Friday, May 04, 2007

Thin Linux Workstations to Save the Planet?

ThinLinX Thin Client computersThinLinX is a Queensland based company which sells Thin Client computers. These are used as smart terminals for a Linux server, allowing several cheap terminals to be driven from one PC. Thin clients are not a new idea, but with more Linux software being available and low cost hardware (hundreds rather than thousands of dollars), it is becoming feasible to use for mainstream computing.

The boxes have just enough processing power and memory to drive the screen and keyboard and communicate with the server (where the applications are run). But after a standard USB keyboard, mouse and a VGA screen is plugged in, the user will not notice the difference. The units provide audio in and out, USB sockets, Ethernet and a memory card slot, but no CD-ROM drive.

One benefit of this minimalist approach is the units consume about
3.5 watt. A conventional PC will consume about 108 watt, or thirty time as much. Of course some allowance has to be made for the power the server which runs the application for the thin client will use, but even so it should use considerably less power.

One question I have for the maker of these machines is if they can boot from a flash card or a USB flash memory stick and run a web browser locally. They would then make a handy web terminal and driver for digital singage.

To make a web terminal you would add an LCD screen (some even have a 12 DC output would could power the thin client), a keyboard and mouse. For a digital sign, the thin client would be attached to the back of a large LCD or plasma panel and serve up a preprogrammed sequence of web pages. As an example,this could be used for the workstations and signs on the Amnesty International Australia replica of a Guantánamo Bay cell.

1 comment:

Gene said...

Yes, the ThinLinx Hot-e can boot from any flash memory (usb thumb drive, Compact Flash, SD-secure digital and MMC-multimedia card, and run a web browser. It can also display a remote browser, so it can browse the web without even having a local copy of the browser.

Not only can it be used for digital signage, but since it supports touchscreens it can also be used for graphical touchscreen POS. As a matter of fact, it comes with such an application, ViewTouch POS, the original graphical touchscreen POS system that virtually all the other POS systems in the world are copied from.

Whereas a digital sign is not interactive, POS is interactive, and the ThinLinx Hot-e with POS installed by the manufacturer means that food and beverage organizations, and restaurants, can have enterprise POS without having to actually use computers at the sites - the touchscreen displays are all remote graphical terminals.