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Full Version: When are thin clients the way to go?
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Hi,

For many years I´ve been interested in inexpensive thin clients as a office solutions.

Just now, this project came in and I wonder if people with more experience in the matter would use thin clients for it.

Right now this network has ~25 Windows computers, 1 windows 2008 R2 server and a second identical server just for backups and emergency fallback.

I´m considering Raspberry Pi as thin clients to add 4 to 6 terminals which would mostly run a Windows based ERP, so they should connect to the server using RDP.
Being realistic I guess there is a chance the users intend to use a browser or libre/open office occasionally. It would be nice if they do that within the terminal, not their RDP sessions.

But for starters I would like to know your opinions in terms of whether or not it would be worthwhile to go this way in such scenario.

I should add that physical space where the terminal will be set up is very very constrained, so even if we use standard Windows computers they would be mini-itx cases mounted to the monitors or something like that.

If anyone is interested I would gladly post more info about the project and some questions about server sizing.

Thanks in advance.
MadOp
Hello MadOp, welcome to the Forums!

I too was in your shoes just over 2 years ago. We had mini-itx cases hanging off the back of our monitors (due to space limitations at our workstations) in our office. For the majority of our workstations our employees use one Windows Fat (installed) client for Lab Inventory Management (LIMS) and a locally hosted Intranet Website. When I first discovered rpitc I bought my first Pi (at $35 it was worth a test) and downloaded rpitc and went about testing the use of rdesktop to our Windows VM's. I was satisfied with the performance I saw and was even able to add in usboverip devices to connect in USB peripherals to our VM's (I've since switched to using VirtualHere software server on the Pi Thin Clients which in my opinion are priced well for our use).

I will say the Raspberry Pi Thin Clients are not for performance in that it's difficult to use them for watching video's over an rdesktop connection. But for our basic workstations, lagging is not something our employees notice or complain about. Our secretaries (using MS Office or Quickbooks or the Internet) can at times see a bit of lag but I've done my best to alleviate these issues by investigating the best command line switches (at least for rdesktop), and ensuring they have their own Nics on our Host Server from our main Dell Switch (in other words, it helps to ensure you network is not congested and is setup to handle the load).

My advice to you is get a Pi (if you don't already have one) and do some preliminary testing. It's hard for anyone here to tell you if it will work for you or not as each one of us have different ideas of what's acceptable and what isn't.

For me in our office I've determined that the limitations I've seen are acceptable but by no means am I saying that it's perfect and that we don't see a little lag sometimes. To be honest I'm not all that well versed in using various types of thin clients to do a good comparison so hopefully others on this Forum will weigh in on your question to give their opinions. All I can tell you is the price is right for us to use rpitc (btw...we have donated to Gibbio as we are very grateful to him for providing this system for us to use), the per workstation cost of setting up this type of thin client is small compared to the mini-itx's we used previously and the performance for us has been pretty good.

I don't have a new Raspberry Pi 2 yet so I can't comment on performance from that platform...using a browser from our current Pi's is brutal so I would suggest you thoroughly test how your users will use their thin clients (ie: browser from your terminal server or from you Pi) so you can setup your environment to best suit your needs.

Good Luck!
greavette, your comments are greatly appreciated.

You got me thinking into a few aspects I hadn´t considered so far...

I know that often there are no definitive answers in these issues. To be honest my intention was to engage with people like you, share experiences and opinions.

Down here, adding a box, taxes and a profit margin for the importer I think it will cost us around u$s100 each RPi, so I am trying to figure out how that compares to a more off the shelf solution. Specially considering the extra effort and the resulting mixed environment.

Too bad that at those prices it is no that easy to get one just for tests and dump it if we don´t find it good enough. u$s 100 means much more here than in the US or UE...
Hi MadOp,

After replying to your thread here I thought I would revist the cost I put into our Pi Thin Clients and start a thread to discuss costs with this forum. You can see it here - http://forum.armtc.net/showthread.php?tid=1503

Hopefully this will generate some discussion and help people decide if rpitc is something they want to use. I'm also hoping others will add in their hardware designs with links that might assist us all.

You are right...thinking that a $35 computer as thin client really doesn't add up to just being $35. But it's still a great solution in my opinion for now. Smile
Hi greavette,

Thank you for taking the time to reply and share that link.

After reading it I believe that, unfortunately, RPi will not be a fit for my project.

The extra effort, the harwdare costs and, more importantly, the fact that things like the Pi Remote or an equivalent solution are unlikely to available around here, lead me to believe that it would only pay off if we were planning to use more terminals... I don't know, maybe 10 if we were starting from scratch, 15/20 if we were expanding our network.

Still, I will jump to that thread with a few comments.

Regards.
MadOp.
Hi MadOp,

I should explain that I enjoy the challenge and put in the time to tinker with our Thin Client to tweak it to what I want it to do..but I don't think it's necessary to do what I do to have a functioning working Raspberry Pi Thin client.

I wrote scripts to setup my static IP and Hostname...scripts to autologin...crontab for auto reconnect.
I added a power switch and worked out USB2IP.

But if you don't need all these things you can get by with doing less. Let your DHCP server set the static IP (or just leave it dynamic). You don't need a button to turn the Pi on and off. If you aren't connecting USB devices there's a reduction is price and setup there.

Just wanted to make it clear that what I do is not what you need to do. Smile

The creator of rpitc, in my opinioin, has put a lot of effort into making the Raspberry Pi Thin Client very easy to use and setup and He's making further changes all the time to make it better. I can understand if it doesn't fit your needs...I just don't want you to think that what I do you also need to do.
Thin clients will be the way to go, when pure USB PORT redirecting/mapping starts working for a change...
Not device redirect/mapping, nor usb device, JUST USB PORT WITH PLUG AND PRAY Smile