Thursday, November 01, 2007

Local Apps 2: The Next Morning

Well, now that the affects of the Woodchuck Draft Cider and Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale (thanks Eric!) have worn off, perhaps a further expansion of my worse-than-average typed blog posting of last night can be expanded upon.

Localapps, for those uninitiated with LTSP lingo, is the idea of running an application down on the thin client itself. Normally, once you log into a thin client, your session exists on the server, and you do all the work ON the server. So, if you have a classroom full of kids, say 30, running Firefox, you have 30 instances of Firefox running on the server. If you have 30 kids watching videos in flash, you have 30 instances of Firefox and flash running on the server.

Ouch is right.

What you'd really like to have the option of doing, if you have beefy enough thin clients, is run the Firefox + flash down on the thin client itself. The problem is, your thin client has no concept of who it's user is: that's all up on the server. Name Switch Services, home directory, plumbing, etc. All has to come from the server, and it's all a bit of a bear to set up. ("What do you mean I need to get LDAP going? What's an LDAP?")

However, we've come up with a cool little method (ltsp-localapps spec on Launchpad, for those interested) that allows us to do it with a bare minimum of fuss, muss, and bother.

So, armed with beverages, thin clients, laptops, and a general sense of merriment and excitement, 4 intrepid LTSP hackers set off to get it going on All Hallow's Eve. Eric Harrison, Francis Giraldeau, St├ęphane Graber, and myself hacked for a couple of hours, and got it going. First app launched was Xclock, closely followed by Firefox! Not satisfied with this major victory, we decided to push on, and installed flash in the chroot. After some futzing around, (St├ęphane realizing that we needed to add the user to the audio group on the thin client itself), we were watching videos on YouTube. On the thin client.

For posterity: first video watched was Wierd Al Yankovic's "White and Nerdy", what else? At one point, we were playing 2 simultaneously! All this on a 900mhz thin client with 256 megs of ram. Not too shabby.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Local apps

4 4geeks, 4 beers, 2 hours. Firefox running on a local thin client.
With flash. And sound. Oooooooh yeaaahhhh

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


So, I blogged about this last November. For gutsy, with the latest Gnome, it's become now mainline. Fillable forms in Evince.


This is a huge step forward in functionality. The non Free version of Acrobat is... a little unstable for us (read: crashes constantly), and flpsed's a tad odd to use for end users. So, handling fillable forms right within Evince is going to make a big usability improvement for our users.

If we get the ability down the road to save a copy of the PDF with the forms filled in, that will be a really nice treat, and in fact, a step above what's available in the non Free version. But for now, my wish has been granted.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fix It Friday, Edubuntu, LTSP5

Wow. Yesterday was Fix It Friday (FIF) for Edubuntu, and we got a lot of stuff done. Bugs were squashed in Sabayon, dhcpd, denemo, and LTSP, as well as a ton of testing. I personally put in 15+ hours, and Ollie did the same. Very worthwhile.

LTSP5 in Edubuntu's going to be the best we've had yet. Huge speed, security, and functional improvements, plus Francis from Mille XTerm has brought forward some ideas that have allowed us to add some basic multi-server load balancing features into LTSP. Very big news, indeed.

Finally, we've already been making use of PPA's (Personal Package Archives) in Launchpad to distribute updated docs pre string-freeze for the Edubuntu handbook.

Busy, busy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

LTSP Improvements

As Ollie blogged, we've been busy little beavers in LTSP-land.

Vagrant Cascadian and Ollie pulled a nice little rabbit out of their hats with the move to NBD for the home drive. It was a lot of work, but thanks to LTSP's plugin system, only took them a few days to get going. Nice.

The LTSP Display Manager runs locally, and as such, might be running on some fairly low-end hardware. It was written in Python before, and although I'm a big fan of Python, it's probably not the best choice for a Pentium 75 with 32 megs of ram. As well, Gideon Romm's excellent suggestion on how to integrate secure-but-slower X over SSH with insecure-but-faster X the normal way within the display manager was enough to make us decide that LDM needed a C rewrite. So off we went. Two weeks later, we've got something to crow about.

After we get the speed improvements put to bed, we need to attack the Virtual HAL devices, and, a burning issue for me at work here, Palm support.

We're making good progress on the specs, and we should have some nice things to show off for Gutsy.

To re-iterate Ollie's plea: if you're running an LTSP network, give Gutsy a try. We LOVE feedback.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

5 great new features in Edubuntu

Now that Feisty's reached beta, everyone's blogging about all the great new features. Things like Migration assistant, Jamendo support in Rhythmbox, etc.

But what about that other great distro? The plucky little distro that's taking the classrooms by storm, Edubuntu, has some great new features as well. Checkitout:

  1. Much improved thin client sound: Ollie's been working his magic, and has ironed out a lot of the problems associated with sound on thin clients. A huge win for classrooms.

  2. Better documentation: Thanks to the Edubuntu doc team, we've now got more comprehensive docs on maintaining your Edubuntu network. Still more to do, but it's come a long way.

  3. Edubuntu is now on 2 CD's: At first blush, this seems to go against Ubuntu's "one CD" philosophy, but the payoff is huge. Edubuntu's being deployed in areas of the world where Internet access is slow, if it's available at all. Most software is handled by sharing CD's between people. Having Edubuntu on 2 CD's means that more langpacks can be included, for a better "out-of-the-box" experience for people around the world.

  4. Thin Client Manager: cbx33's put in a lot of work on TCM, and it's now a great way to manage your LTSP thin client network. Which, as an added bonus, comes already configured on an Edubuntu server!

  5. Updated educational content: The latest versions of such great programs as GCompris, KStars, etc. makes for a complete classroom experience! C'mon educators, check us out!

Edubuntu: "Y'know, it's for the kids"