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CPTTM CIO newsletter issue #24, Kent Tong, Editor in Chief

Dear CIO/IT managers,

This CPTTM CIO newsletter is to bring useful news to you, CIO/IT managers in Macau, for references without obligations, so that you can do your jobs easier and better! Hope you like it. if you'd like to unsubscribe or recommend your friends to subscribe, just email me at kent@cpttm.org.mo. Old issues are available here.

Topics in this issue:

Case study on thin client: Cyber-Lab adopts thin clients to deliver mobility & availability while cutting admin cost

The Cyber-Lab staff consists of 10 people: 3 are IT people, 6 are regular office-typed end users, 1 is a user who seldom uses a computer. The office-typed end users typically use word processing (OpenOffice), email, web browser and a couple of line of business applications (course & student management). The problem we faced was that we had less desks than people. This is OK as they work in shift. However, by inertia, each of the older staff members always had her own "personal" desk, while the newly hired had to move around. In addition, those "personal" desks were always more "comfortable", e.g., far away from the public counter.

I always wanted to move them around. However, a technical problem is that if a user moves to another computer, her desktop and applications have to be configured again (Roaming profile doesn't work with all applications, e.g., FireFox and Thunderbird). That is, we wanted a solution so that no matter which computer a user uses, she will always see the same desktop. The solution we adopted is the Windows terminal service. No matter which computer the user, she will see her desktop on that terminal server.

For the clients, to save license and stay secure, we run Linux. In fact, we don't install Linux on the clients. When a client boots, it will download the Linux kernel from the network, boot and run the terminal service client (called rdesktop) and the user will see the Windows desktop on the terminal server. The client doesn't need a hard disk or any local software at all. That is, it is a bare bone computer. This has a huge benefit: If a client computer is broken, we just find a random computer, configure the server so that it provides a Linux kernel to it (taking less than 3 minutes) and turn it on. That's all and the user is now back into business! This is the kind of high availability that we want (if any one of your users' computers is broken, how quickly he will get a fully functioning replacement?). We have done that and it's really that simple. That computer doesn't have to a powerful computer. Any old computer will do because the applications the user sees are running on the terminal server.

Now we're running this solution happily. Even though the client is running Linux, the user sees a Windows desktop and there has been no difference at all. There are some other additional benefits too: First, it is a lot faster to boot Linux: just 31 seconds from power on to the login screen. In comparison, Windows 2000 takes 73 seconds. Second, when we need to update software, all we need to do is to update it on the terminal server. No need to go to each client to update. A huge time saver for our admin staff!

Here is a summary of the benefits: Mobility (users can move around), high availability (so easy to replace a client), low admin cost (update software on the server only), productivity (fast boot time), longer client hardware upgrade cycle (old computers can be used).

Is it difficult to configure the clients to boot this way? Not at all. We use a turn-key solution called LTSP which took us one day to setup. If it can, the client can simply boot from network, otherwise it can boot from a floppy.

Cut your energy bill by 20%

Traditional computer power supplies are only 65%-70% efficient. That is, only 65%-70% of the input electricity is fed to your computer, while the rest is turned into heat. The good news is, now there are greener power supplies. They are labeled as "80 plus certified". It means they are at least 80% efficient. This translates into an energy saving of 20%. Not just that. As less heat is generated, you'll need less air-conditioning thus a further reduction in energy. Less heat also means better stability and a longer equipment life. Those 80 plus certified power supplies are a bit more expensive than the traditional ones, but generally the energy saving will pay it back in a year.

This 80 plus certified label may be hard to find. The good news is, it is now part of the energy star 4.0 standard. This standard will go into effect on July 20, 2007. It means if you buy an energy star 4.0 labelled computer manufactured after this date, you'll enjoy the energy saving. Big computer vendors have been providing energy star 4.0 compliant products (e.g., HP and Dell). 

EAL4 security rating

Sometimes we heard news like "Windows server has received the highest commercially available security rating EAL4" or "Linux has achieved EAL4 security rating". What does it really mean? It means the development process producing that software includes design reviews to ensure the software is secure enough to be used in an environment where the programmers and administrators are loyal and friendly and there is no dedicated attacks from hackers. Also note that only the development process is checked, not a single line of code is checked. More is here.

Upcoming courses for CIO/IT manager

Course code Title Start date Duration (hours) Fee (MOP)
CM260-07-2007-C ITIL Foundation with hands-on simulation workshop 2007/07/09 21 7980
CM243-09-2007-C CISA & CISSP 2007/09/01 54 2500

Feedbacks

Any questions, ideas or experiences to share? Contact me at 28781313 or kent@cpttm.org.mo.

Until next time, 

Kent Tong

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