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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, Thin Client Advice in Technical; The SMT here has decided that replacing our current workstations which are about four years old is a pointless exercise. ...
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    AngryITGuy's Avatar
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    Thin Client Advice

    The SMT here has decided that replacing our current workstations which are about four years old is a pointless exercise. I think the words 'throwing good money away' came up during the meeting.

    After the initial shock of the news. We are now looking into ways to rejuvinate our workstations. One idea that came up was to reconfigure some of the workstations as 'Thin Clients'.

    I have looked into this and have come accross ThinStation which sounds ideal. Has anyone had any experience in using this at all, whats it like in a school environment?

    We have a Dell Server which we could setup as a Terminal Server. It's only a single Intel Xeon X3210 with 4GB of RAM. Would this be adequate to run our initial batch of recycled workstations which should be about 15?

    The recycled thin clients would only be installed in offices so they would be used for Office, Internet and SIMS. I am not sure how they would work on the curriculum as we are running Ranger here.

    Out of curiosity has anyone tried thin clients with Ranger?

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Cheers

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    I am using approximately 50 PCs converted to Thinstation. They are a mix of old Elonex and Dan PCs that are 5+ years old. I have a farm of 5 Citrix based terminal servers they connect to. After the initial learning curve, setting up the infrastructure, and a bit of recompiling (It's helpful to have a Linux based PC around to facilitate this).

    You server sounds ok, I would be a little worried if there is enough CPU grunt there but it really depends on what the clients are doing. If they are just surfing the net, checking email and using office apps you shouldn't have too many problems.

    I don't have Ranger here, however we do use ABTutor for classroom control. I have one room (approx 25 Thin Station machines) setup to be controlled though ABTutor. The only gotcha is that you must use v5.

    The only other issue that tripped me up is that the network has to be working perfectly. If there are any wiring/switch/capacity problems running thin clients will expose these weaknesses. Random session disconnections, keyboard/video/mouse corruption, tftp download failures and hung machines are symptoms to look out for.

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    AngryITGuy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice Geoff.

    With regards to our infrastructure I think its up to the job we have ProCurve Switches throughout the site. The backbone is gigabit although all clients conenct at 100mb, then there are the various fibre links between the different buildings.

    The cabling infrastructure is quite old but we have recently rewired the network cabinets and replaced all network cables for all workstations on site.

    I share your concern with the single processor box maybe some more RAM may help but the terminals that connect to it will only be using SIMS, Office and the internet. Doing a quick count in my head I think the maximum connections to it would only be 15.

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    Have you turned the fault finder sensitivty up on your ProCurves. They'll spot wiring problems for you.

    More ram wont help, as there is a 4gb limit on 32bit systems. You can move to 64bit of course but then a lot of your software will break.

    Would it be possible to replace the processor with a dual core model? Or perhaps the server board has a second CPU socket free?

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    AngryITGuy (21st May 2008)

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    AngryITGuy's Avatar
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    Geoff

    The current processor in the server is an entry level Quad, details here I suppose if the power of the processor was not up to the job we could replace the board for a dual cpu one.

    We have the sensitvity set to medium on the switches and do get the occasional CRC error reported, which have now been addressed.

    I suppose I could set it to high and see what else they grumble about.

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    It's a quad core? Oh I didn't realise that. That should be fine.

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    I don't want to make a new thread and this seems an appropriate place..

    What's video performance like for people with Terminal Server setups? I have 15 400MHz Celerons with Win98 booting with RDP client in startup, I only just read about thinstation now. Is video a realistic expectation in thin-client setups? I've a dual quad w/ 4gb ram usually serving 16 clients. Probably overpowered but I expect this to increase. I've been using the server itself (not rackmount) as a workstation so the teachers have a DVD player hooked up to the computer lab's projector. Any suggestions on the ideal setup are welcome.

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    Anything 'multimedia' will struggle. It's just the nature of the architecture. The only exception to this is if your using Citrix, they've put a lot of work into optimising video and sound so it's possible (but still not ideal) to use that and have it work.

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    laserblazer (27th May 2008)

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    There is a guide to setting up a thin client network using ThinStation and RDP at Presentation materials from EduGeek North 2006 conference

    As Geoff mentions, multimedia is a little bit of a struggle over terminal services. I use Citrix which optimises things like Flash using 'SpeedScreen' and have found that tings like the BBC iPlayer are perfectly watchable - I cannot imagine anything much more multimedia-ry being used on an everyday basis.

    It's also worth noting that SIMS will not run on 64-bit Windows so you are pretty much stuck with the 4GB limit but that won't be a problem for 15 users.

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    AngryITGuy (27th May 2008)

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