Old Stuff - How to prepare a thinterm for mini-server use

This post was originally posted over 4 years ago on a little HP thin-term, hanging off a VDSL connection in my house, running Ghost zero point something. Times and technologies have moved on but it's I think it's foolish to forget where things started. Enjoy the zeitgeist...


Welcome to part 1 in a series of warranty voiding posts. This first part deals with preparing a thinterm for use as a low power and silent mini-server. A 'thinserver' if you like. This is the starting point for all the thinterm builds I'll describe.

Ingredients

  • 1 x HP t5730w thinterm & power supply
  • 1 x USB stick with a minimum capacity of 1GB
  • An additional windows PC or laptop networked to the internet and the thinterm.
  • sp43864.exe downloaded from http://tinyurl.com/khfk585
  • A network cable to connect the thinterm back to a switch or spare port on your router

Method

  1. Prepare the USB stick with new thinterm firmware Copy or download sp43864.exe to the desktop on the windows PC or laptop. Insert the USB stick and make a note of it's drive letter. Run the sp43864.exe file and follow the prompts to make the USB stick bootable with the new firmware image on it. When complete remove the USB stick from the PC or laptop.
  2. Configure the BIOS and update the thinterm Connect up the thinterm to a screen, keyboard, mouse and network connection. Put the USB stick in one of the front USB ports on the thinterm. Boot the thinterm and press F10 to enter the BIOS. Select USB as the first boot deviceand ATA flash as the second. Set the Halt On setting to All but keyboard. Save the changes and restart. Boot from the USB stick and follow the prompts to update the thinterm. This will take a couple of restarts but eventually you’ll get a fresh new XPe ( Windows XP embedded ) desktop.
  3. Kill the HP Write Filter Restart the thinterm holding down the left shift key. This will bring up a login box - enter 'Administrator' as both login name and password. Look for a Green padlock in the system tray and double click it to display the HP Write Filter configuration. On the general tab select 'Disable write filter' and click the 'Apply' button. Commit the overlay and reboot the thinterm.
  4. Change the autologin to the Administrator Account Restart the thinterm holding down the left shift key. This will bring up a login box - enter 'Administrator' as both login name and password. Open control panel and select Administrative Tools. Open User Manager and change the Administrator password to one of your choosing. Close the User Manager and open HP Logon Manager. Update the values to Administrator and the password you chose. Click OK then the back arrow.
  5. Ditch the bloat Back in control panel click Add or Remove Programs. Uninstall everything except...
  • HP RDP Multimedia and USB enhancements ( Client Side )
  • HP Remote Graphics Receiver
  • Windows Media player

Close the Add or Remove Programs when complete.

  1. Configure name, workgroup and remote access Back in control panel click the System Properties icon. Click on the Computer Name tab and enter a suitable (and unique) name for the thinterm on your network, and the workgroup name. Save the changes but don't restart just yet. Click on the Remote tab and enable remote desktop. Click OK.
  2. Configure networking Back once again at control panel, double click on Network Connections. Right click Local Area Connection and select properties. On the General tab remove all the ticks from the item list except for Client for Microsoft Networks, File and Printer Sharing & Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Set a static IP address, or add a reservation on your router. If this IP address shifts then it will prevent access to any service you are running on it. Save changes and restart the thinterm.

Final Comments

The basic limitations of the thinterms as a server are:

  1. the small internal disk, which can be worked around by jamming an 8GB USB stick into one of the ports.
  2. The fact that XP is running as an embedded OS. The workaround there is to use portable apps from a site like http://portableapps.com/
  3. Some USB devices just don't like working from a thinterm. I've had particular trouble with webcams, although USB drives and thumbdrives work 100% of the time.

The advantages of the thinterm as a server are:

  1. it's totally silent and consumes very little power
  2. it's robust. You can turn it off without a proper shutdown and it will survive much better then a conventional PC
  3. it's small. One setup you don't need to to have a montor keyboard and mouse attached - so it can run 'headless'
  4. they are frequently simply being thrown away, so they can be obtained very cheaply!

Read other posts for ideas about what you can do with your new thinserver

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