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The Linux Terminal Server Project is a collection of scripts and documentation to create a cluster of thin clients. For instance, an entire client chroot environment is built with a single command: ltsp-build-client. This article will guide the administrator through the installation and configuration of a basic LTSP 5 system.

This guide shows how to install and configure the Gentoo LTSP 5 port, and assumes some knowledge of thin client architecture and experience in manually installing Gentoo. Also, a server and client with the specifications listed in the LTSP manual are required. Concerning the client network card, only PXE is included in this manual.

In addition to this guide, several other resources can be of aid while configuring the system. These can be found in the External resources section below.

This tutorial uses i686 as architecture for the client install (x86 before ltsp-server-5.2.19)

Server preparation


Gentoo's LTSP packages are stored in the ltsp overlay. To use the Gentoo LTSP-Overlay, get it with app-portage/layman. Because ltsp resides in the git overlays, the git USE flag is needed.

root #layman -a ltsp

The LTSP server package needs a tftp and dhcp server. In this tutorial net-dns/dnsmasq is used. It also requires a system logger which can accept client messages over tcp, for which app-admin/syslog-ng is used in this tutorial. Don't forget to add a window manager, ltsp-client won't log in if no window manager is installed on the server.

root #emerge --ask app-admin/syslog-ng net-misc/ltsp-server


Besides the obvious drivers, the server kernel ought to have the following settings. If NFS is going to be used to serve the chroot environments, make sure to compile it in as well and reboot afterwards.

File systems  --->
    [*] FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace) support
    [*] Network File Systems  --->
        <*> NFS server support
        [*]  NFS server support for NFS version 3

DHCP and PXE-boot

First, setup the server to provide client machines with a kernel at boottime. Although the server depends on a range of possible packages, the manual will use the ones listed in this paragraph. The PXE bootloader is provided by sys-boot/syslinux. Dnsmasq is a DHCP/DNS/TFTP server. Advanced TFTP is also one of the TFTP server options, and the only one to support multicast TFTP.1 The chroot environments as well as the kernels served at boot time are stored in /opt/ltsp.

Configure net-dns/dnsmasq as a DHCP/TFTP server. The TFTP server is used by the client nodes to retrieve the kernel, initramfs and lts.conf. For help on configuration, view the Gentoo Wiki Dnsmasq page.

Setup the PXE bootloader; view the PXE install section for more detail. In the example configuration, the system mounts the local client disk after booting and loading the kernel from the server. Make sure the kernel and initramfs are in /var/lib/tftpboot as well as the custom real_init option. You can test the work so far with a working kernel and system.

FILE /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/defaultltsp-client 5.3+
append initrd=initramfs-YOURKERNELVERSION root=/dev/nfs nfsroot=YOURSERVERIP:/opt/ltsp/i686 real_init=/sbin/init-ltsp

Start the services, now and at every boot

root #/etc/init.d/dnsmasq start
root #rc-update add dnsmasq default

NFS and Xinetd

The chroot environments are shared with NFS. Xinetd is used for ldminfod and nbd sharing. By default only the localhost is allowed access, so edit the /etc/xinetd.conf and restart the service.

FILE /etc/xinetd.conf
only_from =
root #/etc/init.d/nfs start
root #/etc/init.d/xinetd start
root #rc-update add nfs default
root #rc-update add xinetd default


Booting from NBD is still considered testing and doesn't work quite out-of-the-box. On the server, several changes are required besides installing sys-block/nbd. First, create an nbd-server initscript.

FILE /etc/init.d/nbd-server


depend() {
        use net

For the initscript to work, a default config file has to be created also:

FILE /etc/nbd-server/config
exportname = /opt/ltsp/images/i686.img
readonly = true

Now, start the service now and at every boot.

root #/etc/init.d/nbd-server start
root #rc-update add nbd-server default

System logging

System logging is performed by app-admin/sysklogd. Log files are not stored locally however, but sent to the server specified by SYSLOG_HOST in lts.conf. While executing, the ltsp-client-setup script adds the syslog-ng configuration to perform this. To allow the server to process these incoming log messages, some changes have to be made in that configuration as well. In the syslog-ng setting below, messages are logged to a file named after each client's fully qualified domain name.

Remote logging is only activated if SYSLOG_HOST is specified.
FILE /etc/syslog-ng/syslog-ng.conf
source net { udp(); };
destination remote { file("/var/log/remote/$FULLHOST"); };
log { source(net); destination(remote); };
root #/etc/init.d/syslog-ng restart


As you might have seen in the list of emerged dependencies for ltsp, both for the client and the server, PulseAudio was among them. In addition to media-sound/pulseaudio, its alsa-plugin needs to be installed on both client and server with the pulseaudio use flag enabled. Refer to the Gentoo Wiki chapter for detailed installation instructions.

Client install

The ltsp-server package amongst others ships a command called ltsp-build-client. This command is responsible for building the entire chroot environment. And while ltsp-build-client and available plugins setup the environment, Kicktoo actually builds it. You can also use the Quickstart alternative.

By default a 5.3 client is installed, for a 5.2 client, read the instructions.
By default an NFS client is installed, for an NBD client, read the instructions.


You can invoke the build script with command line arguments or configure the config file in /etc/ltsp/ltsp-build-client.conf. During the build, the packaged kicktoo profile in /etc/ltsp/profiles/kicktoo.profile is invoked. For both, example config files were included in the installation of ltsp-server, but other profiles can be configured. Commandline options take precedence over config file options.

Video cards

Make sure to check if the video card drivers that are needed are installed. By default only fbdev and vesa are included.

FILE /etc/ltsp/ltsp-build-client.conf
VIDEO_CARDS="vesa intel radeon mach64"

Network cards

If Genkernel is used with non default network cards, add the post_install_initramfs_builder() function in the kicktoo profile to add Genkernel network modules. This will be included in the next release (5.4.5).

FILE /etc/ltsp/profiles/kicktoo.profile
post_install_initramfs_builder() {
	if [ "${initramfs_builder}" == "genkernel" ]; then
		# add you're own network drivers if needed
		# eg. "MODULES_NET=\"\${MODULES_NET}\" via-rhine"
		echo "MODULES_NET=\"\${MODULES_NET}\"" >> "${chroot_dir}/usr/share/genkernel/arch/${MAIN_ARCH}/modules_load"


A separate section for the client kernel is in order. A standard Genkernel kernel is created during the installation when configuration changes are made. It's advisable to take a closer look at the client's kernel config and use the config during the client install. Make sure the network drivers are included as modules.

General setup  --->
    [*] Initial RAM filesystem and RAM disk (initramfs/initrd) support 
[*] Networking support  ---> 
    Networking options  --->
        [*] IP: kernel level autoconfiguration
        [*] IP: DHCP support
        [*] IP: BOOTP support 
Device Drivers -->
    [*] Block devices  --->
        <M>   Network block device support
File systems  ---> 
    <*> Kernel automounter version 4 support (also supports v3)
    <*> FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace) support
    [*] Network File Systems  --->
        <M>   NFS client support
        [*]     NFS client support for NFS version 3
        [*]     NFS client support for the NFSv3 ACL protocol extension
        [*]     NFS client support for NFS version 4 (EXPERIMENTAL)
FILE /etc/ltsp/ltsp-build-client.conf

Building the client

When all configuration has been done, start building the client.

root #ltsp-build-client --config=/etc/ltsp/my-ltsp-build-client.conf

After invoking the ltsp-build-client command, the environment is preparing. For each architecture the first build takes up the most time because binary packages are created from source in the first run. These binary packages are stored in /usr/portage/packages through a bind mount on the server. Any consequent builds use these packages to speed up the process.

When having to perform ltsp-build-client again, it is recommended to first copy the downloaded stage outside the chroot and point the ltsp-build-client command to it, so it won't have to be downloaded again.

Finishing the install

Some things still need to be done after building the environment. First up is the kernel, which needs to be put inside the tftproot. In the default setup, this is copied from the chroot in /opt/ltsp and copied to the tftproot in an ltsp subdir in /var/lib/tftpboot, /tftpboot or /srv/tftp, if one exists. Calling ltsp-update-kernels with a different tftproot location:

root #ltsp-update-kernels --tftpdirs="/opt/tftproot"

The pxelinux configuration has to be updated to reflect the changes in the setup. See the PXE boot section for more info.

For a user to be able to login over ssh from the thin client to the server, the client needs the server ssh-keys. Although executed when building the client, these can be updated to the clients chroot with the following command:

root #ltsp-update-sshkeys

Client configuration

While some properties of the client's environment are more or less statically set in the chroot environment, others can be changed at boot time. The lts.conf file allows properties to be set for all clients or for each workstation specifically. Explaining the syntax of the file goes beyond the scope of this tutorial, but it is explained on the LTSP wiki and in the lts.conf man page. The latter is available after emerging the ltsp-docs package.

The lts.conf file is downloaded at client boot time from a preconfigured location in the tftproot, namely /ltsp/i686/lts.conf. Create the lts.conf there and change your architecture if applicable.

FILE /var/lib/tftpboot/ltsp/i686/lts.conf
The default LTSP server ip is set to, change the ip if it is different.

The script that invokes the download is /etc/init.d/ltsp-client-setup. Together with /etc/init.d/ltsp-client it is responsible for settings like the swap configuration, sound daemon, and date among others. While ltsp-client-setup performs the environment settings, ltsp-client starts the sound daemon and the ldm login process. Some of these settings will now be discussed in detail.


If all is well, LDM will be started by ltsp-client and it should be possible to log in with a user on the server. If not, it might be worth checking if the LDM Info Daemon is disabled in /etc/xinitd.d/ldminfod. When the X server cannot start it might help to add a customized xorg.conf file. As many different xorg.conf files can exist for many different clients in the same chroot, make sure to name them properly.

FILE /var/lib/tftproot/ltsp/i686/lts.conf
  X_CONF = /etc/X11/xorg-acer-aspire-one.conf


To choose another window manager, install it on the server and put the following in the LTSP configuration file (replace Fluxbox with the chosen window manager).

FILE /var/lib/tftpboot/ltsp/i686/lts.conf
LDM_XSESSION = /usr/bin/fluxbox

NBD boot

If the nbd USE flag was enabled, it will be possible to generate a NBD bootable image and initramfs. This is optional (and testing) for now, so there are some steps to be followed to accomplish this. First, before the client install, configure the initramfs-builder for using Dracut. This generates an initramfs which allows to boot an NBD image.

FILE /etc/ltsp/ltsp-build-client.conf
A Dracut initramfs won't boot from NFS (tested <025).

An image has to be generated with ltsp-build-client. The resulting image ends up in /opt/ltsp/image/i686.img.

root #ltsp-update-image i686

Because Dracut's named export function isn't bugfree yet, export names can't end with a number (like amd64). It is therefore advised to configure the /etc/nbd-server/config file manually. Look at the example in the server NBD part of the manual for a working example.

5.2 client

This is deprecated.

A 5.2 client is somewhat different from a 5.3 client. The main difference is that a 5.2 client has to be specifically prepared to function as an LTSP client while a 5.3 client takes care of this during the boot init process. In theory ltsp-client-5.3 can be installed on any Gentoo system, allowing it to be booted as an LTSP client.

Starting from ltsp-server-5.3, it's possible to install a 5.2 or a 5.3 client. This can be done by setting one of the different provided build profiles. By default, the kicktoo-5.3.profile is used.

FILE /etc/ltsp/ltsp-build-client.conf

Booting a 5.3 client requires the following PXE configuration, without a real_init.

FILE /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/defaultltsp-client-5.2
append initrd=initramfs-YOURKERNELVERSION root=/dev/nfs nfsroot=YOURSERVERIP:/opt/ltsp/i686

Tips and tricks

Several optional tips and tricks concerning LTSP can be found here. Most of them are Gentoo specific. Non-Gentoo specific tips & tricks can be found on the LTSP Wiki.

NBD swap from USB

The nbdswapd allows clients to use swap space through a NBD. For this to work, the ltsp-server has to be emerged with the nbd USE flag enabled. Also, the lts.conf needs to be updated and the nbdswapd.conf has to contain the mountpoint of your usb stick and the desired swap size (64Mb by default).

FILE /etc/ltsp/nbdswapd.conf
FILE /var/lib/tftpboot/ltsp/i686/lts.conf
  NBD_SWAP = True

Decreasing chroot size

It is possible to make the built LTSP client chroot smaller using a combination of several methods. It's possible to get a chroot less than 1Gb. First up is the EXCLUDE var in the ltsp-build-client program. This can be used to automatically unmerge packages at the end of the client build.

FILE /etc/ltsp/ltsp-build-client.conf
EXCLUDE="sys-apps/man-pages sys-kernel/genkernel"

If there is never any intention to do any maintenance on the chroot again, you can even unmerge gcc this way. Also you can remove the build time dependencies in the chroot by chrooting into the client chroot and executing the following command.

root #emerge --depclean --with-bdeps=n
If a client is built a second time from binary packages, those build time dependencies won't be installed.

X11 keyboard layout

At the moment, X configuration is disabled. Therefore, all LTSP X settings (in lts.conf) does not work, especially XKBLAYOUT. For setting the X layout of clients do the following:

root #mkdir /opt/ltsp/i686/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/
root #cp /opt/ltsp/i686/usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-evdev.conf /opt/ltsp/i686/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-evdev.conf

Then edit the file and add the line to the keyboard section of the evdev.conf

FILE /opt/ltsp/i686/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-evdev.conf
Option "XkbLayout" "fr"


Support for Quickstart is deprecated, see the Gentoo Bug, comment 186, for more info.

There is also the option to use Quickstart as a possible installer for ltsp-build-client (instead of the kicktoo default). Quickstart was the foundation of Kicktoo, but is not under active development anymore. To use this option, emerge it and do the following:

FILE /etc/ltsp/ltsp-build-client.conf

Portage profile

Since ltsp-server-5.3, most of the Portage settings needed to build an ltsp-client chroot are not set in the Quickstart or Kicktoo profiles anymore. Instead they are derived from an LTSP Portage profile. This profile is present in the ltsp overlay, and symlinked to the ${chroot}/make.profile during the ltsp-client install.

Any changes made in this profile will be reset when syncing the overlay.


Bugs can be reported in two locations:

  • Gentoo - For issues related to Gentoo.
  • Upstream - For issues related to LTSP itself.

Check the sections below for workarounds, and see if an existing bug has been opened before entering a potential duplicate bug.

python_get_implementational_package not installed

  • reported on: 2011-06-06
  • reported by: Wimmuskee
  • no bug


An emerge error for "=dev-lang/python-2.6* is not installed", with a "die "$(python_get_implementational_package) is not installed";"


This means that some of your binary packages were installed against Python 2.6, Remove your binary packages to let them compile against your new python environment.

do not move package and distfiles dir

  • reported on: 2012-02-19
  • reported by: Wimmuskee
  • no bug


The ltsp-build-client and ltsp-chroot programs asume the portage package and distfiles dirs are at Gentoo defaults when they bind mount it into the chroot. Symlinking to another location won't work, neither is moving the dir although refering correctly in /etc/portage/make.conf, all created packages will still be made in /usr/portage version.


Leave the packagedir to default.

virtual terminals on clients

Several programs will fight for the virtual terminals on the clients. Comment out getty in inittab:

FILE /opt/ltsp/i686/etc/inittabcommenting example
#c1:12345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty1 linux
#c2:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty2 linux
#c3:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty3 linux
#c4:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty4 linux
#c5:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty5 linux
#c6:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty6 linux


ltsp-build-client does not work witch all locale. quickstart actually requires C locale. So if ltsp-build-client shouts with the following message:

root #ltsp-build-client ...
No fetcher for protocol: file

unset your locale, remove the directory and restart:

root #unset LANG; unset LC_ALL; ltsp-build-client --purge

External resources

Diskless Install

Union Mounts