Joe's Life






Fix Thin Clients:

September 16, 2018

    It's been a wild ride.  I have gotten a big kick out of this project.  The project is now in decline however.  At its peak I had thirty Thin Clients under my management, all running specially configured Slackware 14.1.  Now however that number has dwindled to seventeen.

    The reason for the reduction has mainly been the availability of ChromeBooks.  The beneficiaries of this project are mostly teachers (and their students), and the school district they belong to has recently made a big investment in ChromeBooks.  I wouldn't say that the ChromeBooks are any better than my upgraded Thin Clients, but they do take up less space, reduce cable clutter, and they are shiny and new.

    Still, I have satisified users.  Both teachers and students benefit from the reliability of my product, the custom configuration, the special kid-features, and the availability of easy printing.  (The ChromeBooks can print, but only through the cumbersome Google Cloud Printing interface.)

    Although the number of Thin Clients under my management is declining, there is hope for other, related work.  The specially configured Slackware 14.1 can be installed to other kinds of PCs as well, not just to Thin Clients.  I have one such machine under my management in a school library.

    Also my methods are evolving.  My specially configured Slackware 14.1 was initially a homegrown, one-shot creation.  I made the master flash drive from which I installed by modifying Slackware 14.1 that I had first installed to the flash drive.  This was a dicey and hazardous way to proceed.  I had no reliable recipe for how to re-create my master flash drive from scratch.

    That has since changed.  Due to advancements in my method, I can now re-create a master flash drive from scratch by starting with a new, un-modified, installation of Slackware.  In fact, I have done this, and I have made a master flash drive that uses a newer version of my method (I call it SuperDrive) and the lastest Slackware 14.2.

    Armed with my new master flash drive I hope to make updates to the seventeen Thin Clients under my management.

January 15, 2017

    It has been eleven months since I started this (Fix Thin Clients) project and ten months since I last posted to this website about it.  The project is bearing fruit. I have deployed thirty upgraded computers in five classrooms plus the library.  (Twenty-seven of these are Thin Clients and the remaining three are traditional desktop PCs which use the same O.S. and configuration.)

    The method that I am using has evolved.  Initially I was reluctant to let go of Windows.  I thought that the users might want dual-boot systems so they could run either Windows or Linux.

    I found that dual-booting Windows and Linux wasn't working well.  I was (and still am) using Grub2.  I found that I could dual boot, but after a few times switching back and forth Grub2 would break and the familiar message (something like) "you have shut down your computer incorrectly" would appear.  I considered getting a bootloader specifically for Windows, but decided instead to stick with Grub2 and abandon Windows.  This turned out to be a good choice.  It freed me to install Slackware directly to each Thin Client's internal, 16.1 GB, solid-state drive (SSD).  And I've received zero complaints about the missing Windows O.S.

March 21, 2016

    I'm working on a project.  I'm fixing some computers by installing Linux to them.  They are old and gradually becoming obsolete, but with Linux they will become more useful.  So that is what I'm doing.  They seem to be good computers, they have 19 inch LCD monitors and USB speakers.  There are about four dozen of these Thin Clients.

    The task is interesting to me, because I like Linux (Slackware), and I like tinkering with computers.  Also it is challenging for several reasons. First of all, these are not normal desktop computers.  We call them "Thin Clients", although I'm not sure if that name is technically correct.  Each has no hard drive, four USB ports, 2 GB RAM and a 1.6 GHz processor.  To make things more exciting, I don't have the BIOS password.

    Fortunately, I discovered that I can boot Linux from a Slackware USB bootstick on a majority of the machines.  From that beginning I took a leap and installed Grub 2.0 on one of them.  It gave me the ability to choose which operating system to boot: either Windows (currently installed), or Slackware 14.1 (on a Samsung USB 3.0 16 GB flash drive).

    My work since then has been twofold:  One, I've been learning Grub 2.0 and designing a custom configuration file for it. Two, I've been configuring the Slackware 14.1 system to tailor it for the users' needs.

    I've taken some pictures and one movie in a room where I have prepared a Thin Client to run Slackware from the Samsung USB 3.0 flash drive as I described.  You can click at the left on "pictures" to see them.

    Since there is no caption for the movie, let me tell you about it:

    To make this movie I plugged the master flash drive into a USB port of this "Thin Client" and booted.  Slackware on the flash drive sprang to life.  I used the Google-Chrome browser to navigate to the Youtube video that is displayed.


© Joseph Rosevear
  |   Source touched: 2022-01-21 16:50:47   |