What is the inherent problem with software just being old? Do some of the bits fall off?
The problem is that the web has actually moved on from what was standard practice 9 years ago. There are new methods to make crafting pleasant looking web pages easier and more productive. IE6 is simply too out of date for a large chunk of what is possible to do on the web anymore, forcing web developers to waste time doing their sites two ways. In my case, I build my sites to work in all current versions of browsers, and then spend an additional 30% to 40% of my development time making it work in IE6 as well. I'm starting to think of listing support for IE6 as a separate billing item so that the client can more accurately evaluate how important it really is to keep supporting this cranky old beast of a browswer.
The "hide the decline" and "divergence problem" issues are this: A method was developed to use tree ring data as a proxy for past temperatures for which we have no measured temperature records. The "decline" or "divergence problem" is that the method proved to be unreliable when used to "measure" temperatures in the present - the real temperature record went one way, and the tree ring data went another way.
Rather than take the more scientifically reasonable position that this inconvenient truth invalidated the entire method, the "trick" they used to "hide the decline" was to just splice the actual temperature record onto the end of the proxy data, and present this patched together result as the result of their research. I do not find this scientifically defensible.
Steve McIntyre's area of expertise is in statistics, and the choice of the correct methods to apply to various kinds of data. It was McIntyre who discovered the mistake in Michael Mann's statistical methods that resulted in the now-discredited "hockey stick" graph that shows 20th Century temperature records as something unusual. He found that the statistical method used creates a hockey-stick type graph regardless of the data that is fed into it - tree-ring data, random numbers - it all comes out the same. Again, a valid scientific examination of the methods used. Peer-review did not uncover this fundamental flaw in Mann's research - it was McIntyre.
The material you quoted from Steve's site read perfectly as perfectly reasonable to me, but that is because I am familiar enough with his context to understand what it is he is referring to with his verbal shorthand. If you see the guy being interviewed on video you quickly realize that the only axe he has to grind is that he wants the climate scientists to do their jobs properly.
I have a young friend who went to the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. She was a Mac girl, but the University required all students to purchase a Windows laptop from one of two models from one of two vendors. She got a Dell model. Nice looking machine, lasted all of two years. When it came time to write the bar, again she was required to have a Windows laptop, and with the Dell dead, she got a fairly inexpensive HP model, which again, lasted all of a year (basically barely made it out of it's warranty period).
At work we have macbooks still in daily use that were purchased before my friend started her law career. These things are not babied - they get thrown around, taken to pitches, tossed into airplanes. The titanium cases might be a bit warped in spots now, I've had to replace the batteries from time to time. I've swapped out the occasional hard drive for a larger size. But the machines are still working.
The take-away points of my anecdotes are: Schools DO mandate computer platforms, routinely, and not always in favour of your favorite brand. Macs are excellent hardware platforms, and keep their value a good long time.
In any Finder window, you go to the left side, and click on SHARED and all servers that are available are visible. - Mac, Linux, and Windows machines that have active file sharing are visible. Click on the machine you want to connect to. Provide a name and password (if you've not connected before) and you're in. Its not like it's hard.
Kids go to math class to learn Math. In my day we weren't allowed to have those new-fangled calculators in class. Nowadays there's all this stuff: http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/math_science/
I was using a Windows machine at home when I built the bulk of my website.
1) Saying there is no market-share for malware and games on the Mac actually just proves my points that this makes the Mac a "better" choice in an educational environment.
2) People are frightened by the Unix prompt because they aren't educated in how to use it. This is an educational setting, so I think that isn't going to be much of a problem. It's a learning opportunity.
3) Applications and the OS can be "destroyed" by the user doing something stupid - like dragging things to the trash that they shouldn't. The people I work with are brilliant and creative and not very computer-savy. You name it, they've done it to their machines. Doesn't take a lot of work to put them right back to working again.
4) Unstable hardware - this has not been my experience in a long career of working with Macs. Yes, you get the occasional "lemon" machine that always seems to be going wrong, but you're going to get that with ANY hardware vendor. I've seen more catastrophic hardware failures in our windows boxes than I've seen in our Macs, even though they are in the distinct minority in our shop. And I'm talking name brand stuff like IBM server hardware.
5) Our shop has 3 X-Serves: Knock on wood - they NEVER go down. The first one we got was a dual G4 model - and it is still going strong to this day. That little machine was a production webserver handling some high traffic websites in it's day. These days it just does some filesharing and minor web duties.
6) Everyone says that I'm kidding myself about Mac viruses and malware - yet they never provide any examples or anecdotal evidence. My personal experience herding a group of unschooled computer users who have essentially unfettered and free access to the internet shows otherwise. The worst things these people do to their machines are:
a) downloading crap "free" fonts from the internet. Bad font management can account for more than half of all Mac OS problems. The latest version of Mac OS X comes with so many high quality fonts now that I don't see this as being an issue in a school setting. And it's easy enough to fix if you know what you are doing.
b) run too many applications at once, causing the VM to thrash. Then they see the beachball (which is the OS showing the user that it's paging stuff in and out of VM) and think that their app is "freezing" and they force-quit the app, or worse yet, warm-reset the machine. This can cause application preferences and other system files and logs to become corrupt. This is where Onyx and Disk Warrior comes in. Onyx is free and fixes 90% of problems like this. Disk Warrior is the "bigger gun" and has to be used in more intractable cases.
One would hope that some basics of computer "dos and don'ts" will be covered in the curriculum.
7) Your "political" points are a reach. Reallly.
8) Linux might be a valid choice for all the same reasons that the Mac is. However, you'd then need to dictate a hardware platform - not all Linuxes are equally adept or have drivers for all hardware, especially in the laptop realm. Then you've got the issues of setup, configuration, maintenance, and so on to consider. Factor in the man-hours for that, and the Mac is clearly the "cheaper" platform. As a plus, you ARE able to walk into a store and purchase software for a Mac if you want to get out of the free offerings that Apple bundles with the OS.
9) Music - I dunno - I watch a lot of movies, and I watch a lot of the "special" content and whenever they show the composer or sound effects guy (whoever it might be) there is ALWAYS a Mac front and center in their setup. I don't know anyone who works in the music industry, so that is the sum total of my knowledge in this area. I do know that the Mac comes with Garage Band, which is a fantastic bit of software for music playing and creation, and it is deep enough that it could be used in a music class setting without need to purchase its monstrously powerful bigger brother, Logic Pro. I personally dabble in music software on both Mac and Windows, and I've not seen anything like Logic on Windows.
10) I'm very unclear on the point you were trying to make about media file sharing, but, on a Mac, if you want to go the Quicktime route, there is Perian - a free "plug-in" that allows Quicktime to play most codecs and containers found in the wild. Beyond that, there is VLC, also free, just like on Windows and Linux. Stuffit has nothing to do with video playback - its an archive expander (and not a very good one at that).
OK, I've been maintaining Macs in business environments since the Mac II. First for a printer (first in the province to use a Linotype imagesetter with PostScript RIP) and now for an advertising agency. I also have to do a little Windows maintenance as well (accounting department uses PCs, and there are some PCs in the production department to check websites out on Internet Exploder). So I have a fairly good idea of why this school board made this decision. Their administration and software costs will go WAY down. I'll explain.
Macs hardly need any administration at all - some quick setup for printers, and some basic filesharing rules, and you are good to go. You do not need to worry about self-propagating viruses. You don't need to worry AS MUCH about the kids installing strange and harmful software off the internet. You don't generally need to worry too much about the kids running games when they are meant to be doing work on the things. The Macs come with a very good suite of basic software to do document creation (Pages), presentations (Keynote), spreadsheet work (Numbers), movie editing (iMovie), disc burning (built into the Finder). There are a number of very high quality educational products for the Mac. And everything works very well with each other. I imagine that for most of the tasks they are going to have the kids doing with their Macbooks, there will be zero software to purchase.
From an educational standpoint, Macs have a full BASH terminal, and comes with a full software development package, so there's teaching all that nifty UNIX stuff that is actually useful in the "real world."
More importantly than all that, Macs need very little on-going maintenance. There's very little that a combo of Onyx (free), and Disc Warrior (not free, but not expensive) cannot cure on a Mac. If you set the kids up with non-administrative user-accounts, they cannot destroy the application software or the operating system. No need to ghost the OS and apps, and re-image the computers at the end of every day like I know a lot of school computer labs do with Windows machines. I imagine that a school will only need 1 "computer guy" around, and he will not be busy full-time. Macs are a breeze to maintain.I think the last Mac virus I had to deal with was back in the OS 8 days.
I live and work in the "real world" and we use Macs every day. Dunno what kind of world you all work in, but I bet your fonts are awful and kerned funny.