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.

33 thoughts on “Cheap ARM Netbooks Have Linux Forced Upon Them

    1. The kernel shipped with the Android distro, didn’t support devtmpfs, and that caused udev not to work properly. For that reason I had to recompile the kernel, including devtmpfs support. ;-). It works great with latest Arch Linux init scripts.

      1. Read:

        “This is comparable to what you’d get with a Raspberry Pi (without video acceleration) ”

        think that statement is way off.

        The above is comparable to what you’d get with a Raspberry Pi (WITH video acceleration, similar footprint, etc).

      1. Alwinner A10 is the processor (and always bundled with Mali 400 gpu). Chinese call it “Boxchip”. They use it in everything from mini PC’s, tablets, gps devices, etc. There’s also the A13. Be careful as that one is cheaper with similar specs, but doesn’t have HDMI out support. SZ SEG (赛格广场) seems to be the most popular place, but I would imagine other big city markets are similar.

  1. Almost 2 years ago I bought several ‘chi’-pads with the same SoC and I ported the linux kernel. I even had a rudimentary X session running. The problem was that the build quality of these tables was so terrible I had to give up because my hardware got unusable. Both had batteries that were obviously faulty (completely expanded like a balloon), so I removed them. Later my expansion connectors (which gave me usb, ethernet and most importantly serial access) broke off taking some traces with them so I could not solder them back. The last I remember was both not even turning on anymore.

    I hope these netbooks are a bit better built, because I think it is still a nice SoC. My tabs were around 400 rmb at the time, so no real surprises about the quality.

    1. really? is that really your argument? finally we have some cheap netbooks with ARM SoCs (not the crappy MIPS that have been around for some time) able to run Linux out of the box, and you are worried about their prettiness? paint it black and fill it with HaD stickers, who cares??

      1. being ugly also means ugly keyboard… and sideways mouse buttons… they just went way over ‘ugly’. i will pass too. and i doubt battery life with those cheap components will be any better than atom.

    1. Unfortunately the el cheapo windows CE thingies out there only have crappy SoCs (according to today standards). The CE kernel was never optimized to go beyond the ARMv5 and ARMv6. Even for ARMv5, the kernel was compiled using the old ARMv4 instruction set (trust me, I disassembled the CE kernel).

  2. I hope some one comes and gets the Augen Genbook some attention and ports Linux to it to… there are lots of those and they are useless with their build in android…

    I have a Genbook 108, its specks are somewhat on the cheap side but similar to this…

    I just have no idea how to get it to boot some Linux on it… it is good to see people giving new life to what would otherwise be trash hardware!

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