[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.
Continue reading “Cheap ARM Netbooks Have Linux Forced Upon Them”
The latest version of the Linux kernel was just released on Sunday, and there’s a little bonus which we think is worth considering. It seems that many changes from Android made their way into version 3.3 of the Linux kernel.
This may not sound like much, but it’s a great example of the power of open source. Since device specific changes based on the Linux kernel must be released under the same license, hardware manufactures are compelled to release their sources. But normally this would only help you if you have the expertise to slog through their code and find the parts that you need for whatever purpose you have in mind. But with these changes being rolled into the main kernel you should be able to run your own distributions on Android devices relatively easy; hardware support is already in there. Of course there’s still a lot of expertise that goes into cross-compiling an OS.
This may have the potential to open up old Android hardware as a development platform. Think of how Chumby hardware has been used in robotics projects. Now what if your old Bluetooth and WiFi enable cellphone had a stock kernel that was as easy and open to use in your own projects?
[Fernando] wrote in to share his take on building a logic analyzer. He’s using the parallel port to capture data and feed it to the display software of your choice.
The method depends on a custom kernel which alters the way the parallel port works. The kernel he compiled includes a method of intercepting the signals coming in from the hardware, passing that data to the /dev/parport* as it should, but also sending a copy to /dev/parportsnif*. It also creates a log file which is in the OpenBench Logic Sniffer format for easy use with various display software.
Of course this is easiest to use with a Linux system, but can also be run as a virtual machine under Windows. We’d plan on using a virtual machine within Linux as well since this is a custom kernel and will probably only see occasional use.
The proud cry of “I am root” rings true once again, this time on Sony Google TV devices. Although a low-level exploit was found on previous firmware versions, a downgrade process lets you run unsigned kernels on updated TV or Bluray models of the Internet streaming devices.
These systems are Android-based, which currently run version 3.1 Honeycomb. This version patches the previous exploit, but with three different USB sticks you can downgrade, exploit, and upgrade to an altered and unsigned hack of the most recent kernel. This gives you the root access you may have been longing for, but other than the features discussed in the forum thread there’s not a whole lot of changes rolled into the exploit yet.
We’re always looking out for open source projects running on living-room devices and hope that someday we’ll see a branch of XBMC for the GTV. Until then we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed for the viability of a RaspberryPI XBMC.
Ah, the beauty of spreading the guts of some hackable hardware across your workbench. This happens to be the circuit board and LCD screen from a Parrot DF3120 digital picture frame. The device is pretty powerful, considering you can still find them available for around $25. You’ll get a 3.5″ screen, ARM9 processor with 8MB or RAM, Bluetooth, a tilt sensor, and more. It seem that [BusError], [Sprite_tm], [Claude], and few others really went to town and spilled all of the secrets this device has to offer.
Their goal of the hack was to get their own Linux kernel running. It is possible to reprogram the processor using its JTAG interface. And if you really want to drill down to the good stuff, there’s access to all of the BGA pins on the bottom of the board thanks to a grid of micro vias. But the device can be tricked into flashing your own firmware just by altering a stock upgrade image.
You can get a pretty good idea of what there is to do once you’ve replaced the firmware from the video after the break. A RAM upgrade (using a chip from an old PC133 stick) lets the video run smoothly as it’s controlled via a Wii remote.
Continue reading “This Digital Picture Frame Runs Linux Better Than You Might Think”
[Heli] had a WRT300N wireless router sitting around collecting dust. He decided to squeeze at bit more entertainment value out of it by seeing if he could pull off a RAM upgrade. He managed to double the router’s RAM and posted a walk through (translated) to help you do the same.
Swapping out surface mount RAM chips isn’t the easiest thing in the world and you must wondering what prompted this. It seems he wanted to run the LuCI package on the router but it was slow (or even incapable) of booting with the stock hardware’s 16 Mb. He first sourced some pin-compatible replacement chips from an old Pentium III computer. While his soldering iron was hot, he also wired up a JTAG header, which connects via the red wires just visible to the left. When he first fired up the unit he was happy that it was able to boot, but it still only detected 16 Mb.
It turns out you’re going to need to roll your own kernel to get it to take advantage of the upgrade. Source code for OpenWRT is easy to find and there’s plenty of guides for compiling it. If you try this, make sure to read [Heli’s] post carefully as he’s got some important configuration information that will help you to avoid bricking your router.
This is a keyboard alternative that [Sebastian] is building from two Apple Magic Trackpads. The multitouch devices are a good platform for this because they’re designed to pick up several events at the same time. To prototype the locations of the keys he’s using printable transparency sheets. He gives you a sense of where the home row is with a dab of clear fingernail polish that you can feel with your digits.
He may laser etch these pads once the key location is just right. This should give a bit of texture in itself and do away with the need for nail polish but we still like the ingenuity of that solution. The device is being developed in Linux, with some kernel hacking to handle the devices. We asked about source code and [Sebastian] is hesitant to post it because he’s been getting a lot of kernel panics. It sounds like once he cleans things up a bit he’ll share his work.
Don’t forget, there’s an easy hack to do away with the batteries in these things.