local apps, apologies, and the importance of ltsp

Joseph Hartman jlhartman at gmail.com
Wed Jul 22 19:07:28 BST 2009

That's my blog post you referenced. I want to apologise for causing you
frustration, I should have been more diplomatic about my complaints and
avoided putting out such negativity in the community. I just read the
comments on the post for the first time today and someone wrote that it
isn't the job of the developers to teach me basic networking principles,
which I think is true, but at the same time I've been able to accomplish a
lot with Ubuntu without more than a rudimentary understanding of networking
principles because of community support and good documentation. Thus the
frustration with this particular feature. If I had known what to write to
"correct" the wiki I would have taken the 5 minutes to do so and I
admittedly should have posted something here about my troubles. So I want to
also thank you for trying to clear up the instructions and bringing my
attention to a possible alternative.

To put a bit of a human face on the importance of LTSP I'd like to relate my
situation, which I think is not unique, but maybe will make up a bit for my
prior negativity. I'm a fifth grade teacher at a charter school in San
Diego. Since I know more about computers than anyone else at the school I am
also the "tech guy" for both my school and the adjacent middle school.
Together we have about 50 teachers, administrators, and support staff. We
have about 750 students, about 150 classroom computers, about 35 staff
laptops, about 25 projector carts, about 15 laptops for student use,
wireless Internet, and a computer lab of about 50 machines. Everything
except the teacher laptops run Ubuntu; everything except the student laptops
run it via LTSP.

This year we laid off both our Spanish teacher and our Human Resources
person, terminated our music program mid year, shortened the school year and
eliminated 4 paid "professional development" days for teachers. Thus, Ubuntu
and LTSP are extremely important for us. Without it many computers simply
would not be available for use as most of them are 10-15 year old P2 or P3
machines too slow to run a contemporary OS and, more importantly, we can not
afford to upgrade or replace the machines.

Despite our limitations, we've made impressive progress technologically at
school. We've added hardware thanks to generous donations, and the classroom
computers and lab both work reliably (which they did not when running
Windows 2000). A couple of years ago we implemented Google Apps for
Education which allows the students and teachers to work collaboratively in
the cloud on presentations, documents and even websites. Our main problem
now is the slow performance of Firefox within LTSP. Unfortunately, this
characteristic alone undermines all the positive aspects Ubuntu and LTSP in
the minds of many students and teachers who openly complain that "Ubuntu is
slow". Thus my enthusiasm for implementing local apps, which I hope will
speed up Firefox on even our slow and outdated machines.

For administering and troubleshooting the Google Apps implementation and all
the equipment I detailed above I receive a stipend of $4,000. Dividing by
the $30/hour rate of pay for all non-teaching positions that teachers accept
yields a little less than 4 hours per week for me to work on technology
related issues. This may seem like an absurd amount of time to dedicate to
technological support for schools of our size, but it is no more absurd than
the fact that we have nobody to handle any HR related issues, that we use
daily computers with stickers on them that say "built for Windows 95", or
that someone as underqualified as myself is the sole source of IT support.

As I said above, I don't think my situation is unique. I mention it only to
relate the importance of Ubuntu (and specifically LTSP) to us as a school.
It is vital to us at this point, a game-changer, an empowering, enabling,
and indespensible tool. It's not something I take lightly. It's not
something I toy with for fun during the summer when I have the time. It is
something that hundreds in my school community depend on daily. It allows
learning and discovery and collaboration. It makes a daily impact on the
lives of children from 5 year old boys and girls who learn how to use a
mouse and read English because it exists to 14 year olds who use it to
interview local authors and prepare presentations on climate change.

This is a good thing, and we are all a part of making it happen. None of us
are in ideal situations, but the work that we are doing is important and has
a positive and tangible impact down the line. Likewise, when aspects of our
work are done poorly it has a negative impact down the line. If all Howtos
were written so that lowly 5th grade teachers couldn't follow them my school
and community would be for the worse. Similarly, if all lowly 5th grade
teachers just complained unhelpfully on their rarely updated blogs instead
of contributing back to the community in a positive way it would be for the

Sorry again, and thanks sincerely for the help. I'm going in to work
tomorrow and will try some of these new options out. Hopefully I'll have
good news to report back. Cheers -joe

Subject: ltsp local apps + nat + ....
> Hi,
> I received some emails overnight offering an alternative (simpler?) setup
> for getting internet access to your thin client's local apps.
>        http://www.suares.an/index.php?page_id=1&news_id=253#news-top
>        https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ThinClientHowtoNAT
> I'm not that convinced it's really simpler, but I guess it's no great harm
> having alternatives.
> Some more feedback on local apps is apparently here:
> http://hartmansblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/ltsp-local-apps-progress-or-lack.html
> It's a little frustrating to have people complain on their blog about how
> bad a wiki is, but yet not actually take the five minutes to correct it or
> even draw attention to the problem in the community.  However, I know
> the real developers have much greater frustrations.  I have attempted to
> clarify the issues.
> One issue seems to be that people don't realise that this will be necessary
> at all and find firefox can't get internet access.  I've added a note to
> the bottom of these pages to state that explicitly.
>        https://help.ubuntu.com/community/UbuntuLTSP/LTSPLocalAppsJaunty
>        https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LTSPLocalAppSetup
> I hope that's okay.
> Gavin
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