Saturday, December 28, 2013

Resurrecting Old Macs with GNU/Linux #txed #txeduchat

Wondering what to do in your school district with old Intel Macs that can't be upgraded to Mac OS 10.9? I recently shared my thoughts on this in this email, but realize that older Intel Macs can be loaded with Linux and disposed of...more on that in a moment.

For now, here's the email:
Thank you for your attention to this email.
This email reviews Mac OS 10.9 Maverick free upgrade for Macs and addresses which Macs are obsolete. As a result of Apple’s release of OS 10.9 Maverick, and testing conducted by EC Technology Operations since that release, please be aware that all white MacBooks—with the exception of the few in-district white 2009 Macbook Model #A1342—remain obsolete.  
WHAT DOES OBSOLETE MEAN?Obsolete means that these Mac computers, while being able to get on the Internet and network, will be unable to securely access Internet web sites and may increasingly have problems connecting. Most Macs will still be able to run software purchased for them but be aware that Internet Browsers should NOT be trusted for confidential internet transactions, mission-critical data, and hacking may result. This is because internet browsers on these obsolete Macintosh computers are no longer supported by Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and/or Mozilla Firefox browsers. 
Obsolete Macintosh computers can provisionally connect to wired network connections, but there may be issues with wireless connections at BYOT campuses. As such, if you must print or connect to the Internet with an obsolete MacIntosh, please be aware of this problem. Simply, it may work, or not, depending on the particular obsolete piece of equipment in question. 
ABOUT MAC OS 10.9 RELEASEAs you know, Apple released Macintosh OS 10.9 Maverick on October 22, 2013. As you may not know, OS 10.9 Maverick is a free operating system upgrade for Macintosh computers that are able to run it. Not all Macs are able to and the minimum requirements appear below:
To install Mavericks, you need one of these Macs:
  • iMac (Mid-2007 or later)
  • MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, Late 2008), 
  • White Macbook (13-inch, Early 2009 or later) - Flip the Mac over and you can see the Model# A1342 in small print.
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2009 or later),
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch or 17-inch, Mid/Late 2007 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or later)
Your Mac also needs:
  • OS X Mountain Lion, Lion, or Snow Leopard v10.6.8 already installed
  • 2 GB or more of memory (RAM)
  • 8 GB or more of available space (Hard Drive)

WHY MUST MACS BE UPGRADED TO OS 10.9 MAVERICK?The reason why is that Mac OS 10.9 is the latest supported operating system, features currently supported Internet browsers and the latest plug-ins, and eliminates problems that Mac OS 10.6-10.8 experienced. 
WHEN WILL MACS THAT CAN BE UPGRADED BE MOVED TO OS 10.9 MAVERICK?Macs that can be upgraded to OS 10.9 will be upgraded over the next 2 months (December, 2013-January, 2014). Please note that some programs (e.g. AppleWorks, which was discontinued in 2007) that worked on OS 10.6 will NOT work on OS10.9 
WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE OTHER MACS?Please work with the Technology Office to evaluate what possible uses old Macs can be put to. 
SO WHAT WORKS?The general rule of thumb is that “white” Macs—with the exception of Model A1342--are obsolete, while “silver” Macs can usually be upgraded to Mac OS 10.9 Maverick. When considering Macs in classroom and carts, please be sensitive to these requirements. 
Thank you for your consideration of this information. 
So, now that you have a whole bunch of Intel Macs that can't be upgraded to Mac OS 10.9, what to do? One possibility in Texas school districts is to load them up with GNU/Linux and then re-distribute them to students with an educational need

Several school districts already have existing programs in place that you can explore. William Mansfield (Overton ISD) has his own blend of Linux, as does Jim Klein's Ubermix mentioned below.

Weslaco ISD's Jeff Harris describes their program in this way:
In coordination with our Parental Involvement Office, we created a program called Computers4Kids.  Surplus computers are loaned to students for up to five years, or until they withdraw/graduate, whichever comes first.  The computers are cleaned up by Parental volunteers, imaged, provided with a new keyboard, mouse, mouse pad, USB Key, speakers and surge strip.  We load a software pack (about $20) that includes a version of Open Office, as well as some educational software.  Students submit applications for computers and are selected based on educational need and socio-economic status.

Before they get the computer, the student and a parent/guardian a have to attend a training session with the Parental staff where they go over how to set up the computer, the software being provided, and how to address problems.  When there is a problem with a computer, the parent brings the computer to the Parental Involvement Department and they re-image it.  If it can’t be re-imaged, they issue a replacement and put in a work order for the non-working one.  Our technicians assess to determine if it is worth fixing.

The program has been in place since 2005 and seems to work well.

If you decide to load GNU/Linux on machines issued to students, you can avoid the $20 expense. Simply, you can take a Windows CPU and make it available to students. They can purchase a flat-screen monitor (about $69), keyboard/mouse quite inexpensively (approx <- a="">), or funding can be sought from PTAs to fund those.

For all-in-one Macintosh units, that's even less of an issue. Simply load GNU/Linux distribution of choice and you're ready to go!

The ubermix is an all-free, specially built, Linux-based operating system designed from the ground up with the needs of education in mind. Built by educators with an eye towards student and teacher empowerment, ubermix takes all the complexity out of student devices by making them as reliable and easy-to-use as a cell phone, without sacrificing the power and capabilities of a full operating system. 
With a turn-key, 5 minute installation, 20 second quick recovery mechanism, and more than 60 free applications pre-installed, ubermix turns whatever hardware you have into a powerful device for learning.
The main benefits of running Linux on these Macs, as I have found from personal experience loading Linux on my own 2007 Macbook, include the following:
  • Ability to run current web browsers that are compatible with GoogleApps
  • Revitalizing old machine, usually resulting in a noticeable speed boost since the old Mac OS is often sluggish by comparison
  • Latest and greatest security in the browser enable you to use this computer for safe computing
  • Compatibility with a wide range of peripherals (e.g. scanners, printers). In fact, one of my main reasons for loading Linux on a Mac was because I wanted to hook up an $60 HP scanner I picked up at Walmart years drivers available for Mac OS at the time, but it works flawlessly with SimpleScan (or XSANE back then), a program for scanning on GNU/Linux.
  • Linux runs 64-bit or 32-bit (your choice)
On my Macbook, I'm not even running Mac OS all. I simply have loaded Linux on the whole hard drive and it works flawlessly.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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