[K12OSN] Life after LTSP

Terrell Prude' Jr. microman at cmosnetworks.com
Mon Nov 8 22:57:22 UTC 2010

For now, that may be true in a lot of K-12 cases.  But remember that all 
this stuff goes in cycles.  Years ago, you had armies of X-terms and Sun 
thin clients TFTP-booting and such.  I remember using them in college.  
Then we went to armies of thick clients.  Later, LTSP took us right back 
because of the economics of hardware.  Now we're cycling away from that 

Flash has always been a problem.  However, hopefully HTML5 will help out 
with that going forward.  I've always despised Flash anyway. 

In corporate environments in particular, where employees are typically 
expected to be doing work instead of watching movies all day, the 
video/Flash issue isn't nearly as problematic.  Most office personnel 
need a word processor, spreadsheet, a Web browser, and little else.  
Further, the huge maintenance issues that thick clients (especially 
Microsoft thick clients) go away with LTSP environments.

So, maybe K12-specific LTSP might not be as good a fit as it was 5 years 
ago, but I'd still consider outfitting a classroom with it if it met the 
educational requirements.


Robert Arkiletian wrote:
> In my opinion,  the days of LTSP are numbered. For a few different reasons.
> 1)
> hardware is so cheap now. You can buy a brand new power efficient and
> fast  desktop system for about $200 (not including monitor).  Thin
> clients are actually *more* expensive now.
> 2)
> programs like flash and java based apps don't work and will never work
> well in an LTSP environment because they are multithreaded and utilize
> all cores on the server. So no matter how powerful a server, running
> many flash or java apps bring it to it's knees. Things were better
> when all apps were single threaded. As time goes on this will only get
> worse as cpu makers are increasing cores not mhz, so software makers
> are adapting by making apps utilize all cores. Local apps is a
> solution in the right direction but it brings with it other problems
> like using fuse (ltspfs) and other issues. The other problem with
> local apps, in an ltsp client, is that usually true thin client cpu's
> are weak (eg. Atom). The concept of Local apps is 180 degrees to what
> LTSP is about.
> 3)
> Things get even worse when you run video full screen because the data
> is being decoded (high cpu hit) at the server, then pushing *large*
> decompressed data across the lan. It just doesn't scale well.
> 4)
> If Ubuntu is successful with their move to Wayland display server
> (away from X), LTSP may not even work as Wayland has no network
> transparency as X does. Not sure if having X as a client itself on top
> of Wayland will work with LTSP. My guess is it will be troublesome
> because the client will need Wayland up first before X (which btw
> means it will also definitely need an opengl capable chipset). I
> suspect that unless the LTSP project goes back to the way they did
> things in LTSP 4, where they pretty much managed and built the chroot
> as a seperate distro, I think Wayland is going to break LTSP with the
> Muekow way of doing things.
> http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/date/2010/11
> http://wayland.freedesktop.org/http://wayland.freedesktop.org/
> So what do we do? Personally, I think there are at least a couple solutions.
> 1)
> Spice. The new remote VM technology that is in Fedora 14 and RHEL6.
> The management gui needs to get better in Fedora, but that's coming.
> Server requirements will be higher than ltsp as each desktop will have
> a VM running (not just a desktop and apps). But advantage will be
> complete customization per client and heterogeneous (windows+linux)
> environments ( at the expense of ease of administration, unless there
> are nice gui tools to manage multiple vm's simultaneously )
> 2)
> DRBL. This is the route I have taken. It's similar to ltsp boot
> process via pxe but ALL processes run locally. Only the filesystem is
> remote via nfs. There is no need for special plumbing for sound or
> local devices. Everything works like a stand alone system. Except the
> first time to launch (not run) apps is slightly longer since the
> binary needs to be downloaded into local ram from the network before
> it can be run. One user can't hog ram or cpu. Full class of full
> screen video and flash, no problem. I even have had an entire class of
> students simultaneously install and run Ubuntu in a Virtualbox VM on
> top of  the diskless client OS. Local apps with LTSP cannot do this.
> Although I do have dual gigabit nics for the lan and hardware raid 10
> for the server. Each client can have it's own nfs mounted /etc and
> /var so there can still be customization per client.

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