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]

88 thoughts on “With Zipit, Who Needs A Netbook?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. @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.

  17. @Paul

    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.

  18. @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.

  19. 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

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