thin client or stand alone - which is better?

Gavin McCullagh gmccullagh at
Tue Jan 29 09:48:19 GMT 2008


On Mon, 28 Jan 2008, Jim Hutchinson wrote:

> Thanks for all the feedback. It seems that having both fat and thin
> would be ideal but I don't have that option. I only have the one lab
> and it may be difficult to keep it as we continue to grow.

I think you do have the option.  Basically, thin clients are the completely
straightforward route which should work out of the box.  By setting up LDAP
and NFS you can keep your thin clients and add on a few fat ones too.  As
someone else mentioned, dual booting the two is also possible (though
probably confusing for users).

> I think the admin benefits of a thin-client currently outweigh the
> speed benefits of a fat-client and given I know how to do the
> thin-client and all the authentication it may not be worth it to
> switch. 

To me, speed is not the issue fat clients solve, it's video.  Of course, if
your thin client server is maxed out and you can't afford another, fat
clients would help there too.

> I would be curious to learn more about running fat-clients
> with a thin-client component (i.e. local installs with auth and home
> dirs on the server).

One issue which I imagine must hit people who do this is helping the users
understand the difference.  Explaining notions like thin and fat client
probably won't get you anywhere.  Perhaps the fat clients could be called
"multimedia machines" or something like that which emphasises what they're
best at, ie video, VoIP, scanners, etc.

> If there is a way to "push" packages to the clients as well (I know we
> have a tool in our district for this on windows) that would even be
> better.

You can do it quite easily, though it probably won't look as pretty as
windows :-)

The first thing to do is set up cron-apt on each of them which will
regularly update the package list and download upgrades for you.  I think
you can probably configure it to install security updates automatically.

As regards pushing packages out, what you need to do is run 

	apt-get install <packages>

on multiple machines.  You could use something like clusterssh for this.

though I appreciate that may not scale all that well.  There's probably
smarter ways to do it but this might be a start.


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