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After 2 Years of Development, LTSP 5.2 Is Out 79

Posted by timothy
from the terminal-velocity dept.
The Linux Terminal Server Project has for years been simplifying the task of time-sharing a Linux system by means of X terminals (including repurposed low-end PCs). Now, stgraber writes "After almost two years or work and 994 commits later made by only 14 contributors, the LTSP team is proud to announce that the Linux Terminal Server Project released LTSP 5.2 on Wednesday the 17th of February. As the LTSP team wanted this release to be some kind of a reference point in LTSP's history, LDM (LTSP Display Manager) 2.1 and LTSPfs 0.6 were released on the same day. Packages for LTSP 5.2, LDM 2.1 and LTSPfs 0.6 are already in Ubuntu Lucid and a backport for Karmic is available. For other distributions, packages should be available very soon. And the upstream code is, as always, available on Launchpad."
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After 2 Years of Development, LTSP 5.2 Is Out

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  • Impressive... (Score:2, Interesting)

    With 14 contributors, that they got it done in two years is impressive. Hopefully with this update, more distributions will be able to readily support LTSP 5.2 again...
  • Excellent news (Score:2, Informative)

    by bloosh (649755)
    This is great news to hear. I've been using LTSP at a school for all teachers and students since 2003 with excellent results.
    • LTSP-cluster (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xzvf (924443)
      LTSP is an outstanding product that scales incredibly well compared to other virtual desktop solutions. While a little off topic, LTSP Cluster is an excellent addition to large scale LTSP deployments. https://www.ltsp-cluster.org/ [ltsp-cluster.org]
  • I've been using ssh and X11 for 6 years now to do exactly what this project says it does.
    I fail to see how this project improves things. Is it just simpler to to set up?

    (Btw I'm writing this on an atom-thin client using a wireless connection to run Firefox on an old P4 server.)

    • by stgraber (1247908) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @05:41PM (#31222840)
      Yes, LTSP has been around for more than 10 years now and is really about making all that easier. It lets the user choose if he wants to connect to a Windows server using RDP or to a Linux box either using X11 over SSH or just using ssh for authentication and X11 clear on the network for better performance. The main addition is having a login manager for that which can call a lot of hooks, mount the home directory directly on the thin client and then mix local and remote applications.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by evilviper (135110)

      LTSP isn't some X11 extension. It's a distro that sets up a server, and supports a large number of diskless thin clients, with lots of features like running apps locally, accessing local disks, etc., etc.

      Running X11 apps over SSH has NO RELATION TO WHAT LTSP DOES.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @06:13PM (#31223154) Homepage Journal

        LTSP isn't some X11 extension. It's a distro that sets up a server,

        Sigh. LTSP is a system mostly utilizing existing servers that provides XDMCP over SSH, and the rest of your comment is true. But it's not a Linux distribution; it's software for Linux. And while it does have a lightweight login server, the really interesting parts are the ability to use local machine resources (as you say, disks and other USB devices) and that it sets up the netboot configuration[s] for you.

        5.2 is a bugfix release for 5.199 and as compared to 5.0 most of the improvements are in speed and so-called 'fat client' support, where most apps are actually run on the client. There have also been tweaks to the way audio is handled.

        • You got any idea if you can run it effectively with those little Sun things? Geez, I forget what they're called, but you normally have to run special software on a sun server....

          SunRays!

          Any idea if LTSP supports SunRays?

          It might be nice to buy a few and stick 'em around the house, have a central server in the garage somewhere.

    • It really is cool (Score:4, Informative)

      by symbolset (646467) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @06:05PM (#31223074) Journal

      Yeah, you can do it without LTSP. But you don't have to be a guru to stand up an LTSP server and host desktops for thin clients so it's handy for the schools who use it. I've been using it at home for years to host desktops for guests because when the nieces and nephews come over they have incredible computer corrupting skills and need a platform that's less amenable to viruses than my kids' desktops and laptops.

      You can also mangle the config to merge in DRBL, which allows me to netboot compute cluster nodes that I get at surplus if I want to do a little recreational number crunching or transcoding. I think it's pretty cool that we live in an age when an ordinary elementary school can have its own supercomputer and if their networking is up to snuff, join the ranks of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

      But go ahead and rain on their parade if it makes you feel 1337.

    • VNC tends to be significantly faster than SSH+X11. It does present some security issues in normal use, but the concepts have been around for years.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        After I started using NX ( http://freenx.berlios.de/ [berlios.de] and http://nomachine.com/ [nomachine.com] ) I never looked back at VNC. NX provides near local speeds for remote X11 desktops.
      • by markdavis (642305)

        VNC on Linux/Unix (or any platform) is *HORRIBLY* slower than native X11... there is no comparison and the technologies are completely different. VNC is also tremendously more network and CPU load on both client AND host.

        VNC just unintelligently pushes a bunch of screen bitmap updates on a huge graphic image. X11 is a true windowing/widget/primatives protocol that only draws what it needs and where it needs it and the Xserver does a lot of intelligent stuff. On a good network you can't tell that a progra

    • by micheas (231635) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @06:36PM (#31223386) Homepage Journal

      But do you have sound working? Can you plug in a usb drive on your client and see it on your desktop? Yes you can do all that, but you also need to manage it, and LTSP supports installations of as large as 30,000 desktop clients.

      The point is to have a thin client work like a desktop.When it works it is a huge time saver for admins, as you have one server cluster to back up and maintain, and a bunch of diskless workstations that can be unplugged and replaced with no configuration or installation beyond maybe needing to put the mac address in dhcpd.conf

      LTSP is probably more work than it's worth if you have less than five work stations, but more than five workstations, and the long term savings probably make it worth the initial time investment, as you need beefy servers and good redundancies, but after you have a high availability server cluster that people are logging into, management as become a lot easier.

      • >LTSP is probably more work than it's worth if you have less than five work stations

        Sorry, but I absolutely have to disagree with that statement. I have been using LTSP for the past four+ years to provide access to my family's 3 workstations. Even if it were only two machines, I would count my time well-spent, given the great reduction in maintenance and support time per user. Having everything centralized for updates and management pays off very quickly (in my experience), even for just a small user

    • You don't do exactly what the project says it does. The project uses diskless system with no ROM OS to boot to a full X session or RDP session. Jim McQuillan basically wrote a system to duplicte what he was doing for hospitals at the time. When I used LTSP often (from 0.9 to 4.0, circa 2000-2004), the process worked like this:

      1. PXE boot to find a kernel
      2. Get DHCP address
      3. load the root file system
      4. Pivot root into the new system
      5. NFS mount /home
      6. Start X session with optional server chooser.
      7. Log in to an X session on the server while still being able to use local sound, printers, and USB drives.

      I'd also like to give a big shout out to Eric Harrison, who made the whole system easy to use for schools with K12LTSP (now K12Linux [fedorahosted.org]).

    • Is it just simpler to to set up?

      Yes.

      You could think of it like not having to code yourself a word processor or build your own Linux distribution. Someone else has done all the work for you.

       

  • After almost two years or work and 994 commits later made by only 14 contributors, the LTSP team is proud to announce that the Linux Terminal Server Project project released LTSP 5.2 on Wednesday the 17th of February.

    That's about one commit per 10 days per person. Is this sort of number normal in the open source scene? It seems very low to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Maybe they check their work before they commit it. ;)

      On the serious side, I doubt most of them were working on this full time. You may look at it more like this: every 10 days, they had time to actually commit something they were working on while working on other [I presume?] full time jobs?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by symbolset (646467)

      It is if they're also teaching school. A lot of open source projects are funded by enterprises that pay programmers to improve the project and contribute back. There isn't a lot of call for that in LTSP yet - corporations find it easier to just license Citrix or Microsoft Terminal Services.

      This may change as VDI initiatives take off for the power savings, security benefits and management economy. Terminal services on low-watt thin clients is hugely green. LTSP for terminal services, virtual desktops in

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The project is underfunded and all 14 developers had to share the same keyboard and terminal. On top of that one developer kept eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that gummed up the keyboard and he was always touching the monitor so it was harder to debug with PBJ on the screen. For the love of God please donate to this project or 5.3 will not be realeased before the end of the world in 2012.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bligneri (908076)
      Well, a large part of the job is to make sure that LTSP is properly supported ... by the distributions. Those changes are not, per se, in the LTSP code but in most of the distro code and not directly in the project code so I guess that it makes sense for such a project that integrates a lot of underlying technologies that have to be supported and working together :
      • DHCP
      • TFTP
      • NFS (no more)
      • NBD
      • Pulseaudio
      • X11 (X.org)
      • etc. (to name a few)

      LTSP is supported by Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora/RedHat, Suse.

      On another level,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      After almost two years or work and 994 commits later made by only 14 contributors, the LTSP team is proud to announce that the Linux Terminal Server Project project released LTSP 5.2 on Wednesday the 17th of February.

      That's about one commit per 10 days per person. Is this sort of number normal in the open source scene? It seems very low to me.

      They are probably using something old fashioned like CVS where all commits are globally visible and nobody can commit anything which might possibly break a branch. In mercurial I tend to commit every time I make a change and then collapse commits into logical patches before I push upstream.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by asdf7890 (1518587)

      That's about one commit per 10 days per person. Is this sort of number normal in the open source scene? It seems very low to me.

      It depends on the size of the average commit. If most of them are small changes to single files then yes this is probably slow. But if a developer is working on a complex change then an individual commit could represent a significant number of man-hours developing, unit testing and regression testing before the commit. This is especially true if they are using some form of distributed source control whereby said developer has a local repository to keep inter-commit changes tracked in or if they are using a

  • Not many comments yet, so I just thought I'd say "Huzzah!"

    I'm a teacher for a catholic school on a tight budget with laptops with dying hard drives. Edubuntu has been a major lifesaver for me. I'll be checking out the improvements in the new version!

    • I'm a teacher for a catholic school on a tight budget with laptops with dying hard drives.

      Has the priest given them Extreme Unction yet?

    • by pnutjam (523990)
      Another good option from OpenSUSE [opensuse.org]. I have had better results with their releases. They tend to do better more reliable hardware support.
  • Terminal servers can work quite well — if you have the bandwidth. Nothing more frustrating than watching a graphics terminal update over a slow connection.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by markdavis (642305)

      We ran 130 Xterminals (Linux machine thin clients) over switched 10-base-T with a 100-FL backbone for many, many years (up until 2 years ago). It worked just fine. The only thing that will kill the network is trying to play video or have Flash, neither of which we support.

      Now we have 160 over switched 100-TX with 1000 fiber backbone. It is faster, but not THAT noticeable.

      • by fm6 (162816)

        Oops. When I read "thin client" I assumed they were talking about those graphics terminals that currently misuse the term. If I'd RTFA, I would have noticed that this project was about X-Terminal software, which is a real thin client. One reason it rates as a true thin client: it doesn't require a lot of bandwidth. As you pointed out.

        My bad.

        • Low bandwidth isn't what makes a client "thin". "Thin" refers to the amount of state and logic on the client.

          X is fatter than VNC because it stores fonts, bitmaps and other data and it is responsible for rendering the output.

          VNC, OTOH, doesn't even know what a font is, much less how to render it.

          VNC usually requires more bandwidth, but X makes more network requests and its performance suffers considerably more than VNC over high-latency links.

        • by markdavis (642305)

          Originally, we did use Tektronix Xterminals. As the price of X86 machines plummeted, we decided to make our own using Linux.

          "Thin client" is not an absolute, it is more a reference to where the applications are actually running. You could have a rather fat machine on a desk (hard drive, OS, etc), but if all or most of the user applications are being run on a host somewhere else, then it is "thin".

          The project (LTSP), uses Linux as the base OS for creating machines for which the majority (or all) of applica

          • by fm6 (162816)

            Were Xterminals ever cheaper than PCs? I seem to recall that they were about the same price. Which had a lot to do with them not catching on.

            My problem with calling graphics terminals "thin clients" is not the "thin" part, it's the "client" part. A client is something that's part of a client-server model, and passively acting as a network KVM is nothing like that.

            Then again, Xterminals aren't clients either. As you perhaps know, they respond to requests from the application, which makes them the server in a

            • by markdavis (642305)

              Yes, many Xterminals were cheaper than the typical fat X86 machines of the say day... and they still are. But many were not... It depended on a lot of factors. And yes, they would have been even cheaper if the volume had caught on.

              Either way, I don't disagree with most of what you say- I think the terminology is all whacked. But, I think that is true with a lot of terminology in lots of things.

              • by fm6 (162816)

                Yes, many Xterminals were cheaper than the typical fat X86 machines of the say day... and they still are.

                What? You mean somebody's still making them? I know NCD's gone out of business. Anybody else?

    • by Daengbo (523424)

      It's designed to be used over a local, switched network. Is that normally slow for you? The standard now is 1Gb/s.

      • by fm6 (162816)

        1Gbs may be "standard" but there's still lots of slower connections around. If your building was cabled more than 5 years ago, it's probably only rated at 100 Mbs. Much older than that, it's 10Mbs.

        It was 11 years ago that I encountered my first terminal server — and it was a painful experience. My recent experiences have been more positive, but of course these were all on much more modern networks.

        • by Daengbo (523424)

          Five years ago, I was running twenty clients per 100Mb/s switch and terminal server, and there was no slowdown at all. Sure, a 10Mb/s non-switched environment is going to suck. That's not in any modern setup, though, and if you're going to move to a terminal server arrangement, network modernization is going to be in your budget for the program.

    • by cynyr (703126)
      100Mb would seem fine assuming that it's on a proper(managed/smart) switch and not on a hub.
      • by fm6 (162816)

        Can you even buy hubs any more? In any case, you're forgetting the fact that all the systems connected to the switch still share the upstream connection to the server.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by willy_me (212994)

          Can you even buy hubs any more?

          I believe that all of those cheap 10/100 switches are really two hubs with a switch connecting the 10mb to the 100mb. Technically, there is a switch in it so they call it a switch - but it acts just like a hub.

          • by anss123 (985305)

            I believe that all of those cheap 10/100 switches are really two hubs with a switch connecting the 10mb to the 100mb.

            No. It's actually cheap hubs that are really switches because with today's tech it's oddly enough easier to make a cheap switch than a hub.

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