[K12OSN] Re: Making donations work better

Terrell Prude', Jr. microman at cmosnetworks.com
Sat May 8 16:24:15 UTC 2004

Steven Santos wrote:

>>Dennis Daniels wrote:
>>>A plea from a teacher in the treches: make it easier to get older 
>>>machines, random NICS and ancient monitors into use as clients is a 
>>>good thing for schools; something that Aunt Tilly the Teacher, and I, 
>>>can use.   ;)
>To which TP replied:
>>OK, you got it.  Note:  I am emphatically *not* talking about fat 
>>clients here.  I mean thin clients.  You'll see here in a minute...
><snipped TP's step-by-step instructions>
>While most of us on the list can do this, Aunt Tilly the teacher will NEVER
>be able to make use of these instructions (try asking Aunt Tilly what a 
>"3C905" is). 
>No, what we really need is a diagnostics CD (ala KNOPIX) that will boot the 
>terminal as a semi-fat client, connect to the LTSP server, output all of the 
>correct config options for that terminal's lts.conf entry (maybe even auto 
>add the entry in lts.conf?) a link to the proper rom-o-matic image and maybe 
>a nice script to create a boot floppy/HD boot image from the ROM image.
>If we had such an uber utility, then Aunt Tilly might be able to make it 
>work without the need for an IT guru to install each and every new donated
>terminal.  Just pop in the diag CD, enter the proper password (to add it to
>lts.conf), click on the r-o-m button if needed, and your done.
>Best part is that such a utility would also be useful to IT people. How much 
>time would this utility save you every month?  Food for thought.

I disagree.  Aunt Tilly the teacher has no business messing around with 
network infrastructures until Aunt Tilly knows something about 
networks.  We train teachers to be teachers.  We train car mechanics to 
be car mechanics.  Likewise, we train IT techs to be IT techs.  I 
wouldn't dare try to teach, say, a Spanish language class without some 
kind of training as a Spanish language teacher.  Nor would I try taking 
apart and putting back together my truck's Power Stroke Diesel engine 
without training as a Power Stroke Diesel mechanic; I'd very likely ruin 
my engine in short order and void the warranty in the process.

If you want Aunt Tilly the teacher to be using LTSP thin clients in her 
class, then I have no problem with that and in fact encourage it 
heartily.  But if you don't want to get Aunt Tilly the teacher someone 
who knows what they're doing with technology, then get Aunt Tilly the 
teacher a bunch of pre-packaged thin clients; you cannot expect Aunt 
Tilly to be able to build a box at all, let alone out of a bunch of 
donated, random hardware!  DisklessWorkstations.com sells some nice thin 
clients, I hear; that's why such companies exist.  You don't even need a 
boot floppy with them; just plug and go.

*That* is the solution for Aunt Tilly the teacher, not dumping a bunch 
of old, random hardware in her lap and expecting her to build working 
boxes out of it.  She needs to teach.  It is *our* job as IT people (for 
those of us that are IT people) to have the technical knowledge to 
support her technology-based classroom teaching.  That's why we IT folks 
get paid for what we do.

For those who want to cry "oh, but my budget!", I have this answer:

I've spent a lot of time, sweat, and literally a little blood over the 
years learning how to do what I do, and I happen to be very good at it.  
Other good IT folks that I've met are the same way.  Knowledge is not 
cheap and certainly not free (as in beer); it costs either time or 
money, or both.  This is why companies like Red Hat and SuSE are in 
business.  The alternative is for us all to do Linux From Scratch.  I 
can do this.  Can you?  If you can, do you have the time to spend doing 
it?  I sure don't anymore.  If you want to build your own car from a 
bunch of junkyard parts, then I salute you, because you know way more 
than I do (I've met a few who've done this).  However, most people go to 
the car dealer and buy one pre-made.  It costs more that way, but you're 
paying for the knowledge it takes to build a car, as well as the 
warranty and support.  Desktop technology is no different.


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