Henrico County Apple iBook plan in jeopardy?

“The degree that the [Henrico County Apple iBook plan] has positively affected student education has yet to be determined. About $27.9 million has been spent on the laptops in the past four years,” Olympia Meola reports for The Richmond Tmes-Dispatch. “Internet filtering became a controversial element of the program several years ago when students were caught downloading pornography at school.”

“‘We’ve been using the best piece of software we can find,’ said Dave Myers, the county’s assistant superintendent for finance. Bidders are being asked to supply larger bandwidth to the laptops’ wireless card so the county could grant teachers the option to view all students’ computer screens electronically. School officials are also considering a filter system that works when students leave school, said Lloyd Brown, Henrico’s assistant director of technology and information services,” Meola reports.

“[Parent Steven Bass] and other parents see the omission of specific filtering requirements as a sign that school officials are trying to steer the contract to Apple, the current provider. Bass suggests that the request should be retracted and redesigned to seem less Apple-specific,” Meola reports. “‘It’s a very slanted proposal,’ Bass said. If school officials would like to go with Apple again, Bass thinks they should demand that Apple come up with the solutions. That’s not the case, county officials maintain. Brown denied any attempt to again sole-source the contract to Apple. Superintendent Fred Morton IV has repeatedly said the same. In fact, the county recently tweaked a hardware requirement in their request that made it easier for more laptop manufacturers to bid. ‘Whoever comes out with the best response will win the [contract],’ Brown said.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We hope officials take the total cost of ownership into account when reviewing the contracts and don’t act like Joe Six Pack at the local Wal-Mart and shortsightedly fixate on the sticker price alone. Besides, to go backwards from Mac OS X to Windows XP would be cruel and unusual punishment for Henrico students and teachers. Here are just a handful of articles (we have many more) that Henrico officials should keep in mind when making their decision:

Cybersecurity advisor Clarke questions why anybody would buy from Microsoft – February 18, 2005
Security expert: Don’t use Microsoft Windows, Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer – December 09, 2004
Cyber-security adviser uses Apple Macintosh to avoid Windows’ security woes – September 27, 2004
Information Security Investigator says switch from Windows to Mac OS X for security – September 24, 2004
Windows XP Service Pack 2 causing major headaches on college campuses – August 24, 2004
Scientists use Mac OS X for better performance, security – February 12, 2004
Pennsylvania school district’s PCs infected with virus; their Macs unaffected – October 01, 2003
Single Mac keeps company running while Windows machines fail due to Blaster worm – August 13, 2003

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Survey shows support for Henrico iBook program with ‘lukewarm support’ for Apple’s Mac OS X – March 07, 2005
Henrico poll finds students are using iBooks successfully – February 11, 2005
Henrico iBooks raise concerns among some parents – May 28, 2004
Henrico high school laptop program to continue, but will it still feature Apple Macs? – February 24, 2005


  1. If memory serves me correctly, didn’t Apple once have a service like this? Back when .mac was very new (and very free), I seem to remember them offering some type of “safe web site registery” and filtering features for children. What happened to it?

    Anyway, the schools would be crazy to go back to Windoze for all of the million other obvious reasons, but we can’t ignore this important oversight by Apple.

    I’m not sure how successful the schools/students would be in filtering porn with any of the pc systems anyway. Do they actually work?? But even if they don’t, the fact that Apple is again targetting the school systems as possible users of their computers means they need to offer a solution.

    This won’t be the last school system to raise this issue and they need to be able to address it at least as completely (or incompletely) as is done on the pc platform… and hopefully better!

  2. “bidders are being asked to supply larger bandwidth to the laptops’ wireless card so the county could grant teachers the option to view all students’ computer screens electronically.” from article above.

    “Screen-sharing in Apple Remote Desktop 2 works not just with Macs but with any Virtual Network Computing (VNC)-enabled computer, including Windows, Linux and UNIX systems.

    Apple Remote Desktop allows you to observe up to 50 screens simultaneously in a single window, so you can stay right on top of what’s happening in your network and offer your users the best remote assistance possible. You choose how many screens you want to view in the Multi-Observe window. If you’re monitoring more screens than the number you have displayed in the window, Apple Remote Desktop 2 pages through all of the screens — you can set it to page automatically at a time interval that you specify or you can control the paging manually. You can control the size of the Multi-Observe window and the color depth of the screens you’re observing — perfect for when you have limited bandwidth and want to optimize screen-sharing performance.

    You can take control of any remote computer screen. If you need to open or quit an application for a user, for example, you can do that right from your desktop. Your users can have a say in the matter, of course — you can configure your client systems to always allow screen control or to prompt the users to explicitly grant access to the administrator. With full screen mode in Apple Remote Desktop 2.1, you now control and observe remote computers on the entire screen of your display.” from the Apple website for RDC.

    DId Apple go cheap on the software side and not include this app, or are they just not using it?

  3. 1 P2P file sharing and online gaming can easily be locked at the Server when the kids are at school through Apple Mac OS X Server software. What happens at home is up to the parents.
    2 Websites can be blocked at the server with a little set up.

  4. This stuff is very easy to deal with. Were I at Apple, I would have proposed that the school system become the ISP as well, putting in appropriate routers, servers, etc. The school system could manage all the filtering.

  5. If ‘larger bandwidth’ and ‘internet filtering’ is the summation of the worst of the problems they’re been having, then the project must have been a massive success! No problems with the OS, interface, compatibility, reliability, usability, education purposes fulfilled, etc.

    Just back from the local bookshop and every Windows XP magazine seems titled “How to fix your PC problems” whereas every Mac magazine is entitled “Get the most out of XYZ software” as if the OS and applications don’t (in general) have problems.

    I wonder what are the normal issues in proposals for PC contract renewals?

    Computers in schools are for education not problem fixing!

  6. Why is America always so uptight about pornography? I mean we know that all our parents did it or we wouldn’t be here, right? Not really that big a deal if you ask me. My wife (who is Japanese) is always kinda amazed at the values expressed in America. She is like, let me get this straight – They can show people getting shot and murdered by guns on TV but no breasts? And anybody can walk in and buy a gun but no breasts on TV? I mean, when you are comparing breasts and guns, isn’t one of these just a wee little bit more dangerous than the other?

  7. Filtering at the schools should not be a problem. Most of that can be controlled at the server end and they should work reasonably well. They tend to make the “surfing” a little slower and as long as some it’s configured properly, they should only block unwanted sites. But, as for “home” use or connecting to the internet at home or elsewhere, this is a home problem. If parents don’t take this seriously and prevent it at home, why should this be the schools or Apple’s problem?

    It starts at home doesn’t it?

  8. Whatever, whatever, whatever. I use Macs. My ex-wife is a frightened PC user. So is the High School that my kids attend.

    So my kids are exposed to both systems, and they prefer Mac, BUT they can deal with Windows. Sometimes you’ve got to leave home just to see how good you’ve really got it (visited the 3rd world lately?)

    Bottom line: If they can handle Windoze, then Mac is a breeze for them.

    If they never knew anything but Mac, they’d never know how good they have it.

    Bottom line 1: If a school wants to use Windoze, doesn’t bother me.

    Bottom line 2: When you’re feeling cynical and depressed about the society you live in, go travelling to Africa or Asia. Don’t stay in a resort–go see how the rest of the world lives.

    Perspective is everything.

  9. Our school, who adopted laptops for every teacher, student, staff, and administrator, back in 1996, has been doing fine with this sort of situation. We simply route all traffic through a series of firewall filters. However, “inappropriate” content always finds a way to sneak through, so we implemented a simple solution. Disciplinary action. The next kid who is found to have porn on his computer needs to be made an example of. Embararss the hell out of him by making the disciplinary actions both public and strict. Some might say “well, they will just hide it better”, but if these OS X client laptops are setup correctly, the student will not be able “hide” anything in any place other than their home folder, which makes it easy for random content checks on students’ computers. Now, some might say “random checks are a violation of privacy”. That is complete BS, because our policy is that you are using the school’s network, and the computers are the school’s property (in our case, the kids lease from us). And overall, it’s really up to the educators and parents to keep an eye on what the student is doing. It is absolute crap to place this “filtering” responsibility solely on technology. If you require students to use the computer for academics, then you have an explicit responsibility to make sure they are not abusing the tools they are issued. It’s time for parents and teachers to start being a part of their kids lives again. The computer is the not the “magic tool” that doesn’t need oversight. If anything, by giving the student the “privilege” of using such a great tool, the role of the teachers, administrators and parents increase.

  10. OK Kate, I take from your comment that it is much more acceptable for you to have your children see people people shot and murdered on various TV shows than for them to see naked breasts. This seems to be the prevalent feeling in America. Just look at the uproar over the Janet Jackson incident during the super bowl. And “I” am the dope? OoooooooKay.

    You can say you don’t want them to see either but that does not reflect the actuality of TV in America today – which is: shooting and murdering OK, Breasts NO.

  11. Jack A:

    I agree with you, to a point. I think banning *anything* only drives it underground if there’s a desire for it. Especially it today’s world of increasing limitations, the inner child is rebelling. Ban porn and it only makes the problem worse. With increased risk of STDs, people are turning to porn to get their jollies off.. and to me, that’s fine, but there is a point where it becomes unhealthy, and that’s where the focus needs to be.

    I think this is an opportunity for Apple add yet another reason why Macs are better than Windows PCs… “smarter” filtering, but should include an educational component.

    On this particular computer I’m using, the government blocks all porn-related web pages and displays a nasty bright red page. It’s scary when you stumble upon a forbidden page. haha.

  12. My son is in sixth grade and Dell laptops were purchased for the entire middle school. They implemented security and a keylogger but the kids immediately figured out that if they logged in as a guest, they still have full access. Needless to say, porn is a big problem. My son is 12 years old. Children that age should not pollute their minds with pornography. We’re taken the necessary steps for the district to fix the security issues.

    We have a Mac network at home and have never had a problem with him viewing porn.

    With a Mac, if need be, you can restrict access to certain applications and add the web browser, BumperCar to control internet access. The OS will not allow them to launch any application the administrator has not approved.

    So far, I’m trusting my kids but checking the history every so often. It’s just frustrating that the school’s laptop program was the vector that got my 12 year old looking at hardcore porn.

  13. Dear Jack A

    You are so right.
    Americans, in general, seem to think violence and hatred are somehow pioneering values to be admired, whereas sex, sexyness and physical admiration are taboo. Their genes have long memories, after all they were Puritans eschewing joy, beauty and love in favour of self righteousness and moral indignation! The NRA are the high priests of American culture.

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