Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual

Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Thin Client Computing
Installation Manual
Prepared by:
Amos Becker Batto
email: amosbatto AT yahoo DOT com
Managed by:
The Center of Information and Communication
Technology for Development CETIC.BO/Quipus Foundation of Bolivia
World Computer Exchange of North America
With Financial Support from:
The International Development Research Center IDRC
The Institute for Connectivity in the Americas - ICA
License: This work is public domain and may be freely copied, modified, and redistributed.
For more information, see:
La Paz – Bolivia
August, 2007
Table of Contents
1. Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 4
2. Hardware to set up a thin client network.....................................................................................6
2.1. Buying the server..................................................................................................................... 6
2.1.1. Recommended requirements for a thin client server .................................................... 8
2.1.2. Example servers:..........................................................................................................10
2.2. Obtaining thin clients.............................................................................................................12
2.2.1. Dedicated thin clients...................................................................................................13
2.2.2. Miniature ITX computers............................................................................................ 14
2.2.3. Reusing old computers ................................................................................................15
2.2.4. Buying used computers................................................................................................15 RAM................................................................................................................... 16 Graphics cards and sound cards..........................................................................16 USB.................................................................................................................... 16 Network Interface Card (NIC)............................................................................17
2.2.5. Diskless thin clients..................................................................................................... 17 Thin clients which boot from local harddrive.................................................... 17
2.3. Networking hardware............................................................................................................ 18
2.3.1. Networking two computers..........................................................................................18
2.3.2. Networking three or more computers.......................................................................... 19
2.3.3. Network speed............................................................................................................. 19
2.3.4. Rules for using repeaters with 10BaseT and 100BaseTX ......................................... 20
2.3.5. Expanding an existing network....................................................................................21
2.3.6. Networking over the internet....................................................................................... 21
2.3.7. High bandwidth networks in the future....................................................................... 21
2.4. Scaling up your network........................................................................................................ 22
2.4.1. Checking CPU and memory usage.............................................................................. 23
2.4.2. Network load balancing............................................................................................... 24
3. Microsoft Windows thin clients...................................................................................................26
3.1. Windows Terminal Services..................................................................................................26
3.1.1. Windows Server 2003..................................................................................................26
3.1.2. RDP 6 in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista clients......................................27
3.1.3. Working with older Windows machines..................................................................... 27
3.2. Alternatives to Windows Server 2000/2003/2008.................................................................28
3.3. Installation Requirements for Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003................ 29
3.4. Thin client requirements........................................................................................................ 32
3.5. Setting up Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003........................................................ 32
3.5.1. Licensing......................................................................................................................34
3.6. Configuring the Terminal Server...........................................................................................35
3.6.1. Terminal Services Manager......................................................................................... 35 Terminal Services Configuration........................................................................36
3.7. Using Terminal Services in the Client .................................................................................. 39
3.7.1. Remote Desktop Connection (RDC)........................................................................... 39
3.7.2. Using the command line.............................................................................................. 40
3.7.3. Automatic logins..........................................................................................................40
3.7.4. Fixing Login Problems ............................................................................................... 41
3.7.5. Logging off.................................................................................................................. 43
3.8. Using Terminal Services from a Web Client.........................................................................43
3.8.1. Enabling ActiveX with Internet Explorer.................................................................... 44
3.8.2. Installing ActiveX in FireFox, SeaMonkey, Mozilla Suite, Netscape or Opera..........45
3.8.3. Logging in to a Windows Terminal with a web client................................................ 46
3.9. Windows Diskless Thin Clients.............................................................................................46
3.9.1. Installing Thinstation 2.2 in a Windows terminal server.............................................47 Installing Thinstation on the server.................................................................... 48 Configuring Thinstation..................................................................................... 48 Choosing different sessions................................................................................ 49 Creating configurations for individual thin clients.............................................50 Setting up the TFTP and DHCP server.............................................................. 50
3.9.2. Booting the thin client..................................................................................................51 Making an EtherBoot floppy for 30 different types of NICs in MS Windows.. 51 Creating an EtherBoot CD..................................................................................51
4. GNU/Linux thin clients................................................................................................................ 53
4.1. Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP)................................................................................. 54
4.1.1. Edubuntu...................................................................................................................... 56
4.1.2. Xubuntu....................................................................................................................... 58
4.1.3. SkoleLinux...................................................................................................................59
4.1.4. K12LTSP..................................................................................................................... 60
4.1.5. AbulÉdu ..................................................................................................................... 60
4.2. Choosing the Windows Manager for GNU/Linux.................................................................60
4.2.1. Heavy windows managers........................................................................................... 61
4.2.2. Light windows managers............................................................................................. 61
4.2.3. Extremely light windows managers.............................................................................62
4.3 Getting support for LTSP....................................................................................................... 63
4.4. Assigning IP addresses.......................................................................................................... 63
4.5. Alternative ways to setup thin client networks in GNU/Linux............................................. 64
4.6. Installing a LTSP thin client network with Edubuntu 6.06 LTS .......................................... 66
4.6.1. Downloading Edubuntu............................................................................................... 67
4.6.2. Installation................................................................................................................... 67
4.6.3. Configuring the Diskless Thin Clients.........................................................................71 PXE (Pre-eXecution Environment).................................................................... 72 EtherBoot............................................................................................................72 Making an EtherBoot boot floppy disk.............................................................. 73 Alternatives to using ROM-O-Matic.................................................................. 75
4.6.4. Connect the computers.................................................................................................75 Fine-tuning the thin client setup......................................................................... 78
4.6.5. Finding the MAC address ........................................................................................... 80
4.7. Installing a thin client network in Ubuntu 7.04..................................................................... 80
4.7.1. Adding repositories with Synaptic...............................................................................80
4.7.2. Adding repositories from the command line............................................................... 81
4.7.3. Installing the LTSP Server:..........................................................................................81
4.7.4. If you get an error........................................................................................................ 81
4.8. Thin client networks for old computers with Debian 4.0r0 .................................................. 82
4.8.1. If installing a mult-boot system in the LTSP server.................................................... 82
4.8.2. Get the Debian 4.0 installation CD/DVDs...................................................................82
4.8.3. Installing the Debian Operating System ..................................................................... 83 Install X-Windows .............................................................................................84
4.8.4. Installing and configuring the LTSP server................................................................. 85
4.8.5. Installing and configuring LTSP .................................................................................86
4.8.6. Configuring the DHCP server .....................................................................................88 Dynamic IP addresses in the thin clients............................................................ 88 Static IP addresses in the thin clients..................................................................90
4.8.7. Using ISA network cards............................................................................................. 91
4.8.8. Modifying the /etc/hosts file ....................................................................................... 92
4.8.9. Configuring each client................................................................................................93 Mouse configuration...........................................................................................94 Video card configuration.................................................................................... 94 Screen configuration...........................................................................................95 Keyboard configuration...................................................................................... 96 Printer configuration...........................................................................................97 Activating sound.................................................................................................98 Booting a client in text-mode........................................................................... 100
4.8.10. Allowing remote login............................................................................................. 100
4.8.11. Enabling local storage devices.................................................................................100
4.8.12. Installing EtherBoot on the local harddrive............................................................. 102
4.8.13. Activating network swap......................................................................................... 102
5. Improving multimedia capabilities in a thin client network.................................................. 104
5.1. Six ways to improve multimedia performance:................................................................... 105
5.1.1. Speed up the network.................................................................................................105
5.1.2. Upgrade graphics and sound processors on the clients .............................................106
5.1.3. Use “hybrid” clients which run multimedia applications locally.............................. 107
5.1.4. Upgrade the server's CPU or add extra servers to speed up processing.................... 107
5.1.5. Use monitor multiplying ........................................................................................... 108
5.1.6. Use NEC's Virtual PC Center (VPCC)...................................................................... 109
Appendix A: Downloading and installing software and burning CD/DVD images ................ 110
Downloading software................................................................................................................110
Burning CD/DVD images...........................................................................................................111
Downloading and installing software in GNU/Linux.................................................................112
Appendix B: Calculating costs and energy use............................................................................ 113
Appendix C: The free software alternative..................................................................................119
Latin American governments promoting free software.............................................................. 120
Quick stats about free software usage.........................................................................................121
Misconceptions about free software........................................................................................... 121
FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software) for MS Windows..................................................122
Installation of Spanish Versions of the software................................................................. 130
Appendix D: Multi-booting: Installing more than one OS on your computer......................... 132
Recovering previous installations of Windows.......................................................................... 133
Reinstalling the Master Boot Record (MBR)...................................................................... 133
Restoring Windows 95/98................................................................................................... 133
Restoring Windows XP....................................................................................................... 134
Recovering previous installations of GNU/Linux...................................................................... 134
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
1. Introduction
Most computer networks are fat client networks, where each computer on the network is fully
responsible for all its processing, so it has to have all the software installed on its local harddrive
and enough memory and processing power to run all that software. Unfortunately, these networks
are inefficient uses of resources and very costly to maintain. Fed up with managing networks
which were increasingly unmanageable, today many network administrators are turning to thin
client networks as a way to simplify network management and hold their costs at bay. Similar to
the old dumb terminals, thin clients are only in charge of periodically redrawing the display and
receiving the key taps and mouse clicks from the user. In other words, they only handle the user
interface. The user's input is passed down the network to a terminal server which runs the
programs, processes the input, and sends the video output back to the user. Fortunately, the thin
client computers of today are much more powerful and useful than the old dumb terminals. Many
network administrators advocate them as the solution for standard computer users who only use
their computers for mundane computing tasks like word processing, spreadsheet calculations, data
entry, web browsing, and email.
Unfortunately, thin client networks can be more difficult to set up than the traditional fat client
networks and require a bit more forethought in the planning. This Installation Manual explains in
practical terms how to set up a normal thin client network, so that the average network
administrator in a business, government, school, or cyber-cafe should be able to follow these
instructions. This manual is only meant to be an introduction to the topic, and does not cover the
more advanced types of installation, but it does provide the basic step-by-step instructions to get a
basic thin client network functioning. Once the basic network is setup, it is much easier to begin
experimenting and customizing the network for specific needs. Moreover, it allows network
administrators to test the basic functionality and evaluate whether thin client networks can work
for their organization. Thin client networks are not recommended for every use, and won't serve
the needs of every user. Therefore, it is important to get your feet wet, and test out thin client
networks, before implementing them on a production scale. This guide provides the basic steps to
begin that process.
This Installation Manual explains the hardware necessary to set up a thin client network. Since
many Latin American organizations and businesses don't have a great deal of funding for their IT
budgets, this manual focuses on cheaper options and ways to reuse existing hardware.
Given that there are less resources to spend on support contracts, customization, and software
licensing, the more expensive software for thin client networks is only given a cursory overview.1
Instead, emphasis is placed on the less expensive alternatives, along with step-by-step guides on
how to install thin client network with few resources and minimal licensing fees. To that end,
free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) alternatives are explained in greater detail. A generic
installation guide for GNU/Linux thin clients using Edubuntu covers the types of networks used
by most schools and educational telecenters. For businesses, governments and cybercafes which
don't need the educational software of Edubuntu, there is also a section covering the installation of
1 Governments and businesses which can afford to use Citrix and other expensive thin client software should
probably pay specialists to install and test their systems.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu. Since the vast majority of Latin Americans are Windows users, there
is also a step by step guide for installing Microsoft Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003 r2.
To help avoid the expensive licenses of operating systems on the clients and the hardware costs of
disks, this manual will explain how to run diskless Windows clients using Thinstation. The goal
is to achieve the advantages of stable, secure, and low-cost computing without creating long-term
dependence upon the expensive upgrades and support contracts of transnational tech companies.
The wider deployment of thin clients will dramatically lower the total cost of computing, but will
just as dramatically reduce the environmental costs of computing. This paper will explain how
concerned citizens in Latin America can install thin clients to reduce the production of toxic
electronic waste (e-waste) and the consumption of natural resources. Computers consume a great
deal of energy whose production contributes to greenhouse gases. A special section explains how
to run thin clients on older computers which lack harddrives and CD-ROMs and have less than
64MB of RAM. The guide explains how to install diskless ThinStation clients to work with older
Windows machines. For GNU/Linux users, it explains how to implement a minimal install of
Debian 4.0r0 with LTSP and a choice of the FluxBox, IceWM, or Xfce windows managers.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
2. Hardware to set up a thin client network
Thin client networks can be extremely simple affairs, such as hooking up two computers or
extremely complex setups with thousands of clients and hundreds of servers.2 Don't let
descriptions of the complex server farms scare you from trying to set up a simple thin client
network. Many people set up rudimentary thin client networks in their home, so they can give
extra life to an old spare computer. Others hook together all the computers their entire house so
that all the computers are easier to maintain in a thin client network. If hooking up less than 10
computers, any reasonably new computer should be able to work as the server. For more
computers take the time to calculate how much memory and processing power is needed
For advanced networks with hundreds of clients, you should plan your network architecture
carefully; and set aside a lot of time to test performance and add extra servers if needed. Setting
up a complex thin client network requires some experience, so it is a good idea to hire someone
who is an expert to setup the system and train your network administrator to run it. For businesses
which demand the best performance from their computers, it is worth paying for an expensive
support contract with a thin client company like Citrix.
2.1. Buying the server
The server can make or break the performance of the network, so it is important to calculate
beforehand what kind of server resources will be needed. A server with inadequate resources can
slow the whole network down to a crawl.
The Becta study of British schools using thin clients found that many institutions had
underpowered servers which weren't up to the task. The Becta study concluded:
Don’t underestimate the capacity of the servers required: where schools ran into difficulty with
their implementations, it was usually because the servers were underspecified (in some cases old
computers). Those who did not have these difficulties had procured servers with sufficient
capacity not only for current needs, but also future expansion.3
When institutions fail to buy an adequate server for their network, people's attitudes toward the
thin clients sour and they become resistant and unwilling to use them.
Users are often reluctant to try out the new technology, so it is important that their first experience
be a positive one. If there is a long delay between pressing a key and seeing the results displayed
on the screen or a multimedia file has choppy playback, they will often reject the new thin clients
as inadequate and useless. One commenter on an online forum whose company had
unsuccessfully tried to implement thin clients reported that “nearly everyone I've talked to who
used them just hated [the thin clients]...there reports of unacceptable latencies, the inability to
2 For an example of a 40 machine Citrix server farm, see the comments at
3 “Thin Client Technology in schools: Case study analysis”, Nov 2006, Becta ICT Research,
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
work when there was a network glitch, etc.” On the same forum, another griped:
Ultimately the latencies are unacceptable, network outages paralyze your entire company,
and unless you're doing a lot of stuff that doesn't require computers in the first place the
entire effort will not only fail, it will fail miserably. Look at ANY company that has
attempted to deploy graphical thin clients and you will find nothing but failure.4
These comments about “unacceptable latencies” stem from implementing a thin client network
that had inadequate server resources or a slow network.
In order to test whether your server has enough CPU power and RAM, it is important to connect
all your clients at once and run many different programs on the clients. Often, the server will
appear to work well in initial tests with only a couple clients or with all the clients running the
same program. Because of shared memory, it doesn't take much RAM for the server to run the
same program on every client. Often all the users will be using the same program at once, such as
a word processor and web browser, and the server will only be using 10%-20% of its available
RAM, but it is important to have the resources for those situations when people decide to run
other applications. Otherwise, everyone's computing will slow down and people will grow
frustrated with the system.
The single most important factor for thin client performance is that the server have enough RAM
to handle all the clients. A server with inadequate RAM will run fine when only a couple clients
are connected or only a few programs are in use, but the performance will rapidly decline when
the network reaches full capacity. There will be long delays as programs are swapped in and out
of the server's memory. When there isn't enough RAM in the server, LTSP clients will often
bootup and allow the user to enter his/her password, but then hang when trying to start Xwindows. If X-Windows does manage to start, it will take an intolerably long time for a program
to open. On a fat client, when there isn't enough RAM, the user can simply close down extra
programs and continue working, but with a thin client, the user is helpless and must simply wait
until enough people on the network have closed down memory hogging applications or have
turned off their machines. The automatic reflex on a fat client is to simply reboot when computing
slows down, but rebooting a thin client will do nothing, because there still won't be enough
available memory on the server.
Before buying a server, first check the recommended memory requirements for your thin client
server software and then add some. Make sure that your server has extra memory slots available,
so that you can add more memory sticks later. If buying RAM for the server, choose faster RAM
(although it isn't worth the trouble to buy the very fastest which is designed for extreme
overclocking). If your motherboard supports it, choose ECC RAM for error checking.
An inadequate CPU on the server isn't as fatal as lack of RAM, since the thin clients will continue
to function, albeit more slowly. When buying the server CPU, remember that it is better to buy
dual core or dual processors, rather than opt for a faster single processor. Servers with multiple
CPUs can handle more processing threads at the same time, which is important in a network
environment with many different programs running.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
If you need more processing power on your network, often it is better to simply add more servers
to your network, rather than attempt to upgrade an existing server. If you upgrade an existing
server, you will have to take down the entire network, whereas adding an additional server
involves no disruption of the network. In this way, older servers can continue running for many
years, along side newer servers. Running computers longer reduces the emission of greenhouse
gases and the quantity of toxic e-waste. If you decide to add additional servers to the network,
however, you may also need to install load balancing software to redistribute processing evenly
between multiple servers. See the section 2.4. Scaling up your network.
The resources needed for a thin client server can vary widely depending on the operating system,
number of clients, and the applications which the clients will use. A GNU/Linux thin client
network running K12LTSP or SkoleLinux can get by with less than 50MB of RAM per client if
word processing and web browsing are the principal tasks. In contrast, a GNU/Linux server
running Edubuntu with multimedia applications will need closer to 128MB RAM per client.
Generally, Windows servers running Windows Server 2003 with Terminal Services, Citrix
Presentation Server (MetaFrame), or 2X Presentation Server will need more RAM than
GNU/Linux servers. Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 2008 Server which is designed for
Windows Vista terminals will probably require 3 times more memory and processing power than
the current Windows Server 2003. Like Windows Vista, it is probably not worth upgrading to
Windows 2008 Server, unless you need its advanced functions like individual application serving.
It promises to consume a great deal of resources, while adding little extra functionality.
On the other hand, a GNU/Linux thin client server using LTSP 4.2 with a light windows manager
such as IceWM can get by with much less RAM and processing power. In the Sociedad
Scientifica at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres in La Paz, a Pentium 4 1.6 GHz server with
512MB RAM and a 10GB harddrive runs a Debian thin client network with 8 clients. The clients
certainly don't get the kind of performance which most business users would require, but they are
adequate for teaching GNU/Linux and ordinary tasks. In many cases, thin client networks can
function with less, but the central question is what kind of computing tasks need to be done on
your clients. Often those tasks require that the server have far more than the recommended
2.1.1. Recommended requirements for a thin client server
512 RAM for the idling server with all of its services.
128MB of RAM per client if doing memory intensive tasks such as multimedia and
graphic design. Larger networks will have more memory sharing of applications, so 96MB
per client may be sufficient. For standard processing such as word processing, web
browsing, etc, 50MB per client is probably sufficient, especially on larger networks. If the
clients will only be running one or two dedicated programs, the server may be able to get
with as little as 5MB of RAM per client.
100MHz of 32-bit processing power or 75MHz of 64-bit processing power per client. Plan
on higher CPU requirements if a lot of the clients will be running processing intensive
applications at the same time.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
A 10/100/1000BaseT Network Interface Card (NIC) for the thin client network. A
10/100BaseT NIC will work for small networks, but will be slow when all the clients are
booting at the same time.
An extra 10/100baseT NIC for the internet connection.
30GB of harddrive space for the server plus storage space for the users.
The amount of harddrive space will vary according to the amount of harddrive space which is
allotted for each user. In some public environments such as terminals in a public library, there is
no reason to allow users to save to the harddrive. In schools, where there are many users, each
user might only be alloted 50MB or 100MB, but in a typical business, each user might be given 5
or 10GB. People working with multimedia might need 50 or 100GB. The harddrives will see a lot
of use since multiple users will be trying to access their data at the same time. If you want the
fastest harddrive performance, it may be worth paying a premium for SCSI drives, but the amount
of harddrive space will be limited since SCSI drives typically have less space than IDE drives. If
you want all your user's to be able to access their files quickly, it is probably cheaper to buy 4
SATA drives and implement RAID striping. If you don't want to bother with the hassle of RAID
striping, another strategy is buy 4 SATA harddrives and evenly distribute user accounts across the
harddrives, so that the number of people trying to access the same harddrive at the same time will
be reduced.
It may be worth your time to read the online reviews of the latest CPUs, before deciding which
CPU to buy. The situation rapidly changes and what was recommended 6 months ago may no
longer be current. In the past, AMD processors were slightly better in terms of performance and
significantly better in performance per watt. For people trying to lower their electricity bills,
AMD offered substantial savings. Intel, however, has recently bypassed AMD with its new Core 2
architecture. Unlike the Pentium 4 architecture which used vast amounts of energy at high clock
rates, the Core 2 is based upon Pentium M architecture which is incredibly energy efficient. Intel's
Core 2 Duo is significantly better than AMD's latest Athlon64 X2 both in terms of power and
energy efficiency. For higher end server chips, the horse race between Intel's latest Xeon (based
on the Core 2) and AMD's latest Opteron is much closer.5 This paper lists recommended server
configurations using Opterons, because of their better onboard memory controllers, but you can
just as easily switch them for servers using Xeons.
In the past, server performance was generally only measured in terms of power. In recent years,
however, the amount of energy consumed by servers has skyrocketed. According to a Lawrence
Berkeley Lab study, servers and their including cooling equipment in 2005 consumed 5 million
kilowatts or $2.7 billion of electricity in the US, and $7.3 billion worldwide. In the US, total
server energy usage increased 14% per year between 2000 and 2005, effectively doubling within 5
years. If current trends continue, server electricity usage will jump 40 percent by 2010.6
Companies like Google which use a lot of computing power have raised serious concerns about
5 donderdag , “Server duel: Xeon Woodcrest vs. Opteron Socket F”,, 7 Sep 2006,; maandag, “Database test: dual Intel Xeon 5160”,, 13 Nov 2006,
6 Nate Anderson , “US servers now use more electricity than color TVs”, Ars Technica, 15 Feb 2007,
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
the increasing energy consumption, arguing that power supplies and CPUs should be more energy
efficient. First AMD and now Intel have begun to redesign their processors to consider not only
power, but also performance per processing cycling and performance per watt. Given the rising
concern about global warming and the reducing reservoirs of fossil fuels, the energy costs of your
server should be a fundamental part of your calculations. On average electricity in Latin America
costs $0.10 per kilowatt/hour. Prices vary widely from $0.04 per kw/h in Argentina to $0.20 in
some Caribbean nations, yet prices are predicted to rise in all of Latin America.
MySQL and PosgreSQL database performance in servers
S ystem
Fujitsu Primergy
RX300 S3
Fujitsu Primergy
RX300 S3
SUN Fire X4200
SUN Fire T2000
2 Intel Xeon 5150 (2.66
Ghz) Woodcrest
2 Intel Xeon 5080
(3.73GHz) Dempsey
2 AMD Opteron 2216
F-socket (2.4GHz)
2 AMD Opteron 280
SUN UltraSparc T1
(1GHz) (8 cores)
7GB DDR2533
7GB DDR2533
8GB DDR400
8GB DDR400
Price for Thermal
1 CPU Dissipation power under
performance performance
(US $)
Power (W)
load (W)
per watt
per US dollar
Sou rce : donderdag, “ Server duel: Xeon Woodcrest vs. Opteron Socket F” , T, 7 Sep 2006,
When evaluating which CPU to buy for your server, it is important to look more closely at
performance per watt, rather than considering just performance or just energy consumption. The
new UltraSPARC T1 chip is incredibly energy efficient, but it doesn't provide enough
performance per watt to justify using it. Currently, tests of the new “Woodcrest” Xeon, which is
based upon the Core 2 architecture, show it to have substantially lower energy consumption,
higher performance per watt, and higher performance per dollar than either the old “Dempsey”
Xeon or the competing Opteron. If looking for the low energy consumption with high
performance per watt, AMD makes a low-energy version of the Opteron which is highly
recommended. Likewise, the new “Woodcrest” Xeon is a good choice in terms of energy
efficiency balanced with performance.
2.1.2. Example servers:
Up to 10 clients
For up to 10 clients, any recent CPU with 2GB of RAM should work as a thin client server, as
long as the clients will just be doing mundane tasks such as word processing, web browsing, etc.
If doing processing intensive tasks on the clients, such as Computer Aided Drafting (CAD), buy a
fast Pentium Core 2 Duo.
Up to 30 clients
Server with a dual core CPU.
Intel Core 2 Duo
Motherboard (with integrated 10/100/1000 baseT NIC)
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
ATX case and power supply w/350-400W capacity
10/100 baseT NIC
Two 160GB SATA hard drives
Up to 60 clients
Server with a server-grade dual core CPU
AMD Opteron 175 with dual core 2MB cache
ASUS A8N-E motherboard (with integrated 10/100/1000 baseT NIC)
ATX case and power supply w/400-500W capacity
10/100 baseT NIC
Two 200GB SATA hard drives
Up to 120 clients
Server with 2 Opteron CPUs and a dual socket motherboard:
 Two AMD Opteron 275 dual core 2MB cache
 ASUS K8N-DL motherboard (with integrated 10/100/1000 baseT NIC)
 ATX case and 500W power supply
 10/100 baseT NIC
 Two 300GB SATA hard drives (or two 160GB SCSI harddrives)
More than 120 clients
The LTSP website estimates that up to 480 clients can theoretically run off one Linux server with
dual CPUs, and there are several sites which report running more than 400 LTSP clients per
server. Likewise, HP and Microsoft's tests show that up to 200 thin clients can run on a single
CPU, 440 thin clients on dual CPUs, and 520 thin clients on four CPUs in a server running 32-bit
Windows Server 2003.7 Theoretically thousands of clients could run from an server with a 64-bit
operating system and 8 or 16 processors,8 but it is cheaper to simply add additional servers to your
network and use load balancing software to evenly distribute the processing among the servers.
Typically a new server is added for every 128 clients for thin clients, however, more processing
intensive applications will reduce the number of clients per server.9
If your thin client network might expand in the future, it is a good idea to buy a dual processor
motherboard and a CPU which can work with a second processor (such as the Opteron 285) so
you will be prepared to add a second CPU. Buy the RAM in as few sticks as possible so there will
be extra slots in your server for adding more RAM in the future. Otherwise, you will be forced to
rip out your existing RAM when upgrading.
7 “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Capacity and Scaling”, Microsoft, June 2003,
8 I have been able to find no reports of anyone implementing LTSP with an 8 CPU Linux server.
9 See the positive remarks of Damon10000 in Slashdot about the performance of thin clients in his business where
there are 5000 clients and 40 servers (which works out to about one server for every 125 clients).
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Other things to buy:
UPS (uninterrupted power supply) for the server (or at the very least, a surge suppressor)
Surge suppressors for the thin clients
2 harddrives and USB enclosure cases to make backups.
Firewall (can be implemented with software, but stand-alone devices are better.)
When installing the server, you will need to install a CD-ROM and graphics card and connect a
keyboard, monitor and mouse. Afterwards these things can be removed, since they aren't really
necessary and they consume 70 extra watts. Some computers won't bootup without a keyboard,
but changing a setting in the BIOS will make the computer ignore the lack of a keyboard. In
GNU/Linux, X-Windows can be configured to use a dummy driver when there is no graphics
card. Windows should be able to boot without a graphics card. The server can be maintained by
logging in as root from a GNU/Linux thin client or as administrator if using a Windows system. It
can also be administered over the internet with SSH.
It is a good idea to not have a keyboard and monitor attached to your server, because it prevents a
lot of problems. First of all it reduces the temptation of the network administrator to use the server
as a normal computer. Running local applications on the server hogs memory and CPU
processing which are better used by the clients. Unlike client applications which can share
memory, applications run in the server need their own separate memory space. Moreover, using
the server like a normal computer is just asking for trouble. Network administrators by their
nature like to experiment with computers, especially when they have as much processing power as
a server. They like to test their hardware to its limits and play with new software. These activities
can mess up the server's configuration and create opportunities to accidentally erase files or
introduce viruses. Removing the graphics card makes using a server an unpleasant visual
experience, so there is little temptation to play with it except when necessary.
Furthermore, administering the server remotely, allows it to be stored in a locked room or closet
where it is more secure. (Make sure it has adequate ventilation if stored in an enclosed space.)
Businesses have good reasons to make sure that their data locked in the server is away from
prying eyes. Even in places like classrooms where data security isn't a major issue, a server
without keyboard and keyboard can keep curious fingers from playing with the server. In addition,
it is a good idea to administer the server from the command line, because it discourages curious
bypassers from playing with the server. The command line prompt is downright boring compared
to an inviting graphical user interface. LTSP has an option to run the server from the command
line, which is a good idea because it frees up RAM which can be used by the clients. Plus, if
anyone manages to get into the server, they are less likely to know how to navigate the directory
tree from the command line and mess anything up.
2.2. Obtaining thin clients
When looking for thin clients, the first decision is to decide whether to buy new dedicated
(“bespoke”) clients or miniature ITX computers, or whether to reuse old computers. Buying new
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costs more, but new equipment is easier to setup and generally easier to administer. Buying new is
generally worse for the environment since the fabrication of electronics wastes uses tremendous
amounts of energy and natural resource, but dedicated thin clients are very energy-efficient. If
they last for a decade, dedicated thin clients can save enough electricity to justify the extra costs.
Reusing old computers as thin clients is cheaper and better for the environment, since new toxic ewaste will not be created. On the hand, old computers will consume more electricity to operate.
Plus, reusing old computers takes a lot more time to setup and administer. Expect to spend more
time tinkering with the equipment, especially if trying to use computers which are more than a
decade old. Setting up diskless thin clients with Pentium IIIs is generally a painless process, but
setting up diskless clients with old Pentium Is and 486s often requires installing extra RAM, and
fiddling with the network interface card (NIC). If using Windows Terminal Services with clients
which have a local operating system, expect to spend more time reinstalling software and
replacing old harddrives which have a high failure rate. If your labor is cheap and you don't have
a large budget for new equipment, reusing old computers is the best course, but be prepared for a
few extra hassles when dealing with decade-old equipment.
2.2.1. Dedicated thin clients
The easiest way to set up a thin client network is to simply buy new dedicated thin clients, which
cost anywhere between US$150 and US$600, depending upon their capabilities. In the past, these
machines often lacked ports and the ability to store data locally, but today most of these machines
have USB ports and Flash memory drives.
Dedicated thin clients are incredibly energy-efficient compared to a normal computer, using
anywhere from 6 to 40 watts, which is far less than the 150 to 350 watts used by typical
computers. With average electricity prices at 0.10 per kilowatt-hour in Latin America, this can
represent substantial saving on the electric bill. Plus, using less electricity means that less fossil
fuels will be burned, so there is less production of greenhouse gases which cause global warming.
The savings to your energy bill and the reduction of greenhouse gases depends where you live and
how your electricity is generated. Some countries like Argentina have very cheap electricity at
only $0.04 per kilowatt-hour, but people living in the Caribbean can pay five times as much for
their electricity. Check the table in Appendix B: Calculating Costs and Energy Use for electricity
prices per kilowatt-hour to find out how much electricity costs in your country. Likewise, the
environmental damage caused by electricity generation varies widely from country to country. In
countries like Paraguay where almost all electricity comes from hydroelectric power, electricity
generation creates few greenhouse gases.10 In contrast, the environmental impact is much higher in
places such as the Caribbean were almost all electricity comes from fossil fuels.
The biggest harm to the environment is caused when computers are initially created since a great
deal of natural resources and energy are lost in the creation of electronics. A dedicated thin client
takes far fewer resources to fabricate compared to the average computer and 17" monitor which
10 Constructing hydroelectric dams in tropical forests can cause a lot of CO2 and methane because the rising waters
cause the vegetation to rot. A study of a dam financed by the World Bank in the Amazonian basin showed that it
caused more environmental damage than a conventional generator which used fossil fuels.
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uses up 6400 megajoules of energy, 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22kg of chemicals, and 1500kg of
water in the fabrication.11 A thin client lasts 2 to 3 times longer than the standard computer, so 2
to 3 few computers are bought, saving a huge amount of natural resources. Because many thin
clients don't have moving parts, they have a much lower failure rate. VXL Instruments estimates
that the Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) for their thin clients is 120,000 hours compared to
25,000 hours for a conventional computer.12 Parts rarely have to be placed on thin clients, saving
time and money to manage a thin client network. In addition, less toxic e-waste is created with
thin clients, which in Latin American is generally disposed of unsafely. Since most Latin
American countries don't have recycling programs for electronics, most old computers will be
discarded in unlined landfills that allow their lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame
retardants, phthalates, PVC, phosphorous, cadmium, barium, zinc, and vanadium to leech into the
soil and water supply.
Dedicated thin clients are small and unobtrusive. Many are designed to strap on the back of an
LCD screen, so they take up no extra space on the desk. Plus, most thin clients operate without the
constant whirring of fans, so they operate well in quiet places where people need to concentrate
with few distractions. Because they generate little heat, they can use passive cooling systems and
be totally enclosed to operate in dirty and dangerous environments. For instance, they can
functions in places where dust or acids in the air would damage a conventional computer with a
fan cooling system.
Most importantly, dedicated thin clients save a lot of time to administer. They are very simple to
install—in most cases they only need to be plugged into the network and they will automatically
work. If they fail, they can be just as easily replaced with no time wasted reinstalling the OS and
applications. The downside to dedicated thin clients is that they are not very upgradeable, nor very
configurable. Most allow more RAM to be added, but otherwise they are essentially sealed boxes.
If you want to add more components like a optical drive or a floppy drive, they have to be
connected via USB ports. If the freedom to add new components is important, consider buying
miniature computers with an ITX form factor.
2.2.2. Miniature ITX computers
ITX computers can be found for roughly the same price as dedicated thin clients, but they will
require a little more work to setup. If you are using a diskless thin clients, you will just have to
enter the BIOS and enable PXE. But if you plan to have the clients running an operating system
locally (which is often the case with Windows Terminal Services), then you will have to install an
operating system. Like dedicated thin clients, ITX computers consume fewer resources to
fabricate and less energy to operate. AMD created a prototype ITX design which only uses 6
The advantage of ITX computers lies in their ability to be customized to your specifications. If
you have special requirements or simply like to build your own computers, the ITX form factor
11 Eric Williams, "Energy intensity of computer manufacturing: hybrid analysis combining process and economic
input-output methods", Environmental Science & Technology, Oct 2004, 38(22): 6166-6174. Abstract:
12 “Think Thin: Benefits of Thin Clients”, VXL Instruments,
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gives you that freedom. Dedicated thin clients lock you into the proprietary hardware of a
company like Wyse, Neoware, Fujitsu or VXL instruments, but ITX computers allow you to use
standardized parts which are cheaper and easier to find. For instance, most dedicated thin clients
don't have adequate sound and graphics processors, unless you pay a premium for special
multimedia thin clients, which cost almost as normal PCs. If you need a multimedia client, you
can build an ITX computer with a good graphics processor and sound card for cheaper than what
is offered by the thin client companies. The downside is that you will spend a lot more time doing
it yourself and it is harder to find tech support for your custom machines.
2.2.3. Reusing old computers
The cheapest and most environmental option is to take old PCs and convert them into thin clients.
Thin clients can be old machines, in fact downright ancient. Fifteen year old 486s loaded with
extra RAM can function as LTSP thin clients or Windows 95 clients using Windows Server 2003
Terminal Services. Millions of old computers gathering dust in closets and store rooms and old
computers can be acquired for a song since they are perceived as having no value. Schools,
telecenters, and community organizations may be able to acquire client computers for free as
donations. If setting up diskless clients, it should be much easier to find available computers for
your network. The first part of computers to fail are the drives, since they contain moving parts, so
many older computers are abandoned due to bad harddrives, CD-ROMs or floppy drives. These
abandoned machines can be resurrected as diskless clients for little cost.
Setting up a thin client network with old equipment can can require a lot of time and patient trial
and error. The older the equipment and the more diverse the equipment, the more time you will
probably spend getting everything to work properly. It is easiest when all the clients are the same
model or general type of machine. If possible, look for old equipment which businesses or
governments are discarding, since they often buy the same types of computers in large lots.
2.2.4. Buying used computers
When buying a normal computer, people generally look first at the processor speed, but the
processor in the client isn't responsible for doing much (unless you are running a hybrid client
which has local applications).
When searching for clients, look these factors in order of importance:
1. Quantity and speed of RAM (if little RAM, needs extra slots so more can be added)
2. Quality of graphics card
3. Speed and type of processor
4. Speed of motherboard bus
5. Sound card
6. Has USB ports? Does it support USB 2?
7. Speed of network interface card (preferably 10/100Mb/s)
8. If diskless thin client:
PXE support in motherboard? (Most motherboards after 1999 had PXE.)
If no PXE support, does the network interface card work with EtherBoot?
Is there an available floppy drive, harddrive or CD-ROM to load EtherBoot?
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9. If the thin client is running a local operating system:
CD-ROM (or floppy drive) to install the operating system. RAM
A Pentium I with 128MB of RAM is a more useful thin client than a Pentium III with 32MB
RAM, because it can run a lot more applications. Old computers can be turned into adequate thin
clients by filling up all their RAM slots. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find the kind of RAM
which is used in old computers and it often takes some searching. In many Latin American cities
there are markets for old computer parts and old RAM can be picked up cheaply. When shopping
for used RAM, know exactly what type of RAM you need. Some older computers only accept
RAM in pairs. Look up your motherboard online to see whether it accepts higher capacity RAM
and whether it has to be installed in a special way. Sometimes the documentation for old
motherboards is no longer available—check which has the tech docs for
thousands of products. Graphics cards and sound cards
Most people who want good multimedia performance create networks of fat clients, but these
require a lot more time to administer than thin clients. If you want adequate multimedia
performance but also want the benefits of centralized administration with a thin client network,
read the section 5. Improving multimedia capabilities in a thin client network. Rather than buying
special multimedia thin clients, the cheapest way to accommodate multimedia is to buy old
Pentium 4 PCs with good graphics and sound cards. They may not support DirectX 10, but they
should be adequate for most tasks.
If you are using GNU/Linux, check first on whether a particular graphics
card or sound card is supported in GNU/Linux. If you don't have access to the internet when
buying, try booting the computer with a GNU/Linux Live CD and check whether the graphics and
sound work properly. Almost all the major GNU/Linux distributions now make Live CDs which
allow the machine to be booted from the CD rather than the HD. The beauty of Live CDs is that
they don't touch the existing harddrive, so you check out a machine with GNU/Linux, but it will
return to normal after you pop out the CD and reboot. If the computer doesn't have a CD-ROM,
you can still test whether the sound and graphics works by booting from a USB Flash memory
drive. There are several GNU/Linux distributions which are designed to boot from USB Flash
memory. If you have limited space on your memory stick, Damn Small Linux has a version which
only uses 50MB. Older computers generally don't support USB booting, but newer computer often
have this option in the BIOS. Reboot the computer and enter the BIOS (by pressing some key like
ESC or F2 while booting). Set USB as the first device in the boot order. Then reboot with the
flash memory stick in a USB port. USB
USB flash memory sticks have become an essential part of modern computing, replacing the
floppy as the preferred way to carry around personal files. Unfortunately older computers often
don't have USB ports, or only support the slower USB 1.1 standard. If you want your thin clients
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
to be used to their full potential, it is essential that they have USB ports. If not, check to see that
there are free PCI slots so you can install a PCI card with USB ports. Network Interface Card (NIC)
It is recommended that the NICs in the clients be PCI and support 10/100 Mb/s speeds. It is
possible to use the older PCI 10Mb/s cards and ISA cards, but there will be noticeable delays
when loading and saving large files. Video playback may also be affected by the slower network
speeds of 10 Mb/s, since it can cause stuttering and noticeable pauses in the video. The server
should have a 10/100 NIC for the internet or to connect to the wider network, plus a 10/100/1000
NIC for the thin client network (although it can get by with 10/100 Mb/s for a small thin client
network which won't have much multimedia).
2.2.5. Diskless thin clients
Diskless thin clients boot from the network. Instead of loading the operating system from the
harddrive, they connect to the server and download the operating system and load it into their
RAM. There are several ways to control the network interface card so it will download the
operating system. The easiest way is to use the Pre-eXecution Environment (PXE) protocol which
was developed in 1999 by Intel. Most modern motherboards support this option, but it needs to be
enabled in the BIOS.
If buying an computer with an older motherboard which doesn't support PXE, then operating
system can be downloaded with EtherBoot. Unfortunately, EtherBoot doesn't work with all
Network Interface Cards. Check this list of NICs to see whether EtherBoot supports your card and
whether you will have to do anything special to enable it. See the section Making an
EtherBoot boot floppy disk. In my experience, many of the cards which are supposedly supported,
still won't work properly. The older ISA cards can be especially difficult to configure to work with
EtherBoot. If you run into problems with your NIC, it is much easier to buy a new NIC rather than
fiddling with the old card. New NICs can be found for as little as $4 or $5 each. NICs using
RealTek 8139 and SIS900 controller chips are recommended as working with EtherBoot. In
addition to a NIC which is compatible with EtherBoot, the computer will also need a working
floppy, CD-ROM or harddrive to load the EtherBoot program. Thin clients which boot from local harddrive
If your clients will be running a local operating system (rather than booting from the network),
they will need a functioning harddrive. Older harddrives are notorious for disk failures, so running
thin clients from harddrives might not be as reliable as diskless thin clients.
If you are using Windows, remember that you are legally obligated to buy software licenses for
those old operating systems. Microsoft doesn't offer discounts for its old versions of Windows, so
you will have to pay the same price as if buying a license for Windows Vista. In fact, the
Microsoft website says that you have to buy a license for Windows Vista or XP, if you want to
run Windows 3.11/95/98/ME/2000 on your client. The best way to get around this licensing
silliness is to install GNU/Linux on your client and use rdesktop to display the Windows terminal.
rdesktop is compatible with Windows NT4 Terminal Server, Windows 2000 Server and Windows
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Server 2003. The other solution is use ThinStation or 2X PXES to make a diskless client, so the
client doesn't need a license for the Windows operating system. Even if the clients aren't using
Windows, they still a Terminal Services Client Access License (CAL) to access a server running
Windows NT, Windows 2000 Server or Window 2003 Server.
2.3. Networking hardware
The server needs to be connected to the clients. The cheapest way to do this is to use ethernet
cables and a switch. If there are obstructing walls which make it impossible to run cables, then an
LTSP wireless network can be constructed, although some report that the delays in wireless are
unacceptably long. If you want to use wireless diskless clients, normal wireless won't work with
etherboot, which is the program used by LTSP, 2X PXES and Thinstation to boot off the
network. The only way to get wireless clients to boot from a network is to use a wireless ethernet
bridge like Asus' WL-330g. If your network extends over long distances, it may be necessary to
lay fiber optic cables or use an internet connection.
The quality of a network is measured according its bandwidth (the amount of data that can travel
over the network within a given period of time) and latency (the time it takes a packet to reach the
other end of the network). If there is a noticeable delay between the time a key is struck and the
results are displayed on the screen of the client, the problem generally related to latency. This can
especially be a problem if networking through multiple hubs/switches or over the internet. The
amount of traffic which will pass down the network lines varies greatly according to color depth,
screen resolution, and types of applications. Multimedia will use a lot more bandwidth, as do 24bit or 32-bit color. Lack of bandwidth can be a problem when streaming video and audio or when
many diskless clients are all trying to bootup at the same time and they are all trying to download
their operating system at the same time from the server.
If trying to calculate the amount of network traffic, each client using Windows Server 2003
Terminal Services and running standard office software will use roughly 1150 bytes/sec if in 8-bit
color (256 colors) and 1450 bytes/sec if in 16-bit color (65536 colors).13 It is generally
recommended to allow for roughly 1 Mb/sec per client to avoid bandwidth problems.14 Figure
much higher bandwidth for multimedia applications.
2.3.1. Networking two computers
All it takes to create a thin client network with two computers is a cross-over ethernet cable,
hooking the client to the server. In a cross-over cable, the positions of the wires are switched, so
that wires carrying the output from one computer become the input for another computer. This
allows two computers to be hooked together without using a switch (or router). Before investing
in a lot of expensive networking equipment, it is recommended that you first test whether your
server and clients actually work together with a simple cross-over switch.
13 “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Capacity and Scaling”, Microsoft, Jun 2003,
14 Recommended in: Francis Giraldeau, Jean-Michel Dault and Benoit des Ligneris, “MILLE-XTERM and LTSP”,
Linux Journel, 28 Aug 2006,
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The crossover cable plugs directly from the RJ-45 jack in the server's network interface card
(NIC) to the client's NIC. If both computers have a 1000 megabits per second Network Interface
Cards (NICs), then look for higher bandwidth Cat5e (Category 5 enhanced) cable. For slower 10
or 100 Mb/s networks, ordinary Cat5 cable will do. If you like to tinker, see these instructions (or
en español) for making your own cross-over cable.
2.3.2. Networking three or more computers
With three or more computers, all the computers should be connected to a network switch in a
normal star configuration. This means that each computer is connected to the switch, rather than
directly connecting computer to computer.
It is recommended to buy a managed switch with full duplex (capable of transmitting and
receiving at the same time). A hub may work in place of a switch for small networks, but hubs can
cause problems with larger networks. Unlike switches which transmit only to the designated port,
hubs transmit the signal to all the ports, which can create signal conflicts on the network. Hubs
also slow down all the traffic to half duplex mode, so they can't both send and receive at the same
time. Avoid buying cheaper switches which only have one LED indicator light per port. Instead,
look for a better switch which has 3 indicator lights for LNK (link), TX (transmitting), and RX
(receiving) which will facilitate diagnosing problems. When connecting computers to switches,
use normal “straight through” cables, rather the “cross-over” cables. Most cables are “straightthrough”, but you can check whether your cable is a cross-over by examining the colors of the 8
wires in the connectors. If the wires have the same order at both ends of the cable, then the switch
is a “straight-through”. If the order of the wires is switched then it is a “cross-over”.
2.3.3. Network speed
Because the server has to communicate with every other client on the network, the connection
between the server and the switch will have a much higher traffic load than the other connections
on the network. To prevent a potential bottleneck, the connection should be at least 100 Mb/s for a
small network. Servers with more than 20 or 30 clients should have a 1000 Mb/s connection to the
switch. Now-a-days, it is easy to find motherboards with integrated 10/100/1000BaseT NICs and
you can also buy them on PCI add-in cards for $25-$35. If the network will be used to stream
multimedia or play graphics-intensive games, plan on installing a 1000 Mb/s connection between
the server and the switch and at least 100 Mb/s between the clients and the switch.
Networking standards and their characteristics
Max. cable length
Cable type
10 Mb/s
Cat3 or higher (Cat5 is
recommended), UTP or STP
100 Mb/s
Cat5 or higher, UTP or STP
1000 Mb/s (1 100m (from 75-150m
depending on manufacturer)
Cat5e or higher, UTP
10000 Mb/s
(10 Gb/s)
30m on Cat5e, 55m on Cat 6, Cat5e or higher, UTP
100m on Cat6a or Cat7
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10000 Mb/s
(10 Gb/s)
10000 Mb/s
(10 Gb/s)
300m (varies with cable type) Fiber optic with 850nm
10000 Mb/s
(10 Gb/s)
10km (varies with cable type) Fiber optic with 1310nm
10000 Mb/s
(10 Gb/s)
40km (varies with cable type) Fiber optic with 1550nm
InfiniBand copper wire
The connection is only as fast as the slowest component. For instance, to get 1000Mb/s
bandwidth, both the NIC and the switch have to be capable of 1000Mb/s. Although the maximum
length of Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 is rated at 100 meters, in practice the distance is often less,
especially when the wires are not twisted properly or lower quality NICs don't transmit a strong
signal. If you need to connect computers that are longer than 100 meters apart, insert a repeater or
an active hub to strengthen the signal. At 10 Mb/s, the maximum possible distance between a
server and client is 500 meters, using five Cat5 cable segments and four intervening repeaters. 100
Mb/s is less fault tolerant, and will only allow a maximum possible distance of 200 meters with 1
intervening repeater. If you need to connect over longer distances, you will need to lay fiber-optic
lines or consider using conventional broadband internet to communicate between the server and
the client. Fiber-optic requires expensive equipment and special care to align and install correctly.
2.3.4. Rules for using repeaters with 10BaseT and 100BaseTX
10BaseT (shielded and unshielded twisted pair 10Mb/s)
There can be up to four 10BaseT repeaters (active hubs) between the switch and any workstation
or server. Only three of the repeaters, however, can have devices attached.
Use the 5-4-3-2-1 guideline for 10baseT networks:
Five segments are allowed
Four repeater hops are allowed
Three repeaters can have clients attached
Two segments can't have clients attached and are links only
All of this makes one collision domain with a maximum of 1024 nodes
100BaseTX (shielded and unshielded twisted pair 100Mb/s)
Only one repeater or active hub is allowed between the switch and any workstation or server. The
total distance between the switch and a client on the other side of a repeater or active hub can't
exceed 200 meters.16
15 Jeremy Cioara, et al., “CCNA Exam Prep: Data Link Networking Concepts”, 3 Feb 2006,; Team uCertify, “Overview of
Networking Technologies,” 5 Oct 2006,; “10 gigabit
16 “Intel® Express 10/100 Fast Ethernet Switch: Repeater Count Limitations”,
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2.3.5. Expanding an existing network
If you want to expand your existing network, but find that your switch (or hub) has run out of
available ports, you can add extra switches to the network. Use “cross-over” cables to connect
together two switches. (Some of the newer switches will accept either “cross-over” or “straight
through” cables when connecting to another switch.)
2.3.6. Networking over the internet
If people need to connect to your network from even longer distances or while roaming, they can
use conventional internet to connect to the server. Unfortunately, the connection on a wide area
network (WAN) will not be nearly as reliable as in a local area network (LAN).17 For remote
connections tunneled over the internet, consider using compression software such as NX to reduce
the bandwidth needed to run remote desktop software. Although NX is generally used to compress
X-Windows, it can also be used with Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Virtual
Network Computing (VNC).
2.3.7. High bandwidth networks in the future
Currently network traffic in large enterprises is doubling every year due to the increased use of
streaming video, Voice over IP, network file storage, and document imaging. These leaps in
network traffic suggest that thin client networks will also need to increase their connection speed
in the future. A thin client network which has hundreds of clients and uses multimedia may need
the higher speeds of 10 Gb/s between the server and the switch. Currently 10 Gb/s connections are
generally not used because they require the use of fiber-optics which are extremely expensive and
require special hardware to convert the signal to copper which can be plugged into the back of a
computer. Fiber-optics work well for network backbones, but they aren't designed for connecting
a server to a switch. Currently the only feasible option for a 10 Gb/s connection is 10GBaseCX4,
which requires special InfiniBand cabling and connectors and is limited to 15 meters in length.18
In June 2006, however, the new 10GBaseT standard was approved to use copper unshielded
twisted pair (UTP) wiring and standard RJ-45 jacks. It is expected that 10GBaseT will cost $1000
per port (which is far less than $3000 per fiber-optic port), but these prices may fall rapidly as
manufacturers gear up production.19 If you have a server with hundreds of thin clients which use
multimedia, it is worth keeping your eye on the price of 10GBaseT switches and NICs since it
may become a feasible option in the next couple years.
17 For a study of the problems of low bandwith performance with thin client networks, see: S. Jae Yang, et al., “The
Performance of Remote Display Mechanisms for Thin-Client Computing”, Proceedings of the 2002 USENIX
Annual Technical Conference, Columbia University, June 2002,
18 For available products, see: Phil Hochmuth, “10G Ethernet vendors look to stoke demand,” Network World, 8 Nov
19 Fahmida Y. Rashid and Frank J. Ohlhorst, “Stepping Up To 10G: Get ready for the next big ascent as the network
upgrade cycle gains steam”, CRN Tech, 21 May 2007,
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
2.4. Scaling up your network
Thin client networks can start as very simple affairs with a couple computers hooked together by a
$15 switch and a couple ethernet cables, but the biggest benefits of thin client networks lie in
large networks. As the network grows, it achieves economies of scale in terms of maintenance
and labor costs. It does not cost significantly more to maintain a network of 3000 thin clients than
300 thin clients. In the US, here are reports of large companies paying only 1 technician per every
1000 thin clients. Achieving these sorts of efficiencies, however, require careful planning and
testing of the network. It is beyond this guide to give a complete discussion on creating large scale
networks, but it can provide a few basic pointers to get you started.
The beauty of thin client networks is their ability to grow and add resources when needed. In a
single computer, it becomes dramatically more expensive to keep adding additional memory and
processing power, and ultimately a practical limit is reached. Adding more RAM can also become
a fool's quest since there are limited number of available RAM slots, so the old RAM has to be
ripped out to make room for higher capacity RAM. Replacing a slower processor with a faster
processor often involves replacing the motherboard (and often the RAM). Likewise, the
motherboard and often the RAM and operating system has to be replaced to add additional
Upgrading to a faster processor and adding additional processors to the terminal server yields
diminishing returns. The HP and Microsoft study about thin client networks using Windows
Server 2003 showed that increasing from 1 processor to 2 processors in the server may cause
significant gains for “data entry” clients only running one program (Excel), but the gains are less
significant in clients for “knowledge workers” running 4 programs (Excel, Word, Outlook,
Internet Explorer) at the same time.
Increase in maximum number of thin clients
Upgrade inside server
Knowledge worker
Data entry workers
From 1 to 2 Xeons
From 140 to 200 clients
43% increase
From 200 to 440 clients 120% increase
From 2 to 4 Xeons
From 200 to 270 clients
35% increase
From 440 to 520 clients 18% increase
Tests with HP servers, Xeon 2.4GHz 2MB L2 Cache, 4GB RAM, Windows Server 2003.
Source: “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Capacity and Scaling”, Microsoft, June 2003,
Often network administrators will add a second processor to a server, rather than buying a new
server, since it is cheaper. However, it makes no sense to upgrade from 2 to 4 processors, since
the cost of a quad processor server is dramatically higher and the margin of return is so low.
Likewise it generally doesn't make sense to upgrade to a faster processor, since the margin of
return doesn't justify the expense. In the HP and Microsoft study, increasing the processor speed
20% (from 2.0GHz to 2.4GHz) only increased the maximum number clients by 13%.20
Adding more RAM to the server will improve performance up to a certain point, but beyond that
20 “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Capacity and Scaling”, Microsoft, June 2003,
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point adds little to performance and won't increase the maximum number of clients. Part of the
problem is that 32-bit operating systems like Windows Server 2003 can only address 4GB of
memory space. Windows Server 2003 has been tuned to better utilized the available memory
space than Windows 2000 Server, so it can serve roughly 80% more clients.
Maximum number of thin clients running Windows 2000/2003 Server
Knowledge workers
Data entry workers
Windows 2000 Server
Windows Server 2003
Tests with HP servers, 2 Xeon 2.4GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 4GB RAM. The maximum number of clients is calculated when response
time falls by 10% from the original.
Source: “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Capacity and Scaling”, Microsoft, June 2003,
To some degree, Windows Server 2003 can get around the 4GB ceiling by enabling Physical
Address Extension (PAE) mode, which allows access to physical memory beyond the 4 GB space
accessible through normal 32-bit addressing. Nonetheless, a single application is still limited to
only addressing 2 GB of memory. For this reason, it is better to use 64 bit processors and a 64 bit
operating system for your Terminal Server, because they can address up to 18.4 exabytes and
process more efficiently than 32 bit processors. Microsoft sells a 64 bit version of Windows
Server 2003, and almost all GNU/Linux distributions come in 64 bit versions as well.
2.4.1. Checking CPU and memory usage
Before taking the expensive step of upgrading your hardware, first check to see whether the
server's CPU is really the bottleneck. On Windows systems, open the Windows Task Manager
by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del simultaneously and click on the Performance tab to see what
percentage of the CPU is being used. On Linux systems using GNOME, the Task Manager can be
found under the System menu. Generally your system should run at 20% to 30% CPU usage
under a normal load. When under heavy usage an occasional spike over 90% is not a problem. If
the CPU usage averages over 50%, then your network probably needs more CPU processing
Often it is the case that one program can hog all the memory in the server. Check to see how much
of the CPU each program is using. Look under the Processes tab in the Windows Task Manager.
If using a GNU/Linux terminal, CPU usage for each program can be checked with the proc
command. You may want to limit the use of particular applications if they prove to be memory
hogs. You may want to uninstall multimedia applications and games, since they can use exorbitant
amounts processing power and often don't perform well over a thin client network anyway.
Another potential bottleneck is the lack of memory in the server. Check in the Windows Task
Manager whether your server has enough free physical memory. In a GNU/Linux terminal,
memory usage can be checked with the free and top commands, although exmap is more reliable.
If the memory is maxed out, consider installing more sticks of RAM in your server. Remember to
only buy higher quality RAM, since flaky RAM chips can cause unexpected problems which are
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difficult to diagnose. It is not necessary to buy overpriced RAM for overclockers, but look for the
faster standard speeds. If your server's motherboard supports it, buy ECC RAM for error
At a certain point, upgrading processors and RAM in your existing server becomes prohibitively
expensive and adds little extra performance. Rather than continually upgrading, it is cheaper and
more efficient to add additional servers to the network. Adding servers to the network has steady
marginal returns, so it makes more sense than adding more processors to a single server which has
diminishing marginal returns.
2.4.2. Network load balancing
In order for the processing to be evenly distributed among the available servers, network load
balancing software needs to be installed. Windows 2000 Server (except for the Standard Edition)
and Windows Server 2003 (all editions) have a Network Load Balancing (NLB) option built-in, so
that up to 32 servers can be added to a network. Unfortunately, Microsoft's load balancing
software is based on a simple round robin formula which simply assigns terminal sessions to any
servers which are functioning, but does not try and calculate the resources available on each
server. If using Microsoft's load balancing, it is recommended that all the servers have the same
hardware and software configuration because the load balancer will assign an equal number of
terminal sessions to each machine.21 Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't not seem to have any plans
to improve its load balancing in the forthcoming Windows Server 2008.22 In addition, you may
want to plan your network load beforehand using Microsoft's Terminal Services Scalability
Planning Tools (TSScaling), which is a suite of tools that simulate loads on networks to help plan
the needed capacity of your terminal server.23
If planning to implement a server farm, it is best to avoid using Windows 2000 Server, because it
does not allow sessions to be tracked. If disconnected, the user might not be reconnected to the
same server. Windows Server 2003 solves this problem with the session directory which allows
users to reconnect to their previous session.24
Citrix Presentation Server (formerly called Metaframe) provides much better load balancing than
Windows Server 2003. Presentation Server's "Smart Access" feature controls how users can
access applications from different locations and grants access based on various different factors. It
allows the load balancing to be configured based upon 11 different performance counters. In
addition, Citrix also sells Global Load Balancing software, but it is very expensive with pricing
21 Cláudio Rodrigues, “Load Balancing Terminal Services: All you wanted to know but were afraid to ask (Part 1)”,
updated 31 May 2006,
22 Deb Shinder, “Create a scalable thin client solution with Terminal Server farms”, Tech Republic, 18 Sep 2006,
23 For a description of the various tools in TSScaling, see “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Capacity and
Scaling”, Microsoft, Jun 2003, p. 6-7,
24 “Setting Up Network Load Balancing on Windows 2000 Advanced Server”, 19 Apr 2003,; “Using Network Load Balancing With Terminal Services”, 2003-0419,
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starting at $27,499.25 A better solution is to use the Clusteresis RDP Load Balancer which is
completely gratis and balances the load according to available resources on the servers. It supports
session reconnection, application publishing and single sign-on for users. Other options are 2X
LoadBalancer, which costs between $449 for 2 servers and $1895 for up to 255 servers and
Tunnel2 Secure Terminal Server Gateway which costs € 89 per client on the network. Some
network administrators prefer to use hardware load balancers, such as F5 BigIP or NTavo
Appliance, since they don't use up any processing power on the server. This hardware tends to be
very expensive and generally isn't worth the price except in special situations.26
If using an LTSP network, there are a few free software options available, but none of them are
well developed at this point. For LTSP 5.0 in Edubuntu/Ubuntu, a preliminary load balancer from
Mind Touch Software is currently available and is reported to work, although there are plans to
improve it. For users of LTSP 4, the Mille-Xterm project has developed a load balancer, which is
being used in Canadian schools running Mandriva 2007. The code should theoretically work with
any distribution of GNU/Linux. For people who don't want the fiddle with advanced setups,
dividing your thin client network between various servers is probably the easiest solution.
25 “Citrix Global Load Balancing for Presentation Server Ensures Uninterrupted Access to Mission-Critical Business
Applications”, Citrix press release, 23 Oct 2006,
26 For a discussion of the pros and cons of the various network load balancers, see Cláudio Rodrigues, Part 2,
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
3. Microsoft Windows thin clients
Microsoft's bread and butter has traditionally been the fully equipped PC, or the fat client. In the
mid-1990s, many of Microsoft's competitors such as SUN and Oracle promoted thin clients as a
way to dethrone the Redmond, Washington software giant. Microsoft has a long history of being
blind about what is the next wave of the future, whether it be the internet, media players, or
embedded operating systems. Nonetheless, Microsoft has always been smart enough grasp its
failings and “borrow” technology from its competitors. Its initial forays into the field are generally
duds, but Microsoft keeps throwing enough money and resources at the problem, until its products
eventually dominate the market. The experts may sneer because other products are better, but
Microsoft is “good enough” for most of the general public.
3.1. Windows Terminal Services
When Citrix proved in the mid-1990s that Windows could run well on thin clients, Microsoft
grasped the opportunity and strong armed Citrix into cross-licensing them their technology.
Microsoft's first released Terminal Services as an add-on for Windows NT 4.0 Server in 1997, but
this first attempt at thin client technology was poorly designed. A server could only handle 20-30
clients and it communicated to the clients via the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 4, which was
very inefficient. Undaunted, Microsoft shortly released Windows 2000 Server using a much more
efficient RDP 5. According to one study of transmissions between the server and clients, RDP 5
was nearly twice as efficient protocol as RDP 4.27 People began adopting Microsoft's thin client
technology in droves, and by January 2001, it was estimated that 59% of all thin clients were
running on Microsoft's Terminal Services.28
3.1.1. Windows Server 2003
Microsoft's next release, Windows Server 2003, added a number features such as console mode
connections, a session directory, and local resource mapping. Windows Server 2003 uses the RDP
5.2 protocol, which is more efficient and offers more features than RDP 5.0 used in Windows
2000 Server. Windows Server 2003 allows the clients to play sound and display 24-bit true color,
rather than the 8-bit color used in Windows 2000 Server which only allowed 256 possible colors.
Windows Server 2003 uses memory more efficiently so more clients can run off the same server,
and offers better load balancing of the processing so that up the network could scale up to
thousands of thin clients. Windows Server 2003 allows up to 32 servers to run on a thin client
network, which is roughly 4000 clients at 125 clients per server. In addition, Windows Server
2003 offers 128 bit encryption for secure authentication and communication over the network.
Windows Server 2003 also has better support for low-bandwidth connections so Terminal
27 Jason Nieh, et al. “A Comparison of Thin-Client Computing Architectures: Technical Report CUCS-022-00”,
Network Computing Laboratory, Columbia University, Nov. 2000,
28 Paul Thurrott, “Microsoft Terminal Services is Number-1 Thin-Client Solution”, 31 Jan 2001,
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Services can operate over phone lines. With a 56K modem, the screen gets five or six screen
updates per second, which is adequate for tasks such as word processing and web browsing.
3.1.2. RDP 6 in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista clients
Microsoft's next version of its Remote Desktop Protocol, RDP 6, promises to significantly
improve thin client computing. It will offer 32-bit color, screen resolutions greater than
1600x1200, multiple monitor support to spread the session across two monitors, WMI scripting
of terminal services, and support for the fonts and graphics libraries used in MS Vista. Most
importantly, RDP 6 will allow clients to use individual applications, rather than the whole desktop
from the terminal server. This is an important feature when using hybrid clients which may use
some application from the server, but also use some applications locally, especially the processing
intensive ones like CAD and 3D games. The Remote Desktop server in Windows Vista Ultimate,
Enterprise, and Business editions already uses RDP 6, but thin client networks in RDP 6 won't be
available until the forthcoming release of Windows 2008 Server. In November 2006, Microsoft
released Remote Desktop Connection 6.0, which is the client software using RDP 6. It is included
by default in an all versions of MS Vista. Users of Windows XP Service Pack 2 can download it
from the Microsoft website with Windows Genuine Advantage validation. Unfortunately,
Microsoft has made no plans to release it for older versions of Windows, so older computers won't
be able to take advantage of RDP 6 features.
3.1.3. Working with older Windows machines
The beauty of Microsoft's Terminal Services is the fact that it allows an old computer running an
old operating system to use a new operating system hosted on the server. So a client computer
running Windows 95 can display the screen from Windows Server 2003. Essentially, a Windows
95 computer with little memory and processing power is turned into a Windows XP workstation
(or in the case of a Windows 2000 Server, the client is transformed into a Windows 2000
workstation.) Of course there are practical limitations to what thin clients can do. They won't
handle multimedia, 3D CAD and 3D games very well, but they will be able to do most of the
word processing, data entry, web browsing, and spreadsheet tasks which are needed in businesses,
governments and schools.
Given the improving development of Microsoft's Terminal Services, it is best to use Windows
Server 2003 if possible. Its network management tools are significantly better than its
predecessors. The version of Remote Desktop Connection which is included in Windows XP can
take advantage of the advanced features of RDP 5.2, but the same terminal display program can
also be downloaded and installed in older computers running Windows 95, Windows 98,
Windows 98SE, Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0, and Windows 2000. Older machines can run
terminals from Windows Server 2003, but the color depth may have to be turned down to 8 bits
(256 colors) and the screen resolution reduced down to 800 x 600.
Extremely old thin client computers with limited memory may be better suited for using Terminal
Services from Windows 2000 Server instead of Windows Server 2003. Older clients running
Windows for Workgroups 3.11 or Windows NT 3.51 will need to use an older version of the
Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) software, which uses the older RDP 5.0 protocol. They can't
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use the new features found in Window Server 2003, since it is based upon the RDP 5.2 protocol.
Remote Desktop Connection for RDP 5.0 is not available for download from the Microsoft
website, but it can be found on the Windows 2000 Server installation CD.
In La Paz, a secretary training school runs a hundred 486 thin clients with Windows 2000 Server.
The 486s which are mainly used to run MS-Word and teach typing have acceptable performance
because their memory is topped up to 64MB. In order to facilitate administration and speed up the
network, all the old NICs were replaced with the same brand of 10/100BaseT NIC. The network
administrator at the school commented that Windows 2000 Server's Terminal Services run better
on his 486s than later versions of Terminal Services.
3.2. Alternatives to Windows Server 2000/2003/2008
If thinking about implementing Windows Terminal Services, it is recommended to also
investigate Citrix Presentation Server, formerly known as MetaFrame Server. Citrix's thin client
technology is considered better than Windows Terminal Services, and is often used by larger
enterprises. Citrix boasts more than 100,000 customers worldwide, including 90 percent of the
Fortune 500 companies. Citrix Presentation Server is more scalable, allowing more servers per
network and better load balancing to share the processing load among the available servers. Plus,
Citrix offers better software to manage server farms, so that each server maintains the same
configuration. In addition, Citrix has long been able to operate in a mixed environment on PCs,
Macs, and UNIX/Linux, whereas Microsoft's Terminal Services only work with PCs and Macs
(and the software for Macs is slightly outdated as well).
Citrix has taken client computing a step farther, blurring the line between thin and fat clients with
Presentation Server 4.5. Citrix's latest version of Presentation Server allows the thin clients to
cache Windows DLL (dynamic link libraries) and other files needed to run applications on their
local harddrive. This caching allows applications to continue running even when the network
dies. More importantly, processing intensive streams can be passed to the clients. Streaming and
local processing provides better multimedia capabilities (although it also requires higher-end
clients).29 Unfortunately, Citrix doesn't market its software for mainstream use. Its prices aren't
listed online and are only available by contacting the company or its authorized resellers. In other
words, Citrix is only recommended for governments and businesses which have substantial ICT
3.2.1. 2X ThinClientServer
If your budget is limited and you want to avoid restrictive licenses, consider using 2X
ThinClientServer. For people who don't need tech support, 2X offers the PXES Edition, which is
gratis and includes some FLOSS (free/libre/open source software). 2X provides an online forum
in English where you can ask questions and search for solutions. For people who want tech
support and a few extra features such as support for Citrix's ICA protocol, 2X offers the normal
edition of ThinClientServer which is cheaper than Citrix's and Microsoft's thin client software.
29 For a review of Citrix Presentation Server 4.5, see: Michael Fudge Jr., “Rollout: Citrix Presentation Server 4.5”,
19 Mar 2007,
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With ThinClientServer, thin clients with 64MB RAM or more can network boot from the server,
so no discs are needed in the thin clients. Not only does this save on hardware and administration
costs, but it also means that none of the thin clients need operating system and client access
licenses like with Windows Terminal Services and Citrix. Since 2X ThinClientServer can
installed in Windows 2000 or Windows XP and includes a DHCP and TFTP server, you doesn't
need to pay for an expensive operating system license on your server. If you want to create hybrid
clients that runs some programs locally and some from the server, ThinClientServer can also be
used with disked thin clients with 32MB RAM or more. ThinClientServer has web-based
management tools, so the thin client network can be easily administered from any client computer
or via the internet.
If you are thinking about switching to GNU/Linux in the future, 2X ThinClientServer is a good
choice because 2X offers TerminalServer for GNU/Linux, which is very similar to
ThinClientServer for Windows. The transition will be much smoother with 2X's thin client
software, since their web-based management tools are almost identical and more user-friendly that
the text-based tools for LTSP, DRBL and VNC.
3.3. Installation Requirements for Windows 2000 Server and
Windows Server 2003
Microsoft lists extremely low minimum requirements for installing Windows 2000 and 2003
Hardware requirements for Microsoft Windows Server 2000/2003
Windows Server Standard Edition x86
2003 R2
133MHz CPU, 128MB
550MHz CPU, 256MB
RAM, SVGA (800x600)
4GB RAM, up to 4
133MHz CPU, 128MB
733MHz CPU, 256MB
RAM, SVGA (800x600)
64GB RAM, up to 8
x64 or
733MHz CPU, 128MB
733MHz CPU, 256MB
RAM, SVGA (800x600)
2TB RAM, up to 8
400MHz CPU, 512MB
733MHz CPU, 1GB RAM 128GB RAM, 8 – 32
x64 or
733MHz CPU, 512MB
733MHz CPU, 1GB RAM 2TB RAM, 8 – 64
Standard Edition x86
750MHz CPU, 512MB
video, 1 NIC
4GB RAM, up to 2
SVGA (800x600), 2 NICs processors, up to 75
Premium Edition x86
750MHz CPU, 512MB
RAM, 16GB harddrive,
VGA video, 1 NIC
16GB harddrive, SVGA
(1024x768), 2 NICs
4GB RAM, up to 2
processors, up to 75
Windows Server Standard Edition x86
133MHz CPU, 128MB
RAM, 1.25-2.0GB HD,
550MHz CPU, 256MB
RAM, SVGA (800x600)
4GB RAM, up to 4
Windows Small
Business Server
2003 R2
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133MHz CPU, 128MB
733MHz CPU, 256MB
RAM, SVGA (800x600)
32GB RAM, up to 8
x64 or
733MHz CPU, 128MB
733MHz CPU, 256MB
RAM, SVGA (800x600)
64GB RAM, up to 8
400MHz CPU, 512MB
733MHz CPU, 1GB RAM 128GB RAM, 8 – 32
x64 or
733MHz CPU, 512MB
733MHz CPU, 1GB RAM 2TB RAM, 8 – 64
133MHz CPU, 128MB
4GB RAM, up to 4
133MHz CPU, 128MB
8GB RAM, up to 8
Windows 2000
Pentium III Xeon, 256MB
64GB RAM, 8-32
* Number of processors per server. A dual core processor counts as one processor.
Obviously Microsoft's minimum and recommended requirements are only good enough for
installing Windows 2003 and 2000 Server, but not enough to consider running the Terminal
Services and handling the processing needs of the clients. If planning to set up a thin client server
with Microsoft's Terminal Services, a study by HP and Microsoft provides test results of how
many thin clients can run on Xeon servers using Windows Server 2003:
Server Configuration
4 x Intel Xeon Processors MP 2.4GHz,
2MB L2 Cache, 4GB RAM
2 x Intel Xeon Processors 2.4GHz,
2MB L2 Cache, 4GB RAM
1 x Intel Xeon 4 Processor 2.4GHz,
2MB L2 Cache, 4GB RAM
1 x Intel Ultra Low Voltage Pentium III
900 MHz, 1GB RAM
4 x Intel Xeon Processors MP 2.0 GHz,
2MB L2 Cache, 4GB RAM
2 x Pentium III Xeon 550 MHz,
2MB L2 Cache, 4GB RAM
HP Server
270 Users*
Data Entry
520 Users
200 Users
440 Users
DL360 G3
140 Users
200 Users
50 Users
120 Users
240 Users
Not Tested
ProLiant 6400R 170 Users
Not Tested
* Using Physical Address Extension and 6GB RAM.
Fuente: “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Capacity and Scaling”, Microsoft, Jun 2003,
The “data entry workers” in the study were only using Excel and only required 3.5 MB of RAM in
the server for each additional client computer. In contrast, the “knowledge workers” were using
Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook concurrently and multitasking between the programs.
30 “System Requirements”, 13 Mar 2007,,, “Graphical Windows 2000
Guide Version 0.6.0 Oct 23, 2001”,, “Windows 2000
Minimum Specifications and Requirements”,
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For these “knowledge workers” the server only required 9.5 MB of RAM per client. These
numbers are impressive, but remember that these tests are only relevant for highly structured
environments where only a limited number of programs are being used. In a normal environment
where people could be running 10-15 different programs and some of those programs are memory
hogs, the servers would need significantly more resources per client. Microsoft recommends 10
MB of extra RAM in the server for each additional client which will only be running one program
at a time. If the client will be running multiple programs, Microsoft recommends 21MB per client.
In a typical environment, people will probably be running programs like Photoshop and Windows
Media Player which can use significantly more memory than the standard office applications, so
even more RAM will be needed.
For imaging intensive applications, NexTech provides a more realistic estimate of the resources
needed to run Windows Terminal Services with 1024x768 resolution and more demanding
NexTech's recommendations for servers using Windows Terminal Services
Operating System
MS Office
Hard Disk
Recommended in server
Windows Server 2003 with
Terminal Services Client Access
Licenses for each client
MS Office 2003 or newer
Dual Pentium 2.5+ GHz
1GB + 128MB per client
Minimum Required
Windows 2000 Server with
Terminal Services Client Access
Licenses for each client
MS Office 2000
1.5+ GHz Pentium
512MB + 64MB per client
500+ GB, RAID (if budget allows) 80+ GB
Source: “Practice 2008 Terminal Server Configuration - Hardware Recommendations”,
It is best to avoid older 16bit software, because it takes more memory to run it on 32bit operating
systems like Windows Server 2003. Older software applications written before the advent of
Windows 2000 Server should also be avoided if possible since they generally weren't designed to
be compatible with Terminal Services. If you plan on using older software check this list for
compatibility and read these recommendations for using older applications. Be prepared to
implement special work-arounds to get some software running. Citrix software suffers similar
problems with incompatible software. One commentator on an online forum explained:
The difference between a Citrix implementation failing, and working successfully is
knowing the technology that you're working with. You can't have an application that[']s
going to go rouge and take down your server with 50 users on it -- and that is where most
implementations fail. Every application can not be made to work in a thin environment.31
If you plan on implementing a Windows thin client network, you will need to carefully test each
software application to see whether it works correctly over the network. Unexpected problems can
arise when files aren't found in the local harddrive where programs expect them to be. In addition,
software applications should be installed after Windows Terminal Services are enabled, because
some applications install differently in a terminal server.
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3.4. Thin client requirements
The thin client network will have more advanced functionality if the clients are running Windows
XP or Windows CE when using Terminal Services from Windows Server 2003. Nonetheless, the
clients can function with Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, Windows ME, and
Windows 2000 as well. The advantage of using old operating systems on the clients is they
function well on machines which have little memory and slower processors. Plus, you aren't
forced to pay for expensive upgrade licenses from Microsoft.
If using Windows 2000 Server, each client computer is legally obligated to have an operating
system license, a Terminal Services Client Access License (CAL), and a Windows 2000 Server
CAL. Each copy of Windows 2000 Professional includes a Terminal Services CAL, but not a
Windows 2000 Server CAL. Earlier versions of Windows do not include a Terminal Services
CAL, so you will have to purchase a Terminal Services CAL and Windows 2000 Server CAL for
each client.32
Beginning with Windows Server 2003, Microsoft initiated a new ‘per user’ license to add to the
already familiar ‘per device’ license. Each client must legally have a Terminal Services Device
CAL or a Terminal Service User CAL. In addition each client needs a Windows Server Client
Access License and an operating system license. You can avoid paying for an operating system by
making diskless thin clients with a program such as ThinStation or PXES Universal Linux Thin
Client. See section 3.9. Windows Diskless Thin Clients.33
Minimum Requirements for Microsoft client operating systems
Release Date
CPU Type
Windows 3.1
6 abr 1992 80386
Windows 95
24 jun 1995 80386DX
Windows 98
25 jun 1998 80486DX
Windows 98SE
9 may 1999 80486DX
Windows ME
14 sep 2000 Pentium I
Windows XP
25 oct 2001 Pentium II
Windows Vista
30 ene 2007 Pentium IV
Source : http://w; http://w w w indow s.html;
http://w w w; http://w w w
3.5. Setting up Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003
Assuming that Windows Server 2003 is already installed on the server, go to Administrative
Tools under the Start menu. Select the “Configure your server” wizard. In the select a role
section, choose “Terminal Server” and click “Next” twice to confirm. The wizard will then start
32 License requirements in Spanish: “Se necesitan licencias para utilizar software cliente de Servicios de Terminal
Server”, 22 Feb 2000,; In English: “Windows 2000 Terminal Services:
An Integrated, Server-Based Computing Solution”, updated 9 Jun 2001,
33 “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server licensing issues and requirements for deployment”,
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to install the required files and warn you that the machine will have to be restarted during the
installation process. Close any open programs and click “OK”.
The installation will continue for several minutes, then the computer will reboot. After restarting,
and you log back in, a confirmation scree will appear that states that the computer is now a
terminal server.
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3.5.1. Licensing
You will be given a 120 day evaluation period to use unlicensed clients with Microsoft's Terminal
Services. After 120 days, the clients will not be able to initiate a session and use Terminal
In order for the licensing to take effect, Terminal Server Licensing will have to be installed on
your machine. Go to the “Add/Remove” window in the Control Panel and find the “Windows
Components Wizard” section. Click on “Terminal Server Licensing” and follow the installation
Once Terminal Server Licensing is installed, your server will be listed in the Terminal Server
Licensing console. Now your server will need to be activated before it can start distributing CALs.
Activation can be done via a direct connection to the internet, a web browser, or over the
To begin the activation process, right click on your server in the Terminal Server Licensing
console and select “Activate Server”:
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The wizard will ask you to enter your personal details and selection options for your server.
Follow the wizard's instructions and click on “Finish” when done.
3.6. Configuring the Terminal Server
The administrative tools to configure the Terminal Server are found in the Administrative Tools
folder in the Control Panel:
Terminal Services Manager
Terminal Services Configuration
3.6.1. Terminal Services Manager
The Terminal Services Manager was redesigned for the Windows Server 2003 and is significantly
better than the manager found in Windows 2000 Server. Click on the server name to view and
manage the Users, Sessions or Processes on each server. Green icons indicate which servers are
online. If the servers are disconnected, it should have a gray icon.
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Go to the “Users” tab to see who is connected, how long they have been connected, and the state
of their connection. You can view the status of a user, disconnect a user, and reset or logout a
user's session by right clicking a user's name and selecting an option from the menu. You can also
send the user a message which will be displayed as a pop-up message on the client machine.
To view or control the terminal server sessions, go to the “Sessions” tab. Right click on a session
and select the status to see the incoming and outgoing data or reset the session.
The “Processes” tab shows all the running processes and which user they belong to. This is a
simplified version of the “Processes” tab found in the Windows Task Manager. To kill a process,
select a user, right click and select “End process”.
Each time that a user opens a new process, the number attached to the end of the username will
change. For example, in the example above the username is listed as “FDP-Tcp#12”, but “12” will
only last for this session. Click on a username to view its processes and session information.
It can be useful to add your servers to the “favorite servers” list, so they are easier to find. Right
click on a server and select “Add to favorites” Terminal Services Configuration
The Terminal Services Configuration window is used to set the properties for connections and
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In the Terminal Services Configuration window, you can see any connections which have been
created. To set its properties, double click on a connection.
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The following table describe what actions can be done in each tab of the Properties window.
Logon Settings
Add a comment, change the encryption level, enable standard windows authentication.
Select whether or not to always use the same credentials for logging on, enable “Always
prompt for password”.
Select whether to override the user’s settings with a set of predefined settings.
Choose to override settings of a user profile and run a program when the user logs on.
Remote Control Change the way the remote control facility is used, disable remote control.
Client Settings
Change connection, color and mappings settings.
Network Adapter Specify the type of network adapter you want to use and change the connection limit.
Specify the user permissions (who has access to the terminal server and who doesn’t).
The Terminal Services Configuration window contains a the “Server settings” section, which
allows you to modify the properties of the servers. Double click a setting on the list to change a
Using these tools, you can effectively manage the machines and the users in your thin client
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3.7. Using Terminal Services in the Client
A Windows 2003 Terminal Server can be accessed by a Windows client that has Remote Desktop
Connection installed or via a web browser with Remote Desktop Web Connection.
3.7.1. Remote Desktop Connection (RDC)
Remote Desktop Connection, which is also referred to as the Terminal Services Client, is installed
by default on Windows XP and Windows Vista. If you have Windows XP Service Pack 2, you
can download Remote Desktop Connection 6.0 here and install it. For Windows XP Service Pack
1 or older version of Windows, download RDC 5.2 here and install it. If you don't have access to
the internet, you can also find the RDC software on the Windows XP installation CD. Insert the
CD and select “Perform additional tasks” in the autorun window that pops up. Choose the option
to install the Remote Desktop Connection. If you need to install Remote Desktop Connection on
Windows for Workgroups 3.11 or Windows NT 3.51, it is no longer available for download, but
you can find the software on the Windows 2000 Server installation CD.
If you have a Macintosh, download the Remote Desktop Connection Client 1.0.3 from here.
Unfortunately, the Mac client software is only available in English, German, Japanese, and
French, so Latin American users have to select one of those languages.
Microsoft does not make client software for UNIX and GNU/Linux, but the free software program
rdesktop can be used to connect to Windows Terminal Services on UNIX/Linux machines. To
install rdesktop, it is best to download it from the repository of your distribution. Otherwise, you
will have to download the source code and compile it. If using rdesktop, think about also
installing tsclient (Terminal Server Client), which is a GUI front end in GNOME for several
different terminal clients (rdesktop, Xnest, and VNC). It is included in Ubuntu/Edubuntu by
Once RDC is installed, it can be run in Windows XP by going to Start > All Programs >
Accessories > Communications > Remote Desktop Connection.
By default, the Remote Desktop Connection window only shows a drop-down box to select the
remote machine, but many more options are displayed by clicking the “Options >>” button:
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In the General tab you can enter the computer, username, password and domain. If you want to
save your connection settings for future use, click on the “Save As” button. The other tabs are
used for performance related options like the display size and color, speed and placement of
Once you have entered the correct logon details, press “Connect” to initiate the session. You may
have to reenter the logon details a second time (unless that option has been disabled from the
terminal server).
3.7.2. Using the command line
If you would rather login from the command line, you can enter the command:
mstsc -v:servername /F –console
The option -v specifies which server to connect to; /F is for full screen mode; and –console
indicates that you want to connect to the console.
3.7.3. Automatic logins
You can allow users to automatically logon to a session without having to type their username and
password each time they initiate a connection. To do this, on the server open the Group Policy
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Object Editor by entering “gpedit.msc” in Start > Run. In the Group Policy Object Editor
window, click on Administrative Templates and then select Windows Components Terminal
Services and then choose Encryption and Security. Open the properties box of “Always prompt
client for password upon connection” and disable it. Then go to the client computer and open
Remote Desktop Connection. In the “General” tab enter the logon information in the appropriate
3.7.4. Fixing Login Problems
If you have trouble logging in, there are two common reasons why users have login problems.
If you see the message “The local policy of this system does not permit you to logon
interactively,” then the group policy of the terminal server needs to be changed so the user can
logon interactively. To change the group policy, type “gpedit.msc” in the Run window (or in
DOS). When GPEdit opens, go to Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration >
Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignment. Double
click on the “Allow Log on Locally” in the Policy list. Choose the user that will be granted local
log on access and press “OK”.
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Users might also encounter an error message when they try to logon which reads, “You do not
have access to logon to this session”.
This message indicates that the account has not have the proper permissions assigned in the
Terminal Servers Manager. To assign the needed permissions, go to your server and open the
Terminal Services Configuration window. Double click the RDP connection (often called “RDPtcp” by default) in the main window to open the Properties dialog box. Go to the “Permissions”
tab and click on “Add”, then choose the user's account. Assign the correct permissions, then click
“OK”. Now the user should be able to login without problems.
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3.7.5. Logging off
If users just disconnect from a session or close the remote desktop window, the programs that they
are using will continue to run on the server and the memory they use won't be freed up. It is
important to properly log off because this will free up system resources for other users on the thin
client network.
3.8. Using Terminal Services from a Web Client
The terminal services web client will allow you to logon to a terminal server from your web
browser. This allows terminal services from any computer, which is especially handy when
traveling or working from home. The only limitation of web client access is that low-bandwidth
connections can be very slow. The RDP 5.2 protocol on Windows Server 2003 handles slow
internet connections better than past RDP protocols, but don't expect rapid screen updates when
connecting over a 52Kb/s modem. Internet Information Services (IIS) must be installed and
configured on the terminal server.
To open a terminal hosted from the server, it is recommended that you have Internet Explorer
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installed on the client machine (although it can work with other web browsers with an ActiveX
plugin or Internet Explorer emulation). On the client, open the web browser and in the address bar
type the following:
where server_name is the name of the terminal server or the IP address. If the WWW service and
the tsweb website has been started on the server then you will see a page like the following:
Enter the name of the server that you want to connect to and choose the size of the screen before
clicking “connect”. Unfortunately, connecting to the server requires that an ActiveX component
be installed on your computer. Many web browser's have disabled ActiveX because it can be a
security hazard, so you will have to enable it.
3.8.1. Enabling ActiveX with Internet Explorer
If you use Internet Explorer, Go to Tools > Internet Options. In the “Internet Options” window,
select the “Security” tab, then select the “Internet” icon and click on “Personized Level”. In the
“Security Configuration” dialog box which appears, select “Activate” for all the options dealing
with ActiveX. Then select “OK”.
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3.8.2. Installing ActiveX in FireFox, SeaMonkey, Mozilla Suite, Netscape or
Officially, Microsoft only supports Terminal Services over a web client in Internet Explorer.
Nonetheless, you can probably get Terminal Services to work on other web browsers by installing
the ActiveX plugin created by Adam Lock. Currently there is no plugin available for Mozilla
FireFox 2, so use FireFox 1.5 instead. SeaMonkey 1.0 and FireFox 1.5 both use the same
plugin.For more info, see To download the plugin, go to Only download the plugin compiled for
your version of web browser.
If Adam Lock's ActiveX plugin doesn't work, the other option is to install IE Tab, a plugin that
embeds Internet Explorer inside a FireFox tab. For more info, see
Opera users can use Terminal Services by using the Neptune plugin to run the Internet Explorer
engine within Opera. For more info, see
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3.8.3. Logging in to a Windows Terminal with a web client
In order for the web client to connect, it needs to have an ActiveX component installed. If it isn't
installed, you will be prompted to install it. Click “Yes” when the windows pops up to confirm the
setup. If you have a slow internet connect or a low screen resolution on your computer, it is a
good idea to select a lower screen resolution in the web client, such as 800x600 or 640x480.
Then the terminal services screen should appear inside the web browser:
3.9. Windows Diskless Thin Clients
The hardware used to be the largest expense, whereas the software was largely an
afterthought. When the first PCs were selling for $2000 in 1981, the first version of MS-
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DOS cost only $40. Today, the situation is the reverse, with software licensing often
costing more than the hardware to run it. The official retail price for Windows Vista Home
Basic is $199, and Vista Ultimate costs a whopping $399. Microsoft has been repeatedly
convicted in court of holding a monopoly and using that monopoly to restrict competition,
but there doesn't seem to exist the political will to reign in Microsoft's abuses.
The best way to avoid Microsoft's stranglehold is to switch to GNU/Linux, but this simply
isn't feasible in some situations, and many users are reluctant to learn a whole new operating
system. Nonetheless, smart network administrators are searching for ways to reduce their
licensing costs. Even if using a thin client network with Windows' Terminal Services, you
can still avoid paying for operating system licenses for each of the client computers with a
handy program called Thinstation. When the clients bootup, they connect to the server and
download a tiny GNU/Linux kernel, which is loaded into the RAM. Thinstation allows thin
client computers to boot up without a harddrive (or any other type of drive if they have
PXE), saving on hardware costs since there are no moving parts to potentially fail.
Likewise, administration costs are low, since there are no local harddrives requiring
tiresome reinstalls, patching, and backups.
Unfortunately, Thinstation is a little complicated to setup and many organizations insist on
having support contracts for their computers. In this case, consider using PXES Universal
Linux Thin Client to set up Windows diskless clients. Like Thinstation, the clients are
running a Linux kernel, but can display a Windows terminal from the Windows server.
PXES Universal Linux Thin Client is easier to install and configure than Thinstation, and is
developed by 2X in case you need tech support.
Even if using Thinstation or PXES Universal Linux Thin Client, remember that you are still
required to pay for Microsoft's Terminal Services Client Access Licenses (TS CALs) for
each thin client computer. If your goal is to avoid paying software licenses but still be able
to use Windows on your thin client network, consider using 2X's ThinClientServer PXES
Edition which doesn't require any licenses for the server or the clients and can run on a
server using Windows XP, so it avoids to the costly license for Windows Server
3.9.1. Installing Thinstation 2.2 in a Windows terminal server34
Thinstation is installed in a Windows or GNU/Linux server, but it transfers a basic operating
system to diskless clients when they bootup over the network. The Thinstation clients need a
minimum of 16MB of RAM, although 32MB of RAM is recommended for running a
Windows terminal.35 It is possible to compile your own version of Thinstation, configured
34 Instructions based upon: Paolo Salvan, “CREATING A THIN-CLIENT FOR THE WINDOWS ENVIRONMENT
USING "THINSTATION”, 14 May 2004,, and readme.txt for the Etherboot PXE Loader
(, which can be downloaded from
35 According to the Thinstation website, is possible to run clients with as little as 8MB of RAM if TinyX is loaded
on the server, but there are no clear instructions on the website how to set this up.
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to your specifications, if you have a GNU/Linux server, but for Windows users, it is
recommended to just download one of the prebuilt images from the Thinstation web site. Go
to and download and decompress the file (or a later version if available). Installing Thinstation on the server
After decompressing, look for the folder TFtpdRoot
inside. Double click on the file thinstation.nbi (autoextract).exe to start installing Thinstation on
your server computer.
Read the "License Agreement" for the Citrix ICA Client and click "I Agree" to uncompress the
required thinstation.nbi file, which is the thin-client boot image. Thinstation.nbi is a mini
distribution of GNU/Linux which will be transferred over the network and loaded into the RAM
of the client computers when they bootup. Copy all the TFtpdRoot folder in your server's C:\
drive (or whatever drive your server boots from). Configuring Thinstation
Inside the TftpdRoot folder you will find the file, which is a sample
configuration file for the thin-clients. This file is the default configuration for all the thin client
computers on your network. You can also create separate configuration files for each client on the
network, if they need special settings.
Edit the "C:\TFtpdRoot\" file with your favorite bare text editor. You
can use Notepad, which is included in Windows, or download the excellent free software program
Everything following the hash symbols # in the file are comments which will be ignored by the
computer. Look for the line beginning with “KEYBOARD_MAP=...” and make sure that it
matches your keyboard. If using a US-style keyboard, set it to “KEYBOARD_MAP="us"”. For a
Spanish keyboard, use: “KEYBOARD_MAP="es"”. for a Brazilian keyboard, use:
Also check that the screen resolution and refresh rates matches the capabilities of your thin clients'
video card and monitor. If using older computers, it is recommended to set the resolution at
800x600, then test higher resolutions later once you have the thin client network working. Look
for the line beginning with “SCREEN_RESOLUTION=...” so it reads:
Thinstation can display many different types of terminals. To connect to a MS Windows
“Terminal Services” session, uncomment the lines by removing the hash marks (#) at the
beginning of the lines:
<--- put here your server
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You will need to set the IP address of your server. So if your server is located at, then
set the line to read:
<--- put here your server
If you want to connect to a 'Citrix ICA' session, uncomment the lines:
SESSION_0_ICA_SERVER="<server name>"
<--- put here your server
Note that you can't have both SESSION_0_ICA_SERVER and
SESSION_0_ICA_APPLICATION_SET in the same configuration, so only set one or the other,
but not both.
If you want to connect to a 'X' session of a UNIX or GNU/Linux server, uncomment these lines:
SESSION_0_X_SERVER="<server name>"
<--- put here your server
SCREEN_X_FONT_SERVER="<font server name>:7100" <--- put here your font
For X sessions to work, your server should be configured to accept "-query" requests, and the font
server needs to be able to use port 7100. Choosing different sessions
If you have two or more terminal servers on your network, you can configure Thinstation to
provide a menu at bootup, so the user can select which terminal server to connect to. The
configuration line “SESSION_0_TITLE=...” will set be the first choice on the menu. If you want
your users to be able to connect to sessions from another terminal server, create configuration
lines beginning with “SESSION_1_...”. For a third terminal server, create lines beginning with
“SESSION_2_...”, and so on.
For instance, if you have a network connected to a server running MS Windows Server 2003 with
Terminal Services at address and connected to another server running Edubuntu
GNU/Linux at address, then the file would read:
# First option on Thinstation bootup menu:
SESSION_0_TITLE="MS Windows terminal"
# Second option on the Thinstation bootup menu:
SESSION_1_TITLE="Edubuntu GNU/Linux terminal"
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SCREEN_X_FONT_SERVER="" Creating configurations for individual thin clients
Sometimes the default configuration in won't work for all your thin
clients. The type of keyboard, mice, video card, screen resolution and refresh rate may not be the
same for every computer. In this case, configuration files can be created for individual thin clients
which will override the settings in the default confiuration file. In the same folder where the file is located, create files named thinstation.conf.<IP address> or
thinstation.conf.<MAC address>. For instance, if you want to configure two thin clients with the
IP addresses and, then create the files named
“thinstation.conf.” and “thinstation.conf.”. If you are using DHCP to
automatically assign IP addresses to your thin clients at bootup, then name the configuration files
the MAC addresses of the network cards in the thin clients. To find the MAC addresses for you
thin clients, see section 4.6.5. Finding the MAC address . Setting up the TFTP and DHCP server
The TFTP server transfers the thinstation.* files to the thin clients during bootup. The DHCP
server provides the IP address and the boot-image file name to your thinclient.
Uncompress the tftpd32 utility you find in 'TFtp\', run it, and
in Settings set:
Base directory=C:\TFtpdRoot
Exit, go in the "DHCP server" tab and set
IP pool starting address=<IP address>
(put here the first IP address of a free pool of IP addesses of your network,
i.e. "")
Size of pool=<size>
(put here the size of this free pool, i.e. "10")
Boot file=thinstation.nbi
(put here your subnet mask, i.e. "")
Press the save button and LEAVE THE APPLICATION STARTED.
After the testing phase, you will probably want to use this utility as a
"service", so it will be always running, even when no user is logged on the
server; you can download from the free
"FireDemon Lite" utility to convert this application to a service.
Otherwise you can read in the last part of this doc how to use the DHCP & TFTP
services provided with every Windows 2000 Server.
Note: if a DHCP server already exists in your local network, you should
deactivate the tftpd32 DHCP server (from "Settings") to avoid conflicts and
configure the pre-existent DHCP server to supply the information required by
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the thin client.
3.9.2. Booting the thin client
Ideally, the thin client can bootup using PXE (Pre-eXecution Environment) which was built into
many motherboards after 1999. To see whether your computer has PXE, enter the BIOS during
bootup. Generally the BIOS can be entered by pressing F2, ESCAPE or some other similar key. In
the BIOS go to the boot device order. Look for an option such as “PXE” or “network” and put it
as the first device in the list. (In some BIOSes, you will have to first enable PXE, to may it an
option in the list.) Then save and exit. Making an EtherBoot floppy for 30 different types of NICs in MS Windows
If you don't have PXE, you will have to bootup the client computers using EtherBoot, which can
be run from a floppy drive, CD-ROM, flashdrive, harddrive, an EPROM chip on a NIC, or loaded
into the excess space on a motherboard's BIOS. The easiest of these options is to bootup your
client computer from a floppy, although you may want to later think about some of the other
options. Thinstation has created a handy floppy which has drivers for the 30 most common types
of ISA and PCI NICs. Note that PCMCIA and USB network cards are not supported.
You will need a new floppy disk or a reformatted one which is empty. To reformat a floppy, open
Windows Explorer and search for the floppy disk under My Computer. Right click on the floppy
drive icon and select “Format” from the menu.
To create the EtherBoot floppy, go to the folder where you decompressed, and enter the BootDisk\ folder. Double-click on the file BuildFloppy.bat
and it will begin to create the EtherBoot floppy. For more details, see the file
Once the EtherBoot floppy is ready, put it into the floppy drive of the computer that you want
boot from the network and reboot the computer. If you see strange errors like "0220 ax:0224
bx:0000 cx:0001 dx:0000", the EtherBoot floppy doesn't have the driver for your particular NIC.
In this case it, it is recommended to bootup using Thinstation's boot CD, which contains
EtherBoot drivers for many more types of NICs. If you only have a floppy drive available on your
thin client computer, you will have to go to the website and download the
driver for your network card and create a customized EtherBoot floppy. See the section
EtherBoot under Installing an LTSP thin client network with Edubuntu 6.06 LTS. Creating an EtherBoot CD
Floppies tend to fail over time and are slow, so it is better to bootup your thin client computers
from the CD-ROM rather than the floppy drive. To do this, download the file eb-net.iso from
Then use your favorite CD burner to burn the ISO image. If you have Ahead Nero installed,
simply double click the file eb-net.iso and Nero will automatically burn the CD image.
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If you don't have CD burning software, you can download and install the freeware program
CDBurnerXP Pro. From the File menu, select the option Write disc from ISO file. In the dialog
box that opens, click on the [...] button and select the file eb-net.iso that you downloaded. Then
click on Write to begin burning the CD.
Once you have burned the CD, put into the CD-ROM drive of the client computer which you want
to boot from the network and reboot it.
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4. GNU/Linux thin clients
For a number of economic, moral, and political reasons, many governments and institutions in
Latin America are beginning to promote the use of “free software”, which is also known as “open
source”, FOSS (Free/Open Source Software) or FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source software).
Many experts predict that the free operating system GNU/Linux will dominate informatics in the
developing world in the future. They advocate switching to GNU/Linux as the way that Latin
America can establish technological independence, create local software industries, bridge the
digital divide, and dramatically lower the costs of computing.36
GNU/Linux is a free software clone of UNIX, which makes it particularly good for creating thin
client networks, since UNIX was designed from the very outset as a operating system for
networks. Unlike Windows which was created originally as an operating system for individual
microcomputers computers, UNIX and its applications generally work well in network situations.
Many Windows programs have problems when used in thin client networks and they require
special work-arounds to function properly, especially older Windows software.
Increasingly, network administrators are choosing to run Linux on their thin clients. In 2003, IDC
estimated that Linux was used in 20% of thin clients and forecast that it would grow 60% per year
—faster than any other operating system on thin clients.37 GNU/Linux is preferred principally
because it doesn't have licensing costs, is more secure, and reduces administration costs. Linux
clients are largely immune from virus, spyware, and other types of malware. According to a 2001
report by the British government, roughly 60,000 viruses exist for Windows, but only 40 have
been created for GNU/Linux and almost all have been confined to the laboratory. With
GNU/Linux the network administrator doesn't have to spend so much time wrestling with virus
checkers and spyware countermeasures, nor reformatting infected harddrives.
36 For an overview of the benefits of GNU/Linux and why governments should promote its use, see: Amos Batto,
“Beneficios de Software Libre para Bolivia”, 27 Apr 2007,
37 Sean Michael Kerner, “Linux Gets a Bit Thinner”,, 5 Aug 2004,
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Many businesses and governments are opting for GNU/Linux because it costs so much less labor
to administer and maintain. MS Windows machines require more labor to administer than
GNU/Linux because it doesn't permit the automatization of some tasks with scripts. In addition,
experience shows that
Windows machines often
What are distributions and repositories?
require periodic reinstalls of
the operating system, although An operating system (OS) can do very little without its
the system can be locked down accompanying software applications and system tools. Unlike
Windows, GNU/Linux bundles both the OS and its applications
to eliminate this problem. In
together, so it is called a distribution of software. For instance,
addition, more time is spent
Debian 4.0r0 is a distribution since it includes not only the OS, but
installing security patches and 14,000+ other programs as well.
verifying that each machine
In free software, there are new versions of the software quite
has the necessary software
frequently—sometimes daily or weekly—so it is diffult to keep the
licenses. A 2005 survey of
applications compatible with the OS. What worked last month might
955 local governments in
not work today because the kernel or some supporting library has
Europe found that
changed. Many free software programs depend upon other programs
administrators of free software to run correctly—which are known as dependencies. To avoid
systems manage 35% more
dependency conflicts, all the software which is known to work
PCs than administrators of
together in the same distribution is kept in a storage place on the
proprietary systems. Likewise, internet known as a repository.
a 2006 study of over 200
Most GNU/Linux distributions have official repositories where they
companies concluded that
store the software which they have compiled to run with their
administrators of GNU/Linux particular kernel and libraries. People who doen't officially work for
manage more servers and their a GNU/Linux distribution often maintain unofficial repositories,
which are considered less trustworthy and more likely to have
servers have a higher volume
dependency conflicts. Nonetheless, it is often necessary to use
of work than Windows
unofficial repositories to install proprietary software, codecs, and
servers. The majority of
administrators of GNU/Linux drivers, which can't be included in the official repositories of the
spend 5 minutes per server per distribution for legal or ideological reasons.
week handling patches. 17%
Unlike Windows software which is often downloaded from outside
websites, it is recommended that you only download GNU/Linux
reported 0% downtime with
software from repositories for your distribution. Only if the software
GNU/Linux and the majority
isn't available, should you download the software from an outside
reported 99.99% uptime. A
source. Occasionally it may be necessary to download the source
study by the Robert Francis
Group reported that Windows code, and compile the program on your machine to get it to run
correctly without dependency conflicts.
administrators spend twice as
much time managing patches
as GNU/Linux administrators. For more information about free software, see Appendix C: The
Free Software Alternative.
4.1. Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP)
If setting up a network of diskless GNU/Linux thin clients, there are a number of free software
alternatives, such as Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP), Diskless Remote Boot in Linux
(DRBL), 2X TerminalServer (PXES), and Thinstation. The best known of these programs is
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LTSP, which has been called “the 'granddaddy' of all Linux thin-client open source projects”38.
LTSP was founded by James McQuillan in 1998-9 when he was contracted by a medical supply
company which needed to run terminals for an AS/400 server and a UNIX server at the same
time. Like so many free software projects, McQuillan didn't start from scratch. Instead he wrote a
script to control a number of existing programs such as EtherBoot, tFTP (trivial file transfer
protocol) and bootp, so that a diskless computer could connect over a network to a server and
download the linux kernel, the software to display the X-Windows graphical interface.39 Once
these programs are loaded into the RAM of the client computer, programs installed in the server
can be run by the client computer.
Unlike many of the other thin client software projects, LTSP is widely used and tested with the
major GNU/Linux distributions. It can probably found in the repositories for your favorite Linux
distribution. LTSP is rather difficult to install and requires some experience with the command
line to setup correctly. Fortunately, several distributions such K12LTSP, Skolelinux, AbulÉdu,
Edubuntu, Xubuntu, the Cutter project and Deworks have been designed around LTSP so it is
much easier to install and setup. These distributions include options to install LTSP from default
installation CDs and some also include special tools to better manage the LTSP thin clients. More
importantly, they will automatically create the necessary configuration files so that LTSP should
run automatically. If using a distribution designed for LTSP, the most difficult task is assigning an
Internet Protocol (IP) number to the server and deciding how IP numbers will be assigned to the
GNU/Linux distributions designed around LTSP
Based upon
Recommended Minimum Requirements
Server RAM
Client RAM
Edubuntu 7.04
Ubuntu 7.04 (which is 5.0
based upon Debian)
2 CDs
512MB + 128MB per
Xubuntu 7.04
Ubuntu 7.04 (which is 5.0
based upon Debian)
1 CD
256MB + 64MB per
Fedora Core 6
6 CDs
512MB + 64MB per
1 CD
256MB + 32MB per
SkoleLinux 2.0r0 Debian 3.1
Setting up LTSP for the first time can a trying experience, especially if you aren't very very
familiar with the command line. If you don't have much experience using GNU/Linux, it is
strongly suggested that you use one of the GNU/Linux distributions with LTSP already
incorporated. Select your LTSP distribution according to the distribution of GNU/Linux which
you already use. People who already use Ubuntu, should use Edubuntu (or Xubuntu for less
38 Kerner, “Linux Gets a Bit Thinner”.
39 For a history of the origin of LTSP, see:
40 The Edubuntu webpage recommends that the LTSP server have 150MB per client, but doesn't specify how much
RAM is needed just to run the server without the clients. For this reason, 512MB + 128 is taken as a reasonable
guess, since Edubuntu runs well at this configuration in my experience.
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powerful thin clients). Users of Debian or one of its derivatives should probably select SkoleLinux
(or possibly Edubuntu). People who prefer Red Hat, Fedora, Mandriva, or one of its derivatives
should use K12LTSP.
Although most of the LTSP distributions were originally created for schools, even people who
want to set up LTSP for businesses, governments or cybercafes may want to first install an LTSP
network using these one of these distributions. The educational applications can be removed and
the school-related background screen can be replaced. These special LTSP distributions will make
it much easier to get the entire network working and figure out how to correctly configure all your
thin clients. If you really need a normal GNU/Linux distribution which isn't focused on education,
you can later install a normal GNU/Linux distribution and add LTSP, once you have figured out
how to get it first working with an LTSP distribution.
Most GNU/Linux distributions use LTSP 4.2 and probably will for many years to come, since it
is well tested and highly optimized for low memory clients. In addition, it supports local devices
on the thin clients better than in the past. LTSP 4.2 uses a custom-compiled Linux 2.6 kernel and
custom system tools. Several years ago James McQuillan started working on a radical redesign of
LTSP, so that the thin clients would use the kernel and system tools of their distribution. LTSP 5
is designed around secure authentication and transmission—a feature which competing thin client
software offered. When booting up, a SSH tunnel is established between the server and the clients
for secure login and communication. McQuillan codenamed LTSP 5 “MueKow” in mockery of
Microsoft's “Longhorn”; like Microsoft's “Longhorn”, “MueKow” has been met with mixed
reviews. Whereas LTSP 4.2 can be setup on almost any GNU/Linux distribution and runs on
clients with as little as 12MB of RAM, LTSP 5 is extremely difficult to implement and requires
clients with 3 or 4 times as much RAM. Currently LTSP 5 is only available in Ubuntu (version
5.10 and later) and Debian 4.0, although there are plans to port it to other distributions like
Gentoo. It is only recommended to use LTSP 5 in Ubuntu, since it is a nightmare to configure in
Debian and essential services like printing and scanning don't work.41
Some older version of GNU/Linux, still use LTSP 4.1, but it is best to avoid it in most cases. One
might assume that LTSP 4.1 would be better for low-memory thin clients, since it uses the older
Linux 2.4 kernel, unlike LTSP 4.2 which uses the 2.6 kernel. Generally the 2.4 kernel is
considered better for older computers, since it takes less memory and supports older hardware-the new Linux 2.6 kernel no longer supports some of the oldest hardware. Nonetheless, it is not
recommended that LTSP 4.1 be used unless you have hardware which requires the Linux 2.4
kernel. The reason is that LTSP 4.1 required at least 20MB in the thin clients, whereas LTSP 4.2
has been slimmed down so it can run on only 12MB RAM (or 8MB if server-side swapping is
enabled). In addition, LTSP 4.2 has much better support for local devices.
4.1.1. Edubuntu
Ubuntu is currently the fastest growing GNU/Linux distribution; and many consider it to be the
41 For instructions on installing LTSP 5 in Debian, see “Installing LTSP in Debian”,
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best of the hundreds of GNU/Linux distributions which are based upon Debian. If you use Ubuntu
or some other Debian derivative, it is recommended that you install Edubuntu for your LTSP
network. Edubuntu is essentially Ubuntu plus LTSP and some educational applications. Edubuntu
is a very nicely packaged distribution with a user-friendly interface, a tasteful design for schools,
and useful graphical tools to manage the LTSP network.
Edubuntu and the other Ubuntu flavors (Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu) are strongly recommended for
people who have no previous experience using GNU/Linux. Unlike many GNU/Linux
distributions which are designed for servers, Ubuntu is better designed for desktop users who
need a simple interface, rather than more advanced options. New versions of Ubuntu comes out
every six months so its versions of software are more up-to-date than most other GNU/Linux
distributions. This 6 month release cycle can be a detriment for servers which need their software
to be well tested for maximum stability, but it is advantageous for thin client networks which are
focused on providing good desktops with the latest software on the clients.
For companies and governments which need tech support, Canonical, the company which makes
Ubuntu, can offer support contracts and special configurations. For people who can't pay for
special support contracts, Ubuntu has excellent help forums and online documentation. Since
Ubuntu is used by a good mix of newcomers and experts, the Ubuntu community has a good
reputation for helping novices get started, but also solving the hard technical problems which vex
expert users. Finally, many prefer Ubuntu because Canonical seems to be more committed to the
ideals of free software than many of the other GNU/Linux companies such as Novell and Red
Hat. Canonical's founder, the South African billionare Mark Shuttleworth, has made a special
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commitment to producing Ubuntu in minority languages42 and using it in poorer schools. The
Shuttleworth Foundation has financed projects to install Edubuntu thin clients in South African
Many are opting for Ubuntu because it comes in only one version for both corporate customers
who can pay and normal people who can't afford to pay for their software. In contrast, most other
commercial versions of GNU/Linux come in a stabler version which costs (such as Red Hat, SuSE
and Linspire) and a more experimental, community version which doesn't cost (such as Fedora
Core, OpenSuSE and Freespire). The stabler versions often aren't true free software because they
include proprietary codecs, drivers, and other proprietary software. The major downside to
Edubuntu and the other Ubuntu flavors is that they only include one windows manager and the
most commonly used programs on the installation CD(s). If you want to use other programs or
other windows managers, you will have to download them from the Ubuntu repositories on the
internet. People who speak any language other than English will also have to download additional
language files when installing Edubuntu. People who don't have access to the internet should
avoid Edubuntu and opt for a distribution like K12LTSP whose installation CDs include the most
of the programs, windows managers, and languages.
4.1.2. Xubuntu
Unfortunately, Edubuntu doesn't run well on clients with less than 96MB of RAM. Edubuntu can
boot up on clients with as little as 48MB of RAM, but it takes significantly longer to load and
multitask. Once the proprietary multimedia codecs (such as MPEG, MP3, etc), proprietary fonts
(TrueType), and other needed extras are added, Edubuntu won't load with only 64 MB RAM. For
client machines with 64MB of RAM, it is recommended to use Xubuntu which uses the lighter
Xfce windows manager. Xfce in Xubuntu has been reconfigured to mimic the GNOME interface
found in Edubuntu, with taskbars on both the top and bottom of the screen. The Xubuntu
Alternative Install CD has an option to install LTSP, but unfortunately I have never gotten LTSP
to install correctly from the CD (versions 6.10 and 7.04). Hopefully future versions of Xubuntu
will correct this problem. Instead, LTSP needs to be reinstalled manually on Xubuntu. See the
section 4.7. Installing a thin client network in Ubuntu 7.04.
Edubuntu and the other favors of Ubuntu are the only GNU/Linux distributions which have been
specially configured to use LTSP 5 (“meukow”). Networks which need the secure authentication
and networking which comes in LTSP 5 should choose Ubuntu. In addition, LTSP 5 clients
should theoretically be more compatible with the server, since they share the same kernel and
configuration. The downside to using LTSP 5 is that it hasn't been optimized for clients with
minimal memory like LTSP 4.2, so it won't work for thin clients with less than 48MB of RAM.
If you want to try out Edubuntu or Xubuntu before installing it on your machine, download the
Desktop CD version, which is a Live CD designed to be booted up from the CD. It won't install
anything on your harddrive, so you can try out the system without any fear of ruining your
42 Canonical's Rosetta and Launchpad projects are designed to translate software into other languages. Some free
software advocates have criticized these projects because they are based upon proprietary code and the concept
that the translations can be privatized and commercialized. Although to be fair, the Shuttleworth Foundation has
also financed the Pootle project for translating online with free software.
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computer's current configuration. Unfortunately there is no option to try out the LTSP server from
the Live CD, so you will need to do a full install on the harddrive to install an LTSP server. To
install a server, you will need to download the 2 Edubuntu Alternative Install CDs. For Xubuntu,
download the Xubuntu Alternative Install CD. These Alternative Install CDs do not have the
graphical installers which are available on the Desktop CDs, but they provide more options.
4.1.3. SkoleLinux
SkoleLinux, which is also known as Debian-edu, is a good option
for people who like the power and flexibility of Debian or who
believe ideologically in free software. SkoleLinux means “School Linux” and was originally
designed by Norwegian developers to run thin clients in their schools. SkoleLinux is an official
subproject of Debian, so it uses all of the Debian software, but the SkoleLinux Installation CDs
include LTSP, a nicer GNOME desktop for schools, and some educational applications.
Debian is the most commonly-used non-commercial distribution. It is created by a democratic
community of over a 1000 volunteers who elect their leaders. Debian developers have a reputation
for technical excellence and vociferous advocacy for free software ideals. Many choose Debian
because of its renowned stability. It is often used by people who run servers or want to configure
their computers for special purposes. Debian can run on 11 different architectures from the
standard x86 to tiny ARM processors. More importantly, its repositories are considered some of
the most reliable and largest in the world. Often the most obscure free software programs are
available in Debian repositories.
The downside to SkoleLinux/Debian is that its administrative tools are not
designed for newcomers, and it frequently resorts to the command line tools,
rather than graphical tools. It especially lacks some of the graphical tools found in
Edubuntu and K12LTSP to administer thin clients. In addition, new versions of
SkoleLinux come out every 18-24 months, rather than every six months as with
Edubuntu and K12LTSP, so the software is more likely to be out of date.
Currently the stable version of SkoleLinux is based upon Debian 3.1 (Sarge), so it
is several years out of date. It is recommended that the “testing” version be used instead. Another
options is to switch to Debian 4.0r0 which was just released in April 2007 and has fairly up-todate software.
SkoleLinux uses LTSP 4.2, so it requires less memory than Edubuntu or even Xubuntu. People
have reported running SkoleLinux with as little as 20MB of RAM, although one reported that the
clients were unable to use sound and USB flash memory sticks at the same time in the 20MB
clients. LTSP thin clients with as little as 12MB RAM can run on a stripped down version of
Debian 4.0 with an extremely light windows manager like FluxBox (although they are more stable
with 16MB RAM). See the section 4.8. Thin client networks for old computers with Debian 4.0r0.
Debian also has an option to use LTSP 5, but it is extremely difficult to configure correctly and
Debian experts recommend sticking with LTSP 4.2 for now.
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4.1.4. K12LTSP
K12LTSP is a GNU/Linux distribution based upon Fedora Core—in fact it even uses the same
version numbers as the Fedora Core which it is based upon. Fedora is the community version of
Red Hat and is designed to be the test ground for software which eventually will be incorporated
into the next version of Red Hat. Although Red Hat calls Fedora “experimental” and regards it as
less stable, it is far more reliable than any operating system from Microsoft and is plenty stable for
an LTSP server.
Unlike Edubuntu and SkoleLinux which are officially part of Ubuntu and Debian respectively,
K12LTSP is an independent project which has been produced by Eric Harrison, Paul Nelson, and
other volunteers at the Portland Linux User's Group since 2000.43 K12LTSP sports a welldesigned GNOME desktop (although Edubuntu's desktop is simpler for new-comers to use). The
main advantage of K12LTSP is its excellent client management tool, which is designed for
supervising the thin clients and is an invaluable tool for teachers who want to monitor a
Like Edubuntu, K12LTSP sports up-to-date desktop applications, since it is based upon Fedora
Core which comes out with a new version every 6 months. K12LTSP usually comes out with its
version a month or two after Fedora Core is officially released. Since there appears to be no plans
to switch to LTSP 5, K12LTSP will probably stick with LTSP 4.2 for the next couple years. This
means that K12LTSP is an excellent choice for older thin clients with little memory. Like Debian
and Ubuntu, Fedora has an excellent online community who are very willing to answer your
questions. For those who are willing to pay, it might be possible to find tech support for
K12LTSP, although most tech support companies only officially support Red Hat, not Fedora.
4.1.5. AbulÉdu
AbulÉdu is a French distribution based upon Knoppix / Debian. It may be useful
for people who prefer KDE, rather than GNOME, although it isn't as well
maintained as SkoleLinux.
4.2. Choosing the Windows Manager for GNU/Linux
Unlike in Windows and Mac which only have one possible graphical user environment,
GNU/Linux allows users to select the graphical environment which is best suited for their needs.
It does this by separating the graphical display which is X-Windows from the windows manager
which controls the menus, taskbars/panels, and management of windows. If fact is is possible to
run GNU/Linux without a windows manager, but there will be no menus and the windows can't be
moved or resized. Locked-down systems which only run one program often run without a
windows manager to prevent users from using the computer for other purposes or tinkering with
the system. playing with the system. There are at least 37 different windows managers for XWindows and the number keeps growing every year.
43 “K12LTSP History”,
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The advantage of all these choices is that the user can select which windows manager to use when
logging in. When the thin clients reboot or the user logs out of a session, login managers such as
kdm and gdm will allow users to enter their user name and password, plus select their language
and their windows manager. If the thin client is an older machine with little memory, then a
lighter windows manager can be selected, but a more powerful windows manager can be selected
for new machines with more memory. (If you don't want to give users these options, use instead
the xdm login manager which only allows the username and password to be entered.)
4.2.1. Heavy windows managers
The best known windows managers are GNOME (GNU Network Object Modeling Environment)
and KDE (which originally meant the “Kool Desktop Environment”). These windows managers
require a great deal of memory and processing power, so they are only suitable for more powerful
thin clients. KDE was started in 1996 by a group of Northern European programmers who wanted
to replace CDE (Common Desktop Environment) which was commonly used in UNIX at the time.
It is extremely configurable, with many options, and visual eye-candy, like bouncing penguins.
KDE is based upon the Qt library from TrollTech, which was a proprietary library at the time and
alarmed many who were committed to the ideals of free software. GNOME was founded in 1997
by two Mexican programmers as a freer alternative, since it is based upon the free GTK+ library.
Because GTK+ and GNOME aren't controlled by any one company like TrollTech, the major
GNU/Linux companies like Red Hat and Novell could invest heavily in their development without
fear. GNOME is considered easier to use since it sports fewer options and has a more staid
appearance which appeals to corporate users. Although power-users generally prefer KDE,
GNOME is recommended for schools and cyber-cafes where many of the users are beginners.
4.2.2. Light windows managers
The heavy memory and processing requirements of GNOME and KDE make them unsuitable for
thin clients with few resources. GNOME can be booted up on a Debian client with a 486
processor and as little as 20MB of RAM, but it won't be able to run once extra goodies such as
proprietary fonts and codecs are installed. It is recommended that GNOME thin clients have a
100MHz Pentium I processor and 32MB RAM if using LTSP 4.2 or 48 MB of RAM if using
LTSP 5. To run well, GNOME clients really need double these minimum requirements.
Fortunately, there are several dozen windows managers designed for older computers which have
less RAM and slower processors. These lighter windows managers work well for thin clients
which have less than 32 MB of RAM. In addition, they work well for servers which have 64 MB
or less of RAM per client.
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One of the best of these lighter windows managers is Xfce, because it provides much of the
graphical functionality of GNOME and KDE, without taxing the computer's resources too
heavily.44 Its only drawbacks are the lack of a few graphical configuration tools and its default CD
burner, xfburn, is woefully inadequate. This isn't much of a problem since CD burners in LTSP
thin clients don't work, although thin clients can be configured to control CD burners installed in
the server. If a CD burner is used in the server, install a more powerful program such as K3B or
GnomeBaker, or a lighter program such as xcdroast.
4.2.3. Extremely light windows managers
For extremely light clients with minimal memory, there are a number of options. IceWM runs
adequately on LTSP 4.2 thin clients with as little as 16MB RAM (or with 12MB RAM if serverside swapping is activated). It has a normal start menu at the bottom of the screen and several
different themes. One of its themes mimics Windows 95, for people who are accustomed to older
Windows machines. IceWM has no graphical configuration tools, so you will be forced to
manually edit the configuration files. For instance, adding a new application to the start menu will
involve opening the menu configuration file, and adding the command to run the application.
For even lighter clients with as little as 12MB of RAM (or 8 MB of RAM with network swapping
enabled), try FluxBox, which doesn't even have start menu or taskbar. In FluxBox you can right
click anywhere on the desktop to display the menu of applications. It takes a while to get used to
FluxBox, and it definitely isn't a good windows manager for places such as an information kiosk
or school lab where the users change frequently. You can give FluxBox a test run with Damn
Small Linux which makes a 50MB Live CD using FluxBox. Download and burn the Live CD,
then reboot your computer and see whether the FluxBox windows manager will work for your
With all the extremely light windows managers, plan on resorting to the command line frequently.
If you don't have the time to learn how to use the command line to manually edit configuration
files, it is probably a better idea to avoid these windows managers. The upside to using extremely
light windows managers is the fact that they are lightning fast and only take a few seconds to
bootup. Since there is little overhead to run these windows managers, programs will load and
close much faster. In addition, light windows managers discourage people from playing with the
system. In business environments when employees attention should be focused on their work,
light windows managers which offer few choices are an easy way to stop people from wasting
time. When there is no screen saver and no background screen options except for a single color, it
simply isn't as fun to fiddle with the settings.45
44 According to tests by Lubos Lunak, KDE actually uses less memory than Xfce or GNOME when used with
normal software applications. See: In my experience with Debian and Ubuntu
does not match these test results.
45 Analysts from Gartner coined a term for this needless fiddling and reformatting called “futzing”, which they
considered to be part of the TCO (total cost of ownership). Capital Cardiology Associates, a medical firm, tried to
calculate the cost of “doodling” which included playing games and fiddling with the settings: $750 (50hrs) per
year on a Windows fat client, $375 (25hrs) on a GNU/Linux fat client, and $15 (1hr) on a GNU/Linux thin client.
Dr. Martin P. Echt and Jordan Rosen, "Linux thin client conversion in a large cardiology practice: initial
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4.3 Getting support for LTSP
Canonical, the company which makes Edubuntu offers support contracts for users of Edubuntu.
Their website does not indicate whether this tech support is available in Spanish or Portuguese or
includes onsite servicing, but it is certainly available via long distance phone and email in English.
In the United States, at least two companies specialize in offering LTSP services. In 1999, James
McQuillan, the founder of LTSP, started the company to offer support,
customizations, and sell LTSP hardware. sells custom ethernet cards for
US$35, which will boot your PC from the network, so it can can become a diskless thin client.
Another company from New York, Symbio Technologies, specializes in setting up LTSP thin
client networks and converting old PCs into diskless clients. Symbio created the useful program,
the Symbiont Workstation Manager (SWM), which is graphical application designed to setup and
configure thin clients.46 Both and Symbio are small companies and
nothing on their websites mentions providing support in Latin America. The best bet in Latin
America is to hire a local expert to setup and/or support the LTSP thin client network. To find
such people, post a message on mailing list or bulletin board of local GNU/Linux User Groups
(LUGs). See this list of LUGs worldwide. Optionally, post a message on the LTSP mailing list.
In most cases, people who have technical questions simply go online and ask other LTSP users.
Remember to be very specific and provide background information for your questions. Specify
your GNU/Linux distribution and its version number and your version of LTSP. If you have a
question about an error message, provide a copy of the complete error message. If you are having
trouble getting your thin client network to run, provide a copy of your LTSP configuration file
(/etc/dhcpd/ltsp.conf in LTSP 4.2 or /etc/ltsp/ltsp.conf in LTSP 5).
LTSP Support Forums:
• ltsp-discuss mailing list: SUBSCRIBE SEARCH ARCHIVES
• IRC Channel - #ltsp at
• Brazilian website for the support of LTSP
• German web based LTSP support forum
• Spanish web based LTSP support forum (new)
• Spanish mailing list for discussing and supporting LTSP
• Greek web based LTSP Support Forum
4.4. Assigning IP addresses
LTSP uses IP addresses to communicate correctly between the server and the thin clients on the
local network. The thin clients can be assigned IP addresses automatically by DHCP (Domain
Host Controller Protocol) which is running from the LTSP server. Otherwise, you will need to
physically assign each thin client an IP number.
experience", Capital Cardiology Associates and Lille Corp., Jun 2004,,
46 The Symbiont Workstation Manager documentation is available in Spanish, English, and French at:
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The LTSP server must have a fixed IP address
to communicate correctly with its thin clients.
This can cause problems when the LTSP
server is automatically assigned an IP number
by a DHCP server on the internet or on the
larger network. To avoid this problem, it is
recommended that the LTSP server have two
two Network Interface Cards (NICs). One
card will be used to connect to the internet or
the larger network, so its IP number can
change without problems. The other NIC will
have a fixed IP number and will handle
communications between the LTSP server and
its thin clients. Since all the clients must go
through the LTSP server to get access to the
internet or the wider network, it is suggested
that the LTSP also have a firewall installed.
What is an Internet Protocol (IP) address?
IP addresses (which are also known as “IP
numbers”) are the four 8-bit numbers which
uniquely identify every domain on the internet.
Domains are locations used on the internet. In some
cases they are addresses to physical machines
connected to the internet, but generally there are
multiple domains hosted on a single server.
Domains generally have a name, such as or which corresponds to an IP address. For
instance, the domain name “” has an IP
address Each 8-bit number in the IP
address is between 0 and 255, so there are 2564 or
4,294,967,296 posible IP addresses. When you type
in “”, your web browser knows which IP
address to use, because it connects to a special server
on the internet known as a Domain Name Server
(DNS) which returns the IP address for each domain
The easiest way to set up the LTSP server is
to install a DHCP daemon which will automatically assign the IP numbers to the thin clients every
time they reboot. Once the thin client network is functioning without problems, you can go back
and assign fixed IP numbers to the clients. Some people like to do this, because it make it easier to
identify thin clients by their IP numbers. Thin clients can also be identified by their MAC
numbers, which are the six 8-bit hexadecimal numbers such as 00-C0-9F-F6-CC-B3 which are
assigned to every NIC. Normal names like “Einstein” or “workstation1” can also be assigned to
the thin clients based upon their IP numbers or MAC numbers.
4.5. Alternative ways to setup thin client networks in GNU/Linux
Diskless Remote Boot in Linux (DRBL)
A less known alternative to LTSP is Diskless Remote Boot in Linux (DRBL) from the NCHC
Free Software Labs in Taiwan. DRBL is free software and can be installed on almost any
distribution of GNU/Linux, including Debian, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Red Hat, Fedora, CentOS and
SuSE. Many consider DRBL to be better than LTSP because it allows for distributed hardware
resources between the server and the clients. In other words, DRBL can share the RAM between
the server and the clients and utilize the client's harddrive for server swap space. Moreover, DRBL
is able to fully detect the local hardware of the clients, so it doesn't require complicated fiddling to
use local drives like LTSP.47 DRBL also includes Clonezilla, a partitioning and disk cloning utility
similar to Symantec Ghost. Therefore DRBL is an excellent option for thin client networks which
need to be returned to their previous state. For instance, an administer of a cyber-cafe or school
lab who wants revert all the computers in the network to their original format each morning might
47 Frank Tuzi, “DRBL: A quick and easy thin client server”, 2 Oct 2006,
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want to use DRBL with Clonezilla. Unfortunately, DRBL is less supported and doesn't have any
GNU/Linux distributions like Edubuntu, Skolelinux and K12LTSP which are specifically
designed around it. Nor does it have a companies like Canonical, Symbio Technology and supporting its development or offering tech support.
2X TerminalServer
2X TerminalServer is an attractive alternative to LTSP and DRBL for people who want more
polished software with a nice graphical administration tools and a user-friendly setup. Like LTSP
and DRBL, 2X TerminalServer is free software for creating GNU/Linux networks with XWindows thin clients, but it offers graphical management tools to administer the terminal server
remotely from any web browser. By default 2X TerminalServer uses the NX protocol, which
compresses and encrypts standard X-Windows video so it can reduce the network load and create
Wide Area Networks (WANs) which function over phone lines and low-bandwidth connections.
NX compression can also be enabled in DRBS and LTSP, but it isn't included by default and is
more difficult to implement. Like LTSP 5.0, 2X TerminalServer tunnels all communication to the
clients through SSH for greater security. 2X TerminalServer can be used in mixed environment
networks as well, since it can translate and tunnel Microsoft's RDP, Citrix's ICA, and the VNC
protocols to the clients.
TerminalServer is developed by 2X, an innovative company which originally started as the PXES
free software project to create diskless thin clients. It proved to be such a popular program, that its
founder decided to start the company 2X to commercialize thin client software. 2X has since
created a number of proprietary products to compete with Citrix, Microsoft and ThinSoft. 2X
encourages people who don't need tech support to use TerminalServer for gratis, but also offers
tech support contracts for customers who need more handholding and user assistance.
2X TerminalServer can be used in disked thin clients, but it also works in diskless thin clients,
since it has incorporated the old free software project PXES into TerminalServer. Like
Thinstation, PXES was based upon the old Netstation project and boots up diskless clients by
transferring a basic operating system over the network to the client. 2X TerminalServices (with
PXES incorporated) is better packaged and the graphical startup screen is nicer than the scrolling
bare text on the startup of Thinstation and LTSP. It is probably better in corporate environments
where appearance is crucial, but it requires that the client machines have at least 32MB RAM. For
this reason, it is not recommended that 2X TerminalServer be used with extremely old hardware
like LTSP.
Thinstation is a free software project based upon the now-defunct netstation project, which
creates diskless clients in almost any type of thin client network. Like LTSP and DRBL,
Thinstation transfers a basic GNU/Linux operating system over the network and loads it into the
RAM of the clients. LTSP and DRBL, however, include a terminal server, whereas Thinstation
simply displays terminals from almost any type of terminal server. It can handle Microsoft's RDP,
Citrix's ICA, X (X-Windows protocol), NX (compressed X-Windows protocol), 2X ThinClient,
Cendio ThinLinc, Tarantella, VNC, telnet, tn5250, VMS term, and SSH protocols. Thinstation's
flexibility allows diskless thin clients to be setup in almost any kind of network. Many network
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administrators turn to Thinstation when they want to setup Windows terminals, but they don't
want to pay for expensive operating system licenses on the client machines. Using diskless thin
clients saves on hardware costs, since there are no harddrives, CD-ROMs, or floppy drives to buy.
Since there are no moving parts, there are are few hardware failures (which become increasingly
common with older machinery). Most importantly, there are no operating systems on the
harddrives of the client computers to worry about, freeing up the network administrator for more
important tasks.
Sometimes it is necessary to access another computer on the network. There are a number of
options for creating this type of hybrid client which can use the local operating system, but can
also access the resources of another computer. Many network administrators who want to
remotely control another computer install a graphical desktop sharing program such as VNC
(Virtual Network Computing) or tightVNC. This program transmits the keyboard and mouse
events from a remote computer to a host computer, then relays screen updates back over the
network. VNC runs on almost all platforms including Windows, UNIX and Mac, and is very
useful when trying to connect to another type of computer. For instance, many network
administrators on Windows machines, use VNC to remotely control a GNU/Linux server.
VNC for Windows is designed for one computer to remotely access another computer, rather than
creating a whole network of thin clients. VNC on UNIX or GNU/Linux, however, can initiate
multiple desktop sessions, so that it can be used to create a thin client network. VNC can't bootup
diskless thin clients (although it might be possible to run VNC inside a diskless client).
rdesktop, which stands for “remote desktop”, displays Microsoft's RDP protocol on a UNIX or
GNU/Linux machine. rdesktop allows GNU/Linux clients to use the Terminal Services from a
machine running Windows Server NT 4.0/2000/2003. rdesktop is extremely useful in mixed
networks where GNU/Linux and Windows clients have to share a network. Some network
administrators who want to save on licensing costs also use rdesktop on GNU/Linux clients, so
that they can use buy expensive Microsoft Windows operating system licenses for each client. As
an added benefit, they don't have to worry as much about managing the clients, since GNU/Linux
machines rarely acquire virus, spyware, and malware. They rarely become misconfigured and
users can't install unwanted software as easily as on a Windows client. Typically rdesktop is used
in clients which have a local operating system installed on their harddrive, but rdesktop it can also
be used with diskless clients. Thinstation and 2X have incorporated rdesktop into their software,
and rdesktop can be run on a thin client network with LTSP or DRBL.
4.6. Installing a LTSP thin client network with Edubuntu 6.06
This is a quick dirty guide to installing Edubuntu 6.06 LTS which is designed for beginners. It
will not cover all the possible installation options, nor will it cover many of the advanced topics.
These instructions will only setup a basic LTSP thin client network. You should be prepared to
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read the documentation online and/or ask questions in the Ubuntu forums if you run into problems
or want to configure your network in a special way.
If you have the latest version of Edubuntu which is currently 7.04, it is essentially the same
installation process as 6.06 LTS, but a couple of the installation steps have been reduced by
providing default values. See the Edubuntu 7.04 release notes here. If you plan on installing
multiple operating systems on the same computer, see Appendix D: Multibooting.
4.6.1. Downloading Edubuntu
The Edubuntu installation CD is available for download from Chose the ISO CD image which is designed for the the
architecture of your LTSP server. If you have Intel (x86) based machine such as a Pentium 4,
Pentium D, Pentium Core 2 Duo, or a Xeon or old 32 bit AMD processor, chose the file that ends
in i386.iso. If you have a 64 bit AMD processor such as an Athlon64, Athlon64 2X or
Opteron, chose the file that ends in amd64.iso. PowerPC processors which are used in IBM
Power and Macs (before Apple decided to switch to Intel processors), should use ppc.iso. If
unsure which processor your server uses, download the file ending in i386.iso. Once you have
downloaded the ISO image with your favorite download manager (such as GetRight or wget),
burn the ISO image to a CD. See Appendix A: Downloading and installing software and burning
CD/DVD images.
Insert the CD into the machine which you want to be your LTSP server and reboot the computer
to proceed with the installation.
4.6.2. Installation
When the CD starts up, you will be greeted by a startup screen with various options:
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At the startup screen it recommended to first select the option Check CD for defects and scan the
installation CD for any defects that might have been caused during downloading or burning the
CD. Although it takes an extra 7-15 minutes to check a CD for defects, it is worth the trouble
because you don't want to discover an error in your CD half-way through an installation.
If the CD is scanned without problems, the computer will reboot and return to the startup screen.
At the startup screen you can also set advanced options such as the display setting for your
monitor by pressing the appropriate function keys listed at the bottom of the screen. Normally you
won't need to select any of these advanced options, but if your installation runs into problems, you
may need to return to this screen and select the options for your computer.
To begin the installation of a thin client server, select Install to hard disk. This is the default
option, so it will be selected automatically if you press Enter.
The Edubuntu installer will start, some text messages should flash across the screen for a couple
seconds. When the language selection screen appears, use the arrow keys and press Enter to
select the language which you want to use, such as Spanish - español or Portuguese (Brazilian)
- Português (Brasileiro). This language will also be your default language for your system when
it finishes installing.
Next, choose your location. This option will determine your time zone as well.
Then, choose your keyboard layout. In Latin America, most keyboards are Latin American,
United States—international or Spain.
The Edubuntu installer will try to detect your networking hardware, and then prompt you for an IP
(Internet Protocol) address, which identifies your computer on the network. If you're installing a
terminal server, and are unsure what to enter here, use "".
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Next, enter the netmask, which will generally be "".
Next, choose the default gateway. If you don't currently have one, use “”.
Next, enter your domain name server (DNS) address. If your thin client network will have access
to the internet, enter the IP address to a domain name server on the internet, such as
“”. If your thin client network won't have internet access, you can use the IP
address of your server.
Next, enter your proxy server address. Most of the time this field will be left blank, unless the
computers on your network have to go through a proxy server to get access to the internet. If you
don't have a proxy server, leave this field blank by simply pressing Enter.
The next step is partitioning your harddrive. If you don't plan to run any other operating system on
the computer and don't have any data that you want to save, then choose the option "Erase Entire
If you want to keep your existing data and/or operating systems on your harddrive, the partitioner
has an option to automatically resize the existing partitions to make space for a new partition
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where Edubuntu will be installed. You will be given the option to decide how large this new
partition will be. If you don't know, it is best to accept the default sizes selected by the partitioner.
Another option is to manually partition your harddrive. Remember that you will need one partition
for Edubuntu and one swap partition. Edubuntu will need at least 2.5GB of disk space, but you
will probably want to provide much more. The swap partition is the overflow space used when
there isn't enough room in your RAM. Often when switching from one program to another, the
memory from the old program is stored in the swap partition. The swap partition should be at least
as large as your RAM, so if you have 1024MB of RAM, make your swap a tad larger to hold all
the memory in the RAM.
Unfortunately, manual partitioning does not provide an option to resize existing partitions. If you
want to resize an existing partition and still use manual partitioning, you will need to exit the
installer by rebooting. The easiest way to resize an existing partition is to use one of the Ubuntu
Live CDs which has the gparted disk partioner. If you don't have one, download the Edubuntu
Desktop CD. When the Live CD boots up, open “Disk Partioner” which is found in the System
menu. From there you can resize an existing partition. Then exit and reboot using the Edubuntu
Alternate Install CD and start the installation all over again.
Next, confirm that the partitioning by choosing "Yes":
You will then be prompted to enter information for the first user that will be added to the system.
This user will have administrator rights to the system. Since you are setting up a thin client
network, you will probably want a generic name, such as “Network Administrator".
Next, enter a username for this user. The username must be a single word containing only
lowercase letters and no spaces, such as "admin" or "sysadmin".
Enter a password for the user. Avoid using weak passwords such as "admin" or any other words
you might find in a dictionary. Also avoid simple passwords or patterns on your keyboard. A
strong password contains a mix of upper-case, lower-case, numbers, and symbols, such as
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"l8eM5piiMr2" or "pt0-3f!steE". Remember that all the users of your thin client network will
probably be storing their files on the server. The only account which will have access to all that
data will be this user who has administrator rights. People might have reasons to want to crack
this account and get access to that data, so it is a good idea to set a strong password.
You will need to confirm the password by typing it again in the password confirmation dialog.
Now, the Edubuntu installer will start installing the base system, which can take a long time
depending on the speed of your system.
If you are curious about what is being installed on your system, each package is listed while it is
extracted (decompressed) and installed. The installer will not only install the operating system for
the server, but it will also build another operating system which thin clients will use to boot. This
is often referred to as the "thin client environment" or the "LTSP chroot".
Once the base system is installed, you will be asked to provide information about your graphics
system. Select the resolutions that your graphics card and monitor is capable of displaying. If
you're unsure, simply press ENTER, the installer should detect the correct capabilities of your
The installer will then complete the Edubuntu installation, and you will be prompted to reboot.
Remove the Edubuntu CD and press Enter (Entregar) to reboot. You should now be able to
bootup in Edubuntu.
4.6.3. Configuring the Diskless Thin Clients
The minimum requirements for an Edubuntu thin client computer is a Pentium II with 48MB
RAM and a 2BM graphics card. Recommended specifications are at least a Pentium II 300Mhz
with 64MB RAM and a 4MB graphics card. If proprietary goodies are added such as fonts
(TrueType), codecs (MPEG, MP3, WMA, etc.), Adobe Flash and Shockwave, SUN Java, and 3D
graphics drivers from nVidia or ATI, the thin clients will need a minimum of 96MB or 128MB of
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72 PXE (Pre-eXecution Environment)
The thin client computers will also need to be able to boot over the network. Most newer
motherboards (and network cards) built after 1999 have built-in PXE software that allows a
computer to boot from the network. The BIOS of the thin client computer will have to be
configured to allow the computer to be booted from the network. Reboot the client and press F2,
Escape, or whatever key allow you to enter the BIOS. (If you don't know, a message will usually
flash by during boot telling you which key to press). Once in the BIOS, check to see whether there
is an option to enable “PXE” or “Network Boot”. If this option exists, enable it. Then look for the
device boot order of your computer. Generally you find that CD-ROM or hardrive are the first
devices listed for your computer. Put “Ethernet” o “Network” as the first device on the list. If you
don't see any of these options, then you probably don't have PXE on your computer, so you will
have to use EtherBoot to network boot. If your motherboard has a built-in NIC, the BIOS option
will often only work for the built-in NIC, but won't work for a NIC on an add-in card. EtherBoot
EtherBoot is a program loaded onto a floppy, harddrive, optical drive, the EPROM in a NIC
(Network Interface Card) or inside the motherboard's BIOS which allows a computer to boot off
the network. Etherboot is not compatible with all NICs. EtherBoot can work with older ISA NICs
and 10Mb/s PCI NICs, but it is recommended that you go and find a newer 10/100 Mb/s PCI NIC
if your motherboard will support it. 10/100 PCI NICs can be bought new for as little as US$5 each
and often they can be found used for as little as US$2. Many people recommend using the same
type of NIC in all the machines, since it greatly simplifies network management. Once they find
one compatible NIC, they buy the same NIC for all their machines.
The first step is to find out whether your NIC is compatible with EtherBoot. If you are using a PCI
NIC, you will need to know its PCI number. Below are instructions for doing this in GNU/Linux
and Windows.
In GNU/Linux
If the thin client is running GNU/Linux, open a terminal window, and enter as root (or the user
with administrator rights if using Ubuntu/Edubuntu). If you don't have GNU/Linux installed, then
use a Live CD to boot up into Linux. (If you don't have a Live CD, then download a Edubuntu
Desktop CD).
Then use lspci to find the PCI number.
(or sudo -i if using Ubuntu/Edubuntu)
enter root password (or first user password if Ubuntu/Edubuntu)
lspci -l
Once you have found the NIC in the list of PCI devices, then find and copy down its PCI number:
lspci -n
In MS Windows
If using Microsoft Windows, the NIC might be identified by the Windows Device Manager. Right
click on the “My Computer” icon and select “Manage”, then click “Device Manager”. It can also
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be opened with the command “devmgmt.msc” in DOS or from Start > Run. Once inside the
Windows Device Manager, select “Network Adapters”, and double click on your NIC to open the
Properties window. Select the “Details” tab. In the drop-down box, look for the property “Device
Instance ID”. The ID will list the PCI Vender number, then the Device number. It will appear in a
form like “PCI/VEN_10EC&DEV_8139...” In this case, copy down “10EC 8139”.
If you can't find the PCI number, several several 'detective' programs that may be of aid in
identifying your NIC can be found at
Check the list of NICs and chips on the EtherBoot web site to see whether your NIC will work
and which EtherBoot driver you need. Make sure to read the comments, because sometimes a
jumper has to be enabled, a different port set, etc. Making an EtherBoot boot floppy disk
To create a network boot floppy, go to the website ROM-O-Matic (, which
has made EtherBoot drivers for different NICs. Chose the latest production release of the
software. (At the time of this writing, it is version 5.4.3). If you have an older NIC (especially an
ISA card), you may have to search through some of the older versions of EtherBoot to find the
driver for your card.
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After selecting the EtherBoot version, you will be presented with a web form to select the
EtherBoot driver for your NIC. First, select your NIC (Network Interface Card) type from a pulldown menu. You may be able to find your NIC according to its chipset, or you may need to search
for its PCI number.
Then, select which format EtherBoot will be installed on. If you are creating a boot floppy, select
“Floppy bootable ROM image (.zdsk)”. The formats with z, such as .zdsk are compressed,
whereas .dsk is uncompressed. The compressed format should work in almost all cases.
You can configure EtherBoot to use a number of options. One which might be useful is the
number of seconds to wait at bootup before starting the EtherBoot program. By default, this is 10
seconds, but you might want to set it to 0 if the computers will always boot up as thin clients. If
you want users of your thin client network to have a choice whether to boot up as thin clients or
not, you might set this to a longer time period.
Click on the “Get ROM” button to begin downloading an EtherBoot floppy image.
Once you have downloaded the EtherBoot floppy image, you can write the image to a floppy
in either a Windows computer or GNU/Linux computer.
In a GNU/Linux computer:
Insert a blank floppy disk in the drive and open a terminal window. Switch to the directory
where you downloaded the floppy boot image and issue the command:
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cat etherbootfile.zdsk > /dev/fd0
Replace “etherbootfile.zdsk” with the name of the floppy boot image which you downloaded
from the ROM-O-Matic website.
In a Windows computer:
You will need to obtain the program Rawrite2, which can be downloaded here or can be found
on Thinstation's “Universal Network Boot Floppy” (see below). Once you have obtained
Rawrite2, open DOS. (In Windows XP, DOS can be opened at Start->All Programs->
Accessories->System Symbol). Inside the DOS window, switch to the directory where you
have downloaded your EtherBoot floppy image and issue the command:
rawrite2 -d A -f etherbootfile.zdsk
Replace “etherboofile.zdsk” with the EtherBoot floppy image which you downloaded from the
ROM-O-Matic website.
You will need to make EtherBoot floppies for all the computers which will be thin clients on your
network. If you have an ISA NIC rather than the standard PCI NIC, you will follow the same
procedure for creating an EtherBoot floppy, but you will also need to modify the dhcp.conf file to
correct use the ISA NIC. See the section 4.8.7. Using ISA network cards.
EtherBoot runs more slowly off a floppy or CD, but it is the easiest to test on those formats.
Once you have verified that it works off a floppy or CD, you may want to install EtherBoot on
your harddrive or burn an EPROM on a NIC. Alternatives to using ROM-O-Matic
If you have many different types of NICs in your thin client network, downloading and
creating a dozens of different boot floppies can be a real hassle. Thinstation has created a
handy “Universal Network Boot Floppy” with EtherBoot drivers for the 30 most common
types of NICs. In addition, thin station has created Universal Network Boot programs to install
on harddrives and CDs. To use Thinstation's floppy, download from
Thinstation's downloads page. In GNU/Linux, issue these commands to create the floppy:
cp ebnet522.dsk /dev/fd0
If your thin clients have a CD-ROM drive, 2X has created the ThinClientOS v.4.1 CD to boot
with EtherBoot drivers for every type of supported NIC. This is a very useful tool when you
don't know which EtherBoot driver to use. The CD image can be downloaded here.
Set the client to boot from floppy
Enter the BIOS of each client computer by rebooting and pressing F2, ESCAPE, or some similar
key. (There should be a message at startup which tells you which key to press to enter the BIOS.)
Look for the boot order and set the floppy drive as the first boot device. Save your settings and
exit the BIOS.
4.6.4. Connect the computers
Connect all the computers in a star topology, which means that each workstation and the server
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are connected directly to the networking switch. For security purposes a firewall can be connected
directly to the server or to the switch. If you will be connecting to the internet, it is recommended
that the network also have a firewall which can be connected to the switch or directly to the
server. It is recommended that the firewall be connected directly to the server, since it saves an
extra port on your switch and is easier to configure:
Once all your computers are connected, you may need to adjust the settings on your server. If you
set your server's IP address as "" or any IP address ranging from to, then you probably won't need to change anything. If you chose an IP address in
another range, such as, then you will need to edit the DHCP daemon's configuration
file on the server. Open a terminal windows by going to the Applications menu, pointing to
Accessories, and clicking on Terminal.
Now log in as your administrator user (this is the first user account which you created when
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installing edubuntu):
sudo -i
Enter the password to the administrator user
nano /etc/ltsp/dhcpd.conf
( If you want to use a graphical editor you can use: gedit /etc/ltsp/dhcpd.conf )
The dhcpd.conf file will look something like the following:
subnet netmask {
option domain-name "";
option domain-name-servers;
option broadcast-address;
option routers;
option subnet-mask;
filename "/ltsp/pxelinux.0";
option root-path "/opt/ltsp/i386";
You will need to change all the IP addresses to the same network as your server. So if you server
has an IP address of, then all the occurences of "192.168.0" need to be changed to
"10.0.0". In this example, your dhcpd.conf file will low look like:
subnet netmask {
option domain-name "";
option domain-name-servers;
option broadcast-address;
option routers;
option subnet-mask;
filename "/ltsp/pxelinux.0";
option root-path "/opt/ltsp/i386";
If your clients will be connecting to the internet, you may want to set the Domain Name Server to
the address of a Domain Name Server on the internet, such as:
option domain-name-servers;
Remember to watch the semi-colons at the end of the lines and don't accidentally erase them.
When done editing the file, close and save it.
If you altered the dhcpd.conf file, you will need to restart the DHCP server:
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/etc/init.d/dhcp3-server restart
When DHCP server is restarting, the last message must display an [ ok ] tag at the end of the line.
The first tag may say [ fail ] if the server is not started yet. This is normal.
Your thin clients should now be able to boot up from the server. If it doesn't work, try rebooting
the server. Once the server is running, try rebooting a client. When the client booting, you should
see a message indicating that it is searching for an IP address from the DHCP server. If it is
unable to obtain an IP address, then your DHCP server is either not running, or you might have
another DHCP server on the network which is creating a conflict. If you suspect the latter case,
disconnect your thin client network from the internet or the wider network. If the clients are able
to boot up without any problems, then you probably have a second DHCP server on your network.
To get around this problem, the easiest solution is to buy a second NIC for your server and
connect it to the internet or the wider network. The thin client computers will be running off their
own private local network, so they won't interfere with the other DHCP server.
Another possible solution is to limit the range of both DHCP servers so they don't overlap. In the
LTSP server, you can limit the range by changing the range option in the dhcpd.conf file. For
instance if you only want to assign IP numbers between 60 and 80 to your clients, you could set
the range option:
If you run into any problems, post a message at or subscribe to the
edubuntu-users mailing list at Fine-tuning the thin client setup
You might want to alter the setup of some of the workstations. For example, you might want to
disable or enable sound, or you'd like to change the display resolution, or even the keyboard
layout. The Edubuntu server has the option of a configuration file to fine-tune your thin client
settings. This file is available at /opt/ltsp/(ARCH)/etc/lts.conf. Replace (ARCH) with your
architecture, for example, if you installed the i386 version, you'll need to create a file under the
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name /opt/ltsp/i386/etc/lts.conf, as it is not installed by default, and then open it for editing.
Below is an example of an lts.conf file:
# The Default section covers settings that apply to all thin clients
# XSERVER: Thin client display driver. Drivers examples:
# ati cirrus cyrix fbdev i128 i740 i810 mga neomagic nv
# r128 radeon rendition s3 s3virge savage siliconmotion
# sis tdfx tga trident tseng vesa vga.
XSERVER = auto
# Keyboard type. In Latin America, keyboard type is likely to
# be "es(pc104)" or "es(pc105)"
XkbSymboles = "us(pc101)"
# US-style keyboards only have 101 keys (or 102 keys for the
# Windows key). Most keyboards in Latin America, have 104
# keys for the extra spanish letters (or 105 for Windows Key)
XkbModel = "pc101"
#Keyboard layout. If have spanish keys: “es”
XkbLayout = "us"
RCFILE_02 = floppyd
# SOUND: Enable / Disable Sound. Options: True False
SOUND = True
# NETWORK_COMPRESSION: Enable / Disable Network compression.
# Options: True False
# ----> End of DEFAULT section ---->
#[MAC ADDRESS]: unique number identifying each thin client
XSERVER = vesa
This example file covers a lot of lts.conf settings. The # signs at the beginning of the line indicates
a comment, it makes no difference if these lines are removed, all lines starting with a "#" are
ignored by the system. There's two sections in this example lts.conf file. The Default secion, and
the section that contains an address of one of the workstations (00:11:25:84:CE:BA). Settings that
apply to all workstations belong in the default section, while exceptions belong in per thin client
setting sections. Within each section, you can use various tags to explain what you'd like to
change. For example, if I'd like to specify that all my thin clients use NVidia display cards, I can
use a tag called "XSERVER" to specify this. "XSERVER = nv" would specify that I have NVidia
display cards installed. If I have one computer with another display card, for example, an S3 Virge
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card, I could simply specify "XSERVER = s3virge" under it's MAC address and the setting will
take effect the next time the workstation is rebooted.
4.6.5. Finding the MAC address
The MAC address consists of six 8-bit hexidecimal numbers which uniquely identifies every NIC,
including wireless adaptors. You can usually get the workstation's MAC address while the
machine is booting up with PXE or EtherBoot. It displays the MAC address while requesting an
IP address from the server. You can make it display this address for a longer period by unplugging
the network cable. If you are using ISA network cards, you can also obtain the NIC driver name
and IO address and interrupt of the workstation's NIC from the workstation screen using the same
If your workstation has Windows installed on it, you can also find the MAC address by typing
ipconfig /all in a DOS window. If it has GNU/Linux installed, you can find it by typing
ifconfig in a terminal. (You will need to be the user with administrator rights in Ubuntu or root
in other GNU/Linux distributions).
For more information
For more information on how to configure thin clients in Edubuntu 6.06 LTS, see notes on how to
configure settings for Edubuntu 6.06 LTS, see:
The latest release, Edubuntu 7.04, provides additional options for customizing the thin client
behavior. They are documented in the Edubuntu Handbook, which is available in the Edubuntu
System Help menu.
4.7. Installing a thin client network in Ubuntu 7.04
Installing LTSP on an Ubuntu/Xubuntu/Kubuntu system requires a good internet connection and
some patience to download the chroot environment for the clients. If you are using a slow internet
connection, you might want to leave this to run all night.
If you are using Xubuntu and tried to install LTSP with the Alternative Install CD, you probably
got an error. If so, you will need to first delete the chroot environment at /opt/ltsp before
following these instructions. See the section If you got an error... below.
Assuming that you have successfully installed Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Xubuntu, the universe and
multiverse repositories should be added so that you can download software which isn't in
Ubuntu's main repository. You can either use the graphical program Synaptic or the command
4.7.1. Adding repositories with Synaptic
Select Gestor de Paquetes Synaptic in the Sistema menu. In the Synaptic application, select
Configuración : Repositorios. In the Repositorios dialog box, put check marks next to Universe
and Multiverse, then click Update.
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4.7.2. Adding repositories from the command line
To add the universe and multiverse repositories from the command line, open a terminal window
and log in as the user with administrator rights:
sudo -i
[enter the password]
nano etc/apt/sources.list
Add the lines:
deb feisty main restricted universe multiverse
deb-src feisty main restricted universe multiverse
If using version 6.10, replace “feisty” with “edgy”. For version 6.06, use “dapper”. For version
5.10, use “breezy”.
Then update the list of available packages:
apt-get update
4.7.3. Installing the LTSP Server:
If not already the user with administrative rights, you will need to log in:
sudo -i
[Enter password]
Then install the LTSP server:
apt-get install ltsp-server-standalone
Then install and configure the LTSP client image so it will be placed in the /opt/ltsp directory and
ready for the clients to use when they connect to the server at bootup.
This script will download over 100MB of programs from the internet and install them in the
chroot environment being constructed at /opt/ltsp. If you have a slow internet connection, be
prepared for a very long wait.
4.7.4. If you get an error...
Unfortunately, this script doesn't have very good error recovery, and there is no easy way to
correct the installation if something goes wrong. If your internet connection breaks or an error
arises while installing, the script will stop. The only way to safely recover is to delete the chroot
environment at /opt/ltsp and start over from scratch. If you aren't the user with administrator
rights, first log in:
sudo -i
Then delete the chroot environment for your clients:
rm -rd /opt/ltsp
Then start over:
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4.8. Thin client networks for old computers with Debian
Here are step-by-step instructions to set up a LTSP 4.2 server for a thin client network of old
machines containing 32MB of RAM or less. Old 486s, Pentium Is and Pentium IIs with little
RAM won't function well with the standard GNOME or KDE desktop used in most GNU/Linux
distributions. You can't expect the kind of performance found in new clients, but you can
dramatically improve performance in low-memory machines by using a minimal instalation of
GNU/Linux with X-Windows and a light windows manager such as FluxBox, IceWM or Xfce.
These instructions are for setting up a thin client which allows the user to select the windows
manager, but you may want to only install one windows manager depending on the memory in
your thin clients. Thin clients with 12MB of RAM can probably only handle FluxBox (or 8MB of
RAM with network swapping enabled). Clients can run IceWM with as little as 16MB. (Xfce will
also run at 16MB, but it isn't recommended.) With 20MB or more, clients can handle Xfce (and
even GNOME without most panel options enabled.) With 24MB or more, clients can run a
minimal instalation of GNOME.
These thin clients will be able to run standard word processors, spreadsheets and web browsers.
Their multimedia capabilities, however, will be very limited, although most machines with 20MB
RAM or more should be able to play sound.
Probably any GNU/Linux distribution can be used to build a thin client network for low-memory
clients, but Debian was chosen because it is a system designed for building minimal systems and
adding only the needed parts. Slackware would also be a good choice, although it requires more
experience to maintain. In addition, many of Slackware's tools haven't been translated to Spanish
and Portuguese.
Note: If trying to install an LTSP server with Debian 3.1, see this how-to. For some odd reason, these
instructions didn't work for me using Debian 3.1.r6, because an error was generated when trying to
install a base system without selecting a desktop. If you encounter this problem, try using an earlier
release of Debian 3.1.
4.8.1. If installing a mult-boot system in the LTSP server
If you want to install more than one operating system on your server's harddrive, you should
probably repartition your harddrive before installing Debian. You will need to create an additional
partition for Debian and a swap partition (if you don't already have one). The easiest way to do
this is to use a Live CD with a disc partitioner such as gparted.
4.8.2. Get the Debian 4.0 installation CD/DVDs
Download the Debian 4.0 Network Install CD, which is only 180MB and burn it to a CD. The
following instructions are for installing using the Network Install CD. If you don't have an internet
48 These installation instructions are based mainly upon two sources: Carlos E. Morimoto, “Terminais leves com o
LTSP - Atualizado para o LTSP 4.2”, 8 Dec 2006,; “HowTo Install LTSP 4.1 in Debian 3.1 Sarge & Etch: A Step-by-Step Guide for the Beginner”, revised 26 Sep 2006,
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connection where you will be installing your LTSP server, then you will need to obtain the first
Debian 4.0 installation DVD or the first 6 installation CDs.49 In addition, download the LTSP CD
which contains all the files that you will need for the LTSP instalation at
4.8.3. Installing the Debian Operating System
1. Insert the instalation CD (or DVD) and reboot your computer. If the computer doesn't boot
from the CD, reboot and press F2, ESCAPE or whatever key is used to enter the BIOS in your
computer. Set the CD as the first device in the boot order.
2. At the first screen, enter "installgui" to use the graphical installer.
3. If Debian will be the only operating system on your harddrive, let Debian automatically
partition your harddrive. If you want to put more than one operating system on your harddrive or
create a special setup with multiple partitions, you will need to manually edit the partition table.
Setup the root (/) partition first. Make selections as follows:
Use "Ext3 file system".
Format the partition: "Yes"
Mount point: "/"
Write down the root partition's ID# - i.e., /dev/hda6. You will need this information later.
Next setup the /home and swap partitions.
4. The Debian base system will then be installed.
5. Choose to install GRUB on the the master boot record (MBR) of the harddrive.
6. After Debian reboot, you will need to setup the time. If you plan to run Windows on the same
machine, then don't choose UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), otherwise it is recommended to
use UTC.
7. Set a root password, which is the password that you use to administer the LTSP server. Make
sure to use a mixture of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols if your thin client network
will have internet access or it will have users who might be curious enough to try and crack the
system. (Yes, students in classrooms will try to do this.)
8. If the server will have internet access, choose the mirror to a repository where additional
software can be downloaded. Generally it is a better idea to chose an FTP mirror from your
country or a nearby country, but some the mirrors in Latin America are extremely slow. If you
aren't sure if the mirrors in our country are fast, the safest bet is to use the mirror
“” from the United States. If you don't have internet access, just choose your
installation CDs as your repository.
Apt-get, which is Debian's downloader and installer, will then connect to the mirror and update
the sources list.
49 You only need to download the CDs which contain the programs which you need. Go to and enter the name of the program and your computer's architecture. For
instance, if you want to install IceWM on a 32bit Pentium machine, search for “icewm _i386”.
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9. Do NOT choose any additional packages for installation. Installation of files will be completed.
10. During setup of the mail system, accept all defaults. Install X-Windows
After Debian finishes installing, log in with the username and password that you created. Then
switch to root to install all the additional software:
Enter the root password
At this stage Debian has no graphic capabilities, so you need to install X-Windows:
apt-get install x-window-system
Allow the x-server to autodetect your video hardware. It may have trouble identifying correctly
your type of mouse and mouse port. In that case, you will need to choose the type of mouse and
the port. For the correct settings, see these configuration examples in the manual.
Chose the MEDIUM option for selecting your monitor's characteristics.
A windows manager is needed in order to be able to use windows and menus inside X-Windows.
Here are instructions to install 3 windows managers (FluxBox, IceWM, and Xfce), so that users of
the thin clients can choose their windows manager when they log in. If you don't want to give
users that choice, only install one of the windows managers. In addition, a desktop manager is
needed so that users can login. If you want your users the option to select their language and
windows manager, install gdm. If you only want them to be able to enter their username and
password, install xdm, which doesn't offer any options.
apt-get install icewm fluxbox xfce gdm
(remove the unwanted programs)
If you want to use gdm, you will need to configure it by selecting "gdm", not the default "xdm."
You will also need a text editor so you can edit configuration files. If you want command line text
editor that runs in a terminal window, install nano for a simple text editor and vi or emacs for an
advanced text editor. For an X-Windows text editor which has a graphical user interface (GUI),
install xedit for systems with little memory or gedit for systems with more memory.
apt-get install nano vi emacs xedit gedit (remove the unwanted programs)
You will also need to chose a file manager. Midnight Commander (mc) is a basic file manager
which runs inside a terminal. For a GUI file manager, chose Nautilus for systems with more
memory or Thunar for systems with less memory.
apt-get install mc nautilus thunar
(remove the unwanted programs)
It may also be helpful to install a web browser so you can search on the internet in case you run
into trouble setting up your LTSP server. Unfortunately, Mozilla FireFox 2 is not very stable in
GNU/Linux and frequently crashes. The Seamonkey web browser, which is called “iceape” in
Debian, is more reliable and uses less memory. The Dillo web browser is another option for
people who want a minimal browser which uses almost no memory. Unfortunately Dillo's
rendering of web pages leaves much to be desired and it doesn't support most extensions.
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apt-get install mozilla-firefox iceape dillo (remove the unwanted
Now start the xserver:
If X-Windows is configured to work correctly with your hardware, you should enter the XWindows desktop. If there is a problem and you are returned to the command line prompt, you
will need to change the X-Windows configuration and try again. Generally the problem is either
the video driver or the mouse type or mouse port. To reconfigure X-Windows:
dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg
After reconfiguring, run startx again. If it still doesn't work, you may have to edit the file
/etc/X11/xorg.conf For more information about editing the X-Windows configuration file, see documentation or ask in the Debian forums.
If you installed gdm, it needs to be configured so that so that root can login with gdm. It is very
helpful for the network administrator to be able to login as root, especially when sitting down on
any client computer. At the prompt enter:
Inside the GDM setup dialog box, select the "Security" tab, then check "Allow local system
administrator login", then click "Close”.
Finally, remove the installation CD/DVD and reboot your server to make sure that all changes are
4.8.4. Installing and configuring the LTSP server
The first step to setting up an LTSP server is to assign a static IP address to your LTSP server.
Open a terminal window and log in as root:
Make a copy of the original etc/network/interfaces file in case you need to restore it later.
cp /etc/network/interfaces /etc/network/interfaces-original
Obtain your current IP address. At the prompt, enter:
On the second line of the listing for eth0, look for the current IP address of your server. Here is an
inet addr:
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
The IP addresses in /etc/network/interfaces file must match your current address. Use your
favorite text editor to open /etc/network/interfaces.
# /etc/network/interfaces
# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
# The primary network interface
allow-hotplug eth0
iface eth0 inet static
# IP address of your LTSP server
# Do not change
# Change first 3 triplets of IP address
# Your router's address-usually ends with 1
#iface eth0 inet dhcp
# end of file
Change the “address” to match the address of your server. Change the first 3 triplets of the
“broadcast” address to match the first 3 triplets of your server's address. Change the first 3 triplets
of the gateway to match the first 3 triplets of your server's address. If your server's address is, then make the following changes:
Save the new file as /etc/network/interfaces. Restart your networking so the new copy of your
interfaces file will be used:
ifdown eth0
ifup eth0
Then download and install the debian packages needed by LTSP to operate a thin client network.
The DHCP (Domain Host Configuration Protocol) server assigns IP addresses to the clients
during bootup. The TFTP (trivial File Tranfer Protocol) is used to transfer files from the server to
the clients during bootup. The NFS (Network File System) server allows the clients to use files
over the network. Perl is a language interpreter which is needed to run the ltspadmin and ltspcfg
programs to setup and configure LTSP. To install all these packages:
apt-get install nfs-kernel-server dhcp3-server atftpd libwww-perl
During the ensuing installation, when the dhcpd3-server is being installed, you will be asked
"What network interface should the DHCP server use?". Enter "eth0".
4.8.5. Installing and configuring LTSP
Download the LTSP installation package:
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apt-get install ltsp-utils
Start the LSTP setup program by entering:
The ltspadmin menu is counterintuitive. You will need to use the second option before the first
1. Select "Configure the installer options".
2. At the prompt "Where to retrieve packages from?", accept the suggested default web site.
3. Accept the [/opt/ltsp] installation directory.
4. For both HTTP and FTP proxy, press [Enter].
5. Answer [Y] to continue. You will be returned to the main menu.
6. Select "Install/Update LTSP Packages".
7. On the next screen the names of the available LTSP packages will be downloaded from the
1. Select [A] to install all of the packages.
2. Then hit [Q] to close the menu.
8. Answer [Y] to install. The files will be downloaded and installed.
9. Select "Configure LTSP" from the main menu. Ltspadmin will check to see if all the
necessary files have been installed. Hit [Enter].
10. Next,
1. "Show the status of all services" by hitting [S]. Some of these services will be started
in the next step.
2. Hit [Enter] to return to the previous menu.
11. Choose "Configure services manually" by hitting [C].
12. Step through each category. Enter [Y] to all suggested choices:
1. Accept runlevel=2 for your Debian installation.
2. Choose which network interface to use: "eth0"
3. If you installed gdm instead of xdm, then ignore the error listing xdm as missing. If
you did install xdm, during the xdmcp installation, answer [N] to "disable graphical
logon on server". If you chose [Y], then your computer will boot to the command line
prompt and you will have to type "startx" to start X-Windows.
13. Finally, enter [Q], [Q] to quit ltspadmin.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
4.8.6. Configuring the DHCP server
The most difficult part of setting up an LTSP server is to configure correctly the DHCP server, so
that the thin clients are assigned IP addresses correctly when they bootup.
A sample DHCP configuration file was created by the LTSP installation at dhcpd.conf.sample. It
is for reference only and probably won't run without modification.
Navigate to the /etc/dhcp3 directory and save the original configuration file:
cd /etc/dhcp3
cp dhcpd.conf dhcpd.conf-original Dynamic IP addresses in the thin clients
If you want the DHCP server to dynamically assign IP addresses to the thin clients each time that
they bootup, then use the following file as a model:
# /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf
(1) assignment of dynamic IP addresses to 10 workstations;
(2) workstations assigned addresses to;
(3) server assigned IP address during Linux
# How to Edit this File:
(1) IP addresses requiring change are marked "Change IP";
(2) IP file format =;
(3) replace all IP addresses with your IP address;
(4) obtain your specific IP address information from dhcpd.conf.sample
file created when LTSP was installed;
(5) end each line with a ";" except after a parenthesis;
keep your "{
}" straight;
use "#" to prevent interpretation of text on the line beyond "#".
## Beginning of file
# - In Debian 4.0, or any version of Debian with dhcp3-server >= 3.0.3,
the "next-server" statement is needed or Etherboot will walk in
circles saying "No IP address". To activate, uncomment the line.
# <--Change IP
option subnet-mask;
option broadcast-address;
# <--Change IP
option routers;
# <--Change IP
option domain-name-servers;
# <--Change IP
option domain-name
# <--Accept/Change
option root-path
""; # <--Change IP
option option-128 code 128 = string;
option option-129 code 129 = text;
shared-network WORKSTATIONS {
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netmask {
range dynamic-bootp;
# <--Change IP
# <--Change 2 IP's
option log-servers;
# <--Change IP
if substring (option vendor-class-identifier, 0, 9) = "PXEClient"
"/tftpboot/lts/2.4.26-ltsp-3/pxelinux.0"; #<--Check version
"/tftpboot/lts/vmlinuz-2.4.26-ltsp-3"; #<--Check version
## End of file
In the above file, the IP addresses must be changed to match the IP address of your server. In the
example of the server with an IP address of, every instance of “” would
be changed to “”. In the other addresses, the first three triplets would be changed from
“192.168.2” to “10.0.1”.
In addition, check to see whether the path /tftpboot/lts/2.4.26-ltsp-3/pxelinux.0 exists in your
server's harddrive The number 2.4.26-ltsp-3 is the version of the Linux kernel which the thin
clients will use, but LTSP4.2update3 is using kernel Change the path to match what is
found on your harddrive. [Check the full path of /tftpboot/] Likewise, check the path
/tftpboot/lts/vmlinuz-2.4.26-ltsp-3 and change it to the kernel version found on your server's
Save the file as /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf If necessary, assign the proper permissions, so the file
can be read by all users:
chmod 644 /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf
After modifying the dhcpd.conf file, the DHCP deamon must be restarted for the changes to take
/etc/init.d/dhcp3-server restart
When DHCP server is restarting, the last message must display an [ ok ] tag at the end of the line.
The first tag may say [ fail ] if the server is not started yet.
If there were gross errores in the configuration file, they will be listed on your console display.
Check that the lines end in semicolons (;) and each opening bracket has a closing bracket {}. Most
of the time, however, you will only know that the configuration file isn't valid, because the DHCP
daemon fails to start.
Reboot the computer. (You can use "reboot -n" from the command line.) Then login as root.
Open a terminal window and issue the command:
Choose "Configure LTSP", [Enter], [S], [Enter]. You should find that all parameters are now
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
enabled and running. If you are using gdm, xdmcp will not be enabled:
Enabled: no
Running: YES
xdm, gdm
Using: gdm
If one of the services is not enabled, check Chapter 7: Troubleshooting in the LTSP 4.1/4.2
manual. Static IP addresses in the thin clients
It is easier to first get the network working with dynamic addresses, then later assign static
addresses to each thin client if needed. To set static IP addresses, edit the following file.
# /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf
(1) assigns permanent IP addresses to 10 specific workstations;
(2) workstation addresses assignable in range of to
(3) server IP address assigned during Linux
# How to Edit this File:
(1) IP addresses requiring updating are marked as "Change IP";
(2) IP file format =;
(3) replace all IP addresses with IP addresses
obtained from your dhcpd.conf.sample file installed by LTSP;
(4) assign each workstation a different name;
(5) each host workstation must also have an individual MAC address;
obtain the MAC address from /var/log/syslog while that specific
workstation is attempting to boot;
(6) clone additional workstations as needed, assigning each a different
IP address between and;
Note: each workstation has 2 parentheses "{ }" associated with it!
(7) names of the workstations must also be entered in */etc/hosts* file;
(8) remember to end each line with ";" except after parenthesis;
keep your "{
}" straight;
use "#" to prevent interpretation of text on the line beyond
the "#";
(9) If you need to pass parameters on the kernel command line to a
workstation, you can do it with option-129. In order for Etherboot
to look at option-129, you MUST have option-128 set to a specific
value. The value is a special Etherboot signature of
Add these two lines to the each host entry that needs special
option option-128
# Do NOT change
option option-129
"NIC=ne IO=0x300";
# An example
# In Debian 4.0, or any version with dhcp3-server >= 3.0.3,
# the next-server statement is needed or Etherboot will walk in
# circles saying "No IP address". To activate, uncomment the line.
# <--Change IP
Uncomment the following option line if your boot rom contains the
modification for using REQUIRE_VCI_ETHERBOOT. This option initiates
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the Vendor Class Identifier of "Etherboot":
# option vendor-encapsulated-options 3c:09:45:74:68:65:72:62:6f:6f:74:ff;
option subnet-mask;
option broadcast-address;
# <--Change IP
option routers;
# <--Change IP
option domain-name-servers;
# <--Change IP
option domain-name
# <--Change/Retain
option root-path
""; # <--Change IP
option option-128 code 128 = string;
option option-129 code 129 = text;
subnet netmask {
option log-servers;
# <--Change IP
# <--Change 2 IP's
# <--Change IP
host ws101 {
# <--Change IP
hardware ethernet
# <--Change MAC
"/tftpboot/lts/vmlinuz-2.4.26-ltsp-3"; #<--Check version
host ws102 {
# <--Change IP
hardware ethernet
# <--Change MAC
"/tftpboot/lts/vmlinuz-2.4.26-ltsp-3"; #<--Check version
## End of file
Change the IP addresses and check the file paths as done with the static dhcpd.conf file.
Notice that individual clients have been given the names “ws101” or “ws102”. Make up names
which make sense for your organization and are easy to remember. Some schools give their
computers the names of famous scientists like “einstein” or famous figures in history like
“bolivar”. In an office it might be better to call the computer by its location such as o233c3
(office 233 computer 3) or its division such as “accounting3”.
For each computer, a MAC address for its NIC and an IP address is listed. You can decide which
IP address to use for each computer, but the MAC address must be the six hexidecimal numbers
which uniquely identify each Network Interface Card (NIC). See section 4.6.5. Finding the MAC
4.8.7. Using ISA network cards
If you have an ISA network interface card in a client, it is recommended to change it for a PCI
card if possible, since ISA cards can only operate at a maximum speed of 10Mb/s and are harder
to configure. Many older computers built before 1995 only used ISA, so it may be the only
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Just like a normal PCI NIC, ISA cards can use the EtherBoot program to boot over the network.
Go to and download the EtherBoot driver for your ISA card. If you can't find the
chip for your card on the list, most ISA NICs are either NE2000 clones which use the “ne” driver
or 3COM 509 clones which use the “3c509” driver. If you are unsure which driver you need,
download both drivers and try them both. If neither work, then you probably need to find a
different NIC.
Unlike PCI NICs, ISA NICs also require that two configuration lines be added to the DHCP
configuration file so they will function correctly. Open the file /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf using your
favorite bare text editor (such as nano or gedit). Under the name of your client computer, add two
option option-128 e4:45:74:68:00:00;
option option-129 "NIC=3c509 MOPTS=nolock,ro,wsize=2048,rsize=2048";
The number e4:45:74:68:00:00 is a special code informing the DHCP server to use
the options on the following line when operating the ethernet card. For a
NE2000 clone, substitute “ne” for “3c509” and specify I/O port 0x300. Below is
a sample dhcpd.conf file for thin clients containing a 3COM 509 card and a
NE2000 clone:
host ws101 {
# <--Change IP
hardware ethernet
# <--Change MAC
"/tftpboot/lts/vmlinuz-2.4.26-ltsp-3"; #<--Check version
# for a 3COM 509 ISA card:
option option-128 e4:45:74:68:00:00;
option option-129 "NIC=3c509 MOPTS=nolock,ro,wsize=2048,rsize=2048";
host ws102 {
# <--Change IP
hardware ethernet
# <--Change MAC
"/tftpboot/lts/vmlinuz-2.4.26-ltsp-3"; #<--Check version
# for a NE2000 compatible card:
option option-128 e4:45:74:68:00:00;
option option-129 "NIC=ne IO=0x300
4.8.8. Modifying the /etc/hosts file
Each machine which has an assigned name in the dhcpd.conf file should also be added to the
/etc/hosts file, so it be properly recognized by NFS.
# /etc/hosts
# Configured for LTSP 4.2
# The first line is the LTSP server which is mapped to localhost: server localhost
# Additional lines are the IP addresses and their corresponding
# names of the LTSP server and the clients: server ws101
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Change the IP addresses and names to match your network. If you want to be able to address the
clients over the internet and have assigned them to a domain such as, then also
list the domain name, as well as their names: server ws101 ws002
4.8.9. Configuring each client
Oftentimes client computers have special hardware and need to be individually configured to use
that hardware. The configuration of the clients is set in the configuration file
/opt/ltsp/i386/etc/lts.conf. There is a default section which lists the default configuration which
every client on the network will use. In addition, each thin client can be individually configured. It
can be individually identified by its assigned name or its MAC address. Put the assigned name or
MAC address inside square brackets [], then follow it with the configuration for that client. All
text following hash marks (#) are comments and will be ignored. Don't put comments in the same
line as the [MAC address] or [assigned name]. Below is a sample lts.conf file:
# /opt/ltsp/i386/etc/lts.conf
# Configuration file for clients using Linux Terminal Server Project (
# This is the default configuration for all the thin clients:
# Insert your server's IP
= auto
# Auto-detect video driver and settings
= "IMPS/2"
# PS/2 Microsoft Intellimouse
= "/dev/psaux"
= 5
= N
= startx
# Command to start X-Windows
# The configuration for client ws101:
= sis
= "PS/2"
= "/dev/psaux"
= 3
# Use the SiS video driver
# Generic PS/2 mouse with scroll wheel
# Clients can also be identified by their MAC addresses:
= vesa
# Generic VESA video driver
= 800x600
# Set screen resolution to 800x600
For more information about possible settings in the lts.conf file, see Chapter 9. lts.conf entries in
the LTSP 4.1/4.2 manual.
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94 Mouse configuration
Nowadays most mice are scroll mice, but if you are using older machines, you may not have scroll
wheels or even a third button. In this case the mouse will have to be configured to emulate the
third button. Below are some sample configurations for various types of mice.
For a PS/2 Microsoft Intellimouse with a scroll wheel:
= "IMPS/2"
= "/dev/psaux"
= 5
For a PS/2 mouse with a scroll wheel:
= "PS/2"
= "/dev/psaux"
= 3
For an Optical USB mouse with a scroll wheel:
= "ImPS/2"
= "/dev/input/mice"
For a serial mouse with 3 buttons:
For an older serial mouse with only 2 buttons:
Y Video card configuration
Generally GNU/Linux will be able to auto-detect your client's video card and its settings if the
[Default] configuration in lts.conf contains the line xserver = auto, but sometimes autodetection doesn't work properly and the video driver and setting have to be set manually for each
In recent years, embedded graphics processors in the motherboard have become more common. If
you can't see a graphics card and can't identify a graphics chip in the motherboard, try the “i810”
driver for Intel graphics processors, since they are the most common type of embedded GPU. Also
try the “via” or “sis” drivers, which are also commonly used in embedded graphics today. If all
else fails, try the generic “vesa” driver which is slower but will work with almost any graphics
processor. Once you have a functioning screen, open a terminal window, enter as the root user
and use the lspci to see what is attached to the PCI bus:
You should see something in the list which looks like a graphics processor. If you see nothing you
probably have a AGP graphics processor. In this case, you can find it with the lsapg command:
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Once you have determined what processor you have, you can set the client to use it with the
xserver command. For instance to use the “via” video driver:
= via
The most common video drivers are “i810” for Intel embedded graphics, “radeon” for ATI
Radeon, “r128” for ATI Riva 128, “nv” for nVidia, “sis” for both SiS embedded and add-in card
graphics, “rendition”, “s3virge”, “tdfx” for Voodoo Banshee and Voodoo 3 e 4, “trident”, and
“via” for the embedded Via Unichrome. For a complete list of available drivers and the cards
which use them, see the manual (
If you want 3D graphics, most of these drivers only support 2D graphics (except for the “radeon”
and “i810” drivers). If you have an ATI or nVidia graphics card, you may be able to find
proprietary 3D graphics drivers available for download from their websites.
If you have an ancient machine, you probably have an old ISA or VESA graphics processor,
which can't be detected. In this case, the “vesa” driver is probably your best bet; or at last resort,
the “vga” driver if you can live with 640 x 480 resolution and 8 bit color. Some of the old drivers
used with the Xfree86 version of X-Windows may be better for old computers than the newer drivers. For instance if you need to use Xfree86's old SVGA driver, specify:
Occasionally, the proper settings for the video won't be detected, so they will have to also be
manually set. Often when you see some sort of screen, but the video shakes, appears as multiple
screens, or has incongruent lines interspersed, the video driver works, but has incorrect settings.
The manual has a large list of possible video settings, but the most useful are the screen
resolution, refresh rates, and color depth. Screen configuration
Common screen resolutions are 640x480 (VGA), 800x600 (SVGA), 1024x768 (XGA),
1280x1024 (SXGA), 1400×1050 (SXGA+), 1600x1200 (UXGA), and 2048×1536 (QXGA).
Today's laptops commonly have widescreen displays with a 16:9 or 16:10 ratio designed for
viewing high definition video. In this case, the resolution is probably 1280x768, 1280x800
(WXGA), 1366x768 (WXGA), 1680x1050 (WSXGA), 1920x1200 (WUXGA), or 2560×1600
To set the screen resolution:
= 1024x768
To set the vertical refresh rate of the monitor:
= 85
To set the horizontal refresh rate of the monitor:
Generally it is only necessary to set the vertical refresh rate and not set the horizontal refresh rate.
50 For a complete list of screen resolutions, see:
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Be careful when setting the refresh rates, since some monitors can be damaged by setting the
refresh rate too high. It is best to look your monitor's model number up online to find the vertical
and horizontal refresh rates suggested by the manufacturer. If you can't any stats for your monitor,
modern monitors should be able to support a 90 Hertz vertical refresh rate at 1024x768 resolution,
but monitors from a decade ago may only be able to support 60 Hertz at 800x600 resolution.
To set the number of bits in the color depth:
= 16
8 bits yields 256 possible colors, 16 bits yields 65,536 colors, 24 bits yields 16,777,216 colors,
and 32 bits yields 4,294,967,296 colors. 24 bit and 32 bit are known as “true color” and are
considered necessary for photo editing where it is necessary to display the full gradations of the
color spectrum. Unfortunately, 24 and 32-bit color use a lot more bandwidth on your network and
requires more powerful graphics processors in the clients. 16-bit color is recommended for normal
use since it provides adequate graphics with less bandwidth and processing. At 8-bit color depth,
some graphics may appear distorted or strange, but 8-bit color may necessary for using older
graphics processors with limited memory.
By multiplying the screen resolution by the number of color depth bits, then dividing by 8192 to
convert to kilobytes, you can roughly estimate the memory requirements for a GPU to hold one
screen of data in its memory. Of course a modern GPU needs a lot more memory than to just store
one screen at a time, but the calculation shows how color depth and resolution settings can greatly
increase the load on the GPU and the bandwidth needed on the network.
Minimum kilobytes of memory needed in graphics processors at various resolutions
Color Depth
8 bit
16 bit
24 bit
32 bit
If using an 486 computer with a limited graphics processor and an ancient monitor, your settings
might be something like:
8 Keyboard configuration
In order to correctly map the keys on a keyboard, the number of keys and country code has to be
set. US keyboards generally have 101 keys, or 102 keys if they have a Windows key. In order to
be able to type vowels with accents and letters like Ñ, they need to be set to US International with
dead keys. Spanish and Latin American keyboards generally have 104 keys for the extra Ñ and Ç
keys, or 105 keys if they have a Windows key.
For a US International keyboard with 102 keys:
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= pc102
= us_intl
= xorg
For a Spanish keyboard with 104 keys (no Windows key):
= pc104
= es
For a Brazilian keyboard:
= br Printer configuration
Generally, it is better to attach printers to the LTSP server, because they are installed like a normal
local printer and any user of a client computer should be able to print to them. Nonetheless,
printers can also be attached to thin client computers and be used by any user who has the proper
permissions. If connecting a printer to a client, put the following setting in the lts.conf:
For a parrallel port printer:
= /dev/lp0
= P
For a USB printer:
After configuring lts.conf to recognize the printer, the printer drivers have to be installed in the
server and it has to be configured to used as a network printer. First, download and install the
necessary printing software:
apt-get update
apt-get install cupsys cupsys-bsd cupsys-client foomatic-bin gs-esp a2ps
In addition you will need to install the driver for your printer. Go to and look up which print driver you need. For instance, for an
HP InkJet printer, install the hpijs package:
apt-get install hpijs
If you want to share a printer between Linux and Windows machines, you will also need to install
the samba and smbclient packages. Read this how-to for more information.
Then the printer must be configured, but this depends on your windows manager. In GNOME, use
the command add-gnome-printer. In KDE, run the command Kaddprinterwizard. In a light
windows managers like IceWM and FluxBox, you may need to use the lpadmin command. Enter
man lpadmin for more information and see the CUPS documentation. (If using a distribution
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based upon Red Hat or Fedora, use the commands printconf-gui or printconf-tui.)
In the printer configuration program, select the option to add a network printer. Create a queue for
your printer. Make up a queue name and select a “JetDirect” as the printer type. Then enter the IP
address for the thin client which has a printer connected to it. Set the port number to 9100. A
second printer should use port 9101, a third printer should use 9102, and so on. Activating sound
If a thin client has its own sound processor and speakers, it should be able to play audio. In order
for sound to function on the clients, a sound server will need to be installed on the LTSP server
and sound drivers installed in the LTSP chroot environment for the clients. Unfortunately, LTSP
only functions well with the OSS sound drivers, which is older and more limited compared with
ALSA, the default sound drivers for the Linux 2.6 kernel. The OSS sound drivers are installed by
default in LTSP at /opt/ltsp/i386/lib/modules/ (The kernel version
on your computer may be different.)
Likewise, LTSP works best with the oldest and most limited sound server, eSound (ESD). Arts
(the default sound server in KDE) won't function at all in LTSP and NAS has only limited
functionality. Although you can experiment with ALSA and NAS, it is best to stick with OSS and
eSound despite their limitations.
OSS is already included in the LTSP chroot environment by default, but eSound needs to be
installed in the server. Open a terminal, log in as root, and issue the command:
apt-get install esound
Then enable sound in the clients by editing the lts.conf file. If you want all the clients to have
sound capabilities, add the following lines under the [Default] section:
If you only want to enable sound on specific clients, then you will need to add these lines to the
configuration for each client, rather than putting them under the [Default] section:
If you want ensure a quiet computing environment, set the VOLUME setting to a lower number
and disable access to the sound mixer and volume adjuster so users can't turn up the volume. (In
FluxBox and IceWM, these are not install by default).
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Generally, LTSP will correctly auto-detect the sound driver to use if SMODULE_02 is set to
“auto”, but you may have to manually set the driver for the client. For instance, if an add-in
Creative Ensoniq sound card is installed in ws101 and the Sound Blaster Live PCI is installed in
ws102, then the “es1371” and “emu10k1” sound drivers needs to be specified in the lts.conf file
for these clients, respectively:
= sound
= es1371
# sound driver for Creative Ensoniq
= sound
= emu10k1
# sound driver for Sound Blaster Live PCI
Today most motherboards include an embedded sound processor, rather than add-in sound card. If
you have an Intel chipset on your motherboard, your sound driver is probably “i810_audio”. For a
SiS chipset, try “sis7019". For a VIA chipset, try "via82cxxx_audio". For just about any type of
chipset including nVidia's nForce, try “ac97”. You can often discover what type of sound card
you have by using the lspci command.
If the lspci command doesn't show a sound processor, you might have an older ISA sound card.
Open the CPU and look for the sound processing chip on the ISA add-in card. If it has a Cristal
cs423x chip, then use the following configuration:
SMODULE_01 = sound
SMODULE_02 = cs4232
ISA Sound Blaster cards require that the IO address and interrupt be specified:
SMODULE_01 = sound
SMODULE_02 = uart401
SMODULE_03 = sb io=0x220 irq=5 dma=1
Unfortunately, sound won't always function properly on the clients. Some applications will be
incompatible with OSS and eSound, which are out-of-date and not very good at handling more
than one sound stream. XMMS is probably the multimedia player which works best with these
drivers, yet is light enough to run on any system. For clients with more memory, try Kaffeine
which has a nicer interface than XMMS. For online audio chat, try GAIM. To install these
apt-get install xmms kaffeine gaim
Kaffeine will require a large number of KDE dependencies be installed, just as gaim requires
GTK+ libraries, so don't install these programs unless you need them.
Unfortunately, sound on some clients may prove impossible to implement or be very poor in
quality. In this case, the only option is play sound on the speakers of the server. Playing all sound
on the server's speakers creates a cacophonous computing environment and is clearly undesirable
in most situations. This solution, however, may work in environments where there are only a few
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clients that can't play sound and they are all bunched close to the server. It also might be desirable
in situations such a classroom lecture where everyone should be listening to the same audio track
at the same time.
In order for users to play audio on the server's speakers, they will need permission to access the
server's files /etc/dsp which creates the audio and /dev/mixer which controls the audio volume,
balance, and other settings. Enter as root and grant these global permissions:
chmod 666 /dev/dsp
chmod 666 /dev/mixer
Then remove the sound configuration settings from the lts.conf file for those clients which you
don't want to play sound locally. If you don't want any of the clients to be able to play sound
locally, then remove the sound configuration settings from the [default] section. Booting a client in text-mode
Sometimes it is necessary to use a client in only text-only mode from the command line. This is
especially useful when trying to debug a problem, such as bad X-Windows settings, or when
working with computers with limited memory. GNU/Linux is a powerful operating system even
without a graphical user interface. Many sysadmins prefer to run their servers in text-only mode
because it is more stable and more efficient (especially when remotely administering the computer
through SSH). To boot into a text-only shell:
= shell
In shell mode, the user can switch between multiple logins by pressing Ctrl + Alt + 2 (or some
higher number). If you just want to bootup to debug a problem as the root user, use:
= 3
Normally the client would run the command startx when it hits runlevel 5, but by setting the
runlevel to 3, runlevel 5 is never executed.
4.8.10. Allowing remote login
The configuration file for the gdm login manager is /etc/gdm/gdm.conf. The easiest way to edit
this file to allow for remote logins is to run the gdmsetup program as root:
Select the “Remote” tab. Change "Remote logon disabled" to "Plain". Then click "Close".
4.8.11. Enabling local storage devices
Local device support has improved dramatically with LTSP 4.2 which uses the fuse and udev
modules to automatically recognize and mount apparatuses which are capable of being unplugged
such as USB flash drives and USB harddrives or having their media removed such as IDE CDROMs, USB CD-ROMs, and floppy disk drives. The udev module auto-detects devices when
plugged into the USB port, while the fuse module allows file systems to be mounted when users
aren't logged in as root.
Although these devices can be laboriously mounted each time that they are plugged in or media is
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inserted, it is far better to use the udev and fuse utilities to automatically detect them and make
and icon for them automatically appear on the desktop, so they can be easily accessed.
Fuse has now been included in the standard Linux kernel since version 2.6.14, so you already
have it if you installed Debian 4.0. To verify that the fuse module is installed and loaded in your
kernel, use the command:
modprobe fuse
In addition, the fuse utilities, fuse libraries, and Perl for X-Windows are needed. To install these,
open a terminal window, log in as root, and issue the command:
apt-get install fuse-utils libfuse2 libx11-protocol-perl
Now verify that fuse is automatically loaded on bootup. Use the less command to see the contents
of the /etc/modules file, which lists every module which is loaded on bootup.
If you don't see “fuse” in the list of modules, add it with the command:
echo 'fuse' >> /etc/modules
Now you will need to create a configuration file for fuse, which tells it to allow users other than
root to mount file systems. Issue the command:
echo 'user_allow_other' > /etc/fuse.conf
In order that all users will have permission to access to local devices, they must be added to the
group “fuse”. The adduser command can be used to add users to the group. For instance, if you
want to add user “jose” to the group “fuse”:
adduser jose fuse
Now go to and download the package ltsp-server-pkgdebian_0.1_i386.deb and install it:
dpkg -i ltsp-server-pkg-debian_0.1_i386.deb
Once installed, enable local device in the configuration file /opt/ltsp/i386/etc/lts.conf, by
adding the lines “LOCAL_STORAGE = Y” and “MODULE_01 = ohci-hcd” under the
[Default] section. For example:
# Insert your server's IP
# Auto-detect video driver and settings
# PS/2 Microsoft Intellimouse
# Command to start X-Windows
“ohci-hcd” is a universal driver which works for almost all USB devices, but it doesn't support
USB 2.0, which is substantially faster. If you have USB 2.0 ports and need faster speed, use the
“ehci-hcd” driver in place of “ohci-hcd”.
After the clients are rebooted, they should be able to use local storage devices. If you have
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problems, read this explanation at
4.8.12. Installing EtherBoot on the local harddrive
Ideally, thin clients should be booted from PXE or EtherBoot installed in the motherboards' BIOS
or burned on an EPROM on the ethernet card. Unfortunately, this is not always possible or very
easy to do. It takes special equipment to burn EPROM chips, and loading EtherBoot into the
motherboard's BIOS is tricky business. For this reason, many people resort to simply booting the
thin clients from the floppy or CD drive, but that solution can be problematic. Not only is booting
from the floppy and CD slower, but also these medium can be easily popped out by the user and
get lost. Furthermore, users gets annoyed because the etherboot floppy or CD is occupying a
drive which they want to use. In this case, the best solution is to install EtherBoot on the harddrive
of the client.
If you want to run the thin client on a computer which also runs Windows and choose the
operating system at boot up, see these instructions
under the section “Minimal Hard Drive Installation”. If you want to install the thin client on a
computer that also has another version of GNU/Linux installed on the harddrive, then see the
instructions at under the section “Usando
um HD para boot dos clientes”.
4.8.13. Activating network swap
Swap is space in the harddrive where memory can be temporarily stored when the computer runs
out of space in the RAM. Swap allows computers to multitask more easily, since the memory
from one program can be temporarily saved, while another program is loaded into the memory.
With swap, computers can run with less RAM (albeit swap is much slower than normal memory).
Diskless thin clients, however, have no swap space, since there is no local harddrive to save to.
LTSP 4.2 includes an option to implement swap via the network, so that the swap for each client
is saved on the server's harddrive.
With network swap activated, an LTSP client can run with as little as 8 MB of RAM. Many old
486s have 8MB of RAM, so they can be resurrected as functional thin clients. It may even be
possible to use a 386 as a thin client provided that it has a good enough graphics card.
To implement network swap, download the file ltsp-server-pkg-debian_0.1_i386.deb from, then install it as the root user:
dpkg -i ltsp-server-pkg-debian_0.1_i386.deb
apt-get -f install
Unfortunately, this package has “fuse-source” as a dependency, but fuse has been incorporated
into the kernel so that “fuse-source” is no longer available as a normal package for download. To
get around this dependency, you will need to download an empty package with this name and
install it, so that the dependency will be fulfilled. You can download the empty fuse-source
package at Then install it:
dpkg -i fuse-source.deb
apt-get -f install
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The ltsp-server package includes the program ltspswapd, which implements the network swap, but
this service needs to be started and added to the list of services which are loaded during bootup.
/etc/init.d/ltspswapd start
update-rc.d -f ltspswapd defaults
In addition, the lts.conf file needs to be modified to use network swap. Open the file
/opt/ltsp/i386/etc/lts.conf with your favorite text editor and add the following line under the
configuration for each client which will use network swap:
By default 64MB of swap space will be created for each client inside the directory
/var/spool/ltspwap in the server's harddrive. You can verify that the network swap is being used
with the ls command:
ls -lh /var/spool/ltspswap/
You should see something like the following:
total 129M
-rw------- 1 root root 64M 2007-05-23 19:09
-rw------- 1 root root 64M 2007-05-24 10:08
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5. Improving multimedia capabilities in a thin client
The chief drawback of thin client networking is the poor performance of multimedia. Unlike most
of the processing which is efficiently handled by the server's CPU, most of the video and sound
processing is passed down the network to the thin clients, which are often woefully-underpowered
machines. Makers of new thin clients often skimp on multimedia processors to save costs, because
most business and governmental users of thin clients generally don't need to play high resolution
MPEG4 video or 3D games. In the past, thin clients were often designed without multimedia ports
since it was assumed that they wouldn't be needed. Internet phone and video conferencing have
only recently become practical for many businesses and governments.
Likewise, older graphics and sound cards often aren't up to the task of handling today's
multimedia. Most old computers resurrected as thin clients were designed when DVDs didn't
exist and games didn't need to crunch through millions of floating-point operations per second just
to create the latest 3D wonderlands from ID Software and Rockstar Games. According to one
estimate 70-80% of thin clients are made with old computers, which are relatively expensive and
difficult to upgrade. They use older AGP, PCI or even ancient ISA ports can't handle the torrents
of data in modern multimedia.
In recent years, however, thin clients are being increasingly designed to handle stereo sound and
32 bit color, 3D and high resolution video. If looking to buy new thin client computers with
multimedia capabilities, see IT Week's recent review of higher-end models with these capabilities.
Even if the thin clients do have adequate graphics and sound processors, the standard 10/100
Megabits-per-second ethernet doesn't have enough bandwidth to handle the multimedia streams
being pumped through its wires. The thin client server, which often doesn't even have a graphics
card, contributes to the problem by first decompressing audio formats like MP3 or video formats
like MPEG4, then pumping these much-larger audio and video streams onto the network for the
clients to process. A single client playing an MP3 file will require roughly 1.2 megabits per
second to be transmitted over the network cables. If 10 users in a 30 client network are playing
MP3 files at the same time, 12% of the available bandwidth in a standard 100 Mb/s network will
be filled just by audio. Even at this level of usage, the latency of the network will be higher and it
will take longer for packets to reach their destination. If all 30 users decide to play an MP3 file at
the same time, the latency can become unacceptably high with noticeable delays between pressing
a key and seeing seeing the results displayed on the client's screen. To avoid a network bottleneck,
the connection between the server and the switch should be upgraded to 1000 Mb/s
The situation gets far worse when dealing with video. A single 640x480 video played at 24
frames per second requires that 112 Mb/s be sent from the server to the client (and if the video
media is being accessed from the client, the compressed file is being sent from the client to the
server at the same time). One small resolution video will take up more than the entire bandwidth
in a 100 Mb/s network. Even if the entire network is upgraded to 1000 Mb/s, only a couple users
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will be able to watch a small resolution video at a time, and it may effect the latency of the entire
network. In this situation, video can become jerky with noticeable pauses as the client waits for
the stream to arrive across a clogged network. If a single client try to play a high-resolution
MPEG video or a first-person-shooter game like Doom IV at the same time, the entire network
will grind to as standstill as the video saturates the ethernet lines. Even if the connection between
the server and the switch is upgraded to 10,000 Mb/s, the network would still bog down if more
than 2 or 3 clients tried to play DVDs or 3D games. The cost of a 10,000 Mb/s network is so
prohibitively high, that it hardly makes sense in the first place.
Nonetheless, upgrading to 1000 Mb/s ethernet may be enough to provide for some limited
multimedia. For instance, if a couple users will be watching low-resolution U-Tube videos or
using Skype video phone at a time, that sort of multimedia may be possible over a normal thin
client network. f you want more multimedia capabilities than that, then you should consider
installing “hybrid” clients which run multimedia applications locally on the client side, while
running the standard applications from the server-side. The other option is to identify the users
who need multimedia and give them standard fat-client computers, while the rest of the users use
thin-client computers.
None of the 12 British schools using thin client networks in the Becta study were able to
adequately provide multimedia capabilities to their students through their thin client networks. In
many cases the thin client vendors exaggerated the multimedia capabilities of the systems.
Listening to their advice, the schools installed clients which weren't powerful enough or ethernet
infrastructure which wasn't fast enough. Most schools in the study either didn't provide
multimedia to their students or they added fat clients which were capable of running multimedia.
There are a number of ways, however, to provide multimedia over a thin client network. Each
approach has its drawbacks and demands more expensive hardware. Nonetheless, they will still
reduce the administrative costs compared to standard fat clients, while lessening the
environmental impact.
5.1. Six ways to improve multimedia performance:
5.1.1. Speed up the network
If the clients have decent graphics and sound cards, the bottleneck may be a slow
ethernet connection which isn't capable of streaming the graphics and sound to the clients
fast enough. In this case, consider upgrading from 10/100 to 1000 Megabits per second.
The ethernet will only run as fast as the slowest component, so the server's network
interface card (NIC), the client's NIC, and the switch have to all be 1000 Mb/s for the
ethernet to run at that speed. In addition, the connecting cables should be Cat5e rather than
standard Cat5 to run at the higher bandwidth. Even if you can't afford to upgrade the entire
network to 1000 Mb/s, at the very least, upgrade the server's NIC and the switch to 1000
Mb/s, because that connection is the most likely bottleneck in the network.
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5.1.2. Upgrade graphics and sound processors on the clients
Although it is expensive to install new graphics and sound cards on all the clients,
it is cheaper than buying whole new clients. The integrated sound processors found in
most of todays motherboards are perfectly adequate for most people, but for older
motherboards it may be necessary to add a separate sound card. If buying a card for a
GNU/Linux thin client, look for an OSS compatible card,51 which are the default audio
drivers used by LTSP 4.2.
The Intel integrated graphics which are found in roughly 40% of computers52 are
famously low-watt sippers and equally famous for their inadequate multimedia
performance. Although add-in graphics cards often suck 2 or 3 times more wattage, they
also provide substantially better performance. If the clients use older PCI or AGP video,
old video cards can be picked up relatively cheaply in used markets.
If looking for more environmental hardware, ATI video cards from 3 or 4 years
ago were generally more energy efficient than competing nVidia cards. If buying a more
recent graphics card made in the last couple years, however, nVidia processors are
substantially more energy-efficient and offer more performance per watt. For instance, the
top-of-the-line nVidia GeForce 7900 GTX uses 84.2 max watts, whereas ATI's competing
Radeon X1900 XTX sucks 120.6 max watts.
If looking to buy new thin clients with adequate multimedia, consider machines
with the Intel 945GM chipset whose integrated 950 Graphics Media Accelerator is
advertised as being capable of handling the demanding graphics requirements of MS
Vista. Its 82945G GMCH graphics chip only uses 22.6 max watts,53 which is half the
wattage of many low-end graphics cards. If buying a new add-in card for a low-medium
quality client, the best choice is the S3 Chrome S25 or S27 which runs on less than 30
watts.54 The most environmental option for high-end clients is the GeForce 7900 GT,
which is identical to the GTX, but its clock is turned down 31% so it only consumes 48.4
watts. For energy use of different graphical processors, see this list. If buying a video card
for a GNU/Linux client, first check LinuxQuestions or the comprehensive list at LinuxDrivers for compatibility.
If attempting to upgrade a thin client for high graphics performance, it is not
necessary to buy a new motherboard with PCIe x16 or x32, despite all the industry hype.
Manufacturers are still making AGP cards for the older AGP motherboards. See this
review of available cards. Although the PCIe x16 is has four times more bandwidth than
AGP x8, in real terms this doesn't translate into significantly better performance. Many
tout PCIe because it is the platform for nVidia's Scalable Link Interface (SLI) and ATI's
CrossFire which permit two identical graphics cards to work in concert, but this option is
tremendously expensive and energy-wasteful, and provides diminishing returns for each
51 If you have a newer sound card, you may need to use the ALSA sound instead of OSS sound, although ALSA is
more difficult to configure to work with LTSP. See this list of ALSA compatible cards.
52 Tony Smith, “ATI lost graphics market share to Nvidia in Q3”, 6 Dec 2006,
53 “Intel 945G/945GZ/945P/945PL Express Chipset Family”, Dec 2005,
54 Justin Mann, “S3 Chrome S25 & S27 Technology Overview”, TechSpot, 3 Nov 2005,
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additional card.55
5.1.3. Use “hybrid” clients which run multimedia applications locally
In “hybrid” clients, which are also called “chubby” clients, applications can be run
on the client as well as on the server. Hybrid clients running multimedia applications
locally will avoid clogging up the network to transmit those graphics and sound streams. If
the video and sound files are stored on the client's local drives, then no information has to
be sent over the network. Even if the multimedia files are stored on the server, hybrid
clients substantially reduce the network traffic because the files are transferred in their
compressed form to the clients.
The clients will need to have decent graphics and sound processors for this solution
to work. To implement a hybrid client for multimedia, it needs to have a full operating
system and the multimedia applications installed on the client's harddrive, so it can't be a
“diskless” client using software such as Thinstation or 2X PXES. It is possible to
implement a diskless hybrid client with LTSP that runs some applications locally, but the
setup is extremely complicated. Moreover, the LTSP wiki reports that local audio and
video players won't be able to play video and audio streams coming from the server,
because they don't have proper access to server files. Unfortunately, implementing hybrid
clients will increase your administrative costs, since it takes more time to maintain the
clients with their own operating systems and local applications,
If you only want to run a couple application from the server, it may be worth
considering application server software, which runs individual applications from the
server, rather than the entire desktop. For instance, the 2X ApplicationServer runs Windows
programs on Windows, Linux or Mac clients. Games, movie editors, and multimedia
players could be installed locally on the clients, while all other programs could be run with
the 2X ApplicationServer.
5.1.4. Upgrade the server's CPU or add extra servers to speed up processing
Since most of the graphics and sound processing is handled in the clients, the
server doesn't need a sound or graphics card. However, the server does effect the speed of
multimedia, because its CPU is in charge of decompressing audio and video files.
Likewise, many games heavily tax the server's CPU and memory. The multimedia
performance may be improved by either upgrading the server's CPU and memory or by
adding extra servers to the network.
Although gaming stations generally try to improve performance by speeding up the
CPU's clock, it is a better idea to buy a second processor for your server (preferably a
multi-core processor), rather than replace your existing processor with a faster clocked
single processor. With multiple processors, the whole system won't get as bogged down
and won't let one multimedia application or game hog all the server's resources.
Often it is a better idea to simply add more servers to the network, rather than
55 W1zzard, “NVIDIA Quad-SLI vs. ATI Crossfire”, 29 Apr 2006,
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going through the hassle of trying to replace processors and often motherboards in your
existing server. On many networks, it is critical that they never go down, so it simply isn't
an option to take the existing server off-line and spending a day installing a dual processor
motherboard and second processor, plus reinstalling the operating system.
If adding more terminal servers to the network, make sure that the thin client
network is configured to redistribute equally the processing load among the available
servers. See 2.4. Scaling up your network.
5.1.5. Use monitor multiplying
Omni Technology Solution's Desktop Multiplier for SuSE 10 Linux allows up to
10 different users to use their own monitors, while sharing the same CPU. Likewise,
ThinSoft's BeTwin for Windows allows up to 5 users to share the same CPU. While not
really a thin client network, monitor multiplying has many of the same advantages of thin
clients, yet also provides excellent multimedia performance. Hardware costs are lower
because there is only one CPU, and administration costs are lower because there is only
machine to install, patch, and backup.
Monitor multiplying provides better multimedia because graphics and sound are
processed in the local computer. Since the monitors are connected directly to the back of
the computer, there is no slow ethernet connection to slow down the transmission to the
user. Each user has a separate PCI graphics card, so the video is fast. (The Desktop
Multiplier allows two users to share dual head cards). The monitor cables are plugged
directly into the graphics cards to provide unfettered access and faster transmission. Since
multimedia applications generally tax the graphics processor much more than the CPU,
one CPU should be able to handle the processing for a number of graphics cards at once.
It is doubtful whether a single CPU could handle 10 people running Quake IV, but Novell
reports that most people running SuSE Linux software in their test demonstrations didn't
even notice that they were sharing a CPU with the Desktop Multiplier. Novell reported
similarly good results after setting up 2205 SuSE Linux machines in 105 South African
schools with the Desktop Multiplier.56
Unfortunately, desktop multiplying is not scalable beyond a few users, nor can it be
flexibly arranged. Each of the monitors have to be within close proximity of the CPU.
Omni TS recommends that monitors be within a 5 meter radius of the CPU which is
maximum length of most video cables. ThinSoft sells a 4.5 meter combo monitor and USB
cable bundled in their Buddy B-680 pack for BeTwin. The mice and keyboards are
connected to USB cables and hubs, which are also limited in length.
The Desktop Multiplier can only provide audio to each user, if the keyboards or
monitors have incorporated USB hubs, which allow USB headphones to be plugged in. In
many Latin American countries, this hardware is not available for sale, or is extremely
pricey. Therefore, all the users will forced to share the same set of speakers, which is
possible since all the monitors are in close proximity, but it does create a cacophonous
computing environment when a number of multimedia applications are running at once.
56 “Novell South Africa Deploys 2,205 SUSE Linux Desktops in 105 Schools with Desktop Multiplier”, Useful
Corp, 2006,
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Since the monitor multiplying software is proprietary, figure on paying high license fees
(although they are less than buying operating systems for every fat client).
For a monitor multiplying solution that is scalable and can be flexibly arranged,
consider Neoware's e140 thin clients with Matrox EpicA multi-display graphics cards.57
Although the e140 doesn't promise the kind of multimedia performance of the Desktop
Multiplier or BeTwin, it does reduce the costs by allowing multiple monitors to share the
same thin client CPU.
5.1.6. Use NEC's Virtual PC Center (VPCC)
NEC has created innovative US100 thin clients which each have their own graphics
and sound processors capable of handling real time video and Voice over IP locally. With
VPCC installed on the terminal server, multimedia files will be passed to the clients in
their compressed form, so the network will not be bogged down by uncompressed video
and sound streams. NEC claims that sound processing is actually more reliable than on a
standard fat client because the US100 has a dedicated sound processor which isn't affected
when the rest of the system slows down.
Unfortunately, VPCC with all the included hardware and software costs almost a
thousand dollars per client--far more than a standard fat client. A Dual Xeon VPCC server
for 20 users is priced at US$19,500, while a 50 user server is a whopping US$44,900.
Meanwhile each client is priced at US$349. At these prices VPCC should only considered
by businesses willing to pay through the nose for the better security and the lower
administration costs of a thin client network, yet also need adequate multimedia.58
57 “Neoware and Matrox Collaborate on Multi-Display Thin Clients”, 14 Sep 2006, DABCC,
58 John Cox, “NEC's virtual desktop boosts thin client graphics”, Network World, 30 Apr 2007,;956863388;fp;32768;fpid;1020267123; David Needle, “NEC Fattens
Thin Client Performance”, 23 Apr 2007,
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Appendix A: Downloading and installing software and
burning CD/DVD images
Downloading software
Unfortunately, in Latin America, it is often easier to obtain pirated software worth thousands of
dollars that it is to obtain free software which is gratis. The lack of internet access and slow
download speeds are major barriers to obtaining and using free software.
In many Latin American cities, street venders will sell the latest Windows software for little more
than the price of a blank CD or DVD. In the Andes, pirated software sells for US$1.25 - $2.50 per
CD and S$2.25 - $5 per DVD. It is often possible to buy the latest versions of the major
GNU/Linux distributions for the same prices. Unfortunately, specialized distributions like
Edubuntu and K12LTSP, are generally not for sale and must be downloaded.
In order to download large files and whole CD images, it is best to use FTP (file transfer protocol)
sites, rather than HTTP (hyertext transfer protocol) sites. FTP sites start with an address “ftp://”.
The FTP protocol allows for breaking and resumption of downloads unlike the HTTP protocol.
Many download managers such as GetRight claim to be able to resume broken HTTP downloads
and to be able to download files in multiple parts at the same time, but errors often occur with
HTTP downloads. An even better way to download your software is to use BitTorrent, which has
built mechanism to check for errors while downloading. The original BitTorrent client is a flaky
application which frequently crashes, so it better to use a clone such as Ktorrent or Azureus.
If not using BitTorrent, use a download manager. In Windows, TrueDownloader and GetRight are
decent GUI downloaders. One of the most reliable downloaders is wget, a command line tool
which runs in both GNU/Linux and Windows. It should be included by default in your
GNU/Linux distribution, but it can be downloaded from the repository for your GNU/Linux
distribution. If using Windows, download it here.
To download a file from the internet, simply open DOS in MS Windows XP by going to Start>All Programs->Accessories->System Symbol. In GNU/Linux open a terminal. At the
command line prompt, issue the command:
wget address
For instance, to obtain the Edubuntu 7.04 Classroom Server Add-on CD:
If you ever want to stop the download, simply press the Control and C keys simultaneously to
cancel the download. To resume a broken download, issue the command from the same directory:
wget -c address
Note that whole DVDs can not be download in Windows if the harddrive is using the FAT 32 file
system, because FAT 32 only allowed for a maximum file size of 1024MB (1GB). Only
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
download DVDs in Windows if the file system is NTSF, which is what Windows
NT/2000/XP/Vista use by default. You can check which file system is being used by issuing the
chkdsk command in DOS. The first line after issuing the command will inform you which file
system you are using:
If you need to go to a cybercafe to download files, go to a cybercafe which either has a download
manager or allows you to install a download manager. Some cybercafes have locked down their
systems so that nothing new can be installed.
If searching for a particular GNU/Linux distribution to download, go to
which provides a description of more than 350 GNU/Linux distributions and lists their web sites,
download sites, and help forums. If you are searching for a particular free software application for
Windows, Linux/UNIX, or Mac, go to or
Burning CD/DVD images
Most GNU/Linux distributions use standard ISO CD/DVD image files which must be burned to a
CD or DVD before they can be used to install GNU/Linux. CD/DVD image files can not be
burned like normal data files. Once you have downloaded a CD/DVD image file (they usually
end in .iso), open a CD/DVD burner program.
If you need a CD burner for Windows, you can download CDBurnerXP Pro for free. For
GNU/Linux, the best CD/DVD burner is K3B, which you probably have if you are using KDE.
The built-in CD/DVD burner in Nautilus for GNOME and xfburn for Xfce don't include options
to burn CD/DVD images, so it is best to install K3B (or GnomeBaker). See the following section
Downloading and installing software in GNU/Linux.
To burn a CD/DVD image with Ahead Nero, simply double click on the image file. If the file
ends in .iso, Nero will automatically detect that it is an image file and burn it correctly. If it is an
ISO file, then you can simply add .iso to the end of the filename to get Nero to recognize it
For CDBurnerXP Pro 3, open the application. At the startup window, click on the first option:
Create a new Data CD-RW, Data-DVD-WR, Video-DVD, or create/burn an ISO
image. You can also erase a disc or convert an ISO image.
Then under the File menu, select Write Disc from ISO file... In the dialog box which appears,
look for the box Select an ISO image to Write and click the [...] button to select the ISO image
file. After selecting the image file, click [Write Image].
For the best reliability, burn CDs and DVDs at low speeds. Edubuntu recommends burning their
Instalation CDs at x8 speeds. Most GNU/Linux instalation CD/DVDs have an option at bootup to
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check whether the CD/DVD is free of errors. It takes 7-15 minutes to check each CD and use a
program like MID5SUM to calculate an error checksum and see if it matches the expected value.
It is more environmental to buy rewriteable CDs and DVDs for GNU/Linux instalation CDs, since
most of these CDs will be out of date within a year or two, so they are likely to be thrown away.
In addition, rewriteable CD/DVD's can be reused in the case of bad downloads and bad burns.
Downloading and installing software in GNU/Linux
It is generally better to download GNU/Linux software from the repository of your particular
distribution. In Debian or Ubuntu, use apt-get or aptitude from the command line or synaptic for
a GUI (graphical user interface) application to properly download and install new software. These
programs will check whether a software program is compatible with your existing instalation and
has any dependencies (relies on any other programs) which also need to be downloaded and
installed. To use apt-get in Debian, open a terminal, change to the root user and issue the apt-get
[enter the root password]
apt-get install package-name
In Ubuntu/Edubuntu, use the sudo command instead of su and enter the normal user password:
[enter the normal user password]
apt-get install package-name
Generally, the package-name is the same as the name of the software, but you can use aptitude or
Synaptic to search for the correct package-name.
For more information on how to configure and use apt-get, see this short tutorial or this longer
one. If you prefer using graphical applications rather than the command line, see this easy guide
for using Synaptic.
In Red Hat, Fedora, or Mandriva, use yum or up2date from the comand line to download and
install programs. For yum, use:
[enter the root password]
yum -i package-name
For more information on how to configure and use yum, see this tutorial or this longer one. Fedora
and K12LTSP comes with a graphical application called pirut to download and install or update
software. It can be found under Applications → Add/Remove Software.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Appendix B: Calculating costs and energy use
Whenever deciding which kind of thin client network to implement, costs become a critical factor. Of
course, the most obvious costs are the hardware and the software, and every tallying must begin
with this basic calculation. Below are some of the costs for thin client software:
Costs of Server Software:
Software Title
$695-$15,250 Win
$449-$1,895 Win
$595-$10,395 Win
gratis Win
gratis GNU/Linux
$999 Win
$1,199 Win
$3,999 Win
$199 Win
$799 Win
$749 Win
ThinClientServer PXES Edition
Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard (5 CALs)
Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard (10 CALs)
Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise (25 CALs)
Windows Server 2003, 5 Client Access Licenses (CALs)
Windows Server 2003, 20 Client Access Licenses (CALs)
Windows Server 2003, 5 Terminal Services Client Access Licenses
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, 20 Terminal Services Client Access Licenses
$2,979 Win
Presentation Server 4.5
Contact Citrix Win
Presentation Server 4.5 Advanced 1 User Connection Pack
£162 Win
Presentation Server 4.5 Enterprise 1 User Connection Pack
£209 Win
Presentation Server 4.5 Platinum 1 User Connection Pack
£278 Win
Sun Ray Software 4
$125 per client Win/Linux/S
olaris UNIX
Server Express5800/VPCC Virtual PC Server for 20 clients (includes
$16,176 Linux
the server hardware)
Express5800/VPCC Management Server
$3,301 Linux
Free/libre/open source software can reduce the costs of software licenses substantially, however, it
must be evaluated whether it really works for the needs of your organization. If it requires extra
training to learn or is more difficult to use, that must be added into the calculation.
Often, the long-term and unseen costs far outweigh initial costs of acquiring the hardware and setting up
the network. Sadly, many of these costs don't make it into the standard balance book, so they tend be get
ignored. Below is a chart of all the potential costs which should be considered when thinking about setting
up a thin client.
Costs to consider when calculating the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Acquisition and
Operations and
Examples of Costs
• Administrative costs such as developing bid specs, evaluating
proposals, gathering data, budgeting, and negotiating.
• Researching and evaluating options such as upgrade, rebuy, lease, or
• Contracts, tracking purchases, transfer and delivery.
• Hardware (purchase or lease). Including personal computers (PCs), all
peripherals, storage, networking, and other related equipment.
• Spare systems and parts, annual supplies, and materials.
• Software licenses.
• Administrative costs, including contract management, asset
management, overseeing contractor services, a share of human
resources, and other operating costs.
• Vendor-contracted and/or in-house training of staff and IT personnel,
product maintenance, and help desk support.
• Information technology support such as database management,
network management, and software management.
• Retooling to accommodate new hardware and software.
• Software and hardware upgrades over time.
• Share of floor space, furniture, and other fixed office costs.
• Internet and other network access costs.
• Energy costs.
• Training for IT staff and users.
• Informal staff self-support of computer users.
• Down time due to hardware/software malfunctions and/or user errors.
• Administrative costs including asset management, documenting
inventory, vendor contract procurement and management, and invoice
• Staging (removing and consolidating equipment).
• Sanitizing hard drive and other storage media.
• Testing and/or preparing for reuse, such as by reloading hard drive.
• Providing follow-on support to employees or others purchasing used
• Recycling/disposal fee and/or outsourcing fee.
• Shipping.
• Value of sold products and materials.
Source: “Total Cost of Ownership Guidance”, 15 Mar 2006,
The costs which you should consider will vary greatly according to your type of organizations or
businesses. For an organization which only have a couple computers, the initial cost of setting up
a thin client and specialized knowledge to maintain it are too expensive to be worth the savings
which a thin client network affords. Likewise, organizations which need most of their computers
for graphical design or multimedia, probably won't save any money setting up a thin client
network for the few computers which just handle standard processing tasks. On the other hand,
organizations and businesses with hundreds of computers handling mundane computing tasks like
word processing and data entry may reduce their costs substantially, especially the costs of
maintenance and support.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Generally, the higher the costs of administering and maintaining a network, the more thin-client
networks can reduce those costs. Nonetheless, for many organizations, these costs are not
important. For instance, the owner of a cybercafe or the administrator of a telecenter who spends
all day maintaining 15 computers, probably doesn't worry to much about having to spend an extra
20 minutes everyday administering the computers in the network, because he or she has to be
watching the computers all day anyway. On the other hand, a business which pays for each tech
support call can reduce its costs substantially with thin client networks.
One often overlooked factor is the cost of the electricity to run the computers in a network, and
especially the greenhouse gases which electricity generation causes. Looking toward the future,
energy costs will become an increasingly important factor due to rising prices and carbon taxes to
reduce global warming. Many climatologists predict that global warming will be the biggest
single threat to the continuing existence of humankind on the planet.
Servers have become energy hogs, and many companies such as Google are increasingly worried
about their inordinate energy bills from the servers. Since servers are generally left on 24 hours in
a day and sport large power supplies and multiple processors, they use substantially more energy
than the standard client computer. Compare the amount of electricity used and carbon dioxide
(CO2) produced by different types of servers below.
Server Energy Usage
2 Intel Xeon 5160 (new 3.0 Ghz
Core 2)*
2 Intel Xeon 5080*
3.73 Ghz
2 AMD Opteron 285* 2.6 Ghz
2 AMD Opteron 252† 2.6 Ghz
Idle Load
KilowattElectricity cost CO2 / month
Configuration (no monitor
(W) (W) hours / month / month (US$)
214,2 AT I ES1000 16MB int egrat ed
graphics, 74GB 10000RPM SAT A HD,
299,4 AT I ES1000 16MB int egrat ed
graphics, 74GB 10000RPM SAT A HD,
230,7 AT I Rage XL 8MB int egrat ed graphics,
4GB DDR-400 ECC RAM, 74 GB
10000RP M SAT A HD
262,7 nVidia Quadro FX3000 graphics, 4GB
RAM, 72GB 10000RP M SCSI-360 HD,
180GB 7200RPM SAT A HD
*T est s by Sina Mohammadi and Achim Roos, “ Int el Xeon and AMD Opt eron Bat t le Head t o Head”, T om's Hardware, 26 Oct 2006,
ht t p://www.t el_woodcrest _and_amd_opt eron_bat t le_head_t o_head/ ml.
†T est by Jem Mat zan, “ Comput ers, elect ricit y, and you”, 29 Dec 2005, ht t p:// ent /view/33/29/.
Assuming t hat servers run at full load 8 hours per day, 21 days per mont h, and are ot herwise idle. Elect ricit y cost s based upon a Lat in American average of
US$0.10 per kw/h. CO2 product ion is based upon t he US average of 1.514lbs of CO2 per kilowat t of elect ricit y. "US EP A E-Grid", 2002, EIA Elect ric P ower
Annual 2001, 2003, ht t p:// CO2 equivalencies based on dat a from t he U.S. Climat e T echnology Cooperat ion Gat eway,
ht t p://www.usct cgat /t ool/index.cfm; “ Elect ricit y P rices for Households”, Energy Informat ion Administ ration, 28 Feb. 2007,
ht t p:// ernat ional/ ml.
The amount of CO2 per month is based upon a US averages of CO2 per kilowatt-hour of
electricity. In many Caribbean and Central American countries where electricity generation is
exclusively from fossil fuels, the amount of CO2 generated would be much higher. Since CO2 is
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the principal greenhouse gas which causes global warming, these numbers are worrisome.
Anything that can be done to reduce the amount of energy which your computers consume helps
avoid the droughts, violent storms and climatic change of global warming, and reduces the
amount of people who will suffer its effects. If the network isn't used at night and on weekends,
shutting down the server can save on these energy costs.
Even more critical are the energy costs of running the client computers on the network.
Computers can vary widely in the their energy consumption.
Energy costs for older computers
CPU Type CPU (Mhz) Off (W)
Intel P3
Intel P3
Intel P4
Intel P4
Intel P4
AMD Athlon
AMD Athlon
AMD Athlon
On (W)
Sleep (W)
KilowattElectricity / CO2 / month
hours/month month (US$)
Assuming that computers are used 21 days in a month, left on 6.9 hours per day and actively used 3 hours per day--half of idle time is in sleep mode. For
computer usage patterns, see Megan Bray, “ Review of Computer Energy Consumption and Potential Savings”, Dragon System Software, Dec. 2006, For energy measurements, see: Judy A. Roberson et al. "Energy Use and Power Levels in New Monitors and Personal", Energy
Analysis Department, University of California-Berkeley, July 2002, p. 21-23,
. Electricity costs based upon a Latin American average of US$0.10 per kw/h. “ Electricity Prices for Households”, Energy Information Administration, 28
Feb. 2007, CO2 production is based upon the US average of 1.514lbs of CO2 per kilowatt of
electricity. "US EPA E-Grid", 2002, EIA Electric Power Annual 2001, 2003, CO2 equivalencies based on data
from the U.S. Climate Technology Cooperation Gateway,
Monitors are probably the single greatest user of energy within a computer. Compare the energy
consumption of different types of monitors.
Monitor Energy Use
All Monitors
Off (W)
Deep Sleep On (W)* On (W/in2 )
Source: Judy A. Roberson et al. "Energy Use and Pow er Levels in New Monitors and
Personal", Energy Analysis Department, University of California-Berkeley, July 2002, p. 2123, content.cgi?article=1567&context=lbnl.
The relative cost of electricity and environmental impact of that electricity varies widely across Latin
America and the Caribbean. If you don't know the cost of electricity in your area, use the following chart:
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Energy and the Environment in the Americas
Traditional fuel
Price of
Development consumption (% kilowatt-hour
Index world of total energy of electricity
Antigua and
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Saint Kitts and
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent
and the
Trinidad and
United States
Developing countries
Least developed countries
Arab States
East Asia and the Pacific
Latin America and the
South Asia
Sub-Saharan Africa
Central and Eastern Europe
and the CIS
consumption per
capita (kilowatthours)
MDG carbon dioxide S hare of world Ratification of Ratification
emissions per capita
total CO2
Convention on of Kyoto
(metric tons)
emissions (%)
S ource: Human Development Report 2005, UN, pp 289-92, ; “Electricity Prices for Households”, Energy Information
Administration, 28 Feb. 2007, .
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Trying to calculate all the costs may prove unfeasible, but it is a good idea to try and keep at least
some of the costs in mind when evaluating whether to switch to a thin client network.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Appendix C: The free software alternative
GNU/Linux, which is often referred to as simply “Linux”, is a “free software” operating system.
Free software is a widely misunderstood concept and there is a lot of FUD (“fear, uncertainty, and
doubt”) slung around term. In order to understand what is free software and why it has generated
so much controversy, it is important to understand it origins and evolution.
Originally, most software was “free software” although it wasn't understood by that term.
Companies like IBM which sold computers gave away software code for gratis as an incentive to
buy their computers. They were so eager to keep software free, that they even took cases to court
to prevent software from being patented. During the 50s - 70s, software code was passed around
freely between institutions and there as little restriction on its use. The rise of the minicomputer in
the late 70s, however, created a mass-market for software. Companies like Microsoft, Oracle and
Autodesk, began selling compiling software and selling it in its binary form in shrink-wrapped
boxes. Whereas in the past, people could easily study the code and add their own modifications,
now they became passive consumers who had no rights and could be controlled by the code which
they were prohibited from seeing.
Alarmed by how software was stripping rights from computer users, Richard Stallman, a brilliant
programmer from MIT, quit his job in 1984 and start working on a free software clone of UNIX
called GNU (Gnu is Not Unix). Stallman argued that everyone should be guaranteed the 4
fundamental freedoms to 1) use the software for any purpose, 2) study the source code and adapt
it for personal use, 3) distribute copies to help their neighbor, and 4) improve the software and
distribute it. Thousands of idealistic programmers were so inspired by Stallman's message that
they started contributing to the GNU project and a social movement was formed promoting free
software. They produced thousands of programs under the General Public License (GPL),
ensuring that anyone could freely use, copy, change, and distribute their software as long as they
don't restrict others from having the same rights. By the early 1990s, they had almost finished
creating a complete operating system except for the kernel, which is the central part in charge of
interacting with the hardware and assigning resources to other programs.
In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a 19 year old Finnish student, started working on the kernel of an
operating system for 386 computers as a hobby. Others dubbed the kernel “Linux” and combined
it with the GNU software to create a complete operating system. The code was such high quality
that companies such as SuSE, Red Hat, Mandrake, Cygnus, and Ximian were formed to
commercialize free software and sell support and services for it. Stallman had always made clear
that free software could be a commercial product and was called “free” as in “free speech,” rather
than “free” as in “free beer.” Nonetheless, the idealist talk about user's rights and the confusion
about the meaning of the word “free”, scared off many businesses. The movement was accused of
being “socialist” and destroying the software business. To counteract this image and distance the
movement from its idealist origins, a group began calling the software “open source” in 1998.
They emphasized the commercial possibilities of the software and its superior development
methodology which encouraged wide collaboration, reduced costs, and eliminated bugs. In the
heady days of the internet boom, “open source” became the latest buzz word in the high tech
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
industry; and major tech companies such as IBM, SUN and Novell developed plans to capitalize
on “open source”.
A bitter division developed between those who promoted “free software” as a means to effect
social change and those who promoted “open source” for its practical and commercial benefits.
People who speak Romance languages avoid this fight altogether by simply referring to it as
“software libre” or “livre”, since there is no confusion between “gratis” and “libre”. In order to
heal the breach, many now advocate the neutral term “FOSS” or “FLOSS” for “free/libre/open
source software”. Whatever term is employed, avoid calling it “freeware”, since that is software
which is gratis, but doesn't grant the right to see the source code, nor change the program. In many
cases, freeware has special restrictions on copying and distributing as well.
Latin American governments promoting free software
Although the majority of Latin Americans pirate Windows software, a growing number of Latin
American governments are promoting a free software alternative. Since 2001, São Paulo has
created 158 telecenters using GNU/Linux to provide internet access to 250,000 people in poorer
neighborhoods. The success of the telecenters convinced the Brazilian government to promote a
plan to convert 300,000 machines in 6 ministries to GNU/Linux and promote the sale of lowerpriced computers using Fenix Linux with the PC Conectado program. Venezuela was so alarmed
by the way they were locked out of their computers by a US tech company during the national oil
strike in 2002, that the Venezuelan government began a campaign to switch the government to
free software so it would never again be held hostage by proprietary code controlled by foreign
companies. In December 2004, Decreto N° 3.390 of Venezuela established a plan to migrate all
public institutions to free software within 2 years. In September 2005, Peru passed a law
prioritizing the use of free software in public institutions of the state. All of these measures have
been undertaken despite the tremendous pressure of Microsoft, which threatened to sue the
Brazilian minister implementing the migration plan to free software,59 used the US ambassador to
pressure the Peruvian government,60 and used legal obstacles to hinder the Venezuelan
initiatives.61 It appears that Ecuador is also turning toward free software. In December 2006,
Rafael Correa had a meeting with Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement,
in order to discuss how Ecuador could adopt a free alternative. This wave of government
initiatives across Latin America suggests that there will be new opportunities for businesses and
organizations which adopt free software, especially if they are looking for contracts with the
59 Pedro Cadina, 'Microsoft: "Drug-Dealing Methods"', Linux Journal, 1 Jul 2004,
60 Agustin d'Empaire, “Microsoft's Big Stick in Peru”, Wired, 27 Jul 2002,
61 See comments of Oscar O. (21 Jun 2006) in “Venezuela and Free Software”, Tux Magazine,
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Quick stats about free software usage
78% of the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world use GNU/Linux or BSD.
58.9% of web servers use Apache.
75.1% of Domain Name Servers (DNS) use free software.
45% of email servers use free software (sendmail 42%, postfix 2%, exim 1%).
Since April 2002, PHP has been the most popular web programming language.
In June 2001, 35.7% of web servers used GNU/Linux or BSD. Five years later, 83% of
businesses reported in a survey (November 2006) that their servers in new systems would
use GNU/Linux.
In 2004, 14% of large businesses reported used OpenOffice.
In 2005, 64% of developers and administrators of databases reported using a free software
database (MySQL, Firebird, PosgresQL, etc.).
1.1 million developers work on projects using free software in North America.62
Misconceptions about free software
1. Free software is gratis.
Free software doesn't have to be gratis, and some makers of free software charge money for their
software, but they aren't selling a license granting the right to use the software. Rather they are
selling the physical CD that it comes on and any services and support which they offer with the
software. The price of CDs with free software are often quite cheap because anyone can make
copies and give away the software for gratis, which drives down the price.
2. Free software is non-commercial.
Many of the best known free software programs are being developed by commercial companies
who hope to use it to make a profit. They charge for services and support for the software, or they
use it to sell hardware, or they sell proprietary software which runs on top of a free software
program. Sometimes, companies pay programmers to work on free software because they want to
gain credibility and a better reputation in a certain market, or because they need to use the
software to run their businesses more efficiently. Today, most of top programmers on the Linux
kernel, OpenOffice, Apache, MySQL, and GNOME are all paid by companies who have
commercial goals.
3. Free software is lower quality and untrustworthy
Some free software is buggy and untested, just like some proprietary software, but studies of the
some of the best known free software programs have shown it to have fewer defects in its code
than most proprietary software. Studies found 0.09 defects per thousand lines of code (DTLC) in
MySQL and 0.16 DTLC in the Linux kernel. In contrast, the industry average for proprietary
software is 0.57 DTLC, which is 6 times higher than MySQL and 3.5 time higher than the Linux
kernel.63 A study of 438 software vulnerabilities found that free software responds to vulnerability
62 For more statistics about free software usage and studies, see: Amos Batto, “Los Beneficios del Software Libre
para Bolivia”, 28 Apr 2007,; David A. Wheeler,
“Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS, FLOSS, or FOSS)? Look at the Numbers!”, revised 16
Apr 2007,
63 Michael S. Mimoso, “Software experts find MySQL code exceptionally clean”, Enterprise Linux, 18 Dec 2003,
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reports 60% more rapidly than proprietary software.64
4. Free software is harder to use than proprietary software
A decade ago, most free software did involve a high level of expertise to use, but today, many free
software programs employ graphical user interfaces which are as easy to use as many proprietary
programs. GNU/Linux distributions like Ubuntu, Xandros and Linspire are not any more difficult
to learn to use than MS Windows. In 2002, a study found that tasks which took 41.2 minutes in
Windows and MS Office, took 44.5 minutes in KDE and OpenOffice.65 In the last 5 years,
GNU/Linux and OpenOffice has gotten significantly easier to install and use, so there is good
reason to suspect that a study today would find no difference in time. A 2005 study by the British
government of 8 primary and secondary schools concluded: “Pupils advise that when they first
used [free software] it was quite hard, but now they are used to it, they find it easier to use than
Windows-based programs.”66
5. Free software only works in GNU/Linux
According to SourceForge, a website that tracks free software development, there is more free
software for MS Windows, than X-Windows, which is the the graphical environment used by
GNU/Linux. It lists 17,379 free software projects for Windows, 2062 projects for Mac OSX, and
8995 projects for X-Windows.67 Many of the best free software programs such as OpenOffice,
FireFox, AbiWord, MySQL, and Gnumeric are cross-platform and run just as well in Windows as
FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software) for MS Windows
For almost every proprietary program which runs in MS Windows, there exists a free software (open
source) alternative. In order to replace the proprietary software on your MS Windows machine, here is a
list of possible software replacements. For a more comprehensive list of every program available, see the
OSSwin Project. For Spanish speakers, see the comprehensive list at If comparing costs
between proprietary software and its FLOSS alternative, see this list of software prices.
If you would like to download all these programs at once, The Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society has
compiled the WinOSS CD with the latest versions of most of these programs. For Spanish versions of these
programs, offers a DVD and several CDs with most of these programs. If you just want a
basic introduction to free software, try The Open CD (no Spanish version available).
67,289142,sid39_gci941817,00.html; Robert Lemos,
“Security research suggests Linux has fewer flaws: Four years of research by a code-analysis firm finds that the
latest open-source OS beats commercial software for quality,” CNet, 13 Dec 2004,
Ashish Arora, et al., “An Empirical Analysis of Software Vendors’ Patching Behavior: Impact of Vulnerability
Disclosure”, Carnegie Mellon, Jan 2006,
John Blau, “Study: Linux nears Windows XP usability: Researchers studied how easily users could perform tasks
using the two operating systems”, IDG, 4 Aug 2003,,10801,83708,00.html.
“Open Source Software in Schools: A case study report”, British Educational Communications and Technology
Agency (Becta), May 2005, p 12,
SourceForge, accessed 7 Jun 2007,
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Proprietary Programs
(Cost in US)
Web Navigator MS Internet Explorer ($0) Mozilla
AOL Netscape ($0)
Opera ($0)
MS Outlook Express (in
Windows XP: $199, $299)
MS Outlook ($109, in MS
Office: $399, $499)
Qualcomm Eudora ($0,
Corel WordPerfect Mail
($29, $35; in WP Office:
$99, $299, $399)
Internet Instant AIM (AOL Instant
Messenger) ($0)
MS Windows Live
Messenger ($0)
Yahoo! Messenger ($0)
Jabber ($0)
FTP Client
InternetSoft FTP
Commander ($29.95,
Glub Tech Secure FTP
EDonkey2000 ($0)
KaZaA (FileTrack) ($0)
Napster ($0)
PodFeeder ($0)
nimiq ($0)
Doppler ($0)
Skype ($0, charge per call) Speak Freely
Symantec pcAnywhere
($99.95, $199.95)
Iready DigiPhone (monthly
VocalTec Internet Phone
MS Notepad (in Windows Notepad2
XP: $199, $299)
Plain Text
Internet Explorer is a security nightmare and should only
be used when a webpage has been programmed to only
work with Microsoft's proprietary extensions of the
standard internet formats. Most spyware and other forms
of malware has been designed to take advantage of the
gaping security holes in Internet Explorer. According one
test, an Internet Explorer user will receive 21 times more
malware than a FireFox user.
SeaMonkey uses the same codebase as FireFox but is a
complete suite that uses less memory and has more tools
than FireFox, although it doesn't support as many
extensions as FireFox.
MS Outlook is a security hazard which can be a vector for
dangerous scripts in email. Thunderbird doesn't have all
the features of MS Outlook, but is much more secure,
since it has built-in spam filters and doesn't allow
dangerous scripts to run.
SeaMonkey Mail is very similar to Thunderbird but
supports a couple more advanced options.
Unlike the proprietary internet chat programs which can Win,
only communicate in their own chat protocol, Gaim can
handle all protocols so you don't have to switch between Mac
programs if you want to talk to people using MSN, Yahoo,
Google, IRC, ...etc. It even supports spell-checking.
A fully featured FTP client based on the PUtty commandline tool. It is very useful for long uploads and downloads
when you want to pause and later resume.
WinSCP is an FTP client also based upon PUtty with a
simpler interface than FileZilla.
For almost all the P2P networks, there are free software
clients available. Use aMule for eDonkey networks,
Gnucleus for Gnutella networks, and KCeasy for
FileTrack networks. In place of Napster, use OpenNap.
BitTorrent, however, is the best of the P2P clients in the
opinion of many free software users. Many free software
projects prefer that their software be downloaded by
Juice is a handy program for receiving podcasts
automatically from many different sources. Essential for
people who follow the alternative news on the internet
from shows like Democracy Now! and CounterSpin.
Speak Freely is dificult to configure, but if both the sender
and receiver have it installed, they can talk to each other
for free, unlike Skype which charges for each phone call.
In order to use Speak Freely, both the sender and receiver
need an IP number, which can be tricky if the IP number is
automatically assigned and can change.
Quite frankly MS Notepad is a very inadequite as a bare
text editor. Notepad2 is far superior, yet maintains a
simple design. Unfortunately Notepad2 like MS Notepad
can only open one document at a time.
Win, Mac,
Linux (in
the future)
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Proprietary Programs
(Cost in US)
Word Processor MS Word ($229, in MS
Office: $399, $499)
Corel WordPerfect (in WP
Office: $99, $299, $399)
IBM Lotus Word Pro (in
SmartSuite: $281 per year)
MS PowerPoint ($229, in
MS Office: $399, $499)
Corel Presentations (in WP
Office: $99, $299, $399)
MS Excel ($229, in MS
Office: $399, $499)
Corel Quattro Pro (in WP
Office: $99, $299, $399) Gnumeric
IBM Lotus 123 (in
SmartSuite: $281 per year)
Tax Accounting Intuit TurboTax ($9.95,
$39.95, $59.95)
H&R Block TaxCut
MS Money ($19.99 $89.99)
Intuit Quicken ($29.99 $79.99)
MS Small Business
Accounting ($149)
Currently none
Notepad++ has so many options that many programmers
use it in place of the text editors found in Integrated
Development Environments. It recognizes and properly
highlights almost every programming language. A real
delight to use, although the non-programmer probably
won't ever need most of its options.
This programmable text editor that can do everything,
including check your email and run LISP. It has a steep
learning curve and is almost a culture within itself, but it
can do some amazing things--it has accumulated a lot of
functions over the last 25 years.
OOo Writer is better than MS Word according to many
reviewers. In my opinion, WordPerfect is slightly better
than OO Writer, but WordPerfect is more liable to
unexpected crashes. OO Writer runs in Windows,
Linux/UNIX, and OS X, unlike MS Word and WP. It can
export documents as PDF and saves in a text format, so
documents can easily be recovered or exported. It exports
to HTML better than any of the other major word
processors. Its only major drawbacks are a lack of reveal
codes like in WP and its non-intuitive search features
which are designed for people used to UNIX regular
expressions. OO Writer can also open and save in many
formats including MS Word's DOC format.
AbiWord is small, fast word processor. The upcoming
version 2.5 will support internet collaboration editing like
Writely does. AbiWord runs on all platforms and can open
and save in many formats including DOC format. Its
major drawback is that occasionally the formatting on
screen will appear out-of-whack until the screen is
Impress is just as user-friendly as PowerPoint and creates
nice presentations, but Powerpoint has a few more
advanced options than Impress. Occasionally you will
need to reformat imported PowerPoint documents in
OOo Calc is just as good as the proprietary spreadsheets,
although graph manipulation is slightly better in MS
Gnumeric uses the R statistics language, so its statistical
and scientific functions are better than those found in the
proprietary spreadsheets. Its graph manipulation, however,
is rather limited..
OpenTaxSolver can calculate federal taxes for the US and
Canada and the taxes for California, Massachusetts, New
Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New York,
Pennsylvania, and Ontario. In the future, check the Tax
Code Software Foundation which plans to have free
software for preparing the 2006 US federal taxes.
Grisbi is a personal accounting application developed by a
French group which is easy to set up and use. It doesn't
support double entry bookkeeping and some other types of
advanced accounting.
In GNU/Linux, GnuCash offers more advanced
accounting, but only preliminary attempts have been made
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Proprietary Programs
(Cost in US)
Intuit QuickBooks ($99.95
- $3000)
ERP (Enterprise Oracle PeopleSoft ERP
MS Project ($599, $999)
PIM (Personal
Web Page
to port it to Windows. SQL-Ledger is accounting software
that can run on Windows web servers.
FacturaLUX manages the accounting and all other kinds
of data in the management of a business. The version for
Windows XP is not yet stable. The Windows version
should only be used in Windows NT and Windows 2000.
JGR (Java Gui JGR (pronounced as "jaguar") and R Commander are
SPSS Base ($1599)
for R)
graphical user interfaces for the R statistics language,
Insightful S-PLUS
R Commander which is a free software implemention of S. Although the
SAS and SPSS are nicer GUIs, many statisticians like R
better that the languages which come with SAS and SPSS.
In addition, Gnumeric provides an easy way to use R
functions inside of a spreadsheet.
Despite the fact that Sunbird is in the early stages of
development and still lacks a numer of functions, its
interface is very intuitive and easy to use.
KOrganizer has more options than Sunbird, but is a little
more difficult to use and less pleasing visually, since it
maintains a UNIX/Linux style interface in Windows.
KDE PIM is not as easy to use as an integrated PIM,
because it consists of two separate programs,
KAddressBook y KOrganizer, that were migrated from
KDE in Linux. They do not have a Windows-style
appearance, but they do have some advanced functions
like palm pilot synchronization.
MS FrontPage ($199, in
Nvu is a web page editor with a nice user interface, but
MS Office: $399, $499)
fewer options than FrontPage and DreamWeaver. Its table
Adobe Dreamweaver
editing needs improvement and there is no option to see
both the HTML code and the web page at the same time
while editing. Nvu is prone to frequent crashes and still
has a number of annoying bugs, but I still prefer Nvu to
FrontPage, because it adds less garbly-gook to my html
code. In GNU/Linux, many use Quanta Plus, but its
interface is much less intuitive than Nvu. Writer has a web page mode so you can edit web pages,
but you can't see the HTML code, so it is rather limited in
its web editing capabilities.
Adobe Acrobat ($299, Although there is not free software program for editing
existing PDF documents like Adobe Acrobat, you can edit
your documents in OpenOffice and save them as a PDF.
OpenOffice PDFs support hyperlinks, but do not support
forms and the other advanced features of Adobe Acrobat.
PDFCreator converts documents in a print format such a
postscript into PDFs. It doesn't support hyperlinks, forms,
and other advanced PDF features
Although the main xpdf viewer doesn't run under
Windows, its programs to extract images from PDF files
and to convert PDF files into postscript or text do run in
MS Publisher ($169, $209, Scribus
Scribus is fast approaching the utility of Pagemaker and
in MS Office: $399, $499)
has already bypassed Publisher, although it isn't as userAdobe Pagemaker ($499)
friendly. Before installing Scribus, make sure to first
QuarkXPress ($749,
download and install Ghostscript for viewing postscript
MS Paint (in Windows OpenOffice Draw is better than MS Paint by all measures.
Line tools:
Win, Mac)
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Proprietary Programs
(Cost in US)
XP: $199, $299)
MS Visio ($199, $499)
Adobe PhotoShop ($649)
CorelDRAW ($399)
Corel Paint Shop Pro ($99)
Adobe Illustrator ($499)
Corel PaintShop Pro ($99)
Adobe Macromedia Flash
($399, $699)
Corel Animation Shop
AutoDesk Maya Complete
AutoDesk AutoCAD
Aided Drafting ($899, $3995)
RibbonSoft QCad
Professional (~$31, ~$44,
It also supports basic diagramming. It's only drawback is
its poor export quality to other image formats like png and
Dia lacks some of the advanced features of Visio, but will
handle the diagram drawing that most people want. For its
code size, it is an amazing program. Currently Dia can't
open Visio files and there is no easy way to share files
between Dia and Visio users.
Some people say that the GIMP is more difficult to use
than PhotoShop, although it may just be that they are used
Manipulation to PhotoShop. In any case, the GIMP has the same
graphical editing capabilities of the PhotoShop, although
some things like red-eye removal are harder to do.
InkScape is a vector image editor. It doesn't support all the
features of the proprietary SVG editors, but it is rapidly
Blender is a 3-D modeling program which can be used to
create animations, although it is harder to use than
Macromedia, especially for creating web page animations.
It has steep learning curve, but you can make animated
movies with it.
GIMP with
GIMP supports SVG animation with an extension, but is
extension (See significantly harder to use than Macromedia.
QCad is a 2 dimensional drafting program and circuit
board designer which is easier to learn to use than
AutoCAD. Although it doesn't offer the 3-D modeling and
some of the advanced features of AutoCAD, it will serve
for most drafting needs. RibbonSoft has released a free
software edition of its software which is the same as QCad
Professional except for support for the scripting and
polyline modules. QCad is widely available in Linux, but
to use it in Windows, you have to download the source
code and compile it with the Qt library which isn't free in
Windows. Although other Qt programs for Windows such
as Scribus are available for download, I have been unable
to find a compiled version of QCad for Windows. If you
have access to Qt in Windows, please compile it for the
rest of us who can't afford Qt licensing fees.
Currently none Picasa is decent freeware (not free software) for Windows.
In GNU/Linux, F-Spot, gThumb and KSquirrel are nice
photo managers, but they haven't been ported to Windows.
Photo Manager Apple iPhoto (in iLife:
Nero PhotoShow ($39.99)
Sonic Roxio PhotoSuite
Google Picasa ($0)
RealNetworks RealPlayer VLC
($0, $19.99)
MS Media Player ($0)
Apple QuickTime ($0,
VLC has a couple of novel features that no other media
players support. As good as RealPlayer and Media Player Linux,
for watching movies, it falls short as a music player. VLC Mac
doesn't support ripping, and its play list features aren't
very user-friendly. It uses normal menus and buttons,
unlike some annoying media players which try to imitate
physical stereos and VCRs, but users who like skins may
find its selection limited. If a video has multiple sound
tracks, VLC won't always auto-select the correct sound
track--you have to select it from the menu.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Proprietary Programs
(Cost in US)
Music Player
Nullsoft Winamp ($0)
Musicmatch Jukebox ($0,
Sound Editor & Sony Sound Forge
($69.95, 319.96)
Sony ACID ($69.95,
Steinberg Wavelab ($149,
Adobe Audition ($349)
Video Editor
Adobe Premiere ($99,
Apple Final Cut ($299,
Ulead MediaStudio Pro
Avid Pinnacle Studio
($69.99, $99.99, $129.99)
DVD player
The Hungarian answer to RealPlayer, but it doesn't have a
GUI interface in Windows yet. Some free software
advocates don't like it because it supports a lot of
proprietary formats, but it will play just about every
format imaginable.
line: Win;
A nice Java-based media player, but it should be avoided
since it supports Digital Rights Management, an industry
plan to restrict your digital rights.
MusikCube is an excellent music player and ripper with a
very intuitive interface and nice play list features. It
supports MP3, but is uses Ogg Vorbis by default which is
a superior sound format. MusikCube doesn't support
“skins”, which some may see as a drawback.
Unfortunately its GUI is programmed in Visual Basic, so
it isn't portable to other operating systems.
Audacity is a well-designed and easy-to-use sound editor,
but it doesn't have track indicators, so you can only do
very basic multi-track mixing. There are better proprietary
sound editing programs but they priced beyond the reach
of most amateur musicians and redubbers.
There is no free software replacement for the proprietary Win
movie editors, but VirtualDub is a handy video
capture/processing utility designed for AVI video. It can
read, but not write, MPEG 1 video as well. If you want a
freeware movie editor, check out Zwei-Stein Video Editor.
CinePaint edits bitmap images for tradition movie formats Win,
which use frames.
InterVideo WinDVD
VLC occasionally has problems with DVD menus and
($39.95, $49.95)
doesn't deal very gracefully with bad spots in DVDs, but it Linux,
Orion DirectDVD ($99,
will play most movies just as well as proprietary DVD
software. The big problem is that there are ridiculous legal
CyberLink PowerDVD
restrictions on decoding MPEG formats and decrypting
(49.95, 59.95, $69.95)
the CSS (Content Scrambling System). If you believe as I
do that most forms of intellectual property are morally
wrong or if you believe that you should have the legal
right to watch a movie which you paid for, then watch
movies with a clear conscience with VLC. If you believe
that big media companies should have the right to charge
you for the act of decoding and decrypting information in
their proprietary formats, then don't use VLC.
Nero ($79.99)
CDRDAO (CD CDRDAO is a command-line tool for burning CDs which Command
Sonic Roxio DigitalMedia Recorder Disk- runs in just about every platform. To use it requires
Studio ($69, $99, $149)
creating a text file which contains information about how Win,
to burn the CD. Unfortunately CDRDAO can't burn
DVDs and doesn't have a graphical interface. Burn-AtMac
Once has created a graphical front-end for CDRDAO
which is free for non-commercial use. CDBurnerXP Pro is
a decent freeware CD burner for Windows, although it is
not free software. Annoyingly, it defaults to ISO 1, so you
have to select ISO 2 if you don't want shortened
filenames. In GNU/Linux, K3B is an excellent CD/DVD
burner, but it hasn't been ported to Windows.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
shooter game
War Strategy
Web Page
Email Server
Proprietary Programs
(Cost in US)
ID Software Doom ($20,
$25) & Quake ($40, $50)
3D Realms Duke Nukem
Blizzard Warcraft ($19.99,
MS Age of Empires
MS Access ($229, in MS
Office Pro: $499)
Corel Paradox (in WP
Office Pro: $399)
MS Visual FoxPro ($649,
in Visual Studio: $299,
FileMaker Pro ($299,
MS SQL Server ($3899,
$5999, $24999)
Oracle Database ($400,
$4995, $40000)
MS Internet Information
Server (in Windows XP
Pro: $299, in Windows
Server: $999, $2999)
Cube doesn't have any artificial intelligence, so you can
only play against other human beings in internet multiperson play, but the graphics engine is rather nice.
Not as slick as some of the commercial games, but
definitely an enjoyable battlefield strategy game.
Win OOo Base is currently only a limited replacement for a
visual database like Access, but it is rapidly improving.
Although there are a number of excellent free software
databases, none have as good of a GUI interface as the
proprietary databases. There is certainly no visual
programing database program like Visual FoxPro in free
Magic WinMail Server
($129 - $1299)
Merak Mail Server Engine
($264 - $980)
MS Visual C/C++ (in
Visual Studio: $299, $799) Dev-C++
Borland C++Builder
($1090, $2490, Turbo:
Freescale CodeWarrior
MS C# (in Visual Studio:
$299, $799, $2499)
Borland C#Builder ($1090,
$2490, $3490, Turbo:
Borland Delphi ($1090,
$2490, $3490, Turbo:
MySQL is a small and quick database that outperforms
most propriety databases in small and medium scale server
applications. Before version 5 it didn't support many of the
functions used by large enterprise databases.
According to test data, PostGresQL is faster than Oracle.
It supports all the advanced database functions and is an
excellent large-scale enterprise database.
Apache is faster, more secure, and has more configuration
options than IIS. Roughly 70% of webpage servers use
Sendmail is more configurable and is faster than its
proprietary competitors. Sendmail was one of the first
email serving programs and is used by over 40% of email
servers, making it the market leader. If looking for a
highly secure email server, check out postfix for UNIXlike systems.
Bloodshed Dev C/C++ is an integrated development
environment (IDE) like Visual C/C++ in Visual Studio. It
uses the MinGW (or alternatively Cygwin compiler which
is based upon the gcc (GNU compiler collection).
Bloodshed can only compile C/C++ code, but in
GNU/Linux there are nice multilingual IDEs like KDE
Developer and Anjuta DevStudio which are comparable to
MS Visual Studio. For cross-platform programs, write
C/C++ programs using free libraries like GTK+ and
wxWidgets which will run in almost any operating system.
MGWin Developer Studio is an IDE for the MinGW
compiler. It comes with a nice resource editor for creating
visual components for your programs.
Mono is a free software implementation of C# that runs in
both Windows and Unix-like systems. It hasn't
implemented all of the MS C# libraries yet and doesn't
come in an IDE like Visual Studio.
Bloodshed Dev-Pascal is an IDE which can use either the Win
Free Pascal or GNU Pascal compilers. Although it doesn't
have the Rapid Application Development and other visual
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Proprietary Programs
(Cost in US)
programming features of Delphi, it is a good tool for
teaching programming.
MS Visual Basic (in Visual GNU/Liberty There are a number of free Basic interpreters/ compilers Win,
Studio: $299, $799, $2499) Basic Compiler available. Probably the best for general use is the GLBCC, Linux
although it doesn't come with an IDE.
The next version of wxBasic for wxWidgets programming
looks promising, although the current version is
incomplete and difficult to use. Mono's Basic.NET
Compiler also bears watching for people who program in
MS Visual Basic, although it is currently not a complete
MS Visual J++ (in Visual GCJ (GNU
Although programmers can develop Java programs
Studio: $299, $799, $2499) Compiler for
without paying licensing fees, SUN has been roundly
SUN Java ($0)
Java) +
criticized for not releasing Java as free software. It appears Mac
Borland JBuilder ($499,
that SUN will give Java a free software license in the
$3500, Turbo: $399)
future, but in the meantime, the GNU Compiler for Java
(GCJ) and Classpath can replace SUN's Java.
Unfortunately, Classpath hasn't implemented all of SUN's
java libraries yet, so some Java code won't run with it. For
a good development environment for Java, check out
Corel WinZIP ($29.95 7-Zip
WinAce ($29, $39)
Symantec Norton
AntiVirus ($39.99)
McAfee AntiVirus Plus
Security (antispyware, etc.)
McAfee Internet Security currently none
Suite ($49.99)
Symantec Norton Internet
Security ($69.99)
Tenable Network Security nmap
Nessus (version 3) ($1200
per year)
Nessus (version
2) / OpenVAS
ClamWin Free
Eclipse is an IDE and toolkit for 12 different languages,
including C/C++, Fortran, PHP, Perl, Python, and Ruby,
but it most used for Java programming. The Eclipse SDK
uses a different widget toolkit than standard SUN Java and
has a number of GUI tools to simplify the construction of
7-Zip can decompress 15 different compression formats,
so it can open just about any compressed file. It has a
unique compression format which is 10% more compact
than RAR and 75% more compact than the standard ZIP
compression used by most programs. It's only drawbacks
are its odd interface and the fact that it can't decompress
multi-volume ZIP files.
ClamWin is based on the ClamAV scanning engine which
has a relatively high rate of virus detection. ClamWin does
not an on-access real-time scanner like some of the
proprietary anti-virus programs, but it does have a
scheduler for regular anti-virus scanning and a plugin to
scan email in MS Outlook for viruses.
Since most forms of internet malware simply don't
function in GNU/Linux, few free software developers feel
the need to develop counter-measures for a threat that
doesn't bother them. If you need freeware to protect
against spyware, try LavaSoft's Ad-Aware SE Personal.
nmap scans networks for security problems. In Linux,
nmap can be used with the GUI front end nmapFE, but in
Windows it can only be used from the command line.
Nessus is an excellent network security scanner which
used to be free software, but Tenable Network Security
decided to turn it into proprietary software with version 3.
Open source advocates are developing a free version
called OpenVAS based upon the old version 2 code, but it
is not yet available for download.
d Line:
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Scanner and
OCR (Optical
Proprietary Programs
(Cost in US)
Nuance OmniPage
($149.99, $499.99)
ABBYY FineReader
($199, $399)
NewSoft Presto! ($99.95)
Nuance Dragon
NaturallySpeaking ($99,
$199, $899)
IBM ViaVoice ($29.99,
$49.99, $79.99, $189.99)
Command Line MS-DOS (in Windows
XP: $199, $299)
There is no free software in Windows for controlling
scanners. For OCR, GOCR is a very rudimentary
command-line tool for converting image files into text
files. Nobody has created a graphical interface for it and
people who aren't used to the command-line will find it
difficult to use. If you want the help files, you have to
download the source files as well.
currently none None of the current free software voice recognition
projects are developed to the point that they can be used
by normal Windows users. IBM recently released some
key code as free software, so we may see something in the
distant future.
DOS is extremely limited as a command line interface,
which should be avoided when possible. Cygwin is a
UNIX emulator which provides the basic command line
capabilities of UNIX inside Windows. Cygwin can be
used to manipulate Windows files, but can't run BAT files
or Windows programs, so it can't fully replace DOS in
FreeDOS is a free software implementation MS-DOS. It
works fine as a DOS boot disk, but it won't run inside of
Windows 95 or later.
Installation of Spanish Versions of the software
Most of these free software programs will automatically detect the default language in Windows and set it
as the user interface language. Some programs however require special downloads or the user interface
language needs to be selected.
After installing the English version of OpenOffice 2, download and install the Spanish Language Pack. It
should automatically put interface in Spanish, but if not, go to go to Tools->Opcions->Language
Configuration->Languages and select Español as the User Interface Language.
To add Spanish spell-checking, go to Archivo->Assistantes->Instalar diccionarios nuevos. Select
Español and click Ejecutar DicOOo. After downloading the Spanish [es_ES] dictionaries for spelling,
silable separation, and sinonyms, exit and restart OpenOffice. If you have set up OpenOffice for quickstart,
you will have to exit that as well. Look for the OpenOffice icon in the expandable tray on the right-hand
side of the taskbar in Windows and right-click on it. Select the option Salir de Quickstarter. After
restarting OpenOffice, go to Herramientas-> Opciones-> Configuración de idioma-> Lingüística.
Under Modulos disponibles de idioma, click Editar. In the Editar Modulos dialog box, select Español
(España) under Idioma.
To spell check in Spanish, select the text, then go to Formato->Carácter and select Español (España)
under Idioma. To set Spanish as the default language for spell checking, go to: Herramientas->
Opciones-> Configuración de idioma-> Idiomas. Bajo Idiomas predeterminados para los
documentos, select Español (España) for Occidental.
If Espanol does have check mark next to it when selecting it from the list of language, then OpenOffice
can't find the dictionary files for Spanish. Exit OpenOffice, and go to the C:\Program
Files\ 2.0\share\dict\ooo\ directory and make sure that you see the files es_ES.dic,
es_ES.aff, hyph_es_ES.dic, th_es_ES.dic, th_es_ES.aff. If not, you will have to download these files and
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
place them in the directory. Then add the following lines to the dictionary.lst file in the same directory:
DICT es ES es_ES
HYPH es ES es_ES
THES es ES es_ES
Save the file as bare text and then restart OpenOffice. Now it should be able to spell-check in Spanish.
If you want to set your documents to spell check in Spanish from another country, you will have to rename
your dictionary files to the ISO code for that country. For instance, if you want to set Peruvian Spanish as
your language, you will have to rename the dictionary files to es_PE.dic, es_PE.aff, hyph_es_PE.dic,
th_es_PE.dic, th_es_PE.aff and change the dictionary.lst file to:
DICT es PE es_PE
HYPH es PE es_PE
THES es PE es_PE
Mozilla-based Software
NAVE offers full Spanish versions of Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, SeaMonkey, and Nvu for
download. Or you can install the English version and then later install a separate XPI Spanish Language
Mozilla Firefox
After installing the XPI Spanish Language pack, go to: Tools-> Options-> Advanced-> General. Click
"Edit Languages" and in the "Languages" dialog box, click "Add" and select "Spanish [es]" from the list.
Then click on "Move up" to put Spanish first on the list.
To install the XPI Spanish Language Pack go to Edit-> Preferences-> Appearance->
Language/Content. Click "Download more..." and select Spanish. After downloading, select Spanish as
your prefered language, click "OK" and then restart SeaMonkey.
Currently there is no spanish translation of the latest version of 7-Zip, but older versions have been
translated. See for the latest available version.
Currently there is no Spanish version of MusikCube, although somebody has started a translation.
MGWin Developer Studio
There is no Spanish translation available.
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Appendix D: Multi-booting: Installing more than one
OS on your computer
If you are setting up a thin client server, it is strongly recommended that you use a dedicated
machine that has no other function. A dedicated machine will be much stabler. If you are using
your thin client server for some other purpose, you might accidentally delete important files on the
harddrive. It is especially risky to have multiple operating systems installed on your thin client
server. Generally, GNU/Linux plays nicely with other operating systems, but MS Windows does
not. MS Windows installers only recognize older versions of Windows. If you install or reinstall
Windows, afterwards you will no longer have the option to boot into GNU/Linux or newer
versions of Windows which are installed on other partitions. In addition, if you decide to add
another partition to your harddrive, you can foul up your existing installations of GNU/Linux,
because repartitioning will renumber all the partitions on your harddrive. Your installations of
GNU/Linux might not be able to find the swap partition since it has been renumbered.
It is possible to recover from all these partition problems, but it takes some experience. If you
have never dealt with multi-booting before, it is recommended that you avoid these problems by
only running one operating system on your harddrive. Whatever you do, make sure that you have
made backups of all your existing data and have the installation disks for all the software on your
computer. You need to be prepared to reinstall everything on your computer if you are going to
play with multi-booting.
Often people who are investigating the possibility of using a thin client network want to set up a
test thin client server, but don't have a spare computer handy. If you want to give a thin client
network a test run before investing too much money, you might think about just buying a separate
harddrive, rather than trying to set up a dual boot machine on your existing computer. This way
you can avoid the hassles and risks of dual booting. Take out your existing harddrive and put in
your new harddrive. Then install your thin client server on your new harddrive. Once you get
your thin client network working correctly, then you verify whether the thin client network will
serve your needs and whether it is worth buying a whole new machine to be your thin client
Another option to multi-booting is to set up virtual machines with a program like Qemu, Zen,
Vmware or Virtuozzo. These programs allow additional operating systems to be installed inside
of an existing operating system. Setting up virtual machines is a bit tricky, but may be worth the
effort if you need to be able to access multiple operating systems at the same time.
On the other hand, multi-booting can be handy in some cases, especially if you work in an
environment when people run both GNU/Linux and Windows. For instance, some schools are
beginning to teach classes on GNU/Linux, but still need to use Windows for their normal classes.
The harddrive of each workstation can be configured to provide a menu of the available operating
systems at startup, so the user can choose whether to run GNU/Linux or Windows. In some thin
client networks, the user can choose to boot the workstation as a thin client, or as a fat client,
depending on the type of work to be done.
If you plan on installing multiple operating systems on your computer and multi-booting,
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
Microsoft recommends installing the operating systems in the following order:
Windows 3.X
Windows 95/Windows98/Windows Me
Windows NT
Windows 2000
Windows XP
Windows Server 2003
Windows Vista
GNU/Linux or any other OS
Install each operating system in its own partition. Although multiple Microsoft operating systems
can be installed in the same partition, errors will often occur as different operating systems look in
the same location for their files.
Recovering previous installations of Windows
If you already have Windows Vista installed on your computer, it probably won´t run after you
install Windows Server 2003. By default, Windows rewrites the Master Boot Record (MBR)
when it installs the bootloader. Since Windows doesn't recognize GNU/Linux partitions, you
won't be able to boot any of your existing GNU/Linux partitions. Plan on having to reinstall
Windows Vista and GNU/Linux after installing Windows Server 2003. If you install Windows
2000 Server, you will probably need to reinstall Windows XP, Windows Vista, and GNU/Linux
You may be able to recover your previous installation of Windows XP or Vista. Insert the original
Windows installation CD and reboot the computer. When starting up, you will be asked to press
any key to boot from the CD. Select R to enter recovery mode. Windows will then check and
reinstall any needed files. Since Windows is rewriting system files, you may have to uninstall,
then reinstall certain programs afterwards, so they will function correctly.
Reinstalling the Master Boot Record (MBR)
If you want to recover your previous installation of Windows, without reinstalling the operating
system, it may be possible to recover it by just reinstalling the Master Boot Record (MBR). The
MBR is the first 512 bytes in Sector 0 of the harddrive which tells the computer where there are
partitions in the harddrive and where in the harddrive to boot from.
Restoring Windows 95/98
If you have an installation of Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows 98_SE, you can recover
your installation using a Windows 98 Installation CD. Insert the CD and reboot your computer.
Select support for the CD-ROM and it should boot from the Installation CD. When you see a
command prompt, enter:
fdisk /mbr
This should restore your Windows installation, but it won't restore any installations of GNU/Linux
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
or later versions of Windows. You will have to use a Linux Installation CD to restore your
GNU/Linux partitions.
Restoring Windows XP
If you have Windows XP installed on your computer, insert a Windows 98 or Windows XP
Installation CD and reboot the computer. If using the Windows 98 Installation CD, use the fdisk
/mbr command above to restore the MBR. If using the Windows XP Installation CD, press any
key at the startup to boot from the Installation CD. Enter the Recovery Mode by pressing R.
Select the drive where Windows XP is installed (which is probably the C drive). At the command
prompt, enter the command:
When done reinstalling the MBR, then enter the command:
Now the computer should be able to boot into Windows XP.
Recovering previous installations of GNU/Linux
There are several different ways to recover previous installations of GNU/Linux after installing
Windows. The easiest, but least reliable method is to reinstall GNU/Linux. This is very similar
to reinstalling Windows in recovery mode. Many Linux installation CDs have a recovery mode
which will boot the computer into a command line prompt. Some Linux distributions come in the
form of a Live CD, which will allow you to boot up the computer and enter a Graphical User
Interface (GUI). You will be able to open a terminal window to use the command prompt.
From there you should be able to recreate the master boot record (MBR). Today most
distributions of GNU/Linux use the GRUB boot loader, which has a special program to restore
your MBR so you can multi-boot. A few GNU/Linux distributions like Mandriva still use the
antiquated lilo boot loader. For recovering Mandriva, Fedora, or SuSE read these instructions. For
Ubuntu read these instructions.
The following are general instructions which ought to work for most GNU/Linux distributions
which us the GRUB boot loader.
Insert a GNU/Linux installation CD and reboot the computer, then select the option to enter the
command line or recovery mode. If using a Live CD, wait until the computer boots up in
graphical mode, then open a terminal window. Once you see a command line prompt, switch to
the root user:
(in distributions based upon Ubuntu use: sudo -i)
Enter the root password and press return.
Now enter the grub program:
When inside the grub shell prompt “grub> ”, find your previous installations of GNU/Linux:
find /boot/grub/stage1
This command should return a list of all the installations of GNU/Linux on your computer which
Thin Client Computing: Installation Manual
use the GRUB boot loader. (It won't find distributions of GNU/Linux which use the lilo boot
loader.) Whatever is returned, use in the next command. If you have multiple installations of
GNU/Linux, select one of them. Tell GRUB which partition to boot from:
root (hd?,?)
For instance, if the find command returned (hd0,1), then you would enter root (hd0,1).
Next, enter the command to rewrite the MBR so it points to the partition indicated by the root
setup (hd0)
The MBR should now be reinstalled. Finally, exit the grub shell:
When the computer is rebooted, it should be able to boot to GNU/Linux. If you have both
Windows and GNU/Linux installed on the same machine, you may need to add Windows to the
list of operating systems which the machine can boot. To do this, boot into GNU/Linux, then
open a terminal window. Use your favorite text editor to edit the file /boot/grub/menu.lst. If you
need a simple text editor, which works inside a terminal window, try the nano editor:
nano /boot/grub/menu.lst
Text which follows the # (number sign) is a comment and will be ignored by the computer. You
will now need to add Windows to the list of operating systems that can be booted. For instance,
here is an example of a menu.lst file for a computer which has Windows XP Professional in the
first partition (hd0,0) and Edubuntu 6.10 installed in the second partition (hd0,1):
Windows Server XP Professional
chainloader +1
Edubuntu, kernel 2.6.17-10-386
/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.17-10-386 root=/dev/hda3 ro quiet splash
When done editing menu.lst, exit and save the file. In nano, you can exit and save by pressing
Ctrl X. You will be asked if you want to save the file. Press Y to answer “yes”, then press Enter
to save it under the same name. The next time you reboot, you should see a menu of operating
systems and be able to select the operating system which you want.
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