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[20090503] Concluding the Virtual Unix Lab
I've finished my PhD thesis some time ago, and as the system described in it is heavily based on NetBSD, I feel it's relevant for mentioning here. The full title is ``System Administration Training in the Virtual Unix Lab -- An e-learning system with diagnosis via a domain specific language as base for an architecture for tutorial assistance and user adaption''. The book was published in Jan 2009 by Shaker, Germany as ISBN 978-3-8322-7874-8, and it is also available for online purchase and if you look around a bit on my VUlab page, you will find a permitted local copy for downloading as well.

Here's the backmatter of the book: ``Practical exercises in system administration can render a machine unusable, and restoring the machine requires manpower which is often scarce. As a result, there is a lack of dedicated exercise machines which can be used in the education of system administration. The Virtual Unix Laboratory is an interactive e-learning system that provides a solution for this situation. After sign-up, machines are installed on which students can do their exercises with full "root"-access. At the end of the exercise, the system checks which parts were done correctly, and gives feedback.

The first part of this book describes the goals of the Virtual Unix Lab and related works, followed by observations about education of system administration. In the second part, the Verification Unit Domain Specific Language (VUDSL) is defined, and diagnosis of the Virtual Unix Lab exercise results and feedback to the user are realized with it. An evaluation of the system shows interesting results and identify areas for further improvement. The third part explains how tutoring and user adaption can be realized. An architecture for a tutoring component for the Virtual Unix Lab is described, and user adaption is based on the user model built by the tutoring component.''

The system was implemented on a machine running NetBSD, training systems available were NetBSD/sparc and Solaris/sparc. Interesting technical points where configuring access to the lab machines by enabling IPfilter rules from the user's webbrowser, and disabling the rules by an at(1) job. Also, the system to install the lab clients used disk images and NetBSD in netbooted environment.

I hope that's enough of a reason to post this here.
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[20071211] Technical reports from the Virtual Unix Lab project
The Virtual Unix Lab is a training system that offers practical exercises for system administration, allowing students to perform exercises for NIS and NFS in a client-server environment. A key item is the feedback provided to the student after the exercises, so he can learn from his mistakes. Operating systems involved in the exercises are NetBSD and Solaris, the system itself is implemented on a PC running NetBSD plus two Sun SPARCstations running either NetBSD or Solaris, depending on the exericse setup.

The system is the core part of my PhD-thesis (to come :), and I've published three technical reports that describe a number of aspects of the systems in lengthy details. Those interested can find them here:

More information about the Virtual Unix Project, including presentations, other publications and screenshots can be found on the Homepage of the Virtual Unix Lab.

An introduction and overview of the system's operation can be found in this EuroBSDCon paper.

The thesis will assume the version of the lab described above, including the domain specific languages techniques, diagnosis and feedback, and describe how to implement tutoring and user adaption on top of that.

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[20050202] Not much news...
... in NetBSD land that you couldn't find elsewhere, e.g. the NetBSD News page, which tells you that there's now a NetBSD CafePress shop where you can buy t-shirts (if you don't like mine :) and that NetBSD 1.5 won't be supported any longer. You can also look at the NetBSD Code Changes (AKA src/doc/CHANGES) and see that quite a number of technical changes were made, including RFC3378 EtherIP support, ffs file system snapshots and various nForce audio and IDE drivers. No need to mention the numerous pkgsrc changes in detail (I think).

So what keeps me busy these days (in case someone cares): After my previous teachers failed miserably in teaching me statistics, I'm doing exactly that now, to do some decent evaluation of my Virtual Unix Lab.

Funny tools for helping to understand a few statistical basics include gnumeric, and I'm especially impressed by the "R" system, which is a mathematical programming system that comes with lots of ready-to-use statistical and graphical functions, and which is similar to the "S" system developed by Bell Labs. For some playing, install R ("cd pkgsrc/math/R && make install") and run:

      % R
      > demo()
      > demo(Hershey)
      > demo(Japanese)
      > demo(graphics)
      > demo(image)
      > demo(persp)
      > demo(plotmath)
      > q()
      
After some initial learning curve, R seems to have the potential to become my personal alternative to both bc(1) and gnuplot...

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Disclaimer: All opinion expressed here is purely my own. No responsibility is taken for anything.

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