[K12OSN] Plans for K12Linux EL6 and Future Fedora

Jim Kinney jim.kinney at gmail.com
Wed May 11 23:07:04 UTC 2011

On Wed, May 11, 2011 at 6:15 PM, Warren Togami Jr. <warren at togami.com>wrote:

> On 5/9/2011 4:19 AM, Jeff Siddall wrote:
>> On 05/08/2011 08:50 AM, Warren Togami Jr. wrote:
>>> Hi folks,
>>> It has been a LONG while since I've been able to look at k12linux.org,
>>> but I haven't forgotten about this project.  2007 through 2009 Red Hat
>>> generously supported my time to work on this project.  In 2010 I've
>>> since left Red Hat in order to help my parents with the family business
>>> and prepare for grad school.
>>> K12Linux LTSP EL6
>>> =================
>>> I soon plan on working on a version of LTSP based on EL6.
>> Thanks Warren, I am eagerly awaiting this as a long term migration
>> platform for my current K12Linux systems.
> I am reconsidering the worth of working on this project.  This has not been
> much of a positive response.  In fact most of the response has been only
> bitching from people who want everything but are willing to contribute
> nothing.  Not having worked on this for years I had forgot how thankless
> this work is.
> I may consider releasing it only if enough people are willing to donate to
> make this thankless grief worthwhile.

It _is_ a pile of work. Unfortunately, keeping support in place for the
rapidly aging piles of old hardware used by schools is going to be a growing
problem. It's not going to be solvable by sticking to the Fedora distro tree
for the clients. It's going to involve either building a mechanism that will
provide the old clients with same code but compiled for their old hardware
from either an alternate distro (not too hard to do) or require an "in the
field" build process that can be run to provide the capabilities. The later,
especially if building a full distro, is just not feasible.

I was looking at the need a few years back when I was pounding on K12LTSP
for a process to determine the capabilities of a client by using a _very_
compatible kernel for an initial tftp load with an initrd that has every
known and buildable modules. So the system runs a hardware test mode to see
what is available, sends that data back to the master node and either a
custom kernel/module pack is built or is uses an existing one based on a
database lookup of hardware known to the system. Once found it resets the
tftp kernel to be a real one.

hehe, I even named this process "shoe-horn" (from the cobbler/koan line of
thinking) as it helps the system fit into a tight boot :-)

I'm moving back to the LTSP world more so I'll be able to pitch in some help
and build systems (as soon as I get mock and koji playing nicely at home).

>>  BIGGEST PROBLEM: 32bit EL6 supports a minimum of i686 and they have
>>> excluded certain kernel modules required by LTSP like nbd.ko.  For this
>>> reason, we may need clients of EL6 to boot images based on Fedora
>>> 12/13?/14? that still have userspace capable of running on i586.  I
>>> would need to see what are the supported archs and kernels in those
>>> versions of Fedora.
>> Personally I don't care about this really.  Even the lowly Atom is i686
>> and as I have argued on this list before the business case for re-using
>> old fat desktop hardware doesn't exist if you consider the cost of
>> power.  I am far more concerned with the easy manageability LTSP provides.
> I have since discovered the actual minimum requirements for 32bit EL6. i686
> minimum, and the kernel requires PAE hardware.  Some discussion seems to
> suggest it is reasonably easy to rebuild the EL6 kernel without PAE.

Monthly power bills are always bad with old crap running. But to add in
getting new hardware (spend now + deploy in a few months) PLUS the bad power
bills is just not an option for most schools right now. What they that does
work is better than what they want that they can't afford to buy without
laying off another round of teachers.

So we have to find a way to keep that old crap running for them a while
longer. So maybe a full release build that will run on i386, no upgraded
flags, with a minimal X environment is feasible. Dunno. I've never compiled
a full distro before. Maybe it' time I did.

> i686 is considered to be:
> * "Pentium Pro or later"
> * "AMD K6 (but not all) or later"
> * "Via C7" or later
> * Geode LX, but not Geode GX
> So minimal effort would support only more recent LTSP clients, which I
> guess would be the minority of deployed hardware.
> Warren
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James P. Kinney III

As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to
consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they
please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.
- *2011 Noam Chomsky*
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