We are building a multi-seat or multi-user system. The budget for the entire system is around $2000. The tower should be around $800. Each user will probably only use the computer for web browsing (keeping flash to a minimum), however, there can be almost no lag. The system should support at least eight, preferably a maximum of 12, depending on how much of the budget is left ($160 per user). The central tower computer itself will be assembled manually.

What hardware should be used? So far, the plan is:

  • at least 1gb ram per user
  • an AMD 8-core processor (Opteron Magny-cours)
  • a compatible (g34) motherboard with several PCI slots
  • a large hard drive
  • a well-ventilated case

Are these good choices? Would other hardware be better?

Also, each user requires a video card. Would it be possible to share a two output multi-monitor video card between two users?

  • 1
    Is the 8-core processor overkill?
    – mindoftea
    Nov 6 '10 at 22:56
  • Video card will work with users sharing one multi-monitor card.
    – mindoftea
    Nov 7 '10 at 0:46
  • And sharing a multi-monitor card between multiple users is possible, but will require special startup scripts of course.
    – JanC
    Nov 7 '10 at 2:25
  • 8 users... that's a lot of USB ports for mouse / keyboard / etc. Nov 7 '10 at 3:22
  • This sort of thing is really hard to test before you spend a lot of money. I'm therefore hesitant to say this: I also think the magny-cours is overkill. Have a look at the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T. It's unbelievably cheap. Perhaps you could also build two systems for the price of one (twice the I/O performance :>), when you decide to save a bunch of money on the cpu. (The X6 is 200€ here, the opterons are 550-800€ for eight cores). Nov 7 '10 at 4:05

I think 2000 USD for 12 users might be somewhat cheap, but OTOH, the multiseat systems I'm most familiar with support Compiz and OpenGL FPS games... on a 14-user system. ;)

Still, 12 monitors + 12 keyboards + 12 mice would cost 1500 € around here, and probably close to 1500 $ in the US? But 1000 €/$ for 8 "seats" plus 1000 €/$ for the machine itself might be doable.

To have multiple users on one display adapter, you'll probably need to run nested X servers like xephyr (or XGL if you want 3D support, but unfortunately that's not officially supported anymore, and only works with nvidia adapters).

Alternatively, you can use USB graphics cards.

As Stefano says: using two 4- or 6-seat systems might be useful, as you could use one as a backup for the other and vice versa then.

Memory is important, but you don't need the minimum for a single user system × number of seats. Eight people running Xorg or OOo will have the Xorg or OOo application itself in memory only once, as only the user-specific parts (e.g. documents) are different. This also depends on the type of applications that are going to be used.

BTW: I'm not sure if you are selling this to somebody, but you should also stress the long term financial benefits. A local company here in Belgium that sells quite a bit of multiseats and is a sponsor of our LoCoTeam once computed the benefits of a class of four 6-seat multiseats with Ubuntu compared to a class of Windows desktops as follows: 800 € / year saved on the electricity bill + software licensing cost saved the first year of > 2700 €, and in addition almost 800 € saved in licensing cost during the following years. And that didn't even include the savings on the hardware bill...


Proc is overkill =P, assuming main use is browsing/office, both will be heavyish on disk io/memory vs CPU (at least for me my browser regularly exceeds 1G mem heh)

Maybe use 2 cheaper boxes (each $300ish) and an option is displaylink video adapters, they could be cheaper than individual graphics cards

A system supporting up to 4 users, you could probably add more usb vga adapters, but it would be pushing it

  • $300 desktop
  • $100 vga adapters ($33 ea x 3) (usb/pci/pcie), might need 4 if can't use onboard at same time
  • $600 kbd/monitor/mouse ($150 ea x 4)

$300 desktop (priced from newegg):

  • Foxconn M61PMP-K AM3 ($50)
  • AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz ($60)
  • Micro ATX Tower Computer Case with PSU ($30)
  • Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 ($80)
  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB 32MB Cache ($80)

1 less core per user than your 8core scenario, but double the diskio and half the load per machine. Biggest cost still appears to be kbd/monitor/mouse for each user, not really worth trying to make the desktop/central server cheaper.

Also with two redundant systems backups etc are a bit easier, worst case if a box dies is half the class/room is without computers.

Heh I did something similar a few years back but used LTSP and a server booting several (tested 20) eeepc's as network clients, load on server is very low (apps are run local, disk is network mounted from server) but everyone gets same apps and remote home dir. Graphics was good being local, but access to usb devices e.g. gps's etc proved difficult.


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