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Recently my brother asked me to help him set up a shared network for his small business. Some of the stuff he was asking for seems reasonable, but other things I'm not sure where to begin. He has wireless internet in his office.

The big picture is he wants 2-3 TVs (smart TVs) in a couple different locations, that wirelessly communicate to a server (server needs to be built). A user would be able to go to one of these TVs and log in, where he would then have access to his own personal folder on the server. Also there would be a folder that is shared between all users.

I know you could set up shared folders, user accounts and quota limits on a regular Windows 7 machine and you can map the network drive. But my brother doesn't want to attach computers to the TVs, so the setup would have to account for multiple users (not too many) logging in at the same time; i.e., two different people on two different TVs at the same time. I think I would need a server OS for that (Windows Server 2012?).

Is this even possible? Are there smart TVs out there that can wirelessly communicate with a server like that? I've found this but it requires the computer to be within 30 ft. Could I use something like this to connect to the WiFi, or another network, to boost that range?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

personal folder

And what exactly would that personal folder contain? What types of files? If you're using a "smart" TV with an embedded operating system (Android? Something else?) you'll have to make sure that whatever file formats you're dealing with are supported by the TV's software. Otherwise you're back to square one and looking at attaching PCs to each TV.

What I would recommend for you in this case is going to heavily depend on exactly what kind of use cases you have in store for the nebulous "user" connected to the nebulous "smart TV". If it's just watching videos and viewing pictures, you should be fine. If they're going to want to start custom Windows applications, you immediately either need a remote framebuffer solution (e.g. a thin client setup), or a thick client setup with an actual PC at each workstation.

I think I would need a server OS for that (Windows Server 2012?)

Incorrect. For the number of users and folders you are proposing, you would definitely not need a server operating system. Just create a few users on Windows 7 and share a few folders? Any client OS will work fine for that. The question is, what types of files are you going to use, and what are you going to do with the files once you obtain access to them. This is all just part of the standard Microsoft shared folder infrastructure (sometimes referred to as Samba or Server Message Block (SMB)). So far you haven't given any compelling reason why this won't work just fine on a client OS.

However, I doubt there's a smart TV that could do anything meaningful with files other than videos and pictures once accessing the shared folder. Authentication/permissions are not an issue, it's software support on a "smart TV" for manipulating the files as needed that I'm doubtful of.

You might be able to get by with an Android-based USB stick, like the FXI Cotton Candy or something newer/cheaper/better but similar concept. Basically what you do is plug the HDMI end of the stick into the TV (the TV doesn't even have to be "smart" at all), connect your peripherals to the stick using a USB on the go cable fed into a USB hub (or just use Bluetooth peripherals), connect the stick to the WiFi network, and you have a full fledged operating system (usually based on Android or desktop Linux such as Ubuntu). If the OS doesn't have the software you need to run, you could opt to download a remote desktop client and have the users remote desktop into the server.

Now, one thing I should caution you about. Having more than two simultaneous users connected to a computer via Remote Desktop starts to get VERY expensive, VERY fast. Not only would you need a Windows Server license, which is much more expensive than a client OS, but you would also need to buy a Client Access License (CAL) for each additional simultaneous user. If you do decide that remote desktop / thin clients is a better solution, you might look into running some distribution of Linux on the central server, where you can avoid the licensing fees of Windows.

I am specifically avoiding going into details of the capabilities of specific Smart TV or thin client devices, because this question is so vague that it is borderline NARQ. If we start discussing various devices, this would become a shopping post, which is off topic for SuperUser.

If you're looking for a conversation similar to one you might have with a salesman in a retail store (except with less vested interest in getting you to lay out a lot of cash for something that isn't really what you wanted), stop by SuperUser's chatroom, Root Access.

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Hey Allquixotic, Thanks for your reply! Very informative. Using Windows server 2012 was just something suggested because it allows multiple people to log onto the same machine remotely at the same time. Which Windows 7 alone will not allow. But I can see why that would get expensive quickly. Using a smart tv, was suggested since some of the smart tv's come with wifi built, it basically needs to be a wireless monitor of sorts. Sorry, that some of the requirements I said were a little vague, but that is all the information I have to work with as well. – Dave Mar 1 '13 at 1:06
But anyways, to answer your follow up questions: Personal folder would simply contain normal PC files that belong to the user. ie: .doc, .txt, etc. Just there to open And the underlying question is whether or not someone here has attempted this type of project before and how they went about it. From the sound of it, this isn't something attempted often, and there is no general way to proceed with this. – Dave Mar 1 '13 at 1:07
"Wireless monitor" - OH, so you don't want to run your client apps on the smart TV; you want a thin client multi-seat setup. Why didn't you just say so? Look at your options here: – allquixotic Mar 1 '13 at 15:44
Thanks allquixotic! I believe you are correct that this is what I am looking for. I hadn't heard of a thin client multi-set setup before this, or else I definitely would have mentioned it. ;) Cheers! – Dave Mar 6 '13 at 23:30

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