At 11:53 AM 2/16/2005, Matthew R Farra wrote:
>I was wondering what the members of the list are using for managing teaching
>labs. We have a 15-seat training lab that we use Ghost to periodically
>return to a clean state. This system works fine, but requires a fair amount
>of time to create the images and deploy them. What do you use? Are there
>any open-source/free alternatives? Ideally, I'd like to be able to set
>something up that would return the systems to a clean state at a preset
>interval, or possibly at login. Deploying Microsoft patches, virus software
>updates, etc would also be an issue.
>Another issue would be how to maintain some kind of static file space so
>that users attending a multi-day course could save their files and still
>have access to them after a system refresh. Would another partition on the
>system be the best way to handle this? AFS space?
>Any thoughts on this topic would be very helpful and greatly appreciated.
We have 16 computers that are part of ACNS's Microlab system. We control the schedule of the room ourselves, and have our own printers, but other than that it works much like one of the Microlabs on campus.
Having it is much more affordable than trying to set up something of our own, which is the alternative we considered before Tom Davis et al talked us into doing it this way back in 1999. The savings in labor and software license fees continue to make it very attractive for us.
When it's time to buy computers, we try to make our purchase part of a larger Microlab purchase. That way we don't have to worry about our systems getting orphaned or forgotten when upgrades are done.
Jane Benke & Co. have always been very responsive when we've needed to have software installed that isn't part of the standard Microlab setup. And they haven't given any indication that they regret having gotten into it with us.
One downside has been access for visitors for classes for non-MSU people. There is a mechanism by which the Microlab people turn on "visitor" access, but all visitors share an account in those cases, and there is no AFS to store files for those people. If that is the type of group you need it for, you'd want to think it through very carefully before going this route. For us the lack of a place to store files for a multi-day class is not an issue, though. A handful of memory sticks would take care of it, and that is in fact what some groups have used.
And it's not just a Microlab issue. It's a subset of a larger problem. It's more the lack of a flexible mechanism for assigning temporary, limited IDs for guests at our conference center or short-term visiting researchers. The issue does seem to be getting attention in the right places, so maybe someday there will be a good, university-wide solution.
W.K. Kellogg Biological Station