i486 as xterminals


I've got an i686 with 64MB ram running RH 6.0 on a small lan at home.  I've also got three i486 machines ($15.00 college surplus boxes) with 16 MB ram and small hard drives running RH 6.0 on the same lan.

The 486 machines are, of course, pretty slow running X -- particularly with memory intensive apps like Netscape, Star Office, Word Perfect, etc.

What I'd like to do (as an experiment before I try it at work with a much more powerful file server) is to set up the 486 machines as Xterminals for the 686.  The 686 would not actually be headless, but I would not use it locally except for sys admin tasks.

I would like the 486 machines to boot to X from their hard drives and display the xdm graphical login for the 686 box.

I've searched the howto's and various articles.  The problem is, they allude to scripts that must be written - without specifying the scripts -- and I'm too much of a newbie to figure out how to do this on my own.

I did try exporting Netscape from the 686 to an Xsession on one of the 486 machines and achieved a tremendous improvement in speed over running Netscape locally on the 486 -- but the process of telneting to the 686 and invoking xhost+ and all that isn't what I'm looking for in terms of difficulty of use for my kids at home and users at the office.  I want to configure the system so that users can sit down to a 486 and login to an Xsession on the 686 without having to go through that setup each time.

Any ideas?  And maybe most important, is it actually possible to do with RH 6.0?  
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OK, you're not handy with scripts.  But with Perl this is a breeze.  If you go to http://www.codebits.com/p5be/ch18.cfm then a tiny change to the examples in chapter 18 is all that is required.  Have a look - it can't hurt.  

If I had more time, I'd do them for you (honest).  What the h*ll, if this turns out to be the only way, then I will do them (you are the second person recently who needs something like this; the first guy new scripts but not perl and decided to use a semaphore file instead of sockets)

Good Luck,
bughead1Author Commented:

Thanks, I'll give that a shot.  If I can muddle my way through it, I'll post a "solution" here...I suspect that there are a lot of people who would like to put obsolete i386 and i486 machines to work as dirt cheap graphical work stations both at home and at work.  

The concept is attractive: buy or build one machine with a fast processor, lots of memory and an enormous hard drive, and then pick up a few yard sale or surplus machines to use at reduced, yet still respectable and practical speed as workstations -- and workstations able to run the latest apps like Star Office -- a bit slow, but useable.

I want to figure out how to do this for my own selfish reasons: I don't want to spend a whole bunch of money for new machines at home or at work.  However,  I also see this as a real benefit to non-profit organizations, charities, third world countries, schools, etc. Operations with tiny budgets, no computer gurus, and big needs. But I'm not confident in my ability to write perl scripts.

That's why I would encourage anyone who already knows how to do this to spread the word...provide an answer to some one like me for a fee, and to provide the answer for free to the non-profits. Heck, you might pick up a few bucks if you did this :-)
bughead1Author Commented:
I also increased the points to 214 (big deal!) -- but that's all the points I have!!!!
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This is mabe not the solution you want, but it's a bit easyer than the telnet/xhost thing.

Install ssh and sshd (you can find rpm's at ftp.replay.com) and create a personal key on the i486 machine


     % ssh-keygen
     % cp ~/.ssh/identity.pub ~/.ssh/authorized_keys


     % ssh-keygen
     % cp ~/.ssh/identity.pub ~/.ssh/authorized_keys


     % ssh datan-2 cat .ssh/identity.pub >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

     % ssh datan-1 cat .ssh/identity.pub >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

Then You can start netscape on 686
from 486 with

ssh ip_to_i686 -f /usr/bin/netscape

Just add some nice alias for that on i486 .

I forgot the first step.

mkdir ~/.ssh
chmod 700 ~/.ssh
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/*

And the ssh datan-1 and ssh-datan-2
shall be ssh machine-1 and ssh-machine -2 (I vut it out from a swedish page and forgon to change)
bughead1Author Commented:
I spent the day messing around with this and I ran across something else that worked, too:

I booted the 686 to runlevel 5 by changing inittab.

Then I added a line in /etc/rc.d/rc.local on the 486 machines:

X -quiet -query "686"

It seems to work fine.  Any reason I shouldn't do it this way?
The people behind LinuxConf has made a package specifically for this. It user packages from Redhat 5.* or 6.* and it is
rather easy to use.

Check it out here: http://www.solucorp.qc.ca/xterminals/

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bughead1Author Commented:

I think this is worthy of accepting as an answer because if I hadn't run across a more simple approach, I would have gone with this...but I continued to experiment after my last post...And in fairness, your suggestion may be more secure than my solution.

And,  I discovered that Slackware 3.5 (for the most minimal (old!) hardware -- Slackware 4.0 for the latest --  makes the task of building Xterminals trivial.  More hardware is supported and no recompile is needed because lots of different NIC's are recognized.

I put the Slackware cd-rom in the server and export it under /etc/exports "/mnt (ro)

Use the net.i boot disk.. Most Nic's are recognized.
Install most of package "a" -- part of "n" and a little bit of "x" -- add the line /usr/X11R6/bin/X -quiet -query "server" to /rc.local and edit inittab on the server to boot to xdm.  That's all...almost "instant" Xterminal system...you can pick up a 125MB hard drive for $5.00...all sorts of ethernet cards for $10.00 each and 486sx machines with 8 MB of ram and broken hard drives (that you then have to replace with the giant 125 MB $5.00 drive) are often free for the asking...

Best of all, they work great! And just about any distribution in your possesion will do...I just happen to like the way Slackware package selection makes it easy and quick to do a minimal installation.  You can use a smaller drive, too...but 125 MB lets you put a 32 MB swap partition and a 93 MB root partition which gives plenty of room.
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