(For those new to the column, Forward Migration is our term for companies moving from Wintel machines to Macs — or at least adding or increasing the number of Macs they use. A Forward Migration Kit is an overview of Mac OS products for a particular occupation, such as photography, optometry, etc.)
Oklahoma State University’s College of Arts and Sciences has found that using a Mac solution for lab management saves time, staff, and, in the long run, money.
Computer support specialist Steve Brown for Computing Information Services is now managing labs for five different departments (art, music, journalism & broadcasting, foreign languages, and geology) that include 180-plus Macs and over 4,000 students arranged into 170 workgroups. He also tracks lab, application, and printer usage, and provides access to digital media.
Starting in 2000, the college began using Mac Manager running Mac OS X Server version 1.2. Remote access to lab documents is provided via an AppleShare IP 6.3.1 server. The access to digitized foreign language tapes for three different languages (over 70 class sections), and CD images in five different languages, owes its thanks to another Mac OS X Sever running QuickTime Streaming Server.
Apple Network assistant is used to access and help manage the 180-plus Macs. Also, the Mac Manager log is ported into a FileMaker Pro 5 database that Brown created and that he says allows accurate, flexible, and easy to use tracking of printing, lab attendance, and lab usage reports.
Macintosh Manager is Apple’s workstation management technology. It provides education network administrators with a centralized method of securing Mac OS workstations, controlling student software access, and providing a consistent, personalized experience for students and staff. AppleShare is a general-purpose server that can support a mixed environment of Macintosh and Windows clients.
Mac OS X Server software is Apple’s first in a new generation of scalable server solutions. It doesn’t provide all the same services as AppleShare IP, but does offer NetBoot capabilities for iMac, Power Mac G4, and Power Macintosh G3 computers. NetBoot allows Macintosh computers to run the same system software and applications stored on the NetBoot server, so updating the server once automatically updates all Mac systems on the network. Mac OS X Server also has high scalability for Web serving and file sharing.
Hardware includes a Power Mac G4, a Power Mac G3 blue and white server (both running Mac OS X 1.2) and a beige G3 Server running AppleShare IP 6.3.1.
“This solution centralized and streamlined the management of these labs for the departments involved,” Brown told MacCentral. “We’ve taken the responsibility for technical support off of educators and administrators who once also had to handle the technical support for these labs. They didn’t want to do it anyway, and they’re now free to do their ‘real’ jobs. But the real accomplishment is that the lab experience, and therefore the overall educational experience, for the students is much improved.”
For instance, before the Mac solution, foreign language students would check out cassette tapes, and listen to the tapes as they follow along in their lab manuals. Now the content on the tapes have been digitized so students can listen to the content on computers thanks to the QuickTime streaming server.
Also, the foreign language students have several CD-based program that they use regularly. This semester Brown made disk images of those CDs, which can be used in such a way that the main lab doesn’t even have to be manned. Both the cassette tape and the CD checkout required that someone “man” the lab and handle the check-out procedures. Now students can come to the lab and access both the audiotapes and CD’s without lab attendant intervention, Brown says.
“This results in more flexible lab hours,” he adds. “We’ve actually helped department with staffing, as they don’t need to man the lab all the time.”
And that’s just the foreign language department. For the entire five departments involved, Mac Manager helped simplify management, streamline the log-in process, and enhance security.
“When I first came on board, there were two or three different solutions, all unrelated to anything else being used on the campus as a whole,” Brown said. “Now we’ve placed all this under Mac Manager.”
Money recovered from printing costs have gone right back into better software and equipment for the labs. Attendance reports are more accurate, and the log-in process has been streamlined with other university systems.
What’s more, Mac Manager has an info log that can keep track of every aspect of lab usage. For example, this offers a flexible way of tracking printing for the art department. It can keep track of lab attendance by foreign language students.
“In the foreign language department, lab attendance is a big thing,” Brown said. “A part of the student’s grade is based on them spending a certain amount of time in the lab. With Mac Manager, we can track how long each student is in the lab, and print out a report by class or by user.”
Reports can also show how many hours labs are being used, the busiest time of day, which applications are most used, and what sort of students use the facilities the most. Mac Manager’s tracking features also makes it easy to see when the lab facilities require beefing up. For instance, it can show if more labs or more printers are needed.
“Basically, the Mac solution helped us to accomplish what would be humanly impossible otherwise,” Brown said.
The Mac solution enabled him to handle lab management in about half the time as before, Brown said. The other half of his time is spent providing desktop support to another 250-plus Macs in faculty, staff, and graduate assistant/teaching assistant offices.
He recently helped start a system where a student is assigned to each major lab department. Brown said he works with these students and encourages them to take “ownership” for their labs.
“These student techs do a great job handling the ‘usability’ aspect of the labs, a very important aspect, but one that I have not always had enough time to do properly,” Brown said. “Now I’m able to focus on the administrative side of things because Mac Manager is in place. We’re now able to expand into areas I’ve wanted to for a long time, but was never able to do.”
So why Macintosh instead of another solution? For one, of the five disciplines involved, three — art, music, and journalism ? are dominated by Macs in the “real world.”
“Also, I don’t think that the solution we’re using is even available in a Wintel system,” Brown said. “And the system is very dependable.”
He added that the college has been very pleased with the performance. There have only been a few stability problems and they were experienced in the learning phase, Brown said.
“The servers are easy to set up and maintain,” he said. “We’ve been very happy and we’re only running version 1.2 of the software. The performance has been very good for a first version.”
Brown also feels that the end user version of Mac OS X will be a boon to the Mac platform. The next generation operating systems has “great potential,” he adds.
“There’s a big future in Unix-based servers and operating systems,” Brown said. “Apple has done the best job in hiding the Unix interface and that puts the company a step ahead.”
OSU, a traditional, four-year college, is located in Stillwater, OK, and has several branch campuses.
“We consider OSU to be THE university of Oklahoma,” Brown says. “The other school is just confused.”
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Requests for help
Now it’s time for our weekly requests for help from folks who need your advice and/or assistance in forward migrating — or at least being able to keep the Mac platform alive and thriving in their businesses. Contact the requesters directly at their e-mail addresses.
Alan M. Ruben: “I’ve always used WriteNow 4.0 as my primary word processing program. Recently, I suffered a major hard disk crash in which I lost all of my applications that I hadn’t backed up. All of my documents were saved, however, including a large number of word processing documents created with WriteNow. When I tried to reinstall WriteNow from the diskettes I originally purchased, I found that they’re unreadable. Therefore, I can’t reinstall WriteNow, and am unable to open the documents I created with this program. Is there any way in which I might be able to obtain a download of WriteNow? Or diskettes of WriteNow?”
John Yeoman: “I’m desperately looking for disk password security. Apple CDEV isn’t compatible with OS 9.1. DiskLock isn’t Mac OS X compatible (even though I’m not using it). I don’t want to rely on simple MultiUser log-in. Open Firmware is too dangerous for the average user like me. I need to protect at disk root level, not file encryption. Any suggestions?”
Bruce Adams: “Does anyone have ANY info on CAT IV? My copy is degenerating and I am afraid it is going to die. It will be the end of my business. ” (CAT is C.A.T Contact, Activity, Time by Chang Labs.)