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A closer look at Apple's educational iMac

post #1 of 43
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For the most part, Apple Computers new educational iMac is a stripped down version of the company's 17-inch consumer offering that ships with a couple of internal component changes but also some outstanding issues, reliable sources tell AppleInsider.

Announced earlier this week, the $899 iMac is the first Intel-based computer from the Cupertino, Calif.-based company designed specifically for its educational customers. It replaces the now defunct eMac line of computers, which featured cumbersome cathode-ray-tube (CRT) displays instead of flat-panel LCD screens.

In order to keep the costs of the new computer down, Apple began with a 17-inch iMac Core Duo and began substituting its internals with lower cost components, shaving about $400 off the price of the $1299 consumer model.

In doing so, Apple replaced the 17-inch iMac Core Duo's ATI Radeon X1600 with Intel's integrated GMA 950 graphics chip, its 160GB hard disk with an 80GB model, and the computer's double-layer SuperDrive with a 24x Combo drive.

Apple also stripped the iMac of its Bluetooth wireless technology, deciding not to install Bluetooth antennas inside the computer's chassis. Therefore, the company does not authorize internal Bluetooth installations with the education iMac, forcing customers who require the technology to resort to external USB Bluetooth module solutions.

However, the educational iMac does appears to sport at least one I/O-related enhancement over the consumer model. It packs a combination analog/optical analog audio line-in port rather the consumer model's analog-only line-in jack.

Based on source accounts, the new iMac arrived about two months ahead of expectations. It's clear the move was a strategic one by Apple, aimed at capturing the heart of this year's educational buying frenzy. But in doing so, the company released the computers to manufacturing with a handful of outstanding issues, sources familiar with the matter have said.

Specifically, the first educational iMacs to roll off Apple's assembly lines will fail to sync properly with a television screen if they are booted from a Windows XP partition. According to sources, the iMac incorrectly detects TVs as a VGA displays and there is currently no workaround for the issue.



Also when booting from Windows XP, the iMac registers itself as a portable computer, which invokes power settings options typically reserved for notebooks running on battery. Sources say there is also no present solution to this problem.

Users of the new iMac may also find that Boot Camp fails to install if the included Apple Mighty Mouse is plugged into one of the USB ports at the rear of the computer during installation. A quick workaround is to use another mouse during installation or to connect the Mighty Mouse to the computer through the USB port on the Apple keyboard.

In one final note on the new educational iMac, sources warned that altering the computer's brightness setting in the Display Preferences without adjusting other video settings will corrupt the PRAM. This may cause the iMac to restart at a later date with a blank video screen. The solution is to simply reset the computer's PRAM.
post #2 of 43
Maybe Apple should have just spent the next 2 months to fix some, if not all, of these reported issues.
post #3 of 43
Well, I guess this is going to be the 'school of hard knocks' for the new educational user. \

jbcaro
post #4 of 43
Yea because those are such HUGE issues. Jeeze I'm sure the IT people at these schools will be all over these early problems and work around them easilly.
post #5 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by jbcaro
Well, I guess this is going to be the 'school of hard knocks' for the new educational user. \

WTF? Most of the outstanding issues seem to be related to Windows XP--now Apple is having to debug Microsoft's software! As long as it runs Mac OS X fine, I don't think it would have been worth it to wait.

As for waiting two months to fix the issues: that would be incredibly stupid if Apple wanted to sell the products to large school buyers who want to mainly run Mac OS X; their buying season is now, not two months from now.
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post #6 of 43
I'm sure the plan is to release firmware/software updates before the school year actually starts that will clear up these problems. As has already been mentioned, buying season is now, using season is not for another 2 months or more.
post #7 of 43
This is like saying my Dell has outstanding problems because it doesn't boot OSX correctly.
post #8 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by MacSuperiority
Yea because those are such HUGE issues. Jeeze I'm sure the IT people at these schools will be all over these early problems and work around them easilly.

Yep, and Boot Camp is still in Beta state anyway, so the issues shouldn't be unexpected.
post #9 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Dirk
WTF? Most of the outstanding issues seem to be related to Windows XP--now Apple is having to debug Microsoft's software! As long as it runs Mac OS X fine, I don't think it would have been worth it to wait.

Not that last one - it says that changing the brightness in the Displays pref pane corrupts the PRAM if that's the only thing you do. That seems like a pretty serious issue to me.
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post #10 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by McHuman
This is like saying my Dell has outstanding problems because it doesn't boot OSX correctly.

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post #11 of 43
It almost looks like Apple found a way to put the MacBook motherboard (or a new design based on it) inside the 17" iMac enclosure...
post #12 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by CharlesS
Not that last one - it says that changing the brightness in the Displays pref pane corrupts the PRAM if that's the only thing you do. That seems like a pretty serious issue to me.

Me too, but missing the education buying season would be a disaster and as said above - expect a firmware update in the works ready to hit before these machines see any real use.

The worst case is that Apple sell these now and have to replace them later for that pretty serious brightness control defect. Even so, it's still sales on the books and money in the bank. Better than letting Dell and co. sweep the sales.
post #13 of 43
I think that the most revealing part of this story is the extent to which Apple is now supporting Windows on a Mac. I guess its a consequence of releasing Boot Camp, even in beta, but I think it also fortells some of the rumoured capabilities of the next OS release. We can probably expect Windows to run smoothly, or at least as smoothly as can be expected for Windows, in future Macs.
post #14 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by CharlesS
Not that last one - it says that changing the brightness in the Displays pref pane corrupts the PRAM if that's the only thing you do. That seems like a pretty serious issue to me.

Yeah to me too. I wonder if the users will even know how to reset the PRAM or that they should. Is Apple going to include a piece of paper telling them there's a problem and here's the work around? Adjusting the brightness seems like something almost anyone would do right away. Looks like a Customer Support Nightmare to me.
Quote:
Originally posted by fuyutsuki
Me too, but missing the education buying season would be a disaster and as said above - expect a firmware update in the works ready to hit before these machines see any real use.

The worst case is that Apple sell these now and have to replace them later for that pretty serious brightness control defect. Even so, it's still sales on the books and money in the bank. Better than letting Dell and co. sweep the sales.

I see your point. Well I guess we'll be seeing plenty of these in the Refurb store come October for $699. Now that's gonna be a pretty sweet deal. Also I think the far better 965 IG chipset will be inside these along with Merom by November at the latest.

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post #15 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by McHuman
This is like saying my Dell has outstanding problems because it doesn't boot OSX correctly.

Not really, Dell doesn't offer the ability to boot OSX, However, Apple does offer the ability to boot into Windows as a (beta) feature. The ability to dual-boot may be the determining factor for some education buyers to choose a Mac over a Dell.
post #16 of 43
Great move by Apple with a nice setup.

Some of you people just overthink everything. Name one product, on this planet, of any kind, released to the public for use or consumption that was perfect and needed no modifications or improvements.

Face it. By some of your standards, if Apple had to wait to get it perfect, we wouldn't even be using OS X right now. That would certainly be a good thing....

I know I make mistakes and learn from them at my job because I am afforded the opportunity to take risks.

I'd like to know your secrets to a perfect life. Of course I am kidding. That would SUCK!
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post #17 of 43
I'm surprised no one noticed a pretty major mistatement of fact...ALL current iMacs have the combination analog/optical digital mini jacks, that's NOT an upgrade for the edu version.
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post #18 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by concentricity
I'm surprised no one noticed a pretty major mistatement of fact...ALL current iMacs have the combination analog/optical digital mini jacks, that's NOT an upgrade for the edu version.

According to Apple technical specifications the normal iMac has analog/optical out and analog in. The edu iMac has analog/optical in & out.
post #19 of 43
I think the two biggest flaws are corrupted PRAM changing brightness and no bluetooth.

If kids find out about the brightness thing, they could and would kill a whole room full of Macs quite easily. Very stupid mistake.

Leaving out bluetooth in a school machine is equally dumb. Everybody has bluetooth these days and I sometimes use it for file transfer between machines when the wireless network gets congested. Seriously, how much could they have saved by leaving it out, $10?
post #20 of 43
So let's see... power management, video problems, random reboots, doesn't play well with certain peripherals... yup, Apple can definitely say that Macs are now PC's as well.
post #21 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Multimedia
Well I guess we'll be seeing plenty of these in the Refurb store come October for $699. Now that's gonna be a pretty sweet deal. Also I think the far better 965 IG chipset will be inside these along with Merom by November at the latest.

I know a few people who could put up with that for a refurb!

As for Merom: it's definitely THE chip for new MacBook Pros and MacBooks, but as for the Mini and iMac I reckon the cheaper and of course faster per buck Conroe will be used.

Oh I like Merom - one is SO going into the Core Solo Mac Mini downstairs - and it'll be a great upgrade path for all socketed Yonahs provided Apple don't nuke that with a mean firmware upgrade. But Conroe makes sense in desktops as its not only a great performer but cheaper for Apple too.

New chipsets will be required. Conroe for iMac and maybe Mac Mini (if not the Mini stays Yonah??) and Woodcrest for Mac Pro and Xserve. This is my forecast.
post #22 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Marvin
I think the two biggest flaws are corrupted PRAM changing brightness and no bluetooth.

Leaving out bluetooth in a school machine is equally dumb. Everybody has bluetooth these days and I sometimes use it for file transfer between machines when the wireless network gets congested. Seriously, how much could they have saved by leaving it out, $10?

The PRAM is a valid issue, but will probably be fixed very quickly.

Leaving bluetooth out is a good idea in an educational environment. All those kids with bluetooth mobile phones messing about on the computers. Never mind the fact the schools will be using wired keyboards and mice (what, have dozens of computers with batteries that need replacing regularly?) and there's very little need for it. The GigE ethernet should suffice for a connection.
post #23 of 43
Not too worried about the XP issues. If a school wants to run XP then they will have to buy it - painful for schools!

Since rebooting to use XP will be time consuming I think that those schools wanting to have Windows will move to Parallels, which is a far more logical choice than Boot Camp. And I'm sure Parallels will be ready with a very attractive education offer in order to make that happen.

Overall it's very good offering and I think it will do well, both in the education market and in the general PC market.
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post #24 of 43
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Hattig
The PRAM is a valid issue, but will probably be fixed very quickly.



Yes, a bit of a concern there for the Mac lab IT people. But hopefully firmware updates like many have mentioned WILL be out within a month.

Keeping the people from fiddling with the brightness settings, well, maybe there's a way to do that somehow in the meantime, either socially (via instructions) or via some really smart l337 sysadmin techniquez.


[QUOTE]Originally posted by Hattig
Leaving bluetooth out is a good idea in an educational environment. All those kids with bluetooth mobile phones messing about on the computers. Never mind the fact the schools will be using wired keyboards and mice (what, have dozens of computers with batteries that need replacing regularly?) and there's very little need for it. The GigE ethernet should suffice for a connection.



Yes, totally. Using Bluetooth to transfer files to get around a GigE connection? What nonsense was that poster talking about? And Wired keyboards and mice because wireless means pop in da backpack and goodbye mouse. It will be physically-locked-down wired keyboard and mice in the Mac labs. Dropping Bluetooth is a good move. Dropping the ATI x1600 is a great move.

17 inches! - wow man, a step up from the ol' CRT eMac....! Kids today, so lucky, *insert old man rambling here*
post #25 of 43
[QUOTE]Originally posted by kcmac
...I know I make mistakes and learn from them at my job because I am afforded the opportunity to take risks...


That is excellent. I am currently employment-challenged, I am searching for a forgiving employment environment that is able to accomodate my needs (to meet me halfway with the steps I have/ will take/ need to take). It is a matter of figuring out the steps to take though and for those to gel with the right employment environment. I am not a bum, I'm just playing one in real life right now.
post #26 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by concentricity
I'm surprised no one noticed a pretty major mistatement of fact...ALL current iMacs have the combination analog/optical digital mini jacks, that's NOT an upgrade for the edu version.

Wrong.

Quote:
17-inch iMac for Education Computer (July 2006)

Input Ports
- Internal Microphone
- Line Input
- Optical Digital Input

Output Ports
- Internal Speakers
- Headphone Output
- S/PDIF Optical Digital Output

Quote:
iMac Computers (January 2006)

Input Ports
- Internal Microphone
- Line Input

Output Ports
- Internal Speakers
- Line / Headphone Output
- S/PDIF Optical Digital Output
post #27 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by MacSuperiority
Yea because those are such HUGE issues. Jeeze I'm sure the IT people at these schools will be all over these early problems and work around them easilly.

both problems were windows related. If you buy this to run windows in a school corp, you would be fierd for neolithic incompetentce.
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post #28 of 43
[QUOTE]Originally posted by sunilraman
Quote:
Originally posted by kcmac
...I know I make mistakes and learn from them at my job because I am afforded the opportunity to take risks...


That is excellent. I am currently employment-challenged, I am searching for a forgiving employment environment that is able to accomodate my needs (to meet me halfway with the steps I have/ will take/ need to take). It is a matter of figuring out the steps to take though and for those to gel with the right employment environment. I am not a bum, I'm just playing one in real life right now.

Good luck in your quest. I am lucky that I have been doing what I do for quite awhile and that makes my needs a little easier to obtain. Took some patience and long hours to get there.
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post #29 of 43
I agree with a post above, it really sounds like they adapted a Macbook mobo for the new slim emac (eimac maybe?)

It has the GMA950 and analog/optial audio which are both on the macbook and mac mini but it shows up as a portable which makes me think its an adapted macbook.
post #30 of 43
I've never adjusted screen brightness from the Preferences pane - I suspect few people do. It seems odd they didn't fix this one OS X issue before shipping them but it shouldn't cause major problems. One suspects that the article sensationally substitued "will" for "may", and that the action only creates a small possibility of corrupting PRAM.
post #31 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Towel
I've never adjusted screen brightness from the Preferences pane - I suspect few people do.

You've got a laptop or a headless Mac with external display, right? The only way to adjust brightness on my friend's eMac is via the display preference pane and so it gets used quite a bit. Or do you just mean few people ever adjust their screen? I can't agree.
post #32 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by bryand
I think that the most revealing part of this story is the extent to which Apple is now supporting Windows on a Mac.

Very good point. There's a storm a brewing in the OS wars...
post #33 of 43
[QUOTE]Originally posted by fuyutsuki
... The only way to adjust brightness on my friend's eMac is via the display preference pane and so it gets used quite a bit. Or do you just mean few people ever adjust their screen? I can't agree. ...



I tutored Flash for a few months last year, the students* (aged 17-21) mostly just sat in front of their eMacs and got to fiddling around with their design stuff.

Approx. 10 years ago I tutored SmallTalk(!WTF http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smalltalk) and Microsoft Works(!) ... Again students* (aged 17-21) mostly got down to doing the excercises, otherwise surfing the internet and checking out pr0n (before it was locked down by sysadmins).

When I was 16/17 at final year of high skool at the computer labs (Power Macintosh 6100, Power Macintosh 7100, and Mac LCs) yeah a girl kept getting in trouble for fiddling with other stuff rather than listening to what the teacher (his name was Mr. Bruce Windows I am not kidding) was saying and doing her Hypercard(!) excercises.

When I was 18-20 at college/university the Biology labs had Macs with Hypercard (IIRC) self-directed tutorials. Most of the students were conscientuous and just got on with the excercises (I guess they didn't want to waste time when they could be drinking/ partying/ making out/ having sex). A lot of the time those non-computer-geek Biology students avoided anything in the OS except for what they were supposed to do as they were "scared" of screwing anything up. Usually, if a screen was really bad (CRT dying and smudgy) they'd just change seats to another computer.

My point is from my observations in these scenarios, most of the students will not fool around with the brightness settings unless for some reason it was really dark or something.

The younger kids will probably be cruising all around the OS trying to discover stuff so that could be an issue if they discover the brightness setting in SysPreferences. But it's also equally likely they'll check out other aspects of the OS without stumbling on the brightness setting.

I think the K-12 kids will mostly be fooling around with accessing the Internet and figuring out how to chat with each other, check email, check myspace, or whatever. Again, brightness setting may not be an issue unless they stumble upon it or for some reason the edu iMac they sit in front of happens to be really dark or super-smudgy.

So yeah, these are just anecdotal, but my estimate is that maybe a several units will go down each week in a say 50-100 total Macs-in-labs setup. Students will just have to swap computers and every few days IT admins will just have to reset PRAM as part of their rounds. Tutors and lecturers will just have to be briefed as well, since tutors and lecturers need to have some very basic skills in troubleshooting Macs in their classes. Reset nVram/pRam would be part of the very basic skills since that solves a lot of issues besides the brightness stuff.


*College/University kids

[Hah! For you all that thought I was/am a dumba$$ I used to tutor stuff and my Mac experience does go back to the old skool mid-90s stuff. (And the Apple IIe when I was a kid )] In 1995 I was top of my "Information Processing and Technology" class compared to all the students that year that did the subject. Made a nice Hypercard project. Total baby stuff compared to being 28 and getting a decent IT job in 2006 though. Nice to reminisce though.

Come to think of it even those that do four-year IT degrees will still face challenges trying to get entry-level positions in the workforce. Probably those that do get off on the right note would have done their own homework and got certifications and read up on other programming languages *and* also have a porfolio of coding/ websites/ games(?) that they have developed.

A friend of mine at college/uni hated his housemate (for various reasons) who was doing Maths/Computer Science. My friend always kept saying, "he's a slack bastard, he'll just end up selling joysticks or something". I never got to find out what happened to this housemate. Though this friend of mine was pretty bloody serious about getting into Medicine, which he did, and is a practicing doctor now somewhere in Australia. Maybe the housemate is working at an Apple reseller! Which is a proud and noble profession in my view. Seriously. "They are the gatekeepers" as Morpheus might say. Just as Morpheus was in a sense. The Apple resellers can only show those plugged-in to the PC-matrix the door. They're the ones that have to walk through it. "Theres nothing I can say that can explain it for you come [touch the ipod, try out iLife, and] see for yourself"
post #34 of 43
I've seen fields, endless fields... of humans plugged into Windows in their cubicles 8)
post #35 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by sunilraman
Using Bluetooth to transfer files to get around a GigE connection? What nonsense was that poster talking about? And Wired keyboards and mice because wireless means pop in da backpack and goodbye mouse. It will be physically-locked-down wired keyboard and mice in the Mac labs. Dropping Bluetooth is a good move.

Well sure if the machines are hooked up via GigE then it makes more sense to transfer files that way. But in a school environment, I bet a lot of people will just go with a wireless router to save having cables and routers everywhere. Working in such an environment, I sometimes find bluetooth to be quicker.

Also, having bluetooth doesn't mean you have to get wireless keyboards and mice but it does allow people to use their own wireless mouse if they can't stand that god awful Mighty Mouse.

It also allows people to save homework exercises onto their phones so they don't have to carry an extra USB pen.
post #36 of 43
Fair enough points. Saving files via bluetooth onto phones is an interesting one. Damn, kids today... with their bluetooth mobiles, the intarweb, and 17inch 1440 x 900 pixels iMac DUAL core. Back in my day... \ If dropping bluetooth chopped $50 or more off the retail price, I'd still say its a good idea. If it only saved $20 or less off the retail price, then I'd say Apple had some "edu" reason to leave it out. Most kids I suspect will still be on the USB thumbdrives though.
post #37 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by sunilraman
So yeah, these are just anecdotal, but my estimate is that maybe a several units will go down each week in a say 50-100 total Macs-in-labs setup. Students will just have to swap computers and every few days IT admins will just have to reset PRAM as part of their rounds. Tutors and lecturers will just have to be briefed as well, since tutors and lecturers need to have some very basic skills in troubleshooting Macs in their classes. Reset nVram/pRam would be part of the very basic skills since that solves a lot of issues besides the brightness stuff.

Don't worry, it's not that I think you're a crank - it's just my opinion that the brightness bug as described is pretty damned serious for a Mac. The picture you describe of touring IT teams doing the rounds on seemingly "dead" computers is straight out of Windows Hell ... this is not what Macs are about!

If I was some punk at school and I picked up that there was a simple way to disable every education iMac in my class with a couple of mouse clicks in Sys Prefs and a restart - every screen in the room would be black in 10 minutes flat. That was what school was about when you discovered a good prank. The horrors me and my kind unleashed on the Mac Pluses and IBM crap they had back in the day ... not to even mention the "BBC" machines we had in primary / elementary. (Type BASIC code straight in, with a loop you have the teachers running off for help!)

I expect Apple will fix this. Such bugs are seriously bad news for their reputation. And grist to every anti-Mac zealot's mill. Firmware upgrade or re-issue!
post #38 of 43
Heh. Too used to Windows environments. Where a restart a day bursts a blood vessel a day. You are right in that Apple needs to address the issue, particularly with naughty boys and girls abound.
post #39 of 43
Worse comes to worse, they could fix the brightness issue in software. Insert code that whenever brightness is changed, contrast is also changed some unnoticable amount. This should take less than an hour to implement and would provide a fix until the real problem is found and solved.
post #40 of 43
Is there a contrast setting in System Preferences Maybe my older iBook doesn't have it. I am confused. On my PC now, can't check it. But I get what you are saying. Maybe force a quick switch back and forth of ColorSync or something as well. So at least something else besides brightness is changed.

A bit messy though, I think Apple people would rather get right down to the real source of the problem.
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