Thin Berry Client (Part 2)

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Snag 1, And A Cure

Once you’ve set all this, it would be reasonable to assume that the DHCP server would start when the server was booted. It’s supposed to, but on my system it didn’t. Starting manually is fine for me, but I want a system I can install and forget. Eventually, I installed WebMin ( This is probably the best ever Linux setup tool that works on any distro, beating the distro’s own tools. Once it’s installed, open any web browser and enter:


Going to System > Boot up and Shutdown, I discovered that although both the standard DHCP and IPv6 DHCP servers were set to run on boot, neither was actually running. Attempting to start DHCP6 manually from WebMin failed, so I removed the ‘start at boot’ option from it. Now the standard (IPv4) server runs as it should. If your network supports IPv6, this issue may not arise, but webmin is useful anyway for other admin duties, especially as the LXDE tools are pretty limited.

Using Webmin to select services to run at boot time

Using Webmin to select services to run at boot time

Build A Client

Build in this case refers to creating a place on the server into which clients will be welcomed. We’ll get to building client hardware soon.

Once again, the command line seems the easiest way to do this. The following command starts the process:

sudo ltsp-build-client --arch i386

It can take a long time, as LTSP needs to download and install some extra utilities and libraries. Now you can build the client hardware.

Client Hardware

A Raspberry Pi model B with Ethernet connection, case to put it in, a monitor, power supply, keyboard, mouse, video cable and SD card. Pis are currently $49.42 from Farnell, including P&P and VAT.

A Raspberry Pi model B

A Raspberry Pi model B

The case came from eBay. There are several people offering laser cut Perspex cases, but one, ‘groovybananas’, offers customised versions. For $10.79, it made me one a bit longer than normal so the SD card fits inside the case and users can’t mess with it.

I found some 19” LCD monitors on eBay for $52.85. They’re not widescreen, but they are 1280x1024 and they have a built-in USB hub that just needs a short USB to micro-USB cable to power the Pi. You need a monitor with a digital connection. It doesn’t have to be HDMI, though; an HDMI - DVI cable (from guess where) costs about $2.26.

I found a USB keyboard and mouse set at the same place for $11.32, which are remarkably usable, and an SD card under a fiver. Total cost, about $135.9, not counting the sticky pads I used to fix the case to the back of the monitor. You can get Pi cases with Vesa fixing holes, but this monitor uses the Vesa mounts to attach the stand, so that wouldn’t be convenient.

Client Software

Download the latest BerryTerminal. It arrives as a .zip file. Stick the SD card in your PC (any OS will do) and format the card with FAT32 file system. Unzip the download and transfer to the card. (On most Linux desktops right-click the file and ‘extract to’ then pick the card.) Insert the card in the Pi. Done.

Snag 2, And A Cure

It’s DHCP again. Boot the server, log in and create another user. Boot the Pi. With luck, it will find the server and display a login screen. Mine didn’t; it found the DHCP server on my router and displayed a basic BerryTerminal login. According to the BerryTerminal site, you can set a server address manually by opening cmdline.txt on the SD card and appending “server= [your server’s IP]” and saving the file. It didn’t work for me; DHCP overrules it.

What did work was switching off the router, or disconnecting it from the switch. With only one DHCP server online, the BerryTerminal finds it and displays an LTSP login. Log in with the second username and password. Reconnect the router. Once you’ve logged in, the terminal remembers the server location, so next time you switch on the terminal, it will connect automatically. Now you see why I recommend a separate router and switch? If you don’t have a separate switch, investigate your router’s settings. You can probably switch off DHCP temporarily while the terminal discovers the server.

Using BerryTerminal

Switch on the server. On my modest hardware, it boots to a login screen in under 20 seconds. Switch on the terminal - that’s even faster. With only one terminal, I can’t honestly say how the system will behave under load, but using the terminal is exactly like sitting at the server. Flash websites work okay and sound works via the Pi’s headphone socket.

Webmin’s configuration page

Webmin’s configuration page

The only problem I foresee in a public setting is that the terminal cannot read USB local storage. People who arrive wanting to view photos off a camera or files off a memory stick will be disappointed. In the longer term, BerryTerminal may well release a version that can do this - LTSP clients on other hardware already can. In the short term, there is a workaround of sorts.

Insert a USB stick or camera/phone connector into a port on the server. When the pop-up appears, opt to view the device in a file manager; this will mount the file system. On the server, run WebMin. Go to System > Disk and Network Filesystems. The USB gadget should be at the end of the list. Click the blue (link) text description on the left. Midway down the page, find the option ‘Allow users to mount this filesystem’. Click the ‘yes’ option then ‘Save’.

Using Webmin to enable users to access USD devices

Using Webmin to enable users to access USD devices

Exit Webmin. ‘Safely remove’ the USB gadget. Now, with the terminal, running inserts any USB gadget into the server and in a second or so a dialogue box will open on the terminal asking for authentication. At this point, you need to give the server’s admin password, so in a public setup this isn’t ideal. If you (the admin) go to the terminal and enter it yourself and don’t just hand out the password to all and sundry, it will probably be okay. It’s a good idea to change the admin password regularly, though.

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