xgermx

Linux Thin Clients

13 posts in this topic

Here is the scenario:

I'm working for a small computer/networking business and I've just been given a great chance to show the awesomeness of Linux/Open Source. We have a client (mid-size bank) that needs roughly 25-30 computers in the lobby to act as internet kiosks. That's all they want; internet access only.

I think the most cost effective solution would be some type of thin client running Linux.

So my question is, does anyone have any suggestions for specific hardware/software setup? Anything better than thin clients? A different setup entirely?

Any ideas are helpful.

This is just the first step (of my not so evil master plan) to get Linux into this and other companies we work with.

So if this goes well, we might do the same setup in 4 other bank branches and my boss might start taking Linux a little more seriously.

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I recommend the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP). Very simple to set up, good documentation, and can run on very minimal hardware.

www.ltsp.org

Edited by eldiablo
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I recommend the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP). Very simple to set up, good documentation, and can run on very minimal hardware.

www.ltsp.org

Yeah I'm a big fan of LTSP and I really love HP Compaq t5725 Thin Clients which run Debian.

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Hi,

If you're not reusing old hardware (I suspect you need new kit, to be reliable) it is possible that any machine you'll get will be hugely over powered for a LTSP client - not a problem but it adds cost.

Another issue with LTSP is that most apps normally run remotely. If you're just web browsing you probably want Mozilla (or whatever) running locally anyhow.

There are systems (keyword: 'multiseat') where you can attach multiple screens, keyboards and mice to a single PC and have each 'seat' behave independantly.

For an example see:

http://linuxgazette.net/124/smith.html

This would give you a single machine running 6 (or so) seats, 'clones' of which could be deployed all over your organisation and maintained with/as a single 'distro'.

Another advantage is that you're not relying on one machine for all of the 24 seats (would be 4 independant machines), with LTSP if the server dies ALL clients die.

Cheers,

Mungewell.

PS. I think LTSP is great, but maybe not the best solution for the project in hand.

PPS. I don't know how happy I would be using a public PC for my ebanking, at least you're suggesting a platform that is immune from the common virus/trojan/web issues....

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"PPS. I don't know how happy I would be using a public PC for my ebanking, at least you're suggesting a platform that is immune from the common virus/trojan/web issues...."

My thoughts exactly.

I checked out the Linux Gazette article (Multi headed desktop) but I don't think it's stable enough to be run en masse at a bank (Kernel oops after every logout ?!?).

I'm not throwing that idea out though, by any means.

As for the LTSP.org idea, I don't think I'm going to go that route either just b/c the cost of thin clients compared to desktops is almost the same.

I'm thinking maybe some very downgraded computers (early p4 w/256 RAM, very small hdd if any) with something like a Linux live cd environment on it and a GDM script that wipes the system clean every restart.

Still not sure...

I really appreciate the ideas, keep 'em coming.

Thanks.

Edited by xGERMx
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You could use a system similar to the one used in Pebble Linux when using a CF card as the hard disk: the CF card is set in read-only mode, to keep it from being ruined by too much OS swapping (flash media, of course, has a limited number of write cycles). Since Pebble is based on Debian, you could even use it as the base for your system, by putting the card in read-write mode and apt-getting X and Firefox (set Firefox to run as the WM in your xinit file, instead of a real WM -- that way, the user /only/ has access to Firefox).

If you want to save space, you could use Mini ITX boards, or Micro ATX boards, in a custom case. Small CF cards don't cost too much from online sources (I recently purchased a 1 GB SanDisk for a router project for $16 including shipping). You wouldn't need much space for just X and Firefox. Of course, once you have a single card made, you can copy it infinitely for each workstation.

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(Kernel oops after every logout ?!?).

yeah, maybe that wasn't the best page to link to... couldn't remember the commercial solution earlier, it's:

http://userful.com/

(it's probably a lot more polished)

They donated a couple of free licenses last year for the Calgary LinuxFest door prizes.

Munge.

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I was looking at these for a project for my graduating course in college. We found a huge number of Linux-based thin clients that could have a minimal number of apps loaded locally while everything else was stored remotely and accessed by NFS or your choice of another mechanism. Frankly, these are insanely cheap and would probably be the best way to go.

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As for the LTSP.org idea, I don't think I'm going to go that route either just b/c the cost of thin clients compared to desktops is almost the same.

I'm thinking maybe some very downgraded computers (early p4 w/256 RAM, very small hdd if any) with something like a Linux live cd environment on it and a GDM script that wipes the system clean every restart.

Still not sure...

I really appreciate the ideas, keep 'em coming.

Thanks.

You don't need the thin client computers to run LTSP. You can run LTSP quite well on old Pentium 3 machines with 64 MB of RAM. You just need bootable network cards in them.

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Okay, nothing set in stone but, I think I'm going to go with a setup similar to this:

OS: KioskCD (live cd that starts up w/ firefox full screen, if you close the windows firefox opens full screen again).

Hardware: Basic computer w/o HDD or Optical drive.

The OS will be put on CF cards and connected to the mobo w/ IDE to CF adapters.

No Harddrive, no cd/dvd drive, no Windows licnese = serious savings $$$

The main reason I'm going w/this is because once it's in place, it requires almost no IT support/ linux knowledge.

If anything gets fuxored (spyware?, etc, user data) restart and it's back to normal. Even an MCSE can do that...

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Okay, nothing set in stone but, I think I'm going to go with a setup similar to this:

OS: KioskCD (live cd that starts up w/ firefox full screen, if you close the windows firefox opens full screen again).

Fairly sweet idea... but this distro is a little out of date - Firefox 1.0!!!

Depending on how much effort you want to put in you could roll you own 'Live-CD' and use the same CF idea.

With Debian there is a live-cd tool which can turn your current Debian install into a Live-CD with almost no effort, so this would enable you to track security updates quite easily and roll a new revision when needed.

If you were being completely paranoid, you could even add a write-blocker to the IDE interface to be really sure the CF couldn't get corrupted.

Glad you could make use of Free/OpenSource,

Munge.

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Okay, nothing set in stone but, I think I'm going to go with a setup similar to this:

OS: KioskCD (live cd that starts up w/ firefox full screen, if you close the windows firefox opens full screen again).

Fairly sweet idea... but this distro is a little out of date - Firefox 1.0!!!

Depending on how much effort you want to put in you could roll you own 'Live-CD' and use the same CF idea.

With Debian there is a live-cd tool which can turn your current Debian install into a Live-CD with almost no effort, so this would enable you to track security updates quite easily and roll a new revision when needed.

If you were being completely paranoid, you could even add a write-blocker to the IDE interface to be really sure the CF couldn't get corrupted.

Glad you could make use of Free/OpenSource,

Munge.

Too much work for this project but, I think it would be fun to do on the side.

Okay, so the clients really, really want something a little more 'Name-Brand-ish', so instead of using LiveCD's and cheap computers we're going to use LiveKiosk.

Basically it's their own version of something like KioskCD (plus a lot of extras) bundled with cheap diskless workstations.

Remote Configuration & Control + Customizable Versions Available + Web-based Control Panel

= LiveKiosk FTW? We'll see.

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Free Version:

* Microsoft Windows® Not Needed

:-)

Looks like a pretty good system, and not a bad price for a complete solution.

Not much info on the website (didn't register to see if there's more there), but it seems to be Debian based (sarge?) and is running Mozilla Firefox 1.0.4.

Hope this works out for you.

Munge.

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