Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP)

What is LTSP?

I have been using LTSP to build thin client labs using older computer hardware for several years…

The basic concept of LTSP is to connect a single server to a number of thin diskless clients (workstations) via a network. When I say “diskless” clients, I mean workstations that do not have a hard disk. The Linux distribution Edubuntu allows diskless thin clients to boot from the server via an etherboot card (PXE 2.0 compliant). The diskless clients then run Linux in RAM, and can use the services of the server, yet use the client’s resources such as soundcard, USB drives, CD/DVD drives, etc…

Here are some useful resources regarding LTSP:

[LTSP – Wiki]
[About LTSP]
[LTSP.org Wiki]
[LTSP Website]
[Edubuntu Webpage (Linux Download)]

IRC: Server: irc.freenode.net Channel: #ltsp

The resources listed above will provide useful information (eg. hardware requirements). Here are some guidelines that that I haved used to set up a 15 workstation lab using LTSP:

  • LTSP Server: P4, 2.1 Ghz, 2.0 Gb RAM, 100 Gb Hard disk, 2 NIC cards
  • Thin Clients (15 per Server): P3, 256 Mb RAM, no hard disk,
    PXE 2.0 etherboot NIC card
  • Switch (eg 16 port)
  • Ethernet Cable / Connectors

The server is configured to connect to the Internet and also configured to connect to a switch (i.e. hub). The switch then connects to each thin client (workstation). Thin clients can consist of older computer hardware (minimum requirement was a x486 with 32 MB of RAM! I have done it myself with an old Pentium I (32 MB RAM). I wouldn’t recommend the minimum requirements, but the general requirements that I listed above can be used to create a very good (fast and dependable) system…

I installed an LTSP lab down in Toronto at Parkdale Collegiate Institute (Toronto,Canada) consisting of 15 workstations. This lab was intended to be used for programming courses (such as Java programming). Seneca College (the community college where I work) donated 15 Pentium IIIs, Network cable/connectors, a switch, and one Pentium II Dual Processor with 1.5 Mb RAM. I installed it 4 years ago, and apparently it is still being used to teach programming courses…

My colleague, John Selmys, installed LTSP labs at Emery Collegiate and George S. Henry (high schools). This “open-source” approach seems to work very well. I find that many high schools that lack the appropriate resources for traditional windows-based or Mac-based labs…

Here are links to pictures of some of the highschool labs running LTSP:

[Parkdale Collegiate]
[Emery Collegiate]

I am also helping to develop an LTSP lab for Westminster United Church in Orangeville, Ontario. Below is a news-feed that helps to describe the purpose for setting up their LTSP lab:

[Westminster News Feed]

The Westminster computer lab was completed and opened in February 2010. Here is a WIKI regarding that computer lab:

[ Westminster Computer Lab WIKI ]

Jim McQuillan, the developper and project leader of LTSP is a busy guy. He is constantly in demand to give seminars regarding LTSP around the world. He constantly tours Europe and Brazil giving seminars in LTSP. IBM has packaged LTSP for use with its Linux servers. I was able to invite Jim to give a seminar at Seneca College’s Free and Open Software Seminar ( FSOSS ) in the fall of 2005 – it was a major success….

I find that their IRC channel for LTSP is one of the most friendly out there. Jim is always “lurking about” and I find him pleasant to communicate with (I believe that either he doesn’t sleep or that he has “cloned” himself)…

What is Useful about LTSP?

I find LTSP very useful for building cost efficient computer labs. I worked in the IT industry supporting UNIX machines for a company’s clients in the 80’s and I am totally convinced that UNIX systems are the most dependable. In fact, I have a nickname for them: workhorses. I also find that LTSP labs to also be “workhorses”. I also like the idea that older PCs can be be given a new purpose in life…

From an educator’s point of view, Edubuntu is an excellent platform for the computer lab. This Linux distribution comes bundled with educational software ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 12. There are also applications for college/university students. Open Source productivity applications (such as Open Office) allow complete compatibility with many MS Office products (Open Office 3.0 can easily import .docx files), so students can learn word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database concepts, and web-authoring.

There are also teacher course-delivery applications that are built into Edubuntu such as a “LAN school”. This application allows the instructor to control the display of workstation for demonstration purposes. This is useful for labs that are small, or have obstructed views to the teacher podium. Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Moodle can be used to build an entire educational system for both “inside” and “outside” the lab (i.e. distance education). In my opinion, Moodle is just as good (in some cases better) than Blackboard… (I have used both)…

… and (of course), it is absolutely free…

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~ by Murray Saul on March 26, 2009.

3 Responses to “Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP)”

  1. Excellent.

  2. Do you know how blocking cdrom and pendrive plugged on server appears on all terminals?
    I have edit udev rules, change permissions with chmod and not have success.
    Look my post: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=7283193
    Thanks!

    • I don’t know the answer, but why not ask Jim MacQuillan? You will find your answer immediately if you use IRC chat. It is probably the most user-friendly and productive support mechanism.
      IRC: Server: irc.freenode.net Channel: #ltsp

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