Thursday, November 01, 2007

Local Apps 2: The Next Morning

Well, now that the affects of the Woodchuck Draft Cider and Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale (thanks Eric!) have worn off, perhaps a further expansion of my worse-than-average typed blog posting of last night can be expanded upon.

Localapps, for those uninitiated with LTSP lingo, is the idea of running an application down on the thin client itself. Normally, once you log into a thin client, your session exists on the server, and you do all the work ON the server. So, if you have a classroom full of kids, say 30, running Firefox, you have 30 instances of Firefox running on the server. If you have 30 kids watching videos in flash, you have 30 instances of Firefox and flash running on the server.

Ouch is right.

What you'd really like to have the option of doing, if you have beefy enough thin clients, is run the Firefox + flash down on the thin client itself. The problem is, your thin client has no concept of who it's user is: that's all up on the server. Name Switch Services, home directory, plumbing, etc. All has to come from the server, and it's all a bit of a bear to set up. ("What do you mean I need to get LDAP going? What's an LDAP?")

However, we've come up with a cool little method (ltsp-localapps spec on Launchpad, for those interested) that allows us to do it with a bare minimum of fuss, muss, and bother.

So, armed with beverages, thin clients, laptops, and a general sense of merriment and excitement, 4 intrepid LTSP hackers set off to get it going on All Hallow's Eve. Eric Harrison, Francis Giraldeau, St├ęphane Graber, and myself hacked for a couple of hours, and got it going. First app launched was Xclock, closely followed by Firefox! Not satisfied with this major victory, we decided to push on, and installed flash in the chroot. After some futzing around, (St├ęphane realizing that we needed to add the user to the audio group on the thin client itself), we were watching videos on YouTube. On the thin client.

For posterity: first video watched was Wierd Al Yankovic's "White and Nerdy", what else? At one point, we were playing 2 simultaneously! All this on a 900mhz thin client with 256 megs of ram. Not too shabby.