So what better way to spend a Saturday than hanging out with some fellow super geeks and loads of techy stuff?
Our plan was simple, get 21 Raspberry Pi, and hook them up to PI Net.
So this was a proof of concept – nobody was going to be using the Raspberry Pis today, we just wanted to test out a few things:
1. How easy is it to install and set up Pi Net?
2. How would my (Tim) old laptop with a 10/100 ethernet connection handle serving up Raspian to 21 Pi?
3. How easy is it to add new users?
4. How easy is it to add additional software?
Step 1: setting up the hardware
We connected my old laptop (running PiNet) to a network switch (don’t know what a switch is? Check this out). The switch was connected to a wireless network using a wireless bridge [thanks Lex!] (so the DHCP server on this network handled dishing out IP addresses to all the Pi and my old laptop running PiNet).
Step 2: preparing 21 micro SD cards
a) The first thing to do was unbox all the micros sd cards and placing them in their adaptors
b) This step is optional – depending on whether PiNet has detected the correct IP address of the server you are using. In our case, we found out the IP address of my laptop on the network it was connected to (type ‘ifconfig’ into terminal) and updated the cmdline.txt file in the piBoot folder. You probably won’t need to do this if you set up PiNet on the same network you are going to be using it on. There is also a way of doing this from within PiNet itself.
b) Then each one was put into the SD card reader on my old laptop running Ubuntu 140.4 and PiNet (see here and here, for instructions on how to do this) … We found out that you need an up to date Ubuntu 14.04 install – maybe using Minimal CD (see here) or running “sudo apt-get update” and “sudo apt-get upgrade” (see here for more on this).
c) We then had to copy the contents of piBoot to the sd card (see here for detailed instructions)
Step 3: Powering on the beast!
So it was at this point, we had to hope everything was set up correctly and just turn on the power to the Raspberry Pi. The SD card has a very small kernel which is able to look for PiNet . If it finds PiNet at the IP address we specified, it will then be served up a copy of a full Raspian image which it can then load and use as a fat client (PiNet uses fat clients, not thin clients to make the most of the Raspberry Pi hardware e.g. GPIO … see here for more on this).
How did it go?
We wondered if we might have just recreated the Matrix… in fact it was better than that, we had a fully functional Raspberry Pi networked classroom.
So to test this out, we did a few things:
a) First we made a few user accounts and got surfing the net (using PiNet, creating new accounts is easy).
b) Then we had a go at installing software (Chromium-browser) using PiNet on the ubuntu laptop (running PiNet) and tested if it was then pushed out to all the Pi.
c) We didn’t quite get time to get Citrix Receiver working – keep an eye out for how we get on with this!
Check out this short video of the day!
(Special thanks go out to Andrew Mulholland for making PiNetDev freely available on github. A full guide to Pi Net can be found here: http://pinet.org.uk/articles/guides.html. We would love to make this article as correct and useful as it can be – if you spot anything, please leave some constructive feedback in the comments)