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Linux Gazette: Making an X Terminal from a PC

Jun 30, 2001, 22:00 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Patrick Swieskowski)

Here's a guide to creating an inexpensive X terminal from old PC hardware.

"An X terminal is a great way to expand the computing presence in a home or office. (We're talking about a PC that functions as an X terminal, not NEC's dedicated X-Terminal device.) They're fast, cool, a great demonstration of a Unix system's power, and, most importantly, dirt cheap. The following chronicles my experience in creating an X terminal from old PC hardware and connecting it to my Debian GNU/Linux system.

My server is a Pogo Altura with a one gigahertz AMD Athlon processor. Pogo is a great company to go to if you don't want to piece together your own system or pay for a Windows license with a prebuilt system from somewhere else. I run Debian on it, so the X terminal will use that also. That's enough background information for now.

The X terminal will boot off of a custom kernel on a floppy and then get its root filesystem over NFS from the server. The first step, then, is to create this root filesystem. You could copy over file after file by hand from a currently running system, or you can take a shorter approach like I did and just use the base Debian system. All you have to do is download the base system tarball which can be found on the Debian webserver as the file base2_2.tgz . I downloaded that and did a "tar -xvzf base2_2.tgz" in /usr/xterminal and seconds later I had a fully functional root filesystem in that directory. Anyone can use the Debian base system regardless of their server's flavor of Linux.

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