Doesn’t Play with Lion

Mac OS X LionI was recently asked which private schools in the Atlanta area had 1:1 laptop programs, and I honestly had no idea, so I contacted two colleagues, and I discovered that of the schools who have 1:1 programs, most use Macs. I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m a Mac fan. I wanted to upgrade to Lion as soon as it was released, but I discovered that several programs I run regularly don’t play well with Lion. This is probably no surprise, especially due to the fact that in Lion, Rosetta is discontinued. I advised my Mac-loving colleagues at work to hold off on an upgrade until I could find out when these programs would work with Lion. The main programs I’m concerned about are the following:

  • GradeQuick Web Plugin (not really a plugin, but a program). In my opinion, GradeQuick doesn’t work well even in Snow Leopard. It functions, but the UI is terrible, and it opens a different window for each class.
  • SMART Notebook 10.8. I only know of one teacher who regularly connects her SMARTBoard to her MacBook, but I am sure others use Notebook on their Macs to create files to use with their SMARTBoards.
  • Konica Bizhub copier drivers. We can print to our copiers using our Macs, but the Konica website doesn’t have a driver for 10.7 yet, and they have published no ETA for releasing one on their website.

I am going to an Edline/GradeQuick conference next week, and I hope to be able to find out more about when GradeQuick will work on Lion at that time. This email from Edline support to the LRSD Technology Center is the only information I’ve been able to find. The tone of the letter disturbs me because it sounds as if Edline is blaming Apple for the incompatibility. Apple switched to Intel-based processors some time ago, and Rosetta (at least to my understanding) was meant to be a way to transition from PowerPC-based to Intel-based processors. The announcement that Apple was making this change was made in 2005. Snow Leopard, which was introduced in 2009, was released as Intel-only and you had to download Rosetta in order to run PowerPC programs. To my way of thinking, software developers knew two years ago which way the wind was blowing, but because Apple was still supporting Rosetta, they effectively decided not to make any changes to their software until Apple forced them to. Education software is not always known to be the most proactive bunch, but given how many schools seem to be moving to 1:1 laptops and how many of those programs are using Apple, it just doesn’t make business sense to decide not to upgrade until you’re forced to. There are alternatives out there, and if you want to keep a school’s business, it seems logical to make sure your software runs on their hardware.

SMART is making the same mistake. A cursory glance at the SMARTBoard Revolution Ning reveals users are having a whole host of problems with Notebook 10.8 on Lion—actually, seems to be unstable with Macs in general. Take a look at this thread. The answer that the original poster was given when he asked when SMART would be resolving known issues with Macs and SMART Notebook? Not until next year when the next update is pushed out. So users need to downgrade to 10.7 if they wish to use Notebook on their Macs? When so many schools use Macs?

I tweeted Konica about the drivers for the bizhub copiers, and they replied that the new driver should be released next month, but that the driver for 10.6 would still work on Lion. That is good news for those of us who print from our Macs. Still no firm date, and “should work” doesn’t mean “will work,” but since I can’t upgrade due to issues with GradeQuick and SMART Notebook, I can’t test it.

I have decided that I want to install VMWare Fusion to run the programs in Windows on my Mac. I admit I feel frustrated. Would the software companies drag their feet like this on Windows software? Given the large number of Mac OS users in education, how can they justify dragging their feet on Mac software?

Do you know of any other programs educators might use that will not work in Lion? Please share in the comments. Also, feel free to share any other issues you’ve had with using Macs in school.

Image via TUAW.

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“Open-Source Has Already Won”

I hope Steve Hargadon will forgive me for stealing something he said at EduBloggerCon last June (I can’t remember the context anymore, to be honest) for my title, but as I have been reading The World is Flat and thinking about technology and open-source, I have been turning Steve’s statement around in my head.

Thomas Friedman interviews executives from Microsoft in The World is Flat. They seem fairly assured of their ability to compete in a world of open-source software, and they have one good reason to believe in their consumers will continue to purchase their products: the vast majority of consumers don’t know any better, or they are not compelled to learn about alternatives.

Most of my colleagues at work use Internet Explorer. It comes bundled with Windows, after all, which is the operating system our school computers use. I like Firefox enough that I am willing to download it myself. Our school recently migrated to Google Apps for e-mail, and the first thing most of my colleagues did was configure Outlook to use as their mail client. I’m not faulting my colleagues. At what point did anyone sit down and show them all that Firefox and G-Mail can do? I don’t fault our Instructional Technology department either. Teachers are notoriously resistant to technology, and when did they have time to show the teachers these alternatives to Microsoft?

Open-source software has a lot of possibilities that I’m really excited about. But the vast majority of the public who uses computer software remains uneducated about open-source software and shows no inclination to learn.

Did you know…

  • An open-source office suite that easily competes with Microsoft Office is available for free? It’s called Open Office. MS Office 2007 is listed at $399.95.
  • An open-source photo editor that easily competes with Adobe Photoshop is available for free? It’s called GIMP. Adobe Photoshop CS3 is listed at $649.99.
  • In fact, a lot of, if not most of the software you use probably has an open-source counterpart?

Open-source is gaining ground, but only among those savvy enough to know anything about it. As large as our ed tech community sometimes seems, I am reminded on a daily basis that we’re really just a few lone voices crying in the wilderness. It is my hope that we can make Steve’s statement come true, and I have already seen encouraging signs:

  • After years of trying to compete with WordPress after a disastrous move toward tiered pricing, Movable Type recently announced that it is open-source. Actually, it’s my opinion (and I’m not alone in this) that MT could no longer viably compete unless they went open-source.
  • The journal Nature announced two years ago that Wikipedia‘s error rate is about the same as that of Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • Microsoft’s Office 2007 suite changed the file extensions to Office OpenXML. Files are now a lot smaller. The user interface in Office is totally different, too. One could argue that among the many reasons for these changes is that Microsoft wanted to stay viable in light of the many alternatives to Office that are now available. After all, all of the open source or online office suites and word processing programs I can think of are compatible with Microsoft’s older extensions — anyone smell a move toward phasing the older extensions out, making it harder for the competition to play nicely with Microsoft Office documents?
  • In the first two years of its existence, Firefox managed to erode IE’s market share by 10 percent. When IE 7 was released, who could fail to notice that one of Firefox’s most popular features, tabbed browsing (which is also available in other free, open source browsers), was now included in IE?

All of these things mean that community-built, open-source software is definitely winning some battles, but the war is still raging.

I recently e-mailed my daughter’s school to let them know their website was really problematic in a variety of ways, only to discover they felt they had done a great deal of work on the site. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but after our exchange, I decided to check out the site in IE. It looked fine. When I told them their site was actually not rendering properly in Firefox, they were dismissive. In fact, I think the exact words were “I’m glad you can see the real website now.” As of this week, they still have not fixed the site so that it renders properly in Firefox. I don’t think they know how. And I don’t think they intend to learn. After all, most of the people using their website are probably using IE.

It is my hope that there will come a time when that kind of thinking won’t cut it. I just checked the site in Safari, and it looks the same as it does in Firefox. So essentially, that means Mac users can’t look at the site unless they use IE for Mac, which is no longer available for download from Microsoft and will not be updated. So it’s acceptable for a school to create a site only Windows users surfing on IE can view?

Only in a world where open-source hasn’t quite won… yet.

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