[SATLUG] Deploy Linux on 12 Workstations (continued)

Borries Demeler demeler at biochem.uthscsa.edu
Mon Mar 8 19:15:09 CST 2004

Hi Sean,

just to follow up on some of your concerns, and to underline what Jeremy
already has said:

> As far as what 'country' said, I will give that a try and call IBM back.
> I have seen some of their small-footprint boxes in retail establishments
> and I really like them.  My staff would probably like those too, they

Not to steer you away from IBM, but consider this: You can buy a decent
generic box (new with 1 yr warranty, ASUS MB, 512 MB RAM, 2.6 GHZ P4,
60 GB HD, nVIDIA graphics, CDROM, etc.) for about $400. At this price
you can afford to have a couple of extras laying around just in case
something goes wrong. You install Linux yourself (and learn a thing
or two while doing it), and custom configure it for your needs. Still,
IBM makes good product and nothing wrong with going with them.

> *  As far as the server goes, I'd be hesitant to also use it as a
> workstation.  The saying "Never underestimate the ingenuity of a fool"
> comes to mind.  My end-users find ways to screw up their computers that
> I have NEVER seen before.  This is not to be mean, but I would not trust
> them to be using the server as their workstation.  Plus we have the
> budget to have a stand-alone server so no need to have it doing
> double-duty.  Plus if it's not running x-windows I will be able to get
> away with a less powerful box for what it needs to do.

OK, but invest in a RAID5 solution, either with SATA raid, or IDE or more
expensively, Ultra SCSI. Backup can be done on one of your old PIII with
a RAID0 array of cheap IDE drives (rsyncing nightly). Running X or not
doesn't much matter, performance will not be noticeably slower.

> *  As far as I understood you suggested that I install all the software
> packages on the server and have each of the 11 workstations run the
> software from the server?  I'm hesitant to do that because of latency
> issues.  I have a 100baseT network already set up here, however I'm
> afraid that five or six people using the same install of OpenOffice at
> the same time would severely slow things down.  Plus, I'd like to know

We are doing this here locally for a large part of the biochemistry
department, and have never noticed a problem with it. If the machines
have decent amount of RAM the apps will be cached locally anyhow and
you will start faster than loading from a local harddrive. My guess is
you could easily support 100-200 people without a noticeable slowdown.
Don't underestimate the performance of Linux! OTOH, since you will have 
sufficient diskspace on each node, you might as well have each box
have a copy of all software, however, sharing the home dirs and passwords
is still a good idea. You can write an etc/exports and /etc/fstab file 
that mounts the home dirs from each workstation. That will distribute 
the load, and eliminate the need for a server.

> that if the server went down that my client workstations would still be
> able to function.  If I have EVERYTHING on the server and it goes down
> we are up the creek without a paddle, at least until I'm able to fix it.
> I was thinking more along the lines of having some sort of image or
> skeleton install that I could load onto new systems, right over the
> network.  

Go with Jeremy's suggestion: rsync to a backup box so you can switch in 
on the fly if something goes down on the main server.

> *  In regards to the VNC idea - this might work but I need to have
> multiple users using quickbooks simultaneously under different logins.
> A VNC terminal would allow only one user at a time, but we need minimum
> of 3 users simultaneously.  Hence I think that Vmware would be the best
> way to go, or with the codeweavers package.

I thought your boss didn't like the idea of renewing commercial software.
Now you add the cost of VMware to the cost of each Windows install, 
and soon you lose the cost advantange of Linux. Check into wine, it 
may do the trick for you.
Good luck with your project!


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