I may have missed the initial announcement when these shipped, but browsing through a PC Connection catalog yesterday, I spotted the HP t5515 Thin Client Workstation on sale for a little over $300. This is a diskless PC with a Transmeta Crusoe CPU, 128 Mb RAM, Linux 2.4 burned into Flash RAM, video, audio, NIC, spare PCI slot and USB2. Looks cute, and I could see a lot of places where clients with browser-based data entry, mail and other processes could benefit from the small cost, form factor and power demands to make for a better, cheaper office. Hey, hang an external drive off the USB connection and you have a PC!
HP is a pretty open company and has been pushing Open Source solutions on many platforms. I was surprised to dig through theto discover that the Linux image burned into Flash RAM can only be made with a proprietary toolkit from MetroWorks under a fee-based licensing scheme. This looks like a prime opportunity for someone to reverse-engineer the box and allow developers to customize the image to their own needs. The base image that ships with the HP Thin Client includes a proprietary Citrix client, Altiris image management tool, and other software that a developer could clear out, leaving room to customize the box. (The default image also ships with Mozilla, the Open Source rdesktop Windows RDP client, VNC client and VNC server.)
A local technician tells me that his past experiences with thin clients indicated that they should only be used in controlled and air-conditioned environments and that they would tend to overheat if left in a warm room. I’ll be interested to follow how these devices fare.
Update: here’s a review at OSNews.