January 18, 2005

The MacMini -- now your computer support department has NO excuse

Getting your institution to put a Mac in your office just got easier. Apple has now, for the first time ever, entered the low-end desktop market. An often made (and ignorant) complaint regarding Mac computers is that they are more expensive than others. There may be a slight premium on the Apple brand/quality, I'll agree, but for the most part the issue is simply that Apple hasn't made computers in the low-end market. Well, this has changed. The new BYODKM (bring-your-own-display-keyboard-and-mouse) $499 Mac mini was introduced, which is not so much a reduced desktop as it is a computer whose price tag is slashed partially by eliminating extraneous hardware. I propose that the Mac mini brings a complete transformation to the possibility of adding a Mac to your office, in the academy or the church or other office. For such a low price tag, a great piece of Macintosh computer can be put into any current computer station, using the USB keyboard/mouse and VGA/DVI display already there. (Most Computer Support departments on campus have no shortage of extra peripherals.) Apple themselves see desktop-switching in universities as a major niche for the Mac mini. On the web page they say:

"Upgrade Your School Lab Replace your PCs with Mac minis and spend your time teaching advanced topics instead of basic computer maintenance. You already have the keyboards, mice and monitors you need."
Still, the most common denial to professors who request a Mac comes not from administration price tags, but from Information Services people. It is understandable the desire to reduce their burden of knowledge by reducing your choice. But if they have a no-Mac-tolerance policy based on compatibility across the network, it is based 100% on ignorance. The simple fact is that out of the box, a new Mac plugs-in and works on 99% of networks effortlessly.* See the Apple page on plugging into networks. *Update: The folks at iFelix have a nice list of articles discussing more obscure networking issues. I invite anyone to leave a comment to this post, giving a testimonial regarding their Mac working on your building's network.


Brian Fending said...

Until very recently, I was in a public library setting. It was, for every computer but my own, a Windows network. During my three years there, I used DHCP to get an IP address and Samba to access network shares. I had absolutely zero problems related to my Mac plugged in *anywhere* on the network and accessing resources. I was the webmaster, with access to more secure resources than most, but there was a greater threat from the Windows 2000 boxes that library patrons used than from my sole powerbook roaming the halls.

If you have network admins or even helpdesk people who don't know what SMB:// or DCHP are, THAT is the place to start demolishing the Great Wall of Windows. Here's the reall good news: IT'S NOT THAT HARD. The learning curve should be virtually non-existent for competent computer folk.

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