Running Debian on a HP thin client

Posted at 2016-06-21.

I have a pile of thin clients from a nearby business. I decided to try and install Debian on one of the more capable ones, an HP HSTNC-003-TC t5730w2gf1gr.

I got three of these, but two were completely dead. I saved up their RAM and flash drives plus the heatsinks. The third one appeared to boot and run fine.

It has a small 2 GB PATA SSD, 1 GB of RAM and a pile of USB ports (8 USB2, I think, 6 exposed). Two of the ports are concealed under a trapdoor at the top, so it would be a handy spot to add a BT/Wifi dongle, cellular modem, or even just a memory stick for extra storage (as storage is quite tight for a full OS). You could even fit a small microcontroller board there. It's not a big space, maybe 25x25x75 mm or 1/1/3".

There does seem to be a newer BIOS v2.02 available. Interestinly, no mention of 2.00 existing (2.01 relnotes do exist). Changes seem pretty minimal, though. Also, there's an installer for XPe from HP that could apparently be used to make a bootable rescue/update/install stick.

The old drive and system

The box runs XP embedded by default, and that's not much use to me at the moment. I still decided to take an image of it in case I ever want it back. The same dance I did before, adjust BIOS, boot Tinycore (just works) and dd the flash over sshfs to another box.

Debian on the Igel

I used the same debian-8.4.0-i386-netinst.iso as before. The machine just booted off a USB stick with that written on it and installed like any other PC.

I clean up and install my usual favourites and do other setup. I won't make further notes unless I find interesting details or devices or make up a useful use for the box.

The drive identifies as CFA: 2GB ATA Flash Disk, AD B512J, max UDMA/66 with no other info. I could check the stickers on it. Running hdparm -Tt yields 60 MB in 3.08 or 19.45 MB/sec. Only unknown values are found by smartctl 6.4. No self tests. It's a fairly dumb old drive.

I also added libata.force=short40c to the kernel cmdline to force the flash not to drop below UDMA66. That had no noticeable effect on drive speed, but sohuld be more correct as there is no cable to limit the mode.

Sensors say about 45 C from ACPI, but k8temp claims +34 and +37 for Core0. There is a dmesg warning that these may be off. There doesn't seem to be freq scaling.

Some dmesg bits:

DMI: Hewlett-Packard hp t5730w/0ACCh, BIOS 786R4 v2.00 08/21/2009
smpboot: CPU0: Mobile AMD Sempron(tm) Processor 2100+ (fam: 0f, model: 6c, stepping: 02)
smpboot: Total of 1 processors activated (1995.06 BogoMIPS)
microcode: AMD CPU family 0xf not supported
ttyS0 at I/O 0x3f8 (irq = 4, base_baud = 115200) is a 16550A
tg3 0000:02:00.0 eth0: Tigon3 [partno(BCM95787m) rev b002] (PCI Express) MAC address 00:24:81:9d:cd:6e
tg3 0000:02:00.0 eth0: attached PHY is 5787 (10/100/1000Base-T Ethernet) (WireSpeed[1], EEE[0])
k8temp 0000:00:18.3: Temperature readouts might be wrong - check erratum #141
sp5100_tco: failed to find MMIO address, giving up.
powernow_k8: Power state transitions not supported
[drm] Detected VRAM RAM=32M, BAR=32M
[drm] radeon: 32M of VRAM memory ready
[drm] radeon: 512M of GTT memory ready.
[drm] Loading RS690/RS740 Microcode
radeon 0000:01:05.0: firmware: direct-loading firmware radeon/RS690_cp.bin
Device: /dev/sda [SAT], can't monitor Current_Pending_Sector count - no Attribute 197
Device: /dev/sda [SAT], can't monitor Offline_Uncorrectable count - no Attribute 198
Device: /dev/sda [SAT], no SMART Self-test Log, ignoring -l selftest (override with -T permissive)
Device: /dev/sda [SAT], no SMART Error Log, ignoring -l error (override with -T permissive)

Broadly, everything works, including GL(X) acceleration and sound. The sound is pretty bad, though, as it picks up lots of noise from everything. It's probably fine as "desktop audio", but not really as HiFi output. There's plenty of USB ports available for output, though. I don't know if you could run both the DVI and VGA connectors for multihead.

I also installed timidity and fluidsynth and played a bit with a MIDI keyboard. The latency is terrible, though. I haven't bothered to see if things could be improved.

Serial port detects and I can use picocom to connect to it, but haven't actually used it.


I installed memtest86+, as one does, and it booted and ran through a loop of tests fine and quite quickly. While doing that I notice it says X64 mode, and indeed the Sempron would be an AMD64 chip. I decided not to bother trying to install an amd64 system. There's certainly litle or no room for multiarch binaries here and I might save a bit of ram running 32 bit. I would rather run the most advanced arch I can, though.

It seems, the Via Eden X2 in the Igel M330C would probably also run 64-bit. I installed i686 Debian on the Igel as well, and could also reconsider that sometime.