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I work for an animal shelter in Upstate New York. We have about 50 machines running XP Pro. They're connected to a Windows network with a domain.

About half of these computers are used for nothing more than using two web-based apps -- one to keep track of our animals, the other to process credit cards. Having a full-blown desktop PC seems like overkill for this purpose.

The PCs are three-to-five years old, and I'd like to come up with a plan to upgrade the hardware.

Our donations are down (not surprising, given the economy), so cost is a big factor. Can people recommend some options? Some sort of thin client, maybe?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Why upgrade? are you having problems with the current setup? are there new requirements? 3-5 yr old machines are just fine for web browsing.

If the HDD's start going, or you'd like to lower maintenance overheard then switch to a linux live CD distro that's a web kiosk.

Firefox kiosk plug-in.

Easy to setup LiveKiosk distro.

Make sure that the apps work properly on firefox under linux. Just think of the money you'd be saving in anti-virus subscriptions!

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@Nick, we're not going to upgrade in the immediate future -- I'm trying to figure out what to do if an existing computer fails and/or what to do a year or two down the road. Are there specific brands of web kiosks that you think might be appropriate? Thanks. – Alex C. Mar 21 '10 at 16:01
Yea, if your fine with using linux and a higher startup time (and no persistence) you may want to remove the harddrives altogether to cut down on the amount of power consumed.. – Earlz Mar 21 '10 at 16:16
updated my answer – Nick Kavadias Mar 21 '10 at 16:21
probably makes more sense to USB boot then CD boot. this is easily done. You may be able to pull some RAM out & remove HDD's if you need to service the other full-blown desktops. – Nick Kavadias Mar 21 '10 at 16:28

Set up a test network and see if you get on with is also a great alternative.

Also don't rule out serving many desktops from one piece of hardware.

it's a little harder to configure, but could be a lot of fun. Saves energy bills too!

It allows diskless clients so you won't need to cdrom drives (Which go wrong!).

you could probably sell you XP licences seeing as you not using them any more. This could finance something else, like a new server or looking after animals. :-)

You are nice position where you are using web applications, and are not 'locked in' to the microsoft desktop or api's.

Are you prepared to learn something new? if not, then there are few diskless windows possibilities, let me know and I'll share them with you.

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@user37899 -- Thanks for the tips. Yes, please share the diskless Windows possibilities. – Alex C. Mar 22 '10 at 5:01
It's quite complex, you can use gpxe with the free aoe driver. – The Unix Janitor Mar 23 '10 at 10:44

HP has the "Image Manager" software solution:
full diskless Windows from a cheap "virtual disk server". All you need is DHCP and a small server (can be a desktop with decent amount of RAM, CPU, HDD and network card). The server can run Windows or Linux.
You can re-use your existing XP licenses.

A small server can easily server up to 50 clients at the same time (nothing you can do with application server such as Citrix, ltsp etc).

The linux alternative is usually done with PXELinux and NFS root techniques.

Maybe HP can sponsor you? They do that from time to time...

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