Remote work and study from Home
Because of COVID-19 my wife and I work remotely. My children also study remotely. I have two teenagers and a small son who goes to kindergarten. Studying and work from home is a challenge for our big family. My wife uses our old computer for her work. I work on my laptop. Children use their smartphones for studying through video conference call programs. They stare at small screens. I think it is bad for their eyes. But from time to time, my children have to use a computer for some important lessons. At those times, we allocated one of our work computers. It was very uncomfortable for one of us. I thought about how to organize remote learning for children so that our remote work does not suffer. How to work from home with kids so that they don’t interrupt our work? I remember that I thought about when to buy a new computer. It looks like now is the right moment to buy it. But remote work is a temporary phenomenon by the end of the pandemic. So I wanted to find a temporary solution to this problem within a small budget.
Finding an economic solution
I thought about buying a new computer. After a while, I realized that one computer would not be enough. It is necessary to buy 2 cheap computers for our teenagers. Unfortunately, there was not enough money for this. I could forget about upgrading my old computer — there’s not enough money, I thought. It is better to buy new computers. Well. How much is a computer now? The average PC cost is $700~$1000. If you buy 2 new ones — it will be about $1500. Expensive! My budget is less than $700. I started brainstorming ideas.
I didn’t want to mess with second-hand. But I found quite good second-hand monitors and quite cheap. Then I asked myself — how much does a PC cost? Weak computers, such as thin clients, will not execute well group video conferences used frequently in school. No problem, I will build myself 2 cheap computers and save on this. I looked at the prices for components and gasped. The prices of components are also high. I realized that this is also not an option for me.
Linux as an alternative to Windows license?
When I thought that I would have to pay for 2 Windows licenses, I felt uneasy. Switch to Linux? Oh, I didn’t really like that prospect either. I didn’t want to understand Linux myself. And then teach everyone else! No! Moreover, the best computers for school are cheap Windows computers. It will be inconvenient for children to learn on different operating systems. Conflicts may occur. The program is available on school computers under Windows, but not at home under Linux. We need new Windows computers.
TV as an alternative to a new monitor?
As another idea to save money, there was an idea-to use televisions instead of monitors. Yes, the screen is too big. But this is convenient for video conferences. And the format of the studying is mainly group video calls. I found on YouTube how to connect PC to TV via HDMI. But the problem is that I didn’t want to move our TV from the living room to the children’s room. In general, I liked the idea of connecting computer to TV HDMI in order to watch movies which I want from the Internet. I decided that if there will be no budget for the monitors I would use our TV sets.
Server and multiple clients model?
I came up with this idea out of desperation. The idea is to upgrade old computer, to install Windows Server on it and buy cheap computers like thin clients for children. The price for Windows Server license is high + 2 Windows licenses. Plus, you need to deploy the local network, make network optimization and administer it. Not an option, I thought. But I continued to search, keeping this idea in mind.
I searched for cheap PC setup schemes like multiseat solutions and found an ASTER program. This wonderful program allows you to create 2 workplaces based on one computer. It is necessary to insert a video card with 2 active video outputs into our old PC, connect an additional monitor, a headset, a keyboard and a mouse. Same we can do with my laptop. We should buy additional hardware and 2 ASTER Home licenses. As a result we would get 2 additional workplaces! I decided to use my wife’s work PC to create a learning space for my daughter in one room and my laptop to create my son’s study space in another one.
Workplace for my daughter
I downloaded the trial version of ASTER from the site ibiksoft.com. I found a video on YouTube about how to launch ASTER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LTKw5YfkNo. Firstly, I immediately tested the bottleneck of the whole idea – our weak computer. I bought a video card with 2 active video outputs DVI and HDMI, an HDMI cable and a set of wireless mouse and keyboard.
For connecting one of our TV sets I used HDMI and DVI port for my wife’s monitor. I found a movie about connecting laptop to TV set on YouTube and did the same.
Fortunately, our old PC worked well with ASTER and 2 work places! The fast test was successful. Then I calculated that I saved money, and we could buy a monitor for my daughter. TV set is actually not good for your eyes if you sit close to it.
Let me show you my expenses for organizing the workplace of my daughter:
- 45 USD: video card Palit GeForce GT 710 Silent 2GB
- 5 USD: 1 HDMI cable HDMI ATCOM 3 m
- 26 USD: second-hand monitor
- 18 USD: Bluetooth Kit Mouse + Keyboard Logitech Wireless Combo
- 16 USD: Bluetooth headset with microphone
- 12 USD: ASTER Home license
Not bad. Is it?
As a result, my expenses for creating the additional workplace were just $122! Amazing! Savings on the purchase of a cheap desktop PC were around $500! I realized that we could organize good and cheap computers for kids within my budget. What we got is even better than the best computer for children to study because it is cheaper! The solution was implemented within a week. There is no discomfort associated with the wiring. My daughter’s happy. She studies, does homework, plays games, watches movies, chats with her friends and does not interfere with us.
If it happens that the remote work and study is over, then all the equipment that we purchased we could use for additional training and entertainment. If we decide to buy computers for our teenagers, then we just would need to buy desktops. And even in this case, the ASTER license we could use to make Smart TV from our ordinary TV set. You could say that I forgot to tell you about how I organized a computer environment to study for my son. This is an even more interesting story. I decided to write a separate article about this. Read my next article about organizing a wireless computer place for my son.
Thanks to the ASTER program!