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Switching a College from Desktops to Laptops? 515

Posted by Cliff
from the from-the-desk-to-the-backpack dept.
tverbeek asks: "The college of art and design where I work is going to start switching next year from a labs-with-desktops approach to computers, to a students-with-laptops approach. The president appears to have made up his mind that we're doing it, so that's not really up for debate. We'll be starting by equipping all the full-time faculty this year, then next year start requiring (as in 'you can use financial aid to pay for it') each new student to buy a laptop that meets our specs (Apple or Dell, depending on major). Does anyone have experience with this kind of transition? What were the biggest complications?"
"How did you handle software licensing, especially for high-priced apps? How do you do software installs/upgrades? What do you do for resource-hungry apps (e.g. CAD, 3D rendering)? What about traditional lab configuration issues like anti-malware software, classroom restrictions on IM/P2P/network gaming, standard configuration options, etc. that would seem impossible to do with computers you don't own?

I know that many other colleges have done this sort of thing, but what about *art schools* or other colleges with high-end needs but mostly non-technical users, and where something like Photoshop is considered a 'core' application more than MS Office? Also, I'm especially interested in info about much more/less support staff the laptop approach requires; my intuition says that 1000 unsecured laptops will take more work to support than 300 locked-down desktops, but I need data."
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Switching a College from Desktops to Laptops?

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  • Remote Desktop (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:01PM (#14773582)
    Set up a main server with all the software the students need. Then allow them to Remote Desktop in to use the server's resources for all those CPU-intensive tasks.

    Let them buy their own copies of PS or whatever if they want to.

    Better yet, quit now before the whole thing goes to hell. Find a nice cushy job in the industry rather than eke along in academia.
    • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Set up a main server with all the software the students need. Then allow them to Remote Desktop in to use the server's resources for all those CPU-intensive tasks.

      You want them to run photoshop over Remote Desktop? Brave man. Graphics intensive apps are not good candidates for Remote Desktop.
    • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mrchaotica (681592) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:19PM (#14773654)
      Better yet, quit now before the whole thing goes to hell.
      Seconded. Allowing students to have their own laptops (and providing WiFi for them to connect to) is one thing, but having their classwork absolutely depend on their particular machine working according to the college's policy and running the college's apps is pretty stupid because of the problems with the college trying to admin student-owned machines. I know I'd hate it if my school wanted to control what software my laptop runs!

      And that's not all -- it's stupid in general, but it's even stupider in this particular situation becuase of the expensive and resource-intensive software art students use (e.g. Maya). First, getting licenses for every student will cost a hell of a lot more than getting licenses for X computers in a lab that are shared between students. Second, those laptops are going to have to be really high-end not to absolutely suck for the art students to use -- we're talking $3000 17" Powerbook expensive. And yes, they actually need the big screens, because all their work is visual and people really do need access to decent tools (and they need fast processors for the same reason).
      • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LurkerXXX (667952) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:06PM (#14773921)
        You don't need to have the high-end software run only by lab computers. Get a license for a number of concurrent users of it and use a key-server to dole out keys to students anywhere on the lan (or VPN'd into it). You can get those types of licenses a heck of a lot cheaper than each of your students can buy them, and it still allows the students the flexability of using it on their own machines without going to 'the computer lab' to do their work.
        • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:54PM (#14774188)
          But the users are still being forced to use -- on their own property -- the particular set of hardware and software (e.g. operating system) required for the application. If my school tried to usurp control of my property from me, I'd start looking for another one then and there.

          Now, if they wanted to allow me to use whatever software I want, including using alternative software for classwork (i.e. any photo-editing software instead of explicitly Photoshop), then I might be less hostile to the idea. Although this is the case at my school (because it's not vocational), I highly doubt it would be the case at an art school. At least, it's not the case at the Art Institute -- I know for a fact that when they say they teach "3D modeling" they really mean "we teach you how to use the particular interface of Maya, but if you want to use some other program, like Blender, you're SOL." It's exactly like these "Technical Colleges" that tell you they're teaching programming but are actually teaching you how to use Visual Studio and MFC.
          • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:4, Interesting)

            by LurkerXXX (667952) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:40AM (#14774425)
            So? When I was in college I was 'forced' to buy a bunch of textbooks. They were my property, but the University mandated I used a particular set of books that the professors had chosen to teach from. It's really no different. You might claim a laptop is a lot bigger purchase than some books, but my books were all expensive and I needed a new set every semester. A few semesters worth easily added up to a midrange laptop.
          • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:3, Interesting)

            by flewp (458359)
            If you're looking to do any real serious 3D work, then they should be teaching something along the lines of Maya, XSI, etc (as in, programs that the real world uses).

            The problem is, as you have brought up, seems like they don't teach the general concepts that fundementally drive 3D as a whole. An example in modelling might be them telling you how to use tools, but not something such as edge/geometry flow, edge loops, etc. It's one thing to know how to use the tools in Maya, but it's another thing allt
          • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:3, Insightful)

            by CAIMLAS (41445)
            Another thing that will happen: your campus technology will become, in essence, a propaganda field for software. Any course that is somewhat technologically related will be catered to by vendors, and instead of using the best tool for the job (ie, learning), you'll start using the newest (and usually cheapest, meaning probably Microsoft) wiz-bang technology available on the market.
      • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:5, Interesting)

        by WhyCause (179039) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:20AM (#14774309)
        The thing is, it's not 'stupider,' and I'll tell you why.

        As mentioned by the OP, requiring that students have a laptop allows financial aid to pay for it. Once every student has a laptop, the school no longer needs to invest the space and money on computer labs, just omnipresent wireless connectivity. In essence, the school is shifting the expense of computing from an indirect cost (i.e., tutition increase) to a direct cost (purchase). Frankly, most students would give their eye-teeth for a computer they don't have to share; the requirement of said machines makes the purchase affordable (via student loans).

        Additionally, many software companies will deal in bulk with universities to provide lower-cost licenses to students/faculty. These programs encourage graduated students to purchase the software when they are out in the real world because they are familiar with it. MS is good at this, offering Office and Windows licenses for $75 each (yes, the newest versions, think XP Pro and Office 2003 full whiz-bang version). As far as high-end packages (solid-modeling in this case), one software company gives the school an unlimited number of licenses for a $5000 fee, but the school can earn that fee back by using the software in class demonstrations, required projects, etc. Again, the full-bore version, not a limited thing (this is software that costs $5000 per seat in the real world). Required software is also an eligible purchase using aid monies, thus making it easier on the student (in the short-term, at least).

        The thing you're getting hung up on here is the difference between required purchase and mandated purchase. The latter (as I define it) is a computer bought, maintained, and controlled for you by the school. Medical schools (at least one I know of) are shifting to this setup, with exams being taken on the laptop (and answers being submitted via wireless; don't get me started). All other software is disabled while the test software is being run, and woe be unto you if you bring in a laptop for service that has anything other than school-sanctioned software on it.

        All that being said, there are two problems I have with required computer plans. The first is that they tend to isolate students. Some of the more productive, enlightening, and entertaining times I had at school occured while working in the close proximity of other in a computer lab at four in the morning. The second is that, in order to justify the program, professors are encouraged to shoehorn computer-use into classes that don't need computers. Some professors do great things with the new technology, others, well, let's just say it doesn't work out so well sometimes.
        • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mrchaotica (681592)
          All that's well and good, but it's still not an excuse to get rid of the labs. For example, my school requires all incoming students to own a computer (and has basic minimum requirements, but only general ones) but still also has various labs (including both normal desktop labs and specialized ones, such as high-performance clusters and whatnot). We even have an account with MSDNAA, so if I wanted (and didn't despise just about everything made by Microsoft) I could just download a copy of Windows, Office,
        • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CAIMLAS (41445)
          And what of the significant portion of the student body that already owns a computer or three, as necessitated by their chosen major? They'll invariably have to buy an additional machine, probably at a drastically inflated price.

          Of course, the school doesn't care. All they care is that they get their own personal cut; that is, they just want the students to buy the school's provided laptops.
      • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xugumad (39311)
        Thirded.

        Hell, as university _staff_ having a lab full of machines has been useful, when my desktop system has decided it just doesn't want to play nicely, and you don't have the time to get it working again. It's not a common thing, but it does happen.

        Thought - has the president switched to using just a laptop? I don't mean, he has a laptop he brings into the office, and plugs into a monitor and keyboard, I mean that's all he uses? Maybe now's a good time to suggest that staff should be moving to laptops of
    • by toadlife (301863) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:29PM (#14773714) Journal
      "Better yet, quit now before the whole thing goes to hell..."

      "Thirded". I work at a College. You're in for a HUGE F*****G NIGHTMARE.
    • Re:Remote Desktop (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JehCt (879940) *
      Good idea. Mainframe strategy. Let each student have a thin client, or whatever kind of stuff they want to bring from home, as long as it will run Citrix or whatever people are using today. That way you control the apps, the licenses, and the security.

      I think it's a horrible mistake to tell somebody else what kind of hardware they have to use. That's just wrong. Build your system on some sort of standard so people can choose the hardware that works best for them (and may serve multiple purposes).
  • by malraid (592373) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:02PM (#14773591)
    ... what are you going to do with physical security? 1000 persons walking around with laptops is going to be sweet for any thief.
    • by Alien54 (180860) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:22PM (#14773674) Journal
      what are you going to do with physical security? 1000 persons walking around with laptops is going to be sweet for any thief.

      You get out a large 1.5 inch/ 4cm drill, put a hole through the laptop case, and attach a large chain with an appropriate weight or lockset to the laptop using said hole. Bolt the other end of the chain to a desktop or tabletop. Use very long chanins.

      This ensures that thieves won't want to steal them, among other things.

      ;-)

      • by Belseth (835595) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:35PM (#14774072)
        Back when I worked as a model and prop maker I had a serious problem with lost tools. For a number of years I painted all the tools with a type of hot pink until it was discontinued. It was offensive looking but the entire time I used it I never lost a tool to thieft. People laughed but they left them alone. It's serious business when you start loosing thousands in tools a year. The color was so intense that I could stand in the middle of the room and point to every tool of mine. If some one wants to steal all you can do is make your stuff less attractive so they'll go on to the next person. It may be possible to repaint the computer but if they have the choice between your laptop and one that's unpainted they'll go for the unpainted one. Resale value? Well with laptops everyone I've had by the time I was finished with it the resale was so low that I gave them away. I've sold dozens of computers but I've never sold a laptop.
    • think "laptop theft insurance". :D
    • simple. (Score:2, Funny)

      by GoatPigSheep (525460)
      Simple. Provide everyone with a firearm as well...
    • Epoxy the power dongle into the laptop. Then epoxy the brick to a desk. Their only real recourse is to cut the power cord. Even then, they'll have a laptop with a cut power cord epoxied into the case.
    • 1) Every laptop has an identifier written on it when its shipped; when the school buys the machine, it records the number.
      2) Certain computer vendors (IBM, Dell), have system setups where if a machine is reported stolen, whenever you plug it into the net next, it phones home.

      Berea College (a full laptop school), does both of the above.
    • by gunnk (463227) <gunnk@mail.fpg.unc . e du> on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:04AM (#14776987) Homepage
      1000?

      UNC-Chapel Hill has over 27,000 students and began requiring laptops starting with the incoming class in 2000. It all works through the Carolina Computing Initiative: http://www.unc.edu/cci/ We even have IBM/Lenovo repair service right here on campus and 4-year warranties on the laptops. A Microsoft site license and IBM ImageUltra helps them maintain system images and covers software licenses.

      I'm a OS X fan (Linux for servers), but I have to admit that UNC did a great job on making this work.
  • by smvp6459 (896580) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:05PM (#14773609)
    You might check with your local law school. Many of them mandate laptop ownership for all students.
    • Not mandatory at my school, but even if it were, the system requirements are LOW. We need Word/Wordperfect to take notes, and SecurExam (which just encrypts using openssh and locks out some of Word's functionality) to take finals. We're on the hook for our own software, but most of it came with our computers anyhow. That wouldn't be the same for an art school.
      • Penn State Dickinson School of Law doesn't require laptops. When we take finals, we either write 'em by hand, or log on using a special testtaking username and password to Windows desktops that only let us use Word and save the .docs to a special network folder which is backed up in case someone can't print off a hardcopy, which is the actual thing graded by the prof... For those students that do have laptops, the SSID is broadcast as "pennstate" but we have to use a VPN client to authenticate in order to
  • by DerGeist (956018) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:06PM (#14773610)
    My college tried this approach, didn't fly. First they tried "lending" laptops to students. Guess what happend? Broken laptops. Lots. So they had to buy them from then on.

    You're taking the intelligent route and making them pay for them on their own, though, so that's a step in the right direction.

    Generally the feedback was students liked the mobility but hated being forced into buying a laptop.

    Licenses weren't hard; they worked just like a normal lab environment, licensces are obtained from a central license server either on campus or a trusted facility of the software vendor.

    As for the malware thing, in order for a laptop to get on the network, it had to prove it was up-to-date each time, and had to prove it was running university-approved, up-to-date anti-malware (provided free by the institute). This worked marginally well with only a few outbreaks.

    The downside? Tech support, and lots of it. Students got confused, broke stuff, or generally got mad when things didn't work on the first try. The solution is a tech help desk, staffed by students or well-informed tech support people, where you can simply bring your laptop in and have it checked out by a "professional." That seems to clear up most of the problems.

    Art students had little to no trouble, as they all bought macs. :)

    • It would kind of bother me if a college were to require buying a laptop.

      One problem would be the issue of financial aid, and whether the student can really afford it. Sure, if it was grant money, no problem, but if you're financial aid is using loan money, that has to be paid back with interest.

      Another problem is the issue of multiple computers. What if the student already has a computer, specifically a desktop, that he or she is comfortable with?

      I'd rather see the school loan out computers, but requiring a
      • I'd rather see the school loan out computers, but requiring a security deposit.

        Loan... Computers... For 3-5 years... ??? You know, though I'd generally agree with your comment (and even mod it up!), _computers_ is a kind of a thing you can _loan_, but not to someone you'd claim you care about!

        Think what a 3 year old computer is worth now and come back with better solution... ;-)

        Paul B.
      • If it is a school requirement, it's a school requirement. Can't afford it? Don't want to borrow money for it? Go to a different school.

        My alma matta [stevens-tech.edu] required every student to own a computer; believe me, back in '94 a 486DX2 cost a hell of a lot more than most mid- to high-end laptops do these days. But I knew it was a requirement when I applied, and I was excited to actually own a computer ("what's this 'DOOM Deathmatch' I keep hearing about?").

        Now, there are other drawbacks to the "must have a laptop

    • Art students had little to no trouble, as they all bought macs. :)
      I work at a liberal arts helpdesk, and I completely agree. The only problem with macs we see is a busted hard drive or a mis configured NIC. 90% of the computers at the desk are PCs, and they always take a while to clean. Plus, sometimes the PC virus goes ahead and deletes all the student's files - its kinda like being a doctor, "I'm sorry, there's nothing more we can do."
    • by utlemming (654269) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:10AM (#14774267) Homepage
      The department that I am in at my University has mandated Laptops as a cost-saving measure and also to increase the experience of the students. It was discovered that the students that have laptops do better in classes, get their home work done, and have a better experience in classes. Also, they aren't alway trying to change the settings that the dork before them changed -- so the enviroment is generally more stable. However, the department that I am in is the Information Systems, and not your english department.

      The University was turning over the IS computers on a yearly basis in some of the labs. So they merely just started to use open source tools, and those tools that aren't open source they bought site licenses to. For example, Norton Anti-Virus Corp is available, the MSDN Academic Suite, and all the other developer tools are free. Dreamweaver, Adobe Photoshop, etc., are going to be resold to us at nominal fees for semester use (time-bombed versions I suspect at around $50, which puts them at the cost of a book). So now instead of them having to replace computers, they are having us buy laptops and use them, and they are buying some heavy duty Cisco routers, Pix boxes, software suites, etc. It allows the IS department a lot more flexiability on a short budget to give us a more versital experience.

      The down side -- I have pretty hooped up laptop. It has run me nearly $2,800. And I guess that it will only last me maybe two and a years max on the laptop.
    • At the College I work for, we have a Laptop Program.

      First off, we're using IBM/Lenovo R51 laptops. I definetly, recommend IBM/lenovo for laptops hands down because of the sheer beating they can take. (so far. one was left in a alleyway for two days and ran over multiple times, two was in a fire, one was lit on fire by fireworks, multiple "Pepsi Syndromes" from actual pepsi to candle wax to spit chew juice and they all still worked through all of this) Also, get 2 or more A+ and Lenovo warranty certified tec
  • ...Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:16PM (#14773642)
    This is a horrible idea. Crime in the area around my first college was bad, I'd hate to think what it would be like with _every_ student carrying several hundred dollars worth of pawnable hardware. I also see plenty of students incredibly pissed at having to allocate hundreds of dollars to a laptop that they need for food. Not to mention that it's a laptop that they, effectively, aren't going to have full control over what they run on.

    Please, don't be so cheap.
    • Re:...Wow. (Score:4, Funny)

      by (H)elix1 (231155) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:24PM (#14773686) Homepage Journal
      This is a horrible idea. Crime in the area around my first college was bad, I'd hate to think what it would be like with _every_ student carrying several hundred dollars worth of pawnable hardware.

      Heh. Reminds me of a customer site where folks would chain their thinkpad to the desk using one of those laptop lock cables. All safe and secure, right? Came back after a three day weekend and found the bones of several laptops - battery, hard drive, DVD, and keyboard removed with the RAM missing. Not unlike a nice car left in a bad neighborhood.
    • damn should have used preview.

      I'd hate to think what it would be like with _every_ student carrying several hundred dollars worth of pawnable hardware.

      sounds like you have never heard of an ipod

  • by SoCalDissident (953017) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:17PM (#14773645)
    Narrow it down to one laptop type, or better yet, a particular model, and offer a standard configuration for it, and only offer "official" support for that. Try to find a supplier that is willin g to offer the students discounts on it, since there will likely be a large number buying the "prefered" model. Otherwise, you better make sure that all of the apps you will require run on all the possible configurations that meet your spec. Good luck trying to support finicky applications accross different OSs'.
  • Laptop Initiative. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grim4593 (947789) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:19PM (#14773655)
    I go to Lawrence Technological University, and they have a Laptop Initiative. They have two sets of computer types: a compaq laptop for architect/sciences and a micron laptop for the engineers. Each Major type has their own 'Laptop Image' that loads the computer with the OS and programs. Since all the computers are the same they just image everything in the labs and hand them out to the students. Then the student is free to do what they wish with the computers. They have no locks on them what-so-ever. The programs on the computers are registered like corporations, and some of them require you to be on campus to use them (Matlab) because they have to contact the campus servers. As for upgrades, its up to the student. However, every two years the computers are returned to the help desk for the next set of images to be loaded. And if you bork your computer, you can just go down there and have them re-image it for you. Any physical damages have to be paid for though. You don't have to use a campus issued computer. If you have your own you can use it on their network, but will not be pre-registered on the domain or given any programs/support. The laptop initiative is very useful because it allows students and faculity to contact each other when ever needed. Our whole school is wireless with printers throughout the buildings, so presentations and class work can be done on them.
  • you're sunk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ameoba (173803) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:21PM (#14773665)
    How did you handle software licensing, especially for high-priced apps? How do you do software installs/upgrades? What do you do for resource-hungry apps (e.g. CAD, 3D rendering)? What about traditional lab configuration issues like anti-malware software, classroom restrictions on IM/P2P/network gaming, standard configuration options, etc. that would seem impossible to do with computers you don't own?


    These are the types of issues that, in a well run institution, are resolved before any change of this scale is put through. The fact that the president of the school has mandated this without any sort of investigation into the ramifications is a sign that you should polish up your resume and start looking for a new job. Unresearched, unfunded mandates from the higher-ups are a sign that you're working in IT hell.
    • Re:you're sunk (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cide1 (126814) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:42PM (#14774116) Homepage
      I think it's called vision. It is what seperates good leaders from wishy-washy leaders. Now that the president has set this goal, he must give money to support. If there is no money or resources, than it is IT hell.

      People don't like change, but let's face it, in 20 years, do you really think we are going to have rooms that do nothing but hold computers? We will look back and laugh at the idea of a "computer lab", just as we now look back and laugh at rooms full of draftsmen, or a human telephone operator. This president is preparing his school for the future, and while doing it, the IT department has to develop new techniques. This is a wonderful role for an academic endeavor. It will be much more valuable to the community at large if the IT departement does a thourough right up or lessons learned type document.

    • The fact that the president of the school has mandated this without any sort of investigation into the ramifications is a sign that you should polish up your resume and start looking for a new job. Unresearched, unfunded mandates from the higher-ups are a sign that you're working in IT hell.

      Hmmm, that looks good but it's wrong on every level in this case. I don't know about you, but I like a leader who does not micromanage. Planning is good, but the kind of things you ask for don't exist outside of free

      • I don't know about you, but I like a leader who does not micromanage.

        I prefer a leader that asks his subbordinates for input when they know more than he does. Since I highly doubt the president of an art school knows a whole lot about computing, I'm going to have to assume that his schedule was pulled straight from his ass without any proper input from IT staff - if they were asked, at least a basic investigation into how the applications that the school relies on can be licensed to students would've been
  • by Saxophonist (937341) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:22PM (#14773673)

    Some programs at the university I attend do this kind of thing already (fortunately, not my program). Specifications for one program of which I am aware require a specific Dell notebook with certain software, etc.

    There are all kinds of issues with this approach. First, you lock students into a particular vendor. My university has this annoying tendency to do this all the time (let's start with soft drinks, i.e., the Coke-only contract we have here) because of financial incentives from the vendors for such monopolistic contracts. Frankly, these contracts should be illegal for a public university. I really don't care if it pays for a new scoreboard for the football stadium.

    More specifically regarding computers, it forces students into unnecessary purchases. For example, say I have an HP laptop that meets all the technical requirements except for being a Dell. Why should I buy a new one? Well, because we have this requirement that you get a Dell because Dell computers are better... No, the requirement exists due to a contract with Dell, period. Never mind people such as myself who run a dual-boot system. I typically use the Debian side for everything and get by quite well. Rarely do I boot into WinXP -- the last time I did so was to read something off someone else's flash drive because I don't have support for it compiled into my kernel (I don't own one). The last time before that was at least two months before. I do my assignments in OpenOffice. Does it really matter? No.

    Finally, I would add that at least at some universities, you can get aid for any computer purchase. Ours allows an increase in subsidized loan amount for one computer purchase per student per degree (basically, one every four years). I am unsure whether such an allowance is available only at the university's discretion or if it is available to all students receiving federal financial aid loans.

    I know this isn't exactly the "data" that was desired, and I know that most students in your school probably are not wanting to run Linux on their laptops and don't care about anti-trust issues, so they would be quite happy with the university requirements. But, I think the arguments against such a requirement are rather logical.

    • The subsidized loan for a computer is something offered by the federal financial aid people. I know this because I was offered it at all three universities I have attended (problems with faculty at one, another didn't have the program I wanted, and eventually graduated with a degree that wasn't exactly what I wanted from the third).

      When I went to school not too long ago it only subsidized like $500 if that when the lowest end PC you could find was about $700.
    • My university has this annoying tendency to do this all the time (let's start with soft drinks, i.e., the Coke-only contract we have here) because of financial incentives from the vendors for such monopolistic contracts.

      How does that work? Are all the places that sell soft-drink owned & managed by the University, or does the Uni change the contracts for rent etc. that the managers of the various businesses on campus need to agree to if they want to remain in business there. If the latter, how do they ma
      • All concessions and vending machine on university property are Coke. You can buy pepsi at a store off Uni property and bring it back into school grounds, but nothing in the school sells Pepsi. At least thats how my school did it.
        • "Concessions"?

          Do you have no (independently-run) on-campus shops at all? (or maybe that's what you mean by "concessions"?) Is that normal for US Unis? Sounds positively socialist! :)
          • On the campus- umm, 1 or 2 fast food thingies in the basement of the Union. Other than that the campus had no private companies of any type- the school took up every building. There was no room. All stores were off campus.
  • by wbren (682133) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:26PM (#14773699) Homepage
    We'll be starting by equipping all the full-time faculty this year, then next year start requiring (as in 'you can use financial aid to pay for it') each new student to buy a laptop that meets our specs (Apple or Dell, depending on major).
    What happens if someone changes their major after they buy a laptop? Will they be required to buy a new laptop? Will there be a trade-in program? Will the Apple/PC requirement be more of a guideline than a rule? I'm not a fan of switching to laptops entirely anyway, but I would be even angrier if I was stuck having to buy two laptops just because I switched to a "non-Apple" major or vice versa.
  • "... a laptop that meets our specs (Apple or Dell, depending on major)"

    Never buy computer items before you check with Ed Foster's GripeLog. I get the impression from reading the issues concerning Dell [google.com] that Dell is a company that should be avoided.

    Note that the search above is restricted to Ed Foster's web site, and there are 16,300 hits.

    My own personal experience with Dell is that the company is experiencing a social breakdown in which employees are working for themselves rather than for the company or the customers. Some of the things that I experienced from Dell have been more than disfunctional, they have been wacky.

    I haven't been paying attention recently, but at one time Dell seemed to be competing with Microsoft to see who could be the most abusive. Sometimes Dell even won.

    --
    Before, Saddam got Iraq oil profits & paid part to kill Iraqis. Now a few Americans share Iraq oil profits, & U.S. citizens pay to kill Iraqis. Improvement?
  • Physical Security!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by diamondmagic (877411) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @10:27PM (#14773705) Homepage
    Laptops WILL be lost/stolen/broken, no matter what you try to do. Give students the option to engrave their names and a phone number (somthing that dosn't change: mabye the lost-and-found dept.) in large, friendly letters on the cover. Provide insurance to users if they don't have it. Giving backup services and CPU power from a central server is a must. This means a large RAID array and blade servers (running Linux, of course). Even if all the above fail, provide short-term use laptops, that can--hpoefully--boot up from the backups previously made.

    Also be sure to lay down wireless access points of all sorts. Put a printer attached to the network in in centralized places, probably in every room. Think of every possable problem.
  • There are a lot of things to consider when making the switch, some of them fall on the administration side, and others on the hardware requirements in a laptop side.
    The first thing comes to my mind is that for people who are going to be doing a lot of 3D modeling, CAD, photo editing, etc. having a computer with a decent resolution is a must. A lot of laptop screens max out at 1024x768 or 1280x1024. I've found that for a lot of applications, 1600x1200 is really the minimum comfortable resolution. Another
  • My old high school gave everyone a laptop and it was horrible. They locked us down so tight all we could do is browse a few sites with IE and use MS Office. Everything was blocked including windows explorer. Let the students do what ever they want with them otherwise they will find ways around and you'll spend more time fighting students and enforcing rules then doing your job.
  • What I found when the university I was working for contemplated a laptop requirement was that the labs were going to stay. The laptops work great for general purpose stuff like Office and even Photoshop. But the heavy duty CAD and engineering software was a no go. Firstly, a 15 inch screen just isn't adequate for working on a large 3D model in Pro/E. Our labs had 21" standard. Some vendors wouldn't compromise on licensing either so that ruled them out. We also had a number of apps that were specific t
    • In this case, since the faculty are getting machines a year earlier than students, it would interesting to require the faculty to attempt the work they're going to assign on whichever laptop is selected. If the response is uniformly "My students can't do the work I'm going to assign on a machine this limited," that kind of push-back to the senior administrators is much more compelling than anything else.
  • Ask Slashdot? Are you serious? There are much better resources out there that are much more appropriate and useful. EDUCAUSE and SIGUCCS spring to mind immediately. There are probably other local or more specialized organizations of which your institution is already a member.

    How about doing some research, identifying some institutions who have mandatory laptop programs, and giving them a call or sending them e-mail? I've NEVER had an institution refuse to help me, answer my questions, or pass on their
  • we are considering a laptop requirement at the school i work at. our student population is over 90% female (social work) and many have trouble lugging around a laptop along with books, water, cell phone, etc. this is aggravated by the fact that most students don't have much to spend and try to get the fastest machine they can afford. this usually means something heavy too. another consideration is the fact that even if they all have wireless and you have solid wifi coverage, they will need power. if they wi
  • I don't work at a college but when young adults enter college they have to assume a lot of respnsibility. Don't take it away from them, they need to learn this stuff too, and don't go half assed, buy into it - this is an important change here.

    So treat these as hypothetical (since you posted on Slashdot, expect a lot of these to be purely hypothetical)

    How did you handle software licensing, especially for high-priced apps?

    - a) They are called acedemic versions, or acdemic licensing, talk to your college book
  • Lock them down? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ILikeRed (141848) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:01PM (#14773886) Journal
    I once shared your misconception that good security meant lock downed workstations. Then I read a very enlightening interview with the head of network administration at MIT, I think the article was printed in SAGE [sage.org]. (If you are not a member of SAGE and USENIX, I don't think you take your job very seriously.) Anyway... the interviewer asked how he locked down workstations at MIT. As I remember it, his answer was he absolutely did not try. If he wanted to, it would be impossible to force his policies of staff, many of whom are Noble Prize Laureates. Many of the students are smarter than his staff. And, he understood the best service he could provide was to empower the staff and students to be as creative and productive as they could be. He supplied help, security resources, and internal protections to prevent abuses from affecting other areas of the network when there was a problem, otherwise he generally stayed out of their way.

    Maybe you need to rethink your goals?

    • Re:Lock them down? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jwdeff (629221) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:42AM (#14774437) Homepage
      If you are not a member of SAGE and USENIX, I don't think you take your job very seriously.

      How is paying $40 for a salary survey a prerequisite for taking your job seriously? That's like saying "If you're not in MENSA, you're not smart."

      • Re:Lock them down? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ILikeRed (141848)
        Well, I would say the salary survey is the least important thing they do, but if you are concerned with system administration as a profession, ethics [sage.org], or training [usenix.org], I would say SAGE & USENIX are the two most important organizations available. And it's $155 a year if you want any more than the survey, plus fees for the conference, so it sounds like you really have not seen the real benefits. Try LISA, you will not be disappointed. (;login [usenix.org] is good also)
    • The difference is that Nobel Laureates don't happily sit on NeoPets for hours, find the most malware-tastic websites around and install some random MSN block checker trojan because whether they've been blocked on MSN Messenger is the most important thing in the world, whereas college students do.
  • You're going to increase total costs ten fold, just to save a little on the school's side. If you need money, increase tuition $100 instead of requiring each student to buy a $1000 laptop. Also, if you go forward with the plan, you might find a lot of students who will strongly disagree with whatever specs you might dictate, especially if there's specific software required. For example, if you require Windows+MSOffice, you'll piss off Linux and Mac users.
  • (Apple or Dell, depending on major)

    I hope the engineering students get the Apple. And the business majors. And the literature majors. Come to think of it, I hope everyone gets the Apple.
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:35PM (#14774073)
    Ok, where to begin. Laptops are a great "addition" to any and all computing infrastructures, but they will in no way ever replace good desktop systems with current hardware limitations. Yes, laptops are absolutely wonderfull for in class work and great for bringing your work to professors and TA's.

    But look above, I emphasize "addition" for a reason. They are not a replacement for true computing labs with high performance hardware and licensed software, especially since the colledge/university does not own OR maintain the systems. Yes, they are great from the standpoint that they will reduce your out of pocket costs of maintaining a lab full of high end computers, since the school no longer needs to support that infrastructure, but they are simply moving the costs around. The costs will now move to the students and IT help centers because you no longer have the ability to roll out massive patch sets, automate software installations, upgrades, or security patches. Now you are relying on students to keep their systems running properly, and most if not all of those students can bairly tell you the difference between a Mac or an IBM, let alone be expected to be able to patch their system or configure it to connect to your networks securely. The overhead for fixing these systems will easilly overwhelm your current IT department if they are the ones expected to handle the problems that crop up.

    Let us not even get into the issues with software such as photoshop licenses, since you are now no longer in control of the license due to the student being the owner of the computer. You will effectively be requiring the students to need to purchase a full license of photoshop or AutoCAD or Mathmatica for their own use since there will no longer be any school operated systems which they can gain access to the programs. This is adding several thousands of dollars of cost burden onto all students, many of who may decide that they do not like graphics art and change to become an english major or some other major that will never use a full version of photoshop, which means they just wasted all that money.

    There are many schools that have embraced laptops, but they are an addition to the rest of their computing systems. My college converted at least 3 major computer labs from your standard desktop setups to hot stations for use with student owned laptops. BUT they still kept very close to the same number of desktop systems throughout the campus, basically moving the desktops to smaller new labs. The students mostly purchased laptops on their own because the entire campus had wireless connectivity which made it easy to just bring the laptop to class and take your notes, etc., on it and work on assignments between class. But when things required true horsepower, they used the regular computer labs or a regular home desktop system to do the work. The laptops were and still are a convience system, not a real replacement for true dedicated computing labs.

    So I personnally would try to convince they person who has this hairbrained idea in his or her head that it isn't going to fly for reason X, Y, and Z, or go job hunting because when the stuff starts hitting the fan it will be blowing in the direction of the IT department staff who doesn't have the power or ability to fix the problems generated on systems they do not own, but will be blaimed by the students because the students can not get their assignments completed on their laptops...

  • And I was stupid enough to actually buy one because I was told by the admissions people it would be a vital part of class. Number of classes where I was required to use my laptop? None.

    This kind of thing sounds great to college admissions people, but it doesn't really work out how they think it will. The biggest problem I think you'll face is likely getting the teachers to actually make use of the laptops. It might not be as big a problem at an art/design school (you actually HAVE to use computers for s
  • Air Force Academy (Score:2, Informative)

    by EightBits (61345)
    You may want to contact the Air Force Academy. They were requiring that all students purchase a computer since at least the days of the 486. Back in the early 90s when I was still dreaming of going there, they were talking only about desktops. I'm sure they have evolved their computer requirements since then. You may want to check with the other military academies as well.
    • The Air Force Academy issued a Zenith 80286 computer to each student when I visited there with my wife. They were justly proud of their campus-wide network. All this was about 1990. The 80386 did not exist yet.
  • As powerful as laptops are getting they still are good enough to run resource hungry applications (CAD, FEA, rendering, etc.)

    Desktops and servers are needed for such things. Even having a horde of iron in the backroom for them to use won't necessarily solve things. Most people seem to have problems understanding how to use servers. Then again most of my servers are unix/linux and most people get precious little training in that area.

    As an IT person for a university I deal with this all day every day. I woul
  • by Shanoyu (975)
    1. Computer labs are cheaper in the long run than laptops, especially in terms of licenses. If you use pretty much any program that has a heavy fee, (SPSS, for example, although I imagine that's not a huge concern at an art college) then uh, you're pretty much literally restricted in what you can teach students from that point forward-- it's literally like taking a step back ten years. If you can't find a way around this problem the program is significantly damaged.

    2. If you restrict what students can do
  • LCD and art? (Score:4, Informative)

    by AlterTick (665659) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:01AM (#14774225)
    but what about *art schools* or other colleges with high-end needs but mostly non-technical users, and where something like Photoshop is considered a 'core' application more than MS Office?

    Unless you're just teaching the basic functionality, the color rendition of the laptop LCD screen is inadequate for Photoshop.

    • Re:LCD and art? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sootman (158191) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:36AM (#14776721) Homepage Journal
      I can't believe this crap still gets modded up. Just goes to show how mods only know what they hear on Slashdot. LCDs are *just fucking fine* for what most people, including professionals, do with Photoshop. There is *so* much to Photoshop that *doesn't* require accurate color. Design, layout, compositing--so little requires knowing *exactly* how it the colors will look when printed. When I started using Photoshop here ten years ago, it was on a 256-color Mac driving a 3-year-old (at the time) uncalibrated monitor. Yet somehow, the results were fine. When needed, you look at the CMYK values. And it's worth mentioning that even calibrated displays are physically incapable of exactly matching printed output, anyway.

      I work in a publishing company with hundreds of people using *gasp!* UNCALIBRATED LCDs. I know many artists and photographers in the area and NO ONE uses CRTs any more. All the work is being produced on LCD screens. We do have some press people here with calibrated displays, but do you think we EVER let ANYTHING out the door without seeing test prints? No.

      The fact is, most of the Photoshop work happening on this planet happens on uncalibrated displays, and yet somehow the books make it to press, customers are happy, and the world keeps spinning. I personally know several award-winning designers and photographers and NONE of them own calibrated displays. Which would you rather have: a talented designer on a crappy computer, or a crappy designer on a great computer? That last theoretical 1% does not matter in the real world.

      Anyone who says "You can't use Photoshop on an LCD" ranks right down there with audiophiles going on about their $300 cables and how CDs, let along MP3s, cannot be listened to.
  • My college uses Sassafras Keyserve [sassafras.com] to handle campus wide licenses. Any student can download photoshop from our servers, but a special patched version of it. Each student also installs a keyserve client, and then when they launch photoshop, their keyserve cient talks to our keyserve server. Lets say we own 20 photoshop licenses. Every time a student launches photoshop it takes up a license, and when they close it a license is freed. If we find that we have 20 people on photoshop all the time, then we buy mor
  • by GoMMiX (748510) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:25AM (#14774340)
    I've worked on a lot of networks as a private contractor, and as a direct employee from operator level to executive level. By far the most frightening thing to me was a recent contract I worked on where an entire company wanted laptops and only laptops.

    A lot of things have changed since I worked that contract, but one thing I would advise would be to focus on recovery rather than prevention. These students will break their laptops, they will get stolen, they will get damaged in ways you will never forget.

    Secure your network from the students, and work towards easy restoration of data.

    I would also advise that your school try to find an insurer willing to insure individual laptops against accidental loss, theft, and damage. If they purchase their machine from Dell they can get most of that.

    For backups, I would advise students to setup their email to leave copies of all messages on the mail server -- and keep their local mail storage files off of the backup list. This is very cumbersome, and overall is the most annoying thing to deal with on backups. My personal mailbox has over 7,000 messages and it takes me less than a second to connect and check my mail when there is just a message or two that is new - so aside from the mail server itself there is no real additional load by doing this - and it allows the student to recover their mail easily.

    Don't bother scripting profile backups - they rarely work and are more difficult to manage then simply recreating a users profile. Instead, focus on making the users profile settings part of your recovery process, with an emphasis on proper documentation procedures.

    Find out who your local dell contractor is. Dell has contractors just about everywhere - you can bet there is atleast one near you. Find out who they are and open a line of communication. Let them know what is going on, and what your future purchase plans look like. I imagine this fellow will enjoy hearing from you.

    Most importantly, keep excellent documentation of everything you do. Every complaint a sudent makes, every phone call, every change you make, everything. Don't wait until five minutes later, or the next day, document it right on the spot and date/time stamp it. It has been my experience that when users own a PC that you are given minor responsibilities over -- the users seem to think any problem = your problem. Eventually that works it's way up administration and next thing you know you're pulling your hair out. This way when some student with a family member who's friends with administration level faculty -- you've got the data to backup your position when you're in that drab office being asked questions like your a first year intern that cheated his way through school.

    Also, I'd keep my resume fresh and an eye on oppertunities in my area. Just in case such a major shift in your work environment changes your outlook on the position.

    Dealing with a network full of laptops has it's challenges, but it can also be fun. But it's not for everyone.
  • It's a small university of about 4000 students, but known through most of the world. I worked for IBM during the late 90's when these things were being implemented. They had some great success with the program, and there are tons of case studies on the net on various sites about the trials of it.

    Why not go to one of the key players? IBM is one of the stronger firms with experience in higher ed:
    IBM's K-12: http://www-03.ibm.com/industries/ca/en/education/k 12/index.html [ibm.com]
    And hi
  • NO DELL. LENOVO. (Score:3, Informative)

    by blackomegax (807080) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @01:07AM (#14774565) Journal
    im not sure if it has been said before, but do NOT equip students with something as shitty as a dell laptop. thinkpad T series is the bare minimum you should consider, not only is lenovo's service GREAT, but they stop the HDD if they detect a fall and are encased in magnesium. a dell? well, have fun with the expense.

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