Installing Your Own LTSP Server on Ubuntu

Last week I came up with a review of 2X ThinClientOS, a Linux distribution specialized for thin clients. However, you may be on the other side of the problem: you want to have your own thin client server. The simplest way to do that is to use LTSP. It stands for “Linux Terminal Server Project”, and basically turns any computer connected to the Internet into a server to which thin clients can be linked. To make it even simpler, LTSP can be installed on any common Linux distribution like openSUSE, Fedora, Debian, and of course Ubuntu. There are two ways to install LTSP on Ubuntu: installing it from scratch or on the top of an already existing system. I will focus more on the former, but the latter is also straightforward, and I will discuss it briefly.

First, you will need an Ubuntu Alternate CD. For this example, I took a classic 10.04 i386 ISO from here. In case you don’t know, an alternate CD is like the regular one but without the fancy interface for installing Ubuntu, and it lets you access more options. Among these is the ability to hit F4 at boot to select “Install an LTSP server” from the different modes.

ltsp-install

The installation will then take as usual when an alternate CD is used:

  • Select your language
  • Select your country
  • Select your keyboard layout (automatically or manually)
  • The DHCP will configure itself
  • Choose a host name

ltsp-hostname

  • Set the clock
  • Select your partition system (full disc, partial, encrypted, etc.)

ltsp-partitions

  • The installation will begin. It can take a few minutes
  • As usual, choose a user name and a password

ltsp-username

  • Decide if you want to encrypt your /home
  • The image will be compressed

ltsp-compressing_image

  • And finally, the GRUB boot loader will be installed

And that’s it. You can now reboot and connect your first thin client.

Notice that even if the automatic installer is great, some manual configuration may be needed in some cases.

ltsp-manual_config

I advise you to take a look at “/etc/ltsp/dhcpd.conf” and “/opt/ltsp/i386/lts.conf” for the advanced settings. The LTSP Wiki is very informative.

If you want to transform your computer into a thin client server without having to re-install everything, LTSP can also do that. Simply install the required packages:

sudo apt-get install ltsp-server-standalone openssh-server

And then launch the automatic configuration process via

sudo ltsp-build-client

It will take some time to retrieve and install everything.

ltsp-build

It did not work out for me the first time but it was probably due to the bad Internet connection, so don’t hesitate to retry in case of failure. However, bear in mind that some manual configuration will generally be needed here. You can finally launch your server with

sudo /etc/init.d/dhcp3-server start

As I said earlier, LTSP can be installed on a plethora of other distributions, so you can pick your own if you want. Ubuntu can be considered as the standard for a tutorial but each distribution’s wiki is very precise and a lot more detailed. As a last piece of advice, you should check that your thin clients can be booted from the network because it is really a pain to do it manually if you have more than ten of them.

Would you pick another distribution to install LTSP on? Or would you choose something completely different from LTSP in the first place? Let us know your opinion in the comments.