Hi!

I am the technology coordinator for a small (250 student) 4 - 8 school located in a high poverty urban district. We are trying to outfit our school with computers and looking at using NComputing cards to decrease the cost of putting multiple PCs in each classroom. NComputing puts a network card into a desktop box that you can then connect to 3 other monitors, mice, and keyboards. In effect, you get 4 terminals that share the resources of one computer. Supposedly it works fine as long as you aren't using graphically intensive programs. Using this solution we are looking at putting 4 terminals into each of our 10 classrooms for about $15,000 - $17,000. Has anyone used this product? How satisfied were you with it?

We are also looking at purchasing a laptop cart. I know Apple has a solution but I haven't researched many others. Can anyone share experience with purchasing and using a laptop cart?

Tags: labs, laptop carts

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I cannot comment on the laptop cart however the nComputing I can. Our school recently went this direction to save money. First of all, I do not know how much research you have done however after experiencing the situation make sure you get at least a dual core processor (quad is much much better) and as much ram as you can. If not, the entire system will grind to a halt. Yes when students are word processing is does not matter about the processor or ram, however opening up programs, surfing the net, without those upgrades will grind the system to a halt to a point where the computers for a while in my room were not used.
Do you think 1 GB of RAM is enough or should I push for 2 GB?
I think our district went to 2 gigs. I could find out though.

As well, other things need to be considered. We had a school do a test of the machines, needed to lock kids out, they were shutting down each other. Then software runs way different, we are still learning. E.g. for some reason Google Earth will not run properly or at all on a nComputing station, Windows Movie Maker, can only run on one station not all four... Just little things like that.
I checked this morning, we are running at least 2 gig of ram, and we still see some slow down during logins and such. However could be the scripts during that time that is causing the problem.
You might also consider using thin clients and streaming from a server which is a further evolution. Here is an Australian school that is using it. Of course, if the server goes down, you have problems :)
The article itself is now two years old but if you like I can send you the email of the IT manager there.
We are also going to be implementing this NComputing solution next school year. We demoed the product and really liked it. We will see how it goes next year with a small group of pilot teachers. It seems like a very cost effective product. I guess we will see if it's worthwhile after we use it with more students and teachers. I believe St. Joseph Univ. is using the solution and give it high ratings.

As for the laptop carts, I would definitely stick with the Mac Solution. Apple is extremely supportive and the computers are very powerful. The computers and carts may be more expensive, but are worth it. If you are a PC district you might want to look into better quality wireless hubs. We upgraded since the airports weren't working very well for us. We are a PC district useing Macs without a Mac server and it is working well. It may be in your best interest to investigate a lease option with Apple reps. Laptops are numbered so its easy to count and collect after each use. Students in each class are assigned one computer by # so that they are responsible for it's condition before and after use. It makes it easier to manage problems with some students. We also use a software application called SynchronEyes to keep an eye on students as well as send files, take control of student computers for demo, and locking computers or internet. Great way to communicate and manage student activities.

Good luck with your integration. Sounds like a great plan.
Hi David,

I'm not able to help on the nComputer as no school I've been in has gone that way although I imagine the more RAM the better. The money that is spent on upgrading from 1 GB to 2 GB is much cheaper than spending $17,000 on a system that isn't used.

Our school uses the Mac laptops and they're great. They're also expensive.

Psystar is coming out with a Mac clone running around $400. My school is buying me an Everex computer to demo to see if this is a cost effective option of getting computers into the classroom. They run at $200 but you have to buy the monitor. I'm curious about that...we'll see.

D
The Psystar issue is going to be interesting. From what I've read, they're lawyers say that they're fine and that they're ready to fight Apple's licensing. Personally, I was shocked that they are even trying it. I'm afraid your link didn't load for me but I'm interested in reading it and following what is probably going to be a big court battle; if it gets that far.

As far as our laptops go, we've had no problems with it dropping the wireless connection. We've ordered another laptop cart for next year and plan to add another one the next year. Our goal is to have one laptop cart for each grade level in the elementary (from Grades 2-5).

We did, however, have to replace our airport already though but that was a one time issue. The connections were fine before and after though.

I wish I could be of more help with your problem, Indigo196. There's nothing more frustrating than getting a class set up on the laptops and then having the connection drop.
Have you looked into buying off lease desktops for your classrooms. There are a number of providers that sell rebuild off lease desktops for very low prices. Over the last 5 years the curve (regarding power and speed requirements in classrooms) is not that steep. You can purchase an off lease Dell optiplex 270 or 280 with a gig of ram, 80g hd, dvd player and 1G network card for around $260 to $350 with a 3-5 year warranty. If you buy in bulk it gets even cheaper. Given the apps that most students run in a classroom this type of machine is fine. You can basically get 3 for the price of one. Probably a cheaper option then building a quad core machine with 4 gigs of ram.
David,
I'm in a large district and we are using both solutions successfully. You can email me bksmalla@gmail.com and I'll give you my phone number and we can chat specifics.
Barb
Here's another option that is similar to Ncomputing but offer a containerized solution in which you can run multiple operating systems simultaneously. Fiddlehead also includes Teacher Control which is very much like SynchronEyes. www.myfiddlehead.com
We put a Fiddlehead 4 unit station in our library. So far (4 months) it is working very well. My kids say it is faster than the old Macs they have next to the new Fiddlehead stations, and their friends wait in line to use it rather than use the Macs. It runs Moviemaker, and other 32 bit applications well. I'm told nComputing doesn't run video very well.

Anyone have any experience with nComputing and video?

Bill

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