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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, Computing, Programming and virtual Machines in Technical; Hello all, The situation at present it, we have a site where students from year 09 get assigned their own ...
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    BKGarry's Avatar
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    Computing, Programming and virtual Machines

    Hello all,

    The situation at present it, we have a site where students from year 09 get assigned their own laptop, there are only desktop PCs for Admin users and some in DT. At present students run microsoft virtual PC with a local external SSD with a win xp install for them to do their programming on it.

    Getting complaints is too slow, it does work, blah blah blah.

    I have a spare server with quite a bit of storage (about 1tb) and it has 2 quad core processors with 128gb of RAM, which is not doing much (was brought for VDI in a box, but never took off) can any of your great minds think of a way we could utilise this server with some kind of hypervisor with machines our students can programme on with no restrictions, save their work to their own home drives, but the machines reset after every use?

    Any suggesting on where to start would be great with this one.

    All the best

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    Computing, Programming and virtual Machines

    I've built a vm on virtual box from the slax live cd. Added scratch, python and others. Also include guest additions, and you can map the logged on my docs into the vm for saving files (as it's a live cd). Disable network access, and it's all safe. The ISO is on every machine so quick to run too.

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    BKGarry's Avatar
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    The problem is the laptops are not the best on the resources. That's why I was thinking a hypervisor.

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    How about running virtual boxes on the server an then using VDI infrastructure to connect to them? That server sounds like it could more than ample handle that.

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    BKGarry's Avatar
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    Only is you have a spare 10K for the hardware enough to run the 30 machines and the 2k in yearly licensing, as you will need the fall over and with a windows 7 image easily taking 50gb once you allow for Virtual Memory and the over heads for the server, the space would only hold about 20 PCs

    Also, in theory you need an individual machines per student, which then means you need more than just 1 classes worth of machines, the capital investment is just too much.
    Last edited by BKGarry; 9th January 2014 at 10:38 PM.

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    @TheScarfedOne Which software version are you using to run the VMs, at present we are using Microsoft Virtual PC, but I am interested to which on you used to map the MyDocs, and where you found the instructions to make the liveCD back to an ISO

    *Edit* forgot the word version for Virtual Box enquiry
    Last edited by BKGarry; 10th January 2014 at 08:11 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BKGarry View Post
    @TheScarfedOne Which software are you using to run the VMs, at present we are using Microsoft Virtual PC, but I am interested to which on you used to map the MyDocs, and where you found the instructions to make the liveCD back to an ISO
    Using virtualbox here too, You can map drives within the program so they appear as a virtual drive even without network access enabled, so for us we have the users home area a folder called Python within it, mapped to a drive on the VM.

    Installed ubunutu with python etc, and that's set it to immutable etc, so it resets every time it's used.

    Steve

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    Is there another approach? Use python as a back end cgi engine on a Linux web server and/or just allow shell access. Unix is after all designed from the ground up as a multi user system and the server spec would be overkill for 30 simultaneous users. You can even have GUI elements displaying on a windows client if you run an X-Server on the laptops. Unfortunately, this is probably beyond the comfort zone of the teaching staff.

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    oh now @pcstru the X-Server approach with GUI access may work, are you basically describing a *nix version of terminal services, but with less interference with one and other?

    Trying to get my head around that one, it would just be the saving of current projects the issue there. I am not the worlds worse when it comes to *nix but only if there is a nice GUI and good web instructions on how to do it, not the best at troubleshooting it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BKGarry View Post
    oh now @pcstru the X-Server approach with GUI access may work, are you basically describing a *nix version of terminal services, but with less interference with one and other?
    Yes and ... mostly no! X allows you to direct the output of a client to a device running a server. In some ways it's more like a virtualised application than a virtualised desktop.
    Trying to get my head around that one, it would just be the saving of current projects the issue there. I am not the worlds worse when it comes to *nix but only if there is a nice GUI and good web instructions on how to do it, not the best at troubleshooting it.
    Students would have their own account on the server. You can use SAMBA to map their workareas to the server and mount them under their home directory. I'd encourage shell access and command line use but with a bit of scripting you could automate the connectivity between the X client and server such that clicking on an icon would present a remote window on the laptop the student is using. You don't need to clear anything down between sessions - they shouldn't be able to break anything for anyone else on the server itself since they are constrained to their account.

    How complex it is really depends on what they need to achieve in the programming. If they will just be using idle and interactively exploring python then moving on to storing programs in a file, then shell access would be fine. If they want to make use of graphics libraries, then you would either need to output as web cgi or use X.

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    budgester's Avatar
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    I guess the main question is what sort of programming do they do ?

    Just set up a Linux box and get them to ssh into then they can use vim/emacs on the command line, and write make files.

    Or are we talking about some sort to GUI based programming here ?

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    I think thats that problem, when it comes to A Level the need to make use of graphics libraries.

    so with an X Client I could possible use some kind of GUI?

    Sorry for all the questions, I need to figure out exactly how to achieve this one, This may involve a lot of test work with VMs at home I think.

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    Did a little bit of Googling and I think a *nix box with a GUI to a windows client is perfect, I am looking at xming for the windows client, but I am not sure how I would go about the server side, which flavour of *nix to use, and how to get the "apps" published so that I can push out a client config to open up the right ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BKGarry View Post
    I think thats that problem, when it comes to A Level the need to make use of graphics libraries.
    so with an X Client I could possible use some kind of GUI?
    The X Client would simply be a python program driving a library that can produce output suitable for X11 - so I think Qt should work.

    The other approach is to call the python code as a cgi script, i.e. via a web browser. That could be configured with Apache so they code in a shell and call their code via browser (http:\\server\~username\cgi-bin\test.py).

    I would say that while I'm pretty confident this would work technically, if I suggested it to out IT teaching staff, most of them wouldn't even know what I was talking about. That might be sad but at the same time I know it would be pointless to try and sell it.

    If pretty graphics is the key though, Processing scripts can be targeted to run in a browser and the whole concept of processing is designed to get pretty stuff on screen with minimal code. Python is a good tool for teaching programming, but it's not the only thing out there nor necessarily the most appropriate for a given task.

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    BKGarry's Avatar
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    ARGH!!!!!! my brain hurts, I am more confident with running it through an X Client and just installing and setting users up on the server for it, than I am trying to get it working in a web interface. That is just where I am not that confident in making it work and then fixing when it breaks.

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