Friday, June 15, 2012

Another Busy Week

It's hard to believe that it's Friday; the days go so quickly.  I have been putting the final touches on our next thin client release and it's now in the hands of more users. I have been pushing it to 16 test thin clients to ensure that everything works.   I had a white board of ideas and things that could be improved and nearly everything is crossed off....a sign that a release is almost here.  I finally got a few people to test full time the Citrix client running on the thin client instead of being host based.  The feedback has been a 10-20% increase in speed and those CPU cycles will now be off the server.  So it's a win/win for us. 

I wanted to be able to remotely poll the thin clients to detect all devices plugged into the USB ports.  People sometimes bring in their own hardware without approval and we need to be able to see that it's been installed.  We QA with all known hardware when we do upgrades, but unknown hardware might yield unexpected results.  For now I just made it very simple: I wrote a small wrapper for lsusb that formats the output a bit better and then creates a more friendly output.  (lsusb is not enough information, lsusb -v is too much).   The support portal grabs the output and puts it into a simple treeview (below).  I had some ideas in my head for a graphical screen, but unfortunately the various hardware vendors return their own non standard strings...too hard to parse as part of this project, this will have to do for now.

I have been testing LibreOffice 3.6, found some documents that won't open and UI screens that aren't working and filed bug reports.  Very happy to see how quickly this software is moving.  3.5 has proven itself very stable, and we still have had very few issues moving away from OpenOffice.

HP released a new thin client operating system which is now Ubuntu based.  I downloaded it and installed it on a test device.  It will be nice to have newer underlying libraries to put live, and the boot time is greatly reduced.  Newer Xorg drivers should help us too with various monitor configurations; good stuff.  I installed Skype 4 and it went on cleanly and was peppy on the t5745 device.  Looks like we will be able to offer a lot of nice new features two updates from now, later this year.

We have been looking at Alfresco document management software a bit, and I was asked to install it as part of some early testing.  I'll be testing how well it interacts with Linux, Firefox and how well one can download documents from iPads and LibreOffice.  This is a huge change, and will obviously need a lot of testing...but it's on the radar and assigned to me.

Other issues: Monitoring crash reports, tuning servers, adding a bit of code here and there to help users restart applications on failure. For the number of users logging in, things are very stable and support is happy.

Happy weekend.


Kevin Jensen said...

Hi Dave, I am fairly new to linux and have been putting in around 1500 to 2000 hours over the last 6 months to learn Linux, and I feel that I am now fairly moderate in Debian...... Anywho, I am actually looking to do something very similar to what you seem to have done (thin clients, setting up remote Windows (trying) and Linux (x11 forwarding) applications, managing software upgrades and pnp devices via administrator permissions). It seems to be over my head of course, but could you recommend a starting "page". I have done a lot of research and have come across a lot of different software and/or methods for accomplishing my goals, but if I could get some sort of idea of how to learn all of this (of course without being under the direct tutelage of someone such as yourself) I think I would have a decent chance of figuring some of this out.

Thank you, Kevin

Kevin Jensen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Richards said...

@kevin: Sorry I missed your comment earlier. A lot of what we do here was learned through the years by having similar equipment. In the mid 1990s we installed our first Xterminals to connect to Unix and our current technology is actually very similar. Usually if something works on a stand alone Linux machine, it can be remote displayed to thin clients...and surprisingly the speed is usually excellent. Sadly, I'm not aware of anything online that describes the nuances of running in this manner. The big saving grace is that we have all of the source code and can make changes as the testing is performed. My old blog entries might help too, we've tried lots of ideas here.

Kevin Jensen said...

Thanks, I have made some headway over the last few days and have started mixing random gnu progs and your past and current blogs to pull things together. I saw that you use the fog server to handle upgrades (and pxe booting?) and Citrix / NX (I am guessing advanced server or something to that effect) to manage your Windows and Linux remote windows. I do realize that you are busy, and that the information you have gleaned over the years is a commodity in it's own, but if you have the time I do have a few questions that would help. Do you use VirtualGL with TurboVNC/TigerVNC or go a different route to handle the refresh issues? What Citrix prog do you actually use? XenApp or another? And lastly do you still use SUSE or have you switched to a different one? (I haven't read through all of your blog, but I am working on it.. and if you do is there a particular reason you have stuck with it or is it a software support matter?)