The Tech Miser: Schools Can Now Convert Old PCs To Chromebooks


Schools across the country are finding a new solution to the tech budget crunch.  If you’ve had any involvement with your local school system, you know the usual cry to the school board is for more money.  Particularly for tech.  More often than not, there’s some corner or closet that holds a stack (or two or three) of old, outdated PCs and laptops. There’s always the hope that there’s some way to resurrect them, because the school board isn’t budging on allocating any new funds to allow for buying new hardware.

Google found a new market here, for Chromebooks.  At only $200-300 apiece for a new Chromebook, it can be an inexpensive solution to have tech available to students.  But there are school systems who don’t even have the budget for that.  And those stacks of outdated hardware keep growing.  And there weren’t always Chromebooks.

Jonathan Hefter founded Neverware in 2009, as an experiment in his parents’ garage.  The result was a very custom server, called the “Juicebox.”  The server did all the heavy lifting for the students.  All those outdated computers became “thin client” workstations, not requiring hard drives or built in operating systems.  Then along came Google and its name brand hardware partners with Chromebooks.  Neverware couldn’t compete with the reputations, pricing, and support from the big guys.  But there’s an old saying that suggests “if you can’t beat them, join them.”

Only Google and its partners are allowed to sell official Chromebooks.  But Google encourages people to do things with Chromium, the open source version of the operating system.  Neverware saw possibilities.  The result was Cloudready, a Chromium variant that could bring new life to those old, out of use laptops.

There are several ways to get Cloudready.  If you’re interested for a school system, there are two options.  The first is a no commitment one year license for $25 per unit.  The second option is $59 per unit for a lifetime license for Cloudready.

If you’re interested for an enterprise company, there’s a link on the homepage to sign up for the enterprise beta program and Neverware will contact you with specifics.  According to Neverware‘s Geof Hill, that program is live, now.  And there’s another option for the individual or experimenter.  You can download and install on a device, for free.  The link for that is also on the homepage.  Note that the individual freebie does not include any multi-unit management tools.

If that sounds of interest, head over to Neverware and check it out.  If you’re an individual, the download page has a link to the installation instructions (either as a web page or a pdf).  There’s also a CloudReady compatible device list that gets updated periodically.  If you have hardware that isn’t on the list you can check the forums to see if it’s been tried or go to live chat with one of the company representatives.

Do you have any old laptops sitting around that could find new life with CloudReady? Tell us all about it in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.

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