[R] Suggestions for statistical computing course

Fred Bacon bacon at aerodyne.com
Fri Apr 20 18:13:43 CEST 2007

On Fri, 2007-04-20 at 16:02 +0200, ONKELINX, Thierry wrote:
> >    
> >    While I am looking for simple and effective solutions that do not
> >    require installing emacs in our computer lab, the answer "you
> >    should teach your students emacs/ess on top of R" is perfecly
> >    acceptable.
> >    
> TINN-R (http://www.sciviews.org/Tinn-R/) could be an alternative for
> Emacs. But hen you would still have to install it on each computer.
> And there still is the build-in code editor.

If you want to avoid a complex setup on multiple computers you might try
something we did recently for a customer training class.  

We used VMware to create a virtual machine.  Then we installed all of
our software on the virtual machine and set up our training materials
for the class on it.  Then we rented the necessary computers, installed
the free VMware player on them, and copied our virtual machine to each
computer.  This simplified the class setup significantly and guaranteed
that we had a uniform, functioning environment for each of the students.

We're a small company, but it should be a great solution for university
computer labs.  The instructor could set up the environment for his
class separately from all other courses, and push it out to the computer
lab.  A student comes in, opens the virtual machine for his course, and
has a clean sandbox to work in.

Ideally, it would work like this:  

   The free VMware player is installed on each of the lab computers.

   The lab manager uses a licensed copy of VMware Workstation to create
a clean image of a computer.  

   The instructor makes a copy of the clean image and installs the
necessary software and instructional materials.  The instructor can use
either the free player or the paid workstation version to do this.  

   After the virtual machine is completed, the image is sent back to the
lab where it is made available to the lab computers.

If you use the paid workstation version rather than the free player
version on the lab computers, then you can use the Snapshot feature to
create a consistent image for every student.  Every time the virtual
machine is shutdown, the system can revert back to the snapshot for the
next student.  It all depends on your budget.

How you handle the OS licensing issue for the guest operating system is
up to you.  I personally would recommend using Linux, but some of our
customers are terrified of anything that doesn't look like a Microsoft

The only caveat is the disk space utilization.  Having a complete OS
image for every student for every class could eat up terabytes of space.
But heck, terabyte RAID arrays are readily available these days. 

Fred Bacon                                  Phone: 978 663-9500 x 273
Aerodyne Research, Inc.                     FAX:   978 663-4918 
Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore? 
                                                 -- Henry Ward Beecher

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