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Need to deploy several (cheap) stations that will run internet explorer

Posted on 2011-09-27
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Last Modified: 2012-08-13
Hi,
Basically, there's a project i'm working on at a manufacturing facility that will require ~20 units (one at each machine) with a touchscreen and barcode scanner.  The units need to be wireless (but if they're not i can fix that with a wireless bridge), but the ONLY thing they need to be able to do is run internet explorer.  There is a web-based application they need access to, and that's it.

Rather than buying 20x $600 desktops, I thought there's got to be an easier (and cheaper) way to deploy them.  Are there any dummy terminals that would run a version of windows and allow internet explorer?

I was almost thinking of just setting up a cheap RDP / terminal server, and buying 20x thin-client devices to connect to it.
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Question by:Mystical_Ice
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Expert Comment

by:Callandor
ID: 36710670
Thin clients would be my choice.  Wyse, among others, are well-known: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/datbus/article.php/3877221/Top-Five-Thin-Client-Hardware-Vendors.htm
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Dr. Klahn earned 1600 total points
ID: 36711025
A thin client would be a good choice for a large scale application.  However, on a reduced scale such as the one described, some support factors become larger.

1.  Thin clients don't run "standard" operating systems.  They run Windows CE, minimal Linux variants or, in some cases, WinFLP.  You'll need to learn how to configure and maintain the target operating system.

2.  In the cases of Windows CE or WinFLP, you'll need to buy support kits, distribution kits, and Microsoft licenses.

3.  Most thin clients operate diskless or near-diskless from tiny flash modules.  Diskless systems must be supported by a network host capable of downloading system images.  Near-diskless systems relate back to point 1.

4.  Device drivers and support libraries must be available for the target operating system for non-embedded devices.

5.  Thin clients come and go.  At present, they are a "gone" technology since standard PCs are so cheap.  You may be able to buy them cheaply on fleabay, but getting support from the manufacturer may be difficult or impossible.

On a scale of 20 units, if a standard PC configuration is available to do what you want, it will likely be less expensive of support time and resources to implement the project on PCs rather than on thin clients.
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Author Comment

by:Mystical_Ice
ID: 36713418
I understand the benefits and risks of thin/dummy terminals in a terminal server environment, as I administer a 2000 user citrix environment.

What bugs me, is purchasing a computer with RAM, hardware and SOFTWARE that is never going to be used, since the only thing that will run is an internet explorer window, and nothing else.
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Assisted Solution

by:Callandor
Callandor earned 400 total points
ID: 36713832
There's also these more standard EEE Box computers: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883220049
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Author Comment

by:Mystical_Ice
ID: 36717128
Oh cool, yeah i like that.

Basically what i think it's going to come down to is whether i can find 20 computers that will run internet explorer, or 20 thin client / dummy terminals that will connect to a terminal server.  Of course then i have to worry about terminal server CALs, a windows server license, etc. etc.
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Expert Comment

by:Dr. Klahn
ID: 36717275
Perhaps these would be satisfactory.  They are not expensive, at about $120 each.  Looks like the seller has a bunch of them; they might make you a deal if you buy them off fleabay to save them the seller and Paypal charges, and take at least 25 (since you'll need some as spares).

GX620s (1)
GX620s (2)
GX620s (3)
GX620s (4)

Stay away from the Dell Optiplex GX1xx and GX2xx series.  They were plagued with bad capacitors, and continue to fail to this day.

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Author Comment

by:Mystical_Ice
ID: 36931009
Thank you all so much for your comments and suggestions, it really helped me out a lot.

For the record, i ended up going with a terminal server (cheap server with tons of RAM), and bought 20x Wyse thin-client terminals on ebay for $400.00

The terminal server OS licensing, client licenses, and terminal server CALs add up, but in the end it was cheaper doing that than going with 15x other boxes.  Also the fact they're going to be in a hot warehouse, full of dust, i figured a solid-state solution would work better.

Thanks so much!
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