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Michigan To Purchase Record 130,000 Laptops 641

goombah99 writes "The Detroit FreePress reports that Michigan state is planning the largest single laptop purchase/lease ever, over 130,000 wireless laptops--enough for every 6th grader. And of course future purchases for each new class. The main competion is between Dell and Apple, with Apple having the edge in classroom integration experience. But price points will matter since the school districts may have to pay $25 per pupil. And the Gates foundation has a foot in the door. No word on what OS the Dell laptops would run. What would be your choice for middle school classrooms with minimal sys admin?"
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Michigan To Purchase Record 130,000 Laptops

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  • My choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ninthwave ( 150430 ) <> on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:46AM (#7163509) Homepage
    With minimal sys admin resources I would go with apple les patches and updates and virus protection needed. (Not none just less)
    • for the same purpose, we use patched XP and Deep Freeze. You don't even need virus protection-- the next time the system boots, the thing goes back to a snapshot image.
    • Re:My choice (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:54AM (#7163648) Homepage Journal
      An examination of the total cost of ownership has revealed in the past that Macs simply cost less to own. They retain their resale value much better than the equivalent Wintel PC, they cost less to administrate which means lower salary costs, lower benefits costs etc... to the school district. However, the real stickler in many of these issues is that the school IT folks depend on Wintel to maintain their jobs, so I guess the benefits depend upon which perspective you maintain. As a taxpayer however, I want the best return on my investment. Go with the Macs.

    • by Stargoat ( 658863 )
      Apple OS on an X86 computer? No. Michigan is going to go with Microsoft Windows XP and they are going to like it. There is going to be heavy use of Norton Ghost, or a similar product. Maintance will not be very difficult. (Any problem at all? Ghost it.) Virus protection can be easily managed using any one of the client-host virus updating softwares. And with new Microsoft servers (Server 2003 for example), it will be easy to automatically patch the workstations.
    • Re:My choice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:59AM (#7163729)
      umm... giving laptops to 6th graders?... i know it sounds cool and all, but lemmie repeat...

      Laptops to 6th graders

      what the heck for, its going to get broken, stolen, and not used to its full potential.
      all they need is a browser, and a word processor.

      they could prolly get away with a palm before they need a laptop.
      • How many Slashdotters had a computer by the time they were in sixth grade? I know I did (a Vic 20).

        I happen to think my high level of comfort and adaptability with computers greatly benefitted from my early exposure to the computer.

        I also know that I WORSHIPPED that piece of crap with its cassette drive (30 minutes to load Pac Man???) like it was the most prized object in the universe.

        Now the Michigan Laptop program may be a flaming-pile-of-shit, but before everyone starts talking about idiot si
    • Re:My choice (Score:3, Informative)

      by swordboy ( 472941 )
      I wouldn't worry too much about patches... it is the spyware/adware that these kids have a knack for finding. And then you've got to worry about the hardware. These things better be made of steel or either provider won't be seeing a repeat purchase. Michigan is going to lose their shorts on repair charges.

      FWIW, my company spends about $65,000/month on repairs for lease replacements. And these are adult users. 6th graders are much less forgiving.

      And what about battery life? A typical lithium battery
    • Re:My choice (Score:2, Informative)

      by Raunch ( 191457 )
      In addition to this, having been the guy that fixes computers at a sorority for over three years now, I would say that iBooks have a much higher ability to absorb shock. I dropped mine from my knees onto a hardwood floor (onto it's corner) and it never stopped playing the dvd.

      here [] is some non-anecdotal evidence.
  • by Sir Haxalot ( 693401 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:47AM (#7163521)
    The fight between Dell and Apple to supply the laptops []
  • Ibooks for all (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bigbambo ( 8887 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:47AM (#7163522)
    They are compact (12") and have enough power to do the kind of things kids would need to do in school. OS X crashes less then windows xp, and doesnt have to have a legion of anti-virus software packages installed on it to keep the machine safe.
    • "OS X crashes less then windows xp"

      That's opinion, not fact. My school runs Windows 2000, and I have *never* seen a *single* computer crash. Nor have Word, Excel, or PowerPoint ever crashed on me. Perhaps it's because they have a fixed environment and don't mess with it - but, nonetheless, Windows XP (or 2000) can be made rock solid with proper administration.

      "and doesnt have to have a legion of anti-virus software packages installed on it to keep the machine safe"

      They run Norton corpoate version. It's s
      • Re:Ibooks for all (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pillar ( 227782 )
        "Windows XP (or 2000) can be made rock solid with proper administration."
        Loaded statement. This can be said of almost any commercial OS.
      • Perhaps it's because they have a fixed environment and don't mess with it - but, nonetheless, Windows XP (or 2000) can be made rock solid with proper administration.

        How about without proper administration? Mac OS X has the advantage there - it's secure out out of the box and it doesn't have viruses attacking it. There's already been a massive deployment in Maine and that hasn't attracted the virus writers - or if it has, they haven't been successful.

        These kids' laptops won't get locked down. They'll be
    • Re:Ibooks for all (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Raptor CK ( 10482 )
      They're also fairly affordable, durable, and are basically a proven design. The existing iBook chassis has been in production for years now, so unlike the Aluminum Powerbooks, all of the major structural issues have been addressed.

      In addition, it's a Mac. It just works, Apple gives phenomenal educational discounts, and with OS X, the kids can *opt* to learn a UNIX-like (well, BSD, really,) environment without having to muck about with installing something new and potentially wiping out their hard drives.
  • Dell with Linux. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maharg ( 182366 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:48AM (#7163526) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, can you imagine what sort of virus protection scheme you would need if you were foolish enough to put windows on 130,000 laptops. Desktops with M$ OSii are enough of a headache, but laptops get taken home...
  • Durable enough? (Score:5, Informative)

    by hether ( 101201 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:48AM (#7163528)
    Our college just switched to the Dell Latitude D800 from IBM Think Pads and I must say they don't seem to be as durable. The keyboards are particularly a problem. I can't see them standing up to use by upper elementary or middle school age kids.
    • Re:Durable enough? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by pheared ( 446683 )
      They need these. []
      • Re:Durable enough? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rsborg ( 111459 )
        They need these []

        From the article (emphasis mine):

        "No wider than an entry-level ThinkPad but much thicker and heftier, the $4,500 GoBook MAX is a waterproof, vaporproof, shockproof piece of field equipment."

        Hmmm, I wonder why the state wouldn't consider these?

    • by mydigitalself ( 472203 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:03PM (#7163789)
      i have to agree with you whole-heartedly! i've always been a dell fan and have had both latitudes and inspirons. when i moved company i was given this ugly black thing (ThinkPad T21) with no touchpad and a stupid red nipple and i sulked for about a month. until i realised... this is by far the best laptop i have ever worked with. i'm on my second now (upgraded for RAM limitations on the old T21s) and have never had a single fault with any of the hardware. unlike my mate who's Inspiron's hard disk makes funny clicking noises every now and then and occasionally he has to push down on the casing to stop the LCD from doing this weird flicking stuff.

      the only thing i would ever consider other than the thinkpad is a PowerBook - and thats purely because that thing is so beautiful I would have sex with it if it had a pair of tits! ;)
    • Re:Durable enough? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mrtroy ( 640746 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:05PM (#7163811)
      What about THEFT!

      When I was in grade 6, I would have lost my head if it wasnt attached to me.

      How the hell are they going to insure these lappies arent stolen?

      "Give me your lunch money....errr.....laptop! Or I will give you an ultra-mega-uber-wedgie!"

      Hoards of kids handing their laptops over to bullies will follow.

      How can a grade 6 student be responsible for a laptop.
    • Re:Durable enough? (Score:3, Informative)

      by DJ Spencer ( 700392 )
      I am responsible for research and purchasing of laptops at my company, and I'll say that we aquired about 45 R30/31/40 ThinkPads over the last 18 months, and the only problem I've had was with a bad memory chip, and one LCD flicker. My CFO instructed me to order two Dell Inspiron 8200, fully loaded, for him and myself. They are the most annoying, bulky, heavy, piss-poor UI designed laptops I've ever used. Who the hell puts a Firewire port under the PC Card slot? And why would you want the Network Cable
  • by darkmayo ( 251580 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:49AM (#7163543)
    Have the little buggers write there own.. and with this new generation of Nerds we then can take over the world!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They are the easiest to use and most elegant computers going. Why would you want to burden an 11 year old with the complexities of Windows or Linux?
  • Guess (Score:5, Funny)

    by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <CGP AT ColinGregoryPalmer DOT net> on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:49AM (#7163547) Homepage
    No word on what OS the Dell laptops would run.

    I'll give you a hint. It starts with a 'W' and ends with an indows.
  • what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blackmonday ( 607916 ) * on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:49AM (#7163556) Homepage
    "No word on what OS the Dell laptops would run."

    That can't be a serious statement.

    I hope Apple wins and these kids get iBooks with an airport card. I have a G4 Powerbook and my girlfriend has a 900mhz iBook, and I have to tell you, I'm not really sure where my extra $1000 went.
    • Re:what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:01PM (#7163765) Journal
      my girlfriend has a 900mhz iBook, and I have to tell you, I'm not really sure where my extra $1000 went.

      A Slashdotter with a girlfriend.

      And he's missing a thousand bucks.


      I think we can all connect those dots.

      Just how much are those web-cam "girlfriends" per-minute, anyway?
      • Re:what? (Score:3, Funny)

        by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) *

        A Slashdotter with a girlfriend.
        And he's missing a thousand bucks.
        I think we can all connect those dots.

        His girlfriend's laptop now has a lot of RAM and external storage? What else would you do with a thousand bucks?
  • I'd buy Macs... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by youbiquitous ( 150681 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:50AM (#7163564)
    TCO. That's what the REAL bottom line is. The Macs will cost less because of the lower IT staffing requirements. Unfortunately, that's the same reason many school IT administrators will go with Windows. Less staff = a smaller fiefdom for the managers.
    • Re:I'd buy Macs... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lord Kano ( 13027 )
      TCO. That's what the REAL bottom line is.

      In a business, you'd be right. That is not the case with schools.

      The Macs will cost less because of the lower IT staffing requirements.

      Schools don't really have the luxury of being able to float bonds like businesses (or even municipalities), It is far more feasible for a school to budget more money for an IT staff each year than it is to get more money up front.

      Unfortunately, that's the same reason many school IT administrators will go with Windows. Less sta
    • I'd by Windows, in that case. My district chose Windows 2000 for a reason:

      - It runs on all of their hardware, so they don't have to get rid of their Pentium 166 boxes to standardize on a single OS. Try running Mac OS X on a PowerMac 200mhz with no USB.
      - It has very good centralized management tools
      - It doesn't lock them into a single hardware vendor. My discrict standardized on HP, but only because a signifigant portion of my town works for HP, so they get huge discounts on hardware
      - It doesn't require ret
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:50AM (#7163569)
    I know I'll get howled down by all the techheads around here, but I'm truly wondering if spending somewhere between 500 and 1000 bucks per student on something that depreciates so incredibly fast makes any sense. History books, saxophones and art supplies do not depreciate nearly as quickly and cost a lot less. So do teachers -- in fact, most of them *appreciate* instead with greater training and experience. That's a shitload of money spent on computers where more fundamental educational infrastructure might make more sense?...
    • by JPM NICK ( 660664 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:11PM (#7163892)
      I could not agree with you more. As a newly graduated college student who majored in computer engineering and electrical engineering, I think this post is right on. I have my computer from my freshmen year, which was fall of 1999. It is a PII 333mhz with 128mb of ram. When I got this, it was a great box. It came with NT 4.0 on it, but now has red hat. For most users, Win 98 would be the only other choice, as XP needs more system requirments that this. So what good would this box do for Joe User now? (I actually have it is a file server, but most people would have chucked it by now after the hard drive crash of 2001). What good is a laptop going to do for these kids besides cause a headache? When I was in 6th grade I had enough trouble remembering my house key and glasses where ever I went. I would never trust 6th grade me with a 1000 dollar laptop. Between hard drive failures, cracked cases, failed LCD's, and general misuse like file sharing and music listening, you are just asking for kids to get in trouble. Imigine the attention span of a 6th grader in class with something as cool as a new laptop next to him with a teacher droning on about History. Forget it. The money should be used for computer labs and teachers to supervise them. That way, kids can go after school to do reports or use the net. Giving away laptops is an insane idea, the cost over the next 5 years will be the same as the inital layout, which will be a massive amount of money and time. Another thought: if students are required to have these laptops, I am sure the cirruclum will be written to include these in everyday classroom activities. What will happen if your laptop dies, or you lose it. Its not like a text book where you can share and all the information is the same as the one next to you, your laptop is unique with your personal information. Will you then get a failing grade?
    • by SychoSyd ( 137842 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:18PM (#7163965)
      I'm a newspaper reporter and I cover the local school board as part of my beat. One of the biggest problems with this, according to the administration, is that the state is purchasing these laptops on a two-year lease. Nobody knows what's supposed to happen to these computers once the lease is up and the computers are obsolete. Will schools have the option to buy them (even though they're outdated) so that 6th graders don't have to give them up before they're finished with middle school, or will the state just reclaim them? And nobody knows where the money will come from two years from now when it's time to upgrade. The state has all kinds of money for this initiative now, but next time they might say, "Okay, public schools! It's your turn to foot the bill this year!"

      Oh, and to answer the main question in this thread... they'll probably run whatever OS a majority of Michigan schools are already running. If the kids are learning how to use XP in the computer labs, it's the most practical (though not necessarily the best) solution to stick XP on the laptops too, for consistancy's sake. As beneficial as it would be for kids to leave middle school knowing how to use both XP and OSX or Linux, it ain't gonna happen.
    • but I'm truly wondering if spending somewhere between 500 and 1000 bucks per student on something that depreciates so incredibly fast makes any sense.

      It makes plenty of sense []. Or was that cents?
    • Completly agree. My local school has gave a laptop (really bad ones - bottom of the line Acers and Toshibas, anyone?) to every teacher, along with installing LCD projectors in each classroom.

      There are 3 distinct groups in the teachers:

      -No idea. These people have had such fun as 'ripping DVD/CD combo out of chasis because it won't open' and 'oops, my LCD screen has fell off'. That's about 50% of the teachers.

      -The 'I'll use it way too much' group. Enjoy shitty powerpoint presentations? Well, these people h
    • Saxophones? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hellfire ( 86129 )
      You obviously haven't purchased any instrument for a school band. My son wants to be in the band and has a clarinet. That easily cost $350, but I could have the bill wrong and it might be $450. Also, he wants to play the saxophone, and the band would not let him without clarinet experience first, so the sax will cost another $350 to $450 itself.

      And this is all passed onto the parents, and not paid for by the school!

      As for depreciation, you haven't tried re-selling an instrument after 4 years that was t
  • But Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hoover10001 ( 550647 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:50AM (#7163576)
    Ok, this wasn't the question, but WHY does every 6th grader in the state need a laptop?
    Isn't Michigan having a budget crunch like every other state?
    • Michigan is a training ground for the US Marines. They need a new breed of soldier, who can root the gibson under battle pressure. You must breed them young, and deprive them of the rest of their childhood.

      These soldiers will be used when fighting countries like Iraq to hacksor and the enemies will run away in ph33f.

      Cuz after all...what country is worth living in when it can be pwned by 6th graders?
  • My choice... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Parrinello ( 1505 ) * on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:50AM (#7163577)
    What would be your choice for middle school classrooms with minimal sys admin?

    I dunno... maybe a blackboard, some chalk and a couple of erasers. Paper, pens and pencils would be apropos. Textbooks I hear have a pretty low TCO.
  • I think the deciding factor in such a purchase would be shock resistance. These poor computers are going to get the crap beat out of them.
  • Misguided Spending (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mopslik ( 688435 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:51AM (#7163593)

    over 130,000 wireless laptops--enough for every 6th grader

    Great. Now every 6th grader may not be able to write a coherent sentence or multiply two fractions, but they'll be able to point-and-click their way to the job of their dreams.

    Computers aren't the solution, but tools to help aciheve one.

    • tools to help aciheve one

      See? Look what affect computers have had even on me!

    • its far better than the situation my 21 year old sister is - she can't use computers because she's never been taught and never shown an interest at home to learn anything about them.

      nobody ever proposed scrapping traditional schooling - kids will still be taught the theory of math(s), English, science etc... just the medium through which it is taught has changed - which your second statement regarding solution/tools pretty much backs up...
    • Now every 6th grader may not be able to write a coherent sentence or multiply two fractions, but they'll be able to point-and-click their way to the job of their dreams.

      At least they will know where India is on the map and be able to get plane tickets through MSExpedia [].
    • Mod parent up! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swb ( 14022 )
      High school kids are doing powerpoint presentations instead of writing term papers. Just what our society needs, people that can only think in terms of borrowed images and buzzword phrases.

      What's next, getting graded on your choice of on-slide animation effects and transition effects?

      I'm glad I'll be dead before we've had more than two generations of these clowns, the spiral into ignorance and incompetance won't be pretty.
  • for at least a few people that are unemployed in the area. 130,000 Laptops, means more than a few people to roll them out, support them, etc. Hope this deal doesn't fall through. Also it means that sooner or later other states will follow suit. I don't think this is the answer to the problem with education in the US, but its a step in a "good" direction.
  • MY choice? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Matey-O ( 518004 ) * <> on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:52AM (#7163607) Homepage Journal
    a Live Linux distribution storing the data on a central fileserver with robust virus scanning.
  • Dell (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrcutrer ( 265376 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:52AM (#7163609) Homepage Journal
    Working for a school district in Texas, I can tell you that Dell has the edge in the now. Apple had the edge back in the day. I would go with dell and XP. Honestly, I'm not a big M$ fan, but XP is very stable in our environment, and only GPF's or screws up when groups or policies are in conflict with what certain software needs.

  • by StingRayGun ( 611541 ) * <> on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:52AM (#7163617)
    What are the chances that this actually get based on class/user-experiance? This will come down to gates wanting this one, and people making un-educated decisions. I see this going to Dell al the way.

    This effects more then Apple though, this effects the whole computers in classrooms issue. When the go with MSDELL, and it ends up costing a lot more then they realized, other schools will not be as likely to fallow suite.
  • In reponse to the poster's question of: What would be your choice for middle school classrooms with minimal sys admin?

    I'd probably choose Win(insert version here) with the ability to quickly Ghost the hard drive. It's easy to get ahold of a teacher/friend of a teacher/whoever that has some Windows trouble-shooting experience. What can't be fixed gets Ghosted (do those backups to a central machine or a CD-R). Linux may be more secure in a number of ways, but quickly finding someone to fix the problem loc
    • Um, we are talking over a hundred thousand machines here. Ever try to support even a thousand computers without IT staff? I think not. There better be alot of teachers with "Windows trouble-shooting experience" to pull that off without hiring IT staff for every campus.


  • They can't even keep the covers on their notebooks, what makes the "state" think that they can be responsible with a laptop?

    Apparently the state has too much money to spend, either that, or someone in state government has a 6th grader or two.
  • by methangel ( 191461 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:53AM (#7163625)
    I think that all 6th graders having laptops, WITH wireless acccess is a bad idea. While a laptop is a great tool, I fail to see how it would fit in with 6th grade curriculum. 6th graders have a hard enough time sitting still and doing their work without a toy thrown into the mix.

    In some of my old CS classes, I remember COLLEGE students playing games or watching movies during the lectures. I can forsee a similar problem with the younguns.

    What OS? It should probably be "Schoolnix" .. a custom distribution of some sort that allows the school to lock-down / prevent access to games and non-educational websites during school hours. The school did pay for the hardware after all.
  • ...Sounds like a perfect use for knoppix or something similar - perhaps enough to boot and connect to a terminal server (either X forwarding or windows term server via rdesktop or something), so the sys admin only has 1 machine to keep updated.
  • What the hell do 6th graders need computers for? I'd rather see my kid's elementary school spend their money on small class sizes or music programs. Read Clifford Stoll's book "Silicon Snake Oil." il.html
  • Other Considerations (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ath3na ( 698230 )
    I live in the Detroit area and have been keeping up with this story - and I think this is bull$hit.

    First of all, there is no mention of what OS they will run, and if they do run Windows, which they most likely will, who will be responsible for patches, updates, virus definitions. Will the kids learn to defrag. their own hard drives? Can they take them home? What about monitoring? Does the school have keyloggers or keep track of cookies, history files? What if the student uses the computer

  • OS Choice (Score:2, Funny)

    by killmenow ( 184444 )
    130,000 Knoppix CDs?

    Easy administration. Easy distribution of new apps...just make a new CD and distribute it. Put the /home dir on the HDD for user files. Buy laptops with smallest HDD possible. Save $$$ on hardware and software licenses.

  • I don't see how they're essential to education at that grade level.

    These kids have the rest of their lives to spend in front of a keyboard and screen. Give them a few more years of relief before they get chained up.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:56AM (#7163670)
    What would be your choice for middle school classrooms with minimal sys admin?

    My choice for school kids is pen and paper and good teachers.

    Why spend so much money on technological gadgetry with 2/3 years of life when that money could be better spent on smaller classes, more personalized education and fighting illiteracy?

    What's more, one thing I strongly believe is that computers destroy what makes kids kids : the ability to imagine and dream. Computers and televisions presents them with pre-chewed images that prevents them from developing their imagination, and pretty much turns a lot of them into passive technology consumers. The last thing we need is that crap to pervade into schools. There's time enough for kids to get into technology later, even touch it a little now and then as introductory classes when they're younger, but really schools should be sanctuaries of things simple, to let kids' brains be free and allow them to learn the basics properly.
    • What's more, one thing I strongly believe is that computers destroy what makes kids kids : the ability to imagine and dream. Computers and televisions presents them with pre-chewed images that prevents them from developing their imagination, and pretty much turns a lot of them into passive technology consumers. The last thing we need is that crap to pervade into schools.

      I'm sorry; that's horseshit.

      While you may decry the state of television programming, or the rampant amount of porn on the net, these

      • While you may decry the state of television programming, or the rampant amount of porn on the net, these arguments do not change the fact that television and the Internet are just containers for content. Any content. That includes all the imagination and dreaming you want.

        No kidding. When I was younger I was struggling to learn Pascal, run a BBS, and played MUDs for fun, loving every minute because it was like reading a book that was different every day.

        The only thing that turns people into "consumers" is

    • Really, kids should be kept away from computers unless they are working with the fundamentals.

      The pervading attitude is akin to "teach kids about car maintenance by getting them to clean the bodywork".

      Kids should be taught how the things work (not down to fetch/execute cycle level) in terms of hard drives, networks, and maybe some simple programming (but not anything which makes it too easy).

  • They're not... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Unreal One ( 21453 ) *
    I've used both before, and ThinkPads aren't constructed all that well. Dell's are pretty good, but Toshiba Tectra's seem like the most sturdy laptops currently available (not including the ultra durable ones for mine shaft / military application Example [])
  • Pros and Cons (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Polarcow ( 526269 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:56AM (#7163683) Journal
    Mac OS X
    Pros: Lack of virii, easy remote administration, friendly interface, Office suite, flexibility, able to network easily with other Macs and (slightly more difficultly) with Windows or Linux/Unix
    Cons: Some people won't touch a Mac because they're predisposed into thinking it sucks.

    Pros: Lack of (numerous) virii, relatively easy remote administration, stable, cheap, flexible, able to network with other computers running Linux/Unix Windows, Mac
    Cons: Slightly more difficult, espeically troubleshooting

    Pros: "Everyone" uses it, likely least infrastructure changes, perhaps some familiarity
    Cons: Unstable (don't even talk to me about XP, it's just as bad), open to virii and numerous other vuln's, potentially difficult troubleshooting (believe me, I've worked with other college kids' computers in the dorms)

    Who cares as long as it's not Windows! Though with the recent debacle with Dell's mandatory license agreement, the Macs might be the better option.
  • I would go with the 12" iBook, 800Mhz and an airport card. Currently these can be had for just less than 1000$. They're fast enought for what they need them for, and would be the most durable.

    Of course on mine I run Gentoo, but I think OS X would be fine for the students; at least until next year...

  • <rant>
    Why, oh why would you do this? I fail to see what placing a laptop in the hands of a student would do, aside from give them a very expensive projectile. I'm a geek. I think computers are neat. They're great tools, but they're not a magic cure for bad teaching, and, more specificially bad teachers.

    Memphis City Schools tried a similar program through the 1990's, called the 21st Century Classroom. Certain Schools became "21st Century Schools," where EVERY room was a 21st Century Classroom. They ha
  • Maine (Score:3, Informative)

    by holzp ( 87423 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:58AM (#7163709)
    Maine [] did this and it was a smashing success.
  • Forget the laptops. Buy books, hire teachers, buy new classroom furniture. Why do we in the US think that throwing money at unmotivated students, overworked or underqualified teachers and buying into the latest technology is going to fix the education problems? Kids don't want to go to school, and parents don't inspire or reward them. Our culture sneers at educations as being "nerdy" or "geeky". There's a reverse-snobbery in being clueless about the world around you. As a side note, maybe this fosters

  • .... to get Bill Gates to help fund this project ..... and then to install linux on all of the laptops (or atleast make them dual boot) :)

  • What would be your choice for middle school classrooms with minimal sys admin?

    Gentoo. No X - command-line only. They get enough eye candy when they watch their Super Pokemon Power Rangers. Let's see, theyre in sixth grade, so we can expect them to know a little bit of yacc...

  • The idea of "lowest bidder is always better" has permiated so completely in our society that nobody ever even thinks to look at the value-add and long term costs.

    Michigan should look at:
    1. System administration costs (there are plenty of studies already out there)
    2. Upgrade cycle
    3. Life expectancy of the product

    These three things will change how "affordable" each option is. I would argue that you get more laptop for the money with Apple - and on top of that you will get better ROI with Apple because o
  • If they asked me for advice...right after Brooke Burke asks me for a date...I'd advise Apple. But if they go with Dell/Windows* it will be interesting to see what their admin experience turns out to be relative to Maine and Virginia. I'd like to get a real TCO comparison.

    By the way, what's this delusion about "no word on which OS the Dell's would run." That's because it's such a non-issue it's not even worth mentioning. Ok, I like Linux, you like Linux, but does anybody really think there's snowball's

  • From what I understand about the state of the american educational system, isn't this a rather absurd way to be spending the reduced dollars that US schools are receiving? $156 million could go toward reducing class sizes, improving curriculum, even (gasp!) books...
  • choice? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:06PM (#7163825) Homepage Journal
    What would be your choice for middle school classrooms with minimal sys admin?

    MacOSX, of course.

    It's Unix-based and is widely acknowledged to have the best user-interface.

    The UI means less problems of the "how do I do...?" kind.
    The Unix-based means you can actually lock it down so that the user can't terminally fuck it up. At worst he loses his home directory.

    Linux would be 2nd choice, as it has the Unix advantage, but not quite the slick interface.

    Windows would be 3rd choice. It has neither, but is widely used, so the kids will find it again later in life.

    *BSD and other less well-known OSs come later, mostly due to their obscurity and the lack of a wide selection of software. Also because even with the "minimal admin" goal you will need some admin work done, and that means you need to find people who can handle the machines. Easy to find for windos, Linux, MacOS (in that order). No so easy for NetBSD, Plan9 or LispOS. :)
  • by Lodragandraoidh ( 639696 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:10PM (#7163879) Journal
    Hmmm -- if I were in 6th grade again, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't care what OS they are going to load on it. I would just wipe the disk and load linux and Open Office and be done with it.

    Back when I was in 6th grade, in 1976, I think we might have had portable manual typewriters as the bleeding edge technology. I didn't see a computer, outside of video games, until 1980.

    Back then life was simple - you just had to remember stuff and use your brain - and you actually went to the library if you wanted to find out about something - or for entertainment in the form of Fiction. The librarian would be there as a guide to help you with difficult searches - and the card catalog would suffice in most cases. As a result, there was this built-in filter (as a result of having limited access at a measured pace) that allowed you to focus on what was important.

    Now there is terabytes of crap we have to sort through to get to the kernel of truth on the net. The counterpart of the knowledgeable librarian are few and far between, and information has to be taken with more than a grain of salt.

    While I applaud providing computing resources to children - I think it is more important to now start looking at ways of taking those resources to the next level beyond simple hierarchies of filesystems - to a real collector and recorder of critical knowledge for everyone, tailored to their specific neural wiring. I think that will be the next great leap in computing - and now that we have machines capable of making it a reality, we will see it happen.

    Information is not static - lets build applications that take that idea to its fruition.
  • by aderusha ( 32235 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:12PM (#7163903) Homepage
    ...i find this to be a remarkably bad idea. not only is it going to cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars per student for the initial purchase, it's also going to probably double that cost for maintenance. who'se responsible if the laptop is dropped/damaged/stolen? the parent? tell that to an inner city detroit single mother when her lovely daughter gets her laptop stolen by some random 9th grader. is the state going to cover maintenance? great, double the price then to cover the life of these machines and take it out of my pocket. the state of michigan, like most other states in the us, has been under an intense budget crunch in the last 2 years due in large part to the recent mass exodus of manufacturing jobs in almost every market segment. is this really the best way to spend our money?

    as far as an OS choice, i'm going to burn any chance i might have of being moderated up here by suggesting windows xp. apple still doesn't really have a robust and easy to adminsiter means of locking down large numbers of systems and handling application delivery that would be required by this environment, nor does linux without a significant amount of research and development. while the software may be free, most of your local middle school admins (and i've worked with a number here in west michigan) don't have the first clue about managing linux (and barely the second clue on managing windows). this means that there'd be a large investment in outside contractors. of course this might mean some juicy support contracts for anybody that _does_ have these skills locally... hrmm.. maybe linux is a good idea after all :)

    i'd also image that m$ is going to give a signifcant licensing break to the state to indoctrinate the students into the m$ shining path - i wouldn't be at all surprised if they gave away the windows licenses for free. before you act shocked, keep in mind that apple has been giving steep discounts to schools for decades for just the same reason.
  • by Capt'n Hector ( 650760 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:13PM (#7163913)
    They should give the money to the teachers. A salary raise would attract more qualified people as well as increase job satisfaction thus lowering the turnover rate. In my high school, teachers burn out after 3 or 4 years. Maybe with a few extra dollars they would be more inclined to stay.
    • My thoughts EXACTLY. I know quite a few teachers and they are NOT exactly the best paid people for the amount of work they do and the responsibility they have to make sure we are going to have good kids coming out of the school system. Our local districts are having to make choices about cutting extra-curriculars, sports, music programs. All because money is very tight. If the funds are available they could be put to much better use by the individual districts.
  • by squarooticus ( 5092 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:14PM (#7163921) Homepage
    Instead of computers for each student, why not let them use classroom computers when they're actually needed (for simluations in physics class, or plotting in math, or whatever) and instead hand out books to stimulate their minds and actually teach them something?

    Perhaps they can start with some easy-to-digest classics of the Western canon, like Aeschylus, Swift, Twain, Shakespeare, etc., and then move on to the more difficult philosophical works of Donne, Rosseau, Locke, Jefferson, Hamilton, etc.

    Most of this stuff I didn't get to read in high school because the standards were too low even in AP classes, and that's just too bad. Perhaps with fewer computers and less bullshit, and more books, better teachers, and school choice, students would actually come out of 12th grade knowing something and not requiring remedial education for their first year in college.
  • Must suck.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Frank of Earth ( 126705 ) <.moc.snikrepf. .ta. .knarf.> on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:16PM (#7163954) Homepage Journal
    ... to be a 7th grader.

  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:25PM (#7164058) Homepage Journal
    What would be your choice for middle school classrooms with minimal sys admin?

    Fisher-Price. Anything with Barney or Pooh-Bear on it.
  • by valkraider ( 611225 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:51PM (#7164478) Journal
    Hmmm. I see almost no comments in favor of this. I am in favor of it, and I would support it locally with my own tax dollars...

    But I have to ask - how many of the people responding even HAVE kids?

    Everyone slams 6th graders like they couldn't handle a computer if it killed them. When I was in 6th grade I already had two computers. Now that was the 80's so I was unusual then, but NOW? They already know more about the computers than most adults.

    If you treat them like they are too young and immature to have a laptop - then they will be. If you teach them and allow them to learn - they will grow and expand. Children expand to fit their environment. Too many people treat children like they are stupid because they are young. Lack of experience is NOT THE SAME as lack of knowlege. Kids are AMAZINGLY smart. And they will never GET the experience you all want them to have, if you never ALLOW THEM TO.

    6th graders are perfectly capable of keeping laptops.

    And why not start using technology in the classroom? As long as it is just a TOOL - and not the focus of the course, it is fine... What if people had said the same thing about pen and paper? "We already have chalk and slate. We don't need any new gadgets. Kids won't be able to learn." Technology moves forward, we should use the technology as a TOOL to move forward as well.

    Give kids some credit - they need to learn and grow sometime!

    Oh yeah, and in my opinion the iBook is more durable than most Dell offerings.
  • by DJ Spencer ( 700392 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @01:12PM (#7164757)
    I suppose that my view is a little jaded, coming from the first university to implement school-wide Wi-Fi, not to mention Gigabit connections to all of it's buildings - including dorm units.

    While there, I was involved in a project designed to bring technology into the classrooms. The key sides of every arguement was:
    1. Kids don't need it.
    2. We only need one per class room.
    3. Every kid needs a laptop to be successful.

    Of course, each one had its own woes of "Where does the money come from," and "How do we prevent them from goofing off?"

    Well, the reality is this - any system, when administered properly, can be locked down. That means they have a large choice - Mac, Windows, Linux, Novell for Windows. It's all in the planning. If they make the correct roadmap, they will require less TCO to maintain it.

    Someone here asked why we would buy soemthing that losses it's value overnight, but you are looking at it for the wrong reasons. Will it be able to play HalfLife 2? Probably not, can the encylopedia be updated with the latest content from the web, showing how California elected another actor for Governor? Why yes, it can...

    Technology is the future - I'm not saying that they don't need to learn to read and write, but that is what elementary school is for. I don't know about you, but I learned to read and write in cursive well before the end of third grade (hell, maybe sooner).

    Vocabulary can still be taught, literary works of art can be read (this content won't change), and RIAA can get involved to provide instruments to children after they sue the parents.

    And - if you made it this far - no one ever said these kids were taking them home and running around with them. That's what home directories and mapped drives are for. You should be able to sit down at any machine, log in, and do your work with the standard set of tools (office, adobe or macromedia suite, internet explorer).

    You see, laptops are simply an effective use of space in an already overcrowded school environment. I can easily stash 30 laptops in a cabinent faster than I can move 30 desktops and monitors out of the way. That is why they have choosen laptops.

    Better watch out - your kids will have this luxury too!


    Sound In Motion DJs - Official Music Provider of the San Jose Sharks! []

  • Dear god no! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sj0 ( 472011 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @02:51PM (#7165521) Journal
    My choice would be QUITTING. Holy mother of god, there isn't enough money in the world to convince me that a "minimal tech staff" could possibly handle a school full of fragile laptops! Giving every sixth grader their own wireless laptop is bar none, the single worst idea I've ever come across in my entire life!
  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @04:09PM (#7165865)
    800 MHz iBooks with airport, and the extended warranty.

    Overpurchase by 5% on the units. You won't have a care in the world for three years, repair wise compared to anything else.

    Viruses? Feh.
    TCO? Much lower.
    Networking is self-configuring if you just RTFM.

    Airport base stations judiciously placed. Secure the hell out of them, though - each school building will have a big 2.5GHz target painted on it from day 1.

    An Xserve for each building, or use your existing servers (in the other articles, the wintel IT people are freaking about the added something or other.

    As for the guns or butter arguments - they already have chalkboards, chalk, books, pencils, paper.

    The average per pupil expenditure in the US is around $10,000 per year. If a $1200 iBook (that's their target price - easily done for an 800+airport+applecare in volume) lasts 3 years. I know. I bought a 500 the week they came out 2.5 years ago and it's still running circles around anything else from that long ago.

    So the cost is $400 per year per student. That's 4%. try and reduce class size with that sort of increase. No can do.
  • Arg! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jbrandv ( 96371 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @05:36PM (#7166378)
    Since ~40% of kids graduating from high school can't read, guess what those kids are going to do... surf the porn/Britney Spears photo crap etc. First teach kids to read, write and do math.
  • seriously, folks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @06:01PM (#7166611) Homepage
    These people are crazy. I don't think I've heard of anything more wasteful and useless in my life. I thought it was bad when South Dakota's previous governor kept putting Dell desktops in computer labs throughout public schools and universities, because they rarely ever got used. Not only that, but they were expensive, and kept getting replaced.

    Now, there's this. Laptops for 6th graders. What braindead politician came up with this one? For one, a 6th grade kid is usually not responsible enough to take care of his bicycle, let alone a commercial electronics device with sensitive equipment that costs 5 times as much. They'll be broken within days as they put them in their laptops and lug them about.

    That is, if they last for more than day to begin with. As someone else has mentioned, kids like money. Unless these kids are hardcore geeks, careful, and can run like a bat out of hell, chances are these laptops will a) be stollen or b) be sold within the first couple days. A laptop that is seen as primarily for writing reports and papers, is big (for their age) and heavy, and has to be lugged around is not something that a kid would want, when they could sell it and buy, say, two or three years of the most trendy clothing and toys. These are middle schoolers we're talking about, here.

    What's more, they're 6th graders. I don't know if you guys remember 6th grade or not, but the majority of 6th graders in my school were affraid of the upper classmen (7th and 8th), because there were always a few that would pick fights, and there was always the chacne that your stuff would be stollen. I'm sure some 7th or 8th grader that didn't get a laptop will want one, and know just where to get one.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!