Followup: Was Linux Worth It?

A few days back, I posted a story regarding our LTSP server upgrades over Christmas Break here at my school district. I must confess, things didn't go well on Thursday when school resumed. In fact, it was a horrible mess. Here's the skinny:

1) Both thin client servers worked GREAT when I was the only person logging in. Once all 250ish thin clients were in use, however, things quickly fell apart. SLOW access, Firefox wouldn't load, thin clients would hang...

2) The same hardware running older versions of K12LTSP worked quite well before the upgrade, so I was pretty sure I just needed to tweak things.

3) I had no idea what to tweak.

That's where technical support comes into play. No, I don't mean I called technical support, I mean that I used the amazing community of Linux users that are willing to bend over backwards to help each other. A handful of instant messages, a couple emails to the K12LTSP listserv, and I had some quick, insightful suggestions to fix the mess.

I made a few changes based on the feedback I received, and I tweaked the few things that I was sure wouldn't hurt. This morning, things are fast and smooth. That doesn't make yesterday any better, but they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and my Geek Fu is rather strong today. :)

Oh, the things I tweaked? Sure, here ya go:

1) NFS on my file server was set at the default 8 daemons. I upped that to 16, and also changed the memory allowances. I used this tutorial that Google scrounged up for me.

2) I updated Firefox to the latest stable version. The K12LTSP version I used only has 1.5, and I thought it wouldn't hurt to get version 2 running.

3) I removed the big, beautiful photos that I had for the background on the KDM login screen.

Honestly, I think that #1 was the tweak that was the "Magic Bullet" -- but the others have proven nice as well. Firefox 2 is an awesome program, and really, the background took a long time to load when it was a big photograph.

Lastly, what did all the tech support cost me? A thank you. That's it. Even that wasn't required, but it seemed the least I could do. Also, now when someone else posts a question to me either via email, instant messenger, or on a mailing list, I'll share my experience with them. For free. Honestly, although the Linux software itself is awesome, it's really the people that make open source solutions so incredible.

The really cool part? It's not just awesome geeky gurus that make the open source community so incredible. It's you. It's me. It's the student that first showed me how to drag a window by holding down the ALT key if the screen is too small. It's people that aren't afraid of looking dumb by asking questions.

Don't hesitate asking questions to mailing lists, in the forums here, or even to me personally via email. Even if we can't help each other, someone, somewhere knows somebody that can. That's why open source is so great, the community of people that make it.

So, as I'm sure you guessed, yes Linux is definitely worth it. I'm going to go bask in my new thin client goodness now, and figure out why the OSX computers in the district are logging in so slow... Ugh.


Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

You can turn those Macs into LTSP thin clients

Terrell Prude' Jr.'s picture

Hi Shawn,

Good to see your follow-up here. Turns out that Power Macs make great LTSP thin clients. K12LTSP is set up by default for this (Chuck Liebow in the Northeast has been doing this for years). I've got an orange iMac that works great as a thin client. I've even got a truly ancient Power Mac 5260 that works as a LTSP thin client (640x480x256, but the fact that it works at all, and is actually useable, amazed me!).

Oh, and if you want to get really "l33t", I've even done a lab of Sun Ultra 5's as thin clients. No sound at this point, but in a classroom full of kids, that can be a really good thing.


NX Client for Max OSX

Jeff Kalberg's picture

Another possibility for using Macs with any Linux terminal server is NoMachines NX Client for Mac OSX. Beyond making high-performance X connections, you have support for things like higher screen resolutions, true color, seamless windows, clipboard, shadowing, and more. You can download the NX Client for Mac OSX at

Oh, for sure!

Shawn Powers's picture

Yeah, it was my old Powermac 5500s that coined the phrase, "Chubby Clients" -- my sole contribution to the K12LTSP efforts. :)

I've actually retired all the 5500s now, but we have probably 50 iMacs running as thin clients. They are GREAT because of the all in one-ness of them.

I guess I should have mentioned that about 20% of my thin clients are really netbooting iMacs. That would have beefed up my geek cred a bit. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.