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Thread: Administrating a computer room for students

  1. #1
    Very good friend of the forum Virchanza's Avatar
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    Default Administrating a computer room for students

    I need advice!

    I might end up administrating a network of PC's in a college not too long from now. There'll be a computer room used by students, and they'll be doing such things as:
    * Surfing the web
    * Typing up documents
    * Printing off documents

    If the students are on a break for the Summer or whatever, I might give the network a complete overall. Here's what I have in mind...

    I forsee that each student will have their own login along with their own storage on a network drive. For instance, when a PC boots up, there will be a login screen asking for their username and password; the student enters their username and password and then the desktop environment loads. They'll have their own files on the desktop which will have been retrieved from the network drive, and they will have their own "Home" or "My Documents" folder which will have been loaded from the network drive.

    Of course, my first choice is to use Linux on all the machines. At the moment I'm way more comfortable using Windows XP because I've been using Windows for about 15 years, but ever since Windows Vista came out I've decided I need to jump ship sooner rather than later. And plus I prefer Unix-like systems.

    There will be a server PC that acts as a gateway to the internet, and I think I'll have Squid running on it, both for doing filtering and also for caching web pages. And of course there'll be another server that holds the file shares for all of the students' documents.

    Sitting at my server computer, I'd like to be able to install a new piece of software on all of the computers without having to walk around the room with a CD in my hand. I'd pretty much like to be able to set up one computer once, and then have the changes reflected on every computer in the room.

    So anyway, I'd like advice on what operating systems and what software to use. On the PC's that the students use, I'm thinking of using Ubuntu. What would be good to use on the server?

    Any advice on this is greatly appreciated
    Ask questions on the open forums, that way everybody benefits from the solution, and everybody can be corrected when they make mistakes. Don't send me private messages asking questions that should be asked on the open forums, I won't respond. I decline all "Friend Requests".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Virchanza View Post
    So anyway, I'd like advice on what operating systems and what software to use. On the PC's that the students use, I'm thinking of using Ubuntu.
    If the students are comfortable using Ubuntu (or any other linux distro, for that matter) then I say go for it. But if those students are not computer savvy, then I suggest you install Windows XP.

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    Very good friend of the forum Virchanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emily View Post
    If the students are comfortable using Ubuntu (or any other linux distro, for that matter) then I say go for it. But if those students are not computer savvy, then I suggest you install Windows XP.
    The students won't really be working with the operating system proper at all. For instance, for surfing the web, they'll be using Firefox. For writing documents, they'll be using OpenOffice. For copying files from their USB stick, they'll be using a fancy file manager program (Konqueror or Dolphin or whatever). On any desktop computer, these things are pretty much the same. I mean I don't have much experience with Apples Mac's but if I opened up the file manager I bet I'd figure out how to copy a file from one disk to another

    I could just as easily put Solaris on the computers and they shouldn't have any trouble
    Ask questions on the open forums, that way everybody benefits from the solution, and everybody can be corrected when they make mistakes. Don't send me private messages asking questions that should be asked on the open forums, I won't respond. I decline all "Friend Requests".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Virchanza View Post
    The students won't really be working with the operating system proper at all. For instance, for surfing the web, they'll be using Firefox. For writing documents, they'll be using OpenOffice.
    But if everything looks different, someone will have a problem sooner or later.

    There is also this issue with OpenOffice saving the documents in its own format by default, making it impossible to open in Microsoft Word later on. That's something the students might not think about :)

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    My life is this forum Barry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emily View Post
    But if everything looks different, someone will have a problem sooner or later.

    There is also this issue with OpenOffice saving the documents in its own format by default, making it impossible to open in Microsoft Word later on. That's something the students might not think about
    That's why they're called students, they're there to learn. My last job we had kids using Windows, Mac OS 9, and 10, and Linux machines. Most of the kids figured it out faster than the teachers.


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    Look up the LTSP project.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    That's why they're called students, they're there to learn.
    Sure, but you would be surprised how many students whine and ask for help instead of figuring it out on their own.

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    My life is this forum Barry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emily View Post
    Sure, but you would be surprised how many students whine and ask for help instead of figuring it out on their own.
    Oh, I know. I used to work for a k-12 school district. The teachers usually whine more than the kids though.
    Of course, if you really wanted to have some fun, go to Wal-Mart late at night and ask the greeter if they could help you find trashbags, roll of carpet, rope, quicklime, clorox and a shovel. See if they give you any strange looks. --Streaker69

  8. #8
    Very good friend of the forum Virchanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emily View Post
    But if everything looks different, someone will have a problem sooner or later.
    I can just get a theme to make it look like Windows (or Mac for that matter).
    Ask questions on the open forums, that way everybody benefits from the solution, and everybody can be corrected when they make mistakes. Don't send me private messages asking questions that should be asked on the open forums, I won't respond. I decline all "Friend Requests".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Virchanza View Post
    I need advice!

    I might end up administrating a network of PC's in a college not too long from now. There'll be a computer room used by students, and they'll be doing such things as:
    * Surfing the web
    * Typing up documents
    * Printing off documents

    If the students are on a break for the Summer or whatever, I might give the network a complete overall. Here's what I have in mind...

    I forsee that each student will have their own login along with their own storage on a network drive. For instance, when a PC boots up, there will be a login screen asking for their username and password; the student enters their username and password and then the desktop environment loads. They'll have their own files on the desktop which will have been retrieved from the network drive, and they will have their own "Home" or "My Documents" folder which will have been loaded from the network drive.

    Of course, my first choice is to use Linux on all the machines. At the moment I'm way more comfortable using Windows XP because I've been using Windows for about 15 years, but ever since Windows Vista came out I've decided I need to jump ship sooner rather than later. And plus I prefer Unix-like systems.

    There will be a server PC that acts as a gateway to the internet, and I think I'll have Squid running on it, both for doing filtering and also for caching web pages. And of course there'll be another server that holds the file shares for all of the students' documents.

    Sitting at my server computer, I'd like to be able to install a new piece of software on all of the computers without having to walk around the room with a CD in my hand. I'd pretty much like to be able to set up one computer once, and then have the changes reflected on every computer in the room.

    So anyway, I'd like advice on what operating systems and what software to use. On the PC's that the students use, I'm thinking of using Ubuntu. What would be good to use on the server?

    Any advice on this is greatly appreciated
    I had a job like that for 6 years. I was the sysadmin for the department that taught IT to students (not the campus IT support group). I used XP as the client and 2003 server for most servers. I had RHEL for the Oracle and Java servers. I used a Sonicwall Pro firewall as our firewall and NAT device.

    I used Windows as it has Group Policy. I could almost setup everything in the GP and never visit a client. Linux still doesn't have anything like GP and that is IMO what is holding Linux back. Also we had several applications that only ran under windows. I did look into using LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) but it didn't support local devices (i.e. plugging in a usb thumb drive to save your work). I understand that LTSP now has that support.

    The login for each student is a great idea, but are you going to duplicate what the university IT support group is doing? That was my problem. Our campus IT group gave each student a login to the campus network. When I built out system which was independent of the campus systems the students lost access to their campus H: drives. This was the result of the constant campus Novell vs department Windows forest issues. The upper mgmt campus IT guys and I didn't get along as they thought I was a trying to make them look bad, or worse take some of their budget (which I did try to do, long story). Try to avoid having a bad relationship with the rest of the campus IT people.

    You biggest hurdles to deploying Linux at the desktop will be the applications and faculty. Can you guarantee that you will never need to deploy a windows based app? The faculty I had to support knew their specific areas of IT and little else. Which is not a problem as what they knew was very deep stuff. They just didn't want to invest time in learning something new. Also you are bound to get alot of questions about training the students on the new OS. Yes you will have to train them as you can't let them figure it out on there own. If the faculty gives an assignment and the student can't figure out the system to access the application you will have an angry student when they get a 0 for the assignment.

    Is the university public or private?
    What department is this for?
    Will the labs be open to the university or only to the department students and faculty?
    Are you going to have to tie into the university sytems?

    The faculty requested that I filter the internet traffic to stop most porn, gambling, etc sites. I later found out that I could only filter internet traffic if the labs were only open to the departments students and NOT the general university. The university I worked was a public university which means they can't filter the internet for the publicly used equipment. If you were a student taking a human sexuality course and you needed to goto playboy.com to do an assignment but the university filtered it, the university would get into BIG trouble. Academic freedom etc. Since we taught IT and our labs were NOT open to the general university we could filter whatever we wanted.

    Good Luck,
    I like the bleeding edge, but I don't like blood loss

  10. #10
    My life is this forum Barry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bofh28 View Post
    The faculty requested that I filter the internet traffic to stop most porn, gambling, etc sites. I later found out that I could only filter internet traffic if the labs were only open to the departments students and NOT the general university. The university I worked was a public university which means they can't filter the internet for the publicly used equipment. If you were a student taking a human sexuality course and you needed to goto playboy.com to do an assignment but the university filtered it, the university would get into BIG trouble. Academic freedom etc. Since we taught IT and our labs were NOT open to the general university we could filter whatever we wanted.

    Good Luck,
    I'll throw in my part for the K-12 aspect. If it was a computer on our network, it was filtered. We could get into trouble if they weren't. Of course, kids being kids, would find ways around the filters. The cool part though, was our filtering hardware was commercial with software subscriptions, so when we added to the filter it propagated to all the other customers, and their filters came to us. I had to use my override to get to this site, as it's blocked for "hacking".
    Of course, if you really wanted to have some fun, go to Wal-Mart late at night and ask the greeter if they could help you find trashbags, roll of carpet, rope, quicklime, clorox and a shovel. See if they give you any strange looks. --Streaker69

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