A new way to thin client Linux

Thin clients have a long and somewhat tortured history. Every once in a while, they make sense.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

SafeDesk logoThin clients have a long and somewhat tortured history. Every once in a while, they make sense. Then some new demand comes from the shop floor, for usability or software that runs only on the clients, and the trend wanes.

Right now the trend is waxing. Hardware has raced ahead of software. The big costs now are in software and support, something centralized management and thin clients can deal with.

Microsoft has finally decided to embrace and extend the trend, offering thin-client Windows against VARs like Citrix and Neoware. Resources and help are plentiful.

In the Linux world the Linux Terminal Service Project offers a solution, but one with the baggage often associated (by enterprises) with Linux solutions. Who's going to hold my hand, take responsibility, provide support?

Well, that's when Philip Autrey of SafeDesk Solutions in Spokane raises his hand. SafeDesk is a SUSE Linux distribution with a support-based business model that lets you have it both ways. "A lot of our customers are interested in exploring a full conversion to Linux, but they will always have pieces of Microsoft, legacy Unix and Apple, any number of platforms. We tie them all together with Linux as an integral part of it."

Curt Craig, SafeDesk director of business development, adds, "LTSP requires that you really have to know your way around Linux to download, configure, and support it."  And by itself LTSP "can only run open source applications...so those organizations requiring the use of Microsoft applications are out of luck."

That's how Microsoft wants them. The company has begun deliberately changing its code to thwart Windows-compatibility projects like Samba and Wine.

It's at this point that Autrey starts sounding more like a member of the Linux rebel alliance.

"There are a lot of folks working to make sure whatever incompatibilities are created are fixed, so we can integrate whether Microsoft wants to or not. See what’s being done with Wine right now," multiple releases aimed at fixing what Microsoft has broken. "That’s enabled Linux users to still use Microsoft applications on Linux regardless of the publisher's intent. I’m very comfortable with the way the commuity is built and its ability to adapt, to make sure integration can still happen."

Are you satisfied with it? Satisfied enough to risk your company on thin-client Linux, even with professional support? Let us know in TalkBack.

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