[K12OSN] teaching kids sys admin with VM's

Robert Arkiletian robark at gmail.com
Fri Jan 18 05:53:02 UTC 2008

On Jan 17, 2008 6:11 PM, James P. Kinney III
<jkinney at localnetsolutions.com> wrote:
> I can see many, MANY issues with this setup. Not the least of which is
> kids with root access AT ALL on a networked machine.

What's the worst thing you could do if you were a cracker student in
the environment that I described to Les?

> An idea is to skip the installation part and provide vmware-player
> images for them to admin. This way you can lock down the configs (until
> they figure out how to change things) and can provide scenarios for them
> to look at/tweak/setup/fix, etc. Vmware-player is free and lighter
> weight than full VMWare desktop.

I'm not scared of them messing up their config files. So they bork
their OS beyond repair. They just delete the VM and start again. It
also defeats the purpose of having them learn how to setup raid and
everything else. I'm hoping I will be able to create multple virtual
HD so kids can learn how to setup a RAID system. Then stop the VM,
remove one of the drives and see the U_ in /proc/mdstat, then tell
them to add another drive and resync the mirror. That would be cool!!!

> Server side is a challenge as each thin client will need RAM, plus the
> server itself AND now each VM. With the player, you pre-set the RAM
> size. However, if you use full VMWare, the students can change the RAM
> size for a VM. That has the great potential for bringing down your
> server hard and fast.

Hmm. This is a problem. I can't allow kids to choose how much actual
resources they give their VM's. I have to be able to set a limit on
the amount of ram, HD size they can allocate. Also I don't want them
to run more than one VM each. I think this might be more difficult
than I first thought.

> As for teaching an installation, the RedHat derivatives have the ability
> to record an installation process as a flash movie file (or maybe that
> was doing it over vnc - I forget). That is a GREAT documentation tool!!

No doubt, but nothing beats doing.

> Since you have old PII's you could use those with old hard drives and
> let them install there. A net install is fast but a CD install is
> typical. When done, just unplug the hard drive again :)

No go. I have multiple blocks and don't want kids opening up real
hardware that has to work every period. In addition have you tried
installing a recent linux distro on a PII with 128MB of ram. :)

Robert Arkiletian
Eric Hamber Secondary, Vancouver, Canada
Fl_TeacherTool http://www3.telus.net/public/robark/Fl_TeacherTool/
C++ GUI tutorial http://www3.telus.net/public/robark/

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