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Re: Cheap hardware X-terms?

Evan Leibovitch wrote:
> On Tue, 21 Sep 1999, Doug Loss wrote:
> > I was remembering from
> > my long-ago days as a ComputerLand hardware tech that most ethernet
> > cards had (and still have) sockets for boot PROMS, which allow them to
> > be seen by the system as bootable devices.  That would mean that the
> > system could boot from a boot image file somewhere on the network rather
> > than from a floppy or harddrive in the machine.  We used to do this from
> > Novell and IBM networks.
> That kind of technology exists already. A company called Igel makes
> a plug-in ISA card that allows any PC to act as a diskless workstation:
> http://www.igel.de/htmle/etc.htm
I just took a look at IGEL's stuff.  The card you get is a FlashRAM
filesystem with all your code for the thin client operation on-board. 
You still need a network card with a boot PROM (I think; they talk about
a 3-card kit which includes the filesystem card, a video card, and an
ethernet card).  This would probably boot faster than downloading a boot
image from the local network, but at a cost of 260 Euros each (the only
price I could find).  That's too high for most schools.

> > What would it take to develop X-terminal boot PROMs?  If we could do
> > something like that, any system could be turned into an X-terminal just
> > by slapping a boot PROM on an ethernet card and installing it.
> Have a look at
> http://www.han.de/~gero/netboot/english/introduction.html
> http://cuiwww.unige.ch/info/pc/remote-boot/howto.html
> http://www.slug.org.au/etherboot/
Thanks, Evan.  I looked at these (especially the last).  They seem to be
talking about most of what I'm asking for.  Also see:


> I would personally wonder if old systems (ie, 486s that rarely come with
> more than 16MB of RAM) are up to the task of doing decent X service.
> Call up a single mainstream like Netscape or WordPerfect and you're
> swapping like crazy -- and I find the prospect of swapping over a
> network link to be downright chilling.

Why would an X-terminal be swapping?  It's not running the program, just
displaying the output and collection keystrokes and mouse events.

All the stuff above is basically about setting up a system as a diskless
workstation that boots from the net.  You can have it configure itself
(via file downloads) as an X-terminal, a Windows PC, or whatever.  What
I'm curious about is just how much space on the PROM is taken up by the
boot code, and if there's enough room there for a stub OS and an
X-server too.  I suspect not, but if so you'd have essentially an
instant-on X-terminal for the cost of a PROM.  Please tell me that I'm
way off-base here (if I am).

Doug Loss                 The difference between the right word and
Data Network Coordinator  the almost right word is the difference
Bloomsburg University     between lightning and a lightning bug.
dloss@bloomu.edu                Mark Twain