Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Thin Client Updates Are Live, Other Projects

We're about halfway through updating all City workstations to the new release mentioned in previous blogs.  Some changes were merged into this build which made self configuration work in some cases where it previously had some problems and now the entire process can be handled remotely.  In cases where the device was still powered on during the update period, we can remotely reboot them and force them to pick up the changes.  This build allows us to see the users USB connected devices and exact monitor make and monitor remotely which will be a big help.

Our Police Department is the last area of the City not using RDP and is still using Citrix.  Previously the ICA client was running on the GNOME server and then using X11 to the workstations.  This worked fine, but we wanted to reap the benefit of the client running on the local thin client which then eliminated one hop in the middle.  The workstations then use RDP to talk directly to Windows.  As anticipated, this eliminated all of the Citrix canvas processes from the server; they were chewing CPU during repaints.  Post change, here is a screenshot of around 220 users logged into GNOME.  It wasn't slow previously, but it's definitely better now.

We met with the IT Governance committee last week and spent a good amount of the meeting talking about email issues.  We showed them Groupwise 2012, and then mentioned that other options are available and showed them Zimbra 8.  They were excited at the feature set of Zimbra in comparison of Groupwise and agreed that we should explore moving off Groupwise in favor of other email vendors.  While no final decision has been made, we are researching options and will be meeting with the Office Administrators in a few weeks to get their feedback.  We have been on Groupwise since 1994, and it's looking like we might be moving in a new direction.

I have been looking at the Ubuntu based thin client release from HP with an eye to the future.  Our custom modifications would need to be installed and tested, but they are highly modular and should install pretty cleanly.  The modifications are mostly just Glade/Python screens which have proven to be portable.  I would expect this to be ready by the fall and put into production around October or November.  I'll blog about this process as it starts.

Our in house support portal is running like a champ, and as time allows I have been reworking one of the clunky parts of the original deployment.  I mentioned in the past that I tend to feel it important to get technology deployed and not over-engineer things so that it takes too long to actually gets software in the hands of users.  Every five minutes a daemon polls the server farm and gathers information about CPU load, user counts and stuck print jobs. It was then using this data and kicking off a perl routine to build bar chart images which are then just loaded into the portal.  GTK really should have native, supported bar and pie charts readily available in Glade.  Since that isn't the case, I built a proof of concept using just regular label and image widgets and am happy with the results.  The "LibreOffice" column below is the test area and will soon have code to load all of the widgets correctly and create a functional pie chart.  Note the hover tooltip that will be available over the individual slices.  Once the code is written, I'll replicate it quickly in all places that have bar charts and it should work much better.

Other Updates: We're all ready for LibreOffice 3.6 when it's released; all of the testing looks good and the information dialogs are finished.  Some internal software was being upgraded and one of our server needs some disks added and the bigmem kernel loaded; have been working with others on that plan.  Testing continues on Firefox 15 and the new PDF native renderer; checking to see if that is working well enough to deploy.


Uomo Ragno said...

We tried Zimbra, too.

One suggestion: don't stay without "online backup". Even with only 5 email accounts, we had problems with Zimbra upgrades.

After months of tests, we decided to go back to Lotus Domino.

Kevin Jensen said...

Personally after doing research on Zimbra / other online enterprise email solutions, a few cloud storage services, and server based email solutions; I kept coming back to using roundcube and it's plugins to drive everything. I don't have anywhere near as many users though, and I like to keep things in house as much as possible. You could also check out Nutsmail... although I don't know enough about your needs vs. what they provide, but I think it might be worth a look if you haven't already.

Also, back to my previous line of questions, would your book Linux Thin Client Networks be a good point of reference? Or would you say that it is dated enough to not be as useful? (I already bought it, but I haven't looked over it yet and wanted your opinion on the matter)

Dave Richards said...

@kevin: Enterprise software is always difficult, but email is actually the easiest of the pieces. Calendaring has always been the hardest. Our culture is heavily used to being able to run up-to-date free/busy searches for people and book meetings in real time. We are looking at all solutions that we can find, nothing is locked in. So I appreciate your tips and will check them out.

Regarding the book: After buying and owning a lot of books that were specific to one particular version of software I took great strides to write more on the things that do not change. Focus is on design and staffing and it's not a detailed description of using any particular hardware. Some of the Amazon scores knocked the book because some had hoped it would have lots more technical information. Now that several years have gone by, I'm glad I did what I did...or the book would be very obsolete. The book really focuses on the areas that you obtain cost savings in terms of money and also staffing size. It's hard for those people that have always worked in client/server to get their head around centralized computing.

Kevin Jensen said...

Roundcube does have a calendar plugin that allows use of a caldav server such as davical, a google account calendar, and I think it might have a straight database calendar as an option as well. I haven't had the time to really play with it much, and I can't imagine it working smoothly off one server when you have such a large number of users (although I could be underestimating it), but it does seem to have a lot of the options from Zimbra available. I am in the middle of re-structuring / transitioning to an additional server so I will probably be taking care of that on the new server pretty soon. If I come across any new information I will pass it on if you still need it.

On the book, I've only browsed the first chapter but I really like the value proposition of the centralized computing. My boss is already pretty tech driven, but points like that will definitely help me make the points that I want to. I guess I am just trying to say that I am glad you wrote the book the way you did as well.