Getting back into business…

Last Updated on September 30, 2010 by Dave Farquhar

My mail’s working again. My mail server problems seem to be mostly solved. It was indeed a hardware problem–with my Linksys router. My mail server couldn’t talk to the outside world, and my Windows boxes couldn’t talk to (couldn’t even ping) the mail server. But my Web server could. But since my Web server is a Web server, it doesn’t have a mail client on it. Oh well. So I pulled the plug on the Linksys router, called it a few names, then plugged it back in. Soon I had a flood of mail, telling me all about how I can make $5K a month online, get high legally, drive my Web counter ballistic, get out of debt… And a really weird one: I love you and I don’t want you to die! I had to check that one. Weight-loss spam. Hmm. I guess that spammer doesn’t know that if I lost 40 pounds, I probably would die…
You know, I wonder if maybe I liked my mail server better when it didn’t work. Nah. There was some legit stuff buried in it, and I’m slowly replying to it all.

The funeral was yesterday. Since I wasn’t quite the only one who had trouble figuring out when to sit and when to stand, I take it I wasn’t the only Protestant there. It was a very nice service.

And there’s this, courtesy of Dan He sent me the first installment in a series about using Linux as a thin client. Well, technically, I suppose the machines he’s describing are fat clients, since they do have some local storage. No importa. Dan asked if I’ve made this point before. I think I have. I know I started to make it in my second book, The Linux Book You’ll Never Read, but it was cancelled before I started on the research to tell how to implement it.

So here’s the story. You get yourself a big, honkin’ server. Go ahead and go all out. I’m talking dual CPUs, I’m talking 60K RPM Ultra1280 SCSI drives (OK, you can settle for 15K RPM Ultra320 SCSI, since that’s all they make), I’m talking a gig or two of RAM if you’ve got the slots–build a powerhouse.

Then you go round up the dinkiest, sorriest bunch of PCs you can find. Well, actually, since video performance is fairly important, the ideal system would be a P100 with 24 MB RAM, a fairly nice PCI video card, a smallish hard drive, and a network card. The most important component is the video card, far and away. The fat clients connect to your network and run applications off that honkin’ server. The apps run on the server and display on the fat client. Data is stored on the applications server.

Yes, you’ll want a good sysadmin to keep that honkin’ applications server happy. But desktop support virtually ceases to exist. When you have problems with your PC, someone comes, swaps out the unit, and you get back to work. You’re supposed to have one desktop support guy for every 25 end users (in reality most places have one for every 75). That’s 40,000 smackers plus benefits annually for an army of people whose job it is to make sure NT keeps running right. These people are expensive, hard to find, and if they’re any good, even harder to keep.

Move to fat clients, and you can probably replace desktop support with one desktop support guy (to play Dr. Frankenstein on the dead systems and support the remaining few who can’t get by with a fat client) and a kick-butt sysadmin.

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