[Mesa-dev] Request for sponsered development...

Jason D. Clinton me at jasonclinton.com
Tue Mar 8 07:55:00 PST 2011

On Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 08:56, Christian Weiß <christian.weisz at spoc.at>wrote:

> Consider an installation of about ~600 low budget thin-clients (with almost
> no 3D support from the graphics chip) running as X-Terminals. Those
> thin-client stations are serviced by a host computer for 25-30 stations
> each. This infrastructure should be the basis of an architectural/interior
> planning system with serious demands in terms of 3D rendering. It's all
> clear that the client hardware will not be able to provide the power, so it
> comes down to a server-based rendering approach.

While your willingness to fund this kind of development is laudable, this
sounds rather like an organization doing LTSP and grappling with the
widespread proliferation of compositing window managers. If that's the case,
you should probably reevaluate the current state of thin client hardware.
Four years ago, when I last did this work, thin clients with 512MB of RAM
and an 945 Intel graphics chip were widely available for under $300. I'm
sure that things have improved. Any modern Intel graphics chipset >965 is
more than enough to run a compositor and 512 MB is plenty of RAM for a
desktop shell. This is essentially what Dave Richards at City of Largo is

The best way to run things in this configuration is to make the thin clients
root from NFS root or run a Live-CD like image on them and then run a script
in rc.local which drops your own customized .desktop files in
~/.local/share/applications in the Live user's home directory. These
.desktop files Exec= lines are SSH w/ remote X11 forwarding back to your
application servers. For example: Exec="ssh $username at libreoffice-server -Y

It does require a little bit of initial scripting and figuring out how to
handle user accounts is specific to your environment but it puts all that
computing power on the thin clients, including their 3D hardware, to use.
When I last did this, I used ~/.local/share/autostart shell script to launch
a username and password prompt after the desktop was up to mount directories
and make the SSH w/ username links proper.

The other way to go about it is to get thin clients with 2GB of RAM and no
harddisk and just boot NFS root and run them as full-blown disk-less
workstations. Then all you need is a big file server. And less bandwidth
than LTSP requires (which is a huge plus.)
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