Turn One Linux Computer Into 10 Workstations Easily With Desktop Multiplier

Library internet kiosks, school computer labs, or even developing countries would absolutely love a program called Desktop Multiplier.

What the hell is Desktop Multiplier? This proprietary software takes a single computer and turns it into multiple desktops, just add keyboards, mice, and monitors for each additional virtual workstation.  What does the software developer say about it?

“Desktop Multiplier is a set of standard Linux software packages that extend the X Window System to support up to 10 fully independent and concurrent workstations using a single computer box. This is accomplished by adding standard video cards, USB keyboards and mice to a single PC system and adding Userful software. Desktop Multiplier is compatible with all single and dual­headed video cards supported by X.Org/XFree86 [...]”

Desktop Multiplier makes it easy to do things like adding keyboards, mice, etc – it all happens pretty easily, instead of being semi-difficult to configure 10 workstations’ inputs and outputs, it makes it easy… just press F1, F2, F3, etc while running the configuration program to assign a keyboard to a monitor.  If the mouse is connected via a keyboard USB hub, it automatically associates the mouse with that keyboard.  It’s pretty smart and makes setup a breeze.

Note:  The same effect is possible to setup by manually editing various configuration files, but this program makes it easy enough for someone with moderate intelligence and an installation manual.

I was able to succesfully install Userful onto Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 and requested a free two-workstation license and received it via email. I hooked up another set of USB inputs (which happened to be using Bluetooth, and setup my nVidia card with dual outputs to two different monitors.  Everything worked like a charm.

Here’s some screenshot of the main screen in action:

userful-main-screen.png

Saving on electricity costs when two or more people are sharing the same computer at the same time is a great way to put money in the bank.  Adding additional workstations is as inexpensive as a a new keyboard, mouse, video card and monitor – far less than the cost of an additional computer.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation of needing 10 kiosks in close physical proximity.  We’ll need 5 video cards with dual outputs, 10 keyboards, 10 mice, and 10 monitors.  We’ll go with an AMD 939 pin CPU and motherboard combination, and since a dual-core processor is only $10 more, it’s a safe bet to splurge a little bit.

perseat.png

Seems like a great way to procure multiple workstations (that just so happen to be pretty powerful) for a damn cheap price per seat.In all, including ten 17″ LCD monitors, the cost is less than $200 per seat.

Eat that, OLPC!

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  • http://www.pedagogicke.info janek

    Look at http://userful.com/products/vs-441/?p=dm : “Software License Cost $99/Station” – add it to you price per seat, please!

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  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    Janek – the 2 seat license is free for the time being (which I figure most people will use) and it adds a marginal cost – if it’s that much of an issue, you can setup as many workstations as you like manually.

  • http://userful.com Tim

    There is a free-2-user version http://userful.com/products/free-2-user
    for personal use.

  • http://www.omni-ts.com/linux-desktop/ Trevor Poapst

    These two resources may be of interest to organisations interested in maximising their fixed desktop budget with the Desktop Multiplier:

    Linux desktop TCO calculator
    http://www.omni-ts.com/linux-desktop/tco-calculator.html

    Customer success stories
    http://www.omni-ts.com/success.html#linux-computer-lab

  • PredatoryFern

    I know this is a Linux blog and all, but does someone know of a solution like this for, *gasp* Windows?

  • bruce

    The product for windows is called citrix. Microsoft wants full license fees for all of its software that is ‘shared, bless their little hearts

  • anonymouse

    PredatoryFern,

    I am sorry to disappoint, but due to windows’ current design it is impossible for a couple reasons.

    1) Desktop versions of Windows (as in, not server versions) only have a single-user license, so Microsoft has crippled the OS to disallow multiple users to be logged-on to the same computer simultaneously. This may be slightly different for Vista, but I know this is true for XP.

    2) The closest thing in the server environment is a terminal services mechanism. However this is distinctly different from what we are discussing here, as it still requires each user to have their own hardware, and in turn licenses for that computer.

    By current design and licensing it is impossible for a single Windows computer to serve multiple KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) mechanisms.

    As for Citrix, Citrix is something completely different. Citrix does offer you the ability to stream desktops, as well as single applications, however this is closer to Terminal Services (however it is by far more powerful). Citrix still requires each user to have physical towers (CPU/Mobo/RAM, etc) to actually access the Citrix mechanism. In it’s current design Citrix streams applications, it does not allow multiple users on one physical machine through use of a multiple KVM mechanism.

    Sorry WinBlokes, you’re SOL. (Besides, I imagine MicroShaft would charge you an arm and a leg and it would still run medeocrely compared to the true Multi-User environments of Unix/BSD/Linux).

  • Yaro

    +1 anonymouse

    Windows even in a server environment is by design a single user system. Not just because of licensing. It cannot do user logins even remotely close to the same ways genuine multi-user systems like POSIX systems have.

    And as you said, whenever Microsoft provides addons that might bring Windows closer to something remotely POSIX, it costs an arm and a leg (“POSIX” tools for Windows, is an absolutely crappy implementation (Virtual Desktop Manager), or is both those things (NT altogether. NT was meant to be a UNIX killer. Unfortunately for NT UNIX is not dead because UNIX implementations are actually standards compliant. (POSIX.))

  • Yall_Noobs

    Seriously? More ignorance…this has been around FOREVER on windows in multiple flavors, only one of which is betwin by thinsoft … come on… just like all the ipod users, everyday noobs don’t know jack, and neither do the so called techies , irrelevant of who or what you do for a living, this is unbaweebable