Lab developments

Although the elearning training went very well, we still have some issues with the lab expansion and opening. Health Sciences is still in the process of recruiting lab attendants to open the lab there, previously they’ve been relying on the goodwill of Tilahun (the ICT team member based at Ayder), but he’s now moved to the main (Arid campus), so opening is rather ad-hoc. The lab at Arid now has 3 lab attendants so should now be open 24×7, although the network connection (between the lab and the data centre) has been quite flaky recently, due to some of the intermediate switches. The other new elearning computer lab at Arid is still under development, as yet the networking and electrical installation isn’t completed, although they were working on it this week. The electrician was surprised that we need over 15kW in this lab to power the 90 refurbished PCs, but seems we will this amount of power given the ratings on back of the old PCs and the CRT monitors.

One of our successes was to improve the boot speed and responsiveness of the refurbished PCs when they boot from the thin client server. The improvement was as a result of some changes to the network switches (they were only operating at half duplex for the ports these machines are attached to), and also to update the protocol used for the display. We’re now using FreeNX, which is proving far quicker than X11. We also tested XRDP which was also very responsive. With X11 the responsiveness to mouse clicks or key presses was so slow as to make the machines almost unusable, now these machines actually appear faster than the SunRay terminals. Much of this is simply my experiences during testing, rather than scientific measurement, and we’ve not yet tested these terminals when the lab and network is under load. So I was very pleased we were able to get the lab in a position where the old PCs would be usable, even with a less than ideal network.

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