Installing Insight in a Terminal Services / Thin Client Enviroment
Posted by on 28 February 2011 06:38 PM
Terminal Services Explanation
A terminal services / thin client enviroment is one where a series of lower powered machines are used to provide access to applications running on a more powerful server. This type of configuration has some distinct advantages when it comes to managing them (upgrading applications only needs to be done on the terminal server) but can present some chalanges when working with applications in such an enviroment.
Traditionally users on a PC that are being monitored by Insight are logged into the local Console session. During insights installation the system installs a driver that intercepts the data being sent to the display and sends a copy to the Teacher Console over the network. In a terminal services environment the video driver on the server will not show anything more than a login screen as there are no users logging into the server locally. When the users log into the terminal server they log into a specific session on the server, this session contains the users applications and data in it's entirety.
Types of Client
There are several types of terminal services clients that may be used.
Thick Client (Traditional PC)
A Thick Client is a full computer system running a terminal services client that is used to connect to the remote computer. These clients will be running a full operating system and will have thier own local storage for users information.
A thin client is a smaller system designed specifically to only connect to a terminal server and establish a connection for the user to login to the server with. These devices are generally purpose built pieces of hardware that have limited or no local storage, minimal memory, and much slower processors than an age equivalent PC. These devices used to be substantially cheaper than a traditional PC to purchase and provided a significant cost savings from a management standpoint. However with the advent of cheaper and cheaper hardware many organizations are pressing lower end computers into the space traditionally occupied by a Thin Client device. This approach is not the optimal method of deploying a Terminal Services / Thin Client environment as you get the worst of both worlds (complexity and repair costs of a full PC, and speed and sharing of resources from a shared environment).
There are still advantages to these devices in some environments:
An N-Computing device is a hybrid device that allows the use of a single computer by multiple users at the same time. This is done through the use of specialized hardware provided by N-Computing that in effect turns each workstation into a mini terminal server with several clients attached. For purposes of Insight each computer (host) and client (extender) is treated as if it is a thin client device the same as any other device that might connect to a terminal server.
Normally Insight will monitor the display of the computer for any activity, since on a terminal server no activity will occur a specialized version of Insight has to be installed. This specialized installer will monitor the terminal servers sessions for activity as opposed to the display.
Installation is a two part process:
The SetupTSClient.exe application modifies a file called LskTSDat.ini in the %Program Files%\Insight\ folder. This file contains a list of all the client devices that are attached to the system, as well as the channel and mode they should be operating in. A sample file is shown below:
Each line of the file after the header in brackets follows the following format:
This file can be populated manually if the persons installing Insight have the appropriate information on hand. If the administrators do not have this information on hand and are unable to touch each machine the SetupTSClient.exe application can be launched as part of a system login script for users logging into the terminal server. To perform this administrators will need to determine if the user should be running as a student or a teacher, and what channel they shoudl be associated with and run the command line below:
The script will need to have the appropriate channel number inserted as well as the appropriate mode, to set a client to run as a teacher on chanel 4 for example the following command would be used.
For Customers running Thick Clients there is the option to install Insight directly on the Thick Client, this will show what occurs in the terminal session, however some additional lag may be present as the Teacher console is effectively watching another remote session on the client system.