Setting up a multiseat system

Multiseat computer center

On Saturday, I described the new multiseat systems that we’re using at the school here. A number of people asked for some more details, so here they are.

First, the hardware for a multiseat system (and the price at time of order from our local supplier):

  • 1 x Intel G2020 – 2.90 GHz – $65
  • 1 x Kingston DDR3-1600 8G – $65
  • 1 x MSI Z77A-G45 motherboard – $155
  • 1 x Kingston SSDNow V300 60GB – $70
  • 3 x Sapphire Radeon HD6450 – $50
  • 1 x Generic case – $20
  • 4 x 4 Port USB hub – $5
  • Tax – 10%

The final price is somewhere between $600 and $610, depending on the motherboard.

Once you have the hardware built, make sure the onboard video is enabled in the BIOS and is set to be the primary display. Plug the USB hubs into the computer. Make sure you don’t swap ports after they’ve been plugged in. Then, install the standard Fedora 19 GNOME desktop and install the latest version of the lesbg-multiseat package from the school’s repositories. Enable the multiseat service (systemctl enable prepare-multiseat).

Make sure GDM is installed and that you’re using it as your display manager. You can use any desktop environment you’d like but you must use GDM (or LightDM with some patches) as other display managers don’t recognize systemd’s seat management. Reboot the computer.

When the computer comes up, there should be a login screen on each monitor. Each USB hub should automatically match a monitor, but you may have to swap ports so the hubs match the right monitor. lesbg-multiseat will always try to match the USB hubs to the video cards in order, so the first usb port will match the first video card, and so on.

Congratulations, you now have a multiseat system. Note that the configuration is designed to be minimal. We use the same OS image for single-seat or multiseat systems.


Comments

Cristian Ciupitu
Monday, Dec 2, 2013

Out of curiosity, why an Intel Pentium instead of some similarly cheap CPU from AMD?

Jonathan Dieter
Monday, Dec 2, 2013

Mainly because our supplier doesn’t carry AMD processors any more (there’s a single AMD processor listed, but with no price, meaning it’s out of stock), and I don’t really care enough to try to find a different supplier. We don’t exactly have a huge selection here in Lebanon.

Noah Beach
Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013

Curious if you are using the open source driver for those cards or the proprietary. I am currently using F17 with a hacked version of systemd to support the proprietary drivers (my project requires hardware enabled decoding) and was curious if the latest version of systemd no longer require modifying the source?

Jonathan Dieter
Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013

I’m using the open drivers. I’m not a fan of the closed drivers as they’ve proven to be pretty buggy. I think Fedora 19 has UVD support, so you should be able to use hardware-enabled decoding using the open drivers. I’ve also been playing around with mesa-10.0 and it has very buggy OpenCL support with the open drivers.

Malik Junaid
Monday, Jan 5, 2015

Hi, I m trying to put together a multiseat system using kensington Plugable Docks which offer DVI over USB through displaylink. Can you guide me how i should proceed and which fedora release offers multiseat setup with maximum ease? Thankyou very much in advance.

Jonathan Dieter
Monday, Jan 5, 2015

Any recent (F19-F21) Fedora release should offer something close to an out-of-the-box experience with the Plugable Docks, assuming they’re supported by a modern Linux kernel. I would suggest installing Fedora 21 on the computer, plugging in the docks, and then plugging in monitors, keyboards and mice into the docks. If the docks are supported, new login screens should appear on each monitor.

 

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