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With your help, we can cut the cost of computing in half for schools, homes, and organizations. All Open Source. Commodity HW. Read more

Bellevue, WA Hardware
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Funding Unsuccessful

This project's funding goal was not reached on June 20, 2012.

With your help, we can cut the cost of computing in half for schools, homes, and organizations. All Open Source. Commodity HW.

Bellevue, WA Hardware
Share this project

About this project

^ Watch the video above for an introduction ^

Imagine if you could easily share one computer with a whole class, your whole family, the whole office.

Everybody is using that one computer at the same time, yet each person has their own display, keyboard, and mouse.  They can’t see what each other is doing. They can’t affect each other. It’s like each person has her own machine, even though they’re actually sharing one.

They’re only paying for one machine. Powering one. Maintaining one. Only having to upgrade one. 

The $50 thin client

With your help, we can make this possible.  We can get the cost for each additional user down to a $50 thin client, to which each additional display, keyboard, and mouse is connected.  

Just plug in several of these to the USB ports of a computer running special software (Fedora 17 Linux is the focus of this KickStarter project), and turn your one PC into a plug-and-play multiseat platform.  Every person sharing the computer has access to lots of free software, including familiar Firefox or Chrome browsers -- unless you're a power user, you don't need to care that Linux is underneath.

This is all 100% open source software, so there are no license costs whatsoever. $50 per user is it. 

The cost and maintenance savings is obviously a big win for schools and organizations.

But it can also be useful in the home.  Have 3 of these in the house, and want to add a 4th for Aunt Velma who’s visiting next month?  Plug in one of these $50 multiseat thin clients and a spare display, and up pops a fresh login screen, ready for Velma to use. No new computer to buy, configure, or maintain.

But we need your backing to reach these economies of scale for a $50 thin client.

How it works

Modern PCs have power to spare.  Your CPU is idling most of the time, between bursts of activity. And your PC has enormous untapped expandability.  Via USB, you can add up to 127 additional devices to your PC, including USB hubs, graphics adapters, keyboards, and mice.  Your PC is more capable than a dozen decade-old PCs.

It’s possible to detect that a particular USB display, keyboard, and mouse are all connected through a common hub.  This is what’s inside each Plugable Multiseat Thin Client. And with special operating system software, it’s possible to pop up a fresh login screen when it detects a new client has arrived via USB. Because modern operating systems are multi-user, it can look and act like a completely separate machine with complete separation between all the simultaneous users.  It turns one PC into many.

It’s not just cost savings

Each Plugable Multiseat Thin Client consumes as little as 2.5 Watts (500mA @ 5V).  That’s about 1/20th the power consumption of a typical laptop.  Or about 1/50th the power consumption of a typical desktop.

Each thin client has no fan, no moving parts, nothing to replace.  To upgrade performance, you upgrade the one central PC, and keep the same clients.  No landfill.

So while you’re saving money, you’re saving the environment.

And keeping computers running is a pain.  We collectively spend a lot of time dealing with software installs, data backups, automatic upgrades, etc.  In a classroom environment, keeping machines running cleanly requires constant vigilance.  If a PC goes down, lots of work goes down with it.

With a multiseat setup, you can divide that work by 5 or 10.  And if a thin client goes down, just swap it out – any user can log in at any one.

Why your Kickstarter backing is critical

But we need your help to make this happen.

  • To hit the $50 price point, we need to produce lots of units to get the price down
  • The open source software is close, but we need your support to push it over the finish line
  • To get computers in the hands of the next billion people on this planet, we need to make this work

The rewards - Two choices

Our main focus is on pushing the "small" platform to reach the $50 price point. But for a little more, we also have the option of a powered thin client that can handle more than just USB keyboard and mouse.  Here's a little more detail on the two options covered in the rewards.

These thin clients are in production and sold today (although the DC-125 is updated for this Kickstarter project). But the cost to Kickstarters, even for one unit, will be lower than our available price elsewhere.

Don’t want Linux?

We understand, and so does Microsoft :).  While the focus of this Kickstarter project is on the work to get a 100% open source Linux project up and running based on Fedora 17, Windows has lots of big benefits.

Every Plugable Multiseat Thin Client purchased as part of this Kickstarter project also works on Windows Multipoint Server 2011, Microsoft’s multiseat OS. Your investment in this hardware isn’t tied to Linux. 

Delivering the Goods

Plugable Technologies is a small startup (there's just 4 of us here!), but we already ship thousands of USB devices worldwide each month.  See http://plugable.com/shop and http://plugable.com/shop/eu to get a picture of what we do, and what customers think about our devices, service, and reliability.

On the hardware side, both the DC-125 and UD-160 platforms have been shipping for some time.  Complete re-engeineering isn't needed for this KickStarter project, fortunately.

On the software side, we develop the main low-level Linux open source driver (udlfb, the USB graphics driver), but there is lots of work above this level.  That said, we are already running thin client setups running with Fedora 17 Beta, and we believe we can recover from problems with an installable package to deliver any missing pieces or fix any blocking issues.

In terms of shipping, the biggest difficulty is reaching our backers outside the USA.  To make sure we can deliver, we're focusing on the shipping sweet spot of 5 unit bundles -- these fit perfectly in a USPS Large Flat rate box, and this is the single reward we can offer with confidence to buyers around the world.

More Questions?

Let us know with an email to kickstarter@plugable.com.  We'll keep a FAQ so your questions can also help others. Thank you!

More Background 

The ability to plug in a compound USB device with ASICs for hub, graphics, audio, and more, have all of its sub-devices supported with open source drivers in Linux, and have it be recognized and automatically used as a plug-and-play muliseat thin client .... phew! ... there's a huge amount going on to make something like this as easy as plug and play. And it's taken more than a decade of work by many, many people.  Just to call out two:

Dr. Quentin Stafford Fraser was one of the first to articulate and act on this vision for low-cost computing.  Along with Martin King (who passed away last year), he founded both DisplayLink and Ndiyo.org to progress this vision.

Lennart Poettering, through his systemd work at RedHat on Fedora, has made USB multiseat possible again, and this time with a clean, supportable architecture that is the basis of this Kickstarter project, and hopefully the basis of this support spreading to all the other Linux distros.

Our work has focused on the udlfb kernel driver and on prototyping earlier multiseat implementations on Linux (that are now superceeded by Lennart's work).  You can read more at http://plugable.com/category/project/udlfb/ and see our source contributions to date at http://git.plugable.com/

History 

You can get even more background on the history and technology of USB multiseat in my 2009 Linux Plumbers Conference talk, below.  

This Kickstarter project is the culmination of a lot of work by many people, now including you too.  We hope it is successful.

Thank you for your backing!

FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

Ask a question

Rewards

  • You selected
    $1 reward

    26 backers

    You'll receive our sincere gratitude and your name proudly displayed on the plugable.com/multiseat backers page. This reward also applies for all pledge levels below.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $10 reward

    1 backer

    You'll receive a bootable CD that lets you easily try multiseat thin clients on any PC without having to install anything or change the system at all. Just plug in thin clients to automatically get additional logins. USA shipping for CD only. Included in all for all higher pledge levels (USA and International)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $25 reward

    16 backers Limited (84 left of 100)

    Help a school or organization. For each pledge of this amount, we'll set aside one DC-125 to add to our lending library. Schools can request a kit of 5 DC-125s to try for 90 days, with software and instructions. See http://plugable.com/multiseat/dc-125-lending-library/ for details and a form to recommend a school or nonprofit for the program (US organizations only). As a backer, your name will be matched to a particular unit and you'll be able to track the schools your unit visits on its travels.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $60 reward

    7 backers

    You'll receive one Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Client (model DC-125), enabling two people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (monitor up to 1280x1024, keyboard, mouse, and headset). USA Only Shipping Included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $75 reward

    26 backers

    You'll receive one AC powered Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Client (model UD-160-M), enabling two people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (each with their own monitor up to 1920 x 1080, keyboard, mouse, headset, and 4 other USB devices). USA Only Shipping Included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $80 reward

    1 backer

    INTERNATIONAL. You'll receive one Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Client (model DC-125), enabling two people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (monitor up to 1280x1024, keyboard, mouse, and headset). Worldwide Shipping Included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $95 reward

    3 backers

    INTERNATIONAL. You'll receive one AC powered Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Client (model UD-160-M), enabling two people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (each with their own monitor up to 1920 x 1080, keyboard, mouse, headset, and 4 other USB devices). US style plug only, but supports 100-240V input. Worldwide shipping included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $275 reward

    2 backers

    You'll receive five Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Clients (DC-125), enabling up to six people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (each with their own monitor up to 1280x1024, keyboard, mouse, and headset). USA Only Shipping Included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $335 reward

    2 backers

    INTERNATIONAL. You'll receive five Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Clients (DC-125), enabling up to six people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (each with their own monitor up to 1280x1024, keyboard, mouse, and headset). Worldwide shipping included

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $350 reward

    7 backers

    You'll receive five AC powered Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Clients (UD-160-M), enabling up to six people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (each with their own monitor up to 1920 x 1080, keyboard, mouse, headset, and 4 other USB devices). USA Only Shipping Included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $410 reward

    3 backers

    INTERNATIONAL. You'll receive five AC powered Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Clients (UD-160-M, US PLUG STYLE 100-240V 50-60Hz), enabling up to six people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (each with their own monitor up to 1920 x 1080, keyboard, mouse, headset, and 4 other USB devices). Worldwide shipping included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $500 reward

    0 backers

    The $50 Additional Computer. You'll receive ten Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Clients (DC-125), enabling up to 11 people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (each with their own monitor up to 1280x1024, keyboard, mouse, and headset). USA Only Shipping Included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $1,000 reward

    0 backers

    "The Classroom Kit". You'll receive 20 Plugable USB Multiseat Thin Clients (DC-125), enabling up to 21 people to use your Fedora 17 Linux PC at the same time (each with their own monitor up to 1280x1024, keyboard, mouse, and headset). PLUS 5 Plugable powered USB hubs and 5 Plugable 10 meter cables to flesh out your entire USB setup to span a classroom. USA Only Shipping Included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $10,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    Philanthropist Level. "Seed the World". 200 Plugable DC-125 thin clients shipped in cases of 20 to anywhere in the world that the backer specifies. We can send all to one location, or the backer can give us a list of schools / non-profits around the world to send to. We'll include materials in every case communicating the backers' message. If the backer has any other special requests, we'll do whatever we can to fill them.

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (50 days)