We’re used to our laptop computers here in 2022 being ultra-portable, super-powerful, and with impressively long battery lives. It’s easy to forget then that there was a time when from those three features the laptop user could usually expect only one of them in their device. Powerful laptops were the size of paving slabs and had battery lives measured in minutes, while anything small usually had disappointing performance or yet again a minuscule power budget.
In the late 1990s manufacturers saw a way out of this in Microsoft’s Windows CE, which would run on modest hardware without drinking power. Several devices made it to market, among them one from IBM which [OldVCR] has taken a look at. It makes for an interesting trip down one of those dead-end side roads in computing history.
In the box bought through an online auction is a tiny laptop that screams IBM, we’d identify it as a ThinkPad immediately if it wasn’t for that brand being absent. This is an IBM WorkPad, a baby sibling of the ThinkPad line intended as a companion device. This one has a reduced spec screen and an NEC MIPS processor, with Windows CE on a ROM SODIMM accessible through a cover on the underside. For us in 2022 MIPS processors based on the open-sourced MIPS ISA are found in low-end webcams and routers, but back then it was a real contender. The article goes into some detail on the various families of chips from that time, which is worth a read in itself.
We remember these laptops, and while the IBM one was unaffordable there was a COMPAQ competitor which did seem tempting for on-the-road work. They failed to make an impact due to being marketed as a high-end executive’s toy rather than a mass-market computer, and they were seen off as “real” laptops became more affordable. A second-hand HP Omnibook 800 did the ultra-portable job on this bench instead.
The industry had various attempts at cracking this market, most notably with the netbooks which appeared a few years after the WorkPad was produced. It was left to Google to reinvent the ultra-portable non-Intel laptop as an internet appliance with their Chromebooks before they would become a mass-market device, but the WorkPad remains a tantalizing glimpse of what might have been.
Windows CE occasionally makes an appearance here, and yes, it runs DOOM.
What’s the first thing you think of when you see an old GPS navigation system for sale cheap at a garage sale? Our research indicates that 100% of people would wonder if it could run Doom; at least that’s what we conclude from the single data point we have, anyway. [Jason Gin] asked and answered the question — with a resounding yes — about his recent acquisition.
The unit in question is a Magellan RoadMate 1412 running Windows CE. After some playing, [Jason] found that simply connecting the unit to a computer via USB caused all the application files to appear as a FAT-formatted volume. Replacing the obviously-named “MapNavigator.exe” with a copy of TotalCommander/CE allowed browsing around the filesystem.
This revealed that much was missing from the CE install, including the Explorer shell and command prompt. Either could be used to launch Doom with the required command-line arguments. Luckily, [Jason] had another trick ready, namely using MortScript (a scripting engine) to launch the Doom executable. This worked like a charm, and after a few tweaks, he now has a dedicated demo box.
We say “demo box” instead of “Doom machine” because without a keyboard, you can’t actually play the game — only view the demo. In a valiant attempt, he connected a USB OTG connector, but the GPS doesn’t seem to recognize input devices, only USB storage devices. Keep at it, [Jason], we’d love to see you crack this one!
[Jason] is no stranger to hacking Windows CE devices. Last time we checked in, the target was a KeySight DSO1102G oscilloscope.
Continue reading “Running Doom On A Doomed GPS”
We all know the drill when buying a digital oscilloscope: buy the most hackable model. Some choose to void the warranty right away and access features for which the manufacturer has kindly provided all the hardware and software but has disabled through licensing. Few of us choose to tap into the underlying embedded OS, though, which seems a shame.
When [Jason Gin]’s scope started giving him hints about its true nature, he decided to find a way in. The result? An oscilloscope with a Windows desktop that plays Doom. The instrument is a Keysight DSOX1102G which [Jason] won during the company’s “Scope Month” giveaway. Relatively rare system crashes showed the familiar UI trappings of Windows CE.
Try as he might, [Jason] couldn’t get the scope to crash on cue — at least not until he tried leaving an external floppy drive plugged into the USB port on startup. But in order to use the desktop thus revealed, a keyboard and mouse were needed too. So he whipped up a custom USB switch cable, to rapidly toggle in the keyboard and mouse after the crash. This gave him the keys to the kingdom, but he still had a long way to go. We won’t spoil the story, but suffice it to say that it took [Jason] a year and a half, and he learned a lot along the way.
It was nice to hear that our review of the 1000X series scopes helped [Jason] accomplish this exploit. This hack’s great for bragging rights, as one way to prove you’ve owned a system is telling people it runs Doom!
Although we’re well past the heyday of ‘pen computing’, and seemingly into a retro revival with laptops and tablets that come with Wacom styluses and digitizers, this doesn’t mean the pen computers of old weren’t useful. While they were mostly used for industrial applications, they were useful and some of the first practical applications of touch screen displays.
[Jason] got his hand on one of these ruggedized handheld PCs – specifically, an Itronix T5200. This three-pound mini notebook runs Windows CE Handheld PC Edition 3.01. The specs include a 74MHz RISC processor, 16 MB of RAM, 16MB of Flash, and a 7.3 inch monochrome touch screen with 640×240 resolution. It’s odd and old: when closed, it’s over two inches thick. You’ll be hard pressed to find a modern laptop that thick. [Jason]’s hardware is a pre-production version.
Unlike a lot of retro submissions that have somehow managed to pull up the Hackaday Retro Edition on old hardware, this machine actually has a browser. It’s old, it’s clunky, but it works. There are three options for getting this old computer up on the Internet – either IrDA, an RJ11 modem port, or RS232. [Jason] didn’t tell us which port he used to load up the retro edition, but he did send in a few pictures. You can check those out below.
Continue reading “Hackaday Retro Edition: Pen Computing”
The Augen E-Go is billed as a Netbook that ships with Windows CE. [Moogle] got it to boot the Linux kernel after a bit of hardware snooping. He found a UART connector on the main board and discovered that if you tie the enable pin to ground you can send an ARM bootloader to the device during boot up. His past experience hacking the Didj and the Explorer helped him recognize the processor used in the Augen. This lead to using a zimage from the Didj to boot the Linux kernel. So far the process halts at a kernel panic, but that’s because he hasn’t built the image with a file system for the device yet.
If the E-Go ends up playing nicely with Linux, [Moogle] may have found a suitable replacement for the Zipit.
Update: Looks like we’ve got the wrong version of the E-Go pictured above (and linked below). Check out [Moogle’s] comment for model numbers.
[Augen photo credit: Newegg.com]
[Sparky] notified us of his hack to allow interaction with the core of an Aldi GO Cruise 4300 GPS Windows CE OS. All that’s required is a few programs and registry edits to the GPS, which anyone can accomplish within a few minutes. But we suggest you go slow and double-check your work; nobody wants a bricked system. After you’re done you can run such great programs like the one [Sparky] suggest for 4WD enthusiasts, Ozi Explorer.
[Evow04] has been working hard to run Android on a Meizu M8 smartphone and we’re beginning to enjoy the fruits of his labor. The Meizu M8 is a Chinese cell phone very similar in appearance and hardware to the iPhone. The factory firmware runs Windows CE 6 but there is no official support for Android. It looks like [Evow04’s] upgrade method is fairly easy; copy an IMG and BIN file to the root of the phone, backup the Windows CE portion, and then use the upgrade mode to flash the two files.
We’re pretty impressed with Android, especially the potential that it represents. Having another device that runs the OS is a good thing but at $350-$400 this isn’t any cheaper than just buying an Android phone.