Fact Controlled
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Busman's Holiday
Other than the stabbing...
by Steve Wood
October 23, 1998



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I knew it was going to be a bad report when my teaching assistant called and said, "Other than the stabbing, we had a good day." I'd been off work for three straight days with my annual case of bronchitis.

My teaching assistant is one of those folks who is a born teacher. She likes and understands kids. She's patient, trustworthy, loyal, obedient, faithful...whoops, that's the scout law, or something like that. Let's just say she should get back to college and get her degree. She's also new to the Macintosh, and computers in general.

Actually, my assistant, the substitute teacher, and the kids really had a good day, other than the...

Among the list of things she'd called to tell me, she saved the LC III's problems to last, as if she considered it more serious than the stabbing. Well, the stabbing turned out to be one of those things that sound worse than they are, that happen with a pencil, a touchy boy, and a young lady who has had enough. There was a little blood, and later, a lot of tears were shed. You often wonder whether to call the parents, send the kids off to the principal, or, to just give the young lady a medal and let it go!

LC IIISince this is a Macintosh column and special education confidentiality provisions have great big teeth, maybe I'd better just talk about the LC III. If you're unfamiliar with a Macintosh LC III, they are one of the pizzabox computers Apple manufactured for schools in 1993-94. This particular machine was my first classroom Macintosh. It came to me third-hand. When 25 Mhz was as fast as a school could afford, it sat in the principal's office. Then it went to the learning disabilities teacher. When the LD teacher moved to another position and I took her job, the LC III was part of the bargain to take the job. (The old LD teacher got a new 6100!)

LC III in classroomWhile the LC series has sometimes been maligned, this little Mac doesn't seem to know that it's a 68030 series computer that really shouldn't do all that much. Currently, it runs system 7.6.1 with 36 MB of RAM, although until this school year, it ran first on 4, then 5, and finally 12 MB before I shelled out for a 32 MB SIMM. With the addition of an Ethernet card, it also surfs the internet and retrieves email rather deliberately, but without complaint.

A few years ago, before we had internet access in all classrooms, my kids used the LC III, Netscape 2, and a free copy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's CD "Welcome to the Planets" to practice surfing the net. Welcome to the Planets comes with both a multimedia program to house the information, and also in HTML. We opted to give the kids some web surfing action, even without a net connection. Using the LC III and a 1X external CD-ROM, neither the kids nor I could tell the difference, except for the absence of "DNS not found" messages.

Teachers: The HTML content of the CD is similar or identical to the Welcome link above, and the the CD may still be free to educators--mine was! Contact JPL page.

When the LC III does crash, I often find that a child has launched an educational CD that is labeled for 68040 or better. A few weeks ago, one of the second graders crashed the LC III after working about 10-15 minutes on an educational program that runs with a CD. When I restarted the machine and retrieved the CD, it was clearly labeled PowerMac only. It had run for quite a while! When we acquire new CD's, if 68040 or better is listed as the minimum requirement, we routinely try them on the LC III and find that about half of them will run acceptably on it.

This brings up a point about Macs. If you're working with software, short of using a hammer or getting inside the machine, there seems to be very little permanent damage you can do, other than hosing your system. That does happen from time to time, which is why it's a good idea to have around a copy of Disk First Aid, Norton Utilities, or TechTool. Every now and then, though, a clean install is necessary.

Blank LauncherThe LC III's problem this time was that the Launcher was blank. The desktop alias, she said, looked like a piece of paper with a folded corner. I assured her that it wasn't dead and that it would be up and running fairly quickly.

We've opted to give our kids full access to our computer desktop and suffer the consequences. We have At Ease available for use, but with 5 computers in the classroom, we'd rather keep a sharp eye out for "system folder explorers," and let the kids learn the OS. One way to make that fairly easy with the younger ones is to use the Launcher to group programs.

What we find is that our kids do learn how to use the Mac OS without trashing things. We do have some jim-dandy disasters, sometimes, and suffer a bit of computer downtime. But the children's learning is well worth it. And, we are incredibly blessed to have a number of working machines in our classroom, even if the majority of them are SE's.

After fooling around with the system a bit, Norton discovered a damaged resource fork in the launcher and recommended replacing it. Taking a chance that the system 8 launcher was 68K code, I pulled a copy off the PowerMac, and voilà, the launcher was restored.

Interestingly, while I was gone and the launcher was down, the kids had wanted to use a new CD set from Creative Wonders, Madeline 1st and 2nd grade. I'd installed it the week before, burying it several levels deep. While our kids are good, they didn't find it and didn't think to use the Find command. So, they just reinstalled it! No sweat! No problem! Aren't Macs great? (Check out the system requirements for it.)

If you're into older Macs, be sure to visit Dan Knight's excellent Low-End Macintosh site. There are listings there from NuBus PowerMac's back to the beginning (of Macs, not of time). Dan's recently added a new channel to his site called Mac Daniel. The channel is dedicated to upgrade advice on older Macintoshes.

Here's a plug for My Mac and MacTimes writer Susan Howeter's new book!

Susan Howeter's Stocking Stuffer Steve Book, based on her My Mac Churns and MacTimes columns, is now available. It's a month-by-month look at one of the most dramatic years in Apple's history. Illustrated by Susan's daughter Meg, it's the perfect Christmas gift for your Mac friends, or, as Susan says, "Put it in the employee gift exchange. This works especially well if all your co-workers are Windows bigots." :-) (That's a big grin.)

I'm getting two copies--one for myself, and one to give to our school's NT techie :-). (Sneaky little grin.)


The column "Why Can't Apple...thoughts while waiting out the OS 8.5 backorder," brought lots of interesting reader responses.

Why can't Apple...release Systems 7.1, 7.5, and 7.6?

Reader responses ranged from angry defenders of Apple's apparent corporate greed to others faced with the same delimma. For those who think Apple needs to continue demanding major bucks for old system upgrades, then how about a general tax increase to adequately support your schools and their efforts in computer technology?

I just have to include part of one reader email. Notice how he first defends Apple's pricing and then see what he recommends.

People rail against Apple because they are not more like the rest of the
computer marketplace, then they do just what everyone else does ( charge
for software) and mac users bitch because it's too much to pay. And I
have to upgrade my other software, and I have to wait to get a discount.
Grow up and quit your whinin'. You don't have to upgrade your system
software, you choose to. One of the costs of getting the hardware
cheaper, is paying for many things that used to be free. Like software
BTW, would Apple really be stupid enough to do anything about a school
buying one copy of System 7.6 and putting it on all of there computers?
I think not. Yes, it is wrong. But it is a public relations nightmare
waiting to happen.

Get real, Joe. We have installers for the software. We just happen to follow the law on software licenses. Whining?

Why can't Apple...put a more attractive price on their OS 8.5 upgrade?

Wow! Strike up the band again for corporate greed. While most readers agreed that $99 was about double what the 8.5 upgrade should cost, a few said that was fair considering what Apple had put into the upgrade. Interestingly, some of those same readers identified themselves elsewhere in their emails as Demo Days workers or beta testers for Allegro. Didn't those folks get theirs free?

Why can't Apple...ever have enough of a new product to supply demand?

The "Apple can do no wrong" crowd was pretty silent on this one. There were a lot of upset folks out there that couldn't get a copy of 8.5 when they wanted it. Several Demo Days workers also pointed out that the supply at some Apple retailers was abismal. I suspect it would be pretty disappointing to the Demo Day folks to be there without pay to help launch OS 8.5 and find there weren't any copies available to sell!

Even though there were reports of up to a two week backorder for Apple Ed orders of 8.5, I received mine on Tuesday. Unfortunately, being a reasonably honest chap, I'd ordered two. Apple Ed couldn't figure out how only one was in the box, repeatedly suggesting another box must be on its way, even though there was only one FedEx tracking number. Finally, they politely said they'd look into it, and I should call them back in a week. Wow! Now that's some real customer "service."
A major "Thank you," to Ben Garland of
MacOpinion. This column in its original post got chopped off somewhere along the line about half way through. Thanks for saving me from "egg on the face" disease, Ben :-).
9/24/99 Update
The LC III got a bit of a new look this fall. A 17" monitor became available after summer repairs to one monitor lost to old age and to a refurbished dud Apple stiffed me on. An Apple "de-authorized" repair shop got both working in good order again, although the serviceman confirmed that Apple had sold me a supposedly refurbished model that had a nearly dead CRT.
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©1998 Steven L. Wood