This was a bit of a revelation to me, but after thinking about it, it makes perfect sense and I feel a bit naive for overlooking this use case originally!
Before I launch into my little discovery, here’s something I want to share:
Since ThinKiosk was released in January, It’s been downloaded over 5,000 times and I have counted (only from those who have contacted me) that there are well over 10,000 instances running in customer environments to this day. Version 1 was released with just 700 lines of code and version 2.3 is just shy of 6,000. This is absolutely amazing to me, seeing an idea that I thought was a “Publish and Forget” blog post be embraced so passionately by the community. So for this, I just wanted to thank you guys for all your help, support and idea’s.
Anyway, back to it. While reviewing my emails recently, it struck me that there are many, many customers using ThinKiosk, not on old PC’s which I had written the program for, but on Thin Clients from top vendors… Now this doesn’t bother me one bit, as the more people using this tool the better, but why aren’t these people using Linux Thin Clients? I’m a large advocate of linux based thin clients in my day job, hell, they’re much cheaper, easier to manage and in most cases boot faster… Why choose Windows?
So confused and curious, I decided to perform a little poll on Twitter:
"Monday morning poll, why do you choose Windows based thin clients?"
And to my surprise, the feedback was great, below I’ve included the top reasons why community members choose Windows Thin Clients:
- HDX Redirection (Aero, Flash, Printing, Scanning)
- Better feature set on Windows / Future proof for upcoming features.
- Central Management via Active Directory / Group Policy.
- Driver support (proxy card’s, smart card’s)
- Familiar User Interface.
- Familiar support platform / Unified support platform / No in house linux knowledge.
So all this got me thinking, even with a list that long of why Windows based thin clients are preferred, why are these guys using ThinKiosk on out of box Thin Clients? Surely a paid for solution will be an end to end solution?
Well not really and why is this? Citrix receiver.
Citrix receiver for Windows (Previously the Program Neighbourhood agent) has been designed for published applications running inside of the users local desktop session, not for Thin Clients connecting to virtual desktops and this is very clear when you consider that Receiver will by default place your published desktop on the start menu or desktop of your session.
This approach will normally lead you to have to log the user into the Thin Client as themselves, which you would prefer to be locked down in the first place. This also leaves you with the challenge of how do you log them off after their desktop session has ended!
Sure Citrix have added some additional desktop related functionality along the way (Desktop Viewer) but even desktop viewer itself is designed for running inside a users session allowing the user to jump back to the local device via the home button.. which can’t subsequently be locked down sadly.
Citrix did also release the desktop lock tool, which is good for very small use cases, but lacks the functionality of multiple desktops, workspace control, user customisations etc… Hence why ThinKiosk came to be!
Thin Client vendor work around?
Most Thin Client vendors will allow you to present glorified shortcuts to ICA files on the desktop of the Thin Client device, or auto launch them on boot… But this approach eliminates the benefits of Workspace Control, XenApp preferencial load balancing and requires trickery to get pass through authentication to work… Not only this but managing these shortcuts in a multi desktop and multi language environment where users roam from country to country is a complete administrative nightmare!
But What about the web access products from Citrix?
Now the obvious alternative to the Citrix Receiver is the Citrix’s web access platforms… The web interface or Cloud Gateway, unlike the desktop lock, or ica files offers multiple desktops, workspace control, load balancing policies etc. You can also leverage web interfaces built in password changing feature for the user with them having to be logged in to the local device and even allow them to reset their own password or unlock their account with Citrix Single Sign on!
And the best part is? the users will already be very familiar with this interface if you have an access gateway or Secure gateway for remote access.
Aha! now it makes sense!
I accidentally provided an easy to use, unified access approach across all windows devices…and I feel blind for not seeing it before!
What ThinKiosk also accidentally addressed, was allowing this web access platform to be leveraged with ease, security and minimal configuration… from any windows platform, Thin Client or old pc.
So in short, I think this was the success story for ThinKiosk I hadn’t considered… so much so that I’ve changed my own approach and mindset for Linux based Thin Clients too, locking down a local copy of Firefox and presenting the Web Interface or Cloud Gateway.
So if you’re considering rolling in windows Thin Clients for your current or next VDI project… Consider using ThinKiosk, it’ll save you alot of pain, will work seamlessly with all your clients (thin or fat), and will save you time in management in the long run!