Apple TV – Too Cool for School?

Apple TV – Too Cool for School?

Apple TV

First, let me unequivocally say I love my Apple TV.

Love. It.

That said, I wanted to put it through its paces to see what difficulties one might encounter in placing it into a classroom environment. Just because a device is a great consumer device, doesn’t mean that it is well suited for secure business environments or for complex networking configurations one might find at a college or university.

And that is indeed the case with Apple TV; for most users, it poses a number of challenges trying to integrate it into a corporate or collegiate setting.

First, Apple TV doesn’t support Enterprise WPA2 authentication. Most organizations worth their salt doing Wi-Fi to any serious extent use Enterprise authentication, which leaves one seriously SOL trying to connect the device this way.

Note: Technically, you (well, not you – but someone with administrator knowledge of your network) can configure an Apple TV to work using WPA2, using the Apple Configurator. But be warned: it is for the brave of heart only, is not very user friendly, and once you use it to configure a device, the device pretty much can’t be configured any other way unless you wipe the device and start over. So. Not very helpful, actually.

Secondly, for those institutions that offer a web page to authenticate access to their wireless networks, this leaves Apple TV in the cold as well; there is no web browser to open and authenticate with.

There is an ethernet port on the Apple TV that works perfectly well. But this leads to the third issue with using Apple TV in the classroom or the boardroom, and that is that the Apple TV mechanism for being “discovered” by iPads and iPhones (which in truth was my main interest in using the device in the classroom) doesn’t work well (or, at all) across multiple switches or routers without wide open access to a number of TCP and UDP ports (which most competent network admins wouldn’t open anyway if you begged them).

So, what does this all mean, really?

It means that if you are serious about using the Apple TV in a corporate setting, you have some work to do to get it to work as well as the device does in the home.

At Hendrix College, we have close to 400 wireless access points, all using Enterprise Authentication. So, connecting to that is a non-starter. If I connect to the wired ethernet network on campus, I can’t “see” the device with anything other than the Apple remote that comes with the Apple TV. No good.

The only real option is to do one of two things:

  1. Insert a “rogue” wireless router off of one of our ethernet ports (yeah, right). Or,
  2. Configure a laptop or smart phone as a wireless access point, and point the Apple TV to that.

I chose the latter, and configured my Macbook Pro as a secure wireless access point, connected the Apple TV to that, and then connected my iPad and iPhone to that same new wireless “network” being broadcast from my laptop. Under this scenario, the Apple TV could connect to the internet, my iOS devices could “see” the Apple TV, and I could demonstrate “mirroring” my iOS devices using the Apple TV.

As an administrator, I’m always looking for economical and straightforward technologies that I can recommend to faculty for their pedagogical use. On its face, the Apple TV is a relatively inexpensive appliance with lots of promise.

But in its current incarnation, it simply isn’t ready for use in most classrooms without a good deal of infrastructure knowledge, planning, and support. In my judgement, if Apple can add Enterprise security to the device, or make the device easier to discover by laptops and iOS devices in complex networking scenarios, then another evaluation can be made.

For now, I simply have to concede that it’s just too cool for school.

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17 thoughts on “Apple TV – Too Cool for School?

  1. Thanks for your writing on this topic. My campus setup pretty much duplicates this setup, and I’ve been struggling with trying to use aTV the same way, with little success. There is so much potential here, but those little shortcomings are just killer. Apple is missing a HUGE group of folks who would jump on this technology – Universities!

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    1. Matt, I would be very surprised if Apple didn’t address some of these shortcomings very soon, given the obvious attention they are giving the academic market (revamped iTunes U, iBook Author, new iBooks 2.0). We have similar problems with Kindle devices when it comes to Enterprise Authentication. Work arounds exist, but what is needed in the classroom are plug and play solutions that don’t need a small cadre of media support staff to support every time you want to give a lecture.

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  2. Matt, based on Apple’s history of snubbing the enterprise in favor of the individual consumer, I’d say don’t hold your breath. I love Apple products, don’t get me wrong, but after over 25 years working to support them in the enterprise, I’ve learned my lesson. iOS devices are a case in point. Apple’s response to requests for enterprise management tools is that they are, “…focused on the consumer experience.” (i.e. we don’t give a hoot about the enterprise.) And why should they? They’ve built an incredibly profitable company on the backs of consumers. While one would think that they are only a small bit of engineering and a few corporate resources away from being able to tap other markets with their products, they don’t seem to be willing to do that. I am desperate for AppleTVs to support enterprise WPA2 security, but I’m not holding my breath. If they DID offer a solution like that, I could see us ditching our interactive whiteboards for iPads and AppleTVs connected to large flatscreen displays. The perfect trifecta for us would be if Apple released a MacOS AND Windows client for Airplay too. That would totally rock.

    Alas, a boy can dream… Only, given Apple’s history, that’s all it will ever be — a dream. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be surprised and, now that Mr. Jobs (RIP) has departed this earthly plane, Apple’s vision will broaden to include the “rest of us” who work in an enterprise environment. Thanks for listening…

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  3. In the same boat here – School District looking at deploying 700-ish iPads this summer. Apple TVs for screen sharing were to be a part of that project, but we just tested one and, like you already note, they can’t be connected to our WPA2 Enterprise network, nor can they authenticate with a WiFi network that requires a Web-based authentication (which would have been our fallback).

    Very frustrating, since my understanding is that the OS in AppleTV is very much based on iOS, which connects fine. Will definitely result in lost sales of Apple TVs to us, plus makes us rethink our big iPad purchase.

    Just filed a bug report on this with Apple, not that I expect that to make much difference. Will also be passing on to our sales rep to try to feed up the chain.

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    1. As a network admin for a large k-12 school district (20,000+) students and over 30 locations. I thought I would bring this to your attention:

      http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/wireless/ps4570/products_tech_note09186a0080bb1d7c.shtml

      We run a robust cisco wireless network that broadcasts the same ssid at every campus. This guide works fine. We are able to airprint and screen mirror. Either in addition to or in leiu of the wifi config, you can also ask the network staff to configure one of the network drops in your room to the same vlan as the wireless so your wired apple tv and your wireless apple devices can see each other.

      There’s my .02 worth. Hope it helps

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  4. Excellent article. We are deploying about 40 this summer. We have a smaller network with a dozen distributed APs. IMO (this is IT suicide in some circles) we have securitized the useful leverage technology brings to the classroom to the point it becomes a burden. Just like we all hate the TSA rigamarole at the airports. Especially in K-12, we need to balance the use for pedagogy vs security.

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  5. For schools that have installed AppleTV, have you seen a scaling limit with how many AppleTVs an iOS client can see at a time? On my particular network we are considering up to 150 units, but what I don’t know is how ugly will the airplay mirroring menu get on iOS clients when they see so many AppleTV units.

    Using the Cisco workaround for wireless, all of the units will be visible to all clients, as they all end up sharing the same multicast scope. Also we can’t ensure that a client won’t unintentionally connect to the wireless network in a neighboring building, so for ease of use we would want wireless units in two different buildings to see each other, as they could physically be in the same building but on different wireless access points.

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    1. My best suggestion would be to provision vlans to seperate the scopes. I don’t have any suggestions about people connecting to the wrong wifi other than user education, and perhaps a group policy to force the wireless profile. Our vlans are setup with 1 wireless vlan per school campus, 30 locations all with the same ssid and we have not experienced any issues yet. However, we have only deployed a handful of the apple tv units.

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      1. Hi Ron
        We have been experimenting with setting up AppleTv with cisco work around. Mirroring from iPad works but it has a long time delay. have you experienced this problem?

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  6. Hi,

    There is another solution to your issues…
    You could always use the software called AirServer on your Macs or PC’s and then just allow bonjour through the network since I’m guessing most of you are behind a Layer 3 Network at your campus.
    Here is a guide on how to allow bonjour through Layer 3 networks if you are using Cisco routers:
    http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/wireless/ps4570/products_tech_note09186a0080bb1d7c.shtml

    I got this from AirServer support who helped allow me to use AirServer on my campus.
    It just talked to the IT Team and they hooked it up and it works like a charm.

    AirServer will allow you to use Mirroring from your iOS Devices to your PC/Mac and you can then have it displayed upon your Projector or Computer screen depending on your needs.

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    1. AirServer and Reflector will both do a great job with AirPlay / Bonjour. You will need to be on the same segment of your network for discovery, and be on a segment that allows broadcast / multicast – as well as having all ports needed for Bonjour / AirPlay open.

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  7. Thank you for this! I got an apple TV for Christmas and want to use it in my dorm room but I haven’t been able to figure out how. I am generally pretty good at figuring this stuff out but I just couldn’t. I called apple support and he told me to get a router and my college didn’t know what to do. I followed your advice and I can use my Apple TV now! So excited!

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