cluster/lab/thin clients question...

Matt Zimmerman mdz at
Sun Sep 11 22:05:58 UTC 2005

On Thu, Sep 08, 2005 at 11:59:50PM -0400, Matt Price wrote:
> Hi there,
> I've just discovered edubuntu and am starting to think it might be
> helpful for a project I'm workingo n, but want to get some advice. 
> I run a beginning computer course in a local housing project with a
> mostly-immigrant population; students refurbish donated computers,
> install Ubuntu, and take the computers home.  It's a neat programme, and
> I'm glad to be able to do it.
> I've just received a fairly large number of computers, many more than I
> can hand over to students this year.  I'll end up with about 30 extra
> Pentium-II's and a handful of Pentium-III's.  I've been thinking it
> would be nice to set up a proper computer lab with this equipment, but
> I'm not sure of the best way to go about it and am hoping for some
> advice.  here are some features I'd like to have:
> - centralized user profiles, so a user can log in on any machine and
> have everything work just the way she set it up last time
> - relative simplicity in the setup process -- I'm doing this mostly on
> my own and I'm really not a networking expert. 
> - some kind of software -- maybe instant messaging? -- that demonstrates
> to students how the computers are all connected. 

A thin client configuration would be your best option for this hardware.  It
requires few resources on the client machines, is easy to set up, and
centrally administered (all user accounts and data are maintained on the

> - optimal use of scarce CPU and memory resources -- not all the
> computers are likely to be in use at any given time, so it would be nice
> to be able grab idle cycles from other machines if at all possible

This is called clustering, and isn't very suitable for low-powered machines
or slow networks.  A thin client configuration allows you to use these
low-powered machines by sharing the resources of a centralized server, which
is a simpler and more efficient method.

 - mdz

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