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Topic # 126899 23-Jul-2013 13:50
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My employer is currently considering redeploying elderly Windows XP machines as Linux thin clients for some of our clients. We are currently evaluating a paid solution from IGEL.   We have many small business clients with RDS servers, and it makes sense to re purpose some hardware.    

Are there any good free alternatives for turning late Pentium 4 era or newer PCs into Thin client environments easily?  Im comfortable stumbling about in linux, but creating my own builds etc is beyond me, basically just want desktop with a remote desktop shortcut, that can't be molested by the end user....

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 864276 23-Jul-2013 14:14
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You need to work out what features you want support by the clients - things such as multiple screens, USB passthrough, local printers  etc will all be important in your thin client selection as not all of these are supported by all clients.

When I last did an evaluation of thin client technology the most feature rich clients were Windows based, either repurposed PC's or physical thin clients. The Linux options are often cheaper but also often don't support as many features that may or may not be as important. Conversely if you end up running Windows based thin clients you then end up having to actively manage them which negates a lot of the benefits of running thin clients.... IGEL had the best features, support and cost of the non Windows based clients when I did the review.

A number of other factors to consider are cost, real estate, and support. Reusing old PC's can seem cheap but they will fail more often than a new physical thin client, consume more physical space etc and thin client software sometimes has minor issues that can tarnish the end user experience.

My experience in thin clients is that if you are moving this way purely for cost savings then that will be difficult but if you want to reduce support, increase uptime, provide more mobility or location independence etc then that's the way to go. Like most things cutting costs can have a direct impact on other areas.

Let us know how you get on - hope the above was of some help and I wasn't trying to tell you how to suck eggs or anything.

Cheers
Matt.

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  Reply # 864316 23-Jul-2013 14:55
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Have a look at Windows Thin PC - I've come across it but never looked at it.




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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 864319 23-Jul-2013 15:00
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If you want something already built for this purpose, check out http://www.thinstation.org/. If rolling your own, check out http://wiki.ltsp.org/wiki/LTSPedia.

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  Reply # 865933 25-Jul-2013 14:53
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I have done this for a couple of clients - and it works pretty well.

1) Reinstall windows xp on the old P4
2) Create two profiles. 

a) Administrator - admin user. Setup the computer's ip address etc, enable firewall
b) ThinUser - standard user

3) Set up the ThinUser profile. Remove everything in the start menu, remove all the icons on the desktop.
-
You can remove the desktop icons such as my computer etc on the display control panel such as my computer, network places, etc
- Move everything from c:\documents and settings\all users\start menu to \administrator\start menu
- Start > Run > Msconfig - remove everything out of startup except for wifi program if you use one
- On the start menu properties, remove stuff from the start menu that doesnt need to be there like My Docs, My Pictures etc
Basically make it as basic as possible

4) In the My Documents folder, place a .rdp file - double click on it to connect to the terminal server

5) Create a shortcut to the rdp file on the desktop of the thinuser, and in
c:\documents and settings\thinuser\start menu\all programs\startup
So when the user logs on it automatically launches the rdp file

6) Set the local screensaver and power options - turn off screen after 30 mins bla bla bla
Make sure you uncheck "ask for password" on the screensaver settings page in winxp. The rdp session will ask for the password.

7) Download and install a rare program called Windows Configurator

http://windows-configurator.en.softonic.com/
you may have to use the softonic download wrapper - custom without the toolbars

8) Add a bat file to the desktop called Shut-Down.bat
It cannot be called shutdown.bat - the word shutdown will confuse it.
Inside the batch file - its just a simple text file so you create it in notepad and rename the extension from shut-down.txt to shut-down.bat
Use the following 3 lines of code in the bat file:

@echo off
echo Shutting Down
shutdown -s -t 20

When the user double clicks the bat file on the desktop, the computer will shutdown.
Remember to go back into the explorer options and hide file extenstions again

9) Hide the start bar and menu
right click on the task bar and unlock it,
right click on the task bar and open properties - turn on auto hide, switch off show on top of other windows
resize task bar down so its only a minimeter thick - do less than one row of icons / buttons
right click and lock the task bar again
You can access the start button / menu via the keyboard start button

9) Open windows configurator - block access to the control panel, internet explorer options bla bla bla. Hide the C D E drives in windows explorer etc.
To block the use of internet explorer open it and add a proxy server under tools > options first
You may wish to pre-install firefox and chrome and set them up with a proxy server then remove the icons
A proxy server address of 127.0.0.1 and port 4152 will stop the users from being able to install firefox / chrome / ie locally and surf the net. They can only use the terminal server.

10) Once the thinuser environment has been set Log on as Administrator
start > run > "control userpasswords2"
without the "speechmarks"

Click the thinuser in the list
uncheck "Users must enter a username and password to log onto this computer"

This means that whenever the computer is booted up, it automatically logs on as the thinuser, and launches the rdp file in the start menu startup folder.

If you need to log on as the administrator, just start the computer up and after the windowx xp logo shows, before it begins logging on as the ThinUser - hold down the SHIFT key during the process where the logon screen would normally appear.



On the 11th day, the flying spaghetti monster said to his league of technicians, go fourth and ghost your image of thin client happiness across the company


Edit - i tried the thinstation and a couple of other linux distros about 3 years ago and decided they didnt support wifi on the dumb terminal so we couldnt use them for the particular application. Now i just spend 10 to 20 mins setting up the pc as a locked down xp with the rdp on the desktop so its still pretty simple and better driver/widescreen support etc.
Also using windows xp with the latest remote desktop client from microsoft will allow you to have dual screen monitors inside the rdp which accountants really seem to love.

If they only need one screen, i am a fan of the HP thin clients. They are so incredibly simple that they can box it up and just ship it to our workshop - and very few cables / less moving parts to go wrong.




Ray Taylor
Taylor Broadband (rural hawkes bay)
www.ruralkiwi.com

There is no place like localhost
For my general guide to extending your wireless network Click Here




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