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As an IT teacher or instructor you will find running a Gentoo Install Competition can serve many powerful purposes. Especially for those working in High School environments it offers a way to raise the profile of Gentoo (not to mention linux and general principles of freedom to share and co-operate), to test the skills of your students, to motivate their learning and promote a deeper involvement with the operating system.

This article presents a suggested set-up method and set of rules that you can use as a basis for running a competition.


Instructor's Preparation

It goes without saying that as the instructor/adjudicator in this you need to be very comfortable with the install process. Having ten installs under your belt would be a good bet. Arm yourself with a copy of the latest liveCD and installation documents. Make sufficient copies for each competitor. I recommend paper copies for the documents as the competitors can annotate them as they follow your demonstration installs.

Using the actual hardware that competitors will use, complete an install and satisfy yourself that the hardware works. Make sure that your competitors are familiar with the basic components of a computer and an operating system. This is no mean feat - as such you might spend time following through some of the content in HOWTO Plan, setup and run a high school Gentoo Club

Be sure to complete at least one demonstration install, giving your students the chance to ask questions and take notes. To keep things as simple as possible, go for a stage3, with a 2.6 kernel (e.g. gentoo-sources). The overall objective is for competitors to obtain a base system capable of booting without the LiveCD and dropping into a shell with networking ready to roll.

If you can set up the competitors' machines next to each other, you will add to the sense of competition as each will be able to see who is further ahead. Issue the competitors with the rules and preparation advice below, set your start date/time and Go!

Competitors' Preparation

Welcome to the Gentoo Install Competition. You have a chance to pit your wits against your fellow students here to see who is really the best at installing a Gentoo Linux operating system. Before the start date of the competition there are a few things you might like to do in preparation.

Example Installation

Watch carefully whilst your teacher goes through the example installation with you. This will take several sessions to complete as everything is explained. Ask lots of questions, add notes to your copy of the install instructions.

Check Materials

Organize Help

Yes you are allowed some help, through the customary channels that are used by linux users every day. Remember not to give away personal details over the internet. As a High School student, for your own safety you should always seek advice from your teacher or parent on keeping safe, especially if you use IRC. It is also worth checking that your school's IT policy allows you to use IRC - some don't.

Rules of Execution of the Competition

These rules describe how points will be awarded or deducted from you as you work through your install.

  1. All competitors should have identical or at least very similar hardware, in particular speed of compilation should be as consistent as possible, with similar capacity hard disks and RAM. All hardware required to complete the install should be successfully auto-detectable by the LiveCD and should be reasonably easy to locate during kernel configuration in make menuconfig.
  2. All hardware should be wiped clean, with all partitions deleted. The BIOS should be set to boot first from CD and then from hard-disk
  3. Each competitor should have the same, current version of the LiveCD and install instructions as appropriate to the architecture.
  4. Just prior to starting, competitors should shake hands and, at the teacher's option, pledge allegiance to the principles of the GPL (sharing and co-operation are good).
  5. Only the competitor concerned or the teacher/judge should enter commands on their box, either via keyboard or ssh. Points may be deducted if the teacher/judge is asked to intervene.
  6. The winner will be the competitor with the most points after the deadline expires or all boxes are installed.
  7. Points will be awarded/deducted as follows:
    1. Completion of each major stage of the installation: +100 points. Stages are
      1. Setup initial networking and necessary proxy information
      2. Format the hard disk and lay down appropriate filesystems (ext2/3/swap/reiserfs)
      3. Set date/time. Successfully download and unpack a stage3 tarball and portage snapshot.
      4. Check /mnt/gentoo/etc/make.conf for correct CHOST, MAKEOPTS and -march settings. Perform chroot
      5. Sync portage tree and check system is using correct profile. Set up appropriate USE flags for a basic system with no X, sound or cd/dvd support.
      6. Set up timezone info and install gentoo-sources. Check kernel source symlink and successfully enter menuconfig.
      7. Configure and compile a kernel (compile everything needed in and avoid complication of modules at this stage). Copy the kernel image, the and the .config to systematically named files on /boot
      8. Setup fstab, install and configure GRUB bootloader. Re-configure networking info, install dhcpd. Set root password and check keymap and clock settings.
      9. Install important system tools: syslog-ng, vixie-cron, slocate, reiserfsprogs(assuming reiser used), pci-utils. Add necessary services to default runlevel. Now ready for first reboot!
    2. Successfully reach command line on first reboot without liveCD: +300 points
    3. Successfully obtain a working network connection (ping test) on this first reboot without keyboard intervention: +150 points
    4. Bonus points for time; complete base system install (adjust times depending on system speeds, ideally the 500 point bonus should be a real challenge, requiring no mistakes and maybe even a degree of parallel working - e.g. alter config files for one service whilst downloading/compiling another)
      1. in 24hrs: +500 points
      2. in 48hrs: +250 points
      3. in 72hrs: +125 points
    5. Deductions for intervention: -30 points for each command entered by teacher.

Rewarding the Winner

Being able to install gentoo is an achievement in itself and any competitors who get near to doing this are to be congratulated. Nice rewards for the best performer(s) include gift vouchers for online computer hardware stores, disk space on your web-server, copies of 'Free Software, Free Society' by RM Stallman, maybe an article in Gentoo Weekly News if you can swing it.

Alternatively, you may be able to obtain sponsorship from a local IT company. This might take the form of a hardware prize, e.g. USB storage device, or perhaps they will arrange a visit or coaching session from some of the company's IT staff.

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Last modified: Mon, 03 Dec 2007 12:53:00 +0000 Hits: 13,814