Cheap ARM netbooks have Linux forced upon them

[Doragasu] got his hands on one of these WM8650 Netbooks for around 50 euros (~$63.50) delivered. They come with a version of Android preinstalled, but he wanted to use them more like a computer and less like an Android device. So he set out to load Arch Linux on the ARM-based Netbook.

This is possible because the hardware inside is actually pretty good. The 800 MHz SoC is accompanied by 256 megs of RAM. There’s 2 gigs of internal storage, a 7″ display, USB, Ethernet, WiFi, and an audio system. This is comparable to what you’d get with a Raspberry Pi (without video acceleration) but also includes all of those peripherals, a case, a touchpad and keyboard… you get the point. There are several patches that need to be applied to the kernel to get it working with the hardware. [Doragasu] covers each of them in the post linked above. You can also hear his presentation in the video after the break.

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Android on your netbook

Looks like there’s a pretty easy way to install Ice Cream Sandwich, the newest version of Android, on your Netbook. Actually this is limited to a few types of hardware including netbooks like the eeePC. That’s because the ISO files used during installation have been tailored to the hardware used on those devices. As with other Linux distros, the ISO file can be loaded on a thumb drive using Unetbootin. From there you can give it a whirl as a Live CD (or USB as it were) or choose to install it on your hard drive. We haven’t given it a spin as the eeePC version doesn’t want to boot on our Dell Mini 9, but we don’t see a reason why this couldn’t be set up as a dual boot option.

Now why would you want to run Android on your netbook? We’ve already seen that there’s a way to run Android apps in Ubuntu. We bet some people just love Android, and others just hate the Unity desktop that Ubuntu now uses… especially when the Netbook Remix had a lot of good things going for it.

Add some LED enhancement to your netbook lid

[Mathieu] needed to open up his Acer Aspire One to do a hard drive replacement and decided to add a bit of pizzazz while he was in there. The image above is the lid of the netbook adorned with RGB LEDs and a spray painted stencil.

He previously purchased a set of surface mount RGB packages on eBay and thought that they were perfect for this hack. after removing the case he found that by using a flex PCB he would be able to fit the LEDs inside, and pass the connections through to the main computer housing. The leads connect to a Teensy board, which is held in place with a liberal application of hot glue. [Mathieu] removed the USB connector and soldered jumper wires to one of the computers ports. In the video after the break you can see that he uses the programming software to write some code to the Teensy, driving the LEDs. We’d like to see it set to listen for serial communications and react accordingly. That way you could use it for notifications, as an audio VU meter, to track torrent progress, etc.

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Adding a netbook keyboard light

[Vikash] was having trouble using his netbook in the dark so he added a keyboard light. He’s got a Dell Vostro A90 which is the same hardware as the popular Dell Mini 9. We agree that the condensed keyboard layout makes it hard to type without looking; just try to find the quotation mark, brackets, and tilde keys! He added an LED to the bezel around the LCD screen in order to shed light on the situation. Now the LED can be turned on using CTRL. An ATtiny13 microcontroller monitors pins 1 and 11 of the keyboard, waiting for the CTRL keypress, then turns on the light when it receives it. This hardware solution means it doesn’t matter if you’re running a Hackintosh (like he is), Ubuntu (like we are), or that other OS.

Hardware HD decoder in a netbook

[banzai] wasn’t happy with the performance he was getting out of his Samsung netbook. He decided it was time to do something about it. He noticed that Dell and HP both sell an optional HD decoder card for their netbooks. After a short search, he found one on ebay for only $24. He had to give up his internal wireless, but he doesn’t mind using a USB wireless dongle. Sure this isn’t horribly complicated, but he has information here that might help smooth out the process.

[via OlivierDole]

Unhackable Netbooks given to students

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Where would be the best place to test out an unhackable netbook? The NSW department of education in Australia thinks that college is perfect . They plan on distributing netbooks, preloaded with Windows 7,and iTunes. They also have bios level tracking and security, allowing them to be remotely shut down on command. With 20,000 of these in circulation, we would think that we’ll see someone proving the “unhackable” statement wrong. We can only hope.

[via slashdot]

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]