Terminal Server

1. Introduction

This page gives an overview of terminal server software, as opposed to terminal server hardware. The links below have been researched for the Surrey LUG wiki by FayZee and posted here in March 2007.

2. Definition of Terminal Server

  • en.wikipedia.org - Wiki entry: Quoted from site: "A terminal server is a device to connect multiple, possibly remote, input/output devices to a central processing unit."

3. Definition of Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP)

  • en.wikipedia.org - Wiki entry: Quoted from site: "Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) is an add-on package for Linux that allows many people to simultaneously use the same computer. Applications run on the server with a terminal known as a thin client handling input and output. These thin clients are also known as X terminals. Generally, they are low-powered, lack a hard disk and are quieter than desktop computers. This is because they do not have any moving parts."

4. General Intro to LTSP

  • wiki.ltsp.org - New features: This page was last edited in November 2005 but is well written and gives you a little taste of what's possible.


6. LTSP Cybertent (Real life implementation)

  • 2005 Hes Fes: Fully documented implementation of LTSP by Psand.net. The Home Educators' Seaside Festival, down in Dorset, invited them to set up a cybertent, which proved highly popular. Useful do's and dont's, plenty of photos and a video tour of the tent in full swing (tip: wget).

7. Edubuntu ( Linux for Young Human Beings)

  • www.edubuntu.org - Edubuntu: Official home page offering the Edubuntu Manifesto, news, information and downloads. Kept up-to-date by Canonical.

8. DebianEdu

DebianEdu is a project about utilizing Debian to make the best distribution for educational purposes.

Skolelinux is the name of a CustomDebianDistribution which is produced by the DebianEdu project. "skole" is Norwegian and means "school".

9. K12 (Linux in Schools)

  • k12ltsp.org - K12LTSP Information: Site No. 1. Based on Fedora Core 5, K-12 comes with a full set of familiar GUI tools for configuring your server. You have the choice of KDE or GNOME desktops and many applications. This site seems not to have been updated since about 2002, but still has reference information. (See archives link below.)
  • k12linux.org - K-12 Instructions: Site No. 2. These pages provide instructions, samples and links to resources for your Linux project. Announces an out of date K12 version but try the Building a Linux Box link for lists of specs.
  • k12os.org - K12 News: Site No. 3. K12 open source news for schools. Contains links to interesting podcasts. Links to March 2007 articles available - e.g. see under 'Linux in schools news' section on right of home page.
  • k12edcom.org - K12EdCom: Educational Commons for OpenCourseWare. Check out the [Moodle] digital photography course featuring the GIMP and published under the Creative Commons. Not to mention links to a host of other tutorials. Latest news link posted October 2006.

10. Cutter Desktop System (Commercial)

  • www.cutterproject.co.uk - About Cutter: UK company that provides commercial support of LTSP in offices and schools. This page describes and explains the server/client setup favoured by Cutter. The site contains case studies and local authority news.

11. 2X TerminalServer (GPL / Commercial)

  • www.2x.com - 2X TerminalServer: 2X ThinClientServer PXES edition. 2X TerminalServer for Linux is an Open Source project, licensed under the GPL and is free of charge.

12. Further Reading

  • Moodle: You might also like to look at Moodle, the open source course management system.
  • SchoolForge.net: The repository for software, lesson plans and projects. Postings current for March 2007.


13. LTSP FAQ Research

Q. Can multiple servers be used in an LTSP setup?

A. Yes. For examples and how-to from 2005/6, see wiki.OpenSSI.org and OpenSSI.org.

Q. What network speed is desirable for an LTSP setup?

A. Depends on the requirements. The following quote comes from Psand.net's cybertent setup: "There were two network cards, one for the public WAN connexion to the Internet via the satellite link and the other the private LTSP 1GB LAN. This second link was made via a long Ethernet cable all the way from the communications vehicles to a Linksys 24 port 10/100MB switch with a gigabit port, in the cybertent."

Q. What are the options for booting a thin client?

A. Netboot, which requires a capable network card, or a boot disk, which requires a floppy drive.

Q. For a netboot, does the BIOS boot order need configuring?


Q. What if the BIOS battery is flat or missing?


Q. What if the BIOS battery is flat or missing AND there is no floppy drive?


Q. How long does a thin client take to boot?

A. The software loads over the network in seconds.

Q. If the thin client has a hard drive, does the server ever access it?

A. Whether you use a network card or boot from a floppy disk, the hard drive of a thin client is left untouched.

Q. How can power consumption be reduced?

A. Remove the hard drive. This also cuts out the noise and makes a fan unnecessary (no moving parts). You can also remove the battery to stop it charging.

Q. Is the thin client limited to the processing speed stated in the manufacturer's specs?

A. Absolutely not. Each client gets a share of the processing speed of the server / server cluster to which it is attached. With a powerful server a low spec thin client can run as fast or faster than a high spec desktop machine. Memory is likewise shared.

Q. Is the thin client limited to the screen resolution stated in the manufacturer's specs?


Q. Can a user attach a monitor to a thin client laptop and have it behave the same as for a standalone desktop, with both screens showing something different, windows draggable between them and even different resolutions?


Q. Can a thin client user access floppy, CD-ROM, DVDRW, pen drive and digital camera?


Q. Can a printer or scanner be attached to a thin client and accessed by the user and from other thin clients?


Q. Can a thin client still be put into hibernation or standby?


Q. What is the minimum memory required to support a thin client?


Q. What is the minimum processor required to support a thin client?


Q. Can you use a graphics tablet with a thin client?


Q. Can users have individual logins?

A. Yes, the server remembers them just like any regular Linux system.

Q. How does the server tell which client is performing which actions?


Q. When a thin client user logs off or shuts down, is their desktop state saved, for example six virtual desktops with OpenOffice.org Writer opened on desktop number five?

A. Yes, the server can be configured to save desktop state.

Q. Can thin clients be automatically booted into kiosk mode with no ability to change settings?

A. Yes, the server can be configured to boot all thin clients into kiosk mode and prevent changes.

Q. Can a single server allow different configurations for different thin clients?


Q. Can a thin client ssh onto a terminal server?


Q. Is it at all possible for a thin client user to have x2x control over another thin client?


Q. Is it at all possible for a thin client user to have [Synergy] control over one or more other thin clients?


Q. If a thin client has a hard drive containing special software, can it harness an emulator/non-emulator such as Qemu, VMWare or WINE to run that software?


Q. If a thin client has a hard drive, can the user choose at boot time whether to use the machine as a thin client or a regular desktop?

A. Yes, the boot screen can be configured to have a user-selectable startup mode.

Q. Is the user-selectable startup mode configured on the server or the client itself?


Q. Can LTSP deliver the Windows operating system amd software to its thin clients?

A. Yes, but requires know-how to do the configuration. There are some commercial third parties who can provide this. See this [review].

Q. Can users in remote locations add their machine as a thin client to an existing LTSP setup?

A. Yes. See what [Cutter] says about their implementation of this.


14. Further Explanation

Make a note here if you would like any of the questions that have already been answered to be more fully explained or another aspect explored. Add any further questions here so that they can be more easily seen then added in above when answered. Or check revisions. The questions already asked reflect the curiosity of a complete newbie on the subject ... If anyone can supply, augment and/or correct answers please feel free :-) Fay