teddysetgo
Posts: 39
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:51 pm

All Pi - All the Time

Wed Aug 24, 2016 1:56 am

Does any other computing teacher reading this have a computer lab that utilizes ONLY Raspberry Pis? No Windows machines, no Macs, no other Linux boxes, no tablets. Just Pis.

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scott_pdp
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2015 1:12 pm
Location: Port-de-Paix, Haiti

Re: All Pi - All the Time

Sat Sep 03, 2016 5:26 pm

I'm anxious to hear about this type of setup as well. We currently have 21 Windows computers in our school. Maintaining them is becoming a bigger job all the time. I am the high school sciences and tech teacher and I would like to switch over to only Raspberry Pi computers, using PiNet to manage them. I guess what I want to hear is that someone else has made the switch and hasn't looked back.

Most of our students (>80%) do not have electricity at home or a computer. We spend at least a semester on typing and keyboard skills, then a semester on productivity apps, and then a semester on physical computing/programming. If I switch to an all Raspberry Pi model, am I going to suddenly find there is something I 'needed' a PC for?

All comments and experiences appreciated.

Scott Bridges
Port-de-Paix, Haiti

ejolson
Posts: 1884
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:47 am

Re: All Pi - All the Time

Sun Sep 04, 2016 9:40 pm

scott_pdp wrote:If I switch to an all Raspberry Pi model, am I going to suddenly find there is something I 'needed' a PC for?
You appear to be confounding two issues.

1. Software: Windows versus Linux.

2. Hardware: Little single board computer versus big desktop machine.

While it is a maintenance issue to support many different kinds of software and hardware, such things are often done in educational settings which have a great diversity of computational needs.

Where I am, the student labs mostly run Windows 7, but computer science also needs Linux. Dual boot is a maintenance disaster because each machine would have two operating systems installed locally. Another idea is to run Linux under vmware in Windows. While remote tools can be used on the Windows side to update the distributed vmware images, maintenance was still a bit of a disaster. What seems to work best is to boot Linux onto the lab PC's as needed using a PiNet style boot image that can be loaded from a CD or thumb drive. This way the people in charge of Windows don't have to worry about Linux, and the people in charge of Linux only have to maintain a single network boot image.

The main difficulty using Pi hardware as desktop computers is that the 1GB RAM restriction makes web browsing slow and can limit other memory hungry applications. If the PC's in your lab have 2GB RAM or better, I would suggest keeping them and setting up a PiNet-style Linux network boot image using LTSP or something similar. If the PC's have 1GB of RAM or less maybe throw them out.

Note for PiNet and similar setups, you will need a fairly powerful PC running Linux as a server. If you are seriously budget constrained, it may be possible to recycle some of the Windows PC lab computers as servers. One strategy would be choose a number of identical lab computers, open the cases and transfer as many disk drives and memory chips from some machines as will fit in the other. In the end you will have a couple fully loaded PC's that can be used as servers and a pile of computer carcasses to throw out. Before throwing them away you may want to keep an extra power supply for emergencies.

Gbaman
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:43 pm

Re: All Pi - All the Time

Mon Sep 05, 2016 2:08 am

ejolson wrote:
scott_pdp wrote:If I switch to an all Raspberry Pi model, am I going to suddenly find there is something I 'needed' a PC for?
You appear to be confounding two issues.

1. Software: Windows versus Linux.

2. Hardware: Little single board computer versus big desktop machine.

While it is a maintenance issue to support many different kinds of software and hardware, such things are often done in educational settings which have a great diversity of computational needs.

Where I am, the student labs mostly run Windows 7, but computer science also needs Linux. Dual boot is a maintenance disaster because each machine would have two operating systems installed locally. Another idea is to run Linux under vmware in Windows. While remote tools can be used on the Windows side to update the distributed vmware images, maintenance was still a bit of a disaster. What seems to work best is to boot Linux onto the lab PC's as needed using a PiNet style boot image that can be loaded from a CD or thumb drive. This way the people in charge of Windows don't have to worry about Linux, and the people in charge of Linux only have to maintain a single network boot image.

The main difficulty using Pi hardware as desktop computers is that the 1GB RAM restriction makes web browsing slow and can limit other memory hungry applications. If the PC's in your lab have 2GB RAM or better, I would suggest keeping them and setting up a PiNet-style Linux network boot image using LTSP or something similar. If the PC's have 1GB of RAM or less maybe throw them out.

Note for PiNet and similar setups, you will need a fairly powerful PC running Linux as a server. If you are seriously budget constrained, it may be possible to recycle some of the Windows PC lab computers as servers. One strategy would be choose a number of identical lab computers, open the cases and transfer as many disk drives and memory chips from some machines as will fit in the other. In the end you will have a couple fully loaded PC's that can be used as servers and a pile of computer carcasses to throw out. Before throwing them away you may want to keep an extra power supply for emergencies.
Just to quickly jump in (as PiNet author) and say, PiNet does not require powerful hardware to run. It is basically just a file server. Personally, I run one for a Raspberry Jam with 30 Pis on a VM with a 1gb of RAM and x2 processor cores, but I doubt it even needs that much (especially the 2 cores). I would suggest a 2gb RAM machine with decent speed hard drive and duel core as a nice all rounder. Is more important to make sure your networking gear if half decent, especially that whatever machine you decide to use for the server has gigabit ethernet.

One exception to this is though if you need to use the remote-apps feature inside PiNet (allowing you to run individual apps on the server and forward to the client). In that case, then you would need a far more beefy server.
Lead developer of PiNet, a free and opensource centralised user accounts and file storage system for Raspberry Pi classrooms used in over 200 schools across the world.
http://pinet.org.uk

ejolson
Posts: 1884
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:47 am

Re: All Pi - All the Time

Mon Sep 05, 2016 5:38 am

Gbaman wrote:I would suggest a 2gb RAM machine with decent speed hard drive and duel core as a nice all rounder. Is more important to make sure your networking gear if half decent, especially that whatever machine you decide to use for the server has gigabit ethernet.
My experience also suggests that server hardware as described above can support about 30 clients. Whether you can build such a server by recycling parts from the Windows PC's currently in the lab largely depends on how old those computers are. To return to the question of the original post, running a PiNet server is a good reason to have a non-Pi computer in a Pi classroom.

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morphy_richards
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Re: All Pi - All the Time

Tue Sep 06, 2016 3:09 pm

I have run 30 networked Raspberry Pis in the classroom, I also had a networked PC running Ubuntu on the same network.

When students wanted to browse the web / watch Flash content etc which didn't work well on the Raspberry Pi, they would use their Pi to log in to the Ubuntu machine and run firefox on that machine.

From the terminal on their pi, type Then run the command

Code: Select all

firefox
That would show firefox on their raspberry pi screen as though it was being run on the Pi itself, except it's actually an Ubuntu version running on something like an AMD 6 core processor with 8Gig RAM.

ejolson
Posts: 1884
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:47 am

Re: All Pi - All the Time

Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:24 pm

morphy_richards wrote:From the terminal on their pi, type Then run the command

Code: Select all

firefox
While forwarding X11 through an encrypted ssh port can work well, there is a different remote application feature built into PiNet that may bypass some of the layered encryption and work better on a secured local area network.

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