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563 posts

Ultimate Geek
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Topic # 159775 12-Dec-2014 09:45
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My partner works at a low decile primary & intermediate school in west Auckland; they're trying to be as high tech as they can with the limited resources they have.

Some of the older kids have various devices (iPads, netbooks etc) or access to school PCs and work mostly online with Google Apps for Edu (i.e. Google Docs instead of MS Word etc).

The school can't afford Google Apps licences for everyone so the younger kids miss out and are left to use the schools desktop PC's which are in various states of decay.

School has good fibre broadband so 80% of PC use is browser only however some work is done on office suites and saved on a shared drive.

Problem with the desktop PC's:

 

  • Not enough of them
  • Running various Windows versions, not updated / managed properly
  • Settings get messed with
  • Extremely slow, bloated with apps & kids files, failing HDDs
I was thinking the simplest solution could be to configure a custom Linux distro that could be live booted via USB on all the school PCs.

Would need the following apps:

 

  • Firefox or Chrome
  • LibreOffice
  • Gimp
  • Tux Paint
  • Maybe a couple of generic Linux Edu apps like Tux Typing etc
Would need to boot up fresh each time (read only) and connect to windows network share & printers.

I imagine updates would be handled by copying a new image to the USB sticks.

A simplified system like this should also make it easy to begin accepting old donated PC's and putting them to use without worrying about the state of the hard drives.

Is this feasible or is there a better way?

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  Reply # 1196084 12-Dec-2014 10:03
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Chrome OS will do all that and offer a consistent user experience right through the school I haven't ever run it off a USB stick, only a VM.

I thought Google Apps for Education was compeletly free? Says so here: https://www.google.com/edu/products/productivity-tools/

Is someone charging you for Google apps?

Cheers, Matt.




My views (except when I am looking out their windows) are not those of my employer.



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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1196101 12-Dec-2014 10:10
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hairy1: Chrome OS will do all that and offer a consistent user experience right through the school I haven't ever run it off a USB stick, only a VM.


I'm evaluating Chromebook myself for something else; don't think it works with network shares etc yet.

I thought Google Apps for Education was compeletly free? Says so here: https://www.google.com/edu/products/productivity-tools/

Is someone charging you for Google apps?


I think it's either only free in the US or still costs because of the 'Teacher Dashboard' licence they have to pay for each student to manage it.

 
 
 
 


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Microsoft

  Reply # 1196139 12-Dec-2014 11:15
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(just a FYI)

Windows devices can be had for cheaper than Chromebooks now and with more functionality

here is an example of a 10.1" Intel Quad Core 2-In-1 Detachable Windows 8.1 Tablet with a touch screen

I've seen these going in for under $300 incl

https://www.noelleeming.co.nz/shop/computers/windows-8-tablets/nextbook-m1012bcp-10-windows-2n1-tablet/prod132973.html

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1196177 12-Dec-2014 11:50
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I'd go chrome books as well for the ease of use if you have the funds

Else USB sticks would work fine but a lot more more to setup and support,

Pick a lighter distro like xubuntu, rip the harddrives out to save on support issues

Make sure you include the non free firmware package and flash

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/LiveCDCustomization







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  Reply # 1196179 12-Dec-2014 11:54
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Work with their IT people.  Whatever gets implemented has to be supported, and if they don't have the capability then it's going to be more trouble than benefit.  Same thing happened at my wife's school where they implemented a whole bunch of new technologies but no-one can support them on-site so everything goes to the 2nd tier support that takes days to action anything.  All the while the kids are left in the lurch.

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  Reply # 1196184 12-Dec-2014 12:01
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gehenna: Work with their IT people.  Whatever gets implemented has to be supported, and if they don't have the capability then it's going to be more trouble than benefit.  Same thing happened at my wife's school where they implemented a whole bunch of new technologies but no-one can support them on-site so everything goes to the 2nd tier support that takes days to action anything.  All the while the kids are left in the lurch.

 

 

+1, at some point its gonna break, make sure it can be fixed easily and quickly by people on the ground

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  Reply # 1196186 12-Dec-2014 12:04
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wellygary:
gehenna: Work with their IT people.  Whatever gets implemented has to be supported, and if they don't have the capability then it's going to be more trouble than benefit.  Same thing happened at my wife's school where they implemented a whole bunch of new technologies but no-one can support them on-site so everything goes to the 2nd tier support that takes days to action anything.  All the while the kids are left in the lurch.
+1, at some point its gonna break, make sure it can be fixed easily and quickly by people on the ground


+1




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Master Geek
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  Reply # 1196190 12-Dec-2014 12:06
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Why bother with linux and the associated retraining when you can get all the software you need at 0 cost.

http://ict-helpdesk.tki.org.nz/Software-for-schools/Microsoft-School-Software-Agreement


This includes Office 365 pro+ for all students so they can stick with browser-based doc editing / ipad / whatever.

The MS software agreement is a fantastic program and if the school isn't making use of it, they really should.



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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1196294 12-Dec-2014 13:43
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slingynz: Why bother with linux and the associated retraining when you can get all the software you need at 0 cost.

http://ict-helpdesk.tki.org.nz/Software-for-schools/Microsoft-School-Software-Agreement


I should have mentioned this is a Catholic school so not sure if this applies: 

The agreement covers all New Zealand State and State Integrated schools. Independent schools may also enrol if desired but will be required to pay an annual fee per FTE and Student count.



gehenna: Work with their IT people.  Whatever gets implemented has to be supported, and if they don't have the capability then it's going to be more trouble than benefit.  Same thing happened at my wife's school where they implemented a whole bunch of new technologies but no-one can support them on-site so everything goes to the 2nd tier support that takes days to action anything.  All the while the kids are left in the lurch.


Naturally that would be the case.

The idea of going with a lightweight bootable linux distro was that we could utilise old donated hardware;
 - if it needs to be provisioned / updated replace the USB drive.
 - if it dies, throw it away.

Anyone that's worked in IT knows the amount of e-waste out there that wouldn't run the latest windows however would be perfectly fine going to a school running a lightweight linux but sadly ends up in the dump.

If the school had a simple system for provisioning them like just sticking in a USB I would be able to donate two PC's immediately from the junk I have lying around, and I'm sure could source more.

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Master Geek
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  Reply # 1196297 12-Dec-2014 13:49
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kenkeniff:
slingynz: Why bother with linux and the associated retraining when you can get all the software you need at 0 cost.

http://ict-helpdesk.tki.org.nz/Software-for-schools/Microsoft-School-Software-Agreement


I should have mentioned this is a Catholic school so not sure if this applies: 

The agreement covers all New Zealand State and State Integrated schools. Independent schools may also enrol if desired but will be required to pay an annual fee per FTE and Student count.




You mentioned the school having a decile rating, so it must be integrated in that case. moe school list




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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1196299 12-Dec-2014 13:53
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slingynz:
kenkeniff:
slingynz: Why bother with linux and the associated retraining when you can get all the software you need at 0 cost.

http://ict-helpdesk.tki.org.nz/Software-for-schools/Microsoft-School-Software-Agreement


I should have mentioned this is a Catholic school so not sure if this applies: 

The agreement covers all New Zealand State and State Integrated schools. Independent schools may also enrol if desired but will be required to pay an annual fee per FTE and Student count.




You mentioned the school having a decile rating, so it must be integrated in that case. moe school list



Looks like it.

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1197104 14-Dec-2014 00:16
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There have been a lot of alternative suggestions offered (Windows, ChromeOS etc) which differ from what the OP has suggested he/she wants (although they may well accomplish simlar ends).

So - I'd just like to add a voice of support for the OP in so far as; a) the idea to use USB linux sticks and b) the idea of recycling old hardware with fresh/free software.

Sounds like a good and very do-able idea to me. Live Ubuntu USB sticks, with a writable partition would seem to fit the bill.

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563 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1197157 14-Dec-2014 10:00
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Thanks for feedback thus far.

I've been testing some different distro on some older hardware I have and Lubuntu seems to be well suited for what we're looking for thus far.

The Lubuntu live usb does virtually what's needed out of the box;

 

  • Runs well on older hardware
  • Good driver support
  • Grabs network settings automatically
  • Windows shares & Printers are accessible automatically
  • Basic software included
I'm now looking for a way to maintain customisations to the os;

 

  • Modify boot loader; auto boot to live mode (remove installation option)
  • Disable auto-updates / anything that may cause unexpected behaviour
  • Add default packages (LibreOffice, GIMP etc)
The ideal could be to maintain a 'master' VM that can be updated and used to create live usbs.

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Wannabe Geek


  Reply # 1197158 14-Dec-2014 10:05
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Engage a reputable EDU ICT company to sort it out, www.newerait.co.nz are a good example. False economy using old hardware. Leasing can get over the hurdle of new kit,  remember the kids / staff need rely on the network and get on with learning not faffing about trying to make computers work. Also schools use legacy apps for accounts and student management systems so Linux isn't ideal.

Both Google apps and Microsoft stack are totally free to nz schools.....



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