I was lucky enough to finish work on the Wednesday before Christmas and make an extra day in Auckland. The extra day enabled me to catch up with Carl Hansen of HP, who bought me coffee and lent me a couple of thin clients to mess around with.
Disclosure: HP is a customer of Demitasse for training services. HP have also covered my expenses for attending two Tech Days. HP has never asked for or paid for blog posts nor have they had any control of the content of blog posts. All words here are mine, even the mistakes are mine.
Those of you who have been on VMware View courses with me will know that I’m a big fan of what are now called Zero clients and I’m less keen on the non-expandable compact PC that is a thin client. Happily I got one of each to test and use.
My testing was from my home network to my lab network, rather like a person working from home and connecting to a corporate office using VMware View. The network setup is as I outlined in this post about how my lab works.
Once I have the branch office setup I’ll be able to do some more testing and centralise management of the terminals.
HP All-in-one t410 Smart Zero Client
The t410 All-in-one is a very interesting device that fits an ARM based thin client inside an 18.5” LED backlight LCD screen. It’s party piece is that it can be powered over Ethernet, meaning only a single cable needs to be run to the terminal. This is ideal for temporary installations such as construction sites or high density use like schools or call centres.
I plugged the terminal in and turned it on, told it the DNS name of my View Security server and restarted as prompted. A few seconds, and a logon, later I was looking at the desktop of my Windows 7 VM in my remote datacentre. I was expecting to like this terminal for it’s simplicity and the geeky coolness of the design and I do. What surprises me is that I’m continuing to use the terminal, I was expecting the relatively low screen resolution (1366 x 768) to be an issue yet it has been the terminal hooked up to my desktop since I brought it home. Naturally this blog post has been written using the t410.
I have a wireless keyboard and mouse attached and I’ve used the VESA mount holes to put the terminal on my monitor arm. It just works and that’s how a thin client should be, users should be thinking about the desktop not the thin client. USB plug and play seems to be good, both my USB key and USB headset worked as expected with the desktop showing the plug and play dialogue as soon as devices were plugged in. Due to my slow Internet connection there are a few issues with speed of access to the USB key and the headset was no good for anything but beeps. The native PCoIP audio worked better for playing music and watching YouTube videos, both work although neither is good. I imagine when I have a better connection into the office network that the experience will be better.
HP t510 Flexible Thin Client
The t510 is a very different beast, an x86 compatible CPU and a dual screen video capability. Definitely in the non-expandable small PC range, you can have this with Windows Embedded installed, a variety of other more specialist boot images or as I currently have it Thinpro (Linux). The unit has dual DVI ports and even Wi-Fi built in making it quite a PC like device in a case not a lot larger than a MAC-Mini.
Again basic setup wasn’t difficult, getting dual monitor to work with two different resolutions was a manual task but it was only a few minutes work. The PCoIP connection again worked perfectly through the security server, although the “terminalness” did show up a bit more. The mouse pointer is a little inclined to loose it’s Windows look and become more Linux like. Also I did have some instances of the Linux menus overlaying on the remote window, although this has gone away since I switched to a single screen setup.
Since the version of ThinPro on the client is fairly old I won’t get too upset about what didn’t work, I’ll hold judgement on the terminal operating system until I’ve put a newer build on and repeated my plug and play and media playback tests.
The real test isn’t one client
When I was working for an IT solutions company it was all too common for me to go to a site with thin clients and find that every one was manually configured and there was no central control. This is just madness, thin clients are designed to be all the same and to be centrally managed, without this you loose a lot of the value of a thin client. Once I have the branch office network setup I will be deploying HP’s Device Manager to centrally manage and upgrade the terminals just like a real IT department.
© 2013, Alastair. All rights reserved.