Posted by: Ed Tittel
I volunteer at my son’s school, where one of my gigs involves assisting with a Wednesday morning programming class on Microsoft’s SmallBasic, and another one has me helping out with a way-cool robotics club orchestrated around the Lego MindStorms robot kits. It’s not only fascinating and fun, it also has me rubbing shoulders with the school’s main (and only fulltime on-site) IT guy who’s the sponsor of the robotics club and who also supports the programming class. This morning, as we often do before things get rolling, we talked about what he’s up to and what projects lie ahead on his planning horizon.
The maze of issues that faces early migrators to new Windows versions abates substantially for those who wait … and wait … to make that move.
[Image Credit: Shutterstock 27511863]
“What’s up with the refresh?” I asked him this morning, alluding to the school district’s upcoming plans to migrate classroom and admin systems from Windows XP to Windows 7. Because Round Rock ISD has an enterprise volume licensing agreement with Microsoft, I learned that they are required to phase out all systems running XP just after the start of 2014, some months ahead of Windows XP’s last-and-final retirement date (April 8, 2014). When I asked how he planned to handle that migration, he informed me that the centralized IT group for the school district is preparing a set of reference images for the targeted systems, and he’ll pull those images from network drives at the school to perform clean installs of Windows 7 on the 400 or so PCs, laptops, and netbooks currently deployed in the elementary school where he works.
Another interesting wrinkle emerged from the discussion — namely, that some systems will use images with the Microsoft Office 2013 release slip-streamed in. I knew this would increase the size of the download involved, but was a little surprised to learn that this would just about double the download time required to move the image across the network from the servers where it resides to the target machines where it will be installed. My colleague’s efforts will also be somewhat complicated by having to work around the schedules of teachers and administrators, who are usually busy using the computers at their disposal the whole time they’re on campus, be it in their offices or their classrooms, depending on their various job roles.
He expects this effort to consume most of his working hours for the entire month of January, and possibly even into the first week or two in February, depending on how successful he is at wresting the machines that need to be upgraded from their normal users to perform the installs, and how many problems he encounters on the path from getting started with the netbooks and laptops in groups of 10 or 20 on the dozen or so computer carts he manages for the library and the computer labs in the school, to the pairs of PCs in individual classrooms, and onto the other office and mobile machines scattered around the campus. He plans to use a spreadsheet to keep track of all the machines that need handling during this process, and expects that while it will be time-consuming it shouldn’t be too difficult. All of the machines the school district uses are of Windows 7 vintage (more than a year old, but less than 4 years old) so drivers and compatibility issues have been worked out a long time ago.
This is a typical large user base scenario and reflects what lots of “trailing edge” organizations have experienced recently or right now, except for those planning to follow along at the back of the pack in the next few months. This should make it very interesting to see how much XP remains in use after the April 2014 retirement date comes and goes. In the interim, those organizations with relationships to Microsoft that mandate moving up the food chain must go through the final motions involved in keeping themselves current, no matter how much or little they may like having to do so!