Converting an obsolete Thin Client to a Midi sound machine
How a Viewpoint TC325 gets a new and useful life!

The TC325 midisoundbox

This is a recent project. I had bought four thin clients. They were Viewpoint TC325 aka Boundless 2990 systems.
Original specs:
- AMD/Cyrix  5/133 processor, a souped-up very low power 486 like processor
- 16MB EDO Ram
- 10/100MB network adapter.
- Built-in VGA, Serial and Parallel Ports
- One PCI slot without riser card ( oops)
- One ISA slot with riser card and 8MB Disk-On-Chip with Windows CE
- IDE and power connector on-board
- Totally silent

The system specs were a dot below my expectations, but I thought of ways to use  them anyway.

Q1: What are the advantages of  this system for the proficient hardware hacker?
A1: There is a floppy connector and a 40-pins IDE connector standard on-board, plus a 7-pins power connector . The system boots by default from a connected harddisk if any. And thén you can reprogram the DiskOnChip ( DOC from now on). This is a 32-pins DIP flashdisk, available from 8MB to 224MB. You can hack into the BIOS using the password 'lambkeoghs' ( don't tell anyone!). Totally silent! Expected price: Anywhere from free to about 10 euro's/dollars. Often shipping is the main cost, I paid 7 euro's ($9) each including shipping.

Q2: Disadvantages?
A2: Very limited BIOS. Barely supports MS-DOS. You need to load ANSI.SYS to get any useful display in DOS. A bit better with Linux as this does not rely so much on the BIOS. No default PCI Riser slot. Older VESA 1.1 VGA, so recent Linux X graphics not supported. Processor too slow for MP3's.

What cán they be used for then?

a) Firewall: Put in a very low profile network card in the PCI slot, or an older ISA in the riser card. Boot an 8MB linux from the DOC.   Note:  linux supports DOC as nftla device.
b) Print server: Ditto. Boot a small linux from the DOC, plug the network in the adapter, and a printer on the printerport.
c) DiskOnChip reprogrammer: I  used the system to make an MS-DOS and Linux boot environment for a DSL Linux system: I made a very small self-contained totally silent graphical Linux system from a Neoware Capio II thin client. See this link for details and discussion.
d) See below:  a sound box. I have a very nice MIDI system now, which plays random tracks from a number of selections, with excellent quality sound. What are the steps to get a nice box like this?:

The internals
TC325 internals. Note: already upgraded with 2x32MB memory. I put compressed MIDI files on the DiskOnChip, and unzip them to a RAMdisk for playing. On top see the ISA risercard. The DOC is on the back. You need a lower profile DOC to fit. a 72MB I have does not fit!
Replaced 8MB DOC with 24MB
ISA risercard with 24MB Disk-on-chip. It contains MS-DOS, a good MS-DOS midi player, soundcard drivers, zipped MIDI directories and some batch files to random play files from the MIDI directories. These batch files allow for monitor-less usage.
Connect harddisk to reprogram DOC

Connected hard disk, to prepare for reprogramming the DOC. Note that the connector has all forty pins, so look for an IDE cable without the pinlock (closed hole), and check that the red wire is at pin 1 of the connector...
ISA Soundcard added - SB64AWE or SB16
Finished system with an AWE-64 connected.
The back of the completed system
System seen from the back. BTW, this is a slightly different system: It contains an SB16 plus a connected Yamaha DB50XG daughtercard. I am still looking for a master card with  a better S/N ratio ( less hiss). Note the IDE cable left hanging out, so I can update the  DOC without opening the case.  To adress the daughtercard, I use a DOS midi player capable of playing through the MPU-401 (waveblaster) out.
Final box with philips speakes and IR keyboard
My system as in use: Bottom: TC325, middle: Monitor speakers from an old Philips 15" monitor, top- infrared keyboard/mouse receiver. No monitor necessary. Letters A to Z plus enter-key select play directories by starting A.BAT ... Z.BAT and start playing random music..
later: I just recovered from my 'multimedia scrapbox' an ABIT remote control for WINDVD. This is a piggyback for the keyboard plug. It generates a few escape sequences, the numbers 0-9, the <esc>, space,<enter> , and several letters. This allows me to start  an infinity of  batch files from the remote itself. I also found a set of high-quality old Korg speakers allowing direct drive from the SB16's  speaker port.

After some experimenting i have now a very small remote control for the box using batchfiles 1.bat -99.bat, viz:
Remote controlled MIDI-Soundbox

Oh yes, software used for the MIDI port is :

MIDIER: to be found at
A commandline 'sbmidi.exe   /3'  sends the midi to the waveblaster out and hence to my cherished XG card. It also works well with the AWE64 Gold I use.

Another alternative is GSPLAY at
This player only works with midi interfaces, plus optional patches as AWEutil. I use it to drive a Yamaha MU10 from the serial port of a.o. my HP 200LX.
GSPLAY will allow me to control the volume as well from my remote.

General setup (cook your own or contact me at michel %at(nospamplease)% belxs(dot)com)

- Boot DOS
- set up RAM disk as large as possible
- Load sound drivers

Batch files are of the type number.bat so that my remote can start them:

example layout

unzip zipped directory to ramdisk
midiplayer /random  ramdisk:\directory01\*.mid
delete directory on ramdisk

Future hacks:
- Load Parallel port drivers on demand for ZIP and/or CD-Rom, to allow updating that way
- Attempt to put in a slim-line CD-ROM to allow CD-Playing
- Put a 64MB IDE Disk-On-Module, or IDE-CF holder on the IDE connector. Note: A +5V, +/- 12V power connector is on-board available.
- Connect an HD44780 LCD screen to the parallel port for displaying track names. see e.g. Peer Ouwehand's site
- etc.