Disappointment with the NComputing L120

Written 2009-09-27

Tags:Operating system Windows Microsoft Windows Thin client NComputing Linux Remote Desktop Protocol 

NComputing is a company with a great idea, but terrible implementation. Their product is a series of thin clients. Some run over IP, some run over with a proprietary PCI card. However, in the end you're much better off with a standard Remote Desktop thin client and a Windows 2003 machine.

If you want to use an L120 with Windows, you will need to sacrifice an entire windows machine. The reason is that the software that NComputing provides hack deeply into the internals of Windows. The result is that whenever a Windows patch comes out, you'll need to make a system restore point, as it is very likely nothing will work quite right until NComputing produces another version of their software. You can have security, or functionality, but not both, often for several weeks at a time. There are also some software packages that it is incompatible with. As of writing this article, after the last round of patching, unpatching, and repatching, my L120 will log in, and work for about a minute, before the XP machine dies.

If you want to use an L120 with Linux, good luck. At the time of writing, their Linux server software for the L120 has been in closed beta. I signed up and got a copy, but discovered that the software only works on openSUSE 10.2, which isn't even available from openSUSE anymore. (10.3 and 11.1, which are available, don't work). Also, you'll still need a Windows box to push updates to the devices.

So, on the packaging these products say they're compatible with 'Linux', meaning one specific distribution, one specific kernel version, eventually, somehow, maybe. It sounds like a cheap way to put computers around your house without the work of keeping software up to date, or extra power bills, but it is really a big waste of time. You're better off with a standard X11 or RDP client than the hassle of an NComputer.

*Please note, this was based entirely off of my experience with an L120. Apparently, the X series have a lot better linux support, but do not run over IP, so they have to be placed pretty close to each other, something that prevented me from purchasing one, as I wanted to put these things around my house.