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I have started to teach the lesser fortunate children in my area about technology and computers in general. Some of them show some real promise and I'm planning to introduce them to Linux and Open Source. Now for practice's sake, I have dedicated my personal desktop and virtualized it (it's been built with standard commodity hardware).

My question is, I had this idea to probably buy the $5 server from Digital Ocean or check out some good deals on Low End Box and probably purchase one such server and virtualize it.

I would like to know the merits of this as I know they are already virtualized and running something like KVM on top of it sounds ludicrous but it was a thought I had. That way, the kids can access the machines from their school's lab whenever they want.

May I know the community's thoughts on this? Or is there a better way to go about this?

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If you have any local universities, check with the computer science department (or the academic computing department in charge of the campus computer labs) and see if they have any old hardware they'd be willing to give you. Most universities will have a large amount of old (or even not that old) hardware they'd be more than glad to give you for what you're doing. –  Nathan Aug 8 '13 at 5:42
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3 Answers

For learning the basics and for scripting I wouldn't virtualize at all. Give them regular user accounts and let them play around. They can't learn the sysadmin side of things that way but would give them a good foundation.

For the actual sysadnin stuff I would try to find some cheap or donated old PCs. Linux can still run on some very old hardware. Maybe find a company not too far away who is replacing their desktops and convince them to donate the old ones for tax writeoffs and free publicity.

Learning on real hardware in my opinion would give them a better idea of how everything works together and lets them do things like install the OS from scratch which you can't do on a VM.

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"Donating hardware" - excellent idea. I didn't think of that... –  i.h4d35 Aug 8 '13 at 4:06
    
In one highschool class I took we had an entire skid of (probably 50 or so) donated PCs. Some worked. Some needed repairs. The first part of our lessons was to take one and fix it up. Learnt a lot that way. –  Grant Aug 8 '13 at 11:47
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If you're OK with the students having all the same version of Linux you could use OpenVZ. OpenVZ is a container technology which allows you to have separate machines without so much of the overhead of the virtualization approach used by KVM.

I've used it extensively and it's terrific for loading a lot of machines on a single box. I currently have 12+ machines running on a single AMD box with 3 cores and 4GB of RAM. These systems are headless, so there are no GUI's running, but it's excellent for setting up systems where users can learn about taking care of a system (each VM has it's own packages - I use CentOS) and for doing Unix shell learning.

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OpenVZ containers allow you to run linux VM's with a surprisingly low amount of ram.

Proxmox has a fantastic virtualization server which supports OpenVZ containers.

Resources

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