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> Thin Client Questions, Dialup, Bandwidth, Server, Distro?
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post Jun 10 2004, 08:47 AM
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I will soon have 20+ local offices (not connected via WAN) that require internet access, e-mail, and word-processing. In order to provide this at low-cost and with minimal maintenance to those devices, I would like to set them up as Linux Thin Clients (see reasoning below). Can I get a thin client to establish a modem connection on startup? Will performance be an issue over a 56K dialup connection? What server hardware is necessary to support this? Which distro would best handle this situation?

Conceptually:
Remote device could be thin client with no HD, or minimal PC running scaled down Linux. When device is powered on, it establishes modem connection (56K) to remote server (local call). After login, server provides access to Internet, e-mail, and office software. Any maintenance on end-user equipment should be minimal, and if possible, able to be done remotely.

Benefits:
1. Shared internet connection for 20+ offices reduces cost. Each office currently uses individual dialup accounts.
2. Centrally managed environment provides for all software maintenance. End user does not have to get latest patches, etc.
3. More secure because server is the only access point to the internet so administrator can manage a single firewall for all.
4. Lower TCO because less onsite maintenance required for hardware problems (esp. if using thin client devices with no HD). Smaller footprint too.
5. Using a Linux solution instead of M$ will save hundreds, even thousands, on licensing fees, especially if new offices are added.

Detailed Questions:
1. Can a Linux thin client establish a dialup connection on bootup? What tools will need to be installed/setup for this to work?

2. What about running internet browsers and office programs using a thin client over the dialup; will the bandwidth prohibit this? I have read conflicting information about this. On one hand I have read that thin clients use low bandwidth so it should be doable, OTOH, I've read that LTSP networks require a significant amount of bandwidth to operate. Which is it, "low" or "high" bandwidth?

3. What server hardware config should I plan on to support this? My thought is lots of RAM and SCSI drives. I would likely give each office their own "home" directory.

4. Which distro would work best for server and thin-clients? I've considered LTSP, K12LTSP, KNOPPIX (with Terminal Server), PXES, and a few others but I've not arrived at the "best" configuration for these needs. I am certain there are others that are far smarter than I, and with more Linux experience (I have about 6 weeks experience in Linux).

ALL SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!!!
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