Fujitsu Siemens Futro S300 & B200 (cc-by-sa aa)

pile of thinclients S300 (cc-by-sa aa)

Thinclients at the Polytechnic (cc-by-sa aa & nb)

GNU/Linux based thinclient network

The IT dept. of the University of applied sciences and arts Zurich (ZHdK) sponsored 25 thinclients and 2 Servers to install a LTSP based thinclient network for the Library of the Polytechnic in 2006.

What is a thinclient?

Thinclients are small computers, that contain a small motherboard, a processor, some memory, network, VGA, PS/2 & USB slots, but no harddisk (storage). Therefor the system has to be booted from a local server or an external harddisk (e.g. USB). Because there is no fan, the client computer runs very silently and the tiny hardware setting doesnt use much power. Once the system is started the thinclient can be used as a normal workstation, where all the files are stored on the server. Such a thinclient system has the advantage, that a administrator can easily cvontrol and maintain the whole thinclient network by administering the Server. In case of a system upgrade it is sufficent, that the server is upgradeded and all the thinclients will use the upgraded system, that is loaded from the server in the boot process. In case a thinclient computer misbehaves or is damaged it can be easily replaced by another thinclient without reconfiguring the server or changing any settings. Financially spoken a thinclient network is much cheaper than a classical workstation system. A thinclient costs about 300 US$ and above.The ones I used for the Malawi project are fujitsu Siemens S300 thinclients and are very relyable. As a bootup OS there is a preinstalled small GNU/Linux system on a Flashdisk.

Server & client hardware

To insure that a thinclient network runs relyable and durable one has to make sure, that the servers provide enough speed and ressources. That's why I chose Intel pentium 4 dualcore 2.8 Ghz processors, 2 GB of RAM and 500 GB storage (soft raided) for each server. In Africa, where you generally have many problems beacuse of power breaks (daily) expensive UPS systems are used with every workstation. I was very happy to see that on the thniclient system I only had to install UPS for the servers and not for each thinclient. When there was a powerbrake the LTSP system automatically cached the last users session. And after relogging in the full data was restored for the user even if the document wasn't saved meanwhile.

GNU/Linux Edubuntu with LTSP

There are multiple applications that can be installed on servers to use for a thinclient sytem. For example skololinux or linux terminal server project (LTSP) just to mention a few. I've chosen GNU/Linux Edubuntu LTS (6.10) because it runs ot of the box with LTSP for thinclients. Further it is a very well known GNU/Linux distribution in Africa because the Ubuntu project has become very popular not only in first world countries. Then the fact, that it is a GNU/Linux Debian based distribution makes it very easy to maintain and sustain. I regularly log into the servers of the Polytechnic by ssh from Zurich to do some maintainance and backups.