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Hardware Thread, Alternatives to laptops + trolleys in Technical; We're short on space here and our 4 IT rooms don't have enough free timetabled slots for departments to use ...
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    Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    We're short on space here and our 4 IT rooms don't have enough free timetabled slots for departments to use IT kit, which departments are finding frustrating. There is a need for additional computing capacity, that doesn't involve losing a conventional teaching room (i.e converting it into an IT suite).

    We have one set of laptops + trolley and while it does get used a lot, it has been abused, is a time sink and the laptops aren't especially robust. SMT and I aren't especially enthused about the cost/lifespan/faffing involved with additonal (2x 15) laptop trolleys, so I'm looking for other solutions.

    Back at Uni, there were computers built inside tables with a glass window - you could either use it as a computer workstation or a normal table, I think I've also seen computers built into old-style school desks - lift the lid and there's a flatscreen computer in front of you.

    Has anyone used / installed / played with a setup similar to this? Was it cost-effective in the long-term?

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    We have had many quotes for these desks, as SMT love the look of them but then forget they exist when they see the price.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    Yes, we continue to get more and more laptops as there is no room for workstations. Each department want a set of laptops or share them with other departments.

    They initially got very abused and many breakages within the first few months. We have just had to enforce the teachers to take more care and check them in and out whilst maintaining a log book.

    Sounds time consuming and I suppose it is.

    We once kitted a couple of class rooms out so they are classrooms with network points and charging units attached to the walls.

    They then use the laptops for a whole day then put them in storage.

    Problem is, after a year of use - on and off every 5 mins - charging every few lessons - the batteries die and it starts becoming an expense. They are slower and certainitly more costly for repairs and maintenance.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    pete - it can be achieved with a bit of effort without using laptops.

    Glass fronted TFT [if you really want more space] and computers located in a remote location [I use new cupboard's which I modify] as the cost of "special" desks are crazy money.

    Extention cables and the like are useful, but if you have the money to, then use an "extender" type device on each system, that uses a humble cat5e cable for all the data transference i.e. KVM + audio

    Can show u all [and have been meaning to for ages] pictures if needed.

    And has definately been worth it - mainly down to kids being less able to tamper with equipment.

    Nath.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    Jack PC thin clients.
    http://www.chippc.com/thin-clients/jack-pc/index.asp

    These can be mounted in the Dado trucking. In fact most thin client devices have significant space saving advantages over fat PC's.

    I personally like these: http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/pscmi...t_02-26-07.pdf

    They can be mounted at the back of the monitor on the base. Thin clients also have no fans so they are silent, generate less heat and have a much higher MTB rate than fat PC.

    If you don’t need to run intensive multimedia apps like video/audio editing, thin clients could be an option.

    If you want any further info on a thin client solution, feel free to PM me.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    @Tarquel
    Pictures would be good - any chance of a writeup as well? Especially how much room the cupboards take up in a classroom (free space and AA batteries are the currency in our school).

    In the science labs we're planning on mounting machines to walls and plugging in USB mice/keyboards when needed to keep surfaces clear for experiments / non-computer work, but those (HP sff jobs) will be used for datalogging / writeups by kids working in groups of 1-3, so we don't need one per kid.

    @djm968
    We already have a thin client setup - mini-itx boards booting from compact flash using thinstation. We like them a lot and are considering them as an option.

    Careful probing reveals political issues as well (which I'll throw up to SMT for them to sort out). It would appear no-one wants "their room" to be the computer room (however well disguised) because it would make them decidely nomadic when other people wanted to use the room - this is a valid point, atm teachers attempt to steal computer room bookings from each other.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    We've got 2 rooms with motorised desks where the screen and keyboard rise up from the back. SMT decided on them without caring a jot what they were like to support

    Being motorised they break - a lot. Its very easy for kids to chop keyboard cables etc with the mechanism and they are a nightmare to raise up and down.
    Also, the PC's being built into the desk becomes annoying when you need to work inside them. And they're very loud.

    We will never get anything like that again. Only normal desktops from now on.

    The desks with the pop up top with the screen are probably more robust but they are still style over function IMO

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    Quote Originally Posted by sidewinder
    The desks with the pop up top with the screen are probably more robust but they are still style over function IMO
    Yup, one of my schools has these. I only started there about three weeks ago, and I already hate the desks! They're a great idea in principle, but a pain in the butt practically.

    The computer cupboards that are attached are too small for a lot of towers to fit in properly. When the keyboards and mice are fitted to the tray, the wires are pulled so tight that you can't get the tower out of the cupboard without the wires pinging out, and you can't reconnect them without slackening everything off at the top as there isn't enough length.

    I've also experienced problems with the lids catching and not wanting to open.

    There is also a huge potential for broken screens when someone decides to close the lid with the mouse sitting on top of the keyboard... :twisted:

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    [quote="pete"]@Tarquel
    Pictures would be good - any chance of a writeup as well? Especially how much room the cupboards take up in a classroom (free space and AA batteries are the currency in our school).

    I would love to see these also please. I'm in the same boat as most and always happy to see some new type of setup

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    You could also look at the Isis Flipscreen desks. These are like the old skool school desks that lift up to reveal a compartment inside. In this instance the TFT is attached to the part the flips up and the keyboard and mouse are revealved. A thin client or very small PC can be secreted inside. Thin clients would probably give you a better return on your investment due to the fact that you wouldn't be using all the machines all the time.

    Personally, I love thin clients and given the money I would have this set up in every room so that every child would have IT access as and when required. A bit of a blue sky idea mind.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    Quote Originally Posted by Ric_
    and given the money I would have this set up in every room so that every child would have IT access as and when required. A bit of a blue sky idea mind.
    Yes - I agree. I can see this being really useful in primary but someone needs to design a primary school friendly computer desk (i.e. you can spill a pot of painty water on it while it's shut and it won't all die).

    Off topic, sorry, but what I don't get about thin clients is why are they so powerful? Surely they don't do any processing apart from keyboard and mouse so why do they need a 1.5gh processor, 1gb flash and 1gb of ram. Most of my fat pc's aren't this good! Plus, they seem to be the almost the same price as a fat pc and you need to get a great big server to run it all. On the increased lifespan side of things, well... I reckon a fat pc lasts us 5 years, so a thin client needs to be lasting 8-10 years to make it worth it. Therefore, it needs to be capable of running vista or the next thing. Will they be able to keep up with Microsoft's hunger for snazzy graphics?

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    @eean: Before we get back on topic... Linux-based thin clients are usually sufficient and these use low power 400MHz VIA processors and have no moving parts. A ten year life span is a conservative estimate plus they are silent, use less electricity and produce less heat.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    10 year lifespan? surely in 5 years you'll be doing dramatically different things on those PCs. Personally I'd take that with a pinch of salt - 10 years if you don't want to do anything different.

    PC will generally last 10 years in general - if you just do the same old stuff on them, it's when you start adding more that you have to update. That's the same with thin clients..

    At the OP, personally I'd just tell them to get a new suite, it's what I'm advising my SMT to do from now on - ditch laptops/trolleys entirely as they just get destroyed and rarely get used. Apart from that you have all of the setup time each time the class wants to use them as the trolley has to be brought to the classroom, kids take them out, turn them on etc. Faster just to go to a suite that's booked out.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    @Halfmad: When you only ever run one item on the client (the ICA client) there isn' really anything to change... you do need to upgrade your servers obviously.

    The reason I suggested what I did was that you would maybe kit 3 rooms out in this fashion but only 1 room might be in use so you would only need licences/capacity to run 30 clients.

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    Re: Alternatives to laptops + trolleys

    I am aware of at least two LAs involved with BSF where the goal is to provide every student with a 'personal' computing device; this may not be achievable in the short term but it will have a significant impact on the thinking behind ICT infrastructure in schools in the future. We may be forced to implement more and more portable computing devices whether we like it or not.
    In my own schools case, we don't have the space to turn any more rooms into computer rooms and the classrooms are too small anyway so we are forced to go down the laptop route with all of the issues previously discussed.

    As far as I can see, this one-to-one goal could be achieved by at least a couple of routes; one would be to make every classroom & teaching space an ICT room using furniture that has built-in technology, another would be to go down the portable handheld/notebook route. I suspect the latter will be the preferred route for many schools as it offers greater flexibility & would probably be less expensive. It also has the advantage of enabling BSF schools to be built 'smaller'.

    Personally, I would love to see a solution based upon thin client technology, where each student is given a low-cost energy efficient 'dumb' hand-held device with few/no moving parts that can connect to 'big' application servers. These devices would have little or no setup requirements and more importantly little or no commercial value when not connected to a school network.

    Of course it will be interesting to see if the recent scare stories about wireless networks in schools causes a change in thinking.



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