Over Engineering


I’m considering getting new computers for the twins. Tayler has my old Shuttle PC, a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 with 1GB RAM. Tyler has Carina’s old 1.8 GHz Pentium 4, also with (I think) a gig of RAM. With the price of PCs these days, it seems almost silly not to buy new ones, and enjoy dual core processing.

I grudgingly permit the twins to use Windows XP on their desktops. They like to play the occassional game of Sims 2, or some other PC game, as well as a variety of web-based games. All of these web-based games use Flash, and most of them now use the new Flash 9. Alas, Flash 9 is only available in beta format for GNU/Linux, and my limited experience with it was less than stellar.

The kids’ machines are currently dual-boot, with GNU/Linux installed on the off-chance I need to do some hefty computing on these boxes. The girls almost never boot into GNU/Linux, so the dual-boot is more a distraction for them than anything else. Any new machine(s) I purchase will be required to run GNU/Linux, though I’m willing to continue to permit Windows for the kids as needed.

I’ve been fiddling with VMware at work, and I’ve been eyeing Parallels (due largely to Bob’s continuing advocacy of their product), which got me thinking about how I might use a virtual machine for the kids’ computing environment. I could construct the kids’ profiles such that when they log in, it immediately launches the VMware instance of their Windows image. I could give the kids administrator privileges inside their VMs, if I felt like it, without worrying about them trashing the system as a whole. The only (immediate) challenge is how to shut the computer off when the kids log out of the virtual machine (they’re notorious for leaving their computers on unattended). Owen suggested I configure the hardware to hibernate when the power button is pressed. I wonder if that would work…

Tayler received a Palm handheld for Christmas from her biological father, and some of the support utilities require administrative privileges for full functionality (SplashPhoto being the worst offender, requiring admin rights for any functionality!) The SanDisk MP3 players I purchased for the twins for Christmas also seem to require admin privileges in order to load music onto them.

The virtual machine solution has a lot of appeal. It allows me to continue to use GNU/Linux on their computers, should I need it (Kino to crunch video of Christmas morning, for example). I can grant administrative privileges to the kids’ virtual accounts, and it gives me some control over how to recover from any malware that might infest their computers. It allows me to provision specific amounts of resources to their use, leaving the computer(s) still usable to me via remote access.

I can’t help but feel, though, that just maybe I’m over-engineering the solution.

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