Illustration by Kyra Kendall/Torontoist.
Yesterday brought some good news for Mac users. And, believe it or not, it had nothing to do with pads, or tablets, or whatever.
Last week we wrote about a brewing dispute at the Toronto District School Board over the future of Mac computers in school computer labs. Lee Stem, general manager of Information and Technology services for the Board, had declared that his department would slowly phase out support for Macs (except in art and music classes), in favour of PCs, to save on maintenance costs.
Last night, at a meeting of the TDSB’s Administration, Finance and Accountability Committee, Mac support within the Board received a reprieve. A motion by Trustee Michael Coteau to continue supporting Macs on the Board’s networks was carried.
“I went through the motion, and everything seems to be status quo,” said Coteau during a phone call. Without the motion, TDSB staff would have had to negotiate the specifics of the Mac rollback over weeks, or months. (A staff committee had already been formed, and had met on a few occasions in November and December.)
“It eliminated a lot of debate, and a lot of time and effort,” said Coteau.
In real terms, the motion’s success means that any decisions having to do with whether or not to replenish the Board’s current stock of Macs will be deferred until the Board installs a new permanent IT general manager (Lee Stem’s position with the board is temporary). The new manager will be required to develop a technology plan that includes support for both platforms, but the extent of that dual support has yet to be determined.
Stem’s decision to stop supporting Macs had its basis in the supposition that it would be cheaper for the Board to maintain one platform, rather than two. Stem said in a previous interview that standardizing with PCs would, in his view, have been preferable to standardizing with Macs, because PCs are cheaper and easier to maintain automatically in large-scale network environments. (TDSB’s network serves nearly sixty-three thousand computers.)
Teachers protested the Mac-reduction plan with an online petition, along with other familiar forms of online rabble-rousing. Trustees, it turns out, were listening.
“I’m not convinced that the cost of having Macs within our schools is more of a cost than having a PC,” said Coteau. He also spoke with evident optimism about the possibility of introducing Linux-based computers at some point in the Board’s future.
“The case was made, and reason prevailed,” wrote Chris Higgins, the Swansea Public School tech instructor who spearheaded publicity for the keep-the-Macs protest, in an emailed statement.
And so Toronto’s public schools will continue to use Macs, barring any unexpected developments. Apple folks, you may now resume worshipping your pad. (Okay, okay. The thing’s pretty cool.)