Thursday, March 6, 2008

The EeePC and Schools

Having recently read a post on Hardman's Blogtastic Blog (don't you just love that name? :) ) I've been thinking...

The school I'm involved with has only recently bought aroud 12 brand spanking new Dell laptops. They're the kind of machines that I would be happy to use on a daily basis, let alone an entire gaggle (see what I did there?) of secondary school students, plus the teachers.

Imagine the savings that could be made by using technology such as the Eee PC! Having heard so many good first-hand reports about the new machines from friends of mine, it would be silly of me not to investigate it further... Now all I have to do is get my hands on one!

And one final thought - A whole host of these cheap and cheerful machines could also end up in a "one laptop per child" situation. hmmm...


Mo Money Mo Problems

Every now and again the Irish goverment declares that a certain amount of money will be made available to schools to be used for, for example, library technology, computer network infrastructure, computers in general, science labs and so on. The money that they then provide must only be spent on equipment that either directly or indirectly aids the money's purpose.

One of the major problems with this setup is that if the money is not spent, or if there is a small amount left over after the purchases, it disappears. It cannot be hoarded in order to save up for some particularly expensive piece of hardware - its essentially a "Use it or Lose it" scenario.

As a result of this, its easy to see how there could be wastage of public funding, depending on when the money appears. Often, however, its not a big problem - everyone can find something to spend the money on :)
The only problem is making sure that you're working towards some goal, or end point.

And that's where I'm hoping to steer one particular school in North Dublin - LTSP. Having recently contacted Dell Ireland, I've been sent a quote for the following machine:

  • Quad Core Xeon 5450 5.0Ghz/2x6MB 1333 FSB
  • 2nd Quad Core as above (yes, thats 8 cores!)
  • 16GB 667Mhz FBD (8 x 2GB dual rank DIMMs)
  • 2 x 146GB SAS (15,000rpm) 3.5 inch Hard Drive

And this entire setup (along with a copy of Windows Server 2003 - they just don't seem to listen when I say Windows is not required. The previous invoice also included 60 terminal server licences!) comes in at a reasonable price, give or take some optional extras. One thing I'd like to add is a separate, smaller, 15k disk for the OS to run from.

Now I have to go research just how many clients a server like this can support (I'm guessing alot) as well as trying to find out as much as possible about running clients from this sort of architecture.

Of course, the server is only part of the solution! I've also contacted NorhTec with the view to aquiring a MicroClient Jr and a MicroClient Sr in order to check them out and ensure that they would be suitable for a school environment.

And then (unfortunately) theres the question of securing the machines within the school - roaming hands would just love to walk out with a few of these tiny computers stuffed into their schoolbags!

Using TFT screens and mounting the machines physically onto the back of them is always an option, and would mean securing the monitors instead of each individual machine, but flatscreen monitors on every desk may just push the budget beyond the capabilities of the school.

You can't say it won't look fantastic though :)