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Davespice
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:58 am

Trevor, regarding the performance of your existing machines; one other suggestion is to examine your security / anti-virus package. I have seen a lot of very bloated, heavy premium applications being used in educational establishments. These can often be the culprit especially if a very rigorous real time scanning policy is in place.

If you were to switch to the Raspberry Pi with a Linux desktop you might be able to get away with having a much simpler anti-virus package, or maybe even none. It’s a well known fact that there are much fewer Linux based viruses in the wild than Microsoft.

The good thing about the Raspberry Pi is that if something were to go wrong, it would just be a question of replacing the SD card contents and problem solved.

hlt32
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:35 pm

WRT the OP, also remember to take into account:
- cases for the rPi
- SDHC cards for each machine
- cost of securing the rPis so they arn't stolen ...

@Storris
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:16 pm

Firstly, I have only read the first page of this thread due to the proximity to dinner time.

I would just like to mention a few things. Firstly, if your ICT staff are permanent and not drawn in from the Art, PE & Maths department as needed, the training for them should be limited as they are probably already involved with Linux in some way. For those that do need further training the Kingswood Computer Centre (somewhere I went for a school trip as a student) should be able to solve all your needs and at a low cost.

As far as system costs go, why not join up with other schools from around the country/globe to bulk purchase any accessories/software you need; or become a re-selling agent on Emayzon?
I am planning on raising funds for my children's schools to purchase the #RPi and would wager that other parents would be more than happy to do the same for theirs.

The VDI system that has been mentioned is the logical way for any large organisation to handle all of their IT needs whether educational or administrative, in fact I thought it was the only way. More than 10 users and I'd say you were looking at a system large enough to warrant VD integration.

If you keep hold of your current stock of PCs rather than throwing them out, A few hours with a capable network engineer and you you will have yourself a pretty powerful Server centre that should be able to run a small country let alone a school full of #RPis.

Keyboards/Mice/Screens you should already have, if they really do need replacing there are other options. They could be sourced from liquidated Co. at auctions, or from other businesses upgrade cycles, make use of the resources around you.
Secure casings for #RPi can be made in CDT, just make sure they are made well.
SD cards could be negated by the use of VDI.

For your School to upgrade it's entire computer stock every 3 years for your limited use of a few basic programmes makes no sense to me. How much money has this wasted over the years? MS Word hasn't changed out of all recognition since day one, there is no need to upgrade a computer more than once in probably 10-years, I myself run a 10-year old computer and have just upgraded the OS to Linux from Win XP, fun times ahead.

You are now in competition for your income, inefficiency is not an option for any free-school/academy that wishes to exist next term. Getting as much as you can from every penny, every teacher and every student is, as it should be, the only way forward.

ProDigit
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:56 pm

Quote from hlt32 on December 5, 2011, 17:35
WRT the OP, also remember to take into account:
- cases for the rPi
- SDHC cards for each machine
- cost of securing the rPis so they arn't stolen ...

I prefer mine without SD. It'll be the first thing I'd upgrade, and it would be a waste having a 512MB/1GB/2GB SD card just laying around not being used!

tntexplosivesltd
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Tue Dec 06, 2011 3:15 am

Quote from ProDigit on December 5, 2011, 19:56
Quote from hlt32 on December 5, 2011, 17:35
WRT the OP, also remember to take into account:
- cases for the rPi
- SDHC cards for each machine
- cost of securing the rPis so they arn't stolen ...

I prefer mine without SD. It'll be the first thing I'd upgrade, and it would be a waste having a 512MB/1GB/2GB SD card just laying around not being used!

That's a completely irrelevant point. The main point is that these extra things will cost money. It doesn't matter how you'll run yours - you'll need an SD card anyway. In a school situation, you would absolutely need an SC card for each machine - that's what the thing boots its OS from.
Stop posting across anything you can just so you can to get your post count up.

SeanD
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Tue Dec 06, 2011 4:56 pm

So a mini disclaimer on my reply. The below relates directly to my day job.

Quote from Davespice on December 5, 2011, 10:58
Trevor, regarding the performance of your existing machines; one other suggestion is to examine your security / anti-virus package. I have seen a lot of very bloated, heavy premium applications being used in educational establishments. These can often be the culprit especially if a very rigorous real time scanning policy is in place.

I think it is more the case of either badly configured anti malware solutions (as you say poorly considered on access scanning) or in some cases very much out of date solutions that cause these performance problems. One of the advantages of the 'premium' solutions (especially recent ones) is that a lot of work has gone in from all of the major vendors to reduce the impact of these solutions (we are talking 1k man year type investments) whilst using innovative techniques to increase malware detection.

If you were to switch to the Raspberry Pi with a Linux desktop you might be able to get away with having a much simpler anti-virus package, or maybe even none. It’s a well known fact that there are much fewer Linux based viruses in the wild than Microsoft.

Be careful with well known facts! Yes there are a lot less malcode variants in existence for Linux but that does not mean that Linux machines do not very commonly become infected as unfortunately they do. Vulnerabilities do typically get fixed much faster by the open source community, but you have to apply the patches. Anything that is being used as a desktop, especially by kids needs protection. That is unless you go for the option of running a dirty network and just put soem good firewalls/gateways at your egress point to protect the world from you. An approach that I know some universities are considering.

The good thing about the Raspberry Pi is that if something were to go wrong, it would just be a question of replacing the SD card contents and problem solved.

Probably workable in a small environment but not in a larger one. One of the massive issues is re-infection. In a poorly protected network you must take everything down completely to fix issues. Hence the reason why having capabilities like a managed personal firewall is so useful as you can keep the network up and just implement a policy to stop infection while you go machine to machine and fix it.

anwe79
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Tue Dec 06, 2011 11:57 pm

Sorry for OT but; I have to disagree with this: "Yes there are a lot less malcode variants in existence for Linux but that does not mean that Linux machines do not very commonly become infected as unfortunately they do". This depends alot on how you define "very commonly".

I don't have any figures at hand, but i'm willing to bet that the relative rate of infection (that is, number of infected boxes/installed boxes ) is several orders of magnitude higher for windows vs linux. Probably even if you'd compare only recent versions of desktop windows (say vista + 7), versus the entire installed base of desktop linux variants. This is not entirely the fault of the OS, the users are many times to blame.

However, saying that linux boxes are very commonly infected is bending the truth quite a bit. In my experience (i used to be a linux/windows/netware sysadmin) an infected linux box is a very rare animal. That doesn't mean there are none, or that linux is impregnable by design, but to hint that the infection rate is even comparable to what you'll see on windows boxes, is like comparing raspberry seeds to giant pumpkins ;).

OTOH on a "poorly protected network" it doesn't really matter what OS you run, you'll get in trouble one way or the other, sooner or later.

In the case of a properly setup (Linux or otherwise) school environment, the client machines would have 0 incoming ports open, and the users would not have root/admin access, so both the attack vector and the amount of damage possible would be very limited. A per client firewall should not even be strictly necessary, there should be nothing (not even inetd) answering incoming packets in the first place. However,a very basic filter (e.g. iptables) could block any traffic (incoming & outgoing) that is not explicitly allowed, to make sure no user installed software is doing anything nasty.

If boxes still get infected due to some oversight or malicious users, you fix the hole on the network-hosted OS-image, and reboot the clients off it, problem solved. Since the other clients do not have any ports open, the infection will have a hard time to spread. If you manage to get your network-hosted OS-image infected, you should be looking for a new job, for several reasons :).

Back on topic:

There are client/server school linux distributions , eg. "Skolelinux" that are for use cases exactly like this. I have no personal experience of them, but i'm sure they could save a lot of money for a school with limited funds. If needed you could have a mixed environment where windows-only software could run on a terminal server with a limited license count.

I would guess that using the PI as a desktop replacement may be frustrating, mainly due to limited RAM, but it should be very good as a thin client. I'd suggest using the old computers for thin clients, invest in a server box (or two) to run a terminal server (windows/linux/whatever) and replace the old boxes with PI's as you go. The servers could well be homebrews based on quality desktop hardware, you get a lot more bang for buck that way than buying brand name servers.

Designing the whole system may be some work, but it should be relatively easy to manage if done right, lot's easier than managing some 90 desktops independently.

obarthelemy
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Wed Dec 07, 2011 12:32 am

Back off-topic about viruses: I think whether Linux is more resistant to malware (generic term) than Windows has not been tested:
- Windows has made great progress since Vista, and even more with 7. It now includes firewall, anti-virus, even anti-phishing in IE, plus the UAC. There are still holes, but nowhere near as many as a few years ago, and they do get closed.
- the issue is mainly users. I've had *ONE* virus on Windows in the last 10 years, and that was 5 years ago XP when an ex came to me with a failing HD. Dealing with the ex was taking 99.9% of my brain power, so I dumbly connected the HD to my main PC instead of to my safe one, and got whatever was on the boot sector. Once noobs like me start to use Linux, shit will start to happen. Which reminds me I currently have most on the sessions on my eCafe running as root because I got fed up with the constant "can't do anything to that file 'coz you don't own it" errors. I also don't have any antivrus nor firewall on it, 'cos I got no clue how to set that up. I'm banking on ARM viruses not existing ^^
- My parents' Windows PC, which I remotely admin, never had a virus (in 15+ years). They don't have admin rights (and know to call me when they want to install stuff), they've got the whole gamut of anti-everything stuff (which does make the PC crawl), and should know about not clicking links in emails from their bank/shops... but go back to the main site and do whatever from there. I'm actually very afraid of that phishing, it's really ballooning.
We'll know for sure how resistant Linux is once it starts to reach noob users' desktops. And by noob, I don't mean not-admin parents supervised/admined by uber-geeks, but technologically illiterate people that get a badly pre-installed Linux on their PC, or daredevils know-nothings who do it themselves. That will be a real test of fire, if it ever happens (is 2012 the year of Linux on the Desktop yet ?)

tntexplosivesltd
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:21 am

Hmm, that is why I use Arch. Because it's rolling-release, any potential exploits are patched in a few days. And because it's constantly changing, it's just not worth making malware for it. I know that it's not 100% distribution dependent, but it helps.
That's why I am using ArchLinuxARM on my R-Pi when I get it. And also the fact that it's barebones, so I can control it's footprint and memory usage quite effectively.

ProDigit
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:10 am

DSL is also a nice small OS, but I think it's important that there will be enough programs compatible with the device (like programming editors/simulators, and school programs).

It would be best if the OS could install .deb files, because they're so easy to install. Much easier than configuring each program from the binaries.

tntexplosivesltd
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:25 am

Yeah, .deb are good if whoever is installing the program knows little about the system, i.e. a teacher/school IT technician. Unfortunately there is a trade off where you aren't too sure what's going on, so that brings back the ingress of possible malware.

ProDigit
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:48 am

So you're opting for a pool of programs, like the ones you can get from apt-get or synaptic? (forgot the name, it's been a while since I've used Linux).

I don't mind just as long as there is sufficient support for the OS, which means it either has to be a small Linux OS, with a growing community, or a known and popular Linux OS (or a modification of it) like Ubuntu, slax, or mandriva, or something....

tntexplosivesltd
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:54 am

Yeah, support is much needed especially in a school environment. The advantages of ubuntu and the like for children is that they are easy to use, so that's another plus =D

Piw32
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Mon Dec 12, 2011 7:11 pm

What you want is LTSP (linux terminal server project) or install PuppyLinux on them, they will be blazing fast !
http://ltsp.org/

Handsworth Grammar School - England

We have 90 LTSP terminals deployed in the Computing Department. We use standard PCs as servers. Our clients are very cheap machines - we recently bought a batch of second hand PIII 533MHz machines for 17GBP (about $25) each - so we are looking at running local apps. We have recently been involved in a TCO investigation with Becta (http://www.becta.org.uk) - the Governmennts ICT Education agency and been shown to be about half the price of proprietary offerings :-) We have a !MoinMoin wiki at http://www.openhgs.org. Next year we will be installing many more clients.

Skegness Grammar School - UK

Skegness Grammar School is on the east coast of England and has been running LTSP and Open Source software for 3 years now. We have over 100 terminals on 4 application servers arranged in two main teaching rooms and several clusters and individual machines throughout the school. All the curriculum teaching is done using LTSP Terminals from KS3 to KS5.

Gould Academy - Bethel, Maine USA

Gould Academy is a small private boarding school. We have been using LTSP since early 2001. Currently, we have approx 90-100 diskless terminals (old PC's and thin clients) all over campus. They are in school labs, classrooms, meeting rooms, faculty appartments, student dorm rooms, etc. This year we started migrating our administrative users. We support approximately 300 users and commonly have 50 or more concurrent sessions on a Dual Xeon 3.2G with 4GB of RAM. The most common applications used are OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Gaim, rox file manager. We also offer terminal sessions remotely using SSHVnc so people who are travelling or day students at home can use our LTSP server from a web browser. We are using sound based on ESD and have many users hooked on Internet radio. A big thanks to Jim and everybody. LTSP is a critical part of the services we offer our school community.

-- DerekDresser - 22 Dec 2004

dattaway
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Mon Dec 12, 2011 7:41 pm

^^ Linux Terminal Server Project is an awesome example of a lean, fast, and secure system. Unlike the popular Linux distributions, LSTP isn't bloated with layers daemons, mass linkages of obscure libraries, and strange ports open everywhere. Simple is best when reliability and security and lockdown is needed.

Piw32
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:13 pm

It seems X2go is even better than LTSP, with it's low bandwith use you can even rent a server over the internet, no need to maintain a local server !
http://wiki.x2go.org/start
11 of the Best Free Linux Remote Display Software: http://www.linuxlinks.com/arti.....splay.html
What is the difference to LTSP? Why a free thin client environment?

LTSP requires a high bandwidth on your network. It can efficiently be used in Local Area Networks (LANs) only.

However, X2go is not a mere solution for local area networks, but it also allows for the integration of a mobile network into the system. Nomachine’s NX libraries - used by X2go - enable the transport of whole desktop sessions over a narrow bandwith connection through the internet.

Further bonuses of X2go are that you can pause a desktop session and take it to a different thin client for further use.

subminiature
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Wed Dec 14, 2011 9:18 pm

In the school classroom replacement for old PCs the RasPi needs a case, power supply and SD card. The mouse, keyboard , screen and cables could be the same whether the computer is Intel PC or ARM. I assume that the two USB sockets are sufficient (keyboard and mouse only), along with Ethernet to connect to server and printer.
Some of the small PCs are rated at 18 watt in use, a lot more than an ARM based computer but less than most desk top PCs.
Is the ARM in the RasPi faster than a 1.8GHz dual core Atom in terms of what it might be used for in the classroom - browsing the internet, watching video clips, word processing, power point (or equivalents)? I have seen a number of articles on ARM based computer boards that talk about the future development of drivers to play back video smoothly. The same was the case with the original low powered Atom based netbooks.
I have seen 18watt, dual core 1.8 Atom processors with 4Gb RAM, 40Gb SSD or 250Gb hard drive, 5xUSB, Ethernet, audio in/out, DVI-D, VGA for £199 (add £10 for Ubuntu preinstalled). Still consumes more power and more expensive than the tiny RasPi. A dual-core ARM Cortex A9 1 GHz processor based computer with similar spec is a little more.
Cheaper systems than a standard desktop with full expensive licensed software have been available for many years - e.g. installing Linux and open source software on those desktops - so what is the barrier that has stopped schools going that route years ago?

ProDigit
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:26 pm

You could use one PSU of a computer, and connect several Raspberries to a +5V voltage rail.
Since most PSU's have several 5V rails, it might even be possible to run an entire classroom (like 25 pi's) off of one PSU!

The Pi is only 600Mhz. In terms of graphical performance it probably beats the Atom N270, but not the more modern atoms with GMA31xx (N280 or later).
In terms of pure CPU calculation it probably is very similar to an N260 (the first generation of Atoms at 1,60Ghz, or the atoms running at around 1,2Ghz).

Sylvain
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:06 pm

Quote from ProDigit on December 15, 2011, 12:26
In terms of pure CPU calculation it probably is very similar to an N260 (the first generation of Atoms at 1,60Ghz, or the atoms running at around 1,2Ghz).

Are you sure ?

I would have said that the Rpi should have something like half the processing power of an N260 ...
The ARM 11 chip used in the RPi is a rather "old" one. Atom should be comparable to a Cortex A8/A9 but not to an ARM11.

In the other hand the GPU of the RPi may be "better"/more versatile than the one of an Atom ...

Someone to confirm ?

Sylvain.

PS : One of the only comparaison I found on Internet :

ProDigit
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:30 pm

Well, it might be possible that ARM11 is slower than CortexA8 and A9, but fact is still fact, an ARM600Mhz outweighs a 600Mhz x86 architecture.
You might be right in that the ARM11 is much slower than the A8, and that an A8/A9 @ 600Mhz would perform like a 800Mhz-1,2Ghz Atom processor.

But concerning the graph above, please remember that the N280 Atom processor is a dual core processor. Most programs only make use of a single core. Also the N280 is much faster than the N260 thanks to it's faster memory controller and integrated graphics.

I think the above gaph takes both graphical and CPU into account (I presume the cortex A9 has an integrated graphics chip, while most A8's have an external one).
Though ARM is not my fuerte!

It's definitely going to be slower than an Atom processor, but very comparable to the Celeron M @800Mhz processor used in the first EEE pc's (700 and some 900 series)

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abishur
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:33 pm

The barrier for getting cheaper desktops in schools has always been the windows factor. Government entities (in USA, at least) are firmly entrenched in Windows. The other factor has been the shiney factor. If a computer is only built for what they need governments a) don't see it as being able to meet future demands and b) think (often mistakenly) that if it's inexpensive it's low quality.
Dear forum: Play nice ;-)

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Jessie
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:49 pm

Quote from abishur on December 15, 2011, 22:33
The barrier for getting cheaper desktops in schools has always been the windows factor. Government entities (in USA, at least) are firmly entrenched in Windows. The other factor has been the shiney factor. If a computer is only built for what they need governments a) don't see it as being able to meet future demands and b) think (often mistakenly) that if it's inexpensive it's low quality.
My wife works for the US government and I can tell you that they love to spend too much to get too little and get it behind schedule and over budget. This fact alone would rule out anything that is inexpensive and works.

As for the performance discussed above one thing that is a wild card is that an Atom has to deal with many years of bloat and backward compatibility and the R-Pi can ignore a lot of legicy and pretty much aside from USB devices there won't be any wondering about what is in one. I don't think that we are going to get blazing fast performance for the price but I think it will be better than many are expecting.

Canuck
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Sat Dec 24, 2011 7:16 am

Set these up as dumb terminals connected via network to a amazing machine, make it do all the hard work.

Mr_G
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Sat Dec 24, 2011 5:01 pm

We run a SUN thin client system at my school, plus a series of "fat" clients (Normal PC boxes) for us in DT.  My CAD software (SpaceClaim 2011+) & Key shot rendering software just eats the thin clients.  For MS Office & the web, the thin client is brilliant.  Inadditon we have a full portal for home use.  So logging in to our system from home, looks the same as if sitting at school.  Can't run our CAD from home though.

As stated before, running 20+ servers generates heat, we then cool the server room down, again using energy.  We need ARM based servers, but we are wedded to Windows etc, so we now need Windows for ARM servers, hopefully Seatlle will get their fingers out.
Never been an Archimedes user in the past, but an ex Uni friend of mine has always been RISC based and we are only now (Intel inside) just catching up on speed after 20 years.  He has and does still pour scorn over Intel based products, but the software base is Windows, so we had/have no choice.

omn1
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Re: RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

Sun Dec 25, 2011 2:42 pm

Years ago I ran a school ICT department and we tried to implement Linux desktops to provide teachers and pupils with basic computing apps like word-processing and spreadsheets and web browsing.

We used k12ltsp which was a linux desktop ready to go and it worked really well.

We used a mix of old PCs that network booted, and some old Tektronix thin clients and some PCs that booted to X off a local HDD.

The main problem was that most staff were not willing to invest time in learning anything other than windows based Microsoft products. The pupils on the other hand were quite happy using Open Office and were happy working on the terminals in the classrooms and saving work then opening it on a windows PC with MS office.

In the end we ended up leaving one Linux server running and changed the rest of the farm over to Citrix MetaFrame. The system worked really well but ultimately the LEA were not happy with anything that wasn’t “Standard” and the weren’t able to support. The school came under pressure to move away from thin clients and Linux.

It is interesting that the reasons we were interested in the technology then are still relent today.

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