An Experiment ?

Today a teacher came to me with an issue. They wanted to rip some DVDS – legally not for boot-legging.  I showed them some software, which I had listed on the software resource page, that would help them facilitate this on their new Macbook. Now you need to know that it is so new they still look at it everyday and say things like..”Stop ruining my life!” and “Who are you? WHO ARE YOU!”  etc.  

Anyway at the same time this was happening we had a completely unrelated event which killed the wifi in the office. Their Macbook was being stubborn about grabbing a new IP so I removed the device from the network pane, re-added it, and re-synced it to the network time. This took about 15 seconds and required no restarting.  JUST as I finished the teacher said, “This whole switching over now seems like a big experiment.”  EXPERIMENT- I thought about the word. It could have many meanings. I think in this case the teacher felt like switching over to Apple was an experiment, and not something that was going to last or something with an unknown outcome.

I realized it was hard to convey that what I had just done on their laptop was simply impossible to do on their old laptop. In fact, even ripping DVDs and reburning them at the speed they needed to finish their project was impossible. After the last “update” in 2011 50% of all the DVD drives stopped working. The firmware and bios were locked and the vendor did not have the password that they had set. That is just a side note…let’s move on. 

It is hard to explain all of this to people. Memories are short when the pain of learning is so new. For example, last year during the first week of school we had about 10 laptops that simply failed out of the gate. This year – to be fair – one MAC failed the wifi card seemed to be detached. The fact is though, having one spare is easy, but having ten spares is not easy.  Three years ago when I began, we had 60 classrooms with serious issues. 25 of those issues lasted for 2-3 weeks before they were serviced. This year we had 3 classrooms with serious issues from apparent construction which was not ordered, five projectors that need new bulbs, and one broken cable in the wall. All easily correctable within a 7-10 days.

In addition, 3 years ago, the network was about as stable as a tight rope walker in Niagara. It would go down daily in certain areas of the campus, and it could take hours to restore. Now, the only issue we have is making sure we have enough IP addresses, and that power is not being cut when someone plugs-in a shorted-out water boiler. 

Short memories. This change is not new. We have been working towards it for more than three years. Rebuilding from the inside to the classrooms. Fixing everything from the way things are purchased and installed, to the redundancy requirements for every section of the network. We had a glimpse last year of what the new Windows Based laptops would be if that is what we received as replacements this year. I cannot get into the details but it took more than 50 hours to setup 100 laptops. That may sound “ok” but it really was not a good situation- and something I am not allowed to elaborate on right now. It was at that moment – knowing I had wasted 50 hours doing something that should have taken 15 hours – that I knew I needed to make sure the teachers received a platform that would be able to truly take advantage of all the other changes we had made. 

If this is an experiment, it has been going for years, and not weeks. It is the result of 100s of hours of listening, reading emails, and watching people struggle. I know the new is always going to be slow, but after it is not new anymore what is it going to be? In the past the answer would have been a “toaster”(or as a friend of mine always use to say a “potato”). I hope in a month from now the answer will be a “solution”.

Tony DePrato

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