My Vietnamese Students used PC-BSD


Yesterday I decided to give PC-BSD a try in my classroom. It was probably not the best day to try out PC-BSD since the electricity kept cutting off. My students were struggling to SSH from PCLinuxOS to my laptop, which was running PC-BSD, as a result.

The goal of the class was for my students to create their own website templates on my laptop (makes it easier for me to grade their projects from my laptop 🙂 ). Most of them were successful though all preferred doing their projects in Linux, that is what they told me. The bash shell in PCLinuxOS, according to them, was easier since it told them which directory they were in. In short, they got used to seeing $ /usr/home/guest/Desktop in PCLinuxOS while in PC-BSD, they only saw $. pwd I kept telling them 🙂

Today, I moved everything over to my openSUSE laptop. Got to have a little more fun with my students.

My Vietnamese Students used PC-BSD

(PC-BSD on the overhead so my students can “visually” see that they added their folders)

Fifty-five of my students can use PCLinuxOS, openSUSE Linux and PC-BSD now,  three of them can use OSX, and one of them likes Ubuntu.  Several really want me to use Sabayon Linux in class.


  1. Please expose your students to as many different distros as possible, and even that unpleasant OS if possible.

    That way, later they can make informed choices and take part in discussions in a knowledgeable manner.

  2. Sounds like a great way to teach them. If I was younger I wouldn’t mind being in your class, but in my day we were using punch cards, and I’m too old to go back o school!

  3. “pwd I kept telling them”

    Why didn’t you simply set up the “guest” account to display the current directory in the command prompt? Most common shells let you do this by setting “prompt”, “PS1”, etc.

    You appear to have left them with the impression that what is really just a trivial difference in account setup is a fundamental difference between the two systems.

    ***Why is there no Preview button?***

  4. I’m a OpenBSD fan, and continually impressed with the quality of the documentation. The interesting thing about OpenBSD is that, while it’s easy to install, keeping up with security patches requires use of cvs, recompilation, and the ability to follow instructions. (See ‘man release’.) When you finish you feel quite the old-school administrator, competent in all the basics. You might want to take your students through an OpenBSD install, patch to the current stable release, and then upgrade and patch to stable again. (Which can be done all at once because OpenBSD keeps the latest and the next-to-latest releases supported and patched.) They’d learn quite a bit in the process.

    Here’s the magic involved in making a cd, which is handy for patching machines that don’t have the compiler installed.

    mkisofs -r -no-emul-boot -b 4.2/i386/cdbr -c boot.catalog -o myrelease_4_2.iso 4_2

  5. @Wayne: Wow, a mere 22 years ago, I remember installing hardware on the Apple IIcs for my Junior HIgh Computer teacher. I miss Logo 🙂

    @Ted: Yeah, I know but I had no time to configure bash before my class. I just teach part-time but I have many other projects outside. The importance of this lesson was to demonstrate to my students that they can use both Linux and BSD/Unix systems. I really do want to make PC-BSD and PCLOS default for my students in class now.

    @UnixUser: Cam on nhieu 🙂 Thank you very much in Vietnamese.

    @Karl: Only three of my students installed Linux on their own, with the help of Ubuntu’s LiveCDs. Right now, I do not have the resources for students to install BSD or Linux on my school’s computers. Right now I run Linux through VMWare on the computer lab’s laptops. Next quarter at the new building, I will be given a Linux box and my students will use Putty to SSH on the school’s Window’s desktops. I am at the mercy of the IT staff here and they have been pretty helpful to me. Not many Linux/BSD geeks in Vietnam right now.

  6. I setup a set of scripts for Knoppix which allowed a machine to boot over the network — then each user get his own home directory (I guess one could also overlay the main filesystem so that each user gets a persistant root filesystem). That would allow each student to have his own system that he could play on without having to worry about stomping on someone else’s data, etc.

    (my original script identifies machines by their MAC address so, as long as a student always sits at the same computer, their session would continue over time).

    Would that help you?

  7. @Stephen: The laptops keep rotating around the classroom and sometimes in and out of the classroom as well. We are moving to a new building so everything should be resolved.

    Thanks for the advice, I will remember it in the new building.

  8. I run BSD on a few of my machines.
    Two changes that I like to make to my .cshrc file are;

    setenv CLICOLOR true
    (ls from the console lists directory names in blue, executables in red, symbolic links in purple, etc)

    set prompt = “[%B%n%b@%m %c3]%% ”
    This gives you a prompt of [USERNAME@HOSTNAME (followed by the current working directory)] %
    Substitute the ending double % with a single $ if you so desire.

    Your students will find command line work more enjoyable after making those changes.

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