Diskless Linux X Terminals

How to network-boot a Linux box that has no persistent storage and use it as a diskless X terminal.
Kits Are Available

Due to the space limitations of printed media, this article presented a high-level view of how to configure a Linux box to boot diskless and become an X terminal, without going into great detail about the precise implementation. Interested readers are encouraged to download the X Terminal Kit from the author's Web site; it includes shell scripts, Makefiles and READMEs to guide you through the sometimes complicated process. In addition, the software described in this article has been drawn from numerous resources on the Internet, all of which have more detailed information about their particular packages. See the on-line Resources for pointers.

Resources for this article: www.linuxjournal.com/article/7924.

Chip Coldwell (coldwell@physics.harvard.edu) is a system administrator for the Physics Department at Harvard University. When he's not messing around with a computer of some sort, he generally can be found riding his bicycle or enjoying the company of his fiancée, Cindy.



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Symbio Technologies' LTSP based diskless thin client solution

Diane Romm's picture

Readers who are interested in Linux-based diskless thin client technology should find the products of our company, Symbio Technologies, very compelling.

We offer a complete solution, based on LTSP, that can replace the PC on the desktop with low powered network terminals. We call the solution The Symbiont Solution. It includes:

1. The Symbiont Management Suite: Server based software that makes it easy to setup, configure, manage, and control a network comprised of diskless network terminals.

2. The Symbiont Boot Appliance: A device that boots the network terminals, directs them to the appropriate application server(s), and offers Internet-based access to setup, configure, manage and control the network. The SBA takes the place of a boot server and enables the efficient consolidation, management, and control of application servers.

3. Network terminals: These energy efficient units have no moving parts including no hard drives, no floppy drives, and no fans. They are guaranteed to work perfectly with our management suite and boot appliance.

Diskless Linux X Terminals and LTSP

stern's picture

Thanks Chip for a great article. It motivated me to do something usefull. I'm setting up a diskless machine for a friend which will boot off her partner's linux pc. She doesn't have enough disk to
setup a stand alone machine. I may not use pxe but expect to use etherboot via a floppy.

I think it a real shame that the "Diskless Linux X Terminal" article made no mention of the Linux Terminal Server Project! I followed the article and links and found it frustrating. (using SuSE 9.2) I downloaded the latest LTSP (www.ltsp.org) and had it all working in an
hour. The hardest part being getting the xdmcp to work. I would have found something explaining the differences between bootp, etherboot, and pxe really helpfull. Again the LTSP is very good at explaining this.

In the end I feel that as good as it was, the article had the
potential to be much better.

John Stern
Linux Specialist

NVRAM? (I actually do need it....)

mhoskins's picture

I liked your article, however, I am one of the few, the proud, who need NVRAM information:

The essential characteristic of any thin client is that it should have little or no persistent storage. Typically, a purpose-built X terminal has a small quantity of NVRAM used to store configuration options and nothing else. In practice, it usually is possible to put even these options in a configuration file stored on the server and downloaded by the terminal on boot. This article takes the purist view that an X terminal should have no persistent storage whatsoever.

I need to save some bootup settings there, such as monitor settings, kernel params, etc., in a situation that I do *not* have a managed thin-client situation.

I have a customer who does *not* want this saved on a server, but who wants to boot through CD's -- no hard disk drives, no flash, no boot ROMs or PXES, no floppies, etc.! Only whatever-else-is-part-of-a-bare-machine and CD-R's are allowed, here....

I also have a great deal of hardware configs, from P-90's to P4-2.5GHz machines, and a wide range of video cards and monitors....

Unfortunately, I have found virtually no information for /dev/nvram. I have done several Google searches, but perhaps I'm not using the correct search criteria.

Can anybody help, here?

You really want to check out

Alex S.'s picture

You really want to check out the "A Temporary Internet Lounge" article in the same issue - build your Knoppix disk to contain the stuff you want and not the stuff you don't.

Re: NVRAM? (I actually do need it....)

mhoskins (cannot login)'s picture

I have built several custom Knoppix and Morphix (and BeatrIX) CD's over the last year and a half, or so. This is precisely why I need to save my settings somewhere. (I read the "Internet Lounge" article ahwile ago, as well.)

All I have in my customer's machines is CD-R media and I just need a place to hold a few bytes for settings. This is a unique situation where I have no hard disk, no USB device, and I can't save to/load from a server.

Saving it in NVRAM would be ideal. I need maybe 20-30 bytes, or so, but I've heard that NVRAM can do 64-128 bytes, perhaps higher.

Can anybody help?