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(?) a linux solution for the office

From amitava maity

Answered By: Ben Okopnik, Kapil Hari Paranjape, Heather Stern, Thomas Adam

Hello all!

We have three Windows machines at our office. These are shared by 10 to 12 persons. I am trying to find out if one of these machines could be converted into a Linux box. Hopefully this Linux box can then be configured to meet the demands of 8 terminals connected via serial cables and an appropriate 8 terminal serial adaptor.GUI is necessary at all the terminals. Is this a feasible configuration? Can a Pentium-II, 233MHz machine with an IDE hard disk be used for this purpose?

Linux Gazette, you are doing a great job.

A Maity.

(!) [Ben] Take a look at the Linux Terminal Server Project <>;. It sounds like they'll fit your needs just fine.

(?) Is this a feasible configuration?

(!) [Kapil] There are two possible configurations:
  1. A server with a multi-port serial adapter which is connected via
  2. A server connected to an ethernet hub to which GUI terminals (such
In modern times, (2) is the way to go unless you already have the full infrastructure of (1). (Where will you find vt100 terminals nowadays?).
If you are going to buy some PC's you can anyway buy them with ethernet cards built-in and a small 16-port ethernet hub. In fact, you can buy "thin clients" if you use a server---in particular, you can save on disk costs.
I would suggest that you do not buy 8 vt100 terminals! This is not cost effective nowadays. Second-hand vt100 terminals are likely to be a hardware headache (since it would appear from your message that you are not a seasoned sysadmin of the unix days) and (more importantly) will not satisfy those of your users who are used to the colorful graphical interface of Windows.
Instead, you can "share" the use of the GNU/Linux machine as you have been sharing the use of the Windows machines---in fact this is a more shareable system!
Advantages over your existing configuration:
  1. Users will be able to customize their desktop without interfering
  2. Users will be able to run jobs that can run unattended in the
  3. You can find and use a lot of useful software without attracting
  4. When you get some funds you can add some more Linux machines very
(!) [Heather] Probably, esp. if you use something a bit on the lightweight side for basic window management details (such as fvwm instead of more weighty desktops, abiword with gnumeric instead of staroffice, etc.)
(!) [Thomas] Siag office ( isn't too bad.
(!) [Heather] Ben's right, LTSP is a good place to look. If these "terminals" are PCs but you'd reather they stay hard-diskless, consider keeping them having CD bays and run knoppix (a live CD distro). Or maybe another liveCD distro (for instance SuSE has a free one) but I'm advised, most of them ask a few sysadminly questions during bootup, and Knoppix doesn't.

(?) Linux Gazette, you are doing a great job. A Maity.

(!) [Heather] Thanks, we love to hear that sort of thing!

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Published in Issue 95 of Linux Gazette, October 2003
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