DIY Dev Kit – thin clients

July 25th, 2015

A thin client is not a mini sized PC.

A thin client comes with a (very) limited OS,  like WinCE or a dedicated Linux distro, which main feature is to load a virtual system from a network server.
Let’s see it like a window to another OS installed on a dedicated hardware somewhere on your network.

If this virtual system and this main network server don’t exist, a thin client is NOTHING, just a friend of dust.

So will I show you how to setup a virtual system on a dedicated server, just for genny development ?
Of course no !

A thin client is not a full featured PC, I won’t be able to watch youtube nor play games, not even with Fusion I thing
BUT it comes with the minimal features I need :

  • x86 compatible : so any lightweight Linux distribution and software will work on it
    DOS should work too but I don’t want to fight with USB drivers for ex
  • ethernet
  • parallel port, dedicated to Super Magic Drive
  • serial ports (3 if you expect to fake JOY1, JOY2 and EXT ports at the same time)
  • USB ports (at least 2, one for USB Boot, one for usb-to-serial comm)
  • need only a few watts to works
  • silent / fanless
  • (keyboard and VGA for easy debug and maintenance)

Side note : the only thing missing on thin client is GPIO, else it will be easier to learn electronic with a thin client than with an Arduino or a Teensy

 

How did I select my thin client, heart of my DevKit ?

I just looked for thin clients on eBay or similar, looking for a very cheap one (the expensive ones are overkill for what I need to do).
Everytimes I found one, I opened the website of  David Parkinson, a guy who, like me, share as much information as possible on the subject he likes the most : thin clients.

So, if he posted a test on the thin client I found, I checked the available options and how hard it was for him to make a linux to work on it.
Not listed on his website ? not for me !
He needed to make some bios or hardware update ? hidden cost and lost time for sure  so not for me !
USB boot, lot of ports, easy to update ? let place a bid !

I was not looking for the “best” but for one which suit my need at a very low price.
In the end, I bought 3 thin clients (total price < 40€), in case of failure, wrong selection or hardware problems.

I selected the Neoware CA21 as a perfect match for my first try, since Neoware was perhaps the best thin client solution some years ago.
It also explain why HP bought it !

See you in some days for more details on my success or failure to boot it with all the software side of the project ready to use.

Posted by KanedaFr

Comments are closed.

Trackback URL for this entry