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Old 04-05-2005, 02:23 PM   #1
Epidemical
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setting up a Linux Network for a School


This is a school that used to have computer labs with half Windows, half Red Hat workstations, but ditched Linux due to the guy in charge of the sysadmining being pretty darn incompetent. Now I have been put in charge of setting up an alternate computer lab with some older hardware (30-ish Windows 2000 boxes) and I'd like to show them that a Linux network solution can be done, and done well. However, it is my first time setting up a network of this size, so I figured I'd hear your thoughts. Here's what I had in mind:

The lab will be on a private subnet, with the other labs being complete Microsoft solutions. Being able to log students in using the existing AD server would be great, as well as using the networked printers. Students have a home directory of 100 MB which should be mounted as well.

Ease of system adminstration is of essence, not the point-and-click type mind you, but being able to push out updates easily to all the clients. If this would have been from scratch, I'd have opted for thin clients, but since that's not an option I wonder what the best way of installing and updating a large set of client machines is? The quick-and-dirty way is a couple of scripts and a NFS server I guess, but if someone has solved this more elegantly I'd like to look into it.

I'm still open for distribution suggestions, but I'm thinking about Debian because of apt-get - bleeding edge is not a requirement, but customizing the desktop interface is. First impressions are everything, right, and if the students and teachers try the new machines out and think it's too slow (compared to the P4 512 MB running Windows) they probably won't be very impressed. So I was thinking of a lightweight environment, perhaps XFCE?

Suggestions regarding anything else related to this are also very much appreciated
 
Old 04-05-2005, 03:06 PM   #2
STuPiDiCuS
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Disclaimer: This is not a distro war. I'm not bashing any other distros, I'm not working for novell, I'm just offering my opinion in an otherwise empty thread. But I don't think this was a "Which Distro is more l33t" thread.

Having washed my hands of whatever flamewar ensues, I now say:

The thing I am confident in recommending for this kind of situation, have good experiances with, and can answer your questions about would be SuSE.

9.3 is coming out for public download soon and has Mono built in (I hear, don't quote me on that) and that's the .NET equivalent as far as I know. For PXE stuff (if desired), use the Zenworks suite from novell. All that would take care of the hardest parts I believe. Let me know what you think.

My dad has the same kind of situation at a private school and all they have are P1 133mhz machines, so be grateful for what you've got.
9.1 ran on those boxes just fine for normal stuff like web browsing and IMing. the 2.6 kernel in 9.2+ ought to speed it up even more.

Need anything, just let me know...
 
Old 04-05-2005, 03:16 PM   #3
Artanicus
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just a note on the WM of choise basing on my experiences with slow comps and windowified users..

I used to run xfce on the "windows converts"'s machines, but with the newer releases its getting too heavy.. Now, if the machines youve got at your disposal were able to run win2k smooth, it should be no problem.. But playing it safe never hurts.. When xfce went too bloat, I moved over to fluxbox. A simple and clear interface with a clear rightclick application menu.. When combined with lightweigt alternative apps like Rox (GUI file managing), aterm (lightweight term app) and the mozilla foundation apps like thunderbird and firefox..

Just a note, if you go fluxbox, take up the "devel" version.. Its stable, and has alot more features than the age old stable version..

If youre not accustomed to fluxbox but wana try it out, I can send you some sample configs that have been trialed best in use..

Good luck with your project.. (:
 
Old 04-05-2005, 03:20 PM   #4
STuPiDiCuS
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Now that I think about it, you wouldn't even need to wait for 9.3 (to use mono) for much if you're just talking about OS updates and the like... you can use YOU, the YaST Online Update utility taht comes with SuSE and you can add an update folder on a local server with all the updates you want, if there are any specific ones, or if you're just talking about generally keeping up to date on patches and fixes then you can do that or have them all connect to an update mirror. either way, your updates are not a problem at all. Did I mention it can automatically do all the updating by itself?

aside from that, I think that the AutoYast would be a nice feature for you if you've got a lot of boxes that are clones, you can set up a standard setup list... look into it, I'm sure novell can describe it better than I just didn't.
I'll add more stuff it does as I think of it, but that's the gist of what novell has built into SuSE and novell linux desktop, the whole seamless and easy to manage stuff.... gee, kind of like they're used to engineering huge networks or something....
 
Old 04-05-2005, 03:23 PM   #5
TigerOC
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The boxes are probably identical spec. Have a look at SystemImager as it sounds like it would suit you down to the ground. Setup one box and then put the image on multiple boxes that can be synced with the golden client. This means one update to the golden box and all the rest will be replicated. There are easy to use Debian packages for this because I was looking into this a couple of days ago. IMHO Debian is a good choice too. The Debian howto is here .

Last edited by TigerOC; 04-05-2005 at 03:27 PM.
 
Old 04-05-2005, 04:28 PM   #6
Epidemical
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Artanicus:
I do know about fluxbox, it is actually my primary WM, but I do not think flux + rox is the way to go, mainly because I believe the look&feel is too different from Windows to not scare away users.

Stupidicus:
I will look into SuSE, as you said, Novell if anyone should know how to do large networks I'll have to do some testing of the responsiveness though, because I think that will be a major point in getting users to accept it.

TigerOC:
SystemImager sounds really great, just what I've been looking for!

All:
Thanks for the responses so far, I'd still like to get someone's opinion on interfacing with Active Directory servers and mounting home directories - I figure I can't be the first to do it. I believe Samba can do it all, but what's the best way to implement it?
 
Old 04-05-2005, 05:48 PM   #7
Artanicus
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Quote:
Originally posted by Epidemical
Artanicus:
I do know about fluxbox, it is actually my primary WM, but I do not think flux + rox is the way to go, mainly because I believe the look&feel is too different from Windows to not scare away users.
True, but also ive felt that its also a bonus.. When the user clearly sees that this is a different system, there will be significantly less stupid questions like "wheres IE" or "How do I start word" or the worst: "How can I run this .exe" .. Most can get over the initial shock if they actually do realise asap that *nix is a whole different userland..

Ive worked only with windows based Novell networks, but what ive seen with them, id say thyre your best bet.. Great interfacing with MS networks.. Samba.. Well.. Good in theory, but a pain to set up.. (;
 
Old 04-06-2005, 03:44 AM   #8
pingu
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Interresting!
I'm in about the same situation, only we never had any Linux clients. I'm testing a bit, will try to convince staff to try Linux in at least one class-room to start with.
Maybe we could keep contact, it's always good to talk with others in same situation. If you feel like it, email me!

For desktop, how about IceWM? It's pretty light, easily understood & configured.

SuSe on old computers?? I'm puzzled - I tried SuSe earlier, it has always been the heaviest of the distro's I've tried, with YAST being a nightmare to run even on last years brand new computer! Has Novell changed that, or need it be severly tweaked?
So far I have mainly tried Fedora and LormaLinux (basically Fedora too), it has good GUI-tools and I think that's necessary if you want to convince Win-admins. SuSe/Novell Desktop surely has that too.

As for the mounting:
I'm running Linux and mounting my home-share ("G:\") automatically with this line in rc.local:
Code:
mount -t cifs -o credentials=/etc/me //a-server2/peterh$ /home/peterh/G
That file /etc/me holds username and password, like this:
Code:
[root@killbill icewm]# cat /etc/me
username=peterh
password=xxxx
 
Old 04-06-2005, 10:48 AM   #9
STuPiDiCuS
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Quote:
SuSe on old computers?? I'm puzzled - I tried SuSe earlier, it has always been the heaviest of the distro's I've tried, with YAST being a nightmare to run even on last years brand new computer! Has Novell changed that, or need it be severly tweaked?
Hmmm. What version did you use? Amid some complaints that SuSE has been bloated by Novell I haven't seen it run slowly yet. Maybe that's cause it was a Gentoo user who said that. I don't know, maybe Gentoo is fast or something. anyway...

Nightmare=???

last year's brand new computer=???

Novell changed that = what?? not being a nightmare? I'd say yes

I'm just curious since I've had nothing but good experiences with SuSE, especially since I'm converting lots of windows users to it, and half of them have set it to the default boot option and use it for everything but gaming.
But as far as I know (and yes, I've only used it since 9.1, so no i don't know what it was like before that,) it's more responsive due to the 2.6 kernel. Like I said though, the old 133mhz Dell w/ 128 mb of SIMMs ran it just fine even on the 2.4 kernel.

Maybe setting up the boottime options would cut down on boot time if that's a concern. My friend's Compaq 1.7 Cel M w/ 256 ram boots it faster than any other computer I've seen it installed on.
I just know that I'm happy with how it runs, and that noobs can use it without too much handholding.
As always, YMMV.

Last edited by STuPiDiCuS; 04-06-2005 at 10:53 AM.
 
Old 04-12-2005, 03:35 PM   #10
Soul Monarch
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Epic -

It's a long shot, but someone just sent me this link:
http://www.safedesksolutions.com/102...uickstart.html

Don't know if it works for you, but it seemed to fit your reqirements.

- Monarch
 
Old 04-12-2005, 04:31 PM   #11
Epidemical
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Monarch:

Looks very interesting, however for this project it is not an option since one of the major points was to reuse older hardware, but without making them thin clients, partly because the school lacks a sufficient server.
 
Old 04-13-2005, 07:42 AM   #12
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perhaps Ubuntu? I have no real experiance(I've been doing an independent study with the Sysadmin at my school) but from the live CD, it looks like a good desktop. It's debian based so you should be able to make it as small or big as needed. It's default desktop is Gnome, but if those machines were running Win2k, then they should have no problem handling Gnome
 
Old 04-18-2005, 06:47 AM   #13
JordanH
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I'd stick with a RedHat or SuSE/Novell desktop because they are designed for professional organizations. They are built for situations like yours... organizations that need to have a controlled/standardized environment that works. Selling a distro to a company requires that the desktop needs to work, not bleeding edge, but it works and this is your ultimate goal. Not only does the desk top "work" from an end-user perspective, but you get support too which is very important for when something DOESN"T work; you can avoid "Windows would be working" comments by saying, "I have a ticket open with so-and-so, it'll be back up in no time." It's a small thing but a necessary thing if your lab is done.

errr... what I'm trying to say in a round-about kind of way is use a desktop that is aimed at a corporation and you will have a corporate level lab. Using developer or home targeted distros (like FC3) will leave you with a bunch of home grown machines... which would YOU want as a student?
 
Old 04-18-2005, 07:04 AM   #14
Epidemical
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JordanH:
I see your point, and I think that it's important to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). The only real concern I've had with using SuSE and RedHat is how the WMs behave on the kind of hardware I have. I'll try to test this, but from what I've heard both SuSE and RedHat/Fedora are real memory hogs - just rumours though. My experience with SuSE is limited to a machine with half a gig of memory and I last used RedHat at version 7 or 8, I think - I'll test SuSE and maybe RedHat on a test machine.
 
Old 04-18-2005, 09:16 AM   #15
JordanH
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Hi Epidemical,

I currently have SuSE 9.1 Professional on an AMD 1.4GHz w/ 256MB of RAM. Although it is more of a hog (default install) than my default RedHat installs, it's not that bad. Usually running in less than 180MB of RAM under a medium load. I have yet to hit swap space and that's running X, browsers, Office, aMSN, smb, Apache, firewall/router for LAN, ftpd, sshd... etc. etc. etc. A power user may take it over 256MB. It is true that on the same hardware, SuSE feels slower than others I have tried, but not slower than Windows 2000/XP which has also been on that machine - both of which required 512MB to run happily with less of a load.

I am currently running RHEL3.0 on a pentium 450 w/ 128MB of RAM. With X, apache, router/firewall, Open Office, smb and sshd (a light load by my standards) the machine runs in <90MB of RAM. I see no reason why this doesn't make a viable desktop for a lab environment. It may not be blazing fast, but hey, it's a 450MHz machine - lets see you do them do that with Windows! (FWIW, I run this machine in init 3 most days serving http, ssh, samba and firewall/router and that is less than 23MB of RAM... perhaps you can have a file server after all.)

Sorry, I digress. My point is that if these machines can handle Win2000, they can handle SuSE or RedHat. My suggestion is more for the Desktop/Workstation varieties that you get with support. Specifically Novell Linux Desktop (I haven't tried it) or RedHat Workstation (or Desktop). I know, less fun than something new and cool like Ubuntu, FC4 or Gentoo... but hey, you are a professional and hence must take the less risky, more stable, always available option with support. Remember, your clientelle are students and teachers... the most risk adverse audience to be found!
 
  


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