Installing LinuxCNC On HP T610 Thin Client

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13 Jul 2020 02:26 #174445 by apt403
Howdy all,

Building a 7i92/7i76 based plasma table, found out these thin clients are widely available on eBay, etc., for $25-$30. Usually w/ 4GB ram, wifi, no storage. DVI/DP for video, 6x USB ports, combo data/power connector on board to plug a 2.5" SSD/HDD into, no cables required.

They seem to be nice cheap little x86 boxes for running LinuxCNC, at least with hardware stepping.

Latency test has been running since last night, servo/base at 49,000 and 73,000 respectively with the Debian Stretch install w/ preempt-RT kernel available at: linuxcnc-stretch-uspace-amd64.iso

Specs via HP's site.

Chiming in because I banged my head against the wall for hours with this, and couldn't find a solution anywhere online: Debian based distros will fail to install grub - For some reason the installer doesn't like something with the UEFI setup, so the installation fails. The only reference I can find is an Ubuntu bug-report from a couple years ago - *BUT* if you go into the BIOS and disable all the UEFI boot options, forcing the machine to boot from the LiveCD & HDD in legacy BIOS mode, Grub installs fine and everything is hunky dory.

Hope this'll be useful and time saving to someone who's picked up one of these units.

Going to install BeagleBrainz's Linux Mint / 2.8 iso now and see how that goes.

Be happy to do some testing if anyone's got questions.

- Apt.
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13 Jul 2020 08:13 #174479 by tommylight
Nice little machines and usually they do work fine with LinuxCNC.
Thank you.

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09 Sep 2020 20:58 #181506 by seuchato
apt403

how did you get along with this?

greez chris

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14 Apr 2021 19:04 - 14 Apr 2021 19:52 #205929 by Joco
I have oe of these HP T610 machines. Could not get any of the recent linuxcnc iso images to boot. Mint fails during install. I got a clean “non free” Buster 10 Mate iso to work theninstyalled a prempt rt kernel and got lcnc 2.9 debs installed.

Circa 180k/250k max jitter on the respective threads. I have been through BIOS to turn off all the powersaving features.

Would love to know more details on settings in BIOS and anything on linux/grub boot line that you used to gett sub 100k on both threads.

*BUT* if you go into the BIOS and disable all the UEFI boot options, forcing the machine to boot from the LiveCD & HDD in legacy BIOS mode, Grub installs fine and everything is hunky dory.


I thought I tried that with no luck. But I will revisit it over the new few days/weekend to see if I can get something like Mint 19.x to intall under IDE/Legacy mode.

Cheers.
Last edit: 14 Apr 2021 19:52 by Joco. Reason: Added some extra context.
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14 Apr 2021 22:28 #205941 by seuchato
Joco
Dunno about the T610. But, I have T620 (6pcs @ 8 GB Ram, were $30 each) and T630 (1pc @ 4GB Ram, was $100). T630 was awful until I updated the BIOS. Once done, boots straight up even in full featured OpenSuse 15.2 (15.2) with only said 4 GB Ram. T620 did not need BIOS update to get 15.2 running. I use one T620 for a really well performing Firewall. Note well: T620 NOT T620 plus! It is hellfast.

Regarding BIOS settings:
  • disable sound
  • disable hyperthreading
  • disable virtual machine stuff of any kind
  • disable power management (you just do not want your machine controller to hibernate[!] or sleep while working, do you?)
  • disable what you do not need/use

There will be more possibilities. I think, BIOS is a special area that really requires separate attention. Check on tommylight's posts. He has a number of posts wit real good hints on where to look, change, alter etc. to get better latency.

greez
chris

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14 Apr 2021 22:45 - 14 Apr 2021 22:46 #205944 by Joco
Thanks Chris. I will go over things again and I think I might post the bios settings here to act as a reference. BIOS is at v1.10. I looked at the 1.20 release notes and the only comment was some security related stuff that is not relevant so I have not risked a BIOS update.

I can pick up a T630 with 4GB RAM and a 32GB SSD for about $60NZD (around 36USD). Would that be worth getting and pushing the BIOS forward? For the use I plan for it 4GB is actually heaps given it is intended to only be running linuxcnc and even the GUI is going to be run on a remote X11 server. Probably a nice portable laptop. The T6xx0 will be inside an enclosure connected to a 7i76e and a USB3 wifi or ethernet adaptor linking it to said laptop.

Thoughts really welcome as these wee boxes are super cheap and I hope for ethernet connected h/w StepGen able to do the job.
Last edit: 14 Apr 2021 22:46 by Joco.

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15 Apr 2021 10:02 #205990 by seuchato

Joco wrote: Thanks Chris. I will go over things again and I think I might post the bios settings here to act as a reference. BIOS is at v1.10. I looked at the 1.20 release notes and the only comment was some security related stuff that is not relevant so I have not risked a BIOS update.

Can't really speak for the T610. I played with a 8300 sff, see here . My conclusions playing with the 8300 were confirmed while playing with my dell 980s, too. Looking forward to the bios settings of your T610. Hopefully I can test the T620 and T630 in the mean time, too.

Joco wrote: I can pick up a T630 with 4GB RAM and a 32GB SSD for about $60NZD (around 36USD). Would that be worth getting and pushing the BIOS forward? For the use I plan for it 4GB is actually heaps given it is intended to only be running linuxcnc and even the GUI is going to be run on a remote X11 server. Probably a nice portable laptop. The T6xx0 will be inside an enclosure connected to a 7i76e and a USB3 wifi or ethernet adaptor linking it to said laptop.

Thoughts really welcome as these wee boxes are super cheap and I hope for ethernet connected h/w StepGen able to do the job.

As mentioned: I could not use the t630 until I upgraded the bios, thus: imho yes, BIOS update helps. So far I have not tested it with LCNC, that will follow. My machine has a single 4GB RAM. I am sure, it will be much more performant with two bars. I got OpenSuse on the T630 on a sata based M.2 SSD: very useable!
Imho, I would not really want to control a cnc machine of what sort ever >only< remotely. As an additional convenience, absolutely yes, but not exclusively. Apart from a VNC or remote X11 optional control, I have several webcams installed to monitor the cncs, when I am not close to the machine. I figure this lets me judge - within limits - what's going on and discover, if something went wrong. Also, I would prefer an Ethernet adapter over wifi for reasons of increased reliability.

Greez
chris

Greez
chris

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15 Apr 2021 21:18 #206047 by Joco
Some more information/learnings as I progress on this.

Went back to basics and set the HDD mode to IDE and not AHCI. This looks to have solved the issues I had in getting a wider range of iso's to install.

In BIOS I turned anything relating to energy saving OFF. I also diasabled the VGA Pallette snoop and a PCI SERR# error message. I will experiment with bringing them back later.

I installed the official LCNC Stretch ISO. Ran latency test with 3 glxgears and a you tube video running.
The RT kernel on this release is 4.9.0.15. There were no "special" kernel parameters added. The results I got were rather good for such a light machine that will be used to drive an ethernet mesa card:
Servo=53268
Base=66776

Now on the same setup but Debian 10 with a 4.19.0.16 RT kernel and I was getting anywhere from 180k to 250k on the threads depending on what other clever boot parameters I setup.

I'm in the process of getting a Mint 19.3 install setup and will start with a 4.9 RT kernel, see what happens and start to work my way up the kernel versions until the latency tanks.

Regarding the comments I was making around X11 forwarding. I am not running the machine remote. This is just a set of techniques I am looking at that will allow me to use a highly portable setup beside the plasma table without having to have standalong screen, keyboard etc.. i.e a laptop. The hope is that I can have all the control electronics and the T610 inside an electronics box mounted to the plasma table frame. The only plugs to this box that are not relating to connections motors and sensors being power in and an ethernet port out. I can connect the laptop to said ethernet port and use X11 forwarding to run the linuxcnc UI on the laptop. While having all the RT side done by the "headless" T610.

Cheers - J.

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15 Apr 2021 22:43 #206054 by seuchato
Joco
Good to see the progress and congrats!
Kindly note: 3 GLX gears and a video is not (by far not) running a real cnc. Consider the latency test stuff a helper ahead of real life testing. I wrote a script, to bring up comparable results (see here ). This script runs 5 glxgears, resizes them wile running a vimeo video stream. It also collects a bunch of hardware data, that shed a nice light on what and how you use your pc. The script is still far from where I'd like to see it, however. For instance, it still lacks temperature monitoring of amd based machines.

I am astonished, that IDE instead of AHCI gives you better options to install an OS.

What you set up in BIOS makes sense to me. Look into sound options too. Using Stretch may be a dead end soon. Play with Kernels, say starting from 4.9.0.10 onwards. Also look into RTAI again. There are some promising results floating around. Can you get Debian 10 installed using AHCI?

I am a bit puzzled about a) "not running the machine remote" and b) "headless". Guess that needs to be clarified a bit more.
Greez
chris

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15 Apr 2021 23:23 #206058 by Joco
Chris - will try your script and see what happens. Agree nothing replaces real world checks. Unfortunately RTAI is not an option as that will not work with ethernet mesa cards. I would expect based on my past experiences that RTAI would produce much better results than the PREMPT RT kernel.
From the reading I have done and based on comments I have come across from some of the senior board members a latency of up to 150k will be ok with ethernet hardware stepping. However a key test, which I have yet to do as I wait on a PSU to arrive, is the stability of the network connection from the PC to the ethernet mesa board.

re IDE/AHCI - yeah beats me as well. But when AHCI is active the only ISO can get to install AND boot is a Debian 10 nonfree iso with a specific window manager (e.g. MATE or XFCE). I tried the netinstall and whlie it installed it would not boot. It could be all to do with how I was doing things I guess. But at this point I want to move on to hunting down how new a kernel version I can run and still have reasonable latency.

BIOS - yup everything off. Sound, everything. :-)

Stretch - yup is not where I want to be. Used it as a proof as Apt had proven that with some good looking latency numbers. Hence looking at newer stuff. But need to find something that works at the kernel version level. Would be nice to be on either Mint 19.3, Mint 20 or Debian 10. Just need to get a good RT kernel.

Headless/remote - I will try and expalin this better. Key context is to understand that the plasma table I am building is not permanently setup. The table top flips into the vertical on on its wheeled base, so I can store the entire assmebly out of the way.
See: forum.linuxcnc.org/show-your-stuff/42118...mm-cut-area?start=20

Therefore I do not want (again for space reasons) to have a traditional PC/Monitor setup that I have to remove when I put the table away. My thinking had been to have the T610 along with all the control electronics inside a case on the frame. This is nice and tidy, self contained etc. BUT it does mean "where do I have a display and keyboard that is not going to get in the way". I could do some kind of rotating/actuated stand that allows me to fold these items out of the way. Heck given the size the T610 could be on the same stand. This is still an option. The OTHER idea was to use a laptop that I can put on a temporary surface. The Laptop is nice as it contains screen/keyboard/mouse in one box that I can just fold close and shove on a shelf when not in use. I would use X11 forwarding to display the linuxcnc UI on the laptop even though the actual linuxcnc software was running on the T610. This is a technique I have read of others using but just not in this particular use case. As a test I have proven running a linux UI (sim mode) via this technique on a Mac from the office through a VPN into the home network. It's not as fast as running it on the local LAN but it works!

Cheers - J.

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