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Is deploying 5 MACs in an all windows environment for a music lab no big hassle – what should I expect?

Posted on 2011-03-01
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Is deploying 5 MACs in an all windows environment for a music lab no big hassle – what should I expect?


Would like some input on the Pros and Cons of having a mixture of Windows 7 and Mac 10.x on our campus. I underlined ‘our’ because I would appreciate advice and opinions in relation to my current setup - not general advice that you might give to someone building a school network from scratch.

My setup:
1.       Currently we are a Windows Shop with Windows servers (2008 R2 ) and clients (Windows 7)– we are not looking at the possibility of switching over to Macs or any other platforms.
2.      About 200 school owned systems – 400 students – PS-8th Grade.
3.      Students have Active Directory accounts – which allow them to access computers, file shares, printers, as well as our classroom portal (moodle), Grolier, netrekker, and more.
4.      We  are open to students bringing laptops to school – for student own laptops we set them up to connect to the wireless network, access a student file share, as well as some of the printers – we have no trouble doing this with either MACs or Windows notebooks and have several of both (though more of the students bring Windows than Macs – but that is likely because all of the school owned systems are windows.) – though there is some issues with the printers because we use dept. IDs and the PS drivers from the manf. Don’t handle that well.
5.      Although I started out on Apple computers – My staff and I are very familiar with Windows  and not so much with MACs.
6.      We make heavy use of Group Policies, Networked shared applications, redirected folders, as well as virtual applications through AppV

Current dilemma – Our music department would like to have a mini Music computer lab -  5 computers – but they want MAC.  I have asked them why MAC and from what I can gather, the real reason is the music director likes Macs (it is what she uses at home).  However, she, in her own words, is not a strong user and cannot help support the MAC platform.  The software they are looking to use is Microsoft Office, Firefox, Finale, Groovy Music, as well as Garage band, iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, and iTunes.  They will also make use of a USB piano keyboard on each station (these work on either platform)

For matching functionality on Windows (for argument sake) – Office, Firefox, Groovy Music, and Finale – all have Windows version with no loss of features.
iTunes can be deployed in Windows (though I am not a fan of users installing it)
iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD – we already have licensing for Adobe PSE and PrE.(Windows Only – don’t currently have licenses for the MAC versions)
Garage Band – I would purchase Acoustica Mixcraft 5 ($75 per system) or something similar.  (http://www.acoustica.com/mixcraft/index.htm)

My initial response was that deploying MACS under the above situation doesn’t make since, cost more, harder to manage, every time there is an issue – I would first have to get past the learning curve before I could even troubleshoot and many of the routine systems we have in place for deployment and maintenance as well as software configurations of the typical classroom system would just not work.

That said, I am getting pressure to go forward with the MAC lab with the reasoning that many schools are multi-platform and it works great – why would it be a problem for us – it would be nice for students to get exposed to both systems (I agree with that last part just not sure it is worth the perceived hurdles)

So… with that, my question…

Is deploying 5 MACs in an all windows environment for a music lab no big hassle – what should I expect?
Would I need a MAC server
Any issues with Snow leopard connecting to AD – I read some forum posts that this had some issues (even though Tiger and Leopard handle it just fine)
What are other considerations with this deployment I need to be aware of.

Note: Please avoid replying with which platform is better – I know that is a fun topic but not what I am looking for.  I am also not really looking at exploring Linux solutions in this discussion.
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Question by:4mrhodes
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aleghart earned 500 total points
ID: 35012736
Speaking from past experience, if you don't have the means to support the equipment, and you have equivalent software...then there's a financial and operational dis-incentive to install one platform over another.

In one shops in the past, this meant that we had multiple Windows computers and only one Mac for occasional jobs.  In another shop, this meant we had all Mac, with only one Windows desktop to handle the occasional job that couldn't be converted cleanly to the Macs.

In both places, never had an Apple server.  In the Mac-based art department our servers were Novell, SGI, and an IBM/AIX RS6000 that was mac-friendly.  IIRC, Apple is killing off their server line, and selling only the Mini with server software.

There's not a compelling reason to install an Apple-branded server into an environment that already had networking and file services in place.

If the request is just brand favoritism, then I'd nip it in the bud.  What if the instructor _really_ like the Amiga?  Or hated Windows, and wanted only Linux?   No logic to it.

That being said, I do have my own kids on a Mac.  Only because I got it cheap, it's easy to teach to a 3-year old, and less prone to drive-by web infections.  That's not a compelling argument in your setting, as you won't be buying these second-hand, nor treat them as throw-aways if a PB&J sandwich gets shoved in the CD tray.

I'm also hands-on, and can maintain everything.  If you're facing a learning curve, then you'll have down-time when there are problems.  They must budget one working machine for you (or IT or helpdesk) for learning and troubleshooting.
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 35012957
I would work up a budget for buying equivalent Windows and Mac setups.  Include the expected maintenance cost.
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by:roylong
ID: 35013170
If I was you I would think about running your macs in the music labs as a bunch of stand alone (from an authentication perspective) machines with generic user accounts (e.g. user1 password) with low system privileges - this will allow you to give students the exposure without the hassle of multi-platform support.

However,  snow leopard does it well inside an AD environment if that's what you want to do - no problems with binding to the domain or authenticating the users.  But a little different for multiple users from AD logging into those computers.  You are going to have a little bit of a learning curve to support these macs if you have no experience - but I support Macs, Linux and Windows; underneath they are pretty much all the same.

If you are a good computer administrator, then you will have no problem supporting any of these platforms.  If you are a Windows admin who only understands the GUI windows environment and does everything via the menus; you may find it a little steeper.  But, hey, Macs are really straight forward once you get to know them and you could always image them really easily so if someone breaks something you just refresh them with your standard image.

I think the take home for you is; giving the students additional exposure to alternative computing platforms (especially in a music lab with a computer platform designed for those kind of tasks) will be something you cannot put a value on.  For me, exposure to multiple platforms has enabled me to explore the application software without having to worry about understanding the underlying OS every time I want to try something new (OS X; Windows 7; Ubuntu etc..).  I have two boys, aged 14 and 10; they use both at home and can even sort out their problems themselves - one prefers Windows 7; the other (who is more arty) prefers Mac OS X - but they have no problem whatsoever switching from one to the other.  They use whichever computer is available.
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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35013359
Thanks alehart - I had similar past experiences - though i think these days an art department can do everything it did on Macs on Windows - none of your major graphic programs are mac only anymore.  However, the business side software, like a student information system or accounting system is very likely goingg to demand a Windows system.  The request is brand favoritism - but we wouldn't give in to Amiga (though we do have an enitre lab of Next machines - JK) . But being a school we do give in to some things and there is a lot of MAC history in schools.  The only reasn I would conder a MAC server is for network image deployment and work group policies - don't know of a way to do it except though OS X server - but I will likely not worry about workgroup policies and deploy the images with Carbon Copy one machine at a time.  We are budgeting for a tech/spare (dual role) machine - I included that in my cost analysis.

I have my kids on Windows 7 and also Edubuntu (which is great for a three year old) but as you pointed out - not a considering factor for a network environment - especially a school - where the hardware may be destroyed by the user no matter the reliable build quality.  I also don't worry about the fly by malware - it just not an issue in our enviroment - little gets past the firewall and i reimage most machines about once a month (with little time invested) - many our classroom machines have deepfreeze - so virus it up all you want - they are clean the next day (I don't think I have seen an actual computer virus on a machine in many years (90's?) - malicious software, sure - crappy software - absolutely (educational software is some of the worst written stuff there is ... 'for teachers by teachers  - make all the printable worksheets you want and crash your computer while your at it - works on (crashes) macs and windows alike") - but not a 'virus' that wants to spread on to my file servers and/or jump to other machines etc. - we get some little mail spammers once in a while but they don't try to spread to other machines except by sending out spam - and our firewall doesn't let any computer but our mail server send email so it all goes into a blackhole - doesn't even make much of a dent in traffic.).  The biggest maintenace hassles are the admin staff machines that all get personalized and exceptions galore.  Lastly, though more af a curve than anything Windows - i am not really worried about handleing the Mac OS X clients -  I have some skill.  Thanks for you input it is spot on with my own thoughts - but i will likely be deploying MACS in our music department.

DaveBaldwin - That's been done.  They're okay with the initial cost, they aren't worry about some lost of functionality (GPOs, network apps, printing, etc.) as long as the music deprtment apps work (the music teachers station for doing her stuff, checking email, filling out reports, accessing network files is still going to be Windows - not that i worry about doing any fo that on a MAC.  And they don't believe maintence is a problem - they think I am some sort of computer god and will have no trouble figuring out any possible issue in a matter of seconds.  I am good at my job but ... That is the other problem with school environment - especially a small private school that only goes to 8th grade - it doesn't take much technology knowledge to make an impression.  Beside, they already pay me to work here, so what if i have to spend a few sleepless nights troubleshooting some unfamilar Macs in the music lab :)
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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35013397
Thanks Roylong, I agree - though exposing students in a school that only goes to eighth grade to mutiple platforms doesn't have the importance, to me, that it would in a high school but I won't go into that.  Really, after they log in and open the application - there isn't much of a difference - all the applications they are plaaning to use on the macs have Windows version and these days the Mac versions and Windows versions don't differ that much.

I will need to connect to the AD - but I am not owrried about that - I have had macs on the network before - though i have heard the most recent MAC OS (Snow Leopard) has re worked its AD connector and there have been reports of it being problamatic.  (http://hintsforums.macworld.com/showthread.php?t=104825) - but I am confident I can make that work - i probably wont try to redirect their documents on the MAc like we do on Windows becuase they will just be doing Music project on these machines - the can always use a flash drive if needed.
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by:olliefelde
ID: 35014464
Just a comment from a professional in the Design and Video fields. While most pro-level audio and graphics programs are available on both platforms, they are by no means the same. I've had to use both platforms in a pro environment and can tell you some of the problems if you want, from the user side. Usually, this translated into greatly increased costs on the production side. For your situation though, if you've gone far enough with your own education to be called an IT pro I doubt you'll have too much trouble learning to do your part on the Macs. Macs have always been designed to be a tool and in a way that users can teach themselves most things pretty easily. There will be different vernacular for some things but you'll figure it out. As for the intangible benefits, truly pro shops in graphic design, advertising, recording industry, even hard scientific R&D all use Macs. So for music purposes they will be great as well as pretty low-maintenance and the hardware doesn't become obsolete nearly as quickly. My three Macs at home are all over ten years old! I don't have any problem bringing work for print, web or TV home from the much younger machines at the office. One more thing. From a performance standpoint computing power pretty much peaked about eight years ago. Sound just isn't as processor intensive as images are, moving or not. The bottom end new Mac will actually work just fine for most, if not all, of what they need. You could even attach a firewire 800 drive to one of their systems, or your Mac, and easily set it up as a storage server specifically for music use. With Mac ANY computer on the network can be a file server, web server or print server using just the system software. You ABSOLUTELY don't need a product with the word "server" on it. You WILL need quite a bit of storage space though. Raw audio takes up space.

Hope this helps you out.
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by:olliefelde
ID: 35014487
I misspoke above. To clarify, computing power requirements pretty much topped out about eight years ago with regard to audio recording/editing.
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