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Mailbag: Linux and Thin Clients

Rod gives some advice to another reader who mentioned using Linux for thin clients:

For Timothy who said he would use Linux to create a thin client, check out Thinstation. Way back in 2003, we made a major move into server-based computing. We converted a boatload of Win 95/98 PCs into thin clients by booting from a CD or thumb drive that reformatted the hard disk and installed Thinstation. For the few systems that didn't work because of driver issues or when one of the PCs died due to old age, we didn't spend time trying to get it to work -- just replace with a Wyse thin client and move on. It was a great way to embrace Citrix without replacing all of our client workstations all at once.

George chimes in on Microsoft's Midori project, a brand-new, built-from-scratch OS:

What a concept! Building an OS from the ground up instead of three to four retreads! When I see it, maybe I'll try it. Until then, I'm sticking with XP, Mac OS and Fedora. Vista and its spawn are NOT going into my toolbox.

Speaking of Vista, John adds fuel to the fire:

Sunday, I bought my wife a new laptop, with Vista. I spent three evenings playing find-the-right-driver. Here is how it went. Sunday I powered up and thought, "Maybe Vista isn't as bad as they say." This was up until I tried to install a three-year-old application that depends on a dongle for authentication. After installation, the screen declared: "HASP not found." So, I went to the Internet and found stories of how others had made this software work on Vista, after they got the "HASP not found" error. I followed their procedures. No gain. I called, but couldn't reach a friend who used this same application. So, I sent her an e-mail.

Monday evening after work I started on it again. My friend had sent suggestions, which I tried, but still no success. Tuesday evening brought more of the same, except that it appeared that Vista was seeing the dongle, even though the application wasn't. I also succeeded in finding and installing an upgrade to the application. The message changed, but the meaning was still the same. More correspondence with the friend. Wednesday evening when I got home, my e-mail had a message from my friend and an attached update to the latest driver I had installed. When I ran the update, the application worked. The dongle was correctly associated with the application.

That was three-and-a-half evenings lost getting Vista and my application to play well together. From the comments I have read, this is typical of people's experience. As long as you stick to Vista and Office 2007, your new system runs well. Try to run old software or old hardware and, as they used to announce in the Navy, "Stand by for heavy rolls."


In celebration of Patch Tuesday, Leo shares his patching process down to the hour:

Here is our routine following Patch Tuesday:

  • Wednesday (PT+1) 0100 hrs.: Synchronize our parent WSUS with Microsoft.
  • Wednesday (PT+1) 0500 hrs.: Synchronize our child WSUS servers with our parent WSUS; hopefully, synching has completed.
  • Wednesday (PT+1) 1300 hrs.: Approve patches in WSUS for installation on test systems after child WSUSs have completed syncs.
  • Thursday (PT+2) 0400 hrs.: Patches install on test systems 0400 (Thursday is a scheduled eutage day, 0300-0600).
  • Wednesday (PT+8) 0900-ish.: Approve patches in WSUS for installation on production systems.
  • Thursday (PT+9) 0400 hrs.: Patches install on production systems 0400.

Usually, a few systems don't get their patches when they are scheduled to, so we tidy these systems up on PT+16. If all goes well, we will have a Thursday off before the next round of patches. Somewhat time-consuming but we have it working pretty well.

And Eugene puts the Olympic-sized Blue Screen of Death at the opening ceremonies in some perspective:

Whether or not it is real (looks real to me), this event is a testimony to the skill and planning behind it. There is always going to be failures in performances, you can count on it. What apparently happened was a solitary failure, with a very snappy backup take-over. That is the stuff of legend.

Anyone who believes that another platform would not suffer this should be fired. No platform under those conditions would have come through perfectly, and any platform would have needed a backup plan. If you think that an Apple-based performance system doesn't have backup hardware, you are fooling yourself. I've run both Mac and PC under performance conditions and you must always have a backup/switchover plan in place.

More of your letters coming tomorrow! Meanwhile, share your own thoughts about the topics covered here by leaving a comment below or e-mailing [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on August 13, 2008