Monday, October 27, 2014

"Thin Client" Usage

In addition to the modern "thin client" platforms of Chromebook and Chromebox (a laptop or small system running the Chrome operating system), I have a number of older thin clients running Windows CE (Compact Edition). A thin client is a small system designed without much processing power, which connects or remotes over the network to larger, more capable computer system(s) where the work is done. The WYSE (now owned by Dell) "WinTerm" (Windows Terminals) I will demonstrate here usually used the Remote Desktop Protocol to connect into a Windows workstation or server.

The WYSE terminals are running Windows CE from a "disk-on-a-chip", meaning there is no fan or other moving parts. They are powered by 12VDC, drawing slightly over an amp of current when running. For connections there is a VGA port for video, PS/2 ports for the keyboard and mouse, two serial ports, and a parallel port. VGA video is able to display up to 1280 x 1024 pixels, but just as importantly, 640 x 480 pixels that small economical LCD screens can have as input.

In the workplace, I've set up four WT3125SE units for provisioning DSL modems. A basic version of Internet Explorer 6 is in Windows CE, and there is an additional TELNET program that has the ability to run scripted commands. In short, providing everything needed for the task, with no extras. The WT3125SE has a Geode 1 CPU running at 266MHz, and 64Mb RAM. USB ports are version 1.1, and there is only a speaker jack for external sound output.

I have more of an expanded version that really improved upon the 3125, the WT3150SE. The Geode 2 CPU operates at 400MHz, and it has double the RAM at 128Mb. USB ports are the faster version 2.0, and both a stereo output jack and a microphone input are present.  The terminal software is able to establish an SSH connection, so I use one of them in my office to connect to our core router, as well as console cables from the serial ports to configure smaller network equipment.

In later posts I will cover an intended use as an environmental sensor host in a room, interconnected through the house, most likely also trying to use it as an intercom system. Since the terminals are connected to an Ethernet network, they can be remotely powered on by what is called a "Wake on LAN" signal. For now, here are some pictures of the units I have in my office (sharing the same keyboard, mouse, and monitor through a KVM switch, the WT3125SE has the yellow power button).

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