Planning for summer work/next school year

David Groos djgroos at
Fri Jul 22 22:38:41 UTC 2011

Hi Jeff -- I'm just getting back to school technology, hope these thoughts
will still be useful to you.

On Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 11:13 AM, Donaldson Jeffrey <
jdonaldson at> wrote:

> **
> David,
> I'm the Technology Manager for a Charter School in Delaware. We've been
> using a Thin Client environment successfully for a number of years now, but
> I've only been in this position for a little less than a year. My knowledge
> of Linux and LTSP is growing with each day. Currently we're running 9.10 and
> plan to upgrade over the summer to 11.04.

I had a very successful 10.04 install for 2010-11.   My inclination is to go
for the best/newest BUT I've always got more on my plate than I can politely
eat so I considered NOT upgrading to Natty and staying with Lucid, that
Lucid was good enough.  However, I wanted a second opinion, from someone who
had a much broader understanding of the variables involved (though of course
doesn't know the specifics of my needs) and asked alkisg what he was going
to do in 'his' classrooms next year.  Here's a copy of our short irc
but the short answer is that in his situation, he's going to stay with
Lucid.  I found no compelling reason to upgrade my server to Natty--don't
need to make a fresh install this summer!

I hate to bother you, but I was wondering if you had any suggestions for
> software and Repositories. Or any useful tips you may have learned along the
> way. I could use all the help I can get and appreciate any advice you're
> willing to give.
A few random thoughts:

   - The chroots are often 32 bit arch even though they are stored and
   served from a 64 bit server.  They need to be since the chroot is what runs
   on the (almost invariably) 32 bit clients.
   - When I develop the server, I do so over the summer, giving me plenty of
   time to iron out all the issues and make it as good as I can get it.  I've
   learned the hard way though, set it up from the start in the network
   envirnoment in which it will be used.  Every time I set it up at home I
   spend a lot of time troubleshooting basic config file stuff once I move the
   server back to school.  There always seem to be config files I forget
   - I first install edubuntu via DVD on the summer, getting LTSP working to
   a basic level.
   - Then with clonezilla live I make a disk image of the server on an
   external HD.  This is my insurance!
   - I then set up localapps for firefox and cmaptools.  Then another clone
   of the server...
   - I then do the nat forwarding so that Firefox on the clients can get
   out, through the server, to the internet.
   - And back and forth, save, advance, save...
   - I make sure that video is working great on the clients as well as it
   can (adding various codecs) this is not trivial.
   - I add on the Greek, "shell-scripts" AKA 'sch-scripts'.  These help with
   controlling classroom computers from the teacher computer.  You'll need a
   bit o' help from alkisg for this stage.  For the first 2 years I tried to
   use iTALC for some of these functions but I just couldn't get it to work
   like I needed it to work.
   - When I first started with thin clients, I had a good (though old) 3com
   switch and a cheap switch.  The 3com worked with thin clients right off the
   bat.  I couldn't get the clients to boot with the cheap switch and finally a
   guy who knew lots about switches made a few configuration changes on it and
   it has worked for thin clients since that time.
   - I have my students use web tutorials I've made (How do you use a
   microscope?) as well as java applets for simulations and flash applets as
   well.  These didn't work well on my thin clients the first year.  The next
   year I upgraded (from hardy to jaunty) to using firefox and a java app
   (cmaptools) as localapps.  I've had excellent result with them.  My clients
   are Pentium 4's, 1.8-->2.8 GHz machines with 512 MB of RAM.  This summer
   I'll be upgrading to fat clients.
   - the ubuntu app, 'System Monitor' uses up too much cpu to run
   continually.  When keeping an eye on server functioning I usually use the
   colorful terminal app, "htop" (sudo apt-get install htop).
   - NX has proved great for me so that I can access the server, at
   near-local speeds even over the internet.  I've had some issues getting it
   working, but once it works it's all worth it.
   - I add a script by Andy Figueroa that, when run, kills all processes of
   users who are logged out.  Supposedly WatchDog does that but seems like it
   misses a lot.
   - By editing the firefox prefs somewhere I can save class time for
   homepages, network proxy settings and more.  These files change
   locations/names between firefox versions.
   - Use the irc room: #ltsp when you need immediate help--often will reply

Hope there has been at least 1 point that will help you here,
May you have many years of successful Edubuntuing


> If anyone else on the list would be willing to share their experiences as
> well, I'd be very grateful. Some things of particular interest are:
> Global Firefox caching to local /tmp instead of user's home directories
> SmartBoard setup
> Installed Moonlight, but can't get Microsoft Media Pack codecs to install
> (repo issue?)
> Getting CUPS to work with local apps (i.e. printing from local firefox, is
> it possible?)
> Unity or Gnome UI in 11.04?
> Suggestions for VESA mounted thin clients
> DRBL\Clonezilla server setup on dual NIC
> Software suggestions
> I know that's a lot, but I welcome and appreciate any advice!
> Thanks in advance,
> Jeff Donaldson
> David Groos wrote:
> Hi Edubuntistas,
> School year here in Minnesota is winding down, I'll take a bit of break,
> then will be back to preparing the technology for the next school year.
> I've had great success with 10.04 with localapps.  Next year I want to move
> to Fat Clients.  I'm guessing I'm not alone in this.  My BIG QUESTION is,
> which Edubuntu should I use: 10.04, 10.10 or 11.4?  I've seen some passing
> comments on irc about this and some mention in this list-serve, but nothing
> comprehensive.  Some specific considerations include:
> LTSP 5/Fat Client ease of use/setup
> Compatibility with SmartBoard
> Effectiveness of Video Codecs
> LDAP integration
> User management (like, users and groups)
> Permissions management (like, Sabayon)
> Internet Proxy/Site white/black-listing
> Client management (like sch-scripts or iTALC)
> Jonathan--wouldn't a comparison table like they do on wikipedia, be useful
> for something like this?  It would look nice on ;)  Actually,
> what I'll do is take notes from this discussion and put it on a public
> googledoc<>since, with its wysiwyg editing it's easy to make and share.
> David
> --
> Regards,
> Jeff Donaldson
> Data Services Manager
> Newark Charter School(302) 369-2001 ext:425jdonaldson at
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