Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our New Trisquel 5.5 Lab Is Up and Running

According to its Wikipedia page, the Trisquel GNU/Linux project has been around since 2004, but I only heard about it a few months ago when it was recommended to me on the #sugar irc channel.  I clicked on the web site and it was love at first site!  Trisquel has just about everything I am looking for in a software distribution:
  • Built on Ubuntu to give it a "for human beings" usability.
  • Total dedication to software freedom.
  • An active community with many members located in the Northeast of the US.
  • A focus on software for education.
  • Ties to the Sugar community.
I've spent the last three days reconfiguring my high school ICT lab, and it now runs Trisquel GNU/Linux 5.5.  I had been planning to do this over the Summer, but construction issues in our building knocked out our network login infrastructure, so the need to get the lab working again as quickly as possible provided a motivation to migrate to Trisquel 5.5 now rather than later.

I needed to make the machines work as stand alone workstations with guest login accounts.  The new 5.5 version of Trisquel comes with Ubuntu 11.10's guest session (see Guest session and user management in Ubuntu 11.10).  This allows a guest user to login without a password to a special account with restricted access and volatile data storage (when you logout everything goes away).  I used ofris, a program that "freezes" accounts by restoring to a preconfigured  setup each time the machine is restarted to create a student account with a nicely configured terminal and a launcher on the desktop.  Here is a screenshot of the student account:

After adding all the software I wanted on a single machine, I installed remastersys and used that wonderful tool to create a custom installer disk that I used to install on the rest of the workstations in the lab.

We now have a working lab again, and can begin planning on to add back the following features:
  1. Configuration management (using Puppet).
  2. User management (using Kerberos and LDAP).
After getting those services restored (with an easy way to back out of them if the network goes down so we can still hold classes), I'm thinking of looking into iTALC, especially if there are other folks in the Trisquel community with experience with it.