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Switching a College from Desktops to Laptops?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | 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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First? (-1, Offtopic)

jipis (677451) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773561)

Let the headaches begin!

Remote Desktop (3, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773614)

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.

No kidding.

Re:Remote Desktop (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773649)

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 (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773876)

I know I'd hate it if my school wanted to control what software my laptop runs!

Welcome to the real world, bitch :(

Re:Remote Desktop (3, Insightful)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (3, Funny)

toadlife (301863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773714)

"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.

Which college? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773583)

so I can avoid it.

Your homepage isn't working, or I'd check there first.

Re:Which college? (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773656)

Seriously. There's no way in hell I'd have gone to a college that forced me to spend $600-$1000 dollars on a laptop in addition to $200-$400 on books per semester.

Re:Which college? (1)

miyako (632510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773755)

There's no way in hell I'd have gone to a college that forced me to spend $600-$1000 dollars on a laptop
The poster is talking about laptops used to run some pretty high-end programs (photo manipulation, 3D modeling, video editing, etc). So really you're talking more about $2500-$4000 laptops.

Why? (0, Offtopic)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773590)

Nowadays many families buy their child a laptop before he or she has even finished the college application process. Why buy laptops for your students if it's something they are probably already going to have before arrival?

Re:Why? (1)

SocialEngineer (673690) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773608)

Because that low end HP running Windows XP Home with 256 megs of ram may not cut it for the video dept.

Re:Why? (1)

EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773627)

You answered your own question. "Many" families may indeed buy a laptop before the student went to college, but that's a far cry from "Most" students owning laptops before they go to school.

I know very few college students who owned a laptop before going to college. Most of them have a desktop, because laptops are still too expensive and underpowered.

If a school fails to provide the students with adequate computing facilities, can the students pay less to attend the college? Or is this simply a way for the university to reduce costs and pass them onto the student as a "stealth fee"?

If I pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to school, I expect to have decent facilities. Do I need to provide my own chair in the classroom next?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773906)

I'm currently a freshman at UC Davis. Out of the sixty or so people who live in my building, only 10 or so people DON'T have laptops. There are also quite a few people who have both a desktop and a laptop.

Re:Why? (1)

York the Mysterious (556824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774103)

I'm going to agree here. I'm currently sitting in the Resnet office of the dorms at Humboldt State University. I fix about 10 computers a night. Most nights I don't see a desktop. People don't buy them. This comes from a VERY untechie school in the middle of no where (Arcata, CA). I'd imagine schools where the students would tend to come from richer families (not a Cal State University, but a UC) would have even more laptops. It wasn't like this when I started working here, but every year there are fewer and fewer desktops. You can buy a pretty slick laptop for a grand now and if you wait for Dell to do insane deals you can walk away with a nice one for $600 (512mb centrino dvd burner 3 year warranty)

Re:Why? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773672)

He didn't say they were buying laptops. He said "you can use financial aid to pay for it". This means that when computing your financial aid total needs a laptop is calculated into this, all calculations are then done as normal. Generally not much extra is awarded for this need, BUT if your school requires it you can always get a student loan for the total cost of the laptop (software needed for your major included) in addition to normal student loan needs. I unfortunatly was going to school as a University employee and while my tuition was paid for I was strickly forbidden from applying for any additional financial aid, loans or whatever. But for most people this covers them.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

nharmon (97591) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773784)

And then you have the poor buggers who are paying their own way through school, and don't qualify for financial aid because they make "too much". You're getting to where higher education is something only the rich can afford, and only the very poor can get help paying for. $30,000/yr income and I'm supposed to afford putting 1/6 of it towards tuition? Thats half of what I pay for housing...are you kidding me? And now you're going to make me buy a laptop?

Re:Why? (1)

Limecron (206141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773961)

Haha, how much do you think your student loans would cost you per month when you are done with school?

Re:Why? (1)

rhinoX (7448) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774060)

$700/mo for $30k of debt to a state-run school. That's how much. I too "made too much" and qualified for _zero_ subsidies, grants, etc. I paid my way, or rather, am still paying my way through and I finished almost three years ago.

Re:Why? (1)

billster0808 (739783) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773730)

I thought it would be great to have a laptop for college. So I saved up my nickels, dimes, and graduation money and bought one. Not the best idea. I found out quickly that I would simply spend class surfing the web instead of paying attention.

The most important question is ... (5, Insightful)

malraid (592373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773591)

... what are you going to do with physical security? 1000 persons walking around with laptops is going to be sweet for any thief.

Re:The most important question is ... (5, Funny)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773674)

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.


Re:The most important question is ... (4, Interesting)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:The most important question is ... (1)

sk999 (846068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774094)

Bolt the other end of the chain to a desktop

So it is back to being a desktop computer? That sure was a useful exercise.

dude, think OPPORTUNITY!!! (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773715)

think "laptop theft insurance". :D

simple. (2, Funny)

GoatPigSheep (525460) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774006)

Simple. Provide everyone with a firearm as well...

Re:The most important question is ... (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774070)

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.

Re:The most important question is ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14774151)

Why do you hate your students? Mandating laptops in lieu of computer labs seems insane to me.

Most obvious problem is that unlike a bike (even cheap ones get stolen), where you just walk to class when it gets stolen, you might as well not bother going to class if your laptop gets stolen. Not only have they lost the cost of the laptop, it is trivial compared to the cost of all their research, collected materials, and work stored on that precious hard-drive.

Other problems include:
1) power
2) the life-cycle of laptop components
3) applicability across disciplines (i.e. great for psychology and journalism majors, crap for drafting and any real power-user)

Benefits seem to center on the University's pockets alone:
1) push computing costs squarely back on students
2) paperless courses and administration systems

Yes, I think there are workable compromises and I know that some people would kill me for suggesting that laptops are more of a distraction than a benefit. But the way I see it, having gone through degrees both in Mechanical Engineering and Education, if you really want to give your students what they need for computing, simply do the following:
1) jump drives. With memory densities hopping all the way up to things like 2 gigs now and 4+ gigs soon, USB drives are cross-platform little beauties I can't imagine college without
2) 24-hour computer labs with free printing. End the tyranny of labs that close at 10pm and/or charge for printing!

If you do decide to go for this laptop insanity afterall, please please please move to the Open Office format for all documents. It is bad enough to pay what is essentially a $900 lab fee every 2 years, but to pay a $250 Microsoft Office fee is just too much. Student license fees aren't as bad as full retail prices but free is the best price of all. And maybe, just maybe, if your students work with Open Source Software (rather than getting indoctrinated into the cult of "Software I Used In College"), they'll go on to contribute to the community that helped lighten their burden of affording college.

Check with Law Schools (5, Insightful)

smvp6459 (896580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773609)

You might check with your local law school. Many of them mandate laptop ownership for all students.

Re:Check with Law Schools (1)

sjwaste (780063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774047)

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.

It's tough, but works. (5, Informative)

DerGeist (956018) | more than 8 years ago | (#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. :)

Re:It's tough, but works. (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773666)

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 security deposit.

Re:It's tough, but works. (1)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774037)

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.

Re:It's tough, but works. (3, Insightful)

RevDobbs (313888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774064)

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 [] 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" scenario: labs have always been home to expensive hardware and software (Pro/Engineer, SGI machines, trick little AutoCad-specific pointing devices), and now you will burn a lot of money on software and mobile hardware that will spend most of it's life folded up in a book bag -- instead of in a shared envirornment getting constant use. But to address your issue:

If you don't like the laptop requirement, go to a different school.

Re:It's tough, but works. (0, Offtopic)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773946)

Am I wrong or did I miss something? I thought it said student labs with laptops not having students to buy laptops. Did I miss something? I don'[t see any issues if you a half way descent(don't crae to spell check) service plan. Our company 100000+ switched from desktops to laptops a few years ago. No problems.

Re:It's tough, but works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14774146)

Your company switching to laptops is irrelevant. There is a big difference between adults working for a living and students partying through school. The rest of your post is incomprehensible.

Re:It's tough, but works. (2, Informative)

st.isaac (830899) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774076)

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."

Re:It's tough, but works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14774080)

check the university of cincinnati's design school []

they did is 5-6 years ago when i was an adjunct prof. there was bitching, there are broken laptops and theft, but it's gone pretty well. special purchasing deals were worked out for the students with apple and dell and with software companies.

Not that I've done it... (0)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773612)

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

I'm just guessing, but if you use a keyserver for those apps, is it possible to limit it to certain IP's? i.e. set it up so your 20 Matlab licenses only work in a given lab?

Re:Not that I've done it... (1)

MagicDude (727944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773745)

I remember at my undergrad which had a required laptop policy, many applications had a dynamic license server, so that only people hooked into the campus network or using the VPN client could use the apps. For ubiquitous applications like microsoft office everyone had their own license, but the higher end apps like matlab and solidworks needed the dynamic license. I remember there being some problems near the end of semesters when the freshmen were working on their CAD finals. There were only a few hundred dynamics licenses that could be allocated at a time, so there were times during that last week before the final project was due that people had problems using solidworks, and they literally couldn't start working until someone else stopped. But that was a while ago, so things might have changed since then.

Re:Not that I've done it... (1)

eosp (885380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773776)

Just stay logged in 24/7 on everything during finals week :)

The number one thing to avoid...... (0)

EvilJohn (17821) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773637)

... is slow harddrives in laptops.

...Wow. (4, Interesting)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#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. (3, Funny)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773686)

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.

Re:...Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773718)

food? I just buy ramen and spend all my extra money buying old computers and laserdiscs... all the sodium i need in one week in one serving. mmm. Yeah I think theft would be one of the biggest problems..

Re:...Wow. (0)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773985)

sounds like you have never heard of an ipod

Re:...Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14774013)

hundreds of dollars to a laptop that they need for food

-1, Dangling Participle

Re:...Wow. (2)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774024)

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

Make your spec specific (3, Insightful)

SoCalDissident (953017) | more than 8 years ago | (#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'.

Re:Make your spec specific (1)

Joe123456 (846782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773722)

Make sure they have a real video card as a minimum

Laptop Initiative. (4, Interesting)

grim4593 (947789) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

ameoba (173803) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

cide1 (126814) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774116)

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.

What about variety? Non-monopoly? (5, Insightful)

Saxophonist (937341) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:What about variety? Non-monopoly? (1)

Methuseus (468642) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773789)

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.

Going OT: University monopolies (1)

zsau (266209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774018)

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 manage that? It seems in the Land of the Free (which I assume you come from) that would be illegal somehow.

Re:Going OT: University monopolies (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774149)

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.

What if I change my major? (4, Insightful)

wbren (682133) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773699)

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.

Re:What if I change my major? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14774091)

I'm at the University of Cincinnati Engineering College and we have a rule similar to this. First, all engineering students are required to buy a PC, we can't have Apple due to software restrictions. Also, we don't have to buy our computer until near the end of the first year; this allows time to "weed out" those who change major. Further, for most of the high-end software, UC has an agreement with the companies to get a massive discount for all students (i.e. WinXP Pro Upgrade - $7.00).

I haven't heard a single student complain about this setup so far, especially considering that soon, all students will be buying laptops anyway. Now, as for the actual tech side, I'm not too sure. UC has all students register a MAC address for their computer, then they're free to use the network.

I think this is a good idea, just make sure you implement it well.

Be careful about Dell, check with Ed Foster. (2, Informative)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773700)

"... 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 [] 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?

Re:Be careful about Dell, check with Ed Foster. (1, Offtopic)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773829)

This is OT and all, so mod this down, I don't care.

Your sig is offensively dense. There is so much wrong with it that I won't even begin to explain it to you. Suffice it to say this response to it doesn't belong on this discussion thread. Like I said, mod me down, I don't care. I had to say it, because it's deeply offensive to me. Want to talk it over, send me an email.

I'm just glad I know better than to consider it even remotely correct.

Good day.


Re:Be careful about Dell, check with Ed Foster. (-1, Offtopic)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773927)

My sig? It's a 9mm semi-auto, and you can take it over my cold dead body.

Your sig is offensively dense.

Regardless, I agree that the grandparent's post was off. There really aren't many oil profits, frankly. Bush never could make money -- the guy is pretty damned incompetent.

It doesn't matter that there are no oil profits, though. Every sand nigger we've killed cost us about $10,000,000.00, and most of that money seems to go to Bush's drinking buddies. And we've killed a lot of sand niggers.

Re:Be careful about Dell, check with Ed Foster. (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774050)

The right to bear arms is offensively dense?

Yea, I guess the founding fathers of the United States of America weren't revolutionaries, they were ignorant fools!

BTW, you want to talk dense, let's talk racial slurs. You seem to like at least one of them.

Anyway, good night.


Physical Security!!! (4, Informative)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773705)

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.

Some Considerations (1)

miyako (632510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773708)

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 big thing for moving to laptops for people doing artwork is that LCD screens show color differently than CRTs. LCDs are great for a lot of things, but CRTs really have better color accuracy which can matter. The biggest problem with LCDs though is that the brightness and contrast changes noticably with relatively minor movement. This usually isn't a big deal if you're just browsing slashdot or whatever, but it can make a huge impact when you're trying to balance colors or get the right brightness on an image (something that may looked "washed out" on a laptop could appear like a perfectly normal image on a CRT or on paper).
As for processing power, most laptops have plenty of power for doing graphics work, but many are low on RAM. It's also important to make sure that the machines have a decent video card. Many 3D applications will perform abysmally without 3D accelleration- or will refuse to install at all. You're not going to find any notebooks with a Quatro or anything in them, but look for systems with decent cards that have a good amount of video memory.
Hard drive space may be an issue for students working with video. This should be easily solved by suggesting or requiring students to buy a USB or Firewire 250+ GB hard drive. This way they can use the limited laptop storage space for what they are working on, and offload the rest of the storage to an external drive.
Hardware requirements aside, there are other things to consider. One of the biggest things is going to be backups. I would strongly suggest having a file server that is regularly backed up that students can upload work to so that they have an easy way to keep backups of files. Many people don't know how to back up, don't think about it, etc. The point is that if a student is going to fail a class or whatever because their hard drive crashed- it would be a reasonable idea for the school to at least offer students a centralized way to keep backups.
On the topic of hardware failures, I wouldn't completely do away with computer labs either. Stuff happens, and if some hardware goes bad/gets coffee spilled on it/gets run over by a stampede of elephants then students should still have some way to get work done.
Along with hardware considerations and considerations for hardware failure, it's important to remember that (especially if the student is required to buy their own laptop instead of being issued one owned by the school) the machines will NOT be treated like a lab computer. Students will install malware, get viruses, not run a firewall, and do every other thing imaginable to foul up the network. Some of this can be combated technologically- but it's important to remember that you will need policies to deal with these sorts of things. I seem to recall some statistic that said that in corporate networks the single largest way machines get infected is people bringing in laptops that are infected.
To summarize- make sure that system requirements for the systems are clearly stated. I would recommend students go for portable workstations as opposed to laptops for high end graphics stuff. Have a system in place so students can back up their work, and have some machines available for students to work on if their hardware gets hosed. Finally set in place usage policies that deal with the fact that you have machines owned by students on a network owned by the school. I'm certain there are more things to consider that other slashdotters will bring up- but I hope this has helped.

Dont lock them down (1)

nukem996 (624036) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773712)

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.

Re:Dont lock them down (1)

malbosher (795323) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773779)

Where did you go to high school...most schools here the instructors spend their own money just to get supplies for class.

Re:Dont lock them down (1)

pintomp3 (882811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773834)

i wouldn't lock it down that hard, but letting high school kids do whatever they want is never a good idea.

Re:Dont lock them down (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774025)

Sure it is. The'll have to live with their mistakes. And the good students will be more productive.

Hate and discontent (1)

junkwerks (586862) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773727)

I saw this idea tank and someone lost their job over it. This guy required new incoming MBA's to have new laptops, not to mention they required exact models for support reasons. Some students REALLY resented buying a new one. Then it got better. Some of the faculty would not allow laptops in their class. This resulted in some students leaving the computer at home while others brought theirs to school. So then the ones who left their computer at home started trying to use the computers of the students who brought them. This created hate and discontent. It also created a new position to fill when the staff member was told to find a new job.

The labs have to stay (1)

Shalda (560388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773735)

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 to either Windows or Unix (Solaris mostly - this was about 6 years ago and we were just getting serious about Linux). And lastly, the powers that be decided that it wouldn't be fair to the students to have them buy a new laptop halfway through their studies to stay current. That meant that when they were seniors - when they really needed to do actual work - that they would be trying to run their simulations on 4 or 5 year old hardware. And so, the labs stayed. Which was a good thing, since my job at the time revolved around running them.

Keyserver is your friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773743) []

Key all your apps before you hand them out. The then won't run without being able to talk to the KeyServer. Users can also check out keys for a period of time if they're giong to be off the network.

No carp video cards can be the minimum system (1)

Joe123456 (846782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773744)

Make sure they have a real video card as a minimum maybe duel core as well.

Security (1)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773754)

Security is a big problem for laptops. Most places use a keyed or combination lock attached to the Universal Security Slot (USS) on the laptop (or projector, or anything else with one, for that matter.) Most of the laptops that I've seen are very weak in the USS's attachment to the laptop body. For example, at my uni they use Dell Latitude D800 (or something) and the USS is right by a fitting between two plastic pieces of body. That's about 1/8 inch of soft plastic that has to be twisted out to steal a laptop from a cart. I wish they would connect the slot to a stong internal metal structure, but who am I to advise Dell on practical security?

More Appropriate Resources (1)

El Kevbo (81125) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773811)

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 experiences and suggestions (but the real trick lies in finding the right person to contact - THAT can be difficult or even impossible).

To add some real content to my post: I interviewed with an institution in the north a few months ago for a position managing their mandatory laptop program. They contract with the manufacturer to provide on-site support. They also have a very close relationship with the manufacturer - the head rep was a part of the interview team and the closeness between the rep and the other "regular" university employees was apparent. The program appears to be very successful due in large part to their very close, positive relationship. Shoot me an e-mail (thekevbo1 at if you'd like to dig up some more specific information.

many other issues (1)

pintomp3 (882811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773819)

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 will be in class, you will want power at every seat, which will cost a lot to do. you will also need to figure out a decent printing solution. what happens when the student forgets their laptop, or it's broken? i think the trend towards laptops will increase, but you can't do away with labs just yet. i am advocating recommending laptops, and as more students use laptops, we reduce the number of computers in the lab.

Another Question (1)

Geneus (853382) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773852)

Next year I will be heading off to college, hopefully, and I was wondering what people thoughts are on what laptop I should try to get. I have an alright budget, I do not want to spend that much but my parents will also spend some on it. Thanks for any input.

Re:Another Question (1)

erkokite (862532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774014)

I would highly recommend ASUS. IIRC, their laptops are fairly inexpensive, and I know for a fact that they are of excellent quality, which is typical of any ASUS product. You should be able to get an ASUS barebone laptop on for a decent price. You could probably find a complete one as well. I would recommend against Dell. I know a few people with Dells, and I even owned one, and they are pretty crappy. IBM used to be good, but I've heard that they've decreased in quality since they've been bought by Lenovo.

Re:Another Question (2, Insightful)

aventius (814491) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774019)

Apple Powerbook or IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad T40.

This is a college, students should know by now (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773855)

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 bookstore.
- b) Tell Microsoft, Adobe, Etc. you are going to specify Linux and FOSS apps because of the high costs involved.... Or actually specify Linux because of the high costs involved. Keep this decision maker informed of this stuff (especially costs and logistics), keep them well in the loop.

How do you do software installs/upgrades?
What do you do for resource-hungry apps (e.g. CAD, 3D rendering)?

- That's where you specify the the "minimum system requirements" in the printed pre-registration materials and you attach those laptop requiring college decision makers names to it if students have issues with it.

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?

- Specify in the software requirements, make an installer CD of reccomended (freeware or bulk licensed) apps.
- Lock down your servers (use Linux, or something non-vulnerable, scan EVERYTHING, put up multiple firewalls and IP filters), anything you institite that is dpendednt solely on the students would be just foolhardy.
- Put a disclaimer that the college is not responsible for them failing because they caught something on thier computer from outside the school servers as they are responsible for attending class they are responsible for completing assignments and operation of their own computer. (And don't set yourself up for failure by trying to fix all thier self-induced problems all the time, only what is created from your side, that will keep you busy enough)

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?

- Sorry to break it to you but to require the students have their own laptops puts "technical-skills" on the student's requirements, either as prerequisite or learn as you go. Again, don't hold thier hand on this. Especially if they are takijng courses in something like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. They still have to manage thier files, it's not like paper and charcoal (well actually it is, even with that you need to keep your paper clean and your charcoal pencils tidy, sharp and in usable lengths.) Maybe have more introduction to computers courses for the noobs to start off with.

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.

- You are going to need a bunch of security guys and sysadmins and at least one with good programming skills to help rewsolve/fix flaws in school systems.
- Since laptops are very stealable you will have to think about on campus theft/liability issues as well.
- It depends on how you plan to handle it:
* First priority is managing the fact that 1000 potentially unsecured systems will be accessing your internal systems and making sure it's going to withstand that.
* Second as you will have many people with different configurations, Make the systems as platform independent as possible, web based (not requiring IE or some other dead-end platform specific application or codec) this will elimiate a lot of (why donesn't X run on my computer. If you get it generic enough then you can better resolve any issue.
* Third is making students have the resources to locate solutions to fix thier own problems instead of you rescuing them all the time.
* Always let your vendors know you ARE doing a mixed network of Macs and PCs and don't let them whine thier way through a sale, either it works for all machines or it doesn't get bought, period. By making shaky decisions based on possible outcomes will probably make your job suck more.

Lock them down? (2, Insightful)

ILikeRed (141848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773886)

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 [] . (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? (1)

XchristX (839963) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774148)

If he wanted to, it would be impossible to force his policies of staff, many of whom are Noble Prize Laureates

2 people in my department are Nobel Laureates (well, one died), and our IT department makes no exceptions for them. Neither can launch an email client without whining to the sysadmin. They're quite intelligent, but utterly ignorant about IT-related matters. They need a strong sysadmin to enforce rigid policies.I think your post is made up nonsense.

Two Michigan Schools have done it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773901)

University of Michigan Art School []

Northern Michigan University []

I was directly involved in the distribution process at one school. I didn't think it would work, but it did.

To address some of the comments from other posts:

-Most freshmen are buying laptops anyway. These programs provide a structured method for all incoming students to buy a machine that meets their needs. They are informed well in advance so they don't go off and buy a different machine.

-People complain, but it all works out in the end. Some don't like the vendor/price/model/etc. but it's just one more thing about college to complain about.

-IBM and Apple are the best companies to get machines from. They are reliable and have good support systems in place

-Computers are a part of life for any college student. So long as financial aid considers it part of the base expense, it isn't a hardship for anyone.

-Theft is a problem whether all students have the same laptop or not. You have to take the same steps (documenting MAC Addresses, having system passwords, using a physical lock) as you would with any notebook

To answer some of the original questions:

-For software, contact each vendor and they will usually work out a good educational license deal for each machine (No server/key setup). You can cite the above schools' programs.

-Make sure the machines have adequate RAM for the job. Get RAM from a 3rd party if the laptop company won't give you a good deal. Get small, fast HDs rather than huge slow ones. Uses external 3.5" drives for backup

-Make antivirus/antispyware part of the base load/image. Have all updates automatic

-Port block and track IP/MAC addresses for bandwidth usages. Have graduated punishments for connection misuse

-Use a student staff for technical/question support. They are cheaper and more knowledgable that trying to train middleaged staff. Use a mixture of students and fulltime staff for physical support issues. You can't trust kids to do all the warranty work by themselves.

Good luck!

In Place at Rose-Hulman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773931)

As a sophomore in the electrical engineering curriculum at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, I cannot tell you how amazing it has been for me to have my own laptop. Sure it's expensive, but tack it on the the total expense, and it doesn't mean anything. Like you said, art school. Well I don't have any tips there, but I'll say for sure that when I need to have high end performance AND portability, my laptop is amazing. The school picks out a "freshman laptop" each year that the next incoming class will be required to purchase. We have licensing through several top names, including MS Office, AutoCad, Matlab, Maple, Mathcad, AutoCad, Cadence/PSPice, and so forth. I don't know about the artistic approach, but I know for sure I have no regrets whatsoever with my school requiring my computer.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology []
Terre Haute, IN

Too inefficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773954)

There are way too many problems to deal with if a classroom is going to be electronic with the students' laptops being brought in.

The only way around it is to lock down the machines severely as is done with the junior high and high school programs. That's not an ideal solution.

Classrooms with dedicated computers are the best solution! Every classroom should have computers (not bulky towers and 21" CRTs), a projector, a sound system, etc.

Dakota State University (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773958)

We recently switched to tablet computers. This transition went over easily enough. (you can read more here [] )

i think the biggest problem we have run into has been the help desk/repair station.
our campus isnt too big so we only have about 5 people working in this area.

What about High Schools? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14773989)

While we're on this topic, I'd like to get some /.ers feedback...
My highschool is transitioning over the 1 or 2 years to a "paperless" environment. All of the students will have their own Apple laptops, and all of the books will be in a digital format and will be supplemented w/ internet curriculum. I'm a student, and while I think this sounds cool, it seems like it might be a bit of a pipe dream (especially when our school administration is about as receptive to the internet as the People's Republic of China... no MySpace, no Facebook, etc.). But nevertheless, the school administration is insistant on this migration. As one of the obvious "computer enthusiasts" in the school, I've had a lot of faculty members/parents ask me for my opinion on the whole plan, and my only response has been "I don't know if this is gonna work." What do my fellow /.ers think? Is the paperless learning environment a good idea? What problems should we anticipate? What should we do to make the whole setup as effective as possible? Money isn't really an issue as we have several benefactors in support of the idea.

Sounds like a terrible idea (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773990)

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.

transition... (1)

FeSceptre (956351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773998)

"Convertible" laptops.. like the gateways or toshibas are phenomenal. I just purchased a Toshiba M4. You get all the benefits of a laptop, combined with a TabletPC. It's great for normal dev-work, but kicks ass when I flip it to draw.

Desktops to Laptops, what about the battery ?? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14774015)

The biggest problem you will have to deal with is two years down the road, when many of your students have dead batteries, and the only batteries available for their machines may be two year old, degraded stock. Schools need to use their leverage, with high volume purchases, to get the vendors to guarantee availability of fresh, new stock battery packs, at fair prices, for at least four years.

Major (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774016)

(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.

Run away fast... This WON'T WORK... (3, Insightful)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 8 years ago | (#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...

Lots of schools are doing this now days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14774089)

I think your best bet to get real data about the issues concerned is to get in contact with support centers at schools who have implemented such a program.

My alma-mater, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology [] , has included laptop purchase (and insurance!) in the tuition of every incoming freshman since 1995. I was in the 3rd class that required laptops, and by then they had a well-oiled system for dealing with most of the issues you mentioned: A service window for laptops, to quickly deal with reimaging, replacing hard drives, screens, keyboards, etc. Each year students got update CD's produced by the school containing all site-licensed software, OS installs, drivers, etc. that you would need to reimage a laptop on your own once you messed it up beyond repair. The union and cafeteria have lockers specifically for securing laptops.

Their laptop page here [] has a lot of good information about how they run the program.

When I was there, security was limited to local anti-virus installs; no restrictions were put on what software you installed, what internet ports you used, etc. At the end of the day, the laptop is the student's property and its proper operation really only affects the student's ability to do his or her school work. As opposed to lab machines, where one student can hose it and the school has to clean it up so that others may use it, the student-owned laptop model shifts responsibility for responsible use to the student. If the student has to go a week without his laptop because he let the gator installer run, that's his problem and only he will suffer.

My college required laptops (1)

pootypeople (212497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774090)

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 some of that stuff) but at a regular old liberal-arts college, the laptop requirement still doesn't make much sense. As for models--Dell consistently sold a crappy, low-spec laptop to Longwood students (my college) that was WAY overpriced. My first year it was something like a Pentium II 300 with no burner; I turned around and bought a gateway laptop for less that had at least 200 mhz and a burner on that POS. Dell seems to make the most of their guaranteed sales like that by selling the lowest-spec machine they can get away with.

Air Force Academy (2, Informative)

EightBits (61345) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774099)

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.

Horrible idea (1)

gizmo_mathboy (43426) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774102)

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 wouldn't dump everyone to laptops because they wouldn't be able to run everything they need to on them.

As someone wrote above, get out while you retain your sanity. Your president just made life a living hell and unless you are a bastard operator you better get out.

bitch bitch bitch (1)

FeSceptre (956351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774108)

College and it's peripherals cost money?? -sarcasm-

My school does this... (1)

ilvg2k (945524) | more than 8 years ago | (#14774120)

I am a student at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. All full time students (~2500) are required to participate in the school's 'technology program' where part of your tuition pays for a laptop (that I am typing on now) to use and then own once graduated. You get your first one as a Freshman and then a new model once a Junior. It costs 1,400 each year. Students have tried many-a-time to get exempt from this and just use thier own computer- all have failed.

The idea behind it is that there is always the needed resources for students to get the most out of their educations. However, most usage of the laptops in the classroom is used for the instant messaging app of your choice.

As far as managing this from a support side: I know there are specific images for different degree's (i.e. Engineering degrees would get AutoCAD, etc. While business students would not.) I am not sure how the licenses are managed but I know people with expensive licensed software MUST get a factory image before receiving a diploma.

More reading --> []

Not as bad an idea as you might think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14774143)

My college (Wentworth Institute of Technology) has already done this starting this year. I have to say, I love my laptop. They're pretty beefy too (1.86ghz Pentium M, 1gig ram, firegl v3200). In fact, my only complaint is the damn cpu can get over 70C when gaming; I have to undervolt and underclock. Disaster is far from what I'd describe it. Now, it comes with anti spyware/virus shit, and our college firewall is pretty much in lockdown mode (no ports open, etc). Plus, its a tech school with CS and IT majors, so I imagine we might be somewhat more capable of dealing with problems than an art school. Although our art majors were given G4s. It can (and here, has) been done with few problems.
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