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2X ThinClientServer V4.1

On VanBragt.Net SBC Centre already reviews are available for other 2X Product like the 2X Load Balancer and the 2X Application Server. But the first product released is their ThinClient Server product. With the product you can easily change your existing computer into thin client connecting to your SBC infrastructure or use low cost thin clients. With 2X ThinClient Server you can centrally manage and configure those machines.

Installation




The central component is the Thin Client Server. This component can be installed on a Windows or a Linux server. For this review I'm using the Windows variant (I'm not very familiar with Linux). The installation source is single executable. The executable exist of the Thinclient server product and has also Apache Web Server and MySQL included.

During the installation you need to specify the destination folder, specify which NIC(s) should be bind to the ThinClient Server product and that the machine should create a farm or join a farm. This option implies logically that you can have more than one ThinClientServer for redundancy and load balancing.  Also you need to specify a user for the database. It looks like MySQL has some limitation with characters in the password, because my first installation failed on that point. When I did it again with a simplified password everything went ok.

The last step is the basic configuration of the ThinClient server. This steps must be accomplished before the installation can be finished successfully. You should define the connection with Active Directory (or select local users), add protocols, add a connection and add an client image. I will describe these part in detail in the next configuration paragraph.

Configuration

Actually as I just mentioned the basic configuration is already done during the installation. In this initial configuration the first step is to select the domain controller (or specify that you would to use local  users). During this configuration you need to specify the domain name, one of your Domain Controllers, administrator name and password. You can add more domains if needed.

Secondly you need to add a protocol. A protocol is the configuration to connect to a session. 2x ThinClient supports RDP, ICA and NX (Linux) sessions. When selecting the ICA protocol you can specify if you want to publish a Full Desktop or Published Applications. Logically you also need to specify a hostname or IP address where the session should be initiated. Also on the protocol settings you configure display, network, encryption and redirection of local resources (sound, disk and printing) settings.

The last one is to create a connection. A connection exists of one or more protocols and configure which users (based on OU, Group or user level) will have the connection available on the 2X ThinClient client.

At the Thin Client component in the administrator console the default settings can be configured for the thin clients. For example you can configure the default time zones for the client, the kernel to use, to version of the 2X ThinClient OS, boot options, the default keyboard layout, display settings and much more. You can also add you personal banner, showed during start-up and configure the clients to be shadowed using VNC.

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The last configuration options are under the General tab. Here you can configure the licenses and add additional administrators. There is no possibility to delegation of control, an added administrator can perform all tasks. Also the logging of events can be configured here. Last you can create back-ups of your configuration and optional download this back-up to disk.

Connecting the thin client

When the basic configuration is done, it is time to roll-out 2x Thin Clients. 2X is offering a wide range of possibilities to "create" their thin clients.

For all solutions you need to download the ThinClientOS ISO from the 2X website.

The first possibility is to burn the ISO on a CD-rom for every thin client. The thin client than will boot using the cd-rom. This can be used for clients that do not support PXE boot and do not contain a hard disk for example.

Secondly you use the same cd-rom for installation the 2X ThinClient OS on the local harddisk of the client. The first time you boot for the cd-rom and choose the 2X ThinClient OS installer. The OS will than be installed locally and the client need to boot from the local hard disk. The installation can also be carried out via a network installation. The client need to be booted using PXE boot. When the client appears in the administrator console via the button Install to Disk the OS can be deployed to the local hard disk.

You can also boot the client using PXE and load the image every time over the network to the memory of the thin client. The last option is use a cd-rom and the Etherboot tooling. If the machine does not support PXE boot you can boot using the cd-rom (or also possible to add this on the local hard disk) for booting to the network and download the ThinClientOS into the memory of the client. When using PXE or Etherboot the update of ThinClientOS is the easiest.

When the client is started up the first time it announces it self at the 2X ThinClientServer and will be displayed in the administrator console. In the console some information is displayed about the ThinClient like his IP-address and the logged in user. Also the earlier mentioned settings for the 2X ThinClient can be adjusted per machine.

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If you would like to use local printers, the printer model should be added on the printer component. Beside the model (you can add your model to the available list of printer devices) you need to specify which port the printer is connected (LPT or USB). On the properties of the thin client you can select this printer.

Using the Thin Client

After the thin client is registered and configured within the 2X ThinClientServer the client can be used by the end-user. When the system is powered the user will be presented with a logon box where the need to specify their username and password.

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When the user is verified the connections which are assigned to his account will be displayed in small Windows look a like desktop. Every connection is displayed on the desktop as in the start menu.

If the user has only one connection with one Full Desktop protocol this session will be started automatically using a full screen so the 2X Desktop is not showed at all. The performance of my 64 MB supplied machine (booted using PXE) was really satisfying. I did not notice any delay on the (local) connection.

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Management

Within the 2X Console there are several monitoring options available. For example you see which users have made or having a connection on one of the 2X ThinClients. If you select one of the user you also get graphical displays when the user had an connection and how much errors were occurred. The same view is available based on the client.

Within the console there is also a list of active sessions. Via this list you could kill the session for the user. You can also start, shutdown or reboot a Thin client out of the administrator console. These overviews can

The views can also be used to generate a report with special stylesheets.

Conclusion

I think 2X did a good job to distribute the server component for both Windows and Linux. In this way not Linux experienced administrator can install the product on the familiar Windows platform. Because the administration is done using a web browser you can carry out the administration tasks from every machine or platform.

2X offers enough options and possibilities to rebuild older fat client into easy to use and manageable thin client. Also the support of real thin client is a good option. Although I do not have much experiences with Thin Client it was easy to setup and maintain the thin clients using 2X ThinClientServer product.

I personally would change the installation procedure by taking out the initial configuration. Also it would be nice if other database products are supported for companies that would like to use their standard database product. I also found it a little bit strange that my password could not fit in the MySQL product with the result that I need to reinstall the product.

Advantages:

  • Easy to configure and maintain via a web based administrator console;
  • Good documentation available;
  • Lots of possibilities to "convert" the machine to a thin client.

 

Disadvantages:

  • No delegation of control within the console;
  • Only support of MySQL;
  • Little bit difficult to find the reporting options.

2X ThinClientServer