Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th May 2006 19:37 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems "Thin is in again. After years of false starts, so-called thin clients are gaining traction as IT departments look to cut costs and boost security. Dell, Intel and AMD are eyeing the space." eWeek takes a closer look at Thin Clients, including a set of pictures.
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Just like the good old days
by KenJackson on Mon 8th May 2006 20:31 UTC
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They sure do look cute, but they remind me of the old days when we used a VT100 terminal to access the almighty VAX.

Reply Score: 1

what about home multi user PCs
by transputer_guy on Mon 8th May 2006 21:01 UTC
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It used to be possible a few years back to buy a low grade SVGA video board with 2 PS2 connectors and drop into a Win95 PC to add additional users but the price was really too high IIRC a few hundred $.

I would still like to be able to have multiple users share a single PC with multiple vid,kb,mouse heads for power, cost, space reasons. Is there anyway this is possible either with PCI vid+KB,mouse connector or better still, lots of vid heads and USB ports configured through software to offer virtual user heads. Must be Windows though.

Reply Score: 1

hobgoblin Member since:

what your describing is what microsoft allmost put into existence with their "smart display" offshot of tablets (basicly a non-keyboard tablet running windows CE and a full screen VNC-style connection to a desktop computer).

they dropped it because of licencing issues iirc. if you buy a server running windows 2003 you pay a pr seat licence, as in how many can access the os remotly at the same time and get a desktop.

but for smart display to take of you would have to open up windows xp as a kind of low client (2-5) terminal server. and that would make it interesting for SOHO level corp clients, and risk impacting microsoft's sale of win2k3 to that group.

sad realy as smart display was a interesting idea. oh well, maybe i can convert that UMPC into something similar with some software ;)

Reply Score: 1

Deletomn Member since:

transputer_guy: I would still like to be able to have multiple users share a single PC with multiple vid,kb,mouse heads for power, cost, space reasons. Is there anyway this is possible either with PCI vid+KB,mouse connector or better still, lots of vid heads and USB ports configured through software to offer virtual user heads. Must be Windows though.

There's a newer version of the thing you were talking about before.

I suggest checking out NComputing's products. I have not used them myself, but they look interesting. Here's the URL:

Also... They sell some of their stuff here:

You can also find some of their stuff on other online stores, like Amazon.

Reply Score: 1

transputer_guy Member since:

Thanks for that, will check out.

Ofcourse the MS license is not something I really want pay N times for esp on 1 cpu which has so much power these days it can easily handle 2-5 less demanding users.

Reply Score: 1

TechGeek Member since:

HP makes a machine capable of doing this running linux. Or at least I read they did. The article was about them creating this solution for some country in Africa that was poor. Rather than give low end machines, it was cheaper to send higher end machines with 2 dual out video cards (or maybe a quad) and multiple sound cards. They set it up so each computer was shared by 4 people.

On a different note, I have been seeing this move to thin clients in businesses utilizing virtualization. A lot of companies are running virtual desktops on a linux server, which users connect to with rdp on a linux thin client. Saves lots on licensing as they can run a linux server to host them, and there is no per seat fee because you are connecting to your own desktop. But all data lives in the server room, making backups easy. Plus, anyone can sit at any desk and bring up their own desktop. Pretty slick IMHO.

Reply Score: 1

transputer_guy Member since:

Okay checked out NComputing, pity the video resolution is only XVGA a bit to weeny for practical use. A SXVGA unit could have been a buy. Thats likely to be a problem with ethernet based video streaming for some time, not enough bandwidth to get a better signal through even Cat6 or they were doing this on the cheap.

I think I prefer the hardware route of using either multiple video cards or twinhead cards or even a 4k wide video card with the Matrox TripleHead2Go 3 to 1 SXVGA splitter but then I don't know of any software that could do the rest, if only Matrox could add that too.

Reply Score: 1

alcibiades Member since:

Came on this recently:

No idea if it works.

Reply Score: 1

RE: what about home multi user PCs
by massa on Tue 9th May 2006 13:30 UTC in reply to "what about home multi user PCs"
massa Member since:

why "must be windows though"??
it's fairly trivial to setup a dual-headed linux machine, with one user on each head.

Reply Score: 1

transputer_guy Member since:

Unfortunately it is for the wife & kids, IE lockin on some financial stuff, edu games, esp Flash, drawing & painting programs (Gobe), camera SW, inertia, usual reasons, have a W2K Pro license so might as well use it.

If Linux (Ubantu perhaps) could support say 3 or 4 close heads at >= SXVGA and even just the same Flash ability, my brother would set it up, but I'd still have Windows somewhere else.

Theres a hint for an article there perhaps on all the apps that the least sophisticated users who will never use a cmd line need rather than power users.

Myself, I use BeOS but thats another story.

Reply Score: 1

LTSP is way better
by infl00p on Mon 8th May 2006 21:19 UTC
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I just finished setting up a Debian/LTSP based computer lab of 20 thin clients. The thin clients are 8year old IBM P2 workstations and the server just a 4GB RAM, P4 pc. The thin clients have support for local sound, usb devices, cdrom, are diskless and boot from power on to kde desktop in under 30sec. Total cost under 1500 euros.

I'm convinced that if a hardware vendor was involved with the LTSP project, a 100euro thin client (16MB RAM, no storage, 1Gb lan, USB2, sound, 4MB video RAM) could be built.
a hardware vendor thats sells thin clients which support LTSP is


Edited 2006-05-08 21:25

Reply Score: 5

by happycamper on Mon 8th May 2006 22:09 UTC
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i like thinclients it has everyyhings that is needed without the large foot print of the larger cases.

Reply Score: 1

My experience of thin-client computing
by spanner on Tue 9th May 2006 01:12 UTC
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I've just recently finished implementing a 500-user Citrix thin client system for a mid-sized UK company spread across 3 (soon to be 4) sites.

I modified an Ubuntu livecd (now more or less unnecessary as most of the required changes are now in Dapper) to network-boot (yay for PXE!) into the Citrix ICA client in fullscreen desktop mode. I wrote a simple but effective X autoconfiguration system in about 10 lines of bash script, which is the only real sticking point these days as far as hardware autodetection and configuration goes in Linux. I also added multiseat support (now very usable with 7.0) to my X autoconfiguration system with about another 5 lines of bash script, which means that up to 4 users can use a single desktop machine, each with their own keyboard, mouse, display and totally separate Windows desktop. Best of all, the users don't even know they're not running a local copy of Windows - it boots straight to a familiar Windows 2003/XP login screen, and I even modified the Ubuntu startup logo to look like that of XP, though with the company logo added.

With this system I can reuse all the old Dell Optiplexes knocking about in the company as thin clients, and barring a few extra PCI graphics cards and USB mice and keyboards, need not buy any more desktop hardware for years and years as I can reuse old desktop machines that were too slow to run XP locally and which would otherwise have been thrown away. The memory footprint of my thin-client system is only about 32MB and the CPU speed of the machine is irrelevant as all the processing happens on the Citrix servers, tucked away in the server rooms.

Future plans include addition of OpenMosix to the kernel that the clients boot, so I can have my own 400-processor supercomputer and do some meaty calculations (hopefully including the overnight financial analysis for management, which normally takes around 8 hours to complete on a dual Xeon server and has a habit of overrunning into the next working day)... cool huh?

Major advantages include extreme manageability (I only have 12 Windows 2003/Citrix servers plus associated infrastructure to really look after, the network-boot Linux side of things more or less looks after itself, and Citrix is very easy to manage and supports about 45-50 users per dual-Xeon server), vastly reduced remote support requirements (we've gone from requiring a full-time on-site support person for each site to a single day a week on-site at each of the remote sites), tiny costs for new desktop hardware, and best of all, massively improved user feedback, because very little goes wrong - it just works, and if something does go wrong it gets fixed quickly: there are only a handful of machines that need fixing, and they're all within 10 metres of my desk. Also I am able to remove the hard disks from the desktop machines, which significantly reduces the noise levels in the office and reduces their power consumption by about 30%.

The only downside really is that now everything is utterly dependent on the network: if we have network problems, then the whole company stops work. However, given that the company mostly uses client-server database apps, that was more-or-less true even when everyone had a local copy of Windows on their PC. Also there is an annoying bug in one of the Windows 2003 SP1 Terminal Services drivers that causes each Citrix server to spontaneously reboot about once a week, but I'm currently doing a new build of the Citrix servers based on Windows 2003 R2 that supposedly has this bug fixed.

Given that I can get a brand-new Dell diskless workstation plus 4 17 inch TFTs, 3 PCI gfx cards (there's already onboard Intel video), and 4 keyboards and mice for about 800 GBP and setting up the network-boot image was pretty straightforward, I have to wonder what the point of standalone thin clients is: they would have to be less than about 200 GBP per client device, including a 17 inch TFT, to be worthwhile to me. As yet I've not seen any that are remotely comparable, either in price, or in processing power (remember the Mosix cluster!) so they seem rather useless to me. I'd also lose the flexibility that I have with my current system (i.e. probably no Mosix, and no easy upgrades: I can just apt-get dist-upgrade to the next version of Ubuntu when it's ready and everything should just work... already done it on my dev system and it worked flawlessly)

I'm thinking of offering consulting services for this: it seems like such an amazingly good move that will save companies millions (and already is for my current company), but no-one is really offering it. Any takers?

Reply Score: 5

TechGeek Member since:

I would be interested in details about setting up the multiple desktops. I have not yet figured this part out or how to map a kyboard/mouse to a certain display.

Reply Score: 1

twenex Member since:

"standalone thin client"?

Reply Score: 1

ceekay Member since:

I work at an IT company that supports about 200 small businesses in the area. Our happiest customers (and the ones who have to call us the least) are thin client (often Wyse terminal) users who connect to a Citrix/terminal server.

Just yesterday I was doing maintenence on a server and found that most of the machiens in the office were old Win95 boxes with the clickety keyboards and big PS2 plugs. The great thing is- the users probably don't care. They have decent monitors, and the computers boot straight into the Citrix client and connect to the server.

Every time one of the old Win95 machines dies, we just replace it with a Wyse terminal and they are back up and running within the day.

It's definitely interesting to see how computer have gone from mainframe/dumb-terminal to PC to PC/server back to server/dumb-terminal- I guess thus the title of this article, "Thin Clients II: The Comeback"

Reply Score: 1

Thin Client can be good, bad AND ugly
by elsewhere on Tue 9th May 2006 04:33 UTC
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Our company started migrating smaller remote offices to thin client, connecting into Citrix servers in the closest datacenter.

They chose ours first to roll it out. It was painful, and it's still not as transparent as using a rich client desktop, but it's certainly workable. The drivers for us were less about centralizing data storage (although that was one of the concerns since we went Sarbox) and more about reducing bandwidth useage between offices. They determined that thin client in lower numbers utilized less bandwidth than having local servers or client software (ie. email) that required WAN connectivity for accessing or synchronizing data. They saw it as a cost-savings measure to reduce bandwidth requirements at the same time we were rolling out VOIP across our offices globally (I could write a whole seperate post about how badly that worked out initially).

Personally, I can't handle it. Thin client is fine for certain applications, but the latency issues we're having even after all the tweaking etc. make applications like MS Office frustrating to work with at times. Plus our data line will randomly go down for 15 seconds or so at a time, which is enough to completely kill your open sessions. That's great when you've got 15 open emails waiting to respond to. Granted, that's an issue with our provider (who despite our SLA still can't seem to work it out) but it's also an underlying weakness of thin-client, when our connection goes down everything goes down.

The bright spot in this for me is that I am perfectly able now to use my linux laptop in this environment, with the citrix client I have exactly the same capabilities and full access to MS Office et al. as our Windows desktops do. It really seems ridiculous that we're using our standard-issue corporate machines (HP P42.8G 512MB Win XP Pro) for thin client operations that would work equally well on our former corporate-issue machines (Compaq PIII450 384MB) using a generic linux license.

I've always felt that thin-client was one of those killer applications that could fuel enterprise linux usage. Really, what's the point of paying for Windows licenses under a corporate plan when you're only going to be running citrix on them? Enterprise level tools already exist for deployment and manageability of linux desktops, and the usual FUD about cutting edge 3d graphics or mp3/dvd support really doesn't play into things there, so it always seemed like a natural fit to me.

Of course, deploying linux predominanty for enterprise thin-client capability will not directly lead to better support for linux from ISVs and hardware vendors, but hey, we'll take our victories where we can.

Probably seems that way to MS as well, since they're bringing out that cheapie stripped down no-frills Vista license for corporate customers only, basically optimized for deploying thin-client, to prevent that specific scenario from happening. Still, the writing is on the wall.

Reply Score: 2

by alexixor on Tue 9th May 2006 06:49 UTC
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Is there a way to boot winxp from the net, like ltsp?

I don't mean citrix style, where all the load is on the server, but boot it from the network and load it on the local ram of the machine?


Reply Score: 1

Licensing rules
by xultz on Tue 9th May 2006 15:32 UTC
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I allways had that question, but never found a good answer. How do the licensing rules on the diskless clients work?
For example, I need to buy one license of Windows and MSOffice (and everytinh else, like Corel Draw, AutoCAD, etc) for every terminal, or I just need to buy one for the application server?

Reply Score: 1