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Best way to configure a student lab?
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Thread: Best way to configure a student lab?

  1. #1
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    Best way to configure a student lab?

    Hey Gang,

    I've got about 16 boxes that I'm setting up for students to use. I used the expert install last time, and had the machines partitioned with /, swap, and /home.

    The students had general logins by class - 7th Grade, ESL, Sp Ed, etc. I didn't like it this way, but also didn't have the time to enter 100 users on each machine (though I know I would have saved some time using NIS and NFS).

    Anyway, perhaps due to the games that were on the machines, a few of the machines began to boot into run level 3, instead of 5, even though inittab was not changed (and indicated level 5).

    I'll have a file and print server (an apple Xserver) where students will have their own work saved (accessible from Mac, Win, and Linux). However, I'd like to bombproof these machines as much as possible, so even if they get turned off via the power button >, things won't be hosed.

    What's the best way to do this? Can I mount / as ro, so that nothing gets changed until I want to change it? In such a scenario, would I be able to edit /etc/fstab to allow me to write to it for the purposes of upgrades?

    If I were to do this, how should i partition the drive? /, swap, /var, /usr, and /home, and then have ro for everything but /var and /home? I assume that I have to have a /home when I set up the boxes, even though eventually, the users will have their /home directories on the apple Xserver.

    Is there a better way to bomb proof the boxes?

    The machines have celeron 700s in them, and 128 mb ram.

    Thanks in advance,

    M

  2. #2
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    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    i'd just use a journalling filesystem like ext3
    so if the kids press the power button, the next time u boot the system the filesystem will still be ok.

  3. #3
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    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    [quote author=Mip link=board=1;threadid=4481;start=0#44728 date=1028662265]
    Hey Gang,

    I've got about 16 boxes that I'm setting up for students to use. I used the expert install last time, and had the machines partitioned with /, swap, and /home.

    The students had general logins by class - 7th Grade, ESL, Sp Ed, etc. I didn't like it this way, but also didn't have the time to enter 100 users on each machine (though I know I would have saved some time using NIS and NFS).
    [/quote]

    NIS is easy. You dont require NFS to be in place, although that can allow /home and /usr/local to be protable.

    Anyway, perhaps due to the games that were on the machines, a few of the machines began to boot into run level 3, instead of 5, even though inittab was not changed (and indicated level 5).
    I have never seen this. That is a good question.... my guess is that X is borked. There could be a SMBFS issue, where samba is screwy.

    I'll have a file and print server (an apple Xserver) where students will have their own work saved (accessible from Mac, Win, and Linux). However, I'd like to bombproof these machines as much as possible, so even if they get turned off via the power button >, things won't be hosed.

    What's the best way to do this? Can I mount / as ro, so that nothing gets changed until I want to change it? In such a scenario, would I be able to edit /etc/fstab to allow me to write to it for the purposes of upgrades?
    The best way is to use ext3. Its the safest fs to use, and one of the nice and perty fs's that is journaled. Mounting /etc as ro, can be an advantage. But that still, wouldnt make a difference if there is a jornaling issue. Leave it as rw. Personally less effort. If you do choose to do so, you would need to use the RedHat or whoever's rescue option on the install media, and remount the partiton as rw, and change /etc/fstab to correct that.

    If I were to do this, how should i partition the drive? /, swap, /var, /usr, and /home, and then have ro for everything but /var and /home? I assume that I have to have a /home when I set up the boxes, even though eventually, the users will have their /home directories on the apple Xserver.

    Is there a better way to bomb proof the boxes?

    The machines have celeron 700s in them, and 128 mb ram.

    Thanks in advance,

    M
    NIS would simplify alot (obviously in conjunctio with NFS for best administrative perks). That way, all of the boxes are dummies. Only what you want available is there. Using that along with a SINGLE window manager, you can make it so that the menus only contain what you want. You can use SSH to admin the units remotely, and have only X available, no tty's (/etc/inittab can make that so). If you are really looking at an NIS solution, let me know. I can help you coordinate this.

    The coolest LAN setup I saw was at UW-Milwaukee. It had a bunch of DEC servers running some dummyterms Well a few of the DECs also ran some NT4/Win95 stations too. They downloaded the enitre OS image, and had links (over the lan) to each app. Linux can do this (NFS and NIS). It really makes fixing crap alot easier.

  4. #4

    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    Schotty!! did ya get to play with alpha1 and alpha2 at uwm? i went to school there and it was a nice set up.

  5. #5
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    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    Thanks for your replies.

    As the students are going to be set up on the Xserver (authentication and disk space), I won't be using NIS. I bet it would probably work better than the apple solution, but I wasn't able to convince the rest of the team - and didn't know enough about it to wager anything (like my job!).

    I also don't have a great network, nor an application server, so that option isn't really viable either. However, the linux in schools projects do use this set up, and it sounds sweet!

    I was thinking of using ReiserFS for it's journaling. I've also heard that it handles abuse (pulling the plug on the machine) well.

    As I understand the file system, I assumed that having / have ro only would also make /etc ro. One of the machines had an older version of Mandrake on there, so I went ahead and partitioned the drive as follows:

    /, /usr as ro
    /var, and /home as rw

    Aside from the extra steps needed to alter stuff (booting from the rescue CDs), does this seem reasonable?

    When I selected the packages to install, I left out games. I've found that the kids get too amped up and really beat on the mice and keyboards. I figure that they'll be more interested in other apps (like fractal generator, and graphics apps) if there aren't games. I kind of like the idea of allowing them to select their own window managers and configure the desktops themselves - provided they have their own, unique login id.

    Thanks,

    M

  6. #6
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    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    [quote author=pbharris link=board=1;threadid=4481;start=0#44784 date=1028686918]
    Schotty!! did ya get to play with alpha1 and alpha2 at uwm? i went to school there and it was a nice set up.
    [/quote]

    Well, I dont thinks so. I programmed on the miller DEC server (we had some Xterms that connected to it for its nice processing power), and the Engineering dept, HP's and DEC workstations. Took me a while to understand what the hell to do in the HP units, but after I got hooked on DEC UNIX, I got linux installed at home and learned enough to do work + play around with it a bit.

    All in all it wasnt all that bad, although I should have listened to others -- the Sciences have fucked up instructors. CS was really good. The Physics and math instructors were very excellent exceptions. The dopes in the Chemistry dept, didnt want students to pass. They had no american or english speaking aides. I had a few talks that eventually went to one of them saying, if you dont like it quit. So I did, and went to ITT. I was the resident Linux geek.

  7. #7
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    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    Well, from the info I got from you -- I would do this. You are obviously going to want to implement NIS. Have it do DNS, Gateway, and logins. The home dirs can be left to local machines for now. With this way, you can more effectively track and log whats going on, and not need to resort to generic logins. This NIS server can be weak, and it can be setup on any workstation easily. Install three packages, and configure each client with two packages (depending on distro -- RedHat does 3, Server, Tools, Client).

    Then make it so they cannot go into a CLI by editing the inittab. Making it readonly would be unnecessary now. Oh, and change XDM (or whatever DM you use) to not allow reboots or shutdowns ... period. Do any rebooting via ssh.

    Right now, you are looking at SOME work. But adminning just got cut down alot. If you could scrounge a decent app server, then expanding NIS is an option -- but as of now, I would forget that. Use it for just logins and such.

    Reiser is fine. I had some issues with it, and prefer ext3, but nonetheless its better than a few others at this point. Plus, these are just workstations anyhow. Not servers.

  8. #8
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    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    Can I implement NIS from the Xserver? I don't know much about NIS (and currently, even less about Xservers), but is there a way that I can make a server a slave that gets its master database from the Xserver (running OS 10.2). This would help a lot, as there are nearly 300 students in the school (though only about 100 who will be using the lab regularly), but the turnover is fairly big. Other staff will be doing the updating of the database. It would be nice not to have to maintain dublicate databases. The whole district is going with these Xservers.

    Other questions:

    We've got a cube in the building doing DNS. Any reason why NIS should be doing it instead? Same with the Gateway.

    I'm not clear about the /home directories being local. If we used NIS to authenticate, wouldn't I have to use NFS to allow each user access to his/her /home directory from other machines? Again, given that the students will be working in multiple labs depending on their class (iMac labs running OS 9, Win lab running 95 >, and the linux lab), they will need access to their work from any machine in the building. Optimally, the users' /home directories will be on the Xserver.

    You wrote:

    Then make it so they cannot go into a CLI by editing the inittab.

    Sorry, but what is CLI? How would I do this?

    Making it readonly would be unnecessary now. Oh, and change XDM (or whatever DM you use) to not allow reboots or shutdowns ... period.

    What's XDM? Sorry (again). I've seen that there's a place to disallow reboots and shutdowns, but can't recall it. I'll be having the kids use KDE for most part.

    Do any rebooting via ssh.

    Good idea.

    One last question. Do I want to use KDE 3 on these machines? The distro I'm using came with KDE2.2.2. If I were to use KDE 3.01, it looks as though I'd have to download and install several rpms. Am I right about this, or is there one big rpm that installs the whole wm.

    The machines are celeron 700s with 128 mb ram, so maybe KDE 3 will slow them down too much.

    Also, regarding a "decent" app server, what would you recommend? I could probably snag a PIII 933 w/128 mb workstation, and get the jefe to pony up for more ram. Would that do it? I figure if it were headless, I could keep from running X on it, and save some processing power.

    Thanks for your help!

    M

  9. #9
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    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    First -- any linux box can be an NIS server. Just pick one that has a high uptime (or a few, backups never hurt). Install the stuff, configure it, and done. If you use backups, they will be added to each PC's NIS server list at install, and it will go out and look for the master, then the slaves. If you have slaves, they grab the data every so often to keep fresh. Plus you can force an update too from the server.

    The NIS server can propogate any file pretty much you want. At the time, I would stick with whatever IP scheme you have ATM, and let NIS do just the logins.

    Second -- the cli. If you use Apples, forget about it. OS-X IIRC doesnt have the virual TTY terms like x86 linuxes have (I could be worng). If you have done linux on the x86, its the ctl+alt+f-Key. These are setup in the /etc/inittab as the tty doodads.

    Third -- DM, desktop manager. Its the fancy gui based login manager for the useers to login to. Again Apples prolly already have this as default. You can prolly change the reboot/shutdown stuff too, but I dont know the exact spot. I am an x86 geek as of right now ;D

    Fourth -- Celerons -- nice. Then take back all of the Apple shit I said. The CLI tty screen is what you get when you do the ctl/alt/f-key combo. Try it. It is a text login, and allows you to fly around unix in text. Kids and computer morons dont need this, so I was reccomending that all disabled. Again, find the /etc/inittab and look at my example. The last section IIRC, (I am going from memory now, I will highlight it when I copy it in), is where to look. There will be a getty or something command. Comment or vape the lines and just change the X server to load onto tty 1. SAfety never hurts. Try this on one box first. Dont make the same mistake 50 times (like your truly did ....) and feel dumb (like I did)


    Code:
    #
    # inittab       This file describes how the INIT process should set up
    #               the system in a certain run-level.
    #
    # Author:       Miquel van Smoorenburg, <miquels@drinkel.nl.mugnet.org>
    #               Modified for RHS Linux by Marc Ewing and Donnie Barnes
    #
    
    # Default runlevel. The runlevels used by RHS are:
    #   0 - halt (Do NOT set initdefault to this)
    #   1 - Single user mode
    #   2 - Multiuser, without NFS (The same as 3, if you do not have networking)
    #   3 - Full multiuser mode
    #   4 - unused
    #   5 - X11
    #   6 - reboot (Do NOT set initdefault to this)
    # 
    id:5:initdefault:
    
    # System initialization.
    si::sysinit:/etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit
    
    l0:0:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 0
    l1:1:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 1
    l2:2:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 2
    l3:3:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 3
    l4:4:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 4
    l5:5:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 5
    l6:6:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 6
    
    # Things to run in every runlevel.
    ud::once:/sbin/update
    
    # Trap CTRL-ALT-DELETE
    ca::ctrlaltdel:/sbin/shutdown -t3 -r now
    
    # When our UPS tells us power has failed, assume we have a few minutes
    # of power left.  Schedule a shutdown for 2 minutes from now.
    # This does, of course, assume you have powerd installed and your
    # UPS connected and working correctly.  
    pf::powerfail:/sbin/shutdown -f -h +2 "Power Failure; System Shutting Down"
    
    # If power was restored before the shutdown kicked in, cancel it.
    pr:12345:powerokwait:/sbin/shutdown -c "Power Restored; Shutdown Cancelled"
    This here is what you want -->
    Code:
    # Run gettys in standard runlevels
    1:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty1
    2:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty2
    3:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty3
    4:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty4
    5:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty5
    6:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty6
    
    # Run xdm in runlevel 5
    # xdm is now a separate service
    x:5:respawn:/etc/X11/prefdm -nodaemon

  10. #10
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    Re:Best way to configure a student lab?

    Awesome stuff - thanks. Probably what I'll try to do is have NIS get its list from Xserver - which should be running BSD - though I know next to nothing about BSD. Hopefully this will work. At the very least, I should be able to get the same list that the secretaries are preparing and feed that into the NIS master. Given that the students will be able to get their /home directories even when using Windows, there should be an easy way for them to get them on Linux.

    I knew about CLIs, but didn't know that that's what they were called. I guess it wouldn't hurt to disable those for student logins.

    What do you think for a partition scheme? I did /, /usr as ro, and /var and /home as rw - hence 4 partitions. Given my needs, what partition scheme would you suggest? Sizes? The disks are 20 gb.

    Thanks again for the help!

    M

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