Design

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Fat or Thin

Two approaches were investigated:

  • Thin clients with LTSP
  • Full-fat clients

The School is going to be using the VLE very heavily. The VLE for the LEA is very flash-heavy therefore it was decided that running LTSP with remote flash over a wireless network was probably not so good due to flash not being very well behaved on a shred LTSP login server and the fact that flash is graphics heavy and would provide a possible latency bottleneck with up to 60 users on a single wireless access point.

Form factor

  • Netbooks
  • Laptops
  • Desktops

The form-factor chosen was netbooks due to (a) their weight, (b) low cost, (c) size. The school has no space that can be dedicated to desktop PCs. The VLE was evaluted using the 1024x600 resolution screen and it was deemed acceptable especially in full-screen mode.

Local Disk Storage Medium

  • Hard disks (HDD)
  • Solid-state disks (SSD)

The option of SSDs was taken as these resulted in a more robust system compared to the fragile nature of laptop HDDs. One of the down sides of SSDs is that you get less storage space for your money. However, in this case the build used still left 2GB of clear space after all of the applications were installed. Since the machines are essentially stateless and use server space for user file storage, this didn't really cause concern.


Network Storage Protocol

  • NFS
  • CIFS (Windows file shares / Samba)
  • SSHFS (fuse)

CIFS was chosen since it is pretty ubiquitous, has more flexible authentication and authorisation than NFS. It also has the added advantage of seamlessly interoperating with the residual OSX and legacy Windows systems. SSHFS, although a nice idea does not really interoperate well as a network file system protocol. Linux Gnome has good support of CIFS under gvfs.


Running Windows Software

  • Virtualization
  • Use old Windows Laptops
  • Wine

There are one or two windows based apps that the School owns. They didn't work flawlessly under wine. Virtualization might be a better future option; e.g. use the old WinXP Pro licenses in server-based Xen/KVM virtual machines and then allow a limited number of users to connect to them using rdesktop (RDP/Remote Desktop). The interrim solution is to re-deploy some of the old laptops and have them running WinXP standalone and with attached power supplies since their batteries are not working any more (battery replacement is not economically viable for these 5yr old laptops).

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