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Re: [school-discuss] Educational Killer App for OpenSource

I was thinking about the laptop hinge problem. I have a Dell with a half-busted hinge. Reflecting on this last night I wondered if the laptop is indeed a poor solution for K-12, just not durable enough. I wonder how the OLPC machines will hold up.

I use a Nokia 770, my friend has the 810 with the slide-out keyboard. I think this type of UMPC design is far more durable overall and would serve well in even a slightly larger format for K-12. Last year I participated in discussions & research with the now-dormant Open Slate reference design. One idea was a separate slide-out keyboard that tucked away in a small compartment & propping up the touchscreen with the equivalent of a simple mirror or picture stand.

The cost of the nano-ITX format is coming down. We looked at taking off-the-shelf DC & battery power tech & adding an 8x6 touch screen to create a DIY UMPC.

The only missing FOSS piece would be a good handwriting recognition applet. For now Nokia's maemo handwriting recognition piece is closed source... :-(

Thinking more about this, is there a broad utility for remote desktop accessibility? I agree that remote desktop (NX, VNC, RDP) is neat (I used FVWM2 w/ VNC in the late 1990's doing *nix admin work) but could it be that remote desktop is really more of a frill to be set aside for special uses?

That is, why do we need remote desktop if the client machines are already computer and FOSS apps are both cross-platform and widely available? In my mind LTSP solves interim problems of reliability and administration, but are those long term problems?

As for FreeNX vs. VNC or RDP, I don't mind if VNC is a relative bandwidth hog. That's because Hamachi or a https-ssl bridge can be used for limited VNC desktop access where it's absolutely required, so there ought to be enough bandwidth for those special needs.

And if we exclude the requirement for remote desktops, how is VPN access for endusers serve significantly better than WebDAV? Wouldn't folder/file synchronization be better anyway?

As for Wifi, it's bandwidth constrained now, but in 5 more years WiMax will be feasible. Pervasive appliance utility is coming.


From: James P. Kinney III <jkinney@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: schoolforge-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Thursday, December 25, 2008 9:04:19 PM
Subject: Re: [school-discuss] Educational Killer App for OpenSource

I've tinkered a bit with a stripped Linux OS and a NX client. It's an OK
workaround for the problem of wireless bandwidth. But it is not a
viable, long term solution.

The NC client is not free software. It may cost $0 to download and use
but it can't be redistributed and the source code is not available.

You still have a cord somewhere in the process to charge the battery and
the battery lifetime is not a full school day of use.

Even with 802.11n you _STILL_ can't beat the bandwidth of a cat6 line! A
school will need many, many WAP's to support a 3:1 student:computer
ratio in each classroom and wireless is more work to support than wired.
That translates to more cost which results in fewer student workstations
to meet budgets.

This is not to dismiss entirely the benefits of a few mobile units in a
school. But mobile units cost the most per unit of horsepower of ANY
platform (outside of the Air Force fighter jet flight computers) and
they are the most fragile. That hinge holding up the LCD is not designed
for children to open and slam 10-20 times per day. But 1 mobile per 30
kids per school would provide some planned flexibility. And then a
skinny Linux with NX is a pretty OK choice.

Maybe a wired netboot setup that re-installs the OS and NX stuff when
plugged in would be a good solution to the broken setup issue. Also
setting the hard drive partition to "Read Only" except for swap space
would also help.

On Tue, 2008-12-23 at 13:07 -0600, Peter Scheie wrote:
> Sorry, miscommunication on my part.  By 'OS-NX' I just meant a stripped down OS
> with NX running on top, not a specific project.  There is no project for this as
> far as I know.  (Hmm, perhaps I should start one.)
> And no, I don't believe machines can PXE-boot over wireless.  That's one of the
> problems I was trying to point out.  The Coreboot project (formerly LinuxBIOS)
> may get to a point where wireless parameters could be set in the BIOS and used
> with the wireless chip to PXE boot, but I've not heard anything about them doing
> so.  And even if that does become possible, you still have the bandwidth issues
> caused by wireless being a shared medium.
> Still, these are all just engineering problems...;-)
> Peter
> lee rodgers wrote:
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > *From:* Peter Scheie <peter@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> > *
> > *> However, I plan to explore putting the OS-NX onto a pico USB stick,
> > and booting from that.  They're
> >  > cheap, about  about $6 a piece right now.  That way, the techs can
> > just crank out a whole bunch of the
> >  > sticks, put them into the netbooks, and give some extras to the
> > teachers.  When a student gets one
> >  > that doesn't boot because the previous user managed to trash it
> > (intentionally or otherwise), the teacher
> >  > can just replace it with one of the extras.  Using USB sticks means
> > the techs can prepare them without
> >  > having to gather up all the netbooks, reducing their load.
> >
> > I googled for OS-NX, can't seem to find this project. I googled for
> > OS-NX, can't seem to find this project. I assume it can boot anywhere in
> > any hosted environment via any delivery/media infrastructure.
> >
> > So machines can PXE-boot over Wifi? Interesting!
> >
> > /leebert
> >
> >
> >
James P. Kinney III         
CEO & Director of Engineering
Local Net Solutions,LLC                         

GPG ID: 829C6CA7 James P. Kinney III (M.S. Physics)
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