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Building a Web Cam from a Wyse Thin Client


About a year ago I purchased some used Wyse thin clients.  Originally, I was going to use them as RDP stations around the house to connect to a couple central Windows 7 boxes I have in my office.

There were some issues, like RDP client compatibility, slowness (can't play videos) and what not, so the project got put into limited use.

Recently, I wondered if I could hack these boxes and have them do other things.  One simple thing seemed to be a web cam.

Wyse Thin Client

Here is the wyse thing client

There are several models that come in this form factor, they can be really thin, running Wyse Thin OS, without the ability to upgrade RAM or local flash storage, stuck at 64MB of flash and 96MB of RAM, or the can run Windows CE with a upgradable DOM (Disk on Module) with 64MB and 256MB of RAM, or what I got here.

a WYSE SX0 Winterm S90 running Windows XP Embedded.

The really cool thing about this particular model is that you can upgrade the RAM using DDR SODIMM modules, and upgrade the local storage with DOM storage you can get from the internet.

This particular unit came with

  • 512MB of local storage
  • 256MB of RAM, 9 MB of RAM was commited to the Video.
  • AMD Geode CPU (x86 compatible)
  • Windows XP Embedded

The front of the unit had

  • 1 Mic,
  • 1 Headphone,
  • 2 USB Ports 

Here is the back of the unit

In the back there were

  • 2 more USB ports
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • RS232 9 pin serial connection
  • VGA Output 
  • 2.5MM AC Barrel Connection (12V 2.5 AMP)


Here is what I were my requirements

  • Run Linux (Customized/Stripped down CentOS 5.8 version)
  • Camera accessible from a Browser
  • SSH Access
  • Wireless 802.11n
  • Run with stock RAM so 256MB 
  • Boot from stock storage for speed so Linux has to fit on 128MB of Storage
  • Config files and extra files can load from USB but
  • In after boot everything runs in RAM, so USB can be pulled

Other Components

Here is what I added

The left USB device is a Tiny wireless N dongle, the right is a SanDisk 4GB USB flash drive

The thing taking all the video was a RockSoul camera, which was UVC compatible and could take pictures up to 1280x720


So how much did all this cost?

  • Used Wyse Thin Client $20 (RePC or eBay don't pay more than $30 for a used unit)
  • AC Power Supply $1.95 (RePC)
  • USB Wireless N adapter $10 (Big Lots)
  • San Disk Cruiser Fit 4GB $6.99 (Frys)
  • RockSoul USB WebCam $19.99 (Frys, they go on sale for under $10 sometimes)

So at a total of $58.93 or nearly $60, you may as well get a Trendnet TV-IP110 for 59.99.  But there are reasons to go this route.

  1. The camera, is 720P, the trendnet one doesn't go that high.
  2. 4GB of storage, I do not thing you can get historical images from the trendnet.
  3. Analytics, you can have this setup record only during motion.
  4. Easy to reimage, basically it is difficult to brick this setup.
  5. Finally, its a learning thing.

You can go with a cheaper $12 camera, get a cheaper USB flash drive, or stay wired.  If you go wired, you can even PXE boot, and run things of an NFS server doing away with the USB flash drive completly.

How I did it

I only can give a simple rundown of what I did, I can detail the individual parts in seperate articles but it will not fit here in detail.

  1. Build a CentOS 5.8 VM where I can stage builds of this unit.
  2. Install motion software
  3. Strip out and only use bare essentials.
  4. Create custom Kernel to reduce size more. and to try and put drivers in the kernel directly.
  5. Move kernel, init ram and syslinux to local storage.


So I got it running, and am able to open up the feed from VLC a media player, it will also open up in a browser that supports Motion JPEG, which means NOT internet explorer.  There are plugins that will get IE to work though, just have not implemented them here in this.

Here is a sample shot of the image.


It was an interesting project to get this working.  There were many little challenges, but the prupose was not to get a webcam, the purpose is to learn the ins and outs of linux and get into embedded computing.

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