In 2013 I came across the HP t5730 thin client and got it secondhand from Marktplaats for around 30 euros. Seen the specs it would make a good lightweigt Linux desktop and I want to use it with 2 monitors.
But first the (original) specs:
CPU: AMD Sempron 2100+ 1GHz (9W TDP)
RAM: 1GB DDR2 533MHz (SO-DIMM)
HDD: 1GB DoM (IDE)
CHIPSET: ATi SB600
GPU: ATi Radeon Express X1250 (32MB shared)
USB: 8 total, 2 front, 4 back and 2 on top (hidden)
OTHER: Has VGA and DVI output, line in and out jacks, serial and PS/2 ports
EXP: Has internal PCIe connector for expansion module
The GPU relies heavily on the CPU for it’s tasks. In this case I’ve replaced the CPU with a AMD Turion X2 TL-58 (31W) which is a dualcore running at 1,9GHz and was bought for around 5 euros from Ebay. I also replaced the SODIMM module with a 2GB 800MHz module which the HP accepts. And last week I’ve replaced the DoM module with a newer version which has 8GB space and was bought from Ebay for around 28 euros.
Installing Linux on the HP is very easy and works like every normal PC would. It boots automatically from USB and the installation can be performed to the internal disk or a second USB storage device. In my case I’ve installed Xubuntu to have a lightweight desktop but have all the features a full-featured desktop has.
Using 2 monitors:
Upon connecting 2 monitors on the HP will work out of the box and will mirror the output by default. So far so good, but when disabling the mirroring and have the desktop extend over the 2nd monitor makes both screens garbled and useless. I’ve contacted the X.org mailinglist about this issue and the problem seems to be in the color tiling option which this GPU does not support. I had to create a xorg.conf file in /etc/X11/ with the following content:
Identifier "ATI Radeon Xpress 1250"
Option "ColorTiling" "off"
Option "Composite" "Enable"
As you can see the option “ColorTiling” is set to off, but the default is on which causes issues with this chipset. Apart from this is that this option should default to off according to the “radeon” manpage (the chip is a RS690):
The framebuffer can be addressed either in linear or tiled mode. Tiled mode can provide significant performance benefits with 3D applications. Tiling will be disabled if the drm module is too old or if the current display configuration does not support it. On R600+ this enables 1D tiling mode.
The default value is on for R/RV3XX, R/RV4XX, R/RV5XX, RS6XX, RS740, R/RV6XX, R/RV7XX, RS780, RS880, EVERGREEN, CAYMAN, ARUBA, Southern Islands, and Sea Islands and off for R/RV/RS1XX, R/RV/RS2XX, RS3XX, and RS690/RS780/RS880 when fast fb feature is enabled.
Save the settings and restart the display manager, in this case LightDM:
service lightdm restart
Now you can login again and change the display setup to use 2 screens in extended mode instead of mirroring!
There is an additional expansion module available for the t5730 which can be placed on top of the thin client (seen sideways that is) and will give an additional serial port as well as an parallel port and the possibility to add an PCI(e) card for more functionality. The module comes with 2 risers, for PCI and PCI Express. Via this way you should be able to upgrade to a better GPU! One caveat is that the expansion module is very hard to find and if it pops up on the internet it’s pretty expensive between 30 and 60 euros.
One other fix is to use an USB graphics card, the so called DisplayLink adapters. They work quite well in general but all the rendering is performed by the CPU so in terms of improvement this is a no go.