Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Projects And Starting New Thin Client Release

I'm back in the office after an extended weekend and right back into projects. All of the new GNOME servers ran great while I was gone. I have started to add a few more scripts and crons to tune it further based on how it's running and processes that are being left behind by various user techniques. For the most part I consider the migration to the new desktop/GNOME server to be finished and I have already started moving into new areas.

I added a bit of code post authentication that polls the users thin clients and requests it to send a version number string back to the server. This will allow us to see if any devices were missed during the recent upgrades. 525 thin clients in multiple buildings...there are always times when a handful will escape upgrade for whatever reason. Now we'll see them. This data displays in real time in our support portal software.

We continue to beta test LibreOffice with a small group of users and we're making progress on testing and the QA process. There were some settings that were changed in OpenOffice years ago, and you kind of forget about some of them and then have to make changes. We'll build a standard template of settings for users which will be pushed into $HOME on first launch. From there, they'll be responsible for their own settings. We have found a few issues, but so far nothing major. Bug reports are being filed and it's moving along.

I have started to gather more detailed information on Evolution crashes based on the backtraces we're auto-generating. I wrote a little script that tries to group them together based on the crash location and we're finding that many of them are the same issue. A few well placed patches in SLED 11 should fix many of them at once.

I have started the process of creating the next release of our thin client software. This upgrade will improve the end user experience and also benefit IT in lowering support calls. This will be QA'd for several months before being deployed and it's still at an early stage. Here is a list of features that will be implemented:

+ Disable X-Zap; Alt-Control-Backspace resets your Xserver and we think that users are finding this by accident. No reason for it to be enabled, all it does is kick them off the server.
+ Fix configuration issue with HP 5745 thin clients; the latest HP thin clients have an odd timing issue related to receiving a FOG update that is corrected by powering off the device and rebooting. I want to hunt this down because it's causing support to have to touch a small percentage of devices after update.
+ Local Citrix: We still have at least a year left of using Citrix and right now it's running on our GNOME server. Offloading this will drop CPU cycles used on the hosts greatly and give the users a faster experience. This replicates what was done in the last release with RDP which has worked out very well.
+ Fix Xclients bug: Users are finding certain techniques that allow them to drop off the server and have running xclients that messes with their logging back in again. This sometimes is just a failing UPS and power dip -- It's enough to return them to the system chooser, but the host reconnects and their software continues to run. I'll check for clients and xkill them. Right now they have to reboot when this happens.
+ Rdesktop 1.7.1; it's out and includes some bug fixes.
+ USB Device scanning; we're going to try and use lsusb to look for devices they have plugged in that might affect our updates and cause them problems. Some people apparently are bringing in their own pointer and keyboard devices. We want to be aware of them when troubleshooting problems.
+ Local applications; We want to allow a kiosk mode to be available to start up a Windows application via RDP. This will allow them to log into point of sale software without having to log fully into GNOME.
+ VM support; the thin clients will run in VMPlayer and understand that infrastructure. This will allow us to replace NX running on computers on our high speed network. NX will of course continue to be used where we don't have enough bandwidth.
+ Photo management improvements; the simple UI that allows them to move photos into our software will be improved and be more robust.
+ Monitor support; We'll allow for monitors of different resolutions side by side, and also for a portrait monitor to work side by side with a landscape one. Right now this was disabled in order to keep the configurations simple and consistent. But there are some needs for this design.
+ The thin clients will connect to our time server and sync clocks at boot. Previously this was not a big deal because all software was host based, but we want the local apps to know the right time.
+ Local email; the thin clients will email us when they have certain problems. If the Xserver crashes, it will grab a copy of the log files before they're deleted.
+ Detecting power off; if the users power off their thin clients while logged into GNOME we really don't know they have done this. The button will detect server connection and log this activity.

I'm looking forward to these changes and the challenges ahead in implementing them.

No comments: