HOWTO: put linux on a ZipIt handheld

Linux ZipIt

AiboHack of all places has come up with quite an interesting hack. Turns out someone actually can make good use of the $100 ZipIt Instant Messaging device. The ZipIt (in case you didn’t know) has built-in 802.11b WiFi, a really cheap 320×240 LCD screen, and the ability to IM with MSN, Yahoo!, and AOL Instant Messenger. Groovy, but what good is this to us if we don’t have a WiFi spot to use? Not much. So with a little tweaking and some re-flashing, you’ll be running a sub-2mb version of Linux in no time. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A Zipit device you are willing to screw up

  • A Windows PC (Windows XP recommended)

  • A WiFi card, or WiFi access point, attached to the Windows PC

  • Optional: Linux PC or cygwin running on Windows PC (for compiling your own Linux ARM apps)


  1. dewey says:

    Any thoughts on getting kismet to run on this?

  2. lethalpotato says:

    will they make up their minds about the pictures.

  3. timdoug says:

    now all they have to do is add an ssh client and i’ll be set. dropbear anyone?

  4. Richard says:

    I wonder
    does the zippit have somewhere that you can solder in a serial port? If so, it could make an ideal cheapo map display for the onstar hack

  5. John Bokma says:

    I never heard about the ZipIt, but this looks very interesting, thanks.

  6. TJ says:

    richard, on that site it gives you instructions on the “5 wire mod” which says will add a serial port. It is unclear about the functionality of the serial port though.

  7. Ahmed-safi says:

    hi there,

    RS232 serial communication is possible and the 5-wire hack is the best way to reflash the firmware. Some people are working on interfacing a SD/MMC card, which will be prime.

    Alot of information can be found at:

  8. Richard says:

    ok great – i would love to try this hack myself, but i cant, as i coudln’t find a store here in au that sells them.

    I doubt that a SD card through a serial port will be very fast, but i guess its better than no storage.

  9. Mike Montana says:

    Way to go! This is a great entry for “Hack a Day”

    I’m Linux-ignorant, but this is looking tasty. Is there a web browser (limited-functionality)avail for this hack? Even plain text web browse could be useful.

  10. POLYMIRA says:

    What would be perfect would be an sd card (or something simular), along with kismet … you can walk around sniffing wifi traffic, and all at the same time, saving the dump file to removable media. Go home, throw the card in a reader .. bam. No bulky or expensive equipment required…

    Although, i didn’t see if they actually have wifi drivers for the chipset that supply rfmon functionality.

  11. swab says:

    Nice idea #8
    What a great hack! That’s a brilliant device to get Linux on!

    Quite like to get one as a cheap alterative to a pda.

  12. annihilator_god says:

    Neat hack. Let me know when you get lynx (or some other small text-only web browser) and a small email app running from the rom and I’ll pickup one of these in about an hour. The hard wired SD card idea would rock just as much, but alas that is beyond me.

    On a related idea, I wonder if you could hack something like the asus nfs server to work from batteries and a CF card (it’s all IDE ya know).

  13. hybrid says:

    nice but what about the motorola imfree?

  14. PARADOX says:

    why is it that everyone is trying to put linux on things? i know its smaller that most operating systems but what does it do. i know almost nothing about linux but everyone who knows about it has nothing but praise for it. so if anyone can tell me whats the deal please do.

  15. drstupid says:

    why is it that everyone is trying to put linux on things?

    If you can put Linux on something, you can then run your own programs on it. (They would be Linux programs.) Linux is more useful than certain other operating systems (like Windows) for this purpose because the code is freely available for modification, so it can be stripped down and recompiled to run on certain kinds of devices. When you can run your own programs on something, you can do things like this hack – instead of running the stock IM programs that come on the ZipIt, you run whatever programs you can get to work.

  16. sebastien says:

    I wonder if the plam III backlights would work on those i have a few broken screens @ home.

  17. Matt says:

    Found this with Google, somewhat late to the game. But is there a pure-Linux hack technique out there? That is to say, one that can be performed without the use of a Windows Pee Cee… I’m rather bereft of those at the moment, and it’s a situation I’d rather not alter… ;)

  18. thewilson says:

    Matt: Here is a link to install BURN3 using linux, I haven’t tried it myself so I have no idea whether it works or not.

    On the offchance does anyone know how to get one of these to the UK? won’t ship here and Ebay is coming up short. I really want to try this hack out. Thanks

  19. Clonus says:

    Anyone know of a good IMFree hack site?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 97,838 other followers