Mini-Note Computer Evaluations

by Rusty Meyners.  

 

Mini-Note Computer Evaluations
 
The chart below shows six models of mini-notebook computer, two of which can currently be considered excellent choices for the purposes of deploying to EISD High School students on a 1:1 basis, as well as for classroom sets on any campus; while a third promises the same, though not available for our hands-on evaluation for another week or two. These are the eeePC 901 and the eeePC 1000, with the HP 2140 being anxiously awaited for our inspection. In fact the HP 2140 promises to be a superior machine in many but not all ways. The eeePC advantages lie largely in their intuitive and comprehensive operating system and software that has already been proven in our student trials. The HP has an unmatched overall quality of appearance and build, not the least of which is the best keyboard of any tested, though other questions remain unanswered as of yet – and it should also be noted that a glossy screen is gorgeous until you get near a window or go outside and glare makes it unusable. The Acer Aspire deserves an Honorable Mention, being an extremely good consumer value (Wal-Mart just did a “rollback” from $350 to $300) for individuals and families; however, for our purposes, it is found lacking (only slightly) on the “rugged” factor. The original eeePC 701 is still a very viable educational tool that only suffers from a modest hard drive, stingy screen and wimpy battery, though it’s as tough as a hockey puck. The HP 2133 is only included here because we have one on hand to evaluate its’ form-factor, since the more interesting 2140 that is not yet available shares the same case and keyboard. From a Tech perspective, the eeePC is considered on many levels to be the easiest to support, largely due to its’ solid state hard drive; however it is expected that HP will provide excellent support resources and critical peripheral items such as stand-alone battery chargers that could be vital. 
 
MODEL
EISD TECH RATING
Approx. Price**
DURABILITY
PROCESSOR
HARD DRIVE*
BATTERY SIZE
SCREEN SIZE
SCREEN TYPE
HP 2140
A-?, B+?
$425
B+
Atom
160gb Std.
6
10
Glossy
HP 2133
C-
$300
B+
Via
160gb Std.
6
9
Glossy
eeePC 1000
A+
$410
B
Atom
40gb SSD
6
10
Flat
eeePC 901
A
$370
B
Atom
20gb SSD
6
9
Flat
eeePC 701
C
$275
A
Celeron
4gb SSD
3
7
Flat
Acer Aspire One(see_update)
B+_now_"A"
$300
C+_"B"
Atom
8gb SSD
3/6
9/10
Glossy
 

 

**w/o shipping

* – other options available

 

Update 4/07/09:

Still haven’t gotten hands on an HP 2140. HP is known to be one of the few planning enterprise-grade support for netbooks which their pricing reflects.

eeePC continues to release new models with emphasis moving a little more towards products designed for XP with the newest minor improvements in graphics, processing and battery efficiency. It is reported that they will be streamlining their netbook product line over the coming months.

Acer is still in the race with quite impressive sales that keeps competitors from resting easy. They still stick to a very basic model with few additional options, the $300 now fetching a 10" screen, 1gig RAM and a large standard hard-drive with XP Home. Acer currently has a demo progrmam for schools, offering a 30-day free trial with a $200 price for keeping it (only one at that price). Further update (4/13/09): Just rec’d demo of updated version and immediately note that the Aspire One now has a "quality feel" previously missing. It already had one of the best keyboard layouts and now seems to have a more solid action, while the chassis, lid and hinges are somewhat more rugged as well; so what previously was a "consumer recommended" unit now "makes the grade" for an enterprise deployment.

Other brands & models such as the Dell Mini and the MSI Wind should not be ignored. The Dell suffers from an atrocious keyboard layout that a motivated user will overcome for an otherwise great experience; and Dell is also offering netbook prices on 13" full-featured laptops. The MSI Wind hardware compares well with the best eeePC models if you don’t mind XP without a solid-state hard-drive option or want to install your own Linux anyway.

Buzz is starting to build about the arrival of ARM processors into the personal computing market with devices that will blend the best of "cel"phone technology with netbooks to achieve even more efficiency, portability and economy; while the phones themselves continue to put more and more PC functionality in your pocket.

Linux seems to be losing ground in the netbook market for various reasons; but the ARM processor may alter the trend as well as Microsoft’s Windows 7 business model (keep prices high).

 

 
Features and Challenges Considered for a Mini-Note Computer Deployment
 
1.       Durability/Reliability
“Smaller” (or more compact), to an extent, seems to equal “tougher” in the case of mini-notes. Solid state drives are immune to accidental damage, leaving cooling fans as only moving part. Fewer moving parts equals less internal breakdown. Attention to construction and “feel” of LCD lid and hinges, as well as “feel” of keyboard.
2.       Simplicity/Functionality
Preferably a mini-note computer should be ready to work out of the box with little or no preparation or user training. This means the included operating system should be easy to navigate with basic & necessary programs already included. Our mini-note infrastructure will ideally support curricular activities for anyone who can connect to the internet with a web-browser, regardless of brand or OS.
3.       Value
Emphasis on the best of all other factors for the least investment. Consideration of needs to be met over the unit’s usefull lifetime of four to five years (plus).
4.       Speed/Efficiency
Undue delays & stalls must be minimized due to shorter class periods and student inclination to take advantage of this excuse. Mini-note computers are not particularly fast or powerful but are efficient with the right combination of processor, RAM & operating system. Battery & power requirements will be an extremely significant factor in this project
5.       Processor – Recommended Intel Atom
5.1.    Intel Atom – also known as N270
Most efficient in current mini-note class both in terms of processing speed/power. Particularly noted for power consumption efficiency resulting in cooler operation and in turn quieter operation due to less fan noise.
5.2.    Intel Celeron
Original mini-note standard processor with reasonable power and fair efficiency with somewhat warm operation and reasonable noise level.
5.3.    VIA Processor
Underpowered, least efficient, hottest running.
 
6.       RAM – 512mb minimum, 1gb preferred
 
7.       Hard Drive
Solid-State hard drives are preferred for durability and power efficiency. Most models that have these are also available with a large standard hard drive and Windows XP Home at no extra price and in some cases a solid-state drive is much more expensive.
8.       Operating System – Recommended Linux, probably eeePC/Xandros but with Ubuntu as an alternative
 
8.1.    XP Home
Usually too slow on mini-notebook computers, at least when booting up or starting new programs. Not very expensive to license for mini-notes due to Microsoft’s aggressive interest in not being left out of the mini-note market.
8.2.    XP Pro
Not enough known about performance on mini-notes, though seemingly reasonable when customized. Very expensive to license for this class of computer – not part of the Microsoft approach to this market.
8.3.    Vista
Not known for speed or efficiency on any platform, much less mini-notes. Not part of Microsoft marketing approach for this platform, therefore expensive to license.
8.4.    Linux
 
8.4.1.Xandros – eeePC custom edition
Simple, intuitive, well rounded variety of programs out of the box. Vast community of user support due to immense popularity of eeePC mini-notes. Highly and easily customizable and adaptable.
8.4.2.Ubuntu – universal , free, not brand specific
Valuable alternative to out-of-the-box operating systems. Highly customizable and adaptable to most hardware with exception of wireless adapters on some brands. Vast community of user support due to unique global standing of Ubuntu Linux business-model/philosophy.
 
8.4.3.Linpus – Acer Aspire One custom edition
Reasonably simple and intuitive with good selection of programs. Smaller, but vigorous community of support.
8.4.4.Suse – HP/Novell Enterprise Edition
Not proven by our own experiences, but thought to meet and possibly exceed most of our requirements in many ways. Has enterprise features including extensive Microsoft interoperability that other Linux systems may lack. It should be noted that integration of mini-notes into our infrastructure is expected to largely ignore “enterprise” features with a largely web-based “cloud-computing” approach.
9.       Battery/Power –three-cell or six-cell batteries come as standard equipment
Three-cell batteries tend to operate a mini-note computer for 2 to 3.5 hours when new and take around twice that long to charge. Six-cell batteries are good for around 5.5 to 7 hours operation and need to charge overnight. Some models come with a 3-cell standard and have an available 6-cell but the price is almost prohibitive; whereas, buying a model that has a 6-cell as standard equipment is much more cost-effective. Power is expected to be the most challenging “infrastructure” issue in this project, as no matter how good the original battery is, students will soon enough need ample opportunities to “plug-in” for a charge or operation. In some models, a 6-cell battery contributes to a less convenient overall size and shape of computer.
10.   Screen
These range from 7” to 10” with resolution being a more important issue for younger eyes. The 7” screen has a resolution slightly lower than practical because normal web pages and even programs often do not fit and sometimes even scrolling cannot compensate. Nine inch screens have a resolution that is quite practical and 10” screens use the same resolution with the luxury of viewing it only slightly bigger. Glossy screens look awesome until you get near a window or go outside, at which time the glare can make them unusable.
11.   Keyboard
As a rule, the bigger the screen, the larger the keyboard making the choice between 9” inch and 10” screen actually a choice between the bigger keyboard which is probably a more important consideration. Keyboards in this class max out at approximately 93% of “full-size”, with smaller sizes featuring altered placement of vital keys such as the Right-Shift.        

 

Netbook Update Here

Regional Track Meet Canceled

by Coy Holcombe.  

Yesterday afternoon I received an email from the UIL informing all districts that all regional track meets had been canceled as a precautionary measure due to the swine flu outbreak. The state track meet has been reformatted to a three day event to allow for semi-final races to be run. The state track meet is tentatively scheduled for May 14-16. Each region will be represented at the state track meet by the top four performances in each event for all conferences. The email also stated that the state academic meet will be rescheduled at a later date. 

As of this morning, there have been no cases of swine flu reported in our immediate area. Several Dallas and Fort Worth area schools have closed school for at least a week. EISD is taking steps to ensure that our students and staff are as safe as possible. I encourage everyone to read the information that is posted on our home page concerning steps to prevent the spread of the swine flu. If the situation at EISD changes in any way, we will notify parents immediately and post information on our website.

Education Service Center Contracts

by Coy Holcombe.  

I often mention the Region 7 Service Center and have talked briefly about some of the services provided to the district through Region 7. Every year at this time, we review the services that we received the prior year and look at the services offered for the upcoming school year. Recommendations are then made to the school board regarding these services. Usually, these recommendations are made either in May or June. It is anticipated that we will make recommendations this year to the board in May.

Below is a brief description of the services that we are looking at for the 09-10 school year:

  • Title I – This service is really not through the Service Center, but through an independent contractor. The person that we contract with provides help with submitting the application necessary to receive our federal funding.
  • Math/Science Co-op – This allows our teachers to attain almost any workshop dealing with math and/or science at no additional cost.
  • ELA/Social Studies Co-op – Same as the math/science except the workshops would focus on English/language arts and social studies.
  • Video Streaming – Allows our teachers to access numerous videos and presentations related to their lesson topic.
  • Data Management – This encompasses several functions related to the uploading and downloading of information about student performance.
  • Early Childhood  – Provides training to our early childhood teachers.
  • RSCCC Student Services – This is the computer program that provides all the information regarding attendance, grade posting, special services, etc. for students.
  • RSCCC Gradebook – Provides the electronic grade book used by teachers.
  • Purchasing Co-op – We receive special rates on certain purchases as a member of this co-op.

Work is progressing on the gym. Below is a picture of the beginning stages of the installation of the gym floor. Two layers of plywood (one running the length of the gym and one running diagonally across the gym) are required before the actual wood for the floor can be installed. Each piece of plywood running the length of the gym has 32 rubber cushions tacked to the under side. Plastic sheeting is installed under the plywood to act as a vapor barrier.

Varsity Cheerleader Will Do His Flipping Down the Road

by Stan Sowers.  

Our very own Marquise Shepard will be cheering at TVCC next year.  Trying out against cheerleaders from all over the nation, Marquise was one of few that made the squad.  By making the team he will receive a full scholarship that pays for everything.  His skills and personality were undeniably superior to most according to the audience.  TVCC has one of the top cheerleading programs in the nation and it’s exciting to all of us to have a Eustace Bulldog be part of it.  What a great accomplisment!  If you get a chance make sure you congratulate Marquise on a job well done.  Once again, he has represented EHS well.

 

Bulldog Proud

Congratulations Joshua and Jacob Felty

by Coy Holcombe.  

This past weekend, Joshua and Jacob Felty competed in the UIL Regional Current Events contest in Commerce. Josh came away with third place and Jacob placed fourth. The competition was extremely tight. First and second place tied with a score of 29 points. Josh had 28.5 points and Jacob came in with 28 points. Placing third qualified Josh for the state competition. Jacob will also go to the state competition as the first alternate. EISD is very proud of Josh and Jacob!

A reminder that today is the pre-k and kindergarten round-up. The round-up will take place at the Primary School from 12:00 noon until 7:00 PM this evening. If you have any questions about the round-up, please call the Primary at 425 – 5172.

EISD is keeping a close watch on all the news reports about the swine flu outbreak. At this time, the closest confirmed cases are in Dallas County. The Texas Department of Health is providing information about swine flu at its website: www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/releases/swine_flu.shtm.

Title I Recognition and Activities This Week

by Coy Holcombe.  

A month or so ago, I reported that our Primary and Intermediate campuses had been designated Title I Distinguished Schools. In the entire area covered by the Region 7 Service Center, only 22 schools were named Title I Distinguished Schools. EISD had two of those schools. On May 12, our Primary and Intermediate schools will be formally recognized by Region 7 for their accomplishments. Representatives from both campuses will be in attendance to receive their awards. Congratulations to the Primary and Intermediate!

This Week:

TAKS testing will take place throughout the week at the Intermediate, Middle School, and High School. Students that are involved in the TAKS tests will be offered a free breakfast on the days they are testing.

Tuesday, April 28, is our annual pre-k and kindergarten round-up. This round-up will give parents/guardians an opportunity to register they children for pre-k and kindergarten classes for the 09-10 school year. It will also provide and opportunity for staff members to answer questions regarding these programs. For more information about the round-up, please contact the Primary campus at 425-5172.

We will have track athletes competing at the regional track meet in Commerce on Friday and Saturday.

Have a great week!!

By the Numbers, 5th Six Weeks, Part 2

by Coy Holcombe.  

First, congratulations to Chelsea Truitt for being named Academic All-State in soccer. Second, I want to congratulate all of our track athletes that participated in the regional qualifiers meet last night. Everyone competed well against some of the best track athletes in our area. In fact, we had teams from the Dallas area (South Oak Cliff) and beyond (Nevada Community). A special thanks goes out to our coaches, maintenance department, technology department, and Athletic Booster Club for working together to put on a quality meet.

Yesterday, we looked at the attendance numbers through the 5th six weeks. Today, we are going to look at how those attendance numbers affect our state aid. Below is a table that compares what we are earning with what was budgeted:

Budget vs. Actual – 5th Six Weeks

  Earned Budget Difference
Regular Block Grant $4,626,162 $4,766,154 -$139,992
Special Ed $786,385 $941,197 -$154,812
CATE $387,447 $288,406 $99,041
Gifted/Talented $30,336 $30,992 -$656
Compensatory $690,258 $667,805 $22,453
Bilingual/ESL $3,666 $5,432 -$1,766
Transportation $139,000 $139,000 $0
Total Tier I $6,663,254 $6,838,986 -$175,732
Less Local $3,766,526 $3,766,526 $0
Tier I State $2,896,526 $3,072,460 -$175,732
Tier II $731,248 $771,936 -$40,688
HB 1 $222,307 $228,232 -$5,925
Additional State Aid $1,528,930 $1,561,080 -$32,150
Staff Allotment $53,500 $53,500 $0
HB 1 (80th Session) $47,756 $49,028 -$1,272
Technology $41,529 $42,456 -$927
HS Allotmnet $117,142 $115,693 $1,449
Pre-K Grant $98,000 $98,000 $0
EDA $111,469 $133,390 -$21,921
       
Total $5,848,609 $6,125,775 -$277,166

 Notes: Through budget adjustments, the $277,166 difference has been reduced to about $5,500. This final difference will be made up by the difference in property values that the district is appealing. The lower property value will have the most dramatic affect on the local share. This number will become smaller and increase the overall amount of state aid that we will receive through Tier I. We will continue to monitor our numbers closely through the remainder of this school year. If you have any questions regarding these numbers or anything else please feel free to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

 

 

By the Numbers, 5th Six Weeks

by Coy Holcombe.  

Below is a table that compares our actual attendance data through the 5th six weeks with the amounts that were used for our budget:

Budget vs. Actual

  Earned Budget Difference
ADA 1411.5775 1443.09 -31.5125
HS ADA 425.97 420.7 5.27
SE FTE 53.2254 65.174 -11.9486
Mainstream ADA 50.054 56.748 -6.694
CATE 79.3468 59.113 20.2338
GT Students 81.4 72.15 9.25
Comp 1040.2 1010 30.2
Bilingual/ESL 10.13 15.03 -4.9

Notes:

CATE = Career and Technology Education (such as ag, consumer and family sciences, certain business classes, and certain technology classes)

Comp = Students eligible for free and reduced meals. This number is derived from the average of the highest six months from the previous federal fiscal year.

The 5th six weeks is the first six weeks this year that our ADA has increased. This is due to our increase in enrollment.

Overall, our attendance rate for the district for the 5th six weeks was 96.35%.

Reminder: We will be hosting a regional qualifiers track meet today. The meet will get underway at 3:30.

Tomorrow we will look at how our attendance numbers are affecting our state funding.

 

Board Meeting Recap

by Coy Holcombe.  

Last night the EISD Board of Trustees held their regular monthly meeting. The following actions were taken:

  • Approved the minutes from previous meetings.
  • Approved the financial reports as presented.
  • Heard various reports ( please see yesterday’s blog for a detail of the reports)
  • Approved a transfer request for the 09-10 school year.
  • Accepted the certification of Unopposed Candidates for the May school board election and issued an order canceling the election.
  • Approved contracting with Texas Power Consultants to secure energy proposals for the district.
  • Approve the purchase of 50 Acer mini-laptops for student use.
  • Approved the purchase of a portable stage, weight room equipment and floor covering for the new gym.
  • Nominated Elton Caldwell to serve as on the Region 7 Executive Committee
  • Heard the first reading of revisions to DEC (Local) affecting leaves and absences of employees.
  • Heard an update on enrollment.
  • Accepted one resignation
  • Employed Tonya Richardson as a teacher at the Intermediate School and employed Jeremy Taylor as a teacher/coach at the High School.
  • Approved the substitute list as presented.
  • Approved the hiring of auxiliary directors and paraprofessional employees as amended
  • Adjourned at 10:35 PM

Tomorrow, we will look at the attendance numbers through the end of the fifth six weeks. Friday, we will look at how these numbers are affecting our state funding.

Below is a picture of the seating in the new gym as it is being installed. This view is from the home side looking towards the visitors’ side.

Regional Qualifiers and Board Meeting

by Coy Holcombe.  

Congratulations to the following track athletes on qualifying for the regional meet:

Girls:

Jessica McConathy, Chelsea Truitt, Jenny McConathy, Cassie Freeman, Katania Grant, Felischa Baczkiewicz, Hallie Mathis, Allison Cass, Jacqulyn Bless, Janice Martin, Tori Bynum, Mallory Mobly, Ammalie Arambula

Boys:

Marcus Emmons, Zach Keeling, Zach Arambula, Johnny Lee, Trevan Johnson, Caleb Bailey, Cord Bailey, Joseph Bradburn

These athletes will be competing at the regional qualifiers meet in Eustace on Thursday.

The EISD Board of Trustees will meet tonight at 7:00 PM in the High School Library. The public is encouraged to attend. Some of the agenda items for tonight’s meeting include:

Reports:

  • Update on immunization requirements
  • PaySchools Report for March
  • Update on Federal Stimulus Funds
  • Preliminary TAKS scores
  • Update on construction expenses
  • Update on Henderson County Appraisal District budget
  • Report on Miles for Smiles
  • Report on All-District Soccer

Agenda Items:

  • Consider transfer request
  • Accept certification of unopposed candidates for school board election
  • Order of cancellation for school board election
  • Consider approving Texas Power Consultants to obtain bids on energy costs and contract lengths for the district
  • Consider purchase of Acer mini-laptop computers
  • Consider the following equipment for new gym
    • portable stage
    • weight room equipment
    • floor covering for gym floor
  • Consider nominees for executive committee and certify superintendent as representative to regional advisory committee for ESC 7
  • Consider revisions to policy DEC (Local)
  • Update on enrollment

The board will also meet in closed session to accept resignations, employ personnel, update the list of substitutes, and to review evaluations for auxiliary directors and paraprofessional employees.

Any action on items discussed in closed session will take place in an open session.