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Thin Client Options

Posted on 2011-09-16
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Last Modified: 2012-05-12
Hi all,

I have a Gigabyte ST Series thin client. Inside it is a 2GB Flash Memory. I know very little about these machines but am curious to know what I can do with it.

Can I install an operating system on the flash memory? There is no cd drive or hard disk.

Just wondering what my options are with the equipment and what I can potentially do with it. I mean could it act as a mail server possibly? Any links on how to trick this out would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
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Question by:oconnork00
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Dr. Klahn earned 2000 total points
ID: 36548126
Most thin clients are set up internally with 44-pin (2.5" IDE) connectors for connecting a flash disk daughterboard, laptop drive, or CompactFlash to IDE converter.  The Gigabyte ST series specifications for the series are sketchy.  However, it appears that at least the STA/C has internal disk connectors.

Since these all use VIA embedded processors, it is likely that the flash memory in your system emulates an IDE disk drive.  That being the case, there are two major options for installing an operating system - Linux or Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs.  I suggest trying to install from USB stick or USB CDROM.

Installing Debian Linux from USB stick.  My own web server and mail receiver runs Debian Linux.  Be warned that thin client CPUs are chosen for low power consumption, not speed; if you compile a custom kernel, it can take a good long time.

Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs from USB stick

Some thin client CPUs can run standard Windows; some can not.  My experience has been that most of them fail when loading Windows 2000 or later.  My guess is that this is due to the missing CMOV instruction in thin client CPUs.
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by:oconnork00
ID: 36548220
I recall that there are cables inside it to allow me to connect a hard drive to it, now that I recall. And there is the 44 pin connector there.

Would the linux option be the best bet? I could remove the flash drive and connect  a HDD to it
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Expert Comment

by:Dr. Klahn
ID: 36548614
I found Debian Linux the simplest option.  After recompiling the kernel, the whole system - Linux, Apache, Postfix - runs in 128 MB.

You'll need a 44-pin to 44-pin drive cable to connect the drive.  Get one that is generously long, because there will be folding, flipping and rearranging involved in getting a laptop drive fitted into the case.

My server (in a Neoware CA10 -- [url="http://www.parkytowers.me.uk/thin/NeoCA10/index.shtml"similar hardware[/url]) runs on a dual CompactFlash adapter, which is low power, low heat, and can't fail mechanically.  The system is on an 8G CF and swap is on a 128 MB CF.  It seldom swaps, but if it should ever wear out the swap "drive", it can be replaced without touching the main system.
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Expert Comment

by:RitBit
ID: 36554199
Normally thin-clients can boot from the network, you can try to setup a bootp/pxe boot server and use that one to start an OS on it or even install it on internal flash...  

It depends a little on the internal hardware (e.q cpu-model) if this is easy or a little harder.
Increasing the internal-flash (as mentioned above in most cases CF) and be desirable but not necessary: There are complete linux versions with graphical desktop of 50mb that only need 64mb of ram. One of those is DamnSmallLinux but that one runs (to my knowledge) only on x86 compatible cpu's ans i belive your thinkclient runs on an ARM or MIPs cpu. :-(
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Author Closing Comment

by:oconnork00
ID: 36954758
Followed the trail of USB installs and used puppy linux - thanks
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