Thursday, February 21, 2008

Edubuntu Classroom Project

A few weeks ago, I decided to take on a project. A person on FreeCycle.org Orlando group asked for computers for a new school. Interventions Unlimited works with children with learning or behavioral difficulties. Right now, most of their kids are autistic. I asked about the possibility of helping set up an Edubuntu LTSP (Linux Terminal Service Project) system for them. After listening to The Linux Link Tech Show podcast episode 217, I wanted to do an LTSP. This would be the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to set up that system. I'm taking Network+ right now, and asked Professor Brunick if my group could use this for their project. He agreed, adding it to a larger overall project for the class. I set up a single Edubuntu workstation for the school to try out, and see if they liked it. They liked it, and accepted the offer. Hey, who's not going to accept free.

I had most of the equipment we needed in Free Geek Central Florida storage, except an appropriate computer to be the LTSP server. As the Law of Reciprocity works, one came in that weekend.

A Linux Terminal Service setup requires only one computer to be the 'big boy'. The other computers can be older. For a general terminal type setup, only a 200 MHz with 32 mb ram is needed. For a good Edubuntu implementation, 400 MHz, 128 mb ram, and 2 mb video is recommended. The teachers server is the only one that needs to be a powerful computer. It doesn't need to be as powerful as todays computers, but it would help. The teachers computer dishes out everything to the 'thin client' computers. The client computers don't have a hard drive; they boot from the Edubuntu server. All the client needs is a processor, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and a network card enable to boot the computer. Everything is run from the server/teachers computer, but shows up on the client computers. This type of setup enables many business and organizations to convert to Ubuntu/Edubuntu with very little setup costs. Most business could convert and use their current equipment for many more years. Sorry Windows. Okay, I'm not really sorry.

There a several ways to setup this system. The picture below is the one we choose for this set up:

Because this is a school, with kids, the system has to be able to filter internet content. Dansguardian is the primary content filter Linux uses. The Internet has to come through the server so it can filter bad things. You know. Things like stories about The Skull and Bones at Yale.

So, I brought the stuff to school:
Above, we're installing the Edubuntu system. The server is a Compaq 2 GHz Sempron, 512 mb ram, 164 GB hard drive. It would help to eventually boost the memory to 2 GB.

Here, we're booting one of the students laptop from the Edubuntu server. The laptop has only Windows on it. Being a Compaq, you can press F12 to boot from the network.

Once you have the system set up, any student can log in to their own log in name, and have their information at any of the terminals. Everything stays on the server hard drive. In the future, I want to figure out how the kids can log in to their system from home.

There are a few things that would make this system better:
I've added a wireless PCI card to the server. It might be easier to access the internet wirelessly, or is might be possible to get some of the terminals to boot from a wireless card. That would be a really big benefit to some schools and business.

If you'd like detailed information on the Edubuntu LTSP thing, checkout the online book:
https://wiki.edubuntu.org/HowToCookEdubuntu/Chapters

So, if any of my readers have had experience building and installing an Edubuntu LTSP system, please email me ( bodycoach2@hotmail.com ), or leave a comment.

2 comments:

Fio said...

Hi, thanks for the interesting post. Currently I'm working on a similar project in the Dominicasn Republic. I'm here for a volonteer service, actually I come from Germany.
I want to set up a classroom with disabled children using edubuntu+ltsp. Hope I'll have enough hardware/network power. How does the project went on? How does it work in the day-to-day work?
Any hints or tips??

Thanks,
Fionn Ziegler
fionnziegler a t gmail dot com

johnny said...

My name is Johnny (Physics and Chemistry teacher). I have been playing with Ubuntu and Edubuntu using the LTSP....here at home during the summer. It took a couple of days of about 20hrs...but got the bugs worked out. I did find it way cool to use this and the idea is great, and would love to set this up in a developing PC science lab...My only concern is how to update the thin-client image after major updates or installs have occured...and trying to figure out how to setup like 30 pcs on one SERVER PC and what specs I need for the teacher computer with that many PC's or should I just use 2 to 5 servers instead lol