Monday, February 23, 2015

Mainframe 2 - run Windows apps on your Chromebook!

Happy (?) Snow/Cold Day!

One of the biggest complaints I hear from students is that they can not access Google Earth or SketchUp from their Chromebooks.  For a year now, I have commiserated with them - even keeping a Windows computer lab open so that they could use these applications.

This weekend, I discovered Mainframe2 during one of my PLN chats.  Mainframe2 will allow you to run those Windows apps from a Chromebook. How can you do this?  Mainframe2 runs your apps in the cloud via their servers, very much like a Virtual Machine (VM).  Everything is browser-based, no apps to install on the Chromebook.   According to their website, you can even invite collaborators to work on the same project. I've not tried this yet so I'm not sure how well this works.   Apparently, this is a new tool for education as they launched their EDU product at TCEA 2015 earlier this year.

I requested an invite from their website.  Once the invitation was received (less than 24 hours), I created a free (so far) account for my school in a matter of minutes.  I chose the Workstation account which provided approximate 100 hours of use.

Once I was signed in, I downloaded my school's license of SketchUp Pro via the Chrome browser that was a part of my account's installation.  It installed easily and was ready quickly.  (Note - you install your apps in a sandbox site and can then move it to production once you've tested it and made sure it works.)  There are a few apps installed by default, Google Earth is one of them!  You can try their installation of Google Earth on their website -  

Couple of things, I'm not sure how long this will be free.  Once I run out of hours, I don't know how much it will cost to continue to use it.  I've not figured out entirely how to push the apps out to my users, but then, I've only got about an hour of time put into this so far!  If nothing else, my students will be able to explore the earth via Google Earth as long as the VM is available on their website.  Also, their Terms of Service states this is only for students over 13.  I will be using this with my high school students so we'll be good to go there.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!


  1. Things are going well. Hope you enjoyed this post. Look for more to come soon!