Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Thin Clients and Fat Servers

I just downloaded Fedora Core 4 after 5 days of patiently waiting. But while downloading FC4, I got to visit the website of Lorma Linux about 3-4 days ago and found out that they have an LTSP version. The Lorma Linux LTSP Server Slackware Edition has been posted for quite some time now and this is the first time I noticed it. I've been reading about the sys admins in Largo, Florida and what they did. I've been interested in LTSP or Thin Client - Fat Server setup for about a year now but this is the perfect opportunity for me to try it out.

I just finished downloading FC4 at around 8 last night but before installing them on my machine, I thought "why not download Lorma Linux LTSP while doing some research about what I'll be doing?" So that I did. As based on the articles I googled, I found out that it's not "really" that hard installing and managing LTSP setup. Well, I'm going to personally install it on my system and manage it using the 133Mhz machine as a client once I have the complete download.

Lorma Linux LTSP Server Slackware Edition was done at around 10am a while ago. Unfortunately the md5sum does not match. It might be because I'm having problems connecting properly to Ibiblio. I can't use bittorrent 'coz I can't make the link for the torrent work. And the Linux Mirro Project doesn't contain the Beta2 of that specific distro. Well, I tried downloading again that distro using another mirror and I still have a few hours to go, but once I'm done I'm gonna have a ball learning about the capabilities of this technology.

5 hours ago, i visited Bayanihan Linux and to my surprise, they redesigned the whole site. It is much better than the previous design. Visually appealing and very easy to navigate. But what really caught my attention is their Thin Client Manager product. It also uses the same LTSP technology, but this one is an add-on for Bayanihan Linux 3.1 and sized at around 135MB. Download is approximately 2hours on my Smart Wi-Fi. I suspended downloading Lorma Linux and started downloading the Thin Client Manager, then I resumed the previous download.

So before testing out the Thin Client Manager of Bayanihan Linux, I'll first test and see what Lorma Linux LTSP Server could do. Then after I'm done with both of them, I just might not install FC4 on my system, that is if I'm happy with either Bayanihan or Lorma. And to think, I've been dreaming about an FC4 machine since they released it, but now that I have the installation CD's, my interest faded and replaced by Bayanihan & Lorma. Ahhh, the wonders of my complicated mind.

Why Learn LTSP?

That setup would permit very old client computers to function just as fast as your brand new P4 or AMD64 PC. You don't need a hard disk, cd-rom, and floppy drives. What you just need is an ethernet card and a capability to boot from it on a client computer. You could revive old 486 computers, ain't that great. Here's a list of what you could do:

  • use your old computers stored in a closet
  • connect up to 10 client computers on your server
  • the server would do all the processing, client PC's would just display the results
  • lock the client interface to do a specific task. e.g. Setup client PC to run just Firefox and Thunderbird- great setup for cyber cafes'.
  • all customizations (wallpapers & icons) are setup for all client PC's because you are booting from the server. That means, whatever you did on PC1 would still show up in PC8 once you login.
  • easier to backup because all data are stored on the server.
  • much secured and minimizes company theft.
  • you only need to upgrade just one server computer and all client computers are automatically upgraded.
  • ...and so much more!
Documentations are available on the Internet, just google it out.


This setup is very suitable for goverments, companies, and even home offices and you could configure it to just about anything you want it to do.

  • Goverment Offices
  • Small, Medium, and Large Companies
  • Schools & Universities
  • Small Office - Home Office
  • Home Use

  • Cyber/Internet Cafe' : You could set it up to only use Firefox and Thunderbird preventing hacking from the customers.
  • Goverment Offices : Virtually all the applications they needed could be setup and all files are immediately available to anyone who has the security privileges. No need to go to a specific computer where the file is located. No need to email it to your manager or supervisor. Since all files are stored on the server, all the computers on the network could easily access it, with the proper permissions of course. One more good thing about this setup is once a user saves the file, it will immediately be available to his/her immediate supervisor. You don't have to wait for transfer times.
  • Schools & Universities : To prevent student hacking and virus or trojan infiltration, this is the way to go. You could set it up for 1 server for a classroom of 10-30 students. You could control what the students access. You don't need a PhP200,000.oo Projector because all your presentations are directly viewed on the student's computer. Internet access could also be limited to certain hours. Porn and other malicious sites are easily blocked with little configuration and training. Lastly, you don't have to configure all 30 computers, everything could be done on your (server) computer.
  • SOHO : Most SOHO needs basic word processor, database, and spreadsheet applications. You could set it up so everyone could only use Open Office. If you don't know it yet, Open Office is compatible with MS Office. The only thing that lacks with OO is real-time collaboration.
  • Home Use / Networking : Imagine all your old computers stored in the garage or closet being useful again and used by you're kids for school. Your 486 and Pentium 166Mhz didn't go to waste after all. Not to mention that we're showing our kids, the future leaders, about the importance of Open Source. Now they can learn all they want without fear of copyright infringement and you don't have to pay for anything. And for those who keep on saying that most Open Source ain't free.. e.g. Red Hat Products, well I'm not talking about the product, but the source code which you could easily compile, modify, and install.
There are lots and lots of configurations available for your specific needs and the good news is they're all very cheap, if not free. Best of all, since you're using Open Source, rest assured it is stable. Thanks to millions of programmers testing and making sure it is the most stable operating system available to us. It is also virus, trojan, and spyware-free. The only time you need to install an anti-virus program is when you need to protect a Windows computer that's connected to the network.


Bayanihan Linux

Bayanihan Linux Thin Client Manager

Lorma Linux

Linux Terminal Server Project

LTSP Success Stories

A Little Humor

While I surfing the internet last month, I found an article featuring Microsoft trying to test a Windows XP and Windows Vista on a thin client - fat server configuration. It's a little blurry in my mind right now, but I don't have time to search for it, much less read it. Google it out if you're interested.