Thin terminals for FreeBSD
norgaard at locolomo.org
Tue Aug 8 07:28:14 UTC 2006
Nagy László wrote:
> I need to setup an environment where some users (10 to 20 employees)
> will use terminals to run programs. They need to run a few popular
> programs: thunderbird, firefox, adobe acrobat, openoffice and gaim. This
> site will be a customer service. We decided to reduce the costs by using
> Open Source software and cheap terminal computers. This is a good
> solution because most of the users will read messages and images on the
> screen and they can share the same processor and memory easily. I know
> that I can setup cheap computers and use its X server as a terminal for
> another central computer. This solution still requires new (or used)
> computers. I would like to reduce the costs to the minimum. Here are
> some key questions that I could not answer:
> - Is there a more cost-effective solution? (Something that I did not
> think of)
> - How much RAM will I need? Will FireFox Thunderbird and OpenOffice load
> shared objects and reduce the overall memory usage? Or should I reserve
> 256MB of memory for each client?
> - Do I need to use gigabit ethernet? Or is it enough to use a normal 100
> Mbps wired network? I heard that there can be bandwidth problems when
> using many terminals, but I do not have experience.
> - Are there any pitfalls that I need to be aware of?
> It would be perfect to provide links to some articles or manuals - I do
> not need anyone to write detailed instuctions and do my job. I'm asking
> for help because the handbook was not very useful in this case. I only
> found this:
> It does not help too much, and there is no know-how. I really need to
> know what hardware I need to buy.
Remember that the main cost is maintenance, not the hardware.
I think that the way to do it is not dumb terminals in the old sense,
but rather sharing disks, while each terminal runs processes separately
and have lot's of RAM - 1GB.
100Mbps network should be ok, just make sure it's switched (which all
are nowadays), it's only loading the applications that is slow - once
up, there is not much on the network when applications run on the client
and there is plenty of RAM. I would think that more RAM gives better
user experience than faster network.
Some recommends booting off a flashrom, but the disadvantage is
upgrading the base system has to be done on each client.
For example: Buy some mini-itx MB's with 1GB ram. For desktop use,
processor is not important, RAM is. So get some fanless MB's. I have
found that VIA MB's are easy to work with, support pxeboot, see this
Then you need one file server to allow NFS mount of everything. I sat
down and wrote about it, but I never got through to have a working
diskless with all the bells and whistles, see this article:
Other sources are the pxe and diskless articles in
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