Sidney Keith

Recent Posts

August 1 , 2016

AirParrot 2.5.2 for Mac and Windows is now Available

AirParrot 2.5.2 for Mac and Windows is now available. The update improves the mirroring experience on both Mac and Windows.

Mac 2.5.2 Release Notes:
 - Improved the rate at which content updates when mirroring mostly static content

Windows 2.5.2 Release Notes:
- Improved mDNS discovery and reliability on very large networks with hundreds of devices
- Added better support for multiple monitor setups on Windows 8.1 and above
- Added improved support for alternate DPIs on Windows 8.1 and above

You can update AirParrot 2 by selecting “Check for Updates” from the AirParrot 2 preferences menu. Additionally, you can download the new version from the AirParrot 2 download page.

July 21 , 2016

How the Squirrels Team Built a Giant Tree in the Middle of ISTE 2016

If you were at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio, you may have noticed the Squirrels team tucked away in a corner at a small 10’ by 10’ booth. That was our first year at ISTE, and we quickly realized it was THE place to be. ISTE is a mix of educators from around the world learning about new technology and sharing their experiences with others in the field. The people at ISTE are passionate about what they do, and they’re excited and eager to learn more. That passion drives us back to ISTE every year.

Fast forward three years… past Atlanta in 2014 and Philadelphia in 2015. Our trip to Denver this year was our fourth and largest, most ambitious ISTE yet. After attending ISTE 2015, we committed to making our ISTE 2016 presence bigger and bolder, and we did just that:

Squirrels Booth Iste 2016 Tree

Yes, you’re seeing that right. We built a giant tree in the middle of a conference hall.

HOW?!

Planning for ISTE starts months ahead of the actual show, and a lot of people don’t realize the show isn’t the deadline. Weeks before the show, everything needs to ship across the country.

Shipping steel, wood and a plastic tree is a challenge we’ll leave out of this post, but feel free to ponder…

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Shipping

In January (yes, that’s six months before the show), the creative team along with minds on the marketing and administrative teams sat down for a brainstorm. A few hours later, the walls were plastered with tradeshow booth best practices and examples from around the world. The white boards were full, and there was scratch paper everywhere. Everyone was tired, but what came out of that meeting was the start of what would become ISTE 2016 booth number 2945.

We tasked the creative team with designing five concepts that we could build on. One of those concepts was a giant tree, and obviously that’s the concept that made it through to the end.

ISTE Tree Booth Concept

In its original form, it was an actual tree. We priced out stage props, building our own and, among other ideas, bringing a real live tree. When we originally began talking about the tree idea, some of the team had the idea to create an abstract tree. After realizing a “real” tree wasn’t nearly as creative as we thought, we ran with the abstract idea.

Squirrels Booth ISTE 2016

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Concept

After the initial concept was accepted by the group, we needed to figure out how to actually build an abstract tree. Eventually, we realized we had the skills, tools and materials to do the job ourselves.

By this time, it was nearly May. The shipping deadline was mid June. We had roughly six weeks to fabricate and assemble a tree from scratch. Once we made the decision to build and assemble everything in-house, we had one more obstacle: Space.

We’ve got a roomy office, but it’s not roomy enough to build an 18-foot tree, walls and a presentation area. A local commercial real estate company graciously leased us a short-term building space. Whew, crisis averted.

We started with the tree. We knew what it should look like, but we didn’t know exactly how to build it. The initial concept was far from perfect, but it helped us morph to the final stages rather quickly.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Prototype

After realizing fiberglass poles were indeed the best way to create the outline of the tree canopy, we needed to figure out how to easily connect them while keeping everything structurally sound.

The initial connection pieces were printed with one of our office 3D printers. After some analysis and realization that the pieces may not be strong enough, we progressed to injection-molded plastic connectors.

ISTE 2016 Connectors

We didn’t have a plan for the canopy covering when we started. We progressed through multiple ideas including stretched fabric and polystyrene. We landed on green, semi-transparent acrylic sheets. Aka: PlexiGlass.

We purchased the acrylic material in 8 foot by 4 foot sheets. We have a lot of devices and machines that we like to experiment with here at Squirrels. It just so happens we have a laser cutter that’s perfect for cutting the acrylic material. So the triangle panels were laser cut to size in our office basement.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Laser Cut Panels

 

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Cut Panels Numbered

To attach those panels to the fiberglass frame, we 3D printed small connecting rods that held tight to the pole-based frame and then screwed into the acrylic with tiny thumb screws.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Panels on Frame

A real tree trunk needs to be structurally sound and able to hold the weight of everything above it. This is also true for our fake tree.

On the inside, a steel truss with custom-welded connection points holds the tree canopy in place safely.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Welded Frame

The “bark” of our tree was attached to a custom-welded steel frame as well. This frame, however, didn’t need to hold as much weight, as it was only covering the internal trussing system.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Frame

Tree roots are arguably the most important part of any tree. Without roots, trees can’t withstand wind, gravity and other forces.

We couldn’t just bolt the truss system to the floor. The Colorado Convention Center would probably look down on that type of action. So, our root system is built into the booth around the tree. The base of the trunk is bolted into the stage and held in place by the booth walls.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Roots

The walls we’re talking about look like one solid piece. However, four separate pieces comprise the middle dividing wall. Trust us, one piece is heavy enough. We didn’t want to move anything heavier.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Unfinished Walls

Now is a good time to mention how talented and creative our employees are. A few of them run a custom wood-working business in their free time. They made a little extra time to custom build our ISTE booth walls! The walls are built from cedar we removed during a renovation of our current offices.

The grass we used for the presentation side is actual outdoor grass carpeting used by professionals in backyards around the United States. It was nifty, easy-to-use and perfect for our tree-themed Squirrels booth.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Grass

 

Once everything was built at our warehouse, we shipped it across the United States. Reassembly in Colorado took about 8 hours, but the result was exactly what we wanted!

That’s how we built the “tree booth!” If you want to know more, feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below. We’re happy to explain everything!

 

July 11 , 2016

Apple TV and Chromecast: Which Screen-Sharing Solution is Right for You?

There are two main players in the screen-mirroring arena right now: Apple TV and Chromecast. Both have pros and cons. We’ll discuss those differences along with Ditto, the newest screen-sharing service on the market.

Functionality
While Apple TV and Chromecast were both created to solve content-sharing problems, they solve the problem differently.

Apple TV
Apple TV allows users to install apps like games, TV channels and movie/TV services such as Netflix and HBO Go. Apple TV was built to be a stand-alone unit. Users can plug it in and use the included remote to navigate menus and content.

The device pulls content from specified service providers when a user tells it to.

Both the new generation and previous generation Apple TV work this way, but the slightly older models require users to stick with preinstalled applications.

Chromecast
Chromecast was created to work with mobile devices and computers. The package does not include a remote, and when plugged in, the device will prompt the user to download a mobile application for setup. The mobile application works with both Android and iOS.

Unlike Apple TV, Chromecast does not rely on installed applications. Users push content to the device from mobile phones, tablets or computers.

Form Factor

Dittochromecast

Chromecast is meant to be hidden away behind a TV. Apple TV is meant to sit front and center for all to see.

Mobile Screen Sharing
Android users can easily share their device screen to a Chromecast. Likewise, iPad and iPhone users can easily share their screen to Apple TV. The process is similar for both setups. However, the two cannot cross. For example, iPad users cannot mirror their screen to a Chromecast and Android users cannot mirror their mobile device screen to Apple TV.

Desktop Screen Sharing
Apple users can easily share Mac screens to an Apple TV using the built in AirPlay feature. However, Apple users cannot share their entire computer display to Chromecast. Windows users actually can’t natively share their entire desktop to Apple TV or Chromecast.

Price

Apple TV
Apple TV has been available for years. The device is currently in its fourth and most expensive iteration. The new Apple TV is priced at $149 and $199 depending on storage options. The slightly older third-generation Apple TV is priced at $69.

Chromecast
The currently available 2nd-generation Chromecast retails for $35. For users who don’t need the bells and whistles of an Apple TV, it’s the more cost-effective option.

Alternative Screen-Sharing Solutions
Our team specializes in screen-sharing solutions that allow everyone, regardless of their operating system, to share to either receiver (Apple TV or Chromecast). In the screen-mirroring world, our products don’t care which receiver you use. We have bridged the technological divide between the set-top boxes and receivers created by tech giants such as Apple and Google.

Our AirParrot 2 software allows individual Mac and PC users alike to share their screen to Apple TV or Chromecast. AirParrot even allows users to mirror and stream to both Apple TV and Chromecast simultaneously, if needed.

Ditto, our newest offering, bridges this gap for organizations that may not want to purchase software for every employee and guest. It brings a unified and consistent screen-sharing experience to conference rooms and meeting spaces in any business, school or institution.

Desktop Screen SharingMultiple Users
Use the Ditto screen-sharing service to mirror employee and guest screens to Chromecast or Apple TV. Ditto is a service that allows unlimited screen sharing to a receiver regardless of the user. Ditto is priced per room, not per user, so your business doesn’t need to pay for a software license for each individual employee or guest.

Single User
AirParrot 2 is a robust, dynamic screen-mirroring and media-streaming software. It allows a single user to mirror their desktop or a single application to one or more receivers (Apple TV, Chromecast or Reflector-enabled computers) simultaneously. Once installed on a user’s computer, they can mirror their screen, stream media or extend their desktop to the appropriate receiver.

Apple TV or Chromecast?
Which solution is right for you? There isn't an easy answer! It completely depends on your personal or business-related screen-sharing needs, the devices you have available and the third party screen-sharing services you choose to use.

Learn more about our industry-leading screen mirroring and streaming solutions at www.airsquirrels.com.

June 29 , 2016

How to use Ditto to Connect to a Computer Running Reflector 2

Ditto and Reflector 2Ditto is a versatile screen-sharing solution. It allows anyone to easily share their computer screen to a display connected to an Apple TV, Chromecast or any computer equipped with our Reflector 2 software.

Conference room displays and TVs are commonly powered by a computer so presenters can incorporate software for note taking and online conferencing. If that computer is also equipped with Reflector 2—a software that receives AirPlay and Google Cast connections—then others in the room can wirelessly share their iOS, Android, Chromebook, Mac and PC screens to the conference room display.

So how does our Ditto Mac/PC screen-sharing service work with our Reflector AirPlay/Google Cast receiving app? It’s surprisingly simple!

The process is similar to setting up a Chromecast or Apple TV. To begin, be sure you’ve downloaded and installed the Reflector 2 screen-mirroring receiver on your Mac or PC.

Once installed, open Reflector 2. The computer will begin broadcasting as an available receiver for iOS and Android devices. Our Ditto configuration utility will also see Reflector 2 running on the computer and allow it as a supported receiver. The configuration utility is the easiest and best way to add a Reflector-enabled computer to your Ditto account. Alternatively, you can manually add the computer to your Ditto account by entering the receiving computer’s information in the Ditto account portal.

Once the computer running Reflector 2 is added to Ditto, anyone with a computer and an internet connection can wirelessly share their screen to the Reflector-enabled computer. All they have to do is visit connect.goditto.com and enter the Reflector-enabled computer’s unique Ditto code.

June 22 , 2016

How to Configure a Chromecast Background to Display Ditto Connection Details

When not in use, Chromecast displays a slideshow of seemingly random photos from around the world. What few people know is that the ability to change these photos does exist deep within the Chromecast settings.

If you’re using a Chromecast in a Ditto-enabled room, it’s rather handy to automatically display Ditto connection instructions on the Chromecast itself. To connect to Ditto, users only need to read the on-screen instructions.

Ditto with Chromecast

To begin, you’ll need to download the background image for the room you’re setting up.

Obtain your Ditto connection instructions background image:

  1. Visit the Rooms section of your Ditto account.
  2. Select the desired room.
  3. Click the “Room Background” button.
  4. Save the image that appears. This image explains how users can connect to the display wirelessly. 

Once you’ve saved the image, you’ll need to add it to Google Photos.

Create two new Google Photo albums for each Chromecast you would like to set up:

  1. Visit the Google Photos website.
  2. Upload your room background image.
  3. Add the previously saved room image to two new albums. Create two albums that are named similarly to the room you’re setting up. Two albums containing only the same Ditto background image are required for each room you would like to configure. The albums must be empty of everything but this image. You need two photo albums because Chromecast automatically rotates between albums. If you don’t have these two albums selected, Chromecast will rotate between the other preset Google Photo albums.

Now that the room background is in albums, you can tell the Chromecast to only use a specified image for a screensaver or background.

Set a new background image for use with Chromecast and Ditto:

  1. First, you’ll need to download the Google Cast application on a phone or tablet. The app is available for Android and iOS, and it lets you configure Chromecast options including the background and screensaver for your Chromecast.
  2. Once downloaded, connect your phone or tablet to the same Wifi as the Chromecast you would like to configure.
  3. The Google Cast app on iOS and Android works nearly the same for both platforms. Tap the “Devices” tab to be presented with a list of available devices on your network.
  4. At the top right of the Chromecast you would like to configure, tap the three vertical dots to open a menu.Step1
  5. Select “Backdrop Settings”.Step2
  6. Tap the Google Photos option.
  7. Enable this option.Step3
  8. Select the image albums that match the room you’re setting up.Step4
  9. Be sure to disable other Backdrop options like “Art” and “Earth and Space”.

That’s it! The background image will now appear on the Chromecast you’re setting up. Perform these same steps for each Chromecast you would like to setup.

You can learn more about Ditto or begin your 30-day free Ditto trial at www.goditto.com.

Related: Discover a little-known Apple TV feature that will make connecting to Ditto even easier.

About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. Our excitement and passion lies in creating high-qualty, budget-friendly software that can be used to enhance the devices already found in today's home and work environments. Follow our blog for all the latest product releases, #TeamSquirrels news and industry insight!