Providing an economical migration path to back-end, server-based computing and centralized administration, Linux Terminal Server Project 2.08 is a stable open-source offering that converts virtually all major distributions of Linux into an X Window terminal server for thin clients.
In eWeek Labs tests, LTSP 2.08 was straightforward to set up and manage and could be a good way to advance Linux to desktop PCs at companies of all sizes. Although LTSP wont fit every user in a corporation, we see it as a good match for employees who spend most of their time in a mail client, browser or office application.
As with most Linux-based systems, the training required for Microsoft Corp. Windows and Office systems administrators and users could get expensive. However, the ability to centrally administer desktops and the savings on licensing fees should offset these costs at many shops.
For example, the easy-to-use SuSE Inc. 7.1 Professional, complete with StarOffice 5.2, lists for a mere $69 and can be used for as many clients as needed. (For a review of SuSE 7.1 Professional, go to www.eweek.com/links.) In contrast, a basic Windows 2000 Professional and Office XP installation can run close to $800 for each user.
Installation with no tears
To test LTSP 2.08, we first installed SuSE 7.1 Professional on a Compaq Computer Corp. 1850R server with dual 550MHz Pentium CPUs and 256MB of RAM.
We then downloaded the LTSP application files in RPM (RedHat Package Manager) format. After a painless installation, we simply edited several configuration files to match our environment, and we were good to go.
Two Jammin-50 workstations from DisklessWorkstations.com LLC, retailing at less than $550 each, served as the thin clients. In addition, we created our own thin workstations by removing all the drives from two older 166MHz computers and adding $35 Linksys Inc. LNE 100TX bootable network cards, also from DisklessWorkstations.com.
The workstations booted off the server and displayed graphical log-ins for the Linux K Desktop Environment desktop. After log-in, we had no difficulty using Sun Microsystems Inc.s StarOffice, Netscape Communications Corp.s ubiquitous Web browser and other installed applications from each thin client.