Minimum client expectations, LTSP Triage

Scott Balneaves sbalneav at
Wed Sep 10 18:22:16 BST 2008

I posted something yesterday, but I don't think it made the list.

It's been posted on this list that Edubuntu's been unfavorably compared to
K12LTSP and Skolelinux.  Mostly in terms of support for "older" thin clients.

Certainly, with the move of LTSP to using distro packages, a lot of "size"
options have moved out of the hands of LTSP.  As far as I'm aware, both Skole
and K12 used LTSP 4.2, which:

* Was custom compiled from all upstream sources
* Was hugely tweaked by Jim and I
* Was, for the most part, completely unmaintainable.

It was a huge job for us to roll 4.2 out the door, and after we did, there were
no security updates, or bug fixes or much of anything by the LTSP team at that
point, simply because it was so hard to maintain.  That was when we came up
with the idea to use Distro packages to build LTSP.  Which has now been

However, for all the benefits it's brought us (faster development cycle,
updates, security fixes, etc.) the one thing it HASN'T done, is keep it the
same, small, hand tweaked size it used to be.  This certainly means that some
hardware that used to perform well under LTSP 4.2 will NOT perform well under

Why?  Simple.  X has grown.  The Kernel has grown (we're not using 2.4
anymore).  We're using modern udev, instead of the old hotplug, or monolithic
kernels, etc.  In short, "Linux" becomes bigger, so does LTSP.

Certainly, within some small spaces, we may be able to optimize things, but the
bottom line is, that old 486 with 16 megs of memory simply isn't going to work
as a thin client any more.  You may view this as a minus, and it probably is,
but I think the advantages probably outweigh the minuses.  We have a lot more
features than we used to, and work with a lot of (albeit newer) hardware that
we didn't before.

However, I have a proposition.  I have a whole whack of different thin clients
at home, most I've bought, some I've had donated to me.  I *don't* however,
have a DevonIT unit, which seems to be a common sore point with people here.

If someone would like to ship me one, I'd be happy to do some testing, and
possible tweaking with it.

As well, probably a lot of the outstanding bugs were addressed at the recent
LTSP hackfest, but we've got another one coming up in November.

Before then, anyone who's:

1) Got current problems with LTSP
2) Has the time (!) to help me triage them
3) Has the patience to do the testing of any fixes

I'm more than happy to work with.

As a kickoff, LaserJock and I were discussing an "LTSP Triage Day" Next
Wednesday, with an eye to potentially fixing some problems.  I'm willing to
wager that MOST of the problems will fall into:

1) Not enough ram/swap on the server
2) Programs not cleaning up after themselves (i.e. gnome)
3) "too underpowered" clients (Some tweaking may help).

So, how about it?  Anybody want to take me up on it next Wednesday?


Scott L. Balneaves | "There are many causes I am prepared to die for,
Systems Department |  but no causes I am prepared to kill for."
Legal Aid Manitoba |    -- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

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