The Life of A PC

Business in particular has clung to the notion that PCs age and should be replaced periodically for efficiency and keeping up with current software and hardware. That notion changes severely when PCs are thin clients. With a thin client, the software on the thin client is a minimal OS that shows the pictures and sends the clicks. It doesn’t have to keep up with any trends in software except screen resolution and network speed. Screen resolutions and network speeds hang around for a decade or more. Can a thin client? Yes.

Of course many current PCs have hard drives and fans that do age, require maintenance and eventually need replacement. Failure of a motherboard that is no longer made is more problematic. Can you substitute something suitable as a thin client? Yes, a mini motherboard. Here’s one that only needs memory to make a good thin client: Intel Atomic BOXD410PT. That replacement would keep the user’s workspace looking the same. It is probably better to buy a new thin client that does the same job but takes up much less space for a similar cost. They come with x86 and ARM processors.

The modern fanless thin client will last ten years and we can upgrade the servers to stay current at much less cost than upgrading gazillions of PCs. It is nonsensical to replace thin clients at 3-year intervals.

(note – The HP t5325 runs ARM and ThinPro with RDP protocol. It has been out for a while and used and “opened-box” models are much cheaper. see eBay)

An inteview with a business that saves a bundle using thin clients follows:

Replacing your PCs every few years is a recipe for the continued success of Wintel, not your business. Don’t tie yourself down to legacy models of IT. Modern technology gives you much more flexibility.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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5 Responses to The Life of A PC

  1. oldman says:

    “479 MB is 4.79 times as much RAM as 100MB. Therefor a GNU/Linux solution with X will support several times as many simultaneous users as that other OS. Florida has hundreds of users on a single server.”

    I think you miss the point. A Linux solution will not be able to execute the application set that the those implementing a VDI solution are most likely to want to use in is therefore completely irrelevant to this discussion. Furthermore with VDI and desktop virtualization in the mix, consideration of a Linux desktop becomes even less relevant.
    .
    Thank you for the pointer to David Richards blog, it has proven interesting reading. Not for the reasons that you cite it, but for the insights it gives on why Largo Florida remains a Linux shop for everything.

    Frankly I am very impressed to find a Linux enthusiast who actually understands that he is in the business of providing solutions that his users might actually want to use, as opposed to stuffing Linux and FOSS down their throats. This plus a careful use of commercial software (Largo Florida uses Nomachines NX and oracle just like we do) apparently allows himto keep two steps ahead of user requirements. Of course theres no indication of how he handles the cases where Linux just doesnt support a tool that his users might need, but I suspect that this will work as it does elsewhere, as the exception driven by the pull of the user.

    But once again, Largo Florida (a corner case IMHO) has nothing to do with what is happening with Thin clients and VDI – that they are being used by and large to give access to virtualized windows desktops. Linux isnt in the mix.

  2. 479 MB is 4.79 times as much RAM as 100MB. Therefor a GNU/Linux solution with X will support several times as many simultaneous users as that other OS. Florida has hundreds of users on a single server.

    see 2001

    From Dave Richards’ Blog:
    “I believe the mistake being made by these vendors is that they are attempting to install Linux on the personal computer, instead of putting Linux on their desktop. The Gartner study shows that there is a 48% reduction in cost on the Microsoft Windows platform by moving it from an unmanaged PC environment to a centralized design with thin clients. 1/2 the cost, and no change in functionality. Imagine then what the savings would be if companies had the option to move to thin clients *and* Linux at the same. A major part of the cost in the white paper is licenses and software products. Imagine going into companies and telling them that they could save 60-70% on computing costs. Really, trying to shake off Microsoft Windows from their personal computers just isn’t enough to warrant a change for most people. It doesn’t offer the major cost reductions that are found with a complete, and stable re-design. Centralized computing using thin clients really works. There shouldn’t be so few of us implementing and being the voice.”

  3. oldman says:

    “I prefer XDMCP which is much more efficient thatn VDI which requires multiple OS images and dulicate RAM occupancy for applications.”

    Thats fine Pog. I am at a loss however as to see what your preferences have to do with the common practice of VDI that is being implemented today.

    “It might take 512 MB per client using virtual machines but only 100MB per client using X.”

    Sorry pog, but most commercial hyper-visors are set to conserve memory by default. For instance, I am looking at a guest VM that is configured with 2Gb of RAM, but is actually only consuming 479Mb of RAM. In addition, when hosts get crowded, the hypervisor can force the VM’s to give back memory using a technique called balloning, further reducing the memory footprint.

    “The virtual machine might be useful as a step in migrating to GNU/Linux but it’s probably much cheaper and faster to use those virtual machines as GNU/Linux terminal servers.”

    Unfortunately Pog, When used in conjunction with VDI technology, the virtualization of windows desktops will make it even less likely that migration to a linux desktop will ever take place. Many of your favorite technical reasons to switch just disappear.

  4. GNU/Linux loves thin clients even for VDI-type solutions. I prefer XDMCP which is much more efficient thatn VDI which requires multiple OS images and dulicate RAM occupancy for applications. etc. RAM is cheap but whatever amount of RAM you have on the server, the number of clients is more limited using one or more virtual machines per client. e.g. It might take 512 MB per client using virtual machines but only 100MB per client using X. A five or ten-fold increase in sessions per server is an important advantage. The virtual machine might be useful as a step in migrating to GNU/Linux but it’s probably much cheaper and faster to use those virtual machines as GNU/Linux terminal servers.

    You are correct in that many thin clients these days use RDP and that connects to that other OS but xrdp also works for GNU/Linux. A lot of thun clients run Linux locally which is a step forward.

  5. oldman says:

    Pog:

    Yes thin clients are in, but what they are connecting to are mostly virtualized windows Workstation images. The beauty of the commercial VDI environments are that they can be set up so that the workstation instance that one connects to is built on demand and then torn down when done. the solutions can even be used with Active directory can be used to tie a given user to a specific image.

    So if you were thinking that this is a way for Linux to get a toehold on the desktop, its not.

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