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Re: [Computerbank] more standardised install discussion needed ASAP

Hello Everyone,

Romana has raised the question of standardised installs and related

Perhaps it might be appropriate to start with the following questions -

* What type of useable computers are coming in to the branches as
    and do they differ significantly from place to place ?

* What resources do branches have for hardware checking/ software
   installation ?

* What resources do branches have at their disposal for running
   training sessions ?

* What resources do branches have at their disposal for initial user
   support ?
It seems to me that our deliberations on standard installs will be
influenced by the above aspects.

For example - the victorian experience is probably relevant here; I'm
going to
(briefly) recall some history - I'm sure that Grant, Frank, Kylie and
others will put me right if I don't recall correctly! :-) 

About 18 months ago the vic people were looking at using donated high
end 486s and low end pentiums for recipient machines.  At that point,
it seemed the way to go was to use X-Windows with a lightweight window
manager and selected applications, and try to put it all together in a
visually attractive way.

Then we started getting large numbers of 133MHz pentiums with 32 MB RAM
good screens, which usually needed only a once-over to check hardware
and then a linux install.  The decision was made to load these machines
with a debian installation running GNOME and selected applications,
which gave an overall satisfactory result with reasonably minimal
requirements as far as numbers of people installing were concerned. Out
of this effort grew the cbv "standard install" packages.

At that time, it was felt that the version of GNOME was more mature than
KDE, and we needed to standardise on a particular desktop in order to
simplify training, which was fast becoming a bottleneck in terms of
getting recipient machines "out the door".  The other considerations
were, if I recall correctly -

* debian had the best package manager - important when we
  were likely to want to "fine tune" software packages for recipients
* people were available to us who knew debian and who could teach others

* the debian philosophy was one we felt comfortable with.

The lower end machines, by necessity, faded into the background somewhat
as we concentrated on getting recipients "out the door" with useable

Fast forward to the present time, and we find that the 133MHz pentiums
getting scarce, and we are once again using high end 486s and low
end pentiums.  For the time being, we are getting by with a requirement
that 486s have 32MB RAM, which seems to make a useable system.

So I suppose we could say that we arrived at the decisions to use debian
and GNOME based on the people available to us, the type of computers
that were being donated, and an assessment of the relative merits of
desktop alternatives.  If the situation had been different, we may have
made different choices.

With the above as background, I'll just throw in my 2c worth in response
to Romanas' issues -

* BSD/Linux - Probably easier to go with Linux as there seems to be more
people around who know Linux than who know BSD.  Also, if one Linux
distribution becomes unsuitable then there are alternatives which should
be quite similar from a training point of view.  Of course, this may
vary in different locations.

As an aside, the vics have found that many recipients do not appreciate
the necessity for shutting down a Linux system, as opposed to just
flicking the power switch off, despite heavy emphasis on shutting down
correctly during training sessions. Hence there are frequent calls from
recipients faced with a message asking them to log in as root to run a
manual file system check. The best way around this seems to be adoption
of the Reiser file system - this is also being evaluated.

* KDE/GNOME - This is not an easy one! :-(   The Victorian experience
suggests that later versions of GNOME are requiring more computing
resources to operate with reasonable response times, especially if you
try to run the newer file managers, web browsers and mail clients. Thus
the vics are trying out KDE, which also seems to have a more intuitive
interface for new users, although GNOME seems more flexible with regard
to working with different applications.  KDE, however, also requires
significant resources, but maybe somewhat less than GNOME - I think the
jury is still out on this one. - Grant may like to comment about this ?

It may be that as these two desktops develop further, it will become
increasingly difficult ot run them on the relatively low end spec
machines coming in as donations, and we will need to seriously look at a
custom desktop. This could be something like icewm with some carefully
selected and configured applications.

* Participation and making recommendations on technical matters

My thought here is that we should encourage members with technology
experience to participate in ongoing discussions on the cbtechnical
list - someone may like to kick off with some thoughts on one of the
issues commented upon here.

In addition, it would seem useful if either one of the ordinary
members on the national committee or a specially appointed national
co-ordinator was given the responsibility of assisting branches in
resolving these issues - what do you think ?

Hope this helps.


David H.

David T. Hatton

romana wrote:
> I would like to discuss quite urgently at the next meeting the issue of
> standardised installs. What has come up for CBSA on the weekend is:
> * Debate about BSD/Linux
> * Debate about KDE/Gnome
> * Questions about paticipation by all members in the decision making process
> * Role of potential Technolgy group as a method for participating and
> contributing to debates, and as a method to make recommendations to
> commmittee
> We have members with technology experience, who have valid issues to
> raise and debate...
> I have been asked to ensure that this debate occurs quite soon, as we
> have equipment to configure, and the debate rages thick and fast here:)
> Thanks,Romana:)
> ??????????????????????????????????????????????????
> romana@timelady.com icq no:393293
> Computerbank Australia -  SA branch coordinator
> http://www.linunix.com/cbsa/
> "Between the idea and the reality,
> Between the motion and the act,
> Falls the Shadow..."
> (TS Eliot)
> ??????????????????????????????????????????????????
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> computerbank mailing list
> computerbank@lists.linux.org.au
> http://lists.linux.org.au/listinfo/computerbank
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