Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pieces Of A Puzzle

The pieces of our next generation thin client solution are finally coming together. Today was the first time that I have had all of the required elements working in a manner that exactly simulates the user experience on the right operating systems and servers. I struggled with getting distributions to load and work with our hardware and software requirements.

Right now the fit seems to be Fedora Core 6 for the thin clients, which installed in about a 1.5GB footprint and provides an AIGLX enabled Xserver. OpenSuse 10.2 seems to be the right fit for the desktop server. It was able to compile cleanly the various items I need to be available to the users, including the main-menu (slad) application.

On the shot below (go to my link if the image doesn't appear), I am running what the users will see. Operating systems are completely hidden from them and integrate cleanly into one desktop. A click of an icon, and the right server responds and remote displays output back to the thin client. OpenOffice, Evolution, GNOME, Firefox, Microsoft Windows and Mac OSX applications are all running at once via various remote display protocols...all transparent to the users. Beryl is providing a 3D desktop over the network and modern eye candy.


Andrew Z said...

I understand in a heterogeneous environment with Windows, Linux, and Mac that you would have differences in print and file dialogs, but the differences on a single Linux system disappoint me. For example, Firefox,, and a KDE application may each have different print and file open/save dialogs. The inconsistency is potentially confusing and frustrating---especially with the GTK file/open save dialog which has a "novel" way of organizing information.

Thankfully, there have been efforts to improve the situation. Fedora's, for example, uses the beautiful Gnome print dialog! The normal print dialog on Linux looks like Microsoft Windows, so I hope the feature becomes standard in

Our terminal server has just 20 users in a more homogeneous environment, so I hope your users are not too confused.

Dave Richards said...

We have identical file managers on Firefox, OpenOffice and Evolution. That dialog that you speak of in OpenOffice is built into the stock builds from Sun. In options you uncheck [] Use OpenOffice Dialogs and it works.

We have a minimal amount applications that run on MS Windows, and centralized Mac OSX applications are a new idea we are testing for deployment.

rafelbev said...

You can probably manage to get an even better seamless puzzle for the Windows Applications. There is a linux client for 2X ApplicationServer which would display the Windows applications natively on the desktop.

Last I tested on XGL, it worked without artifacts. Do not know exactly when using AIGLX

Np237 said...


1.5 GB and you call it a thin client?

Dave Richards said...

"Thin" is more about where the software runs versus the capacity of the device. It was only another 30 dollars to increase the flash drive from 1GB to 2GB. When you consider that they will be running for 10 years, that seemed to be a smart investment. It's very unknown where things will be going in 2 years, let alone 10!

The packages on the distributions are so tightly connected that it's almost impossible to install a small footprint and still get the features you need.

Np237 said...

I don't understand what can be so tightly coupled so that you need 1.5 GB to install a thin client. A minimum Debian 3.1 system with the X window system is around 400 MB, and that's already way too much for a thin client.

Anonymous said...

I'm very interested in deploying thin clients here in my office, but there seem to be a few pieces to this puzzle still missing. Printing, obviously, has already been mentioned, but what about remote sound?