A School (almost) without Windows - Follow-up
Friday, January 12 2007 @ 01:55 pm CST
Contributed by: pogson
The Linux project at the new Chemawawin School in Easterville is now in regular use. It was operational with 700 user accounts on September 11,2006. There were a few problems with delays in August. The truck arrived with the bulk of the equipment on August 24. There had been delays filling purchase orders, customs clearances and the school building was not officially available until August 18. Because of the rush to implement, many features were unavailable on the first day.
Today, most features are woking very well. We typically have about 50 simultaneous users active in the peak hours running on 3 terminal servers. A period of instability in the first weeks was found to be due to:
This was stressful because there was no time for a proper debugging over the summer on a prototype. We did brain surgery on a production system. There have been no server problems for 40 days now.
- using "sync" on /home mounts which causes pauses while the file server cached before writing. A switch to "async" is working very well.
- the forcedeth driver was giving dropouts with "too many iterations" error messages in the logs. Parameter changes let us run over 100 megabytes/s in tests with no problems now.
- two memory modules failed on the file server.
We could not configure the multiseat machines as thin clients, but we did install Groovix on hard drives and used that. We seem to have random freezes due to unknown causes. There seem to be random failures of connectivity of mice through the USB hubs.
All of the difficulties with the system have been hardware and organizational. The software behaved very well. User acceptance was excellent. A brief orientation was given to staff and students needed only a password to get going. Because of the shortness of time we used an automatic password generator to create user IDs and passwords and recorded the actual user's name on a form when the userid was issued. This allowed us to create all the accounts in a few minutes.
My only regrets besides the inability to test before installation were:
Otherwise this has been a challenging and worthwhile experience. We have over 100 seats usable at this time even with the multiseat difficulties and we could have afforded only about 50 if we had used that other OS. Anyone who has been annoyed by the sluggishness of an XP machine running 50 processes will be aghast to know that our terminal servers hum with as many as 35 simultaneous users on one server with 1400 processes running. Our terminal servers cost only $1200 for hardware. We balance the load by assigning a terminal server in the LTSP configuration. The file server runs
- L4U was ordered for the library instead of Emilda or Koha. A consultant recommended L4U and the librarian refused to try an open source solution.
- the school has had great difficulty processing purchase order requisitions due to funding shortfalls so things like paper and printer ink are always uncertain in supply
and is quite lazy. We shall never look at that other OS as the good old days.
- Apache with several dynamic pages,
- NFS /home directories,