A Low-Cost Full-Featured Extensible Laboratory For Online Hardware Engineering
Keywords:Client-server system, cost effective, engineering education, hardware-access pods, hardware design, online engineering, uLab, Universal Laboratory
This paper describes the uLab, a new method and framework for remote hardware design laboratories, which uses Linux and FOSS to provide real-time design and debug services to students over standard RDP channels. A secure, encrypted, plugin-based remote laboratory framework allows customization of programming and debug/test services to match physical laboratory resources. Industry standard technologies such as LDAP and Kerberos are utilized to ensure scalability, security, and ease of management. Emphasis is placed on direct access to real hardware, with the normal array of simulation tools and design software also being provided. In contrast with many of the remote laboratories currently in existence, this system places strong emphasis on direct, long-duration access to real, physical hardware for non-trivial design and evaluation tasks. In order to achieve this goal, secure, network-enabled hardware "pods" were created from inexpensive COTS components, and a blend of new and existing open-source software was used to connect with the overall laboratory framework. Hardware-design software and tools, including the software for physical hardware access, are preloaded and made available within the desktop session, allowing students to log in and start working almost immediately.
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