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Mobile IT Education?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the here's-an-interesting-thought dept.

Technology 240

SickKiwi asks: "A client, a local polytechnic, has recently asked me to come up with plans for a mobile IT bus to bring technology to rural areas. I would love to find out what other people in the field have come up with in the way of workstation layout, OS choices and Internet connectivity. There doesn't appear to be a huge amount of material available but as the technology gets smaller, mobile classrooms become more and more practical." What vehicles would work best for this kind of application? A converted bus? A mobile home? An 18-wheeler with a heavily customized trailer? What kind of hardware would you put in it?

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Dont need no education. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864390)

I'm a hax0r with a first post.

Re:Dont need no education. (-1)

Fucky the troll (528068) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864722)

You pathetic fucking lamer. At LEAST be logged in for an FP, bitch! I hereby reclaim this FP for the trolls.

TROLL FP!!!!!




popular topic fp? (-1, Troll)

timanderson (532194) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864391)

this seems to be a popular topic on /. as of late

Mobile troll education...? (-1, Offtopic)

Trolligula (527461) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864393)

The last few months I have been doing some research into the trolling phenomenon on slashdot.org. In order to do this as thoroughly as possible, I have written both normal and troll posts, 1st posts, etc., both logged in and anonymously, and I have found these rather shocking results:

  • More moderator points are being used to mod posts down than up. Furthermore, when modding a post up, every moderator seems to follow previous moderators in their choices, even when it's not a particularly interesting or clever post [slashdot.org] . There are a LOT more +5 posts than +3 or +4.
  • Logged in people are modded down faster than anonymous cowards. Presumably these Nazi Moderators think it's more important to burn a user's existing karma, to silence that individual for the future, than to use the moderation system for what it's meant for : identifying "good" and "bad" posts (Notice how nearly all oppressive governments in the past and present do the same thing : marking individuals as bad and untrustworthy because they have conflicting opinions, instead of engaging in a public discussion about these opinions)
  • Once you have a karma of -4 or -5, your posts have a score of -1 by default. When this is the case, no-one bothers to mod you down anymore. This means a logged in user can keep on trolling as much as he (or she) likes, without risking a ban to post on slashdot. When trolling as an anonymous user, every post starts at score 0, and you will be modded down to -1 ON EVERY POST. When you are modded down a certain number of times in 24 hour, you cannot post anymore from your current IP for a day or so. So, for successful trolling, ALWAYS log in.
  • A lot of the modded down posts are actually quite clever [slashdot.org] , funny [slashdot.org] , etc., and they are only modded down because they are offtopic. Now, on a news site like slashdot, where the number of different topics of discussion can be counted on 1 hand, I must say I quite like the distraction these posts offer. But no, when the topic is yet another minor version change of the Linux kernel [slashdot.org] , they only expect ooohs and aaahs about this great feat of engineering. Look at the moderation done in this thread [slashdot.org] to see what I mean.
  • Digging deep into the history of slashdot, I found this poll [slashdot.org] , which clearly indicates the vast majority does NOT want the moderation we have here today. 'nuff said.

Feel free to use this information to your advantage. I thank you for your time.



first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864394)

editors should not be allowed to moderate more than once per post!

Depends on budget of course. (3, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864405)

We need a little more info on this. How big is their budget? How far does the vehicle need to go? What type of terrain? I ask the last one because I worked for the school system in Nashville for awhile, there are some really remote communities there. As far as OS goes, I would show just about all that you can, I would even include *shudder* MS products...if you can give some more info, I think I can add some to your conversation. ;-)

Re:Depends on budget of course. (5, Informative)

SickKiwi (413787) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864616)

The budget isn't huge - in the order of about $20K US, the bus they're looking at is a full size Isuzu bus. The terrain could be pretty rough in parts (we're talking South Otago in New Zealand here). There's some pictures here http://www.catlins-nz.com/. If the budget will allow I'd really like to use LCD flat screens as I figure they'll last longer with no tubes etc and offer a much smaller footprint. I'm strongly tempted to have some sort of thin client setup for ease of maintenance. Win2k Term services is an option *shudder* I know, but unfortunately Windows/Word/Excel etc is what most of them will be running at home. Although the area is very rural, a lot of farmers and rural workers in the area have PC's. The idea is to teach the basics, and also more specialist classes on demand. A lot of these people just don't have time to enroll in courses in urban areas, but there is a general degree of excitement about the mobile classroom. Hope this helps ... Paul

Don't shudder...I think you're right (1)

BaronM (122102) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864677)

Terminal Services / Metaframe and winterms (Wise, etc.) are probably the way to go. Put a (donated) big-ass SMP server on the backend, and a bunch of (donated) software on there, and off you go. If you want to offer more diversity, add in a second big-ass Sun server and use the winterm that are also XTerms. Opensource is great, but I'm guessing that the folks coming to these classes would prefer to learn mainstream skills that they can use at home and work.

Re:Depends on budget of course. (1)

dfreed (40276) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864704)

Do not go with LCD, unless power is an issue. They have tubes of their own. The backlight(s) behind the LCD, of which there are between 1-5 do break. And if you are driving over rough train they will break even faster.

Re:Depends on budget of course. (2)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864711)

Wow. You're going to need quite a few satellite dishes just to load the homepage of that site.

Has the concept of text not reached New Zealand yet?

Re:Depends on budget of course. (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864725)

So I suppose ruggedized machines are out of the question. To be honest, you are rather limited (it would seem to me) in what you can do. You stated above that a lot of them have pc's in the home, so I would assume that most also have a connection to the net, so your idea of term server sounds good in that case. Hard luck for those that don't have a modem or other type connection. The kicker would be how far can you stretch your budget? You can get w2k term server running on a relatively low speed machine, and allow them the use of their own machines, OR, you could use several dumb terminals allowing access in (again, nothing fancy, just good enough to not hinder their learning.) The sad fact is, you might want to keep the OS the same. (meaning MS in this case, as you stated the majority probably will be using MS products. Also, the truly interested will be able to make their own decisions just like you and I did, with a little help from you of course) The reason I say this is it will be a pain in the you-know-what to get various flavors to hook into one another. If you are also heading into what I call Croc Hunter Territory, do two things, make sure everything is secured properly, i.e. tied down, bolted, etc., and bring Suie the dog to chase hogs :) The bottom line is, don't make it hard on your self. Keep things fairly simple, and you should do fine. One other option, then I shut up, if there is a military base near you, you might be able to get some hardened cases for storage during the trips from community to community. Contact your local PR guy or gal, they should be willing to help, and in fact might donate some equipment (The military loves easy GOOD press) Ok, have fun, I would love to be doing this, sounds like a neat gig.

My Webhosting Provider Actually Did this Recently (1)

jzoetewey (200538) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864724)

I don't know all the details, but a local non-profit (local to Grand Rapids, Michigan anyway) recently did exactly what you're talking about.

I doubt that their budget was very large. On the other hand, they may have just gotten a grant (standard procedure for a non-profit).

Here's what they call what they did:

"MOLLIE (Mobile Learning Laboratory for Information Education--20 laptops connected wirelessly to hub which is connected to Internet)".

If you're interested, I can connect you with Ray Hoag and Dirk Koning (the people behind the project.

Otherwise, you can probably get in touch with them through http://www.grcmc.org.

Pony Express (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864408)


A converted bus? A mobile home? An 18-wheeler with a heavily customized trailer?

A fast pony and a satellite spot-beam.

Little known fact -- although the original Pony Express is often used as a symbol for the U.S. Postal Service, it was actually a private company.

--
Off topic and proud since 1947

If they're trying to train them to act like our IT (1)

Uttles (324447) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864411)

They'll use the A-Team Bus!!!

Re:If they're trying to train them to act like our (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864434)

Ahhh, a great philosophy; every problem can be solved by adding armor plating to your van.

Yup. I just love it (1)

Uttles (324447) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864464)

when a plan comes together.

I tell you what though, if Mr. T said "settle down fool, I'll have email back up in a minute!" I don't think I'd call more than once.

Re:If they're trying to train them to act like our (1)

Maditude (473526) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864558)

No, the camper they used in the movie Stripes!

"mobile IT" (0)

xbrownx (459399) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864412)

Like the library's bookmobile?

Consider this... (2, Funny)

LordOfYourPants (145342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864414)

Do you like information? Do you like technology? Do you like things that are mobile? Do you enjoy buses? If so, then you will love the mobile IT bus.

I think what we also need to consider is whether or not this bus will be driven by DeVry graduates. They are serious about success, but are they serious about keeping their eyes on the road? I don't really fucking think so.

Honestly... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864421)

I'd want those in rural areas to come to urban areas for schooling. Mobile classes will necessarily need to become permanent classrooms in those areas that you want to teach. IT isn't something that is static, like your mom's computer. It is always changing, and unless the IT manager has a firm grasp of the fundamentals, they will be lost without further instruction.

Have the ambitious ones come to the city to learn and take their newfound knowledge back with them.

Unless this is simply a scam you are running.

Reverse Natural Selection (2)

s20451 (410424) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864707)

Have the ambitious ones come to the city to learn and take their newfound knowledge back with them.

You expect them to go back? I'm reminded of a former resident's characterization of a town in backwoods Ontario: "It's reverse natural selection. The smart and ambitious ones move to the big city, the rest stay here and breed."

I would use... (1)

Drakon (414580) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864424)

A mobile home. with 2 x86 desktops, a g4, and a Ultra10, all hooked up to a nice KVM
Linux/Win2k/OsX/Solaris
a single screen (KVM) and it doesn't need much power

Better than Slashdot: #@ +1 ; Against us @# (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864561)

try a search on www.google.com

Thanks in advance and have a Jon_Katz-free weekend.

Re:I would use... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864599)

A mobile home. with 2 x86 desktops, a g4, and a Ultra10, all hooked up to a nice KVM
Linux/Win2k/OsX/Solaris
a single screen (KVM) and it doesn't need much power


You would use a mobile home!?! That seems a bit large for 4 computers and a monitor. I mean, really, you could fit a beowulf cluster in a mobile home, so why stop at 4 computers? Not only that, but everytime you want to move it you have to saw the thing in half and put it on two trucks.

OS Choices? (4, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864429)

OS Choices

Well, if that isn't a loaded question... :-P
Of course 99% of the community will say Linux, but I'll be the guy modded down that says go with Win2K. Don't do anything too hairy with the Win2K boxes (to get it so you don't need to worry about crashes), but MS makes good GUI's. Its easier to understand point-and-click with people that don't know how to use a mouse, than command line execution in a shell window.

Sure, you can spend mucho time getting SuSE (or GNOME) to have nothing but point and click, but I ask one question:
What do you have more of (or, more freedom of)?:
Time to setup the systems, or
Money to buy the systems?

Re:OS Choices? (0, Flamebait)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864479)

not to be a dick, but slack 8 + kde 2.2 can be installed and working in less time that it takes to install win2k.

Re:OS Choices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864502)

But once you get it up and running, you still have to spend time setting up KDE2.2 to have as simple of a GUI as Win2k.

Re:OS Choices? (1)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864618)

um not really, both of you. slack works (for me, maybe i'm just NOT a dumbass) off of the cd pretty much perfectly, and any idiot could click the pretty widgets and make kde work nicely.

Re:OS Choices? (1)

cscx (541332) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864511)

You sir, are a dick. "Working" does not mean "working properly." When Win2k installs, it works properly. Slack doesn't ... I've done it before, trust me. You have to configure so much shit it's ridiculous. Crawl back into your LUnix hole...

Re:OS Choices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864610)

I would have gone with SuSE 7.3 over Slack 8. I have Slack on my email server and SuSE on my desktop and I can tell you that the SuSE install was a lot smoother. Maybe not as fast but definitely smoother. To be fair, my XP install, with quick format, only took about 40 minutes.

Re:OS Choices? (1)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864664)

i just said slack as an example; it's what i use. if you want something more desktop user oriented you could use mdrake or suse. however, you should just set up several dumb terminals and run the whole deal from one server (cost effective).

or you could just pay (hah) for all of those win2k client licenses.

Time to setup the systems? (1)

johnot (240709) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864551)

How much time does it really take to set up one machine correctly, with apps, security settings, X, etc, then clone it off to as many as you need with Ghost or something similar?

Re:Time to setup the systems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864602)

More time than it takes to install Win2K, which is ready to go out of the box with no tweaking, then cloning it off to as many as you need with PQ DriveImage.

Sure, as the number of machines approaches infinity, the difference becomes negligble, but it will always take longer to get Linux to a satisfactory state (relatively speaking, of course) than Win2K.

Re:OS Choices? (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864605)

Why Win2K? Why not the latest and greatest XP? It's all Win2K is and then some.

Re:OS Choices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864630)

MS makes good GUIs?

What dream world are you living in?

Not that I think there's anything too terribly stellar out for *nix (Though, Blackbox is a poweruser's dream come true..)..

MS's desktop is horrible. It sucks ass. It is *not* *userfriendly*.

Who's telling me this? The people who keep bitching at me for computing advice. They're quite the average users - and if they bitch about how hard MS products are to use, well..

Re:OS Choices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864699)

If they aer bitching to you about computer advice then they are hardly average users. You think they would at least go for somebody who can *post* *without* *putting* asteriks around their words. You would also be able to form intelligent sentences that don't end with ",well."

Either way, I watch hundreds of people use Microsoft at my company every day and while they may complain about occasional Excel hiccup they have not once complained about GUI issues.

Re:OS Choices? (2)

Molina the Bofh (99621) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864660)

I don't think you should be modded down, because I also agree Windows (2000, XP) would be much more user-friendly than, for instance, a slack 8 + kde 2.2.

And I'll be more bold. I'll even say that a Linux distribution requires contant maintanance to stay secure, while Windows XP has automatic updates.

Don't consider me anti-linux. I do use Linux, but I don't recommend it to beginners who are not inclined to read books and books on how to use it. However, if the person really wants to learn hard, then I recommend linux.

Most beginners don't even know the difference between a file and a folder. Will they grasp the concept of devices and symlinks ? Fat chance.

You have most [dumb] users, for who Windows XP would be the best solution. And a handfull of [geek] students that would love linux, and could learn a lot using it. So why should you stick to just one OS? Use dual boot and have the best of both worlds. This way, they all can learn in their own pace.

Re:OS Choices? (3, Insightful)

Xibby (232218) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864662)

but MS makes good GUI's

What? Oh my...

My Grandma got a new computer from the family for Christmas. Nice new Dell box with WinXP pre-installed. Now Grandma's last computer was running DOS, with automenu. (automenu would run programs for you, and when you exited the program, it would dump you back into automenu. She never used the command line.)

Anyway, try and answer this question:

When do I click once, and when do I double click?

Doesn't seem like a hard one, but...
single click web links.
click once to select icons on desktop
click once for start menu
click once to run a program on the start menu
double click to run a program from it's icon on the desktop...

and it goes on and on...

If MS created good UI, you would be able to answer that question in four sentences at most...

Re:OS Choices? (1)

allism (457899) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864702)

Actually, it is simpler than that...

Double-click to run something or open a directory
Single-click the rest of the time
--and--
if single-clicking doesn't work, try double-clicking.

There's yer four lines. (And yes, I probably AM missing something)

But try to explain to someone over ICQ how to double-click, now there's a teaching experience...

Re:OS Choices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864714)

This is unique to Microsoft? The last time I used a Mac it had double-clicks. I know KDE has single click to open files by default but that is also sometimes counter productive.

Mobile IT.. (1)

LordOfYourPants (145342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864430)

Slashdot should remove this posting as "redundant".. segway has already been revealed.

Hmmm...What OS? (1)

jaredmcook (552049) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864433)

What OS could he possibly use. I don't know, but I bet here on Slashdot he will get a recomendation. Would it be...Linux? Yeah, I thought so.

Modified school bus (3, Interesting)

booyah (28487) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864447)

Modified school bus with every other row removed, a server near the front running dumb linux terminals (for heat, space, costs issues) running star office (most places use msoffice but star is very close in interface) with gecko for browsing (keeping it lite). if available run packet radio or if not i would have to say cell for internet uplinks...

all said and done that would make an interesting project.... want help?

Re:Modified school bus (-1, Offtopic)

mengel (13619) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864691)


So far this sounds like the most constructive
suggestion. You might add a projection tube
and a pull-down screen for a presenter station
at the back of the bus, and put the seats in
backwards...



If you're in an area with relatively
good line
of sight to some central
landmark, you could possibly set up
some seriously fun packet radio or
point-to-point 802.11 network feeds.


There are some past articles like
this one [slashdot.org] that mention point to point
solutions, and places like
this [guerrilla.net] and [oreillynet.com]
this
that have antenna designs for 802.11
that go a pretty good distance...

That's easy (0, Redundant)

soupforare (542403) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864450)

Just use Mr. T's van

It's heluva fast [wisc.edu]

Re:That's easy (1)

gimple (152864) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864516)

"I pity the fool that thinks they don't need IT."

Mobile IT Dept? (1)

bje2 (533276) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864459)

wow, that would be one expensive trailer/bus...

sounds kinda interesting, but hey, it could give a whole new meaning to a system crash

hmmm (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864465)

I don't know if I'd try to trick out a bus or anything. Maybe just design a network, then put enough PCs in it (carefully placed with all the cords and peripherals attached and ready to go) so it can be removed, hooked up in a few minutes with help from the local citizenry. I'm sure most communities would allow you the use of a local building.

If it's IT... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864466)

then it HAS to be a Volkswagen, like a Eurovan or Jetta.

Wrong question (0)

xbrownx (459399) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864467)

Instead of the hows of doing it, I'm more interested in the whys of doing it.

Not sure, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864470)

I think something waterproof would be good. I hear there are all kinds of problems with the plumbing in a mobile home.

It's obvious. (3, Funny)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864475)

A pinto filled with laptops should do. :)

AOL and NASCAR (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864478)

May sound absurd but I know that AOL and NASCAR had some kind of mobile web access thing going. There is a picture of it on Here [aoltimewarner.com] . Of course, I am not sure how cost effective it is to have two satellite dishes on top of an old mac truck.

Would have to be fortified (0)

happyhippy (526970) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864480)

To prevent it from being stolen or the tech inside it taken. Id hate to be the one to insure the thing too.

18 Wheeler-trailer (1)

Elmar_Stoned_at_Work (539979) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864481)

KNIGHT RIDER MAN! have you not learned your lesson?

Re:18 Wheeler-trailer (3, Funny)

jpostel (114922) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864509)

Sweeet!!!

The first thing that came to mind was the Knight Rider truck with the tricked out combo data center and auto maintenance bay.

Tech Demos (3, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864485)

The mobile tech demos I've seen have all been in heavily modified 18-wheelers. But they've all been by big companies and I'm sure the cost is exteremely high. I certainly can't speak for how to equip it, but I would think a stripped bus would be the most economical way to go. It's easy to find a used charter or public transportation bus and rip out the passenger seats.

On the flip side, it's much easier to configure the power sources you'll need with an 18-wheeler, especially since many are already built for electric power.

Re:Tech Demos (1)

Myko (11551) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864609)

The problem with these is that the ones by huge companies often land in cities where they can lease temporary T1s and T3s to accomodate bandwidth. Setting up a mobile center lacking Internet connectivity isn't all that hard, most of the comments cover that. The hard part is getting any reasonable connectivity to the mobile center.

I'd look at satellite broadband options (DirectPC used to have this.) There are also operations making equipment that make mobile satellite tracking possible, although if it will be stationary, you can just re-align manually at each site.

iM (1)

sammy.lost-angel.com (316593) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864489)

How about an iMac as well? Show the different options and systems out there is good. Of course you should have Windows and Linux, but that iMac is from another planet.

A satellite internet connection would be neat too.

shake tst (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864491)


function winShake() {
for (var i = 0; i

'bring technology' and 'rural areas' are to vague (1)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864495)

Rural could mean (1) West Virginia, or (2) Afganistan

Technology is just to open ended...but I suppose the poster meant Web Surfing

Afterall, a steel Hunting Knife is technology in many parts of the world.

Education? (1)

jeff13 (255285) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864499)

Learning how to setup a WinNT network, setup a Cisco router, or a little JavaScript is NOT an education. These schools, with waaaay too much government and business "help" , have ripped off thousands throughout the 90's.

How much does it cost to go to CompuCollege? ITI? Yea, all your money are us!

These days, all these graduates [*chuckle*]work at Microsoft... but many more are wandering the streets of America wearing signs that read: Will code in VB for food".

WebVan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864507)

Didn't some of those dot bombs have those? Maybe you can find one on e-bay or in a SF newspaper auto add.

What they do in the sticks! (4, Informative)

AntiPasto (168263) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864510)

Out here in rural ohio, the local tech school has a mobile lab of like 10 machines. They also have overhead projector I believe. Basically it's just an old mobile home stripped out, and they bill it out onsite at like $170 an hour.

Works for them!

i-Macs (3, Insightful)

sitturat (550687) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864515)

I see this as a good opportunity to put some i-Macs to good use. They take up so little space; perfect for a bus or whatever.

Also, OS X is perfect for little kids that haven't yet gotten into the bad habit of using MS Windows.

Re:i-Macs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864638)

Yeah. Let's teach them that form is much more important than function when it comes to computers. "Now don't touch that Honey. That's for looking not touching."

I got one... (1)

crumbz (41803) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864520)

...it's called a BookMobile!

Bus - Bad, Trailer - Good (2, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864529)

A school bus would be a huge mistake.

Put it in a trailer that can be pulled by a large rig. This will give you much more space and better heating/cooling options.

A school bus is made to commute students, not sit around w/them working in it. Your eqipment would kill most of your available space. (Not just computers- but power, a.c., all that good stuff)

Not to mention- what do you do when the bus breaks down? Let it sit until you can drop a new engine or tranny in it?

Much better to hitch the trailer to a new truck and keep rolling.

These are just a few of what to seem to be the more obvious reasons why a bus would be a poor choice.

.

Neat idea (1)

zhrike (448699) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864534)

It sounds like a wonderful project on which to work.

As to the internet connectivity, I was thinking that perhaps a couple of webservers would be a better idea. House some complete web-sites, or create specific html content geared towards the matter at hand. May be easier than looking for signals in rural areas. You would still be able to illustrate the mechanics and experience of hyperlinking.

As to OS, the context would have to be considered. Ideally, I would want a number of OSes running, with largely Linux/FreeBSD on the server side. But one would have to include Windows in some form. I would also want to be able to show Mac OSX and some X-windows desktops as well.
Have fun.

Re:Neat idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864656)

They could always just mirror the entire internet on their web servers. Hard drives are cheap nowadays anyway. Should be easy to put together a few exabytes.

new LCD iMac seems an obvious choice (1)

occam (20826) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864545)

The new iMac seems an obvious choice due to its excellent size (can be practically flush with the wall of the vehicle, no box to store anywhere), excellent ergonomics (flat screen readily adjustable), relatively solid state which is a bonus for a vehicle based classroom.

Also, it has an excellent technological base of UNIX, Java, all unix open source available, as well as MS Office for OSX, and Virtual PC (if you want or need to run anything in a PC environment). For a teaching environment, I can imagine VPC could be extremely useful to test Windows alongside Intel Linux in windows on Mac OSX (if they're comparing operating systems, approaches, etc.).

In sum, the new iMac is pretty all-inclusive with Virtual PC, Unix, Mac, and even MS Office native, not to mention less technical vocations like photography (new iPhoto just rocks), music (iTunes), and movie creation and publication (iMovie and iDVD) which are all excellent ways to introduce creative career paths superquickly and easily.

Good luck,

= Joe =

Re:new LCD iMac seems an obvious choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864673)

Let's see, through on 10 cheap PC's at about $400/each (with a crt monitor of course) or 2 iMacs at $1899/each (you did say DVD burner).

Trailer (1)

Dethboy (136650) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864546)

My thought would be to get a trailer. Then you could simple rent or borrow something to pull it with... and you aren't responsible for taking care of anything mechanical... Depending on your budget this could be as big as a semi trailer - or something as small as a UHaul or something similar.

What about Michael Knight (1)

NOT-2-QUICK (114909) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864550)

I would suggest contacting Michael Knight [knightrideronline.com] of the much famed Night Rider series... If memory serves, his buddy Devon Miles [aol.com] had an extremely nice 18-wheeler with all types of elctronic goodies including computers hidden within the custom trailer...

Additionally, if you adopt their layout you would have a great parking spot!!!

VW Microbus, seriously (2)

SanLouBlues (245548) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864552)

A Microbus is cheap ($1000). Easy to maintain. Has kitsch value. Tack on a generator for power and you're set. Low complexity == maintainability.

Plus there are many available configurations to choose from in addition to the widespread user community which can advise you on any customizations. :)

Of course, you would need to keep it in a garage for security, but that would be true no matter what vehicle you put a signifigant amount of tech stuff into.

obligatory (1)

pyros (61399) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864560)

Image a Beowulf caravan of these things!

Budget notwithstanding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864565)

I would put an x86 machine that boots Linux and WinXP and maybe 98 also, and a Mac that boots OS X and 9. Have two monitors not use a KVM and probably need some projector and screen if you are having classes with more than 2 people. Is this for training or tech support? Becuase the requirements are different. Though I guess you would want both. You would probably want a back area for the techs and a forward area for classes and demos (and SALES?). I suppose you could make money at this. Going to towns who had no computer shop within 50 miles, but then how many people are going to have computers in a town like that? Sounds capital-investment heavy.

-entro

send in MegaCar (1)

mattblanchard (551123) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864568)

Sounds like its time to send in our old friend MegaCar!!! [tomshardware.com]

I'm sure there have been developments in uber-cool tricked out cars since MegaCar debuted, but I find it hard to care too much.

Is the poster looking for a big wow! factor, or something more practical?

much too funny on a friday afternoon (2)

mark_lybarger (199098) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864571)

a mobile education unit, eh? how about a mobile teach with a laptop? what more do ya need? what real need is there for internet connectivity in a classroom environment? i know if my classrooms had more than a teacher's computer for sleep demanding powerpoint presentations i surely would have shaved a few grade points off my gpa. if every student has a laptop and it's connected .. during class ..

btw - the gateway folks or whoever came to one of the city festivals downtown with their bus last year to show off their kewl computers. i don't know how it went for them, but when i go out side, downtown, i really would like to NOT see a computer.

Truckers have internet (0)

God_Retired (44721) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864572)

Having spent a brief, but enlightening, stint as long haul OTR driver, I can tell you that a lot of drivers have internet connections through their satellite dishes on their rigs.

In short, use their satellite setup (2 or more if you have the money and are really concerned about connection speed), and then configure the router and the network however you normally would.

Technically, this shouldn't be a big deal, especially if you already work as a consultant. That or you are just asking /. to do your homework for you.

better idea (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864573)

How about you just take the bus, and bus all those rural types into some normal, stationary lab? Is that really so difficult?

Questions (1)

JohnHegarty (453016) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864576)

"What vehicles would work best for this kind of application? A converted bus? A mobile home? An 18-wheeler with a heavily customized trailer? What kind of hardware would you put in it? "

I think the main question to answer this are :
1) Budget
2) How many people will be using it
3) What sort of internet connectivit will be avaiable where the bus/van/truck is going. Will there be a phone line, if not then some type of two way satillite would be the answer.

To get a good start on saving money.
1) Make sure you use as much open source/gnu software as you can.
2) Try to get a load of out of date pc's. Most education can be done on ~133mhz. You could get quite a few computers here for $5000. Mabey 3~4 upto date systems for projects that warrent it.

How do I check it out? (1)

jfsather (310648) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864581)

Just make sure that you allow yourself the ability to check the van/bus/trailer out so you can be the person to bring the LAN party to the rural keggers.

-J

semi trailer. (1)

overbom (461949) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864587)

Most training areas that I've seen would be semi-trailers, but the problem with them is width: the instructor ends up teaching in a long hallway. (Unless they haul around one of those houses cut in half, each part sitting on a semi. hmm... classy. wait, impossible to assemble in the city...)

For interior hardware, I would want a distributed system -- since the trailer is in a rural area, it has to be able to switch configurations quickly and easily.

are they going to want to have 6 trailers? one for NetBSD, one for linux, one for microsoft, one for apple, one for cisco, one for sun? heck no. that gets expensive, and you need to cut a costs somewhere; there's less money to be made in a rural area (with less people) than a urban area (with lots of people).

mook

I've done this (4, Informative)

marshall72 (552073) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864589)

When I was in the Marine Corps, we gutted an old mainframe trailer (approx 40' semi trailer), and built areas for workstations. Primary use was for data processing related to scoring and timing the Marine Corps Marathon, but we also used it at Ft. AP Hill to teach Computer Merit Badge to the Boy Scouts. Forgeting the OS and workstation/server configurations, you need to make sure that you have AC (as well as heat). We used satellite for internet access at AP Hill, but we'd use ISDN or DSL at the race site in DC (more reliable then the satellite). Oh, and remember you'd also need a generator. If you want more specifics email me @ marshall dot lewis at starband dot net. I can also get you in touch with the guy that took it over after I got out of the corps, I know he did a lot or work with it.

Effectiveness (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864603)

Personally, I doubt it would be very effective in teaching people about the Internet. Sure, it can teach people a little, but is it really going to stick around long enough to teach little Timmy about Linux kernels and such? Most people shut off their IT learning capability after 'double click My Connection and hit connect'. Of course, some people could really soar with it.

Mobile IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864627)

I work for a community college in Virginia and we have a mobile van like you describe. We do not have internet connectivity though. The van is a converted mobile home with two generators. One generator runs lights/heat and the other runs the computer systems.


We managed to fit 12 standard slimline Gateway desktops with 15" monitors in it and an instructor's station with a large TV for a display, but will soon be going to flat panel displays and hopefully LCD projector to allow more workspace.


All stations are connected with an old 10mb hub and the instructor station is a "print server"(shared printer).


As for internet connectivity, I would suggest looking into finding someone nearby where you could park that has high speed internet you could share off of for some free training. Wireless would present a problem for rural areas if no one is using it nearby.


Satellite is getting a little cheaper and if buying/conversion prices are too steep businesses will donate to get their name on a plaque inside your mobile van. This I know firsthand.

Mobile IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864632)

I worked for a Neighborhood Network ( education for those less fortunate. While we maintained a fixed lab, we took laptops to outlying communities in the bush of Alaska for training and internet access. We were lucky to have a local ISP that donated a free dial up. Slow, but using two modems, a router, and some time setting it up, all were hooked through a hub to the router. Speed wasn't too bad for surfing and email. Used Win9x for training...that is what the kiddies like, and also trained on *nix in a dual boot on the laptops. Total cost, including a little Geo Tracker for transportation was under $15k. Just used local community centers, senior centers, and churches. It can be done!!!

Cheap laptops and 802.11 (1)

Average (648) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864646)

Cheap laptops may be an oxymoron, but there are low-end PII laptops real cheap. Even if you don't expect internet connectivity, connections between the workstations is important.

My idea... Van with a pull behind trailer. Get a couple of E-Z Up tents, folding chairs and tables.

Securing the laptops is the biggest problem I see...

Rural tech ed. (1)

baka_boy (171146) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864665)

First, let me say that I think this is a commendable idea -- I grew up in towns of one to three thousand people, well outside of major urban areas, and any access I had to computers prior to high school was a special experience. As the technology needed to do highly mobile, Internet-connected computing gets smaller, cheaper, and more reliable, this kind of thing just becomes more and more appealing.

As far as the actual equipment used is concerned, I think there are better ways to go than a big truck full of gear. I think the best example to follow might be the sort of "mobile lab" starting to be used by a lot of schools: inexpensive laptops for each student, with 802.11 connecting them to a "server on wheels", which in turn handles user profiles/home directories, Internet connectivity, etc. If there's not going to be reliable hard-wired net connections in many of the areas, look into business wireless service; a number of digital cellular networks are starting to offer ~128Kb/sec dialup connections, which can certainly (with a proxy cache or compressed VNC gateway running on the classroom server) handle serving 15-20 students for basic email and browsing.

For hardware, if you're looking at new purchases, I think you'd be hard pressed to find better machines than the recent iBooks: they're sturdy, compact, fairly inexpensive (especially with Apple's educational discounts), and can run either OS-X or Linux without a hitch. With a decent KDE or GNOME setup, they could look and feel to the user eerily like a Win2k/XP machine, but you save $500+ on application licenses for each box.

Go for it, but don't forget that things have progressed well past the point where computing requires big iron and lots of space.

Did something like this (roaming cafe) (5, Informative)

signe (64498) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864666)

I did something similar when I was at Washingtonpost.com. They wanted to simplify their show setups, so we came up with the idea for a "roaming cybercafe". It was very much a prototype, but I the tech was sound.

Our vehicle was a stretch Lincoln Navigator. It won't work for what you want, but it was good for us. It was a Navigator SUV, cut and stretched 10 feet. Each side had a 10 foot "gull wing" door at the top which swung up on actuators. Underneath each door was a actuator-mounted table with 3 systems on it. In the back of the thing was the generator, and there were 2 seats up front (driver and passenger) with the bulk of the backend gear mounted in a small rack between and just behind the seats. If I did it again with more money, I would have used flat panels because they are lighter and wouldn't have needed the motorized tables.

First, the internet connection. We used a 2-way satellite dish mounted on the top of the vehicle. The dish we purchased was specifically designed for ease-of-use mobile mounts. It had its own compass and GPS unit, and a motorized turntable. Inside the vehicle, we had the equipment for it mounted. All the driver had to do was select the deploy options from the menu on the device, and it would deploy the dish, track it to the correct rough position, then use the satellite signal to finetune the positioning. A unit like this was very important for making setup go smoothly.

Second, our "backend" servers. Since we were using satellite, we decided to set up a proxy server on the vehicle to try and make the satellite lags a little better. This worked very well for us, since all of the people surfing were supposed to be on the same website. But I think it would be a good idea regardless. You can also run a local website on this box (maybe a portal-type page for your homepage). And this is a good place for a DHCP server.

Third, the workstations themselves. We used NT Workstation installs, for at least marginal security. Used policies to lock down the systems a little bit and make sure that people couldn't cause too much damage. It helped us that we only had 6 computers, and usually 3 or 4 people on staff to watch them.

The miscellaneous is all fairly important as well. We used a 12kw gasoline generator which was mounted in the back of the vehicle and drew off the same tank as the engine (which was expanded). I think we had it set up so that we could get 8 hours of 75% load. We also had a connection so that we could connect to a power source at the setup site. This required a decent power management system, but it worked just fine. We did have problems with the exhaust from the generator (because it was so close to the workstations) and ended up having to do some custom work to vent it out the top of the vehicle. But surprisingly enough, the sound wasn't that bad when it was running.

We also had a sound system installed, so that we could do presentations/classes. Just microphone hookups in the front, a rack-mount DJ quality CD player, small amp, and a few speakers around the thing. I think it's not a bad idea for any application, because there's always going to be a use, even if it's just background noise.

All told, I designed the system so that it could be setup by any marketing droid that took it out. Flip a few switches to power gear up, deploy the satellite, power up the workstations, and that's it. And for the few times I saw it in operation before I moved out of the area, it worked nicely. There were a few bugs, but like I said, it was a prototype.

Things I would have done differently this time? First, flat panels. They take up less space. This may or may not work for you, depending on the vehicle you use and how many workstations you want to get in there (and your budget). Second, for your application I might also set up a wireless network. It wouldn't cost that much to add, and while your customers probably don't have laptops with wireless NICs, it would give you a little flexibility for use, as well as letting you roam around with a troubleshooting laptop, if need be.

Hope that helps a little. If you have any questions about what we did, post a followup to this.

-Todd

Great idea and sounds like fun to work on (1)

spamkabuki (458468) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864676)

Rig: Use a trailer. You can hook it up to a different vehicle when the bus/rv is in the shop.

OS: Linux, *BSD, Win2K, and Mac. Gotta show people the differences out there. We all have our pref's, but poeple need to be prepared for what they may be forced to use. Even if we're all so sure what is superior, gotta show people to convince them ;) Also, you might want to look at thin clients??

Apps: Think about this one. People want to use applications, not OS's. This may effect above.

Net: I suppose it depends upon what kinda wireless you may have available in the area.

General: By rural, what do you mean? Is this an agricultural area? Modern farming uses a lot of IT these days, gps, chemical measurement, databases, sat photos even. Check with your local farmers/agri extension office. What do they use? What do they want to use? How can they help you? If it's not agri, but forestry, mining, tourism, light manufacturing, other, the same applies. Talk to the locals.

How many people will it serve at once? If not everyone can be on a machine at once, what other resources will you provide for people who are waiting that can enhance things? Video with projector for instruction while waiting? Other not-specifically IT technology education, like some basic electronics or radio stuff? These things can all be quickly unloaded and expand the number of people served and complement the IT stuff itself.

From what you say... (1)

North_Lights (247220) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864679)

Although the bus has the "cool" factor, Cost wise and bang for your buck I would go with there current car and a box of Notebooks in reality the $50k your gonna spend on a bus can buy alot of laptops and most places the bus would go will have desks or tables already there ;)
--
That being said If I where to go for a bus/truck ect I would take an existing school bus take out every other seat and add a small desk with enough room for the keyboard/mouse combo route the cables down to the existing storage under the bus add rack mounts and put the the computers down there (In the bus you would have to add extra AC with that many kids / computers plus noise) Put Flat panels attached to the seat infront of each desk and have multiple OS's on each computer..

Ask those who have done it (2, Informative)

Plug (14127) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864681)

I see you're also in NZ...

If your client isn't the Waikato Polytech, ring them and ask them. They had a bus a couple years back that had 10-20 computers in it from memory, arranged around the walls. I'm not sure about its power supply, but I think an extension cord from the roof of the bus (perhaps 3-phase)? did the job.

There's tons of different types of Buses in IT (1)

b0r0din (304712) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864684)

AGP, PCI, IDE, SCSI, ISA, USB1.1, and the all new 2002 USB 2.0, 0 to 480Mb/sec in .0000002 seconds.

You can put flames on the side of your case and pretend your computer is a hot rod.

Satellite Internet Access (1)

cayblood (525703) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864696)

I recommend a satellite Internet provider like Starband [starband.com] or Wild Blue [wildblue.com] (when it comes out).

eBus (1)

Siobhan Hansas (519632) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864701)

This photo [communityconnect.org] from the interior of a mobile lab may give you ideas.
A number of organizations who attempt to tackle the digital divide are considering something similar.

I would think the actual set up you want would depend on what you wanted people to get out of the experience. If you want to people to learn hardware skills you'll need a different set up than if you wanted to teach them MS Office.

If you don't actually need to provide the classroom space, I once used a neat mobile set up which had a half a dozen small Windows CE devices wirelessly networked to a hefty laptop than acted as a server. It was all packaged in a wheeled box that fitted into the trunk of a small car.

Been there, done that ... :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864713)

Below is a link to the local "Internetbus". E-mail addresses are under the info tab.

http://www.tampere.fi/kirjasto/nettinysse/englis h. htm#

HOWDY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2864716)

I recommend getting a truck that looks like Mr Haney's from "Green Acres"

School Bus (1)

mjbou (159602) | more than 12 years ago | (#2864717)

The Travellers School Charity has a "budget" mobile computer classroom project in the UK. with 4 laptops 1 good one, and 3 ancient pentiums. Solar panels, windmill, banks of heavy jelly batterries in an old canteen truck. check it out - I've just uploaded new pics to http://www.tsct.co.uk/tsc-news.html
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