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Old 10-03-2004, 01:02 PM   #1
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Laptop as X Terminal (PCMCIA network card)

I want to use an old laptop with no built in network card as an X Terminal.

I have installed LTSP and it works very well with a modern laptop with a built-in PXE enabled network card.

I want to use my old laptop (ThinkPad 770) but despite having tried numerous approaches, I have achieved very little. The closest I have got is running the Cywin X server under Win98 (I chose this revolting excuse for an OS as it's relatively lightweight) which works, but the processing and memory overhead is too high for this to be an attractive option. Also the idea of using Windows 98 makes me feel dirty .

In case it is relevant, the network card I want to use is an Orinoco wireless card which is supported by Linux and works fine with Linux installed on the laptop itself. I have also tried with an old NE2000 compatible PCMCIA card and a Xircom 10/100 PCMCIA card - both of these cards also work fine with Linux but I haven't been any more successful using them.

I have tried the PXES distribution, but it doesn't support any of the cards I have.

I have tried the Thinstation distribution, but although it is supposed to support the Orinoco card, there is a bug and it won't load any PCMCIA modules.

I know etherboot won't work because it doesn't support PCMCIA (this is a great shame as this is my preferred solution).

Argon Technologies make a (commercial) PXE boot disk but it doesn't support my cards.

I have tried compiling a kernel with PCMCIA support and the appropriate card driver built in (instead of being loaded as modules) but (for a reason I haven't been able to establish) it doesn't recognise my card.

Has anyone out there managed to reuse an old laptop (with a PCMCIA network card of any sort) as an X terminal? If so how?

Any suggestions/help would be much appreciated.
Old 10-03-2004, 01:11 PM   #2
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If you can't make the standard LTSP client installation work on the laptop then install any linux distro, install bare Xserver and try to connect to the LSTP server.
For example, make the LTSP server run XDM and run 'Xserver -query <lstp_server_ip>' on the laptop.
Old 10-03-2004, 02:15 PM   #3
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Thanks for the suggestion. I had thought of this (but not yet tried it), but the overhead of a general purpose distro is likely to be a bit much for my old laptop (although I haven't tried this so perhaps I am unduly pessimistic).

One of the main attractions of PXE is absolutely no client configuration and I was seduced by just being able to press F12 on my modern laptop. As I mentioned in my post, my preferred solution would be booting over the network from a floppy but I have had no luck researching a way to do this.

If I were to install a Linux distro on the HDD, do you have any suggestions for a lightweight distro that supports the normal range of PCMCIA cards but runs X?

I suppose one possible approach might be to transfer the LTSP root directory to my laptop and mount it locally rather than mounting the root directory over the network. I presume this would actually be quicker as well as the client wouldn't have to load anything over the network and would have local swap.
Old 10-04-2004, 03:57 AM   #4
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I often use my laptop (Toshiba 300CDS: P.150MMX, 32MB RAM) as a X terminal, using Mandrake 9.1.
Old 10-04-2004, 03:59 AM   #5
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I would suggest the current debian stable (woody). It is about as old as your laptop and is still being updated with security fixes.

For even older systems (such as Pentium90) see


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