I have these thin clients that are not in use I think they’d do perfect for a security camera video wall—just feed them an RTSP/RTMP URL and be done, GUI not needed.

I’ve been lazily looking for candidates between projects but I can only find stuff for Raspberry Pie devices, furthermore, the clients are rather constrained and upgrading a single component in one of them probably costs more than all of them. They can’t be donated either because it’s hard to find an OS without expired system root CAs, up-to-date or able to be up-to-date with current cryptography, it’d do more harm than good.

What I’ve done & specs

They all have only 1GB of mem, 2GB of storage space but it can’t be used “too much” because they have some sort of RAM disk trickery. The only current-ish OSes I’ve managed to install are Porteus and Lubuntu on a USB stick-maybe I could even modify this to clear out some resources so the video player is able to keep playing smoothly for days. The original image is an embedded version of Windows-2009 I believe-with great tools for kiosk deployment from HP but I’d still need a player and the certificate thing is a real issue.

BTW, the CPU is actually a i586 processor; this is a big part of the reason why I’ve had such a hard time finding something.


I am running a captive Wifi portal in a similarly specced Asus hardware from 2008, with 2GB SSD and 1GB RAM, Fast Ethernet and Atheros Wifi abgn+a 5GHz Ralink USB Wifi stick. Used it in the past as my WiFi router at home. It works pretty well for a small form factor server with FreeBSD.

Been using FreeBSD 11, and not yet the latest FreeBSD 12 because of laziness to upgrade it. (I already tested it out, it is supported).

As currently supported BSD Unix versions, you also can find NetBSD 8.0/i386 and OpenBSD/i386 6.4.

As an alternative on the Linux side, Antix Linux, is a Debian variant without systemd, boasting 32-bits support. (I have not tested 32 bits support, as I am using it in an i7 machine).

The new release is based on Debian 9.2. Like Devuan Linux, antiX is one of the systemd-free Linux distributions. AntiX-17 supports both 32-bit and 64-bit processors which is not surprising because it focuses on supporting older hardware. It can support Pentium III computers with a minimum 256 MB RAM requirement.

  • Yeah thanks you, it was just reminded to me. In fact, two of these systems in the past ran the 32-bit version of pfSense for dedicated standalone DHCP and FreeRADIUS servers respectively so when the main routers/firewall was turned off for service, died or something you’d still get your place in the network. I’ve been made aware that the BSD side of UNIX shines in these scenarios but truth is I’m a tiny bit better on the Linux side so I’ll try that first then, when it all goes south I’ll still have a whole other probably more resilient family to play with. Thanks! :) – Vita Mar 4 '19 at 0:14

There are some distros that are designed for such a device:

My info may be out of date, vector is optimised for 586, with low memory, but has modern software.

Vector hardware Requirements:

Standard Edition: Pentium 200 or better, 96MB RAM, 2.1GB hard drive space for system only, more for your data.

SOHO Edition: Pentium 750 or better, 512MB RAM minimum, 5GB hard drive space for system only, more for your data, video and monitor capable of 1024x768 resolution at 24 bits color.

Light Edition: Pentium 166 or better, 64MB RAM minimum, 1.8GB hard drive space for full system - more for your data.

Live Editions: Pentium 750 or better, 256MB RAM minimum, video and monitor capable of 1024x768 resolution at 24 bits colour. For the Beryl version you will need a modern video card.

You should be able to get away with less hard-disk. My initial install of Debian x86-64 was less that 2GB (before I installed lots of stuff).

  • You can trim down Debian 9 to 200-400MB in a very barebones installation with some effort....2We known 2GB is more than enough for a reasonable BSD or Linux OS server setup without storing local/files videos. – Rui F Ribeiro Mar 3 '19 at 19:25
  • I will, thank you, I didn’t expect to get all great answers, much less this fast—I will try you suggestion and as suggested by others making my own from scratch. Couldn’t be harder that all the nonsense and non-descriptive errors when creating custom Windows images. Thankfully in my short experience with the UNIX children they’ve been very straightforward. Thank you. – Vita Mar 4 '19 at 0:05

I would personally recommend Gentoo linux. Since you get to compile all components yourself against whatever CPU architecture.

It takes a bit of time to build packages, but you could speed things up by building inside a VM on a faster machine. I believe the VM can even emulate the host 64 bit CPU and still run/compile i586 packages.

Since you don't need a GUI, you can probably build the required packages under one hour. Gentoo is very well documented, but can take some of your time to learn. This depends on your own Linux experience level.

  • Wow, that’s a really good idea, I had forgotten about the make-it-yourself distros. I have only compiled code by following instructions, I don’t know how to do it on my own though. I guess this would be as good a time as any. I’ve though about building Arch before but never about Gentoo because I’ve read is crazy-difficult. Thanks for the advise! – Vita Mar 3 '19 at 23:56
  • In Gentoo you don't really have to do it yourself. Portage (the package handler) is basically a system of scripts taking care of that. So instead of fetching a binary package, it fetches sources and knows how to compile them for you. You don't need to know the internals of compiling, but you do need to understand the command line, environment and that kind of stuff. – Tim Mar 4 '19 at 13:05

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