Mac Lab Report

More on Apple Education, Disk Images, Cloning Systems for the Classroom, a Low-Cost Education Mac, and OS X Server

- 2003.01.16

Wrapping up some loose ends from recent Mac Lab Reports

I have said many times that readers of this column often wind up teaching me more than I knew to begin with. I like to think of it as one more manifestation of the friendly nature of the Mac community and Mac Web: More often than not, the letters I get politely point out a more efficient way of doing things than the self-taught routines I have shared in my columns.

I'm going to tie up a few loose ends here by "upgrading" my advice and procedures with knowledge gained from reader letters. Read on: there's some good stuff here.

Advice to Apple Education

I've written several articles about how Apple could improve its market share in education. Some of these suggestions have actually come to pass (not through my efforts, I am sure, but who cares as long as they happen?) So Kudos to Apple for the following Good Things:

  1. Making Jaguar available to teachers for free - at least for a while.
  2. Prices on education lists have dropped a little more.
  3. New iBook cart configurations have been designed.

Things which still need work:

  1. Focused leadership in the education sales division. We miss those personalized sales reps. We really do.
  2. Fix that stupid eMac screen problem. That needs to go away. Now.
  3. A turnkey lab solution with turn in folders on a LAN, student account management for the classroom teacher, etc. would make a killing. It shouldn't require a college degree to set up and operate, either.

More Efficient Disk Images

In Never Misplace Another CD-ROM, I outlined a procedure for duplicating CDs as image files to make them automount without actually having the CD in the drive. Several readers pointed out that if you open Disk Copy and then mount a CD-ROM, it assumes you want to make a disk image and makes a duplicate (including hidden files) of the proper size so there's no guesswork and less wasted hard drive space. Many thanks to readers Andrew Main, Frederick Silliman, and others who pointed this out. Also, Ken Arroyo Ohori says he uses Toast's Save as Disk Image for the same purpose. The first disk images I ever made were using Toast, and while I haven't used the latest version, it should still work.

Cloning iBooks for Classroom Use

Ed Hurtley and Fred Goff both sent step-by-step instructions for using FireWire Disk Mode more efficiently than the method I described in Cloning iBooks for Classroom Use. Instead of disabling the System Folder on the target Mac and copying the master onto the now-empty clone, these readers suggested that I put the Master into FireWire Disk Mode and boot the clone from it.

Hold down the option key to select an alternate boot disk as you start up the clone, then pick the "other" Macintosh HD which appears. Then you can use the disk utilities on the Master's hard drive to initialize the clone's drive, and copy everything without any finagling with the System Folder.

Here's Fred's version:

  1. Configure the Master.
  2. Plug the cable into the iBook you want to clone.
  3. Start up the clone in FireWire Disk Mode.
  4. Erase the clone hard drive.
  5. Copy the entire contents of the master to the clone.
  6. Open the system folder on the clone and close it again to bless it.
  7. Unmount the clone drive.
  8. Restart the clone and tweak [change name, mainly] as needed.
  9. Repeat 1-8 above for each additional clone.

I tried this, and it was much more efficient than the way I originally did it. Worked like a charm. Thanks to Fred and Ed for the streamlined version.

Bring Back the Cube

There have been a whole string of articles that followed my suggestion to bring back the Cube as an education computer. Dan Knight's analysis deftly dissects the idea from a practical point of view. Subsequent articles by Anne Onymus, Adam Robert Guha, Chris Lozaga, and others carried the discussion back to the general low-cost Mac that we would all like to see available for schools. Of course, inspiring such a series of interesting and thoughtful articles was my plan all along (cough, cough) and I'm glad to see this important topic get some attention. My vote as of today: A modified LC-style case with one PCI slot.

OS X Server

As many of you know I have been experimenting with OS X Server. Here's an update on that little gem of a project.

  1. Several readers suggested that I try out Netboot for the lab so everything is preconfigured identically. That is an interesting idea, but unfortunately Netboot requires a certain network configuration (BootP?) that is not compatible with all of my hodgepodge set of machines. I have a lab ranging from a Power Mac 7200/75 up to 500 MHz iBooks and CRT iMacs, and some of them just won't run OS 9. Not enough hard drive space, for one thing. Some of the issues related to running such a mixed lab are swimming around in my head for a future Lab Report.
  2. I've been experimenting with Macintosh Manager on my OS X Server. My objective was to have security settings uniform across the room and have server volumes automount. To make a long story short: Don't try it over AirPort, because if you get a dropped connection, the server that stores your settings disappears, and then you can't log out because you have to have network access to write certain files to the server. You have to log in as an admin, reconnect to the server, and so on. To log in as an admin, you have to log out the student. If the server connection goes down, the clients can't even save work locally. Bad idea.
  3. In OS X Server running Macintosh Manager, unlike Foolproof, there's no way to turn "everything on" and selectively turn off the things you want to prevent access to, like the Chooser. Instead, you must turn on everything you wish to use, and then leave off the things you want to restrict. Microsoft Office just will not operate properly unless the myriad cesspool of support applications (Microsoft Internet First Run, Clip Art manager, equation editor, etc.) are given permission to run. Also, since Mac Manager is Multiple-Users based, you can't configure the proxies on just one user; you have to do it on all of them. Separately. Turning on the printer for one user doesn't fix it for everyone as it does in a FoolProof environment. As noted above, there are probably more efficient ways to set up the server, but until I learn them, I decided it was wisest to cut my losses, go with what I knew, and try to learn more about it later.

Well, that should bring you back up to speed with all my little projects. Once again, thanks to everyone who took the time to write.

Oh yeah, one more thing: Bring back HyperCard!

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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