The rut - Or, how I spent my summer

Just because life turns busy, you move house or go on holiday doesn't mean my ideas for a blog disappear. Look at what I've missed, Oil spill, Coalition Government, the Pope etc...  So many ideas, notes and draft posts but never actually taking the time to do the research writing the post

From here on out I'll only be posting about the things for which I have the time and/or passion to write about.

'Open School' project

The biggest reason I've been stuck in such a rut has been the 'Open School" project that I unwittingly started by thinking my life, staff life and pupil life would be so much easier if we just fired Ubuntu on the new computers in school. For all intents and purposes this is entirely true, but I've also been inspired to learn new skills and modify computers and networks to give users the best possible system.

I blogged previously about the use of Ebox (now known as Zentyal) as a server with Ubuntu desktops authenticating against an LDAP database. Apart from some authentication work involving Novell Netware, a few years back whilst working at UU, this has all been completely new to me.

Over the summer I began the process of configuring a desktop using Ubuntu 10.04, which went as follows:

  • Locking down configuration options

  • Enabling remote desktop via gconf

  • Mounting home directories from the server

  • Running scripts on login,

  • Syncing with Dropbox

  • Creating menu entries for class content

  • Using netlogon to tell Windows to mount the samba Documents share as "My Documents"

With everything working I started to draft a post explaining this process and the changes made to the server:

  • DHCP Server

  • Network gateway with content filtering

  • Setting filtering to allow internet access based on users in groups, and objects such as class and year.

Finally (or so I thought) I installed DRBL and Clonezilla on a spare machine, created images of the desktop and server and deployed the desktop image to the other 22 machines.

At this point those of you that interested in having a setup like this are asking me to tell you how. Unfortunately I am terrible at documenting as I go. Instead I've created a wiki page for the 'Open School' and will try to bring together all the links and information I have used to help me achieve this configuration, amending and adding my own content as necessary.

"So I thought"

Last weekend I deployed the clones of our server and desktop to our sister school in Portdown. Even though no two machines were a like, thanks to the flexibility of Ubuntu, the only changes I had to make were to the installed printer and the machines' hostnames.

Our Bangor school has expressed a desire to use the same setup and at the end of October I'll be giving a presentation on the 'Open School' at a joint teacher training day, where staff from the other four schools will be in attendance. I intend to show the benefits and creative opportunities offered by a Linux based deployment and hope to be kept busy in the months to come, as other schools come on board.

Next I'll be learning how to synchronise the LDAP trees between schools and configure offline LDAP authentication for our Ubuntu netbooks.

I'm very grateful to my School and our School Board for giving me the freedom to develop this project, as well as learn new skills and keep those that I have, fresh. I'll try my best to keep the wiki updated, but if anyone else has suggestions or questions make sure to let me know!

Andrew Gribben @grib