With Zipit, who needs a netbook?

[Hunter Davis] keeps rolling out the hacks for the Zipit. In the past he showed us how to run DOSbox, and then how to get NES emulation working on this tiny device. Now he’s got Linux kernel 2.6.29 running Fluxbox with mouse (newly added), audio, and WiFi functionality. Follow his step-by-step flashing instructions to load the kernel into the Zipit. Once flashed, a partitioned microSD card servers as the filesystem and swap.

Who needs a 10.1 inch screen or an Atom processor when you can get this 2.8″ QVGA beauty with an XScale processor for around $40?

[Thanks Matt]


  1. paul says:

    i want one now :)

  2. LateBlt says:

    Is releasing all these hacks some kind of stealth-marketing tactic by Zipit? If so, their time would be better spent actually making the devices available where they say they’ll be available. Zipit’s website says you can buy the devices at Best Buy and Target; I went through several Target and Best Buy stores here in the Bay Area and nobody even knew what a Zipit is.

  3. strider_mt2k says:

    I was just looking around at prices on ‘em myself!

    That’s really nice for such a (seemingly) modest device!

  4. fenwick says:

    Jeez, I can’t even get fullspeed NES emulation on my netbook :/

  5. asdf says:

    Does anyone know about any store in europe selling the Zipit? Shipping & handling rates from the US would be prohibitive for a low cost device like this one. So far I’ve found only a US seller on Ebay.

  6. strider_mt2k says:

    I can. :)

  7. Kyle says:

    @LateBlt: http://www.zipitwireless.com/where2buy.aspx?skinid=5
    Looks like a list of specific target stores that have them, and mentions target and bestbuy’s online store.
    $49 + their website says one has to get their service for a year with it. 49+10*12=169

  8. Shadyman says:

    $169 after service? Yikes.

    I got my Eee 702 (8G) for $129.

  9. EyeCrazy says:

    Please, in the name all the people who are bothered by white on black webpages, please, please, change your webpage background to something other than black. Every time I read something on Hackaday, I see black and white stripes when I go back to a regular webpage. Am I the only one? Please comment if you especially agree, or disagree.

  10. andrew says:

    Hackaday’s color scheme is just fine.

  11. Steven says:

    EyeCrazy: Disagree. Must be you or your monitor.

    Is it a CRT, X-RAY, DLP, OLED or Liquid Crystal type?

    If its one of the first 2 it might be the reason why….

  12. kyle: if you just want it for hacking on then you don’t need to register it or buy a plan so it’ll just be the $49 (or less on amazon and else where)

  13. nate says:

    The instructions say you need a Linux computer with gparted in order to setup your Z2. How hard would it be to do this on Windows?

  14. Jimbo says:


    Learn to use computers.

  15. nate: because you need to make a ext2/3 partition as well you’ll need linux as windows can’t format ext2/3 but a livecd will work

  16. Steven says:

    Interresting device (hardware point of view)

    But what can be done with it for real?

    Maybe this device is NOT intended for people like me. I use Linux but why is this cool? As a gadget maybe, but its a crippled netvook. The EEEPC has a small keyboard, this has a phone size pad!?

  17. nate says:

    Thanks Russell. I went through the instructions and came to the same conclusion. At first, I thought perhaps some compiling had to be done, but the formatting process seems to be the only reason Linux is required. I’m trying to find a free/open formatting tool that supports EXT3 for Windows, but I’ll probably just go with a gparted live CD.

  18. MS3FGX says:

    It isn’t intended to be a netbook, it is an IM client (with very light media playback functions).

  19. nemo says:

    with linux it can aspire to be a netbook, silly Mr. MS3FGX man.

    And wth, this is HACKADAY. This is a place of HACKS, we don’t care about INTENTED USES here, that’s the point.

  20. Hunter Davis says:

    Hey Russell, Nate,

    Yeah there’s no need to cross-compile and a livecd to do the formatting would work fine. The next userland image will probably be based on debian and that’ll bring in a lot of fun pacakges.


    lots of good things can be done with the z2. Netmap scanning, mplayer movie playing, internet radio device etc. etc. I’m always suprised at how many uses people find for it.


    Yeah Russell is right, you don’t need to sign up for the monthly service if you only wish to run linux.

    Hey LateBLT,

    HAHAH that’s pretty funny. If you’re interested in Zipit corp, they are actually looking for talented programmers and kernel hackers for their next device release. Either way, they don’t need any viral marketing in my opinion… When a company encourages its community to hack its device, people will respond in a positive way. My employer (scalable-networks) is also looking for networking/CS PHDS as well.

  21. Matt says:

    Latebit: I purchased mine on clearance at the Target near me two days ago for $35. It turned out to be the contract free variety as well, so I’ve got something to play with for a while till I can put a real linux distro on it.

    Steven: The zipit’s keyboard is much larger then that of a phone, and the spacing is better. What makes this cool is that it’s a linux based device, with support from the manufacturer to repurpose it as the user sees fit. Also, like I mentioned earlier, I paid $35. Much, much cheaper than a netbook, and much smaller.

  22. paul says:

    It’s amazing you can buy a capable computer for 35$ these days…

    truly amazing :)

    now if only I could find on in canada :(

  23. Hunter: yes i’ve had to give up my linux dev box as the kid needs it for college and to be running windows so i have reverted to my vmplayer/virtualbox image for compiling oe based stuff and a livecd (sysresccd) for partitioning and formatting.

    the image is pretty big and a few months old but would do as a starting point for anyone with only windows who wants to use oe or buildroot.

    if anyone wants it http://russelldavis.org/stuff/Zipit2%20Devel%20(Ubuntu%209.04).7z — userid and passwd info is in the archive. it is a 40gig dynamic hd. — iirc i think i also setup the ipkg repository on it too.

    i’ll probably make a better version in the next few days as i’m a windows only shop again for a while.

  24. john says:

    wasn’t hard to find at all online – http://www.target.com/Z2A-Zipit-Wireless-Messenger/dp/B00115PR2O I think the service plan is necessary to use it as-is, obviously won’t be necessary if you just want to it.

  25. labrd says:

    any chance of a internet browser in the future?how about an app similar too kismet?thanks

  26. nate says:

    labrd: I don’t see why a browser couldn’t be made to work, but I read that Kismet won’t work because of incompatibility with the Z2’s Marvell chipset.

  27. Steven says:

    I think i get it.
    This is ideal as my random internet radio station alarm clock!

    Or as a cheap wifi home automation. Flunk one in a car and have a server at home notice arrival and turn on the automatic coffee maker :-)

    I think got the picture.

  28. spacecoyote says:

    links-sdl would probably work on it.

  29. Hunter Davis says:

    Hey Labrd, nate,

    Firefox, fennec, dillo, epiphany etc all compile fine. I never got firefox loaded up correctly but the rest have no issues. Probably missing a gtk lib or something. The Z2’s Marvell chipset is the same as the iphone as far as I know, meaning no promiscuous mode and no kismet or snorting


    Nice image :) I’ll have to give that a shot this weekend, if it ever finishes downloading on my slow connection heh.

  30. Hunter: it’s on the end of a fatish pipe so shouldn’t be too bad. iirc it’s based on the last svn revision sweetlilmre did before he moved to u-boot and .31

    i’m planning on building one that should be a smaller download over the next few days so if that one is too large (700 and a bit meg) you might want to wait.

  31. polossatik says:

    Does this has a miniSd slot or not? I see on the http://elinux.org/ZipIt_MMC that you need to add your own slot or is that about a older version? (I know nothing about those zipit things).
    A few friends will go to the usa next week, I think I might ask them to get one or 2..

  32. epicelite says:

    Wow that is pretty cool and all this hacking makes it look even better.

    However, what does this mean for someone like me. I know my way around a windows computer fairly well but know nothing of Linux or programming.

    I would love it if you get a working web browser on it just to check forum posts and such without needing to turn my desktop on! Even a basic cellphone type browser would be amazing for a $35 device!

  33. tjhooker says:

    I got a surf 2G for $135 and the internal WIFI injects and it runs BackTrack4. It’ll also emulate various ROMs and runs windows when needed.

    This device isn’t very appealing. The hardware security might be fun to mess with; if there is any.

    Also for the computer geniuses trying to school other computer geniuses: The primary reason for no windows is because xscale is RISC. CE is the only MS product to ever run on top of RISC chips. The file system claim is retarded.

  34. polossatik says:

    Ok got it that “Z2″ model has a miniSD card.
    I like
    I want

  35. Cabe says:

    I wonder if you could get Mono on this thing, then you could chuck on Airfoil Speaker and do home audio with a screen way cheaper than an Squeezebox or even the displayless Apple Express.

  36. nate says:

    tjhooker: I think you misunderstood (or I’m misunderstanding you). Nobody is trying to run Windows on the Z2; I’m interested in setting up the Z2 without using a Linux computer. The reason Windows isn’t used is because it can’t natively format a device for the EXT3 filesystem, which is apparently what is required for the Z2. Theoretically, you could use any OS to format the SD card as EXT3, but it’s much easier in Linux since EXTx is already very common with Linux and the tools already exist.

  37. babble says:

    usb host support?

  38. Jimbo says:

    If it has a usb port I will buy one.

  39. Hunter Davis says:

    No usb port. If you are handy with a soldering iron there are serial leads on the motherboard.

  40. Titcher says:

    Anyone know anywhere that would ship one of these to the UK?

  41. Paul says:

    @epicelite. Take some time to learn linux. Bash and regular expression are what you need to come to grips with. Its well worth the effort. If your interested in any sort of automation.

    Forget windows, MS is about selling you more software, not getting things done.

  42. epicelite says:


    Well I don’t care if they are trying to sell me more software they are a company and that is how they make money. All I need to do is not buy their software and use the free equivalent, that is sometimes better. *coughpenofficecough*

    I am not trying to defend M$ or anything, just saying.

    Also it is rather difficult to find proper Linux drivers for most stuff. |^:

    Also I only have 1 HDD and don’t like partitions.

  43. epicelite says:

    Also useing a terminal for everything defeats the purpose of a GUI.

  44. tjhooker says:

    @nate: Most partitioning software like partition magic and partition manager 9.0 will format ext2 and ext3 from NT.

    fs-driver also adds native ext2/ext3 support to windows.

    Probably would be better to use a live cd though.

  45. eric says:

    Any way to get Android up and running on one of these things?

  46. Hunter Davis says:

    Android is in the oe tree, you’d just need to get it compiling. Gpe/opie should work as well.

  47. soggy pretzels says:

    anyone know where i can get full hardware specs on this
    hd size, prossesor, ram, etc…
    if it has part/model names that would be good too
    love this thred of hacks… but too lazy to buy one yet

  48. nate says:

    Most of that info is available on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipit

  49. cm says:

    getting a little confused, do you need to pay the 1 year plan to IM or no?

  50. spacecoyote says:

    Why does anyone give a damn about Android? It sucks the big one.

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