Friday, June 05, 2015

Getting Started with IBM Connections - Communities (Creating a Notification System)

With Sametime (Chats) out of the way (See: Part 1 and Part 2) and the initial user setup done too (see here), it's time to start building things and getting users engaged in IBM Connections Cloud.

From what I've seen, it appears that there are two major features to go; Communities and Meetings. For the time being, I want to focus on Communities. 

What is a Community?
A Connections community seems to be a "group or topic around which members gather" in order to share and develop ideas. There are lots of things which could be communities;

  • Your company as a whole.
  • Specific Departments (or Business or Functional Groups)
  • Members of a Particular Project
  • A System (For example, your Invoice System). 
  • An Idea, such as "Business Continuity" 
  • A Hobby (such as a pet club, readers club or a movie watchers club).

Most communities will probably be business-related but if you're having trouble getting people to use Connections, it might be worthwhile providing them with a community they might enjoy participating in. 

Creating a Community
Ideally, before you create a community, you'll have decided what exactly the purpose of the community is.  In this particular example, we need a community to track changes to external companies whose membership we manage.

To get to the communities page, sign into IBM connections and then click "Communities" and "I'm a Member".  This will take you to the communities pages where you will see the communities that you're already a member of.  There's also a button marked "Start a Community"; Click it.  

Showing the Communities that you're a member of
The "Start a Community" Form
Give your community a meaningful name, It's possible to change the name later but it's best to try to get it right from the beginning.

The Access is the most tricky part of the form.
You generally have three options; Restricted, Moderated and Open.

The first question to ask is;
Will anyone outside of my organisation be required to join this community?
(ie: anyone that you haven't purchased a Smartcloud licence for).  If the answer is yes, then you need to choose "Restricted" and everyone who joins the community must be "invited".   You'll probably also want to tick the checkbox marked [x] Allow people from outside my organization to become members of this community.

If the answer is No, then the next question to ask is;
Can anyone in my organisation decide to join this community?
If the answer to that question is yes, then you should choose Open.

If your answers were "No" and "No" to the two questions above, then you should choose "Moderated".

The next part of the form is the community description. You don't need to put a lot of detail here for now because you'll probably find yourself editing this as your community begins to find its role.

The last field is "tags".  These are keywords associated with the community.  The biggest decision to make here is how to represent multiple words which belong together (for example; financial institutions).

If the words are to be treated as a single keyword, they can't contain spaces  or commas.  It's possible to use a hyphen (eg: financial-institutions or to simply leave the pace out entirely FinancialInstitutions. Whichever way you choose, try to be consistent across your organisation.

The Icon
Below the fields is a link that reads "Upload a Community Image".  I can't stress the importance of community images enough. These provide an important recognition point for your system.

These icons should be square and ideally larger than they are displayed in other areas community. I tried at lower resolutions but they don't look good. A jpg of about 500 x 500 pixels is ideal but 250 x 250 is okay too.

I'm assuming that you've already created an image (I might explain how to do one quickly in another post). so just click Upload a Community Image, then choose your file.

There's also an area where you can select Members.  It's not a bad idea to put yourself in there as an owner to start with.  You can fix the rest up later.  It's best not to go adding others until you've gotten the system to a reasonable state (otherwise they'll start getting all sorts of messages).

In the Access Advanced Features section, you can set the rules for who can email who (email privileges).  More importantly though, you can set the start page of your community to "Status Updates".  If you can't see these options now, don't worry, they'll be there when you come back and edit the community later.

Now that you've done, click Save and your community will be created.

Configuring your Community
Now that you have a community, it's time to configure it a bit. This is a whole new topic in itself, so I'll just do one quick example;

We've decided that we want a calendar and activities as part of this community.
On the top right of the menu bar, click Community Actions and then Change Layout.

Next, click on the Add Apps tab to see a list of the apps you can add. Click the plus on each app that you want to add.

Now, still in the layout view, scroll down to see the body of your community. You'll notice that activities has been added to the very bottom of the list.  If you hover the mouse over the word activities, it will turn into a four arrowed cursor.  When that shows, it means that you can drag the activities dialog all the way to the top of the community so that it gets more easily noticed.

Your changes will be saved automatically.

That's it.

Using your New Community
Now if you post a status update, you should be notified. Your users can subscribe to this community and be notified too.

A Quick note on RSS
You'll notice that there are little fields which say "feed for these entries" against community elements. You can right click on these and copy the link address.  (That's the Chrome wording, it's probably a little different in other browsers).

Next, switch to Lotus Notes and expand the right hand pane and find the Feeds widget.
Click the Square RSS Feed icon with a green plus
A dialog box will appear, paste your URL and then click Go.
Change the feed name to something sensible (because the default one is just silly)
Click Ok.

Your notes client will change to show the feed (and if you've just posted something, it should pop up automatically).

You now have a notification system that your users can subscribe to.  To keep up to date on company changes. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Getting Started with IBM Connections Sametime Cloud (Chat) - PART 2

In my last post, I went through the initial setup of Sametime (from Creating a user to getting to a logon in the cloud). I promised that I'd be back with information on getting Sametime (IBM Chat) working on other devices and away from the web browser. 

So, after a slightly longer than expected break (holiday), I'm back. 

Last time, we got to the point where you could access Sametime in the Connections Cloud. As part of this, you should have ended up with;

  • A login name (email address)
  • A password
  • A connections location

Your connections location will probably be a URL something like this.

This is a good URL worth understanding and remembering.

The .ap. bit refers to Asia Pacific, which is the most correct option for Australia at the moment. Yours may be .na. (North America) or .eu. Europe

Getting the Relevant EXE Files
Once logged onto IBM Connections Cloud, it's very easy to get the installation files for a local version of IBM Chat (Sametime).

To get to the Install files, click on Apps and then on Downloads and Setup.
There's a section in there called Chat and a link to "View Chat Options".
Clicking this will open a new window containing the relevant links.

Three Types of Chat Client
There are three major types of Chat Client - and all of them have their little idiosyncrasies. 
  1. Stand-Alone Chat
    This runs in your system tray and in my opinion, it's the best option for most people. If you choose this client, then it will pop over anything when there's a message. Of course, not being integrated with Notes means that your notes mails won't be "presence-aware" but since the chat app itself is - and it's usually hovering nearby, it's not a major concern.  In particular, this chat client is good if you often close Notes (to use Webmail instead) or if you find yourself switching Notes IDs often.

    If I'm working from home, I will usually work on both my home PC and my remote work PC. When I'm focussed on my home PC any chats which break on the remote PC won't be seen if I have a screen in front.  That's where having the chat running on my home PC as a standalone client works well.
  2. Embedded in the Notes Client
    This is the option that most people are familiar with. If you're running a recent version of Notes, then you'll already have an embedded sametime client. If configured correctly, it will usually work with the connections cloud but I'd still recommend downloading and installing the latest embedded client as it contains a few "extras".
  3. Mobile Chat
    The mobile client is used on Apple iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows tablets and phones. It's not downloaded from the "Downloads and Setup" section of connections but from the app stores for your particular device. 

Note that while it's certainly possible to have both the Notes Client AND the standalone version of Sametime on the one machine, they can't both be connected at the same time, so it's counterproductive.  Only install one sametime client per machine

Installing the Stand-Alone and Embedded Clients are simply a matter of downloading the EXE, then closing Notes and running it as Administrator, Agree to the licence and click next a few times followed by Finish.

The server should be your address and your user name and password are the same as for connections.  You should be prompted at some point for your location and this is worth filling in. The other important thing is to save your chats.  If you don't save your chats then you'll lose context when you move between devices.  I found this out the hard way. 

If you've accidentally chosen not to save your chats, you can change it later, simply click the cog icon in the sametime chat window and choose Preferences.  Then click on Chat History and change it to Automatically Save Chats. 

Where are all my contacts?
Probably the most frequently asked question about Sametime today is "where are all my contacts".  In the past, we could just add the "All staff" group to Sametime and it would pull in everybody but that doesn't work if you're not running a hybrid setup -- because your notes groups aren't accessible to sametime in the cloud. 

You just need to add people as you need them for the time being. On the plus side though, once you've added them on one cloud-enabled device, they show up on others. 

Switching Between Clients
It's a bit of a joke nowdays that IBM changed the name from "Sametime" to IBM Chat because you can't actually be in two clients at the "same time".  This is really annoying and Google talk can do it .... .  All whining aside though, there's some settings that you really need to look at;

Shut down Sametime in the Cloud
The next time you logon to IBM Connections cloud, sametime will connect and will pass control to the browser. This will drop you out of your embedded or standalone client. Sign out of IBM Chat on the cloud system and deselect the "Automatically Sign me in" box.  You can now re-sign in to your embedded or standalone client without worrying that everytime you visit IBM Connections cloud, you'll be signed out. 

I've noticed that there's a google chrome extension to do that.  I don't know what that's for but you won't need it. Just sign out. 

Apple iOS and Android Clients
The iOS and Android clients for sametime are called IBM Connections Chat. You can find them in the Apple iTunes store or the Google Play Store.  They're easy to install and once installed, you just need your user name, password and IBM connections cloud server. 

The same notes as above apply to them, you should save your chats and set up your location.  You should also be aware that whenever you sign into them, you will be signed out of your other sametime accounts... and you will appear with a mobile device icon next to your status. 

Next Time: With all the sametime stuff out of the way, hopefully Next time, I can start talking about using IBM Connections Cloud to get work done. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting Started with IBM Connections Sametime Cloud (Chat) - PART 1

One of the best reasons to move to the new IBM Connections Cloud is IBM Sametime. 

Until recently, we were using the "free" bundled IBM Sametime 7 offering. This was a useful feature but of course, some of us were spoiled by the chat options available in other software (Google Hangouts particularly). The version 7 feature has not aged well.  

We looked at upgrading the functionality some time ago, only to be told by many people that "the new SameTime is too complex to set up". It also required considerably more investment in hardware and software. Essentially it wasn't going to be economical to use and we had ditched the product. 

The plan was to eventually install a replacement, but in the meantime, we were learning to live without it - after 6 months, our users had stopped complaining.

Then along came the IBM Connections version of Sametime.... and it's good. Very Good. 

Cloud: The Fastest Way to Get up and Running
The fastest way to get up and running with the connections version of Sametime is to get some people to connect in the cloud. To do this;

Essentially, this is the new user account process

  1. Login to your IBM Connections Cloud Page.
  2. In the top Right, click Admin then Manage Organization
  3. Click Add User Account
  4. Provide a First and Last Name, a Language and a Department.
  5. Choose a Role (Generally User is appropriate).
  6. Click Next.
  7. On the Subscriptions tab, choose;
  8. IBM Connections Cloud S2 (under collaboration).
  9. Leave the mail alone unless you're using mail/hybrid settings -- that's a whole other post. 
  10. In the Subscription Add-ons, tick [x] IBM Connections Docs Cloud.
  11. Click Next
  12. Ensure that the email address is correct and then click Finish. 
The system will send your new user an email telling them that they now have an IBM Connections account. There's a clickable link in the email and this will enable them to reset their password. Once they're logged in, they'll automatically be available in Sametime.

Note: it's the web version of SameTime, so it will be "gone" when your users navigate away from the page but that's okay. There's some better sametime options which I'll discuss in part 2. 

You may also find that your sametime system doesn't automatically have the names of everyone in your organisation.  The old version used to. I believe that once you connect your Notes/Domino environment to the cloud as a hybrid environment, you'll have that functionality though at the moment, I can't confirm. 

Adding a Colleague to the Chat
If your new user wants to add a colleague who is also on sametime, then these are the steps to follow;
  1. Click on the Cog (top right)
  2. Choose New Contact
  3. Type part of the name (ie: first or last name only) and press Enter.
  4. Your person's name should appear.
  5. Click on it and then Click Add. 

Next Time
In my next post, I'll go over how to get the Connections-based Sametime working in the Notes client, as a Windows app and on mobiles and tablets.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Getting Started with IBM Connections Smartcloud

Last September, when renewing our Notes and Domino Licences, IBM offered us a trade-up to IBM Connections SmartCloud.  Essentially, there we were presented with two options;

1. 50%  of our licenses upgraded to the full services (S1)
2. 100% of our licenses upgraded to a subset of the services (S2)

I chose the first option, knowing that either way I'd have a struggle on my hands with management when I wanted to take advantage of the full services but also knowing that it's easier to justify getting the other half of the organisation onto the new service than it is to widen services for the whole organisation. 

We're still only half there but I'm very hopeful - it's the first time in years that I've had real confidence in IBM's direction. 

So What is this Connections thing Anyway?
It's weird but IBM seems to have come full circle in the Domino product line. They spent years barking up the wrong tree with ideas like the ill-fated "workplace" which was intended to replace Domino but merely destabilized the entire IBM customer base, the equally ill-fated Symphony, which was designed to replace Microsoft Office and Quickr (which went through a few confusing name changes, looked good and then ultimately died).

That's a pretty short list, there's a lot more which I won't go into suffice to say that it takes a tenacious IBM customer to hang on through all of those bad decisions.

I deliberately ignored Connections when it first came out.  It looked like yet another attempt at making a "Lotus killer" - and I'm glad I did ignore it because it's really taken many years to mature.

Connections SmartCloud seems to be a sort of hybrid of the various products which uses Domino and XPages as the "glue" to stick it all together. I was dubious at first but the more I use it, the better it becomes. 

Slowly, Slowly
The key to connections is really to take things slowly until you build up enough understanding to make proper use of the product. In our case, we let our connections licenses sit there idle for about six months before deciding to do something about them (we were very busy with other things).

The key to getting things up and running is to get IBM involved. Right now, connections is a fairly new product and they're trying to gain traction.  They'll be willing to help.

Contact your IBM Business Partner (or if you haven't got one, contact IBM directly) and ask for someone to help explain what connections is to you.  It won't cost you anything and you'll benefit immensely from the experience. 

If you have several servers, you'll find that connections can replace your mail server, your traveler server and your sametime server.  You may also find that it replaces some other services.  Personally, I'd love to use it to replace our file servers but I don't think our organisation is ready for that kind of change... yet.

Start with Sametime
Sametime is probably the easiest way to start with connections -- and the quickest way to see real benefit in your organisation.  All you have to do is create users in connections and then push the passwords out to your people. They'll be able to logon and use Sametime on the PCs, Mobiles and tablets.

In my next post, I'll try to go through the rudiments of Sametime setup.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Cloud Services and the Business

It wasn't all that long ago that cloud services were frowned upon in business circles but 2015 looks like being the year of cloud adoption. So far, I've personally signed up for three major options,

  • Google Apps for Business
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • IBM Smartcloud Connections

 Of course, there's a few smaller options in there too, like Symantec.Cloud which we use for Anti-Spam and Mail Archiving and Telstra's cloud services which we use in other capacities.

Data Protection
One of the things that has kept businesses well away from the idea of cloud services is belief that the US government has more access to data on cloud servers. In a way, this is true, particularly if those servers reside in the US.

Personally I don't understand why the US Government is considered to be such a threat to legitimate business but rest assured, I've seen the reactions. People clearly don't want their data to be snooped.

The problem is that the details of these laws make it clear that not being a US company or not being on US soil makes very little difference to the privacy of your data.  For a start, any company with any point of presence on US soil is subject to the PATRIOT act and may be required to surrender your data -- even if it was never on a US Server.

Secondly, most countries, Australia included, have reciprocal agreements which essentially mean that the government will willingly turn data over to the US if required. There's not a lot you can do about it.

With that in mind, a cloud service stops being quiet so scary. Your data is available no matter which way you look at it. You might as well make sure that you pick a cloud service that satisfies your business needs rather than some imaginary geographical ones. 

I'm not nearly close to a choice of the best service - yet.  What I can say is that of the three big ones I've looked at, Google is the easiest and cheapest to sign up and use.  Microsoft's service was by far the most difficult, it took me more than a week to sort out the licensing - and that was with the help of a Business Partner.

IBM so far sits somewhere in the middle, it's very simple to get started but now a month or so later, I'm still trying to get my head around it all. What I can see so far is that there's a lot of potential there and that it seems to integrate well with our existing Domino solutions.  I'll provide more information as I begin to figure it out.

One thing's for sure though. Microsoft is all about the "Office" and "Exchange" brands, Google is wider than simply applications and IBM is about collaboration -- applications take a clear back seat to the collaborative environment as a whole.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How to Stop Youtube's new AutoPlay feature from Eating all of your Bandwidth...

I've noticed a rather annoying trend recently where youtube starts a countdown to the next video at the end of our current viewing and starts playing it automatically.  Sure, you can click cancel but what happens if you're not there?

What happens if you're watching a video and then you get a phone call and suddenly have to leave your desk.... Don't worry, YouTube will happily continue downloading random streaming videos in the background.  Even better, if you've left home for the day (or work for a weekend) you can expect a nasty bandwidth surprise.

That's why you need to turn this horrible new feature off. 

How to Turn AutoPlay OFF
In your YouTube account, start playing a video, any video.  You should see an AutoPlay option in the top right hand corner. Slide it to the off position.

That's it. It seems to be a setting which is remembered... of course, that's only if you're actually logged into YouTube.  If you're not logged in then you'll probably find yourself having to turn things off every time you restart your browser.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Restarting Agent Manager on Domino 9.0.1 may crash your server....

Update: Thanks to everyone who commented to point out that this was fixed.  We were all so focussed on Poodle that we only applied the fixes to the servers that serve HTML.  Turns out that IBM Domino 9.0.1 FIX PACK 3 is a good fix to have on all of your servers. 


Just a fun tidbit we discovered today (fortunately on the test, rather than the production server).

It seems that bug has been introduced in from Domino 9.0.1 which doesn't like having the agent manager restarted. 

Specifically, via the commands;




Under normal use, you'd probably have no reason to issue those commands on your server console but if you had a runaway agent or if you were testing/debugging, you might.

Shortly after agent manager loads (in our case, in under 10 seconds), the server will start to report things like;

AMgr: Console command 'LOG.NSF' is unknown
AMgr: Console command 'admin4.NSF' is unknown

The actual name of the database will be different depending upon your system but the problem is the same. The server starts referring to databases like they were console commands.

After a while, the server becomes hard to access and you either need to get to a remote console to shut down Agent Manager or access the server via services and shut down the Domino server (and then reboot).

After a reboot, it all starts working again -- provided that you leave Agent Manager alone. 

Turns out that there has been an APAR for it  (and here) since 17 June 2014 (but it's closed, not sure if that's okay).

Fixing it
Apparently the fix is to "Do not set Log_AgentManager." and "Remove unnecessary MQClose" (thanks IBM, that's really clear).

From what I can gather, this is something to do with the Notes.INI variable;


Which our server didn't even have.  I added this INI variable and set it to 0 (but didn't restart the domino server, so it's not a proper test).  After I restarted the Agent Manager, the problem reoccurred. I tried setting it to 1 and restarting the Agent Manager.... I'm not sure if I just hit good timing but the problem seems to have disappeared.

Really though, best to avoid agent manager commands during office hours on the production servers if you can help it. 

(one final thing... it looks like Thomas Hampel blogged about this last May, so thank you!)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Domino Lives!

I had a very interesting conversation with IBM last week (more on that in later posts) and at one point we discussed the current status and the future of IBM Notes and Domino.  It's a discussion which seems to be largely ignored at the IBM events these days but it's certainly a question that IBM's customers want answered. 

The answer from IBM was quite interesting.

First of all, we were assured that IBM Domino was not dead - far from it. It was alive, kicking and thriving.

It's no longer being considered "sexy" or "new" but is seen as a mature product which does exactly what it needs to do.  IBM made it clear that they didn't intend to over-engineer notes by adding functionality simply so that they could bring a new version to the market.

IBM weren't subtle about it either, pointing the finger at Microsoft Word and asking "how many more features do you need in a word processor"?  It was a good point, well made. After all, how much functionality did "the ruler" make to Microsoft Word - and was it worth the cost of the upgrade? In my experience, it's made a lot of things that I used to do much more difficult.

IBM does not want Notes and Domino to become "bloatware".  In fact, they made it clear that  many of their requests were for smaller clients, for example, to "make the firefox browser-based version of Notes available on iOS". Whether that actually happens is yet to be determined but it's clear that the future is "smaller".

There will be new versions of Notes as new requirements and fixes arise. Domino isn't going away but as it moves past the 25 years mark and loses it's sexy good looks, at least it has a plan to keep trim. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Pain of Getting into Microsoft's Corporate Licensing

We've been out of Microsoft's Corporate licensing model for quite a while and it's been good, no, it's been GREAT. 

Whenever I've needed a Microsoft Product, I've wandered down to the local retail outlet and purchased it. Sure, sometimes I've been a little annoyed when it's not in stock and I've had to wait a day or two but on the whole, it's been glorious.

We haven't bothered with maintenance on our Microsoft products because we don't want to upgrade. Not within 3-4 years. Our standards so far have been  

  • Windows NT + Office 97, 
  • then Windows XP + Office 2003 
  • and now Windows 7 + Office 2010.
Because we update so infrequently (and all at once), it's easier to simply purchase new computers once every four years and buy the software at the same time. It's not like you save anything much on the volume licensing  -- in fact, it's quite the opposite, buying a new licence every four years is much cheaper than paying maintenance on one for four. Plus you get an extra (old) licence out of the deal. 

The Changing Microsoft Licensing Model
Unfortunately now, the Microsoft world has changed. 

Now they're making their products harder to purchase in retail stores and they're expecting to have them linked to hotmail/exchange accounts. This is all well and good if you've got a consistent set of employees who all have those accounts but if your workforce fluctuates (for example contractors on lots of short projects) then it's quite painful.

I've successfully avoided Microsoft Open Licensing since it was first introduced except for a few small occasions.  All of these were incredibly painful and time-consuming. In one case, we attracted the attention of Microsoft themselves who announced that we had to do an internal IT audit.  We were fully in compliance, in fact, we were considerably over-compliant but I still had to gather every single licence and fill out tons of paperwork.  It was a very costly exercise in terms of staff time and it certainly cooled us off on the whole "working with Microsoft" thing.

I really have to wonder why an organisation like Microsoft has the power to demand audits like that. 

The worst sign-up process in the World.
So, after years of successful avoidance, we now find ourselves in the position of having to do the whole Open Licence thing.  We're using a Microsoft Business Partner so you'd assume that this would smooth things over -- it doesn't.

Here are some of the highlights;

  • I've been waiting four business days for the licensing to come through.
  • The Microsoft site is not compatible with browsers other than Internet Explorer
  • Partway through the process the browser throws an error and tells me that I need an "InPrivate" session -- a decent browser would simply switch to one. 
  • A typical attempt involves me having to sign on at least five times.
  • I keep having to verify codes to protect my account (despite turning it off several times).
  • The Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center is unintuitive (and useless)
  • The whole process ends with a "Sorry" Error telling me that I have to switch to an InPrivate window even though it's already InPrivate.

I used to complain about the usability of IBM's Passport advantage site but it leaves the Microsoft one for dead. 

An Alternative
On the plus side, since I'm without office at the moment, I've been using Google Drive.  I could have used Libre Office but I didn't want to install anything.  I'm pretty impressed, apart from the amazing signup process (login with your google account which takes 5 minutes to create), the product is free.

I've used it before for home purposes but this is the first time I've thrown real-world work documents from Word, Excel and Powerpoint at it.  I'm very impressed.  It's handled everything I've thrown at it without a hitch and I'm exchanging documents with my colleagues and they haven't noticed a thing.

I really have to question the business wisdom of continuing to use Microsoft products at all but that's a discussion for later - in the meantime, if Microsoft doesn't sort themselves out, at least I have other tools that I can rely upon. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Why you should get onto Google Play even if you don't have an Android Device

So, you're an Apple person, or a Windows person, and you already have an iTunes or Windows store account. You can get your books, music and movies from their stores. Why would you bother getting a Google Play account?

It's worth it. That's why -- even if you only buy the FREE things. 

Actually, there's four very good reasons;

  • Cross Platform Functionality
  • Downloading to Other Devices
  • Uploading Your Own Materials
  • Free Stuff 

Cross Platform Functionality
If you have iTunes, then for the most part, your music and movies are only available on your apple device(s).   Your iPhone, iPod or iPad, maybe your apple computer and possibly, in some cases, your windows computer.  Essentially, purchases on the apple platform, stay on the apple platform.

This is not the case with Google Play.

Movies, Music and Books from Google Play works in;
  • Android tablets and phones (obviously)
  • Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods (Do a search for Google Play)
  • Windows PCs
  • The Chrome Browser (on any platform)
  • The Linux Platform
  • ChromeOS on ChromeBooks and the ChromeBox
In addition, Google Play Apps will work on;

Downloading to Other Devices
Some of the files from Google play will also play in other devices;

  • Music can be downloaded as DRM Free MP3
    This means that it will play in most modern CD players, can be written to CD using software like Nero or Windows Media Player, will play in VLC and can be uploaded to your iPhone.
  • Books can be downloaded as (usually DRM Free) EPub or PDF. 
    To download, just go to Google Play, click on Books, then My Books.
    Hover the mouse over the top right of any book in your collection and a tiny three-box menu will appear. Click on this and you can download your book to copy to your E-Reader or wherever else you want to take it.

Uploading Your Own Materials
Did you know that you can also upload your own books and music to Google Play?  This means that they become part of your library and you can access them from other locations.   Sure, you can do this in the iTunes world too but the difference is there that although you can copy songs to your phone, they don't become part of your library.  Trust me, the Google model is much better. 

Free Stuff 
Finally, we get to free stuff.  Like most providers today, Google has "songs of the week" and "books of the week" as well as random "free" stuff throughout their library.   There's no real catch other than needing you to have a working Google play account. 

When you buy free stuff, it will expect either a play card with money on your account or a working credit card. It doesn't charge these things but it just likes to know that they are there. 

I'd advise against hooking a credit card up to the account.  It's much better to simply buy a cheap Google play card. 

You should check the front pages of the Books and Music on Google play at least once per week in case something free appears. If it's worth getting it, then just do. You don't need to worry about bandwidth, just "buy it" while it's free, you don't need to download it immediately.

The easiest way to find Free books and free music is to go to the appropriate books or music page and type in the search bar 
  • Free Books
  • Free Music
You'll find that most of the classics are free all of the time but other popular genres are only free for a limited time (so you need to "buy" them as soon as you see them for free. 

Free movies on Google Play are pretty rare but they do happen. Pacific Rim was free for a short while over Christmas 2014. 

Recent Highlights
Free stuff will also vary from one country to another.  Recent highlights include; (check these out because they might still be free) 

    Go get 'em.