LTSP-Cluster Quicksand 

I am knee deep in my LTSP-Cluster migration right now. It has taken me twice as long to get to where I am than I thought it would. That old saying that the best laid plan goes out the window as soon as there is contact with the enemy certainly applies. I decided to try setting up LTSP-Cluster under 10.04 and seeing how documentation is incredibly scarce, followed what little I could find (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/UbuntuLTSP/LTSP-Cluster) and managed to get it working. Next I setup the integrated AD login and then spent several days with my old nemesis Pam_mount trying to get Windows Home folders to map when logging into Ubuntu. And to my surprise I did. So yay! Then I went around testing our varied and many client hardware configurations and low and behold, 10.04 has a problem with a large chunk of old Dell GX260 Desktops with integrated Intel graphics. I also ran into major performance problems with some of our older thin clients. 10.04 was bringing them to their knees. Ooops.

Rather than abandon the GX260’s and an entire lab full of thin clients, I went through the whole setup process again, this time with 9.10 (thank you VMware). Turns out 9.10 plays well with both the GX260’s and the old thin clients. So problem solved. So I can log students in via AD, their home drive gets mapped and away they go. I could run this way, expect for one small problem. Linux Home Directories. Users don’t log into the same server every time, one of the main advantages of LTSP-Cluster over plain vanilla LTSP. This causes a problem however as something saved on the Desktop in one session may not show up in the next if the user is connected to a different Server.

The solution would be to map all user’s Linux home folders to a network server however there is absolutely no documentation on LTSP-Cluster on how to do this. The other option is to abandon Active Directory and use the Guest login feature of LTSP-Cluster. This would effectively create Kiosk like machines that students don’t even have to log into. Because all of our applications are Web based, this actually makes sense. Students would just need to launch a browser and login to their Google Apps account or Moodle. I have a few reservations, but I am leaning toward this solution right now, as summer is running out and I need to start wrapping up this migration and getting everything else back in order.

I’ve learned a lot about LTSP-Cluster but I still have a lot more to learn. I’d like to better understand how to customize the client image, how to centralize user’s home folders and spend more time with the built in RDP client settings but for now, what I’ve got will have to do because I’ve got a ton more stuff to do and not much time to do it.

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