[Linux-aus] knoppix + redwall = ???

Max Kovgan kovganm at gmail.com
Fri Nov 3 01:06:04 UTC 2006

On 11/2/06, Michael Eilon <mgeilon at cyllene.uwa.edu.au> wrote:
> HI all,
> my first post to this list!  I've been a lurker all this time :-)
> --
> I'm looking for advice regarding a suitable Linux distro:
> it needs to be one of the Linux "live" distros (Knoppix, etc) which run off
> a CD and don't need a HD.
> But I need a variant in which I can customise the user interface... I don't
> want to have to set the web browser proxies and the default printer every
> time I boot into it.
> After much searching for Knoppix-like "live" distros, I found Redwall
> Firewall, which does the trick by saving all config files to floppy disk or
> USB flash drive.
> Very neat... but it's not suited to the teaching computer lab environment I
> have in mind (it's designed for use on a server as a firewall, and has a
> CLI only).
> --
> Background:
> I need something to run on the many "dead" (read: dead HD, but otherwise
> OK) PCs in our teaching computer labs.  With a suitable distro, I could
> resurrect the PCs at minimal cost, and expose the kiddies to Linux.
> But I can't just use Knoppix, because every time it starts up, I have to do
> things like: set the proxy in web browser(s); configure lab printer for
> OpenOffice; create desktop icons for apps; create desktop document with IT
> regs, etc.
> These are trivial to do once, but I can't always be on hand to perform them
> whenever a PC reboots (if I have 10-15 of these Linux PCs per lab...)
> It'd be great to have these tasks automated: every time the PC boots,
> Knoppix runs and looks for a floppy/USB drive with a config file on it
> (like Redwall Firewall does), then configures the GUI (KDE or whatever)
> with the required changes.

I think you should go for the PXE network boot way with "thin cliet":
1. setup a good and bandwidth capable NFS+NIS+DHCP+DNS+PXE server, aka serv0
2. serv0 should have a good hard disk/RAID, so it gives each user
about 500-600 MB of storage, which is over the minimum. ( you can have
120 such users on a 60GB hard disk ). of course it is best if no more
than 10-20 access the disk, so network isn't saturated

3. if possible the serv0 machine should reside on 1Gb link, and the
clients should be on 10/100T

4.1setup dns, dhcp, make static MAC binding of IP->MAC, and make sure
all the resolving works, arbitrary client gets IP properly ( unlike
what k12ltsp suggest, it all works faster when resolving works 100% ok
- both ways direct and reversed )
4.2 setup NIS for authenticating the clients, so you have 1
centralized users DB.

5. setup PXE boot of linux system, into the memory, and mount most via
NFS - /usr, /usr/local, /home etc.
You will have to fiddle with this one to make sure it fits your needs
- all the required apps can LATER be setup in /usr/local - either via
sources ( then you need all the clients to be uni-architectured.)
or via relocatable packages - debs or rpms ( depending on your distro ).

6. make sure you enable quota on /home and other user writable folders.

You do need some space for /tmp,

7. if you are able to get good nfs performance, you'll be able to have
all the clients raping serv0's HD.

I don't know how about 120, but this setup can serv up to 10-12
clients simultaneously.

and your users will have substantial space for work.

What you will need mostly from the clients is their memory & graphic adapters.

All this is well documented in details over www, just search for
"diskless linux workstation", and you'll probably get to:

Yet, I think all this can be done with Debian with less fuss.
the key is to do this incrementally, making sure each layer works ok.

if you have more specific questions you'll get a more specific
answers, posting to the list.

Best Regards, and good luck in reviving the trash :)


> --
> Is there a way of doing this with Knoppix?  Haven't found anything to date
> (but could be looking in the wrong place).
> Are there distros that allow for this sort of thing?
> Such "diskless" Linux workstations would be ideal: I can keep PC numbers
> up, but with minimal maintenance (any problems -> hit reset and walk away).
> But I don't know how to do it!  Any/all suggestions or pointers gratefully
> accepted.
> Thanks and cheers,
> Michael Eilon
> Assistant computer manager
> School of Physics
> The University of Western Australia
> <mgeilon at cyllene.uwa.edu.au>
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