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Kinda trying to set up a remote jump box in a couple of remote networks. It's been suggested I look at thin clients with no disks as I'm literally just ...
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  1. #1
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    thin client on a remote network?


    Kinda trying to set up a remote jump box in a couple of remote networks. It's been suggested I look at thin clients with no disks as I'm literally just going to be using ssh and squid to redirect html queries so that I can bounce through them to other devices. I've been pointed to a cheap windows thin client piece of hardware, that is cheaper than the ITX boxes I've used before.

    I've never done a remote network boot across the internet, I've always used things like PXE and pulled the file down locally off a local tftp server. This isn't something I've done since I've had a CD drive... so it's been a while. Everything I've read while looking into this seems to still be talking about local network, rather than pulling it down from elsewhere: netboot_linux and an Ubuntu how to. Its comments like "The disk-less node boots up over a 100Mb Ethernet link quite quickly as there are no disk checks." that concerns me and I know these sites are fed by ISDN....

    Is this a viable option? If you have any recommendations for the software / hardware, I'd really appreciate it. Even just a good term to google would be a help... If you just want to tell me I'm an idiot for not realising this is possible, that'd be appreciated as well.

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    I did some playing around with this - just doing a tftp file transfer with the files it would need would be 9 hours.... probably not viable... Still any comments appreciated.

  3. #3
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    I'm not really sure I understand what it is that you are trying to do. But you sound like you do know, so maybe you can tell me if I'm misunderstanding or not.

    What you are trying to do with network boot, I think I can advice against that. Sure, on an internal network with 100Mb it works pretty well. But to network boot over the internet, you need a VPN of some kind, and a DSL connection. I'm stating the obvious, but going over DSL (symmetrical) is both expensive and slow.

    Also, I thought that TFTP goes over UDP, is that reliable enough? And secure enough? It is the internet, we're talking about


    I'm not really sure though, why you want a networked OS rather than a local install.
    If the functionality you want is so easy that you can let a thin client handle it, why not use some really old machine with a small HD? Or, as I understand you are willing to throw some money at it, look for some alternative like the SheevaPlug (among others)? It's sub$100 hardware and hardly using electricity.

    I've no first hand experience with them. But if you have experience with ITX, you may already be familiar with such a category of devices.


    One final thought. I've found thin clients have very obscure equivalents of BIOS. It looks like a lot of the low level instructions are hard coded in, and that may include the MBR. This may not be a problem if you netboot one, but if you choose to do a local install on a thin client (converting a Winclient to a Linclient for example) be sure you research how it functions at such a low level. Without the functionality of the BIOS we're used to in desktops makes it easy to kill and hard to repair them. I've already killed two, and only the vendor has the equipment to fix them.
    Can't tell an OS by it's GUI

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    Yes, you've got it, I'm looking at the feasibility of doing a network boot over a WAN intranet connection. It isn't even adsl - it's a few ISDN channels. As you say it's the speed which is going to make this impractical.

    The reason for it; is that there are some old thin client machines that we have as spare. It would mean we wouldn't have to buy some hardware as a dedicated jump boxes for access. The pointy haired boss has noticed that thin clients were cheaper than the ITX boxes we've used for this.... That's partly because we have hefty hard drives on them for network packet captures. Something else a thin client wouldn't be good at.

    Thank you for your comments about the BIOS - wouldn't have thought of that until I broken had it...

    As for the SheevaPlug, I'll be honest, seen them before but kinda dismissed them as a gimmick. You've made me re-look at them, and although they aren't any good for this place, I'm looking at the GuruPlug Server Plus which has 2 ethernet ports. For my personal use that would be really good... Thank you

  5. #5
    Linux Engineer Freston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CmdoColin
    The reason for it; is that there are some old thin client machines that we have as spare. It would mean we wouldn't have to buy some hardware as a dedicated jump boxes for access. The pointy haired boss has noticed that thin clients were cheaper than the ITX boxes we've used for this....
    Ah, so you already have the hardware... that makes it different I suppose.

    You are in luck it seems. Luckier than I am anyway. I fired up my PXE server today to run some tests for a system I'm building. And I thought I could, being busy anyway, test PXE booting a thin client.

    Well, long story sort... all my tests failed; except the thin client.

    It may be possible yet to netboot your client. But it really depends on the kind of connection you have between where the server is and the remote location. Can you figure this out:
    - Is it a VPN or do you connect over the internet?
    - Do you have access to the routers?
    - Are the routers able to forward DHCP requests? (business grade routers probably are)
    - What speed is the connection.


    As an example. Booting a 50MB image over a 1Mb connection will probably take around 8 minutes in the advertisement, and 10~15 minutes in the real world. Is that to slow to live with? How often do you expect to reboot the thin client? I guess uptime is your friend
    Can't tell an OS by it's GUI

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