Plug-and-Play Linux Office System

Newsforge has an article by roblimo. One of the points is about thin clients:

We were aware of Oracle’s and Sun’s attempts to sell thin-client networks, and in our opinion they went about it wrong. To begin with, their offerings were too expensive for the market we wanted to enter, and relied too much on custom, proprietary hardware. And that whole “network is the computer” thing was an obvious washout. We were not surprised that this concept never took off.

When you build a simple network for small businesses, the server is the computer. The printer goes next to the server, so it doesn’t need to be any kind of special, network-attached device. A smart business with a decent budget would want to have a backup server next to the main one. All other computers on the network would be the simplest, cheapest, most reliable units we could find, something like the low-cost white box computer Joe made for me in 1999 that is still used daily by my stepdaughter, Alicia. If new units designed specifically as thin-client desktops cost less than minimum-spec commodity boxes, we can use them instead. It doesn’t really matter, as long as they are all the same in any given installation.

LTSP (the Linux Terminal Server Project) has licked all the problems we ran into when we built our first proof-of-concept network, which ran Mandrake and flawlessly served as my home system for several years. Our biggest problem was getting sound working on the clients. The second-biggest was remote printing. Both sound and printing have gotten easier in Linux since 1999. Better yet, “packaged” systems built on a uniform hardware base will never have hardware incompatibility problems. You supply printers, scanners, and other peripherals as part of the system. That way you know they’ll work with Linux, and your client won’t need to think about them at all. He or she will just compute, scan, and print — trouble-free.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.