Just like this :)One of the holy grails of Moodle is having it such that students are added to the right courses in an automated way. This becomes particularly true if you have individual courses for each and every class each of which could have up to 30 enrolments to go through (just far to many to do using manual methods).

Moodle has a number of ways to automate the process out of the box and my favourite way at the moment is using an external database…

So in this post I will show how to use SIMS reports (generated using CommandReporter.exe) to populate student and teacher enrolments in courses as part of a Moodle install using the External database enrolment plugin (more on this here – https://docs.moodle.org/27/en/External_database_enrolment).

Pre requisites…

  • First up you will need to know your way around Capita SIMS (in particular creating custom reports) as well as the basics of SQL server management (in particular adding a database to an instance) and Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (there is a great video series on SSIS here – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNIs-AWhQzcmPg_uV2BZi_KRG4LKs6cRs).
  • Next you will need a SQL server running Standard edition or higher (this gives you access to SSIS as per http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/cc645993.aspx), if you only have Express edition installs in your environment then there isn’t much point in following this guide until you do.
  • This guide also assumes that you are using LDAP authentication in your Moodle site and that you have your course lists already populated with the course shortname the same as the course name as it appears in SIMS (it is possible to generate courses using the Database Enrolment method but that’s something for another guide).
  • Finally you must have the SIMS.net client (which includes CommandReporter.exe) installed on the SQL server from which you will be running the job to get the class lists into Moodle (more on this a little later).

Capita SIMS setup

For best results create a new SIMS user that will be used exclusively for your Moodle Reports, then login with that user and follow the instructions below.

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In recent testing with iOS8 (specifically 8.0.2) we’ve discovered that any web application (in particular we’ve got a number of in house applications that were built using Visual Studio Lightswitch 2013) that relies on Windows Authentication (on Microsoft Internet Information Services) simply does not work.

In particular users get to the login prompt screen to enter their username and password and on attempting to login are just presented with the login window again with no apparent error message.

The work around for now is to use an alternative browser (Chrome works good for us), hopefully Apple will fix this annoyance soon.

Well the new school term is upon us and I have (at last!) had the time to do a photo of my office setup.

In the photo above we have-

  • 2x HP 23bw 23″ IPS monitors
    • These beasts recently replaced a pair of 1440×900 resolution monitors – given that I’m doing a lot of database work at the moment it only made sense!
  • Custom built Desktop PC
    • A pretty old machine now, dual core AMD Athlon CPU, 8GB DDR3 RAM, an 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD and AMD FirePro graphics card (with it I have the option to go to 4 displays if ever needed!) all contained in a Fractal Design case
  • Polycom CX700 Lync Phone
    • Found this on eBay for £35 (the RRP is about £350), for most of the time I am using my Bluetooth headset but for the times that I need a speaker phone this fits the bill
  • Microsoft LifeCam Studio webcam
    • 720p HD webcam – used for those rare occasions I make a Lync video call
  • Plantronics Voyager Legend
    • My Bluetooth wireless headset, I use this for pretty much all of my phone calls – I just love the flexibility it provides especially given that it can talk to both my PC (through the Lync client) and my mobile phone at the same time – perfect for call forwarding!
  • LINX B-Tube Bluetooth Speaker
    • Quite possibly the only thing worth anything that I have ever won in a competition – battery/AC powered Bluetooth speaker with a 3.5mm jack port as well, a great little speaker for watching Keynotes and such…
  • Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch graphics tablet
    • Something for the days that I need to use PhotoShop/record a signature electronically
  • Wouxun KG-UV6D Radio
    • We use 2 way radios where I work for contact between our other members of the IT team as well as the Site team
  • 7 port USB 3.0 hub
    • My most recent purchase from when my Belkin hub died after 10 years of service! Given my PC is under the desk and the number of USB devices that I have in use at any one time this really does make life easier
  • Microsoft Wired Desktop 600 (Keyboard and Mouse)
    • Pretty basic keyboard and mouse – I can’t say that I’ve ever found a need for anything more advanced, if I had to choose a ‘this stands out’ feature of the keyboard its got to be the calculator launch button.

Just a little snippet before hitting September…..Having recently tried to update the Firmware on my Plantronics Voyager Legand at work (using a Windows 8.1 problem) I found that the MyHeadset Updater (http://www.plantronics.com/uk/product/myheadset-updater) tool cannot handle web proxies (without having the URLs it tries to reach out to being in a authentication bypass list).

As I only had one headset to update I turned to the simple solution of take it home and do it there!

For the Voyager Legend firmware change log take a look at this link.

A few days ago I saw something on a social networking site about what Pizza would be like if it was a ‘Cloud Service’ – afraid I don’t know who to credit for it so I won’t post it here but I did give into temptation and make my own about Coffee!

After playing with Windows Phone 8.1 on my Nokia Lumia 1020 for the past few days (since general release in the UK) thus far my favourite feature has to be the ability for the phone to automatically turn back on WiFi (after a set period of time) after you turn it off.

Certainly where I live and work WiFi is plentiful and as such it makes much more sense to use than cellular data however on occasion I have found myself turning off WiFi (for any strange and interesting reason) but forgetting to turn it back on.

Still looking forwards to the UK version of Cortana if only to ask her what is going to happen in the next Halo!

Moodle InstallThe past few weeks at work have been filled up with going from what has been a very successful pilot of Moodle 2.6 to a fully featured install of Moodle 2.7.1. Hopefully as time allows I’ll be able to get out some posts about how each aspect of Moodle goes down with the staff an students but for now this post serves as a way for me to highlight some features (in no great detail) which I think deserve recognition.

Things to be covered include-

  • Linking AD accounts to class lists in Capita SIMS (a Schools Information Management System)
  • Using the auto login feature to put Moodle front and centre
  • My home
  • OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox integration
  • Moodle updates (going from 2.7 to 2.7.1)

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In this guide I am going to show how to perform a very basic setup of a HP ProCurve 2610 Layer 2 network switch using a serial to console cable.

First up you will need a serial to console cable and a PC that has a serial port. If you don’t have a PC with a serial port (old HPs are great for this purpose) then you can get a USB to serial adapter – a point to note here is watch out for the super cheap ones, quite often you will find that they use counterfeit chips meaning USB drivers don’t work reliably.

Anywhos on with the guide!

First up the network switch that I have has been previously protected with a password, in addition I want to configure the switch from scratch. To do this I am going to perform a factory reset and clear…

Now its time to configure the switch, for the configuration I will be using PuTTY which can be downloaded from here – http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/.

This final network is quite possibly the ones that most Schools will shy away from on grounds of ‘security’ – where I work however that just isn’t an option as we have paying users of the school facilities right the way through the evening and weekends. Indeed the weekend after we put this public network in place we have ~110 users on the network all of which were taking part in a chess competition that was being held at the Academy.

James stop rambling and get on with the guide…

So for the Public WiFi network the objective is to provide guests with a shared key (which is changed regularly) to access the network and to be able to use the internet without putting in any web proxy settings.


As per with the BYOD network you must have the Smoothwall configured with a virtual adapter which sits in the Public VLAN (details here -http://myworldofit.net/?p=6473) before carrying on with this guide. The screen shots below cover the configuration required…

Windows DHCP Server

Next up you must configure your Windows DHCP server to provide the clients with their IP addresses…


The configuration on the HP MSM for this network is as easy as setting up the Mac Wi-Fi VLAN as I will just be using a pre shared key that is changed regularly. However there are plenty of other options available like a captive web portal or single use keys (Meraki have a pretty funky option where you are forced (or just directed to) to ‘like’ a Facebook page before you are authenticated onto the network).

Zone Bridging

Finally as part of the configurations for the BYOD and Public networks because we are using the Smoothwall (and not our internal router) as the default gateway we need a method to allow what are 3 separate networks (BYOD/Public/Internal) to communicate with each other. On Smoothwall firewalls this is called Zone Bridging. N.B. – To configure zone bridging you need to have the Zone feature installed as a module (System > Maintenance > Modules).

That’s all folks!

Here ends this series of posts; hopefully they have given you an interesting insight into one (of many) ways to configure a WiFi network inside a School (or indeed any workplace). Please note that for specific help on the Smoothwall side your best bet will be to get a hold of Smoothwall direct and for support on HP wireless networks you will probably need to get a VAR involved.


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