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Introduction

AnywhereTS will help you turn ordinary PCs into soft thin clients. The thin clients will be able to connect to a Windows Terminal Server, without the need for other operating systems or hardware. If the PCs have an operating system installed, it can be left on the hard disk intact as AnywhereTS will not modify the client PCs' hard disks (unless hard disk install option is selected; see below). In fact, we recommend disconnecting any hard disks in the client PCs since they are not used and is a common source of client failure.

Client hardware

The PCs that will be turned into thin-clients can be common office PCs. They require a screen (CRT or flat-panel), a standard keyboard, a mouse (Serial, PS/2 or USB) and an Ethernet network card. These PCs are often retired hardware that were considered underpowered, but re-using them as thin-clients means even old "slow" computers will feel just as fast as any other computer because all application execution happens at the server.

Note that the thin-clients rarely support any other local hardware besides the screen, keyboard and mouse; local printers have to be turned into network printers and more exotic hardware like card readers, CD burners, webcams and other peripherals are not supported.

Requirements

An office PC with a 200MHz processor, 32MB RAM and 10MBit ethernet is minimal requirements for use a soft thin client, although a 500MHz processor, 100Mbit switched network and a graphics card with 2D acceleration is recommended for comfortable work. As all the applications are executed on the server, more powerful clients than this makes no difference to the end users' experience.

User interface

The AnywhereTS application runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows Server. The user interface will ask you specific questions about the thin client, the network environment, the application servers etc, ultimately generating a bootable image. Depending on boot method, this boot image is installed on an external boot media or put on the TFTP server for network boot.

Client boot options

Network boot (PXE boot) is usually the most flexible solution, but if the network card (NIC) of the client does not support PXE booting, AnywhereTS can be configured to boot from either a USB flash drive, the local hard disk or from a CD-R disc.

Network boot

Network boot requires a DHCP server and a TFTP server. Both are provided with AnywhereTS if your environment does not have these already. The DHCP server must be configured for PXE boot. How this is done differs with different DHCP server products; for Microsoft DHCP see Howto configure PXE boot on MS DHCP.

The clients must be configured to enable network (PXE) booting, usually by turning it on in the BIOS of the client computer. If there is a BIOS option between enabling UNDI or PXE network boot, select UNDI. UNDI (Universal Network Driver Interface) is a standard for network card access without need for specific drivers. AnywhereTS contains drivers for many common cards and will often work in absence of UNDI support too.

AnywhereTS will generate a configured bootable image for the clients and places it on the TFTP server. When the client is turned on, it will connect to the DHCP server and get an IP address and instructions where to find the TFTP server. The client then contacts the TFTP server and fetches the boot image generated by AnywhereTS. A boot picture is displayed and the AnywhereTS client is started. The client then finishes by connecting to the application server - either by using the Microsoft RDP protocol or the Citrix ICA protocol. The user gets a login screen and can proceed to work.

This entire process takes about 40 seconds from client power-on on average office PCs. Most end users cannot tell the difference between a locally installed Microsoft Windows and the network boot of an AnywhereTS thin client; the experience to the end user is the same.

Since network boot do not require or use the local hard disk, it can be permanently disconnected. Disconnecting the hard disk from the client makes it both quieter and more reliable.

USB flash drive

If the BIOS is capable of booting from an USB flash drive, using a flash key for booting AnywhereTS is an option. The image is generated by AnywhereTS and written to the USB flash drive on the workstation where AnywhereTS administration console is installed. The drive is then inserted in the client computer, and the client must be configured to boot from the USB flash drive. The USB flash drive must remain permanently inserted in the client at all time the client is used.

There is no special requirements on the USB flash key except that it needs to be at least 32MB. Data on the flash drive may be erased by AnywhereTS.

Hard disk boot

AnywhereTS can be configured to generate an image to be permanently installed on the client computers' local hard disk. This requires a USB flash key or CD-R as an intermediary step to move the image to the client. When booted, the client will proceed to install AnywhereTS thin client on the local hard disk. The transfer media is removed and the client will load AnywhereTS from the hard disk when powered on.

The drawbacks of hard disk boot is all existing data on the hard disk will be permanently erased, and the hard disk needs to be connected. As hard disks contain moving parts they frequently are the source of client malfunction.

CD boot

AnywhereTS can generate bootable CD-R images for the clients. To use CD-R you must have a CD burner with appropriate software to burn standard .ISO files.

The CD-R contains a small bootstrap which loads the actual client from a TFTP server over the network. Since no configuration is stored on the CD you can make changes and upgrades from the AnywhereTS administration console even for CD-R booted clients.

AnywhereTS can also create a stand-alone CD-R version. This version will not retrieve the client and configurations from the network and instead everything is contained on the CD-R disc. This may be an option if using a TFTP server is not possible or allowed in your environment.

Configurations

You can create any number of thin clients with AnywhereTS. However, AnywhereTS can only maintain one set of configurations at a time, and it is preferable if your client PCs hardware is the same (for sound, network cards, graphics cards etc). You also have the option to include all drivers in the configuration, and let the client autodetect which hardware is present at boot time.

When the client boots, it will automatically connect to the specified Windows Terminal Server. AnywhereTS supports connecting to Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003/2008. The Windows 2000 Server is somewhat more limited in that it does not support client audio, and only 8bit (256) colors and does not export local drives (e.g. client local floppy and CD). Windows Server 2003 and later do not have these limitations.

If your server is running Citrix XenApp, Metaframe or Presentation Server, AnywhereTS uses the Citrix ICA client to connect to the server, and the above Windows 2000 Server limitations do not apply. At this time AnywhereTS does not support Citrix published applications; to use Citrix XenApp an entire desktop must be published from the application server. However, published applications could be used on a server hosted desktop together with an AnywhereTS client.