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[seul-edu] Open configurationfor a school and applications (also need for help)

Dear all,

I want here to let you know some points that you may find interesting about 
what we have done in a primary school in Belgium.

We have equipped a pilot primary school with free software only 
and simple machines: old 486 computers with 8MB Ram, a VGA or SVGA screen and 
a simple network card (No hard disk) as clients and a "strong" server (RAM is 
critical). The 486 are gathered from people and companies who get rid of 
them, does are raelly cheap ! Only have to pay for the server and the network.

The system is based on LTSP (see www.ltsp.org) that is rewritten and that we 
hope to finalize and publish soon under GPL of course (by February if we 
cannot get further help)

Needless to say that a centralized system with the proper administration 
tools (we have not yet implemented them, but knwo they exists) is a relief 
and is REALLY easy to maintain and administer !

Some characteristics of the system:


1/ with the new settings, no more editing of configuration files for the 
clients: simply plug the client on the network and a minute later, it is 
automagically running (for the moment the client must be rather "standard" 
but that can change and be copleted)

2/ fine tuning of the clients can be done through a GUI configuration 

3/ the configuration files are now XML

4/ no more shell C program to read the configuration file: all are shell 

5/ the system is based on DEBIAN (the most open and easiest to maintain 
distribution of GNU/Linux. We are preparing packages that will allow to setup 
the system simply by installing the correct debian packages

5/ PERFORMING: based on the kernel 2.4 which brings major improvements and 
further simplifications (see explanations by our "specialist" Jerome 

Any questions, help, tests are welcome.

Jerome Warnier (jwarnier@bxlug.org) says:

I'm trying 2.4 test kernels for a long time now...  which I believe
bring several big improvements:

- devfs
- ramfs

With those two, a lot of ugly things may easily be removed from the boot
The first one, if well configured, can drastically cut lines in rc.local
(all the creations and chmod of devices) as well as reduce
brain-damaging effects of programs changing ownerships on devices. It is
also possible, by configuring devfsd, to abstract some hardware
differences with special devices.
The second one can reduce memory consumption by using ram only if needed
for /tmp (and suppress the ugly warning message when mounting /tmp as of
LTSP 2.03). No need to create a virtual filesystem. Ramfs does it all by
itself when simply mounting and adapts the size of the filesystem
according its usage.

I've already done it all ( with the help of mailto:fpeters@debian.org ).
Sadly, we did other modifications to LTSP which affected the
compatibility with the original LTSP, such as removing the need of the c
utility (I don't remember the name) to read ltsp.conf (reading
environment variables instead). It should although still be easy to
adapt to get the configuration from a LDAP server or to modify back to
use the former utility.

On the application side, we provide "office applications" but others as well. 

1/ word processor: look for something really simple and not ungry: I am 
convinced LYX or KLYX are the best as they also impose the user to look at 
the content before looking at the form. And the output is the best looking 
(thanks to hidden Latex) and can also be used to prepare html pages as it 
there are "translators" to Tex, html ...

2/ The specific html editor we used and recommend is AMAYA (a multilingual 
W3C project). It is an editor and browser at the same time, with many 
advanced capabilities (see http://www.w3.org/Amaya/ )

Same with other tools: remember KISS Keep It Simple, Stupid - it is always a 
good start.

3/ For the younger, we provide GCOMPRIS (see 
http://gcompris.sourceforge.net/) a simple yet powerful typing/triaing/gaming 
program (thank to its author)

2/ We have also decided to go for LOGO as it appears to be the best 
programming tool for children. LOGO appears to be not only a programming 
language, but also a tool to learn geometry, to structure the thought, to 
have children collaborating on a project ...

About LOGO, we have a need for help: there is need a free, open-source, 
multilingual LOGO that runs on GNU/Linux. There are some open, but not 
multilingual. Apparently there is a good, pretty windows version that is 
open-source : MSWLogo (see http://www.softronix.com/logo.html for info and 

It is written Borland C++ 5.02 and exists in English, German , Portuguese, 
Japanese and French. 

Does any of you know enough C++ (I don't !) to try and compile this on 
GNU/Linux with a library like WINE for example. I suppose this is not to 
complicated for the one who knows ! Thanks already for the help.

I am also implied in the developpement of a JAVAlogo, but this one is not yet 
open-source and is for the moment mainly in French. 

If any of you would like more info or want to contribute, please do not 
hesitate. All comments are welcome.

The configuration is not yet described in a web page, but we are now 
committed to do it. (This is a work planned for the coming week but as some 
help is welcome, I already post the message)

Best regards,


PS I deliberately put htis message in general lists to hope and reach a broad 

Nicolas Pettiaux
Avenue du Pérou 29 - B-1000 Bruxelles
Email: nicolas.pettiaux@linuxbe.org