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Linux PC-sharing software starts at $59 per seat

Dec 9, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 45 views

Userful Corp. has released new desktop virtualization software claimed to share the resources of a single Linux computer among 11 workstations via USB connections. The Userful MultiSeat 4.0 software shares resources via low-cost USB MultiSeat devices — including those from DisplayLink, HP, MCT, and Wyse — for as low as $59 per seat, says the company.

Userful MultiSeat 4.0 primarily targets classroom use, but is also suitable for call centers, hospitals, libraries, Internet cafes, and other cost-constrained environments where multiple computers are located in close proximity, says Userful.

The software is claimed to reduce hardware costs by up to 80 percent and energy costs by up to 90 percent compared to deploying individual PCs. With prices as low as $59 per seat for educational customers, the solution is cheaper than buying netbooks, "without the same concerns around recharging, durability, theft, e-waste, warranty, or small screen size," claims the company.

Userful system in a Brazilian school

Userful MultiSeat 4.0 is based on its "Userful Multiplier" technology which the company last year claimed was used in the world's largest deployment of Linux desktops in history. Working with the Brazilian government and virtual terminal vendor ThinNetworks, the company won a contract to deploy 356,800 virtualized Userful Multiplier desktops to Brazilian schools.

MultiSeat and Multiplier are in turn based on Userful's earlier DiscoverStation "1-Box" technology. This combines virtualization software with supported USB MultiSeat devices such as the HP t100 (pictured below). Other supported devices include Wyse E01, MCT MWS 8820, and DisplayLink devices, says the company.

Each USB MultiSeat device plugs into USB ports on the host computer, and can support a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Additional peripherals such as printers can be plugged in via optional USB hubs, says the company.

HP t100 USB MultiSeat

Up to 11 Userful Multiseat 4.0 users can individually control their own workstation and applications, says Userful. In addition different users can simultaneously run different applications, says the company.

The host computer is stocked with as many video cards as there are connected workstations. The computers can run any Linux distribution, but Userful also offers its own Edubuntu-based educational software bundle version called Userful MultiSeat Linux 2011. Based on the Edubuntu derivative of Ubuntu Linux, the bundle is said to be available on a DVD.

The Userful MultiSeat Linux 2011 bundle includes, Firefox, and subject based applications including astronomy, chemistry, languages, mathematics, and planning software. A Software Center repository of free Linux based applications is also available for access to hundreds of other Linux applications, says the company.

The bundle also provides the iTALC classroom computer management tool. This is said to let teachers centrally manage and monitor the linked computer stations, and provides remote access capabilities.

Stated Rajat Mehta, Country Manager PSG, HP India, "Userful MultiSeat software and HP multiseat USB thin client hardware are an ideal solution for regions such as India, where schools need to deploy large numbers of full featured computers for minimal cost, using minimal infrastructure."

Calgary, Alberta-based Userful sells its software through resellers and OEMs worldwide. Privately held Userful launched its flagship product in 2002, and has since sold over 750,000 seats, says the company.

Competitors include NComputing, which uses its VSpace virtualization software to create a virtual desktop environment on any Windows- or Linux-based computer. NComputing also sells a wide range of client devices that connect in various ways including via PCI add-in cards installed on a host PC (X-series), USB (U-series), and Ethernet (L-series).


Demo of Userful Multiseat Linux 2011 on YouTube
Source: Userful Corp.
(Click to play)


Userful Multiseat 4.0 and Userful Multiseat Linux 2011 are now available, with prices starting as low as $59 per seat for educational customers. A free 11-station, 90-day pilot version is also said to be available. More information may be found here.

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