A desire to provide several standard models of laptops at discounted prices for students, faculty and staff has led to a new program developed by Networking and Telecommunications Services. The Hopkins Mobile Computing Program, piloted last year for incoming freshmen, has been expanded to offer the larger Hopkins community the opportunity to purchase from a group of four specially priced Dell and IBM laptop computers with the Windows 2000 operating system. Costs for these models range from about $2,100 to $2,800, depending on configuration.
The offering is available to everyone at Hopkins except for students in the Bloomberg School of Health, which runs its own program.
According to Rich Caserta of Hopkins Information Technology Services, the standardization of computers will allow Hopkins IT staff the chance to become familiar with specific models and software products, thereby improving support, and the portability factor will make troubleshooting more efficient. In addition, the four available models are compatible with wireless communication technology, which will become more widely available at Hopkins in the near future.
Caserta says that NTS staff have selected high-quality business models, based on their functionality and durability, that provide adequate computing power for the majority of the population. All are equipped with standard built-in Ethernet and modem capability for Internet and LAN connectivity while on campus or away.
Student models include a pre-installed software bundle with Microsoft Office XP Standard Academic edition, Norton AntiVirus, choices of several media players and viewers, and software for use on the Internet. Packages for faculty and staff include the manufacturer's standard software offering. All options offer a three-year warranty and three-year insurance coverage against accidental damage, including that to a screen, which can be costly to repair.
As part of the program, freshmen at the Homewood campus will be offered "get acquainted" training sessions. Upon receiving their computers next month during Orientation, they will be able to walk directly into a class where laptop features and student residence hall networking setup will be explained.
Caserta points out that IT support can be unwieldy when it means carrying a bulky desktop computer to the support center or requires IT staff to visit students in their dorm rooms or faculty members in their offices. With standard model lightweight laptop computers, he says, IT staff can provide troubleshooting support more efficiently, and both training and service times should decrease.
Software support can be provided quickly to students by reloading the software bundle, if necessary. Should the laptops require hardware repair, warranty shipping and a laptop "loaner pool" will be available for the Homewood student population through HITS Support Services.
During last year's laptop pilot program, the support offered to freshmen was well-appreciated. "I really liked that I could go to the HITS lab at any time there was a problem," says Hayes Griffin, a psychology major. "There was always someone there to answer my questions or refer me to someone else."
For more information on the Hopkins Mobile Computing Program or to order the laptops through Dell and Outpost.com, which is IBM's reseller for the program, go to http://nts.jhu.edu/desktop/mcp/.
Students at the Bloomberg School of Public Health can find information on their laptop program at http://laptops.jhsph.edu.