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Dwight BaerFlag for Canada asked on

How to set up a Linux student lab client

I've been asked to set up a student lab with about 20 linux machines (ubuntu 18.04.4).

I'm starting this without any experience except that I was a Unix system admin 20 years ago, for about 10 years.

The students won't save any files to their machines.  Every time the machine reboots it will get a clean fresh instance of the machine.  If they want to save anything, they'll save it to a USB memory stick.

Thanks for any helpful suggestions or links.

(I have submitted a parallel question about how to set up the share on the server.)
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David Favor

8/22/2022 - Mon


You could install a PXE server to boot your classroom PC : here a link to install
David Favor

No reason to setup 20x machines.

Just setup 1x machine + 20x containers (either LXD or Docker).

If you use Docker, all data is ephemeral + will disappear each time a container is restarted.

LXD will be more useful if labs use MariaDB/MySQL where data persists between container restarts.
Dwight Baer

Louis Lietaer - I apologize, I should have been more specific about the "givens".

A lot of what will happen on these machines is video watching, which is somewhat processor-intensive.  So the given is that we already have physical machines, each with a 250-GB SSD drive, 4 GB of RAM, and an i5 processor.  I need the machines to access the documents on the read-only share on the linux server.  The linux server is a vm in a Nutanix environment.

David Favor - "Docker" is a technology that I hadn't known about before.  Given that we already have physical machines, should/could I still be thinking about Docker for the future?  Or is this truly something that I should suggest for today.

What I was actually hoping to hear was simply suggestions about a linux configuration that other folks have used in student lab situations.  What should I install on the machine?
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James Murphy

Do they have dvd drives?  You could boot from a Linux Live CD/DVD.  You could also use a "Live USB" that just loads into RAM.

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Dwight Baer

Thank you very much!
David Favor

About Docker + LXD.

Both of these technologies may be useful in your case, as since users will be reading documents + watching videos, you'll have lots of yields (reading data blocks) followed by CPU usage.

You can use either tech to partition off users so they're all 100% unable to modify any data outside their container.

So in your case, you might setup several containers/machine as a security/management mechanism.

This makes adding users or destroying users a per container action, which takes a few seconds, rather than having some complex script/policy for adding/destroying users.
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