Training can be so much fun

My role in our IT department makes me responsible for our training room, where we have eight “student” computers and a “trainer” computer that’s connected to a projector. We and other people on the campus use this room for small groups that need to learn and practice computer-related tasks. For the past several years, these computers have been running Microsoft Windows 2000, which is approaching the end of its life, so far as Microsoft is concerned.

These computers don’t quite have enough “oomph” to handle Windows XP, which itself is no longer sold in stores, but they are still in decent condition. So I spent part of yesterday and today installing Ubuntu, a free “distribution” of the Linux operating system. Ubuntu does well on both old and new computers, and it has all of the software that the average user might need. In fact, I’m writing this post in Ubuntu, which I have installed on my office laptop.

So what are we supposed to do now if people need training in Windows, or in a program that only runs in Windows? Well, we have a special Windows server that people can log in to from another computer. It has Microsoft Office 2007 installed, as well as several other Windows programs. Our Ubuntu desktops are able to log in to this server, giving our learners the Windows environment they need.

I set up each training computer so that it automatically logs in to Ubuntu when turned on, and I created a desktop shortcut that will log the person straight into the Windows server. After logging off that server, the user can click another shortcut that immediately turns off the Ubuntu computer. The whole process is really easy, and there’s very little that can break or go wrong (famous last words, right?). This setup will allow us to put off the expense of replacing the computers for perhaps another year, while continuing and expanding the opportunities for training.

In case you haven’t guessed, my little project brought me a lot of satisfaction. I can’t wait to announce it to the folks working on the campus. Want to know more? Put your questions in a comment so everyone can benefit.