Sunday, August 30, 2009

LTSP Local Apps progress: Firefox AND Flash Success!

Yesterday (Saturday) the schools campus was open until 4pm to give teachers one last shot at preparing for the kids' arrival on Monday. At about 3:50 I finally got my classroom LTSP server running Firefox with Flash as a local app!

It took a few clean installs to get it working and I never could get it to work with XFCE, which may be just as well since their support listserv still hasn't gotten back to me about kiosk mode in XFCE 4.6 and there is still no documentation on their website for 4.6 at all.

In the end I used GNOME, but I was also successful using KDE on one of the computer lab servers a couple of days ago. I plan on sticking with GNOME for the time being mostly because it is a faster desktop environment, but also because kiosktool for KDE appears to be a pain to install AND rarely maintained. I just wasn't willing to muddle my way through another lockdown program so it looks like GConf will be my new best friend for the time being.

I took the time to create a new page on the wiki that describes for beginners the process to getting Firefox and flash working as a local app on an LTSP setup. I haven't run through it myself to make sure every line is accurate, but I plan on doing so this week when I switch the computer lab over to GNOME from KDE.

In summary: it should now be possible for nearly anyone to install an LTSP setup with nothing more than a Pentium 4 as a server and then run Firefox with flash as a local application on the thin clients without too much trouble. LTSP is getting more viable by the day! -joe

Saturday, August 22, 2009

2009-2010 Year Approaching

School starts in 8 days, but I started back at school a couple of weeks ago. We had a string of break-ins on campus at the end of last year and while the thief initially (and surprisingly) didn't take anything aside from a few dollars laying around during the first two incidents, he eventually wised up and swiped a laptop.

In any case, I had some work to do processing some new equipment brought in for different situations like the one above, and of course I wanted to make a little progress on the Ubuntu servers we have in the labs and classrooms to see if I could have them running local apps at the start of the year.

Anyone looking to implement local apps at this point (myself included) would be wise to remember that it is a very experimental proposition as it currently exists. That being said, there are a few people around who seem to have gotten not only firefox to work as a local app, but flash as well. If envy could be sent across the intertubes, you would detect an abundance of it emanating from me right now.

The good news is that I know that I've at least got the first step of firefox as a local app going thanks to Gavin and the guys on the edubuntu user list who really did a great job of dumbing down the Thin Client How to NAT so an amateur like me can follow it without frustration. In case you're thinking of trying local apps yourself you'll soon realize the first step is setting up the LTSP server as a NAT gateway so thin clients that don't boot off of the server (or local apps running off the thin client instead of the server) can get Internet access.

Regrettably, there's not a similarly concise and simple How To page for setting firefox as a local app, but I'm working on the process and if I get it nailed down I'll be sure to put some hours into a comprehensive How To for others to follow. Paying it forward and all that I suppose.

Finally, I sent a message to the xfce users listserv asking how to set up kiosk mode in xfce 4.6 but I haven't heard a response yet. I'm hoping it is just because it's the weekend, but the pessimist in me says it's time to move to KDE's well documented kiosk tool. I downloaded the latest Linux Mint image with KDE 4.3 as a means of reviving an old Gateway laptop my cousin sent my way a few months back. I'm planning on experimenting with the kiosk tool there and hoping it works as well as it claims. Great to be back! -joe