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We develop cost effective hospital information systems for rural India which runs as a web application. To make the overall cost of ownership low, we use Ubuntu as the server and client OS. To drive the cost further down, I would like to move away from entry level PCs as client devices to thin clients running Ubuntu (or other free Linux variants).

Specification:

  • With popular browser (firefox or chrome) support.

  • standard Monitor with minimum 1280 X 720 pixel Resolution

  • 3 to 4 USB ports to connect any printer, keyboard, mice

  • Supporting latest Ubuntu LTS version (Ubuntu 14.04)

  • At least 2 GB RAM

  • No separate commercial software requirement. Free/Open Source software like Linux Terminal Server are fine.

  • One 10/100/1000 Mbps ethernet port

    What would be options I can look at?

  • I am really interested in options available in India, but I was feeling it may be too narrow to get useful answers at this stage. Atleast in India, I do not think it will be too extensive as of now. Do you like editing the question to be country specific ? – Jamess Sep 10 '15 at 5:36
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    What needs to run on the client? Is it just a display and entry point (so running an X server and pretty much nothing else)? What kind of network connectivity do you need? What video resolution and monitor type? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 10 '15 at 12:32
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Raspberry Pi

On the hardware side, there's an HDMI port; you can connect a monitor up to 1920x1200 (possibly through an HDMI-DVI or HDMI-VGA adapter, which costs barely more than an HDMI cable). There are 4 USB2 ports. The Ethernet port is 100Mbit/s, which should be plenty sufficient for a thin client, especially if it's displaying a web page rather than doing X11 over Ethernet. Wifi isn't built in; if you need that you'll need to get a USB wifi adapter. There's also a pair of sound jacks in case you need to plug in a microphone and loudspeakers.

The small form factor and low power consumption (far less than anything you could get with an Intel processor) make it appropriate for environments with dicey power. There's no battery, though you can purchase one separately.

The one downside I see is that the only form of storage is an SD card, which can be removed in an untimely manner. You may want to hold it in place with sticky tape or something.

There's only 1GB of RAM, not 2GB, but that's enough to display a few web pages.

The Pi has an ARM CPU. That means Windows is out (except a special version of Windows 10, but most Windows software won't run on it since most vendors distribute only x86 binaries), but almost all Linux software will work.

Ubuntu 14.04 doesn't officially support ARM but there's an unofficial image. If you prefer a distribution that's officially mantained, you can get Debian jessie (there's also Raspbian, but it's optimized for the Raspberry Pi 1, not version 2 which is what you should get now that it's out). Ubuntu is based on Debian and pretty much all the system administration will be the same. Debian doesn't ship Ubuntu's Unity interface, though¹.

Both Firefox and Chromium (not Chrome) run on the Pi. There are also more lightweight browsers; try them with your web pages and see if they support all the features you need.

The reference price for the RPi2 is $35, to which you'll need to add a bunch of accessories (USB power supply, keyboard, mouse, monitor, cables, USB wifi adapter if needed).

There are other similar ARM-based boards that may be more adapted to your needs, for example if 2GB RAM is a strong requirement, or if you really want Gigabit Ethernet, or if you need wifi, etc. The reason I'm putting the Pi forward is that it's the one with the most literature and support out there.

¹ This may be a relief.

  • I am tey to try this Rasperri-pi as thin client. The documentation here describes how to setup Rasperri-Pi as thin clients of a Ubuntu 14.04 LTSP. uzerp.com/blog/… – Jamess Sep 25 '15 at 8:03
  • The Raspberry Pi 3 is out with more functionality than the Pi 2. Bluetooth and WiFi. The GPU needs to be set to use about 256MB of system memory for decent performance with video such as YouTube in Chromium over WiFi though you may be able to get by with less. Has 4 USB ports and HDMI and power supply uses microUSB connector. Windows 10 IoT seems to be special purpose for embedded devices and is not like Windows 10 at all. Pi 3 uses microSD card and I have read of people using 128GB cards and 256GB cards but I use 32GB card. – Richard Chambers Oct 24 '17 at 0:57

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