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Picture of Almost free computers or Using Thin Clients with Debian linux.
Almost-free-computers-or-Using-Thin-Clients-with-D (1).jpg
So you want to set up a small network for a business or just for home. Think about thin clients. Using thin clients has always been an important thing with me.Though they are mini subsets of full computers they save money in electricity and require less support. Most thin clients work by depending on a computer server to dish them content. Usually this is done using software known as terminal server clients.   Normally most people use LTSP (linux terminal server project) to set up thin clients with linux. That does take a bit of setup. I will show an easier way.  This set up will be for Debian linux. If you have another version of linux besides Debian, the setup will need to be done differently. Debian linux is probably one of the most universal linux distros around. If you want to get Debian linux go to My original experiment was with a Pentium 4 computer though lesser or even more powerful machines as servers might work.A virtual machine should work like a charm.  Whats Next?

Note: You can also install xrdp so that mswindows machines (or other rdp clients) can connect to the server.  Wrote this instructable before Ipads and Android tablets were common. You can get rdp clients for Android and the Ipad so you do not have to work with that old equipment. A more preferable solution.

Step 1: What's needed? (part 1)

Picture of What's needed? (part 1)
You will need a full desktop computer (a laptop could be used) to act as the server already running Debian Linux. If you have a spare computer that you do not mind losing what is on the hard drive, you could install linux on it and go from there.  You need a computer network to connect the thin clients and the server (usually a network switch and cabling). You need some thin clients that support the rdp protocol. Not all thin clients do. I have some thin clients that expect to load the software to run them selves from the server when you turn them on.  So if you plan to purchase thin clients you need to know these things. You will want some that have the needed software already built in. Purchasing used thin clients from the net can be a real minefield of problems.  I know I bought some units of one kind and ended up with 4 good ones out of the six I bought. Sellers tend to sell them with parts missing. But I bought them so cheap I can not complain. The Compaq Evo series is what we use most. We also use some Neoware units. Both companies were bought by HP.. The Wyse unit pictured is based on the Compaq EVO series.

Note: if you have an Android or Ipad tablets with an rdp application, skip over to step3.
TOCO8 years ago
Is this the same for ubuntu? Debian and ubuntu are very similar from what I see and have heard.
Computothought (author)  TOCO8 years ago
$ uname -a
Linux oesrvr104 2.6.32-32-generic #62-Ubuntu SMP Wed Apr 20 21:54:21 UTC 2011 i686 GNU/Linux
$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description: Ubuntu 10.04.2 LTS
Release: 10.04
Codename: lucid
$ sudo apt-cache search xrdp
xrdp - Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) server
Computothought (author)  Computothought7 years ago
Update: it does work on Ubuntu as long as there are no firewall restrictions.
Computothought (author)  TOCO8 years ago
It should work for ubuntu as ubuntu has the same packages. Have not tried it yet though on ubuntu..
Computothought (author) 7 years ago
Looks like new firmware at for the t20/30's
Computothought (author) 7 years ago
Looks like new firmware at for the t20/30's
bbear48 years ago
I've been wanting to do the same. How about a LCD screen window! You could be in a windowless room and you pull the shade back to have a stunning view from a sky scraper's window or a country landscape from your basement mounted LCD window. There could be weather outside, bees buzzing from blooming flower to blooming flower. A hummingbird might come and take a drink from the feeder just outside your LCD window.

What about a window looking out over a grand waterfall, or an erupting volcano. Or how about a live feed from times square? Perhaps a view of the Eiffel tower! Or maybe just the puppy section of a pet store. Or the chimpanzees at the zoo.
Computothought (author)  bbear48 years ago
TOCO8 years ago
how do you do the stuff in terminal in step 4? when I type su into terminal and then my password it says authentication failure
Computothought (author)  TOCO8 years ago
Ubuntu you can just type ifconfig and you should get the info. Debian is a bit more security conscious, Alternative for Debian is to use "sudo ifconfig". if you are getting that error then more than likely you do not have su or sudo rights. Can you log in as an admin? On ubuntu the first user setup automatcially is given sudo rights. On debian, you have to do it yourself using the admin account.

You may need to modify the file /etc/sudoers using admin rights. Lots of security issues modifying that file though.
drresearch9 years ago
I think LTSP is easier to setup, here are the basic steps:

1) Install the packages for ltsp and build the thin client environment.

2) Configure the network interfaces by easily editing one file.

3) Configure the DHCP server by easily editing it's configuration file.

LTSP also doesn't require to use special login software on the thin client, just the PXE network boot which is part of the BIOS. This also makes it very easy to set up new thin clients as you just need to plug them in.
Editing config files = needs experience. It's not hard, sure, but you need to know what to put in there, and it's probably different for each setup.
Computothought (author)  willrandship8 years ago
If you need to add different hardware configurations for clients such as adding support for the atom cpu's becomes even more fun.
Computothought (author) 9 years ago
Actually I have been using LTSP since 4.x and it is not that hard for more experienced users to set up. For the average user they will not either want to know or do all that. Most thin clients usually come or should come with an rdp client, so there is usually nothing to set up per se on the client, if the thin client does auto dhcp. You do not have to mess with pxe at all  Your network router will act as a dhcp server with nothing to configure. Though I do love pxe and gpxe even more. There are no interfaces or secondary nics to install or configure my way.  Ubuntu should work just as well with this setup. Fedora takes a bit more though.

I appreciate your comment, but I can have my network up and running before you finish your first step.  If you really want easy ltsp, may I suggest the live ltsp dvd. Ltsp is about to get replaced anyway. I forget what the new version that Redhat is working on will be called. It is supposed to be awesome.