Pretty much anyone who has owned a computer is familiar with the term “Hard Drive” which is that part inside of your computer that stores everything you do. This would include the operating system and all your files and folders, programs, widgets, and everything that is available when you start your computer up. Now, let us imagine a world in which your computer has no hard drive. Whoa! Wait a minute. Where will everything be stored then? In walks the “Diskless Workstation.”

In order to use your computer, you need an operating system, normally stored on your hard drive, which performs functions that allow you to interact with your keyboard, mouse, monitor, and flash drive. When you start your computer, the operating system is loaded into memory and allows you to do all of the cool things on computers like Facebook, YouTube, and email. What if you could get that operating system from somewhere else? In walks “LTSP.”

“LTSP” stands for the “Linux Terminal Server Project” and allows you to create an operating system which you can download from an “LTSP” server and load into memory on your computer. This operating system can be updated nightly so that each day when you start your computer, you have the latest and greatest updates and programs. The main thing to understand from “LTSP” is the “L” stands for Linux – not a Microsoft or Apple project. What about my files? Where will they be? In walks “The Cloud.”

With cloud services available today such as Google Docs and Microsoft 365 Online, files can be stored in a variety of online places and accessible through any browser. So with Google Chrome or Firefox, which are available in Linux, you can manage your files also with no need for a hard drive. So why would anyone want to do this?

If you only have one PC sitting in your den, “LTSP” might not be for you. But, what if you need to manage hundreds of devices that all do the same thing with the same programs which need to be updated frequently? Now, “LTSP” sounds like something I could get used to. At North Country Library System, with some research, development, and a grant from NNYLN, we will be deploying this technology for use as Public Access Catalogs for our member libraries. And who knows, if this catches on, maybe on staff or patron computers someday.

About Stephen: Stephen Gaines is the Web Services Specialist at the North Country Library System.

About NCLS: The North Country Library System is a non-profit cooperative library system serving 65 public libraries in the Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, and Saint Lawrence counties.