Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Looking Forward to Hardy, More Video Card Confusion

It was a while back that I first noticed something seemed amiss with these old IBM P3 desktops that we seem to have so many of. I was almost sure that I had used them successfully in the past with Feisty but here they were crapping out on me after showing the Edubuntu splash screen with Gutsy. I wasn't that worried as it looked like I was going to have more than enough thin clients anyways, but still...

A couple of days ago I confirmed my feelings when I was in a kindergarten class that I knew had an up and running miniLAN and noticed that one of those IBMs was being used as a thin client. So there was indeed some regression in the compatibility of thin clients from Feisty to Gutsy. What a disappointing revelation to make.

I hoped to make lemonade out of this lemon of a development by installing Feisty on the Fujitsu-Siemens machines I got from the German Consulate in LA (especially since my $50 dollar solution did NOT work as they sent me 3.3V AGP cards instead of the 1.%V ones I needed). For a bit it seemed to be no use. I got the same strange behavior out of the Fujitsu with Feisty as I did with Gutsy. But I left the machine on for some reason, and a few minutes later there was the sign in screen, as if everything was okay!

I logged in, ran updates, restarted, created users, moved the machine to a 3rd grade class, connected thin clients, rebooted, and even let the teacher's daughter play Webkinz on the server before I got a call the next morning that none of the machines were working. It was the same old problem as before, and now I discovered that it wasn't just a problem with the video card. In fact the computer wasn't even fully booting the OS which meant that the thin clients couldn't boot either. Bummer.

So obviously I'm looking forward to Hardy being released in April (even if there won't be any new graphical redesign) mostly because there is supposed to be better support for video cards and monitor detection. Needless to say, the fact that these two changes were not highlighted on Ars Technica's First Look article was disheartening, but I still have high hopes. Let's hope they don't get crushed. -joe


Daniel Hunt said...


I've been following your blog with interest over the past month or 2, as I'm currently looking into an Edubuntu LTSP network of my own.

One thing I've noticed from your posts, is that you don't run your entire network from any single server. Instead, you seem to spread out the load over some of your more powerful client machines to act as servers themselves.

One example is the IBM post that you linked to in this blog. Could you explain your network infrastructure in some way, or tell me if I'm picking you up wrong? :)


Daniel Hunt said...

Obviously - I meant Siemens, not IBM :)

Joseph Hartman said...

Hi Daniel, I'll try to address your question about my setup in my own post at hartmansblog but the short answer is that we lease the school buildings from the district (in the US a district is a bunch of geographically close schools from elementary to high school). We are not a part of the district though, we are a charter school, sort of a hybrid between private and public schools. All that is to say I only have control over things on my side of the wall. Any network infrastructure or server setup stuff is off limits to me as that belongs to the district. Otherwise I would have definitely looked into having a central server hooked up. Of course I don't know how that would have worked when the teachers/admins and all wanted to use windows but I'm not a network guy either. If you are interested in learning more you should definitely check out this page and sign up for the listserv.

There are people there who are much more knowledgeable than I am in all kinds of areas. Good Luck! -joe

Daniel Hunt said...

Hi Joe,

Thank you very much for the response - I'll certainly subscribe to the mailing list, and I'll also have a bit of a root through the archives for any relevant posts.

I'm actually in the process of writing another post detailing the response I got from Dell regarding the monster-server that I'm considering using. All I need now is the go-ahead from the school :)

As expected, convincing a single person that LTSP will be good for the school is one thing, but convincing the people who hold the purse strings is another matter entirely :)

I'll add, however, that I'm lucky in my current situation as I am the technical point of contact for the school. I've setup, and maintain, the server, clients, OS Images and the physical network too - so I may be in a better position to do what is right or even easier than you are :)