An anonymous reader writes: I'm currently at a university where we have a strong computer/video games culture. Due to the fact that we have degrees taught in games development, game studies and other games related activities, there are a number of distinct usages we have for the machines around the buildings. My question is related to how to manage installation of games versus rights of users on the various machines.
Specifically, we have a key, large, main "computer lab" where the machines have several conflicting requirements: 1. Professors want to have stable (read: non-admin, non-changeable) machines that have the specific games needed for classes (analysing game levels, playing through them, etc). 2. General game students want to use the computers recreationally outside of classes, and want in rare cases to have the ability to install their own games. 3. Game developer students want full admin control of the machines to be able to install SDKs, install updates and other full development requirements as they write and develop game code. 4. The university IT department wants to be able to lock down the computers as much as possible to avoid legal, PR and other problems, as well as avoiding having to reinstall and reimage things if people should trash the machines.
In any case, perhaps the ideal conceptual idea we have arrived at is to have some kind of bootup procedure on each machine which asks the user which "user type" they are (student, developer, recreational, etc) and to allow the user to pick from a list of available virtual machine images, if the student has the authorization to do so. The machine would then boot that virtual machine image and run some kind of post-boot configuration (I'm thinking of game authorization keys, etc) and the user would be good to go. Perhaps in the background at night, these machines would check with a master server to see if they had the latest version of the images and would retrieve updated images if necessary. This would appear to solve the various requirements at first glance.
There would seem to be some possible problems with this: 1. These virtual machine images need to be able to be loaded up quickly on each boot so they are good to go. 2. The vm images cannot be completely identical because each game installation will need different game authorization/registration keys (barring some kind of game key server). 3. The performance of some games may suffer when run under a virtual machine.
We aren't really tied to this solution exactly, it's just a proposal, so I would be very interested if others have thoughts on this. With the introduction of more virtual and cloud-like technologies it would seem that there would be something useful out there by now. And, of course, there is always the suggestion that we obtain more machines and physically separate all of these machines into separate labs for each usage, but if possible I would like to see if there is something we can do with the current space and hardware.
Is there anyone who has run into this general situation, and if so, are there viable solutions for this kind of situation? Are there good ways to manage game installations across multiple computers?