I have been playing around with setting up a school server these last few days. We purchased a cheap Dell Inspiron 530 ($550 w/ monitor) and in a few hours were up and running. There are a number of benefits to running a school server – first on our list is:
Network Configuration – the XO’s around it automatically try and connect to the school server and grab their Internet connection from there. You don’t have to configure each machine if you have fussy wireless – you just have to configure the server.
The server backs-up all work done on the XO’s that are connected to it…automatically
Third is an optional, but very cool – you can install content and web applications on the server and and run them in an intranet setup. Because all the XO’s are connected to the school server, it hosts content locally (and very quickly) – I setup the learning management system Moodle to start. I guess you could make it a public web-server and access it from anywhere – but that could become a network security nightmare in large schools…
That isn’t to say there weren’t pitfalls. First of which was the hard-drive format on the Dell. The School Server (XS) software is based on Fedora 7 – which likes to install on RAID formatted hard-drives. Anything else and you get a very long list of errors. SO – check your bios settings (hit F2 on Dells during startup) and set your hard-drive to RAID.
Next thing to look out for – don’t ask me how long I was stuck on this one…There is a bug with the software – the radio antennae that is broadcasting (like a wireless router) can’t be plugged into the USB during startup! You have to plug it in after the school server has booted up – otherwise your XO’s don’t get any Internet. **
Those two were the big ones, I can go into other settings – I will suggest the following if you plan to get something like moodle up-and-running. Fedora 7 comes with it’s own lightpttd hosting software – the novice that I am, I was scared and just did a “yum -y install httpd php mysql mysql-server php-mysql” – and that got me started. Google searches for how to configure each of those services and you’re in business.
** As far as I know, OLPC isn’t selling these antennas yet – you have to get prototype ones directly from them (I got one at the conference a couple weeks ago). Not sure what you’re supposed to do without them…