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H-P T5700: A Few Words in Praise of Something Small

One of my major mania’s is catching on. Josh Richards just blogged about trying Askozia on an H-P T5700 thin client. These are great little devices. I was so lucky to stumble into a source about 18 months ago. A major corporate concern was about to pay to have a few boxes of these little wonders “recycled” by Dell. A friend and I intervened and relieved them of that necessity.

At present I have three of these running in my home office.

  1. Astlinux 0.48 in production
  2. An Askozia testbed
  3. FreeNAS with SlimNAS

With a 1 GHz CPU and 256 MB RAM (more if you upgrade the one SODIMM ) they are reasonably powerful, certainly enough for a small Astlinux or Askozia installation.

HP T5700 Rear Panel

HP T5700 Rear Panel

The third unit is perhaps most interesting. FreeNAS is a NAS software based upon FreeBSD and the m0n0wall framework. Like m0n0wall it’s simple, just enough to do what you need and not a lot more. It runs great on the T5700. However, a NAS needs storage, a lot of storage.

T5700 Internals

T5700 Internals

The T5700 has an internal IDE connector that’s fitted with a 256 MB flash disk-on-module (DOM). You could swap that our for a 2.5″ HD with the right sort of adapter, but laptop hard drives have high $/GB and less than ideal MTBF.

The T5700 also has a number USB ports but these are USB 1.1…less than ideal for interface to portable hard drives. I was able to find the optional expansion chasis on Ebay for $20 each. This lets them take one standard PCI card, in my case a 4 port USB 2.0 card. Then I could connect a couple of external hard drives and…voila…cheap, silent, spacious NAS…with software RAID if you like.

One of the major uses for NAS around my home is music. I have a couple of Slim Devices Squeezeboxes as music playback for the home and office. These are outstanding devices! Truly change-your-life gadgets. They connect to your stereo and stream music off a PC server running a Perl based server software. It just so happens that Michael Herger has created a package called SlimNAS that installs the Slim Server software into FreeNAS. So this little box not only stores the music, it serves it up as well. All in <10 watts.

There in one little gotcha. You can set the BIOS to boot from a USB port, but it will only boot to the devices on-board ports. It won’t boot to a USB 2.0 port on a PCI card. This is minor. I built a 1 GB thumb drive with FreeNAS and SlimNAS, then added a pair of 250 GB HD in USB portable enclosures that I had sitting around. That’s 500 GB of RAID 0 or 250 GB of RAID 1 storage. Total power consumption < 25 watts. Ambient noise contribution to the room…none.

These are great little boxes!

This Post Has 26 Comments
  1. Nice !
    I was concidering a Soekris board to run FreeNAS.
    But then I stuble over this solution. Do you know if this unit is powerfull enogh to run the New SqueezeCenter 7.0?
    And do you have a link to a expansion chasis.

  2. I’m not yet running SqueezeCenter 7.0 so I can’t comment on that. However, I think you’d be better off with a T5700 or small PC than a Soekris board. The T5700 is going to have more CPU power, upgradable memory and allow the possibility of an internal HD using the side expansion chasis. I see them on Ebay runnning from $50-150. Probably cheaper than a Soekris card, too.

    One word of caution. If you’re planning on running the Inuz DSP plugin for EQ and room correction then you’ll need some more serious cpu power. At least 2 GHz.

    P.S. – I don’t see the T5700 expansion chasis listed on Ebay. I may have one new spare that I could resell. They were $25 each when I bought a few last time.

  3. I found it. It’s called DE961A PCI EXPANSION MODULE KIT.
    Now I just have to find both a kit and a unit from a seller that want’s to ship to Denmark – not taking more for the shipment then the unit itself ;-).
    Could you make a comment when you sometime upgrade to Squeezecenter 7.0 – I’m considering buying a Squeezebox Duet (with the new remote) and my current NAS Synology DS101j has probelms with the older version.

  4. When I get around to v7 I’ll certainly make note here. I too have been thinking about Duet as my two Squeezeboxes mutate into a “whole house” audio system. That’s something that I will definitely post about.

  5. Another question. Why did you install FreeNAS on a external USB key – why not on the internal flash DOM ?

  6. I had some trouble trying to use the DOM at first so I just gave up. I think I later discovered that the DOM was write protected.

    With USB keys under 1 GB being ridiculously cheap these days I always have a handful around. It’s the approach that I learned from working with Astlinux on a Net 4801 so I just kept doing it that way.

  7. Is the optional expansion chasis required, or could there be room for a rightward PCI riser card and a small usb card?

  8. No, the expansion really is needed. It includes a new piece of metalwork that adds a lot of new volume to the case. Without it there’s just no space for the riser & PCI card.

  9. I installed SqueezeCenter on HP T5730 (1,0/1,0 Ghz Win XPe preinstalled) with no errors during the install process. But SqueezeCenter fail to start. I noticed that the SqueezeMySQL service dos not appear in the services list (and in regedit) so I think this could be the problem. Any ideas, why SqueezeCenter fail to start?

  10. Not really. Did you stay with XPe? I’ve not installed SqueezeCenter to XPe. I installed FreeNAS and then SlimNAS such that XPe was blown away.

  11. Yes, I want to stay with XPe – if possible. t5730 with USB2.0, external 2,5″ HDD and 1/1GB memory should be able to run SC. But I’m afraid that the SC installation program is not compatible with XPe…

  12. With XPe you need to install the new program to the disk image that the system boots from. That usually involve modifying an image using a utility. Search around the HP web site for Thin Client management tools and you’ll see references to adding/removing drivers, etc. I think they use Altiris for this. The SC installer is not enough on its own.

  13. Did you ever try to connect a 2,5″ HDD ?
    I can’t get mine to spin up. And I have checked that there is +5V on pin 41 and 42

    1. Hi Kim T
      I have started to try and convert am HP T5700 to FreeNas / Squeezebox server.
      I have the same problem with my working 2.5″ laptop HDD not spinning up.
      Did you manage to fix yours?
      Any advice much appreciated

  14. I’ve not yet done this, but it’s on a list for when I have some time to deal with it. I’m curious to know if the basic beahviour of database searches is faster when not booting from the slow USB ports.

  15. I’ve no problems using a laptop hard disk. If using Win XP you need to format and partition it outside the T5700, as the bios limits you to a 2Gb FAT partition. I cheated, using an existing XP build from an old laptop, which then went into repair and hardware discovery & rebuild when I turned it on

    Cable from ebay, look for “amiga hard disk cable 44 pin”

  16. Thanks! That’s good info to know.

    I completed a project regarding this just two weeks ago. I added a 250 GB IDE disk. Instead of using XPe I used FreeNAS. SlimNAS and SqueezeCenter v7.0 to create a music server. The entire project is being published at next week.

  17. Hi,
    I want to upgrade the video card on my T5700.It has 512MB RAM and 1GB DOM.
    Can you tell me whats the max that this motherboard would support ?
    I was thinking of atleast 64MB of video memory.
    Any pointers to actual brands will be very helpful.


  18. You may be able to upgrade the VGA if you can find a PCI based video card and use the expansion chassis. The systems I have support only 512 MB of RAM. If you install a larger DIMM it simply won’t boot.

  19. Hi, I am looking to set up freenas but the issue I have is trying to find the right power adapter for the t5700 is it the F1044B thanks

  20. can you help me a little?
    i need to try install askozia or astlinux (which the better?) on t5700: it’s easy? can you give me some note about?


    1. Both are great projects with solid community support. Askozia has a nicer GUI (in my opinion) but Astlinux has improved a lot in recent releases. There’s very little to be concerned about installing either to a T5700 device. I’d remove the DOM and set the bios to have the software boot from a USB key. Both projects have good documentation on installation & setup.

  21. another little question (I’m very newbie …):
    It’s possible to run astlinux on usb pen drive or it’s necessary to install on cf card or hd?

    1. I have run Astlinux all three ways that you mention. With Soekris or ALIX boards I generally boot to CF then store configs & VM on a USB key. With the T5700 I have boot to USB key and stored configs on another partition on that same media.

  22. Hello, Thank you so much for all this info and discussion – not that I can quite keep up with it all! For some time I’ve been running SlimServer 6.3.1 on a QNAP NAS, playing wirelessly on a Squeezebox in our kitchen. Works fine sonically but SlimServer’s GUI and Squeezebox’ display are poor for classical music. A friend swears by XBMC and has suggested running that on a small PC. Another goal would be to plug my 2TB Drobo box, ideally into a Firewire port (the latest version, I can’t remember what that is). Sorry to be dim but do you think a slightly grumpy person like me could all manage this on a small box like the T5700? Or do you have other suggestions? Thanks! G

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