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Re: [K12OSN] How to prepare for K12 project

Royce - I think this is worth responding to the entire list, as it could be helpful to all. IMHO, it is a no-brainer, but change is hard, and convincing people to "leave the familiar" is tough stuff. I have found the quickest way to changing that decision path, is through their pocketbook.

Kirk <ô¿ô>

1. How can we remotely manage these 5 labs using LTSP?
rlogin, ssh connection, etc.  - things that allow the remote administration of UNIX systems, even on a slow, dial-up connection. Windows has no such facility.

IF you WebMin the stuff, security is harder, just because "webification" of anything increased the potential security threats.

2. Are you using Win4Lin or any other Win emulation software?
Yes, Win4Lin NSSE, 25 users - but ONLY for district mandated Windows specific software. We have strived to find LINUX equivalent programs for everything and avoid Windows software at all costs. It is taking a transition period. There are some minor limitations, but the one thing that really made the case for Win4Lin over, say, Win2k Terminal Server, is the floating license issue.

Win4Lin allows 25 concurrent users - period. You have 25 licensed sets of software, and up to 25 users can get on at once and use it.

Win T.S. requires a CALS for every user. If you read the specifics of the EULA (and there are multiple versions, so read yours specifically - the school licenses vary radically from the commercial versions, and your may be different), you need one license for every user, at every location that that user uses the software. SO, Johnny uses Windows and MS Office in Lab, another in the library, and another at home over a remote connection. He has 3 windows and 3 Office licenses tied up, and the licenses do NOT expire for 60 days. Even at school rates, this amounts to $180 or so for licenses for Johnny, times 735 students, or some $132,000.

AND, with current MS audit practices (and I thought the police had to have probable cause to do search and seizure? Whoops! Forgot, this is not the law, this is GOD of software....) if you cannot prove you have valid licenses for everything, then M$ will gladly sell you licenses for MS products on every CPU that you own, whether it is capable of running MS products or not.

BTW: Has anyone tried the Codeweavers plug-ins on LTSP yet?? That is as close to WINE as I would want to get at this point of its development.

3. How do you handle technical support? Do you have a standard
procedure for handling higher priority lab situations?
As of last I checked, the charter school system has no money allocated (or even available) for I/T support. Parents do this on a volunteer basis. Hence, my involvement, and lots of others. The local Northern Colorado Users Group, HP (HP-Compaq?), and LSI Logic, among other local firms, assist, and they have been AWESOME. Find a LUG in your area - they would be thrilled to assist!

4. Do you have technical support at the school or central office level?
How is the communication handled if you have both?
The school district is 100% Windows - we are a charter school, and not constrained by their situation, nor supported by it. In many cases, this is a Godsend. We still suffer software constraints based on reporting.

5. How do you handle software requests from teachers, vocational,
admins, etc.? For example, curriculum is often based on books with
software that is usually windows or Mac-based, how to get past this?
Not familiar with this issue. Most everything we have found is MSOffice compatible formats, therefore, OpenOffice/StarOffice compatible as well.

We also provided each teacher with a multimedia PC, to support things like Reader Rabbit, DVD classroom training, etc. that were not, at the time, well supported on K12LTSP/LINUX. The DVD + CD-ROM machines were even able to playback VCD format CDs, so converting training video to this format was planned.

We still have not solved the Accelerated Reader issue - some teachers think this is essential at all costs, so a way to run it, or an alternative product is part of current investigations.

6. What database programs are you using with LTSP?
MySQL + PHP + Apache. MySQL is free, extremely fast, strong SQL support, and a good set of tools. I use a Windows tool from Datanamic called DEZIGN for ER diagrams, and it builds the data structure directly from the ER diagram. It was a great investment ($135).

PHP is easy to learn, quite powerful, and lets everything run on the web. Because to runs as part of Apache, it makes it easy to deploy. AND, it is really fast!

7. Do you have a cost list? Is there actual cost savings if I use a
linux/wine/win4lin versus a windows/works/office solution?
I have a complete cost list I will forward you directly. It is a year old now, but still close to real.
(I'll save it as Excel so you can read it :-)

If I had to lay out the presentation on a cost/benefit basis, it goes like this.

A) Very low acquisition and licensing costs on the software, operating system, office suite, desktop (?) software, enterprise management tools (backup, security, recovery, disk management, print management, server management, etc.), communications (firewall, DHCP, DNS, NAT, etc.) This is nearly all free.

B) A terminal server model, regardless of the OS, is far easier (read: less costly) to use than a "fat" desktop model. Terminals can all be old line, first generation PCI based PCs, that are readily available for free from companies, individuals, even the US Government! All software is installed on the server (1 time), so the configuration management, and software distribution issues are minimal.

Horsepower can be scaled at the server farm side of the equation, and desktops should have a useful life of around 10 years.

C) The audit police will not have "probably cause" to tie up your scarce resources, sue you for $10MM (the bankrupt Philadelphia school system, for 6 illegal copies of Office), and force you to buy software for platforms not designed to run MS stuff (I guess that is incentive to use more Windows boxes).

D) A far more stable environment - LINUX - that does not break, even if applications crash - you just restart the application. Hence, greatly reduced support costs.

E) on the other side, you have a learning curve, particularly for the systems administration (If the admin is a Win/Mac admin). Users have very low transitional effort, as the interface is similar, and, at least OpenOffice, has a very short transitional learning curve for an MS Office user.

F) Remote support capability. You can even run a character terminal session from a wireless Palm Pilot, logged in to your K12LTSP environment, and manage from the taxi cab across the country. (OK, so a keyboard helps, but it is doable!)

H) Give OpenOffice (the Windows version, if they are Winusers) to all your students! They get a free Office Suite from the school, and can do their homework in the same software that they use at school. 

G) One of the biggest school software expenses is the school management software. There are free to very low cost alternatives available.

Here is some information that I pulled together for a second charter school I am helping out.

Content Filtering - URL blocking
VNC - Remote Control
For reviewing multiple desktops concurrently

School admin from the Shuttleworth foundation - open source....includes attendance, personnel mgmt, curriculum, AP,AR,GL, etc.
K12ADMIN software
The Shadow Network for Schools - Frequently Asked Questions

"SchoolMation is a free, simple to use, robust, Web-based education management solution. Remotely accessed through a standard Web browser, SchoolMation can run on a school's intranet or the Internet. With the click of a mouse, authorized users have immediate access to informative data including: student details, attendance, academic records, course information, lesson content, homework assignments, and more. Users can produce customized lists, helpful graphs and perform a variety of valuable education related tasks that traditionally only happen "off-line". Since it is 100% Web-based, SchoolMation works on any computer (Windows, Macintosh, Unix) which supports a modern Web browser." (License: GPL) http://www.schoolmation.net/


Article on L12LTSP including the rdesktop stuff that lets Windows T.S. run...
The Windows Remote Desktop Protocol
An article on the Linux Terminal Server Project for Schools
A group of articles and links on benefits of open software

And everything to do with the K12LTSP project....
www.k12LTSP.org, www.k12os.org, www.K12LINUX.org

...and for your Internet Gateway....

OpenCourseware - Delivering MIT education with open methods

And EVERYTHING about e-learning....
Chem Lab Chemical Tracking - High School Chem Lab State Requirement
Everything you ever wanted to know about thin clients

Hope this helps! Kirk
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