City of Largo Adopts KDE 2.1.1

Dave Richards, Systems Administrator for the
City of Largo, Florida,
has just
that the City of Largo has switched to KDE 2.1.1 as their
production system. According to Dave, "The City of Largo is a thin
client/X shop [which supports] 400 thin client
devices that support X, 800 total users, and run about 230 concurrently
during the heaviest part of the day."
Dave shares his experiences and
problems in getting the system working below, and happily concludes that "the cutover has gone really well". Update: 07/25 8:25 PM by N: Dave answers your questions in this article. You can also check out his old presentation at SCO Forum 99.


Date:  Mon, 23 Jul 2001 15:09:14 -0400
From:  Dave Richards <[email protected]>
To:  [email protected]
Subject:  City of Largo Goes Live With KDE 2.1.1


I am not on the kde-devel group, this message is being sent from
the outside and if anyone wants to contact me, they should do so directly.
I posted a message a few months ago about the City of Largos intentions to
go live with the KDE desktop and as of Friday that transition is complete.
I thought the cutover, and some of the things that I had to do would be of
interest to all of you. I also want to thank every person that worked on
this project because it has offered us a solution that has fit perfectly
into our technology and design goals.

Technology and Design Goals

The City of Largo is a thin client/X shop. We have 400 thin client
devices that support X, 800 total users, and run about 230 concurrently
during the heaviest part of the day. For the last 7 years, we have always
built one large 'desktop' system that everyone logs into and gets their
desktop. All of the icons do a 'rsh' to other systems and then start up
the various software packages that we have in the City. For instance, an
icon will say "WordPerfect" and the command executed is "rsh oa1
/usr/local/bin/sh_wordperfect $DISPLAY". Previously, this function was
done by the IXI Desktop on SCO OpenServer, and then later we ran KDE 1 on
OpenServer, then Unixware. The Friday cutover was moving all of these
users off of Unixware to RedHat Linux 7.1 and KDE 2.1.1 Because only KDE
is running on this machine, the performance is a good look at how KDE

Cutover & Runtime Issues

The cutover has gone really well. Most of the issues that we
have had have been people issues and not technology issues. I have been
keeping notes and the issues that came up are noted below:

  • The server we built is a dual-933 with 3GB of memory, and 18GB of disk,
    this goes for about $9500 USD.
  • It seems that we settled into about 11-12MB of memory per user on the
    server. 3GB of memory has allowed us to get the 230 concurrent users
    logged in without using the swap space.
  • The dual-933 runs about 5-30% busy during the day with 200+ users on.
    Most of the load seems to come from using the Pager and window management.
  • When a large amount of users are cut over, there is a spike the first few
    days while everyone customizes their desktops. Everyone pokes around in
    the wallpapers and colors and fonts until they are comfortable. And then,
    people tend to not change them often again. It's best to move people over
    in groups of about 20-30 at a time and then let them configure and then
    bring over another group.

Custom Changes

I had to make some changes to startkde to accomodate our thin

  • I had to put in code to redirect the sound to the thin clients. By
    default, KDE tries to send them to a sound card in the server itself (which
    is sitting in the computer room). ;) Perhaps at some point, KDE could
    allow a plugin system to be deployed that would allow the administrator to
    select the desired sound system. For those using NAS (Network Audio
    System) the web page for that project and the redirection patch link is
  • 8 bit color really causes some problems. Non-technical users cannot
    understand color allocation and how once cells are used, applications begin
    to not function correctly. I installed a dialog box that tells them they
    are on a low color terminal-->

    DEPTH=`/usr/bin/X11/xdpyinfo | grep "depth of root window:" \
    | awk -F " " '{print $5}'`
    case $DEPTH in
    /usr/local/bin/sh_8bit &

  • I also turned off ksplash for low color users, to help cut down
    on usage-->

    # the splashscreen and progress indicator only in 16 bit depth
    case $DEPTH in

  • What would be really nice is for KDE to allow me to force some
    rules on 8 bit color users, for instance:
    • Use 16 color icons on the kpanel and kmenu automatically.
      They won't know to pick a lo_lo_color option like this.
    • Allow me to turn off gradient colors when in 8 bit mode,
      allow them to only pick solid colors that are in the pallette.
    • Allow me to turn off wallpapers for 8 bit devices. The
      option is grayed out, doesn't even work.
    • Wallpapers that are selected on a 16bit display, don't
      display and just use a solid color wallpaper when the
      user moves back and forth between 8 and 16 bit

KDE Applications

I have some notes on certain features that would help with
deploying in a large shop:

  • Kicker
    • We would like to have the "Refresh" option back, when I install
      new icons I'm sometimes on the phone with users and it would
      be nice to have them be able to "Refresh" and see them
      right away.
    • The autofresh feature of Kicker seems to really put a load on the
      server when you have hundreds of people on the same machine.
      It seems to hit them all at the same time.
    • It would be nice to turn off some of the features in the lower
      part of the kmenu. We have some 'technique challenged' people and
      I would like to hide certain things from them. I would
      turn off "Run Command", "Quick Browser", "Recent Documents",
      "BookMarks". All of these make the assumption that
      documents and files are on the KDE machine, which isn't the case. Instead,
      what they are doing is opening up the GUI file managers and
      deleting their configuration files because they think they are just
      'unknown files'.
    • There seems to be an issue where users that change terminals off
      have their DISPLAY variable get confused when running something like
      command=rsh oa1 /usr/local/bin/sh_whatever $DISPLAY
      directly from the xxxx.desktop file. There must be a pipe or something
      that is
      still being held. Instead, what we have to do is run
      command=/usr/local/bin/sh_whatever and have the program in /usr/local/bin
      do the rsh and then it works.
  • AutoStart
    • I have had some requests that Autostart allow you to select the
      room that the application start in. When you shut down KDE currently,
      and tell KDE to remember everything that is
      running, it doesn't do so if the programs were initiated via 'rsh'.
  • Configuration
    • We would like the ability to turn off the feature that lets users
      pick their own wallpaper instead of picking from our approved lists. What
      is happening is that people are installing their own
      wallpapers, and now I'm going to have to write a script to find all of them
      are in use and check to make sure they are 'politically
      correct' in the workplace. We would rather they send them to us for
      approval and then install them into the main directory.
    • KDE seems to have some problems when the terminals are turned
      off. Certain processes stay on the server if they do not log off
      Some of our users simply power off their temrinals at the
      end of the day. :( Could there be some kind of keepalive checks in the
      various programs to make sure the Xserver is still alive
      and then terminate process if not? I'm not sure how to fix this, but
      will keep experimenting.


I hope this information is interesting to you all, I hate to think I wasted
your time with it! ;) If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free
to drop me a line, I'll be happy to answer your questions. It's the least
that I can do considering how much this product has given us and our users.


Dave Richards
City of Largo, FL
Systems Administrator

Dot Categories: 


by Native Floridian (not verified)

As a Florida transplant currently living in Atlanta - I'm proud to see Florida taxpayer dollars put to such excellent work.

Maybe we could fenagle him to write a how-to? I'm sure his experiences would be invaluable to any corporate sysadmin looking to justify and show all the benefits of KDE+ / *NIX and the significant ROIs these types of installs have in the workplace.

by Ohioan (not verified)

I think this is excellent. If he would work up a how-to I'm sure it would be put to EXCELLENT use. I've been pondering selling this idea to school districts and counties in my area as well, but have lacked the sufficient precedent and procedure. Excellent work!!! Its great to see the state government embrace superior technology.

by Dan Evenson (not verified)

It's easy to impress a group of users familiar with unixware on Xterms. Good luck selling this to users addicted to Windows.

by Guybrush Threepwood (not verified)

I'm not going anywhere near this place since that largo embargo.

by Sith (not verified)

Look behind you !!

A Three-headed monkey !!

by Wally (not verified)

How much wood would a wood-chuck chuck if a wood-chuck could chuck wood?

by Some Dude (not verified)

A wood chuck would chuck as much wood as a wood chuck could if a wood chuck could chuck wood.

by cHALiTO (not verified)

I`m rubber, you are glue

(sorry, couldn`t resist :)

by kdeFan (not verified)


Are you serious? You really don't trust the employees enough to choose an appropriate background image? I have to wonder if you're creating an environment where people with integrity will not want to work.

by DCMonkey (not verified)

Even people with integrity may not realize that their choice of decor is impacting other users via increased bandwidth usage (at least during first connection to the shared system). There are also the issues with 8-bit display that are mentioned in the article.

Maybe the users should actually have windows open with actual work in them rather than staring at their pretty desktop all day.

by kdeFan (not verified)

The reasons you mention may be legitimate, but he's talking about approving the content of all the images to make sure they're "politically correct". That's a different issue than what you're addressing.

by DCMonkey (not verified)

You're right! That'll teach me to get lazy and just skim the end of the article. :)

FWIW, we let our users pick their own wallpaper.

by hyrcan (not verified)

You forget that these are images being offered by the CITY, and therefore must be acceptable to anyone. Thus the need to be "politically correct" is there not only because it is required by other employees who may not want to see a half naked man/women or some other ethnicly/politicly/religious/* charged image when they walk by your terminal...

I know quite a few people would be upset if I were to have on my computer the picture by Andres Serrano "Piss Christ" as my background much less offer it so other people would see it when they were choosing their own back ground...

but it's a CYA effort as well.(with good reason)

FYI - Serrano's Piss Christ is a 1987 photograph of a crucifix immersed in urine. In the late-1980s, the work prompted an intense national debate over government funding of the arts.

You can find a copy of it at:

It's not really that bad if you don't know why the picture is yellowish...

the happy godless heathen

by Mike Richardson (not verified)

How does a wallpaper impact anything? Does it lean out from the screen and hit the user? Now, I can understand that it can have an affect ...

by Pedant (not verified)

> Now, I can understand that it can have an
> affect

ITYM "effect". HTH.

by Kwantus (not verified)

I presume you meant *EFFECT*

by Krishna Sethuraman (not verified)

Gee, I thought that that was one of the best things about linux is that you can have windows (rxvt's?) open with actual work in them as well as stare at their pretty desktop all day (in their transparent background).

by Eric Nichlson (not verified)

I agree, I would rather be able to choose my own wallpaper. OTOH I really don't think that KDE (or any other software) should make moral decisions that piss my boss off... I usually do that myself anyway.

I would guess that things like wallpaper freedoms (however trite) could be serious legal offenses that would automatically force potential markets to overlook KDE.

And plus, lay off him, he's a sysadmin who has do deal with stupid questions like "Can't we turn off their desktops?" from the PHB and "Why does everything I put in 'Trash' disappear?" from co-workers. I say keep on rockin those admin skills all over Largo!

Now if only I can get the sysadmin here at school would use KDE rather than it's "common" predecessor (yuck!).

by kdeFan (not verified)

I really wasn't taking a position on whether the feature shold be implemented... I was merely surprised that his place of employment feels the need to check each background image for political correctness. And you're right, he's just the sysadmin not the policy maker. I didn't mean to come down on him.

It's not "political correctness", it's a support issue: background images run the server out of color map entries. Apparently, even in this forum, many people are unaware of the problems that background images cause on 8bit screens.

If you read the first point under the "Configuration" heading, you'll notice that political (in)correctness was his stated reason for wanting users to choose from an approved list. He does want to turn off wallpapers on 8-bit displays - that's a different issue.

That's not what I'm talking about, and there's no need to be pretentious.

I think my first post was unclear and badly worded. I really didn't mean to suggest that the feature requested doesn't have legitimate uses; I was just surprised that his employer would have such a policy in place. Others have mentioned the possibility of litigation as being the cause of the policy, which is probably accurate. It seems odd to hold the company liable for individuals' actions so long as management deals with infractions properly as soon as they are brought up, but I'm not a lawyer. And I prefer to treat people as adults until they prove that they can't handle it.

by Jo Øiongen (not verified)

The thing is that where I'm currently working there were people who showed that they could not handle it. The sad thing about this is that there are most likely othere places where this aplies too. So I support the feature to be able to turn of walpapers.

Now I just have to find a way to swap the NT/Citrix servers with Linux/KDE/Citriux servers...

You touch the sore point.
In the US of A there is hardly privacy in the company computer you're using, just have a look at the snooping discussions.
And this is another reason to declare the working environment in the computer private.
That way it becomes so much harder for a 'fiend of his/her own sex' to sue the company/city for what a single employe does on his computer.
Only the results of your working day/project should count.

by Dre (not verified)

> I was merely surprised that his place of employment
> feels the need to check each background image for
> political correctness.

For better or worse, there are laws regarding this, and an employer (like the City of Largo) can get sued. E.g., if someone is displaying a pornographic image, a woman visiting city offices may be offended. Or someone may have a racist background. The point is that, particularly when you are the government, you have to be careful that the government computers do not have images that do not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race, national origin, religion, sexual preferences (in some states), etc. Again, this is a legal requirement, so don't blame sysadmins :-).

by Bill (not verified)

You are 100% correct. The display of "inappropriate" images has cost both employer and employee tons of money. I have a friend in the HR department for the State of CA who has plenty of such horror stories. This stuff was popular in email and on screen savers was popular until a few folks lost their ($80k +) jobs over it. Now everyone seems happy to display Little League pix, Scenic Landscapes and Disney characters.

I'd like to think that adults in the workforce have more sense than to exchange porno via e-mail and use obnoxious screen savers / desktops,but the evidence simply won't permit me to reach that conclusion without first resorting to the use of psychotropic substances.

There is no requirement that the City of Largo permit any sort of desktop customization. I think they should be commended for even permitting it ... and on Linux, at that!

It seems to me that asking users to submit proposed pix for approval is only a reasonable precaution and should inconvenience only dyed-in-the-wool jerks. My guess is that they end up rejecting very few pix since the employees will not want to submit the more offensive ones for approval to begin with.

by Mike (not verified)

The issue is running out of color map cells on 8bit displays. If people pick a wallpaper, they'll run out and applications will start to malfunction. That causes tech support headaches, since most users have no idea why things are falling apart.

These are business computers; it really isn't such an intrusion to expect people not to set a wallpaper, in particular if it causes support problems.

by kdeFan (not verified)

I think my first post must have been very unclear. I was attempting to address his statement that without the requested feature he would have to check each user's wallpaper for political correctness. His remedy for this was that people should be able to choose *only* wallpapers on an approved list. As far as color depth goes, he suggested that wallpapers be turned off on 8-bit displays, which is a separate issue.

As far as turning off wallpapers goes, I think that's a perfectly acceptable solution to a technical issue. For that matter, I think having an approved list of wallpapers isn't such a bad idea either. I was just surprised that he would he would have to check every user's background image(s) for PC compliance under the current scheme. It seems to me that showing so little faith in the judgement of the employees sends a bad message.

by Charles Stepp (not verified)

The problem is a legal one. In the new America,
freedom exists only if it does not offend and
companies end up being the target of law suits.

This is a government agency. Trust me; if they
have been there more than 5 years, they are
probably too rooted to consider coming out into
the real marketplace. Then again...the DOD and
Largo are using their money more wisely than
most businesses.

by Stephen Samuel (not verified)

It's silly, but I can understand it being an issue. It's probably easier for them to vette wallpapers than too deal with the occasional person getting freaked at the 'inappropriate' image on their computer. Remember that some of the terminals are very public and they follow a user around...

Something that's find on the computer in my office could cause a firestorm if I logged in to a semi-public screen to check something for a minute -- with 15 visitors from the feminist action league having a cabal session 12 feet behind me.

My guess is that 95% of the pictures submitted would get about 2 seconds viewing before they were put into the public area, where they would then be available to everybody. Hmm... I wonder if they'd then be willing to make the collection publicly available? It'd be a wonderful resource.

by jpostel (not verified)

I have to agree with this one. When we first initiated the pr0n alarm at a company I was working, it was getting set off several times a day. I like to think people are smart enough not to do that sort of thing at work during business hours, but the fact remains that they do. I went back as a consultant 6 months later and the VPs son (who was working tech support) was in pr0n chat rooms while at work. Sad really.

by gromm (not verified)

No kidding. Businesses should just make rules and give the employees the choice to break them or not. If you decide to break the rules, then disciplinary action is taken. You don't have to make your sysadmin into the desktop Nazi for something that is ultimately the responsibility of the individual.

by not me (not verified)

Wow, that 11-12 MB per user surprised me. I guess X and shared libs are what is taking all my computer's RAM. How does that compare to the KDE 1 system that you guys had before?

Also, isn't it already possible to turn off things like the Quick Browser? I'm sure I saw that somewhere...

by Krame (not verified)

Libraries and programs are shared between all users. 11MB is for users data. There shouldn't be much difference in memory usage if you keep everything on a single server.

by not me (not verified)

Yeah, I know. That's what I meant. The actual data stored by KDE in RAM is less than I thought, all the other RAM that's being taken up on my computer is from X, shared libs, and program binaries.

Actually, now that I think of it, 11MB is kind of a lot of data. That's roughly 11,000 screenfuls of text. I wonder what makes up that ~11MB per user storage space? Perhaps knowing what is in there could give some clues as to how to increase KDE's memory efficiency?

by Slashgeek (not verified)

I wonder what makes up that ~11MB per user storage space?

Imported .doc and .xls files, what else?

by Carbon (not verified)

Yes, it is most definetly possible to turn off the things in the menu you wanted turned off, except for "Run Command". It's in the kicker settings area in the Control Center, under the Menus tab.

Hmm, as for Kicker autorefresh, I have no idea why that should take so long. Doesn't kicker simply watch it's desktop file directory using the KDirWatcher class (sp?), which iirc uses the kernel to watch for processes. Could someone check this?

by foobar (not verified)

I think the problem with Kicker is that it check for changes periodically and with 200+ people accessing the network at once, it creates a huge bottleneck. Maybe if there is some small amount of randomness in the timing, it would be less of a load on the network.

by georg (not verified)

For restarting kicker, what about
dcop default kicker restart?

by Waldo Bastian (not verified)

Not really randomness, but with the following lines in sharec/config/kdedrc you can tell it how often to poll.

E.g: the following configures local fs once 0.5 seconds and non-local FS once each 5 seconds, which also happens to be the default.



by David Faure (not verified)

Yes, the autorefresh uses KDirWatch, so he should simply install libfam and reconfigure, to get rid of the polling.

The kernel support called dnotify is currently disabled again, 'cause not working properly yet.

by Michael Wardle (not verified)

"The kernel support called dnotify is currently disabled again, 'cause not working properly yet."

Actually, the preferred kernel support for fam is called imon, and can be obtained from
. There are others who are doing work with fam/dnotify rather than fam/imon since dnotify has made it into the standard kernel sources.

SGI FAM Maintainer

by Thomas (not verified)

> I had to put in code to redirect the sound to
> the thin clients. By default, KDE tries to
> send them to a sound card [..]

btw. the last time I checked out arts network transparency it did not work. I've a small network here running 5 clients with KDE2.1.1 (real PCs ... no X-terminals...) and I'd like to redirect the sound from the machines wo sound card to the only one with sound card.

by Adrian Bool (not verified)

Just curious about your use of rsh..

Do your users log into your servers using XDM,
so the full X session is from the server, with
only the X server running on the client box?

If that is the case, why is rsh needed?



by Sheldon (not verified)

Maybe the applications are on another machine.
That would make sense.

by not me (not verified)

Yeah, he explains that the apps are hosted all on different machines, thanks to the wonders of the X Window System. The one big server runs just KDE, only KDE, all the time.

by Janne (not verified)

Does anyone have experience running KDE on the Linux Terminal Server? What about large-slace deployments? Looking at the text seems to suggest that this project does not use LTSP.

by TJ (not verified)

I've used KDE2 with the xterminals (solucorp) package. This is similar to the LTSP. I had only minor issues. I have 30 terminals, two app servers, one file server, and one machine doing misc stuff (NFS, NIS, etc). Based on the load, I could easily triple my number of clients, however I would need to be more creative with my network design to handle the traffic.

by Sheldon (not verified)

To restart kicker:

dcop kicker Panel "restart()"


by Jerome Loisel (not verified)

We run a similar (but much smaller) shop here: dumb X terminals running off a main application server with a KDE 2.X interface. It is working very well, but we use a different approach.

We use Jacques Gelinas' (of Linuxconf fame) diskless XTerminal kit. The kit does not use a "boot up a terminal and run applications in a server" approach. It uses a "boot up a terminal and transparently log in to the server" approach.

So starting konqueror from the command line works as expected. The only small hitch is that we have to use a VFS to give applications access to the terminal's disk drive. And some applications have a problem with that.

But overall, it is a very well-designed, simple solution. I recommend it to everyone who has the same needs.

jerome at levinux dot org

by Ups (not verified)

Yes, using 'rsh' is somehow strange. I suspect that they want to run some applications ( 'Kicker' and windowmanager ) locally, but some apps ( office ) remotely.