You appear to be confounding two issues.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?
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.ejolson wrote:You appear to be confounding two issues.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?
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.
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.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.
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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.