Friday, September 11, 2009

Detailed Thin Client Specs & Designs Coming

One of the things that people mentioned on Amazon concerning the thin client book that I wrote was they wanted to have detailed information concerning specific hardware. When I was writing the book, I considered this fact and had to weigh also the time that it takes to get a book to press (over a year). The computer world changes greatly in 6 months, let alone 12 or more months. Proof of that fact is that our HP 5725 thin clients from 2 years ago are already discontinued and the 5735 has completely different specs.

I find that this blog has been a great resource for *me*. I frequently look back at things that I wrote and that helps me refresh my memory on current projects. So over the next week or so I'm going to publish detailed blogs concerning my re-design of our current thin clients to newer operating systems. I'm also going to include information concerning changes made, because for the most part they occurred based on direct user feedback. If you bought that book and wanted more information, consider this a free Appendix. :)

The first few blogs are in my mind, and will be:

1) Thin client hardware, detailed specs of 5725, 5735 and 4410t (laptop) devices. I'll open them up and take pictures.

2) Operating system installs. The 5725 and 5735 have Debian Etch on them, but I had to do make a good amount of changes to make them work for our needs. I'll describe what I added and how I got 3D enabled. I'll also describe how I got common and consistent interfaces and code running on all of them. All 3 thin clients have identical functionality.

3) First Boot. I don't like plug-and-pray/generic Xorg.conf files because they sometimes give the users unexpected results. Have you ever tried to explain to users why their icons are different sizes periodically? On first boot, the thin clients ask appropriate questions, and precise Xorg.conf files are generated for their hardware. Users are not allowed to change hardware, so we are assured that an IT staff member will make selections.

4) Chooser. After a thin client boots, the users select from multiple computers servers. The old thin clients would start a second X instance on vt9 and the chooser would continue to run on vt7. This was the default behavior from the HP build. I didn't like this design and modified it. I'll describe how I got one Xserver to quit and another to start, and the technical benefits that we now gained. Hint: You can't kill cleanly a running Xserver from a script and expect the video to continue working!

5) USB Access. When a user plugs in a USB stick, it's only known to the local thin client. I did not want the server to attempt to mount these ports. The old OS used FTP to allow the users to gain access to their files. I made some big improvements in this design. I built on what was working, and made it much easier.

So that's it for now. I'm sure I'll have a few more topics. I spend a good amount of time researching issues online, and things that people post are *always* helpful to me. I'm always hopeful that I'm returning the favor.


Maarten Jongepier said...

Just to let you know I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

Newer versions of LTSP do #5 out of the box IIRC.