Fattening a thin client to run a Debian desktop

While watching his thin client boot up [Nav] noticed that it’s using some type of Linux kernel. He wondered if it were possible to run a full-blow desktop distribution on the device. A little poking around he got a Debian desktop distribution running on a thin client.

The hardware he’s working with is an HP t5325. It’s meant to be a dumb client, connecting to a backend machine like a Windows Terminal Server or via SSH. But it’s got a 1.2 GHz ARM processor and [Nav’s] preliminary investigations revealed the it’s running a version of Debian for ARM. He used CTRL-C during the boot sequence to derail that process and dump him to a shell. The login was easy enough to guess as the username and password are both ‘root’.

Once he’s got that root access it was slash and burn time. He got rid of the HP-specific setup and made way for additional Debian modules like the apt system. This isn’t trivial, but he’s worked out a bunch of sticking points which makes the process easier. With the repository tools loaded you can install Xserver and Gnome for a full-blown desktop on the embedded hardware.

13 thoughts on “Fattening a thin client to run a Debian desktop

  1. 1) Link is wrong (goes to watch post, instead of thin client post)

    2) Great hack, but I am imagining this is far more expensive then it needs to be for a thin client..

    I mean look at the Rasberry Pi…

  2. I looked at the hardware and this has some real potential.
    It could be used to stream video to a TV, a NAS using USB2 drives, or any number of other uses. The only problem is hey seem a bit pricey at $199 list but if you get them cheap they look like really cool devices to hack.

  3. I was considering buying myself one of those (just under £200) as I’ve been hankering for a nice, low-power Linux machine for the workshop but a colleague just pointed out that, for about the same price (once case, etc, is bought) that you can get a Panda-board.
    That is based around an OMAP 4330 (a slightly slower version of what is inside the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the OMAP4460) and can drive two displays amongst other plus points over the Marvel chip in the HP thin-client.

  4. About five years ago I bought a couple of T5125 and put a hardrive in one of them and installed XP on that one. I put MS-DOS on the others which I needed for a project.

    The T5125 was X86 based though. Basically a custom mini-itx mb.

    1. I’ve done the same as well. The older t5000 series has just enough room for a 2.5″ hard drive to be mounted inside. They ran the rather interesting transmetta processors.

  5. wow arm at 1.5ghz?
    soon x86 is going to become outdated (as in unused I know it’s old as fuck and should have been put out to the pasture some time ago)!

  6. I really should have posted a walkthrough for my home router/wifi ap/nas/dlna media server.

    It uses a Wyse V10L I got for £20~, Via C7 800mhz processor, 256mb ram, usb hard disk. Oh, and I mounted my usb ADSL modem inside – runs Debian Squeeze.

  7. “He used CTRL-C during the boot sequence to derail that process and dump him to a shell. The login was easy enough to guess as the username and password are both ‘root’.”

    Man, I wish they were all that easy…

  8. I tried a similar project with an older model client. I ran puppy linux off a flash drive and it worked well running the OS off of the flash drive.

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