a 'pig in a poke'. After downloading  Citrix Receiver (stand alone HTML5) from the Chrome Web Store we got connection problems and after delving much deeper it was looking as if we were going to have to do some serious Citrix server reconfiguration to stand any chance of this working.


      However, in the background the Chrome OS was updating and it jumped quite a few versions (so perhaps the laptop isn't quite as new as it looks!). Upon reboot, it just worked and we had FileMaker 14 Advanced running in exactly the same way as we do on our Macs and PCs.


      This then led on to (Windows/Citrix) server management. LogMeIn worked fine and with a download of 'Secure Shell' we got our SSH Tunnels working and with 'Chrome RDP' we were managing the servers using remote desktop connection.


      Where this gets really interesting is that our latest insurance customer expanded by 70% last year and mentioned the cost of computers, software, etc. They also run Terminal Services for their email and Office apps and we also publish Word 2013 on our servers to allow them to edit the Word documents generated by our FileMaker system directly in the cloud. Therefore, they have absolutely no reason to have traditional desktop PCs, as they only work online.


      Other than the Chromebook purchase, we're going to have to pay under $10.00 for the RDP software, but that has been it.


      Yes our client does have to still pay for Office 365 and our hosting service, but a lot of the hidden costs have been removed. I'm still working out whether to believe that Chromebooks don't need anti-virus and configuration so far has been a fraction of setting up a new PC.


      HP, Asus, etc. make 'desktop' Chromebooks that look like Apple TVs and £150 can get you a laptop or desktop by the looks of it.


      Tomorrow I'm going to move my trusty 17" MacBook Pro and MacBook Air to one side and use this HP laptop (with HDMI port) to see how it works in anger. But it now looks like I could take out a laptop to manage our business that has a value I wouldn't cry about if it got lost. I'll report back here if anyone finds this of interest.


      The next preparation for the expo is to do the above with an Intel Computer Stick, which is a PC on a USB stick that you put into the back of any HDMI TV to turn into a PC. Again, we'll report back, as I've heard mixed reviews of these units.



        • 1. Re: New Frontiers

          Everything's great with SaaS until you get that inevitable user that doesn't have a reliable internet connection. That's become less of a dealbreaker in recent years but still does exist on a regular basis for me.


          Good writeup, best of luck with your offerings!

          • 2. Re: New Frontiers

            Thanks Mike


            We've actually been doing this for over 4 years now, but have never had products ready to advertise or brand, so hopefully no surprises. Our servers have been optimised to cope with the multi, multi, NAT used within Myanmar (Burma), so hopefully we'll not come across any clients with networks worse than that.


            All the best



            • 3. Re: New Frontiers

              Following yesterday's post I've now had 12 hours developing on the Chromebook and, surprisingly, I've been very, very impressed. I am writing this as a dyed in the wool Mac man with 30 years of use behind me, despite our FileMaker development now being almost totally Windows based.


              The first task was to plug-in a 24" monitor and the desktop just automatically extended to 2-screen display, the only change I had to make was, in settings, to move the relative position of the laptop to the screen. I plugged in my usual Apple USB keyboard with Microsoft wireless mouse and again they just worked.


              The keyboard has had a little massaging in the settings, resetting it for UK English and there have been a couple things that have caught me out, the main one being 'CTRL Shift L' locks the Chromebook, a shortcut I use all the time to get to Manage Layouts. The 'F' keys are actually web-focussed keys, but a setting allows these to be set to 'Treat top-row keys as function keys'. I use F6 and F7 all the time to step through scripts and, with the Apple keyboard, I had to hold down the fn key to make these work, so will need to test with a normal PC keyboard at some time. However, no major dramas so far.


              I must stress that there are not many settings to wade through, these are accessed by double clicking the lower right task bar, but so far what I've needed has been very easy to find.


              So what hasn't worked or is missing?

              I've found a few shortcuts not working, such as using the arrow keys to align objects in layout mode, but anything I've found have been design related and wouldn't affect a user.


              I can't host a meeting with GoToMeeting, but I can join one (we cannot operate without GoToMeeting) and Skype doesn't work natively (although there are developer work arounds). LogMein works fine. (So does the BBC Radio iPlayer and audio!).


              Screen capture is not there as standard (used constantly normally) but a free download from the Chrome Web Store: Nimbus, has provided enough functionality for what I needed (having discounted Clipular). I needed some notes to record bits and pieces and, although Evernote is available, Quick Note Chrome Extension gave me a 'stickies' type facility I could copy and paste into.


              So far I've still only committed to $9.99 for the RDP client tested yesterday, all other software has been free.


              I'm delighted to report that I could run multiple Citrix Receiver sessions, so could have FileMaker 14 Advanced open and also FileMaker Pro 14 or v13 if I need access to test unsupported plug-ins. Again, not quite as transparent as from the Mac, but this does allows testing using a user account and fixing with the admin account. I was also worried about Chromebooks standard nature of going to sleep and cutting off my Citrix connection, but this never happened.


              I swapped over power plugs this morning, got distracted and didn't get round to plugging the HP back in. It was 7 hours later it reported no battery left and promptly stopped working. This was while driving a 24" external screen, USB keyboard and USB driven wireless mouse. Boot up is incredibly quick!


              The most surprising thing has been that, as I'm using my normal display, keyboard and mouse, how many times I used a keyboard shortcut intending to swap to my email or local copy of FileMaker that is used for our timesheet/job sheet - then remembered I had to swap to my MacBook air sitting alongside. As a Mac Chrome user who develops with a Windows interface, I just forgot that I hadn't got a Mac OS behind my work stuff.


              So what have I learnt?

              Well for one thing, I now know that a desktop Chromebook is called a Chromebox, so I don't appear quite as an obvious Chrome OS newbie.

              I can't use a Chromebook for all development, I frequently develop offline from a passenger seat in a car, on a plane, etc. I can't support all my clients with one (yet?).

              The feeling I get is more along those exciting early days of using a Mac, I would understand it if there was a Chrome OS community with a bunch of evangelists out there, (maybe there is?). There is a limit to what you can do (without going under the hood) but it all made sense very, very quickly, there aren't many places to get lost in and what it does, it does extremely well (as an expert with 12-hours under my belt!)

              I am now asking myself, if I was employing people to use a FileMaker solution hosted via Remote Desktop Connection and/or Citrix, should be purchasing a Windows (or Mac) with all the support and cost overheads, when I've been working (developing) all day on a very nice laptop that cost us £112!


              The Intel Compute Stick has been dispatched, so we'll see how that goes when it arrives.


              Thanks for reading and hope there is something of interest above.