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:


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.


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!


Roll Your Own Ubuntu With Reconstructor

When I reinstall Ubuntu, I spend the greater part of an hour reconfiguring everything the way I like it.

In particular, setting up Firefox just the way I like it takes about half that time, the rest is just little tweaks here and there. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at configuring Firefox, including importing bookmarks, installing plugins, saving passwords, and more.

It would be safe to say that I’m a Firefox configuration god. I have no idea how many times I’ve reinstalled various operating systems since I started using Firefox, but a good bet would be something on the order of 60 times. I’ve got a bad case of operating system ADD. I write reviews on various operating systems, and add those two together and you end up with a ton of time wasted reinstalling to a base system.

A program called Reconstructor fixes the problem of needing to reconfigure everything after reinstalling.

It guides you easily through creating your own ISO and burning it to disc. The functionality is eerily similar to nLite, a program that does pretty much the exact same thing for Windows.

Here are some screenshots of the program in action to enjoy:






After running through the easy to use GUI to copy the LiveCD over to the hard drive and create a local copy, I found my Mozilla profile folder in ~/.mozilla and copied it into ~/reconstructor/root/etc/skel to completely skip setting up Firefox whenever I install from my custom created CD. Reconstructor is pretty damn spiffy if I do say so myself.

If you can’t get enough reading material, check out Shane’s blog over at Hackosis. It’s another Linux blog that has captivated my attention for about the same amount of time it takes to reconfigure Firefox, when I should be doing something else.

Interview Linux

Interview with gOS Founder: “Linux For Human Beings (Who Shop At WAL*MART)”

My first impression of gOS is “Gee, I thought I liked Google.” To put this into perspective, on the back of my car there is a license plate frame with the words “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

This week, WalMart has begun selling a new computer called the gPC for the price of $199. Instead of using Microsoft Windows, this incredibly inexpensive Linux-based computer runs an operating system which is fittingly called “gOS”.

At first look, the systems specifications seem pretty meager, until you have a gander at the list of applications. Instead of utilizing applications on the computer locally, the gPC leverages online applications that are delivered via web browser, such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets. This is an absolutely brilliant idea. All you need is a fast internet connection (and a monitor) to use the computer.

I was able to catch up with David Liu, founder of the gOS project, and ask him some questions about his brainchild.


Using Web 2.0 applications to form the core of an operating system is genius. When did you realize this it was possible?

Well, I guess a couple things happened… I got interested in Google applications, especially docs and spreadsheets, presentations; and originally, I wanted to create my idea of what a Google OS would look like.. if there were such a mythical OS. As I started looking around at all the Google applications out there, I realized that all of our “computing” could eventually be done in the Google cloud. We just needed an OS that looked really good and pointed people to Google in a really friendly, intelligent way. After seeing this, I got excited because I saw it was also commercially viable for the mainstream end user… Google makes Linux familiar.

How long has gOS been in development?

The Enlightenment windows manager plays a big part in this, and most of our team is from the Enlightenment community. That’s been going on for a long time. gOS is a little less than six months

Why build on Ubuntu, rather than another distribution natively based on Enlightenment?

I can’t comment officially on that but there is a good reason for it. Basically it has to do with the Ubuntu community and vision. I like their mantra “Linux for human beings.” I wanted to take it further.. more like “Linux for human beings who shop at Wal-Mart” (…”and who probably have never heard of Linux”) They’ve done a great job of getting the community behind this, and productively so.

How does Faqly tie into the Operating System?

Faqly is a people powered help page. In the spirit of open source, it’s a place for the gOS community can ask and answer questions for each other. For end users, they can ask about how to do certain things. For developers, they can help answer (or ask the harder questions for fellow developers, and the core team at gOS) It’s a nice place for developers to get more in touch with end users too. I think we’re attracting developers who want to see open source into the mainstream, so everything we do has a special purpose.. even a little thing like using faqly for our “F1 Help”

Similar in theory to an FAQ wiki, except much easier to use, right?

Yes, more centered around people helping people, not just a page of information co-authored by the community… essentially the same, but the interaction design and feeling of it is just more community. Faqly is still in alpha mode, and we’re the first and only group to use it yet. They’ll launch in the next month or so probably. I think faqly can hit it off with the open source community pretty well, but will be open to working with other websites too.

Why did you place Facebook on the desktop instead of another social networking site like MySpace or Orkut?

We liked the developer platform and because we just use Facebook more in our community. Everex partnered with Facebook on getting us the icon.. that helped too.

Is there a difference between what is available via download verses what ships on the gPC?

The difference is in proprietary codecs, on the gPC, you can watch DVDs, play MP3s, etc. On the downloadable version, we’ve removed those.

Was Google cooperative towards the idea?

Everex and Google had a signed agreement for us to preload the Google toolbar. I actually went to Google yesterday to demo the real gPC out of the box, literally (i took one from the line). It’s not an official “google pc” or “google os”, it is what I think one should look like though. Google knew what we were doing, we showed them screenshots mid development, etc. We’ll keep our contacts there updated as we work on the next gPC with an improved gOS.

Please don’t sell out to Microsoft.

Oh yeah… we won’t.

Thanks for you time.

Thanks also. I hope this will get more developers excited and on board with us. I think it will be a fun ride.


I’d like to extend a special thanks to David Liu for interviewing with me. For those of you wishing to help out, you can find the developer section on

Let’s take a quick look at gOS and see just exactly what it has to offer. The “Favorite Applications” that appear in the task bar along the bottom of the screen are as follows:gos.png

  1. Firefox
  2. Google Mail
  3. Google News
  4. Google Calendar
  5. Google Maps
  6. Google Docs and Spreadsheets
  7. Google Product Search
  8. Blogger
  9. YouTube
  10. Facebook
  11. Faqly
  12. Meebo
  13. Rythmbox
  14. Skype
  15. Wikipedia
  16. Xine

Other applications which are loaded include GIMP for photo editing, and the excellent 2.2 office suite. The task bar is extremely easy to use – simply click an icon and Firefox opens up the application in most cases. The Google Toolbar is bundled with Firefox as well.

If you need another reason to buy, 1 year of free 24×7 technical support comes with purchase of a gPC. That’s more than some companies offer on computers that cost hundreds of dollars more.


Hardware Specifications

  • 1.5GHz, VIA C7®-D Processor
  • 512MB DDR2 533MHz SDRAM
  • 80GB Hard Disk Drive
  • DVD-ROM/D-RW Optical Drive
  • VIA UniChrome Pro IGP Graphics
  • Realtek 6-Channel Audio
  • 10/100 Ethernet Port
  • DB 15-Pin VGA Port
  • Six USB 2.0 Ports
  • RJ-11 Port
  • Headphone/Line-Out Port
  • Two Microphone/Line-In Ports
  • Serial Port
  • Parallel Port
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Amplified Stereo Speakers

In the end, gOS (and by default, the gPC) is an extremely functional system that hits the sweet spot of the “online desktop” cliché with professional quality, utilizing Google Applications in a easy to use and graphically rich environment. If you’re interested in trying out Linux for the first time, I would suggest downloading gOS or checking out the gPC at Walmart.

Woohoo, I got linked by Techcrunch.


Digg “Linux Nation” for Thursday November 1st 2007

Every week I comment on the top stories of the week in the Linux/Unix area.  Last week there was so much junky Ubuntu news, due to the release of Gutsy Gibbon, I needed to cut it out a little bit, just to keep some sanity.  This week, there seems to be a good balance so I’ve left the list as-is and we’re back to the top 15 of the week format.

1.  Ten Absolutely Stupid Quotes By Steve Ballmer
Oh, my god.  If you’ve ever enjoyed watching the Steve Ballmer developers video, you’ll enjoy this list.  I haven’t seen all of these until now.

2.  ATI Releases Catalyst 7.10 Drivers for Linux
This is pretty fsckin great news if you have an ATI video card.

“The Catalyst control center for Linux now has a new 3D user interface as well that allows users to adjust settings like anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering and VSync. This release also provides support for version 7.3.” – Shane McGlaun

3.  Itty-bitty, teeny-weeny Linux PCs 
Want a computer that James Bond would envy?  Something like the 3ePC from Asus might get a reaction.  I’m personally considering buying one of these.

4.  Linux Doesn’t Lack Drivers, it Lacks Complete Drivers
I think this article hits the point squarely on the head with the following quote.

“Linux may be free as in beer, but it effectively costs me $50 if it reduces my $80 mouse to the feature set of a $30 mouse.”

5.  Cracking Windows passwords with Linux
Whether you’re cracking windows NTLM passwords with rainbow tables or just using a registry tool to remove the password completely, this is a really great guide to recovering a password on a Windows XP machine.  Highly recommended.

6.  Mac4Lin – Mac OS X Leopard Is Coming to Your Linux Desktop
Well… I’ll admit I tried this guide, and it failed badly because the instructions are specifically for Feisty Fawn and Gutsy doesn’t have a few of the files in the default repositories… it still left me asking myself, “Why do this?  There are better themes out there that aren’t in a legal grey area.”

7.  Current plans for Ubuntu 8.04
This is good.  Way good.  I wrote a very comprehensive article about these plans and what I think of them (including a new default theme for the next version of Ubuntu), check it out here.

8.  Mandriva: An open letter to Steve Ballmer
Have you ever read 419 Eater?  Perhaps you did all the research, fact checking, etc to make sure these fine folks from Nigeria were able to be trusted… but I can’t say that I didn’t expect something like this to happen.  Microsoft has deep pockets, and when they partner with unsavory folks like this, it makes Microsoft look really bad.

9.  Ubuntu Certificate of Authenticity
AHHHHAHAHAHA…. I love this.

10.  New York Times opens up code
NYTimes has been releasing open source code since July, but this is a good article that explains how it all came about.

11.  Mythbuntu 7.10 hits 20,000 downloads in one week
I didn’t know that many people used Mythbuntu. 

12.  Ubuntu 8.04 to finally get a new default theme? 
Two articles this week on themes….. see my comments on it here.

13.  Wine 0.9.48 Released
Everyone’s favority not-an-emulator gets a new point release.  It’s usually a good idea to upgrade to the latest version, if you’re feeling adventurous, grab it.

14.  ATI: Linux vs. Windows Vista
This is a really good comparison of ATI video game performance in both Linux and Vista.  Very interesting results, check it out.

15.  Fedora 8 Werewolf (Screenshots)
I’ve tried out a beta of Fedora 8 and was fairly impressed.  The biggest piece of news with the latest release (for me, anyways) is Codec Buddy, which makes it easier to install codecs for proprietary formats.

That’s all for the week, if you haven’t already, check out the video where I go and delete every file on a Linux machine while it’s still running.  You might be asking why I’d do this… the answer is simple – because I can!  If you’ve ever personally wondered what happens, you can’t say I didn’t show you.  🙂

See you next week!