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I'm chasing a thin client that can connect to an Ubuntu machine and utilize a modern widescreen LCD.

I have used Sun Microsystems SunRay 150 thin clients for several years however the SunRay Server Software is always annoying to configure and maintain, and is not officially supported on Ubuntu (which is my preferred Linux desktop). I'm looking for something more modern too, as the 150s only have a 15" display capable of a low resolution.

I have several old IBM-8363 thin clients which I'm about to begin experimenting with but they too seem to have a limited resolution.

We don't need processing power locally, which is why a thin client is a good fit for us.

Does anyone have any hardware recommendations?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Good luck with your NetVista adventure. Here's a page that might provide some additional detail for you.

There are several devices out there that support XDMCP. If you like, you can even have hardware-based 3D acceleration in some of them using PCI expansion slots, which means if you can get a card in PCI form-factor, you can most likely pick up a cheap older gaming card that would give you a nice resolution and excellent acceleration. The model mentioned is an HP 5275 (discontinued), which HP has spent some time in getting graphics acceleration working nicely. While the NVidia FX 5200 was a dog for Windows when it came out, it has very reasonable 2D and 3D acceleration when using proprietary drivers under Ubuntu (I'm using it right now), and the Nouveau driver is coming along nicely, with good 2D and so-so 3D support (I'm using the driver in a PowerMac G5 running Ubuntu 9.04 and a FX 5200 AGP). Last I visited the local Fry's (an electronics retailer in the 'States, I don't know if they have outlets in Perth) they had stacks of FX 5200 PCI cards for cheep cheep cheep.

That being said, if you get an older ATI card, the acceleration tends to be supported better in the Xorg drivers. Keep that in mind.

HP's Thin Clients have units that come with Debian installs on them. I personally own a little HP T5125, not exactly a great device but it gets the job done. They can be found for cheap if you look around, although it sounds like you want something with a little more power under the hood.

Wyse makes a handful of terminals that also perform this function, although you'll want to be careful about which ones you pick, as they tend to use Windows XPe in most of their devices.

A recent introduction is IGEL, which supports thin clients in a Linux setting. I have not had the pleasure of trying out any of their products.

If you're just looking for personal use, or something a little more "disposable", you can often snag thin clients off of eBay that have XDMCP support for reasonable prices, provided you check the listing to see if the protocol support is there. I don't recommend this route unless you're planning to use it for personal use, most of the units you'll get will not be under warranty. However, discounted hardware is an attractive option, and newer thin clients tend to run a few hundred dollars, vs. $50 for a used one that happens to be a discontinued model that's used or unwanted.

If you are truly adventuresome, and want to live "on the bleeding edge", you can always pick up the clean-room reverse engineering that's been done on the Sun Ray protocol and see if you can figure out the remaining bits and pieces. If the protocol was fully documented, then an xorg modular server could be developed that would allow for people to directly drive the devices without the need for Sun's software to be installed, or even a heavily-hacked VNC service that could shunt Sun Ray graphics primitives. There are lots and lots of Sun Rays on eBay currently, covering many different models.

Sun Ray 170, which included vendor linux support

As I understand it, there's even a Sun Ray client in a laptop form factor.

Tadpole M1400, a Sun Ray thin client in a mobile form factor

Reverse-engineering a Sun product to turn it into a thin client is not a new proposition, in fact, it was done with Sun JavaStation models for awhile, especially the nice-looking "Krups" model.

Sun JavaStation-10 "Krups" Model

If you can still find one of these then it might be a (slightly easier) adventure to get a NetBSD or Linux kernel loaded via network boot and use it as a thin client.

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u can choose for linux this one http://www.wyse.in/linux/index.asp

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Update: Based on your comment, you need

  • a hardware thin-client platform,
  • that will work with linux servers, and
  • give good graphics resolution with a wide screen

The server requirement probaably narrows down your hardware to X-Server based solutions (would like to know if other options are possible).

The ThinClientCentral site has a starter page for Linux Thin Client Terminals.

Besides that, you could get your minimum hardware Linux platform and setup LTSP referred by LapTop006.


Older notes. There may be some confusion here.

  • Is it correct to assume that you want a hardware thin-client platform?
  • Where does Ubuntu come in? Do you want to run Ubuntu on this thin-client? or, run Ubuntu applications from a server on this thin-client?
    • Since you declare more comfort with ubuntu desktops, it appears that you would like to use the thin-client to connect to a ubuntu server. Because, AFAIK, The base operating system on the thin-client is not very important, as long as it works fine on the hardware and can connect to server applications properly. Moreover, specific hardware solutions are likely to come with their own bundled software (like the WYSE reference in another answer here).
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I want to use a hardware device (small, low power, no fan etc) to connect to a Linux server. I want to run applications on the Linux server, displayed on the thin client. –  mlambie Jun 20 '09 at 13:54

There's a decent list on the LTSP site:

http://wiki.ltsp.org/twiki/bin/view/Ltsp/Clients

In general you should look at LTSP as even if you don't like their methods some of the idea's are good.

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I recently tested a thin client from HP for work. It ran a Debian based thin client OS and it supported 2 monitors (dvi). I was able to connect it to my Ubuntu desktop using XDMCP and it worked really well.

We were testing the HP T5720 and it supported two monitors but was expensive. There are cheaper models that should work though. Just be careful to avoid the XPe (XP embedded) thin clients as they won't support XDMCP. But the Debian based ones seem to work great for this.

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I recently set up a thin client solution for my company using LTSP and diskless/fanless mini-itx boards as the thin-client pc's. The system has been in use for a few months now and it's rock solid. All of the thin-clients run a touchscreen, and are housed in a custom built enclosure. I would recommend LTSP for it's ease of setup. It does lack a really good admin module, hopefully someone will create one at some point. That aside, it's fast and works really well.

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I use LTSP on my Ubuntu 10.04 64bit box and have 8 thin clients running off it all running 1920x1080 on 24" screens.

For a thin clients I just put together my own with these four components:

Intel D510mo mobo 1.6Ghz dual core.
1 GB DDR2 667/800       
Aywun MW-107 case       
Sony DVD SATA slim black

It comes to about $200AUD or $300AUD with DVD drive (retail price from my local computer store).

It's fanless, uses a maximum of 18watts, small and reliable.

I've done 3 installations of LTSP using these as thin clients, 2 of these installations where running mythtv frontends, really pushing the units.

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