Seeing the low availability and (when available) prices for Raspberry Pi of various models, I set out to look for alternatives that I can get within my limited budget, yet still have a soemthing I can experiment with. Maybe obvious to folks here, but I found that repurposing a thin client meets my needs nicely, and I thought I would share my perceived benefits of experiences here. Definitely not a ‘plug-and-go’ approach, but if one is motivated to dig and learn and has some technology competence, the hurdle is not big, an can be fun, in my opinion.
Kudos to Repurposing Thin Clients for the motivation to collect a LOT of information about the technical aspects of many thin clients - a wealth of information! I settled on a 2014 vintage HP T520 found on ebay for 32USD (delivered, tax included) dual core AMD 64-bit CPU, 4GB memory, GB NIC, 4 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3, and added a used M.2 64GB flash (SSD) drive for 20USD (delivered, tax included), and a USB wireless dongle for 5USD (delivered, tax included).
I chose to use diet-pi (debian 11) for my foundation, installed the 64-bit versions of dump1090-fa, piaware (special thanks @abcd567 - https://github.com/abcd567a/debian ) and tar1090/graphs1090 (special thanks @wiedehopf - wiedehopf · GitHub )
Here’s the ‘status’ where everything is running:
- package is larger than a cased Pi (or other single board computer)
- ‘only’ two CPU cores, AMD CPU
- trouble figuring out how to get CPU temperature collected in graphs1090
power consumption (measured with Kill-A-Watt) is about double that of a Pi running dump1090-fa and piaware (Pi 3B+ is about 3.5 watts, thin client 8 watts)
- fits my limited [wife-friendly] budget (spent 57USD total initial outlay)
- available ‘now’
- temporarily defer a few bits of electronic waste from the landfill
- solid case (no exposed components to worry about) included and power supply included (no more undervoltage issues)
- FANLESS (quiet!)
- battery-backed up real time clock
- no SSD card wear to worry about (can actually have a REAL database on the unit)
- performance and resource consumption is indistiguishable from a Pi, as I see it
as measured from inside the house.
I am happy with the unit’s performance and am planning to replace a Pi that is currently running Home Assistant simply to relieve the sandpapering of its SD card.
Performance was reasonable (in my opinion) when I installed a ‘full’ workstation (MXLinux-21 64-bit https://mxlinux.org/ or Debian11 (bullseye) tested) before I wiped those out and did a simple headless installation for dump1090-fa and piaware.
If you haven’t already considered it, I recommend a look at these bargains (relative to current supply/prices) for affordable, comptetent, compact performers for our ‘technical’ hobby. I already am planning trying these for things like SDR++ server, NAS (attach TB storage to USB 3), and loading up applications (add MQTT, NodeRed, etc.) on to the Home Assistant app. Limited only by one’s imagination, supply, and budget, of course
Here’s what it looks like: