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Users should only have keyboard, mouse, monitor — that's it, no computer. I understand the licensing problems I will encounter for Windows, but my boss wants to know if this is possible and I'm not an IT guy.

What we want:

One simple but powerful dual core computer capable of running the latest, to be shared among a group of 200 people who will mostly use things like Word, Paint, PowerPoint, Excel, any HTML Editor and small things similar. They will only have keyboard, mouse, monitor.

Something like: Userful Multiplier – Software for both Windows and Linux.

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What you described as "users (pure)" … do you mean thin clients? Also, how do you think one dual core computer will provide a full graphical session for two hundred users at the same time? – slhck Mar 4 '12 at 19:29
If you go the Windows route, what you'll want to look at is a Terminal server using one of the server OSs (currently 2008 R2... SP1). For 200 simultaneous sessions you'll need a lot more than just a single dual core and each user will need some sort of "computer" even if it is just a small thin client mounted on the back of their monitor. You also have to think about memory. From what I remember a Terminal server will need 128 MB just for itself and aditional memory for EACH users. Remember if you have 200 people each open Word that is 200 instances of Word all requiring their own resources – Windos Mar 4 '12 at 19:40
up vote 3 down vote accepted

On Linux the X server is intended just for situations like these. I have seen devices like this in action, up to 8 terminals connected from 1 PC. I've found a simple guide for ubuntu here but the configuration could vary depending on the distribution you want to use. Google for multiseat and the name of your OS. You could run Microsoft Office through wine or try LibreOffice, a free alternative.

I wouldnt really know how to do this for Windows.

Also maybe it is better to get a couple of PCs with only networking functionality, then you could let those machines boot any OS with PXE (see this guide by hak5) or let them connect to an external X-server.

In all of these situations you really need an IT guy for this :) Don't know how critical the ability to use the computers is for the company, but it could be a lot cheaper to hire someone to do this for you.

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Good point in "you'll need an IT person anyway, eventually, what with that many users/workstations". – Piskvor Mar 4 '12 at 19:52

I was about to suggest Userful's latest product -

I doubt you could run 200 simultaneous users off a single computer (or you'd need a ver powerful - and costly - computer); however, 20 computers and the 10-user extender can get you right there, to 200 "workstations" served by 20 computers x 10 terminals/computer. Even with the "extender" devices, this will still come cheaper than buying, setting up and supporting 200 individual computers.

Note that the product seems to be somewhat integrated with (Ubuntu) Linux; the office suite could be LibreOffice instead of MSOffice, etc. From the description, I'm not sure if your business case actually requires Windows, MS Word, MS Excel etc., or not.

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You're really thinking of moving into the past. Back in the stone age we all had terminals that connected to the computer over a thin wire, and the computer timeshared for all of us. It tended to be very slow.

There were times when it seemed like "X Terminals" and similar things might be a viable way to do something like what you describe, but PCs became so cheap and applications became such resource hogs, that that kind of configuration is not viable.

Large organizations which need uniform configurations use centrally managed software systems such as Zenworks.

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