Q&A with Donald A. Cupp Jr. - ThinStation project

Today’s Q&A focuses on the ThinStation project, which is “a basic and small, yet very powerful, Open Source thin client operating system supporting all major connectivity protocols.”

ThinLinc is one of the connectivity protocols that can be used with ThinStation. This project is maintained by @doncuppjr , who kindly agreed to participate in this Q&A as a way to share information about ThinStation.

This thread will remain open for those who wish to ask questions directly, so if you have one, please post it below. To get the ball rolling, however, I’d like to start with a few of my colleague @aaron :

  1. Please give us a short bio - what is your background, and how long
    have you been involved in the ThinStation project?

  2. Who is the typical ThinStation user? Why do they choose ThinStation?

  3. What are some common examples of hardware that people are running
    ThinStation on?

  4. I notice that one of our forum members Jens Maus (@j.maus ) has a
    ThinStation fork on GitHub[1] with modifications to support several
    different generations of Intel NUC at their organization, HZDR[2]. Is
    this something which might be interesting to the upstream project?

[1] GitHub - hzdr/thinstation: A fork of the well-known linux-based thin client environment ‘Thinstation’ especially optimized for the various thin clients used at our institution (mainly “intel NUC”) and modified to act as a lightweight remote connection kiosk system to connect to ThinLinc, Windows (RDP) and VNC server systems…
[2] https://hzdr.de

  1. What are the biggest challenges facing the ThinStation project right
    now?

  2. What is the future direction for the ThinStation project? Which
    bugs/features would you most like to see implemented?

  3. How can people contribute to the ThinStation project?

For more information on theThinStation Project, visit https://thinstation.github.io/thinstation/

For code, support, and feature requests, visit https://github.com/ThinStation/thinstation

Don can be reached via his own website, visit http://www.doncuppjr.net

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The New Zealand connection :slightly_smiling_face: (just a curiosity)
From Wikipedia: Thinstation was originated by Miles Roper from NZ in 2003 (http://thinstation.sourceforge.net/authors.html). He appears now as CIO of a health provider in NZ (https://www.hinz.org.nz/news/479860/CIO-Interview-Being-the-CIO-of-the-smallest-DHB-in-the-country.htm), just a few hours from my place here in the South Island. Should shout him a coffee next time I’m in Greymouth

I was a windows administrator for about 15 years prior to encountering ThinStation. After the 2001 dot com bust, I started studying Linux, hacking, cracking and malware, though not for malicious purposes. I eventually ran into a project where a client had about 600 windows terminals that had all been
infected with conficker. Only three techs were available to assist in remediation, and access to each terminal was very limited. Linux was the obvious choice. I spent a week evaluating various distros, but only ThinStation checked all the boxes for deployability and resource requirements, though it was a bit rough. It took me a month to complete that project, but by the end, I was hooked on ThinStation. I spent the next couple of years ironing out the kinks and figuring how to keep it up to date. Now, I estimate most administrators could complete that same project in less than a week.

I would say the typical ThinStation user is an administrator that needs to manage a large number of remote access terminals or kiosks in a consistent way. The config files are easy to read, the output is consistent and most of the heavy lifting is done for you. I have heard of a few instances, where one or two admins control tens of thousands of terminals.

I think they choose it because remote access and kiosk functionality are baked in. The end user isn’t bothered with a lot of configuration buttons and useless options. This makes it much harder to break and a lot easier to secure.

Any kind of thinclient hardware for sure. Many of my customers use it on laptops and recycled desktops.

Yes of course. Jens has made several good contributions over the years, but I think he has a few tweaks that are specific to his application and region that might not be for everybody. I always hope he’ll send me a PR for anything he thinks is appropriate for mainline.

You mean besides funding? Documentation and buttons. ThinStation is very CLI oriented. Maintaining a GUI to the build system would be development intensive, and I don’t have those kinds of resources. Documentation is constantly getting outdated.

Right now things are in maintenance mode. I don’t have any plans to implement bugs, but I’m sure that will happen :slight_smile: . I always thought an orchestration piece would be nice. Something that provisioned and tracked configs for all the clients in a nice GUI.

Documentation. It’s so hard to keep up with the maintenance and the documentation for any and everything someone might want to do with ThinStation. Any of the GUI pieces would be fantastic. Working out translations and how to do them for the dialogs would also be a huge help.

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