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Re: Fedora, Public School budgets, Volunteerism??

On 06/19/2004 01:45 PM, Rodolfo J. Paiz wrote:

At 11:20 6/19/2004, Ken Jones wrote:

I have the idea that I could volunteer my LINUX skills to the District (a strict MicroSoft house) by building and maintaining for them a software freebie VPN system.

It would seem that with the present budget crunches our public school districts, LINUX, plus volunteerism make a natural combo.

It would indeed. However, the key cost to a "freebie VPN system" is the bandwidth. What exactly do you propose to do and how? Easier to help if we have a more complete idea.

Bandwidth is big, and another huge issue is support. Coming into this discussion late, I haven't seen any mention of how the original poster intends for this project to stay free /after/ it goes live. VPN is confusing for users and they run into lots of surprising issues even after it's all configured and running. It's like giving them a PC for the first time, all over again. You don't want to give them something that works technically, and then be unprepared to give them a lot of hand holding when they need it.

Here at the museum where I work, the biggest, most difficult issues about getting our VPN started up were all about ease-of-use. VPN confuses people, and in general the people who need it most are the worst computer users. Many people don't really understand drives and hardware in the first place ... they don't even know where their files go when they save them. When they get on the VPN, the complication of local drives, network drives, "here" and "there" can be really bad. There's nothing so frustrating for a support person as someone getting to work, having saved an important document on a local drive at home, accidentally.

Ultimately what we decided was to go with the tunnel-to-terminal server approach. In other words, the VPN does not allow connecting remote resources directly; rather, it's just a tunnel to a terminal server that's inside the network. When they login, what they get looks and works almost exactly like the desktop they have on their workstations in the office. It's a little harder to set up, but once it gets going it's very easy for the users to get productive on it. We actually disabled any access to local drives from the terminal session, partly for security reasons but mainly so the users can't make mistakes. This is just one example of many usability decisions we had to make.

Setting this up a couple years ago, we went with MS Terminal Server, but there are similar open-source options like LTSP and VNC, etc. Probably you can set it up with pure X, but why kill yourself? FYI, http://k12ltsp.org is a great place for help, support, and conversation about this and other similar topics.

I guess I'm not saying anything specific, except this: make it as easy as possible to use and that's what will make this project successful. Don't assume that setting it up with free, open-source solutions will solve the money problem the school district has. They will be concerned not just about the initial expense, but also the sustainability of the project and how it affects their ability to manage their time, long-term.

Good luck,

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