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  1. #1
    New Lounger
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    Hi again!

    I work with these Windows based thin clients, they're Maxterms, have a max of 512mb PC133, an 800mhz cpu, an integrated video adapter, 10/100nic, audio and 2 usb. They boot from a 512MB Compact Flash card. There is no moving parts in this.. Currently they're using Windows XPembedded.

    I really want to create a new persona for these terminals, and I am pretty sure I want to run Linux on these and see what it can do.

    However, after being ignorant for 12 years, I have never touched anything Linux, and am embarassed to say so.
    What I'd like to do is put a Linux version on these maxterms, but I have no idea which way to go. ubuntu, red hat, etc..
    I've been trying to read up what's good & bad between the different versions, but can't really put my thumb on it.

    These terminals currently run PuTTY to access our main cataloging program, and also now are using Firefox 3.6 for web browsing and Word pad for word processing. Open Office mobile/lite is used by a few people...
    So pretty much, the requirements are low, there's also some audio that's needed for sound affects within PuTTY, but that's it.
    There's a windows macro program we also use so we can use keyboard shortcuts within PuTTY, this program is pretty much a requirement. I don't know if a windows program will run under Linux.

    Any suggestion? please help guide me through the Linux waters!

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    New Lounger
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    It would be difficult to say offhand whether your diskless clients are compatible with one version or another of Linux. For that purpose, either the manufacturer's site may say or, as usual, "Google is your friend." However, quite a few people are using Linux on them so it should be doable; I just don't know how simple it has been for them.

    PuTTY is avaialable for Linux, so that should not be an issue--although telnet is a basic function in Linux and fairly easy to implement if you choose.

    I have no earthly idea about your "Windows macro program" running via WINE, but it really should not be necessary. There are various macro solutions in Linux that should work fine--just google "Linux macro" and you will find plenty of info.

    Regarding distributions--I would not necessarily use the heavyweight ones in a 512 MB environment. It can be done, but the lighter-weight graphical environments would be much faster. Running it from a memory card shouldn't be a big deal, so long as you have a machine to install it from. Since your terminals won't run XP without the card installed, unless you have a second card slot on one of them it would seem a difficulty. However, a card reader you can use on a PC should do the trick nicely.

    I presume that one of the available utilities also used to install to a USB drive may well work for the purpose, such as unetbootin (on Sourceforge: http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net ). In fact, if your Maxterms have a choice to boot from USB, you can install the OS that way--and even run a live version from the USB while you work out the various issues that may come up before putting it onto the memory card--so you preserve your current embedded XP setup at least until you are confident that everything has been foreseen.

    Various people have their own opinions about the LInux lightweight distributions, ranging from Puppy to DSL. If it runs on your hardware, a surprisingly good one is called Elive, which is built on the Englightenment window manager. That one is famous for taking few resources but still having considerable "eye candy" yet being extremely high performance. You didn't specify a model of Maxterm, but I noticed a few moments ago an article in the Google search results that spoke of Puppy Linux recognizing the hardware including sound for the Maxterm 3300--apparently an older model, which bodes well for the newer ones.

    A couple other possibilities might include Crunchbang Linux, now based on Debian, which uses the Openbox/XFCE environment, or perhaps Lubuntu--an unofficial Ubuntu variant which employs the very lightweight LXDE environment.

    My goal for your setup would be for a distribution which is very lightweight for optimum performance in your environment.

    If your office uses a terminal server, that is another issue to contend with to be sure the resulting setup is compatible with it.

    I hope these few comments may prove helpful.

  3. #3
    3 Star Lounger
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    You said you haven't touched linux so I'd say go with Ubuntu. It's technically a heavyweight but, I've run it off of an older machine with some success. The biggest problem I see is the 512MB internal memory. For any easy to use linux your going to need more than that. As David said you could install or even run linux off of a USB drive. If you have a decently powerful external hard drive you could try it that way and if you install to an external and it doesn't work out that well you could just reformat and try again. Just be careful not to install grub to an external hard drive that's not always connected because it will change the MBR (Master Boot Record) and could interfere, I'm not entirely sure though.

    I've never played with Puppy linux but, I did try DSL once and I found it was far to limited for day to day activity. You might try DSL if you like to play with command lines though.
    Current Machine:HP Compaq 6910p with 4GB RAM, Core2Duo @ 2.20 GHz, Mobile Intel 965 Express Chipset Family, Avast free, Malwarebyte's free, TP-Link wireless card (as the built in card has nothing but problems with empty solutions): The card identifies as "Atheros AR922X Wireless Network Adapter". [Not the best machine but it does internet, docs, and vids, and some games (PvZ, Spore)]

  4. #4
    New Lounger
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    I am currently running Ubuntu 9.10 on an old Dell 600m laptop (1.5GHz Pentium M, 512MB Ram and a new 140GB HDD). It had XP on it when I got it and despite the fact it had been well used for the last 4-5+ years it was painful to do anything with it. Ubuntu on the other hand runs sweet. It installed fairly trouble free (I did have a problem with GRUB2 but that is because it is unforgiving of a BIOS problem with the larger than factory HDD which Windows generally manages to ignore or work around). It does get a little bogged down when I have lots of tabs open in Firefox (I often have 20+ tabs open).

    Once you get your head around the different way of doing things I actually find Ubuntu more user friendly and intuitive than Windows. And from an Administrator perspective its an absolute Godsend. All installed programs can be updated with 2 lines in a Terminal window or about 5 clicks through Synaptic (it also has an updater that will auto pop up every now and again), No need for spyware/virus/malware scans, no need for HDD defragging and so on. Sometimes I sit down and actually have to work rather than waste time maintaining it!

    Xubuntu is meant to be a lightweight version Ubuntu (using the XFE desktop) but I found it identical performance wise and doesn't look as nice.

    I'm sure Ubuntu would run ok, but you may be better off trying Puppy Linux. I can vouch for it. Its a light distro which runs in RAM (generally from a CD or USB) but it can be installed if required. It works well on stand alone equipment and I haven't tried it in a corporate style network (Ubuntu on the other hand is proven there in my opinion).

    wattOS is a nice lightweight distro which is known for running nicely on low spec hardware. Currently it is basically an unofficial version of Ubuntu customised for low power PCs. I haven't used it but Lubuntu is another lightweight version of Ubuntu, which also uses the lightweight but attractive LXDE desktop. It is anticipated that Lubuntu will eventually become an official Ubuntu release.

    Whilst DSL seems quite good I personally find it just a little too retro feeling for my liking (basically its damn ugly).

    Good lucj and I for one will be interested to hear how you go.

    .

  5. #5
    New Lounger
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    Hi ! FWIW, I'm running Lubuntu on an 800 mhz IBM thinkpad with 256 megs of ram (dualbooting with W2K). Lubuntu does fine, and I can use the Ubuntu repositories and the 10.04 kernel. The Ubuntu forums are an absolute godsend; I posted a question when I had a problem with their Evolution email program several releases ago and on another machine, and my query was answered within two hours. Lubuntu doesn't have that much eye candy, and Chromium works as well for me as (my downloaded and installed) Firefox. Also, I've installed Microsoft Office 97 with Crossover Office (the one Linux program I purchased - $40 - (www.codeweavers.com -Highly Recommended!), and it runs beautifully. I'm told that one can install even MS Office 2007 easily in Linux with Crossover Office, but my budget is limited. I've also used Puppy Linux and that works beautifully also, although I haven't installed any MS products with that distribution.

    Hope this helps.

  6. #6
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Take a quick read through my Linux Mint Experiment. Mint is based on Ubuntu as well. I try to list the pluses and minuses from my Windows perspective. Don't know if it will help you or not.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
    Have a Great Day! Ted


    Sony Vaio Laptop, 2.53 GHz Duo Core Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, 320 GB HD
    Win 8 Pro (64 Bit), IE 10 (64 Bit)


    Complete PC Specs: By Speccy

  7. #7
    New Lounger
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    If Mint has a LXDE version then that may well be worth a look. I have heard lots of good things about it, but admittedly never bothered trying it. IMO for use in an old/low spec machine I'd steer away for anything that uses Gnome or KDE. Although seeing as Mint is based on Ubuntu, you could always install LXDE and remove Gnome/KDE regardless of what they offer.

    Also FYI the latest beta version of wattOS is now based on Debian (rather than Ubuntu, Ubuntu itself is based on Debian). The latest version of Puppy is now based on Ubuntu rather than being fully independent (which IMO is a good thing, more choice for apps to install).

    How have things gone with your Linux project?

  8. #8
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Davis View Post
    If Mint has a LXDE version then that may well be worth a look. I have heard lots of good things about it, but admittedly never bothered trying it. IMO for use in an old/low spec machine I'd steer away for anything that uses Gnome or KDE. Although seeing as Mint is based on Ubuntu, you could always install LXDE and remove Gnome/KDE regardless of what they offer.

    Also FYI the latest beta version of wattOS is now based on Debian (rather than Ubuntu, Ubuntu itself is based on Debian). The latest version of Puppy is now based on Ubuntu rather than being fully independent (which IMO is a good thing, more choice for apps to install).

    How have things gone with your Linux project?

    Please read the text. I'm not convinced that I will ever be a Linux man, but who knows in the future. I'm keeping it installed for now.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
    Have a Great Day! Ted


    Sony Vaio Laptop, 2.53 GHz Duo Core Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, 320 GB HD
    Win 8 Pro (64 Bit), IE 10 (64 Bit)


    Complete PC Specs: By Speccy

  9. #9
    New Lounger
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    If you have a server available try loading Ubuntu 10.04 LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project). You thin clients will boot and run applications from the server. Just for playing around, you could even use a decent workstation for the server and easily support 5-10 users. Many schools use LTSP with great success, some very large (several thousand users). The documentation on the Ubuntu wiki site is very straight forward.

  10. #10
    New Lounger
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    One build not mentioned so far is Peppermint linux. It is based on Mint, which is based on Ubuntu. However, what they did, is strip out most programs, and redesign it to be a "cloud" computer terminal. Most programs do not reside on the host, but are downloaded from the web on demand. I would consider it a preview of the Chrome OS. For example, If you click on the Google Docks Icon, it will open the application in a stand alone window of Firefox, configured for remote app session. peppermintos.com

  11. #11
    New Lounger
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    I've been through quite a few and am now staying with PCLinuxOS 2010. This distro fires on young and old alike ~ currently on Toshiba Satellite L500D, Thinkpad R30 and Coppermine Desktop ( 1999 vintage ).

    No problems with any of these ~ download the livecd and try it out without installion hassles.
    Seeking USER_FUNCTIONALITY always
    SnapafunFrank
    Big or small, any challenge requires the same commitment to resolve.

  12. #12
    New Lounger
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    I've found a version of Mint the easiest to install. Once I downloaded it and burned it to a CD, I put it into the computer I wanted to change to Linux and Mint installed itself just as a Windows OS would. Other versions can get technical with the install screens as you specify what you think each setting should be. (They do give recommendations, though.)

    some will say this defeats the purpose of Linux, which is to put the user in control of the computer rather than the company that wrote/distributed the software. But for someone new to Linux, the technical terms, options, and specifications can be rather confusing. I'm not technical, and it does get confusing at times.

  13. #13
    New Lounger
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    Any of the 'heavyweights' would suit your needs fine and run fine on your laptops. Just use a lightweight GUI such as XFCE.

  14. #14
    New Lounger
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    I've done exactly what you are trying to do. I am a somewhat experienced Linux user, though, and still it challenged me a lot. My best advice is to start getting your feet wet with Linux using a regular desktop computer first before attempting an installation on a thin client. If you have to do it though, here are some of the challenges waiting for you:

    - 512MB of RAM (and no swap partition, see below) and an 800 MHz processor make for a truly sluggish experience with default modern window managers in popular distributions such as KDE or GNOME. You'll want something more lightweight such as XFCE but then the environment won't be quite as "friendly" (when coming from a Windows background). I.e. you will still need the command line and not everything will be as readily available as you might expect.

    - For the same reason, Firefox 3.x won't run smoothly either (it runs slower under Linux, don't really know why). There are more lightweight alternatives such as Seamonkey that however are often not included by default.

    - 512 MB compact flash are too tight, too, to install distributions such as Ubuntu. Probably need to upgrade to a fast 2 GB CF card.

    - Compact flash memory will wear out quickly (and be too slow) with a journaled file system such as ext3 that most distributions use by default. Use ext2 instead. Also, the use of a swap partition on a flash drive is not recommended. This requires custom partitioning during install (in the advanced section) to create just one big ext2 partition that contains everything.

    - No optical drive means you'll need to install from a USB stick. Most distributions nowadays support this, alas, not all USB sticks can be booted from, and the BIOS in the thin client needs to support this properly, too. Ditto for using an external USB optical drive. YMMV.

    Sorry, your question was which distribution to use, but as you can see the challenge goes beyond this. In my case, I used Debian because it scales down better than Ubuntu but still has a huge repository of readily-available software and I know Debian well. But definitely check out some of the other valuable suggestions in the other posts.

    HTH,
    Chris

  15. #15
    New Lounger
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    There are a lot of Linux distributions around. What you should do is take advantage of the Live CD. Unlike Microsoft Windows where you pay the piper and he calls the tune, Linux offers you a different way. You can download an iso file and burn a CD to try it out to see whether the distro (Linux name for a distribution) meets your needs. Then if you like it you install that distro. The live CD boots into the RAM and when you shut down the computer all trace has gone. This actually means you can surf the Internet in safety. Linux is not prone to Windows type viruses or defragmenting files; so no Antivirus programme is needed. Clam AV freeware is optional if you are worried about an infected file being passed on to a Windows user.

    I have tried a few and I downloaded a CD of Mandriva and that's what I've got and stayed with. The most popular is Ubunto, there download will even allow you to uninstall it as through I believe the Add and Remove programmes of Microsoft Windows. Today, the 4 or 5 different types of Linux have easier programme installations than ever before. They come with Open source software and the option to install Wine. Wine lets you install a variety of Windows programmes virtually if you really can't do without them. Unlike Windows in Mandriva to get and install a programme they have several repositories (download storage places to download) easily programmes from. The root console with its graphics shows tick to install by a choice and remove tick to uninstall then you left click on Apply. There are literally thousands of different programmes to be had. How much hard drive do you need for Linux a minimum of 25 GB and that is ample for everyday use, want to be large give double or more! Downloads are .rpm packages and when left clicked on you give your root password and it will install automatically.

    Skype can be installed and some distributions come with Skype in them, Mandriva does. However, one drawback. No punches here; you have to start using the programme by typing the command line in root:

    LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/libv4l/v4l1compat.so skype leaving the dos look alike window minimized: Doing this automatically enables a webcam.

    What is good about a live CD; say you have an infected file or suspected file in your normal Microsoft Windows and normally it just won't delete. Pop a Live CD into the tray and delete it that way. Linux can and does read ntfs (partitions made by Windows XP and 7). However Microsoft Windows does not know a Linux partition on a Hard Drive. There are I believe programmes that may let Windows see that Linux partition. How reliable I do not know.

    Welcome to a new and exciting world of free choice!

    Moshe

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