Chapter 11 presented information on using GUI remote login protocolsnamely, the X Window System and Virtual Network Computingto control one computer from another one. This technique can be handy in many situations, as described in Chapter 11. One specific application of this technique deserves elaboration, though: thin client computing. In a thin client environment, one computer (the thin client) is configured with a minimal OS installation and is dependent on another computer (the server) to handle most computing tasks, aside from input/output. This approach to computing can greatly simplify system administration by centralizing most administration tasks on a single larger server. It also enables you to extend the life of aging computers; even a 486 system might make an acceptable thin client! It does require a server that's powerful enough to handle multiple simultaneous logins, though. Thin clients are best used by workers who need to run a handful of low-resource applications. You don't need to use thin clients for everybody; you can mix thin clients with more conventional desktop systems.
This chapter begins with an overview of thin client computingwhat it is and when you might want to use it. Next up is a look at the hardware you'll need to deploy a thin-client network, including the thin clients themselves, their servers, and the network infrastructure requirements. The next topic is configuring Linux as a thin client, which builds on the VNC client and X server topics in Chapter 11. Finally, this chapter looks at how to configure a Linux system as a server for Linux or non-Linux thin client workstations.