LINUX pour les LYCEES LUXEMBOURGEOIS.
(Linux for Luxembourgish Highschools)
Disclaimer: This text was originally written in
French before the Netd@ys in 1999, but translated in 2001. Content was
left as is, thus any date-dependent information such as prices,
specification of computers, etc still refer to 1999
During Netd@ys Europe 1999, Lycée Technique Nic
Biever (LTNB) presents the 3L project. This project is
intended to provide highschools (and possibly other
educational institutions) of Luxembourg (and elsewhere) with a software
infrastructure making it possible to manage both the Internet access of the
members of the school community and the usage of the local
area network in a school.
The presentation is about the installation and
operation of the system. It should be noted that the internet access
of most of the other participating institutions will be managed
through a 3L system during the netdays event.
3L incorporates interesting and innovative
characteristics on three levels: functionality, price and history of
File and Print Server
The system, just like its more traditional
cousins, provides for the storage of files on a central server (which is easy to
backup), and for the access to printers from all workstations
Every user (student, teacher, technical personnel,
etc) also has a personal zone on the server, which makes it possible
to store configuration files of the user's desktop software there and
thus preserve each user's individual preferences independently of
the workstation used. The disk space usage is monitored by an
allocation system which limits possible abuses (quota
The structure of the centralized data is completely laid
out to accomodate the needs of an educational institution (common
zones for classes, structured acessibility for teachers...)
Protection against outside intrusion is provided by
a firewall which, in addition to the usual safeguards, makes
it possible to completely block all access to the system originating
from sites which are known to be dangerous. Another function of the
firewall is the possibility of prohibiting the access to sites
(i.e. to censor them) considered inappropriate for
the pupils, while leaving open access to these sites for other users
of the system.
It is also possible to temporarily block any access
to the Internet from certain classrooms, e.g. during exams.
Each user of the system (student, teacher..)
automatically has at his disposal, as soon as his account is created,
an email address of the following format:
FirstName.LastName@mail.lgl.lu. Thus, they can communicate
with the entirety of the Internet community (which obviously includes
the other users). This functionality can also be
disabled temporarily for certain classrooms, during exams for
The system makes it possible to publish
the school's web pages on the central server itself, which ensures an
excellent maintainability of these pages.
In addition, it is
possible for each user to publish his own personal Web page, which
will be accessible worldwide under the following web address:
http://www.lgl.lu/~username. In order to publish his page,
it is enough for the user to put the data of the page into a dedicated
part of his personalized zone on the file server, making it immediately
Access to the internet (mainly www) is managed
through a program which keeps in-memory copies of the pages that were
most recently visited (proxy cache). This allows to speed up the
access to pages which are visited from a significant number of
workstations, typically during the teaching of a class.
This program also keeps a log of the operations
carried out, so that the persons in charge can find out
afterwards which user accessed which site, when and from which
The individual users have their own accounts and personal
passwords, and for any action on the system preliminary identification
is needed. All the actions are thus tracable a posteriori by the
persons in charge. This makes it possible not to have to permanently
supervise what the pupils do on the computers, because each pupil
knows that he can to be confronted with the evidence after the fact,
should he do something objectionable.
All maintenance actions for the everyday use of the
system (management of the user accounts, e-mail, disk space, printers,
and internet access; browsing the logfiles, etc) are carried out
using a user-friendly graphical point and click interface. This
interface functions through a web browser (Netscape Navigator,
Internet Explorer, etc) and is usable from any authorized machine on
the network. Acces to functionalities can be granted on an individual
basis for each administrator. These functionalities are adapted
specifically to the needs of an educational institution.
The installation is easy and driven by some simple menus.
Tools for replication of the workstations are included.
The hardware platform on which the system runs is
made up of a standard PC of a certain power (processor >= pentiumII
300MHz, memory >= 128Mb, disk space 2GB + space intended for the file
service for example 9Gb) for which the prices are extremly reasonable
(less than 50.000 LUF). The standard aspect and the price of the
hardware make it possible to keep certain spare parts in stock, which
leads to very short down-times in the event of breakdown. It is
even conceivable to keep a whole second system as a standby.
The operating system of the workstations is Windows NT or
Windows 95/98, which are standard in the national education, and whose
licensing conditions are known.
The server software is free (as in speech,
and as in beer). Indeed, it is based on the free operating
system Linux, for which no licence needs to be paid and for which the
entirety of the sources are accessible to the public. All
functionalities listed above, as well as others which might be
provided in the future to widen the offer, either are available out of
the box on linux, or were developed in a context which ensures their
availability free of charge.
This brings us to the interesting history of the
development of this project:
On an inititive of the Kiwanis Club of
Esch-sur-Alzette, the Lycée Technique Nic Biever (LTNB) placed ,
a few years ago, a test
server allowing small groups of pupils to benefit from the
possibilities of the Internet into the reading room of its library.
Following up on the positive feedback generated by this
action, a Project of Establishment was set up at the LTNB, in
which a first computer system which was to have functionalities
similar to those described above was developped with the help
of a small team of IT volunteers.
A collaboration with LiLux (Linux Luxembourg Club)
was also undertaken and the system evolved during several years in
order to better adapt to the needs of the institution. The research
and development carried out at the LTNB led to a system which
satisfied more or less well the needs of the school, but whose
complexity, due to its "organic" growth during its early
life, did not lend itself to an easy administration, nor to an
easy portability to other sites.
With the announcement of the "plan
informatique" in the teaching sector, prompted by the conclusions
of the tripartite commission, a collaboration was set up between the
LGL and the LTNB, whose purpose was to produce a new generation system
which was easy to manage and to install in various schools. The
prototype of the new system was installed in the LGL. An installation
with the LTML is for the 30.10.1999.
The next step will need to be the creation of a "professional"
documentation and the development of a training course for the
The project team (LTNB, LiLux, LGL) is proud to
offer to the "Éductation Nationale" an information technology tool
designed for the needs of the Luxembourgish schools.