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Re: [Computerbank] more standardised install discussion needed ASAP

On Tue, Nov 27, 2001 at 04:32:29PM +1100, David Hatton wrote:
> Hello Everyone,
> Romana has raised the question of standardised installs and related
> issues.
> Perhaps it might be appropriate to start with the following questions -
> * What type of useable computers are coming in to the branches as
> donations 
>     and do they differ significantly from place to place ?

Mainly high end 486's and low end pentiums. We currently have some
pentium 133's and some 166's, but the lowest common denominator needs to
be 486dx.

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

We have some good tech people here in SA who can use known systems to
find most faults. We currently use cdrom's for installs, however are
moving to nfs. I have only just discovered the compact version of the
debian install disks and am trying them out.

We are also looking at fai.

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

Until recently we have trained at recips houses. We are looking for
premises so that we can train recips as vic does. Not quite there yet

> * What resources do branches have at their disposal for initial user
>    support ?

phone, mail, email, icq, msn, irc, house calls (phasing out), recips
visiting us, ssh and printed cheat sheets.

> 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
> and
> 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
> computers.
> Fast forward to the present time, and we find that the 133MHz pentiums
> are
> 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.

I use BSD for xterminals, linux for recip machines. I know that Linux is
going to be the OS of choice for a standard install, but to me at least,
BSD is far superior.

> 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.

I have been using freebsd for 3 years, It always comes up fist time
after a power outage.

> * 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
> user
> 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 ?

Recips here prefer kde. My main issue with it is that it does shutdown
all the processes. Sometimes systems are unusable because of kdeinit,
etc hanging around.

> 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.

I am all for a custom desktop.

> * 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 ?

btw, thanks for going to so much effort with your post. 


Shaun Branden, email:  shaun@pcuse.com    It's a damn poor mind
icq: 10469563, homepage: www.pcuse.com    that can only think of
public key www.pcuse.com/shaun/key.txt    one way to spell a word
Computerbank SA:  www.linunix.com/cbsa    -- Andrew Jackson
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