Linux and Thin Clients

A lot of attention has been devoted to Linux on the desktop recently. The primary goal of Linux desktop operation is to give users access to typical desktop applications—word processors, spreadsheets, web browsers, etc. An alternative exists to this configuration, though: thin client computing. In many respects, thin client computing is very old; the typical mainframe model, with a large central server and many dumb terminals attached to it, closely resembles thin client computing. Thin clients, though, give users the ability to run GUI programs. Thin client computing has certain advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional workstation configurations. You can use Linux as a thin client OS or as the OS accessed by thin clients. Before going too far with a desktop Linux deployment, you may want to consider a Linux thin client solution. It’s not for everybody, but some sites can benefit from it. For more details about thin client configuration, consult Chapter 12.

In a thin client configuration, most computers are thin clients—relatively limited computers that consist of a keyboard, a mouse, a monitor, and just enough computing power to display data on the screen and communicate with a central login server. This login server is a multiuser system that can handle all of the network’s users’ ordinary desktop computing tasks. As such, the central system must usually be quite powerful. Because a typical desktop computer’s CPU is mostly idle as a user types ...

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