Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Moving the school computer lab to Linux was not an easy decision to make—but it was a beneficial one.
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Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

I wonder why Michael Surran installed linux on 20 computers all with their own hard drives, etc. rather than set up one server and bootable NICs on the rest.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

I wonder why you are so quick to knock Michael’s configuration and start a thread that takes away from the essence of the article. The point of Michael’s article is that Linux enabled him to set up a superior instructional tool where as he would not have been able to afford such a system otherwise. He has also set the stage for future students to graduate with a solid working knowledge of Linux, an operating system that will most likely be in demand of knowledgeable support staff to many large companies in the very near future. Sounds like a strong reliable system to me. Good job Michael!

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

because he wasn't stupid enough to take a 4x speed loss.

he wants his students to LIKE linux.

sheesh.

do you work for microsoft and are trying to poison people against linux? telling them to turn high performance workstations into dumb terminals....that'd be the way to do it.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

You don't have to turn them into dumb terminals ... just diskless workstations. There is a difference, you know. See my post way above regarding local-mode versus pure-remote.

You can have super-skookum workstations, and yet only have to administer a single server-image. :)

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

very nice to see the interest of childrens in the linux os.

very good

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Since we use our computers to teach image and video editing, we felt it would be a good idea for each computer to have its own hard drive. This also gives greater performance compared to a NIC, especially in filesystem intense applications. The network bandwidth is reserved for application data (home directory stuff) and Internet access (and bzflag), while the OS itself can use the much faster local hardrive. We also NFS mount some specific system directories such as the KDE menu, etc. I think the performance gain was worth going this way.

Mike

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Mike can take a look at the city of Largo Florida if he he interested in going the Xterminal route.

If his "Server" is beefed up enough, he could take some of those old, donated windows machines and possibly set up a 2nd computer lab, or give each class 2 or 3 internet work stations.

Going this rote does not preclude adding xterminals. It actully allows his current systems to do multimedia, and place a minimal load on network resources so he can provide these other services after he gets his feet wet as a linux administrator.

I believe that he has only just started saving money by using Linux.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Actually, Mike, I'm sure you didn't do the testing to verify your fear. If you had you would have discovered that using X terminals everywhere instead of Workstations everywhere (like Windows does) actually decreases the amount of network traffic as long as you mask out updating the mouse cursor every time it moves. And it would have been cheaper to put Network Attached Storage, with no perceptible performance penalty. Then you would have a single system to admininster instead of a bunch of Linux Workstations behaving like a bunch of Windows boxes as far as the way apps perform.

You should have also used LCD's. Far less power, virtually no EMF, much diminished rate of failure, space-saving, etc.

Otherwise you did a good job, but you did make some unfortunate mistakes in copying the way that people typically try to make Microsoft computers act like a multiuser environment. I know because I computerize restaurants with terminals and have been practising what I preach as an alternative to what you did for many years.

Gene Mosher

ViewTouch.com

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

mask out updating the mouse cursor every time it moves

For us newbies, can you elaborate? Sounds like I won't have a mouse on my terminals. I'm using remote X logins. Will your method work with that?

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

My goodness, how arrogant you are.

I don't think I'll be buying from ViewTouch.com any time soon.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

What do expect from a jew

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Way to go A-Hole!! How do you take a discussion about IT and turn it into racial epithets? Your pure stupidity and ignorace shine like the A-Hole you are!!!!!!!!!!

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Probably the same I would expect from a non-Jew...

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

So you're saying that you think your products are the only way of operating. Narrow world view, Gene!

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture


Actually, Mike, I'm sure you didn't do the testing to verify your fear. If you had you would have discovered that using X terminals everywhere instead of Workstations everywhere (like Windows does) actually decreases the amount of network traffic as long as you mask out updating the mouse cursor every time it moves. And it would have been cheaper to put Network Attached Storage, with no perceptible performance penalty. Then you would have a single system to admininster instead of a bunch of Linux Workstations behaving like a bunch of Windows boxes as far as the way apps perform.

Cheaper, yes. Same features, no. The machines have 3D cards which wouldn't have been available if you'd used X11 terminals (DRI doesn't support indirect hardware acceleration, yet). There are difficulties getting the sound to roam with the X11 display and the XFree86 people have stated several times they are not interested in solving that problem. You'd need a fricking beefy server to handle 20 simultaneous GIMP sessions. You also have the problem of "all eggs in one basket": if the central server goes down then you lose ALL of the desktops. Not to mention potential denial-of-services - intentional or unintentional - when one of the students writes their first infinite loop.

NFS root systems have ludicrously slow load times. I wouldn't accept that option either.

I think Mike took the correct approach. Linux workstations with disk imaging so he only needed to build the first one. He presumably stored the image somewhere (eg, CD-R) and can blast it back whenever he needs to. Central storage of home directories is sensible for backup purposes. If he's using NIS or Kerberos for centralised authentication then I would say this is probably an ideal setup. I think your criticism is unthoughtful and unjustified.

- Nathan Hand

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Actually, you are both right, and both wrong. :)

You don't want to setup a pure-remote X Terminal setup, as that will saturate the network, and overload the server. We tried that, and found that a dual-proc 1 GHz P-!!! w/4 GB RAM could not support 30 X Terminals running KDE, or even ICEwm and StarOffice.

However, you can setup a local-mode X Terminal setup where the clients still have no harddrive (except for swap space), boot remotely from the server, mount all their drives via NFS, and then run all their programs locally on the client CPU, using the client vid card, sounds card, and other computational resources. This way, any apps that the client can run are downloaded from the server and run locally ... there's no network traffic once the app is loaded, except for saving files. Any app that the client is unable to run is run on the server with the display shot back to the client, as in a standard pure-remote setup.

This is the setup we are using in School District 73 in Kamloops, BC, Canada. We have 37 labs and over 1500 Linux workstations in use at the moment, with another 3 or 4 labs of 30 scheduled for this summer. These are elementary school labs, although we have a few pilot projects for industrial ed/CAD labs in the secondaries (Linux CAD software is much less expensive [$0] than Windows CAD software, yet they are equally as powerful).

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Yes, I've looked at this as well. People don't understand the education environment. You get 25 simultaneous logins. I don't mean 25 quasi-simultaneous logins. You need a massive server to handle all 25 clients doing the same things at the same time in a graphical environment.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Wrong!!! I use 3D terminals so I know it works and works fast. I use 100Mb and it all works fine. I did in the past have to administer a Windows diskless classroom and that was a pain but Linux terminals are great. With the Windows network when all 30 in the class turned on at the same time several would time out waiting for an image but with Linux I have no such problems and I have never had anyone realise they are at a terminal without being told. I always use raid and think the cost of raid is recouped by using terminals and raid goes some way to covering the eggs in the same basket arguement.

That said I think he has done well and he is right to do it the way he is happy doing it. I think no one should set up a system they are not happy with.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture


Wrong!!! I use 3D terminals so I know it works and works fast. I use 100Mb and it all works fine.

No, you have no idea what you're talking about. There is NO support for hardware accelerated indirect rendering in XFree86. You are simply wrong. Your GLX clients were all rendering in software and making NO use of your 3D card's features. GLX commands sent from a client to the XFree86 server are rendered in SOFTWARE ONLY.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Try it :) I think I must have forgotten to tell my terminals that they are indirect :) or if you are right then I am shocked at how good software only is now :) Then we will have to tell Sax etc. because it happily sets up opengl.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Do you use the terminals to do image and video editing?

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Hey Gene -

Just because it's a setup that looks more like a windows network than it does a restaurant doesn't mean the guy made any mistakes.

Clearly each approach has it's benefits, and I think it's either immature or uninformed to say that he made any mistakes based on a short article posted on the WWW.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

I think he means a Linux Terminal Server. In a setup like that the server runs the apps and stores the data. The workstation only video out and input. Look at http://www.ltsp.org for more info.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Maybe 'cause if you boot 20 pc all in the same time, you'll get the server overloaded (i dont think he has a load balancing system) and a slower boot process...

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

That depends on the server. We have dual-proc 1 GHz P-!!! systems with 3 or 4 GB of RAM and 2 70 GB harddrives. Booting a lab of 30 Pentium 166s or Pentium-II 350s takes less than 2 minutes. The only time we ran into any kind of slow down during the boot process was in the odd lab that used 10/100 hubs instead of switches. Swapping those out for 10/100 switches solved that problem.

30 computers all running without harddrives is a wonder to behold. Especially when we explain to the teachers that they don't have to worry about "proper shutdown" anymore -- just kill the power. :)

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Is it good to get kids / teachers in the habbit of "killing the power"?

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

What a great article. Thank you for putting this on the web. I hope this inspires other educational institutions to make the switch out of overpriced products from Redmond. Moving to Linux will create brighter more prepared students when they graduate and save the taxpayer some money to boot.

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

I'm making my boss read this tommorrow (CITO of my University).

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Hello, as a parent of a student that attends this school, I am proud and appreciative of the work that Mike put into this looking for a new system. If one applies themself, we can usually find a better way and boy did he. The kids love it even though they were raised in a Microsoft world. I actually think they prefer it over Windows. It is the dedication, ingenuity and foresight of someone like that that makes them shine as a fine example.

Susan Mitchell, just a mom

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

Fantastic article. This is why I love Linux so much. The benefit of learning an advanced OS, saving money and having a lot fun for the rest of your life is what its all about!

Re: Linux from Kindergarten to High School

Anonymous's picture

I applaud you the school teacher from maine im in Australia im 53 years old didnt know a lot about computers purchased one when i retired from truck driving 3 years ago it had win 98 within 12 months i had mandrake linux running as dual boot now i have triple boot i wish the schools here in Australia would have the foresight and the daring to dump windows like you did so that we could keep our costs of education down congratulations on a job well done

yours sincerely Ron Brickle

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