Multiple users on a UNIX system are nothing new, and Linux offers the same capability using multi-serial ports or network access. For many Linux users at home, though, spending thousands of dollars for a multiport card is not practical, and yet it would be attractive to be able to add a second terminal setup to an existing Linux system. MaxSpeed has a solution with their +OneStation. The +OneStation provides a thin-net client hanging off the host machine, both units sharing the resources and CPU of the host.
The attractive +OneStation package holds a PCI card that plugs into a Linux machine, a 25-foot length of CAT-5 networking cable that runs from the PCI card to a small gizmo at the other end, and the gizmo accepts an SVGA monitor, keyboard and mouse (both PS/2 connectors). Installation of the hardware takes only a few minutes. At the moment MaxSpeed is providing drivers for RedHat 6.0 and 6.1 Linux releases only, although the driver complement is sure to grow to other versions of Linux. We tested under RedHat 6.1. The driver software installs quickly using either X or command prompts (the Kernel Development, C++ Development and Development Libraries packages must be loaded). A setup script completes the procedure. The hardware board itself has switches to allow up to sixteen +OneStation boards to be installed in a computer, each board with a unique ID. We had our test system installed and running in a total of twenty minutes.
The performance of the client and host computer depend on the host’s configuration. MaxSpeed recommends a minimum of a Pentium II 233MHz with 32MB RAM, but if both client and host are running X this results in a slow session. More RAM and a faster processor obviously help. Our test machine had a 500MHz Pentium III and 128MB RAM and both client and host ran perfectly, with no discernible lag. The graphics chip built into the +OneStation is a Trident 3D chip with 4MB of SGRAM, allowing resolutions on the client to 1280x1204 with 16 bit color.
A little work is required to provide X to the +OneStation client, although it is quite well explained in the documentation. The startx command is replaces with another command designed to route to the client. We tested the +OneStation client with several X environments, including both KDE and FVWM2. Mootif also worked well on the client.
The +OneStation allows sharing of any of the host computer resources, such as CD-ROM drives, ZIP drives, and modems. This allows for simple Internet connection sharing without extensive configuration by a user. Printers are also shared. When we used Corel WordPerfect Suite for Linux, we achieved excellent sharing of the office applications as well as e-mail from both the host and client. We also tested several other commercial packages and games. It is conceivable that some applications could generate sharing violations, but these tend to be limitations in the software and not Linux or +OneStation.
To try pushing the +OneStation, we connected a 200 foot length of CAT-5 cable and ran the client machine to another floor. It still functioned perfectly over that distance. We also ran scripted routines that access database and Web pages repeatedly for four days, and the +OneStation continued to function without a hitch.
Considering the very reasonable cost of the +OneStation, it seems an obvious solution to the problem of adding another terminal to an existing host (as long as the host is suitably powerful). The +OneStation performed perfectly, and hopefully MaxSpeed will release drivers for other versions of Linux in the near future.
3788 Fabian Way
Summary: The easiest and most inexpensive way to add a second terminal to an existing RedHat host.