[K12OSN] Re: Making donations work better
holmes at worcestercoop.org
Wed May 26 08:53:59 UTC 2004
I just had a funny experience: I joined the list specifically to ask if
anyone would be interested in working on a Live-CD to facilitate
turning donated boxes into thin clients, and then while looking through
recent archives to get a feel for the discussion, I stumbled across
Steven's post where he proposed the exact same idea. My angle on this
is that last year some friends and I started a small organization in
our town (Worcester, MA) where we're using donated computers and free
software to set up LTSP labs and give free computers to participants.
I know that schools, not small neighborhood labs, are probably the
primary target for K12LTSP development. But there is a huge potential
for these kinds of labs because they can be put together on such a
small budget--especially when you throw donated computers into the mix.
And a tool like the one discussed would make setting up--and
maintaining--these labs a lot simpler.
I definitely appreciate Terrell's point that, in a larger, more
complicated setting, things can quickly get unwieldy for administrators
when you give powerful tools to people who don't understand how they
work. At the same time, I think that a streamlined system for making
thin clients would make the deployment of LTSP labs a lot easier. A
few points (some of these have been made already):
On donated computers:
*Donated computers are free. That is a huge advantage to groups that
have volunteers but small budgets.
*Linux is not always an easy sell. Dramatic cost savings like these
sweeten the deal.
*Donated computers would otherwise be a problem for landfills.
*Donated computers usually have PCI hardware, which means the NIC and
video card is easily autodetected
*Each year this becomes more true.
*Donated computers do have one major disadvantage: they break. But
more donated machines are always plentiful.
On the importance of making it easy:
*Even for someone who knows what they are doing, it is a pain in the
neck to turn donated boxes into thin clients ("where the heck is
*There are tons people who know enough about computers to install a
network card or walk through an install script who are quickly
overwhelmed by the kind of command line stuff you have to do to make a
new thin client from a donated computer.
*Since donated computers break, it's important to be able to replace
*The more people you have who can do this, the more flexible your
division of labor. Linux gurus can be called upon sparingly for
*When you improve ease-of-use you expand the pool of people who are
qualified to deploy and maintain new labs, which means more people
benefit from this awesome software.
One of the most amazing things about LTSP labs is how low-maintenance
they are. We've had our lab up since last June, with young kids coming
in to beat the heck out of it 4 days a week since then, on severely
underpowered hardware, and there haven't been any problems. That means
that I can feel confident setting up a lab, training people on basic
stuff (adduser, CUPS) and letting them run with it, with myself and
more knowledgable people to contact in case there's a problem. If they
get a new box donated and want to add it as a client, it would be
awesome if I could leave them with a simple way to do it that would
work 80% of the time.
Again, to return to Terrell's concern, I see this Live CD thing more as
something that an administrator would make available to users, rather
than something people would just download themselves and monkey around
with. Particularly because, as he points out, it's tricky to download
and burn an .iso file.
Anyway, I have a few friends that would be interested in working on
something like this. If anyone's interested in helping I could set up
a Wiki for planning out the best way to do it. Takers?
Finally, this is my first post to this list, so first I'd really like
to thank all the developers for the awesome work that's gone into the
Worcester Computer Co-op
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