Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 1:40pm

Why aren’t computers more like telephones?

Posted by Jordan Erickson

If you aren’t already painfully aware by reading our previous blogs, LNS is very interested in thin client technology. In our efforts to expose the benefits of using green, centralized technology in schools in the recent weeks, we have been working with a videographer on creating a multimedia presentation of using open source thin clients in education. In the script Allen had created, the analogy of a thin client computer being more like an extension telephone than a typical PC was written down. In all reality, this analogy seems to hit a home run – thin clients are as plug-n-play as you can get to computers.

A comparison might help to better visualize the concept.. For example: Imagine you are the head of technology at a school district, and you got a new shipment of brand spankin’ new PCs. Cool, huh? 🙂 What do you do when you get them? You take them out of the boxes they came in, unravel all of the cables and peripherals, plug everything in, and turn them on.

What next? A LOT, some (experienced) people might say. In an established network infrastructure, you typically have many configuration tasks to complete on each computer before they are ready for use. Installing drivers, configuring the network, joining a network domain, configuring security, installing applications such as office productivity/anti-malware software/etc, updating operating system software… and the list goes on. These post-hardware-setup tasks alone can take days, if not weeks to accomplish depending on how many systems you have to set up, your own time constraints (as most schools don’t have the luxury of full-time computer technicians), etc.

Thin clients are a different (READ: shorter) story. Of course, you must physically set up the thin clients much like you would a typical PC..but that’s where the setup story ends. Thin clients such as the 1220 PXE ( ) will boot directly to your LTSP ( ) server and present you with the same login screen every other thin client presents you with – much like when you plug in a telephone, you are presented with the same dial-tone you would get on any other phone, because it’s the same dial tone coming from the phone system that’s already been set up. From this point on, you are using the already configured LTSP server for all of your work, and using the thin-client for input (keyboard/mouse) and output (your screen). Just like listening (input) and talking (output) on a phone.

I am amazed that this technology has not been embraced by every school in the country by now. With the relatively few schools (so far) I have introduced the thin client model to, things simply work, and work well. Just like a phone. Why don’t telephones have their own telephone system software embedded in them? Because they don’t have to. Well, neither do computers. And *that* is the beauty of thin clients computers.

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