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The Linux® Terminal Server Project is an open source project which allows many clients to use the same application server. Clients can connect to the server with inexpensive older machines and thin client computers, also known as X Terminals. Both Linux® and Microsoft Windows® application servers are supported. The Linux Terminal Server Project is used by many schools to provide inexpensive computer access with machines that might otherwise be scrapped. Also known by the acronym LTSP, it is often used by libraries, training facilities and some Internet cafes.
The input/output demands the Linux® Terminal Server Project software place on an X Terminal are fairly light. These often diskless, thin clients are generally less expensive than standard desktop computers. An older desktop system which has reached the end of its life as a stand-alone machine usually has plenty of computing power to function as a thin client. The LTSP is very popular with schools and training centers, which often have a surplus of aging machines that they would otherwise dispose of. A large number of thin clients can utilize a single Linux® server, usually making LTSP very cost-effective.
Setting up LTSP on a network server is usually straightforward, involving a simple Linux® configuration that includes the X environment. When a thin client powers up, it may boot Linux® from a local peripheral device. If it does not have a hard drive or other boot device, the client can boot from the Linux® Terminal Server Project server across the network. In this case, it uses Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to determine its own Internet Protocol (IP) address. The client also obtains the IP address and the path to the LTSP server.
A Linux® Terminal Server Project client can then mount the server path on its file system using the server's Network File System (NFS). Network Block Device (NBD) is also supported. Linux is then loaded from the mounted file system, the X Window system is started and the client connects to the LTSP login application. All further applications are run on the server even though they are displayed on the thin client.
Several Linux® distributions include the Linux® Terminal Server Project as part of their software bundle. An organization in Canada has built a control system around LTSP to manage thousands of clients and run it as a load-balanced cluster. Virtual desktops can utilize this system with very little bandwidth. LTSP also includes free technical support and works with a large number of network adapters and thin client systems.
This is a great project. Frankly, anything that helps keep more computers out of landfills is a fantastic project. In the case of Linux, there are versions of that operating system that don't require much in terms of hardware resources, anyway. This project catches the computers that can't even hack a modern version of Linux on their own and, as such, is very worthwhile.
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