Card Turns Aging PCs Into Thin Clients

Igel Technology is offering businesses an updated version of a card that converts aging desktop PCs into thin clients, thereby extending the operating life of old equipment.

The PC to TC (thin client) Conversion Card also gives businesses a cost-effective way to migrate to a virtual desktop or server-based computing environment, said the Bremen, Germany-based company. The company has also directly marketed thin client systems, implementing one in a Boston hotel.

The host PC needs to have a Pentium II CPU (500MHz or higher), plus a minimum 128MB of RAM. It also requires a 8MB (16MB is recommended) graphic card, and a network chipset that is NE 2000 compatible.

The card itself measures 3 by 4 inches, and doesn't clip into the motherboard like a traditional graphics card, but instead is installed in one of the spare slots of the chassis. The user simply disconnects the computer's IDE cable from the hard disk and then attaches it to the TC card so the computer boots from the Linux-based firmware installed on the Compact Flash card. A SATA version of the card is expected around June or July.

Because the TC card replaces the hard disk, the PC is no longer prone to data loss or viruses, Igel says. It should also boot much quicker, although it didn't offer exact times.

The TC card has full Citrix and VMware virtualisation support with the Igel one click' virtual PC appliance mode. The card also contains embedded software such as Citrix ICA, RDP, X11R6, VDI support, NoMachine NX, Ericom PowerTerm LTC, ThinPrint, VoIP (SIP client), VPN and Cisco VPN, 802.11b/g drivers, as well as the Firefox browser.

Also included is Igel's Universal Management Suite (UMS), which allows customers to remotely manage Igel thin clients, so that support costs are kept to a minimum. Future firmware upgrades are provided free-of-charge.

Igel feels the TC card provides a "price sensitive" option for companies dealing with a lot of legacy PCs, that are considering moving towards to a server-based computing architecture.

According to marketing director Frank Lampe, Igel got the idea after customers, impressed with the UMS product, asked for something that would allow them to make use of their old desktop machines.

"That is how we can up with the idea to replace the hard disk and solve the problem of legacy equipment," he told Techworld.

Lampe said that the card works for around 90 to 95 percent of desktop computers. "If you have special graphics card on board, or unusual hardware, we probably wouldn't be able to support it," he said. "However, we do offer a cost free evaluation unit, so customers can try the card first free of charge to see if it works."

Lampe said there is no similar device for laptops, due to the fact that most laptops have specialist features built in the BIOS, such as power management. He did however suggest that Igel would be able to offer something for laptop users later in the year. "We are still working on it," he said.

"Customers often have old PCs lying about, that they have usually written off, but don't want to throw away," Lampe said. "This card allows them to have Vista for example installed on a server, so that organisations can run a virtual version of that operating system on these old PCs. Customers can therefore run a new operating system, without investing in new hardware."

Igel's sells via the reseller market, but the recommend retail price for the card is 89 ($130.80) excluding VAT.

Earlier this year, Igel introduced a family of thin clients called Universal Desktop, which it claimed was the first to have single standard system images across the range. Users choose the hardware model they want, which operating system, and then which client protocols and capabilities they want enabled.

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