Linux Desktop Software

Userful Multiplier FAQ

Q: What is Userful Multiplier for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED 10)?
A: Userful Multiplier is a software add-on for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop that turns 1 PC into 10. Each user station is a full client that has dedicated video access to the host PC. Performance is better than LTSP or other thin-client desktop strategies.

The simple fact is that desktop processors have become so powerful that most users only take advantage of 6-8% of their PC. Rather than having the hardware sit idle, Userful Multiplier allows for up to 10 users to work simultaneously on the single desktop. Most users will not even know they are sharing. They log in normally. They have access to their own home directory either on the local system or network (if configured).

For K-12 school districts, universities, colleges and other organisations who are feeling a bit of a budget crunch and need a strategy to deploy low-cost, eco-friendly, high-performance desktops, Userful Multiplier and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop from Novell present a compelling value proposition.
Q: Is Userful Multiplier a “thin-client solution”?
A: No, Userful Multiplier is not a thin-client solution (although it can be used to deploy thin clients at a low cost if desired). What you have is a regular desktop computer with some additional dual-head video cards (to connect your monitors) and a couple USB hubs (if extra ports are needed for keyboards and mice). Each station is a full client with dedicated video access to the host PC. Users log in normally. Performance is excellent for standard applications. Support is available for individual USB audio headsets and USB memory keys. You just need to make sure that your monitor or keyboard has a couple built-in USB ports.

Thin-client solutions involve a thin-client server (where all the file processing happens) that transmits data over an Ethernet cable to the individual thin-client hardware stations (there is additional thin client hardware, electricity and maintenance here). Any time you have data being transmitted over a network, you will see lags. Multimedia performance is usually lacking and there are other disadvantages associated with thin clients. Plus, you may be locked into proprietary thin-client hardware with some vendors rather than being able to re-purpose your existing PCs or use off-the-shelf hardware.
Q: How does the performance compare to a single-user system?
A: Overall, performance does not significantly differ from regular, single-user systems. In some cases, Userful Multiplier systems have better response times due the system's automatic file and memory caching. The only noticeable delays are typically seen when one or more users load large applications into active memory, or when a CPU-intensive process is running. In such cases, other users may notice a slight delay in mouse response, or in loading their own applications; however, this delay is momentary.

We have run Internet cafes at numerous conferences around the globe. Users do not realize they are sharing a single PC, even though we put the single PC up on the table and show how the monitors and USB keyboards and mice connect to it. Performance is that good! Now, because stations are connected directly to the PC, you are limited in terms of how far each station can be. That's why the solution is ideal for computer labs, classrooms, libraries and other areas where PCs are in close physical proximity (within a 15-foot radius from the host PC). You can then run a single Ethernet cable to the machine, connect to the network and out to the Internet. Less hardware, less maintenance, less infrastructure (AC, Internet switches, wiring, conduit, electrical...), less cost.
Q: How far can users be from the host computer?
A: Each station should be within a 15-foot radius of the host PC, making the solution ideal for computer labs, classrooms, libraries and other areas where users are in close physical proximity.
Q: How much does Userful Multiplier software cost?
A: Userful Multiplier is licensed at $99 USD per seat plus 30% paid annually for software upgrades and support. Contact Omni if you would like to receive a quote for your environment.
Q: How does licensing work for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop?
A: Like Userful Multiplier, you will need to license SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop for each station (or monitor) connected to the host PC. Typically, in education environments, Novell customers would simply add SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop to their existing Novell SLA or ALA for a very low cost per student. Contact your Novell representative directly to purchase SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop licenses.
Q: What hardware do I need?
A: Go here for recommended hardware, step-by-step installation instructions and documentation. If you run into any challenges, contact us and we'll help you get your systems up and running.
Q: What graphics cards do you recommend?
A: This is our most frequently asked question. Following is a list of recommended video cards. Dual-head and quad-head PCI-Express and PCI cards with Linux driver support should work.
Q: How do I set up Userful Multiplier on my SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED 10) computer?
A: Go here for recommended hardware, step-by-step installation instructions and documentation. If you run into any challenges, contact us and we'll help you get your systems up and running.
Q: How do I link the keyboards and mice to the screens?
A: After installing Userful Multiplier, you will be prompted with a wizard screen that allows you to assign keyboards and mice to their respective monitor. This is a one-time process. The next time you reboot the machine, the system will remember the assignments. The wizard will prompt you to press a Function key (F1 through F10) and click the mouse. If the mouse is plugged into the USB keyboard (via a built-in USB port on the keyboard), the mouse will be automatically assigned along with the keyboard when you press the correct function key. You may then login to your desktop normally.

To reassign a keyboard or mouse combination, unplug the devices and plug them in again. You will be prompted with the Userful Multiplier wizard screen to reassign the devices. You will not lose any unsaved work. Alternatively, you can log in as the root user and press Control-Alt-Break on the station you would like to re-assign.
Q: Is it possible to run Windows applications?
A: Yes. To run Windows applications locally, you may want to consider using Win4Lin, WINE or Crossover Office. You can also connect to Windows Terminal Servers and similar systems, using the RDP protocol to run Windows applications remotely. Citrix / Tarantella systems can be used to deliver Windows applications on a Linux machine.
Q: After installation, one or more monitors display a black screen. Do I need to reinstall Userful Multiplier?
A: NO. Some installations have a problem detecting the number of "heads" per video adapter. Userful Multiplier includes a tool to fix the problem.

  1. login as the root user.
  2. open a terminal console
  3. run /opt/userful/bin/userful-config-display. You will be prompted to type the number of heads for each card.
  4. reboot the computer. If this does not happen automatically, type shutdown -h now. You will have to physically start the computer again.

You can also force Userful Multiplier to reassign monitors/keyboards/mouse sessions. Click "start" and choose "Additional Applications" and then open "Userful". In the Userful window, click "Reset all Keyboards". This will reset all the sessions and you should then be ready to go.

Refer to the Userful Multiplier Wiki for additional support issues. Omni is Userful's global Userful Multiplier distributor for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop deployments.

Q: How do I install the Userful Multiplier licence file?
A: To install your Userful Multiplier Activation Code, refer to this page.
Q: I need to replace a keyboard or USB hub. Can I re-assign all monitors, keyboards and mice?
A: Yes. You can force Userful Multiplier to reassign all monitors, keyboards and mice by:

  1. Clicking "Start" and choosing "Additional Applications" (on SLED 10) or navigate through the menus to find "Userful" (in openSUSE 10)
  2. Open "Userful"
  3. In the Userful window, click "Reset All Keyboards". This will reset all the monitor-keyboard-mouse assignments in the same fashion as during the initial configuration after installing Userful Multiplier.
Q: How do I shutdown the system? Can I restart an individual workstation?
A: To shutdown your Userful Multiplier system, you will need to log in as the root user, open up a Terminal window, and type the following command:  poweroff -f

To restart the machine, login as the root user and in the Terminal window, type:  reboot; reboot

You can restart an individual workstation by pressing "Ctrl+Alt+Backspace". This will logout the user and kill all processes running only for that user.
Q: What environments are ideal for this solution?
A: Userful Multiplier is ideal for classrooms, computer labs, call centers, Internet cafés, retail wayfinding kiosks and job banks, nursing stations, retail POS terminals, data capture stations, registration stations, hotel lobbies, retirement homes and more. Visit our Perfect For section for more details.
Q: Does Userful Multiplier run on other versions of Linux?
A: Yes. While we recommend using SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, Userful Multiplier will work with the following Linux distributions:

  • Ubuntu
  • RedHat
  • Fedora
  • Mandriva
  • Xandros
  • Linspire
  • Sun Java Desktop
Q: Can the system function with wireless mice and keyboards?
A: While USB wireless keyboards and mice are readily available and are compatible, we do not recommend them – some get confused when there is more than one in a room, so there could be mix-ups about which keyboard, mouse, monitor go together. In addition there is the risk of loss and theft.
Q: Is sound supported for each user?
A: The latest version of Userful Multiplier for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop provides multi-user sound support. To enjoy individual sound support, users require a keyboard or monitor with an integrated USB hub into which they can connect their USB audio headset.
Q: Are USB memory keys supported for each user?
A: The latest version of Userful Multiplier provides multi-user flash memory USB key support. Keyboards or monitors with built-in USB ports are required. Only the user that plugs in the USB memory key will be able to read and write to the drive. If, on the other hand, a USB memory key is plugged directly into the host PC, it will mount to everyone's desktop and anyone can read and write data to it.
Q: Are external DVD/CD ROM drives supported?
A: Yes, assuming the device is compatible with SLED 10. If you connect an external DVD/CD ROM directly to a USB port on the computer, the device will be accessible by all users. If you connect the device to a USB keyboard that is assigned to an existing user session, the device will be available to be "seen" by all of the users, but only the user logged into the session will be able to access the device.
Q: How does Userful Multiplier work with IP-based security?
A: Userful Multiplier currently assigns one IP address to the workstation. This IP address is shared by all users connected to a Userful Multiplier station. Therefore, IP address-based security would not be available with Userful Multiplier. The workaround for this is that users connecting to a Userful Multiplier system will need to be members of groups that have the same IP address restrictions. Depending on the demand, it is possible to update Userful Multiplier to allow for the IP addresses to be assigned on a per-login basis. This would require a fair bit of work and is not something that is foreseen in the immediate future.
Q: Does Userful Multiplier work with ZENworks Linux Management?
A: Based on our initial testing with ZENworks, everything that is based on your eDirectory user account can continue to be managed by ZENworks, including application deployment. This is because the majority of ZENworks management is based on user accounts rather than hardware.

Limiting access to directories and files is a combination of ZENWorks and the native Linux file system. From an application perspective, there should be nothing different about deploying an application on a Userful Multiplier system than there would be deploying that application on a stand-alone SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop installation. On the other hand, any ZENworks function that is hardware based, such as remote desktop control, cannot be done with ZENworks on a Userful Multiplier installation.
Q: How do I purchase Userful Multiplier for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop?
A: You can purchase Userful Multiplier directly from Omni or one of its Authorised Resellers or Partners globally. Please contact Omni at +1.780.423.4200 or via email. We would be pleased to answer any questions you have and provide you with a quote for your environment.

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