Setup Wireless Thin Clients using old PCs
There are many different solutions to installing Thin Clients ranging from using old PCs to dedicated hardware devices.
I found the best solution was a little known piece of software from www.wtware.com that will turn an old PC into a functional RDP client in less than 10 minutes. I have used this software to setup wired thin clients using older PCs a couple years ago however this time I needed to setup clients over a wireless network. I knew wtware supported wireless cards however I didn’t realize the limited selection of wireless card support. After working with the developer and doing some of his testing since he has limited available hardware for testing in Russia we were able to add drivers for our newer wireless cards from Belkin (F5D7000) and Linksys (WMP54G) and this easily stays at the top of my list of easy, fast RDP client deployment.
Wtware is far and away the easiest, fastest RDP client for old PCs I could find.
- Boot from CD, Harddrive, floppy or PXE
- 30 second install to Harddrive.
- 15 second boot to remote login screen from hard drive
- Comes with Windows install/configuration tool.
- Comes with Windows syslog utility to capture log information for debugging.
- Simple edit of configuration files from built in editor to change settings.
- Support staff very attentive and willing to make some changes to enhance operation.
Note: The wireless does only support WEP encryption and the documentation says ‘ath0’ where it should say ‘wlan0’ so beware if it doesn’t work right away don’t be afraid to ask for some support.
Other solutions tried
During this process I was concerned due to the immediate needs of my client that wtware.com might not be able to come through in the required time so I looked at several other similar applications available in the open source channel. Below is a brief review of some of the results.
Puppy Linux – After quite a bit of research I found http://pctsc.ponderworthy.org/ which gave a pretty straight-forward configuration to get up and running. This would have been my second choice since it was the second easiest to get setup.
Ubuntu – Knowing that Ubuntu has a good following I figured I could get this installed and possibly make this work. I downloaded the iso image and got it installed with minor complications. This could have worked but it was just too clunky for my needs however it was the best Linux desktop I’ve ever seen and actually selected a resolution much higher than I would have expected by default. Configuring this to go straight to a Remote Desktop client would have required very specialized skills I just don’t have. This would have been the third choice had the other two not worked out.
Cult – This actually looks to be a good possibility but I couldn’t really understand how to get it setup. It does have what looks to be a nice Chrome browser thin client implementation and some nice graphics that makes what it does do a pleasure to work with.
Thinstation – This was a disappointment to me. This may have actually worked however I couldn’t get an installable copy that would recognize the wired or wireless network card. They have this nice TS-O-Matic site that allows you to specify your requirements and then a iso image can be created. It claims to be a non-Linux admin dream but without the network card working easily I just couldn’t get it to work. Also the TS-O-Matic didn’t work in IE8 or Chrome, I could only get it to work in Firefox which was a bit of a pain. With a little work this option would be hard to beat with all the connection and hardware options that can be selected through a wizard type system builder.
AnywhereTS – This company is out of business however they have a pretty close option however it is really designed to work from a PXE boot arrangement that is a bit heavy on the Windows install (requires SQL Server lite).