Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Ubuntu Thin Client Work Continues

I took a few days off last week and this week I'm once again working on customizing the Ubuntu 10.04 build that hp released for our newer 5745 thin clients .  I hadn't really worked with Ubuntu that much and they seem to have their own way of doing things, so that has slowed the process.  There are some differences in design of startup and inetd that took a bit of tinkering and googling and now things are working as expected.  Once I got basic needed services running, I started testing all of our old customizations and making changes.  Some files are in different places and other minor issues, but nothing very difficult to update.  The HP build had an older version of the Citrix client, so I removed that and installed the latest release.  I'm rewriting the login mechanism to eliminate a step for the users and using SSH to create a tunnel from the workstation to the GNOME desktop.  I built a Glade screen to test all of the features as seen in the screenshot below.  Once all of the code is working, I'll replicate the feature set in something that is more pleasant to the eyes.  I have been teaching myself python-clutter as time allows.  The authentication module is running local to the thin client, so clutter will work great.  No remote display problems here to fight.


One interesting idea that I have had for a while now that I'm testing is the concept of running the screensaver on the thin client itself instead of on the server.  On the workstations currently in production, users log into GNOME and gnome-screensaver is running from the server.  Because I didn't want the traffic running over the network, the screensaver was set to blank/black only.  It would not be a good thing to have 100 users with locked screens and PacMan running over remote display. :)   What I am testing now is xscreensaver running on the local hardware.  When the user does Alt-Control-L from GNOME, it activates the screensaver on the workstation.   Users love to see their badges and logos on the screen, and it gives them a sense of feeling of ownership of the session.  The small amount of time to tinker with this idea has been worthwhile.  From time to time there has also been talk of using the screensaver to publish information about upcoming events, so we should be able to support that with no problems.  Right now this is in a R&D/testing state only.

95% of our workstations are still running the older HP 5725 hardware, of which there have been no updates for a while now.  I added all of the packages required for the older hardware (ATI video card driver) and then used Clonezilla to do a backup and restore.  The older hardware worked like a champ; just a few BUSID changes to xorg.conf and it's working.  A few more iterations of testing this 'backport' and it will be working fine; and then I can start using FOG.

I have just started testing the code that we have to download a configuration file from our server and automatically generate a working xorg.conf file.  Once I have that process working, I can get some alpha testers on this code.  I hope to have something for them to test later this week.

Other projects:  Working on coordinating a feature in Zimbra to support drop and drag of email into PDF format; getting ready to install LibreOffice 3.6.2 to fix a few bugs; normal support issues and questions; patched the latest version of Flash;  worked on trying to get Java 1.7 installed  -- still some apps that don't work correctly; testing Firefox 16.

5 comments:

Dan Goodman said...

What's the plan for using FOG? It is my (limited) understanding that it is only for Windows images...am I wrong?

Dave Richards said...

@Dan: FOG works great with Linux and thin clients. You set up devices for PXE boot and then register them. Then from FOG you can upload a master copy and then clone it with just a few clicks. We have upgraded all of the City workstations 2-3 times now and it's been a great time saver.

Dan Goodman said...

So are you still using LTSP or does FOG replace that? (I came across your blog while researching LTSP)The FOG documentation makes it seem like it is similar to LTSP, but I may just be over-thunking it...

Dave Richards said...

FOG is used to push updates to the thin clients only. For instance if we get a new version of Rdesktop or Citrix that runs on the local workstation and then we push updates with FOG. This is unrelated to the connections to the server. Our setup is similar to LTSP, but we aren't running that exact software.

U Touch said...

Wow,Hopefully you will have a continues service.I know that you do your best just to give us a support.