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Ubuntu Shines with Linux Terminal Servers

August 8, 2008 Leave a comment

One of the major projects that Ubuntu is doing right for the whole Linux world is LTSP, Linux Terminal Server Project. The focus of this project is to create low cost networks using diskless computers. A diskless computer runs without a hard drive and can be an old box that is not powerful enough to run Windows any longer but could work great for a diskless system.

Many of the significant changes are part of the hard work from the people at LTSP.org and the Ubuntu distribution. LTSP 5 took me only 45 minutes to set up. I have been building LTSP servers for schools for 8 years now so I was greatly impressed. My first install took over 100 hours. It was very ugly back in those days having to configure the XWindow for each different video card. Today it is a project that people need to give a look at because of cost savings and savings with the central management features. If you purchase LTSP ready workstations, cost is $100-$300, they are almost plug-and-play. See the links for the few steps you need to take.

LTSP would be a great option for a small company wanting to move their users to Linux because one central server can be configured to work very well for a number of desktops. The server is your major cost in this adventure because you need the RAM and CPU power for all of the desktops. A dual XEON with 4 GB of RAM can run 100 computers. That is a significant cost savings. Even if you paid $5000 for the server and $200 a piece for the pre-built workstations you end up having a major network(100 workstations) for around $30,000. That includes cables, switches, keyboards, mice and monitors. How many kids could benefit from computer access in schools? LTSP is the way to make it happen fast.

Related Links
LTSP Set Up on Ubuntu 8.04
LTSP Client
Managing Users in LTSP
Samba with LTSP on Ubuntu 8.04
Troubleshooting LTSP
UFW Firewall for LTSP

LTSP works so well because the whole operating system is transferred over the network to the diskless workstation.

Notable Changes in LTSP 5

There are several significant changes in LTSP 5 which make the system much more usable. You will get enhanced security as now the GUI is exported using ssh -X and not the old XDMCP. SSH offers encryption of course which is actually faster and safer. The remote connection is made with LDM a python application that connects using SSH and not the old KDM or GDM. NFS has been dropped and replaced with NBD. NBD or Network Block Device is a network block device which emulates a block device like a hard drive over the network. This allows you to either use this space as swap or use it as network diskspace.

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