About Thin Clients

Published: March 12th, 2012

Category: Computer Help, Miscellaneous

PHHP IT has deployed thin clients in the CHP Student space and at the CHP off campus clinic at Park Avenue. These devices connect to a central Windows Terminal Server where programs made available to the thin clients have been installed. The terminal server provides a more uniform, and secure environment then can generally be achieved on a conventional PC.

Login

The terminal server login is handled in the same manner in which a user logs onto a computer with a Gatorlink account.

Programs

There is a lot of software available to the thin terms, but very few shortcuts on the desktop. Look under Start, All Programs to find MS Office, Outlook, Firefox, SPSS, Acrobat Reader, Pidgin (a multi-service instant messaging client) and more. If you want icons on your desktop or in your quick launch, you can drag them from Start, All Programs.

You will not be able to install software on the thin clients or the terminal server. If a program you need to do your work is not available on the thin clients please email support@phhp.ufl.edu with the name of that program, a brief description of the program and its role in your work at PHHP. IT and departmental staff will review the program to determine if it can be installed on the terminal server and made available to the thin clients. Software packages do not always work well in a Terminal Server environment and require evaluation.

Printers

Printer setup is somewhat manual at this time and each of thin client user will need to set one up. To do so, go to Start, Printers and Faxes. Click Add a Printer, Next, Next, Next (with “Find a Printer in the Directory” selected), enter ‘phhp-‘ in the name field and press enter. Select the networked printer for your room. The printers or named according to building number and then room number. The building number for the HPNP Building is 0212.

Disconnecting & Reconnecting

The new thin clients are different from a conventional PC. Instead of running your programs, they connect to a Windows Terminal Server that runs them. The thin client merely sends your keystrokes and mouse movements to the terminal server and displays the screen image sent back from the terminal server.

This difference has some interesting ramifications. If you want to secure your terminal server, you can lock it, logoff or disconnect. While lock and logoff work much like a conventional PC, a disconnect will break the connection between your thin client and the terminal server while your programs keep running. You can reconnect up to two hours later from any of the thin terms. To disconnect choose Start, Shutdown, Disconnect. To reconnect just login. The terminal server will detect your running session and connect you to it.

Connection Timeout

To conserve its memory and processor, the terminal server will disconnect idle sessions after 3 hours of inactivity. It will also expire disconnected sessions after 1 hour in the disconnected state. If you walk away from your thin client you have 3 hours until you are disconnected and 1 more until the session is expired. So save your work!

Video on a Thin client

The PHHP thin client environment is not designed to handle audio/video streams. You can do it but will not be a great experience. The audio stream will lag about 2 seconds behind the video–at best. This problem can be mitigated somewhat by reducing the size of the player, but cannot be fixed. This may be OK for your purposes, but if you want perfectly synchronized audio and video, you will not get it from this system. As such we don’t advise watching video on thin clients.

This problem is inherent to the remote desktop connections used to connect you to the terminal server. Even with the best hardware and software the lag only goes down to about 1 second when using remote desktop. Truely synchronized audio and video is possible with thin clients, but was not possible within the budget for this project.

Audio Players

Audio Players such as Windows Media often provided an animated display coordinated with the music. The video updates caused by the animation will slow down your thin client and the terminal server. As such we recommend you minimize them or turn them off. The bigger the size of animation the slower things will be.