Reducing Spread of COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some businesses want to keep their employees at their homes. In this case, it is possible to organize a Remote Service Desk for clients. The Remote Service Desk is a set of computers for clients in the office. Clients can get service by employees through video conference calls. ASTER allows organizing the Remote Service Desk using just 1 PC and several displays for the clients.

Remote Access to PC

When you access your computer in the office remotely, Windows blocks the desktop during remote sessions. You can solve the remote access issue by using ASTER. You can access the second ASTER workplace by a remote session. It allows a user in the first workplace to continue working. Both outputs of the video card should be connected to the monitor inputs (you can switch between them via the monitor controls — “video source” option).

Effective Usage of IT Infrastructure

ASTER allows you to reduce the number of PCs in your IT Infrastructure. As a result, it allows reducing the TCO of your organization. If there are spare PCs, you can use them for making data backups or use them for your temporary projects.

Workplace for Office Employee, Accountant, Secretary

ASTER allows you to creat several workplaces for working with MS Office, internet surfing, email, accounting, etc. It is necessary to plug in the hardware and set up workplaces, and then install internet browsers. You can even isolate USB disks and USB ports between the users using built-in Windows tools.

Information Systems, Registers, Cash Departments, and Banks

ASTER is very effective when you need multiple workplaces for similar jobs like workplaces for information desks, call centers, cash registers, etc. In this case, it is possible to create and effectively use up to 12 workplaces based on one PC. Workplaces can be organized using USB and video cables, or wirelessly over Wi-Fi/Miracast. For long distances, you can ​use extenders for the cables.

Outstaffing, Internship

Sometimes corporations need fast temporary workplaces for outstaffers, interns, or newcomers. Corporations need some time to purchase and to prepare workplaces. ASTER fixes this issue by organizing temporary workplaces using the already available PCs of other corporation employees. This approach maintains security and saves much time for all. New workers can immediately start working. employees. This approach keeps security and saves much time for all. New workers can immediately start working.

Mobile Devices

With ASTER, mobile devices like tablets, smartphones can be used as terminal devices. To do this, you need to install an application like Splashtop or Spacedesk. Or you can also use standard remote access programs — once connected, you will be able to use Windows programs on mobile devices and will always be connected to the host computer, even while on the road or far away from the main office.

Workplaces for PC-Room, Internet-Cafe and Game Club

Internet Cafes and Game centers managers want to have more Windows workplaces for their clients. It is economically effective to use ASTER for rooms with many work or game seats. It is possible to save money by using 1 PC for organizing several game places. Even complex online games work well in ASTER workplaces.

Workplaces for accounts departments

Account managers can create several workplaces based on 1 PC for working with MS Office, internet surfing, email, accounting programs, etc. using the ASTER program.

Do you want to organize a big number of workplaces?  Read about recommended hardware specs.

Important: To reduce compatibility risks, organize and test your ASTER workplaces before purchasing our licenses. We recommend downloading ASTER and use the trial period.

Every time I signed an invoice for the purchase of a computer for a new employee, I asked our admins the same question: “Is there no way to save on this?» No, they said. If we want comfortable work for our employees, we need to buy normal modern computers. This is the opinion of employees, system administrators, technical director… in general, everyone except me )

But the directors or business owners will understand me. If in the pre-crisis times office hardware still cost acceptable money, now paying $500 only for a system unit, at least-is expensive. There must be a way out.

Taking new people on a remote site is not an option for us. We have a lot of people, projects, tasks, and communications. There should be interchangeability + a minimum of communication losses. We need to learn how to use the existing pile of iron (quite modern) not only for current employees, but also for new employees (we are growing by about 1-2 employees per month).

A couple of years ago, I read an article on how to split an Ubuntu-based computer. In fact, this is a solution that parallelizes the resources of the computer (it is also called multiseat). Two keyboards, mice, two monitors are connected, and two users can work simultaneously, each under their own account.

After a short search for solutions for Windows, we found the Aster software product from the company Ibik, which can make two computers from one computer. We started a performance experiment, which, of course, no one believed would be successful. Especially the CTO 🙂 But not everything is perfect.

What did we encounter during the implementation? I give my word to the system administrator.

I will briefly describe the configuration of the machine for this mode of operation and the problems encountered.

The first thing we encountered was the disk. The performance rested on it. The problem was solved quickly by replacing the HDD with an SSD. Everything got knocked up. And (as the employees noted) it became even faster to work than it was before. The i3 processor and 4 Gb RAM is enough for two people to work comfortably.

The capacity of the purchased SSD drives is small — 60Gb. The system itself with the necessary driver package eats up a decent portion of this space. In view of this, at the stage of system installation, we transfer the user folders to the HDD available in the system explorer. To do this, when installing Windows (we use Windows 8 and 8.1), just wait until it asks you to enter the name of the PC, call the console (Shift+F10) and enter a number of commands. For convenience, I combined them in a bat file that I run from a flash drive. Here it is:

robocopy C:\Users D:\Users /E /COPYALL /XJ

rmdir C:\Users /S /Q

mklink /J C:\Users D:\Users

REG ADD “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList” /f /v “ProfilesDirectory” /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /d “D:\Users”

Shutdown -r -f -t 00

There may be some difficulties here. When installing the system, the boot loader does not always correctly format the hard disk. Until the creation of users, you will not be able to start the Explorer, so open notepad, click “open file”, go to “My computer” and see how things are with the HDD partitions (at the same time, we look at what letter the system has assigned to the flash drive). If there are none at all, run DiskManager by typing diskmgmt.msc on the command line. We use it to create a section / sections. If the sections are visible but not formatted, format them with the “format “command (for example, ” format :d /Q”). After that, go to the flash drive and run the executable bat file. After executing the script, the computer will restart and the files will be transferred.

I strongly advise against transferring user folders on an already installed system with at least one registered user. In addition to being a more time-consuming process, experience has shown that after this procedure, a lot of bugs come out — from incorrect operation of applications (especially those supplied with the OS) to failures in the peripherals (a missing network printer and freezes in the mouse).

We are faced with the problem of parallelizing the sound. All programmers sit in headphones and sound is sacred to them. This problem was solved by installing the original drivers. Here we should expect some problems, since sometimes manufacturers do not pay much attention to the quality of the implementation of audio drivers and audio control interfaces. We mainly use standard motherboards with an integrated Realtek sound system. It is enough to enable the possibility of simultaneous independent use of the main and front audio outputs in the settings.

Another surprise was waiting for us at the level of the system itself. The programmer goes to Windows under him and sees the social network of a work colleague 🙂 This was also handled. Authorization in the browser solves this problem quite easily.

We also encountered the fact that in the process of working, our programmers actively use the keyboard shortcut Shift+F12, which in Aster leads to the reassignment of the owners of mice and keyboards for users. The conflict was resolved by editing the registry (the guys from the Ibic support quickly sent a “patch”).

Otherwise, there were no problems. All the software that we use (including PhpStorm) works quite normally with this scheme.

We used a single PC solution for two employees. Aster has a solution for organizing up to six jobs on one machine, but such a scheme was not even considered due to the high risk of large losses of working time in the event of hardware failure, significantly higher requirements for components (especially for video cards and motherboards), as well as possible problems with the implementation of independent audio streams for each user.

Where did we save money?

A full-time workplace for a new employee costs approximately $800. This is a desktop $500 + monitor, keyboard, mouse $200 + windows $100. In order for us to parallelize the workplace, you need to buy an SSD disk with a capacity of at least 60Gb, a network card (if necessary, assigning a separate static IP address to each user), a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a software license. As a result, for the organization of an additional workplace instead of $800, we spend about $500. This is already acceptable. Plus, we do not forget about saving on the electricity of a computer that works 8-10 hours a day.

In addition, it is worth noting that reducing the number of working machines reduces the cost of their maintenance and, accordingly, increases the reaction speed of administrators. Along with this, we started moving to windows live accounts and storing personal work files in the cloud on One Drive. All this allows employees to work from any location and quickly get involved in work on a substitute, pre-configured PC.

We have not seen any failures for three months. We will be happy if our experiment is useful to you, and the software manufacturer will continue to develop it. And of course, we are ready to take part in the discussion of this hot topic.

Vasily Churanov and the WebCanape team