Thin Clients, where, who?
we are seriously looking at thin clients at present and looking to replace some of our desktops. new week we are attending a local school for a nose around at theirs. i just wanted to get a consensus of where you guys and gals have deployed thin clients?
what i mean by this is;
- do you use them as teacher stations (interactive whiteboard, sims, pars, lession monitor etc)?
- do you use them in areas where only dtp is done?
- do they out put much heat (i understand not but if there was a room of 32 of them???)
- how do they handl video/video editing/ audio editing/dreamweaver (ict use)?
- would you use one (as your main station)???
Why use Thin Client Technology - Some answers
The Thomas Deacon Academy was opened in September 2007 as an amalgamation of three schools. The building was conceived and designed around the Curriculum plans but followed the basic similar constraints as a BSF project would today. There is an emphasis on sustainability in the building which goes further than just sustainability of the IT provision, but the way in which IT is delivered shapes elements of the building. For example there is no air conditioning other than the server rooms. This is possible only because of the use of terminals as opposed to normal PC’s.
The terminals used are Wyse S10 units. (Note, for a new project / build I would recommend that you don’t use these as the Multimedia capabilities are constrained by the graphics processors in the units. Instead go for a WYSE C30LE as it has improved video capabilities Wyse Technology - Wyse C30LE Thin Client Note though that these are Windows CE devices and as such need to be updated /patched whereas the Wyse WNOS system does not.)
The life of these terminals is 7 years minimum but I would expect them to last beyond 3 normal PC refreshes (based on three year refresh) This itself is a compelling reason to purchase! Add to it the fact that they operate silently. The noise decibel level for a suite of 30PC’s is sufficient for a teacher to have to speak in a raised voice to capture that attention of their students. This is not the case in our classrooms. The loudest piece of IT equipment running is the fan in the projectors and this clearly evident on the many Learning Walks that occur as lesson control is considerably easier. If a teacher asks for hush, it is plainly obvious to see if a student is typing an email or if two students are whispering as it can be heard at the front of the classroom.
So now we have two reasons to purchase: - Sustainability and Lesson control.
Another feature that the teachers appreciate is the start up time. Even with ‘brand new’ Windows 7 PC’s straight out of the box boot times from cold can be about 3 minutes – longer when profiles grow. Thin clients are ready to go at 30-40 seconds! Apart from hardware issues (Mice / Keyboards) all terminals boot and run. If it is necessary, a terminal can be swapped with another, booted and the student can be up and running very quickly. Staff like this feature.
[*]Do we use them as Teacher Terminals? No, not at present. But we are using Citrix Presentation Server 4.5 (now called XenApp) on the terminals. Three years is a long time in terms of IT in general and this is no different in the Thin Client realms. It is now possible to run Virtual Desktops (XenDesktop 4 in Citrix’s case) so each user has effectively got their own PC with which to customise and use as they see fit (still governed by Group Policies and Virus Checking etc) and also the connectivity of peripherals has improved so that with testing it would be possible to use Interactive White Boards, Scanners USB Hubs, Digitisers etc. So the argument for using Thick Clients (Normal PC’s) is reduced.
[*]Do we use them in areas where only dtp is done? No, for these rooms we still use normal PC’s.
[*] Do they out put much heat? Absolutely not. The terminals are warm to touch but do not contribute to room heating anywhere near as much as traditional PC’s do. We do not have AirCon.
[*]How do they handle video/video editing/ audio editing/Dreamweaver? Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop will utilise the power of the terminals graphics CPU to render Flash and video which is why I do not recommend the basic S10 terminals (see above). This is perfectly usable in a classroom environment. An exception to this would be if your Academy / College / School specialised in Multimedia and was creating exceptionally large or difficult to render graphics / video. Editing video with Moviemaker / Photo Story on XenApp via published Desktops is not possible as the underlying OS is not compatible with the program. There are several Web 2.0 sites that allow you to upload and edit video online via a webpage so this is not too restrictive when producing work for normal GCSE type examinations / coursework etc. For areas where Video editing is required I would look to some sort of virtual desktop (XenDesktop) where these become possible as the end user sees WinXP / Win 7 and can therefore access the applications on these OS’s.
[*] Would you use one (as your main station)? Yes. A large amount of Admin users within the Academy do exactly this.
There is a further reason to consider a Thin Client solution and that is its manageability. We have 1300 terminal running off 25 servers. To effect a change at any of these terminals I need only make it once and this is replicated across the farm. This improves rollout time of new applications and makes virus protection / recovery a cinch!
Remote access to the network. Your students will have access to exactly the same set of applications at home as they do within school. Therefore, work set on a Learning Platform can relate to local resources and students will be able to access them.
I could go on but I won’t. Thank you for taking the time to read this. If in doubt about the appropriateness of thin client technology, bear this in mind. 80-85% of everything that a student produces within a ‘normal’ school is produced on applications that run perfectly well on Thin Client solutions and there is absolutely no reason why it should not be utilised and an awful lot of reasons why it should.
Thomas Deacon Academy