Phistek ZE7000

According to Chia Huang of Elite Silicon Technology, the Phistek ZE7000 is the only network attached zero client currently manufactured, that uses a Display Link DL-165 supported by Linux and is therefore compatible with all USB 2.0 connected DL-1×5 zero clients connected to the same computer that you may already have while extending the USB 2.0 cable length limit of 5 meters, to the gigabit network cable length limit to 100 meters.

Internally it uses the Eiite Silicon Technology USB over IP chip. EST has provided Phistek the most recent support software for their chip, nhci_0.9.59-1zeroclient1_amd64.deb, and authorized them to provide it as a download.

It has mounting holes for both Vesa standard 75mm and 100mm centers. Because of its small size and weight, it should also be mountable with adhesive velcro strips for displays without Vesa standard mounting threads. Adapters are available for converting its DVI-I to HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA.

Why the ZE7000 when Userful has switched to the SMSC chip for its supported zero clients, nComputing is switching to the raspberry pi, and MonitorsAnywhere is now moving to the Android based X96 MAX. The scale of production of smart phones has indeed led to amazing advances in energy efficient new cpu and stiff price competition.

The worrisome thing about these new cpu based devices is that their very computing power creates new security risks. They are designed to provide subscription based media content. Those that are Android based are proprietary, so you can’t study and fix vulnerabilities before they get hacked.

In contrast, the chips in the ZE7000 were designed to do one thing well. The ZE7000 does not store any user data, only a bit map of the display. When the user logs out, the new login screen completely over writes the last screen of the former session. With its 100 meter network cable length, its server computer can be located in a physically secure room with no windows or a secure utility cabinet. The workstations with their ZE7000 can be located in a creative space with nice views. All data remains secure, even if someone breaks in and steals the workstations. There are many professions that require keeping client data secure – legal, medical, therapy, even trade secrets of software developers.

To compete on cost, devices like the ZE7000 which can run on free, opensource Linux are needed. The cost of Userful licenses (they have the only Linux SMSC driver and it is proprietary) or of Microsoft Server licenses have made multi-seat unable to compete with individual commodity priced Chromebooks in public libraries (my daughter is a librarian). In my own public library it has been interesting to watch how at first there were large queues to access the public internet stations. Now, so many patrons have smart phones and laptops at home, that there are no library lines. The library workstations are mainly used between when public school gets out each day and when the kids’ parents get home from work. Consequently I see the important niche for the ZE700 being professional work environments where data security and privacy is important. The applications needed in an office are all free on Linux and Linux and its updates are also free. Linux office applications can export in the standard pdf so Microsoft’s attempts to make its formats incompatible in new ways will not be entirely successful.

Phistek shipped me a ZE7000 February 22, 2020. As soon as it arrives and I am able to download the EST software for it, I will be able to prepare detailed instructions on how to create an entirely free, opensource, multi-seat system for the ZE7000 on both Manjaro and Mint Linux distributions.